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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reduced Fat BLT Mac-n-Cheese

I know that having "reduced fat" in the title of any recipe immediately makes you think ... "Ehhh, maybe I'll pass."  But good Heavens - you'll NEVER be able to miss any goodness in this one!  Promise!  A friend of mine challenged me with making this into a bit of a healthier dish, so here goes!
Now that's not to say that you necessarily need to eat the whole thing.. just that it could be a lot worst! I used lots of lower fat substitutes in this one (even though that makes ME a bit skeptical as well) but I honestly can't tell in the end product. 

            Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
2 cups small elbow macaroni
1/2 bag fresh baby spinach* (See Food Nerd Notes following recipe)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced 
1/3 - 1/2 pound lean, reduced sodium turkey bacon
2 Tbsp butter + 2 Tbsp butter + 1 Tbsp butter
1 lb reduced fat Velveeta cheese 
3.5 oz reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
2 -3 cups milk
kosher salt 
cracked black pepper 
a few shakes of cayenne pepper 
1 Tbsp ground dry mustard
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs 
butter flavored nonstick spray

Step-by-Step:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Start the water boiling for the pasta.

Prepare the spinach:  
Saute the garlic briefly in 2 Tbsp melted butter.  Do NOT let the garlic brown.
 Add the fresh baby spinach.  Remove the stems if you'd like.  (I forgot)
 Saute the spinach with the garlic just until wilted, then turn off heat.
Get the turkey bacon going.  I put them on paper towels and cooked in the microwave. The paper towels absorb any excess grease.  I cooked them about 3-4 minutes, but this will definitely depend on the strength of your microwave.  Flip over halfway.

Season the spinach with salt and pepper.
Prepare the noodles:  
Boil the elbow macaroni for about 2 - 3 minutes LESS THAN directed on the package.  You still want them to be al dente because we will finish them in the oven. Drain the noodles.
Prepare the sauce:
For the sauce, chop the reduced fat Velveeta into large chunks.
Add the Velveeta to 2 Tbsp melted butter, and add the milk.  You could also use 2% milk here, but I had only whole milk. (my kids fuss at me if I buy the other kind.) Heat on low and keep stirring so the cheese won't stick and burn.  I used 2 cups of milk because that's all I had in the fridge (4 kids here!), and it was perfect when it came out of the oven.  But after sitting a while, it was maybe a tad bit thicker than I'd like, so perhaps consider using more milk and making it soupier than you think you will need it.... so when it tightens up later, it will still be the desired consistency.
Add 1/2 of a 7 oz package (3.5oz) of reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, also cut into small chunks, to the Velveeta.
 Reduce heat to low.  Add salt, pepper, ground mustard and cayenne.

Spray a medium sized casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Arrange the noodles in the dish and top with the sauteed spinach.
Top with the hot cheese sauce and stir.
My little ones were literally fighting me over the turkey bacon. They each grabbed a couple of slices and I had to make more. (This is a good discovery for me, as they go through a LOT of bacon.)
Rough chop the bacon and top the pasta.
Rough chop the cherry/grape tomatoes and top the bacon.  (I used a mixture of red and yellow grape tomatoes because that's what I had on hand.)
Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.
Mix 1 Tbsp melted butter with 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs.  You could probably reduce this to 1/3 cup without missing out.  Mix well and top the casserole.
 

Bake for an additional 5 minutes uncovered at 350 degrees, then switch to broil for about 2 - 3 minutes.  The butter will make the Panko bread crumbs wonderfully brown and crispy.  Panko bread crumbs are much lighter and crunchier than regular breadcrumbs.

Looks delicious, huh?
Oh LORD!!! The taste test went VERY well!!! Maybe since it's the "reduced fat" version, you can afford a second helping.  - NO!  Bring to work and share!  Exercise restraint! 

