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Whole Wheat “Mac” and Cheese Bake with Bread Cube Topping

5 Apr

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What to do when you have a nearly full jug of milk in the fridge and you have to use it before it goes bad? Mac and cheese.

I tried to balance the heaviness of a dish like mac and cheese by using whole wheat pasta and 1% low fat milk instead of whole milk. Serve with lots of colorful veggies to further balance out the full-fat creamy delicious cheeses, butter pats, and bread cube topping.

I roasted carrots and parsnips in the oven (cover them for the first 15 minute so they get nice and tender and glazed). For the broccoli, I rinsed it, and with the water still clinging, placed it on a plate , covered it with another plate, and steamed it in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes. And for fun, I sliced a few quick-pickled kirby cucumbers. Veggie Love!

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Not pictured, but leftovers reheat well with a little hot sauce dabbed on top!

Whole Wheat “Mac” and Cheese Bake with Bread Cube Topping

adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Originally from Martha Stewart

Serves 5-6

1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons), divided

3 thick slices bread (I used sourdough), crusts removed (I like to nibble on the crusts later, so I save them!), cut into bite-sized cubes

2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1% low fat milk)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon course salt

pinch of each: ground black pepper, fresh grated nutmeg, old bay

roughly 3 cups shredded cheese: I used a mix of Gruyere cheese and a fancy smoked Gouda (cheddar is more classic mac and cheese)

1/2 pound whole wheat pasta (I used fusilli)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a pie dish or 8 in x 8 in pan; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the bread cubes aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, old bay, 2 1/2 cups  of the cheeses. Set the sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until the outside is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pasta to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the pasta into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining  1/2 cup cheese and the bread cubes over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (or until browned). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

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Butternut Squash Bake + Kale Chips

11 Feb

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Last night, I had a spontaneous dinner with my new housemate and his girlfriend. We were cooking two separate dinners, and just decided to combine them and dine altogether at our little table.

I contributed this butternut squash bake and some kale chips and nice salami, and they contributed a hearty spinach salad, some cheese and bread, and cheap “wine” from our nearby corner store. They are from France and Switzerland, and had never eaten butternut squash or kale chips before, so it was fun to introduce them to some of my favorite vegetables.

I love that we don’t have wine glasses and that our cutlery and plates don’t all match. I’m all about not matching.

I’ll admit that most nights, I cook dinner and watch a television show while I eat. It was a nice change to sit at a table and schmooze with the people I share an apartment with.

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This is the kind of recipe where all I want to do is pick off the crispy cheesy topping. I was dining with company, though, so I had to restrain myself!

This squash bake was super simple, and you could use any variety of winter squash. The natural sweetness of the butternut squash and onion with a light cheesy mix keeps the dish healthy but still full of decadent flavors. You will need to reserve about an hour of time to complete the recipe, but most of it is hands-off as the squash bakes. I also made this earlier in the day and just reheated it when time came to eat dinner, so it is a good make-ahead.

Serve the squash bake with some sautéed greens or kale chips for a nice color contrast!

Butternut Squash Bake

adapted from Jackie Newgent’s 1,000 Low Calorie Recipes

makes 4-6 servings

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I had a very large squash so I had to use a bigger baking dish)

1 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2/3 cup milk (I used 1% lowfat milk, you can also use soy or almond milk)

2 teaspoons cornstarch (or arrowroot)

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

pinch of cayenne or old bay

1/3 cup grated fontina or white cheddar

1/3 cup breadcrumbs (I made my own with some old sourdough; bake in the oven until toasted and blend to fine crumbs)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Asiago

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the cut squash and onion in a baking dish (Newgent recommends a 2-qt dish, but I used a 3-qt pyrex because I ended up with a lot of squash). Drizzle and toss with the olive oil. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender all the way through.

Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and cornstarch. Whisk in the egg, salt, pepper, and spice. Set aside.

Stir the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with the fontina/cheddar cheese and evenly pour in the milk mixture. Sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan/Asiago cheese, and an extra pinch of cayenne/old bay. Roast until the squash is tender the cheese coating is crisp and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes to complete the cooking process, and serve.

