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Kid-Approved Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese Launches ‘Pimp That Recipe’ Makeover Series

By Abra Pappa for Nutritious America

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 from 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 calorie 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 health.

This recipe makeover, however, is based on a non-reductive food philosophy; one that doesn’t just rely on taking high calorie 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. Pimp That Recipe will take your favorite comfort foods and upgrade them to a new, wholly health supportive, nourishing, satiating, and delicious version. Surely you’re on board with that!

Pimp That Recipe Mission 1: Macaroni and 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. It typically weighs in at 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 body’s 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 noodles (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’s and nephew’s all time favorite pasta.) If you can’t find a veggie pasta in your store, try quinoa pasta or brown rice pasta (which makes the recipe gluten free.)

Next up on the ingredient list is cheese, of course. I upgraded again to a high quality cheese and used a lot less of it. The standard cheese amount in mac and cheese is 3 cups. My version has just under 3/4 cup. BIG difference! I swapped out the the standard cow’s milk for a natural almond milk. I also suggest using arrowroot powder, a natural food thickener that is supportive to digestive health, rather than GMO cornstarch.

For my nutrient boost add 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 boxed 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 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. It’s perfectly suited for broccoli or spinach.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Makes 4, 1-cup servings

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)
3/4 cup of almond milk, unsweetened
1/2 cup butternut squash puree (canned is fine)
1/4 cup of chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegetarian)
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese shredded + 2 tbsp
2 Tbsp. of Pecorino Romano grated
1/8 tsp. of sea salt
1/8 tsp. of black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Cook pasta according to directions but under by about 4 minutes (you are going to bake it as well).

2.  In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter.

3.  In a bowl, whisk arrowroot powder and almond milk until all lumps are gone.

4.  Add milk/arrowroot mixture to pot with melted butter and whisk until it becomes thicker.

5.  Add squash and chicken stock, stir until well combined.

6.  Add cheddar and Pecorino Romano cheese, whisk until melted.

7.  Toss cooked pasta into cheese, squash mixture and stir until all pasta is coated with sauce.

8.  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.

NUTRITION

282 Calories, 10.8g Fat, 6.2g Saturated Fat, 27mg Cholesterol, 378mg Sodium, 35.7g Carbohydrates, 2g Dietary Fiber, .8g Sugar

For the number crunchers out there who still need convincing, see that I was able to successfully cut the fat and calories by more then 50 percent of a standard recipe. The real victory though is a crazy delicious mac and cheese that is made of only real, whole food ingredients.

Do you have a suggestion for Pimp That Recipe that we can makeover for you? Tell us in the comments below.

Try These Recipes:

Butternut Squash Fries

Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders

Healthified Dirt ‘n Worms Sundae

September 14th, 2012

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