Money Matters: Fettuccine with Tomato-Cream Sauce + Weekly Menu

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I am not a name-brand shopper (unless we’re talking about purses). As a coupon novice, I’ve learned a thing or two couponing my way through one of my new favorite stores – Kohl’s.

I’m sure most women have or will find themselves in the “young adult” clothing predicament where the ladies sections may be too matronly and the juniors section too immature. Add to that predicament of mine a very formal work dress code, it makes it very difficult to find tops that can be worn both in professional life and personal life. In short, I haven’t found much success and because I spend more time at work than anywhere else, I have been focusing on expanding my professional wardrobe more so than my personal.

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Regardless of which wardrobe I’m shopping for, however, I love a good deal. Kohl’s has lots of good deals and so…I love Kohl’s. Last weekend I scored big and ended up with several bright colored tank tops that can be layered at work with a blazer (or worn out in the summer), a pair of jeans, a blazer, two cardigans, a flow-y top, and Mr. Prevention got a few things, too.

We paid not that much…and got $40 dollars in Kohl’s cash (“money” to spend at a later date)!

So…we returned this weekend and I got a new paid of Asics in my hard-to-find 7 1/2-wide size. After a 15% off coupon and my Kohl’s cash, I paid a whopping $3.53 for brand new running shoes!

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We then proceeded to Carson’s where we both scored big again and used a $50 off a $100 purchase coupon. I can almost see where bargain shopping is addicting…

I wish addiction that would translate into my food budget, but all things considered, we do really well keeping food costs down while still eating super healthy. Much of that starts with cooking at home and finding inexpensive ways to create basic convenience foods, such as prepared sauces.

At $1.17 per serving, this meal is smart shopping (and smart eating!)…and no coupons involved ;)

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Fettuccine with Tomato-Cream Sauce from Cooking Light

8 oz uncooked fettuccine 2 tsp olive oil 5 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 tsp salt 1 (28o z) can crushed tomatoes 3 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade 1/2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

Directions:

Cook pasta in 4 quarts boiling water for 8 minutes or until noodles are almost al dente. Drain pasta through a sieve over a bowl.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes or until very fragrant and tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt and tomatoes; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture is boiling. Add cream cheese; stir until smooth.

Add pasta and red pepper; cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente, tossing to coat. Serve with basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Information (per serving): 345 calories; 8.8 g. fat; 18 mg. cholesterol; 713 mg. sodium; 56.3 g. carbohydrate; 5.5 g. fiber; 13.5 g. protein; 10.5 g. sugar

Result: Surprisingly sweet – I think I would add more crushed red pepper next time. Mr. Prevention really enjoyed this meal, as did I. Ready in 20 minutes or less, this is a perfect weeknight meal that I have to assume would be a hit with kids. Plus, it’s very affordable!

Money Matters: Pasta is extremely affordable at about $1.00/lb ($0.50 for 8 ounces), along with the canned tomatoes – $1.29 for a 28 ounce can. Cream cheese is roughly $0.29 per ounce ($2.30 per package) so the cream cheese adds $0.86. Fresh herbs can be nearly free if you grow them at home, but purchased are roughly $1.00. Parmigiano-Reggiano is expensive at ~$17/lb, however one-half ounce is a mere $0.53. The remaining ingredients account for approximately $0.50. The total cost of the recipe comes to $4.68 and $1.17 per serving.

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Weekly Menu: February 24 – 28th

 No real plans today…and I love that :)

Be well,

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Crock Pot Vegan Black Bean Soup

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Last night was heavenly. Mr. Prevention and I purchased a new, rather large, LED TV for our bedroom. I snuggled into bed in my new Cubs onesie (um, no joke) at 9:30, watching Shipping Wars and flipped through a new cookbook my sister-in-law got for me — The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes. I have a lot of sticky notes on pages and pages of recipes I want to try.

I am steadfast in my belief (knowledge!) that vegetarian meals are not only more wholesome in that they include more vegetables, but are also lower in cost than most meaty or fishy fare. I have no plans to omit meat or seafood from my diet…I just don’t think I could do it, but I love having go-to recipes that are chock-full of 100% good-for-me ingredients.

Enter: Crock Pot Vegan Black Bean Soup.

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My mom and I were just talking about flavors and how important it is to flavor foods properly. If you don’t enjoy a recipe, consider first the flavors that you like and/or don’t like before shelving the idea all together.

