Healthy & Loaded Spaghetti Carbonara

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Our family loves a good, hearty Italian dish, and this is a modified form of the delicious Spaghetti Carbonara I came up with based on whatever leftovers we had on hand this week.  Because we’re big on eating protein in our foods, I added in some cooked chopped chicken (2 breasts boiled and chopped) I had done earlier in the day, the traditional recipe only uses chopped pancetta (a pork product very similar to bacon).  We never typically have real bacon or pork products on hand, however we use different kinds of sausage to flavor meals fairly regularly, and this was the perfect time to use some beef sausage to capture that intense, aromatic and spicy flavor to go with the sauce.

Traditional Carbonara doesn’t use any kind of cream base sauce, however, I find that whipping up a quick white sauce- made from flour, butter, and milk to be super easy and healthier than the typical cream cheese or other cream based sauces used in Chicken Alfredo or restaurant Carbonaras.  I used to make this simple sauce when we were students, not only is it far healthier than using heavy cream or cream cheese, its also more cost efficient.

It’s so rustic, and one usually always has on hand flour, milk, and butter – making it a quick solution without an extra run to the store.

Boil a package (1 lb) of spaghetti, while waiting for it to cook, make the simple white sauce if you want a creamier base for your Spaghetti Carbonara without the extra calories of real cream or cream cheese.  Traditional Spaghetti Carbonara has no cream sauce, if you desire to cook it that way, skip to egg picture.

Healthy White Cream Sauce – Gravy

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Use 3/4 stick butter, or half a cup of margarine, in a pan on medium heat – melt down until in liquid form.  Add 1/2 cup flour, mix together to form a wet, clumpy mixture.  Take OFF heat.

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Add in 1 cup cold milk, and 1 1/2 cups cold water, put back on heat and whisk the mixture until its incorporated into the milk and water to form a smooth, white cream.  Let cook on heat for 5 minutes, slowly stirring every now and then, sauce will thicken nicely.

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I used fresh basil and oregano from our garden, along with some fine garlic to give the sauce flavor.  Add in 1 tsp of kosher salt along with crushed black pepper (1 tsp or to taste).

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Use 2 eggs (or 4 if you’re omitting the white sauce), beat until pale yellow.  Once spaghetti is cooked, pour eggs over drained, hot spaghetti, stirring quickly.  The heat from the spaghetti cooks the eggs and creates a unique texture over the noodles.  Incorporate as much freshly grated Parmesan cheese as you’d like (typically 1/2 a cup to 1 cup).

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This is what it looks like with just the eggs cooked onto the hot noodles (below).

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This is what it looks like when the cream is poured over the egg and cheese mixture (below).  We like it to be creamier this way.

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I briefly cooked (reheated) the meats in the pan and then added them into the spaghetti.  This would be a great time to add in chopped onions, mushrooms, chives or extras you’d like in your dish!

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So there you have it… a healthier version of Spaghetti Carbonara, loaded with chicken, beef sausage, and creamy white sauce based on pantry or fridge leftovers.

Extras you might love to try:

From the Real Italian Foodies, a adorable couple who have an Italian restaurant in Limerick specialising in simple authentic Italian food, and also have a range of fresh Italian pasta sauces under the Real Italian Foodie brand

From  Johnney’s version – not as traditional, but a great alternative and presented in such a manly way….

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Pico de Gallo and Low Calorie Taco Salad

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We had an exciting and long day trip yesterday… our summers are like that, full of long, hot and humid days, seeing beautiful sights around our area, taking in the sunlight and baking in the heat.  We were out all day, playing in the heat and water, and came back for dinner and watching Pirates of the Caribbean.  Another severe thunderstorm came in the dead of night, waking everyone up except our oldest, but because of yesterday’s hot adventure, we slept in and awoke to a beautiful, bright morning.

I was planning on making some pico de gallo to go with some refried beans I made from this recipe (modified to add Kosher salt while mashing beans and diced cilantro).  Pico de gallo is like the taste of a crisp fresh Summer, and makes me actually crave tequila Margaritas.

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Fresh cilantro, diced

It’s too easy to make, a bit of fresh cilantro (only fresh should ever be used for pico), 1/2 to 3/4 of a medium sized white onion, diced.

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And about 5 Roma tomatoes, or 2 salad tomatoes, diced.  3 Limes juiced over the diced mixture, or one lemon will do.

