Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creative Mac n Cheese Dinners

At about 11:45, each day (when we're home) has the potential to look like this:

Me:  So - E - what do you want for lunch?  A PBJ or a PBH?  Whadya think?
E: Ummmm...some mac n cheese.  Please?  Yes.  I think that would be good.

As any mother knows - mac n cheese every. single. day. just doesn't work.  For us, I try to limit it to once a week (and with there always being leftovers, it's really twice a week.  Who am I kidding?).  So the other night, Scot wasn't home for dinner.  Which really isn't different than most nights except that day I knew he wasn't going to make it due to some dinner-thing with work.

So I decided to whip up some mac n cheese for my boys!  I used Angela's slightly altered Quick and Dirty Cheese Sauce and thought I'd try to add some pureed steamed broccoli.

Epic fail.

We ate it, but it was grainy and green and tasted too much like broccoli.  But I really liked the idea of getting an entire head of brocolli and all the nutrients into a mac 'n' cheese dish.

So I tried again, this time with Cauliflower.  The result was fabulous -- both big and little kids in the house liked it and it was put on the "make again" list. YAY!  It was creamy and thick and stuck to all the noodles.  Due to the addition of curry in the recipe, it even looked like real home style mac n cheese.  Bonus!

 Curried Cauliflower +

 Easy "Cheese" Sauce =

 Creamy Curried Mac n Cheese

 Creamy Curried Mac n Cheese

Cheese Sauce
  •  2 T butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 T flour
  • 1/4 t garlic
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 6-7 T nutritional yeast (found in most big grocery stores or in Whole Foods in the bulk isle)
Sauteed Cauliflower
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 T OO
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 2 t curry powder (or a little more too taste)
  • 1 lb short pasta
-- Start your water and cook pasta according to directions.
-- Cut your cauliflower up into florets and put in a microwave safe dish with a lid.  Cover and microwave for 5 minutes until slightly soft.  Meanwhile:
-- Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. While you're waiting for it to melt, mix the milk, flour and spices together mking sure there are no clumps.
-- Pour into the hot butter and stir stir stir!  Add the nutritional yeast and stir until creamy - about 7-10 minutes.
-- Now put a skillet on medium heat and get ready to saute that cauliflower.  once the oil is hot, saute the cauliflower with the spices until very soft.
-- Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor or blender and pour the sauce over top.  Puree until smooth. Add to pasta and mix until all the pasta is nicely coated.

Enjoy with a large side salad and vegetable soup.

And since I did so great with that, I thought I'd give Angela's Pumpkin Mac n Cheese a go.  It, too, turned out really well.  The littlest dude wasn't a fan, but I'm not sure that had anything to do with the taste since he's teething mighty bad right now.

Pumpkin Mac N Cheese
  •  2 T butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 T flour
  • 1/4 t garlic
  • 6-7 T nutritional yeast (found in most big grocery stores or in Whole Foods in the bulk isle)
  • 1 c canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 lb short pasta
--  Start your water and cook pasta according to directions.
-- Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. While you're waiting for it to melt, mix the milk, flour and spices together making sure there are no clumps.
-- Pour into the hot butter and stir stir stir!  Add the nutritional yeast and stir until creamy - about 7-10 minutes.
-- Add the pumpkin and seasonings and stir until heated through and all creamy.  (taste and make spice adjustments if desired)
-- Mix in with the cooked and drained pasta until all coated.

Enjoy with a large green salad and a slice of lentil loaf.

    If you're not ready to try vegan mac n cheese, try this home style mac n cheese with tomatoes in it

    Or this one with spinach and artichokes.

    Can you tell I love me some mac n cheese?

    NOTE:   I will say, though, that these dishes are great strait out of the pan.  Not as great a day later reheated.  Something about the non-cheese "cheese" I think.  But hey, it's just a great excuse to have a big ole pile of seconds!

    Thursday, October 27, 2011


    We make a lot of dishes with chickpeas in them.

    A lot.

    At least once, if not twice a week, they make an appearance in our meals.  Sometimes hidden.  Sometimes not.  Oh, and let's not forget hummus.  This means I go through about 6 or 7 cans a week.  And at not quite a dollar a can (at Target) that's 5 or 6 bucks a week.  Not to mention that some of the nutrients is taken away and the salt intake is upped when you eat the chickpeas out of a can.

    So I resolved to start making chickpeas from their dry bean form once the weather got cooler.  Well, the cool weather is here and I made my first batch this past week and it was great!  I got a lot of my tips from Ashley at The Edible Perspective.  She is a great gal (who I don't know personally but can tell from her wonderfully healthy - and GF - recipes and the simple fact that she loves living in the home of my Alma Mater, Ft Collins, CO).  You should check her site out, it's pretty sweet!

    Back to the peas, though.  They were so simple to make!  And the saving incredible!

    I took 4 cups of dried chickpeas, soaked them overnight (where they about doubled in size, so make sure you soak them in a large pot or bowl), rinsed them, and put them in a crockpot full of water and a little salt for 6 hours on low.

