Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dunkin Donuts Jelly Donut Coffee

I love shopping at Target and I always get a little excited when I find a new item that is only available in a Target store.  I buy a lot of my coffees at Target – whether ground bags or k-cups, so I frequent the aisle often.  Needless to say, when I spotted new Bakery Series line by Dunkin Donuts I was immediately intrigued – so intrigued I had to pick up the Jelly Donut.

There are a few flavored ground coffees by Dunkin Donuts that I do enjoy (Pumpkin and Strawberry Shortcake is by far one of my favorites).  I spotted a few different flavors available – chocolate donut, plain cake donut, caramel cinnamon cake and jelly donut.  I had to scoop up the jelly donut after having seen it on two different Target stops.  I admit, the chocolate donut would have swayed me but I enjoy the Entenmanns’s Chocolate Donut as well as the Donut Shop Chocolate Donut k-cups.

The morning after purchase, I brewed a pot of coffee for my boyfriend and I.  It smelled very fragrant while it brewed but I found the coffee was rather mild in flavor. The jelly donut flavor wasn’t a pow-like flavor but it did offer a mild … I want to say raspberry flavor.  Not entirely reminiscent of a jelly donut – but undoubtedly a different flavor in comparison to the coffee lineup in my cabinet.  The coffee itself seemed to be a medium roast. I prefer light roasts so I’d need to be lighter handed when measuring this out for brewing.

Have you tried any of the new Dunkin Donuts Bakery Series coffees?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dinner: Shake & Bake Pork, Potato, Corn & Apple Sauce

This was a delicious and filling dinner I whipped together one night for dinner. It was honestly the quickest and easiest meal to put together and I forgot how yummy Shake & Bake was!  This was truly a “walk in the door, assemble, set it and forget it” type of meal. Dinner was done in 40 minutes – which was the amount of time it took for the pork to cook through.

I started off the meal by trimming the fat off my pork chops. Rinsed them under water then dropped them into the plastic bag that comes with the shake and bake.  I shook each pork chop up individually and put them onto a baking sheet.  Into the oven they went with the timer set.

I peeled and husked some corn, put it in a pot with a splash of milk and set it on to boil.  I then took my potatoes, rinsed them and popped them into the microwave for 8 minutes.  Yes – did you know you can have a baked potato straight out of the microwave? It’s my go to method when I want a potato because it makes it simple and I don’t have to wait 40+ minutes for it.

When everything was done, I measured out my serving and dinner was ready to rock and roll!  What I had was 4 ounces of pork with shake and bake on it (6 points plus), a 7 oz potato (4 points plus), a corn on the cob (2 points plus) and ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (0 points plus).  Overall 12 points plus – filling and delicious!

What is a quick and easy meal you haven’t had in a while?

Hello … my name is Shannon

Hello.  My name is Shannon and I’m a self-proclaimed Carboholic.  I also am attracted to things with the word “New” on them.  The “New” thing doesn’t get me into trouble as much as carbs do.  Okay, so not even carbs of all kinds … I’m most importantly talking about, bread!

I love bread. Always have. Bread, like almost any child, is a staple from a very early age. Toast, peanut butter and jelly, sandwiches, French toast, etc.  They all begin with bread.  Three of these were introduced to me as a child, minus, peanut butter and jelly.  Yes, I had my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my teenage years (I want to say I was 15 or 16 ) and I had it out of sheer curiosity. I know! When I say this to people I get sideways glances. But truth be told, I just never really wanted one … I mean as a child in my mind peanut butter was meant to be eaten on crackers, not bread!

I remember my mom coming home with a fresh stick of hot Italian bread from the local bakery. The smell would draw me (and my nose) in.  I would eat it either plan or with butter on it. To this day, if someone has a stick of hot bread in their house I’m going to sniff it out. I’m like a hound dog – it’s crazy. And it drives me absolutely insane when my local grocery store takes the fresh bread out of the oven because I swear they pump that smell through the ventilation system. My stomach starts growling and suddenly I want to make subs for dinner. Forget the groceries in the cart, subs! That’s when I breathe through my mouth and quickly find my way to the checkout aisle – sans stick of hot bread.