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This made a ton of cilantro!  It’s perfect with the homemade refried beans with a little cheese – you feel like you’re eating the famous 1,000 calorie taco salad.

The homemade refried beans are done without lard and much healthier.  This tasted incredible!  Healthy but full of intense flavor.  We ate it in lettuce leaf (just pull off the leaves from a head of lettuce, wash the leaves individually so that the lettuce head will keep longer in the fridge.  Dry off the leaves and fill with practically anything you want to eat!

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Enjoy a delish and cozy “Taco Salad!

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Chorizo, Egg, & Biscuit Breakfast Casserole

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Delicious, protein-packed, perfect for a crowd-pleaser dish… you won’t want to stop eating it!  I made this a couple of days ago for a group of women I meet with every week for Bible study.  It’s kind of like a breakfast feast every week as people bring tacos, donuts, fruits, yogurts… it’s like we lure people in with the food, honestly!

Another recipe that would have been great would have been the Breakfast Egg-Muffins, individual so that your guests wouldn’t have to bother with serving… just grab n’ go.

The base of this casserole is pre-baked biscuits cut open (6 usually work instead of the regular 8 that come in a pack)

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While the biscuits bake, you want to mix up the egg & milk mixture. 1 dozen eggs, 2 cups milk

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Next you add your spices, 1 tsp Chili powder, 2 tsp Garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp Basil, and if you can find it, 2 tsp of Six Peppers spice

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Also, while the biscuits are baking, the chorizo should be cooking in a pan until it becomes the consistency of cooked ground beef

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Pre-cooked

Once biscuits are done, you’re ready!  Keep oven on at the regular 375 (for biscuits) so that it’s easy to pop the casserole in once it’s combined.  Line your casserole dish (9×13) with open biscuits (about 6)

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Spread the cooked chorizo on top, then pour the egg mixture over into the dish.  Scatter the chorizo so that some is incorporated into the egg mixture also.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until center cooked (when a fork comes out clean after inserted).  Then add cheese and pop back in for another minute or until cheese melts.

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Delish and ready for breakfast!

Simple, Warm, Delicious Refried Beans

 

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Refried beans are the simplest dish to cook if you’re wanting an incredible, homemade taste of Mexican-American style beans.  My oldest son (4), is crazy about the warm bean & cheese breakfast tacos we eat here (at any time of day) in Texas… and it’s great to be able to whip up a big easy batch of refried beans to sate his cravings 🙂

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I found a great recipe here, at slate.com, follow the directions to create this dish.

You can use dry or canned beans – only use dry if you have 4-5 hours to spare while they cook in the crock pot, canned is fine and is faster overall.  Make sure to add enough salt and pepper to taste – with their warm, gentle flavor, these beans just hit the spot!

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Mouthwatering Chicken Tortilla Soup

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There’s nothing quite like really great homemade food – food that tastes so good, you feel like you’re eating from a wonderful restaurant.  This soup falls into that category – definitely a keeper in our family!  It was so amazing that we almost couldn’t stop getting refills!

I had made plans a couple of weeks ago to figure out how to make a really great tortilla soup, I bought the chicken broth, made sure we had copious amounts of frozen chicken ready to go in the freezer, and cheese for the topping… but being pregnant, the thought of de-thawing chicken and the work to put it altogether was too overwhelming.  But this soup was so much easier than I thought!  And it’s amazing how delicious it is with nearly anything you’ve got to throw in – let me give you the guidelines of what I did (loosely following the instructions from this great cook, The Pioneer Woman).

 

I decided to make this sporadically tonight, simply because I couldn’t stand not having it when I’ve been craving it for so long.  But because of my impatience, I made this without doing the proper prep before hand, but if you prep well or take some short cuts along the way, you will be able to make this extremely fast.

 

First, season some chicken breasts (I used three big ones, but you can use less or more depending on how much soup you want to make).  Season with garlic, cumin, chili powder (I’m out of chili powder so I used a spice called Six Peppers – really great), and Spanish Paprika.  Bake, boil, poach, or pan fry your chicken… I pan fried so that it would be a little faster, and it came out a little blackened which actually added to the flavor wonderfully.  If you want to do this even faster, used left over chicken breasts already cooked ahead, or Rotisserie chicken makes it incredibly easy!

