Pumped Up Mac & Cheese

Whenever I am in the kitchen, Sasha always asks me if I am cooking mac ‘n cheese. I am sure most toddlers could eat this meal morning, noon and night; Sasha would be tickled pink if I place a plate of mac ‘n cheese in front of her for breakfast. Although nothing beats homemade mac ‘n cheese, at times it is just easier to use the boxed variety. Now I know that mac ‘n cheese isn’t the healthiest lunch option, but it is quick and easy, and perfect for a mom with lots to do. I’ve tried to healthify (cut some calories) the boxed variety by adding a fraction of the requested butter and using low-fat or non-fat milk.

Awhile back I saw Jessica Seinfeld on Oprah, talking about her new cookbook Deceptively Delicious. I do not own nor have I read her cookbook, but the idea of getting kids to eat healthier foods is something I want my kids to do. Luckily I don’t have to be so deceptive with my cooking right now, my kids are excellent eaters and I hope they remain that way.  Mrs. Seinfeld “sneaks” vegetables into her recipes so her children get the added benefit of extra vitamins and nutrients.  I didn’t have to sneak any vegetables in to my mac ‘n cheese, I just stirred in a can of peas and carrots, and pumped up my mac ‘n cheese with additional Vitamins A, C, and K, along with additional fibre (which we could all use). My girls loved the chunks of veggies in their mac ‘n cheese and I was happy to know they were getting the additional vitamins and nutrients they wouldn’t have had with plain mac ‘n cheese.  So peas have another helping! 😉

Pumped Up Mac & Cheese

1 box Macaroni and Cheese
1 small can peas and carrots (drained and rinsed)
Milk
Butter or MArgarine

Prepare macaroni and cheese according to directions on box. A few minutes before the macaroni is tender stir in peas and carrots. Strain macaroni, peas and carrots. Stir in milk and butter. Enjoy!

An Iowa Dinner

I love summer in Iowa because we have Farmer’s Markets that are full of fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, local meats and eggs, beautiful flowers and various homemade sewn goods. On Saturday morning I headed with the girls to our Farmer’s Market. Each week there are more and more vegetables and fruits to choose from.  My favorite Farmer’s Market finds are tomatoes and sweet corn.  BLTs and sweet corn were a staple of my childhood meals.

Our dinner was a delicious BLT (I switched the lettuce for some local sprouts), sweet corn, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and pesto couscous.This is a perfect summer meal! ENJOY!

BLT
2 slices cooked bacon
lettuce (or sprouts)
2 slices tomato
2 slices crusty French bread

Preheat oven 425 degrees F. Lay slices of bacon on cookie sheet, cook for about 10 minutes. Once done lay on paper towels to absorb grease.

*This is the best way to cook crispy bacon!

ASPARAGUS WRAPPED IN PROSCIUTTO
1 bunch asparagus
5 slices prosciutto

Blanch asparagus. Wrap prosciutto around 6-7 pieces of asparagus. Lightly spray bundles with canola oil. Roast in 425 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts

STOP! Please don’t turn away, just not yet. If you’ve had a bad brussel sprouts experience, you MUST give them another try. Let me guess, if you’ve had brussel sprouts before they were probably boiled into a unrecognizable greenish sluge. These are not your mom’s brussel sprouts. Cook them this way and your family will rave. My husband is a fairly picky eater, especially when it comes to the veggie group, he tried these brussel sprouts and asked to have them at dinner the next night.

These baby cabbage lookalikes, once roasted have a delicate green, nutty, buttery flavor. Even my 9 month old daughter enjoyed them. I dare you to eat just one. Welcome to vegetable heaven!

ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS

Brussel Sprouts, ends trimmed and halved
Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss halved brussel sprouts in enough oil to evenly coat, season with salt and pepper. Lay sprouts cut side down on shallow baking pan. Roast 15 minutes, flip sprouts and roast 10-15 minutes more. Serve as is. ENJOY!!!!

Oh the Pesto-bilities!

Open-faced Mediterranean Tuna Rice Cake sandwich. WOW what a mouthful–at least it is a delicious one. I currently have an open jar of Classico -Traditional Basil Pesto sitting in my fridge. I opened it the other night to use some in my Pesto Couscous.

