The New York Times recently ran a blog post talking about a research study at Penn State examining whether people could tell the difference between a higher calorie dish and that same dish with vegetable puree replacing some of the ingredients. The test subjects were equally satisfied and pleased with the flavors of many dishes. Theoretically, utilizing the newer dishes could lead to healthier diets. I use vegetable purees often and adore mac and cheese, so I was psyched to read about one with cauliflower and squash puree. Unusually (for me), I went home and made it a short two days later.

Unfortunately, I found it to be somewhat dull. The recipe called for reduced fat cheese, which I rejected in favor of normal cheese, and I added a bit of pecorino romano on top. Otherwise, I followed it utilizing Ancient Harvest veggie pagoda and rice flour (to make it gluten-free). The texture was decent, if not wonderful, and it was easy to make. The flavor was just too bland. Despite extra sharp cheddar, it was like a very mild cheddar had been used. Somehow, the recipe either did not use enough cheese or the vegetable purees counterbalanced the sharpness I would normally expect. Dieters could just eat a simple, low calorie vegetable puree soup or simple broth-based vegetable soup prior to eating an extra-small serving of normal mac and cheese.

It’s possible that the changes I made were the problem, but I doubt either would have affected the flavor much. I’d bet a nickel that their placebo “typical” mac and cheese was just not all that great. My challenge to you, readers: create a really delicious mac and cheese with added vegetables in any shape, form, or flavor.

Penn State Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces macaroni (uncooked)
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup skim milk
8 ounces reduced-fat shredded cheese, sharp
1 cup puréed cauliflower*
1 cup puréed summer squash*

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a glass 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Cook macaroni in boiling water until tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain.
3. Melt margarine in saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheese; stir until cheese melts. Add puréed vegetables and cooked pasta; stir until mixed.

4. Pour into greased baking pan and bake, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 300 calories; 36 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams fat; 17 grams protein; 2 grams fiber.

*Cook them well (until soft) before pureeing to get the best texture.