Macaroni & Cheese

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Mac & Cheese.  It’s a classic.  Who grew up with those blue boxes of pasta and that bright orange powder mix-in to make “mac and cheese?”  I am sure most of you know what I’m talking about and most of us grew up with it, am I right?  Anytime we had mac and cheese when I was a kid, that was what my mom always used to make.  I have to admit – I loved it (and believe it or not – I still do)!

With the whole COVID-19 pandemic, we have been staying home as much as possible.  Even with our local community in Phase II of opening, we still haven’t gone out to restaurants to eat (but do support as we can with take-out or delivery) and I am still worried about taking my kids out in public to stores even with masks.  I only do pick-up for groceries and avoid going into stores as much as possible.  Truthfully, I think I have physically walked into stores 3 or 4 times since March.  I order online and do pick-up whenever and wherever I can.

My kids LOVE mac and cheese and those blue boxes have been hard to come by during this quarantine.  They were wanting mac and cheese as they hadn’t had it in a while, and I was out.  Last year, my daughter and I volunteered with her Girl Scout Troop to cook dinner for families at Ronald McDonald House.  One of the dishes we made was mac and cheese and we used sliced cheese.  I happened to have some extra sliced cheese in the house and decided to use it and make a homemade version.  My kids went nuts over it!  Now it is all they ask for.  It turned out creamy, gooey, and delicious!  Who needs that blue box anyway?! Once you try this recipe – you’ll never go back!

In perusing the internet for recipes, I noticed most recipes called for breadcrumbs and some even had crumbled potato chips in their recipes as a “topping” to put on and then bake in the oven.  I did not do this.  My kids are pretty simple eaters.  The mac and cheese base mixture out of the pot was all they wanted and that was fine with me!  I like that this recipe allows you to make adjustments to achieve your personal desired consistency.  Some people like the flavor, but not that much sauce.  Others (like my kids) love the sauce.  In making it the first time, I followed the recipe.  However, the next few times I made it I added more butter, milk, and cheese than the base recipe because my kids love a creamy sauce.  It wasn’t too much, but it was just enough and they loved it.  I’m sure you will too!  Enjoy!

Macaroni & Cheese

1 lb. pasta (small pasta works best – elbows, ditalini, small shells)
1 Tbsp. butter
12-15 slices American Cheese
3/4 cup milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions, drain well.
  2. Add butter and mix well.  Add cheese slices allowing the heat from the pasta to melt the cheese.  Mix well.
  3. Add milk and continue stirring mixture over medium-low heat to completely melt the cheese slices.  Add more cheese slices and/or milk as needed to achieve your desired “cheesiness” consistency.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.
  4. When the mixture is creamy and the cheese is completely melted, the dish is ready.
  5. Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Healthy Philly Cheesesteak

As mentioned in my recent posts, my hubby and I have been on a health journey (again!).  I have been finding healthy recipes and trying new healthy foods.  Who would have thought I would ever eat cauliflower!?  But cooked right, it is delicious!  It’s all about balance and flavor while still keeping it healthy!

Along my journey I came across this recipe for “Philly Cheesesteak” and thought I would give it a try.  My husband would love it (of course he would miss the bread), but still the flavor would be there.  I had to improvise a bit since I didn’t have all of the correct ingredients, but let me tell you – what I made was outstanding.  Whatever ingredients were missing – they were not missed and what we had was still incredibly healthy and flavorful.  I made some minor notes in the actual recipe below of what I changed.  I thought I got everything when I picked up groceries, but apparently I missed some.  And that’s what I get for not reading through a recipe correctly or completely!  Lesson learned! (But still – it was delicious!)

Since the program we are on is a very healthy, mild form of keto, I don’t keep onions in the house, I also didn’t have any beef broth or low fat cream cheese.  So, for this recipe I did not include the onions or the beef broth and for the cream cheese, I happened to have some leftover chive and onion flavored cream cheese so I used that instead, but only used half of what the recipe called for since it was not low-fat.  I had a bunch of mushrooms that would have gone bad had I not used them, so I previously I chopped them up very fine and cooked them off.  I stored them in a container and just used them over the next few days in a variety of recipes and meals I was making.  Since mushrooms are allowed on our health program, it was easy to incorporate them even though they were already cooked.

