Category Archives: Italian

Roasted red pepper soup

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First, let me say: I hate soup. You can dress it up however you like—put it in a bowl, add some toppings and a spoon—but it’s basically a chunky beverage. I have never eaten  a meal of soup—no matter how hearty—and thought, “I am so satisfied right now.” Nope, it’s usually like, “Interesting liquid pre-dinner. Now where’s the actual dinner?”

So, why the soup recipe? It all comes down to math. Grab your calculators, people—we’re ’bout to talk equations.

Complete the following: 1 miserable head cold  +  (23 inches of snowfall / 48 hours)   8 remaining WW Points  x  0 interest in cooking = roasted red pepper soup

It’s the “new math.” Learn it.

I put this one together on my own; it’s rich , smoky, flavorful, and very, very easy. It’s on the thin side, so if you want your soup to be hella thick , you should probably use cream or half & half instead of milk. That said, my version has a fraction of the Points, which you can then spend on a warm, toasty chunk of break for dipping… and doesn’t that sound like a better use of calories? I thought so.

Ingredients

  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, packed in water, drained, 16 oz.
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup low-fat or 1% milk
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 t. butter
  • Basil (to taste, about 1 t.)
  • Salt (to taste, about 1 t.)

Recipe

Heat butter in medium saucepan. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly.

Reduce heat. Add remaining ingredients except milk—peppers, broth, basil, and salt. Let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Pour mixture from pan into food processor or blender; process until smooth. Pour back into a saucepan or a crock pot, add milk, and stir to combine. Heat on low (stirring occasionally) until you’re ready to eat—I let mine go for about an hour.

Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some fresh basil. Add croutons, toasted pita, or bread for dipping, if desired.

 

 

#noodleporn

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If you’re anything like me, your love-hate relationships with noodles is profound. Noodles are majestic, epic, al dente little niblets of deliciousness. My love for them was always pure and uncomplicated. That is, until I recognized their propensity to make me very, very fat.

I’m not one of those people who can be like, “Noodles are carby y’all, so I’m just going to have a small little half-serving, kthx!” Nope. I don’t want little bird servings, I want man-sized bowls full’o noodley goodness. The masochist within me would rather eat none than enjoy a small amount, so I have learned to exist in a world without noodles—but I’ll tell you what, I’m not happy about it.

Enter the Paderno Spiralizer, aka Return to Noodle Nirvana. It allows you to turn pretty much any fruit or veggie into curls, shoestrings, strips, or slices. In seconds. Like, really.

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I know what you’re thinking—I thought it too. Allow me to dispel your doubts:

  • The end result tastes like noodles, not veggies. Yes, really. I don’t know why zucchini—a vegetable I have loathed since childhood—all of a sudden tastes amazing in noodle form. It just does. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • They’re also not too crunchy—when properly simmered in the sauce of your choosing, they soften nicely and take a slightly-more-biting-than-al-dente form.
  • The contraption itself is super easy to use. The unit suction-cups to the counter so nothing shifts during use, the slicing plates (comes with three in varying cuts and sizes) pop in and out easily, and everything is dishwasher safe.

As you can see from the photo below, the trial meal was deemed a success. I even finger-wiped my bowl clean of the sauce (a high-level culinary creation of Prego Veggie Smart mixed with fat-free cream cheese). Buy this thing and rediscover your love of Italian feasts. You won’t be sorry.

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The food item you need to have in your kitchen, always

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Yes, you. You need this. Go buy it. Now.

It’s FlatOut bread–specifically the Pinwheel party-sized variety.

It’s big–like, the size of a full cookie sheet–and it has just 5 PointsPlus. That means you can do just about anything with it.

  • Do what its name implies and cover it with sandwich fixin’s, roll it up, and cut it into pinwheel finger sandwiches.
  • Cut it in half (only 2 P+) and use as a bread or wrap for hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, spreads, or gyros.
  • Cut in halves or thirds and use in place of higher-Point tortillas for burritos.
  • Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and seasonings, and bake at 350 for five minutes for awesome pita chips. Dip in hummus, guacamole, salsa, or PB2.
  • Brush with olive oil, add garlic seasoning and Parmesan, and bake for a delicious (much healthier) alternative to garlic bread.
  • Top with fat-free ricotta cheese, sliced Roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, and reduced-fat mozzarella cheese for a ginormous and super-satisfying personal pizza. If you stick to 1/4-cup serving sizes for both cheeses, you’re looking at just 9 PointsPlus for the ENTIRE thing. That’s not to say you can’t share… but you can also say, “back off, bitches” and eat the whole damn thing. That was my strategy.

Kitchen must-keep: pizza crust

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People often tell me they don’t have time to cook. I hear that; I work 50-hour weeks and often arrive home starved and cranky. The secret is prep.

