Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spaghetti Squash the Fat Carbonara

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

In honor of Leap Day, I thought I would celebrate with something a little unusual.  Spaghetti Squash Carbonara.  Traditionally, this classic italian dish is typically made by smothering fettuchinne pasta with a rich sauce made from bacon/pancetta, egg yolks, butter, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. According to, the Cheesecake Factory's Pasta Carbonara with Chicken was voted one of the unhealthiest restuarant meals in America.  The dish weighed in with 85g of artery-clogging saturated fat! Another example is the Olive Garden's Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara, which has:
1,440 calories
3,000 mg of sodium
88 g of fat
38 g of saturated fat.

My dish adds fiber and nutrients while drastically slashing the fat content. It replaces pasta with spaghetti squash, removes the egg yolks completely, adds healthy nuts to keep things interesting, and and replaces fatty pancetta with  turkey bacon.

Spaghetti squash contains omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3's help prevent heart disease, cancer and inflammation.  Omega 6 fatty acids promotes brain function. In addition to being rich in fatty acids, spaghetti squash is also rich in beta carotene, which is beneficial for people with insulent resistance.  Some studies are now revealing that spaghetti squash is good for prostate health as well.

Walnuts help reduce problems in metabolic syndrome (high blood fats, high blood pressure, inadequate HDL cholesterol, and obesity), host a variety of anti-cancer benefits, and contain Omega-3 fally acids.

1/2 spaghetti squash
canola oil cooking spray
2 slices turkey bacon
1/4 medium white onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 T walnut halves, chopped
2 T parmesan cheese
dash of pepper, salt, red pepper flakes
1 T fat free milk (optional)
aluminum foil


Preheat oven to 400.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half (use some elbow grease, kids!), and remove the seeds. Lightly coat the cut side with the cooking spray.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Lay squash, cut side down, on the tray. Roast for 20-25 minutes.  Turn the squash over (cut side up), and roast another 20 minutes.

Shred squash and set aside.

Meanwhile, slice bacon and onion.  Sautee in a skillet over medium heat until bacon is crisp, and onion is translucent.

Add garlic and additional seasonings (red pepper flakes, salt, pepper).

In a smaller skillet, lightly dry toast walnuts (no oil in pan). Be careful not to burn!

Chop walnuts and add half into the skillet.  Add squash into skillet and mix all ingredients together.

If you like your "pasta" to be creamier, add the 1 T of milk and stir.  If not, leave it out!

Add 1/2 parmesan cheese. Mix and remove from heat.

Place "pasta" on plate, or serve it in the squash "shell."  Top with remaining walnuts and parmesan cheese. Serve & enjoy!

Serves 1

WW information
4 pt+

Inspired by Health-Bent's Primal Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Big (Won't Make You) Fat Greek Quinoa Salad

Laura's Greek Quinoa Salad

This was my first time having quinoa.  I heard so much about this "super food," that I had to try it out for myself. 

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a nutritional power house...literally!

1) Protein Powerhouse--quinoa has more protein than wheat, barley, or other major grains. Quinoa also contains all 8 of the essential amino acids.

2) Healthy Diets--it is satisfying, low in cholesterol, and a good source of complex carbs. What does that mean? It's rich in fiber, provides long lasting energy, and is slowly digested. Basically, it will help you to avoid the snack machine around 3pm.

3) Brain food--quinoa provides 15% of the recommended daily allowance of iron, which helps deliver oxygen to the blood--boosting energy and brain power. Quinoa also has vitamin B, which keeps your brain sharp and helps to maintain stable moods. 

See... now you don't have any excuses to have "brain farts." Eat some quinoa!

The amount of garlic you use in this dish will depend on who you are trying to keep away from you.  Don't worry, it isn't strong at all.

1/2 cup uncooked red quinoa
1 cup water
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
6-7 kalamata olives
2 oz reduced fat feta cheese
1 yellow, orange, or red bell pepper
1 medium cucumber, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
2 lemons, juiced
1 T italian seasoning
1-2 tsp salt free garlic/herb seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced

Pour water in a sauce pan and add quinoa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Chop all veggies & add to a large bowl. 

