Eating Light – Mexican Quinoa Casserole

Today, I invite all of you to head on over to my sister’s (aka my Biffer) blog to check out my guest post. I was able to contribute to Day 10 of her 31 day challenge on blogging about LIGHT – so I provided a recipe for eating lightBaked Mexican Quinoa Casserole

My sister has been on a major quinoa kick – so I figured I’d follow along. Check out my recipe for Mexican Quinoa Casserole on her site: Our Morning Glories.

It’s an awesome recipe for Meatless Monday – but honestly, I ate it for two meals after that! It’s packed with protein so it fills you up without filling you out (see what I did there?). So stop by her blog, stay a while and read about my stinking adorable nephews, and make sure to give this recipe a try!

Mexican Quinoa Casserole_cookingonthebrightside

Also, if you love you some quinoa like we do, check out some of these other recipes she has posted:

Cashew Quinoa

Quinoa Apple Salad

Thai Veggie Quinoa (where the broccoli is raw, right Biffer?)

Lemon-Cilantro Quinoa

And of course, you can find Buffalo Quinoa Cakes on my blog. Because here, we do all the buffalo-flavored things!

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

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Pizza Casserole

I realize I may be a little ahead of myself, but I am so excited that Fall is upon us.

Not only does it mean that college football is almost here (single digits!) but it also means cooler weather, delicious smells, beautiful colors, cozy clothing and of course, comfort foods.

Comfort foods vary for everybody – for some it may be grilled cheese. For some it could be chicken pot pie. For some (like me) it’s soup. Notice a theme here? A lot of comfort foods are best served hot! (Okay, except for ice cream, but that’s just in a class of its own, right?)

One of our favorite comfort foods is pizza. Sometimes we try to be good and make our own using whole wheat crusts and lighter ingredients. Sometimes the ease of picking up the phone and ordering enhances the comfort. But sometimes, we just want that comforting flavor of pizza, without the uncomfortable thought of putting on jeans the next day.

I know I’ve shared my ultimate comfort food recipe with you before (Pizza Soup – the most requested meal in our household of 2), but today I have another combo deal for you – Pizza Casserole!

Pizza Casserole (Serves 6 / 7 WW pts. per serving)

Ingredients

6 oz. whole wheat rotini pasta

1 cup Ragu Pizza Sauce

8 oz. fat-free cottage cheese

2 1/2 links Italian turkey sausage, hot

24 slices Turkey pepperoni

1 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring medium pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions.

In a medium skillet, cook sausage (casing removed) and break into small pieces.

Mix pizza sauce, salt and pepper with the cooked noodles and spread into your baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix together cheeses with Italian seasoning. Spread cheese mixture over the top of the noodles. Top with favorite pizza toppings – we just went with pepperoni this time (and, of course, added some black olives after it was done cooking) – but make it your own!

Process

Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.

Slice and serve…

Pizza Casserole Plated

and if you have picky eaters, you can top the individual pieces after baking like we have to do so my olives don’t “contaminate” the husband’s portion…

Bite

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Cheeseburger Casserole

So I mentioned last week that I started a new workout program. While I knew it would be a challenge to get back into shape, holy cow I did not realize how much of a challenge it would be physically and mentally!

I blame myself of course. I mean, what did I expect – I haven’t exactly done anything along the lines of “fitness” since I had to fit into a wedding dress…and that was a year and a half ago!

Well, I’ve learned a few things with my new schedule, aside from the fact that sports bras are my friend. During the week, the two things I learned the hard way were A – eating dinner before working out isn’t ideal for me and B – cooking dinner after working out isn’t ideal for me. Quite the conundrum, right?

So how do I eat dinner after working out (so that I don’t feel it coming back up on high cardio days) without having to make dinner after working out (so I don’t writhe in pain when I lift a saucepan after doing a zillion push ups)?

