Raspberry Margarita

Fresh raspberry puree mixed with the perfect amount of lime juice and booze.

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Friday’s have officially become margarita and Mexican food night at our house!  After the Perfect Classic Margarita’s I made last week, it was suggested I make a raspberry one this time around… I’m not disappointed that I did either!

You can buy raspberry puree but it’s loaded with preservatives and tastes chemically, if that makes sense.  So I decided I would make some – it’s super easy too.  And can we talk about the color of this raspberry margarita for a minute…  it’s a beautiful, deep pinkish-red, that looks like summer in a glass… the pictures don’t do it justice at all.

If you have about an hour before you want to drink this raspberry margarita, I suggest you make the puree rather than buying it and give it a shot!  Margarita on deck next, mango I think!

Raspberry Margaritas

  • 24 oz. of red raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 – Fifth silver tequila
  • 1 ½ cups triple sec
  • ½ cup ReaLime juice
  • 4 tbsp. agave nectar (or ½ to 1 cup sugar)
  • Lime slices
  • Ice
  • Salt
  1. In a large pot, combine raspberries, the water and quarter cup of sugar.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low medium and continue to cook for 10 minutes, mashing the berries.
  2. After ten minutes pour the berry mixture into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
  3. Put the puree into the freezer for 30-40 minutes until cool enough to handle.
  4. Over the pitcher, start pouring the puree into cheesecloth in about 5 batches and squeeze to release the juices.  The cheesecloth will catch the seeds.
  5. Continue to squeeze the puree until all of it has been seeded, rinsing the cheesecloth out between each pour.
  6. Add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec and agave nectar (or sugar). Stir to combine.
  7. Pour into a salted glass filled with ice garnish with a lime, and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

  • If you’d rather buy raspberry puree, you’ll need 20 oz.
  • If you don’t mind the seeds in your margarita (there are a lot!) don’t bother using the cheesecloth.  I tried using a fine mesh sieve too but the puree is pretty thick so the cheesecloth works best – you’ll want about a 12″ x 12″ square.
  • My hubby likes Tajin on his rim, I prefer salt but sugar goes well with the raspberry too!
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Pepperoni & Extra Cheese Pizza

The traditional pizza – fresh sliced pepperoni and lots of fresh shredded cheese.

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Mmmmmm….. Pizza!  I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that doesn’t like pizza, except my daughter – who insists that she only likes MY pizza.  And she’s not picky about which one of my pizza’s she likes, she only likes mom’s pizza.  Honestly though, what isn’t there to love about a great pizza… hot melty cheese, great sauce and toppings galore!

I’m a deluxe pizza kinda girl… If I’m going to eat something that can be upwards of 400 calories a slice, I gotta at least have SOMETHING healthy on the pizza, those things cancel out all the greasy meats and cheeses right?!  So load me up with peppers and onions and mushrooms and I’m in pizza heaven… But, there’s something to say about a good ole pepperoni and extra cheese pizza, it’s just about the best comfort food there is (besides all the other comfort foods I love so much!)

One gets sick of ordering pizza though, or just plain tired of always having the same thing from the same place.  So when we want a really great pizza and my kid will be home for dinner, I’ll whip this baby up.  Now this pizza isn’t fast to make, give yourself a good two and half hours from start to finish, most of that is just spent waiting for the dough to rise and sauce to thicken so you can take a jog or clean house while waiting… or have a glass of wine!  Wine and pizza go great together 🙂

Pepperoni & Extra Cheese Pizza

For the Pizza Dough:

  • ¼ cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 ⅛ tsp. instant yeast
  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp. water, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. Canola oil (or Olive)
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • ¾ tsp. salt

For the Pizza Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. instant garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Toppings:

  • 4 oz. of shredded provolone cheese
  • 4 oz. of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz. sliced pepperoni
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter + ¼ tsp. garlic powder

Make the dough:

  1. In liquid measuring cup, measure out the 110 degree water and sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir to mix.  Let the yeast sit for about 5 minutes, until it begins to foam.
  2. In a food processor combine bread flour and salt and pulse a few times to combine.
  3. In the same liquid measuring cup as your water & yeast, add the remaining water and the oil, stir to combine.
  4. With your food processor on high, slowly pour the liquid into the flour/salt and mix until combined and begins to form a sticky ball.
  5. On a flour dusted work surface, remove the dough and kneed for a minute until the dough is no longer sticky and forms a nice cohesive ball.
  6. Grease or spray with non-stick spray a large bowl and place your dough ball in to rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 hours.

