Cauliflower MacCheese 002 Edited Comfort Food & Uncomfortable Situations: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Let’s make it a week filled with comfort foods, shall we?  While we are at it, let’s go along with the hot topic of the past 24 hours and present that comfort food as something other than what it is. Macaroni and cheese? Or is it cauliflower and cheese? Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

In the spirit of innocent until proven guilty, I choose to believe Manti was duped. If we can offer that bit of grace up to the worst of criminals, then surely we can extend the benefit of the doubt to a young man who at worst seems guilty of fully embracing the attention the popular media so willingly lavished upon him before they thought to check their facts. Listen up reporters, it’s not that freaking hard to find a matter of public record, i.e.) a death certificate.

For the record, I am not and have never been a Notre Dame fan. The closest I ever came to feeling an ounce of affection for the Fighting Irish was after watching Rudy. Frankly, I probably just liked Rudy because I had a residual crush on Sean Astin after Memphis Belle.  You think that’s bad? The very first crush I developed was on Knight Rider. Years later when I turned on the television and recognized Knight Rider on Baywatch, I was appalled and slightly disturbed by my tastes. I figure it is only fair to offer up those embarrassing tidbits for a post that discusses the humiliation of another.

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So why am I on his side? In the coming days his character might be blown to smithereens, but right now it feels better to give his honesty the benefit of the doubt. It’s so damn easy to kick people when they are down and make fun of people for no other reason than to make ourselves feel better. I’m guilty of both.

Just a few months ago, I might not have been so quick to empathize. But as someone who has witnessed a fake persona – whose existence was and probably still is supported by multiple people – in action, I can fully wrap my head around how easy it is to get duped online. Couple that with the ignorance of youth and a runaway media train, and how on earth do you set things right?

What happened here? Do we expect those in the public eye to have it all, less we realize there are chinks in their armor and they have real-people problems just like the rest of us? Did this talented athlete feel pressured to have a girlfriend, less his masculinity be challenged? Could this kid playing football nearly 5,000 miles from his home have just felt…lonely?

Cauliflower MacCheese 012 Edited Comfort Food & Uncomfortable Situations: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Over the years, I have been asked multiple times why I did not have boyfriend. It was a shitty question with no graceful answer I could think of. Really, how do you answer that? I don’t have a boyfriend because I am unattractive. I don’t have a boyfriend because I have a boring personality. I don’t have a boyfriend because, though I have both good looks and a personality, there is something fundamentally wrong with me. Those options are all so ludicrous in their own way that the only response I could think of was another question. Why are you dating a guy you don’t really like all that much simply to say you have a boyfriend?

In hindsight, the answer to the question was hard to come up with because it was multi-faceted. Because I am an introvert who would rather take it all in than strike up a conversation. Because I lack the patience to deal with jokers – and I’ve met A LOT of jokers. Because it hurts to have your heart broken, and on the flip side, to break a heart. Because when Nicholas Sparks created Noah and Allie he set completely unrealistic yet very believable expectations that real love written in the cosmos will take everything you’ve got, yet someway, somehow, you still want more.

Cauliflower MacCheese 005 Edited Comfort Food & Uncomfortable Situations: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

This leads me to one last thing. (Is anyone still reading? If so, bless your patient heart.) Some time ago, I watched a news program that detailed the events surrounding the mistaken identity of the lone survivor of a tragic automobile accident that claimed the lives of a number of Taylor University students. To make a complicated story short, the woman who survived was first thought to be someone else. For months, this woman was taken care of by the family of her deceased peer, as they believed her to be their daughter. Eventually the truth was realized, and everyone was like, are you guys crazy? How could you not know your own daughter?

How? Because they were told by a team of medical professionals that a girl with a swollen, unrecognizable face of the same size and stature as their daughter was, in fact, their daughter. Because in the paraphrased words of the father who wanted to believe his daughter was alive, “we didn’t know we were supposed to be putting together a puzzle with all of these pieces.” Because they wanted to believe something so very badly, they found truth in the otherwise unbelievable.

At some point, haven’t we all?

Cauliflower MacCheese 021 Edited Comfort Food & Uncomfortable Situations: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked macaroni (2 cups cooked)
  • 1 small to medium cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2⅓ cups milk
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) pepper cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Prepare the macaroni according to the package directions.
  2. While the pasta boils, cut the cauliflower into small florets and steam until tender.
  3. Place both the prepared macaroni and cauliflower in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Make sure both are very well drained before placing them into the dish.
  4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for two minutes, whisking constantly. The roux should develop a nice brown color.
  6. Next whisk in the milk and allow the mixture to thicken and come to a boil, about 7 minutes. Add the jalapeno, if using, while the mixture comes to a boil.
  7. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cheeses until fully melted. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and the cauliflower and stir gently to thoroughly coat.
  9. Immediately before baking, sprinkle bread crumbs over the top.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned on top.
Notes
I used white pepper and a jalapeno pepper to flavor this dish. To eliminate the heat, omit the jalapeno and use Monterey Jack in place of pepper cheese. The multiple steps to prepare the pasta, cauliflower and sauce – combined with the baking time - made this dish a bit too intensive to whip up for a quick dinner. I prepared and assembled this dish the night before baking, covering and storing in the refrigerator. I added the bread crumbs immediately before baking.
 

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