Macaroni and cheese with broccolini

This was my first experience cooking with broccolini! The following recipe is a close adaptation of a recipe from The Garden Grazer: http://www.thegardengrazer.com/2012/11/mac-n-cheese-with-broccoli.html

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Ingredients:
pasta of your choice
1-2 bunches of broccolini
3 tablespoons butter
½ onion, finely chopped
minced garlic (We used about 5 tiny cloves.)
3 tablespoons flour
2 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups shredded cheddar
salt and pepper

Pasta:
Cook and drain the pasta as directed on the box. We used shells! Set aside.

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Broccolini:
Rinse the broccolini and chop into bite-sized pieces, including the thin, tender stems. Fill a pot with about one inch of water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, throw in the broccolini, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Leave for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.

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Cheese sauce:
Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat to low, then add the flour. Stir this mixture continuously for 1-2 minutes to avoid burning. Then stir in the milk and dry mustard and return the heat to medium. Let this cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture becomes creamier and thickened. Add in the cheese and stir until the mixture is smooth and all of the cheese is melted.

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Finally, stir in the pasta and broccolini and season with salt and pepper!

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Spicy eggplant fail

I did not have all of the correct ingredients for this recipe for Spicy Sesame Eggplant, but I did have half of an eggplant that I did not want to start to rot in the fridge, so I just went for it. Unfortunately, some experiments are not as successful as others.

The recipe called for Asian garlic chili sauce. I used Sriracha. The recipe called for toasted sesame oil. I used sesame-flavored chili oil. The recipe called for fresh lime juice and sesame seeds. I ignored that.

The result was excessively spicy. And a little salty. And sort of mushy. The leftovers are still sitting in my fridge, waiting for someone to take pity on them and just eat them or throw them away. Wah-wah.

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(Yes, I sliced the eggplant with a butter knife. I’m lazy. Get over it.)

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Garlic horseradish mashed potatoes

We bought an entire bag of potatoes when we made minestrone, so we needed to find another potato recipe. Luckily, I stumbled upon this awesome garlic horseradish mashed potatoes recipe!

I was really excited to get to roast garlic for this recipe! For those of you who haven’t done this before, it turns out that it is very easy. I just sliced off the very top of an entire head of garlic, drizzled olive oil all over it, and wrapped it in foil. Then I put that in a 400-degree oven for about a half an hour. Once it cooled, it was fairly easy to just squeeze out all of the cloves!

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I did have some trouble smashing the cloves, so maybe I needed to roast it a bit longer. As for adaptations to this recipe, I made very few.  We didn’t have any crème fraiche or whole milk, so we just used heavy cream and half and half for those items. We also don’t have a potato masher or food mill, so I just smashed up the potatoes in the pot as well as I could with the spoon. Oh, and we didn’t peel the potatoes.

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We enjoyed the mashed potatoes with short ribs and some absolutely amazing smothered collard greens from the Gumbo Shop cookbook!

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Eggplant and garlic pizza

Did you know that eggplants feel sort of spongy when you lightly squeeze them? At least, the one I bought for this eggplant and garlic pizza recipe did. I hope that’s how they are supposed to feel!

This recipe was nice and easy, especially because we used a pre-made pizza crust. I loved the garlic aspect to this pizza, but I found the eggplant to be underwhelming in flavor. It just didn’t taste like anything to me. I think if I made this again I might keep the eggplant, but I would not fry it and add a variety of other veggie toppings as well.

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Minestrone

My favorite minestrone recipe is from The Urban Spork. The original recipe website stopped working a little while ago, but luckily a little miracle called the WayBack Machine makes it possible to continue enjoying this great recipe! I have adapted the recipe a bit to make it fit my tastes, so here’s my version:

Ingredients:
pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
fennel seeds
crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can plus a 15 oz. can lightly crushed whole tomatoes
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 bunch Swiss chard leaves, sliced
Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box and set aside. We used ditalini, but shells or any other small pasta would work very well!

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Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat with a sprinkle of fennel seeds and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.

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Add the onion, celery, potatoes and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock/broth and cannellini beans, as well as 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

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Before serving, stir in the red wine vinegar and Swiss chard leaves. To serve, ladle soup over the pasta in individual bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Note: Store leftover soup separately from leftover pasta to preserve liquid.

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Mmm… so hot and savory with just the right amount of spiciness!

Veggies and pasta

When I have some leftover ingredients to use up, I am often tempted to invent a new dish. This time I had a bit of baby kale, a handful of really sweet tomatoes, the remainder of a container of goat cheese, and some garlic and spaghetti.

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While the spaghetti cooked, I combined all of the other ingredients except tomatoes in a heat-safe bowl. I also sprinkled on some crushed red pepper.

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When the spaghetti was done, I reserved some of the pasta water and added it to the bowl. Then I threw in the drained spaghetti and the tomatoes and stirred until the goat cheese melted and coated everything in a delicious, tangy sauce. The raw garlic mellowed a bit from the heat of the pasta water, but next time I might sauté it before adding it to the dish to reduce some of the spiciness.

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I also love to make regular pasta night healthier by throwing a few handfuls of spinach or some cooked broccoli into the mix with the sauce once the pasta is cooked. It’s a very easy and yummy way to add veggies to an otherwise vegetable-free dinner.

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Spaghetti squash and lemon zucchini bread

It has been almost a year since I began this blog to chronicle my escapades into healthier eating. In that time, I’ve branched out to try new things including kale chips, Brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash, and baking with yeast. I’m excited to see what new cooking and eating adventures this next year brings!

My first attempt at using spaghetti squash as the pasta base for a dish was semi-successful. When I scraped the cooked squash out with a fork, it broke up into tiny little pieces like cut spaghetti, but I had expected it to come out in longer strands.

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It was also very liquidy when I served it with pasta sauce, so perhaps I should have drained it. The taste and texture was pleasant, but it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.

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Any recommendations on cooking with spaghetti squash?

I also made this lemon zucchini bread which was quick and easy! I would highly recommend trying it.

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