E-Z Baked Ziti

This meal is much less of a unique recipe, but much more an easy satisfying meal to throw together rather quickly.

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E-Z Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 13 oz. box whole wheat rigatoni

1 jar tomato basil sauce

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 bag baby spinach

2 cups mexican cheese shreds with a touch of cream cheese

1 tsp. sugar

Seasonings to taste:

garlic powder

onion powder

salt and pepper

italian seasoning

oregano

basil

Directions:

1. Boil pasta according to package and drain.

2. Preheat oven to 350*.  Brown ground meat and drain.

3. Add sauce to meat with 1/4 c water to rinse jar.  Add seasonings to taste with sugar.  Mix in spinach.  Simmer over medium heat for ten minutes or until heated through and spinach is wilted.

4.  Mix pasta, sauce mixture, and cheese until combined.  Add salt and pepper if desired.

5. Pour mixture into casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover with foil.  Bake 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 5 minutes more.

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Shrimp Pot Pie

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Shrimp Pot Pie

Servings: 4 (about 390 calories per serving)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp canola oil

4 carrots, chopped

1 tbsp flour, all-purpose

1 1/3 c low-fat milk, separated

1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste

3/8 tsp white pepper plus more to taste

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp celery seed

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb frozen cut green beans, rinsed

1- 8.5 oz box corn muffin mix

1 egg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400* and spray 9X9 glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Heat oil in small saucepan.  Add carrots and sauté until tender about ten minutes.

2. Add 1 tbsp flour to carrots and stir for 1 minute.  Add 1 cup of milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/8 tsp pepper, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and celery seed.  Cook over low heat until thickened about 5-8 minutes stirring periodically.  Turn off and let cool (put in refrigerator to hasten the cooling).

3. Meanwhile, mix corn muffin mix with egg and 1/3 cup of milk.  Set aside.

4. Season shrimp with salt and white pepper to taste.  Add shrimp and green beans to baking dish.  Pour cooled sauce over shrimp and bean mixture and stir to combine. 

5. Stir corn muffin mix and pour over the top of the shrimp mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until corn bread topping is golden brown.  Enjoy!DSC01253 

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The shrimp pot pie turned out nicely.  As for breakfast, there was the return of the oatmeal bowl.

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Lunch included some of Mom’s black eye peas leftover from last night’s dinner.DSC01237

I enjoyed a cup of the beans with pickled meat and a 1/2 cup of white rice.  I brought a nectarine for a snack, but when I cut it open it looked bad so a coworker gave me her cafeteria vanilla pudding with sprinkles on top because I was still hungry and wanted something sweet.  Ya know, when that special monthly visit is on its way my hunger gets out of control and I satisfy it.

At work, I also had some honey wheat pretzel sticks that Mom had brought me from Chicago in my goody bag a few weeks ago.  This week is standardized testing so I actually brought the pretzels for my 6 students I’m testing.

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Oh, and not to mention the hummus and chips I ate when I got home plus a bite of chipotle cheese which went unpictured.  I told you; I’m ravenous. That about wraps it up.  Now I’m feeling full and content.  For now.

Gorgonzola Chicken Alfredo Over Spaghetti Squash

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Gorgonzola Chicken Alfredo Over Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

1 small to medium spaghetti squash

1.5-2 lbs. chicken breast tenders

1 egg, beaten + tbsp. water

2 c Italian flavored panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp. canola oil

1 tbsp. flour

1 c skim milk

1/2 c gorgonzola cheese

1/4 tsp. salt (plus more to taste)

black pepper (to taste)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Score squash with a knife in random spots all over squash.  Put whole squash on baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes to an hour.

2. Meanwhile, season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.  Dip each tender into egg/water mixture.  Coat tender in panko crumbs.  Place tenders on a broiler pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  Lightly spray the top of the tenders with cooking spray.  Bake in oven 20-25 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165* is reached.

3.  While squash and tenders bake, mix oil and flour in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add milk stirring constantly.  Allow mixture to thicken to desired consistency.  Add gorgonzola cheese, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and pepper to taste.  Heat through.  (Add more milk if sauce gets too thick and reheat if necessary.)

4. Once squash is cooked, cut in half vertically.  Use a tablespoon to scoop out the seeded pulp in the center and discard.  Use a fork to scrape the tender flesh of the squash, which should resemble spaghetti.

5. To plate, add one cup of squash to plate.  Top with two tenders and two tablespoons of the gorgonzola alfredo sauce.  Enjoy!