My husband went crazy over this dish.  It’s definitely a keeper.  It is amazing how despite not having every component of the recipe, the ingredients I did have worked perfectly to deliver a flavorful dish.  The peppers were not cooked completely through so they still had a little snap to them which gave the dish some texture.   The cream cheese added not only that missing onion flavor, but creaminess as well – as did the provolone cheese.  The roast beef held its own with the beef flavor – personally I felt there really was no need for the beef broth.  AND – without using those extra ingredients, we saved on calories too!  Winner!

We both found this to be a very satisfying meal.  We were both quite full after eating it.  Neither one of us missed the bread.  It’s definitely a keeper for our healthy eating plan!!  Hope you enjoy it too!!

Healthy Philly Cheesesteak
Serves
4

4 medium green bell peppers
1/3 cup diced yellow onion (I omitted)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup low sodium beef broth (I omitted)
6 oz. sliced mushrooms (about 3/4 cup) (I finely chopped mine)
1 lb. thinly shaved deli roast beef (I didn’t shave this, I sliced it into strips)
4 Tbsp. low fat cream cheese (I didn’t have so I used 2 Tbsp. Chive & Onion flavored cream cheese)
4 1 oz. slices reduced fat provolone cheese

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2)  Slice peppers in half lengthwise, remove ribs and seeds, partially cook about 5-6 minutes in microwave.  Set aside.
3)  In a large skillet, saute the onions and garlic in broth over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are tender.
4)  Mix in the roast beef and heat through, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in cream cheese.
5)  Line the inside of each bell pepper with a quarter slice of cheese.  Next, fill each pepper with an eighth of the roast beef mixture.  Top with another quarter slice of cheese.  Repeat for remaining bell pepper halves.  Bake 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Recipe courtesy of Optavia Lean & Green Meals

Shepherd’s Pie

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Much like rest of the United States and parts of the world, our family has been quarantined due to the COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic.  Schools have been closed since mid-March and my husband has been working from home for the past several weeks.  We are fortunate to not only be employed during this time, but also to be able to still get most of the groceries we need for our family of five.  Two months later, we still struggle finding essentials like hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, alcohol, and the like.  What we have we make last as best we can, and of course we are taking the necessary precautions when we must go out for groceries and other essentials.

Being fortunate enough to find meat, potatoes, and vegetables has allowed me to get back to cooking.  When we first started the stay-at-home order, one of things I wanted to make was Shepherd’s Pie.  I have no idea why.  For some reason it popped in my head, it sounded good, and I was determined!  For the most part I knew what it was – ground meat, vegetables, and mashed potatoes on top.  But what seasonings would really make it spectacular?  I trolled around the internet looking at various recipes.  They were pretty much the same basic ingredients and seasonings.  One item, however, that I was surprised was in it was tomato paste.  But it was frequently a listed ingredient in a number of Shepherd’s Pie recipes I found so I made sure to add it.  I didn’t follow a particular recipe.  I just used a variety of some as references.

We usually stick with ground turkey or ground chicken in lieu of ground beef in our household.  I used ground turkey for this recipe and it still turned out terrific.  I sauteed up some onion, celery, and carrots.  I learned in culinary school this is called “mirepoix” (meer-e-pwaa).  It is a combination of 50% onions, 25% celery, and 25% carrots.  To this I added the ground turkey and cooked it through.  For seasoning, I used my base of salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  I also added some Paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and of course, tomato paste.  You can buy them in tubes that keep a long time in your fridge so you don’t have to worry about opening a can of paste and not being able to use it all.  When I found those in the grocery store it was a game changer!  I love these tubes of tomato paste!  They are so easy to use and they store practically forever!!!

