Feta Mac and Cheese

So my husband is a huge fan of macaroni and cheese. I enjoy it – but I just don’t think it was ever a big deal in our household, most likely because my sister doesn’t like cheese.

She’s a total freak of nature…I know. But I love her, so it works out. Even though I used to try and sneak pieces of cheese in with snacks to see if she could really tell.

Anyways, I made some mac n’ cheese when the husband was just the boyfriend and it was incredible. Most likely because it had lots of butter, heavy cream and like, 4 or 5 different types of cheese in it. So it was good but not so good for us!

So I finally tested out a “grown up” mac and cheese recipe that is good for you! We had it as a side dish, but I’m sure doubled up it would make a great main course! This way though, it’s only 4.5 WW points per serving…and that pretty much rocks.

Feta Macaroni and Cheese (serves 2)

2 oz. enriched or whole wheat elbow noodles (I used Barilla Plus)

1/2 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine

1/4 tsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. fat-free milk

2 oz. fat-free cream cheese

1/8 tsp. table salt

2 oz. fat-free feta cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to directions and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt margarine and add garlic. Saute for about 1 minute.

Add milk, cream cheese and salt and cook over medium-low heat, whisking until cream cheese begins to melt.

Once cream cheese begins to melt, add half of your feta cheese. Whisk frequently, careful not to bring the mixture to a boil.

When the cheese sauce is smooth, drain your pasta well and add back to the pot you boiled it in. Pour sauce over drained pasta and toss to coat.

Add pasta mixture to a small baking dish and top with remaining feta cheese.

Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes until heated through and topping has melted slightly.

Serve and of course, devour…

Oh and for the record, my sister could always tell when I tried to sneak her cheese – this totally wouldn’t fly…

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Buffalo Chicken Soft Tacos

When I am asked to come up with my favorite foods, I am incredibly consistent and not picky with whatever form it comes in – like Tuna (a delicious fresh tuna steak, raw or canned) Artichokes (seriously, anything with them probably makes me happy) and anything buffalo/hot wing flavored.

Luckily, the husband shares my love for buffalo flavored anything. We love us some hot wings. We love buffalo shrimp, buffalo chicken pizza, buffalo chicken soup, buffalo chicken meatballs – clearly it’s a problem, but one of those good ones to have, right? I also feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump right now…

So I recently threw together some buffalo chicken soft tacos – and I figured we’d just go ahead and make this another edition of “Faux Bar Food Friday” – because we all know that an ice cold beer goes great with any and all buffalo chicken type items. And beer goes great with Friday. And long weekends.

See, that worked out so well!

This is one of those easy to throw together meals – especially because you can do a lot of the prep before you sit down to eat! I promise, once you smell the chicken cooking, you’ll want to devour it immediately! (And of course, it’s WW friendly – only 10 points…for dinner!)

Buffalo Chicken Soft Tacos (serves 2)

8 oz. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast

4 medium whole wheat tortillas

1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth

1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1/4 cup reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup raw celery, chopped

1/2 cup raw carrot, peeled and julienne

1/2 cup lettuce, chopped

1/4 cup green onion, chopped

Extra hot sauce for topping

Add chicken broth to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts and cook 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

In the meantime, cut up your celery, carrots and green onion and refrigerate until ready to use.

Once chicken is cooked through, remove from pot – reserving 1/4 cup broth. Let chicken cool a little and then begin shredding with two forks.

Once all of your chicken is shredded, place back in the pot with chicken broth and hot sauce.

Cook over low heat until liquid is mostly absorbed.

While that’s happening, dampen two paper towels – place one on a microwaveable plate and add your 4 tortillas, and top with the 2nd towel. Microwave for 20-25 seconds. This makes the tortillas a little more pliable and less likely to tear when you fold them!

Grab your veggies from the fridge along with your blue cheese and get ready to assemble!

I spread about 1 tsp. ranch in the center of the tortillas and top with chicken, celery, carrots, lettuce, green onion and blue cheese.

I threw a few more dashes of hot sauce on top (because I’m just freaky like that) – but you can just go ahead and devour…

Have a very happy and safe Memorial Day weekend everybody!

Spicy Sauteed Triggerfish with a Lemon Wine Sauce

Happy Thursday everybody!

