I’m welcoming myself back! Trying to get better at my time management, forcing myself to cook blog worthy meals, and actually blogging them. Wish me luck!
At work (Kaia FIT Lafayette) we are finished up week four of our current six week Brik, or boot camp program. I decided to really clean up my diet during this time. No sugar, no alcohol, no wheat, no grain, no dairy. I’m not doing a strict Whole30 but I’ve stayed pretty close to being on track. I was with my dad during his birthday last week so I had a few beers with him and cake to celebrate. But afterwards I jumped right back in. No regrets but motivation to keep on keeping on. And so far it’s been a great and easy experience. I don’t focus on what I am not eating but instead focus on all the good stuff I am eating.. veggies, lean protein, and some fruit pretty much makes up my daily diet. Typically I do eat a clean diet but the chocolate consumption was out of hand. I’m too embarrassed to admit how much I was eating! Amazingly it was no struggle to give it up. In fact there are bars sitting in the cabinet that I haven’t touched. Go me!
Now for this meal! I love a good tomato sauce. We eat plenty of tomato sauce with ground beef over cauliflower rice. It’s a weekly staple for quick and easy cooking. This is along those lines except I used ground turkey and braised a whole cauliflower. Really there is nothing to it. And it looks pretty fancy. If you have the time go ahead and make your tomato sauce from scratch. I used a jar that I love (sugar free) and added capers, kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, parsley, and smoked paprika. The cauliflower is pushed into the sauce and simmered until tender. My kids happily gobbled this up without question to where the pasta was. I’m pretty happy to know there are leftovers waiting for dinner tonight!
Tomato Sauce Braised Cauliflower
Whole cauliflower braised in a puttanesca style tomato sauce. A beautiful presentation for a simple meal!
- shallot, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced/pressed
- 1 crook neck squash, chopped (substitute zucchini)
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 32 oz jar tomato sauce (sugar free- read your labels!)
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- splash red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/4 cup pitted & chopped kalamata olives*
- 1 whole head cauliflower, leaves removed from bottom
- olive oil
- fresh basil, to serve
- pecorino romano, fresh grated to serve (if you are not dairy free)
- In a large pot heat up a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and squash. Saute 5 minutes until starting to soft. Add the garlic and ground turkey. Continue to cook until turkey is browned. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Add the jar of tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, parsley, smoked paprika, capers, and olives. Bring to a simmer. Season with s&p.
- Place the head of cauliflower into the sauce pressing down so it is 2/3 of the way submerged.
- Turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes until cauliflower is tender crisp.
- Serve with plenty of fresh basil and pecorino romano.
I recently discovered dried kalamata olives from trader joes. They are AMAZING. I love the intense olive flavor they offer.
Leave the ground turkey out for a vegetarian meal.
Don’t let the thought of turnip greens turn you off from this pesto recipe. Recently my neighbor harvested her turnips and garlic scapes from her garden and shared some of the greens and scapes with me along with the mention of making pesto. Turnip greens, garlic scapes, walnuts, lemon juice, and pecorino romano. I’m always up for garden veggies but I’ll be honest in wondering how good a turnip green pesto could actually be. But let me tell you I was amazed at how delicious this is! I was eating it by the spoonful it was so good. And my kids were too! I can honestly say I might like this more than basil pesto. The flavor combination works. The texture was creamy and perfect. Just trust me on this one!
Turnip Green & Garlic Scape Pesto
A unique and delicious twist on pesto!
- turnip greens - from 8 turnips (the younger they are the less bitter they will be)
- 6 garlic scapes (mine were thin and medium in length, if they are super long or fat start with 3)
- 1 cup walnuts
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
- olive oil
- Roughly chop the garlic scapes and place in a food processor. Pulse to mince.
- Add the turnip greens, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, pecorino, and season with s&p.
- While running the processor drizzle in olive oil until a smooth consistency is reached. I did not measure my olive oil but I'd say I used 1/4 cup.
- Scrape sides, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary - more s&p, more lemon juice, or more pecorino romano.
- Eat on everything!
There are different varieties of turnips. If you can find Japanese turnips, they are my favorite! The turnips themselves are sweet and the greens are tender.
We finally had our first snow! Typically we get an early snow sometime in October but not this year. Instead we’ve had a beautiful fall with a mix of both t-shirt warm and jacket cool days. Then true to Colorado weather within two days the temperature dropped 40+ degrees and dumped around 6 inches of snow. It was perfect timing too.. due to the holiday there was no school and I had the day off from work. No alarms to wake up to, no scraping snow off the car first thing in the cold, but instead a morning making waffles for the kids and enjoying a nice warm cup of tea! Why can’t every Wednesday be a holiday?
