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Healthy Bites: Classic Italian flavors in skillet entree

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Trick-or-Treat is Monday, and that's a busy evening around here for the youngest "healthy biters" in our family. It's probably that way for you, too. If there isn't someone at home to escort around the neighborhood, you most likely are standing ready to come across with the treats.

Pressed for time? Why not make a restaurant quality meal at home? In just minutes. In one skillet.

When looking for something quick, substantial and healthy for dinner, it's hard to beat easy, classic everyday Italian flavors.

Turkey sausage and whole-wheat pasta has wholesome covered in this one-dish entrée.

The recipe doesn't call for it, but you could drop a few dollops of part-skim ricotta around the top for a lasagna effect. Add it with the tomatoes while the mixture still has a little time to simmer to allow the ricotta to heat through and mellow.

Scare up a favorite vegetable or toss a salad as a side, along with whole-wheat garlic toast (vampire insurance). Fresh fruit can round out the meal as dessert.

We won't report seeing you munching on that chocolate candy bar from your handout stash.

New pastry shop

The Cupcake Café pastry shop has recently opened in Ripley at 608 N. Church St.

Owned and operated by sisters-in-law Annalisa Parkins Lucas of Cross Lanes and Melinda Parkins of Spencer, they offer sugar-free items among the freshly baked array of goods.

I highly recommend the cupcakes. I sampled the chocolate fudge with peanut butter frosting and pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting. Sweetened with Splenda, the cakes were superbly moist and flavorful, the frosting light and fluffy.

Sugar-free apple and cherry turnovers in a flaky pastry, cream and fruit pies and, upon request, sugar-free, fruit-filled doughnuts are also available.

The other doughnuts aren't precisely on the healthy bites side of the aisle, but worth mentioning in that they have not only the traditional assortment of filled and glazed yeast doughnuts, the ladies learned to make "hot dogs" -- the cream-stuffed doughnut resembling a frank and bun. The only other place I've seen them is at Spring Hill Bakery.

Also to note from "the other side" are baked from scratch, not frozen, croissants and pepperoni rolls. The rolls are made from the unsweetened doughnut dough and aren't in the standard square or rolled shape. Instead they are rounded puffs, baked in a muffin pan, a method that was new to me.

Annalisa is knowledgeable regarding the glycemic index as it relates to white bread. The Cupcake Café doesn't stock bread, but instead they set aside one day a week to bake accumulated orders for pickup. It wouldn't be a problem to prepare wheat and whole-grain bread.

If you don't see the specialty sugar-free dessert you desire, check with Annalisa or Melinda. They will fill the request, if they don't already make the product. It could be cooling in the back.

Shop hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. Call 304-373-5050.

Skillet Sausage and Penne Marinara

Makes 8 servings.

     1    cup uncooked whole-wheat penne pasta

     1     pound turkey Italian sausage links, casing discarded

     1     large onion, halved and sliced

     1     medium green bell pepper, sliced

     1     tablespoon canola oil

     1    14-ounce can stewed tomatoes, original or Italian-style, cut up (no salt added or regular)

     1    8-ounce can tomato sauce (no salt added or regular)

     1     teaspoon garlic powder

     1     teaspoon dried basil

     1     teaspoon dried oregano

     1/2     teaspoon salt

     1/2     teaspoon pepper

     1/4     teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

     Grated Parmesan (optional)

COOK pasta according to package directions.

CUT sausage into 1-inch pieces and cook with onion and bell pepper in oil in large skillet on medium heat until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables tender.

ADD tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasonings; heat through.

DRAIN pasta; toss with tomato mixture; heat through.

SPRINKLE with cheese, if desired.

Nutrition information: Per 1/8 recipe: 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 660 milligrams sodium, 13 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 14 grams protein.

Diabetic reminder: One cup pasta and 1/2 cup sauce equal 2 carb choices.

Reach Judy Grigoraci at jg@suddenlink.net.


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