The last ingredient I added was frozen peas.  The heat from the mixture heated them through   The flavor was delicious.  I loved the depth and richness of the flavor.  The Worcestershire sauce gave it an incredible savoriness, the tomato paste helped thicken it up while also enriching the flavor, and the various vegetables and ground meat provided a variety of textures.  One thing to note is if you find the mixture is TOO thick, add a bit of stock.  I used chicken stock since I chose poultry to use as my base, but beef stock would give better flavor if you used ground beef.  You could use water, but you would likely dilute the flavor of your dish.

This mixture is then put into a baking dish (I just used a disposable tin for easy clean up), and topped off with mashed potatoes.  Here’s where you can get creative.  I made basic mashed potatoes with salt, pepper, butter and milk, but you can top off your Shepherd’s Pie with a different style of potato if you prefer.  You could make a garlic mashed potato or even a cheesy mashed potato.  Anyway you choose – it will be a great topper to your base!

So here’s my take on Shepherd’s Pie.  It may not be Gordon Ramsay’s or Alton Brown’s recipe, but it was damn good and our family devoured it!  Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and…. Happy Cooking!

Shepherd’s Pie

For the base:

1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef if you prefer)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 small bag frozen peas
1/2 cup of stock (chicken or beef), (more or less if needed for consistency)
Few dashes Worcestershire Sauce (maybe about 1 Tbsp.)
1-2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Paprika

For the topping:

4-5 russet potatoes, washed, peeled, diced, and cooked through
1/2 to 1 stick of butter
1/2 to 1 cup of milk as needed to achieve desired consistency
Salt, Pepper to taste

Mash cooked potatoes adding butter and milk to achieve desired consistency.  They should not be runny.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.

  1. Prepare potatoes as directed above.  Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, saute’ the onions and garlic together about 3-4 minutes.  Add the celery and carrots and allow to cook about 4-5 minutes.  Add ground turkey and cook until cooked through.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, Worcestershire Sauce, and tomato paste.  Mix well.
  5. Add stock (adding more or less to achieve desired thickness.  It should be a little thick (closer to a stew, not thin like a soup).  Something in between is fine!
  6. When the meat base is cooked through, taste the mixture.  Adjust seasoning as desired.
  7. Pour mixture into a baking dish (I use a disposable tin).  Top with mashed potatoes.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes until potatoes are heated through and they start to get brown on top.

You can also make this dish ahead!  I have prepped it in advance and kept it refrigerated until dinner the next evening.  If you have done this, take out the pan about 30 minutes prior to baking to bring to room temperature.  Bake at 350 degrees F covered for 1 hour.  You want to ensure that the mixture is heated through the inside completely.  Check the mixture by placing a regular metal knife into the center and feeling it with your lips.  If the metal on the knife is hot, it is ready – if not, continue cooking until heated through.  Cook about 15 minutes uncovered allowing the potatoes to brown a little bit.

Enjoy!

“Fried Rice” Cauliflower

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A couple of years ago I began a health journey.  I was fortunate to lose over 100 lbs. on this healthy eating plan and I was looking and feeling incredible!  I went through some personal challenges and I allowed myself to fall back into my negative eating habits and I gained most of that weight back.  A really dumb move on my part!  But, as my health coach says “This is my journey.”  Apparently, I felt the need to take the scenic route! 🤷‍♀️ I am in a better place now and last week I started my health journey (again!).  (And I’m already down 3 lbs!  Whoo hoo!)  Thanks again for walking it with me! 😊

Anyway, I digress….

