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!
- 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
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.