Tag Archives: dinner tonight

Dinner Tonight: 15-Minute Pesto Recipe

One of my favorite smells in the world is the sweet aroma of fresh basil. I was recently watering the basil plant on my kitchen windowsill, hoping I didn’t kill this one, since I seem to be a serial basil-killer, and thought, I need to make some pesto before this plant ends up in the trash. I did not inherit my parents’ green thumb, so I wanted to get some mileage out of this plant. Plus, pesto is such a perfect summer meal – light and fresh.

I first attempted pesto about 3 years ago, but after my lovely husband insisted on “helping” by jamming a wooden spoon into the blender–thus destroying both the pesto and the blender–I haven’t tried it since.

We were at Masina, in Weehawken, NJ, this weekend for dinner and ordered a very flavorful ricotta and pesto crostini. That got my mouth watering and my mind racing. It might be time to revisit pesto. That, and now that we’re all stocked up with new kitchen appliances– including a fancy Cuisinart — I just had to give this Italian staple another try.

Most of the recipes I found online were pretty much the same. This pesto recipe is based on one I found in Bon Appetit. But, but after reading a number of reviews, I made some modifications. See below and enjoy!

15-Minute Pesto

based on Classic Pesto recipe in Bon Appetit, August 2004

Yields about 1 cup of pesto

Serves 4

  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves (about 4 large bunches)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can find)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon course sea salt
  • 8 oz. uncooked pasta

Boil water for pasta and prepare pasta according to directions on the box. While water is boiling, pick basil leaves and wash thoroughly. Place basil in a salad spinner and spin out all the excess water. Try to get the basil as dry as possible — you may want to blot the basil leaves with a paper towel.

In a food processor or blender, add the first 4 ingredients and blend until a paste forms. Add more olive oil as needed.

Then add the cheese and blend some more. Add salt to taste.

And that’s it! Top a ¼ cup of pesto over pasta and serve with a salad or veggies and you are good to go. A quick and easy meal to make after work.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus Value: 11

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Dinner Tonight: Rigatoni & Shrimp with Vodka Sauce

When I was in college, there was an Italian restaurant just off-campus, Mario & Luigi’s, which had an all-you-can-eat pasta night on Mondays. My go-to dish was penne alla vodka. Oh it was so good!

Of course it was loaded with calories and fat, but at 19 I didn’t really care that much. Now though? Yeah, I care.

About a year ago I found a penne with vodka sauce recipe on Weight Watchers that had rave reviews. Could it be too good to be true? Nope! And my picky Italian husband – he loves it! He cannot believe it’s a Weight Watchers recipe.  And better yet, he calls this dish “blog worthy.”

I’ve adapted the recipe quite a bit. For one, my husband’s favorite noodle shape is rigatoni and it sops up the sauce better. For another, it needed protein, so I’ve added shrimp. Also, it seemed like such a waste not to use the whole small can of tomato paste and box of pasta, so I usually use all of it. To make up for those tweaks, I substitute fat-free half-and-half for heavy whipping cream.

This is definitely a meal you can cook on a work night. I can usually make this in a half hour or less. Also, if you have leftovers, it reheats very well.

Rigatoni & Shrimp alla Vodka Sauce

Adapted from Penne with Vodka Sauce recipe on Weight Watchers

Serves: 6


  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, separated
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • ½ tsp. coarse sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 oz. canned tomato paste
  • 2 oz. vodka (use a quality vodka, not the cheap stuff)
  • 1 lb. uncooked rigatoni
  • ½ cup fat-free half-and-half
  • 20 leaf/leaves basil, fresh, cut into ribbons


Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add half of the butter, shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots start to caramelize, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add parsley, sea salt and pepper, stirring once or twice. Add tomato paste and mix to form a paste. Cook for about 5 minutes, moving paste around pan occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Add vodka. Scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon and cook for about 5 minutes more.

At the same time, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the butter and raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) and sauté for about 5 minutes.

While everything is cooking, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the box and then drain.

