Category Archives: Heart Healthy

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese—kind of

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This week is Thanksgiving Break in our district and I am enjoying the unstructured schedule!  With the extra time I have been trying some new recipes.  The one I’m sharing with you today is not technically new to my family as I’ve made it once before.  But I want to share it as for one it has pumpkin in it so it fits the Thanksgiving theme.  However, one would never know it has pumpkin unless you were helping in the kitchen.  This mac ‘n’ cheese is light on the cheese…just about a cup of cheese to go with 10 ounces of cooked elbow macaroni.  The look of cheese comes from the pumpkin.

My family really does like this dish but my handsome fella tells me to not remind him that there is hardly any cheese!

This is a good supper for after the big Thanksgiving meal day as it is easy to prepare and relatively healthy.  (I got the recipe from the September 2015 Cooking Light Magazine)

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat add

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

Cook until bacon is crisp, stirring occasionally.  Remove bacon from the pan but leave the bacon drippings.

Add to the drippings in the pan and saute for 30 seconds

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

Add to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally:

  • 1 can of pure pumpkin
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of milk (we use 1%)

Now add

  • 10 ounces of uncooked large elbow macaroni

Cover the pan and reduce heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in:

  • 3 cups of chopped broccoli florets (I buy a bag of broccoli in the produce department to make it faster!)

Cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.

Stir in:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 ounces of cheese (about a cup)

Sprinkle on top:

  • bacon
  • remaining cheese (about 1/4 cup)

Cover and let stand 1 minute.

 

The recipe said that it only costs about $8.15 for six servings.  I make my own chicken broth so it probably costs a bit less for us!  Totally worth it as it is healthy and economical.

OH, but don’t tell your family it is pumpkin until AFTER they have eaten it all up 🙂

Enjoy!

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Summer Salads!

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I love salads but especially in the summer.  I have fond memories of my Mom and I making big salads to share for lunch while we were home in the summer months and we always ended up putting Lemon Pepper on it for seasoning! Ah, fun memories.

I pulled this pasta salad recipe out of Food Network Magazine from 2012 but finally made it recently!  (five years….yes, I know that is a long time)  But it was worth having it kick around for that long as it is a keeper in my recipe book!  I did everything the recipe called for except the toasted pine nuts/slivered almonds.  I do love toasted nuts but I didn’t want to turn on the oven and also knew that my girls wouldn’t eat them.  First you make the dressing (while your pasta is being prepared) then you put the salad together.

Garden Pasta Salad with Bocconcini

Pasta Prep:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Then add

  • 4 cups of fusilli or campanelle pasta

Cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the label directs)

Drain and rinse under cool water; shake off the excess and transfer to a bowl to toss with the dressing.

Dressing:

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add to the water

  • 1 clove of garlic (make sure to take the peel off)

Boil for 2 minutes.

Remove the garlic and place in a blender (I only have a broken smootie machine…but it does the trick!)

Add to the blender:

  • 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes…mixed colors is preferable (I used red and yellow)
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Puree until smooth.  Then with the motor running add in a slow steady stream until blended well:

  • 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

Season with kosher salt and ground pepper.

Toss the dressing with the cooked pasta.

Salad:

Shave with a vegetable peeler or mandolin

  • 1 small zucchini

Then halve the strips crosswise and add to the pasta.

Add to the pasta:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup halved bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds toasted (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper and a bit of Kosher salt to taste.

Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 6 hours (Bring to room temperature before serving)

I served this alongside some fresh cut peaches and  chili-honey rubbed chicken Brad grilled.  It was a winner of a meal!

 

So kick back and relax with this winner of a meal too!

Quick Dinner: Tex-Mex Rice and Black-eyed Peas

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Since I’m back in the classroom teaching full-time for the second year now (after 14 years of doing other things), I’m all about finding quick, easy and tasty recipes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have near the time to share recipes with y’all now that I’m working full-time.  But I just had to take a few minutes tonight to share this one that I pulled out of a November 2011 Food Network Magazine.  It has the tag of “Weeknight Cooking” and “Done in 30 minutes” and this time the tags really do apply!  I made this dish tonight in no time at all.  I was worried that the girls would not like it so I switched it on our menu.  Brad was home tonight for dinner but will not be home on Wednesday.  I didn’t want to attempt it just on the girls.

