White Mac and Cheese

IMAG0540This recipe is derived from the Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese recipe from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2014 cookbook as part of my 2017 A Year of Cooking Light Challenge

Servings: 6
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Approximate Cost per Serving: $0.75 / plate

Chef’s Note: The hubby and I agree, this is one of the best recipes so far this year and definitely a repeater.  While not the healthiest recipe in my challenge, it’s still better than a lot of dinners out there and super cheap to boot, especially when you plan ahead and buy the pasta and cheese on sale (I always get ours BOGO).


  • Water
  • Salt
  • 10 oz small shells pasta
  • 2 Tbps canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 large (2 tsp) chicken bouillon cube (can sub vegetarian bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz light cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  • Stove
  • Medium pot
  • Strainer
  • Garlic press
  • Dutch oven (or large pot)
  • Wooden stirring spoon
  • Whisk
  • Oven
  • 1.5 – 2 qt casserole dish
  • Cooking spray


  1. Fill the medium pot halfway with water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  2. Preheat oven under broiler setting to high.
  3. Heat the Dutch oven over medium heat.  While heating, peel the garlic.  When heated, add the canola oil and swirl to coat.  Press the garlic over the pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add 1 cup of water and half (1 tsp) of the bouillon cube.  Stir to combine and dissolve the bouillon.  Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute.  While waiting for the mixture to boil, combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of water with the remaining bouillon, milk and flour.  Stir with a whisk until well blended.  Add this mixture to the Dutch oven.  Return to a boil and cook 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken.
  5. Remove the Dutch oven from the burner.  Add the cream cheese, salt, and pepper and stir until smooth.  Add the pasta to the Dutch oven and mix to coat.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Coat the casserole dish with cooking spray.  Pour the mac and cheese into the casserole dish and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.  Broil 3 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.  Remove and let stand 5 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!


Well, it’s been more than a week, but I’m here and still kicking (even if the force behind my kicks has weakened).  It’s been tireless nights of work and exhaustion, but I think I’ve passed the zenith for the season.  An old childhood injury (thanks to the numerous organized sports I played and quit) flared up for a while, which altered my BikingTheTrail challenge.  While I still aim to travel the entire length of the AT, on days where my injuries keep me down or the availability of a bike is null, I will “cheat” and revert to my pedometer for the distance walked in the day.  Though I will no longer bike the trail, I will still traverse its distance, which I think is still an admirable goal.

Progress on the Trail:
Tuesday, 28 February: 3.46 miles
Wednesday, 1 March: 2.80 miles
Thursday, 2 March: 4.30 miles
Friday, 3 March: 7.70 miles
Saturday, 4 March: 5.35 miles
Sunday, 5 March: 2.80 miles
Monday, 6 March: 4.40 miles
Tuesday, 7 March: 6.39 miles
Wednesday, 8 March: 6.75 miles
Thursday, 9 March: 7.64 miles
Friday, 10 March: 4.22 miles
Saturday, 11 March: 6.48 miles
Sunday, 12 March: 5.31 miles
Monday, 13 March: 6.27 miles
Tuesday, 14 March: 6.67 miles
Wednesday, 15 March: 7.56 miles

Week Eight (1/2) – Ten (1/2) Total: 88.1 miles
Distance to Go:  1,759.55 miles (2,190 miles total)


Cooking Light Annual Challenge Rundown:
I’ve had a lot of pitfalls here as well.  I tackled some under the weather time, as well as some severe reactions to a medication which made it difficult to stand, let alone to cook.  So I won’t detail out all the days, but I will mentioned what I cook in the time that has passed.

Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crab: This was even better the next day for lunch.  If you have time, I would let it chill overnight.  We couldn’t find udon noodles at our local grocery store, so I used pad thai noodles, which seemed to work fine.  And fresh crab meat was way too expensive, so we got the imitation crab meat.  It worked just fine.

Burger Patty Salad: This recipe should be called the pita-less gyro.  I was halfway through making it when I realized I was crafting tzatziki sauce.  I used all ground turkey instead of beef and lamb, but it was delicious!  We are also not a big fan of kale after the “kale chips” incident of 2016, so we used leftover baby arugula instead.

Seared Mahimahi with Tomato-Cucumber Relish: this one was not our favorite, but I think it had more to do with the fact that we used free fish my boss caught out on his boat instead of mahi-mahi.  Our fish had little flavor and was mostly just “fishy”.  The salsa relish, though, was good.

Thai Braised Beef with Coconut Milk and Ginger: I had coconut milk leftover from the amazing rice previously, so I looked up Cooking Light recipes that included it and this one stood out (to be fair, there were only about five to choose from).  I did not, however, realize it would take over TWO HOURS to cook.  I thought I’d only picked 30 minutes or less recipes when preparing my shopping list for the week.  As such, this one was a little of a nightmare that included a two night ordeal to cook and reheat, but it was rather savory.  Not sure it was worth the time though.

Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese: I aim to post this recipe soon if I can spare the time to type it up.  Mac and cheese is my comfort food and with the hubby – let’s just call him Grendel – away for the evening, this one hit the spot.  Plus, it was a treat to take a break from work long enough to cook.




Ginger Basmati Rice

This recipe is derived from the Ginger Basmati recipe from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2016 cookbook as part of my 2017 A Year of Cooking Light Challenge.

Servings: 4
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Approximate Cost per Serving: $1.00 / plate


  • fresh ginger (about 3-inches long)
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro


  • medium saucepan
  • stove
  • cutting board
  • kitchen knife


  1. Peel the fresh ginger (I use a spoon to kind of peel the skin off.  It tends to work a lot better than a peeler).  Cut into four long pieces.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken bouillon, 1 1/4 cups of water, the coconut milk, and the ginger.  Stir to mix the bouillon in.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Add the rice.  Stir it in and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and let cook 20 minutes (uncovered) until rice is well cooked.
  4. While the rice cooks, chop the cilantro.  When rice is done, fluff the rice before stirring in the cilantro.
  5. Enjoy!

Weekly Check-In

Cooking Light Annual Challenge Rundown:
Sunday the 19th
: Asparagus Parmesan Couscous (I went into this one alone.  Lacking a little flavor, so it wasn’t my favorite, but it was hearty and healthy).
Monday the 20th: Firehouse night (Miss Hop-a-long hobbled to Firehouse to gorge on brisket.  Worth it).
Tuesday the 21st: Blistered Green Beans and Tomatoes (served with a side of French Bread, this veggie mix was tasty).
Wednesday the 22nd: Chicken with Artichoke Pan Sauce (this was amazing!  It would have been just as good vegetarian without the chicken).
Thursday the 23rd: Lunch leftovers (Free lunch at work means Monte Cristo for dinner.  Greasy delight, though I have to admit it’s harder for me to eat something like this anymore.  My stomach prefers the healthier, less dense meals).
Friday the 24th: Ginger Basmati Rice (holy moly.  This recipe was deceptively easy in its creation, but a delight on the taste buds).
Saturday the 25th: Food Poisoning Night (don’t ask)
Sunday: Draining the swamp (food poisoning day.  Don’t buy meat at Wal-Mart).
Monday: Pesto Potato Salad (not what my hubby – let’s just call him Omar – expected at all, but amazingly good.  By far top three of this year so far).
Tuesday: Risotto Primavera (Not my favorite mix of flavors so far, but a filling meal.  And I love making risotto).

Progress on the Trail:
Sunday, 19 February: 8.0 miles
Monday, 20 February: 0 miles
Tuesday, 21 February:  2.8 miles
Wednesday, 22 February: 4.9 miles
Thursday, 23 February: 4.3 miles
Friday, 24 February: 4.1 miles
Saturday, 25 February: 3.1 miles
Sunday, 26 February: 1.8 miles
Monday, 27 February: 4.0 miles

Week Seven/Eight (1/2) Total: 33.0 miles
Distance to Go:  1,847.65 miles (2,190 miles total)

Back on Track

In which I hope 2016 finally ends

What a crazy month it’s been.  Is it just me or does it feel like 2016 hasn’t ended yet?  All these “2016 problems” have bled over into 2017.  And they didn’t stay in January like I had hoped.  But February is calming down (about time), so here’s to brighter skies for the rest of the year (and no more major home improvement budget busters).

These past two weeks have been highlighted with chaos, so unfortunately I had a bit of a backslide on both annual challenges.  I did the best I could, and am full focus forward now.

