Squash Mac and Cheese
around the corner is the official start of fall, the time of
year comfort food cravings really settle in. There are
creamy and hearty soups and chowders, cheesy lasagnas and
casseroles drenched in cream-of-something soup.
that comfort often comes with a pretty hefty cost: lots of
carbs and calories, fat and sodium. But it doesn’t have to
be that way, nutrition and food experts say. There’s a way
to indulge without overindulging and still satisfy those
comfort food cravings.
dietitian Gail Posner of Healthy Ways Nutrition Counseling
advises clients to head to the farmers market and stock up
on what’s in season. There, "prices are low now and
the flavor is high," she says.
fresher the produce, the better the flavor. So says Mary
Spencer, a cooking instructor at Taste: A Cook’s Place in
Northville, Mich. Spencer recommends cooking with lots of
herbs, spices and flavored oils.
you add herbs at the beginning and the end of cooking, it
brightens up the dish," she says. "What you’re
trying to do is eliminate the salt and some of the fat, but
keep the flavor."
are five tips to keep in mind for a healthier spin on fall
cooking from Posner, Spencer and Christa Byrd, a registered
dietitian at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Mich.:
Plan ahead: While it may seem like a no-brainer, planning
ahead is one of the things healthy people often do, Posner
says. "Things get hectic this time of year," she
says. Take some time over the weekend to plan and prepare
breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week ahead. Having
the menu set will make for a healthy dinner instead of a
fast-food emergency pickup.
Shop smart: Don’t shop while hungry and stock up on foods
when you can. But also plan to make what Posner calls the
"10 minute shop" between your larger shops to
replenish fruits, vegetables and lean proteins like low-fat
yogurt, eggs and low-fat cheese. "Many people end up
eating unhealthy meals because they’ve run out of the
fruits, vegetables and lean proteins," she says.
"People that have a healthy diet in general do not run
out of food."
Read labels: A key component of shopping smart is reading
labels and understanding what they mean. With sodium
content, for example, there is a difference between
"low sodium," "reduced sodium" and
"no salt added." Use canned beans and vegetables
like tomatoes (including tomato sauce and paste) that have
labels stating "no salt added." With many brands,
the "no-salt-added" versions contain half the
amount of sodium of their regular counterparts. Products
labeled low sodium must have 140 milligrams of sodium per
serving or less. Reduced sodium means the product has 25
percent less sodium than the original version. Byrd says
watch out for products that state "low" on the
label. "Low sugar is usually higher in salt and low fat
is higher in sugar," she says.
Roast vegetables or double up on them: Roasting is an easy
way to add flavor to your veggies. (See recipe for Roasted
Vegetable Lasagna.) "You can cut up vegetables, drizzle
with some oil and roast," Spencer says. "It’s
nothing. There’s no recipe; it’s whatever you brought
home from the farmers market," she says. But what about
those who don’t have time to chop tons of veggies? Just
eliminate that step, she says. So instead of cutting that
pumpkin into cubes, just cut in half, roast it with the skin
on, seed it and enjoy. In most dishes including casseroles,
Posner and Byrd say, increase the amount of vegetables for
more nutrition in every bite. With one-dish meals, Byrd
says, "get those veggies in there. It’s all mixed
Swap out ingredients: Byrd suggests using vegetable purees
instead of high-fat ingredients to provide texture and
thickness in some dishes. "Cook northern white beans,
puree them and use them in place of the higher-fat
dairy," she says. Beans, she says, have more fiber,
vitamins and nutrients. "Using pureed beans is also a
recommendation we use when people are allergic to
milk," Byrd says. Eggs provide a creamy texture while
adding more protein than high-fat dairy. And don’t add
sugar to casseroles that have ingredients with natural
sweetness, such as sweet potatoes. Today’s recipe for
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese uses cooked and mashed
butternut squash to replace a good amount of the cheese. The
squash adds color and a creamy texture.
