Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cauliflower Bechamel

Essie just started second grade at Desert Willow Family School, a half-day program where parents are heavily involved and are expected to do 1-2 hours of homework a day for the homeschooling portion of the program.

Essie (on the left) with her best friend, Kira, on their first day of 2nd grade.

Megan is still nursing (she is 22 months old!) and she wakes me every night still because she can't seem to sleep by herself.

And Samuel is, well, he's Samuel. Like me, he can be so, so good. But also like me, he has days where he's just a pill.

Today Samuel is the angel, and I am the pill. Megan had me up last night, and this morning I woke feeling like I had been hit by a train. While I have been sitting around and writing this post, Samuel has been entertaining Megan, and even fed her an apple. He is cheerful, kind, quiet, and obedient. My morning angel.

Paul and I are in the process of purchasing an additional 7 acres around our home so that our children have more space to play and we could possibly have some "farming" land and attempt growing our own veg.

Our house has to appraise very high in value in order to get the loan. So we have fix-it men coming in and out of the house; finishing our fireplace, and re-doing the stucco.

Needless to say, there is a lot going on, and I get stressed a little too easily.

I don't know how to act as I normally do when I am not feeling so great and there are a bunch of strange fix-it men in my house. I think I have some anxiety when it comes to being around people beyond those in my family.

And after watching this absolutely adorable French movie, "Romantics Anonymous," about two very socially anxious people, I recognize some of their character traits in myself.

I love people. I really do. Whenever I get out and interact, I find so many good people who are enjoyable to be with. Even now our fix-it men are in the next room singing love songs in Spanish and it makes me smile.

But I am a little nervous in social situations. As a teacher, I have had to push this away and pretend that this side of me does not exist. As a result, few people know that if given the chance, I would probably turn into a hermit in order to avoid ever struggling to overcome this shy side of myself. Thank heaven I am not allowed to do that as a Mom. I don't think it would be good for me at all.

Paul on the other hand, is a socialite. He has no sign, inward or outward, of being shy, nervous, or hesitant in any social setting. I have learned a lot from him. A lot of this perceived confidence can easily be pretended away until it becomes a part of you. And then one day you realize that you have real social confidence. As a result of watching him, and practicing, my social confidence is much better and I feel pretty good in most situations. But I still have times where I wish I could just go home and hide out. It is especially hard for me when the place I run and hide to, cannot hide me. The strangers are within!

I made this meal a few days ago as the fix-it men were working on our fireplace next to the kitchen. They speak Spanish so I could just pretend I didn't know any Spanish and just go to my "happy place" and zone into my cooking.

Normally, like today, I avoid strangers, even at the cost of avoiding my kitchen and starving. However, Paul was home the day I made this, and in my mind when he is around, there is no need for stranger anxiety.

Today, however, is different. Paul is not here. As crazy as it is, I send Samuel to the kitchen to get Megan food. The kid is unabashed. No holds barred. No stranger shyness, stranger anxiety, no hesitancy. I have even found him telling random people not to smoke cigarettes or drink coffee because if they do they are following Satan. Yikes. But then they look at him with his big blue eyes and just smile and say, "He is SO cute!" People are so forgiving!

So, back to fix-it men. They like food. Paul came in the kitchen and saw that I was fixing him food for lunch and asked if he could offer some to our fix-it guys. I freaked.

When I feed people food it has to be really good. Crazy good. Otherwise I panic and just want to shut myself into a closet.

Cauliflower as a base for a cream sauce??? What? How can it possibly turn out good? I was only experimenting (Paul is always my guinea pig!) and this food could very well turn out to be disgusting.

It turns out that cauliflower is a great cream sauce. Think about how neat that is! You can find cauliflower at almost any grocery store around the world. At $0.88 a head, it's cheap and affordable. Not only is it a fat free option, but it is also full of flavor, adapts well to whatever seasonings you add to it, and adds another serving of vegetables to the dish.

In order for dairy free cream sauce to be good it has to have cashews or tofu or some kind of high fat veg food to be creamy and delicious, right?

Or so we all have thought.

With just the addition of a few spices and seasonings, and some non-dairy milk, steamed and blended cauliflower is the most amazing cream sauce. Think Parmesan cheese + heavy cream. Without the heavy.

Better than Bouillon no chicken base tastes fantastic as a base for any savory recipe. I would not use vegetable broth: the outcome will not be as good. The sun dried tomatoes are NOT packed in oil so that I can keep to my efforts of trying to avoid oil.

Vegan & Practically fat free = guilt free.

Of course I had to taste test it before I could tell Paul, "Yes, you can offer some of this to our workers." And of course I also had to have Paul and my kids taste test it first, too.

When the fix-it men tried it, they licked there bowls clean and happily told Paul, "Gracias! Ella es una buena cocinera!" (Thank you! Your wife is a great chef!)

