Lemon Zucchini Pasta

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My sisters and I grew up with grandparents who had huge gardens!  They may not have been as big as my childhood memories make them seem,  but my sisters and I helped harvest more goodies than you can imagine. We learned to dig potatoes and peanuts, how to pick okra and how to shuck corn, and of course we learned how to snap beans.  I remember sitting outside in the summer and eating fresh watermelon (with salt, of course).  I think that’s one of the reasons that I’ve developed such a nostalgia about growing anything that I can manage, and I love using those things in my kitchen.  The fresh zucchini and basil in this dish are so summery tasting!  I wish I could say that I grew the dill.  Our Mammaw often had dill growing in her back flower beds, and it smelled better than any flower.  Good food is a source of such good memories – and this is definitely good food! ~Tracy 

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

Zest from 1 lemon

½ c. finely chopped white or yellow onion

2 c. zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ tsp. salt

2 T. finely chopped capers

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

1 lb. spaghetti noodles

3 T. finely chopped fresh dill

3 T. finely chopped fresh basil

2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ c. fresh grated parmesan

½ c. crumbled feta cheese

1 c. reserved hot pasta water from spaghetti

Cook spaghetti in large pot, with salted water, according to package directions.

While spaghetti is cooking, heat olive oil in large, high-sided skillet. Saute onion and zucchini until zucchini begins to soften and onion begins to become translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and capers, continuing to simmer on low for another minute or two.  

Add cooked and drained spaghetti to the pan with the zucchini. Add in lemon juice, lemon zest, dill, and basil.  Toss the entire mixture with the spaghetti to combine. Add in ½ c. of the reserved pasta water and stir (you can gradually add a little at a time before serving if pasta appears too dry). Remove from heat and allow to sit for two to three minutes to begin the cooling process.  Then toss in both the parmesan and feta cheese.

Serve immediately with grilled chicken or enjoy as a tasty meatless pasta dish.

This recipe makes 8 servings at 9 points per serving on all three WW plans. 

Sunday Picnic Chicken Salad

Many years ago, Barry worked at a certain chicken sandwich place — for three years in high school and all five years of college, in fact. When he started working there, he learned to make chicken salad from a VHS training video (nope, we are not spring chickens).

Many years later, he tried to make it from memory – he did not remember. 🙂 His creation was nothing like what they had – it was much better! While I tend to think of chicken salad as a summertime dish, my kids ask for it all year, and they don’t really have to twist my arm to get me to make it any time.

This is such an easy make & take recipe for a big gathering – or a small one. I am persnickety about my hot food being really hot, so when we picnic at the lake (which is one of our favorite family activities after work while we continue to social distance) this chicken salad is a frequent choice for us. I really love it served on a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll for a slider sized sandwich, but Barry prefers it on the King’s Hawaiian sandwich slices. Either way, it’s fantastic; I’m really glad he couldn’t remember the chicken joint’s recipe! ~Robin

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Trim any excess fat from the chicken, then cut into chunks to boil. Remove chicken from the water carefully once it’s cooked using tongs and place on a large cutting board (make sure it’s completely opaque in the center). Then finely chop the chicken and place in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill before serving.

WW Info: This makes 8 generous 2/3 c. servings. On purple or blue, it’s 3 points. On green, it’s 4. Remember to calculate your choice of bread separately.

Mexican Chicken Cornbread Bake

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I saw a meme the other day that compared cooking during this time of “social distancing” to an episode of Chopped.  That could not be more accurate.  When I schedule and pick up my grocery order, only half of what I ordered is actually in stock, so my pantry is a random assortment of ingredients.  I stand there and stare, trying to figure out what I can put together to make an actual meal.  If you are doing the same, I have a good, pantry-and-freezer-friendly Mexican dish for you.  I know you’re all missing Mexican food right now, so here ya go.  If you lucked out and got chips in your grocery order, that would be great with this too… a real Mexican feast!  ~Erin

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 4 large breasts or 5 medium):  I sprinkle the breasts with 1 tsp. each of chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and garlic powder; then bake or grill until fully cooked, let the meat rest/cool a few minutes and then chop.  Store in the fridge if made in advance.

