Bacon & Mushroom Pasta in Cream Sauce

It’s summer and I really can’t be bothered to thaw meat some days.  Do you ever feel like that’s too much trouble?  I have too many other summery things to do… like take a nap.  Ha!  On days like that, it’s salad for dinner or a (mostly) meatless dish like this one.  If you love mushrooms, you will love this pasta.  It’s chock full of meaty baby portabellas, but perfectly balanced with a little bacon in a creamy sauce.  After making this a couple times, it hit me that the perfect finisher for this would be some finely diced green onions.  So, if you have those in the fridge, throw those on top at the end and finish it with some extra crisp bacon and shredded parm.  Perfection! ~Erin

6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped into bite-sized pieces (plus more for serving if desired)

1 lb. uncooked whole wheat linguine

¼ c. reserved pasta water

1 lb. uncooked baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

1 T. minced garlic

1 T. olive or avocado oil

2 T. all-purpose flour

1 ½ c. fat-free half-and-half

Shredded parmesan and extra cooked bacon, optional – for garnish

Chopped green onions, optional – for garnish

 

Cook the linguine in salted water, according to package directions. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water before draining. Meanwhile, in a large, high-sided skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from the skillet and drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Set aside. Carefully clean out remaining bacon grease with paper towels. Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced mushrooms and stir and cook until mushrooms are fork-tender (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute). Stir in the flour and stir and cook until no white flour is visible and mushrooms are sizzling – about a minute. Add the bacon back to the skillet. Stir in the fat-free half-and-half and pasta water; bring to a simmer.  Simmer and stir until it starts to thicken – about 3 or 4 minutes.  The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.  Add the cooked pasta into the mushroom sauce and toss to coat. Sprinkle with extra bacon and parmesan if desired (will add to points on WW).

WW info:  This recipe makes 8 1 ½-cup servings.  Green plan – 8 points; Blue plan – 8 points; Purple plan – 3 points

Caribbean Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Summer is meant for grilling.  It’s getting hot in Oklahoma and, because we’ve had a ton of rain, the humidity is at somewhere around 1,000%.  That means it’s too hot to cook a full meal in the kitchen.  I’m all about grilling out, as much as possible.  These Caribbean Chicken Lettuce Wraps are the perfect summer grill meal because you can put your chicken on the grill while you stay inside (for the most part), in the air conditioning, sipping a cold beverage and chopping a few fruits and veggies.  By the time the chicken is done, you’ll be ready to throw it all together, wrap it in a crisp lettuce leaf, and go to town on it… grilled chicken, mango, onions, jalapeno, and spices, wrapped in a big leaf of green lettuce… this recipe is the perfect fresh, light, summer meal.  It’s so flavorful, you might even find yourself eating it straight from the bowl with a spoon, like this little guy.  By the looks of that messy, nearly-empty bowl, he’s enjoying it!  ~Erin

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned lightly with garlic powder, salt, and pepper (baked or rotisserie chicken breast would also work fine) – room temperature
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ tsp. each of garlic powder, turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • 1 c. diced mango
  • 1 jalapeno (seeded and deveined) chopped
  • Bib or romaine lettuce leaves, washed
  • Sliced avocado, optional

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, and spices; set aside.

When the chicken has come to room temperature, chop in bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl.

Add the onion, mango, and jalapeno.

Toss gently until the dressing and ingredients are evenly distributed.

Serve, topped with avocado (if desired), wrapped in a leaf of lettuce.

WW Freestyle Info.:  The recipe makes 4 servings of ¾ cups each.  Each serving is 1 SmartPoint, not counting the optional avocado.

Tip:  Measure your avocado in grams – you get more for the points!

