Mama Mancini’s Turkey Meatballs

While at the grocery store I was hungry and considering I didn’t really want to end up in a drive thru before heading home I decided to just pick something up I could heat up quickly. I ended up grabbing a pack of Mama Mancini’s Turkey Meatballs to heat up and have with some spaghetti squash.
I have never had this brand of heat and eat turkey meatballs before, but considering the nutrition facts weren’t terrible I opted to give them a try. Heating them in the microwave, I topped my spaghetti squash with some sauce and 2 meatballs and I have to say… they’re not bad! They’re not the greatest meatball I have ever had, but they’re decent for a quick on-the-go type of meal. The outside of the meatballs are softer and they are mildly flavored. The sauce is good but it’s very thin and a bit watery.
2 meatballs are 110 calories or 3 points plus values.
Have you tried any of the Mama Mancini’s products?

Lunch: Spaghetti Squash w/ Meatballs, Sauce and Garlic Bread

I was going to my boyfriend’s uncle’s house this weekend, with his mother and him to visit. I knew his mother was making homemade sauce and meatballs and since I didn’t want to tote along a measuring cup (because I visually can’t judge what a cup of pasta looks like), I decided to bring spaghetti squash to share with everyone.  I like bringing healthier alternatives to the table, regardless of where I am, and this was a perfect opportunity.
I had baked my spaghetti squash (seasoned with salt and pepper) the afternoon prior, shredded it and put it into the refrigerator.  I was quite pleased with how my spaghetti squash turned out because the last few I have made came out very wet. This one was perfect and reminiscent of al dente pasta.  The squash itself tastes like squash, but it does adapt to the flavors it’s paired with and due to it’s spaghetti like characteristics it makes for easy twirling on a fork.
At my boyfriends uncles we ended up having a late lunch. I had a helping of spaghetti squash, a ladle of homemade sauce and one meatball. I also had a small helping of garlic bread. It was a perfect meal – delicious, satisfying and I honestly didn’t miss the pasta.  And to think I was a little afraid of trying spaghetti squash with pasta sauce … now I’m a huge fan. So much of a fan I had spaghetti squash with pasta sauce for lunch the next day!
Do you like incorporating spaghetti squash into meals?

Dinner: Baked Eggplant Cutlets w/ Meat sauce & Carba-Nada

This was one of the delicious dinners I pulled together using the baked eggplant cutlets (see here) and the meat sauce (see here) I had made.  I wanted to enjoy the taste of the fresh eggplant without loading it up with a bunch of sauce and cheese.  I planned on making eggplant parmesan with some of the leftovers – but with it fresh out of the oven, simplicity was the best route.
I cooked up a 1 ½ cup serving of Carba-nada pasta and tossed it with ¼ cup meat sauce when done.  I then served that with my 3 slices of baked eggplant cutlets and topped it with ¼ cup meat sauce.  It was a perfect combination and a delicious meal. Filling, yet light.
The entire plate shown was only 8 points plus values!  Not bad for a take at a classic Italian meal at home.

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.

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata is a dish my aunt actually introduced me to. She’d make this for parties at her house and it is totally delicious. I enjoyed it so much she gave me the recipe.  I decided to whip this up (actually, I tripled the batch – which wasn’t the original plan but I peeled two eggplants which gave me 9 cups of eggplant) to bring it to my aunts party as an appetizer dish to put out on the tables.
The tedious task sits in cutting up all the vegetables, but once that’s done its smooth sailing. It comes together quickly, simmers for a short period of time and can be eaten either hot or cold. The caponata does taste so much better after it’s had a chance to marinate in the fridge 1-2 days.  I would say, I’d eat the caponata over pasta while it’s hot, but then after its cold I prefer it with crackers.
Serves 15. ~ 1/4 cup serving. 2 points plus.
          3 cups eggplant, peeled and cubed
          1/3 cup olive oil
          1 medium onion, chopped
          3 cloves garlic, crushed (or you can use minced jar garlic)
          ½ cup chopped green pepper
          2 celery stalks, chopped
          ½ cup black olives, chopped
          1 can tomato paste
          ¼ cup water
          2 tbsp red wine vinegar
          1 tsp oregano
          1 tsp salt
          1 tsp black pepper
          ½ tsp sugar
Place a large pot over medium, high heat.  Add in oil, garlic and onions and sauté until onions are slightly translucent.
Add in eggplant, celery, and green pepper. Stir frequently and cook down until eggplant begins to soften.
Add in olives, sugar, black pepper, salt, oregano, and red wine vinegar.  Mix tomato paste and water together and gently fold into the mixture until all ingredients are well combined.
Lower heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve hot or cold.

