Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Good news! I got back in the kitchen again this week and actually made and photographed a recipe!

Sorry I’ve been so lacking on recipe posts, I guess I’ve just been really lazy since my Christmas break and haven’t been able to get back into the groove.

This has been compounded by the fact that my computer is at death’s door and I dread having to use it because it’s SO SLOW and the battery dies in about 20 min. I’m going to start using Nate’s computer but it’s a Mac and I’m putting it off as long as possible since I’m a PC girl.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

But anyway, let’s get to this recipe. I think we all know that homemade mac and cheese doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff in the blue box- although I’m partial to the Velveeta Shells and Cheese variety that comes with the pack of squeeze cheese.

Whenever I make macaroni and cheese from scratch, the cheese sauce looks so smooth, creamy and delicious in the pot, but then after you toss the noodles in it and put it in the oven, it kind of separates and turns to a texture I don’t like at all. It gets kind of dry (which I guess some people like) and just not cheesy at all.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved Velveeta cheese. In fact I just remembered that for breakfast I used to eat an english muffins toasted with Velveeta melted on it and sprinkled with bacon bits. I don’t know how I came up with this, but MAN was it good….and I kind of want one of those sandwiches right now…

Anyway, I know Velveeta is artificially colored and probably so bad for you, but I’m convinced that in order for mac and cheese to be palatable, it needs to contain some of this delightful cheese product. Well this recipe is the best of both worlds. The cheese sauce is made using my favorite artificial cheese, keeping it smooth and delicious even after it’s baked, but then there’s real cheddar sprinkled on top for even more cheesy deliciousness.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

This particular recipe gets a little kick from the tomatoes with green chiles, and I’ve made it extra healthy by adding loads of veggies. I also added tofu since Nate and I don’t love chicken but I wanted some added protein. You could definitely sub chicken if you’d like.

I could not stop myself from eating this!

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole
Serves 6
A spicy, cheesy pasta casserole chock full of veggies!
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Ingredients
  1. 16-oz. package corkscrew pasta (or whatever shape you like)
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 medium onion, diced
  4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  5. 8 oz. mushrooms, diced
  6. 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  7. 10-oz. pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed (like Velveeta, which comes in a box or shredded)
  8. 10 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  9. 8 oz. super firm tofu, cubed and drained- i found a pre-cubed version (you could also sub chicken if you want)
  10. 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  11. 1/2 cup sour cream
  12. 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta for slightly less time than package recommends so it's al dente. It will cook more in the oven so you don't want it to be too mushy.
  2. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and sauté 5-10 minutes or until tender.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and prepared cheese product; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in broccoli, tofu, soup and sour cream and stir well. Mix in hot cooked pasta until blended.
  4. Spoon mixture into a 9x13 baking dish; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Adapted from Southern Living
Adapted from Southern Living
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

With all the cookie making and eating going on around this time of year, it’s important to still remember to eat regular, healthy meals. 

Not that I’m judging you…trust me, I’ve eaten cookies for an appetizer or for dinner on more occasions than I can count (*cough* yesterday *cough*). But I always end up making myself sick and being hungry an hour later. 

So with all the cookie and dessert posts on all your favorite food blogs right now, I thought it was my duty to give you something to make for dinner. You and your family will thank me, I promise. 

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

This meatloaf isn’t just any meatloaf. It’s the one my mom made when I was growing up. It brings back so many memories when I smell it baking away in the oven, and when I take my first bite it transports me back to my carefree days of childhood…when I wasn’t the one who had to cook dinner ;) (thanks, mom!)

This can be made with any meat you want. Growing up my mom sometimes used lean ground beef and sometimes ground turkey. Now I make it only with turkey because Nate doesn’t like beef. This isn’t your typical dry, gross meatloaf (although Nate would probably like that), it is very moist and has the most delicious sort of sweet and sour tomato sauce that goes over it. I can eat that sauce with a spoon (and do), it is that good.

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

So do yourselves a favor and make this for dinner tonight. Just make sure you leave enough time since it does need to bake for over an hour. It’s worth it though!

