Guilt-free mac ‘n cheese

I think Mother Nature must have heard my pleas. The sun came out yesterday and started melting the snow in our driveway, and here it is again today. Maybe that’s why I was inspired to make up a new recipe last night. It’s based on this Amy’s noodle bowl I used to buy all the time to take for lunch at work. It sounds iffy — marinated tofu and veggies mixed into mac and cheese, but it’s actually really good. And I realized I’d never made mac and cheese from scratch (yikes!). So here’s what I came up with. You can use wheat or whole grain pasta to make it even healthier. Of all the recipes I’ve made recently, this one might be my favorite.

Guilt-free mac ‘n cheese

12 ounces elbow macaroni (about 3/4 of the box I had)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced
1 bag frozen broccoli or 2 heads fresh, chopped
1/2 a block of extra firm tofu, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce

Start by boiling the water for your pasta and cooking it according to package directions.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a glass baking dish mix the tofu slices with the soy sauce and garlic. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once during baking.

Meanwhile put the broccoli in the microwave to steam, and saute the peppers and onions in the olive oil. (This is definitely a multitasking recipe).

Set all the veggies aside while you make your cheese sauce. Heat the flour and butter over medium until you have a thick paste. Then add the milk and whisk together. Cook until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken slightly.

It will still be pretty thin, but that’s OK. Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta, tofu and veggies to the sauce and stir to combine. Dump the mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Turn the oven up to broil, and when it’s ready, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the casserole and bake for 5-7 minutes or until slightly brown on top.