Everyday Mac-N-Cheese

I love homemade macaroni and cheese. I’ve made it countless ways as I try to find my favorite. I hate yet to find the right recipe that my kids and I go WOW over. There are a lot of good ones but none have blown our socks off. I will admit that the kids and I are mac-n-cheese snobs so it’s going to take a lot to impress us. If you notice I have not mentioned my husband, he likes mac-n-cheese, but it’s not one of his favorite dishes. The kids and I always stare at him funny when he says that.

I have always made baked mac-n-cheese so when I saw this recipe in the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook, I knew it was something I had to try. It was a lightened up version of macaroni and cheese but yet sounded like it was something we could like. Instead of making a Béchamel sauce consisting of flour, milk and butter; this is made with evaporated milk, lowfat milk and cornstarch to help thicken. They recommend using Cabot 50% light Vermont Cheddar Cheese but I was unable to find it. So I used regular Cabot Cheddar Cheese and it worked out fine, it just added a little more to the calories. My favorite part of this whole dish is that it didn’t need to be baked and it was fast and easy! The kids and I really liked it and so did my husband. I was hesitant on how the leftovers would taste, and was amazed they tasted just as good as it did the day before, maybe even better!

Everyday Mac-N-Cheese

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat macaroni (I used a little more)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 (12oz) can reduced-fat evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup 2% lowfat milk
  • 1/8 tsp dry mustard (I could not locate mine so I did a squirt of regular)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups shredded 50% light cheddar cheese
  1. Bring 2 1/2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the pasta and 2 tsp of salt and cook, stirring often, until completely tender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and leave it in the colander.
  2. Combine the evaporated milk, 1/2 cup of the lowfat milk, mustard, 1/4 tsp salt, cayenne and garlic powder in the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 milk together, then whisk it into the simmering sauce. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened slightly and is smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cheddar until melted and smooth. Stir in the cooked pasta and let it sit until the sauce is thickened and the pasta is heated through, 2 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce before serving. (I did not have to add any)

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Tortellini Pasta Salad

This week is going to be a slow post week. With the holiday behind me I am starting to gather myself back up and focus on getting back in the kitchen. But I do have a wonderful dish to share with you.

I got this recipe from a dear friend of mine, Cory. Awhile back his wife had posted on facebook about this awesome tortellini pasta salad he makes. Of course I had to get the recipe and see what the fuss was all about. The first thing that caught my attention was the use of tortellini instead of plain pasta. What’s great about this recipe is that it’s best made a day ahead of when you want to serve it. You can also change up the vegetables used, I didn’t use green onions but I think they would be wonderful in it. I used balsamic vinegar since it was the only one I had on hand. But Cory says he uses either red wine vinegar or balsamic. Next time I plan on trying it with the red wine vinegar to see the difference of the two. When Cory told me that the dressing is very important and to make a lot of it, he wasn’t kidding. Since you make it a day in advanced, the pasta really soaks up the dressing and takes on a lot of flavor. Don’t skip on the dressing and it wouldn’t hurt to maybe even double it and add more the next day if you wanted. The only thing I omitted from Cory’s recipe is the olives. I am keeping it in the recipe because I feel they would add a wonderful flavor, but most of the people I was serving it to do not like olives. Sad, I know.

Tortellini Pasta Salad would be perfect for your New Years Eve bash or NCAA Bowl Game watching parties. I’ll be working on a few dips this coming weekend to enjoy while we cheer on Penn State in the Outback Bowl. I’ll get those posted as soon as I can. Enjoy!

Tortellini Pasta Salad:

  • 2 large packages multi color tortellini.
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced into bite size pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced into bite size pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced into bite size pieces
  • 1-2 cucumbers, diced into bite size pieces
  • 1 Package grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large jar of pitted calamata olives
  • 2 packages of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan


  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing
  • 1/2 cup vinegar, balsamic or red wine
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs water
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  1. Boil tortellini in salted water for 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook! Drain, and put into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the Good Seasoning, vinegar, water and lemon juice. Continue to whisk and slowly pour the oil, till combined.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl with the tortellini and drizzle over the salad dressing. Stir till everything is combined. Refrigerate at least 1 day before serving.

Source: Thank you Cory for a great recipe!

Weeknight Bolognese

I love a good bolognese and in order to achieve that it takes all day to make. The past couple weeks have been down right chilly and snowy. When the weather is like that, I want hot comfort food to warm me up. I wanted something like bolognese but didn’t have time to spend all day in the kitchen. My daughter is keeping me super busy with her cheerleading schedule and finding time in the kitchen has been hard. So, I turned to Ina’s new cookbook to help me out. She has a weeknight bolognese that doesn’t take long to make. This turned out fantastic. If you are like me this time of year, and have to run around like a crazy person. You can take comfort in knowing that you can still put a delicious meal on the table, even in the middle of your busy holiday schedule.

