Baked Penne Bolognese

I came across this ground beef and pasta recipe while looking for Weight Watchers recipes. I love WW recipes... I am very rarely disappointed. This is only about 260 cal for 1 1/4 c! I was very full after this. This made for great leftovers as well. I shredded and sauteed some zucchini with it and it was super delish.


1 box Ronzoni Smart Taste penne pasta
1 lb lean ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small diced onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 large diced zucchini
44 oz Italian crushed tomatoes (it's 1 1/2 cans of the really big cans)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (I used 2 tsp!)
8 oz container of fresh mozzarella pearls packed in water
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and begin boiling the water for your pasta. First, you need to make your bolognese sauce. Spray a large pan with cooking spray and brown the ground beef for about 5 minutes. Then add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, zucchini, basil, salt, and pepper. Let simmer for ten minutes.

As the bolognese simmers, cook your pasta in salted boiling water until just al dente (about 7-8 minutes for most pasta). Drain pasta and set aside. Run cool water over it if the bolognese still needs to simmer to stop the pasta from cooking further.

Return the pasta to the pot and mix together with the bolognese sauce. Add in 1/2 of the mozzarella pearls, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, red pepper, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Pour into a large, greased baking dish and place the remaining mozzarella pearls on top, then sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top. Cook for 30 minutes until the cheese begins to brown and bubble. Serve immediately.

Original recipe found here.

Amazing Rainbow Cake

First of all, this is the most beautiful cake ever! I saw the rainbow cake on Pinterest (of course!) and I knew I had to give it a try. I made it for my mom's birthday and everyone was impressed! I do think you should read all the tips several times before making the cake though. I think I read through the original recipe tips/comments/etc probably 5 times prior to making this cake. I really didn't want to mess it up! I'm listing the most important ones below.

A few things:

- The original recipe uses cake mix with Sprite Zero instead of oil, water, and eggs. I'm sure that would still taste delicious, but I went for regular cake with all the normal ingredients. So if you want to use Sprite Zero with your cake mix, look at the original recipe.

- This is why in my pictures (compared to the original recipe) the batter is much thinner. The Sprite Zero gives you a thicker, lumpier batter.

- Make sure to buy the Betty Crocker Gel Food Coloring. The gel is more vibrant, and you don't have to use as much! In my Kroger, it wasn't with the other food coloring. They had it with the cupcake liners, candles, cookie frosting, etc. It comes with red, blue, green, and yellow. I just mixed colors to make the purple and orange.

- The original recipe used a frosting made from Cool Whip and pudding. I just bought Betty Crocker Whipped White Frosting (2 containers).

- I recommend checking out the original recipe for excellent step-by-step pictures! Also, the girl is hilarious, and you'll probably get a kick out of reading her post/directions.


You'll Need:
2 boxes white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker White Super Moist)
6 eggs, 2 1/2 c water, 1/2 c oil (unless you're using Sprite Zero)
Gel food coloring
frosting (you can use whatever kind you want!)

Directions:
1) First, make your cake mix according to the package directions. Then, spoon about 1 1/2 cups of batter into 6 different bowls and add your food coloring, blending well.


2) Now, spray your cake pans well. I used two 9" round pans. In the first pan, you're going to put red, orange, then yellow. But it's important that you use about 2/3 of the total batter for the first color in the pan - in this case, red. Otherwise, your last color you put on top will dominate the cake.

3) So get your red, and pour about 2/3 of the total batter into your pan. Make sure you pour it in the middle. You should just start to get pretty geometric circles of batter. Then get your orange, and pour that right into the middle of the big red circle. Pour about a cup of the orange, but I just estimated. Then, get your yellow and pour about another cup of that right into the middle of the orange circle.

4) Now, you're going to switch to your second pan to use the other 3 colors. According to the original recipe, this is so your two cakes end up being the same size. So now, just like you did with the red, pour about 2/3 of the total purple batter into the second pan. Then get your blue, and pour about a cup of that into the middle of the purple circle. Next comes green, which should be poured (about a cup of it) into the middle of the blue circle. Now your two pans look very pretty... but they're about to get even prettier!


