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Cauliflower Dreaming

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Cauliflower Dreaming

Winter always manages to drag on in Northern Michigan, and right about now, I’m thinking that we all could use us a little comforting, which is how cauliflower came to mind!

I know this may sound silly, but the reason cauliflower comes to my mind is because its name always manages to cause the lyrics from that old Mamas & the Papas song, “California Dreaming” to play incessantly-like a broken eight track-in my mind!

I don’t know why this weird earworm forms. Perhaps the soothing vocal harmonies of The Mamas & the Papas somehow connect it (in my mind) to the comfort you feel when you eat a warm bowl of well-prepared cauliflower soup, “on a winter’s day!”

I say well-prepared because it is easy to ruin cauliflower, and trust me, I have ruined far more than most! In fact, the last time I botched it up was because my dinner guests arrived a full hour later than planned!

Waiting on them nervously, I decided to shove the entire meal into the oven to hold warm. However, by the time dinner was served, my lovely, lightly-steamed cauliflower had become a brown, mushy mess!

I learned that evening, Thank God, to never start steaming cauliflower until your company arrives.

Offering us health benefits that include a reduced risk of cancer, relief from indigestion and an aid in weight loss, cauliflower is also a detoxifying “Super” food packed with nutrients, and antioxidant power, that helps strengthen our immune system, maintain bone and cellular health, keep our electrolytes balanced and help boost eye health!

Being a very versatile vegetable, I think that at this point in my life I can say that I have cooked cauliflower just about every way you can. Honestly, I feel that how you prepare cauliflower does come down to your own taste. However, you won’t know which way you like it best until you try all the different ways, so do try them all!

Offering wonderful flavor, whether served cooked or raw, cauliflower is a wonderful winter vegetable that needs only gentle cooking, or none at all!

Here now are some soothing ways to do a little cauliflower dreaming that taste so comforting that it just may get you singing, too — ENJOY!

Creamy-cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Approximate servings per recipe: 8.

1 large head cauliflower, chopped

2 tablespoons avocado oil

2 yellow onions, chopped

6 ribs of celery, chopped

1 quart reduced-sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups milk (your choice)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 ounces white cheddar cheese

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or large heavy bottomed skillet, combine onion and oil and let cook until onion begins to brown. Add celery and cook for 5 minutes then add chopped cauliflower and cook for five more minutes, stirring. Add broth then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for one hour. Remove from heat, add milk, thyme, pepper, and nutmeg then puree with blender. Return mixture to pot and place over low heat. Add cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese melts.

Garnish with steamed cauliflower florets, if desired, and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Jacked-up Cauliflower Dip

Approximate servings per recipe: 12

2 1/2 cups cauliflower, steamed until tender then cooled

4 ounces Neufchatel cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded

2 garlic cloves, peeled

12 ounces Cheddar- Jack brick cheese, hand shredded

5 ounces baby spinach leaves

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse cauliflower until it becomes very smooth. Stop processor and add Neufchatel cheese mayonnaise, pepper, garlic, and all but 1/2 cup of the cheese. Process until very smooth then add spinach and pulse just until chopped in. Scoop mixture into a 1-quart ovenproof baking dish or casserole dish then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 35 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve with pita chips, toasted baguette slices or favorite dipper.

Cheesy-roasted Cauliflower Bites

Approximate servings per recipe: 6.

1 head of cauliflower, cut to bite sized pieces

3 to 4 tablespoon avocado oil

1 cup plain bread crumbs

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon Hungarian Sweet Paprika

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large, jellyroll pan with foil and spray liberally with cooking spray. Set aside. In a large plastic bag, combine cauliflower and oil, shaking to coat. Add remaining ingredients to bag then shake well until coated, pressing slightly to help breading stick to florets. Spread cauliflower florets out onto prepared baking sheet and then spray the topside of the cauliflower with more cooking spray. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes then remove from oven, turn florets over, then return to oven to bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot.