Category Archives: Healthy

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

I love citrus season in Arizona – almost everywhere you look, there are lush green trees bursting with lemons, oranges, grapefruits and limes. It’s a deliciously welcome sight in the aftermath of the winter holidays and, well, to be honest I see it as free ingredients!

I walk my dog Marlow along a nearby canal and along the way, there is a huge lemon tree that hangs over the block wall fence. I first discovered it two winters ago and after passing by a few times that first week, I  realized that no one was picking the lemons on that side of the fence. What a sad waste of perfect fruit!  I quickly plucked a dozen lemons and realized that I hadn’t even made a dent in what must have been 40-50 lemons on just one side of that tree.

That year I used those lemons to make lemon rosemary cookies and lemon squares. Delicious, but this year I am on a healthier diet. I wanted to make an entree that also uses a little more lemon than a cookie dough calls for. It’s still technically winter, so a lemon cream sauce does fit the bill for a hearty dinner. After a lot of brainstorming and reading up on lower fat cream sauces, I came up with this lemon cream sauce recipe. I made it with whole wheat spaghetti to keep it healthier and rather than the typical broccoli or asparagus, I chose the sweetness of peas to compliment the slightly tart lemon cream sauce. The lemon and parsley give this dish a fresh and crisp taste, while the cream sauce, chicken and pasta maintain the heartiness of a winter dinner.

Now that I have my own brand new lemon tree in the backyard, I’ll be making this again and looking for some new ways to use fresh lemon!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. dry whole wheat spaghetti
  • ½ cup light cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup peas

Directions:

Cook spaghetti according to package directions (when draining, be sure to reserve ½ cup of cooking water).

Melt cream cheese in a saucepan over low heat (make sure bottom doesn’t burn). Add olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of cooking water. Stir reserved water into cream cheese mixture. In a large bowl, toss together pasta, chicken, peas, parsley and cream cheese mixture.

Whole Grain Pasta Caprese Salad

My best friend Erin sent this recipe to me after she saw it on the Curvy Carrot blog. It looked so delicious that we decided to make it when she came to visit me in Arizona. We agreed that using whole grain pasta would be the healthier route to take, so we found some whole grain penne. The original recipe calls for regular rigatoni, but this dish is so flavorful I think I could have made it with cardboard noodles and it would still have been delicious!

Earlier that day we had lunch at the Queen Creek Olive Mill (a Phoenix area MUST for all of you foodie’s) and we picked up a fresh loaf of their rosemary bread (which cancelled out the healthier whole grain pasta) and a bottle of their own olive oil.

What a feast! I didn’t modify the actual recipe at all, except for using whole grain pasta. However, when Erin made the recipe for her in-laws the next week, she added some grilled shrimp and it was a hit!

Ingredients

5 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Pinch cayenne pepper (if you don’t normally cook with this, go to CVS Pharmacy and get a bottle for 99 cents!)

1 pound whole grain penne pasta

8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced or cubed as desired

Approximately 15-20 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded

Instructions

To peel and seed tomatoes, cut a shallow “X” on the bottom of each tomato.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place the tomatoes in the water for about 15 seconds.  Immediately remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place into an ice water bath.  This will stop the tomatoes from cooking.  Now the skins should be easy to remove and the tomatoes can be easily de-seeded and diced.

Place the peeled and diced tomatoes in a colander for about 15 minutes to remove excess juices.

In a medium bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper.  Mix the ingredients well and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the tomato mixture, mozzarella, and basil.  Toss gently, and serve immediately.

Healthy Taco Salad Bowls

It’s summer and even though my work schedule slows down almost to match the pace of those beloved lazy summer nights, I’m still too busy to whip up a culinary work of art during the week. My healthy taco salad bowls are the answer to a quick and tasty (and might I add EASY) dinner that is full of flavor. It also goes wonderfully with a margarita. I realize that this recipe can barely be considered to be a recipe, but sometimes I need the jolt of a new meal idea, so I hope you like this enough to add it to your dinner rotation.

Ingredients:

Two taco shell bowls (these usually come in a box of four bowls – perfect for an encore!)

Two cups of uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into bite-sized chunks

1 packet taco seasoning (your choice of mild or spicy)

1/3 cup of water

½ cup diced scallion onion

Romaine lettuce, chopped into salad-sized pieces

1 bag shredded Mexican-blend cheese

1 cup diced tomato

½ cup diced red onion

½ cup sour cream (optional)

½ cup guacamole (optional)

½ cup jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, according to taco shell bowl directions.

Dice tomatoes and set aside.

In a large frying pan using 1/4 cup water in the bottom of the pan, heat diced chicken until just cooked.

Add diced scallions and toss with chicken.

Add taco seasoning, according to packet directions.

Cook off water until the chicken is coated with the seasoning.

Put two taco shell bowls on a baking sheet and heat in oven for five minutes or until edges are brown. Place each taco shell bowl on a plate.

Fill each taco shell bowl about a third of the way up with chopped romaine lettuce. Add chicken on top, followed by cheese, tomatoes, red onion and jalapeno peppers if desired.

Add a dollop of sour cream and guacamole on top or on the side of the plate. Garnish with a few pieces of diced scallion onion and diced tomato.