I love rice, but it’s not very healthy, especially white rice – and especially when you’re trying to lose weight and eat healthy.  All things in moderation of course, but for now, it’s not a good option for me.  When I originally began my health journey, I was introduced to riced cauliflower.  Who knew I would grow to love it and utilize it in different ways!  About a month ago I was making dinner and wanted to have a side dish for the chicken I was making.  I felt like having Chinese food, but we weren’t sending out for it, so what to do?  Raid the pantry!  I had sesame oil and soy sauce which were key ingredients for making fried rice.  However, instead of using rice, I decided to use some riced cauliflower and see if my kids would eat it.  I had some frozen so I used that.  First I scrambled up some eggs, chopped them up a bit into smaller pieces and set them aside.  Then I sauteed some diced onion and some garlic in a skillet with a little oil.  Then I defrosted the riced cauliflower, drained it, and sauteed it up in the skillet with the onion giving it a chance to get some color and crispy texture.  Doing this helped to give the cauliflower that little bit of a chewy bite you get with rice.  I then seasoned the “rice” with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce.  Then I added the scrambled eggs and a small bag of frozen peas and carrots to the mixture.  OMG!  It tasted just like the fried rice from our favorite local Chinese take-out restaurant.  The only difference was I didn’t put any meat into mine.  Sesame oil is potent.  A little goes a long way so as you add it, do so minimally and taste as you go.  You don’t want to overpower the dish.

As I also mentioned, I did not add any meat to this dish.  What I like about it is it is very versatile.  You could keep it vegetarian like I did, or you could add shrimp, scallops, pork, beef, chicken – just about anything to make it your own.  Get creative!  I didn’t have any green onions, but that would also enhance the dish with some great color as well.  For added texture, you could also add some sesame seeds (I didn’t have any of those either!)  But as you can see, this is a really versatile dish and is a great base for creating some delicious meals.

My kids were none the wiser.  They completely devoured the “fried rice” and even had seconds.  As I was clearing the table, my son kept raving about how delicious the fried rice was and how he didn’t know I could cook Chinese food.  I caved and told him that it wasn’t rice.  I admitted that I used riced cauliflower instead of rice, but I reminded him how much he said he liked it and how it was good that he explore trying new things.  To this day, he still gives me a hard time about how I tricked him and his sisters.  If that is what it takes to get my kids to eat more veggies – trickery it is!!!  And I am totally fine with that!

“Fried Rice” Cauliflower

2 bags frozen riced cauliflower (defrosted and drained of any excess water)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 eggs, scrambled (cut into smaller pieces, then set aside)
1 small bag frozen peas and carrots
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger to taste
1-2 Tbsp. sesame oil (add more or less to your taste)
2-3 Tbsp. soy sauce (add more or less to your taste)

  1. Defrost cauliflower and drain well of any excess water.  Set aside.
  2. Scramble 2 eggs and set aside.
  3. In a medium sized skillet, saute’ the diced onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil until translucent.
  4. Add defrosted and drained cauliflower.  Over medium-high heat, cook the cauliflower allowing it to develop a crust on the bottom.  Gently stir it around allowing for addition crusts to develop on the cauliflower.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground ginger
  6. Add sesame oil and soy sauce, adding more or less to your desired taste.
  7. Add the scrambled eggs and frozen peas and carrots.  Adjust seasonings as desired.
  8. Cook until frozen peas and carrots are heated through.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

White Chicken Chili

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This past Christmas my husband got me an Instant Pot.  I had been wanting one for a while, but never took the plunge.  He also knows I am a huge Star Wars fan.  So not only did I get an instant pot, but he got me an R2-D2 instant pot!

And I LOVE this thing!!!!  I have to admit it sat in a box for about 3 months because I was too scared to use it.  Pressure cooker???  Steam burns, pressure explosions.  But, I sought the advice of friends and family who had one and used it and I also viewed several YouTube videos and gained enough confidence to give it a try.  Now that I’ve used it, I use it frequently!  It makes dinner prep so easy!!

So, unfortunately, our country is currently experiencing being quarantined due to the Coronavirus outbreak/pandemic.  My kids have been home from school for the past 3 weeks (Lord help me!), and my husband is now working from home.  It has been a bit of an adjustment for all of us.  I’ve enjoyed having my husband home since both of us are very busy with one thing or another.  It’s given us a chance to spend a little more time together, which has been nice.  My kids are starting to go stir crazy.  They hate having to do schoolwork (ugh, it’s like pulling teeth!), and they’re bored with their backyard toys.  We get through schoolwork, and they spend some time online working on math and science, and then the afternoon they get to play.  We’ll get through it all!