Chile Rellenos Breakfast Bake

I love a dish that is versatile.  My favorite foods are those that you can eat any time of day …. breakfast, lunch, dinner. This twist on a Mexican classic is perfect for any time of day, whether you just want something easy and yummy to eat, or you’re looking for something to have for your next brunch or baby shower!  Anytime of day you make it, it’s guaranteed to be a hit. Generally breaded and fried, the chili relleno is loaded with flavor, but who has time (or the allotted calories) for fried foods? In this dish the green chilies add the perfect amount of flavor, but they are not spicy. This recipe mixes up quickly and bakes while you accomplish other things on your to-do list. Served alongside fruit salad or a green salad it is totally delicious!  ~ Kathy

Ingredients: 
  • 8 eggs
  • ½ c. Greek yogurt*
  • 1 c. Colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 T 2% milk
  • 1/3 c. Bisquick baking mix
  • 7 oz. can mild, diced green chilies
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash onion powder

Instructions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚
  2. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.
  3. In a large bowl crack 6 eggs, add Greek yogurt and mix well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the baking mix, milk and remaining two eggs. Combine well and ensure there are no lumps. Add to egg mixture in the large bowl.
  5. Stir in cheese, green chilies and seasonings.
  6. Pour into greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for approximately 30 more minutes, or until completely set in the center.
  7. *If you do not have Greek yogurt, you can substitute sour cream, but this will change the WW Points.

WW Freestyle Info.:  This recipe makes 6 generous servings that are 4 points each. With reduced fat cheese, you can reduce that to 3 points!

    Beef Stir Fry

    Occasionally, I find myself in a bit of a cooking rut.  When I realize we’ve had some sort of taco five of the last ten days, it’s time to get a little more creative.  My husband had been craving Asian food recently, and since we have reached the ripe old age of “don’t want to go anywhere unless we have to,” I decided I’d get a little more adventurous with our dinner.  I’ve made this Beef Stir Fry a few times now and it is really is fool-proof! It turns out great every time and you can adapt the veggies to whatever you happen to like best (if there are no teenagers eating with us, I always add extra broccoli).  The ingredients are easy to find, and if you’re lucky enough to have grocery delivery or pick up where you live, you can feel like you’ve had a dinner at a trendy Asian restaurant, without ever having to get out of your pajamas (#goals). ~Tracy

    Ingredients:
    • ½ of a yellow onion, thinly sliced
    • ¼ of a large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • ¼ of a large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • ¼ of a large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 package frozen broccoli florets (I use 10.8 oz. of Birds Eye Steamfresh)
    • 1 ½ lb thinly sliced Sirloin steak
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 t. minced or grated fresh ginger
    • ¼ c. + 1 T. lower sodium soy sauce
    • 2 tsp. Sugar
    • 1 ½ T. corn starch
    • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes (use less if you don’t like a little spice)
    • brown or white rice for serving with the stir fry

    Instructions: 

    1. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
    2. Lightly salt and pepper the steak. Set aside.
    3. Generously spray a large, deep skillet with nonstick canola oil spray.
    4. Saute onion, peppers, and broccoli for several minutes on medium heat until veggies begin to soften. I sometimes throw in an ice cube with the veggies so that the melting ice provides a little steam to assist in their cooking.
    5. Remove the veggies from the pan and set aside while you cook the meat.
    6. Add the steak, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce mixture to the skillet.
    7. Saute over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. Sauce will bubble and begin to thicken.
    8. When the meat is almost done, add the vegetables back to the pan so that the meat and vegetables can finish cooking together. Cover the skillet with a glass lid.
    9. The final cooking stage will take approximately 5 more minutes, but check the meat and vegetables frequently.
    10. Vegetables should be fork tender and meat should be cooked through when done.
    11. Serve the stir fry over your favorite brown or white rice, if desired.

    WW Freestyle Info.: This recipe makes 5 generous 1-cup servings. Each serving is 6 points. Be sure to add points if you serve the stir fry over rice.

