Peas and Pancetta Pasta Topper

Sometimes I get really tired of red sauce.  I always have to wear shirts that I’m okay with getting spots on because I tend to slurp.  I usually end up fixing any red sauce that comes out of a bottle since public demand requires things to be a bit on the bland side in order to please the bulk of the customers.  And after 28 years of eating that same bowl of pasta and sauce, I just need something different once in a while.

Luckily, pasta is a food that can easily take on flavors other than marinara.  That’s why you can find a lot of different dishes at good Italian food places that don’t involve red sauce!  I’ve already given you  fantastic recipes for my alfredo sauce and meat sauce (also called a “ragu”).  I’ve also shared other toppings for pasta – a veggie saute and a sundried tomato, asparagus and feta combo.  All four of these are amazing, but I think that this newest one is my favorite thus far!

Peas and Pancetta Pasta Topper
Servings: 3
PointsPlus Per Serving: 5 PP

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh green peas, 4 PP
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup diced cooked ham, 1 PP
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp parmesan cheese, 2 PP
  • 4 slices center-cut bacon, 2 PP
  • 2 tbsp Smart Balance light buttery spread, 4 PP

Directions
1. Get out a large non-stick skillet and place in your bacon. Turn it to medium heat and cook up that bacon until it’s fully cooked, but not crispy. Take out the bacon to cool, but leave the drippings in the pan.

2. Take your garlic and diced onion and put that right into the bacon drippings. Let it cook for a few minutes and then toss in the ham and peas. Cook for another five minutes or so until everything is warmed. Add the buttery spread and balsamic vinegar and stir until the spread is melted.

3. Put a lid over it all and let it simmer for a few more minutes. Once it’s done, divide over your favorite noodle, top with one tbsp of that parmesan cheese (unless you’re keeping it dairy-free) and enjoy.

After making this a few times, I think that this tastes best over gnocchi! There’s just something about those supple potato dumplings that makes all these flavors blend perfectly. I bought Archer Farms regular potato gnocchi, which is 16 PP for 3 cups. That would make each serving 10 PP…. not bad for 1 cup of filling gnocchi and about 1/2 cup of topping. A wonderful ratio of noodle to topping. YUM! You could also just put it over any other noodle or even rice. Or just do like I do and eat it over the stove with nothing but a spoon because it’s so damn tasty.

One last note… don’t think I’m going to skip out on all the wedding details.  They’re coming soon!  I know you all want to see some pictures and hear about it all :)

Pasta with Roasted Asparagus, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta

You know, I’ve been sitting here trying to think of creative ways to start off this blog post, but they all sounded like poop. So, I’m just going to give you some random tidbits of my life and then give you the recipe!  Kapeesh?

TIDBIT #1: I have tracked all my food 100% for almost three weeks now and it’s paying off!
TIDBIT #2: I am currently obsessed with protein shakes thanks to my Mimsy. My favorite so far is Choco-Berry. ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST!
TIDBIT #3: I have so much going on in my life right now that I can barely stand it. I just keep taking deep breaths and tracking my food since those are the two things I can control.
TIDBIT #4: I caved and bought some “shape-ups” to help my plantar fasciitis. These ones aren’t quite as atrocious, but they are definitely working!  And I’m not worried about Jess leaving me because I look like a fool :)
TIDBIT #5: The main reason why I got back on track is because I have $200 bucks in gift cards to spend that I promised myself I wouldn’t use until I reached 50 lbs lost and now that it’s getting hot outside, I NEED NEW CLOTHES!

Okay, enough randomness. Time for tasty! It’s inspired by this recipe I saw on Eat Me, Delicious. I just happened to have most of the ingredients and I wanted to do something different with my asparagus, so this was perfect! I switched up the ingredients just a bit, but it’s pretty much the same thing. I hope you like it!

