It’s a brand new year and I’m feeling the love. Make that, I’m feeling like there’s more of me to love. My favorite jeans confirmed it by screeching a protest when I tried to pull them over my hips today.
Uh oh, time to take action.
Enter lightened-up mac and cheese! Is it possible, you ask? Why, yes! It’s simply a matter of finding a balance between gooey cheesy lusciousness and creamy pureed healthiness, which brings us to the newest oldest trick in the book. Adding pureed cauliflower.
Folks have been hiding vegetables in food since toddlers first started refusing broccoli in all sorts of inventive ways (I am still amazed at how far a stalk of broccoli can be flung from a tiny fist in a fit of rage…). Some work, others fail – dreadfully. This recipe, depending on how much you actually like cauliflower and how much you add to your recipe (you can tinker with the amounts), works pretty well. Notice I didn’t say “great!” or “phenomenal!” – it’s still a work in progress for me. Which is good for you, because if I ever DO hit upon the perfect healthy recipe for mac and cheese, you will. never. hear. from. me. again. I’ll be too busy eating my perfected healthy mac and cheese. Truth.
This recipe is inspired by the version over here at Eat Yourself Skinny.
First, grab your ingredients.
Look at that parsley, it’s gorgeous! Now that you’re done ogling the parsley, chop it up.
Measure out the frozen cauliflower. If, like me, you like cauliflower, plan on three cups. If you do not, try scaling back to two or even one cup to start. If you own a Vitamix, you can just puree the frozen cauliflower with a little water and be done with it. If you have a regular blender, you should seriously consider investing in a Vitamix. Beyond that, you’ll want to cook the cauliflower and then add it, plus some water, to the blender and blend until pureed.
Grate the cheese. Or in my case, open the bag of grated cheese. Whew! That was tough. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, one tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese, and the chopped parsley.
Next, cook the pasta per package directions and drain, then set aside.
Using the pot you used to cook the pasta over low heat, pop in the cheddar, remaining Parmesan, and cream cheeses. Add half and half and pureed cauliflower and stir until everything is combined and the cheeses are melted, then season with salt and pepper.
Add the cooked pasta and stir until everything is thoroughly mixed and happy.
Preheat the broiler. Pam a 7×11 baking dish and add the mac and cheese. Top with the bread crumb mixture, then broil until the top turns a nice toasty brown. For me, it was about two minutes but watch it as it can go from toasty to burnt-to-heck awfully quick.
Remove from the oven, let sit for five minutes, then enjoy!
I sure did!
Here’s my recipe, inspired by Eat Yourself Skinny:
- 10 ounces elbow macaroni
- 3 cups frozen cauliflower + 3 tablespoons water
- ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces fat-free cream cheese
- ½ cup fat-free half and half
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and parsley. Mix together and set aside.
- If you have a Vitamix, combine the frozen cauliflower with 3 tablespoons (more if needed) water and pulse until pureed. If you have a regular blender, cook cauliflower per package directions and then combine with 3 tablespoons water and blend until pureed.
- Cook elbows per package directions. Drain, then set aside.
- Using the pot you cooked the elbow in, add cheddar, remaining Parmesan and cream cheeses. Add half and half and pureed cauliflower and over medium heat, stir until the cheeses are melted and everything is combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cooked pasta.
- Preheat the broiler and Pam a 7x11 baking dish. Pour in the mac and cheese and top with the bread crumb mixture. Broil, about two minutes (WATCH IT!), until the top is toasty golden brown. Remove from oven.
- Allow the mac and cheese to sit for five minutes.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
Three elbows up – and I will be tweaking the recipe to make it even better!
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