Monday, October 5, 2015

How to make cauliflower pizza crust (#LowCarb #GrainFree)

Today's recipe is a flavorful cauliflower pizza crust that serves as a sturdy low carb, grain free base for your favorite toppings, like my favorite, Margherita pizza. It's vegetarian and perfect for #MeatlessMonday

I'm not paleo (give up yogurt, butter and cheese? Are you crazy?), but I do usually pick and choose my carbs, limiting them severely when possible, especially from bread products. If you spend time on Pinterest (like I do, but it's for my day job. No. Really.) and have a heavy rotation of food images (like I have) or if you're following a low carb or paleo diet, you've most likely seen cauliflower pizza crust pop up in your news feed. Has it tempted you yet?

After my experimentation and success with cauliflower tortillas this past spring, all those versions of cauliflower pizza crusts kept dancing in my head. How would it taste? Does it fall apart when you try to pick it up? Can it really take the place of doughy, yeasty, bendy traditional pizza crust?

I had to find out. At best, it could be a pretty decent low carb substitution. At worse, a vehicle to pack more veggies and fiber into my diet.

So I went to work on experimenting with cauliflower pizza crust recipes. I tried several variations on the tortilla recipe trying to modify it to work as a crust to no success. Then I tried several of the paleo crusts that I had pinned but a lot of them used quite a bit of starch flour which is not good for someone watching their sugar intake.

Then I tried some that were merely billed as low carb and included varying amounts of cheese and found I preferred the cheese versions. After testing and modifying and testing again, I've landed on a crust that I really enjoy. It's sturdy enough to hold a slice in your hand (I've even loaded this crust up with chicken and veggies and it was still sturdy enough to pick up). In addition to the italian flavors typical of the crust recipes I came across during my research, I included sage and turmeric. Sage is a warm, slightly peppery, slightly rosemary tasting herb that loves fat, so it pairs really well with cheese and since there is a fair amount of cheese in the crust, it just made sense to add it. Also, besides adding a bit of color to the "dough", the turmeric echoed the slightly earthy, peppery notes of the sage plus turmeric pairs well with cauliflower. It's also kind of a "super" herb known for it's anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. So, win-win.

Also, wanting to tone down the forward taste and slightly pungent smell of cooked cauliflower, as well as help make the crust more "bread-like", I added cashew meal. I made my first version without it but I really prefer the mouthfeel of the cashew version.

My favorite way to use this crust is for a Pizza Margherita. Traditionally, this kind of pizza, the colors of the Italian flag, is basil, mozzarella and tomato sauce. However, cauliflower pizza crusts and lots of sauce do not mix well as the sauce will seep into the crusts, making the crust susceptible to breaking and crumbling. So I used a very light hand with the tomato sauce and opted instead on thin slices of vine ripened tomatoes, cheese and fresh basil. Just before serving, drizzle a good quality olive oil over the pizza to finish.

Until next time, friends. xo, ani

Pizza Margherita with Cauliflower Crust
Most cauliflower crust recipes I researched have you toss out the core and use only the florets. Since a lot of the nutrients are in the core, I keep most of it, trimming away and tossing only the ends that are closest to the leaves. 

Makes (1) 10-inch round pizza


For the sauce: 
⅓ cup tomato sauce
1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste
1small garlic clove, run through a garlic press or finely minced
¼ teaspoon onion powder
pinch kosher salt, or to taste
pinch ground black pepper, or to taste

For the crust: 
1 medium to large cauliflower, trimmed and cut into chunks
½ cup finely shredded mozzarella
⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan
⅓ cup cashew meal (homemade or Trader Joe's, which is what I used)
1 organic free range extra large egg
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon ground sage
¼ teaspoon turmeric (for color and it's good for diabetics)
1 large garlic clove, run through a garlic press or finely minced
olive oil cooking spray

For the toppings:
⅓ to ½ cup shredded mozzarella ( I prefer the ½ cup, personally because, cheese!)
1 medium organic vine ripened tomato, thinly sliced
sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
8-10 basil leaves, hand torn
extra virgin olive oil, to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Make the sauce: Stir together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

