As a child, Macaroni and Cheese was the side to serve with Fried Chicken and Kool Aid. When I made the life change to a healthier diet, all of this went out the window. I haven’t eaten a hamburger in twenty five years, or had Mac and Cheese in at least fifteen. It may seem strange, but when you start eating a clean diet, you just stop craving the bad stuff. Even when I was pregnant, I surprised myself by having one junky craving, french fries, and that was only for a week.
In the last year, Mac and Cheese has become my son’s favorite side dish at preschool. I wondered if I could find a healthier version, so I tried rice pasta, white cheddar, and vegan options. Every time, Jake would take one bite and say, “Yuck, Mommy. Maria’s Macaroni and Cheese is much better.” You know what happened next: I rolled up my sleeves and made my own from scratch.
Out with the old, in with the new: Organic brown rice flour and potato flour are new ingredients to me, but they turned out to be amazing substitutes for white flour. Surprisingly, they taste great, are healthier, not to mention being gluten free. Veggie butter instead of cows milk butter melted easily and still made a great sauce. Fabuloso, and half the fat. The flavor got another bump up by using garlic and onion powder. In the end, I did go for real Cheddar, being that it is organic and vegetarian (no animal rennet, or hormones).
There I was, rockin’ and rollin’ at the stove. The sauce was tasting great and looking good, and I was getting pretty excited, but something in the back of my mind was niggling me: What would Jake think? Would it measure up to Mighty Maria’s Mac? On top of this, I went even further, by using brown rice pasta. I was seriously pushing the envelope.
At dinner time, fearing a fatal comparison, I served the Mac onto Jake’s plate, calling it “Cheesy Pasta,” to which Jake shot me a suspicious look. “Mommy, this looks like Macaroni and Cheese. Why are you calling it Cheesy Pasta? (Christ, we’ll be comparing Indie Films to Popcorn Blockbusters next).” I took a deep breath. “Oh honey, it’s just pasta with cheese sauce. What do you think?” He took one bite and replied, “Oh, this is good Mommy. This is yummy. Thank you, thank you. I love my cheesy pasta!” Call me a dork, but words cannot express the joy I felt. So much so, that we did all over again the next day.
Shopping note: You might feel a slight pinch when buying the brown rice flour and potato flour for first time. Fear not; You’ll have enough flour to make it for months (not to mention using it for sauces, baked goods, and soups) which will cut the cost in half. More importantly, your Mac and Cheese is a more wholesome and healthy dish for you and your famiHealthy Mac and Cheese
2 cups brown rice pasta, cooked to “al dente” texture (available at your local health food store)
1 1/4 cup organic vegetarian grated mature cheddar
1 tablespoon of nondairy butter (Earth Balance)
1 tablespoon organic brown rice flour (Arrowhead Mills)
1/2 tablespoon organic potato flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 cups organic unsweetened soy milk (almond or rice milk work just as well)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
pinch of organic unbleached sugar
1. Cook the brown rice pasta and set aside.
2. Using a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat Stir in the garlic powder and onion powder, then add the brown rice and potato flour, stirring frequently to avoid lumps.
3. Slowly pour in a 1/4 cup of soy milk at a time, gently stirring until the sauce thickens, then adding another 1/4 cup, and so on, until using all of the milk.
4. Add the grated cheese to the sauce, gently stirring to help the cheese melt. Stir in pinch of sugar, and season with sea salt and ground black pepper.5. Add the pasta to the sauce, stir to heat through, then serve immediately.