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. 

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!

Turkey Italian Sausage & Gnocchi in Brown Butter Cream Sauce

I first had gnocchi at a restaurant in Nashville named Adele’s.  Why had it taken me so long to try it?  I don’t know!  I love pasta and I love potatoes so what could be bad about potato-based pasta?!  I wish I could remember the name of the dish I ordered at Adele’s.  It was gnocchi with a sage browned butter and delicata squash and it was amazing.  Unfortunately, it’s a long trip from Oklahoma to Tennessee, so I figured I needed to create a gnocchi dish of my own at home.

I tried to make my recipe as healthy as possible without losing any of the rich, buttery flavor.  I think I pulled it off.  My family loves this dish.  My daughter likes to add crushed up croutons to the top, for some crunch, but I prefer it just like it is.  A hot bowl of steaming, soft pasta is the best kind of comfort food to me. ~Erin

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1.25 lbs. (5 links) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

1 (17 oz.) package potato gnocchi

1 Tbsp. butter

1 c. Fat-free half & half

6 cups fresh baby spinach (chopped)

1-2 large clove garlic, minced

¼ c. water reserved from cooking the pasta

½ c. shredded parmesan

½ Tbsp. cornstarch

In a medium stock pot, bring water to a boil to prepare for cooking the gnocchi.

In a large deep-sided skillet, cook the turkey sausage, breaking it into crumbles, until brown; drain on a paper-towel lined plate.  Wipe out the oil left behind by the sausage.

Cook the gnocchi in salted water according to package directions (do not overcook).

Meanwhile, melt butter in the skillet and cook until it turns golden brown.

Add garlic and spinach.  Cook and stir until the spinach is wilted.

Add the cornstarch and stir.  Add the half & half, pasta water, and parmesan.  Simmer until thickened.

Transfer the cooked gnocchi to the skillet and return the Italian sausage to the pan.  Stir to coat.

Serve with extra shredded parmesan or crushed croutons.

WW Info:  12 points per cup on all plans (blue, green & purple).  Makes 6 cups.

Lemon Chicken Piccata

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that each year, we sisters take at least one trip together.  In fact, one of our “when the kids are all older” dreams is that we can travel much more often. We enjoy a little bit of luxury in a nice hotel, and we shop (a lot).  But, we have to admit…and most of who are close to us won’t be surprised to hear…that our favorite thing to do is eat at new places. When we visited Charlotte, NC, a few years ago, we had an amazing chicken recipe that we were still talking about months later.  This is how many of our recipes are born, folks. During a weekend of cooking and blogging, we worked to create this perfect Lemon Chicken Piccata. Don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. It really is a fairly fool-proof recipe that we hope may also remind you of one of your favorite restaurant meals.  ~Tracy


For Chicken: 
  • 2 T. chicken broth
  • 5 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • dash ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 T. olive oil

For Sauce:

  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ c. chicken broth, divided
  • 8 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 T. capers, drained
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • angel hair pasta

Flatten each chicken to ¼ inch thickness.   In a shallow dish, whisk the eggs, chicken broth, lemon juice, garlic and pepper sauce.    In a gallon sized zip top bag, combine flour, cheese, parsley, salt, garlic and onion powders, and cayenne pepper.

Dip each chicken breast in egg mixture then into flour mixture, coating completely.   Place on baking rack to rest for 15 minutes. In a large non-stick skillet, brown chicken breasts on both sides, over medium heat, in several batches, using approximately a tablespoon of olive oil each batch.  Be sure not to crowd the chicken in your pan as this will impact the browning. Remove to baking sheet and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

For sauce:  Reserve 3 tablespoons of chicken broth in small bowl.  In the same skillet used to cook chicken, melt butter over medium low heat.  Add minced garlic, stir for one minute. Add chicken broth and lemon juice.  Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Bring to low boil. Stir cornstarch into reserved chicken broth.  Pour into sauce mixture, return to a boil. Add capers and stir. Remove from heat.

Top cooked angel hair pasta with one chicken breast.  Drizzle approximately ⅓ c. sauce over each breast and pasta.  Serve immediately.

Lower Carb Chicken Noodle Soup

Have I mentioned that my sisters and I are big fans of old fashioned comfort food?  Especially during the winter, I’m capable of carb loading like your average pre-hibernation bear.  Bread, noodles, and baked goods take the place of all other food groups. I have lovingly joked that I am blessed with a large, loud, and loving family….but not blessed with the genetics of a fast metabolism.  I also have two teenage boys to feed who have inherited their mother’s love of carbs. So, in the interest of health for all of us, I always look for ways to cut even the smallest amount of fat or carbs from our diet without sacrificing flavor.  Bless the hearts of those of you can be successful on seriously low or no carb diets. You have the will power of Super Woman (or man) in my opinion, but the reason I love Weight Watchers – now known as “WW” with the tag line of Wellness Works, because it really does work – and I can still eat the carbs!!

This recipe is born from one of my taste tests of a pasta product called Carba-Nada Egg Fettuccine from the Al Dente Pasta Company.  One cup of regular cooked egg noodles is 6 WW Freestyle Points. These Carba-Nada Fettuccine Noodles are only 4 WW Freestyle Points for one and a half cups!  More for less is always great in my book, and nobody in my family had any clue that they were a little bit healthier, and a little lower carb, than regular egg noodles.  

You can find the egg noodles using this link.  I highly recommend them! 

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1T. reduced calorie margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped white or yellow onion
  • 3/4 c. finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 c. chopped baby carrots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups fat free chicken broth
  • 1 10 oz. can Campbell’s 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 10 oz. fat free milk (one soup can)
  • 2 c. chopped or shredded chicken breast (I use shredded rotisserie chicken breast)
  • ~1 10 oz. package Carba Nada Egg Fettuccini

Instructions:  

  1. Gently heat the olive oil and margarine in a large stock pot.
  2. Once heated, place your celery, onions, and carrots into the stock pot.
  3. Cook over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften slightly.
  4. Add salt, pepper, the bay leaf, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, and milk.
  5. Stir gently to combine and bring to a low simmer.
  6. Add chicken breast and the entire package of egg noodles.
  7. Simmer slowly until the noodles are cooked to an al dente texture. Probably no more than 6 or 7 minutes, but check them frequently.
  8. Remove the bay leaf and discard it before serving.

WW Freestyle Info.:  This recipe makes approximately 9 one cup servings. Each serving is 3 points using the Carba-Nada pasta. Using regular egg noodles, each serving is 5 points.

We would earn a fraction of the funds should you choose to order your egg noodles via our Amazon affiliate links, though it won’t cost you any extra.

Taco Pasta Salad

I don’t know about you, but I feel like my family eats a ton of spaghetti and lots of tacos, mostly because they are family friendly, tasty, quick and economical. Personally, I get bored with the same-old, same-old for dinner so I try to mix it up when I can. This dish marries two of our favorites together — tacos and pasta! This would be a great “meatless Monday” dinner or as a side dish. We love it served with grilled chicken as our main course too. One of my boys says we should call it “Paco Salad,” mashing “pasta” and “taco” together.   Whatever you want to call it, it’s delish! ~Kathy

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. orecchiette (ear shaped) or medium shell pasta
  • 1 can (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 c frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • ½ c. (loosely packed) cilantro
  • 1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ¼ c. red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jar (15.5 oz) salsa (roughly 1 2/3 c) – I used Tostitos Restaurant Style
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 3 T. lime juice
  • 3 T. taco seasoning, dry
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Hass avocado, ripe but slightly firm, diced
  • 2/3 c. cheddar cheese, diced to about 1/4” cubes (a good ww friendly option is Cabot sharp light cheddar 50% reduced fat)*

Instructions: 

  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside to cool. 
  2. In a large bowl, add the pasta, beans, corn, cilantro, onion, tomatoes and salsa.  Mix gently together. 
  3. In a small bowl whisk olive oil, lime juice, garlic and taco seasoning.  Mix well.  Pour over pasta and mix to coat. 
  4. Gently fold in cheese and avocado just before serving. 

WW Freestyle Info.:  Makes 12 one-cup servings at 7 points each.  You could  also add grilled chicken breast for zero ww points if desired! 

Artichoke Pesto Chicken Pasta

Pasta is always good for my hungry crew after work, football practice, and a long day of school.  Almost as good as the flavor is the fact that I can make this Pesto Chicken Pasta in less than 30 minutes when I use rotisserie chicken and pre-made pesto sauce.  ~Tracy

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Ingredients:
  • 2 T. butter
  • ½ c. finely chopped white or yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ c. flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ c. 1% milk
  • 1 ½ c. chicken broth
  • 3 T. jarred pesto (I like Barilla)
  • half of a 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ c. chopped white meat chicken, I use chopped chicken breast from rotisserie chickens
  • 1 lb. pasta, cooked in salted water according to package directions (I used Campanelle pasta)

Instructions: 

  1. Melt butter over medium heat in large, deep skillet.
  2. Add garlic and onion, sauteing for a few minutes until onions begin to become tender.
  3. Add flour, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine with onions and garlic.
  4. Add milk and continue stirring until forms a thick paste with the flour.
  5. Gently stir in the chicken broth until forms a thickening sauce.
  6. Stir in jarred pesto and chopped artichoke hearts.
  7. Add chopped chicken and cooked pasta stirring to combine well.
  8. Serve topped with shredded or sliced parmesan.

WW Freestyle Info.: This recipe makes about 8 one-cup servings. Each serving is 9 points not accounting for parmesan cheese topping.

Super Duper Spaghetti with Beef

We are huge fans of spaghetti at our house; it was (and still is!) always a favorite of both of my picky kids even when they were little…maybe that’s why we started calling it “super duper” — and it stuck!  (As you’ll see it the picture, it literally stuck everywhere too!  Luckily, since it’s been four years since this pic, they’re a bit neater these days!)  At any rate, all the prefab sauces are either way too sweet (yuck!) or just painfully bland – not to mention full of a zillion unnecessary additives and sugars.

My own recipe is almost as fast as opening a jar.  Plus you have to wait for the noodles to cook anyway; may as well take those few minutes to throw together this super flavorful, super healthy, super duper version!  ~Robin

Ingredients:
  • 1 ¼ lb. 95% lean ground beef*
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (or 1 ½ tsp. jarred, minced garlic)
  • 14.5 oz. (1 large can) Hunt’s tomatoes, petite diced, undrained
  • 15 oz. (1 large can) Hunt’s diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 12 oz. (2 small cans) Hunt’s tomato paste
  • 6 oz. water (one small tomato paste can-full)
  • 4 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 tsp. Italian seasoning (I like McCormick’s)
  • 2 -3 tsp. garlic salt, as preferred
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Instructions: 

  1. Put your spaghetti noodles on to boil (whatever your favorite brand is; I use Ronzini Healthy Harvest 100% Whole Grain); cook to al dente.
  2. While noodles are boiling, in a large stock pot, brown the ground beef with the minced garlic. Once cooked, drain any excess oil.
  3. In the same pot, add diced tomatoes, petite diced tomatoes, and tomato paste.
  4. Add the 6 oz. of water.
  5. Finally, add all the spices. (Add garlic salt 1 tsp. at a time so that you can measure it to your own taste.)
  6. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated throughout and flavors have combined well.
  7. Add the sauce to your al dente pasta and enjoy!

*My package of beef was just a little bigger than usual, but the points are the same and all the other ingredients amounts don’t differ if you use exactly one 1 lb of 95% lean beef instead – I just went ahead and used this much since I had it.

WW Freestyle Info.: This meat sauce is only 2 points per ½ cup serving. Makes 15 servings; freezes very well. (Remember to count the points for your pasta.)

Chicken Nacho Mac & Cheese

I had this brainstorm at like midnight one night. Because that’s when you have your best recipe ideas…at midnight when the fridge starts calling your name. For the record, I didn’t get up and make this in the middle of the night, but I did grab my phone and add it to my notes for “recipe ideas.” Here’s how my thought process went: ‘What if two of my favorite foods, pasta & nachos, got married and had a baby? What would that be like???!!’ The answer is: AMAZING! I hopped on Pinterest to see if this already exists. Nope! Not that I could find. This is a one-of-a-kind original, people, and it’s everything I imagined. ~Erin

Ingredients:
  • 12 ounces rotini pasta
  • 2 (10 oz. each) cans Mild Ro-tel tomatoes & green chilis, drained
  • 1 (10 oz.) can Campbell’s Healthy Request cheddar soup, undiluted
  • 1 c. Tostitos Salsa Con Queso (found I the chip isle)
  • ¼ c. whole milk
  • 1 ½ tsp. seasoned salt (I used Lawry’s)
  • 1 c. 2% shredded Mexican cheese
  • 2 – 4 T. chopped pickled jalapenos
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (one per person)
  • 1 tsp. of low sodium taco seasoning per chicken breast
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta, in salted water, according to instructions, until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, coat each side of the chicken breasts with ½ tsp. of taco seasoning (1 tsp. per breast) and grill (or cook in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray) until cooked through; set aside.
  3. Drain pasta and immediately add Ro-tel, canned cheddar soup, Tostitos Salsa Con Queso, milk, seasoned salt, and shredded Mexican cheese; stir over low heat until melted and well combined.
  4. Stir in jalapenos to taste. (I used 4 T. and it was pretty spicy – if you are sensitive to heat, leave them out completely.)
  5. Plate your desired serving size of nacho mac & cheese; slice one chicken breast per person and serve on top of the mac & cheese!

WW Freestyle Info.: This mac & cheese recipe makes 12 servings of 5 ounces (about ¾ cup) each.  One serving is 6 points.  Two servings (about 1 ½ cups) comes to 11 points.

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

Sometimes a change from the classics is a good thing.  Variety is the spice of life, right?  I LOVE a good, classic, tomato-y lasagna!  Well this is an upgraded, creamy, flavorful chicken version of lasagna.  Low-cal it is not, but it is comfort food at its finest.  I used rotisserie chicken, so this goes together in a flash.  Everyone at the table will be asking for seconds of this one!   ~Kathy

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Preheat oven to 375˚F.

In a bowl, season shredded chicken with cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper.  Stir in onion, green chilies, salsa verde and ¾ c. pepper jack cheese.  Combine well.

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In the bottom of a baking dish, spread a small amount of the chicken mixture.

Top with layer of lasagna noodles which have been pre-moistened with water (I just run them under a slightly running faucet).  Spread with another layer of the chicken mixture.  Spoon or pour Crema Mexicana over the entire layer, paying close attention not to skimp around the edges.  Drizzle about 1 ½ T. of chicken broth on each layer.  Top with a layer of shredded Mozzarella and pepper jack.

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Continue building casserole alternating between layers of dampened noodles, green chili-chicken mixture, Crema Mexicana, chicken broth and shredded cheeses.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking another 5-10 minutes until cheese on top has melted and the entire casserole is bubbling and hot.  Allow the casserole to rest at least 5 minutes before serving.