Cocoa Crusted Roasted Cauliflower (Whole30) (Low Carb) (Vegan)

Cocoa Crusted Roasted Cauliflower

Some recipes just make you scratch your head in wonder. Cocoa and Cauliflower are two things I never thought I would see in a recipe together. And yet, here we are.

Foodie Boy Genius Justin Warner coated his cauliflower with cocoa powder and then roasted it. They don’t call him a Boy Wonder for nothing. This is a genius dish, I tell you. The cocoa gives the cauliflower a rich, deep satisfying taste.

I thought it needed a little heat and smokiness, so I decided to add smoked paprika in equal parts with the cocoa powder and then some salt. SO delicious. The one thing I will say is that you should eat this right out of the oven, because if it sits, the moisture form the cauliflower florets will make the cocoa soggy and not crusty.

This dish only takes about 5 minutes of prep time. You just toss the cauliflower florets in some olive oil and then dip the florets in the cocoa powder mixture.

And you’ll never look at cauliflower the same way again.

Cocoa Crusted Roasted Cauliflower

Cocoa Crusted Roasted  Cauliflower

1 small head of cauliflower, hard stem removed and broken into florets
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the florets in oil . Stir together the cocoa powder, smoked paprika and salt. Hold the florets by the stems and then sprinkle each one generously with the cocoa mixture. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until cauliflower is fork tender.
Serev warm.

Cocoa Crusted Roasted Cauliflower
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, hard stem removed and broken into florets
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the florets in oil . Stir together the cocoa powder, smoked paprika and salt. Hold the florets by the stems and then sprinkle each one generously with the cocoa mixture. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until cauliflower is fork tender.
  3. Serev warm.

Other food bloggers do intriguing cauliflower:

Roasted Curried Cauliflower with Lemon and Cumin, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Honey Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Crispy Sage, Food for my Family
Buffalo Ranch Cauliflower Nachos, The Wicked Noodle
Roast Cauliflower with Lemon, Almonds and Pomegranate, Healthy Delicious

Compound Coconut Oil “Butters” – Easy Homemade Gifts for All The Foodies On Your List

Compound Coconut Oil “Butters” are perfect homemade gifts for all the foodies on your list
– including the vegan ones!

Compound Coconut Oil "Butters" #Homemade gifts for all the foodies on your list - including the #vegan ones!

Compound Coconut Oil “Butters”

The time of year has come when all my people are figuring out what special homemade foodie treats we’ll be making for the foodies on our list.  This year: the basic concept of compound butter (such a great flavor enhancer for so many things), but made with coconut oil instead. Perfect for all food lovers, including the vegan, paleo, or otherwise dairy-free ones, and they last for ages on the shelf, too!

Really easy as can be. Pick one or two (or all) of the flavor combinations laid out below, and play around with other variations if you like, of course! I like the sturdiness of small mason jars, but you can use any container you desire.

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Pumpkin Spice Tacos

Pumpkin Spice Tacos: sometimes a bandwagon is a very good thing. (Yes, they’re savory.)

Pumpkin Spice Tacos #vegetarian #vegan #gf #dairyfree

Pumpkin Spice Tacos

Not long ago, the advent of fall made itself known via the onslaught of pumpkin spice everything, everywhere. Judging by my social media streams, roughly half the population couldn’t possibly be more stoked about it, while the other half rolled their eyes at the now annual flavor phenomenon. Clearly in the latter crowd, a friend posted this picture:

On display at the Rosepepper Cantina in Nashville

On display at the Rosepepper Cantina in Nashville.

And being me, I thought, ” . . . that actually sounds pretty good.” Okay, not as in a sugared-up dessert, but with savory spices, in a vegetarian Southwest context. What’s not to love? By the way, the pic above, from the Rosepepper Cantina? They have a long history of hilarious signage – check out a collection of their hits here. …

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Easy Mole Sauce

The vegans at your table will swoon over this southwest spin on a fall favorite squash!
Roasted Acorn Squash with Mole Sauce and Pepitas

Thanksgiving is really all about the sides. Oh sure, both turkey and tofurky (because: family vegetarians) are on our menu every Thanksgiving. But c’mon – the real fun is the sides. You can be adventurous with the sides. Be creative! Be unique! Be bold! Spike your sides with all the flavors loved by those whose legs are under your table. The Kellys are spice and heat lovers. After all, I come from southern Arizona and grew up on tacos and burros. For our extended family Thanksgiving feasts, my uncles would line up on the porch and have a jalepeno eating contest – we kids squealed with delight when their faces turned bright red and sweat poured off of them in buckets!

