Green Chile Mac & Cheese

green chile macaroni and cheese bite

Brrr…. I know I really should not be complaining, but we’ve had ourselves a cool spell here in Arizona. Below freezing at night folks. We have been covering our plants outside with every extra sheet in the house for a couple nights now. Probably looks kind of funny if you drive by our house. Nonetheless, I really don’t want to lose our new Meyer lemon tree to the cold!

The cooler turn in the weather has both of us craving comfort food. Enter this macaroni and cheese. In fact, my husband asked specifically for it. As far as mac and cheese goes, the hubbs is a baked mac and cheese guy. He loves the crunch of the bread crumb topping. I can go either way (truthfully, I’ll eat both), but if I had to pick, I am probably more of a stove-top gal. Just can’t get over the creaminess! In light of his request, I went the baked route this time. That and it let me use my new croquettes that I received for Christmas 🙂

green chile macaroni and cheese

green chile macaroni and cheese close

The recipe is from A Zesty Bite, and the whole allure of this recipe for us was the green chiles in the sauce. They completely make this dish. As written, the recipe is scaled to be more of a side dish, but for the two of us, it worked perfectly as a main dish. For me, the cheese sauce ended up pretty thick, although I think this may have been more my fault than anything else. My other thought was that the macaroni to cheese ratio seemed really high. It is really rich as written, and I think I’d add more macaroni for the same amount of cheese sauce next time. A quick note, be careful when browning the bread crumbs under the broiler. I toasted mine a little to far. I’d check on them every minute or so.

All of that said, this mac and cheese met all those comfort food notes. We really enjoyed it, and I am thinking this will be a repeat recipe in this house. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Green Chile Mac & Cheese
Adapted slightly from A Zesty Bite

4 oz. whole wheat elbow macaroni noodles (I think you could even double this to 8oz)
3 qts. water plus salt
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1-1/4 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (best results if you shred your own)
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (best results if you shred your own)
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles
whole wheat Panko bread crumbs for topping

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 6 minutes (al dente). Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes. Slowly add the milk while whisking to avoid any clumps. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly (don’t let it get too thick). Add the Greek yogurt, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in both cheeses and the green chiles. Mix until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the macaroni noodles until well coated.

Place in a casserole dish and sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs. Baking time will vary based on the size of your baking dish. For a large dish, bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling at the sides. Individual serving dishes will need a shorter baking time. Mine was done at about 15 minutes. When the cheese is bubbling, it is ready. Switch the oven to low broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the bread crumbs.


SRC: Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup

tortellini and chicken sausage soup

Well, things have calmed down on the home front here a little bit. I am hoping to use the time to post a little more regularly around here. I have quite a few recipes lined up that I want to make, so it is time to get in the kitchen!

With that, it is once again time for Secret Recipe Club. My blog assignment this month was Melissa’s A Fit and Spicy Life. Melissa describes herself as a Midwestern girl who is a food loving, wine drinking, weight lifting, traveling, yogi blogger. Hailing from the Midwest myself, it sounds a little familiar. 

tortellini and chicken sausage soup close

My husband helped me look through Melissa’s recipes this time, and we finally settled on her recipe for Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup. We are not anywhere near her temperature of 40 degrees when she wrote the post, but we’ve both been starting to crave soup. I made her recipe largely as written, adding only a couple spices and changing the form of the sausage. 

I can assure you that this soup definitely hit the spot for us! It was a hearty soup, with the meat and the tortellini, so if you like your soup thinner, you may want to add extra liquid. It was great for us the first time through, but we added a bit extra liquid to the leftovers when we warmed them up. My husband declared it a make again recipe, so thank you Melissa for the recipe!

tortellini and chicken sausage soup cooking

(Printable Recipe)

Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup
From A Fit and Spicy Life

3 cups dried tortellini with cheese
2 spicy Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
1 can (14.5oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
28 oz. low-sodium beef broth (or more if you like more liquid)
2 cups water (or more)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 (9oz) pkg. frozen spinach
 Parmesan cheese, garnish

Heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and cook, crumbling as it cooks, until cooked through. 

Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the tomatoes, broth, water, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and frozen spinach. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the tortellini, cover and cook for 15-17 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Tomato and Basil Pasta

basil and roasted tomato pasta

I kid you not. I walked out of an exercise class a couple weeks ago at the gym to find a man selling flavored olive oils. In. The. Gym. He had pieces of baguette to sample each kind and everything. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. As a blogger, this was awesome. The food literally came to me!

I sampled several of the different types (he also had a reduced balsamic glaze that was to die for), and ended up settling on a trio of basil, garlic, and lemon-infused oils. At that point, I had a new mission. How I was going to use these for dinner?

I know the flavors in this dish are a little summery, but fall doesn’t officially start until tomorrow. I can proudly say that this dish is entirely my creation, and it turned out quite well if I do say so myself, although it’s hard to go wrong with the tomato-basil-pesto combination.

