Lightened up Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

 

Yup.  I’m on a diet.  That is probably the most loathed word in my vocabulary.  I hate to diet, but I need to.  You see, in about four months, I will be wearing a white dress….and you know how unforgiving white is.  I mean, even my chef white’s are black.

Anyhoo…..so, since I have been so completely undisciplined and totally accustomed to eating my heart’s content, I started to dig up some recipes that I know are in Martha Stewart magazines, namely, the Fit to Eat section.  The first one I came across was this one…..and I love me some Mac and Cheese.

I was really dubious about this lightened up version, in the magazine it looks creamy, but after reading the ingredients, I really wasn’t sure how it would hold up.  And, my daughter and Paolo being pasta connoseiurs….oh boy.  I was setting myself up to fail.  But I did it anyway, and let me tell you….it was amazing!  Ok, it obviously isn’t your typical rich mac and cheese, but damn, this was good!  The main component is Butternut Squash, boiled with chicken stock and nonfat milk, then mashed.  Just a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 cup of full fat cheddar, this dish screams deliciousness.  And at only 350 calories per serving?  Sold!!!!

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So, if you’re watching your weight, or just want to make a healthier version of a comfort classic, look no farther than this!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Martha Stewart Living Magazine January 2003

Serves 6

1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup homemade or low sodium chicken stock, skimmed of fat

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb elbow macaroni

4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

Olive oil cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine squash, stock and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper.  Stir to combine.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.

3.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Transfer noodle mixture to dish.  In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle over noodle mixture.

4.  Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Per Serving:  35o Calories, 6 G Fat, 18 MG Cholesterol, 57 G Carbohydrate, 505 MG Sodium, 16 G protein, 2 G Fiber

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipes No. 74 – Garides Saganaki (Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta)

shrimp

Sometimes, you come across a recipe and you read it and think, hmmm, ok, sounds nice but you really don’t think much of it.  Well, this one was like that for me.  Last night, with Paolo’s parents here on a visit, we decided to give it a try, and we were all spectacularly pleased with it.  First of all, it was super easy to prepare, and very quick.  If you have these ingredients on hand, you can make this dinner in 30 minutes, tops.  Secondly, the flavor!  Oh my lord…..the tomatoes and melted feta were heavenly, add to that the nuanced hint of the ouzo, it turned an already delicious dish into something more than special.  The secret to this dish is to really buy the best ingredients possible.  Since it only has about 8, and in small quantities, it really begs for you to go all out.

shrimp2

One thing that I absolutely recommend you to do.  Have lots of fresh crusty bread on hand.  You’ll be sopping up this sauce for sure!

Overall points: 8.5/10

Difficulty: Easy

Availability of ingredients: Readily available, if you can’t find Ouzo, use any other anisette liqueur

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

1/2 medium hot green chile, stemmed and finely chopped

1 1/4 cups canned whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 large head-on shrimp (about 12 oz.) bodies peeled (heads and tail shells left intact), deveined

4 oz. Greek feta, coarsely crumbled

2 tbsp ouzo

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1. Heat broiler to high.  Heat oil in an 8″ round metal gratin dish or a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and chile, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, and season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

2. Arrange shrimp in dish, spoon some sauce on top, and continue to simmer until shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Scatter feta around shrimp, then transfer dish to broiler, and broil until feta begins to melt, about 2 minutes.  Remove dish from broiler.  Warm ouzo in a tiny pot over low heat, then ignite it with a kitchen match and pour over shrimp and feta.  When flames die out, garnish dish with parsley, and serve.  Serves 2.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

About 7 years ago, I had the most wonderful nanny, her name is Adrienn.  She hails from Hungary, and my daughter and I were lucky enough to be taught a few wonderful dishes that she prepares.  This salad is something fantastic.  Simple, easy, healthy.  It is a perfect side dish to many dishes, not necessarily Hungarian.

I remember her making this the way I assume her family taught her.  She didn’t use measuring spoons or cups, all she did to make the dressing was grab a glass and fill it with the desired quantities of what she needed.  I studied her closely, me being the perfectionist in the kitchen, and this was a challenge.  I am quite accustomed to making dishes that people have taught me this way, but still get a little nervous when they do.

I am going to share this recipe with you the best I know how, feel free to tweak it as you need, because to some it may lack salt, and to some it may be too sweet.  The one thing I do stipulate, as she said to me, please try to use Hungarian Sweet Paprika.  I am told it is the best!

Hungarian Paprika

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced with a mandoline (or as thin as you can get it with your knife)

3/4 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

3/4 tbsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt or more to taste

Water

Distilled White Vinegar

Place the cucumber slices in a deep bowl.

