Crispy Cauliflower + Homemade Ranch


As a vegetarian, I have no appetite for a food like chicken. However, I’m not crazy. I like food, and I enjoy the enticing smell of fried chicken. I get a little hungry when the Publix fried chicken commercial comes on [let’s be honest– it’s borderline food porn, which you can view here].

It’s tough to find a vegetarian alternative that really satisfies that craving for something crispy and salty and fatty. This cauliflower recipe certainly does the trick!

When it comes to frying foods, I have always been a huge fan of what my husband and I call SBP (aka Standard Breading Procedure). Anytime we decide to fry something it has always been SBP- dredge in flour, soak in egg, coat in bread crumbs or panko.

This recipe uses a different breading technique, one that leaves you with a crunchy, flaky, and deliciously crisp snack. It is even easier, requiring only two bowls and NO raw egg!


I am also adding my recipe for homemade ranch. I always keep a large jar of this in my fridge, and it is really easy to make. It’s also MUCH creamier and fresh-flavored than bottled varieties of ranch.

Crispy Cauliflower + Homemade Ranch


for the cauliflower
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder and paprika
1/4 teaspoon each: onion powder and turmeric
1 cup buttermilk
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup flour  (+1/4 teaspoon kosher salt)
vegetable oil

for the ranch
(makes about 1 cup of ranch dressing)
1/4 cup each: milk, sour cream, and mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon each: dried parsley, garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper, and Penzey’s mural of flavor*
1/8 teaspoon each: onion powder and dried dill


To make the ranch dressing, whisk all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. You can store this in a large mason jar in the fridge. Feel free to adjust the ratios to your taste! I enjoy the herbal quality that Penzey’s mural of flavor spice blend adds, but it isn’t necessary if you don’t have it already in your kitchen!


For the cauliflower, begin by mixing all the herbs and spices in a large bowl or gallon plastic bag.* Add the buttermilk in and stir thoroughly.

*I used a plastic bread bowl that my grandmother gave to me. It has a top on it, so it is perfect for battering veggies (and rising bread dough).

Next, wash and chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Coat the florets in the buttermilk mixture. I put the lid on the bowl and shook it around, but you can accomplish this with your hands or a spatula. Be sure to generously coat each piece. Then, set this bowl aside, allowing the cauliflower to “marinate”.


Prepare the oil in a small pot, about 2 inches deep, over medium heat.

In a second bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Measure out 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk-spice mixture and blend it into the flour until it has a crumbly texture.

Take each, buttermilk-soaked floret and coat it generously in the crumbly flour mixture.

Test if the oil is ready by dropping a bit of batter into the pot. If it sputters and bubbles, it’s time to fry!

Fry the coated florets in batches, replenishing the oil as needed. Give each batch about five minutes to cook the cauliflower and get golden and crispy! Set them aside to cool and drain on a paper towel.




Serve with ranch as an appetizer, snack, or side. Enjoy!




Mushroom and Fontina Empanada with Cilantro Salsa


From Katie: As a history buff, y’all know I couldn’t just make a recipe like this and not explore the origins of the food. Empanadas turned out to have a fascinating backstory! Empanadas are a really neat food because they come from a long line of regional variations. Essentially, people have been stuffing crispy doughs with yummy fillings for centuries! We believe that empanadas are originally of Middle Eastern or Asian descent, possible coming down to us from samosas (also yummmm). The variations are really cool to look through, but ours are most similar to Argentinian or Peruvian empanadas, mainly due to the fact that they are baked. Truly, though, you could explore the entire culinary world simply through miniature, crusted pies like these. They have different names in many places, but they all have this homey and simple feel to them that is comforting and enticing- plus they are SO conveniently portable!

This empanada filling and sauce is a continuation of my earlier post regarding the empanada dough. This was our favorite combination of empanada sauce and filling that we tried that weekend and I’m also convinced it was the easiest.

The mushroom, shallot, and fontina filling is a slightly sweet and savory filling that is perfectly complimented by the crisp, spiciness of the jalapeño cilantro salsa.

The filling was loosely based on while the sauce was adapted from



One, half-batch empanada dough

empanada dough disks
1 egg, separated for the wash

Mushroom and Fontina Filling (makes 6-9 empanadas)

1 tablespoon salted butter
1 & 1/2 cups mushrooms,  sliced and chopped
1 cup shallots, chopped
1/2 cup fontina cheese, grated
Start by chopping your mushrooms and shallots; then add them and the butter to a warm frying pan and cook until tender.

cooked mushrooms and shallots

Add roughly two tablespoons of the mushroom and shallot mixture to the center of the dough disk and top with about a tablespoon of cheese (you can start off with smaller amounts of filling to get used to stuffing and creating the empanadas).


with cheese









Then, lightly brush the egg white on the edges of the disk before you fold it over (this makes for a better seal). Take a fork and press down on the joined edges; flip the empanada and press down on that side. Finally, use the egg yolk to wash over the top of the sealed empanada before putting it in the oven at 375°F for 20-25 minutes.



