Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan

Sometimes I just don’t know how I come up with certain things.

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com

Take this Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan, for example. I suppose it’s not too surprising that I paired a creamy, vegetable-laden, curry-laced dip with everyone’s favorite Indian carb, but I’m not too sure adding chunks of bacon to the bread is really staying in line with the traditional flavors of that culture. Oh well, that’s what cooking is all about, right? Taking already established, delicious dishes and turning them into your own?

And let me tell you a little story about bacon, and why I feel compelled to add it to just about everything I cook these days (in small amounts, that is.) You see, one of my hubby’s best friends has a family hook up with a local butcher in the Bay Area, and for my hubby’s bachelor party he literally brought all. the. meat. We’re talking tomahawk steaks, ham steaks, sausages and, of course, bacon. It was LITERALLY a sausage fest. My hubs came back raving about this bacon, and the next time we were up visiting his friend we snagged a small pack to bring home with us.

Fast forward a few months, to Christmastime, and we had mentioned to his friend that we were due for a replenishment of our bacon stock. We show up to his parents’ house on Christmas Day, and he literally goes into the garage and comes back with a 15-POUND box of this bacon for us.  So we’re basically set with bacon for life, or at least for the foreseeable future. Thank goodness for plenty of freezer space!

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com

Needless to say, we always have some on hand so I couldn’t help but add a little bit to the naan I was making for this Creamed Curried Spinach. (I must also mention that I was partially inspired by our favorite little spot in Napa, Model Bakery, and the bacon bread that’s regularly part of their daily homemade bread selection.) Let me tell you, the end result is nothing short of spectacular. I adapted the naan recipe from this one I found on Girl Versus Dough, basically just adding in the bacon and using my stovetop griddle instead of the gas grill outside. The end result is a chewy and moist naan that holds up extremely well to the whole dipping and scooping up the creamed spinach process, yet melts in your mouth save for the slight salty crunch of the bacon. Delish.

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com

So now that we’ve talked about the bacon naan, I’ve also GOT to tell you about this Creamed Curried Spinach because it is out of this world. First of all, this part of the dish is completely vegan. Do you believe it? Well, if I told you I used my trusty cashew cream as a base I bet you would. Seriously, I don’t think there’s any sort of cream sauce that vegan sub can’t stand up to. So, if you’re vegan, I strongly urge you to give this a shot, and simply find (or make) some sort of substitute for the bacon naan.

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com

Okay, back to our Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan. When making the cashew cream this time around, I simply added a hefty dose of curry powder instead of nutritional yeast. I then stirred it into some wilted onions, garlic, and spinach, and fancied it up with some fresh cherry tomatoes and a dash of red pepper flakes. The result was so creamy and bursting with flavor, I really am giddy with excitement for you to try this.

All glowing reviews aside, I do realize that Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan is not the most photogenic, but PLEASE do not let that stop you. You will be incredibly sorry if you do. Most Indian food involves dipping into a blurry blend of exotic herbs, spices and sauces without silverware, and this is no exception. Use your bacon naan as your spoon and really get in there and shovel some hefty scoops straight into your mouth. I’m pretty sure once you start eating this you’re not going to be able to stop, so get after it!

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
2 hr 30 mins
 

A vegan, Indian-inspired curried spinach dish is accompanied by homemade naan studded with crunchy, salty bits of bacon. 

Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the bacon naan:
  • 3/4 cup water, bathtub temperature (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 3/4 cup milk, bathtub temperature (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
For the creamed curried spinach:
  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours (or up to overnight)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 small sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 8-ounce bag fresh spinach
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. First, make the naan. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the water, milk, yeast and salt. Next, add the Greek yogurt and honey, then slowly stir in the flour. Before the mixture gets too thick, stir in the chopped bacon and continue stirring until all ingredients are combined and a sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place, away from drafts, for about two hours or until doubled in size. 

  2. With lightly floured hands, punch down the dough and divide into six even pieces. (The dough will be quite sticky, so just keep adding enough flour until you can handle it without all of it sticking to your fingers.) 

