There’s not much more appealing in the category of comfort food then a plate full of Mac and Cheese. This version is an easy stove-top variety with the added plus of having been tweaked to make it more waist friendly without losing any taste. The secret is the hot sauce and dry mustard.
Dress it up a bit for adults by serving it with a buttery, oaked Chardonnay. It makes an excellent side dish for grilled ham steaks or enjoy it as your main course.
Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
8 oz. elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons light butter
6 ounces milk
1⁄2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh black pepper, to taste
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
8 ounces 2% extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to desired tenderness and drain.
Melt the butter in the pan on low. Return the pasta to the pot and toss to coat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and dry mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese has melted and creamy.
Fresh, flavorful, uncomplicated and healthy. What’s not to love??
It’s always nice to find a new recipe that is different than anything else I make. To find one that we love which is also so easy to prepare is a huge bonus. The combination of fresh tomatoes, flavorful herbs and tangy balsamic vinegar over juicy chicken topped with a combination of Italian cheese is superb. Pair it with freshly baked ciabatta bread and an oaked Ox-Eye Vineyards Pinot Noir and it defies description.
1 lb. thin-cut boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbls. balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbls. Italian herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 pint diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
Place chicken breasts in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Combine the EVOO, balsamic vinegar, garlic, Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour HALF of the marinade over the chicken, reseal bag, and in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours. (Overnight is fine.)
Preheat your grill to medium high or about 350 degrees F. Combine remaining marinade with diced tomatoes; set aside. Transfer chicken from marinade onto grill surface and discard marinade. Grill chicken for 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. (It is also okay to fry them in a pan over medium heat.) Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Spoon bruschetta mixture over chicken and top with basil; serve immediately.
The Ciabatta Bread is mixed in a bread machine on the Dough Cycle and then baked in the oven. I honestly could make a meal out of just it dipped in a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil seasoned with real grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh ground pepper. The dough is very sticky. Don’t give into the temptation to add more flour. Treat it gingerly to keep from bursting all the lovely air bubbles that form. It makes two loaves. If you don’t need both immediately, double bag one and stick it in the freezer. Thaw it at room temperature for several hours. It was pretty darn close to fresh baked.
Found this on Rachael Ray’s website. I made a few tweaks. She called for cod pieces, but I used flounder fillets. I also used African blue basil from my herb garden instead of traditional basil, and I cut back on the olive oil.
Fish with Eggplant, Tomatoes & Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
1 eggplant (1 lb.), trimmed and cut into 12 round slices (about 1/2 inch thick)
1 pound flounder fillets
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil
Preheat the broiler. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Add the halved tomatoes to the pan; season with salt and pepper. Cook, undisturbed, until tender on one side, about 5 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with foil; place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Mist the eggplant on both sides with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Broil, turning once, until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.
Spoon the tomatoes on top of the eggplant and cover with the fish. Broil until the fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a wide spatula, transfer to plates. Top with the basil and garlic.
These are a nice change from traditional tacos. Baking them in the oven adds a different dimension to the overall taste. It also helps soften the hard shells, which makes them easier to eat. Sometimes, I place the filling in a crock-pot and used it to assemble traditional tacos later. This approach works well for having supper ready within minutes of walking in the door or when taking something to a potluck meal. It’s especially popular with the kids.
Beef and Bean Oven Tacos
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained (optional)
8-10 taco shells
1 cup shredded cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Brown the lean ground beef with the chopped onion. Drain well, if needed. Stir in the black beans, taco seasoning, petite diced tomatoes and corn. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Line up the taco shells in a 7×11-inch baking dish that has been lined with foil. (Easy clean up!)
Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top with cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Serve with any or all additional toppings: shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, avocado chunks or guacamole.
I don’t usually think of “Coastal Living Magazine” as a source for recipes. Maybe I should! This dish was an instant hit with the family and with those I have shared it with. As usual, I have altered it a bit to cut back on the fat content, but it is still a flavorful, restaurant-quality meal that is easy to prepare.
Chicken Marsala with Sun-dried Tomatoes
4-6 thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (8-ounce) package baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup dry Marsala
1/4 cup light cream
Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a food-grade plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts one at a time and shake to coat thoroughly between each addition.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. (I actually spray my pan with an oil mister.) Add the chicken breasts, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Transfer chicken to a platter, and loosely cover with aluminum foil.
Add remaining 1 Tbls. oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to turn golden. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes and Marsala; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until slightly reduced. Stir in cream; simmer 2 more minutes. Return chicken to skillet, turning to coat with sauce; simmer until heated through.
Monday evening is usually “fish night” at our house. This is a holdover from when we weighed in at Weight Watchers on Tuesdays. Yes, eating a light meal Monday night really did make a difference!
For years, the only kind of fish dish I knew how to prepare was fish sticks. Trust me, that is not considered light or healthy when you are trying to lose weight! We’ve discovered a few favorites, but this recipe definitely tops the list. I have prepared it with tilapia, hake, flounder and cod. Basically, any mild white fish. I usually serve it over Parmesan couscous.
Pan-Fried Fish with White Wine and Capers
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (15 oz.) can tomatoes (use fresh when in season)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 to 1.5 pound uncooked tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 spray cooking spray
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp light butter
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium lemon, cut in wedges (optional)
Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.
Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge fillets lightly in flour, and coat both sides of fillets with cooking spray.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets; cook 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; turn fillets, and cook 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove from pan.
Add wine mixture to pan; cook 30 seconds up to a few minutes, depending on how much you like your tomatoes cooked in a sauce, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; stir in butter until melted. Spoon wine mixture over fillets; sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Soup is true comfort food. Finding one that is flavorful and yet super easy to make it even more comforting. One of the reasons I really like this recipe is because it is also so healthy. You mash some of the beans to make the thick broth rather than adding flour, corn starch or cream.
Healthy, easy and delicious?? Comforting indeed!
Ham and Bean Soup
3 (15 oz) cans great northern beans (rinsed & drained)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups water
1 (15 oz) can carrots, undrained
8-12 oz cooked ham, cubed or diced
1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
Rinse and drain beans. Mash approximately one can of beans in a slow cooker or large soup pot.
Place chopped onion in water and microwave until tender. (Or you can saute the onion in a bit of oil.) Add the water and cooked onions to the mashed beans and stir gently to combine. Add the remaining beans and rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Adding more water if necessary to cover all the ingredients. Heat on low 4-6 hours in a slow cooker or heat thoroughly on the stove.
We love cornbread, but a lot of recipes are either too dry or too high in fat for my liking. I played around with one of our favorite recipes to try and come up with a balance between the two. My family likes this version better than the full-fat one!
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup light butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix just until moistened. Batter will be lumpy.
Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan.
Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until light golden brown on top. Serve warm or cool.
Until I was in my 30’s, the only soups I would eat were canned tomato and canned chicken noodle. It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t learned to like most vegetables or beans yet. Amazingly, when I forced myself to try them, I found out I actually *love* most beans and veggies! I now make a wide variety of soups, with this healthy and flavorful option being my absolute favorite.
The original recipe was from Weight Watchers. I have, as usual, tweaked it to better suit our taste and to make it more convenient to prepare. The original recipe had you use fresh carrots. They never seemed to be done though, so I switched to canned.
I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure it could be prepared on the stove rather than in a slow cooker. I usually serve it with Beer Bread…recipe to follow!
Kielbasa-Bean Slow Cooker Soup
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
5 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups of water (about)
16 ounces low-fat smoked sausage (turkey kielbasa)
15 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 15 oz. cans carrots, undrained
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained (sometimes I double it)
Chop the celery and onion and place in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup with the bouillon cubes and enough water to cover. (Or you can use chicken broth) Microwave on high for about 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Meanwhile slice the kielbasa in to bite-sized pieces. Place in the slow cooker.
Add beans and carrots and cooked celery and onions. Add enough water/broth just to cover all the ingredients. Sprinkle Italian seasoning in and top with tomatoes.
Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.