As comfort food cravings hit in the dead of winter, let’s make the best of it by including hearty veggies into the mix.  Dreaming about creamy soups, pasta and rice dishes that heat up your heart and soul in the deep freeze?  Well, you are not alone - I am right there with you.  A great way to indulge this craving in a healthy way is to puree vegetables and fruits.

One of the “8 Flavor Trends to Watch”, according to the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2015, emphasizes purees and juices in a category called “Liquid Revolution”.  Basically, as the report describes, when you add bold spices and herbs to liquids like purees and juices, it intensifies a myriad of foods like sauces, pasta and dressings - as well as allows you to get an extra dose or two of produce into your day (yes!).  {I’ll be highlighting other flavor trends in my posts to come}.

I love to puree cauliflower.  It’s hearty, smooth and has a rich mouthfeel.  Many people think that its white color doesn’t fare well for nutritional value, but it’s quite the contrary.

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With only 25 calories per half cup, cauliflower is great for managing your waistline.  Plus, it’s a great source of fiber, vitamin C and folate - and infamous as other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, it’s high in compounds that may prevent some cancers.

Today’s post and recipe were inspired by my fabulous intern, Renea Lyles (soon be a Chef-RD).  It’s a revised version of traditional risotto, usually made with heavy cream, Arborio rice and devoid of nourishing vegetables.  This recipe utilizes delicious produce and reduces the high fat ingredients typical of traditional risotto recipes.

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Instead of rice, we are using orzo pasta.  It’s a tiny pasta grain that can stand in for rice.  It’s simple to make and is used often to enhance soups, stews, salads and even mixed into meatballs.  A little goes a long way.  In this recipe, the orzo is lightly toasted while dry and then the liquid is added to soften the grain, making it edible.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can add extra vegetables, herbs and spices.   This time let’s use basil, garlic and a bit of black pepper.  Feel free to toss in mushrooms, corn, carrots, parsley or additional cauliflower florets for added flavor and texture.

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 Cauliflower Power Risotto

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Serves 4 (1/2 cup each)

Ingredients

1 cup orzo pasta, dry

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

24 ounces vegetable or chicken stock, low-sodium

1 small white onion, diced

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

3 basil leaves

1 clove garlic

A pinch of salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Place the cauliflower florets in a steamer basket, fill the pot underneath a quarter of the way with water.  Bring to a boil and allow cauliflower to steam for  8 - 10 minutes until soft.

Drizzle the oil into a pan and add onions, saute until golden and translucent.  Add cooked onions and steamed cauliflower to Vitamix or blender.  Puree well to a smoothie-like consistency.  Add basil, garlic, salt and pepper and pulse a few times to blend together.

In the meantime, place the olive oil in a deep pan over medium low heat.  Add the pasta and allow the orzo to toast to golden brown.  (Be careful not to burn the orzo.)  Add the broth and stir.  Bring to a rolling simmer and allow the orzo to soak in the liquid.

Add the pureed cauliflower mixture into the cooked orzo and stir to combine.  Sprinkle in the grated cheese and stir once or twice.

Serve warm with a salad like arugula with sliced pears, toasted walnuts, bleu cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories: 126, Total Fat: 4 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 11 mg, Sodium: 700mg,  Carbohydrates: 15 g, Dietary Fiber: 3 g, Sugars: 3 g, Protein: 8 g

Enjoy eating simply,

-Vicki 

 

 

 

 

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