Hump Day, Shmump Day – I’m Here to Please with Mac ‘n Cheese

In American, Pasta, Salad, Vegetables on May 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

It’s one of my favorite comfort dishes.  From the blue box, to truffled reinventions, and everything in between (except Velveeta), I can’t say no to Mac ‘n Cheese.  I love it plain, with chilli, with hot sauce, with veggies, even with fruit!  However, too much cheese, cream, and butter paired with white pasta are often the culprits for a diet-busting catastrophe!  Yes, one should indulge in moderation, but I could probably eat this every day.  Hence, I’ve had a lot of experience with mac-makeovers.  Whether it’s using lower fat milk, or adding veggies to bulk up the portions, there are many healthy and delicious ways to slim down a plate of mac.  I’ve even successfully replicated the Amy’s brand Gluten/Dairy/Soy free version, and managed to even thin it out.  My man, however, would never eat that.  He’d say “what the hell is this?  Where’s the cheese?”  He will, however, eat a version with plenty of veggies in it (which I suppose means I’ve done a good job in molding his produce palate).

Mac ingredients on the left; beet salad on the right.

I decided last Wednesday to marry two recipes: a whole grain/low fat cheddar and broccoli version with the gluten free/vegan version.  Basically, the latter version of  brown rice pasta wanted to get married,  so she had to convert to non-veganism and become step-mom to some broccoli.  NBD.  I also wanted to add a salad of some sort to the side, and based on what I had on hand I was to create a raw beat slaw.  Not only would it be purty, but it would be a crisp, light contrast to the slightly richer and chewier mac.  Here’s the list of ingredients.  You could sub the brown rice products for whole wheat or any other grain pasta/flour if desired.

Broccoli Cheddar Brac ‘n Cheese

Serves 4

8 oz brown rice elbow macaroni
1 bunch broccoli, florets and stems, chopped
1 tbsp safflower oil
2 tbsp brown rice flour
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp dijon mustard (don’t know if that’s gluten free because of the vinegar they use)
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz reduced fat/sodium cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 2.5 cups)
1 tbsp parmesano reggiano, shredded

I preheated the oven to 375°, and put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  During that time, I measured out 220 grams of the brown rice pasta (which is roughly 8 oz).  I really like this pasta, as it has an interestingly gummy/chewy texture without being mush.  Kind of like chewing brown rice.  Who would have thought?

Then I washed and chopped up the broccoli.

The water was boiling, so I added some salt, the pasta, and put my timer on for 8 minutes.  Half way through, I added the broccoli to the pot to cook out some.  In the first 4 minutes, I had enough time to get my roux started.  Basically, that’s a mix of flour with fat (usually butter).  It is used as a thickening agent, usually for a béchamel, which is a standard white sauce.  In my version, I used high oleic safflower oil, which is low in saturated fat (even lower than EVOO) and has a very high smoke point.  I added 1 tbsp to a saucepan with 2 tbsp of brown rice flour on medium high heat.

Using a whisk, I combined the two ingredients for 2 minutes.

Then the roux looked like this.  Kind of reminds me of coconut water.

At this point, it’s time to create the white sauce.  Traditionally, you’d add full fat milk.  I used 1%, and I also cut half the liquid with vegetable broth.  It’s a neat lil trick 🙂  Then you whisk away for a minute to incorporate everything.

After a minute, I switched to a wooden spoon, and stirred in a figure 8 motion until the sauce was thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (about 5 minutes).  My camera was not cooperating, so this was the best image I could capture.

Then it was time to flavor the sauce.  Salt, pepper, mustard, and minced garlic.

After mixing that up, I turned off the heat and added 4 oz (about 2 cups) of the shredded cheddar, combining until velvety (not to be confusing with Velveety) smooth.

At this point, the pasta/broccoli pot is ready to be drained.  The contents are added to the pot to combine.

After a couple of folds, I poured the mac batter into a square nonstick pan.  Just a tip, which I will use next time, you should probably grease/spray the bottom just in case it decides to stick.

The finishing touches include the last ounce of cheddar (about 1/2 cup) and a sprinkled tablespoon of parm.  That’s another great trick.  It packs a lot of flavor in just a little sprinkle, and it also toasts up on top, which helps avoid using breadcrumbs.

Here’s a close up.

Pop the pan into the oven uncovered for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  It will look like this.

Another close up.

That 25-30 minutes of cooking time was more than enough to prep the beet slaw.  I know beets are not usually eaten raw, but they can be, and are delicious!  Just think about all those juice bars with their carrot/beet/celery mixtures.  Only this actually tastes good.

Raw Beet ‘Slaw

8 side dish servings

1 bunch red beets (about 3 medium sized), peeled
2 carrots, washed well
2 stalks celery
1/2 medium onion (1/4 of a very large one)

3 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar (more if sweeter taste desired)
salt and pepper to taste

When cooking beets, you can usually leave the skin on and peel after cooking.  However, that doesn’t work with raw consumption.  I opted to use gloves to peel my beets, to avoid red all over my hands.  Beets dye EVERYTHING red, but they do easily wash off.

Using my handy dandy food processor, I shredded the bulbs with the shredding attachment.  Another fuzzy photo, yet still so purty.

Then I added the carrots, celery, and onion to the processor for shredding.

At the bottom of the serving bowl, I whisked together the mustard, vinegar, agave, salt and pepper.  It made a lot of dressing, so you could probably reduce the recipe slightly.

Then I added in the shredded veg, mixed to combine, and tada!  Ruby goodness in a bowl.

Time to serve!  Some mac and a side of slaw.

Sorry the photo is kind of dark, but it was certainly bright and cheery in person!  It was also uber delish, and much healthier and nourishing than the kind you’d find at a bbq joint.  You could add any veggie really, but broccoli is Nick’s favorite.  He absolutely loved this dish.  In fact, he took a bite and basically had a foodgasm.  Enough said.

  1. […] Wednesday: Cheddar and Broccoli brown rice macaroni and cheese with a slide of beet slaw […]

  2. […] I was such a good girl last week, using up everything from my first CSA distribution, I was left to brave the markets for an in between week.  At first, I was super excited because I […]

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