Add quinoa into bowl. Mix well.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt free garlic/heb seasoning & pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together.

Add olives & feta cheese to salad mix. Add italian seasoning and garlic. Pour dressing over mixture. Stir well.

Divide into individual containers for easy grab n' go lunches.

Note: I let mine sit in the fridge over night. The flavors "really got to know each other," and it tasted divine. Enjoy!

Serves 3 (about 1 1/4 cup servings)


Serving Suggestions--make it a complete meal w/ some grilled chicken, tuna or even tofu!

This recipe was inspired by  A Girl and Her Carrot Quintastic Spring Salad

It's All Greek to Me Chicken Burger

Greek Lemon-Feta Chicken Burger
Greece is one of my favorite places on the planet.  I love all things Greek-- Food. Dancing. Culture. Movies. It's all good in my book.  This little burger adds all of the fun flavors found in Greek cuisine...lots of citris, oregano, and of course FETA CHEESE!

Lemons are good for pucker up! No, just kidding...

On a serious note, here's some cool facts about lemons:

1) They fight infection (they help produce white blood cells and antibodies)
2) Studies show that they act as an anti-carcinogenic, lowering rates of colon, prostate, & breast cancer
3) Makes your skin glow!
4) Lowers blood presure & increases levels of HDL (good cholesterol)

1/4 lbs ground, extra lean chicken breast
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp italian seasoning
garlic (about 1 clove, minced)
pepper (and salt, if desired)
1 1/2 T reduced fat feta cheese
1 light wheat bun
1 tsp olive oil
canola cooking spray, aluminum foil
assorted fixins'

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix chicken, lemon, lemon zest, spices, garlic together in a bowl.

Add olive oil & feta cheese.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with canola cooking spray. Place burger on baking sheet. 

Bake 25-30 minutes.  (You can grill these, if you wish!)

In the last few minutes of cooking, place bun on tray to lightly toast.

Assemble burger with all of your favorite fixins & enjoy!

Serves 1

WW information:
7pt+ (includes bun)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chipotle Salmon w. Southwest Cream Sauce

Hot peppers are good for you! Even better news? They can help burn fat.  "Hot peppers" include the following: Cayenne, Chipotle, jalapenos, habaneros, and Ancho chili peppers.

Hot peppers have capsaicin--better known as "hot stuff" in the pepper. The capsaicin helps to burn fat by consuming energy (fat). For the record, I'm not saying you need to eat a a peck of pickled peppers, like Peter the Piper. Everything in moderation! However, adding some spice here and there into your diet can help boost your fat burning potential.

The capsaicin in hot peppers can also act as an anti-inflammatory [think ibuprofen & asprin], naturally relieving headaches, migraine symptoms, and can even reduce swelling associated with arthritis. 

Not a fan of spicy food? Well, what can I say? You'll be uber prepared in case this is ever a Jeopardy question.

Chipotle Salmon w. Southwest Cream Sauce

4 oz filet of wild salmon, skin on
1 tsp olive oil
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
2 tsp of salt free southwestern chipotle rub (I used Mrs. Dash)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 T reduced fat whipped cream cheese (I used Weight Watchers)
1 T skim milk
1 T parmesan cheese grated
1 garlic clove, minced
fresh pepper
up to 1 T of water
canola cooking spray (i.e. PAM, etc)
aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 400

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with canola cooking spray.   Lay salmon filet on the foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Rub the fish with 1 tsp of the southwestern chipotle seasoning.

Place in oven, cook 20-30 minutes. The length of time depends on your preference. I tend to get nervous with fish, so I cook it closer to 25-30 minutes. Don't worry, it won't dry out!

Meanwhile gently melt the cream cheese in a small sautee pan over low heat.  Gradually whisk in milk.  Once fulled incorporated, stir in lemon juice.

Stir in chipotle pepper, garlic & remaining southwestern seasoning. Stir & let simmer for a few minutes.  Add in desired amount of black pepper & 1 T parmesan cheese.  If sauce is thicker than you would like, add water to thin it out.

Remove salmon from oven. Take a spatula and place between skin and fish.  The skin should stick to plan and easily detach from filet.

