Autumn Chicken Pasta

I was inspired by a Skinnytaste recipe but decided to throw a spin on it since I had chicken out to cook and not sausage and ground beef.  I was actually at Trader Joe’s when I spotted the brussel sprouts and pulled up the Skinnytaste recipe to have a peak since I had never looked at the regular recipe before then (I’d only seen the picture of it).
Deciding since it was later in the afternoon and I didn’t want to head to my regular grocery store, I’d make due with what I had on hand and what I could pick up at Trader Joe’s.  With that a lot of the ingredients I used are Trader Joe’s brand, but comparable products can be picked up at a regular grocery store.
This was a delicious meal. Quite interesting with the brussel sprouts in it, and the flavor category was fabulous. Packed with flavor, a heaping serving and the leftovers were able to marinate a little further while in the refrigerator overnight.
Serves 6. 1 ¾ cup serving. 10 Points Plus Values.
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/8 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, cut into small chunks
  • 28 oz. can of Trader Joe’s Trader Giotto’s Low Fat Tuscano Marinara Sauce (you can substitute with another variation of low-fat marinara sauce)
  • 12 oz. spaghetti (I used Barilla White Fiber Spaghetti)
  • 10 oz. shaved brussel sprouts
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp water (optional)
Add raw chicken to a bowl, season with garlic powder a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Toss to combine, stabbing the chicken with a fork to get the flavor into the chicken pieces.
Fill a large pot with salted water. Once brought to a boil, add in your spaghetti and cook until (I recommend) al dente.
In a large non-stick skillet, add 1 ½ tsp olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Once hot add in garlic and let sauté for roughly 30 seconds before adding in the brussel sprouts – season with remaining salt and pepper.
Saute the brussel sprouts for 5-7 minutes until they begin to soften.  If they begin to stick to the pan add in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until cooked through. Remove brussel sprouts from the pan and set aside.
In the same non-stick skillet, add the remaining 1 ½ tsp of olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add in chicken and let brown and crisp up on both sides until cooked through. Try not to move the chicken much on each side to allow it to brown and get some color.
Once chicken is cooked, combine with brussel sprouts and toss. Pour in can of sauce and begin to add spaghetti, tossing to ensure the whole dish is combined and coated with sauce.
Remove from the flame and enjoy!

Sheppard’s Pie

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Sheppard’s Pie is a dish I grew up eating. I know there are many different ways to make it … but like many of the dishes I’ve grown up eating, I’ve adapted this recipe along the lines of how my mother made it. That is only cutting a few corners to make it “lighter” but still have that same classic Sheppard’s pie flavor I remember from growing up. This is actually a really simple and easy dish to throw together; it can even be assembled the night before and popped into the oven the next day to heat through.  Since I do like the top of the mashed potatoes to crust up a bit, I do cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.
Serves 8.  8 Points Plus Values/serving.
          1 ¾ lb 93% lean ground beef
          2 ¾ lb potatoes, peeled and chunked
          1 medium onion, diced
          ½ cup skim milk
          1 tsp minced garlic
          1 tsp McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
          1 ½ tsp salt, divided
          1 ½ tsp black pepper, divided
          1 ½ tsp Imperial margarine
          14 oz. Del Monte Sweet Corn Cream Styled, No Salt Added
          14 oz. canned corn, no salt added, drained
Fill a large pan with water, season with salt and place onto medium high heat. Add peeled, chunked potatoes to water and allow water to come to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
In a nonstick skillet, add ground beef, onions and garlic. Break up beef as it cooks, season with McCormick Steak Seasoning, salt and pepper.  When beef is cooked through strain of any excess water/fat.
When potatoes are fork tender, strain and return potatoes back to the pot. Season with remaining salt and pepper, add in 1 tablespoon margarine and milk. Mash until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large casserole dish, layer beef and onion mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle meat with strained corn kernels, then top with canned cream style corn. Gently begin to pile mashed potatoes onto the mixture. I find it’s easier to add it in “glops” of mashed potatoes and fill in any holes as you go. If you try to smooth the mixture before all potatoes are added, the creamed corn will just move along with it.
One all mashed potatoes are in place, dice up remaining ½ tbsp margarine and add chunks over the top of the mashed potatoes.
Place assembled sheppard’s pie into preheated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.
Once cooked, allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 equal sized pieces.

