An Exercise in Experimentation (+ Recipe: Confused Not-Mac & Cheese)

Every spring, I gain a substantial amount of energy. Sometimes I have full days where I can’t stop moving. Today was one of those days. I worked out, took the dog for an hour walk, rode my bike, bleached my hair, dyed my hair, and danced the entire time I cooked dinner… oh wait, dinner, that’s what I was getting at!

Sometimes you just have no idea what to cook. Sometimes you have a bunch of ingredients about to go bad in your refrigerator and you stare vacantly into that bright, chilled void wondering how to combine them to best get your dollar’s worth and put off a trip to the grocery another day. That’s how I arrived at what I can best call “Confused Not-Mac & Cheese” while making dinner for my husband and myself tonight.

Most of a head of cauliflower, half a can of white hominy, a small chunk of gouda, the end of a packet of cream cheese, one 5oz tuna steak, butter, an 1/8 package of chorizo, an avocado that may or may not still be good, and a full spice rack.

Sure, I got this.

I started by ricing the cauliflower. Then I got bored of ricing the cauliflower and threw it into a pan with just a rough chop. Added Goya Sazón (my go-to when I’m lazy-cooking), salt, black pepper, and a bit of Helldust. I let it steam in olive oil in a lidded pan while I danced around the kitchen like an idiot trying to remember what I was doing in the first place.

Somewhere down the line I added a tablespoon of butter, the half can of hominy (drained), chorizo, and a splash of lime juice. Removed the lid and let it keep cooking over medium heat. After another song & dance (literally), I broke up the gouda and cream cheese into the pan and stirred.

That’s when the magic happened: it almost instantly turned into a creamy orange sauce reminiscent of boxed mac & cheese (don’t lie, you know you remember it fondly). It’s got that childhood comfort food color with a very grown up flavor.

As the veggie half of the dish came together, I halved the tuna to create two thin filets and flash-fried it in a pan of hot butter with salt, pepper, and lime juice (not pictured). Sliced the avocado for garnish and sprinkled a bit more Helldust on top of everything.

Moral of the story? If you have no idea what to cook, sometimes it’s best to *just start cooking*. Experimenting without an end goal in mind can lead you to bright, beautiful, orange places of deliciousness.

Not ready to indulge your imagination? That’s fine, it’ll come in time. For now, here’s what I made tonight in easy-to-follow recipe form:

Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower
1/2 can white hominy, drained
1 oz cheese (I used gouda; anything will work)
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1/2 packet Goya Sazón con azafran (or 1 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin for the basics)
2-4 oz chorizo (optional)
1 tsp lime juice
Salt & black pepper to taste
1 tsp Helldust (or Spanish hot paprika, ground chipotle pepper, cayenne–whatever spicy you have on hand)

Instructions:
Roughly chop cauliflower. Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil. Add cauliflower and seasonings. Cover and allow to steam for 10 minutes.

Add chorizo, hominy, butter. Continue to cook, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes.

Break up cheese by hand and add to pan, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low to hot-hold. Garnish with avocado and a little more Helldust or paprika.

Serve with a protein such as skirt steak, tuna steak, or a fried egg on top.

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