Tasty, healthy macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese, or Mac ‘N Cheese as I like to call it. How I loved to eat it when I was a child. And I still do! 🙂

Homemade Mac ‘N Cheese is, of course, healthier and tastier than the kind you buy in a box. However, last week, I wanted to spiff-up my old Mac ‘N Cheese recipe and make it even healthier. So I got to work and substituted some of the ingredients with cholesterol-friendly alternatives. After a few attempts, I am very pleased with how this recipe turned out.

My original recipe calls for 4 cups of grated cheese, 1/3 cup of butter and three cups of whole milk. For my husband John who has to watch his cholesterol, some things had to change.

In this version, I only used one cup and three tablespoons of grated cheese. I substituted the remaining cheese with some butternut squash, cauliflower, onion and garlic — all roasted together in the oven with a little olive oil. I added some grated smoked tofu and I replaced the whole milk with oat milk. I substituted the butter with olive oil. For extra flavour, I added some herbs and spices. Even the topping is a healthier and tastier version than the original.

Cholesterol-friendly foods should be low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, and high in nutrients such as vitamins, fiber and protein. There are many ways to turn an old recipe into a newer, healthier recipe. For example, you can opt for low fat milk or cheese. Or, you can substitute full fat cream with probiotic yoghurt.

A cholesterol-friendly diet, in combination with regular exercise and stress-reducing activities, can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and heart attacks. A well-balanced diet with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, some lean poultry or fish and small portions of lean red meat can help lower your cholesterol.

For some people, taking cholesterol-lowering medication is necessary. However, choosing the right kind of nutrition and lifestyle can go a long way to keeping your heart healthy.

The recipe for my new and improved Mac ‘N Cheese is below. With all the changes I’ve made, it tastes just as rich and delicious as the original one.

Bon appétit!

Macaroni and cheese

Heat oven at 200°C / 400°F

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 500 grams dry pasta such as macaroni, fusilli or penne
  • 2 cups (500 ml) cubed butternut squash
  • 2 cups (500 ml) cauliflower florets
  • 1 cooking onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Steakspice, a generous dash
  • Dried sage, a few sprinkles
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for roasting
  • 1 cup veggie stock (homemade -or- a bouillon cube + boiled water)
  • 4 tablespoons (tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsps wholewheat flour
  • 3 cups unsweetened oat milk, room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon (tsp) cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup (70 grams) smoked tofu, grated
  • 1 cup (114 grams) cheddar or Gruyère cheese, grated*
  • Fresh parsley (option)

Topping

  • ½ cup organic breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsps finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • A dash of steak spice or dried Italian herbs for extra taste

* Vegan: Substitute cheese with a vegan cheese available in stores and add 2-3 tbsps of nutritional yeast flakes in ingredients.

Procedure

1. I like to make this part ahead of time and store it in a covered container in fridge. In a big bowl, add the butternut squash, cauliflower, garlic clove, onion quarters, steakspice and sage and drizzle some olive oil. Toss ingredients until evenly coated with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Roast in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes. When done transfer to a blender, add the veggie stock and purée until smooth. Set aside.

2. Cook pasta in boiling water just 2 minutes short of the time indicated on the package as the pasta will continue to cook in oven. Drain and transfer into a large and shallow oven-proof dish.

3. In a medium-size dipper on low heat, add the 4 tbsps of olive oil and flour and whisk to make a paste. Add the oat milk and cayenne pepper and whisk well. Increase the heat, keep whisking and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 8 minutes whisking often.

4. Remove oat milk mixture from heat and add the Dijon mustard, smoked tofu and grated cheese. Whisk well until combined and add the cauliflower/squash sauce and mix well again. Gently fold and mix the sauce into the pasta until well combined, from top to bottom. Alternatively, you can mix in the oat milk mixture and cauliflower mixture separately into the pasta — as long as both sauces are well mixed and folded in with the pasta.

5. For the topping, in a bowl, mix all the ingredients with a fork and sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese.

6. Bake uncovered in pre-heated oven on middle rack for 25 – 30 minutes.

Let stand for 15-20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle servings with fresh parsley. Keep leftovers in a covered container in fridge. Tastes great the next day.

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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

4 thoughts on “Tasty, healthy macaroni and cheese

  1. Sounded like a great recipe until I saw tofu and oat milk as ingredients!!! I love your recipes but this is not my kind of macaroni and cheese.
    Phyllis

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