Healthier Mac n’ Cheese

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Another Sunday morning, and yet again our world has been dusted with fresh powdery snow. I always anticipate the first snow fall come December and love the way it sparkles on a chilly, cozy Christmas night. But once February hits, I am so over it. And here we are in March, the month that is supposed to bring some springtime weather, and we have been pummeled again with another snow storm. I’ve always loved Michigan for the four distinct seasons we get to experience, but this year it feels like we skipped over my beloved fall and catapulted right into this freezing cold eternal winter. And since the weather men are not predicting a big thaw anytime soon, I figured I would make the best of the cold by cooking up some warm comfort food. But rather than whip up a butter filled, heavy side dish, I went in search for a lighter alternative. And after some recipe perusing, a came up with this lightened up mac n’ cheese recipe. The dish is incredibly rich and creamy, but contains no butter or oil and is lightened up with the use of lowfat milk. It served as the perfect side dish to my BBQ pulled chicken, and though it looks and tastes decadent, it will not weigh you down.

Ingredients: Makes 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups cavatappi pasta (or noodle of your choice)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup 1% low fat milk
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Cook pasta until cooked through, set aside
  2. In a large skillet, heat milk over medium high heat
  3. Stir flour into milk and stir continuously until mixture thickens
  4. Stir in cheddar cheese until mixture is smooth and creamy
  5. Stir in spices
  6. Add pasta to cheese mixture and toss until well combined

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Mushroom & Sweet Pea Risotto

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I may have mentioned this before, but I am a total Food Network junkie. I can spend hours watching cooking show after cooking show and never get bored. But my favorite Food Network chef by far is Giada DiLaurentiis. I love her. And whenever someone tells me they don’t like her, I get personally offended. How can you not love Giada? She’s so perky and fun and makes the most delicious food. And I think she loves chocolate as much as I do. I may or may not be her biggest fan. Well this recipe is one of Giada’s. And I think it would be a perfect side dish for your Easter dinner. The recipe does take a lot of time and attention but the result is an incredibly creamy and cheesy risotto that pairs with a number of different main courses. I recently made it for a family dinner and served it with Pinterest Greek Yogurt Chicken. My brother asked for the leftovers. And that, my friends, is always the indication of a great recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 8-10 servings, Adapted slightly from Food Network

  • 8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan and set aside
  2. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat
  3. Add olive oil to melted butter
  4. Add onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes
  5. Add the white mushrooms and garlic and saute until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes
  6. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes
  7. Add wine and stir occasionally until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 2 minutes
  8. Reduce heat to medium low and add chicken broth one cup at a time, stirring often
  9. Repeat until all broth has been added into the pot and rice has absorbed all the liquid, about 30 minutes
  10. Stir in the thawed peas and freshly grated parmesan
  11. Season with salt & pepper to taste
  12. Serve immediately

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Turkey Sausage and Spinach Lasagna

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In about a year I will be a married lady. Which means” my single girl” dinners of baked sweet potatoes or a bowl of cereal may be behind me. Because although I find a bowl of oatmeal or a veggie burger to be a perfectly acceptable meal, my husband-to-be might require a little more on his plate. And since I don’t really see myself cooking two separate dinners every night, I thought I should start trying out some recipes that will appeal to both of us. Healthy and light enough for my tastes, but filling enough for Eric. And this lasagna recipe is the perfect combination of the foods we both enjoy. It is chock full of the spinach I love, but it is filled and covered with just enough cheese to keep Eric happy. The recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine, and with 8 servings, it would be a great meal to make on a Sunday afternoon to result in a week full of delicious leftovers. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Recipe Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 (12 oz) package of fresh spinach
  • 5 (4 oz) Sweet Turkey Sausage links
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 ounce shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation:

  1. Combine flour and next four ingredients (milk through bay leaf) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook 8 minutes until thick and bubbly, stirring consistently
  2. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Spread milk mixture onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray
  4. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add in lasagna noodles, let boil until noodles are cooked through. Drain and set noodles aside
  5. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add two tablespoons water and fresh spinach; cook spinach for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts
  6. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet with spinach
  7. Break sausages up with a spoon and let cook  for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through
  8. Add garlic to skillet and let simmer for 2-3 minutes
  9. To assemble lasagna, place two noodles side by side in the baking dish
  10. Next spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on top of each noodle
  11. Spread a third of the sausage mixture on top of ricotta layer and top with an additional lasagna noodle on each side
  12. Repeat layers twice
  13. Sprinkle top lasagna noodle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and cover dish with tin foil
  14. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes
  15. Remove baking dish from the oven and turn the oven to Broil mode on high
  16. Place lasagna back in the oven and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble and brown slightly
  17. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting

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Vegetarian Linguine

Nothing quite says “indulgence” like a heaping bowl of fresh pasta. Yet those oversized portions that we often find in our favorite Italian eateries don’t always fit very well into healthy lifestyles. So what do we do when we’re craving an oversized bowl of noodles but don’t want to sacrifice our healthy eating? We make this dish. This vegetarian “pasta” dish is bursting with the flavors and textures that will satisfy your pasta craving, yet pasta is actually missing from the ingredient list. I recently discovered Pasta Slim Linguine, which is made from fresh spinach. It has the same texture and flavor of traditional linguine, yet only contains about 30 calories per serving. Add this incredibly healthy “pasta” to a mixture of sauteed vegetables and fresh parmesan cheese and you have yourself a deliciously healthy dinner. So go ahead and have as big a bowl as you’d like.

Ingredients: Makes Four 1 cup servings

  • 2 (7 oz) bags of PastaSlim Spinach Linguine (found at Better Health Stores, but regular linguine works fine as well)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely

Preparation:

  1. Prepare PastaSlim according to package instructions (or substitute regular pasta if desired)
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
  3. Add garlic and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are soft, stirring occasionally
  4. Add cherry tomatoes to pan and saute for 5 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and juicy
  5. Add zucchini and saute for an additional 5 minutes, until zucchini is tender
  6. Stir parmesan and breadcrumbs into vegetable mixture, add an additional 1 tablespoon of oil if desired
  7. Toss pasta into pan and stir until well combined
  8. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve

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