If you’re anything like me, you’ve had to use your share of pleading or deal-making to get your kids to eat their veggies. Sure, some kids are natural-born lovers of vegetables, but they seem to be in the minority. Most of the time, we parents try to entice that appetite for vegetables to appear with promises of dessert afterwards; or by explaining that the veggies will be “sad” if they’re left out and not eaten; or that only the amount of bites equal to the age of the child need to be taken of the vegetable on their plate. (Perhaps now that my son is 16, it may be time for me to put some of this methodology away—what do you think?) Most likely, you’ve either tried it all, or are in the process of trying it all. And it’s true; veggies do indeed need a little help sometimes when it comes to bringing out their deliciousness, and to make ’em extra enticing. And what better a way and what better a time than in tiny, crispy-fried “pop-able” form as an after-school snack when appetites are ready and willing?
Kids of all ages enjoy crispy-fried finger-foods, especially ones that are slightly cheesy tasting and can be dipped in a deliciously creamy sauce-on-the-side, don’t you find? There’s an automatic comfort found in crispy foods, particularly in ones that are bite-sized and easy to pop into the mouth. Making healthy food “fun” is a really terrific way of getting kids to actually enjoy something that they may ordinarily shy away from, and introducing them to the tastier side of it; and cauliflower is a wonderful vegetable to serve up in a light, crispy-fried form, with a creamy ranch sauce as an accompaniment—it’s a nutritious, delicious and perfectly fun after-school snack option to dip and pop. Cute and yummy!
These tasty little Crispy Parmesan-Cauliflower “Poppers” just may make veggie-fans of your kids, yet. They’re a great way to incorporate more veggies into their diets, but in a more comforting yet still-healthful way, perfect as an afternoon snack or even as a scrumptious dinner side for the whole family to enjoy. And though you may still have to use a bit of gentle pleading to get them to eat their veggies from time to time, these crispy little treats should definitely make that job a little easier, while making their mouths and tummies a lot happier, indeed.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Crispy Parmesan-Cauliflower “Poppers” with Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce
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(Serves about 4)
12 oz bag cauliflower florets, cut into small, bite-size “popper” pieces
½ cup flour
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
• Pinch paprika
• Pinch black pepper
• Canola oil, for frying
• Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
• Green onion, chopped, for optional garnish
-Blanch the cauliflower pieces by adding them to a pot of well-salted, boiling water for about 30-45 seconds just until crisp-tender; drain, then shock for about 30 seconds in ice-water to cool; drain from ice water and pat dry with paper towel; set aside for a moment.
-Set up your breading station by adding the flour into a large ziplock bag, along with a pinch of salt; next, beat the eggs in a large bowl; finally, add the panko, the parmesan, the paprika, pepper and a pinch of salt into another large ziplock bag.
-To bread, add the blanched cauliflower pieces to the bag with the flour, and very gently shake to coat the pieces well; next, add the floured pieces to the bowl with the beaten eggs, and toss the pieces to coat with the egg; next, add the pieces to the bag with the panko/parmesan mixture, and again, gently shake to coat the pieces well; take the coated pieces out and place onto a plate to hold.
-To fry, heat enough oil to shallow fry (about ½ cup) in a large skillet or pan; once the oil is hot, add about a third or half (depending on size of pan) of the breaded cauliflower pieces in, and allow them to fry for about 5-7 minutes, moving them around occasionally, until crispy and golden-brown on all sides; remove and drain on paper towel, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper if desired, and repeat until all pieces are fried.
-To serve, allow the “Poppers” to cool slightly, as they will be quite hot when fresh out of the oil; serve alongside the Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dipping sauce, and garnish with some chopped green onion, if desired.
Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce ingredients:
½ cup sour cream (light or regular)
1 medium garlic clove
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon plus a pinch salt
¼ teaspoon plus a pinch black pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar
• Pinch Italian seasoning
-To a small bowl, add all of the ingredients and whisk/blend until well combined; cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.