Showing posts with label pasta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pasta. Show all posts
Monday, May 30, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna: White and Light

I completely enjoy my homemade turkey lasagna with classic tomato sauce, but I figured I would mix it up a bit and make vegetable lasagna with a white sauce. I found the original recipe by Recipe Girl and loved the fact that it was full of so many fresh summer veggies. I altered the recipe a bit in order to give it a healthy twist. The sauce was light and provided just enough flavor to let the vegetables star in the creamy dish. While there was a good amount of prep work involved, in my opinion, it was absolutely worth it. It was a great summer entree paired with a fresh garden salad.

Vegetable Lasagna
adapted from Recipe Girl
serves 9

2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped zucchini
2 cups chopped yellow squash
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups fat-free cottage cheese
2 cups fat-free shredded mozzarella cheese
9 whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes or until tender; add garlic and saute for another minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl.
  3. Spray the skillet again with cooking spray and add zucchini and squash. saute for 4 minutes or until tender. Add to onion mixture.
  4. Spray the skillet again with cooking spray. Add carrots and saute for 4 minutes; add broccoli and saute for another 4 minutes until tender crisp. Add to onion mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Stir well to combine.
  5. Place flour in a medium sauce pan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup parmesan, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until smooth blend in spinach.
  6. In a medium size bowl, combine cottage cheese and 1 1/2 cups mozzarella; stir well.
  7. Spray a lasagna pan (or 9x13 baking dish) with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup spinach mixture on bottom of pan. Arrange 3 noodles over spinach mixture; top with half cottage cheese mixture, then half vegetable mixture, and about 1 cup spinach mixture. Repeat layers ending with noodles. Spread remaining spinach mixture on top of noodles; sprinkle with 1/2 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup mozzarella. 
  8. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition: 289 calories, 40g carbohydrate, 25g protein, 5g fat, 7g fiber
Weight Watchers points: 5
Weight Watchers plus points: 8
Friday, March 11, 2011

Hello Portobello!

While brainstorming about what to make for dinner yesterday, I remembered a dish that I had made once before I started my blog. I couldn't remember the exact flavors of the Chicken Portobello Lasagna but I could recall that everybody seemed to enjoy the dish. It wasn't until I sat down at the computer to post this, that I realized the repetition of my recent entrees. Chicken, mushrooms, and pasta seem to have been on my mind lately. I promise I will change things up a bit but until then, I definitely encourage you to try this lasagna. It was creamy and delicious, and of course healthy too.

Chicken Portobello Lasagna
adapted from Southern Living
serves 6

1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 tbsp light butter
3 (6 oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 (8 oz) package sliced fresh baby Portobello mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
6 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter in large skillet. Add chicken, mushrooms, and garlic. Saute on medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
  3. In a large bowl, combine soup, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Add spinach and chicken mixture. Fold in cheddar cheese.
  4. Spoon 1/4 mixture into baking dish. Cover with 2 lasagna noodles. Repeat layers twice; top with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake covered for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 additional minutes until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition: 276 calories, 21g carbohydrate, 38g protein, 4g fat, 3g fiber
weight watchers points: 6
weight watchers plus points: 7
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Back to Bikini Tetrazzini

In a recent issue of Southern Living magazine, I came across a section of chicken tetrazzini recipes. There were several ideas giving a twist to the classic dish. They all looked delicious but the chicken marsala take stood out to me. Everyone in my family loves Chicken Marsala, a common Italian entree, so I figured this was sure to be a hit. I worked my "calorie-slashing" magic on the ingredient list in order to lighten up the dish. The result was wonderful. The sauce was creamy with a hint of red wine flavor. It was the perfect compliment to the tender pieces of grilled chicken, sauteed mushrooms, and green peas. The original recipe calls for the addition of prosciutto, but I left it out since I don't do the whole red meat thing.  I can't imagine that the pasta could have been any more flavorful. This is a keeper.

Chicken Marsala Tetrazzini 
adapted from Southern Living
serves 8

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 oz uncooked vermicelli pasta (Spaghetti or Angel Hair will work too)
2 tbsp light butter
10 oz. light Alfredo sauce
1 can 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Marsala
12 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

seasoning mixture for chicken
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1/2 tsp dried Parsley
1/4 tsp dried Marjoram
1/4 tsp garlic powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x7 baking dish with cooking spray. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mixture. Lightly mist the chicken breasts with olive oil (or regular) cooking spray and sprinkle each side with the mixture. Grill until thoroughly done. Cut grilled chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Melt butter in a large skillet, add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together alfredo sauce, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, and Marsala. 
  5. Add chicken, mushrooms, peas, and 1/2 cup parmesan.
  6. Spoon mixture into baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 35 minutes.

Nutrition: 286 calories, 31g carbohydrate, 22g protein, 9g fat, 5g fiber
weight watchers points: 6
weight watchers plus points: 8

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hearty Meaty Baked Ziti

Instead of making the typical Super Bowl party foods, I decided on a hearty one-dish meal. My recipe for Baked Ziti is healthy and filling. Plus, reheated leftovers are delicious. In order to provide nutritious stats for this pasta dish, I made some of my typical swaps. I used ground turkey breast, fat-free cottage cheese, light pasta sauce, and fat-free mozzarella in place of these high calorie varieties. Baked ziti is incredibly easy to make; you don't even have to boil the noodles before baking. This would be perfect for a quick week night meal. I will definitely be making this again soon.

Also, for all of you weight watchers, I will be adding the weight watchers plus points to each nutrition analysis beginning with this recipe. Over time I will be going back to previous posts to add this calculation as well. Hope this helps!
Baked Ziti
serves 8

1 26 oz. jar pasta sauce (I used light Ragu)
1 1/2 cups water
15 oz. fat-free cottage cheese
2 cups shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb ground turkey breast, cooked and crumbled
8 oz. uncooked penne (I used Ronzoni Smart taste)
2 garlic cloves, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine pasta sauce, water, cottage cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, turkey, and penne.
  3. Pour into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 55 minutes.
  4. Remove dish from oven. Sprinkle with additional cup of mozzarella and bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

Nutrition: 276 calories, 32g carbohydrate, 34g protein, 2g fat, 5g fiber
weight waters points: 5
weight watchers + points: 7
Monday, January 31, 2011

Mushroom Madness

Nutritionally speaking, homemade meals prepared with fresh ingredients are always the best way to go. But the time it takes to go to the grocery store and create a gourmet meal is not always available. In these, instances many people turn to fast food to solve their time dilemma. Diet Disaster. While I would never advocate for eating frozen meals as part of an everyday healthy lifestyle, most freezer dinners are much better than the local burger joint. I always keep a few stashed away for busy nights and I have to admit there are a few I even enjoy. One of my favorite lines is the Lean Cuisine Market Creations. These gourmet-inspired meals come in a bag and are steamed in the microwave. There is no watery sauce, or rubbery meat, typical of many frozen dishes. They actually don't taste frozen at all. I have tried several of the varieties but my favorite is the Mushroom Tortelloni. The shells are stuffed with portobello mushrooms and cheese and are placed in a rich sauce made of sun-dried tomatoes, green peas, and red peppers. The meal is not huge for 280 calories but I find it to be pretty filling, especially if you add a side salad. I'm not crazy about the long ingredient list but this tortelloni is quite flavorful for a 5 minute preparation. When I think about the quality of a frozen meal, I ask myself if I had created this dish, would I be proud to serve it to guests? The answer to this one is YES. In fact, I might just try to recreate a similar dish. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out. Check out the Lean Cuisine website to see the other Market creation varieties.
Friday, December 3, 2010

Guilt Free, Way To Be

Back in the day before I knew anything about nutrition, I would always order Fettuccine Alfredo at Italian restaurants. The creamy dish seems to be quite a popular choice. Besides the huge portions of pasta served in restaurants, a dish made with Alfredo sauce is guaranteed to be overflowing with calories and fat. Because I now know quite a bit about nutrition (more than 4 years worth), I usually order some sort of grilled fish entree with steamed veggies. I love seafood and would choose it over pasta even it weren't for the nutrition facts, but every now and then I just want noodles covered with a cheesy cream sauce. When that sort of craving strikes, I make my own lightened Alfredo sauce. Made from fat-free milk and light cream cheese, this sauce is amazingly delicious. Nobody would ever know that it doesn't contain heavy cream or that is light in any way. It is great over plain noodles but I also like to add grilled chicken, mushrooms, and green peas for a complete family meal. I plan to make it again soon to use for the sauce on a white pizza. The whole recipe of Guiltless Alfredo Sauce will cover 1 pound of pasta.

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce
adapted from Our Best Bites
serves 8

2 cups fat-free milk
3 oz. light cream cheese
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp light butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan
  1. In a food processor or blender, combine milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt. Process until smooth and set aside.
  2. In a medium-large sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the pan. Stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes until the sauce begins to simmer. Keep stirring and let it cook for a few minutes more. It should become thicker.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan until melted and cover the pan immediately.
  5. Let stand for at least 10 minutes prior to using. It will continue to thicken to desired consistency. 
Nutrition: 113 calories, 6g carbohydrates, 8g protein, 6g fat, 3 weight watchers points

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Never Fail With Crab Stuffed Shells

I know it seems as if I have abandoned by blog since I haven't posted in over a week. But with graduation less than two weeks away, school has completely consumed most of my waking hours. And the little time left has been devoted to painting. I have missed my time in the kitchen and once December 11th arrives I will be back in full force. As final week nears, I fear that the dreaded frozen dinners will make their way from my freezer to my microwave. With that prediction and the fact that it was my dad's birthday, I decided that I would cook something special this weekend. A lot of my recipes are quick, easy, and fairly cheap to prepare; this is not one of those. This recipe for Crab Stuffed Shells is probably one of the best meals that I have ever made. It is perfect for a special occasion or if you want to impress those you are serving. These shells are beyond restaurant worthy, with a fraction of the calories in a restaurant-equivalent dish. With the succulent crab meat and silky cream sauce, nobody would ever guess that they are even remotely healthy. Crabmeat is an excellent source of protein, low in fat and calories. It also provides essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous. Since the stuffing of the shells contains very few additional ingredients, the majority is made up of crab meat. So before you set out to make this, be prepared to spend a little more than usual as the crab meat alone cost me $20. I used half king crab meat and half crab claw meat. If you really want to splurge, I am sure that using all king crab meat would be amazing.If you compare the cost of the ingredients to the cost of a meal at a fine dining restaurant, it doesn't seem expensive at all. I love most types of seafood and crab is definitely one of my favorites. This dish is the perfect combination of ingredients to highlight the natural flavor of the crab meat. I have a feeling this will be a request for many birthdays to come.

Crab Stuffed Shells
Adapted from Prevention RD
Serves 7

21 large pasta shells
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. fresh king crab meat
8 oz. fresh crab claw meat
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
Béchamel sauce (see below)
3/4 cup reduced-fat 4 Cheese Italian shredded cheese (Sargento)
1/4 tsp salt

Béchamel sauce
4 tbsp light butter (50/50 Smart Balance)
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups fat-free milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup reduced-fat 4 Cheese Italian shredded cheese (Sargento)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cook the pasta just until al dente according to package. Drain noodles. Let them sit in cold water until ready to use.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bell pepper, celery, and onion. Saute until softened (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. For the Béchamel: In a medium pot over medium-low heat, warm the milk until it comes to a gentle simmer.
  6. In a separate medium pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour.
  7. Cook the butter/flour mixture (roux) for about 3 minutes until golden blonde, whisking constantly.
  8. To the roux, add the hot milk, salt and pepper.
  9. Bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted.
  10. In a large bowl combine the vegetables, crab, parsley, 1 cup of the Béchamel, and 1/4 tsp salt.
  11. Spoon the crab mixture into the shells and arrange in prepared dish. Pour remaining Bechamel over shells.
  12. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes.
Nutrition: (3 shells) 304 calories, 29g carbohydrate, 26g protein, 11g fat, 1.2g fiber, 7 weight watchers points

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Appetizer Inspired Dish...Healthy as you Wish

A healthy meal should always be balanced with lean protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. I have found that the easiest way to provide this combination is in a pasta dish. While I love all of my tried-and-true pasta recipes, I was in the mood to experiment. I knew that there was a possibility that the results could turn out against my expectations and I would be eating a frozen meal for dinner, but I felt pretty optimistic about this creation. I feel that is pretty common to eat an appetizer as a meal, especially at a restaurant. I have done this plenty of times as restaurant portions are outrageous in size. An appetizer that is available at many restaurants is spinach artichoke dip. I tend to stay away from it at restaurants because it often contains more calories than a meal. But at home, I would definitely eat my spinach artichoke dip for dinner. Based on my recipe, I decided to create a spinach artichoke pasta dish. It would have been just as good as a vegetarian dish without chicken, but I was cooking for more than just myself and my taste-testers requested chicken. Thankfully, the dish turned out fabulous. Everybody loved the fact that it was reminiscent of the dip and I was completely satisfied with my new dish and the nutrition facts that go along with it.

Spinach Artichoke Pasta with Chicken
serves 6

12 oz. Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta (any shape)
1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 14 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts
1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 tsp. hot sauce (Tabasco)
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts

  1. Cook pasta until al dente (about 10 minutes). Drain.
  2. Grill chicken until done. Cover to keep warm until sauce is ready.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute garlic for about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add cream cheese, greek yogurt, and chicken broth. Stir until combined and reduce heat to medium-low.
  5. Add the milk and parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese is melted.
  6. Add hot sauce, spinach, artichokes, salt/pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir to combine.
  7. Cut grilled chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  8. Add chicken and pasta to sauce and toss to coat.
Nutrition: 315 calories, 49g carbohydrate, 27g protein, 3g fat, 7g fiber, 5 weight watchers point

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Broccoli and Cheddar...doesn't get much better

Because I believe that you can never have too many quick, healthy dinner recipes, I present to you Broccoli Chicken Pasta. This dish is so simple, as you don't even have to cook the chicken or pasta prior to baking. Everything cooks in the flavorful sauce, a combination of soups, spices, and cheese. This is a great way to get kids (or our meat-loving men) to eat their veggies. One trick that I like to use to keep the nutrition stats in check, is to use larger servings of lean protein and smaller amounts of pasta. If you enjoy broccoli cheddar soup, this is likely to become a favorite in your house. For only 230 calories, you just can't beat this recipe!

Broccoli Chicken Pasta
serves 6

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (raw), cut into bite-size pieces
1 (12 oz.) package frozen broccoli florets
3.5 oz (about 1 cup) Ronzoni Smart Taste rotini pasta, uncooked
1 cup Fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
1 can 98% fat-free Cream of Chicken soup
1 can 98% fat-free Broccoli Cheese soup
1 tbsp dried minced onions
1 1/2 cups fat-free chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, broccoli, pasta, and cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together the soups, broth, onions, garlic powder, and pepper. Stir soup mixture into the chicken mixture.
  3. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir, and then bake for another 30 minutes.
  6. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition: 230 calories, 25g carbohydrate, 26g protein, 3g fat, 4g fiber, 4 weight watchers points
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three Cheese Penne the Healthier Way

Now that school has started back and the summer days are fading away, I am beginning to have less time to daydream about my next culinary concoctions. At the same time, I can still find the time to whip up a quick one-dish-meal. I love the preparation involved in selecting a main food to cook, and then finding the perfect sides to complement the flavor and visual appeal- Sunday night did not happen to be a night for this sort of thing. As I was anticipating a busy upcoming week, I scanned my macbook for the perfect recipe. I think it was the title that caught my eye, but I finally decided upon "Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine". This is a Kraft original recipe, made lighter by yours truly. I like to make pasta dishes such as this one, because I know there will be leftovers for later in the week, when my nutrition book steals the spotlight from my recipe book. Also, these "casseroles" reheat perfectly, and sometimes taste even better after the flavors have melded for a couple of days. I think cooking large meals ahead of time is an essential key to healthy eating on a busy schedule. If you can a find about an hour on Sunday afternoon to cook, you can pre-portion serving sizes in storage containers. Then you can take them to work, have dinner ready when you get home, or freeze some for weeks to come. It's even faster than fast food- not to mention cheaper and much healthier.

This pasta has a sort of lasagna flavor, which I think appeals to the majority of people. And who doesn't love a dish that includes three types of cheese? The spinach in this recipe is fairly mild, and great for sneaking in those veggies. I used Fiber Gourmet pasta, but whole wheat noodles are great as well. A simple green salad completes the meal.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
serves 6

1 1/2 cups whole wheat penne noodles, dry
9 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
14.5 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (I used Light Ragu Tomato & Basil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 oz. fat-free cream cheese, cubed
1 cup fat-free shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding spinach to the boiling water for the last minute.
  3. Cook and stir chicken and basil in large nonstick skillet, spray with cooking spray, on medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. 
  5. Simmer on low heat for 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in cream cheese.
  6. Drain pasta mixture; return to pot. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese.
  7. Spoon into a 2-qt. casserole or 8-inch square baking dish. 
  8. Bake 20 minutes. Top with remaining Mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for an additional 3 minutes    or until the cheese is melted.
Nutrition: (with wheat noodles) 270 calories, 31g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 3g fat, 6g fiber
(with Fiber Gourmet noodles) 245 calories, 53g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 2g fat, 12g fiber

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slim Like Spaghetti

I am on vacation at the beach for a week before jumping back into the school routine. While we are mostly dining out at local seafood restaurants, I planned ahead and saved some recipes that I cooked last week to post while I am away from my kitchen. Since I don't care to spend much time sitting in the condo on my computer, these posts will be short and straight to the recipe. Unlike with most of my other posts, you will be spared the rambling of nutrition information. Although, now that I think about it, I really want to share with you all the exciting ways to make a healthy spaghetti dish...okay it is just way too pretty outside. I'll save it for a rainy day.

This virtually fat-free dish is so delicious and cooks in a crock pot. You can prepare it, leave it, and come home to a warm Italian entree. Add a salad and dinner is served.

Slim Like Spaghetti
serves 6

1 lb. ground turkey breast
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package McCormick Italian-Style Spaghetti sauce mix
1 cup water
6 oz. can tomato paste
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
8 oz. dry whole wheat spaghetti noodles
parmesan cheese, optional

  1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook ground turkey over medium heat until completely cooked (no pink). Mix in minced garlic.
  2. In crock pot or slow cooker, add cooked ground turkey, seasoning mix, water, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper. Cook on the low setting for 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Thirty minutes prior to serving, stir mushrooms into sauce mixture in crock pot.
  4. Boil noodles and top with sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.
Nutrition: 270 calories, 44g carbohydrate, 25g protein, 0g fat

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.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Leanest of Layers


Layers upon layers of pasta, meat, and cheese- What's not to love about lasagna? Possibly the miserable feeling of fullness upon finishing a dinner portion at your favorite Italian restaurant. Or maybe the fact that your entree alone could easily contain about 870 calories and 50g of fat. Typically served while waiting for your meal to be prepared, if you munch on the bread with olive oil, you have met your daily caloric needs all in one sitting. If that is not bad enough, then your waiter tempts you with the chef's award-winning tiramisu (I will save the horrifying statistics for another time). You can see how this Italian classic can quickly turn into a diet disaster when dining out, but there are healthier ways to enjoy lasagna with your homemade touch.

