03 January 2010

Homemade macaroni and cheese hack: add cauliflower puree!

I just scored the biggest "hidden vegetable" coup yet. I replaced the milk in traditional cheese sauce with a puree of cauliflower and onion, and the results were magnificent. Mild, cheesy, creamy. Kid-approved despite initial skepticism. Amounts are ballpark, and variations abound:

CAULIFLOWER MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 head of cauliflower, separated into florets
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 package shredded cheddar/jack (I used Tillamook)
1 16 oz. package of elbow macaroni
salt and nutmeg to taste
bread crumbs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cook the macaroni in salted water till al dente (err on the undercooked side as the pasta will cook some more in the oven).

Melt the butter over medium low in a deep skillet or shallow pot. Add cauliflower and onion and stew, covered, for 15 minutes (stir occasionally but do not let it brown). Barely cover with water and simmer for about 20 minutes, till vegetables are tender. Puree vegetables in a blender or food processor (you may need to drain off some of the water). Pour puree back into the pot, and add most of the package of cheese, reserving some to sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Season with salt and nutmeg.

(At this point, you could serve the "sauce" as soup. Think about that for another meal.)

Mix sauce with pasta, pour into a baking dish and top with the rest of the shredded cheese. A sprinkle of bread crumbs would be nice as well. Cover with foil and bake till heated through. I didn't time mine, but I think it took at least 30 minutes. Finish in the broiler if you like crunchy goodness on top. YUM.

ALFREDO VARIATION: Instead of the cheddar/jack mixture, use parmesan, and add a bit of fresh garlic to the cauliflower/onion saute. Mix with cooked fettuccine and garnish with chopped parsley.

Next: I intend to throw cauliflower in with the potatoes for mashing. No one will suspect a thing.

Your comments

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I have a recipe for mashed faux-ta-toes using cauliflower from Leanne Ely of SavingDinner.com.

You cook the cauliflower head (w/o leaves and shorten the stem, but keep together) until fork tender. Drain well, add 3 Tbsp cream cheese and salt & pepper to taste, then mash until it is the consistency you want.

Supposedly, they won't even know it's not potatoes! :D

But nice hiding the good stuff in the food they want. I may have to try it some time. :)

My mom used to use a pureed cauliflower mixture instead of mayo in potato salad. It was absolutely delish!

When my kids were little I was the puree queen. I buzzed up all sort of veggies they didn't like if they were a whole chunk and added them to various soups and casseroles; it worked great.

I also made sloppy joes by adding a well chopped up, but not buzzed, can of tomatos and some BBQ sauce to ground beef. They loved it and never thought of it as a dish with veggies.

Oh! I totally just looked up a recipe to make this(today!) for my sons school program this week - but your version looks even better!

or you could just call it 'white broccoli'... it works with my daughter.

On a separate but similar not, pureed carrots or sweet potatoes are nice in the boxed mac 'n cheese, as the color hides them. My kids haven't noticed yet.

I haven't tried orange veggies in the homemade mac 'n cheese, as my kids don't care for it.

I have had some success in roasting veggies like broccoli and cauliflower instead of steaming them. Just toss with olive oil (and maybe some salt), then spread on a cookie sheet and roast in the even for 15-20 min. The kids noticed the difference and liked it.

I do pureed squash in the mac and cheese and even hubby hasn't noticed!

Oh, and we do it with boxed mac & cheese. No time for any of that homemade stuff most of the time!

I had a wonderful crop of zucchini and shredded most of it for Zucchini-Pineapple Bread and Zucchini Chocolate Cake. I put a few cups of the shredded zucchini in a slow cooker full of sloppy joes. No one noticed at all!! I had stretched the hamburger and added a good green vegetable to improve the meal.

Try adding ranch dressing to your mashed potatoes. Cauli makes them taste a bit garlicy sometimes.

My 5yearold prefers her mac&cheese with roasted cauliflower -- roasting thinly sliced at high heat gives it a caramel nutty flavor. She also likes roasted sweet potato with m&c

We like pureed caulifower in scrambled eggs.

This may be a dumb question, but is there much nutritional value to cauliflower? I know it's a veggie, but since it is not rich in color, I sort of assumed there isn't much value and that it's not worth the trouble to puree and add it.

I made home-made mac & cheese yesterday and substituted steamed cauliflower puree for 1/2 of the milk in the cheese sauce. I couldn't even tell it was there. Success - thank you. Thanks for all the other suggestions with different veggies!

Is there any hint on how your mom replaced the mayo in potato salad? A recipe for the cauliflower mixture perhaps? :-)

Just wanted to thank you for your post which I came across on TipHero! Although we like our veggies, I was surprised at how creamy and simply delicious this was! The whole family loved it! It will definitely be a substitute keeper for many things to come!

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