Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese

Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese
Since I’ve started dieting, the thing I’ve missed the most by far has been pasta….and bread. But mostly pasta. I’m kind of a carboholic if you hadn’t noticed by now.

A big pasta craving struck recently so I went to my pasta pinterest board in hopes that I had something somewhat healthy there that I could add to the menu for that week. And I was totally in luck when I came across this cauliflower mac-n-cheese recipe.
Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese
Skim milk and some reduced fat cheeses along with cauliflower combine to make this a lightened up and filling mac-n-cheese. I love that the cauliflower adds lots of bulk and replaces some of the pasta. That way, I can still get my pasta fix but not overload on it. Plus there’s cheese so that’s always a win.
Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese
Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese
recipe slightly adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

1 (12 oz.) box elbow macaroni (I used veggie pasta)
1/2 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. grated sharp cheddar
4 oz. fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt liberally. Add macaroni. When there are 5 minutes remaining for the macaroni, add the cauliflower. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water then drain macaroni and cauliflower.

2. In a small bowl, combine Italian breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley.

3. Dump cheddar, cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, milk, salt and pepper in the pot you used to boil the macaroni. Mix in the macaroni and cauliflower.  Stir until combined and cheese is completely melted.  Add reserved water.

4. Place in a 9×13 baking dish and top with bread crumb mixture (I used fun, colorful mini loaf pans for part of it and an 8×8 pan for the remaining pasta).  Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling and the crumbs are browned.

Cheesy Broccoli Bites

Cheesy Broccoli Bites
On our quest for healthier eating, I have been looking for recipes that are lighter but still have enough heft to fill us up and keep the boys happy. I personally love steamed broccoli and would eat it everyday but Joel thinks it tastes like dirt. He is totally for it though when slathered with cheese.

Speaking of cheese and healthy, I don’t know about you but I have never been and never will be down with low fat/fat free cheese. It’s just not right. I would rather have no cheese at all. I’m fine with other light products like sour cream, milk, mayo, even cream cheese or ricotta but cheddar…no way, won’t do it.
Cheesy Broccoli Bites
I’ve had my eye on these cheesy broccoli bites for quite awhile but just never got around to making them until now. And now I’m kicking myself for taking so long to try them. They are a fun, healthy and delicious way to eat your veggies. The cheese melts into gooey goodness and the outside gets crispy.

And they got the approval of both boys. I’m thinking of trying them with cauliflower next time. I have a feeling these will be gracing our table very often.
Cheesy Broccoli Bites
Cheesy Broccoli Bites
recipe adapted from Stacey Snacks
yields 9

8 oz. fresh broccoli, lightly steamed and chopped
1/2 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 egg white

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients and form patties, 1/4 cup each. Place on parchment.

2. Bake for 12 minutes, flip then bake another 12 minutes.
Cheesy Broccoli Bites

Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Mustard Cheddar Sauce

Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Mustard Cheddar Sauce
Pretzels are one of Noah and my favorite snacks so there is always a big ‘ole jar of them sitting on the counter. When I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be in my life. Pronto.

Chicken? Pretzels? Cheese? This is totally up my alley. I made this a few week ago and it was glorious. The crunchy pretzels coating juicy chicken was good enough but then top it with a cheesy mustard sauce? Delish.
Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Mustard Cheddar Sauce
I am totally drooling because since making this I have embarked on a pretty strict diet to lose this baby weight. Womp womp. It actually hasn’t been too bad. I’m using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to track my calories (1410/day) and exercise. I am a major visual person and love lists so it really helps me to see it all written down. And knowing that something is going to be tracked and calories calculated makes me think twice about what I eat. I just started on Sunday but I haven’t gone over my caloric count yet but it’s been hard. I’m hoping this diet will result in a lifestyle change with mostly clean eating around here.

I’ve been trying out a lot of new smoothie recipes so I will be sharing those with you all soon.
Pretzel Crusted Chicken with Mustard Cheddar Sauce
But back to this chicken….you have to make it. A piece of it would be worth having to eat spinach the rest of the day.

Pretzel Crusted Chicken with a Mustard-Cheddar  Sauce
recipe from Taste and Tell
serves 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
about 6 ounces of salted pretzels
salt and pepper
2 eggs
vegetable oil

Mustard Cheddar Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Slice each chicken breast in half (horizontally to make them thin), making a total of 4 thin chicken breasts.  Place each chicken breast in between plastic wrap and whack with a mallet to flatten slightly.