Serve filet over salad greens and drizzle sauce on top.

Serves 1

WW: 8p+

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Baked Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Everybody loves chicken. There must be a million ways to make it! Chicken is a great source of protein, provides protection from cognitive disease like Alzheimers, and is full of cancer-protective nutrients. This recipe uses chicken breasts, but chicken thighs are a good alternative...just remember to remove the skin from the chicken, and you will drastically cut down on the fat! 

This recipe was adapted from Weight Watchers Online. I tweaked it a little bit for my personal taste.  As the name suggests, it's a twist on lemon chicken.  Kids, this one is easy-peasy, and most importantly, tasty!

Baked Lemon Rosemary Chicken
canola cooking spray
1 lbs of uncooked skinless, boneless chicken breasts (either 4 breasts, or 2 split in half)
1 lemon
1-2 tsp salt free chicken seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
      **if you don't have this, mix the following together: garlic powder, onion powder, oregano,rosemary, thyme, basil, & paprika**
black pepper
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
parsley flakes
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Spray 9x13 glass dish with canola cooking spray
3. Season both sides of chicken breasts with pepper, and place in dish
4. Sprinkle salt-free chicken seasoning over each breast, and drizzle with olive oil.
5. Zest the lemon, and sprinkle over chicken evenly. Juice the lemon and pour over zest.
6. Remove rosemary from stalk, and roughly chop. Divide rosemary equally over each breast. Follow with parsley
7. Pour chicken broth around the sides of the chicken, coating the the bottom of the dish.

8. Bake until chicken is fully cooked--about 30-35 minutes.
9. Serve immediately, spooning sauce over chicken breast.

Serves 4

WW information:
4p+ per breast

Based on Weight Watcher's Baked Chicken

Choco-Nana Blueberry Oat Bread

Banana bread. So many variations...nuts, no nuts, chocolate, etc. Did you know that the banana bread at Starbucks packs in 410 calories, 19 grams of fat (4 saturated), and 55 g of carbs? We all know that the serving size isn't worth making yourself into a chunky lil' monkey, right? 

I know the title is a mouthful....a mouthful of deliciousness!!!  I've been making this bread for a while now, and I can't wait to share it with you. The basic recipe came from WW online, but I ended up "changing this and adding a little of that." My mom likes to say that I never follow recipe, but just make it better. She's right.  Once I was finished, the result was something totally different, yet still healthy & delicious.  You can eat this warm or cold, although I suggest eating it warm so the chocolate gets all melty!

Here's the lowdown:

Bananas: They contain trytophan, which can help improve your mood. They are high in iron, which improves hemoglobin function. Nanners' are also high in fructooligosaccharide (say that 10 times fast...go ahead, I'll wait...) Anyway, this compound helps our bones absorb more calcium and helps promote healthy bacteria in our digestive system. These are just a few of the many benefits of eating bananas. (

Blueberries: They rank the highest of all fruits for antioxidants, and are high in vitamin C. (webmd)

Dark Chocolate: I'm not saying you should clean out the grocery store. Everything in modern, kids.  Research shows that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, and is potent with antioxidants.  Sounds like a good excuse to eat chocolate to me. (webmd)

Steel Cut Oats: All oats are NOT created equal. Rolled oats are the most common, but they often have additional ingredients added to them. Steel cut oats do not have any additives, and are only cut two or three times before being sold. They can help to promote stable blood sugar, as well as lower cholesterol.

Choco-Nana Blueberry Oat Bread

2/3 cup whole wheat flour (you can use all purpose if you don't have whole wheat)
1/4 c light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1/2 cup steel cut oats (or whatever oats you have)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened frozen blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 bananas, mashed.
canola cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Spray a baking dish (8x8) with canola cooking spray.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, oil, egg & egg whites, oats, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda.
4. In another bowl, mash the bananas until it makes a gooey mixture.  Add banana mixture & cinnamon to large mixing bowl.

