Veggie Lasagna & 3-Ingredient Chicken

So I’ve been on a Hungry Girl kick lately.  I want to make everything in her new 300 Under 300 cookbook and I’ve been trekking right along.  Tuesday nights are my biggest cooking nights during the week because after work and the gym, all I want to do is make new recipes for my family.  So far, they have turned out pretty well.

I decided on a complex, no-noodle veggie lasagna recipe with so-simple-I-could-make-it-with-my-eyes-closed bacon & ranch chicken.  I say the lasagna was a bit complex because it requires a good amount of prepping before the actual oven cooking begins.  It was worth it.  It takes about 30 minutes to cook at 425 degrees so when there was about 15-20 minutes left on the timer, I slid the chicken in too.

Now, just a heads up about the serving size.  Obviously, it’s one chicken breast per person but the lasagna also serves 4.  When I read the recipe in the HG cookbook, it said 4 SUPER-HUGE portions.  I didn’t believe her.  I mean, an 8×8 isn’t that big.  The portions can’t be that big either.  How wrong I was.  I couldn’t even eat the whole portion.  You’ve been warned.

No-Noodle Veggie Lasagna    
Adapted from Hungry Girl             

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, ends cut off and sliced lengthwise into wide, long strips
2 large portobello mushroom caps, stems removed, sliced
3 medium zucchini, ends cut off and sliced lengthwise into thin, long strips
2 cups crushed tomatoes with basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 (16-ounce) package chopped spinach, thawed, drained and thoroughly dried
2 TB liquid egg subsititute
1/8 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 TB reduced-fat parm-style topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Bring a large skillet to high heat and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray.  Lay some paper towels next to the stovetop to drain excess liquid from veggies as they cook.

Cook as many zucchini and mushrooms you can lay flat in the pan at a time for 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove to paper towels.  Continue until all zucchini and mushrooms are cooked, respraying in between each batch.  Cook the eggplant 4-5 minutes per side, also respraying in between batches.

Next, stir garlic powder and onion powder into the crushed tomatoes.  In a seperate big bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper and egg substitute and mix thoroughly.

To assemble: Spray a deep 8×8 baking dish with nonstick spray.  Even spread 1 cup of crushed tomatoes on the bottom of the dish.  Layer half of the veggies over the tomatoes, eggplant first, then zucchini, then mushrooms.  Top veggies with half of the spinach-cheese mixture.  Lay the rest of the veggies over the spinach-cheese mixture in the same order as before, followed by the rest of the spinach and cheese.  Top with the remaining crushed tomatoes and spread evenly.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and parm-style cheese over the crushed tomatoes.

Place on a large baking sheet and pop in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until heated through and the cheeese on top is bubbly and golden brown.

Bacon & Ranch Chicken
From Hungry Girl

Ingredients:
4 (5-ounce) lean chicken breast cutlets
2 TB dry ranch dressing mix (I used DIPS)
2 TB real bacon bits

Spray a small baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Lay the chicken on the sheet and spray the tops with nonstick spray as well.  Rub 1/2 TB of ranch mix on each breast, front and back, and repeat with 1/2 TB bacon bits for each.  Lay flat on the baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until cooked through and tender, 15-20 minutes.

Spaghetti Squash & Exciting News

I was in New York all weekend for dance but before I left, I made a spaghetti squash casserole for dinner on Thursday night.  It’s made with low-fat ingredients but you’d never know because it was so delicious.  And talk about easy – your oven does most of the work!

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite foods because it doubles as a pasta swap.  It’s is great for you without harming your waistline.  Being so low in fat and calories also means you can add things like low-fat cheese to the squash without throwing your diet (or lack there of) completely out the window.  Did I mention it’s delicious? I did… and I just did again.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

1 medium-large spaghetti squash (about 12 inches in length)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup part-skim/low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
Handful of breadcrumbs
Handful of parmesean cheese
Non-stick cooking spray, for sauteing

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out all of the seeds and stringy flesh and discard.  Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with non-stick spray.  Gently prick the outside of the squash halves with a fork (to allow the veggie to steam while cooking).  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan generously with non-stick cooking spray.  (Don’t be afraid to get it nice and slick; the spray is taking the place of olive oil.)  Saute the onion, garlic and basil together over medium-high heat until soft and translucent.  Add the tomatoes and continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture is dry. 

When spaghetti squash is tender, scrape out the flesh into a large bowl using a fork.  It should resemble very thin spaghetti, almost angel hair.  (Use a heat glove to prevent burns.)  Get as much of the flesh out of the squash as possible – this could get a little messy.

To the squash, add the onion mixture, mozzarella and cottage cheese.  Mix gently to combine.  Spread squash mixture evently into a 9×13 baking dish that has been coated lightly with nonstick spray.  Top with the handful of parmesan and breadcrumbs.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly around the edges.

And as for my exciting news… well, I will be guest posting again for a different blog sometime within the next week or two.  My good friend Christine writes a beautiful blog called Bun & Borough.  She posts daily (an accomplishment in itself) and covers all topics from fashion to music, running to food.  She is truly an inspiration and destined to be a famous writer, I’m convinced.  I will be doing all of that cooking tonight and will let you know when it will be posted on her blog!

