Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recipe: Healthy Macaroni & Cheese with Butternut Squash

This chilly weather has me longing for comfort food so of course I needed to whip up some healthy macaroni and cheese.

I know what you're thinking. There's no such thing as healthy macaroni and cheese. But I assure you this is!

I suppose you could also make the argument that this isn't really macaroni and cheese, but despite the random ingredients used to create a cheesy sauce, it tastes like it!

This recipe is modified from the Whole Foods Diet Cookbook, an excellent cookbook that's all about whole, natural foods. The secret to this recipe is that you're not dumping gobs of cheese in the pan; you're creating a sauce with beans and butternut squash as the basis that is then flavored with cheese.

Don't worry, there's still a good amount of cheese in there.

If you have picky eaters, don't tell them the ingredients. They'll love it as long as they don't know.

Oh, and of course I tossed in some other vegetables to make it a more satisfying dish. This is a little more hands on than some of my other recipes, but it makes a big batch and I think it's worth it!

1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans
2 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
1/4 cup kefir cheese (or cream cheese)
3/4 cup milk kefir (or milk)
3 shallots, diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
3 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk kefir (or milk)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Monterey Jack, grated
One tbspWorcestershire sauce
3-5 cups of cooked noodles
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup flax, ground

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and drain the cannellini beans. Place them, along with the butternut squash, kefir cheese, and 3/4 cup of milk into a blender or processor and blend.

Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. (I used a cast iron skillet because this is also going in the oven - less dishes to wash!) Put a bit of oil in the pan and saute the shallots for 3-5 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and thyme and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the vegetable mixture from the skillet and set aside. 

(You should probably start boiling the water for the noodles around this time. If you're not sure how to cook your pasta noodles, follow the instructions on the box.)

Place a tablespoon of oil in the large skillet, along with a tablespoon of flour and stir until it thickens into a nice paste. Add the 1/2 cup of milk kefir. The sauce should continue to thicken over the next 3 minutes. If necessary, add more milk kefir to form the sauce.

After the sauce has thickened, add the butternut squash mixture and vegetable mixture into the pan. Add one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. 

Slowly stir in the grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and stir until melted, about 5-10 minutes. Add the cooked pasta noodles.

If you're cooking this in a cast-iron or otherwise oven safe pan, that's awesome. If not, pout your macaroni and cheese into an oven safe pan.

Mix 1/2 cup parmesan with 1/2 cup of ground flax and a bit of oil in a separate container. This is your "breadcrumb" topping! Sprinkle it on top of your mac and cheese.

Bake for 10 minutes. And enjoy!

Total Time: about 1 hour and 15 minutes 
Serves: 4-8 people

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