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. 

Summer Zucchini Skillet

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We started a Quarantine Garden!  Is that what we are going to call them in history books?  Folks during WWII had victory gardens; we have quarantine gardens.  We planted zucchini squash, sweet banana peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, basil, and cilantro.  Y’all, we had zucchini running out our ears from only a few plants!  One of my favorite dishes to make with our plentiful harvest is this Summer Zucchini Skillet.  It’s so fresh and summery, hence the name.  It pairs perfectly with some grilled chicken and sliced avocado.  I chop my chicken and avocado in small bites and mix everything together on my plate.  It’s a perfect summer meal!  ~Erin

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1 – 1 ½  lbs zucchini, stems cut off and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 T. olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

2 small-medium tomatoes (such as Roma), seeded and chopped

½ a small red onion (about 1/3 c. chopped)

1 – 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

10 ounces frozen or fresh corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1 T. chopped fresh cilantro

The juice of half a lime

Chili Lime salt to taste (I like Tajin brand, low sodium version)

Heat olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook a few minutes, until it starts to look translucent.  Stir in the garlic and corn and cook until fragrant (a couple minutes).  Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and jalapeno and cook until zucchini starts to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Lastly, add the cilantro and lime juice and stir until heated through.  Remove from heat and add chili lime salt to taste. This is delicious served with grilled meat and avocado (will change the WW points).

WW info:  This recipe makes 4 large servings.  On Green plan, each serving is 4 points.  On Blue or Purple, each serving is 1 point.

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve tried very hard to expose my kids to a wide variety of foods – even the ones that I don’t personally like. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve tried branching out with my own diet as well. I will admit that a part of this “branch out” journey has been due to the fact that I attempt to follow a fairly WW (formerly Weight Watchers) friendly diet these days.
WW allows you to eat as much as you want (within reason, of course) of certain fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. I’m always looking for ways to make those ‘leaner’ foods a larger part of my diet….because I am also all about a larger portion!  I’d tried some other recipes with winter squash but just wasn’t too thrilled with them. Winter squashes tend to have a slightly sweeter flavor, which isn’t usually what I’m looking for as a meal. So, when you can’t find what you want, you make it, right? Hence this Savory Butternut Squash Soup that is more on the spicy side and totally hits the spot.  ~Tracy
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Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash
½ T. chili powder
½ T. paprika
½ t. red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic salt
½ c. finely chopped yellow or white onion
½ c. finely chopped red bell pepper
2 ½ c. fat free chicken broth
¼ c. parmesan cheese
feta cheese for topping, if desired
Preheat oven to 400.
Split the butternut squash lengthwise and place open side down on a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment or sprayed.
Roast the squash for 45 – 60 minutes until fork tender. Baking time will vary by oven and depends upon the size of the squash. Allow your squash to cool to room temperature.
Remove the seeds and stringy area and discard. Scoop out the squash and puree until smooth. If you have an immersion blender they work great for this step.  I use this one.
In a large sauce pan or soup pot, mix the pureed squash with all other ingredients except the feta cheese.
Saute on low for 30 min. Be careful to allow the soup mixture to boil as this could lead to scorching on the bottom.
Serve your soup topped with 2 T. crumbled feta cheese.
This soup makes approximately five 1-cup servings, but this may vary depending upon the size of your squash. The soup is one WW points per serving.
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Italian Vegetable Soup

This soup happened on a Sunday when I was looking for something to accompany our simple chicken breast supper.  I had a lot of random veggies in the fridge that needed to be used before the work-week started. Why?  We all know once Monday rolls around nobody is getting any real cooking done, and veggies left in the crisper are going to their graves. I decided I might as well use everything I had and turn it into a soup that I could have for lunch all week at work.

That Sunday afternoon, this Italian Vegetable Soup was born, and it’s become one of my favorite soups to make since then.  I make it often.  It’s delicious all by itself (and zero SmartPoints on WW, by the way!) but, if you really want to kick it up a notch, add some parmesan and croutons.  Yes, please!  When I want it as more of a main dish, I toss in some pre-cooked turkey sausage (sliced links or crumbles either one are perfect).  You see why I like this soup… so customizable and flavorful!   ~Erin

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 c. finely diced carrots
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz. each) fire roasted tomatoes
  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • Optional toppings:  parmesan cheese, croutons, precooked sausage (sliced links or crumbled)

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.  Sauté onion, bell pepper, carrots, and celery for a few minutes until onions are translucent and veggies are tender.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, a minute or two.

Add zucchini and seasonings; cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes and broth and simmer until zucchini is tender to your preference.

WW Info.:  This recipe makes approximately 10 cups.  Each 1-cup serving is zero SmartPoints on the Freestyle plan.  Be sure to add points for any additional toppings.

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Mexican street corn (elote) is all the rage.   It’s basically been the epitome of summer cuisine this year. Everywhere I turn, it’s offered. Restaurants, farmers markets, food trucks — you name it. For those of you that have not been introduced to it yet, you have been missing out.  It combines a wild variety of Tex-Mex flavors to transport you to another not-so-far-away land…hopefully one that includes a beach. ☺

Anything that is this popular and all the buzz must be sticking around.  This salad (off the cob) version is equally spectacular. I scribbled down this recipe one day on my lunch break and knew I had to make it soon.  When I mixed this together, even I was surprised how good it was. It has all the flavor you want in traditional street corn plus some tasty twists of my own.  Try it while corn season is HOT!!  ~Kathy

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Salad Ingredients:

  • 6 ears of corn, husks and silks removed; cooked and cut off the cob (about 4.5 cups of corn depending on size of ears)
  • 2 T. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 to 2 T. jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed)
  • 1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ c. queso fresco, crumbled fine

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. light miracle whip
  • 1/4 c. plain non-fat Greek yogurt*
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 T. lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp. lime zest
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix well and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine salad ingredients, except cheese.  Stir in sauce ingredients.  Add cheese, fold together and serve.

WW Info.:  Makes 6 one-cup servings at just 2 points each.

*May use low fat sour cream instead of non-fat Greek yogurt; it’s 3 points per cup with this substitution.

Spicy Air Fried Chickpeas

All the Christmas in July talk had me craving my Chistmas snacks.  For the last several Christmases my friend Kena has gifted us a large bag of her spicy pretzels.  They are so good and I look forward to her gift of them every year (are you reading this Kena?)!  They have the perfect combination of a salty crunch with a bit of spice to them.  The ONLY negative is that the pretzel recipe has a pretty significant about of oil in the ingredients.  I am a snacker, and often find myself looking for something to munch on.  These chickpeas satisfy my craving for that spicy crunch, but keep the snack on the healthier side  – and they let me keep looking forward to Kena’s Christmas pretzels! ~Tracy

chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used Bush’s Organic Garbanzo Beans)
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp. lemon pepper
  • ½ tsp. red cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. onion powder
  • 1 T. powdered ranch dressing mix
  • dash salt
  • dash black pepper
  • Canola oil cooking spray

Spread chickpeas evenly in one flat layer on paper towels.  Allow them to dry on the kitchen counter for three to four hours, rolling them occasionally so that they evenly dry on all sides.

Lightly spray chickpeas with canola oil cooking spray.  Roll them around and lightly spray again making an effort to coat them lightly, but evenly.

In a large zip style baggie, combine all dry ingredients and shake to combine well.  Add the sprayed chickpeas to the bag, seal, and gently shake to coat the chickpeas with the spice mixture.

Place chickpeas in the basket of air fryer and cook on 340 for 14-16 minutes. You can click here for the link to my air fryer.

Air fryers vary in power, so begin to check the chickpeas at about the 14 minute mark for the desired crispiness.  My family likes them very crispy, but I don’t mind them with a little softness in the center.  You can experiment with what you like.

Chickpeas are ZERO WW points!  Some may argue that with the cooking spray these should be counted on WW, but per serving I’m not going to count the negligible amount.

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.

Italian Veggie Stuffed Portabellas

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I don’t know about you, but summertime makes me want to fill my plate with allll the veggies. Grill ‘em, roast ‘em, serve ‘em to me in a fresh bowl of salad. I don’t care how, just send them my way.

If you feel the same way about light summer meals and veggie side dishes, you’ll love these Italian Veggie Stuffed Portabellas. They are the perfect side for grilled meats, but they are HUGE, so they also work great as a meatless main dish. Plus, portabellas are so meaty, you won’t even think to ask, “where’s the beef?” I’m definitely showing my age with that classic TV reference! If you are a young’n, you can find it on YouTube. ‘80s commercials were the best! A little cheesy but that’s what made them great.

Speaking of “cheesy,” if you prefer a cheesy topping, I also sometimes cut the breadcrumbs down to ¼ cup and top each veggie-loaded shroom with a little mozzarella & parmesan. You can’t go wrong either way! ~Erin

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Ingredients

  • 4 large portabella mushroom caps
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 medium zucchinis, diced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained on a paper towel, finely diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large handful of spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 c. seasoned breadcrumbs (I use garlic & herb flavor)
  • 1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375°F or the outdoor grill to medium. If grilling, use a veggie pan or place on foil, to catch veggies that may fall off during cooking.

Clean mushroom tops with a damp paper towel. Use a small knife to cut off the stems and a spoon to scoop out the veins.

Spray the tops with non-stick cooking spray and place them top-down on a parchment-lined baking sheet or on the grilling pan; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and 1 Tablespoon of oil until combined; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil to sauté the onion 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until it begins to soften. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan to help steam the zucchini soft.

Add roasted red pepper, sundried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper, and spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted.

Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, until fragrant.

Turn off the heat and stir in half the breadcrumb mixture. Reserve the other half for topping.

Divide the veggie mixture evenly among the four mushroom tops. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumb mixture over top.

Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the mushrooms are fork-tender.

WW Freestyle Info.: This recipe makes 4 large servings. Each serving is 5 SmartPoints.

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! 

Old Country Store Brussels & Kale Slaw

When I think of salads, I typically think of summer.  This, however isn’t your typical salad.  In fact, it’s more of a slaw… a fall slaw.  I like the sound of that; heck, it almost rhymes.  But not quite.  Anywho, if you’ve ever visited Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for dinner, you may have had their Brussels Sprouts N’ Kale Salad.  If so, this will be very familiar.  I’m not sure what exact ingredients their version has, but I think I hit it pretty close.  Mine has shredded Brussels sprouts, kale, dried cranberries and pecans, just like theirs.  I kicked it up a notch, though, with addition of finely diced apples, red onion, and a maple vinaigrette.  What says Autumn more than apples, pecans, cranberries, and maple?  Nothing, folks.  This is the perfect Autumn/Fall/Holiday Salad/Slaw/Side.   ~Erin

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Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup*
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dry ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, stems cut off and outer leaves removed, then washed
  • 3 c. chopped kale
  • 2 apples, cored & finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (or more if not following WW)
  • 1 oz. pecans, toasted if desired & chopped

Instructions: 

  1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a jar with a lid (shake to combine) or a small bowl (whisk to combine).
  2. Shred the Brussels sprouts, preferably using a food processor.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the shredded sprouts with the chopped kale, apple, and onion.
  4. Pour the dressing over top and stir.  I like to add it gradually and stir, so as not to overdress the slaw.
  5. Top with chopped cranberries and pecans.
  6. Chill until ready to serve; toss to redistribute dressing before serving.

WW Freestyle Info.:  This recipe makes 8 1-cup servings at 6 points with regular maple syrup. With sugar free maple syrup, it’s 4 points per 1-cup serving.