Make the sauce:

  1. While your dough is rising, add all the sauce ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced by almost half, whisking often.
  3. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Assemble the pizza:

  1. About an hour and fifteen minutes into your dough rising, turn your oven onto 500 degrees.  Once preheated, let the oven stay on at 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes before baking the pizza.
  2. At hour 2, remove the plastic wrap from the dough and punch it to deflate.
  3. Let the dough set for another 10 minutes, uncovered, then kneed it a few times in the bowl.
  4. Place the dough onto a 14″ pizza pan or pizza stone.  Starting from the center, use the heal of your hand to press the dough out to the edges evenly.  Leave a little lip at the edge for your crust.
  5. Top the dough with 3/4 to 1 cup of pizza sauce and spread to the lipped edge.
  6. Top with pepperoni and cheese.
  7. Bake the pizza for 12-15 minutes, until the top gets bubbly and starts to form dark spots.
  8. While pizza is baking, melt the butter and stir in garlic powder.
  9. Remove pizza, brush crust and top with the melted butter/garlic powder and slice.
  10. After slicing, let the pizza rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  • If you don’t have a food processor, combine the dough ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined.  Remove to a floured work surface and kneed for 3-5 minutes until no longer sticky and forms a nice stretchy ball.  Let set for 2 hours as instructed.
  • This sauce a little on the sweet side, just how we like it, but if you prefer it less sweet, eliminate the brown sugar or cut it in half.
  • This also makes more sauce than you’ll need for 1 pizza, so you can refrigerate the rest for up to 1 week or freeze for 2 months.
  • I prefer and recommend using chunk cheese over bagged cheese.  It melts so much better!  You can shred it by hand or use your shredding attachment on the food processor.  If you want, slice it up into thin slices and place on the pizza too.
  • I also do the same for my pepperoni.  I buy it in a large stick and slice it up in my food processor (or do this by hand).  To eliminate some of the grease in the pepperoni, place them on a paper towel lined plate and microwave for 30 seconds, then blot with extra paper towel!

Prep Time – 5 minutes     Servings – 8 slices     Total Time – 2.5 hours

Estimated Calories per Serving, based on one slice – 380.

The Perfect Classic Margarita

A summer staple, this classic margarita is the perfect blend of flavors… not too sweet and not too sour.

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The margarita.  Such a summer staple – and one you don’t even have to love tequila to love.  And the endless combinations of flavors you can order at some places are unreal… strawberry, peach, mango, passion-fruit… but there’s only one traditional margarita and those can be turned into a hot mess if someone making them has no clue!  I can’t stand a bad margarita… too much tequila or the use of sour mix and my stomach will be on fire – too much triple sec and the drink is too sweet… So it’s fairly safe to say if I’m in the mood for a GREAT margarita, I’m heading to a local Cantina that serves them up by the pitcher – for $36!!  Yea, that’s a lot of $$ right?!  So – I might only go once a month, maybe twice if the weather is fantastic (Michigan, you know!)… Or if there’s something to celebrate, or if I had a bad day, or if I had a great day, or if I want salsa or if i want Queso… blah blah, who needs a excuse for a great margarita?!

So, of course I wanted margarita’s the other day but also didn’t want to go anywhere (you all have those days too – right??!!).  I wanted a GOOD one as well, not just from a pre-made mix or tossing together a few of the ingredients to get a mediocre one.  A little Google, a little stop at the store and a bit of mixing and taste testing and BAM, the PERFECT margarita was born!  For me and the hubby, PERFECT means the margarita tastes fresh, and has a perfect balance of tequila and triple sec – not too sweet and not too sour and won’t kill our stomachs or give us crazy heartburn… or juicing like 40 limes (no thanks, I have stuff to do man!) this is the one!

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If you love a PERFECT margarita, give this one a shot… I don’t think you’ll be disappointed – Salud!

