Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower Wings

One year ago, I was less than a month into my new job at Comcast, when it was time for an end of summer potluck/cook off. I rarely have the chance to compete in things that do not require hand-eye coordination or an understanding of basic organized sports.

After years of guessing my way through football and March madness brackets, here was a competition I actually had the skill set for. My confidence paid off, and I made the italian summer salad, Panzanella, and walked away with the appetizer trophy.

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So Long Summer Cook-Off 2017

This year, my confidence was a given. I had gotten used to seeing that beautiful trophy on my desk, and explaining to others how I became the proud owner. I knew I needed to enter the appetizer category again, so I could win and keep the travelling trophy.

I landed on cauliflower wings being my golden ticket. They’re a vegetarian, paleo, gluten free spin on a fall favorite (#trendy), and they would catch people’s eye. The more people who taste my dish, the more that can vote for me.  IMG_1126

As you may know from this blog, my recipes are scrappy. The recipes are made up, the dishes often are as well, and game-time decisions are rooted in what I happen to have in the pantry.

With so much on the line, however, I was motivated to do multiple trial batches of cauliflower wings. Finding recipes from all different trusted sources, I looked for the commonalities and tested out the differences. I feel confident that this recipe is the best cauliflower wing recipe out there. There, I said it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflower (I used 1.5 for the tray you see above)
  • 1 bag of Mill’s almond flour, I probably used 2 cups
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp old bay seasoning or paprika, garlic powder, and salt/pepper
  • 2 cups Frank’s buffalo sauce
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup butter (optional)
  • Baking sheet with tin foil and olive oil/cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Chop cauliflower into florets– think about what size you want the “wings” to be
  • Pour 2 cups almond flour into separate bowl and mix in seasoning
  • Beat eggs in a separate bowl (if you’re not sure how many wings you’ll be making you can start with less and repeat the almond flour and egg steps)
  • Set up baking sheet with tin foil and lightly cover it with olive oil or cooking spray. This is an important best practice to keep the “breading” on the cauliflower.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Moving one piece at a time, dunk cauliflower floret in the egg and then roll in it the almond flour. Many other recipes said to put the almond flour in a bag and toss the florets in it until they are COVERED with flour. Absolutely not. Roll it lightly but cover most the surface.
  • Place on *lightly oiled* baking sheet, and repeat until full.
  • Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, then flip each piece *carefully to not remove breading* and bake for another 20 minutes. Another unique detail here vs. others is that I insist on not adding the sauce until all baking is complete.
  • While the wings are baking, mix your sweet and spicy buffalo sauce- Frank’s buffalo sauce (not the spicy buffalo, I made that mistake), agave nectar, and sesame oil. Add melted butter if a creamy texture is desired and there’s no dietary restrictions against it.
  • Once wings are finished baking, decide how much sauce you would like to have. For saucier texture and strong flavor, dunk each piece quickly in sauce and set back onto tray. For a more controlled approach, use a spoon to do a heavy drizzle over the wings.
  • Note: If you are not serving these on the same day as baking, i.e. potluck, do not apply sauce until time of serving and keep wings in Tupperwares, not refrigerated.

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And for all of you wondering, the buzz for the cauliflower wings was unprecedented. When it came time to collect votes, I anxiously awaited the results while trying to pretend I didn’t care at all; as if, perhaps, this was just an office potluck.

They announced the appetizer category was tied. Truly I was crushed. If assuming mine was one of the appetizers tied for first, how in the world did I tie? I wanted to win by a landslide. Unanimous. Maybe it’s good I’m not eligible for many competitions after all.

After wrangling a few more taste testers, the final results came in. The chef of the Reuben meatballs was the new proud owner of the appetizer trophy. I smiled and applauded, just as I learned from all the awards shows. It was confirmed later that I was the other dish originally tied.

Truthfully, it took hours, some would say days, to accept this loss. I cleaned and organized my desk with a more minimalist look and feel, and haven’t noticed the absence of the trophy. As ridiculous as it sounds, I still would have rather gave my heart and soul into a silly competition and still not win, than be too cool or reserved to let myself get swept away at all. I counted my success in the number of requests for this recipe, and awarded myself an A+ for effort. Take this recipe and run with it, you’ve got nothing to lose.

