Conscious Cook: Scoring big with a healthy snack

“Football is like life — it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” — Vince Lombardi

When I heard someone say recently that Super Bowl Sunday is the next major holiday, I realized that I should prepare my pantry for an upcoming onslaught of snacking. Football games can provide an acceptable excuse to amp up fat, salt and sugar consumption, but with a little planning, a conscious cook can tweak familiar favorites, and avoid excess overload.

Spicy, salty and sweet flavors dominate the field of game day treats. Rich, meaty chili, crunchy corn chips dripping with melted cheese, chicken wings glistening in a bath of neon orange hot sauce, creamy dips with plenty of potato chips, giant cookies studded with chunks of chocolate are all standard fare on game day. Suitable substitutions for these decadent delights start with plant-based ingredients, such as cauliflower.

Cauliflower is a mighty team player. Not only do the snowy white florets deliver plenty of fiber, and impressive amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K and beta-carotene, cauliflower is an anti-inflammatory, providing intense immune system protection. A good source of choline, eating more cauliflower could potentially boost brain power, improving memory and learning capability. Easily digestible, cauliflower is a real winner when it comes to versatility. This nutrient rich vegetable can be prepared in a multitude of formations.

Feature crisp cauliflower on a colorful raw vegetable platter. Include vivid orange carrots, pale green celery, and vivacious scarlet and yellow peppers and serve with a Greek yogurt and fresh herb dip. Rice cauliflower by pulsing the florets in a blender to create tortillas, breadsticks and gluten-free pizza crust. Puree cauliflower and roasted garlic along with vegetable broth and herbs for a silky, smooth soup that will warm all the fans in the stands.

If no football gathering at your home is complete without your favorite chicken wing recipe, offer buffalo cauliflower alongside. You may be surprised at the popularity of this new player. With more fiber and fewer calories, this incredibly tasty and effortless appetizer will score a huge touchdown on game day!

Buffalo Cauliflower

10 cups well washed and dried cauliflower florets

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce ( such as Frank’s RedHot)

2 tablespoons melted butter, melted

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Toss cauliflower, oil, salt, garlic powder and parmesan cheese in a large bowl, until cauliflower is well coated. Spread cauliflower on the baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower, tossing often until nicely browned and starting to soften.

While cauliflower is roasting, combine hot sauce, melted butter and lemon juice. Add the roasted cauliflower, toss to coat and return the cauliflower to the baking sheet and roast for an additional 5-20 minutes until good and hot.

If you want to try making your own homemade hot sauce, use the Internet for copycat recipes for Frank’s RedHot!

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, is “The Conscious Cook.” She specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes and preparing a delicious life.