Main Dishes

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes  |  Lemon & Mocha

It’s hard to know exactly when my pasta obsession began, but it’s at least as far back as I can remember. My brother and I used to have noodles with every dinner and we would even stuff it inside pita pockets sometimes. Yes, essentially a noodle sandwich. Yes, we were odd. I think most people tend to love pasta to some degree. I mean, how can you not? It’s simple, starchy and satisfying.

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Somewhere down the line I decided pasta was a cheat meal. Matt and I would go weeks without having pasta for dinner. Then this past year, especially while preparing for my healthy January posts, I started thinking a lot about what healthy food means to me and came to the conclusion that I needed to remove the pasta cheat meal mentality. Instead of nixing pasta completely I needed to rebalance my pasta meal. A plate piled high with just spaghetti, marinara and cheese could be replaced with a smaller portion of pasta loaded with veggies. But still cheese. There always has to be cheese.

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since then Matt and I have been enjoying weeknight pasta, happily and healthily – at least with what healthy means to me. I now have three favorite healthy pasta hacks, two of which I have shared on Lemon & Mocha before. One is all the different types of alternative pasta on the market. I personally tend not to enjoy whole wheat pasta, but I have gladly embraced rice pasta, red lentil pasta, green bean pasta and, my new favorite, Barilla Veggie Spaghetti. No, this is not sponsored, it just tastes really good and is made with 25% vegetable puree making it slightly better for you than regular spaghetti. That is what I used in this recipe, but you can use any type of spaghetti you prefer.

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes  |  Lemon & Mocha

My second hack I want to share is adding cauliflower puree to make pasta sauces creamy. I used this tasty trick in the Skinny Chicken Fusilli Alla Vodka with Basil, Spinach and Parmesan recipe and it works just as well here to create a rich pesto cream sauce without any actual cream. My third healthy pasta tip that I also shared with my Winter Pesto Pasta recipe is swapping out some of the pasta for zucchini noodles.

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes  |  Lemon & Mocha

In addition to all those yummy ingredients I’ve kept it simple with some spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and of course Parmesan. This healthy creamy pesto pasta comes together really quickly making it a great weeknight meal. Keep it vegetarian or eat with some meatballs or chicken sausage. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Healthy Creamy Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces spaghetti (I used Barilla Veggie Spaghetti)
  • 1 cup frozen cauliflower florets
  • ⅓ cup pesto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 zucchinis, noodled; about 2.5 cups
  • ⅔ cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
  • Fresh chopped basil for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Boil water for the pasta in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and set your timer according to the package instructions (mine was for 9 minutes). When there are 6 minutes left on your timer, add the cauliflower florets. When the timer goes off, drain the pasta and cauliflower, being sure to reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Carefully separate out the cauliflower florets. In a high-speed blender, puree the cooked cauliflower florets, reserved cooking liquid and the pesto until smooth. Alternatively you could puree the cauliflower then just stir it into the pesto if you like the texture of the pesto and don’t want it completely smooth.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost wilted then add the zucchini noodles and the sun-dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper; sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the pesto mixture, the spaghetti and the Parmesan to the sauté pan. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve topped with additional Parmesan and fresh chopped basil.

 

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

I never thought I would be obsessed with a lettuce wrap until I tasted these Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps from the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook. When I got this cookbook a few years ago I asked Matt to pick out a couple recipes he would be interested in and of course he went right to the beef section. Lean ground beef is sautéed with finely chopped carrots, red bell pepper and scallions then coated in a sweet and savory sauce.

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

The sauce has only five ingredients, but I was shocked at how flavorful it was and it immediately became a go-to recipe. The sauce is able to add so much punch because there’s a few secret ingredients. Soy sauce, ginger and garlic are all standard fare for Asian lettuce wraps, but then we have hoisin and orange marmalade. I’ve discussed my love for the salty and sweet qualities of hoisin before in the Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce and the Hoisin Beef Kebobs posts. The orange marmalade adds the perfect amounts of citrus and sweet notes to the dish that gives it that gotta-have-seconds vibe.

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love the freshness the crispy lettuce wraps add. I usually use Boston or Bibb lettuce and I like to scoop the filling onto the lettuce right before I eat it otherwise I find the lettuce can get soggy. Although there is a bit of chopping, the actual cooking of the lettuce wraps on the stove takes ten to twelve minutes making it a great weeknight meal to have in your back pocket.

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’ve never tried these lettuce wraps with ground turkey instead of beef, but I’m sure they would still taste good. They just wouldn’t have the rich sumptuous quality you get from eating beef.

