Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I always envied people who could successfully grow their own vegetables, fruits or anything at all.  My friend, Rene, is incredibly talented in that department, and was kind to stop by my house this week to bring a  basket full of beautiful home grown tomatoes and peppers.  Thank you, Rene!  These tomatoes were put to delicious use.

Whole Tomatoes

With a basket full of fresh tomatoes, and Fall upon us, making a homemade spaghetti dish was inevitable, and we were in for a culinary treat when this meal was ready.

The first thing you want to do it chop the tomatoes as seen in this photo:

Chopped Tomatoes

It is very much up to you to add what you like to your sauce.  For this one I chose to add some sweet red peppers, mushroom, and chicken sausage.

Sliced Peppers

Sauté chopped garlic in a little olive oil and add the sliced peppers.  Once the peppers are a little soft, add the chopped tomatoes, cover and cook, stirring occasionally.

At this point you may add the spices you like.  I added salt, pepper, paprika, chicken bullion,  and oregano.

Note that you may use more than one kind of tomato, to make the sauce richer.  Also, I did not need to add any water to this sauce since the tomatoes provided all the fluids necessary.

You will need to cook the sauce for a while, until the tomatoes are soft.  Add the mushrooms and sliced chicken sausage, and cook approximately 30 minutes, stirring once in a while.

You can then pour this aromatic sauce over your cooked spaghetti.  It will make a delicious and memorable meal that is comforting and relaxing after a long day.

Spaghetti

Enjoy with a glass of red wine and good music!

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Whole Chicken Stuffed with Couscous, in Turmeric Mushroom Sauce with Cauliflower Side Dish

I have to start by saying that these recipes are not for a casual night and take a little time to prepare and cook.  This is a great meal for a special occasion or a holiday, and you are sure to impress your loved ones and your guests with this combination of foods.  From the responses I received, it is worth the effort!

Cooking a whole chicken can be very flavorful and different from cut-up chicken pieces.  It can also be a lot cheaper.

To make this chicken you will need a dish you can use in the oven, like a rectangular glass baking dish.

Here’s what you need:

One whole chicken

One sweet onion – chopped

A small carton of whole white fresh mushrooms, washed (you can use any other type that you like)

Olive Oil

Cooking spray (olive or canola)

Salt

Pepper

Chicken Bullion powder

Turmeric

Parsley Flakes

A box of couscous

Chicken or Vegetable broth (I prefer organic)

Don’t forget:

Heat the oven on 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

 Here is what you do:

Spray the baking dish with cooking oil.  Clean the chicken and place it inside the dish.

In a small skillet, sauté the onion in a little olive oil until golden, and spread over the chicken.

Make the couscous according to the instructions on the box, then stuff the chicken with the couscous (you can use what’s left around the chicken, just like in the photo).  Spread the mushroom around the sides.

In a small bowl, mix about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, some chicken bullion, turmeric, parsley flakes and one cup of broth (chicken or vegetables).  Stir well until all the spices are well mixed, and then pour evenly over the stuffed chicken.

Cover with foil paper and bake in the heated oven for two hours.

Here is what you will have:

Whole chicken stuffed with couscous

You will need a vegetable side dish for this meal, and if you like cauliflower, you will love this recipe.

Here’s what you need:

A cauliflower head (or two, depending on how many people you are feeding)

One sweet onion – chopped

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Chicken Bullion

Paprika

Vegetable broth

You will cook this one on the stove so you will need a pot that is deep enough and a little wide.

Here’s what you do:

Cut up the cauliflower to florets and wash them well.  In a little bowl, mix vegetable broth (enough to cover a third of the pot) and all the spices.

Sauté onion in a little olive oil.  Once the onion is golden, add the florets and pour your wonderful spice mix over the cauliflower.  Cover and bring to boil.  Lower the flame and cook about 20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Here is what you will have:

Cauliflower

This is what the complete meal looks like once it’s served:

Plate with chicken and cauliflower

This meal is delicious and perfect for a relaxing special evening at home.  It is also healthy since it’s made from fresh organic ingredients and it is low on carbs.  Cooked cauliflower has excellent nutritional value as it is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol.  It is a good source of protein, Vitamin C, and Fiber.

Enjoy!!!

Traditional Moroccan Couscous Dinner

Dinner is one of those things that gives you an opportunity to turn an ordinary night into an extraordinary evening. You don’t have to wait for Friday night to do that. Why not have a relaxing evening in the beginning of the week?

In my desire to take another break from cookbooks, and still stay healthy, I gave in to my Mediterranean roots. After a trip to one of my local organic produce shops, where I was inspired to prepare a hearty dinner, I knew what to do.

At this point, you ask: so, what is it that you made?

The answer? Couscous with Moroccan style vegetable and garbanzo bean soup, served with baked turmeric chicken. Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Not really!

Moroccan food is slow to cook, and for that I enlisted the help of my beloved slow cooker, which I used to make this delicious soup.

