Creamy, Healthy Baked Mac and Cheese

January 18, 2019

Happy Friday! We are waiting for a snow storm that’s supposed to hit our neck of the woods sometime today, long-overdue since we’ve hardly had any snow and very mild weather all winter thus far, and I’m over here baking pasta dishes and prepping for a weekend spent indoors watching football.

I’ve been planning/dreaming of making this dish for over a month now – ever since I made a similar dish with butternut squash from Food & Wine for a Christmas party in early December. While I enjoyed the process of peeling and cubing and cooking the butternut squash before actually making the sauce, for a weekday meal it was hardly an approachable method. It seemed obvious that I could swap out the squash for canned pumpkin and get a similar result with less fuss – and while the flavor profile was slightly different I was shoveling hot bites of this in my mouth the second it came out of the oven. So I think it’s safe to say it was GOOD.

One thing to note: This dish (similar to the original I made in December) is best served hot. It’s fine re-heated, but for maximum creaminess and best texture, making it straight through is best. Additionally, I wouldn’t suggest prepping this in advance and baking it later. I did that for the Christmas party I hosted, and I felt that the pasta had absorbed too much liquid while it sat in the fridge, so once again, making it straight through being optimal. It doesn’t take long to assemble and with the help of a high-powered blender (Yay Vitamix!) the sauce becomes incredibly creamy. Enjoy!

Healthy Baked Mac and Cheese
Makes one 13×9-inch pan (6 to 8 servings)

Ingredients
1 box (16 oz.) penne pasta (I used Barilla Plus high protein penne)
20 oz. pumpkin puree
3 cups chicken stock (not unsalted)
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 1 hour up to 4 hours, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Crushed red pepper flakes, if desired

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta according to package directions, removing from water when the pasta is very al-dente and has some bite to it. The pasta will continue to cook in the sauce and you don’t want it to be mushy. Drain; set aside.

While pasta is cooking, in a large high-powered blender combine the pumpkin puree, chicken stock, cashews, garlic, salt and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Blend until very smooth and no lumps or texture remains. Note: You may have to work in batches depending on how big your blender is.

Combine the pasta and sauce, stirring until pasta is evenly coated. Transfer pasta mixture into a 13×9-inch greased baking dish. Spread evenly in dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil.

Bake pasta, covered, 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 to 25 minutes more or until bubbly around the edges and the top is golden. Remove from oven and top with crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.

Variations:
I think the flavor profile of this dish lends itself to adding in some type of protein, specifically some ground sausage or chopped chicken, which could be added to the dish before baking.

Alternately, you could add a drizzle of basil pesto to the top of the dish before serving or top with some toasted walnuts after baking for a little crunch.

Fashion

Palm Beach Outfit Recap

January 16, 2019

Hi friends! I’m back from a trip to Palm Beach last weekend with Beautycounter. While my everyday life is rarely glamorous and the only reason I have to regularly get dressed up is going to Church on Sundays, Beautycounter trips give me an opportunity to pull out some dresses and clothes I wouldn’t otherwise wear! I got asked to recap where I got everything I wore, so here you go. A full run-down of the outfits I wore and where to get them.

Shoshana Micaela Shirtdress via Rent the Runway

I’ve used Rent the Runway a number of times for Beautycounter events but this was the first time I rented a dress on the more casual side of the spectrum. I loved this dress! In fact, I’m still debating buying it because it was so comfortable, cute and easy to wear. I highly recommend Rent the Runway’s “Unlimited” service if you are planning to need a few different outfits or having multiple occasions in a month that require special attire. It’s much more economical and less wasteful, in my opinion, since many of the dresses I’ve rented have been things I wouldn’t have a reason to wear often.

Cynthia Rowley Inverness Mixed Metalic Fish Dress

This dress is just so gosh darn fun I can’t handle it. It has a fun mix of patterns an and exposed back that shows just the right amount of skin. I love the fit, the length, everything about it!

This jumpsuit is from Anthropologie and the brand is HD Paris. I bought it on clearance in a store in Boise last spring and wasn’t able to find it online anywhere but if you can track it down, I love it and have worn it many times!

The jacket is from Old Navy and a total steal!

The dress I’m wearing in the top photo in this post is sort of hard to see, but I didn’t get a good full-body shot that night. It’s from Baltic Born and the ruffles on the bottom make it SO fun to wear!

So that’s it! A quick recap and hopefully a little guide on where to track down the pieces. It’s always SO fun to get dressed up, but also super fun to return home and put on some more casual attire. 🙂

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

January 7, 2019

Chances are some of you out there made some type of resolution related to health, am I right? And while I’m certainly NOT one to make resolutions related to weight loss these days, I think health goals like having more energy, eating less sugar, eating more veggies, and moving your body more are all worthwhile and noble goals to have for the year to come.

With that in mind, I also know that I love to bake, my girls love to bake and we love easy, grab-and-go type breakfasts. So while I certainly DO want to help my kiddos enjoy fewer sugary treats, I am not about to give up baking and baked goods.

Our family’s solution? These Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins! They’re made with almond and oat flours, no refined sugar except for a few chocolate chips, and just a little bit of good-for-you olive oil in place of the butter or vegetable oil found in most muffins and baked goods.

My girls loved these from the start, and so did the rest of the family! Bonus: They can easily be stored in the freezer and re-heated for a breakfast on the go that’s quick and tasty!

