Perfect Basil Pesto (THM S)

Wondering what to do with that beautiful, blooming (overflowing?) basil? Pesto is one of my favorite ways to preserve fresh basil. It uses a TON of fresh basil at once, and pesto can be used in a myriad of ways.

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Low Carb Ranch Pasta Salad (THM S)

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This pasta salad is a quick and easy side dish to make ahead for lunch or dinner – perfect for those busy weeknights!

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If you’ve ever been to a Ruby Tuesdays, you very likely know the pasta salad I’m talking about. Creamy, crunchy, and a little salty from the ham and Ranch.

Growing up in Woodstock, Georgia (which was very small then) Ruby Tuesdays was one of the only sit-down restaurants in our area. When my parents felt like treating us to a dinner out, we usually went there or our favorite Mexican food joint.

My mother loves to tell stories about what a veggie lover I’ve always been (apparently, I used to ask for a breakfast of carrots, celery, and ranch – who’d have guessed?!). So naturally I gravitated toward the salad bar and piled it high. The pasta salad became one of my favorites very quickly.

I haven’t been to Ruby Tuesdays in forever! The last memory I have of going there, I was pregnant with my daughter (which was 5 years ago). So, you can understand my excitement when I found this pasta salad EVEN BETTER than the one at the favored restaurant chain.

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It’s a fantastic use of leftover ham, veggies sitting in the fridge, or those last few Tablespoons of Ranch at the bottom of your jar.

My kids were digging this pasta salad too, even the veggies (that they normally shy away from).

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This salad is creamy, delightfully crunchy, and FRESH. Just look at all those flecks of fresh herbs from the homemade Ranch dressing – gorgeous!

Ranch Pasta Salad (THM S)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


Credit: Erin Murray, My Fling with Food

Ingredients

  • 8oz Dreamfields Pasta (any short cut variety, I used elbows), cooked (makes about 2 cups cooked pasta)
  • 1 1/2 c finely diced ham
  • 1/3 c frozen peas (don’t worry about thawing or cooking, they thaw very quickly)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2-3 heaping Tbsp Homemade Ranch Dressing
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, and add more mayo and/or ranch if the salad gets too dry.
  2. Store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday Bolognese (THM S)

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Bolognese is basically an Italian meat sauce. It has a different flavor than traditional marinara, and usually has some vegetables in it as well. I call this my “Sunday Sauce” because you can make it on Sunday, and it tastes just as good (or better!) on Friday.

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This sauce comes together in one, big pot on your stove top, and it’s low-maintenance (lots of simmering, not a ton of stirring).

When I make Bolonese, I always make extra for freezing. It’s perfect with Dreamfields Noodles, spiralized squash/zucchini, eggplant steaks, Lazy Lasagne (Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook page 140), or any other Italian fare you can dream up. My kids love this sauce, and will eat anything I put with it.

Start with 1 1/2 – 2lbs ground beef. I used 85% lean, but you can go for whichever variety your family likes best. Sauté it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some dried basil. When the meat begins to brown, start breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. When the meat is mostly cooked, add the shallots, garlic, celery, grated carrot, and onions. I use a fine hand grater to get small strings of grated carrot. The best thing about using a hand grater, as opposed to a box grater, is that you can hover it over the pot and grate straight down into it. No extra step of transferring it from the cutting board to the pot. Plus, when it’s cut that small there’s no need for peeling.

When the vegetables begin to soften, de-glaze the pan with one heaping cup of red wine. Don’t fall for the “cooking wine” tricks here – you want to use something dry, bold in flavor, and that you would enjoy drinking. If you don’t enjoy the taste of it uncooked, then you really won’t like it once it’s reduced and concentrated. I used a Côtes du Rhône because I still had some left over from my Coq Au Vin, and it was just enough for this recipe. The Côtes du Rhône gave my sauce a bold, deep flavor, and I highly suggest it if you can find it in your grocery store. (I found mine at Costco for around $10).

