Macaroni & cheese is maybe the most popular comfort food in North America.
There are many recipes of mac & cheese and I’m sure that many people believe THEY cook the best mac & cheese on the planet.
For those who are shy in the kitchen, there is a huge assortment of pre-made mac & cheese products you can buy in boxes and you only need to add oil/butter and milk.
Mac & cheese is also quite popular in a lot of restaurants that serve buffet-style dining and it’s featured on the menu of many dinners.
Mac & cheese has even become quite popular in recent years on the menu of high-end restaurants and some adventurous chefs have created mac & cheese recipes infused with exotic oils (think expensive truffle oil) and some have even dared to integrate sharp white cheddar to elevate the recipe from the basic orange cheddar cheese used in most recipes. Truth be told, I’ve tried mac & cheese with white cheddar and I consistently go back to orange sharp cheddar. It’s almost as if it just had to be orange to taste right (you know what I mean?).
The reality is that some mac & cheese recipes are PACKED with calories. Those recipes asking for eggs, a lot of cheese, added butter or 35% heavy cream might be creamy and tasty in your mouth, but they pack on the calories.
In the end, people eat mac & cheese because it’s comforting.
Healthy eating is almost like a crusade of mine, but I like to keep things in perspective and that’s why I do eat mac & cheese and I quite enjoy it. I’d say that I eat it a few times a year and I make my recipe using real sharp orange cheddar and 18% cream!
That said, after watching a recent Dr. Oz show featuring a low-fat recipe created by The Kitchen Diva, I was willing to take a whole new look at mac & cheese.
I did a bit of research and tried not only The Kitchen Diva ’s recipe, but also I went out searching for a healthier alternative to the traditional boxes of no-name mac & cheese or the infamous Kraft Mac & Cheese and found these choices:
>>> The search for healthy mac & cheese recipes begins here!
1) Life Choices Organic Macaroni & Cheese: This is a box mixture of mac & cheese. I have to admit to having eaten the infamous Kraft Mac & Cheese in my youth and early adulthood, but the list of ingredients and bright orange colour has always left me wondering. I stopped eating Kraft Mac & Cheese years and years ago and started making mine from scratch (I’ll share my recipe later). That said, there are times when you want to do nothing more than “pour and stir” and the Life Choices Organic Macaroni & Cheese offers just that! I was quite unsure of how good this box of organic mac & cheese would be.
After preparing my box, I was so impatient that I didn’t even take the time to sit at the dinner table and I just had to grab a spoonful just to know how it tasted. I was shocked and surprised to find out how tasty it was.
> The list of ingredients is quite impressive: Organic wheat durum semolina elbows, organic cheddar cheese (pasteurized organic milk, salts, cheese cultures, enzymes), organic whey, salt, lactic acid, citric acid, annatto (for color), natural mixed tocopherols (to preserve freshness). That’s it! Life Choices Organic Macaroni & Cheese is a Canadian brand, but I’m certain U.S. readers won’t have too much difficulty finding organic brands that make tasty mac & cheese recipes.
The only drawback for some might be the price tag: a box of Life Choices Organic Macaroni & Cheese costs $2.99 while a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese costs about $1.89. That said, if you are interested in serving a healthier choice to your family, this is certainly an excellent option!
2) Dr. Oz’s Mac & Cheese recipe (courtesy of The Kitchen Diva’s)
I will share the recipe in question a little later, but before that, I wanted to say that I kept an open mind when trying this mac & cheese recipe.
I wasn’t too sure about the whole idea of using soya milk and tofu in the preparation of my mac & cheese, but Dr. Oz seemed to be enjoying the recipe so much on his show, I decided to try it myself.
I didn’t deviate at all from the recipe since it was my first time doing it and I wanted to have a fair assessment.
I will be honest that I didn’t like this recipe at all. I found that it didn’t taste like mac & cheese at all and it really was a whole new recipe.
If you are in the mood for mac & cheese, this soya-based recipe might not do it (it surely didn’t do it for me). You can surely take a stab at it, but I have to say that I was quite disappointed by the whole thing and would not try it again (do leave me a comment if you try it and like it).
>>> Here’s the recipe that was featured on the Dr. Oz show:
> The Kitchen Diva’s Mac ‘n Cheese
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
2 tbsps light butter with canola oil
2 tbsps whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 cup plain soy milk, at room temperature
4 ounces low-fat American cheese, cubed
1/2 cup shredded sharp, low-fat cheddar cheese
6 ounces soft, silken tofu, drained
1/2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp ground paprika
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat an 11×7 baking dish with cooking spray.
Prepare the macaroni according to package directions.
Drain and place in the prepared baking dish. Stir in ½ tablespoon of the butter and toss to coat the macaroni.
Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Increase the heat to high and whisk in the soy milk, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sauce is somewhat smooth and thick.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the American and cheddar cheeses, and tofu. Cook, stirring sauce for 6-8 minutes, or until cheese is fully melted.
The tofu will not completely dissolve and there will be lumps.
Don’t worry, it will all smooth out during the baking process.
Stir in the salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.
Pour the sauce mixture over the cooked pasta and mix well. Stir in ½ cup of the Parmesan and smooth out the top of the casserole.
Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese and paprika on top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and top begins to brown.
I’ll be honest, I don’t think my mac & cheese recipe is low fat. That said, it’s not a super high fat recipe either because I don’t include eggs (and I don’t add extra butter) and keep it to 18% cream. I don’t eat large portions and find that because I only use real ingredients, it doesn’t take me anytime at all to feel full and satisfied. To add a bit of texture to my mac & cheese, I use whole wheat pasta.
I don’t have measurements because I really improvise with this recipe, but I will share the ingredients and you can play around with the quantities:
Whole wheat elbow macaroni
Sharp aged orange cheddar
After boiling the macaroni and setting it aside, I usually will add cream to the pan and then add my cheddar cheese. I will usually grate the cheese, but when I’m super lazy, I’ll simply cut it in chucks and it will melt easily as the mixture heats up.
It takes about 5-7 minutes for the cheese to completely melt and I then add my macaroni.
As you can see, this is a really easy recipe and it’s incredibly tasty.
When it comes to making a healthier version of mac & cheese, there are a few viable options that don’t compromise the taste. I quite enjoyed my own recipe (option #3) of course and I was pleasantly surprised by option #1 (organic mac & cheese). I was quite disappointed by option #2 and even if it might be low fat, the taste is so far removed from mac & cheese that it’s just not all that enjoyable to me. I’ll be sticking with moderate quantities of my own recipe!
If you have a tasty healthy mac & cheese recipe to share … I’d love to hear about it! Just leave your comments below!
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