We all have preferences, and in case you hadn’t noticed, I love ingredients such as cumin and cilantro for their boldness and versatility. Both of these same ingredients were used in the Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burgers I posted just a few days ago. The best part about finding spices and herbs that you love is that they are essentially calorie-free and contain fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that you can’t get from just any food. I can’t wait to start growing herbs in my AeroGarden. Hopefully it will work since winter has finally killed off my outdoor herbs!

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I’ve been wanting to make black bean soup for a really long time. I knew I wanted to use dried beans and the crock pot. From there, I consulted a few recipes and pulled from each what appealed to me most. The beauty is this soup is that you can add, or not add, whatever you wish. Similar to the Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burgers, I may add a chipotle in adobo sauce the next time I make this soup — I just love those peppers and all their packed-in heat and spice!

Cuddle up with a bowl of this and a big piece of crusty Italian bread…it may just be the best decision you make all winter long!

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Crock Pot Vegan Black Bean Soup adapted from Food.com and Noreen Cooks

1 lb dried black beans 1/2 red onion, diced 1 green bell peppers, diced 2 jalapenos, diced 2 tsp cumin 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder 1/4 tsp thyme 1/2 tsp oregano 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper 2 bay leaves 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 6 cloves garlic, minced 28 oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Directions:

Soak the beans in 1-2 quarts of water overnight at room temperature.

Drain the beans and combine all ingredients in a large crock pot, stir well. Cover and cook on HIGH for 9-12 hours. Stir before serving hot.

Yield: ~10 cups (varies with cooking time)

Nutrition Information (per cup): 123 calories; 02. g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 295 mg. sodium; 26.1 g. carbohydrate; 6.7 g. fiber; 7.2 g. protein

Result: As a lover of black bean soup I am thrilled to find a simple soup that is not only made in the crock pot, but that is also vegan and gluten-free. This soup really couldn’t be any easier to make. Be sure to leave 1-2 inches at the top of your crock as this soup does get hot and boils some. I love the long cook time that I can throw this in and not worry about throughout the day. I was skeptical about my crock on HIGH all day long, but it was perfect! Serve this with some cilantro and crusty bread. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything as delicious or healthy! Packed with fiber and protein with virtually no fat. This soup may be the perfect healthy, low-calorie winter meal!

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 TGIF! It’s hard being at work when so much of the hospital is still on holiday vacation!

P.S. Be sure to “Like” Prevention RD on Facebook for post updates there! Lots of good stuff coming with the new year…you don’t want to miss it!

Be well,

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Meatless Monday & Money Matters: Channa Masala

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Food service management is such an unpredictable business. You’d think a hospital cafeteria would err on the side of healthy, but that’s not always what sells best. Fortunately and unfortunately, at the end of the day…you have to provide what sells and the consumers drive that decision.

Just prior to starting my job in July, the hospital had gone trans fat-free. While that is one huge step in the right direction, there are still other fish to fry (no pun intended), like saturated fat and sodium. Goodness gracious is the sodium content OUTRAGEOUS in so many prepared foods. Most soups START at 1,000 milligrams per CUP and go up from there. Oy vey.

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But we’re working on it…one day at a time. Great tasting food that’s good for you…it’s the name of my game. Until we’ve revamped completely, at least consumers know what they’re eating because I calculate the nutrition facts each day and post them for all to see. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink…

Starting in the next few weeks, we’ll be purchasing much of our produce from a local farm and distributor that purchases as locally as possible and during the warmer months, grows and sells its own yield to large scale operations, such as hospitals. The prices are great and I’m proud to support local agriculture and those who grow closer to home.

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This week, we’re also trying something new on the menu — Indian food! We’re serving up Chicken Tikka Masala, basmati rice, and naan. I have no idea how it will go over, but I know that the hospital will smell of the potent and wonderful flavors that are also included in this dish. If you THINK you don’t love Indian food, you’re probably mistaken.

I tend to think that will be the initial impression of our employees tomorrow when they see something so very new to them on the menu. At which point we will offer up some tastes and make Indian food converts all over the place. I have a lunchtime mission tomorrow!

This dish serves up all that I love about Indian — the flavors and spice, but in a new, vegan recipe. While Mr. Prevention begs for chicken when I make Indian, he didn’t complain about this for even a second. Definitely a keeper Indian recipe that tops nutritional charts for a very affordable cost. Enjoy!

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Channa Masala adapted from A Little Yumminess by Cheese Curd in Paradise

1 Tbsp olive oil 1 medium onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated 1 jalapeno pepper, minced 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander 1 Tbsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp cayenne (less if you like things mild, or omit all together)
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1 (15 oz) can whole tomatoes, with their juices
1/2 cup water
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 oz baby spinach
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno and sauté over medium heat until softened and beginning to brown, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and juices. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, covered on low heat. During the last 5 minutes of simmering add the baby spinach and salt.

