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!

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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.

Barry’s Secret Ingredient Chili

I have always thought chili was just fine…something great to throw on some Fritos or a hot dog.  I had no idea how much I could love it.  This one is in my top three favorite meals ever, period.  And to his credit, this is my husband’s recipe.  He has tweaked and played with this recipe, then tweaked it a little more over the years to get it juuuust right.  As you’ll see from the ingredients, it does not skimp in flavor.  I seriously don’t even put cheese in this chili (and I’m a cheese fanatic) because I don’t want to do anything to distract from its awesomeness.

And yes, I’m revealing the secret ingredient. You would never, ever know that this chili has oats from the flavor or texture, but it adds just enough of a thickening agent to make this even heartier, making it less like a soup and more like, well, chili!  It’s been a hit at chili cook-offs for years now, and I’m finally sharing it with you as we approach Superbowl Sunday.  Bonus — this can feed a crowd inexpensively, and your party (or you Tuesday – whenever) just won’t be the same without it!  ~Robin

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  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 7 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 T., plus one tsp. chili powder
  • 2 T. cumin
  • 1 T., plus 2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 lg. can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans light red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained
  • ½ c. quick oats, uncooked
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground Cayenne pepper (adjusting up or down depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 – 2 tsp. salt (Start with one tsp. and adjust to taste in ¼ tsp increments – it’s a lot of food so you may end up going to 2 tsp.)

In a large stock pot, cook ground beef, onions, and garlic on medium heat. Once beef is cooked and any fat drained, add all other ingredients and continue to cook on medium heat until heated thoroughly and has had a chance for the flavors to blend.  It just gets better and better leftover (I keep it in my fridge for up to three days).  It does freeze very well; I recommend freezing it in small, individual microwave-safe containers so you can grab a serving to take for lunch anytime over the next six months.

WW Info:  4 points/cup on green (9 pts for 2 cups), 1 point/cup on blue (2 points for 1.75, 3 points for 2 cups), and 1 point/cup on purple (2 points for 1.75, 3 points for 2 cups)

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

Family Favorite Sugar Cookies

I have always loved sugar cookies.  They’re unpretentious, simple, and delicious.   This recipe stands above the others…these little gems are soft and not overly sweet, but they can also handle frosting, including your favorite sprinkles! Using pantry staples these mix together quickly, which is a plus for busy holiday seasons.  These cookies are so good that my niece wanted them fashioned into a cake for her birthday (kudos to my sister for pulling that off!).  Eat them plain, sprinkled with pretty sugar, or frosted as a holiday treat – any way you have them, these sugar cookies are sure to be a hit with your family, too!  ~ Kathy

Ingredients:

1 c. butter, softened

½ c. powdered sugar

½ c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 ¼ c. flour

½ tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp. baking soda

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375˚

Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl.  Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until creamy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix well.   Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed.

Beat until dough forms a ball.

Shape dough into 1” balls.   Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Flatten each cookie to about 1 1/2 “diameter.  Dip in decorative sugar if desired.

Bake 7 to 9 minutes, or until set and slightly browned on edges.  Do not overbake.  Let sit on cookie sheet one minute.  Move to cooling rack to cool completely.

If you plan on frosting the cookies, be sure they are cooled to room temperature before frosting.

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.

 

 

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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Cider Donut Bundt Cake

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My closest friends are people who know and understand that it is totally acceptable to eat cake for breakfast!  I first had this Cider Donut Bundt Cake when a friend served it at a brunch.  It has the perfect mild apple flavor to have with a piping hot cup of coffee. Giving the recipe the perfect flavors for fall are the touch of wheat flour and the hint of spices that mix with the apple. And while I have been quoted as saying that “cake is simply a vehicle that enables the consumption of frosting,” you really can’t go wrong with this cake and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. – Tracy

Ingredients:

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. whole-wheat flour

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 ¾ c. sugar

1 c. apple cider

¾ c. light vegetable oil (I use canola oil)

¾ c. unsweetened applesauce

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 T. melted butter

For Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle:

1 T. cinnamon

2 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk together both flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, combine sugar, cider, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and eggs.  Add egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour into a very well-greased and floured bundt cake pan.  If using a flour cooking spray, spray generously.

Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

While cake is baking, remember to mix 1 T. of cinnamon with 2 T. of sugar for the sprinkle and set aside.

Place cake pan on a wire rack upon removal from the oven and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before turning cake out onto plate.  Be careful turning out the cake as the pan itself may still be very warm.

Lightly brush cake top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Chicken Fajita Soup

chicken fajita soup

I love a re-make of a classic dish everyone knows and loves.  This recipe was actually born on a whim.   I was trying to think of something different for dinner (sound familiar??).  Chicken fajitas kept coming to mind but it really wasn’t quite what I wanted.   I decided to take chicken fajitas and all those great flavors and make it into a soup.  Why not!!??   It is hearty and delicious, warm and comforting.  It has all the familiar flavors but in soup form.   It’s fabulous and has joined the list of regular dinners in our house.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into half circles
  • 1 large medium bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 T. water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 c. canned fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1/3 c. Ro-tel tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T fajita seasoning (from the packet – I used McCormicks)
  • 5 c. fat free chicken broth

Slice chicken into thin strips and remove all fat.  Separate into two batches.   In a heavy dutch oven or soup pot spread 1 teaspoon oil in bottom of pan.   Turn on heat to medium-high.  Once pot is heated, add the first half of the chicken.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper.   Add garlic powder and onion powder if desired.   Brown chicken on all sides then remove to a dish and repeat with second half, after adding the other teaspoon of oil to pan.    Keep chicken covered and warm.

After the chicken is browned and removed from pot, reduce heat to medium and add onion.  Sauté the onion for about 3 minutes, until it begins to soften.  Add bell pepper and 1 T. water.  Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes then add garlic.  Continue until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Add fire roasted tomatoes, Ro-tel tomatoes, beans and seasonings.  Slowly add in chicken broth. Stir until combined.

Bring to a simmer and add chicken.  Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with heated tortillas, cheese, avocado or guacamole, if desired

Makes nine 1 cup servings.

WW Info.:  Makes 9 1-cup serving at just 1 point each.

Pizza Mini Meatloaves

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My husband (Erin’s) has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Hodgekin’s Lymphoma. He’s actually doing really well on the treatments so far and has only had minor side-effects, thank God! I pray it continues to go so smoothly. Since he was diagnosed, our family and friends have been amazing and have helped us in so many ways, including filling our freezer with meals. You wouldn’t think home-cooked meals would be that big a deal but, let me tell you, there are days when opening the freezer and choosing a meal to heat up the next day saves a lot of stress and energy. Especially on days he has chemo, it’s nice to be able to come home and heat up a good supper.

Do you ever send meals to family and friends who are ill or having surgery? If so, what do you usually make? I have several go-to recipes to use in these situations but one of my favorites is these Pizza Mini Meatloaves. For starters, they are a recipe everyone will like… what’s not to love about pizza?! They are also the perfect freezer meal because you can freeze them individually rather than in one big pan, like a casserole. The good thing about freezing them individually is that a person can choose to thaw and reheat them all or just a few at a time. Great for lunch for one person or for a family meal! When I make these at home, they rarely make it to the freezer though. My family gobbles them up! -Erin

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