~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Monday, May 06, 2013

Healthy mac and cheese?

Okay, here I am with another question for my foodie friends! (Note: I'd be grateful if you posted your responses here rather than FB/Twitter/G+, so I can keep everything together in one place. I cannot find anything on FB after a day or two after it's been posted, and I rarely even check Twitter, and I'm on G+ even less. Thanks!)

This time, I’m looking for a reasonably healthy macaroni and cheese recipe. I say “reasonably” because it’s hard to make something full of cheese super-healthy, but I want to strike a balance. I’ve been eating Amy’s Organic frozen mac and cheese, but it’s expensive, and doesn’t use whole wheat/whole grain pasta. I’m choosing it over boxed mac and cheese – which I can get as whole grain and organic – because if I make a box of mac and cheese, I will eat the entire box. And it’s still more processed than I’d like.

So what I’m thinking is, if I make my own (either in the crock pot or oven, or on the stove), then I can freeze it in portion-sized amounts.

I’ve done a little research and found bits and pieces of recipes that sound good, but I can’t seem to find one that covers everything I’m trying to do – and I’m not a good enough cook to know how to combine recipes.

Here are my parameters: 
  • Ideally less than 400 calories per serving (where a serving is a reasonable size, not a quarter of a cup or some such bs).
  • Whole wheat/whole grain pasta – doesn’t really affect the recipe; I can just substitute.
  • No ingredients beyond pasta, cheese, and things that make it saucy. No breadcrumbs, no onions, no cauliflower. Those things are all fine and sometimes I do want a dish like that, but right now I’m looking for bog-standard comfort-food mac and cheese.
  • When I see the phrase “low fat,” I think “chemical shitstorm.” I’d rather have a strong-tasting full-fat cheese and use less of it than use a blander low-fat cheese that will trigger my body to eat more.
  • A little flour or cornstarch is fine, yogurt/milk is fine. I’m open to suggestion.

Here are some of the recipes I’ve looked at online. None of them fit all my parameters, so one question is, how could I combine these ideas?

Fitness recipe. What I like is the idea of using Greek yogurt for creaminess. What I don’t like is the onion-garlic puree (I could see trying it later, though), the breadcrumbs, or the reduced-fat cheddar. Would ditching the puree and using regular cheddar keep it below 400 calories, I wonder?

Food Network Squash Recipe #1. I know I said nothing funky, but eventually I’d like to try something like this one, with squash. Will it appreciably change the flavor? (I add squash, carrots, all sorts of stuff to spaghetti sauce and it doesn’t change the flavor, but then again, tomato sauce is different than cheese sauce.) What would happen if I left the squash out but used the same basic recipe? Likes: Ricotta, regular cheese. Dislikes: Lowfat milk (it’s not enough to make a big calorie difference, though), doesn’t give calorie count.

Food Network Squash Recipe #2. Ditto questions about squash above. Likes: Yogurt (would use regular, not non-fat), decent calorie count (but how far would it go up w/regular yogurt and cheese?). Dislike: The low-fat/non-fat options.

AllRecipes recipe. Likes: Basic and simple. Dislikes: Low-fat stuff, and what’s the calorie count?

Blissful recipe. Would cauliflower puree make it bland? Otherwise, my biggest issue with this one is the lack of calorie count…I’m guessing it’s high, given the cream cheese.


Anne Waling said...

if what you want is creaminess, the yogurt will get you further than cauliflower, and the reduced fat or skimmed milk with a roux and melted cheese will be your best textural option. use a sharp cheese and you can get away with 30% less than plain boring cheese. The squash will be better than the cauliflower, but will add a weird sweetness. I know because I have tried it.

There are two kinds of mac and cheese, the creamy kind (like velveeeta) and the souffle kind like regular baked homemade which often has egg in it. of the two if you prefer the souffled kind it is easier to lighten. the creamy kind is not really duplicable in a seriously reduced fat way. I would guess that a good mac and cheese will cost you 700 calories, but it will be worth it.

Bevjan said...

No time to do research for you right now but I am thinking that possibly corn starch or arrowroot have fewer calories than flour so you can use them to make your thick sauce with the low fat or non fat milk. I agree use a strong sharp cheddar and or gruyere as your cheese for the taste you crave. You can also consider some of the powder cheeses but you may still be getting the calories. The thing with yoghurt is that when it cooks, the proteins solidify and separate form the liquid part of the yoghurt at some temperature so that might take away form the creaminess.


DeAnna said...

Hm...I'd go for adding low-fat/no-fat cream cheese for part of the cheese.

Linda Huskey said...

I did the food network one. #1 I think. Did not like it at all. Squah made it taste bad.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Again, when I read "nonfat" and "low fat," I translate to "chemical shitstorm." The process to remove fat adds...no. Just no. And the taste just isn't there, triggering our bodies to eat more because we're not getting the nutrients we need.

That said, I'm thinking from Anne's response that my goal is fruitless.

Anne, I'm not sure I've ever had souffled mac and cheese - seriously, all I've really ever had is the boxed kind (om nom nom) or, more recently, the frozen kind. Suggestions for recipes to start with?

Teresa Noelle Roberts said...

I think "lower calorie" and "mac and cheese" aren't likely to exist in a form that doesn't involve strange low-fat products. That being said, this link is to a fairly straightforward and delicious recipe, the one my mom always used. Just substitute whole-grain pasta for the white stuff. Leave off the croutons if they don't appeal; leaving them off makes no difference to how you cook it.


I tend to use extra-sharp cheddar, which means you might be able to use a bit less than the recipe calls for--but I assume mac and cheese is an occasional treat and go all out when I make it. If you want something more like the creamier mac you're used to, just pour the sauce over cooked pasta and don't bake it. I'll do that sometimes when I don't want to take the extra time to bake it. But try it baked too. It's good! The baked version freezes well; I've never tried freezing it without baking it first.

This site gives a different calorie count per serving; I'm guessing the lower count based it on skim milk and low-fat cheese. I'd say just assume it's not going to be low-calorie.

Teresa said...

Oops! "This site" is http://www.food.com/recipe/muellers-macaroni-cheese-409560