Zucchini Mac-and-Cheese

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My foodie-paleo friend Sara and I went to a cooking class a few weeks back on gluten-free cooking. Okay, this recipe is not gluten-free, but it’s inspired by the class instructor’s zucchini pasta recipe–the one I mentioned a while back with the delicious cashew cream sauce, remember?SAM_5885

love zucchini in the summer and I’m always looking for smart, tasty ways to incorporate veggies in my pasta-protein dinners, which I eat almost every night. So zucchini works great with cream-based dishes. My little lactose intolerance problem usually steers me away from cream-based sauces, but every once in a while I splurge or hybridize the sauce to my stomach’s liking. That’s what I did here, and hopefully this solo-culinaire creation pleases others with similar dietary situations.

Ingredients

1/4 cup whole-wheat macaroni noodles, drySAM_5884

1/2 cup shredded zucchini

pinch of onion powder

1/2 t Dijon mustard

1 wedge of Swiss Laughing Cow cheese

3 T non-dairy cheese shreds

1/2 T Parmesan

dash of pepper

DirectionsSAM_5882

-Use my easy Mug’O’Mac recipe to boil your noodles quick! Just put your 1/4 cup of dry noodles in about 3/4 cups water and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes, stir, and then 2 more minutes in the microwave. Drain when finished.

-Once noodles are dry, toss in zucchini. Mix around.

-For the sauce, break up the cheese wedge into chunks and spread around, sprinkle on the cheese shreds, then the mustard, pepper, and onion powder go in. Heat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Remove and stir quickly. If still not melty enough, heat for another 15 seconds or so. Toss around until noodles are evenly coated. Serve warm and garnish with Parmesan!

S’ghetti Squash Bake

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I eat a lot of squash. I’m no paleo fanatic, but I can’t get over how much I love these sweet noodles. So tasty!SAM_5825

So I’ve had my eye on some spaghetti squash bakes for a while. I finally decided to try this one. A lot of them are overloaded with cheeses–which you know will make me so sick–but this one is fresh and zesty. Plus, a sprinkle of parm on top gives it a nice cheesy taste that won’t upset the lactose intolerant.

Interestingly… When I went to make these, I thought it would be cute to place them in a ramekin. (You know, to be more single-serving like.) Imagine my surprise when all the noodles could fit into 3! What does this tell me?

First, these would make adorable sides.

Second, I eat a lot of squash noodles on a regular basis. I usually eat an entire one–a small one, but an entire one no less. And maybe that’s another reason why I like them so much. You get a lot of food that will fuel your body in a healthy way. That’s pretty great.SAM_5844

And pretty tasty.

Ingredients

1 small or half of one medium spaghetti squash

1 small roma tomato or a handful of grape tomatoes

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2 T onion, chopped & to taste

1 T parmesan

chopped basil

dash of cayenne

1 T olive oil

spritz of lemon
DirectionsSAM_5848
-To “bake” the squash in the microwave, you’ll want to halve the squash and spritz with cooking spray. Microwave on high for 3 minutes facing down. Turn squashes upward and microwave another 3 minutes. You may need to microwave for another minute if you can’t take a fork to the squash and pull out a few tender noodles with ease. Scrape out all the noodles into a medium bowl and set aside.SAM_5835
-Meanwhile, prep ramekins by spraying with cooking spray and setting broilers on high.
-Meanwhile and meanwhile, you can start sautéing onions and tomatoes in a small frying pan with cayenne, to taste.
-Now once your squash is finished and your veggies sautéed, mix both together in one large bowl. Now spritz with lemon and toss in oil and basil.
-Dish out the squash mix evenly into ramekins. Top with a little Parmesan, if desired.
-Broil until desired crispiness is achieved. I waited about 4 minutes, once the Parmesan crumbs had melted down a bit.
-Serve right out of the oven, nice and warm.
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Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup for the Crock-Pot

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Remember my adorable Crock-Pot? The one with the damask pattern my mom surprised me with? I used it like crazy over winter break, and now I’m back at it again, Crock-Pottin’ away (my new favorite verb). SAM_4942

Lately, I’ve been using it a lot to create tasty soups. I’ve blogged about this before, lots actually, that I love making big portions of soup.

Yes, this sort of goes against my single-serving approach, but it’s the one kind of cuisine I (1) can’t get enough of, and (2) one that I actually like having as leftovers. Why go against my usual routine? Because soups freeze so well. They almost never taste like leftovers.

Here’s what I do: After making a big batch of soup, I portion the remaining soup out to mason jars and old glass salsa jars I’ve saved. I like to freeze in glass because it’s more sustainable, reheats well, and freezing glass doesn’t break down chemical compounds as plastic containers do. So anytime I need a quick lunch-on-the-go, I grab one from the freezer in the morning, let it thaw throughout the day (leading up to lunch), and then heat it right in the glass jar. It’s kind of fun eating soup from a little glass jar, but you can always pour it into a bowl if you don’t get a kick out of that like I do.SAM_4947

So to make this very easy Crock-Pot soup, here’s what you need and need to do:

Ingredients
4 cups water
2 cans cream of chicken (or mushroom or celery) soup
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (10 oz.)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (or -10 oz. bag)
1 t garlic pepper seasoning
1.5 cups dried egg or rotini noodlesSAM_4952

Directions
-Turn the Crock-Pot on low if you have time to let it cook for 6-8 hours, high if you only have 3-4 hours.
-Stir in water, then condensed soup until well blended.
-Add in chicken, vegetables, and seasoning. Cover and cook.
-About 20-30 minutes before serving, add in the dry noodles. If you’re using the low setting, switch now to high. Serve once noodles are tender.

