Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese, for me, is the epitome of comfort food. Hot, cheesy, and nostalgic, it’s something my mouth would happily every day. Typically, however, it’s not a particularly healthy meal so I don’t make it often. I have my childhood favorite, the Gruyere version already on here, but when I saw this slightly lighter and more vegetable-forward recipe I knew I had to try it.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables and since they go so well with everything, I knew they’d be an excellent addition to mac and cheese. Using this opportunity to christen the cast iron skillet I got on Black Friday, I made a few adjustments ended up with a recipe I might like even more than the one I grew up with.

Since I prefer the crispiness and light charring from the oven, I opted to roast my sprouts separately. This not only maintains the flavor profile I prefer, but allows you to make the streamline the process a little bit since you can start the sauce while they are baking. Cut them into bite-sized pieces (probably halves or quarters) and they will bake quite promptly.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

With some homemade venison & pork Italian sausage in the freezer, and smoked Gouda in the fridge (thanks, Costco), I opted to incorporate both into this recipe. I love the creaminess of Gouda and the smokiness blends perfectly with the sausage. My version has a little kick, so with a bit of paprika added to the sauce the whole thing comes together very creamy and just a little spicy. The roasted sprouts bring a little color, a complementary flavor, and an extra nutrient boost to the whole dish.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Despite being slightly lightened with the use of almond milk, the sauce is still thick and creamy, just the way I like it. You can make your own with different spices, or keep it simple with just salt and pepper. I didn’t add any in this round, but I think some baby spinach would stir in nicely.

I topped mine with additional cheese and popped it under the broiler, but if I’m honest this step really didn’t feel necessary. You do you, but if you are crunched for time it’s 100% okay to skip it. (I will probably skip it in the future.) Alternatively, if you’re a die-hard crumb topping fan, you can finish the dish with that instead.

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The whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes, which makes it just as great for weeknights as it is for meal-prep days. If you have leftovers, it reheats great in the microwave with a splash of extra milk, remembering to stir a couple times to keep it creamy.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

PS – This recipe is easily made vegetarian; just skip the sausage and use 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil for the sauce instead.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

8 ounces pasta of choice

1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 lb Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
2 cups milk (or unsweetened substitute, I used almond)
6 oz smoked Gouda, shredded (or cheese of choice)
1 tsp (smoked) paprika

optional toppings
2 oz smoked Gouda, shredded
freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a baking sheet, add 2 Tbsp oil, garlic powder, and Brussels sprouts. Use your hands to toss until sprouts are well coated, then spread evenly on the pan.
  3. Bake 20-25 minutes, to desired crispiness. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, boil noodles to al dente according to your pasta’s directions. Drain and set aside.
  5. Also meanwhile, in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until browned. Remove the sausage to a paper towel and drain all but 2 Tbsp of the oils.
  6. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  7. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook until a paste forms, about 30 seconds.
  8. Slowly stream in the milk, whisking constantly until smooth, then add the paprika.
  9. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce back to medium and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
  10. When the sauce has thickened like a gravy, stir in the cheese until completely melted. (Depending on the type of cheese, this can take a bit; cheddar melts much faster than Gouda.) Add additional spices as desired.
  11. Fold in the Brussels sprouts, sausage, and pasta until well mixed.
  12. Serve as is, or top with additional shredded cheese and broil until melted and golden.

Notes

Would also be great with some sautéed or fried spinach!

To reheat leftovers, add a splash of additional milk and heat in the microwave, stirring every minute or so, until creamy and hot.

Philly Cheesejoes (or Stuffed Peppers)

Every now and then I come across a recipe on Pinterest, make it within the week, and decide it’s now a regular staple. This is pretty rare not only because I very quickly forget about things, but also because it requires a level of timing such that I haven’t bulk-cooked anything super recently. This recipe from Dinner Then Dessert is one such example of everything working out nicely.

