Mac N’ Cheese Please

Ever since I can remember my favorite food has been macaroni and cheese.

It used to be of the blue box variety. Spirals, shapes, mixed with hot dogs, you name it. I ate it.

Sometimes I went for the Velveeta option. Actually, in college, it was pretty normal for me to eat an entire box (!!!) of Velveeta macaroni and cheese after long hours studying in the library. With a can of dr. pepper. In my bed. Watching Sex and the City on DVD.Yes, I went there.

It’s just something about that cheesy, gooey sound when you stir together thick cheese sauce and hot noodles. You know what sound I’m talking about. Mm. Yeah.

However, since I’ve become much more aware of the food I put in my body, I’ve taken a step back to shy away from processed food as much as possible. Especially ingredients that I cannot read, pronounce, or that sound like an evil chemical or STD. Seriously read some of the scary ingredients on processed food labels and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Now-a-days I’ll make my macaroni and cheese from scratch, or if I’m feeling lazy and don’t have the time, I’ll cook up a batch of Annie’s Organic White Cheddar macaroni and cheese. At least the ingredient list is short and sweet, and consists of real food I can recognize.

So last week I was craving the creamy, cheesy noodle dish and planned to make it this week. I decided to go with a fool-proof recipe that I’ve made a few times now, and happens to be one of Eric’s FAVORITE things I have ever made. The original recipe came from Angela at OhSheGlows, and get this – it’s 100% vegan. I kid you not, it still is one of the tastiest macaroni and cheese dishes I have ever had and there is not one shred of cheese in the entire thing. How does she do it? I don’t know, but I’m so glad she does!

The recipe is somewhat intimidating at first glance, but after I’ve made it a few times now, I can practically do it with my eyes closed. Once I found nutritional yeast (bulk bin at Whole Foods), my life has not been the same. In case you have never heard of this nutritional powerhouse that has a nutty, cheesy taste (aha! that’s where the cheesy flavor shines through), here is a little bit of background from Wikipedia:

It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium. Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of parmesan cheese. Another popular use is as a topping for popcorn. It can also be used in mashed and fried potatoes, as well as putting it into scrambled tofu or eggs. Some movie theaters offer it along with salt or cayenne pepper as a popcorn condiment.

I love that not only is it tasty, but it’s a complete protein and averages about 60 calories and 8.5 grams of protein per 2 heaping tablespoons. Sign me up. Douse tortilla chips with it. Bathe in it. Just go out and try it. Or better yet, try this recipe!

Tastiest Faux Mac N’ Cheese

(adapted from this recipe from OhSheGlows)

  • 1/2 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 of a large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/5 c of raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • juice of 1 juicy lemon (about 1/3 cup)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 heaping Tbsp of nutritional yeast
  • 1.5 tsp of mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c of bread crumbs (or make your own vegan breadcrumbs like Angela)
  • 2 cups dry, uncooked pasta. I love to use whole wheat rotini
  • Paprika for garnish
    Start by chopping the onion, carrots and potato. Once chopped, add to a small sauce pan and fill with water until the vegetables are just covered. 
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    Bring water to boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes). You should also now preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F) as well as bring enough water to a boil to cook the pasta. Once the pasta water is ready, cook pasta according to package directions. Strain and set aside. Meanwhile,  get out your cute little food processor (note: I have a four cup food processor, and it’s almost too small to handle the cheese sauce, but it works! If you have a larger one I recommend using this). Add the cashews to the food processor and process until the cashews form fine crumbs.
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    Don’t go overboard here! Then add in the remaining cheese sauce ingredients and process until smooth (milk, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, mustard and salt and pepper).
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    Once vegetables are done, drain and rinse under cold water. Add the vegetables to the food processor (this is when mine is about to overflow), and process until smooth.
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    Then stick your finger in and taste this deliciously, faux cheesy sauce (seriously how is there no cheese in this?!?).Now here is the fun part! Mix the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and pour into a greased casserole dish.
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    Top with breadcrumbs and a touch of paprika for the beautiful color.
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    Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove from oven and let cool (if you can handle to wait. this is when Eric gets impatient). Then dish up!
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    You will be so happy you made this dish!