I am not a conspiracy theorist or someone who is panicked about the whole pandemic.  Am I worried for my family and friends?  Of course.  Who isn’t?  What worries me most is how others are behaving as if it is no big deal.  I have ventured to the stores only twice in the last couple of weeks.  And I’ve been taking every precaution necessary.  Mask, gloves, Clorox wipes to wipe down the cart, and everything else when I’m done (my keys and debit card included).  My husband has even found me in the garage unloading the groceries and wiping every single item down with Clorox wipes to ensure I don’t bring it into the house.  Needless to say, my family has not done any take-out/pick up dinners or had anything delivered.  It worries me that I witness so many people not taking precautions and I don’t want their stupidity to end up causing issues for my family.  In fact, I was at Sam’s Club a couple of days ago and saw someone leave with 2 dwarf citrus trees and another having a store employee help him load a huge TV into the bed of his pick up truck.  Please explain to me how these are ESSENTIAL items?  So, we quarantine and social distance.

The point of what I am getting at is that I’m home – we’re all home – and with avoiding delivery or sending out for dinners, I’ve been able to get back into the kitchen and cook and bake on a much more regular basis.  And I’ve been loving it!!!  Now I just need to catch up on entries to my food blog and I should be good!! 🙂

Yesterday afternoon I found myself craving chili but I didn’t want regular chili.  I really wanted white chicken chili.  So I spent some time searching recipes until I found one I thought I might like.  In finding a recipe, it also happened to be one for an instant pot.  Jackpot!

I had all of the ingredients except black beans.  I hate black beans anyway, so I didn’t have them in the house.  No big deal – I just eliminated them from the chili.  And honestly, they were never missed.  If you like them though, feel free to add them!  The recipe also called for 2 chicken breasts and I had a small package of 3 breasts so I just used all three.  I also added a bit of celery.  I happened to have some and I didn’t want it to go bad.  The chili was simplistic and flavorful.  The shredded chicken gave it great heartiness, the celery, diced tomatoes, and corn gave it great texture and the beans and cream cheese gave it smooth creaminess.  The addition of the chili powder gives it just a subtle hint of heat.  You can add more or less if you desire.  You could even add a splash of Tabasco for some additional heat.

My family went crazy over it.  In fact, my son asked last night if I could make it again tomorrow!  This was a perfect one pot meal that was easy, simple, and delicious.  I loved that I could just throw all the ingredients into my instant pot and let it go.  Quick, simple, easy, and delicious.  Dinner doesn’t get any better than that!

Hope you enjoy it!

Instant Pot White Chicken Chili

3 large chicken breasts
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained (I did not add these)
1 15 oz. can white beans (cannellini), drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can whole kernal corn with juice
1 10 oz. can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies and juice
1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. dried Ranch dressing mix (I use Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, cut into 6 pieces

1)  Place all ingredients in instant pot in the following order:  chicken breasts, white beans, chopped onion, corn with juice, Rotel with juice, 1/2 cup chicken broth.
2)  Add chili powder, cumin, and dried Ranch mix.  Stir gently to combine, getting some juice under the chicken to ensure it doesn’t scorch.
3)  Cut cream cheese into 6 pieces and place over the top of chili.  Cover and seal with lid.  Switch valve to sealing position.  Cook for 20-25 minutes on high pressure.  Once it is done cooking, switch valve to venting position and allow for depressurization.
4)  Once depressurized, remove chicken and shred apart with 2 forks.  Stir the contents of pot together to evenly distribute melted cream cheese.  Return shredded chicken to pot and stir to combine.
5)  Serve plain or with toppings such as avocado or cilantro, if desired.

Recipe adapted from http://www.natashaskitchen.com

Snickers Caramel Apple Salad

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Last Thursday was my son’s 10th birthday.  Every year for his birthday he asks me to make the same dessert – Snickers Caramel Apple Salad.  In my son’s words… “chocolate salad.”  This year was the first year he didn’t ask for it and truthfully, I was a bit disappointed.  It’s delicious!!  He insisted on wanting to do Laser Tag with his brother and a friend, homemade biscuits and gravy for dinner at home with the family, and lemon cake instead of a big birthday party.  He’s older now after all.

