Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pinterest Tested, Jackie Approved: Round-Up Edition

Oh Pinterest, how I love thee and the shiny images you put before me. Here's a roundup of recipes I've tried lately thanks to the powerful time suck that is Pinterest.

Photo from Shugary Sweets

Chipotle Inspired Crockpot Barbacoa Beef with Cilantro Lime Rice

Dudes, this was super deelish, super easy, and a super close copy cat for Chipotle.

Photo from Lux Hippie

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Made these bad boys for a secret Santa party with friends and they got gobbled up in double time. No refined sugar, no butter, no eggs, all whole grains, all good.

Photo from

Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo

I make this all the time in a single serving batch for a quick lunch or dinner. I'm not a fan of alfredo, so I'm not sure how close this satisfies the real thing, but it's creamy and light and fills you up. I usually just steam the broccoli to save time, add more broccoli than it calls for to up the veggie count, substitute almond milk for skim milk, and use whole wheat angel hair pasta.

No Cream Penne alla Vodka

Not truly a recipe, but even parts jarred marina + greek yogurt = a great creamy, vodka like pasta sauce without the extra calories and with some extra protein.

Photo from Fit Bottomed Girls

Biggest LoserSweet Potato "Skins"

These are quick, easy and make a surprisingly satisfying meal considering its a swap for a traditional sports bar appetizer. 

And there you have it. I give these my seal of approval. I could add a list here of recipes I tried that failed miserably and resulted in emergency pizza ordering or resigning myself to cheese and crackers for dinner, but I will leave the negativity in my kitchen. Let's just say the recipes above are pretty un-screw-up-able if I'm giving you the green light.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Whole Grain Broccoli Mac and Cheese

Hi guys! Yes, I know, it's been too long. But I have good excuses! I've spent most of my 2013 so far sick (thanks, influenza epidemic) and once I fought the virus, work picked up like crazy and my hours have been nuts. Simultaneously, I lost the battery charger for my good camera and my back up, hand me down, 7 year old camera is finally in resting almost literally in pieces just when I needed it most. Terrible timing, terrible for blogging, enjoy the recipe but please excuse my worse than usual iPhone photos.

As I'm still recovering from my my common cold gone mad, I'm just starting to get my appetite back and raw veggies have just not been working for me. I'm heavily into comfort foods right now (duh, it's been single digit temperatures in Chicago for the last few days), but I'm still trying to eat healthier all the same. So I took mac and cheese, left out all the white processed grains, and added green broccoli goodness in this quick and delicious baked pasta dish. Enjoy it as it warms you from the inside. 

You'll need:
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta, dry
  • 6 oz frozen broccoli, thawed
  • 1 tbs butter (grass fed if ya got it, my new love is Kerrygold)
  • 1 tbs whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (free range preferred) 
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (regular or soy is fine, but your calorie count will go up)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese (Cabot is great)
  • 1 1/2 tbs panko crumbs
  • Cooking spray, preferably olive oil

Calories: 318 calories for 1/4 of the pan

Set your ovens to 375 degrees, speed racers!

Adapted from Skinny Taste

On one burner, get your water boiling and toss in the whole grain pasta. Penne or macaroni is best, but there's no reason you couldn't use plain old spaghetti if that's what's in your pantry. Thaw your broccoli in the microwave while this is going on. 

On another burner, get a pan going over medium, throw in the butter and then whisk in the whole wheat flour until it browns and glistens. This should take about 2-4 minutes. Then add the chicken broth and the almond milk and stir thoroughly so the flour and butter mixture is evenly dissipated in the liquid. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once you get it boiling and bubbly, add in the garlic, onion and (secret ingredient alert!) mustard powder and leave it to simmer and make friends with each other for five minutes. 

The sauce should thicken at this point, which is one of the most frustrating terms in all of cooking for me. How thick? How does a liquid really even get thick? WHY IS THIS SO HARD? My best indication that the sauce is thickening is the sides of the pan start to almost solidify, like the skin on top of a pudding. That's when you're getting good and perfectly set for a creamy, cheesy sauce. You won't get super thick with the almond milk, but whatever, cheese is coming, doesn't matter. If you really don't get it thickened well, add a little extra flour in and let it cook for a few more minutes. I promise nothing, it just seems to work for me. 

Ok, now you got your allegedly perfectly thick sauce base. NOW ADD CHEESE! Stir it in until it's nice and melty, add some salt and pepper to taste, and you're done!

Now I gotta have extra sharp cheddar with mac and cheese, but the recipe up to now will give you a great base for any cheese sauce. Gruyere? Why not? Pepper jack for some nachos? You go, Glen Coco! Four cheese sauces for you, Glen Coco! (Are Glen Coco jokes still funny? I'm closer to 30 than 20 now, which I don't think is old or anything, but I'll admit to my limitations as to knowing the pulse of the current funny zeitgeist). 

Also now - a note on dairy. You'll be seeing a lot of stuff like free range and grass fed on the blog now. It's part of me trying to put the best stuff in my body whenever I get the chance. And I'm not going to lie, it's pricey, but with my risk factors, it's important to me. Kerrygold is a commonly found brand that is 100% grass fed, and Cabot is even more ubiquitous and while they can't guarantee that all their co-op members feed their dairy cows with grass, they do have high standards over all and life is too short to question delicious cheddar cheese any further. 

Alright, where were we? Are you sitting there with cooked pasta and a hot cheese sauce cursing me for going on to long about effing grass fed free range hippie bull mularkey? Sorry. I'll buy you a beer later, promise. Plus, all you have to do now is grab your 8 x 8 casserole dish, throw in the pasta, broccoli and cheese sauce and stir. Sprinkle the panko crumbs on top and spray them lightly with olive oil. 

Pop that sucker in the over for about 15-20 minutes and you're good. If it's worth the extra step to you, turn the broiler on towards the end and get the panko crumbs nice and browned. Up to you... I did it this time but it didn't rock my world. Probably won't bother again. You do you. 

And now you're done. You get to have your mac and cheese but still feed your body veggies, whole grains, and dairy chock full of CLA - a fat that might fight cancer. Yes, again, a fat from animals that MIGHT PREVENT DISEASE. Get ya grilled cheeses ready, kids, just make sure that bread is whole grain.