Finally, add the whole can of crushed tomatoes with their juice and a touch more salt and pepper. Place the lid on your pan, and let it simmer on medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. Then remove the lid and continue simmering until sauce is reduced and thickened.

Turn off the heat, taste and adjust for seasoning, then add one large handful of fresh chopped parsley.

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What you end up with is a bold, hearty, sauce that’s slightly fruity from the red wine. It’s perfect to use right away, or you can cool and package it up for Italian night later in the week (all it will need is some heat). Like I said earlier, this sauce only gets better with time, so there are no disappointing leftovers here.

Sunday Bolognese (THM S)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


Credit: Erin Murray, My Fling with Food

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 – 2lbs ground beef (I used grassfed 85% lean)
  • 1 heaping cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced (leafy greens included)
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 1 large handful chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Start by browning the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Season with garlic powder, dried basil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, celery, grated carrot, and a touch more salt and pepper. Continue sautéing until onions begin to get soft, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. De-glaze the pan with the red wine, then add the crushed tomatoes and a little more salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. Remove the lid and continue simmering another 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and slightly reduced.
  4. Turn off the heat, add the parsley, taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve immediately, or cool and store until future use.

Zucc-ghetti and Stuffed Meatballs

I’m in love with my spiralizer. It makes low-carb life so easy and tasty.

My toddler loves helping me make “noodles,” and sometimes she even eats them.

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Zucc-ghetti and Stuffed Meatballs (THM S)

  • 1-lb ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 1 Tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c shredded Asiago cheese (Parmesan is also fine)
  • 2 sticks mozzarella string cheese
  • 2 small zucchini
  • your favorite jarred (no sugar added) or homemade marinara
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

For the meatballs, add the ground beef, minced onion, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, egg, Asiago, salt and pepper to a small bowl and mix with your hands until just combined. Careful not to over-mix! The meatballs will be tough if you work the meat too much.

Cut the string cheese into small medallions.

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Take a tablespoon of the meat mixture into your hand, take one medallion of cheese and press it into the center. Cover with about another tablespoon of the meat mixture and set into a foil-lined pan or cast iron skillet.

Once you get through all the meatballs, bake the meatballs at 375 for about  10 minutes.

Spiralize the zucchini, thick or thin, however you like it.

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Begin heating the marinara sauce through in a medium sauce pan over low heat.

After the meatballs have cooked for 10 minutes, take them out and transfer them into the sauce to finish cooking, about another 5 minutes.

You can leave the  noodles raw and allow the hot marinara to cook them slightly, or you can lightly saute them in a little butter with salt and pepper until just tender.

Zucchini hold a LOT of water, so be aware of that when you’re cooking – be careful not to add liquid to it or coat it in too much EVOO/butter. If you have the time or desire, you can lightly press the noodles between paper towels to try and remove some water before serving.

YUM.

I also served mine with a side Caesar salad – croutons included! It was a mix of romaine and spinach, topped with crumbled cooked bacon, Parmesan whisps (crunchy “crackers” made with just cheese), and a sprinkle of Asiago cheese.

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Perfection. ^_^

Creamy Shrimp Fra Diavolo

You can probably gather by the name, “Diavolo,” that this meal has a bit of a kick. However, the spice level can be customized to your tastes.

Traditionally, this sauce is a spicy red sauce, and this time I gave it a little extra wink by adding in some cream.

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You can even take a shortcut by using your favorite (no sugar added) jarred marinara and adding red pepper flakes to it, which is what I did. Usually, I love making my own marinara but there are times that I don’t have the time for it.

If you do have time to make your own marinara, go for it!

Creamy Shrimp Fra Diavolo (THM S)

  • 1lb large peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store bought
  • 1/3 c heavy cream or half and half
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 medium zucchini, spiralized
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, add garlic, salt and pepper, and a small pinch of red pepper flakes. When the butter is melted, add the shrimp and saute on medium heat until cooked through (about 2-3 minutes, depending on size of shrimp). Set the shrimp aside, leaving as much butter in the pan as possible.