    In other news. I got two new books yesterday! Pictures of You and A Secret Kept (same author of Sarah’s Key – one of my favorite books of all time).

      I started Pictures of You last night after reading Jenna’s review. 50 pages in and I am already hooked! In fact, I tweeted how obsessed with the book I am and the author contacted me to send me a bookplate! WOW! Social media is AWESOME.
      Go read. Go eat. Enjoy your Wednesday.

      Here are a few FUN things I’ve stumbled across today:

    Morning Workout Motivators (from my favorite bloggers!)

    Peanut Butter Fudge Stuffed Cupcakes from How Sweet Eats (I mean HELLO YUM I need to make these stat)

    The Best Ever Stir-fry

    The weekend has come to and end. It’s Monday. I’m tired and desperately waiting for Friday to approach. I had such a great weekend that I want another one –stat!

    It all started with a fabulous little Friday evening in with Eric. I made some stir fry using Emily’s healthy peanut sauce recipe. Seriously this sauce is so good. I’ve made it so many times, and now add my own touches such as minced garlic and fresh ginger. This is one of Eric’s favorite meals, and every time we make it there are NEVER leftovers.

    Eric’s Favorite Stir-fry

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    Stir-fry Ingredients:

    • 1 package broccoli slaw
    • 1 package Tofu Shirataki spaghetti noodles
    • 1 package extra firm tofu, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
    • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
    • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
    • 1 T freshly grated ginger
    • 1 T mined garlic
    • peanuts for garnish
    • Peanut sauce (see below for recipe)

    Peanut Sauce ingredients:

    • 1/4 c peanut flour (Trader Joe’s carries this. It’s AMAZING)
    • 2 T soy sauce
    • 1 T sesame oil
    • 1 T rice wine vinegar
    • 3 T water
    • dashes of garlic and ginger powder
    • Start by draining the extra water from the tofu. If you’re fancy, use a tofu press. If you’re me and cry because you don’t have a tofu press, use every heavy book you can to sit on top of the tofu wrapped in a towel in between two cutting boards or cookie sheets to absorb the excess moisture.

      There really is tofu under this huge pile of alcoholic beverage books – I swear. While your tofu is being pressed (approximately 10 minutes), prepare and chop all of the vegetables (onions, garlic, bell pepper, ginger and garlic). After about 10 minutes time (longer is better) spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray and turn up the heat to medium.
      Sauté your 1 inch cube pieces of tofu until they are browned on one side – approximately 5 minutes. Flip the tofu and continue to brown. About 5 more minutes.
      Meanwhile, sauté your onions and garlic in another large pan. Sauté over medium-low heat about 5-10 minutes until onions are translucent. Add in the bell peppers, broccoli slaw, ginger and let the veggies cook down about 10 minutes or so. Reduce heat to low and add in tofu and rinsed shirataki noodles. 
      Whisk together all peanut sauce ingredients in a bowl. Stir into tofu/veggie/noodle mixture. Serve in bowls and topped with chopped green onions and peanuts. You can make this so many ways with any vegetables or meat you have on hand. That’s why I love this recipe – it’s so versatile!

    In an effort  to make more dinners for Eric during the week I’ve created a meal plan for this week!

    Sunday: Tofu enchiladas + black bean cilantro rice

    Monday: Vegan Mac N’ Cheese

    Tuesday: Protein Power Salad

    Wednesday: Sweet potato flax balls + cauliflower and brussel sprouts gratin

    Thursday: Free for all – any leftovers, etc.

    Friday: Chicken and broccoli stir-fry (clearly we love our stir fry)

    Do you like to meal plan? I find it helps me keep my grocery bill in check as well as give me something to look forward to all day! I love coming home to cook dinner after a stressful day.

    Baking Flips and Flops

    I love it when you put something in the oven, close the door, dust off your hands on your apron (or your sweatpants in my case), and walk away while it bakes; crossing your fingers that everything turns out better than you imagine – and it does.