5) Ok, now go back to your pan with the red, orange, and yellow - you're going to finish it up. Pour your green into the middle of the yellow circle. I did end up with a little batter left over in each of my 6 bowls... just because I was being careful. Then, pour your blue into the middle of the green circle, and then your purple in the middle of the green circle. Done with that pan! It will look beautiful.

6) Next pan! Finish it up by pouring your yellow into the middle of the green, then orange into the middle of the yellow, and last your red into the middle of the orange circle. Look at how awesome they will look!


7) Amazing!! Time to bake them now. Bake according to your package directions. I think mine was 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Of course they're done when you insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out clean. Let them cool a while in the pans. Then, carefully remove the cakes and let them cool on a wire rack.

8) Once completely cool, go ahead and assemble and frost your cake. It will be VERY hard waiting to cut into it... but definitely worth the wait! Everyone will be amazed. Enjoy your super awesome cake.


Original recipe found here.


Eggplant Roll-Ups

My mom has got eggplant in her garden, so I found another way to cook eggplant. This is a Rachael Ray recipe, but I tried to cut back on the olive oil a little by using olive oil spray instead. These were super yummy. Oh, and I even used my mom's homemade pesto for these. :) We had these with roasted okra, also from Mom's garden - so basically, our whole meal came from the garden! Awesome! Remember, it's Meatless Monday!


1 large eggplant (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut lengthwise into 8 slices
salt/pepper
4 large eggs 
1/2 c pesto 
2 c Panko bread crumbs 
olive oil spray
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese 
1/3 c grated pecorino-romano cheese 
1 c marinara sauce
  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and 2 tablespoons pesto. Pour the bread crumbs onto a large plate. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg mixture, then coat with the bread crumbs. 

In a large nonstick skillet, spray olive oil generously over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the eggplant until golden, 2 minutes on each side, spraying olive oil between each batch. Transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. 

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta and 3 tablespoons pecorino-romano; season with salt and pepper. Add in remaining pesto and stir. Top each eggplant slice with about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture. Roll up each slice, and use a toothpick to hold. Bake until the eggplant is tender when pierced with a toothpick, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer. Serve the roll-ups with the sauce and remaining pecorino.

Original recipe found here

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

I'm all about quinoa lately, so I jumped at the chance to make these. Also, my mom has a bunch of green/red bell peppers from her garden, so I needed to use those. These were fabulous!


1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed, drained
3/4 c quinoa
1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 c Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
salt and pepper

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Saute onion, celery and jalapeno for about 5 minutes, until soft, then add cumin and garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir in drained tomatoes (reserving liquid) and cook for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in black beans, quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and pour reserved liquid from tomatoes in the bottom of your baking dish.

Fill each halved bell pepper with 3/4 cup quinoa mixture and place in baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes.  Remove foil, top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, and bake for 5 additional minutes. Enjoy!
Original recipe found here.

Herbed Spaghetti Squash

This was my first time to try spaghetti squash and it was AMAZING!!!

After researching how to cook a spaghetti squash, I found you can either cut it in half before you cook it (which is super hard to do), or you can cook it whole, but it will just take longer.

I opted to stab my squash all over with a fork and bake it whole for 1 hour. I let it cool about 30 minutes and then easily cut it right in half! I let it cool a little while longer, then scraped out the middle part. Then I got a fork and just shredded it right up. It's crazy how it comes off in those spaghetti-like pieces! It's a ton too! I followed the directions here for baking a spaghetti squash.

I found this recipe from Emeril (Food Network) and it is so good! Once you've baked and shredded your squash, you're pretty much good to go and you just have to combine everything below in a large pan.


