Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Skinnytaste Turkey Stuffed Peppers

I’m an avid Skinnytaste fan so I recreate a lot of the recipes Gina publishes.  One of those recipes was for her Turkey Stuffed Peppers.

One thing with my cooking is I do tend to change up recipes just a bit to cater to my style and to my boyfriends taste.  In this case, I completely eliminated the use of cheese because I’ve never had stuffed peppers with cheese on them in my life and my boyfriend hates cheese – therefore it was unnecessary in my recipe and I was very happy with the result.  Even eliminating the cheese, the points plus stayed the same – which is fine with me because my normal homemade stuffed peppers (mom’s recipe) are a lot more than 5 points!

The preparation was quite simple, the whole thing was easy peasy.  The best part was the taste – it was delicious.  I admit, I ate mine with a little bit of ketchup on it because that’s how I grew up eating my stuffed peppers.

If you want the recipe, please find it here on the Skinnytaste site: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2008/11/turkey-stuffed-peppers-45-pts.html

Have you ever made turkey stuffed peppers?

Wild blueberry, banana walnut muffins

I adapted this recipe from Weight Watchers community.  The recipe is listed as the Healthy Blueberry Banana Nut Muffin: http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rcp/RecipePage.aspx?recipeid=294527280.  The only thing I altered was the fact I used frozen wild blueberries in my recipe instead of regular blueberries.

My boyfriend absolutely LOVES blueberry muffins and sometimes I get a mild eye twitch when he goes to Dunkin Donuts to get a blueberry muffin (because honestly how do they get all that FAT into a muffin?!).  Plus with muffins, it’s a great, simple breakfast/snack and I find when we have folks over offering someone a muffin (and mentioning they’re “healthy”) they tend to go faster.  Meaning I don’t have to be tempted for longer than necessary ;).

I will say while baking these my kitchen smelled amazing, you get that delicious banana, blueberry scent.  They puffed up nicely and had a very nice delicious texture AND taste.  Folks who don’t even follow Weight Watchers (and even those that shun Weight Watchers recipes) told me that these were really good muffins.

So, take THAT Dunkin Donuts!

Here is the recipe just incase you cannot access it on the Weight Watchers website:

Serves: 18
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (since I like cinnamon I did a whole teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup wild blueberries, slightly defrosted
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups natural apple sauce (no sugar added)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Cooking spray

You want to bake these in a 350 degree oven, cooking in a lightly greased (with cooking spray) muffin tins.

In a large bowl mix the flour, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.

In another bowl mix the bananas, eggs, apple sauce and vanilla extract.

Mix the banana mixture into the flour mixture until it’s smooth – then fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins (18 muffins).  Bake in the oven for roughly 16 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted into the middle and it comes out clean.

What is your favorite muffin flavor?

Jamaican inspired dinner

This is a meal I whipped up one night when we had sirloin tips out to eat, but I wasn’t too sure what we were going to do with them or what to have with them.  My boyfriend, the only Irish person on the face of the planet (I kid) is not a fan of potatoes.  He’ll eat them once in a while if they’re made a certain way, but I’m big into baked potatoes … so veggies have to be included it’s going to be a potato going into the rubbish after dinner.

After some thinking I decided to do some stewed steak – but I took the lazy mans way out and did it in the oven.  I cooked up the trimmed sirloin (cut into chunks) with sliced up onions and peppers and seasoned with minced garlic, powder garlic, black pepper, McCormick steak seasoning, a pinch of sea salt, a splash of teriyaki sauce, a squirt of ketchup, and a squirt of BBQ sauce.  I don’t measure when I season my meats because one thing I’ve learned from watching both my father and mother cook is they season with their hands and their noses.  My dad can take anything out of a cabinet or refrigerator, mix it up and make the best tasting marinade or sauce ever – as can my mom.  So I’ve graciously adapted this skill into my life.  I throw what I think is necessary into a pan, mix and smell.  I then adjust seasonings purely based on the scent of the mixture.  If I think it needs something, I go in search of whatever it may need and add it to the pan.

I bake the meat in a 350 degree oven for roughly 15-25 minutes (depending on how much is in the pan).  The one great thing is it creates a bit of a “stew” in the pan which are just the juices or “gravy” which are delicious.  Normally in a Jamaican dish you’d cook this oven an open flame in a pan and create a thickened gravy or “stew” to spoon over your meat and your side dish.

