Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Ten "Do's"in planning a dinner party & a little bit of etiquette, too:)

Are you in a supper club, or occasionally want to have a group of friends over for dinner, but then you become dumbfounded on exactly “what” to do? We all ask ourselves…”who do we invite?”…”what do I cook?”… “do I provide wine ?”…”what do I even wear?!” Well, all of these “do” questions are just tiny obstacles you have to cross to throw a perfect dinner party that you & all of your friends are sure to enjoy! There are also certain rules when you’re invited to a dinner party, too.

#1. WHO TO INVITE: If you’re the one throwing the party decide if you want it to be a girl’s night, girl & guy friends, or couples. Then, make a list of who to invite. Things to think of when you’re making this list: You of course want to invite a group of people who are friends & sure to get along. A dinner party with people who clash, or who start heated debates are sure to ruin everyone’s time. Make your night lively & as stress free as possible! Another thing to consider is if you have friends that you have wanted to introduce to a particular group of your friends & who you think they would mesh well with. Maybe you have a new friend in town or have met someone that’s new to the area? A group of 6-12 is always a good # to keep it intimate, and if you invite 12 you can usually count on around 8 to be able to make it.

#2. HOW MUCH NOTICE & DATES: If this is an actual party or shower, you should always send out the invitations 4-6 weeks in advance so people can check their calendars, & if any of your friends are at the kiddo stage they can check for a babysitter.
If you’re the one going to the party always make sure to R.S.V.P by the deadline so the host/hostess has plenty of time to know how much food to provide, etc. And, if it is a formal party make sure to check to see if you were invited to bring a guest or just to go solo. And, come on, going solo isn’t so bad, you’re more likely to find a new single boy/girl to talk to & have the chance to date than bring your best guy or girl friend! Flirt a little : )

If you’re just having over a small group of close friends, use your own judgment on how much advance notice you should give. E-vites are always an easy inexpensive way to get the word out for a last minute get together. Or, a text is the quickest of course!

#3. WHAT TO COOK: When trying to decide what to cook, consider the crowd you’re inviting, and most importantly YOUR BUDGET. Do you want to make it a pot luck or go all out? An easy go to is Mexican…everyone loves it & it’s so easy to find a no-stress recipe. If you want it to be more formal, but still not too pricey pick something like kabobs with all the fixin’s, or an inexpensive fish like tilapia with fresh mango salsa, brown rice, and a fresh green salad.

Whatever you do, make sure to have hors d’oeuvres for your guests as they arrive & if you’re providing cocktails offer them a drink as well.

#4. SHOULD I PROVIDE COCKTAILS/BEER/WINE??? : My recommendation is to have a punch or margaritas of some sort. Or, if it is a special holiday change it up a bit & make a dessert cocktail/martini. Pick something that goes with your overall theme for dinner. If guests ask if they should “byob” say “I will have punch/margaritas available, but if you have a preference feel free to bring what you’d like.” It’s as simple as that, and then you will still have something to offer your guests upon arrival.

#5. HOSTESS/HOST GIFT: In my opinion, no one should ever go empty handed to a dinner party. Always offer to help prepare an appetizer, side dish, or if the host/hostess might want you to provide a dessert. If they say no then just bring some sort of little trinket for a gift or a bottle of wine is always a good go-to. For a really inexpensive idea, a cute cork stopper for wine or, cute/funny cocktail napkins, or even the Styrofoam cups for their favorite college football team…woo pig!

#6. WHAT TO WEAR: If you’re the host/hostess you want to look cute for your party! And, you know that at least 4 of your girlfriends are bound to call & ask “what are you wearing?” or “what is your husband/boyfriend/date wearing?” Again, choose this upon what feel you’re going for. If you’re going for an outdoor barbecue with horseshoes on a hot summer day go for flats & a sundress…if you’re going for a nice dinner in door’s dress up jeans with heels & a nice top, or a cute maxi know what to do! If it’s for Valentine’s Day or a Christmas party go ALL OUT. But always be prepared to know this answer : )

#7. GAME PLAN: If you’re a game type person come up with something fun for your guests to do. You don’t have to play a game, but if the conversation starts to die down or people stop mingling you always want a back-up plan!

