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Mac & Cheese Cupcakes.

Mac & Cheese Cupcakes with Ricotta, Spinach & Onion.

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Clearly, I’m really into making pasta dishes into cupcakes these days! (See yesterday’s post!) This was another item on the menu for my friend’s baby brunch. I got the idea of taking the basic ingredients from one of my favorite recipes that my mom makes and putting it all into mac & cheese. I thought it would be super fun to make it into little handheld treats by using my trusty muffin tin once again. They were super yummy and were a great vegetarian option. Another great party food!

Makes ~20 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni (use brown rice pasta to make this gluten-free)
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar
  • 1/3 cup shredded Swiss & Gruyere blend (you can find this at Trader Joe’s but you can also just use mozzarella)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
  • 1 egg
  • salt/black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Begin by cooking your pasta as directed on the package. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan on medium heat and cook the onions and spinach for about 5-7 minutes so that the onions soften and the spinach is wilted.

Once the pasta is done cooking, drain any excess water and add the pasta back into the pot. While the pasta is still hot, quickly add in spinach and onions, ricotta, all cheeses, and egg and stir vigorously to combine. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Spray a non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray and put a heaping spoonful of the pasta mixture into each muffin cup, filling it to the top of each cup. Sprinkle a dash of grated Parmesan on top of each one and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the macaroni is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan.

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Lasagna Cupcakes.

Mini Lasagna Cupcakes with Tomato Basil Meat Sauce.

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A few weeks ago, I threw a little lunch for my friend Brittany who is having a baby next month. Since it was an early, casual lunch I wanted to make a few dishes that weren’t too heavy and also easy to eat. I had seen various posts on Pinterest for mini lasagna cupcakes using wonton wraps so decided to give it a whirl. They turned out really great. They were super delicious and quite adorable, I must say. They make an awesome party food… I will definitely make these again!

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

  • 24 wonton wraps (2 per cupcake)
  • 1/2 pound ground beef, preferably 10% fat or less
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I used creamy tomato)
  • 1 large handful fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt/black pepper to taste

Begin by cooking the ground beef. Heat a pan on medium-high heat and add the meat. Cook for 10 minutes or so until browned and use a spatula to break up the meat so it doesn’t clump together. Once browned, stir in the tomato sauce and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray. Press a wonton wrap into each muffin cup and then add a small spoonful of ricotta on the bottom. Continue layering with a small spoonful of meat sauce, a pinch of shredded mozzarella and a dash of grated Parmesan. Press a second wonton wrap on top of that, and then repeat the layering process again.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and the wonton wraps are lightly browned.

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Roasted Veggie Chili With Beef & Bacon.

Smoky Beef & Bacon Chili with Roasted Eggplant, Green pepper, Green Beans and Onion.

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With the chilly weather this time of year, this chili is the perfect dish to warm you up! (Cheesy pun intended!) This is a low-carb chili with no beans, although you can always add beans into the mix if you prefer. I bulked up this recipe using lots of yummy roasted veggies. I also jazzed it up with some bacon to add a subtle smokey flavor. I’ll be eating this chili all week and can’t wait! It’s so good and also so good for you!

Makes about 6 cups of chili.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (7% fat)
  • 6 pieces hickory smoked, center cut bacon ( I used Sugardale brand which has a lower fat content than most bacon)
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 12 oz fresh green beans, cut into small pieces
  • 1 packet McCormick smoky BBQ chili seasoning
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste

Begin by roasting your veggies. Add them into a large roasting pan and drizzle with 3 tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

In a large pot, brown the ground beef on medium/high heat. There’s enough fat in the beef that you shouldn’t have to add any oil to the pot beforehand. Use a spoon or spatula to break up the meat so it doesn’t clump together as it cooks. Once browned, add in the crushed tomatoes and chili seasoning.

Cook the bacon so it’s partially cooked, but not overly crispy. The goal is to get some of that fat out of it. I cooked mine in the microwave on a plate lined with paper towel for 2 minutes. Once the bacon is partially cooked, chop it up and then add it into the beef and tomato mixture. Reduce the heat to simmer and put a lid on the pot.

Once the veggies have completed roasting, add them directly into the pot. Season with a dash of hot sauce and salt/black pepper and stir well to combine all of the ingredients. I topped my chili with a spoonful of light sour cream, but you could also top with tortilla strips or avocado.

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Luscious Lamb Ragù.

Braised Leg of Lamb Ragù with Carrots, Onion, Herbs & Red Wine Served Over Pasta.

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I love going to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market to pick up fresh and local produce and meats. I went recently and got a leg of lamb. Gareth loves lamb, being Welsh and all (cue the lamb jokes!) so I waned to make something special with it. I’ve only made roast leg of lamb in the past, so this time I wanted to do something totally different. I browsed lots off different lamb recipes to get ideas, and decided to make a hearty lamb ragù over pasta. It turned out absolutely delicious. The sauce was rich and hearty with perfectly tender meat. It was a wonderful meal for a chilly winter night.

Makes ~5 cups of sauce.

Recipe is adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb leg of boneless leg lamb
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic (2 cloves or so)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • grated Parmesan for topping
  • pasta of your choice (I used Trader Joe’s gluten-free brown rice penne)

Cut the leg of lamb into smaller pieces and trim off any excess fat. Heat a large, deep pan or dutch oven on the stove on medium/high heat. The pan needs to be deep enough to hold all the sauce and ingredients that will be added. Add the olive oil and chopped garlic. Once the oil is heated and the garlic is lightly browned, add in the lamb and cook each side for about 3 minutes. Once the outside of the lamb has browned, remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.

