FEEDING BABIES: BROCCOLI BALLS

Per request, I am including a recipe for these broccoli balls I've been making for the kids. I love hearing that you guys actually make the things in this series and find it helpful. I know this kind of stuff is for a niche handful of you, but I get a lot of messages for these posts so I hope it's a another tool for getting a few more servings of vegetables into your kids. I think I've mentioned before that neither of my kids are ones to go after a crudite platter, so I have to get creative. Veggie burgers and balls and vegetables packed into frittatas or smoothies are my best bet. Cleo (1) can't use a utensil and Curran (almost 3) prefers not to anyway, so anything I can make hand-held is best for everyone. These nuggets have become my answer to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in a rush because they have protein, fat, veggies, carbs. Think frittata with extra broccoli. They can be whatever you need them to be. Even if you don't have kids, I still think these are an awesome. 

Broccoli Balls // Makes 20

These are pretty flexible and you can make modifications based on any allergies. Can't have eggs? Add in a small mashed sweet potato and double the panko. No gluten? Sub in some coarse ground oats but you'll need that cheese and egg to help bind them. No dairy? Add a drizzle of olive oil, and grind in a handful of walnuts when you pulse the broccoli so they have some fat in there. They can take a bit of cooked quinoa or rice if you're looking to bulk them up too. 

3 crowns of broccoli (a generous 1 lb. of florets)
2 cloves garlic
sea salt and pepper

3 eggs
1 cup grated cheese (mexican blend, white cheddar, fontina etc.)
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Cut up the broccoli into large chunks, some stem is ok, and steam it for 2-3 minutes. It should start to turn bright green but still have it's crunch. Let it cool completely. 
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or rub a little olive or coconut oil.
Into a food processor, whiz up the garlic and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Add the cooled broccoli and pulse until it's in rice like pieces. Not pureed, but something small enough to roll into balls. 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the broccoli bits, grated cheese, parmesan and panko and stir to combine. It should loosely stick together. Add a sprinkle of panko if they need more "glue". 
Roll balls with a scant 2 Tbsp. of the mixture. Place them on the lined baking sheet and bake them for 10-12 minutes in the upper third of the oven. They should still be slightly tender when you pull them out. 
Like any reasonable mother would do, I give them to my kids with ketchup because it's a novelty but they really don't need anything. 



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Gluten Free, Entrée

SPICED CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH WALNUT SAUCE

More cauliflower! Oops. But I do love it and it didn't cross my mind we had cauliflower on here for the last post as I was thumbing through Laura's new book. I have dozens of recipes bookmarked but I am looking for new veg mains in our rotation lately and this one popped out at me. I was shocked at how short the ingredient list was and how quickly it came together given how beautiful it looked. I'm an easy sell on pretty food. Especially quick, pretty food. Next up is her homemade coconut creamer with dates, a warm balsamic mushroom salad, and a second round of those brownies I made months ago when I first saw the pdf draft of this book.

I've been a long time fan of Laura's, both for her easy going disposition and plant-based food that is magically wholesome, creative, all while still being something you can whip up easily for dinner. I don't always see those things going hand in hand but she is extremely good at what she does. She's responsible for the arugula cashew sauce I've made three times already that goes on pretty much everything. I like vegan food and an ice cream sundae all in the same breath, so a book that doesn't feel lacking is a keeper. You'll have to flip through a copy yourself or better yet, add it to your collection. Clearly forever a First Mess fangirl. Congrats, Laura!

SPICED CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH WALNUT SAUCE // Serves 2
Recipe from The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright

I am putting Laura's recipe here verbatim. The only thing I did different was up the garlic and lemon a bit and added a pinch of cayenne to the spice blend for heat. Those are personal preferences. The recipe is so concise you can add here to taste. This serves two well after roasting the extra bits of cauliflower. You could easily double it if you have a large enough pan or even do it in shifts and keep the cauliflower warm. 

Walnut Sauce
1/2 cup raw walnut halves, plus a few more for garnish
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Spice-Crusted Cauliflower
1 medium head of cauliflower
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350'

Make the walnut sauce: In a large, ovenproof skillet, toast the walnuts over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a blender. Return the skillet to the stove and heat 1 tsp. of the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic. Saute until edges of the onion soften, about 2 minutes. Scrape the onions and garlic into the blender. Add the almond milk, lemon juice and generous pinches of salt and pepper and whiz on high until you have a creamy sauce. Keep warm while you prepare the cauliflower. 
Cut two 1" thick "steaks" from the center of the cauliflower (you'll loose pieces on the sides that don't stay intact but just roast those up in an oil and spice mixture and enjoy them on the side). You should have a nice cross section of the vegetable that holds together. Moisten the steaks with water and season both sides with the paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. 
Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add the cauliflower steaks and sear until evenly browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip the cauliflower over and transfer the skillet to the oven. 
Roast the cauliflower in the oven until the center core or stem section is tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. 
Serve the cauliflower with warm sauce and garnish with parsley and chopped walnuts