To the same pan, add the zucchini noodles with salt, pepper, and another small pinch of red pepper flakes and saute on low heat until desired tenderness. I like mine al dente, so I only saute to heat them through  (about 3 minutes). Set the zoodles aside.

Add the marinara sauce to the same pan with the cream and a small pinch of red pepper flakes. Heat through on low for about 4 minutes, stirring  constantly. When the sauce is heated, add the zoodles back to the pan with a sprinkle of cheese and toss to combine. Add the zoodles to a bowl, top with shrimp and a little more cheese.

Even with the 3 pinches of red pepper flakes, this dish was not very spicy. My kids were fine with the spice level, and to me I only tasted a little tickle of the red pepper. It was perfect though! I think the first time I made this dish, I was more aggressive with the spice as if I was trying to burn my lips off my face. Less is more!

Vegetarian Low Carb Penne

I am a pasta lover. However, since starting the Trim Healthy Mama journey, pasta has been pretty much nonexistent.

Until I found out about Dreamfield’s noodles! They had some drama a while back, and can no longer claim to be “low carb” on their box. Although, I have been assured by the THM community that these noodles are on plan (as an S) and have a special coating which allows minimal glycemic impact (about 5g net carbs per serving).

There are special rules for Dreamfield’s pasta. First, do not overcook them – it destroys the coating. Second, do not reheat them (microwave or otherwise) – this also breaks the coating. Refrigeration is fine, but reheating after that point is a no-no.

Now that we have the formalities out of the way – let’s get to the fun stuff.

This recipe was actually inspired by one of my favorite Food Network gals, Giada DeLaurentiis. I saw her make a similar version of this (fancier, of course, which you can find here), and the part that drew me in was that she chopped every component using the food processor. I love shortcuts! Naturally, I had to try it.

mushsproutpenne.jpgCreamy Mushroom and Brussels Sprouts Penne

  • 1 box of Dreamfields penne pasta
  • 8oz baby Bella (cremini) mushrooms
  • 1lb bag Brussels sprouts
  • 2/3 cup of mascarpone cheese (can also use cream cheese)
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
  • Optional bacon and parsley for toppingUse your food processor – it’s your best bud! Halve the Brussels sprouts, removing any brown leaves, and toss into food processor. Pulse until sprouts are lightly shredded, and toss into a large skillet. Put whole cremini mushrooms into the food processor, and pulse until same consistency as sprouts. Add them to the skillet with 2 Tsp of butter, and lightly saute with salt and pepper. Cook the pasta, and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water before draining. Add cooking water, cooked pasta, parmesan, and mascarpone to the sauted veggies. Mix everything until combined, and top with bacon, parsley, and additional cheese.

Chicken Marsala Pasta Toss – Lightened Up!

Chicken Marsala is a fabulous weeknight meal because it comes together quickly and there’s very little prep involved. The only unfortunate side of the traditional dish is that the chicken is often lightly breaded, the sauce usually involves cream, and most people serve it with mashed potatoes. Although, I have nothing against mashed potatoes they can tend to be a calorie-laden (hello, heavy dairy!) side to a dish that isn’t exactly light to begin with.

I don’t often see Marsala served over pasta, but it serves the same carb-side as potatoes without having the extra dairy calories. And you can make a rich-tasting Marsala sauce without adding milk or heavy cream – so why not make this luxurious dish a little more figure-friendly?