I simple cooked my potatoes in a very quick and easy fashion I’ve grown to love – wash your potato and toss them in the microwave.  Cooking times vary based on the size of the potato and the amount of potatoes you’re cooking – but I’ve cooked a smaller single serving once in 4 minutes, whereas I’ve cooked 8 potatoes in the microwave in ~20 minutes.  You know when they’re done when you can pierce them easily with a fork.

After I started cooking I got an immediate craving for some Jamaican dumplings.  Jamaican dumplings are a hard dough dumpling.  They’re dense, harder, chewy and just delicious.  I’m a quarter Jamaican, so I’ve grown up eating these with a meal or just straight in a bowl with a little bit of butter or gravy on them.  It’s a mixture of flour, salt and water.  You knead the mixture until it’s really well combined (which feels like it takes forever) and not sticky.  You then roll them out into balls and flatten slightly OR you can roll them into log form (which is what I do with soups).  You then boil these in salted water until they begin to float … usually take about 20 minutes or so.

I then went the lazy mans way out and made canned corn and carrots.  Nothing wrong with canned veggies!

Overall dinner was 11 point plus.  3 for the potato, 1 for the corn, 5 for the sirloin, 4 for the Jamaican dumplings.  Completely delicious and amazing!

Have you ever made a dish similar to this one – if not, would you?

Skinny Cow Pretty in Pink Velvet Truffle Ice Cream

I feel I always sing praises round Skinny Cow ice creams.  They make healthier alternatives to ice cream that taste amazing.  The one thing that comes with eating healthier is you sometimes have to sacrifice flavor and thankfully that is not the case with this.

This is the first time I’ve tried the Pretty in Pink Velvet Truffle Ice Cream and I have to say it’s quite delicious!  It’s a cream cheese flavored frosting that is drizzled over a pink velvet ice cream.  AMAZING!  It’s so creamy and delicious.  It almost has that creamy cheesecake sort of feel to it even though it’s ice cream.  I just found I really enjoyed this flavor.  And the greatest part with Skinny Cow is they print the Weight Watchers points right onto the back of their product containers which makes things (well, easy point wise – not choice wise!).  All this goodness for only 3 Points Plus!

What is your favorite Skinny Cow ice cream?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dinner: Whole Wheat Beef & Bean Stuffed Burritos

I decided to make stuffed burritos at home one night, so I picked up an Oretega burrito mix at Target and I will say – honesty, next time I will make them with taco seasoning because the Ortega burrito seasoning was FAR too spicy. So spicy indeed I had to add some sour cream to the meat in hopes of muting the spice, but even that didn’t help.

We had a few people over for dinner and everyone mentioned how spicy they were.  I felt bad; my boyfriend couldn’t even finish his because the spice was just killing his taste buds.  I fought through the burn because outside of JUST the spice they were delicious.. They would have been a homerun if I substituted taco mix (which I originally planned on using) until I spotted the burrito mix.

Hoping to further mute the spiciness of the seasoning pack, I layered refried beans into the tortilla shells – which helped a bit.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 packet reduced sodium Ortega Burrito seasoning
  • 5 tablespoons fat free sour cream
  • 1 can fat-free refried beans
  • 1 pack Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
  • Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

I had some Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tortilla shells I wanted to use up, so I filled those with 2 ounces of meat to 1 tablespoon of fat free refried beans.

With the remaining mixture I mixed those onto the Joseph’s wraps using 4 ounces of meat mixture  and 1/3 cup refried beans).  I personally found these to be more palatable because the s[ice was minimized.

I paired the burritos with a simple tossed salad.

The Joseph’s wraps were 9 points plus for the 2,whereas the Trader Joe’s wraps were 8 points plus for 2.

Have you ever made burritos at home?

Trader Joe’s: Dilettante Fruit Medley

While at Trader Joe’s I spotted these Dilettante Fruit Medley chocolate covered fruits.  The container contained cherries, strawberries, apricots and blueberries covered in chocolate with a mild coating on the outside to keep the chocolate from melting.  Chocolate covered fruit?  Hello, welcome to my shopping basket!  Sure, it’s a bit expensive (I believe they’re $4.99/5.99) but they are SO delicious.  I looked up the brand online and found it’s sold online for a lot more than what Trader Joe’s was selling it for, so no complaining from me!

One of the greatest part is the serving size – you get 7 pieces and it translates to being only 5 Weight Watchers Points Plus.  Not bad at all because you get a fabulous tasting snack.  The cherries and apricots are probably my favorite flavor. I will say the blueberries were rather lacking in the container.

The candies within the chocolate are almost a version of a dried fruit, but not dry and hard – kind of in between.  The chocolate is nice and mild.  The only downside is they can be completely addicting.

Have you ever tried the Dilettante Fruit Medley from Trader Joe’s?

"Anything is possible. It's your choice whether or not you choose to make IT happen."

Visual change December 2009 - June 2012.

We as humans have dreams and aspirations. Many of us hope for a brighter future, many of us hope to find the will power to "survive", while many of us dream to see the day something happens.  It's many of these dreams and aspirations that help push those who are willing into a healthier lifestyle.  Many of the times, we have to find our own "a-ha" moment which makes everything become crystal clear.  We set a goal and we begin to work towards that goal.

I have been overweight my entire life.  I've been the heaviest kid in kindergarten all the way through high school.  My weight began to pack on because my very polish grandmother (who was severely obese herself) showed you she loved you with food.  And by food, I mean an over abundance.  I remember there being stacks of french toast, potato pancakes, deep fried eggplant, etc., all over the table for me to eat (not all at the same time, but different days of the week).  My grandmother had me "help" her cook these dishes, which in turn made eating them "fun".  From a very early age I learned in a way to cope with food.  Food was a cure for my feelings.  Happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, frustration -- you name an emotion and food was always there.  This "cure" followed me throughout adulthood and had me tipping the scale at nearly 400 pounds.

I knew I was overweight.  I knew the world knew I was overweight (and I could tell by the looks and the whispers when out in public).  But when you don't want to see something and you aren't willing to admit it, you pretend it doesn't exist.  I didn't like seeing photographs of myself (hence why many of my photographs at my heaviest have been shoulders up).  I'd get upset, I'd get angry but I mentally wasn't prepared to do anything about it -- so I ate to console my emotions.  The sadder I felt, the more I ate and it was a downward spirale.  Emotional eating was going to be my untimely killer.

Finally, one day in February 2010, the light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I truly needed to change.  I needed to get healthy.  I needed to find happiness (because I was a miserable, unhappy person for so long).  My weight was holding me back from things in life (I didn't like going out). I knew these things were not going to happen overnight.  I knew my weight had not packed on in a week -- this was years and years of damage and I knew it was going to take quite a while to get it off.  They always say it's easier to put it on, than it is to take it off and that's the truest statement of all.

I admit, I knew Weight Watchers worked because I was a member when I was 18-years old.  But like most Weight Watchers members, the week before I joined I made sure to have some of the greasiest foods I enjoyed because I knew I wasn't going to have them for a while.  Not the smartest thing to do, but I did it and I don't regret doing it because of where I am today and where I was then are two completely different spectrums.

When I joined Weight Watchers I followed the plan to a T -- and I admit I was a bit grouchy for the first 2-weeks, but I needed to do it that way because I needed the structure.  I needed the discipline.  My first week I lost just under 10 pounds and was astounded.  Week after week I lost and week after week my food choices became healthier and wiser.  I avoided certain foods for a while because I knew mentally I couldn't handle having them -- so they stayed away.  I believed in the program and believed in myself, which is what pushed me to continue because every Thursday, stepping on that scale, it was a rewarding experience.

I found, I began to love myself.  This was a really odd experience for me at first because it was so foreign.  I disliked who I was for SUCH a long time, that to go from being miserable and really hating myself for what I allowed myself to become, to loving me and who I was becoming was mind boggling.  Becoming. It was a daily thing and I found new things I liked about myself.  And one day, I was able to say to myself and I was able to say out loud "I love myself!"

I love myself?  Wow!  Yes, I LOVE me!

My weight loss journey, courtesy of the Weight Watchers program and going to the gym, really brought a whole new ray of light to my life.  I enjoy life now.  I am happy.  I am healthy.  My doctors are pleased with me (and I no longer go really long stretches between seeing them because I didn't want to be 'nagged' at).  I enjoy going for a walk at lunch.  I love the fact I can go to ANY store and purchase clothing.  I love being able to either pass down or donate the clothing that I have since grown out of (meaning they're too big and not too tight).  I enjoy zumba classes.  I want to go to the gym. I enjoy seeing the scale go down at my Thursday weigh-ins.  I am also tickled by the fact that once I hit goal I will no longer have to pay to be a Weight Watchers member.