Since starting my weight loss journey I’ve sideways tackled the bread obsession. If I do have bread, its light bread, light wheat or multigrain slims. I buy pita bread from the local Lebanese bakery if I want pita bread – or I buy the wheat flax pita from the grocery store.  I admit the breads that I buy for myself aren’t a trigger for me. I don’t love light white bread.  BUT what I found this past week was that I subconsciously reach for bread to incorporate with meals that I may not necessarily need with a meal.

For instance, the week before last I was out of my element dog/cat/house sitting for my aunt and uncle while they were on vacation. Due to this I had to pre-plan every meal to a T. My usual staples weren’t at my fingertips so I had to eat what I brought with me.  Looking back at that week I was kind of subconsciously following the simply filling technique by eating more power foods (see here), and found I was satisfied and full after meals. If I had bread, it was a multigrain slim or light bread and it was with one meal – either with my egg salad or with a hamburger, etc. at dinner.  That week when I stepped on the scale my reward was a pretty hefty loss (nearly 5 pounds).  I was shocked.

Fast forward to going back home, being in my element and eating the way I tend to eat at home. I realized I wasn’t as satisfied as I was the week prior. By 5-days in, I felt I was a little bit bloated. Looking back at my week there were some days where I had a sandwich for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and I may have had a piece of bread to go along with dinner. I also wasn’t having my fruit salad as my nightly snack as I was the week prior.  It was definitely a learning lesson and one that has made me create a goal for myself this week.

My goal this week (as the weeks to follow) is to be more conscious when making choices surrounding bread. I want to try to have 1 serving of bread a day, but I’m not going to be overly strict on myself because I don’t like rules. I break rules. But I am going to question myself “Do I need to eat this as a sandwich?” and if the answer is no, I’m going to try it without the bread and see how I like it. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but I honestly like bread, I like sandwiches and I’ve lost weight eating them. But I’m trying to make healthier choices for myself. If I skip on the bread, I could provide my body with more protein at dinner or at lunch. Which means being satisfied longer … and that’s what I’m aiming for.

So what is one goal you’ve set for yourself this week or month?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chewy Chips Ahoy! Brownie Filled Soft Cookies

Okay, I admit I was on the hunt for these Chewy Chips Ahoy! Brownie Filled Soft Cookies. Why? Well … they’re new but also because I kept seeing the chocolate chip cookie brownies in the baking aisle and part of me wanted those until I checked out the nutrition label AND the back of the box to figure out how to make them. Talk about not worth it.  But these little cookies satisfied that craving and were well under the points plus values. Plus, I could have one and it would satisfy that want and sweet tooth … so I bought them.

I’m normally not a soft cookie fan. I tend to like harder cookies OR I like a cookie that’s right in between … crispy and crunchy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside.  These are undoubtedly a classic soft chocolate chip cookie BUT the brownie on the inside is a cooked brownie. It’s not a fudgy brownie; it’s a cooked cake like brownie.  The two together are none other than delicious.  They’re a decent size, not small (like the Reese Chewy Chips Ahoy), not large … medium sized in regards to packaged cookies. It tastes like what you would get if a brownie and a cookie married.

I had my brownie filled cookie and ate it too. Plus, for 80 calories and 2 points plus values, I felt it was justifiable and after eating it … it was worth it.  I admit, I did have 1 cookie in the afternoon and I had another cookie at night but I didn’t have anymore.  There are 15 cookies in a package – I offered cookies up to my mother, who had some and my boyfriend ate some during the day (and evidentially at night).  But when I woke up the next morning, the package was on top of the garbage and I know I didn’t eat them.

Have you tried any new cookies as of late?

Meat Sauce

One thing I really enjoy making is homemade sauce.  It’s pretty simple, it comes together on its own and I’m able to control what I put in it, which in turn controls the overall points plus value when the sauce is complete. I do make a few variations (meat, no meat, vegetables, etc.) but this is my staple “go-to” when it comes to meat sauce.  I find I can have an entire pot of sauce cooked and ready to roll in under 1 hour or I can let it simmer for a few hours.  Plus, the great thing with sauce is that it truly tastes better as it marinates in the refrigerator.

When I make sauce I make a huge batch (because why else make sauce?) and usually have folks over for dinner.  I always use some of it towards dinner, the remainder is used in other dishes during the week or I end up freezing it to take out whenever I need it.

Serves 24. ½ cup serving.  2 Points Plus Values.

