Easy Veggie Sides that Kids will like..

Cheesy Cauliflower Brains & Cumin / Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Rounds

For me, sometimes the dilemma with dinner is not what to fix for a main dish, but what do have as a side dish, that’s healthy, tasty, and not boring — and that my 5 year old won’t automatically reject out of hand. Last night, I had a head of cauliflower in the fridge, and some sweet potatoes in the potato bin… but how to cook them? I needed something quick, that didn’t dirty too many pans, and that might just get the Boy to eat his vegetables.

I vaguely remembered my mom cooking a cauliflower dish like this when I was a kid, which I loved.  Cauliflower with cheese?  What could be better!  And the fact that it looks like a giant brain? What kid wouldn’t go for that!? And the sweet potato rounds are a favorite around here–Cumin, chili powder and cinnamon spiced–with a dab of brown sugar to tickle the sweet tooth.   By combining the cooking of these two veggies, it saved time, pots, and energy…

Read on to find out how to quickly make these two veggie side dishes: Cheesy Cauliflower Brains & Cumin / Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Rounds. There’s more photos at the bottom of this recipe.

You’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1-2 sweet potatoes (depending on size of potatoes and how many you are feeding.  The photos below were side dishes for dinner for 3.
  • Glass pie dish or 9×9 baking dish – spray with non-stick spray (or rub with a little olive oil)
  • 13 x9 or 11×7 baking dish (something large enough to hold your sweet potato rounds in a single layer) – spray with non-stick spray (or rub with a little olive oil)
  • mayonnaise, mustard, cheddar cheese (shredded – maybe 1 cup?)
  • Spices (I used cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, salt, pepper), brown sugar, olive oil
  • pastry brush

Here are the simple steps to getting these veggies on the table:

Step 1: Prep Them

  • Cauliflower – remove stem & leaves (leave the entire head intact) and wash. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Peel your sweet potatoes (1-2 depending on size and that size of the crowd you’re feeding). Slice into 1/2 in rounds.
  • Preheat oven to 425.

Step 2: Steam Them. (Note, this step could be done ahead of time)

  1. In a steamer basket in large plot, place cauliflower head on one side.  Place the sweet potato rounds on the other side.
  2. Steam (using plain water or even broth for extra flavor) for about 5 minutes. Check your potatoes for doneness. If they can be pierced easily with a fork, remove them (if not, check in 2 minutes). You want them tender, but not falling apart. Remove sweet potato rounds.  Line them up in a single layer in your baking dish.
  3. Steam for an additional 10 minutes or so, or until your cauliflower is fork tender (but not falling apart) as well. You want the cauliflower to stay together, so watch carefully. (Mine ended up a little over done, as it came apart on removal from pan)
  4. Remove cauliflower and set aside. If the head managed to stay in one large piece, you can leave it that way, it makes for an impressive “Brain” presentation. If not, just arrange it in large chunks on a glass pie pan or other baking dish.

Step 3:  Top Them


  • Mix 1 Tbsp mayo with 1 Tbsp mustard (I like Dijon for this).  Brush the entire head with the mixture, using a pastry brush.
  • Liberally sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top of your mayo.  Pat with fingers if necessary to help it adhere.

Sweet Potatoes:

  • Sprinkle your rounds  with each of the following:  Cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon (in this case, I probably used less that a 1/4 teaspoon of each).
  • Mix 1 1/2 teas brown sugar with and equal amount of olive oil.  Stir to combine, then brush on to the top of each round using a pastry brush.

Step 4: Bake/Broil

Place both of your baking dishes in the preheated oven for at least 5 minutes to warm through (longer if you had steamed previously and allowed to cool.)

Then, transfer the dishes to a top rack, and broil for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is lightly toasted.

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