I decided a spicy spin on fall acorn squash was in order. This dish has warm fall flavors with a kick of heat: acorn squash, spicy mole with just a pinch of chocolate and crunchy pepitas.

The mole is super easy, and can be made up to a week ahead to help minimize last-minute holiday meal stress. Just soak the dried chiles – they will blend up to be very smooth in your sauce. Just a hint of chocolate goes a long way – you don’t want to be reminded of hot fudge sauce!

Mole sauce is traditionally made with chiles and nuts or seeds as thickeners. Here I have simplified things by using almond butter to make the blending quick and smooth. I love both the flavor and texture of this simple sauce – rich and velvety with a hint of heat and spice.

I like to sprinkle pepitas over the top to add crunch – but you could use sliced almonds as well.

We are firm believers that acorn squash should make it to your table this fall. Check out our oven-free squash rings: Maple Chipotle Waffle Iron Squash, and Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash.

Maple Chipotle Waffle Iron Acorn Squash

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash

Roasted Acorn Squash with Simple Mowiele Sauce and Pepitas
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Acorn squash with a whole new spicy twist.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8 servings
  • 1 large acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 guajillo or ancho ciles
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish
  1. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds and strings. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Toss in oil and then spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until fork tender and lightly browned.
  2. While squash is roasting, chop the chiles and remove seeds and stem. In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the chiles, broth, onion. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, or until chiles are very soft.
  3. Add in all remaining ingredients and let simmer another 10 minutes. Cool to warm.
  4. Blend sauce in a blender and taste and season with salt and pepper.

Other bloggers do fabulous and flavorful roasted squash:

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Pistachio Stuffing, A Couple Cooks
Miso Roasted Acorn Squash, Half Baked Harvest
Agave Balsamic Roasted Squash, Kalyn’s KItchen

Caramel with Molasses, Maple and Sucanat: Apples Optional

Sometimes it’s worth sharing a fail when there’s a WIN in the same effort, as in the case of these wretched-looking mini candy apples with what turned out to be an fabulously flavorful caramel sauce.

Caramel with Molasses, Maple and Sucanat #dairyfree #norefinedsugar

Go ahead, laugh. I deserve it! But truly, the flavor of the sauce is worth making this for other caramel uses.

Aren’t they pitiful? You can say so, I know they are. Any food blogger these days naturally gets excited when they think they may have a potential Pinterest hit in the works. I thought these adorable mini apples might be contenders, scooped with a melon baller and skewered with twig-shaped lollipop sticks, sprinkled with smoked sea salt.


The consistency was potentially a problem, but the moisture on the apple balls (having no skin on them) made them so slippery that the caramel more or less slid right off.  Letting the caramel cool and thicken a bit more helped a little, but as you can see, it was eventually to no avail.

But the good news is the flavor of the sauce. As I’ve mentioned once or thrice, I have a serious Thing for caramel and will eagerly try all the varieties I can. I wanted to experiment with some unrefined sweeteners (like sucanat and molasses from Wholesome Sweeteners). I also wanted to make it dairy-free and slightly lower-glycemic. Both the coconut milk and the unrefined sweeteners, the molasses lent the caramel a hint of tanginess and umami that worked beautifully – even if it looked far from beautiful melting around the base of those apples. And hey, the minerals in both the sucanat and the molasses give it a nutritional boost as well. …

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Caramel Apple Cheesecake Parfaits – A Raw Dessert for Early Fall

If you’ve never tried a raw dessert, these Caramel Apple Cheesecakes are a perfect intro (especially on an autumn day). 

Raw Caramel Apple Cheesecakes #rawdessert #paleo #vegan

Layered Caramel Apple Cheesecakes – a perfect raw dessert for fall.

Raw food ‘cooking’ and I got off to an awkward, if memorable, start. I was already intrigued by the concept, and had sampled and loved quite a few raw dishes at some of my favorite vegan restaurants that featured raw cuisine (like Caravan of Dreams) when I was living in NYC (and was still a committed vegetarian).  Later, having relocated to Connecticut, when I saw that a local cooking school was offering a whole series on raw cuisine, I jumped at the chance immediately, securing my slot well in advance.

