One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta with Spinach and Sweet Sausage

A RECIPE! I promise I’m gonna try ya’ll. Last year was full of transition. This year shouldn’t be unless God wants to send the bearded, huggable, Jesus loving man I always ask for, and there would be no arguments there! Therefore I should be able to establish some writing, posting, taking pictures of food (oh wait, I never stopped doing that) patterns. Kinda sorta made this dish up for last night’s dinner, and it was a hit! The roommates loved it, it’s pretty healthy for a creamy pasta dish, it was REALLY filling, and it was EASY! I see a new obsession coming with one pot concoctions.

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta with Spinach and Sweet Sausage

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: less than an hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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Inspired by: this recipe, but I changed it/added to it LOTS

Calories per serving: 427 for 8 servings / 570 for 6 servings (via MyFitnessPal)

Ingredients (in order of usage):

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons of refrigerated minced garlic (or 8 cloves of garlic minced)
  • 2 packages of chicken apple sausage, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons light butter (I used light I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
  • salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, italian seasoning
  • 1 lb pasta (I used Barilla Campanelle, but you can use any)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth (I used chicken bouillon or chicken base + water to make my chicken broth)
  • 2 cups of skim milk
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat parmesan (this kind, not the fancy kind, it blends better into sauces)
  • 1 10oz bag of spinach

Directions:

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a big stock pot (you’ll need it to be high for when you add the spinach). Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add sliced sausage and saute until browning on the edges. Add all seasonings to taste, probably a teaspoon of each is what I did if I had to guess, maybe a little more for the salt and italian seasoning and a little less of the pepper. Add butter and stir until melted. Add pasta and let it get coated in the yummy stuff. Add milk and broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes then reduce heat to medium low. Should be softly bubbling just at the surface. Stir frequently and let simmer for 18-20 minutes or until pasta reaches desired al dente consistency and sauce is thickening. Add parmesan and stir until combined. Add spinach and stir until wilted and combined. DONE! Dinner in 30 minutes.

*How about a MyFitnessPal recipe calculating tip! It’s SO easy to put recipes into MyFitnessPal to figure out calories/track them. If you find a recipe anywhere online, you can actually put the link into MFP from the web or from the app. From the web: on your dashboard page click food, then recipes, then copy and paste the link into recipie importer. You can take away the ingredients you aren’t using, change ingredients like 2% milk to skim milk, and add ones you are, change serving size, etc. From the app: click more, my recipes and foods, the add symbol in the top right corner, then add from the web. You can do the same adding and changing from the app. You can also start from scratch in both and make your own recipe. In the app you can even scan the barcode of the exact ingredients you are using. Just make sure for all ingredients you select the correct portion size, like for pasta in this one I had to select whole container. IT’S SO EASY!

Chicken Florentine Pasta

I gave you a salad recipe and I just must give you a companion recipe to go with it! I’m nice and OCD like that. Salad is probably my favorite thing to eat with pasta. Probably because pasta is so high in points and it needs a super low point side. And there is something about the combination of something heavy and something so light and fresh. 

Chicken Florentine Pasta 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of whole wheat penne
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt, pepper and Tony’s to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Brummel and Brown butter
  • 3 teaspoons refrigerated minced garlic (or 4 cloves minced)
  • 1 1/2 fat free chicken broth
  • 1 bag baby spinach (6-8 ounces)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved length wise
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, shaved with vegetable peeler

How can you go wrong with grape tomatoes and fresh Parmesan? Go fresh! It’s the best way.

Directions: 

Cut up chicken into bite sized chunks and season with salt, pepper and Tony’s. Heat olive oil over high heat and add chicken chunks.

While chicken is cooking start your pasta.  Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. Drain and set aside. You can also salt and pepper your tomatoes at this time and shave your Parmesan. Multitasking!

Let the chicken brown on one side and then turn it to brown on the other. About 5-7 minutes on each side. Once done, remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Increase heat to medium, add butter and garlic, and stir quickly so it doesn’t burn. After a few sizzling seconds, pour in the chicken broth and stir to deglaze the pan. Allow the mixture to bubble and reduce heat to medium low. Allow the mixture to reduce by half, it should still be bubbling, just not heavy boiling.

Turn off the heat, add spinach, salted tomatoes, chicken, and pasta to the pan. Toss to combine. Add the Parmesan and toss more. Tomatoes will get warm and cozy. Spinach will get wilty and perfect. Serve with extra Parmesan shavings if desired.

Yields about 7 cups of pasta. Each 1 cup serving is 10 points for a filling hearty pasta. A good BIG meal to serve to other people. It makes much.