Ricotta-Stuffed Salmon Roll

Doctors recommend that we eat salmon at least twice a week. My favorite health benefit of salmon, and there are many, is knowing that the omega-3 nutrients can help keep a brain sharp. It’s a little expensive, yes. But in my opinion, health and well-being are always worth splurging on.

I usually eat my salmon atop a bed of fresh pasta and veggies. This is pretty routine for me. Routines are nice some nights, but I’m always looking for something new.

I came across this idea while pinning.

It’s perfect.

Ingredients

-4 oz. salmon (a long, thin slice will work best)

-2 T ricotta

-1 T flowering kale, chopped

-Italian seasonings of choice

Directions

-Set oven to broil. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.

-Mix ricotta, kale, and seasonings in a small bowl. Place on the thicker end of the filet. Slowly roll and pin together with oven-safe skewers.

-Broil for about 4-5 minutes or until the salmon has cooked fully. A little pink color is good, but know that the insides of the roll will need more time than the outsides.

Serve warm, possibly atop a bed of pasta if you want to follow suit.

Breaded & Stuffed Italian Chicken Rolls

If you follow this blog consistently, you probably already know this about me–heck, you probably know more than you’d like to about my philosophies on food, nutrition, and the value of a dynamic food presentation.

So you also know that my favorite weeknight supper standby features the following: a hearty whole-grain pasta, a rich tomato sauce, a sauteed veggie or two, and a featured protein. Sometimes I get crazy and top with Parmesan. What can I say? I live on the edge.

No, I don’t. And this recipe isn’t exactly daring, but it is good, and it awakened by old standby one Monday evening.

For a very small amount of effort, it’s amazing how much flavor and texture some breadcrumbs, kale, ricotta, and seasoning can do to an otherwise stolid dish.

Ingredients

1 medium or 2 small chicken breasts, pounded thinly

cooking spray

2 T panko crumbs

1 T parmesan

1 T whole-wheat bread crumbs (or more panko)

2 T ricotta cheese

1/2 t crushed garlic

1-2 cherry tomatoes, diced

Italian seasonings of your choice (I also used onion powder)

a little shredded kale

Directions

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

-In a bowl, mix all bread crumbs with the Parmesan and any seasonings you like.

-Spray one side of each chicken breast with the cooking spray. Dip in breadcrumb mix until evenly coated on one side (or both if you’d like more).

-In another bowl, mix ricotta, garlic, tomato bits, seasonings, and kale. Spread cheese mixture on the thicker end of the chicken breast and begin to roll. Secure shut with toothpick or wooden skewer.

-Bake for about 15 minutes; then broil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool a bit, but serve warm as an entree or over a bed of fresh pasta and veggies.

Portabella Pizza Appetizers

Everyone loves pizza, and everyone, I think, should love mushrooms. These healthy little treats are packed with nutritional goodness to fight cancer and stave off other unwelcome diseases.

And they can be fun to eat. I promise. Just turn them into your favorite indulgence treat: pizza.

This ‘za twist on a mini pizza makes a delicious addition to any pasta meal or make up a bunch for cocktails with friends. I bet they’d taste great paired with red vino.

Ingredients

3-5 good-sized fresh portabella mushrooms, stems carved out

1-2 T mozzarella cheese (soy-version works great)

1-2 T marinara

Italian seasonings of your choice (basil, oregano, etc.)

Optional Toppings: olives, artichoke hearts, pepperoni, etc.

Directions

-Scoop a small amount of sauce into each portabella. Sprinkle with seasoning, a layer of cheese, and a little more seasoning. If you’re adding in toppings, place those on top of cheese.

-Note that not much is needed in each portabella cap.

-Bake in oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or so, or broil on high for 5 minutes.

You’ll know they’re perfectly crisp and ready once the cheese bubbles and begins to brown a bit. Serve very warm.

Spicy Cream Shrimp & Pasta

Ever wondered how restaurants make spicy cream sauces so good?

It’s actually not that hard. Take this spicy chicken rigatoni recipe I adapted from Buca di Beppo. Just a mix of red sauce, a little dairy or cream sauce. A quick boil, and a quick reduction, and BAM! Cream sauce (which we call pink sauce in St. Louis).

But don’t forget the spice. That’s what gives the sauce life, right?