Jalapeño Cilantro Salsa

1 cup cilantro, packed
5 jalapeños
2 garlic cloves
2 oz lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Cut open the jalapeños to remove the seeds and stems before placing them in the food processor. De-stem and wash the cilantro, peel the garlic, and add them to food processor with the jalapeños. Pour in the lime juice and olive oil, and blend all of the ingredients together.


Vegan Pesto



Pesto is an incredibly delicious, versatile, and easy thing to make! It’s based off of four, wonderful ingredients- basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil.  You can use pesto in a variety of dishes such as: pizza, sandwiches, pasta, flatbread, and more!

One thing to note: pesto typically calls for parmesan cheese, but we decided to make a vegan pesto, so we took it out. However, if you want to add the cheese back in, you should consider reducing the amount of salt you use.


Vegan Pesto
makes 4-5 cups

3 cups compressed basil (about 4 bunches)
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup good olive oil
3 cloves garlic (sliced)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (flexible based on taste)


To start, wash all of your basil leaves and set them out to dry (usually for about 2-3 hours).

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While they’re drying you can take the time to assemble your other ingredients. Note: If you have a small food processor, as we do, I recommend dividing the ingredients by 3 (1 cup basil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, etc.). Processing the pesto in batches can help avoid overrunning the food processor.

Once your basil has dried, place the basil, garlic, and pine nuts into your food processor and pulse. In between pulses you will want to scrape the inside of the processor to make sure it gets minced evenly.


Then, add the olive oil, pepper, and salt.  Continue to pulse the food processor and scrape down the sides.  Once the mixture has reached the consistency of a puree, you’re done!

At this point, you’ll want to either add it to whatever you intend to use it on, or place it in a container.


If you plan on saving this for later, be sure to add a thin layer of olive oil to the top. This will keep it fresh tasting for longer.  Also, this can be frozen for around 3 months!

Pesto is great just spread over pasta as a sauce or over bread. It is nice to keep some in the freezer for a quick and healthy weekday meal!


Homemade Hollandaise Sauce

benedict This is just a quick and easy hollandaise sauce recipe that you can use for eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine. This recipe does not result in a sauce that is super thick or creamy. To be honest, I also love the McCormick packets for instant hollandaise. It’s really simple and mindless, so for a good alternative, I’d recommend that brand!

  I have a new method of making this sauce that produces a creamier, richer sauce. During the process of making this, there were many ups and downs, but it was, in the end, a success! It all started one summer morning during a Food Network TV binge. I watched an episode of the Pioneer Woman in which she made eggs Benedict with a creamy, delicious-looking hollandaise. Taken in by her country charm and casual demeanor, I immediately decided to try out her recipe. So, I texted my fiancé, “we’re not having pasta tonight– we’re having eggs Benedict.” Now, the Pioneer Woman puts all the ingredients into a blender, which sounds too easy to be true– and that is exactly how worked out for us. Somehow, I managed to curdle the mixture (which is all but unsalvageable when it comes to making a smooth, creamy sauce). After many desperate attempts at saving my creation (including the use of flour, corn starch, and more heat), I slammed the broken sauce onto the counter. As I watched the little, curdled chunks slide down the bowl, I felt my stomach growl and my hopes sink. Maybe we would not be having eggs Benedict tonight with a creamy Pioneer Woman sauce, maybe we would be eating In- N- Out. Extremely exasperated and frustrated, I left the kitchen for a moment and just did a bit of research on how thick sauces work. Chemically, there is a TON going on, so for me the blender method was probably not great as it separated me from the temperature of my ingredients too much. I need to be in full control when making a sauce like this. So, I came back into the kitchen and got out a pot. I read that clarified butter actually makes for a creamier sauce, so I strained out all of the curds and crap from my previous attempt, and ended up with a 1/2 cup of clarified butter. What a happy accident! Paying very close attention to my mixture and its temperature the entire time worked for me. It used more pots and pans at the end of the day, and we used a buttload of egg yolks (whoops), but I’ve got it down! We did not have blender, Pioneer Woman hollandaise that night, but we did have some damn good eggs Benedict. For some folks, the blender method might be awesome and convenient. If you are savvy enough to get the chemistry right on that one, bravo!! For me, that just did not work at all. I found the old fashioned route to be much more successful, and (in the end) it resulted in a delicious hollandaise experience!   benedict Hollandaise Sauce makes about 4 servings Ingredients 2 egg yolks 1 1/2 teaspoons water 1/2 cup salted butter (clarified butter if you want an extra creamy sauce) 1/2 lemon, juiced 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper optional 1/2 teaspoon minced, fresh rosemary pinch of paprika pinch of cayenne hollandaise First, separate out the egg yolks from the whites. I like to put the whites into a plastic container. You can refrigerate them for a few days and then use them for a nice, healthy omelet or scramble. hollandaise In a small saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and water over medium heat. Many people use a double boiler for this, but I like complete temperature control, so if the mixture starts simmering, I pull the pot away from the heat! Whisk the egg yolks and water over the heat constantly. Keep going until they become thick and ribbony, pulling the pot away from heat if you see any signs of simmering. This will take some time, usually around 5 minutes. Make sure you don’t see any signs of curdling, and use your whisk to stir even the edges of the pot. Once you’ve formed the sabayon, you can add in the butter and lemon juice. Melt the butter in a saucepan or the microwave and set aside to cool. Make sure that the butter has cooled enough not to cook the egg yolks before folding them in. I was lucky enough to have royally screwed up so many things already, that I at least had my butter melted and on standby. It might be a good idea to melt the butter first, just to make sure it has cooled enough while you make the sabayon. After the butter has cooled, fold in the egg yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Add in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If you would like to add in any of the extra spices, you can do that last, or even use them as a garnish for the Benedict. Add to the assembled eggs Benedict and enjoy! benedict        