Yield: 4 servings (~1 heaping cup each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 181 calories; 4.5 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 473 mg. sodium; 27.0 g. carbohydrate; 8.3 g. fiber; 7.3 g. protein

Result: Quick, simple meal with a ton of flavor. There’s something about Indian spices that is incredibly versatile and this is the first time I used spinach in Indian cuisine – I loved it! The chunks of tomatoes was a great contrast to the grainy, bitty chickpeas. This vegan meal is incredibly affordable, and if able to get past the crazy names of spices, this is a dish that anyone could throw together. I served this over basmati rice with a small piece of naan. Delicious and reheated beautifully!

Money Matters: This recipe is incredibly cheap! Cans of tomatoes run $0.70 on sale and beans $1.19. Spinach from CostCo costs $0.20/oz — $0.60. The spices are actually the biggest cost, especially if you don’t keep them on hand. For those who love, and make, Indian food at home, however…spices are very affordable, especially if you purchase them in bulk. One of my favorite places to get spices is an a place in Seattle that sells online – Market Spice. Great prices and great products! I will (over) guesstimate $2.00 for spices and $0.20/tablespoon of olive oil. Onions in bulk come to $0.50-0.60 each. The jalapeno and garlic are inexpensive ingredients ($0.30 total) with the ginger root costing $1.99/lb — about $0.17. Excluding rice, the recipe comes to $5.66 and $1.42 per serving!

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Happy Anniversary to my mom and dad!! :) Love you!

Work, our last family cooking class in this 5-week session, and then hockey!

Be well,

Money Matters: Spanish Potato and Spinach Tortilla with Red Pepper Sauce

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I had a lot of trouble sleeping Wednesday night….I was nervous to speak about my blog to a group of dietitians yesterday. I was glad to hear the group would only be about 20…but I was still incredibly nervous.

Nicole, you used to lecture to college students for hours on end, multiple times a week…you got this.

It was fine, the presentation went great. As it ends up, I am the expert on the topic of MY blog (duh).

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People asked great questions and I even got to meet Emilie, a reader of my blog — so neat! Hi Emilie!

When I was done with my presentation, I asked if anyone was considering starting a blog and I was THRILLED to see several hands go up. Some women even stayed afterwards to run their ideas past me and swap contact information for future endeavors, blogging and nutrition-related.

Networking is powerful stuff and I am always up for widening my pool of colleagues within the field.

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During my presentation, I had one particular slide that received quite a few head nods of approval and agreement. The head nodding was most noticeable when I mentioned my “Money Matters” series and the fact that one of the goals I have for my blog is to help people understand that eating well doesn’t have to be expensive.

This recipe is kind on the pocket book and perfectly timed after yesterday. It doesn’t get more economical (or healthy!) than this meal!

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Spanish Potato and Spinach Tortilla with Red Pepper Sauce slightly adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 cup (3 oz) bottled roasted red bell peppers, rinsed and drained 1 Tbsp (1/4 oz) dry-roasted almonds, coarsely chopped 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided 1/8 tsp ground red pepper 1 garlic clove, crushed 8 oz red potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into (1/8-inch-thick) slices 1 cup water 2 Tbsp half-and-half 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 8 large eggs 2 large egg whites 3 cups baby spinach leaves

Directions:

Preheat broiler to high.

Combine bell peppers, almonds, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper, and garlic in a food processor; pulse until smooth. Set aside.

Combine the potatoes and 1 cup water in a skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 4 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Drain.

Combine half-and-half, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, eggs, and egg whites in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Heat a 12-inch ovenproof or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potatoes to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Add spinach; sauté for 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add egg mixture to pan; cover and cook for 4 minutes, gently shaking pan occasionally. Broil tortilla 4 minutes or until top is lightly browned and center is set. Cool slightly; serve with red pepper sauce.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 187 calories; 12.5 g. fat; 248 mg. cholesterol; 374 mg. sodium; 8.2 g. carbohydrate; 1.3 g. fiber; 11 g. protein

Result: I don’t know why this is called a tortilla…I would call it a frittata…but, whatever! The end result was good and Mr. Prevention-approved. I don’t think the egg “tortilla” itself had the wow-factor, but the Red Pepper Sauce was delicious — I love the addition of almonds and I actually knocked the garlic back just a bit. Because the garlic is raw, it is very strong, and I would’ve preferred it be more mild. This was quick, easy, would use up leftover potatoes perfectly, and can double as breakfast or dinner. Enjoy!

