Pasta Jambalaya

I have owned "The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook" for several years now, but managed to skip over its recipe for "Pasta Jambalaya" every single time. The recipe sounded mundane. Not so! It is ideal for a weeknight meal--fast, filling, very economical, and healthy. It's a little bit spicy (which was much to my liking), so watch out if that's not your thing.

Pasta Jambalaya
3 quarts water
2 1/2 cups uncooked penne
Cooking spray
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
3 ounces smoked turkey sausage, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (**NOTE: I could not find any, so I used 2 1/2 hot turkey sausages. I removed the casings and sauteed them into crumbles, along with the onion and red pepper in the second step.)
1/2 cup (2 oz) pre-shredded, reduced-fat four cheese Mexican blend cheese (such as Sargento)

1. Bring water to a rolling boil. Add pasta; cook 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain; keep warm.
2. Place a large nonstick skillet covered with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic (and sausage, if applicable as I noted above); saute 5 minutes. Add Cajun seasonings; saute 1 minute. Stir in beans, tomatoes, and sausage; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.
3. Combine bean mixture and pasta in a large bowl, and top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings (1 cup per serving)
Calories: 221, Fat: 5.3g, Carbs: 32.4g, Protein: 9.8g
Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 meat, 1/2 fat

Lemon-Ginger Fried Chicken

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I am kind of scared of cooking meat. Not ground meat, or meat that's been sliced thinly and sauteed--that's all good. I'm talking about hunks of meat that need to strike the fine balance of being heated thoroughly (no one likes salmonella poisoning), but not dry (no one likes chewing to the point of making their jaw ache). What I have done all turned out fine, but the scary-factor never goes away.

When I saw "Lemon-Ginger Fried Chicken" in August's Cooking Light, I knew I had to cook it. Chicken, in general, is not scary. I was not intimidated by this recipe, even though it had a long list of instructions. I planned to make it on a weeknight, but then read the instructions more closely and found it takes at least 3 1/2 hours to put together. So, I made it today. I started at 2:30 in the afternoon, and was not eating until 7:45. Sadly, I am not kidding.

Lemon-Ginger Fried Chicken
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

1. Place rind, juice, and next 5 ingredients (through drumsticks) in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and shake to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.

2. Sift together flour and next 3 ingredients (through red pepper). Place flour mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Remove chicken from marinade bag, reserving marinade. Sprinkle salt and black pepper evenly over chicken. Add chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture; seal bag and shake to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour mixture. Reserve remaining flour mixture. Place chicken on a wire rack; place rack in a jelly-roll pan. Cover and refrigerate 1 1/2 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°.

4. Return chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture; seal bag and shake to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour mixture. Discard remaining flour mixture.

5. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes or until golden, turning once. Arrange chicken in single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Discard remaining oil in pan. Combine broth and reserved marinade in a small bowl; pour broth mixture into pan. Sprinkle chicken evenly with sugar, and top with lemon slices. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden and a thermometer registers 165°.

Yield: 4 servings (1 breast half, or 1 thigh and a drumstick)

Calories: 375, Fat: 15.5g, Carbs: 30.5, Protein: 30.8

Exchanges: 2 starch, 3 1/2 meat, 1 1/2 fat

The final verdict: I enjoyed the final product (it was, true to it's name, very lemon-gingery in flavor), but I was not overwhelmed by it. Is it too much to ask to be completely bowled over by something that took you 5 hours to make? I think not. I have made better 'fried' chicken (also healthy), that was crispier and only took a fraction of the time. I will share that all with you another time.

Moroccan Chickpea Chili


Something I've learned about working in university administration is that you get a lot of free food. Greg (the fiance), of course, is very happy about this. "It's like getting paid extra!" he said to me the first day I brought excess food home to him. Agreed.

So, today it was Panera. I didn't want just sandwiches for dinner, but I didn't have much in the way of side dishes. I found a great recipe that required me only purchasing a few ingredients--and yes, it's because I keep my spice rack varied and well-stocked.

Moroccan Chickpea Chili comes from Cooking Light. I think it's the best kind of recipe--cheap, easy, fast to prepare, filling, and kinda spicy (it's a nose-clearer-out-er).

Moroccan Chickpea Chili
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (I ended up adding a bit more--it needed it, in my opinion)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
2 (15.5oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5oz) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

(Spices are so pretty!)

