Money Matters: Shrimp Fajita Pasta

shrimpfajitapasta1

I’ve been feeling as though I’m in a vegetable depression.

Other than asparagus, this time of year is spent waiting for all the best of produce to come into season. And even asparagus, that I love so much…especially grilled, has taken a back seat as the weather temperatures regressed back into into the 40′s and 50′s. Grilling and summer evenings out on the deck were a tease in March.

Mother nature, if I tell you I appreciate you for every beautiful day, will you believe me?

shrimpfajitapasta2

A CostCo trip did bring about some good veggie scores. While they weren’t grilled, this has got to be the next best thing.

After pizza and wings, Mr. Prevention would probably say fajitas are his favorite meal. When we eat out at a Mexican restaurant he always get them. I give him a hard time for even perusing the menu, because his order never changes. Which he would say isn’t true because he bounces between shrimp fajitas…or chicken fajitas. Livin’ on the edge.

Which, let me make mention now, would go the same for this meal. You can easily swap in chicken, beef, or even pork for the shrimp. Heck, even tofu or tempeh…why not? Shrimp happen to have been on sale lately…hence, all the shrimp recipes. Plus, we love our seafood in this house!

shrimpfajitapasta3

Without sounding overly confident of my recipe selection skills, I knew we would enjoy this recipe. A lot. Alas, it was absolutely delicious and if you’re looking to put a pretty quick meal into your weeknight dinner rotation…this would be a good one to choose. It’s very similar to the Cajun Chicken Pasta I made back in December, but instead of half and half this recipe uses reduced-fat cream cheese and enchilada sauce to pack in that creamy goodness.

When I was dicing up the peppers and onions I knew that the bulk of the vegetables would drastically reduce the calorie count while increase the nutrition, fiber…and portion size. For right at 400 calories, you can enjoy a heaping plate full of pasta and fajitas veggies…and let me tell you, those are well-spent calories. This is delicious!

shrimpfajitapasta4

[print_this]

Shrimp Fajita Pasta slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum

13.25 oz box dry whole wheat linguine 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 3 bell peppers, sliced thinly into strips (I used 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 orange) 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly into strips 2 1/2 Tbsp fajita seasoning, divided 1 1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled & deveined 10 oz can enchilada sauce 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron skillet until rippling. Add the peppers, onions, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fajita seasoning. Cook 8-10 minutes or until tender and onions are translucent. Add shrimp and remaining 1 tablespoon seasoning. Cook 3-4 minutes or until shrimp are no longer opaque.

Add enchilada sauce and cream cheese. Toss to incorporate and melt the cream cheese.

Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss. Note: If the skillet is too small, toss pasta with the shrimp mixture, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.

Yield: 7 servings (about 1 3/4 cups each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 401 calories; 9.1 g. fat; 140 mg. cholesterol; 618 mg. sodium; 52.9 g. carbohydrate; 7.4 g. fiber; 28.7 g. protein

Result: Must make recipe! That’s right…get on it! Choose your favorite protein if shrimp isn’t it. You can prep your veggies ahead of time to make this a 20-minute meal. Husband-approved…dietitian-loved. This makes a lot of food…perfect for leftovers, entertaining guests, or lots of hungry mouths to feed. With all the protein and fiber, this is one filling meal packed with flavor…and only 400 calories. Enjoy!

Money Matters: Pasta is $1.19 a box. The cream cheese is $1.25 for half a block (4 ounces). The shrimp is the most expensive ingredient at $6.99/lb. The sweet bell peppers can be found fairly easily for $1 each, while the green peppers are more affordable at $0.60 each. Onions are $0.60, a can of enchilada sauce was $1.19, and the fajita seasoning is $0.70. The total cost of the recipe comes to $18.02 and $2.57 per serving.

[/print_this]

 Clinic today…lots to do! Thank goodness this week is going fast and this weekend looks bare of too many commitments! :-D

Be well,

Money Matters: Pea and Pesto Risotto + Weekly Menu

peapestorisotto1

Happy Easter!

