Your pathway to healthy food, ethics, beer, and how these things can (and should!) come together in daily life.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Easy Mac 'n Cheesy with Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cherry Tomato

For the final speech of my college career, I am discussing healthy food habits and America. Through this speech, I assert that to spread the knowledge of healthy eating to the American population, changes need to be made on the National, Organizational, and individual levels. So, to end my speech with a fun twist, I decided to share with my class one of my favorite recipes: homemade mac 'n cheese. This is a healthy twist on a college staple, one that is MUCH tastier than the Blue Box... And doesn't take much longer at all!! I put a high priority on cooking skills, since I cook every day of my life. Cooking gives me a chance to relax, put my creative mind to work, and control exactly what I'm eating.

PS People who know how to cook a REAL meal are pretty hot!!!

Now you can make infinite variations on this dish, adding chorizo sausage, bell peppers, and jalapenos to make a Tex-Mex Mac, or Artichokes, spinach, red onion and feta for a Greek style Mac, pretty much the combinations are endless. All this takes is a little passion and excitement about learning something new!

This particular meal incorporates three of Michael Pollan's food policy guidelines from Food Rules:
1. Never eat anything advertised on TV
- this rule is meant to wean out processed food from your diet. Obviously, if Dairy Farmers of America a commercial, you can still eat cheese. Use your discretion
2. Eat Your Colors- A variety of colors in a dish means a variety of nutrients.
3. If it came from a Plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't- Once again, this is just taking processed food out of the equation.

So here's the main event!
Mac 'n Cheese with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cherry Tomatoes

First off, start a pot of water boiling on the stove. When the water comes to a boil, start cooking the pasta. I usually use about 2/3 of a 1 lb. box of pasta. Pasta styles depend on your preference, you could either go with the traditional macaroni noodle, but I really like rotinis.

Start out with a cup each of Broccoli and Cauliflower. Cut into florets, or about bite-sized pieces. Put broccoli and cauliflower into microwave safe bowl.

Steam for about 2 1/2 minutes on high, or until a fork can pierce the stem of one of the veggies easily
Wash about 1/2 cup of Cherry Tomatoes. If you have extra large "grape" tomatoes, halve them. Add to cooked broccoli and cauliflower and set aside.
Now is the important part that takes a little bit of attention and skill. This next step involves making a Roux. A roux is basically a mixture of butter and flour, cooked together, and then the addition of a liquid to make a thick sauce. The flour acts as thickener, and the butter is used to cook out the floury taste. This particular roux will be a thinner one, so that the sauce can spread throughout the noodles but still thick enough to stick to them.

Don't let this cooking technique deter you. It doesn't take very long and it's pretty easy. It takes about 7-8 minutes to make and can be made while the noodles are cooking. Just to help y'all out a little, I'll break it down for you.
First, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter is completely melted, add 2 tablespoons flour. Immediately start whisking with a fork. Continue whisking for about 1 minute.
It's kinda hard to make a roux and take pictures at the same time.
It'll start to look like this after you've whisked it enough. I do not recommend walking away from this, you will most likely burn the roux.

Next, add 1 1/2 cups milk. Continue whisking to fully integrate the butter/flour mixture into the milk.
Keep stirring, bring milk to a boil, and it will eventually (3-4 minutes on medium-low heat) start to thicken up.
Now, add 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, or any other kind of mustard you like, to the sauce.
And then add 1 cup of shredded cheese.
You'll know this sauce is done when you the fork leaves a line in the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now, dump the pasta into a casserole dish. I always use a 9 inch round casserole dish.
Dump the veggies in with the noodles.
Mix the veggies into the noodles a little.
Now, add the cheese sauce.
Now, put 1 cup of cheese on top of the noodles and veggies.
I added a little salt and pepper, and a little Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. It'll look like this....
Yeah, this was devoured pretty quickly. There wasn't even any for seconds!

Make cooking a priority in your life. It's fun, not too time consuming, and a lot better for your health!

Easy Mac 'n Cheesy with Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cherry Tomato

Cooking time: Est. 40 minutes

1 cup broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2/3 lb. rotini pasta
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Start water boiling, when water is at a boil, add pasta. Cook until al dente.

Microwave cauliflower and broccoli in a microwave safe bowl on high for 2 1/2 minutes or until stem is pierced easily with a fork. Add washed cherry tomatoes, set aside.

Melt butter in sauce pan. Whisk flour into butter, continue whisking as it cooks for 1 minute. Whisk in milk a little at a time. Bring to a boil. Continue whisking.

When milk/butter/flour mixture thickens up, add 1/2 the cheese, dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place pasta and veggies in 9 inch casserole dish. Mix pasta and veggies together. Add cheese sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Add salt, pepper, and parmesan to taste.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly brown.

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