By the time the class rolled around, I was newly pregnant and in the throes of so-called morning sickness. For me, like so many other moms, this was really more like feeling intensely carsick 24 hours a day (if ONLY it were limited to morning). Very little food sounded appetizing at all, the least of which was vegetables – normally something I loved and thrived upon.  I still attended the class, never one to let money or learning opportunities go to waste, so although Lily was only about the size of a peppercorn at the time, she prevented me from tasting more than a few perfunctory nibbles of everything we created. Drat!

But first trimesters pass in the blink of an eye, and soon enough I was able to make the items I had missed out on at home, thanks to the booklet our instructor had given out. Though living exclusively or even primarily on raw foods doesn’t work for me, I appreciate many of the benefits: how nutrient-dense it is, how it’s naturally dairy-free (and much of it is quite paleo-compatible, actually, if you’re including it in balance).

It’s especially great for having the occasional dessert treat  – hence this creation. With the seasonal shift well underway, I was starting to crave some caramelly, cinnamon apple flavors. A bit of experimentation led to this! It takes a bit of prep and assembly, but the effort is totally worthwhile. Multiple household members reported back with enthusiastic reviews. (Then again, none of us are pregnant. Proceed with caution if you are.)…

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Pomegranate Poached Pears

Pomegranate Pears

Poached pears is one of those desserts that I think of every time there is that fall chill in the air. I don’t eat a lot of fresh pears, but poached pears are one of my favorite things. They are soft and velvety and comforting. I love the flavors of this recipe – the pomegranate gives tartness and the Balsamic gives richness. The hint of cinnamon is just right without being overpowering.

We have Asian pear trees in our yard, and so I sometimes use those. My favorite pears for this are Red Bartletts or Comice pears. They have a smooth texture without a grainy texture, and yet are sturdy enough to hold up to poaching.

The flavors of this recipe are so warm and cinnamon-y. I love the tang of the pomegranate paired with the sweetness of the pears.

Put this on your Must Try list for fall. You won’t be sorry!

Pomegranate Poached Pears
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Cinnamon stick
  • 3 ripe red Bartlett pears
  1. In a large deep skillet, bring the juice, water, vinegar, sugar and cinnamon stick to a boil.
  2. Peel pears and cut in half lengthwise. With a melon baller, scoop out core and seeds from middle of pears. Please pears in skillet and immediately reduce heat so that liquid is barely simmering. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning pears frequently.


Spicy Tofu Taco Filling (Vegan, Low-Carb, Gluten Free)

Spicy Tofu Taco Filling

One of my favorite tofu creations is a spicy tofu taco filling that is similar to regular old school hamburger filling – but so much yummier, and without that gristle-y hamburger texture.

I have been wanting to do an update of this recipe for awhile now,  since my trip to Kenya a few months ago with fabulous food blogger Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen fame. My daughter Kate and her hubby Neil were living in Kenya at the time and were lamenting the fact that good Mexican food is hard to get in Kenya. So, when Kalyn and I went, we made a Mexican food feast for them and their American ex-pat friends. One of the recipes we made was my Spicy Ground Tofu taco filling. I was thrilled to find that Kalyn loved this recipe  and she even tried the recipe recently and put a fabulous spin on it by making Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps.

When I saw that Nasoya just came out with a new product – Chipotle TofuBaked. I knew I had to use it in an update of this recipe. The Nasoya folks sent me some of their new product to try – and coupons to giveaway. Leave a comment to this post and I will send you a coupon so that you can discover Nasoya’s goodness for yourself!

I love, love, LOVE this baked tofu. The flavor is great – I even found myself nibbling on slices of it as I cooked. But it is the texture that won me over. The texture is smooth and firm and creamy. Using this Chipotle TofuBaked makes my Spicy Tofu Taco Filling recipe so much easier than before- no draining or pressing of the tofu is required.

If you’re a fan of old school ground beef taco filling, you will love this new vegan creation. Easy enough for a weeknight, especially on a Meatless Monday!

