Healthy Veggie Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

I'm a big believer in the fact that sometimes our bodies crave what we need.

I believe it's good that we crave hearty warm soups in the summer and salads with fresh corn in the summer.

I believe that's sometimes it's ok to crave a warm cookie after a bad day, or a cup of tea to relax at night, or a glass of wine to socialize with friends.

Food, at it's core, is good.

This is not to condone emotional eating--also known as being overly stressed and consuming all the chocolate/cereal/bread in the panty. In fact, I think that kind of eating is actually divorced from our emotions.  [I don't want to feel this anger/sadness/loneliness/stress right now so I am going to eat my feelings in the hopes of feeling better...]

I'm more interested in our ability to understand our feelings and needs and then nourish ourselves in response to that.

This past week I struggled with this. I was feeling vulnerable from interviews that I didn't feel particularly good about, lonely because Adam and was gone, and stressed with the amount of work I had to do.

There was some angry-eating of cereal for dinner one night.

But then I decided to get my act together and make some healthy comfort food, which for me, will almost always be mac and cheese.

This non-traditional mac and cheese is an almost 1:1 ratio of macaroni to vegetables, as the sauce is made of pureed cauliflower and butternut squash. It's not exactly fat free since it contains a little bit of butter and a lot of cheese, but I think that's ok.

These days I'm stressed by anything that consumes too much of my time all at once, so I elected to make the sauce in the crockpot. The cauliflower, butternut squash and vegetable broth can harmonize in the crock pot while you're at work.  When you get home, simply put the pasta water on to boil, puree the vegetables in a blender/food processor, add the milk, butter, and cheese, and dinner is done.

I won't promise that you don't taste the butternut squash and cauliflower, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I like the slight sweetness from the butternut squash.  The creamy texture is just like the real thing, and I happen to believe a little Vermont white cheddar makes anything good.

Though Adam eyed it suspiciously when I told him it was "healthy," he ate a large plate and didn't complain once about the butternut squash, which he "doesn't like."

Take the time to nourish yourselves this week, friends.

Healthy Veggie Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
pinch of paprika
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup (or more) shredded cheese (I used a combination of white cheddar and gruyere) 
2 1/2 cups dry macaroni noodles (I used whole wheat) 

In a crock pot, combine onion, cauliflower, butternut squash, vegetable broth, paprika and nutmeg.*  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours. 

When you're almost ready to eat, boil water for the pasta. Take batches of the cauliflower/butternut squash mixture and blend in food processor/blender until smooth. (Add pasta to water and cook according to package directions) 

Return smooth cauliflower/butternut squash sauce to the crock pot on low heat. Add butter, milk, and cheese. Stir occasionally until cheese and butter are melted. Taste it. Depending on the salt in the vegetable broth you used, you may need to add a generous pinch of salt here. 

Pour sauce over cooked noodles and enjoy!

*The Crock Pot is totally optional here. You could also roast the veggies and then blend them along with the vegetable broth, or you could just cook the veggies and broth in a saucepan over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until soft. 

Inspired by Pinch of Yum.


Cocoa Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

My weekend has been a whirlwind.

It started with epic levels of snow for North Carolina, icy roads, canceled flights, and LOTS of stress trying to figure out a way to make it to Florida for my college roommate's wedding.

It continued with a successful flight to Florida (yay!), SUNSHINE, wedding set-up, a liiiittle sunburn, watching one of my best friends walk down the aisle to her love, dancing my butt off in a fluffy pink dress, jumping into the pool in said fluffy pink dress, continuing to dance in pink pajamas, and then eating cold risotto in the kitchen at the end of the night.

Now I'm back to cold weather and lots of work.

Whole Wheat Cheddar Beer Bread

What is is about a snow day that compels me to bake?  All I want to do is bake things.  And eat things.  Mainly involving beer and cheese.

Maybe because being snowed-in alone is no fun, and baking brings me comfort?  Maybe because the downstairs of our townhouse is freezing and I'll take any excuse to turn the oven on?  

Either way, this bread is prime snowed-in-baking-material. You most likely have all the ingredients on hand already. You can whip the dough together in 10 minutes flat. Annnnd, it's crunchy, crumbly, salty, cheesy good.  (Some apple butter slathered on a slice is also amazing….there's something about that sweet/salty combination--yum!) 

Adam, I love you, but I can't promise there will be any of this left by the time you get home on Friday. 

It's a hard life, friends.   Stay warm!

Whole Wheat Cheddar Beer Bread 

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 ounces (1 bottle) beer
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Add cheese and beer and stir well. Dough will be extremely thick. I used my hands to incorporate the last bits of flour.

Scrape dough into prepared loaf pan.  Drizzle melted butter over the top.

Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until top is golden brown and middle is set.

Slice and serve with apple butter, if desired.

Adapted, barely, from How Sweet It Is.

Blueberry Multi-Grain Yogurt Pancakes

Do you ever wake up and feel like you're already behind?

Like, you're still lying in bed, foggy and barely awake, but you're already thinking that you didn't get enough done yesterday and today is not going to be enough for all the things you have yet to do?

I hate that feeling, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I experience it an awful lot.

When I was teaching, running through my morning guilt parade were grading, lesson planning, photo-copying, tutoring, and paperwork.

Now it's reading, reading, reading, writing, and more reading.

And of course there's always the dirty dishes, dirty bathrooms, dirty carpet, dirty laundry…

It never ends. We could be go-go-go all day long and never get it all done.

I would like to avoid this morning shame fest, so lately I've been reevaluating how I spend my time.


Curried Cauliflower Stew

It's February, and we need something healthy for lunch.

Something with plenty of veggies, whole grains, protein, and some healthy fats.

Something with lots of chewy/soft/crunchy texture and enough spices to keep things interesting.

And--most importantly--something we can make easily in one pot over the weekend (less dishes=happier life), place into individual tupperware containers, and thus feel immensely more productive and on top of things.

I don't know what it is exactly, but there's something about having a healthy lunch pre-made and ready to go for the week that makes me feel relaxed and happy.

Whatever this week is going to throw at me, I'm ready because I've. got. lunch.