MOST IMPORTANTLY: have MUSIC playing. Pick the mood you want & make a playlist prior to the party! A dinner party with no music is a LOSER party!

#8. PRESENTATION: Come on…you have put all of this effort into having your friends over for a nice evening & you want everything to be put together & somewhat impressive! BIG NO NO: Don’t open up a pre-made dish & keep it in the container…don’t sit out salad dressing bottles, ketchup bottles…you get my point:) If it’s an outdoor barbecue or SUPER casual dinner that is the only exception. If you don’t have nice dishes/platters ask a friend to provide a few if you know they have some or even buy matching cute paper plates that are inexpensive. Have fun with it!!!

#9. GRATITUDE: If you’re the host/hostess & someone brought you a bottle of wine, etc., say some sort of thank you. I don’t think a thank you in the good ole’ snail mail is completely necessary, but drop them an email saying “thanks.” And, if you were invited to the party drop the host/hostess an email complimenting them on the night & what a great time you had…even if you didn’t : ) hehe.

#10. HAVE FUN: Enjoy the party whether you’re the one hosting it or not!!! You probably haven’t seen a lot of these people in a long time, or you have only gotten to talk to them by phone or email because of everyone’s hectic schedule. After dinner, kick back & quit worrying! You have done your part & all of your friends are more than anything, just happy to be together.

Now that you know the 10 steps to throwing a proper & not to mention rockin’ dinner party…why are you still readying this? Get to planning!!!

A few helpful conversions & abbreviations for the kitchen!

We all find ourselves at some point trying out a new recipe and thinking, "well heck, I don't know how much water that is!" or "what does that even mean?!" ... I designed these conversion charts & abbreviation explanation's to help you get through your cookbook in a much more timely manner:)

Recipe Abbreviations
Cup = c or C
Fluid = fl
Gallon = gal
Gram = g
Ounce = oz
Package = pkg
Pint = pt
Pound = lb or #
Quart = qt
Square = sq
Tablespoon = T or Tbl or TBSP or TBS
Teaspoon = t or tsp

Liquid Measures
1 gal = 4 qt = 8 pt = 16 cups = 128 fl oz.
½ gal = 2 qt = 4 pt = 8 cups = 64 fl oz.
¼ gal = 1 qt = 2 pt = 4 cups = 32 fl oz.
½ qt = 1 pt = 2 cups = 16 fl oz.

Dry Measures
1 cup = 16 Tbsp = 48 tsp = 250 ml
¾ cup = 12 Tbsp = 36 tsp = 175 ml
2/3 cup = 10 2/3 Tbsp = 32 tsp = 150 ml
½ cup = 8 Tbsp = 24 tsp = 125 ml
1/3 cup = 5 1/3 Tbsp = 16 tsp = 75 ml
¼ cup = 4 Tbsp = 6 tsp = 30 ml
1 Tbsp = 3 tsp = 15 ml

If a recipe says “dash” or “pinch” or “speck” = less than 1/8 tsp

1 fl oz = 30 ml
1 oz = 28.35 g
1 lb = 16 oz (454 g)
1 kg = 2.2 lb
1 quart = 2 pints

Fahrenheit (°F) to
Celcius (°C)
°C = (°F - 32) x 5/9
32°F 0°C
40°F 4°C
140°F 60°C
150°F 65°C
160°F 70°C
225°F 107°C
250°F 121°C
275°F 135°C
300°F 150°C
325°F 165°C
350°F 177°C
375°F 190°C
400°F 205°C
425°F 220°C
450°F 230°C
475°F 245°C
500°F 260°C

VERY SLOW: 250°F - 275°F
SLOW: 300°F - 325°F
MODERATE: 350°F - 375°F
HOT: 400°F - 425°F
VERY HOT: 450°F - 475°F

U.S. Canadian
¼ tsp 1.25 mL
½ tsp 2.5 mL
1 tsp 5 mL
1 Tbl 15 mL
¼ cup 50 mL
1/3 cup 75 mL
½ cup 125 mL
2/3 cup 150 mL
¾ cup 175 mL
1 cup 250 mL
1 quart 1 liter

Are you craving pizza but don't want to ruin your healthy streak?

