Main Dish – No-Noodle Sweet Potato “Lasagna” (Vegetarian)

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This week’s Recipe of the Week, No-Noodle Sweet Potato “Lasagna” (http://thechicbrulee.com/2012/11/14/no-noodle-sweet-potato-lasagna was served to company over the holidays and was a big hit.  It is a bit preparation-intensive, but not difficult.  I made the recipe ahead of time, then covered and refrigerated it until I was ready to cook it later in the day.  I just had to bake it a little longer, but it came out great.  And it was ever better the second day!!  The roasted sweet potatoes really make the recipe tasty and take the place of the noodles.  In retrospect, I think I might make an additional layer of the sweet potatoes next time.  And although I used a good marinara sauce (Mario Batali), I think a good spaghetti sauce with some hearty seasoning would take this over the top, even one with a meat sauce – just remember to calculate the additional ingredients in to ensure you are tracking the correct PointsPlus value.  
I entered the ingredients used into the PointsPlus Calculator (using the calculations for the part-skim ricotta and part-skim mozzarella cheeses) and came up with 54 points for the entire casserole dish.  I cut mine into 12 servings so that was just 4 points each, although I admit stopping at one serving is next to impossible! 

Main Dish – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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I had planned to make Thai Butternut Squash Soup today, but discovered I didn’t have red curry paste, a main ingredient.  I had the green curry paste, but in reading comments online, I found that would make a significant taste difference.  I had already started to roast the butternut squash in the oven, so I quickly went in search of another recipe and ended up finding one, modifying it to fit what I had in my home.  The results were delicious!!

This was the inspiration recipe: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30466-roasted-butternut-squash-soup

And this was my modified and halved version:

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds cubed butternut squash (about 4 cups)

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

salt

pepper

1 small Honeycrisp apple

1/4 yellow onion

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

3/4 teaspoon butter

1 can (approximately 2 cups) of 99% fat free chicken broth

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened almond milk

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Mix cubed butternut squash with 1 tbsp. olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper, then place onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

3) Peel and core a small honey crisp apple and dice into medium sized pieces (about 4 ounces apple total).

4) Medium dice 1/4 yellow onion.

5)  Melt 3/4 teaspoon of butter in skillet over medium heat.  When melted, add in apple, onion, 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.  Saute for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the pan from heat until ready to use.

6) To the above mixture of apple, onion, and spices, add in roasted butternut squash, 1 can of chicken broth, 1/2 cup of water, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place on burner and bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. While stirring, press down on the squash pieces with the back of the spoon to break up, helping the flavors to meld.

7) Remove the pan from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of unsweetened almond milk.

8) Place in blender in small batches, removing small cap from lid and covering with towel to allow steam to escape while blending.

This makes 4 servings of approximately 3/4 cup each.

This recipe was very good, but I imagine using fresh herbs instead of the dried Italian seasoning would take this soup dish over the top.

Dessert – Orange-Pecan Tea Bread

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Orange-Pecan Tea Bread (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/orange-pecan-tea-bread) was an easy to make recipe that packed a nice citrus punch in both the bread and icing.

I followed the recipe as written with 2 exceptions:

1) I didn’t have 1/2 cup buttermilk so I substituted 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and added in 1-1/2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.  This is considered buttermilk after 5 minutes.

2) For the 3 tablespoons of milk called for further down in the recipe, I used the unsweetened vanilla almond milk as well.

This would be a great bread to bring to a potluck or party.

Main Dish – Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Chipotle Steak

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Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Chipotle Steak (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/black-bean-quino-salad) was a really tasty combination of textures and flavors, as well as being chock full of protein. I found it to be really filling – it is 8 points per serving.

NOTE: The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. After opening the can and removing the needed adobo sauce, I placed the remaining chipotle chilies in individual baggies and then placed all of them in a larger freezer bag. I often find I have recipes that call for just one or two of these chilies and it is nice to have them on hand, plus it saves money.

Main Dish – Kale and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese (Vegetarian)

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I have been cooking a lot of different recipes with kale lately, from soup to lasagna to my newest favorite find, Kale and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese (http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/kale-recipes/kale-caramelized-onion-grilled-cheese). This is a veggie-packed upscale spin on the traditional grilled cheese sandwich.

I modified the recipe just a little and the results were outstanding. I did divide each of the ingredients by four to come up with a single size serving for my meal.

Here are the changes I made to each of the steps:

Step 1) I omitted heating up the oven as I did everything on the stovetop.
Step 2) I had purchased pre-chopped kale, so I put almost a cup of packed kale in for my single sized portion, then followed the instructions as shown.
Step 3) No changes to this step.
Step 4) This is where I made the biggest changes. I spread 1/2 tablespoon of Land O Lakes Light Butter with Canola Oil on the cooking side of my two pieces of bread. I used Milton’s All Natural Multi-Grain bread, one of my favorites. To a pan heated over medium heat, I placed one bread slice, buttered side down, and topped with kale, onion mixture and cheeses, the the other piece of bread, buttered side up. I placed a medium weight skillet over the sandwich to press it down, panini fashion. If you have a panini machine, this will be an even easier recipe to follow. Once the bread was browned, I carefully flipped it and browned the other side, continuing to use the skillet to weigh it down.

Let the baker beware…this version is 16 WW Points Plus, but so worth it for a special treat!