Somethings should be simple. But I’ve learned that nothing is simple. Not even finding a good macaroni and cheese recipe.
My quest for the perfect mac ‘n’ cheese recipe was prompted by two novels that I’ve written. The story line involves various topics such as extraterrestrials and UFOs, Rh-negative blood, out of body experiences and sleep paralysis (and I’ve had experiences with all of them in real life). But the main character in the first novel, “In Our Image”, and its sequel “Abode of the Clouds”, is a down to earth, middle aged woman who loves to cook. She cooks up a storm in both books and I thought it would be fun to put together a cookbook containing the recipes she makes in both books.
Our heroine, Connie, made a supurb macaroni and cheese. Everyone raved about it (in the book, that is). But, hard as it might be to believe, I had never made macaroni and cheese. I think that could be because I felt that it was not good for you. Loads of butter, cheese and pasta…I can almost feel my arteries clogging up just thinking about it. So I began asking family and friends for macaroni and cheese recipes. Some responded by looking at me like I was crazy, how can you not know how to make macaroni and cheese? So, I started acquiring some recipes and started experimenting. Most of them were absolutely revolting….gummy and dry or soupy. And, I swear, my arteries were, in fact, clogging up just trying them.
My dear brother, Stephen, (photo left, taken many, many decades ago) took my request to heart and started clipping macaroni and cheese recipes out of newspapers and magazines. Over the past two years I’ve received dozens of recipes from him. Most were not even worthy of a try. There was one that had mashed butternut squash in it that sounded intriguing, and it really wasn’t bad, but just not exactly what I was looking for. So I kept searching and found a recipe for Chobani Yogurt macaroni and cheese. There was only 4 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter, and just slightly more than 8 ounces of cheese. The yogurt was the ingredient that supposedly worked magic in this recipe. It certainly sounded worthy of giving it a try.
My mother was always tweeking recipes. She just couldn’t make it as written and I am certainly my mother’s daughter. For some reason it occurred to me that this recipe might benefit from the addition of cauliflower. Even though it had a relatively small amount of butter and cheese, subconsciously I must have thought that adding cauliflower would make it a health food or something.
I made the recipe pretty much as written and can be found on the Chobani website. http://chobani.com/kitchen/recipes/mac-n-cheese/
I added about 1/3 of a head of cauliflower, chopped into florets measuring maybe 1 1/2 to 2 inches. The recipe calls for the pasta to be cooked al dente; so I added the cauliflower to the cooking pasta just about 2-3 minutes before the pasta was done. The result was amazing. The flavor had a little tang, the texture was creamy and the cauliflower worked beautifully with the pasta and cheese sauce. Yes! This was it!
The next time I made this, I used brown rice pasta. I had recently become a fan of “Tinkyada Pasta Joy” brown rice pasta. I have a friend who is gluten intolerant and I made shrimp lo mein with these brown rice noodles and loved them. The package says “good consistent texture, not mushy” and they are right. This brand is available in the health food section at my local major grocery stores. I highly recommend it!
And, since broccoflower was on sale that week, I replaced the cauliflower with broccoflower. It turned out great!
So now I’m finally getting to the recipe. It calls for 8 ounces of pasta and 8 ounces (or even a little less as you are adding cauliflower) is all you should use. If you use more, there will be less sauce and less flavor. This recipe will easily feed 4 as a main course. I haven’t tried to use any other yogurt other than Chobani as it is so good with that brand I don’t want to chance it with anything else. Plus the inspiration came from the folks at Chobani and I feel a sense of loyalty I guess.
My Chobani Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Cauliflower Recipe
8 oz macaroni
4 1/2 T butter
1/2 C onion finely chopped
1/3 C flour
1 C milk
1/2 C Chobani plain non-fat yogurt
8 oz cheddar cheese (or combo of your choice), shredded
2 T parmesean cheese, grated
1/3 C Chobani plain non-fat yogurt (scant 1/3 cup)
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 C Italian flavored panko breadcrumbs
Grease baking dish and preheat oven to 350.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water. Calculate the cooking time to be 1 minute less than the al dente time (as the pasta will cook more in the oven). About 2 to 3 minutes before the pasta is done, add the cauliflower to the pot. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in pot and saute chopped onion for about 3 minutes. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to onion and once melted, add the flour and whisk over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and then the 1/2 cup Chobani; once mixture has thickened, remove from stove. Mix in cheddar and 1 tablespoon of parmesean. Add the remaining Chobani (note: best to use a little less than 1/3 cup…like somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 cup). Mix in about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some cayenne. Taste and add more salt and cayenne if desired. Remember, the pasta and cauliflower wll dilute the saltiness somewhat, so keep this in mind. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs and remaining tablespoon of parmesean on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.
I served this with a side salad (always trying to get those veggies in somewhere).
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