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.

Brussels_mac_and_cheese2

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.

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Lasagna Roll-ups

It seems that fall may be on the way here, just in time for me to leave. Heading out this Friday for over two weeks of traveling and running three half marathons. If I can’t walk when I get home, you’ll know why.

Traditionally October is full of pumpkin delicacies prancing across the internet in overwhelming numbers, so I thought this year I’d start off with something a little less obvious. I saw this recipe on Pinterest (as usual) and thought it looked like a fantastic idea. Pre-portioned and easy to serve, it’s a great recipe for a family dinner as well as a potluck scenario. Even better, it can be prepared ahead and baked the next day to cut down on prep time for busy weeknights.

Lasagna Roll-ups {{Baking Bytes}}

For my first attempt I followed the original recipe as written; although it was good, it was a bit too “skinny” tasting for our preferences. M requested at least “twice as much meat and probably four times the cheese” so I made some adjustments for my next round. With cheesy goodness abound it went over much better. If you’re looking for a bit healthier option, maybe you want to head over to the original linked below, but if you like gooey and cheesy you’re definitely in the right place. It’s easily made vegetarian by just not adding meat or by subbing zucchini or mushrooms or whatever you like.

Preparing them is a bit time-consuming but I expect not more so than regular lasagna and possibly less. Having never made lasagna from scratch I can’t actually confirm this, but it seems plausible. And the hassle you save serving it (especially to a crowd) is easily worth a few extra minutes of prep time.

Lasagna Roll-ups {{Baking Bytes}}

Melty mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta meld with the spinach and meat for a melt-in-your-mouth experience. Serve with a side salad and/or a vegetable for a well-rounded meal. Or don’t. I’m not your mother.

Lasagna Roll-ups

Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Makes 12 roll-ups

Ingredients

12 lasagna noodles
12 oz ground or diced meat (optional; I used hot Italian sausage)

10 oz chopped spinach (see note)
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups + 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

32 oz spaghetti or other tomato sauce

Directions

  1. Pour about 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.
  3. If using meat, sauté it with a little olive oil over medium heat until browned. You can add the garlic here too if you want.
  4. In a large bowl, mix spinach, ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 parmesan, egg, garlic, seasonings, and meat until well combined.
  5. Put several paper towels on the counter and gently lay cooked noodles on top. Gently pat the tops dry with an additional towel.
  6. Divide cheese mixture between noodles (about 3/4 cup per noodle) and gently spread it evenly across the entire noodle.
  7. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of sauce on top of the cheese mixture.
  8. Gently roll up a noodle, not too tightly, and place seam-side down in the pan.  The paper towel might stick a little but it pulled off easily with no reside for me. Repeat with remaining noodles.
  9. Pour remaining sauce over lasagna rolls and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  10. Cover loosely with foil. (You can refrigerate it at this point if you want to bake it the next day.)
  11. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour (no need to preheat the oven), removing foil for about the last 10 minutes so the cheese will brown a little.
  12. Let rest a few minutes, then serve hot.

Notes

I used frozen spinach both times. If you do, make sure it’s completely thawed and you squeeze as much water out as possible. Fresh spinach should also work fine so I will likely use that in the future. I also accidentally added 16 oz the second time and it was still yummy, although perhaps a bit more spinach-y than I personally prefer.

Zucchini Boats

Hello my lovely readers, hope your August is off to a splendid start. I am heading for a trip home to Alaska on Friday but I wanted to make sure and share with you this fantastic entrée. Perhaps, like me, you’re a bit sugared-out after five straight weeks of ice cream and are looking to “detox” with something sans sugar completely. Well, look no further! A couple of weeks ago I saw a recipe for lasagna zucchini boats on Pinterest, which I thought sounded delicious but also like way too much work. If you’re new here, I am pretty lazy when it comes to making things that don’t qualify as dessert or occasionally breakfast. In any case, I liked the idea of a zucchini base but otherwise similar to my stuffed peppers that I have made previously. I threw together some filling and filled up my zucchini, topping them with cheese of course, and ended up with a pretty fabulous meal.

Zucchini Boats {{Baking Bytes}}

Wild rice, onion, peppers, zucchini, Italian sausage and various spices come together in a lovely blend, complemented perfectly by a zucchini base. The filling is cooked beforehand, so baking them is mainly to soften the zucchini and melt the cheese, if you add it. This recipe is superbly easy to tailor, so you can pump up the heat with more red pepper flakes, or go a completely different route depending on what you have in your cupboard. It also has the pleasant attribute of being able to taste the filling before you finish up the entrée, so you can play with the flavors as you make them.

Zucchini Boats {{Baking Bytes}}

Furthermore, you can easily make them vegetarian by leaving out the meat, and vegan by also ditching the cheese. If you’re a mushroom person (gross), they would also go well in addition to or in lieu of the sausage. And, of course, any other ground meat could be substituted just fine, although you may want to add some additional spices.

Zucchini Boats {{Baking Bytes}}

They also reheat splendidly in the microwave, so it makes for great leftovers if you don’t eat them all the first night, so go buy some zucchini and make these for dinner.

