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Laying Low

Portland, Oregon:  Recovering from four days of binge-eating, I have been trying a few new recipes this week with "healthy" dining in mind. Of course, we do not usually eat junk food, but am paying extra attention to calories this week due to our over-indulgences at the food festival. A good week to test a few items in my "Recipes to Try" folder.

Monday night we had Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing from Minimalist Baker. The salad has quinoa, lettuce, corn, black beans, red onion, orange segments, avocado and cilantro in a spiced-citrusy dressing.

I followed the directions, with the exception of adding a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds. We ate the salad, but it didn't "wow" us. Maybe our palates were coming-down off a food festival high? This salad will not make a re-appearance on our table.

However what I prepared Tuesday night was surprisingly delicious - Cauliflower Parmesan from The New York Times. I get confused about using the word "parmesan" in this dish, feeling the title should be "Parmigiano" - meaning the dish is cooked in the style of the northern Italian city of Parma... especially since these dishes are usually made with mozzarella. Anyway, no one asked me.

After reading the comments on the recipe website, I really switched it up and did not follow the recipe much at all. I did not bread-and-fry the cauliflower florets. I sliced a head of cauliflower like a loaf of bread, drizzled one Tablespoon of olive oil over, tossed to coat, and roasted the "slices" for 30 minutes in a 400° oven on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

I put 1/2 cup of (jarred, store-bought) marinara in the bottom of a small gratin dish (an 8x8-inch baking dish would also work), placed the cooled cauliflower evenly in the pan, sprinkled 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese over, then topped it with 1.5 cups of marinara, and scattered 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella over it all. No, I did not toast panko bread crumbs - I crushed a handful of seasoned croutons and sprinkled it over the top of the casserole. Everything, except the Parmesan cheese, was organic.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I baked the Cauliflower Parmesan right away, but I see no reason this recipe could not be made ahead and baked when needed. 35 minutes at 375° and this gorgeous bubbling dish came out of the oven:

Oops! Don't forget the garnish!

This dish will only be as good as the red sauce used. I am currently obsessed, and I mean, obsessed with the Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce produced by Cadia. This brand showed-up at my local New Seasons Markets over the last year or so. Cadia, owned by Nature's Best, offer organic products at very good prices.

Cadia seem to only offer their foods at smaller independently-owned hippy grocers, but look for Cadia while you are shopping. I have also tried their chicken stock and olive oil - so far - but this tomato basil sauce is just amazing. I use it as pizza sauce as well.

Wouldn't this be an amazing meal, served with a side of spaghetti? It would, but no pasta for people who were force-fed indulgent tidbits over the past weekend. I served it with a tossed salad. Most amazing - besides the taste and the fact My Driver loved the Cauliflower Parmesan - was the calorie count. Even with the cheese, the dish is only 210 calories per serving (4 servings total), mostly due to the fact an entire head of cauliflower is only 144 calories. This recipe (mine, not the one at the New York Times) will be added to the rotation. With pasta.

We experimented with yet another main-course salad this evening, again from The New York Times Food section, Charlie Bird's Farro Salad, from the famed SoHo restaurant.

Again, I followed the recipe... except I subbed hazelnuts for pistachios... mostly because there are a zillion and three filbert trees on this mountain we call home. This main-course salad was really good and, if you don't toss-in the greens until the last minute, would be great for a picnic or a take-to-work lunch. If you are vegan, omit (or substitute) the parmesan cheese.

Extra credit for serving the salad in a bowl Lisa bought in Tucson, on holiday with us, while she was in college. Circa 2000? Somehow I now have this gorgeous bowl in our kitchen in Oregon.

Sucks to be you, Lisa.

Again, no bread. No nuttin'. Still coming down from our FEAST PORTLAND food high.

Until my next update, I remain, your low-cal correspondent.