The idea behind most recipe makeovers is to take out or replace the “naughty” foods with “lighter” versions in order to reduce the big numbers; calories and fat. While reducing numbers is a piece of the health puzzle it doesn’t tell the whole story. Specifically since, high fat/high caloric items are frequently replaced with chemically processed, or highly processed “lite” versions which leaves a recipe that, quite frankly, can have a negative impact on your overall whole health.
This makeover, however, is based on a non-reductive food philosophy. One that doesn’t only rely on taking high caloric foods OUT but focuses on adding the right foods IN. Adding in real whole foods, clean foods, foods as close to nature as possible.
So off we go with a new way of re-doing recipes. A recipe revamp column that takes your favorite comfort foods and upgrades them to a new, wholly health supportive, nourishing, satiating, and delicious version.
Mission #1 – Mac & Cheese
I am jumping right out of the gate with a tough one. Macaroni and cheese is delicious. There, I said it. I understand why many of my clients are in love with this rich, creamy indulgence. But, holy cow traditional macaroni and cheese is not a waist friendly food. Weighing in at a typical 600 calories and 30 grams of fat per serving, with very little micro-nutrients to speak of. Additionally, the standard white pasta and heavy dairy will wreak havoc on gut health, blood sugar stabilization, and your bodies ability to effectively burn fat. Let’s turn this yummy delight into a health friendly, (yet delicious) masterpiece. Shall we?
For starters I wanted to be sure that every ingredient earned my stamp of approval.
We upgraded the pasta from plain ‘ol white pasta (which will spike blood sugar levels and increase processed food cravings) to an organic whole grain vegetable pasta that will have your kiddies begging for more! (Seriously, this is my niece and nephews all time favorite pasta) If you can’t find a veggie pasta in your store, try quinoa pasta or brown rice pasta (which will also make this recipe gluten free.)
Next up on the ingredient list? Cheese, of course. I upgraded again to a high quality cheese and used a lot less of it. Standard cheese amount in mac and cheese? 3 cups. My version just under 3/4 cup. BIG difference! I swapped out the the standard cows milk for a natural almond milk and ideally I suggest using arrowroot powder, a natural food thickener that is supportive to digestive health, rather than GMO cornstarch.
And for my nutrient boost ad in? Butternut squash. The squash makes a creamy, luscious base for the cheese sauce. It’s also orange, so if your kids are used to that orange box version of mac and cheese this will be an easy switch for them.
The squash is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C and a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which help to escort bad fat out of the body. Plus, butternut squash is a wonderful food for sugar cravings, as it is healing to the pancreas and can help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Final piece to this redo: portion size. One of the biggest issues with a meal like mac and cheese is that you just keep going back for more. I used perfect, one cup size ramekins to achieve single servings. Bam, portion control! Serve this recipe with a big green salad on the side or mix some veggies right in. Its perfectly suited for broccoli or spinach.
For the number crunchers out there that still need convincing, check below to see that I was able to successfully cut the fat and calories by more then 50%. The real victory though is a crazy delicious mac and cheese that is made of only real, whole food ingredients.
- 8 ounces of Organic Vegetable Radiatore Pasta (Trader Joe’s brand, or pasta of your choice)
- 1 Tbsp. of organic butter
- 1 Tbsp. of arrowroot (a natural thickener or you can use cornstarch)
- ¾ cup of almond milk, unsweetened
- ½ cup butternut squash puree (canned is fine)
- ¼ cup of chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegetarian)
- ½ cup of cheddar cheese shredded + 2 tbsp
- 2 Tbsp. of Pecorino Romano grated
- ⅛ tsp. of sea salt
- ⅛ tsp. of black pepper
- Cook pasta according to directions but under by about 4 minutes (you are going to bake it as well).
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter.
- In a bowl, whisk arrowroot powder and almond milk until all lumps are gone.
- Add milk/arrowroot mixture to pot with melted butter and whisk until it becomes thicker.
- Add squash and chicken stock, stir until well combined.
- Add cheddar and Pecorino Romano cheese, whisk until melted.
- Toss cooked pasta into cheese, squash mixture and stir until all pasta is coated with sauce.
- Split mac and cheese evenly between 4 oven safe ramekins and sprinkle with reserved shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes.
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