Vegan Butternut “Cheesy” Cauliflower

On a day to day basis, I try to eat a healthy, whole foods diet, incorporating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. This means salads (like kale waldorf salads and salmon salads in avocado cups) and smoothies (such as this blueberry spinach mint smoothie) are a big part of my diet. I prefer it that way, as these foods really help me feel my best (and they’re delicious – especially now that spring is here!). But sometimes, the craving for comfort foods crops up. Usually, for me, that craving comes in chocolate form. The other day, however, the desire for macaroni and cheese revealed itself.

You know, revealed itself in the way that those weeds are “revealing themselves” in my garden right now. One day, there’s one or two, and before I have a chance to blink, they’ve taken over.

But when you’re on a gluten-free (and mostly grain-free), dairy-free diet, macaroni and cheese isn’t something that’s usually on the menu. Fortunately, the fridge and freezer were pretty well-stocked. I had plenty of Lexie’s raw nacho cheese left over from a few days’ prior, and I had butternut puree in the freezer from last fall that needed to be used up. With a few other ingredients, I managed to make a creamy, intensely satisfying “cheesy” dish that wasn’t going to wreak havoc on my digestive system, and packed a pretty good nutritional punch to boot. Definitely a win-win.

Now, those weeds in my garden may be another matter…

Vegan Butternut “Cheesy” Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets

1 cup butternut squash puree (either canned or follow instructions below)

½ cup Lexie’s raw nacho cheese sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

½ teaspoon salt, divided

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for sprinkling

1 tablespoon coconut oil or vegan butter, melted

3-4 tablespoons almond flour

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil an 8”X8” baking dish and set aside.

Steam or boil the cauliflower florets until tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.

Place the butternut puree, nacho cheese sauce, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast flakes, half of the salt, and smoked paprika in the
bowl of a food processor or blender and process to blend ingredients. Taste and adjust salt levels as needed. If the sauce seems too thick, thin with a splash or two of water or non-dairy milk. Scrape sauce over cauliflower and toss to coat well. Turn cauliflower into the baking dish and spread out evenly.

In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil/vegan butter, almond flour, garlic powder, and remaining salt and combine. Crumble into small bits over the top of the cauliflower.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. If the top isn’t browning to your liking, turn the broiler on high and allow to brown for just a few seconds – don’t walk away or it’ll burn.

Serve warm.

To make butternut squash puree:

Peel and cut butternut squash into large dice (about 1-inch cubes). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast butternut squash for 30-40 minutes or until soft with a few delicious brown bits on the edges. Puree in the bowl of a food processor or blender.

Want a quickie version? Take a whole butternut squash and poke 5-6 holes through the skin with the tip of a knife. Place on a plate and microwave for about 5 minutes on high. Turn squash over (carefully, it will be hot!) and continue to cook until squash is soft, about another 5 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then cut in half and scoop out seeds. Scoop out flesh and puree in a food processor or blender.

Alta Mantsch is the author of Tasty Eats At Home, a food blog dedicated to tasty gluten and dairy-free recipes, foods, and living, and is a Community Leader at the Udi’s Gluten Free Living Community Forum.

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