Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic over Pasta

Basil, Garlic and Tomato Pasta

This is one of the easiest meals ever. Once the pasta is cooked (takes 8-10 minutes),  toss in a mixture of olive oil, fire roasted tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and onion.

Here’s how:

Cook 8-10 ounces of dry pasta as directed on package. I used half thin spaghetti and half fettuccine. Drain and set aside.

In a deep skillet combine 1/4 cup olive oil. Add one chopped zucchini, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 cloves finely chopped garlic. Cook until tender, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the following seasonings to the pan:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 red pepper flakes

NOTE: Fresh herbs can be used instead of dried herbs. You will need to adjust amounts accordingly.

Fire Roasted Tomato, Garlic, Basil Pasta

Add 1 can fire roasted tomatoes to the skillet (with juice). Mix well; heat through and add cooked pasta.

Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese with a side of fresh spinach. I used a no-fat Italian dressing on the spinach.

That’s it! Easy, Peasie! You are looking at around 480 calories per serving. The recipe given will serve six. Grilled asparagus (six spears) will complete the meal and add only 30 calories. A medium slice of hard crusted baguette bread is 170 calories.

I would personally stick with a serving of the pasta and asparagus.

Tomota, garlic, basil pasta

 

Southern Style Chicken & Dumpling Dinner

Chicken & Dumplings

My grandma was a Southern born lady and cooking was her claim to that heritage. She made the meanest pan of cornbread and the tastiest chicken and dumplings this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

My ten-year old grandson, Carson, is a die-hard chicken and dumpling fan. He loves Cracker Barrel’s dumplings; I told him I could make a pot chicken dumplings just like that, maybe better. The challenge was on.

Making the dough for dumplingsDough Recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (you can also use a low-fat butter type)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter. Once the mix is crumbly, slowly add the milk until you can form the dough into a ball. If dough is still sticky, dust with a handful of flour and incorporate into the dough mixture.

Roll out dough and cut into strips

Liberally sprinkle flour onto a cutting surface. Roll out the dough to a 3/8″ thickness. Dust rolling pin and dough mixture with flour as needed.

Cut dough into strips using a pizza cutter, then cut in opposite direction to form small dumpling squares.

Cut rolled dough into dumpling squares

 

Add a handful of flour to a large platter. Using a spatula or edge of knife lift the squares from the cutting area and place layers of dumplings onto the platter. Coat each dumpling layer (both sides) with the flour. This will help to thicken the chicken broth to a gravy consistency.

Coat the dumpling with flour

Bring 8 cups of chicken broth to a boil; I made my broth from bouillon. Drop dumplings into the broth one at a time. You don’t want the dumplings clumping together. They will, if you put them all into the broth at the same time.

Add dumplings to brothCook the dumplings (uncovered) for 20 minutes over medium heat. While the dumplings are cooking, cut-up 18 ounces of cooked chicken breasts.

You can cut the chicken into strips, coarsely dice, or cube. I prefer cubed.

 

Cook the dumplings until they are no longer doughyOnce the dumplings are thoroughly cooked (no longer doughy), add the cut or chopped chicken meat to the broth.

Add grated carrots to the broth and/or 1 cup of frozen peas. My grandson loves peas, the wine guy does not. I opted for carrots only.

 

Cube, dice or slice the cooked chicken

If you want a creamier gravy, this is the time to thicken the broth with additional flour. To do that, add a handful of ice cubes to a measuring cup along with 1/4 cup water. Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons flour. Mix well, gradually adding to the broth.

 

Add grated carrots to the dumpling broth

For the record…I won the challenge. My grandson said my chicken and dumplings were better than Cracker Barrel. Maybe he was just sucking up, but the fact that he ate four bowls in one sitting tells me he may have been truthful. Hope you enjoy!

This recipe makes approximately 10 cups of chicken and dumplings. You’re in the neighborhood of 399 calories per 1 cup serving. Trust me, one cup of the dumplings with a side salad is very filling. You can shave 20 calories per serving by using two tablespoons butter instead of three.