5. Roughly chop chocolate chips/chunks--but not too small!  Fold into mixture.
6. Carefully mix in blueberries.  If you are too rough, your bread will end up being blue....which might be cool, you never know!
7. Pour into greased 8x8 dish
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


WW information
8 servings--3p+
12 servings--2p+

Inspired by WW's recipe for Banana Oatmeal Bread

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Buffalo Queso Chicken Burgers


Lately I've been craving burgers...and hot wings. When a friend of mine mentioned that she made buffalo chicken burgers, I knew that she was on to something good.  I started to think about this concept, and I decided that it needed some ooey-gooey cheese. Yes, it needed queso inspired cheese, but not on the top. Instead, I wanted it inside so it didn't get all over my hands. I mean really, who likes getting the contents of their burger all over them? Not this girl. Here is my delicious little food creation

Note: this recipe uses queso quesadilla cheese. If you can't find "hispanic cheese"...whatever that really can use asadero, cheddar, mozzarella, or even low fat blue cheese. Whatever makes you happy!

Buffalo Queso Chicken Burgers

1/4 lbs ground extra lean chicken breast
1 tsp salt free southwest chipotle seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
1 T buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's RedHot Buffalo sauce)
1 1/2 T hispanic queso quesadilla cheese (I used Kroger brand)
1 lite wheat hamburger bun
any fixins' that makes your stomach giggle

1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, spray with canola cooking spray
3. In a mixing bowl, lightly toss ground chicken, southwest chipolte seasoning and wing sauce.
4. Take 2/3 of mixture and make a patty. Create a small dip in the center to hold the cheese.
5. Place queso quesadilla cheese in the middle.
6. With the remaining chicken mixture, create a small "top" to place over cheese. Seal edges so cheese doesn't escape!
7. Cook 30-35 minutes.
8. In the last 3-5 minutes, place bun on tray and warm through.
9. Assemble with any desired topings. I put some more wing sauce on the bun with baby spinach, onion, & alfalfa sprouts.

*You could grill these, if you want to. I just didn't want to pull mine out :)
Serves 1 --serve with spicy sweet potato fries & steamed broccoli (or other veg)

If you want to make more than just 1 serving, just double/triple/etc the recipe!

WW: 6p+ (includes bun)

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes are the red-headed step child of veggies.  They are one of natures unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene--just like pumpkin!

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

1 small/medium sweet potato
1 tsp salt free southwest chipotle seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
canola cooking spray, aluminum foil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

2. Scrub potatoes really well if you are leaving the skin on. Slice potato into fries, according to your desired thickness, shape, etc.  Place in a mixing bowl

3. Add southwest chipotle seasoning & EVOO over fries. Mix well.

4. Line sheet pan with aluminum foil. Spray with PAM/canola spray.  Arrange fries in a single layer

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning half way through cooking time.

Serves 2
WW: 3p+ per serving; 6p+ for everything

(before baking)

Waffles w/ Ricotta & Fruit

A lot of people are creatures of habit when it comes to breakfast. Why not switch it up?  This recipe is tasty, healthy and FAST.  It comes together in minutes--literally in the time it takes to toast a waffle. 

This recipe uses ricotta cheese. Basically, ricotta cheese & italian food are BFF's.  It can be found in ravioli, cannolis, lasagna, manicotti, even pizza.  The word means "recooked" in Italian.

Why use it? Here are 3 good reasons why to incorporate part skim ricotta into your diet:

1) Calcium: Per 1/2 cup of ricotta, you will get 258 mg of calcium--that's 26% of your daily recommended value! (

2) Protein: Per 1/2 cup, ricotta cheese delivers 14g of protein. Protein is essential to repair our tissues, as well as help to build and maintain muscle. (  After all, no one wants to look like a noodle!

3) Fat: No, not the kind that sticks to your tush. We're talking Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids! This is important because our bodies cannot naturally produce these fats, so we must get them from food! These fats boost brain development & function, and regulates blood pressure. (

Waffles w/ Ricotta & Fruit

2 whole grain blueberry waffles (I used light Kashi blueberry)
2 T part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit mixture (I used a mixture peaches, strawberries, grapes, mango & pineapple from Kroger)

1. Toast waffles as directed on package. If you feel adventurous, you can make your own waffles.

2. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta and splenda. 

3. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over waffles

4. Top with fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

WW: 5 p+ for both waffles

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eggplant, Brie, Pepper & Pesto sandwich

Say that 10 times fast. Just kidding.

I had some eggplant left over after making the Eggplant parmesan the other day, so I started brain storming.  Lately, I've been trying to do 1-2 vegetarian days a week, just to cut down on meat consumption. This is the product of trying to come up with a tasty, yet vegetarian lunch.

Eggplant, Brie, Pepper & Pesto Sandwich
2-3 thin slices of eggplant
1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t Mrs. Dash garlic & herb salt free seasoning
1/4 sweet bell pepper, sliced (red, yellow, or orange)
1 oz low fat brie cheese
1 T pesto
1 100% whole wheat sandwich thin (I used Kroger brand)

1. Turn on broiler.  Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Lay pepper & eggplant on the pan. Brush with evoo (both sides) and sprinkle with Mrs. Dash seasoning.

3. Broil for 5 or so minutes and turn. Broil another few minutes. Watch them so they don't burn!

4. Spread 1 T of pesto over each side of a 100% whole wheat sandwich thin. Lay pepper & eggplant on top of one side of the sandwich thin.  Place sliced brie on top.

5. Return to broiler and melt.

6. Place other half of sandwich thin on top.  You could also eat this open-faced.


Serves 1

Note: Always be sure to compare the point value of the specific products that you use. Some of the sandwich thins are higher in points!

WW: 7p+

Laura's Buffalo Broccoli & Chicken Mac n' Cheese

In honor of the recent Super Bowl, I decided to do a "sports" inspired recipe.  I honestly only watch the game for the food that comes with it.  My favorite? Buffalo wings!!! However, I didn't want a million wings hangin' around my kitchen.  My solution? I decided to mix the buffalo wing flavor with another food that I really love--macaroni and cheese.  However, macaroni and cheese is often a recipe for danger. Did you know that the Mac n' Cheese meal at Friendly's weighs in at 2,270 calories, 109 grams of fat and 3,320mg of sodium?  According to MSNBC, that's the equivalent of eating 46 Dunkin Donut munchins. Now, how is that FRIENDLY?!

The north meets the south in this recipe, and makes a tasty little creation. I've made substitutions to make it healthier without ruining the flavor. I also added broccoli to up the nutrient content. Enjoy it!

Laura's Buffalo Broccoli & Grilled Chicken Mac n' Cheese

3 T light butter
1/2 pound 100% whole wheat penne (you can use macaroni if you want)
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1/2 onion, finely chopped
6 oz Tyson grilled & ready grilled chicken strips, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup, plus 2 T Frank's Buffalo Wing Sauce
1 T all purpose flour
1 1/2 t dry mustard
1 1/4 c skim milk
1 1/2 cups mixed cheese (I used equal mixtures of reduced fat cheddar, part skim mozzarella, and queso shredded cheese)
1 t Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle salt free seasoning
1/3 c reduced fat sour cream
2 T reduced fat blue cheese dressing (I used Litehouse Blue Cheese w/ Kefir)
canola cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray 9x9 baking dish with canola spray. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add pasta & broccoli, cooking for about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Melt 1 1/2 T of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent (5 minutes). Stir in the chicken, garlic, and wing sauce. Simmer until slightly thickened.

3. Melt remaining 1 1/2 T butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour & dry mustard, making a roux. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the skim milk, and then add in the remaining 2 T wing sauce. Stir until thick--about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chipotle seasoning & pepper.

4. Slowly add in the cheeses, and whisk in the sour cream until the sauce is smooth.

5. Spread 1/2 of the penne/broccoli mixture into the bottom of the 9x9 (even8x8 pan will do, but will be full). Spread all of the chicken mixture over the pasta. Spread the remaining pasta over the chicken mixture. Pour cheese sauce over the dish.

6. Top with the blue cheese dressing. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve as is, or with a spinach salad.
Makes 6 servings--8p+ each

Inspired by this Food Network Recipe: Buffalo-Chicken Macaroni and Cheese