-          1 1/8 93% ground beef
-          1 medium onion, diced
-          1 heaping tbsp minced garlic
-          2 (29 oz.) cans Contadina Crushed Tomatoes
-          1 (14 oz.) can Contadina Tomato Sauce with Italian Herbs
-          1 (14 oz.) Hunts Fire Roasted, Diced Tomatoes, slightly drained
-          1 (14 oz.) Hunts Diced Basil, Garlic & Oregano Tomatoes, slightly drained
-          1 (6 oz.) Cento Tomato Paste
-          1/3 cup Reduced Fat Parmesan
-          2 tbsp brown sugar
-          Salt, pinch
-          Black Pepper, pinch
-          Red Pepper Flakes, pinch
-          2 tsp garlic powder
-          1 1/2 tbsp Oregano

In a large non-stick sauce pan, over medium-high heat, add ground beef and onion – season with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture breaking up the ground beef as finely as possible. Make sure to stir frequently so beef cooks evenly.  When half cooked, add in minced garlic.

When the beef has browned and cooked through, begin adding in your sauce. Crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes.  Stir to combine.

Add in parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir until well combined.

Allow mixture to come to a slow simmer either covered or uncovered.  After roughly 20 minutes of simmering, slowly blend in the tomato paste. Make sure to blend the tomato paste in well to avoid large clumps.

Sprinkle brown into the sauce, and stir. As sauce thickens, taste and adjust seasonings. Typically I have to add more oregano, garlic powder, and salt.

Sauce can be simmered for 20 more minutes or up to 1 hour.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Baked Eggplant Cutlets

I had an abundance of fresh eggplants from my uncle’s garden after house sitting for a week, so I decided to make baked eggplant cutlets with them.  I used to fry up my eggplant cutlets, but I find I enjoy them a lot more baking them.  It cuts down on the fat, is non-greasy and you can control how much you want them to crisp up in the oven.  With these, the outside is crisp and the inside is softened and depending on the freshness of your fruit it can be a little sweet.

I started making my eggplant in batches and continued until I had a whole tray worth out.  I ended up making another batch with a small eggplant a few days later just to use up all the eggplants I had.

Serving sizes will ultimately vary depending on how thin or thick you cut your eggplants. I was able to get 3 eggplant cutlets (breaded) per serving – 4 servings per batch.  By the time I was done making my eggplants, I was able to make 3 batches of this – simply adding in the ingredients into each bowl 3 separate times until all eggplants were dipped.  Of course as I got to the smaller eggplants, I was able to have more slices per serving.

Serves 4. 3 Cutlets per serving. 2 Points Plus Values.

-          1/3 cup fat free egg substitute
-          ½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, seasoned
-          1 tbsp reduced fat parmesan cheese
-          Pinch of Salt
-          1 tsp black pepper
-          1 tsp garlic powder
-          2 tsp oregano
-          1 small-medium eggplant
-          Baking spray (like Pam)

In a medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.  Stir until mixture is well combined.

Place egg beaters in a bowl.

Wash eggplant then slice to desired thickness.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Dip eggplant slice into egg mixture, drop egg dipped eggplant into breadcrumbs and coat. Place coated eggplant on baking sheet.  Repeat until no more egg and breadcrumb mixture is available.

Spray the top of the eggplants on the baking sheet, then place into the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, flip each eggplant then return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Let the eggplants cool for roughly 5-10 minutes before serving.

Edy’s Limited Edition Slow Churned German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream

I’ve seen this Edy’s Limited Edition Slow Churned German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream in the market time and time again, but had not picked it up until last week. I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate ice cream, but I’m a big fan of German chocolate cake – so I figured why not try a different taste in regard to ice cream instead of the staple vanilla?

What sold me initially was 1) the name and 2) the mention of coconut and caramel in the description. I’m a sucker for coconut desserts.  According to the container it’s a chocolate light ice cream with a caramel coconut swirl and brownie pieces.  Opening the container it looked like regular chocolate ice cream with a few brownie pieces lingering throughout and an occasional caramel swirl.  Taste wise it tastes exactly like chocolate coconut, but this coconut flavoring does dissipate as you eat your ice cream and I was left with a mere chocolate flavor.  The caramel swirls are rather few and far between … they are in there, but there isn’t much.  Now the brownie pieces are more prominent but they’re not overwhelming.

I was quite pleased with the ice cream. I will say, after finishing my half cup serving the general sweetness of it really lingered with me.  Anymore than a half cup, I believe I would have felt sick just because of the sheer richness of it.

