Mediterranean Pasta Salad

I spent the middle of my March Madness-on-a-Saturday afternoon online looking for some new healthy recipes for the week that I could give a try. Pinterest never fails, I found this easy (and super delicious) recipe from Gimme Some Oven that I just had to prepare for my lunches. Not only does it include just a few simple ingredients – the dressing is extremely tasty and blends well with the pasta and vegetables.

Meal prep keeps me on my toes. I’ve always believed that if you don’t plan accordingly, you’re setting yourself up to potentially slide off the path. 

Luckily – this pasta salad holds well for several days. Prep away.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Serves 4
Quick take on a Mediterranean style pasta dish that's best served cold.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 12-ounce box of farfalle pasta
  2. 1 English cucumber, diced
  3. 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  4. 4-ounces crumbled fat-free feta cheese
  5. half of a medium size red onion, sliced thin
Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
  1. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best!)
  4. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  5. 1 teaspoon organic honey
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  9. small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta accordingly. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta can be handled.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing by whisking all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a large bowl, add your pasta, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion slices. Mix well. Carefully fold feta cheese into mixture, followed by drizzling the lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing overtop. Toss salad well so that dressing is evenly spread.
  4. Divide between 4 bowls and serve with additional feta cheese if desired.
Notes
  1. The original recipe calls for olives. I don't care much for them, but if you do, feel free to add a handful to the ingredients.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Pasta Arrabbiata

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It feels like it’s been some time since I’ve done a meatless Monday post, let alone cooked a meatless meal on a Monday. While searching for clean-eating recipes for the week, I stumbled upon this one from Yummily Yours that I had to try since I’m still in the quest for finding the perfect natural (aka unprocessed) marinara sauce. 

It’s crazy how little amount of time and effort it takes to make a marinara. I like more chunks of tomatoes and less “sauce” in mine, so I don’t necessarily puree the tomatoes – just halve them and cook or bake. Tomatoes are magical like that. 

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So Arrabbiata is a spicy sauce that is made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. I laid low on the red chili peppers and used chili powder myself because I was going to have the children try the sauce, but my husband deemed it an “adult meal” and now I know next time to actually use red pepper FLAKES, not ground chili. I left it as it’s intended to be cooked in the recipe below though. 

I was most thoroughly excited about learning how to get that “restaurant shine” you see often see in pasta dishes when I tried this recipe. The secret? Add a little under half a cup of the water you cooked your pasta in to the skillet you’re cooking your tomato mixture in. Who would have thought?!

Pasta Arrabiata
Serves 3
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 8-ounces linguine pasta
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. cherry tomatoes , sliced into halves
  5. 2 tablespoons chilli flakes
  6. 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  7. grated parmesan, for topping.
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan to a raging boil and add pasta. Cook according to package.
  2. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Add minced garlic, allowing to saute; 3 minutes. Next add the tomatoes and cook until they appear softened and the skin looks slightly broken.
  3. As pasta is finished, drain all but 1/3 of pasta water if possible. Add just pasta to tomatoes and mix well, adding salt and pepper for taste if desired. Next add pasta water, stirring so that the water and olive oil are combined. This sound appear to thicken the sauce some.
  4. Garnish with chilli flakes and parsley, stirring again to combine. Serve with grated parmesan strips overtop.
Adapted from Yummily Yours
Adapted from Yummily Yours
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Slow Roasted Seasoned Tomatoes (Sauce)

A gas range is something I am still getting used to. No one quite understands the difference between an electric stove and a gas range until they actually go from having one to the other. I’ve always heard that a lot of food not only tastes different when using a gas stove (or oven), but also cooks much quicker. It’s still too early for me to validate the taste answer, but I can absolutely attest to the cooks quicker one! I learned just how quick after burning french toast.

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Since we are now officially in the new home, I can settle in more comfortably and get back into the swing of things – meaning actually cooking again; something I desperately missed both mentally and physically. I always feel so much better about myself when I know where my meals came from and who prepared them. Don’t get me wrong, eating out every once in awhile is nice but not only does it get expensive but it’s also most likely not healthy.

Tonight’s dinner was a late one due to schedules so it had to be something more on the simple side. It’s been some time since I made a marinara sauce and pasta can be both satisfying to all tastebuds and a quick clean-plater. I had most things already on hand, aside from the tomatoes which I happily walked over to Whole Foods to acquire. It’s awesome just how good even a basic marinara sauce can taste. Those tomatoes really do their job!

