Posts Tagged ‘healthy’

Stuffed Shells

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

This is a great healthy Italian dish. It’s classic stuffed shells, but lightened. The combination of cottage cheese and ricotta cheese makes a rich, cheesy stuffing that melts beautifully. (If you aren’t a fan of cottage cheese, don’t worry–this doesn’t taste a thing like cottage cheese) Though you could serve this meatless, and I’m sure it would be good, I added a spicy chicken Italian sausage, which was delicious.

Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 pound cooked pasta, jumbo shells, approximately 24 shells
  • 1 pound cooked Italian Sausage (I used Amy’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375̊°F.

Mix together cheeses, salt, garlic powder, oregano and pepper. Spread a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on bottom of a 9- x 13-inch baking dish.

When cooked shells are cool enough to handle, fill each shell with cheese mixture and place in baking dish. When all shells are in dish, spoon remaining tomato sauce over shells. Cover pan and bake for 20 minutes. Yields about 4 shells per serving.

Note: I’m sure we’ll be trying this one again. It was very tasty, though a little too saucy. Next time, I think I’ll cut back on the sauce a bit. The Italian Sausage I used was precooked, so all I did was slice it and saute it in a skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.

AuGratin Potatoes – Lightened

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

I found this Au Gratin Potatoes recipe on the main Weight Watchers website. They post free recipes from time to time, and this was one of them. The notes on the recipe promise that these cheesy potatoes are spouse and kid-friendly, and I can see that. They didn’t taste light at all. The potatoes were creamy and cheesy–reminded me a lot of our family’s standard scalloped potatoes recipe, but with added cheese flavor. I didn’t mind the onion, but if you don’t like onions, you could certainly skip it, and it would turn out just fine.

Au Gratin Potatoes
Adapted from weightwatchers.com

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup 2% cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 2-quart covered baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour; add milk slowly, stirring. Add potatoes and stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup of cheese, salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and level out surface. Bake for 1 hour, uncovered. Cover and bake until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes more.

Change oven temperature to broil. Sprinkle remaining cheese over potatoes. Broil 6 inches from the heating element until the cheese is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 8 pieces. Works out to three points a serving, according to Weight Watchers.

Note: I’m sure we’ll make these again. The potatoes were creamy, and cheesy, and definitely worth making. The only drawback is the lengthy cooking time–I may experiment with parboiling or starting the potatoes in the microwave a little bit to cut down on the time in the oven next time. Almost an hour and a half in the oven is too long to make these practical for a weeknight, unfortunately.

Blueberry Breakfast Porridge

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I have been pleasantly surprised recently to learn that I actually like oatmeal. It started with a specific kind of McCann’s Instant Oatmeal, and has sort of grown from there to include a few different varieties. 6 months ago, I don’t think I would’ve ever tried this porridge recipe from my Weight Watchers 150 Comfort Foods cookbook.

Rather than just oats, this porridge uses bulgur and barley, which adds a chewy texture and more nutty flavor. It’s slightly chewier/bulkier than steel cut oats, for comparison. I added extra blueberries to the mix, for more flavor, and I’d have to say, the recipe would be a little bland without them.

Blueberry Breakfast Porridge
Adapted from the Weight Watchers 150 Comfort Foods cookbook

  • 1 1/2 cups 1% milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking barley
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • pinch of ground cinnamon

1. Put the mlk and salt in a small pan and bring just to a boil. Stir in the barley, bulgur, and oats. Reduce the heat to simmer, stirring frequently until the milk is completely absorbed and the grains are tender, but chewy. This takes about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, and stir in the blueberries. Spoon the porridge evenly into 2 bowls, sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon, and serve.

Note: The recipe was very tasty when it was fresh. Unfortunately, I like to eat oatmeal at my desk at work–I was hoping this would reheat well, but it doesn’t really. The reheated version is much chewier than it was originally. Even though it didn’t take too long, I’m not one for cooking in the mornings. Unless I was going to be eating breakfast at home, I don’t know if I’d make this one again. For two servings, it works out to 6 points, but I broke it into 4 servings for 3 points each.

Chicken Cacciatore

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

For David’s birthday this year, we had quite a feast. Normally, we spend Wednesday nights watching Glee, (and by “we,” I mean my friends and I, not David. He’s not a fan.) which means that our dinners on Wednesdays are usually more of the quick-and-easy variety than other nights of the week.

Rather than the typical simple fare, I tried for something a little fancier. We sat at the table, for one. Opened a bottle of wine, and had this pasta dish and garlic bread. Finally, topped it all off with Coconut Cake, which you’ll be hearing more about tomorrow. All in all, I think David was happy with his birthday dinner. It did make me wish that we’d do that kind of thing more often.

Pasta was an easy choice when planning a dinner for David, but I wanted to try something new, AND pick something he’d especially like, which is how I ended up with Chicken Cacciatore. Veggies (mostly peppers and onions) and tomato sauce and pasta–I knew he would be a fan. The sauce was made with balsamic and red wine, both of which David loves. It was a natural choice.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breast halves)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 29 oz canned stewed tomatoes, Italian-style
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (Ours is the Little Italy NYC-Style, from the Spice House)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, snipped
  • 1 13.5 oz box whole wheat spaghetti

Directions:

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil and heat. Add chicken breasts and cook over medium heat until browned and juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

Add onions, pepper and garlic to skillet. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over cooked pasta.

