Cheesy Macaroni with Spinach and Artichoke

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes, despite the fact that it is loaded with things that aren't very good for you. I also really like spinach-artichoke dip, but for many of the same reasons it isn't a great choice for regular meal rotation. However, I think that I've managed to come up with a dish that combines these two favorites AND is somewhat healthier than either of the traditional versions. This recipe uses whole wheat pasta, low fat dairy products, and veggies - to reduce sodium from the canned vegetables, rinse with clean water after draining.

Cheesy Macaroni with Spinach and Artichoke (~8 servings)
1 lb whole wheat pasta (macaroni, penne, etc.)
1 cup skim milk
2 cups lowfat (2%) shredded cheddar cheese
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 14 oz. can spinach, drained
1 tsp. ground black pepper (or to taste)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

2. While the pasta is cooking, combine milk, cheese, artichokes, spinach, and pepper in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until cheese is melted.

3. Stir together pasta and sauce. Serve!


Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

With all of the news about peanut butter recalls, I've been reluctant to post this recipe - but the truth is, I love peanut butter and find it hard to go without. So in spite of the recalls (which I am hoping will all be sorted out soon), I'm sharing this great bar cookie! I brought these into the office a while back and they disappeared pretty quickly.

Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars (enough for a crowd)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

2. Stir butter and peanut butter together in a large bowl. Add sugar and brown sugar and stir until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

3. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until well blended. Stir in peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.

4. Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Slice into bars (about 36) and serve.