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Tomato? Tomahto? Marinara is a personal preference. I happen to like mine sweet so cherry tomatoes that were roasted in an oven were sure to give my marinara a sweet taste. I made sure to marinate them with some olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, italian seasoning, oregano and fresh basil leaves before I cooked them in the oven for a couple hours. And if you don’t want to get out the whisk and crush your tomatoes after they’re done roasting; you can puree them the lazy (and super smart) cook way – in a blender! Just make sure to pulse for less than a minute if you would like to have some “chunk” pieces to your sauce.

What would you add in your marinara sauce?

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

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Whenever I think of macaroni and cheese, I think of comfort foods and a meal made in the middle of winter that has been slowly cooking inside my little side-dish of a crockpot. Neither of those things apply to this post; it’s the middle of summer and EXTREMELY hot outside. Also, this entree was cooked on the stove.

I don’t know that I would cook macaroni as much I do if I didn’t have children around; it seems like a entree dish fit for little mouths and just screams “CARBOHYDRATES” to me. But if I do, it’s either using this recipe that is baked overtop the stove or my son’s personal favorite that slowly cooks in a crockpot.

Here’s a recipe for your own mac and cheese lovers: 

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole
Serves 12
No more boxed mac n' cheese! Cook this homemade macaroni overtop the stove and add to the oven to give it a breaded top, if desired, and watch how fast kids ask for this version over Kraft.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 16-ounce box elbow pasta
  2. 10 tablespoons butter, or 1 butter stick, divided
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 3 cups 1% milk
  5. 12-ounce shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  6. 4 tablespoons italian bread crumbs
  7. pinch of salt
  8. pinch of pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook elbow pasta according to package. Drain in a strainer. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Well grease a 8x8 casserole pan.
  3. In a medium size saucepan, add 8 tablespoons of butter. Melt, stirring often with a wooden spoon to speed up melting process. Add flour and stir well until brown. Begin to add milk, slowly, whisking while doing so. Allow to come to a boil and remove saucepan from heat.
  4. Add cheese, stirring continuously so that it is well combined. Slowly add elbow pasta, mixing well until pasta is entirely covered with cheese. Add to greased casserole pan.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of melted butter with 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Add evenly as possible overtop macaroni. Add to oven and bake for 30 minutes.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Meatless Monday: Margarita Pasta

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Holy smokes! I can’t believe it’s already Monday again. I know that the previous week was short because of the holidays but I’m still trying to gather myself together enough to start this week. I intentionally posted this meal today because it is Meatless Monday and my version of this pasta does not have any meat. Who needs it?! There’s enough flavor in the “sauce” as is. If you feel you must have some sort of protein, feel free to add chicken.

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Anytime I know a meal is a skillet-cook, I get excited. My husband bought us this fancy s’mancy gas range for the new place and I am dying to cook on it. I absolutely love the taste of anything gas cooked. Some don’t think there is a difference; oh there is, and I compare it from cooking on an indoor grill to cooking on an outdoor grill. You know the difference once you take that first bite.

I imagine a gas grill also makes a skillet picture just a little more fancy s’mancy looking too.

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My favorite part about this meal is that you’re using all fresh produce. The only thing really considered processed is the noodles and you can make those yourself if you want to be COMPLETELY clean and have a lot of spare time on your hands! I have a pasta maker. I’m not quite a pro at using it yet so I will save myself the embarrassment and just use store bought penne pasta until I have correctly learned how to use it to create presentable noodles.

Enjoy!

Margarita Pasta
Serves 4
A delicious serving of pasta that is sauteed with homemade clean sauce over a hot stove.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 2½ teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  5. 5 roma or 2 cups of tomatoes, chopped
  6. ¼ cup tomatoes, chopped and slightly pureed (optional)
  7. ¼ cup fresh basil, sliced
  8. ½ cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta accordingly.
  2. In the meantime, using a large skillet combine olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Allow to cook, stirring frequently 1-2 minutes or until it begins to sizzle. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds, followed by tomatoes and basil. Allow to cook for 2 minutes so that juices combine well.
  3. When pasta is finished cooking and has been drained, add to skillet and stir well to mix. Add parmesan cheese and stir again. Serve immediately.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Skinny Lasagna Roll-ups