A ½ cup serving is 110 calories and 3 Points Plus Values. Quite worth it for an ice cream the whole family can enjoy without it being deemed the dreaded “diet food” term.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Trader Joe’s Salt Water Taffy

This was a rather impulse buy from Trader Joe’s.  I am a huge fan of salt water taffy, but I’m a little picky about the brand. Usually I only get some when we’re at the beach and it’s being made inside the candy shop. This way I can get a few pieces and I’m on my way.  But when I saw this I had to get it, it was $2 I believe, or definitely under $3.

The five flavors listed on the package immediately sold me: Cherry, Strawberry Banana, Red Licorice, Sour Apple and Watermelon.  Some of my favorite flavors, plus a few I had never tried before.  The package states a serving size is 7 pieces, which in my opinion is far too many pieces to eat in one serving, let alone in one day.  Salt water taffy is very sweet for me … I have 2 pieces and I’m good for the day. Anymore than 2 pieces and I’m cringing at the sugar rush.

The taffy itself is firm enough that it doesn’t turn into a wad of sticky mush in the wrapper. Once removed from the wrapper, you can feel how soft it is and once you eat it, you can tell how fresh and chewy it actually is.  I quite enjoy it and typically find myself really only having one because they are terribly sweet, as all taffys are, but once in a while I will have 2 but I cannot have more than that.

A serving is 170 calories which is equal to 5 points plus values.  My usual serving of 1 or 2 is 1 points plus value. Not bad for a nice cure to the sweet tooth.

Do you like salt water taffy?

New Favorite Snack! Yogurt Parfait

This has been my newfound favorite snack and occasionally on those days where I’m not terribly hungry in the morning, my breakfast.  I do switch up the yogurt flavors depending on my mood but usually it’s either Yoplait’s Vanilla Greek Yogurt (2ppv) or Dannon Light & Fit Coconut Vanilla Greek Blends(2ppv).

Back in my hay-day I used to order the McDonald’s Parfait because I felt that was a healthier choice to go along with my McDonald’s breakfast (which consisted of McDonald’s sandwiches). I realize most parfaits come with granola but I tend to skip on that step. I haven’t found a granola that is point comfortable for a satisfying enough serving size. Yet even without it, the parfait is satisfying and filling.

I sprinkle a layer of fresh blueberries and strawberries into the bottom of a bowl.  A few times I’ve had to use frozen no-sugar added strawberries which I let defrost for a little while before layering.  I then add in my single serving of Greek yogurt (either coconut or vanilla) followed by additional blueberries and strawberries.

It’s totally delicious because it’s light, satisfying, delicious and refreshing.  The greatest part is its only 2 points plus.

Do you make yogurt parfaits at home?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eggplant Pizza

My leader shared a recipe for Eggplant Pizza and I decided I needed to try it. I had an abundance of eggplants from my uncle’s garden and after making boatloads of baked eggplant cutlets, I used the last eggplant to make eggplant pizzas.

I lined a baking sheet with a cooling rack and lined my eggplants on the rack. I brushed 2 teaspoons of olive oil over top and bottom of the eggplants, and then put them into a 350 degree oven to bake for 10 minutes. After that I removed them from the oven and put them back in for another 5.  The eggplants had browned (in color) but I found even just from baking them they were really soft and didn’t crisp up at all.  I hoped by returning them back to the oven with the sauce and cheese it might crisp up … but it didn’t.  Sadly, they looked a lot better than they tasted.  The eggplants were just loose and limp.  I think if I was to remake these, I would brush the eggplants, but lay them straight onto a Pam sprayed baking sheet and bake like that until they crisped up or firmed.  Then I would put the cheese and sauce on them and finish baking.

If you would like to give them a try in hopes you like them, here’s the recipe:

Serves 2. 3 Points Plus Values.

1 small eggplant, sliced
½ cup pizza or marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara sauce)
½ cup cheese (I used Fat Free Kraft Mozzarella)
2 teaspoons olive oil
Hormel Turkey Pepperoni

Place oil brushed eggplants on a cooling rack and bake in a 350 degree oven for 7-10 minutes.  Flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Spoon sauce onto each eggplant base, top with cheese and additional toppings, then return to the oven for 5 minutes or so until cheese is melted.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough QuestBar

I received this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough QuestBar from QuestBar from their 2 free 2 bars promo with Hungry Girl.  As far as I can see the deal is still available (see here:

I’ve heard many great things about the chocolate chip cookie dough bar so I had high hopes. I’ve heard this particular bar is a lot better ripped up into chunks and baked as you would cookies.  The bar can also be eaten straight out of the package or after being warmed in the microwave.  Since I have yet to try any of the bars heated up, I opted for the oven method.

