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?

Meatless Monday: you phyllo me?

Hehe, I couldn’t help myself with that title. Dork alert. :oops:

Highlights:

- I can’t stay out of the kitchen for too long. Last night I made a recipe that’s been on my list for a whole year. Yes, this one is from July 2009 Cooking Light issue – phyllo pizza with feta, basil and tomatoes (recipe here). It sounded (and looked!) delicious so I thought this would be a perfect dinner to make on a meatless Monday. Now here is the kicker – have you ever worked with phyllo? It was crazy. The sheets of dough were SO thin and they were definitely sticking together and breaking the second I touched them. The recipe said to use one sheet at a time and spray it with EVOO spray (layering it with the cheese mixture every 3 sheets). I fought it for a few rounds and then started grabbing 2-3 at a time. I was nervous that it would result in a rubbery final product but it was one of the best things I’ve made in a long time. So flaky and light, the cheese melted beautifully between all the layers and the super fresh tomatoes enhanced the dish even further. It tasted like a cheat meal but it wasn’t! I will never attempt to make something like this on a weeknight again (especially since work was waiting!) but I think I need to give phyllo another go. It’s too delicious not to. ;)

- The chocolate chip cookies from yesterday’s post were from The Best Light Recipe cookbook. I made them as a thank-you for our neighbors but we never saw them so I brought them to work instead. :) This cookbook is amazing but I have to say this recipe was just okay. The cookies were a little too crunchy and actually got rock hard after a few hours on a plate. I had to warm them up to bring them to life. Warm cookies are always better! :D

- No gym today. I get too overwhelmed on Mondays. I feel like I’ll never meet my deadline. Hopefully it will all come together soon (I definitely made a lot of progress over the weekend).

That’s all I’ve got for today. Here is yesterday’s breakfast and lunch (snacks were unphotographed – imagine a breakfast cookie, a serving of almonds and 1 plum).

Cya tonight!

Breaking in the kitchen

Thank you all for being patient with me over the past few days. I really needed to take a little time off to organize the new kitchen and enjoy all the fun activities we had planned for the weekend. I took so many pictures and have so much to share with you. I decided to start with my very first (real) meal in the new kitchen. I think it was a great success! :mrgreen:

I really wanted my first meal to be elaborate. I wanted to spend hours in the kitchen- chopping, mixing, stirring, baking. When my parents in law mentioned they wanted to come visit us this Sunday to see our new kitchen, Adam and I agreed it would be a great idea to cook for them. I browsed through cookbooks to find that “perfect” recipe. Oh, how I missed this!

Since dinner was going to take a while to prepare, I knew I wanted dessert to be quick and easy. Ellie Krieger’s almond/cherry chocolate clusters is definitely one of my go-to desserts. The recipe has only 3 ingredients and comes together incredibly fast. The best part – it’s SO delicious. How can it not be – it’s almonds, cherries and chocolate!! :)

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Yes, we started our dinner with dessert. That’s my kind of meal! ;)

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While I was making the sauce for the lasagna (oops, did I spoil the surprise? :lol: ), Adam decided to open the champagne my PILs brought.

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Real champagne this time. :grin:

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Cheers!

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The bubbles are so pretty :D

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After hours in the kitchen, dinner was finally ready. I loved that I was able to stay in the kitchen the entire time, yet could 100% participate in all the conversation. The new kitchen is definitely perfect for entertaining!

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I used this recipe from The Best Light Recipe cookbook for meat & cheese lasagna. I really trust this cookbook – every single thing I’ve made from it was absolutely perfect (read: tastes like the real thing).

I added some mushrooms to the sauce (when adding the tomatoes) and baby spinach (a few minutes before taking it off the stove and adding the basil) for added nutrients and because I like both (and happened to have them on hand). I think even more veggies would be great – they would bulk up the lasagna and add new flavors and textures.

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Some whole wheat toasts, drizzled with EVOO and rubbed with garlic made for easy “garlic bread.”

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My plate:

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The lasagna was SO good! Seriously, this book never disappoints. My father in law considers himself a lasagna connoisseur and he said this was definitely up there with the best lasagna he’s had. Everyone was shocked that this was a “light recipe.” It was so cheesy and hearty!

On the side, I also served everyone with some escarole with pine nuts (another Ellie Krieger’s recipe). This was great as well. Really flavorful and complemented the creamy lasagna perfectly.

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This was a fabulous meal if I do say so myself. ;) I can’t wait for more delicious and healthy eats coming out of our new kitchen!

What would be the first meal you’d make in a new kitchen?

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