Mac and Cheese is one of those dishes that is easily manipulated for increased health points. Adding vegetables, subbing wheat pasta for white, and using less of a more flavorful cheese are all easy changes that add vitamins, reduce fat, but maintain flavor. This modified version is so healthy, that a hearty serving is mighty filling without all of the heaviness characteristic of traditional baked casseroles.
I made several modifications to the recipe below which I eagerly retrieved from another recipe blogger, Tina. Ingredients that I changed are indicated with an asterisk in the original recipe provided below. Here are some notes about my changes...
- Instead of fresh cauliflower I used a 16-ounce bag of the frozen vegetable. According to the National Institutes of Health, "Generally, vegetables are canned or frozen immediately upon harvest when their nutrient content is at its peak." Knowing this, there is virtually no excuse for skimping on your veggie intake; vegetables in the freezer section of your grocery store are almost often conveniently packaged in pre-sliced, par-cooked form. All that stands between you and their nutritional benefits is a little thawing. (Enter our favorite appliance: the microwave.) It came as a suprise to me to learn that cauliflower is a significant source of Vitamin C. For more information about this vegetable, check out its federal profile on the CDC website.
- Instead of bread, I used 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs with 1 piece of wheat bread and some multigrain pita chip crumbs.
- Instead of 1% milk, I used skim, because it was what I had on hand. I suppose the small addition of fat from the milk would make this even creamier.
- Instead of sour cream, I used plain, nonfat yogurt, making this dish a calcium power-punch. Eating 3 daily servings of low-fat dairy products can offer a number of health benefits; advantages can include increased bone strength, maintanence of healthy weight, and improved heart function and healthy blood pressure. More about these dairy-induced gains is provided by the National Dairy Council.
- 12 oz. multigrain elbow macaroni (or any smallish pasta)
- 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped*
- 4 slices multigrain bread, torn*
- 1/2 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 & 1/2 c. (6 oz.) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 & 1/2 c. reduced-fat sour cream*
- 1/2 c. 1% milk*
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the cauliflower during the last 3 minutes of cooking time; drain.
- Meanwhile, pulse the bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Add the parsley, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and pulse to combine; set aside.
- Return the pasta pot to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil (I used non-stick olive oil cooking spray). Add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in the pasta, cauliflower, cheese, sour cream, milk, and mustard.
- Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish that has been greased with non-stick olive oil spray, sprinkle with the bread crumbs, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Estimated Nutrition Facts per Serving (For Original Recipe)
Calories: 537; Fat: 23g (sat 9g); Cholesterol: 51mg; Carbohydrate: 63g; Sodium: 692mg; Protein: 24g; Fiber: 8g; Sugars: 8g