I honestly can’t even remember what I was looking for so many years ago when I first came across this.  But, I made it and my son loved it.  Every year thereafter, he wanted it as part of his birthday party spread.  As he got involved in other activities and our friend circle grew, new friends joined us for his birthday party celebrations and this became a quick favorite among the crowd!

It is a unique combination of sweet and tart and a wonderful combination of textures.  The crushed Snickers bars gives some sweet and salty from the chocolate, nougat, and nuts; the cool whip and vanilla pudding make it creamy; the caramel adds some sweet, but also brings in the ever slightest note of bitterness to offset it all; and the diced Granny Smith applies give the salad a unique bite and tartness.  The combination in your mouth is incredible!  Who would have ever thought a combination like this would work – but it does!

When making this recipe, it is important to use at least 2% milk.  Whole milk would work best, but you’ll need at least 2% milk so that the instant pudding sets correctly.  Using 1% or skim milk doesn’t contain enough milk fat to ensure the pudding will set.  Also, I freeze my Snickers bars, then put them in a Ziploc bag and bang them into small pieces with a mallet.  I just find it’s easier and less involved than having to dice up the candy bar and having the pieces stick to the knife and just overall fight through it.  Trust me – it’s just easier.  Freeze ’em and smash ’em.  As for the caramel sauce, I have just resorted to store-bought, pre-made caramel sauce.

While it has been an annual staple at my son’s birthday each year, it is also a nice cold refreshing dessert for any summer gathering!  My best advice on making it is to make it the day you need it and add the apples last.  I’ve made it in advance and when the apples sit overnight in the mixture, they get mushy.  You want that nice crisp bite and texture in the dessert.  When the apples get mushy – it just doesn’t taste the same.  So make it a couple of hours in advance of your event and let it sit in the fridge.  Add the apples at the last minute and mix well.  Top with the caramel and you have yourself a delicious, refreshing summer dessert!  Enjoy!

Snickers Caramel Apple Salad

1 1/2 cups cold milk (use at least 2%.  Whole milk is best.)
1 3.4 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 8 oz. tub of Cool Whip topping
4 lg. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
6 Snickers bars, chopped (or smashed!)
Caramel Sauce

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and dry pudding mix.  Allow to set about 3 minutes.
  2. Fold in the cool whip.
  3. Add the Snickers pieces and apples.  Mix gently until well coated.
  4. Cover and refrigerate about 1-2 hours.
  5. Before serving, drizzle with caramel sauce.

Recipe adapted from http://www.mybakingaddiction.com

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

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I’m always looking for new healthy recipes to add to my collection.  I’ve had a rough few months and went off my health program for a bit, but I’m back on track these days and focusing on healthy eating again, and this is one of my favorite healthy recipes.

I love spaghetti squash.  It is so versatile and can be used and prepared in a variety of ways.  It’s taste is very mild as well and it really takes on the flavors of whatever you’re cooking with it.  I’ve used it as a taco bake/casserole, spaghetti squash lasagna, and of course, the Spaghetti Squash Chicken Enchilada recipe I’ve previously shared.  (Don’t worry I’ll be sharing the others soon!)

I found this recipe through my health program (and if you’re ever interested in learning more about it, feel free to reach out to me!  As a Health Coach for the program, I can help guide you on your way to achieving optimal health!)  Thanks for letting me plug.  I digress…

This recipe is delicious.  I love cheese and this reminds me of a crustless quiche type of dish.  Cooked spaghetti squash is combined with eggs, Greek yogurt, and cheeses and delivers a delicious vegetarian dish.  While all of ingredients also help bind it together, the cheese gives it a really nice flavor and the Greek yogurt gives it that little bit of tang.  I also roast my spaghetti squash in the oven with some olive oil and seasonings as well – salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  I love the flavor roasting gives the spaghetti squash.  It takes more time than cooking it in a microwave, but it is so worth it!!  It really gives the squash time to develop some deep, rich flavor and allows the seasonings to absorb into the squash giving it a nice, elevated level of flavor.