I started by drizzling the tomatoes with garlic and lemon oil, salt, and pepper and roasting them in the oven to concentrate their flavor. The idea and taste were spot on, but I can tell you do as I say, not as I do. First, I highly recommend lining your pan with parchment paper and not foil. Secondly, keep a close eye on those critters. I cooked mine for a bit too long. Nonetheless, the tomatoes were amazing. I could have eaten them alone for dinner!

basil and roasted tomato pasta2

The pesto I used in here is a recipe I made and froze last year from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Light Recipes. I’ll have to share that sometime as well. My husband has since decided to pull up the basil forest growing in our backyard garden, so I may have to wait until the new plant grows a little more.

Hope you enjoy this!

Printable Recipe

Roasted Tomato Basil Pasta

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. garlic-infused olive oil, divided
2 tsp. lemon-infused olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
8 oz. whole wheat pasta
1-2 Tbsp. basil pesto 
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the halved cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchement paper. Drizzle with 1 tsp. of each olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes have started to dry. This was about 25-30 minutes in my oven, but if you want them to be more like sun-dried tomatoes, this will take longer.

Boil water and prepare pasta to al dente preparation according to package directions. Drain. 

In a large skillet, add the remaining 1 tsp. of each oil, the pesto, and the lemon juice. Add the pasta and stir to coat each of the pieces. Let the pasta “cook” in the skillet for a few minutes. Add the prepared tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese. Heat through and serve with a small sprinkle of feta cheese.

Ham, Cheese, and Broccoli Casserole

broccoli, ham, and cheese casserole after baking

Have leftovers from Easter still hanging around your house? I can’t help you too much with any leftover hard-boiled eggs, but this recipe will certainly help you use up that leftover ham and another surprising ingredient that may be hanging around your house after Easter dinner. Carrots… This recipe from Clean Eating for broccoli and cheese casserole actually uses cooked, pureed carrots to help slim down the cheese sauce.

Using up leftovers and turning them into a healthy meal? Sounds good in my book. I’ve made the recipe a couple of times. The second time I decreased the amount of crushed red pepper slightly, and we liked it much better. It is not really that it is too spicy with the full amount, but the flavor is just too overpowering.  Be sure to use a cheese that you really enjoy. I found a reduced-fat sharp cheddar by Cabot that works really well for this dish.

broccoli, ham, and cheese casserole before baking

Sadly, we both worked last weekend, so I don’t have any Easter leftovers. So, if anyone wants to send a bit of ham my way, I’d love to make this again! Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe) 

Ham, Cheese, and Broccoli Casserole
Adapted from Clean Eating: Classic Comfort Foods

2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
2  Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (originally 1 Tbsp)
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta, desired shape
4 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
3/4 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese 
1 cup, cubed cooked lean ham
1/2 cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss broccoli and cauliflower with oil and red pepper flakes. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside; reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. 

Meanwhile, boil some water in a medium saucepan. Add pasta and cook about 5 minutes or until al dente per package directions. Drain and set aside. 

In a separate medium saucepan, combine carrots, milk, and 1/2 cup water. Place on medium-low heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until carrots soften. Remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes. You can transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor; add cheese and pulse until smooth. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender (this is what I did). Set aside.

In an 8×10-inch baking dish, combine broccoli-cauliflower mixture, carrot-cheese mixture, pasta and ham. Spread mixture in an even layer. Cover with Panko bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes or until topping is browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Ziti with Ricotta and Vegetables

ziti with ricotta and vegetables

I have been slacking on the meatless, seafoodless recipes for you all this last week. To make up for it, I’ll have one every day up through Thursday to give you several options for this week. Promise 🙂

We’ll start off the week with a short and sweet pasta meal. More pasta, I know, but hear me out. This one is much simpler than the previous lasagna recipe I posted! This recipe comes from my mother-in-law back from my bridal shower. Not sure what took me so long to make it knowing that pasta + balsamic vinegar + ricotta cheese + veggies = a winner in this house?!?

ziti with ricotta and vegetables cooking pasta and veggies
ziti with ricotta and vegetables in serving bowl

On a side note, can I just say that I am so glad that asparagus is coming back in season! I never had asparagus until I was an adult, and it ranks up there with my favorite vegetables (since it actually qualifies as a vegetable — no seeds!) 

(Printable Recipe)

Ziti with Ricotta and Vegetables
From Londa 

8 oz. dried whole wheat penne (or any shape) pasta
2-1/2 cups broccoli florets
1-1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large ripe tomatoes, juiced and chopped
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. dried, crushed basil
1 tsp. dried crushed thyme
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add the broccoli and asparagus in the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain.

Place a fine-meshed strainer over a large bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze over the strainer to release the juice and seeds. Press down on the seeds in the strainer to get all the liquid you can. Chop and reserve the tomato flesh. Discard the seeds.

