roasted cauliflower and chicken mac & cheese

I guess you could just call this a casserole, but it is full of noodles and a creamy, rich cheese sauce, so in my book it's a mac & cheese!

The roasted cauliflower & chicken add a ton of healthy flavor to this dish, and the noodles and gooey cheese sauce give you the satisfying comfort-food we all crave.

This was one of the best meals I have made in a long time (and not just because I haven't been cooking lately!)...  I think I ate half the pan myself!

If you don't have or don't care for curry, leave it & the lemon juice out.  It will still taste great, I promise.

My favorite part of this dinner:  Letting my toddlers steal 'bites' of my dinner - that they thought was just a big bowl of mac & cheese - and enjoying the fact that they were actually eating cauliflower and chicken!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken Mac & Cheese Recipe
inspired by Go Bold With Butter

8oz penne pasta
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (cheater-chicken, leftovers, boiled, etc.)
4 cups cauliflower florets (about one medium head)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk (or 1/2 cup lowfat milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, optional
juice of one lemon, optional
2 cups shredded cheese (I like a combination of cheddar and monterey jack)
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish and set aside.

Toss the cauliflower florets with 1 tablespoon melted butter or oil, salt & pepper to taste.  Spread evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and starting to turn golden.

Cook the noodles according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion until soft, about 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour evenly over the top and then cook, stirring continuously, until lightly golden brown.

Whisk in the stock & milk, a little bit at a time, until smooth and combined.  Stir in the seasonings & lemon juice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.

Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted and smooth.

Toss in the cooked noodles, chicken and roasted cauliflower to combine.  Taste for seasoning, adjust as desired, and dump into the greased baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly on top.

(*If you are going to freezer-meal this dish, stop here - cover well with foil and plastic wrap and then freeze.  When ready to use it, thaw slightly and add an additional 15-20 minutes to the baking time!)

Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and bake the dish for 35-45 minutes or so, until golden and bubbly.

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