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup oat flour*
1/2 cup almond meal
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper baking liners; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup and honey. Stir until well-combined. Add in the banana, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla and stir until combined.

In a second bowl, combine the oat flour, almond meal, old fashioned oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin liners. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until muffins bounce back when lightly pressed on in the center. Cool 10 minutes in baking pan. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.

*To make your own oat flour, simply process old fashioned oats in a high-powdered blender (like a Vitamix) until mixture forms a flour and is evenly processed.

Family

Green Cleaning :: What Works for Us

January 4, 2019

When you think about green cleaning and removing toxic products from your home cleaning routine, do you get a headache just thinking about it? Because it’s been a SLOW process for our family as we’ve attempted to clean up the products we use at the Hofmeyer house.

Note: While this might not be the case in all homes, my husband is our dedicated bathroom cleaner and because of that, he gets a big say in the products we use and if they cut-it in terms of cleaning power. 😉

One of my favorite brands for safer cleaning products is Seventh Generation. While I’m sure there are “cleaner” options available (and I’ve tried some of them) when looking for the best mix of safety and efficacy, Seventh Generation meets my standards for both.

It’s important to note that not all Seventh Generation products are created equal. Even the same product but in a different scent can have a different formulation and hence, safety rating. I’ve put the EWG score (A being the safest) behind each of the products I mention, if available.

Ultimately, the best green cleaning products are those you are actually going to use, vs. being tempted to go back to your conventional favorites. So even if you aren’t using the cleanest products possible, I’m in favor of progress not perfection and taking baby steps to getting where you want to go.

Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Bleach (EWG Rating: A)

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Purpose Cleaner in Lemongrass Citrus (EWG Rating: A)

Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner (EWG Rating: A)

Everyone Hand Soap (EWG Rating: 2)
-This is more personal care than cleaning, but I’m putting it in the cleaning category since it sits in our kitchen and bathrooms as a cleaning agent. This is a super affordable and EWG verified hand soap I find at our local Walmart.

Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap (EWG Rating: C)
-This doesn’t get as good of a rating as the dishwasher packs, but our dishwasher doesn’t work well with the packs. When researching, I found their powder gets an “A” rating so we will most likely switch to that next.

Seventh Generation Lavender Laundry Detergent (EWG Rating: C)
-I also noticed that the Seventh Generation Powder Laundry Detergent gets an A rating, vs. this liquid version that gets a C. So we’ll likely switch over after we run out of our current supply.

Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Stain Remover(EWG Rating: C)
-Not the cleanest option and when I was researching, I realized that my Oxy Clean was actually rated just as well as this. So, a learning process for me because this is greenwashing at it’s finest and a great reminder to research each product even within a brand. (Safer alternatives: Biokleen Stain + Odor Remover, FIT Organic Laundry + Carpet Stain Remover – though I can’t vouch for the efficacy of either of these products)

Norwex Floor Mop System (large size)

Norwex Kitchen Cloths

So, as you can see, it’s not perfect! We’re definitely a work in progress, but as people who used to have items that were the worst of the worst, we’re making progress and I’m excited about continuing the process as it evolves!

Madison

Instant Pot Pasta Marinara

January 2, 2019



Hi friends! Happy New Year! I’m so excited to dive into the new year over here with a RECIPE! If you follow along on Instagram then you know that one of my goals for the year to come is to write more over in this space and return to sharing more recipes. Recipe development has always been a love of mine – but when I was working developing recipes full-time in my day job I got a little burned out sharing recipes on E&C. But since most of my time these days does not focus around recipe development, it’s left me with a creative hole that I’m longing to fill here.

I’ve been a little slow to the Instant Pot game – mainly because I had a slow cooker and it worked fine and I couldn’t justify another large appliance in my already packed kitchen. But when my trusty slow cooker broke a couple months ago, I decided to buy this multi-cooker that functions as both a slow cooker and instant pot in one. It also browns/sautees and is basically the appliance of my dreams because it does so many things in a single appliance. Trust me, you really do need this appliance if you’re time-pressed and hate doing multiple dishes.

One meal that we make often at our house is pasta with meat sauce; Joe loves eating it for lunches since it makes great leftovers and the girls are always happy to have noodles in some way, shape or form. And while it’s not hard to make pasta with meat sauce, once you factor in the pan for browning the beef, and then a pot for boiling water and then you combine it all at the end, you’ve gotten more than a couple pans dirty in the process. But! I’m happy to report there is a super easy solution when you use your Instant Pot for doing all the things: Browning the meat and garlic, and cooking the pasta in the sauce without any straining or pre-boiling required. So easy and dare I even say fun to cook this way?! Full recipe below!

Instant Pot Pasta Marinara
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Total Time: 16 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. dry pasta (I used mafalda noodles but any short pasta would work)
24 oz. marinara sauce
16 oz. water
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions
Set the Instant Pot to the brown/sautee setting. Once heated, add in the ground beef and cook, breaking up and stirring frequently until the meat is fully cooked through. Drain excess grease and return to pot. Add in garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

Add in the pasta, marinara sauce and water; stir. Lock on lid and make sure steam valve is set to closed. Set to “rice/risotto” setting for 6 minutes. Once cooked, release steam valve and let sit two minutes. Remove lid and stir in the heavy cream, if desired. Spoon into bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired!

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