Enter the wonderful world of casseroles. I’ve had a few written down and decided week 1 would be the perfect time to try them out. Thanks to one of my food blogs, Skinny Taste (also a big proponent of Weight Watchers!), this casserole suited all of my needs! Quick, easy, delicious and healthy – I made everything ahead of time and popped it in the oven after my workout while I cried in fetal position showered! You should definitely try this one…it was great for a meal paired with some Alexia House Cut Fries with Sea Salt.

Cheeseburger Casserole (Serves 6 / 6 WW points per serving)

Very slightly modified from original recipe here.

Ingredients

8 oz. lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes (I’d get petite if possible, lesson learned!)

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 oz. Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta

1 cup fat-free shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup dill pickles, chopped

Heat your oven to 350. Lightly grease a small casserole dish.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions.

In a medium skillet, heat oil and cook onions for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and ground beef and cook through. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tomato pasta, tomatoes and mustard. Let the mixture simmer slightly. Then add pasta and toss to coat.

StepbyStep

Add mixture to the casserole dish, spreading into an even layer. Top with shredded cheddar and bake 15-20 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes, add chopped pickles (only to one side if you have a family member who is a freak and doesn’t eat them) and serve.

Plated Casserole

Fries were great with this, but you could toast up a hamburger bun as a “roll” to eat on the side too! Gotta stick with the theme…

Cheeseburger Casserole

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

A Week of Celebration

Do you know what tomorrow is? I mean, other than the day that adorable little Phil will tell us when Spring is set to arrive.

Tomorrow is my blog’s birthday! Or is it anniversary?

Let’s go with birthday since that’s the theme of the week. On Monday I said farewell to my 20’s – so today, as a way of celebrating this lovely occasion, my blog will say farewell to something too. Have you figured out the surprise? Check the top of your computer screen:

www.cookingonthebrightside.com

My blog has its’ own domain name now! Very nerdy of me to be excited about, I know, but hey – if you’ve been with me for a year, you expect it by now, right?

Have no fear – any older links will still take you to your favorite recipe. Now it’s just abbreviated, which means it’s easier to remember for when you’re passing it along to your friends. (Wink wink).

In addition to tomorrow being a very special day for my blog – Sunday is a very special day  for football lovers (like myself) and for food lovers (um, duh) and for those of us who just enjoy fun celebratory occasions in general.

So if you’re hosting a party for 50 on Sunday or just getting together with a small group and maybe tuning in to the Puppy Bowl – here’s a little recipe roundup for your menu planning!

Pre Game

AppCollage

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Buffa-faux Chicken Tenders

Mexican Dip

Skinny Faux-Fried Mozzarella Sticks

The Main Event

Main Course Collage

Buffalo Chicken Soft Tacos

Buffalo Chicken Soup

BBQ Chicken Stromboli

Cheeseburger Soup

Pizza Soup

Spicy Pulled Beef

Turkey Beer Chili

Of course, you can always jazz your party up with a fun theme. I’m talking about New Orleans. So serve up some festively Cajun recipes and throw back a Louisiana-brewed beer  (might I recommend Abita? Light and Amber are delicious!) and you’ll feel like you’re celebrating in the Big Easy!

Lagniappe (translation: a little something extra)

CajunCollage

“Fried Shrimp” with Spicy Sauce (or make some po boys cut up into sliders!)

Cajun Shrimp Casserole

Creole Stew

I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend celebrating – as they say in N’awlins…

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Yes, you read that correctly. Chickenfriggincordonbleu – in. A. Casserole!

To be quite honest, I’d never had chicken cordon bleu until I made a skinny version a few months back. However, the whole pounding the chicken thin, rolling it and securing it usually puts me into a fit of rage and kills a bunch of toothpicks. Sometimes it’s worth it – as you saw with my Jalapeno Popper Chicken!

