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Make-Ahead Bacon-Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Ahh… Sunday Dinners. Do any of you get together with family for a Sunday dinner? Or perhaps maybe Saturday works out better?  It doesn’t matter what the day, but I find it very important to have a nice sit down dinner with family that involves a bit more than the usual rushed weeknight fare, and also involves more than just my household family. We extend the invitation to family close by, like my in-laws. We enjoy being able to sit down and catch up with each other after a long week. Unfortunately my family live on the other end of the United States, in Washington state, but fortunately, I like my in-laws.  😂 The kids enjoy it too. It’s important to include the young kids into the conversation at the dinner table. Even Joe has a good time and brightens the room with his smiles.

Speaking of smiles, I got a lot of smiles for these mashed potatoes I made for just such a meal occasion. For Sunday dinner, I made The Best Chicken Marinade, which is a recipe I found over on Mom on Timeout, and absolutely delicious! I highly recommend it, and I also made Slow Cooker Barbecued Green Beans I found over on Spicy Southern Kitchen. By the way, another recipe you should definitely check out after you’re done here.

Right away, I’m sure you can see how easy this special Sunday dinner came together. I got chicken marinating, plus my own personal Grill Master, so make ahead #1. Then my potatoes, which are make ahead #2, and green beans done in the slow cooker make ahead #3. I had pretty much everything done and my feet up by 1 pm! All that was needed to do was pop those potatoes in the oven and dinner was served! Folks will think you slaved all day over this meal, and that’s ok. Let them think so, and take the credit! I do! 😆

So here we go! As usual, just peel your potatoes and cut them into little chunks. I used russet potatoes, so I peeled them. I have not used any other kind of potato with skins, I just didn’t want skins for this recipe. No other reason really. So cover those with water, and set on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil them until they are fork tender. Then drain them and return them to the pot.

Oh yea, and did I tell you I cut out a lot of fat but left all the flavor and richness? You bet! Less fat, no sacrifice! So add in your light sour cream, your neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese), and salt and pepper.

Grab your hand mixer and whip those potatoes until smooth, and cream cheese has melted. Now stir in your chives, reduced-fat cheese, and your real bacon bits. Combine that real well, then spread into a greased 13×9 baking dish. Drizzle the top with melted butter and sprinkle with some paprika. Here’s the part where you can decide to go ahead and finish it off and pop in the oven, OR if you’re preparing this ahead of time,  you can cover it and refrigerate until you’re ready.

30 minutes before you are ready, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temp. Then shove it in the oven, covered, for about 40 minutes. Then uncover and bake about 20 minutes more.

All that’s left is to serve it up, and enjoy! Don’t forget the wine! 😉

Print Recipe
Make-Ahead Bacon-Cheesy Mashed Potatoes Yum
Recipe by Christine Titus
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place potatoes in a large pot and add water to cover. Salt the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat; partially cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  3. Drain potatoes and place in a bowl. Add sour cream, neufchatel cheese, salt & pepper.
  4. Beat with hand mixer until smooth and cream cheese has melted.
  5. Stir in fresh chives, cheddar cheese and real bacon bits until combined.
  6. Spread in a greased 13x9 backing dish.
  7. Melt the butter and drizzle over the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika.
  8. At this point you can choose to cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, or bake right away.
  9. When ready to bake, if you've refrigerated your potatoes, let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake 20 minutes longer.
  11. Enjoy!
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Lighter Three-Cheese Pasta Bake

Happy Friday everyone! Wow did this week go flying by, or is it just me? I’ve been so busy with back to school stuff that it just seems like it flew by! Can you believe it’s time for back to school already?! I managed to get all of the school supplies, sports physicals are done, we’re working on clothes, and more paperwork for the schools. It hardly leaves time for anything else it would seem.

However, if you are a planner like I am, you probably plan ahead your meals. Or at least your dinners. One thing I have been doing lately is planning budget friendly meals, mostly because of the expenses of back to school. With budget friendly meals, it always helps to have at least 1 meatless dish a week, and lets not forget to keep it healthy! Budget friendly doesn’t have to mean “bad for you”.

So, I’ve got a great meatless casserole for you today! Originally I found this casserole over on Krystin’s blog, Lil Luna. Her recipe is phenomenal! Don’t get me wrong! In fact I love it so much, I really wanted to make it a bit healthier so I can enjoy it more often. Plus I made a few other minor changes to make it more of a meal. By the way, if you don’t want this to be a meatless dish, you can always add some chopped cooked chicken, turkey or ham to it as well.

So here’s what I came up with to lighten it up, and twist it a smidge. First of all, you want to get your ziti pasta cooking. Cook that according to the package instructions until it’s al dente. While that’s boiling away, heat your broccoli cuts according to package directions. Now I bought frozen steamable broccoli cuts, so I just had to plop the package down in the microwave and nuke it according to what the package said. Drain  your pasta, put it back in the same pot, add your broccoli.

Now, take your Alfredo sauce and sour cream and mix that together real good.

Then dump that sauce into the pot with your ziti and broccoli. Toss that together until it’s all evenly coated.

Spread half of the noodle mixture into a lightly greased 13×9 dish.

Now combine together your ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, salt & pepper.

Spread that evenly over the pasta mixture in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top of the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle the top with mozzarella cheese.

Bake it at 350 degrees F. until bubbly and the cheese has melted.

