Gooey homemade mac and cheese—the kind with creamy little pockets of sauce and a golden, crunchy topping—is undeniably delicious, but in my mind, nothing can compete with the almost instant, day-glow orange, pure indulgence that comes out of a blue box.
To this day boxed mac and cheese is one of my family's go-to comfort foods and has even been declared "favorite meal of all time" by my 6-year-old. With two little kids and a hectic weekly schedule, I pretty much always have a box or two on hand for basic survival's sake. So, suffice it to say, I was more than a little intrigued by Kraft's newest version of this household staple that has cauliflower in it. Even though my kids are fairly willing vegetable eaters and I haven't had to resort to hiding stuff like carrot puree in their pasta sauce, an opportunity to slide a little extra nutrition into a quick meal seems like a no-brainer.
Speaking of cauliflower, have you noticed that it is EVERYWHERE all of a sudden? Grocery store shelves and restaurant menus are brimming with cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, mashed cauliflower, roasted cauliflower, cauliflower "steaks", cauliflower buffalo "wings"... And it's no wonder: cauliflower is super-versatile, somewhat of a blank flavor slate, very low-carb and packed with vitamins. Evidently, Kraft got the memo, too.
Their new Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner with mellow-flavored cauliflower added to the pasta boasts ¼ cup of vegetables per serving. No, ¼ cup of vegetables does not a health food make— it's still boxed mac and cheese - but ¼ cup of vegetables is certainly better than NO vegetables! And in comparing the nutrition labels for the cauliflower mac and the original, it appears that small amount of added veg does add a gram of fiber, a little bit of Vitamin A and a dose of Vitamin C to each serving. That's something!
The real test, of course, would be the taste. My husband and I happen to love cauliflower, so we were looking forward to finding out just how much of the flavor (subtle as that may be) would come through. My kids, on the other hand, are not so enthusiastic, and the question would be whether or not the cauliflower-ness would be a deal-breaker for either of them. My 4-year-old isn't as much of a mac and cheese fan as the rest of the family, so I wondered whether Kraft would win her over with this new twist on an old standby or if butter and salt would remain her "sauce" of choice. With hungry testers assembled, spoons in hand, we got to tasting.
Here's what we thought:
It tastes JUST LIKE non-cauliflower macaroni and cheese.
Honestly, none of us could detect any discernable difference—or as my 6-year-old mac and cheese connoisseur said, "It tastes regular. It's the same delicious as always!" I had to agree.
There was certainly no notable cauliflower flavor and all but one of us thought the texture of the pasta was the same as standard-issue Kraft noodles. The one outlier—a friend whom I'd called in to round out the tasting panel—thought that perhaps the pasta was a tad chewier than usual. My husband thought the sauce might be slightly less sweet than the original, but I'm pretty sure the powder packet is the same and that it's just the pasta that is different, so we were grasping at straws by that point. Hard as we tried to come up with some way in which this might be different or new, we all ultimately agreed: cauliflower mac and cheese tastes great—just like the "regular" stuff. Our only question: if it's a little bit healthier, does that mean we get to eat a little bit more?