The PERFECT Classic Margarita

  • 1 – Fifth of Silver Tequila (about 3 ¼ cups, you know, in case you have a gallon of it LOL)
  • 1 ½ cups of Triple Sec
  • 2 – 15 oz. bottles of ReaLime® 100% Lime Juice
  • 2 – 4 Tbsp. Agave Nectar (or 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar)
  • Margarita Salt or Tajin (salty chili pepper – found in the Mexican section of your grocery store)
  • Fresh Limes
  • Ice
  1. In a large pitcher, mix the Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice and Agave Nectar (or sugar).
  2. Cut limes into wedges.
  3. If you prefer salt or Tajin on your rim, run a lime (the pulp side) along the rim of your glass then rotate in the salt container.  Or, drizzle agave nectar on a plate, run your glass in that and then in the salt or Tajin.
  4. Fill your cup with ice, pour in margarita mix, garnish with lime and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:

  • Please use silver tequila in this margarita… it will save you the headache the day after and it is just so much smoother!  And cheaper silver is OKAY!!  I’ve used Margaritaville and Sauza brands which are both less than $15.  My favorite tequila is Milagro and I’ll use Cointreau (fancy french triple sec) on occasion too… but then it’s getting to be about $40 a pitcher – might as well go out right?!
  • If you like your margaritas “frozen” rather than on the rocks, you can pop the pitcher into the freezer and it will turn into a slush, the amount of alcohol will prevent it from freezing solid (you’ll have to make the day/night before for it to get slushy).
  • Agave nectar can be found in the baking section of your grocery store by the sugar.  It’s 25% sweeter than sugar so you need a lot less… its a great substitute and is made from the same plant that tequila is made from – so the flavors compliment each other pretty damn good!
  • TASTE TEST this margarita before you drink it or serve it yourself and adjust the agave nectar as needed… this recipe it pretty tart, but not sour… if you prefer yours more tart or sweeter – add less or more agave (or sugar).
  • I’ll be flirting with fresh fruit purees to make flavored margaritas soon – keep an eye out!
  • This stuff is strong – drink it at home 🙂

Sesame Noodles

A delicious sesame-peanut sauce served over warm Pad Thai noodles, in less than 10 minutes!

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Quick, simple meals are the way to go in the summer when its too hot to cook inside and you’re really in the mood for something NOT grilled!  This recipe is a winner because you can literally almost have the whole meal ready to go during the commercial break of your favorite TV show, no joke!  Perfect for nights when you have to feed your family and run out the door or even to prep the night before and have for lunches the next day.

The sauce is not over powered by the peanut butter – which has happened a few times at restaurants, like almost eating peanut butter noodles, gross!  There’s just the right balance of saltiness and spiciness too.  If you like to have protein with your meals, use leftover shredded chicken that’s been soaked in teriyaki sauce and warmed up or ground pork.  If you have leftover spaghetti noodles use those instead!  You can also throw in shredded carrots or bean spouts to mix it up a bit… But the sauce is where it’s at and I hope you enjoy this as much as we do, if not for the flavor, for the sheer aspect of time, which is always worth it!

Sesame Noodles

  • 1 – 10.6 oz. package Pad Thai noodles
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

For the sauce:

  • 2 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. instant garlic
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha (optional)
  1.  Cook noodles per packet directions.
  2. Place sauce ingredients in a shakable container and shake until smooth. Microwave sauce for 1 minute, shake and microwave for 1 more minute.
  3. Place the noodles in a large bowl, add green onion, cabbage and sauce. Toss well & serve.

Recipe Notes:

  • I use KA•ME brand noodles that are found in the Chinese section of the grocery store. They are fresh cooked and you can pop them in the microwave for 90 seconds to warm them up!
  • If you want (which I have!) add your favorite cooked protein – shredded chicken, tofu, little shrimp…
  • I also use pre-shredded cabbage found in the veggie section but chop up yourself if you want.
  • Eliminate the Sriracha if you don’t like the spice – or add more, why not!

Prep Time: >5 minutes     Servings:  4     Total Time: >10 minutes

Estimated Calories per Serving, based on 4 servings – 260.

 

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Soft and cinnamon-y cookie bars – without the hassle of rolling dough!

