Spice Up Your Life: Cauliflower Kung Pao

Do you like it spicy?

Spice Up Your Life: Cauliflower Kung Pao


It doesn't matter how long Seinfeld has been off the air: whenever I hear the words "Kung Pao," I think of George Costanza. George likes spicy chicken! Fortunately for me, my children have started to take an interest in Seinfeld reruns, and so they do not immediately raise their eyebrows and exchange meaningful glances when I repeatedly say "Nicole likes spicy cauliflower!" while preparing this meal. 

RELATED: Your Kids Will Go Crazy For These Cauli-Tots

Not in front of me, anyway.

This vegetarian version of the takeout favourite is so flavourful and filling that you won't even miss the spicy chicken! The cauliflower adds a low-calorie crunch; topped with chopped cashews or peanuts, this is a complete, satisfying meal.

Some people in my house - who are not me - do NOT like particularly spicy food, and when I'm preparing it for them, I only add a tiny squirt of Sriracha to the sauce; then I slather my own meal with that deliciously hot Rooster sauce. When anyone asks me questions during dinner, I feel justified in mopping up my sweaty brow, saying, "It's the Kung Pao! Nicole likes her cauliflower spicy!" 

Maybe I'm ready for my own show. What do you think? It would be a show about nothing!


For the sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce 
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
Sriracha to taste (I use a scant 1/2 teaspoon for my non-spicy-loving family. 4 teaspoons would take this to "call the fire department" hot. 2 teaspoons would make a "hot but not burning" sauce. Use your judgement and squirt accordingly!)
For the vegetables
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 bunch bok choy or 3 bunches baby bok choy, chopped
1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
10 white mushrooms, quartered
For the rest
4 cups steam-fried noodles
1 bunch green onion, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts (optional)

  In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water to make a paste. Add rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, and stir. Add Sriracha as needed - taste and add more if you really like it hot! Set aside.

  Heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a large wok or frying pan; add the cauliflower and saute until edges are browned, about five minutes. Scoop cauliflower into a bowl and set aside.

  Place the remaining vegetables in the wok and saute for 5 minutes. Push vegetables away from the centre of the wok to make a "well" (see photo below); pour the sauce into the well and allow it to cook for a minute or two. When the sauce bubbles and thickens (1-2 minutes), add the cauliflower back into the wok. Stir to coat all the vegetables in the sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until vegetables are "tender-crisp" and hot. Don't overcook! No one wants soggy vegetables.

  Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and add to the wok, stirring to coat.

  Serve topped with chopped green onion and cashews or nuts. Add more Sriracha, if you really like spicy cauliflower!

First, make the sauce.

Chop the veggies.

Saute the veggies.

Push the veggies aside and make a well. Pour the sauce in, cook until it's thickened. 

Mix veggies, sauce, and noodles together; top with green onions and nuts and PAO! 

Want more takeout alternatives? Try my Nutty Noodle Salad, my Perfect Pad Thai, or my Mexican Salad-in-a-Jar.


10 Avocado Dishes to Enjoy Before the Shortage Hits


10 Avocado Dishes to Enjoy Before the Shortage Hits


I am trying not to panic. I am deep breathing right now, because there is a drought in California that indicates a pending avocado shortage. YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY. AN AVOCADO SHORTAGE. 

Sorry, I didn't mean to alarm you. BUT THERE IS GOING TO BE AN AVOCADO SHORTAGE. 

*deep breathes*

RELATED: How to Properly Open a Avocado

Here are the ten best avocado dishes that we won't be able to eat anymore - or, in the best case scenario, that are going to get ultra-expensive - due to the avocado shortage in California.

Holy Moly Best Ever Guacamole

When you say "avocado" who amongst us does not immediately think "guacamole"? And who amongst us cannot resist eating an entire batch of guacamole in one sitting? This writer cannot. Guilty as charged - but at least the guilt comes with a side of "super shiny hair." 

Fiesta Quinoa Salad

Nothing says "FIESTA" like a quinoa salad - particularly one that has the heartiness of black beans, the zing of cumin, lime, and cilantro, and the creamy goodness of avocado in every bite.

Avocado Lime Pie

Avocado and lime go together like peas and carrots; unlike peas and carrots, they make an excellent dessert. Think Key Lime Pie with a healthy, superfood twist!

