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Recipe: Healthy Mac n’ Cheese

May 29, 2014

Article and Photographs by Libby VanWhy

Healthy macaroni and cheese with roasted vegetables.

What’s more American than mac n’ cheese? It can be dressed up or down, eaten as a main or side dish, and reheats well as leftovers.

Growing up, my mom made the most amazing baked mac n’ cheese-- it was all about the extra sharp cheddar. She served it as the main dish, usually with a mushy boiled vegetable on the side and stewed tomatoes for the top. My family loves this recipe so much that my sister shared it with The American Recipe Project.

I love all kinds of mac n’ cheese, from the boxed orange stuff to decadent meat and cheese combinations. Unfortunately most recipes-- my family recipe included-- are not very healthy. They’re usually high in fat, loaded with salt and butter, and far from filling. I’ve had a hard time finding anything that falls into the “healthy” category that tastes great and satisfies my need for cheese, until recently.

My mom recommended this recipe and each time I make it, I improve upon the original recipe. I have now perfected a healthy mac n’ cheese by adding a bunch of roasted vegetables and lower-fat dairy products. Below is my adaptation based on the original recipe:

Ingredients include red pepper, red and yellow onions, zucchini, eggplant, whole wheat macaroni, carrots, oil, and more.

Ingredients
3 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 zucchini, trimmed and chopped

2 yellow squash, trimmed and chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 eggplant, cubed

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

½ sweet onion, cut into wedges

½ red onion, cut into wedges

¼ cup chicken broth (fat-free, low sodium)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Cheese Sauce Ingredients
3 tablespoons canola oil

⅓ cup whole-wheat flour

3 cups fat-free milk

2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

2 cups shredded, reduced fat, sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup grated, reduced fat, Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ cups uncooked whole-wheat macaroni

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, toss together vegetables, broth, thyme, salt, and black pepper.

Roasted vegetables

Spread the mixture in a single layer on a large baking sheet, lined with foil. Roast for 35 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Make the cheese sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.

Slowly whisk in the milk and continue whisking gently until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.

Add the mustard, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, salt, and pepper and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat.

The macaroni boils while the cheese sauce and roasted vegetables sit to the side.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in the boiling water until al dente (read al dente instructions from package for time).

Combine the macaroni, cheese sauce, and vegetables.

Drain well and add to the cheese sauce. Add the roasted vegetables and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into a large casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until bubbly and the top is crusty, about 20 minutes.

The finished product: delicious healthy mac n' cheese!

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