Paleo/Whole 30 Version of Papa’s Famous Sausage “Mac and Cheese”

My husband is one of five children and, needless to say, this meant that the grocery budget needed to be stretched as much as possible. That said modest means are sometimes the mother of all invention right? His father was challenged to come up with a meal that could feed 7 people and that his family would all enjoy for $10 or less. That he did! He came up with his now “famous” sausage mac and cheese which included shell noodles, diced tomatoes, tons of cheese, Italian sausage….oh and more cheese! To this day, his family will devour a pot of it in about 5 minutes flat.

Fast forward about 25 years. My husband and I just completed our first Whole 30 challenge successfully and have committed to an at least mostly paleo diet save special occasions. (By the way, after having just come off of a weekend of “special occasion” eating I think I may redefine my “special occasion” exception list a bit further as my body is still trying to recover from my off plan binge. I will now happily attend the festivities and cheers with my sparkling water and enjoy a nice salad and maybe a bowl of fruit instead of mixed drinks and cake.) Because of the festivities, my father-in-law was in town and challenged me to come up with a paleo version of his famous dish. This was quite a tall order as the origional dish has 25 years of tradition on its side. I know, I know you are dying to know how this story ends! Well my friends, lets just say this, I’m blogging the recipe because it went over well in my house, but I would love to hear your opinion if you choose to make it known!

Kitchen Gadgets Needed 

  • Food Processor or a good blender
Sauce and Cauliflower Ingredients (Recipe for cauliflower and sauce borrowed from My Natural Family)
  • 1 ½ heads Cauliflower
  • 2 T. Grass-fed Butter or Ghee for Whole 30
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ¼ C. Water
  • 2 T. Grass-fed Butter of Ghee for Whole 30
  • 1 small Yellow Squash(Summer squash), cut into small cubes
  • 1 small Carrot, peeled and diced
  • ½ Small Sweet Onion, diced
  • ½ t. Garlic Powder
  • ¾ t. Ground Mustard
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • I can Organic Diced Tomatoes

Sausage Ingredients (Sausage recipe is a slightly modified version of the one in the Whole 30 recipe book.}

  • 2 t. Cooking Fat
  • 1/2 C. Minced White Onion
  • 1 lb Ground Pork
  • 1/2 t. Dried Sage
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 1/4 t. Black Pepper
  • 1/4 t. Garlic Powder
  • Pepper, to taste
Instructions
FOR THE SAUSAGE
  1. Heat 1 T. of the cooking fat in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the fat is hot, add the onions and cook , stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Combine sauteed onions, ground meat, sage, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl and blend with your hands.
  2. Heat the remaining 1 T. of fat in the same skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the fat is hot, add the sausage and saute until cooked through.
  3. Set aside, cover and keep warm until ready to combine with cauliflower and cheese sauce.
FOR THE CAULIFLOWER
  1. Cut the stalks and leaves off of the cauliflower and break it into small pieces. Add the cauliflower to a large sauté pan as well as the 2 T. butter, ½ t. salt, and water. Place on medium/high heat and cover with a lid. Let the cauliflower steam inside the pan for about 5 minutes, until mostly tender. Check the water levels every few minutes to make sure that it doesn’t all evaporate. When almost tender, remove the lid and let the cauliflower sauté for a minute or two, or until lightly caramelized in spots. Turn heat off, cover, and keep warm until ready to toss with the cheese sauce.
FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:
  1. Heat the 2 T. butter in a saucepan over medium/high heat. Add the squash, carrot, onion, garlic powder, mustard, and salt to the melted butter.
  2. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add the can of coconut milk to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the coconut milk has reduced by ⅔ and is thick.
  3. Pour the vegetables and coconut milk into a blender or food processor and puree until very, very smooth. Immediately add an egg yolk to the puree and blend well. The hot puree will cook the egg which will thicken the sauce and give it a rich texture.
  4. Check seasonings and add more salt or pepper to taste.
  5. Pour over the hot cauliflower and toss to coat.

