A video and recipe for a Loaded Cauliflower Bake from recently piqued my interest.

Armed with plenty of cauliflower to use up, I gave it a try.

The recipe is supposed to be like a loaded baked potato — minus the potato. Instead, the cauliflower, long a low-carb friendly option, stands in for the potato.

The recipe was easy but needed more than salt and pepper and a mess of cheese to help it along. I added a sprinkling of Morton’s Nature’s Seasons Seasoning blend — my go-to all-purpose seasoning — for a boost along with a pinch of cayenne.

Both are totally optional, and you can add your own flavor boost. As for the directions, it calls for squeezing the cauliflower to drain. I didn’t find doing so necessary because it didn’t get that water-logged during the 2-minute blanch time.

I also added more sliced green onions because it needed it. The recipe is fine as a side dish and, if you’re watching carbs and trying to avoid potatoes, is a good alternative. It makes six generous side dish servings — more than the four listed in the recipe.

Loaded Cauliflower Bake

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

2 small heads cauliflower, cut into florets

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups reduced-fat milk

11/2 cups shredded cheddar or favorite cheddar cheese blend

2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Morton’s Nature’s Season Seasoning blend to taste, optional

Pinch of cayenne pepper to taste, optional

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the cauliflower florets for 2 minutes.

Drain well and transfer to a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish.

To make the cheese sauce:

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add flour and stir until golden, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a low simmer.

Add cream cheese and whisk until combined.

Stir in 1 cup cheddar until melted; season with salt and pepper.

Taste and, if you like, add seasoning blend and pinch cayenne pepper. Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower and stir until combined. Stir in all but 1 tablespoon each cooked bacon and green onions until combined, then top with remaining cheddar, bacon, and green onions.

Bake until cauliflower is tender and cheese is bubbly and thickened, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

Adapted from Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.


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