Keto Tricks to Good Mashed Cauliflower

Potatoes are my kryptonite. Finding a good substitute for mashed potatoes is not enough! I need an excellent one. Like keto baking, getting riced cauliflower right requires some experience–and some tricks. After scanning many recipes, I experimented in making a single serving of mashed cauliflower to try out these techniques.

The Olden Days Before You Could Buy Riced Cauliflower

I remember having my first serving of “cauliflower puree” at a local, upscale restaurant. It was smooth, buttery and craveable. Not exactly potatoes in terms of flavor, but it completely delivered on a starchy, near-potato flavor and texture. This was back in 2012, when I first went LCHF. Back then, you had to buy a whole cauliflower and either chop like a mad thing or invest in a food processor to get mashed cauliflower.

Food processors have learning curves. Making this dish in 2012 was an involved process involving chopping up whole cauliflowers into florets, boiling or steaming them, mashing and squeezing all the excess moisture out of them –and then figuring out how to get the food processor to produce a nice, even “rice” from the florets.

Today as low-carb eating styles have become popular, you can get riced cauliflower in most supermarkets. This is a huge timesaver, but it’s only the first of the challenges. The real issue is creating YOUR WAY of making this “fauxtato” dish with the equipment you have at hand.

The Keto Tricks to Mashed Cauli

Trick #1. Steam or microwave or boil?

Reading over a half a dozen mashed cauliflower recipes, the first problem is getting the riced cauliflower to be sufficiently soft. You don’t want the cauliflower to be even slightly hard (or “al dente”). Some folks say the best thing to do is steam the riced cauliflower, others say you can microwave-steam rice cauliflower.

I’ve found with all of these methods, the #1 danger is getting your fingers or hands burned. The cauliflower gets dangerously, burningly hot. The steam can really hurt you, as in “visit the hospital” kind of hurt. Be sure you have oven mitts or gloves and are very careful with the escaping steam in these techniques!

Keto Old School: Boiling the Cauliflower

In the days before we could buy riced cauliflower, people boiled cauliflower florets and then put them through a food processor. The biggest problem in getting a good cauliflower mash was removing moisture from the boiled florets.

Boiling caulflower florets ADDS alot of moisture, which means we’d have to squeeze the moisture out of them. This process involved putting them into a cheesecloth (after they had cooled) and squeezing them the way one would squeeze moisture out of, say, cheese. I don’t make cheese. I couldn’t do this either.

Unless you’re an experienced cheesemaker or cook, this process is godawful. Or maybe it’s just me. You will risk severe burns if you don’t wait long enough for the florets to cool. It’s terribly messy.

Conceivably, you can simply boil the riced cauliflower. Reportedly, this does not result in as fluffy a result as steaming the cauliflower. At best, you’re going to have bland, wet granules of cauliflower. Not recommended.

Experiment 1: Microwave steaming

Some recipes recommended putting the riced cauliflower in a bowl, covering it in cling film, and microwaving it for 5 to 8 minutes. I found that the steam can burn right through the cling film. The steaming cauliflower gets VERY hot.

I put a plate on top of the bowl instead. In this test flight, I put the a cup of cauliflower in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. I microwaved it for 5 minutes, then checked it. The cauliflower was not yet soft and had begun to be a bit dry. I put in another tablespoon of water.

This was a simple method but the cauliflower can begin to burn. You don’t want to have to stop and start checking it, because you will get burns from the steam. You’ll also release the steam, when you check on it. This is exactly what I had to do. I checked it at five minutes, then added another 3 minutes. Microwave ovens vary from brand to brand in how quickly they cook food.

Notice the browned bits? That’s burnt cauliflower.
You want to keep this to a minimum or not go there at all!

And as microwaves vary, expect to to have to do an experimental batch–or two–before you find the right formula for HOW LONG you microwave HOW MUCH cauliflower. I was working on a formula for a large, personal serving. If you’re going to make this “family sized” (or for several days), I recommend regular steaming (see below).

Note: I recently found some “vegetable steaming bags” which may be a nice shortcut. I plan a future post on making a whole batch of mashed cauliflower, suitable for four to six servings. I will be using this product for that, as well as scaling up the “regular steaming” technique for that future recipe. But for now, I’m doing test batches, to get the technique down.

Option #3: Regular Steaming

This method involves putting a strainer above a pot of boiling water. The boiling water should not touch the bottom of the strainer. I used a tea strainer for this experiment that used just one cup of cauliflower. You can get a cheap strainer at the dollar store, if you don’t have one. This method is easy. It takes a little longer than the microwave, but it scales up for larger batches.

