Some days you just want to be able to assemble the ingredients for your main dish, let them cook, and go off about your merry way until dinner time. Slow cooked macaroni and cheese will work on those days. This is a lower-fat version, but you won't miss the fat. The benefit--in addition to fewer calories and less grease--is that the mac' n' cheese has more protein. The recipe provides plenty of ooey-gooey cheesiness, and even a little crunch on top. This version is similar to baked macaroni and cheese with a custard-like center, rather than the orange version that you make out of a box. You can use whatever smallish pasta you have on hand. Macaroni obviously works fine, but I've used a variety of pasta in the dish to good effect. The macaroni and cheese is great straight out of the slow cooker, but, if you have any uneaten, the leftovers make tasty lunches.
Slow Cooked, Lower-Fat Macaroni and Cheese -- Serves 6-8
8 ounces of macaroni or similar sized pasta
1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese
3 cups of low-fat milk, divided
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 cups of shredded sharp shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup of seasoned panko breadcrumbs
Coat the inside of a slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray and set the temperature on high. Spread the pasta on the bottom of the cooker. In a large bowl, whisk together well the cottage cheese, 2 cups of milk, the eggs, Parmesan cheese, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the macaroni. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese. Pour the remaining 1 cup of milk evenly over the top of the mixture and then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar evenly over the top. Sprinkle the panko evenly on top of the cheese. Cover the slow cooker and let the macaroni and cheese cook for 3-4 hours or until the macaroni is done and the edges start to brown a bit. During the last half hour of cooking, turn the slow cooker lid sideways to vent the steam from the slow cooker. Turn off the slow cooker and serve the macaroni and cheese from the slow cooker. You may want to let the macaroni and cheese sit for 10 minutes, but it should be firm enough to serve "as is."