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Butternut Squash Curried Soup

There comes a time for everyone to face their fears. Mine is cutting squash and getting things out of the sink drain/garbage disposal. Apparently I’m the only one who does the latter, because it’s obviously not a foolproof plan.

But people everywhere are somehow cutting butternut squash, and living to tell the tale with all ten fingers. It’s inspiring. I make spaghetti squash in a crock pot to avoid this, but buying frozen butternut squash wasn’t cutting it.

So after the advice of many brave souls, I bought butternut squash (with no plan or recipe) and put it in the oven (whole) at 400 for 10 minutes before attempting any chopping. Magic.

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That brought me to this what-do-I-have-in-my-cabinet soup. It was completely random but filling and delicious. Hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

-1 butternut squash, chopped
-1 sweet potato, chopped
-1 1/2- 2 cups of (cooked) quinoa, I used tricolor from Trader Joe’s. You’ll need just 1 cup uncooked
-4 cups vegetable stock
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 tbsp curry paste
-1 can coconut milk
-5 shakes curry powder
-3 shakes cumin
-1 tsp ginger garlic paste
-1 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

1. Bake whole squash at 400 for 10 minutes to soften (option to do this with sweet potato as well)
2. Chop squash and sweet potato as shown above
3. Place veggies in soup pot and add broth. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
4. Make 1/2 to 1 cup (dry) quinoa in separate pot in the meantime
5. Add curry paste, tomatoes, coconut milk to soup pot and start to mash potatoes and squash. Simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Mash squash and sweet potatoes again to desired consistency, or remove from pot and blend if you want it super creamy. I prefer some texture.
7. Add curry powder, cumin, ginger garlic paste, and sesame oil.
8. Stir and serve!
Yields ~8 servings

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Superbowl Sunday Veg Buffalo Dip- 2 Ways!

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 9 years, and people always ask me if there’s anything I miss. To their disappointment, I always say no, and that it’s such a habit, I forget it’s an option.

And then this time of year in the #BoldNorth rolls around. Minnesotans. love. buffalo. chicken. dip. It’s in every crockpot at the tailgates, holiday parties, and you best believe it will be at Superbowl Sunday. And I’m jealous.

So here we are, the first recipe is vegetarian buffalo dip for the guests that don’t want to be eating bird food. Focus on mentioning there’s cheese, keep quiet about the cauliflower.

Health nuts, keep scrolling for the vegan/paleo buffalo cauliflower hummus that is dairy free, gluten free, and still adored by regular food people like my coworkers.

VEGETARIAN BUFFALO DIP

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INGREDIENTS
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup Frank’s buffalo sauce
1 tbsp ranch seasoning
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Sliced green onion
Carrots, celery, and/or chips and crackers for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned. When cauliflower is done, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  3. Add roasted cauliflower to food processor and pulse until finely diced. Add cream cheese, yogurt, hot sauce, ranch seasoning and 1/2 cup mozzarella to the food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.
  4. Transfer cauliflower mixture to a baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella and optional blue cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until mixture is heated through.
  5. Remove from oven and garnish with sliced green onion and serve with carrot and celery sticks and/or tortilla chips.
""VEGAN/ PALEO BUFFALO HUMMUS
ingredients
INGREDIENTS

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
Sea salt/ himalayan salt and cracked black pepper to season califlower

1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Frank’s buffalo sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
Sliced green onion (optional)
Carrots, celery, and/or chips and crackers for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt and pepper on baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.
  3. Add tahini, olive oil, cauliflower, buffalo sauce, and lemon juice to food processor (blender in my case) and pulse until smooth and creamy
  4. Mix in sliced green onion if you’d like
  5. Transfer cauliflower mixture to serving dish. Sprinkle cayenne pepper on top. Cool and enjoy!
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Perfect for our arctic Minnesotan Sundays!

Nigerian Cuisine and Why I’m Grateful for Foodie Friends

 

“Are you cooking?!” My manager interjected with concern and horror all over his face. So much faith in me.