Last night for supper I wanted a high protein, low calorie meal. Immediately I thought of tuna, tuna is a lean protein packed with omega-3 fatty acid (which is great for breastfeeding moms). Alex doesn’t care for tuna; actually he doesn’t like it at all, so I knew this tuna sandwich would be all mine. I was going to make my traditional tuna salad which consists of canned tuna and a little mayonnaise, but when I opened the fridge last night I saw the jar of pesto sitting there staring at me. I’ve never had tuna and pesto together but thought it sounded not too bad. Well I was right, it was better than not too bad, it was frickin’ awesome.

I served my tuna on Quaker White Cheddar Rice Cakes. This makes a nice low calorie snack or meal. I tried to take some pictures of this deliciousness, but the pictures did not do justice to the amazing flavor or this sandwich.

Check out my recipe for Pesto Meatballs if you need any other ideas for integrating pesto into your meals.

OPEN-FACED MEDITERRANEAN TUNA RICE CAKE SANDWICHES
1 can lite chuck tuna packed in water, drained
2 T Classico Basil Pesto
1/2 T lite Mayo
2 Quaker White Cheddar Rice Cakes

Combine tuna, pesto and mayo. Divide between two rice cakes. Eat as an open-faced sandwich. Eat both yourself or share with a friend. Enjoy!

Calories for one open-faced sandwich: 186.5

Pesto Couscous

The weather is finally warming up in Iowa; soon winter will have faded like a bad dream often does. Yesterday we enjoyed ourselves outdoors. I basked in the sun with a book. Warmer weather equals grilled meat. Alex pulled out the charcoal grill and grilled some delicious steaks (bought at the local meat locker). I made couscous to serve as a side. I used a box of Near East Original Plain Couscous. That is exactly what is was… PLAIN. So to shake things up a bit I added four generous tablespoons of Classico Pesto. The results were a delicious couscous with a faint green color and pesto flavor. The couscous cooks up in less than five minutes, and will be the prefect summer side dish . Happy grilling everyone. Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Sasha!

This past weekend was Sasha’s birthday, she turned two. We had a nice party with our family and friends. I served barbecue pork sandwiches and cheesy potatoes. Sasha has really been into Elmo lately, so I decided to make her an Elmo cake. She loved it. It was a successful party and a very lovely weekend.

BARBECUE PORK SANDWICHES
4 Hormel Always Tender Mesquite Barbecue Tenderloin
your favorite barbecue sauce

Grill tenderloins until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Take meat off grill and rest 10-15 minutes, so the juices can redistribute. Thinly slice meat. Place sliced meat in crock pot (slow cooker) on low; cover meat with your favorite sauce, add as much or as little as you like. Heat until warmed through.

I served my tenderloin on whole wheat kaiser rolls.

CHEESY POTATOES
30 oz package of shredded frozen hash browns
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup (any cream soup will work)
1 c sour cream
3 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 c corn flakes
salt, pepper, onion flake or powder to taste

Preheat oven t0 350 degrees F. Mix together hash browns, soup, sour cream, 2 c cheese, and seasonings. Put hash brown mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Top with remaining cheese, corn flakes and melted butter. Bake for 1 hour.

These are delicious!

*I used fat free sour cream and cheese and 98% fat free soup to cut calories, they still tasted great.

ELMO CAKE


1 box of funfetti cake mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix cake according to package instructions. Pour cake batter into a well greased and floured Elmo cake pan (can be purchased off Wilton’s website).

Bake for about 35 minutes. Or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow pan to cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Turn cake out onto another wire rack and cool completely.

I decorated my cake with dyed buttercream frosting. Instructions for dying your frosting come with the Elmo pan.

Sasha loved her cake, I hope your little one loves it too!

Cheesy Baked Corn

Lately I have had a real love of the flavor of thyme. Just a dash in a dish brings a depth of flavor to it that I really have been enjoying lately. In the past week, I have added thyme to my chicken noodle soup, chunky potato soup, and just recently to my cheesy baked corn. I added pepper to my corn, however I would leave it out next time, so I have omitted it from my recipe.

Does anyone have any other recipes that feature thyme? Please let me know!

Cheesy Baked Corn

1-15 oz can creamed corn
1-15 oz can whole kernel corn-drained
1/2 c milk
generous pinch of dried thyme
1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 sleeve of crushed snack crackers
2 T butter

Preheat oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine both cans of corn , milk, thyme, 1/2 c cheese, 1/2 sleeve of crushed crackers in a bowl. Put into a greased 8×8 pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and crackers. Dot with butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crackers are browned on top.