Money Matters: The roasted red peppers were on sale for $2/jar (I used about half). Eggs are ~$1.50/dozen ($0.13 each — $1.25). Spinach from CostCo was $7 for 2.2 pounds ($0.20/oz — $.50). Potatoes ($0.59/lb) came to $0.30 for 8 ounces and almonds ($7/lb) totaled $0.44/ounce and $0.11 per tablespoon. The remaining ingredients, including the olive oil, total ~$0.60. The total cost of the recipe comes to $3.76 and $0.63 per serving.

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 TGIF! Work, holiday party #2 for work, and grabbing a drink with a coworker! :) Happy weekend!

Be well,

Money Matters: Slow Cooker Jambalaya + Weekly Menu

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We had Thanksgiving last night with my family so we can put Thanksgiving 2012 in the books. Neither meals were overly gluttonous for the occasion, but after that small slice of pecan pie last night, I became anxious for the upcoming week. I enjoy meal planning, exercise, and vegetables. It’ll be good.

It is needed.

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I have a confession to make.

Yesterday, Mr. Prevention and I attended the University of Illinois vs. Northwestern game. Of course, the temperatures dropped between Thursday and Friday and we spent much of yesterday in the 30 degree windy city watching Illinois drop to Northwestern, 50-14. Brutal.

By half time, I was hungry. I ventured out to survey my options and they were basically nachos, hot dog, popcorn, soft pretzel, or Cracker Jacks. I chose Cracker Jacks — they sounded good. But then, I saw that someone had come back to the bleachers with a…FUNNEL CAKE! I shelved the Cracker Jack idea and called Mr. Prevention who was wandering around the stadium to check out the funnel cake situation for me. He came back with one. And albeit small, I finished…more than half of it. Lunch was served. Tisk, tisk.

(It was so good and I can’t remember the last time I had a funnel cake!)

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I got to planning my weekly menu and have plans to rectify the misbehaving that has been going on since Thursday. With the busy week ahead, I am looking forward to more quick meals, such as this. Last week, it was all about the crock pot and I was so happy to throw this together the evening before and drop it in the crock pot before heading out to work. I can chop and assemble ahead of time, no doubt.

To make this a super quick meal ready within minutes of returning home, use leftover rice or instant rice. I actually used long grain brown rice and it required 40-45 minutes of cooking, but I used that time to get in my workout and we were still eating before 6:30pm — a major accomplishment in our house. Clean-up was a breeze and this was reheated great. Oh, and it’s healthy to boot!

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Slow Cooker Jambalaya adapted from Cats and Casseroles, and originally, All Recipes

12 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces 12 0z chicken andouille sausage, sliced 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice 1 onion, chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped 2 stalks celery, chopped 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth 2 tsp dried oregano 2 tsp dried parsley 2 tsp Cajun seasoning 1 tsp cayenne pepper* 1/2 tsp dried thyme 1 cup dry brown rice

Directions:

Place all ingredients except rice in slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-10 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.

Cook rice according to package instructions. Stir rice into jambalaya and serve hot.

Yield:8  servings (1 1/2 cups each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 228 calories; 4.4 g. fat; 51 mg. cholesterol; 553 mg. sodium; 19.9 g. carbohydrate; 3.1 g. fiber; 18.8 g. protein

Result: Simple meal, extremely healthy, and this was prepped the night before and dropped in the crock pot in the morning. I cooked this 10-11 hours in the crock pot with no issues, so that was a bonus. The meat was tender and flavorful and this had lots of heat. If you prefer milder dishes, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne*. This recipe captured the flavors of jambalaya while being lean and a good source of fiber. Enjoy!

Money Matters: The andouille sausage is the most expensive ingredient at $4.49/package (12 ounces). Chicken costs $3.99/lb ($3.00), green bell pepper ($1.00 each), onion ($0.60), celery ($0.14/stalk), rice ($0.55/cup) and tomatoes ($1.69 for a large can) make up the majority of the cost. The spices account for roughly $0.85 and the broth $0.50/cup. The cost of the recipe comes to $12.96 and $1.62 per serving.

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Three of 4 meals contain spinach, but I’m pumped about this week’s menu! I’m continuing with the quick & simple meals!

Weekly Menu: November 25th – 29th

 This week is workout & veggie time! I have hockey tonight, tomorrow, and Tuesday :)

Be well,