As the weather gets chilly, warm, cozy, and comforting food is a top priority! Creamy pumpkin sauce, crispy bacon, perfectly steamed veggies- what more do you need? This casserole is quick and simple to prepare, so it would make a perfect weeknight meal, potluck dish or side dish at a seasonal meal. Perfectly savory, decadent and completely functional, it is sure to make it into the regular meal rotation.
WILDFIT Seasons: Mild Spring
Challenge Weeks: 1-5, 11, 13.
Makes: 4 servings.
Prep Time: 5 minutes.
Cook Time: 35 minutes.
2 cups steamed pumpkin, mashed
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium red onion (or 2-3 shallots)
1 Tablespoons coconut vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup coconut cream
1⁄2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
salt & pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch smoked paprika
chopped parsley to garnish
1 large head (2 lbs) of cauliflower (or broccoli) cut into florets
What you should know…
I love an easy dinner that comes together with minimal effort, and this dish delivers! The most difficult part of bringing it together is that it requires 3 different steps (and pans) on the go.
You will need to be cooking the pumpkin, then the cauliflower and finally mixing the sauce. Ideally you will steam the pumpkin at the same time as the cauliflower florets to save yourself some time. Often I will peel and chop the pumpkin while it’s water is heating, then toss it in. I’ll then turn on the cauliflower pan and chop and prep the florets while that water is warming, making it a continuous, flowing process.
Whether you use fresh or frozen florets is your choice, as is if you use broccoli or cauliflower. Broccoli pairs nicely with bacon and adds vibrancy to the dish and is often less expensive. Cauliflower is more bland, picking up the flavors of the sauce and bacon thus making it a better choice for those who don’t yet love vegetables and a prettier final presentation. Both are healthy and delicious!
You can also decide if you want to use a real pie pumpkin or substitute another orange squash depending on what is available to you. Choose a heavier squash when possible, as this means it still has a lot of moisture and will turn out velvety smooth rather than mealy. When I cut the pumpkin (or squash), I make long slices and then remove the skin, then chop each slice into one inch pieces. This keeps my fingers safe from a slipping knife and is an efficient way to ensure each piece is roughly the same size plus minimizes chopping time.
Add just enough water to steam the squash to a medium saucepan with a lid. Boil for about 20-30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender enough to easily pierce it with a fork. If you are really in a rush or preparing a lot of other food, you can also use canned pumpkin, we won’t tell!
Once the squash is ready, drain it and pour it into the food processor and add the broth, coconut cream and spices. Blend until it is soft and velvety smooth. You can also easily do this in a blender, or mash the pumpkin really well with a potato masher or fork, but this won’t have quite so good of a consistency.
Next it is time for the cauliflower. If using a fresh head, cut your florets into bite sized pieces and set aside. You will want to have about six cups of florets in total. Bring about 1/4 inch of water to a boil in a large frying pan. Add about 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and the trimmed and cleaned florets. Cover the pan and steam until they are as tender as you like (about 3 minutes for crisp-tender and up to 8 minutes for completely cooked, soft florets).
If you are using bagged and frozen, make sure to only steam them for a couple minutes as they have been blanched already and will get soggy quickly. Once they are cooked, drain them and set aside.
Now let’s get clear about the meat situation. You do not need to use pork bacon, turkey bacon works well as does vegan substitutes. You can also use marinated portobello mushrooms if you prefer as an unprocessed alternative. The bacon adds a lot of flavor, fat and the savory quality that we want in this comfort dish, so make sure that whatever alternative you use is flavorful and if it is dry, compensate with a Tablespoon or so of added oil. If using bacon, chop the pieces with kitchen scissors into smaller bite-sized pieces.
Next use a sharp knife to chop the onion into pieces and dice them up small. Any onions will work but I prefer red as they are a touch sweeter which is nice paired with the bacon. Shallots are more mild and quite nice also, but they are nearly twice as sweet as onions so be mindful if you are enjoying this dish in Spring.
For the meat…
Heat your frying pan to medium heat and add the bacon pieces. Once they have released a bit of fat, add the onions and cook until translucent and the bacon is cooked, stirring often. This will take about 5 minutes. Remove bacon from the pan and divide it in half, as half will be for the sauce and half for topping the dish. Drain as much bacon grease as you would like (depending on your WILDFIT Season, taste and how fatty the bacon is). I generally leave about a Tablespoon or two.
Finish the sauce…
Once the onion and bacon has been removed, put the pan back over medium heat and warm it for 30 seconds or so before adding the vinegar to the hot pan and swishing it around. This will deglaze the pan, bringing all those flavorful juices from the pan and into the vinegar.
Immediately add the pumpkin-stock-spice mixture and fresh thyme whisking to combine the flavors and heating it gently. After two minutes pour in half of the bacon and onions, again stirring to combine the flavors. After another two minutes once the sauce has warmed through, remove it from heat, and stir in nutritional yeast if you are using it. Nutritional yeast is optional, it adds a cheesy flavour and a greater depth to the dish. It is not ideal for those with gut health or candida issues, but can be an occasional food to add vitamin B12 and minerals to the dish and a cheesy essence without adding dairy.
Once the sauce is ready, stir the florets into the pan and toss them until they are coated in sauce. Finally pour everything into a serving dish, sprinkle with remaining bacon and parsley and serve warm. This is also great as leftovers and for meal prep, so even if you live alone, divide it into containers and freeze it for a chilly evening. Enjoy!