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

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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Garlic Scape Pesto with Scapes From My CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

Until I was a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture) a decade ago I had never heard of a garlic scape.  I’ve received scapes in my Farm Direct Coop CSA share several times and have always wanted to make garlic scape pesto. 

Garlic Scape Pesto via Mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

I love walnuts so decided to use them in my pesto along with the usual olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and basil found in traditional pesto.

Garlic Scape Pesto via Mealmakeovermoms.com/kitchen

Garlic scapes are the flowering stems or stalks of garlic shoots that poke out of the ground as garlic grows. They’re harvested before the garlic is fully grown, and this allows the garlic bulb to fully mature. They taste like garlic, but with a milder flavor.

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Greek Orzo Chicken Soup + Cooking Mindfully to Reduce Food Waste {Podcast #283}

This Greek Orzo Chicken Soup is easy to make, delicious to eat, and nutritious, and if you prepare it mindfully, it can help your family reduce food waste too.

Greek Chicken Orzo Soup #FoodWaste #Soup via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

The topic of Food Waste has been on our minds for quite some time now, because the numbers are just so darn staggering:

> 40% of the food in the United States goes uneaten on any given day, which translates to more than 20 pounds of food waste per person every month.

> From farm to table, a 15% food waste reduction could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans is food insecure.

The GOOD NEWS: The U.S. is aiming for a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030

Tune in to this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast for tasty tips on how you and your family can reduce food waste, cook mindfully, and bring about change in your communities.

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Tuscan Tuna Bowls – An Easy Way to Eat More Seafood

Convenient canned tuna is the star ingredient in these protein-rich Tuscan Tuna Bowls. Made with canned solid white albacore tuna, whole wheat pasta, baby kale, tomatoes, edamame, and avocado, this nutrient-powered bowl will hit the spot at lunch or dinner.

Tuscan Tuna Bowls via MealMakeoverMoms.com/Kitchen #tuna #protein #seafood

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we all consume at least two seafood meals a week. For pregnant and nursing women, that recommendation is even higher: two to three seafood meals a week. (Seafood contains a boatload of nutrients including omega-3 fats, which are needed for heart health as well as brain and eye development in babies.) Translate that healthy eating advice into ounces and that recommendation adds up to 8 to 12 ounces a week.

{We partnered with Bumble Bee to create this recipe and were compensated for our work. All ideas and content is our own.}

Tuscan Tuna Bowls via MealMakeoverMoms.com/Kitchen #tuna #protein #seafood

The challenge for a lot of busy moms is coming up with seafood-inspired meals and snacks that their families will love. That’s where our Tuscan Tuna Bowls come in. This recipe takes just minutes to prepare, and you can easily customize it to everyone’s tastes. For example, if tomatoes aren’t a favorite, toss in some diced bell pepper, thinly sliced carrots, artichoke hearts, or cannellini beans instead.

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Lentil Alphabet Soup — A Classic Makeover of a Kid Favorite

Vegetarian, vegan, and kid friendly, this Lentil Alphabet Soup is irresistible thanks to the playful pasta, and it’s filled with fiber and protein thanks to the lentils and vegetables. We have no doubt your kids will happily slurp up every last spoonful. 

Lentil Alphabet Soup via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #PulseFeast #LovePulses #IYP2016

This one pot, savory soup is made with carrots, celery, lentils, and adorable alphabet pasta, and the veggies and lentils are so tiny, even the pickiest eaters at your table will love it.

Lentil Alphabet Soup via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #PulseFeast #LovePulses #IYP2016

The UN General Assembly has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Why? Because lentils, dry beans and peas, and chickpeas are a nutritious superfood, and they’re sustainable — they have a low carbon footprint and enrich the soil. Pulses are regarded as a food of the future, poised as a powerful solution for feeding the world’s growing population.

Click the play button above to tune into this week’s Podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes!

Lentil Alphabet Soup via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #PulseFeast #LovePulses #IYP2016

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Cauliflower Mac & Cheese — A Makeover of Classic Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese is a kid favorite, but when it comes to good nutrition, this classic kid dish is lackluster at best. For my Cauliflower Mac & Cheese makeover, I use whole wheat elbow pasta, add shredded cauliflower (it disappears right into the dish), and create a yummy, creamy sauce that’s made with no cream at all.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #vegetarian

If you thought kale was the “it” vegetable, you’re right. But nutritious, versatile, and flavorful cauliflower has achieved “it” status too. Lately, I’ve been shredding it on the holes of a box grater to make “rice,” which I then sauté and add to dishes like this easy-does-it mac & cheese. (You can also use a food processor to make cauliflower “rice.”)