Vegetable & Ham Quiche Pot Pie

Ham Pot Pie with Vegetable

I was feeling a bit stressed yesterday afternoon about some business stuff. If I were a smoker, I  would have puffed on a few cigarettes to relieve the anxiety. Instead, I decided to cook something; it proved to be the perfect therapy.

I had no idea what I was going to cook. I shuffled things around in the fridge and found some leftover veggies, a tomato, onion. That was a start. I then spotted two cans of crescent rolls and a half opened container of vegetable broth, so I snagged those as well. And just as I was about to close the fridge door, I spotted some leftover ham.

IMG_3261The idea of a pot pie was planted in my mind, and I ran with it. I was in just the right mood to toss my creativity to the wind and see what happened.

Chopping the ham and veggies was a perfect anti-stress workout. I visualized my business stress with every chop of the blade. Extremely therapeutic.

Add cheese to the pot pie broth Once everything was chopped, I set the veggies aside to make a creamy broth. Broth was made with:

  • 1/4 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not butter (less calories)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (low salt)
  • 2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce
  • 3 handfuls cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2  to 1 3/4 cups)
  • 2 cups low-fat yogurt
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Add vegetable to the broth

If you want a thicker broth add an egg or two. If adding eggs, you run the risk of the mixture becoming more like a frittata. As a sidebar, this broth also makes a great filling for crepes.

Add the asparagus to the broth mixAdd the cooked asparagus (chopped) to the broth mixture and let sauce simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is cooking, prep a round ceramic quiche dish with the crescent roll dough. If you are lining the bottom of the pan with dough, as I did, you will want to bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes before adding the filling. Otherwise, it may not cook through and be slightly doughy.

IMG_3305

Start by separating the crescent roll triangles. Flatten each triangle with the palm of your hand and place in bottom of quiche pan. Pour a layer of the sauce mixture over top. Repeat another layer of flattened crescent rolls and sauce two more times. The final topping should be the sauce mixture.

IMG_3316I lined the outer edge of the quiche pan with the leftover crescent dough rolled into small ball. A few thin dough pieces were placed on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the dough turns a light crispy brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. I served in 8 x 4 inch Au Gratin bowls.

I placed a cookie sheet beneath the baking dish, to catch any overflow while cooking. I found it to be unnecessary.

IMG_3321Here are the veggies I included in this dish:

  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 12 asparagus stems, cooked and chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli

 

You can also substitute chicken for the ham. If you are using ham, go light on the salt as ham is already quite salty. The dish was very tasty and even the wine-guy liked it. The next time I make this dish, I want to do individual pot pies (in aluminum tins).

Since this was a “fly by the seat of your pants” dish, I wasn’t paying much attention to the calories. The final tally is in the neighborhood of 326 calories per serving ( 8 servings).

 

Roasted Pork Chops in Reduction Fig Sauce

A few weeks back, I ordered some dried figs from Nuts.com. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use them in a recipe and today was that day. Had the Wine Guy pick up some lean center cut pork chops so I could doll them up with my special fig sauce.

Prep and cook time is under 30 minutes and calories are low; just 250 calories for one chop w/sauce and a side of applesauce. I added a mixed green salad to the meal and was still under 275 calories. You will want to double the fig sauce because it is so yumi-licious. The want to lick your plate kind of yumminess.

Here’s the skinny on making the pork chops and fig sauce.

  • 4 boneless center cut pork chops (I only used 3 chops because I wanted extra fig sauce for the chops). You may want to double the fig sauce when cooking four chops as it goes down pretty easy
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (you really need oil and not non-stick spray as you will pan-sear the chops before roasting)

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup dried figs, finely chopped (about 3 figs)

How To

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large oven proof skillet over med-high heat on stove top. Once pan is heated, add the olive oil and swish around to coat bottom of skillet.

