Healthier Mac and Cheese

Healthier Mac and Cheese: Mushroom Mac and Cheeses, GreatPartyRecipes.com


Really. There are, indeed, several things you can do, or not do, to put healthier Mac and Cheese on the table. This is one area where you can cut the fat, lower sodium and cholesterol, increase your vegetable intake, and eliminate preservatives and guilt without compromising flavor one bit. Promise. 

Now, I've been known to use a whole stick (1/4 pound) of butter and a lot of heavy cream in a roux, thinking to add something magical to the dish. It doesn't. So let's start the do's and don'ts there.




Do's and Don'ts for Healthier Mac and Cheese

  • No butter; skip the roux. Most cheeses are naturally rich, gooey and creamy when melted. They harden again when cold, but even macaroni and cheese with cream and butter will do that. Warm it and you're good to go. 
  • Use Celtic Sea Salt. Low-sodium and mineral-rich, it takes less of it to season food, and it regulates blood pressure. 
  • Avoid processed "cheeses" like Velveeta and American like the plague. No box stuff with orange-glo cheese powder, either. They're loaded with dyes, salt, oils and preservatives. 
  • Use whole wheat or vegetable based pasta, like spinach or tomato, instead of white. (But, alas, white takes a better photo.) 
  • Less macaroni, more goodies. I always add some vegetables to my mac and cheeses. Think about using half the white pasta and twice the veggies. And/or add shrimp, chicken, crab, or even lobster to the mix. (A little lobster goes a long way.)


Mushroom Mac and Cheeses

I found a winning combination of ingredients in the fridge with this one. Everyone agrees it is the best to date. Feel free to change out the vegetables with what you have on hand, a total of about 4 cups of sautéed vegetables plus the onion. 

1 pound elbow, small shell, penne or rigatoni pasta
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 sweet mini peppers, chopped (or 1 red bell pepper)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste
1 or 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, optional
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked al dente. Drain well. 

Sauté the mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, and onions in the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper, if you like it spicy. 

Mix the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Set aside 1 cup and fold the rest into the pasta with the vegetables. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish or individual ramekins, sprinkle the top(s) with the cheese you set aside and Parmesan. Bake at 375˚ until it is hot and bubbly and browned on top, about 15 minutes. 

With green salad on the side, Mushroom Mac and Cheeses will feed 6 or 8 easily.

 

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