You’ve had a long day. All you want to do is collapse in a chair and be served dinner. But you’re on a budget and trying to eat healthy meals, so you prefer eating at home instead of a restaurant. What a dilemma.
Sound familiar? Been there, done that. So I keep a few speedy-to-the-table meals in my cooking arsenal, including Hasty Tasty Spinach-Chicken Pasta. This one uses leftover, cooked chicken (but you could substitute other cooked meats or chopped Portobello mushrooms) and a package of triple-washed spinach. I also use a jar of light Alfredo sauce from my pantry (I stock up when my local grocer has a BOGO–Buy-One-Get-One-free). My recipe serves two, but you could easily double it. It’s thirty minutes, max, until you’re sitting down to enjoy your meal.
Even with the prepared sauce, this meal is fairly light and packed with nutrition. Don’t feel guilty for using prepared sauce when you’re eating almost two servings of iron- and fiber-rich spinach. Busy schedules call for compromise.
Note: For this recipe I used my Fasta Pasta microwave oven cooker to prepare the farfalle while I made the dish using my 12″ Gourmet electric skillet (by Kitchencraft). Use whatever cookware works best for you.
HASTY TASTY SPINACH-CHICKEN PASTA
- 2 ounces (1 serving) dried bowtie (Farfalle) or shell pasta
- 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
- 1 package (3-4 servings) spinach salad mix, washed and ready to eat
- Kosher salt
- 1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce, your choice.
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
- 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
- Cook pasta in a separate pan or in a microwave oven pasta cooker until al dente. Salt generously.
- In a large covered skillet or electric skillet, wilt fresh spinach over low heat (225°F)
- Add the cooked chicken, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the jar of Alfredo sauce, stir, and cover. Heat through 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in cooked pasta, season with the grated garlic and nutmeg. Turn off heat.
- Divide and serve, garnished with Parmesan cheese.Enjoy.
Tip: Cooking for one? Leftovers taste great cold, too. Save half to take for lunch.
Handheld vegetable spiral slicer by SpiraLife
I previously posted about my new spiral vegetable slicer, the SpiraLife. Today I challenged my husband to try my lightened, low-carbohydrate version of shrimp scampi. He had his doubts. He loves his pasta, and substituting spiral-cut squash didn’t appeal to him. But he’s a good sport.
I call this dish “campy” because it’s a fake-out, and I also thought the name “shrimp campy” cute. You may call it anything you wish, but please give it a try. It’s healthful, filling, and tasty.
Hasty Tasty Shrimp “Campy”
- 2 medium zucchini, spiral-cut into noodles
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 10 oz. frozen cooked salad shrimp (no need to thaw)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper
- Rinse and drain the zucchini. The rinse water clinging to it should be sufficient to create the steam to cook the “pasta” without overcooking it.
- Steam the zucchini in a covered, 2-quart saucepan over low heat for 10-12 minutes or until tender.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium-size saute pan over low heat. Add the frozen salad shrimp, salt, pepper, and minced garlic.
- Remove saute pan from heat as soon as the shrimp are warmed. Do not overcook.
- Toss cooked zucchini “pasta” with the shrimp. Serve garnished with the Parmesan cheese.
The verdict? My husband admitted it tasted better than he expected. He even said I could make it again. So there you have it: Shrimp “Campy” without the high-carb pasta! And it sneaks an extra serving of vegetables into your daily diet.
In a perfect world, we cook everything from fresh and make our own sauces, etc. But real life often challenges us with unexpected company or a rushed schedule. There’s no need to resort to take-out, not when you can fake out. Take a little help from the store and keep a few cheat items in your pantry and freezer. Here’s a favorite emergency dish I make in twenty minutes. I read labels and shop as wisely as possible to ensure my fake out is as healthful as possible.
Few ingredients needed for this recipe.
Add cooked pasta to gently heated sauce.
Fresh herbs make this jar sauce a star sauce!
Penne Alfredo Fake-out
• 2 cups whole-wheat penne pasta
• 1 jar reduced fat Alfredo sauce
• 1 cup frozen vegetables
• ½ pound medium shrimp, with veins and tails removed
• ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Cook penne pasta according to package instructions in salted, boiling water.
2. In a 2 quart covered saucepan, gently heat shrimp and vegetables over medium-low heat until shrimp turns pink and sauce is bubbly (approximately 10 minutes)
3. Drain cooked penne and toss with the shrimp sauce mixture.
4. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley and shredded cheese, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Variations: Chill leftovers for a tasty pasta salad.
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. ☺