Kraft Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower, Sweet Potato + Tomatoes

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I’ve never liked the idea of making indulgent food healthy or lower calorie.

Even on my show, Junk Food Flip, I didn’t use low-calorie ingredients as much as I infused veggies into the meals, and was very intentional about where I spent my calories.

I would ask myself the questions like:

Do I really need bacon in this dish? Do I even taste it?

Is it worth the 300 calories?

How can I make these chorizo cheese fries a balanced meal?

What veggie could go here?

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I guess my way of thinking about how to make foods healthier all started about seven years ago, which is when I made a real switch from counting calories to counting nutrients.

Playing the calorie-counting and calorie burning game went like this: one slice of cheese is 80 calories, and if I run for 10 minutes, I burn 80 calories.

But it never truly seemed to be that simple.

At some points in my life, I wasn’t working out at all and I was my thinnest; at others, I was hyper-focused on what I was eating and I couldn’t seem to lose a pound.

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One day I realized, that for me (and I say “for me” because we are all so different—this is just my story), it’s really about getting as much good stuff into my body as possible.

Giving my body the fuel to run on all cylinders made the difference in my overall appearance, and of course, in the way I felt on the inside.

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I remember how different I felt when I gave up all the artificial sweeteners and processed meals that were previously my go-tos.

By simply feeding my body real, nutritious food instead of those old standbys, I quickly lost 5 pounds without even thinking about it.

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To be honest, I was shocked.

It made me realize that it’s not as simple as 80 calories going in and 80 calories going out. We need to truly FEED our bodies.

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Right now I’m a bit more focused on my body than I might normally be.

Nine months post-twins and I feel like I have plateaued and all the nursing in the world isn’t going to help shed these remaining pounds.

So it’s time to focus on what I’m eating, to feed my body right, and add in some good-for-you $h!t at every turn.  

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For this mac and cheese, I’m using pureed sweet potato and cauliflower as a base.

Then I add in cheese—a lot of cheese—because it is mac. and. CHEESE.

You can add less, and it’s still SO good, but to truly scratch that mac and cheese itch, I like a healthy amount.

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Melting that cheese into the creamy pureed veggie base works! Like, really, really works!

Throw some hemp seeds in there and some tomatoes on top and you’re eating good!

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Yes, you can’t indulge all day and all night to maintain a healthy weight, but when you indulge this way, I promise your body will thank you.

Plus, it’s just really f*ing good.

 
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Kraft Mac + Cheese with Cauliflower, Sweet Potato + Tomatoes

servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about ¾ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ medium head cauliflower, cut into large chunks, (about 1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled + cut into 1-inch chunks (about ½ pound or 1¼ cups)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1¼ + ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces American cheese, (12 slices)
  • 16 ounces macaroni pasta
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until tender—5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, sweet potato, vegetable stock, and the 1¼ teaspoon salt. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender—about 20 minutes. This should give you about ¼ cup liquid along with the veggies.
  2. Place the veggie mixture in a blender and process it until it is completely smooth. Add more stock or water if there is not enough liquid to blend easily.
  3. Then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Add the cheddar cheese, American cheese and remaining ½ teaspoon salt, stir until the cheese melts (depending on the saltiness of your stock and cheese you may not need this extra ½ teaspoon of salt). Add more stock if your mixture is too thick or if it thickens over time.
  4. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions. When done, drain and transfer the macaroni to the saucepan with the veggie and cheese mixture. Toss to combine, then top with the tomatoes, hemp seeds, and thyme.

Notes:

  • You can use any combination of cheese that you like—cheddar, parmesan, fontina or provolone— though I do like to include a little American or Velveeta in my mix, as it gives the cheese sauce the right consistency.
  • This version is on the simple side; for a flavor that makes a bigger impact, I suggest stirring in some salsa or adding sautéed peppers to the mix.
: @bluebirdandblackberries

: @bluebirdandblackberries
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