Hungry Girl: My 5 Genius Cauliflower Hacks

11/30/2015 at 01:52 PM ET

Hungry GirlCourtesy Lisa Lillien

Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of nine books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

Cauliflower is basically a magical shape-shifter that is perfect for lightening up starchy favorites. Here are five amazing tricks for making over the heavy comfort foods we all crave.

1. Make cauliflower-crust pizza

I was skeptical at first, but pizza crust made from cauliflower is beyond-words amazing! To make the dough, place chopped cauliflower in a food processor, and pulverize it into breadcrumbs. Microwave to soften, and drain excess liquid. Then mix with egg whites, a little bit of cheese, and some seasonings. Form into a circle and bake until crispy. The full recipe is right here – you’re gonna want to try this ASAP.

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2. Create cauliflower rice

It’s slightly shocking how much cauliflower rice tastes like the actual grains, and it cooks much more quickly. Just toss chopped cauliflower in a blender, and reduce to rice-sized pieces. Once you’ve done that, the sky’s the limit! Carb-slashed fried rice? Sure. No-rice paella? Uh-huh. A classic rice casserole or burrito bowl? YUP! Try these recipes out, and then use the technique to make over your go-to rice dish.

3. Bulk up mac & cheese

I’ve been using this trick for years. Because sure, macaroni and cheese is amazing, but it’s not exactly low in calories. And isn’t an official “serving” disappointingly meager? Don’t pout – just add cauliflower. Start with super-simple version, and then give this amazing slow-cooker dish a spin. Want to change things up a little? Your whole family will gobble up this beefy mac recipe.

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4. Mash it up, ‘tater style

I love potatoes, and they absolutely fit into a healthy diet. But they are a bit calorie-dense, and I like my portions large. That’s why I add cauliflower to my mashies. Mashed potatoes are a staple (especially this time of year), and these recipes give you that classic fix with a larger serving size. You can even skip the spuds altogether and just mash the cauliflower. (Then add cheese. Because CHEESE.)

5. Make an egg-topped breakfast hash

The great thing about cauliflower is that it’s so mild in flavor (and color), it blends pretty seamlessly into most savory dishes. I just drummed up this great new breakfast hash that uses cauliflower bits with corn grits for a hearty yet light morning meal. This recipe serves two, so prepare to have a very happy significant other.

‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!

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