So we asked you guys via our Facebook Page what were some of your guilty indulgences. For most humans at some point in our lives we have all had certain foods that we ate because they just taste so damn good even though we know they are unhealthy. Mac and cheese definitely falls into that category. There are two kinds of mac and cheese in my mind, the first being the kind that came out of the blue box with powdered cheese. I'm pretty sure that cheese sauce had crack in it because it tasted so good, especially the spirals....but seriously, this is about one of the most processed foods you will find on a store shelf. Frankly, looking back I don't even know if I would call it food. The second version is the homemade version which is loaded with butter, cream, and cheese, not to mention the vehicle to consume said fat mixture is an enriched white flour noodle. Just in case that wasn't enough fat, I would usually throw some bacon into my version too.
So the feat of "healthifying" this dish was going to be a tough one. I knew that I wasn't going to try to make a powder that somehow magically turned into cheese. So the other option was to try to recreate the base bechamel sauce that traditional mac and cheese is made from. Your traditional bechamel is made from fat and flour and it usually incorporates onion. In the case of mac and cheese, you also add cheese to it. I had heard of someone else making a cream sauce out of cauliflower before so I figured this would be the perfect time to try that out. I've done a cauliflower puree before, so this was simply making that a little thinner to resemble a bechamel sauce instead of mashed potatoes.
So I've now got a creamy sauce but then I had to somehow infuse that sauce with a cheese flavor. Let me just start by saying actually cheese flavor is next to impossible to recreate but I feel this got close. So a lot of cheeses have a nutty taste to them along with a an obvious saltiness. Salt is the easy part, so for the nutty factor I used cashews that I had soaked in water for about 4 hours to soften them. Another ingredient that our friend Lindsay over at The Paleo Paramedic told me about was Nutritional Yeast. Nutritional yeast has a natural cheese like flavor. It is also a great source for your essential B vitamins, which if you live in the vegetarian or vegan world can be the toughest vitamins to acquire through food sources. So I added all of that to get it tasting like a cheese sauce...but that last elusive thing was giving it that cheese color. Tumeric to the rescue. Not only is tumeric a superfood but is also turns anything it touches yellow.
So we've got a blob of cheesey like goodness which is actually really healthy for you but do you just drench regular noodles or at best whole wheat noodles in this sauce and call it a day? You certainly could and you would have a tasty dish...so if you want to stop right there, feel free. But to ultra-healthify this dish, why not find another vegetable that would resemble elbow macaroni. My brain ran the gamut of veggies trying to think of something that would resemble the texture and size of elbow macaroni. If you are following us or in the healthy eating community you have probably heard of Zoodles or noodles made out of zucchini. Typically, most people use a spiralizer or mandolin to cut zucchini into either a spaghetti or egg noodle like shape. I wasn't able to get that little curve in the noodle or make them hollow by just using a knife, but I cut zucchini into a 1/4" x 1/4" by 1" pieces so that it would resemble macaroni.
What would some homestyle mac and cheese be without a topping, right??? So to add that crunch to the top of this dish I just added some crushed almonds that I combined with some dried parsley and oregano.
Some possible modifications if you aren't looking for an ultra healthified mac and cheese option or you don't need to follow a vegan diet.
The Cook & The Coach
Healthy is a LIFESTYLE.