Weeknight Bolognese:

  • 2 tbs good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground sirloin4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small pasta (I used 1 pound)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  1. Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5-7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more mintue. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tbs salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
  3. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Source: How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Baked Chicken Tortellini


If you have kids and they are like mine, pasta could be eaten every single day without complaint. That is why I like to find new recipes for pasta. It gets boring eating the same things all the time. I found this recipe and wanted to see if we could add this to our arsenal of pasta recipes. The family loved it and now we have a new pasta recipe to go to.

I doubled the recipe and poured the sauce over the uncooked tortellini and baked it. Next time I make this, I will make more of the sauce then the recipe calls for. The pasta soaked up what sauce there was and it wasn’t as creamy as I would have liked. I’ve adjusted the recipe to show the changes.

Baked Chicken Tortellini

  • 2 16 ounce package of fresh cheese tortellini (found in the refrigerated section)
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 4 cups (about 4 chicken breasts) chicken cut up into bite size pieces
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6 green onions finely chopped, white and green parts
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 24 or 26 ounces (3 cup) chicken broth
  • 1 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 Cups shredded Monterey jack or Mozzarella cheese
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Salt and Pepper the chicken and brown for 1-2 minutes. Add the green onions, cooking until chicken is done.
  2. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken broth and stir until thickened. Mix in sour cream until mixture is creamy and slightly thickened.
  3. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and add the tortellini. Sprinkle half the cheese over tortellini. Put cooked chicken/sauce mixture on top and sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.
  4. Bake covered with tin foil at 350 for 30 minutes, uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes until bubbly and golden brown around the edges.

Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Baked Ravioli

As much as I love cooking there are some nights I just don’t want to think about dinner. I start thinking where do I want to get dinner from? What am I in the mood for? The other night I had that happen and thought about ravioli. I REALLY wanted baked ravioli and decided not to order anything and just go get the stuff and do it myself. Baked ravioli is fairly easy to put together and has the taste of lasagna without all the work. I have made a creamy marinara sauce and thought that would be nice to use for this dish. Boy was I right, it turned out fantastic. Served with a nice salad and some garlic bread and you have a great dinner.

Baked Ravioli

  • 2 large packages of frozen cheese ravioli
  • 2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 cup
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ravioli till they are almost done, about 6 minutes, and drain, saving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  2. While the ravioli is cooking, heat up the marinara sauce in a large skillet. When the sauce is heated through, add the ricotta cheese and stir till it’s all combined. Add the reserved pasta water. Take off heat and add the basil.
  3. In a 13 x 9 baking dish or a lasagna pan, place several spoonfuls of the marinara sauce on the bottom. Start layering the ravioli and once you have one layer spoon enough sauce to just cover the pasta. Sprinkle a little bit of the Parmesan cheese and about 1/4-1/2 cup of the Mozzarella. Continue with the next layer of ravioli, sauce and cheese. Keep doing that process till you end with the sauce. Top it with as much cheese as you want on top and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

Hamburger Helper is a very popular dinner and kids love it. But the reason I don’t like it and don’t make it is because it has tons of preservatives and other things I can’t pronounce. I love the rule that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you should not be eating it. I love the ease that Hamburger Helper gives you, but you can make a version of that at home, from scratch! The benefits are you know exactly what is going in and the taste is so much better. My family loves this and I’m sure you will too.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 whole Small Onion, Diced
  • 1 Tablespoon Emeril’s Essence Original Spice Mixture*
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 box Elbow Macaroni, 16 Ounce Box
  • 29 ounces, Can Of Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  1. Add ground beef and onion to a large skillet or pot, along with Emeril’s Essence*, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain meat mixture, if necessary, to get rid of any extra grease. Then put the meat back in the skillet and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni according to package directions.
  3. When pasta is done, drain; then add it and the crushed tomatoes to the beef mixture. Turn temperature to medium-low and cook until sauce is heated. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted and combined.

*I tried making this without the Emeril’s and used my own spices. When I made it again with the Emeril’s it made a HUGE difference! I would recommend using it.

Adapted from: The Tasty Kitchen

Pasta Mozzarella

When I ask my kids what I should make for dinner, I already know their answer. “Pasta Mozzarella, please.”  I’ve been making this for years and my kids gave it the name Pasta Mozzarella. If you are having a hectic day and want to make something quick, this is for you. Family members have begged on hands and knees for me to give them this recipe. I tell them for $100 I will give it to them. But for you, the cost will be free with one condition. Make it soon!

Pasta Mozzeralla

  • 1 box (1lb) Penne pasta (or other tube shaped pasta)
  • 16oz mozzarella cheese, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 pkg Good Seasons Italian salad dressing
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut up

1. Boil pasta till al dente, according to package instructions and drain.
2. While pasta is cooking, in a large bowl, whisk the dressing, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3. Add the pasta, cheese, tomatoes and basil to the dressing and stir to combine. Serve immediately or at room temp.