Posted in Camp Food, Main Dish

I Love To Go A Wandering: Good Food Wherever You Are

Mountain hike

This past Thanksgiving week, my husband and I have been camping. It was nice to get away and be in the peace and quiet. We stayed at a national forest campground called Laguna in mountains of San Diego county. The weather was perfect, reaching into the low seventies. The area has really nice hiking and biking trails that are mostly flat with a variety of lengths. We enjoyed a couple different trails. The scenery is beautiful, and we even encountered a couple surprises. One morning a bobcat spotted us and scurried away to a safe distance. Then on another hike, we stopped at the side of the path for a drink of water, and found an Indian grinding stone was beneath our feet. Fun to imagine women gathering together to prepare of a day’s meal. Not really a kitchen as we would see it, but a party happened all the same as they sat together to make flour out of acorns and seeds.

I have posted before about how we do camp food. I am all about “if you are what you eat, then I want to eat the good stuff.” Our meals this past week have been great. Roasted Pork Mole, Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, and Chicken Cacciatore have made their way to our stomachs. Yum. Last night, we enjoyed a baked pasta dish that had been lightened up, like in the case of Enlightened Mac and Cheese for my last post, with the addition of cauliflower. Don’t be alarmed. It turned out quite delicious and for an added twist we baked it, like all the other recipes on our menu, in a Dutch oven over coals. (Gotta have the camping experience somehow.) No Dutch oven? Your regular oven works just fine.


Baked Shells and Cauliflower with Meat Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

• 1 pound lean ground beef, I used 9% fat
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 8-ounce container mushrooms, sliced
• 1 24-ounce pasta sauce
• ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 ¼ cup medium pasta shells
• 4 cups (approx. ½ head) cauliflower, cut into small florets (about the same size as the pasta.)
• 1 10-ounce frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, placed between paper towels, and liquid squeezed out
• ½ cup ricotta, I used part-skim
• ¾ cup shredded Italian cheese blend, I used reduced fat

Directions

1. In large skillet, cook ground beef with salt over medium heat. When finished, transfer to medium bowl.
2. Return skillet to medium heat, add mushrooms. Sauté, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have released their liquid, about 5-7 minutes.
3. To mushrooms add pasta sauce, red pepper flakes, spinach, and reserved beef. Simmer to mingle flavors, about 10 minutes.
4. Cook shells according to package instructions in a medium pot.
5. Add cauliflower to pasta during last 3 minutes of cooking time.
6. Stir pasta mixture into sauce mixture. Transfer to baking dish.
7. Spoon ricotta by small teaspoons over the pasta.
8. Bake at 375F until bubbly around the edges, about 25 minutes.
9. Sprinkle with cheese blend, and bake until cheese melts, about 10 minutes.

Dutch oven cooking

 

Note: If cooking in 10 inch Dutch oven, line the oven with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Add pasta/sauce mixture, top with ricotta. Cover with lid. You will need 23 hot coals: 16 on top and 7 on the bottom. Cook, rotating oven and lid every 15 minutes. After a half hour, added Italian cheese blend and cook 10 minutes more. This method gives the dish an added smoky flavor. Enjoy.


I get way too much happiness from good food.

Elizabeth Olsen

 

Update: In case you were wondering about how weight loss was going with Weigh Watchers, I have now lost sixteen pounds. All the food I cooked while camping was Weight Watcher friendly AND delicious. You can’t beat eating the good stuff. This recipe is 8 Smart points for 1 1/2 cups when using fat free pasta sauce and reduced fat cheese.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gather Together

The Party is STILL On!

Macandcheese

I love food. I love to shop for it, prepare it, and eat it. My daughter who also likes food, calls us recreational cooks. We do it for relaxation as well as for creativity. The only downfall of enjoying this activity the way we do is unwanted weight gain.

Recently, I had to make the decision to do something about it, so I joined Weight Watchers. I have used the program before with great results and I anticipate the same this time. The beauty of this particular way of eating is everything is still permissible. Nothing is eliminated. I can continue to enjoy creating wonderful things to eat. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

The party is STILL on in the kitchen.

(Oh, by-the-way, I’ve lost twelve pounds so far.)


Here is something I tried recently that was very delicious and great for any gathering. It works for anyone who loves the comfort of Mac and Cheese.  (Except, maybe, those who only like the kind that comes in the box.)

Enlightened Cheesy Mac with a Twist

Serves Main Dish 4; Side 8

Ingredients
• 1 teaspoon olive oil, or your choice
• 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, I used panko
• 1 20-ounce package of peeled and cut-up butternut squash
• ¾ cup vegetable broth
• 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, I used reduced-fat
• 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
• 2 tablespoons cream cheese, I used light cream cheese
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 4-ounces small pasta shells, 1 ¼ cups
• 2 cups small cauliflower florets

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil.
3. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil and add breadcrumbs. Toast until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Set aside.
4. Add squash to boiling water. Cover and return to boil. Cook uncovered until squash is very tender, about 10 minutes.
5. While squash is cooking, combine broth, cheddar, pecorino, cream cheese, mustard, salt and cayenne in blender. When squash is very tender, use slotted spoon to transfer it to blender. Purée. (Leave water in pan.)
6. Bring water bake to a boil. Add pasta and cook ½ the time called for in cooking instructions on package.
7. Add cauliflower to pasta during last minute of cooking time.
8. Drain pasta and cauliflower and return to pot.
9. Stir purée into pasta/cauliflower mixture. Toss to coat.
10. Spread pasta mixture in prepared pan. Sprinkle with toasted panko breadcrumbs. Spray with nonstick spray.
11. Bake until top is golden, and casserole is bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Note: Herbs, such as fresh thyme, can be added to the breadcrumbs during the toasting. Also, a little drizzle of truffle oil just before baking can elevate the yumminess of this dish. Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Weight Watchers. 1 ¼ cup serving equals 7 Smart points when using reduced-fat cheeses.

I think that the butternut/cheese purée could be used for a variety of recipes that include a cheese sauce. I am thinking of trying it with a Chicken and Broccoli Casserole or even a Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Do you have any suggestions? I would love to hear them.


Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.

Guy Fieri