Better than Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese

It has been 12 years since I first tried Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese. A friend from my mom’s group brought me the dish after I had my third child. It was part of a meal train we put together to help out moms for the first couple of weeks after giving birth. Of the meals I received, this one was by far my favorite. I asked my friend for the recipe and for the past 12 years I have been modifying this recipe. I believe I have perfected the recipe now, because it is always a hit at my home. I am now ready to share with you my Better than Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese recipe.

Please feel free to compare my recipe with Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac & Cheese. My recipe is better because it has onions and because it has more sauce. The sauce in my recipe is also more flavorful due to the addition of more tomatoes and seasoning.

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Italian Mac ‘n Cheese Recipe


1 Pound of Penne pasta

1 Pound bulk Sweet Italian sausage

12 Cremini Mushrooms (1 package), sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 Cup flour

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can of each: chicken broth, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

8 ounces of whipping cream

8 ounces of Italian Blend shredded cheese

1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper


Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour into a casserole dish.

Brown the sausage, drain and set aside. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic and butter. Toss to evenly coat, add salt, and continue to sauté until the mushrooms begin to soften. Stir in the flour until evenly coated. Slowly add the chicken broth, add a little and stir until the sauce thickens, then add more and stir. Repeat this process until the whole can is incorporated. Add the undrained can of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and pepper. Mix until well combined and return to a simmer. Return the drained sausage to the pan and add half of the shredded Italian blend cheese, mix until melted. Add the whipping cream and mix constantly until the sauce returns to a simmer, then remove from heat.

Pre heat the broiler to high. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix. Top with remaining Italian blend cheese. Place the dish under the broiler for 3-5 min until the cheese in lightly browned. Serve with parmesan cheese.

If you like the recipe, you may also like my Better than Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana.

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Healthy Home Recipes

Pharmacist Shares Immune Boosting Granola Recipe

Customers are flooding into local pharmacies in search of immune boosting supplements. Many of these immune boosting ingredients can easily be included in your diet. I’m a pharmacist and I would love to share my recipe for Immune boosting Granola.

Disclaimer: The statements made regarding this recipe have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of this recipe has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. This recipe is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Immune Boosting Nutrients

In order to make an immune boosting recipe, one first needs to know which nutrients are known to boost immunity.

Vitamin C- There is research to support Vitamin C supplementation in reducing the length and severity of respiratory infections.1 Vitamin C plays an important role in immune response.

Zinc – Plenty of research is available supporting zinc supplementation in reducing the length and severity of infections.1 Zinc is an important player in immune response.

Vitamin D – There is some evidence that vitamin D could reduce the risk of Influenza and COVID-19 infections and death.2

Vitamin B6- A deficiency in Vitamin B6 reduces your ability to make antibodies to fight off infection. Vitamin B6 could help strengthen immunity.3

Vitamin E- Immune response is enhanced by Vitamin E. It can provide protection against infections.4

Selenium- The immune system relies on adequate dietary selenium.5

Immune Boosting Ingredients

I selected my granola ingredients to include as many immune boosting vitamins and minerals as possible. Here is a list of my ingredients and a quick explanation for why they were included in my recipe.

  1. Elderberry syrup: Elderberry syrup is used to enhance immunity. Elderberries are high in flavonoids, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It may help reduce symptoms of viral infections by stimulating immune response.6
  2. Matcha: A natural superfood, matcha is green tea powder. It is made by grinding green tea leaves into a fine powder. Regular consumption of green tea could decrease influenza infection rates and cold symptoms.7
  3. Hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds and Flax Seeds: I included all of these mostly for the zinc and omega 3 and 6. These polyunsaturated fats have been extensively studied for their role in immune health.8
  4. Nuts: These serve as a good source of selenium and zinc. I chose Brazil nuts because they have the highest amount of selenium. Cashews are high in zinc.
  5. Sunflower seeds: These seeds also have some healthy fats, but I chose them mostly because they are an excellent source of vitamin E. They are also a good source of selenium and vitamin B6.
  6. Ginger: Has been found to help reduce the severity of respiratory infections.9
  7. Blueberries: Another natural superfood. Blueberries are a good source of Vitamin C. They are one of the best sources of antioxidants, mostly flavonoids.