Dinner: Carba-Nada Pasta with Trader Joe’s Turkey Meatballs

It’s been a while since we had pasta and I really had a hankering for it.  Since we were having pasta, I decided to try out two Trader Joe’s products I had picked up for a pasta night – turkey meatballs and garlic marinara sauce.
I’ve grown into quite a loving fan of Carba-Nada pasta. 1 ½ cups of pasta is only 3 points plus which is quite a bang for my buck, points wise.  Not only am I getting a bigger serving of pasta, but I’m getting it all for almost half the points of regular pasta.  I made myself two servings of pasta – one to have for dinner and the other to have as leftovers the following day. Of course, we made regular Barilla pasta for my boyfriend to have with his serving of pasta.
I had some red peppers on the countertop that I had picked up at the grocery store. I typically like to boost up my pasta with extra flavors, so I sliced up a whole red pepper, a medium onion and put it into the oven to roast.  When the pasta and onions were done, I simply tossed them into my cooked pasta dishes.
I tossed the pasta with servings (1/2 cup) of Trader Joe’s Garlic Marinara Sauce.  The sauce is thick and sticks to the pasta.  Each ½ cup serving is 2 points plus. The sauce is incredibly flavorful and adheres to the pasta nicely.  Nothing is worse than runny sauce on pasta that just makes a soupy mess.
As a side to our pasta, I cooked the Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Turkey Meatballs in the oven. I let the outside brown until heated throughout and then garnished the pasta dishes with the meatballs on the side.  A serving size is 2 meatballs which calculate out to 3 points plus values. I decided to have a double serving for 5 points plus values.  The meatballs are totally delicious – my boyfriend quite enjoyed them and they were a hit. So much of a hit, I repurchased a bag on my last Trader Joe’s trip. They don’t have that “frozen meatball” flavor that I find frozen meatballs typically have.
The whole dish shown was only 10 points plus values! Quite a steal for a boatload of delicious food!
What is your favorite way to have pasta?

Homemade “Quick Cook” Sauce

I have a few different variations of pasta sauce that I make from scratch.  This is one of my “quick cook” sauces that I use when I don’t want to make a meat sauce.  I’ve also made a variation of this sauce (omitting the diced tomatoes) as a homemade pizza sauce.  It’s very diverse and can even be used as a dipping sauce for Italian food items, etc.
This particular sauce recipe does make quite a large amount of sauce.  I usually make a large batch to use in a recipe and then to have on hand for another dish (pasta with meatballs or pasta with sausage, etc.).  The great thing is, this freezes perfectly fine so if dinner plans alter I can easily put the extra sauce into the freezer without worrying about it going to waste.  This is also typically the “base” to my meat sauce, although with meat sauces I do change up the ingredients and add in extras.
Essentially there are no real points plus values associated with it according to recipe builder, but I do give a serving of sauce 1 points plus just to be on the “safe side”.
1 points plus value. ½ – 2/3 cup servings.
1 medium onion, diced
2 large 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes, garlic seasoned (drained of excess liquid)
1 small 6 oz can tomato paste
1 small 4 oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic (or adjust to your taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
Non-stick cooking spray
On medium heat, spritz bottom of soup pot with non-stick cooking spray and add in onions and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to soften and the garlic begins to become flavorful.
Add in all canned ingredients and stir to combine (make sure tomato paste is evenly distributed to avoid having clumps of tomato paste). Add in dry seasonings, stir to combine.  Let simmer and taste the sauce.  Adjust seasonings based on your taste buds.  Typically I end up adding more pepper, salt, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.  I use a pinch of sugar just to take away some of the acidity from the tomatoes.
Since this is a “quick cook” sauce I usually let it simmer for 30 minutes before turning off the flame.

Trader Joe’s Chicken Parmigiana with Marinara Sauce

I’ve seen this Chicken Parmigiana with Marinara Sauce at Trader Joe’s countless times but just hadn’t picked it up until recently.  I was really in the mood for chicken parm, but since my boyfriend isn’t a fan of cheese, it just made a little more sense to pick this up to have and share with any willing parties (which happened to be my mother).
I’ve tried the eggplant towers from Trader Joe’s and was a huge fan, so I went into the chicken parm with high hopes and I can firmly state I was not let down.  The whole dish was just superb and a great treat.  The chicken is moist and easy to cut (I didn’t need to use a knife even after microwaving the dish).  It’s covered in a delicious thick sauce, which in my opinion is phenomenal and packed with flavor. It’s then topped with a thin layer of cheese.  Quite yummy!
There are 2 servings in the container, with 8 ounces being a serving size.  I found each of the chicken cutlets were roughly the same size, the sauce being evenly distributed amongst both pieces brought each serving close to the 8 ounces.  A serving is 9 points plus, which may seem high but when factoring a 6 ounce piece of chicken, breaded cutlet, sauce and cheese – it’s well worth it.  I did enjoy mine alongside a tossed salad which made it a complete meal without needing to have pasta.  It got two big thumbs up from both my mother and I.
Have you tried the Trader Joe’s Chicken Parmigiana?