I toyed with not posting today as many will probably be spending time with their families, conversing over a large spread of Easter food…but this recipe seemed all too fitting for the occasion. It was its pretty green colors and simple, fresh ingredients perfectly representing spring…as well as the thought that my mom and mother-in-law would both appreciate a recipe like this.

Because it has a brief ingredient list.

They both love when I post recipes with very few ingredients. Not only that, but these ingredients are items that you may already have on hand. Recipes that require NO purchases at the grocery store are certainly a diamond in the rough!

peapestorisotto2

Let’s begin with the fact that you 1) really ought to know and love Arborio rice. It’s an Italian rice that is used to make risotto. Don’t let that ingredient deter you – it can be found in any local grocer near the other rices.

Let’s also bust the myth that making risotto is difficult or time-consuming. I have never stirred a risotto “constantly” in order for it to be creamy and rich and wonderful. Don’t listen to all those cooking shows…they exaggerate.

peapestorisotto3

This is the kind of meal where you blast the tunes, grab a glass of wine, get in the zone, and you’re sad that in a brief 30 minutes or less…it’s time to eat.

But then you quickly hustle to the table to be amazed by your creation and your sadness quickly fades to bliss and a feeling of complete and utter pride over a job well done.

peapestorisotto4

Truth be told, as I photographed, plated, and set this meal before Mr. Prevention and I…I wasn’t so sure. I was expecting something more green. I wasn’t expecting dinner to be so easy. I just wasn’t sure that it would deliver that wow-factor that risotto recipes so often do.

But Mr. P dug in first and declared the risotto “really good”. I dug in and confirmed. Simple, flavorful ingredients like pesto (store bought, homemade, or homemade pulled from your freezer) add so much flavor with so little effort. There’s no need for a laundry list of ingredients when you choose the right ones sometimes!

peapestorisotto5[print_this]

Pea and Pesto Risotto slightly adapted from Hot From My Oven

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 3/4 tsp dried rosemary (or 2 tsp fresh) 1 cup Arborio rice 1 cup frozen peas 1/4 cup prepared pesto

Directions:

In a small sauce pan, heat the broth over low heat until hot, but not boiling.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil until hot; add the garlic and rosemary and saute for about a minute. Add the Arborio rice and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Add the broth 1/2 cup at a time to the rice and stir frequently. Once the broth is absorbed, add another half cup of broth and continue to stir. Just before adding the last 1/2 cup broth, add the frozen peas. Once absorbed, add the pesto and stir well. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 servings (about 1 heaping cup each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 396 calories; 11.3 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 527 mg. sodium; 61 g. carbohydrate; 3.7 g. fiber; 4.3 g. protein

Result: If you love pesto, this is a risotto for you! A little bit of pesto goes a long way, and those peas add the perfect pop of green spring color and flavor. This meal is quick, simple, cheap, and comes in under 400 calories. You could certainly serve the risotto as a side to stretch the recipe, decrease the carbohydrate content, and add a protein serving (shrimp, chicken, and fish all come to mind!) to add some protein. Enjoy!

Money Matters: A quart of vegetable broth ($1.25 from CostCo), pesto (8 oz store bought jars are $3.50…I used half for $1.75), and the arborio rice (about $6.99 for 4 cups — $1.75/cup) are the “expensive” ingredients. I find 12 ounce packs of frozen peas 10 for $10 at my Kroger all the time ($0.50/cup) and the garlic, rosemary, and olive oil come to ~$0.45. The total cost of the recipes comes to $5.70 and the cost per serving $1.90!

[/print_this]

Weekly Menu: April 8th-12th

It’s dreary here today, but we’re going to do some yard work, workout, and celebrate Easter with burgers on the grill.

Be well,

Meatless Monday & Money Matters: Black Bean and Rice Stuffed Peppers

blackbeanricestuffedpeppers1

Yesterday at around noon-ish (I think it was noon-ish…this whole spring forward business has me feeling all sorts of off), my kitchen was bustling with pepper preparations.

I had purchased all of the ingredients for these peppers about a week ago, and the peppers were showing signs of aging. It was time to make stuffed pepper magic.

