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Don Mauer's column:


Lean and

Lovin' It




his newest recipe in

this week's Chicago-area

Daily Herald


This Can't Be Low-Fat
Macaroni and Cheese

     Did your mom make macaroni and cheese for dinner when you were growing up? I know my mom did. She made the best macaroni and cheese I ever tasted. Little did I know that her secret to macaroni and cheese was Velveeta.
     I consider Velveeta to be a touch on the odd side. Why? Well, it isn't cheese exactly, but a “process cheese product.” Until a Velveeta package is opened, it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Interesting.
     After I lost more than 100 pounds, and promised myself I would keep it off for the rest of my life, I stopped eating macaroni and cheese. The reason for my action was simple: Regular macaroni and cheese is loaded with fat and calories. Standard macaroni and cheese contains butter or margarine, whole milk, sometimes an egg or two, gobs of shredded cheese, and finally buttered bread crumbs. Macaroni and cheese would be higher than 40 to 50 percent calories from fat without the macaroni, which is almost fat free and high in no-fat calories.
     Two years into maintaining my weight loss I missed good ol' homemade macaroni and cheese so much that I started from scratch and created a version lower in fat and calories. My recipe worked so well I shared it in my cookbook “Lean and Lovin’ It.
     This was great until I read Pam Anderson's cookbook “The Perfect Recipe” (Houghton Mifflin, 1998). In her macaroni and cheese chapter, Anderson reviews how she tested every single ingredient for macaroni and cheese and made a discovery that suggested I consider the way I made mine.
     About different milks Anderson wrote: “After testing the recipe with whole and low-fat milk as well as with half-and-half, I realized that evaporated milk was not an unconsidered holdover. All the macaroni and cheeses made with fresh milk curdled a bit, resulting in a chalky, grainy texture. The one made with evaporated milk was always smooth ...”
     Up to that moment I had been using fresh skim or 1 percent milk. Not only did I believe that the processing of the milk helped make a smoother sauce, but that since Velveeta Light process cheese product was highly processed as well, it might make my macaroni and cheese even better.
     The other change I was going to test was using a little nonfat sour cream. This idea came from Shirley Corriher's cookbook “CookWise” (Morrow, 1997). Corriher uses fat-free sour cream in a low-fat ice cream recipe because: “Maltodextrins in the nonfat sour cream give ice cream a rich, creamy mouthfeel.”
     “If those maltodextrins can do it for ice cream,” I thought, “why not for macaroni and cheese?”
     Into my kitchen I went to test my theories. I prepared my new cheese sauce with evaporated milk, Velveeta Light, reduced-fat cheddar (since it too was processed more than regular cheddar) and cottage cheese and poured it over the cooked and drained macaroni. At first, it was soupy, but I stirred it for a minute or so to allow the sauce to fill up the tubes of macaroni, which it did nicely.
     Now came the true test; how does it taste? I dipped into the pot with a clean spoon and scooped up some macaroni and cheese. I blew on it a little, since it was still very hot. Then into my mouth it went. Unbelievable, it was smooth and creamy and tasted so much like my mom's old-time macaroni and cheese as to be virtually indistinguishable.
     Final concern: fat. I fired-in all the nutritional numbers and once the smoke cleared over my calculator, I found that my new recipe not only tasted better, but contained even less fat than my 1993 recipe. Instead of 20 percent fat calories, I now got 16.5 percent and the fat grams per serving became leaner by dropping from 9.8 grams to 6.9 grams.
     Now there are no mamby-pamby serving sizes. Eureka.

This Can't Be Low-Fat Macaroni and Cheese

16 ounces uncooked macaroni pasta
1/2 cup 1 percent milk
1 (12-ounce) can fat-free evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard, dissolved in 2 teaspoons of water 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces Velveeta Light reduced-fat processed cheese
4 ounces reduced-fat, sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup 1-percent cottage cheese (not Light n’ Lively brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup nonfat sour cream

     1. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of cold water to a boil over high heat. Add one generous tablespoon of kosher salt (or 1 1/2 generous teaspoons table salt) to the water and stir until dissolved. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the macaroni pasta and stir until the water returns to a boil. Reduce the heat sufficiently to keep the pot from boiling over and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. Drain well, do not rinse, and return to the pan.
     2. While the macaroni is cooking, add the milk, evaporated milk, mustard paste, and flour to a 2-quart saucepan. With a wire whisk, whisk together until combined. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and while stirring bring almost to a simmer. Add all three cheeses, the salt and peppers; reduce the heat to low, and stir until the cheese melts, and the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the sour cream until incorporated, and remove the pan from the heat. Pour the sauce over the drained macaroni and over medium-low heat stir together until heated through and combined, about 1 minute. Makes eight generous, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup servings.

     Nutritional information per serving: 381 calories (16.5 percent from fat), 6.9 g fat(3.7 g saturated fat), 21.8 g protein, 55.5 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fiber, 14 mg cholesterol, 795 mg sodium.

     SaltSense: Omitting the added salt reduces the sodium content to 662 milligrams per serving.


 Every low-fat recipe I create tastes great!TM

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Exceptionally Delicious Recipes

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A Guy's Guide to Great Eating



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