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Roasted Asparagus Penne with Balsamic Butter

I highly, highly recommend this meal! I am a meat eater. I love it. I love meat. However, I do try to incorporate vegetarian meals in my planning every other week. It seems like a healthy and right thing to do. 
A dish must be pretty fantastic and noteworthy for me to not really miss the meat. I can fake it, but usually, I am quite aware it isn’t there. This dish definitely made me forget about meat. 
I lightened it quite a bit by using a whole wheat penne, yogurt butter, olive oil spray, and reduced fat Parmesan. Oh my, it’s good! Asparagus was on sale in my neck of the woods too. You could also do roasted broccoli if you don’t like asparagus or it’s not in season.

Roasted Asparagus Penne with Balsamic Butter

(recipe inspired by a less healthier version found on Pinterest)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • olive oil cooking spray (I use Great Value)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 lb whole wheat penne (I use Great Value)
  • 1/2 cup Brummel & Brown yogurt butter
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat Parmesan cheese
Directions: 
Preheat oven to 400. Wash the asparagus and snap the hard ends off. (Tip: Softly bend the asparagus spears towards the bottom, there will be a natural give against where the good part and the hard end meet and it will easily break off.) Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Spray with olive oil cooking spray about 5 times. Toss in spray and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

While that cooks, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer and reduce until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Remove from heat. At the same time your pasta can be cooking. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done, about 11-13 minutes. Drain the pasta and return to pot. 
Toss the pasta with the butter, vinegar mixture, roasted asparagus, Parmesan, and remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt. Top with the chopped green onion tops and additional Parmesan. 
Yields 7 servings of 1 1/4 cup portions. Each serving is 8 points. Serve with salad. I made a quick chopped salad with diced pears, sliced strawberries, romaine, and a light sesame salad dressing.

Chicken and Broccoli Noodle Casserole

If you’ve been following, you know that one of this week’s meals was Skinnytaste’s Chicken and Broccoli Noodle Casserole. Oh my goodness was it good! I served it to four RAs and myself for one of their birthdays this week. They all LOVED it. They had seconds and thirds and raved about it the entire time. I even got a few more comments from the eaters the next day. You know you made a good meal when people still talk about it days later.

Chicken Broccoli Noodle Casserole
adapted from skinnytaste.com

With some basic ingredients and a little effort you can have a yummy, filling, impressive casserole. It’s a creamy casserole with absolutely NO cream of anything canned soups. I only changed the recipe just slightly. I used skim milk instead of 1% and Great Value whole wheat extra wide noodles instead of the more expensive brand. The other changes were minor as well and just based on my personal preferences. I’ll write the recipe with the changes I made, but please see the above listing for the original.
I make my own bread crumbs from lower calorie bread, freeze them, and always have them on hand for recipes.

Doing a little prep work the night before or on your prep work day is a great way to make this meal take less time to prepare. Things you can do before: make bread crumbs, make chicken stock, make shredded chicken and pre-measure it out, and chop onions to keep on hand for recipes. 
I used the shredded chicken I made on meal prep day on this recipe. I also rely on my good scale OFTEN! 

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Great Value extra wide whole wheat noodles
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (I used the jarred kind)
  • 14 oz bag of frozen broccoli
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium sweet onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour 
  • 1-3/4 cups fat free chicken broth
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 12 oz cooked shredded chicken breast
  • 4 oz shredded reduced fat cheddar (I used half sharp, half mild)
  • cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs
Directions: 
Cook noodles in salted water until soft with a little bite. Drain and set aside. Noodles will cook in the oven too, so under cooking them just slightly is okay. Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a skillet. Add garlic and cook on medium heat until golden brown. Add frozen broccoli and saute with oil and garlic until broccoli gets soft and a few sprigs are just barely turning brown. Set aside. In another skillet heat butter until melted. Add minced onion and a little salt to sweat the onions, cook until translucent and soft. Add flour. Cook 2-3 more minutes coating onions in the flour. I like to multitask to minimize time, so I was cooking noodles, broccoli, and onions all at the same time. I recommend doing it that way, but if it stresses you out do it at your own pace and own way. 
Add chicken broth to the onions and flour. Whisk in slowly. Stir in milk and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese and 1 tbsp of the parmesan cheese. Mix until cheese is almost completely melted. Add the shredded chicken, broccoli and noodles. Stir until everything is coated and pour into a sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with remaining parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Spray cooking spray lightly on top and bake for 25-30 minutes. 
I always have to think really hard about sides for dishes like this. Casseroles often have everything in them! Starch, veggies, dairy. Steam in the bag veggies can be great side dishes if you doctor them up a bit. I served this with two additional veggies, one starchy and one green. I made steam in the bag corn with a tablespoon of yogurt butter, a little salt, a good bit of fresh cracked black pepper. I also made steam in the bag brussel sprouts. I quartered them after they cooked. That part is a little hot, but just do it fast! It’s worth it. People will like brussel sprouts if you chop them up a bit. I sauteed them in some yogurt butter and added Tony’s with a heavy hand (I love that stuff!).

