Summer Vegetable Tortellini Bake

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One very appealing thing about eating fruits and vegetables is the color. In my opinion, eating something that looks so pretty, fresh, and bright makes it that much more enjoyable (aside from all of the great health benefits that come from eating a variety of colorful fruits and veggies!). This recipe is one of my new favorites. I actually came to find that I enjoyed it more the second day cold rather then hot the night that I made it, but it is great either way! I love tortellini pasta, but it isn’t the most calorie-friendly pasta, typically because of the fillings that are used. I decided to lighted up this pasta a little by combining it with a variety of colorful vegetables and baking it in a light tomato sauce. By using a lot of veggies, I allowed myself eat a larger portion and think that I was eating a lot of pasta, when really the majority of the dish was veggies! If you are a volume eater, this is always a great trick to use. My veggies of choice were artichokes, eggplant, tomato, and zucchini. This is also a vegetarian dish which can very easily be made non-vegetarian by adding a little grilled chicken or other proteins of choice.

Summer Vegetable Tortellini Bake: Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large eggplant, cut into 3/4 in round slices then cubed into about 1″x1″ pieces
  • 3/4 zucchini, cut to about the same size as the eggplant
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, and cut in half
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with no added salt
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups spinach tortellini pasta
  • dried basil, black pepper, dried thyme, garlic powder, lemon pepper (optional)

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Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

On either an outdoor or George Foreman grill, grill your zucchini and eggplant until you have nice light-brown grill marks (do not cube the eggplant rounds until after then are grilled). *To rid some of the moisture from the eggplant and prevent sticking, sprinkle the rounds with a little salt and let sit for about 2 min, then pat with a paper towel.* Season your eggplant and zucchini with dried basil, dried thyme, pepper, and garlic powder as they are grilling. In the mean time, cook your tortellini in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. Don’t over cook them! I used spinach tortellini, but use your favorite!

Once your tortellini in finished, and your veggies have been grilled and cubed, combine them in one large mixing bowl. At this time, also add your cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and 1 can of diced, no-added salt tomatoes with the juice. Stir your mixture and season with a little extra herbs, pepper, lemon pepper if preferred, and garlic powder (season to your liking; I did not add salt, but you can if you would like!). Add your 2 kinds of cheese and stir just until incorporated. Drain a little bit of the excess juice by holding your mixture back with a large spoon and draining over the sink. Spray a baking dish (I used an 8×10) with a little cooking spray and evenly distribute your mixture into the dish. I had a little extra (which I just ended up eating), but if you are using a larger baking dish this may not occur. Sprinkle a little extra mozzarella cheese on top if you like your dishes cheesy (which I definitely do!).

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. You should see bubbling towards the bottom of the dish, and all of the cheese should be melted. If not, cook for another 5 minutes. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving. As I stated earlier, I actually enjoyed this better the second day cold, so save any extra for leftovers! Enjoy!

 

What are your favorite summer vegetables??


Light Banana ‘Nilla Party Parfait

With summer kicking in to high gear barbecues and outdoor celebrations become a lot more popular (which I love!). I look forward to the 4th of July, Labor Day, summertime birthday parties, and anything involving a little sun, sipping wine, snacking on party favorites, and catching up with good friends and family! While the typical fruit platter, brownie bites, decorated cupcakes, and fruit-breads or muffins are some of my favorites, baked goods can get a little repetitive and a little heavy, especially when spending a day in the hot sun. This recipe is for one of my summertime party favorites, Light Banana ‘Nilla Party Parfait. As hinted by the name it is not only very light, but also airy, sweet, and refreshing. It is called a “party parfait” because it can serve anywhere from 6-12 people, depending on how big of portions your guests take (and let me tell you, my portions of this dessert are usually quite large!). I make this recipe with bananas, but I would also recommend strawberries, blackberries, or pineapple for a tropical twist. This is perfect for barbecues and holidays, such as the 4th of July, and can be made a day in advance for convenience!

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Light Banana ‘Nilla Party Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ice cold skim milk
  • 1 package sugar-free vanilla pudding (I used Kroger brand)
  • 2-3 bananas depending on the size
  • 1 package light whip cream (if you are a whip cream lover, I suggest actually buying a second just in case you use larger portions of whip cream!)
  • 1/2 box of reduced-fat vanilla wafers

Keep your whip cream either out or in the refrigerator to allow it to thaw while prepping your pudding (it typically comes frozen). Mix your pudding as instructed on the back of the box using your skim milk. If you have a little extra time on your hands, let your pudding sit in the refrigerator for about an hour to stiffen up. If you don’t have a lot of extra time, add a little more pudding powder from a second box to make the pudding a little thicker (I typically buy 2 boxes anyway just in case) and keep it in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. Slice your banana into about 1/4 in wide pieces. Start layering your ingredients in a large serving bowl (it looks pretty if you use a glass bowl!), container, or large parfait bowl, beginning with a layer of vanilla wafers. Top your wafers with a layer of pudding (just enough to cover the wafers), follow by a layer of bananas, then whip cream. Repeat this layering process again. If you have enough pudding to make a 3rd layer, go ahead. It will depend on the size of the bowl you are using. Once you have finished your last layer of whip cream, take your vanilla wafers and line the outside perimeter of the bowl. Break and crumble about 3-4 cookies, creating fine crumbs, and sprinkle over the top. Leave one wafer for the center and you are finished! Refrigerate until ready to serve. This actually tastes better the 2nd day in my opinion. The wafers soak up some of the moisture from the pudding and obtain a cake-like texture! Enjoy!

