Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guilt Free "Mac" & Cheese

Good evening everyone! Greetings from the great white north! As all of our readers from  Iowa are aware, we received one heck of a snow storm last night, dumping between 9 to 13 inches of snow across the state. Our little portion of the Des Moines metro ended up with around 10 to 11 inches and we're currently "enjoying" 30-40 MPH winds. After a long winter of no snow, Mother Nature has seen it fit to bestow us with an entire season's worth in one evening.

It's days like these that it's nice to turn to the kitchen to cook up some warm and filling "comfort food". Of course, you want to make sure you're eating relatively healthy as well. Tonight's dish manages to find some common ground between eating well and filling up on a tasty dish.

The Recipe: Beefy Mac and Cheese
Original Recipe Found In: Food Network Magazine: October 2012 Issue

What You'll Need:
(Serves 4)

8 Ounces Pasta or Shells (We used Penne)
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Small Onion (Chopped)
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
8 Ounces Ground Beef (Either low fat content or drained of fat)
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Low Fat Milk (1%)
2 1/2 Cups Shredded Mexican Cheese
2 Tablespoons Panko Breadcrumbs
2 Scallions, Sliced Thin

Begin by brining a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta according to package instructions, drain and reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water for later use.

While your pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet oven medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Next, add the tomato paste and chili powder. Stir to combine the ingredients and cook until the mixture turns an earthy red color (this takes about 2 minutes of simmering). Finally, add the beef and cook until it browns (stirring occasionally) this takes about 4 minutes. Season this mixture with a dash of salt and then spread it in a 3 quart (broiler safe) baking dish.  Preheat your broiler at this time as well.

Next, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add in the flour and allow cook (stirring constantly) for 1 minute or until the mixture thickens. Next, add the milk and reserved cooking water and allow this mixture to come to a simmer. Continue whisking the mixture until it becomes thick - this takes about 2 minutes. Finally, add 2 cups of the cheese and the pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate everything evenly. Continues stirring until the cheese is fully melted. Add this pasta mixture over top of the beef mixture in your baking dish.

Mix the remaning 1/2 cup of cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the pasta. Place the dish into the oven (under the broiler) and cook until golden brown on top. Top the dish with the sliced scallions and serve!

The Results:

Mac and cheese (or in this instance, penne and cheese) with beef - there are few recipes that can compete with this flavor combination when it comes to pure, unbridled "comfort food". Rich, creamy pasta combines with a lightly seasoned beef to create a warm filling dish sure to hit the spot on any winter's night. The best part is that by using low fat milk in place of a heavy cream and a lower fat cheese you cut out a lot of the empty calories that normally turn this dish into a "guilty pleasure". With a relatively modest 600 calories per serving, you can enjoy your comfort food without any of the guilt.

That's all we have for you this week. We're obviously not going to be cooking next week with the Christmas holiday. Here's hoping you and yours have a happy holiday season. We'll be back in the first week of 2013. Until then,


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