I’m back this week with my second cauliflower recipe in a row. This veggie just keeps amazing me! Like a baby that learns for the first time where his toes are and it’s the most exciting thing to a new momma, I just can’t stop showing off how incredibly talented and smart cauliflower is.
The winter in NY is really kicking it into full gear. It started a bit late, but we are definitely feeling the cold now. The last week has been all about chili, soup and mac and cheese. Anything to keep warm.
I’m a firm believer in eating for the seasons, and that goes beyond just eating root veggies in the winter and tomatoes in the summer. Where I live and what the season is determines, more often then not, what I eat and how I cook. I prefer to eat cool, crisp, simple meals like salads, gazpacho and raw foods in the summer and warm, slow cooked meals with lots of spices and warming ingredients in the winter.
There’s nothing better than an avocado shrimp ceviche in a tropical climate like Costa Rica. As much as I love it, ceviche would feel totally out of place and not really as satisfying in February during a snow storm.
I am definitely not saying that you should retire the salads until the temperature climbs above 60 degrees, but swapping some of your fresh produce for cooked may help you feel more nourished and satisfied during the colder months. Warming foods don’t have to be heavy foods either. Roasted vegetables, spaghetti squash instead of pasta, lean meats, broiled fish and broth-based soups are all delicious, warm and hearty options.
Spices such as cayenne, paprika, turmeric and cinnamon are also an easy way to lend warmth to your meals.
Drinking hot water with lemon and ginger is a fantastic start to your morning-it’s both comforting and detoxifying.
And when the cinnamon in your coffee or the turmeric in your scramble is just no match for the sub-zero temperatures and your crappy apartment thermostat, make this mac and cheese. Soul-warming comfort food all the way.
I realize that I ask you to trust me a lot on this blog. Do you?
I hope you do, because this mac and cheese is baby-learning-to-crawl incredible.
If you haven’t figured it out already from the ginormous clue in the picture above, there is cauliflower IN the sauce… (Here’s where we find out if you really do trust me.) Not only is it in the sauce, the cauliflower IS the sauce.
Are you still here?
Can I tell you that I barely ever make mac and cheese. I’ll eat a few bites here and there at a restaurant, but all of the butter, flour, milk and cheese keeps me from ever making it myself at home.
That changes today!
I had the idea to use cauliflower to replace the bechamel and it worked even better then I thought it would! The result is a lightened up, but still creamy, cheesy, gooey indulgent mac and cheese that wont leave you feeling like you ate a brick.
This mac and cheese is also super customizable. I used gluten-free pasta, not because I follow a gf diet, but because I wanted to experiment for you guys in case any of you do. Surprise number two: gf pasta tastes like regular pasta! I was not expecting that. I’m really glad I tried it and found out. I’ll definitely be cooking with more gf pasta from now on.
I’m also planning more flavor combinations for this mac and cheese. I see a mushroom thyme and smoked gruyere in my very near future.
You can use any cheese you like and the recipe will be vegan if you use a nondairy cheese. I added a bit of bacon crumbled on top. Since I took away a lot of the fat, starch and calories by using cauliflower I figured there was a little wiggle room for bacon. Isn’t there always a little wiggle room for bacon?
Yes. Yes, I think so.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
1 head of cauliflower (4 loose cups, chopped)
12 oz elbow pasta
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 small onion or 1/4 large onion roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I used Cabot Super Sharp)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt and pepper
For a crunchy crust: 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
To make it extra delicious: 2 slices of bacon
To make it extra cheesy: 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (sprinkle before topping with panko)
For extra flavor: 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
For a kick of heat: as much red chili flakes as you want
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tbsp of salt. Add cauliflower and cook for 8-10 minutes, just until fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower to a blender. Bring water back up to a boil and add pasta. Cook 1-2 minutes less than package instructs. (It will continue to cook in the oven later)
If adding bacon, cook in a 10 inch oven safe skillet until crispy. Drain off fat (but don’t wipe out pan) and blot bacon with a paper towel. Crumble and set aside. Add onions and garlic to pan with s+p and saute 5 minutes.
To blender, add onions, garlic, mustard, paprika, cheddar cheese and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth, season to taste with s+p.
Drain pasta and rinse with cool water. Add pasta to the skillet and mix in sauce until thoroughly combined. Top with desired toppings and bake for 20 minutes. Serve.
I heart you, cauliflower.
What is your favorite wintertime comfort food?
Are there any foods you sneak veggies into?
With so much love,