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Salad, Gluten Free, Winter, Side

SPICED CAULIFLOWER SALAD

I don't always love cooking. I have my moments; usually when it's quiet or late at night, but some days I just have to get people nourished and it doesn't need to be beautiful. I've started working as a personal chef for a family, am teaching a few private cooking classes and picked up a couple recipe development jobs this month so there has just been a lot of food. I'm on the brink of too much of a good thing. Prior to my babies there was more free time, more quiet, no picky eaters, a looser grocery budget, fewer interruptions. We had to eat, I was still always around food for work and I'd use all the white space of my thoughts thinking of something different I could create. Cooking as a passion was approached differently because it wasn't sharing the space with my beloved wee people. I am not the same person or cook I was 3, 4 or 5 years ago when I started our first book for a plethora of reasons, but I see glimpses of the catalyst that brought me to what I am doing now. I love to feed other people. 

Hugh and I hosted a fundraising dinner with Aran Goyoaga in Seattle last weekend and it couldn't have gone better. At least as far as I was concerned. We sold all 20 seats quickly and the guests were lovely people, all of whom I wanted to pack in my bag and take home to be my friends. Aran's studio is calm and magical and she drafted a menu that was absolutely delicious. Both her and her husband make sourdough at home, so we had loaves of that. She made Heidi Swansons' red lentil hummus and we cobbled together a cheese platter with the necessary accoutrements. There was a salad of beets and roasted fennel with fresh mixed citrus, radicchio and avocado whose colors were striking. Neither Aran or I are the measuring type, so we seasoned and sprinkled and chopped as we went. It was the most enjoyable time I have had cooking in a long time. Perhaps because my wee people weren't underfoot ;) I remembered that I actually really love it as opposed to it feeling like the chore it has been lately. We roasted cauliflower with sumac and dried thyme and coriander and put it on a platter with a swipe of whole greek yogurt with some greens, pine nuts and a drizzle of tahini on top. I am making a guess at the recipe below as a guideline for you but you'll have to use your intuition on seasonings and timing too. There was a cozy vegetarian tagine with apricot couscous. The first time I've ever made it but not the last - a great and affordable dinner option. We finished with Aran's perfect meringues with fresh passion fruit and a creamy lemon curd. In the end we fed and were fed, and donated a few thousand dollars to the IRC who is doing great work. My heart is full.

Thank you for provision donations: Chef Steps, California Olive Ranch, Citrus from Farming Villa Vista and Zozo Bakery

Spiced Cauliflower Salad // Serves 4 as a side

We served this room temperature. Warm would be nice while not necessary, though the greens will wilt under the heat, but I wouldn't suggest cold. This recipe is loose, you'll have to tailor it to taste. I listed za'atar, which is a blend of a few spices, but you could use sumac, dried thyme and some sesame seeds individually if that is what you have. 
You could double this easily if you like leftovers or are feeding more than four. You will not need to double the yogurt and will probably need a little more oil to coat the cauliflower. If you need this to be vegan, simply eliminate the yogurt.

1 large head cauliflower
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. coriander
1 Tbsp. za'atar
dried or fresh thyme
dash or two of cayenne

1/4 cup tahini
1 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
zest of one lemon
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

scant 1 cup whole milk greek yogurt
handful or tender greens
1/4 cup+ toasted pinenuts
pomegranate seeds, if in season

Preheat the oven to 400'. Break up the cauliflower florets, discarding the core. Pieces should be about half dollar size. Pile them on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, coriander, za'atar, thyme, cayenne and toss everything together well to combine. Use a little more olive oil if needed, everything should be well coated. Spread it in an even layer on the sheet pan and roast in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes. The cauliflower should be tender and browned in parts. Set aside. 

In a bowl, whisk together the tahini and water. Then whisk in the olive oil, honey, vinegar, lemon zest, pepper flakes and a few pinches of salt and pepper.

To assemble your dish, put a generous swipe of greek yogurt along the bottom and top with a few handfuls of the greens. Top with the roasted cauliflower and drizzle with the tahini sauce. Top with toasted pinenuts and pomegranate seeds if you can find them. Some golden raisins would be a nice alternative. 

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