Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lemon Chicken Pasta

Do you still have lemons hanging around?  I needed to find a way to use mine since many of my friends have huge crops this year and they shared their bounty.  This dinner was quick to put together with ingredients you probably have on hand.  The cayenne gives it a hint of spice so if you like more than that, adjust it to your taste.  All the citrus this year has been fantastic, but to tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to some berries!

Lemon Chicken Pasta

4 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces linguine or fettuccine pasta, preferably whole wheat, cooked according to
      package directions, and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid reserved
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Spray nonstick skillet with olive oil spray.  Cook chicken breasts over medium heat just until done and no pink remains.  Cut into strips and set aside.

In small bowl, combine lemon juice, garlic, lemon zest, sugar, cayenne pepper, and oil.  Drain pasta and toss with chicken and lemon sauce.  If pasta looks too dry, add pasta cooking liquid a little at a time until desired moistness is obtained.  Stir in parsley and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, about 1 1/3 cups each and 9 points plus per serving.

Note:  Due to popular demand, I am posting my own calculation of the "Weight Watchers Points Plus" value per serving.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brownies from Scratch

I could have sworn I had a box of brownie mix in my pantry.  I searched high and low and never did find it.  Friends were waiting for dinner, and I had to get a dessert made.  I probably had enough time to run to the store and get a mix, but I knew the wiser (and healthier) thing would be to make them from scratch.  Here is the result.


3 tablespoons butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered Splenda
1/2 cup nonfat egg substitute
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat 8 by 8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

Put butter, chocolate chips, and cocoa powder in small saucepan over very low heat.  Stir until butter and chocolate have melted.  Set aside to cool slightly.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, whisk together sugar, Splenda, egg substitute, applesauce, and vanilla.  Add chocolate mixture to sugar mixture; mix well, then add to flour mixture, whisking until well combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean.  Let cool completely in pan before cutting.  Makes 16 brownies.

Note:  If you are averse to eating Splenda, leave it out and double the sugar.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Rich Things . . .

It is sad when you begin to eat healthfully and believe you must give up all the creamy, cheesy things you love.  All those rich dishes become the "wrong" things to eat.  To tell you the truth, I refuse!  I look for ways to fit lighter versions into my diet and never feel deprived.  This recipe will satisfy your craving for Fettuccine Alfredo or anything like it.  Today it was the sauce for fresh tortellini, and it hit the spot.

I have seen recipes floating around the internet for a lighter Alfredo sauce using Laughing Cow light cheese wedges.  I tried one and it was just ok.  I put my own spin on it and came up with this sauce for pasta or steamed vegetables.  Adding pesto gives it some extra oomph, but with or without, this recipe is perfect for an everyday or special dinner.

Light Alfredo Sauce

3/4 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon whipped butter
6 wedges Garlic and Herb Laughing Cow light cheese wedges
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon basil pesto, homemade of store-bought, optional

Combine all ingredients except pesto in a small saucepan.  Place over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in pesto, if using.  Pour over pasta or anything else made better with a creamy, cheesy sauce on top.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Clam Chowder

On a whim, I bought a can of clams at Trader Joe's.  It sat on my counter for several weeks, challenging me to open it up and be creative.

I have always loved creamy white clam chowder.  Of course, these days I would feel guilty ordering it in a restaurant, being uncertain of the ingredients and nutritional information.  I came up with a lightened version that alleviates all potential guilty feelings.

Clam Chowder

2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 6.5-ounce can clams, liquid drained into 1-cup measuring cup, and clams finely chopped and set aside
Approximately 1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce potato, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons light butter
1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
1/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Coat large saucepan with olive oil spray and place over medium-high heat.  Add bacon and cook until almost crisp.  Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add water to clam liquid to measure one cup.  Stir into bacon mixture along with potatoes, salt, and pepper.

Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.  Add butter and stir until melted.  In small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk milk, half and half, and cornstarch together.  Slowly pour into potato mixture and stir until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in reserved clams.

Pour into bowls to serve.  Garnish each serving with chopped parsley, if desired.  Makes 4 1-cup servings. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nutella, who can resist?

If you like to cook as I do, you probably have a file with recipes you intend to make "one day."  I printed one a while ago called Self-Frosting Nutella Cupcakes which originated from a site called  It caught my eye for all three parts  - self-frosting, Nutella, and cupcakes.  How fun!

Today I pulled the recipe out and lightened it to better fit my healthy eating plan.  Ever the Weight Watcher, I continually look for ways to lower the calories.  In this recipe, I substituted Splenda for some of the sugar.  If you prefer not to, just use 3/4 cup sugar.

I call these "muffins" because of the denser texture than cupcakes usually have.  Who cares what they're called as long as they taste good.  Please give them a try.

 Nutella Muffins

1/3 cup nonfat milk
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Splenda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup fat free egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Place paper cupcake liners in 12-cup cupcake pan.  Lightly coat papers with nonstick spray.  Set pan aside.

In a cup, combine milk with vinegar and let sit for a few minutes.  If you have buttermilk on hand, you can use 1/3 cup and skip this step.

In medium mixing bowl, beat butter with Splenda and sugar until well combined.  Beat in applesauce, milk/vinegar mixture, egg substitute, and vanilla.  Mixture will be lumpy.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat until just combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups evenly with batter, each about 3/4 full.  Measure Nutella into a glass cup and microwave at half power for 30 seconds or until softened.  Top each muffin with one teaspoon Nutella.  Use a sharp knife to swirl Nutella into batter, allowing some batter to cover the Nutella as shown here.

Bake 18 minutes, until muffins spring back when lightly touched.  Remove muffins from pan to cool on wire rack.  Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weeknight Taco Pasta

It's nice to have a family-friendly recipe to throw together for dinner when time is short.  Here's a dish that works.  If you have time early in the day, put it together and place it in the refrigerator.  Pop it in the oven when you are ready to eat.  Add a salad and dinner is ready.

 Taco Pasta

1 medium onion, chopped
1 12-ounce package Yves Meatless Ground  (or 1 pound lean ground beef, if you choose)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
8 ounces penne pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 cup any type salsa
4 ounces reduced fat Mexican blend shredded cheese, about 1 1/2 cups
3 ounces baked tortilla chips, crumbled, about 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat 9 by 13-inch baking pan with olive oil spray; set aside.  Coat large nonstick skillet with olive oil spray and place over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Stir in meatless ground and cook a few minutes, breaking chunks up,  or ground beef and cook until no longer pink and drain any fat.

Add tomato sauce, chili powder, and salt to skillet.  Cook and stir for several minutes.  Add cottage cheese and sour cream and stir until combined.  Remove from heat and stir in pasta and salsa.  Spoon into prepared baking pan and cover with foil.

Bake casserole for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and top with crumbled chips and cheese.  Return to oven and bake uncovered 15 more minutes until bubbly.  Makes 8 servings.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A real find!

This is a recipe blog, but you know there is a lot more to cooking than recipes.  I must share with you a product I found that is nothing less that revolutionary in my kitchen.  It is the Egg Muffin Pan by Nordic Ware.

This is a microwave pan that cooks eggs or egg substitute in under two minutes.  You can add cheese or veggies or meat to the raw egg or leave it plain.  Pop it in the microwave for one minute, take it out and give it a stir, then put it back in the microwave for 40 seconds to a minute longer.  Voila!  You have perfectly shaped scrambled eggs to eat as is or on a sandwich.

It is nice when there's no skillet to wash after cooking eggs.  The Egg Muffin Pan cleans up beautifully and can even go on the top rack of the dishwasher.  I bought mine at WalMart for $3.29.  What a bargain!