1 spaghetti squash, about 2 1/4 pounds
2 1/2 tbsp butter (I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter)
2 1/2 tbsp finely chopped mixed soft herbs (I used basil, parsley, and chives)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Let butter melt in pan over medium heat, add spaghetti squash, and all your herbs and spices. I let it cook/heat for 5-10 minutes.

Cheesy Chicken Rotini in the Crock-Pot!

Believe it or not, I found this recipe through Weight Watchers recipes! Always awesome. I guess this isn't a REAL crock-pot meal because you do have to cook the pasta before. It also doesn't cook long... only 2-3 hours. This makes for excellent leftovers as well.


1 lb Velveeta (made with 2% milk)
2 chicken breasts, cooked & cubed (or 12 1/2 oz canned chicken, drained & flaked)
1 can red-fat cream of chicken soup
1 can red-fat cream of mushroom soup
1 can of Rotel
4 oz canned mushrooms, stems and pieces, drained
3/4 cup water
1 small onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 tsp table salt/pepper, each
1 box Ronzoni Smart Taste Rotini, cooked

Combine soups, Rotel, chicken, and stir. Add mushrooms, water, onion, green pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Cut Velveeta into small cubes, about 1 inch. Stir into mixture. Last, add your cooked noodles and stir well. Cover and cook on Low 2-3 hours. Mmmmmm!

Original recipe found here.

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos/Quesadillas

This is one of those recipes that's pretty simply, not a big deal, but it is just so delicious I feel like I must share. We were both surprised at how tasty these were. Crispy and cheesy... pretty much like a quesadilla I guess.

The original recipe calls for smaller corn tortillas, but I only had whole wheat 100 cal tortillas (8 inch) so I used those. This made 4 large tacos for us, but if you use smaller corn tortillas it should make 8. They are really filling too. The recipe posted below is how I made this for Meatless Monday!


1 can low-sodium black beans
½ c red onion, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
4-6 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated
olive oil spray
salt/pepper
4 whole wheat tortillas (or 8 corn tortillas)
Valentina Mexican hot sauce (or another kind, but this kind is awesome)
Optional for serving: sliced avocado, sour cream (or plain, nonfat Greek yogurt!), and salsa

In a medium bowl, add beans along with red onion, cilantro, and spices. Add a pinch of salt and lightly mash all of the ingredients together. Grate your cheese and have it ready as well.

Heat a large, non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and spray with olive oil spray. Add one tortilla at a time and let each get hot for a few seconds. Then add about a 1/2 cup of the bean filling to one half of the tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese, and then drizzle hot sauce over it! Use as much or as little as you like.

Using a spatula, carefully fold the tortilla over so it forms a shell. Press down lightly on the tortilla so it holds its shape. As the first tortilla cooks, move it to the side and do a second one. Make sure to spray more olive oil spray. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to get 2 or 3 tacos at once. If you have a griddle you can do even more at once.

Cook each taco for about 3 minutes per side until they are nicely browned and crispy. When flipping the taco to cook on the other side, use a spatula and flip the taco toward the fold so the filling doesn’t fall out. Serve tacos with toppings like salsa, avocados, and sour cream if you like!

Original recipe found here.

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Oh these were awesome! These meatballs were so juicy, and who wouldn't love ooey-gooey mozzarella inside?! I found this recipe for "Incredible" meatballs on Pinterest. I used that recipe, but just put a chunk of mozzarella in the middle.

I had wanted to serve this over spaghetti squash. I have never tried it and bought one... I was going to make it for the first time. Turns out... I accidentally bought a butternut squash.. duh. So, instead of low-carb spaghetti squash, I just used linguine. We put my mom's homemade tomato sauce on the linguine and some of the meatballs, but really the meatballs are amazing on their own! Also had roasted okra... and yes, I had double the amount this time!


