I’m celebrating today with a big, warm bowl of Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese today. You know why? Well, for one, it’s cold outside, but I’m celebrating because this little corner of mine on the web, called RD in the Midwest, is exactly one year old today! One year! I don’t know if I’m more excited about making it a year of blogging or when I reached a year working at my “real job”.
What a year! I honestly can’t believe I’ve been navigating my way through blogging for already a year now, sharing with you little glimpses into my Midwest life as an RD, runner, and wife.
My platform has remained the same (sharing with you mostly healthy recipes, but also sharing some of my favorite sweets — since everything is okay in moderation…famous last words of a dietitian) over the year and I don’t plan on changing it anytime soon. It’s been so encouraging hearing from readers when they’ve tried a recipe, maybe that they normally wouldn’t have tried before, and enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making, eating, and writing about it. You guys are the reason I keep with it each and every week! There are days when I feel like my posts are going out into space somewhere, unread and under appreciated for the work that goes into them, but then I get a comment from a reader and I realize once again why it’s all worth it.
To be honest, it’s a challenge writing a new post every week with a full time job keeping me busy during the day. I mean, for one, winter lighting is awful in the Midwest and I’m almost always trying to shoot pictures with indoor lighting at 7:00 at night — talk about less than ideal. I started this blog probably at the exact moment my life started getting crazier, but I’m okay with that and I have great things in store for RD in the Midwest in its second year. Just to name a couple, Philip (my behind-the-scenes-blog-help husband) and I are working on switching to hosting my own site and upgrading my iPhone camera to a “real one” (yay!). And as always, I’ll be posting mostly-healthy and tasty recipes every week for you to enjoy.
Now, shall we talk about this delicious, comforting, and healthy mac and cheese? Who knew comforting and healthy could exist in the same sentence! Growing up, mac and cheese was always on the top of my birthday-meal list. If I could have eaten mac and cheese at one year old, I’m sure I would have requested it. Therefore, I felt it was only logical that I celebrate RD in the Midwest’s 1 year birthday with mac and cheese.
I felt a food blog needed something a little bit more than just macaroni and cheese, though. Enter in Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Mac and Cheese for a more grown-up version of the childhood favorite (because RD in the Midwest is a sophisticated one year old, naturally).
I used freshly shredded 2-year aged white cheddar and just shredding it released a rich, deep fragrance of the cheddar cheese. I knew at that point, this mac and cheese was going to be good. Although the cheese smelled amazing, I only needed to use one cup of it since the remainder of the creaminess came from steamed, then blended cauliflower. Cauliflower has been slowly becoming the “it” food to add as a healthier alternative in recipes, from “mashed cauliflower” to cauliflower crust pizza. I promise, you can’t taste it and it gives the macaroni and cheese good body with an extra dose of nutrients. #win
This special mac and cheese is the perfect birthday dinner to celebrate this little blog of mine. With its hint of heat from the cayenne pepper, the rich taste of the aged cheese, and the salty crunch of the crumbled bacon on top, this macaroni and cheese has it all. Celebrate with me and give this macaroni and a cheese a try.
Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Hy-Vee
Serves 6 (1 cup each)
- 2 slices bacon
- 2 Tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/4 cup whole wheat Panko crumbs
- 2 Tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 3 cups whole-grain elbow macaroni (about 16 oz)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups fresh cauliflower florets
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup shredded aged white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- Fresh chopped green onion, for garnish
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- For topping, layer paper towels in between bacon slices on a plate. Microwave for one minute; flip bacon and microwave for one more minute. Let cool slightly and chop with knife into pieces. Microwave one tablespoon of butter in a small bowl until melted. Add the Panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and the bacon. Mix together and set aside.
- In a large pot, cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain; do not rinse. Drizzle with olive oil, if needed to prevent noodles from sticking.
- Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Cook garlic in butter until softened. Add cauliflower, broth, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Transfer mixture to a food processor. Cover and process until smooth.
- Turn on the broiler setting on the oven to let it preheat. Transfer pureed mixture back to same saucepan. Stir in cheddar cheese and milk. Cook over medium heat until cheese is melted. Stir in hot cooked pasta. Spoon mixture into 2-cup ramekins or casserole dishes, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with prepared topping. Broil 2 to 3 minutes or until crumbs are golden. If desired, garnish with green onion. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.