Normally, Thursday isn’t all that exciting – but this is the Thursday before a long weekend! While I might not have incredibly exciting plans, it’s still a long weekend. Which means next week is a short week.

Next week is also the final week of my husband’s incredibly demanding and strict study schedule. So on Saturday afternoon – I get him back. So I get to be excited that it’s Thursday!

Can I get an “amen”?

…crickets…

Okay then, moving right along!

So I know I have mentioned to you several times how much I love seafood. Well my parents discovered a great little place to get fresh seafood – a man and his wife drive up to Memphis each week from the Mississippi coast with a big trailer full of lots of good, fresh stuff. Even selections that are hard to find in grocery stores!

Well, my dad stopped by to grab some smoked tuna dip (Y-U-M) and the man was packing up to leave. So he just “donated” a few items to him. Fortunately for me, my parents were leaving town, so I inherited some fresh, delicious fish to play with.

Like Triggerfish. Crickets again? Exactly.

Now, it’s tough to find Triggerfish recipes out there. But I did read that it’s a meaty, rich fish – similar to Grouper, but with a buttery flavor, like Lobster.

So you know what that says to me? Butter. Wine. Capers.

Do we really need more in life? I honestly think I could eat capers out of the jar…oh wait, I already do. And wine…well, really people?

If you can’t find Triggerfish – I think that Grouper would be a great fish substitution for this recipe – perhaps adjusting for cooking time.

Now this is a little higher in WW points for the main dish (about 9 – guess-timating since I couldn’t locate nutritional info.), but I just paired it with a few slices of bread and some brown rice and it made for a light and luxurious weeknight meal.

Triggerfish with a Spicy Lemon-Wine Sauce (serves 2)

2 Triggerfish filets, about 6-7 oz. each (mine had skin on – so I left it and it was fine)

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce

4 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine

1/4 cup white wine

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. capers

Heat 2 Tbsp. margarine in a large skillet over medium heat.

Salt and pepper your fillets. I scored the skin (just a few little superficial slices) to prevent curling.

Add fillets to melted butter and saute about 3-4 minutes, skin side up. Flip and sprinkle “meat” side with a few dashes Tabasco.

Cook another 3-4 minutes, and flip once more. Cook 2-3 more minutes until fish is cooked through and both sides have a light brown color. Set in a medium baking dish and add to oven on low heat to keep warm.

Add remaining margarine (if needed) to skillet and melt. Reduce heat to medium low.

Add white wine, garlic, caper and lemon juice.

Cook for about 2 minutes, until simmering lightly and sauce thickens a little.

Oh and if you have to open a whole bottle of white wine and don’t know what to do with some of the “excess” – I’m sure I can help you think of something…

Now, remove fish from oven. Plate your fish and pour sauce on top of each fillet.

 

Now, dig in! The rice and bread did a great job of soaking up the excess sauce…which was total yumminess…

Thanks Mom and Dad – next time you should get your new buddies to “donate” four fillets and maybe you’ll get a free dinner out of it…

Thanks for reading – and just a reminder, if you have tried any of the recipes on my blog, please leave me a comment with your raves/rants/thoughts – I’d love to hear feedback!

Spicy Peanut Chicken Salad

I feel like I did a marathon this weekend!

I was so fortunate to be able to drive up to St. Louis this past weekend for one of my dear friend’s bachelorette parties.

St. Louis Arch

Clydesdale at Anheuser-Busch: St. Louis

Home of the World Series Champions!

Since I went to school at Penn State and live in Memphis, it’s very rare that I get to spend a weekend with my best friends from college. Like, seriously, we hail from Florida, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both represented), Connecticut and Illinois. So getting together can be a challenge – but when we do, there is no shortage on fun – which includes choreographed dances and Beauty and the Beast sing-a-longs! More to come too – because since November, three of my girls have gotten engaged!

So before I had headed out on my solo road trip that involved a lot of jamming out to my favorite artist (Eric Church) – I made a delicious pasta salad-type dish with an Asian twist.

I could totally eat this for dinner, but it made up a lot of my lunches last week. And man, were my lunches good. Like, seriously. You don’t even have to wait in line for a microwave in your break room at work – because you eat it cold. And dear goodness, it is incredibly delicious.

