Grilled Cauliflower and Queso Blanco Tacos

Happy Summer Solstice!  After a cold and damp spring, it is nice to finally have some warm temps.  Maybe even a little too warm for the start of summer, but I don’t want to complain.  In the blink of an eye, it will be winter again, and I’ll be wishing for beach days long gone.

Luckily these warmer temps bring an opportunity to turn off the oven and get out the grill.  Or in my case, the grill pan since my apartment doesn’t permit grilling *sigh*.  At least my Le Creuset Bistro Grill gives the flavor of an outdoor grill.  It’s also really easy to clean.  I’ve had other grill pans that weren’t worth using due to the cleanup involved after.

I was inspired to make these tacos after seeing a recipe that Half Baked Harvest shared.  First, I should start off by stating that I was very skeptical of cauliflower and it’s new found fame.  It seems to be following in the footsteps of kale (which I was also a skeptic of at first).  Up until this point, my only experience with cauliflower was cauliflower rice.  I was surprised by how good it was, but it was not enough to convince me that cauliflower could be the star of the show.  As in, cauliflower “steak”(what???!!!) or cauliflower “wings”.  How could cauliflower replace beef or the chicken in wings?!  Vegan cheese is one thing, but this is a whole other level of food trickery!

I finally tried buffalo style cauliflower a few months ago at the New York Botanical Garden Hudson Garden Grill, which is a delicious farm to table style restaurant.  I’m so glad I did.  The cauliflower was crispy and spicy and barely needed it’s blue cheese accompaniment. Now I don’t think I could go so far as to say that this would become a replacement for regular wings, but clearly I now understood all of the hype around this unassuming veggie, which brings me back to the tacos.

The original recipe has you roast the cauliflower and serve with fried halloumi cheese.  I decided to grill it, and since my local grocery stores don’t carry halloumi, I used queso blanco as a substitute.  It also has a high melting point so I was able to grill it before serving with the tacos.  I love halloumi and when I need another cheese fix, I think I’ll order some from Amazon Fresh.

It seems that cauliflower tends to take on whatever flavor you’re imparting on it.  So the cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder definitely gave it the right Mexican kick.  It also stays tender on the inside when you cook it.  Be sure to serve the tacos with lots of guacamole, a good salsa (I like Joe’s or Shoprite Kitchen’s) and fresh cilantro.  I will definitely make these again and plan to make buffalo style cauliflower in the upcoming weeks! Are you a cauliflower convert yet?

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoons sesame
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper
8 ounces queso blanco (or halloumi cheese), sliced
8 tortillas (I like La Tortilla Factory’s Handmade Style Corn Tortillas or Chi-Chi’s Flour and Corn Tortillas)
Fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, oils, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Grill cauliflower over medium high heat until each side has a nice sear.  Transfer to a baking tray and keep warm.  Grill or pan fry the queso blanco (use foil if using a grill) and cook 1-2 minutes per side until the cheese begins to melt.  Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Transfer slices to tray with cauliflower.  Heat the tortillas using your desired method.  I like to heat them on the grill pan. To assemble the tacos, layer the cauliflower and queso blanco in the tortillas and top with guacamole, salsa and fresh cilantro.


Avocado Fritters with Cashew Hollandaise Sauce

img_7743If you love avocados, then you are going to LOVE these avocado fritters!  They taste like fried guacamole and are a meatless alternative to guacamole chicken burgers I’ve made before.   I am far from a vegetarian but felt like I had a lot of meat last week and needed a break.  In addition to the fritters, I also made a roasted root veggie pot pie, which I’ll share the recipe for in another post.

In an effort to eat healthy and stay on track, I try to incorporate veggies and good sources of protein in my dishes whenever I can.  In addition to the avocado, these fritters are packed with spinach, quinoa and fresh cilantro.  They’re great on their own or as a side.  I had some for lunch this week along with leftover sweet potato quesadillas I had frozen.

And as for the cashew hollandaise sauce, it’s so good!  I’ve been wanting to explore cashew “cheese”, and this sauce definitely has a spreadable cheese-like consistency.   I finally made a cashew based “parmesan” a few weeks ago, and it’s really good.  You just combine raw cashews, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder in a food processor et voila!  Now, if you’re expecting it to taste exactly like parmesan cheese, you’ll be disappointed.  But if you go into it with an open mind, it is a good substitute.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, cheese (especially the aged varieties) and I do not get along so well anymore, and I really need to avoid it when I can and indulge in it when I can’t avoid the craving any longer!

The fritters would also be good with a chipotle or honey jalapeno sauce if you didn’t want to make the cashew hollandaise.