Make the crust: Pulse cauliflower in food processor with the s-blade until finely ground. Remove cauliflower to a microwave-safe bowl; microwave for 3 minutes, stir and cook an additional 2 minutes. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet for 5 minutes to cool down enough to handle. Pile cauliflower into the center of a tea towel or doubled-up cheesecloth; twist tightly and squeeze to remove as much water as possible. The drier the cauliflower is, the better your crust will be. So when you think you've gotten out all the water, massage the ball, then squeeze some more. You should get about 1 cup of water from a head of cooked cauliflower. Place squeezed cauliflower into a bowl; add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand until thoroughly combined then knead until it holds the shape of a smooth ball of "dough". 

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the paper with olive oil spray. Place the dough in the center and flatten into a 10-inch round circle, coaxing the edges smooth and slightly higher to form a lip for the "crust". Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges start to get golden brown. Remove from oven.

To assemble: Spread the tomato slices on a cutting board and season with salt an pepper; set aside. Evenly spread the tomato sauce onto the crust, leaving the raised lip sauce-free. Sprinkle the cheese over the sauce. Distribute the tomato slices around the pizza. Place pie under a broiler for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melting and toppings are just turning golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 to 8 minutes before slicing. 

Crust adapted from Gimme Delicious Food and

Friday, September 25, 2015

IFBC 2016 is heading to Sacramento + Takeaways from IFBC 2015

International Food Blogger Conference keynote speaker, Kim Severson, food writer, The New York Times addressed attendees on Saturday, September 19, 2015 in Seattle's Sheraton Hotel.
The 2015 International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) wrapped up last weekend. Focusing on food, writing and technology, the yearly conference brings together on average 300 food bloggers from several countries to learn, taste and network.

Registration night and Gift Suite time
Several Seattle businesses were in attendance registration night providing attendees with samples like this nutrient dense broth from The Triple Door.
At the close of this year's IFBC Sunday, Zephyr Adventure's founder, Allan Wright, revealed that next year's conference will be returning to California with first time host city, Sacramento, providing a vital component to the conference that has been lacking in previous editions: an agricultural perspective.

An article in the Sacramento Bee, reported that the city's convention and visitor's bureau has been aggressively pushing the city as "America's Farm to Fork Capitol." According to the official Farm to Fork website, "the Sacramento region contains 1.5 million acres of regional farmland, 8,000 acres of boutique farms, with 70 percent of the region’s land being agricultural, forest or other open space." It goes on to state that "Sacramento’s Mediterranean climate produces some of the nation’s most diverse and high-quality crops year-round."

Session 1: How to Create Standout Holiday Content Presented by ANOLON with Irvin Lin of Eat the Love
and Sarah Flotard, food stylist.
Previous conferences have rotated between Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, and Santa Monica, all food cities with a thriving restaurant scene. Bringing it to Sacramento, drops the conference right into the heart of California's farming industry (which in turn, will also bring our years-long drought and it's impact on agriculture to the forefront). 

With potential opportunity for more excursions that could include farm tours, early plans by the visitor's bureau to host a Saturday night street party for the potential 300-plus bloggers that will descend upon the city, and closer proximity to the Napa/Sonoma Valley's wine region, next year's IFBC has the potential of being bigger than previous editions and, if you're a food blogger, a "must attend" event. 

Bubbles and Bites: Why Sparkling Wine is the Best Food Wine Presented by Italy’s Best Bubbles: Franciacorta and James Lechner, owner and wine director of Seattle’s own Stoneburner restaurant
Early registration is happening now. Register here

"In the end, no one will care about your page views. They will care about your views …" Kathleen Flinn
My top takeaways from IFBC 2015


