Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quick “Chinese” food at home!




I love Chinese food … but I don’t necessarily like the unnecessary amount of fat and calories that come with some of my favorite dishes. With this I’ve learned to make some of my favorite Chinese dishes at home, to my own liking and I’ve also found some frozen items at the grocery store that I like to have on hand when I’m looking for something different.  This is a dinner we whipped together in under 25 minutes (it took that long because the chicken had to bake in the oven).

Mandarin Orange Chicken is one of the dishes I would like to get at a local Chinese buffet so when I saw this bag at Aldi, I picked it up to store in the freezer.  We baked them off in the oven and when done covered it in the mandarin orange sauce.  It was quite delicious because the chicken was more along the lines of a chicken finger.  The mandarin orange bringing a nice citrusy sweetness to the dish.  I had a 3 ounce serving for 6 points plus values.

The Vegetable Fried Rice is a frozen vegan (don’t be scared!) rice I had picked up at Trader Joe’s.  I normally make my own fried rice, but that takes preparation because the rice has to be stored in the fridge overnight to make it nice and cold.  So with a frozen fried rice, I can stir fry it up and we’re good to go.  This particular rice had me use a tablespoon of olive oil and stir fry it up in a pan.  It was quite delicious and will definitely be something I repurchase. A 1 cup serving is 4 points plus – 5 points plus if you consider the olive oil used to fry it up.

Of course with any meal I added in some steamed frozen broccoli because no dinner is a dinner without some sort of a fresh vegetable.  11 point plus for it all – far less than it would have been if we went out and got this dish at a restaurant.

QUESTION:
Do you make quick “Chinese” food at home?

Minute Maid Light Pink Lemonade

When spring and summer roll around there is nothing better than a nice cold, ice filled glass of lemonade.  Now, lemonade is typically packed with sugar and unnecessary calories, especially for something you’re only drinking and not getting and fullness out of.  I typically rely on Crystal Light for lemonade flavors or even flavoring up my plain ole water.

I’ve been eyeing the Minute Maid Light Pink Lemonade at Target for nearly 2 months now.  I kept thinking “it’s juice, not worth it.”  Well, I saw a post on Instagram about it and found out it’s actually VERY points plus friendly.  You get a nice pink lemonade flavor that’s not overly sweet but not overly tart, nice and smooth.  A serving is 8 fl oz (1 cup) and it’s 0 points plus values!  Now if you wanted two servings 16 fl oz (2 cups) it would be 1 points plus values.  Not bad at all especially for those folks who love Starbucks drinks.  You could pour 16 ounces into a to-go mug and have a very friendly beverage.

There are additional flavors available at select retailers but to see a full listing of all the light juices available you can check it out on the Minute Maid website: http://www.minutemaid.com/light-juice-drink/.  I do need to get my hands on the Mango Passion

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Minute Maid Light juices?

Dinner in under 15 minutes



One of the big excuses as to why folks eat junk is because they don’t have time to make dinner – or to think about what they are going to have for dinner.  Some say it’s easier to pick up a phone and order a pizza or Chinese food.  When in reality if you have foods in your refrigerator in freezer that are precooked and only need heating up to consume you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes without much effort.

I had purchased some Bob Evan’s home fries to have with breakfast one day and I also purchased some Simply Smart Lightly Breaded Chicken from the refrigerator section to try out.  One night my boyfriend and I had no idea what we wanted to eat and when he mentioned ordering out I remembered we had these items in the fridge.

The chicken went into the toaster oven, the home fries into a non-stick skillet and dinner was done in 15 minutes.  4.5 oz of chicken strips, 6 ounces of home fries (because it was the closest we were going to get to French fries!) and a small side salad with fat free poppyseed dressing.  11 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Do you have any “go to” quick and easy meals when you don’t have much time or don’t really know what you want to eat?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Snack: Watermelon with Feta & Kalamata Olives

One of my all time favorite summer time snacks is an amazing combination that is so delicious and refreshing at the same time.  Some people may be turned off thinking “What? Watermelon with feta and olives?!” Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! It’s seriously delicious and worth the try.

I chunk up fresh watermelon, pair it with 1 ounce of fresh feta cheese and a few kalamata olives.  The saltiness from the cheese and olives brings out the natural sweetness in the watermelon and makes it even juicier.  The combination is just stellar.  I swear it taste best when sitting around a pool on a very sunny day.

