Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Mozzarella Cheese

Cheese, when it’s lower in fat and eaten in moderation, can be part of a healthy diet. Cheese is an excellent source of both protein and calcium, although it often gets a bad reputation for being high in saturated fat. While cheese made with whole milk often contains more saturated fat than other dairy products like yogurt, softer cheeses and those made with part skim milk are healthier choices. Since mozzarella is softer than many of its cheesy counterparts, like cheddar, it’s a naturally lower source of saturated fat. To make meals made with mozzarella even healthier, choose part-skim varieties, and of course, use the cheese in moderation.

The following recipes come courtesy of Jacki Dooley, the Wellness Champion for the State Lab in Jamaica Plain – she’s someone who knows a lot about making meals healthier, having lead her worksite to victory in last year’s WellMASS Weight Loss Competition!

Baked Margarita Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large Roma tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
¼ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. each salt & pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Using a large knife or a cleaver, slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise down the middle. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and center strings.
3. Drizzle the two halves with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
4. Place the squash, open side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, check to see if the squash is soft and easily comes up with a fork into a spaghetti-like texture. If it’s too hard to remove, cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, scrape and fluff the stringy squash with a fork. Leave the squash in the skin.
6. Turn the oven up to broil. Add the tomatoes and fresh basil into the squash, stir and top with the mozzarella cheese. Place in the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Alternatively, you can leave the oven at 400 degrees and bake the squash for an additional 20 minutes. 7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving the squash.

Baked Mozzarella Chicken Rolls

2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (8, 4-ounce pieces)
1 cup whole wheat Italian-style bread crumbs
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 clove minced garlic and olive oil for sautéing
½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
⅓ cup beaten egg whites or Egg Beaters
3 ounces fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup marinara sauce
Fresh basil for topping

1. Prep the chicken: Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and pound the pieces until they are thin (for quick cooking) and have expanded in surface area (for more filling).
2. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and set aside.
3. Prep the filling: Chop the spinach and sauté it with the garlic and just a drizzle of olive oil for 2-3 minutes or until just barely wilted. Combine the sautéed spinach with the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and 2-3 tablespoons of the egg whites. Place the remaining egg whites in a separate shallow bowl and set aside.
4. Assemble the chicken: Oil the bottom of a large baking dish and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place one piece of chicken on a flat working surface. Put a spoonful of ricotta-spinach filling right in the middle and roll the chicken up so that the edges meet to form a “seam.” Dip the entire chicken roll in egg whites, and then roll it in the breadcrumbs. Place in a baking dish, seam side down. Repeat for the remaining 7 pieces of chicken. Bake for 25 minutes.
5. Finishing touches: After 25 minutes, the chicken should be cooked through (white on the inside) and browned on the top. Cover the chicken with the marinara sauce and slices of fresh Mozzarella. Bake for another 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melting. Sprinkle with fresh basil.

Recipes courtesy of Wellness Champion Jack Dooley


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