15 Minute Spicy, Cheesy Zucchini Mock Pasta
Okay so I didn't actually time it but I can tell you it was prepared while my baby was whining in the other room so it was QUICK. (I promise I don't neglect my child; he just doesn't like to be away from his mama for too long, but even Super Moms gotta eat!)
Since I didn't plan on making this I just grabbed random ingredients as I went. I encourage you to do the same, especially with vegetables. For all you fellow Weight Watchers, vegetables are a great filler in meals because you can add as much as you want for 0 points. The same is true even if you're not on WW; vegetables are just awesome all around. Next time I'll use mushrooms!
I started this meal with some leftover boneless, skinless chicken thighs that needed to be cooked- roughly 8 ounces. We typically cook our chicken the same way- sear each side in a skillet then simmer for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Our favorite skillet to use is a cast-iron, like this one
. They're so versatile and amazing!
I almost always have a zucchini on hand in case I get in the mood to make a yummy "zoodle" meal. For some reason I always let it go bad because I have this false idea that zoodle meals take too long. It's true, I could use the zucchini for so many other things, but every time I attempt to grab it I think "no, I really want to save it for zucchini noodle pasta." Then I never use it. I'm funny like that. ANYWAYS, I had my husband pick one ;)) up at the store last night (along with my long list of groceries- thanks, babe ) with the intention to make some delicious Pinterest meal, so today I felt a determination to git'r done. Larry the cable guy, anybody? Y'know he graduated from my school I attended as a kid? Okay, focus! Back to the inspiration for my lunch.
I had the chicken, I had the zucchini, what now? I'm out of town so I don't have my handy-dandy spiralizer which would've saved even more time. I'm a decent veggie chopper, but trying to thinly slice a zucchini to mock spaghetti noodles? Ha. That's definitely what took me the longest because I realized I have no special technique for that king of cutting in my repertoire. I usually YouTube those things but I was in a hurry. I did hop on Pinterest really quick to try and find one of the many recipes I've pinned, but everything either took too long or would've been too many points. Suddenly the idea of being Super Mom struck me like a lightning bolt and gave me the power to come up with my own recipe! So I sliced that zucchini, I seasoned my chicken (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and crushed red pepper), and I oiled those pans. And here's how it went (finally, right?! Jeesh!):
I drizzled about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and heated it to medium. Keep in mind there are different kinds of stoves so don't rely on my directive. Try to use your experience in the kitchen instead; I've found it's usually easier and saves me some heartache if I know the goal in mind and adjust the heat according to how I know my stove works. For this particular part, the goal is to sear the chicken on both sides without burning or drying it out. I started with one side and while that cooked I prepared the other pan for the zucchini.
I drizzled a little olive oil into the second pan, this time over a little less than medium heat. I found some jarred minced garlic and remembered my sun-dried tomatoes (the kind packed in olive oil); threw in about a teaspoon of the garlic and stirred it around making sure it wasn't too hot, then picked out 11 tomatoes and placed them in a paper towel. According to my Weight Watchers app, one serving of World Classics Sun-Dried Tomatoes is 1 point, which is 11 julienne cut pieces. I speedily scanned all my non-veggie ingredients as I cooked like a crazy lady in way over her head. After they sat on the towel for a minute, I tossed those in and stirred them around with the garlic. I didn't need much oil for this pan since these are coated in oil. Meanwhile, I checked the chicken and turned over to sear the other side.
Now for the zoodles! I just love saying that word I guess. When the garlic and tomatoes were looking good and colorful, I put in my hard earned zucchini noodles. Using tongs I tossed to combine everything and get the zucchini nice and coated (but keeping in mind that a tbsp of olive oil is a whopping FOUR points!)
Checking the chicken again for the perfect sear, I turned the heat down to a simmer for the rest of the time.
Once the zucchini was soft and spaghetti-like, I measured 1/2 cup of my Mario Batali Arrabbiata Pasta Sauce into the mixture, mmmm. Only 2 points!
