Saturday, November 1, 2014

Weekend Cooking: A Lighter Mac and Cheese



Macaroni and cheese, loaded with carbs, fat, and calories, has long been my ultimate comfort food. Over the years, I've experimented with countless recipes, cheese combinations, pasta varieties, and add-ins. Early in my professional career, I considered myself a connoisseur of hospital cafeteria offerings. St. Raphael's in New Haven, CT  served the best, hands down. More recently, I fell in love with the gourmet mac and cheese sampler at Cafeteria in New York, pictured above. Their smoked gouda and bacon variety is to die for!

Unfortunately, I dare not indulge in this dish more than a few times a year. Lately I've noticed quite a few recipes touted as lighter, healthier versions of the comfort food classic. Several mix cauliflower florets in with the pasta - reminiscent of the cauliflower cheeses mentioned in most Barbara Pym novels. A couple of weeks ago I came across one recipe that uses the cauliflower in a slightly different way. Liz DellaCroce from The Lemon Bowl  says of her recipe offering:
Mac and cheese gets a healthy makeover with pureed cauliflower, tangy yogurt and crispy panko. This is comfort food you can feel good about enjoying regularly!
Her recipe for Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping uses a head of cauliflower, whole wheat pasta, and only two and a half ounces of cheddar cheese. {the recipe is here} After skim milk is thickened with a little flour, plain yogurt and cheddar cheese are stirred in until the cheese is melted, then steamed cauliflower florets are added. The mixture is pureed, seasoned, and added to cooked pasta. The topping consists of panko bread crumbs, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.


The above photo is from The Lemon Bowl.  I forgot to wipe the inside edges of the dish before baking, so my casserole dish was nowhere near as photogenic, but the results were surprisingly good. My husband and I both liked it and Twin B loved it. In fact, she ate it for lunch for an entire week!

Changes or suggestions for next time:
-  since so little cheddar cheese is used, select an extra sharp variety for more flavor
-  cut back on the cayenne pepper (it was too spicy for me!)
-  increase other seasonings to compensate... dijon mustard, nutmeg, maybe add garlic powder

Bottom line: While not as delicious as classic macaroni and cheese, this is certainly an acceptable substitute. I will definitely make it again.

Have you ever tried lighter versions of comfort foods? Were you satisfied with the result?

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.



32 comments:

  1. Here in the south, mac & cheese is considered a vegetable! lol I want to go to Cafeteria the next time I'm in New York now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy - It would be my favorite vegetable, lol! Cafeteria is well worth seeking out next time you're in the city.

      Delete
  2. Oh that Mac & Cheese combo looks amazing! I make a smoked Gouda version that is incredible so I can only imagine how tasty their version is! I do love the idea of lightening up some favorites but I'm not sure if a cauliflower puree would pass muster with my picky family but I'd love to try it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katherine - The smoked gouda and bacon mac and cheese was the best I have ever had! I'm kind of shocked my daughter loved the cauliflower version as much as she did.

      Delete
  3. Oh, that looks good! And I, ahem, definitely like cauliflower more when it is hidden. :) I just brought the new Ina cookbook home from the library and there's a recipe in it for cauliflower snowflakes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Audrey - Our library doesn't have the new Ina cookbook yet, but I'm going to be near the top of the list when they do get it. I should probably just go out and buy a copy...

      Delete
  4. I love mac & cheese as well and have had that sampler at Cafeteria - so good! I just eat it very rarely and always at a restaurant...if I started making it at home, it would be all over :) But, the Cauliflower version sounds delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah - That sample at Cafeteria is like nothing I've ever had before. There were four of us that evening, so we were each able to sample them all - very memorable!

      Delete
  5. It sounds great! I think everyone in the family will respond better to cauliflower if it is mixed with cheese. :) We need to make gluten free versions of most recipes--but this sounds like it could work out just the same with GF panko & pasta.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leila - I think a GF version would involve a few easy substitutions. This was a surprisingly tasty dish... not like the real thing, of course, but something I could easily get used to.

      Delete
  6. we would call this cauliflower cheese. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carole - Just like Barbara Pym ;-)

      Delete
  7. This looks pretty good and with your changes sounds like it would hit the spot!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Staci - It will never replace the real thing, but I think I could get used to this.

      Delete
  8. I've tried mac and cheese so many times without acceptable results that I'm afraid to try a lighter version! Though I do love cauliflower and surprisingly enough so does the majority of my household. I'm going to keep this one on the back burner and maybe use it as a side when we have a leaner meat for dinner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trish - I'm surprised you have cauliflower lovers in the family! My kids wouldn't touch it until well into their teens... my husband still doesn't like it much.

      Delete
    2. Scott will only eat it roasted (also my favorite way). The girls like it steamed with a bit of cheese. Now if I could only get them to eat Brussels spouts!!

      Delete
    3. Trish - Maybe cheese will work with Brussels sprouts, too? I've been roasting them lately, but my poor husband doesn't like them either :(

      Delete
  9. I love mac and cheese! I'd heard about using cauliflower but never tried it. This recipe sounds doable. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jama - This lighter alternative won't really fool anyone, but I would certainly make it again.

      Delete
  10. Every week my 3yo asks for mac and cheese! And while I don't make it too often, I was thinking of making it next week. I might try adding yoghurt next time to mine. AND…. I even have some cauliflower in the fridge. Does the cauliflower do much to it? Is it there to bulk up the cheese sauce?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Olduvaireads - The cauliflower does bulk up the cheese sauce. There's so little cheese that the "cheese" part is really just pureed cauliflower flavored with a little cheddar.

      Delete
  11. Thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated. This looks delicious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Esme - You're very welcome. Hope the week ahead is easier for you.

      Delete
  12. This sounds delicious. We love cauliflower and we like the spicy (so we'd leave in the cayenne) -- I'll add it my list of possibilities. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BethF - I still can't get over how good it was!

      Delete
  13. Mac and cheese is such an American staple, I've tried the Kraft box stuff which is awful but I've been meaning to try a more traditional recipe.

    Happy cooking!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shelleyrae - When my girls were little, they actually preferred that box stuff to homemade!

      Delete
  14. You Mac and Cheese post made me smile. It is the #1 favorite food of me and my grown children. In fact when everyone was over for dinner Sat evening, I made my Mac & Cheese (with Panko topping) to go with the roasted chicken dish...LOL The kids asked if they could take the leftover mac and cheese home!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diane - Mac and cheese is simply the best!!

      Delete
  15. This sounds darn tasty :) I'm especially interested because it's a bit healthier than the standard version. I'm going to be using some cauliflower this coming week as well, in a cheesy soup.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer - I was pretty shocked that it tasted so good! No replacement for mac and cheese, obviously, but an acceptable alternative.

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. These conversations are my favorite part of blogging. Please check back, I almost always respond to comments!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails