The summer solstice has passed, summer is officially here and it is hot in the Pacific Northwest. This is not the time to be spending hours working the stove and oven. And after a long day at work, who wants that anyway? Not me. Miss Mioux and I want quick, delicious, nutritious food that does not require a lot of cook time. Enter the spiralizer and ever popular zucchini noodle.
When Miss Mioux and I first started cooking together, there were not a lot of vegetables she liked because there were not a lot of vegetables she had tried. She knew she liked cauliflower, so we made cauliflower everything:
Each dish continued to surprise and be delicious. We talked about revisiting them until we saw a recipe for Cauliflower Grilled Cheese. Oh. My. Damn. Low carb and cheesy? Heck yeah! And if you are having grilled cheese, you need soup to dip.
I found cauliflower grilled cheese on Kirbie’s Cravings. My favorite part is the methodology. Anyone who has tried to make cauliflower pizza crust has had to wring the water out of crumb sized pieces of steamed cauliflower, and personally I think it is a giant messy pain. This recipe dries the cauliflower out in the microwave. I am telling you this is a game changer! The soup recipe is from Cookin Canuck and is a nod to Miss Mioux’s Canadian heritage. It turned me on to the book Eating Clean by Amie Valpone. The ginger cashew pesto in it sounds amazing.
CAULIFLOWER GRILLED CHEESE
1 head of cauliflower, stem removed and cut into small florets
1 large egg
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
4 deli slices of muenster
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place cauliflower into food processor and pulse until it is in rice-sized pieces.
Place cauliflower into a large microwave safe bowl and microwave for two minutes. Stir the cauliflower and place it back in the microwave for three minutes. (At this point if you want to wring the water out of the cauliflower be my guest, from this day forward I will choose to use the microwave to dry out my cauliflower.) Remove and stir again so all the cauliflower cooks evenly. Place back into the microwave and cook for 5 minutes. At this point, you will start to see the cauliflower dry out. Mix and place back for a final five minutes. Pro Tip: With the moisture released from the cauliflower, this is a good time to wipe down the inside of your microwave with a paper towel to clean it, after you have removed the cauliflower.
Allow the cauliflower to cool for a few minutes. If you have ever used the wringing method, by now it should look the same, but SO much less fuss. Can you tell I am excited by this? Innovative I tell you!
Add in egg, parmesan, and seasoning. Stir to combine until smooth. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Place onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Having neither at that moment, we just sprayed a glass baking pan. Using your hands, shape the dough into square “bread slices.” Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes.
The cauliflower crust is too delicate to flip on the stove, so put two slices of muenster cheese on two slices of cauliflower “bread.” Using a spatula, place the other slice of “bread” on top, sliding it back into the oven until cheese begins to melt, just a few minutes. If you were working with a harder cheese, like a thick hunk of cheddar, I would set it to broil for 5 to 10 minutes to get the cheese melty. For a softer cheese like muenster, just placing it back in the oven works fine.
GOLDEN RED & ORANGE BELL PEPPER SOUP
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
8 yellow, red, and/or orange bell peppers, chopped
1 large sleet potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
6 tsp dried marjoram
Fage greek yogurt, for garnish
croutons, for garnish
sliced avocado, for garnish
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.
Add the bell peppers and cook until soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes and broth. Season with salt and black pepper, cover the pot.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat and add the marjoram. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly, and then in batches, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. If needed, thin the soup with water. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Return the soup to the pot to keep warm until serving. Serve garnished with a sprinkling croutons, a dollop of the Fage, and avocado slices.
The “bread” firms up well, considering each slice is basically just a quarter head of cauliflower.
Miss Mioux and I have been challenging each other to be healthier. We started a daily plank challenge March 1st. For all our belly slimming efforts, I have been craving something cheesy in a big way. Miss Mioux is right there with me. I am going on a trip to Jamaica and in an effort to get swimsuit-ready, I have cut out pizza, fast food, and most takeout. My body needs cheese. I balance this need by pairing it with veggies – lots of veggies. And it is delicious! Serve with a crisp green salad and crusty bread.
THREE CHEESE SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1 medium spaghetti squash
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
3 handfuls of spinach
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded colby jack
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Microwave the spaghetti squash whole for 3-4 minutes to help it slice in half more easily. Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Rub the inside of the squash with a little olive oil and place skin side up, squash side down in a baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes. While the squash is baking, prepare the sauce.
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Add cream cheese, milk, and cheese (set aside a few pinches of each type of cheese to mix with the panko bread crumbs). Stir until the cheese is melted. Whisk in cornstarch. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce has thickened, remove it from heat.
Once the squash is done roasting, allow it to cool to touch or use an oven mitt. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Using a fork, scrape the spaghetti strings of squash out, creating a squash boat. Mix the spaghetti squash with the sauce and fill the squash boats back up.
Mix the reserved cheese with the panko and sprinkle the crust evenly on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until heated through.
Dig in guilt free!
If you are pressed for time, you can roast the squash ahead of time, bake for only 30-35 minutes and refrigerate. When you are ready to eat, scoop the squash out while the sauce comes together, mix, add back to the bowls and finish cooking.
Feel free to substitute your favorite green, such as mustard, kale, or chard. Diced cooked chicken, sautéed shrimp, bacon or sausage crumbles would add protein. Any number of additional veggies would be delicious add-ins, such as mushrooms, bell pepper, or broccoli. Follow your heart.
Miss Mioux and I were full with a quarter the squash, salad, and a couple pieces of bread. Plus we both wanted leftovers. I packed my leftovers in my Hunny’s lunch bag the next day. Having never had spaghetti squash before, he thought it was great. He described it as satisfying and rich without making him feel overly full. He had the idea of cooking the spaghetti squash with cheese in place of hashbrowns*. A stuffed hashbrown version with spaghetti squash in place of potatoes will be a thing we will have to try out…
*In a nod to Miss Mioux’s Canadian heritage, we spell hashbrown as one word.