    Almond and Lemon Biscotti with White Chocolate Drizzle

    But sometimes you encounter a baking flop.

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    Vegan funfetti “cupcakes.” so much for a valentine’s day surprise.

    Or two.

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    And you feel a bit defeated. Especially when you are not making your own recipe, but following someone else’s beautiful recipe. Like I did last night. I attempted to make Mama Pea’s Brown Sugar Bars because I had all ingredients on hand and they looked downright scrumptious.

    At the mention of baking, Eric gave me a look and said “the kitchen is going to be dirty, isn’t it?” One thing you must know about Eric is that he is a neat/clean freak. I love him for it because it’s got me amped up on cleaning. In fact, on Friday evenings when we get home from work we vacuum. And we enjoy it. Yes, we have very little social lives.  Anyway, I laughed at him thinking this impromptu baking urge would be a breeze and he really should be thanking me for baking him such tasty treats. 

    Unfortunately it did not pan out this way. I did however keep the kitchen squeaky clean, and even stirred everything over the sink to avoid a messy stove top, cleaned the dishes IMMEDIATELY, and tidied up parts of the kitchen that I didn’t even use (bestgirlfriendeverawardthankyouverymuch), but the end baking result was not pretty. I think somewhere I must have missed a step. Because the outcome was not nearly what I was expecting.

    Enter “unintentionally picture framed (literally), deflated, wannabe brown sugar bars”

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    Even though they looked dreadful, they still taste divine. They are just impossible to eat because they are not so much bars as they are a pile of chocolately, brown sugar goop trying to find a way to grasp on to any bit of solidness (is this even a word?) they have. Once I tried to cut them they actually got uglier. I told Eric I refused to even look at them. I then proceeded to eat a bite with my eyes closed.

    Sometimes you have a baking flop or two. It happens. I was a bit discouraged after this, and I kept whining to Eric (which he just loathes let me tell you) because I felt like a stupid idiot who couldn’t even throw a bunch of stuff into the oven to produce some bars to feed my man. I mean I’m supposed to know this stuff. Anyway, it’s refreshing because it just makes me want to keep on chugging along to bake something even more delicious and outrageous.

    Anyone have any amazing baking recommendations?

    Costeaux French Bakery

    I found a new love. A cute little French bakery in Healdsburg called Costeaux French Bakery.

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    After a grueling 13 mile run on Saturday, followed by an evening playing with a 4 year old with more energy than anti matter, I was ready to dig in BIG time at this French bakery the next morning. I typically don’t go out to breakfast, so this was a real treat while we were visiting Eric’s mom in Healdsburg (she just bought a gorgeous house)!

    We were lucky to get gorgeous weather during our drive out to Healdsburg.  IMG_3636

    This bridge was extremely narrow and high. I freaked out a bit, but it provided amazing views of San Francisco. After the 1.5 hour drive we arrived at Costeaux French Bakery.

    I was immediately drawn to the huge, open interior of the bakery/restaurant. There was a bakery on one side, while the entire restaurant was on the other side.

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    I loved the old, rustic feel – including the adorable painted words on the walls.

    We were lucky enough to snag a table outside under the heat lamp. Even though the weather was nice, it was still cold (yes. 60 degrees is down right bone chilling to my So Cal blood).

    We started off with hot coffee and Eric asked the waiter to bring him a muffin. A beautiful pumpkin muffin. It was probably one of the best muffins I have every had. But the waiter did not stop there. He also brought a morning bun. Just because. I could get used to that .

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    After devouring those two, it was time for the entrée. I ordered the Costeaux omelet:

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    From the bakery’s website: Applewood smoked bacon, spinach, sun dried tomato and French brie.

    Wow. this was incredible. Needless to say I devoured it in about 3 minutes flat.

    I have a feeling I will be making more trips to this little bakery. Especially since they have amazing home made bloody mary’s. Something I have never been fond of, but after tasting this one I was sold. Sign me up.

    Their bathrooms also gave me inspiration in home decorating! Every wall in the women’s bathroom was covered in a collage of old, vintage wine labels.