Here is what you need:

1/2 Butternut squash, cut to 2″ cubes

4 Carrots, cut to three pieces each

4 White zucchini squash, sliced in the middle and cut up to 1″ pieces

One big onion, peeled and cut to 8 pieces

1 can of garbanzo beans

Extra virgin olive oil

Chicken bullion

Salt

Pepper

Turmeric

Chicken broth

Here is what you do:

Drizzled one tablespoon olive oil on the bottom of the slow cooker. I like to use a plastic slow cooker liner, which makes it easy to clean later, but it’s up to you.

Place butternut squash, carrots, white zucchini squash, and onions (in this order) and top with garbanzo beans.

To season, drizzle just a touch of olive oil and sprinkle chicken bullion, salt, pepper, and turmeric according to your taste. Fill up slow cooker about 3/4 with chicken broth and… Cook for 6 hours on high.

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This soup is served over couscous.  Making couscous from scratch is a laborious and time consuming process. The next best thing, which I find to be an acceptable culinary substitute, is the out-of-the-box version.  Just pick up your favorite kind (plain works best with this soup) and follow the cooking instructions. You can make this part right before you serve the meal, since it takes no longer than 10 minutes.

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The traditional way is to serve these two dishes together, with couscous first and the soup poured over it.

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Some people add chicken to the pot and cook it as part of the soup. I occasionally do that to make things easier, but wanted to have an abundance of vegetables, so I cooked the chicken separately.

Just spray an oven friendly dish with a non-stick spray (I like olive oil spray) and place the chicken on the dish. Season with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, chicken bullion, turmeric and parsley flakes, and a 1/4 cup water, cover with foil paper, and bake on 350 degrees for two hours. This is a delicious addition to the couscous and soup combo and makes for a satisfying dinner.

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Dinner was fabulous and colorful. It looked like I slaved in the kitchen all afternoon, when in reality it was super easy to make. My family was excited to have one of their favorite meals served in the beginning of the week, to cure the occasional case of the Monday Blues.

Pork Chops with Squash and Mushroom Salad

Friday night dinner was magnificent!

I made the Pork Chops with Squash and Mushroom Salad, on page 147 of the Weight Watcher’s PointsPlus Cookbook.  The result?  A delicious, healthy and enjoyable dinner.

The recipe calls for bone-in center-cut pork loin chops, but I made the thin cut pork chops instead, and they turned out really nice and moist.

Pork Chops

This recipe includes the Squash and Mushroom salad to be served with the pork chops.  It is a lively and wonderful grilled vegetables salad, which I made almost exactly according to the recipe, but added white zucchini squash, which I find to be slightly more delicate in flavor.

Squash an Mushroom Salad

If you are tracking your points for Weight Watchers, this delectable combo is only 6 PointsPlus per serving (1 pork chop and 3/4 cup salad).

An additional side dish (not part of this recipe) decorated our table.  Garlic couscous, is an out of the box dish, and may satisfy a craving you may have for the occasional carbs.  And… it is so very tasty!

Garlic Couscous

And of course… let’s not forget the wine.  I paired these dishes with the full body and “sophisticated” Argentinian Malbec.  Another favorite which I recommend you try if you haven’t yet.

Puramum Malbec 2011

 

A Fun Summer Night Grilled Indian Chicken Dinner

The Weight Watchers Points Plus Cookbook has proven once again that you can make a finger licking recipe that is also healthy.  My family was so excited as we put these beautifully marinated chicken breasts on the grill last night.  The wonderful smell of Indian spices was so appetizing, my son and husband said that they LOVE my new blogging project.  Smile!

This delightful and easy recipe for Grilled Chicken with Cilantro and Indian Spices can be found on page 154 of the book.  I followed the recipe exactly as written (except for the garnish part), but scaled up the ingredients for the paste since I made a little more chicken than the recipe calls for.  It does not take more that 15 minutes to prep, but allow a couple of hours for it to sit in the fridge after you marinate it and before you grill it.  Using raw and fresh herbs and spices for the paste is so simple and yet refreshing.

Grilled Chicken with Cilantro and Indian Spices

Grilled Chicken with Cilantro and Indian Spices

While the chicken is on the grill for about 25 minutes, you can enjoy a nice chilled glass of Chardonnay.  In the last 10 minutes of grilling you may add a few slices of polenta, to make for a satisfying and easy side dish.  The Points Plus Value for this delicious chicken is 4 points per 1 serving (one chicken breast).  If you are tracking your food’s points values for Weight Watchers, please know that any additional food or wine will be extra points.

To embellish this summer night dinner, you can prepare a nice Mediterranean style vegetable plate with some goat cheese.  Season with a little salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil to bring out the flavor of the cheese.  And voila!  A great dinner you will be thanked for!

Israeli Veggie Plate

Mediterranean Style Vegetables and Goat Cheese