Note: I thought this was good, and I’m sure we’ll make it again. I did add a tiny bit of sugar at the end, to balance out some of the acidity in the sauce. David and I liked this because we really like balsamic, but if you aren’t a fan, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe. Also, I skipped the mushrooms for David, but I think they’d be very tasty in this dish.

“Pumpkin Pie” Pancakes

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

This recipe comes from the Weight Watchers Comfort Classics cookbook, just like those Ham & Cheese quiches. Can I say that this is my favorite Weight Watchers cookbook? Because it is. Normally, I’m not too impressed with Weight Watchers official recipes–they tend to be too bland for my tastes. But so far, we’ve tried the Pumpkin Pie Pancakes, the Mini-Quiches, the Macaroni & Cheese, the Oven-Fried Chicken with Sage Gravy, and the Tandoori Chicken, and all were very tasty.

But out of all of the ones we’ve tried these pancakes were my favorite so far.

These were good enough to order in a restaurant. In fact, there’s a pumpkin pancake that Leah and I love at our local brunch spot, the Bongo Room, and these rivaled those tasty cakes–for what I’m certain is a fraction of the points. The only thing missing is the Bongo Room’s amazing vanilla bean sauce. Next time I make these pancakes, I think I’d try to make something along those lines.

pumpkin pancakes

“Pumpkin Pie” Pancakes
Adapted from Weight Watchers Comfort Classics, Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin, butter, and egg in another bowl until blended. Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture, stirring just until blended.

2. Spray a large nonstick griddle with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles on it, pour the batter onto the skillet by scant 1/4 cupfuls. Cook just until bubbles begin to appear at the edges of the pancakes, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden, 2-3 minutes longer. Repeat with the remaining batter, making a total of 8 pancakes. Serve with the maple syrup.

Nutritional Info: (Serving = 2 pancakes with 1 tablespoon maple syrup) 222 Cal, 6 g Fat, 2 g Fiber. Points: 5

Wild Rice and Barley Pilaf

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

This recipe came from weightwatchers.com, while I was searching for a way to use up some Minnesotan wild rice. In addition to maple syrup and maple sugar, sometimes our roommate brings wild rice back from the north woods. And we approve. :)

Big surprise here: I don’t like asparagus. But David does, and Leah does sometimes, and I can pick around it easily enough, so I made them this dish anyway.

It was good, and came together easily, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. I was a little disappointed that the barley pretty much overpowered the wild rice. On the other hand, I had never eaten barley as a side dish like rice, and it was pretty tasty. Like rice, but nuttier. I enjoyed it. The other thing this recipe had going for it? A half a cup is only one Point. That’s a pretty good deal for a side-dish.

barley & asparagus

Wild Rice & Barley Pilaf

  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley, pearl-variety (not quick cooking)
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme & sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces of asparagus spears (thin) cut into 2-inch pieces

1. Bring the broth and rice to a simmer in a large saucepan; cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the barley, shallot, salt, thyme, sage and pepper. Cover and continue simmering over low heat for 25 minutes.

3. Stir in the asparagus, cover, reduce the heat even further and simmer slowly for 5 minutes. Set aside off the heat, covered, for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

Note: Next time, I’d halve this recipe for sure. It made a TON, at least 12 servings.

Mini Ham & Cheddar Quiches

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Last weekend was my first weekend back on Weight Watchers, but we also had two parties to attend. To help mitigate some of the party point damage, I brought a couple of tasty treats that also happened to be healthy. This was the first.

These Ham & Cheese Quiches are meant to be made with pre-made phyllo dough cups, but our store was out, so I had to make my own from sheets of phylly dough. (Super easy, by the way: Thaw the phyllo dough completely, cut into small squares, press four single squares into each cup of a mini-muffin pan sprayed with non-stick spray.) I’m writing the recipe out below with phyllo cups, but if you can’t find them don’t worry. Just follow those quick steps above.

quiche

Mini Ham & Cheddar Quiches
Adapted from Weight Watchers Comfort Classics (makes 15 quiche)

  • 1 ounce ham, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded fat free cheddar cheese
  • 1 box frozen pre-made phyllo dough cups (15 count), frozen
  • 2 egg whites plus one whole egg
  • 2 tablespoons fat free half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sprinkle the ham and cheese evenly into each pastry shell. Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour evenly into the prepared quiche cups.

3. Bake until the pastry shells are lightly crisped and the filling is set, about 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake.

Note: These were very tasty little bites. I’ll probably make them again sometime, but the possiblities for fillings are pretty much endless. I’m sure I’ll be experimenting with them (especially since we bought WAY too much phyllo dough, and I have plenty leftover just hanging out in my freezer).

