Thursday, January 9, 2014

*Veggie Pasta*

So ... apparently I have had pasta on my mind!  It is rare that I make 2 pasta dishes in one week.  Actually, this is probably a first.  I haven't been in the mood for soup & with this frigid weather I have been wanting something warm!  Plus, all of my zenspin's & HIIT Cycles I've done this week have probably not helped me want to steer clear of the carbo department.  This, again, is a light recipe though, vegetarian friendly, & VERY budget friendly :)

The original "Wonderpot" recipe you can find here.  They did use feta instead of Parmesan if you would like to do that instead.

4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz. fettuccine
8 oz. frozen chopped spinach
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
½ Tbsp dried basil
½ Tbsp dried oregano
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
freshly cracked pepper to taste
fresh shaved parmesan (I forgot to add the parmesan which I had in the fridge, grrr!)
Add four cups of vegetable broth to a large pot. Break the fettuccine in half to make stirring easier later, and then add it to the pot. Also add the canned tomatoes (undrained), olive oil, frozen spinach, onion (thinly sliced), garlic (thinly sliced), basil, oregano, red pepper, and some freshly cracked black pepper.
Make sure the ingredients are submerged under the liquid, place a lid on top of the pot, and then turn the heat on to high. Allow the pot to come up to a full, rolling boil over high heat then remove the lid and turn the heat down to medium. 
Allow the pot to continue to boil over medium heat, without a lid, for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir the pot every few minutes as it cooks to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom, but avoid over stirring which can cause the pasta to become sticky and mushy. The pot must be boiling the entire time.
After the pasta is cooked, grade the fresh Parmesan over the top & serve.
I will say, I added a few reduced fat turkey meatballs I got at Kroger in the freezer section to the pot.  You simply have to bake them in the oven & they were a good addition.  Jay O. is not a big fan of me doing meat free meals too often.  At least he is okay with turkey! :)

    *Baked Broccoli Mac & Cheese*

    I got this recipe here at Gina's Skinny Taste.  As you all have probably noticed, this is one of my favorite go-to blogs.  You can always find a recipe that's healthy & light, or a recipe like this one that is healthy & more of a comforting recipe :)  And, this recipe is Vegetarian friendly!

    12 oz pasta of your choice (I chose penne)
    1 1/2 tbsp butter
    1/4 cup minced onion
    1/4 cup flour
    2 cups skim milk
    1 cup fat free chicken broth (vegetarians use vegetable broth)
    8 oz (2 cups) reduced-fat sharp cheddar
    salt and fresh pepper to taste
    12 oz fresh broccoli florets (I used pre-cut bag)
    2 tbsp grated parmesan
    1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (optional - see note below)
    cooking spray

    Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions for al dente (or slightly under cook 2 minutes). Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375°.

    In a large, heavy skillet, melt butter. Add onion and cook over low heat about 2 minutes, add flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined. Add milk and chicken broth and whisk, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

    Once the sauce is thick, remove from heat.  Then, add cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish.

    This is where you can make a decision to continue with the recipe, or stop here & dig in.  I will say, I tasted the macaroni before I continued with the recipe & thought it had much better creaminess & flavor at this point ;)

    Top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray on top.

    Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.

    Sunday, January 5, 2014

    *Poppyseed Winter Salad*

    A few weeks ago I decided to have a few girls over for a Christmas dinner (the day of) & my friend Brady gave me this salad recipe for an easy go to.  I loved it so much, I have made it 3x now!  When I had my friends over, I served this salad with Poppy Seed Chicken casserole & I served this salad along with the Pesto Chicken Lasagna.  It was a great salad to go along with both of those entree's. 

    Romaine Lettuce or Baby Spinach Leaves (whichever you prefer)
    1 bag dried cranberries
    candied pecans
    1 container real bacon pieces
    1 container blue cheese
    Kroger's Private Selection Orange Poppy Seed Dressing (any Poppy Seed Dressing will work but I LOVED this one & am not usually a huge fan of pre-made dressing)
    Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste

    When I made this salad the second time I added mandarin oranges & loved the pop of color it gave the salad.  I recommend adding those, too :)

    Line ingredients along salad.  Crack fresh ground pepper over top to taste.  Add salad dressing & toss to combine.

