Weeknight light mac & cheese

I’ve had 3 days without a full time job now. People keep telling me to have fun “doing nothing” all day, but if you know me at all, you know that’s just not how I roll.  For months (years?) I’ve had a million things I was hoping I’d have time or energy to do but never did. And now I feel like it’s my chance. I’ve been cleaning, scrubbing, planning, shopping, blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing (and apparently making up words)… and learning. I’m learning that there is a whole other world out there during the 9-5 time slot. A world where people move a lot slower, A LOT slower. Where housewives like telling you (a complete stranger!) all about how much money they spent decorating their house while trying to bargain with the sales clerk on the price of a picture frame (she didn’t budge). And where between traffic and “story telling” all of this results in your errands taking over 6 hours (!!) and that’s without a trip to the gym, a stop for lunch (some pretzels, an apple and an Ikea soft serve count as lunch, right?) or a minute of tv watching. Forget about your dreams of having an elaborate dinner ready for Adam every night when he gets home.

A recipe for a quick and light mac & cheese to the rescue!

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I wouldn’t have it any other way! Smile

Weeknight light mac & cheese

Largely based on Cook’s Illustratt ed The Best Light Recipe

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 8 oz dry macaroni
  • 12 oz can of reduced fat evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 8 oz 50% light cheddar cheese, such as Cabot – shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 slices bacon (I used fresh bacon from Stillman’s which tasted more like pork tenderloin than smoky bacon… I think real cured bacon would be really nice here)

Instructions:

  • Cook macaroni according to package instructions.
  • Fry bacon, then pat dry between paper towels and dice. Discard bacon fat.
  • Bring a mixture of evaporated milk, 1/2 cup milk, dry mustard, garlic powder and cayenne to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  • Add in frozen peas.
  • Whisk cornstarch with the remainder of milk. Add to the evaporated milk + peas mixture.
  • Continue whisking until the sauce is thickened. Take off heat.
  • Whisk in shredded cheddar cheese, then macaroni.
  • Let the mac & cheese rest for about 5 minutes so the sauce is absorbed into the macaroni.
  • Stir in bacon. Adjust for seasoning, if needed.
  • Enjoy! Open-mouthed smile

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I was impatient so my first serving was a bit runny but still creamy and definitely plenty cheesy. The sauce really thickened up overnight so the leftovers were spot on.

What are you latest favorite recipes for busy nights?

The beauty of doing nothing, perfected

I took last week off from work to catch up on my mile long to do list, slow down and relax. I kind of joked on twitter about feeling guilty about not getting enough done, while on vacation, but the truth is it wasn’t really a joke. I kept thinking of more and more things I should have had time to do and then felt disappointed at the end of each day about my lack of progress (basically, nothing new at all – I just didn’t have 8 hours of work under my belt). Luckily we had plans to finish the week with a mini-vacation to Maine! Apparently I’m only able to calm down through forced relaxation!

The very first night we watched Eat, Pray, Love on demand (which btw, I was not a fan of… probably because I read the book and movies never live up to books) and the Italian bel far niente (aka “the beauty of doing nothing”) really stuck with me. Why should I feel guilty for taking days off to accomplish a whole lot of nothing and just relax? We all need to recharge our batteries. The rest of the weekend was definitely dedicated to bel far niente. You better believe that cooking and eating was no trouble at all! Winking smile [My mother in law, Jane, and I shared the responsibility.]

There was seafood…

Shrimp with penne in a creamy herb sauce (+ garlic bread)

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I made lobster mac & cheese

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[The men cooked and shelled the lobster, I did the rest. It was cheesy and creamy – the perfect Maine treat!]

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And couldn’t pass up the seafood lover’s omelet (crab + lobster) at the Boathouse in Rockland.

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SO good!

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I <3 lobster!

And then there were blueberries… we dug deep into Jane’s recipe archives and found some gems from 1994!!! I was 12 at the time. Good thing I’m older because I could make these babies. Oh my! Embarrassed smile <—that’s me blushing, yes that good!

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Lemon blueberry muffins. Heaven!

