Friday, June 24, 2016

Kid Favorites: Purple Cauliflower Mac 'N' Cheese

   My first, we were spoiled. Before she was two she was asking for here favorite meal- "Pin-itch Sah-wid," aka baby spinach salad with garlic vinaigrette. Aside from the one incident when she was six and she tried dropping all her carrot coins silently under the table one at a time instead of eating them(it worked initially, but when I was sweeping after bedtime and found them..... ooooooooh buddy, did she have consequences the next morning!), she's always been a great, adventurous eater. She's an anomaly. I have tried all sorts of methods for enticing kids to eat their veggies from bribery to hiding them. In the end, I have come to the conclusion that I'm not rich enough to pay kids for bites, and winning by hiding them really isn't winning because they still get hysterical when they actually SEE the vegetable they ate so it kind of defeats the purpose. Therefore, I became the mean mom. I don't hide veggies. I cook them and cook them deliciously, then I put them on your plate and you must try one good size bite, then you have two choices: eat or go hungry. I want my kids to SEE the vegetable they are eating and recognize both what it is and what it tastes like, for their health and for their future, because veggies are not scary things. Ideally, veggies make up at least 50% of your diet. One way I encourage my kids to try veggies is by giving them ownership of the produce. When we go to the store, if my kids notice something in the produce section and ask to try it, I always agree. I let them pick the items, carry them(if they want to), and when we get home we cook it right away. I have them help with the cooking process, and when we sit down to eat the meal, we rave about how this is THEIR veggie, how they picked it out, how they cooked it, and it is AMAZING! That always does the trick. They're eager to try it, and proud of their work.
   There's one kid in my home, though, that I will hide veggies from. He's 5'9", black curly hair, gorgeous and manly beard. I married him. He has hated 99% of veggies since the day I met him. He's SO much better now- years of physical consequences from decades of poor dietary choices, plus actually TRYING veggies purely to be a good example for his kids has changed him. But he still balks at most things beyond a handful of favorites. So I'm not above tricking him. Maybe I should change this post to "Trick Your Husband with Veggies"? This recipe? He was shocked when I did my usual sly questioning about how he liked the meal, then meniacally laughing as I revealed what he'd just eaten. YOU CANNOT TASTE THE CAULIFLOWER! I PROMISE!
   Firstly- purple cauliflower? Yep, it's a thing. So are orange and green cauliflower. They taste just like the classic white kind, they're just more fun. When my youngest daughter spotted purple cauliflower for the first time at Kroger, she had to have it. Purple has been her favorite color since toddlerhood. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of cauliflower, but she asked so I ran with it. Once home, I did some googling and found some recommendations on how to prepare cauliflower and get rid of that somewhat 'old sock' smell. I picked one and did it, and was pleasantly surprised. It really worked. So here's how we not only use cauliflower in a delicious way that so masks the often off-putting taste of the cauliflower, but it makes all the food purple, which is a total win for my kids.

First, break the head up into smallish florets and put them in a large pot so almost all of them are in an even layer across the bottom. 

Next: Garlic. 2-3 cloves, peeled. The garlic flavor is not huge by any means, but it adds a little something to the sauce, and anyway, my husband is Italian. Garlic(or onions) in everything. 

Toss the garlic in the pot with the cauliflower, add a healthy dash of sea salt, then enough water to almost cover the contents of the pot. 

Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Allow it to boil for 10-15 minutes, until everything is soft. This boiling process is what gets rid of that 'old sock' kind of smell and taste, and makes everything nice and soft for a very smooth, velvety sauce. 

Once you get the cauliflower on the stove, get your pasta cooking- any pasta will do, but we prefer the kind that really hold some sauce, like shells, penne, or elbows. You're also going to want to grate some cheese. Mmmmm, cheeeeeeeeeese. About 2 cups of any good melting, strong flavored cheese will work. We prefer Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, or a nice sharp cheddar. Make sure it's white! Anything else will mess with the awesome color of your finished product. 

Once the cauliflower is cooked, much of the water will have boiled off, leaving a nice, dark purple liquid in the bottom of the pot, and pleasantly soft(but not mushy) veggies and garlic. 

Dump the entire contents of the pot(provided there's not A LOT of water left) into the blender while it's still hot, along with the cheese, and a dash each of salt and pepper. 

Let 'er rip.

It's going to probably be pretty thick, so I like to thin it out by adding 1/2 cup sour cream(helps keep the texture smooth and not watery), an add a little milk as needed after that until it's the same thickness as any other good, gooey cheese sauce. Add salt and pepper(and maybe some garlic powder if you want more noticeable garlic flavor) to taste. 

Pour it over the cooked and drained pasta. You can serve it right away, but I like to let it rest for a few minutes so the pasta can adsorb and fill up with all the gooey, saucy goodness.

Now, serve it to your veggie-haters of all ages, tap your finger tips together and laugh deviously as they enjoy it.

Ingredient recap:

1 head cauliflower
2 cups shredded cheese
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

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