This cooler weather definitely makes me want comfort food! And lots of it. But I’m behaving, learning to stay within my macro counting, and enjoying the way I’m eating. Lots of vegetables and protein! Overall I’m feeling pretty great. As I flow through my carb cycle schedule I try to enjoy foods I love on my high carb days. And this sauce fit in perfectly. Creamy, lots of flavor, and vegan! I love a good cream sauce but my stomach cannot handle much cream/dairy. So I’ve learned to create sauces that taste just as amazing as a cream based sauce but without all the yuck. Check out my little helper..
And this pumpkin sauce did not disappoint. It was so incredibly delicious. I mixed it into a portion of pasta with broccoli and rotisserie chicken, a grown up version of mac and cheese. My kids loved this too, gobbling down what they thought was a typical mac and cheese sauce!
- 2 small leeks
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 5.46 oz can coconut milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
- olive oil
- In a saucepan heat up a tablespoon of olive oil over low heat.
- Peel off the outer layer of the leeks and chop the whites into thin rounds. Add to the olive oil and cook until soft and lightly caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.
- Stir in the pumpkin, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, and sage leaves. Season generously with s&p. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and immersion blend until smooth. (A blender would work fine too).
For the last 4 months or so I consistently ate a salad 4-5 days a week for lunch. It was perfect for warmer weather. Fresh greens and crunchy vegetables, many times from our garden, a filling meal that didn’t heat me up. But now that fall has arrived I don’t have too much interest in eating salads. Soups and other healthy comfort foods start to enter my daily diet. I crave warming foods. And even though these meals are loaded with vegetables, they are cooked, and I feel it’s important to include some raw greens. Enter kale salad.
Kale salads are heartier and lend themselves to cool weather toppings.. such as toasted nuts/seeds, dried fruit, pomegranate seeds, and roasted squash. Plenty of ways to get creative! But it’s also nice to keep it simple and serve a kale salad as a side dish. Which is what I did here adding toasted pecans and dried tart cherries. Just enough excitement! For dressing I made my all time favorite for raw kale.. lime juice, stone ground mustard, maple syrup, and olive oil. Typically I use lemon juice but I’m out and limes work just as well!
Don't forget to eat your greens! This kale salad can be made in minutes and is served with a fresh citrus dressing.
For the Salad:
- 1 bunch green curly kale
- 1/3 cup chopped dried tart cherries (unsweetened)
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
For the Dressing:
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- Remove ribs from kale. Wash and dry leaves. Wrap leaves into a bundle and gently roll back and forth on a cutting board (massaging it). Chop the kale while still bundled. Place in a large bowl.
- Toast pecans in a dry pan over medium low heat. Pay attention not to burn! Once they are fragrant and lightly browned remove from pan and let cool.
- In a small jar add the lime juice, mustard, syrup, and olive oil. Season with s&p. Cover jar and shake well to combine. Taste and add more of any ingredient if necessary.
- Add cherries and pecans to kale.
- Pour dressing over the salad and mix well to combine. Serve immediately or store in the fridge until serving.
Kale salad can be made ahead of time. I prefer to make mine 2-3 hours in advance so the kale has a chance to soften a bit more.
If you are serving immediately you can always massage the dressing into the kale with your *clean hands.
Unlike my presentation, kale salads look beautiful when served in a large wooden bowl.
Another no cook tomato sauce for the win! Originally I intended to roast 4 cups of sungold tomatoes and turn them into a roasted tomato pesto. But.. after a grocery run, making my weekly batch of kombucha, starting a sauerkraut ferment, making a green bean tomato salad, and cooking/canning 10+ cups strawberry rhubarb pie filling I decided to go easy on myself. I should add in I was doing all of this while dealing with a very grumpy and sick kid. It was a marathon kitchen session to say the least but I was in my groove enjoying myself.
I really really loved my no cook tomato sauce from last week and decided to run with this idea again. This version is pretty much pesto ingredients with plenty of fresh tomatoes to turn it into a sauce. These sungold tomatoes taste like candy. It’s unreal how sweet they are. I cannot remember tasting a tomato sweeter. Seriously, no joking aside, straight heaven in your mouth. I would go as far as saying these sungold babies would convert a non-tomato eater into a tomato lover. As I’ve said before nothing beats garden fresh! Here’s a not so great photo of my bounty..
A no cook tomato sauce using sungold tomatoes. Garlic, basil, pine nuts, tomatoes, olive oil, and salt. A perfect combination of flavors!
- 4 cups, sungold tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Place garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well minced.
- Add the tomatoes, basil leaves, pine nuts, and season generously with salt. Again pulse until everything is well blended.
- While running the processor slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
I made a double batch which gave me 2 pints worth of sauce. If you'd like to make enough for 1 meal, I'd recommend halving the recipe.
Sautéed garden squash topped with the sungold sauce