And Mr. Prevention, as described on Facebook, F-bomed his way through making faux fried japalenos (adapted from my Oven-Fried Pickles recipe)…and nearly burned the house down.

Naturally, he was overly proud of his “accomplishment” and proceeded to leave the kitchen in complete disarray. Naturally.

blackbeanricestuffedpeppers2

Since Mr. Prevention doesn’t read my blog (lame!), I can safely say without repercussion that my peppers out-did his peppers…big time. He will also never know that I shared his F-bombing and hazardous actions in the kitchen. Though, he did give permission for me to blog about his endeavors, photos included. How thoughtful of him.

Anyways. My stuffed peppers…were awesome.

I hear about stuffed peppers a lot as a dietitian because they’re what I would refer to as a “mixed food”. When I’m discussing dietary intake with patients, I have to ask them to elaborate as to what is contained in their stuffed peppers because the recipe varies a lot from one kitchen and family to the next. Most “American” stuffed peppers include rice, tomatoes and/or tomato sauce or paste, ground beef, and cheese.

And now I’ll be honest. Nothing about that combination sounds appealing to me. At all, whatsoever.

blackbeanricestuffedpeppers3

But with a Mexican twist of rice, black beans, spices, corn, and cheese. NOW we’re talking. This combination suits my love affair with all things Mexican juuuussst fine.

By omitting meat and adding beans, you are cutting calories and fat and adding fiber, vitamins, and minerals…all while keeping these peppers with plenty of protein to tide over the meat-lovers in your life and to provide some serious staying power.

Only with 9 grams of fiber can 228 measly calories be substantial enough to be called a meal.

A thing of beauty: delicious, nutritious, quick, AND cheap. This is soooo my kind of recipe.

blackbeanricestuffedpeppers4

[print_this]

Black Bean and Rice Stuffed Peppers slightly adapted from Simply Life

1/4 cup uncooked brown rice 2 large red or green bell peppers, cut in half and cleaned 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained 1/3 cup corn (frozen or fresh) Pinch of cayenne pepper 1/2 Tbsp chili powder 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp oregano 1 tsp cumin squeeze of lime juice (optional) 1/3 cup part-skim Mexican blend shredded cheese 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions:

Turn on broiler to 550 F. Place halved and cleaned bell peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, face down. Broil for 4-6 minutes, until blackened. Place in airtight container or ziplock bag and let sit for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel off skin.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in beans and reduce heat to low. Stir in cooked rice, corn, and all seasonings and lime juice, if using. Warm through 1-2 minutes.

Return pepper halves to the lined baking sheet. Stuff each pepper half with rice and bean mixture. Top with cheese and bake about 12-15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Top with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (1/2 stuffed pepper each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 228 calories; 5.8 g. fat; 6 mg. cholesterol; 275 mg. sodium; 35.3 g. carbohydrate; 9 g. fiber; 11.3 g. protein

Result: Great Mexican flavors in this vegetarian fare! I’ve made stuffed peppers once before — a very similar recipe, actually. The only major difference was poblano peppers vs. bell peppers. The bell peppers are larger, generally speaking, so you can pack more stuffing in. The bell peppers are sweet without any heat, so for those no wanting any real heat, this is a better choice. I pumped up the heat with the cayenne – that stuff is potent so taste as you go…a little bit goes a long way. The cumin and lime juice work well together to create a very fresh, smokey-citrus blend. Quick to make…and cheap! Enjoy!

Money Matters: Red bell peppers, on sale, run $1 each and green bell peppers on sale run $0.68. To cut cost, I used one of each, but you could certainly use all green bell peppers. Half an onion is $0.30 and a can of black beans costs $1.10. Bags of frozen corn (12 oz) go on sale for $1 all the time — my corn was frozen from summer’s corn-on-the-cob…but we’ll put about a $0.20 price tag on the corn. The remaining ingredients estimate to ~$1.50 (rice, oil, cilantro, spices, garlic). The total cost of the recipe comes to $4.78 making the cost per serving $1.20.

