Posted in Easy, Salads, Vegetables

Easy Italian Pasta Salad

Original Post September 2010: We had a family BBQ over the weekend and with our crazy schedule, I had to make a menu that takes minimal effort.  The night before I threw this together and it worked out really well.  Instead of trying to come up with a homemade salad dressing, I figured it’s easier to buy the salad dressing and just “jazz” it up a little with fresh basil & garlic.

If there are some ingredients that do not appeal to you, feel free to substitute.  Here are some ideas:

– grated parmesan instead of mozzerella

– Minced onion instead of garlic

– Chopped celery

– chopped tomatoes

Have fun with it because that’s what it’s all about…

Easy Italian Pasta Salad

Serves 16

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Refrigerator: 2 hours


8 ounces pasta

8 ounces Italian ham

1 can artichoke hearts – rinsed and drained

8 ounces roasted red peppers – drained and rinsed

¼ cup pitted calamata olives

1 cup low fat Italian salad dressing

2 cloves garlic – minced

½ cup low fat grated mozzarella cheese

¼ cup fresh basil – chopped


  1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and add pasta.  Cook according to package directions then drain and rinse under cold water until the pasta is cool to the touch.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, chop the ham, artichoke hearts, red peppers and olives and spoon into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add pasta, salad dressing, garlic and cheese.  Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  4. Right before serving, chop fresh basil and toss.
Posted in Appetizers, Bake, Grilling, Side Dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Italian Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

YouTube Video –

Serves: 8

Estimated Calories per serving: 143

Fat grams: 9

Preheat oven:  400o OR heat grill


4 ounces low fat/light cream cheese, softened

4 ounces reduced fat Italian blend grated cheese

6 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Handful fresh basil, chopped

8 large portobello mushrooms

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper


  1. To prepare mushrooms, wipe off any dirt with damp cloth and remove any stem.  Heat pan on medium heat.
  2.  Combine olive oil, salt and pepper and, using a brush, coat the mushrooms with the olive oil mixture.  Heat sauté pan and spray with cooking spray.  Sauté mushrooms on each side for about 3 – 4 minutes, covered until most of the liquid is absorbed. TIP: you may have to work in batches, do not overcrowd the mushrooms.
  3. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
  4. To prepare filling: cook spinach in a microwave safe bowl and cook on high for 2 – 3 minutes.  Let cool then squeeze out any excess liquid.
  5. Combine spinach with cream cheese, Italian blend grated cheese, and basil.
  6. If baking, place mushrooms on a baking sheet, spoon cheese mixture on top of each and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
  7. If grilling, place mushrooms on grill for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted and slight browned.
  8. Serve warm

Correction: In the video I had called for ¼ cup olive oil but it should be 2 tablespoons.

Posted in Main Courses, Poultry, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Chicken Parmesan with Zoodles

YouTube Video –

Serves 4

Estimated Calories per serving = 335

Fat grams = 10

Preheat oven 375o


Cooking Spray

4 Boneless/skinless chicken breasts pounded

1 Can of crushed tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, separated & minced

1 teaspoon Oregano

1 teaspoon dried Basil or 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped basil

1 t. Onion powder

1 t. Garlic powder

Salt  and pepper

½  cup parmesan cheese grated (separated)

4 zucchini (or 2 packages frozen zucchini noodles)

2 teaspoons olive oil

Chicken parmesan Directions:

  1. To make sauce: Heat a pot on medium heat and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened and browned.
  3. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add can of crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, onion powder, garlic powder and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil then let simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  5. To make chicken: Spray frying pan with cooking spray. Sauté chicken breasts in a frying pan on medium high heat.  Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side until browned. 
  6. Remove chicken breast from pan and set aside. 
  7. Pour ½ cup of the tomato sauce into a baking dish. 
  8. Arrange chicken breasts on top of tomato sauce. 
  9. Spoon remaining sauce on chicken and then top with ¼ cup parmesan cheese. 
  10. Bake covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for the last 10 minutes.  Serve with cooked zoodles.