2. Place pretzels in a food processor and process until you have fine crumbs.  Put the crumbs in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper.  In another shallow dish, beat the eggs.

3. In a large saute pan over medium heat, heat up the oil, about 1/8″ deep.

4. Dip each chicken piece into the pretzels, then eggs, then back into the pretzels. Carefully place chicken into the hot oil and cook until browned and the chicken is cooked through (about 3-4 minutes per side).

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce.  In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk and the mustard, and cook until slightly thickened.  Stir in the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

6. Serve the chicken with the Mustard-Cheddar Sauce.

Cheesesteak Rolls

Cheesesteak Rolls
I have been sharing a lot of sweets recently with Christmas coming up so I thought you all might appreciate a quick and easy dinner recipe instead. A recipe that only require 6 ingredients and comes together in less than 30 minutes.
Cheesesteak Rolls
Cut them into strips and they  would be perfect to snack on while watching a football game. Joel devoured these and may just request them on New Years for the Gator Bowl.
Cheesesteak Rolls
I love anything that involves puff pastry…add meat and cheese and I’m a happy girl. Delicious, simple and quick for the win.
Cheesesteak Rolls
Cheesesteak Rolls
recipe from Pepperidge Farm

All-purpose flour
 1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
1 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/4 of a 24-ounce package frozen sandwich steak (4 portions)
4 slices provolone cheese
1 egg, beaten
1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Sprinkle the flour on the work surface.  Unfold the pastry sheet on the work surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 10-inch square.  Cut into 4(5-inch) squares.
3. Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove the onion from the skillet.
4. Increase the heat to medium-high.  Add the sandwich steaks to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes, breaking into pieces, or until cooked through, stirring occasionally.
5. Spoon one-fourth of the onion and one-fourth of the sandwich steaks on the bottom third of each pastry square.  Top each with 1 slice cheese.  Fold 2 opposite sides over the filling.  Roll up like a jelly roll.  Brush the pastries with the egg.  Place the pastries onto a baking sheet
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  Let the pastries cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Cut the pastries in half diagonally to serve.

Penne Gorgonzola

Penne Gorgonzola
This past weekend, we took Noah to see his first movie in the theater. We saw Frozen and it was the cutest animated movie we have seen in a really long time (besides Despicable Me, I love those dang minions). It might seem silly but I found myself tearing up during the movie, watching him snuggle daddy and stick his hand in the giant tub of popcorn. It was a special little date for the three of us and I really enjoyed it. He is growing up way too fast and I don’t like it. Not one bit. Mmmkay?
Penne Gorgonzola
I don’t have a good transition to the recipe so I apologize for that but I just had to share about our movie date.

Whenever we go out to an Italian restaurant, if Penne Gorgonzola is on the menu I almost always order it. I’m a sucker for a creamy, cheese drenched pasta and it was never something I thought about making myself. Well, until now.
Penne Gorgonzola
I reduced the amount of gorgonzola because I only had a 5 ounce container but it ended up being a good thing. I think any more would have been too strong for us…it was the perfect amount of strong, stinky cheese for this household.
Penne Gorgonzola
This recipe is simple and can be made in less than 30 minutes but is still fancy enough to serve to company. Or you husband and three year old. Then said three year old will find the big jar of sprinkles when you have your back turned and add a nice helping to his plate. Then luckily you will turn around before he gets to the rest of the plates. I always thought sprinkles made everything better but penne gorgonzola…not so much.
Penne Gorgonzola
I hope you try this recipe out soon. Sprinkles optional.

Penne Gorgonzola
recipe from Taste of Home

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken broth
5 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown chicken in oil on all sides. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add wine, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan.

2. Add cream and broth; cook until sauce is slightly thickened and chicken is no longer pink. Stir in the Gorgonzola cheese, sage, salt and pepper; cook just until cheese is melted.

3. Drain pasta; toss with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley

Chili Nacho Dip {Football Food}

Chili Nacho Dip
Dips are perfect to feed large crowds during the game and we especially love this one during football season. I could literally sit down with a bowl of chips and dip and have that be my meal. I kind of have a thing for appetizers. And I really do enjoy the eating part of the game more than the actual game.