Score. Sweet success. And this recipe is so easy, I can be a good Mommy any day; even if I am tired and cranky.

Paul and I agree that we like this sauce even better than my mac n' cheese...

Fresh Basil is a must.

I like to buy the plants because they stay fresh for so long, are very pretty in my kitchen, and don't take up room in my crowded fridge.

And fresh thyme is becoming a great idea.

Make sure you remove the leaves from the stalks and only chop up the leaves, discarding the woody portion of the thyme (just like you would remove from kale leaves here on my site, only start at the top of the thyme and go down, whereas with kale you start at the bottom and move your pinched fingers to the top of the leaf)

I am just now realizing that a lot of my main dishes are made with pasta. Well, I don't eat pasta very often. I prefer greens and unrefined whole grains as a base instead. Or potatoes. I need to post more of those recipes...


Cauliflower Bechamel
Modified from "Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook," by Chef Del Sroufe

Serves 4 to 6

I served this tossed with penne pasta, but keep in mind that it will probably taste great tossed with cooked quinoa or millet. After trying this recipe once, you may decide to add other vegetables that you like, or change the seasonings around a bit to give some variety. It is a great base as a cream sauce for any of your creamy recipes.


For The sauce:

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
3-4 tbsp coconut milk or almond milk, (you may need more or less)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast, optional, but recommended
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, or other concentrated no chicken base
Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

For the vegetable saute base:

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on how much heat you want to add
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
4 cups spinach, chopped and cooked until wilted
1 pound penne, or whole grain, cooked according to package directions, drained, and kept warm


1.) Add the cauliflower to a large pot and add enough 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 from the pan 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 milk 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to achieve a cream consistency. Add the nutritional yeast, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp no chicken base. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Set the puree aside

2.) Place the onion in a large saucepan and saute over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep onions from sticking to the pan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, sun dried tomatoes, thyme, and basil and cook for another minute. Add the spinach and cooked pasta and toss, cooking for an additional 5 minutes to let the flavors meld a bit.

3.) To serve, either toss the sauce with the pasta or grain (my preferred method for pasta) until combined. Or, divide the pasta or grain between four plates and top with the cauliflower puree (my preferred method for grains).

It's like a vegan tour of Italy!


  1. That looks awesome. I will let you know how it goes once I make it! Btw, I made your homestyle chocolate chip cookies but accidentally put in a 1/4 cup molasses instead of a 1/4 tsp. Yesterday I made them again with the correct amount and they were AWESOME. Thank you for the great recipes!

    And I totally get what you mean about social situations. I go in phases where I am confident and can talk to other people, and then others where I feel so awkward and don't know what to say to anyone. It kinda stinks!

  2. Oh, I am always so glad to hear when a recipe works out! I really love those cookies. Did you try it with the chia seed gel? When I make these cookies for my kids I want to try using half oil and half chia seed gel and see if the texture comes out well...but I haven't tried that yet. I just don't think my kids should be oil free for now. They are growing so quickly and they need more fat, I think.

    Phases is a good way to put the social aspect. I've noticed that after I have a new baby I tend to get rather hermit-ish for a year, and it takes a bit of time to come out of my shell. Maybe that's natural and maybe even good?

    Well, it's really good to hear from you...I love your comments!

  3. Hey Ashlee, I made the Cauliflower Bechamel last night and it was delish! My only problem: I can't find that no chicken buillon. At sprouts they have the regular chicken, but no vegan to be found! I had to use vegetable broth, but since I don't know any different I thought it tasted great. The dish as a whole was a little bland and needed salt, but I am thinking that happened because I didn't have that no chicken bouillon. Anyway, we really enjoyed it - it is going into my recipe rotation!

  4. Hi Katie, I just made the Cauliflower Bechamel for my sister today (she is the one with a baby very allergic to milk) and she said it was fantastic.

    I had to add "Repunzel" vegan concentrated no chicken base because I couldn't find the "Better than Bouillon" no chicken concentrated base at her nearby health food store, either. You can find it on Amazon, however, it is very overpriced.

    If you want to use any concentrated vegan chicken-like base, I think it would work fairly well.

    The cauliflower in and of itself is creamy when blended with coconut milk, however, it is rather tasteless on it's own. This is where salt and other seasonings, like pepper, fresh herbs, and bouillon base come in. In the book that I have there are quite a few ways and variations to use this sauce -- I hope to post these after I try them. So I recommend adding a lot of flavor to the cauliflower cream base so that it is not bland.

    I hope this helps! So glad you tried this and I am so glad it worked out!


  5. Hi
    What is the advantage of adding the yeast?

  6. Hi

    I recently published an article about cauliflower on Yahoo Voices. Please see the link below.

    Have a great day.