Category Archives: Pesto

Lighten up that Chicken Parm!

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Our favorite Italian restaurant has a delicious chicken Parmesan dish that is a killer. I shudder to think of its fat grams and carb count! The chicken breast is a huge portion, breaded and fried, and topped with ooey, gooey cheese served with spaghetti made from semolina flour (low fiber).  In typical Hasty Tasty Meals fashion, I made it my mission to prepare a figure-friendly (or at least a figure-friendlier!) version. It isn’t too labor-intensive, either.

Tip: Use a sturdy freezer storage bag for the marinade.


Chicken Parmesan for Two


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3-4 oz. each)
1 28-oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
3 oz. dried whole wheat pasta
2 Tbsp. prepared pesto sauce
½ cup lowfat shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
(Optional) two sprigs of fresh basil for garnish

*Marinade: 1 Tbsp. wine vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasonings, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1 tsp. minced garlic


  • Marinate the chicken breasts for at least an hour (overnight works, too) in an Italian herb dressing (either bottled or my recipe*).
  • Cook pasta according to directions on package to al dente. Do not overcook.
  • Preheat a 10″ covered skillet on medium. Add chicken breasts, cover, and cook until done (use a meat thermometer if in doubt). Turn off heat but leave chicken in the covered skillet.
  • Meanwhile, in a 2-quart pan, heat the Italian crushed tomatoes just to a simmer. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the prepared pesto.
  • Spoon some of the tomato sauce over each cooked chicken breast, just to cover. Toss remaining sauce with the cooked pasta and divide between two plates to serve.
  • Top each chicken breast with the two cheeses, replace cover on skillet, and allow cheese to melt (3-4 minutes).
  • Serve each chicken breast on top the spaghetti, garnish with a sprig of fresh basil (optional), and enjoy.

Those of you who have a copy of Chef Cheri’s Hasty Tasty Meals also have a quick and easy pressure cooker chicken Parmesan recipe, but this recipe is for those who are apprehensive about pressure cooking. ☺

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Filed under chicken, Healthful Eating, Pesto, Recipes

Versatile Pesto

Now that I’m focused on MUFAs, I am experimenting more with one of my favorites, pesto. Here is my recipe for making the basic sauce, in case you don’t have one. Use a food processor or blender if you don’t have the Vita-Mix, and allow more time for the mixture to blend.


Vita-Mix Pesto
Yields 1 cup sauce

2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems)
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup pine nuts (Or Walnuts will work)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (Must be EVOO)
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Italian blend seasoning (or dried oregano)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan and Romano cheese
(optional: dash of salt)

Place these ingredients in the order listed into the Vita-Mix container. Secure lid. On Variable speed #5-6, process until thoroughly combined (may have to use tamper to push ingredients into the blades). Usually the process takes 20 seconds. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to ten days (but mine seldom lasts that long!)

Pesto sauce is high calorie, so use it sparingly. Thin it with the cooking water from pasta to make a delicious pasta sauce or thin a tablespoon with about 1 or 2 tablespoons water to dress your salad. You can cook with pesto sauce, too. Spread a little over a boneless, skinless chicken breast. (Cook gently, though. The garlic turns bitter at higher temperatures, so cook low and slow or add after removing food from heat) For a snack, dip fresh vegetables in some of the pesto sauce, or spoon some inside a celery stick.

A little goes a long way. Pesto is rich in taste and in calories. It’s also rich in MUFAs, thanks to the nuts and olive oil, so enjoy a little each day.


If you struggle with growing your own herbs or live where it’s difficult to have an herb garden, check out the AeroGarden. You can grow herbs, tomatoes, or salad greens (or even flowers) the NASA way, using hydroponic technology. I recently added an AeroGarden to my kitchen, where it sits on my table as a centerpiece. In making my pesto sauce, I had all the fresh herbs I needed at hand. I’ll be the first to admit it’s an extravagance; I could buy lots of herbs at the supermarket for what an AeroGarden costs! On second thought, considering the price of fuel and the fact that I live 12 miles one way from the closest grocery store …

AeroGarden after three weeks

AeroGarden after three weeks


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Filed under Basil, cooking, Healthful Eating, Pesto, Recipes