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As for today’s eating:

I began with cereal with only a small splash of milk because I needed to get to the grocery and didn’t realize Chris drank until after pouring the cereal and slicing the overly-ripe banana.DSC01117 Lunch was a ham and muenster wrap with mustard, few spinach leaves that weren’t wilted, and pickles.  I enjoyed a sliced apple on the side.DSC01125

Snacking included this bar Mom brought back from Trader Joe’s Chicago location along with lots of other goodies.DSC01126

Tonight’s dinner included a fast and messy roast beef po’boy on french bread with reduced fat swiss, lowfat mayo and lettuce and tomato.  I had tutoring after work and needed to grocery shop, so Chris suggested this quick dinner.  I was so hungry I failed to snap a picture.

I have been craving cupcakes for several weeks now due to that darn show “Cupcake Wars.”  I made an attempt to bake some tonight, which do look pretty with the ganache like icing, but did not taste so pretty.  I managed to eat the tops of two (the icing was excellent), but most of the spongy cake stuck to the paper. 

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Actually underneath the icing lies deflated cupcakes; when I took them out of the oven they began to shrink.  I am not quite sure what happened, but obviously there will be no recipe sharing.  I shall try again some day.

Taste Test Tuesday: Crispy Oven Baked Fries

I do have weaknesses when it comes to eating.  Give me some fries and I will devour them in o.2 seconds.  As a child, my family would head over to the ballpark to watch my sister play on the softball or basketball all-stars team.  I would sit in the bleachers and not five minutes after arriving I would ask Mom if I could have $2.00 to get fries and a coke.  Surely I got my fries topped with lots of ketchup most nights and would sulk when I didn’t.

Still, at times I crave the crispy fried sticks and will eat them occasionally from a fast food joint, but I try to avoid them when eating out by swapping the deep fried salty goodness for a vegetable.

Last night I was on a mission to find the “best” crispy oven baked french fries to go alongside our pork sandwiches.  So I did what any normal foodista would do, and searched the net.  I found three techniques  that had potential, yet I wasn’t sure which method to use.  So I thought, “Why not test them all and see ‘which reigns supreme’?”  Iron Chef anyone!?!

Technique 1: Emeril’s egg white coated fries involve whisking an egg white until foamy, coating the fries in the egg whites, and baking on a greased non-stick pan.  I did not use the Essence seasoning as stated instead a simple salt and pepper shake and also chose to spray my pan with cooking spray instead of using vegetable oil.

Technique 2: Parboiling the fries was required in this method prior to coating with oil, salt, and pepper.  The baking was a bit more technical requiring not only baking, but also broiling.

Technique 3: A preheated oven and a preheated pan is required in the third technique.  The fries are coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper then they are layered on the preheated pan and baked in the oven.

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Fries three ways are shown above in the order of techniques listed previously—1, 2, then 3.  All three techniques took more or less thirty minutes with flipping fries half-way through cooking time.  And for the results:

1. The egg white coated fries had a nice french fry flavor and a crispiness that Chris related to a beer batter coating on the outside.  The coating wasn’t that evident to me.

2. The parboiled fries had me hesitant half-way through cooking time when they appeared limp and soggy as I flipped.  In the end after broiling, they did come out crispy and tender on the inside though not as crispy as #1.  Chris and I both agreed some of the potato flavor was missing with the pre-cooking of the potatoes.

3. The preheated pan did leave the fries super crispy.  Thirty minutes was not necessary as the recipe calls for.  Also, I had my oven set for 425* not 450*.  I was slightly disappointed because these fries were overdone and crisp almost to the point of being burnt.  It may have also been due to the fact that I cooked them on the second to lowest shelf in the oven since my parboiled fries were above.

Outcome: My preference for taste and crispiness were the fries cooked using…[drumroll please]…technique number 1-Emeril’s Oven Crispy Fries.  Chris actually preferred the third technique using the preheated pan which resulted in near charred french fries.

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And to summarize today’s enjoyable eating:

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Whole wheat tortilla topped with peanut butter, banana, and nutmeg + Earl Grey Green Tea

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Next up, lunch.

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Spinach/arugala mix, a roma tomato, a tbsp. gorgonzola cheese, and sesame almonds topped with raspberry vinaigrette + chobani peach greek yogurt.

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Banana Bread Larabar for an after school snack–

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And breakfast again for dinner (x2)–

1st Up

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A veggie sausage patty, laughing cow light swiss, and a fried egg on a wheat bun.

