Love Your Heart: Light Fettuccine Alfredo

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Another week in February and another recipe you can make to love your heart…and what you eat! Because really and truly, you should love what you eat. Perhaps you will love one of these recipes, too:

Today’s recipe isn’t the absolute lowest in calories or fat, but it’s a perfect example of a much scaled down version of one of America’s favorite guilty pleasures: Fettuccine Alfredo. Loving your heart doesn’t mean having to sacrifice taste…or your favorite foods.

Making a lighter version at home, however, can save you nearly a day’s worth of fat, two day’s worth of saturated fat, and whole lot of calories. That is certainly something for your heart to love!

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You can love what you eat and still feel good about it, too? Indeed!

If that’s not convincing enough, how about a recipe that takes less than 30 minutes from start-to-finish? Yes, even for the novice at-home chef. This recipe, it’s calling your name. It may even be saying, “I’m better Olive Garden…no, really. And way better for you, too!”

So true. So true.

fettuccinealfredo2Here’s a run down on a few heart-healthy tips you can apply to your at-home cooking.

  1. Butter vs. margarine. Choose butter (unsalted). Margarine is hydrogenated vegetable oil, or in other words, a liquid vegetable oil turned into a solid. This process is possible through hydrogenation which add trans fat to foods. Trans fat is doubly dangerous to the heart because it not only raises “bad” LDL cholesterol, but it also lowers “good” HDL cholesterol. Limiting or omitting trans fats is one of the best things you can change in your diet to keep your heart healthy.
  2. Low-fat dairy. Choosing low-fat dairy products, such as milk, helps to decrease saturated fat in the diet. Similar to trans fats, saturated fat can cause an unfavorable rise in LDL cholesterol levels. With all milk being fortified with vitamins A and D, there’s no reason not to choose a low-fat variety.
  3. Be weary of fat-free foods. While low-fat options generally offer up a lighter version of its full-fat counterpart, fat-free products are often high in salt and sugar to help improve flavor and make products more palatable. Be sure to compare products for not only calories and fat, but also for sodium, sugar, and a plethora of other additives and preservatives that are used in food manufacturing.
  4. Remember to control portions. Though lightened up versions of your favorite foods are preferred, over-eating is never recommended. Keeping your heart healthy can be as simple as controlling intake to avoid over-consumption of fats and calories. Pair your meals with a healthy vegetable side to increase volume, add nutrition, and keep calorie counts in check.

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I paired my Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo with a garden salad dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My dinner came in right at 500 calories and offered up a balanced meal with added fiber and nutrition.

My only regret was that Mr. Prevention wasn’t at home to enjoy this meal with me. I will have to make it again soon…it was WAY too good and WAY too easy not to!
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Light Fettuccine Alfredo adapted from Cooking Light and That Skinny Chick Can Bake

1 Tbsp unsalted butter 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour 1 1/3 cups 1% low-fat milk 3/4 cup (3 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely shredded 2 oz 1/3 less-fat cream cheese 1/4 tsp salt 8 oz dry fettuccine 2 tsp flat leaf parsley, chopped Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Boil 3-4 quarts of water in a large pot. Add fettuccine and cool until al dente.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just till fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Whisk in flour, then gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly till mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Add the Parmesan, cream cheese, and salt, stirring till cheese melts.

Add hot, drained pasta and toss to distribute. Serve with a sprinkle of the parsley and black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (1 heaping cup each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 388 calories; 13.5 g. fat; 32 mg. cholesterol; 379 mg. sodium; 2 g. fiber; 17.8 g. protein

Result: Low-fat dairy and high quality Parmesan couldn’t have come up with anything better – truly wonderful. Creamy and rich…you won’t believe for a second that this is a lightened up version. But put away the gobs of butter, and all that heavy cream…you won’t be needing it! Enjoy!

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Be sure to head on over to Lauren’s blog, Healthy Food for Living, for your chance to win a copy of The Vegan Slow Cooker and wild salmon from Pure Alaska Salmon!

Be well,

Meatless Monday: Cream of Mushroom Soup

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With my new schedule (for this quarter only, sadly!), I get a random Tuesday off every few weeks. Let me tell you, as someone who often times leaves the house well before the sun rises with breakfast, lunch, and dinner packed and in tow, being home at the noon hour is as close to luxury a girl can get on any old random Tuesday.

It goes without saying that I took advantage.

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I made soup. Cream of Mushroom Soup with rich cremini mushrooms. I will happily eat soup for lunch or dinner, but it I would consider it on the lighter side and more appealing to many people for a mid-day meal.

