Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"And the Oscar for Best Supporting Side Dish Role Goes to ..." Savory Pasta Bake

Quick & Easy Savory Pasta Bake

Nowadays, when pressed for time, it's easy for a busy working woman or stay-at-home mother to turn to side dishes that come in a box when trying to complete a meal for her family.  Mark my words ... Nothing good for you comes in a box!!  There's no need to worry though, because there are healthy and creative ways to "home cook" side dishes for your loved ones that are healthy, creative, fast and fun.  Below is my recipe for my Quick & Easy Pasta Bake.  It's a snazzy side dish that can be prepared quickly, easily, and to perfection every time.  I created this dish when living in my first apartment and have made strides to improve it ever since.  Vibrant in both color and flavor, you'll absolutely love to serve this as a delicious complement to any main protein for those everyday dinners and may even make tray-fulls of it when entertaining on the holidays.  Like I do.  Yum!

1 lb. of any whole grain pasta
Fat Free Italian Dressing (1 bottle of any brand)
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (1 container)
Basil (a fresh coarse chop is preferred)
1 1/2 cups of Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated is preferred, but packaged works fine too)

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and start your salted pasta water boiling.
- Pour 3/4 of the bottle of Italian Dressing into a casserole dish and throw it right into your preheating oven.
- Cook the pasta to al dente on the stove top.
- While the pasta is boiling, slice the tomatoes into halves or quarters and coarsely chop a medium handful of basil.  When in a pinch, dried basil works fine with this dish.
-  Deposit the sliced tomatoes into the casserole dish and continue to let them bake.  They will soften quickly and become even more of a rich, red color.
-  Strain the pasta and toss it into your casserole dish, stirring the dressing and tomatoes throughout for even coverage.  Add the basil and 1 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese, and give it another stir before placing it back in the oven.
- Bake the casserole for 10-15 minutes.  
- Once it's done, give a quick stir, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese across the top, and serve.  

Serving Suggestions
I prefer to bring the whole casserole dish to the table when serving it because it looks absolutely beautiful and smells fantastic.  I also prefer to add grated Romano cheese and freshly toasted pignoli (pine) nuts too, but they are completely unnecessary to complete this inspiring and satisfying side dish.  Enjoy!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

"7 Minutes In Heaven" Stir Fry

"7 Minutes in Heaven" Stir Fry
(Serves 4)

Last year, I lost almost 90 pounds, primarily by eating the right foods, sensibly, at the right times of day.  Working long hours has always posed a challenge for me when it comes to creating quick, easy and satisfying meals for my family.  The best advice I can give all of you busy working women and mothers out there is to keep it simple, be creative and always remember to incorporate (1) a protein, (2) vegetables and (3) a whole grain with your dinners.  If you stick to that mantra, you will not only achieve a healthy eating lifestyle for yourself and your family, but also you will likely lose a little weight and feel the satisfaction of knowing that you have placed yet another quick and delicious meal on your table.  Below is my recipe for my "7 Minutes In Heaven" Stir Fry.  The whole meal takes about 7 minutes to prepare, with one extra minute if you simultaneously prepare boil-in-bag brown rice.  Just chop, wok and roll.   

2 tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into slices
1 medium red onion,  coarsely chopped
8 asparagus, chopped into bite size pieces
3 bell peppers, chopped into bite size pieces
10 baby corn
10 sugar snap peas
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
Low-sodium soy or teriaki sauce, to taste

- In a wok or large frying pan with a lid, heat the canola oil under medium high heat.
- Toss in chicken and cook 3/4 way through, turning occasionally (about 3 minutes).
- Toss in all of the vegetables with a few splashes of soy or teriaki sauce, give a quick stir to mix it with the chicken, and cover (about 3 minutes).
- Uncover, give a final toss for the last minute, and serve.

Serving Suggestion
I prefer to serve this stir fry in a decorative, bold colored bowl over brown rice.  So simple and easy to prepare.  Enjoy!