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

On a slightly unrelated note, have any of you tried the Impossible Burger? There’s a few restaurants around us that have it, but we haven’t tried it out yet. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, it’s a plant-based burger that supposedly tastes like real meat. I’m intrigued by the potential positive environmental implications, but the ingredient list gives me some pause. Hmm… anyways, have a great Wednesday and I hope you love these Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps!

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps  |  Lemon & Mocha

Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • 8 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 12 Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the marmalade, soy sauce, hoisin, ginger and garlic until combined. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef, scallions, carrots and red pepper; cook for 5-7 minutes or until the meat is mostly cooked. Add the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, until well blended. Remove from the heat and serve with the lettuce leaves.
Notes
The cookbook suggests serving with a side of watermelon. I usually just serve them alongside some additional veggies.

Recipe from Flat Belly Diet! Cookbook: 200 New MUFA Recipes.
Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for my referral. This does not affect the retail cost of the item. Thank you for supporting Lemon & Mocha!

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

If you know me well then you know I love chicken fingers. They’re crispy, crunchy, perfect for dipping and full of childhood nostalgia. I even mention them in my about Lauren section. Although I usually only have chicken fingers while I’m eating out, I do (attempt) to keep homemade panko crusted chicken bites in the freezer. I say attempt because the batch is usually gone before the week is over.

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

While going through my recipe binders that I mentioned in the Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Gorgonzola and Walnuts post I came across these Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders from a 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine. Their recipe calls for shallow frying the tenders, but I knew my baking method for my panko crusted chicken bites was tried and true for creating crispy coated chicken so I baked them instead.

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

The chicken tenders get dipped in frothy egg whites and then are coated in a combination of panko breadcrumbs, finely chopped pecans, sesame seeds, paprika and salt. The key to achieving crispy chicken tenders in the oven is to place them on a wire cooling rack coated with nonstick cooking spray that you’ve placed on a large baking sheet. This is the same method used for my Baked Pistachio Crusted Chicken. The hot oven air circulates around all sides of the chicken tenders making sure every single bite is crispy – no air fryer needed!

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I was a little shocked at how obsessed I was with the panko-pecan-sesame combination. They taste so well together and provide a perfect crunch.

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since these aren’t ordinary chicken tenders I thought they deserved a simple, but stepped-up dipping sauce. The sesame had me thinking of Asian flavors and since I still had hoisin in the fridge from the Hoisin Beef Kebobs I whipped up a quick dipping sauce of hoisin, mayonnaise and lime juice. It’s creamy, sweet and a little tangy. I hope you love these Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders as much as we do!

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Crispy Sesame Pecan Chicken Tenders with a Hoisin Dipping Sauce
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1½ pounds bone skinless chicken tenders, or breasts cut into 1” wide strips
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • Cooking spray
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a wire cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray then place on top of a large baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a shallow, wide bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, chopped pecans, sesame seeds, paprika and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Working with 1 tender at a time, dip the chicken in the egg whites then dip in the panko mixture to coat completely. Place on the prepared wire rack so the chicken tenders aren’t touching. Lightly spray the top of the chicken with cooking spray (I use olive oil or coconut oil spray) then bake for 20-22 minutes. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Keep on the wire rack until serving with the hoisin dipping sauce.
  4. While the chicken is baking, make the hoisin dipping sauce. In a medium bowl combine the hoisin, mayo and lime juice.

 Recipe adapted from September 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine.

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for my referral. This does not affect the retail cost of the item. Thank you for supporting Lemon & Mocha!

Hoisin Beef Kebobs

Hoisin Beef Kebobs  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’m back with another favorite from the simplest healthy cookbook, Cook This, Not That! These Hoisin Beef Kebobs are tender, sweet and savory. Pieces of sirloin steak get alternated with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and scallions before being glazed in a five ingredient sauce and grilled.

Hoisin Beef Kebobs  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love that the scallions get nicely charred while the cherry tomatoes burst, which brings the best flavor to the steak. These kebobs are a perfect dinner dish because the vegetables could be swapped out with so many other kinds of vegetables since the sauce is versatile and really would taste delicious with most veggies.

Hoisin Beef Kebobs  |  Lemon & Mocha

I usually serve these kebobs over rice, but they would also be great served with salad or alongside some more vegetables, like some grilled corn.

Hoisin Beef Kebobs  |  Lemon & Mocha

The most important thing to remember when you’re making this recipe is that the other vegetables can’t be taller than the cuts of steak – and that the cuts of steak need to be equal. Particularly if you are cooking on a grill pan, which is requiring direct heat, if you have one large mushroom or one large piece of beef, that other piece of steak won’t get cooked enough since it won’t be touching the grill pan. This is less important if you are using an actual grill.