My weakness when it comes to food is pizza. I absolutely LOVE it. However, I only let myself splurge on pizza during that in between time I make this to fix my craving & it is delicious & insanely easy!

You are going to use Hormel's Turkey Pepperoni that has 70% less fat and all the pepperoni-liciousness (not a real word, don't bother looking it up) of real pepperoni! You're thinking... Made from turkey? With zero carbs? Can this be true? It can! And is! Now you can enjoy all the flavor and satisfaction of pepperoni, without the guilt...or that icky greasy fatty film that the regular stuff leaves behind on your poor, defenseless tongue...ewww!

This is the EASY pizza, if you want to make more of an impression see the veggie pizza recipe below:)

whole wheat tortilla
your favorite tomato sauce
TURKEY pepperoni's
reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese or cheddar (or a little of both)

If you like jalapeno's add them to your pizza. Or, ANY grilled vegetable of choice. Just make sure to cook the veggies in the skillet before baking in the oven with the pizza!

Turn oven to 350
Spread 2 Tbsp of tomato sauce on your tortilla (or your preferred amount)
Disperse TURKEY pepperoni's onto pizza
If you chose your fav veggie, add these now
Add 2 small fists full of cheese
Bake pizza at 350 for 10-12 minutes, depending on how much crunch you're looking for.


You can use all zucchini or yellow squash for this grilled pie. Serve one slice as an appetizer or two with a salad for a simple dinner:)
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 slice)


  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon  balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 1  medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise into (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  (12-inch) packaged pizza crust (such as Mama Mary's)
  • 2  plum tomatoes, cut into (1/8-inch-thick) slices
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2  tablespoons  thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/2  teaspoon  finely chopped fresh oregano


1. Prepare grill.
2. Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, zucchini slices, and yellow squash slices in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat. Place squash mixture on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 2 minutes on each side or until tender.
3. Reduce grill temperature to medium.
4. Lightly coat pizza crust with cooking spray; grill 1 minute on each side or until lightly toasted. For a touch of flavor add green pesto & lightly coat the crust before adding squash & zucchini.  Arrange zucchini and squash over crust. Arrange tomatoes over squash; sprinkle with pecorino Romano cheese. Grill 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from grill; sprinkle with basil and oregano.

Nutritional Information

165 (33% from fat)
6.1g (sat 1.5g,mono 0.7g,poly 0.1g)

Now, enjoy your pizza without the guilt!!!

Spinach & Mushroom Enchiladas - everyone will LOVE it!

This recipe is DELICIOUS & sure to be a favorite for any guest. If you want to add some protein, simply add shrimp & just saute' it in the skillet and stir them into the mixture that will be going into each tortilla.

5 servings (serving size: 2 enchiladas)
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 (10-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
• 1 (8-ounce carton) fat-free sour cream
• 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained

• Cooking spray
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
• 2 cups sliced mushrooms
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
• 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
• 10 (6-inch) corn tortillas

• 1/2 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
• 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare sauce, combine first 4 ingredients; stir well.

To prepare enchiladas, heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and jalapeño; sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic powder, cumin, salt, and spinach; cook 5 minutes or until heated. Combine spinach mixture and 1/4 cup cheese in a large bowl; stir to combine.

Spoon 1/2 cup sauce into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/3 cup spinach mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place filled tortillas seam sides down in the baking dish. Spread remaining sauce evenly over tortillas; top with 3/4 cup cheese.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Top with tomato and green onion.

Now, add this to your spot where you keep your favorite recipes!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

EASY Chilled Spinach Dip!

This recipe is an easy go to for an appetizer when you're having guests over or simply want something healthy to snack on throughout the week:) Enjoy!


1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Vegetable Soup Mix
1 container (8 oz.) light sour cream
1 cup Hellmann's® Light Mayonnaise
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)


1. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl; chill 2 hours.

2. Serve with your favorite dippers. My preference is reduced fat wheat thins, triscuits, or carrots!!!

Jay O's fav Captain Rodney's dip:)

Don't be fooled...this recipe is NOT healthy, but I did make my recipe a lighter version than the original!  However it is JayO's all time fav & I will occasionally make it for a treat.  And, it is a guaranteed hit for any crowd:)

If you can't find "Captain Rodney's" glaze at your local market you can order it online @ and search for "Captain Rodney's Boucan Glaze" or if you're needing something immediately a red hot pepper jelly will  be a perfect substitute.  Captain Rodney's glaze will last a long time & will serve well over just about anything.  So it's worth the purchase!

  • ½ cups light Mayonnaise
  • 8 ounces, 1/3 less fat Cream Cheese (8 Oz. Softened)
  • 1 cup reduced fat Cheddar Cheese, Grated
  • 1 bunch Green Onions, Chopped
  • 12 pieces Ritz Crackers, Crushed
  • 8 slices Bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ cups Captain Rodney's Boucan Glaze

Preparation Instructions:  

- Preheat oven to 350.   

- Mix mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and onions and place in a greased round pan. 

-Top with crushed crackers and bake at 350º for 15 minutes.  

-Top with bacon and Boucan Glaze. Return to the oven for a few more minutes. Serve with Ritz crackers. 

Now be ready for compliments!!! :)

My Guac

You can never go wrong with some good guacamole dip...avocado's are a "healthy" fat, just don't over indulge!

4 avocados 
2 limes
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper
1 purple onion
3 pieces bacon (or small bag real bacon bits)
1 jar on the border salsa
Cavendar's Seasoning

-Cut each avocado in 2, remove the seed & spoon out all of the avocado into a medium sized bowl.
-Immediately squeeze lime juice over the avocado & mash avocado with a fork making sure it is smooth (the lime prevents it from browning!)
-cut half the bunch of cilantro into tiny pieces, dice the jalapeno removing seeds, dice 1/2 the purple onion.  Cook & tear up bacon or pour real bacon bits  and all of this onto the avocado.
-Cover the top with Cavendar's Seasoning & mix.
-Pour in your preferred amount of salsa (usually 3/4 of the jar) & mix thoroughly.
-Add salt to taste.

I recommend buying the whole wheat tostito's for dipping.

Ole' , ole', ole'!!!

Breakfast Casserole

For Father's Day at the lake this past weekend my happy was making brunch:)  I did a fresh fruit salad (the key is adding a little bit of honey & splenda to fresh fruit for the perfect touch), I admit I bought a coffee was delicious and I recommend it to anyone though.  I got it at the bakery at Kroger in the heights (homemade apple coffee cake).  I don't even want to know how many sticks of butter they put in that it tasted so good!  And, I served my breakfast casserole.

See Nutrition info. at the bottom, not bad at all!

**Prep this the night before for an easy breakfast or brunch. Find turkey sausage in the freezer section of the supermarket with other breakfast meats.  If your local market doesn't carry turkey sausage, get the reduced fat Jimmy Dean sausage.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)**


  • Cooking spray
  • 12  ounces  turkey breakfast sausage
  • 2  cups  1% low-fat milk
  • 2  cups  egg substitute (egg beaters)
  • 1  teaspoon  dry mustard
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • 3  large eggs
  • 16  (1-ounce) slices white bread
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) finely shredded reduced-fat extrasharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4  teaspoon  paprika

If you would like to add green onion or a vegetable like cooked spinach or mushrooms feel free to!


