The amount of frozen meals I consume in a week has officially gotten out of hand. At the rate I'm going, all this sodium is going to put my blood pressure through the roof. I've been so slammed lately that by the time I get home, it's hard to muster up the energy to just push buttons on a microwave. The cooler temperatures and dwindling daylight certainly aren't helping to get me out of my slump, either.
But if there's one thing guaranteed to get me out of my culinary-creativity coma, it's one the best parts about cold weather: COMFORT FOOD. I don't know if it's the added bulk of extra clothing, the fact that it's "hibernation" season for lots of critters, or if some kind of internal "PARTY TIME! switch" flips the moment your subconscious realizes no one is going to see you in a bikini for months, but something about the colder months makes binge eating so much more socially acceptable. Not that that's ever stopped me in the summer...
I thought I'd ease my way into it this year. Diving on in with braised short-ribs for one on a Tuesday night sounded a bit excessive. So after some Pinterest browsing I found my answer: Stovetop Mac 'n' Cheese.
So, what makes this healthy (ahem, -ish)? Well, don't go replacing every meal with this in the hope you're going to lose those last five pounds - it's still pasta with cheese sauce. But I do think it makes for a nice mid-week treat that you can enjoy with minimal guilt. The non-fat Greek yogurt lends a nice creaminess and a protein boost without adding any additional fat. And I was pleasantly surprised to find it's not overly tangy, though that might change depending on what brand of yogurt you purchase. I opted to add spinach, because it was the most efficient way to bulk up the nutritional value without adding extra prep time or steps, but you can add peas, chopped steamed broccoli, or whatever vegetable suits your tastes. (Does bacon count?) Finally, you can easily substitute whole-wheat, quinoa, or rice-based pasta, depending on your preference. This recipe is made for endless variations, which means it's pretty much impossible to get sick of and you could have it every night for dinner if you wanted.
I am not above it. It's better than frozen dinners, right?
Healthy-ish Stovetop Mac 'n' Cheese
- YIELD: Makes 1 generous serving; recipe can be easily multiplied for additional servings
- COOK TIME: 15 minutes
- 1 cup pasta, conchiglie holds the sauce so nicely
- 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, I use Chobani
- 1/3 cup shredded cheese, I prefer a blend of sharp cheddar and jack
- 1 1/2 cups spinach
- 1/4 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb seasoning
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, shred cheese (if necessary).
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Return the pasta to the pot, and add half the reserved cooking liquid and the cheese. Return to the stove and stir on low heat until the cheese has melted. Add in yogurt and garlic and herb seasoning and stir until smooth and creamy.
- Remove from heat, add the spinach, and stir until the spinach has wilted. Serve immediately.