    And then I was done.

    And guess what?  The 4 little cups of dried chickpeas (that cost me about 2 dollars) yielded 10 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas.  That's 7 cans worth!  I saved some out to make hummus, saved some out for a recipe I'm making in 2 days that calls for 3 cups, and put the remaining "3 cans worth" in plastic baggies that are loving the coolness of my fridge right now, but will find their home in my freezer come morning.

    Ahh...I love eating even healthier and saving money!!

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Molasses Banana Soft Serve

    I think one of my favorite ice cream toppings of all time is good ole mollasses.  I love that stuff.  As in, I could eat strait out of the spoon!

    Now I know some people are not as fond of molasses as I am, and that's ok -- leaves more for me!

    The other night, I was craving a big bowl of vanilla bean ice cream with molasses drizzled all over it.  Alas, we really don't eat ice cream anymore, let alone have it in the fridge.  And I didn't think it would taste good over Raspberry Sorbet, so I thought this little creation up.  So if you're like me and enjoy the dark, rich goodness, then you'll really like this "recipe".  It's not overpoweringly molasses-y, but the flavor is one step above a "hint".  You, of course, could adjust to your own liking.

    Don't like the idea of molasses but think you may like PB and chocolate instead, check this recipe out!

    Molasses Banana Soft Serve
    • 3 large frozen bananas (I found that leaving them on the counter for 10-15 minutes worked really well and was easier for my food processor's motor)
    • 2 t sugar
    • 1 T molasses
    -- Break the bananas up into one inch chunks and put them in your food processor.  Turn it on and make sure the bananas are doing ok before you leave the scene.  You'll want to scrape down the side after about a minute and make sure you break up any unbroken chunks.  The mixture should just whip right up and start to expand.  Leave for about 4 minutes.
    -- At the very end, once the bananas have been "whipped" and are nice and fluffy, pour in the sugar and molasses and let the "ice cream" turn a beautiful caramel color.  Now you're done and ready to serve!

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies

    Ok.  I will be the first to admit that I'm not a cookie-person.  I would much rather sit down to a cobbler or fruit something than have a plate full of cookies in front of me.  There are multiple reasons for this, I'm sure.  The top one being, I think, that when it comes to sweets, I find it easier to say "no" when it's just not around or when I can take ONE piece of pie and be satisfied instead of 2 or 5 huge cookies.  And when it comes to cookie-dough batter and me, we're like magnets.   So you see why I just don't make cookies very often.

    The exceptions are my chocolate chip cookies and now, these.  Of course, for the picture, I accidentally baked them too long so they don't actually look like they're supposed to - all light brown with only a medium brown tinge on the outer edges, but I wasn't about to go and make a whole other batch just to get the picture right!

    I love the white chocolate and raspberry combination, but you could switch out milk chocolate if you wanted to.  These are also NOT heart healthy at all.  I did try to "healthify" it a little bit by reducing the butter a little and replacing it with apple sauce, but it didn't do much I'm afraid.  So after my fourth cookie, I put them all in a bag and sent them off with Scot to work. :)  I think I just figured out how to bake and not feel guilty about eating it all!

    White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies
    Makes 2.5-3 dozen
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/2 c sugar
    • 1/2 c brown sugar
    • 2 T applesauce (no-sugar)
    • 1 egg
    • 1 t vanilla extract
    • 1 1/4 c flour
    • 1 1/4 c old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 t baking soda
    • 3/4 t cinnamon
    • 1/4 t salt
    • 1 c white chocolate chips
    • 1 c dried cranberries
    -- Cream butter and sugars together.  Add apple sauce, egg and vanilla and combine.
    -- Mix all dry ingredients together (except the chocolate chips and dried cranberries.)  Add to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
    --  Add the chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
    -- Drop by the spoonful onto a greased cookie sheet (2 inches apart) and bake at 350 for 14 minutes (until the edges are light brown.  They will look under-done, but don't worry, they'll cook more and then be perfectly chewy on the inside and crispy on the out.  (If you want them all crispy, wait until the cookies are all light brown like I did....)

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Eat. More. Greens.


    There are a lot of changes that come with eating a more heart healthy diet.  A lot less meat, a lot less diary products, and cutting back on eggs.  Introduce more whole grains, eat more beans & lentils, and eat. more. greens!

    For some reason, the issue I thought I would have (cutting out dairy) wasn't an issue at all, and the one aspect I really thought would be easy to incorperate (eating more greens) has been harder than anticipated.

    So here we are.  4 months into the new eating and we feel great.  But we can't seem to eat more greens than we used to.

    We have salad, pretty much, with every dinner.  We go through those ginormous boxes of spring greens and spinach within a week.  We love broccoli in this house and it usually makes an appearance at dinner a couple times a week,.  I sometimes try to have a "hummus and greens" wrap for lunch once the boys are in bed, but more likely than not, I'm more of a garbage disposal for what they don't eat.  2 and half carrot sticks. 4 bites of PB&J.  3 grapes. 

