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Skinny Mac & Cheese



I think one of my favourite pasta dishes of all has to be macaroni and cheese.  When I was growing up I cannot recall my mother ever making it from scratch.  We did do the blue box stuff and we were quite happy with that. In fact it was a real treat for us.  And of course in my Uni years, I ate plenty of the blue boxed stuff also as it was cheap, cheap, cheap.  You could buy 10 boxes for a dollar if I recall correctly!  Sometimes we would stir some ketchup into it to make it taste better.  UGH!  College kids eh?


I don't think I had proper Macaroni and Cheese until I was married.  I tried out a recipe in one of my BHG cookbooks  and I thought it was quite nice.  Then one time my sister shared a recipe with me for a stove top mac and cheese and that was also very tasty.  It was something we all loved.


I also used to make it like my friend Leona taught me, which was to cook macaroni (al Dente)and add chunks of cheese, salt and pepper and cover it with some milk and then buttered crumbs.  That was also really good, because you got large gooey chunks of cheese in it.  The more cheese you put into it the better it was. That was kind of like a Scalloped Mac and Cheese.  No worries about calories and fat in those days and I was a skinny minnie too!


I have been on a quest to lower the fat and carb content and increase the fibre content of my favourite mac and cheese without compromising on flavour.  I adore Cauliflower Cheese too  . . .  and I thought to myself, cauliflower is very low carb . . .  why not combine macaroni and cauliflower.  And if you use whole wheat  pasta then you are also increasing the fibre.


Carbs are where we get our energy from, so they are not totally bad for you.  In using whole wheat pasta and then cutting down the amount by replacing some of it with cauliflower, I am using good carbs and increasing the protein and fibre in the dish in a good way.


The sauce uses low fat evaporated milk, instead of cream or full fat milk, which means that is is rich.  The addition of some low fat cream cheese also adds to the richness.  A bit of Parmesan cheese, which really has a lot of flavour, means that you don't have to use as much cheddar as you normally would.


I also chose to use a strong low fat cheddar, which meant I was still getting plenty of flavour but less fat.  This sauce was rich and well flavoured.  I always like to use some hot pepper sauce and dry mustard powder to give my cheese sauces more of a kick.  And I also used onion and garlic powders for additional flavour.


I had some leftover ham and added some of that, but you don't need to if you don't have it.  We did and it was an excellent way to use it up.  It also meant that Todd (the pasta hater) didn't feel as deprived as he normally would have done.


A final smattering of cheese on top and some sliced tomato, add  colour and plenty of eye appeal.  Altogether this made for a really tasty dish.  Good news also, you can easily cut the recipe in half for fewer people.  I did that today and Todd and I each had plenty, with some leftovers for me to enjoy tomorrow, while I feed him something he likes that I can't eat.  Everybody wins!


*Skinny Mac & Cheese*
Serves 6
 
Lower in fat and calories, high in fibre and protein, but not compromised in flavour in any way.  This is, hands down, my new FAVOURITE mac and cheese! 


350g whole wheat pasta twists (3 cups)
1/2 head of cauliflower broken into small florets (2 cups)
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
360ml low fat evaporated milk (1 1/2 cup)
2 ounces low fat cream cheese
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
few splashes hot sauce
2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
120g low fat strong (sharp) cheddar cheese grated
(I used a mix of orange and white) (1 cup)
150g baked ham, cut into cubes (1 cup)
2 medium tomatoes sliced
salt and black pepper to taste




Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil.  Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Lightly spray a rectangular casserole dish with low fat cooking spray.  Set aside.


Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in the flour, mustard powder, onion and garlic powders.  Cook for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the evaporated milk.  Cook whisking until it begins to thicken and bubble.  Whisk in the cream cheese, hot sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Stir to melt the cheeses.  Add half of the cheddar and again stir to melt.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper. If you think the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with a bit more milk as needed.


Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water according to the package directions, adding the cauliflower florets the last 3 minutes of cook time.  Drain well.  Stir into the cheese sauce, along with the ham.  Pour the whole mixture into your prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over top.  Place the tomato slices evenly over top and sprinkle them lightly with some salt and black pepper. 


Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until heated through, bubbling and golden brown.  Let stand for five minutes before serving.  A mixed green salad goes very well with this.


I served this with a green winter salad. It was just chopped romaine, rocket leaves, thawed baby peas, spring onions, cucumber and my favourite homemade dill vinaigrette. (1 TBS low fat mayo, 60 ml each olive oil and cider vinegar(1/4 cup each), salt, pepper, dry mustard powder, chopped dill and a pinch of sugar).  This (to me) was a great meal.  Todd didn't complain overly much, lol.  Bon Appetit!


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Marie Rayner
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4 comments:

  1. It does look good..I often use 2% milk in recipes..:) The evaporated milk must add depth too!

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    Replies
    1. It gives you the velvety richness of cream without the fat and calories of cream Monique, and to be honest, you don't taste the tinned milkness of it. Its simply a lovely cheese sauce! xo

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  2. This looks like a good idea and I really like the tomatoes on top. I almost always use 2 percent unless the recipe calls for whole milk, cream or butermilk and it always works fine. LOVE mac and cheese and this looks like a more healthy winner.

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    Replies
    1. THanks very much Jeanie! It really was lovely! Xo

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