  • Sriracha is out. Harissa is in. (And I've been writing about harissa all year. Check out these harissa posts: chicken wings, spicy chocolate cake, cauliflower patties, lamb wraps, grilled lamb chops, spicy feta sliders, carne asada tacos with harissa avocado creme, veggie + couscous salad with harissa dressing, eggplant + red onion pizza)
  • Flavored butters rule! Use it for topping steaks, mixed into pastas, on toast
  • Artisanal toast is still hot
  • Kale is out. Cauliflower is in (cauliflower tortillas, anyone?)
  • Clean eating is hot. I mean, like, super hot. GenZ is all about improved wellness. They don't want to push away from the table feeling stuffed
  • Global mashups: Focus on giving classics a new spin by combining flavor profiles from different cuisines 
  • Move over tacos and sandwiches and make room for savory waffles
  • DIYs (how-to's) on making homemade versions of store-bought staples is a wildly popular Google search (My homemade limoncello, taco seasoning, butter, and vanilla extract recipes are some of my most popular posts)
  • Slow-cooker recipes are year-round people pleasers, especially family-friendly recipes
  • And the number one food trend prediction? Veg-centric meals. As animal protein costs continue to climb, restaurant chefs are moving proteins off the plate and skewing vegan where veggies go beyond a mere sauté to undergo charring, blistering and roasting becoming the star of the plate


  • Create an editorial calendar that includes a variety of posts covering seasons, key trends, holidays, food holidays, events, everyday cooking
  • Create a promotion checklist that you can follow for every blog post
  • Make a schedule to promote your blog posts at 1 p.m., 8 p.m., next week, and one month out
  • Repurpose old content! You've already done the work. If a food holiday comes up and you have a recipe with that particular food as the star, tweet it out, Pin-it, Instragram it and run it on your Facebook; give your archives a workout

  • Facebook:

    • DO NOT USE A THIRD-PARTY TO POST TO YOUR FACEBOOK FAN PAGE. Facebook doesn't play well with others and will virtually bury third-party posts in your fan feeds.
    • Link-style posts do better than photo posts
    • Native video uploads will drive up the algorithm Facebook uses for post placement
    • Facebook hates YouTube (the algorithm will bury posts from YouTube, Hootsuite, and other social media schedulers; see above)
    • Always watermark your photos. If the photo goes viral, you want people to be able to find your site (this is true for Twitter and Instagram, as well)

  • Twitter:

    • Don't be a diva! Curate content on Twitter to supplement your own by retweeting, sharing your favorite blogger's posts from your RSS feeds, and QUOTES (Pablo, PicMonkey, BrainyQuote are great sources) 
    • Quotes, needs mentioning again, as they are hugely popular
    • You should tweet a minimum of three times a day: morning, midday, evening
    • Don't junk up your tweets with more then three hashtags
    • Use a bulk scheduler, such as Hootsuite, which you can set up one day of the week to tweet out for you all week, even while you sleep

  • Pinterest:

    • Casseroles get the most clicks
    • Pretty food and gorgeously styled photographs get the most pins. However, recipes for everyday dishes get the most CLICKS
    • Pin your content to multiple boards, just not on the same day. For example, if you have a new post go up and have a board for your blog, pin the post to your blog board. If it's a hamburger, and you have a board for burgers, the next day, pin-it to your burger board
    • Pins resurface, so be mindful of the copy you use in the descriptions so that it's EVERGREEN and inspiring

  • Instagram:

    • Post at least once a day
    • Instagram isn't the best media to drive traffic to your site but it IS important to build your BRAND and create a sense of community
    • The better your photography, the more likes
    • If someone likes a photo or becomes a new follower, be a good citizen and check out their feed, like a photo or two or even follow them back. This helps introduce you to their followers as well
    • Seven to ten hashtags is about right for Instagram; use popular ones if possible so that you stay visible to the widest audience
Ok, so I've left the best takeaways for last …


The over-riding theme was accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.
  • "Even if your mother tells you that she loves you, you better check that." Keynote speaker, Kim Severson, food writer, The New York Times
    • More from Kim:
      • We're purveyor's of information. We must report with humility and write with authority
      • Embrace the blank page. If you're not composing, you're composting so sit down at the computer and say to yourself, what do I want to say? Then just type out that first throwaway sentence just to get the process started
      • Eat as much as you can, taste everything, take as many bites as you can and enjoy the proces
      • Never say yummy and sauce is not addictive so avoid cliches
      • Instead, present things as if they are like other things. For example, Biting into that steak was like chewing on a lead pencil or Each spoonful of soup tasted like old pool water
      • Stay transparent; if you get something free and write about, disclose that the review item was provided by the company you're reviewing
  • "People come to your site to trust you so do your best to be right." Kathleen Flinn, journalist, author and blogger at
    • More from Kathleen:
      • Readers don't make the distinction between a news site and a blog so it's important to be an authority
      • Do research. The more you learn about what you love, the better writer you will be
      • Answer the basics: who, what, when, where, how but as food writers, we must also address sight, sound, taste, touch and smell
      • Taste is hard to describe. It makes you work harder as a writer. That said, don't use "delicious" or "yummy" (see a theme here?)
      • Be ethical and don't plagiarize
      • Always provide the source of your information, even if you're paraphrasing
      • Where recipes are concerned, attribute, attribute, attribute. And understand the difference between "inspired by" (you saw so-and-so made fig jam and that inspired you to make fig bars) and "adapted by" (you used someone's ingredients, maybe adding one or two of your own and maybe changing measurements, maybe not). Be generous with your attributions (it's just good karma)
      • Ask an expert. Your work will invariably be enhanced by another viewpoint. Ask them simple questions. Dumb questions often result in the best answers
      • Proofread. Three times.
      • Be curious and don't do what everyone else is doing. If you come across something that makes you say, "Huh! That's interesting," researching that could lead to a good post
      • Be specific. Don't say, "Experts say…" Do the research and cite your sources
      • Always find at least two unrelated sources that support your argument, data or facts
      • "It's hard to be right. It's easier to be careful." - Nick Shuman, former managing editor of The Chicago Sun-Times
      • "In the end, no one will care about your page views. They will care about your views …" Kathleen Flinn
    • Additional resources provided by Kathleen:

And my favorite quote of the weekend, shared by Kathleen:

"You can never know everything about anything,
especially something you love."
- Julia Child

Disclosure: As a Citizen Blogger for the International Food Blogger Conference, I received a reduction in my registration fees in exchange for agreeing to write a minimum of posts before, during or immediately following the conference, topic to be of my own choosing. This is the third of these posts. As always, all photographs and opinions are my own.

••• A big thank you to and Zephyr Adventures for putting on the event!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

{Behind the scenes} It's hip to be Chef'n

With creative ideas and proven methods of execution, kitchen gadget maker, Chef'n, is striving to bring innovative products to consumers that consumers can't live without

Have you seen one of these before?

I have. I've owned a few and have even given several away as gifts. What I can't believe that I never paid much attention to is the name of the company that makes them. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently attending the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle. A little over a month ago, Chef'n, the innovative company that designed and manufactures the Pepperball, invited me and several other bloggers, to tour Chef'n's headquarters here in Seattle Friday afternoon prior to the start of the conference.

I'm a firm believer that a space has energy and can influence one's mood and when that space is a workspace, one's productivity. There's a definite cool vibe in the office from the moment you walk in. Once off the elevator, you're face to face with a wall of 8x10 framed photographs of the company's employees mugging with their favorite Chef'n tool. They're fun, brightly colored, exaggerated portraits that exude a youthful, creative zeal. The facing wall is lined with framed magazine covers listing Chef'n as one of the top companies to work for.

To start our tour, we made our way over to the design lab – a Santa's Workshop of sorts – with prototypes in varying stages of completion filling shelves and desktops (some of them we weren't allowed to photograph since they were in such early stages of design). The smell of plastic and resin lingered in the air, soft upbeat music competed with the hum of a CAD machine and 3-D printer, adding to the feeling that magic happens in this room.

Matt Krus, comfortably attired in jeans and a gray and blue hoodie, is the Senior Industrial Designer. He addressed us, demonstrating an early prototype of the company's jar opener. When asked how products made it from idea to finished product ready for consumption, he said that the process of getting ideas from people's heads, to drawings to prototype to focus groups and back to the final design stage a rather "messy process" that had no one way of happening. Sometimes, he added, David (that's David Holcomb, founder of Chef'n) will come in with a sketch or rough prototype and lay it at their table and ask, what do you think? Other times, ideas come directly from the focus groups as testers play around with a potential new product. They might mention something like, wouldn't it be cool if it did this? That little off-hand comment could very well lead a designer to an entirely new product idea.

After the design lab, we climbed back upstairs to tour the office space, filing past the employee lounge which left me feeling envious (a huge kitchen space with a giant chalkboard wall for when inspiration hits, I presume), before coming to a stop in a room with a peg board wall and shelving displaying their catalog of products as well as shelves on the opposite side of the room with Starbucks tumblers and several inspiration boards for more Starbucks products. (Chef'n designers create all those cool Starbucks plastic tumblers as Starbucks is a Seattle-based company.) We weren't allowed to photograph any of the Starbuck's products as some of them might never make it to public consumption.

Next up was the test kitchen where employees get to use and test out the Chef'n gadgets. To get to the kitchen, you need to walk around a foosball table (points!) and then, rounding the corner you're presented with a big, bright, airy space complete with a huge deck sporting round cafe tables and a grill. The kitchen's centerpiece is a great big center island surrounded with stools. A square community table, comfortable seating and a large flat screen TV finish off the room.

If I needed any more convincing about the company's hip factor, then David Holcomb's exuberant greeting to us was the answer. After partaking of some appetizers, and getting the opportunity to play with some of the more popular Chef'n products, David, a warm, funny and charismatic person, took center stage, telling the story of how he started the company. With jokes and life anecdotes, he talked about designing skateboards and working in kitchens and trying to make his first prototype (GarlicMachine) with $500 from a potential investor.

"I love kitchen gadgets! What we design has to be something I'd use in my kitchen," David said at one point during the demonstration.

The Chef'n catalog we received in our gift bag says, "Every day for us is about creativity, color and cooking. Families thrive on good food and fun and ours is no exception."

Walking around the company headquarters, seeing their products on display, handling them in the test kitchen and listening not only to the founder but to several of his employees, it's clear to me that these aren't merely PR words chosen to portray an image. They really are a big part of what this company is all about and I'm looking forward to bringing more of their innovative products into my own home.

Disclosure: Chef'n, recently acquired by Taylor Precision Products, invited me to tour the company headquarters for an additional $25 in conference costs. I received transportation to and from the host hotel, lunch and a gift bag of a few of their products to test at home. Also, as a Citizen Blogger for the International Food Blogger Conference, I received a reduction in my registration fees in exchange for agreeing to write a minimum of posts before, during or immediately following the conference, topic to be of my own choosing. This is the second of those posts. As always, all photographs and opinions are my own.

Friday, September 18, 2015

{ Travel } Exploring Seattle's Chihuly Garden & Glass and the Olympic Sculpture Garden (#IFBC)

Chihuly Garden and Glass located in the Seattle Center and the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Garden near the waterfront are must-see's when visiting the Emerald City

When I was packing last Saturday, the weather in San Diego was in the upper 80s, the humidity thick and muggy; I was dripping with perspiration just standing still. The combination was nearly unbearable – and it had been that way for weeks. Summer weather in San Diego doesn't usually start until late August with the heat often lingering through October. My dresser drawers stood open, clothes moving from them to the bed to the suitcase then back to the drawers as I wrestled with what to pack. I checked the weather app on my iPhone. Seattle's weather forecast called for low to mid 60s with some chance of rain. Normally, I would not be looking forward to spending precious vacation time in a cold, rainy city but at that very moment, the thought of being enveloped in the cool grayness of the Puget Sound filled me with excitement.