I didn’t calculate the points for my version, but it would be equal to or less than hers since I used skim milk. Her recipe is 8 points for 1/6th of the recipe. 

Zucchini Noodle "Alfredo" Lasagna

So, I’m not sure if technically speaking we can call this lasagna. I am a nerd and looked up to definition. Lasagna does specifically refer to the pasta, BUT other people call it that so we can too!

I was inspired by a friend who tried something similar, the fact that I had a HUGE fresh zucchini from my Pawpaw’s garden and Hungry Girl’s recipe. I pretty much used her recipe as a big base and made it my own. I used sun dried tomato basil laughing cow cheese wedges instead of just the swiss. I didn’t use any noodles at all. I used cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I added ground turkey instead of mushrooms and spinach (because it’s what I had). Lastly, I topped it with just Parmesan and no mozzarella (because I didn’t have any).

So I give you what I’m calling…

Zucchini Noodle “Alfredo” Lasagna

Ingredients with points:
4 sun dried tomato laughing cow cheese wedges (4) or substitute any of the low fat Laughing Cow varieties
1 cup FF cottage cheese (3) or can substitute 1 cup fat free ricotta (5)
3/4 cup fat free sour cream (3)
1/4 cup egg beats (1) or can substitute 1/4 cup liquid egg whites / 1/4 cup egg beaters (1)
1 lb ground turkey (24)
6 tbsp reduced fat grated Parmesan topping, divided (6)


“Free” ingredients:
1 extra large zucchini or 3 small zucchini, end removed
1 medium vidilia onion
2 small bell peppers (I used 1 yellow and 1 green)
2 tsp. chopped garlic, divided
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp pepper, divided
1 tsp Italian seasoning


Directions:
Preheat oven to broil on low. Slice zucchini. I used my mandolin on the thin setting slicing length wise. You can also cut it in half widthwise, and then slice each half lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick strips. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and begin broiling zucchini slices in batches to get a lot of the moisture out. 


While zucchini is broiling add thinly sliced onion, bell pepper, and 1 tsp of garlic to a heated pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray (if you aren’t counting points like I am, you can use olive oil, just be aware it will rise the nutrition facts). I added a couple of tablespoons of water to help the veggies cook down. I also sliced my onion and bell pepper on thin with my mandolin. You can also chop them if you’d like. I just like how pretty the round thin slices are. Add 1 tsp of Italian seasoning and sprinkle with salt. Add lean ground turkey. I used 85/15 BUT I rinsed it with warm water after to get the extra oil out. Drain (and rinse if you didn’t have the leanest meat) and set aside. 


In a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg beater (or egg whites), other tsp of garlic, oregano, basil, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Stir in ground turkey and set aside. To make the sauce, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine sour cream with cheese wedges, breaking cheese wedges into pieces as you add them. Stir in 2 tbsp. Parm-style topping, remaining 1/8 tsp. salt, and remaining 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Microwave in 30 – 45 seconds intervals, stirring in between until very warm. Stir until smooth and set aside. 


Change oven temperature from broil to 425. Spray an 8″ X 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray. Blot your zucchini slices to remove any excess moisture. Evenly place 1/3rd of the cooked zucchini strips on the bottom. Spread half of the cottage cheese-turkey mixture on top. Evenly top with a thin layer of zucchini, followed by 1/3rd of the sauce. Repeat layering with the same amounts of zucchini, cottage cheese-turkey mixture, and sauce. Evenly top with remaining zucchini, followed by remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 4 tbsp Parm-style grated topping. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until bubbly and cheese starts to brown.

You can add salt and pepper to taste if you’d like. I served it with a side salad. 




6 servings / 7 points a serving!

Makeover Madness

Say hi to everyone new madeover pretty-in-pink blog! I She says hi. She… Hmm. Its name was Mitch though, so it was a he. I guess we’ll have to rename it. Oh, I know! Her name will be Julie. Because I often feel like Julie from Julie and Julia. For obvious reasons (our mutual love for cooking and writing), and because oh too many times have I found myself sitting on a floor crying like a crazy lady like she does often in that movie. Pink is much more me. As is talking to Julie and not Mitch. I’m not very good at that whole talking to boys thing. So I hope you like the, much more appropriately me, makeover.