Approximate nutrition facts per 1 cup serving: 240 calories, 12g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 530mg sodium, 27g total carbohydrate, 6g dietary fiber, 8g sugars, 9g protein

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, stemmed and torn into pieces (or enough to fit a baking sheet)

1-2 tsp. olive oil

salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the kale on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until it is crisped but still greenish. Be careful not to overdo it or you will get burnt pieces.

Ellie Krieger’s Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

3 Feb

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Even though I enjoy cooking, life is busy and sometimes, I just want a big (healthy!) plate of food in front me me without having to work too hard for it.

I’ve talked about grain-based salads before, but I always come back to them because they are an everything-in-one meal. More on them later…

Last week, I went to a book talk for Ellie Krieger’s latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less. Krieger, who is very much a pragmatist, focuses on quick meals that can be prepared from chopping to eating in less than 30 minutes. During the recipe development process for the book, she even purposefully cut the onion slowly to be sure that the recipes would be within her time limit.

In the book, instead of listing “1 onion, chopped” in the ingredient list, she lists “1 onion,” and then later in the methods section, she gives directions to chop the onion. Things get prepared in the little pockets of time during the course of the recipes because that is how most people cook.

Krieger is a nutrition educator at heart, and that is what drives her personally and professionally. She sees a recipe as the perfect nutrition education tool. People want food that tastes good, and tasty food is a powerful motivator. Recipes can also bridge cultural gaps because everyone eats, and often times many cultures have similar foods prepared only slightly different (i.e. we all have some kind of taco-like dish…). Furthermore, recipes can create self-efficacy, or confidence in people when they try the recipe, they feel they can do it and they share it with friends.

It’s true! Sometimes, I am afraid to try a new recipe because it looks intimidating on the surface or I fear the new. Once I try it, though, I often like it, and then I share it with all of YOU.

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Besides being full of ideas and knowledge, Krieger is so down-to-earth and personable, and she truly loves food.

After the way she described this Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta at the book talk, I knew I had to make it right away. The warm grain delicately wilts the spinach, and the burst of sweet grapes complement the slightly melted and salty feta cheese. What a lovely, simple salad.

Bulgur is a quick-cooking whole wheat that is often the basis for a Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Did you know that bulgur has twice the fiber of brown rice?! We reap different benefits and flavor profiles from different grains, so keep mixing it up! But as I always say, if you want to use another grain that you have on-hand, go for it.

Note that you can buy pre-washed spinach for this recipe. I used to think that I needed to do most of the work in the kitchen from scratch (which is I nice ideal), but sometimes “healthy shortcuts” like pre-washed greens, quick-cooking whole grains, and frozen fruits and vegetables, can make the difference between preparing dinner at home versus ordering in.

Krieger says, combining grain and vegetable in this dish does double duty as a side that pairs well with simply grilled or roasted meat or poultry. Or tossed with some walnuts, this would be a great vegetarian entree.

I know what I’m eating for lunch the next few days!

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Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Weeknight Wonders

makes 6 servings

1 cup quick-cooking or fine bulgur wheat

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves

1 shallot (or 1/4 large red onion)

a few sprigs of fennel fronds or dill fronds (I used fresh fennel fronds and dried dill)

1 cup seedless red grapes

3 ounces feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bulgur according to the directions on the package.

While the bulgur is cooking, chop the spinach, finely dice the shallot, and chop the fennel fronds. Place them into a large bowl. Cut the grapes into quarters, and crumble the feta cheese.

When the bulgur is done, fluff it with a fork, then add it to the bowl with the spinach and herbs. Toss well until combined, then let sit until the spinach is slightly wilted and the grain is no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, lemon juice, and the salt and pepper and toss until well coated. Add the grapes and feta and toss to combine.

Mushroom Pepperoni and Mozz. Pizza with Mike’s Hot Honey

20 Dec

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Me, hovering over the stovetop to snap a picture before I dive into the pizza

There’s a bottle of Mike’s Hot Honey sitting on my desk. Honey spiked with vinegar and chiles.