Pasta with Roasted Asparagus, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta
Servings: 3 (around 1 1/2 cups each)
PointsPlus Per Serving: 10

Ingredients

  • 7 oz uncooked pasta of your choice, 19 PP
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in a bag, not oil)
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 oz feta cheese, 4 PP
  • 2 tsp olive oil, 2 PP
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp reserved water from the tomatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp capers (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Directions
1. First, you want to roast the asparagus, so turn the oven to 400 and wash and snap off the ends of your asparagus. Then, take out a cookie sheet, line it in tin foil and lay down the asparagus. Spray with some cooking spray and lightly salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes or until it reaches your desired level of doneness (should be cooked, but still slightly firm). Once cooked, cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside.

2. Now, put a pot of water on to boil the pasta in. I used a tomato-garlic fettucini noodle, but you can use whatever you’d like. Cook until al dente, strain and set aside.

3. While the asparagus is roasting, put the tomatoes in a small pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook them until mostly re-hydrated (around 7-10 minutes). Slice into small strips and set aside.

4. Once your three main ingredients are ready (or while you’re waiting for them to be ready), crumble the feta cheese into a big serving bowl. Pour in the tomato water, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dried herbs, capers and black pepper. Mix it together and then put in the pasta, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss to coat it evenly, serve and enjoy!

Sweet Chili Chicken and Veggies

Such a wonderful, tasty meal!

If I had to choose one place to live for the rest of my life purely based on my culinary preferences, it would be Thailand. The food is SOOOO GOOOOOD! Thai cuisine is subtle about it’s sweetness and bold with it’s spices! Fresh veggies are a staple as well since the quality of the food is so important. It’s these things that drive me back to my favorite Thai place every week and it’s these things that make me want to learn how to cook Thai food in my own kitchen. I’ve already mastered curry; noodle dishes are my next step!

This noodle dish was inspired by my “Stir Fry” cookbook. It’s all things stir fried and all things wonderful. First, I had to think about what was in my fridge and how many points I wanted to use for lunch and this recipe fit my requirements. Then I changed up the veggies and altered the amounts of the sweet chili sauce, lime juice and fish sauce so that the flavor popped a little more. The broccoli and carrot was good in it, but those veggies lend themselves better to brown sauces like teriyaki and hoisin. If you have baby corn and snow peas, use those instead. Either way, it’s going to be an awesome dish!

Calorie break-down: 14% fat, 62% carbs, 24% protein.

Sweet Chili Chicken with Veggies
Servings: 2 (2 full cups, so if you want less points, split into 4 servings and eat more veggies on the side!)
PointsPlus Per Serving: 16
Calories Per Serving: 614

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast, cubed, 6 PP
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets (or another green veggie like snow peas)
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned (or another light veggie like baby corn or red capsicum)
  • 2 tsp fish sauce, divided
  • 4 tbsp sweet chili sauce, divided, 3 PP
  • 6 oz rice stick noodles, 16 PP
  • 1 tbsp canola oil, 4 PP
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice

Directions
1. Soften rice sticks by placing them in a shallow dish and covering with boiling water. Move around to separate the noodles; let sit for about 30 minutes. If they still need more time after the first half hour, drain and re-cover with more boiling water for another 10 minutes before draining again.

2. Cut up chicken and mix in a bowl with 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce and 1 tsp fish sauce. Set aside.

3. Julienne carrots if you haven’t already and get broccoli florets ready. Set aside.

4. Pour canola oil into a large wok (or a deep non-stick pan) and heat on high. Once a drop of water sizzles in the wok it’ll be hot enough. Put in chicken mixture. Careful! It sizzles and pops so you should wear and apron. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until fully cooked.

5. Put in veggies and stir. Cook for another 3 minutes or so. Then put in noodles, lime juice, 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce and 1 tsp fish sauce. Stir constantly for a few minutes. Take out and serve immediately!

One more image for the road! Is your mouth watering?

If you want to check out more awesome Thai recipes, check out the Eating Bangkok blog. This guy posts ALL Thai recipes and they all look wonderful! His link is also on my Foodie Blog Shoutouts page.

One more thing…. don’t let the amount of points scare you. Any kind of noodle dish is going to devour your daily points. But if you fill it up with protein and veggies, you’ll be oh-so-satisfied!

