Blue Cheese Pasta with Buffalo Shrimp

Friends, it’s been way too long…since I shared some buffalo deliciousness with y’all.

I mean, we’re in the smack dab middle of college football season and I’ve been giving you salads and quinoa. For that, I am sorry. (Not that they aren’t delicious, they just don’t scream “let’s have a beer and watch football together!”.)

So obviously, I decided to rectify that. Now, this is a recipe I concocted based on a delicious meal I had with my husband’s family at a little restaurant in Pontotoc, Mississippi. The special was a “black and blue” pasta, so it was blue cheese pasta paired with some yummy charred steak.

It was great, but we all know I like some buffalo with my blue cheese. So I have been dreaming up how to pull it off while still keeping it light. I deem this one a success, and it’s perfect to serve with a small group gathered to watch the big game, the perfect balance of fancy and casual. And it can be served with a crisp white wine or an ice cold beer. Everybody wins.

Blue Cheese Pasta with Buffalo Shrimp (Serves 2 / 11 WW pts. per serving)

Ingredients_BlueCheesePasta

For the Pasta:

3 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

2 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine (I use Blue Bonnet Light)

1 1/2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour

1/2 cup fat-free milk

1/3 cup reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles

Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Shrimp:

8 oz. pre-cooked shrimp (remove the tails)

1 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine

1/4 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

2 Tbsp. green onion, chopped

To start, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and cook your spaghetti as instructed.

While the water gets going, it’s time to get started on your blue cheese sauce – starting with the roux. If you’ve never worked with a roux, the staple of rich sauces and soups (think creamy mac and cheese or your favorite gumbo) then I’ll give you a brief tutorial.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter over medium-low heat. Next, stir in your flour. It will look weird and pasty, but that’s good. Cook for 1-2 minutes to slightly darken (the color of the roux can impact the flavor of your dish or sauce). Now, add a little of your milk (about 1/3 of the full amount), whisking vigorously into the roux. Repeat with the next 1/3, and again until all of the liquid has been added. Once you are happy with the texture, time to stir in the cheese until it has melted. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and adjust accordingly (I probably added another Tbsp. blue cheese crumbles to make sure the kick was there!). Roux_BlueCheeseSauce

Once your pasta has cooked, drain and return to saucepan. Pour blue cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until coated.

So the pasta is in good shape – time for the shrimp! In a medium skillet, add 1 Tbsp. margarine and melt over medium heat. Add chopped celery and shrimp. Saute shrimp for 1-2 minutes, then pour Frank’s Red Hot Sauce over the shrimp. Toss shrimp to coat and cook 4-5 minutes until heated through and hot sauce has reduced slightly.

Now it’s time to assemble. Add the pasta to your plate, top with the shrimp, making sure to drizzle with any excess sauce, and sprinkle with green onions.

Assembled_BlueCheesePasta-BuffaloShrimp

Serve with a slice of crusty bread for any sopping up – trust me, you won’t want any of this deliciousness to go to waste.

Blue Cheese Pasta and Buffalo Shrimp_CookingontheBrightSide

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Advertisements

Greek Pasta Salad

I have a confession to make.

I am completely obsessed with Pharrell’s song “Happy” – and I know I’m not alone. I swear, it just makes me want to stop whatever I’m doing and break out into a dance. Which I have actually done. In the comfort of my home. While folding laundry. And getting the side-eye from my husband. Sorry for letting the music guide my soul babe.

Anyways, the other day my co-worker and I were talking about just the little things that get us through long and/or tough days. A big one was our girl friends and just getting to spend time with them – which we were both lamenting over the fact that we just don’t get to do enough. But then later that day she sent me a message about how the musical score to Harry Potter was making a tedious project almost enjoyable. Which was funny, because I was listening to my Harry Potter (Film Score) station on Pandora and it really is just amazing how music can help shape my mood.

I think the “Happy” song really just brings out my inner happiness, no matter how much it seems to be hiding that day. You know what else brings out happiness for me? Cooking.

Seriously, I know some people hate it. Dread it. View it as a necessary evil in order to provide nourishment. But hello, I have a blog about cooking on the BRIGHT side because I think preparing food for yourself or for others can bring so much joy.

