Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is it possible?

Healthy Mac n' Cheese?, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

To make a healthy version of macaroni and cheese? A recipe that one might actually crave and daydream about? Is it achievable? I have the answer ladies and gents, simply put; yes.

I recently stumbled upon"Deceptively Delicious" , Jessica Seinfelds book, in the discount bin at TJ Maxx. A close friend of mine owns it, and I was fairly impressed with the dishes I'd already sampled. Seeing as veggies are an important key to any good diet, and that it's sometimes hard for adults (not just kids) to get their daily amount, I was intrigued by this book. Each recipe not only features at least one veggie hidden within, she in general, cleans up classic American recipes. The outcome is not only veggie laden dishes, but healthy ones as well. In theory, a very good idea. I'm not saying the book is bad, but I've only tried this one recipe myself, and I altered it a bit. But if the rest of the recipes are reminiscent of this dish, I think I've just made a wise $6 purchase!

Gosh, I could just rave on and on about this macaroni and cheese. Dare I say I prefer it over my deadly seven cheese laden homemade mac n' cheese? Probably not. But it's a close second. It is a recipe that is a good go-to week night dinner though, and you don't have to feel guilty about indulging, in fact, you can feel pretty good about eating this for dinner. The sauce is velvety, thick, and creamy, even though it's made with 1% milk and low fat cheeses. I think the the roasted butternut squash that you puree really lends to sinful texture of this dish. Not to mention the sweetness imparts the lovliest flavor hidden amongst the sharpness of the cheese. It's so well balanced, and tastes so incredibly sinful. I adjusted a few things about the recipe. Jessica suggests using olive oil and flour as the base of your cream sauce. I used butter. I know, I know, you may be saying to yourself 'butter that's not as healthy as olive oil." Well, you're right and wrong. I recently went to a conference held by a well known nutritional counselor in Seattle. She informed us that we should be eating 1/2 - 1 stick of butter a week. Butter has important enzymes in it that attach to your organs and do some very good things for our system. These enzymes can't be found in anything butter, so, eat butter, just don't go butter crazy *cough* Paula Deen *cough*. And since I never really eat or cook with butter (olive oil is my best friend in the kitchen) I took this opportunity to use a little butter. Secondly, I topped the dish with 1/4 cup of gruyere and 2 slices of pancetta for a little salty crunch. I also used cavatappi, I prefer it over macaroni, but it's very hard to find here in Bellingham, let alone in a wheat or 'smart pasta' variety. Jessica doesn't suggest using a healthy pasta, but if I had the opportunity, I definitely would. All in all the recipe remains a sensible yet decadent choice for dinner.

To prep for this recipe you need to roast a butternut squash in the oven. Cut into cubes and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 375 for about an hour, let it cool, and then blend for 3-5 minutes in a food processor to get a silky smooth puree.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n' Cheese
Adapted from "Deceptively Delicious"by Jessica Seinfield


2 cups cavatappi
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon flour
3/4 cup 1% milk - hot
3/4 cup butternut squash puree
1 1/2 cups low fat cheddar - shredded
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
salt - to taste
pepper - to taste
paprika - to taste
1/4 gruyere
2 slices of pancetta baked until crispy and chopped


1. Cook cavatappi according to package directions
2. In a saucepan add butter, melt, then flour, stir well and allow to cook about two minutes
3. Slowly add the milk whisking until it thickens (only a few minutes)
4. Reduce heat to very low, add cheddar, cream cheese, and squash and whisk until smooth and creamy.
5. Pour cavatappi and sauce into the same baking dish you roasted the squash in, or a prepared baking dish.
6. Top with gruyere, pancetta.
7. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until warm and gooey.
8. Enjoy!

For fun, I calculated the nutritional information for my adapted recipe:

 6 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories: 238.3
Total Fat: 11.1 g
Saturated Fat: 5.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 26.8 mg
Sodium: 300.5 mg
Potassium: 134.2 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 19.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Sugars: 1.4 g
Protein: 15.0 g
Vitamin A : 30.0 %
Vitamin B-12: 6.4 %
Vitamin B-6: 3.7 %
Vitamin C: 4.3 %
Vitamin D: 3.2 %
Calcium: 28.8 %
Iron : 6.5 %
Phosphorus: 28.6 %
Riboflavin: 13.9 %
Selenium : 26.5 %
Thiamin: 9.7 %
Zinc: 9.9 %