Sunday, November 1, 2009

California Mac & Cheese(s) for Health Nuts

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. --Voltaire

Hello Sweet November. Its the first day of the new month. Clocks changed; it's darker earlier. Doesn't it feel strange? I suppose it matters where you live. In some regions, winter-like weather has hit hard and others not so much. Here, at Lake Tahoe we're experiencing an extended Indian Summer. It feels like September. Very odd after our cold spell. So I'm not really craving those high fat casseroles and hearty soups that hit you if you're prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I'm still in the skinny, healthy go do it mode which I love to maintain year-round rain, snow, sleet or shine (but sometimes it's a challenge if Mr. Sunshine is AWOL and/or black ice is a frequent visitor)...

Enter: Mac & Cheese comfort food. I remember eating macaroni and cheese (the quickie box kind) and my mom's homemade casserole. Both made the grade back in the fifties. But nowadays, I prefer to create this pasta dish with four cheeses and a healthy Italian touch. If you glance at recipes on the Internet for this old time favorite you'll see how fattening it can be. Or, if you purchase the box kinds or prepared variety prepared at your store it's guaranteed to have lots of stuff you really don't want to eat. And thats why I just whipped up this recipe...

California Mac & Cheese(s)

2 cups cooked whole grain macaroni
2 tablespoons European style butter
2 tablespoons all natural whole wheat flour
1 cup organic low-fat, 2% milk
1 1/4 cups Italian (4 types) low-fat cheeses, grated
1 large piece of whole wheat sourdough bread, toasted
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
garlic (optional)
Mediterranean salt and pepper
Italian parsley
In a saucepan, boil macaroni. Pour into casserole dish. I put mine in a red Italian fave to give it that European flair. It's an Italian baking dish from Sur La Table made in Italy. Its size (13" length x 8 1/2" width x 3 1/4" depth) works for pasta to chocolate fudge. This beautiful piece of bakeware tagged "Italian Baker with Handles" was going to be used for my first Italian entree pasta dish but I just couldn't wait. Fudge won. Back to pasta...Melt butter (or saute butter and garlic to to your preference). Mix in flour, milk, and cheeses. Pour creamy sauce over pasta. Top with bread crumbs. Pop in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Top with tomatoes and bake for about 10 more minutes. Garnish with Italian parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Dishing up this pasta dish is enough for me. It's light, flavorful and creamy. The toasted bread crumb crunch is nice and tomatoes give it a nice bite. I'm a grazer. But sometimes, I will also pair this plate with fresh, warm whole grain bread (I buy mine at the grocery store; it comes from Truckee). Drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and a tossed salad (romaine or spinach) splashed with vinegar, olive oil and parmesean cheese. Dessert? All natural dark chocolate ice cream sprinkled with walnuts.

Meanwhile, it's the month to boost your immune system with healthful foods and exercise. My article on swine flu was published today in Oracle 20-20 Magazine and available to read online and hard copy. It's a reminder to keep it healthy wherever you live. A nice fire, good night's sleep, swim day, walking dogs, making the house warm and cozy for fall is on the agenda. P.S. I feel like I'm 7 months pregnant--waiting for my new book The Healing Powers of Chocolate to make its debut during the holiday season.


  1. All I can say is Mmmmm. I need to save this one.

  2. Hi Ang,
    This is so much more updated than a box of macaroni (full of preservatives)for the kids...easy to make. And you can add veggies. It's all gone. That is a mega sign it worked. Oh, the cheeses? All natural and they came prepared. On another day grating from a block of cheese could be better.