Sunday, June 5, 2011

Adult Mac & Cheese

 Many of us grew up with classic, American macaroni and cheese. Most of the time it was from a blue box with the name "K-r-a-f-t" on the front, while some of us lucky ones (not me) had moms with crazy amounts of time to make homemade mac & cheese. Honestly, I don't know anyone who grew up with that, but I hear it's what kids in farm-sounding states get on their dinner plates...places like Montana and Wyoming...

Back to REALITY. Who has time to make mac and cheese? Who has the energy to whip up creamy, cheesy goodness? And who wants all of that salt and fat on a plate for one moment of tastiness? Not I, said the fly.

This was my first attempt to making healthy, grown-up mac and cheese. It has whole grains, veggies, a few spices and minimal fatty cheese, yet enough cheese to count.
Healthy (My) Version:           Kraft's Version:

*Disclaimer: This is no jab at Kraft Mac & Cheese. I grew up with this tasty treat! But this is just a comparison of how one can make mac and cheese easily at home, along with adding more nutrients.

Now that I interjected with that disclaimer, let's compare and contrast these Nutrition Facts.
  • Healthy version: 280 grams (1 1/2 cups or so), Kraft 1/4 of the amount. I eat way more than the suggested serving of the cheesy goodness, don't you?
  • Comparable calories--257 for 259. However, you're eating four times as much in the healthy version!
  • Okay, 8 grams of fat in mine, but some of that is from the whole wheat pasta and the REAL cheese (not cheese powder dehydrated from real cheese).
  • Saturated fat: more in mine, but for same reason as above...real cheese. And, if this is an entree, it's nowhere near your alloted 20 grams based on USDA's guidelines for a 2,000 calorie/day diet.
  • More cholesterol in mine...real cheese, but also some of the "good cholesterol," too.
  • Less carbs in healthy version; wheat pasta helps with this. Incredible, considering you're eating way more pasta with the healthy one.
  •  5 grams of fiber versus 1 gram in Kraft. This has a lot to do with the broccoli.
  • More protein in healthy version; real cheese and broccoli do the trick.
  • Plus the best part: Vitamin A: 133% vs. 1%, Calcium: 37% vs. 9%, Vitamin C: 50% vs. 1%, Iron: 9% vs. 14% (not sure why this is, unless it's a "fortified" ingredient in the boxed mac and cheese. 
Are you convinced that it might be worth whipping up your own homemade (easy and healthy) mac and cheese??? Onto my first attempt.
I finally got our big food processor out of the box for this project...How exciting! It even shreds carrots and cheese!

Healthy Mac & Cheese
*Serves 4 grown-ups, or 1.2 kids* :) 
10 ounces whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
1 1/2 quarts of boiling water, in a pot
2 cups broccoli (frozen or fresh) cooked and drained
1 carrot (fresh or frozen), cooked and drained
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika (regular or smoked)
1/4 teaspoon each: black pepper, salt, garlic powder
1 cup skim milk 
1 TB olive oil
1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Adding the best ingredient--CHEESE!

Large pot for boiling pasta
Food processor
Large spoon

  1. Boil pasta in a pot according to pasta directions minus one or two minutes (cooked but not too soft, al dente). In the meantime cook/boil/microwave the broccoli and carrot. Drain. 
  2. In a food processor, combine veggies, paprika, pepper, garlic powder and salt until creamy. Gradually add milk. If 1 cup is not enough, add one splash of milk at a time until you reach the desired thickness. This will be a thick sauce that coats the pasta. 
  3. Drain the pasta and return to pot, keeping heat on medium. Toss the pasta in olive oil. Add "sauce" to pot, folding sauce to coat all of pasta. Add low fat cheese and fold in until melted. Add extra paprika and garlic powder to taste.
Serve with salad or top with chicken or other meat to make a meal. Top plates with the sharp cheddar for extra cheesiness and extra paprika for extra color and flavor.

This is super easy and healthy. Note: You will slightly taste the broccoli at first bite, but the cheese definitely dominates. :) Stay cheesy, my friends.

1 comment:

  1. Hey. If it's "grown-up food" - it aint meant to be healthy.

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