Zucchini Noodles Directions:

  1. While chicken is baking during the last 10 minutes, heat olive oil in a pan, add 1 clove minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
  2. Add zucchini noodles, season with salt and pepper and sauté, while turning it with tongs for 7 – 10 minutes until zucchini is soft and the water on the bottom of the pan is absorbed. 
  3. Turn off heat and toss ¼ cup parmesan cheese.  Transfer to a bowl and cover until chick parmesan is done.
Posted in Braised, Easy, Main Courses, Poultry, Slow Cook

Chicken Cacciatore

YouTube –

This is an Italian classic made light. Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with onions, herbs, usually tomatoes, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine. Cacciatore is popularly made with braised chicken or rabbit . Enjoy

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Posted in Appetizers, Vegetables

Eggplant Bruschetta

I served these on Sunday over the holiday weekend and they were such a hit, Dean went out and bought all the ingredients Monday morning so I could cook up another order for some family friends.  They are a little heavier on calories and fat than most recipes I cover but after having 2 (which is a serving size), you are full for a while.  You can even have these as a meal with a salad on the side and feel very satisfied.


Eggplant Bruschetta

Preheat oven 425o

Serves 12

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Estimated Values per Serving:

Calories: 360                        Fat: 10  grams

Eggplant Bruschetta


1 – 1 ½ loaves Italian bread – cut into 24 slices


1 eggplant – cut into 24 thin slices

3 cups seasoned bread crumbs

1 cup egg substitute

24 ounces (1 ½ pounds) low fat mozzarella cheese – thinly sliced

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic, basil and oregano

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Sweat eggplant slices by lightly coating with salt and placing paper towels on top to absorb the excess water.  Rinse salt off of the eggplant slices.
  2. While eggplant is sweating, coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and add sliced Italian bread.  Toast for about 5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
  3. Heat a large skillet on medium high heat and coat with cooking spray.  Dip eggplant slices in egg substitute then coat with bread crumbs.  Add to the skillet and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side to brown the bread crumbs.
  4. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray and add browned eggplant slices.  Roast for 15 minutes until eggplant is cooked through.
  5. Top the toasted Italian bread with a slice of mozzarella, an eggplant slice, a little diced tomatoes and some grated parmesan.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and serve.
Posted in Bake, Eggs, Pasta dish, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Penne Alfredo & Spinach Quiché

Preheat oven 350o

Serves 8

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Bake Time: 60 minutes

Estimated Values per serving:

Calories = 200                                              Fat = 2 grams

Penne Alfredo & Spinach Quiché


10 ounces penne pasta

8 ounces frozen chopped spinach – defrosted

2 ½ cups skim milk

¼ cup flour

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch ground nutmeg

Salt to taste

1 cup fat free ricotta cheese

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup egg substitute


  1. Boil a large pot of water and add penne.  Cook for 5 minutes until al dente (still firm).  Drain and add to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Squeeze excess water from defrosted chopped spinach and add to pasta.
  3. In a medium size saucepan, whisk together milk, flour, pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg.  Heat on medium low, stirring constantly until mixture begins to bubble.  Increase heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and add ricotta and parmesan.  Stir until cheeses are melted.  Add salt to taste.
  4. Add cheese mixture to penne and spinach and cool for about 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in egg substitute.
  6. Coat a 8” springform pan with cooking spray.  Spoon in quiche mixture and cover with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen penne.  Let stand 20 minutes.  Remove from pan and serve.
Posted in Bake, Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 8

Preheat oven 375o

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Estimated Values per Serving:

Calories: 200                        Fat:4 grams


½ (8 ounces) pound ground turkey breast meat

½ (8 ounces) pound ground sirloin

½ cup Italian style bread crumbs

¼ cup egg substitute

1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning – separated

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ box (8 ounces) orzo pasta

10 cups low fat chicken broth

1 package (10 ounces) chopped frozen spinach

2 bay leaves


  1. To make the meatballs: Combine the ground turkey, ground sirloin, bread crumbs, egg substitute, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder and parmesan cheese and mix well with your hands.
  2. Coat a broiler pan with cooking spray and set on the side.  Roll meat mixture into small balls (about ½ teaspoon in size) and place meatballs on broiler pan.
  3. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. While the meatballs are baking, boil orzo pasta until al dente (about 5 minutes).  Drain and rinse and set aside.
  5. In a large pot, combine chicken broth, frozen spinach, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, bay leaves and cooked orzo and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer.
  6. Once meatballs are cooked, add them to the soup and serve hot with parmesan cheese on the side.