I think some foods are sacred.
I’m a big fan of health-ifying recipes, but some foods are just not meant to be touched by the hand of a calorie counter. Chili dogs. Shamrock shakes. Bisquick biscuits. And yes, the perfect grilled cheese. I think healthy eating is all about moderation and part of that moderation is honoring the perfectness that is the unhealthy, fat-filled, caloric glory of certain comfort foods on occasion.
Macaroni and cheese used to be one of those foods.
The only previous Wholefully macaroni and cheese recipe is a traditional one that includes both bacon and brie. It’s amazing, but definitely not the kind of macaroni and cheese you eat everyday. Which was fine by me. I’d much rather indulge in a brie-filled mac and cheese dish occasionally instead of suffering through the sacrilege that is most of the “healthy” mac and cheese recipes out there.
That is, until Babyface read me the new menu at one of our favorite restaurants. One of the menu items was a macaroni and cheese made with my favorite beer in the whole wide world, Upland Wheat. The light bulb went on and for the first time, I thought I might be able to make a healthy mac and cheese recipe and balance out the healthiness thanks to the addition of booze. Win!
So I got to Googling for healthy mac and cheese recipes, and it seemed that using butternut squash as the base for the cheese sauce was the way to go. The boiled squash turns creamy and smooth once it is run through the blender (much like it does in soup) and serves as a mild and nutty base for a small amount of cheese. Plus, it’s the right color. And we all eat with our eyes, so having the brightly yellow, creamy mac was important.
We were totally bowled over by how decadent and interesting the end result was. Instead of tasting healthy, it tasted creamy, comforting and cheesy. The beer was a light, but noticeable, flavor in the background that made it more addictive with each bite. And at only 300 calories per serving, we will be making it over and over again. It’s a great feeling knowing that with each serving of mac and cheese, you area also getting a ton of Vitamin A thanks to the butternut squash. Vitamin A is vital to keeping our vision healthy and helps us see better in low-light situations.
Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Total Time: 60 minutes
Makes: 16 servings
Inspired by: Upland Brewpub
Adapted from: Cooking Light
- 2-12 ounce packages whole wheat elbow macaroni
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cubed
- 1 bottle wheat beer
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 cup 0% Greek yogurt
- 2 cups shredded gruyère cheese
- 1 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare two 9 x 9 baking dishes by spraying them liberally with cooking spray.
- Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, combine squash, beer, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is very tender, about 25 minutes. The mixture may begin to separate, this is fine.
- Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, or a standard blender with the steam vent removed, blend squash mixture together until very smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in yogurt, gruyère, pecorino romano, and butter until cheeses are melted. Add in elbow macaroni and stir until well-coated. The mixture will be very soupy. Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared baking dishes. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together panko and parmesan. Sprinkle evenly over top of both dishes.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until top is browned and crunchy and sauce is thickened.