Happy New Year! I hope that you’ve all enjoyed some time playing in the snow and warming by the fire–or maybe soaking up the sun and splashing in the water? My family ventured north to Vermont to spend time in the single digits skiing, skating, tubing, and visiting with some very dear friends. We came home to our own winter wonderland, not an annual occurrence in the Washington area and we are enjoying every flake.
All this cold, juxtaposed by Weight Watchers ads plastered throughout magazines and featured on every other TV commercial, has got me thinking about the #1 New Year’s Resolution–diet. Why is it that during the coldest, slowest month of the year do we challenge ourselves to eat healthier, lighter and exercise more? Of course these are well-intended goals but wouldn’t it make more sense to set these objectives for March, April, May, June or even September? You know, the times of the year that fresh produce is in abundance and the weather is mild. Our animal instinct is to hunker down in the dead of winter and feed our bodies with warm, nutrient-rich braises, soups, roasts and stews. Why do we fight it?
My year-long mantra is “moderation.” I admit that this suits me well and may not be right for everyone but I encourage you to give it a try. Moderation means that you can dig into a hot fudge sundae but maybe enjoy it for lunch as opposed to after a big burger (thanks for this lesson, Mom). Moderation allows you to enjoy the cream-based sauce that is more the exception than the rule. And moderation says, cheese night is alright (you knew that was coming).
I think that if you scroll through some of the older posts on this blog (and I encourage you to do so as you might discover a new favorite recipe) you will see that I stand behind this philosophy. The Corn and Goat Cheese Queso, Fromage Fort and Bacon Crackers are balanced by Carrot Soup with Miso, Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Figs and Lemon Garlic Shrimp over Roasted Cauliflower Mash. You need some small indulgences to make the healthy feel good and not like work.
Of course, I realize that I am in the minority here and you will be looking for recipes to start the year off right and that means eating healthful foods. My husband is militant about this January objective so unless I feel like cooking three different meals nightly (you already know that my kids are only gradually being worked into the grown-up food plan), I am part of the Resolution Wave. So I will save my Fondue Night for February and spend the next couple of weeks focusing on the lighter side of things which I love just the same. But if you need some of DeeDee’s Brownies to get you through the month, bake away.
I left you in December with one of my all-time favorite soups which would taste just as good this month and easily fulfill the healthy food requirement. Here’s a new soup recipe that I found on one of my beloved food blogs, Cookie + kate which is chock full of inspired vegetarian fare. I made some tweaks based on what I found in my pantry after the winter break and think that the name Thai Cauliflower Soup is more fitting than the original Curried Cauliflower Soup. Call it what you wish but rest assured that this spicy soup will more than satisfy.
- 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into small florets, stems chopped
- 2 Tbls olive oil, divided
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste* (depending on preferred spice level, we love spicy so I used 3)
- 1 small lemon, zested (about 1 teaspoon zest)
- ½ cup white wine
- 1½ cups vegetable broth or stock (chicken broth is also fine)
- 1 can (14 oz) light coconut milk--or 11 oz coconut water plus 1/2 c skim milk (I used the latter combination because I was out of coconut milk the second time I made this recipe and the substitution worked well)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or cilantro
- Preheat oven to 400F. Toss the cauliflower with 1 Tbls olive oil (or if you prefer to virtually eliminate all fat you can spray cauliflower with olive oil cooking spray). Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on a large baking sheet and roast until the tips of the cauliflower are golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.
- In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, sweat the onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the curry paste and lemon zest and stir to incorporate. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the wine has evaporated.
- Add all of the roasted cauliflower stems and three quarters of the florets to the pot. Add the broth, coconut milk (or coconut water and skim milk, substitution) and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Transfer soup to a blender to blend until smooth. (I found that the immersion blender did not work well for this task).
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Top each with some of the cauliflower florets, scallions and a sprinkle of basil or cilantro. Enjoy!