[/print_this]

 Hi-ho, hi-ho…off to another work week we go. Have a great week!

 Be well,

Money Matters: Creamy Chicken and Artichoke Pasta

creamyartichokechickenpasta1

Friday! I didn’t know that you would ever arrive! It’s been one of those weeks.

Next week is finals! And then? Then I have my weekday evenings free. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love teaching…but after a year, I’m ready for a break from the evening gig. Ideally, I like to teach during the day so I can do things in the evening like snuggle on the couch with my husband make killer dinners every night.

And eat…at a table. With real silverware. Maybe even a plate.

Next quarter is looking a lot better — Monday, Wednesday, Friday at the clinics and Tuesday and Thursday teaching. Halleluiah.

creamyartichokechickenpasta2The evenings I am home are well-spent. I make things like Creamy Chicken and Artichoke Pasta which was a recipe swap offering from Michelle of The Cooking Nurse – a blog I love! Recipe Swaps are like having the best of the best handed to you, signed, sealed, and delivered. Once again, I wasn’t lead astray.

Unlike Mr. Prevention who went astray the night I made this — Wednesday evening. He came home from work, complaining of hunger, and the next thing I knew he was gone. His car was still here and it was 60 degrees out, so I correctly deduced that he had gone out for a run. I went and did the same, and still…no Mr. Prevention showing.

He finally walked in the door covered…dripping in sweat. He decided to run all the way to our town’s downtown and back again — 7 1/2 miles. What a stud. Guess he’s deciding to get his rear in gear for the 1/2 marathon he’s registered for in May?

“How long until dinner?” he sputtered out through labored breaths.

creamyartichokechickenpasta4“Twenty minutes,” I said.

Would you believe me if I said he went upstairs to draw himself a bath, soak a bit, shower, and then swaggered into the kitchen? Unbelievable…but true.

Point is, most of us don’t have an abundance of time on weekdays to throw together anything time-consuming or laborious, giving meals like this one all the more appeal. As if creamy pasta weren’t enough to woo you…

creamyartichokechickenpasta3

[print_this]

Creamy Chicken and Artichoke Pasta adapted from Kuki’s Kookbook and The Cooking Nurse

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp butter (I used 1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced 1 tsp onion powder 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 beef bouillon cube 2 cups whole milk 4 oz 1/3 reduced-fat cream cheese 4 oz (1 cup) Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved 14.5 oz. whole wheat pasta (shape of choice) dried parsley (optional)

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta. Cook 8-12 minutes, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in pan. Add chicken to pan and cook until done; set aside.

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion powder and saute until slightly softened. Add the garlic cloves and artichokes and cook for 1 minute.

Add the milk and beef bouillon and simmer until bouillon is dissolved. Add the cream cheese and simmer until it is smooth. Add the parmigiano-reggiano cheese and stir until combined.

At this point, combine the pasta, chicken and cream sauce. Add in the grape tomatoes and toss. Sprinkle with dried parsley, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings (about 1 1/2 cups each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 449 calories; 13.1 g. fat; 73 mg. cholesterol; 538 mg. sodium; 42.8 g. carbohydrate; 4.9 g. fiber; 37.5 g. protein

Result: This was a simple, creamy, enjoyable pasta meal. I love the flavor of the artichoke – I would double it next time :) I think some spinach would work well in this dish, along with additional mushrooms. You can taste the creaminess from the cream cheese, milk, and parmigiano-reggiano. I love that the added chicken helps to spread the meal (Mr. Prevention usually complains that meals like this don’t have enough chicken, so I also upped that reason. He noticed!), keep the carbohydrates controlled, and increases the protein in the dish. Perfect when served with a sprinkle of pepper. Enjoy!

Money Matters: The chicken is the most expensive ingredient – at $2.99/lb on sale, the price comes to $2.49. The Parmigiano-Reggiano is a high-quality cheese which I get on sale for $8.99/lb (I used 1/4 lb — $2.25). I used half a block of cream cheese — $1.10, 2/3rds of a pint of grape tomatoes – $1.75, mushrooms ($1.5o), and a can of artichoke hearts ($1.40). I used Barilla Plus pasta which is $1.10/box at my Kroger. The total cost of the recipe is ~$14.34, making the cost per serving $1.79.