Creamy Avocado Linguine

The ultimate in comfort food - but one that won't weigh you down or make you feel sluggish after indulging. This creamy, garlicky pasta can be whipped up in fifteen minutes; if you've got an avocado and some pasta, you've got dinner!

Crunchy Avocado, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Salad

This summery favourite has it all - a perfect light dinner, and one that is so easy to throw together. If I hear there is going to be a tomato shortage, I quit.

Dill-icious Pasta Salad

Forget those mayonnaise-laden pasta salads of the past - this scrumptious, Ranch-style dressing is made from avocado. It's a dilly of a dish!

Green Goddess Bowl of Goodness

Chock full of vegetables and bursting with flavour, this dish makes it easy to be green. This bowl of goodness is great hot or cold - so make extra, for leftovers.

Healthy Homemade Fudgsicles

I made these healthy homemade fudgsicles for a pregnant friend last summer - and she told me it made being nine months pregnant in the hottest July on record easy to take. Or, "easier" to take. She was still nine months pregnant in July. We cannot expect fudgsicles to work miracles, can we? Well, maybe these ones can. They're made with avocado! 

Amazing Avocado Pasta Salad

This crowd-pleasing pasta salad will make you the hit of the potluck circuit! The only thing is that you might get pigeon holed into making it for EVERY potluck. Well, there are worse things to happen - this dish is super quick and easy to make.

Dark Chocolate Avocado Pudding

For many, this is the dessert that started it all. Our dual love affairs with chocolate and with avocado can be satisfied in one easy dessert. Yes, it's good for you!

Now, if you don't mind me, I'm off to the grocery store to stock up on avocado, while I still can. In the meantime, I'm going to be doing the rain dance for California. Maybe it's not too late!


Vegan Kitchen Hack: What is Nutritional Yeast?


Vegan Kitchen Hack: What is Nutritional Yeast?


Nutritional yeast is a common staple in plant-based cooking, and of all the ingredients I use, it is the one I get questioned about the most. Nutritional yeast is as common as salt in the cupboards of those of us who have been following plant-based diets for a long time, so I sometimes forget that not everyone is acquainted with this tasty little flake. For every question I receive, I assume there are many people who wonder about it but do not want to ask.

What is nutritional yeast?

Don't confuse it with baker's, brewer's, or active dry yeast - nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that is grown on molasses. It has a rich, savoury, umami flavour that is often compared with cheese. Since it's deactivated, it will not cause Candida issues, and it certainly won't be any help if you are trying to get your homemade bread to rise!

Why should I use nutritional yeast?

For me, the biggest benefit is the flavour. Nutritional yeast packs a delicious punch, and a little goes a long way - a few tablespoons can be enough to turn a sauce or soup from "meh" to "MORE PLEASE."  

RELATED: Vegan Kitchen Hack - Flax Seed "Eggs"

Besides the flavour factor, there are a lot of nutritional benefits to the well-named nutritional yeast. A 1/4 cup serving contains 45 calories, 12 grams of protein, 3 grams of fibre, and approximately 4% of the recommended daily iron value. Most brands are fortified with Vitamin B-12, which is something that vegetarians and vegans tend to lack. It's also a complete protein, meaning it contains all 18 amino acids, which is a boon to those of us who don't consume meat. Nutritional yeast is chock-full of B vitamins, which help reduce stress, nervousness, and PMS symptoms. Do you need any more reasons to try it? I didn't think so!

How do I use nutritional yeast?

Stir a few tablespoons into soups, gravies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs or tofu. Feeling snacky? Use it to flavour kale chips or sprinkle it on popcorn. I even like to make a vegan "mac and cheese" with it! Here are my favourite "nooch" recipes. 

Kale Chips 

Green Goddess Bowl

Kick-Ass Kale Salad

Vegan Tofu Scramble (but try it in scrambled eggs as well!)

Zesty Zucchini Bowl

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Vegan Cauliflower Pizza Crust

And don't underestimate the power of sprinkling nutritional yeast over popcorn that has been drizzled with butter or melted coconut oil - that's what snack dreams are made of!

Okay, you've convinced me. Now, where can I buy it?

Due to it's newfound popularity, some mainstream grocery stores are now carrying nutritional yeast in their bulk food aisles or health food sections. It's more commonly found in health food stores, and can also be ordered online. Some common brands to look for include Bob's Red Mill or Bragg's.

I'm happy to pull the veil away from the mystery that is nutritional yeast. Got questions? Leave them in the comment section below and I'll gladly answer them.