  3. Heat a griddle over medium heat on the stove. Spray with nonstick spray (I used coconut oil spray from Trader Joe’s.) Using your hands, form each piece of dough into a flat, oval shape that’s about 1/4-inch thick. Place the dough (working in batches) on the griddle and cook for about 3 minutes each side, until it becomes slightly charred and feels like it’s been cooked through. If your naan seems to puff up a lot when it’s cooking on its first side, simply flip it once that side’s done and then press down with the back of a spatula while it’s cooking on its second side. This will help it spread out more and cook more evenly.

  4. Remove cooked naan from griddle and keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

  5. Next, make the curried cashew cream. Drain the cashews from their soaking water and add to a high-powered blender with the curry powder, ½ teaspoon salt and filtered water. Puree until a creamy sauce forms, adding a tad more water if needed. Measure out two cups of the cashew cream and reserve the rest for another use.

  6. In a large saute pan, melt the coconut oil. Add the garlic and onion and saute until fragrant and translucent, about 3-5 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add about 1/3 of the fresh spinach to the pan, stirring until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the tomatoes. Next, add about 1/3 of the curried cashew cream. Continue this process two more times, until you’ve used up all of the spinach and the whole two cups of the curried cashew cream. 

  7. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer on low until ready to serve. Serve with bacon naan. No utensils required!

Recipe Notes

The Bacon Naan recipe was adapted from the No-Knead Grilled Naan recipe on Girls Versus Dough.

Creamed Curried Spinach with Bacon Naan | CaliGirlCooking.com

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey

Sometimes bite-size foods are the best foods.

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey | CaliGirlCooking.com

These Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey are no exception! They’re salty, sweet and tangy, and fit in the palm of your hand. They’re portable and the perfect addition to a cocktail party or get-together (did someone say Oscars?)

I’ve always been a snacker. When given the choice between a gigantic meal that will likely leave me bloated and sluggish or light snacks throughout the day, I’ll 100% of the time go for the latter. Plus, that way I get to try allll of the different things. Don’t pin me down, I want to taste all the food!

Speaking of snacking, the hubby and I are especially good at it on the weekends, and this past weekend (wait, are we still in “the weekend” since today is President’s Day?) was no exception. We were up in NorCal for a baby shower on Saturday, then took advantage of the long weekend and being so close to Napa and headed up to Wine Country on Sunday. We’re headed back to SB but will be back up in NorCal next weekend. It’s turning into quite the frequent commute for us, but we don’t mind the drive. We always joke that we’d rather make the 4-6 hour drive up to the Bay Area than the 2-3 hour drive down to LA because we never hit any traffic.

Anyhow, we really enjoyed seeing so many of our NorCal friends this past weekend. It seems like with the craziness of the holidays and the subsequent need to just hibernate and do nothing in the beginning of the new year, it’s been ages since we’ve seen everyone. Now we’re celebrating babies and multiple engagements and I can’t believe all of that has happened since we’ve last seen everyone!

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey | CaliGirlCooking.com

These Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey are just the type of thing I like to make for casual get-togethers with our friends, no matter where we are. They’re pretty darn easy and require almost no actual cooking, so you can really whip them up anywhere. Might I also add that they’re the perfect things to munch on when you’re sipping on some delicious Napa wine? Let me tell you, these crostini and a crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc are a match made in heaven.

The hardest part about this recipe is literally toasting up the sliced baguette to make crostini. If you can toast bread under a broiler without burning it, you’re in good shape. If not, just add the toppings to untoasted bread and these puppies will still taste absolutely divine.

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey | CaliGirlCooking.com

After you have your baguette slices toasted, simply spread each one with a hefty dollop of chevre (that’s creamy goat cheese for all you non-cheese snobs out there), top with the apricot and pistachio mixture, and drizzle on some honey. That’s it!

