Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Recipe: Greek Penne Pasta

This recipe sounded delicious to me when I came across it, and it turned out that it was. Also, I've reached the point with cooking where I can make a few modifications without worrying that I'm going to ruin the whole thing. The modifications I made this time turned out to be terrific. However, the WW points that I'm showing here are for the original recipe, and do not include my modifications (which I'm sure made the whole thing less healthy).

Greek Penne Pasta: Makes 4 servings; 10 WW points per serving

  • 12 oz uncooked penne
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2/3 oz pine nuts, about 2 tbsp [I used more than this]
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 pound tomatoes, plum [I used on-the-vine tomatoes instead of plum]
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled [I used feta, but regular goat cheese would be delicious too]
  • 6 medium olives, black, pitted and chopped [I just used a small can, drained, of sliced black olives]
  • [I also used about 8 oz of boneless, skinless chicken breast]


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions (without butter or oil), drain and set aside. If necessary, cover to keep warm.
  2. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until oil sizzles. Add pine nuts and garlic. Cook and stir until pine nuts are golden brown, about 3 minutes. [I added the chicken with the pine nutes and sauteed until nearly cooked through before moving to the next step.]
  3. Stir in spinach and tomatoes and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. [I also added the olives and some feta at this point instead of sprinkling them on at the end. This turned out to be a great idea--the sauce had a slight olive-y taste to it, which was great, and the feta was very nicely incorporated.]
  4. Add spinach mixture to pasta and toss until combined. Serve pasta sprinkled with feta cheese and black olives. [Despite having added some feta earlier, we also sprinkled some on our plates. It was great.] Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

The verdict: YUM. The only annoying thing about this recipe was that I had a bunch of tiny tomatoes that all needed to be prepped. Everything else was super easy and quick, and it came out delicious. The chicken was a great way to up the lean protein in the dish, but it would be excellent vegetarian style, too. This was so good, we were totally fighting over the leftovers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Recipe: Mexican Beef over Polenta

After being stuck in a recipe rut for quite some time, I have finally started to branch out again, at least a little. So, hopefully I'll be posting here a tad more often in the future.

The first branch-out attempt was tonight, and it was quite successful. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to take photos.

Mexican Beef over Polenta: Makes 6 servings; 5 WW points per serving

  • 1 pound uncooked lean ground beef (with 7% fat) [I used ground turkey instead.]
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes, with chiles, drained, reserve 1 Tbsp of liquid
  • 1 cup canned yellow corn, drained, or frozen, thawed corn kernels [I just used a can of corn, drained. It may have been a bit more than a cup but it didn't feel like too much at all.]
  • 10 olives, Kalamata, sliced [10 olives seemed weird to me, so I just bought a small can of sliced black olives and dumped the whole thing in. It worked out to be a good amount.]
  • 2 tbsp canned jalapeno peppers, pickled, chopped (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp table salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup polenta, quick-cooking [I just used regular cornmeal. It didn't say anything about being quick cooking but it only took about 5-10 minutes to thicken.]
  • 3 cups canned chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • 1/3 cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, or scallion, fresh, chopped (optional)


  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef and onion, stirring frequently, until meat is fully cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes; drain off any liquid.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and reserved liquid, corn, olives, jalapenos (if using), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, cumin and pepper; simmer 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine cornmeal, broth and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until cornmeal is thick, about 5 minutes. Note: The polenta will still be soft after cooking but will firm up if allowed to stand for a few minutes before serving.
  4. Spoon polenta onto a large serving plate and top with beef mixture. Top with salsa, cheese and cilantro (or scallion). [We also served it with a bit of sour cream.] Divide into 6 portions and serve. [I didn't put it all together on one big plate. I just put some polenta on each plate and topped with the beef mixture.]

The verdict: This was delicious, and super easy to make. Seriously, basically all you do is put a bunch of stuff in a pan while boiling some cornmeal. It took me about 15 minutes to make from start to finish, and Torsten and I both really liked it. It had a real Mexican flavor to it--I would definitely recommend using jalapenos, or, if you don't like spicy things, adding some other kind of Mexican-style flavoring to it so that it will have a nice strong taste.

It's relatively healthy, too. WW points vary based on calories, fat, and fiber, but a loose rule of thumb is 50 calories per point, so that would be 1500 calories in the whole dish, and between the two of us we only ate half of it (though of course Torsten ate more than I did), so that's an average of about 350-400 calories per serving. Not bad for a very filling meal. This will definitely be added to our regular rotation.