BBQ Chicken Rolls

I picked up the stuff to make pizza logs, but when it came time to make them I realized I forgot the pizza sauce and I did not have any in the cabinets. Since I didn’t want to open a big jar of pasta sauce, I decided to use my eggroll wrappers in a test recipe.  Since I had some leftover chicken in the refrigerator, I got a great idea for BBQ chicken rolls. BBQ chicken is a typically safe bet food wise (at least with my family) because buffalo chicken can be questionable for certain tastebuds.
These took about 5 minutes to prep everything, maybe 5-10 minutes to roll everything and 10-15 minutes to bake them.  Quite an easy meal to throw together, even on a whim!  They were delicious and a great meal. My boyfriend enjoyed them so much he kept going back for more. Winner!
Serves 15. 3 Points Plus Values.
          15 NaSoya Egg Roll Wrappers
          1 medium onion, sliced
          10 oz. cooked roasted chicken, shredded
          8 tbsp Stubb’s BBQ sauce
Add sliced onion to a non-stick skillet and cook until tender. If onions begin to brown a little too much, add 2 tablespoons of water to let the onions steam a bit..  Add in chicken and combine with onions, then stir in bbq sauce so all chicken is evenly coated.
Spray a non-stick cooking sheet with non-stick spray.
Add a heaping tablespoon of chicken mixture to the center of an egg roll wrapper. Fold first corner in, fold eggroll over once (forward motion), fold in each side and roll forward. When triangle piece of wrapper is remaining, dampen the ends of your fingertips with water, smooth over the egg roll wrapper and seal shut. Place triangle side down on a baking sheet.  Spray the top of the rolls with non-stick cooking spray.
Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Turning halfway through to brown each side.

Meat Sauce

One thing I really enjoy making is homemade sauce.  It’s pretty simple, it comes together on its own and I’m able to control what I put in it, which in turn controls the overall points plus value when the sauce is complete. I do make a few variations (meat, no meat, vegetables, etc.) but this is my staple “go-to” when it comes to meat sauce.  I find I can have an entire pot of sauce cooked and ready to roll in under 1 hour or I can let it simmer for a few hours.  Plus, the great thing with sauce is that it truly tastes better as it marinates in the refrigerator.
When I make sauce I make a huge batch (because why else make sauce?) and usually have folks over for dinner.  I always use some of it towards dinner, the remainder is used in other dishes during the week or I end up freezing it to take out whenever I need it.
Serves 24. ½ cup serving.  2 Points Plus Values.
          1 1/8 93% ground beef
          1 medium onion, diced
          1 heaping tbsp minced garlic
          2 (29 oz.) cans Contadina Crushed Tomatoes
          1 (14 oz.) can Contadina Tomato Sauce with Italian Herbs
          1 (14 oz.) Hunts Fire Roasted, Diced Tomatoes, slightly drained
          1 (14 oz.) Hunts Diced Basil, Garlic & Oregano Tomatoes, slightly drained
          1 (6 oz.) Cento Tomato Paste
          1/3 cup Reduced Fat Parmesan
          2 tbsp brown sugar
          Salt, pinch
          Black Pepper, pinch
          Red Pepper Flakes, pinch
          2 tsp garlic powder
          1 1/2 tbsp Oregano
In a large non-stick sauce pan, over medium-high heat, add ground beef and onion – season with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture breaking up the ground beef as finely as possible. Make sure to stir frequently so beef cooks evenly.  When half cooked, add in minced garlic.
When the beef has browned and cooked through, begin adding in your sauce. Crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes.  Stir to combine.
Add in parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir until well combined.
Allow mixture to come to a slow simmer either covered or uncovered.  After roughly 20 minutes of simmering, slowly blend in the tomato paste. Make sure to blend the tomato paste in well to avoid large clumps.
Sprinkle brown into the sauce, and stir. As sauce thickens, taste and adjust seasonings. Typically I have to add more oregano, garlic powder, and salt.
Sauce can be simmered for 20 more minutes or up to 1 hour.

