Comfort Pasta with Kale and Ground Beef

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What is it with pasta and the gazillion ways in which you can prepare them! They truly are a star pantry item!

I know I said I am going to try to get back on my healthy wagon, so I think you will appreciate this recipe. Yes, yes, it’s almost the end of January when most of the resolutions fall to the wayside. But, after trying this recipe, eating healthy may not be that difficult after all.

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This recipe is pretty simple, something I concocted while recovering from a mini version of the flu (thankfully short-lived due to Tamiflu). I didn’t quite have the energy to spend an hour in the kitchen, but at the same time didn’t want to be bed sofa-ridden for another meal. So, there I lay making a mental rundown on the items I had on hand, especially the pound of extra lean beef I was going to make chili with before I fell sick.

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So, now that the chili making was off the table till next weekend, I figured I should use up the beef in some form rather than freezing it. Pasta dish it will be! Kale, carrots, mushrooms, beef and a touch of cream and garlic! Simple, yet comforting enough!

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What are you waiting for? Grab the handful of ingredients this recipe calls for and whip up this dish while the pasta cooks! Yes, it is that simple! Go ahead and try it, you might actually end up planning to make it again soon!

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  • Servings: ”4″
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Ingredients
1/2 package pasta of your choice (I used penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound lean (or extra-lean) ground beef
1 small bunch kale, rinsed and broken into small pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups of slices mushrooms
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash of ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons of cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan
crushed red pepper, optional

Preparation
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt and cook pasta per directions.
2. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute garlic and onion till translucent.
3. Add ground beef and brown the meat, breaking up any large clumps.
4. Add the carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
5. Now, add the kale and mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.
6. Season with Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt per your taste.
7. Add the cream and grate the nutmeg.
8. Toss with pasta and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and crushed red pepper, if desired.

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Light and Healthy Chicken Parmesan

 

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Chicken parm and eggplant parm (have you tried them as a layered “lasagna”??? OMG, it’s a savory heaven!) are among my favorite dishes. If I could indulge in them several times a week, I am almost certain I would! What do you expect, it is breaded CHEESY! I only wish the real version was healthier!

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That is….just until I tried experimenting with this recipe last week! I figured if I could crisp up the chicken without deep frying and replace the regular cheese with a reduced fat version, I will be half way there! So, that’s what I did!

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I used a light coating of breadcrumbs to crisp up the chicken. After pan frying them in a coating of extra virgin olive oil, I topped them with little bit of good quality pasta sauce and reduced fat mozzarella cheese and voila, I couldn’t feel better eating it or serving it to my family!

So, grab a few pieces of boneless, skinless thighs (excess fat removed as best as you could) or breasts and few basic ingredients and start whipping up these babies! You will be glad you did!

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[Recipe title=”Light and Healthy Chicken Parmesan” Servings=”4″ Prep time=”45 minutes”]

Ingredients
8 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed off
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 3/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup good quality pasta sauce

Preparation
1. In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, 1/8 cup parmesan, garlic powder, Italian herbs and black pepper.
2. In another shallow dish, whisk together the egg, crushed red pepper and black pepper.
3. Dip chicken thighs in egg mixture and coat with bread crumbs.
4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat with olive oil.
5. Add chicken pieces in a single layer and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side till the chicken is completely cooked through. Depending on the thickness of each piece, cooking time may vary a little.
6. While the chicken pieces get cooked, heat the pasta sauce in a small pan and keep warm.
8. As soon as all the chicken pieces are cooked, serve immediately over some pasta. Top the chicken with pasta sauce and cheeses and serve hot.

TIP: As an alternative, you can also assemble the chicken as a chicken parm sandwich.

[/recipe]

Weeknight Eggplant-Ricotta Rollups

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Eggplant is by far one of my favorite vegetables. Until recently, I preferred the Asian kinds, Italian white kind and Indian kinds, but not so much the chunky American type – you know which ones I am talking about, right? The huge blackish purple giants that you see commonly at supermarkets. One of the main reasons is because I simply didn’t like their texture. To me, they had too much water in them. And their skin was too tough and they tasted rubbery most of the time! That is until recently, when I figured out how to make them less chewy, more delicate and better tasting!

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This recipe utilizes few of the tips I incorporate whenever I work with this particular type of eggplant. Peeling the eggplant first and slicing them thin lengthwise helps in making them softer and more flavorful during the cooking process. This recipe seriously is definitely a keeper for wholesome weeknight dinners, provided you have the main ingredients – eggplant and ricotta.

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Steps are simple – slice and precook the eggplant, spread cheese mixture on each slice and roll it up, place them in a skillet with a good quality pasta sauce, top with any remaining cheese and grated mozzarella and let simmer. Voila! In less than 10 minutes, you will be able to open the lid and scoop out the cheesy, hearty eggplant-ricotta rollups onto your plate to devour!

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Enjoy!

TIME SAVING TIP: You can pre-cook the eggplant slices ahead of time to save precious minutes!

Weeknight Eggplant-Ricotta Rollups

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4″ thick slices lengthwise
2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, basil and oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs)
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella
1 cup good quality pasta sauce
Any remaining cheese mixture
1/4 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella

Preparation:
1. Preheat a frying pan over medium high heat and coat with olive oil.
2. Cook eggplant slices in single layer till they are soft and golden. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, herbs, garlic, salt/pepper and 1/4 cup mozzarella.
4. Spread about a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture on the eggplant slices and roll them up.
5. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the pasta sauce.
6. Place the rolled eggplant slices in a single layer and top with any remaining cheese mixture. Top mix remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and cover.
7. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes till it gets hot and bubbly.
8. Serve immediately with a side salad or another dish of your choice.