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!!

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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!!!

Asian noodle salad (vegetarian)

I never make salads. For some reason, the salads that I do make never taste as good as the ones I get in restaurants. I don’t know why. And I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

I recently was at a restaurant and I had an Asian style salad that was so good! It had really healthy and filling ingredients and a peanut dressing that blew my mind. I needed to recreate it. But, like I said – salads that I make aren’t always that good. So I had my reservations.

I normally don’t like to toot my own horn, but this salad is wayyyy better than the restaurant version. It is seriously so good. If you know what’s good for you, you will make this salad.

It is so delicious and is something totally different that your average salad. It is so flavorful and has so many different textures which makes it a really interesting and tasty meal. I know that the ingredient list looks a little overwhelming. Don’t be scared! It is totally worth it in the end. You can also add chicken to this if you feel like it would be a more complete meal, but honestly you won’t even miss it if you leave it out!

Ingredients
Makes enough for about 8 people (or lots of leftovers)

1 package Broccoli slaw
3 hearts of romaine, chopped small
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 mangos, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
1 lb Whole wheat spagetti, cooked and cooled to room temperature

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix to thoroughly combine.

Peanut dressing

1 serrano chili, finely minced
2 Tbl freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
2 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl agave
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbl water

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except olive oil and water. Mix well. Slowly drizzly in olive oil. If the dressing looks too thick, add water one tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Pour over salad and toss to combine. Serve!!

Father’s Day

This is the first Father’s Day in five years that my siblings and I have all been able to spend with my dad at our home in Naples. We had a really great day and I made my dad an authentic Italian meal.


From top left: Whole wheat turkey and artichoke lasagna (recipe below), Caprese salad, parmesan garlic knots, Pete’s carrot cake, my dad and Bruin

Whole wheat turkey and artichoke lasagna

Ingredients

1 lb whole wheat lasagna
Olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
9 0z artichoke heats, diced
One small yellow onion, diced
1 Tbl dried basil
1 Tbl dried oregano
1 Tbl dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz part skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cups parmesan cheese, divided
Tomato sauce, homemade or bottled
salt
pepper

Prepare water for pasta and cook according to directions on the box. Set aside once cooked and allow to cool slightly.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add onions to the pan. Cook until soft and translucent. Add in all dried herbs and garlic and cook until fragrant, about five minutes. Remove from the pan and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat and add a little more olive oil. Add turkey and allow to brown. Once browned, add in artichoke hearts and saute for five minutes or until artichokes are soft and starting to brown. Remove from heat and place in the same bowl with the onions. Mix ricotta cheese, egg, one cup of mozzarella cheese and one cup of parmesan cheese in the bowl with the turkey/onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray and ladle in one ladle full of tomato sauce. Coat the bottom of the pan. Arrange one layer of noodles down and evenly place a fourth of the filling mixture on top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of each of the cheeses. Ladle one more ladle full on top of the filling and cheese and then place another layer of noodles on top of that. Repeat these steps three more times so you have four layers total. Sprinkle the top with more cheese and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and place under the broiler for about five minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly.

Baked orzo with broccoli pesto

I just got home from a trip I took up to Rhode Island (where I’m originally from) this weekend. While I was there, I definitely got my fill of Italian foods and desserts. The food up there is hard to find anywhere else in the country, especially North Carolina. So, whenever I am up there, I tend to go a little overboard with indulgences.

Pizza, pasta, pastries = me passed out for hours. I’m really fun to go on vacation with.

One place in particular that I ALWAYS have to go to, is this bakery called Solitro’s Bakery. They have the most amazing pastries. It is so hard to just pick one thing that is my favorite there and if I could – I would eat everything in there once a day. If you are ever in Rhode Island, you MUST go there. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try their Russian tea cake. It will change your life.

My brother, Peter and I in front of my favorite place in the world ;)

Now that I am back home, I need to get back into my healthy eating. As a way to ease myself back into it, I made this baked pasta. It has some really healthy aspects to it, but it tastes super comforting (which always makes me feel like I’m eating unhealthily). It is really filling and super flavorful and it comes together in minutes.

And since I can’t eliminate desserts completely, here is a little sneak peak of my dessert which I will post tomorrow. 😉

Ingredients

3/4 lb orzo
4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups breadcrumbs (I used homemade, but store bought works fine)
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 cups broccoli pesto
3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil

Prepare water for pasta and cook according to directions on the box. While your pasta is cooking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Assemble the broccoli pesto and set aside. Once your pasta is cooked, drain and place back into hot pot. Add in 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, pesto, and cream cheese to the cooked orzo. Stir to combine and place in a greased baking dish. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and almonds into bread crumbs to sprinkle over the top of the orzo. Drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Once orzo is hot and the breadcrumb topping is browned, remove from the oven and enjoy immediately.