Spinach, Artichoke Mac & Cheese: Macaroni & Cheese Gets a Healthy Makeover

Classic macaroni and cheese from a box gets an adventurous and healthy makeover with whole wheat elbow pasta, convenient frozen spinach, a low-fat cheese sauce, and marinated artichoke hearts.

Spinach, Artichoke Mac & Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #dinner #pasta #wholegrain #spinach #healthy

The secret is in the sauce. My low-fat cheese sauce starts with a roux made with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, 1% low-fat milk and vegetable broth, and three cheeses including reduced-fat Cheddar.

Spinach, Artichoke Mac & Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #dinner #pasta #wholegrain #spinach #healthy

Leftovers can easily be frozen.

Spinach, Artichoke Mac & Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #dinner #pasta #wholegrain #spinach #healthy

Spinach, Artichoke Mac & Cheese
 
I'm not going to lie: I've made mac & cheese from a box plenty of times for my family. But when I do, I buy whole wheat varieties, and I often add "mix-ins" like beans and salsa, peas and tuna, or leftover chicken and sauteed mushrooms. And sometimes I make mac & cheese from scratch, because it's easy and it gives me more control over the ingredients. For this mac & cheese dinner, I turn to whole wheat pasta, convenient frozen spinach, a low-fat sauce made with three flavorful cheeses, and marinated artichoke hearts, which elevates the flavor even more.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Serves: 8 to 10
Ingredients
  • One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3 cups dried whole wheat elbow pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut into thin rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • One 6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 generous cup)
  • 4 ounces Gouda cheese (use smoked Gouda if you can find it), shredded (1 generous cup)
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Drain the spinach in a colander. Press with the back of a large spoon to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta according to package directions until almost tender. Drain and set aside.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Raise the heat to medium, add the remaining oil, flour, and pepper, and whisk constantly until smooth, 1 minute. Whisk the milk, broth, and mustard slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the artichoke hearts, Cheddar cheese, Gouda, ⅓ cup Parmesan, and spinach until well combined. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Spread the mixture evenly in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or dish. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and bake until bubbly and the top turns golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Notes
Bonus nutrients: 36% calcium, 22% iron, 90% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: (1 generous cup), Calories: 320, Fat: 23g, Saturated fat: 7g, Carbohydrates: 31g, Sodium: 490mg, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 16g,

What are your favorite mix-ins for mac & cheese?

Spinach, Artichoke Mac & Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #dinner #pasta #wholegrain #spinach #healthy

Cabbage From My CSA + Our Intern’s Recipe for Thai “Bland” Soup

From coleslaw and kimchi to this Thai “Bland” Soup and salads, cabbage is a versatile vegetable that adds crunch, flavor, and good nutrition. Cabbage is a good source of fiber, folate, and vitamin C, and it contains antioxidants that promote good health.

Thai Bland Soup via Mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

Guest Post:

Hi, I’m Ben, a senior in nutrition from Boston University. A few weeks ago, Janice gave me and my fellow B.U. intern, Brett, a challenge. She had two Napa cabbages in her refrigerator that she got from her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and she wanted us to create a recipe with them.

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Healthy Teriyaki Tofu & Veggie Protein Bowl – {Recipe Redux October Challenge}

Plant-based protein bowls are a food trend that makes me very happy. They’re easy to make, nutritious, versatile, and filled with big flavors and lots of crunch. This Teriyaki Tofu and Veggie Protein Bowl is no exception.

Healthy Teriyaki Tofu and Veggie Protein Bowl via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #vegetarian

{Picky Eater Advice}

If your family tends to shy away from vegetables, set up a build-your-own  bowl bar filled with an array of ingredients so everyone can decide what to take … or what not to take. Giving finicky eaters control over their individual food choices (especially when they’re all healthy choices) is often a big motivator for trying new foods.

Healthy Teriyaki Tofu and Veggie Protein Bowl via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #vegetarian

The bowls I like to make include some sort of whole grain including brown rice, farro, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta, crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs, and one or two protein-rich foods — beans, tofu, grilled chicken, salmon, nuts, seeds, or eggs.

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Soba Noodles with Peanuts, Carrots, and Snow Peas – A Fast Dinner or a Playful Lunch

We created this recipe for Planters Peanuts and were compensated for our work. All opinions are our own.

This fast, flavorful, protein meal featuring peanuts, peanut butter, soba noodles, and colorful, crispy vegetables delivers big flavors to the family table, and it’s easy to assemble on busy weeknights.