After the water got to boiling, I tented the pot with aluminum foil. It took about fifteen minutes on just one cup of riced cauliflower.

Trick #2. Let the cooked cauliflower sit for about 10 minutes.

Untent the cauliflower and poke it with a fork to make sure it’s soft. Take the tent off carefully so you don’t get burned by the steam! Letting the riced cauliflower sit for awhile allows the release of excess moisture as well as cooling the cauliflower down to where it can be more easily handled.

Trick #3. Use an electric hand mixer or an immersion blender.

Just whip the heck out of them. It took a good five or six minutes of serious whipping, adding the butter and the heavy whipping cream and salt. Some people recommend an immersion blender — and that’s another good option. But I grew up making mashed potatoes with the old reliable hand mixer –and it works very well.

The Results

Once again, I ate the results before photographing. :* I took both the steamed AND the microwaved cauliflower, which started out at two cups, and put them together in the same bowl. They were pretty much indistinguishable from one another. I added a tablespoon of butter, or so, and a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream and used the hand mixer. I got maybe a cup and quarter, pretty much one serving, out of the two cupped of riced, raw cauliflower. I plan another go at this in a couple of days — to make a much larger serving suitable for photographing.

Here’s a handy recipe I plan to use for my next try at cauli-mash.

Bon Appetit! ~Lola

On the Art of Omelettes

The study of cookery is a very helpful hobby in going LCHF, paleo or keto, dirty, lazy or however you practice. Modern cooking relies heavily on wheat, sugar, and grains for flavor, aided by that hit of happy brain chemicals (dopamine) that makes the Standard American Diet (known as SAD) such an addiction. For the four good years I had on LCHF, the morning omelette was my go-to meal for helping me stay on track.

Omelettes are versatile and can be tailored to any taste: a plain cheese omelette with a side of smoked salmon or proscuitto,  a spinach, gruyere, onion and mushroom, “florentine” affair, and my go-to,  the veggie omelette, which can move with the seasons. Omelettes can be sweet as well as savory–I can gentle sauté a chopped apple–half of an apple, or a pear!  in butter, adding tarragon and a light touch of stevia for a fairly low carb, tasty sweet.  At the end of the day, a sweet omelette can be better than cake.

I wouldn’t do a sweet omelette every day–that would set my sweet tooth on high alert–but when the rest of the family is having doughnuts? Say, at Christmas? Or if I am hankering after cookies and cake after a good LCHF meal?   A sweet omelette is a nice indulgence.

The Two Schools  of Omelettes

There are those who believe that putting in milk, cream or creme fraiche  is absolutely necessary to creating a smooth, “perfect” omelette.  And then there are those, like most chefs I’ve known (mostly hanging out at the omelette bar in European restaurants) — who don’t believe in using milk or dairy in omelettes.  Part of this has to do with the two kinds of omelette: the fine, thin, pale yellow “French” omelette  (made in those restaurants) and the less common “fluffy” variety.  I am more a fan of the “fluffy” omelette. The thin French omelette does not include dairy; the fluffy variety often does.

Cook’s Illustrated is one of my favorite resources for learning the “proper” way to  cook just about anything.   Their recent (on display til 24 Dec, 2018) issue on “Skillet Dinners” includes a long article on the “Fluffy Omelette,” an oven-baked creation. I borrowed a little from this, from my own experience, and from around the Internet for this piece.

Lan Lam, the author of “Fluffy Omelettes,” reveals the whys and wherefores of dairy in omelettes: they make the omelette texture softer and less likely to go “tough.”  The dairy’s fat coats the proteins in the egg and prevents the bonds among the proteins from becoming so strong that the omelette gets tough. Water in the dairy dilutes the proteins, so that they have more difficulty “finding” one another and bonding, as well.

I personally had learned techniques over the years that combined the French with the Fluffy, a mish-mash of cooking styles to be sure.  In short,  you start the omelette on the stove-top,  then finish it in the oven, or, more precisely, under the broiler.  If done well, you get a softly browned underside and a lightly puffed top that can easily be folded over into a half-moon shaped delight.  Or, if Mistakes Were Made,  you can get a burned bottom and an overcooked top, leading to something that my dachshund enjoys, the only person in the house who deems it edible.  Tough omelettes are not the way to start the day.

The Secret Tricks to Fluffy Omelettes

Having made so many, many batches of “cloud bread” — that staple of LCHF and keto diets. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are many hidden secrets to getting egg whites to agree to stiffen themselves into those essentially “peaks”– whether soft or “stiff.”  Oh, gods,  have I gone bonkers trying to learn how to achieve this feat.  It took many batches (and research) until I stumbled upon the secrets.