10 / Preparation time: 45 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 30
be discouraged by the long recipe. Once you prep all the
ingredients and roast the vegetables, the lasagna goes
together fairly quickly.
eggplant, peeled and quartered
peppers, seeded and sliced
tablespoons olive oil, divided
teaspoons dried oregano, divided
teaspoon salt, divided
teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
plum or Roma tomatoes, quartered
cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
teaspoon fennel seed
teaspoon red pepper flakes
container (15 ounces) low-fat ricotta cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese
cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
no-boil lasagna noodles
the oven to 400 degrees. Have ready 2 large sided baking
sheets, such as a jelly roll pan.
baking sheet place the zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant and red
peppers. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons
oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and
toss to coat.
other baking sheet, toss the tomato wedges with the
remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, remaining 1
teaspoon oregano, fennel seed, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and
red pepper flakes.
both in the oven and roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Turn
the vegetables over and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove roasted vegetables and roasted tomatoes from oven.
place the tomatoes and all pan juices in a bowl and add the
sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mash the tomatoes to
create a sauce.
medium-sized bowl combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella
cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, parsley and remaining 1/4
teaspoon black pepper; set aside.
9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. To
begin layering the lasagna, place about 1/3 cup of the
tomato sauce in the baking dish, spreading to cover the
bottom of the dish. Top with 3 noodles, half the ricotta
cheese mixture, half the roasted vegetable mixture and
one-quarter of the tomato sauce. Begin again with 3 noodles,
remaining cheese mixture, remaining roasted vegetables and
remaining 3 noodles. Top noodles with remaining tomato sauce
and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake lasagna uncovered for 30
to 35 minutes or until edges are bubbly and the cheese
topping is golden brown.
by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, for Heart Smart and tested by
Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
calories (42 percent from fat), 13 g fat (5 g saturated fat,
0 g trans fat), 26 g carbohydrates, 14 g protein, 369 mg
sodium, 25 mg cholesterol, 284 mg calcium, 4 g fiber. Food
exchanges: 1 starch, 2 vegetable, 2 lean meat, 1 fat.
8 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 40
pound lean ground beef (labeled 93 percent-96 percent lean)
large white onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, peeled, minced
teaspoons sweet paprika
teaspoon dried thyme
(14.5 ounces each) petite diced tomatoes
(8 ounces) regular or no-salt-added tomato sauce
unsalted beef broth or stock
chopped green cabbage
cracked black pepper
cooked brown rice
large soup pot set over high heat, season the ground beef
with salt and cook, using a potato masher to break the meat
into small pieces as it browns.
any fat from the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Add
the onion, garlic, paprika and thyme and cook until the
onions are soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato
sauce, beef stock and cabbage, and season with the remaining
salt and black pepper to taste.
to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until
the cabbage is soft, about 35 minutes.
the cooked brown rice and simmer 5 more minutes before
ladling the soup into 8 serving bowls to serve.
Mary Spencer of Taste: A Cook’s Place, Northville. Tested
by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis
per 11/2 cups serving using no-salt-added tomatoes and
calories (17 percent from fat), 3 g fat, 18 g carbohydrates,
15 g protein, 248 mg sodium, 35 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber.
SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
6 servings / Preparation time: 40 minutes / Total time: 1
16 ounces dried rigatoni
pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
(3 1/2 cups)
cups 1 percent milk, divided
cup all-purpose flour
ounces smoked Gouda cheese, shredded (2 cups), divided
slices thick bacon
small sweet onions, cut into chunks
ounces firm 100 percent whole wheat or multigrain bread
tablespoons butter, melted
flat-leaf Italian parsley
the oven to 425 degrees.
butter a 3-quart au gratin or baking dish; set aside. Cook
pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a
in a large saucepan combine the squash and 21/2 cups of the
milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to
medium, and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced
with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir together remaining 1/4
cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to a
boil and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 11/2
cups of the Gouda until melted; keep warm.
in a very large skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain on
paper towels. Crumble; set aside. Pour off all but 1
tablespoon bacon drippings. Return skillet to the heat.
onions to skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high.
Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden.
squash-cheese mixture, onions and bacon to the bowl with the
pasta. Toss well to combine, then transfer to prepared
bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off
turns to form large coarse crumbs (you should have about 2
cups). Transfer to a small bowl; mix with melted butter.
Sprinkle remaining Gouda and the bread crumbs over pasta
mixture. Bake until top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.