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Snickerdoodles… A cookie staple in our house for sure and a favorite of one of my best friends.  I would always make a double batch and give half to her and her daughter whenever I made them to the chagrin of my family LOL.  But there are times when I’m just not in the mood to wait around for the dough to cool and then roll into balls and then roll the balls in the sugar/cinnamon coating…  I mean, the faster the cookie comes out of the oven the more I can eat, am I right!?

So that exact dilemma popped up at about 7:30pm this past Sunday night while my hubby, daughter and I were sitting around, all saying we were craving something sweet after the yummy dinner we just had.  It was too late to do something like a cake or pie, which I would totally prefer over cookies (don’t judge!) and no one wanted to leave the house during the deluge of rain we had to go grab ice cream.  Our daugther suggested Snickerdoodles and the hubby agreed… but I was left with a turned down mouth because I didn’t really feel like going thru the process of making them.

Hello Google!  After viewing a couple of recipes online for Snickerdoodles and Blondies and bar cookies, I decided on the Snickerdoodle Blondie.  A couple tweeks of my own and these guys were in the oven less than 20 minutes after our sweets craving hit, it helped to have everything needed to make these on hand… no special ingredients here!

So, if you’re like me and do love the occasional Snickerdoodle cookie but are lazy on a Sunday night, hit the kitchen, whip these up then share the recipe with your Snickerdoodle loving family and bestie in Georgia!

Snickerdoodle Blondies

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 stick butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 ⅔ cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree, spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray or grease with butter.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping sides of bowl a couple times.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until well combined and scrape the bowl down again.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cream of tartar.  Mix until combined.
  5. Spread in the prepared pan – the dough will be thick, use a spatula or back of a big metal spoon to tap down.
  6. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top.
  7. Bake for 28-30 minutes, until the top springs back when you press it lightly.
  8. Cool in pan completely before cutting into 24 bars (if you can wait that long!)
  9. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe Notes:

  • To get quick, room temp butter, keep butter wrapped and pop in the microwave for 5 seconds.  Flip over and microwave 5 more seconds – viola!
  • eliminating the cream of tartar is no biggy if you don’t have it.
  • If you don’t let these cool completely before cutting, they may seem raw, they’re not… but they just aren’t set yet – if presentation isn’t your thing, dig in right away 🙂
  • Mmmm – reheated in the microwave – yes please!!
  • You can cut this recipe in half and bake in an 8×8 pan, same temp, same time.

Prep Time:  10 minutes     Total Time:  40 minutes     Servings:  24 bars

Estimated Calories per Serving – based on 1 bar – 200.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas

Tender, shredded beef with homemade red enchilada sauce.

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When it comes to Mexican food, we usually stick with tacos… because they’re easy right!!  But, sometimes when we’re in the mood for something more “authentic” I gravitate towards enchiladas.  Sometimes ground beef or chicken with white sauce (I’ll post those soon!) or ground beef with red sauce… BUT, when I have a slab of meat in the freezer that needs to be used, I make these bad boys.

This red sauce… so easy and SO much better than the stuff in cans, can you say sodium city!  Even in restaurants, red enchilada sauce is pretty salty, which can overpower the rest of the dish… in my opinion, this sauce has the perfect balance of salt and spice, but, if you like it saltier, kick it up a notch with some salt-free seasoning and you’ll be good to go.  The amount of sauce this recipe makes is just enough to make the dish moist so you don’t have dry tortilla shells but not enough to be sloppy.  If you’re like my hubby, you can make half more or double more so you can slop up the extra sauce with tortilla chips.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas

For the shredded beef:

  • 1 ½ – 2 lb. bottom round cut of beef
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Place beef in a crock pot.  In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, lime juice and spices and pour over meat.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  2. With 2 forks, shred the beef into small pieces and then stir to mix in the juices.
  3. Turn the heat off crock pot and cover.

For the enchilada sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  1. Heat the oil over medium-high and whisk in the flour, cooking for 1 minute.
  2. Add the spices and slowly pour in the chicken broth, whisking until smooth.
  3. Simmer over medium heat until thickened, for 15 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the enchilada filling:

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp. instant garlic
  • 3 cups shredded cheese
  • 8 large flour tortillas
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Shredded beef from above
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Stir in onion and bell pepper.
  2. Saute for 15 minutes, until veggies are tender.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the meat and juices from the crock pot to the pan and stir to combine.

