Summer Vegetable “Pasta” Salad

Whew, it’s a hot one today! Days as hot as today make me feel the need to be sitting on a beach somewhere with a very cold drink in my hand. Unfortunately, I am stuck at work but at least there is AC blasting! In light of the rising temperatures, I thought I would post a light, refreshing summer side dish.

Pasta Salad2I made this recipe for Father’s Day this past weekend and everybody loved it. I ran into this pasta made from quinoa while strolling the Kroger aisles in search of something healthy to make along with the turkey burgers we were having. I decided to give it a try and am so happy I did! It’s a great alternative to using whole wheat pasta and has a very similar texture and taste of regular white pasta. It also comes in many different shapes to allow for more recipe versatility!

Pasta Salad3This could easily be changed depending on the veggies you have on hand as well as the flavor of the dressing you want. Dressings are so easy to make from home — why buy the expensive store brands with loads of added salt and sugar?

Enjoy this quinoa pasta salad at your next cookout!

Pasta Salad1


 

QUINOA PASTA SALAD

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients:

For the Salad:

  • 1 box quinoa pasta shells
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, diced

For the Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup good quality red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Mrs. Dash table seasoning (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, finely minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mince garlic and herbs, grate the cheese, grind the black pepper, and whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together, set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package. Remove from heat and drain the water from the pasta.
  3. In large bowl, add pasta, vegetables, and cheese then pour dressing over the top and mix well. Serve cold and enjoy!

*Optional toppings: tomatoes, broccoli florets, ham, assorted cheeses, carrots, etc.*

 

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION per 1 serving: 183 calories, 17g fat, 6g carbs, 1.8g protein, 1g fiber, 0.5g sugar


 

Spiralized Zucchini Noodle Casserole

I am a huge fan of one pot meals. Easy to make, easy to serve, easy to clean. Today’s recipe is a great one for those too busy to cook full meals during their busy work week. You can easily throw  this in the crock pot on low for several hours and have it ready by dinner time. I threw this all together in a casserole dish and baked it while finishing some chores and it was ready to eat when we were! Either way you cook it — I promise you it tastes absolutely delicious!

zucchini casserole 1

When I was growing up we had goulash a lot. It’s a very inexpensive meal to prepare yet is filling at the same time. Ultimate comfort food. Comfort is the vibe I was shooting for when I created this little slice of heaven. It is gooey, satisfying and savory with the right amount of lean meat and vegetables to satisfy almost all of the major food groups you want in a well-balanced meal.

This sort of came together by accident. A wonderful accident. We were running low on groceries so I had to improvise a bit. That is sometimes when the best dishes are created – when you are forced to use ingredients you have on hand in unique ways. I wouldn’t say this is too far fetched of a recipe but adds just enough uniqueness to be different from the usual spiralized zucchini noodles and tomato sauce.

zucchini casserole

**NOTE: By all means use entirely all zucchini (or another vegetable) noodle if desired. I ran out of zucchini and added the whole wheat noodles in it’s place. I will continue using the whole wheat noodles because it added a lot more substance to the dish and really brought it all together nicely.**

Go on and help yourself to two servings…ain’t no shame when it’s this low in calories and fat!!

zucchini casserole 2

Spiralized Zucchini Noodle Casserole

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini, spiralized
  • 1 orange (or other colored) bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups ground turkey pasta sauce
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (I leave the seeds in but you may remove)
  • 1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat egg noodles
  • 1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash tomato, basil, garlic seasoning
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  2. In 8×13 casserole dish, combine all ingredients and mix well. Top with 1/2 the Parmesan cheese and bake in oven for approximately 15 minutes or until bubbly.
  3. Take out of oven, stir well to mix cheese into mixture, then top with remainder of Parmesan. Pop back into the oven for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  4. Remove from oven and serve warm. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information per 1 serving: 191 calories, 4.6g fat, 21.6g carbohydrates, 12.7g protein, 6.9g sugar, 4.7g fiber, 316mg sodium.

Snack Time!

Happy Thursday readers! I have been extremely busy ever since moving into our new home on Saturday. Seems there is an endless amount of things to do and we had some issues that arose upon moving in to deal with. BUT, we have over come most of those hurdles and things seem to be calming down a bit. Which means more time to cook in my new kitchen!!

I am so excited to use all of my cool gadgets and utensils we received for our wedding gifts that never even saw the light of day in my apartment! Oh, the wonderful things I will cook. At least that’s what I tell myself. I refuse to let long days at work take time away from my one true passion – cooking great, healthy food and sharing it with the world (or my few readers in this case =P ) in hopes to make others aware of how EASY eating healthy can be!

In lieu of a recipe, I decided to share a different kind of post with you today. A list of my top 10 go-to snacks that are easily accessible and will fit into any budget!