Immune Boosting Granola Recipe


4 Cups Oats

1 Cup mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts)

1/4 Cup sunflower seeds

1 Cup shelled pumpkin seeds

1/4 Cup hemp hearts – find it here

1 Tablespoon matcha powder – find it here

2 Tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

2 Tablespoons flax seed

1/3 Cup dried cranberries

1/2 Cup shredded dry coconut

1/3 Cup dried blueberries

1/2 Cup honey

1/3 Cup Peanut butter

2 Tablespoons Elderberry Syrup – Find it here

1/3 Cup coconut oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together the oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, matcha, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and flax seed. In a separate bowl mix the peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, elderberry syrup. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until evenly coated.

Cover a Jelly Roll pan with parchment paper. Spread the granola over the paper. Bake for 15 min. Remove from the oven and mix in the dried coconut. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove and mix again. If the coconut is not completely toasted, bake for 2 more minutes. The granola is ready when most of the coconut is toasted but not burnt. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried fruit while the granola is still warm. Allow the granola to cool to room temperature. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Immune Boosting Granola Served with Yogurt



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Healthy Home

Do Masks Work? A Pharmacist Compares Mask wearing to Pregnancy

As a pharmacist, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. The information about this novel virus is constantly changing and updating. Nobody is an expert right now. We don’t have all of the answers. My most common question is “Do masks work?” Read on and I will explain how mask wearing compares to pregnancy.

Will wearing a mask protect you from COVID-19?

Do Masks Work?

“Do masks work?” Yes, there is evidence to support universal mask wearing as a way to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Lancet published recent review of 172 studies across 16 countries in 6 continents that concluded face mask use could result in a large reduction of risk of infection.1 None of the studies reviewed were randomized but the review concluded that until better information is available this information is convincing enough to recommend face mask use to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Another recent study published in JAMA evaluated the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare workers before and after a universal mask mandate.2 This study concluded that universal mask wearing does help prevent transmission of COVID-19. The authors also pointed out that masks are not just for personal protection. They indicated that masks are for source control, meaning that masks protect others. They compared masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to surgeons wearing masks to prevent surgical infections. Nobody would want an unmasked surgeon, just like nobody should want an unmasked cashier.

In addition to these studies, The CDC is recommending mask wearing along with social distancing and hand washing as ways to protect yourself and others.

Another common question I hear is: “Why should I wear a mask?” You should wear a mask because, until we have a vaccine for COVID-19 universally available, mask wearing along with social distancing, and hand washing is our best defense against this virus. If you don’t want to wear a mask for your own health, please consider wearing it to protect the health of others. That leads me to my pregnancy analogy.

How is wearing a mask for COVID-19 prevention like being pregnant?

I first came up with this analogy when I was tired of all of mask complainers. This pandemic is not the first or only time a health recommendation has been implemented to protect the health of others.

Pregnancy is a perfect example of a temporary time in life when the healthcare community makes recommendations to protect the health of others. Pregnant women are advised to abstain from certain freedoms and encouraged to obtain prenatal care not just for their own health but mostly to protect their unborn child.

Like pregnancy, pandemics don’t last forever.* Just like pregnant women are encouraged not to ride roller coasters and avoid drinking any alcohol, we are currently encouraged to social distance and wear masks. Also like pregnancy these recommendations will not last forever, and our personal freedoms will return. In the case of pregnancy the mother is protecting her baby, in the case of mask wearing we are protecting our mothers and grandmothers. Pay it forward! Wear a mask to protect our mothers and Grandmothers.

*Some still refer to HIV/Aids as a current pandemic, but I based this statement on the World Health Organization’s current classification of HIV/AIDS as an epidemic.

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For some great social distancing fun, check out my post on social distancing game ideas.

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