Oh, spinach! I remembered my spinach - that really needs to be eaten up - and threw a good handful or so in, followed by two tsp of grated Crystal Farms Parmesan Cheese for that extra flavor since it's only 1 point. I sprinkled some black pepper, mixed everything up and decided it needed one last finishing touch: cheese. Fat free mozzarella cheese! 1/4 cup is literally 0 points. Hallelujah. I love my cheese. So melty and yummy.
These pictures don't do this meal justice, that's for sure. But they make me want to eat it again, nonetheless.
After taking my beautiful pictures, I plated my "pasta," grabbed a Diet Coke and ate my plate clean while holding my fidgety baby. Next time I'll definitely be taking that extra 20 seconds to cut up my chicken beforehand. ;) I definitely could've avoided transferring so much of the grease, too!
Instead of relying on instructions like I usually do, I winged it. And I'm so glad I did. I hope this will encourage other mamas and busy ladies to try new things in the kitchen. It's all a learning experience and the more we put ourselves out there, the more we learn and fail and perfect things, the more we are able to get creative and have fun.
One thing I'm learning is that having a baby doesn't have to mean boring meals, or unhealthy meals. I took the step of faith to join Weight Watchers even though I didn't know how it would look throughout my day that is so consumed with nursing and tending to my 6 week old. It's been such a good shift in my eating habits as I learn to control my portions and have self-control with my cravings. I don't have to give up all the foods I love, just be more responsible with how often I eat them. And it's awesome because they've become more like treats instead of necessities. This "diet" isn't about going on a diet at all; it's changing my lifestyle, my appetite, and my natural inclination to be obsessed with food to a more healthy and under control approach. After all these attempts at losing weight, I've learned that it's definitely something you have to truly want. Not just to shed the pounds, but to clean yourself up from the inside out. So exciting! Whether you’re a new mom, single lady, college kid or somewhere in between, I’d love to hear your own healthy lifestyle and weight-loss stories :)
Also-next time I will have better and more photos. I wasn't planning on posting this, it happened on such a whim and I was so excited with how it was turning out that I ran to grab the camera but resulted to my iPhone when I couldn't find it.
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Here's the simpler, less rambly breakdown:
Start to finish, 15-20 minutes
Points per serving, 6
1 zucchini; 0 points
2-3 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs (8 oz); 5 points
1 tbsp olive oil; 4 points
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper; 0 points
1 tsp minced garlic; 0 points
11 julienne cut World Classics Sun-Dried Tomatoes; 1 point
1 handful+ spinach; 0 points
1/2 cup Mario Batali Arrabbiata Pasta Sauce; 2 points
2 tsp Crystal Farms Grated Parmesan; 1 point
1/4 cup Kraft Natural Fat Free Shredded Mozzarella; 0 points
Spiralize or thinly slice zucchini to resemble spaghetti noodles.
Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and crushed red pepper, adjusted to your taste.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and sear one side of chicken.
Meanwhile, heat a little oil in another skillet over medium-low heat.
Toss in garlic, stir around, then add sun-dried tomatoes, stirring around more until desired char.
Check the chicken for a good sear and turn over to sear the other side.
Add the zucchini to the garlic and tomatoes and toss to combine and completely coat with the oil.
Once the chicken is seared on both sides, turn the heat down to a simmer for the rest of the time.
Measure 1/2 cup pasta sauce into the zucchini mixture along with 2 tsp of Parmesan cheese and a handful or so of spinach.
Using tongs, toss to combine.
Top with chicken and mozzarella and you’re ready to dig in!
**Disclaimer: the points for this meal depends on your personal appetite and daily point allotment. The entire dish is enough for two servings, 6 points for one or 13 points for the whole shebang. I have more points than normal because I’m breastfeeding so I felt no shame in eating the whole thing without batting an eye.**