"Cooking is 'that something' we share with every other culture and heritage," says Beth Imperial-Rogers of Cornwall, New York.
"As a social worker, I've found that learning about different foods and cooking styles can be a great icebreaker. Food has helped me to be more aware of general influences from a person's background. It also tends to bridge some of the barriers I experience in my work. I find it's the quickest way to get to know people.
"I'm currently working as a therapist in a mental health clinic with a specialized group of folks who have a variety of emotional needs. My job is to help resolve any kind of psychological barriers they may have in their lives.
"My patients have worries, fears and anxieties much like we all do. Because of their intellectual abilities these emotions might come out differently or take a bit longer to uncover. Over time, my work helps them to realize their potential in life and shows them that each one of us makes a difference by just living our lives.
"My experience has shown me that if I try to do my best in life I set an example for others to do their best. We support each other and feed off this positive energy.
"Cooking is not a regular part of my workday; however many of my clients have challenges or concerns that include making good nutritional choices. It is not uncommon for me to address those concerns during our therapy sessions.
"I believe in teaching folks to use cooking on a daily basis to help control their own health. Just as I do at home, I try to teach overall nutritional value instead of focusing on one aspect of good nutrition. Because it is something we have in common with each other, I enjoy sharing the value in cooking for ourselves and each other.
"I hope that by sharing the foods I prepare with others and savoring the foods that others prepare, the bonds of family, friendship and community are strengthened, if in some small way."
According to Beth, "Baked Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower using whole wheat or multigrain macaroni is a favorite one-dish casserole that both my meat-eater and vegetarian kids enjoy. Using evaporated skim milk or non-fat half and half helps to keep the fat content down without sacrificing the creaminess."
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni to "al dente" according to package directions—about a minute less than fully cooked. Add the cauliflower for the final 3 minutes of cooking. While the pasta cooks, in a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, butter, SEASONINGS and cheese and mix well. Drain the pasta and cauliflower well so it is nice and dry, and then add to the bowl with the cheese mixture. Stir to combine. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan or 3 quart casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 15 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle with bread crumbs if desired and bake for 15 more minutes or until the sauce is bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving to let the sauce thicken a bit.Prep. time: 15 minutes
Nutritional Information: Servings 8;
Serving Size 1 cup (270g); Calories 430; Calories from fat 110; Total fat 13g; Cholesterol 95mg; Sodium 550mg; Carbohydrate 58g; Dietary Fiber 7g.