Monday, January 23, 2012

Rainy Days & Mondays...

Yes, they always get me down.  It's wet outside, so wet that my yard has turned into a bog that has tried to claim the shoes off my feet.  There has to be a cure for this dreary dampness.  While comfort food immediately comes to mind, a lot of comforting food is not so comforting in calories.  Take the classic and oh-so delicious mac and cheese, for example.  I believe in eating healthy for the entire family and cheese-laden macaroni says, "Heart disease, please" more than, "Mac and cheese - my mom loves me".

It has been a meteorological mess this January for most of us.  I say lighten up the mood. Ignore the weather.  Turn on some beach-y tunes, light some summery candles, and cha-cha-cha-CHOP!

Plentiful Pasta Salad

3 large or 4 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 cup seeded and chopped tomatoes (or halved cherry tomatoes)
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
1 small can sliced black, green, or kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup good EVOO
1/4 cup of good red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Greek Seasoning or Herbs de Provence or Italian Seasoning
(I used 1 tsp. Greek and 1 tsp. Herbs de Provence)
1 pound box of whole wheat pasta shapes (like whole wheat Barilla bow ties)
(I used two left over boxes of whole wheat Rotini and Penne, half left in each box)
Sea salt and black pepper

- Note -
I get asked all the time about the pre-cooked chicken.  It's super easy and such a time saver if you buy a large package of chicken breasts and come home from the market and cook them.  Preheat the oven to 350, line a large cookie sheet with non-stick foil.  Place chicken breasts on the sheet then bake for about an hour or until no longer pink.  Cool, then either shred and place in freezer bags or put whole pieces in freezer bags.  Ta-da! Most of your meal, already done!


Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  In a large bowl, combine pasta and all ingredients, from chicken through feta cheese.  In a measuring cup, combine EVOO, red wine vinegar, and seasonings.  Whisk with fork.  Pour over pasta.  Toss to coat well. Super easy!

This meal is good for when you have family visiting, friends over for poker night, and it will offer days of lunch for work or school.  Barilla makes an excellent whole wheat pasta that does not have the typical grainy taste most whole wheat pastas tend to have.  I buy Boar's Head feta cheese and when possible, feta made from a local goat farm.  The next time your market has a Barilla sale (Lowes Foods sells them 4/$5 often), stock up.  Keep canned olives and seasonings in stock.  If you pre-cook the chicken and freeze it, your grocery bill for this meal will be one bell pepper, some tomatoes, one cucumber, and feta cheese.

Once again another meal where you can make the most of what is in your pantry.  Substitute whatever you do have for the above ingredients - Shrimp, tofu, ham, bacon, cheddar, smoked Gouda, pepperoni, - you get the idea.  If I can convince more cooks to stay in the kitchen instead of running to the merciless golden arches, then take baby steps and use what you've got on hand.  Concentrate more on the healthier aspects once you get in the practice of cooking more meals than eating out.  This dish can get you cooking while putting a smile on your face and ease to your wallet!

A meal that saves you money and from the rainy Monday blues!

Weight Watchers points per serving - 6
(based on the recipe counter online)

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