And only 8 WW points. I know, I know. You love me. =)

It’s a lot of ingredients – but don’t be intimidated! You won’t regret making the full recipe – or even doubling it if you are one of those people (aka me) who let produce die in your refrigerator drawers after 1-2 uses.

(Oh, and I am certain this would make a great vegetarian dish if you just omit the chicken – so let me know, well, if you try it either way what you think!)

Spicy Peanut Chicken Salad– (6 servings)

1 cup red or orange bell pepper, Julienne

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 cup raw zucchini, shredded

1/2 cup raw broccoli, chopped

1/2 cup green onion, chopped

8 oz. raw chicken breast (boneless/skinless)

8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

For Dressing:

6 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. reduced-fat peanut butter

2 Tbsp. sesame oil (Vegetable oil is okay)

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (regular works too)

1/2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. Sriracha (I promise this isn’t too spicy – I actually added more to each serving)

3 Tbsp. chopped peanuts

Boil pasta according to directions. Drain, set aside and let cool in a large bowl.

Boil chicken breast for 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Cool 3-5 minutes. Shred with two forks.

Add bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, green onions and broccoli on top of pasta.

Add chicken.

For dressing:

In a food processor, add soy sauce, water, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey, ginger, garlic and Sriracha. Pulse until smooth. Add peanuts and pulse a few more times.

Pour dressing over chicken/veggie/noodle mixture and toss until combined.

Chill at least 1 hour.

Serve and devour. I did add a little more Sriracha and soy to the top of mine and mmmmmmmm was it delicious…

Clearly my goal in life is to make your co-workers jealous…

Guest Blog: Brittany From “Everyday Thoughts”

I am so excited to be the guest blogger today on Cooking on the Bright Side! Mary and I have been great friends for just over five years. We met in a senior-level college class at the University of Memphis and found commonality in our love for beer, boys, and big ten football (a great starting point for any friendship). I learned quickly how much Mary values and loves her family and that’s something I really admire about her. We shared our love for family and food one evening when my mom was in Memphis visiting. Mary invited my mom and I over for dinner with her and her dad. We enjoyed a beautiful meal. We drank wine and laughed, we drank more wine and cried and by the end of the night I left with this incredible sense that I had found a friend for life. That time around the dinner table was so important to our friendship and its a memory that I’ll carry with me forever.

Our lives are so busy but I think it’s important to make time for the people who matter most in your life and what better way to slow down than some time at the dinner table. The very first time my husband (then boyfriend) prepared a meal for guests we made this recipe. So every time we prepare it we eat at the table. This is one of those meals that just helps us slow down. I hope you enjoy:

Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Pasta

1 box Bowtie Pasta (14 Oz)
1 pound Peeled And Deveined Shrimp
2 Tablespoons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning, Divided
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
12 ounces, weight Andouille Sausage, Sliced
1 Yellow Pepper, Stem And Seeds Removed, Then Sliced Into Strips
1 Red Pepper, Stem And Seeds Removed Then Sliced Into Strips
1 Onion, Sliced
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
½ cups Mozzarella Cheese

Preparation Instructions:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, then drain and set aside.

Place shrimp in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of theSlap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning. Stir so that the shrimp is well coated, set aside.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat add peppers and onions. Saute the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. 

Add an additional 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet and add shrimp to the vegetable mixture.

Cook the shrimp for about 3-4 minutes or until theshrimp turns pink and is fully cooked.

Similar to the shrimp, use the remaining 1 tablespoon of Slap YaMama Cajun Seasoning to coat the andouille sausage. Add the remaining oil to the skillet if necessary and cook theandouille sausage in with the shrimp and vegetable mixture for about 3 minutes or until sausage is fully cooked.

Stir in the garlic and cook an additional minute.

Remove from heat.

If you’d like to add a little heat stir in some crushed red pepper (to taste).

In a large pot combine the pasta and the entire shrimp and sausage mixture.

Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Sit at a dinner table with someone you love and enjoy.

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you take a second and check out my blog if you have a minute www.everydaythoughtsbybrittany.blogspot.com

Brittany (of Everyday Thoughts)

Chili-Mango Shrimp

So I don’t know about y’all, but the weather in Memphis has been pretty glorious lately! It’s starting to warm up – lots of food festivals (the Memphis in May BBQ Fest is going on this weekend) and I’m loving soaking up whatever outdoor time I can get!