I’ve made this a few times for myself as part of my health plan as a dinner for myself.  Most recently, I made it for Easter and it was a huge hit among our extended family.  While our family likes vegetables, they are pretty picky about which ones, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting them to like this.  There was nothing left!  I couldn’t believe it!  Healthy eating and delicious food equals a win in my book!

What I also love about this dish is its versatility.  It can stand on its own as an entree dish or served in smaller portions as a side dish.  This vegetarian dish is a delicious, healthy alternative to potatoes or other starchy side dishes.  I hope you’ll take the time to give it a try.  You won’t be disappointed!!

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

2 1/2 lbs. spaghetti squash (to yield about 3 cups cooked spaghetti squash)
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, and Garlic Powder (to season spaghetti squash)
2 eggs
1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ Tbsp. fresh thyme
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper
¼ cup reduced fat grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking Spray

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds.  Rub olive oil on inside of spaghetti squash and season with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Bake face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until squash is easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Using a fork, shred the spaghetti squash into strands and place in a large bowl.
  3. While squash is baking, in a medium sized bowl, mix remaining ingredients together (except for Parmesan cheese).  Stir mixture into the spaghetti squash strands.
  4. Spray an 8 x 8 inch square Pyrex or glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread mixture into the lightly greased casserole dish.  Top with Parmesan cheese and press down to moisten.
  5. Bake uncovered 30 minutes.

Recipe from Pinterest

Dinner Rolls

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Wow.  It’s been a while.  I have been super busy lately.  All good things, but still – it keeps me from other things.  Kids, school, family – you name it!  We are busy!!  This recipe is one I made for Easter!!  Oy!!  LOL!

Anyways, when it comes to holidays, bread is always part of the dinner spread.  Sometimes its rolls, sometimes is sliced Italian bread.  But trust me, there is ALWAYS bread!  I found this recipe perusing through my Food Network magazine around Thanksgiving last year and decided to give it a try.  They turned out delicious.  Light, airy, fluffy.  The absolute perfect dinner roll.  So I made them again for Christmas and Easter!  They are a huge hit in our family!

The thing about bread it that it’s time consuming.  This isn’t a recipe you just put a bunch of ingredients into a bread machine and press a button.  This takes time and patience.  But it’s worth it!

When I rolled the dough into balls to proof, then bake, I used a small scale and weighed out each roll.  They were about 2.25 grams each.  I placed them onto parchment lined baking sheets and allowed them to proof (rise).  My trick for proofing is that I have a set of double ovens.  With holidays, my ovens are always on.  I use the residual heat being given off by the top oven and put the rolls in the bottom oven where they can proof in a warm area.  It works really well.  If you don’t have double ovens, just find a warm, dry area where you can let the dough rest and rise undisturbed for about an hour each time.

I also did not brush them with butter at the end.  I just decided not to since I figured everyone would end up buttering the rolls themselves as part of their dinner plate – and I was right!  But the butter wasn’t missed.  The rolls were soft, light, airy, fluffy and had delicious flavor.  Give this some love and you will have the most amazing rolls to add to your dinner spread!

Dinner Rolls

1 1/2 cups milk
1 stick butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 cups AP flour

  1.  Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat, stir in butter and sugar and let cool.  Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy.  Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 3 cups of flour in a mixer with a dough attachment.  Mix until smooth.  Add remaining 3 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix until a smooth ball forms.
  2. Remove from bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size – about 60-70 minutes.  Once risen, on a floured surface, punch down the dough and shape into desired shapes.  (I just roll mine into balls.)  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover again and let rise again until doubled, about 30-40 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter (if desired) before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay/Food Network

Potato Corn Chowder

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Soup is such a comforting dish, especially on a cold winter night.  A couple of weeks ago we had some very cold temperatures here in Vegas.  Yes, believe it or not, it gets cold here.  We’ve seen temperatures hover in the 40’s throughout the day with some pretty nasty winds making it feel even colder and nighttime temperatures have been falling into the lower 30’s.  A couple of weeks ago it was just cold and hot soup just sounded good!