Hoisin Beef Kebobs  |  Lemon & Mocha

If I’m making these in our grill pan, I actually usually grill the steak and vegetables individually in two batches since our grill pan isn’t long enough for the kebob sticks. Either way, Matt and I can’t get enough of the juicy bites of steak and glazed veggies!

Hoisin Beef Kebobs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Hoisin Beef Kebobs
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce (I use Trader Joe’s green dragon sauce)
  • 16 ounces sirloin steak, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 20 small mushroom caps
  • 20 small cherry tomatoes
  • 8 scallion whites, sliced into ½-inch long pieces
  • 8 skewers (if wood, soaked in water for 5-10 minutes)
Directions
  1. Combine the hoisin, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili sauce. Divide between 2 small bowls and set aside.
  2. Skewer the steak, mushrooms, tomatoes and scallions, alternating between the meat and vegetables. Try to make sure the mushrooms aren’t larger than the steak pieces, and if the mushrooms are too big then cut them in half. Also make sure the vegetables aren’t pressed against the steak pieces to give the steak enough room to cook.
  3. Using one bowl of the sauce, brush the skewers with sauce and grill for 3-4 minutes per side, basting the other side with sauce before flipping. If you’re using a grill pan, lightly brush the pan with vegetable oil before grilling and grill over medium-high heat. Remove from the grill and brush with the sauce from the second reserved bowl before serving.

Recipe from Cook This, Not That!.
Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for my referral. This does not affect the retail cost of the item. Thank you for supporting Lemon & Mocha!

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls  |  Lemon & Mocha

My go-to diner order is a tuna melt. I love tuna fish and when it’s sandwiched between two toasty slices of bread along with some gooey melted cheese I’m in heaven. I had some leftover egg roll wrappers from the Baked Barbecue Chicken Egg Rolls and when I was brainstorming what I could make with them I thought of my favorite diner food. Skinnytaste turned me on to baked egg rolls with the Southwest Turkey Baked Egg Rolls from her cookbook and I’m constantly thinking of new variations.

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls  |  Lemon & Mocha

I stuffed the egg roll wrappers with cheddar cheese and a quick tuna salad I made with canned tuna, mayonnaise, scallions and fresh ground black pepper. Then I baked them until they were crispy and crunchy on the outside and had the perfect melted cheese in the middle.

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls  |  Lemon & Mocha

As I mentioned in my Pasta Tuna Salad post (if you love tuna fish then you will go nuts for that dish!), Matt does not like tuna fish so I made these for myself for lunch. This is a small batch recipe as it only uses one can of tuna fish to make two servings. You could certainly make more if you are making it for more people, but I would not recommend saving them for leftovers as they taste best fresh from the oven.

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls  |  Lemon & Mocha

Now that I have those Goat Cheese Spinach Pesto Egg Sandwiches on my mind from Wednesday I’m thinking I missed an opportunity to put some everything but the bagel seasoning on the top of the egg roll wrappers just for some added flavor. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had tuna fish on an everything bagel, but it is so good. There’s this place I used to order from at work that would make a tuna melt on an everything bagel with some of the bagel scooped out so it would get nice and crispy. Like these egg rolls! Minus the everything but the bagel seasoning, but maybe next time!

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls  |  Lemon & Mocha

Tuna Melt Egg Rolls
 
Yield: 6 egg rolls
Ingredients
  • 1 5-ounce can of tuna fish, drained
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 scallion, end removed and chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 egg roll wrappers
  • 6 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cooking spray
  • Everything but the bagel seasoning, optional
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the tuna fish, mayonnaise and chopped scallion in a bowl. Season with the black pepper.
  3. Before filling the egg roll wrappers, make sure you have a little bowl or cup of warm water and a clean work surface. Place the egg roll wrapper down so that a corner is facing you. Scoop ⅙ of the tuna mixture and place it near the bottom corner of the wrapper. I like to adjust the mixture so it’s more of a log shape then a big mound. Place a tablespoon of the shredded cheese on top. Take the bottom corner of the wrapper and fold it up and over the mixture so it’s completely covering it then continue to roll it one more time. Fold in the left and right corners so they create a little envelope then continue to roll it until it’s 1 roll away from the top corner. Wet your finger with the water and use it to moisten the whole exposed top corner. Fold the corner down to close up and seal the roll. Place it on the baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining rolls then coat all the rolls with cooking spray. Sprinkle with everything but the bagel seasoning if desired.
  4. Bake the rolls for 8 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 8 minutes. They should be crispy and golden brown. Serve warm.

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission for my referral if you purchase something. This does not affect the retail cost of the item. Thank you for supporting Lemon & Mocha!