Opening the package, I found the bar was rather dry and not the same consistency of the other QuestBars I have tried. I ripped the bar up into pieces and popped my pan in the oven for a few minutes just to warm through. Taking them out of the oven, I tried them and I have to say … I wasn’t a fan. The flavor wasn’t tasty and it wasn’t nearly close to being reminiscent of cookie dough.  It had an awful aftertaste.  The crisping in the oven made them slightly crunchy as a cookie would be – but I couldn’t get past the flavor. My boyfriend tried it and said it was okay, but he didn’t eat anymore than the single bite he took.  I’m not sure if I had a bad bar, but it was just a complete miss for me.

I enjoy QuestBars because they are jam packed with fiber and protein, something that is typically missing from snack or nutrition bars.  So far, the Chocolate Brownie is the only contender in the slam-dunk category.

This particular bar is 190 calories and 5 Points Plus values.

Have you tried any QuestBars? If so, what’s your favorite flavor?

Butterball Turkey Polska Kielbasa

Growing up kielbasa (the full fat kind) was a classic in my household. We’d eat it grilled, fried, or boiled and typically alongside pierogies or on a sandwich.  Since I don’t typically eat full-fat meats any longer, I’ve switched out for leaner alternatives. One of those alternatives is turkey kielbasa. One of the brands I purchase is Butterball Turkey Polska Kielbasa.

The only true difference I can tell is that 1) it’s less greasy, 2) it’s not as tough and 3) I don’t get heartburn for days after eating it.  I definitely enjoy the absence of heartburn because as much as I enjoy kielbasa I hated the burn a few hours after eating it.  These days, I fry up my kielbasa in a non-stick skillet to get a nice “crisp” on the outside. I typically throw onions and peppers into the mix to bulk up my meal, plus it’s a great way to incorporate vegetables into the dish.  I typically cook the kielbasa up in chunks or I dice it up – it truly depends on my mood or how much I have to stretch it.

On this day I enjoyed my kielbasa with onions and peppers alongside some sautéed fresh vegetables and some Ore-Ida Simply potato wedges.  Great meal even without the bread!  A 2 ounce serving is 2 points plus values, or if you’re counting calories it’s 100 calories per serving.

What is your favorite brand of kielbasa?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fit For You Mushroom Bleu Top Sirloin @ 99 Restaurant

My boyfriend and I decided we were going to go out to eat one night, so we opted for the 99 Restaurant – which is a local chain restaurant that can be found scattered around the East Coast.  The 99 happens to be one of my boyfriend’s favorite chains, so when we do go I tend to order off the “Fit For You” menu, which offers meals under a specific amount of calories.  The 99 does offer their nutrition information on their website, which is helpful in aiding me in deciding what I’m going to eat when we go there.  I have to admit, some of the dishes are completely shocking so I tend to go with what I’m craving that day.

On this particular night I really wanted a piece of steak so I ordered the Fit For You Mushroom Bleu Top Sirloin.  According to the menu the dish is 420 calories and is “a 6 oz. top sirloin steak is flame broiled and crowned with fresh sautéed mushrooms and a sprinkle of bleu cheese crumbles. Served with a grilled tomato and fresh broccoli.”

Seemed like it would be delicious and it was – although I believe next time I will order it with the bleu cheese on the side. The cheese gave the steak and mushrooms a nice kick, but I’m typically sensitive to salt and the natural saltiness in the cheese was more than enough to make me shiver. The sirloin was delicious, cooked perfectly and relatively lean.  The broccoli was perfect, as it always is and the grilled tomatoes were really a unique twist on a naturally cold side.

The whole dish was 10 points plus. Well worth it for a meal out on the go.

What is your favorite dish to order while eating out?

Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Honey Citrus Chicken

I was awarded a Klout perk, so I was mailed a coupon to try out the new Lean Cuisine Honestly Good line. While shopping at Walmart, I browsed through the selection available and decided to pick up the Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Honey Citrus Chicken. I decided to have it for lunch.