    And so then I just have a small salad and an apple.

    Well, I'm really determined to somehow incorperate more greens into our diet.

    So far, I have only 2 ideas.

    1 -- Kale (chopped) in the soup bowl before the soup goes in.  Tried it and it works and tastes great.  Although, I guess I did eat the bites with the kale in it before just enjoying the rest of the soup, but still.  It got more greens into me! 

    2-- A handful or two of mixed green under the tomato sauce on our pizza!  I tried this one just a couple days ago and it was fabulous.  You could see it was there, but you could hardly taste it due to the sauce and toppings!

    I sometimes have a Green Monster for breakfast and I am going to try kale chips and maybe even a kale salad, but other than that - how do I get more greens into my diet? 

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Honey Lime Enchiladas

    Sorry for not having a better picture!  I totally forgot to snap one until I went back for seconds!

    I think this is the first meat meal we've made in a while and I'll tell ya what, it was so delicious!  I got the recipe from a friend who got it from The Sister's Cafe - a site I used to go to all the time before we went heart healthy.  They have some really great recipes on their site -- you should check them out!

    This recipe is more on the healthy side, especially if you don't add cheese to the inside of the enchiladas.  We loved the taste of this dish - the sweetness was amazing and just a step above subtle.  Perfectly paired with the lime and everyone loved it.  I served this with rice and a side salad and was also able to prep the chicken a day before - which I think worked better to let the flavors mix and meld. It was a cinch to throw together, and it seems easy enough to double and freeze a second pan if you wished.

    Honey Lime Enchiladas
    Serves 5-6
    • 1.5 lbs chicken - cooked and shredded (about 3 chicken breasts)
    • 1/2 c honey
    • 1/3 c lime juice
    • 1 (heavy) T chili powder
    • 3/4 t garlic powder
    • 3 10oz cans green enchilada sauce
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (mozzarella and cheddar mixed, a cojack, or even a Mexican blend)
    • flour tortillas (enchilada sized = smaller)
    • enchilada toppings of your choice

    --Mix together the honey, lime, chili powder and garlic.  Pour in half of the enchiladas sauce (1 and a half cans)  Add the shredded chicken and let it sit for at least  30 minutes to let the flavors get into the chicken.  I really feel that if you have the time, do this step the day before
    --Spray a 9x13 pan and get ready to roll!
    --Pour half of the remaining enchilada sauce into the bottom of the pan
    --"Stuff" the tortillas with the shredded meat as much as you want and roll them as tight as you can.  Place in the pan until the pan is filled.  (I was able to get 10 hefty enchiladas in one pan using all the meat, but you may need an extra 8x8)
    -- Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the the rolls and now sprinkle the cheese on top
    -- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 (until the cheese has bubbled and turned a lovely golden brown)

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Eggplant Chickpea Stew

    With fall upon us and prices for Eggplant the lowest I've seen in a while, a good eggplant stew studded with protein rich chickpeas and flavored with wonderful spices was just what I wanted to make for my parents when they were visiting last weekend.  Considering it was a crockpot meal, it was a no brainer!

    The recipe does call for dried chickpeas, but I think if you just use canned (about 2 cans?) and cook it on the stove or in the crockpot for less time, that you'll be just fine.  I will say, though -- now that the cooler weather has come and I'm not as leery to turn on my oven or crockpot, I'm going to be making most of my beans from their dry form to cut down on costs since we eat so many of them!  This was a great meal for me to see how easy it really was to use dry beans!  It just takes a little planning!

    I served this with some nice bread and a big hearty salad and banana cream pie for dessert!

    Eggplant Chickpea Stew
    Serves 6
    • 2 large eggplant (3 lbs total)
    • 2-3 T OO
    • 2 large onions - thinly sliced
    • 2 T minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
    • 8 oz box of mushroom (baby bellas are my favorite) - sliced
    • 1 T dried basil
    • 2 t dried oregano
    • 1 (2-3 inch) cinnamon stick
    • 1 t marjoram
    • 1 t salt
    • 1 t pepper
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 cup dried chickpeas - rinsed and soaked overnight and then drained
    • 28 oz diced tomatoes - undrained
    • 4 cups prepared brown rice
    --Heat oven to 400, while it's heating, chop the eggplant into large chunks and mix on a cookie sheet or two with the OO.  Roast until the eggplant is tender and brown - about 25 minutes.
    --Meanwhile, heat some more OO (about 1 T) in a skillet and saute the onion until transparent - about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, mushrooms, and spices and stir until fragrant. About another 3 -5 minutes.
    --Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes and then transfer to the crockpot.
    -- When the eggplant is done, transfer it to the crockpot as well and stir to combine.
    --Cover and cook until the chickpeas are done/tender.  4 hrs on high, 7-8 hrs on low.
    --Add tomatoes in 30 minutes before stirring (right after you start making your rice).

    NOTE: if using canned chickpeas, I would reduce cooking time in half.