Meatless Monday & Money Matters: Baked Lemon Pasta

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July 9th, here we are. My first day at my new job as Director of Nutrition Services.

I’m excited and nervous, but also a bit sad that all daytime fun with Lily and the beach will have to be postponed to weekends. I’m not sure who will slip into a deeper depression over this fact, she or I.

But, it’s back to the grind…a more exciting grind, however. As expected, sleep was minimal last night. Thank goodness I had the coffee pot ready to go and my outfit picked out. :-D Though my commute is nearly free of traffic, I’m going to allow plenty of time. Admittedly, I tend to not be so punctual at times. (Ooops.)

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I’m glad that we were able to have visitors for the 4th this past week. One of those people being Kristen, best friend x25 years and counting. To say I know this girl is quite the understatement, but I must say, her taste buds are changing. She surprised me with quite a few things during her visit.

What I do know about Kristen is that she loves pasta and she loves lemon. She actually adds lemon to just about everything. Literally. I like lemon a lot, too…especially with pasta. While I couldn’t wait for Kristen’s arrival to try this dish (too darn anxious!), she did enjoy the leftovers. She is infamous for raiding the kitchen of leftovers and eating them straight from the dish with her (clean) fingers. Kristen believes this pasta is great not only leftover, but also cold.

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There’s absolutely nothing special about this dish other than its classic flavors. They are simply the best and very refreshing with the citrus punch and comforting cheese.

I did quite a lot to slim down this recipe. The original version calls for 4 tablespoons of butter (I reduced to 2) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil (which I omitted). I also swapped out sour cream for a 2% plain Greek yogurt that can offer up the tang and consistency of sour cream, while packing in those healthy bacterial cultures that are so healthy for your gut, along with added protein and less fat. And of course, I used a whole wheat pasta for the fiber and added nutrients.

Just be sure you don’t skip out on that finishing touch of one final squeeze of lemon juice…it makes this dish!

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Baked Lemon Pasta slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks and I Was Born To Cook

1 lb whole wheat spaghetti 2 Tbsp unsalted butter 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 large lemon, juiced and zested 2 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2 oz (1/2 cup) pecorino romano cheese, grated 1/3 cup parsley, chopped extra lemon juice, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a skillet over low heat. Add garlic, then lemon juice. Turn heat off, then add yogurt and stir to combine. Add lemon zest and salt, and taste to adjust salt if necessary. Pour mixture over pasta and stir, then transfer to an oven safe dish if needed.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 8-10 minutes, making sure not to dry out pasta. Remove from oven and add extra lemon juice, cheese and parsley.

Yield: 8 servings (about 1 heaping cup each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 294 calories; 7.9 g. fat; 10 mg. cholesterol; 302 mg. sodium; 44.4 g. carbohydrate; 6.1 g. fiber; 13.8 g. protein

Result: Simple flavors. This is some sort of summer comfort food. All the comfort from the pasta and cheese with all the flavor from the lemon. I love the short ingredient list and the fact that this “slimmed up” so well. If you’re looking to make this a meat-lovers meal, I would serve with with some grilled chicken or shrimp skewers. To keep it veg-friendly, a salad or veggie side is perfect! Enjoy!

Money Matters: The Greek yogurt is the most expensive ingredient – $1.50/cup and the cheese is the second most expensive ingredient at $0.95/oz. The pasta can be found on sale for $1.20/lb. Lemons are about $0.60 each and the remaining ingredients come in around $1.10. The total cost of the recipe comes to $7.80 and the cost per servings is $0.98.

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First day jitters! Here we go! :)

Be well,

Money Matters: Parmesan Tilapia

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My mom recently got a bike. They live in the city and my only memory of her on a bike was the time she ran into a parked car, many, many years ago. The car sustained no injuries. Her ego, however, didn’t fair quite as well. Its probably taken her nearly 20 years to decide bike ownership is, once again, something she’d like to pursue. So, my dad got her a bike for Mother’s Day and her birthday and she talks about it a lot. She also uses it a lot as her work and the gym, the two places she travels to the most, are each no more than 3 blocks away.

At lunch yesterday, she was telling us how in the wee hours of the morning as she was heading to the gym, there were 2 hooded “boys” that were under the viaduct, blocking the entire sidewalk. “Show no fear!” she said, and describer herself, on bike, continuing to bike right at them, all just-over one-hundred pounds of her. She said they parted and let her through at the last second, but I thought that was pretty fearless of her.

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I am not nearly as brave. Yes, I play ice-hockey in 20 pounds of padding and a helmet…but riding my bike straight through two men in the dark, no thanks! I’m also not brave when it comes to cooking certain things. Tilapia being one of them. Plus, I had kind of decided I didn’t like tilapia…maybe because of how I was cooking it?

Maybe I should start a new blog series, “The foods I thought I hated”.

As I was taking inventory of all that was in Ohio and in need of being eaten, I groaned out loud when the depths of my freezer revealed not one…not two, but THREE bags of frozen tilapia filets. We served tilapia as one of the entrees at our wedding…we like(d) tilapia, but it’s fair to say this tilapia was probably on sale and we had learned that tilapia can be a bit…boring. Salmon – throw it on the grill and hand me a lemon slice. Tilapia – it needs some jazz.

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This recipe has come across my Google Reader a LOT, which in and of itself says something. But, I’m not one to take others’ opinions all too seriously if it’s a food I’ve grown a distaste for. For the sake of not wasting food, I got brave and tried tilapia.

And…IT. WAS. DELICIOUS! Truly delicious.

Better yet, Mr. Prevention asked, “How long did dinner take!?” totally impressed by the taste. Because I’m all about quick meals and the end result, not the impressive (or unimpressive) means of getting there, I proudly reported, “Ten minutes, start to finish!”

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Parmesan Tilapia originally from Mrs.B.Cooks, as seen on and adapted from The Way to His Heart

1 lb tilapia filets (about 4)
1/4 cup (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried Italian seasoning
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Directions:

Pre-heat the oven broiler (500-550 F). Line a baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients (except fish). Mix well and set aside.

Arrange tilapia filets in a single layer on baking pan. Broil a few inches from heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the filets over and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Remove from oven and cover top side of filets with Parmesan cheese mixture. Return to broiler and continue cooking, 1-2 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

Yield: 4 tilapia filets.

Nutrition Information (per filet): 182 calories; 8.5 g. fat; 6 mg. cholesterol; 313 mg. sodium; 0.8 g. carbohydrate; 0.1 g. fiber; 25.5 g. protein

Result: Best fish recipe in a long time…best tilapia recipe ever! I think this is a must-make and PERFECT for a quick meal with loads of flavor. You could certainly use the same method with any type of fish, but I think the flavors are perfectly suited for a white, mild-flavored fish. Enjoy!

Money Matters: Tilapia is an eco-friendly, super healthy, and affordable fish – usually about $6/lb. Parmesan is usually $12-16/lb for the good stuff (~$0.95/oz). Butter is roughly $0.11/tablespoon and the remaining ingredients add up to ~$0.35. The cost per recipe comes to $7.52 and the cost per serving $1.88!

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Sleeping in a BED was nice last night. The days of an air mattress are getting a little old! Off for a relaxing day in Chicago!

Be well,

Money Matters: Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa, Corn, and Green Chiles

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I survived the final trek from Chicago to central Ohio…but just barely. I dare say there’s not a more boring drive than across northern Indiana. The only blessing is that Fort Wayne has a speed limit of 70 mph and I’ve never seen a cop in the vicinity. On the plus side, I did get THREE HOUR of grading completed. Thanks for taking the wheel, hubs.

Lunch was veggie straws and peanut butter-stuffed pretzels. I also stole a bite of Mr. Prevention’s very, very disappointing peanut butter gas station cookie. Needless to say, I am ready to return to “normal”. Veggies, who?