I’d also like to point out the absolutely necessity of a couple of things:

  1. Toast your nuts. I know, this technically requires more cooking, but it’s a must for ANY recipe that involves nuts. Just trust me.
  2. Chop your dried apricots. Nobody wants a crostini where they have to gnaw through a huge chunk of something so they can be sure to get a taste of it in every bit. Also, I’m a huge fan of the fatter, juicier dried apricots as opposed to the flatter, more dehydrated ones. They are definitely a must IMHO.

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey | CaliGirlCooking.com

Okay, now that you have the down-low on all that goes into these drool-inducing Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey, I’ll let you get to it! It’s a holiday after all, so you deserve a little something to go along with that bottle of wine you’re sure to pop the cork on today 😉

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

These bite-size hors d'oevures are perfectly balanced with sweet, salt and tangy flavors. Pistachios, goat cheese and apricots are a match made in heaven!

Course: Appetizer
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 6 ounces chevre (creamy goat cheese)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nutmeats, toasted
  • 1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces honey (approximately)
Instructions
  1. Turn the broiler on high. Arrange the baguette slices on a sheet pan and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until they become golden-brown. Keep a close eye on them, as they can get too dark in a matter of seconds. 

  2. Remove crostini from the oven and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, spread about a tablespoon or so of the goat cheese on each piece. 

  3. Combine the pistachios and dried apricots in a small bowl, then sprinkle on top of each crostini. 

  4. Drizzle each piece with honey and serve immediately.

Goat Cheese, Apricot and Pistachio Crostini with Honey | CaliGirlCooking.com

A Valentine’s Day Wine and Food Pairing for Two

I’m so excited to be partnering with Hana-Lee from Wander & Wine to bring you today’s post!

A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two | CaliGirlCooking.com

We got together recently to create the perfect Valentine’s Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two, and let’s just say it’s so ridiculously tasty that you won’t even think twice about trying to make a reservation out somewhere to celebrate this year.

We’re talking Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade and Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction over Creamy Polenta, both paired with the most delicious wines. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect Valentine’s Day meal, I don’t know what does.

A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two | CaliGirlCooking.com

One of the greatest things about this blogging life is the huge network of other bloggers and entrepreneurs I’ve gotten to connect and eventually become good friends with. I feel especially lucky to have found a great group of gals living here in Santa Barbara that are in the same (or very similar) lines of work.

Hana-Lee and I first became “Insta-friends,” and it only took us oh, about six months, to actually meet IRL. Ever since, we’ve become blogging partners in crime, taking “research” trips to Napa and working up some fun collabs just like this one! Stay tuned for another simple fun collab coming in March, but until then, let’s chat about this delicious Valentine’s Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two.

A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two | CaliGirlCooking.com

The menu is perfect for next week’s big event for multiple reasons:

  • It looks elegant and decadent, but comes together seamlessly.
  • It has lots of red, purple and pink hues going on.
  • It is INCREDIBLY tasty and is guaranteed to wow your significant other.
  • Finally, and most importantly, it is paired with TWO delicious wines.

Does it get any better than that? I think not.

Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

We start with an appetizer course of Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade. From the creamy cheese filling laced with sautéed shallots and thyme to the fruity, citrusy marmalade gracing the top, once you taste these tartlets you MIGHT not be able to go back to just any old sweet or savory tartlet. Even better, the tartlet shells, filling and marmalade can all be made up to three days in advance, which means all you need to do before serving is compose and pop in the oven for five minutes or less. See, I told you this wouldn’t be too difficult.

Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

These Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade are mouth-watering on their own, but they only get better when paired with Domaine Chandon’s fruity, refreshing sparkling Rose. Click here for Hana-Lee’s in-depth wine pairing notes!

Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction Over Creamy Polenta | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

For the main dish, we created these Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction and Creamy Polenta that, although not difficult to prepare, are far from your average weeknight dinner. You’ll want to start by making the polenta because, although it’s incredibly easy to make from scratch, it does take about 45 minutes to come together (most of that just sitting simmering away on the stove.) If you’re really in a pinch, you could use pre-made polenta, but seriously, once you try making it yourself once, you’ll realize it’s not any more difficult. We also graced our homemade polenta with a hearty handful of aged gouda cheese, which lends the perfect salty, savory kick to the entire dish.

