Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spicy Football Sunday

It is rather apropos that the first posting of this food blog is on a football Sunday!  Autumn is, by far, my favorite time to be in the kitchen.  Football Sundays are even better, and if you dig a little and hunt for the right healthy recipes, you don't have to miss out on the delicious foods associated with tailgating.  I look forward to making chicken wings (baked), loaded backed potatoes (with healthy chili in the middle), and even some guilt free spinach and artichoke dip!

Today was the first cool, crisp day in New York.  Since it feels so much like fall, I could not wait to turn the oven on for a comforting casserole.  I wanted something to go with a good light beer, and this dish seemed like the perfect food to have with one as I wait for the New York Giants to begin their game this evening against the Bears.  I liked this recipe when I read it because there are no substitutes here for butter or cheese.  Its all about portion control, and my goal for this blog is to highlight the recipes that use fresh and flavorful ingredients in moderation.  

I have been on the Weight Watchers plan for 3 weeks and have already lost 5 pounds, and I am not missing anything because all the foods and recipes are so good!  This dish was one I honestly rolled my eyes with pleasure as I had the first bite!  Its spicy and creamy to the point where I can't believe its healthy!  Oh, and it paired perfectly with the light beer! 

Spicy Chicken-Spinach Pasta Bake 
(courtesy of Weight Watchers Magazine)
8 ounces uncooked rotini pasta (I used Dreamfields)
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, measured and leveled
2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 (6 ounce) package of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of chopped cooked chicken breast (I used Bell and Evans and poached them in light chicken broth so the meat stayed moist)
1 1/2 cups salsa (medium or hot, depending on your tastes)
Cooking spray

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2) Cook pasta according to directions, cooking 2 minutes less so the pasta stays al dente in the casserole
3) While pasta cooks, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute for 4 minutes until tender.  Add flour to pan and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk, for 11 minutes until thick.  Add spinach and stir until wilted.
5) Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup cheese, salt, and pepper.
6) Stir in chicken, salsa, and 3/4 cup of cheese.  Fold in pasta and then spoon the mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
7) Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake 35 minutes or until bubbly.

Yield: 8 Servings
Serving Size: 1 Cup
WW Points per cup: 6

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