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!!!

15 days of sandwiches: Day 8 – Broccoli and white cheddar quesadilla (vegetarian)

Broccoli cheddar soup is so good. It’s creamy. It’s cheesy. It’s comforting. But, it is one of the most unhealthy soups out there. I never order it out at restaurants because I know it is packed with butter, cream, and full fat cheese. For me, there are just too many unhealthy calories to make it worth indulging.

But, that doesn’t mean I will never indulge in that awesome combination! This “sandwich” is really easy and quick to prepare and tastes so good! It has all the great flavors of broccoli cheese soup without all the fat and calories! And the best part of all of this? It’s only THREE ingredients!!! YAY!

Ingredients

1 whole wheat tortilla
1/2 cup steamed broccoli
1/3 cup shredded light white cheddar cheese

Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Place tortilla in pan and spread cheese over the entire tortilla. Place steamed broccoli on 1/2 of the tortilla. Once cheese has melted slightly, fold non-broccoli side of the tortilla over the side that has the broccoli on it. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bottom of the quesadilla is crispy.

Enjoy!

Blueberry orange muffins


I can’t tell you how many blueberry muffin recipes I have tried over the years. For some reason, I can never get them to be as tasty as the ones I buy from grocery store bakeries. Something about them just never turns out right and I can’t figure it out. They are either too dry, not sweet enough, bland, or they fall apart once they are baked. Maybe it’s human error, or maybe just all those recipes suck. This recipe – does not. It is amazing.


These muffins are the best blueberry muffins I have ever had. They are sweet, citrusy, crunchy, full of blueberries, moist, tender…everything I want in a muffin and more. I chose to use whole wheat flour and applesauce in place of some of the fat in order to make them a little healthier. If you want to make them even more healthful, you could omit the sugar topping (although, it tastes amazinggg) or use a sugar substitute in them. You could also sub out 1/4 cup of the flour for 1/4 cup of flax meal.

Ingredients
Adapted from The Little Kitchen
Makes 12 muffins

Muffins
2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk (I used light vanilla soy but any kind of milk will work)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Blueberry jam

1 cup blueberries
1 Tbl sugar

Orange sugar

1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbl orange zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

For the jam: In a small sauce pan, combine blueberries and sugar. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

For the orange sugar: In a small bowl, combine sugar and zest. Mix with your fingertips, allowing the sugar and zest to blend together. Set aside.

For the muffins: In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine.

In another bowl, wisk together milk, eggs, oil, applesauce, zest and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon mixture into muffin tin and top with 1 tablespoon of the jam mixture. With a toothpick, swirl the jam into the muffin batter. Top with 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture per muffin.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy!!!

Sweet potato pancakes

These are a perfect way to use up some leftover sweet potatoes that you’ve already baked. I had a half of one in the fridge from dinner last night. Cooked sweet potatoes only last a couple of days in the fridge before they start to go bad, so I figured I might as well use it up somehow. Pancakes are the perfect way!


This is a really simple batter and it comes together in minutes. Also, these are incredibly filling. I had just two small ones and I felt really full afterwards. There is not very much sweetener in these pancakes either. If you like yours to be on the sweeter side, by all means add some additional sugar. I wanted to keep these low calorie so I only used a small amount of agave in these.

Ingredients
Serves 3-4

1/2 of a cooked sweet potato, mashed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbl agave nectar
1 cup non-fat milk
1 egg
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Non-stick cooking spray

Place all ingredients into a bowl and stir until just combined. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Spray a griddle or large pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook until browned on both sides.

Serve!

I served mine along with this fruit salad. YUM!!