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Dinners

Slow-Cooker Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Mar 30, 2015

There are few things better than having dinner made while you’re at work—and if you can’t afford to hire your own personal chef, a slow cooker is the next best thing. Most kids (and adults) adore a good, gooey mac and cheese, which also happens to make the perfect disguise for cauliflower, which blends right in to the simmering cheese and pasta with its relatively neutral colour, texture and flavour.

With most mac and cheese recipes, you boil the pasta and make the cheese sauce separately, starting with a simple white sauce into which copious amounts of cheese is tossed in and melted. The saucy macaroni is then either served straight from the stovetop, or topped with more cheese or buttered crumbs (or both), then baked. This mac and cheese, on the other hand, cooks the pasta along with the sauce, utilizing its starch as a thickening agent. And some of that pasta is replaced with cauliflower florets—the size you cut them down to will determine how well camouflaged they are.

Chunks of cauliflower, coarsely chopped and sitting on top of dry macaroni noodles in a slow cooker.

The process is simple: dump, stir, press a button. It’s a great dish for kids to help out with; the measurements don’t have to be exact, it’s easier to grate cheese than it is to chop, and the insert in the slow cooker will give them a wide berth to aim for. It will take slightly less time than the average slow cooker dish, which usually takes 6–8 hours on low heat; this mac and cheese will be done in 3–4 hours, and requires stirring once or twice, whenever you walk past and think of it. Once the pasta is cooked and the excess moisture absorbed, it will start to get crusty around the edges (the very best part, I think) and something I assumed we’d miss out on by using a slow cooker.

Cauliflower, noodles, milk and cheese, simmering and melting in a slow cooker.

This is, of course, a great way to sneak a few extra veggies into your kids—and if you’re not being sneaky about it, they just may be more receptive to the idea of vegetables when doused in cheese and snuggled up to soft pasta. If you don’t want to bother with the cauliflower, leave it out and add an extra cupful of macaroni noodles.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb old cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 8 oz (250 g) pkg cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, separated into small florets salt and pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker; cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours, removing the lid to give it a stir about once an hour.

Cauliflower mac & cheese, plated with fresh vegetables.

Serve warm. Serves 8-10. 

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.

 

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