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Healthy Mac and Cheese Bites

January 7, 2019

 

Yields:  about 48 bites           

Prep Time:  25 minutes      

Total Time:  50 minutes

 

These little bites are all the flavor with less fat and more nutrition, chicken stock replacing milk and cauliflower replacing flour.  And yes, you heard right – cauliflower is pureed right in without even realizing it, making for a tasty and healthy bite!

 

Ingredients

2 cups (about 8 ounces) dry elbow macaroni

 

3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower

2 tablespoons butter

3 cups shredded cheese (1 cup mozzarella, 1 cup cheddar, 1 cup Monterey jack)

1 egg, beaten and tempered

1 teaspoon salt

 

1 tablespoon butter, for coating muffin tin

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

2. Cook macaroni according to directions and set aside.

 

3. In a pot, heat the chopped cauliflower and stock for about 5 to 7 minutes until the cauliflower is soft.  Puree in a high-speed blender or food processor.

 

4. In the pot, add 2 tablespoons of butter and let melt, and return sauce to pan without the heat. 

 

5. Place shredded cheese in pot (again no heat) and slowly incorporate the cheese.

 

6. In a separate dish, beat one egg until thoroughly mixed.  Slowly add in about 2 – 4 tablespoons of cheese sauce to temper the egg (bring it to temperature so it doesn’t scramble when added to the sauce).

 

7. Slowly incorporate the tempered egg into the cheese sauce, mixing well.  Add salt.

 

8. Combine sauce and noodles until all noodles are covered.

 

9. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small dish and using a silicone spatula.

 

10. Lightly coat each mini muffin tin cup. (This is one of my favorite mini muffin pans, that has an eco-friendly nonstick silicone coating that is specifically formulated for baking and contains no PTFEs or PFOAs ).

 

11. Using a cookie dough scoop (or spoon), place about 1 ½ tablespoons of the cheesy noodle mixture in each mini muffin tin cup. 

 

12. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, until top of mac and cheese bites are starting to turn a bit golden.

 

13. Remove from oven and let cool.  When cooled, remove cheesy bites from the tin and repeat steps 10 - 13. Store any extras in the refrigerator.

 

I’m always trying to think of ways to make dinner or snack-ish dinners or even lunches healthy and if necessary, quick to grab.  Yes, yes, we try to sit down for all meals, but there are times someone just got home or is out the door, and we need something hearty and healthy to satisfy all.  These little bites do the trick!

 

A few times, we have purchased the store-bought mac and cheese balls, and while they have an alluring element, my appreciation for health and nutrition is left starved.  Plus, they can be costly when feeding a family of five.  Block cheese can run up the bill, but in the long run, I feel it is little a less expensive and less processed way to purchase cheese.  I do shred it myself, for health and taste.  However, in a pinch, you could always grab bagged shredded cheese.

 

I use this mock roux of cauliflower and stock for so many dishes.  The cauliflower blends right in and takes the place of flour and butter, while also adding in nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants.  Chicken or vegetable stock replaces heavy cream or even milk, and adds another level of flavor. 

 

This recipe makes 48 bites, and we have found it very helpful when preparing for the week, as well as for entertaining.  I enjoy them because I have a weakness for pasta and cheese, so I really appreciate the cauliflower component.  Overall, these little guys are a win-win in our house!

 

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