Monday, November 18, 2013

Comfort Food Face Lift Part I: Mac and Cheese

If your childhood was not filled with an outrageous number of meals consisting solely of macaroni and cheese, you were doing it wrong. Being the extremely picky child that I was, macaroni and cheese was one of the only dishes that I would eat willing. Unfortunately, man can not live on mac alone.  But even now, I sometimes get a craving for ooey goey mac and cheese. Sometimes I will go full out and make a fatty bechamel and load it up with cheese, but when I am looking for a way to revisit a child hood favorite in an uplifted fashion without feeling heavy this is my go to recipe.

  • This is not American styled Macaroni and cheese. It does not taste anything like Kraft or Velveeta or gooey cheddar cheese laden noodles your grandma makes, but it's not suppose to be. This is not suppose to taste exactly like mac and cheese. This is a substitute for it. This is not a direct substitute for mac and cheese, so sorry no fooling your kids on this one; But it is a good option when you want cheese and pasta but don't want to completely undo your workout.
  • Other roasted vegetables can also be added to the pasta. Feel free to mix it up. One of my favorites is roasted eggplant.

Cheesy Pasta

For Sauce
  •  1 head of cauliflower (1/2 for sauce, 1/2 for roasting)
  • 1 1/2- 2 1/2 cups of milk or combination milk & stock (any milk of your choosing, cows, almond etc)
  • 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of minced onion 
  • 1 1/2 tsp of butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp of flour
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp of dried basil
  • 6 oz of shredded cheese (Mozzarella,  Swiss, cheddar, or Parmesan)
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
For roasted vegetables and other components
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz of Button Mushrooms
  • 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Several Tbs of Oil for sauteing (olive or coconut oil or butter)
  • 1 package of Whole Wheat pasta (I used Ziti Rigate but any short cut pasta will do) 
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 400℉
Cut the cauliflower florets into bit size pieces, reserving half the head for the sauce and the other half to be roasted.
Place half the head in a medium sauce pan and add just enough milk/stock to cover the cauliflower
Cauliflower cooking in milk mixture
florets. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper each, garlic and onion. Stir. Cover with a lid and let simmer for approx 30 minutes over medium heat or until the cauliflower is extremely tender.
Place the rest of the Cauliflower on a baking sheet. Toss with 1 Tbs of oil, 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper and 2 cloves of mashed garlic. Roast at 400℉ for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower begins to turn golden brown on the edges.
 Wash the tomatoes and then cut in half. Place in a small baking dish. Toss with 2 tsp of oil, 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper and dried basil. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the tomatoes become soft and begin to caramelize.

Don't be worried if the pan looks crowded,
Mushrooms have a lot of liquid in them,
and they will shrink.
Thinly slice the mushrooms. Add to a pan with 2 tsp of oil (olive or coconut or butter) and add 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp of salt. Saute for 12-15 minutes over medium/medium high heat until the mushrooms give up their liquid and begin to crisp.

Bring a large pit of water for the pasta to a boil. 
Once as the cauliflower in the milk mixture has softened, it is time for blending. Using an immersion blender, food processor of blender, blend until smooth. Set aside.
Boil the pasta according to package directions.
Melt 1 1/2 tsp of butter in medium sauce pan (use the same one you cooked the cauliflower in). Once melted add 1 1/2 tsp of flour.  Cook for 1 minute to remove the raw flour flavor. Next, add in the blended cauliflower mixture. Depending on how much liquid you used to cook the cauliflower, you make need to add more stock or milk. Now add in the Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp of dried basil and cheese. Stir in the cheese over low heat until it is thoroughly incorporated into the sauce. Taste and season with additional salt/pepper as needed.
Now it is time to bring it all together. Once as the pasta is done boiling, the sauce is completed, the mushrooms are crisp, and the tomatoes and cauliflower and done roasting combine all of the elements together. Serve with fresh basil.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Protein Bars

Even though swimsuit season has passed us, that's no excuse to stop getting swoll. Well, you might be taking in extra protein to get big while you go hard at the gym, but I just like to have a protein bar at lunch to fill me up and help off balance the lack of animal protein I intake in a day. Protein bars are a better option than the typical lunch style granola bar which is typically laden with preservatives, fillers, sugar, fat and low in protein and fiber. By making bars yourself, you get to control exactly what goes in them.  Plus it's a lot cheaper to make them yourself. A lot of recipes out there are peanut butter based, which this recipe does include peanut butter but I like that it is not the main substance of the bar. The pumpkin helps buffer the fat content of the peanut butter and also provides nutrients like Vitamin A. So whether you are looking to increase your amino acid intake to get ripped for the ladies, or you are just trying to stay alive, these bars are a great place to start your venture into homemade protein bars.
As always do not let this recipe box you in. Feel free to experiment and mix in other additions as your heart (or stomach) desires.

Note: While the name of this post is Pumpkin protein bars, my personal preference is to make these with sweet potatoes. Roast 1 medium sweet potato at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the potato is soft and easily mashable. Remove skin, mash and use in replacement of pumpkin.

Protein Bars

  • 1/2-2/3 cup Canned Pumpkin (or fresh, or a smashed sweet potato; 1/2- 2/3 cup depending on how strong you want the pumpkin/potato flavor. Start with 1/2 cup. After the whole mixture is together, if the peanut butter taste is too strong, add the rest)
  • 1/2 cup of Peanut butter (or any other nut butter such as almond butter or cashew butter)
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of protein powder (whey protein; or I use Garden of Life's RAW Protein)
  • 1/4 cup of fiber powder or more protein powder (I use Garden of Life's Super Seed)
  • 1 1/2 cups of toasted rolled oats
          To toast, place oats on a cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 350℉ for approx 10 min or until lightly golden
  • 2-3 TBS of wheat germ
  • 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (Or 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ginger)
  • 1/2 tsp of Salt 

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix the wet ingredients together. Add the Powders, oats wheat germ, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir.
Place in a pan. 9x13 for thin bars and a 9x9 for thick bars. My personal recommendation is the 9x13. Although I love thick protein bars this recipe turns out better in the 9x13.
Bake for 7-10 mins for 9x13 (15-20mins for 9x9) or until set. Make sure to not over cook these. You want them to be just set but still moist and gooey. Wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.