This feels much more like a whole meal (maybe wishful thinking on my part) than a side dish.  Maybe because I didn't care about eating anything else.  You could maybe even add some rotisserie chicken to this and make this complete... just saying.  Overall, we took an old favorite.. added a nice serving of spinach AND tomatoes, and reduced the fat in the love-sauce!  Not bad for one night!

Order the Menu Musings Cookbook!
 
Like this?  Please feel free to browse through my Recipe Index for tons of other ideas that you can cook with/for your family.  Here are a few things to pique your curiosity:
Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Chicken Tamale Casserole
Stuffed Baby Artichokes with Lemon Vinaigrette
Prosciutto and Phyllo Wrapped Asparagus Appetizers

Written Method for Reduced Fat BLT Mac-n-Cheese:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Start the water boiling for the pasta.

Prepare the spinach:  Saute the garlic briefly in 2 Tbsp melted butter.  Do NOT let the garlic brown.  Add the fresh baby spinach.  Remove the stems if you'd like.  Saute the spinach with the garlic just until wilted, then turn off heat.  Season the spinach with salt and pepper.

Get the turkey bacon going.  I put them on paper towels and cooked in the microwave. The paper towels absorb any excess grease.  I cooked them about 3-4 minutes, but this will definitely depend on the strength of your microwave.  Flip over halfway.

Prepare the noodles:   Boil the elbow macaroni for about 2 - 3 minutes LESS THAN directed on the package.  You still want them to be al dente because we will finish them in the oven. Drain the noodles.

Prepare the sauce:   For the sauce, chop the reduced fat Velveeta into large chunks. Add the Velveeta to 2 Tbsp melted butter, and add the milk.  Heat on low and keep stirring so the cheese won't stick and burn.  I used 2 cups of milk because that's all I had in the fridge, and it was perfect when it came out of the oven.  But after sitting a while, it was maybe a tad bit thicker than I'd like, so perhaps consider using more milk and making it soupier than you think you will need it.... so when it tightens up later, it will still be the desired consistency.  Add 1/2 of a 7 oz package (3.5oz) of reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, also cut into small chunks, to the Velveeta. Reduce heat to low.  Add salt, pepper, ground mustard and cayenne.


Spray a medium sized casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Arrange the noodles in the dish and top with the sauteed spinach.  Top with the hot cheese sauce and stir.  Rough chop the bacon and top the pasta.  Rough chop the cherry/grape tomatoes and top the bacon.  (I used a mixture of red and yellow grape tomatoes.)  Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Mix 1 Tbsp melted butter with 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs.  You could probably reduce this to 1/3 cup without missing out.  Mix well and top the casserole.  Bake for an additional 5 minutes uncovered at 350 degrees, then switch to broil for about 2 - 3 minutes.  The butter will make the Panko bread crumbs wonderfully brown and crispy.  Panko bread crumbs are much lighter and crunchier than regular breadcrumbs.

Food Nerd Notes:
Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, Vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Polyglutamyl folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells, and spinach is a good source of folic acid. Boiling spinach can more than halve the level of folate left in the spinach, but microwaving does not affect folate content.

Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be a rich source of iron. The bio-availability of iron is dependent on its absorption, which is influenced by a number of factors. Iron enters the body in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. All of the iron in grains and vegetables, and about three-fifths of the iron in animal food sources (meats), is non-heme iron. The remaining portion from meats is heme iron. The larger portion of dietary iron (non-heme) is absorbed slowly in its many food sources, including spinach. This absorption may vary widely depending on the presence of binders, such as fiber, or enhancers, such as vitamin C. Therefore, the body's absorption of non-heme iron can be improved by consuming foods that are rich in vitamin C (that's where our tomatoes come in!). 

2 comments:

  1. Grate post.I really like this post!!I've read a few similar posts recently but I don't think I've ever read one that so perfectly expresses my own opinions on the matter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks SO good! I'm pinning it to the Iowa Turkey Federation's pinterest board! (and quite possibly making it tonight for my family!)

    ReplyDelete

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