Serve it warm, and pack leftovers the next day in your lunchbox. 

Soba Noodles with Peanuts, Carrots, and Snow Peas via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #peanuts

With back-to-school season heating up for kids across the country, we’re all about wholesome dinners (and lunches) to keep both kids and parents well fed and well fueled throughout the day. Protein has staying power, which is one reason we added peanuts to this plant-based meal.

Soba Noodles with Peanuts, Carrots, and Snow Peas via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #peanuts

Did you know a one-ounce serving of Planters Dry Roasted peanuts provides 7 powerful grams of plant-based protein? Peanuts also contain heart-healthy “good” fats, with more than 80 percent of the fat in peanuts made up of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

{Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of heart disease.}

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Spiralized Summer Squash and Pistachio Salad {The RecipeRedux – Podcast Episode #290}

Summer squash is abundant this time of year at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and in CSA baskets, and it’s the star ingredient in this recipe for Spiralized Summer Squash and Pistachio Salad. It’s easy to make and filled with flavor thanks to a lemony dressing with basil and mint.

Spiral Summer Squash and Pistachio Salad via Mealmkakeovermoms.com/kitchen

 

True confession: I do not like summer squash. I find it bland, watery, and, as my daughter would say, “meh!” However, I LOVE this salad. And I am not alone. I had two friends over for dinner the day I made this and they told me they also do not like summer squash. But, all they could do during dinner was go on and on about how much they loved this salad! The crunch and fresh flavors, not to mention the spaghetti-like shape, makes it fun for kids (even picky kids and adults) of all ages.

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Peach and Avocado Sunshine Salad + Tomato Basil Salad with Mango {Garden-Fresh Recipes – Podcast Episode #290}

This fresh and flavorful summer salad is made with juicy peaches, luscious avocado, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and chopped chives. Serve it as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken or just eat it straight up with a spoon!

Tune in to this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio podcast to hear all about this salad and many other delicious, garden-inspired recipes!

Peach and Avocado Sunshine Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The fresh peaches this summer have been more juicy and sweet than I can remember, so I’ve been adding them to my favorite breakfast combo of Greek yogurt and granola. Today, I decided to change things up by adding diced peaches to a summer salad. And since I also had a gorgeous tomato on my kitchen counter and a perfectly ripe Mexican mango (sent to me compliments of the Mango Board), I created a second salad with some fresh basil from my garden.

Peach and Avocado Sunshine Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Fresh herbs via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

For garden-fresh recipes including Peach and Avocado Sunshine Salad, Tomato Basil Salad with Mango, Beet Green Salad, and Spiralized Summer Squash and Pistachio Salad, tune in to this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast.

Fresh herbs via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I love cutting basil into ribbons (a technique called, chiffonade), because kids get a kick out of the shape. You can also ask your kids to help you rip the basil into small pieces, and add it that way.

Tomato Mango Salad with Basil via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

My toss-together tomato salad is made with 1 diced tomato, a diced mango, basil ribbons, EVOO, lemon juice, and kosher salt and pepper.

My sister Amy is visiting me this week on Nantucket with her friends Miriam, George, and Mike. Mike runs the restaurants at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, so I invited him to join me on a Facebook LIVE demonstration of the salads. The internet connection was so bad that we ended up taping the segment instead. I hope you’ll watch the demo; it was Mike’s first time on TV!

Peach and Avocado Sunshine Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

As someone who has worked in the restaurant industry for most of his career, Mike has seen a shift in kids’ palates and says they’re definitely becoming more adventurous eaters. And we agree that taking kids out to eat is a great way to introduce them to new tastes and textures.

Peach and Avocado Sunshine Salad
 
There's nothing better than biting into a fresh peach and having all those luscious, sweet juices drip down your chin! And now, there's nothing better than adding peaches to a fresh summer salad. Here, I combine them with creamy diced avocado, lemon zest and lemon juice, and chopped chives. If you love cilantro, add it too!
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Ingredients
  • 2 ripe peaches, cut into ¾-inch dice
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Chopped chives, optional
  • Chopped cilantro, optional
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the peaches, avocado, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil in a bowl and stir to combine. Add a few chopped chives and a few tablespoons of chopped or torn cilantro as desired, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

What are your favorite ways to eat peaches and mangos?

I created a third recipe this week using fresh beet greens.

Beets and beet greens via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Beet greens salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

After roasting and devouring a bunch of golden beets, I trimmed the beet greens the next day and sliced them into thin strips. I then used the greens in a salad with diced tomato, basil ribbons, diced avocado, diced mango, and a dressing made with lemon juice, lemon zest, EVOO, kosher salt, and black pepper. I topped the salad with nigella seeds.