While your chicken is cooking, use a big soup pot to sauté any veggies you want to include in your soup, onions, bell peppers, are great – I left them out so that my 4 year old, who’s recently joined Picky Eaters Anonymous (they should seriously have parental consent for those kinds of things), would still eat it.

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Before the chicken was really cooked all the way through I decided to cut it up into smaller pieces and add a cup or two of water that made it easier for them to continue to cook without burning anymore (I’m really great at burning things when I’m impatient & starving).  The water turned into a spicy seasoned broth to add into the soup.

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Once the chicken is cooked, shred it with a fork and transfer it to the pot to create the soup.  If you cooked the chicken with a little water, add that “sauce” in as well.

Pour in the chicken broth (or create it from about 32 oz or 2 lbs of boiling water with chicken bouillon cubes to taste/instruction).  If you want to make a really big pot, use 2 containers of 32 oz chicken broth.  This soup tastes so good, you might want to use 2 containers just to make sure you have literally tons.

Pour in 2 cans or a large amount of frozen corn, and 2 cans or a decent amount of pre-made black beans.

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Add in diced tomatoes if you have any (Rotel is great)- we didn’t, so I just used about two cups of tomato-based salsa (mild or medium – unless you love spicy soup).  I worried that it would taste so obvious that I used salsa, but it didn’t at all… and the tomato base really gives the soup a better texture once it cooks into it.  It turns it from “chicken noodle thin” to “chicken tortilla thick.”

I also added in a couple of spoonfuls of jarred cilantro.  Freshly chopped would be better, but you don’t need to include this step at all, just if you want to add a little more to the taste.

To make up for the lack of veggies, I added in some carrot puree I made to supplement for my Picky Eater… about 1 cup.  It’s amazing how many things you can add carrot puree into without it ever being noticed – and it packs Beta-Carotine, which converts to Vitamin A in your body, and much needed Potassium & fiber.  So if you’re like me (and my son) and don’t particularly like eating your carrots unless they’re drenched in Ranch, puree some in a blender with a little water to create a great addition.

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Cut up some tortilla strips and either add them directly into the soup for a nice soft filling, or bake/fry them to throw them on top (whichever is your preference).  I actually just threw them into the soup, and it was great having that added soft texture with the chicken.

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Bring the pot to a roaring boil and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  About ten minutes in to the cook time, taste your soup to make sure it’s the correct amount of seasoning for you – add more garlic or cumin if needed, or add a cup or two of water if you want it a little thinner.

Top with cheese, avocado, tomatoes, tortilla chips, or sour cream.

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Ahhh-maz-ing Soup!  You must give it a try!

 

Sneaky Mommy (St. Patrick’s Day Pasta)

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Spinach & Kale Fettucine

I’m a sneaky Mommy, and I don’t play by the rules.  Always one to look for ways to sneak vegetables into dishes so that my son will unknowingly devour something tasty and yet get some vitamins in him at the same time.  This last week I wrote the post on how to make your own pasta from scratch, with a promise to provide my journey through making Spinach or Kale pasta.  I’m so proud of how it turned out – it was so temptingly good that the moment I snapped the last pictures and mixed it in with the Alfredo Sauce, I ate some!

This recipe makes about 3 lbs of cooked pasta!  It called for 10 oz of spinach, but I didn’t want to use all the spinach we had (which was conveniently, 10 ounces… ), so I did about 3 to 5 oz spinach with some left over frozen kale I had from a couple of weeks ago that we never used up.

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Part of the Kale (this is not representative of the total amount)

 

The recipe is the same as when you make normal Fresh Pasta except for the addition of the spinach/kale.  Things you’ll need:

  • Rolling pin or Pasta Machine (you really do need one of these, otherwise the dough won’t get that satiny texture)
  • Large pot
  • 2 cups Flour (you can use All-Purpose or use other non-gluten mixes & flours *see bottom of post)
  • 3 eggs
  • Sea Salt or Kosher salt for the water
  • 10 oz of either Spinach or Kale or a mix of both

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For specific directions on how to make the dough for the noodles, click here (videos available that I used also in the post).  The only difference is that you mix the spinach & kale in with the eggs during the volcano phase of the recipe.

