Monday, January 20, 2014

Baked Cauli-roni & Cheese

When I got up this morning, I immediately got my dinner started in the crock pot. I made Slow Cooker Boneless Beef Chuck Short Ribs using some beautiful ribs that I picked up from Costco this weekend. I debated what to serve along with them. I initially thought about making a cauliflower mash with extra sharp white cheddar cheese, but changed my mind and decided to go with Baked Cauli-roni & Cheese casserole instead (a mock macaroni and cheese). I had a large head of cauliflower in the fridge that needed to be used as well as a brick of extra sharp white cheddar cheese. While shopping at Penzey's Spices yesterday, hubby pulled off a recipe "tear-off sheet" for "Baked Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower". This recipe had both macaroni and cauliflower in obviously I wasn't going to be making that recipe.

My personal favorite mac and cheese recipe was from one of my older Southern Living Cookbooks that I've made for over 20 years now. You know how once you find "the recipe" pretty much stop trying or looking for the perfect one? Well, that mac and cheese recipe was "the one" for my family and I for a very long time. Unfortunately, besides using the obvious wheat based macaroni, that recipe also used a blend of natural cheese as well as Velveeta which I don't eat any more either. So, I decided to come up with a delicious cheese sauce to enrobe my chunks of cauliflower cooked to perfect al dente (just until barely tender). I made a beautiful thick and delicious white cheddar sauce to bake the "cauli-roni" in and then topped it with shredded yellow sharp cheddar cheese. It was gorgeous and turned out absolutely delicious. It was the perfect "wheat and grain free alternative" for traditional macaroni and cheese. I snapped a few photos below as well as included the recipe for my Baked Cauli-roni & Cheese. I will post my recipe for the short ribs tomorrow. Enjoy!

Ready to be steamed
Steamed, drained and waiting to be sauced
Freshly shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
The cheese sauce is ready
Sauced and ready to be topped with more cheese
Ready for the oven...
Baked Cauli-roni & Cheese, Slow Cooker Boneless Beef Short Ribs, and Steamed Green Beans

Baked Cauli-roni & Cheese


2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces brick-style cream cheese
1-1/4 cups half-and-half (or substitute light cream or whole milk)
1 teaspoon ground mustard (powdered)
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese (powdery style)
12 ounces of block-style sharp cheddar cheese (yellow or white), shredded (about 3 cups), divided
8 cups cauliflower florets, steamed until just tender or al dente (approximately 1 large head cut into 1-inch chunks)
Paprika, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter; add cream cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Gradually pour in half-and-half or milk, whisking until combined and slightly thickened. Add mustard and salt and pepper, to taste, and whisk until combined, stirring frequently just until heated but not boiling. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and whisk vigorously into beaten egg in a small bowl. Pour beaten egg mixture back into sauce and whisk in until smooth. Heat 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened. Whisk in almond flour and Parmesan. Add 2 cups of shredded cheese (reserve 1 cup for top of casserole); stir just until melted. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper, as necessary.

In a large bowl combine well drained steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce until well combined. Pour into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Top with reserved 1 cup shredded cheese and sprinkle lightly with paprika, if desired. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top. If desired, run under the broiler for a few minutes for additional browning. Let sit about 10 minutes to allow cheeses to set.

*Note: Freshly shredded cheese melts better and more smoothly when making a cheese sauce because it doesn't contain added starches and anti-caking ingredients that commercially prepared shredded cheeses do. It's important to make sure cauliflower is well drained to prevent casserole from becoming watery.



CyberSis said...


Well, what do you know? Mac is back! Cauli-roni ... I love it! The versatility of the humble cauliflower never ceases to amaze me. To me it's a "super hero" veggie hiding behind plain clothing ... sort of like Clark Kent. Just scratch the surface a little and watch it bloom! :-)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi CyberSis -- I couldn't agree more with you about cauliflower! The key to making this nice and thick and rich (besides the cheese sauce) is to make sure the cauliflower completely dried out (I steam it in the microwave in a few tablespoons of water)...and if necessary, dry it out by placing it in a hot pan until dry (recommended by another follower on FB). :-)

Leslie P said...

Hi GGC - I am making this right now and can not wait to try it! Looks like cheesy goodness!! Thanks for the recipe (:

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Leslie -- I hope you enjoy it! :-)

Unknown said...

Is the almond flour necessary? Could you substitute more powdered Parmesan for thickening?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Marjorie -- No, it is just there to "thicken" the sauce -- you can definitely swap it out for the powdered style Parmesan -- it would do the same thing. :-)

Ginny said...

MAking this for dinner & had a small head of cauliflower. Think I can save the extra cheese sauce? Thank you!!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Ginny -- I'm sure you can keep the extra cheese sauce. It would be good as a cheese sauce over broccoli, or pretty much anything you would like to put it on. I don't think I would freeze it...but I'm sure it would keep refrigerated for up to a week at least. Hope you enjoy it! :-)

Irene said...

AHH....MAZING! Had this for Sunday dinner along with your Slow Cooker Pot Roast -- Beef Bourguignon Style and steamed green beans. Hit the spot on a cold & windy day in Texas. Thanks for all your great recipes. Love and am inspired by your blog!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Irene -- Thanks so much! So glad you enjoyed both the Cauli-roni & cheese AND the Slow Cooker Pot Roast (Beef Bourguignon Style! It's amazing how well you can eat without wheat and grains isn't it! Thanks for the kind words and I'm so glad you enjoy the blog. :-)

Anonymous said...

I made cauli-roni and cheese for my three girls tonight with a side salad and they loved it!!! thanks for the recipes I love that the girls can still enjoy meals like this without wheat!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi there! I am so happy that you and your three girls enjoyed it. I think eating good food (food that isn't just goof for you, but that tastes good, too) is the key to not feeling deprived or missing wheat. I'm so happy you enjoyed it and good for you that your children are eating their veggies and actually enjoying them! Win/Win! :-)

Eve said...

Love, love, love everything you make. After trying many recipes from cyberspace and dumping about 90% of them, I wanted to let you know how important you are to me. If you dont make it, we dont eat it. Thank you for all you do.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Eve,

Oh my...what a compliment! Thanks so much for letting me know how much you like my recipes. It means more to me than you know...and you are so very welcome. :-)

Alex said...

Hi GG: What's the estimated number of servings on this? I want to make for Thanksgiving. Having about 13 people.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Alex,

You probably need to double it or maybe just make 1-1/2 the amount, depending on how many other side dishes you are making. Also, make sure the cauliflower is well drained to it won't be watery, particularly when doubling the recipe. If you want, you could spread the steamed cauliflower florets in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop into the oven for a bit (400 degrees) just to be sure it's dried out well. Hope you enjoy it. :-)

Alex said...

Just prepared. Doubled veg, doing 1/2 broc. & 1/2 caul. Did 1.5 recipes of cheese sauce. Going to precook for a bit & heat tomorrow. But it looks outstanding.
Thanks for sharing your creativity in the kitchen!
Happy Thanksgiving.

Alex said...

Just prepared. Doubled veg, doing 1/2 broc. & 1/2 caul. Did 1.5 recipes of cheese sauce. Going to precook for a bit & heat tomorrow. But it looks outstanding.
Thanks for sharing your creativity in the kitchen!
Happy Thanksgiving.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Thanks Alex
Hope you enjoy!

txexperiment said...

I made this to accompany a beef roast last weekend and served it to my skeptical family. There was just a small amount left and some even had seconds. It's a keeper! Thanks so much.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

So happy you enjoyed it txexperiment! 😀