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To the cucumber, add the 1/2 tsp of salt, and mix well with your hands, coating all the slices.  In a large drinking glass, fill half of it with water, and add the sugar and paprika.  Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.  You should have a very red liquid.  Add the vinegar a little at a time, until you reach your desired acidity, I think it should be at least a tbsp.  Add your dressing to the cucumber slices, and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

Your cucumber slices should be quite soft.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Minestrone

Minestronne

 

Nothing screams homey, comfort and belly-warming to me more than Minestrone.  Growing up, it was my mother’s preferred way to get me to eat veggies, mine too now, of course; I also remember watching my uncle carefully chop all the vegetables, and explain to me in which order they should be sautéed, for how long, and of course, his secret ingredient.

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The hard rind of the parmesan cheese.  He rarely threw out any food out, there was always some use for it.  I remember as a kid, watching that incredibly hard and inedible rind being plopped into the soup mid way, and upon its extraction, it was a soft, gooey, gloop of a mess.  For me it was alchemy, magic.  And the taste of the soup…..incredible!

I still make my minestrone exactly the way my uncle taught me, digging out as many veggies from the fridge as I can, but always respecting their taste profiles.  I remember him saying never to put eggplant in, as it would give the soup a more acid taste.  So I don’t use it.  Also, he used broccoli, but this time I found this beauty:

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I think this is purple cauliflower, but the taste seems to be a cross between the two.  It gave the overall dish another beautiful color profile, which I love…..I love eating the rainbow, it just makes me feel so healthy!

The recipe I am going to give to you is by no means written down anywhere, I always make it from my memory.  So, the amounts are not perfect, so hang in there.

So, here’s what you’re going to need

Serves 8-10

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 stalk of celery, sliced

1/2 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced

6-7 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of green beans, chopped into 2 inch sticks

1/2 zucchini, diced

6-7 broccoli or purple cauliflower florets, chopped

1/2 cup white beans, from can or jar

1 tsp dried oregano

3 cups vegetable stock

1 large can (800 g) crushed tomatoes

1 parmesan cheese rind (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and leeks.

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Sprinkle in some salt and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes.  Raise the heat to medium high, and add the rest of the veggies, except for the beans.

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Saute until the mushrooms are just starting to soften, about 6 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, parmesan rind and oregano.  Let it come to a boil, and then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Five minutes before you take it off the heat, add the beans.  Taste and add more salt if needed, and some pepper.

Serve with the grated parmesan.

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From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Cabbage Gratin

Cabbage Gratin

Poor cabbage.  It always gets relegated to some type of sauerkraut or slaw.  I personally adore cabbage.  And since you can’t just buy a bit, and using up the whole head when the recipe calls for a cup or so, you are left with that soccer ball in your fridge, begging to be used every time you open it up.

I wanted something different to what I am used to preparing with cabbage.  I didn’t want to make a salad, or a soup.  I wanted to see if it could be used in a side dish that wasn’t just braised with apples!  So, I picked up a really great cookbook of mine, called “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”  by Deborah Madison.  It’s a hefty tome, with 720 + pages of recipes.  It really is a bible for all things veggie!

Cabbage gratin

So, to my delight, there were quite a few recipes for cabbage that are completely new to me.  I found this one to be really interesting.  But, I decided to change it up a bit, one because I want to lose a few pounds before I go to my best friends’ wedding this January.  And two, because now when I read a recipe, I can judge if it needs a little extra umph to it.

cabbage gratin

So, instead of using cream in the original version, I swapped it for some greek yogurt.  And then I added some ground chipotle powder, which is my new favorite spice.  It adds a smokiness that you can’t get from any other spice, and the perfect amount of heat.  So, for all of you that are watching their weight, I did the math, and a serving of this is a whopping 150 calories!!!  I was so pleased that something that tastes really decadent can be eaten guilt-free. I also topped it with a teeny bit of grated Gruyère cheese as soon as it came out of the oven.  It is super simple to make, so the prep time is minimal, and all you have to do is wait about an hour for it to come out of the oven, and voilà!  You’ve got a delicious, healthy and low-calorie side dish!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Low- Calorie version:

Olive oil spray and freshly grated Parmesan for the baking dish

1 1/2 lbs of green or savoy cabbage, diced into 2 inch squares

1/3 cup flour

1 cup skim milk

1/4 cup greek yogurt

2 tbsp tomato paste

3 eggs

3 tbsp finely chopped parsley or dill

2 tsp chipotle powder or spicy paprika

Salt and freshly milled white pepper

3 tbsp grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).  Spray the gratin dish with the olive oil and coat with the parmesan cheese.  Boil the cabbage, uncovered, in salted water for 5 minutes, then drain.  Rinse, then press out as much water as possible.  Whisk the remaining ingredients until smooth, add the cabbage, and pour the mixture into the dish.  Bake until firm and lightly browned, about 50 minutes.  Top with the Gruyère when it comes out of the oven.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla