Protein Power Baked Ziti!

So, I had a 20-miler today.  While all my friends running the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in 2 weeks are on their taper, I’m still in training for the 50k in December and I had a good, long run to do today.  I knew the training plan was meant to be when I discovered there was a 26-miler schedule for the weekend of the MCM.  So, yes, I’m running the MCM in 2 weeks – YAY!  I’ve been pretty busy training and trying to avoid all the early fall sickness that seems to be making its way through my building at work.  It was a good run this morning and my appetite has been through the roof all day long.  Seriously, you should have seen the breakfast I ate!  And, you should have seen the server’s face as I continued to order when she thought I was finished.  Ha!

Anyway, as you know, I bought a couple new cookbooks a couple of weeks ago and I’ve only had the time to make one recipe out of the crockpot cookbook.  Tonight, however – and, honestly, tomorrow night too so get ready! – I planned on a recipe out of the other one.  Have you heard of the Eat This, Not That books?  I LOVE them!  They are chock full of great information on how to make excellent choices at the grocery store or even the restaurant.  Seriously, I have learned more about food and how to read and decode labels.  If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check them out.  They’re inexpensive and they’ll really change the way you think about your pantry/freezer/refrigerator.  Anyway, this cookbook is by the same guy who does those books – Dave Zinczenko.  Yeah, that’s his name.  Try saying it 3 times fast.  Ha!  I’m still trying to say it just one time.  He’s the editorial director of both Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines.  The cookbook is The New Abs Diet Cookbook.  There’s a TON of fabulous information in this book about foods and how they benefit you and how you can eat the things you love – changed up a little bit – and be doing good things for your body.  Me?  I’m in it for the recipes, which are all AMAZING looking.  So, first up?  Protein Power Baked Ziti.  Yes, the recipes have ridiculous and silly names.  Who cares?  It’s about the food, not the title, and this dish is designed to (in his words) “turn a carb bomb into a muscle-building feast that keeps blood sugar balanced.”  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  I mean, who doesn’t love lasagna or baked ziti or all things pasta-y, saucy, and cheesy?!  Well, as you know, most of those dishes seriously are carb bombs (yes, I know I’m a runner and carbs are my friend but I have a husband and teenagers that aren’t and I want to do good things for them) and can also be loaded in fat because of an excess of cheese.  So, I saw this and I knew right away I had to try it.  The addition of lean chicken breast adds delicious protein and using a moderate amount of cheese allows for terrific cheesiness without being overly greasy.  And seriously, this is awesome.  My one complaint?  The recipe says this dish serves 4.  Now, I don’t know who they think I’m going to be feeding but we have leftovers.  4 people…really?  I don’t think so.  🙂  So, yummy baked pasta, chicken, and cheese.  Mmmmm……..

Oh wait!  There’s dessert, too!  (clue crazy Kermie dance!)  Ginger-Chocolate Pumpkin Custards.  O.M.G.  (psst….click here to get to that recipe!)

Protein Power Baked Ziti

1/2 pound whole wheat ziti

1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 can (28 ounce) tomatoes in a thick puree

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

1. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook the ziti according to package directions. Place in a large bowl.

3. Heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add the chicken, and cook for 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Place the cooked chicken in a bowl.

4. Spray the skillet again and cook the onion and sun-dried tomatoes for 5 minutes until soft. During the last minute, add in the garlic. Add the vinegar and cook for 3 minutes, stirring to loosen any bits that may be sticking to the pan. Stir in the canned tomatoes (including puree), Italian seasoning, and chicken. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add to the bowl with the ziti and toss.

5.  Place half of the ziti mixture in the baking dish and top with 1/2 cup cheese. Add the remaining ziti, top with the remaining cheese, and bake for 25 minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Per serving: 370 calories, 30g protein, 52g carbohydrates, 6g fat (3g saturated), 541mg sodium, 7g fiber

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