A super fluffy omelette takes time — because eggs are tempermental — and by that I mean, seriously, temperature matters. They are moody foods.  The fluffy omelette relies on egg whites that are PRISTINELY separate from the yolks.  This is easier to do when the eggs are cold. But the white whites whip up higher and more easily if they are ROOM TEMPERATURE.   ARGH!

On the whole, if I’m making breakfast-in-the-morning-in my usual hurry,  I use cold eggs from the fridge. If I’ve got more time, for example, if I’m making cloud bread or crustless quiche, etc, for later in the day,  I put the egg whites in a bowl and leave them on the counter for an hour or so.

Here are some more special tricks:

  • Whip the egg whites separately from the yolks.  The fat in the egg yolks seriously inhibits the creation of the fluffy peaks needed for the fluffy omelette.  Even a tiny speck of protein from the egg yolk can make whipping the whites a difficult, sometimes even futile experience.
  • Put in a half teaspoon of cream of tartar.  This acidic substance helps to make the bubbles of air slightly more strong.   If you’re out of cream of tartar, a teaspoon of lime or lemon juice can substitute (not as good but good enough in a pinch.)
  • Use a stainless steel or copper bowl for whipping the egg whites. The slight acid surface of these metals promotes more fluffiness, faster.
  • Crack the egg on the flat of the table, not on the side of the bowl.  The bowl rim pushes egg shells INTO the egg, making it more likely to fragment and punch a hole into the egg yolk. Striking the egg on the table usually creates a nice, clean crack.
  • Get a stand mixer to mix the eggs if you can.  This is labor intensive work.
  • Alternatively, especially if you’re just cooking for yourself, a mini mixer works nicely.    It takes about two minutes to get them up to the nice soft peak stage–five or six thirty second pulses for best results.

    Another trick work mentioning: the three bowls methods of separating eggs.

 

The Three Bowl Method of Separating Eggs

Yes, I use lots of pots, pans, and bowls when I cook but three bowls?  Just to separate eggs?  The thing is, if the tiniest spot of yolk gets into the egg whites when you separate them, YOU ARE DOOMED.  Well, not quite, but if you’ve ever spent an HOUR trying to get “stiff peaks” or even “soft peaks” out of a bowl of persnickety egg whites, without success, this is probably the main reason why–some small specks of yolk fat in the whites.

I found the three bowls method here.  The basic idea is that you have one bowl that crack the egg over –your “working bowl” for the current egg.    The second bowl is where you put the yolks.  You crack the egg into the working bowl and fish out the yolk (more on that in a moment), putting the yolk in the yolk bowl. Then you inspect the white in the working bowl for specks of yolk or egg shell.  Once you’re satisfied that there is no yolk in there (and extract any stray eggshell bits), you pour the whites from the “working bowl” into the “ready for beating” bowl.   Then you go and crack another egg into the working bowl and repeat.

The three bowl method is very useful if you’re separating four to six eggs for cloud bread.  For my usual two-egg omelette, I use the working bowl and the yolk bowl to crack the first egg.  I dump the contents of the working bowl, suitably cleaned and inspected for possible yolk,  into the mixer cup of my NutriSystem mini-blender, then crack the second egg. It’s TECHNICALLY the three bowl system.  It prevents me from having to throw out BOTH egg whites if I’m really set on a particularly fluffy omelette–and  I screw up in cracking the second egg.

 

 

Two methods of Separating Eggs

I was taught by my clever mother-in-law that you can use the egg shell itself, like a bowl, to help separate the yolk from the whites.  You can do this by:

  1. Cracking the egg on the table (not the bowl rim) which helps to create a cleaner “rim” on the edge of the egg.
  2.  Over a clean bowl (the “working bowl”), transfer the egg yolk from one half of the eggshell to the OTHER half of the egg shell, allowing the egg whites to fall into the (working) bowl below.

The egg shell rim is just the right amount of sharpness to separate the yolk from the white.  It’s a very clean method, but requires a little practice and dexterity.

The OTHER method for separating eggs is to USE YOUR HANDS.   This is a kind of “cheffy” way of doing it.  It’s also a bit icky if you’re squeamish.  It’s very similar to the eggshell method, except that you crack the egg, and pour the white THROUGH YOUR FINGERS into the working bowl, cupping your fingers to hold and retain the egg yolk. After the white slips through your fingers into the “working” bowl, you then slip the egg yolk into the yolk bowl.

Needless to say, you’ll want very clean hands for this.

Now You’re Ready for Making A Fluffy Omelette

Some Tasty Variations:

* Fluffy Omelettes: Base Recipe
* Pumpkin Pie Sweet Omelette (Test 1)

The pumpkin pie omelette