Next, you’ll want to get the Blackberry Reduction simmering away on the stove. Sweet, tart and savory all at once, I’m very confident that once you master the basics of a reduction like this, you’ll feel liberated with all of the different ingredient combinations you can use to make the perfect topping for any meal.

The lamb lollipops are going to be the last step, as they’re both the quickest and the easiest to put together. We simply take a garlic and rosemary concoction and rub it all over the chops, then sear them off in a cast iron skillet (although you could use any nonstick skillet or even the grill if you’re so inclined.)

Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction Over Creamy Polenta | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

Once you have all of these components made, these Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction and Creamy Polenta come together quickly and painlessly. Scoop a heaping pile of the creamy polenta onto whatever serving dish you choose (the individual gratin dishes we used worked perfectly, you can find similar ones here,) top with a lamp lollipop, and then drizzle on the thick, glossy blackberry reduction.

We paired this entrée dish with Tablas Creek Vineyard’s 2014 Patelin de Tablas, a Rhone-style blend made up of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. Click here for Hana-Lee’s notes on this delicious pairing.

Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction Over Creamy Polenta | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

With two delicious courses and two just-as-delicious wine pairings, we’re guessing you won’t have too much room for dessert. But, just in case you have a little sweet tooth that needs tending to, here are some options for a third and final course:

A Valentine's Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two | CaliGirlCooking.com

And there you have it! The perfect Valentine’s Day Wine and Food Pairing for Two. So cancel your reservations, put on some slow tunes and light some candles for a romantic night in. Your significant other deserves it, and you do too. XO

Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com
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Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade
Prep Time
40 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

These savory tartlets are creamy and decadent and topped with a brilliant red marmalade. The perfect appetizer to pair with a sparkling rose!

Course: Appetizer
Servings: 4 tartlets
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed
  • 2 teaspoons shortening
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water, as needed
  • Special Equipment: Four 4-inch nonstick tartlet pans
For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 5 ounces triple cream soft cheese (We used Delice de Bourgogne)
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • Pinch of pepper
For the marmalade:
  • 6 blood oranges
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cointreau
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
Instructions
To make the crust:
  1. Combine all crust ingredients (except ice water) in a food processor. Pulse until crumbly. Add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms. Remove from food processer and shape into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to ¼-inch thickness (you may need to let the dough warm up slightly before trying to roll it.) Cut dough into fourths and shape into tartlet pans, crimping the edges as needed.

  3. Place tartlet pans on a small rimmed baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove and let cool completely. If you’re not composing the tartlets that day, wrap the pans in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature until ready to use.

To make the filling:
  1. In a small saute pan, melt the butter. Once butter is melted, add the minced shallots and thyme and saute until fragrant and translucent. Transfer mixture to a small mixing bowl. 

  2. Add your triple cream cheese, crème fraiche and pepper to the mixing bowl and use a spatula to combine all of the ingredients. If you’re not composing the tartlets right away, transfer filling to a resealable container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. 

To make the marmalade (you will have extra marmalade left over, but that means all the more to put on your toast in the morning!):
  1. Using a microplane, gather 1 cup grated blood orange zest (being careful not to scrape the bitter white pith.) 

  2. Once you have the zest, peel the blood oranges and gather 2 cups of pulp, squeezing it out of the translucent white membrane that’s segments the orange into slices. 

  3. Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the zest, pulp, Cointreau, lemon juice and water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and let simmer until mixture is thick and reduced, about 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. If not composing the tartlets right away, transfer to a resealable container and keep refrigerated for up to three days. 

To compose the tartlets:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Use a spatula to put the filling into a piping bag. Cut off the tip of the bag (no piping tip needed) and pipe it into each of the tart shells. Use a small spatula to spread it and make it even. 

