lunchbox life: skinny broccoli mac and cheese

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Skinny Mac and Cheese is an oxymoron, right?

Macaroni and cheese is, by its very name, not a “skinny” dish.  It’s pasta. It’s cheesy-ooey-gooey.  It’s so, so satisfying, but also so, so heavy.  You dream about it, then eat it, then have a tummyache and regret it.

No? Just me? 🙂

I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like mac and cheese.  Many vegans use vegan “cheese” for the sole purpose of baking this delicious dish.  Never fear, loyal readers: Gina over at Skinnytaste has come to the rescue!  I have slightly adapted her recipe to fit my preferences, but let me tell you: this lady is the queen of turning indulgent recipes into lightened-up, guilt-free, really tasty dishes.  If you’re a Weight Watcher, know that her recipes come with a full nutritional profile as well as PointsPlus values.  What a valuable resource!

The addition of broccoli is key here.  First, it functions as the green veggie component is the dish, but it’s so much more than that.  Secondly, it (along with the whole grain pasta) serves as a high fiber food that keeps you full throughout the afternoon.  If you’ve read my lunchbox life entries, you’ve already read about my obsession with fiber, but seriously: it’s important.  Thirdly, the broccoli takes up volume in the dish which lessens the amount of pasta in each serving, but you don’t realize it because visually, you have a warm,  substantialbowl of cheesy pasta (with some broccoli).  You’re going to love this, I just know it.  This recipe has 8 servings, so I saved the other three servings for Alex to have for a few lunches this week.  I’m having this every day for lunch this week with a side of sliced grapefruit.

Skinny Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Adapted (just barely) from Skinnytaste

  • 12 oz high fiber whole grain elbow pasta
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot (you can also use onion)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 8 oz (2 cups) reduced-fat sharp cheddar (buy a block and grate it–it melts better than the pre-shredded kind)
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets (I used pre-cut bag)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions (probably about 7 minutes).  Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375F.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add minced shallot, thyme, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder and cook over low heat about 2 minutes, add flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined. Add milk and chicken broth and whisk, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the sauce is thick, remove from heat, add cheddar cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Top with grated parmesan and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.

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