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I ate well in Chicago. Too well. My mom is a great cook and Chicago is packed with some of the best restaurants around.

Other than those white chocolate and caramel pretzel pancakes I talked about, there was cajun mac’n cheese, calamari, scallops, ribeye, deviled eggs, antipasto, breakfast casserole, raspberries, the best margaritas ever a la Mama Prevention, and a selection of Sam Adams. Not all in one meal, but the weekend was…delicious.

Despite my injury, I managed an 18 mile bike on Saturday, a 3 mile walk on Sunday, and yesterday Lily got 2 walks. During walk #2 back in Ohio, I thought it might be time to give my ankle and running a trial run. No pun intended.

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At 9pm last night, it was STILL so muggy and hot that it felt like 90 degrees. In May. Oy.

I set out with my tunes and had a great 2 mile run. It was sweaty and I felt like a gazelle! I didn’t move like a gazelle at my 10:20 min/mile pace, but it felt great and I would say my ankle is 90% improved. I think I will alternate with the elliptical, biking, and running for another week just to be safe, but that run was a great kick off for the week ahead. I have lots of great meals planned that are healthy and light, just like this one.

I have a new found appreciation and LOVE for quinoa. My first few experiences with quinoa were very…underwhelming. Since that time, I’ve landed upon numerous recipes that I simply adore…this being one of them. These were so flavorful and even Mr. Prevention-approved!

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Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa, Corn, and Green Chiles slightly adapted from Cooking Light

2 poblano chiles 2 cups fresh (~4 ears) or frozen corn kernels 1 cup (about 1/2) onion, chopped 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (1/2 lime, juiced) 3/4 tsp salt, divided 1 tsp ground cumin 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 5 large ripe tomatoes 1 cup uncooked quinoa 1/4 cup water 1.5 oz (1/3 cup) part-skim colby-Jack cheese, shredded

Directions:

Preheat broiler to high (500 F).

Cut the chiles in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place chile halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel chiles. Coarsely chop chiles; place in a bowl. Add corn and onion to pan; broil 10 minutes, stirring twice. Add corn mixture to chopped chiles; stir in oregano, oil, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cumin, and black pepper.

Cut tops off tomatoes. Carefully scoop out tomato pulp, leaving shells intact. Drain pulp through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract liquid. Reserve 1 1/4 cups liquid (if you don’t extract 1 1/4 cups, sub in water for the remaining liquid), and discard membranes and seeds. Sprinkle tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Invert tomatoes on a wire rack while preparing the filling.

Place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse well; drain. Combine reserved tomato liquid, quinoa, 1/4 cup water, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Add quinoa mixture to corn mixture; toss well.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spoon about 3/4 to 1 cup corn mixture into each tomato (use your hand to cup the tops and mound the stuffing in the tomatoes). Divide cheese evenly among tomatoes. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil the tomatoes 1 1/2 minutes or until cheese melts.

Yield: 5 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 296 calories; 7.8 g. fat; 6 mg. cholesterol; 416 mg. sodium; 49 g. carbohydrate; 6.2 g. fiber; 10.8 g. protein

Result: What a treat! These are a bit labor intensive, so if you’re short on time, save this meal for a weekend. That said, I made these ahead of time and just baked them when I got home that night. Making these over the weekend and heating them on a weekday make them a very quick meal. Surprisingly, these reheated pretty well, too…in the microwave and the oven. Mr. Prevention was very apprehensive about these, but he loved them. These pack some heat with the poblanos (I think my peppers were spicy for poblanos) and that combined with the cumin and corn…mmmm! So good! Enjoy!

Money Matters: Quinoa costs ~$2/cup and the tomatoes were on sale for $0.99/lb (about $3 total). This time of year, take advantage of the tomato prices! Poblanos run $1.99/lb and there are about 5/lb ($0.80). I used frozen corn at $1/12 ounce bag, but the corn was on sale this week for $0.15/ear ($0.60). I will estimate at $1 for this recipe, however. Half an onion comes to $0.30 and the remaining ingredients about $1.10. The total cost of the recipe comes to $8.20 or $1.64 per serving.

