Cheesy Bake

I hope that everyone survived winter storm Nemo! I celebrated my mom’s birthday AND 6 month vegetarian anniversary on Friday by sitting inside anxiously awaiting the skies to open and dump snow on us. It was a welcomed day on the couch (working, of course) after taking an evening Bikram yoga class the night before. It was my first class, and since I bought a 30 class card, I will definitely be writing about it in the future! Despite the not-s0-great weather, I did make a mean mac ‘n cheese that I wanted to share.

So ridiculous
So ridiculous


For anyone that knows me, they know that menu planning is something I really enjoy doing; you can find me scouring the internet (mostly blogs and Pinterest) and cookbooks most days of the week looking for inspiration for meals weeks in advance. I’m usually thinking about my next meal before I’ve finished the one in front of me! I make the recipes as instructed a decent amount of time, but I often tweak a few things based on what I have in the house, or my personal taste preference. It usually isn’t enough of a change to warrant a blog post about it, but every once in awhile I do take a recipe and really make it my own, using the original more as a loose guide and inspiration. So, when I found Budget Byte’s Jalapeno Popper Mac ‘n Cheese, I knew immediately I was going to make it. I just didn’t know until about half way through that I was going to change a lot of it.

Baking macaroni and cheese is awesome. Who knew that adding a little bit of breadcrumbs and throwing it in the oven for a few minutes would add so much texture and flavor to such a simple kitchen classic! Using three different kinds of cheeses may seem like overkill to some, but to a cheese lover like myself, there’s no such thing as too much! The cream cheese definitely kicks this over the top (I need to cook with it more). This version isn’t spicy (to me), so if you want to kick it up a notch feel free to add more jalapeños or some other kinds of peppers. It’s a perfect recipe for a cold winter night (which we’ve been having a lot of recently), or to bring to a potluck. You won’t see this on any “skinny” or “diet friendly” lists, but it’s definitely something you should make and enjoy (in moderation of course).


Jalapeño Popped Baked Mac ‘n Cheese adapted from Budget Bytes
– Serves 4-6 –

1 lb. pasta (elbow, spiral, etc.)
1 Tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/3 cup milk
5 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-3 jalapeños, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (any variety will work)
1/2 & 1/4 cups of Panko style bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package. 
3. As the pasta cooks, make your cheesy roux by combining the oil and garlic first in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
4. Next, add in the milk, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese. Cooking until the cream cheese is melted and everything is combined. Add the Greek yogurt and jalapeños. 
5. Drain the pasta, and add it back to the original pot. Pour the cheesy jalapeño mix and 1/2 cup of the Panko bread crumbs over the pasta and stir to combine. 
6. Fill a greased 9×9 baking dish with the macaroni and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and shredded cheese. 
7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes before digging in! 

This Week in Yum

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile, but figured it was worth bringing back. There weren’t any tests this week for the first time in a month (though I’m getting ready for a HIDA scan right now – fingers crossed I get a superpower as a result of the radiation!), so my schedule was pretty normal.

Of course the most interesting meal of the week is going to go undocumented, but I still think that you need to make them. I found the recipe on Pinterest (of course), and it ruled. I mean, how could pizza cupcakes not rule?! I made a few adjustments (used veggie sausage and no pepperoni, and added some red pepper flakes and oregano), and was pleasantly surprised. These were baked in a regular cupcake tin, but I could see them being a really great finger food at a party if you use a mini cupcake tin instead. Check out the recipe over at Make Ahead Meals.

I mustered up enough self-restraint to snap a picture of everything else I made for the week, and first up was salmon. While there isn’t anything special about the salmon when you look at it, what matters is the cooking method. I’ve had a jar of coconut oil in my pantry forever (that stuff really lasts!), and I’ve used it numerous times in baking. However, I never thought to use it as an oil replacement in savory dishes. I was afraid the fish would be a little too sweet with the light coconut flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised. Served alongside some sautéed zucchini with red onion and some brown rice, this was a great (and filling!) meal. I’m definitely going to try cooking with coconut oil more.

Mac ‘n cheese was the next (easy) adventure in the kitchen. I stumbled upon Budget Bytes a few months ago, and have made a ton of stuff from it. Everything is so quick and easy, and obviously budget friendly. All you need for this is milk, cheese, noodles, and then any type of spices you want to add. I also threw in some nutritional yeast to pump up the cheese factor (since I don’t think you can ever have too much cheese), and it was delicious. I could definitely see adding some vegetables into it, especially for kids that typically don’t eat their vegetables. While I didn’t wind up eating it until almost 9pm (hello marathon training), it was well worth the wait. I like when pasta dishes come together in about 15 minutes!

My last creation was far from creative – a Dr. Praeger’s California veggie burger with a fried egg on top. It was so simple, but so good! I love veggie burgers that taste like veggies, and Dr. Praeger’s is just that – the California burger has whole peas and pieces of carrots – so good. Sometimes (ok, a lot for me) you need something quick and easy on hand just in case you don’t feel like cooking. Having options in the freezer is always a good thing. Plus, you can dress them up when you are feeling a little creative.

I already have my meal plan for next week, and things are looking good again. So, if all goes well hopefully I’ll have another yummy week to report back on!

But, I want to know: did you have anything delicious this week? Do you have a go-to “no-brainer” meal? Do share!