  3. Place tartlets on a small rimmed baking sheet and place in oven for just 5 minutes (you might not even need this much time, you just want the cheese to get melty so keep an eye on it!)

  4. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Top with a scoop of the blood orange marmalade and serve immediately.

 

Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction Over Creamy Polenta | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction Over Creamy Polenta
Prep Time
55 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
1 hrs 5 mins
 

Rosemary and garlic crusted lamb lollipops are placed over a bed of creamy, cheesy homemade polenta and topped with a perfectly balanced blackberry reduction.

Course: Main Course
Servings: 2 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the polenta:
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup shredded aged Gouda cheese
  • Salt and pepper
For the reduction:
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 cup red wine (it would be best to use the Tablas Creek here)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
For the lamb lollipops:
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bone-in lamb chops
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Instructions
To make the polenta:
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Once boiling, slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking as you pour to avoid clumps. 

  2. Turn down heat to a low simmer and let cook for about 40 minutes, whisking every 10 minutes. If polenta gets too thick at the end of this, simply add a bit more water. 

  3. Whisk in butter in two parts, then stir in Gouda cheese. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Keep polenta over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

To make the reduction:
  1. Combine all ingredients (except butter) in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a heavy simmer. Turn down heat slightly and let simmer until mixture is reduced by at least half. 

  2. Remove thyme sprigs from sauce and remove sauce from heat. Whisk in butter continuously until it is completely melted, or your sauce will break. Return to very low heat until ready to serve.

To make the lamb lollipops:
  1. In a small bowl, form the herb rub by combining the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Place the lamb lollipops on a plate and rub the herb mixture all over both sides. Let lamb sit with the herb rub on it for 20 minutes if possible. 

  2. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once skillet is hot, add the lamb lollipops (you should hear a big sizzle when you put them on.) Cook the lamb lollipops for about 5 minutes each side, or until they get a nice dark golden crust. Remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes before plating.

To plate the dish:
  1. Scoop a large spoonful of polenta into two individual gratin dishes. Place a lamb lollipop on top of each dish, then spoon the blackberry reduction over top. Serve immediately.

This post contains affiliate links. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that make CaliGirl Cooking possible!

Savory Triple Cream Tartlets with Blood Orange Marmalade | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

Herb-Crusted Lamb Lollipops with Blackberry Reduction Over Creamy Polenta | A Valentine's Day Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for Two on CaliGirlCooking.com

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter

I bet you’d never imagine the words “best ever” in front of the words “vegetable platter,” but today I’m here to rock your world and prove to you that this is an incredibly appropriate statement.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte | CaliGirlCooking.com

That’s right, I’m going to show you not only a vibrant array of winter vegetables (that don’t need to be cooked before enjoying) but TWO life-changing dipping sauces that are not only incredibly tasty, but VEGAN to boot. Hummus and queso, step aside. My Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce are going to change your life.

But, before I get to these super-duper recipes, let’s talk a bit about a very important food event that’s coming up this weekend. Yes, I just referred to the Super Bowl as a food event as opposed to a sporting event, because when there isn’t really a specific team you’re rooting for, your focus turns directly to the snacks (and drinks!) that are being served. Am I right? It’s basically an excuse to make all of the delicious things (usually not so healthy) that you’ve been dreaming about since last year’s Super Bowl.

The good news is, this Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter is both healthy AND delicious, and will satisfy all of your guests, no matter their dietary restrictions or preferences. This dish is both vegan and gluten-free, but even those who don’t follow either of these diets will find it a welcome healthy munch among all of the other not-so-healthy foods you might be serving (and have no fear, I have a not-so-healthy Super Bowl-friendly recipe coming to you on Wednesday – because we’re all about that balance, baby!)

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte | CaliGirlCooking.com

So let’s talk about how I came up with the ideas for the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce that grace this Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter. You might recall that back in November I took a little trip to Wine Country with my gal Hana-Lee from Wander & Wine. During that trip, we were lucky enough to grab dinner at Press Restaurant in St. Helena.