This is a lifelong journey I am on.  I will be following this program for the rest of my life because without it, I don't have that structure that I need in my life. They always say old habits die hard and I don't want to see that scale creep up to the numbers it used to be at.  I won't allow that to happen.  Do I struggle at times?  Sure.  I am human and we all go through trials and tribulations, but it is up to me with how I deal with them.  Do I eat the foods I love?  Of course.  If someone told me I had to give up pizza and cupcakes I would have walked out the door.  But the difference between me now and me then was -- 1 or 2 slices of pizza (tracked of course) are enough.  I don't need a whole box with a side of bread sticks.  I can have A cupcake, I don't need to sample each of the different flavors in the box.

Does emotional/stress eating creep up from time to times? It sure does, but I find ways to deal with it.  Depending on the stresser that's causing it -- I chew gum, I drink water, I go for a walk, I vent (to someone I can trust) or if I feel I have to have something because I am truly hungry, I try to make a healthier choice -- an apple, a banana, or some grapes.  Or if it's before I have my daily snack, I simply eat my snack earlier.  But nobody is going to push me into a Burger King drive-thru and eat my way through a Whopper meal because those things just don't happen these days --- and they won't.

Lasagna in a Bun

I adapted this recipe from a recipe posted on the Taste of Home website: (See original Recipe here: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Easy-Lasagna-in-a-Bun )

It looked so good I decided to make it at home, although I did not follow the recipe to a T. I made my meat mixture and cheese mixture as I would with regular healthier flare on lasagna and I really enjoyed the way it turned out! I also used regular deli "sub" bread since I could not find hoagie rolls. It was SO delicious I ate it for a couple days. I loved how the bread acted as the pasta for the dish, it was just nice and crunchy and yumminess all around!

Now here's how I changed up the recipe:

·         1 pound 93% lean ground beef
·         1 cup Kraft Fat Free Shredded mozzarella, divided
·         ¼ cup egg substitute
·         ¼ packet Lipton onion soup mix
·         3/4 cup fat free-ricotta
·         ½ tablespoon minced garlic
·         1 can diced tomatoes, drained
·         1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
·         2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
·         Pinch of black pepper (to taste)
·         Pinch of salt (to taste)
·         Garlic powder (to taste)
·         2 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs
·         8 sub rolls

I cooked my lean beef with minced garlic and chopped onion. When cooked, I added in a can of drained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.

I then made my cheese mixture by combining ricotta cheese, ½ the shredded mozzarella, egg, substitute, black pepper, a pinch of salt and a sprinkling of Italian flavored bread crumbs in a bowl and mixed well.

To combine I layered some of this cheese mixture onto one side of the bread, adding the meat onto the other side and rolled the sandwich up in tinfoil and baked in a 400* oven until done (roughly 15-20 minutes depending on how fast your oven cooks).

Since my boyfriend does not like cheese his sandwich just had the meat mixture on it.

This was SUCH a great meal and was such interesting twist on a classic.

Each sandwich was 9 points plus each.

Do note, sandwich breads have different nutritional information – I used my local Super markets brand of bread (which was 5 points per ‘loaf’).

Starbucks Iced Coffee by Pepsi Co.

Whenever I think of Starbucks, I think of going into my local coffee house and ordering my coffee from a friendly barista and putting my own low fat milk into it, to make it as point friendly as I possibly can.

I know Starbucks has a line of frappes out on the market, but I can’t tell you the last time I touched one of those.  So when I spotted a new iced coffee version on the shelf, I was immediately intrigued and had to calculate the Points Plus values.  I picked up the low calorie coffee which was made with 2% milk and was lightly sweetened and decided to give it a try – after all it was only 1 points plus value for the entire bottle.

I am an avid coffee (and ice coffee) drinker, so I wanted to have something like this on hand, for on the fly, when I wanted coffee and either didn’t want to go out to buy one or just simply didn’t want to make one.  After giving this a try (even straight out of the bottle – chilled) I have to say this is a pretty home run hit for Starbucks/Pepsi Co (who manufacturers it).  The coffee tastes like a coffee I would order out.  The only thing I think that could make this better would be to open it up and pour it over a nice tall glass of ice.  Perfectly refreshing with that nice true caffeine taste.

Have you tried the new Starbucks to-go iced coffees?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

New England Style Roast Beef Dinner (Take-Out)

In the New England area there are two styles of roast beef.  Cold (which you can get from the deli at a market OR if you’re at a sandwich shop it’s listed under “cold sandwiches”) or hot (which is typically sold at certain roast beef sandwich shops because the roast beefs are slow cooked all day, shaved upon order and put onto a roll).

I don’t enjoy cold roast beef --- but I on the other hand I LOVE hot roast beef.  Hot roast beef sandwiches are typically made with BBQ sauce (a particular brand, it’s runnier than regular BBQ sauce and spicy), but folks can also order them with horseradish, mustard and mayonnaise– as well as sides such as lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.  I was craving a roast beef sandwich and it sounded delicious to my boyfriend so we decided that was going to be what was for dinner. Hot roast beef sandwiches (typically) come in 3 sizes, junior, large and super (which means it’s served on an onion roll).

Since we were having dinner with my mom we ordered a roast beef dinner – which came with a small size salad, onion rings and French fries for all to share.  Sandwiches – we ordered a junior with sauce and cheese, a super with mustard and onion and a super with bbq sauce, horseradish, onion, lettuce and tomato.

About 3 bites in and I was TKO’d, so I ended up putting my sandwich into the fridge and enjoying it as a s few smaller meals the next day.  Since I only ate, not even ¼ I said it was 5 points plus – typically, if I was to eat the whole thing (due to the BBQ sauce and the roll) I say it’s anywhere between 18-19.  And if I want to get technically, I DO sometimes take the meat off the bun and weigh it.

As a side note, I do make hot roast beef sandwiches at home --- but the cheap mans way out. I take thin and trim deli roast beef and lightly warm it up in the oven/toaster oven and then add my condiments to it.  It’s then a much “healthier” alternative because I’m using point friendly items.  But nonetheless – both ways are delicious!

Have you ever had a New England style roast beef sandwich?

Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Mustard

I was in Trader Joe’s about a month ago and on this particular day (as any day) Trader Joe’s was offering free samples of their honey baked hams (it was right before Easter) and for a dipping sauce they had their Hot & Sweet Mustard to go along with it.  I requested a sample of both and immediately fell in love with the mustard.  My boyfriend has made me a mustard fan.  I used to use it sparingly, but now I tend to use it on a lot of things – plus being a Weight Watchers member most mustards are 0 Points Plus values, so it makes them my friend because plain food is boring food!

The mustard is on the “looser” side, if that makes sense.  It’s not runny, but it’s not very thick – it’s kind of somewhere in the middle of consistency.  It’s sweeter, but there’s a tinge of spice in the background which really levels out the sweet factor and makes this fabulous mustard.  It’s great on ham sandwiches, it’s great on pastrami sandwiches and it’s delicious alongside a fresh baked ham at Easter time (or any time you want to eat ham!).  I haven’t experimented too much with this mustard, but I’m sure it could be used to make some sort of a glaze for pork chops (since I have used Dijon mustard to make a glaze for pork chops in the past).

For a 1 tsp serving its 0 points plus - while it’s also 0 points plus for 2 tsp’s.  Not bad at all because it gives sandwiches a whole new layer of flavor which is just fabulous and I am a fan for life.  Please, Trader Joe’s – never discontinue this mustard!

Have you tried the Hot & Sweet Mustard from Trader Joe’s?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Received my FREE Quest Bars

A couple weeks back Hungry Girl on Facebook had a post containing a link to allow (I want to say to the first 10,000) people to sign up to obtain a free sample of 2 of Hungry Girl’s favorite Quest Bars.  Since I had just recently purchased a few Quest Bars at GNC and found that I am enjoying them – I decided to sign up to get the free flavors.

In case you are not aware – Quest Bars are a protein bar, which are sold packed with fiber (which will not only fill your belly, but will also aid in helping you have a healthy digestive system).  The bars all range in different Weight Watchers Points Plus values.  Every single person that I have spoken to has a different favorite flavor.  The greatest thing about these bars is that you can eat them straight out of the package or you can heat them up – either in the microwave or even in the toaster oven (in some instances making “cookies” out of the bar).

The two flavors provided were: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (5 PPV) and Apple Pie (4PPV).  Quest also graciously provided a code with each package for free shipping for any product(s) from their website.

If you’re wondering where these bars are sold – they are available at GNC (I’d suggest trying 1 or 2 out individually at GNC before committing to a full case if you haven’t tried before), on Quest’s website, Amazon.com, Vitacost.com, etc.

Did you sign up for the free Quest Bars through Hungry Girl?