So, in light of all of this talk of happiness and brightness, I’m sharing a delicious and beautiful dish with you – Greek Pasta Salad. This is totally an “eat with your eyes” recipe – and it tastes at least as good as it looks…

Close Up_GreekPastaSalad

Greek Pasta Salad (6 servings / 7 WW points per serving)

Ingredients_GreekPastaSalad

6 oz. whole wheat or enriched Rotini pasta (I used Barilla Plus)

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

1 small green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 medium cucumber, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped (I didn’t quite use a whole onion)

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

8 Tbsp. sliced black olives

4 oz. fat-free Feta crumbles

Dressing:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to directions.

While the pasta is boiling, chop your veggies and make your dressing by whisking together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. I personally like the level of “tang” in this, but if red wine vinegar has too potent of a taste for you – maybe start with 1/8 cup and work your way up. I like the pizzazz.

Veggies-Dressing_GreekPastaSalad

When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add to a medium bowl. Let cool for about 5 minutes.  Pour your dressing over the pasta. Then add your chopped vegetables, sliced olives and crumbled feta. Using a rubber spatula, mix until all ingredients are combined.

AssembleSalad_GreekPastaSalad

Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. I made a batch of this one Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a beautiful, vibrant and healthy lunch every day that week. Honestly, how can looking at this awesome pop of colors not make you happy?!

Greek Pasta Salad

Have a great weekend y’all!

Pesto Orecchiette with Sausage and Brussel Sprouts

Y’all, I was such a big girl this week.

I mean, almost a grown-up. And that says a lot being that I’m 29 and 1.

I have confessed to y’all that I have a bizarre perfectly normal fear of balloons. And needles.

This week – I faced both.

Wednesday we celebrated Baby Way’s (my youngest nephew) first birthday. So my 3 older nephews decided to put on a balloon show – which involved them throwing the balloons off of their 2nd floor into the entry way, with various spins and tosses. That part I handled like a champ.

However, you know that screechy sound balloons make when they have hands and feet on them? Like they are about to burst any minute? I heard that one a lot – because they didn’t want to put their balloons down and lose them. But you know what, Aunt Mary kept her cool. I survived!

Then, the next morning, I had my annual check-up and had to get my blood taken. Yes, as in with a needle. The past 2 times I’ve had this done, I’ve apparently gotten inept or brand new nurses who don’t know what they heck they are doing – so they’ve had to stab me with a needle twice. Which is one more time than I can handle without losing the blood in my face and my eyes rolling back in my head as I endured the torture. (I’d make a terrible spy – clearly I’m not to be trusted with government secrets). Thankfully, I had a pro this time around. I warned her I was a huge baby and she was nice. I still didn’t enjoy it, but at least I wasn’t reduced to a crumpled heap of Mary.

I know, I’m so mature.

So weeks like this one call for one thing – comfort food. For me, pasta is a great comfort food – it’s warm, usually has some form of cheese included and it’s super easy to throw together. Honestly, what good is comfort food if it takes forever to make and leaves a giant mess?

I discovered this dish on Pinterest (love) and it’s definitely in my comfort food rotation from now on! It’s easy, doesn’t make a giant mess, and it’s like a nice, big, warm hug that’s perfect for enjoying in your stretchy pants curled up on your couch – but also fancy enough that you can serve it to guests.

Pesto Orecchiette with Sausage and Brussel Sprouts (Serves 4 / 11 WW points per serving)

Adapted from original recipe found here.

Ingredients

8 oz. whole wheat orecchiette

2 1/2 links Chicken Sausage, Italian style (I used Archer Farms brand)

1/2 pound brussel sprouts, peeled and halved

4 Tbsp. store-bought Pesto sauce

1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

4 Tbsp. shredded Parmesan

Preheat your oven to 400.

To prep your brussel sprouts, cut off the bottom “stem” and peel away exterior leaves. Then cut in half. Toss in a small baking pan with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 or so minutes.

While the brussel sprouts are cooking, heat remaining olive oil in a medium skillet. Slice sausage into 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices. Saute in olive oil over medium for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until chicken is browned and cooked through.

Step by Step Collage

Boil the water for your pasta and cook according to directions.

When everything has cooked, drain pasta and stir in pesto. Add cooked sausage and roasted brussel sprouts, stir until incorporated.