Sicilian Tomato Sauce

tomato sauceLet me preface this recipe by admitting that this is not an exact replica of our old-world famiglia recipe. I have added herbes de Provence and fennel. Personally, I really enjoy the additional flavors. Adding the fennel especially gives this sauce an extra kick that reminds me of my pre-vegetarian days when pasta sauce was accompanied by Italian sausage. For some reason, I feel like it rounds out the sauce very nicely and completes a pasta dish so that it doesn’t even require any meat.  But, if you are super interested in adding meat or super un-interested in having fennel in your sauce, just remove the herbs and spices, cook up some ground beef, and throw it in the pot with the sauce!

pasta sauceI have gotten into the habit of making this sauce once a month and freezing it. It can stay frozen for several weeks and be thawed for use in lasagna, manicotti, cannelloni, or plain old spaghetti! You do have to be around to stir it for at least two hours in order for all of the flavors to develop well, so I would suggest making this on a weekend.

Sicilian Tomato Sauce
Makes about 32 ounces

2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
28 ounces crushed or peeled San Marzano tomatoes (our Safeway doesn’t carry crushed so I settled for peeled and it worked out fine)
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon fennel
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil
28 ounces water (roughly, I just used the San Marzano can for measurement)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (to reduce the acidity)

pasta sauceFirst, mince the garlic and cook it in the olive oil over medium heat in a deep pasta pot. Let it cook until it is tender and fragrant (around 5 minutes, but watch it carefully because you don’t want it to brown).

pasta sauce

Once the garlic is cooked, add in the San Marzano tomatoes and stir everything together. While you are stirring, make sure to crush the large pieces of tomato (this will be especially necessary for anyone who uses the peeled tomatoes instead of the crushed ones).

pasta sauce

Add in the tomato paste and let the sauce continue to simmer. Stir until everything is blended.

While the tomatoes and garlic continue to simmer, measure out the fennel, oregano, herbes de Provence, and kosher salt.

pasta sauceChiffonade the basil, and add all of the herbs and spices into the pot.

Stir everything together and let it simmer for at least 2 hours. While the sauce is simmering, you can add in the water (about 8 ounces at a time). How much water you add is really up to you: how much sauce you want to make, and how thick you’re interested in the sauce being. I added in almost a full can’s worth and the resulting sauce was still flavorful and hearty!

After about an hour and a half of simmering, add in the sugar. (I know it seems weird, but trust me it makes the sauce delicious and brings out the tomato flavor!) Once the sugar is stirred in, sprinkle the baking soda across the top of the sauce. The sauce will quickly foam up and take on a lighter color, this is good! Stir it in, and your sauce will be less acidic and sit more pleasantly in your dinner guests’ stomachs!



P.S. If you are going to be eating this sauce with spaghetti immediately after making it, you can boil up a few eggs and plop them in the sauce. This is– as my grandfather always explained– the Sicilian way to eat pasta, not the Italian way! It is delicious and makes the sauce super creamy when it gets mixed in with the yolk!

pasta sauce

This sauce is also amazing as a dip for pretzels, calzones, or cheese sticks. I use it with lasagna, stuffed pasta shells, and about a billion other things! It is a fabulous staple to keep in your freezer!