Sidenote: I went a bit more Cajun with this one, opting for shrimp over chicken. But you could replace the shrimp with chicken if you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 T oil
  • 1/2 T crushed red pepper
  • pinch of onion salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 t crushed garlic
  • 20-25 shrimp, thawed, deveined
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T marinara sauce
  • 2 T non-dairy milk (or Alfredo sauce)
  • 2 T peas, cooked
  • 2 ounces of dry pasta of choice, cooked according to package directions
  • additional crushed red pepper (for garnish)

Directions

– In a saucepan, heat oil. Sprinkle in red pepper, salt, and pepper. Then add garlic.

-Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

-After a few minutes of simmering, add shrimp to first saucepan. Let saute for about 3 minutes. Then mix in marinara sauce, then milk or Alfredo sauce. Bring to a quick, low-boil, and quickly reduce by removing from stove. Let thicken up a bit.

-Once pasta is prepared, drain thoroughly so no extra water ruins the sauce. Add pasta to sauce mixture and blend. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle peas on top. Garnish with additional red pepper.

Wondering what I had for dessert to follow this spicy pasta dish? Watermelon ice cream!

Mug’O’Mac

Do you want classic shell mac-and-cheese fast?

Well, this recipe is no Velveeta or EasyMac (thank goodness), it’s better.

If you use a rich enough cheese, hearty wheat noodles, and a dash of mustard, you will not be let down.

In fact, I think you’ll be scurrying to make another bowl.

I’d recommend using a huge mug, like the one I used.

Ingredients

1/3 cup whole-grain pasta

1/2 cup water

splash of milk (about 1 T or less)

1/4 -1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

dash of Dijon mustard

Optional: 1 cup steamed cauliflower

Directions

-In a large mug or other microwave-safe bowl, add in pasta and water. Microwave the pasta on high for about 2 minutes; then stir and microwave for 2 more minutes. Note: The water may overflow in the microwave, so to prevent this, add a little less. Or if you lose too much, add a T or so more.

Into the microwave!

-If the shells still aren’t soft, repeat microwaving and stirring until they are. Mine were ready after only 4 minutes.

-Drain any excess water very well.

-Mix in cheese, milk, and mustard. You can omit mustard if you like, but I think it gives a really nice flavor. Blend well. If you want to incorporate cauliflower–which is so good for you and so much like a noodle you probably won’t even notice it!–add in steamed cauliflower now and mix.

-Place back in microwave and cook for 1 more minute. Mix again, and serve warm.

I really love cauliflower with my noodles–probably because it’s so similar to noodles that you almost forget it’s a healthy cruciferous vegetable…

A little cauliflower for health…

So I added in 1/2 cup of cauliflower, too.

Hey, a healthy girl has got to get her vegetables in somehow. I think this is the perfect way to do that, and you don’t have to feel like you’re tricking yourself because it tastes that good!

Green Goddess Pasta

I’m renaming this recipe from Health.com. Originally, it was titled, Chicken Breast with Shaved Brussel Sprouts, but I’ve adapted. No meat this evening. Just some very healthy greens tossed on a warm swirl of light pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup broccoli, steamed and chopped, or 1 broccoli stem, peeled into pasta-like strips
  • T olive oil
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper and Italian seasonings
  • 6 thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
  • 1/5 cup celery, chopped into small bits
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 T fresh flat-leaf parsley leaf, coarsely chopped
  • 2 t Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
  • 2 oz. whole-wheat linguini

Directions

1. Steam brussel sprouts and broccoli, unless you’re doing broccoli shreds. Then make the shreds using a vegetable peeler and microwave with just a tad of water in the bottom of a bowl for about 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring half a pot of water to a boil. Add in linguini and cook ’til al dente (better for the blood sugar, you know). Once cooked, drain in sink. Toss with a little olive oil.

3. In a new bowl, toss greens with celery, thyme, parsley, seasonings, a little more oil and lemon juice.

4. Place pasta on top of seasoned greens. Swirl noodles and top with more thyme or cheese. Serve warm. On a porch somewhere. Preferably, you should be watching the sun set after a long, fulfilling day.

Or if you’re day was less than fulfilling, well, maybe this healthy pasta dish can change that.

Easy Creamy Macaroni

So a fellow foodie blogger, a Miss Macaroni and Cheesecake, called this recipe “revolutionary.” It’s been rumored that it might be Panera‘s secret to delicious mac-and-cheese.

I don’t know if all that’s true, but it was good!

I made a single-serving just for you, but with a ricotta twist for extra creaminess.

Ingredients

1/2 cups dried elbow or shell pasta

1/2 cup + 2 T milk

3 T shredded white cheddar

1 T skim ricotta

pinch of salt, pepper, dijon (or even nutmeg or cayenne pepper for a little spice, but probably not together)

Directions

-In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk.  Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil.

-Turn heat off, add cheese and stir ’til cream forms.

-Stir in the mustard or nutmeg & cayenne a little at a time, to taste.

-Cover and let stand for a couple of minutes, then stir again and serve. If not creamy enough, add milk a little at a time, and gently stir.

You could also bake this in a dish with some breadcrumbs on top (try 375 degrees for about 4-5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly).

I opted instead for a healthy mix-in: fresh kale. I paired the creamy mac with baked tilapia, and needless to say, I dined well on a poor girl’s dime.