Monday, April 11, 2011

When You Just Can’t Justify Mac and Cheese

I’ve maintained this blog for so long, I can’t always remember some of my previous posts. This is partly due to the fact that I suffer from CRS Disease (Can’t Remember Sh_t) and of course I’m too lazy to go back and research some of those earlier entries. So I will just assume that, at some point, I published a rant about how I abhor fast food and chain restaurants.

That said, I have to eat my words about one chain restaurant and that would be Seasons 52. Yes, it’s owned by the Darden Group (which also owns the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains, places where I would never darken the door, food snob that I am), but it is a fairly small brand (I don’t know if they have even 20 locations) and it is really, really good. In fact, it’s one of my favorite places to go for lunch on Saturdays after an intense workout at the gym. Why? Because it is very civilized dining, I can make a last minute rez on Open Table, racking up an easy 100 points and EVERY MENU ITEM IS 475 CALORIES OR LESS. My kind of place!

We ventured there over the weekend and as usual, ordered one of their flatbreads to start. These are very (VERY) thin rectangular crispy crusts with various toppings. Ours included plum tomatoes, basil and provolone. It was delicious and it satisfied that “pizza craving” we sometimes experience.  Ha, and for less than 250 calories each, we didn’t do that much damage.

Which brings me to the following recipe. While it won’t take the place of mac and cheese (what could?) it is nonetheless satisfying and full of cheesy goodness. I’m betting your kids will like it – even if they hate cauliflower. That’s right, I said “cauliflower.”

This is another one of those recipes that I’m embarrassed to give you because it is ridiculously easy. Ouch, and it even involves a microwave. However, just like my affinity for Seasons 52, don’t let your food snobbery get in the way of a good plate.


1 large head cauliflower, leaves removed and trimmed so that it sits flat
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Place cauliflower in a glass pie plate or shallow dish.  Pour water into dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Nuke on high for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Remove from microwave and carefully remove plastic wrap (be careful of escaping steam).  Drain any remaining water in pan.  Spread mustard evenly over the entire head of cauliflower, then place grated cheese in a pile on top.  Nuke again for about 1 minute, or until cheese is just melted.

Slice and serve.  That's it!

Serves 4 - 6

*  Although I am the salt queen, notice that there is none called for in this.  For me to say that - well, then you can trust me.

*  I will also tell you that I have been known to use reduced-fat 2% pre-grated cheddar.  Ouch, again.  But as long as you use sharp cheddar (don't even think about using "American cheese" ) and a good quality dijon mustard, you'll be okay here and you will save a few calories.

*  The genesis of this recipe comes from Glenn Powell and Elise Griffin-Hughes of the original Peasant Restaurants a million years ago here in the ATL.  They concocted a version of it at the long-lamented Country Place.  I think theirs involved mayonnaise, but in the interest of caloric content, I have dispensed with that here.  You'll never miss it.

*  And no, don't worry.  I haven't sworn off posting fat-laden, delicious recipes.  Just thought we all needed a break.  Here's to the Skinny Cook Quest!


  1. Liz, love your recipe. I love cauliflower and love cheese, so, wonderful combination. Back in Brazil, when I was still a child, my favorite cauliflower flowerets dipped in batter and deep fried, oh, gosh! Now, I recently got a 1999 Southern Living Annual Recipes book, and there were a few recipes from Elise Griffin Hughes (nope, back then she didn't hyphenate her name). I was wondering if you know of other recipes by her. I tried the Net and found nothing…

    1. Love that you remember Elise! She is a dear friend and is retired now, after having run a succesful catering company. I have a ton of her recipes so let me know if you are looking for anything in particlar. To this day, she is still a fabulous cook!

    2. Just thought I'd stop by and ask if you plan to publish any of Elise's recipes.

  2. Thank you for your reply! I love easy-to-make recipes--yes, I confess: I'm lazy! So, anything you'd like to send me, I'd appreciate. (I can send you my email address, just don't like to leave it here, for everyone to see...) I recently made her recipe published in the 1999 Southern Living Year book, "Caramel-Pecan Triangles." Oh, Lord, was it delicious! The only problem is that after refrigerating the required time, it turned into a brick, which made it impossible to cut in triangles...