While we were waiting for the first of our many dishes to arrive at the table, we were surprised with a large galvanized metal tray, with little veggie tops popping out of a bed of crushed ice. (We later found out that these cute little veggies came straight from the farm that Press has partnered with to provide all of its produce…Amazing!) Surrounding the tray were five little bowls of dipping sauces, and we were told to try our hand at all of the different vegetable and dip combinations. It was basically a vegetarian version of shrimp cocktail, genius!

Among all of the combinations I tried, one really stood out to me: fresh fennel bulb dipped into Press’ version of Thai peanut sauce. It was so dang good it was all I could think of even as we ate all of the other delicious dishes we ordered. I have to admit, the fennel and Thai peanut is a flavor combination I would have NEVER thought of, but it was amazing. I immediately added it to my list of flavor combos to try on my own at home.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce | CaliGirlCooking.com

I’m not quite so sure how I came up with the idea for my Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce, but I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making a Creamy Cauliflower Sauce a la Pinch of Yum for quite some time. I guess I figured almond butter would be a natural, delicious addition, along with some other spices and of course loads of garlic.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce | CaliGirlCooking.com

Once I had my sauces down, I knew I had to get some hearty, beautiful vegetables to stand up to their deliciousness. Fennel was a shoe-in, and after perusing the seasonal produce section at Trader Joe’s I decided on some beautiful rainbow carrots, crunchy radishes and slightly bitter Belgian endive to round out the tray. Not only were all of these vegetables just perfect with BOTH of the sauces, they also make a beautiful display that whoever you’re entertaining will not be able to keep their hands off of.

The great thing about this Best EVER Vegetable Platter is you can prep both of the sauces well in advance (up to three days.) The Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce makes a HUGE batch, so you’ll likely have a bunch leftover, but I highly recommend you take advantage of this by using it as a dairy-free creamy pasta sauce. Once you have the dipping sauces made, all that’s left if to find the freshest winter produce you can and use your food styling skills to really make your platter pop.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Whether you whip this up for Super Bowl or not, it’s the perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for any time you’re entertaining a crowd with health concerns or varied dietary preferences. Make it now, make it later, doesn’t matter as long as you give it a shot as soon as you can!

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platte | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter
Prep Time
50 mins
 

A classic vegetable platter gets a winter makeover with seasonal produce and two creamy, vegan dipping sauces. 

Course: Appetizer
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip:
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 7 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head of cauliflower)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of cayenne
For the Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce:
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek
For the platter:
  • 6-8 rainbow carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 6-8 radishes, tops removed and cut into halves or quarters
  • 2 bunches Belgian endive (bonus if you can find one purple and one green bunch)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cut into sticks
Instructions
To make the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip:
  1. Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Once water is boiling, add cauliflower and garlic cloves and cook until cauliflower is fork tender, about 6 minutes. 

  2. Using a slotted spoon or small sieve, scoop out the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves and place in a blender. Reserve cooking water.

  3. Add almond butter, almond milk, white balsamic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and salt and pepper to blender. Turn blender on low and slowly add ¾ - 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, until the mixture has reached a creamy consistency. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to three days.

To make the Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce:
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, rice vinegar, honey, hot water and sambal oelek. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to three days.

To assemble the platter:
  1. Place dipping sauces in two small bowls and place in center of platter. Surround with all of the vegetables and serve immediately.

Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter | CaliGirlCooking.com

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets

Little pockets of deliciousness, that’s what we’re talking about today.

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

You already know that here at CaliGirl Cooking we’re all about that balance, and today is no exception. I’m bringing you an easy, mouthwatering recipe for Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets. You may never want to make regular chicken pot pie ever again.

I made these last week and we enjoyed them in oh so many ways: as a snack, dipped in tomato soup, or even as a full-on dinner. The beauty of Healthier Chicken Pot Pie (especially in handheld form) is that you can really enjoy it anytime, anywhere. Come to think of it, this would even make a perfectly suitable food to pack for a picnic!