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    I mean, how adorably clever is this?

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    Now, I’m not thinking of covering my entire bathroom in old wine labels (but please know that we drink enough wine to easily allow for this), but more along the lines of a big framed poster to hang above the couch or our bed.

    Costeaux, you have won my heart.

    These are a few of my favorite things…

    Some things I’m loving right now:

    • These amazing brownie stuffed chocolate chip cookies. I made these on Monday evening and I kid you not, one cookie is almost the size of my face. I’m obsessed.
    • These awesome city posters by Ork. One of my co-workers introduced me to this website. She just ordered the San Francisco print, and I’m kind of obsessed. I am trying to restrain myself from ordering from every city (granted I haven’t been to most of them). they are so funky chic and will look fabulous over my couch.
    • Cute, cuddly bears

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    our five year anniversary trip to Monterey!

    • Baking bomb pizzas

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    margherita pizza (in the back), and a pear, prosciutto and smoked gruyere pizza in the front

    • Apples to Apples (best.game.ever.)

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    • this boy.

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    In fact – we are heading to a Jackson Browne concert tonight becuaseilovehimsomuch.

    What defines a blog?

    Where do I even begin? so I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus (okay so that’s the understatement of the year). I’ve taken a great hiatus while I tried to balance my work, life, relationships, friends, fitness, and cooking. Looks like I’m not so great at incorporating a daily blog into this mix. however, in this time off, I still continued to be active in the food and health blogging community – and by active I mean reading and commenting and drooling over fabulous recipes and killer treadmill workouts. one thing that did not remain active: my food blogging. my picture taking of food. my writing. the loss of a community.

    it occurred to me this morning when I peeled back the cover of a pineapple chobani (so delish btw), that I don’t really like taking pictures of everything I eat. especially things I eat every day (i.e. chobani, coffee, half a square of lindt dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt every night before bed). I do however, love to take pictures of my culinary creations (or replicas), wine and champagne, beautiful moments and anything that sparks my interest. I think I accredited this lack of passion to photograph every morsel for not inconsistently updating my blog. it took some time to realize that this is my blog. my space. my thoughts. I do what I want with it, and no precedents or boundaries are set in stone. so what if I don’t showcase my every meal, snack and spoonful (okay finger-full) of almond butter?

    while I’ve always considered my blog as a food blog, in reality I’ve realized that I really don’t bode well with slapping a title on this creation.  it just so happens I’m passionate about food, wine, health, fitness, fashion and reality shows (just to name a few Winking smile).

    so from this point forward, this is what you all will see on here. my random thoughts, recipes (if they so suit me), workouts, pictures and everyday life musings.

    thank you all for your patience (if I’ve still retained any of you out there!), and I hope you like what’s to come Smile

    A question for you: in your mind, what defines a blog?

    Chili Mac for Cold Winter Nights

    I had yet another bagel with cream cheese for breakfast this morning. While it totally satisfies my salty tooth (like sweet tooth, no?), I’ve come to realize that it really does not keep me full for very long. I am a big fan of having a HUGE, filling, and nutritionally sound breakfast that keeps me full for a few hours. I notice that if I eat this type of breakfast (oatmeal with flax and/or chia seeds with pumpkin and almond butter is top notch), not only am I satisfied for a long period of time, I am also fully energized and do not mindlessly snack as much throughout the day.

    For example, after eating the bagel with cream cheese and grapes I’ve also had an apple with Justin’s maple almond butter, half an almond brioche croissant, muffin bites, (curse you office pastries), coffee x 3 and I am still hungry. It’s not even 11:30AM.  Looks like lunch will come early. As delicious as the bagels have been in the moment, I’m constantly reminded that I need a more substantial breakfast.