What are some ways you incorporate more veggies into your diet?  And do you have any favorite cheese alternatives?

1/2 cup quinoa (dry)
4  medium avocados
Zest and juice of 1 medium lime
1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
1 medium jalapeno, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Panko breadcrumbs
Coconut oil

For the cashew hollandaise:
5 ounces raw cashews
3 tablespoons hot water, plus more for soaking the cashews
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
Juice of 1 medium lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt

Place cashews in a small bowl.  Boil about a cup of water and pour over the cashews.  Let soak.

In the meantime, prepare the quinoa according to package directions and cool once finished.  While the quinoa is cooking, in a large bowl coarsely mash the avocados.  Mix in the lime zest and juice, spinach, jalapeno, and cilantro.  Add the cooled quinoa to the mixture and season with salt and pepper.  Spread a layer of panko breadcrumbs on a large baking tray.  Form the avocado mixture into small to medium size patties and place on the breadcrumbs.  Top with more breadcrumbs being sure to lightly press the breadcrumbs into the mixture.  Refrigerate till firm.

While the fritters are chilling, drain the cashes and place in a food processor along with the 3 tablespoons of hot water, tumeric, lime juice, olive oil, and salt.  Blend until smooth.  You can adjust the consistency by adding more water or olive oil.

Once the fritters are set, heat a large pan over medium heat.  Add a few tablespoons of coconut oil.  Fry the patties until golden brown on both sides.  Serve the fritters warm with the cashew hollandaise.  Refrigerate any leftovers.
*Recipe adapted from

Thanksgiving Sides

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday-partly because of the food!  My mom’s stuffing is my favorite, so much so, I would keep it all to myself if I could.  I also make a great cranberry chutney every year that I serve with brie as an appetizer, use it as a side with dinner, and then on leftover turkey sandwiches.  I just realized I never posted the recipe for it and will have to when I make it this week.  Thanksgiving is also my favorite because of time spent with family.  When I was little, my great Aunt Betty would have Thanksgiving at her house in Reading and in later years in York, PA.  Some of my most cherished memories are from those Thanksgivings.

Most Thanksgiving dinners are centered around traditions.  My mom’s stuffing is a staple, and I would never dare to change it.  Her sweet potatoes are the same.  I’m sure you and your family have your own traditions too, but if you’re looking to mix it up, then you must try my Maple Roasted Butternut Squash & Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots and Whipped Sweet Potatoes & Bananas with Pecan Crumble topping. Both have lots of flavor, and I’m sure your Thanksgiving guests will go back for seconds!

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash & Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

3 cups butternut squash, cubed
25-30 Brussels sprouts, stems removed and halved
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1-2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 slices extra thick cut bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400º F.  In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, maple syrup, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss well to combine.  Transfer to a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.  Scatter the bacon and shallots over top.  Roast in the oven for 60 minutes turning the mixture over every 20 minutes.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes & Bananas with Pecan Crumble

3 sweet potatoes, washed and unpeeled
2 bananas, unpeeled
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
5 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

IMG_0107Preheat oven to 375º F.  Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork.  Put in a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes.  Add the bananas and continue roasting until the potatoes and bananas are very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In the meantime time, combine the pecans, 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, brown sugar, and flour.  Using your fingers, rub everything together until well combined.  Set aside.

Once cool enough to touch, cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl.  Peel the bananas and add them to the bowl along with the butter, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil,  and the honey.  Season with salt and pepper. Mash with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined and the mixture is fluffy.  Spoon into a baking dish and top with the pecan mixture.  Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.


Do you know the muffin man?

Unfortunately I don’t, but you won’t need to either once you make these almond butter stuffed banana muffins and dark chocolate zucchini mini muffins.   The almond butter filling takes the banana muffins to a whole new level, and I could eat the dark chocolate zucchini muffins for dessert (you can’t even taste the zucchini)!

The recipe for the banana muffins is a combination of a recipe on Goop and one I make for banana chocolate chip muffins.  The zucchini one came from The Kitchn, but I made a few changes.  I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking flour in both recipes, but feel free to use all-purpose flour.

IMG_9077Almond Butter Stuffed Banana Muffins (makes 6 muffins)
1 cup all-purpose (or your favorite gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon + extra for filling
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ cup melted coconut oil
1 egg
¼ cup maple syrup
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 generous tablespoons almond butter

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Line muffin tins with parchment paper or muffin liners.  In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.  Whisk together melted coconut oil, egg, and maple syrup.   Stir into the dry ingredients and then fold in the bananas.

IMG_9074In a small bowl combine the almond butter, honey, and cinnamon.  I did not measure out the honey or cinnamon, but I probably used about 1/2 tablespoon of honey and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Feel free to adjust to your taste.

