Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recipe: Healthy Macaroni & Cheese with Butternut Squash

This chilly weather has me longing for comfort food so of course I needed to whip up some healthy macaroni and cheese.

I know what you're thinking. There's no such thing as healthy macaroni and cheese. But I assure you this is!

I suppose you could also make the argument that this isn't really macaroni and cheese, but despite the random ingredients used to create a cheesy sauce, it tastes like it!

This recipe is modified from the Whole Foods Diet Cookbook, an excellent cookbook that's all about whole, natural foods. The secret to this recipe is that you're not dumping gobs of cheese in the pan; you're creating a sauce with beans and butternut squash as the basis that is then flavored with cheese.

Don't worry, there's still a good amount of cheese in there.

If you have picky eaters, don't tell them the ingredients. They'll love it as long as they don't know.

Oh, and of course I tossed in some other vegetables to make it a more satisfying dish. This is a little more hands on than some of my other recipes, but it makes a big batch and I think it's worth it!

1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans
2 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
1/4 cup kefir cheese (or cream cheese)
3/4 cup milk kefir (or milk)
3 shallots, diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
3 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk kefir (or milk)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Monterey Jack, grated
One tbspWorcestershire sauce
3-5 cups of cooked noodles
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup flax, ground

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and drain the cannellini beans. Place them, along with the butternut squash, kefir cheese, and 3/4 cup of milk into a blender or processor and blend.

Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. (I used a cast iron skillet because this is also going in the oven - less dishes to wash!) Put a bit of oil in the pan and saute the shallots for 3-5 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and thyme and saute for another 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the vegetable mixture from the skillet and set aside. 

(You should probably start boiling the water for the noodles around this time. If you're not sure how to cook your pasta noodles, follow the instructions on the box.)

Place a tablespoon of oil in the large skillet, along with a tablespoon of flour and stir until it thickens into a nice paste. Add the 1/2 cup of milk kefir. The sauce should continue to thicken over the next 3 minutes. If necessary, add more milk kefir to form the sauce.

After the sauce has thickened, add the butternut squash mixture and vegetable mixture into the pan. Add one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. 

Slowly stir in the grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and stir until melted, about 5-10 minutes. Add the cooked pasta noodles.

If you're cooking this in a cast-iron or otherwise oven safe pan, that's awesome. If not, pout your macaroni and cheese into an oven safe pan.

Mix 1/2 cup parmesan with 1/2 cup of ground flax and a bit of oil in a separate container. This is your "breadcrumb" topping! Sprinkle it on top of your mac and cheese.

Bake for 10 minutes. And enjoy!

Total Time: about 1 hour and 15 minutes 
Serves: 4-8 people

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Made Sour Cream!

So for some reason, I'm on a condiment kick. I've made ketchup and hot sauce, I'm currently making Worcestershire sauce, and I'm looking into mayonnaise... But this post is about sour cream!

I love sour cream, but I rarely ever have it in the house. I tend to substitute yogurt in most of my Mexican dishes, but when I realized from Phickle that all you needed to make sour cream was a little cream and a couple of milk kefir grains, I got on it immediately!

I only have access to ultra-pasteurized cream so I wasn't sure it would work perfectly. I bought the smallest container of heavy whipping cream and hoped for the best.

I took a few of my small but growing grains and I tossed them in the container. My normal fermenting time is 24 hours so I shook the container throughout the day, per normal, and the next morning I woke up and it just felt different.

I tried shaking it and nothing moved. I was terrified, but when I opened it, I had thick, wonderful sour cream!

I figured there would be no way to separate my grains from the thick mass so I decided to sacrifice them. (After all, eating grains is really healthy!) However, it turned out to be incredibly easy to spot my 3 grains because they look so different than the rest. Two were on top and the third stuck to my spoon so the grains have been saved for now.

And as for the taste - it's creamy and wonderful! The boyfriend was nervous and told me I was "living dangerously" as "dairy should always be refrigerated," but then he tasted it and changed his tune completely, calling me a genius and "ahead of the crowd." So there. 24 hour sour cream. Boyfriend approved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Recipe: Stuffed Bell Peppers, Vegetarian Style

This is one of my favorite meals and I'm so excited to share it with you. It's vegetarian. It's very cheesy. It's a little spicy. It's worth the wait. And if there are any omnivores out there worried about not eating meat, fear not. You'll be very full and hopefully more than satisfied.

I made this last night with a lot of fermented veggies I had in the fridge, and it was the best yet. Of course, you're not getting all the probiotics that way... Below is the recipe. Feel free to sub with fermented veggies if you have them, but it's great with fresh veg as well!

That said, it's not the prettiest thing to look at, but I tried to make it somewhat appealing!

2 red bell peppers
1 small red onions
1/4 cup of garlic brine (or 4-6 garlic cloves)
1 jalapeno (or 1 tbsp cayenne pepper)
1/4 pound of feta cheese
1/2 cup of another soft cheese (blue cheese or goat cheese are my favorite for this!)
1 tbsp dried paprika
1 tbsp dried thyme
1-2 tbsp of yogurt (or milk kefir)
grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of quinoa

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Slice the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds/stem. Place them hollow side down in an oven safe pan. Put a little olive oil on them and cover with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

While the peppers are roasting away, dice your onions, jalapeno, and garlic if necessary and toss them in a mixing bowl. (If you're using garlic brine, add that as well.) Add the feta cheese, your other soft cheese, paprika, and thyme. Mix well and add the yogurt - just enough to cover everything and really make a nice sauce. If you're using fresh vegetables, you might need to add up to 5 tbsp of yogurt to get everything properly covered.

Remove the bell peppers from the oven after 30 minutes. Take off the tin foil and turn the bell peppers over. Fill the bell peppers with the yogurt mixture and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top of each one. Place the bell peppers back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

While the bell peppers are roasting (again), it's time to start the quinoa! You can follow the directions on the packet or, if you don't have any instructions, just double the amount of water to quinoa. For example, boil 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of quinoa and stir until the water has been absorbed.

And finally I place the stuffed bell peppers on a little bed of quinoa. Enjoy!

Total Time: Approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes
Serves: 2-4 people

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Recipe: Brie and Jam Pastries

I try to make smoothies every morning before work (unless I'm rushed and just grab a handful of almonds - eek!), but on the weekends I like to experiment and make something a little more complicated and special.

A few weeks ago I made up some puff pastry - though go ahead and buy some puff pastry if you need to. Making puff pastry is ridiculous.

So yes, you'll need some puff pastry cut into small sections. Place a small piece of brie on top - mine were about 1 inch by half an inch and shape the puff pastry around the cheese. Do not cover the cheese with the dough because you're putting jam on top!

I made mine with strawberry jam and pear jam. So delicious!

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake for about 15 minutes.