A few years ago, when I was trying to shed the (very stubborn) last five pregnancy pounds after having my first son, Johnny bought The Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook at Barnes & Noble. He wanted to lose his sympathetic pregnancy weight, too. 😉 At first, I scoffed; for whatever reason, I looked down upon BHG as a “country” publication (sorry!). But, the book was a huge factor in our success. Each recipe has a picture and calorie count for an appropriate serving size. Most recipes use “real” ingredients (no fake butter or sugar substitutes found here!), so the food tastes great and is satisfying. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert and breakfast recipes (and also a helpful section called “Quick Weekday Meals”). For a few months, we made three or four things out of that cookbook each week — we never felt like we were eating “diet food.” Whatever we wanted — pasta, rice, soup, meat entrees, sweets — it was in there. It really took the guesswork out of what to make while counting calories.
We love the cookbook so much that we even use it when we’re not actively trying to lose weight. It being the new year, I thought I’d share one of my favorites from the book: polenta with sausage and vegetables. Each generous, filling serving is only 260 calories, leaving plenty of room for a side salad, dessert or seconds. With all the peppers, onions and mushrooms, there’s plenty of fiber and vitamins, and the turkey (or chicken) sausage lends the meal a robust flavor. Best of all, because the polenta and sausage are pre-cooked, this meal takes fewer than 30 minutes to put together.
Polenta With Sausage and Vegetables
Makes 4 servings; 260 calories per serving
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-pound tube refrigerated cooked polenta (found in the refrigerated aisle, where the cheeses and fresh pastas are located)
- 8 ounces light smoked turkey sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices (I used chicken Italian sausage)
- 2 medium red, green or yellow bell peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup bottled pasta sauce (sometimes I use 3/4 cup, depending on how dry the dish looks as it’s cooking)
Cut the polenta into 12 slices, then cut each slice into quarters.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the polenta in a single layer and cook for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove polenta from the skillet; set aside.
Add sausage, peppers, onion and mushrooms to the skillet. At this point, you may need to add a small amount of water (up to 1/4 cup) to the skillet to prevent the veggies from burning. Cook and stir until the sausage is brown and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes (at most). Stir in the pasta sauce, then add the polenta and gently combine. Heat through, then serve.