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I am a big fan of cheesesteak sandwiches; they are my go-to order from Pickle Barrel here in Bozeman. Actually that’s a lie, they are literally the only thing I’ve ever ordered there. When I discovered you can get one extra topping for free, the additional bell peppers radicalized my world. (Possibly a slight exaggeration.)

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However, they are not even a little healthy and often served in exorbitant quantities, so it’s not a meal I eat often. I did figure that being able to control the portions would be better, and so toyed with the idea of making them myself. In reality, thinly cutting steak for sandwiches sounded like way too much work so I put that thought on the backburner until I came across this genius idea of using burger instead.

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Much faster prep and cooking time with all the same delicious flavors. It’s also a bit easier to eat since there are no long pieces to bit through, and you can reheat it easily before putting it on your bun of choice. Wins all around.

Philly Cheese Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

Since I discovered this recipe during my lower-carb endeavors, I also made a few into stuffed peppers for me. (M kindly let me photograph his sandwich before he ate it, with only minimal frowning.) This method is also super delicious, and easy to prepare in bulk. The built-in container makes it great for meal prep and reheats pretty well if you cut it in half first. (With mini peppers it’d also make a tasty appetizer.)

Philly Cheese Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

Ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness abounds in this delightful entree, so warm your belly and your soul with these tasty sandwiches or peppers.

Philly Cheesejoes (or Stuffed Peppers)

Adapted from Dinner Then Dessert
Makes 6-8

Ingredients

1 lb ground elk, venison, or red meat of choice
2 Tbsp butter (or Sweet Cream Butter Olive Oil)
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Smoked Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp Kosher salt (or Spicy Bacon Sea Salt)

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup cold beef broth (or 1 tsp Better than Bouillon Beef + 1 cup cold water)

8+ oz provolone cheese, diced (if doing stuffed peppers, reserve enough thin slices for garnish)

Directions

  1. In a large (cast-iron) skillet over medium heat, press the meat into the bottom of the pan.
  2. Let cook until a nice crust forms on the bottom of the meat, then break up and stir until at least 50% of the meat is cooked.
  3. Remove the meat (drain the pan if you wish), then add the butter.
  4. When the butter is melted (or oil is heated), add the onions and bell peppers and sauté until softened and onions are translucent.
  5. Return the meat to the pan and continue cooking until all the meat is cooked through.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the broth and cornstarch until completely combined.
  7. Whisk in the ketchup, Worcestershire, and spices.
  8. Stir the sauce into the pan and let the mixture simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until nice and melty.
  10. Serve hot on toasted whole wheat hoagies with a side salad.

For stuffed peppers:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the tops off 6-8 bell peppers and remove the seeds.
  3. Place in a baking dish with about 1/2 cup water and bake until softened to desired amount.
  4. Follow directions above, reserving thin slices of provolone if desired.
  5. Fill peppers with meat mixture, top with additional provolone and pepper, then broil on medium until cheese is melty and lightly browned. Serve hot!

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza

Throughout college it seemed every event boasted free pizza, and by the time I graduated I was approximately 110% over it. To this day, I have pizza through work often enough that I rarely crave it on my own and when I do, I want it to be very non-traditional. We are fortunate enough to have a number of excellent pizza places offering some truly different varieties, and luckily one of those is a place that can seat 16 people for lunch with almost no notice.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

My favorite pizza there, to date, is a lamb sausage and fig concoction that does my favorite sweet and savory situation without being overwhelming on either one. I’ve yet to recreate this largely because I want it to remain special enough to order out, and also because fig jam is not high on my list of things to try. Last summer they suddenly switched their menu, removing my go-to and forcing me into trying something new. (I know, woe is me.) Fortunately, however, one of their summer options inspired a new favorite combo.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

Beet and walnut pesto lends a lovely color and a unique flavor in lieu of a traditional red sauce, and truly brings it up to the next level. I topped mine with additional beets (because why not), thinly sliced sausage, and toasted walnuts. Goat cheese and spinach make a perfect garnish to round out the flavors and add a pop of color to the finished meal.