I was searching for some hearty soup recipes, but of course wanted something a little bit different.  My kids and my husband love corn and I found some corn chowder recipes in my search.  After looking around online, I found a variety of recipes and ended up using some ideas from a few different recipes to create my own.  It’s a creamy, thick, and hearty soup that definitely warms you from the inside out!

Potato Corn Chowder

4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn, half of the liquid reserved
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. paprika
Dash tabasco
Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder
Olive Oil as needed

1.)  Heat olive oil (about 1 Tbsp.) in a large pot and saute onion until translucent.
2.)  Cook carrots and 1 potato in a separate pot.
3.)  Add 3 of the 4 potatoes to the onions.  Add chicken stock, white wine, and seasonings.
4.)  Bring to a boil and simmer about 20-30 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.  Remove bay leaf.
5.)  Using a stick blender (or scoop mixture into regular blender) and puree the mixture.
6.)  Return the pureed mixture to the pot.  Add the cooked carrots and potato to the mixture.
7.)  Add the can of creamed corn and the can of whole kernal corn with half of the liquid.
8.)  Stir well and heat corn through.
9.)  Serve hot with shredded cheese on top.

Beef and Broccoli

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Everybody knows I love Italian food, but I also love Chinese food!  If it’s not pizza, my go-to choice for take-out is Chinese!  But, it’s not the healthiest of choices on my health plan.  Until now…

As you’ve probably figured out, I do a lot of web surfing for recipes and ideas.  One of my favorite sites is Pinterest and I love how they offer suggested pins of things you might like.  But, I spent some time searching for healthy recipes and was able to find some really great ones that I will be sharing as I try them!  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m on a health journey and healthy recipes are an important part of my life now.

One of the ones I found was a Beef and Broccoli recipe that looked delicious!  It was all healthy ingredients and I decided to give it a try.  I’m glad I did!  Turned out fabulous and my husband and son LOVED IT!  My middle daughter wasn’t impressed, and my “almost vegetarian” 4 year old ate only the broccoli.  Ya know, because she’s “allergic to meat.”  But overall it was a hit.  For me, it is definitely another delicious, healthy recipe to add to my recipe list.  And one I will definitely be making again and again.

The recipe calls for fresh ginger, which I didn’t have, but I did have ground ginger.  So I ended up using that instead.  I also didn’t have any scallions, but I’m sure they would have added a nice fresh, crispy bite and added texture.  And when I went to the store, they were out of flank steak so I substituted rib-eye and then thinly sliced it myself.

I served it over riced cauliflower and the juice from the dish coated the cauliflower and gave it a really nice flavor.  With the added vegetables, this dish is quite filling and you definitely don’t feel like you’re missing any rice.  I was really amazed that it tasted so much like authentic beef and broccoli.

So, if you love Chinese food but are looking for a healthy alternative – look no further!  This one is it!  Enjoy!

Beef and Broccoli 

4 cups cauliflower rice
Non-Stick Cooking Spray (like Pam)
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup chicken broth (or beef broth)
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup diced scallions
1 12 oz. package frozen riced cauliflower (or follow step 1 if using fresh cauliflower)

  1. Heat a lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat, add cauliflower rice, and cook until tender about 3-5 minutes.  Remove rice from skillet and set aside.  Place skillet back on stovetop over medium-high heat.
  2. Lightly grease the skillet and add the beef.  Cook until done, about 4-5 minutes, flipping beef slices halfway through to ensure both sides brown evenly.
  3. Add broccoli and broth to the skillet with the beef.  Cook until broccoli is just tender.
  4. Add the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and scallions.  Stir until combined.  Cook one to two minutes.  Remove from heat.
  5. If using frozen cauliflower, heat riced cauliflower in microwave according to package directions.  Serve beef and broccoli over cauliflower rice.

Recipe courtesy of Pinterest.