Cheesy Potato Soup in a Bread Bowl

Today, I had a revelation:

Soup is so much better in a bread bowl.

Now, let’s not get it twisted. This Cheesy Potato Soup is my favorite soup ever, and it’s incredible with or without the bread bowl. It is smooth, creamy, and oh so cheesy. You see, it’s not your typical potato soup. Most utilize cheddar cheese, which is a fine option, don’t get me wrong. However, my soup uses a combination of American & Sharp Cheddar. This is the key, my little cookies. That American cheese gives this an incredible cheesy flavor and creamy, smooth texture like nothing you’ve had in soup before. Plus, that little bit of cheddar gives you just the right amount of tang. Toss in some tender, buttery chunks of Yukon gold potatoes and a handful of scallions for a burst of flavor, and you’ve got the PERFECT potato soup. It’s one of those meals where you’ll go to test a spoonful and you’ll just smile and say, “That’s GOOD.”

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese: My Favorite

Every Fall, I patiently await the arrival of two things: pumpkin & butternut squash. I’ve been going pretty pumpkin-happy lately, but good ol’ butternut squash has been getting the cold shoulder. I knew it was time to turn my attention toward this slightly sweet squash. And what better way to do that than with one of my all-time favorite recipes?

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Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese – 3 Ways

If you’ve never had a mac & cheese grilled cheese, then you’ve never lived. It’s exactly what it sounds like: creamy mac & cheese stuffed into a sandwich with sharp cheddar cheese and grilled until melty and golden brown. Some of you skeptic, health-conscious folk might be thinking that’s just way too much starch in one sandwich. WRONG. Those were my inital thoughts too, but alas, that is not so. Mac & cheese and grilled cheese work harmoniously well together, creating a euphoric eating experience unlike any other. It’s a fusion of the ultimate comfort foods that results in a sublime soul food hybrid. This, my friends, is heaven.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s take a look at the facts. Macaroni and cheese is essentially starch and cheese. Grilled cheese is essentially starch and cheese. Starch and cheese are BFF’s. Therefore, to fuse them together is only right. It’s starch and cheese to the tenth power. (There’s your science, happy?)

The result of this experiment gone right is this: you bite into crunchy, golden brown buttered bread with that sourdough tang and your tongue is met by creamy, luscious mac and cheese and more sharp melty cheddar. The best part about this is that there are three delicious ways to make it. Pick whichever you like or make a couple of each like I did. This sammy has no boundaries.

  1. The Classic: Stuff your sammy with creamy macaroni and cheese and top it off by melting on some extra cheddar cheese. It’s the traditional sandwich you love coming together with the classic pasta you also love.
  2. Caramelized Onions: Add a twist to your grilled cheese by topping off all that mac and cheesy goodness with sweet, golden brown caramelized onions. The strong, sweet taste of the onions cuts through the richness of the sandwich, creating a perfect balance of flavors. If you’ve never tried caramelized onions before, now is the time. Even if you hate onions, you will love them caramelized. They don’t taste like your typical bitter onion. They’re cooked low and slow in decadent butter so that they become sweet, buttery, and well, caramelized. Yum.
  3. Pulled Pork (and Caramelized Onions): For those of you who need your meat, this sammy’s for you. In addition to the mac and cheese, fill your grilled cheese with pulled pork. The pulled pork’s sweet, tangy flavor goes amazingly with all that delicious cheese (or so I’m told; I obviously opted for a meat-free version). Top it off with the caramelized onions and you’ve got one slammin’ sammy.If you’re not a pulled pork fan, I imagine that bacon would be delicious too.

By adding onions and/or pulled pork, this becomes more than just a mac and cheese grilled cheese. It’s a complex dish with tons of flavors to offer. However, there’s nothing wrong with the classic either. It’s a cheese lover’s dream!

A few tips before you get cooking:

  1. Use sourdough bread. Yes, just about any bread would work in this sandwich, but the sourdough takes it over the top. It’s distinct but mild flavor is so completely perfect with all of this sandwich’s cheesy goodness. Trust me on this one.
  2. Use a creamier mac and cheese that reheats well. If you use something like Kraft, which we all know does not reheat well, you’ll wind up with a dry sandwich. It’ll be like you’re just eating plain pasta stuffed in between bread. You’ve got to have something saucy. I used the take and make stuff in the little black plastic containers from Wegman’s. It stayed nice and creamy throughout the cooking process. Ideally, you should make Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese, chill it, and use that. It will be perfectly cheesy and creamy, I’m willing to bet. I imagine that Stouffer’s frozen macaroni and cheese would even work since it has a very saucy sauce.
  3. Make sure you plan in advance. Cooking the sandwiches doesn’t take that long, but if you aren’t buying the mac and cheese pre-made like me than you have to have time to cook it and chill it. Also, caramelizing the onions takes quite some time.
  4. Serve some broccoli alongside so you get your greens! It’s a perfect addition to the cheesy goodness. You could also serve it with tomato soup.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese

Recipe adapted from The Food Network Magazine

(Makes six sandwiches)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 loaves fresh sourdough bread (depending on the size of the loaves), cut into 12 ½-inch slices
  • 10 slices sharp cheddar cheese, ripped in half
  • Leftover mac & cheese or premade/storebought mac & cheese, chilled (I used Wegman’s take and make mac & cheese. I also recommend you make Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese and use that. See tip 2 above)
  • Butter spread (like Country Crock)
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • optional: pulled pork (homemade or like this)

Directions:

  1. To caramelize the onions: Heat a medium-sized skillet to low heat. Melt the butter. Add the onions and cook low and slow until golden brown in color and caramelized (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat & set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil & spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Assemble the sandwiches: Spread Country Crock (or butter spread) onto one side of each slice of bread. With the buttered side down, lay two cheese halves onto the bread.
  4. Next, put a generous scoop of mac and cheese on top of the cheddar cheese. Pat down into an even, dense layer.
  5. Add optional toppings: caramelized onions and/or pulled pork. Add another half-slice or two of the cheddar cheese.
  6. Place another slice of bread on top, buttered side up, to complete the sandwich.
  7. Bring a griddle to medium heat. Cook the sandwiches one or two at a time, depending on the size of your griddle (and your ability to handle multi-tasking). When the bottom slice of bread is golden brown to your liking, it is time to flip the sandwich. Use two spatulas: one to get under the sandwich and one pressing down on the top of the sandwich as you flip it so the toppings don’t come out. Don’t worry if you lose a noodle or too.
  8. When both sides of the sandwich are golden brown, remove from the griddle and transfer to the baking sheet. Don’t worry if the cheese isn’t fully melted; it will finish melting in the oven. Put the baking sheet in the oven to keep the sandwich warm while your finish cooking the others.
  9. When all of the sandwiches are completed and warmed all the way through in the oven, it’s time to eat!

LOOK AT THAT. How can you not make that?? Hello Cheese Heaven, I’m Colleen. I think I’ll be spending quite a lot of time here…


Healthy Cookie: Cheesy Breakfast Pizza (205 calories!)


Eggs are awesome. They’ve got loads of protein, they’re filling, and they’re good for you. Egg Beaters are even better because they’ve got more health benefits than a real egg, but even less calories. As a health-conscious vegetarian, I eat Egg Beaters like they’re going out of style. However, you can imagine that I often get sick of them. Sometimes, I need something different than just scrambling them with salt and pepper.

Thus, the Cheesy Breakfast Pizza was born. It’s ridiculously tasty, has around 27g of protein, it’s COVERED in cheese, and you get the whole personal-sized pizza for about 205 calories! No, that last part was not a joke. I’m serious. I don’t joke about caloric-matters, my friends. You see, I love food and consuming it, but I tend to favor things that are bad for me (french fries, pizza, indulgent desserts, etc.). Therefore, I have to balance with tons of healthy, low-cal things in between. I’m always looking for meals that are low-cal AND delicious. This pizza is just that.

Yes, it’s called a breakfast pizza (for obvious reasons), but I actually like to eat this for dinner. I’m a big fan of breakfast for dinner. As far as I’m concerned, breakfast is acceptable at all hours of the day. It’s a really filling, satisfying meal (I actually didn’t finish the last slice, that never happens!) and it IS a pizza, so you can easily eat it at dinner. Or have it at breakfast. Basically, you can eat this any time of the day; no one will judge you. And if they do, it’s just because they’re jealous.

You do not have to be a skilled cookpert(cooking expert) to make this. It’s easy peasy (easy cheesy?). So, if you’re ready to indulge in a tasty pizza with cheesified-eggs, fresh veggies, and more cheese, without feeling an ounce of guilt, then get cooking ASAP!

A few tips before you get cooking:

  1. You can make this with regular eggs, but I really recommend Egg Beaters. A half-cup serving has twice the protein of one egg and less calories as well. Plus, I can’t tell the difference taste-wise. Give them a try if you haven’t before. You’ll love them!
  2. Sometimes (like this particular time), I can’t find the Green Giant Broccoli & Cheese Just For Ones, so I buy the regular-sized ones and measure out a half-cup serving of that instead. You should be able to find the Just For Ones in your grocery store, though. I can always find them at Walmart.
  3. Don’t just make one for you; make one for everybody in your family too! They’re an easy, healthy, DELICIOUS meal you can throw together that everyone will enjoy. No picky, anti-health foodies will complain about it being healthy because no one will know!
  4. Don’t be like me and use dried chives. I swear, I only did it because I had to! I didn’t have any fresh ones on hand. Get yourself some fresh chives. YOU DESERVE IT. The dried ones just taste like…well they don’t taste like anything at all, actually. Do as I say, not as I do.

