Here’s the deal: I love Pioneer Woman as much as the next schmuck, but her recipes are not exactly what one would term “healthy.”
Let’s face it: her recipes are not what one would even term “reasonably indulgent.”
In fact, I would generally term her recipes “obscene exercises in dissipation,” but let’s not quibble over terminology here.
However, no matter how you feel about their ingredients, there’s no denying they are TAS-TEE, is there?
I’m not anti-tastee. I’m not even anti-indulgent, when the situation calls for it. I make PW’s cinnamon rolls for special occasions. And there was a time in my life when I was positively ADDICTED to her apricot bars (until I burnt-out my apricot-bar-taste-bud).
But at my house, there aren’t a lot of her recipes that work for us. I cook primarily vegetarian and I have a least one child who is lactose-intolerant. I feel terribly disloyal as a fellow blogger, but I have to confess that, due to these reasons, I don’t own PW’s cookbook.
On days when I’m running low on motivation and even lower on inspiration, however, I check out her cooking blog, just to see what monstrosities she’s throwing together. Sometimes I am intrigued enough by something she has made to wonder…”can I tweak this a little and make it work for us?”
Such was the case when I saw her cauliflower soup recipe. It already sounds so wholesome, doesn’t it? I mean…cauliflower! Soup! Healthy! Then I looked a little further. Egad.
Butter, whole milk, half-and-half, AND sour cream. Not just a little, either. 1 stick. 2 cups. 1 cup. 1 cup (heaping)!
That’s just a wee bit of dairy, ain’t it? Let me do the math for you: FOUR AND A HALF CUPS. And that’s for a recipe that serves six. It’s a wonder they haven’t all grown spare skeletons with all that calcium. And spare (tractor) tires with all that fat. But that’s the wonder of hard work…I hear it burns a lot of calories. Can anyone corroborate this claim for me?
Anyway, here’s my attempt to transform her cauliflower soup into something my vegetarian and dairy-challenged family could enjoy.
First, here’s my cast of characters:
Just a few changes from PW’s. First of all, the milk. I substituted with hemp milk, which is a really groovy substance made from cannabis seeds.
(yes, that cannabis)
It’s like, totally legal, don’t worry! It’s also terribly, terribly good for you. You could also substitute soy milk or almond milk or any other milk-that’s-not-really-milk, but I think hemp is the creamiest and is not as naturally sweet as the others. I also like to avoid soy when I can. I’m just racist that way.
My substitution for the chicken broth was veggie broth (easy) and the butter was olive oil (also a no-brainer). Then things got a little tricky. I wanted to avoid soy, but I had to give in when it came to the sour cream and use a soy-based sour cream from the tofutti company. I just didn’t see many other options in my one-health-food-store town.
For the half-and-half, I think I could have just used more hemp milk, but I wanted something reeeeally creamy and maybe a little bit sweet, like half-and-half would be. There are, apparently, somewhere in the world, also soy-based coffee creamers that would have sufficed, but I couldn’t find any and again, there’s that pesky soy prejudice. In a flash of brilliance, I struck upon a solution: coconut milk!
(I forgot to include it in my cast of characters, so here it is, all violated and used up)
Okay. Items assembled. I also decided that, since her recipe says “serves 6” I’d better double mine to serve the ten million people that inhabit my house. I forgot to take into account that if her “serves 6” means hard-working ranch-type people, it would probably suit my family of weenies just fine. In other words, it made a buttload.
Now, believe it or not, I had not touched cauliflower since childhood. I never liked the stuff. I mean, really. Ew. Just didn’t get into it. But I was willing to have a go at it in soup form, since I like soup a lot, especially when it’s negative thirty million outside, and I figured my tastebuds might have matured a fraction. However, I was not prepared for how freakin’ messy cauliflower would be to chop up. Mercy! You cut into the stuff and little brainy pieces just start flying all over your kitchen!
at least it’s not harmful to dogs. I didn’t have to sweep it up!
I chopped up that there cauliflower and threw it into the pot. That was the first inkling I had that I might need a bigger pot.
But I soldiered on. I added the broth, and the rest of the items as per her directions. In the end, it looked just like her version. It smelled pretty good. But what about the taste??
please, for the love of pete, do not notice my hideous stovetop.
Only one way to find out. Assemble the guinea pigs. And either they were particularly ravenous because dinner was all of 30 minutes later than usual, or it really was gooooooood, because the votes were unanimous:
my beloved: mmmmm!
Caleb: huh? what? do what? say what? thumb up? what?
and: Hey, seriously…what?
Miriam: allriiiiight! or maybe: I’m hitchin’ a ride to Cali just as soon as possible!
(I have no idea what Josiah is doing.)
Jordan: hooray! Miriam: hot!
Josiah: yum yum! Caleb: seriously, what’s everybody doing with the thumbs up? how come i never know what’s going on?
Enough already, you get the idea.
For myself, I have no idea what PW’s original recipe tastes like, but I honestly thought the vegan version was GREAT. Flavor-packed, satisfying, and reeeeally creamy. You’d NEVER have known there was no dairy in it! The cauliflower chunks were not overpowering at all, like I thought something called “califlower soup” would be, but added a fabulous texture that was quite toothsome.
I had this wild idea that I could buy Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and go through it, Julie and Julia-style, turning all the recipes into vegan/vegetarian dishes and rating how each one turned out. And then I’d get an interview with the New York Times, and then I’d get a book-and-movie deal, and then I’d meet Pioneer Woman herself and we’d be BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!!
And then I remembered that I already have a life.
So for now, I’ll probably tweak a recipe or two here and there, and maybe remember to tell you about it. If you even care. And just in case you do, here’s my version of califlower soup:
Vegan Califlower Soup
serves six. six strapping farmhands, that is
a glug of olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 or 2 heads of cauliflower, roughly chopped and scattered all over your kitchen
2 Tbs dried parsley
2 quarts (that’s 8 cups) veggie broth
another couple of glugs of olive oil
6 Tbs flour
2 cups hemp milk, or any other non-dairy milk
1 cup coconut milk (or just more hemp milk)
salt to taste
1 cup soy sour cream
Place the onion into a large soup pot with a glug of olive oil and stir until the onion begins to brown. Add carrot and celery and cook another few minutes. Add the copious amounts of white brainy veg, and the parsley, and stir. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil, and begin to simmer.
Put 4 Tbs olive oil into a saucepan over med heat. Put flour into a bowl, add the hemp milk, and whisk to combine. Add to the olive oil, whisking constantly until smooth. Remove from heat, add coconut milk, and then add to soup. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add salt (and pepper, if you’re bold and daring).
Place “sour cream” into a bowl and add a few ladlefuls of soup. Mix until well combined and add back into soup pot. Serve to the starving masses with some crusty bread!