Fill the muffin tins halfway with the batter and then top with a spoonful of the almond butter filling.  Top with the remaining batter, and brush with a little coconut oil if desired.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350° F.  Let cool for about 15 minutes before removing from pan and devouring!

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Mini Muffins (makes 24 mini muffins and an extra 6 regular sized ones)
1 medium zucchini (2 cups shredded)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free flour)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt

IMG_9143Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line muffin tins with muffin liners.  Shred the zucchini with a box grater into a large bowl.  It should be about 2 cups.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips.  Add the eggs and yogurt to the shredded zucchini and stir to combine.   Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins.  For the mini muffins, bake at 350º F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  The regular size muffins take about 30 minutes.   Let the muffins cool in their tins for about 20 minutes before eating.  And good luck at stopping at just one!

Fennel Roasted Carrot & Shallot Salad with Granny Smith Apples

IMG_7383Despite the winter slump, I’ve been trying to eat more veggies and get back to healthier eating in general.  There’s a produce store nearby so last weekend I stocked up on baby brussel sprouts, coloured carrots, sweet potatoes, baby kale, alfalfa sprouts, grape tomatoes, avocados, juice oranges, and more!  I’ve also been trying to buy ingredients I can use for multiple recipes.  For instance, I made a cheddar topped shepherd’s pie a few weeks ago and used the extra cheese I had for homemade mac ‘n cheese.  I had leftover carrots from this recipe so I used them for carrot “fries” for another (see previous post).

This salad is great on its own, or you could use it as a side.  I had it for lunch along with another obsession of mine, avocado toast.  It calls for quite a bit of fennel, which a lot of people don’t care for.  I happen to like it, but I also don’t mind black licorice either.  I could easily eat a box of Good & Plenty in one sitting!  You can adjust the amount of fennel you use or omit it altogether and use a different herb, etc.  The salad is best served warm or at room temperature.  I heated my leftovers in the microwave for about 20 seconds or so just to get rid of the chill from the fridge.  And use coloured carrots if you can find them!  They made the dish so colorful, and combined with the citrus, the salad was a perfect winter pick-me-up!

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 bunch carrots, peeled and sliced in half then quarters
2 small shallots (or 1 large), sliced with half-inch thickness
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 granny smith apple, cored and shaved/cut into thin slices
handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
juice from half of 1 juice orange
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375°.  Heat a small pan over medium-low heat, add fennel seeds.  Toast seeds for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant and slightly brown.  Move the seeds around while toasting so they don’t burn.  Remove from heat and place in a mortar.  Allow to cool and grind with pestle.

IMG_7395In a large bowl, combine the carrots, shallots, crushed fennel, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Turn onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and tender.  Remove from oven and drizzle with honey.  Let cool slightly.

IMG_7397Return the carrot mixture to the large bowl and combine with the shaved apples, parsley, orange juice, and toasted sesame seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.  Enjoy!

Enchilada Bake No. 5

IMG_7110This enchilada bake is super easy to make and even easier to change up from time to time.  I’ve made many variations of it, hence the “No. 5” in the title, and each version is always delicious!  You can swap in ground beef or rotisserie chicken, omit the ricotta cheese, change the veggies, etc.  It’s a great way to sneak some extra veggies into your diet.  I made it a few weeks ago using rotisserie chicken, sautéed baby spinach, red onion, and red & yellow bell peppers.  I also omitted the ricotta.  The version below is probably my favorite.  Also, if you’re short on time, you can use store-bought enchilada sauce, but making it homemade is worth it!  I do like to keep some store-bought on hand though to use between the tortilla layers.  It’s great leftover, if you have any, and reheats well.  I always serve it with pico de gallo or salsa, guacamole, and chips!

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup tomato puree or sauce (You can also use tomato paste and thin it with a little water)
1/2 4 ounce can diced green chiles (or use the whole can depending on taste)
1 15 ounce container part-skim ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 can Green Giant® SteamCrisp® Mexicorn®
1 small zucchini, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
6-8 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
Enchilada sauce

IMG_7097Preheat oven to 350º F.  In a large skillet, brown the meat and drain if necessary.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.  Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika.  Stir in the tomato sauce, chiles and salt. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta and beaten egg.

IMG_7103In a 9×13 dish, layer 1/2 of the meat mixture, 1/3 of the Cheddar/Monterey Jack mix, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the corn and 1/2 the zucchini.  Top with half the tortillas and some store-bought enchilada sauce.  Repeat the layers again.  Top with the remaining Cheddar/Monterey Jack mix.  Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is melted.  Enjoy!!!