Southwestern Mac & Cheese

When I was a child, my favorite vegetable was french fries. My favorite meal was grilled cheese from Frisch’s Big Boy with french fries and lots of the seasoning salt. As I got older, I eventually began to like more vegetables like broccoli and onions and green beans, but until recently I sort of thought that I had progressed as far as I would.

Cauliflower raw to me is sort of like dry, airy potato. I never thought I would like cauliflower, but like a lot of things, it’s perfect under the right circumstances. Roasted, it has a unique flavor, becomes tender and rich. I first learned to like cauliflower in this Weight Watchers recipe for Macaroni and Cheese I have mentioned before. I finished the last of my previous batch this Friday.  If you don’t like spicy food, check out that recipe.

When I started to think about what to make for this week, I couldn’t stop thinking about my new find: Spicy Jalapeño Cream Cheese. I thought it would make a nice substitute in this recipe, and I was right. When I think of spicy mac n’ cheese, I think of holiday season meals at steakhouses with my family. I think of good food with good people, of special occasions, of white table cloths and dessert. But why does jalapeño mac n’ cheese only have to be found at a steak house? Why can’t it be found in my oven?

Well, this isn’t quite just jalapeño mac and cheese, because true to form, I added even MORE vegetables to bulk it up. It makes packing my lunch easier- I just pack a fruit when the veggie is already included. This is complicated to make, but worth the effort. It smelled amazing while baking, and tasted just like heaven.

20170402_183418

Southwestern Mac & Cheese
Serves 8
8 smart points
About 1.5 hours total

Ingredients

Topping:
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp butter
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

In Pasta Mixture:
8 oz mini shells pasta
1 can of corn (I used white and golden- variety is the spice of life)
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
3 cups small cauliflower florets

In Sauce:
2 jalapeño peppers
2 cloves garlic
Remaining cauliflower cut into 2 inch pieces (after cooked for 10-12 minutes)
1.5 oz extra sharp cheddar
1/4 jalapeño cream cheese (or regular)
3/4 cup reduced fat Mexican shredded cheese
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp ground coriander seed

Nutrition

Will vary depending on ingredients
Total Calories 275 Calories
Protein 12 g
Carbohydrate 40 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Total Sugars 5 g
Added Sugars 0 g
Total Fat 8 g
Saturated Fat 4 g

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Spray a large glass baking dish and set aside. Boil 2 inch sauce pieces of cauliflower (for the sauce)  for 10-12 minutes until very tender.
  3. Melt butter in a small pan on medium heat. Toast Panko bread crumbs for about 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl, mix in with paprika and grated cheese.
  4. While cauliflower is cooking, drain and rinse corn. Place in a large mixing bowl. Drain tomatoes and squeeze excess moisture out. Place in large bowl. 20170402_183550
  5. In a food processor or large blender, place both jalapeño peppers and both cloves of garlic and process until minced. Then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower to the sauce mixture. Blend until it forms a creamy sauce. Taste and add salt/ pepper as needed.
  6. Use the same pot of boiling water to cook the pasta for HALF of the time the directions state. Add the small cauliflower pieces for the last minute.
  7. Drain pasta/ cauliflower and add to large bowl with tomatoes and corn. Add in sauce and mix well.
  8. Pour into glass pan. Top with 1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese, and the bread crumb mixture.
  9. Bake for 25- 30 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Let cool for about 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces and serve immediately, or let cool completely and then freeze.

Notes: If you want to keep the points lower, leave out the corn. The tomatoes also add moisture that make it less creamy. Feel free to increase the cheese and cream cheese to make it saucier. Make less spicy by leaving out jalapeño or reducing the amount.

Health and joy,

alex

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