So we asked you guys via our Facebook Page what were some of your guilty indulgences. For most humans at some point in our lives we have all had certain foods that we ate because they just taste so damn good even though we know they are unhealthy. Mac and cheese definitely falls into that category. There are two kinds of mac and cheese in my mind, the first being the kind that came out of the blue box with powdered cheese. I'm pretty sure that cheese sauce had crack in it because it tasted so good, especially the spirals....but seriously, this is about one of the most processed foods you will find on a store shelf. Frankly, looking back I don't even know if I would call it food. The second version is the homemade version which is loaded with butter, cream, and cheese, not to mention the vehicle to consume said fat mixture is an enriched white flour noodle. Just in case that wasn't enough fat, I would usually throw some bacon into my version too.
So the feat of "healthifying" this dish was going to be a tough one. I knew that I wasn't going to try to make a powder that somehow magically turned into cheese. So the other option was to try to recreate the base bechamel sauce that traditional mac and cheese is made from. Your traditional bechamel is made from fat and flour and it usually incorporates onion. In the case of mac and cheese, you also add cheese to it. I had heard of someone else making a cream sauce out of cauliflower before so I figured this would be the perfect time to try that out. I've done a cauliflower puree before, so this was simply making that a little thinner to resemble a bechamel sauce instead of mashed potatoes.
So I've now got a creamy sauce but then I had to somehow infuse that sauce with a cheese flavor. Let me just start by saying actually cheese flavor is next to impossible to recreate but I feel this got close. So a lot of cheeses have a nutty taste to them along with a an obvious saltiness. Salt is the easy part, so for the nutty factor I used cashews that I had soaked in water for about 4 hours to soften them. Another ingredient that our friend Lindsay over at The Paleo Paramedic told me about was Nutritional Yeast. Nutritional yeast has a natural cheese like flavor. It is also a great source for your essential B vitamins, which if you live in the vegetarian or vegan world can be the toughest vitamins to acquire through food sources. So I added all of that to get it tasting like a cheese sauce...but that last elusive thing was giving it that cheese color. Tumeric to the rescue. Not only is tumeric a superfood but is also turns anything it touches yellow.
So we've got a blob of cheesey like goodness which is actually really healthy for you but do you just drench regular noodles or at best whole wheat noodles in this sauce and call it a day? You certainly could and you would have a tasty dish...so if you want to stop right there, feel free. But to ultra-healthify this dish, why not find another vegetable that would resemble elbow macaroni. My brain ran the gamut of veggies trying to think of something that would resemble the texture and size of elbow macaroni. If you are following us or in the healthy eating community you have probably heard of Zoodles or noodles made out of zucchini. Typically, most people use a spiralizer or mandolin to cut zucchini into either a spaghetti or egg noodle like shape. I wasn't able to get that little curve in the noodle or make them hollow by just using a knife, but I cut zucchini into a 1/4" x 1/4" by 1" pieces so that it would resemble macaroni.
What would some homestyle mac and cheese be without a topping, right??? So to add that crunch to the top of this dish I just added some crushed almonds that I combined with some dried parsley and oregano.
Some possible modifications if you aren't looking for an ultra healthified mac and cheese option or you don't need to follow a vegan diet.
Artichokes were something new for me. I've used the canned hearts quite a bit but have never worked with the whole artichoke before, so decided to tackle these this week. I have to say they were a little bit of work but they did turn out pretty darn good. I decided to grill them which turned out great. This way would work great for an appetizer in a group setting. The leaves each have a little bit of "meat" on them, so it makes for a an easy finger food. Just dip it in the sauce and suck the sauce off and scrape away the meat with your teeth.
So through a little research I learned how to clean these massive thistles. Yeah they actually belong to the thistle family, crazy right? So the first step was to clean up the stalk. If you look at the picture above you can see the difference between an unprepared artichoke (left one) and and cleaned one (right one). After you have cleaned up the stems the next step is to chop them in half like in the picture below. Once you have them sliced lengthwise you will need to clean out the pulp from the inside of the artichoke. I just used a pairing knife to to this, you could also probably use a spoon.
One thing to note when you are working with artichokes is that if you leave them sitting out they will oxidize and turn black. Similar to an apple turning brown or avocado turning black. So to counter this have a bowl of acidulated water nearby to soak them. I just added about a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to a big bowl of water.
Once you have cleaned the artichokes and rinsed them of any sand or dirt, you will need to boil them for roughly 15-20 minutes to soften the flesh. After you boil them go ahead and transfer to your hot grill and grill for 5-10 minutes until you get a nice char on them. No need to flip them since all the flesh is on the cut side.
While the artichokes were boiling I prepared the creamy balsamic dipping sauce for the artichokes. To do this I added 1 tbsp olive oil to a small sauce pan, then cooked 3 diced garlic cloves until slightly brown. Add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp of butter and cook for 10 minutes letting the sauce reduce and bring the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar out. Cover and keep warm. Before serving add 1/2 cup of unflavored greek yogurt and stir until combined.
Health Benefits of Artichokes*
*Nutrition data taken from http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/artichoke.html
It's been a while since we have done a Weird Veg Wednesday. My inspiration kicked in tonight with some portabello mushrooms that we had in the fridge along with some other ingredients that we had in the house. I've done stuffed portabellos before, I've done portabello fries, but this was a new adventure for me. The attempt was to turn a portabello mushroom into a taco shell. I'm happy to say IT WORKED!!!