Top 10 Healthy Snacks:

  1. Ants on a Log! Take a 2-3 stalks of celery, sliced in thirds + unsweetened, unsalted organic peanut (or almond) butter. Sprinkle on a few raisins and your good to go!
  2. 1 slice Ezekiel bread (I personally love cinnamon raisin!) + 1 Tbsp. unsweetened, unsalted organic peanut butter + 1/2 banana, sliced
  3. 1 medium orange + handful of almonds
  4. 1-2 cups watermelon
  5. 1 scoop protein powder + 1/2 cup skim milk + 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa powder + ice…blend and enjoy!!
  6. 2 hard-boiled eggs + mustard
  7. 2 Tbsp. hummus + carrots
  8. 1 oz. cheese + serving of whole wheat crackers
  9. 1 apple, sliced + 1 Tbsp. unsweetened, unsalted organic peanut or almond butter
  10. Spicy guacamole + serving of baked tortilla chips

There you have it! Some easy on-the-go snacks ideas to help you stick to your eating plan, whatever it may be, even when you are in a rush!

Grilled Chicken Marinade

Whenever the weather heats up it is summer in my mind. Who needs an actual official start date to start enjoying this beautiful warm, sunny weather? One of my favorite things to do in the summer is cookout on the grill. Meat, everything really if I’m being honest, just tastes so much better grilled!

Sometimes you just need to keep it simple with some grilled chicken. I highly suggest buying a big pack on sale and cooking all of them at once at the start of each week so you have them to serve on salads for lunch or ready-to-eat for a quick dinner.

I don’t meal prep but I do make a big batch of chicken every Monday to eat throughout the week for lunches. It is a HUGE help in keeping my diet on track, saving me time when in a rush, and also saves me money by not eating out.

Obviously, some of you don’t have access to an outdoor grill (gas or charcoal) but there are plenty of other options for you, so not to worry! You could always bake the chicken (typically makes it more tender and juicy), cook in the crock-pot, or cook on a stove-top grill!

Now more about this marinade…it is super simple. Like, amazingly simple. Which is perfect for stressful Mondays. Let me just say my husband tried this marinated chicken and said he would rather eat this than steak. STEAK! I know, I was just as shocked as you are.

Here’s what you need to do: go to the store and grab as many Mrs. Dash spices as you can. Since my husband has gone low sodium we have relied heavily on these babies!! They are so amazingly cheap ($2.69/each at Kroger) and contain tons of combinations of spices and flavors to suit your needs. No, I am not getting paid to say this I just discovered a good thing and want to share it with you!

 

Chicken Marinade

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions:

  1. Marinate chicken, in plastic bag or covered bowl, with oil and spice mixture for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Fire up the grill, cook chicken until  no more pink is visible inside and enjoy!!

 

 

Sautéed Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

I’m bacccck!! First of all I have a lot of new recipes I will be, hopefully, throwing out to you guys this week. I have some great news — my husband and I finally closed on our new HOME! We are so excited to start this journey together. It is a ton of work right now getting everything ready to move so please be patient with me =).

asparagus and cherry tomatoes 3

I am looking forward to my new spacious kitchen so I can make even better recipes and deliver better quality photos for you all! We don’t move in until this upcoming Saturday so I wanted to get some recipes out to you all before the craziness officially sets in.

This asparagus and cherry tomato recipe is a perfect side dish for a summer BBQ or picnic! I served this alongside teriyaki salmon for an easy, light dinner that was loaded with flavor. I love roasted cherry tomatoes when they are in season because they are bursting with flavor. They are even better roasted or sauteed.

asparagus and cherry tomatoes

Here I paired the ever tasty ‘maters with some asparagus to give the dish color and texture. Make sure to get fresh (preferably organic) asparagus and multicolored tomatoes for the best flavor! I love organic foods so that I am certain they are grown naturally without any nasty pesticides or chemicals added.

asparagus and cherry tomatoes 1

Give this a try for your next cookout and I am sure you will have guests that leave with a smile and full belly!


 

Sauteed Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

Serves: 6

Ingredients:asparagus and cherry tomatoes 2

  • 30 stalks (or 1 pound) organic fresh asparagus
  • 1 container (2 cups) mixed medley multicolored organic cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Wash asparagus then cut the ends off, leaving about 2/3 of the stalk (as this part is stringy when cooked). Toss ends away and set aside remainder of stalks in medium bowl.
  2.  Wash cherry tomatoes and cut length-wise in half. Place into same bowl with asparagus.
  3. Add olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper to bowl. Toss to coat.
  4. In medium pan over medium-high heat cook vegetables until tender, turning sparingly to allow “grill marks” to form.
  5. Remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information per 1 serving: 49 calories, 2.4g fat, 5.8g carbs, 2.3g protein, 2.4g fiber, 2.3g sugar, 209.9mg sodium