2nd Round–

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Chocolate Almond Oatmeal

1/4 c quick cooking oats

1/4 c water

1/4 c lowfat milk

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/8 tsp almond extract

pinch of salt

1 tsp brown sugar

10 bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:  Combine oats, water, milk, cocoa powder, almond extract, and salt in a small pot over medium low heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir continuously until desired thickness is reached.  Top with brown sugar and chocolate chips.  Enjoy the chocolaty almond flavored oatmeal.

Oh yeah, I also exercised prior to eating my 2nd breakfast of the day.  I headed straight home from work since severe weather was on the way.  I took advantage of free Exercise TV On Demand and did three workouts.  The first was the Metabolism Booster which was about 20 minutes of strength training mixed with spurts of cardio.  The second was a 10 Minute Buns and Thighs video, and lastly 12 minutes or so of 6 Pack Abs.  By the end I was hot and sweaty and in dire need of water.  I also came to the realization that I need to invest in some weights that are less than Herculean because I couldn’t do all of the moves with the 10 pounders I have.  Regardless, workout accomplished!

Blackened Redfish Tacos

Hi friendly people!  I hope you had a nice, relaxing weekend!  I know I did.  I managed to read an entire book; I couldn’t put it down it was that good.  Now if you have an aversion to animal cruelty you may cringe at some points in the story, but it is totally worth the read.  The author thoroughly captivated me with her descriptive writings and believable storyline.  And I can’t wait until April 22nd for the movie to come out with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. 

Reading and lazing around didn’t consume the entire weekend.  I cut grass and did far too many loads of laundry.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike doing laundry?  It is not getting it to the washer.  Nor is it putting it in the dryer.  It is; however, the part that involves folding, hanging, and the most disliked of all is finding a drawer or empty space in the closet to stuff it into. 

Like I said, some things were enjoyable though.  Like these blackened redfish tacos.

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Blackened Redfish Tacos

Ingredients:

4 (6 ounce) redfish fillets, skin on

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground red pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

4 whole wheat tortillas

1 cup broccoli slaw

2 tbsp. wholy guacomole

2 tbsp. 0% plain greek yogurt

optional toppings: reduced fat cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa

Directions:

1. Combine thyme and next 6 ingredients through salt in small bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet to medium high heat.  Make sure you let it get hot; this is essential to the blackening process.

3. Meanwhile, brush filets with 1 teaspoon olive oil and rub each with spice mixture.

4. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to pan.  Add fillets skin side up and cook for 3 minutes.  Flip skin side down and cook 3 to 4 additional minutes until fish flakes easily.

5. While fish cooks, mix broccoli slaw, guacamole, and greek yogurt in a bowl and set aside.

6. Remove fish from skins.  Top tortillas evenly with fish, 1/4 cup of broccoli slaw, and optional toppings if desired.

7. Roll up the taco and enjoy!

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I stayed up way too late last night finishing Water for Elephants, so I totally wanted to play hooky from work but that is unlike me so I went in after a bowl of cereal.

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Kashi Vanilla Island Wheat Squares, Praline Granola, Apple Cinnamon Baby Cereal, Cinnamon Almonds, and Sliced Banana with 1 % milk.  Plus I drank some hot mango green tea.

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I grabbed lunch in a jiffy from the cabinet—a can of Amy’s No Chicken Noodle Soup + Apple.  Here is a sneak peak into my lunch kit.

lunch Can you tell I was in a hurry?

After tutoring I had an apple pie larabar and a colby jack cheese stick.  Yesterday’s intended dinner turned into tonight’s since it wasn’t ready in time.  Chris slow cooked a boston butt pork roast on the grill yesterday for about 8 hours.  We ate it on sandwich thins topped with Hungry Girl’s Not- So- Secret BBQ Sauce, lowfat mayo, and spinach/arugula mix.  On side we shared some crispy oven baked fries.

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Currently, I am thinking about grabbing some hot tea as I watch “Bethenny Ever After.”  She cracks me up!  Have a good one!

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

When I stopped at the grocery store last Thursday on my way home, I had my mind set on cooking chicken lettuce wraps.  Instead, I ended up fixing a quick breakfast-style dinner—fried egg on a whole grain English muffin.  So this weekend, I knew I had to fix my lettuce wraps since I had the chicken and broccoli slaw ready to go in the fridge just waiting to be used up. 