Cookie Butter Frosted Brownies

As mentioned in my previous post I had two separate idea for Cookie Butter Brownies so instead of making two trays of brownies (which can be dangerous having that many brownies lying around) I made a “snack size” box of brownies, split it down the middle and made the two separate recipes I had in mind.  I simply followed the box directions for the brownies – I avoided eliminating any of the eggs and oil because even with adding them they were going to be around the same point values.

I baked the brownies per the box directions and once they were fully baked I let them cool completely.  When cooled I frosted them with the following frosting recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons Cookie Butter
  • ¾ cup powder sugar,
  • 1 ½ tablespoons softened margarine
  • 1 teaspoon skim milk
  • Splash (maybe ½ teaspoon) of vanilla extract.

Blend the above ingredients together and frost the cooled brownies.  I found it a lot easier to frost the brownies (uncut) in the baking pan first before slicing into serving sizes.

I will say these were good but they are not for the faint of heart.  These were VERY sweet.  If you’re going to make them for a crowd that really love sweets, then these would be a hit – otherwise, it might be  a bit too much for your palette.

Using the box of mix I used and the Cookie Butter, these brownies (made a serving of 6 – half the box) turned out to be 7 points plus each.

Cookie Butter Swirl Brownies

When holidays are around the corner and my boyfriend and I have a few stops to make while visiting family I enjoy making desserts so we don’t show up somewhere empty handed.  I had a few different ideas for desserts and somewhere in my list of ideas I had “Cookie Butter Brownies.”  The simple mention of Cookie Butter my boyfriend was immediately intrigued.  He then brought out the fact that it would be a good idea to test the brownies before deciding to make something that I may not be impressed with to put down on a dessert table.

I had two separate ideas so instead of making two trays of brownies (which can be dangerous having that many brownies lying around) I made a “snack size” box of brownies, split it down the middle and made the two separate recipes I had in mind.  I simply followed the box directions for the brownies – I avoided eliminating any of the eggs and oil because even with adding them they were going to be around the same point values.

I sprayed my pan with cooking spray, layered in my batter and for the swirl portion I just took 2 tablespoons of cookie butter, melted it in the microwave (about 25 seconds).  I stirred it to make sure it was smooth and drizzled it over half the brownies and “swirled” it in with the tip of a fork.  I then baked them off per the box directions, taking them out when they passed the toothpick test.

I have to say hands down – these were my FAVORITE out of the two I made.  It had a nice subtle cookie butter flavoring, while not being overpoweringly sweet.  They were also only 5 points plus per brownie (6 servings - half the container).

Lunch: Chicken, Cheese & Tomato “Panini”

I had a major craving for a Panini so I decided to go ahead and make one at home which was to my liking while also being a lot healthier than panini’s you can grab out at sandwich shops.

I had picked up some local “sub bread” from my market for my boyfriend and while scanning the bread selection, I decided I’d throw 5 points at the bread and make a nice Panini and enjoy myself.  I measured out 4 ounces of Thin & Trim deli chicken breast, sliced up a roma tomato, split a piece of fat free American cheese in half and assembled my sandwich.  I spritzed each side of the bread with a little spray butter and put it into a nonstick skillet, pressing down lightly until it was golden on each side.  It was definitely delicious and quite filling.

For a side I snacked on this with some petite dill pickles.  Not bad at all for a 8 points plus sandwich (1 for the cheese, 2 for the meat and 5 for the bread).

Do you like making panini’s at home?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Huxtable’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I spotted this refrigerated Huxtable’s brand Chicken Enchilada Casserole while at Target.  Granted, it was very early in the morning and I knew I had nothing out for lunch and this just looked delicious.  I admit I was craving something cheesy and felt this might knock that craving out of the park.  Initially I thought the nutritional information was going to be through the roof ridiculous, which would make me put the container right back onto the shelf, but upon turning the box over I was QUITE surprised how favorable the stats were.  The container housed 2 servings and for ½ the container it turned out to be 5 Weight Watchers Points Plus and I calculated if you ended up eating the entire container it was 11 points plus.

Overall it had a nice flavor – it was on the saltier side (but I am very sensitive to salt since I only use it sparingly in cooking for flavor balancing).  It was just as the box described – a casserole layered with chicken, cheddar and monterey jack cheese, layered between corn tortillas and a zesty (although I personally wouldn’t say zesty) red chile sauce.

I enjoyed it and found it to be a decent, quick, simple lunch.  It was plentiful with a small side salad to balance it off.