This spicy honey begs to swirled on cheesy pizza and if there’s bits of oven-toasted cured meat, even better. (For more food pairings, look here).

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I made a quick, no-knead dough with a mix of bread flour and whole wheat flour. Olive oil and a dash of cornmeal go onto the baking sheet before the dough to get a nice crust with color and texture.

The dough recipe makes enough for two pizza pies.

Sauce, fresh mozz, mushrooms, pepperoni, Parmesan, fresh oregano. Top with lots of honey. Enjoy with a big salad (whoops, not pictured, but this meal definitely calls for a big salad).

I had extra toppings leftover, so I just toasted some regular, whole wheat bread, spread it with the toppings, and popped it in the oven for 10 minutes. Another easy option if you don’t want to make the dough recipe.

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Mushroom Pepperoni and Mozz Pizza with Mike’s Hot Honey

For the dough recipe, I used Joy’s version, which was based on Tracy’s version, which was originally from Jim Lahey’s book (it makes enough for 2 pizzas. You can freeze one or save it for the next day). I found the dough to be very shaggy. It ended up working, though, so just let it do it’s thing. I had to knead it one or two times to get it how I wanted.

**NOTE: This dough recipe needs about 2.5 hours to do it’s thing before it can go in the oven. Give yourself enough time if you are making your own dough.

Toppings (for 1 pizza): 

3/4 cup sauce

3-4 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced

4 oz mushrooms, sliced

1/8 pound thin sliced pepperoni, cut into wedges or strips (I found pepperoni at the Whole Foods Deli, from Chestnut Valley Charcuterie)

1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded or grated

Toppings after the oven: fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, spicy honey

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees F.

Oil a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, and sprinkle cornmeal over the oil. Place the 1 of the 2 dough balls on the pan and stretch and press the dough out into a flat rectangle.  If the dough springs bag as you’re pressing it out, simply wait five minutes to allow the dough to rest and then try again.  The dough should be very thin. If the dough tears, don’t worry, just press it back together.

Top the dough with sauce, cheeses, mushrooms, and pepperoni.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are charred and bubbling.  Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool for a few moments then slice and top with fresh oregano, red pepper flakes, and spicy honey.  Serve immediately, with a big salad.

Thanksgiving Leftover Nachos

1 Dec

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Bon Appetit swooped in and helped me jazz up my Thanksgiving leftovers.

There really is no better way to put it:

“Leftovers. They’re perfect, really. You’re in the middle of a four-day weekend, the house is once again empty, the kitchen is clean, and all that remains is a giant Ziploc bag full of turkey for you to eat from the fridge in your pajamas. Without leaving the house, you have all you need to make sandwichespot pierisotto, you name it. But what if there were something more? Something even better? What if there were… Thanksgiving Leftover Nachos?”

And then I proceeded to make Thanksgiving Leftover Nachos, and they were just the crunch I needed to get me over the hump of mushy comfort food remnants.

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Thanksgiving Leftover Nachos

from BonAppetit 

Tortilla Chips

Stuffing

Turkey, shredded or cut up (if you have leftover crispy skin, throw that in, too!)

Mashed potatoes

Gravy

Cheese, shredded

Raw Brussels sprouts, cut into slivers (or any kind of green vegetable)

Cran sauce

Sour cream or Greek yogurt

Combine pieces of leftover stuffing with a layer of tortilla chips on a baking sheet. This is your base layer.

Shred the turkey (The skin, too! It gets crispy in the oven) and nestle it with the chips/stuffing. Mashed potatoes are next, acting like refried beans. A little grate of white cheddar and a drizzle of gravy. Pop in a 425 degree oven until it gets oozy and crispy all in one, about 10-15 minutes.

Out of the oven and in come a few hits of leftover cranberry sauce (I like to say “cran sauce”), a few pinches of leftover raw brussels sprouts shavings (made this salad on Thanksgiving day), and some dollops of sour cream.