Creamy WW-Friendly Mac n’ Cheese

Everyone knows that I love anything that Mark Bittman does. So when I ran across this recipe two years ago, I absolutely had to try it. Bittman’s article, “Creamy Cauliflower Mac“, is genius- use pureed cauliflower in place of a bechamel! Not only does the recipe call for an entire head of cauliflower, it cuts out all butter and flour from the recipe! Oh the calories you save.

Apparently, Kraft sneaks freeze-dried cauliflower powder into its mac n’ cheese so Bittman figured he would make a vegetable-heavy, less caloric, unprocessed version of this popular American dish. When I made this recipe for the first time a while back, I followed it to a tee. It was good but the dijon mustard flavor over-powered everything so, this time, I decided to tweak it a bit.

I had a busy afternoon of cooking yesterday. In addition to this delectable mac n’ cheese, I made some homemade tortilla chips (post to follow) and another batch of the Ina Garten Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. It was a good day in the kitchen- something I have definitely been missing these past two weeks or so! Give this recipe a try and tweak as needed for your family. This is by far one of the sneakiest ways to slip in a big serving of vegetables without the kids knowing! You could even amp it up a bit more by adding broccoli florets in place of some of the pasta…

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Creamy Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese*

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish (I used Pam)

Salt

2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock plus 2 cups water (I used the stock I had in my freezer)

1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces

8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat (I used gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta**)

1 ⁄2 cup grated fontina cheese

3/4 cup grated cheddar

6 scallions chopped, white and pale green only

1/2 tbsp- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste

1 ⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste

Black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, separated

Bread crumbs to cover casserole

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish with a little Pam.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and salt it (unless your stock is already pretty salty)

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(I cooked the cauliflower in just the stock before adding 2 cups of water for the last 10 minutes of cooking. This is was because the liquid level got too low. Just add the 2 cups of water at the beginning to avoid having to do this)

Cook the cauliflower in the boiling stock/water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes

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Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor

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Add the pasta to the boiling stock/water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes

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Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, fontina cheese, cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan, scallions, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (I had to do this in two batches because I only have a 7-cup food processor)

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If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1⁄2 cup stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning

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Pour the sauce into a large bowl and add the partially cooked pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish

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Sprinkle the top with the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and bread crumbs if you’re using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes (check every 2-3 minutes after the 15 minute mark). Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

WW Points: 9 points per serving

I made this batch yesterday and enjoyed a piece for lunch today. The fontina cheese is tangy and different and is nicely balanced out by the salty parmesan and creamy Cabot cheddar. I will definitely be making this more in the future!

*This is adapted from Mark Bittman’s version.

** Using the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta and eliminating the bread crumbs on top make this a gluten free dish!

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Pantry Pasta

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One of my roommates moved out today so while she was finishing up her packing, I decided to clean out the fridge and my pantry. In the process, I found 3 different types of dry pasta and, in the fridge, some random produce left over from other recipes that was about to go bad. I figured I would throw it all together and see how it turned out! Here’s what I did:

First I put a large pot of water on so it could come to a boil while I started on the “sauce”

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I used garlic oil (mince a clove of garlic per 2 tbsp of olive oil and let the flavor meld together) that I had left over from when I made homemade pizza a while back. I put that in my wok (a large frying pan will work too) over moderate heat

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 I then thinly sliced the left over green onions from the stir-fry I made yesterday. I let the garlic and onion sweat out for about 3-4 minutes

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Next I added in left over sliced mushrooms from the Slow Cooker Lasagna I made on Monday and let them cook for about 7-10 minutes (I didn’t really time everything so these times are all estimates)

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Next I threw in halved cherry tomatoes that I’ve had in the fridge for salads. I let them cook for about 3 minutes and then covered the wok.

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I left the wok covered for 2 minutes so the cherry tomatoes and mushrooms could steam and cook through more quickly

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I let the “sauce” go for another few minutes (maybe 2 or 3) until the tomatoes started to burst and let out some of their juices

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(This is what it should look like)

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Next, I drained the pasta and dumped it on top of everything. I took the pasta out a minute before the recommended time (so after 7 minutes of cooking) because it continues to cook once added to the “sauce”

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The last step was throwing in a few handfuls of arugula for a little green and spiciness

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All done! I was able to make about 4 (larger) servings with what I had on hand. This is by no means a recipe to follow step-by-step but more of a guideline for making sure you aren’t throwing out any food! Now I have lunch for Nick and I for the next two days!

WW Points: 9 points per serving*

*Remember- this is for this pantry pasta so yours will probably have a different points value. I used about 4 cups of pasta, 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, 2 cups of arugula, 2 cups of mushrooms, 4 tbsp of oil (I added a little extra to my garlic oil), 2 cloves of garlic and 4 green onions (whites and pale green only).

Utilizing Your Freezer

Cooking for one can be difficult because most recipes makes at least 4 servings. Grocery shopping can be challenging because ground turkey, chicken, etc. come in packages meant for a family. In order to save money and time, your freezer should become your best friend. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize this but it has made a world of difference in the amount of food I throw away and having convenient, healthy meals.

I spent today making a batch of my WW Turkey Chili and Slow Cooker Lasagna– both of which make about 6-8 servings each- just so I could portion them out into individual tupperware and freeze them to have on hand for the next few weeks. Both recipes freeze very well and it’s like having a homemade, healthy frozen meal at my finger tips. All I have to do is grab the tupperware from the freezer and defrost it for about 20 minutes and I have a meal ready to go!

