I have been obsessed with Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese for the last two weeks. It started with an appetizer at The Elephant Bar restaurant. We were on our way to sing Handel’s Messiah at the annual La Jolla Symphony Chorus’ Sing-a-along Messiah, and stopped for a bite to eat. I never let myself order Mac ‘n Cheese, because it’s just not a good choice for those of us who want to watch the calories…all that pasta and cheese. But on this particular day we agreed to share one order of the creamy deliciousness, and it was … unforgettable. So I looked up the recipe online…just to see what The Elephant Bar does to make it THAT GOOD. Surprisingly, I discovered that they use cauliflower!
This led to a new hobby…reading recipes for cauliflower mac ‘n cheese. As you might have predicted, this led to a new adventure: making Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese myself! I knew I wanted to use our family’s traditional favorite, Cabot cheddar cheese from Vermont, which is (thankfully) available at Costco here in California.
So I did something I almost never do: bought elbow macaroni and all the fixings for mac ‘n cheese. Plus a huge head of cauliflower. The Farmer used to grow cauliflower in Orange County, before he moved to San Diego to grow avocados. We have an appreciation for a good head of cauliflower in this house!
The recipe I decided to use came from Rachel Ray’s website… click through on this link to find her original recipe. I followed it pretty closely, but used twice the amount of grated Cheddar cheese (I had no Gruyere cheese on hand), and instead of whole milk, I used half-and-half because we normally use 2% milk…and the recipe called for whole milk. I just happened to have some half and half on hand for Christmas. I used dried sage and ground nutmeg instead of the fresh ones listed in Rachel Ray’s recipe. For the Dijon mustard, I chose this one from Roland Foods. The little mustard seeds were pretty and tasty too!
The best thing about this dish was the fact that I could make it ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator. Don’t you just love having the mess already cleaned up and the casserole ready to pop in the oven? This recipe made enough for two casseroles…one to serve now, and another for later in the week!
I topped our Mac ‘n Cheese with grated parmesan cheese. The Elephant Bar recipe uses muenster cheese on top instead.
The whole family enjoyed our Christmas lunch…simple and delicious…and casual. And the best part is the leftovers!
It’s a cozy time of year…colder than usual… and we’re always hoping for more rain! That Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese with Cauliflower was the perfect dish to serve for our family Christmas gathering. Healthy cauliflower made all the difference! I might have added some slices of fresh avocado on top if there had been some ripe ones in the kitchen. Next time!