Fettuccine Bolognese with Turkey Sausage

This is a meal I thought up and whipped together last week.  We had ground turkey in the refrigerator and I really wanted a meat sauce along with some new turkey sausages we picked up at the store, so that’s what I made!
I admit I made two variations of this dish – the only difference being pasta sauce and regular pasta.  I had 1 cup of Light Ragu in the refrigerator for myself to use, so I opened a bottle of Francesco Rinaldi to mix with the meat for my boyfriends dish.  Whereas I had 2 servings of Carba-Nada remaining so I made those for myself, and made regular Barilla pasta for my boyfriend.  I do eat “regular” white or whole grain pasta, but since I’ve lost 2 daily points over the last month I’ve been trying to find ways to get in volume without eating unnecessary points.
This was delicious, filling, meaty and just packed with flavor.  I whipped up 2 servings to have a dinner to put in the fridge for the next day.  Here’s how I made it:
I removed 4 ounces of cooked 93% turkey and turkey pepperoni mixture that I had cooked down with onion.  I added in a few tablespoons of drained diced canned tomatoes, my 1 cup of Light Ragu pasta sauce and stirred it together to combine.  I then added in my cooked Carba-Nada pasta and tossed then evenly divided the pasta amongst two dishes.
I added Francesco Rinaldi sauce to the remaining meat mixture, and then combined with the cooked Barilla pasta.  I made about 7 servings of pasta in my boyfriends since he typically eats 4 ounces of pasta at dinner and I made my mother two plates to have for herself.
As a side, I cooked up some turkey sausage I had picked up to try out and I have to say it was THE best turkey sausage I have ever eaten. It reminded me of true run of the mill pork sausage. It was mind blowing on my taste buds.
Overall the entire plate was only 8 points plus!

“Naked” Chicken Parm

I love chicken parm but I don’t like how heavy it is nor do I enjoy how it makes my stomach feel hours after eating it.  Because of that I can’t say that I have chicken parm very often. I occasionally make a lighter version at home (a quick and easy way is to use frozen chicken patties that are lightly breaded) when I want a bready version.
At the end of the day, chicken parm is solely about the sauce and cheese that is on the chicken (well, at least for me).  That after all is what makes it chicken parm!  We had some thin sliced chicken cutlets in the freezer, so I took them out to defrost and decided to try my hand at naked chicken parm.  I seasoned my chicken up nice and well on both sides – I eyeball my spices, I don’t measure I just use what I am comfortable with. Since I feel there is nothing worse than bland chicken, I may have over seasoned them – but that’s fine because you end up losing some of the bits onto the bottom of the pan.
I paired my portion off with 1 ½ cups of Carba-nada pasta with ¼ cup Light Ragu tossed with it. Totally delicious and it was as filling as going to an Italian restaurant would have been.  Well, that without having a sick feeling tummy!
Serves 6. 6-8 Points Plus (depending on the weight of the cooked chicken before adding sauce and cheese onto it I served up 3 ounce pieces making the chicken 4 PPV before sauce and cheese)

  • 1 ¼ pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets (no skin/fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups Light Ragu – Tomato & Basil
  • 1 ½ cups Fat Free Shredded Mozzarella
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Garlic & Herb Mrs. Dash
  • Basil
  • Oregano
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium to medium-high heat.
Liberally season chicken on both sides with black pepper, salt, Mrs. Dash, basil and oregano. Use your judgment depending on your taste buds – I like a bold tasting chicken so I liberally seasoned both sides.
Cook chicken through on both sides – not moving the chicken to allow it to brown before flipping it.  When chicken is cooked halfway through (you can see the white creeping up the chicken cutlet) flip and let it finish cooking through.
When the chicken is done let it cool for at least 5 minutes to let the juices sink back into the chicken. Weigh out your portion (allowing for at least 1 point plus to go towards the olive oil used in the pan – so for instance a 3 ounce piece of chicken will be 4 points plus).  Note: The sauce and the cheese each add 1 points plus values each.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Lay the weighed out chicken portion in a metal pan, lined with tinfoil (to prevent sticking). Spoon ¼ cup of sauce over the chicken and gingerly sprinkle with ¼ cup fat free mozzarella.  Add a piece of tinfoil to the top of the pan and place into the oven to allow the cheeses to melt and the sauce to get bubbly – about 4-5 minutes.
You can serve this up on toasted garlic bread for a chicken parm sandwich, you can eat it alongside pasta (or Carba-nada as I did), or you can eat it along or with some steamed vegetables.  Whichever is your preference – it’s good in any way, shape or form!