What’s pictured is 3 points plus worth of cheese and olives. Totally worth the “splurge” if you will.

QUESTION:
What is your favorite summer time snack?

Special K – Protein Cereal

I was looking to boost up my protein intake and after looking a few things up online I stumbled upon an article about Special K’s brand of cereal that is very high in protein.  I looked up the product and put it on my shopping list.  I had a hard time finding it at the store at first and then spotted it on the very bottom shelf and it was the last box left.  I calculated the points plus values (3 for a ¾ cup serving) and into the cart it went.

The greatest part of this cereal is the fact that it offers 10 grams of protein in a single ¾ cup serving.  I try to have protein with every meal and I find this cereal completely satisfies me and keeps me full.  Typically cereals satisfy my hunger for a couple hours and then I’m immediately starving.  Adding some fruit to the cereal definitely bulks it up and makes it a very satisfying and filling breakfast.

The flavor of the cereal reminds me of a cross between Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes. They’re not sweet but there is a hint of sweetness to it (if that makes sense).  They’re crunchy but it’s softer than Frosted Flakes would be because this cereal is made from wheat.  I would suggest waiting to put your milk on it right before you begin to eat it because your cereal will sog out on you quickly (within 10 minutes at least).

I do quite enjoy this cereal and will definitely pick up another box once I finish this one.

QUESTION:
What is your favorite high protein/fiber cereal?

Walden Farms Chocolate Dip



Walden Farms has been out for years. Their big claim to fame is providing food products (condiments, salad dressings, dips and ice cream toppings) guilt free as well as calorie free.  I’ve tried some Walden Farms products in the past and wasn’t a fan, but I’ve also found others that I quite enjoy.

I was eyeing the cream cheese dip in the prepared fruit section of the grocery store, then spotted the Walden Farms Chocolate Dip and I decided to pick it up. I hadn’t tried the chocolate variety – but I had tried a calorie free caramel dip and absolutely hated it.  But I felt chocolate was safer because it was less able to be screwed up – and I was right.

The consistency of this dip is along the lines of a thick pudding. It can be a little “clumpy” but if you dip fruit into it, it’s really not bad. I quite enjoyed it with strawberries, apples and even bananas.  I didn’t find that it had a significant aftertaste and it did taste like chocolate to me.

Calorie wise is listed as 0 and to calculate the points plus values it comes out as 0 points plus.  Granted, some folks give this a point or two when they eat it – but it’s up to those who eat it and how much they’re eating it to be the judge.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any Walden Farms products? If so, what have you tried and what have you liked/disliked?


Mini Meatloaves, Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Potatoes & Steamed Veggies



Almost two years ago I received some recipe cards from Weight Watchers.  I believe they were sent with a packet to subscribe to a cookbook.  Flipping through the cards, I noticed a meatloaf recipe and I decided I’d give it a try.  Of course growing up I swore (and still do) that my mother makes the BEST meatloaf. Her recipe is very simple, but she does use a fattier meat to make it moist.  Considering I typically only eat 93% lean I knew making my mothers recipe with that cut of beef would ultimately make it a hard, dry mess.

The Weight Watcher recipe I use is FABULOUS! I’ve made this recipe countless times and every time I do, all the folks that are over for dinner absolutely rave about it.  Plus, it’s perfect to have a portioned piece of meatloaf on your plate.  It’s delicious the day you make it and I swear it taste better the next day – but I always think meatloaf is better the second day.  Plus it’s only 5 points plus so you cannot go wrong.

We paired it with red roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes.  I had a McCormick microwave steam bag in the cabinet and it literally made making roasted potatoes the simplest thing ever.  2 pounds of potatoes washed and chopped then added to the steam bag. 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the potatoes were tossed around in the bag then the seasoning packet was added and tossed around.  Lay the bag flat on a microwave safe dish, close the bag, pierce it with 4 slits and microwave for 10 minutes.  They were delicious! Normally roasted potatoes take 45 minutes to an hour in the oven.  1/6th of the serving was 4 points plus.

Lastly we paired it off with some fresh steamed broccoli and carrots.  A perfect side to meatloaf (outside of corn that is).

