Spring Garden Pasta

   

Living in Texas it can sometimes be a little difficult to look forward to the oncoming summer, what with its droughts and relentless heat waves. That anxiety is quickly diffused once I glimpse the new crop of garden fresh veggies at the grocery store. Here is a crisp, healthy pasta dish to embrace spring’s bounty and warmer months.   

Spring Garden Pasta

This is a wonderful dish to prepare if you’ve blacked out in a farmer’s market and awoken in your kitchen to find yourself staring hazily at mountains of fresh produce. The first time I prepared this I was craving pasta primavera, but wasn’t wanting something heavy. I cut calories by removing half of the pasta and replacing it with loads of vegetables. Serving the dish slightly warm rather than piping hot really allows the texture and flavors of the vegetables to shine. 

Spring Garden Pasta

Spring Garden Pasta
Serves 4
A healthier pasta dish absolutely full of crisp, fresh veggies.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons salted butter
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 2-3 cups)
  5. 1 cup carrots, sliced
  6. 1 cup frozen green peas
  7. 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  8. 2 tablespoons flour
  9. 1/2 cup milk (I used flax milk)
  10. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  12. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  13. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  14. 1 1/2 cups Maffei fussili (or whatever pasta you like)
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in high sided skillet. Add minced garlic and sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cover until the mushrooms release their juices.
  2. Stir in chopped broccoli and carrots, cover and let steam for about 7-8 minutes until crisp tender. Transfer veggies to a bowl (reserve any liquid in the pan if there is some) and leave covered while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Meanwhile cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions. I used a refrigerated pasta by Maffei which is 180 calories per 1/2 cup. You want it perfectly al dente or just a hair shy of al dente - you want the pasta to stand up to the crisp veggies.
  4. While pasta is cooking - in the same pan you cooked veggies in melt the other tablespoon of butter. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour - it will be very thick. Let cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste and then add milk, black pepper, fresh thyme. Remove from heat and whisk well.
  5. Transfer pasta plus 1/2-3/4 cup (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be) of the pasta cooking water to the pan along with all of the veggies, the green peas, and your grated parmesan. Toss well and cover to let the peas warm through. This will also slightly cool down the pasta and veggies. This is ok as the slightly cooler pasta maintains the fresh flavor and texture of the tomatoes.
  6. When the peas are warm add fresh basil and chopped tomatoes, toss well and serve immediately. Ideally your pasta water should have been salted well enough that you wouldn't need additional salt, but feel free to add more if needed.
Calories
  1. 358 calories for 1/4 of the pan as I've prepared it.
Variation
  1. Cooking the mushrooms in a bit of dry white wine (maybe 2 ounces) adds lovely flavor to the dish.
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Spring Garden Pasta

 


Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

   

So it’s been almost 3 weeks since I made my last post, but not without good reason! Of course the holidays have a way of absorbing up all of your free time, but that’s not the real excuse. I’m sure that by looking around this page a bit (at least if you’re familiar with my blog from before) you can notice that I have a new awesome site design! For Christmas my boyfriend began this project as one of his gifts to me and when I saw the preview of what was in store by the time it was done, I nearly exploded with excitement. He put a ton of his free time into seeing it through and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Once I realized the new design was incoming I really wanted to wait to make a new post. I have a few more recipes lined up as a result of the mini hiatus (including roasted cauliflower soup and limoncello), but I knew that my first post of 2014 had  to be something healthy. This is, after all, the one time of the year that the human race unanimously decides to improve their well being (at least for a couple of weeks until someone caves and shows up at the office with donuts).

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad 

A while back someone commented on how much they enjoyed looking through my blog. She pointed out that she particularly loved the Mediterranean influence she often sees in my recipes. I thought, “Wow… I guess I do have a tendency to cook with lemon, chickpeas, parsley, etc…” And who wouldn’t? The fresh flavors so commonly associated with Mediterranean food are incredible. This salad brings some of those influences together into one filling dish for under 350 calories. There is protein. There is fiber. There is nutrient dense broccoli. It’s definitely a recipe to ring in the new year and kick start your healthier eating habits.

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad

Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad
Serves 4
A quick, healthy lunch inspired by the fresh flavors in Mediterranean cooking.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
13 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of pre-cooked whole grain blend (I used the red quinoa and brown rice blend by Village Harvest, which is found in the freezer section)
  2. 3 cups raw broccoli, chopped
  3. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  6. 1/2 tablespoon water
  7. 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  12. 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Prepare grain according to package instructions. In my case I just popped it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
  2. Place broccoli in a bowl and microwave a couple of minutes until no longer raw, but still crunchy and green. I combined my broccoli with the grain to save time while heating.
  3. Whisk together olive oil, lemon, water, and spices to form the dressing.
  4. Combine all ingredients with the dressing in a large bowl and toss well to combine.
  5. Eat slightly warm as is or transfer to the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes first (my preference).
Calories
  1. 341
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Crunchy Mediterranean Grain Salad


Autumn Minestrone

   

Few dishes are more comforting than a piping hot bowl of soup during the chilly months. I love making soups and stews; not only are they almost completely foolproof, they are also easily customizable. Whatever leftover veggies are in the fridge can be tossed into a pot and transformed into a hearty meal – it’s awesome.

Autumn Minestrone

For this minestrone I used Pomi brand boxed tomatoes because I love the flavor as well as the fact that they are not cooked with salt. One box of Pomi tomatoes is about the same as two 14oz cans, and you can substitute accordingly. Keep in mind that you may want to tweak the salt in the recipe if your canned tomatoes contain sodium. Also feel free to use more pasta. I choose to go fairly light to focus on the vegetables and keep the calorie count low.

Autumn Minestrone

Autumn Minestrone
Serves 6
A warm, comforting soup that is full of vegetables and low in calories.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 2 stalks celery, diced
  4. 1 cup carrots, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 4 cups stock
  7. 1 28oz carton chopped tomatoes (or 2 14oz cans)
  8. 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust depending on the sodium content of your stock and tomatoes)
  10. 1 sprig of rosemary, stem removed and leaves minced
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1/2 cup small, dry pasta (I used cavatelli)
  14. 2 cups kale, chopped (or other green of choice)
  15. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a deep soup pan heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions are slightly translucent – about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add stock, tomatoes, and all of your seasonings. Bring soup just to boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add pasta and kale, cooking for another 10-12 minutes (or however long your pasta needs to cook based on package instructions).
  4. Just before serving stir in fresh parsley.
Calories
  1. 148
Optional olive bread crouton topping
  1. Cut olive bread into 1 inch pieces and toss with a small amount of olive oil to coat. Spread onto a nonstick baking sheet and put into a 400F oven for about 15 minutes or until the croutons are dry and crunchy.
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Autumn Minestrone


Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese “Fries”

   

The classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of my all time favorites. It’s something that I – and most other people I know  – grew up eating, so as adults it has evolved into no-fuss comfort food. Nostalgia aside, it’s incredibly easy to make a more grown-up version of this dish that will make you want to throw away your can opener and forget the name Campbell’s (except don’t toss the can opener because you need it for the tomatoes). I grow basil on my balcony because I love it so much and it’s almost always the flavor used in tomato soup, but if you’ve never made your tomato soup with rosemary you’re in for a real treat. It’s particularly wonderful when fall starts to roll around because rosemary has a savory, evergreen-like aroma that reminds me of the upcoming holidays. The soup itself is very low calorie (less than 80 per bowl) but I still wanted to find a way to trim down the calories on the grilled cheese front. In the end I decided to make open-faced grilled cheese “fries” so that each person only got one slice of bread instead of two. Not only is it a little bit healthier, but they are the perfect finger food for dunking into a piping hot bowl of soup. But yeah… I still ate two slices of bread because the fries were too delicious. Oh well… I tried!

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries

While making this for lunch today I didn’t remember until the very end that my immersion blender was broken. I ended up transferring the soup to the food processor to puree it which made me realize how much I LOVE my immersion blender. If you don’t have one of these and you find yourself making a lot of stove-top soups and sauces I highly recommend getting one. It makes your life so much easier! Doing it in the food processor or in the blender works fine though, just make sure that you’re careful as the hot liquid can splash around and make a mess – especially if you overfill the basin.

For the grilled cheese sticks I think using a combination of cheeses is the best way to go, but use whatever you have around. For mine I used a mix of sharp white cheddar, a colby-swiss blend, and mozzarella. The sharp cheddar gives it a nice pungent flavor while the other cheeses give an ooey gooey melty consistency. I used a total of 5 ounces so it would be a little under a serving of cheese per person – another area where I was trying to skim off a few calories. The bread I used was a white Italian bread with a subtle open crumb. The shallow holes end up creating yummy cheesy pockets of awesomeness, and in some cases the cheese oozed through and browned a little on the bottom when grilling – perfect.

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries

Rosemary Tomato Soup
Serves 6
Warm, comforting tomato soup infused with the scent of fresh rosemary.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 cup grated carrots
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  6. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  7. 5 cups vegetable stock
  8. 1 31.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  12. Salt, to taste (use more or less depending on the sodium content of your stock – I didn’t need any extra salt for mine)
  13. 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in soup pan on medium high heat. When hot add onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and the 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Let cook for several minutes until the onions are just slightly caramelized.
  2. Pour stock into the pan, making sure to stir well to get all of the caramelized bits off of the bottom. Add entire can of tomatoes, bay leaf, and additional seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig from the soup. It’s ok if any rosemary leaves fell off while cooking, as they will be blended in when you puree the soup. Turn off the heat.
  4. Using either an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup to desired consistency.
  5. Transfer back to pot stir in the heavy cream. Serve immediately.
Calories
  1. 79
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Grilled Cheese "Fries"
Serves 6
Fun twist on traditional grilled cheese – perfect for soup dunking!
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 ounces shredded cheese (I used a blend of sharp white cheddar, colby-swiss, and mozzarella)
  2. 6 slices of good bread
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat a skillet on medium high heat and turn on your oven’s broiler.
  2. Brush each slice of bread with the melted butter on one side. I had a little extra butter leftover and just poured it into my soup pot – yum!
  3. Place your bread, butter-side down, onto your hot skillet. Put shredded cheese on top and allow it to get nice and seared on the bottom.
  4. Transfer the bread slices to your oven to brown the cheese. It happens pretty quickly so take care not to let it burn.
  5. Put cheese bread on cutting board and let cool a couple of minutes before slicing into sticks. Top with fresh black pepper.
Calories
  1. 191
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries


Taco Pizza

   

For those times when you can’t decide between taco night or pizza night, may I present for your consideration – Taco Pizza Night! I love this recipe because it’s high in protein and easy to throw together. Not only that, but you can scale the calories back to 170 calories per slice (340 calories for 1/3 of a 10-inch pizza) by using a reduced fat cheese and leaving off the avocado. Personally I think the 205 calories per slice is totally manageable in my diet though… and I never like to forgo the real deal when it comes to cheese! If you’re looking for a simple weeknight meal that can be whipped up in under half an hour, then this pizza should make its way into your oven and then into your mouth.

Taco Pizza

One of the things that makes this meal so easy to prepare is the use of a pre-made pizza crust. For the longest time I used whole grain lavash sheets to make a lower calorie variation on traditional pizza – like with my Quick Low Calorie Flatbread. Then I made an awesome discovery. One evening while doing my grocery shopping I came across the par-baked crusts from Pizza Romana and was shocked to see that the entire crust was only 300 calories. For comparison, a Boboli 8″ personal pizza crust is 380 calories while the 12″ pizza crust is over 1000 calories. The Pizza Romana crusts are about 10″ wide and made with very basic ingredients (flour, yeast, salt, oil). It makes for a perfect blank canvas to host an array of pizza toppings, and of course it worked wonderfully in this taco pizza. I’m able to find these at Central Market in Dallas – other HEB stores may carry them as well. If you cannot find these crusts in your area, Amazon happens to sell them by the 6-pack but the shipping cost is kind of ridonkulous. Another option would be making use of lavash as I did in my previous pizza recipe, or any other thin flatbreads that are readily available to you. And of course if you don’t care about the calories… by all means use whatever crust you want! Just make note that this could affect the overall cooking time.

Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza
Serves 3
A simple-to-prepare weeknight pizza that’s full of flavor.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 premade pizza crust (I used the one by Pizza Romana)
  2. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  3. 1 small yellow onion, diced
  4. 1/2-1 jalapeño pepper, diced (remove seeds for less heat)
  5. 1 mini sweet red pepper, diced (or 1/2 bell pepper)
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1/2 package or 1 1/2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles, thawed (I used Morningstar Farms)
  8. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  9. 1/4 cup water
  10. 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  11. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  12. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  13. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  14. 2 1/2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  15. 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  16. 1/2 avocado, sliced (or cubed depending on your preference)
  17. Chopped cilantro & green onion for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450F (or whatever temperature your packaged crust suggests.)
  2. Using half a teaspoon of your olive oil, rub it along the outer edge of your prepared pizza crust. Lightly sprinkle with salt if desired. I find this gives a nicer texture and flavor to the crust when it comes out of the oven.
  3. Heat the remaining half teaspoon of olive oil on medium high heat in a nonstick skillet.
  4. Put onions, peppers, and garlic in the oil and let cook for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.
  5. Add burger crumbles, tomato paste, water, and seasonings to the pan. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle about half of the cheese onto your pizza crust. Since there is no sauce the cheese will act as a “glue” to hold your toppings in place. Evenly distribute the taco crumbles over the top of the cheese and then top with the remaining shredded cheddar.
  7. Place pizza directly on the oven rack and bake for 6-8 minutes or until the edges of the crust are crisp and golden. Use your crust’s package instructions as a guideline for cooking time.
  8. Remove from oven and top with fresh tomato, avocado, and herbs.
Calories
  1. 415
Notes
  1. Calories listed are for 2 slices or 1/3 of the whole pizza.
Variations
  1. Non vegetarians can brown 1/2 a pound of ground beef in place of the crumbles. Make sure to drain off excess grease before seasoning. I calculated the calorie info subbing in 80% lean ground beef and the calories/protein content were almost exactly the same as the original.
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Taco Pizza

 

 

 


Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Slaw

   

I feel like I’m a bit overdue for a “healthy” post, especially since I consider healthy eating to be an important part of my life. Don’t get me wrong… I still love a raunchy slice of floppy, foldable cheese pizza or a piece of decadent chocolate mousse cake, but I try to consume those things in moderation by limiting them to the weekends. On weeknights I put more effort into restricting my calories and minding my intake of fat, carbs, protein, fiber, etc. I suppose one thing that is funny about this post is that this slaw was made as part of a labor day meal which consisted of spicy vegetarian sausages stuffed into hoagie rolls with tomato sauce and melted cheese and a side of cheddar dill mashed potatoes. Aaaand I didn’t even eat the slaw. Is it ok for me to admit that? I actually don’t like cole slaw at all, but that doesn’t stop me from making it for the people that do. I relied on my boyfriend and best friend to tell me whether or not this was a worthy Gouda Monster recipe and they both agreed it was a winner. Jah even whipped up another batch for himself one night and enjoyed it just as much the second time.

 

Sweet 'n' Spicy Slaw

I used Veganaise when preparing this but you could certainly use any mayo that you prefer. Opting for a light mayonnaise will drop the calories to around 80 per serving. Of course you can always adjust the amount of heat by cutting back on the hot sauce. The creaminess of the mayo along with the sweetness of the carrots and apples cuts through some of the harshness of the spice, but people have vastly different tolerance levels for that sort of thing. If you’re concerned about it I would recommend adding the hot sauce little by little as it is always easy to add more, but once it’s in there you can’t take it out. Another substitution that would probably work fine is the use of cabbage in place of the baby bok choy. I opted for bok choy mostly because of its small size. We don’t use a lot of cabbage around here and I knew there would be a lot leftover that goes to waste. With the baby bok choy I was able to cut up almost the entire thing for the slaw and not worry about having anything leftover to wilt away in the fridge. Whatever you decide to do you’ll only be out about 10 minutes of your time for this super easy side.

Sweet 'n' Spicy Slaw

Sweet 'n' Spicy Slaw
Serves 4
A crisp slaw of carrots, green apple, and boy choy with a little bit of kick.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 granny smith apple, cut into matchsticks
  2. 1 cup shredded carrots
  3. 1 baby bok choy, julienned (I only used about 3/4 of it, leaving out the greenest part of the leaves so they wouldn’t get soggy)
  4. Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  5. 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon English mustard
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  8. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  9. 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  10. 1 teaspoon paprika
  11. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  12. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  13. 4 tablespoons Veganaise (or other mayo of choice)
Instructions
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing (everything but the veggies and apple) until creamy and smooth.
  2. Fold the carrots, bok choy, and granny smith apple into the dressing until well coated.
Calories
  1. 136
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Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Slaw


Southwestern Vegetarian Chili

   

As someone born and raised in Texas it’s sort of in my blood to know a thing or two about chili. Most Texans would consider it blasphemy to put beans in chili, but then again most Texans would consider it blasphemy to be a vegetarian. Neither of those things make much of a difference to me though – I’m not most Texans. :)

Chili is a wonderful one-pot meal that comes together quickly with little effort. It’s low in calories, it’s filling, and it keeps you warm on chilly nights. (Yup – we have chilly nights here!) I actually made this chili less spicy than I normally would. As a general rule I like my dishes to be warm, but nothing so hot as to mask out the other flavors in a dish. In Thai restaurants I’m a “3” kind of girl. With chili though? I want to subtly regret every searing spoonful as it makes my taste buds cry for mercy. If my eyes aren’t watering and my nose isn’t running by the time I’m halfway through the bowl, then it’s just not hot enough. The perfect counter to that level of spicy bliss is the addition of fresh diced celery. Celery is my absolute favorite, must-have topping for chili because of the way it cuts through the heat. The contrast of texture and flavor is wonderful as well. If you’ve never tried it I highly recommend it.

Everyone has their own tolerance levels when it comes to heat so I view this recipe as more of a jumping off point. If you’re a glutton for punishment you can add several additional jalapeños , more pepper sauce, ground cayenne, a habanero – whatever floats your boat. The beauty of chili is that it’s adaptable. And that it’s easy.

 

Southwestern Vegetarian Chili
Serves 3
A simple, one-pot meal that fills you up while staying low in calories.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 onion, diced
  3. 1 clove of garlic, minced
  4. 1-2 jalapeño peppers, diced (remove seeds for less heat)
  5. 1 can diced tomatoes
  6. 1 can black beans, drained
  7. 1/2 of a 12oz package of ground meatless crumbles
  8. 1/2 cup water
  9. 2 tablespoons chili powder
  10. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  11. 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  12. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  13. 1 bay leaf
  14. 1 teaspoon pepper sauce
  15. 1 corn tortilla, torn into small pieces
  16. 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a pot and cook the onion, garlic, and pepper until slightly soft and fragrant – about 5 minutes or so.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients (except for the cilantro and corn tortilla) to the pot and bring to a simmer. When simmering, add the corn tortilla pieces. Cover, remove heat, and let cook for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Just before serving stir in the chopped cilantro.
Calories
  1. 283
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Spinach & Artichoke Dip Pasta

   

There is something gratifying about taking one dish that I enjoy and transforming it into another. It’s a realm between novelty and nostalgia that I want to find my way into, all while trying to maintain a health conscious lifestyle. When I saw spinach and artichokes sitting in my refrigerator one night as I was trying to decide what to whip up for dinner, I knew that spinach artichoke dip pasta had to happen.

 

The first time I prepared this pasta I tried to use of Greek yogurt to make the cream sauce more healthy. Although tasty in its own way I felt that the flavor wasn’t true enough to the original, so I set to recreating it with the more traditional – although reduced fat –  cream cheese. I also figured why not roast the artichokes and garlic first? Hell yeah.

This recipe makes for a simple weeknight meal and is a great way to get some greens into someone that would normally shun the stuff. It has the added bonus of fooling you into thinking that you’re eating something much naughtier than it actually is. You could go to Applebees to split  a skillet of spinach artichoke dip and a mountain of tortilla chips with three people for about 500 calories a piece… and that’s before you even order dinner. Or you could stay home and make a simple, filling dish that satisfies the desire for an appetizer and an entree in one go – for under 375 calories a serving. I know what I’ll pick, because let’s not kid anyone – I’d probably gobble up that whole appetizer by myself anyway.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip Pasta
Serves 4
A party favorite transformed into a simple pasta dish with less than 375 calories per serving.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 oz whole grain rotini pasta
  2. 1 15oz jar artichoke hearts packed in water, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  6. 1 tablespoon flour
  7. 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (could use skim milk if you prefer)
  8. 3 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  9. 4 tablespoons grated parmesan
  10. 2 tablespoons Veganaise (or other mayo of choice)
  11. 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  12. 1/8 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste if desired
  13. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  14. 5 oz (about 4.5 cups) of fresh baby spinach, chopped
  15. 1 oz shredded mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F and set a pot of water to boiling for your pasta.
  2. Spread chopped artichokes hearts and minced garlic onto a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Use your fingers to toss with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and place in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. While the artichokes are roasting you will boil your pasta according to package instructions and make your cream sauce.
  3. In a nonstick skillet melt the butter. Whisk in flour and let cook for a couple of minutes, it will be pasty but it will thin out when you add the milk.
  4. Add milk and bring to a light simmer, whisking until smooth and slightly thickened – about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese and parmesan until melted. Add the Veganaise and season with salt, pepper, and oregano.
  6. By now the artichokes and garlic should be roasted. Combine them with the sauce, chopped spinach, and cooked rotini pasta, Transfer to a baking dish that has been coated with a light mist of cooking spray, top with shredded mozzarella, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively you could just pop it under the broiler for a few minutes to save time.
Calories
  1. 364
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Veggie Chicken Enchilada Bake

   

I’ve decided that starting a blog post is the most difficult part of the food blogging process. Cooking is obviously no problem since I love to do it anyway. Logging all of the ingredients into a calorie tracking website to get the nutritional info can be mildly annoying, but I often have someone on standby that I shout ingredients at from the kitchen to do that job for me. Photography is another thing I enjoy, though admittedly food styling and presentation is a new world for me and I have a lot to learn (as the photos from this particular recipe will prove). Filling out the post with random details of how I made the dish, submitting my recipes to the various food blogger sites, updating my Gouda Monster facebook page… all things that I can manage to do alright. Actually starting the post though? Writing those first few lines and figuring out how to get things rolling? That’s tough.

Well I guess I got that out of the way… this time.

This enchilada bake is something I whipped up for lunch last week when I knew I had some corn tortillas in the fridge to use up. My first attempt was tasty, but not something that I felt was good enough to warrant posting about. More specifically, the dish was a little bit runny and not all that attractive to look at. It had nice flavor but it wasn’t enough to leave you wanting it again. I picked apart the flaws, readjusted the recipe, and made it again for dinner a few nights later. I’m giddy to report that the revised version is fantastic! It’s definitely something I look forward to making again.

You know what else makes me giddy about this enchilada bake? It’s under 350 calories. Actually it’s 349 calories, but I love being able to – with good conscience – say “under 350”. To any of my readers that aren’t vegetarian, just use cooked, shredded chicken in place of the Quorn. Also, I used Neufchâtel cheese in the chicken layer but using cream cheese (or any other soft cheese) would be a perfect substitution. I only used Neufchâtel because it’s what I had in my fridge at the time.  I baked this in a round ramekin that was the perfect diameter for the corn tortillas. Everything stacked up neatly in the center which made assembling a breeze. If you don’t have a small, round baking dish you may want to double up the recipe so that you can layer the tortillas side by side in a larger dish.

Oh and in case you wanted to see how this stuff looks like when it’s turned inside out in a poor attempt at plating, here you go… I have no shame.

Veggie Chicken Enchilada Bake
Serves 3
Zesty, creamy, cheesy, and filling.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1 jalapeno, diced (remove seeds for less heat if you prefer)
  3. 1/2 onion, diced
  4. 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  5. 1 4oz can green chiles, drained
  6. 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
  7. 1/2 cup salsa, drained
  8. 2 cups Quorn tenders, shredded or diced (free free to sub shredded, cooked chicken if you’re not vegetarian)
  9. 2 tablespoons soft cheese, such as Neufchâtel or cream cheese
  10. 3 corn tortillas
  11. 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  12. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  13. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  14. 1/2 cup shredded monterrey jack cheese
  15. 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a nonstick skillet heat one teaspoon of olive oil and cook the jalapeno and onion until translucent. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine salsa, soft cheese, 1/3 of the onion mixture, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, half of the chili powder, and a dash of salt in a bowl. When the sauce is blended stir in your cooked Quorn tenders.
  4. In another bowl stir together black beans, 1/3 of the onion mixture, remaining chili powder, and ground cumin. If you’re using a low sodium variety of canned beans you may want to add a little salt to taste.
  5. In your food processor pulse together the canned tomatoes, canned green chiles, remaining onion mixture, and last tablespoon of cilantro. Salt to taste.
  6. In a round baking dish spoon a small amount of the canned tomato mixture into the bottom, just enough to create a thin layer. Assemble the remaining layers in the following order: 1 corn tortilla, black beans, 1/4 cup of monterrey jack cheese, 1 corn tortilla, all of the chicken, 1 corn tortilla, several tablespoons of the canned tomato mixture (there will be some leftover).
  7. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of monterrey jack cheese and the 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese over the top and bake for 30 minutes.
Calories
  1. 349
Notes
  1. I had some of the canned tomato salsa mixture leftover and didn’t take that into account when calculating the calories, so it’s actually a little less than is shown here.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/


Quick Low Calorie Flatbread

   

A couple of days ago I posted my recipe for a reduced calorie spinach and mushroom lasagna. I also mentioned how there was a fair bit of sauce leftover that I would be using again in another recipe later. Well here it is!

 

 

First off I must confess that I’m completely addicted to making these things. Whenever I discovered how easy it was to make a crispy, thin crust pizza with whole grain lavash, it became one of my go-to lunch meals. The entire sheet of lavash is only 120 calories and makes a nice sized personal pizza. It’s large enough that I often split one with someone and eat it with a small salad. The total calorie count of your flatbread will vary depending on the toppings, but mine almost always fall between 350-450. One of my favorites has been topped with a combination of chopped mushrooms, fontina cheese, fresh thyme, and truffle oil. And of course it’s hard not to love the trusty fall back of a classic margherita style pizza with tomatoes and chopped fresh basil. In this case however, I’ll be using the leftover lasagna filling I made the other night with shredded mozzarella, kalamata olives, and a sprinkling of paprika. If you’re a pizza fiend that is also trying to be a health fiend, definitely give this one a try. It comes together in under 15 minutes and will satisfy those nagging cravings without destroying your calorie budget. :)

 

Quick Low Calorie Flatbread
Serves 1
Easy and healthified version of a personal pizza that you can whip up in 10-15 minutes.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 leftover green lasagna filling (or hey, use some pesto, leftover spaghetti sauce, infused oil, or sundried tomato spread – it’s all good!)
  2. 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1 sheet whole grain lavash
  4. 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  5. 5 kalamata olives, chopped
  6. Paprika, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and place lavash directly on the oven rack for about 5 minutes, just to dry it out a little.
  2. Remove from oven and brush olive oil over the flatbread, focusing on the edges. Spread the lasagna filling over the top and add the shredded cheese and olives. Return to oven and bake another 5-8 minutes. Broiling will also work here but keep an eye on it as the lavash is very thin and can burn easily.
  3. Sprinkle with paprika, slice and serve immediately.
Calories
  1. 365
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/


Savory Steel Cut Oats For One

   

I attend an exercise boot camp three days a week. Whenever I get home I try to make it a point to eat something, even though I’m usually too worn out to want to prepare anything. Smoothies and shakes are an easy go-to fix for those mornings, but I’ve always been one to prefer savory breakfasts over sweet ones. While I have never been a fan of oatmeal, after I was introduced to steel cut oats I developed more of a tolerance for them. And that’s really all it was – a tolerance. Many mornings I would whip up a batch of sweet oatmeal with cinnamon and bananas, but it’s not really my thing. Then savory oatmeal came into my life and changed everything. I can honestly say I LOVE oatmeal when it’s prepared this way, and I never would have thought I’d say that I love oatmeal. The way I prepare it makes just enough for myself and has the good things I want after a workout, like protein and whole grain. Not to mention that it’s under 350 calories and is as easy to prepare as measure, stir, wait, and stir. Honestly this stuff is pretty fool proof and makes you feel like you’re eating a fancy pants risotto. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

 

Savory Steel Cut Oats For One
Serves 1
Oatmeal with sausage and smoked cheese makes for a filling and simple breakfast.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup steel cut oats
  2. 1-1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your oatmeal)
  3. 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  4. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  5. 1 vegetarian sausage patty, cooked and chopped
  6. 1 oz smoked gouda, shredded
  7. 1/2-1 cup arugula or spinach
Instructions
  1. Bring stock to a boil then stir in oats and spices. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes.
  2. Stir in chopped sausage, shredded cheese, and greens. Salt and pepper to taste then enjoy!
Calories
  1. 328
Variations
  1. You could use rolled oats in this recipe to dramatically cut down on the cooking time, but I think the steel cut oats provide a less “mushy” texture.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/


Truffled Macaroni w/ Roasted Cauliflower & Mushrooms

   

Sometimes I get a hardcore craving for macaroni and cheese that just won’t quit. The problem is that I’m still in the process of my weight loss and I have a calorie budget to consider. Fortunately I love the challenge of taking a delightfully fatty and indulgent meal then converting it to something a little more figure friendly… without sacrificing flavor of course. I used a 2 quart baking dish and calculated the calories based on it being enough to feed 4 people – so we’re not skimping on the portion size with this one either. You could probably serve this as a side and spread it between 5-6 people (344 & 287 calories per serving in those cases), but like I said… my craving for macaroni that just won’t quit? I’m so eating 1/4 of what’s in that pan.

 

 

I knew that I wanted to deviate from my traditional macaroni recipe which calls for enough butter to give a stegosaurus a heart attack and enough cheese to set Wisconsin back 15 years. My first decision was to replace some of that carby pasta with nutty, roasted cauliflower and my second decision was to use truffle oil in it. I love mushrooms with truffle oil so opting to toss those in was a no brainer. In the end I feel like I made a macaroni and cheese recipe that stands well enough on it’s own to grace any Thanksgiving table. It’s not something that you eat and say, “Oh yeah this is good… for having reduced calories…” Instead you say, “More macaroni please!”

 

 

Truffled Macaroni w/ Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4
Lighter version of macaroni and cheese that will fool you into thinking you’re cheating on your diet.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Head of Cauliflower, cut into small florets
  2. 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  3. 1 8oz Package of Mushrooms, chopped
  4. 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  5. 2 Cups Fusilli Pasta, dry
  6. 2 Tablespoons Flour
  7. 2 Cups Skim Milk
  8. 2oz Neufchatel (1/3 reduced fat)
  9. 2oz Fontina, grated
  10. 2oz Havarti, grated
  11. 1/2 Teaspoon Truffle Oil
  12. 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
  13. 1/4 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  14. Salt & Pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray or butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and distribute evenly on a cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While the cauliflower is in the oven, heat 1/2 of the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter is warm add in your chopped mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper to season, and cover. Let cook for 5-6 minutes until the juices are released and mushrooms are soft. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Cook your pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the suggested package time. When done, drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. The cauliflower should also be finishing around this time. Remove it from the oven and set aside with the pasta and mushrooms. Reduce oven temperature to 400F.
  5. In a high sided skillet, heat the other half of your butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add flour and whisk, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in your skim milk and whisk well. Continue to stir occasionally while the sauce thickens slightly over the next 8-10 minutes.
  6. Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the neufchatel until melted. Add 3/4 of the grated cheeses and stir until melted. Season with a bit of salt and pepper (I used about half a teaspoon of each), then add your truffle oil and fresh thyme.
  7. Gently fold your mushrooms, cauliflower, and pasta into the cheese sauce and transfer to your greased baking dish. Top with the remaining grated cheese and panko bread crumbs. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Calories
  1. 431
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/