Mac and Cheese – Delicious Recipes
Mac and Cheese is a hit with kids and adults alike, and over the years, a lot of busy moms must have relied upon Kraft’s mac and cheese to fill up lunch-boxes or serve dinners to their children. However, i am a firm believer of feeding as much fresh and home-made food to them as you can, and something like mac and Cheese, which is so easy to make, should never really be substituted with a ready-made box.
When I first saw Susan’s Orange Cauliflower mac and cheese, I was skeptical. But then I saw that she pureed it with milk, and I thought – ya, that’s good. That way you don’t get chunks of veggies in your mouth, and it adds a nice creamy texture to the pasta [photo by Susan Russo]. This should work, and yes, it worked great! Until now, my Baked Macaroni in Cream Sauce was my favorite, but I have to say this healthier option is giving it a tough fight. I have now tried several variations of this recipe, and they all seem to work well. These are even better than Rachel Ray’s mac and cheese recipes🙂 Depending on your mood, you can customize it to add what you like – from veggies to meat, loaded with cheese or substituted with pureed veggies – no matter how you try it, I promise this would soon become a family favorite!
Here’s a basic recipe for Mac and Cheese that you can perfect and customize with family-favorite add-ins every time!
Orange Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Makes 4 servings
1 head orange cauliflower (or you can use white)
1/2 pound small pasta such as macaroni, elbows, or shells
2 tablespoons Smart Balance butter substitute
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk, plus 1/2 cup for pureeing cauliflower
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese, plus 1/2 cup for sprinkling on top
salt and freshly ground black pepper – add to your taste
1 tablespoon Fajita or Mexican spices (optional)
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Smart Balance butter substitute
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Trim cauliflower and break into small florets. Boil until tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain. Place in a blender or processor with 1/2 cup milk and puree until thick and smooth. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to directions until al dente.
For the sauce, melt 2 tablespoons Smart Balance in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk briskly. Gradually add 2 cups milk, whisking continuously, until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Add the pureed cauliflower, 1 cup cheddar cheese, and a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Whisk until smooth and remove from heat. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and toss until well coated. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheddar evenly over the top.
For the buttered breadcrumbs, melt 1 tablespoon Smart Balance butter substitute in a small skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and toss until coated with butter. Sprinkle even over the top of the cheddar. Or, if you prefer, set crumbs aside, and use as a garnish just before serving.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
I have tried this recipe several times, and it has never failed to impress me! but when monotonous gets boring, I make it with a couple twists.
Mac and Cheese with Garam Masala
Instead of cauliflower, use thinly sliced onions and some chopped yellow peppers. Saute them a bit with 1 tbsp butter, then throw them into the baking dish along with the pasta, and proceed with the recipe. Skip the fajita seasoning, and add 3 tbsp of your favorite marinara sauce. Also add a dash of parsley and a pinch of garam masala powder. The ingredients may sound bizarre, but trust me, it all works well together.
Vegetable Medley Mac and Cheese
This is a healthier and more nutritious version of mac and Cheese than what you’d be used to. Add some chopped broccoli, bell peppers, onions, some chopped asparagus and shredded zucchini, if you like, and also add a half cup of cheddar cheese to balance out the extra veggies. Boil the veggies lightly until tender, then chop them coarsely in the blender (without adding the milk) so they become tiny bite-sized. Add them to the casserole and bake the pasta as directed.
These Mac and Cheese recipes are my family’s absolute favorites. They are super tasty, very well-balanced, and do not need much prep time. These recipes change the image of the cheese-loaded traditional mac and cheese, and are a good way to get your kids to eat healthy, nutritious food. Use whole-wheat pasta instead of enriched ones for a more health-friendly meal:)