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Comfort Food Done Lighter: Green Mac n’ Cheese

Last week I had my blood draws done and while most of my numbers were looking great, because of being 8 months out from having Alistaire, I wasn’t so happy with some of my cholesterol numbers. I know why they had slid back up. Frankly it was due to me eating meat while pregnant (duh) and indulging in heavy cheese and eggs periodically. Yeah, beat me with that plant-based diet stick. I fell off the wagon. So for the past week I have made a push to use up the last of the dairy products in the house. Then back to being a good ol’ PBD follower once again. I want to pull my numbers in 4 months and see how it goes. Until then, I still have 3 freaking pounds of cheese to use up – being frugal I refuse to waste good cheese (My Mom would scream from the spirit world if I were to dump it!) But, I have at least been using it slowly and in small amounts. No more liberal touches…lol! I hope to be back on PBD fully on November 1st. A good way to celebrate Virtual Vegan Potluck Day, eh?

What I liked about this dinner was how fast it comes together, it isn’t full of butter/oil but still feels rich. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of mac n’ cheese that only tastes of salty/heavy cheese.

Green Mac n’ Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups milk (used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 3 Tbsp whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 ounces grated medium white cheddar cheese
  • 10 to 12 ounce package chopped frozen broccoli, thawed
  • 13.25 ounce package multi-grain or whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 9 ounce bag spinach leaves, chopped finely

Directions:

Bring a large pot of lightly slated water to boil. Add pasta and cook for time on package. In the last 5 minutes add broccoli, in last 30 seconds add the spinach in, drain gently.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, mustard, paprika, salt and nutmeg into ¾ cup of the milk.

Add the remaining cup of milk to a large saucepan, bring to simmer over medium heat. Whisk in flour mixture, whisking constantly until it has thickened.

Remove from heat, whisk in cheese till melted. Add sauce to drained pasta, tossing gently to coat.

Serves 4.

~Sarah

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Summer Pasta – Light and Lemony

We had a pretty evening yesterday with a cool day overall. Perfect for working in the garden with my boys. Walker and I harvested the first ripe blueberries, little ones off my subalpine bushes, the berries are very small in comparison to regular berries. But quite tasty, as little berries are often found to be. Our regular blueberries are 2 to 4 weeks away from being ripe so this kept Walker happy!

We checked our Red Huckleberry plants and 3 of the berries were ripe, Walker was impatiently waiting for me to hand them over!

Last year I had found a Stevia plant but it didn’t fare well over the winter and died. I found a new plant in the spring and so far it is healthier and doing better than the previous one. Its flowers are tiny and quite pretty:

When we bought our house the backyard was intense, the previous owner was a bulb and shrub lover. I have pulled out quite a few of the plants in the past near 8 years but a few hang on – such as the very pretty lilies that bloom in June.

Walker having a great time “sawing” at the retaining wall:

For dinner a light meal sounded perfect. This dish takes only the time to boil water to bring together and tastes much richer than it really is. Make sure the yogurt you use is real and isn’t thickened with questionable stabilizers. In this case full fat yogurt is preferable.

A secret of mine in saving money on quality cheese: buy the rind ends! Usually I buy wedges of Pecorino Romano from Costco. Being a sheep milk cheese it cost a lot less than Parmigiano Reggiano. A lot less. Like nearly half per pound! But sometimes I want the flavor that only a good Parmigiano Reggiano gives. So I wander by the fancy cheese counter – which one of our local grocery stores has, with a cheese monger to boot. They take the ends and sell them in tubs at 50% off the pound price, selling them for use in soups. Well…if you have a tool like a Microplane 42102 Artisan Fine Grater, you can grate them up. Yes, you have to earn the cheese but you could be having top quality pillows of grated cheese for $6 to 8 a lb! And no added preservatives or fillers (remember my lecture about cellulose being added to American made Parmesan cheese? Yuck!) Even better….the store was running a deal on the cheese counter, a $3 coupon off any $3 or more purchase. I found a tub for $3.15. Heehee! Now that is saving money!

Spaghetti with Sautéed Zucchini and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 13.25 ounce package multi-grain spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ lbs zucchini, trimmed, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces small grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced, about 3 Tbsp
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil, add spaghetti and cook for time on package. Reserve ¼ cup cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high, add the oil and zucchini, sauté until tender and turning golden. Add garlic, sauté for a minute, add the tomatoes and let cook for 2 minutes, until they soften.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add the hot vegetables and toss to coat. Add the spaghetti, toss gently. Add reserved pasta water as needed for a creamy sauce.

Serve with more cheese if desired.

Serves 4.

~Sarah

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

I came across the basis for this recipe on a cooking website but it called for an entire stick of butter. ½ cup of butter? Wow, talk about fatty! So I decide to play with the recipe and see if I could adapt it. I took the butter out, added a diced onion and used lower-fat cream cheese and the sauce was delicious!

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Ingredeints:

  • 1 package 13.25 ounce multigrain penne pasta
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion (medium), peeled and diced
  • 8 ounces lower-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup dairy milk (whole works best)
  • ½ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
  • ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper (or less if desired)
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for time on package. Drain.

Meanwhile in a large non-stick skillet heat over medium and add the oil and onion, cook until tender and turning golden.

Stir in the rest of the sauce ingredients, turn to medium-low and let the cream cheese melt in. Stir often and keep an eye on the sauce, turning down if it begins to bubble.

