Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Meatless Meal - Macaroni and Cheese

According to a lot of research, eating meat is far more resource intensive than eating plants. That makes sense when you realize that for every kilogram of beef produced, a cow needs to eat 15 kg of grain and 30 kg of forage. There's also the fact that cows produce more greenhouse gases than human transportation. With all that in mind, it's easy to see that reducing the meat in a typical North American diet is one way we can lower our ecological footprint. I'm not planning on becoming vegetarian, but I would like to ensure that meat isn't the main focus of every meal we eat, so I'm going to be experimenting with some meatless main courses. This could be a bit challenging since my husband believes that vegetables are 'food for food'!

I thought I'd start with something easy like macaroni and cheese, even though I know that mac and cheese alone is not a balanced meal. I grabbed a recipe from the book Frozen Assets Lite & Easy and got to work. The meal didn't take that long to prepare, though I had to make a couple substitutions (I didn't have skim milk or fat-free cream cheese so I used 1% milk and Philadelphia Garden Vegetable cream cheese). Total prep + cooking time was about 1 hour.

I'm not sure if my tastebuds have been corrupted by KD, but we found this dish to be a little bland. As it is, I'd give it three stars out of five. After tasting, there are a few changes I'd make to the recipe. First of all, you need about four times the topping....we all know the topping is the best part. When reheating, the taste was improved by sprinkling extra grated cheddar on top, and also by adding some garlic/parmesan sauteed mushrooms. I think that salsa or hot sauce could be used as well. I'll make this recipe again, but will definitely add a bit more spice to make it a little more interesting.

Three Cheese Mac-n-Cheese (6 servings) - original recipe


3 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups skim milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat cheddar cheese, grated
2-oz fat-free cream cheese, cubed
1/3 cup Italian flavoured bread crumbs
1 tablespoon margarine, melted

1. Cook and drain the macaroni
2. Combine flour and pepper in large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk, whisk until smooth.
3. Gradually add the rest of the milk, stirring briskly. Cook over medium heat until mixture just barely begins to boil.
4. Remove from heat; add cheeses, stirring until melted.
5. Stir in macaroni. Pour mixture into 9-inch square baking dish.
6. Mix bread crumbs with margarine. Sprinkle over top of casserole.
7. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees farenheight, or until golden brown and bubbly.

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