Not every meal needs to be a production. Just say no to your next takeout fat bomb or mac ‘n cheese binge by stocking your freezer with Golden Home Ultra Crispy & Thin Pizza Crusts. Each serving (a third of a crust) is just 130 calories, 1.5 g fat, 26 carbs, and 3 WW Points+. That means if you top wisely, you can eat the whole thing. Cue singing angels and hallelujah chorus.

The possibilities are literally endless:

Rub with olive oil and garlic and top with reduced-fat mozzarella for a crispy take on garlic bread.

Top with sliced Roma tomatoes, garlic, spinach leaves, basil, and fresh mozzarella for a healthy margherita pizza.

Pile high with seasoned taco meat (use veggie crumbles for cruelty-free and low-fat yum!), Rotel canned tomatoes/chilies, avocado slices, black olives, green onions, shredded lettuce, and Greek yogurt for a feast of a Mexican pizza.

Cover with homemade sauce of puréed fat-free ricotta, garlic, and fresh spinach and basil, then add mozzarella and bake for a bright, flavorful “green goddess” pizza.

Add scrambled egg whites, peppers, onions, fresh snipped chives, and smoked salmon or sausage crumbles for a breakfast omelet’za.

No matter which option you go for, it’ll take you from freezer to dinner in like ten minutes or less. It’s a huge leap up from greasy drive-through, but (shhh!) you don’t actually have to cook.

Today I learned how to make knock-your-socks-off Simple Start pasta sauce

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“Pasta sauce” might be a bit of a misnomer; this stuff would be good on pretty much anything—quinoa, eggs, veggies, and tofu, off the top of my head.

There are recipes born from high-minded culinary inquisition; this is not one of those recipes. This bad boy came from sheer desperation—an incurable desire for a bangin’-good sauce to heap atop my whole wheat pasta. I consulted my Simple Start food list and started tossing things into the food processor. Voila, a new dinner favorite was created.

The result is a sauce that’s low in fat, calories, and carbs; high in protein; and seriously yummy. It tastes kind of naughty and creamy, but the fresh spinach makes it bright and beautiful and good for your body. Loosely translated, that means no guilt when ladling it into your bowl in epic quantities.

Ingredients

  • Fresh spinach, 1 bag/container (I used about 5 cups)
  • Fresh basil, 10 leaves
  • Garlic, as much as desired (I used about 3 T. minced)
  • Lemon juice, 1 T.
  • Olive oil, 2 t.
  • Fat-free cottage cheese or ricotta, 1 cup (I used cottage cheese because I already had it)

Recipe

Pack the first two ingredients in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add last three ingredients and blend for about 30 seconds, until mixture is well mixed (lightly chunky is okay). Store in refrigerator until ready to use, then heat through until bubbling and serve atop whatever your heart desires.

Note: If you have the time, let your sauce hang out in the fridge and chill for 12-24 hours before serving. I ate mine a few hours after preparing and it was perfectly fine; the next day, however, it was truly delish.

Another note: this recipe was made to be Simple Start friendly. It’s delicious as it is, but if you want sauce with more flavor body I would recommend adding a half of an avocado, pureed walnuts or pine nuts, or parmesan.

Garlic lemon-butter mahi with capers

Things around here have been entirely too healthy for my liking. It’s been a month of fresh fruits, lean protein, and new veggie experimentation (kale = blech). Time to shake things up with a bubbly, boozy butter sauce.

Of course, I never go off of Weight Watchers. I mean, I slip up and have rough days–but I never just toss my arms in the air and throw caution to the wind and careen into epic binges like the old days. So, long story short–if I want boozy butter sauce I need to create a plan-friendly version. So that’s what I did.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for the life of me, I will never understand why people eat frozen dinners when stuff like this is only 15 minutes and five ingredients away. The flavor is IN-sane. Like, really. It’s basically restaurant food, except cheap. And good for you. And you can throw it together with stuff already in your fridge. And you don’t have to drive anywhere.

Ingredients

  • Two mahi mahi fillets, 5 oz. each (chicken would probably be fine as well, but you didn’t hear it from Vegetarian Kara)
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 3 T. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 T. butter
  • Capers

Recipe
Rub a frying pan with olive oil, preheat at medium, then add thawed fish fillets. Cook on one side until lightly browned, then flip and add garlic, lemon juice, and wine. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until liquid is mostly reduced. Add butter. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly and spooning the sauce over the fish to get it all nice and coated.

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Serve topped with capers and fresh parsley.

Each fillet is 6 Points+, and an additional 4 for sweet potato chips on the side (slice ’em thin, add touch of olive oil and seasoned salt, bake until crispy, serve with a big dollop of spicy sriracha sauce). 10-Point dinner, ohhhh soooo yum!

Butternut squash lasagna

Let’s start with this: the photo doesn’t do it justice.