When the pasta is done and the sauce is creamy, toss together in the skillet. Serve immediately.

Serves 3 to 4.

~Sarah

Mushroom Stroganoff Pasta

A quick dinner for a busy night. Easy and tasty!

Mushroom Stroganoff Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 13.25 ounce package multigrain corkscrew pasta shapes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lower sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth for non-veg’s)
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the pasta and cook for time on package, drain.

Meanwhile heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and onion, cook until tender, add the mushrooms and continue cooking until golden. Let come to a gentle simmer, thickening. Add the parsley and Worcestershire sauce, stirring in. Add the spices and flours, cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Add in the broth and stir to dissolve the flour. Turn to medium-low and add the milk and the Parmesan cheese.

Let the sauce gently bubble while the pasta cooks, add the hot cooked pasta and toss well. Serve immediately.

Serves 3 to 4.

~Sarah

From The Pantry To Table In A Snap: Rich Meat Sauce and Spaghetti

We been working really hard on finishing up the remodeling projects in our house, with our current weekends going to our guest bathroom. So I haven’t had a lot of spare time on some the weekend nights with elaborate cooking. Often Kirk is working till 7 or 8 pm so I need quick dinners. I went for a rare beef based dinner because I was craving it. Last week I noticed at Costco they had 4 packs of 12 cans of roast beef in broth. Find them next to the cans of chicken and you can use them in similar fashion. Trader Joe’s carried a similar item but then discontinued it, although the Costco version is US produced where TJ’s was from Brazil. Anyhow the cans have just enough meat to give a good flavor but without being too much. And since it is easily drained and shredded up, even easier! It works well in pasta sauces I might add!

And everything needed for the sauce can be easily found in the pantry (if well stocked!) and be eating within 30 minutes.

Sadly no photo, we sat down to dinner after dark!

Rich Meat Sauce with Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 13.25 ounce package multigrain spaghetti or angel hair, broken in half
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dried onion
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 12 ounce can roast beef, drained and flaked up
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil, cook pasta for time on package, drain.

Meanwhile in a large non-stick skillet heat over medium. Add in everything though the roast beef, mixing well, breaking up the beef into tiny pieces. Bring to a simmer, turn to medium-low and let simmer gently covered until the pasta is cooked.

Add the hot pasta to the sauce and toss well. Add cheese to taste (about a ¼ cup works well) and then serve with more cheese if desired.

Serves 3.

~Sarah

Creamy Green Beans and Pasta

I had a pound of green beans from last weekend’s farmer market and needed a quick dinner – this was an idea I had pop up in my mind and it turned out overall pretty good. Ford was happy enough he scarfed his down…..

Creamy Green Beans and Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into portions same size as the pasta
  • 8 ounces bow tie pasta
  • 8 ounces plain Greek style yogurt
  • 1 cup unsweetened milk (I used almond, any type or dairy is fine)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp chopped chives (fresh or freeze-dried)
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese (the green can kind works best in this recipe)

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add in the green beans, let come back to a boil and then add the pasta and let cook for time on package. Drain carefully.

In a medium saucepan whisk the yogurt through nutmeg together until smooth, let cook over medium heat until bubbling, whisking often. Add the Parmesan cheese and turn the heat to low. Let simmer a bit while the pasta cooks.

Toss the sauce with the cooked pasta and serve.

Serves 3.

~Sarah

Artichoke, Caper and Tuna Pasta

This is a very quick and flavorful pasta dish. In the time the water has boiled and cooked your spaghetti your sauce is ready!

Artichoke, Caper and Tuna Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 13.25 ounce package multigrain spaghetti, broken in half
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic (jarred)
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups marinated artichokes hearts, mostly drained and chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 7 ounce can albacore tuna, drained and flaked
  • ¼ cup Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for time on package. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.

Meanwhile heat a large non-stick skillet over medium, add the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, heat through till smelling good. Add in the artichokes (and any marinade left when chopping) and the tuna, turn to medium-low and let warm through as the pasta cooks.

Toss with the pasta and half of the reserved water, then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and quickly toss to coat. If needed add a bit more reserved water as needed so the pasta is creamy.

Serve immediately.

Serves 3 to 4.

~Sarah

Creamy Pumpkin Sauce with Pasta

This was a quick dinner from a few nights back, I didn’t get a photo though…ah well!

The sauce can be adaptable though, adding in finely chopped nuts for more protein or Parmesan cheese for the non-vegan crowd (of course you can always add in vegan versions as well!).

Creamy Pumpkin Sauce with Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb small pasta shapes (used bow ties)
  • 2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic (jarred)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely diced (or 1 tsp dried rubbed sage)
  • 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup lower sodium vegetable broth
  • ½ to 1 cup favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond works well)

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook pasta for time on package, drain carefully.

Meanwhile in a large skillet heat the oil over medium, add the onions and cook until tender and just browning. Add the garlic and sage, cook for a minute.

Stir in the pumpkin and broth and heat to simmering. Stir in the milk until smooth and let heat through over medium-low. Season to taste with ground black pepper and if desired up to ½ cup of vegan friendly “Parmesan cheese” (or the real stuff for vegetarians) and or salt as desired. If sauce is too thick, add more milk as needed.

Toss with the hot pasta and serve.

Serves 3 to 4.

~Sarah

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