farro & cheese

I’m just going to come out and say it. I have recently developed a fondness for Rachael Ray. I’ve always found her grating – her voice, her personality, and her made-up words like “stoup”. My co-worker has been leaving her Rachael Ray magazine at work, and I’ll tell you sometimes I get desperate for reading material. When I tell people that I’m a 911 dispatcher, they always picture this insanely stressful job. They don’t realize there are a lot of boring moments in between the exciting ones. And when I’m trying to stay awake at 5am, I’ll distract myself with just about anything.

I found a lot of appealing recipes and photos inside. I’m pretty sure I’ve made a couple of her recipes before. After all, she is pretty vegetarian friendly. Last week I took one of her “take five” ideas and made her soup with five ingredients for dinner (salt, pepper, and olive oil are “freebies”). The five ingredients were: sausage (Trader Joe’s vegetarian version), onion, broccoli rabe, broth, and cannellini beans. I added a clove of garlic and some potatoes. It was a smash success. Levi specifically asked that I add it to our regular recipe rotation. Win! And with that I am a Rachael Ray convert.

So her latest issue has an article about whole grains. One of the grains featured was farro (pronounced fahr-oh). I have been talking about trying grains we’ve never tried before for, oh, the past year. And Rachael Ray had this nutty idea of making a macaroni and cheese that has farro instead of noodles. Nutty ideas have been going over well lately, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Oops, we let it get a little too golden on top.

We’ve been trying to eat better, so we had to make the recipe a little less fattening. After all, if we’re going to eat that much fat it might as well have noodles in it. We used lower fat dairy products all around and Smart Balance Light in place of butter. The recipe called for bacon, so we did a little bit of Bac-o Bits on top for flavor. We also made the portions smaller. The Spark People Recipe Calculator put it at about 350 calories and 17 grams of fat per serving. Not bad when eaten with a huge pile roasted asparagus.

The verdict? Despite our attempts to make it healthy, it still tasted pretty cheesy and delicious. And the farro was good. I read that it was related to spelt and got a little scared. Most spelt foods I’ve tasted have been gluten-free baked goods that were absolutely disgusting. This had a good nutty texture and flavor. We decided it was not a replacement for good ol’ mac ‘n’ cheese, but an interesting dinner. Not something to make very often but a nice change of pace.

The recipe isn’t online yet, so to tide you over here is something similar from Giada De Laurentiis. I’m thinking our next farro experiment will have to be a salad.


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