This dip is warm and hearty and really easy to throw together. It tastes like a combination of the ever popular queso dip and big bowl of chili. It’s not fancy or gourmet but who wants that when they are watching the game? It’s just plain ‘ole good.

Chili Nacho Dip
recipe adapted from Taste of Home

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
24 oz. tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can pinto or black beans
1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
1 envelope chili mix
1 lb. Velveeta
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Fritos or tortilla chips

1. Cook ground beef in a dutch oven until no longer pink; drain fat. Stir in tomato sauce, beans, diced tomatoes and chili mix and cook until heated through. Add in Velveeta and heavy whipping cream. Cook until cheese has melted and dip is warmed through. To keep warm for several hours, transfer to a crockpot on warm setting.

Soft Pretzels with Jalapeno Cilantro Cheese Sauce {Football Food}

Soft Pretzels with Jalapeno Cilantro Cheese Sauce
So, I have been wanting to make soft pretzels forever but I have been scared and a tad overwhelmed by the process. Now that I finally bit the bullet and made them, I’m pretty mad at myself for waiting so long. There is only one extra step from just making regular ole’ bread and they can even be made up, frozen and finished at a later date. Homemade soft pretzels in the freezer, ready whenever the craving strikes? Yes please! I plan on making up a batch or two before baby is born (I better hurry up, less than 3 weeks left!) to have on hand.
Soft Pretzels with Jalapeno Cilantro Cheese Sauce
I made these as part of our Labor Day feast and we ended up with one leftover. Frankly, I’m surprised we had any leftover. I sent it home with my parents because I knew I would inhale it by the end of the day and I really didn’t need any more carbs. My mom made a hot ham and cheese sandwich with it the next day and she said it was glorious.
Soft Pretzels with Jalapeno Cilantro Cheese Sauce
These would be just perfect to serve at the game, especially with the spicy, bright cheddar cheese sauce. Who doesn’t love a good dipper while watching the game? And if you didn’t want to make full-sized pretzels, you could simply roll the dough into ropes and slice into bite-size nuggets for easier snacking. Delicious, buttery, chewy goodness is just waiting for you. I can’t stop dreaming about them.

Soft Pretzels with Jalapeno Cilantro Cheese Sauce
recipe from Smells Like Home

For the pretzels:
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Pretzel, Kosher, or course sea salt
For the roasted jalapeno cheese sauce:
2 small jalapeño peppers
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt

1. To make the pretzel dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds.  Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and butter.  Mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Place a barely damp towel over the dough and the formed pretzels to prevent them from drying out while you form the other pretzels.

3. At this point, you can freeze the formed pretzels on the baking sheets.  Once completely frozen, transfer them to a large zipper bag and continue to freeze until you need them.  Use within 2 months.

4. To make the pretzels: Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

5. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.  If you’re freezing your formed pretzels, skip this step now and continue with it when you’re ready to boil and bake your pretzels from the freezer.

6. Using a flat spatula, gently lower the pretzels into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds.  If boiling the frozen pretzels, add them to the water directly from the freezer – do not thaw them – and boil for a total of 45 seconds. Depending on the size of your pot, boil 2 to 4 pretzels at a time.  Remove the pretzels from the water using the spatula, drain as best you can over the pot, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with some melted butter and sprinkle with the pretzel/Kosher/sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.  If the pretzels were frozen, bake for an extra 1 to 2 minutes.  Lightly brush pretzels with the remaining melted butter immediately after you remove them from the oven. Serve warm.

7. To make the cheese sauce: Set the jalapeños on a baking sheet and roast under the broiler until blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Alternatively, you roast them over a gas burner on the stove, turning with tongs.  Place the jalapeños in a heatproof bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow the peppers to cool for 15 minutes then with a paper towel, peel and discard the blackened skins off leaving just the fleshy peppers remaining.  Slice, remove and discard the seeds, and roughly chop the peppers.  Set aside.

8. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the chopped jalapeños to coat with the butter.  Whisk in the flour, coating the peppers, and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.

9. Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain.  Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted.  Stir in the cilantro and add a pinch of salt, if needed.  Serve warm.  The sauce can be kept warm for 15 to 20 minutes over very low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally.  Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.