Which also means lots of patio time…which is where I am currently blogging from right now!

For me, the summertime means lots of delicious seafood. It also means some glorious fruit! I love anything with a citrus flavor to it – or any fresh berries or “tropical” type fruit. I am an equal opportunity fruit consumer!

I think the seafood thing is because my family has always spent time on the coast of Florida during the summer – which means days (or a solid week if I’m lucky) of some fresh and amazing seafood.

So I decided to create a dish that combines seafood and fruit – with a little spice to it, of course. The husband and I love our spice!

This is one of those easy dishes to throw together and pair with a salad or just plain rice. Since it has an Asian influence, I paired it with my vegetable fried rice. Make it with whatever you want – but I promise, you’ll love it (and it’s good for you, of course!).

In each bite you get a little heat and a little sweet…

Chili-Mango Shrimp (serves 2 – 6 WW points/serving)

8 oz. pre-cooked shrimp, tails removed

1/2 Tbsp. sliced pickled ginger, diced

1/2 cup chopped mango

2 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce

1/4 tsp. Sriracha

1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. green onion, chopped

1/2 Tbsp. peanut oil, for cooking

Pat your shrimp dry and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add soy sauce and minced ginger. Add chili sauce, then cornstarch and sesame oil. Add your green onion and Sriracha and whisk until blended.

Add shrimp and toss to coat.

Add your mango. Now, I have read “how to” cut mango and I still find it difficult. So I pretty much just hack away until I have as much as I want. The core is pretty tough, so just start by trimming away the outside and removing the peel until you have good tender “meat”.

See? Pretty!

Now add the mango to the shrimp mixture and toss to combine.

Refrigerate at least 30-45 minutes.

Heat your peanut oil in a medium skillet until hot. Using a slotted spoon, add shrimp (try to reserve as much sauce and mango as you can for now) and saute 3-5 minutes. When you flip your shrimp, add the remaining sauce and mango. Cook another 5 minutes until shrimp is cooked through and sauce thickens slightly.

Serve and devour! Like I said, I served mine with some fried rice – but as I’ve also mentioned before, I’m one of “those people” who doesn’t like my food to touch – so I don’t top it. But if that’s your thang, go right ahead! I’m not here to judge…

I just provide the deliciousness and let you do the rest!

Thanks for stopping by – and be on the lookout tomorrow for a special guest blog from my friend Brittany over at “Everyday Thoughts“!

BLT Pasta Salad

I hope everybody had a fabulous Mother’s Day weekend and that all of the mommies out there got a little spoiled for a day!

Now I’ll give you a little something to spoil yourself without feeling too guilty…

I think my favorite sandwich to eat is a BLT – love the soft bread, cool tomato, crisp lettuce and crunchy bacon! And okay, I hate mayo on sandwiches – but just a little glaze of it just does the trick.

Now I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to make myself a healthy lunch during the week – but if I forget to pack a lunch or that frozen thing just isn’t sounding good to me, it’s hard to find something healthy that’s also not breaking the bank (I’m sorry, $7 for a sandwich just does not work for me!)

So seriously, do yourself a favor. This is so easy to throw together and you can totally make enough to enjoy a few days a week! Best part…you don’t have to worry about bread getting soggy!

BLT Pasta Salad (Serves 2-3)

4 oz. Barilla plus elbow noodles

1 medium tomato

2 Tbsp. fat-free mayonnaise

1/4 tsp. dried mustard

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 slice turkey bacon

salt and pepper to taste

Fill medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside until cooled.

While pasta is boiling, cook your bacon in the microwave. Crumble and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise and dry mustard.

Chop tomato and add diced pieces, along with juice, to mayonnaise. Mix well until blended. Add a few dashes of salt and pepper. (You can always add more later!)

Once your pasta is cooled, add to the mayonnaise/tomato mixture until coated well.

Tear spinach slightly and measure 1 cup. Add to pasta and chill.

Add bacon just before serving.

I took the bacon in a plastic bag to work and added it just before I ate. Yes, that means I sat at my desk with a piece of bacon in my drawer for a few hours…

That’s just how I roll.