I confirmed I absolutely was, and continued to explain that this group of adventurous friends has shaped me, and pushes me to continue growing. I’m grateful and excited to try something new with them again tonight. I also asked everyone to cross their fingers it all turns out.

This crew, or my Romies as we like to say, gets together about once a month and recently we transitioned that into a cultural dinner party. Because that’s how all 20-something’s have fun.

Emily kicked us off by teaching us how to make sushi (because she loves to make and eat sushi) and we rebranded that evening into a getting a taste of her Japanese roots. Clearly, we had to run with this.

Tamara followed, with Serbian delicacies often reserved for Christmas, which happened to be completely vegetarian. Their willingness to cater to my pescetarian diet is probably why we’re such great friends.

 

That meal included a cheese pie topped with greek yogurt and apple sauce, a chickpea and bean dish, and dessert of baklava and honey pie. All of these dishes had real Serbian names but due to our Italian tradition of drinking lots of vino, I don’t remember what they’re called.

Next, it was my time to shine. Allison is on deck with an Armenian dinner, so I was kind of dreading coming up with a vegetarian English/German menu, which is basically an oxymoron.

And then it occurred to me, my cultural dinner could be inspired by the roots my family has chosen- African. Advice from my dad and some in-depth googling brought me to our Nigerian menu.

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Peanut Soup

My loose interpretation of the recipe above included:

  • 1 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, un-drained
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ -½ tsp cayenne (I personally did probably 6 shakes of this)
  • 1 package chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and cooked)
  • ½-1 tsp salt

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the peanut oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and diced sweet potatoes. Sauté over medium heat until soft, 5-7 min.

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Greetings from my sous chef!

Add the broth, tomatoes with juice, peanut butter, tomato paste, and cayenne. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Simmer the soup, covered, over medium-low heat for 10 min. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the soup to break up the potatoes. (You are still looking to have some chunks, so a coarse mash is all you need.) Add the greens and simmer uncovered for 5 min.

Jollof Rice, a recipe I actually followed for once! I added chopped sauteed shrimp.

Tamara brought something similar to samoas from the always wonderful Minneapolis-based Afro Deli. Allison nailed her dessert responsibilities with this banana cake that I’m still dreaming of:

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And those cute African placemats? Those would be courtesy of my adventurous grandparents. It’s amazing to think that such a special Friday night in my Minneapolis home was inspired, created, and built by a couple, grandparents, and a single woman immigrating from Serbia, Armenia, and Japan; and a family in Wisconsin deciding to moving to Africa with their dogs could be exciting.

It’s creating traditions like these that keep those stories part of us, and remind us how much we have to be grateful for.

 

Sweet Potatoes + Savory Oats

Like any normal person, I decided to make my grocery list by thinking of foods I liked the least. Sweet potatoes and oatmeal, welcome to the party.

I was never into sweet potatoes because the idea of potatoes being sweet was confusing, and brown sugar glazes or marshmallows made the situation even worse. Oatmeal felt like something that was designed to be healthy, but is always served with 30 grams of sugar. Add in my love for protein in the morning and I just didn’t see the point.

However, I thought I must be missing something, especially since both dishes seemed like a very cost effective and filling addition to the day. Here’s how we all found love in a hopeless place:

Baked for Breakfast- Put sweet potatoes in the oven at 425 for 45-60 minutes or until soft to the touch. Cut in half and add protein, hot sauce (if you’re me), and anything else you’d like. Any more potato than that and the ratio isn’t the best for us non-potato enthusiasts. You also just started the meal prep for multiple breakfasts, killin’ it.

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The yolk makes this amazing, topped with sour cream (or greek yogurt)
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Greek yogurt, cinnamon, honey, pecans, and apple pie jam
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Paired with Herbivorous Butcher’s maple breakfast sausage

Savory and Steel Cut- Every morning, my dad makes “oaties” on the stove for himself and our dog. That’s correct. It always seemed like an oddly long process, but yielding 4-5 servings made it worth it. Bring  3 cups water with 1 cup almond milk to a boil, and stir in 1 cup steel cut oats. Simmer for 20ish minutes on medium-low, stirring regularly, until the mixture becomes thick.

