I hate to say it, but I’m the type who HAS to eat lower fat, healther foods in order to stay at the weight I’m at, and/or keep on exercising like crazy to maintain or lose weight. Oh how I wish I was the type that could just eat whatever I want whenever I want. Sigh. (I know, there are many others just like me.) I know it’s good for me to watch what I eat, and I know that by doing so there are times when I can splurge. So as much as you would look at my blog at all the things I post here and think what an unhealthy household we have, that isn’t really the case. I cook mostly healthy food and am always happy when I take a recipe that looks so good and make some healthier adaptations to it and it still turns out great. So I had to share this recipe with you today.
The recipe I used was recently posted by my friend, Amanda, on her blog, Amanda's Cookin'. She adapted a recipe she’d found on Allrecipes.com. When I saw her post, it really made me want some good ol’ mac-n-cheese. I made a few changes and still came out with a creamy, cheesy comfort food dish that has been great to eat all week!
Lower Fat Macaroni and Cheese with Ham and Peas, by Katrina, Baking and Boys!, adapted from Amanda’s Cookin’
13.25 ounce box of whole wheat macaroni pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces cooked ham, diced into about 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup water (chicken stock or dry wine would work, too)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
4 tablespoons Best Life Buttery Baking Sticks (or any other butter substitute)
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground dry mustard
2 cups fat free (skim) milk
1 cup shredded 75% reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded smoked gouda
1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese (any kind of cheese would really work, it’s the smoked gouda that is the winner here, you could probably just use 1 cup all gouda)
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Light spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, cook the pasta until al dente according to package direction. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet with at least 2 inch sides. Add chopped ham and saute until meat begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add water and simmer until liquid is almost evaporated. Add peas and cook another 2 minutes.
Remove the ham and peas from the skillet and set aside. Heat the butter (substitute) in the skillet until it has melted and stopped sizzling. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika and dry mustard in a small bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter and use a whisk to combine the butter and flour together to make a roux, whisk for a good minute or two to cook out the raw flour taste. While slowly adding the milk, continue whisking to combine. Turn the heat up slightly and whisk often until the milk thickens. Do not let it come to a boil, just heat enough to thicken. When thickened, remove the skillet from the heat and add the shredded cheeses. Whisk until combined and melted.
Drain the macaroni and place in the skillet, along with the ham and peas, with the cheese sauce and stir until well combined. Pour into the 9x13 inch pan and top with the panko bread crumbs. Bake for 20 minutes.
The only thing I would do different next time is only cook about 10 ounces of pasta so there is a little more cheese mixture ratio to the pasta. This is great with the bites of ham and peas and makes for an easy dinner.