This is not your mother’s mac ‘n cheese.
If you’re like Sharon Weiss, a recipe from your mother is a kind of heirloom, its ingredients handwritten in fading cursive on an index card that endures 30 years after her mother passed away. Among the items listed on Weiss’ mother’s recipe for noodle kugel:
- 1 lb. noodles
- 2 sticks unsalted margarine
- 6 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
Weiss recently prepared the dish, which is similar to macaroni and cheese, for the Humana Recipe Makeover Challenge presented by HumanaVitality. During the cooking, she said, “I felt like Mom was in the kitchen with me.” Her mom would have been surprised to see what happened next, as the chef de cuisine from The Oak Room, the only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant in Kentucky, stood in front of an audience at a Humana Guidance Center in Louisville and adapted that recipe with healthier ingredients for a TV cooking show.
Humana and HumanaVitality sponsored a special edition of Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs Showdown to promote the idea that traditional family recipes like macaroni and cheese, lasagna or shrimp and grits can be prepared in a way that’s consistent with the goal of lifelong well-being. The taping took place during the grand re-opening of a Humana Guidance Center in southeast Louisville and spotlighted HumanaVitality’s Vitality HealthyFood, a first-of-its-kind partnership with Walmart offering eligible members 5% savings on Great For You™ healthier foods. (See the Notes section below for more details.)
Chef Patrick Roney remade Weiss’ family recipe and said, “I wanted to keep the comfort factor and (have the dish) be substantial, but cut fat and calories.” He used pasta made from quinoa (a type of seed that is higher in fiber and protein than traditional white flour) and replaced the traditional cheese with goat ricotta. Roney said all the ingredients were locally produced and that altogether his mac ‘n cheese-style makeover probably contained “about one-third the calories” of Weiss’ original. Roney’s advice for cooks trying to adapt their recipes: “Elevate your protein levels and use lean, healthy proteins. Experiment. Never sacrifice flavor.”
Dr. Tom Van Gilder, Humana’s National Medical Director for Wellness, spoke to the audience of mostly seniors, reminding them that it’s possible to preserve the tradition of the family meal without sacrificing health. “Start with foods that you love and examine what your health needs are. Pay attention to portion size, as well as ingredients.”
Part of the message is that cooking evolves because of changing technology, tastes and other factors. “Your grandmother didn’t have quinoa or greek yogurt,” said Zach Everson, editor of the food website Eater Louisville and one of the judges for the Humana Recipe Makeover Challenge. “And you have to look at what your heritage is (besides food). Is it diabetes? Heart disease? Strokes?” Food lovers and chefs are trying to find ways to balance comfort food and healthy eating and some are making progress. Just from tasting the foods prepared for the Humana Recipe Makeover Challenge, Everson said, “I would not have suspected that these dishes were on the lighter side.”
Weiss called Roney’s remake of her mother’s recipe, “Excellent. I will try to make this at home. I learned a lot today.” And what would her mother say? “She would be so excited.”
The episode of Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs Showdown featuring the Humana Recipe Makeover Challenge presented by HumanaVitality will air in Louisville and Lexington starting July 14. Chef Roney’s macaroni and cheese recipe featuring Vitality HealthyFood’s Great For You™ products is below:
Mac and Cheese – 7 Great For You products
- 2 cup cooked quinoa pasta
- 2 cup goat ricotta (room temp)
- 1 ea egg (room temp)
- 5 ea egg whites (room temp)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
- 1 cup morel mushrooms (sliced and blanched)
- 1 cup English peas (blanched)
(Opt) fresh herbs
(Opt) salt and pepper
Great For You Products to Incorporate:
- GV Cage Free Brown Eggs, Product # 78742112110
- Mushrooms Whole 8 oz, Product # 50091120080
- GV Steamable Sweet Peas 12 oz, Product # 78742083690
- Parsley, Product # 48990
- Basil, Product # 43222200110
- Chunk light tuna in water 12oz, Product # 78742082750
Egg white 16 oz, Product # 78742118190
1. Wisk egg whites until medium peaks form.
2. In a food processor or mixer, beat the yolk into the goat cheese until it is very smooth. Add the parmesan and beat just until incorporated
3. In a large bowl, fold together the egg whites and the cheese. Add pasta, mushrooms and peas and fold until well incorporated. At this time you may add your special touches (ie. Tuna, truffles, herbs, seasonings)
4. Spray or coat a muffin tin with your favorite unsaturated oil or spray.
5. Fill muffin tins ¾ full and bake at 350 for 20 min. (You can place the muffin tin in a warm water bath in the oven for smoother results. Add 10 min to cooking time)
6. Let them rest for 10 min. Run a knife around the outside and flip them out.
7. You can refrigerate them for up to 2 days but they will lose some volume. They are best warm from the oven.
• HumanaVitality members must have Bronze Vitality Status or higher and must be 18 years of age or older to be eligible to participate in the Vitality HealthyFood program. The Vitality HealthyFood program is not available to all HumanaVitality members and is only available with certain plans or products offered by Humana.
• The 5% savings will be applied to that member’s Vitality HealthyFoodShopping Card within 5-7 business days. Once applied, the savings may be used on any future purchase made at Walmart where gift cards are accepted.
• For a listing of all qualifying Great For You healthier foods, visit the Vitality HealthyFood page on HumanaVitality.com or check Walmart.com.
• The Vitality HealthyFood program is only available at Walmart Neighborhood Markets and Walmart retail stores. Sam’s Club stores and Walmart.com are excluded from the Vitality HealthyFood program.