Friday, January 30, 2009

Chicken Tortellini Soup

I came across this recipe for Chicken Ravioli Soup the other day and I knew it would be perfect for this week's menu (that is, once it cooled off again - is anyone else getting tired of this back and forth weather???).

I love chicken noodle soup, although I hardly ever make it (have I ever made it?). Tiny flecks of colored vegetables, buttery broth, and moist, tender chicken...could it get any better? Yes, just add ravioli!

At Whole Foods I found Rising Moon Tortellini on sale so I decided to swap it out for the ravioli. I used canned broth, although making your own would be extra delicious.

Chicken Tortellini Soup
adapted from and

Makes 8 1-cup servings

1 lb chicken breasts (about 2)
Salt and pepper
1 cup diced carrot (about 2)
1 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
1 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon oil (olive, canola)
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water
8 oz cheese tortellini

Preheat oven to 425°F. Pat chicken dry, season with salt and pepper, and bake on a baking sheet for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool and shred.

Over medium-high heat, melt butter and oil. Once the butter is melted, add the carrot, celery, red bell pepper, and onion. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken (once cooled and shredded), chicken broth, and water to the pot; bring to a simmer and cook until veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Carefully add the tortellini. Simmer for 5 – 8 minutes, or until the tortellini is cooked through.

Per serving - 208 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 19 g carbohydrate, 3 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 19 g protein (exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 protein, 1 fat)

Notes - My chicken wasn't cool enough to add when I added the broth and water, so I just added it later on; any kind of filled pasta would be great and if there would have been a whole wheat option I would have bought it

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Super Bowl

According to
1,200 calories - Average calorie intake during a Sunday football session

Potato chips - The most popular football snack, accounting for 27 billion calories and 1.8 billion grams of fat (OMG!) on Super Bowl Sunday alone

20 percent - Increase in antacid sales on the day after the Super Bowl

13,333 - Number of NFL linemen, at 300 pounds each, it would take to balance the 4 million pounds of fat consumed from potato chips alone by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday

10 feet - Depth to which the 43.8 million pounds of avocados consumed on Super Bowl Sunday would fill a stadium

30 million - Pounds of five popular snack foods Americans consume on Super Bowl Sunday (11.2 million pounds of potato chips, 8.2 million pounds of tortilla chips, 4.3 million pounds of pretzels, 3.8 million pounds of popcorn, and 2.5 million pounds of nuts)

Does that make you want to avoid every Super Bowl party for the rest of your life???

Instead of avoiding the party, offer to host it or to bring a dish...that way you can have a little control over what will be served. To help you do this I've compiled a list of websites with healthy Super Bowl recipes. And here is a previous post with 2 dip recipes - Babaganoush and Five Layer Mexican Dip.
Food Network's Ellie Krieger - Dips, Chili, Guacamole

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna

Sometime before Christmas I had a large bag of fresh spinach from the farmer's market that needed to be used ASAP. I was about to head home for the holidays and knew I wouldn't be able to eat it all before I left...and it didn't look very fresh either. I hate wasting food, especially produce because its so expensive.

After a little brainstorming and looking through my pantry/fridge to see what else I had on hand, I decided on this lasagna. I had never heard of a spinach and artichoke version, but it sounded good and I was sure it would work. I did a google search, reviewed a few recipes, and headed to the grocery.

My inspiration recipe was this Spinach Lasagna from, and I used the recipe on the back of the Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne Pasta (i.e. no-boil) box for my layering method and proportions.

I love way. I really don't care for the traditional ricotta cheese and my mom used cottage cheese and I didn't like that either. I leave both out of my recipe. As with any dish, adding veggies lightens the calories and fat per I always add some kind of vegetable (I have a really good recipe for a roasted vegetable lasagna). Sometimes I add a protein, but if I do its usually shredded chicken (although I'm not opposed to ground beef, I just prefer chicken...I usually buy a rotisserie chicken to save time).

My brother Adam, who thinks I'm turning into a vegetarian (I'm not!!), wasn't excited about eating my meatless version. I should have known better!

Things to note:
  • no-boil noodles are the way to easy! Barilla is my favorite brand...their noodles are flatter; and realize you can't substitute regular lasagna noodles (even if you have already boiled them) in this recipe
  • you could make your own pasta sauce, but if you do buy it from the store read this past post first (there are 2 links for homemade sauces too)
  • I used ½ fresh spinach that I sauteed and chopped and ½ frozen that I defrosted...the recipe below is for all frozen/thawed
  • this is a make-ahead recipe, so you can refrigerate or freeze it for a later use

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna
create by me!

makes 4 servings

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese (or 1/3-less fat neufchatel)
8 ounces fat-free Greek yogurt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
2 15-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 27.5-ounce jars low-fat pasta sauce (5 g of fat or less per serving)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

If baking right away, preheat oven to 400°.

Beat the cream cheese at medium speed with a mixer until smooth; add the yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and eggs, beating well. Add the spinach, artichokes, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning; beat well.