Baked Eggplant Cutlets

I had an abundance of fresh eggplants from my uncle’s garden after house sitting for a week, so I decided to make baked eggplant cutlets with them.  I used to fry up my eggplant cutlets, but I find I enjoy them a lot more baking them.  It cuts down on the fat, is non-greasy and you can control how much you want them to crisp up in the oven.  With these, the outside is crisp and the inside is softened and depending on the freshness of your fruit it can be a little sweet.
I started making my eggplant in batches and continued until I had a whole tray worth out.  I ended up making another batch with a small eggplant a few days later just to use up all the eggplants I had.
Serving sizes will ultimately vary depending on how thin or thick you cut your eggplants. I was able to get 3 eggplant cutlets (breaded) per serving – 4 servings per batch.  By the time I was done making my eggplants, I was able to make 3 batches of this – simply adding in the ingredients into each bowl 3 separate times until all eggplants were dipped.  Of course as I got to the smaller eggplants, I was able to have more slices per serving.
Serves 4. 3 Cutlets per serving. 2 Points Plus Values.
          1/3 cup fat free egg substitute
          ½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, seasoned
          1 tbsp reduced fat parmesan cheese
          Pinch of Salt
          1 tsp black pepper
          1 tsp garlic powder
          2 tsp oregano
          1 small-medium eggplant
          Baking spray (like Pam)
In a medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.  Stir until mixture is well combined.
Place egg beaters in a bowl.
Wash eggplant then slice to desired thickness.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
Dip eggplant slice into egg mixture, drop egg dipped eggplant into breadcrumbs and coat. Place coated eggplant on baking sheet.  Repeat until no more egg and breadcrumb mixture is available.
Spray the top of the eggplants on the baking sheet, then place into the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, flip each eggplant then return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
Let the eggplants cool for roughly 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sautéed Veggies w/ Olive Oil and Garlic

I stayed at my aunt and uncles house for the week dog, cat and bird sitting.  While there my uncle pointed out he had a garden outback and I should make myself at home and pick fresh veggies.  So I did just that … because if I didn’t, frankly, they’d end up going bad and that just defeats the purpose of a garden.  That morning I was able to pick a fresh zucchini, yellow squash and a bunch of fresh green beans. Not entirely sure what I wanted to do with them I cleaned them and put them in a bowl on the counter – then later in the afternoon decided I’d make a quick sauté to go alongside dinner. It was perfect. Fresh, delicious and perfectly garlicy (since I LOVE garlic)!
Since I didn’t want to drown them in butter and oil as most sauté dishes tend to go, I decided to blanch the vegetables in salted boiling water for a few seconds each and removed them from the pan and drained them before sautéing.
Serves 3. Serving size: 1/3 recipe. 1 Points Plus Value.
          1 medium zucchini, sliced
          1 medium yellow squash, sliced
          2 cups Green beans, “veins” removed
          1 tbsp olive oil
          1 tbsp minced garlic
          Black pepper, to taste
          Salt, to taste
          Oregano, to taste
          Garlic powder, to taste
Bring a pot of salted water up to boil. Once boiling drop sets of vegetables into the water and allow blanching for under a minute.  Remove blanched vegetables from the water and continue until all vegetables are blanched and removed from the water. Drain any excess liquid from the vegetables.
In a non-stick skillet, add in 1 tbsp olive oil and a tablespoon of minced garlic.  Allow to sauté for 30 seconds or so before adding in the vegetables. Toss and stir vegetables to allow evenly coating in the olive oil. Sprinkle vegetables with garlic powder, black pepper, salt and oregano. Toss to combine.  Allow to sauté for 3-4 minutes before removing from the flame.

American Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of those side dishes I truly enjoy. Sure, it’s associated with summer months but I do eat potato salad all year round. It’s one of those versatile dishes that can be made in a number of ways. It doesn’t have to be loaded with mayonnaise – other condiments and ingredients can be added to boost flavor while keeping the dish simple and tasteful. I personally like for the ingredients to shine through without the mayonnaise overpowering the dish and essentially “stealing the show.” So here’s my take on American potato salad.

Serves 5. ~2/3 cup serving. 4 Points Plus Values.

– 1 1/4 pound red skinned potatoes
– 2 eggs, hardboiled (1 whole w/ yolk, 1 white only)
– 1 tbsp white vinegar
– 1 tbsp yellow mustard
– 3 tbsp red onion, finely diced
– 1/3 cup Hellmanns Light Mayonnaise
– 1 tbsp sweet relish
– Salt, to taste
– Pepper, to taste

Rinse potatoes and add to a pot filled with salted water. Add eggs and bring to a boil, cook until potatoes are fork tender.

Drain water and allow for potatoes and eggs to cool, remove potatoes from pan and cube. Add to a mixing bowl.

Remove eggs and shell. Mash one whole egg, remove the yolk from the second egg and mash the whites – discarding the yolk.

Add the onion, relish, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to your potato and egg mixture folding the ingredients together. Add in the mayonnaise and gently fold together until the mixture is well combined.

Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to your liking and enjoy!

