Chicken Parm Sliders

I have been a burger-like mood lately. I mean way more than usual. The delicious burger I shared last week is great – but obviously, like I said, more of a “cheat day” type meal.

Lucky for you, this week’s post is still a between-the-buns offering, but is more on the healthy side. Best news? Perfect for a game day gathering – which is majorly important now that football is upon us (Woo hoo!). These savory sliders are easy to prep ahead of time, pop in the oven and during a time out, dress them up and plate them!

Sliders_cookingonthebrightside

I had some ground chicken to use and I can only imagine your surprise that it didn’t go towards buffalo something or other. Instead, I added some sautéed onions and marinara sauce that keep the patties from drying out while cooking. I’ve done this as a dinner for two with some crispy zucchini chips as a side, and have also done a big batch for a larger gathering – easy to customize for any size group!

Chicken Parm Sliders (Makes 8 sliders / 5 WW points per slider)

2 tsp. olive oil

3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped.

2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 pound ground chicken (I usually opt for ground chicken breast – leaner)

1/2 cup reduced-fat grated Parmesan

1 Tbsp. bread crumbs (I use whole wheat crumbs if possible)

1 cup Prego Light Smart sauce, divided

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

8 whole wheat slider buns

1/2 cup reduced-fat mozzarella, shredded

Fresh basil leaves for topping

Spray butter (I use “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray)

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and Italian seasoning and saute for 3-5 minutes until onions are softened.

In a medium bowl, add ground chicken, half of the Prego sauce, grated parmesan, sautéed onions, bread crumbs, salt and peppers. Mix together by hand until ingredients are dispersed evenly. Form into 8 small patties. Line a plate with wax paper and add patties. Cover and chill at least 20 minutes to ensure binding.

When you’re ready to cook, remove patties. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and cook at 375 for 15 minutes. Flip and cook another 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Remove patties from the oven.

Add a cooked patty to the bottom half of each slider bun. (I also spray the top halves and put them in next to the patties to let them toast a little.)Top with about 1 Tbsp. of shredded mozzarella. Add 1 Tbsp. Prego sauce from the remaining 1/2 cup. Return to oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted slightly. Top with a basil leaf and bun.

Then, well, you know what to do…

Chicken Parm Sliders_cookingonthebrightside

Have a great weekend y’all!

Cheesy Quinoa with Kielbasa

It’s December.

When did this happen and why did nobody tell me?

Okay, okay. The decorations in my house and the beautiful tree (which IS getting decorated tonight if I can stop procrastinating!) would indicate that I’m well aware that it’s December. But, I’m having a hard time remembering that November happened. Heck, I vaguely remember October!

I feel like the days are just flying by right now and this is the time of year when I really want them to last. I absolutely love the Christmas season and it always seems to go by too quickly. Do you ever just want to savor everything? I know I do – I can’t wait for a night when I can go home, hang out by the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate, listen to Christmas music and stare at our beautiful Christmas tree (again, once it’s decorated!).

But right now, I feel like I’m in a race with time. Working long hours to try to get lingering deadlines met before people are out for the holidays. Coming home and trying to put together Christmas lists. Getting Christmas cards ordered. And don’t you know, the parties are coming up. I love me a good party…but when I don’t get to be “at home” for 5 or 6 straight nights, I am just exhausted!

It is this time of year when I find it really difficult to eat well. I always feel like I just don’t have the time to cook, so it’s easy to grab something on my way home…because I have too many things to do once I get home. That’s fine every now and then, but when those nights are frequently wedged between dinner parties and cocktail hours, sheesh, no wonder my clothes feel a little snug come Christmas Day!

So here’s a little recipe I adapted from Food Network Magazine that is easy, filling and pretty darn low in fat/calories. I also feel like it’s a bit of a comfort food – so perfect for a chilly night. It takes about 30 minutes total – so a simple meal for this busy (but wonderful!) time of the year.

I hope you can take the time to sit back and enjoy this beautiful and festive season with some delicious food, quality company, and anything else it takes to get you feeling all holly ‘n jolly. You know, like some peppermint schnapps in that hot chocolate.

Cheesy Quinoa with Kielbasa (Serves 2 / 10 WW points per serving)

Cheesy Quinoa_Ingredients

Adapted from original recipe found here.