But I’m happy to say that Heather deemed it a “four smiley face meal”.  So now I can add another meatless option to our meal planning!  It reminded us of something from Chipotle or Qdoba  but without all the spice.

Tex-Mex Rice and Black-eyed peas

Serves 4

Cook as label directs:

  • 1 cup white rice

Meanwhile heat in a medium saucepan (2 qt) over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes to soften:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh salsa (I used mild pico from HEB Grocery)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Add

  • 1 can of black-eyed peas undrained
  • 1 can of black-eyed peas which has been drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy and tender- about 12-14 minutes.  I put the lid on the saucepan while this was happening.

Fluff the rice and divide it among bowls.

To the black-eyed pea mixture add and stir until wilted: (about 1 minute)

  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I had a wee bit more than 1/4 cup)

Spoon the black-eyed pea mixture over the rice and top each serving with:

  • Avocado slices
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour Cream- if desired.
Easy, Quick, and Healthy!

Easy, Quick, and Healthy!

 

Enjoy!

Ratatouille—Vegetables after the Carb Fest!

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We have had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Texas.  It was wonderful to drive to be with our Giese family.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that the entire clan (close to 40 of us) plan to get together.  This year we were just outside of San Antonio and next year I get to host!!! (And yes, the spreadsheet is already forming in my head and I’ve determined where furniture will be placed too!)  Then on Friday we drove over to see Brad’s parents and had another wonderful feast.  Needless to say, we need some vegetables without butter and brown sugar all over them!

I just finished prepping this Ratatouille recipe that I found last winter in “Slow Cooker Revolution”.  I served our dish with some Rigatoni Pasta to help my kids be a bit more receptive to this vegetable focused meal.  It does take a bit of time to prepare (30 minutes) but then you have 4 to 6 hours to clean up the kitchen and know that later your family will have a warm, healthy meal without any butter 🙂

Ratatouille

Cut into 1-inch chunks:

  • 2 eggplants (2 pounds)
  • 3 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds)

Heat in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Brown in the heated oil for about 5-7 minutes:

  • 1/2 of the eggplant; turning it to brown on all sides.  (I pepper mine a bit)

Transfer browned eggplant to your slow cooker.

Repeat process with 1 Tablespoon more of oil and remaining eggplant.

Then, work in two batches again, to brown the zucchini (adding 1 Tablespoon of oil before each batch.)

Put the browned zucchini in the slow cooker.

Heat 2 more Tablespoons of oil in the skillet.  Add to the shimmering oil:

  • 2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (could use 2 teaspoons of fresh if you have some)

Cook the vegetables for 8 to 10  minutes until softened and lightly browned.

While the vegetables brown, drain but reserve the drained juice

  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Once the vegetables are browned, Stir into them and cook for 1 minute:

  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Slowly whisk into the skillet, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps:

  • the reserved tomato juice

Transfer everything to the slow cooker.

Stir  into the slow cooker:

  • The drained, diced tomatoes

Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low until the vegetables are tender.

Prepare your desired pasta just before the vegetables are finished

Stir into the vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Enjoy!

Blueberry Salsa

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I agree…it seems strange but I thought, “Why not try it? I’ve got lots of blueberries!”  My family was not supportive of the idea so I waited until I was hosting a meeting at my house tonight to make it and have out for our snacks.

I don’t have much left and the plates were all clean when I rinsed them so it must have been liked by many!  One 9-year-old even made a point to come up and let me know that she really liked it and my handsome-fella admitted that it was indeed good.

It is easy and quick to throw together.