Sunny Summer Panzanella Salad {Recipe Redux} – Inspired by Teaspoon of Spice Blog

Classic panzanella salad is made with tomatoes and chunks of stale (or toasted) bread. Other components include onion and fresh basil. I gave this  tasty Tuscan salad a new and even more nutritious fix by adding some extras including mozzarella cheese, paper-thin slices of English cucumber and radishes, juicy diced watermelon, and mint. I left the onions out since my kids don’t love ’em!

Sunny Summer Panzanella Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #salad #watermelon

Every month, we join other like-minded healthy food bloggers for The Recipe Redux cooking challenge. This month, we’re all celebrating ReDux’s 5th birthday by celebrating each other. For the challenge, were were asked to pick a fellow ReDuxer by going to their blog and either making one of their recipes or creating a recipe inspired by theirs.

Sunny Summer Panzanella Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

I chose a recipe for Portable Cherry Caprese Panzanella Salad, created by Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD. Deanna is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian, food blogger, and co-founder of The Recipe Redux. She blogs with her dietitian partner, Serena Ball over at Teaspoon of Spice where you’ll find fast, healthy, family-pleasing recipes — the kind of food I like to make too. I discovered Deanna’s Portable Cherry Caprese Panzanella Salad when she featured it on one of her Facebook LIVE broadcasts. (If you haven’t seen any of Deanna’s Facebook LIVE broadcasts yet or her Healthy Kitchen Hacks, be sure to check them out.) I loved the panzanella-with-fruit idea so much that I decided to give classic panzanella salad my own unique spin by adding watermelon, cucumber, radishes, mint, and mozzarella. I’ve made this recipe two times in the past week, fed it to family and my interns (we have three nutrition students working with us right now!), and I plan to make it over the July 4th weekend as well.

Sunny Summer Panzanella Salad via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #salad #watermelon

This salad says summer to me. It’s juicy, crunchy, creamy, sweet, light, and refreshing. I served it as a main dish, but this salad could easily do double duty as a side dish.

For me, the watermelon and mint really make this salad special. You could also add blackberries or raspberries. Red onion or thin slices of green onions would also work really well in the mix.

Thanks for the inspiration Deanna!

Sunny Summer Panzanella Salad
 
I don't like to heat up my kitchen in the summer, which is why I turn to salads like this one. Plus, salads can be super nutritious. For my panzanella salad makeover, I use whole wheat bread versus white, add fresh mozzarella cheese for satisfying protein, and load up on the produce by going above and beyond the tomatoes, which you'd expect in a panzanella salad: English cucumber, radishes, watermelon, and mint.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4 (Yield = 6½ cups)
Ingredients
  • 3 slices whole grain bread, cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 radishes, cut into thin rounds or half moons (3/4 cup)
  • ½ of an English cucumber, cut into thin half moons (1-1/3 cups)
  • ¾ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1½ cups cubed watermelon, (about ½-inch cubes)
  • 12 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 12 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  2. Place the bread cubes in a bowl, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and stir until the bread is evenly coated with the oil. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until toasted and crispy. Stir every 5 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
  3. Place the cooled bread cubes on a large platter or in a large bowl. Add the cheese, radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, watermelon, mint, and basil and stir gently to combine. Drizzle with the remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil and the balsamic vinegar to taste. Stir gently to combine. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Check out all the other Recipe Redux creations this month!

Deli-Lovers Lox Sandwich with Coleslaw and Russian

Perfect for a child’s lunchbox or a mid-day meal at home, this Lox Sandwich with Coleslaw and Russian is a healthy spin on a classic deli sandwich. 

Deli-Lovers Lox Sandwich with Coleslaw and Russian via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Growing up in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City, I ate many a lunch at the kosher deli on North Avenue. I’m not sure if that same deli is still there, but I can still taste my favorite sandwich of turkey or roast beef on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing like it was yesterday. While the coleslaw/Russian combo may sound a bit strange, trust me when I say that it has stood the test of time. I still crave it. And if you haven’t tried it, I suggest you go to the supermarket ASAP for the ingredients.