This was definitely one of my favorite dinners when I was younger. Now, Nate begs me for this meal on a regular basis, and I’m so glad it’s become one of his favorite meals too. It’s delicious when served alongside some homemade mashed potatoes and green beans :)

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

Mom's Barbecued Meat Loaf
Serves 4
This is a moist meat loaf with a delicious sweet and sour tomato sauce. I have no idea what the origin of this recipe is, so as far as I'm concerned, it's from my mom :)
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 lb ground beef, veal or turkey (i usually use 1.25 lbs because that's how big the containers of ground turkey are, and it's even better because there's more sauce)
  2. 3/4 cup bread crumbs (Italian style are great, or panko works fine too if that's what you have)
  3. 1 onion, minced
  4. 1 egg, lightle beaten
  5. 1 1/2 tsp salt, dash of pepper
  6. 2 cups of your favorite jarred tomato sauce
  7. 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  8. 2 Tbsp mustard
  9. 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  10. 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix together meat, bread crumbs, onion, egg, seasonings, and 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce.
  3. Form into a loaf and put into pan (a 9x5 loaf pan works best but make sure it is big enough to hold all the sauce, as it will bubble up).
  4. Combine rest of tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and worcestershire sauce. Pour over meat loaf.
  5. Bake for 1 hr 15 min, basting occasionally with sauce.
  6. Remove to serving plate. Slice and serve. Pass sauce from pan on the side!
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

Guys, I’m so far behind! I have so many things I still need to share with you but just haven’t either made the recipes or assembled the posts- the recipes from my cooking class in Italy, and also the finished coffee table ottoman I made!

But in the meantime, you’ll have to settle for this grilled cheese, which is pretty darn delicious. I mentioned this very early on in my blog, but Nate is a creature of habit. He literally eats the same breakfast and lunch EVERY day of the week. So occassionally, on the weekend, he’ll request grilled cheese instead of his daily turkey sandwich. 

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

I usually just use up whatever is in the fridge on these days, sometimes coming up with really good combos. That’s how this sandwich came about. I do often add pesto to his grilled cheese, but on this particular occassion there was some leftover roasted butternut squash.

The combo of the squash, the pesto and the melty cheese was just too good not to share. I think you could also use some thanksgiving leftovers for a very tasty grilled cheese combo- maybe with some sweet potatoes? some cranberry sauce? Oh man, the combinations are endless!

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

On other fronts, I’m scrambling to make decisions on my house because it’s going much faster than I thought. The demo is complete and framing will apparently be pretty much done by the end of next week. Because of this, my contractor informed me that I need to pick out my roof color by this Friday (!). And then I need to pick out all my bathroom fixtures and cabinetry by the end of next week so that the plumber will know where to put the plumbing. I didn’t realize that the cabinet itself made a difference, but they need to know how high any shelves inside it are, etc, that would obstruct the pipes so they can plan accordingly.

Needless to say, for a decision-making-a-phobe like me, I’m getting quite stressed out :( I really thought I’d have more than 2 wks to decide everything!

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

Also, this weekend we went down to Nate’s moms and I had him videotape me preparing a dish so I could enter The Great American Cookbook Competition. It’s some contest Rachel Ray is having that my aunt told me about. I highly doubt I’ll win, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try :) Hopefully Nate can make me look better on the video through editing than I actually came across on tape, because I most certainly could never be an actress. 

I hope that you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Chanukkah to those that celebrate!!!

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese
This isn't really much of a recipe, but more of an idea
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Ingredients
  1. Bread slices
  2. Cheese slices
  3. Leftover roasted butternut squash, cut into slices
  4. Pesto
  5. Butter
Instructions
  1. Spread the insides of the bread slices with pesto. Top with a couple slices of cheese and then then enough squash to cover. Using a knife, spread/flatten the squash as much as possible.
  2. Close sandwich and spread butter over the outsides of the bread. Cook in a pan or in a panini press (my favorite way to make grilled cheese) until cheese is melted.
  3. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. The possibilities of fillings inside grilled cheese are endless!
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Orange Seitan with Green Beans and Peppers ~ ElephantEats.com

My friend Erica came over to dinner a few weeks ago and I cooked up this meal. It was SUPER easy and she liked it so much that she made it for dinner later that week too!

That was also the day I made the fluffy pb frosted brownies, which she got to sample. Lucky girl ;)

She brought one home to her bf and he apparently gave it a thumbs up!

