Baked Mac-n-Cheese (My childhood and adulthood favorite)

As a kid my mom would ask us what our favorite dinner was so she could make it on our birthday. Year after year my favorite never changed, and on November 10th everyone in the house knew that we’d be having baked mac-n-cheese for dinner. This recipe is amazing in its original form and I am happy to say that my changes to it have not taken much away. It is a healthier version with whole wheat pasta, less cheese, spices, and less salt. My mom used to also make stewed tomatoes to put over the mac-n-cheese but I have come to love the herbed taste and don’t want to smother it. This dish is so good for left overs that when we make it my husband is pretty much set with lunch at work for the week… I hope you love it as much as I do ❤

Serves:  9

Ingredients: (You will notice I did not put measurements for the spices. We do this recipe in 2 layers and you top each layer with the spices so it’s really just a sprinkling of the spices.)

2-13.25oz packages of whole wheat pasta (We like to use penne, my mom liked to use elbows, you decide what you like best 🙂 )

– 1 tsp olive or canola oil

– 2-8oz packages of shredded cheddar and monterey jack cheese blend. (My mom used to buy a 16oz block of each and dice it up. That is twice as much cheese and you get “cheesy” spots which are awesome but can pack in the calories. That was how I always loved it but I’m learning to use less cheese and more spice to kick up the flavor. Very worth it.)

– black pepper

– salt

– dried parsley

– garlic powder

– onion powder

– thyme

– 1 cup of milk

– 1 can of stewed tomatoes *OPTIONAL*

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.) Add a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of oil to a  large pot of water. Bring to a boil. (I like to boil with a little bit of oil to keep pasta from sticking together.)

3.) Cook pasta.

4.) When pasta is cooked strain and add half into an oiled 14.5x11x2in pan.

5.) Sprinkle one bag of cheese over the pasta and lightly season with spices/herbs.

6.) Put the rest of the pasta over the first layer and sprinkle second bag of cheese ontop. Lightly season with spices/herbs. Pour 1 cup of milk over the whole dish

7.) Bake in the oven for 25mins if you don’t want it to be too crispy or for 30 minutes if you are like me and love the crispy top.

8.) Dish and enjoy! (Optional- dish stewed tomatoes on top of mac-n-cheese for even more flavor)

**All photos are originals taken by me.**

Advertisements

Blackened Chicken Alfredo Bake with Whole Wheat Pasta

10994473_10205786607922514_6510080778810427453_n

Last night we had a couple of friends over for an early dinner. I decided that they would be my guinea pigs and taste a new recipe. This dish was a hit and the best part was that they had no idea they were eating hearty vegetables. My husband, the avid cauliflower hater, licked his plate clean and was shocked when I told him that he just ate a serving of cauliflower. What’s more shocking was his response saying “And I’d do it all over again!” Even our 16 month old son cleaned his plate.  I’m sure this would be awesome for left overs but the problem is that it is so good that I can almost guarantee it will be gone in one night.

***As always remember when cooking raw meat to be careful about cross contamination. It is very easy to get someone sick by not sanitizing the utensils used to handle raw meat (including your hands.) You want to enjoy your food, not spew it. Wash your hands and kitchen tools!***

Serves: 8     Carbs: 530 per serving

Ingredients for Chicken Seasoning (You can buy Montreal seasoning in the store or make it with seasonings you already have like I did.):

  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp coarsely ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Ingredients for Dish:

  • 1 pkg whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • chicken seasoning
  • cooking spray
  • 2 tbsp olive or canola oil
  • 1 cup yellow squash, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (TIP:I chop onions with sunglasses on and oven fan on high to avoid tearing up)
  • 1 cup of cauliflower, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 jar of store bought Alfredo sauce (Vicky Bryant gave us a great tip to make this dish even more healthy. Make your own Alfredo! I have never tried it but when I do I will update this post to include the recipe and directions. Stay tuned!)
  • Parmesan cheese (to coat top)
  • Breadcrumbs (to coat top)

Directions:

  1. Move oven rack to top, preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 13 X 9in dish with cooking spray.
  2. Boil a large pot of water to cook spaghetti.
  3. Trim and dice chicken
  4. Coat a large skillet with cooking oil. Season chicken and cook until it starts to blacken. Set chicken aside.*** If you make your own seasoning with the recipe above be aware that you will have some left over. Do not feel like you need to use the whole batch of seasoning b/c that will just make it REALLY spicy and unless you like that it will ruin the recipe. Save what is left over for the next time you make the meal***
  5. Place chopped cauliflower in a microwavable dish, add 2 tbsp of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 minutes on high.***The dish will be EXTREMELY hot. Please take precaution when removing dish from microwave***
  6. In the same skillet you cooked the chicken in add 1 tbsp of oil and saute the onion until it clear. Add squash and cook until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add chicken to casserole dish with all the vegetables. Pour Alfredo sauce over the chicken and veggies. Top with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Don’t go too crazy with the cheese because the sauce is pretty rich by itself.
  8. By this time your water should be boiling. Cook pasta while dish is baking.
  9. Put dish on top rack in your oven. Bake for 20 minutes and then broil for about 10 minutes until top is browned. Keep an eye on the dish while broiling because the only thing you want blackened in this recipe is the chicken 🙂
  10. Strain pasta and toss with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil.
  11. Dish pasta onto plates and top with the blackened chicken alfredo bake.
  12. Indulge 🙂

