CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Creamy Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Meatless meals were almost unheard of in 1950s and 1960s America. In fact, it wasn’t until the early ’70s that vegetarianism started to take root.

I went through a phase in my life when meat didn’t touch my lips. It was in the mid- to late 1970s. I ate a lot of vegetables, fruit and fish. Even when I had one of my favorite foods — pizza — it was without meat.

My usual pizza choice was one with green peppers, mushrooms and onions from the Italian Moon in Grand Forks, N.D. In fact, whenever I saw former owner Ken Towers, he used to remind me that I was partly responsible for the Moon adding a vegetarian pizza to its menu.

Well, I’m not a vegetarian these days, but meat isn’t always on the menu at our house. That’s because over the years, we’ve been told by health-care professionals that eating meals without meat can help lower cholesterol and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. And there’s also the fact that eating red meat can increase the risk of cancer.

One of my favorite meatless meals always has been mac ‘n’ cheese. Mom used to make a mean mac ‘n’ cheese when we were growing up, and in college, the Kraft version was within my budget and that of most of the other students I knew.

Therese and I have tried numerous mac ‘n’ cheese recipes over the years, and to be honest, I’m hardly ever disappointed. Therese’s mac ‘n’ cheese is our usual go-to recipe, but here’s another that I came across recently that we will try soon. It has three kinds of cheese as well as sour cream, so I’m betting that it’s going to be rich and creamy.

With recipes like this, it’s easy to go meatless!

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter, cubed
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups fat-free milk
¼ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup (8 ounces) fat-free sour cream
½ pound reduced-fat process cheese (Velveeta), cubed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon ground mustard
½ teaspoon pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk and broth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Reduce heat; stir in the sour cream, process cheese, Parmesan, mustard and pepper until smooth.
Drain macaroni; stir in Cheddar cheese. Transfer to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Add cream sauce and mix well. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with chives if desired.
Yield: Serves 7.
Approximate nutritional analysis per 1-cup serving: 394 calories, 18 grams fat (11 grams saturated fat), 61 milligrams cholesterol, 842 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 23 grams protein.

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