By Jenny Stauffer

Every Christmas and Holiday season, I underestimate the sheer amount of food I will consume. It’s just that with every party, every get-together, the food is so “festive” and rich. Nonetheless, I return home from our annual New Year’s vacation ready to lighten up my meals. It’s not that I am setting out on some New Year’s Resolution craziness, because, all things in moderation, right?

Additionally, we have started “Meatless Mondays” in our house. For us, this has been something the girls actually anticipate. I come home with one less expensive meat product each week, and we feel better eating meat-free at least one night a week.

I just so happen to have some light dinner options just in case you, too, feel the need to throw in a lighter meal or two into your rotation.

Chopped Salad

Romaine Lettuce
red onion
red bell pepper
feta cheese
bacon, course chopped (big pieces)
Dressing: Purchased Balsamic Vinaigarette and Poppyseed, ratio half and half

Chop the lettuce and the vegetables finely. The salad should be more like a course cole slaw consistency than a fluffy, light salad. Mix all of the ingredients but the bacon. Add bacon at the end.

Pasta with Mini Chicken Meatballs

Slightly adapted from

The most time-consuming portion of this meal was making the meatballs, but they are worth it! I fixed them early in the day and just added them at dinnertime. My husband raved about them. Adaptions noted.

1/2 lb orecchiette or other small pasta
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 eggs**used EggBeaters
1 tablespoon whole milk**used skim
1 teaspoon dried parsley **did not have
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, divided**Use good-quality!!!!!!
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 lb ground chicken**use chicken breast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), halved
1/2 cup packed chopped fresh basil**had arugula instead and was really great

Cooking Instructions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender.. In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, eggs, milk, ketchup, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and combine well. Using a melon baller or teaspoon, scoop up the mixture and roll into 1 inch mini meatballs. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the meatballs and brown the tops. (It took me three batches to get all the meatballs browned.) Return all meatballs to pan and add chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits on bottom of skillet. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta. To the meatball mixture, add the pasta, remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan, bocconcini, and basil. Give it a good stir and serve with additional Parmesan if desired.

Cooking Light’s Rice and Black Bean Enchiladas

Once I solicited Meatless Monday recipes on Facebook, a friend contributed this recipe (thank you, Laura!) This was a huge hit with every one of us. It will definitely be a repeat in the near future!

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice or long-grain rice (*I used 2 Boil-in-Bag brown rice)
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (*I left this out) 1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (*I omitted)
1 (19-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
Cooking spray
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas (*I used flour)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1/2 cup cheese, rice, and the next 7 ingredients (rice through jalapeño) in a large bowl. Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Heat remaining enchilada sauce in a skillet for 2 minutes or until warm, and remove from heat. Dredge both sides of 6 tortillas in warm enchilada sauce, and arrange tortillas, overlapping, over sauce in baking dish. Top with 1 3/4 cups bean mixture. Dredge both sides of remaining tortillas in warm enchilada sauce, and arrange tortillas, overlapping, over bean mixture. Top with the remaining bean mixture, remaining enchilada sauce, and 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Bowtie Chicken Pasta Salad


I don’t usually love salads, but this one is so yummy. With my kids, I just served the chicken and pasta separate, with some fruit and carrot sticks. All of the ingredients work well to balance flavors and textures. So good!

2 cups bowtie pasta cooked
2 bunches green leaf lettuce, chopped
1 bag Marie Calendars Fat Free Croutons
1 bag Almond Accents/ Roasted Garlic Caesar
2 Chicken Breasts, rotisserie works great
6oz.shredded parmesan cheese
Brianna’s Asiago Caesar Dressing
Instructions: Toss all the above ingredients with Caesar dressing right before serving.

*I like Brianna’s dressing because it is potent and you don’t have to use a lot but you could substitute another quality Caesar dressing as well, like Girard’s.