Spicy Tofu Taco Filling
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vegan
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium sweet white onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (I use Frank’s)
  • 16 ounces Nasoya TofuBaked, chipotle flavor
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add one tablespoon of oil and then add peppers and onion and saute until softened. Add in cumin, garlic powder and chile powder and cook for another minute. Turn off heat.
  3. Mix together soy sauce, peanut butter and cayenne pepper sauce and stir into skillet mixture..
  4. Crumble tofu into small bits into skillet and stir to combine until all tofu is coated evenly with skillet mixture.
  5. Spread remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on a 12 by 18 inch baking sheet. Sprinkle tofu mixture on top of oil in a thin layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir tofu. Return to oven and cook for about 20 more minutes, until tofu is crispy.

Turns out, other bloggers have made fabulous tofu tacos:

Kogi Tofu Tacos, Former Chef
Baked Tofu Tacos, Couple of Chefs
Crispy Tofu Tacos with Cherry Salsa, Mountain Mama Cooks
Tofu, Broccoli and Kale Tacos, East Well with Others
Mole Tofu Tacos, Cara’s Cravings

Butternut Squash Soup with Ras El Hanout, Pomegranate and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Ras el hanout gives your favorite fall soup a subtly spicy twist.

Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds & Pomegranate #whole30 #paleo #vegan

Moroccan-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds & Pomegranate Arils

Soup season: it’s on. This was adapted from a recipe by Half Baked Harvest. Her delicious version includes goat cheese (definitely give that variation a try sometime if you do dairy), a different spice blend, and is topped with pistachios. I thought I’d give it a vegan/nondairy whirl, and experiment with other flavor notes.  The ras el hanout works SO beautifully with winter squash – if you don’t happen to make this particular recipe, do try it on squash in another dish. …

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Easy Sauteed Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Roses

Sauteed Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Roses

Stunning, simple and super easy to make – isn’t that what breakfast is all about?

I just love oatmeal – any time, really, drizzled with a little milk and sweetener – especially in the fall, when mornings are chilly. Try this for your next Meatless Monday breakfast – so hearty and filling, no need for meat!

So, my inspiration for this new creation came from that video on the world wide web showing how to make pie crust apple roses. My son made them for me for my birthday this year – such a fun and sweet surprise! I tried making them and they were very fun, but a lot of work and not a healthy breakfast. More of a dessert, really. Here’s what my pie crust apple roses looked like:

Pie Crust Apple roses

So, I decided the idea of apple slices as rose petals might work for a delicious and easy breakfast.

This really is easy enough for a weekday breakfast, yet stunning enough for company. This could easily work for a crowd because you just spoon oatmeal into ramekins and then top with sauteed apple slices. Just set them in the oven on a baking sheet to warm while you make the rest of your breakfast or brunch and sit back and wait for the oooh’s and aaa’hs!

Use any type of oatmeal you like cooked as you normally would. I used steel-cut oats, but use any you like. Then, saute apple slices in a little oil and cinnamon until they are softened. Place the softened apple slices on top of the oatmeal in your ramekins and – Voila! – breakfast apple roses!

Sauteed Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Roses (vegan) (whole 30)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 6 servings
  • Two cups hot cooked oatmeal, any variety
  • Three large red apples, such as gala or Braeburn
  • A little oil for sauteing
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon
  1. Spoon oatmeal into six 1-cup ramekins, about ¾ full. Keep oatmeal warm while sauteing apple slices.
  2. Cut apples in half and then remove core with a melon baller or round teaspoon measure. Place apple cut side down on a cutting board and cut in ¼ inch slices.
  3. Saute in a large skillet over medium high heat in a single layer with the oil, turning to make sure both sides of apple slices are lightly browned and slices are softened but not mushy.Sprinkle with a little cinnamon toward end of cooking. Let slices cool to warm.
  4. Using smallest slices first, bend a slice into a round shape and place cut side down into the center of a ramekin with oatmeal. Continue bending and placing apple slices around the center slice, forming a rose shape.

Other genius apple-oatmeal combinations:

Crock Pot Apple Pie Oatmeal, Kalyn’s Kitchen
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, Barefeet in the Kitchen
Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal, Annie’s Eats
Overnight Baked Apple Oatmeal, A Farm Girl Dabbles
Oatmeal Apple Blender Pancakes, Some the Wiser
Oatmeal Apple Rice Krispie Treats, Foodie Crush