CAULIFLOWER MAC ‘N CHEESE

Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese

 

My mom is locally famous for her mac ‘n cheese in the same way that everyone demands I show up to events with my jalapeno poppers, or not at all.  I know nothing mac ‘n cheese related could ever come close to my mom’s specialty; but I had to try to put my own spin on it!  I try to sneak in vegetables whenever possible, so I figured if I swapped out the pasta for one of my favorite super-foods, all of the cheese wouldn’t be so bad!  Cauliflower is a great substitute because it’s low in fat, high in fiber, and contains several phytochemicals that may reduce your risk for certain types of cancer!  This cauliflower mac ‘n cheese is almost like 50% scalloped potatoes, 50% mac ‘n cheese, and 100% yummy!

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower

8 ounces cream cheese; room temperature

8 ounces pepper jack cheese; shredded

8 ounces sharp cheddar; shredded

2 tsp minced garlic

1 cup diced scallions

1 tsp  black pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream

 

Cut cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces and steam until tender.  Drain any liquid off completely.

Combine together cream cheese, pepper jack cheese, 5 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese (reserve 3 ounces for sprinkling on top), scallions, pepper, garlic and heavy cream.  Add steamed cauliflower and mix well.  Pour mixture into a casserole dish greased with non-stick cooking spray.  Top with remaining 3 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  After 25 minutes remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Try not to eat the whole pan!  Enjoy!

*You can replace the pepper jack cheese with another one of your favorite shredded cheeses if you don’t like the spice!  Another yummy alternative is mozzarella.

Photo by Dan Buckley

 

SUPPORT SYSTEMS

Having a gluten intolerance is challenging.  Having any food allergy is challenging for that matter.  I’ve never had an “Oh woe is me, feel sorry for me because I can’t eat bread” attitude about my allergy; it is part of who I am and I know that there are worse things that could happen to me.  In fact, I have learned to embrace my gluten intolerance; since giving up gluten I have never felt better!  I have more energy, I’ve lost weight, and all of my gluten reactive symptoms have disappeared.  Besides that, I have discovered foods that I love, to replace what I used to eat, that are better for me and I feel great about eating them.  I am obsessed with sweet potatoes, avocados, lentils, brown rice and greek yogurt.

Now this would be all well and good if all of the people in my life were gluten intolerant  too, and could understand why I don’t eat it, but that is never going to happen.  I have never seen a disorder that is met with as much skepticism as a gluten intolerance or celiac’s.  When I politely refuse something that will make me sick that is offered to me (and by that I mean I simply say “No thank you.” as opposed to “OH MY GOD I CAN’T EAT THAT!  ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME SICK?!”)  I am immediately challenged:

“Why don’t you want a cupcake? Are you on a diet?”

“No, I have a gluten allergy so I can’t eat that.”

This is usually followed by them asking what gluten is, my explanation, and then the inevitable question:

“What happens when you eat it?”

…..I HATE THIS QUESTION!!!!!  Telling you I’m allergic should be enough.  I get sometimes that people are just curious, which is fine, maybe educating them about my food intolerance will help them discover that they have one as well.  But I’m going to say 80% of the time they are asking me what my reaction to gluten is, they are trying to gauge if my symptoms are serious enough to THEM to be turning down a cupcake.  Often times my polite, non-graphic, non-detailed explanation is met with one of the rudest responses:

“Oh, so it’s not serious like a peanut allergy, you aren’t going to die or anything?” and then I see in their eyes and from their tone of voice that they have written off my gluten intolerance as some ridiculous, high-maintenance phase that I will grow out of once I’m tired of turning down cupcakes and being difficult.

Now, I don’t want to go off on a tangent here but let me just note a few of the long-term effects of consuming gluten for someone who is intolerant:

  • Infertility
  • Eczema
  • Joint Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Malnutrition
  • Thyroid Tissue Damage
  • Depression
  • Chronic Fatigue

None of those sound too bad right?  I don’t know why I would ever want to avoid any of those!  Ok, that may have been a tangent. Let me get back on track…

I believe that in order to be happy and healthy while living with a gluten allergy you need a support system.  My biggest supporters are my husband and my mother.  After my diagnosis with a gluten intolerance, they both set out to educate themselves in order to make my life as simple as possible.  My wonderful husband refuses to eat anything I can’t have in front of me, something I would never ask anyone to to do, but that makes it that much sweeter of him; and I always know there will be something I can eat without feeling deprived at holidays with my mom!  She always goes out of her way to make me something special so I don’t feel left out.  Do I expect this every where I go?  Of course not.  Does it mean a lot to me that the people I love have taken it upon themselves to make living with a gluten intolerance a little easier?  You bet it means a lot!

It is having this support system in my life that helps me get through my moments of weakness when warm bread is sat down on the table of a restaurant, and my moments of frustration when my polite refusal of something I can’t have is met with “Oh, you’re still doing that? Sucks for you!” from someone who has always known about my intolerance.  You need people in your life who are going to text you a picture from the grocery when they see that Pillsbury now makes gluten-free cookie dough.  People who, before inviting you out to dinner, check to see if the restaurant has gluten-free options.  People who are sympathetic when you aren’t feeling well because you ate something you shouldn’t have.