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to pan; saute 5 minutes
2. Stir in cumin and next 7 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups water, tomato paste, chickpeas, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
4. Stir in cilantro and juice. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings (1 1/2 cups)
Calories: 215, Fat: 5.5g, Carbs: 36.3g, Protein: 7.7g
Exchanges: 1 1/2 carb, 1 1/2 meat, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat

Eggless Tofu-Spinach Quiche


My childhood household was big on meat and starches. We primarily ate ground beef in our dinners, occasionally chicken, and I was very content in my meaty little box. That is, until my friend Emily's mother made marinara sauce with tofu and served it to me for dinner. I still remember that night (which is weird--who would've thought tofu would make such a huge impression?). I was hooked. I rallied for my parents to do something similar, but it took years for that to happen (but it did happen--Mom started to make a tofu stir fry that was very tasty).

Years later, I moved in with the very same Emily. She never ate beef growing up, occasionally poultry, but mostly she ate a vegetarian diet. Needless to say, I was concerned. I had very few meals that I knew how to make without meat. That was the dawn of a new era....the era of my finding out that it's much cheaper to cook without meat! Yes, vegetarianism is the way to go when you're a penniless college kid.

And so, this was one of the recipes I made during this period of semi-vegetarianism. As far as I can tell, I got it off of You can absolutely NOT tell that it has tofu in it. It's gooey and delicious and packed with that all-important, iron-rich vegetable: Spinach! Plus tofu, for protein. It is not a low-fat recipe, but that owes mostly to the fact that neither the cheese nor the tofu is low-fat. I'm sure you can make low-fat substitutions for both, and it would still turn out great.

Eggless Tofu-Spinach Quiche
8 oz. package tofu (12 oz is ok, too)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup diced onion
2/3 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded swiss
9" unbaked frozen pie crust, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Process tofu and milk in a blender or food processor, until smooth. Blend in salt and pepper.
3. In a bowl, mix spinach, garlic, onion, cheeses, and tofu mixture. Mix well and pour into pie crust.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until set, and golden-brown.
5. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

- Serves 6
-Calories: 285, Fat: 18.7g, Carbs: 18.2g, Protein: 12.5g

-Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 meat, 3 1/2 fats, 1/2 vegetable

Crusty Rye Bread

My first post is about something many people now think of as being unhealthy: Carbs. In truth, carbohydrates are a very important source of quick-burning energy and overall satiation. You just have to eat the right carbs to stay healthy--things like whole grain pastas and breads, brown rice, and of course, lots of fruits and vegetables to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients. Carbohydrates rich in refined sugar and white flour are much less good for you, so enjoy them in moderation.

Moderation is what this blog is all about. Eat healthy most of the time, but splurge when there's something you really want. When I worked as a weight loss consultant, I told my clients that eating one 'bad' thing will not affect their weight. It's a factual and comforting thought, isn't it?

So, with that in mind, let's move to yesterday's creation: Crusty Rye Bread, courtesy of Cooking Light. It was a cold and dreary day here in Urbana-Champaign. In other words, it was bread bakin' weather.

Crusty Rye Bread
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
2/3 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1/2 cup rye flour - medium
1/4 cup bread flour

2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour - medium
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons bread flour
Cooking spray

1. To prepare sponge, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon 1/2 cup rye flour and 1/4 cup bread flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add these flours to the yeast mixture, stirring with a whisk. Cover and let stand in a warm place (about 85 degrees--my oven top gets really warm when the oven is on, so I placed it there), free from drafts, for 2 hours.
2. To prepare bread, lightly spoon 2 cups bread flour and 1/2 cup rye flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add these flours, 1/2 cup water, caraway seeds, and salt to sponge; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 2 tablespoons bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.
4. Shape dough into a round loaf; place loaf on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
5. Preheat oven to 425.
6. Uncover and pierce loaf 1-inch deep in several places with a wooden pick. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.

Yield: 12 servings
Serving Size: 1 slice
Calories: 131 (5% from fat), Carb: 26.7g, Protein: 4.3g, Fat: 0.7g
Exchange: 1 1/2 starch servings

This was awesome bread! It is, as the name says, incredibly crusty bread. I got a little worried, because it was difficult to serrate my way through the crust. But inside, the bread was moist, dense without being too heavy, and lightly flavored! I would suggest adding more caraway seeds if you like more rye-flavor (which I will remember for the future).