As I was standing in the a grocery store today after Kung Fu caving to my love of Martin’s potato rolls which though produced almost locally, are also full of preservatives. There is a long list on the package that looks like this: Dough Conditioners (Sodium Stearoyl, Lactylate, Azodicarbonamide, etc.) I found myself staring at an elderly gentleman who was purchasing nothing but food products in bulk. By bulk I mean 12 cans of spam, 12 cans of sardines, 3 large containers of powdered lemonade, at least a dozen cans of Vienna sausages and an assortment of Campbell’s soups. By food product I mean there was not a single thing on the conveyor belt that wasn’t several steps away from a real whole food and nothing that remotely came from the dirt. I began to imagine all kinds of scenarios as to why he was choosing to eat nothing but canned goods. Maybe he wife died and he doesn’t know how to cook. Maybe he believes that canned good are safer to eat since they virtually never spoil. Maybe he is on a tight budget, except that his bill came to over three hundred dollars. Maybe he just doesn’t care anymore and eats only the things that he thinks of as treats.
All of this got me thinking about two things. People gripe all the time that it is more expensive to eat organic/local/sustainable, or even healthy, but this is not the case. The most difficult thing about making the choice to eat healthy is the paradigm shift. Choosing to eat less meat and more plants and grains necessitates not only learning new recipes but also learning about new foods, how they interact and shopping more often but also buying less. For those who argue about the sheer cost of eating healthy, Poor Girl Eats Well has a website dedicated to the busting of this myth, her website contains not only delicious healthy and cheap recipes but she also does a per serving cost breakdown.
I do think of Martin’s potato rolls as a treat and I would not likely make them for myself largely because I am a crap baker but also because the effort versus yield ratio isn’t high enough. I like potato bread, but not enough to spend hours making it for myself. Which leads to the reality that because we have handed over the creation of not only our treats to other people/factories/companies but our actual food itself, we are constantly at battle with our impulse control when choosing our meals, a battle that we as a nation are clearly losing.
Before I committed to fully changing my diet away from all processed foods, Mac and Cheese was one of those guilty treats that I made all the while convincing myself that it wasn’t that bad because I was adding canned tuna and peas to it, calling it White Trash Tuna Casserole. It occurred to me while standing in line, hoping that the gentleman’s story about his food choices was cheerier than anything I had imagined for him, that I had not only not made a homemade Mac and Cheese since my childhood but I honestly couldn’t remember the last time that I had eaten a homemade one at all, whether it be a restaurants or someone else’s. Imagine my delight when eat.live.travel.write’s recipe for Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower dropped into my Foodbuzz account and when Kitchen Heals Soul’s Duck Bacon Mac and Cheese showed up. Excuse me, but duck bacon may be the best thing that I have ever heard of. Eat.live.travel.write’s recipe is in fact taken from a Jaime Oliver recipe. This recipe went over very well with lots of people. I particularly liked the sharpness of the cheddar with the sweetness of the cauliflower and the texture of the whole wheat pasta held up very well, no mush. Though the recipe calls for crème fraiche I made it with yogurt as well with good results and got all fancy and bought an orange cauliflower because I thought it was pretty. The recipe below is a double recipe, I found that the Mac and Cheese freezes and reheats very well with just a little chicken stock.
Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower
1 medium head of cauliflower roughly chopped into small pieces
16 oz good sharp cheddar cheese aged at least a year, shredded
8 oz Parmesan shredded (save 2 ounces to put on top for the crust)
2 lbs whole wheat macaroni elbows
2 cups crème fraiche or yogurt
1 tablespoon medium ground black pepper.
Salt to taste
Turn the oven broiler on. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, cover the pasta pot with a metal mixing bowl and melt the cheese and crème fraiche together in your now improvised double boiler. The crème fraiche and cheddar will melt into a silky smooth sauce, if for some reason the sauce is thicker than desired just add a little pasta water or chicken stock. Add the chopped cauliflower to the pasta pot 2 minutes before the pasta is done. Once the pasta has finished cooking, drain the pot and put the pasta cauliflower mixture into the bowl with the cheese sauce and mix well. Pour the Mac and Cheese into a baking dish and top with the remaining parmesan. Broil until the cheese turns golden brown, about 5 minutes.