Lightened up pumpkin mac and cheese

I have never met someone who didn’t love a good mac and cheese. If you are one of those people and we have met, I don’t think I want to know you anymore.

Just kidding. But really. Who doesn’t love carbs covered in cheese?

I sure do, and have made so many versions of it – skinny and not skinny alike. Obviously, the not so skinny versions are the ones I would eat all day in my fantasy life where calories don’t exist. Unfortunately, that is not real life.

This is real life. And this mac and cheese is skinny AND creamy AND cheesy AND totally satisfying.

Bonus, it’s pumpkin! Yay for fall!

Ingredients

1 lb whole wheat rotini (or penne or any pasta you like)
3 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, sliced and caramelized
2 Tbl flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
8 oz fat free ricotta cheese
2 cups reduced fat cheddar cheese, plus for for topping
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt/pepper

Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions on the box.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, combine caramelized onions and flour and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Mixture should thicken. Add in pumpkin puree and ricotta cheese and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in cheddar and parmesan.

Pour cooked pasta into cheese sauce and stir to coat the pasta. Pour into a prepared baking dish and top with more cheddar. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and turn the broiler on. Broil for 5-8 minutes or until top has browned.

Enjoy!!

Skinny Mac and cheese & the love of my life

Most of you who follow this blog have met or at least have heard of Bruin. He is undoubtably the most amazing, sweet, adorable and loving boy in my life. And…he is my one year old Boston Terrier. I don’t talk about him too often on here, but – like food, he is a huge part of my life.

We recently moved from Charlotte (where I adopted him) to Naples once I graduated from college. And no surprise to me, he LOVES it here. He gets to spend so much time with his friends Rocco and Sydney (my parents’ Australian shepherds), and gets so much love from his Gigi (my mom) and his grandpa. I thought it would be nice to share this picture I recently took of him so you all can see what an adorable little guy he is.

Like I said above, Bruin is my main man. BUUUUUT, this mac and cheese is pretty dang special too. I keep this one close to my heart and love it almost as much as Bruin.

Ingredients

1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
3/4 lb whole wheat penne
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups fat free milk
15 oz fat free ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup low fat cheddar cheese
1 Tbl whole wheat flour
1 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

Boil water and cook pasta according to directions on the box. I tend to undercook it just slightly since it will cook for a little while longer in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a sauce pan, heat butter and oil together and add onion. Cook until onion begins to soften. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring the entire time, for about a minute. Slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil. At this point in should begin to thicken. Whisk in ricotta cheese, parmesam, and cheddar. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, spinach, and hot cheese sauce. Stir until combine and spinach has wilted.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and pour in pasta. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until top is brown and cheese is bubbling.

Enjoy!!!

Black bean burgers with garlic rosemary fries (vegetarian)

I love burgers.

I love those burgers that are so big that you can’t even open your mouth wide enough to take a bite out of them. The ones where beef juice is running down your hands; the ones that you can’t put back on the plate because it will just fall apart (Mike, you know what I mean). Yeah, those burgers. I used to eat them all the time when I was younger. But as I’ve gotten a little older, I have tried to limit the amount of red meat I eat. Meaning, I don’t usually get to experience the greasy, dripping mess of a burger that I love.

I am always looking for recipes for “burgers” without ground beef. I have come up with some really tasty ones, especially these BBQ chicken burgers I made earlier in the year. But, I still found myself missing that beefy flavor that you just can’t get from anything other than red meat.

Until now. These have a meaty and rich taste that makes you feel like you are eating something other than beans and vegetables. They are really really good! The mushrooms give it that meaty flavor and the beans add a really nice texture to this burger. Also, the addition of the steak sauce adds an amazing, but subtle flavor that reminds me of eating meat.

These burgers are super easy to prepare and can definitely be made ahead of time. They freeze really well so if you wanted to make these a few days/weeks/months ahead of time, you can just throw them in the freezer and have an amazing, meat-free dinner ready in no time!

I served these burgers up with some homemade french fries that are addictingly good. They have a garlic rosemary salt on them which gives them amazing flavor and once you start making fries like this, you will NEVER go back to however you were doing it before!