QUESTION:
What is your favorite Weight Watchers friendly meatloaf recipe?


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trader Joe’s Chicken Asada



I purchased this Trader Joe’s Chicken Asada meal for my boyfriend and I when we were going to be going away for our anniversary.  I figured having at least one meal that was going to be point friendly would be best for me. After purchasing, I found out our hotel did not have a refrigerator or microwave in the room – but the staff advised that they’d gladly heat anything up for me in the staff microwave.  That put dampers on bringing meals for the few days we were there – but that made having dinner at the hotel a score for the first day there.

The Chicken Asada meal comes with 2 servings in the container.  It’s sold in the refrigerator section at Trader Joe’s because all you need to do is heat it up in the microwave and your meal is ready to roll.  It consists of grilled chicken, poblano peppers, red peppers and onions.  I was quite surprised at the sheer amount of chicken I was able to have in my meal.  It looked like something you would order at Chili’s but ten times better!  It tasted delicious, fresh and flavorful.  The greatest part was that the serving (1/2 the package) was ONLY 5 points plus values!

My boyfriend and I ate this with wheat flax tortillas, so we were able to have chicken asada tortilla wraps.  It was absolutely delicious!  This is so good I actually have one in my freezer, which I’ll probably be taking out this week for lunch.  Yum!

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Chicken Asada meal from Trader Joe’s?

Homemade Pulled Pork (Crock pot)



One kitchen device I have grown to love is undoubtedly my Crock pot!  It simplifies life, makes meals all on its own (well, with a little assistance from myself) and I can come home from work or running errands all day and dinner will be ready.  I’ve changed up this recipe using chicken and pork tenderloin – both of which are fabulous. I love BBQ meals and pulled pork (and pulled chicken) are two of my favorites.  Growing up my mother spoiled us making homemade pulled pork that she’d roast overnight and because of that it made me very picky going out to eat to get pulled pork.  This of course doesn’t trump my mothers, but its Weight Watchers Points Plus friendly, simple, filling AND it’s delicious.

Serves 10-15.  Serving size: 3 ounces.  4 Points Plus Values.

Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds lean pork loin (extra fat removed)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 pack Crockery Gourmet Barbecue Seasoning Mix (if you cannot find this, McCormick sells a barbecue ribs packet)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Water (use the amount on the Barbecue Seasoning mix packet)

Trim the fat off your pork loins and set them into the bottom of the crock pot.

Cover pork loins with sliced onions and minced garlic.

In a bowl mix together the Crockery Gourmet Barbecue Seasoning Mix, tomato paste and water.  Stir until combined and pour the sauce over the top of the onions and pork loins.

Cover with a lid and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4-5 on high.

Before serving, remove the pork loins from the crock pot and shred with two forks. Place shredded meat back into the barbecue sauce and stir to coat all meat.

This recipe goes great with homemade garlic bread and homemade coleslaw (see here: http://shannonslifestyle.blogspot.com/2013/05/coleslaw.html)


“Naked” Chicken Parm



I love chicken parm but I don’t like how heavy it is nor do I enjoy how it makes my stomach feel hours after eating it.  Because of that I can’t say that I have chicken parm very often. I occasionally make a lighter version at home (a quick and easy way is to use frozen chicken patties that are lightly breaded) when I want a bready version.

At the end of the day, chicken parm is solely about the sauce and cheese that is on the chicken (well, at least for me).  That after all is what makes it chicken parm!  We had some thin sliced chicken cutlets in the freezer, so I took them out to defrost and decided to try my hand at naked chicken parm.  I seasoned my chicken up nice and well on both sides – I eyeball my spices, I don’t measure I just use what I am comfortable with. Since I feel there is nothing worse than bland chicken, I may have over seasoned them – but that’s fine because you end up losing some of the bits onto the bottom of the pan.

I paired my portion off with 1 ½ cups of Carba-nada pasta with ¼ cup Light Ragu tossed with it. Totally delicious and it was as filling as going to an Italian restaurant would have been.  Well, that without having a sick feeling tummy!

Serves 6. 6-8 Points Plus (depending on the weight of the cooked chicken before adding sauce and cheese onto it I served up 3 ounce pieces making the chicken 4 PPV before sauce and cheese)

Ingredients:
  • 1 ¼ pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets (no skin/fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups