Mediterranean Vegetable, White Bean and Feta Penne

Here is a great recipe from Clean Eating Magazine.  I didn’t have the veggies called for, but used as a base. I’ve never tried pasta and white beans together and it was great! We used tomatoes, asparagus and a dash of white wine in our version and tossed with shrimp.  The combo of feta, pasta and beans added an almost creamy texture and we will definitely make again!

  • 6 oz whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 cup cooked canned white beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced, divided
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into eighths lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips, then cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta (we stick to regular feta)
  1. Cook penne according to package directions, adding beans during the last minute of cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, vinegar, basil, pepper flakes and salt; set aside.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in same skillet over medium high heat, tilting skillet to coat bottom lightly. Add zucchini and bell pepper and cook for 4 minutes or until edges begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add remaining 2 cloves garlic and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in tomato mixture and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp oil. Cover to keep warm.
  4. Drain penne-bean mixture, place in a serving bowl, sprinkle evenly with rosemary and all but 1/4 cup feta. Spoon vegetable mixture over top and finish with remaining feta.

Braised Haddock with Mushrooms and Shrimp

This is a great receipe modified from Food and Wine. Original recipe served with Halibut here.  The dish was great halved for me and the Other Half, but when served for 4 in this recipe below, we found the original recipe did not have enough garlic, so I’ve modified below.  FYI we served this to our very first dinner guests at our new home and it was a hit!

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Four 8-ounce haddock filets, cut 1/2 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine

Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet and, when it’s hot, add the sliced mushrooms. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until any liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are browned, about 7 minutes. Push the mushrooms to the side of the skillet and add 1 more tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 1 minute. Toss the garlic together with the mushrooms in the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mushrooms and garlic to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Season the haddock steaks with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet. Cook over moderate heat for about 3 minutes, then carefully turn the haddock. Add the white wine, cover and cook until the haddock is just white throughout, about 2 minutes longer.

Return the mushrooms to the skillet along with any accumulated juices.  Add the shrimp and stir gently until heated through and shrimp are pink. Remove the skillet from the heat and season the pan sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer the haddok steaks to plates. Spoon the shrimp, mushrooms, and white wine sauce over the fish and serve immediately with crusty bread or boiled potatoes.

Homemade Ranch Dip

I love Ranch dressing and dips, and my favorite dip used be a packet of mix and sour cream. Last year I realized that I couldn’t pronounce most of the ingredients from the mix pack, and realizing that the main seasonings are garlic and onion powder, decided to play and make my own cleaner version.

I use Greek-style lowfat yogurt, and sometimes mix in a little mayo if it’s on hand. Eyeball the herbs, keep salt low (the flavors will blend after a few hours of chilling), and change it up with what’s ever on hand in your herb cabinet.

For one cup of yogurt, I add the following:

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Add anything else. . . . I know many people add dried thyme, basil or parsley.  Mix and chill. Enjoy.

Grandmommy Nance’s Chicken and Noodles

A staple in my family and required for our annual family reunion from my late great grandmother.  Recipe tried and true over 70 years!


  • 3 c flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • Milk

Mix salt with flour, and place in a pile on waxed paper.  Make a well in the center, and add three eggs.  Lightly stir the eggs into the flour and add the milk, one-half eggshell at a time.  Gently work the dough on the waxed paper, pulling up the sides of the paper to help mix it; if it seems really dry, add more milk.  If it’s really wet, add more flour.  Dough will be a little sticky at first but should come together into a smooth lump.  Let dough rest for 5-10 minutes, covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Cut dough in half or quarters and roll out on a floured surface.  Roll out to desired thickness, and cut into narrow strips.  Separate the strips of dough and place on cookie sheets to air dry for an hour or so. Can be prepared several hours in advance.

Meat and broth

  • 2 split organic chicken breasts (with skin and ribs)
  • Cut up carrots, celery and onion (about one each)
  • 1 carton organic low sodium broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • A little salt and pepper
  • Small bit of desired seasonings like thyme, rosemary, basil or tarragon. (Optional)

Simmer everything over low heat in large pan until meat falls apart.  Remove meat to a plate and allow it to cool.  Strain liquid to remove mushy solids, and pick through for any bits of chicken.  Return strained broth to the pan.  Pick through chicken to remove skin, bones and cartilage, and rough chop the meat.  Place the meat in the pan with the broth.

