Thursday, July 15, 2010

Spicy, Cheesy, Oh So Easy!

In the mood for the taste of bar food, but not quite as eager to see the effects of it on your waistline? It is very difficult to eat healthy at restaurants that are catered towards a sports-enthralled crowd. Such eateries tend to offer many appetizers, with majority of them being fried; think mozzarella sticks, potato wedges, fried mushrooms, and cheese fries. Packing in even more calories, they are often served with creamy dressings for dipping, mainly Ranch and Blue Cheese. The dressing alone average around 200 calories per serving, and by serving, I mean a true serving size of two tablespoons- not the saucer that is brought to the table.

One of the most popular game-day cuisines in the United States is buffalo wings. There are many restaurants that specialize in fried chicken wings, tossed in a variety of specialty sauces. Just one medium sized wing contains 52 calories and 3g of fat. Now go ahead and multiply that by the number of wings you would typically consume for a meal or snack. And then add approximately 500 calories for a serving of french fries. This type of food is commonly paired with beer or other bar drinks, especially during big sporting events and celebrations. Consuming alcoholic beverages not only adds calories through the intake of the beverage itself, but also leads to binge eating and cravings for unhealthy junk food.

Upon hosting your next game day event or just for a simple weeknight meal, try this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Pasta for the spicy, buffalo flavor of hot wings, but only 2 grams of fat. The recipe originated from the popular Buffalo Chicken Dip. After making healthy substitutions to the dip recipe, I decided to turn the appetizer into a main dish entree. The way that I improved the nutrient content of the recipe was by swapping full-fat cheeses and full-fat ranch dressing for their fat-free equivalents. While the flavor of fat-free ranch and the texture of fat-free cream cheese are no where near comparable to the full-fat versions when eaten alone; those differences are extremely discrete when baked with the other ingredients. The pasta dish contains very few ingredients and is great for beginning cooks (If the boyfriend can cook this, you can too. Trust me). The creamy sauce complements the moderate spice of the hot sauce, and could be described as a grown-up version of mac N' cheese. Once in the oven, dinner can be on the table in 20 minutes. Add a fresh garden salad for a complete meal.

Buffalo Chicken Pasta
serves 8

1 pound whole wheat penne noodles
1 cup Frank's Buffalo Sauce (zero calories)
1 cup fat-free Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
8 oz. fat-free cream cheese, soften in microwave
8 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts, boiled or two large cans of chicken
1 cup fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x13 glass pan with cooking spray
  2. Follow directions on box and cook noodles until tender, drain and rinse.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together buffalo sauce, ranch, and cream cheese.
  4. Cut chicken into bite size pieces or shed.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the noodles, chicken and sauce.
  6. Transfer mixture to baking pan.
  7. Evenly sprinkle cheddar cheese and scatter blue cheese crumbles on top.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.

Nutrition: (without blue cheese crumbles) 290 calories, 50g carbohydrate, 22g protein, 2g fat
(with blue cheese) 300 calories, 50g carbohydrate, 23g protein, 3g fat

***As with any dish that includes pasta, substitute Fiber Gourmet pasta in place of wheat noodles for a reduced-carb version.

I shared this recipe at the Tips and Tricks linky party hosted by Holly at Homebody Holly. Check out her amazing blog along with the other participants.


bellini valli said...

Thanks for sharing this twist on a favourite for Presto Pasta Nights!!!It is a pleasure to find you and join in on the fun.

Claudia said...

I think everyone at my house on a "game night" or any other would just love this. I would probably want some veggies somewhere. Maybe a side salad. And, I would probably say forget it with the fat free, and go for the gusto. But, that's just me. I give you credit for cutting back.

Cannary Family said...

That sounds really delish - my boys have all discovered they love hot sauce!

Holly said...

Hi Lauren! Thank you for this recipe! I get tired of regular old spaghetti on pasta night, and I think my kids might really like this. And it's great that you made a healthier version.
So glad you linked to my party!

Alaina said...

I love your blog, although, I'm a terrible cook!!! We are playing a game and I have awarded 15 of my favorite blogs a "Versitile Blogger" award! Come by to play! :)

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Nutrition student with a passion for giving yummy recipes a healthy make-over. Future RD on a constant search for the best food finds. And new blogger trying to relay my tasty ideas to everyone else.

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