Cooking Light Annual Challenge Rundown:
Sunday the 5th
: Tabbouleh with Beans and Feta (I couldn’t find bulgar so I substituted couscous.  It appears I might have botched the substitution, for it made wayyyy too much couscous.  And then I accidentally left the leftover in the car overnight later in the week.  Wait a waste.  But it was pretty good).
Monday the 6th: Fragrant Red Lentils with Rice (yum yum in the tum tum.  My first foray with lentil and Indian food did not go well last year, but this one hit the bullseye.  Will try to get the recipe up)
Tuesday the 7th: Pizza night (sometimes the hubby just has a bad day and wants his comfort food)
Wednesday the 8th: Mini Crab Cakes (a classic case of miscalculated conversions led to half the amount of crab needed for the crab cakes – why can’t we just use the metric system, I swear – but they still turned out delicious.  They were a pain in the butt to make, too forever, and I’ll never make them again, but they were good).
Thursday the 9th: Orzo with Chicken, Broccoli, and Pesto (we are still on a mostly vegetarian kick, so I kicked the chicken from the recipe and substituted the premade pesto from last week’s recipe to use it up instead of making a pesto from scratch.)
Friday the 10th: Crab Bisque (my lord, what a delicious recipe.  I discovered Cooking Light has recipes on their website – which takes you over to myrecipes.com.  I found this one here.  Sooooo good.  I substituted white wine vinegar for the vermouth and it was to die for).
Saturday the 11th: Moving Day (moving day was a nightmare of epic proportions – which lead to the aforementioned ruined couscous – so it was another pizza night.  You’d think I’d be tired of it by now.  And actually, I kind of am).
Sunday: Brats night (hubby wanted to man the grill and I was still too tired to cook.  And ran out of time to hit up the grocery store)
Monday: Creamy Parmesan Orzo (another Cooking Light online recipe you can find here.  I was out of fresh basil so I used dried instead.  This recipe was the first time I tried pine nuts.  Definitely had an unique taste, but was good).
Tuesday: Creamy Indian Lentils and Rice (recipe can be found here.  I used basmati rice instead of brown rice and subed mustard powder for the seeds.  It probably would have been delicious, but my 70s stove struck again.  Even on the warm setting, it overcooked the heck out of it and burnt a lot of it to the bottom of the pan.  I might blame Valentine’s Day on this one.  I have the worst luck with V-Day.  And the movie we watched – Arrival – didn’t fare much better).
Wednesday: Hibachi night (our real Valentine’s Day celebration)
Thursday: Ravioli night (Hubby cooked)
Friday: Pizza night (don’t even ask at this point)
Saturday: Family dinner (We rocked the Metro Diner)

Progress on the Trail:
Sunday, 05 February: 7.4 miles
Monday, 06 February: 6.2 miles
Tuesday, 07 February: 6.0 miles
Wednesday, 08 February: 6.0 miles
Thursday, 09 February: 6.0 miles
Friday, 10 February: 6.75 miles
Saturday, 11 February: 7.15 miles
Sunday, 12 February: 6.3 miles
Monday, 13 February: 6.0 miles
Tuesday, 14 February: 6.5 miles
Wednesday, 15 February: 0 miles
Thursday, 16 February: 9.15 miles
Friday, 17 February: 7.1 miles
Saturday, 18 February: 0 miles

Week Five/Six Total: 80.55 miles
Distance to Go:  1,880.65 miles (2,190 miles total)

Fancy Tofu Ramen


This recipe is derived from the Soba with Sesame and Tofu recipe from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2001 cookbook as part of my 2017 A Year of Cooking Light Challenge.

Servings: 4
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Approximate Cost per Serving: $2.00 / plate


  • 3 (3 oz) ramen noddle packages
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 package (12 – 14 oz) firm tofu
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 cup (sliced) green onions
  • 1.5 Tbsp sesame seeds


  • stove
  • large saucepan
  • Asian strainer or colander
  • cutting board
  • kitchen knife
  • measuring spoons
  • peeler
  • small saucepan
  • small mixing bowl
  • large mixing bowl


  1. Cook the ramen noodles per package directions, omitting the flavoring packet, in the large saucepan.  Once cooked, remove from the saucepan with the strainer or drain in the colander.  Add to the large mixing bowl.
  2. In the small mixing bowl combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ground ginger, sugar, and sesame oil.  Mix until combined well.
  3. Drain the tofu and cube it.  Add to the small mixing bowl, tossing to coat evenly in the sauce.  Set aside.
  4. Peel and thinly slice the cucumber.  Thinly slice the green onions.  Add both to the large mixing bowl.
  5. In the small saucepan, heat the sesame seeds over medium heat until toasted (approximately 2 minutes).  Add to the large mixing bowl.  Toss the noodle mixture to combine well (this may take a while as the ramen noodles can tend to stick together).
  6. Divide the noodles into four bowls.  Top with the tofu and sauce.
  7. Enjoy!

Green Bean Pasta


This recipe is derived from the Fusilli with Green Beans and Oregano recipe from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2001 cookbook as part of my 2017 A Year of Cooking Light Challenge.

Servings: 4
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Approximate Cost per Serving: $1.00 / plate

Chef’s Note: I ran out of rotini pasta, so combined bow tie pasta to make do.  Rotini works better though.


  • 8 oz dry/uncooked rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 1/2 cup (chopped) flat-leaf/Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


  • stove
  • large saucepan
  • medium saucepan
  • colander
  • cutting board
  • kitchen knife
  • measuring spoons
  • garlic press
  • large mixing bowl


  1. Fill the large saucepan halfway with water.  Wait for it to boil, then cook the rotini pasta as directed.  Drain and add to the large bowl.
  2. While the pasta cooks, fill the medium saucepan halfway with water.  While the water brings to a boil, snap the green beans (into about 1 – 2 inch pieces).  When water is boiling, add the green beans and cook about 5 minutes until tender.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and add to the large bowl.
  3. While the pasta and green beans cook, chop the parsley and thinly slice the green onions.  Peel the garlic clove, then press it.  Add all three to the large bowl.
  4. Add the oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper to the bowl.
  5. Once all have been combined, toss well to mix.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  6. Enjoy!