    Coincidentally I stumbled upon an “eating a smart breakfast” article from Cooking Light that I saw on their twitter feed this morning. Please note that Cooking Light did not contact me, I simply am a die-hard reader (I may or may not devote an afternoon at Whole Foods reading the magazine every month) and think they have great articles and recipes that I want to share. Smile

    The article contains five elements to include in your morning breakfast:

    1. Eat Mindfully – sit down and eat. I do not do this nearly enough. I am go, go, go in the AM, and I usually take my breakfast on the road with me. This article brings up an interesting fact that if you eat on the go you are more likely to feel as though you did not have a meal. Must incorporate this into my daily routine!
    2. Include Lean Protein – protein take a much longer time to digest than carbohydrates (hi, bagel), keeping blood sugar levels in check which keep you satisfied longer. If you are a carb queen (or king), opt for whole grain which always has more fiber and protein.
    3. Fill Up with Fiber – yup. Typically the whole grain breads and cereals mentioned above have a ton of natural fiber. Both solvable and insoluble. Insoluble fiber is mostly not digested but takes up space in your stomach making you feel fuller longer.
    4. Front-Load Your Day with Nutrients – apparently breakfast eaters are more likely to have higher intakes of vitamins. Who knew? I also take (if I remember) a fish oil pill and vitamin D pill everyday with my breakfast.
    5. Savor Your Favorite Tastes – This is SOOO simple and obvious! Eat what tastes good to you! Okay, it may not be as simple as scarfing down an entire Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Lindt bar, but you should make your nutritional breakfast taste delicious! There are plenty of options out there – you should check our Cooking Light’s recipe index!

    You can read the entire article here!

    Speaking of lean protein, fiber and good tastes, I made the most delicious meal for dinner last night!

    Chili Mac. I found the recipe from an old issue of Healthy Cooking.

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    I followed the recipe almost to a tee.

    Starting with cooking the onions, jalapenos, lean ground turkey and garlic on medium heat until the meat browned.

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    I then drained the meat, returned it to the pan and added the remaining ingredients.

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    I stirred until combined and let it simmer on medium low heat until everything was heated through.

    Meanwhile I gathered all the ingredient to make Hungry Girl’s cheesy corn muffins.

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    Except I ran out of egg whites. so that was interesting. I replaced one of the egg whites with applesauce. They still turned our divine.

    About half an hour later dinner was served.

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    This was a BIG hit. Eric kept raving about how delicious it was and even went back for seconds. There are also tons of leftovers (hello lunch for the next two days).

    Chili Mac (from Healthy Cooking):

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    Ingredients

    2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni  *I used whole wheat shells

    1 pound lean ground turkey

    1 small onion, chopped

    2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped  *I used 2 and it was just enough heat

    2 garlic cloves, minced

    2 teaspoons olive oil

    1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

    1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained *I used fire roasted – delish!

    1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

    1 to 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

    2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder

    1 teaspoon ground cumin

    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese *I used reduced fat Mexican cheese

    Directions

    Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook the turkey, onion, jalapenos and garlic in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

    Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pepper sauce and seasonings. Drain macaroni; stir into turkey mixture. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until heated through.

    Sprinkle with cheese. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand until cheese is melted. Yield: 6 servings.

    Cheesy Corn Muffins (Hungry Girl):

    Ingredients:

    1 cup canned cream-style corn
    2/3 cup all-purpose flour *I used whole wheat flour
    1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
    1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters) *I used 1/4 cup of egg whites and 1/4 cup of applesauce
    1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
    1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese *I used reduced fat Mexican cheese
    1/4 cup chopped scallions
    2 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated) *I used regular sugar
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt

    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Combine flour, cornmeal, Splenda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together all other ingredients — then add the contents of the small bowl to the large one, and stir until well mixed.

    Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line it with baking cups. Evenly distribute muffin batter among the cups.

    Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes (until muffins are firm and a light golden brown). Allow to cool and then enjoy! Yield: 12 muffins

    In fun online article news….

    Twinkie Diet and Other One Food Diet Plans – this absolutely frightens me, as well as some of the other “one food” diets in the article…bacon, McDonalds (hellooo Super Size Me). Basically stating that calorie intake has a direct influence on weight loss. But what about nutrition people!!! I don’t think your heart would like you very much if you ate a 1lb. of bacon for 1 month straight. Except for the guy in the article who’s blood pressure supposedly went down. Seems shady to me…

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