CJOB What’s for Dinner – Mac and Cheese!

January 16, 2013

What’s for dinner?

A family favorite, a childhood classic recipe with a healthy twist, it’s Polka Dot Mac and Cheese.

Most of us have eaten macaroni and cheese.  Maybe it was made from a box or for me, I was lucky that my mom made it from scratch.  That’s how I grew up with home-made mac and cheese.  It’s a comfort food, it’s the perfect winter food and it’s one of those recipes that is always in Top 10 of favorites.

I haven’t made Polka Dot Mac and Cheese for my family in a while.  It just fell out of my recipe rotation, so I have decided to bring it back for dinner and have the leftovers for lunch.  It’s easy, healthy and simple.

Healthy Polka Dot Mac and Cheese

Family classic with a twist of health

It’s similar to my mom’s recipe but I have switched out a few ingredients such as skim milk, low fat old cheddar cheese, added vegetables like peppers and broccoli.  I upped the flavor by sautéing onions and garlic in canola oil and using whole-wheat flour to make a roux. That gooey, cheesy sauce smoothers the whole-wheat pasta instead of white noodles.

Sweet Bell Peppers

What’s a roux?

If a roux scares you, don’t let it.  It’s a culinary technique that will change how you make a sauce or thicken a soup!  A roux is a thickening agent traditionally used for sauces and soups using flour and oil paste until the raw flavour of the flour cooks out and the roux achieves its desired colour.  There are different degrees of “browness” for a roux and they are used in different recipes.

The trick with the roux is once the onions and garlic have soften in the canola oil add the whole-wheat flour.  Mix it around in the pot, making sure that it covers all of the onions and garlic.  Cook the flour for about 1 minute and then slowly add in the milk, whisking as you go.

I hope your family loves this healthy dish, my family approves and so does the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba.

Grocery List:


Fruits   & Vegetables



Herbs   & Spices

Pantry   Items

Red and yellow peppers Whole-wheat elbow pasta Skim milk Onion Canola oil
Broccoli Reduced fat old cheddar cheese Garlic Whole-wheat flour
Carrot Pepper

Eat Well…Ellen

Polka Dot Mac and Cheese

Polka Dot Mac and Cheese


  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat elbow macaroni (375 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil (30 mL)
  • 1 small onion finely chopped (1)
  • 1 garlic clove minced (1)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (2 mL)
  • 3 Tbsp whole-wheat flour (45 mL)
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk (375 mL)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat old cheddar cheese (375 mL)
  • 1/2 red pepper finely diced (1/2)
  • 1/2 yellow pepper finely diced (1/2)
  • 1 cup broccoli finely chopped (250 mL)
  • 1 medium carrot shredded (1)
  • 2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley (30 mL)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In medium saucepan, bring water to a boil and cook macaroni to al dente, slightly firm to the bite. Drain noodles and reserve.
  3. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil. Add onions and garlic and sauté 3 – 4 minutes, until onions have softened. Sprinkle with pepper. Add flour and stir to coat the onions. Gradually whisk in the milk and stir over medium heat until sauce thickens. Continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts into the sauce.
  4. Fold in the vegetables and the cooked macaroni. Transfer to a 3 L casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray, or to individual ramekin dishes that have been sprayed with cooking spray.
  5. Bake large casserole for 25 to 30 minutes or until macaroni is bubbling. (Cook ramekins for approximately 15 – 20 minutes.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

About the Author



Ellen is two things: bossy and a foodie. She loves to tell everyone why they should cook with canola oil by indulging in her love of cooking and teaching. Follow Ellen on twitter @Ellen_Pruden.

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