Can I be real? As a person that lives for a good…no, an epic dinner party, I like to please all my guests. This, however, can be challenging when you are not aware of what people can’t eat. Failure to let me know about a food restriction—after I have explicitly bold-type-face-requested it as part of the RSVP—has resulted in no future invitations and disasters in real-time. I apologize for not knowing, they apologize for not realizing they wouldn’t be able to eat anything, I apologize for them even having to apologize, and this continues until we move on to the next course or, hopefully, a bottle of wine.
In a world of gluten-free, paleo, vegan, nut allergies, lactose intolerance, and you name it, all this apologizing is just annoying. What we need, especially with the onslaught of holiday party season, are solutions.
Holiday parties, whether at home or at the office, are places where you literally just don’t have the time or manpower to cover all your bases as far as people’s food restrictions go. The numbers are too high and budgets aren’t big enough. You need food that will please the masses. After all, people are expecting indulgence—not celery and tofu.
So, let’s talk about the food that is giving me life right now: cauliflower.
Yes, I mean it. We are not talking about the tasteless vegetable that your parents made you eat, boiled with a little salt and pepper. We are not talking about that stuff that comes raw in veggie-platters from Stop & Shop. Well, actually, that’s a lie. Yes, we are talking about that cauliflower, but have you seen what the food blogosphere is doing to cauliflower lately?
Let’s start with hors d’oeuvres. All parties need a finger food. Normally, we think of cheese, wings, and charcuterie, so how could cauliflower work?
Cauliflower popcorn sounds simple, but this salt-and-vinegar-chip inspired dish is a way to get your health-conscious guests munching away at the start of a party. It is also gluten-free (if you get certified gluten-free oats) and vegan. If you want to make this dish more savory, just add a little truffle or rosemary oil. Get the recipe.
Whether you call it cauliflower bread sticks or cauliflower pizza, this recipe is the easiest way to make pizza appear gourmet. This gluten-free pizza will be also lighter and crispier than your average dough so be prepared for pleasantly surprised guests. If you want to make it a little tastier, I like to add a little onion powder or fresh scallions to the dough. Get the recipe.
And what about wings? To that, I say buffalo cauliflower “wings”. The bonus from doing it this way is you can easily make them vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten-free depending on what you need. Get the recipe.
If hors d’oeuvres aren’t enough, you can make some more substantial dishes.
Try General Tso’s cauliflower. Sure, it is American Chinese food, but I dare you to tell me that you never enjoyed this classic. The sweet, sour, spicy treat will make even the meat-eaters jealous and can be made vegan and gluten-free. Get the recipe.
How about something creamy? Well, did you know that cauliflower makes a mean Alfredo sauce? Just think of the possibilities. You can make Alfredo pasta, Alfredo pizza, or add it to rice to make a creamy, risotto-like side dish. The recipe I recommend from Pinch of Yum is my favorite cause it still has cheese. It is also a gluten-free and vegetarian option. Get the recipe.
However, if you need to go vegan or paleo, The Endless Meal has you covered. Get the recipe.
If you want to showcase the beauty of the actual cauliflower, try the roasted cauliflower with tahini and goji berries. This colorful, nut-free, vegan, and paleo combination had my tastebuds floored. Cauliflower, especially when baked or roasted, can be both crispy and juicy, so adding the tahini will give your florets or cauliflower steak (thick slices) a satisfactory, nutty flavor that leaves your guests completely satiated. Also, if you need to amp up the nutty flavor, add a side of tahini dressing. Get our Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Goji Berries recipe.
Now, nothing is more annoying than skipping out on dessert. So, let’s get to it.
To start, one of my favorite desserts just got way healthier with cauliflower rice pudding. It’s paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, and nut-free. Need I say more? Get the recipe.
Brownies, anyone? I can hardly turn down anything chocolate and neither will your guests after they find out this dessert is flourless and gluten-free. Get the recipe.
Finally, we already got creamy with Alfredo sauce, but imagine if we could make ice cream! Well, you can. The creamy nature of blended cauliflower will have you thinking about gelato as it melts in your mouth. Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free. Get the recipe.
Now, do all these new takes on cauliflower mean that we have found our new favorite guilt-free holiday food?
To that, I say “Guilt is an emotion that doesn’t need to get indulged.” Eat and be merry!