Deli-Lovers Lox Sandwich with Coleslaw and Russian via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

My childhood tastes have changed a lot over the years (some of my favorite foods today—avocados, baby salad greens, ancient grains like farro and quinoa—weren’t part of my daily repertoire when I was a kid), but one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for Jewish deli. {Have you read my post from Russ & Daughters?}

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Gluten-Free Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar {Podcast #284}

This gluten-free, salad-to-go is filled with fiber, flavor, and heart-healthy omega-3 fat, and whether you’re a busy mom or a school-age kid, we’re pretty sure you’ll look forward to eating it for lunch! 

Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #walnuts #omega3 #glutenfree

Our new recipe and this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast is sponsored by the California Walnut Commission.

Did you know that walnuts are the only nut—and one of the few foods—significantly high in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid? One ounce (about a handful) has 2.5 grams of ALA, which is more than the recommended daily amount of 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women.

Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #walnuts #omega3 #glutenfree

A few months ago, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. The new recommendations from the USDA encourage all of us to reduce saturated fat intake and shift to foods high in the healthy polyunsaturated fats. Choosing plant-based foods like walnuts is a great way to help you meet that goal.

Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #walnuts #omega3 #glutenfree

Walnuts are versatile. We love to grab a handful for a snack, add them to breakfast favorites like fruit & yogurt parfaits and overnight oats, and incorporate them into pancakes, cookies and quick breads. They also provide an easy way to add more plant-based protein to things like salads and pasta dinners.

Tune in to this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast by clicking on the PLAY button above for our easy Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar as well as two other recipes your family will love: Grab-and-Go Granola Bars and Rosemary and Sea Salt Walnuts.

Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #walnuts #omega3 #glutenfree

This recipe is super easy. Start with two wide mouth, pint-size Mason jars, and fill each with light Italian salad dressing, quinoa, and white beans (AKA cannellini beans). Mix together and then keep building …

Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #walnuts #omega3 #glutenfree

… with diced red bell peppers, feta cheese (that’s optional), and quartered kalamata olives …

Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #walnuts #omega3 #glutenfree

… and then add the final touches with fresh basil and toasted, chopped walnuts. Yes please!

Each serving has over a day’s worth of good-for-you ALA omega-3 fat, 11 grams of filling fiber, and 14 grams of protein.

4.5 from 8 reviews
Walnut, White Bean and Quinoa Salad in a Jar
 
This gluten-free salad is seriously yummy, and it's super flexible. You can use any bean of your liking or add any veggie you love. Hmmm: Roasted beets sound good right now! And for even more flavor, go ahead and add some lemon zest to the quinoa/bean mixture or just before serving.
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch or Dinner
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons light Italian salad dressing
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • ½ cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper (cut into ½-inch dice)
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives, quartered (about ¼ cup)
  • ¼ to ½ cup loosely packed torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 ounces lightly toasted walnuts, roughly chopped (about ½ cup)
Instructions
  1. Divide the salad dressing evenly between two wide mouth, pint-size Mason jars and top each evenly with the quinoa and white beans. Use a fork to stir the ingredients together until the quinoa and beans are well coated with the dressing.
  2. Continue layering each with the bell peppers, feta cheese as desired, olives, basil leaves, and the walnuts.
  3. Secure the lid and refrigerate. To serve, shake until the ingredients are combined, and then pour into individual bowls, or eat directly from the jar with a spoon or fork.
Notes
One salad has 25% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 20% iron, 10% calcium, and 2.7 grams ALA.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: (1 jar) Calories: 460, Fat: 29g, Saturated fat: 3g, Carbohydrates: 40g, Sodium: 590mg, Fiber: 11g, Protein: 14g

GIVEAWAY NEWS – {Giveaway is CLOSED}

Walnut Giveaway

Thanks to our friends with California Walnuts, look what we’re Giving Away:

– Walnut tote bag, which folds into a walnut shell
– Walnut spatula
– Walnut apron
– Walnut Pear Chardonnay Handmade Soap made with walnut shells
– 1 Mason jar filled with walnuts
– One-ounce walnut sample packs
– Recipe cards

TO ENTER add a comment right here on this blog post and tell us about your favorite way to incorporate walnuts into your family’s diet. Or simply tell us why you’d like to win the giveaway! (U.S. and Canada only please)

We will enter you into the giveaway additional times if you …

> Tweet about the giveaway with a link back to this post.

> Share the giveaway news with your Facebook fans and friends with a link back to the post.

> Follow us on Pinterest.

> Follow The Meal Makeover Moms on Facebook and Twitter (@MealMakeovrMoms).

Giveaway ends at noon on April 7th, so hurry up and enter! – Giveaway is CLOSED.

Ever wonder how walnuts are harvested? Check out this fun video!

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