Blueberry Compote


Making blueberry compote – or really any fruit compote is quite easy. The mixture comes together in well under 10 minutes. The great thing with compote is you can make it as sweet or as tart as you like as well as, as thick or loose as you like. I have made many variations of this recipe and used it over pancakes and waffles (instead of syrup) as well as over ice cream. It’s versatile and delicious and nobody has to know it’s Weight Watchers friendly!

Serves 12. 1 Points Plus Value.
Serving size ~2-3 tbsp. depending on consistency (1/12th)

– 3 cups frozen or fresh blueberries (If you are using store bought frozen blueberries use the unsweetened ones)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/4 cup sugar
– Dash of Cinnamon (~ 1 tsp)
– Dash of Salt (~1/8th tsp)
– 1 tbsp cornstarch, mixed with a tbsp of water

Place frozen blueberries in a simmering pan (the blueberries I used were fresh – then frozen), added in the water and sugar along with the cinnamon and dash of salt. Stirring over medium heat, I let it come to a simmer and added in the cornstarch and mixed it until combined and thickened.

When at your desired consistency, transfer mixture into a bowl for serving. Let cool for roughly 15-30 minutes before use.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar

Acorn squash … a hidden jewel in the squash world. At least in my opinion. Growing up my mother would make roasted acorn squash with butter and brown sugar typically on Sunday to go alongside Sunday dinner. Since I was a youngster this dish has always been a favorite of mine. Because I enjoy it so much I’ve incorporated it into my lifestyle – deciding to pull back on the amount of brown sugar sprinkled into each squash half and eliminating the butter. I find using a bit of spray butter gives the dish a mild butter flavor and the brown sugar works wonders because it helps caramelize the squash and really enhances the squashes flavor.
I cooked up 2 acorn squashes, but for the purpose of this very simple recipe you could cook as many or as few squash as you choose. The points plus would not differ, unless you were to eat a whole squash as a meal.
I enjoy and serve these in their original form. I do not scoop the pulp out of the skin. I find scooping it out myself makes for a little bit of a fun eating experience.

Serves 4. 1 Points Plus Value.

– 2 Acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed
– 4 tbsp brown sugar
– 8 sprays, butter flavored spray (Spray Butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place halved acorn squash on a non-stick baking sheet. Spray each half with 2 sprays of butter spray then add in 1 tbsp of brown sugar to each squash half.

Bake in oven for roughly 45 minutes. Keep in mind cooking times may vary depending on the size and thickness of your acorn squash. If it’s not done at the end of 45 minutes extend the cooking time by 10 minutes until done. It’s done when a fork can be inserted into the squash pulp easily.

Plate up & enjoy!

French Toast

Whoever said you can’t have your French toast and eat it too? Certainly, not I! I love breakfast foods.  French toast is one of those staple meals which can be flavored in any which way you please – pumpkin French toast, cinnamon French toast, stuffed French toast – you name it, you can make it.
I particularly love breakfast foods for dinner – so this is what I had one day after having a very low point breakfast and lunch.  French toast garnished with fresh sliced strawberries and some sugar free maple syrup alongside some scrambled turkey sausage and scrambled egg substitute.  The entire meal as pictured was 10 points plus values.  2 points plus for ½ cup Jimmy Dean scrambled turkey sausage, 3 points plus for 1 cup of egg substitute, 1 point for the Vermont Maid sugar free maple syrup, 4 points for 4 slices of light Italian bread and of course 0 points for the fresh strawberries.
I’ve been asked a few times how I make my French toast, so I decided to share my very simple recipe.  I find this recipe makes exactly 4 slices of French toast (it’s the right amount of egg to soak up into exactly 4 slices of bread).
5 Points Plus Values (NOTE: This calculation is for all 4 slices, if you were to have 2 slices, it would be 3 points plus values).
  • 4 slices light bread
  • ½ cup liquid fat-free egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Cinnamon, to taste
During the fall season you can add pumpkin pie spice to the mixture to make pumpkin french toast, etc.
In a shallow bowl, blend together liquid egg substitute, vanilla and cinnamon – mixing until combined.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Dredge slice of bread on each side. Once both sides are dredged, place onto the frying pan. Repeat until all slices are dredged in egg mixture.
Let the French toast cook – do not move or touch the French toast until half-way cooked, roughly 3-4 minutes in.  You can check each piece by gently lifting the edge of the slice – when cooked to your desired coloring, flip and let cook another 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
Plate up and serve with any toppings you wish.