Weighty Matters

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Creating with Cauliflower

on January 17, 2017

The food plan that I’m following these days is high on protein and low on carbohydrates. Even in the low carbohydrates, I’m mostly abstaining from eating flour-based products, potatoes, rice and refined sugar products. I still eat fruit but not more than once a day and not every day at that. For variety, I sometimes get protein in beans and legumes.  I have goals for myself each day in terms of total calories, number of grams of protein, number of grams of carbs. Mostly, however, you can sum up my food emphasis on P & P – protein and produce.

P & P keeps it relatively simple, but it doesn’t have to be boring or flavorless. Was I trying Plated.com back in June before I went on my blogging hiatus? If not, we’ll save that for another blog post, but if you haven’t heard of Plated.com, it’s one of the services that sends you all of the ingredients and recipes/instructions on making the meal. I don’t use it every week, but it’s a great time saver. It has also taught me to try new things, cook meals I’ve never tried before, and taste new flavor combinations.

Over the last five years I tried to cultivate an attitude of “Sure I’ll try it” when it comes to healthier alternatives in meals. Well, and healthier choices overall.  In the course of this endeavor I have become a huge fan of the humble cauliflower. In the past, the only way I wanted to eat cauliflower, and that “wanted” was a stretch, was if it was steamed and then covered with cheese sauce. I thought it a boring vegetable without much flavor. To some extent that “not much flavor” part is true, but cauliflower turns out to be a great foundation for a lot of dishes that rock their yumminess.

First I started with a basic mashed cauli – something I’d first seen friends do on the South Beach Diet. Steam the veggie and, after it was cooked and drained, mash or puree it with some butter or olive oil and season it. It really did turn out to be a great substitute for mashed potatoes. I got into roasting veggies of all kinds, and cauli was an excellent edition with some olive oil and fresh herbs drizzled on it.

A few months ago, I was craving baked macaroni and cheese.  I decided to see if I could make a version using cauliflower instead of macaroni.  I’m here to tell you that I succeeded with tasty results. If you try it, just make sure to drain the cauliflower really really well before adding it to the cheesy sauce mixture and baking it.

Tonight I tried something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’ve been hearing a lot about cauliflower “rice”. This is really just cauliflower pulsed in a food processor until it’s turned into rice-sized pieces. I love risotto. It is one of my favorite side dishes and, with very little urging, I could make a meal out of it with no other accompaniment.  I actually did that once in, of all places, Venice, Italy. I was there as part of a tour. At one of the dinners arranged for us, the appetizer was octopus and the entree was liver with risotto on the side. I don’t eat things that swim and the very thought of liver makes my stomach curdle. So, I ate a double-serving of risotto and was perfectly happy.

Some years ago, I think it was pre-WLS, I took a cooking class and learned how to make risotto myself and I’ve refined my dish by picking up tips from cooking shows.

Sadly, it’s a dish that I’ve denied myself in the last five years, except for a few extremely rare times. Given my love of this particular food, you can see why the prospect of being able to substitute a vegetable for the starchy rise would appeal to me.  My supermarket only recently started carrying cauliflower rice. I could have made it myself, of course, but spotting the package with everything already shredded gave me extra motivation and I grabbed a bag.

Traditional risotto takes a good 45 minutes to cook as you slowly add liquid in thirds and stir until each addition is absorbed. I wasn’t sure exactly how to cook the dish with cauliflower so I did the best thing I could think of – I Googled for some recipes.

I am here to tell you that the resulting dish was absolutely delicious! Seriously delish, like I would serve it to guests. I input the ingredients into my food tracking app and was pleasantly surprised that even with some cream, cheese, pancetta and peas, the nutrient counts for protein and carbs are completely workable. I had no trouble eating a serving tonight and knowing that it was inline with my daily nutrition goals. Put another star in the cauliflower column for versatility and taste.

While I won’t make risotto all of the time, it’s helpful to know that I can choose a healthier, more veggie-based version of a dish that I love and enjoy eating. Like everything else on my daily food plan, it’s important me to incorporate this in balance with other things, but it’s completely doable. If you need to get more vegetables into your daily menus, I highly recommend you experiment with getting creative with cauliflower!

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2 responses to “Creating with Cauliflower

  1. Holly grassia says:

    That cauliflower risotto sounds amazing. I am going to attempt to make it this week. Thanks Mary.

    • Mary Stella says:

      Holly, I used a recipe I found online. If you Google Cauliflower Risotto Carla Hall The Chew, you’ll find it. It’s a good basis and then you can add other ingredients if you want.

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