1 lb lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup non-fat milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 small onion, minced or grated (About 1/2 c)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 c minced fresh basil

block of mozzarella cheese (part-skim), cut into chunks (About 1 inch by 1 inch) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine everything except mozzarella in a large bowl. With clean hands, mix it all together. Grab a handful of the meat mixture, kind of flatten it out a little, and then roll it around the cheese. But you can also make these smaller than I did if you'd like. Spray a glass baking dish with olive oil spray, and place meatballs into the dish. Spray meatballs quickly with olive oil spray. Bake for about 30 minutes. Mmm, mmm, good!


Original recipe found here.

Light and Spicy Chicken Enchiladas

I love trying out new enchilada recipes! Here are a few I've tried in the past:

Bubble-Up Enchiladas - These aren't actually enchiladas... you use biscuits, ground turkey, and enchilada sauce, among other things. It's absolutely delicious!
Slow-Cooker Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas - These were awesome! I liked that they were meatless too. I'd like to try them in the oven this summer, while I have time!
"Skinny" Chicken Enchiladas - This recipe is actually really similar to this one! The sauce is a bit different, and these are less spicy. Yummy!
Spicy Avocado Chicken Enchiladas - We absolutely loved these!!!! Spicy and delish.

So, today's recipe is also "skinny" enchiladas! Like I said, it's similar to the above "skinny" chicken enchilada recipe... but for some reason I am blown away by this one, and honestly I can't remember the one I made in the past too well! So I think I will call these Light & Spicy Chicken Enchiladas.

** One last thing - I boiled my chicken breasts and then shredded them in my mixer! Check it out here if you haven't seen this yet. It worked like a charm!



Sauce:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Chicken:
cooking spray
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
8 (6-inch) reduced carb flour tortillas (or whatever kind!)
1 cup shredded low-fat Mexican cheese
Nonstick cooking spray

In a medium saucepan, spray oil and saute garlic.  Add chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use, and preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.  Saute onions and garlic on low until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add chicken, salt, cilantro, cumin, oregano, chili powder, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and cook 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Spray a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray.  Put 1/3 cup chicken mixture into each tortilla and roll it.  Place in baking dish seam side down.  Top with sauce and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 25 minutes. Top with green onions! I served with Mexican rice.

Original recipe found here.


Eggplant Parmigiana

AMAZING. One of my favorites without a doubt. Absolutely delicious. I used my mom's eggplant and tomatoes. The recipe came from The Fit Cook and I am definitely going to have to check out more of her recipes now. I could go on forever about how awesome this is... make it, eat it, love it.


1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds (I also peel mine)
1 medium tomato, sliced
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (or mozzarella)
1/2 c Panko
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 egg
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 c fat free cottage cheese
salt/pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the eggplant, peel it if you want, then slice it into 1/2-inch rounds. Lay the eggplant on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Let the eggplant sit 5 minutes: the salt will draw bitter liquid out of the eggplant. Pat dry with a paper towel. Flip and repeat.

Beat the egg in a shallow dish or bowl and set aside. In a separate shallow dish or bowl, whisk together the bread crumbs, Panko, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. While the pan comes up to temperature, pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel. Pass each slice through the egg, then through the bread crumbs. Place the eggplant in the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Drizzle with extra olive oil before flipping them over. Cook the second side another 5 minutes.

While the eggplant cooks, combine the ricotta and cottage cheese; stir a little salt and pepper into the it as well. Set aside. Wash the tomato, then cut it into 1/4-inch slices.

Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet that has been lined with foil. Top half of the eggplant slices with a little of the cheese mixture, then top with another slice of eggplant. Place a slice of tomato over the eggplant, and sprinkle with 1/2 tbsp parmesan or mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.

** I highly recommend not using a tomato sauce on top! The tomato slice was so juicy and delicious. Try it without first, and if you feel like you must have marinara, then add it. :)

Original recipe found here.


7/10/15 - Always a summertime fave!