     

    Waffle Muffins

    Valentine’s Day – some people aren’t big fans; others love it.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  I like the holiday.  In fact, I like practically any reason to celebrate.  I like the idea of a day devoted to expressing love…and I like the gifts too, of course!  My husband and I don’t do big gifts for Valentine’s Day though.  We usually get each other a card and he usually picks me up some flowers or candy at the grocery store.

    This year, with his work schedule, I knew we wouldn’t see each other much on Valentine’s Day past breakfast time so I wanted to make something for him more special than his usual bowl of Lucky Charms.  The problem is, I’m not a morning person.  Not even a little bit.  Plus, Valentine’s Day this year was on a Thursday and that’s a work day.  Ain’t nobody got time to make breakfast on a work day.   The solution to this problem was to cook breakfast the night before and reheat it quickly in the morning.  I decided to make these Waffle Muffins, boiled eggs, and bacon, all of which was easily reheated and enjoyed quickly before getting ready for work.  I reheated the muffins and the cooked bacon in the air fryer and the eggs in the microwave.  Worked like a charm!  He was impressed that I had made breakfast on a weekday (Frankly, so was I!) and it was delicious – worth getting out of bed a few minutes early!  ~Erin

    Ingredients:

    • 10 Eggo Nutri-Grain Low Fat waffles (1 box)
    • 1 c. fat-free half & half
    • 4 large eggs
    • ½ c. brown sugar, packed
    • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • Nonstick cooking spray
    • Maple syrup – for serving, optional

    Instructions: 

    1. Toast 5 of the waffles.  You can toast them all but I decided I wanted a mixture of different textures so I didn’t.  Plus, I’m lazy.  Cut the waffles in bite-sized pieces; set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the fat-free half & half, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until well-combined.  Stir the waffle pieces into the egg mixture, making sure they are all moistened.  Let them soak about 20 minutes while the oven preheats, stirring occasionally.
    3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a 12-hole muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  When the oven is preheated, stir the waffle mixture one last time and, using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, disperse the mixture evenly in the pan.
    4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes (I usually leave mine in the full 30 minutes), until golden brown.
    5. Serve with maple syrup of your choice, if desired.

    WW Freestyle Info.:  4 points for one, 9 points for two muffins.

    Honey Garlic Shrimp

    Have you seen the meme on social media that says “January was a hard year but we made it.”?  That makes me chuckle because it must be the universal feeling everyone is having, me included.  It was LONG month. Not bad, just long. I guess because November and December just flew right by, the slower pace of the new year seemed to crawl in comparison.  

    January has finally come to a close and, while I’m not one to wish time away, I’m happy to see February… mostly because it’s one month closer to Spring.  

    Food-wise, winter has been a season of belly-warming comfort foods for me.  I have fully enjoyed all the foods and have about 7 pounds to show for it. Time to stop eating like I’m participating in hibernation.  While I love comfort foods, I truly appreciate a dinner that is not so heavy. This Honey Garlic Shrimp is sweet and spicy and, of course, garlicy… hence the name.  It’s also super-fast to make. We’re talking like 15 minutes start-to-finish. Can’t beat that! I can throw this on the table after work in no time and have a meal everyone will enjoy!  That’s why it’s part of my weeknight dinner rotation. I’m confident it will soon be part of yours as well. ~Erin

    Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. medium-sized shrimp that have been shelled and de-veined
    • 1 T. minced garlic
    • 2 tsp. sesame oil or olive oil
    • ¼ tsp. grated ginger root or 1/8 tsp. dry ginger
    • ½ c. less-sodium soy sauce
    • ½ c. water
    • 1 T. cornstarch
    • 2 T. honey
    • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste; optional
    • Chopped green onion
    • Cooked rice, for serving

    Instructions: 

    1. Add the shrimp and cook about 4 minutes.
    2. Flip the shrimp and add the remaining ½ tsp. of oil, the garlic, and the ginger. Cook for 3 or 4 more minutes, until the shrimp is cooked and the garlic and ginger are fragrant.
    3. Remove the seasoned shrimp from heat and transfer to a plate.
    4. Return the skillet to the stove and turn the heat up to medium-high. Immediately add soy sauce and water to the skillet. When it begins to bubble, add the cornstarch, whisking continuously, until thickened. This will take just a couple minutes.
    5. Turn off the heat and whisk in the honey.
    6. Return the shrimp to the skillet and stir to coat the shrimp and warm through.
    7. Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

    WW Freestyle info.: This makes 4 servings. Each serving is 3 points, not counting rice.

