Mac N Cheese Healthified

There seems to be a comfort food theme going on here this week…  Choc + PB Cupcakes, Chipped Beef Gravy, and now Mac n Cheese :P.  I heart mac n cheese.  I mean c’mon!  Melty, creamy cheese and carbs??  Yeah. 

Unfortunately melty, creamy, cheesy covered carbs comes with a price tag!  When I saw Ellie Krieger whip up this healthified version I decided she was my hero.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  This is not the real thing.  This is not the banana soft serve of the ice cream world (I don’t know when I’ll ever need real ice cream again…), but it is dang tasty!

I’ve been having it with all of my lunches this week :).

Here’s my version of the recipe.  I altered it because I never have as many cheeses as she uses lying around in my fridge, and well I just like to be different ;).  And if I went out and bought all of the cheese….it would have been annihilated and that would kind of defeat the purpose of trying to eat a healthier version of the caloric beast that is macaroni and cheese.

Healthified Mac N Cheese (adapted from this lovely recipe from Ellie Krieger)

  • 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash (I have used frozen cubed butternut squash, thawed and pureed, and canned pumpkin before)
  • 2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk plain almond milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese more cheddar cheese!, grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon 1/4 tsp 😉 cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Thaw out the squash (puree afterwards if using a cubed frozen squash) or measure out your pumpkin.  Side note: the pumpkin was all I had on hand once, and it worked perfectly!

    Mix in the milk and simmer.  Slowly add the cheeeeese factor until melted.  Add in the spices and stir.  Let it simmer for 3-5 minutes. 

    A Girl's Best Friend

    Hopefully you’ve been cooking the pasta this whole time, or if you’re like me, you just put the pot of water on, because you got so caught up in the cheese fest going on in your kitchen ;).  Once the pasta is cooked, stir it into your cheese-a-thon 2000 cheese sauce mixture and transfer to a greased casserole dish.

    Finally, combine the parm, bread crumbs, and oil and sprinkle this mixture on top of the “match made in heaven” cheese + carbs goodness.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes and then broil for 3 minutes at the end.

    I’m the worst food blogger ever and don’t have any pictures of it before it ended up on my lunch plates.  Sorry!

    How about this tantalizing photo of my french toast this morning instead??

    I added blueberries, but otherwise it’s the same as yesterday’s.  Check it out for some french toast tippers, from me to you!

    Afternoon snackage.  Canteloupe and greek yogurt with honey on top.  The yog + fruit + honey thing is something I picked up in Australia for whatever reason and it is fantasmic (Webster and I are becoming fast friends ;))!

    Dinner was not original or ground breaking, but I do want to show you my favorite store bought pasta sauce ever.

    Dave’s Gourmet Spicy Heirloom Marinara Sauce.  I has a little kick from the chiles that I adore in tomato sauces, and a nice bonus is that it’s organic!  I found it in our little “fine foods” store in town and fell in love.  I even went back and special requested some more and now they’re carrying it regularly :D.  They carry a few other sauces too, so if I ever get over how wonderful this one is, maybe I’ll branch out and try a new one.  I’ll be sure to let you know!

    That’s all I’ve got for you tonight.  Get your cheese on and I’ll see you one day closer to the approaching long weekend!!

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    Breakfast for Dinner

    Tonight I had my stupid face on while standing in front of the fridge.  Seriously.  It was one of those moments, where you just can’t figure out exactly what you want to eat.  I honestly have no idea how this came to me, because the chipped beef was hiding way in the back of the fridge, but I decided to go for a southern breakfast fave tonight.

    Creamed Chipped Beef over an ezekiel english muffin and some canteloupe.

    If you’ve never had it before, it’s pretty much sausage gravy minus the sausage, plus chipped beef.  What?  You’ve never heard of chipped beef?  Well you’ve obviously never lived south of the Mason Dixon Line either ;).  Allow me to introduce you.

    King of Processed Beef 😉

    First you chop and rinse it.  That’s right.  Rinse it.  Why?

    That 1370 mg of sodium is why :P.  It even says to rinse it on the container.  And it’s what my grandpa told me to do

    Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat making sure not to burn the four.  We’re creating a roux for the gravy here folks.  Now start adding  in your milk and wait until each addition thickens until you add more.  I added half of a third of a cup at first (I was using a 1/3 cup measurer :)).  After the first addition…

    Add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup increments until all of the liquid is added.

    When making a gravy, the general rule of thumb is one cup of liquid to each tablespoon of fat in the roux and for the fat to flour ratio in the roux, it’s 1:1.  And I always err on the side of too thick, because you can always thin it out by adding more liquid.  Making it thicker after the fact is quite a bit trickier!

    I topped an ezekiel english muffin with mine.  So good and thick!

