Creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach

creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinachWell, it’s official, winter seems to have arrived. Today was the first really cold morning that I left the house wearing a winter coat, scarf, gloves and ear warmers. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with winter…snow is fun only during the first snowfall, until you have to shovel or dig out your car. I hate being cold but I love skiing, ice skating and hot chocolate (with marshmallows).

While I miss the warmer summer months, the best thing about winter (and the holidays) is all the rich food we get to eat! Holiday cookies, cakes, drinks – winter is definitely “eating” season. When you feel like curling up with a warm comforting dinner but you don’t want to completely ruin your diet, caramelized onion and spinach butternut squash pasta is the perfect dish. I had never thought to use squash as a pasta sauce until I found this recipe from Lauren’s Latest. Genius! The pureed butternut squash feels like a creamy, decadent sauce, but in reality you’re still eating your veggies! I added caramelized onions and spinach to bulk up the dish without adding meat, but you could surely add in chicken, sausage, etc.

creamy butternut squash pasta with caramelized onions and spinach

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Creamy balsamic mushroom pasta

creamy balsamic mushroom pasta

We are, without a doubt, “Greek yogurt people.” If there’s one item that’s consistently on my grocery list each week and one item that always fills our refrigerator shelves, it’s Greek yogurt. We can (and have been known to) literally consume it for almost every meal. The hubby brings the flavored single-serve containers to work every day for breakfast, I like the plain variety with honey and berries for breakfast/snack, but my favorite way to use Greek yogurt is in recipes and baking. Who knew that yogurt could replace butter, oil, sour cream, heavy cream, cream cheese, mayo…you name it, you could probably swap it out with Greek yogurt and save yourself the fat and calories…plus get an added protein boost! Seriously, what did we DO before Greek yogurt was invented? The stuff is ridiculously versatile – it lightens up the most decadent of baked goods, it’s amazing on its own or with fruit/granola mixed in, and, in the case of this recipe, it turns everyday sauces into creamy deliciousness.

This is one hearty dish that just happens to be vegetarian! The sweet caramelized onions balance out the meatiness of the mushrooms. Spinach adds protein, calcium, fiber and that deliciously leafy green color. The sauce is just to-die-for…sweet and tart balsamic vinegar and crisp white wine swirled together with a dollop of thick, creamy Greek yogurt. A sauce that’s both creamy AND packed with protein? Winning combination! I was craving a long pasta so I used fettuccine, but you could substitute with your favorite whole wheat or gluten-free pasta (short or long). Another recipe that’s perfect for meatless Monday!

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Skinny shrimp and asparagus scampi

skinny shrimp and asparagus scampiWell, we’re back from vacation, back at work, and slowly getting back into the swing of things. After eight days of eating every meal out, including all sorts of decadent dishes (everything from fried conch to chili relleno to seafood alfredo), I thought I’d WANT to cook up some healthy meals. Maybe I wasn’t that ambitious after coming home from my first long day back at work…I didn’t want to deal with anything fancy, so this one-pot meal sticks with my theme of quick and easy weeknight meals for sure.

Sweet shrimp are sautéed with garlic and shallots and asparagus is thrown in at the end because, well, we all need to eat more veggies! The white wine and lemon really make the “scampi” in this dish…not the usual pounds of butter, and this is so perfect served over zucchini noodles, pasta or rice. This dish was such a hit that the hubby was still talking about it the next day! As I was eating breakfast he casually said, “you know, the shrimp for dinner last night was one of the best dishes you’ve made!” I love when that happens…and I guess we’ll be eating it again soon!
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Lemon linguine with broccoli and tomatoes

lemon linguine with broccoli and tomatoesWhile I love to cook, side dishes always seem to throw me for a loop. Isn’t it enough that I’m cooking a main course? Now I ALSO have to figure out what to cook as a complimentary side dish? That seems like a lot of work! Luckily, I came up with this recipe which can double as either an entree or a side dish! Fresh and lightly dressed pasta tossed with fresh vegetables makes for a bright and delicious vegetarian dish. I had broccoli and tomatoes on hand, but any veggies you have in the fridge would work.

