It's a new year, a time for possibilities and brighter futures. For many, it's a time for the annual New Year's resolution. And, for almost as many, it's the same resolution they made last year, and the year before, and maybe even the year before that!
Can you tell that I'm not a fan of resolutions? That's because we tend to make our resolutions big and broad, "I want to lose weight," or "I want to get in shape." Neither are a particularly good plan for success.
When I was a rebellious teen refusing to listen to direction, my dad would often say, with a lot of frustration, "It's the little things that are the hardest and most important." Then, as a young Marine recruit who had just committed some minor infraction I had a drill instructor scream in my face, "Proper prior planning prevents pi$$-poor performance."
The point? If you want to change your life, whether it's losing weight, being more healthy, or something else, you need a detailed plan that makes small changes over time. It took me three years to lose more than 100 pounds, but by making one small change at a time and keeping a steady pace, I believe I've set myself up for on-going success. I've kept the weight of or nearly a year now.
So here's one small step that can help you if you're trying to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle: Look for healthier ingredients.
This version of stuffed shells in a perfect example. I used low-fat ricotta, part-skim mozzarella and egg whites in the shell and turkey Italian sausage in the ragu. One serving is only 383 calories with 10 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, and 31 grams of protein. And, just as important, it got a big thumbs up from the family. The cheese filling was creamy without being overly heavy and sauce was a nice tangy counterpoint. My finicky son couldn't get enough.
Lightened Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Sausage Ragu
Makes 8 servings Ingredients:
12 ounces (dry) jumbo pasta shells (whole wheat if available)
12 ounces turkey Italian sausage (3 links), casing removed
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
14.5 ounces stewed tomatoes
6 ounces tomato paste
15 ounces non-fat or reduced fat ricotta
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
1 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut chiffonade
3 egg whites
Prepare shells according to package directions minus 2 minutes (the shells will finish in the sauce) and drain. Lay the shells out on foil or a backing sheet so that they don't stick together. Discard any that are broken.
Meanwhile, in a sautee pan over medium-high heat, brown the sausage. Drain any excess fat and add the onion. Continue to cook until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add water, stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil and egg whites.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spay a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with non stick. Fill shells with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture each and place in a tight single layer in the baking dish. Pour the ragu over the shells and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cover and bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove, uncover and let stand about 10 minutes.