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You swirl from the middle-outward, constantly drawing in more flour

Tips I learned this time around making pasta:

  • Cut the pasta noodles with a pizza cutter that rolls!  It saves so much time, and is dramatically easier to use.
  • You do have to chop the kale and spinach pretty thin, but don’t stress over it.  Some cookbooks say it needs to be super fine, mine obviously wasn’t, and it still was chopped enough to incorporate easily.
  • This pasta tastes amazing!  You really can’t taste the kale or spinach too strongly, but somehow, it’s still there making a great overall flavor.  It was INCREDIBLE with the Alfredo Sauce, and made me so glad it was healthy and had a load of Vitamin A!

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Alfredo Sauce Recipe:

  • 6 tbs butter (3/4 stick or 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water is fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or half & half (to make it richer/creamier, add 1/2 heavy cream with 1 cup milk)
  • 5 oz Parmesan cheese (or to taste)

Cook butter until softened into a liquid. Stir in until well blended the flour (it will make a sticky doughy mess).  Remove from heat.

Add the chicken broth (or water) and milk/cream, put the pan back on heat and WHISK it thoroughly to incorporate the flour mixture into the sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook until the sauce is thickened and beautiful smooth and white, about 5 minutes.  Add the parmesan at the end, tasting to make sure the sauce has enough.

 

Enjoy your healthy St. Patrick’s Day-Green fettucine!!!  I know we will. 🙂

Breakfast Egg Muffins… Not McDonalds!

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I love to cook… with all the mistakes there are to be made, you’d think it’d be frustrating at time, which if I’m honest, then yes, it really is.  But when you create a recipe that is amazing, the frustrations don’t seem so bad.  I made 24 egg muffins this past Monday, and yes, there was a huge mistake that you dear readers, get to learn from: DO NOT USE REGULAR CUPCAKE LINERS WHEN COOKING SOMETHING LIKE EGGS.  Use the foil lined ones (see image below) use you like disintegrating pieces of cupcake liner along with your breakfast.

Ingredients (if you don’t want to make 2 batches of muffins, halve this recipe)

  • 1 pound turkey sausage
  • 24 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 1 cup cheese
  • 1 cup salsa or picante sause
  •  2 tsp salt & 2 tsp pepper

Brown sausage in frying pan until done, set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, add 12 eggs (and whisk) then add 1/2 cup milk along with all the spices (remember to halve it if you don’t want to make 24 muffins!).  Stir in the cooked sausage.  Line a cupcake or muffin tin with FOIL-lined cupcake liners.  Fill each cup about 1/3 to 2/3 full, but no fuller.  Add in a pinch of cheese to each individual cup, I realize you can also mix all the cheese in at one time in order to make it faster, but it doesn’t ensure that each cup has the perfect amount of cheese.  And I’m kind of a perfectionist 🙂 each muffin NEEDS the perfect amount of cheese.  I also do the same with the salsa, putting one spoonful each into each cup. 

foil

 

 

 

Bake at 350’F for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy your delicious non-McDonald’s Egg Muffins!

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Tracy Anderson’s Chili + Black Beans = Burritos

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I love this tiny woman, and this chili recipe was amazing.  I altered it to add my own black bean recipe because in my mind, they taste amazing together in a wrap or burrito.  We use those large spinach tortillas since they are our favorite, but you can also get tomato or even jalapeno tortillas to go with this and any kind of wrap you’d want!

Chili Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs grass-fed ground beef
  • 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchinis, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 Tbsp. roasted garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Spray a large saucepan (or deep wok) with cooking spray.  When pan is hot add roasted garlic.  Saute and add diced zucchini. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add diced bell pepper and jalapeno.  Saute until veggies are al dente.  Add ground beef. Combine all ingredients, stirring continually. Add cumin and paprika.  After meat is completely cooked, add chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Black Beans

  • 1 package of dry black beans
  • 2 Tbs of cumin
  • Crock Pot

Sift through the dry beans to filter only the good ones in, place in colander and rinse thoroughly.  Add beans into the crock pot and cover with water until there it is about 3 inches above the beans at the bottom.  Add spices and give a quick stir, then turn crock pot on low heat for 7-8 hours or on high heat for 5-6 hours.

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To create the burritos just add a scoop of chili and add a scoop of beans, cheese or guacamole (avocado) into the tortilla wrap.

If you don’t feel like a burrito, it’s a great simple bowl of chili:

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Enjoy!

(Chili Recipe from the Tracy Anderson Method Dynamic Eating Plan)