Ingredients

2 can black beans, drained and rinsed but kept separated
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbl basil, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned)
3 Tbl Al Steak sauce
salt/pepper
olive oil
Cheese, optional
Buns

In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute onions and mushrooms with some olive oil until softened. This should take about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside

In the bowl of a food processor, blend ONE CAN of beans until pureed. Remove from the food processor and place in a large bowl. In the same food processor bowl, add in cooled onions and mushrooms and puree. Add onion mixture to the bowl with the pureed beans. Fold in the drained and rinsed remaining can of beans. Mix in cream cheese, herbs, egg, breadcrumbs and steak sauce. Once combined, place in the refrigerator and chill for at least one hour. If the mixture seems really sticky after one hour, add a small amount of extra breadcrumbs.

1 hour before ready to cook, form patties and place them in the freezer. This will help them really firm up and with make it much easier to cook them.

When read to cook: Heat a large skillet, grill pan, or grill to medium high heat. Add some olive oil. Place burgers in the pan and cook until browned on one side. This should take about 5 minutes. Flip burgers and cook an addition 5-10 minutes, or until cooked all the way through and browned. At this point, lower your heat and add cheese if desired. Allow cheese to melt and then remove from heat and place onto buns.

Garlic Rosemary French Fries

3 russet potatoes, sliced into fries
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbl salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place 2 Tbl of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven to heat (You want your pan to be hot before you place the fries on it).

Place cut potatoes into a large bowl. Cover the potatoes with hot water and allow to soak for one hour.

Place rosemary, salt and garlic powder in a bowl and mix to combine.

Drain the potatoes and pat dry. Remove hot pan from oven and place potatoes on the pan – making sure they are in one even layer. Place in oven.

Once 30 minutes have elapsed, turn the potatoes and sprinkle them with the garlic salt mixture. Place back in oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until browned and crispy.

Serve alongside your black bean burgers!

Quinoa and Italian turkey sausage stuffed peppers

Most of the time, stuffed peppers are made with a mixture of white rice and ground Italian sausage made with pork. Although this filling is cooked inside of a vegetable, it is not the healthiest meal. These stuffed peppers were made super healthy by using quinoa instead of rice and turkey sausage instead of the pork. Not only did I cut out a significant amount of calories (each pepper is only 210 calories!!), but the flavor is almost better in my opinion! They are hearty and meaty and best of all – cheesy!!! Yum!

These don’t taste like health food at all and I am so sure that you will love them! They are a great “make ahead” meal too! Once they are assembled (and before you place them in the oven), they can be easily wrapped up and refrigerated or frozen until you want to bake them up. The green bell peppers that I used were HUGE, so they are definitely enough to feel like you have eaten a meal.

Ingredients
Makes 5 stuffed peppers

3 mild Italian sausage links, meat taken out of the casing
1 cup quinoa
5 green bell peppers, tops removed and insides pulled out
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
3 Tbl basil, chopped
1/2 jar prepared tomato sauce (I used Newman’s Own tomato basil)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese
Salt/pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot, bring 2 cups of water and quinoa up to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Let cook for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and quinoa is cooked through.

In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil. Add to the pan onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook for ten minutes to allow veggies to soften. Add in turkey sausage. Stir around to break up the pieces of sausage into small, bite sized pieces. Cook for another 8 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, and basil. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble:

Place peppers cut side up in a large baking dish. Spoon quinoa mixture evenly into each pepper. Top with cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and broil peppers until cheese is browned.

Serve immediately.

The best cornbread

Cornbread is single handedly the best accompaniment to chili. Or at least I think it is. They are a perfect combination of flavors and textures and it’s a sad day when I have chili and don’t have cornbread to go along with it.

Today, I made some chili. Yes, I know. It is one-billion degrees outside and I am crazy for making a “cold weather comfort food” today. But I’ve been craving it and my siblings and I are home alone this weekend so we needed some “we want our mommy” comfort food.

Of course, I had to make some cornbread to go along with it. But, as most of you know by now I like to make my recipes as healthy as I can without sacrificing flavor.

Cornbread is generally a really fattening bread. It usually contains about a stick of butter and a good amount of white processed flour. This recipe is different. It has no butter or flour in it and is seriously so moist that you could eat it with a spoon if you really wanted to.

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup ground rolled oats (I just put mine in the food processor so they would be ground up)
1 egg
2/3 cup creamed corn
1 cup non-fat milk
2 Tbl honey
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn

**You can also add some cheese or green chilies to this to add a little more flavor – although it is plenty flavorful on it’s own!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into an 8×8 prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. The top should be golden brown and a tester inserted into the center should come out clean.

Enjoy!

***This cornbread makes about nine servings. Each serving is less then 100 calories!