This particular mid-day meal selection is one I know I couldn’t convince my better half to try. He’s not a huge fan of creamy soups (what a lunatic, I know) or mushrooms. And luckily, this soup made 3 perfect, lunch-sized portions so there wasn’t tons of leftovers (though this recipe could easily be doubled or tripled).

creamofmushroomsoup3Unlike the canned condensed cream of suchandsuch soup you can find at the grocery store, this soup is silky and rich. The flavors run deep with the addition of onion, butter, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and of course, white wine.

I did bulk up the mushrooms some, because, well, that’s the best part of cream of mushroom soup. You’ll think you’re eating a soup made with cream with its thick and velvety smooth texture…but rest assured, the 2% milk gets the job done well.

You won’t ever settle for a canned version after this.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup slightly adapted from An Edible Mosaic

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 10 oz cremini mushrooms, diced 1 medium onion, diced 2 large cloves garlic, minced 1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary) 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme) 1 bay leaf 2 Tbsp dry white wine (or water) 1 Tbsp unsalted butter 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 2 1/2 cups 2% milk 1 vegetable stock cube (or chicken or beef stock cube) black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Add olive oil to a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat; when oil starts to ripple, add mushrooms and saute until browned (about 5-7 minutes). Turn heat down to medium-low and add onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf; saute until onion is softened (about 5 minutes). Add wine, then turn heat up to medium-high and cook about 1 minute, until liquid is cooked off.

In a separate medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk, stock cube, and 1/8 tsp pepper, and bring up to a boil (stirring occasionally), then turn heat down slightly and boil gently for 2 minutes (stirring constantly).

Transfer white sauce to the pot with the mushrooms; turn heat on medium-low and gently simmer 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with pepper as desired.

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

Nutrition Information (per serving): 250 calories; 12.7 g. fat; 17 mg. cholesterol; 406 mg. sodium; 21.7 g. carbohydrate; 1 g. fiber; 10.3 g. protein

Result: Flavorful, thick, and creamy. For mushroom & soup lovers, look out – this is a must-make. Perfect for a chilly winter afternoon and to soak up with a crusty pieces of bread. Enjoy!

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Back to the grind…have a great week!

Be well,

Money Matters: Chicken Marsala Pasta

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My mom cracks me up sometimes. A lot of times, actually.

When I’m driving home after class at night, I usually call my parents to catch up. Last night, I was chatting with my mom (as she was making the Goat Cheese, Spinach, and Tomato Quiche…which she later texted, “it is beautiful”) and she told me a story about her boss at the gym.

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My family has belonged to the same gym for YEARS and it just so happens that my mom’s boss also works out there. My mom said she was on the elliptical 2 machines down from him and then she transferred over to the treadmills which are right in front of large, full-length mirrors.

My mom said she looked at herself and noticed then that her shirt was not only inside out, but backwards, too. She said the tags were hitting her chin and she hadn’t noticed until then. Oh, what her boss must think…ha!

If you know my mom, that story is probably a bit funnier. But even still..seriously, ma!?

chickenmarsalapasta3After that story she said that she was going to make a few lasagnas and have an impromptu get-together with some friends of theirs. This came as no surprise as my mom loves impromptu entertaining…and pasta.

I immediately starting thinking how much my mom would love this dish. Not only the pasta, but the mushrooms and the marsala. It was my first time cooking with marsala wine. I wasn’t even sure I knew where to find it in the grocery store…and I know my mom would wonder the same. However, it was right there by the vinegar at my local Kroger…for $1.91!

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To keep this pasta dish rich, but still lower in calories and fat, evaporated milk is used. I believe for this reason, it doesn’t reheat all that well…making it the perfect recipe to entertain with!

This recipe has been on my “must make” list for some time, and it did not disappoint. Plus I have a personal tie to chicken marsala…it’s one of the entree selections that as offered at our wedding :) Because, it’s that good.

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Chicken Marsala Pasta from Cook’s Illustrated, as seen on Sunny Side Up in San Diego, So Tasty, So Yummy, and What’s Cookin’ Chicago?

13.25 oz box whole wheat penne pasta 1 Tbsp unsalted butter 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces 1 small onion, sliced into thin 1-inch pieces 3 cloves garlic, minced 12 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered 3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine 12 oz can 2% evaporated milk 2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded salt and pepper, to taste fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat; add olive oil to heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper; add to the butter and oil and cook through. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Melt the butter and remaining tablespoon of oil and add the onions to the pot, cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. After 3 minutes, stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. The onions should be starting to get a little color by now.