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While making up my weekly menu this past Sunday, I realized that I use a lot of ground turkey and chicken breasts and not enough pasta. I’m sure it doesn’t seem that way from the recipes I have posted so far in this little corner of mine, but because most pasta revolves around cheese and cheese makes some of us in this household sick; I really try to avoid it as much as I really can. It’s crazy how many recipes involve a lot of cheese, especially some of my favorites. I just cross my fingers that it’ll be a side dish at a family party…

(Hashbrown Casserole)

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My husband is in the middle of a juice cleanse, so I snuck these Skinny Lasagna Roll-ups into this week’s dinners since it’s just the kids and I eating whole foods. They’re an easy prep and they’re cute. Plus they reheat well the next day if you want to take one along with you to work.

And you never know…you may never want to go back to the traditional lasagna cooking way again.

Skinny Lasagna Rollups
Serves 4
Lasagna on the go? It could be. Individual lasagna roll ups are not only cute, but they make your favorite pasta dinner a little less messy.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 16-ounces lasagna noodles
  2. 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
  3. 15-ounce skim milk ricotta cheese
  4. ¼ cup mozzarella cheese
  5. ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  6. 1 large egg
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add lasagna noodles to a large boiling pot of water. Cook according to package and drain in a strainer while rinsing with cold water when noodles are throughly cooked.
  2. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9x13 casserole pan so that it is just slightly covered. Set aside.
  3. Using a medium size mixing bowl, add ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. Whisk well until combined.
  4. To fill lasagna noodles, place each individually across a large plate. Use a spoonful of cheese mix and thinly spread across entire noodle. Gently roll up until you've reached the end of the noodle. Add seam-side down to 9x13 casserole pan. Repeat with each lasagna noodle until you've run out of pan room or noodles.
  5. Cover casserole pan with foil overtop and add to oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and return to bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve 2-3 rollups per plate.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake

Our family has this fantastic recipe for Cajun Pasta that my Aunt will cook for parties if we’re ever so lucky. I’ve tried my hand at it but always had trouble getting the alfredo sauce to be thick enough to my liking. So whenever I think of alfredo or see a recipe that calls for a similar sauce; I contemplate just buying a jar and then feel like a failure and give up on the dish before even trying to prepare it. 

So when my husband recently brought home an already prepared Chicken Alfredo Bake from Sam’s Club that would have tasted great, had it not tasted super dry, it set off the spark, or craving if you may, for some GOOD alfredo. But before I gave the cajun pasta recipe another try, I wanted to start with something a little more simple; basic chicken alfredo.

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I noticed the ingredients for this particular alfredo were simple and the steps seemed pretty easy. Often I see heavy whipping cream or cornstarch that is used for “thickening” a sauce. This called for neither. I was caught off guard a little by the fact that it asked for chicken broth but to my amazement; I saw the sauce almost instantly start to thicken once I added it to the saute pan. Normally the pan has to sit over heat for a bit before it actually starts to thicken, but not this recipe! It was quick, making this a great idea if you’re running short on time but craving something with protein and creamy pasta.

And if you’re REALLY short on time, you don’t even have to bake this dish. You can serve immediately after combining all ingredients. It tastes just as good either way.

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Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake
Serves 6
Never made homemade alfredo sauce before? You're in luck! This version is basically foolproof and tastes better than any store bought alfredo. Combined with penne pasta, rotisserie chicken and baked with mozzarella cheese; this dish is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups rotisserie, or shredded chicken
  2. 12-ounce penne pasta
  3. ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Homemade Alfredo Sauce
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  3. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  5. 1 cup whole milk
  6. 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
  7. ¼ teaspoon salt
  8. 1/8 teaspoon fresh coarse black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook penne pasta according to package. When fully cooked through, drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile in a large deep saute pan, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add minced garlic and allow to saute for 1 minute. Add flour, mixing well until browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, mixing well, followed by cup of milk. Whisk often, lowering temp to simmer and thicken. Once sauce appears thick, add penne pasta and rotisserie chicken to saute pan. Stir well, combining.
  4. Using a well-greased 9x13 baking dish, add alfredo pasta. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese overtop and bake for 20 minutes.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

When you finish putting together a week’s worth of lunch in the form of a salad and it doesn’t take much effort at all yet it tastes like it should? The feeling of satisfaction AND victory. Not only did I just save myself time each day by prepping this meal ahead in bulk amount, but I get to look forward to having more time to actually enjoy it. 

