Cauliflower, the New Comfort Food

In 1621 the pilgrims celebrated their first fall harvest. They held a ceremony to show gratitude for their good fortune and to give thanks. Over time this tradition became known as “Thanksgiving”. What you might imagine this to look like is quite a bit different than the stereotypical “Turkey Day” image of grandpa napping on a couch with a full belly, pumpkin pies, apple pies, pecan pies, stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits and a large juicy bird on the table and a football game.

While the original Thanksgiving was a gathering of family and community, their dining table looked a little different than what we are now accustomed to. The table they feasted at in 1621 had less overindulgence, less refined carbohydrates and saturated fat, and a wider variety of local and seasonal fruits and vegetables. I want to zoom in on one particular item on their Thanksgiving table, cauliflower.

Mark Twain said “a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education”. That’s because the cauliflower plant actually is in the same family as cabbage, along with kale, collard greens, brussels sprouts and broccoli. These are cruciferous or brassica vegetables. One of the most significant characteristic of vegetables in the Brassica family is that they contain glucosinolates, a phytochemical in some plants that releases a pungent taste when chewed.  

Cauliflower can be found in white, green, purple and orange varieties, each one offering different nutrients, dependent on their color.  In general cauliflower contains:

  • Glucosinolates
  • High amount of vitamin C
    • A powerful antioxidant that protects the immune system
  • Potassium
    • Keeps your heart beating and muscles from cramping
  • Manganese
    • Important for metabolism, bone development and wound healing
  • Vitamin K
    • Needed for bone development and helps stop bleeding when you have a cut
  • Fiber
    • Aids in healthy digestion and makes you feel full
  • Omega-3
    • Cauliflower is one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3. It’s important to fight of inflammation, regulate cholesterol levels and have been shown to help with helps keep our minds sharp.

Fun Fact: Romanesco Cauliflower is a great example of sacred geometry in food. Sacred geometry is a term used to describe patterns we see repeating themselves over and over in nature. They are the building blocks or seeds of nature. Pinecones or nautilus shells are other good examples of this. This has got to get your students excited about cauliflower because. . . well, it’s really cool!

romanesco-cauliflower

How To Cook It:

The recipes below provide a twist on traditional Thanksgiving recipes. Imagine Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes or stuffing… no thank you. But what if instead of the heavy bread and eggs for the stuffing or the potatoes for the mash, we lightened it up with cauliflower? Changing an unhealthy habit into healthy choices is made easier when we just tweak what we already know and love. This is a way to help your students add more vegetables in their diet and get excited about what they are eating.

Here are some other ideas on how to use cauliflower:

  • Cauliflower pizza crust
  • Cauliflower buffalo wings
  • Cauliflower hash
  • Cauliflower tots
  • Cauliflower tacos (see recipe in previous beet article here)
  • Cauliflower fried “rice”

You can also throw it into an omelet, drizzle some oil on it and roast it, puree it into soup, toss it in a stew or curry, or make a sauce and to dip it in and eat it raw.

Mashed Cauliflower

mashed-cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 heads cauliflower, florets, rough chop
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock per every cup of cauliflower
  • 3 tbs plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

(Optional) chives, rosemary or parsley for garnish or 2 tbs chopped and mixed in

Directions:

  1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan, add the cauliflower and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer until cauliflower is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of the oil on a pan and lightly sauté garlic on low heat until it begins to brown. Set aside.
  3. Reserve cooking liquid and transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Add yogurt, garlic and seasonings and blend until smooth. Slowly add in the oil and then the cooking liquid until you reach desired creaminess.
  4. (Optional) Mix in fresh parsley or chives.
  5. Serve and eat.

Cauliflower Stuffing

Cauliflower Stuffing.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, florets rough chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, dice
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup polenta, dried
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tbs rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp sage powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Put cauliflower florets into food processor and pulse until it is small and rice-like.
  2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add the cauliflower, salt, pepper and sage and bring to a low simmer. Allow to simmer until it becomes tender and reaches a porridge like consistency, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, add the vegetable oil. Over medium heat, add the onions, carrots and celery. Once these have softened, add the mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and parsley for an additional minute or two.
  4. Once the cauliflower has finished cooking, add the polenta and stir for about 3 minutes. Then, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Serve and eat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!: Pumpkins as FOOD!

Halloween is over, but pumpkin season most certainly is not! Pumpkins are considered a winter squash, which means that they are harvested in the autumn but last all the way through the winter season. This is a great way to get fresh vegetables on to our plates in the colder months. In fact, in the past (before freezers, canned goods and imported foods), pumpkins and other winter squashes were an essential item in the kitchen to making it through the winter with enough food.

Today, we most commonly know pumpkins for pumpkin lattes and jack-o-lanterns. As it turns out though, those lattes are flavored with sugar and artificial flavoring, and no pumpkin at all. And our Halloween decorations, which are hybrid pumpkins known as Aladdin pumpkins, were developed particularly for their ability to be carved instead of for the purpose of being eaten.