 

*For an airier pudding consistency, add one spoonful of light whip cream and fold into the pudding!


Pretty In Pink Smoothie

I know the title is cheesy, but not only is this smoothie pretty and pink, it is also delicious, light, and the perfect drink to cool you off when you are sitting by the pool, laying out with a good book, or procrastinating studying (my RD exam is in how many weeks…..yikes!). Also, did I mention its only 75 calories? I love smoothies during the summer, especially when it starts to get hot and muggy. Ohio is purely into extreme weather this year. Let me know what you think if you give it a try! Also, don’t fret if it’s not as thick as your usual smoothies; watermelon is about 90-92% water, so it is going to be a little watery!

Pretty In Pink Smoothie

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1/2 cup Carbmaster vanilla yogurt (Kroger brand; you can substitute with another low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 3/4 cup diced watermelon
  • 1/2 tsp honey (I just eye-balled it!)

Blend your ingredients until smooth, and top with a few extra frozen raspberries!

Tip for smoothie making: Always add your liquid first; this give the blender a little help with breaking down all the rest of your ingredients and makes it move a little faster and smoother!

 


Light & Lean High-Protein Chicken Salad

Greek yogurt gets a lot of publicity now-a-days, and rightfully so. With careful picking and special attention to sugar and additives, you can often fine low-sugar, high-protein Greek yogurts that pack as much as 21-25g of protein. That is just as much as a relatively standard 3oz piece of chicken. Pretty big bang for your buck considering an average individual 6-8oz Greek yogurt relatively runs you $1.14 whereas if you order a piece of chicken out you are paying anywhere from $8-18 dollars depending on how it is prepared and served. Of course, buy your own chicken and portion it out into single servings and you may average close to the same cost as your yogurt per serving.

Before I became vegetarian, one of my favorite summertime lunch’s was chicken salad on toasted bread with a little lettuce and tomato. About 10 years later, back to eating meat, and with a little more knowledge, I was able to create this yummy, lighter version of summertime chicken salad with a little extra protein by substituting Greek yogurt for other condiments commonly used to make chicken salad such as mayo or miracle whip. I hope you try it out! It’s quite yummy, and I actually ate it in-between crisp leaves of romaine lettuce to lighten it up even further. Enjoy!

Light & Lean High-Protein Chicken Salad

Ingredients: (makes 2-3 servings)
~ 1/2 cup chopped celery
~ 1/3 cup grapes (sliced into 1/4ths)
~ 1/3 cup diced apple
~ 2/3 cup cooked and shredded chicken (I grilled my chicken with a little paprika, and black pepper), make sure you allow it to cool before adding your other ingredients
~ 1/3 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
~ 1 tsp Dijon mustard
~ 1/4 cup slivered almonds
~ paprika, black pepper, a pinch of garlic powder

Very self explanatory and easy! Prepare you ingredients, mix together in a large bowl, and let refrigerate for at least 1 hour (The longer it sits in 1 day, the better it tastes! I actually think it’s best day 2.) Serve on a sandwich, with crackers, or on chunks of romain or iceberg lettuce. Enjoy!

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Baked Pasta With Spicy Chicken Sausage

So I have started to embrace adding a little meat back into my diet, which my boyfriend seems quite happy about, so I decided to make him dinner this past week and tap into my old Italian cooking styles. I have already talked about pasta Sundays when I was little with my family, but the other thing, that mainly my dad loved having, was sausage and peppers. I myself am a fan of chicken sausage. Besides it being a little lighter and leaner, I think it packs a really great taste, especially when you really utilizes the spices that it has already been flavored with. For this dish, I used a spicy Italian chicken sausage. Because of this, I seasoned my pasta side and veggies with chili powder, read pepper flakes, and black pepper to really up the spicy kick. Here is the recipe for a combo of 2 of my favorite childhood dishes: baked cheesy pasta and sausage and peppers. Remember, Italian dishes can sometimes get a bad wrap for being calorie heavy, so making a few alterations such as using low-fat cheese, smaller portions of cheese, adding veggies to your dish, or using leaner cuts of meat (like chicken!) can help lighten up some of your Italian favorites!

Baked Pasta With Spicy Chicken Sausage

Ingredients:
– 2 cups whole wheat pasta
– 3 links spicy Italian lean chicken sausage
– 1/4 cup chopped onions
– 1/3 cup finely chopped red pepper
– 1 – 1 1/2 cups mushroom marinara sauce (I purchased mine from Kroger, it is the Simply Balanced brand; you can use whatever sauce is your favorite!)
– 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese ( half goes into pasta mixture, save half for top)
– spices: chili powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder
– 1 Tbsp canola oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Boil your pasta as directed, but undercook about 1-2 minutes. Finely chop your onions and peppers. Sauté in a little canola oil, seasoning with garlic powder, chili powder, and black pepper. You want your veggies to be fairly soft (should take 5-7minutes). Once your veggies have softened, chop your sausage into about 1/2 in pieces and add to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add in your pasta sauce. Cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove the lid and allow sauce to simmer for another 5 minutes. Add in your cooked pasta and stir, lowering your heat to a low flame. Add in a little crushed red pepper and another pinch of black pepper. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese into your pasta and sausage mixture, and stir to incorporate.

Grease a small baking dish with a little cooking spray, and add your pasta mixture, spreading out evenly. Top your pasta with the last bit of mozzarella cheese, and cover with tin foil. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. This makes about 4 servings. Enjoy!

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