My Nutritarian Diary: Cauliflower Béchamel Pasta with Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms

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Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore this Valentine’s Day with this delicious pasta dish that is jam-packed with nutrition and flavor. It’s a perfect main course for individuals who are seeking a more plant-centric meal for their romantic evening.

The star of this recipe is the cauliflower béchamel sauce, which is typically a French white sauce made from flour and butter and milk.

Because the sauce’s main ingredient is cauliflower, it will be an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and so much more.  Not only that, the sauce in this recipe is very creamy, very low in fat, and a perfect complement to any pasta dish.

Should you choose to use the nutritional yeast the recipe calls for, which I totally recommend, the sauce will also have a kind of nutty, cheesy flavor, without the cheese! You can typically buy nutritional yeast in the health aisles of grocery stores in their bulk food section, near the rolled oats, wheat flour, and sugar substitutes. (Both Huckleberry’s and Fred Meyer in Spokane, Wash., carry this item.)

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get cooking and let the romance begin!

Bechamel How To Collage

Cauliflower Béchamel Pasta with Kale and Shiitake Mushrooms

(Based on Cauliflower Béchamel from “Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook.” All alterations I made to this recipe are in italics.)

INGREDIENTS:

• 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 3 cups)

• Unsweetened plain almond milk, as needed

• 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small

• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I used 3 frozen cubes of Dorot Crushed Garlic)*

• 2 teaspoons minced thyme (I used ¾ tsp of dried thyme)

• ¼ cup finely chopped basil (I used 3 frozen cubes of Dorot Chopped Basil)*

• ¼ cup nutritional yeast, optional

• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• ½ bunch to a whole bunch of kale, any variety, stemmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces

• 4 ounces of shiitake mushrooms, sliced with stems removed

• 8-10 ounces of whole wheat or gluten-free pasta

*You can buy this in the frozen vegetable section of Trader Joe’s. I think this is the most convenient and quickest way to get these “fresh” flavorings in a dish without having to buy fresh or without having to prepare it. (See picture)

DIRECTIONS:

Add the cauliflower to a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the excess water and puree the cauliflower using an immersion blender or in a blender with a tight-fitting lid, covered with a towel, in batches if necessary. Add almond milk, if needed, to achieve a creamy consistency (I typically will add about ½ cup of almond milk). Set the puree aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place the onion in a large skillet or saucepan and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water or vegetable broth 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the onions from sticking to the pan. Add the garlic, thyme, and basil and cook for another minute. As I mentioned in the recipe ingredients list, I used three Dorot cubes of garlic, as well as three Dorot cubes of basil. You can add more or use less, depending on your tastes. Add the nutritional yeast (if using), nutmeg, and salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, or until heated through.

Add the onion-garlic mixture to the cauliflower puree and blend until smooth, adding more almond milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Set aside.

While you are cooking the pasta, sauté the kale and shiitake mushrooms in 1 to 2 TBSP of vegetable broth for about 10 minutes or until kale is wilted and soft. Continue to add broth to the pan to keep the kale and mushrooms from sticking. Also, salt (and season) the kale and mushroom mixture to your desired taste.

Combine the sauce, the pasta, and the kale and shiitake mushroom sauté mixture and heat through. Serve and eat!

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Do you have any other vegetable combinations or uses for this sauce you’d like to share? Or do you have a plant-based main dish you recommend for Valentine’s Day? If so, please leave a comment! I would love to read what you have to say!

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About Cassandra Benefield and My Nutritarian Diary

When I’m not working for FOX 28 and its parent company, Northwest Broadcasting Inc., as an executive assistant, I enjoy spending time reading about and experimenting with low-fat, plant-based recipes. After watching the documentary Forks Over Knives  and reading the book “Food Over Medicine: A Conversation That Could Save Your Life” by Pamela Popper and Glen Merzer, I was totally convinced that I needed to change the way I looked at food and how I ate it.

The purpose of My Nutritarian Diary, a www.myfoxspokane.com blog, is to deliver fantastic-tasting and nutrient-dense recipes that are sprinkled with dashes of nutritional wisdom each week for the Health-Conscious, Health-Adventurous, and Health Happy—at whatever stage they are in on their health journey.

The term nutritarian was first coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of #1 New York Times best-selling book “Eat to Live,” and it is how I classify my approach to eating a low-fat and mostly plant-based diet.

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