Just look at that cheese! Using light roasted garlic Alfredo sauce, light sour cream, ricotta cheese made with part skim, and reduced fat mozzarella cheese, you’re still left with a rich, creamy, delicious pasta casserole. By the way, no one in this house had a clue I used light or reduced fat anything in this recipe. Now I can enjoy this casserole more often with reduced guilt!

One last note, to make it a bit more healthier, and if you wish, you can replace regular ziti pasta with whole grain or whole wheat ziti. We are just not fans of whole wheat pasta, but that doesn’t mean  you aren’t! Enjoy!

 

Print Recipe
Lighter Three-Cheese Pasta Bake Yum
Recipe by Christine Titus
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Prepare ziti according to package directions until al dente; drain and return to pot.
  2. While ziti is cooking, heat broccoli cuts according to package directions. I used steamable, so just used my microwave.
  3. Once ziti is drained and returned to the pot, add the broccoli
  4. Stir together Alfredo sauce and sour cream; toss with ziti and broccoli until evenly coated. Spoon half of mixture into a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
  5. Stir together ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Spread evenly over pasta mixture in baking dish. Spoon remaining pasta mixture evenly over ricotta cheese layer; sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Recipe Notes

Feel free to add meat to this dish if you want! Just throw in some chopped cooked chicken, turkey or ham with your pasta and broccoli.

Substitute whole grain or whole wheat pasta if you like.

Adapted from lilluna.com

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Lighter Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

It’s Wednesday folks, and I don’t have a wine to share with you! 😱 I know, right? Imagine how I feel! Being wineless. It happens though, but don’t worry! I’ve got an amazing pasta salad recipe for you though! It’s that time of the year where people fire up the grill, host cookouts, or get invited to cookouts and outdoor potlucks. When the grill masters get that itch to fire up the grill, that’s when it’s the perfect time for pasta salads, potato salads, fruit salads, you name it cold salads to make their grand entrance! This one in particular will steal the spotlight, and if you’re still working hard  to eat healthier, like I promised myself I would, or if you just want to keep your lovely figure, don’t worry! This beautiful salad is all lightened up. It tastes absolutely sinful though. I found the original recipe over on Life in the Loft House, and thought to myself “how can I lighten this up so I can enjoy this without feeling guilty?” Well, here’s what I came up with! Come on in the kitchen and I’ll show you how simple this is. Another one of my favorite things about the salad. Simple!

So first, you’re going to cook your Rotini pasta until it’s al dente. That should take about 8 minutes or so. While that’s bubbling away on the stove, dump your mayo, sour cream and ranch dressing mix in a large bowl.

Then whisk it up real good until it’s all combined. When your pasta is finished cooking, drain that, and rinse it in cold water until cool. Set the pasta aside and cut your grape tomatoes in half.

Now add your pasta, bacon (which I used a pkg. of real bacon pieces), tomatoes, olives and cheese to the large bowl with the dressing.

Toss gently to combine. Then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. I hope you enjoy this delicious, creamy pasta salad as much as we all did.

 

 

Print Recipe
Lighter Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad Yum
Recipe by Christine Titus
Course Salads
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Salads
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rotini and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, dry ranch dressing mix, garlic powder and milk with a whisk until thoroughly combined. Add pasta, cooked bacon pieces, tomatoes, olives and cheese. Gently toss to completely combine everything together.
  3. Cover and chill in refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving.
Recipe Notes

If after chilling in the fridge, and your salad seems a little dry, just add a little milk and stir to combine to moisten it up.

Slightly adapted from Life in the Lofthouse

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Creamy Tomato & Cucumber Salad

You know what I love about Spring and Summer? The beautiful salads! I absolutely love salads, and this time of year, you get the best and prettiest produce to work with. Pretty bright colors, whether it’s a fruit salad or a vegetable salad, or even a pasta salad. They are just so bright and fresh. Lots of eye appeal, not like my photos… 😉

I bring to you today, a Creamy Tomato & Cucumber Salad. It’s bright, it’s fresh, and it’s delish! Oh let us not forget it’s super easy! Another cool thing about salads, they can usually be made ahead of time. This is all of that! So lets get started. Gather up all your ingredients, which isn’t much, and pay no attention to the only two cloves of garlic on that cutting board! I actually did use 4.

So you got everything? Good, now prepare your vegetables, minus the garlic, and toss them into a big bowl.

Now, just set that aside for a minute, and grab a smaller bowl. In that, you’re going to toss in your dressing ingredients. Mayo, sour cream, garlic and freshly cracked black pepper.

Whisk that up until it’s thoroughly combined, and then, dump it on top of your veggies in the big bowl, and gently toss to coat.

Now you just cover it tightly, and store it in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let all those flavors blend. Then just before servings, sprinkle with a little sea salt to taste and enjoy!

 

Print Recipe
Creamy Tomato & Cucumber Salad Yum
Recipe by Christine Titus
Course Salads
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Salads
Cuisine American
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and toss into a large bowl. Slice cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut each half again lengthwise, to give you 4 long sticks. Slice those into bite size chunks and toss those into the bowl. Alternatively, you can slice the cucumber thinly, and then cut the slices in half. However you do it, you just need bite size pieces. Slice the red onion into thin slices and add to the tomatoes and cucumbers.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine mayo, sour cream, pressed garlic cloves and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Pour dressing onto vegetables, and toss gently to coat. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Add salt to taste just before serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from natashaskitchen.com

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