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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Italian Mini Meatball and Tomato Soup

 

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As much as I love living in Michigan…I gotta say, I am getting really sick of this cold weather. Maybe we’ve just been spoiled the last couple of years, but usually by mid March, 20 degree weather is a thing of the past. Last year, we were blessed with 60 degree temperatures and plenty of sunshine by St. Patrick’s Day. 2013 is a different story. Nowadays I get really excited if it’s above 30 degrees in the middle of the day. And the biggest bummer is that these somewhat frigid temperatures are totally screwing up my running schedule. I know, I know. First world problems. But having to bundle up with layer after layer of under armour is definitely making training for my next race a little less fun. I have a 10K in 3 weeks and am having a hard time fitting in longer distances without having my lungs freeze…or ya know, falling flat on my face and breaking my finger.

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Yeah, that happened. A few weeks ago I slipped on some ice at 6am and wound up with a swollen and purple index finger. But once I got to work, my boss whipped out a makeshift splint for me which obviously left me looking super cool. What can I say? I have a talent for attracting catostrophes. But I must say, the one upside to the cooler temperatures is I’ve had a little more time to try out the warm winter-y recipes I’ve been saving. Like this recipe from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life. This soup is warm and comforting, and thanks to the mini meatballs is total “guy food.” (but it is still pretty healthy) I used medium size shell pasta the first time I made it, but I would recommend using macaroni noodles or mini shells because the pasta does tend to soak up a good amount of the broth. The result is a rich tomato soup perfect for a chilly winter…or spring evening.

Ingredients: Adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life

Mini Meatballs: Makes 40 mini meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/4 finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Soup

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cans ( 10.5 oz each) lower sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (28 oz) Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup mini pasta shells or macaroni

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, place all meatball ingredients and mix well until spices are well incorporated (mixing with your hands is the easiest way!)
  2. Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet, evenly spaced
  3. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through
  4. In a large soup pot, place 2 teaspoons olive oil and heat over medium heat
  5. Add onions and let cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onions begin to soften
  6. Add garlic and let cook for 1 minute
  7. Stir in broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil
  8. Add in pasta and reduce heat
  9. Cover pot and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until pasta is tender
  10. Stir in meatballs and stir until heated through

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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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Chicken & Roasted Veggies Over Egg Noodles

Ah, summer. The season of crazy humidity & fish flies. If you don’t know what fish flies are, congratulations…you will never have to see the disgusting flying bugs that will literally swarm your car on a summer night. If you … Continue reading