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.

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Green Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Peas

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Nachos, chocolate fondue, and this green mac and cheese were on the menu for a Halloween-themed gathering my roommates and I hosted at our apartment last week. The objective of the night was simple: get our favorite girlfriends together to eat, drink, and chat. The fact that it was Halloween was, frankly, unimportant and apparent only by the décor and Hocus Pocus playing in the background. Sometimes we need a simple excuse to get together in the same room to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often enough! The night was a success and this dish was the star of the menu – everyone kept going back for more!

Green Mac & Cheese

Cook 1 pound of pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, sauté 1/2 cup onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the onions are translucent, add a 6 ounce bag baby spinach and a 16 ounce bag frozen peas. Cook until spinach is wilted and peas are cooked through, stirring frequently.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper and reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups low-fat milk and heat until warm. Remove from heat and blend (preferably using a hand blender) the mixture until smooth.

Slowly add the pasta and 1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, stirring frequently to combine. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray and head oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the mac and cheese mixture into the baking pan and top with ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until top starts to brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings. Serving size: 1¼ cups. Per Serving: $1.31, 409 calories, 12g fat, 56g carbs, 19g protein.

Spinach Tomato Baked Mac & Cheese

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A few things to love about Fall: foliage, apple picking, sweaters, and pumpkin flavored everything. Although the days are shorter and the air is cooler, it is my favorite season. I only wish it would last longer!

In addition to the aforementioned reasons, Fall is great because with it signifies the ability to use the oven guilt-free. There are few things worse than trying to bake or roast in the oven in 95 degree weather – which is why most summer recipes involve very little stove or oven time. Now that the seasons are changing, the possibilities are endless. Bring on the casseroles, muffins, breads, roasted root vegetables, and lasagnas (oh my!).

Homemade baked macaroni and cheese is perfect for cooler weather – it’s warm, gooey, and cheesy. This recipe is also light and colorful with tomatoes and spinach so you can get your serving of vegetables. You could eat it as your main meal, or serve it up as a side to a protein. Something roasted would be fitting – like chicken, perhaps?

Spinach Tomato Baked Mac & Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook 3 cups penne according to package directions. Saute ¼ cup diced onion in 1 teaspoon olive oil for 4 minutes until translucent. Add 3 cups baby spinach and cook until wilted. Meanwhile, slice 2 roma tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and toast 1 slice whole wheat bread. When the bread is toasted, dice into ¼ inch squares. In a large mixing bowl, combine penne, spinach mixture, ¼ cup part skim ricotta cheese, ¼ cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spray a 9×9 or equivalent baking dish with cooking spray and add pasta mixture. Top with tomato slices, toasted bread pieces, and 1 tablespoon part skim shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

Yield: 3 servings. Per Serving: $1.89, 306 calories, 7g fat, 53g carbs, 13g protein.