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Most Mediterranean salads have olives in them. Feel free to add those to the list of ingredients if you happen to like olives. I don’t, so I opted to leave them out. 

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Serves 6
A quick and easy take on a Mediterranean salad with an added bonus: pasta noodles.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 12-ounces farfalle pasta, cooked according to directions
  2. 1 cucumber, diced
  3. 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  4. 4-ounces crumbled low fat feta cheese
  5. half of a medium size red onion, thinly sliced
Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
  1. ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  3. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  4. 1 teaspoon honey
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  6. 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  7. ¼ teaspoon salt
  8. ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package over med-high heat in a medium size saucepan. Drain in a strainer under cold water for 30-45 minutes to cool off pasta. Drain again.
  2. Add cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and feta cheese to a medium size mixing bowl. Add Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette and combine well. Next add pasta and combine again. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Baked Jumbo Stuffed Shells

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I like to test around with recipes and try new things pretty often so every once in awhile there’s a meal that doesn’t turn appeal to everyone. Fortunately, I can always count on a dish of Baked Stuffed Shells to turn out appetizing.

Baked Stuffed Jumbo Shells
Serves 6
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 12-ounces jumbo pasta shells
  2. 1lb ground turkey
  3. ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  4. 30-ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  5. 1 egg
  6. ½ cup parmesan cheese
  7. 24-ounce jar marinara sauce of your choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly cover the bottom of a large lasagna pan with ¼ cup of marinara sauce.
  2. Heat a large saucepan of water over med-high heat until boiling. Add pasta and cook according to directions. While draining in a strainer, run cool water overtop shells to cool. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, cook ground turkey until brown. Drain grease. Add remaining marinara sauce to skillet and reduce heat to simmer. Allow to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes with marinara sauce.
  4. In a medium size bowl combine ricotta cheese, 1 egg, ¼ cup mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Whisk well. Using a small spoon, scoop cheese mix and fill shells. Add to lasagna pan.
  5. Gently pour meat sauce overtop shells evenly. Sprinkle ¼ cup mozzarella cheese overtop. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook for remaining 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

 

BLT Pasta Salad

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I restarted the BBG (Bikini Body Guide) program by Kayla Itsines a couple weeks ago and have been trying to watch what I eat so it doesn’t cancel out all my effort that I put into the daily workouts. I always seem to feel more satisfied with my meal-plan when it consists of lots of greens and vegetables. This week I have two similar salads scheduled, this BLT Pasta Salad and a BLT Caesar Pasta Salad. Yes, someone likes bacon in their salads. I will eat the BLT Pasta Salad Monday thru Wednesday and the BLT Caesar Pasta Salad Thursday and Friday. This weekend is much too eventful with the kids getting out of school, graduations and birthday parties so I will be trying to behave to the best of my advantage during such. Keyword, “trying.”

Now before you think “this recipe calls for ranch dressing AND barbecue sauce, it can’t be that healthy”; hear me out. This is 6 servings. I cut my servings in half since I’m only having this from Monday thru Wednesday. While you can choose to find a more healthier alternative to the ranch dressing (ie lite ranch, fat-free ranch, yogurt ranch) just know that you’re going to be mixing the portion of it with 6 cups of tossed romaine lettuce. Feel better? 

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There’s something about mixing ranch with barbecue sauce. When I didn’t watch what I ate, I used to ask for a side of ranch and a side of barbecue to dip my french fries and chicken nuggets in. It still sounds good. But not having to run for an hour and a half to work it off doesn’t, so I think I will just stick to having that ranch and barbeque in this salad. 

BLT Pasta Salad
Serves 6
Your favorite go-to-sandwich just became a salad with pasta.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  2. 2½ cups uncooked bow-tie pasta
  3. 2 medium size tomatoes, diced
  4. 4 turkey bacon strips, fully cooked and crumbled into small pieces
  5. ½ cup ranch dressing
  6. 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
Instructions
  1. In a medium size saucepan over med-high heat, cook pasta according to package directions. When finished cooking, drain in a strainer over cold water to cool down completely.
  2. In a large bowl, add pasta, tomatoes, bacon and romaine lettuce.
  3. Using a small bowl, add ranch dressing and barbecue sauce. Stir to combine first, before pouring overtop pasta salad mix. Toss gently and serve immediately.
Notes
  1. This can be stored for 3 days in an air-tight container. Just don't add the romaine lettuce until right before serving.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/