Healthy, easy Easter

I haven’t been cooking much in recent months but I decided that I wanted to do something nice for Easter.  I wanted it to be easy so my initial, more complex menu turned into using an old favorite for which most of the prep can be done ahead and a new one I wanted to try with a major tweak –and which could also be made the day before.

I chose one of my long-time stand-by faves, a recipe from Nigella Lawson called One Pan Sage and Onion Chicken and Sausage.  I’ve long since put in a couple of tweaks.  She called for cutting up a whole chicken.  I use 10-12 boneless skinless thighs and I always brine chicken first so that it comes out juicy and tender every time (more forgiving if overcooked a little or if you’re reheating leftovers; stays moist).  Since the boneless version takes less time to cook I start the sausage first and give it about 25 minutes before I add the chicken and marinade.  The recipe also calls for English mustard but since I keep a couple of kinds of Dijon around I substitute.  Comes out great.

Late last year I saw Rachael Ray make a mashed potato dish that added parsnips and spinach plus some cheese and nutmeg for flavor. I always sit up and take notice of dishes that combine several veggies and this one sounded good.  Friends had been encouraging me to try using mashed cauliflower to substitute for potatoes so I decided this would be the dish and Easter would be the time.  I used two heads of cauliflower to replace the four large potatoes.  Her recipe called for Gruyere or Parmesan, two cheeses so different that I assumed pretty much any cheese would do.  I substituted goat cheese cheddar and added some pecorino romano (sheep) as well.  I also substituted unsweetened coconut milk and Silk creamer for the two dairy products and used fresh baby spinach instead of frozen.  I put the spinach by handfuls through the slicer plate of the food processor and it stirred in quite nicely.

My big test was my mother (I always say her first rule of eating is “nothing nutritious shall pass my lips”).  She kept asking questions about the dish as I gathered ingredients and I could see she wasn’t excited that I intended this experiment with cauliflower.  She loved it and ate every bite of a helping larger than I can usually entice her to take.  I wouldn’t say, as my friends did, that the cauliflower tastes exactly like mashed potatoes but boy it’s close.  If you served it with something that had gravy or a sauce I think you could pass it off as potatoes.  And if my mother would eat it, I think anyone would.

Since my mission is to find ways to make healthy eating also delightful I’m always thrilled when I find something like this.  To get the benefits of cauliflower and lose the downsides of potatoes with the addition of the parsnips and spinach is just my kind of recipe.  I can’t have the cow products, but if you don’t like the phlegm-y qualities you get from cow stuff, I recommend the substitutions.

The great thing was I just had to toss the sausage and then the marinated chicken into a pan and shove the casserole of veggies–both prepared the day before–into the oven.  In the last few minute I sauteed some asparagus as well.  Got to sit down to a lovely Easter dinner and I was calm and relaxed and able to enjoy it.

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