However, sometimes – life just calls for a casserole. And with the chill in the air, you’ll love this layered comfort food – but you know I have your back, so it’s lightened up as to not add layers to YOU!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole(serves 4 – 8ww pts/serving)

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded

4 oz. lean sliced deli honey ham

2 oz. reduced-fat Swiss cheese

2 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine

2 Tbsp. white whole-wheat flour

1 3/4 cups skim milk

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/8 tsp. white pepper

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tsp. dried parsley

1/4 tsp. Seasoned salt

“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttter” spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray medium casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a medium saucepan, add butter and milk over medium heat and whisk until melted. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Bring to a light simmer and stir until thickened.

Then add lemon juice, mustard, salt, white pepper and paprika. Bring back to light simmer and remove from heat.

Now, take your shredded chicken and spread in the bottom of your casserole dish.

Chop your ham and shred your cheese. Spread ham over the top of the chicken, then spread cheese evenly over the top.

Pour sauce over the cheese and spread, ensuring it reaches the edges.

Sprinkle panko crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole, dusting with parsley and seasoned salt. Spray with butter spray.

Now bake uncovered for 45 minutes until browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

This dish is so low in points, you can serve with a delicious crisp salad and a slice of whole wheat bread to soak up the goodness.

Hope y’all enjoy…I know we sure did!

Cajun Shrimp Casserole

On a beautiful weekend, I found myself upstairs doing more garage sale labeling – which was fine since I got a little time by the pool on Saturday while hanging out with my Mommy!

I got to a box of old cookbooks and started to label them, when I realized it was a ton of cookbooks I had won at a silent auction. I put them in my parents laundry room when I was living with them – and suddenly, I was moving into an apartment, working full-time, planning a wedding and getting married. They never made the move with me…

I had never looked through them – and man, there were some jewels in these cookbooks! It was definitely fun doing some “research” as I like to call it. Sometimes, I just like combing back through to see if something sticks out that hasn’t before or inspires me to create something on my own!

I have also found Pinterest is a great resource for this when I’m feeling a little on the lazy side because I can see pictures versus reading through ingredients and instructions.

Well, I found my second Pinterest recipe (I hate to remind you about the first one, because it is definitely not in the healthy category like this one!) that I just HAD to make and I really feel like I branched out a little, because, well, I don’t like casseroles.

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t like “main dish” casseroles. I LOVE casseroles that are side dishes – particularly when they involve potatoes. But for some reason, casseroles that serve as a main dish kind of eek me out.  I have one or two I know I can handle – I’m not sure if they are too bland or if it’s just mixing everything up together…

I know, I know. I’m weird and it’s totally a “me” thing. But I’m also the person who wishes plates with dividers were appropriate for occasions other than barbecues because I don’t like my foods touching. So I think that plays a major role in my completely irrational behavior toward casseroles.

Well, I just went crazy apparently and decided to make this beauty and man, am I glad I did!

Cajun Shrimp Casserole (3 servings – recipe halved from original)

1 pound shrimp, tails removed

1/2 Tbsp. margarine

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped orange bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 cup sliced okra (fresh or frozen)

1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1/2 can cream of celery soup

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

3 Tbsp. reduced-fat Parmesan cheese

(Also worth noting, you can buy a 10oz. bag of frozen chopped peppers and onions – just to shave even more time off!)

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt margarine in large skillet and add onions and bell peppers and saute 5-7 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute an additional minute.

Stir in okra, lemon juice, salt and Cajun seasoning. Saute 3-5 minutes.

Add shrimp and cook 5-6 minutes until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through.

Add soup, wine, soy sauce and cayenne pepper. Mix well.

Pour mixture into lightly greased baking dish. Add rice and stir until incorporated. Top with grated Parmesan.

Bake 20-25 minutes until bubbling slightly. Let set about 5 minutes before serving.

I should just call this “Gumbo Casserole” because that’s pretty much what it tasted like to me!

The husband re-heated some for leftovers and said it may have been even better the second time around, so I might make sure I have 2 pounds of shrimp the next time I make this so we can have more to go around – because I have found a casserole I LOVE!