We have officially entered into fall at this point, my absolute favorite season. Now is when our bodies crave heartier, denser meals that feature all sorts of seasonal produce, such as apples, potatoes, pumpkins, and squash. The reason that it feels right to eat this now is because all of these ingredients are sweet, and thus both physically and energetically nourishing. They give our bodies the necessary nutrients we crave in preparation for the winter months. Sweet foods, however, often leave us with a sluggish digestive system as they are in fact rough on our bodies to digest when eaten on their own. This is the exact reason we love herbs and spices with the deliciously sweet produce. Cinnamon and apples, sage and carrot, rosemary and butternut squash...it isn't a coincidence these all go together! While the seasonal produce gives us the nourishment we need, the herbs and spices fuel our digestive fire, providing us improved digestion and circulation.
This exact reason is why this recipe is one of my favorites. Not only is it a hearty, warm, stick-to-your-ribs meal, but it is also almost entirely plant based, utilizing seasonal produce to boot, but it also creates the lovely fusion that fall provides us-- wonderful nourishment and a strong digestive fire! Plus...who doesn't like a good Alfredo sauce?? The cauliflower and sunflower seed cream create a luxuriously creamy and velvety sauce that almost perfectly mimics the cream and cheese filled classic version, and the pumpkin, sage and cinnamon give it a wonderfully subtle sweet and spicy twist. All around a lovely and healthy fall recipe to try out! This one takes a little planning ahead however, so be prepared!
~4 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 TB sage, chiffonaded
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 TSP cinnamon
1.5 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated (you can substitute nutritional yeast for a 100% vegan sauce!)
1 cup Sunflower Seed Cream
1 TB honey (use organic sugar for the vegan version)
Sunflower Seed Cream:
1 cup sunflower seeds
1.5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1. Start with the sunflower seed cream. This must be planned a bit ahead of time..at least 8 hours in fact. In a small bowl combine the sunflower seeds and water. Let this mixture sit for at least the 8 hours, but overnight is best. When the seeds are good and soaked, transfer the seeds with their soaking water into a food processor or a good blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, and add the salt and pepper (to taste if you like). Set this mixture aside for the moment.
2. Boil the cauliflower florets in heavily salted water until they are fork tender. It is essential that they are nice and soft so that they blend into a smooth consistency. Once ready, transfer to a food processor with 1.5-2 cups of the salted boiling water and blend until totally smooth. Set aside.
3. In a separate large saucepan, sautee the shallot in olive oil. Once they are sweating and soft, pour the cauliflower puree and 1 cup of the sunflower seed cream in and stir to mix it all up.
4. Once heated through, add the sage, pumpkin puree, and cinnamon, and honey or sugar. Evenly stir all of these ingredients into the sauce.
5. Next add the grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast. Give the sauce a few good stirs to make sure that it is well incorporated. If the sauce seems a little thick at this point, add a few table spoons of water.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pasta, veggie noodles, on pizza, etc. Be creative and enjoy!
Sunflower seeds- Sunflower seeds improve digestion, brain power and cardiovascular system; it is rich in magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc and iron.
Sage- a stimulant, a diuretic and an expectorant, it boosts memory and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial as well as anxiolytic (reduces anxiety) properties
Pumpkin-High in beta carotene, which is beneficial for eyesight and can help reduce risk of certain cancers, high in fiber, rich in B-Complex vitamins (including folates, niacin, B-6), rich in calcium, copper, potassium and phosphorus
Cauliflower- Cauliflower is low calorie, and high fiber. It also contains glucosinolates, which activate the body's detoxification process. Cauliflower is also surprisingly high in potassium, and 1 cup of raw cauliflower contains almost as much vitamin C as an orange.
Cinnamon-lowers blood sugar levels, increases insulin production helping prevent type 2 diabetes, has an anti-clotting effect on the blood, smelling cinnamon alone improves cognitive functioning, fights E.Coli bacteria, has been shown to alleviate headache