Using “What Not to Wear” Strategy to Create Healthy Meals for Kids: The Cauliflower Edition

I am a mother to a kid who once drew a picture of broccoli that looked like a vicious, smiling, green monster. Yes, Zoe drew and taped that picture onto her door in “protest” of the broccoli lasagna which I served that day. You guessed right –I didn’t actually receive a five-star review for that meal.

That evening, I consulted (yet again) a book on parenting, that assured me how children normally “outgrow” their limited food preferences.

That means I have plenty of time to work on my creative side.

The ambitious goal for this week was to try and introduce the (so far) unintroducable cauliflower. Cauliflower is rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals with excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties –all the great things that kids don’t care for, but I should. What I noticed is that Zoe has a problem with the particular shape of cauliflower.

To revamp the cauliflower, I decided to borrow the golden rule of good wear: show off the assets, conceal the “flaws” (thanks Stacy and Clinton!).

For this recipe I concealed the shape of cauliflower by processing it, while showing off the meatballs, the tomato sauce and cheese. I also added a few nutrient-rich ingredients into the meatballs (but I wouldn’t call it accessorizing!).

The result: Supercharged high-fiber meatballs with mashed cauliflower.

This meal was not only healthy, but received the most favorable “taste” review from Zoe, an unforgiving food critic! That’s why I am sharing it today (unlike the recipe for broccoli lasagna that will have a very limited distribution).

Meatballs with mashed cauliflower


Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 medium size cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp milk


  • 10 oz. lean ground chicken or turkey (Why?)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp wheat bran
  • ½ cup rolled oats

Tomato Sauce

  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups freshly pureed tomato (or Passata)
  • 1 cup cauliflower stock (just because I like to reuse)

Salt & pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve


Break the cauliflower into florets and cook in lightly salted boiling water until just tender about 5-7 minutes (to preserve the nutrients). Drain well and reserve one cup of the stock. Transfer the cauliflower into a blender or food processor, add milk. Process at high speed until smooth.

Prepare the meatballs by mixing thoroughly all the ingredients. With hands slightly wet form 15 meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until it is translucent (about 5-8 minutes).  Add tomatoes and cauliflower stock. Stir well and wait until it starts bubbling. Add meatballs one by one. Reduce the temperature and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 12-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are cooked through.

healthy meals for kids - tomato sauce with meatballs

Adjust seasonings as needed.

To serve, spoon some mashed cauliflower onto a plate, add meatballs and tomato sauce. Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top for that extra points. Serve immediately.

healthy meals for kids meatballs with mashed cauliflower

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