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.

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Linguine with Salmon and Peas

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A lot of people cut carbs in an attempt to eat healthy. Breads and pastas are seen as the enemy, to be avoided at all costs. In my (non-professional) opinion, avoiding any food is a bad idea. Moderation is key. I eat a piece of chocolate every day after lunch and I don’t feel bad about it because it’s just one piece. It curbs my craving and I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself.

It’s also very important to pay attention to serving sizes. Most meals where pasta is the main dish include multiple servings – and that’s where you can get into trouble. However, if you pair pasta with vegetables and protein, like in this linguine recipe, you can curb your cravings and still enjoy it!

This recipe is also a great way to use leftover salmon, which can be hard to reheat because it dries out. The moisture from the sauce – made from reserved starchy pasta water, a small amount of butter, and lemon juice – keeps the salmon from drying out when it’s reheated.

Linguine with Salmon and Peas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and place ½ pound filet of salmon skin side down on the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and ¼ teaspoon lemon zest. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the fish is flaky. Meanwhile, cook ½ pound linguine according to package direction, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

When salmon and pasta are done, heat 1/3 cup pasta water in a medium sauté pan. Add the linguine, 1 tablespoon butter, juice of ½ a lemon, and 1 ½ cups frozen peas. Sauté, stirring frequently, until peas are bright green and cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the salmon, breaking into small pieces, and serve warm.

Yield: 3 servings. Per Serving: $1.75, 418 calories, 8g fat, 63g carbs, 23g protein.