Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe
A friend came over to dinner the other night…
She was bemoaning the fact that we cook and cook for our families, yet our kids don’t seem to eat healthy food. It causes dinner making to be troublesome to say the least. One child eats one thing, the other child won’t eat the same thing, the parents enjoy and crave things with some sophistication. To quote my friend – “I try really hard to make good things, but the kids always only want to eat mushy white stuff.” I think she meant mac and cheese.
There really is no easy solution. But she was marveling at a family culture that was different from her own. She had dinner guests who also have children near her kids’ own ages. They said to her that the kids eat separately from the parents. She makes something for the kids, and then afterward the parents enjoy what they like to eat. These are really nice people with really nice kids – so it seems to work for them.
My family culture is to always share meals. It is very important to us to sit down together and eat together. With very few exceptions we all eat the same thing. With the onset of the teen years there has been some contention. One child is no longer eating fish out of solidarity with the man-made environmental destruction of the oceans. I used to make fish once a week. No more fish! I do get away with clam sauce once in a blue moon. And living in Maine without the ability to serve lobster once in a while is a little bit trying. But I don’t want my daughter to feel powerless at such a young age.
I have one son, bless him, who will eat anything I make. I have another who has a very circumscribed diet. The picky one eats primarily grains. Anything made from any kind of grain – wheat, rice, oats. And dairy – cheese in particular. (sounds like my friends “mushy white stuff” right?)
So, without further adieu here is a great tasty – and I think, healthy recipe that we can all, for the most part, enjoy.
Cauliflower & Quinoa Mac and Cheese
Since we serve local organically raised bacon we always have plenty of fat. I use it sparingly because it is rich. But I believe there is support that pork fat used in cooking is not unhealthy – especially if it is not a lot, and from a good source. Because fat is an important part of this recipe, and flavor, I use three kinds, but- as I said, not a lot. This recipe is for one pound of pasta and one cup of quinoa.
- One head of organic cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
- dash of herbs – savory, thyme, ground red pepper, sea salt, black pepper
- 1 lb of pasta (I use organic small rotini or multi-grain pasta if we’ve been having too much of the white stuff lately)
- 1 cup organic chicken stock
- 1/2 cup organic stone ground wheat flower
- 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used aged cheddar or organic cheddar)
Heat a large pan. I use a big black cast iron pan I bought at Renys. Once it’s warm I turn it off. I sprinkle the herbs onto the warm pan.
Cut the cauliflower into roughly one inch pieces. Something that is small enough to blend in nicely (be hidden by) with the macaroni. Boil water for the quinoa and the pasta. Put a little salt in the water.
Add the oils to the large frying pan, heat it, and lightly fry the cauliflower. You don’t want it mushy, and remember it will cook more when the cheese is added.
Once the cauliflower is lightly fried and coated with oil and herbs, pour the flour into the pan. Stir it around until it cooks to a light brown color. Add the chicken broth and stir until it begins to thicken. Then add the shredded cheese and put the lid on the pan. Turn off the heat. Tend to the past and quinoa.
Drain the past and the quinoi when it is cooked. I am assuming you know how to cook those. Then pour the pasta and the quinoi in an adequate sized serving bowl. Pour the cheese sauce on top and mix thoroughly. Serve it hot!
Varying the Recipe
Some alternative combinations are to add a half cup of plain yogurt to the recipe. You may also cut a slice of organic bacon into tiny bits and fry it in the olive oil before adding the other ingredients. If you don’t have the dietary restriction of my house you can also add fresh Maine lobster meat to this recipe. Be careful not to cook the lobster twice. If you add it to the cheese sauce and pasta – add it at the end. You can also add a teaspoon of fresh lemon and rosemary to this recipe. I especially like the rosemary in the winter.
Another great seasoning for this recipe is curry powder. By adding light seasoning and a little at a time you can begin to give your picky children a more sophisticated pallet.
We serve this recipe with a green salad dressed with olive oil vinaigrette.