Playing with Your Food

Yesterday I had an epiphany.  How many times do you go to fix a meal only to discover you have all the “wrong” ingredients, or not enough of the “right” ingredients?

Now, normally, we wouldn’t think twice about popping back to the store to grab what we really need. But right now with most cities and regions cracking down on leaving your home except to walk your dog outside or essentials, this issue may create a problem.

Or does it?

ZooFit is all about doing what you can. And that goes for following recipes, too.

When I first got seriously into cooking, I fumbled around my kitchen (and it was much larger back then), scratched my head in regards to translating what in the world some of the ingredients were, and had no imagination or motivation to think outside the box. So, I get it. Playing with our food is a foreign and uncomfortable concept. “But the cookbook says to use PARSNIPS! I can’t use rutabaga!”

Hopefully, this blog will inspire you, empower you, and motivate you to literally play with your food. And have some fun with your meals.

Last night I planned on making an alternate form of a recipe I created for the ZooFit Safari, Cauliflower Gratin. Recently, I’ve been avoiding cauliflower itself because I’m deliberately avoiding ANY foods wrapped in plastic. Instead, I wanted to make the dish with broccoli. And I’m not eating onions right now, either, so I was nixing the leeks. But then as I gathered my ingredients together, I realized I didn’t have cashew butter either. In fact, I didn’t have ANY nut butters.

Not wanting to nix the recipe (because, to be honest, it was really our only option), I decided to improvise. So, this recipe originally called Cauliflower Gratin was now Broccoli with something that will hopefully resemble a cashew cream sauce.

I searched my memory bank and other cookbooks for something which could be a fitting substitute for cashew butter. I found it in the Whole Smiths Cookbook. A couple weeks ago, I made their Spaghetti Squash Tuna Casserole, and I really liked it. Instead of a cheese sauce, they made a cashew cream sauce from soaked cashews and a small amount of spices. Knowing I have quite a cache of cashews, this was a great alternative.

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But I wanted just a little more to offer this dish. The original was a main entree, but now that I was fixing it, it just didn’t seem like enough. Something I’ve become quite fond of doing in the kitchen has become my motto- when in doubt, add bacon.

But if you know me, you know I’m not eating a lot of actual pork bacon these days. I’ve started making my version of Portobello Bacon, made with a variety of flavorful spices coating sliced portobello mushrooms. I luckily had quite a few portobello mushrooms, so grabbed one to make my bacon, and added that to my impromptu recipe as well.

In the end, it was SIMILAR to Cauliflower Gratin, but oh so different. And it was pretty delicious as well.

Here are both recipes for you to compare. And hopefully inspire you to Play With Your Food!

Cauliflower Gratin  2 servings, 350 calories; 12g protein, 20g fat, 30g carbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into half moons
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cup almond milk
  • ⅓ cup cashew butter
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped chives

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees
  2. Combine cauliflower and leeks on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to mix. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking
  3. While cauliflower is roasting, combine almond milk, cashew butter, nutritional yeast, and garlic in a blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to small saucepan over medium heat and simmer to warm
  4. Remove roasted cauliflower and leeks from oven and combine with “cheese” sauce in an 8-inch square baking dish. 
  5. Return to oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until mixture is hot.
  6. Divide into 2 servings and sprinkle with chives.

 

Here’s the alternative, Broccoli Gratin:

Broccoli Gratin  

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 batch of Portobello Bacon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ⅓ cup cashew cream (from Whole Smiths Cookbook)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped chives

Cashew Cream

Combine 2 cups cashews, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and drained, 1 cup almond milk, 3 garlic cloves or 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, salt, and nutmeg in a blender/food processor. Blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees
  2. Toss broccoli with with olive oil in a baking sheet or pan. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking
  3. While broccoli is roasting, prepare the Portobello Bacon (if you haven’t done so already). Slice the mushroom and brush on the bacon spices- turmeric, paprika, ground mustard, garlic powder, thyme, onion powder, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. Bake in oven for 10 minutes on each side. 
  4. While all that is cooking, combine almond milk, cashew cream, nutritional yeast, and garlic in a blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to small saucepan over medium heat and simmer to warm
  5. Remove roasted broccoli and portobello bacon from oven and combine with “cheese” sauce in an 8-inch square baking dish. 
  6. Return to oven and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until mixture is hot.
  7. Divide into 2 servings and sprinkle with chives.

What do you think? Can you think of even more changes to either recipe to make it your own, make it better, or just a different version? Let me know how you play with your food, and how it turns out.

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