[/print_this]

Clinic then happy hour at my favorite pub! Happy weekend!

Be well,

Meatless Monday & Money Matters: Lentil Tacos + Weekly Menu

lentiltacos1

My dog, Lily, is spoiled. I know, no one is surprised. (P.S. Lily has a post all of her own tomorrow – be sure to check it out!).

Yesterday, Lily and I went on a mommy-daughter “field trip” to PetsMart (we referred to this as “Operation Get Away From Sick Daddy”). She got 2 new “babies” (this is what we call toys…who knows why), 3 bones, and a new chicken-flavored Nylabone. She loves it — she even sleeps with it tucked under her paw.

lentiltacos4Anyways, that trip to PetsMart ran me $31. Oops.

Now what if I told you that’s more than I spent on GROCERIES for 2 people, for an entire week? Believe it. The best and easiest way to cut costs at the grocery store?

Eat meat-free more often.

lentiltacos2

I generally buy my chicken from Trader Joe’s for $2.99/lb, but TJ’s is about 20 miles from my house. With the price of gas (!!), I haven’t been able to justify making that trip. I’ve also opted to make a concerted effort to include recipes that use really cheap proteins, like lentils.

Admittedly, lentils don’t make me swoon. To me, they can lack flavor and the texture can be a bit…grainy. But after RAVE reviews from my friend Kristen about these tacos, I knew I wanted to give them a try.

lentiltacos5These lentils were seasoned perfectly and the texture was similar enough to meat, that even a meat-lover may get stooped with these (even with all 17.6 grams of fiber!)! Tacos are packed with flavor, and many different flavors at that, making them the perfect vehicle to not only try a new protein, but to experiment with new flavors and ingredients…even with picky, unadventurous eaters!

I also loved that this meal was ready in 30 minutes. While the lentils simmer away, you can prep all the other ingredients. These reheat great and are very inexpensive.

lentiltacos3

[print_this]

Lentil Tacos slightly adapted from Run Lean Green, as seen on Swanky Dietitian

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed 1 Tbsp chili powder 2 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp dried oregano 2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 2 cups lettuce, shredded 1 large tomato, diced 1 avocado, sliced 2/3 cup part-skim Cheddar cheese, shredded 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt 2/3 cup salsa 10 taco-sized tortillas (I used Ole flour tortillas)

Directions:

In a nonstick sauce pan, heat oil until hot. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender.

Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin, and oregano; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Uncover; cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Mash lentils slightly.

To make the tacos, layer a scant 1/4 cup lentils into each of 8 tortillas. Top with a pinch of lettuce, spoonful of tomato, avocado slice, and 1 tablespoon of cheese, salsa, and Greek yogurt.

Yield: 5 servings (2 tacos each)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 425 calories; 11.2 g. fat; 10 mg. cholesterol; 799 mg. sodium; 59.2 g. carbohydrate; 17.6 g. fiber; 22.4 g. protein

Result: I love tacos, and these totally hit the spot. The lentils are the right texture to mimic meat and they’re seasoned so perfectly that you won’t miss meat for a second. Despite my skepticism, I do believe these were one of my favorite meals in a while – delicious! And simple! Because you can prep everything while the lentils simmer, this is a weekday meal that can be ready right at 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Money Matters: The most expensive ingredients is the salsa ($1.20), lentils ($1.19), avocado ($1), tortillas ($1.69 for 10) and the Greek yogurt ($1). Half an onion is ~$0.60, tomato ~$0.30, and lettuce ~$0.60. The total cost of the recipe comes to $8.71 and the cost per serving: $1.74.

[/print_this]

My weekly menu is late this week…but that’s because I couldn’t decide on what to make!

Weekly Menu: March 4th – 8th

P.S. Here is the round-up to all of the gorgeous Cuban and Filipino dishes made for Krystal and Baby Cookie!

Have a great week!

Be well,