Monday, May 16, 2011

Healthy Flavorful Macaroni and Cheese - Really!

So I'm trying to lose weight and have been attempting to make healthy versions of dishes that usually feel indulgent to ease the angst of constant deprivation. Hence, the pasta-sausage casserole of the previous post. I'm on a casserole kick here, and this week's is macaroni and cheese. Casseroles are great because you can make them on the weekend and put them in separate tupperwares to have for lunch all week. With this casserole, and a batch of Mark Bittman whole wheat waffles Gretchen made on Saturday, we are prepared for reasonably healthy breakfasts and lunches all week long.

This recipe is adapted from my mom's recipe, the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever-- to make her version, add another 1 1/2 tbsp of flour, double the cheddar, remove the cottage cheese and all the vegetables, and use more butter and breadcrumbs. It is so delicious. But unfortunately, not a good weight loss dish. So here is the healthier variation. I roasted about 3/4 a head of garlic for this, but it was so good that I'm going to recommend doubling that amount to 1 1/2 heads of garlic. The garlic is nestled in among the macaroni so you get little pockets of sweet garlic creaminess.

Becky's Macaroni and Cheese (8 servings)

8 oz whole wheat macaroni
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 onion, grated
1 poblano pepper
1 pound button or other mushrooms
1 1/2 heads garlic
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
3 tbsp flour
2 cups lowfat milk
3 tbsp whole wheat panko
2 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mustard powder
a dash of worcestershire
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat your oven to 400. In a bowl, toss your cauliflower florets with 1 tbsp olive oil by hand. Salt lightly and place in a lasagna pan or on a cookie sheet. Next, wrap your garlic tightly in foil. When the oven is hot, place cauliflower and garlic in to roast. You're going to roast the garlic for an hour, but take our the cauliflower when the florets are browned. Try one to make sure they are fully cooked through. The cooking time depends on the size of your florets.

Put your toaster oven on broil, and put your poblano in the toaster, whole. Keep an eye on it -- when the skin is blackening and blistering, turn it over. When it's done on both sides, remove it from the toaster and set it aside. When it's cool, peel off the skin and chop it up.

Dice your mushrooms and sautee them in 1 tbsp olive oil until browned. At the same time, heat a saucepan of boiling water and add your whole wheat macaroni and a pinch of salt. Mine only took 5 minutes to cook. Drain macaroni and put it in a big lasagna pan.

Add poblano, mushrooms, and cauliflower to macaroni in the lasagna pan. Take your garlic out of the oven and reduce the temperature to 375. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of each clove over the macaroni, so it's studded with sweet soft roasted garlic. Mix the vegetables, garlic, and macaroni so things are more or less evenly distributed.

Now for the cheese sauce. In a saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter. Add 3 tbsp flour, powdered mustard, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Now add 1/2 cup milk and use a whisk to integrate the butter-flour mixture smoothly into the milk. Add the rest of the milk and your cheese, your grated onion, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. Stir until cheese is melted -- I just keep using the whisk for this.

Pour your cheese sauce over your macaroni evenly. Now, put your whole wheat panko and a 1/2 tbsp butter into a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir the melted butter into the pank, and sprinkle over the top of the mac and cheese. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

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