    *Chicken Pesto Lasagna*

    My Mom made this for our Christmas Eve dinner.  It was quite the treat!  Jay O. was a big fan.  I am pretty sure he went back for thirds! I would probably have to say this is the best lasagna I have ever had.

    The prep for this recipe is not too time consuming because of the no-boil lasagna noodles & the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  However, the bake time is somewhat long so make sure you have plenty of time for that.

    This recipe is definitely what I consider somewhat of a splurge with the creaminess, but it is worth it for a weekend treat or special occasion! 

    To cut down on cals (but would slightly decrease creaminess) you could use 2% milk (I wouldn't do less than that) and low-fat ricotta cheese.


    For the Béchamel, Melt:
    4 Tbsp unsalted butter
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    3 cups whole milk
    1/2 cup purchased refrigerated basil pesto
    salt & black pepper to taste

    (for those of you who aren't too familiar with your Italian cooking terms, like me, Béchamel sauce means white sauce;))

    For the Lasagna, stir:
    1 package whole-milk ricotta cheese (15 oz)
    1 cup grated parmesan
    1/2 cup purchased refrigerated basil pesto
    12 dry, flat, no-boil lasagna sheets
    3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, divided
    4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided

    Preheat oven to 350

    For the béchamel, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour & cook 2 minutes.  Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup pesto; season with salt & pepper.

    For the lasagna, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, & 1/2 cup pesto; season with salt & pepper.

    Spread 2/3 cup béchamel in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Lay 3 lasagna sheets side by side, top with 1/2 cup ricotta mixture, 3/4 cup chicken, 2/3 cup béchamel, and 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Repeat layering three more times, topping the final layer with 1 1/2 cups mozzarella.  Cover lasagna with foil.

    Bake lasagna until bubbly, about 45 minutes.  Remove foil & bake lasagna an additional 15 minutes, then broil on high until golden, 2-3 minutes.  Let lasagna rest 15 minutes before serving.


    Friday, January 3, 2014

    *Breakfast Enchiladas*

    I made this dish when my in-law's stayed with us for Howe Christmas :)  We were all big fans of this recipe, & I loved having something different than the usual breakfast casserole!  Very easy to prepare, too. 

    1 lb. spicy turkey sausage (I bought links & removed casings)
    2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    8 (8 inch) flour tortillas (I used 50 cal tortillas)
    6 eggs
    1 Tbsp. all purpose flour (I used wheat)
    2 cups half & half
    3 oz. real bacon bits

    Cook the sausage in a frying pan.  Once cooked, combine the sausage, 1 cup of the cheese, & half of the bacon bits.  Place 1/8th of the mixture in the center of each tortilla & roll them up.  Face the tortillas seam side down in a greased baking dish.  In another bowl beat the eggs & flour.  Mix in the half & half and pour egg mixture over the top of the tortillas.  You can cook immediately or refrigerate overnight & cook the next morning.  Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle remaining cheese & bacon bits over the top of the enchiladas before baking.  Cover with foil & bake for 35 minutes.  Uncover dish & bake an additional 10 minutes.

    *Italian Pesto Dip*

    I made this dip over the Holiday's for an appetizer before my Mom's AMAZING chicken pesto lasagna (I will make sure to get the recipe & post).  All I can say about this dip is, it's t-totally awesome & the easiest prep ever.

    8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
    1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    1/3 cup pesto sauce
    4 oz. chopped pimentos, drained
    1/2 cup low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
    baguette slices for dipping

    Mix cream cheese & 1/4 parmesan cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until blended.
    Spread mixture on bottom of round baking dish.
    Layer pesto, pimentos, mozzarella cheese & remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over cream cheese mixture.
    Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

    Yes, it's that simple! :)

    *Christmas & New Years*

    I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas & a fun time ringing in the New Year!  I spent Christmas at the lake with my family.  And rung in the New Year at the lake with my parents, Aunts & Uncles, and a few of my parents good friends.  I enjoyed being able to relax with family & had a heck of a good time toasting to 2014!!  I thought I would share a few moments I captured throughout the holiday's. 

    The last photo pictures the delish Argus Cider.  My good friends Argus Wesley Mickel & Mary Mickel started their Cidery in Austin, TX.  If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it!  If you make it to Austin, they have a really nice set up with a tasting room & you can purchase it in TX, many locations in their home state of Arkansas, and in South Carolina.  You can check their website out here.
    Here's to a prosperous New Year!!!