Add ricotta cheese, spices, vinegar, and oil to the tomato juice in the bowl and mix until well combined. Stir in the tomatoes. Add pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Best Vegetable Lasagna

best vegetable lasagna

Meatless recipe #3. This is going to be a quick one because I am deep in the throes of the reviewing the new CHEST guidelines tonight. I’m on the docket to give a presentation over them next Tuesday, and it is quite the document to digest 🙂

Don’t let my brief nature tonight detract from this recipe. In Cook’s Illustrated style, this recipe has quite the list of instructions (kind of like my guidelines!). This is the recipe I had in mind when I mentioned that not all my meatless recipes would be quick. Nonetheless, each and every step is worth it. CI’s steps are always worth it. 

best vegetable lasagna cooking veggies
best vegetable lasagna sauces

I can state that this is one of the best behaving vegetable lasagnas that I have tried. Vegetables cooked perfectly. No extra liquid. With the cream and the cheese, it’s not the healthiest vegetable lasagna I’ve seen, but how many people really look to lasagna when they’re trying to cook healthier. At least this one has some veggies 🙂

‘Best.’ It is quite the title. This is not my word, but theirs. Give it a shot and see if you agree. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Best Vegetable Lasagna
Cook’s Illustrated Sept.-Oct. 2011

No-Cook Tomato Sauce:
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

No-Cook Cream Sauce:
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup whole milk cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Vegetable Filling:
1-1/2 lbs. eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 lb. zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 lb. yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
5 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
12 oz. baby spinach (12 cups)
12 no-boil whole wheat lasagna noodles
1/2 cup minced pitted kalamata olives
12 oz. low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

For the tomato sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

For the cream sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

For the filling, adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Place a double-layer of coffee filters or paper towels on a plate and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in an even layer over the plate. Microwave, uncovered, until dry to the touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that the eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly. Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and squash. 

Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and thyme in a small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half eggplant mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of the skillet; add half of garlic mixture to clearing, and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine garlic mixture with vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining garlic mixture.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon of oil and heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel-lined plate and drain 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture.

To assemble, spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish. Layer 4 noodles on top of the sauce. Spread half the vegetable mixture over noodles, followed by half of the olives, half of cream sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining olives, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. Place remaining 4 noodles on top layer of cheese. Spread remaining 1 cup tomato sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Lightly spray large sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray and cover lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 25 minutes. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

Eggplant. That word may still be enough to strike a fair amount of fear into this household. If you’ve read my blog over the past couple of months, you may know that our garden gave us a fair number of eggplant from late summer into fall. Too many. Enough that I was actually considering leaving a bag of them on my neighbor’s doorsteps! Our plants have since died out in the cooler temperatures so this may be one of the last eggplant recipes that you see from me for awhile.

The basic idea for this dish comes from Isabelle of Crumb, however I pre-cooked the eggplant based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. In CI, they explain that cooking with eggplant has 2 problems: 1) It has a fair amount of water that when baked, will water down your dish, and 2) It’s full of air pockets that will soak up any oil that is used in the dish. Their solution? Wrapping it in paper towels and pre-cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes before adding it to the dish. The cooking time collapses the air pockets, leaving no room for the oil, and the paper towels will soak up any extra water. Makes perfect sense, and it is so easy that I may never make an eggplant dish without first doing this step.

Out of all the things that we made with our eggplant, this dish is my favorite. The ingredients are pretty unassuming – eggplant, pasta, a homemade tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella, but the combination is stellar. Good enough that I’d even consider planting another plant again. Well, maybe in a few months. Just remind me at that time that it is not a good idea to grow 6 plants of 1 type of vegetable for only 2 people 🙂

(Printable Recipe)

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake
Adapted from Crumb and cooking methods from Cook’s Illustrated

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. whole wheat rigatoni, ziti, or penne pasta
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14oz) low-sodium diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
generous pinch red pepper flakes
about 1/3-lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with the salt in a large bowl. Line surface of a plate with a double layer of paper towels or coffee filters. Spread eggplant in even layers over filters. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that the eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, boil water to cook the pasta. Cook al dente, as directed by the package. Drain and rinse under cold water when finished cooking. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browning, about 8-10 minutes. Add eggplant and cook 2-3 minutes until warmed through. Add the tomatoes with juices, red wine, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes to the eggplant mixture. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Pour into a prepared 1-quart baking dish. Distribute the sliced mozzarella over the pasta and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Christmas Soup Series: Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Day 2 of soups for Christmas. This is one of the other recipes that my brother made last week while he was visiting. It is a little similar to this soup recipe that I posted last year in that it contains both sausage and red wine, but the soups are distinct enough that I am considering them different. 

