By Anne Haddad
The cafeteria at the Medical Center has always made a mac-and-cheese to rival any home-baked version. The trouble was, it was high in fat and sodium. A group of interns in Clinical Nutrition Services accepted the challenge to revamp it without disappointing the hundreds of people who look forward to this comfort food.
The interns conducted a taste test with staff and visitors – who liked the lighter version a lot. The secret ingredients are pumpkin puree and vegetable base, which add flavor without being obvious. I can enjoy it now without feeling like I’m on the fast-track to cardiac care. I usually have it with a side of steamed cauliflower or broccoli, which makes for a 300-calorie lunch.
I tried duplicating it at home, after the hospital’s executive chef, Stephen Mack, whose recipe makes enough for 150 portions, divided it by 10 for me. (See recipe below.) The whole family loved it, and even my super-taster daughter did not detect the pumpkin. The leftovers reheated well in the microwave or in the oven.
The new version’s 13 grams total fat (7 grams of which is saturated fat), 65 mg cholesterol, and 388 mg sodium per portion fall well under the USDA maximum daily recommendations of 67 grams total fat, 16 grams saturated fat, 300 mg cholesterol, and 2300 mg sodium, based on a 2,000 calories-per-day diet.
University of Maryland Medical Center Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 15 4-ounce portions, 250 calories each
- 1 pound of elbow macaroni
- 3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 TBS vegetable base (such as Better Than Bouillon or Trader Joe’s concentrated vegetable broth)
- 2 TBS pureed canned pumpkin
- 3.2 fluid ounces heavy whipping cream
- 3.2 cups whole milk
- 20 ounces (by weight, not volume) of shredded blend of cheddar and Monterey jack
- 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
Boil and drain the macaroni and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
After macaroni has cooled, stir in the vegetable base and pumpkin, then the eggs.
Add half the cheese, reserving the other half for topping, and then the milk and cream. Stir the whole mixture gently but thoroughly.
Coat a 9” by 13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and spread the macaroni mixture evenly in the pan. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and the bread crumbs.
(If you like, cover and allow to refrigerate overnight.)
Bake uncovered for about 35 minutes, or 45 minutes if refrigerated overnight. Serve immediately.