I'm visiting the Emerald City to participate in the International Food Blogger Conference starting today and running through Sunday afternoon. It's my first time at this conference and my second blogger conference ever so I'm super stoked. The conference focus is food, writing and technology and I'm looking forward to soaking up new tips and tricks to continue growing the quality of this site's words and visuals. I'm looking forward to several of the sessions not to mention, spending time with a room full of folks who are just as passionate about food and blogging as I am. Plus, we'll have the opportunity to taste lots of local eats and drinks from some of Seattle's best local restaurants. So, you know, there's that. Yum!

I came into town five days early to get some exploring in before the conference starts. I've had time to clear my head of the stress and grief it's been filled with over the last month. Bonus, I've had a chance to catch up with a good friend who lives here in the Seattle area, and, in the name of research, eat more baked goods then I've allowed myself to partake of in over a year.

I started my first full day in Seattle with a visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass located at Seattle Center near the Space Needle. As a former arts photo editor, I've known of and admired the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly for years. However, nothing prepared me for the spectacular exhibits housed in eight galleries, the awe-inspiring Glasshouse and the lush gardens that immediately had me looking around for the Caterpillar and Cheshire Cat from Wonderland because the gardens are just that whimsical and fun. I'll let the photos do the talking here for a bit:

The Glass Forest

Northwest Room

Sealife Room

Persian Ceiling

Mille Fiori

From the Ikebana and Float Boat Gallery


Macchia Forest

The Glasshouse

And finally …
The Garden

Walking around the Seattle Center, worked up an appetite. It was a weird time, not quite lunch and not quite dinner time either. After pondering some of the recommendations given to me before I left San Diego, I made a quick 4 minute drive over to the neighborhood of Belltown and visited Macrina Bakery and Cafe.

When I asked the gal behind the counter what the most popular lunch item was, she said that it was hard to pick because the menu changed weekly according to what is in season. Already, I liked this place. She mentioned that having said that, the Demi Baguette was pretty much a staple. It's a ham and cheese sandwich with fresh greens. 

When food is this simple, the quality of the ingredients have to be spot on and this was. The sandwich was made fresh to order, the bread warm with a thin, snappy crackling crust and tender interior, just what a good baguette should be. The cold ham and cheese provided a refreshing contrast to the warm bread and the slight peppery notes of the greens bring it all together. Simple, clean whole food that let's the ingredients take center stage is what makes this sandwich satisfying.

Along with a large double decaf latte, I also ordered an Italian Plum Roll that I wound up packing up to go as the baguette and coffee more than filled me. The coffee, by the by, was delicious. Piping hot, just like I love it with thick, creamy foam. The roll was good, though a little tough but that was most likely from eating it much later that evening after dinner. So I won't put that in the "miss" column because the flavor was delicious and the interior of the roll was soft and buttery with wonderful sticky plum and nuts (pecans, if I had to guess). 

After satiating my hunger, I meandered over to the Olympic Sculpture Garden just minutes away from the bakery. 

Spread over 9 acres, this public park contains a collection of medium to large sculptures with plenty of grass and seating. The park, an offshoot of the Seattle Art Museum, is open 365 days a year and is free to the public. 

The park, located near the waterfront, is filled with lots of chairs, affording sunset views of the Puget Sound. Contrary to the solitude I choose to express in these photographs, there were waves of people walking their dogs, jogging, eating at some of the tables located at the then closed cafe, and couples strolling hand in hand, stopping to admire the sculptures. 

Visiting all three places made for a wonderfully relaxing afternoon. Next time you're in Seattle, make time for one or all three on your must-do list. I don't think you'll be disappointed one bit. 

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Address: 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109
Hours: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Phone: (206) 753-4940

Macrina Bakery and Cafe

Address: 2408 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
Hours: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Phone:(206) 448-4032

Olympic Sculpture Park

Address: 2901 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
Phone: 206.654.3100 & TTY 206.441.4261

As a Citizen Blogger for the International Food Blogger Conference, I received discounted registration in exchange for creating a minimum number of posts related to #IFBC, subject matter to be of my own choosing. Photographs and opinions expressed in these posts are 100 percent my own.