We skipped spring around Tallahassee and seemed to go right into summer. The weather forecast assures me we’ll be reverting back to more seasonal weather come tomorrow but due to this heat wave, cooking has not been high on my list. In trying to ease myself back into my usual schedule, I choose a quick and easy recipe that’s a healthy take on an old favorite. This Mexican Mac and Cheese recipe is quick and easy to make. However, it’s really more of a side dish than a main entree. I’ve been pairing it with side salads and small portions of chicken to feel like I ate a good meal for dinner. It is also a Weight Watchers recipe I found online so it’s on the healthier side of things – bonus!
Low-fat Mexican Mac and Cheese
Makes 6-7 servings
8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
5 oz. light processed cheese (NOTE: the recipe called for low fat or light Velveeta cheese which doesn’t seem to exist in Tallahassee. I ended up using 2% Milek Velveeta as it had the best nutritional stats)
1 tsp taco seasoning (NOTE: add more for more of a kick!)
1/2 cup salsa
- Cook the macaroni per usual until done
- While the noodles are cooking, cube the cheese
- Once the noodles are done, drain and return to the pot
- Add the cubed cheese and taco seasoning to the pot. Stir well until the cheese has melted
- When melted, stir in the salsa and serve!
I always like the idea of the sheet pan dinner than I actually like making them. Mostly because I usually look at the amount of food I’ve prepared and then look at my sheet pan and think “where are they getting their apparently GIANT cooking sheets from?!” I usually end up needed to use both of my cookie sheets and inevitably one cooks better than the other. So, I was excited about this recipe for it to call for a 13×9 pan. Brilliant! It called for me to stir every 10 minutes while cooking to avoid burning but I could do that if it meant only one pan for me to clean at the end of everything!
This is a hearty meal and actually made me 5 decent sized portions for the week so I am a fan. I did use dried rosemary as I loathe buying the fresh at Publix since the only way to buy the expensive fresh rosemary is buy a lot more than I need (it comes in a pre-packaged item) and end up tossing the rest since I don’t have anything to use it in before it goes bad. So, I used dried and actually think I did the conversion right for once! I also liked the addition of red peppers and onions to the dish – adds some great crunch in the dish to balance out the chicken and potatoes. I think this is a great winter dish so will fit nicely on people’s menus right now!
Rosemary Roasted Chicken & Potatoes [original recipe]
1 medium pepper, cut into strips
1/2 medium red onion, cut into strips
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
3 chicken breasts, cut into even strips
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat your oven to 375 degrees F, and line a baking pan (9 inch by 13 inch) with parchment.
- Chop all your veggies and the chicken, and place them in the baking pan.
- Cover with the garlic, oil, sea salt, pepper, and rosemary. Toss until well coated. [Note: I actually did this in a bowl before putting everything in the pan – I think this worked better]
- Roast for 45 minutes, until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through. Stir every 10-12 minutes to make sure nothing burns.
I welcomed in 2018 very quietly. I have never been a big fan of the celebration of a new year. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like to go to bed early? Hate parties? Much prefer to simply tuck in with a good movie and popcorn? Still, I am a fan of deciding on a new list of things to work on in the new year. It is one of my favorite things to make lists and a plan and write up new calendars. I am THAT kind of person. So, what am I planning to work on this year?
Reading Goals (outside of my GoodReads Reading Challenge goal of 80 books):
- Finish all the books I need to read that I already own BEFORE I 1) get more from the library (there are, of course, caveats) or 2) buy more (again…caveats)
- Caveat #1: It’s ok to get library books for book club reading
- Caveat #2: It’s ok to get library books if the book is working towards one of my other goals (reading or otherwise)
- Caveat #3: It’s ok to buy a book if needed for book club reading (and unable to get from library)
- Caveat #4: It’s ok to buy a book if it’s a reallllllly good deal (Under $5)
- Read a good mix of these two types of books on my to-read shelf: 1) Books that have been on my to-read list the longest and 2) Continue to work on finishing book series that are lingering mid-way finished on my list
- Complete a re-read of the Harry Potter series (which has been something I’ve been meaning to do for a few years now so let’s get it on a list officially!)
- Learn how to make bread is my major goal in the kitchen this year – we’ll see how this goes!
- Make at least one new dish a month and write a blog post about it
- Make one “fun” recipe a month and share it with folks. I have been collecting tasty baked good recipes for years and never have a reason to make them so folks at work, get ready – I am making them and then getting them out of my apartment.
- Try to cook seafood this year. I am scared of cooking seafood – I don’t know why. Maybe I fear my apartment will permanently smell of the fish market? This may be a short-lived goal if that is indeed the case!
I have more vague goals about taking up running in a more regimented way again, to try and explore more of Florida, start day hiking etc. But this set of goals are pretty concrete so I wanted to share them out to keep me accountable over 2018.
I adore my mother’s beef stew. I will make it at least once a winter if not twice. However, it’s not the healthiest version of stew you’ll find so when you’re trying to be good in light of the upcoming holiday season, it’s not the best fit. But I really wanted a good hearty stew for the Crock Pot last weekend. So, I went to my go-to spot and Hungry Girl didn’t disappoint.
It is so tasty; I’ve been eating it with a few slices of french baguette.
This is a broth-based stew so it’s not thick but it’s chockfull of veggies and super tender meat. It also makes a ton of food. The original recipe said it made 6 servings but I’ve been eating it since Sunday and am pretty sure I’ll have enough to go to this coming Sunday so yeah, LOTS of leftovers. I also have been adding just a splash of new broth when I’ve been reheating to avoid having the meat dry out at all. Overall, this is a big winner for me and is going on my winter rotation for sure!
Slow Cooker Pot Roast Stew [original recipe here]
2 lbs. raw boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat, cut into large pieces
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 cups chopped carrots (1 lb. bag)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (1/2 8 oz. package)
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onions (3/4 of 1 large onion)
8 oz. russet potato, peeled and cubed (1 medium-sized potato)
1 cup chopped celery (8 oz. or half of a celery hearts bags)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef broth
- Place beef in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Add all remaining ingredients except broth.
- Top with broth. Cover and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or on low for 7 – 8 hours, until beef is cooked through.
- Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Transfer beef to a bowl, and shred with two forks.
- Return shredded beef to the slow cooker, and mix well.
This is the time of year I really, really hate living in Florida. Not just hate, I am angry that I live in this state by this time of year. I want to be frolicking in leaves, wearing cute scarves and pea coats while cuddling up with a book and hot mug of tea as a deliciously crisp breeze rattles the window. Instead, I’m still sweating like a pig when I set foot outside and groaning as I turn the A/C down another degree because it’s still that gross outside. As someone who lived for fall and winter (I’ve actually always kind of loathed summer weather and find it suspicious when it’s that sunny all. the. time), Florida and I don’t actually get on well most of the time. Except for January and February when, at least in northern Florida, we get nice, cold nights with a delightful frost over everything. I live for those days.
So, instead, I just start pretending it’s fall outside my doors. I buy all the apply, harvest spicy candles I can find, wear my scarves indoors at all times, switch my kitchen towels over to leaves and Halloween and generally just take one to the chin with the A/C because I start cooking up a storm again with crock pot and stove. So, I share one of my new-found delightfully autumn recipes with you today. I was so keen to dive in, I have no photos but the original site link (included below), has great ones! I did make the recipe smaller for me – mine came out with 4 servings instead of the 6 servings of the original but I recommend this whole-heartedly! And it was fairly easy to put together once I got past the peeling of apples. I really am not good at peeling anything. It’s a kitchen skill I need to improve! This also has the sheet pan aspect going for it – throw everything on a cookie sheet and let bake!
Pork Chops and Apples Sheet Pan dinner [original recipe for 6]
I served this with frozen green beans and it’s been a great combo. The apples serve as your “potatoes” and as someone who has a sweet tooth, I love the change up from the usual sides. I bet you could switch them out for sweet potatoes though with just a few adjustments if you prefer.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb. boneless pork chops, thin cut
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 apples, peeled and sliced (I used Honeycrisp apples – the slight tartness mellowed well in cooking. I am betting Empire apples would be delicious but those are hard to find in the South in my experience)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- dash nutmeg
- Brush sheet pan with olive oil. [Note: I put parchment paper down first to help with clean-up)
- Place pork chops on the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Stir apples together with honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Pour apples onto the sheet pan with pork chops.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until pork chops are cooked through and apples are tender.
I actually had people over for dinner this past weekend. This is big for me! But it’s nice to live in an apartment where I don’t mind having friends over again! I made my old standby, Beef Gyros (which I have apparently never shared on this blog?! Need to fix that but in the meantime, here’s the original recipe), but I tried something new for dessert. Healthy (ish) brownies! Hungry Girl never lets me down. These are so good. Nice and moist and using the muffin tin means they come out perfectly proportioned. I sent most of the batch home with my friends so I wouldn’t eat them all. Which turned out to be a good call because my cat is driving me to stress eating. Figment is having a rough patch again so please send lots of good thoughts to my little guy and make these brownies ASAP.
[I meant to take a picture but they were gone before I did…so here’s the photo from Hungry Girl]
- 1 box moist-style devil’s food cake mix (15.25 to 18.25 oz.) [NOTE: I couldn’t find a cake mix with this title so I used a Moist Triple Chocolate Cake mix and it came out fine.]
- One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups, or spray it with nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, mix cake mix with pumpkin until completely smooth and uniform. (Batter will be thick.)
- Evenly distribute batter into the cups of the muffin pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean, about 20 minutes
I love chicken. But I get sick of it. There are only so many things you can do with it before you want something different. Something about summer also says “seafood” to me. Or maybe it was just all the Red Lobster commercials on the Hallmark Channel over the weekend. So, I went digging through my crab cake recipes. A lot of my “healthy” crab cake recipes called for frying. While tasty, it’s so messy (and not really healthy usually either). I always feel the need to scour my kitchen after I fry anything. And also spray Febreeze everywhere. So, I was happy that HG did not let me down.
This recipe was so easy and quick and tasty. I tried a sauce from a different recipe which is good but I think I’ll stick with some dijonnaise for dipping sauce in the future. I added a pile of lettuce and found it to be a very tasty and filling dinner; perfectly light for a summer’s night!
Crab Cakes (original recipe from Hungry Girl; tweaked a bit)
Serving: 1 cake (recipe makes 4)
Ingredients for cakes
1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dry)
Dash each salt and black pepper
8 oz. (about 1 cup) canned lump crabmeat, drained [NOTE: Publix only sold 6 oz. cans and that was plenty of crab for me!]
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped celery
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
3 tbsp. egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
1 tbsp. light mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. Dijonnaise (or another creamy mild Dijon mustard)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. light whipped butter or light buttery spread
Ingredients for sauce
1 cup plain nonfat, Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh if possible – juice of one lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp dry)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
- In a medium-large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Add crabmeat, onion, celery, and garlic. Mix until uniform.
- In a medium bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Add egg whites/substitute, mayo, Dijonnaise, lemon juice, and butter. Whisk until smooth and uniform.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold cream cheese mixture into crabmeat mixture.
- Evenly form mixture into 4 balls, and place on the baking sheet, evenly spaced. Flatten each one into a patty about 1-inch thick.
- Bake for 8 minutes. While baking, mix the sauce ingredients until smooth.
- Carefully flip patties. Bake until firm, lightly browned, and cooked through, about 8 more minutes.