1 (10 oz.) can Old El Paso red enchilada sauce, mild

1 (10 oz.) can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild

1 ½ c. yellow corn kernels

8 oz. (2 small cans) Hatch chopped green chiles

1 tsp. chili powder

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 (8.5 oz) package dry Jiffy corn muffin mix (or other cornbread mix – I prefer a sweet cornbread mix)

1 egg

½ c. reduced-fat Mexican shredded cheese, divided

½ c. unsweetened cashew or almond milk (skim milk will work too)

2 T. chopped pickled jalapenos

Chips and salsa, optional – for serving

 

Cook and chop seasoned chicken (see notes on first ingredient); set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Spray a deep casserole dish (slightly smaller than a 9X13) with nonstick spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together:  enchilada sauce, Ro-Tel, corn, green chiles, 1 tsp. chili powder, and ½ tsp. cumin.  Add 4 cups chopped chicken and stir to coat.  Spread evenly into casserole dish.

In a small bowl, stir together:  dry cornbread mix, milk, egg, chopped jalapenos, and half of the cheese (about ¼ c.).  Pour mixture evenly over the chicken mixture.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

WW Info:  This recipe makes 8 servings.  Green plan – 9 points per serving; Blue plan – 6 points per serving; Purple plan – 6 points per serving

Chicken Club Pasta Salad

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Sometimes things “hit me” at random times.   Like in the shower or while driving.   This recipe was born one day while I was driving to work and dreaming of warmer weather.   I made a few notes on my phone (thanks to talk-to-text) and ended up with this great spin-off of a deli classic. It has a great balance of fresh and crunchy mixed with the creamy dressing and avocado.  This are finally starting to warm up a little here in my neck of the woods, and I think this Chicken Club Pasta Salad will be one of the first things you’ll want to make as Spring finally arrives.  ~Kathy

2 c. cellentani (cork screw shaped) pasta, uncooked (whole wheat for lower point option noted in WW info.)

2 c. cooked, diced chicken breast

5 slices center cut bacon, cooked

4 T dill pickles, chopped fine

2 T purple onion, chopped fine

1/3 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered

2 c. chopped napa cabbage

1 avocado, diced

½  c. plus 1 T  light miracle whip

1 T mustard

2 to 3 T 1% milk

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp garlic powder

Dash of each of the following:  onion powder; black pepper; and paprika

Cook pasta in salted water, according to package directions.   Drain, rinse and set aside to allow to cool.

Once the noodles are completely cooled, transfer them to a large mixing bowl.  Add chicken, bacon, pickles and onion.  Toss to mix.  Add tomatoes and napa cabbage.  Toss gently to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together miracle whip, mustard, milk and seasonings.  Add more milk if needed.  It should be a slightly thick mixture.  Pour over the pasta mixture and stir to coat.

Add avocado and gently mix to coat, trying not to smash the diced avocado.

Allow to chill for one hour.  Serve alone or with your favorite crackers or toasted bread.

WW Info.:  Makes about 6 cups.  Each serving is 11 Points on the WW Blue Plan, 11 on Purple Plan, and 12 on Green Plan.  For a far smaller point tally, on purple, using whole wheat pasta drops it to just 4 points!

Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup

Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup

I almost feel bad for posting another soup recipe because I’m afraid y’all are going to think that’s all we eat, but it’s hard to feel bad with a big bowl of comfort food in front of me.  Can’t stop, won’t stop eating allll the soups. This particular soup is a favorite of my family’s. It’s rich and creamy and perfect with crackers on a cold night. Add it to your soup rotation!  I know I will. ~Erin

Ingredients:

1 c. chopped celery

1 c. chopped onion

1 c. diced carrots

1 T. minced garlic

32 oz. chicken stock

4 c. water

1 lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast or 12 oz. cooked, shredded chicken breast

¼ tsp. oregano

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. black pepper

½ c. all-purpose flour

1 pkg. Chicken Rice A Roni, including seasoning packet

1 c. fat-free half & half

Non-stick cooking spray

Saute celery, carrots, and onion in cooking spray until the onions are tender and translucent.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock and 4 cups water.  If using raw chicken, add it at this time and simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked through.  Remove from pot and shred; set aside. If using precooked chicken, simmer the veggies and broth until the carrots are fork-tender.

In a small bowl, make a slurry with the flour and some of the hot liquid from the pot.  Whisk until smooth and then stir the slurry into the pot.

Add oregano, bay leaf, pepper, and Chicken Rice A Roni.  Simmer 15 minutes, covered, or until rice is tender.

Remove the bay leaf.  Sir in fat-free half & half and the shredded chicken.  