Laura's Cobb Salad

This is my Mimi's Cafe inspired cobb salad. I like going to Mimi's when I want a big, delicious salad... specifically their cobb salad. It comes with bacon, turkey, avocado, green onions, egg, tomatoes, and crumbled bleu cheese. I always order it without the bacon and turkey and get fat-free balsamic vinaigrette. Their lettuce is always so fresh and it's a really big bowl of good quality lettuce, with excellent fresh toppings lined up across the salad. YUM.

So, that's the back-story for this salad I made for lunch today. It was AMAZING. I was like... "Man, I could eat this EVERY DAY!!" Again, this isn't really a recipe, I'm just sharing with you what I had for lunch. This is my version of their awesome salad. I had to skip the avocado because mine were not ripe yet. Maybe next time.


lettuce
2 tbsp turkey bacon bits
3 tbsp red-fat crumbled feta
diced tomatoes
1 tbsp sliced almonds
4 green onions, sliced
1 hard-boiled egg, diced
fat-free balsamic dressing (or whatev)


Roasted Okra

I knew by reading the reviews on the original recipe page that this was going to be amazing. People were even saying this is better than fried okra. It's pretty awesome. I also tried an oven "fried" okra last week, which was also amazing. I love both okra recipes, but this one doesn't require as much prep time!

Only bad thing is, okra shrinks up! I used 23 okra things and it ended up being enough for me and Will to each have a good serving. But I want bigger servings! We want to be able to eat bowls of this. So I have requested double (or three times) the amount of okra for next time. :)


20 fresh okra pods, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt/pepper, each
2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put sliced okra in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil and toss. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder, toss. Cover a baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray, and place okra on sheet. Bake 20-25 min until okra is a little crispy. Yum!

Light Asian Salad

Well, this isn't really a recipe... just a quick salad I threw together for lunch today. But it was sooo good I wanted to share and it's only 240 calories! It was so big and it took me forever to eat. Also, let's face it, I have the time...


Lettuce (whatever kind you like)
1 pkg mandarin oranges (packed in water)
1 small cucumber, diced
water chesnuts (I used about 10)
2 tbsp sliced almonds
3 tbsp red-fat crumbled feta
2 green onions, sliced
sesame seeds (couple sprinkles)
2 tbsp Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame dressing

This really doesn't need instructions. You know, lettuce, toppings, dressing... etc. :)

Taco "Cupcakes"

UPDATE 7/17/2013: At the suggestion of my friend Sarah, I baked the bottom wontons for a few minutes before assembling the cupcakes for added crispiness. It made a huge difference! I posted a picture from tonight below - you can tell a difference even in the picture I think. I changed the directions in the recipe as well. Thanks Sarah!

No doubt if you're on Pinterest you've seen these floating around for a while now. I tried the mini lasagna cups back in March and loved them. I just don't see how anyone wouldn't like these. Fun to make too!



 7/17/13 - Baked bottom wontons prior to assembling! Crispy!

1 lb lean ground beef (or chicken, turkey, whatevs)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can black beans, drained/rinsed
24 wonton wrappers (Kroger has these in the organic refrigerated section, next to the tofu)
1/2 c queso dip
1 c chunky salsa
2 c shredded Mexican cheese, red-fat
green onions, chopped
guacamole/sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 12 muffin cups and set aside. Brown ground beef in pan, add taco seasoning & black beans. Let cook for a couple minutes and remove from heat.

Push 1 wonton wrapper into the bottom of each muffin cup. Bake these wontons for 3-5 minutes in the oven. This will help them get crispy. Next, spoon a little queso onto the wonton and spread it on the bottom. Follow by spooning a little bit of beef/bean mixture on top. Remember, you're going to be doing two layers here, so only use a little. Spoon a little salsa on top of that, and then sprinkle just a little cheese. Now do it again! Press another wonton wrapper on top of each one and repeat the steps on each cupcake - queso, meat/beans, salsa, cheese. Bake about 20 min until golden brown and sprinkle with green onions! Let cool 5 min in the pan before removing taco cups, and top with whatever taco toppings you want.

The link to the original recipe (below) has great step-by-step pictures!

Original recipe found here.
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