Orange Seitan with Green Beans and Peppers ~ ElephantEats.com

Since Nate doesn’t like the taste of beef, and I hate touching raw chicken, I’m always experimenting with new protein forms. We both love seitan so I picked some up at Whole Foods assuming we’d find a use for it. I went to use it, thinking it was sliced in pieces, but it was actually ground.

I had never had ground seitan before but it was actually a really perfect substitute for ground beef! I love the texture it added to this dish and I’ll definitely be making it again. Be sure to serve it over a big bowl of white (my fave) or brown rice. Mmmm mmm!

Orange Seitan with Green Beans and Peppers ~ ElephantEats.com

Also, I finished another pet portrait! This one was a present for my parents of their long-haired mini dachsund, Sparky. I think it’s my best one yet!

Mini Dachsund Pet Portrait ~ ElephantEats.com

Orange Seitan with Peppers and String Beans
Serves 4
A healthy, vegetarian version of chinese take-out!
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Ingredients
  1. zest from one orange
  2. 1/2 cup orange juice (juice the orange you zested and add water to get to 1/2 cup)
  3. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  4. 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  5. 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  6. 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  7. 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  8. 2 tsp cornstarch
  9. 2 tsp vegetable oil
  10. 3/4 lb fresh green beans, ends cut and trimmed into 2-inch pieces
  11. 2 red peppers, sliced thin and cut into 2-inch strips
  12. 1 lb ground seitan
  13. 2 scallions, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the orange zest, juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, ginger and cornstarch.
  2. In a large nonstick pan, heat oil over med-hi heat. Add green beans and peppers and cook for about 3 min. Add seitan and cook til beans are crisp tender.
  3. With a slotted spoon, transfer everything to a large bowl.
  4. Give the orange juice mixture a stir and add it to the pan. Cook, scraping up any brown bits until thickened, about 2 min.
  5. Add veggies and seitan back to pan, along with any juices. Warm through.
  6. Serve over white or brown rice to soak up all that yummy sauce!
Adapted from Very Culinary
Adapted from Very Culinary
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Light Lemony Tuna Pasta with Fennel, Capers, and Olives ~ ElephantEats.com

I was recently sent some Ocean Naturals canned tuna to try. I rarely eat canned tuna because I just plain forget it exists, so I was so glad that this reminded me how great it is. 

Canned tuna contains high-quality protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. Tuna, especially canned tuna, is a convenient and versatile way for you to add fish to your family’s diet.

Light Lemony Tuna Pasta with Fennel, Capers, and Olives ~ ElephantEats.com

But I’m sure you guys know all that, right? What I didn’t know was that tuna is often over-harvested and some species are more endangered than others. Ocean Naturals guarantees that all of their “responsibly-caught” tuna is harvested:

  • From target species populations that are healthy and abundant and are currently being harvested at a level that promotes the stocks’ longevity
  • Using catch-methods that limit ecosystem impacts
  • In regions where the fishery is managed by regulatory bodies that help sustain the long-term productivity of all impacted species

Light Lemony Tuna Pasta with Fennel, Capers, and Olives ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate has made me really think about our impact on the ecosystem in general, so it made me really happy to know that some companies are doing their part to preserve it and limit their impact on it. 

Lately I’ve also become overly concerned with what I put in my body, and hate that everything seems to contain something that’s unhealthy either from the packaging or the food itself. For example, it scares me that those plastic water bottles I drink from daily could be leaching chemicals into the water. Well, Ocean Naturals  tuna doesn’t have anything added- it’s simply premium tuna with a dash of salt, packed in either olive oil or water. No fillers, additives, or preservatives. It’s nice to know that some foods don’t have anything artificial added!

Light Lemony Tuna Pasta with Fennel, Capers, and Olives ~ ElephantEats.com

Anyway, since I got sent this tuna, I didn’t want to just make a boring old tuna salad. Nate has been training for the NY marathon (it’s this weekend!) so every Friday is pasta day to fuel his long weekend runs. I decided to make a pasta that incorporated the tuna. It’s kind of based on the flavors of a sandwich he loves at ‘WichCraft Sandwiches.

**I was given these products free of charge, but all opinions are my own. I would never post about a product I didn’t love and plan to use again.

Light Lemony Tuna Pasta with Fennel, Capers, and Olives ~ ElephantEats.com