Sunday, January 26, 2014

Skinny Spinach and Pesto Lasagna Rolls with Chicken Sausage

I love lasagna as much as any other fat, orange house cat, but there's something about making the dish that is an ordeal. So many layers, such a long baking time, and with all those noodles, even if you try to make a healthier lasagna, you're still going to get hit with a calorie bomb. That is why I love the lasagna "roll ups" that have been blowing up on Pinterest. So much quicker to assemble and, with less pasta per serving, you get a lower calorie dish with much more emphasis on the delicious, cheesy filling part (also known as the good part) compared to it's cousin, lasagna. 

On my take here, I add some lean protein by way of chicken sausage and sneak in some leafy greens with steamed spinach. 

You'll need:
  • 8 sheets of lasagna 
  • 15 oz part skim ricotta 
  • 2 tbs pesto 
  • 3 links italian chicken sausage, crumbled 
  • 8 cups spinach steamed - fresh or frozen is fine
  • 1/2 cup part skim shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup parmesan 
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara
Calories: 250 calories per roll

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Boil and cook the noodles as you normally would over high heat. Meanwhile, get some mise en place going. Break apart the chicken sausage with your hands. Steam the spinach. Stir pesto into ricotta until they are evenly mixed. I just toss the pesto into the ricotta container to save from cleaning an extra dish. Dish cleaning reduction is one of my primary goals in any recipe.

Set yourself up so you have an assembly line of ricotta and pesto, crumbled chicken sausage, and steamed spinach. Spray a pyrex pan with olive oil and begin assembling your rolls. Lay out the rolls one at a time in the pan and first spread on about 2 heaping spoonfuls of the ricotta pesto mix. Then, sprinkle on the chicken sausage on top of that. Add some spinach on the very top and roll the stuffed lasagna noodle from one end to the other into a spiral roll. Repeat until you've got them all laid out in the pan.

Top the rolls with marinara sauce, spooning the sauce over one roll at a time so it's evenly distributed. Repeat with shredded mozzarella cheese and finish off the dish with a sprinkling of parmesan. 

Pop into the oven for 25-30 minutes.

You'll know it's done when the cheese is getting browned and the sauce is nice and bubbly. Serve with a side salad and a big ol' glass of vino because, damn it, you earned it!

At 250 calories a roll, with plenty of lean protein, low fat dairy, and hidden veggies, feel free to shovel  these into your face without much guilt. Continue to hate Mondays. That's what the wine is for.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chicken Verde Soup with Kale and Avocado for 250 calories

Yes, it's  been awhile. Yes, I self admittedly spent the last few months of 2013 not cooking much at all, and eating a bit too much of things that aren't great for me, and not thinking of each meal at home as a potential blog post, and generally letting myself focus on friends and family and work and relaxing. And it was FAN-FRIGGING-TASTIC. But it's a new year, a clean slate, and I'm refreshed, recharged, and happy to be back in the kitchen.

After the holidays, I think we all find ourselves craving all things fresh and green (or at least know we ought to start slowly reintroducing those food groups to our diet), so this soup is a great way to shovel a bunch of super foods into your mouth while only getting one pot dirty. This is also paleo and keto friendly if you're following one of those religiously after your New Year's resolution kicked in.

You'll need:
  • 1 tbs olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1/2 medium onion (yellow preferred) 
  • 1 tbs chopped jalapenos
  • 4 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (500 cals)
  • 12 oz salsa verde 
  • juice of one lime 
  • 4 cups of kale 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika and/or cayenne pepper
  • PLUS 1/2 an avocado for slicing, per bowl/serving

Makes about 6 large bowls
125 calories each without avocado, 250 calories with 1/2 an avocado added

In a large pot for which you have a cover, heat up the olive oil over medium high heat until the pan feels hot when you hover your palm over it. Add in the minced onion and garlic and cook until they begin to soften. Then, add in jalapenos (I used jarred, fresh is OK, too!) and stir for about 10-20 seconds, until fragrant.

Pour in the chicken broth and bring the mix to a boil. When it's at a boil, drop in your chicken breasts, whole and uncooked, and lower the heat down to medium to keep it bubbling but not at a full roiling boil. Cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes, or until breast is cooked through.

Pull out the breast, and set the chicken aside to cool for a couple of minutes so you can shred it. In the meantime, pour in the salsa verde and lime juice and keep the pot on simmer. Add salt, pepper and seasonings to taste (see suggested amounts in ingredients list, but feel free to tweak to make it as spicy and smokey as you'd like) and let that simmer as we return to the chicken.

Shred the chicken once it is cool enough to do so, and add it in the pot along with the kale. Turn the heat up a bit to medium, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. You should at least get it back to a boil at some point during the final cooking period. The broth should have an even consistency and the kale should be softened.

Serve with a half of a sliced avocado for a serious power food punch. The soup is only 125 calories a serving without the avocado, but the avocado adds some much needed additional texture as well as a boat load of nutrients and good fats to keep you full, all for still around 250 calories, depending on the size of your avocado.

This is a great recipe to make on a Sunday and then bring in for lunch at work all week. It's almost like a salad but, you know, warm and not bleak in the middle of winter.