What struck me as interesting at first was that the meal came with a number of step by step directions to follow before consuming. Unlike most frozen meals, this isn’t one of those you just throw in the microwave and retrieve in 5 minutes.  Inside the container there is a packet of sauce – you have to remove the plastic, retrieve the sauce and submerge it in a cup of water to thaw.  Putting the film back on the meal, you place it in the microwave for 3 minutes.  When done, remove the plastic, pour the sauce over the meat and return back to the microwave to finish cooking.  There are implicit directions that state the sauce MUST be cooked before consuming.  So when after 2 minutes, my food was still a little cold I put it in for another minute.

Looking at the meal after it came out of the microwave, I could tell the summer squash was soggy – but since there weren’t too many pieces, it was okay. Taste wise the meal is ok but it is nothing to brag about. Oddly enough, I found the pasta to be the best part – it was cooked al dente and seasoned just right. The chicken was rather soft and being a texture person that kind of weirded me out.  The sauce wasn’t bad, it blended the meal together.

I will say, these Honestly Good frozen meals are pricey as far as frozen dinners are concerned (roughly $4). You could essentially get two Smart Ones or two regular Lean Cuisine meals for the same price.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with this one, so I’m not sure if I’ll dabble into trying anymore.  By the way, the meal is 320 calories -- 8 points plus values.

Have you tried any of the Lean Cuisine Honestly Good meals?

Trader Joe’s Trader Giotto’s Garden Vegetable Lasagne

I spotted and picked up a new frozen dish at Trader Joe’s. I was in the mood for lasagna, it looked delicious and Trader Joe’s typically doesn’t let me down.  Trader Giotto’s Garden Vegetable Lasagne is a lasagna that is made with organic vegetables and organic whole wheat flour.  Since my boyfriend doesn’t like lasagna, it doesn’t make sense for me to make a big pan of it – so I rely on frozen lasagna OR my mothers lasagna whenever she makes it.

I opted to cook the tray in the microwave, per the box directions, instead of in the oven. Since the microwave I was using cooks fast, I set the cooking time in the middle of the cooking time range.  The dish was hot, but I found I’d prefer to have it cook for the maximum time to make it hotter and to help reduce any potential condensation build up from the meal going from the freezer to the microwave.

I find with frozen lasagna dishes I prefer vegetable lasagna and I have to say this one is perfect.  There’s a pretty fair serving, it’s packed with flavor and it’s incredibly filling.  The ricotta is mixed with spinach and there are small diced up pieces of vegetables throughout the dish.  I did enjoy this for lunch with a small side salad and it was more than enough to be sustainable.  I enjoyed it so much I plan on getting another for the freezer on my next Trader Joe’s trip.

The dish is 290 calories, which translates to 8 points plus values.  Totally worth it!

Have you tried the Trader Joe’s Garden Vegetable Lasagne?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weight Watchers Haul

What can I say? I’m a sucker for anything new … particularly where new Weight Watchers items are concerned.  Okay, so not all, but most.  So needless to say, when I saw the new Weight Watchers Family Style Cookbook and the Sweet Hazelnut Latte Smoothie I had to pick both up.

During my meeting I flipped through the demo Family Style Cookbook and was impressed. It seemed to have a number of recipes that would satisfy my palette as well as my families. I own a handful (okay, more than a handful) of Weight Watchers cookbooks but some of the recipes are not recipes I’d recreate due to personal preference. Recipes range all around the board from tastes, flavors and even cooking capabilities (crock pot, one pot, etc).

The Sweet Hazelnut Latte just seemed delicious. I’m a fan of the Weight Watcher smoothies and since they’re a power food they are very satisfying and filling.  My leader mentioned she has used some of this in coffee and I was sold.  I’m a coffee lover so I plan on trying this out in a few different ways – but once I do give it a try, I’ll gladly share my opinion.

Have you picked up any new goodies at your Weight Watcher meeting location?

Sandwich Bros. Gyro Sliders

After trying out the Sandwich Bros. Angus Burgers I decided to give the Sandwich Bros. Gyro Sliders a try.  I’m a fan of gyros every now and again, but since it’s hard to find Gyros in my area, unless I travel to get them, that these would be a unique and different treat.  I do on occasion make a chicken gyro at home, but … it’s true sometimes a gyro just isn’t complete without that burger/lamb meat combination.

