Healthy Mac & Cheese

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Mac & Cheese is one of our all time favorite comfort foods. Okay, so I used Fusilli pasta because I couldn’t find macaroni anywhere but it doesn’t make a difference in texture; nor did it alter the flavors. Most Mac n Cheese recipes require excess amount of butter,cream, and cheese. I found a healthy way to retain the creaminess without the high cholesterol and fat. My secret weapons for this recipe is butternut squash and non fat cottage cheese. Aside for being one of my favorite vegetables, butternut squash contains many vital poly-phenolic anti-oxidants and vitamins. Similar to other cucurbitaceae members, it is very low in calories; provides just 45 cal per 100 g. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol but is a rich source of dietary fiber and phyto-nutrients. Squash is one of the common vegetables that is often recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.  It is also an excellent source of  vitamin A, a powerful natural anti-oxidant which helps the body  maintain the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. This squash  has  a similar mineral profile as pumpkin, containing adequate levels of minerals like iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. It tastes just as delicious but without the guilt. And if you season it properly, you won’t even notice the butternut squash when you taste it! There is one  general rule when it comes to making Lasagna, Baked Ziti, and Mac ‘n Cheese. Always make sure that the pasta is cooked al dente. That means the pasta should be slightly undercooked by 2 0r 3 minutes so that it doesn’t become mushy when baked afterward.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1.  1 box of whole wheat or whole grain macaroni
  2. 1 lbs of butternut squash halved
  3. 2 cups of fat free cottage cheese
  4. Skim mozzarella cheese shredded
  5. Skim cheddar  cheese   shredded
  6. Unseasoned breadcrumbs
  7. Salt and pepper for taste
  8.  1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Place squash is a baking sheet over parchment paper flesh side up.  Roast for 30 minutes or until flesh is fork tender. Remove the seeds and scoop out the flesh. Set aside and cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cook macaroni about 2 to 3 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and cool. Using a blender, blend cottage cheese and squash till smooth and creamy. Place mixture in a bowl. Add macaroni , cheeses, salt, pepper,nutmeg, and mix until well combined. Place macaroni in the baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Bake uncovered for the last 15 minutes and serve hot.

Yields 8 servings

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