In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, layer in the following order, spreading well:

  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 3 noodles
  • 1/3 of the spinach mixture
  • 1/3 of the cheese
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 3 noodles
  • 1/3 of the spinach mixture
  • 1/3 of the cheese
  • 1 ½ cups pasta sauce
  • 3 noodles
  • 1/3 of the spinach mixture
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/3 of the cheese

If baking right away: Cover with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray, and bake at 400° for 15 - 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbly around the edges. Uncover and continue baking for an additional 25 - 30 minutes, until the cheese is browned in spots. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

To store without baking: Wrap dish tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. If frozen, the lasagna must be thawed completely in the refrigerator, for about 24 hours. Bake as described above, increasing the covered baking time to 30 - 40 minutes.

Per serving - 331 calories, 13 g fat (6 g saturated), 36 g carbohydrate, 7 g sugar, 6 g fiber, 26 g protein (exchanges: 1 starch, 2 vegetables, 3 protein, 2 ½ fat)

Notes - If you have a "meat eater" in the family, you could add layers of shredded cooked chicken between the cheese and spinach layers; the servings are pretty might be able to get 10 servings out of it

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps

The Jan/Feb issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine is always a "light" issue. This year there are several recipes that I'm excited to try. First on the list? Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps.

The recipe calls for flank steak, but I used another cut that was on sale at Whole Foods...maybe it was top-round or sirloin (both are lean cuts as is flank). As long as the piece of beef is relatively thin, anything will work.

I bought a mango against my better judgement (it's not mango season!) and it was horrible so I tossed it. I wanted to use something else sweet in its place, so I sliced up a red bell pepper, tossed it in olive oil, salt, and pepper and cooked it on my grill pan.

If you can't find cellophane or bean thread noodles, substitute rice noodles or angel hair pasta.

These past few days, I've been using the leftovers to make a salad...I had to make more of the cilantro-lime dressing. Tear up the lettuce and top with the beef, mango (in my case red bell pepper), scallions, cilantro and dressing...I actually added the rice noodles to the salad as well. I think chopped peanuts would be a nice addition to the salad.

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Everyday Food magazine

Makes 6 servings

1 ½ pounds flank steak (or another lean, thin cut of beef)
salt and pepper
6 ounces cellophane or bean-thread noodles (or rice noodles, angel hair pasta)
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided (use half sesame oil if you have it!)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
3 scallions (green onions), sliced
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
12 leaves Boston/butter lettuce
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into strips

Preheat broiler, with rack 4 inches from heat. Place steak on a large rimmed baking sheet; pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Broil until medium-rare, 10 t0 12 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain.

While the steak is cooking, cook noodles according to package directions; drain, and return to pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sliced scallions, and half of cilantro; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

In a small bowl (or jar), combine lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and remaining tablespoon of oil and soy sauce; season with salt and pepper.

Fill lettuce leaves with beef (about 2 ounces per leaf) and mango; drizzle with sauce. Serve with noodles.

Per serving - 350 calories, 13 g fat (4 g saturated), 31 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 26 g protein (exchanges: 4 protein, 2 fat, 1 ½ starch, ½ vegetable)

Notes - I added freshly grated ginger to the sauce; although I didn't, the original recipe says to add green onions to the wraps with the beef and mango; if your rice noodles look dry after you add the oil and soy sauce, add more soy

Friday, January 02, 2009

10 Secrets of the Effortlessly Thin

In the past few days I have seem so many commercials for weight loss pills/programs/products...'tis the season to lose weight! There has also been an increase of online weight loss articles...this is what was on this morning:

10 secrets of skinny people
Pros & cons of popular diets
Exercise for those who don't
11 hot fitness trends
Find: Average woman's weight

The first one interested me. I'm I already know these so-called secrets? Here they are, 10 secrets of the "effortlessly" thin, and if you want to read the full article click here:

1. They don't diet
2. They keep track of their weight
3. They exercise regularly
4. They don't solve problems with food
5. They stop eating when they're full
6. They don't surround themselves with temptation
7. They allow themselves treats
8. They eat breakfast
9. They move, stand and fidget more
10. They don't skip meals

I follow just about every one of these. I don't diet in the sense that I follow a specific plan; instead I try and eat healthfully MOST of the time...but not all of the time! I keep track of my weight by weighing myself several times a week. I'm not obsessive about the number on the scale, but it helps me stay within my target weight range.

I exercise regularly and move/stand a lot. I always eat breakfast and never skip meals (unless I'm not hungry, and in that case I'll eat something a little later). I do have "special treats" sometimes (I've had a few too many this holiday season). I usually stop eating when I'm full, although I used to not be as aware of's something I continually work on.

I don't keep tempting things in my house...sweet things tempt me like ice cream, candy, dessert...and instead keep lots of fruit and yogurt to satisfy my sweet tooth. The last one that I can go either way on is solving problems with food...I'm not really an emotional eater, but I do eat out of boredom and stress sometimes. These days I'm so busy that I don't have time to get bored very often. And now that I'm finished with school my stress level has gone down too.

Think about all of these "secrets" and pick 1 or 2 to work's the little things that really count. I'm not so sure that it's effortless to stay thin (especially in today's society) and I know it's a little easier for me...I am a dietitian after all. But a few small changes can really make a difference and help you lose or maintain weight.

Happy New Year!