Assemble the enchiladas:

  • Do an assembly line here… Tortillas in front, sauce behind to the left, meat to the right of the sauce, cheese to the right of meat and pan to the right of that….
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • On a sheet of paper towel, place one tortilla at a time.
  • Spread with 2 tbsp. of enchilada sauce, 1/8th of shredded beef and a big pinch of cheese.
  • Roll up tightly and place in the pan, rolled end side down.
  • Repeat with the remaining tortillas and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and cilantro, if using.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  • Bottom round is perfect for crock pot meals because it’s a tougher cut of meat so cooking it long tenderizes it – if you want to make the shredded beef quicker, use a different cut of meat, chuck steak would be good.  Cook, covered in a large stock pot for an hour and a half.
  • To get close to the same amount of filling for these, I spread the meat in the pan and pat it down.  Using a butter knife “slice” the meat into 8 “pie pieces”… nifty huh 🙂
  • Sometimes I like to add a small can of rinsed black beans to the meat mixture.
  • I love eating mine with my favorite guacamole and sour cream.
  • You can make this sauce ahead of time and store in the fridge for 3 days or freeze for 1 month.

Total Time:  4-8 hours     Servings:  8

Estimated Calories per Serving – based on 8 servings – 590.

Pasta Alfredo

Creamy Alfredo sauce served over tender pasta.

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Pasta (insert your favorite pasta here!) Alfredo… Fettuccine Alfredo, etc… Equal to, if not better than what you get at your favorite Italian restaurant and less calories to boot, I’m sold!

The very first time I had Fettuccine Alfredo I was probably 18 and had it at a restaurant in a fancy hotel downtown.  It was so good but it also made me realize I probably just ate more than half the calories I should have for the day in one meal – yikes!  I told myself I’d only eat it once or twice a year since I was pretty lactose intolerant on top of that anyways!  Once I started cooking on my own and for my family, I vowed to make it just as good, with less calories and I would pop a Lactaid pill first 😉

When the kids were little we used to call this “fancy mac & cheese” because I would make it with smaller noodles like bow-tie or macaroni so it was easy for them to eat –  and it was cheap and quick to make when there were 8 mouths to feed – literally could get this to the table in about a half hour and I always had everything on hand to make it. Now that we’re all grown up, I make it a little “fancier” by adding chicken or shrimp and a veggie – usually peas or asparagus, or a side of broccoli.  However you serve it – I’m sure you’ll enjoy and you won’t feel like you just ate a cow afterwards 🙂

Pasta Alfredo 

  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. instant garlic
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  1. Cook 1 lb. of your favorite pasta according to directions, drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  2. Return pasta to pot and set aside.
  3. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  4. Add instant garlic, cook for 30 seconds and whisk in flour until smooth.
  5. ¼ cup at a time, whisk in milk until each pour thickens and starts to bubble.  Once you have 1 cup in, pour in the remaining milk and continue cooking until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Whisk in parmesan, pepper, garlic powder and chicken bouillon.  With heat on medium, continue to heat sauce until very thick, about 5 minutes, whisking a couple times every minute.
  7. Add the reserved pasta water, increase heat to high and whisk until sauce is smooth about 2 minutes.
  8. Pour sauce over your prepared pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta is coated and sauce thickens a little more, about 5 minutes.

Recipe Notes:

  • It’s important to use the pasta water – so don’t omit it!  The starch in the water and the fat from the butter and cheese emulsifies into the super smooth sauce you want that coats your pasta just right.
  • To save the pasta water, set your colander over a 2 or 4 cup liquid measuring cup while you drain.
  • We like our sauce pretty garlicky, adjust yours accordingly with the garlic powder.
  • I usually use 1% milk in this recipe, but fat-free actually works well too!

Prep Time:  10 minutes     Total Time:  30 minutes     Servings:  8

Estimated Calories per Servings – based on 8 servings – 400.  Based on 1% milk, regular grated Parmesan cheese and 2 oz. pasta per serving.