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 Here’s to a healthy (short!) week ahead!

Be well,

Money Matters: Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan

bakedquinoaparm2Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk charting away on some of my afternoon patients. Even though my office is right off the clinic floor, it remains pretty quite within my four walls.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a “feeling” that something isn’t right. That happened yesterday afternoon. I got up, walked out my office door, and there was a code blue going on. Right. There.

bakedquinoaparm1Someone was already on the phone with 911 and the staff was grabbing the crash cart.

It was scary. And a bit surreal - I had just been talking to the patient 5 minutes earlier.

Within minutes, there were 2 ambulances and a fire truck and 12 (yes, 12) firemen and paramedics in our clinic. Because I am not “direct patient care”, my job is to be sure the other patients stay calm.

Well, my job was easy. All but one patient slept through the entire ordeal. Chest compressions. Talking AED’s. The whole 9 yards. Just snoozin’ away.

bakedquinoaparm3The one patient who was awake…she was taking pictures of the paramedics and firemen. “I love a man in uniform!” she said. To see a 79-year-old take photos on a cell phone of paramedics tushies certainly lightened the air. I was able to laugh about it later…pretty hard. Our office clerk even joked with the patient, handing her a tissue and joking with her to wipe up the drool on his chin. Too funny.

As for my patient, he’s okay. Phew.

What does this story have to do with Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan? Absolutely nothing other than being  truly memorable like the code blue yesterday. This dish, however, is sure to keep your heart healthy and your pulse regular and strong.

bakedquinoaparm4Chicken Parmesan, in all of its Italian inauthentic glory, is a weakness of mine. What’s not to love about cheesy chicken and tomato sauce served with pasta? Not…a…thing. This dish encompasses all that I love most about chicken parm with far less guilt (none at all, in fact!), lots of nutrition, and a kind price tag. Moreover, it is gluten-free, carb-controlled, high-fiber, and packed with protein.

Dinner for under 350 calories and less than $2 per serving is certainly memorable. But don’t take my word for the taste…you should make that memory and have it last for yourself. Mmmm!

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Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parmesan ever so slightly adapted from Elly Says Opa

1 Tbsp olive oil 1 medium onion, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce 1 (15 oz) can no salt added diced tomatoes 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes basil and oregano, to taste (I used about 1/4 cup total) 1 cup quinoa, uncooked 2 cups water 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 cup (4 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided 1 oz parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano, shredded 2 Tbsp breadcrumbs (optional, exclude to make gluten-free)

Directions:

Fill a pan with 1-1 1/2 inches water. Season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and add chicken. Cover and allow to simmer for 5-6 minutes. Flip over the chicken and cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Remove from water and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a large baking dish with olive oil spray.

To make the sauce, heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the oil. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping anything off the bottom of the pan, and cook until it’s almost fully absorbed. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Place the quinoa in a mesh strainer, and rinse with cold water for about 1-2 minutes.

Add the quinoa and water (and a dash of salt) to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer until cooked, about 20-25 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa and chicken with the sauce and mix thoroughly.

Place half the mixture in the baking dish, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese, and the parmigiano/pecorino. Add the breadcrumbs.

Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly, about 10 more minutes.

Yield: 6 servings (about 1 1/3 cups each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 336 calories; 9.3 g. fat; 51 mg. cholesterol; 539 mg. sodium; 33.3 g. carbohydrate; 5 g. fiber; 29.7 g. protein

Result: This was cheesy, and hit the spot. This meal can easily replace a chickem parmesan with pasta and no one will feel deprived. The flavors are divine – but I do highly recommend using fresh herbs to really make the sauce what it is. You can prep this meal ahead of time and bake it later for a quick weekday meal. For those who are unsure about quinoa, this is a great first dish to try quiona. It isn’t pretty, per se, but it tastes GREAT! And thanks to the protein-packed quinoa, this meal comes in right at 33 grams of carbohydrate with lots of fiber and protein for staying power!

