Tag Archives: picky eaters

10 Reasons to Rediscover Cauliflower

Yes, I think the cauliflower would creep quietly in. Its chaste, slightly coy presence makes this a vegetable that would never shout its qualities. ~Nigel Slater, Tender Greens

I’ve never heard anyone shouting from the rooftops about their endless love for cauliflower. Nor does it have the detestable reputation of brussels sprouts, lima beans, and the like. I don’t remember having much of an opinion at all about cauliflower, until I began my quest to increase the ratio of produce on my plate.

Guilt began creeping in whenever I would indulge in making my all-time favorite comfort food, homemade macaroni & cheese. At some point the idea of vegetables and cheesy, bubbly goodness merged (long before I ever considered this dilema.) Cauliflower, I remembered, is commonly coated in cheese sauce. I began substituting part of the pasta with chunks of steamed cauliflower. When I went on my gluten-free streak, I departed from pasta all together.

The funny thing is, I found I actually liked it. Yes, there will always be a special place in my heart for a big bowl of noodles. But whenever I replace a processed food with a vegetable, it makes the dish seem so much more a-live. A little sweet, a little nutty, a nicely cooked piece of cauliflower is a beautiful thing.

Here are my top ten reasons why this underappreciated, white-headed stepchild is worth a second look:

1)    Even though it’s not a dark leafy green, cauliflower is healthier than you might expect.

Whole Foods adopted Dr. Fuhrman’s ANDI scoring system to help shoppers make healthier choices. Their website has listings of these scores. Anything below 50 is considered not-so healthy. Kale, mustard and collard greens score 1,000, the highest possible. Cauliflower scores 295, which is higher than tomatoes, butternut squash, and any of the top listed beans, fruit, nuts and seeds, or whole grains.

2) Cauliflower is relatively cheap.

Prices range anywhere from $1-2 a pound, or even less depending on season and availability.

3) It’s available almost year round, and not just because of cold storage.

It is known as more of a cool weather vegetable, but varieties of cauliflower are in season all year long, except July and August.

It’s best to buy it whole. Curds should be tight, and even if you don’t eat the leaves they tell the story of how long it’s been since harvest.

4) It’s easy to grow in most climates.

Cauliflower can be grown in the winter in mild climates, and in spring and autumn in cooler areas. It will withstand light freezing. (For this information I consulted “The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide.” It has brief, but handy little descriptions for growing most herb and vegetables.)

I planted my very first “cheddar” cauliflower this last fall. It wintered nicely, and is now engaged in some interesting sprouting activities.

5) There are some interesting varieties to explore.

Besides plain old white, other colors that occur in nature (not dyed!), include green, purple, and orange. I don’t notice any major difference in flavor, although reportedly these other varieties don’t have as much of the bitterness that can be present in the standard white. (Personally I think that may have more to do with freshness.)

Nutritionally speaking, orange cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A, and the purple in cauliflower is caused by the same anti-oxidants found in purple cabbage and red wine (according to wiki).

Green, turreted Romanesco was clearly cultivated beneath the red clouds of Mars. This is probably my favorite variety, just because of it’s dramatic, unearthly presence. Oh, and it tastes good too. This beauty came in my FFTY CSA box.

6) Cauliflower cooks with little fuss or fanfare.

Cut into 1” pieces and steam for about 7 minutes (in a large, covered bowl with a little water in the microwave, stirring frequently) then season or add a flavorful sauce. Or, sauté bite-sized pieces for 6-7 minutes over medium heat in a little butter or olive oil till the florets begin to brown, then braise- add a small amount of flavorful liquid and cover for a few more minutes till tender.

7) It is quite versatile, culinarily speaking.

Not sure what to do with it? Recipes abound! Puree it (the better to sneak more veggies into your unsuspecting kids’ dinners because of its neutral color and flavor, my dear!) Roasted, pickled, sautéed, gratin-ed, raw, etc. So many possibilities, so little time.

And of course, cauliflower is a good replacement for pasta – this vegetable is made for cheese sauce. (Check out my gluten-free, dairy-free cauliflower gratin here.)

8) We all need to eat more vegetables anyway.

Michael Pollon said it most succinctly: Eat (real) Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants. ‘Nuff said.

9) It’s highly photogenic.

Even from the back.

10) Why does there always have to be 10? Ok, fine. Here’s my latest cauliflower recipe for you to sample:

Simple Curried Cauliflower

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, any color
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp paprika
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup water, or so
salt to taste

Directions:

1)    Heat oil in a large skillet to medium high heat. While the pan is heating, trim off stem and cut cauliflower into bite-sized pieces.

2)    When the oil is hot but not smoking, add garlic. Cook just till garlic begins to brown, then add cauliflower.

3)    Sautee cauliflower for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add water, and cover till cauliflower is tender and water is mostly gone. Add a little more water if necessary to achieve desired toothsome-ness.

4)    Season with garam masala, paprika, and salt to taste. Finish with red wine vinegar and remove from heat. Serve warm.

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Filed under Ingredients, New Recipes, Obsessed with Produce, Picky Eaters Anonymous, Techniques

Better Than Mac & Cheese???

I am now certain there is a “strangely sentimental for inanimate objects” gene in my DNA. I attach memories to scraps of paper. I keep movie stubs, even if I didn’t like the movie. I probably have programs from every wedding, play, or school musical I’ve ever attended. Giant piles of cards, random scraps of material, mini golf balls, and other miscellaneous doodads that I probably won’t remember the significance of years later, all live in shoe boxes together, somewhere.

It must be a dominant gene. My husband thinks I’m wacky for keeping all this stuff, but the lineage is easily traceable from my mother to me, and from me to my oldest who is now 7 years old. She earned her stripes when she expressed disappointment over Grammie bringing us a new bathroom rug. “Awww,” she said when she saw it lying on the linoleum, synthetic fibers glowing a lovely glass green. “What about the old bathroom rug? I’ll miss it and all the memories.”

“What memories do you have of the old bathroom rug?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Like when Celia was potty training and she peed on the rug,” she says. (Potty training was still in progress.)

“Oh,” I said. “Well, eventually you’ll have some nice memories with the new rug,” I told her.

There must be some evolutionary purpose to attaching memories to ordinary objects. Maybe our ancestors survived because they hung onto their favorite fire poking sticks that later saved them from wild dogs, and so they lived a little longer to reproduce.  Or something like that.

I also believe Mac & Cheese is part of my DNA somehow. I’m pretty sure one of the four types of nucleotides, inheritable genetic information, is in the shape of elbow macaroni. How else can you explain why a box of dried noodles and powdered cheese is so comforting to kids and adults alike?

Even the pickiest kids love Mac & Cheese. It’s really hard to get my oldest, my picky eater, to try new foods. When I get the thumbs up on one of my experimental dinners it’s not unlike winning a marathon (for someone who doesn’t even run.)

I make a crock pot meal once a week as part of our family dinner survival strategy, and have enjoyed creating some new bean recipes this winter. This black bean recipe is very basic. I wouldn’t have thought of sharing it, except for the two thumbs and two big toes up from my picky eater (all at once, balanced on her kitchen chair). She asked if this could be one of our “all the time” dinners. I jokingly asked her if it is better than Mac & Cheese, and she said yes! :O

Is it a groundbreaking new recipe? No. Is it yummy and satisfying? Yes. Better than macaroni and cheese? Well, one picky 7 year old makes this claim, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Better Than Mac & Cheese! Black Beans, Kielbasa & Rice

Ingredients:
1 lb dry black beans
3 stalks celery
3 carrots
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Bay leaf
1 Tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1  14.5 oz can beef broth
6 cups water
salt to taste (after kielbasa has heated thru because it will add salt)

cooked rice (I prefer Jasmine rice)
1 lb kielbasa (precooked)

Directions:
1)   Rinse the beans, dice the veggies, and crush the garlic. Throw it all into a crock pot  (I use a six quart) with the seasonings, broth, and enough water to cover by at least a couple of inches-6 cups for a six quart.

2)   Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or however long it takes to drop off the kids, go to work, pick up the kids, and come home hungry.

