Pasta with Spinach Pesto – 6 Smart Points

Pasta with Spinach Pesto

Pasta dishes are one of my favorite go-to meals when I’m in a hurry and need dinner fast. I can my own pasta sauce, so I always have a few jars of that on hand so I can mix up a meal of spaghetti if we’re in a hurry. However, I thought I’d try something a little different for this one. I love pasta with pesto, but I saw a recipe on Pinterest for one with spinach, and I just had to try it. The original called for far more oil (and a far more expensive oil), but I used olive oil, and it worked fine and tasted fabulous. Since the nuts tend to make their own oil when they’re processed for long enough, I started with that and let it go for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes, I drizzled in a little olive oil at a time until it reached the right consistency. Combined with whole grain pasta, some garden fresh tomatoes, you’ve got a simple and delicious meal ready to go.
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Spaghetti with Ragu – 7 Smart Points

spaghetti-787043 (1)

This year for New Year’s day dinner, my in-laws had an Italian theme. One of the recipes we ended up with was a lasagna made with a homemade Ragu. I fell in love with it. The flavor of the Ragu was so delicious. It was rich, but not overpowering and wasn’t tomato based. Most of my pasta sauces are tomato or cream based, so this one was a breath of fresh air. I got the recipe and have made it several times since then. It makes a lot, so I tend to freeze part of it or I end up with too much sauce to use before it went bad. The only downside of this recipe for me, is that you need to simmer it for a couple of hours. I don’t care for wine, so I simmered mine for at least 2 hours to make sure no wine flavor remained (don’t worry, all the alcohol has burned off by then). I’ve also found that the wine adds a depth to the flavor that the Ragu is really lacking without the wine. So, just plan ahead and make this Ragu on Saturday or Sunday (or any day you have the time to do the prep) and then store it until you use it later in the week. If you can’t find the pancetta, just use bacon as a substitute. This is perfect for spaghetti (or any other kind of pasta), or you can use it as your sauce for a lasagna. Any leftovers you won’t use within a week, just put it in a bag and freeze it for the next time. It’s rich, but not overpowering, and incredibly delicious. It’s my all-time favorite pasta sauce, and I love that I get to toss the veggies in the food processor to make the prep really easy. [Read more…]

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Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Bolognese Recipe – 7 Smart Points

Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Bolognese

Sometimes, I just want a big, heaping plate of spaghetti with a rich, flavorful meat sauce. But the Smart Points in a typical bolognese could end up adding up to a whole days worth of Points! So in order to satisfy my craving without ruing my diet, I created this simple, no-frills Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Bolognese Recipe. I just sub out the carb heavy spaghetti noodles for the light, nutritious, and 0 Smart Points oven-roasted spaghetti squash. Topped with a decadent, lightened up turkey bolognese sauce, this recipe is one seriously satisfying meal! When I have a few extra Points to spare, I’ll also add some grated Parmesan on top – soooooo good! Serve with your favorite salad or roasted veggies, and even a slice of garlic bread, for a meal that is sure to fill you up.

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Ciabatta – 4 Smart Points

Whole Grain Ciabatta

Oprah has said what everyone else is thinking – it’s possible to lose weight without giving up anything. One of the keys to loosing weight and keeping it off is to find a way to compromise. To find a way to enjoy your favorite foods while not going overboard. For many people I know, one of those things you want to keep enjoying is bread. Baked goods are something that just about everyone loves. Whether you’re try to lose weight, diabetic and counting carbs or gluten intolerant, there is something about a chewy and delicious piece of bread that can’t be replaced. One way to make bread healthier is to use whole wheat flour. Just make sure that the flour is finely ground. If your flour isn’t finely ground, your bread could be grainy. Whole wheat flour adds a richer texture and flavor to these traditional Italian rolls. Ciabatta are rustic Italian rolls that are chewy with a crispy crust. They are made with a starter, biga, that is fermented overnight. The dough is very wet, almost more like batter than dough. Letting the dough sit before kneading allows the flour to absorb the water so the dough is the right consistency. These rolls do take longer than normal to make, but the delicious texture and flavor definitely make it worth while to make a batch of these for a special occasion.
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Lasagne with Bolognese Sauce – 7 Smart Points

Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce

One of the best parts of pasta in my opinion is the sauce. There is nothing like homemade pasta sauce, whether it’s a cream sauce or a red sauce. The flavors of homemade sauce are so much more vibrant and rich than canned pasta sauce. I’ve found that it’s worth my while to make my pasta sauce. Lasagna is one of those pastas that is truly delicious when topped with a homemade pasta sauce. This simple Bolognese sauce is just what it needs to really be delicious. I decided to try a lasagna without cheese this time, so I needed the sauce to pick up any slack from the missing cheese. And this sauce did just that. It was really quite easy to prepare and the end result was something that was really rich and the flavors were vibrant. Since it’s homemade, you can tweak the flavors to fit your individual taste preference. This lasagna with Bolognese sauce is a little more work, but the flavor in the end makes it worth every minute. [Read more…]

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Mediterranean Salad – 3 Smart Points

Mediterranean Salad

I love salads and vinaigrettes. I recently found a really delicious herbed feta that I wanted to try in a light and colorful tossed salad. Since it was an herbed feta, I knew the salad would have to be light and not over powering. I wanted a dressing that could complement the salad and feta, but not compete with it or overpower it. I started with a balsamic vinaigrette but flavored the dressing with a little Italian seasoning. The Italian seasoning perfectly set the dressing off, it helped to lighten the rich flavor of the balsamic so that it complemented the salad. The baby lettuce is my absolute favorite greens for a salad. They are light and tender, and have more flavor than the regular head lettuce. You can also add any of your other favorite vegetables to this salad. Add chopped mushrooms, or some chopped summer squash for a little more color. Give this delicious Mediterranean inspired salad a try for a light and refreshing lunch on these beautiful spring days.
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Lentil Bolognese Recipe – 10 Smart Points

Lentil Bolognese

This thick and hearty vegetarian Lentil Bolognese is not only delicious, but incredibly satisfying. While it doesn’t taste the same as a traditional meat-based bolognese, the unique flavor is wonderful in itself. And with all the fiber and protein this dish delivers, it packs quite a nutritional punch. The sauce is definitely not lightweight…it’s rich and abundant, and does a great job of satisfying your hunger. It’s well worth the 10 Smart Points per serving, as you’ll be full for quite a while. Serve with a light salad or your favorite roasted veggies for a complete meal.