Slowly pour half of the Marsala wine into the pot and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the rest of the wine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly stir in the evaporated milk. Add the cheese stirring constantly. Cook the sauce for several minutes until it starts to thicken, then add the pasta and chicken. Stir to coat the pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings (about 1 cup pasta with 3/4 cup chicken, mushrooms, and sauce).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 515 calories; 13.5 g. fat; 58 mg. cholesterol; 381 mg. sodium; 60.1 g. carbohydrate; 7.2 g. fiber; 35.5 g. protein

Result: This dish has been floating around the blogosphere and I’m glad I finally got the chance to try it…very good! My only complaint is that this dish didn’t reheat well. If you enjoy mushrooms and chicken marsala, this is a great recipe to try. Enjoy!

Money Matters: Chicken is $2.99/lb and pasta is $1.10 a box. Cremini mushrooms are $2.99/lb (my 3/4 lb came to $2.24). Onion ($0.50), evaporated milk ($1.20), marsala wine (1/2 bottle – $0.96), 2 ounces of high quality Parmesan at $7.99/lb ($1). Along with the estimated cost of the remaining ingredients, the total cost of the recipes calculated to $10.87 and $1.81 per serving).

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It can finally be said…TGIF! I am anxious to try one of those beers Mr. Prevention got me for Valentine’s Day to ring in the weekend. A girl probably shouldn’t admit that before the run rises, huh?

Be well,

Money Matters: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

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Many weeks back, I had about 20 soup recipes on my must-make list. Maybe even 30 recipes…who knows, but it was out of control. I even asked Facebook friends if they would mind all soup recipes for a bit. I received a resounding, “Bring it on…we love soup!” We’re in business!

I’ve tried several of the recipes, slowly crossing them off my must-make list…and you know what? I’m yet to find a soup I don’t really, really like.

But this soup, I really, really love. As soon as Renee posted this recipe, I was intrigued by the ingredient list…the lemon, the orzo, the chicken. Everything about it screamed, “MAKE ME!” Almost literally. Do blog sites speak to anyone else? Err…maybe don’t answer that. ;)

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I made this soup last Wednesday. I remember that because I picked up the rotisserie chicken on my way home, after picking up Lily from daycare. Lily is my dog, and yes, she goes to daycare one day a week (yes, this makes me a crazy dog person…and I own that 100%).

When I returned to the car with the rotisserie chicken in tow, she awoke from her post-daycare coma to start sniffing around the car for the source of the chicken. Girlfriend goes absolutely b-a-n-a-n-a-s for chicken. Just the smell throws her into a state of uncontrollable fidgeting and squirming with anticipation…probably because I can’t deny her chicken and she knows she’s going to get some. (P.S. Lily is down 3lb from her last vet appointment a few weeks ago when I was told we need to get her to drop a few pounds!).

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Lily loves chicken as much as I love getting cards from my husband. I give the man all sorts of heck around here, but my gosh, he can write a love note that will melt my little heart every time I read it. He also knows me pretty well because he got me a 6-pack of beer for Valentine’s Day. And I got him chocolate. What can I say? Perhaps we have things a little backwards. Whatever.

What we both loved was this soup, however. Who knew comfort food could be so refreshing with a punch of citrus? This is one of the few foods that is actually better as leftovers, too. The orzo thickens the broth to make it all the better.

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Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup slightly adapted from My Kitchen Adventures

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 med onion, chopped 4 carrots, halved length-wise and chopped 3 ribs celery, halved length-wise and chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 bay leaf 1/2 tsp dried thyme 1/2 tsp dried oregano 3 – 32 oz boxes (12 cups) fat free, low-sodium chicken stock 1 lb cooked chicken (I used a small rotisserie chicken and it yielded 1 lb exactly) 8 oz orzo pasta 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons) zest from one lemon black pepper, to taste 8 oz baby spinach

Directions:

In a large stock pot or dutch oven heat oil on medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables begin to soften and onion starts to become translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add in the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and pepper. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, and add in the broth. Bring to a boil and then partially cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, about 5-6 minutes.

Add in the pasta, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir.Simmer for 7-8 minutes.