Does everyone in your life need to be like this?  No, and if you expect that kind of genuine care and support from everyone, including underpaid waiters, Italian in-laws, and the redneck side of your own family who thinks you eat like a bird anyways, you will always be let down.  But, if you have a handful of people in your life willing to eat the cookies Grandma wouldn’t let you leave without, someone who will pull the warm bread basket to their side of the table, out of your reach, and someone who will tell you about the newest gluten-free bakery opening up in town; you are going to have a happier, healthier, easier, gluten-free life!

Who is your biggest supporter?

Do you have a good story about a time someone challenged your food allergy?

 

 

SUMMER NAILS

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Here are the polishes flying off the shelf at my salon this summer! Not at subdued one in the bunch, bold is the way to go on your toes and fingers this year!

1. Bouncer It’s Me-Essie
2. You’re Such A Budapest-OPI
3. Saturday Disco Fever-Essie
4. Charged Up Cherry-OPI
5. Mint Candy Apple-Essie

GLUTEN FREE CINNAMON RAISIN BREAD PUDDING

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There’s something so warm and comforting about cinnamon breakfast food. Maybe it’s all of the Sunday mornings that I woke up to Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the oven and my Mom at the coffee table making to-do lists before we would go antiquing. One bite of this cinnamon raisin bread pudding and all is right in the world, not to mention my sudden urge to go to an antique mall! Bake them into little individual ramekins or muffin tins and enjoy the comforts of home while you’re away, mess free!

*Preheat oven to 350
Ingredients:

1/4 cup raisins
2 tbsp dark spiced rum
1 loaf gluten free bread (I used Udi’s whole grain)
2 cups vanilla almond milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Add rum and raisins to an airtight contain to absorb overnight.

Cube bread into one inch pieces, place in a large bowl and add almond milk to saturate. In a separate bowl beat together eggs, sugar, cinnamon and the rum soaked raisins. Add mixture to the milk saturated bread and combine evenly; be careful not to totally mix the bread, you still want to be able to see the cubed pieces.

Put the mixture into greased ramekins, muffin tins or a 9×13 baking dish and bake for 40 minutes (or until a knife inserted into the center comes or clean).

*For the Stay At Work Housewife on the go, wait until the bread pudding has cooled completely, and freeze into individual servings in freezer bags. When you are ready to eat them, remove from the bag and heat for 1 minute to a minute and 30 seconds! Enjoy!

THE PERFECT FIVE POLISHES

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I get asked about polish colors every single day. My salon has over 200 polishes to choose from so I understand the difficulty of narrowing it down to the perfect one! I have 5 classic colors that I recommend, and they never fail! Here are my go to polishes from OPI:

1. Lincoln Park After Dark
Feeling a little daring? This dark purple is perfect for fall/winter, or even for when you want to make a statement!
2. You Don’t Know Jacques
This taupey grey looks good on every skin tone. It’s bold enough to call attention, but its the perfect neutral so it isn’t too over the top.
3. Big Apple Red
The perfect red. Not too orange, not too blue, and it looks great on everyone!
4. Dutch Tulips
Do you have an event but don’t know what you’re wearing yet? Put this color on your nails and it won’t matter! It is great in between pink/red color that seems to adjust with whatever you’re wearing!
5. Bubble Bath
This color will give your nails a clean polished look. The best part? When it chips it’s hardly noticeable because the color is so sheer.

I totally forgot to mention OPI nail polish is gluten free! Just avoid their product “Nail Envy”.

GREEN THUMB

My humble little container garden is thriving! I’m pretty excited since this was my first attempt at growing anything. I use the herbs almost every night while making dinner, it’s so awesome having them right off the kitchen, I can just walk right out and grab what I need! There’s nothing more refreshing than using some of the mint in the pitcher of cucumber water I keep in the fridge, especially on muggy, hot Ohio days like today! Those tomatoes may look small, but they pack some crazy flavor! My favorite thing to do is to go out and pick one along with some fresh basil, slice it up and drizzle it with my 25 year aged balsamic, I feel so classy when I need a snack! I’m already planning what I want to grow in the fall!

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KICKIN’ STRAWBERRY LEMONADE

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I know I just did a drink recipe a few posts back, but I figured with the holiday tomorrow another one may come in handy!  Any time alcohol and lemonade can get together I’m happy; add a little kick and I am in for sure!  You guys can probably tell by now I like a little spice in my life, and my cocktails are no exception.  So when I had a leftover jalapeno from making poppers and needed a drink, the Kickin’ Strawberry Lemonade was born.  This drink isn’t overly spicy, the sweetness of the strawberries and lemonade compliments the heat from the jalapenos really well, so a drink of this starts out refreshing and then kind of gives you a little kick at the end!  (See where I got the name?)  It is the perfect summer drink and in my opinion, it goes well with everything (but so does champagne).

*Makes four drinks

Ingredients:

4 strawberries, stems removed and sliced

2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced

4 cups Lemonade

4 shots of Triple Sec

4 shots Tequila; (I prefer blanco or silver for this drink)

Muddle strawberries and jalapenos in the bottom of a pitcher, add ice, lemonade, Triple Sec and tequila; stir until combined.  Pour into 4 glasses and serve. Enjoy!

*Like I said before with the Salty Chihuahua and Cucumber Mint Margarita, if your stomach hasn’t had time to heal itself after recently being diagnosed with a gluten intolerance,  alcohol will be harsh on your stomach and intestines and can possibly cause inflammation and discomfort.  So take it easy at first until you know how you’re going to react!

Photo by Dan Buckley