Lightened Up Mac & Cheese

A few days ago I had the radio tuned to WKLH while I drove the kids to school.  The dj’s were taking listener calls (did anyone else hear this?) and the topic of conversation was “Dumb Stuff My Dad Used to Say”.  I was riveted.  It was quite entertaining…dads can spout off some funny material, after all.  A few of my favorite quotes from the callers:

“Go chase yourself.”

“Go play in traffic.”

“Take a long walk off a short pier.”

“You wanna know what’s for dinner?  Two choices:  take it or leave it.”

“Eat your (fill in the blank).  It’ll put hair on your chest.”

“If you stick that bottom lip out any farther, a bird’s gonna come along and poop on it.” (actually, that’s something my mother would always say)

“I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”

My dad had his own favorite phrases; the first one that comes to mind is “Things without remedy should be without regard” – meaning, don’t fret about stuff that’s out of your control.  My mom never liked to hear that one.  Whenever Dad pulled it out she would roll her eyes and huff around.  What’s funny is that I was always under the impression that my dad had concocted the saying; it wasn’t until a college level Shakespeare course that I discovered it was actually Lady MacBeth who first uttered the phrase.  That didn’t change my mom’s opinion.

My wonderful father-in-law also had some good ones in his day; most of them clean, but some (the funniest ones, naturally) he obtained during his Army years and can’t be repeated here.  Two Dad Damron phrases we pull out all the time are:  “Ice cream fills in the cracks!” (‘cause he always had room for ice cream) and “There’s no such thing as a bad mac and cheese.” (‘cause he never met a macaroni and cheese he didn’t like).  I’m glad we have his phrases.  Because we don’t have him anymore, which makes me sad.  I think he would have liked the punks.  I’m sure he would have gotten a lot of laughs out of testing some of his spicier dad-isms on them, too.


And with that we’ve come to the topic at hand (you knew I’d come to food eventually, right?).  If you saw the current sale ad, you probably noticed that March is National Nutrition Month.  When the punks requested macaroni and cheese for dinner last night, I wasn’t sure I could blog about it with a clean conscience.  But I found a recipe that lightened things up considerably.  I’m not sure I would call it nutritious, but at least it’s not as bad for us as a traditional mac and cheese.

Four ingredients are on sale… and most dads I know usually have a thing or two to say about saving money.

Some notes:  I doubled the entire thing without a problem.  The block of cheddar I had was slightly more than what was called for (maybe by ½ cup or so), but it worked out fine.  Also, don’t worry if you think the whole dish seems a little loose when it’s all tossed together; it thickens up in the oven and works out well for leftovers.

4 Servings (as written; again, I doubled it)


  • 8 oz. elbow macaroni (Creamette brand is on sale this week, 3/3/10 – 3/9/10)
  • 1 ½ c. low-fat cottage cheese (Dean’s brand is on sale)
  • 1 c. non-fat milk (Golden Guernsey gallons are on sale)
  • 1 T. flour
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ t. paprika
  • 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar (Sendik’s 2-year sharp cheddar is on sale)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. panko breadcrumbs, or regular breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375.  Coat a shallow 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 8 minutes.  Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water; set aside.  Puree cottage cheese in a food processor or blender until smooth; set aside.

Heat ¾ c. milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until steaming.  In a small glass measuring cup, combine remaining ¼ milk, the flour, the Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, and paprika and whisk until well blended and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Whisk this mixture into the hot milk and cook, whisking, until sauce is smooth and thick, about two minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the pureed cottage cheese and Cheddar cheese.  Stir in the cooked macaroni.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese and the breadcrumbs.  Top the macaroni and cheese with the breadcrumb mixture.  Bake until bubbling and brown, about 35 minutes.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous | March 8th, 2010