Chicken Marsala Pasta Toss

  • 1 lb chicken tenders, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 8oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 Tsp butter
  • 2 1/2 Tsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 140z pkg fettuccine pasta
  • 2 Tsp olive oil

Start by heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Heat a separate, deep skillet on medium-high with the olive oil for the sauce. When the pan is heated, add the chunks of chicken in a single layer and season liberally with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on both sides (it doesn’t have to cook all the way through because you’ll add it back in the sauce later) and remove it from the pan onto a plate or bowl. Add the butter into the same pan where you browned the chicken (DON’T clean it, you want the chicken taste). When the butter melts, add the sliced mushrooms and garlic. Saute the mushrooms until they become soft, about 5-6 minutes, and after they’ve softened add salt and pepper to taste. The reason you don’t add the salt right away to the mushrooms is because it can slow down their browning process. When the mushrooms are soft sprinkle the flour in with the mushrooms and stir until you don’t see any raw, white flour in the pan – it’s supposed to form a paste-type deal. Let the flour cook with the mushrooms for 1-2 minutes, then add the red wine. I used Cabernet Sauvignon – I know, I know it’s not “Marsala,” but I like using what I have. By all means, buy Marsala if you want to. Stir the wine into the mushrooms so that the flour works into the liquid to form a thick sauce. When the wine reduces down (it reduces by about 1/2 and takes 5 minutes) add the vegetable broth and reduce the heat to medium. At this point, add the browned chicken back into the sauce and let the whole thing simmer on medium for 8-10 minutes while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta and add it right into the sauce pot to toss everything together. Serve and enjoy!

Spicy, Satisfying Goulash

Goulash is one of those recipes that sounds more complicated than it really is (at least, to me it does). It’s one of the best meals to have under your chef’s belt because it’s fairly cheap to make and comes together quickly. When you use lean beef and wheat pasta, you’d be surprised how healthy this meal can actually be! And on a cool fall night? There’s nothing more satisfying!

Spicy Goulash

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped (these are hotter than the average pepper! If you want to go easy on the heat for the kids, feel free to sub a green bell pepper instead)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Montreal steak seasoning (SUCH a great buy! If you don’t use this in everything, well, you should.)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, not drained (usually I’ll do fire roasted diced tomatoes – they add a GREAT smoky flavor, but they’re not always the best buy. You can do regular diced or even crushed works well too!)
  • 1 1/2 cups short-cut pasta (elbows or corkscrews work well to stick in the goulash, but you can use whatever short pasta you have on hand)

Heat a small sauce pot with water to cook the pasta. Heat a separate large sauce pot on medium-high heat. When the pan’s hot, add the ground beef, season with Montreal seasoning, and start breaking it into bite-size chunks with the flat of your spatula. When the meat’s almost fully browned, add the poblano, garlic, and onion.

TIP* Poblano’s pack a heat similar to jalapenos, maybe a hair hotter. When you’re chopping a poblano BE SURE you thoroughly wash your hands afterward (sometimes I have to squirt mine with lemon juice to get the heat from the pepper out of my skin) or wear plastic gloves when chopping it. And, for sure, don’t put your hands anywhere near your face or eyes for a few hours. I learned this the hard way even after I’d washed my hands multiple times after handling a poblano and scratched my eye (my eye was on fire for HOURS after that, youch).

Saute until the pepper and onion are soft, about 6-7 minutes. Drop the pasta to cook for about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes  and juice to the meat mixture, taste for salt and pepper seasoning at this point. Let the meat mixture simmer uncovered on medium-low heat while the pasta cooks. Drain and add the cooked pasta into the meat mixture. If needed add about 1/2 cup of water for a thinner consistency.

Serve and enjoy!

The best part about this meal is that it’s satisfying for everyone. Women love it because it’s lightened comfort food and men enjoy it because it’s meaty and it looks pretty manly.

Spinach Orzo Soup with Lemon

Ever since I test drove this recipe a year ago from Veg Kitchen I’ve been in love! This soup is delicious any way you have it – hot, cold, room temp, fresh, leftover…you get the point. The best part is that it comes together quickly, so it’s perfect for a weeknight family meal.

