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Appetite for Knowledge

Sneaky Veggies

USDA says that the average adult is supposed to have between 2.5 and 3 cups of vegetables a day and kids, depending on their age, should have between 1 and 2.5 cups a day. Those are a lot of vegetables, especially when so many people, particularly kids, think veggies are “yucky” unless dipped in ranch or covered with cheese. These days though, more and more people are getting sneaky about how they eat their veggies.


head of cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of the easiest veggies to sneak into your diet. People are turning cauliflower into everything from pizza crust to Alfredo sauce. Its unique texture and ability to absorb flavor make 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! It is a significant source of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins B6, C, and K. At only 25 calories per cup, you can eat as much as you want. Smash cauliflower as a stand-in for mashed potatoes; roast it with salt and Parmesan cheese as a substitute for popcorn. You can roast it, sauté it, steam it, rice it, and purée it. Cauliflower is truly the king of the sneaky vegetables.


two green zucchinis

Zucchini is another great sneaky vegetable. Zucchini bread or muffins are an excellent way to add vegetables into a sweet and yummy package. Shredded zucchini can be added to any cake to make it moister. You will want to cut back a little on the wet ingredients because zucchini has a high moisture content. Chocolate is especially good because it covers the zucchini flavor, and if you peel it before shredding, there is not incriminating evidence.

People have been using zucchini as a substitute for noodles for so long they even have a name: zoodles. They can be used to sub for noodles. You can purchase a spiralizer and go crazy making ribbons. A spiralizer spins the vegetable and pushes it through a set of blades that cut it into ribbons. It’s the same technology that has been used for years to make curly fries, but now it is being used to turn squash and other vegetables into a substitute for long, thin noodles. You don’t need to have spiralizer to make zoodles. The julienne blade of a potato peeler or a mandolin will also work. Any type of sauce you would eat on noodles goes well on zoodles. One key is not to cook them very long; in fact, some people just use the heat of their sauce to just soften them. You can sauté, boil, bake, or microwave zoodles but for a very short amount of time. For example, don’t leave them in the water for more than a minute. The only down side to zoodles is their water content. Make sure to drain them well in a colander, and some people even pat them dry with a paper towel. Also, make sure that the sauce is not a watery sauce because the heat of the sauce will draw even more moisture out of the zoodles.

Sneak Them Into the Sauce

Speaking of sauce, tomato-based sauces are the perfect home for sneaky vegetables. Moms across the country are pureeing spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers and adding them to sauces without their family ever knowing. If you steam and puree vegetables ahead of time, you can keep them in the freezer for up to six months. Store the puree in 1-2 cup portions and add them into recipes as you are cooking and no one will be the wiser! These pureed vegetables also go well in smoothies, dips, cheese sauces, soups, chili, pasta dishes, meatloaf, casseroles, and baked goods.

Adding Nutrients and Flavor

No matter whether you are sneaking veggies into your family’s favorite meals or just trying to meet your daily recommended servings, vegetables can be added to most anything and will give your recipe a punch of nutrients and often flavor.



Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese Casserole

Course: Main Course
Keyword: breakfast casserole, cauliflower, mac and cheese
Servings: 6 servings


  • Kosher salt as needed, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 large head cauliflower cut into small florets
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar plus 1/2 cup for topping the casserole
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
  • Spray an 8×8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray.
  • Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry. Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.
  • Bring the cream or milk to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in the cream cheese and mustard until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, bake until browned, and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes.
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Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

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Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming | College of Agriculture and Natural Resources | Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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