Mary Anne here. Michael, my other half, is as serious about food as any of us in the fam, and since he has such a well-developed appetite, I often find him in the kitchen whipping up a new creation. Michael finds his inspiration on cooking shows and from magazines and he is always in search of delicious food that packs a flavorful punch without adding pounds when he hits the scale.
This recipe was culled from an issue of Men’s Fitness in a section entitled “Eat Smart”. We modified it slightly by swapping out the whole wheat pasta for “Dreamfields,” which was designed to satisfy carb-craving diabetics while touting only 5 grams of digestible carbs per serving as compared to about 40 grams in in its whole wheat cousin.
Because this recipe has relatively small amounts of cheese, I added sweet potato to the squash component in order to add a sweetness and creaminess that the original lacked. I also happened to have some fat-free “American” cheese in the fridge (I know…kind of awful) and shredded 2 slices to amp up the aforementioned creamy factor.
Hoping that this healthier version of Mac ‘n Cheese might be kid-friendly, Mariel and I decided to use her toddling dinner-tyrant of a son as our taste tester. Reportedly her little bundle of boy gave this dish his version of two-thumbs up when he ate his plateful and didn’t chuck it over the side of his high chair for the dogs to scarf up. That’s as close as he’ll get to giving a rave review!
Sweet Potato-Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheese
Tip: My local grocery store sells Butternut squash already peeled and chopped. This makes the vegetable just so much more “user-friendly” as I simply had to cook it in a pot of boiling water along with the peeled and chopped sweet potato. I didn’t need all of the prepared puree, so I stashed the extra in a sealed container and we enjoyed the leftover veggie mixture as a side dish with 2 more dinners that week.
½ lb. Dreamfields or whole wheat elbow pasta, cooked according to package directions – $1.49
½ lb. sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and pureed – $1.01
1 ½ cups Butternut squash, cooked and pureed – $2.49
1 ¼ cups fat-free cottage cheese – $1.29
1 medium-large Vidalia onion, chopped – $1.19
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided – stock
1 (generous) cup shredded, low fat cheddar cheese – $1.19
2 slices fat free American cheese, optional
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons Panko or “flavored” bread crumbs – stock
3 Tablespoons grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese – stock
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $8.66
Total Per Serving: $1.08
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with Pam or other vegetable oil cooking spray.
2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, rinse under running water, drain, and set aside.
3. In a medium sauté pan set over medium flame, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, using the steel blade of the food processor, puree the cooked sweet potato, squash, and cottage cheese until smooth. Set aside.
5.In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, onion, Cheddar and American cheese, and veggie-cottage cheese puree and then season with salt and pepper.
6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
7. In a custard bowl, combine the Panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle on top of the mac ‘n cheese.
8. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until hot and beginning to bubble.