I did not follow a recipe per se; however, I did read an Asian pork recipe a few weeks back in a  food magazine at the gym and thought the combination of sauce ingredients would be perfect for these lettuce wraps.  Additionally, I wanted some crunch so I thought to use broccoli slaw (instead of traditional water chestnuts found in many lettuce wraps) and peanuts for texture and flavor of course.  Furthermore, pork could just as well be used in place of the chicken in the recipe below.  The chicken mixture could also be eaten over rice or Chinese noodles, or on tortillas (like a mu shu pancake) for a more substantial dinner.  This Sunday lunch turned out crisp, refreshing, light and delicious.

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Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. chicken breast, chopped

1 small white onion, sliced thin

1/4 c. lite soy sauce

1/4 c. rice vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. light brown sugar

1 tbsp. minced garlic

8-12 oz. bag broccoli slaw

1/4 c. dry roasted peanuts

1/4 c. green onions, chopped + more for garnish if desired

salt and pepper to taste

1 head of iceberg lettuce leaves

Directions:

1. Spray nonstick saucepan with cooking spray.  Add sliced, white onion  and cook on medium-low for 10-12 minutes until tender.  (You may want to add 1-2 tablespoons of water after 5 minutes of cook time to prevent  burning.)

2. Meanwhile, mix soy sauce with next six ingredients through garlic in a bowl and set aside.

3. After seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, add the chicken to the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

4. Next, add 8-12 oz. of broccoli slaw and pour in soy sauce mixture.  Stir to combine and cook until broccoli is tender for 3-5 minutes.

5. Pour in peanuts and green onions, stir, and cook 1-2 minutes more.

6. To serve, add a tablespoon or two of the chicken mixture to the lettuce leaf.  Sprinkle on some additional chopped green onions if desired.  Roll up like a wrap and enjoy!

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Not-Your-Ordinary Shrimp and Grits

I am super excited to share this recipe because my husband said it was my most creative, best recipe yet.  As I was sitting at work today thinking about what to cook for dinner, I knew it had to involve shrimp and butternut squash because that is what I had, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to put it together.  I also wanted to incorporate that sample coconut butter packet since I wasn’t very fond of the crumbled bit on my peanut butter and banana sammie the other day.  I think it was more the texture that bothered me.  Anyway, I found a way to bring all the ingredients together by putting a spin on the usual Shrimp ‘N Grits.  If you give the recipes a try, let me know what you think.   

Enter Cashew Coconut Shrimp and Butternut Grits with Parmesan and Rosemary.

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Cashew Coconut Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. coconut butter, softened

1/3 c. cornmeal

1/3 c. cashews

3 tbsp. flour

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Process cashews in food processor until a crumb-like consistency forms.

2. Pour cashews in medium bowl. Add cornmeal, flour, and salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly.

3. In separate bowl combine olive oil and coconut butter.  Mix until evenly distributed.

4. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Toss shrimp in oil mixture to coat.  Then pour shrimp into the cashew mixture and toss to coat evenly.

5. Spray broil pan with nonstick spray.  Put coated shrimp on pan.  Spray top of shrimp lightly with nonstick spray. 

6. Broil shrimp for 5 minutes on high watching carefully to not burn coating.  Rotate pan after five minutes.  Switch broiler to low and cook 2 minutes more with oven door open to be sure coating does not burn or until shrimp are cooked through. 

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Butternut Grits with Parmesan and Rosemary

Ingredients:

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1/2 c. quick cooking grits

1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated

1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced (more for garnish if desired)

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Fill medium saucepan with water to cover squash.  Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender about 15 minutes.  Drain.

2. Put 2 cups water in saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour in grits and stir, lower heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Add squash to cooked grits along with remaining ingredients.  Use a wire whisk to mash squash and incorporate into grits mixture.

Enjoy!  To plate, spoon grits onto plate or bowl.  Top with shrimp and sprinkle additional rosemary if desired.

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My other meals certainly do not top the meal above, but here they are.

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I enjoyed a half of a toasted WW bagel topped with Maranatha peanut butter, sliced banana, spoonful of greek yogurt, and some Seedless Black Raspberry Preserves. And some mango green tea.

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Lunch involved some of last night’s maple and brown sugar pork tenderloin.

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I did heat the pork at work, but for picture purposes while packing it this a.m. here it is.  I served it on whole wheat bread with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato.  The sandwich was pretty darn tasty; I am glad I stopped the husband from feeding the leftovers to the dogs.  Dessert included a sliced nectarine.  I also had a granola bar during after school tutoring, but no pic was snapped.

Well, I am off to fold laundry and finish up Idol.  Good Night!