Place pork chops in pan and sear for 2 minutes until nicely browned. Flip chops and cook other side for 2 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the pre-heated oven and roast for 8-10 minutes. Internal temp should be at 145 degrees when you remove from the oven.
Transfer chops from oven to a tented plate while preparing the fig sauce. Prepare sauce in same skillet used for cooking chops. Pour off excess fat, return skillet to stove top on high heat. This is a reduction sauce and the high heat is needed to reduce down the liquids.

Add broth and vinegar to skillet, stir with wooden spoon dislodging any brown pieces left in the bottom of the skillet. Reduce over heat to 1/2 cup. This will take about 5 minutes on high heat. Stir in figs, honey and thyme and cook sauce until reduced to 1/4 cup (now you understand why I suggest doubling the sauce). This should take 1-2 minutes. Add the butter to sauce and stir until completely melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

A Zinfandel or Shiraz wine would complement this dish well due to the sweet elements in the sauce.

Drizzle the fig sauce over the chops and serve. I served with applesauce, but there are plenty of other side dishes to consider. Roasted root vegetables are both easy and a healthy choice they include parsnips, carrots, rutabagas and turnips (root only). Wild rice, Brussels sprouts, fried apples, sweet potatoes or mac & cheese are other options.

Handmade Sourdough Pizza

My good friend, Charlie, gifted me and the wine guy with an incredible loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread and a batch of fresh dough for pizza.

Homemade Sourdough Pizza

It didn’t take long for us to use the dough, or for the wine guy to devour the baked pizza. This is what was left of the pizza once the man sunk his teeth into it. I got one corner piece. The dough was hand spread onto a cookie sheet and brush with basil olive oil. Finely chopped garlic and sliced tomatoes were the only toppings.

It’s amazing how awesome a pizza can taste without cheese. Certainly the olive oil makes up the difference in cheese calories, but a light brushing of olive oil isn’t going to do much damage in the way of calories.

Stuffed Shells: Ground Turkey & Spinach

Stuffed Jumbo Shells: Spinach & Ground Turkey

This dish can court any season. However, in Michigan where the smell of Autumn is running rampant, this stuffed shell dish lends itself to a Sunday afternoon football feast next to a cozy fire.

The flavorful stuffed shells are tucked beneath the cheesy tomato topping and packed with tasty goodness. Pair with an antipasto salad (low-fat dressing-pepperoni-ham-cheese, of course) and you have a meal made in sports heaven.

Cook the jumbo pasta shells as directed on the box. The filling recipe will stuff approximately 24 shells. Once shells are cooked, drain the water and place the cooked shells in a bowl of ice water until ready to fill.

The Filling:

  • 1 pound ground turkey meat, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups fresh, chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 4 wedges garlic-herb Laughing Cow cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk

Combine the above ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Spoon filling mixture into each jumbo size (cooked) shell. Drain shells from the ice water bath before filling.

Filling for Jumbo Stuffed Spinach & Turkey Shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 12 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a portion of the ricotta cheese onto the bottom of  pan and top with a 1/2 cup layer of marinara sauce.

Other Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (reserve 1/2 cup for the bottom of pan)
  • 24 Jumbo size stuffed shells
  • Cooking spray

While oven is heating, crumble and cook the turkey meat in a large skillet until browned. Add the filling mixture to the browned turkey meat. Remove from heat once ingredients are warmed through.

Stuff each shell with the filling mix and place into the 9 x 12 baking dish.

Spread the marinara sauce over the stuffed shells.

Cover the shells with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated low-fat mozarella cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 8 minutes before serving.

This recipe will easily serve 8 people when served with an antipasto side salad. Each stuffed shell is in the neighborhood of 91 calories.

Rice & Roasted Veggies w/ Gorgonzola

Rice with Roasted Vegetables

Blimpy Girl has been on sabbatical from food preparation due to my recent trip to Paris. As of yesterday, I hope to be back on track with my posts. This starts the busy season for my business, so I’m seeking out meals that are quick, easy and take little supervision while cooking.