WW Info:  Green plan – 4 points per cup; blue plan – 3 points per cup; purple plan – 3 points per cup

Super Simple Chicken Taco Soup

How many times in my life, after a very indulgent food weekend, have I said the words, “I’m going to have eat nothing but baked chicken and broccoli all next week!”?  I’m sure that those who know me roll their eyes as they laugh, because it’s no secret that I am not a fan of self-deprivation. This girl gotta eat!  In fact, I often find that when I try to deprive myself of food that makes me feel satisfied, I end up eating more in the long run.  Just about the only thing that helps me get myself back on track after a few days of eating “all the things” is doing some serious food-prep leg work.  

If you’ve been following around here for long, you know that I am a big fan of soups and stews.  I’m one of those people who can eat a bowl of soup or chili in the middle of an August afternoon.  Soups and stews are super easy to make and can easily fit into my food planning and pre-prepping rotations.  They are also great to help me feel full without going full-tilt down a crazy eating path. This Super Simple Chicken Taco Soup is one of my favorite make ahead meals.  It’s my go-to lunch this week and is saving me after a weekend of eating out.  ~ Tracy 

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Ingredients:

4 medium sized chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 can black beans, drained (15.5 oz.)

1 can pinto beans, drained (15.5 oz.)

1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)

1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Ro-Tel

1 c. frozen corn

½ c. finely chopped yellow onion

½ c. finely chopped red bell pepper

1 c. water

2 T. taco seasoning

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

Add all ingredients together in a large stock pot or soup pan.  Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for approximately 30 minutes.

Serve topped with your favorite shredded cheese or sour cream.

This soup makes approximately 7 cups and is zero points/cup on the WW Freestyle/Blue plan.

 

 

Spinach and Basil Pesto Spread

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I love a good pesto sauce, but it’s always been one of the things that my kids (and honestly, my husband) aren’t usually very excited about.  And let’s face it…pesto sauce can often be very oily, high in calories, and can sometimes be a bit ‘in your face’ in flavor.  So, I needed a way to satisfy my pesto craving in a little more healthy fashion, while not listening to anyone complain.  Isn’t this the basis for fifty percent of the new recipes created by moms?  I’m just over here looking for a way to eat what I want, without continually expanding my waistline, and without having to listen to anyone gripe about it!  This Spinach and Basil Pesto Sauce fits the bill on all fronts.  You can freeze it too, and have fresh basil flavor all year round! ~Tracy

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. fresh basil leaves
  • 2 c. fresh baby spinach
  • ½ c. chopped walnuts
  • ½ c. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy, pausing occasionally to scrape down sides.

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Use this pesto as a spread with cream cheese or just by itself on a cracker.  It also works wonderfully on pizza and with grilled chicken.

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This recipe makes approximately 1 ¼ cup and is 2 WW Freestyle Points for a 2 Tablespoon serving.

Bruschetta Style Italian Chicken

Bruschetta Style Italian Chicken

One of my absolute favorite things about summer (aside from the fact that I have a lot of time off work), is enjoying the things that I plant in my garden.  I wish I could say that I’m as adept at gardening as my Mammaw and Pappaw were (they had gardens that would make Martha Stewart jealous), but I am a much more modest grower.  I plant several varieties of peppers, fresh basil, and several types of tomatoes.  I’ve tried planting more, but I’ve come to terms with what my time commitment can be (maybe more when I retire, right?) and also have gotten familiar with some of the folks at our farmer’s market.

The summer combination of fresh tomatoes and basil is definitely one of the things that keeps me gardening and those perfect flavors are why this Bruschetta Style Italian Chicken is frequently on our table this time of year.  And as every good gardener knows in those moments of “What am I going to do with all of these tomatoes?” a good, fresh tomato recipe makes all of that gardening work worthwhile. ~Tracy

For the chicken:

  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • garlic salt
  • Italian seasoning (I use McCormick)
  • black pepper

For the tomato topping:

  • 4 large tomatoes, diced (enough chopped tomato to equal 2 cups)
  • 2 T. finely chopped (chiffonade style) fresh basil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ T. balsamic vinegar
  • Shredded parmesan cheese

Combine all topping ingredients (except parmesan) in medium size bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for thirty minutes allowing the flavors to marry well.

Trim any fat from each chicken breast and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly season both sides of each chicken breast with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and black pepper (a light dusting of all three on each side).  Grill the chicken on an indoor or outdoor grill.

Top each grilled chicken breast with 1/2 cup of the tomato topping.  Top with shredded parmesan cheese if desired.

This recipe is ZERO WW Freestyle points, not including the parmesan cheese.