Cauliflower

As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, the humble cauliflower packs as much of a nutritional punch as its cousins kale, broccoli and cabbage. Cauliflower blossoms with phytonutrients and antioxidants, giving your natural detox system a flavorful kick start. Its unique texture and ability to absorb flavor makes it one of the most flexible vegetables, serving as a nutritious main course or a handy substitute in gluten-free and low-carb dishes, and even desserts!

In addition to Vitamin C, folate and manganese, this cabbage flower offers antioxidant phytonutrients that lower the risk of oxidative stress in cells, a risk factor for cancer. World’s Healthiest Foods also points to studies of the activation of detoxification enzymes, anti-inflammatory effects, digestive and cardiovascular support. Here are a few ways to get more of this underrated veggie into your diet beyond the classic sauté.

Breakfast

Cauliflower works wonders as a gluten-free substitute for flour in pancakes. The fluffy puree can be combined with non-traditional pancake ingredients to make a savory breakfast cake. You don’t have to skip the flour and maple syrup to enjoy a cruciferous breakfast; this simple recipe from Super Healthy Kids is a cauliflower-infused take on the original.

Lunch

This cauliflower and apple soup recipe uses the stalks and leaves in a sweet and slightly curry comfort food. Another simple Food Network recipe goes for the sweet and savory combo with dates, garlic and pine nuts on oven-roasted cauliflower.

Snacks and Side Dishes

Kids will love this crunchy, salty cauliflower popcorn sprinkled with some parmesan cheese. If you’re looking to swap out starch, mashed cauliflower is a tasty stand-in for the classic potato. Double up on nutritional value with the Mother Nature Network’s recipe for sweet potato and cauliflower latkes.

Dinner

Cauliflower is so versatile it can even be a substitute for the most common dietary staple, rice. Low carbohydrate and primal diet followers will love this ten-vegetable Cauliflower Rice Paella from Peas and Thank You. For another flavorful and filling main course, try Good Housekeeping’s Indian cauliflower curry stew. And of course, there’s OrganicAuthority’s own easy rustic roasted cauliflower recipe.

And Yes, Dessert

Cauliflower is the secret ingredient in these vegan thumbprint cookies from No Meat Athlete and this more elaborate gluten-free recipe for raisin cookies. Also, try this Indian-style honey cauliflower or cardamom-infudes kheer. Finallly, this Eat a Beet recipe takes the cake for most surprising use of the cabbage flower: Triple Layer Cauliflower-Raspberry Mini-cheesecakes. With homemade ricotta and an almond crust, this dessert can win over picky eaters and supertasters alike.

Follow Erin on Twitter: @ErinPie

Image: Nick Saltmarsh