What Kids Learn
- The difference between roasting and baking
- The right temperature for roasting and the right temperature for baking
- Why, for roasting, a few drops of oil make a difference
As a master of (vegetable) disguises, I can tell you with certainty that cauliflower is one of the easiest of all vegetables to hide from unsuspecting young diners.
I’ve combined steamed, mashed cauliflower with mashed potatoes, and served it without hearing a single protest from kids who never detected the surprise ingredient. I also have mixed it in with bite-size pasta and a cheddar-cheese sauce in a homemade version of macaroni and cheese that got four-star reviews from my kids. I’ve even had a certain amount of luck getting some of my kids to try cauliflower steak—thick slices of cauliflower that are seasoned and grilled.
But cauliflower popcorn is far and away my children’s favorite way to enjoy this vegetable. To prepare it, season the florets with olive oil and garlic powder. After roasting until golden brown (crispy on the outside and soft within), this popcorn imposter is good to go. Serve it as a side dish at dinner or as an afternoon snack, or send it in a little Baggie to school for your child to eat at room temperature at lunch.
What You’ll Need
- 1 large cauliflower, or one bag of cut-up cauliflower florets
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt—or to taste
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
What to Do
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Show your child how to line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Help your child wash the cauliflower under cold running water. Then, cut the cauliflower into bite-size florets (this step requires a sharp knife, so supervision is a must!). Have your future chef arrange the bite-size florets in a single layer on the baking sheet.Teachable Moment: Very Cool Cauliflower Facts
- If you’ve ever mixed up cauliflower and broccoli, not to worry: They look alike, and they’re related! Both belong to the “cruciferous” family of vegetables, which are rich in nutrients and are a good source of fiber. They’re also known for their bitter flavor and pungent aroma.
- Other plants in the cruciferous family might surprise you, however. Cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts don’t look anything like their cousins, but they’re cruciferous vegetables, too!
- Just like their leafy relatives, the leaves and stem on cauliflower are edible. They’re a little tougher, though, and have a pretty powerful taste.
- Cauliflower also comes in a rainbow of colors. In addition to the white ones you typically see in supermarkets, you might spot yellow, green, and purple cauliflower, as well!
- Let your child drizzle the olive oil on the cauliflower and then sprinkle it with the garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Give her two large spoons and let her gently toss the cauliflower to coat it evenly with the oil and seasonings.Teachable Moment: Hot, Hot, Hot Roasting and Baking Basics
- Cauliflower popcorn is cooked at a super high temperature, even higher than the temperature used for cakes or cookies! This process is called roasting. To get technical, roasting kicks in at 400 degrees or higher. Baking happens at lower temperatures, usually in the 300s.
- Roasting is a lot like baking, because both methods require a high temperature. However, roasted foods need just a little more heat to go from raw to golden brown and crispy.
- One main difference between foods that are baked and foods that are roasted is what they look like when they go into the oven: roasted foods start off solid and get delicious, whereas baked foods are those that need to be cooked in order to be solid.
- And don’t forget this surprising little fact: Roasted foods need a protective coating of a fat like olive oil to prevent them from drying out! For baked foods, drying out is part of the plan.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the cauliflower, tossing occasionally, for 20 minutes or until it is golden brown and crisp. Remove, and let cool slightly. Serve as a snack, or pair with oven-baked chicken or turkey meatloaf for a larger meal. Add yogurt and fruit parfaits or oatmeal-raisin cookies for dessert.