Intro to Cooking: Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

Healthy macaroni and cheese. I’m really not playing a mean trick on you. Macaroni and cheese is one of the perfect comfort foods: cheese, carbs, creamy-yet-crunchy. I grew up eating the Kraft out-of-the-box kind, only to realize one day last summer that I was basically eating plastic and carbs. Not super appetizing.
It’s just as easy to make homemade macaroni and cheese with tons of veggies and great protein that tastes as decadently cheesy as the out-of-the-box variety. I promise. Really.
A serving of this healthy mac and cheese can be enjoyed with a piece of fruit and a salad. Or if you’re really in need of some comfort, a BLT with turkey bacon and avocado or something equally delicious, but not too unhealthy.
The veggies I picked for this version of the recipe are packed with vitamins and fiber. It will keep you full and focused for those long study sessions in the library. And your friends will all love you if you let them eat a little bit (they might actually do your homework for you…)
Healthy Macaroni and Cheese
You’ll need…

  • 1 box of pasta, either bow tie, macaroni, etc. Any small noodle works
  • 2 1/2 cups of fat free or 1% milk (plus extra if needed)
  • about 2 tablespoons of butter
  • about 1 cup of shredded low-fat smoked mozzarella
  • about 1 cup of shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • about 1/4 cup extra smoked mozzarella cheese for topping, plus about 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs with Italian seasoning added)
  • 1 head of broccoli, trimmed, washed, and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite size pieces (left over chicken works great in this recipe)
  • about 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers, diced
  • Salt and pepper

How to make it…
Preheat over to 350 degrees. In a large soup pot, bring water to a boil over medium high heat. Add pasta and cook for about 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente (soft, but still has texture to it).
While the pasta is boiling, heat another saucepan and heat a frying pan. Add milk and heat (do not boil!) Once the milk is warm, add butter and cheese and stir until smooth. If the sauce is really thick, add extra milk. In the frying pan, saute tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and broccoli in a little bit of olive oil. Add the precooked chicken and allow to warm.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and place back into the large soup pot. Add cheese sauce, and chicken veggies. Stir to combine.  Grease a large baking dish with nonstick spray. Pour noodles and cheese into the baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the extra mozzarella and parmesan cheeses with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly on top.
Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top.
Note: This recipe makes a lot of mac and cheese! However, it keeps well in the fridge for about a week if stored in an airtight container or if the original baking dish is covered tightly in aluminum foil. 

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