Lightened up Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

 

Yup.  I’m on a diet.  That is probably the most loathed word in my vocabulary.  I hate to diet, but I need to.  You see, in about four months, I will be wearing a white dress….and you know how unforgiving white is.  I mean, even my chef white’s are black.

Anyhoo…..so, since I have been so completely undisciplined and totally accustomed to eating my heart’s content, I started to dig up some recipes that I know are in Martha Stewart magazines, namely, the Fit to Eat section.  The first one I came across was this one…..and I love me some Mac and Cheese.

I was really dubious about this lightened up version, in the magazine it looks creamy, but after reading the ingredients, I really wasn’t sure how it would hold up.  And, my daughter and Paolo being pasta connoseiurs….oh boy.  I was setting myself up to fail.  But I did it anyway, and let me tell you….it was amazing!  Ok, it obviously isn’t your typical rich mac and cheese, but damn, this was good!  The main component is Butternut Squash, boiled with chicken stock and nonfat milk, then mashed.  Just a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 cup of full fat cheddar, this dish screams deliciousness.  And at only 350 calories per serving?  Sold!!!!

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So, if you’re watching your weight, or just want to make a healthier version of a comfort classic, look no farther than this!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Martha Stewart Living Magazine January 2003

Serves 6

1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup homemade or low sodium chicken stock, skimmed of fat

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb elbow macaroni

4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

Olive oil cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine squash, stock and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper.  Stir to combine.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.

3.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Transfer noodle mixture to dish.  In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle over noodle mixture.

4.  Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Per Serving:  35o Calories, 6 G Fat, 18 MG Cholesterol, 57 G Carbohydrate, 505 MG Sodium, 16 G protein, 2 G Fiber

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

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Minestrone

Minestronne

 

Nothing screams homey, comfort and belly-warming to me more than Minestrone.  Growing up, it was my mother’s preferred way to get me to eat veggies, mine too now, of course; I also remember watching my uncle carefully chop all the vegetables, and explain to me in which order they should be sautéed, for how long, and of course, his secret ingredient.

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The hard rind of the parmesan cheese.  He rarely threw out any food out, there was always some use for it.  I remember as a kid, watching that incredibly hard and inedible rind being plopped into the soup mid way, and upon its extraction, it was a soft, gooey, gloop of a mess.  For me it was alchemy, magic.  And the taste of the soup…..incredible!

I still make my minestrone exactly the way my uncle taught me, digging out as many veggies from the fridge as I can, but always respecting their taste profiles.  I remember him saying never to put eggplant in, as it would give the soup a more acid taste.  So I don’t use it.  Also, he used broccoli, but this time I found this beauty:

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I think this is purple cauliflower, but the taste seems to be a cross between the two.  It gave the overall dish another beautiful color profile, which I love…..I love eating the rainbow, it just makes me feel so healthy!

The recipe I am going to give to you is by no means written down anywhere, I always make it from my memory.  So, the amounts are not perfect, so hang in there.

So, here’s what you’re going to need

Serves 8-10

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 stalk of celery, sliced

1/2 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced

6-7 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of green beans, chopped into 2 inch sticks

1/2 zucchini, diced

6-7 broccoli or purple cauliflower florets, chopped

1/2 cup white beans, from can or jar

1 tsp dried oregano

3 cups vegetable stock

1 large can (800 g) crushed tomatoes

1 parmesan cheese rind (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and leeks.

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Sprinkle in some salt and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes.  Raise the heat to medium high, and add the rest of the veggies, except for the beans.

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Saute until the mushrooms are just starting to soften, about 6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, parmesan rind and oregano.  Let it come to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Five minutes before you take it off the heat, add the beans.  Taste and add more salt if needed, and some pepper.

Serve with the grated parmesan.

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From my kitchen to yours,

Carla