Blueberry Salsa

original recipe from Southern Living July 2010

Combine together in a 1.5 qt bowl:

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup whole fresh blueberries
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I only used one as I knew it was a “tame” crowd coming)
  • 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper (I then cut probably about 1 Tablespoon more to add as I didn’t think the balance was right with all the colors)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Serve immediately, or cover and chill 8 hours.  Serve with tortilla chips.

 

Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Heather...blueberries not quite ready for salsa!

Photo courtesy of Heather…blueberries not quite ready for salsa!

I made my own Cream of Mushroom Soup!

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Tonight I had a tried and true family favorite on the menu….stroganoff.  It is easy, quick and everyone loves it.  I thought I had everything at home but picked up a few ingredients on my Wal-Mart run earlier in the morning.  I “always” have some cream of mushroom so I didn’t get any.  MISTAKE!
I start to make dinner, the meat is browning and the water is boiling for the noodles to be thrown in and I open the pantry to find that I am indeed out of every can of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken for that matter.

I don’t have time to run to the store.  This week is Vacation Bible School at our church so I need to be there a little after 5:00 and it is almost 4:00….what is a girl to do?

Google to the rescue!

I looked up homemade cream of mushroom soup and found this link.  It claims that you can make this in less than 5 minutes and it is true!  I found the recipe, gathered the items to make it, and it was ready by the time I needed to add the condensed soup to the recipe.  Now, I didn’t have any evaporated milk so I used our 1% regular milk and I used canned mushrooms rather than fresh.

As I look over the recipe just now, I’m seeing that I did not put it into the microwave to thicken it up….but it all worked fine.  I guess because then the stroganoff simmers for a while.

Anyway, I am glad to have this recipe in my folder now.  I’m sure it is healthier and it really was easy to do.

 

Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

Put all the following ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 8 ounces of 25 evaporated milk (I used 1% regular milk)

Add to the soup and pulse 2-3 times until chopped:

  • 3/4 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used a can of sliced mushrooms- drained)

(This is where I stopped but the recipe says to go on with the following)

Pour into a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes, whiscking well after two minutes and again at the end of cooking time.  If not thick enough, add 30 seconds and whisk again.

 

 

Grilling Goodness: Chicken-and-Fruit Salad

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The absolute best thing about our house is the ability to have dinners on the deck on a gorgeous evening.  Tonight was one of those evenings.  The trees still aren’t green in our view but the evening was perfect nonetheless.  We fired up the grill too in order to make another new recipe from the “Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook” that I checked out from our library (I’m going to have to purchase one of these as I’ve rechecked it now three times and I want to copy way too many of the recipes.)

The Back Deck

Not the best picture of our deck but this gives you a glimpse at why it is so wonderful. This was from the end of April last year. Our deck is up in the trees.

 

Chicken-and-Fruit Salad

Plan Ahead- Chicken and Pineapple need to marinade for 6-8 hours.

Place in a ziploc bag:

  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I like to prick my chicken with a fork to help the marinade ooze into the chicken a bit more)
  • 3/4 cup of Lawry’s Santa Fe Chili Marinade with Lime and Garlic (the recipe calls for a lime and garlic marinade….this was the closest I could find!)

Seal the chicken in the ziploc bag and chill for 6 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Cut into fourths:

  • one cored fresh pineapple

Place the pineapple into a ziploc bag and pour 1/4 cup of the marinade over the pineapple. Seal and chill for 6 to 8 hours.

Ready to Grill:

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Drain the pineapple.

Grill chicken 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until done.

Grill pineapple 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile:

Wash and prepare:

  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups of strawberries, halved
  • 1 cup of raspberries

Once the grilled items are cooked as needed, cut chicken into strips and the pineapple into bite-sized pieces.

Arrange the lettuce, chicken, and fruit into bowls.

You could toss the fruit with some of the marinade before adding to to the salad or just let each person add extra marinade as desired.  We just added as desired as my girls don’t really care for dressing on their salad.

This was a great dinner and easy to prepare.  Everyone left the table happy….even the extra child that joined us for dinner!