Oh – I also start my 5K training today… 3 days a week for 9 weeks.  I’ve never been a runner.. EVER.  So, we’ll see how this goes.  The goal is to run my first 5K sometime in mid-May before I travel to Oklahoma for dance.  I hope to get through it.  30 minutes may not seem like a long time to run for some people, but for me right now, it seems like an eternity.

I’ll keep you posted!

One night, three hits…

The other night I decided to make 3 completely new recipes, ones I had found in some internet searching but never tried.  It was a three-course dinner the other night with recipes from three different places – an appetizer from a fellow blogger, the entree if a mere 4 points from Weight Watchers (and worth each delicious point) and the dessert, from Miss Giada di Laurentis herself. 

I must say though, of the three, I was the most disappointed in Giada’s recipe.  I wish I had taken pictures, but I forgot, of course.  More details about this in a bit.

I decided to make “Spinach Brownies” as the appetizer for a few reasons.  One, they are from a blogger whose website I visit frequently.  Jamie, the lovely young lady who writes My Baking Addiction is, to me, a culinary genius.  (Not to mention one of the most creative cupcake makers I’ve come across.)  I know the name seems a little off-putting but don’t be fooled – these things are incredible.  I decided to make them because even though my original appetizer recipe for spinach balls was a hit with my family, this recipe is much less time consuming (and definitely more delicious).  I made a few changes – her original recipe calls for bell peppers and bacon, but I think they were just as yummy.

Spinach Brownies (adapted from My Baking Addiction)
Ingredients
(10 ounce) frozen package spinach
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 onion; chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (more like a cup if you’re like me)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place spinach in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until spinach cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain thoroughly and set aside.
3. Sautee onions and garlic in a pan over medium heat until vegetables are slightly softened.
4. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and butter. Mix in spinach, onion mixture and mozzarella cheese.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Next up, the entree.  While browsing my account on Weight Watchers, I was looking up healthy dinner recipes featuring ground turkey for the sole reason that I had some in my freezer and I’ve been dying to experiment with it.  Plus, I had to find some way to “hide” it well enough in flavor that my dad (who prefers fatty ground beef, obviously) would love it.  When I found this recipe, a mere 4 points a serving, I knew it was the one. 

It features some of my favorite things – the turkey, spaghetti squash (note to self, use more often!), and two types of cheese!  I was a little weary at first but as my dad took a bite and complimented me on it, I was elated.  Call it a new staple in my kitchen.  (By the way, we did tell him it was ground turkey.  Didn’t stop him from eating 2 helpings!)

Weight Watchers Italian Turkey & Spaghetti Squash Pie

  1 medium raw spaghetti squash   
  1/2 pound(s) uncooked ground turkey breast (or 1 whole pound if you’ve got it)
  2 tsp olive oil (I just use cooking spray to saute veggies)
  1 small onion, chopped   
  1 clove (medium) garlic cloveminced   
  28 oz canned diced tomatoes, undrained   
  1 tsp italian seasoning, or more to taste   
  6 oz fat-free ricotta cheese (I used low fat)
  1 large egg
  1 spray cooking spray, nonstick (more if you are using it to saute)
  1/2 cup(s) shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese (yeah right – definitely

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Halve squash lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut sides down, in a large baking dish and prick skin all over with a fork. Bake until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook turkey, stirring occasionally, in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain, remove from skillet and set aside.
  • In a same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; add cooked turkey and simmer, stirring often, until desired consistency, about 5 minutes.
  • Place ricotta and egg in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth (or forget the gadgets and blend it with a whisk by hand)
  • Coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Remove squash from oven and increase oven temperature to 375ºF.  LET COOL OR YOU WILL BURN YOURSELF.
  • Using a fork, carefully rake stringy squash pulp from shell, separating it into strands that look like spaghetti. Arrange spaghetti squash strands in bottom and up sides of pie plate to form a crust.
  • Add ricotta cheese mixture and gently spread over squash. Pour tomato-turkey sauce over cheese mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before slicing into 6 pieces. Yields 1 piece per serving.

And of course, my favorite part of any meal – dessert.  More specifically, Giada’s Lemon-Ricotta cookies.  Originally, I made these for a colleague at work because she requested them a while ago.  I made a half batch because really, who needs 45 cookies? 

Well, these things are awesome in theory – and the batter was pretty tasty too.  I mean, who can go wrong when you put 1/2 a container of ricotta in cookie batter?  Unfortunately, these were more like lemon-ricotta pancakes when they came out of the oven.  Even though I added the correct amount of each ingredient, I’m sad to say that the execution was a little elusive to what I was trying to achieve.  Nonetheless, I’ll save the recipe and try them again for experiment’s sake.  For Giada’s recipe, check out one of my favorite websites (that of course, doesn’t load while I am at work): www.foodnetwork.com

Overall, my three course experiment was very successful.  Next up?  Christmas – let the Season of Joy & Sweet Treats begin!