Cheesy Breakfast Pizza

Recipe by Colleen Bierstine

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized tortilla for about 80 calories (like the Low-Carb, High Fiber ones by La Tortilla Factory)
  • 1/2 cup Egg Beaters or egg substitute
  • 1 tsp. chives, chopped
  • 1 tray of Green Giant Broccoli & Cheese Sauce Just for Ones (or 1/2 cup of regular-sized Broccoli & Cheese Sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. fat-free cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 of a red pepper, chopped
  • kosher salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Bake the tortilla in the oven for 2 1/2 minutes on each side, 5 minutes total.
  3. Remove from the oven, but keep the oven on, turning it up to Broil.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the broccoli & cheese according to package directions. Set aside.
  5. Bring a medium skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to medium-low heat. Pour the eggs into the skillet, letting it form to the circular shape of the skillet, making an “omelet.” Cook until each side is firm and egg is cooked through.
  6. Using a spatula (particularly a Super Spatula), transfer the omelet to the tortilla. Spread the broccoli & cheese on top of the omelet. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, chives, red pepper, and salt.
  7. Return to oven and cook under broiler for 2 minutes or until crust is slightly browned around the edges & cheese is melted.
  8. Slice and enjoy!

205 calories. 27 grams of protein. When such a delicious pizza is so good for you and so easy to make, you start to wonder if you’re dreaming. Well pinch yourself, ’cause you’re not! That beautiful breakfast pizza you see above is as real as the day is long. Slice it up and enjoy one of life’s small wonders.


Healthy Cookie: Zesty Black Bean Tacos (240 Calories!)

240 calories? This calls for a fiesta!

Living the low-cal life can be tough. There’s so much temptation out there! Tacos, for example. Those things clock in at hundreds and hundreds of calories. Plus, the existence of tacos is made even more cruel when you make the decision to become a vegetarian. I was never big on meat, even back in my omnivore days. Tacos were the exception. They were one of my favorite foods. Crunchy, cheesy, zesty…they’re basically a hand-held party. You ever been to a Taco Bell? ‘Nuff said.

After 3 taco-less years, I knew I needed them back in my life. I created the perfect vegetarian version using beans as the protein and incorporating all the proper flavors and fixings a taco requires. I even added some zesty potatoes to really bulk it up. These tacos, I have to say, were possibly better than any ground-beef tacos I’ve had (expect a recipe soon). However, there was still one problem with these tacos, and that was the amount of calories they were packing. They weren’t exactly guilt-free.

Naturally, I whipped up a guilt-free, meat-free way to enjoy tacos. If you’re a meat-eater, DON’T FREAK OUT. You will not miss the meat. And if you’re like my father who just needs to know there’s meat in a dish SOMEWHERE, then you can go half-ground beef, half-black beans. Make sure you use a low-fat ground beef. Or try ground turkey or crumbled turkey bacon. These tacos are flexible.

My black bean tacos are fiesta-worthy. It’s a dish that’s PACKED with flavor. They’re zesty, cheesy, and they clock in at around 240 calories. That’s too good to be true. But it IS true, my friends. They’re also super quick and easy to make, as well as customizable. You may not be able to eat whatever you want 24/7, but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, you just need a freakin’ taco. That’s what these babies are for. Eat & bask in the guilt-free glory.

A few tips before you get cooking:

  1. Like a little spice in your life? Add diced jalapenos to your tacos! You can actually buy black beans with diced jalapenos already in them. I bought them by accident and basically melted my face off because I am a huge baby when it comes to spiciness. But if you like heat, they’re totally for you.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, onions, or a dollop of fat-free sour cream. Make these tacos your way!
  3. If you can’t find the pitas I used, you can also use a 60 calorie (or less) whole wheat tortilla like the low-cal high fiber ones by La Tortilla.
  4. THESE ARE IDEAL FOR VEGETARIANS. They’re hearty, satisfying, and packing around 20 grams of protein!
  5. Using the pitas is GENIUS. It tastes like a soft tortilla, but there are no open ends, so you can keep all the good stuff inside without worry of it falling out the other end!
  6. Do you draining, rinsing, chopping, measuring, etc. beforehand.

Guilt-Free Zesty Black Bean Tacos

Recipe by Colleen Bierstine

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp. taco seasoning
  • dash onion powder
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 whole wheat pita for about 60 cal (like Joseph’s)
  • 2 tbsp. fat-free cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp. sliced black olives
  • shredded lettuce
  • optional: fat-free sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced onions, jalapenos

Directions:

  1. Bring a small skillet to medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Add the beans. Stir in taco seasoning, adding water to loosen. You might not use all the water. It should form a sauce-like consistency. If it becomes too pasty for your liking, add more water.
  3. Add the onion powder and a generous amount of salt. Stir to combine.
  4. Meanwhile, slice pita in half. Spread open each “pocket.”
  5. When the beans are hot, remove from heat and turn off stove. Evenly distribute the beans into each pita pocket. Sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese into each.
  6. Heat in microwave for 15 sec. or until pita is hot and cheese is melted. Sprinkle in lettuce, olives, and any other toppings.
  7. Eat and Enjoy!

Now, go have a guilt-free Taco Night!