Angela’s Mac ‘n Cheese

Creamy, Cheesy Gooooodness.

There’s something quite wonderful about homemade mac ‘n cheese that makes it beat boxed mac ‘n cheese every single time. Maybe it’s the special blend of cheeses that you see melting together in front of your eyes instead of that orange powder that magically turns into a cheese product. Maybe it’s the beautiful crust of browned carby goodness on top. Whatever it is, it’s real and it’s real good. What’s NOT good is the massive amount of points that come along with such a great cheesy dish!

This is my very first attempt at homemade mac and cheese and I must say, it’s quite good. It’s a softer, white cheese based mac n cheese, but it’s got a bit of a kick! What food that I make does NOT have a kick? Seriously. You’d think my fridge would be crumpled on the floor with all the kicks I give to the food in it ;) I used whole wheat noodles and low-fat cheeses to lower the points and make it a bit healthier. So, here’s my recipe for you to enjoy. I hope my kicks don’t knock you off your feet!

Angela’s Baked Mac ‘n Cheese
Servings: 6 (1 cup each)
PointsPlus Per Serving: 10

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Sargento RF Mexican blend shredded cheese, 7 PP
  • 1/8 cup Sargento RF Italian blend shredded cheese, 1 PP
  • 3 slices RF sharp cheddar cheese slices, 4 PP
  • 6 oz Velveeta pepper jack cheese, 7 PP
  • 2 oz grated parmesan cheese, 3 PP
  • 2 oz grated romano cheese, 3 PP
  • 2 1/2 cups dry whole wheat organic rigatoni, 13 PP
  • 1 1/2 cups dry whole wheat organic rotelle/spirals, 7 PP
  • 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 3 PP
  • 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, 7 PP
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, 3 PP
  • 1 tbsp land-o-lakes light butter with canola oil, 1 PP

Directions
1. Cook macaroni according to package directions, omitting salt.

2. Preheat oven to 375.

3. Place flour in a large saucepan.  Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick (about 8 minutes), stirring constantly.  Add cheeses; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently.  Remove cheese mixture from hea; stir in cooked macaroni and salt.

4. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray.  Combine bread crumbs with butter; stir until well blended.  Sprinkle over macaroni mixture.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

You can use your own blend of cheeses if you want to use up what is in your fridge.  Just make sure you have a nice blend!  That’s what I did.  The recipe I based this off of used a lot more cheddar and processed cheese.  Just make sure to count the points!  And, of course, the bread crumbs on top are optional.  I baked this in a casserole dish with the lid on, so the bread crumbs didn’t actually get browned and crunchy, so I’d recommend doing this in a bigger glass or ceramic dish.

Macaroni and Cheese on Foodista

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Veggie Saute over Pasta

One nice thing about vegetables is that they are relatively cheap. You can get a lot for a little bit of money, but you have to make sure you use them up quickly or they’ll go bad!  They’re also great at soaking up flavor, so you can get them to be a perfect compliment to almost any dish.

Here’s a great recipe that I whipped up on a long, cold winter night when I was craving something savory and satisfying, but I didn’t have any meat thawed. I knew that pasta would be a great option, but I’d eaten pasta with red sauce earlier in the week and I really just wanted to use some veggies. I went to the grocery store and picked up my weekly veggies and I was excited to find organic zucchini, so I knew I wanted to use it!

This dish was wonderful and very inexpensive (non-organic equals less money spent too). All it required was one zucchini, a cup of broken up broccoli, some garlic, oil, butter, milk, spices and whatever noodle I wanted to use. I ended up using one of my favorites, these tiny organic veggie shells that I got from our local Food Co-op. All together, this dish would only cost you a few dollars from the noodles, zucchini and broccoli. It’s yummy, satisfying, good for you and won’t take a chunk out of your pocket!  I’d estimate about $1.75 per serving including your noodles.

Veggie Saute for Pasta
Servings: 2
PointsPlus Per Serving: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini, skin on, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, broken into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, 4 PP
  • 1/2 tbsp light butter, 1 PP
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk, 1 PP
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat parmesan cheese, 1 PP

Directions

1. Heat up oil in pan. Put in garlic, red pepper flakes and herbs first and let them become fragrant.

2. Put in zucchini and broccoli. Mix and cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Put in butter, salt and pepper and let it melt as you stir. Once melted, pour in milk and cheese.