Money Matters: Chicken ($4/lb) and fresh mozzarella ($0.50/oz or $8/lb) are the most expensive ingredients. Quinoa can be found for anywhere between $3 and $9 per pound. The cheapest places I’ve found are the bulk bins at Whole Foods or CostCo for around $4/lb (~$2/cup). The herbs can be expensive (start an herb garden to save!), and I estimated $1 in this recipe. Onion ($0.60), olive oil ($0.15), canned tomatoes/tomato sauce ($0.90/can), vinegar ($0.10), garlic ($0.10), and cheese ($0.20) comprise the rest of the cost. The total cost of the recipe comes to ~$11.45 making the cost per serving $1.91!

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Mr. P and I went out for a run last night, and a mile away from home it started it POUR. I hate rain!!! It put me in a cruddy mood the rest of the night.Weather.com, you are not to be trusted!

Be well,

Money Matters: Overnight Peaches-and-Cream French Toast

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I think I’m signed up for every email list serve that includes health tips, healthy cooking ideas, recipes, nutrition research…you name it. To be honest, I rarely open them and simply peruse the subject title, hoping something strikes me.

Usually it doesn’t.

But the other day it did. The subject line was, “Most Pinned Recipes”. Catchy.

Pinterest is pretty hot right now, and I myself have certainly scored some great ideas…and recipes.

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I opened the email and this recipe title immediately caught my eye. Between the “overnight”, “peaches and cream”, and “French toast”…it was a slam dunk for me. Plus, I’ve been in a breakfast slump and being able to reheat portions of this for the week has been easy, breezy, and delish!

I made this recipe on Saturday, baked it on Sunday. Fifteen minutes of hands on time and I have breakfast for days!

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I love reheating breakfast at work and having my coworkers “ooo” and “aah” at my breakfast — Peaches-and-Cream French Toast is one welcome scent to have wafting around the workplace! When I tell them it was easy to make and only 355 calories per serving, they think I’m a genius…and then ask for the recipe. ;)

Thank you, email list serve!

I also loved the price breakdown on this recipe – $1.04 per serving! That’s less than my morning cup of Joe!

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Overnight Peaches-and-Cream French Toast adapted from  All You

1 8-oz. loaf whole grain French bread, sliced ~1/2-inch thick (about 1/2 baguette) 8 large eggs 2 cups nonfat milk 1/4 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 15-oz. cans sliced peaches packed in juice, drained 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 cup half and half

Directions:

Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange bread in a tight, flat layer in dish.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk, sugar and vanilla until blended; pour over bread. Arrange peaches on top and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Remove baking dish from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour cream into a small pan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Drizzle over peaches and bake, uncovered, until casserole is lightly browned on top and just cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 large servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 355 calories; 9.3 g. fat; 255 mg. cholesterol; 369 mg. sodium; 53.3 g. carbohydrate; 2 g. fiber; 14.6 g. protein

Result: This was great…don’t let the photos fool you! This was sweet without being overly sweet. The serving size is large and with sides, this could serve 8. This is filling and reheats well…your coworkers will be jealous of the smells! This recipe took about 10-15 minutes to throw together and it is breakfast for the week! Whole grain, protein, fruit…all in one! Enjoy!

Money Matters: I get bakery baguettes for $1.99 each (I used half). Free-range eggs are $2.50/dozen ($1.67). Canned peaches were $1.20 each. Milk is ~$0.20/cup ($0.40) and sugar is ~$0.66/cup ($0.33). The remaining ingredients are estimated at $0.45. The total cost of the recipe comes to $6.25 and $1.04 per serving.

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  Already Wednesday – I’m lovin’ it!

Be well,