A Bowl of (White) Lies: Healthy Mac and Cheese

I can’t be sure, but I think today’s thunderstorm was an omen. Summer is here, folks. Prepare for afternoon rain from here on out.

Regardless of temperature, if it’s raining outside I want comfort food. And to play video games. In the spirit of my earlier post on trying to encourage my boyfriend to eat healthier, I mad a healthier version of macaroni and cheese. Now, you’re going to read this post and think that I didn’t do much; I just doctored up a box of mac ‘n cheese. Exactly.

Let me explain. For someone like my boyfriend, who really doesn’t enjoy cooking, healthy food options have to be easy to make, the final product has to taste good, and the recipe can’t be intimidating.

When it comes to vegetables, broccoli and green beans are the name of the game for my boyfriend. You can basically forget anything else. When it comes to protein, he’ll eat chicken, turkey and beef burgers. So, I decided to get crafty.

For the healthier version, I decided to be a bit sneaky. I steamed a fiesta flower (which incidentally is just an orange cauliflower– the same orange as boxed macaroni and cheese) and then puréed it with salt, pepper and a very tiny bit of heavy cream until it was very, very smooth. I mixed a bit of the fiestaflower purée with low-fat milk, sautéed garlic, sautéed shallots and the cheese packet from the boxed macaroni and cheese to create a cheese sauce for the macaroni. I know, It was basically a bowl of lies. I felt kind of guilty and kind of brilliant all at once.

Ingredients

  • one box of macaroni and cheese (I prefer the gluten-free rice pasta and cheddar from Trader Joe’s)
  • two garlic cloves
  • two shallots
  • about 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 head of cauliflower or a fiesta flower
  • about 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • about 1/3 cup shredded cheese
Directions
  1. Steam or boil your fiesta flower in salted water
  2. Put a pot of water on to boil for the macaroni and cheese’s pasta
  3. Mince the garlic and shallots
  4. Purée the cauliflower in a food processor or a blender with a bit of water and heavy cream until fairly smooth
  5. In a medium saucepan sauté the garlic and shallots on medium-low heat until golden
  6. Add the cauliflower purée to the garlic and shallots. Stir to combine.
  7. Purée the cauliflower-garlic-shallot mixture with a bit more water and heavy cream if necessary to make into a very, very smooth purée.
  8. Prepare the “cheese sauce” from the macaroni and cheese box; mix the cheese packet (if not a liquid– a powdered mix) with about 1/3-1/2 cup of the purée.
  9. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked and drained (but not rinsed) pasta. Stir in as much of the remaining cauliflower purée as you feel can be masked by the cheese sauce. Add the shredded cheese, stir to incorporate and melt.
  10. Serve!
Note: The boxed mac and cheese that I use from Trader Joe’s uses a powdered cheese packet (all natural!) that requires 1/4 cup of low fat milk to make a cheese sauce. I add the 1/4 cup of milk to the purée and then add the cheese packet. The resulting base is very creamy and smooth. You may have to tinker with your particular boxed mac and cheese’s recipe to find the right balance to create a smooth cheese sauce that has a puréed vegetable sauce base.
The Reaction:

I considered this a masterpiece. To me, this healthier version tasted just as decadent as the real deal, but it was supplemented by at least a cup of vegetables cleverly hidden beneath a cheesy veneer.

“Is there broccoli in this?” my boyfriend asked. I told the truth. “No.” (It had cauliflower.)

My heart sank. I thought I had been so brilliantly sneaky. With the added depth of flavor from the shallot and garlic I thought this tasted even better than the normal preparation. He ate the whole thing (which amounted to a whole bunch of cauliflower!) but I still felt like I had failed. He still preferred his mac and cheese without the addition of vegetables.

“Would you eat this again?” I asked. He said he would. Success!

I know I’m not the only person who has a significant other, friend or family member who isn’t the healthiest eater. I welcome any suggestions, recipes or insights you might have.

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