1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring and breaking sausage to crumble. Remove from heat; cool.

2. Combine milk and next 6 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

3. Trim crusts from bread. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes. Add bread cubes, sausage, and cheddar cheese to milk mixture, stirring to combine. Pour bread mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking or 3-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray, spreading egg mixture evenly in baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350°.

5. Remove casserole from refrigerator; let stand 30 minutes (I cooked mine directly after taking it out of the fridge, and it turned out great). Sprinkle casserole evenly with paprika. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 184 (33% from fat)
Fat: 6.8g (sat 3.2g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.8g)
Protein: 15.9g
Carbohydrate: 14g
Now, feel satisfied & energized for the day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cranberry Chicken Salad!

This is great to prepare ahead of time & eat when you're on the go. To change it up a bit, try grapes cut in halves instead of cranberries. 

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Cup Dried Cranberries (Craisins) 
4 sticks of celary
1 small bag slivered almonds
1/2 cup light ranch dressing
salt & pepper

-Turn the oven to 350
-Boil the chicken (hopefully you all know how to boil chicken)  if not:

Bring small pot of water to a boil (putting over high heat on the stove top)  with 1 tsp.  salt & 1 tsp. pepper, once the water is at a rapid boil, add chicken.  You will usually leave the chicken in about 10 min. for 4 hicken breasts.  To check the chicken, remove the largest  piece and cut it in 2 making sure it is white all the way through. (if the largest piece is cooked through, then you know all of them are ready to go!)

-Shred the boiled chicken breasts after you let stand & cool for a few minutes.
-Put the slivered almonds onto a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes checking on them throughout.  You want them to be SLIGHTLY toasted.  They are very easy to burn, so be on the lookout!
-slice the celery into small slivers
-Combine shredded chicken, dried cranberries, sliced celery, ranch, and toasted almonds.  Mix well so all of the ingredients are even.
-Salt & Pepper to taste, and add a little bit more ranch if it is too dry.

I serve this over greens with wheat thins & a large chilled 
glass of water.

Now, feel rejuvenated & healthy for the remainder of your day!!

Feel refreshed with my chilled seafood & corn salad!!! By far my fav new crisp summer salad recipe :)

I don't know about y'all but I am always looking for a new refreshing & healthy chilled salad during the hot summer months.  I made this one for Jay O. & me last week & we were BIG fans!!!

Instead of using 2 ears of corn I used 3 small cans of corn, make sure to drain each can (don't buy the cheapo brand though).  I also used imitation crab & fresh shrimp in place of the fresh lump crab.  I replaced the red bell pepper with an orange bell pepper beacuse JayO likes them better and I will sound like a dork & say I thought it made the salad a little bit prettier:)  I also added a little bit of extra lemon juice since I prepared enough to last a few days.  I sliced avacado & put on top to add extra flavor & to make it have a little bit of a treat!  I served our salads over mixed greens with whole wheat pita crisps.

I definitely recommend trying this one, very healthy & delicious!!!  Great for a hot sunny afternoon, ENJOY!!!

Shrimp, Crab, & Corn Salad w. Tomato-basil Dressing
Yield: 4 servings (mine yielded 6)


  • 1  tablespoon  grated lemon rind
  • 5  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1  tablespoon  extravirgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon  honey
  • 1/2  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears) (or canned corn, draining fluids)
  • 1/4  cup  thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 1/4  cup  chopped red bell pepper (or substitute for your color of preference)
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped red onion
  • 1  pound  lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed (use your seafood of choice)
  • 8  (1/4-inch-thick) slices ripe beefsteak tomato
  • 2  cups  cherry tomatoes, halved (I just cut up regular tomatoes and put on the side of each serving)
If you want to add a little extra treat, slice avacado & put on top of the salad for extra flavor!