Another great money-saver is making homemade chicken stock and then freezing it. All you need to do is save the bones from a rotisserie chicken or two (which can be frozen by themselves before you make the stock), have some bay leaves/other spices and mirepoix on hand. Top it off with some water and you’re done. Check out Ina Garten’s recipe! Portion is out into 1 or 2 cup portions, pour into tupperware and freeze! Next time you need to make some soup, risotto or anything else requiring chicken stock, you have some ready to go! I made some back in December and I have used it in a number of dishes. I just pulled some out to defrost overnight to make a chicken dish tomorrow (look for the post tomorrow afternoon!)

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Buying meat in bulk can be a great way to save as well. I had tried to freeze meat a ton of times but always ended up with freezer burn. My solution is to individually bag each chicken breast (or steak or whatever you need to freeze). Make sure you remove all the extra air from the baggies and that the meat if laying flat (this way it will defrost evenly). To finish it off and protect it even more, lay all the baggies in a tupperware and seal tightly. This way, you have individual portions whenever you need them! I also pulled some chicken out to make the recipe tomorrow!

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Utilizing your freezer to its full capacity can save you a ton of time and money!

I also wanted to add in a picture of the chili I made today. I tried something a little different by adding in about a tablespoon of curry powder. We’ll see how it goes! Stay tuned!

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Easy Wednesday Night Lamb

A few weeks ago I posted a link from Buzzfeed (which was taken from the New York Times) about an easy lamb dish. I mentioned that I have only cooked lamb once in my life because messing up lamb, which is easy to do, can be an expensive mistake. This recipe seemed almost too easy to mess up so I decided to give it a try last night. I must say, it turned out really well. I may have over cooked it by a minute or so but I will know for next time. I also changed it up a bit with spices and made a 2 person portion. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

1/2 rack of lamb– frenched (about 1/2 a pound)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic cloves

1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium slice rye bread, broken into pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the lamb of excess fat, but leave a layer of fat over the meat (I trimmed a little too much but I was trying to make it a little healthier).

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Cut about halfway down the bones between the chops; this allows the meat between them to become crisp.

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Put the oil, garlic, chipotle and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a food processor and purée; add the bread and pulse a few times to make rough crumbs

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Rub this mixture over the meat side of the rack and sprinkle with more salt and pepper

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Put it in a roasting pan and into the oven; roast for 15 to 18 minutes*. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer straight in from one end into the meatiest part. If it reads 125 degrees or more, remove the lamb immediately. If it reads less, put the lamb back for 5 minutes, no more. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve, separating the ribs by cutting down straight through them.

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I made a quick salad with cherry tomatoes and feta with a balsamic vinaigrette and some Alexia chipotle sweet potato fries to finish off the meal. It ended up being a 16 point dinner but it was completely worth it!

WW Points: 3 points for one serving of rub and 9 points for 3 oz of lamb
*I adjusted the original cook time from 18-20 minutes stated in the Buzzfeed and New York Times articles because I used 1/2 a rack of lamb instead of the full rack. I also adjusted the amounts used in the rub.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

I have plans to have drinks with Lauren and Colleen tonight (twice in 5 days!) and then Lauren is coming over for dinner. Usually, I am at home cooking when someone comes over for dinner so everything is more or less ready right when they walk in. Because we’re coming uptown together, I needed something that could cook while I am gone but still be ready when we get here. Enter: SLOW COOKER! Nick bought me my slow cooker about 6 months ago and I have loved learning new, easy, healthy recipes that cook themselves.

I wanted to find something healthy but comforting so when I stumbled upon this slow cooker lasagna, I had to try it out! I made a few changes (noted below) to cut some calories and make it a little more WW friendly. I can’t wait to try it tonight!

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Ingredients

4 cups torn spinach

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

1/2 cup commercial pesto

3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese*

3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded provolone cheese*

1 (15-ounce) carton fat-free ricotta cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided

1 (25.5-ounce) bottle fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Cooking spray

1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles (12 noodles)**

Instructions

Arrange the spinach in a vegetable steamer; steam, covered, 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop.

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 Combine spinach, mushrooms, and pesto in a medium bowl, stirring to combine; set aside.

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Combine mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, and beaten egg in a medium bowl, stirring well to combine. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan, and set aside. Combine the pasta sauce and the tomato sauce in a medium bowl.

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Spread 1 cup pasta sauce mixture in the bottom of a 6-quart oval electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over pasta sauce mixture; top with 1 cup cheese mixture and 1 cup spinach mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with spinach mixture. Arrange 3 noodles over spinach mixture; top with remaining 1 cup cheese mixture and 1 cup pasta sauce mixture. Place remaining 3 noodles over sauce mixture; spread remaining sauce mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover with lid; cook on LOW 5 hours or until done.

Yields 8 servings

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* I used Trader Joes Quatro Formaggi which has asiago, provolone, mozzarella and parmesan in it instead of buying provolone and mozzarella separately. I used 1 1/2 cups of this mix and then used 3/4 of grated parmesan in addition (as stated in the recipe).
** In order to cut calories/WW Points, I used sliced eggplant (below) instead of lasagna noodles. Eggplant is 0 points so it helps a lot!
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WW Points: 9 per serving (with eggplant instead of noodles)

Trader Joes Falafel with Tahini

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I’ve been keeping these frozen falafel in my freezer recently and they make a great go-to snack. They aren’t exactly low in WW Points but they are filling and definitely worth it! The frozen falafel costs $3.69 a bag and the tahini sauce is $2.49 (I believe)- this will get you about 4 servings.

WW Points: 9 for 3 falafel and 1 tbsp of tahini