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!!!

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.

Spaghetti with turkey meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is such a comfort food for me. I grew up in a very Italian family and this meal was a weekly staple in my house. Of course I can’t say this recipe is as good as my mom’s – but it’s damn close 🙂 . I do things a little different than my mom – and I’m sure some things are a little unconventional, but this recipe is a keeper.

Over the last year, I have gotten away from eating red meat. Traditional meatballs are made with a mixture of ground beef and pork (and they are soooo good!), but I needed a way to still be able to eat meatballs without using beef. That’s where the turkey came in. Personally, I feel that if you keep the other ingredients in the meatballs fairly traditional, you really can’t tell that there isn’t beef in them. And once they are covered in this amazing tomato sauce, forget about it! They are amazing. Of course if you are a meat eater, feel free to use the beef.

Anyways, I just spent the weekend with my sister and we made this meal at her house, but after raving about it to Mike once I got home, I had to make it again.

Ingredients

Meatballs

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 cup italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 eggs
2 T. parsley, chopped
2 T basil, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 gloves garlic, chopped
2 T ketchup (sorry mom)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour two tablespoons on olive oil onto a baking sheet and set aside.

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except ground turkey and mix well. If this mixture seems a little dry, add a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil. Once the mixture is well combined, add in ground turkey. With your hands, gently mix breadcrumb mixture with turkey. Once combined, roll into balls and arrange on your baking sheet. I like mine on the smaller side, but any size works.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place them in your tomato sauce to further cook.

Tomato Sauce

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 cup red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 16oz can diced tomatoes
Salt/pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute onions and carrots until just starting to soften. Pour in the red wine and let cook until wine has reduced by 3/4. Add in both cans on tomatoes and bring to a boil (this is where you can add the meatballs). Lower your heat to a simmer and let cook for 3-4 hours.

Once your sauce has cooked for a few hours, season with salt and pepper. This sauce can be used for pasta, pizza, tomato based soups…this sauce is good for anything.

Enjoy!!!

Broccoli pesto pasta

I just got back from such a fun girl’s weekend in Atlanta with my mom and my sister. Even though it was just a weekend, it was so nice to have some quality time with them. We don’t live near each other anymore, so any time we all get to get together we make sure to have some fun! I had never been to Atlanta before (besides the airport 😉 ) and I had no idea it was such a young, lively city! We stayed in an area known as Buckhead and it was great. Beautiful neighborhoods, awesome malls, delicious food…what more do you need?

This pasta is so tasty! It is some different that I thought would be a nice change from the traditional basil pesto. If you are looking for a really quick go-to dinner that has great flavor, this dish is perfect.

Ingredients
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
2 cloves of garlic
3 teaspoons salt (divided)
1 small bunch of basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pecorino cheese
1/2 lb whole wheat spaghetti

In a large stock pot, boil water for pasta. add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water when its boiling.

In the meantime, add all ingredients (you should have 1 teaspoon of salt left which should be added here) except for pasta and cheese to a food processor and blend until all combined. (If your pesto seems a little dry, add some more olive oil) Once all of the ingredients are blended, remove and add to a bowl. Stir in cheese and set aside.

Cook pasta according to the directions on the pasta box. Drain and pour into the bowl with the pesto. Toss to combine. Add more cheese over the top if desired.

Enjoy!!