Of all the things on my blog, my soups are probably one of the things that we “repeat” the most at home. You other bloggers know what I am talking about. The “are we having something new again for dinner” syndrome. This soup is definitely up with the others in flavor, and that is considering that we really like all of the soups posted here. Given the fact that my brother served us this during the same meal as the chocolate-chip toffee cheesecake, I would certainly say we had a great meal!

Similar to the minestrone, the pasta in this soup will soak up some of the liquid as it sits. Just add extra broth to your preference when you reheat it. This one also calls for red wine, but it can be substituted for the beef broth if you prefer. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini
Adapted from

1 lb. sweet Italian chicken/turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 can (14.5) oz. diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups quartered zucchini
8 oz. fresh whole wheat tortellini 
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, brown the sausage, crumbling as you cook it. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain the fat.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion begins to soften. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Skim fat from the soup if necessary (should be very little if you use chicken/turkey sausage). Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Cook the sausage as directed. Place all ingredients except tortellini and Parmesan cheese in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook tortellini separately on the stove according to package directions and add just before serving. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese.

Christmas Soup Series: Jamie’s Minestrone

Growing up we had quite a few Christmas traditions. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, we’d get up early to grab donuts before heading to the Christmas tree farm to pick out/cut down our tree. We also had a paper nativity scene that doubled as an Advent calendar. My brother and I would alternate days of putting up each character, often squabbling over who would get to put the star up over the manger on Christmas Eve.

One of the other traditions that I still continue – soup on Christmas Eve. The kind has changed over the years (there was a time when I would have a can of Campbell’s chicken and stars because the rest of the family was having oyster stew…), but the idea of soup has stayed constant. We’ve done stews, chili, homemade chicken noodle, and even played with the idea of bread bowls, but it’s always homemade and always great! Plus, it is low stress as you can put it in a crockpot and forget about it. Bonus that it leaves room for Christmas cookies 🙂

As I don’t have too many Christmas cookie recipes to share with you this year, I thought I would let you in on our little tradition and offer up a few soup recipes leading up to Christmas Eve. 

The first soup is a classic – minestrone. I have made this recipe a couple of times, and I really enjoy it as it is everything a minestrone soup should be: great flavor and loaded with vegetables. The recipe calls for red wine. If you are worried about including alcohol, it could certainly be replaced with some additional broth, however if you can, I would strongly suggest you include it. I love the flavor red wine adds to soups. One thing to note is that the pasta will continue to soak up the liquid (even when fully cooked), so cook it al dente and only add it a few minutes before serving. This is especially important if you are making the soup in a crockpot! For the leftovers in this case, I have just been adding a little bit more broth as needed when I heat it up. 

Feel free to join in if you want. It’s a fun tradition to start! Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Jamie’s Minestrone
Adapted from

1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 can (14.5oz) low-sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
2 cups baby spinach
3 small zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup small whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add chicken broth, water, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. If using, add red wine. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

Cook pasta separately until al dente according to package directions. Drain and add to soup. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Crockpot directions: Follow the first step through cooking the onions. Add the sauteed onions and garlic to the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients except the pasta, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook the pasta until al dente as directed above and add to the crockpot with the spinach just before serving. The heat will wilt the spinach. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Creamy, Light Mac and Cheese

It really hasn’t been that long since I posted this version of macaroni and cheese, but really, who can resist a big bowl of cheesy macaroni when the weather starts to cool down? In our house, past macaroni and cheese recipes or not, there was no way my husband was going to allow me to not make this when he saw my September issue of Cooking Light. It was cover-love at its greatest 🙂

In reality, this macaroni and cheese recipe was the makeover recipe for September swapping pureed butternut squash for some of the cheese and fat in the traditional sauce. This one major swap cut the calories by almost 2/3. Crazy! Thinking there is no way that butternut squash could be a good replacement for cheese? In our opinion, it didn’t do too bad. It certainly wasn’t they Velveeta, gooey version of macaroni and cheese, but the squash actually keeps it quite creamy all while staying barely noticeable. If you are looking for that Velveeta version, you won’t find that here. What you will find is a pretty good mac and cheese that would fall within most diets. In fact, if you didn’t know the ingredients, it would be hard to pick squash out of the lineup. Perfect if you happen to know any vegetable haters. You don’t even have to lie about the name. They left the word ‘squash’ out 🙂 Enjoy!

(Printable Recipes)

Creamy, Light Mac and Cheese
From Cooking Light September 2011

3 cups (1 lb) cubed, peeled butternut sqaush
1-1/4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups skim milk
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fat-free Greek yogurt
1-1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup  (4 oz) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 oz) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided 
1 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
cooking spray
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender (or blend with an immersion blender if you have one as this step is much easier). Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of the blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid. Place a clean towel over the opening of the blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash in a bowl; stir in Gruyere, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 9×13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. 

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat the topping with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.