This was last night’s dinner. The goodness of roasted veggies with a side of white rice. I coupled this dish with a endive-spinach-basil salad (the spinach helps offset the bitter of the endive) topped with shaved carrots and thin slices of zucchini. The salad was drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (and a handful of grated Parmesan Reggiano). In hindsight, the salad was an overkill. I could have made a meal out of just the salad and a piece of hard crusted bread.

The only thing missing from the salad were roasted walnuts. I should have thrown a handul onto the baking dish with the veggies. Walnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E and Omega 3.

There were enough roasted veggies to generously serve two. You will need the following:

  • (2) large onion slices
  • (1) large onion slice separated into rings
  • 1/2 eggplant (slice into 3/8 inch slices)
  • (2) large tomato slices
  • Chopped carrot
  • 1 small zucchini sliced
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
  • Cooked rice (3/4 cups per person)
  • 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 NOTE: You can substitute couscous for the rice. That was my first intention, but I didn’t have any in the pantry.

Arrange veggies in a single layer on baking sheet.

 

Lightly spray non-stick olive oil cooking spray on a baking sheet. Crank the oven up to 350 degrees and begin your chopping, dicing & cutting. Place veggies in a single layer on the baking pan (best you can). Spray with non-stick cooking spray and season.

 

Roast in oven for 25 minutes, remove from oven and place a dollop of Gorgonzola cheese on top of the tomato/onion slices. Return to oven and roast for another 5 minutes. Plate the rice using an ice cream scoop. Arrange roasted veggies on plate and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A sprinkle of cracked black pepper and you’re ready to devour a healthy dose of veggies.

Each serving (minus the salad) is in the neighborhood of 290 calories. If you swap out the rice for couscous, deduct 21 calories.The biggest calories are in the starch (rice/couscous) and the Gorgonzola cheese. Fore go the Gorgonzola and deduct another 50 calories. For me, the cheese splurge was worth it. It’s not often I have vein thickening, cholesterol building cheeses. But in small doses, it’s good for the soul.

 

Chicken Cannellini Quesadillas

Chicken Cannellini Quesadillas

This week I had a follow-up visit with my medical doctor to review blood work. Sadly, it indicated high cholesterol. We all know the repercussions of elevated cholesterol levels and the OCD person I am, I immediately Googled foods that might help keep this “ugly beast” under wraps. My search led to me cannellini beans. 

Not only are these creamy white beans high in iron (twice the amount of red meat), they are also a great source of fiber. Fiber-rich diets help promote healthy cholesterol levels and lower cholesterol. And better yet, these beans are a plant-based alternative for protein.

I noted several recipes were using cannellini beans in place of pinto beans. So why not use them to make quesadillas?

This recipe makes approximately 5 cups of filling. Depending on how much filling is used in each tortilla, it’s possible to get up to 10 servings.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped and sprinkled with Montreal Steak Seasoning. You could also sprinkle with 1 tablespoon powdered quesadillas seasoning.
  • 1/2 cup banana pepper rings, chopped
  • 1 medium size red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if using the powdered quesadillas seasoning, you won’t need the flour)
  • 4-5 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed (around 16 ounces)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4- 5 wedges of Laughing Cow Garlic & Herb cheese
  • Flour Tortillas, (low or reduced fat)
  • Non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • Low fat sour cream (optional)
  • Avocado slices (optional)
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
  • Enchilada Sauce (optional). Drizzle on top of the quesadillas slices.

 

How To

In a large skillet, spray a generous amount of non-stick cooking spray. Add red pepper, banana peppers, garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until softened. Add seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle the flour or quesadillas seasoning over the sauteed veggies and mix well. Cook for an additional minute and then gradually add the chicken broth. Let this simmer until the mixture is smooth. Add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt. Stir in cooked chicken and cannellini beans. Gently mix ingredients and remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Spray a medium size skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly spread the garlic/herb Laughing Cow cheese onto each flour tortilla. Place a tortilla (open faced) in the skillet and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Add a portion of the chicken/bean filling to one-half of the tortilla. Cook the tortilla until slightly brown and flip in half. Remove from pan and allow to set for a minute. Cut the folded tortilla into thirds.

