comfort food: baked macaroni & cheese

with the fall weather upon us, i’m getting pretty excited to start making/eating soup/stews and using the crock pot and oven on a regular basis for slow-cooking and roasting. last week i had a super craving for baked macaroni and cheese (one of mine and dave’s favorite things), but am trying to count calories right now, so found a lighter recipe from my favorite low-fat food blog, skinnytaste – seriously, her food is SO great – and adapted it a little bit for my liking. dave, however, ate one serving and said he liked it fine, but prefers my usual recipe, which is made with heavy cream and twice as much cheese (go figure), so someday i’ll post that too.

BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE (adapted from skinny taste)
1 box whole wheat/high fiber rotini – i couldn’t find ww elbows
2 tbsp smart balance
1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup minced onion
2 cups skim milk
1 cup fat free chicken broth
2 cups 2% reduced fat mild cheddar – i used market pantry brand
salt and pepper
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
2-3 bay leaves
4 cups spinach, sliced into ribbons
1/8 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
Pam butter flavored spray

cook whole box of pasta in salted water according to package directions.
spray a baking dish with buttered flavor Pam.
preheat oven to 375°.

in a large skillet, melt butter. add flour and cook over low heat stirring with a whisk.
add onion and cook another 2 minutes – it’ll start to smell really good.
add milk and chicken broth and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and thick.
add red pepper flakes and bay leaves and let milk mixture simmer on low for a couple minutes, until it starts to bubble very gently.
season with salt and pepper. remove from heat, add cheese and mix well until cheese is melted.
remove bay leaves.
add cooked macaroni and baby spinach. pour into baking dish. top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. spray a little more buttered flavor Pam on top.

bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for 2 minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.


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