Have you tried any of the Huxtable’s premade meals at Target?

Dinner: Quick & Easy Chinese Food at Home

A few weeks back we needed dinner, but had nothing truly planned.  I knew we had things in the freezer which were quick and easy to throw together, so after going through a few of the options my boyfriend and I decided on having “Chinese food “.  Dinner literally took 15 minutes to make, so this just goes to show if you have foods in the freezer, or even your cabinet, there’s no reason dinner cannot be thrown together quickly – even in a pinch, and be served faster than it would be to run out to get fast-food.  Granted, it just takes a bit more “effort” but not a terrible amount.

This particular dinner we decided to make the Fusia brand of chicken chow mein, which I had purchased at our local Aldi grocery store.  It comes with the noodles, the veggies, the chicken pieces and the flavored sauce packet.  I added a bit of Pam to the bottom of a skillet, along with a tablespoon of olive oil, emptied the contents of the bag into the frying pan (minus the sauce packet) and let its do its thing – stirring it occasionally since it was frozen it wasn’t sticking, etc.  I then submerged the sauce packet in a bowl of warm/hot tap water.  As the veggies, chicken and noodles start to defrost I stir it continuously and when everything is softened and hot I empty in the sauce packet, stir and let it simmer for a second or two before turning off the flame.

For a side of protein I made the Trader Joe’s BBQ Teriyaki Chicken – which is quite simply the easiest thing to make in a pinch.  The chicken is fully cooked, so you add it into a microwave safe bowl, which you cover with plastic wrap.  You microwave it for – I believe 5 minutes.  While the chicken is steaming/cooking in the microwave, you set the sauce packages in some warm water to aid in defrosting them.  When the cook time is up, you simply add in the sauce packet, stir and put back into the microwave for a minute or two and wah-lah, like magic it’s done! 

When the chicken was done I tossed in a bag of Trader Joe’s steam bag fresh green beans.  3 minutes later they were done.  Seriously, these are some of the best steamer green beans I have tried – my local super market sells a different brand but I find they are not nearly as crisp as the Trader Joe’s brand is.

The entire meal was 10 points plus – 1 of those points plus going towards the olive oil used to cook the lo mein.

Do you have quick “throw together” meals on hand for days where you haven’t quite planned dinner?

Dinner @ Remington’s Restaurant (Warwick, RI)

My boyfriend and I went away during the beginning of April to celebrate our 2 year anniversary.  Since neither of us had ever been to Rhode Island, we didn’t really know what we were going to do (outside of hit up Dave & Busters and go to the Casino).  We wanted to go out for dinner for our anniversary, so after doing some online searching I found a pretty nice restaurant which had a fairly decent menu.  My boyfriend is a pickeier eater and since I am a Weight Watchers member I look for foods that aren’t going to totally make me feel sickly after eating.  The greatest part was the restaurant wasn’t too far from the hotel we were staying at and their menu had a few choices for my boyfriend and at least one that was a total “must have” for me.

I’ve mentioned countless times how I am such a lover of the Restaurant.com website.  Not only because it allows for me to save money, but it also allows me to try restaurants I perhaps wouldn’t otherwise because I am getting a discount.   The website typically sells gift certificates such as $10 for a $25 gift certificate (but please note most gift certificates come with stipulations so make sure you read the fine print – most are like spend $35 if you have a $25 gift certificate, etc.).  Another thing I love about Restaurant.com is that once you have an account, you get e-mails pretty frequently notifying you of sales such as $2 for $10 gift certificates, or $5/7 for $25, etc.

Okay, enough bragging about the website I purchased a $25 gift certificate for $2 which allowed my boyfriend and I to save some money on our anniversary dinner (saving us $23 off dinner right off the bat) – which is useful, particularly when going away because a penny saved is a penny to be spent elsewhere!

I ordered the Savory Herb Grilled Chicken Breast which according to the menu was “Light and healthy with grilled Zucchini, Summer Squash, Roma Tomato, and Asparagus
served with Roasted Red Pepper Caponata“.  I was surprised with the presentation but what surprised me most was the flavor.  This was one of the most delicious chicken dishes I have ordered out from a restaurant in a very long time.  The red pepper caponata was very unique it was slightly sweetened with raisins.  The whole dish was fabulous and I only wish all local restaurants in my area sold a dish such as this one.  At dinner I ate half my meal.  It was very filling, very flavorful and delish.

