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!
Even though I love salads, I really love salads for two reasons – they’re pretty and I can pack in the goodies. I’m not someone who just serves a bag of mixed lettuce and calls it a salad. My salads have lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, craisins, cheese and nuts in them. They’re beautiful and packed with flavor. Next to mixed baby lettuce, spinach is about my favorite green to use. Not only is it a great way to add nutrients to a smoothie, but it’s a wonderful base for a salad. Since we’ve got lots of fresh pears right now, I thought I’d add some pear to this spinach salad. I’ll be honest, goat cheese sounds great, but it can be a bit strong. If you get a more mild goat cheese, it’s much better, or you can just use feta cheese. When it comes to salad, feta is typically my go to cheese, so when I make this for a quick weekday lunch, I’ll probably use feta most of the time. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, add blue cheese instead of goat cheese. The balsamic vinaigrette is a powerful flavor, so it can balance out any cheese you want to try in there. This delicious salad is perfect for a healthy lunch. It’s packed with flavor and nutrients. It’ll also help keep you satisfied, since it’s packed with fiber.
This time of year, there are fresh cranberries readily available. This means that I get to start putting cranberries into 9/10ths of my recipes! This quinoa pilaf was the first one I wanted to try. I really like quinoa. It’s gluten free, it’s easy, delicious and a nutritious option. I like to cook up a batch of it in my rice cooker and then store it in the fridge to have it for quick lunches the rest of the week. It’s fabulous with an orange mint dressing and some diced chicken. Just toss, heat and eat. This quinoa pilaf is easy to put together, but it’s much better made with fresh quinoa. When you’re cooking the quinoa, add the fresh cranberries so they have time to cook up and burst into the quinoa. It makes the flavor so much better. If you need to use dried cranberries, you can, but make sure they’re unsweetened. All in all, this is a savory and sweet pilaf that’s a great side dish, but it’s almost enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. It’s not really a dessert, but with the cranberry and orange, sweetened with a tiny bit of maple syrup, it’s just enough to satisfy a craving. The best part is that it’s a much better option than chowing down on the cookies, or Hershey’s kisses that are so tempting to me – it’s packed with good nutrition that makes it a better, and more filling, snack choice.
When we left from my in-laws after Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law gave us some farm fresh eggs. Since we’ve had some company this week, I’ve been up making delicious egg-filled breakfasts every day. The first morning was omelets filled with veggies and ham, and next up was a delicious frittata. I love quiche, but there are three things that always get to me – the pie crust, the baking time and the high fat. I’m not terribly good at making gluten free pie crusts, and pie crusts are so high in fat that I really don’t like to use them. Not to mention that it takes forever to bake the quiche! The last one I made took more than an hour. The answer is the frittata. It’s just baked scrambled eggs filled with any vegetables and meat you’d like to add. It’s quick to cook and even quicker to put together. You don’t have to put together a pie crust, so it’s much lower in fat and carbohydrates as well as being a great source of breakfast protein! I used the ground turkey sausage I had on hand and threw in the vegetables I had available, but you can use anything you’d like. You can use ham or bacon, or go without the meat and use any vegetables you like. It’s a delicious breakfast that is ready in no time while still being elegant and tasting amazing! [Read more…]
Since you’re probably turkey-ed out by now, let’s go for some pumpkin this weekend. It’s fall, so there’s plenty of pumpkins available, and this pumpkin French toast is delicious. Make it with French bread or sour dough bread and let the bread sit for a minute or so in the egg mixture. That way it soaks up more of the pumpkin flavor. I like to serve my French toast with yogurt on top, since it’s a better alternative than sugary syrup. This French toast is one that you could easily do as a baked French toast. Just chop the pieces of bread into cubes and put them into a baking dish. Then pour the egg and pumpkin mixture over the top and bake it for about 45 minutes. Whether you fry it on a griddle or bake it in the oven, this fall inspired French toast is perfect for a wintery morning with a cup of coffee.
Leftovers! Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for some leftovers. I love turkey and cranberry sandwiches, since it’s not something I eat often. However, if you’re looking for something a little more original than a slice of turkey breast with some cranberries on top, then look no further. Shepherd’s pie is a delicious dish that can be made with just about any meat you happen to have available. Frequently, it’s made with lamb or mutton, but it’s also often made with ground beef. However, since you’ve got all those turkey leftovers, make this shepherd’s pie with some of the leftovers. You just have to chop up or shred some of the leftover turkey and you’re ready to go. You’ve probably got some leftover mashed potatoes to go on top, or use some of those delicious mashed cauliflower “potatoes” for a low carb option.
