Mac & Squash

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Comfort foods – I’ve written about them before. I’ve stated my oldies but goodies (mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs) and new ones I’ve come to love (miso soup, shakshuka, polenta). Over time, my comfort foods have become lower in calories as I, apparently, learn what’s good for me.

Here’s another to add to the list: what I’ve come to call “Mac & Squash”. It’s deceptively similar to your favorite homemade mac and cheese, without all of the cheese (and calories). The cheese is replaced with a squash sauce with a creamy consistency, and you still get some cheese melted on top. Here I used acorn squash, but you can really use any squash that you prefer.

I have to be honest – this is a multi-pot recipe, which isn’t my favorite way to cook. I used two saute pans, two pots, and a baking dish. If you have a limited pantry, do this in shifts and set aside each item as it is finished. The plus side? It’s easy to make a large batch, freeze some, and reheat later when that mac and cheese craving hits you out of nowhere!

Mac & Squash: Squash Baked Pasta

Yield: 8 servings. Per Serving: $2.29, 374 calories, 12g fat, 49g carbs, 21g protein.

Cook 1 pound of large shells according to package directions. Meanwhile, chop 2 acorn squash into one inch pieces. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil on the stove. When boiling, add squash and boil until fork tender, about 12 minutes. Drain the squash and add back to the pot. Add ½ cup milk and blend using a hand blender.

While the pasta and squash are boiling, brown 1 pound of ground turkey in a medium saute pan in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Also saute one bunch of spinach in a medium saute pan in 1 tablespoon olive oil, with salt and pepper.

Combine the turkey, shells, squash, and spinach, and ½ cup ricotta in a large bowl. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, put in the pasta mixture, and top with ¼ cup of mozzarella. Additionally, you could divide the pasta into two 9×9 pans and freeze one before baking for later.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

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Mac & Cheese Bites

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Chicken wings, buffalo sauce, and potato chips are flying off the grocery store shelves this week – the Super Bowl is just under a week away. I’m not a huge football fan (and the Patriots are out of the running) but I love any opportunity to get friends together to enjoy good company and good food. In honor of the Super Bowl, I’ll be sharing two party-friendly dishes this week in an effort to prove that you don’t have to succumb to the usual greasy, fattening snacks to please the crowd and have a good time.

These baked mac and cheese bites are healthy and budget friendly at just 50 cents per serving. You could, of course, use any homemade mac and cheese recipe for these, but I’ve saved calories by swapping tofu for some of the cheese. You won’t be able to tell a difference and the creamy tofu adds protein. Put those chicken wings back on the shelf and whip up these instead!

Mac & Cheese Bites

 

Cook 2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni according to package directions. Sauté ½ cup diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter until soft. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add ½ cup of milk and ¾ cup silken tofu and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 6 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and macaroni. Chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Set up three bowls, one with ½ cup flour, one with 2 beaten eggs, and one with 2 cups panko breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove mac and cheese from refrigerator and form into balls using an ice cream scoop. Roll in flour, dip in egg, and roll in bread crumbs. Place the prepared bites on a cookie drying rack on top of a baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve with marinara sauce.

Yield: 16 servings. Serving size: 1 bite. Per Serving: $0.50, 170 calories, 5g fat, 25g carbs, 7g protein.

Oven Baked Pancake

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Pancakes are a go-to weekend breakfast. When I was a kid, my dad made us the most delicious blueberry pancakes. They were golden and fluffy, about half an inch thick, and we’d cover them in butter and maple syrup.  When someone else is making pancakes, I’m all for them. But I tend to opt for other recipes when I’m the one wearing the apron.

Compared to other breakfast items, pancakes are a pretty big ordeal. You have to make the batter, heat up the pan, pour each pancake individually, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn, flip them over at just the right time so they aren’t undercooked, and then repeat this process multiple times (especially if you’re using a relatively small pan). That’s a lot to ask of me on a weekend morning.

Instead, I prefer this oven-baked pancake – a super easy recipe with very few ingredients that you slide in the oven and forget about for 20 minutes. Often referred to as a Dutch oven pancake, this dish is the perfect alternative to traditional pancakes and will totally impress your friends or roommates. It’s also made with more eggs than flour (the opposite of a traditional pancake) so it’s better for you!

Oven Baked Pancake

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put 5 tablespoons butter in a large, oven safe pan or pie dish. Place in oven to preheat and melt butter. Whisk 6 eggs until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and whisk until combined. Add to pan and bake in oven for 20 minutes, until puffy and golden. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and serve with sliced strawberries.

Yield: 4 servings. Per Serving: $.90, 323 calories, 22g fat, 18g carbs, 12g protein.

Baked Eggs with Kale and Sausage

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We have a runner up for the most beautiful plate of food I’ve ever photographed (in first place, surf and turf from my summer vacation on Cape Cod).

I had the pleasure of entertaining a few of my lovely lady friends for brunch this past Sunday. I had a few recipes I wanted to try and needed a taste testers, plus I love being in the company of these girls! You can’t have a bad meal with great company, so all in all it was a brunch success. In addition to this baked egg casserole (which was a hit) we had an oven baked pancake (recipe coming soon), Bloody Mary’s, and delicious cupcakes-disguised-as-muffins for dessert.

Adapted from a recipe from the Food Network, this is an elegant meal you could eat for brunch or dinner. I can’t wait to make and share some variations!

Baked Eggs with Sausage and Kale

Lightly toast 6 slices bread. I laid them out on a baking pan and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, flipping once. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and arrange the bread on the bottom, slightly overlapping.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauté ½ cup diced onion in 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add 1 cup sliced mushrooms and sauté until brown. Add 2 cups baby kale and sauté until wilted. Meanwhile, brown 2 hot Italian sausage links, cases removed, in a small sauté pan. You could put the sausage in with the onions mixture, but I kept them separate so I could make a few eggs without sausage for my girlfriends.

Put the kale mixture and sausage over the bread in an even layer. Crack 1 egg on each slice of bread (6 eggs total) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may need to arrange the kale and sausage to make a little spot for the egg to fit, so it doesn’t slide off into the casserole dish. Pour 1/3 cup milk over everything to keep it moist, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, longer or shorter depending on how you like your eggs. I baked mine for 20 minutes and the yolks were medium/hard. I love runny yolks so I’ll take them out sooner next time!

Yield: 6 servings. Per Serving: $1.20, 236 calories, 11g fat, 21g carbs, 15g protein.