I had great designs to style my lasagna up and take a lovely, arty photograph. Center it on the plate, dust with some dried herbs and fresh parm–really get peoples’ taste buds going. And then I tried a bite. And then all thoughts of refined photography hit the skids and dinner became this:

The recipe came from Skinny Taste, and I followed it to the letter. The sauce was every bit as creamy, buttery, and fragrant as it appears in the pictures. And mad props for turning me on to a new discovery: rolled lasagna versus traditional layered. Freaking brilliant. Makes it impossible to muck up the portion control.

Thanks to awesome Restoration Fitness for sharing this recipe. Psst: they share a bunch of other amazing recipes and fitness tips as well. You should check out their site and like them on Facebook.

Italian broccoli parm

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Fall has hit my little corner of northern Michigan, though it feels like winter. The snow is flying today, the air is cold and blustery, and I’m craving hearty Italian food.

This was my lunch today. It accomplished all of my goals: meal for under 10 Points+; packed with healthy veggies; and tasted of cheesy, bread-crumby Italian yumminess. Bonus points for being able to eat it with my hands. You know my rule of thumb: if a four-year-old would like it, I’m all about it.

Ingredients
1 head fresh or 1 large bag frozen broccoli
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Parsley, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Provolone or mozzarella cheese, sliced, 1 oz.
Marinara sauce

Recipe
If using fresh broccoli, chop and blanch (1 minute in boiling water). If using frozen, thaw and chop.

Add chopped broccoli to medium mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add panko, Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, and salt. Mix with you hands, coating the broccoli well.

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Add broccoli to a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes (18-20 minutes for really crispy broccoli), turning once.

Top with sliced cheese and serve with marinara.

Creamy avocado pasta

OMFG.

Okay, seriously people—let’s talk about creamy avocado pasta. This is, quite literally, the most amazing bowl of food I have feasted on in years. Years.

Imagine your greatest bowl of Italian comfort food: al dente pasta heaped with ladle after ladle of silky, buttery sauce. Have the vision in your mind? This is better. Yes, really. You’d never guess that a ripe avocado blended with fresh lemon, garlic, and basil could create such a luscious, creamy, heavenly sauce.

I can’t even find adequate words to describe the absolute deliciousness of this dish. And I’m a professional writer—what does that tell you? (Probably that I’m a shitty, unimaginative writer. I can’t help it, I’m in a food coma. Don’t judge.)

I almost don’t want to tell you how easy and healthy it is; I’m afraid there’ll be an avocado shortage in my town. But I do this because I love you, so here’s the breakdown.

  • The entire bowlful you see pictured above? 13 PointsPlus. And let me tell you, these are the heartiest and most lip-smackingly satisfying Points you’ll eat all week.
  • The sauce is made from just THREE ingredients: an avocado, a half a lemon, and garlic, plus some kosher salt and basil. You’ll make the whole thing in under ten minutes.
  • The recipe is vegan and packed with fiber, healthy monounsaturated fat, and folic acid.
  • It is So. Freaking. Delicious. Your toes will curl while you eat.

The recipe can be found here, on Oh She Glows. Great blog, follow it. Any woman who can devise such an incredible recipe is either an evil genius or a true healthy-food goddess.

Probably both.

Garlic + pesto + spinach pizza

Garlic pesto spinach pizza
Who wants piiiizzzza??

This one is a bit of a PointsPlus investment, but soooo worth it, let me tell you. It’s got the crispy crunch of olive oil, lots of drippy, melty cheese, and enough garlic to ensure that toothpaste will be needed before any evening hanky panky (the mark of a truly great Italian meal, in my book). Plus, it’s packed full of bright, flavorful tomatoes and spinach.

Ingredients

  • Quality pesto, jarred
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded (or thinly sliced if using fresh)
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Pizza crust

Recipe
You can use whatever kind of pizza crust you prefer. I know people who swear that homemade, hand-rolled crust is the ONLY kind, and buying a pre-made from the store is tantamount to blasphemy. I say crust is crust, lets just make the damn pizza and get to the eating. I bought a Mama Mary’s 12″ Original Gourmet Pizza Crust. It’s my favorite brand–thinnish, great mix of crispy and chewy, and tastes like authentic hand-tossed.

First, heat a fry pan to medium, hit with a few spritzes of Pam Olive Oil cooking spray, and add your garlic and spinach. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning the ingredients regularly, until the garlic is slightly browned and spinach is cooked down and soft. Set aside.

Measure 1/4 cup of jarred pesto and spread it on pizza dough/crust, including edges. Add spinach and cheese, then top with tomatoes. Bake according to the directions for your crust, or until it hits your level of doneness.

Serve hot. The cheese will be browned and bubbly, and the tomatoes will burst in your mouth.

12″ pizza = six slices, 8 PointsPlus each.

Yep. This healthy eating thing is hard.… but someone’s got to do it.