I was hoping I could have like a "5 C's Bake" or something like that, but the "pasta" wasn't really working with me. I was trying to concoct something out of what I had in the house and what I had was what's in the name: Chicken Tenderloins, Pasta, fresh Cauliflower, pasta, cheese and bread crumbs. I was thinking some kind of Cheese/Alfredo Sauce to toss over it all and then bake/broil to toast the bread crumb topping. So off I went.
Chicken Tenderloins (I used frozen), as many as would fit in the skillet – about 10. You can also use chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken or any chicken you have on hand.
Pasta, one package, whatever kind you and your family like
Cauliflower, one fresh head
Cheese, your choice (I used Mozzarella, cheddar and a Mexican mix – the leftovers of what was in the fridge)
Bread, about 2-3 slices
First I browned the Chicken Tenderloins by placing a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a skillet and lining the skillet with as many tenderloins would fit. I put the cover on the skillet to keep them tender and to keep from splattering oil. This took about 15 minutes or so, turning, to brown both sides. As I turned, I salted and peppered each side once. Once they were nicely browned, I took them out onto a cutting board and chopped/pulled them apart with a bread knife hoping that the serrated edge would cause a "shredded" effect, which it did. I put the pieces in a bowl, covered with foil and set aside.
During the chicken, I got a pot with a perforated insert going with water for the cauliflower. I got out my cauliflower and removed all of the greens around the bottom with a knife and by pulling with my hands. I set the head in the pot, covered and waited. I tried taking it out after about 10-15 minutes, but it wasn't done. I wan't it to "fall apart" which after another 5-10 minutes in the pot, it did. Then I took it out onto a cutting board and gently pulled it apart and chopped it into bite size pieces, getting rid of the big middle stem. It can sit there or sit in a bowl with foil like the chicken.
I also started another big pot of water boiling for the pasta. Added salt. Once boiling, added the pasta and cooked for about 10 minutes, according to the package's directions. Drained and let sit until I was ready for it.
During another lull, I cuisinarted (there's my favorite cooking verb again) a few slices of old bread to add to the top of this whole spiel (German for "game" and commonly used in place of "deal," or similar word, at least in my family).
The sauce. This is the main "deal" and cannot be ignored… too much. I started with 3 Tablespoons of butter melting in a sauce pot on about Medium. Once melted, I added 4 Tablespoons of flour which immediately soaked up the butter. I whisked a bit, but then needed the milk. I added 2 cups of Organic Milk, not whole which you can use or whatever milk you have in your fridge. I added that and then it didn't do much as I whisked. So I turned up the heat and it immediately thickened. Cheese time. I added several slices of Mozzarella, about a cup of Mexican mix cheese and a slice of cheddar. You can add whatever mixture your family likes, you want about 16 oz. of cheese or so. Taste test to make sure it's to your liking.
Now. Put the pasta, chicken and cauliflower in your big pasta pot that you just used and then coat with your cheese sauce. Toss gently with tongs. Get out a nice (as opposed to mean) pyrex baking dish or whatever large rectangular dish you use for lasagna or Tom's Tacos, etc. Pile in the mixture from the pot. Then sprinkle with the bread crumbs from the Cuisinart. Have the oven on 350 degrees to warm it all back up again. You can keep it in there for about 5-10 minutes on the lower/middle rung. Then to brown the crumbs, change oven to broil, but only for about 5 minutes or so, because it may brown fast. Check often.
You're done. I sprinkled with a bit of salt just to finish it off. Here's the kicker: both my kids had seconds (my daughter never has seconds, or hardly ever) and she asked to have it in her lunch the next day even though I said it would be cold. Healthy Mac 'n Cheese with chicken and cauliflower. The cauliflower adds a nice texture, even a sweetness, and doesn't detract from the overall look of the dish (to a kid) like broccoli would, though you're welcome to substitute.