    Cuban Style Red Beans and Rice

    Most of the time when people talk about red beans and rice, the Cajun version is what comes to mind, at least for me. The flavors of this Cuban version are unique and amazing.  Not your standard red beans and rice!  You can adjust the heat by choosing mild, regular or hot Ro-Tel tomatoes and adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper.  The addition of cilantro and the hint of lime are perfect.  I’m thankful that I have a family that enjoys the adventurous recipes that roll across our table.  This one is a keeper.    ~Kathy

    1 c. bell pepper (any color), chopped

    ½ c. onion, chopped

    3 cloves garlic, finely minced

    2 (16 oz.) cans light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

    1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-tel), undrained

    1 c. broth (vegetable or fat free chicken broth, water will also work)

    1 tsp. salt

    1 ¼ tsp. cumin

    ¾ tsp. oregano

    ¼ tsp. black pepper

    ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

    1/3 c. cilantro, chopped

    2 T. fresh lime juice

    3 c. hot, cooked rice; for serving

    Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes, broth and seasonings to the pot of a slow-cooker; stir well.

    Cover and cook on low 4 hours.  Add cilantro and squeeze in lime juice.  Serve over rice.

     

    Creamy Cilantro Sauce

    One thing I have missed since I started eating healthy (most of the time) is sauces.  Sauces – especially creamy ones – are often high in calories/Weight Watcher points.  When you have a tight points budget each day, you don’t want to waste points on things like sauces.  For this reason, I have started creating my own sauces.  I can make them in small batches, instead of having a large bottle sitting around until after its expiration date; I can make them as rich or as low-fat as I choose; and I can avoid all the preservatives and additives that are often present in bottled/jarred sauces.

    This Creamy Cilantro Sauce is one of my favorite sauce concoctions.  It can be used a veggie or chip dip, a sauce for Mexican dishes (it’s great on tacos!), or a dip for something like these Chicken Fajita Meatballs (photo below)!  The possibilities are endless!  If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen dipping everything in this sauce.  Best part is, I can enjoy this with NO guilt.  Check out the stats at the end of this post!  Dip, dip, hooray for zero WW point sauce!  ~Erin

    Ingredients: 

    • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. fat-free cream cheese
    • 1 (7 oz.) can salsa verde (I use Herdez brand.)
    • ½ tsp. black pepper
    • 1 tsp. celery salt
    • ½ tsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • ½ a bunch of cilantro, stems removed
    • The zest of one lime (optional)
    • 2 T. fresh lime juice – about one squeezed lime

    Blend all ingredients in a blender, scraping down the sides occasionally, until smooth.

    WW Freestyle Info:  Makes 2 cups of sauce.  Up to 2 Tablespoons is zero points.  3-6 tablespoons is 1 point.  7-10 tablespoons is 2 points.

