Hold it! Put down your grandmother’s recipes. Close Lydia B’s Italian culinary bibles. Turn-off your Pinterest Cooking Board! Stop everything you have been doing for years and start rethinking the ordinary. I’m talking about experimenting with substitutions in the kitchen. Why am I preaching? Because something *ahem* changed in my body over the past several years. My body is now holding onto my meals in a way it never use to – I mean, I’m basically wearing the donut hole(s) I had two days ago for breakfast (thank you, Lisa, because even though I feel my back jiggle when I walk, I still really loved them). Like… what the fuck?
However, instead of getting bummed about it, I want to do something about it. What have I got to lose, right?
Let’s face it, our bodies stop acting the way they use to at a certain age (aHEM). That doesn’t mean we have to chastise comfort foods or tradition, instead, we need to embrace this time as an opportunity to play with our food again! The challenge is to add in as much nutritional value into a smaller portion. Small package/lots of dynamite, kind of deal.
So where do we begin? Well, I have decided to begin cutting meat out of my diet. Aside from making me feel better – almost lighter – when I don’t consume it, I also feel subconsciously better. When Matt and I were on our honeymoon we drove past an “open” ranch and I almost started crying. It looked more like a death-camp for cows. I’ve read plenty of books and essays, watched almost all of the food/ag documentaries – but when you see it, the image never leaves your mind. I digress…
Right, so I’ve cut out meat. Now what? Well, I best fill that plate with as many veggies, legumes, and fruits I can find! Done. That was easy!
Now here is the challenge: what do you do when you want that stick-to-your-ribs comfort food? Let’s say, veggie lasagna… STOUFFER’S veggie lasagna! Unfortunately that is DEFINITELY on the no-no list (sad, but true). Screw it, let’s make our own!
How do we make veggie lasagna packed with nutrients? We start by taking it all apart because each element holds an opportunity to make a change.
To be honest, the only real substitution I made was in the white sauce (aka: bechamel). A traditional bechamel is made of a roux (butter and flour) with heavy cream and then tons of shredded parm or fontina (whatever floats your boat). What I did instead was steam/boil half-a-head of cauliflower, puree that then add in… well, the recipe is right below. The rest was no thinking at all because it was quite literally broccoli, asparagus, and carrots cooked together and Barillo lasagna sheets.
Recipe for Cauliflower Bechamel
1/2 head cauli (steamed)
2 small cloves garlic
8oz light cream
1/4 bunch parsley
1 c freshly graded (and finely graded) pec romano
1 c part-skim ricotta
Strain your steamed cauli and puree in blender with cream, garlic, and parsley. Transfer puree into sauce pan and slowly stir in ricotta and pec romano. Now is your chance to taste-test so add in salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings you want at this point.
One of the things I love about this recipe is that you can use it for a plethora of items! Use this as a substitution for alfredo sauce, white pizza sauce, or just as a side dish.