Plate and top each serving with 1 Tbsp. shredded Parmesan.

Plated

All we needed with this dish was some yummy garlic bread and a glass of red wine. Perfect way to enjoy a James Bond movie night with my husband…

Pesto Orecchiette

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs and Spaghetti

So I’ve been in a rut lately when it comes to food. I am very much a creature of habit and comfort, so while I love trying new things, sometimes I just need to push myself to do so.

Like last weekend, the husband and I were trying to figure out where to go for dinner. We kept throwing out “the usual suspects” until I said I was just wanting to try something different, like a Greek restaurant. I’ve eaten at Greek restaurants – but oddly enough, never in my hometown – which has a plethora of international cuisine!

So we ended up at a Mediterranean restaurant (the other 2 places we were going to try closed super early!) and I tried falfael for the first time! It definitely satisfied my craving, but I still want to try the Greek place. Who doesn’t love some spanakopita?

One of my comfort foods I haven’t made in a while is, well, pretty much anything Italian. I love Italian food and other than the occasional pizza, I just don’t make it much! I’ve definitely had a craving for it lately – so a few weeks ago, I decided to jazz up one of my favorite dishes, chicken Parmesan (which I shared with you in my first blog!).

What is better comfort food than spaghetti and meatballs? Try spaghetti with chicken Parmesan meatballs!

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs and Spaghetti (Serves 2 / 11 WW points per serving)

Ingredients

8 oz. ground chicken breast

1/2 egg, beaten

1 Tbsp. whole-wheat breadcrumbs

1 1/2 Tbsp. reduced-fat Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning

1/3 cup reduced-fat Mozzarella, shredded (and chopped into smaller pieces)

4 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti

1 cup canned tomato sauce

Heat oven to 400 and lightly grease a small baking sheet. Start your water boiling for your pasta.

In a medium bowl, add chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, onion powder, garlic salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and mozzarella. Mix together with your hands until blended well. If the mixture is too “wet” feeling, add a few more pinches of breadcrumbs or Parmesan. If it’s too crumbly, add a little more egg. Once the mixture is the right consistency, roll into ping-pong sized meatballs – should make 8-10.

MixtureBakingsheet

Place meatballs on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. The tough part with chicken is that it doesn’t “brown” like beef, so you will want to cut into one to make sure it’s cooked through – no salmonella with your spaghetti please!

Baked

While your meatballs are cooking, cook your spaghetti. Drain and set aside. Pour out water and in the same pot, add tomato sauce. This is where you have to play around a little with flavors. I added 1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning, probably 1/4 tsp. garlic salt and a pinch or two of black pepper. You can throw in red pepper flakes if you’re feeling feisty! Heat sauce and add the spaghetti and stir to coat.

Sauce

 

When the meatballs are ready, divide the spaghetti between two plate and top with meatballs.

PlatedMeatballs

Pretty simple, but incredibly delicious and a fun twist on a classic!

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Have a wonderful GOOD Friday and Happy Easter!

Crawfish Fettuccini

Confession – I am a total major sports event junkie.

Obviously, if you know me or have been reading this little blog ‘o mine for a while, you know that I could spend (and do spend!) my Fall Saturdays tuned in to college football. That’s just a given.

I’m talking about sports that I don’t really pay much attention to throughout the year unless it’s a big (read: rivalry or very meaningful) game. So while I read what’s going on and try to keep up with our local Memphis Tigers, I do not feel obligated to watch every single game or keep up with opponents during the season.

But now we’ve entered March Madness…whole different (pardon the pun) ball game. Heck, any excuse to make some festive food and watch sports is cool with me. But this one is different – it’s not one event, it’s days and hours of amazingness!

Like last night, I came home, ran in the door and turned on the TV to catch the very intense last seconds of the Gonzaga game. Then I had to watch the end of the Oregon game.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Quick meals are a must!

A few weeks ago, I tried a new seafood pasta recipe. It is the perfect recipe for a weeknight because it’s quick, easy and delicious – but it’s fancy enough to throw together for a weekend too.

Oh, right, and it’s WW friendly. Throw in a glass of wine and you’re doing it up right!