1. Combine rind, 3 tablespoons juice, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons juice mixture. Add remaining 2 tablespoons juice, corn, and next 4 ingredients (through crab) to remaining juice mixture; toss gently to coat.
2. Arrange 2 tomato slices and 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes on each of 4 plates. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon reserved juice mixture over each serving. Top each serving with 1 cup corn and crab mixture.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 242 (21% from fat)
Fat::  5.6g (sat 0.6g,mono 2.7g,poly 0.7g)
Protein: 30g
Carbohydrate: 17.7g

A little contribution...Tortilla Roll Up App

Today was the retirement party for Karen (the lady who has been training me for my new position)...yes, she had the job for 37 years & is now venturing off to enjoy the little things in life...they asked me if they should plan on my retirement party being 37 years from now, & I said, "don't plan on that!," with a little chuckle of course to make it not sound TOO serious:)  

For the party I made a tortilla roll up recipe with salsa that is an easy go to for an appetizer that everyone always loves & there never seems to be another app like it at any party!


- 3 containers 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese
- 2 cans green chiles
- 1 can diced black olives
- 2 packages low carb flour tortillas 
- 1 package taco seasoning
- 1 jar salsa (your preference on the brand)


1)  Mix thoroughly:  cream cheese, green chiles, 1/2 can diced black olives (unless you are a huge olive fan, go all out & use the whole thing), & 1/2 of the package of taco seasoning & add a dash of salt.  

2)  Spread a large spoonful of the mixture onto one side of each tortilla, & tightly roll each tortilla up like a burrito.  

3)  Stack all of the rolled up tortillas onto a plate & chill the the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  

4)  Remove rolls from the refrigerator & cut each roll into bite sized pieces.  If you would like to make them easier to handle put a toothpick into each piece.  

5)  Last of all, put rolls onto a pretty platter that you want to show off, pour the salsa into a bowl (matching of course:)  & dig in!!!

First dinner for the rents - a whole wheat pasta & bruschetta recipe

Playing a little catch up on a few recipes I have recently tried...Jay O. & I had my parents over for dinner for the first time in our new house last Sunday.  We are very close to being completely settled in & can't wait to have a few good friends over for app's & vino sometime soon.  

 I had never cooked bruschetta before, but absolutely loved this recipe!  Definitely go light on the salt.  And, the pasta is very light & great for a satisfying stand alone entree' :)


Bon Appétit!!!


Black Pepper-Basil Farmer's Cheese Bruschetta with Tomato


  • 8 ounces fresh farmer's cheese (I used ricotta cheese)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for bread (I recommend only 1/2 teaspoon salt, I had to add a lot more cheese because it was too salty). 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for bread and garnish
  • 8 slices French baguette, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 4 whole cloves garlic
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered


Place cheese, basil, and lemon zest in a food processor and process until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse 2 times to incorporate.
Heat grill to high. Brush bread with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and rub with garlic cloves. Grill bread on each side for 1 minute or until slightly charred. Spread each slice with some of the farmer's cheese mixture and top with tomato and more cracked black pepper.


Whole Wheat Penne with Asparagus, Spinach & Chicken

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups pasta mixture and 1 tablespoon cheese)


  • 8  ounces  uncooked penne pasta (I used a larger quantity of penne in whole wheat, the regular sized box which can serve 5 people)
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 bag real bacon bits
  • 1/2  cup  chopped sweet onion
  • 2 1/2  cups  (1-inch) slices asparagus (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 4  cups  bagged baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) preshredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • citrus grill seasoning (from Sam's) or lemon pepper & salt would be a good substitute


Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; keep warm.
Cut the chicken into pieces and cook chicken in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat in 1 TBSP olive oil, season the chicken with the citrus grill, salt & pepper. Remove chicken from pan & set aside.  Add onion to leftover olive oil & seasonings in pan; sauté 1 minute. Add asparagus and broth to pan; bring to a boil (if you use only 8 ounces penne don't use the full amount of broth). Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Add pasta, spinach, 1/4 cup cheese, and pepper to pan; toss well. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and real bacon bits.