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Oats with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and red thai sauce
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Mixed with chocolate chips, coconut, maple syrup, and raspberries for dessert

Let me know what you try!

Chia Pudding- Protein + Coffee

In my book, Sundays were designed for those if only I had time for… wish list items. For me this often means making up new and extensive recipes. However, if the Sunday somehow slipped away, this chia pudding recipe is a quick way to snack plan and make the rest of your week a breeze.
chia puddingWhat you need:

  • Protein Powder: Vanilla SFH Pure if you want to get like me, or any will do
  • 8 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup coffee (let it cool)
  • 1-1.5 cup almond milk (I prefer original over unsweetened)

Hit it:

Mix dry ingredients together, mason jars work amazing for this exact step. Then add in 3/4 cup chilled coffee, stir or shake. Fill the remainder of the jar with the 1-1.5 cup almond milk and stir or shake once again. Be sure that there isn’t any chia seeds or powder chunks sticking to the side.

Leave in the fridge overnight and then celebrate come snack time Monday morning! This amount is good for 2-4 servings, depending on how excited you are about chia pudding. So while you’re at it, make enough for the whole week.

Why I love it:

  • Get a mix of sweet and bitter with the vanilla, cocoa, and almond milk paired with coffee and chia seeds. Tasty enough for dessert but healthy enough for a daily snack. Win-win.
  • Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fats (hard to get outside of fish and nuts), protein, and vitamins. Yes. Please.
  • It truly is as easy as it sounds to make, and is healthy snack to grab and go. Granola bars and flavored yogurt, we’re onto you.

Enjoy!

Zoodle + Shrimp Pad Thai

Yes, please. If you haven’t heard me talk about my zoodler, you aren’t asking the right questions. I am obsessed. If you aren’t familiar, I’m referring to a handy tool that can make noodles out of any vegetable. {Zucchini noodles–> zoodles –> zoodler} Technically it’s called a veggetti…but that name has obvious issues that the entire marketing team somehow overlooked. If you want to convince anyone that your dish is better than regular noodles, I recommend staying away from that word.

Let’s hit it:IMG_4491

What you need (Prep 20 mins)
-First and foremost, a Zoodler! Aka a vegetti…but that name has obvious issues that the
entire marketing team somehow overlooked. So I call it a zoodler. Rice noodles could be used if you aren’t convinced this tool will change your life.
-6 zucchinis (on the smaller side)
-3 eggs
-15 shrimp, defrosted
-1 can chickpeas
-3 tbsp garlic
-Simmer sauce (Trader Joe’s Red Thai Curry is my fave)
-Crushed red pepper
-Lemon & pepper seasoning

IMG_4492How to (Cook time 15 mins)
-Start boiling the water and zoodle all zucchinis into a large bowl, set aside.
-Sautee shrimp and season with lemon & pepper spice, set aside.
-Add zoodles to boiling water, cook for 5-7 minutes; drain
-Chop shrimp into thirds, add to zoodles with drained chickpeas, garlic, and stir in simmer sauce to cover mixture. Low heat for 5 minutes.
-Scramble the 3 eggs, and stir in.
-Add crushed red pepper to taste, and serve!

Serves four. Or in my language, bring to work in a large tupperware and have with salad for four days 🙂 Why Zoodle?

  • Zucchinis are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins (A, B6, C & K), potassium, magnesium, and folate. This is true for zucchini squash as well!
  • Sweet potatoes are an amazing source of vitamin A (shout out to that beta-carotene), vitamin C, copper, magnesium, fiber, vitamins B1 & B2, and phosphorus. And then you get to say sweet patoodle. My kind of perk.

Compared to pasta, which usually has at least 200 carb-dense calories/serving. For me, the main differentiator is that vegetable noodles have one nutrient-rich ingredient going into their production, while pasta is processed and preserved.

I can tell you from my four months of living in Italy that all of those ingredients, preservatives, and coloring agents do make a difference. Fresh and homemade pasta was not reserved for the most gourmet restaurants, it is just how Italians make pasta. As a result, Americans who are gluten-intolerant/sensitive tend to not experience issues.

If a trip isn’t in the near future, start experimenting with fresh zucchini noodles! Have a favorite zoodler recipe? Please share!

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