Chicken Parmesan Casserole

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We live near a town known for its Italian food, Krebs —  also known as “Oklahoma’s Little Italy.”  It was settled by Italian immigrants years ago, who soon opened several restaurants, cafés, and shops.  In fact, two of my favorite foodie establishments are there.  Lovera’s Italian Market makes their own award winning cheeses, sauces, sausages, marinades, dressings, etc.  When I go into their shop, I want one of everything.  It’s a foodie’s dream.  My other favorite Little Italy stop is Rosanna’s Italian Food.  Their Chicken Parmesan is to die for.  Rosanna’s also makes cheesecakes from scratch.  Again, a foodie’s paradise…however this Weight Watcher has to enjoy these things in moderation.  When I’m craving Chicken Parmesan but don’t want to spend the calories or cash, I make this easy, healthy spin-off.  It’s baked instead of fried and has all the best parts of Chicken Parm, complete with that crunchy crust which makes it worthwhile.  Plus, it’s much faster and easier for busy cooks!  Serve it with spaghetti or all by itself.

͂ Erin

 

Ingredients for chicken layer:

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into small pieces

1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 packet McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Sauce Mix

1 T. garlic salt

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

¼ to ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I use ½ tsp. – plus I add more on my plated serving.)

Non-stick cooking spray

 

Ingredients for topping:

2 c. low moisture, part skim shredded mozzarella

2 c. panko breadcrumbs

½ c. shredded parmesan

1 ½ T. extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. garlic salt

Basil, for garnish (optional) – I buy the chopped, lightly dried kind in the produce section

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread chicken pieces evenly on the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the chicken with 1 T. garlic salt, 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk McCormick seasoning packet into tomato sauce until well combined.  Pour the tomato sauce mixture over the chicken.

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella evenly over sauce; set pan aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine panko, shredded parmesan, olive oil, and ½ tsp. garlic salt.  Spread this topping evenly on top of mozzarella layer.

I usually spray a quick spritz of non-stick cooking spray over the top, to ensure even browning, but that is optional.

Bake on the center oven rack for 45-60 minutes until very bubbly and browned on the top (most importantly, until chicken is 165°F in the center).  If it starts to get too brown before fully cooked, cover loosely with foil.

Sprinkle with chopped basil before serving, if desired.

Weight Watchers info:  This recipe makes 8 servings at 8 SmartPoints each.

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Summer Veggie Pasta

As summer vegetables come into season, this is a wonderful way to appreciate some of those fresh flavors.  Our family has been enjoying this recipe for many years.  Even the kids love it!  It makes a great side compliment to your favorite grilled chicken or fish, but we recommend it as a tasty main dish all on its own! ~ Tracy

1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin, bite sized pieces

4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved or quartered to your liking

½ c. chopped onion

1 ½ T. extra virgin olive oil

1 t. dried basil*

½ t. dried oregano

salt / cracked pepper to taste

½ c. shredded Parmesan cheese

8 oz. uncooked spaghetti noodles

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions (remember to liberally salt the water).

While spaghetti is cooking, add olive oil to large sauté pan.  When oil is hot, sauté zucchini, garlic, and onion.   Continue to stir-fry the zucchini, garlic, and onions for three to four minutes – until onion begins to become translucent and zucchini softens.  Toss in tomatoes and seasonings.  Heat through.

Add cooked pasta and stir thoroughly into vegetable mixture.   Toss in shredded Parmesan.

*If using fresh basil you may want to reduce amount, since fresh basil is much stronger in flavor.

**Weight Watchers friends, this recipe is 7 SmartPoints for 1 ½ cups!  (Makes 5 servings)

 

 

Italian Tortellini Salad

I invented this on a Sunday night when I felt like something new. I love the Italian chopped salad at McAlister’s Deli, so I was thinking about that as I started, but I like how it ended up even better if I do say so myself. Its distinctive flavors still go together well. It makes a HUGE amount, so I quickly realized I’d need to share and took most of it to work the next day. I was pleased to find I didn’t even have to try to find a spot in the fridge for it again when I went to put it away at the end of lunchtime since it had all vanished – yay!

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The best part about this recipe, as I face down a 99 degree afternoon, is that it requires no cooking except quickly boiling the tortellini, and it’s served at a nice chilly temp.  This is filling enough to be your dinner or a hearty side or appetizer.  ~Robin 

Ingredients:

Buitoni three-cheese tortellini, 1 20 oz. bag

2 medium cucumbers, chopped

½ red onion, diced or thinly sliced (about a cup, sliced)

2 c. of tiny tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size (I love Sunset’s Wild Wonders Gourmet Medley for their variety of colors, but you can snag any grape or cherry tomato variety as well)  

1 c. sliced Kalamata olives (could use green olives too, but I love Kalamata olives)

About 4 c. of baby spinach (stems removed)

2 c. hard salami, cubed into ½ in. chunks (about 10 oz. by weight)*

2 c. provolone cheese, cubed into ½ in. chunks (about 10 oz. by weight)

1 c. Ott’s creamy Italian dressing

Black pepper, fresh cracked, to taste (optional)

Directions:  

Prepare one package of tortellini according to package instructions, except do not add any olive oil – it would make it harder for the dressing to stick to the pasta later.  Drain very well and set aside to dry further and cool.  

Once pasta is cool enough and well-drained, add all other ingredients except tomatoes, black pepper, dressing, and olives; then mix. Add tomatoes, olives, pepper (if desired), and dressing, gently tossing until mixed well and salad is coated with dressing throughout. Chill & serve.  

