Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

It’s winter and that means COMFORT FOOD. All day every day. I love mac and cheese and I love buffalo, so…ta da! Buffalo chicken mac and cheese it is. I found this recipe which was “lightened-up” but I tweaked it a bit based on my tastes and what I had in the kitchen. It turned out to be delicious, easy, and made about 8 servings, so I could eat plenty!

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Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Adapted from: Prevention RD

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups dry whole wheat pasta
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp ranch dressing (or ranch dip mix)
  • Garlic powder and dried dill, to taste
  • 1 cup Mexican blend cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ⅔ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 lb cooked chicken, cooked and shredded
  • ¼ cup panko

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet (I used a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Once hot, add flour and stir, then add milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, stir in hot sauce, ranch, garlic and dill, and shredded cheeses. Mix until cheese melts; remove from heat and stir in the yogurt, mixing well. Mix in cooked pasta and shredded chicken.
  3. Transfer pasta to a greased baking dish and top with panko [I ended up needing an 13 x 9 AND a 9 x 9 pan because it made a lot!] Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Broil for 1-2 minutes or until panko is browned.

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Three-Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

So I will start with a confession: dairy-free May failed 😦 However, I would say I at least succeeded in less-dairy May! I did well for about a week or two, but then I really started missing the feta in my salads, had a family party with pizza, etc. Yet I am glad I found the soy shredded cheese, because I think I will continue to use that in place of typical shredded cheese in many recipes! With that in mind, here is this week’s recipe, a tried-and-true favorite of mine (but it does contain dairy)! I have recently been making it with spaghetti squash, but I have also made it with traditional pasta and it is just as good. It’s a very filling dish with a tasty sauce that is easy to make and gets in some veggies as well as lean protein. And if you use spaghetti squash, it’s very low carb! I usually bake spaghetti squash, but this time I tried it on the crock pot since I had recently seen it done on Instagram…I thought it was much easier since I could cook it the day before. It does get a little mushy, but I still liked the taste! I put instructions below for both squash cooking methods.

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Three-Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb chicken tenderloins, raw or pre-cooked
  • 1 large spaghetti squash [or pasta, cooked (about 3 cups)]
  • 1 package spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp basil leaves (or Italian seasoning)
  • 1 jar (14.5 oz) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tbsp diced garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  •  2 oz cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat or Neufchâtel cheese)
  • Shredded soy/mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan or feta cheese

1.) Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cook pasta**.

2.) Heat olive oil and minced garlic in large skillet on med high heat, add spinach and cook until wilted. Add chicken (if raw) and basil, cook for about 3 minutes. Add sauce and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Simmer until chicken is done, then cut into bite size pieces. Stir in cream cheese.

3.) Drain pasta, pour into baking dish/Dutch oven (if chicken was pre-cooked, add bite-sized pieces of it here). Stir in sauce mixture with a handful of shredded cheese.

4.) Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan/Feta cheese on top and bake for another 3-4 minutes.

**If you want to use spaghetti squash instead of pasta:

Oven directions: cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp in middle. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray/brush olive oil and salt and pepper onto the inside of each half. Lay each half of the squash, open side down, on the sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes until the sides/bottom get slightly brown, the flesh can be easily poked, and the insides can be easily scraped out with a fork. Let cool. Scrape out all the “spaghetti” and put into a pasta strainer lined with paper towels to soak up excess water. Then use in place of pasta!

Crock pot directions: cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and pulp in middle. Put both halves into crock pot, open sides touching, with 1/2 inch water in the bottom. Cook on high for 2.5 hours (don’t overcook, it will get really soggy!) Take halves out with tongs and let cool. Scrape out all the “spaghetti” and put into a pasta strainer lined with paper towels to soak up excess water. Then use in place of pasta!

Also, my sister sent me this article written by a fellow dietitian (I say fellow like I already am one); it is definitely a true and interesting read about nutrition and diet “fads” and why people think they may be doing something healthy that isn’t working!

The Eight Nutrition Trends That Drive This Dietitian Crazy

Happy Thursday!

Dairy-Free May and a Stir Fry Recipe

Happy Friday! I’m still adjusting to being back in the US, but it’s nice to be back to my normal schedule…although it was tough to get used to cooking for myself again! I decided to challenge myself this May by giving up dairy, because I’ve recently realized that some dairy gives me a stomach ache. I’ve been dairy-free since Tuesday, and I have to say that I certainly miss my feta! I found some shredded soy cheese at Trader Joe’s, which actually tastes and melts just like real cheese (it’s sort of a mozzarella-cheddar blend). However, I couldn’t find any soy feta…anyone know if that exists?? If so I need it!

For my meals this week, I decided to make a chicken and veggie stir-fry with pasta sauce. I needed a break from carbs after my baguette-filled week, so I wanted to make a filling meal that didn’t require the addition of any pasta, rice, etc. The stir-fry was perfect and had a lot of flavor, plus the chicken and veggies kept me full!

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Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

  • 1/2 lb chicken tenderloins (more or less if you wish)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli florets (I use steam fresh bags so I can steam them in the microwave!)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in strips
  • 1/2 red pepper, cut in strips
  • 2 tbsp diced garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (I used Newman’s Own Basil and Garlic)
  • Red pepper flakes/garlic powder (to taste)
  • Shredded soy/regular cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chicken breasts with olive oil and seasonings for about 20 minutes, or until fully cooked. Cut chicken into small pieces.
  2. Steam frozen broccoli in the microwave per package instructions. While broccoli is steaming, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, and peppers, cooking until tender. Add the broccoli and chicken and stir together. Add red pepper flakes and garlic powder to taste.
  3. Remove from heat and add to a bowl with pre-heated pasta sauce. Stir together and top with shredded cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

NOTE: I recently discovered that they sell bags of frozen diced onions with strips of red and green peppers, all in one bag! It’s basically a frozen stir-fry, and you don’t have to cut the veggies, just throw the frozen ones on the skillet and cook them. I love this because I hate cutting onions; this prevents the smelly hands and crying! I used that in this recipe instead of fresh veggies, but either will work!

 

 

 

First time at Trader Joe’s!

Happy Monday! I went to Trader Joe’s for the first time this weekend and am now a little obsessed…I can’t believe I waited this long to go! I picked up some breakfast food, snacks, and a frozen dinner meal. I can’t wait to try everything! Any suggestions for goodies that I should pick up next time I go?

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Just a few things I picked up: Chocolate Almond Granola, Blueberry Wheat Bran Muffins, Reduced Guilt Guacamole, Cookie Butter, and Breakfast Trek Mix

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Coconut milk yogurt

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Polenta Provencale with spinach and peas in a spicy cream sauce

 

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Dinner was delicious!