Not Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Nothing against cauliflower! But, I am pretty sure the key to a long and happy life is not figuring out how to make all your favorite foods out of cauliflower. Sometimes the pursuit of low-calorie, calorie-free, or carb-free foods makes my heart so sad. Sad that you are more fixated on a diet that is continuously removing foods, rather than focused on a plate that full of flavor and balanced.

Mashed cauliflower has become all the rage, and when done correctly, can taste delicious. I’m not knocking it, but I am also not knocking real homemade mashed potatoes from my diet, either. Good ole potatoes can be useful for your health. A plain potato has no fat, sodium or cholesterol and will provide you nearly half your daily value of immune-boosting vitamin C. Did you know tasty ole taters have more heart-healthy potassium than a banana and when eaten with the skin on is a reliable source of fiber, magnesium, and health-protecting antioxidants. It’s all in how you prepare a potato that matters.

Bring mashed potatoes back to your dinner table with this healthier version of a culinary classic!

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I have to give props to my neighbor for hooking us up with homegrown potatoes! If you have never had potatoes straight from a backyard garden, you’re missing out. Next time you are at your local farmers market be on the lookout for fresh potatoes. They won’t disappoint you!

However, pick up 2-3lbs of your favorite variety of potato. Russet or yellow potatoes will have a creamier taste by nature. Then all you need is quality olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can skip the ranch/garlic seasoning, but if you want a new twist to your mashed potatoes give it a try.

I have no relationship with McCormick, but I am a fan of the salt-free garlic ranch seasoning. This seasoning works well on vegetables and meat.

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Start by washing and peeling your potatoes. You can choose not to peel them if you prefer, but as you can see, I’m not a perfect peeler, I just hit the high spots (so-to-speak). Cut your potatoes into even quarters.

Pro-tip: Add potatoes to the pot before turning on the water. Adding your vegetables after the water is boiling will cause the outside to cook too fast. Add in 2 tsp of salt to the entire pot of water for best flavor. Turn your potatoes on high heat to bring to a boil. Once your potatoes are soft (they will slip off a fork easily) take them off heat.

*** Save 1 cup of potato water for later. ***

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Pro tip: For the best homemade mashed potatoes, make sure your cooked potatoes are dry as possible before adding in the rest of the ingredients. Soggy or soupy mashed potatoes doesn’t appeal to anyone.

While your cooked potatoes drain in a colander, dry out your pot, and line with paper towels. Add your hot, cooked potatoes back in and allow the paper towels to soak up any extra moisture. You’ll be surprised the difference this makes in the end.

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Before adding back any liquid season the potatoes and start the mashing process. You probably don’t need nearly as much added liquid as you would think.

  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil per pound of potatoes.

  • 2 Tbsp of garlic ranch seasoning (optional)

  • 1 tsp of black pepper (or less, and is optional)

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Take a fork and start mashing and mixing seasonings well by hand. Then either uses a potato masher or a hand mixer to finish the process. Slowly add in remaining potato water if needed. You more than likely will not need the full cup. You’ll know the potatoes are ready when they look like mashed potatoes.

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Ain’t they purdy! :)

(terrible English, but great taste)

Rebecca Turner
Meat Free Italian Pasta Bake

The best thing about casseroles is the leftovers. Typically, I have a big salad made up for a lunch base during the week, but now and then I get bored with that and want something else to easy to make, take and pair with other foods for lunch. This meat-free Italian pasta bake checks all the right boxes.

Inspired by the Dairy Alliance recipe, I have tweaked the original to add a little extra flavor (and cheese, ha).

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No fuss ingredient list:

  • 3-4 cups of cooked pasta

  • 1 jar of pasta sauce (or use homemade)

  • 1 small bag of shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

  • 1 container of fresh sliced mushrooms

  • 1 yellow squash

  • 1 zucchini

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Use your family’s favorite pasta brand or style, or give Barilla’s protein plus pasta a try. I am not being paid in any way to share their product. I like it because it boosts the protein content of a pasta dish without having to add anything to do it. It helps keep lunch light or dinner uncomplicated. When you look in the ingredients, you’ll find that the protein punch is coming first from plants in the form of lentils and chickpeas, followed by some egg whites.

Go ahead and get your pasta cooking per directions. You will need 3-4 cups of cooked pasta, regardless the kind you choose.

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Wash and slice your squash. Add cut vegetables and sliced mushrooms to a 9x13 pan and season with one tablespoon of Italian seasoning — no need to salt.

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Add in cooked pasta. Start with 3 cups of cooked pasta and gauge if you need that 4th cup or not. This recipe isn't rocket science.

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Can you guess what comes next?

The pasta sauce.

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Last, but not least, add the cheese!

I am not afraid of cheese, so the whole bag goes on. You can get 5-8 servings out of this casserole which would be a serving of cheese. But if you're looking to cut back on calories, cut down on the cheese.

Pop this baby in an oven set at 350F for 25-30 minutes until bubbly, and the vegetables have softened.

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Ain’t it pretty!

This meat-free Italian pasta bake can be a complete meal without pairing it with anything. You get enough protein from the pasta, which also gives you a complex carbohydrate. It is packed full of vegetables, and you get the dairy and fat from the cheese. But, at smaller portion size, you can also pair this casserole with a lean protein, fish, or seafood.

Rebecca Turner
Caprese Baked Chicken

You may be familiar with the simple Italian salad, Caprese salad. It is a delicious arrangement of fresh sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, and sweet basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. Perfect for a hot summer lunch or dinner on the back porch. But those flavors work well together in other recipes, too.

The simplicity of this recipe is reason enough to try it, but I’m convinced you’ll enjoy the combination of flavors with your basic baked chicken. The name brands shown are the ones I picked up in Walmart; this is not a paid advertisement. Feel free to sub brands for your favorite, or make a pesto from scratch (you overachiever).

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All you need to pull off the caprese baked chicken is several boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced mozzarella, basil pesto, and fresh tomato.

I added the quinoa to the photo because it compliments the flavors in the chicken, plus it is a new find at the grocery store that got me excited.

When purchasing a chicken breast, I prefer to go with the thinly sliced. It is immediate portion control, and it cooks faster. Win-Win! You can certainly use a thicker chicken breast, note that the cooking time will be longer.

Get this party started by arranging your chicken in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Be mindful of your portion size of pesto. It is typically an olive oil based product, meaning it can be high in fat in small amounts. On the label of this basil pesto, it showed 1/4 cup equaled 35 grams of fat. Oh my!

I used about a tablespoon per chicken breast. The good news is that once the baking starts, a majority will cook off and to the sides becoming more of a flavoring agent, and not a caked on fat.

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After you slather on the pesto, it’s time to add the fresh mozzarella. Buying your mozzarella already pre-sliced will come in handy. If not, you will need to slice it. I assume you could use shredded mozzarella the same, sprinkle enough on to cover the chicken.

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Finally, slice a-good-ole Mississippi tomato and add it to the top of each chicken breast.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Bake for 17-22 minutes for thinly sliced chicken breast.

You may need to bake for 25-30 if you opt for a thicker chicken breast.

Your chicken is ready when it reaches an internal temp of 165F.

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Look how melty and amazing!

See, don’t fret over the fat content.

Most of it will melt off and away, leaving juicy and delicious chicken.

The tomato isn’t just for looks. It is quite tasty!

Pair it with a whole grain, over pasta, or on toasted bread.

Below, this meal rates right with a protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, dairy, and healthy fat!

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Rebecca Turner