The thing I like about these Sandwich Bros sandwiches is the fact they are all set and ready to eat. The only work involved is wrapping the sandwich up in a napkin and heating in the microwave for 40 seconds. It really simplifies a quick meal or snack without having to think much.

The gyro is, as are all the sandwiches in the line, encased in a soft pita bread pocket. The gyro meat is flavorful and juicy.  I will say it’s not truly complete without some tzatziki sauce, tomato and onion.  The pockets are small, but they can hold additional toppings, which is a plus.  I think these are good but they’re not as good as the Angus Burgers I tried.

Each sandwich is 150 calories – which translates to 4 points plus values.

Have you tried the Sandwich Bros. Gyro Sliders?

Flavor Infuser

I popped into CVS the other day to pick up some medicine and on my way back to the checkout I noticed the summer items were on clearance. Clearance? Why of course I have to check it out … and I’m glad I did.  Most of the items were 75% off, while others (like the fancy popable lunch dishes) were not on sale.

I spotted these bright lidded “to go” drink cups and picked one up.  This is a Flavor Infuser cup which is a double walled cup that has a removable silicone lid to allow for dropping in fresh fruit to make naturally sweetened and flavored water. The design of the fruit resin allows for fruit, herbs and even vegetables to be added to your water for a fresh boost of flavor.  According to the package, the design of the infuser reduces pulp and seeds from becoming “one” with your beverage.

I thought it was pretty neat and felt possibilities would be endless with this little gem. I could even throw a few ice cubes in with the fruit OR even freeze the fruit and add it in to make my water flavorful, yet frosty.

The greatest part was the cups are originally $7.99, but with the 75% off, I paid $1.99.  So if you’re in the market for a new to-go cup for your water – check out your local CVS’ summer clearance section.

Have you ever used a flavor infuser or a similar product?

Sautéed Veggies w/ Olive Oil and Garlic

I stayed at my aunt and uncles house for the week dog, cat and bird sitting.  While there my uncle pointed out he had a garden outback and I should make myself at home and pick fresh veggies.  So I did just that … because if I didn’t, frankly, they’d end up going bad and that just defeats the purpose of a garden.  That morning I was able to pick a fresh zucchini, yellow squash and a bunch of fresh green beans. Not entirely sure what I wanted to do with them I cleaned them and put them in a bowl on the counter – then later in the afternoon decided I’d make a quick sauté to go alongside dinner. It was perfect. Fresh, delicious and perfectly garlicy (since I LOVE garlic)!

Since I didn’t want to drown them in butter and oil as most sauté dishes tend to go, I decided to blanch the vegetables in salted boiling water for a few seconds each and removed them from the pan and drained them before sautéing.

Serves 3. Serving size: 1/3 recipe. 1 Points Plus Value.

-          1 medium zucchini, sliced
-          1 medium yellow squash, sliced
-          2 cups Green beans, “veins” removed
-          1 tbsp olive oil
-          1 tbsp minced garlic
-          Black pepper, to taste
-          Salt, to taste
-          Oregano, to taste
-          Garlic powder, to taste

Bring a pot of salted water up to boil. Once boiling drop sets of vegetables into the water and allow blanching for under a minute.  Remove blanched vegetables from the water and continue until all vegetables are blanched and removed from the water. Drain any excess liquid from the vegetables.

In a non-stick skillet, add in 1 tbsp olive oil and a tablespoon of minced garlic.  Allow to sauté for 30 seconds or so before adding in the vegetables. Toss and stir vegetables to allow evenly coating in the olive oil. Sprinkle vegetables with garlic powder, black pepper, salt and oregano. Toss to combine.  Allow to sauté for 3-4 minutes before removing from the flame.

Trader Joe’s Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad with Chicken Breast

I had been eyeing this Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad with Chicken Breast at Trader Joe’s the last few times I’ve been to the store. I finally picked it up and decided to give it a try.

The meal is ideally made to be eaten cold, but I did pop my serving (which is half the container) into the microwave for 30 seconds just to take the chill off it – primarily off the chicken. I will say half a serving is not a lot of food, so I did have some steamed broccoli and carrots on the side to help “bulk” up the dish.  Flavor wise it’s very good, but as the package states it’s definitely spicy.  It’s not burn a hole in your mouth spicy, but it will make your lips and tongue tingle for a while as and after you finish eating it. There’s more pasta, scallions (green onions) and carrots in the dish with a very minimal sprinkling of chicken.  If this were to be someone’s lunch or dinner I’d suggest some additional protein or a vegetable on the side to help satisfy.

A serving is 290 calories and is 8 points plus values.  Not the greatest of stats for what you get, but for a different sort of meal once in a while – I say, why not?

What is your favorite take and make meal from Trader Joe’s?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Never say never ... but not in this case

"I'm not losing weight. I'm getting rid of it. I have no intention of finding it again."
This quote is one that I've grown to love over the years. Why? Because I don't have any intention of finding the 194+ pounds I have shed over the past 3 1/2 years ever again. I'm in it to win it and I'm doing it all for myself.

I've always struggled with my weight. In the past, I have lost weight for other people (primarily for family). My weight was unhealthy for a person my age (from 5-years old and on) and approaching someone to tell them you believe they need to lose weight is a hard and sensitive subject. I've heard it being said from a lot of people all throughout my life. But the thing is if the person you're approaching isn't in the right mindset it can do one of two things 1) go in one ear and out the other or 2) it can backfire and cause a confrontation OR send the person you're confronting into a proverbial tailspin. In some cases that intervention may be the talk that sets the lightbulb off in a persons head, but for me it never was because I knew I was fat, I knew the world knew I was fat so you weren't laying a big secret on me, your concern was only making me uncomfortable. My family would try to approach the topic but I didn't want to hear it and I'd eventually turn to food for comfort, which only ballooned my waistline even further. Then after a while I'd give in, lose some weight and eventually gain it back because I wasn't doing it for me, I was doing it for others. Back then, these attempts at health were done with a diet mentality. I personally didn't want to change, but I was going to do it just because ... and when times got tough I threw my hands in the air and ate myself silly.

There was a time where I joined Weight Watchers with my mother. My mom was joining and she asked if I'd like to join, so I hopped on board. I enjoyed seeing the scale move. I was following the program and it was working. But since the choice to join wasn't ultimately one that I came up with when my mother stopped attending meetings, I stopped attending meetings. I left the program and the tools I learned at the wayside and ultimately gained all the weight I had lost back.

The difference between the journey I'm currently on and any attempt at weight loss in the past is that I'm doing it for me this time around. I joined Weight Watchers on my own. No one suggested I join, no one hinted I should join, I made the choice and kept that choice to myself because I didn't want anybody to try and suggest it to me because that would've made me quit before I had the chance to try. What can I say? I have a very hard head at times. I'm stubborn. I don't like being told what to do whether it's for the best or not.

After joining Weight Watchers and shedding pounds week by week, I started to feel better about myself. My dad came to me and told me he was proud of me for taking the initiative to get healthy for myself. It was a very touching moment for me and it's one I'll always remember because it solidified the fact that yes, I was doing this for myself and those closest to me saw that.
Three and a half years later I am the healthiest and smallest I have been since grade school. I don't ever recall a time when I was the weight I currently am (I can't say size because I was not 5'6 in 4th or 5th grade when I was more than likely the weight I currently am now - which back then was obese for someone my age). Physical changes aside, my life is so vastly different compared to how it used to be. Four years ago, I was a human hermit crab. I never left my shell (home or my humble abode AKA my bedroom) and if I did it was briefly and only to do whatever I had to do (work, school, picking up food, etc.). I lived behind my computer playing games and RPG's to pass the time and to take the focus off my life.
These days life is vastly different - life is enjoyable. I'm not ashamed of myself and do not mind going out. I still am a bit shy, but I'm working on coming out of my shell more and more. I don't live behind a computer playing games to mask my miserable life. These days I use my computer as a tool to connect with others, to share my journey and to keep in touch with friends and family. But it's merely a tool -- it's not my one and only. I enjoy life now and I most importantly know what happiness is. I know that I deserve the best and I will get it as long as I put my best foot forward. I have a bright outlook on life and feel I am utterly unstoppable. I can do anything I want as long as I set my mind to it. Positivity fuels me instead of negativity clouding my judgment.

I know the saying goes "never say never" BUT I refuse to allow any shadow of doubt regarding my weight loss and my eventual maintenance. I realize life happens and there will always inevitably be minor bumps in the road but I need to learn to cope with those instances, learn from them and as always keep it moving. It's my life after all and I'm going to make the best of it.