    Maybe the ezekiel english muffin was a subconscious effort to balance out the fortuitous featuring of processed beef here ;)!   Add some delicious canteloupe and you have breakfast for dinner!

    Oh, and my actual breakfast was equally amazing, but will require no instruction.  Just a few friendly tips ;).

    I sliced up some bresh baked cracked wheat bread from the grocery store and sliced it up into 1-inch thick pieces.  I let them sit out for a few hours before I started.  This lets them dry out a bit so that they can soak up more egg. 

    The best french toast you will ever have will be made from “almost hard enough to kill people stale bread” ;).  Seriously.  The recipe did originate as a means to use up stale bread instead of throwing it away!

    On top are frozen peaches thawed in a saute pan with a splash of water and some sweetener until the water reduces a bit and the peaches are warmed.  Plus a few tablespoons of real maple syrup (which I hadn’t added yet!).  I will spare you the lecture, but please treat yourself to real maple syrup and never look back!  It’s worth it!

    Until tomorrow… 😀

    Getting Back on the Horse

    I mean the title of this post is both literally and figuratively.  Because I did both this weekend.  Yep.  I fell off the horse I was riding at the branding on Saturday.  I only have one thing to say.  It hurt a lot more than I ever expected it to. 

    Not that falling off of a horse is really something I ever pondered before, but I just didn’t expect it to hurt that badly as I was going down.  One minute I was looking at this.

    The next, I was up close and personal with the ground.

    Basically, I went out into the pasture to help the other 3 riders round up the 40 head of cattle.  Long story short, the horse and I went down into an old creek bed (read trees) I didn’t get him steered away from said trees quickly enough, took a branch to the arm, and it was pretty much game over from there.  Ground, meet Lindsey.  Lindsey, meet ground. 

    I did get back onto the horse and rode on to the corral where the cows were already nicely rounded up. 

    Uh, huge sigh of relief.  Where’s the Bud Light? 😉

    Here’s how the branding goes down.  The cows and bulls are separated from the calves, accounted for, and vaccinated.  They are turned loose, but always hang around to wait for the calves.  The calves are branded, vaccinated, and tagged.  That’s it.  Then they’re turned back out into the pastures to eat grass and roam the Wyoming prairie to their little heart’s content. 

    Here are some photos from the branding. 

    The cows and bulls in a separate corral from calves.

    The cutest calf ever.

    The cutest little kid on the prairie and some of the other youngins.

    Some other shots…

    I was on calf control duty.  I just had to wave my arms and yell when they tried to come over to the “working” end of the corral…  It was hard 😉

    And on to the other horse I triumphantly jumped back onto this weekend! 

    Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes 😀

    Soooooo good.  I used Ashley’s Chococate Avocado Cake Recipe.

    Dry Ingredients

    Wet Ingredients + Avocado

    Results…

    Lots of cupcakes…

    I used Ina Garten’s Peanut Butter Icing recipe.  Seriously.  Amazing.  Awe-inspiring.  Life changing. 

    Yeah.  Stop poking your computer screen.  It doesn’t work that way.

    Cupcake Heaven

    I may have fallen off a horse today, but it’s cool, because I kicked these cupcakes’ butts! 

    Now that you’re drooling.  I know you are.  Here’s the recipe:

    Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes.  Ashley’s got load of tips and pictures for putting these bad boys together.  Just make sure you whip up the avocado well.  I used a whisk.  I baked the mini cupcakes for 15-18 minutes and the regular ones for 20-22 minutes. 

    Peanut Butter Icing

    • 5 tablespoons of room temperature butter
    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ~3 tablespoons whipping cream

    Whip together the first 4 ingredients and then add the cream until the icing is light and fluffy.

    So kids.  Get back on the horse.  Whether it’s an actual horse or the most amazing cupcakes the world has and will ever know, you’ll be glad you did :D.

    Kickin’ It Wyoming Style

    I’ve got a heckuva weekend planned guys!  Tomorrow is the branding at Wendy’s ranch north of town :D.  I went last year and it was an awesome experience!  I grew up in Virginia, so I’d never even really been on a ranch.  I even got to go out with the horse team to round up the cattle, which I’m doing again this year.  Needless to say I’ll have some great pictures* to share with you guys by Sunday, but here’s a shot from last year.

    Sunday is back to norm, climbing in the canyon.  I’m headed up to camp after the branding Saturday, so Saturday nigth at camp and Sunday climbing.  Hopefully no more twisted ankles like last weekend!

    See you on Sunday or Monday!

    *If you are a vegan/vegetarian and branding cattle offends you I can only ask that you respect the rest of us and you may want to refrain from reading my next post!

    PB&J Oats

    It’s 11:30 pm right now.  When I got home from work the internet was not working and then of course it came right back on before it was time to leave for our softball team BBQ. 