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The very last morning, Jane treated us all to freshly made yogurt blueberry pancakes. They were moist and full of giant blueberries bursting with flavor.

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[Email me if you want the recipes for either of these, I took pictures of the printouts!]

These were my favorite food things but the best part was definitely doing only things I felt like doing. I spent some “quality” time with magazines (scissors in hand – what can I say, I found it relaxing!) and watched more House Hunters than I’d care to admit… but that ended up being for the greater good too! The second we got home to Boston, I hooked up my laptop to the internet (together at last! :lol: ) and started researching bathroom vanities, tiles, window curtains, table runners, area rugs and more. Apparently the beauty of doing nothing has its advantages. My creative juices were flowing and I was dying to put them to use. Better yet? I was happy to come back to work today. They were happy to have me back too! Who me?

Are you able to take time off and just enjoy it or do you need to be forced into relaxation (like being “locked” in a cabin with no internet access and cell reception)? I think the Italians got this right. I’m going to try to bring some of that bel far niente spirit more into my life. It really is fun! :mrgreen:

Last chance to enter the UNO’s giveaway!

Comfort foods–healthified

I haven’t cooked at all last week since I was traveling during the first part of the week and then came home to a fridge bare of fresh produce. We finally made it to the grocery store on Saturday but looking through these pictures of what I made over the weekend, it seems like I could have waited a few more days!

These recipes were all made from pantry items and meat/bread from the freezer and they all tasted like cheat meals. My taste buds had no idea this was diet friendly food. Just the way I like it! : )

Chicken parm meatball “subs”

Almost every single savory recipe on Healthy Food for Living looks like something that Adam (and I) would love. They’re comforting; they’re “man meals” which makes for one happy husband (and hey, I like me some man-food too. What’s not to love?). These chicken meatballs were full of Italian herbs and parmesan cheese – a little sauce and cheese put them over the top.

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[1 Point Plus per meatball. This dinner was 10 points. The bun is a large hot dog bun.]

Jumbo bran muffins

On Saturday morning I woke up craving a big healthy muffin. When Adam asked where I wanted it to be from, I said “from my kitchen.” Winking smile So I got to work…

While making coffee, the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook jumped out at me. I love that the Points Plus values are right there and I don’t have to take that extra step of calculating nutritional info (btw, I linked to the book through Amazon… if you buy it or anything else on Amazon, I’d really appreciate if you would start your shopping from Healthy and Sane (link on the right column)… I get a few percent commission from your purchase but it doesn’t cost you any extra. This money would be reinvested back into the blog. Thanks in advance!!). Anyways, sorry for the detour… back to the muffins

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The word “jumbo” was the draw here… who doesn’t want a JUMBO muffin for just 5 Points Plus. Sign me up! Smile

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The perfect way to start a morning. The strudel topping was unbelievable and I loved the sweetness of the raisins. Yum!

Chocolate gooey butter cookies

Paula Deen is who you think of when you think of healthy food, right? :lol: A few years back I had the Food Network on and she was making these cookies. They looked so incredible that even though I normally can’t stand Paula, I went straight online and printed out the recipe.

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Finally this weekend I decided to make them. I stumbled upon the old recipe printout and figured it was now or never (I plan on cleaning out my recipe binder in a few weeks and plan on only keeping things I’ve made and loved. Everything else will go. It’s time for a clean beginning!)

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These were incredibly easy to make and came out pretty well. The recipe made 36 cookies, only 3 Points Plus each! [I used reduced fat cream cheese… couldn’t help myself.]

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I brought them to the Superbowl party and people seemed to enjoy them. I thought they weren’t chocolaty enough but maybe it was just the cake mix I used.

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The slightly cakey texture (not muffin-like!) was pretty awesome.

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Yes, I ate as many cookies as the amount of pictures I took. That’s what happens when you park yourself right next to the party food table. Oh well. The rest of my week has been going really well (diet wise). More on that in the next post! Open-mouthed smile

What have you been cooking lately? I’ve definitely been a bit of a slacker lately so I was really happy to finally spend some quality time in the kitchen this weekend! Smile

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