Friday, April 18, 2014

Kale... Fail. Cauliflower? Better.

I'm a snacker.  I love little things to munch while I drive or watch TV.  In trying to keep unhealthy and/or extra carbs and fat in check, the options are limited, and I keep my eyes open for new ideas.

More veggies in my diet would always be a good idea, so vegetables that could also be snacks would be a double bonus.  A couple of years ago, I tried making kale chips.  You can read about that here... I just wasn't thrilled with the result.  But I was recently intrigued when I heard the term "Cauliflower Popcorn."  I am a cauliflower fan, and loooovvvve  popcorn, so it was worth a try.

A quick search in the internet turned up a 5-star rated recipe on  The method is about the same as what I do to make roasted cauliflower, except for one thing.

For roasted cauliflower, I wash and pat dry a head of cauliflower, or pre-prepped cauliflower pieces and break them into approximately 1 1/2 inch pieces.  I place them in a large bowl, drizzle on a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.  I also add parmesan cheese, but often hold it to sprinkle on in the last several minutes of baking. 

I spread the oiled and spiced cauliflower on a oil-sprayed baking sheet, one layer deep and spread out so that they aren't touching each other any more than necessary. 

After roasting for 20 minutes
I put the pan in a preheated 425 degree oven, and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and starts to brown.  

This is where the Cauliflower Popcorn recipe is different.  The 'popcorn' is supposed to bake for a full hour.  This is a long time for the impatient to wait for a snack! According the recipes and comments I read, the extra browning, or caramelization, though, should make the cauliflower sweeter, and some of the smaller pieces will get nice and crispy.

At 30 minutes

Unlike the kale, which I didn't like at all, I wouldn't consider this to be a fail.  I really like roasted cauliflower and this is so  similar.  So similar, in fact, I'm not sure it was worth the extra time for the trade offs.  Yes, the ultra-browned pieces were crispy.  

"Cauliflower Popcorn"... After one hour of roasting.
Actually, it was after 55 minutes, because this was brown enough!
But to us they didn't seem that sweet, just a little burnt.  --Not so much that we couldn't eat them, but not anything we'd consider much of a plus.  The pieces that weren't browned to crispiness were super soft.  When I roast cauliflower, my aim is to get some definite browning, but also to get it out of the oven while the cauliflower still has some crispness of its own left, and hasn't turned to mush.  In an hour, there isn't much hope of that.

My other concern is, when it's cooked this much, has all the good veggie nutrition been cooked out of it, too?  Raw or barely cooked cauliflower, according to the nutrition facts listed on sites, such as World's Healthiest Foods, is an awesome source of Vitamin C, and also a very good source of other vitamins, including K, B-6, and folate, and fulfills other nutritional needs, like manganese, fiber, and Omega-3s.  It might help prevent certain cancers and has anti-inflammatory effects.  It is low on the Glycemic Index, which means it won't cause problems by raising blood sugar levels too much or too rapidly.

According to this article, steaming loses approximately 15% of most of the vitamins in cauliflower, while boiling causes much more of a loss when the vitamins leech into the cooking water.  Nutrition charts on this site, show more than a 50% loss of potassium when boiling, but doesn't have other cooked cauliflower information.  I'd guess the loss in roasting might be equivalent to that of steaming, but I couldn't find more exact information to share.  I still believe that the quicker the cooking, and the more intact the vegetable, the better the retained vitamins.  I would also think over-cooking would make the sugars more readily available to the bloodstream, which is another negative.

I think I'll stick to the shorter roasting time from now on.  I'll have my snack and eat it, too... more quickly!

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