Let’s Hear it for Comfort Food! – Goat Cheese Macaroni

A blog that concentrates on healthy food may seem like a strange place for that comfort food favorite, macaroni and cheese. But I am a practical soul, and every now and then even the best of us has to indulge. I still make mac and cheese the old fashioned way, from scratch. It really doesn’t take very long, has LOTS more flavor than that stuff from a box, and is better for you too.  This version is adapted from the Easy Cheesy Mac recipe in my first cookbook, I Want My Dinner Now! – Simple Meals for Busy Cooks.

easycheesymac

1 cup elbow macaroni

1/2 bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1 tsp instant onion

2 T butter

2 T flour

1 1/4 cups evaporated non-fat milk

1/2 tsp paprika

2 tsp spicy brown mustard

2 oz goat cheese (I used herb flavored here)

hot sauce to taste

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni in boiling water for 5 minutes or until almost done. Meanwhile chop carrot and bell pepper. Melt butter in casserole dish in the microwave. Add vegetables and onion and microwave for 1 minute. Add flour and paprika to vegetable mixture and stir to coat vegetables. Add milk and stir. Microwave on high heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. Return to microwave and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes or until mixture is thickened. Add goat cheese, mustard and hot sauce. Stir until cheese is melted. Add drained macaroni and mix thoroughly. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Tips: This recipe made 3 creamy servings. The original recipe just calls for “cheese”, I have made a comparison using Cheddar cheese below. Goat cheese has a very distinctive flavor that may not suite children’s taste buds but adults will certainly appreciate! Don’t skimp on the hot sauce. Hot sauce enhances the cheesy flavor and doesn’t add as much “hotness” as you would expect. Using hot sauce is a great way to get more cheesy flavor with less cheese in any baked cheese dish. If you want to reduce the cheese even more , you can add up to 2 T of nutritional yeast to the cheese sauce and achieve that same cheese flavor.  I used red bell peppers and carrots in this dish, but it is also great with celery, peas, or even chopped broccoli. It’s also a great way to get kids to eat some vegetables.

Now to compare the nutritional content:

Goat Cheese Macaroni – total fat 10 g (17% DV), saturated fat 7g (35% DV), trans fat 0 g, sodium 91 mg (4% DV), calcium 30% DV.

Easy Cheesy Mac (made with Cheddar) – total fat 11 g (18% DV), saturated fat 9g (45% DV), trans fat 0 g, sodium 114 mg (5%), calcium 38% DV.

Boxed Macaroni and Cheese (prepared) – total fat 19g (32% DV), saturated fat 5 g (25% DV), trans fat 4 g (200% DV),  sodium 684 mg (30% DV), calcium 15% DV.

The comparison is very interesting, especially if you are a label watcher (and I urge all of you to become so!). The goat cheese version is lower in total fat and sodium than the others. The Cheddar version is a better source of calcium than the other two options. The boxed version has less saturated fat than the others, which you wouldn’t expect. But one look at the sodium indicates why. The boxed version has no real cheese, the flavor comes from salt and an (apparently very fatty) artificial cheese mix. The trans fat amount is frightening, but would be reduced if you made it with butter or a trans-fat free margarine instead of regular stick margarine (but that would increase the saturated fat amount to roughly equal to the other two versions).

So, making your own macaroni and cheese from scratch increases flavor (real cheese!), provides more calcium, MUCH less salt, and no trans fats (as long as you don’t use stick margarine). All that and you get a serving of vegetables too. Not bad for comfort food. Let me know what versions you can come up with – there’s never too many mac and cheese recipes!

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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