To prepare:

Boil lots of salted water in large pan, and add noodles when water is really boiling.  Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to “remove the starch” as Grandmommy Nance would say.

Meanwhile, heat up the broth and meat mixture until it comes to a boil.  Drain noodles from water and put in the broth and meat mixture.  Cover partially, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until noodles are tender. Season to taste and enjoy!

Bestest Italian Dressing Mix. . .great on everything

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • pinch of salt to taste

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, oregano, pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, celery salt and regular salt. Store in a tightly sealed container.

To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/4 white vinegar, 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons of the dry mix.

Lemon Panko Chicken with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce (cream-free)

Time to experiment! Though will cave in for a really good recipe that calls for cream, I generally try to make all sauces cream-free.   This mushroom sauce is lighter and though it calls for butter, I’m going to try it as is prior to swapping it out for olive oil on the next try.  For the crispy chicken, I pulled inspiration from my Lighter Chicken Parm recipe below.
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat and sliced into cutlets

For the sauce:

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 3 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into 1/4×1/2-inch strips
  • 3 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into 1/4×1/2-inch strips
  • 3 oz. oyster mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/4×1/2-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbs. white apple cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth (low-salt canned is fine)
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

Preheat oven at 475.

Start with the sauce first.  Set a large skillet over medium heat and put in 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the wine, water, and cider vinegar; raise the heat to medium high and reduce the liquids by about three-quarters. Add the chicken broth and again reduce by half.

Whilst the sauce is simmering, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg whites, water and juice from half of the lemon together. (slice and reserve remaining lemon for garnish)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the rack with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg whites, and finally coat with the bread crumbs, Press on the bread crumbs to make sure they adhere. Lay the chicken on the wire rack.

Spray the tops of the chicken with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the meat is no longer pink in the center and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes. Whilst chicken is resting, add the rosemary to the sauce and taste for seasoning.

Serve over pasta or rice.

Szechuan Pork

Here’s one of our household’s favorites re-posted for our new readers. (Originally posted July 2009).  We used to cook this with brown rice but I can’t kick my love for fragrant jasmine rice. The flavor really knocks this recipe out of the park!  Enjoy!
Though some foodies only create recipes based on only the most professional sources, I do go out of my way to find new takes.  This is an excellent Asian recipe from Redbook’s cookbook, Redbook Flavor Rules!
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless pork butt, well trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 by 2-inch strips
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
  • 6 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Asian chili paste with garlic

Thinly slice pork, then cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips. In medium bowl, stir together soy sauce, sherry, and cornstarch. Add pork and toss to coat.

In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. With slotted spoon, lift pork from marinade, reserving marinade. Add pork and stir-fry 2 minutes, or until cooked through. With slotted spoon, transfer to large plate.

Add peppers and celery to pan, reduce heat to medium, and stir-fry 3 minutes, or until peppers are crisp-tender. Add scallions and ginger and stir-fry 3 minutes, or until scallions are tender.

In small bowl, whisk together broth, chili paste, and reserved marinade. Pour into pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, return pork to pan, and cook 1 minute, or until sauce is lightly thickened and pork is heated through.

Makes 4 servings/350 cals, 19g fat per serving.

Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup

Here’s a much lighter take on chicken and rice that has now become one of my favorite soups of all-time.  Reviewers suggest that the soup is restaurant-quality, even without the heavy cream.

  • 2 tsp. Butter or Olive Oil
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • Half cup of parboiled rice
  • 1/4 cup butter or buttery spread
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 cup four
  • 1 cup milk (1% or 2% is best)

Heat a large pot or dutch oven to medium. Melt butter in pot and sauté carrots and onion until softened but not browned.  Add broth, water and chicken to pot. Bring soup to a rolling boil, then stir in rice. Cover and remove from heat and rest for 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in pepper, onion powder and oregano until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons, to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.
Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium-low heat until heated through and soup thickens to desired consistency, about 15-20 minutes.