This is the face of a happy eater :

**All photos are originals taken by me**

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chickpeas

This snack is not only healthy or cheap but it is savory and crunchy. These little poppers are also packed with fiber and protein making it a super snack – great for afternoon “pick me ups.” There are many recipes out there for roasted chickpeas ranging from sweet to savory. I am new to the world of roasted chickpeas so whenever I find a yummy concoction I’ll be sure to share.This one is just downright delicious!

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

-1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
-Juice of one lemon
-1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-½ teaspoon salt
-freshly ground pepper to taste
-½ teaspoon granulated garlic
-1 teaspoon dried herb of your choice. We like Thyme byt you could also use parsley, rosemary, basil, etc.

Directions:

1.) Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic in a bowl.  Mix well and allow the chickpeas to marinate for an hour. The more you let the chickpeas marinate the more the lemon/garlic flavor will be infused so feel free to marinate for more than an hour if you like.

2.) Preheat oven to 400

3.) When you are finished marinating drain the chickpeas but do not rinse. Spread chickpeas across a lightly greased baking sheet. Make sure they are in one layer. Season lightly with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and herbs. Shake pan gently to coat chickpeas with seasoning. Repeat however many times you feel it takes to coat the chickpeas. Don’t overdo it though because they will just come out really salty. I try to limit it to two shakes.

4.)Roast the chickpeas for 35-40 minutes.  Every 10 minutes roll the chickpeas around for an even browning and less burn. Some of the chickpeas may pop like popcorn as they cook, so be careful when you are stirring them. When the chickpeas are a nice brown with caramelized spots they are ready to come out.

5.) As tempting as it will be to just eat them off the pan, please wait until they cool a little bit before popping a few. These suckers will be hot and it is not worth the risk of singeing your taste buds. Trust me… you are going to want to be able to taste these 🙂

6.) If you do not finish the batch you made and want to save what is left, keep them in a tightly sealed container at room temp. They will go soggy if not kept air tight.

7.) Enjoy!

*Warning-these are highly addictive!

*All photos are originals belonging to me.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage and Tomatoes

Image

This dish is one of my husband’s favorite pasta meals. When we found out he has high cholesterol one of the things we decided to do was convert to whole wheat. Whole wheat pasta is definitely an acquired taste but this recipe really compliments the pasta and you won’t even know you are eating so healthy. It tastes that good! When the recipe calls for salt to taste don’t overdo it. The sausage has so much flavor on it’s own that I usually only salt the boiling water to give the pasta some flavor. You really do not want to take away from the sausage/tomato mixture. This recipe also re-heats really nicely so it makes for awesome left-overs.

Serves:8 – 238 Calories/serving – 19g Fat/serving – 420 mg sodium/serving

Ingredients:

-Olive Oil Cooking Spray

-1 lb. Pork Sausage (We like to use mild/spicy Italian Sausage), removed from casing and crumbled

-4 Garlic Cloves

-2 Pinches of Hot Pepper Flakes

-1 Carton of Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

-2 tsp. Thyme

-Salt and Pepper to taste

-14 oz. Whole Wheat Pasta Cooked Al Dente (We like to use either spaghetti or penne)

-2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

-2 tsp. Fresh Chopped Parsley

Directions:

1.) Fill large pot with water and sprinkle a little bit of salt into water. Bring to a boil.

2.) While water is heating spray a nonstick skillet with olive oil cooking spray. Place over medium high heat. Add sausage and stir until meat browns.

3.) By this time water should be ready to add the pasta. Add pasta and keep an eye on it throughout step 4.

4.) Add garlic pepper flakes, tomato and thyme to skillet. Cook until sausage turns dark brown and tomato skins shrivel. Season with salt and pepper. Keep Warm.

5.) Place cooked pasta in a bowl and toss with olive oil.Top pasta with a large spoonful of sausage/tomato mixture.

 

6.) Pull a few leaves of parsley from springs and sprinkle over your meal.

7.) Enjoy!

*I want to give credit to The Cook Yourself Thin cookbook where I originally found this recipe.

*All photos are originals taken by me