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, divided

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth + 1/2 cup water

1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped

7 oz. turkey kielbasa (I prefer Jennie-O), sliced thin

8-10 spears asparagus

1 cup fat-free cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350. Brush 1/2 tsp. olive oil over asparagus and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Remove and set aside until cool and then cut into 1-2 inch pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add broth, water and quinoa. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Cover, reduce and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through and liquid is absorbed.

Steps for Cheesy Quinoa

In a small non-stick skillet, add kielbasa slices and saute over medium for 4-5 minutes. Stir in onion, flipping kielbasa slices and cooking another 4-5 minutes.

Once the quinoa is cooked, add to a medium bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 of the shredded cheese until blended.

Plate the quinoa and top with chopped asparagus and kielbasa and onions. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

 

Dig in and enjoy!

Cheesy Quinoa with Kielbasa

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!

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!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

So the husband and I recently cut the cord.

We are a cable-less household. Honestly…it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. The true test will be during football season – I might will not be such a good sport if I don’t get to wake up to College Game Day every Saturday.

Anyways, the first real challenge came a few weeks ago. When the hubby and I first started dating – as in the second time we ever laid eyes on each other – we discovered we both loved the same TV show. 24. So, we rotated “hosting” 24 night by cooking for each other – obviously that’s how I hooked him!

Well for those of you who are fans, you know that 24 has just started back after several years! It was very exciting news. So, on a Monday night (which was also Cinco de Mayo) – knowing that we no longer have a DVR to record such exciting television events, I found myself in a throw back state of mind. I got home late from work, was all ready to throw together our “Meatless Monday” and “Cinco de Mayo” meal while enjoying the return of Jack Bauer. Woops – forgot it started an hour early. Oh how long it had been since I had to cook during commercials – running back and forth when I’d hear “it’s back on!”. Clearly I had gotten spoiled!

Luckily, the meal I planned was super simple. The longest thing is roasting the vegetables, which doesn’t take much time at all – but man it is so delicious. And it’s really filling, which is awesome. Give this a try on your next “Meatless Monday” or any other day of the week!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos (Serves 4 / 7 WW points per serving)

Ingredients

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained

1/2 small red onion, chopped

2 small jalapeno peppers, diced

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. taco seasoning

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese

8 tortillas (I use Ole Extreme Wellness, High-Fiber Low-Carb)

Heat oven to 400.

In a lightly greased roasting pan, add potatoes, black beans, onion, jalapeno, seasonings and cilantro. Toss to mix and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Black Bean and Sweet potato - for roasting

Divide cheese evenly in the center of the tortillas. Spoon veggie filling on top, fold tortillas into the center, then tuck in the ends. Add to a baking dish and bake 10-12 minutes.

Burritos-StepbyStep

Serve with salsa for dipping and enjoy!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend y’all!

 

 

Orange Mustard Glazed Pork Chops

So the first thing I thought of when I woke up today?

This epic scene from Friends. Because we all know I can’t go a day without something relating back to the best show of all time. Could I be any more predictable?

So Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my readers – I love y’all to chocolate-covered pieces!

Obviously, today is a day to let the love flow. I’ve never been a huge fan of a big outing or major to-do on the holiday, but I think any day designated to tell the people you love just that can’t be all that bad.

In addition to a silly card and a bag of the hubby’s favorite candy (anything peanut butter and chocolate) I usually plan a nice meal in for us to celebrate. One year that involved my Mustard Glazed Lamb – and another year that involved us ordering pizza. It is what you make it people.

This year I have a special little treat – which I won’t divulge quite yet since I have a good hubby who reads my blog – but I’ll have to share it with y’all next week. Too fun.

Anyways – obviously I try out a lot of new recipes on my husband. Some good. Some not. Some “meh” – but I always look for an honest response from him on whether or not I should put it in our regular rotation.

Well a few weeks ago, I tried a new recipe from Cooking Light and it was pretty good. The next week I found myself with some ingredients to use up and figured I’d make the same recipe again with some modifications. It must have been better the second time around, because the hubby took a bite and said “Whoa, tell me about this one!”…like he had never had it before. It certainly made me chuckle, but it also made me smile that I didn’t have to coax out an opinion. Clearly, this one was a keeper – just like the Mr. (Awwwww).

Plated Pork Chops

Give it a try and let me know what you think! It’s pretty easy to throw together and the time it spends in the oven gives you time to clean up, assemble sides, etc.

