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Most of us have been hibernating for the past few months. Even though spring is fast approaching, that doesn’t mean you have to cut back on your comfort food cravings. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love baked mac and cheese any time of the year. Comfort foods may be currently keeping you warm, but who’s watching your waistline? There are many ways to appease your cravings while remaining trim . Whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds without the sacrifice, or just looking to watch your weight, keep reading on for recipes that will allow you to enjoy your favorite foods.

(Please note all recipes and directions are provided by “Cook Yourself Thin” and Mylifetime.com.)

MAC & CHEESE

2 cups multigrain elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup skim milk, warmed for 1 minute in the microwave, or heated on stove
8 ounces low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 1/4 cups)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup Panko crumbs or whole-wheat bread crumbs

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

3. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly until golden, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking and add the milk in a slow, steady stream. Bring the mixture to a steady simmer, whisking constantly, and whisk until thickened, about 2 minutes.

4. Drain the pasta in a colander. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the cheese, and stir until the cheese melts. Immediately add the hot, drained pasta and stir until well-coated. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

5. Divide the mac and cheese among four 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins and sprinkle 1 tablespoon bread crumbs over each. Broil until crumbs are golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, taking care not to let the top burn. Serve immediately.

 

OVEN BAKED CHICKEN TENDERS

2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 pound chicken tenders (about 12)
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed to medium crumbs
Nonstick cooking spray

1. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, spices and buttermilk. Add the chicken and turn in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

2. . Place the cornflake crumbs on a plate. Drain the chicken tenders. Pick up a chicken tender with one hand, and turn it in the cornflake coating, using the other hand to gently press additional coating onto the sides. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue on in this way to coat all of the chicken pieces, arranging them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 400 degrees until firm, about 15 minutes.

If in need of a sauce, try this tartar sauce recipe:

For the tartar sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon nonfat buttermilk
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon drained nonpareil capers
1 tablespoon chopped sweet gherkin
1 tablespoon water

Drizzle the sauce over the chicken. Garnish bowls with chopped cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs.

 

BUFFALO WINGS

WINGS
1 1/4 lbs. chicken wings, wing tips discarded, wings separated between first and second joints
1/2 cup low-sodium, low-fat chicken stock
2 tbsp hot sauce (preferably Frank’s), or more to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch salt
1 tbsp cornstarch

BLUE-CHEESE DRESSING
1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled lemon juice
Pinch each salt and pepper

1. For the wings, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and arrange a rack in the center of the oven.

2. Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large pot. Place the wings in a steamer basket, set it on top of the simmering water, cover, and steam 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the wings in a single layer on the lined baking sheet and roast 20 minutes. Turn and continue roasting until well browned, and crisp, 15 to 20 more minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine the stock, hot sauce, garlic, and salt in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch with 1 tbsp of water. Bring the hot-sauce mixture to a simmer, and stir in enough of the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce to the consistency of heavy cream (you’ll use almost all of the cornstarch). Remove from the heat. Taste and add more hot sauce, if you like.

5. For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

6. When the wings are cooked, transfer to a bowl. Return the hot-sauce mixture to a simmer, pour over the wings, and toss to coat. Serve with the dressing.

 

POTATO SKINS 

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bag baby spinach
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 slices turkey bacon
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and onto an oven rack. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until fork-tender.

3. Meanwhile, in a deep saute pan heat the olive oil and cook the onion for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the entire bag of spinach and scallions, cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until the spinach has wilted.

4. In another saute pan cook the turkey bacon until crisp and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. When cooled, chop the bacon into small pieces and reserve.

5. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, let them cool for 5 minutes. Carefully slice each one in half and scoop out inside of potato into a bowl. Add cream cheese, buttermilk, salt and pepper, and mash together until smooth.

6. Using a pastry brush, coat the outside of each potato skin with the vegetable oil. Fill each of the shells with the filling and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Transfer each skin back to the baking sheet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the skins are crispy. Top with bits of turkey bacon and serve.

 

RED VELVET CUPCAKE

For the cupcakes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup raw beets, peeled and finely grated
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon red food coloring
2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 medium egg white
Small pinch salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake liners.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, sugar and salt, and using a handheld or standing mixer, beat on medium-high for about 5 minutes, until pale and doubled in size.

3. Add the grated beets, flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir to combine.

4. Add the buttermilk and food coloring, and beat again to make sure that all the ingredients are well-incorporated.

5. Spoon batter into the cupcake liners, taking care not to fill more than two-thirds of the way up or it will overflow when cooking.

6. Bake for 30 minutes.

7. While the cupcakes are cooking, make the icing: Prepare a double boiler.

8. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of the double boiler, and stir to dissolve the sugar with a clean metal spoon for exactly 4 minutes; the mixture should be warm.

9. Remove the bowl from the heat, and beat with a hand or standing mixer on high speed, until cool and the mixture has turned into a meringue, no more than 5 minutes.

10. The mixture is ready to use when it has formed stiff peaks.

11. Pipe or spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the icing over the cooled cupcakes, and take care to ice the cakes very quickly, as the icing will start to set and is best when just made.

 

COOKIES & CREAM MILKSHAKE

1 pint low-fat chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
2 packages low-calorie chocolate wafers (about 30 total)
1/3 cup low-fat (1-percent) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a blender, place the ice cream, chocolate wafers and 1-percent milk. Add the pure vanilla extract and blend until most of the wafers are broken, leaving a few larger chunks. Pour into 4 glasses and enjoy.

 

 

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