Gerald and I recently had an at-home date night. Today it's time for the second course!
Healthy Pasta Primavera
I began by thawing 20 medium-sized frozen, shelled, and de-veined shrimp in a bowl of water. It took them about 15 minutes. They thawed while I prepped my veggies.
Next, I added a can of fat-free cream of chicken soup, half a block of low-fat cream cheese and one teaspoon dried Italian seasoning. Heat these on low until the cream cheese is melted. Whisk or stir often.
I cut a medium sweet onion in half from pole to pole and peeled off the skin. Then I cut off the ends.
Next, I cut the onion in slivers, again from pole to pole. The onion will stand up to cooking better this way.
I then cut half a red bell pepper into long, thin strips. (I love red, yellow and orange bell pepper so much more than the regular ol' green ones. They're sweeter, and I think even a little crisper. Not to mention they're so pretty...)
Then I cut the long strips in half.
I found this pretty asparagus at Walmart this week. It's nice and thin, which I like to use when stir frying. The thicker ones are better for roasting. I cut off the bottom inch and a half or so of woody stems. Then I cut the asparagus into inch long pieces.
Can you believe I couldn't find whole carrots this week? All they had were the baby organic ones, but that was fine. I just cut them in half lengthwise and then cut the halves in half. Gerald loves mushrooms, so I added some of them. Finally, I added about a half cup of frozen green peas.
TIP: I always have green peas in my freezer. They are great to add to soups, pastas and stir fried rice. They don't have to be cooked, and they add a little texture as well as sweetness.
I prepped all my veggies and had them ready to go.
As I said earlier, we're trying to eat healthier. The recipe I loosely based this dish on called for whole wheat pasta. I like it, but my family doesn't. However, Gerald is trying to make good choices, so I knew he would eat whole wheat pasta, especially since it really takes a backseat to the vegetables in this dish.
But while I was reaching for the whole wheat pasta, I saw this - Barilla Protein Plus. I compared it to the Barilla whole wheat and while it had about 10 calories more per serving, it had less fat, less carbs and less sugar. And it tastes just like regular pasta! I don't know how they do it, but they did! Now - it's twice as expensive as regular, but really - pasta is so cheap anyway. We're talking $2 a box instead of $1.
And - I only cooked a total of 3 ounces of pasta. A serving is two, so we had less than a serving each. And I still have more to cook for later!
Back to the sauce. Once the cream cheese has melted, I added 3/4 cup of water and whisked it well. When you first add it, it looks like the sauce has split. Hang in there and keep whisking! It comes back together. Salt and pepper to taste.
I began by stir frying my onions and carrots since they needed to cook a little longer. (I added a scant tablespoon of EVOO to my nonstick pan for ALL of the veggies.) I cooked them over medium high heat for no more than about two minutes before adding the next veggies.
Bell pepper came next, again just cooking no more than two minutes before adding the next ingredient.
I like my asparagus crunchy, so it came next. Two minutes more and then...
throw in the mushrooms.
I usually season each layer as I cook, but since I'm trying to cook healthier, I waited until the mushrooms were done before adding salt and pepper. Then I put the cooked veggies on a cool plate to stop them from cooking. Leave any oil or juices in the pan.
I used paper towels to pat my shrimp until they were bone dry. Then I seasoned lightly with s/p and onion powder - on one side only. I then put my non-stick pan on high heat and cooked the shrimp on one side until there was a little color. This took maybe three minutes. Then I flipped them over for about one minute and removed them to the vegetable plate.
Everything hung out together while I drained my pasta.
TIP - Don't you hate it when thin pasta slips through the holes in the colander? Drop in a coffee filter before you drain. It takes a little longer, but you don't lose any pasta!
I threw my veggies and shrimp back in the pan on a medium high heat.
I added about half the sauce and stirred.
The veggies were still warm and the sauce was hot, so everything came to temp nicely. Here's where you add your green peas. The sauce thaws them instantly, but keeps their texture.
Y'all - that is really the food I made. Isn't that gorgeous?
And it was as healthy as it was pretty. AND it tasted as good as it looked! And may I remind you, I packed SIX servings of veggies into that dish? This main dish had less than 300 calories in it. Even I'm impressed!
The sauce was simple, and we avoided cream and butter. You really have to try this!
Check back tomorrow when we finish up with dessert!
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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