Crawfish Fettuccini (Serves 2 / 10 WW points per serving)

Ingredients

4 oz. fettuccini (I used Ronzoni Garden Delight)

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine

1 tsp. minced garlic

8 oz. frozen crawfish tails, thawed

1/2 cup fat-free half and half

1/2 Tbsp. paprika

1/2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

2 small tomatoes, diced

Tabasco sauce (optional)

Spray a medium skillet with non-stick spray. Melt margarine over medium heat and add bell pepper, onion and garlic. Saute 5 minutes until softened. Stir in crawfish tails and cook another 3-5 minutes until they curl slightly.

Add Crawfish

While the vegetables are cooking, go ahead and boil water for your pasta.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in half and half, paprika and Cajun seasoning. After this step, go ahead and add your pasta to the boiling water.

Add Spices

Cook crawfish sauce for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently and allowing the sauce to thicken. Add a few drops of Tabasco for a little additional spice. Once your sauce has thickened, reduce heat to low, stir in tomatoes. You don’t want them to cook too much, so do this when you are almost ready to serve.

Add Tomatoes

Drain your pasta and divide among plates. Top with crawfish sauce.

Plated Crawfish Fettuccini

I’d say total time including prep and cooking is 30 minutes. Not too shabby right?

Crawfish Fettuccini

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

Garlic Bread Spaghetti Braid

It has totally been one of those weeks when the kitchen and I have not been seeing eye to eye.

I think it all started when I set out to share my delicious recipe for kale chips with y’all. I got some awesome pictures, so while I was plating the main course, I stuck the baking sheet back in the oven.

Which I had turned off of broil 5 minutes before.Turns out, I don’t like my kale chips well done. They went in the garbage.

Then, the other night, I decided to try a super-awesome looking recipe off of my mere amusement obsession Pinterest. You can see the original recipe here.

Now, it ended up turning out okay – I just wasn’t patient enough. People – when a recipe says let the dough thaw…you should probably let it thaw. I’m pretty sure I almost chucked the dough on the floor, but I did not – I held my tantrum to throwing it on the counter and smacking it with a rolling-pin. Very mature for an almost no longer 20-something, right?

Anyways, it all turned out to be okay – so I’m very happy I get to share this recipe with you! I  made a few adjustments before and will make some additional ones the next time I prepare it, but no worries – I’ve included both below!

Garlic Bread Spaghetti Braid  (Serves 4 / 9 WW Points per serving)

Ingredients

1 can Pillsbury Crusty French Loaf refrigerated dough, room temperature

3 oz. uncooked whole wheat spaghetti

1 cup Prego light

1 cup reduced-fat shredded Mozzarella

1/2 egg white

2 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. Italian herb seasoning

2 Tbsp. reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray

Begin by thawing your dough. Just set it out 15-20 minutes before you start cooking. Seriously. If it’s cold, it won’t stretch and every time you roll it out, it’ll try to shrink back to original form. And you will want to hit things.

Get your water boiling and cook your spaghetti. While the spaghetti is cooking, work your dough out into as much of a rectangle as you can.

Dough

Drain your cooked pasta and add to a small bowl. Let cool.

Pour pasta sauce in another small bowl. I highly recommend adding a lot of seasoning to the light sauces – as I find them to be watery and a little sweet for my taste. Throw in 1 tsp. garlic salt, red pepper flakes, 1 Tbsp. Italian herb seasoning and taste to see if the flavor is improved. I made the mistake of not taking these steps and so the inside was a little bland – we had to doctor it up as we ate!

Pour sauce over pasta and mix well.

Mix with Sauce

Add pasta to the center of your dough, leaving a little room at the ends. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top.

Add PastaCheese

Now, on one side of your dough, make slices every 1 1/2 inches or so that run almost to the spaghetti. Repeat on other side, trying to match up the slices. Then, begin braiding. It’s really just  a matter of overlapping the pieces until they look right. Then tuck up the ends and pinch together.

Unbaked Braid

Brush a little egg white on top of the braid. Then spray with butter. Sprinkle with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.

Seasoning

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until bread is cooked and a nice golden color on top. I served this with a salad and glass of wine for a nice, light dinner. It’s really pretty simple to make – and it looks awesome! I think it would be great to throw together if you’re entertaining…

InsideInstagram - Bite

Or to have all to yourself on a cold, rainy evening…

Garlic Bread Spaghetti Braid