Why is macaroni and cheese one of the most favorite feel-good foods around? Two words: Cheesy. Pasta. (That's basically a mic drop in the comfort food camp, in case you're wondering.) But could this classic food actually be good for you, too? We put on our best thinking caps to try and find ways to add benefits to this indulgent dish, without insulting its cheesy, gooey greatness. And lo and behold, we came up with some clever tricks to make good old mac better than ever. Here are some of our discoveries:
1. Replace the dairy – Mac and cheese without the cheese? Turns out you don't need dairy to make a rich and indulgent sauce. We like cholesterol-free plant-based fats with a little nutritional yeast to create a cheesy flavor with bonus B-vitamins.
2. Sneak in veggies – Blended cooked veggies can make a surprisingly creamy base too, so we incorporated cauliflower and red bell pepper into the mix to reduce calories and add antioxidants.
3. Turmeric brightens everything – Even mainstream brands have caught on that turmeric helps enhance yellow and orange colors, naturally. We use a liberal amount of this spice in our mac and cheese for a its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits.
4. Upgrade that pasta – See ya bleached white flour. There are so many great new varieties of pasta available these days, which can fit into all kinds of nutrient-dense diets. From brown rice pasta, lentil pasta, chickpea pasta, and even low calorie noodles made out of yams, the options are oh so many.
5. Try different toppings – Bread crumbs are yummy, but nuts, seeds, and chopped herbs make delicious and visually appealing topping as well, while upping nutrients.
Ready to try? Here's what's cooking in the Luminberry Kitchen.
Creamy Turmeric Mac & Cheese
12 ounces macaroni (use whole wheat, brown rice, or any variety)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
¼ yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ medium cauliflower, chopped into small florets (about 2 cups)
1¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, plus extra as needed
¼ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon yellow miso paste
1 cup frozen green peas
1/3 cup hemp seeds
Warm the coconut oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for a minute longer. Stir in the cauliflower and almond milk, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is very soft. Remove from heat. Add the mixture to a blender, along with the tahini, salt, pepper, turmeric, mustard, nutritional yeast, and miso. Blend into a smooth sauce.
Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's directions. Drain, and return the pasta to the warm pot. Add the peas, and pour in the cheesy sauce. Cook over low heat to defrost the peas and bring the sauce to a warm temperature, stirring in additional almond milk as needed to keep the sauce loose. Serve hot, topped with hemp seeds.