Beet & Walnut Pesto {{Baking Bytes}}

Homemade pesto is shockingly easy and now that I have my own food processor (thanks, parents!) I will surely be making more of it this summer. This particular recipe is a wonderful fall or winter version, and a perfect accompaniment to unique sandwiches, quesadillas, and of course, pizzas. The beet flavor is not overly strong, with may appeal better to the more skeptical folks in the audience, but for the beet loves it means you get to top it with even more beets. Win-win for everyone.

Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza {{Baking Bytes}}

I used a blood orange olive oil from Olivelle for my pesto, but you can substitute a standard one if needed. Considering adding just a smidge of extra lemon juice or orange extract to pump up the citrus level a little bit, but it’ll still be delicious (and pretty!)

Beet & Walnut Pesto {{Baking Bytes}}

I enjoyed the savory aspect of the sausage added here, but for a vegetarian option you could use salted nuts instead. Goat cheese adds a nice tang while the mozzarella offers the gooey cheesy experience we all know and love. Altogether, it’s a sweet and savory combination that is truly different than your average pizza.

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Beet & Walnut Pesto Pizza

Adapted from Honest Cooking
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

beet walnut pesto
1 rounded cup cooked beets1
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 – 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 oz Blood Orange Olive Oil (or regular)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp whole dried rosemary
1/4 tsp Vanilla Bean Sea Salt (or regular)

for the pizzas
4 personal-sized pizza crusts (or one regular)
1/2 cup beet walnut pesto
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella
1 medium beet, roasted and diced1
1-2 sausages, cooked and thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1/2 cup baby spinach
4 oz goat cheese
fresh rosemary
freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 450 degrees (or as directed for your dough.)
  2. Add all pesto ingredients to a food processor and blend until all ingredients are combined. Adjust consistency with additional oil if desired.
  3. For the pizzas, spread crust evenly with pesto and top with half the mozzarella.
  4. Arrange beets, sausage, and toasted walnuts on the pizza, then top with remaining mozzarella.
  5. Bake as directed, minus about five minutes, or until crust is beginning to crisp and the mozzarella is melty.
  6. Sprinkle pizzas with goat cheese and rosemary, and arrange a few leaves of spinach across the top.
  7. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until goat cheese is warmed through and spinach is lightly wilted.
  8. Serve hot with freshly ground pepper and a glass of wine.

Notes

If you’re short on time or hate dyeing everything pink, there is no shame in using the pre-cooked variety! Our Costco carries them in packages of ~5 which is just perfect for a batch of pesto and a couple of pizzas.

Broccoli Fritters

Amongst the meat packages and frozen produce I also like to stock my freezers (yes, plural) with healthy items that work for a quick meal when I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be. The best ones can be made into an entree for any meal of the day with items I typically have around anyway. These broccoli fritters have turned out to be just exactly that.

Broccoli Fritters {{Baking Bytes}}

Made up of mostly broccoli and whatever cheese you like, these serve as a healthy and neutral base for nearly anything. Breakfast? Top with sautéed bell peppers and a couple of eggs. Lunch? Serve over a warm grain salad and your favorite salad dressing. Dinner? Prepare a broccoli slider with a large grilled (or baked) bell pepper, a couple slices of bacon, and a spicy aioli. Their individually small stature also makes them great for an appetizer or potluck. The world is your oyster (not mine, I don’t care for them) and these are great to keep in the freezer for the days you need a backup.

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Typically fritters are fried and honestly this probably doesn’t technically qualify as a fritter anyway but “broccoli patty” just doesn’t have quite the same enticing quality. In any case, given my preference for bulk preparation and my aversion to standing over a pan for seven years, I opted to try baking these instead. The result is nicely golden, less oily, and much easier for meal prepping or feeding a family.