Not pictured (my camera ate the photograph) is my boyfriends meal – he ordered the Steak “Frites” which was a Grilled New York Sirloin Steak served with Maitre D’ Butter (which he quickly removed) and French Fries.

Do you preplan your meals before going out?

Little Caesar’s Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza

This is what happens when you have the pickiest eater in the world for a boyfriend.  Nothing sounded good to him to have for dinner.  The soup I was having he wouldn’t touch because it was bean based and – well, he doesn’t really like beans.  So in asking what he’d like for dinner he mentioned deep dish pizza.  He tried the Deep Dish Pizza from Little Caesar’s a week or two ago and has been in love since.

My boyfriend only eats pepperoni pizza, so of course he ordered a deep dish pepperoni (which is $8 and apparently now it’s part of their “hot and ready” line because it’s getting more and more popular – even though they just came bout about 3-weeks ago).

The great thing about this pizza is that each side of the pizza has a crust because they are baked in smaller pans, the pans then cut into 4 slices – each box containing 8 slices.  I am a huge crust lover and I think this pizza is quite delicious.  And better yet, it’s only a few points higher per slice than Little Caesar’s regular pepperoni pizza.  A slice of pepperoni deep dish will run you 10 points plus.  Worth it, especially if you’re craving deep dish and don’t want to throw 25+ away on a personal deep dish from a spot like Uno (Chicago style).

Have you tried the new Little Caesar’s pizza?

Mystic Pizza – House Special

This is what you get for dinner when you are hungry, at the grocery store and decide you just really don’t want to cook when you get home (especially when it’s late and dinner would have taken an hour to prep and serve).

I texted my boyfriend and asked him if pizza sounded fine.  I was carousing the frozen pizza section (because I admit, it’s my favorite food) and spotted a new type of Mystic Pizza so I decided to grab it. I’ve had Mystic Pizza in the past and I’ve found it’s one of the better frozen pizzas – not my favorite, but I definitely prefer it over many brands.  This particular one stated it was “larger family size” which was interesting, because I know from previous experience the Mystic brand frozen pizzas tend to be on the smaller side.

The House Special had pepperoni, meatball, sausage, green & red peppers, onions and mushrooms on it.  Supreme pizza was my all-time favorite pizza back in my hay day and by looking at the nutritional information and finding it was pretty point friendly, I immediately decided this HAD to be dinner.  Not only did it have all the toppings I enjoy, but it was only 7 points plus for 1 1/5th of the pizza.  Perfect!

I baked it up, cut it up and served and we were all impressed with the product.  Delicious, flavorful and two thumbs up.  Definitely a repurchase next time I am in the mood for a supreme pizza.

What is your favorite frozen pizza?

Brinner: Waffles w/ Compote, Sausage & Scrambled

My boyfriend and I ended up having breakfast for dinner one night (termed: Brinner).  I personally wanted something simple to cook because I initially thought of pancakes, but then the thought of making them just wasn’t intriguing any longer.  Since we had some frozen low fat waffles in the freezer, my boyfriend was more in-tune with waffles (I think he sensed my immediate need to NOT want to make pancakes – so we settled).

To fancy up the waffles, I decided to make a fruit compote.  When I dumped my frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and black berries) into the pan there wasn’t enough to make one serving – so I decided to jazz it up, slicing up an apple (peeled) into small pieces and cooking it up all in a sauce pan with a bit of Equal (sugar substitute), a pinch of salt and water.  I let the mixture come to a slow simmer, stirring frequently until it thickened just slightly.  (Note: if I had used real sugar and a tiny bit of cornstarch it would have been a thicker compote.)

The waffles went into the toaster (simple!) and I cooked up some Trader Joe’s Sweet Apple Sausage (see review here: http://shannonslifestyle.blogspot.com/2013/03/trader-joes-sweet-apple-chicken-sausage.html).  Since the sausage is sweeter I felt it would be a perfect pairing with a breakfast – and I was right.  Then to just wrap things up I made myself  ½ cup scrambled egg substitute – seasoned with black pepper and a pinch of salt.  (Side note: if you’re cooking for someone who doesn’t like egg substitute, you can fry up regular eggs – which is what I did for my boyfriend since he does not follow the WW program).

Once the meal was done and assembled, I spooned the compote over the waffles and it was munja time! Points Plus wise, the entire meal was 8 points plus (4 – waffles, 3 – sausage, 1 – eggs).

What is your favorite breakfast food to have for dinner?