The rest of the dish was pretty simple beef taco meat using the homemade taco seasoning mix that we made a few months ago. The salsa was a roasted corn, black bean salsa. We topped it with a little guacamole and some cilantro and it made for a delicious taco. On side we made some Spanish rice with a little sauteed red onion and chili powder.
We have definitely tricked a few people with this recipe before because these brownies look, smell, and taste just like the ones your grandma use to make with butter and flour. Laura found the recipe on Instagram for the brownies and we are drawing a blank on where she found it otherwise we definitely give props to you. So if this looks like your recipe shoot us a message and we will give you shout out.
So we technically made up this dessert for our #weirdvegwednesday but there isn’t really any veggies in it. I’m going to modify and call it weird produce Wednesday because of the avocados in the frosting. If you try this recipe out on unknowing subjects we would love to hear what their response was when you told them what was actually in these. The pan I made was a double batch, so the ingredients listed below are for just a single batch. So don’t follow my directions below and put them in a 9″ x 13″ like my pic otherwise you will be a brownie flatbread. Ooh I might be on to something with that…
So we’ve had a couple of busy days but we did try out a new Weird Veg on Wednesday this week. We chose tomatillos which I guess we have used before but mainly in salsas. Tomatillos if you have never had them are an interesting flavor. Although they look like a small green tomato, they have more of a citrus type flavor. It really added a nice little zing to this dish.
Tomatillos are a great source of Vitamin C and potassium. For their calorie content they also have a decent amount of fiber. When buying tomatillos I like to try to find ones that still have some of the husk on them and they should have a nice firm texture. Sometimes when you are buying veggies that aren’t mainstream you need to check them to make sure they haven’t been sitting there for too long. Once you get them home, peel the husks and give them a good wash, the outer flesh tends to have a sticky residue on them. Enjoy this delicious and fun Veg!
For the blackened cod that was just simply, 8 oz cod fillets drizzled with a little olive and coated generously with blackening seasoning. Depending on thickness you will need to cook between 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.
#weirdvegwednesday this week we decided to both honor our weird vegetable choice and the fact that yesterday was National Pancake Day. Why wouldn’t we use a vegetable to make pancakes??? So if you don’t like squash don’t go near this one but if you love it, you have to try it. Kabocha squash has a very similar flavor to butternut squash but with fewer calories and similar health benefits. YES PLEASE!!! I needed to go to a smaller local grocery store in order to find one, your big chain stores probably aren’t going to carry this variety, even Whole Foods. The sauce will take 15-20 minutes to make so plan accordingly when you are timing out your pancakes.
#weirdvegwednesday was a pretty tasty creation this week. I’ll admit that we don’t love every new vegetable that we try…but when we started this, our goal was to step outside what we were comfortable with when it came to trying to new food.
This week we made Stuffed Leeks. It was a play on manicotti but without the pasta and it was DELICIOUS. I took the tubes from the leeks and stuffed it with a chicken sausage. The sauce is lemon, caper, tomato, leek sauce. Garnished it with some parmesan and parsley.
“You can learn a lot about a person by the food that they eat. Are they willing to take chances? Will you try new things and step outside of your comfort zone?” ~ An excerpt from Dan’s ebook that he hasn’t written yet ~
Tomato, Leek, Lemon, Caper Sauce
Assembling Stuffed Leeks
So when you get your leeks you will want to cut the a 4 inch section from the bottom. In order to get the leek “tubes” push in the middle of the leek. Make sure you push towards the green side of the leek as it is the wider side and it will come apart easier.
You should be able to get 8-10 tubes from 3 large leeks. Once you have separated, clean the tubes by rinsing. Make sure you set aside the interior of the leek, as you will use that with the sauce. Make sure you clean this part of the leek also as leeks tend to be very sandy. Once you have your leek tubes, fill each with your sausage mixture. You should have enough sausage for 8 or so stuffed leeks.
Arrange all of your stuffed leeks into a baking dish and top with your sauce. Bake for 35-45 minutes until sausage is cooked through. Garnish with some paremesan and chopped parsley.
If you have been following us, you know that we post a weird vegetable recipe every Wednesday (#weirdvegwednesday). Jicama is a root vegetable similar to a potato or yam but actually is in the bean family. After you get through the brown exterior, the edible interior is a white flesh. It is crisp like a pear or apple and has a sweet flavor to it. Jicama is a great source of fiber and vitamin C. The fiber in Jicama also helps with digestion and has a prebiotic effect to it. We usually eat it raw but it can be cooked in stir fry or soups. It is great for salads or in this case we made a slaw out of it.
So we like to our vegetables, so we started up a deal a few weeks ago that we would try to use a weird vegetable each week. We also thought it would be fun to take semi-normal vegetables prepare them in a weird way. So we have all had cucumbers, but have you had cucumber ice cream? On top of that we decided to go a step further and make a vegan ice cream using coconut milk. We have the luxury of having an ice cream maker so if you don’t have one you may need to get creative on how you can make it without one.
The Cook & The Coach
Healthy is a LIFESTYLE.