I L.O.V.E. Mac N' Cheese!!! And who doesn't? It's so creamy and delicious, but not very nutritious. Modification is the key to staying healthy, and still enjoying good food.
I've adapted this recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Mac N' Cheese from this 2011 issue of Runner's World. My version adds veggies and protein. This dish is full of good carbs too - everything a runner needs to fuel up! I probably make this once a month and every time it feels like a serious indulgence, but it's healthy and nutritious (if you can control your portion sizes). The cauliflower subs in for traditional flour, cream and butter, creating a rich, thick consistency. Ricky loves this meal (and he is not a huge fan of healthy), so I hope you all love it too!
Cauliflower Mac N' Cheese
- 1 can (2 cups) of chicken or vegetable broth
- 8 ounces of brown rice or wheat noodles (penne, rotini, macaroni or fusilli)
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 8-12 ounces of shredded cheese of choice (I love pepper jack, but have used sharp cheddar, and monterey jack also)
- dash of nutmeg
- salt & pepper
- red pepper flakes
- 2 cups of fresh spinach or chopped, destemmed kale
- 1 cup of shredded, cooked chicken
- 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Core cauliflower and chop into chunks. Steam until soft.
3. Cook pasta according to directions.
4. While pasta is cooking, heat broth over medium until warmed through.
5. Combine cauliflower, cheese and broth in blender or food processor, working in batches. Sprinkle in nutmeg, salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste (I love spicy so I use lots of pepper flakes).
6. Place spinach or kale in bottom of collander. Drain pasta over it so the leaves wilt. Add cooked chicken and stir together.
7. Place pasta mixture in a baking dish (8x8) and cover with cheese sauce (I usually have a lot of sauce, so I save and freeze 1 cup of it to use in other cheesy, creamy dishes). Mix well so cheese sauce gets everywhere.
8. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, olive oil, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Mix well with a fork. Sprinkle mixture over mac n' cheese.
9. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and bread crumbs are lightly browned.
This recipe is perfect before a long run. The cauliflower offers tons of good carbs and you get a balance of sufficient protein from the added chicken. Be careful, it's easy to eat 2 or 3 helpings because its so delicious!