    The Best Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa

    Over the years I’ve seen lots of different recipes for Barbacoa.  Some had ingredients that I thought were a little weird, some had sugar, and some had dizzyingly long lists of ingredients.  The version that I’ve created has the perfect amount of spicy flavor, and it cooks to fall apart tender. It’s tasty enough that my oldest, who usually doesn’t care for shredded beef dishes, asked me to make him his own batch to take back to college with him.  He’s also not a fan of leftovers, so here’s hoping that this helps keep him (and his debit card) out of the Chick-Fil-A drive through! But let’s be honest, one of the best things about this dish is that it takes a few minutes to dice two ingredients and the rest is simply tossing stuff into the slow cooker.  My favorite way to eat this is on a soft taco with a little cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and of course, cheese, but it also makes a great base for shredded beef enchiladas. I think it’ll quickly become one of your favorites (and it’s only 3 WW points per serving)! ~Tracy

    Ingredients:
    • ~One beef rump roast, approximately 3 lbs., with fat trimmed
    • ~1, 5 oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I use Embasa brand)
    • ~1, 4 oz. can diced green chiles
    • ~1 cup diced white or yellow onion
    • ~5 large cloves garlic, minced
    • ~juice of one lime, freshly squeezed
    • ~2 T. apple cider vinegar
    • ~3 to 4 bay leaves
    • ~1 ½ tsp. salt
    • ~1 tsp. black pepper
    • ~1 T. ground cumin
    • ~1 ½ tsp. oregano
    • ~1 c. fat free beef broth or prepared beef bouillon
    1. Place rump roast in slow cooker (I highly recommend using slow cooker liner. They make cleanup so much easier!)
    2. Remove the adobo peppers from the can and roughly chop them. Use the entire can if you like things fairly spicy. When cooking for my family, I use the entire can, but if you don’t love things very spicy, or are cooking for others, use half the can.
    3. Add the peppers (including seeds and some of the sauce) to the pot with the roast.
    4. Add all other ingredients.
    5. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
    6. Remove the roast from the slow cooker using tongs or a large spatula.
    7. Remove the bay leaves from the pot while you have the meat removed.
    8. Shred the meat and return to the slow cooker to let it simmer in the juices for another 15-20 minutes before serving.
    9. Remove the meat from the liquid and serve.

    WW Freestyle Info.: This recipe makes 15, 3 oz. servings that are 3 points each.

    Skillet Cube Steak

    My 11-year-old daughter recently shot her first deer. We hunt for the meat, not for the sport, but I will say there is something rewarding about harvesting your own dinner. My girl was excited and proud to get her first buck!

    Venison is delicious, not to mention good for you. It’s a very lean red meat with hardly any fat. Our meat processor tenderizes ours for us so that, it’s so tender, you can cut it with a butter knife. If you don’t have the luxury of hunting your own venison and having it tenderized, you can buy beef cube steak (also known as tenderized round steak) at your local grocery store. We like either/or in this house! ~Erin

    Ingredients:

    • 1 ½ lbs. cube steak, carefully trimmed of all fat and cut into small (approximately 2 inch) pieces
    • ½ c. all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • ½ tsp. black pepper
    • 3 T. olive oil, divided

    In a gallon-sized baggie, place all the trimmed meat along with the flour, salt, and pepper. Keep a lot of air in the bag and seal it well. This allows space for the meat and seasonings to shake around in the bag. Flip and shake the baggie until all the meat is coated evenly. Lay the meat out in a single layer on wax paper or plastic wrap near the stove and let it rest for 3-5 minutes. This helps the flour adhere to the meat.

    Preheat a medium-sized heavy nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add one Tablespoon olive oil and swirl to distribute evenly. Allow the oil to get hot for about a minute; then add about 1/3 of the meat in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd the skillet. My skillet would fit about 1/3 of the batch of meat so I used 1 Tablespoon of oil per batch for a total of 3 Tablespoons. If you have a large skillet, you may be able to cook it all in two batches, using half of the 3 Tablespoons of oil for each of the batches.

    Do not move the meat around after laying it in the pan; let it cook for 4-5 minutes undisturbed. Flip each piece and continue to cook for 3-4 more minutes or until the pieces are golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. My family would organize an uprising if I didn’t serve this with mashed potatoes and cream gravy so I suggest you do too. 🙂

    WW Freestyle Info.: This recipe makes 5 servings of about 4 ounces each. Each serving is 7 points, whether you use venison or beef.