Carrot Zucchini Spice Mini-Muffins

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

There are two different kinds of healthy recipes. Ones that you eat when you’re trying to eat healthy, and some that are so tasty that you’d eat them anytime.

A good example of this is Diet Coke Chicken, which we discovered when my mom was doing Weight Watchers years ago. Even though it was a Weight Watchers recipe, and the initial draw was the zero-Points sauce for the tender chicken, the dish was so tasty that it became part of our regular rotation in no time.

These muffins are another example of this kind of recipe. They’re made with whole wheat flour, and sweetened with applesauce and honey. Very low fat, high in fiber, and super-moist. They taste like zucchini bread, but the last time I looked at the recipe for a zucchini bread (my grandmother makes an awesome one!) it called for a TON of oil as well as sugar. Like the Diet Coke chicken, I found this recipe looking for a healthy treat, but I think I’d make it anyway. They were that good. (Especially with a dab of cream cheese frosting).

IMG_2238

muffin

Carrot Zucchini Spice Mini-Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 large zucchini, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce (I used an all-natural, no sugar added)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a mini muffin pan by lining each cup with mini-cupcake wrappers or spraying with non-stick spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl (or in a large stand mixer) combine all ingredients and stir well. Transfer to the prepared muffin tins, filling each  cup about 2/3 full.

3. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Makes 72 muffins. One serving is 3 muffins.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Can someone please teach me how to photograph a casserole? I feel like I just can’t do them justice in pictures. If I take a picture of the casserole in the pan, aside from the lighting issues in my kitchen, all you see is some sort of cheesy/crunchy topping, and a casserole is much, much more than that. If I try to take a picture of the inside of the casserole, all you see is a bowl of…something. It’s impossible to tell what’s going on, and it certainly doesn’t seem to illustrate the deliciousness of the casserole. So going forward, I’m going to need you to accept that this dish tastes better than it looks. Casserole dishes always do, as far as I can tell.

This casserole is one of my favorite casseroles in a long time. It’s a take on Chicken Cordon Bleu, traditonally a breaded chicken breast stuffed with ham and swiss cheese. This casserole takes those familiar flavors and turns them into a cheesy, baked pasta dish. Because David’s not a huge fan of ham, I used proscuitto. This would be good with ham, but the proscuitto adds an additional saltiness that paired well with the creamy cheese sauce.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breast, shredded or cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup half and half (I used Fat-Free half and half, and it was delicious)
  • 4 oz prosciutto, either diced or sliced into thin strips
  • 8 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Original Flavor (this is one full wheel of Laughing Cow cheese; I used light because we get these at Costco in a multipack, but you could use the full fat version if you want. There’s very little difference between the two).
  • 8 ounces (1/2 box) penne pasta (I used Barilla Plus Penne, but any small pasta should be fine: shells, rotini, elbows, etc.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Boil pasta in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the prosciutto and 1 tablespoon of butter until the prosciutto is heated through and crispy at the edges. Add the Laughing Cow cheese, 1/4 cup of the shredded Swiss cheese, half and half, garlic salt and pepper. When cheese is melted and smooth, cooked chicken and pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of shredded swiss cheese over the casserole evenly.

3. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small bowl the microwave. Add the panko bread crumbs and stir to combine.  Sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the casserole is heated through, the cheese on top is melted, and the buttered bread crumbs have crisped. Serve immediately.

Note: I really enjoyed this, and I am sure we’ll be making it again. I think broccoli might be a welcome addition to the rich casserole for the next time–something to think about, anyway.

Baked Sweet Potato “Fries”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Oddly enough, I am in love with sweet potato fries. I don’t know when it happened, really. I can’t stand the Thanksgiving marshmallow monstrosity casserole, and I have never been tempted by the football sized baked sweet potatoes they serve at steak house restaurants. But sweet potato fries are a whole different story.

There’s a bar across the street from us that has great sweet potato fries, and in general, I’m excited whenever I come across them on a menu. Finally, I decided to make my own. We seldom deep fry things around here, so I opted for a baked version.

They turned out pretty well, though a touch too dark (oops!). If you like french fries, I don’t know why you wouldn’t like sweet potato fries. They’ve got the same crispy texture but tend to have a lot more flavor. Sweet potatoes are also better for you than regular white potatoes, with more fiber and more vitamins. Plus, french fries are such old news…sweet potato fries even look cooler!

sweet-potato-fries

Baked Sweet Potato “Fries”

  • 1 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled (2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo seasoning
  • hot sauce, to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon, and they had just the right amount of heat for me)
  • extra salt, for seasoning
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into and toss with the oil, adobo seasoning, cinnamon, and hot sauce. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake until the “fries” are tender and crisp, about 40 minutes.

3. Season with additional salt, to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: I’m kind of a whimp when it comes to hot sauce, so you could certainly add more if that’s what you like. I wasn’t going for something very spicy, just a little bit of heat to balance the sweetness, and that’s what I got. The cinnamon is just for little something extra–it brings out a little bit of the sweetness in the potatoes without being overpowering. I normally use cumin in my spice blend for sweet potatoes, but the adobo seasoning added the perfect amount of salt and in addition to the smoky cumin flavor.