Add half-and-half to tomato sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 3 minutes.

Add shrimp and pasta to sauce and mix to coat. Serve and top with basil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus value: 10 points

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Dinner Tonight: Shrimp Étouffée with Rice

I am a big fan of anything related to New Orleans… The culture, art, music and of course, the food! I’ve now visited NOLA three times, including Jazz Fest last year. While there last year, I had my best meal at an after-hours venue…a bowling alley of all places!. The meal was shrimp étouffée served out of a foil chafing pan at the Rock ‘n Bowl. It was soooo delicious. And that’s saying a lot since I ate very well that trip!

Shrimp (or crawfish) étouffée is a traditional Cajun dish that is usually served over rice. A rich roux forms the base of the recipe, which consists of flour and butter melted together. Traditional roux is made from lard  — but I want to still fit into my jeans. It can take a bit of time to make a roux, depending on how much étouffée you’re making. When you first start cooking the roux, it looks like this:

After you have been constantly stirring, so it doesn’t burn, the roux should be the color of peanut butter, like below. (I was visualizing Jif here.)

The first time I made shrimp étouffée, it was a several years ago from a recipe I found in The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. Unfortunately, the recipe isn’t available online.  I recently made it again, this time from an Emeril Lagasse recipe on foodnetwork.com.

I adapted the recipe somewhat, first by cutting the recipe in half, since the original served 10.  I also bought Emeril’s Essence spice at the grocery story, but I think next time I’ll play around with the spices more. There is a link to his recipe for Essence on the website. I would also punch it up a little more next time with more cayenne or Tabasco. This was a tad flat. I cheated a little with this recipe too. Instead of making my own shrimp stock, as the recipe suggests, I used canned seafood stock. Homemade stock would have given the étouffée more depth. So, with those notes, here we go!

Shrimp Étouffée

Adapted from recipe in New New Orleans Cooking, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch

About 5 servings


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cups chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cups chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want more heat)
  • 2 tablespoons Essence, recipe here
  • 1/2 quart shrimp stock or seafood stock
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp (21 to 25 count per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • Steamed white rice, for serving
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish


Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously to make a roux. Stir the roux over medium heat until the color of peanut butter, 5 to 7 minutes (see picture above).

Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and season with the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of the Essence. Cook the tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes and then whisk in the shrimp stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook the étouffée, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Season the shrimp with the remaining tablespoon of Essence and add them to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Add the chopped parsley to the pot and stir to combine.

Serve immediately over steamed white rice and garnish with sliced green onion tops.

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Dinner Tonight: Mole Mole! Chicken Mole

You may have noticed that I really like Mexican food. One of my favorite recipes in my arsenal is a chicken mole recipe from Bon Appetit, May 2009. My husband thinks it’s one of my top 5 best meals.

Of course while I’m making it, we have to sing the Mole Mole song – otherwise known to the rest of the world as “Wooly Bully.” And since he’s a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, here is a clip of The Boss’s live version of Wooly Bully:

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Dinner Tonight: Chicken Quesadilla

I tried this recipe this weekend from Hungry Girl —  on her site it’s called HG Clubhouse Chicken Quesadilla. Loved it so much on Saturday, I made it again for the Big Game (go Giants!) on Sunday. Not only is it good, but it’s also a great meal when you’re short on time. Continue reading

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Dinner Tonight: Seared Scallops Recipe from Women’s Health

I’m back on track this week – made it to the grocery store yesterday and cooked up this recipe from the December issue of Women’s Health magazine. This is the Seared Scallops with White Beans and Spinach recipe. The dish clocks in at only 266 calories and best of all…it has BACON! Continue reading

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Dinner Tonight: Vegetarian beef tacos

11 point dinner -- 2 tacos and a dinner salad

Didn’t plan my week well this week. I usually cook on Sunday nights and eat leftovers for dinner for a couple of nights during the week. Never made it to the grocery store this weekend – oh well. The double whammy is that I’ve also recommitted to Weight Watchers after Thanksgiving. Oh boy. Continue reading

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