One of the best things about a clean diet is the opportunity to explore new foods that I would have previously turned down because I just didn’t know any better. Case in point: cauliflower.
I never had any problems with broccoli (what I consider to be cauliflower’s cousin) growing up. I remember eating them as a kid and thinking just how cool it was to be eating “little green trees” as I thought of them back then. But whenever my mom tried to stick a couple pieces of cauliflower on my plate, I’d protest. White trees were simply not cool. Plus they offended my 7-yr old epicurean sensibilities. They just didn’t taste good. Much like I did with beans, I’ll have to pin the blame on the chef (sorry Mom!) and not on the actual food.
Now that I’m in charge of my own grocery shopping and cooking, I’ve been able to revisit foods like cauliflower and give them a makeover. Once I figured out what to do with it, I realized how much I loved those little white trees cauliflower. It hits two of my must-haves right on the bulls-eye: super nutritious and versatile.
Cauliflower and Cruciferous Vegetables
I’ve spent some time talking about cruciferous vegetables in the past, but here’s a refresher.
If I had to suggest only one food to get you started on a healthy diet, it would have to be anything from the cruciferous family. The most popular cruciferous vegetables are kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, and of course, cauliflower.
These vegetables often get tagged as “superfoods” with good reason. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Perhaps the greatest health benefit of cruciferous vegetables is that it may help lower your risk of developing cancer by reducing oxidative stress (when excessive free radicals or unstable molecules develop to the point of damaging the integrity of surrounding cells).
Cauliflower is very high in vitamin C, providing 86% of you DV in one serving! It’s also a great source of vitamin K (20% DV), folate (15% DV), potassium (9% DV) and soluble fiber (8% DV), providing a great nutritional punch to your diet. The high vitamin K count in cauliflower has important anti-inflammatory benefits to the body’s inflammatory response which contributes to an overall decreased risk of cancer. And the amount of fiber in cauliflower makes this a good choice for digestive system support.
We’re right at the beginning of cauliflower season and it will be at peak until fall, so now is the perfect time to pick one up. Note that cauliflower comes in different colors ranging from white to purple, orange, and green.
You can do what with cauliflower?
My eyes were opened to the enormous potential of healthy foods through the genius of sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Not only could I find recipes from my go-to cooking magazines and websites, but now I can see what another blogger is doing with cauliflower in Australia or a chef in India can share their best aloo gobi interpretation. It’s a cook’s dream and it makes healthy eating that much more accessible and appetizing to everyone.
It was through one of my many hours spent
wasting time researching online that I found out how versatile cauliflower can be, making it a fantastic staple to have on hand. You can cook it in so many different ways and the somewhat dense texture makes cauliflower an excellent option for Meatless Monday, gluten/grain free or vegetarian/vegan recipes as a hearty substitute for meat and breads.
You’ve likely had cauliflower steamed, sauteed, or maybe even roasted. It’s often cooked in the same fashion as broccoli where it’s cut into florets and seasoned with garlic, oil, salt and pepper. I recently made this wonderful side of roasted cauliflower with pearl onions, cardamom, lemon and parsley. Easy preparation and great flavor combinations are part of the fun of cooking with cauliflower.
But did you know you could mash it? Turn it into rice? Make it into a pizza crust? Serve it as tortillas??? No? Well, neither did I!
Here are 5 new ways to cook with cauliflower:
1. Cauliflower Rice
I decided to try this one myself as an experimental side to a stir-fry dish featuring spring produce that I prepared several weeks ago. I rarely eat any kind of rice anymore and after hearing about the wonders of cauliflower rice (especially from the paleo community) for months on end, I thought it was time to give this a go.
This was my interpretation but you’ll find dozens of recipes online to suit your tastes. The nice thing here is that it’s really easy to switch this up by changing the seasonings as the base recipe remains the same.
To begin, remove the core from the cauliflower and chop the rest into small, evenly-sized florets. Rinse well and set aside.
Chop the florets in small batches in your food processor until you get small rice-like pieces. Heat a tsp of coconut oil in a nonstick frying pan and then add 2 tsps of finely chopped ginger, cook for a minute. Add the cauliflower rice, 2 tbsps of water, and a dash of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook rice for about 4-5 minutes. Done!
Here’s a look at one way to make cauliflower rice a part of your next meal! You can get the recipe for my Pea Shoot Stir-Fry with Garlic-Ginger Cauliflower Rice here– trust me, it’s good stuff.
I have yet to try the rest of these options, however they look amazing! I decided to compile some of the best cauliflower recipes I’ve seen from food bloggers and like-minded home cooks who have gotten great feedback from readers. Why not share the blog love by checking out their pages for other fun recipes to inspire you in the kitchen?? :-)
2. Mashed Cauliflower
Tired of potatoes or looking for a healthier alternative? Give cauliflower a try instead. You can play with the ingredients to get the flavors you want, but check out this recipe to start.
Best Make Ahead Side: Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” – NomNomPaleo.com
One of the best paleo food blogs I’ve found to date, NomNomPaleo offers an incredible selection of recipes covering all the bases with beautiful food photography to boot.
3. Cauliflower Pizza Crust
One of the biggest hurdles for many following grain-free diets is how to enjoy pizza without a wheat-based crust. There are gluten-free pizza crust recipes out there, but if you want to try something much easier and vegetable-based, take a look at this recipe.
Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gourmet Vegetarian Style) – YourLighterSide.com
I originally found this recipe through another blog I follow, Oh My Veggies, which offered up this great pizza recipe. They linked back to YourLighterSide for the crust and I was happy for it given all the wonderful options and feedback for both pizzas. This site also comes up again further down this list. If you’re in need of more great recipes for Meatless Monday or because you’re following vegetarian or vegan diets, than definitely visit these two blogs!
4. Cauliflower Tortillas
I rarely eat tacos (even though I love them) given the fact that tortillas are usually corn or flour, two things I don’t really eat often or at all. (Corn=GMOs!) So when I saw this recipe pop up on my Facebook feed the other day, I freaked out. Tortillas made from cauliflower? It was a moment.
Cauliflower Tortillas (Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free) – SlimPalate.com
This blog is fairly new to me, but I was really impressed to find out the author behind it is a 17 yr-old who lost over 100lbs and decided to share his story and recipes via this site. Truly inspirational!
5. Cauliflower Lasagna Noodles
I have to admit, lasagna is not my favorite dish in the world. But I haven’t shut the door on it completely. I think I just have to find the right combination that works for me. When I experimented with paleo last year, I noticed a number of noodle-alternative recipes that use vegetables as the base. Zucchini and spaghetti squash were by far the most popular choices, but I’ve also seen many of these paleo-friendly lasagna dishes call for cauliflower noodles. I’m intrigued enough to attempt this at least once. How about you?
Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna – YourLighterSide.com
If you spend a little time on this site, you’ll find hundreds of amazing healthy recipes. I really enjoy the author’s sense of humor throughout her posts and the creative spin with classic dishes like these lasagna noodles or her gluten-free/sugar-free girl scout samoa cookies.
Not enough cauliflower for you? There are so many recipes out there to satisfy your cauliflower fix, but here are some more sites for you to explore!
The Secret Life of Cauliflower – Damyhealth.com
Cauliflower Recipes – Cooking Light Magazine
Healthy Cauliflower Recipes and Cooking Tips – Eating Well Magazine