Thursday, May 3, 2012

Macaroni, Country Style

Coming hard on the heels of our “lite” English muffin pizza is this entry that also promises to slim you (and your wallet!) down.  And don’t you just love the name? The pause afforded by the comma really makes me think of what other ways Macaroni could be prepared – City Style? Urban Jungle Style? Suburbs Style? And it makes me puzzle a bit about just what makes this Country and not say, Rock ‘n’ Roll Style.

Is it the cabbage? Is that what is so “country”? Or the ham? It seems, if anything, these ingredients lend it a bit of Bavarian Style – the braised cabbage and onion mixture is reminiscent of a side dish served best with, say, Schnitzel, Country Style.

Whatever the reasons, the recipe originated in one of my favorite magazines, Woman’s Day. This is from their September 23, 1983 issue (I think ’83 – the edge is a bit ragged), and the delightful heading is “Low-Calorie Money-Saving Recipes for September.” A score in any decade! The accompanying illustration features a blonde woman starring woefully into a full-length mirror, no doubt bemoaning her lack of cash and a waistline. Enter Macaroni, Country Style!

 Since I’ve already crossed over to the Dark Side by letting COOL WHIP into my house, I feel no shame at all about bringing home a pound of margarine for this recipe. (Greg’s Gold ‘n’ Soft, to be specific, since it promises to be “great for baking!” and I have more than a few upcoming recipes that demand marg.) Margarine was going to be the great savior, wasn’t it? No cholesterol, really cheap – a dieter’s best friend. Now, unless you have a dairy allergy, almost everyone agrees that butter is the healthier alternative. But, I am nothing if not a slave to historical accuracy, so I’ll go with the hydrogenated vegetable oil. (And not a word of slander shall cross my lips – I learned my lesson with the COOL WHIP.)

 Now why would an 8-year-old (or 10-year-old, or 12-year-old, for that matter) be clipping a weight-loss recipe? Such is the trial of the chubby child. Though I’m currently in the best shape of my life, I have never been what you would call waifish. Until I reached college, I eschewed any form of exercise, preferring instead to read a book (or make homemade cookbooks). The fact that school-mandated P.E. often used exercise as a form of punishment (“Quiet down or you’ll run the mile-and-a-half!”) didn’t help either. In fact, the only P.E. activity I enjoyed was square dancing. I was never in agony about choosing a partner because my friend Jason W. and I had made a pact in the fifth grade that we would always choose each other for square dancing. (And we did, right up ‘til we were juniors in high school when our P.E. –and square dancing, I presume, though for all I know Jason W. is still at it – days ended.)

 But when I wasn’t square dancing, I wished for the slim bodies of my friends: Annemarie’s balletic elegance, Solveig’s fleet feet, and the wardrobe of Carrie Stearns. But, like Macaroni, Country Style, I was solid. That a notion of “good” and “bad” bodies was already evident to me at age 10 is unfortunate and, sadly, not uncommon. I wish I could go back and tell myself that exercise is about so much more than how it makes your body look. That healthy comes in all shapes and sizes – and there was nothing wrong with mine that a few less Charleston Chews wouldn’t remedy. But, well, you live and hopefully learn, right?

 And here I am today, still fighting the good fight against sloth and doughnut holes. So I have high hopes for Macaroni, Country Style.

 I love any recipe that allows me to clean out the fridge and this one obliged. With the last of the Easter ham (calm down, it was in the freezer) and a ragged red onion, I was halfway toward the finished entrée. I cooked and cooled the noodles ahead of time, so the final prep was quick and easy.

 It must be noted that I love cabbage. I’m pretty sure the reason my husband married me is my love of sauerkraut (and The X-Files, but that’s another blog).  It’s cheap, super-healthy and delicious. Since this dish is basically braised cabbage with ham and noodles, I was sure nothing could go wrong.

Nothing did go wrong, per se, and my waistline and wallet sure feel great, but … well, meh. Unlike the Stuffed Beefaroni Peppers, which were more than the sum of their parts, I can’t say the same for Macaroni, Country Style. It would have been almost entirely beige except for the fact that I used a red onion. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t fireworks, either. If I had all the ingredients in my fridge and was in a hurry, I might make it again, sure. But I wouldn’t go out of my way.

 For those of you playing Weight Watchers’ Points Plus game at home, you’ll be happy to know that Macaroni, Country Style will set you back a mere six points, and your wallet significantly less cash than the McDonald’s drive thru. But, unlike the lady in the illustration, I like what I see in the mirror today enough to take a pass on this “style.” Wish I could go back and tell my 10-year-old self the same.

Macaroni, Country Style 
1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
4 cups shredded cabbage (12 ounces)
1 tablespoon margarine
3 cups (8 ounces) large-cut macaroni, cooked and drained
3 slices (1 ounce each) cooked ham, cut in strips
1 cup chicken broth
¾ teaspoon each salt and marjoram
Dash of pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
In large skillet over medium-high heat sauté onion and cabbage in margarine just until onion is limp. Add remaining ingredients; bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered 3 minutes or until cabbage is crisp-tender. Serve immediately. 

Why Don’t You …

·      Skip it!

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