We’re well into the third week of January right now, and I know there are many of you out there who are probably bending under the pressure of all of those New Year’s resolutions you made. They say it takes up to 30 days to form a new habit, so hang in there! You’re more than halfway and I have all the faith in you that you can stick it out.

The good news is, you can still enjoy these Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets, even if you’re trying to incorporate more whole foods into your diet (and less junk!)

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that these are THE healthiest version of chicken pot pie you’ve ever had, but you should know by now that I am not about giving up ALL of the delicious flavor in a recipe when I make it over. Balance, balance, balance! No restrictions, just trying to make slightly healthier decisions whenever we can.

So, how, I bet you’re wondering, do we make these pockets “healthier” than your average chicken pot pie? The main change I’ve made to the original recipe is using my OG cashew cream in place of the typical heavy white sauce the binds all of the fillings together. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, cashew cream is pretty much a magical healthier alternative to any cream sauce you’ve ever made. You first saw me use it on my Sweet Potato Toast with Broccoli Rabe, Tomato and Cashew Cream, then again on my Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce, and once again in my Curry Gnocchi with White Lamb Bolognese. I think it’s going to be a very rare occasion that I ever make a REAL cream sauce again. Once you try these Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets, I bet you’ll be in the same boat as me!

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

With a little planning, these pockets come together in no time at all. I made the pastry dough the day before (using the crust recipe I used in this Cream Cheese-y Pumpkin Pie,) soaked my cashews for the cream sauce overnight, and whipped up the sauce in my Vitamix in the morning. I also simply used some grilled chicken breasts I already had in the refrigerator (something everyone should meal prep every week!) After you have the dough and cashew cream sauce made, and the cooked chicken breast on hand, you’ll spend 15 minutes max whipping together the pot pie filling, and 25-30 minutes baking the pockets. No sweat.

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

These Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets are not only incredibly versatile in how they can be enjoyed, they also reheat incredibly well. We enjoyed them over a course of a few days and they tasted fantastic every single time we reheated them.

So that’s the deal! That’s how we make tasty, tummy-warming Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets that are the perfect comfort food for this time of year but will still keep us on track with all of our New Year’s goals. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

These little bites of heaven take the old-school classic chicken pot pie and turn it into a healthier, handheld form. All of the indulgence and less of the guilt!

Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Servings: 1 dozen
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons water
For the cashew cream:
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in filtered water for at least 4 hours
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 medium cooked chicken breast, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. First, prepare the dough. Combine all dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl and, using fingers, incorporate until dough begins to come together (it will still be slightly crumbly.) Using hands, form dough into a ball and then flatten slightly into a disc. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

  2. Next, prepare the cashew cream. Drain soaking water from the cashews and place in a high-powered blender. Add filtered water, nutritional yeast and salt and blend on high until a smooth cream forms. Set aside.

  3. Now, time to prepare the filling. In a large saute pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until they start to become translucent. Add the carrot, celery and garlic and saute for another 5-10 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add the frozen peas and chicken breast, and then the cashew cream. Stir to combine and continue to cook until mixture is warmed through. Turn heat down to low and move on to prepping the dough.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a large baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.

  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. You may need to let it warm up to room temperature a bit before you can roll it out. Once the dough is soft, roll it out to about ½ inch thickness. Using a large circle cookie cutter (I actually used a large ramekin since I didn’t have a large enough cookie cutter,) cut the dough into circles that are about 7-8 inches in diameter.

  6. Scoop about two tablespoons of filling onto one half of each of the circles, and then fold the other half over top. Use your fingers to pinch the dough up around the edge and seal. Place pockets on the prepared baking sheet. 

  7. In a small bowl, whisk the egg to make the egg wash. Brush the wash over each of the pockets, then cut a small slit in the top of each to allow the filling to vent during cooking. 

  8. Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pockets are a nice golden-brown color. Serve warm.

Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Pockets | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

Little bites of heaven right here!