Add the carrots, onion and parsley to the hot pan and cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Once the vegetables have softened, add the lamb back into the pan and heat on high. Pour the red wine into the pan. Once the wine reduces by about half, add in the can of crushed tomatoes. Put the heat on low and season with a dash of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Put the lid on the pan and cook on low/simmer for about two hours.

After the dish is finished cooking, remove the lamb from the sauce and use two forks to pull apart the lamb to create a shredded consistency. Once shredded, add the meat back into the sauce and stir well.

Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Once cooked, put a large spoonful of the ragù on top with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

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Wine Tasting In Buenos Aires – Anuva Wines

Anuva Wines ~ Buenos Aires

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While in Buenos Aires, we wanted to do a wine tasting to experience some of the great wines South America has to offer. We came across a spot called Anuva Wines while doing some last-minute Google searches on the hotel WiFi and made a reservation for a tasting later that day. We spent the morning eagerly awaiting our first wine tasting of the trip, and it was worth the wait! Hidden on a side street in the midst of the fashionable Palermo Soho, we found a large, unmarked black door which led us up a steep staircase into an enormous, light filled room. There was a large table of people who looked just as excited as us to start sampling wines. The sommelier was named Diego, and he was great. He gave great explanations of each wine and was happy to refill our glasses as much as we desired, which made me happy. Each wine was paired with a small bite to eat to compliment the flavors of that wine. It was a truly delicious and fun experience. It was probably the best part of our trip to Buenos Aires. If in BA, definitely head over to Anuva Wines!

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The first wine that was poured was Las Perdices Extra Brut and my oh my, it was delicious. The wine had a subtle citric aroma and tasted of pear and apple. I drank mine a bit too fast, but it was so refreshing after walking around in the heat. It was paired with two types of crostini: ricotta and lemon & arugula, pear and walnut. We ended up buying a couple of bottles to ship back to the US, so can’t wait to open up a bottle of this once the weather warms up!

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The second wine served was Mairena Torrontés. This wine had an aroma of tropical fruits and lychee and tasted like grapefruit and apricot. It was was served with humita, which I had never heard of before. Diego was kind enough to write down all the ingredients of the dish for me so I could try to recreate it myself. It’s similar to a stew and is cooked with yellow corn, red and green bell peppers, pumpkin, basil, chimichurri, onion, milk and cheese. The chimchurri gives it a mild spiciness that paired perfectly with the citric flavors of the Torrontés.

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The third wine poured was the Mairena Bonarda. The wine had an aroma of pepper, dark fruits and vanilla and had a smooth and spicy blackberry taste. It was served with a selection of cured meats and cheeses. You really can’t go wrong with wine + meats and cheeses, it’s basically the best combination ever.

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The fourth wine was San Gimignano Syrah Roble. The wine had an arroma of vanilla, violets and red fruit and had a dark, spicy flavor. It was paired with a traditional meat and potato empanada. It was perfectly cooked and tasted great with the bold flavor of the wine.

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Last, but certainly not least, the fifth and final wine poured was a Carinae Finca Deneza Malbec. The wine had an aroma of leather and a deep, bold, tannic flavor. It was served with two delicious chocolate truffles. Now, by this point in the tasting, I was admittedly a bit drunk (and by a bit, I mean really) but even while intoxicated it was still so interesting to see how the tastes of the chocolate changed and enhanced the flavors in the wine. The sweet, rich chocolate was the perfect end to tasting.

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Zoodles With Peanut Sauce.

Raw Zucchini & Carrot Salad With Green Onions & Peanut Sauce.

DSC_0711I’ve only recently become familiar with the term “zoodles” but for those of you who are not yet clued in on this, “zoodles” are made from spiralized zucchini which ends up looking like noodles. Since pasta is my ultimate favorite, I have to try anything that could provide a low-carb, healthy substitute for noodles. This dish was more of a salad than a pasta dish, but you still definitely get a little bit of the pasta feel when you’re twirling up the zoodles. The peanut sauce is sweet, salty and a little bit spicy and goes really well with the mildness of the zucchini and carrots. It makes a great, healthy meal or side dish. If you’re a fan of peanut sauce, be sure to check on these older FBB recipes for stir-fried tofu or spicy noodles with shrimp!

Serves ~3

  • 2 large zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup diced green onion
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 4 tbsp Tamari
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • hot red pepper flakes
  • crushed peanuts for topping

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, ginger, garlic, Tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil and a dash of hot red pepper flakes. Whisk well to combine all ingredients and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, carrots, green onion and pour the sauce on top. Toss to combine so everything is evenly coated in the peanut sauce. When serving, top with a small pinch of crushed peanuts for an extra crunch.

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Creamy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Purée.

Puréed Cauliflower With Goat Cheese, Garlic & Cayenne Pepper.

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This cauliflower purée will trick your eyes AND your taste buds into thinking you’re eating mashed potatoes! This is an amazing, low-carb substitute for potatoes and makes a great side dish. The goat cheese melts into the cauliflower and adds a salty, tanginess and the cayenne adds a subtle heat that balances out all of the flavors. I served it up with a steak and it was the perfect dinner. Yum!

Serves ~3.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • dash of sea salt (to taste)
  • dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Steam or boil the cauliflower until soft and drain any excess water. While hot, put the cooked cauliflower into the food processor and blend until smooth. While blending, pour in the milk. Once smooth, pour the mixture into a pot on the stove on medium heat and stir in the Parmesan, goat cheese and garlic. Season with a dash of salt and cayenne pepper and stir well until the cheese has melted into the cauliflower.

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