 

Serve sour cream and avocado slices as optional condiments. Quite honestly, one of these quesadillas triangles with a side salad was filling, but I generously filled the tortilla.

Calories…. ??? Um, in the neighborhood of 182 calories for each third if using 1 cup fo filling in each tortilla. Cut calories in half (per 1/3 slice) by using 1/2 cup filling per tortilla.  That’s just 273 calories for one full quesadillas. The avocado and sour cream is not included in the count.

Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers

Turkey Stuffed Roasted Yellow Bell Peppers

Nothing (at least in my mind) screams flavor like roasted bell peppers. You can use yellow, orange or red bell peppers for this dish. I happened to have yellow peppers hanging around in the kitchen, so that’s what I used.

This recipe is so easy to whip up. Prepare the rice ahead of time and store in the fridge. You can even roast the peppers earlier in the day and then fill just before you’re ready to serve. It will take about 12 minutes to reheat in the oven.

Roasted Yellow Peppers

Cut three bell peppers in half, removing seeds/pulp/stem. Spray baking dish and peppers with non-Roast in oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. stick cooking oil.

While peppers are roasting prepare the turkey stuffing.

Cook 1/2 pound lean ground turkey breast. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the following to the skillet and mix well:

  • 1 cup diced onions (I used scallions)
  • 1 generous tablespoon of packaged taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup salsa (the kind in a jar, you pick the heat… hot, medium, or mild)
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce (the kind in a can)

 

Season with salt and pepper to desired taste. Using a scoop, fill each bell pepper half with the turkey mixture.

Cook in a 400 degree oven for an additional 12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on each pepper half.

Place peppers back in the oven and heat until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve within 5-10 minutes. An avocado slice and dollop of fat-free sour cream is a perfect garnish.

OK, time for reckoning. How many calories is this dish going to cost you? Each 1/2 stuffed bell pepper is around 350 calories. Keep in mind that each pepper half is stuffed with both rice and turkey meat, not to mention the black beans. These are all VERY filling. For me, one pepper half is a full meal.

If you’re looking to carve calories, consider reducing the black beans and rice by half. You can easily deduct 68 calories from each serving. I would definitely opt for the calorie reduction if you plan on serving with no-fat sour cream (try non-fat yogurt instead) and a slice of avocado.

Turtle Hamburger

A turtle burger any kids would love!This was last night’s dinner for the grand kids. They generally are not burger kind of kids, odd as that may seem. I decided to try a different take on presenting the burger especially since the wine guy had purchased an enormous package of burger meat from Costco.

Well, it worked! All three kids chowed down and ate every last bite of their burger. They even ate the tomato and lettuce. The turtle burgers were served with corn on cob. It was a fun meal and easy to make. Here’s the how-to:

The beginnings of a turtle hamburger.

  • Shape hamburger or ground sirloin meat into patties. Cook as desired.
  • I didn’t have burger buns so I cut white bread slices into circles using a used a cookie cutter. I liked this idea better because the bread wasn’t so thick.  English muffins are another option, but my grand kids aren’t muffin fans.
  • Slice baby dill pickles to make the turtle’s head, tail and feet. Use any extra pickles to make the turtle shell (see below).
  •  Add burger, cheese and ketchup to the bread base.Add any other condiments you want, E.g., mustard, mayo, relish.
  • Top with Iceberg lettuce and add slices of dill pickles to create the turtle shell.
  • The turtle eyes are small dollops of mayo with a raisin cut in half.
  • Serve with a side dish like corn on the cob or mac & cheese.

This turtle theme can also be used to create a before dinner craft. Here are links to a couple of easy turtle ideas using items you have around the house. Link #1, Link #2

This is a great opportunity to teach kids about turtles. I’ve noted a few links that might prove helpful.

Link #1, Link #2, Link #3