Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sexi Spicy Chipotle Salad

If you’ve ever been to The Cheesecake Factory, you know their menu is a thirty-something-page novel of just about every tantalizing flavor combination imaginable, and then some. From lettuce wraps to seared tuna to the classic cheeseburger to the overly tempting 33 different types of cheesecake (but who’s counting?), there’s bound to be a favorite for anyone. Then, there’s this little gem. Nestled somewhere in that vast expanse of menu lies what could be one of the most delicious, most unique, most unexpectedly indulgent dishes out there: the Spicy Chicken Chipotle Pasta. It breaks the rules of what one may consider a traditional pasta dish. Creamy, spicy, and smoky with little bursts of sweetness from both peas and peppers…this dish has it all.

And we mean all…

All the soul-tingling flavors, the break from the ordinary, the stunning “feast with your eyes” presentation and unfortunately, ALL the calories (there’s always a catch!) …a whopping 1749 of them, to be exact. YIKES!

Now, that’s not to say you should never order this dish from The Cheesecake Factory …you should. You really should. It’s that good. Everyone deserves a little indulgence from time to time, right? But what about those days when that creamy, smoky, spicy craving hits you and you don’t want to break your calorie budget? Here it is: your new favorite pasta dish, gone Sexi.  Keep all that flavor and lose all the guilt… at only 391 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving, you can indulge all you want and even feel good about it!  

Sexi Spicy Chipotle Pasta
Cooking spray
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted and chopped*
(jarred roasted red pepper can be substituted)
1 c. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 c. skim milk + 2 TBSP
¼ c. fat free sour cream
¼ c. fat free cream cheese
2 TBSP salt-free chipotle seasoning
1 TBSP Adobo seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 TBSP corn starch
2/3 c. frozen peas, thawed
½ box whole wheat penne pasta
1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Sautee asparagus over medium low heat until just cooked, about 7 minutes. Remove from skillet and place in a small bowl. Set aside. Add 2 cups milk, sour cream, and cream cheese to skillet over low heat, whisking frequently until smooth. Stir in chipotle seasoning, Adobo, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce begins to thicken. While thickening, cook pasta according to package directions until “al dente”, approximately 9 minutes. Drain and set aside, spraying lightly with cooking spray to prevent sticking, if needed. In a small bowl, whisk corn starch and remaining 2 TBSP milk until smooth. Add to sauce and stir until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in peas, asparagus, and red pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss until well coated.  Top with fresh chopped parsley.

Makes 3 servings.

*If roasting your own red pepper: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place pepper on a roasting pan and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes, turning twice during roasting to allow all sides to darken. When pepper is soft and skin is blistering, carefully remove from oven and place in a large Ziploc bag. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Open bag and peel and discard skin from pepper. Skin should peel easily. Remove seeds and chop pepper into large pieces. Set aside.
Author’s notes about this recipe:

-You will notice that The Cheesecake Factory dish contains chicken and this recipe does not. This recipe provides you the framework so that you can customize this dish to suit you, whether you choose chicken, turkey, chicken sausage… this dish works with any type of meat you’d like! Adding 4 oz. of cooked, cubed, boneless, skinless chicken breast will bring your calorie count up to 431 per serving, but this recipe is still WAY under 1749 calories and you added extra protein to boot!  

-Using the full 2 TBSP of chipotle seasoning will give your sauce a bit of a kick. If you prefer a more mild sauce, reduce the amount to 1 TBSP (or whatever fits your preferred heat level) and add an extra half teaspoon of paprika for flavor and color.

-Those cute little toasts on the side? Super easy, super delicious, and a great flavor pairing with this dish. Simply pick up your favorite whole grain baguette, slice into thin rounds, and top with a light spread of a good store-bought basil pesto. Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes or until crisp and, voila! Cute and tasty pesto toasts!