ROASTED BROCCOLI BOWL WITH VEGAN SPECIAL SAUCE

vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl // thefirstmess.comvegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl // thefirstmess.comvegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl // thefirstmess.com
I went down a list of hyperbolic adjectives and phrases when I was trying to name this sauce because I really wanted to convey my unhinged obsession with it. Miracle sauce! Genius sauce! Ponder the meaning of life sauce! The sauciest, sexiest sauce EVER! The month of January can be its own crazy little season where pushes for wellness and better health go into a frightening and turbulent overdrive. In the interest of chilling out a bit, I’m just carrying on as usual and simply referring to this recipe as special sauce. Yes. Sort of unique and familiar.

By the way: happy 2016! I always feel a soothing wash of calm when the calendar changes over. I like the holidays like anyone else, but the busyness aspect wears on me pretty fast. The best descriptor I can think of for the entire month of December is cluttered. The holiday decorations that feel necessary for merry-making, but actually just mess up the entire flow of your living space, become a little TOO symbolic as the days go by. I can get anxious when there’s a few extra balls in the air, so January 1 is relief city, population: me.

Deep winter is quiet, cold, and sort of dark (at least where I live). The natural conditions offer an easy outlet for contemplation and self care. I’ve never found winter depressing or draining–even though I do get just a little bit tired of all the root vegetables and tubers after a while. I see the season as one of restoration, an opportunity to realign yourself on life and how you really feel. You can wrap yourself up in the personal growth question and settle on what’s working and what isn’t. I thought that this article, addressing some of the negative self-talk and outright shaming involved with eating for personal wellness, was particularly great. Instead of shouting “DETOX,” we should be whispering “Stay true,” and administering a gentle pat on the back.

Anyway. I think this sauce could help you stay true no matter what your dietary proclivity is. It’s creamy, rich, and savoury, but also totally balanced. The base is sunflower seeds, water, and any oil with a neutral flavour profile. There’s lemon, garlic, nutritional yeast, turmeric, spices, and a few other good things in there. I include a dab of tomato paste in the mix, too–not because I want this to taste like tomatoes, but because the concentrated paste is so flavourful in that umami way. It gives the sauce that little extra something it needs. The ingredient list looks long on this one, but I think 98% of the items are pantry stock for most–even if you’re just slightly interested in plant-based cooking at home.

I used the sauce on a bowl with broccoli, but it would be just as good as a finishing cream for tacos, a caesar-like salad dressing, a creamy garnish for a pureed soup, a drizzle over roasted vegetables, dabbed on a veggie burger, or just about any savoury application you could think of. If you make and use it in a funky way, let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram!

Sending it off with all my warmth and gratitude for the new year :)

vegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl // thefirstmess.comvegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl // thefirstmess.comvegan special sauce + a roasted broccoli bowl // thefirstmess.com
Vegan Special Sauce + Roasted Broccoli Bowl Recipe
Sauce recipe is lightly adapted from The Fauxmartha’s Bitchin’ Sauce
Print the recipe here!
Serves: The bowl serves 2, and you’ll have leftover sauce to the tune of 1 1/2-ish cups (yay!)
Notes: I don’t soak the sunflower seeds since I use a high-speed blender for this sauce. If you have a normal kitchen blender, I’d recommend soaking the sunflower seeds for at least 2 hours. For a food processor, a reader has told me that the sunflower seeds smooth out just fine if soaked for 8 or so hours.

special sauce ingredients:
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (see headnote about soaking)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1-inch piece of fresh turmeric (OR 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
3/4 cup filtered water
1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil (I like sunflower or grapeseed)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
fine sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
hot sauce, to taste (I used about 7-8 dashes of Cholula)

for the roasted broccoli bowl:
2 heaped cups of broccoli florets (from roughly 2 broccoli stalks)
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
fine sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 portions of cooked brown/black/red rice, kept warm
1 cup cooked chickpeas (or other legume/plant-y protein you like)
the sauce!
2 green onions, thinly sliced
extra sunflower seeds

Combine all of the special sauce ingredients in an upright blender and blend on high for a full minute, or until completely smooth. Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If the sauce seems too thick, blend it with an extra splash or two of water until it’s at the consistency you like. Scrape the sauce into a glass jar, seal it tight, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the broccoli florets with the olive oil and some salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Once the florets are lightly coated, spread the vegetables out into a single layer. Slide the tray into the oven and roast until broccoli is lightly browned/crisped and the stalks are tender, about 15 minutes for medium-sized florets.

In two good-sized bowls, divide the warm rice and chickpeas. Top each bowl with the roasted broccoli florets. Finish the bowls with a healthy drizzle of the special sauce, sliced green onions, and sunflower seeds. Serve immediately.

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