Broccoli Fritters {{Baking Bytes}}

I wrapped trios of fritters in saran wrap for the freezer and they are still pretty great about four months later. My preference for reheating is in the oven, but pan frying works okay if you are careful (sometimes they stick) or microwaving if you are impatient. Whichever your method of operation, they are a delightful base for all your favorite toppings.

Broccoli Fritters {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re in need of another freezer-friendly make-ahead meal-prep situation and are still holding strong with your resolution to eat healthier, I hope you give these fritters a try!

Broccoli Fritters

Makes 16+

Ingredients

1/2 onion, minced1
2-4 cloves garlic, minced1
2 Tbsp olive oil

3 cups broccoli rice1

2 eggs
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup (packed) shredded cheese (I used parmesan)
1 tsp paprika, to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large frying pan or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and onion is translucent.
  3. Add broccoli rice to pan and continue to heat until well combined and broccoli has softened.
  4. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add flour, cheese, paprika, salt, and broccoli mixture. Gently fold together until completely combined.
  5. Using a 1/4 cup scoop to measure out fritters, scoop onto prepared pan and gently flatten and shape into a disc about 1/2″ in height. Fritters will not expand but leave about 1″ between them to allow for even cooking.
  6. Bake fritters for 20 minutes or until nicely browned on the bottom.
  7. Carefully flip each fritter and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until the other side is equally browned.
  8. Serve hot with your favorite toppings!

Notes

Use a food processor to finely chop broccoli into a rice-like size. If you are lacking in a food processor but have a lot of patience, you can also mince them by hand with a sharp knife. Can also use the food processor to get your onion and garlic to the same size, either before or after the sautéing step.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Although the blogosphere doesn’t always advertise as such, winter is just as good for salads as the heat of summer. I do eat fewer entree salads in the winter (unless it’s a sautéed steak version) but we nearly always have a side salad with dinner. With different produce available it’s a great time to mix up the flavors a bit and give your standard toppings a break.

Pomegranate makes its debut in late fall, and is often used for everything from smoothies to desserts. With a tart flavor and saturated color, it’s also a perfect topping to brighten both the flavor and aesthetic of a winter salad. My favorite combination is with pears, but green apples, oranges or blood oranges, and Asian pears are all delightful pairings.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For crunch and a dash of protein, sliced almonds or toasted pumpkin seeds are my favorite additions. They are both neutral enough to blend with nearly everything, and add just enough texture to each bite.

Goat cheese is my go-to for almost everything, but for a punchier flavor feta is a great choice. A crumbly cheese works best but the palate is very versatile if chevré isn’t your thing. For the dairy-free folks, this salad is also excellent sans cheese entirely.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Lastly, a good quality balsamic vinegar is key here. I personally rarely use legitimate salad dressings and just dress mine with one of my large collection of Olivelle balsamic vinegars. Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar is my favorite for this particular salad, but a plain barrel-aged balsamic, anything with rosemary, or your favorite more neutral vinaigrette would also do nicely. I do recommend using a more viscous vinegar or a reduction to allow for a better coating.

Pear & Pomegranate Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Brighten your dinner table with this healthy and delicious salad that’s easy enough for every day, and fancy enough for holiday parties.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

5 oz baby spinach (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup Olivelle Crisp Anjou Pear Balsamic Vinegar1

1/2 medium pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or sliced almonds
4oz goat cheese

Directions

  1. In a serving bowl, add spinach and vinegar and gently toss to coat.
  2. Reserving 1-2 tablespoons of each, add the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds or almonds. Add half the goat cheese and gently toss to combine.
  3. Arrange the pear on top of the salad, then garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds or almonds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with addition vinegar or a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, if desired.
  4. Enjoy promptly.

Notes

If preferred, you can substitute any dark balsamic vinegar or reduction, or your favorite rosemary vinaigrette. Barrel-aged vinegars are my favorite here!