3)   When you get home, start your rice. Cut kielbasa into bite-sized chunks and stir it into the beans. Set the table while the sausage heats up and the rice has little circle patterns where bubbles used to be.

4)   Serve the rice, beans, and sausage all together in lovely, steaming bowls.

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Filed under New Recipes, Picky Eaters Anonymous

Cream of Broccoli Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons

Spring is here! My garden is calling, but unfortunately so is the freezing wind, cold rain, and strong desire to cuddle up with a fuzzy dog and a warm book. A cup of soup would fit this picture perfectly.

Broccoli has been making welcome appearances in my CSA box as of late. I love broccoli and cheese soup, but my kids still object to the little green trees, even though dinosaurs eat them. I set out to create a soup I hoped would change their minds, which of course means no visible broccoli.

A cream soup sounded good, but I didn’t feel like going out in the nasty weather to buy cream. All I had was skim milk, so I hoped the tiny yellow potatoes in my drawer would thicken things up. It worked! It worked so well that you wouldn’t know there’s no cream.

I decided to make some cheesy croutons to go along with the soup for a few reasons:

1) So I wouldn’t miss the lack of chunky broccolets
2) To avoid make a bunch of individual grilled cheese sandwiches
3) So my kids wouldn’t get full on grilled cheese to avoid eating the scary bright green soup

I can’t say my plan worked perfectly. My 7 year old just said the soup tasted like broccoli even though I called it Green Monster Soup to gloss over the fact that it’s full of broccoli. My 2 year old spent the meal trying not to try it, but when she finally did, she said, “Yummy!”

Green Monster Soup (Or, if there are no picky eaters within earshot, <No Cream> Cream of Broccoli Soup)

Ingredients:

2 large heads of broccoli, thick stem removed (about 1 lb usable pieces)
2-4 Tablespoons butter (2 if you prefer low-fat, 4 if you like butter)
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
4-5 small, or 1 large potato peeled and cubed (about ½ lb)
2 Tablespoons flour
1 can natural chicken broth
1 cup water
2 cups milk (any fat you prefer, it’s creamy even with nonfat)
¼ teaspoon salt if you use 4 Tbsp butter, 1/2 teaspoon if you use 2 Tbsp
one good handful shredded cheddar

Directions:

1)   Heat a large pot to medium. Melt butter and sauteé onion till soft and transparent, about five minutes.

2)   Add crushed garlic and broccoli. Sauteé another five minutes, stirring occasionally, while you peel and cube your potatoes.

3)   Sprinkle flour over broccoli and stir till it disappears.

4)   Add potatoes, broth, water, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil on high, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes until the veggies are tender.

5)   Puree the soup in small batches in the blender, being very careful to vent the blender’s lid slightly and cover with a clean kitchen towel to prevent lava soup explosions, and pour the creamy stuff back in the pot. Stir in the shredded cheese.

6)   Serve with my grilled cheese croutons (particularly if you think it will convince your picky eaters to try a very green soup.)

Grilled Cheese Croutons

This is a great way to use up loaf ends that never get eaten.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 slices old-ish sandwich bread
1-2 handfuls grated cheddar

Directions:

1)   Heat a large non-stick (or verrry well seasoned cast iron) skillet to medium heat. While waiting for the pan to heat, cube the slices of bread.

2)   Melt butter. Add garlic and stir till fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3)   Add bread cubes and stir quickly so the bread soaks up the butter as evenly as possible.

4)   Let the bread sit undisturbed for a minute or two till one side browns nicely. Then flip ‘em.

5)   Throw the grated cheddar over the bread cubes, stir once to evenly distribute, then let it sit undisturbed until the cheese is crispy. (It won’t come out of the pan happily till it crisps up.) Loosen the lot of crispy goodness with a spatula. Slide it onto a plate and let cool a moment before breaking it up into bite-sized pieces.

6)   Sprinkle over soups, salads, or just pop ‘em in your mouth.

It is rather green, isn’t it.

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Filed under Ingredients, New Recipes, Obsessed with Produce, Picky Eaters Anonymous