4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 more minutes.

6. Put on top of your favorite noodle. Enjoy!

This was fantastic on top of our noodles. It would probably be best with a penne, shell or other non-spaghetti type noodle just because it’s a chunky veggie saute. My girlfriend loooooved it. She had been craving pizza that night and this made her forget all about pizza. We topped it with a little extra parmesan cheese and enjoyed every bite. I hope you enjoy it too!

Raviolis Running Wild!

Last year’s freezer. 166 dozen!

What do you do when you have 33 dozen homemade, carb-o-licious raviolis in your fridge and no clue what their point value is?  Shit if I know!  Let me try this again….

What do you do when you have 33 dozen homemade, carb-o-licious raviolis in your fridge and no clue what their point value is?  Give them all away!  HAH.  Not happening.  I made them with my own two hands, suffered through massive flour attacks, intense meat/cheese ball rolling and dangerous 3 ft long sheets of noodle flying over my head.  I am NOT giving them all away.  Let’s try this one more time….

What do you do when you have 33 dozen homemade, carb-o-licious raviolis in your fridge and no clue what their point value is?  Bring 1/3 to my girlfriend’s family Thanksgiving, give 1/3 away as Christmas presents and figure out the point value per rav so I can keep 1/3 of my hard work (and totally worth it) and enjoy them!

On my mom’s side of the family, our traditional “Ravioli Day” feels a bit like Jesus’ day in the park with the loaves and fishes.  Only we don’t do it by God-magic.  We do it the Italian way – loud, messy and with lots of wine (although we never run out of wine…. maybe there is a little god-magic a foot!).  This year, we beat our record of 166 dozen in one day by two dozen.  168 raviolis from scratch!  It’s slightly ridiculous, but oh so worth it.  They taste so good.  I’ve never even bothered to figure out their nutrition facts, though, only how many I could eat in one sitting (almost two dozen, for the record).  But times have changed and so have my food choices, so it’s time to sit down and figure out the point value.

After hours of my own personal effort, I give you the recipe (and points value!) for a long kept family secret.  I’m also going to list healthier suggestions for when you make your own ravs.  I hereby baptize you as  Ravioli disciples!  (Get the reference?  Hehe.)

Homemade Beef & Spinach Raviolis
Serves: 10-15 people
PointsPlus per Ravioli: 16 per dozen (this does not include whatever you top it with)

Dough (13 dozen ravs, 8 PP per dozen)
Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, 69 PP
  • 6 eggs, 12 PP
  • 1 cup warm water (must be warm)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, 28 PP
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions
1. Pour all the flour into a big bowl and form a big hole in the middle. Pour all the eggs into the hole. Slowly mix the flour into the eggs.

2. Mix in the water and olive oil until the dough is nicely formed into a ball. Put back into the bowl, take some more olive oil and rub the top of it.

3. Put a towel over the bowl and set aside to rise for an hour.

Filling (13 dozen ravs, 8 PP per dozen)
Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground chuck, cooked and crumbled, 21 PP
  • 1 loaf italian bread (no crusts!) broken into marble-sized pieces, 25 PP
  • 1 lb fresh spinach
  • 1 bunch parsley (i go for 1 cup fresh chopped)
  • 10 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, 28 PP
  • 2 cans chicken stock, 1 PP
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese, 11 PP
  • 1 cup grated fresh romano cheese, 13 PP

Directions
1. Take stems off spinach (if you don’t have a food processor).

2. Heat oil in pan. Saute spinach, garlic, parsley and worcestershire together. At this point, my family would put it in a food processor and chop it all up, so chop it up somehow so that the spinach is in small pieces.

3. Mix spinach and ground beef together in a big bowl. Add the other spices (not the cheese, bread or broth) in and season to taste, which means you eat a little bit and see if it needs a little something extra. The spicier the better! At least that’s what’s written on my Noni’s recipe card, lol.