My lasagna originated from a Kraft recipe, but has been altered to a healthy satisfaction and taste perfection. It makes for a perfect meal for guests and, in my opinion, is even better reheated the next day. I often assemble the lasagna ahead of time and refrigerate it until I am ready to bake the gooey dish. I have made substitutions such as using ground turkey breast to replace ground beef, fat free cottage cheese to replace ricotta, and fat free mozzarella cheese in place of full fat Italian cheeses. Make sure to use ground turkey breast, as some ground turkey has the same amount of calories and fat as ground beef. I also use egg beaters instead of eggs and whole wheat noodles to increase the fiber content. All of these simple swaps drastically reduce calories, fat, and carbs. To increase the nutrient content, I have added mushrooms and spinach, which also provide a more colorful presentation. The serving size is 1/8 of a 9x13 pan. It may not be quite as large as what you are accustom to at a restaurant, but it is a good size portion- perfect when paired with a healthy salad or side of veggies. In my earlier stages of learning to cook, I made this recipe using jarred pasta sauce. While it does save time and can contain nearly the same nutrition, store bought sauce cannot replace a fresh, homemade tomato sauce. The sauce must simmer for a while in order to allow the herbs and spices to disperse throughout the crushed tomatoes, but the hands-on time is very minimal and definitely worth it. If you are preparing this in advance, make the sauce a day or two early and keep refrigerated until you are ready to make the lasagna. This sauce is also great served over plain pasta or with meatballs. Whether you choose to make your own sauce or not, this lasagna proves that Italian food can be made healthy. Don't tell anyone that it is a lighter version, and they will never know. My family now prefers this recipe to high-fat lasagna, and I love being able to provide them with a delicious, nutritious meal.

The Leanest of Layers Lasagna
serves 8

9 uncooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 cup egg beaters
16 oz. fat free or 1% cottage cheese
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed or fresh spinach, cooked
2 cups shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 recipe for homemade tomato sauce or 25 oz. jar prepared pasta sauce

1. Spray 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package. Place in cold water.
2. Cook ground turkey in skillet with garlic and ground red pepper until thoroughly cooked. Add meat to tomato sauce in a large pot. Add mushrooms to prepared jar sauce or add to homemade sauce 30 minutes before you plan to remove the sauce from simmering. 
3. In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg beaters, basil, and spinach.
4. Drain noodles. Spread about 1/2 cup meat sauce over bottom of baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce, half the cottage cheese mixture, and 3/4 cups mozzarella cheese. 
5. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining noodles, sauce, and mozzarella cheese; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
6. Spray a 15-inch piece of foil with cooking spray. Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons Splenda or sweetener of choice
1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions soften and garlic turns golden (not brown).
2. Empty tomatoes and all other ingredients into pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer for 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on time available.

Nutrition: (1 serving with homemade tomato sauce) 300 calories, 33g carbohydrate, 38g protein, 4g fat, 6g fiber

***For carb counters or diabetics, there is a low carb, high fiber brand of pasta that can be substituted in this recipe. The pasta is made by Fiber Gourmet. I use their pastas as much as I can because it tastes exactly like regular pasta but contains 18g of fiber and only 130 calories per serving. The only problem is that very few stores carry this pasta. It can be ordered from Fiber Gourmet in a 6-pack or 12-pack. If you just want to try one box, you can find it at Netrition.

Nutrition: (1 serving with homemade tomato sauce and Fiber Gourmet noodles) 282 calories, 33g carbohydrate, 38g protein, 4g fat, 10g fiber, 23g net carbohydrate

***If you are using prepared pasta sauce, look for a brand that contains no more than 50 calories and 5g of sugar per serving. One of my favorites is Muir Glen Portabello Mushroom Pasta Sauce.
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About Lauren


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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