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Asparagus Risotto – 7 Smart Points

Asparagus Risotto

I love rice. I love it in all it’s forms, well, except instant. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s white or brown, wild, in a dish, by itself, I love it all. One of the things I learned to cook after getting married (getting married made me very adventurous in the kitchen, trying new dishes), was risotto. It turns out it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Typically, I use the cheater, easy version of risotto. I just stick all the cold stock and wine in at once and stir it occasionally. It absolutely works that way, but it’s better if you do it properly – a ladle of broth at a time and stir it. It helps the rice to become creamier (without adding unhealthy amounts of cheese). However, if you’re in a hurry, or lazy, or have other things that you need to do, you can just put all the broth in at once and you’ll still get a delicious risotto. Another key to this dish is tender young asparagus. Look for the smallest asparagus shoots you can find – they’re more tender and much more delicious. I bend each shoot (holding the ends) and let it snap. Typically, that breaks off the end that is tough and hard, leaving me with tender asparagus shoots. Another thing that is important in this one is the shallots. I’m someone who thought that there isn’t much difference between an onion and a shallot. Let me tell you – there is. Shallots are lighter and sweeter than onions. Sautéed with a little butter and some mushrooms and a dash of thyme, they are delicious on top of chicken or beef. Shallots make this a lighter risotto that is a rich and delicious flavor. Onions will have a much more powerful and potent flavor that will change the whole flavor of the dish. Give this one a try – you’ll love the creamy risotto with the sweet and savory shallots and the tender asparagus.
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Chicken Vesuvio Recipe – 7 Smart Points

Chicken Vesuvio

I first had this tasty dish in a little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. It was served in a cast iron pan, and the smell alone was enough to have me drooling. Once I dug in, I was pretty sure I was in heaven. Moist chicken, and crisp, golden brown potatoes in a bright garlic wine sauce (it’s quite garlicky, so I’d recommend this dish for garlic lovers only). It was pure perfection. I even ate the peas, which is rare for me, because peas are not my favorite. If you look online, you’ll find a ton of different versions of this popular dish, but my version is slimmed down to offer all the flavor of the traditional dish, but for just 7 Smart Points per serving. Enjoy!

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Chickpea Puttanesca over Polenta – 6 Smart Points

Chickpea Puttanesca over Polenta

In an effort to eat less meat (the reason why is a whole looking other blog post for another time), I’ve been experimenting with more vegan and vegetarian Weight Watchers Recipes. A friend of mine cooked this for me one day, and it was so good, I knew I had to recreate it at home! The mild, soft polenta is topped with a tangy puttanesca sauce that’s to die for. Now, because you all know I love shortcuts, I used a prepared log of Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta. If you want to make your own from scratch, you absolutely could. I just often have my hands full while cooking dinner, so I try to save time wherever I can. But even with the pre-made polenta, this traditional Italian recipe is divine! You get a hint of the salty brine from the olives and capers, and the sweet and tangy tomato sauce balances it all out. It’s loaded with protein and fiber and is incredibly satisfying. A real bargain for just 6 Smart Points too! Enjoy.

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Pasta with Spinach Pesto – 7 Smart Points

Pasta with Spinach Pesto

Pesto is a delightful way to dress pasta that’s a little different than your typical red or white pasta sauce. It usually just requires a lot of fresh basil, pine nuts and olive oil. This is one that mixes that up a little bit. The spinach is mild enough, but the basil adds the classic “pesto” flavor. Not only that, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. This is also one of my favorite types of recipes – quick and easy to put together – just stick everything in a food processor. If your pasta is ready too soon, just rinse in cold water (helps to minimize the sticking) and then leave it drained. When you’re ready to serve, just reheat the pasta by running under hot water. If you’ve got extra of the pesto, it should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. The tomatoes add a beautiful pop of red to the dish and the flavor complements the pesto perfectly. [Read more…]

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Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana Recipe – 6 Smart Points

Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana

If you’ve ever been to Olive Garden’s all-you-can-eat soup, salad and breadsticks lunch special, then you are going to love today’s recipe! I’ve been a fan of their Zuppa Toscana soup for as long as I can remember, but with all the fat and calories, indulging in this delicious dish at Olive Garden could easily cost me almost an entire day’s worth of Smart Points – and that’s before we factor in the breadsticks and salad. Yikes! So, I’ve come up with my own lighter version at home, and it is fantastic. It’s a simple, slow cooker recipe that turns out incredibly tasty, yet with just 6 Smart Points per serving. Admittedly, I was feeling quite lazy and made this with pre-cooked Italian sausage links from Applegate Farms. Ideally, you could use ground Italian chicken sausage for a more authentic flavor. But you will need to brown that sausage first before adding it to the slow cooker. By using the precooked sausage, I saved a step (an an extra pan to wash). Plus, Applegate’s sausages are really tasty! No harm, no foul. This copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana recipe is a real win for any Weight Watcher. Enjoy!

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