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Lower Calorie Macaroni & Cheese

August 5, 2011

As much as I love macaroni and cheese, I’ve come to view it as a special treat. While all that melty and gooey cheese usually means an incredibly tasty dish, it also means a lot of calories and sadly a lot of work. I went on a mission to find a recipe that I could prepare in 20 or 30 minutes during the week and wouldn’t leave me feeling so guilty for taking seconds, or thirds…

I know this sounds like the holy grail of mac & cheese, but I actually found a recipe that does exactly that! Now I am not going to claim it is the healthiest thing you will ever eat, but it is an improvement over the standard alternatives. Here are the facts: 379 calories per serving, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 44 grams of carbohydrates. Obviously not ideal for a side dish, but it doesn’t seem as awful when you consider that other traditional macaroni and cheese recipes have between 500-900 calories per serving and as much as 35 grams of fat! As with all things in life, this lower calorie macaroni and cheese is okay in moderation. Plus, it is prepare right on the stove-top and only takes about 20 minutes. Amazing right?

Lower Calorie Stove-top Macaroni and Cheese
Yields: 4 Servings

1/2 pound Dry elbow macaroni (2 cups)
1 cup Skim milk
2 teaspoon Cornstarch
1 sprig Fresh parsley
1 sprig Fresh thyme
1 Bay leaf
2 cups Low-fat cheddar cheese (grated, about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon Unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Whole grain or stone ground mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
Cayenne pepper
Freshly ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and salt it generously. Add the noodles, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Mix about 1 tablespoon of skim milk with the cornstarch and set aside. Heat the remaining skim milk in a saucepan over medium heat with the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf. When fragrant, whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over high heat, and simmer until the milk thickens. Remove the herbs and stir in the cheese, until melted. Remove from heat. Whisk the butter, mustard, salt, nutmeg, and cayenne into the sauce.
3. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the cheese sauce and season with salt and black pepper. Serve.

Kate’s Thoughts

I am a big fan of mustard in my macaroni and cheese, so I’ve adapted this recipe from the original to include even more. I also added in whole grain or stone ground mustard for additional flavor. If you do not care for mustard, I would recommend putting in only 1 teaspoon of Dijon.

When I am really trying to make myself feel better about eating this dish, I also incorporate a little broccoli or cauliflower to reduce the the guilt factor. I actually think it tastes even better with a little crunch from the vegetables, but it might not be for everyone. If I am including vegetables, I chop the broccoli or cauliflower into 1 1/2 cups of bite size florets and add it to the boiling pasta for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking. I was somehow blessed with a toddler that adores broccoli, but it’s a great way to get the kids to eat their veggies if you aren’t as lucky.

I would recommend eating the mac & cheese as soon as it is ready. It’s just not as tasty if it sits for too long and although I already dislike leftovers to begin with, this is definitely not that great reheated.

Adapted from The Food Network Kitchens
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2011 8:10 am

    This looks fantastic and I’m going to be trying it this week! Do you have any recommendations for making it more palatable when reheated? I could try halving the recipe to make less, but it’s nice to have leftovers in the fridge or freezer for a busy night!

    • August 8, 2011 7:25 pm

      I should have been fair and explained that I really don’t like leftovers and there are few things I’m willing to eat the next day (we’ll blame this on my childhood, but that’s besides the point!) Truth be told, my husband scolded me when he read my blog entry that day and said he loved this dish leftover! Because this is a stove top recipe, it is at its tastiest the first go round. That is not to say that the leftovers are inedible, just that they aren’t quite as good as the first time. It’s my very humble opinion that the texture of the cheese changes when it is reheated, so it changes things for me. Unfortunately that’s just the nature of the recipe and there isn’t much that will change it. Chances are you are much more rational about leftovers than I am and you will agree with my husband!

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