*My deli counter sliced the salami and cheese into ½ inch thick slices so I was able to simply chop it into cubes from there…big time saver!  This salami from the deli is SO much better than the lunch meat slices you may have been tortured with by a well-meaning relative as a child. I thought I didn’t like salami all my life, but it turned out I just hadn’t had the right salami.  Give salami a chance! Unless you’re one of our vegetarian friends, in which case you can save a couple bucks instead.  🙂 

Italian Beef Sandwiches

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These sandwiches are the easiest thing you will ever make (even if you’ve never cooked a meal in your life, you can make these) and people will think you slaved in the kitchen.  This beef is fall-apart tender and melt-in-your mouth delicious.  5 ingredients and prep time is less than 5 minutes.  Set it and forget it!

Ingredients:

3 pounds top round (or similar cut) beef roast

2 or 3 cloves minced garlic

1 (0.6 oz.) packet Good Seasons dry Zesty Italian dressing mix

1 (16 oz.) jar whole or sliced pepperoncini peppers

8 to 10 ounces fat-free Zesty Italian dressing

Buns for serving

Cheese for sandwiches, optional

Instructions:

Place roast in a slow cooker.

Top with garlic and dry zesty Italian seasoning mix.

Discard all but about a quarter of the juice out of pepperoncini jar; pour remaining juice and all the peppers over the roast.

Pour in liquid zesty Italian dressing.

Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 3-4, or until meat is fully cooked and shreds easily.

Shred the beef & serve it hot on a toasted bun with the cheese of your choice.

*The beef/pepper mixture calculates to 5 Weight Watchers Smartpoints per 4 ounce serving.

Spicy Italian Chicken & Artichoke Pasta

All four of us love spicy food, and if you do too, you’ll know how annoying it is that most things marked “spicy” in restaurants are really fairly bland.  After many frustrating Italian restaurant visits (thank goodness for Tiramisu), Robin and Barry decided to come up with their own perfect pasta. Barry tinkered in the kitchen, ending up with a hybrid of some favorite Italian dishes.  This creamy, savory pasta is serious comfort food.  And the best part is, we can set some aside for the kids — or guests with low-spice-tolerant palates — and (cayenne!!!) pepper our portions to our hearts’ content.  

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Ingredients:

4-6 chicken tenders, depending on size, diced

1/4 cup canned sliced mushrooms, drained (we use Giorgio)

1/2 cup dry, julienned sun dried tomatoes (thoroughly rinsed if packed in oil)*

1 15-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, then quartered  

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 cloves minced fresh garlic (could use jarred garlic, but we prefer fresh)

3 T. butter

For Sauce:

1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic Alfredo sauce (We use Classico)

1 ½  cups finely shredded parmesan cheese

⅓ cup milk

¼ to ¾ tsp. of cayenne pepper, aka “red pepper” (depending on heat preference)

8 oz. farfalle (bowtie pasta) — half the box of Barilla that we usually use

3-4 sliced green onions

Instructions: 

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*The Bella Sun Luci sun-dried tomatoes pictured here are strongly recommended…far superior to those packed in oil both in terms of mess and flavor as far as we’re concerned, but if you’ve found a favorite that’s in oil, that’ll do too!  We normally do fresh garlic, but this is the jarred brand we use if the pantry is lacking the fresh variety.  If you’ve never bought fresh garlic, it keeps much longer than you’d think.

Prepare farfalle per box instructions.

In a small pot, put all sauce ingredients on low heat, stir occasionally while preparing chicken portion (be sure not to let it stick).  

In a large skillet heat butter and garlic on low. Add chicken and Italian seasoning. Increase heat to medium. When chicken begins to brown, add mushrooms, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes, heat on medium high for two to three minutes. Add sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

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At this point, it’s hard not to just eat this as is, but it’s worth the wait to put it all together.

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Serve over farfalle; top with green onions.  We like to add a little more ground cayenne pepper too, both for a touch of color and, of course, some spice.

 

Lasagna in the Highest

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When Robin’s husband Barry was very young, he thought that the line in church “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” said “lasagna in the highest.”  Imagine how disappointed he must have been when he grew old enough to realize that his favorite food did not have an exalted place in church doctrine.  If there is a place for folks to eat lasagna in heaven though, this is the recipe that the angels must use.  It’s easy, cheesy, and yummy!

1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained of fat

2 cloves garlic, minced or smashed through garlic press

1 16 oz. can petite diced tomatoes

2 cans tomato sauce

1 package McCormick thick and zesty spaghetti sauce mix

½ t. dried oregano

scant ½ t. dried basil

1 c. small curd cottage cheese

1 8 oz. package of lasagna noodles

1 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 package (2 c. size) grated Colby and Monterey Jack cheese

1 package (2 c. size) grated Mozzarella cheese

 

Brown hamburger meat with salt and pepper.  Drain any excess fat.  Add minced garlic to cooked hamburger.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spaghetti sauce mix (this ingredient is critical — don’t try to reinvent the wheel here!).  As sauce begins to simmer, add oregano and basil.  Simmer sauce for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend well.  While sauce simmers, boil lasagna noodles in salty water.

Remove sauce from heat and add cottage cheese to sauce. Stir just enough to combine.  Drain lasagna noodles and start to layer lasagna. Begin with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish.  Continue to layer sauce, noodles, and cheese.  When placing the cheese spread a layer of both Colby / Monterey Jack and Mozzarella each time.  Our layering process is always sauce, noodles, cheese, repeat.  Just be sure that you always end with sauce and cheese on top.

Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.