Orange Mustard Glazed Pork Chops (Serves 2 – 8 WW points/serving)

Original recipe from Cooking Light found here.

Ingredients

2 6 oz. boneless lean pork chops, trimmed

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp. orange marmalade

1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 red onion cut into chunks

1 Tbsp. dried rosemary (or 4 fresh sprigs)

1/2 tsp. canola oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

In a small saucepan, whisk orange juice, marmalade and mustard together. Bring to a boil, reduce slightly and cook about 10 minutes, allowing it to thicken.

While sauce is heating, season your pork chops with salt and pepper on each side. Add oil to an ovenproof skillet and heat to medium. Cook chops 5 minutes. Sprinkle with rosemary turn and add onion wedges. Pour the sauce over the chops into the pan and bake 10-12 minutes until cooked through.

Glazed Chops - Add Sauce

Plate chops and spoon sauce and onions over top. This is great with some roasted veggies and any sort of potatoes or bread.

Orange Mustard Glazed Pork Chops

Hope y’all have a great weekend…and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Hot and Sour Soup

So I’m learning that in order to shrink my waistline, sometimes it means I have to expand my horizons.

That thought deep enough for you?

I am one of those people who likes variety. Sure, we all have our foods that we say we could eat every day (although I really do feel that way about popcorn) – but how practical is that? Variety truly is the spice of life. In order to have fun with cooking and losing weight, I love to come up with new things to try or finding new ways to cut caloric-corners…like using fiber cereal as breading in my delicious Buffa-faux Chicken Tenders. I am just not one of those people who can eat grilled chicken with a side of lettuce every day – I would be completely miserable – and this is cooking on the bright side people!

A few weeks ago, my husband happily  came with me on a post-holiday shopping adventure. We grabbed lunch  at a place neither of us had tried before – an Asian place called Stix. I settled on my sushi and he was going with some noodle-based dish, but he asked if I liked Hot and Sour Soup since it only came made for 2, so I agreed to try a little.

Y’all, it was straight up delicious! How has it taken me so long to try this? The husband said it was one of the best he’d had and I loved the flavor! I have always been a Won Ton Soup girl – but I may be a convert now.

So clearly, I needed to try my hand at making this new-found favorite! I looked online for some recipes but some of the ingredients just seemed like too much to deal with – until I stumbled upon this beauty from “The Bald Chef” – it seemed perfectly easy to tackle! I substituted and modified a few of the ingredients but it still has that balance of spice and sour with plenty of protein from the chicken…and okay, the tofu – which graced my kitchen’s presence for the first time ever! Give this one a try and let me know what you think.

Hot and Sour Soup (4 servings / 6 WW points per serving)

Adapted from The Bald Chef’s recipe found here.

Ingredients - Hot and Sour Soup

8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. white pepper

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced

3 oz. canned Bamboo shoots

3 Tbsp. Sambal Oelek (Chili paste – you can also substitute Chili Garlic Sauce)

5 oz. firm tofu (if you can find “light” – go for it, but it wasn’t offered at my store)

1 egg

4 oz. Rice Vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 green onion, chopped

Begin by cubing chicken breast. Add soy sauce and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. I used that time to prep the rest of my goodies!

Prepped and Ready

Heat the sesame oil in a medium saucepan and add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes before adding chicken breast. Stir chicken and cook 4-5 minutes over medium heat.

Sprinkle chicken with white pepper and pour in chicken broth. Stir in mushrooms, bamboo and chili paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook 10 minutes.

Cut tofu into cubes and add to the soup, along with the vinegar. Bring back to a low boil.

Step by Step - Hot and Sour Soup

Whisk your egg in a small bowl. Pour into the soup in a steady, circular stream. The point here is to cook the egg to thicken the soup, but not have it all in one lump. Once you have poured it, whisk it slightly to incorporate.

Mix 1/2 cup water with your cornstarch and pour into the soup. Whisk and cook another 3-5 minutes over medium heat.

Serve hot and top with green onions.

Hot and Sour Soup - Overhead

We each had one bowl and were satisfied – but this would be great paired with some vegetable fried rice, orange chicken, chili-mango shrimp or stir-fry shrimp. A little home-made take out for a quiet night in!

Hot and Sour Soup

Hope y’all have a great weekend!