Add in the cooked chicken. Allow to heat through. Stir in baby spinach and allow to get wilted in hot broth. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Yield: 8 servings (2 cups each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 246 calories; 2 g. fat; 47 mg. cholesterol; 214 mg. sodium; 31 g. carbohydrate; 3.6 g. fiber; 24.5 g. protein

Result: Tart, fresh, clean flavors. I loved the addition of spinach to add some fun texture and fiber, and upping the chicken made this a soup recipe that offered some serious staying power. Because this is homemade and uses low-sodium broth, the sodium content was kept nice and low – a big success for a soup recipe! And only 2 grams of fat! Plus, it’s ready in 30 minutes or less. Win-win. Mr. P and I both loved this…especially as leftovers! Enjoy!

Money Matters: The rotisserie chicken was $4.99. I get my chicken stock from CostCo for $1.25 per 32 ounce carton — $3.75 total. Onions are also from CostCo – $0.50 each. Celery was about 1/3 of a head — $0.39, and 4 carrots (about 1/2 bag) totaled $0.33. I used 1/2 box of orzo that cost $1 (used $0.50 worth). Lemons are $0.50 each this time of year – $1 total. Spinach was $1.99 for an 8 ounce bag (organic). The total cost of the recipe comes to $13.85 making the cost per serving $1.73!

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Congrats to Rebecca C. who won the Eggland’s Best “EB Mine” Giveaway! Thank you to everyone for entering!

This week is dragging, but at least it’s Thursday! :-D

Be well,

Rockin Red Curry Shrimp Soup

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I had a really neat thing happen to me on Tuesday.

I haven’t yet shared that I’m filling in a few days a month at my old dialysis unit, but I am. And I was there this week on Tuesday.

Anyways, I was standing at the chart rack charting away on a patient I had just spoken with when the nurse practitioner walks up and says, “I didn’t know you were a writer, Nicole!”

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I gave him one seriously confused look and had to stop to think.

My first thought was my thesis. Bonk.

He goes on to explain, “My wife is OBSESSED with food blogs and she was looking through some the other day when your blog popped up…I recognized your photo in the right-hand corner. She said you worked at a dialysis unit…in Columbus…and I just knew it was you!”

If that’s the closest I ever get to “fame”, I’m okay with it. Because that was so…cool. I’ve been riding high all week! :-D Who knew the internet was so big and yet so very, very small?

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Anyhoodles. Food. Soup. Yes, please!

If I’m being perfectly honest, I decided to make this recipe because of what I had on hand. Long ago, I purchase red curry paste. It’s easy to find in the ethnic foods aisle of grocers, and it’s not expensive…but, I never used it a second time. After traveling to Thailand last summer, I fell in love with lemongrass. Now when I see lemongrass (usually at Whole Foods or Meijer), I have to pick some up. I wrap it up in plastic wrap and freeze it until I need it. Which, this so happens to be the first (second?) recipe I’ve used lemongrass in…and I have 6 more stalks in my freezer.

I like to think collecting odd-ball ingredients and hoarding them suffices as a hobby. Because, um, I really enjoy it!

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Rockin Red Curry Shrimp Soup slightly adapted from Nutritionella

1 Tbsp peanut oil 3 Tbsp red curry paste 1 (13.5 oz) can light coconut milk 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth 2 Tbsp brown sugar 1 stalk (6-inches) lemongrass 3 serrano peppers, pierced with a fork 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced 5 oz thin noodles (I used vermicelli…but angel hair, udon, or soba noodles will work great) 1 bunch bok choy, leaves removed and sliced into thin sticks 1lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 lime, cut into quarters 1/4 cup cilantro, minced

Directions:

Heat peanut oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Mash red curry paste into hot oil until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Whisk in coconut milk, chicken stock, and brown sugar. Add crushed lemongrass stalk and serrano peppers. Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a boil. Add potato and noodles. Cook for 5-7 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add baby bok choy, cooking for 5 more minutes.

Add shrimp and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until no longer opaque. Remove lemongrass and serranos from soup. Serve garnished with cilantro and lime wedge.

Yield: 4 servings (about 2 cups each).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 415 calories; 12.5 g. fat; 150 mg. cholesterol; 332 mg. sodium; 42 g. carbohydrate; 2.8 g. fiber; 30.5 g. protein

Result: This was a flavorful, filling soup with a touch of sweetness and a touch of spiciness (but doable for the heat weenies, too!). This meal comes together in about 25 minutes and is full of protein, making it more substantial than some soups. Mr. Prevention could detect the coconut in this dish (oops), so he wasn’t the biggest fan. I, however, loved it! Enjoy!

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Don’t forget to enter to win one of three great heart-healthy giveaway items: a cookbook, coconut oil and flour, and kids’ plates to teach balanced eating!

Workout, clinic, teach. Is it the weekend yet?!

Be well,