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Positively Milwaukee: Local chef whips up some of the healthiest mac & cheese you'll ever eat

Posted at 9:14 AM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 10:14:33-04

It's a recipe for health success. We watched as Chef Marvin Jones cooked up his version of macaroni and cheese at the Cudahy Grand Ballroom.

"Instead of using a flour-based pasta we're using chickpea pasta. This plant-based entity brings the calorie count down right from the beginning. The absence of milk, a small amount of cheese and we make a dish that is heart-friendly," explains Jones.

“We pull the whole milk out. We pull three-fourths of the cheese out, and still get the consistency that people are looking for.”

Jones adds his own special touches, including butternut squash. It's a mac and cheese with less fat and fewer calories.

Jones shares that he’s found peace after some tough times.

“You have to surrender that, let go and let God help you see."

Jones had to master some life lessons after a rough patch.

"I had a hard financial fall, I learned that there are places lower than rock bottom. That led to a cold awakening that the light went out. I finally started seeing that, okay it's me in the way. I can't breathe and I'm standing on my own oxygen tube.”

Jones admits to some bad business decisions, including a failed coffee shop.

"It's a tough fall from a Bentley to the bus. I wouldn't wish that on anybody. There have been too many times in my life I'm trying to drive the car and the next thing you know I'm in the ditch. So, I have let the spirit lead, I sit in the backseat and I don't even ask if we're there yet.”

Today he hosts a free online cooking class as part of the Kohl’s Healthy Families Initiative. The company partners with the American Cancer Society and other agencies to promote wellness.

“We all have gifts that were given. And our job is to find what that gift is on an individual level.”

You can see his classes on the “Healthy Eating Active Living” Facebook page.

“I take the gifts that I've been given, put in the work because you still have to do the work...And then it takes care of itself, is its own reward.”

The program stresses nutrition, exercise, and mental health. Jones puts being good to our bodies this way.

“There's no calvary coming, we have to save ourselves.”

At 68, Chef Marvin is like a renaissance man, proving sometimes we must evolve before life serves as fulfillment.

"I thank God every day someone's willing to pay me for what I would do for free."

By the way, an independent taste test of Jones’ dish by TMJ4 Photojournalist Ryan Whittaker gave Marvin Jones healthy macaroni and cheese an enthusiastic thumbs up. Whittaker’s review?

“This is really good; This is the real deal!”

Here's Chef Jones' healthy mac and cheese recipe:

Hold up! I really mean it, Healthy Mac & Cheese. Noodles with a sauce that will give you vegetables; creamy, without boatloads of butter, a comfort food that packs a nutritional wallop. This creamy wonderfulness is entrée level delicious. Talk about Super Bowl perfect…sit back and enjoy an old time favorite as you root for your favorite team. Let’s get busy!

Ingredients - Serves 4 2 cups - elbow macaroni made from chickpeas 1 tbsp butter 1 small yellow onion - cut into thin rings 1 butternut squash - cubed 5 cups vegetable broth ¾ cup milk 2/3 cup shredded cheese 1 tsp paprika pepper to taste Optional - Toasted Walnuts

Instructions Preheat oven to 350 degrees Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and set aside, heat butter in a large skillet and add onions, sauté onions over low heat until golden, about 8-10 minutes

Meanwhile, in a pot, bring broth to a boil and add squash, cooking 5-7 minutes or until fork tender, drain reserving ½ cup of broth Transfer squash to blender, add onions, milk, a pinch of salt, reserved broth and puree until smooth and creamy

Pour sauce into noodles and add half the cheese, stir to mix and melt, use milk to adjust consistency as needed, top dish with remaining cheese, place in oven 3-5 minutes, serve and sprinkle on paprika as a garnish… Enjoy

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