Spinach Orzo Soup with Lemon

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (could also be petite diced)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 Tsp olive oil
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed with liquid squeezed out (could also be 1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach, stems cut off and leaves cut into strips)
  • 3 Tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 – 1 1/2 Tsp fresh dill (optional, but super yummy)
  • 3/4 cup orzo pasta
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or 2 bullion cubes dissolved in 4 cups of water)
  • juice of 1 lemon

Heat a deep soup pot on medium with olive oil and heat a separate, small sauce pot with water to cook orzo. When oil in soup pot is warm, add the chopped onions and saute until soft (about 5 minutes). Once the onions are translucent, add bell pepper and garlic and saute another 5-6 minutes until the pepper is softened. Don’t forget to be adding salt and pepper as you add in each layer of vegetables!  After the pepper is soft, add the vegetable broth (or bullion and water, that’s what I used). If you’re using bullion, you can add the cubes right into the soup with the water, and they’ll dissolve as the soup comes up to a boil. Drain the liquid from the diced tomatoes right into the soup with the broth. If you’re using regular diced tomatoes, chop them a bit more finely before adding them to the soup. If you’re using petite diced, you can skip this step and add them right in. Bring the soup up to a rapid boil, then simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes. During this time, you should be cooking the orzo in your separate sauce pot (depending on the brand it cooks in 6-8 minutes). Drain the orzo after it’s cooked and add it right into the soup with the spinach and herbs.

The mixture of herbs is up to you! At least the parsley is great, but the combination of dill and parsley is wonderful in this soup. If you don’t like dill or don’t have it – don’t use it, it’s fine I’ll never know.

For this soup, I actually like using fresh spinach A LOT more than the frozen option. Why? Because 1) frozen spinach (for me, at least) doesn’t fare well in soups and 2) fresh spinach stays much more vibrantly green than frozen. Then, “Why,” you ask, “the hell did I use frozen?” I have a good reason for that, too! The fresh bunches were not on sale at the Asian store, and the frozen option was cheaper. I know, I’m on a budget I’m very susceptible to food prices and in this case it did overrule taste preference. You can try it either way – it’s totally up to you! I’ve done it both ways, but you can experiment and see which you prefer – that’s half the fun of cooking!

Now back to the recipe…

Add the lemon right into the soup (squeeze cut-side up so that the seeds stay with the lemon and not in your soup). You’ll notice that the soup is pretty thick at this point. Add 1 – 2 cups water to thin the soup to your desired consistency (I ended up adding about 2). Taste for salt and pepper at this point – add both or either if needed. Simmer, uncovered for another few minutes until the water and spinach are heated through (about 5 minutes, maybe less).

 

Pardon the blurriness, the soup was piping hot at this point so the blur is more steam than anything.

Enjoy the deliciousness!

By the way…you never knew a vegan soup could be so tasty, did ya?! Ha! I didn’t want to announce it too early, because I knew it would scare people away. Don’t be scared – vegans eat yummy food too!

Oh, just try it, you know you’ll like it.

Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Don’t be intimidated by the fancy name! Essentially, spaghetti bolognese is more or less a jazzed up meat sauce, and after you make it the first time you’ll want to keep making it over and over. This is even a lightened version of a bolognese sauce because traditionally it’s made with milk, and I subbed wheat spaghetti for a little extra fiber.

Spaghetti Bolognese

  • 1lb box wheat spaghetti
  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (not drained)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (about 1/2 of a small can)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 Tsp olive oil

Heat a large pot of water for the spaghetti. Heat a separate large, deep skillet on medium with olive oil. Once pan is heated, add the ground beef, season well with salt and pepper and begin breaking the meat into chunks with a flat spoon or spatula as it browns. When the meat is almost completely browned add the onions, celery, carrot, and garlic and saute until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Add the tomato paste and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the red wine and let the alcohol cook out (about 3-4 minutes). When the wine is reduced, add the diced tomatoes and juice. Drop the spaghetti to cook and let the sauce simmer on medium as the pasta cooks (about 8-9 minutes). When the spaghetti’s cooked, turn the heat off on the sauce and add the drained pasta right into the pot with the sauce. Toss to combine and serve!

Bolognese time!