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen #vegetarian

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Tortellini Lunchbox Salad for Back to School

Add excitement to your child’s lunchbox with this Tortellini Lunchbox Salad. It’s filled with color, flavor, fun, and great nutrition … and it’s easy to make too!

A nutritious lunchbox salad made with tortellini, edamame, chickpeas, almonds, and dried cranberries #vegetarian

October is National Pasta Month.

In my house, every month is pasta month!

I have two teenage boys. Need I say more?

{By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time. The contest is part of The Recipe Redux}

A nutritious lunchbox salad made with tortellini, edamame, chickpeas, almonds, and dried cranberries #vegetarian

My youngest son is in high school, and right now he’s playing JV soccer.

With all that exercise, he’s hungry 24/7.

Lunch is typically a rush at school, and I don’t think he’s eating enough, so I decided to create a lunchbox salad that would satisfy his hunger, please his palate, and fill his belly with high-quality calories. I think I met those goals with this vegetarian pasta salad made with pesto-filled tortellini, edamame, almonds, protein-rich chickpeas, and dried cranberries. The sweet and savory flavor combination rocks, and he LOVES it!

dried pasta shapes

The great thing about cooking with pasta is that it provides the foundation for a healthy meal. It boosts energy and pairs well with just about anything: vegetables, beans, lean protein, cheese, and even dried fruit. 

Dried tortellini boiling

I usually buy cheese-filled fresh or frozen tortellini, but I found a package of dried, pesto-filled tortellini at Trader Joe’s and decided to give it a try. One cup of the dried yielded 2 cups cooked, so if you opt for frozen or fresh in this recipe, adjust accordingly.

Tortellini Lunchbox Salad
 
This recipe is versatile. You can use any bean or nut that your kids like, add just about any vegetable, add cubes of Cheddar cheese or crumbled feta, or toss in some cooked chicken, shrimp, or beef.
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pesto-filled dried tortellini *
  • ¾ cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • ¾ cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup lightly toasted sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Five minutes before it's done, stir in the edamame. Drain in a colander, place in a bowl, and cool (on the counter or in the fridge).
  2. When the pasta comes to room temperature or cooler, add the chickpeas, cranberries, almonds, and salad dressing. Stir to combine. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Before packing into a lunchbox, you may want to add an additional teaspoon of the dressing.
Notes
* I used small, dried, pesto-filled tortellini for this recipe. If you use fresh or frozen tortellini, use enough so your cooked yield is 2 cups. From there, mix in the remaining ingredients.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: (1 cup), Calories: 330, Fat: 13g, Saturated fat: 2g, Carbohydrates: 42g, Sodium: 530mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 12g

For more amazing pasta recipes, check out all the healthy recipes below, created by healthy food bloggers for The Recipe Redux.

A Healthy Pin It Party: Blue Plate Special

Finding healthy recipes on Pinterest is getting a whole lot easier these days thanks to Pin It Parties like the one being hosted by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean.

Healthy Eating Pin It Party at The Lean Green Bean

To participate in the party, we were asked to write a post featuring five of our favorite recipes that we wanted to see on Pinterest, so we chose some of our healthiest and prettiest creations, all photographed on beautiful blue dishes. (If you follow our blog, you probably know by now that Liz is obsessed with blue dishware!)

Why pretty plates and bowls? Well, if you have picky eaters at home, something as simple as presenting your food on an eye-catching dish can convince them to take that first important bite.

Welcome to our Blue Plate Special … and please PIN away!! 

A gluten-free side dish or main meal -- Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots

Quinoa with Almonds & Apricots is gluten free, vegetarian and vegan, filled with flavor, and can be served as a side dish or main meal.

A wild blueberry oat cake with a healthy frosting made with low-fat Greek yogurt

Wild Blueberry Oat Cake with Greek Yogurt Frosting is a treat you can serve at breakfast, snack, or dessert. You’ll never make cream cheese frosting again after you try our healthier Greek yogurt version.

Canned Beefaroni gets a healthy makeover

Is it humanly possible to give canned macaroni and beef dinners (AKA Beefaroni) a healthy makeover? Heck yes! Our Homemade Healthy Beefaroni is hearty, delicious, and features lean ground beef and three vegetables.

A healthy and hearty winter soup with a Tex-Mex flavor

South-of-the-Border Tortilla Soup is one of those quick weeknight recipes you’ll want to make again and again for your family. It’s healthy and hearty and hits the spot when the weather turns cool.

Morning oats topped with Concord grapes, dried fruit, and walnuts

Why eat plain old oatmeal when you can easily cook up our Morning Oats with Concord Grapes, Dried Cranberries, and Walnuts. And don’t forget the Vermont maple syrup!

Do you have a similar obsession with dishes? Do you have a favorite plate or bowl you find yourself turning to again and again? Let us know … and have fun pinning 🙂

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