    Anyways, I’ll still give you my breakfast, as long as I don’t fall asleep at my computer in the process.  It was newish as promised.  PB&J Oats :D.  Oats aren’t new, but the PB&J part is!

    Super simple:

    • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1/2 T chia seeds
    • 1 T maple syrup

    Mix the oats, water, and milk and cook in microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.  Mix in the egg whites, by tempering* them first.  Whisk the egg whites while pouring in some of the hot liquid from the oats.  Then stir this mixture into the semi-cooked oats.  Microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time (usually 3 times for me) until the oats are cooked and thickened.  Watch them, because they have a tendency to boil over!  Add the chia seeds and maple syrup. 

    *If you’re using bulk egg whites, just stir the oats while you pour in 1/3 cup of egg whites.

    PB&J portion:

    • 1/4 cup frozen berries
    • sweetener
    • 1-2 T PB or almond butter
    • 1 T milk (I used almond milk)

    Microwave the frozen berries, add sweetener of choice and mix.  Separately, mix PB and milk to form a thick sauce. 

    Add to oats.  I also threw some coconut butter on top! 

    The egg whites give these oats an awesome protein boost to keep your belly full :D!

    Sorry, but it’s midnight now.  I hope these amazing oats are enough to hold you over!

    1st Birthday

    In lieu of the normal food fare here, I would like to wish a belated happy 1st birthday to my 2nd cousin, who is by far the cutest baby to have ever graced our family. 

    A.  Because my food today was nothing you didn’t see yesterday.  Well, minus the work dinner, but I’ve been over the whole, there will be no neurotic food photography in front of the co-workers thing, so nothing fruitful there.

    B.  Because she is the happiest, most adorable baby ever.  Allow me to demonstrate :D. 

    Happy 1st birthday spud(ette)!!!

    Is this a buttercream? 

    I approve.

    Just wait until I’m 16 ;).

    I make this baseball cap look good!

    Magnifique.  Now let’s move on to the pureed peas please, chef.

    16, here I come :P! 

    Good night bloggies!  Back tomorrow with something newish for breakfast and something involving zucchini and chocolate.  Mwuhahaha…

    PB + Chocolate Heaven

    So I ate a lot of leftovers today, but one thing I ate was aaaawesome (I’m totally singing that word to myself as I type it).  It was not leftovers, but it is something you’ve seen before here.  The return of the Chocolate Avocado Banana Pudding :D.  I’ll let you hang on the edge of seats for minute to see the twist on that one though…

    For breakfast…I bet you can’t guess!  OK, maybe you can. 

    Yep, granola and Fage (click here for the Fage discovery/love post!).  But I promise I’m pretty much out of granola, so something new is lurking around the corner :P.

    Lunch was leftover pizza.  Soggy pizza is not my fave, so I like to pop my leftovers into a toaster oven on the toast setting.  It’s the best way I’ve found to revive leftover pizza.  Luckily we have a toaster oven at work!  Worked like a charm!

    Afternoon snackage.  Berry palooza!!  And some almonds for staying power (haha, there were more than 4!).  Protein + fiber + healthy fat = Happy Lindsey!

    Oh wait.  Dessert?  Did I forget something here?  Indeed I did.  Last night I whipped up some that Choc Av Nanner Pudding I discovered on Edible Perspective.  Turned out quite well again and I threw some in a container for my lunch today.  When I went to eat it today, though, I could hear the jar of peanut butter in my drawer quietly screaming at me… “Liiindseyyyy…you know you’ve been craving the glorious combo of PB + Choc ever since that heart breaking cupcake debacle….”  OK, may be it was just in my head, but still…  Behold.

    Heaven Squared

    I decided to make some PB sauce a la Kath sans microwaving.  I just mixed some milk into the PB to thin it out and topped my already heavenly pudding with it.

    Oh man.  Oh man, oh man, oh man.  I hit the jackpot with this one.  Now I’m thinking of trying to make this pudding, PB style and swirling it with it’s chocolate soulmate…  If it works I will surely let you know!

    Dinner was a grilling feast, even though another gnarly storm rolled through town tonight.  Luckily, it was gone by the time my tummy started rumblin’.

    On the Way to the Grill

    Those are elk loin steaks by the way!  Just seasoned with salt and pepper.  I’m a fan of game meat, so I don’t go all out with the marinating or anything…  Accompanied by mushroom, pepper, and onion kebabs, and sliced zucchini.  Got the zucchini idea from Katie!  I’d always put the zucchini on the kebabs before, but I love it like this way more!

    Tha, tha, tha… tha, that, that’s all folks!

    I hope that reminded you of looney tunes, otherwise, you think I’m completely nuts right now…  Then again, that ship may have sailed a long time ago…