This quick recipe for macaroni and cheese is a lovely compromise between artery-clogging comfort food and healthy eats. I made it a few weeks ago, adding a cup of diced ham for extra flavor and protein, and it was a really delicious, healthy main dish. Paired with some whole wheat bread and fresh fruit, it was a very comforting, satisfying meal.
The original recipe, from Women Heart's All Heart Family Cookbook, did not call for the ham. I noticed, however, when I was making another recipe recently, that some ham steaks are very low in fat. I buy Bob Evans brand and there are only 2 grams of fat per (thick) slice, so the addition of two slices, diced, did not add much fat at all. It did add lots of flavor and texture, however. The recipe would also be very good without ham, for a meatless Friday.
The only other change I would make in the future has to do with the onion. Please tell me your kids balk at onion. Ugh. My kids (all but the youngest who eats almost anything) said they really liked this macaroni and cheese, but wished there wasn't so much onion. I did not think it was too much onion, but in the future, I will cut back to half an onion, and minced it finely. Also, if you have onion detectives, make sure the onion is very soft before adding the milk. The recipe as printed below is also adjusted for quantity, which originally served 4.
Mac 'n' Cheese with Veggies
12 ounces shells or elbow pasta
3 c. mixed vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower florets, sliced carrots, chopped bell pepper (I used cauliflower, carrot coins, and red bell pepper)
2 c. fat-free or low-fat milk
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 1/2 cup (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1 c. diced ham (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, adding the vegetables to the water during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Drain and place in a serving bowl.
Meanwhile, in a measuring cup, whisk together the milk and cornstarch. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until onion is soft (but not brown). Add the milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the Cheddar and cream cheese and ham (if using). Stir until melted. Pour over the pasta mixture and toss to coat well. Taste and salt and pepper as needed.
Source: adapted from Women Heart's All Heart Family Cookbook