We're celebrating 30 years of Lean and lovin' it with you

  • A beginner baker is on his way to a lifetime of cooking, baking good food.

    A beginner baker is on his way to a lifetime of cooking, baking good food. Courtesy of Don Mauer

  • Don Mauer before his Lean and lovin' it journey.

    Don Mauer before his Lean and lovin' it journey. Courtesy of Don Mauer

 
 
Updated 10/12/2022 9:46 AM

This month, I'm celebrating this column's 30th anniversary.

Yup, 30 years. This is column number 1,111.

 

How did I get here?

Good luck, mostly.

Roasting the cauliflower gives an added depth of flavor to No Mac -- Mac and Cheese.
Roasting the cauliflower gives an added depth of flavor to No Mac -- Mac and Cheese. - Courtesy of Don Mauer

I started baking with my maternal grandma at the age of 8. She signed me up for a baking class at Evanston's Marshall Field's, and in the end, I got a certificate.

That's the beginning. There are too many "how'd-you-get-here" stories to fit into a 500-word column. Here are some quick takes.

Most frustrating experience: Creating a low-fat version of the blue box mac and cheese and having the maker, after testing it, turn down using it.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Most fun: Cooking in front of rooms full of people.

Most amazing 10 minutes: Selling 12,000 copies of my cookbook, "Lean and Lovin' It," on QVC.

Most challenging: Cooking on live television.

Famous people I've met: Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan (of Yan Can Cook) and Craig Claiborne.

Most frustrating: Losing out to Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) to host a cooking show on Washington PBS.

Biggest column surprise: In the '90s, I shared a low-fat zucchini bread makeover that got enormous amounts of snail mail.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The most interesting change over the years: Going from mailing my column to the Daily Herald to delivering the column and pictures instantly by email.

Very satisfying: Taking pictures of my food.

The hardest thing I've ever done: Sharing that I'd regained the weight I'd lost in 1990, topping out at 327.

Most heartwarming moment: Re-losing all that weight and having you, my readers, support me through that process. I even shared my weekly scale numbers right here.

Surprising column response: How to get a hard-boiled egg to peel easily. I got lots of emails about how all of you do it.

Scariest early column moment: Having the American Dairy Association try to get me fired for sharing a low-fat makeover of an ADA-sponsored cheesecake recipe.

Hardest transition: Doing an about-face from low-fat to higher-fat, low-carb cooking.

The most challenging thing to do today: Create desserts that are sugar-free, wheat-free and low-carb while never using artificial sugar substitutes (like NutraSweet or Splenda).

The most challenging thing to give up: Sugar. It took nearly 10 days three years ago to end my sugar cravings.

Good news: Bakery cupcakes and deli bagels no longer call my name.

What I love the most about writing this column: Sharing healthy food with you.

Most grateful: I didn't get here by myself. No. Many people assisted me on my decadeslong journey, and I will always be eternally grateful to each of them.

Hope for the future: Keep doing this for as long as the Daily Herald wants me to and for you to keep reading.

Favorite recipe remake: There have been many of them over 30 years. My current favorite: Is No Mac -- Mac and Cheese. It's everything a great-tasting low-carb casserole should be and nothing it shouldn't.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at 1leanwizard@gmail.com.

The finished No Mac -- Mac and Cheese looks as inviting as the real thing.
The finished No Mac -- Mac and Cheese looks as inviting as the real thing. - Courtesy of Don Mauer
No Mac -- Mac and Cheese

Topping

2.5-ounces baked pork rinds, grated

cup (1-ounce) fresh-grated Parmesan

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the dish

Soft, unsalted butter, for baking dish

2 large heads of cauliflower (about 2 pounds each), cut into florets and stems cut into floret-size pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream

2 slices (1 ounces) American processed cheese

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mild cheddar cheese

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons dried parsley

Fresh ground black pepper

Sweet paprika

The sauce for the No Mac -- Mac and Cheese is creamy and flavorful.
The sauce for the No Mac -- Mac and Cheese is creamy and flavorful. - Courtesy of Don Mauer

Place the oven rack in the center position and begin heating the oven to 375 degrees. Using a small amount of butter, lightly coat the interior bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

Make the topping: Add the crushed pork rinds, Parmesan cheese and olive oil to a medium bowl and stir together until well combined. Set aside.

Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the cauliflower florets and stem pieces and toss until coated. Spread the cauliflower onto two large baking sheets and roast until tender and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.

While the cauliflower roasts, place a 5-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the whipping cream. Heat, while stirring frequently, until small bubbles begin appearing around the edge. Lower the heat and begin stirring in the grated cheeses. Remove from heat and stir in the dried parsley. (If too thick, stir in a couple of tablespoons whole milk).

Transfer the roasted cauliflower to the prepared baking dish, distributing it evenly to the edges. Evenly pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower. Sprinkle pork mixture in an even layer over cauliflower and cheese and dust with sweet paprika.

Roasting the cauliflower gives an added depth of flavor to No Mac -- Mac and Cheese.
Roasting the cauliflower gives an added depth of flavor to No Mac -- Mac and Cheese. - Courtesy of Don Mauer

Bake until golden, 20 minutes (it should be bubbling around the edge).

Serves 12

Nutrition values per serving: 434 calories (69.5% from fat), 33.6 g fat (18.7 g saturated fat), 9.4 g carbohydrates (6.6. net carbs), 3.2 g sugars, 2.8 g fiber, 12.8 g protein, 100 mg cholesterol, 634 mg sodium.

Don Mauer

Go to comments: 0 posted
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.