Thursday, January 2, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese-Lightened Up

When I think of comfort food one of the first things that comes to mind is macaroni and cheese.  Starchy pasta coated is mounds of ooey gooey cheese.  I mean, that just screams comfort food.  Don't you agree?

The love for macaroni and cheese, no doubt, starts at a young age.  Most of the time young ones are introduced to this cheesy pasta that comes straight out of the blue box.  Simply boil the noodles then add the powdered cheese right out of the packet and you've got an easy and satisfying dish that kiddos will gobble up.  Easy and convenient is a must for busy mom's and families. 
One thing that doesn't come to mind when you think of comfort food and even hear the words macaroni and cheese is healthy or light.  So when parents are trying to give their kids healthier or lighter meals, more times than not macaroni and cheese isn't an option that comes to mind.

Well, today is the day that all that changes.  I've taken on the comfort food that is macaroni and cheese and given it a lighter twist.  One that will leave parents satisfied and feeling better about serving to their kids.  But also one that won't leave kids wondering where all the good stuff is.

This macaroni and cheese is still packed full of creamy, gooey cheese and starchy pasta.  So kids, and big kids, don't you worry.  Whole wheat pasta takes the place of the regular noodles.  Reduced fat milk and cheese takes the place of heavy cream and full-fat cheeses.  But I promise, with all this subbing and switching you won't be missing anything in the gooey or taste categories. 

This macaroni and cheese can easily be a stove top recipe, but if you want to add a little more cheese or crunch to the top then place it in a casserole dish and top with some shredded parmesan cheese and some bread crumbs and bake for about 15-20 minutes.  To add a little more nutrients I've even added some fresh baby spinach to the mix from time to time.  Simply stir in when combining the pasta to the cheese mixture.  You can also play around with various other veggies; mushrooms, broccoli, kale, the options are endless. 
Now you've got a delicious and cheesy pasta that will please your entire family while making you feel better about serving it to them!

Macaroni and Cheese-Lightened Up

7-8 Oz whole wheat pasta, I used Dreamfields
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 Medium onion, finely chopped
1 Clove garlic, minced
1/4 Cup flour
2 1/2 Cups reduced fat (skim) milk
5 Oz reduced fat white sharp cheddar, shredded
1 1/2 Cups reduced fat Colby jack cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional Topping-
1/4 Cup bread crumbs
1/2 Cup shredded Colby jack


Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once the water has reached a boil, salt and add pasta.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.

Place the butter in a 10 inch skillet and place over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté and additional 30-45 seconds, until fragrant.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to coat.  Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes.  Stirring constantly, slowly pour the milk in the skillet.  Allow to cook until thickened, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes.  Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the white cheddar and 1 1/2 cups of the Colby jack cheese.  Taste, adjust seasonings if needed and stir in pasta.  If using spinach, add the spinach to the mixture.  If serving the stovetop version, transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.

If baking-
Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a shallow baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour the macaroni and cheese in the prepared dish.  Top with bread crumbs and cheese and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Recipe source: A Lynsey Original

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