4. Add in the cheese. Mix thoroughly.

5. Take 1 1/2 cups of hot chicken broth and put it in a separate bowl. Add pieces of the bread in a little at a time to soak up the broth. Once all the bread is soaked, add it to the meat mixture until it’s about the consistency of meatloaf. If it’s too wet, put in some more cheese. If it’s too dry, add a little milk. Keep checking it for taste until it’s perfect for you!

Ravioli Making Time!
1. Make sure you have a lot of flour in front of you so that you can flour the table, the ravioli molds (if you have them) and the dough. You’ll also need either a dough press or a rolling pin. The dough press is totally worth the money, especially when you’re making so many! Also, you’ll need cookie sheets with wax paper sprinkled with flour to put the ravs on so that you can stack them until they are frozen enough to put into gallon ziploc bags.

2. Put some flour on the table and spread it out. Prep your ravioli molds by taking out the plastic part, flipping over the metal mold and rubbing it in the flour. This keeps the dough from sticking to the mold.

3. Grab a handful of the nicely risen dough and pat on some flour. Thin it out a bit and start putting it through the dough press. We start at #6 a couple times, then go all the way to about #2-3. Careful not to make it too thin and make sure to keep flouring it. I think the best length to shoot for is a little over 2 ft long for each sheet of dough. This is because whether you’re using one or two molds, it will be a perfect length. It’ll either be a top and bottom for one mold, or the bottom OR top of two molds!

4. Once you have your dough properly pressed and floured, lay it right over the mold, making sure to cover each edge completely and press down the plastic top to form the little pockets. Then, just fill each one with a nice cherry tomato-sized meatball! Too big and the rav will explode while being cooked; too small and you’ll feel gypped on the meaty goodness.

Me and my peeps filling ravs.

5. Put another sheet of dough down (or fold over the other foot) over top, flour your rolling pin and roll over the whole mold so that the edges are pressed together and the excess dough can be easily pulled away!

6. Flip ravs onto prepped cookie sheet. Once you have a full sheet, put into the freezer for a bit until they’re hard enough to successfully transfer into ziploc bags! If you’re using gallon-sized bags, you can store two dozen in each and just fold and stack the bags.

7. Rinse and repeat :) You can reuse the excess dough and just keep up until all the filling is gone!

This is just one of many ways that you can make ravs. I’ll put up the recipe for different ones as the weeks go on. You can also make up your own filling! The possibilities are endless. In fact, raviolis are all based on a tradition of using up leftovers before they went bad. They’d just take leftovers from the night before, mix them together with some spice, whip up some dough and VOILA!

Oh, and when you’re ready to eat them, just get a pot of water boiling, drop the frozen ravs in one by one and once they float to the surface (around 2 mins), they’re ready to be devoured! Easy-peasy.

Healthy substitutions? Use ground turkey instead of beef. Or use a half and half mixture. We’ve even made venison ravs before. Turkey tastes almost exactly the same as the beef, probably even a little better. I think it soaks up the flavor better and that’s always a plus in my book! Use 1/4 cup olive oil and some Pam when sauteing the spinach so that you don’t have to use so much. Use reduced-fat and sodium bread and chicken broth.

If you use low-fat cheeses (not fat-free), 1/4 cup less olive oil, turkey and reduced fat/sodium bread and broth, the points will be brought down to 1 pts per dozen! Schweeeet :). The oil and bread makes the biggest difference. You could still use the beef and full fat cheeses and the points would only be 12 per dozen. The dough will be 8 pts per dozen no matter what because of the flour, eggs and oil, but the rest of the points depend on what you’re filling it with. But no matter what, make sure you enjoy the fruits of your labor! Homemade raviolis are amazing. Just a little sauce, pesto or grated romano sprinkled on top or even pan frying them (after being boiled) with some pam, a bit of light butter and garlic…. Now that’s a piece of heaven; a bit-o-magic, a Jesus miracle, whatever you want to call it! As a foodie, I call it TASTAY and TOTALLY WORTH THE EFFORT!

Now, bring on the wine!