Sometimes it’s really nice to just pull out an old favorite. You know it’s going to be delicious every time and you know that it’s simple and everyone likes it. For my family, one of those recipes is Salisbury steak. You can use the minute steak for it, or tenderized round steak, but I usually just use hamburger. It’s easy and I’ve always got it on hand. Make up your patties and fry them in a skillet, then make up a beef gravy with onions (and mushrooms if you’re so inclined) to top the patties. Serve with a side of mashed potatoes, corn and green beans and you’ve got a simple, delicious and well-loved meal ready to go in no time.
I was craving some Oriental inspired food the other day, and this cashew chicken fit the bill perfectly. The chicken breast is coated with just a dusting of cornstarch (you can also use arrowroot starch or tapioca starch if you can’t have cornstarch). This gives it a crisp coating and helps to thicken the sauce. Since the chicken is cut into small pieces, it’s easy and fast to cook in a skillet. In order to keep the amount of oil down, I just added a little water (a couple of tablespoons) and a lid to the chicken to keep it from sticking. I also stirred it frequently. If you like your sauce to be a little spicier, add some more red pepper flakes, or omit them if you like it mild. You’ll fall in love with this tasty and easy cashew chicken. Serve it with some marinated cucumbers and a side of stir fried vegetables for a filling, delicious and beautiful meal.
Some of my friends are incredible cooks. In fact, there is one couple in particular who are really good cooks and make the best eggplant parmesan. I’ve tried it a couple of times, but I decided that it was better if I just had it when we were at their house. My first attempt was really awful. I’m someone who really has an issue with texture, so I’m very picky about my eggplant parmesan. But, I decided to give it one more shot, and I’m glad I did – this is delicious. I’ve found that the trick is to peel the eggplant and fry it after coating it with the breadcrumbs. The other major issue I ran into was the seeds. If the eggplant is too ripe, then the seeds are big and the flavor isn’t good. The skin should be tender and glossy, and the eggplant shouldn’t be too big. Then, just peel it, bread it and fry it. Frying the eggplant gives it a crispness and enhances the flavor. Once you’ve got the eggplant layered with the pasta sauce and cheese, you’ll never be able to tell that this isn’t made with regular pasta. Even the skeptics turn out loving this absolutely delicious eggplant parmesan.
I love to have fruit in my oatmeal. It’s a much better way to sweeten oatmeal without actually adding sugar. I ran across this overnight oatmeal recipe recently and just had to try it. You don’t even have to cook it, there’s no crockpot involved or anything. Just mix it up and stick it in the fridge. I doubled the recipe, but if you make just one portion, all you have to do is just stick the ingredients into the pint jar and shake it up. The next morning, add the fruit and eat! You can add the raspberries (or any type of fruit you’d like) the night before, or the morning you eat it. Since I added bananas, I added all my fruit right before I ate it so the bananas wouldn’t be gross. I’m in love with this recipe, it’s so easy and delicious! It’s one that’s perfect for busy nights and days, and everyone (even the kids) will love it.
Parchment paper is not just a great way to keep cookies from sticking to your baking sheet. You can also use it to make a packet to steam fish and vegetables. Halibut is a very mild white fish, which makes it perfect to season with this savory garlic herb butter. The fish is steamed on a bed of fresh cut vegetables, so it can all be left in the paper and served. Add a side of baguette or lightly buttered whole grain pasta and you have a whole meal that is simple and easy to prepare. Even though it’s simple, it looks elegant and beautiful with the bright colors and white fish served in the paper packet. Since it’s all in individual packets, it’s easy to portion out for calories and points plus. If you want to add a little more flair, crinkle cut your vegetables instead of just slicing them.
Bittersweet chocolate is perfect for this raspberry torte. Since it’s not overly sweet, it’s not too rich or overpowering. It’s also a mild chocolate, so it’s not too much for those who aren’t big chocolate fans. The cake is light and delicious and is paired with sweet and succulent fresh raspberries with raspberry jam. Even though there is a little all purpose flour, it’s easy to make this gluten free by just substituting the all purpose flour for an all purpose gluten free flour. There isn’t a lot of flour in this cake, and there isn’t any baking powder, but the beaten eggs work as a perfect leavening agent. The resulting cake is light and tender. You can also make this cake in one cake pan, if you don’t have two (or if you don’t want to wash two pans). Just slice the finished cake in half and then add the raspberry jam for filing. While you can make this without the butter in the cake, adding butter (or lard or shortening) to the chocolate when it melts helps it to melt more evenly. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler if you’re not pressed for time and have patience. Otherwise, just use a glass bowl or measuring cup in the microwave, making sure to stir frequently. This delicious cake will definitely become a household favorite with the delicious chocolate and sweet, fresh raspberries on top.