While carving pumpkins doesn’t make a great meal, their seeds (and the seeds of all pumpkins varieties) are still widely used and full of nutrients. So let your students carve their pumpkins, but encourage them to roast, toast or sprout those seeds too!

Try using pumpkin seeds for seed butter, in a trail mix, as a topping for salads, soups, desserts, and cereals or grind it up to be used in dressings or put in a flour mix.

Pumpkin seeds are packed with:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • High Iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, folate, niacin and selenium
  • Healthy fats
  • Antimicrobial properties (antifungal and antiviral)

There are now over 40 varieties of pumpkins that vary in color, shape, size and texture. Larger pumpkins tend to have a stringier and bitter quality compared to the smaller, sweeter ones used in most recipes. While jack-o-lanterns aren’t meant to be eaten, there are many pumpkins that are. Some varieties often used for cooking are labeled as Pie Pumpkins or Sugar Pumpkins, Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Lumina, Ghost Rider, Cinderella. Fairy Tale, Jarrahdale, Peanut, Lakota, and Cow Pumpkins.

These all generally have a similar taste, but their key notes and texture do differ. For a fun activity to do with students, purchase a couple different types of pumpkins, roast them, and see if your students are able to tell the difference in taste between them. Then see which ones they think would be better used in pies, in soups and other applications.

I doubt you are going to find any pumpkin that will turn into gold and become your midnight carriage ride like Cinderella, but here are some ways you can use pumpkins: in pies, breads, smoothies, roasted to be thrown in quinoa, salads or a vegetable medley, put in soups and stews, used as a cooking and serving vessel (ditch the bread bowl, try a pumpkin bowl!). Really, the options are limitless.

Encourage creativity from your students to see if they can come up with an idea of how pumpkins can be used in an entrée of each meal, as an appetizer, side dish, dessert, as a snack and in a beverage.

pumpkin-pie-smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

  • 12 oz Unsweetened almond milk
  • 5 dates, rough chop
  • ½  cup Winter Luxury Pumpkin, cut in half and gutted
  • ½ banana
  • 1 tsp Maple Syrup
  • ½ tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the pumpkin with foil and roast until it is tender enough to pierce with a fork. Allow the pumpkin to cool.
  2. Scoop the pumpkin meat from the skin. Put ½ a cup of pumpkin into the blender and set the rest aside to use for more smoothies.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Pour into a cup, sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon and enjoy!

pumpkin-chili

Pumpkin Chili

  • 1 Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (or other pumpkin suitable for stews), gutted and
  • kept whole (reserve ¼ cup pumpkin seeds)
  • 32 oz vegetable stock
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large carrots (orange, white and purple if possible), rough chop
  • 2 yellow pepper, medium dice
  • 2 red onions, rough chop
  • 2 large poblano peppers, medium dice
  • 1 cup white beans, dried and soaked over night or longer
  • ¼ cup scallions, minced
  • 3-4 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs sage powder
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Salt, 1 tsp
  • Pepper, 1 tbs

1. Soak the beans over night, thoroughly rinsing before using.

2. Preheat the oven to 425

3. Cut around the stem of the pumpkin so that it can be gutted while keeping

the rest of the pumpkin intact.

4. Rinse pumpkin seeds and set aside. And toast with on a dry pan until they

start to brown. Let cool.

5. Lightly coat the inside of the pumpkin with 1 tsp olive oil and let roast until

the inside is soft enough to be easily penetrated with a knife. (About an 1-1.5

hrs- times vary depending on size and type of pumpkin used)

6. Place the tomatoes with the cut side face down in a pan with 1 tbs of olive oil

on medium heat. Once the juices start to leak out, flip over and allow to cook

for another 5 minutes.

7. Let the pumpkin cool enough to touch and without cutting through the skin

of the pumpkin, cut around the inside walls of the pumpkin to remove the

meat. Leave a thin layer of the pumpkin meat on the walls so that the

pumpkin is strong enough to be used as a serving vessel.

8. Add the vegetable stock and tomatoes. Puree the ingredients using a blender

or immersion blender.

9. In a stockpot, sweat the onions with a small amount of olive oil.

10. Once translucent, add in the carrots and peppers for 5 minutes, occasionally

stirring. Add in the garlic, Once the garlic starts to brown, add the chili

powder, pepper and sage and transfer the pureed mixture into the pot and

bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

11. Add the beans.

12. Meanwhile, shell the pumpkin seeds. Add the remaining amount of olive oil

and the rest of the chili powder. Toast on light heat until crunchy.

13. Once beans are tender, add the salt and remove from heat.

14. Pour the chili back into the pumpkin shell.

15. Sprinkle scallions and pumpkin seeds on top of the chili.