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!

Great Father’s Day Idea

While I try to work my way out of this rut, I am going to stick to great things to read, try or buy! I was wandering my way around Facebook this morning and stumbled upon a great company based in Brooklyn called Mantry. Mantry is a food-of-the-month club that sends members a wooden box (made in Brooklyn) full of artisanal products from all over the United States.

crates

If you are still struggling with a gift idea for the father(s) in your life, check them out! For $75/month this is a great way to try some new and unusual products while supporting local producers!

Stir-Fried Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas, Lemon Zest and Mint

I stumbled upon this recipe over the weekend in a cookbook I bought last summer- New Flavors for Chicken. I love this cookbook for several reasons:

1. I got it 50% off at the William Sonoma outlet in Connecticut (only $11!)

2. Who isn’t always looking for new ways to prepare chicken.

3. The book is set up by season. As in, if it is spring (which it is now) all the chicken dishes will use ingredients that are in season.

This recipe calls for sugar snap peas, green onion, mint and fresh ginger- all things you can find this time of year. The ingredient list may be daunting at first but all of the ingredients either keep well (cornstarch, Asian fish sauce or chicken broth) or can be used in lots of different dishes (mint, for example). Once you have everything out and prepped (which only took me about 20 minutes), this dish comes together in less than 10 minutes. It’s an easy meal to make for a week-night dinner or for a dinner party. Just make sure you have some rice (preferably brown) on hand so you don’t miss out on all the yummy sauce!

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Ingredients

12 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 full chicken breasts)

kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

1 lemon, zest from the whole lemon and juice- about 2 tbsp

1 cup chicken stock (use homemade or low-sodium)

2 tbsp Asian fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

4 tbsp canola oil (make sure it is canola because olive oil with smoke more easily)

2 whole green onions, white and pale green bottoms chopped and the green tops thinly sliced

2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 pound sugar snap peas

3 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped

Directions

Cut chicken breast halves across the grain on a slight diagonal into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Season the chicken strips with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper

Finely grate the zest from the lemon and then squeeze 2 tbsp of lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together the broth, fish sauce, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. In another small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1 tbsp of cold water

**Make sure you have all the fresh ingredients (mint, green onions, garlic, ginger and sugar snap peas) prepped and in small bowls before you heat the wok! Cooking in a wok at high heat happens quickly and you want to make sure you have everything at your finger tips once you start the cooking process**


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Having small prep bowls like the ones above are great to have on hand for situations like these:

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Heat a wok or very large frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 2 tbsp of the oil and swirl the pan to coat it well. Add the chicken and stir-fry until opaque throughout, about 3 minutes

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Transfer to a platter

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Return the wok to medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil, and heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the chopped green onion, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds

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Add the sugar snap peas and 1/4 cup of water (**Make sure you have this on hand before you start cooking**), cover, and cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar snap peas turn bright green in color, about 1 minute

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Return the chicken to the pan

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Then add the sliced green onion top and chopped mint

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Stir the broth mixture briefly to mix, add it to the pan and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly

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Stir the cornstarch mixture briefly to mix, stir into the wok and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed

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Best if served immediately over rice!

Yields: 4 servings

WW Points: 7 points per serving (without rice)

WW Egg Salad

It is a beautiful day in New York so I decided I wanted to make a picnic and hang out in Central Park. I have never done this in the 3 years I’ve lived in New York and I’m not sure why I haven’t! This week has turned into a week where all my meals are coming from previously frozen soup, extra eggs and canned beans so I needed to get creative when putting together my Central Park lunch. I had a few things on hand (extra eggs from making the Ina Garten brownies, rolls in the freezer from making burgers over the weekend, garlic chives from the Goi Cuon and the fixings for a salad in a mason jar) so I decided to throw together a WW-friendly egg salad- I know, not the best thing for a picnic in the sun but whatever!

First off, I had to hard boil the eggs. Ina Garten has the hands-down best technique for hard boiling eggs. Here’s what to do:

Place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover.

Bring the water to a boil and immediately turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the pan for 15 minutes.

Remove the eggs to a bowl and allow to rest for at least 2 minutes. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack the eggs on each side and then roll them back and forth with your hand, breaking up the shell. Remove and discard the shell.

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Ingredients*

4 large egg(s)

2 large egg white(s), you’ll have to boil these as whole eggs and discard the yolks

2 Tbsp chives, fresh, chopped

1 Tbsp reduced-calorie mayonnaise

1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I used an herbed mustard from Stonewall Kitchen)

1/2 tsp table salt

1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Instructions

Hard boil eggs (see above)

Discard yolks from two of the eggs. Chop remaining whole eggs and whites into bite-size pieces.

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Transfer eggs to a medium bowl. Add chives, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper; mix until blended.

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Yields about 1/2 cup per serving (4 servings total)
WW Points: 3 per serving

*This recipe is loosely based on a WW recipe for an egg salad

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are very sought after in the culinary world. They are not usually cultivated but rather harvested by individuals. They have a very short season of only a few weeks in the early spring. I have had them a few times before but had never cooked them before yesterday! Like most fresh, seasonal produce, you don’t have to do a whole lot to make them taste delicious.

IMG_5511Fiddlehead Ferns

1 cup of fiddlehead ferns

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Wash the fiddleheads by putting them in a colander and dunking it into a bowl of cold water. Swish them around a little bit to make sure you get rid of any dirt that may be caught in the spiral. Remove the colander from the water.

Fill a pot with cold water and pour the fiddleheads into the cold water. Bring to a boil and cook the fiddleheads until they all raise to the surface (about 5 minutes).

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Mince your garlic while the fiddleheads are boiling

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Heat the 1 tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan and add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes

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Add the cooked fiddleheads and saute until they brown on the edges

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Serve with your protein of choice!

WW Points: 3 points for the entire serving*

*the only points come from the oil so you can eliminate this by using a PAM spray if needed.