Simply cook up the veggies, cook up the pasta and mix them together with a light dressing of lemon juice and olive oil. This is the perfect side dish for fish, poultry or meat. I especially love pairing the pasta with salmon or shrimp since lemon and fish are a match made in heaven! Top the veggie pasta with a little grated Parmesan (or a lot, in my case) and a light, easy dinner is ready to go in 30 minutes.

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Creamy tomato pasta with kale & mushrooms

creamy tomato pasta with kale and mushroomsPenne a la vodka used to be one of my all-time favorite Italian restaurant menu items to order. I say “used to” because while it’s so rich, creamy and insanely delicious, it’s also (very unfortunately) insanely high in calories. So, once I found this out, I swore off vodka sauce altogether. Fast forward to the invention of Pinterest…of course I found a creamy tomato pasta recipe reminiscent of penne a la vodka that claimed to get its creaminess from Greek yogurt! Sign me up!

Since we usually have one vegetarian night a week, I thought this would be the perfect sauce for pasta and veggies. I swapped out the penne and shrimp for linguine and dark leafy greens to bump up the “healthy” factor. When you add the protein from the Greek yogurt and whole wheat from the pasta, this is an all-around deliciously good-for-you dish! If you’re gluten-free, just use your favorite packaged gluten-free pasta. The sauce is decadent and creamy, and the hearty veggies add enough bulk and flavor to keep you satisfied, without the meat or fish. Plus, it’s ready in under 30 minutes — another weeknight dinner recipe to add to your collection!
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Lemony seashell pasta with turkey bacon, avocado, tomato, mozzarella

lemony seashell pasta with turkey bacon, avocado, tomato, mozzarellaThere’s a distinct difference between fall/winter pasta and spring/summer pasta, and this recipe is refreshingly light and perfect for the warm weather. Fresh avocado and tomato balance out the smokiness of the turkey bacon while the cubed mozzarella provides a creamy bite. Forget the heavy marinara or cream sauces — the lemon and olive oil dressing serves a perfectly light sauce. This recipe would be great as a pasta salad side-dish (for a BBQ, let’s say), but we ate bowls of it for dinner. The hubby LOVED the fact that dinner didn’t include chicken (for once) and DID include bacon! lemony seashell pasta with turkey bacon, avocado, tomato, mozzarella

Is it just me, or are avocados the most finicky ingredient to work with, ever?! They’re either not ripe enough at all or over-ripe and turning brown…so frustrating! While I recently learned this little trick to finding perfectly ripe avocados, I really lucked out for this recipe — the avocado was perfectly ripe on the exact day that I wanted to make this recipe for dinner! I chalk it up to my “expert” grocery shopping skills…I bought an under-ripe avocado and let it sit for a day or two before determining it was soft enough to use. So, basically, the recipe revolves around the avocado. Just go with it…oh, and be sure to give the chopped avocado a quick squeeze of lemon to prevent it from turning brown!

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Sundried Tomato & Spinach Pasta with Chicken Sausage

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One of my biggest challenges in life is figuring out what to make for dinner during the week since the hubby and I have long commutes from work and would like to eat at a decent hour (9pm dinnertime is not an option!).  This is one of those dishes that popped into my head on a busy weeknight when I was short on time, groceries, and patience.  The hubby and I got home late from work (on top of the long commute) and hadn’t eaten since lunch.  I was running low on groceries, so this recipe uses mostly pantry staples that I typically have stocked: pasta, baby spinach, sundried tomatoes and cannellini beans.

2014-03-06 23.00.46I happened to have leftover chicken sausage in the freezer so I threw those in, but feel free to make this a vegetarian dish by substituting with more beans and spinach.  Start to finish, I had dinner on the table for us in less than 30 minutes!

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