FINAL TOUCHES:

  1. Turn the oven on broil low.
  2. Grease a casserole dish with coconut oil.
  3. Pour cauliflower with cheese sauce in the dish fully covering the bottom of the pan.
  4. Pour sausage crumbles evenly over the cauliflower.
  5. Drain the can of tomatoes and pour drained tomatoes over the entire dish.
  6. Sprinkle precooked bacon over entire dish.
  7. Broil until the cheese sauce starts to brown slightly on top. About 3 -5 minutes. Watch closely as times vary greatly depending on the oven.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Did you make this dish? Please let me know what you think in the comments.

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Facts you need to know about DHA and ARA in infant formula

As a first time Mom I did tons of research on the best formula to feed my baby after I decided it was the best thing for our family as a whole to stop breastfeeding. You can read more about my search for formula here. There seem to be a lot of different views on whether or not to feed formula with added DHA and ARA and a lot of controversy surrounding how the additives in infant formula are derived.

First and foremost, if you do choose to feed formula with DHA and ARA added, it is well worth your time to do your research on how your formula of choice manufactures their additives. Many formulas use a questionable process to create their additives which may be toxic. Read more here. The following is a direct quote from The Cornucopia Institute “The DHA in infant formula and organic milk comes from docosahexaenoic single cell oil (DHASCO). These oils are extracted with the toxic chemical hexane from laboratory-grown algae.”

Fortunately there is one formula in the United States that has a nontoxic and organic way to extract DHA and ARA additives and that is Baby’s Only Organic made by Nature’s One.  They use a process involving egg yolks that no other brand uses.

Now for the facts which I had to dig for several months to find. This is not just a quick google search. This is the best and most up-to-date information I could find on the subject.

What is DHA and ARA?

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA).  ARA (arachidonic acid) is an omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA).  Both are non-essential fatty acids because the human body has the capability of making them from other available fats already consumed.  DHA is made from linolenic fatty acid and ARA is made from linoleic fatty acid.  Linolenic and linoleic fatty acids are essential fatty acids meaning that the body cannot make them and they must be provided through the foods we eat.  All infant formulas contain these essential fatty acids. 

This is why I believe that it is not necessary to purchase formula with additives from potentially toxic hexane or even from the safer Nature’s One egg extraction method unless specifically directed to do so by the child’s healthcare provider.

Where is DHA found in nature?

Food sources of DHA include cold water fish and their oils, egg yolks, and organ meats such as liver.  ARA is found mostly in animal products, such as eggs, meat and some fish such as tilapia and catfish.

Obviously newborns do not consume these foods, but in my opinion, it may be beneficial especially for breastfeeding mothers to take these foods into consideration as a part of their regular healthy diet.

What the the Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition has to say about DHA and ARA:

The highly respected American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition has no official position on supplementation of term or preterm infant formulas with DHA and ARA.  In fact, they state the following:

“Finally, considering the marked variability among infants of apparent conversion of ALA to DHA and LA to ARA, it is conceivable that some infants will benefit from supplementation, whereas others will not. Such a scenario certainly would explain the marked variability in outcomes documented by virtually every study. It is also likely that any beneficial effects of LCPUFA supplementation will be subtle and possibly not detected with available methodology.”*

*American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition.  Fats and Fatty Acids.  In: Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds.  Pediatric Nutrition.  7th ed.  Elk Grove Village, IL.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014; 426.

Reason some may still consider feeding formula with DHA and ARA additives:

Many parents and healthcare professionals may want to have an “insurance policy” regarding DHA and ARA since they may have questions regarding the amount of conversion of the essential fatty acids into the non-essential fatty acids so they either use a formula containing DHA and ARA or may use a DHA supplement.  This is something to discuss with a child’s healthcare provider.

So there you have it folks, the hard facts about DHA and ARA. Now it is up to you to decide whether the additives are worth the investment. For me and my family, I say no.  As stated above, all infant formulas contain fatty acids that are converted to DHA and ARA in the body, therefore I don’t see the need to take a risk with potentially harmful additives even though my formula of choice uses the only organic and nontoxic extraction method. Unless one day I am specifically instructed by my pediatrician to feed my child formula including these additives, (at which point I would only use Nature’s One Baby’s Only Formula) I will put that extra money toward a college fund as I feel it will go to much better use.

Do you agree? Do you feed a formula with added DHA and ARA and plan to continue after reading these facts? Why or why not?