As far as I know there isn’t a dish called hippie mac and cheese but that is just what this dish strikes me as (also it felt wrong to refer to the leftovers as “mac and cheese” so they were dubbed “hippie mac and cheese” – it immediately identified which dish I was referring to in the fridge). I also thought it was quite yummy – but definitely not your ordinary mac and cheese. In fact I would not suggest this if you are craving mac and cheese. It is a wonderful casserole that uses up lots of vegetables including that fridge squatter cabbage. Why this recipe appealed to me in the first place, I’ll never know but I’m glad I tried it.
As I started to assemble this dish (and there is quite a bit of veggie prep and chopping involved) I began to question my judgement. Have you ever looked at a recipe and thought, “no way will that turn out”? Well I began to think just that – I was questioning the mass quantities of veggies, the small amount of pasta, the cottage cheese (won’t that be all chunky? ewww), and the lack of seasonings (a little bit of garlic and some caraway seeds). But I already had half the veggies chopped, the pasta boiled and the container of cottage cheese so I persevered. I made two modifications to the recipe, first instead of spinach I used a bunch of swiss chard and second I blended the cottage cheese to make a smooth sauce (I also added a few carrots but that was according to the recipe preface). It might not be the prettiest dish but it turned out to be delicious. As far as that “lite” designation I really have no clue how it stacks up calorically against standard mac and cheese but certainly the veggies give it a nice nutritional boost.
Macaroni & Cheese Lite from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
- 8 oz short pasta (something that catches sauce nicely)
- 2 T butter
- 2 c chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- small handful chopped carrots*
- 1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
- 4 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 average head or all of a tiny head)
- 1 t salt
- 1 t caraway seeds
- 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and coarsely chopped*
- 2 c cottage cheese (1 lb container)
- 1/2 c buttermilk
- 2 t dried dill (or 2 T fresh)
- black pepper to taste
- 2 c packed grated cheddar cheese, divided
- handful of (raw, shelled) sunflower seeds*
Preheat the oven to 350 F and oil a 9 by 13 baking pan. (This only takes two pans if you chop your veggies while the pasta boils and set the pasta aside and use the same pan to saute all the veggies. I used my wider-than-deep 4 1/2 quart soup pot.)
Boil your pasta and prep all your veggies. Once the pasta is drained, place the pot back on the burner and add the butter and let it melt, then add the onion. Let them soften for about 5 minutes (stir a couple times) then add the carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, salt and caraway seeds. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes. Everything should be soft. Dump the swiss chard in, cover the pan and remove from the heat.
While the veggies are sauteing, in a blender puree the cottage cheese and buttermilk together until smooth.
Add the pasta to the pan with all the veggies and stir to combine. Pour the cottage cheese-buttermilk sauce over everything and add the dill and black pepper. Stir to combine and then stir in half of the cheddar cheese. Dump all of this in the prepped baking pan, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and the optional sunflower seeds. Bake until heated through, about 20 or 30 minutes.
*Carrots are one of the optional veggies to include (chopped broccoli and cauliflower are also mentioned) in “modest” amounts; the recipe calls for 1 bunch spinach; I didn’t have sunflower seeds when I made this but think they’d make a good addition.