Zucchini Boats
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked rice (I used a wild rice blend)

3 large uniform zucchini
1 bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

1/2 lb Italian sausage (optional)

1 Tbsp Oregano, to taste
1 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp garlic powder, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated cheese (optional, I used cheddar)

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to directions, set aside.
  2. Trim zucchini to fit in a 9×13″ baking dish (if necessary), then cut lengthwise in half. Hollow out the inside leaving about 1/4″ of zucchini as an edge. (An ice cream scoop works well for this.) Place zucchini in the baking dish and set aside.
  3. Dice zucchini guts, set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. In a large frying pan or wok, cook sausage over medium heat until almost done.
  6. Add diced zucchini, bell pepper and onion, and cook an additional few minutes or until the veggies are warmed and a bit softened.
  7. Add spices and stir to combine.
  8. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice and veggies.
  9. Spoon filling into hollowed zucchini (you will likely have leftover filling), then bake for 25 minutes, or until zucchini are easily pierced with a fork.1
  10. Top with grated cheese, if desired, and bake for an addition 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted, then serve hot.

Notes

I had about 2 cups of filling left over. It is great reheated in a tortilla like a burrito, or on its own. Or use it to stuff a couple additional bell peppers.

Stuffed Peppers

[First things first…I am so sorry for the ridiculous semi-accidental hiatus. September was M’s last month in town before he headed back to Antarctica (yes, you read that right) for three months, so I let the blog fall by the wayside. My apologies. But there’s good news! I’m going to post something every Monday in October to make up for it.]

In other news, Montana refuses to legitimately enter autumn and insists on holding onto summer as long as possible. It is in the high 60s as I write this, which personally I think is just ridiculous for October. Maybe it’s just me but I am definitely ready for cooler temperatures. Mainly because I want to run in like 40 degrees rather than almost 70 and then come home to a steaming bowl of soup, but until I get that weather machine working I’ll just be staring forlornly at the weather forecast. Shorts and tank top weather will be over soon enough (I hope) just in time for everyone to complain it’s too cold. In preparation for that glorious time of year, here is a fabulous and easy dinner recipe that’s great for a chilly fall day and conveniently includes almost all of the food groups.

Stuffed Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

As a kid I was not big on the bell peppers thing. I still don’t really care for them raw, but I love them cooked in things. Stir fry, tacos, pizza, soup, stew, etc are all improved by the addition of a bell pepper or three. Bonus: veggies are healthy. I saw a picture of stuffed peppers on Pinterest a few months ago and thought to myself “that looks like something I could maybe handle” and then promptly never made it because it was 85 degrees outside and I didn’t want to turn on the oven.

Stuffed Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

Fortunately it has cooled down a bit since then and my hypothesis was correct: they are delicious. Wild rice, Italian sausage, cheese, and a smattering of other flavors come together in a delightfully simple recipe. Although it’s not super quick, particularly if (like me) you’re not practiced at cutting things, it’s incredibly easy and hard to mess up. You could cut down on the time by preparing them the night before and popping them in the oven when you get home from work. They may need a bit longer in the oven to warm through so make sure you check that the center isn’t cold.

I did not add a lot of spices to mine because I was using hot Italian sausage and that was enough for me, but the addition of some red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, curry powder, or whatever you’re feeling that day would work beautifully. Conveniently you can taste the filling before you finish them up in the oven, so it’s easy to play around with the flavors before you stuff the peppers. Try adding zucchini or spinach for an extra veggie boost.

Stuffed Peppers {{Baking Bytes}}

Bake these up, serve with homemade applesauce and a glass of milk and you’ve got all the food groups covered in a healthy and delicious meal.

Note: They reheat pretty well in the microwave but I find it works better if you cut them in half beforehand.

Stuffed Peppers

Inspired by Kalyn’s Kitchen
Makes 4 peppers

Ingredients

1 cup (uncooked) wild rice
4 large green bell peppers

12 oz Italian sausage (or ground meat of choice)
olive oil (for sauteing)

1 bell pepper (any color, I used orange)
1 small-medium onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated mozzarella

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease an 8″x8″ glass baking dish (or any glass baking dish that your peppers will all fit into.)
  2. Cook rice according to directions and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the tops off the peppers, hollow out the inside, and slice a bit off the bottom so they sit flat (if necessary).
  4. Dice the tops of the peppers (minus the stem of course), onion, garlic, and remaining pepper into small pieces.
  5. Saute meat and a little olive oil in a large pan over medium heat for a few minutes.
  6. When meat is about halfway done, add the diced veggies and continue sauteing until meat is cooked through and veggies are heated.
  7. In a large bowl, combine rice, cooked sausage mixture, and Parmesan cheese, stirring to combine thoroughly. (I found it easiest to use my hands.)
  8. Add spices to taste and stir to combine.
  9. Firmly stuff mixture into the hollowed-out peppers, filling them full and using a spoon to aid in packing it tightly. (You may have a little extra filling, I saved it and used it like a taco filling.)
  10. Bake about 30 minutes, then sprinkle (or pile) mozzarella onto the tops of the peppers and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
  11. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers for up to one week.