And speaking of makeovers, my kitchen received a small makeover that might not seem like a very big deal to most people, BUT it was huge and exciting to me! My favorite co-worker who is much more than a co-worker, she’s become a very close friend, says to me just casually, “Oh yeah, I brought my Kitchenaid mixer for you. I never use it. You can have it.” I almost fell out of my chair and jumped up and down and squealed all at the same time! THE Kitchenaid mixer. The one that every Food Network chef has. The one I’ve wanted for 5 years but never bought because it’s way too expensive for me to talk myself into buying for myself. So now it sits beautifully in my VERY humble little kitchen, making it shine a little brighter. I’ve already order the Mixer Bible and Kitchenaid Best Mixer recipes. Can’t wait! And of course I will be sharing them all with you.

And speaking of makeovers… again, as wonderful as the Meatloaf of Awesome was, after eating it for dinner Sunday, lunch Monday, dinner Monday, and as a meatloaf sandwich for lunch today… I was meatloafed out. And it was a new cooking day (Sundays, Tuesdays, Fridays). I love every single one of my precious pennies and the food they go to buy and hate to waste anything. And there was quite a bit of meatloaf and mashed potatoes left. So, when I am -insert food-ed out, I try to make the meal over. But, I found myself in a quagmire (always looking for reasons to use that word). How do you makeover meatloaf other than meatloaf sandwiches? Well… shepherd’s pie of course! I cut it into small chucks and then used my handy slap chop to mash it all up. I pressed the mashed up meatloaf into an itty bitty casserole dish, sprinkled a thin layer of frozen peas atop, and then topped with the left over mashed potatoes. Lid securely in place and into the freezer it went! I am thinking it will be a yummy surprise if I need a quick fix meal! And it’s good for two more meals! I love stretching meals and pennies as far as I can make them go!

Tonight’s scheduled meal was borrowed from my friend Carrie Tassin! She posted it on facebook with a picture and it looked super yummy! I had to try it! I only very slightly made it over (also knows as making a few changes due to what I had, but in keeping with the theme we’ll call it made over).

Penne Macaroni with Peppers and Grilled Chicken
(changes or extra tips and comments will be noted like this)

13.25 oz Heartland Whole Wheat Penne (Used a box of Great Value brand Whole Wheat Penne)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 c sweet onions, diced (Used a whole onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz basil, chopped (Used about 2 tbsp of Italian seasoning)
1 c chicken, grilled and sliced into strips (Used 2 uncooked chicken breasts cut in small chunks)
1 c roasted red bell peppers, diced (Used 1/2 each of fresh green, red, and orange bell peppers)
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c Parmesan cheese (If you use the shaky kind you put atop spaghetti, the good kind is so much better for recipes like this! It’s by the cream cheese in the cold section in a little tub.)
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

* Cook Penne according to package directions.
* Heat olive oil in large skillet on med heat, add onions and garlic; cook until onions are transparent. (I also added my uncooked chicken. It’s way too hot for me to use my grill.)
*Add basil, chicken and red bell peppers. (Added Italian seasoning and bell pepper assortment, chicken already added.)
* Cook 2 more minutes.
* Add chicken broth (at this point I also added just a little bit of cream, about 2 tbsp. I wanted to add a little more consistency to the sauce, but not make it all fatty. Just a little pour to give it a bit of a white color but still the same thinness) and hot, drained Penne to skillet and toss together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
* Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper as needed.
*Serve immediately.

I also made a salad to complete the meal. I used romaine, lots of grape tomatoes halved (trying to use them before they go bad), a diced green onion, 1/4th of a cucumber diced, 1/4th of a bell pepper diced, croutons, cranberries, sliced almonds, 2 crumbled boiled eggs, the rest of my feta (maybe like 4 tbsp) and carrots. Random carrot tip you can take or leave… I hate A. chopping carrots and B. biting into big pieces of carrot. Any way you slice or chop carrots, unless you finely juliane them, is too chunky for me to bite into in a salad. I love biting into a carrot by itself or to dip, but I hate biting into it in a salad. It disrupts the flow of salad to me. Crunch is good, but not super hard crunch you can’t even poke with your fork! And have you ever tried to chop a carrot quickly? They shoot everywhere! Just not a fan of it. BUT I do love the flavor of carrots. So take a handful of baby carrots or carrot chips or if you have big carrots cut them into a few smaller pieces and put them in my handy electric mini food chopper/processor. Press the button a few times and you get little carrot pieces! They are chopped in less than a minute, no one’s eye was put out by flying carrots from chopping them, and they just make more sense and fit the salad and its parts better.

I have an overwhelming urge to get a makeover now… Maybe just a pedicure.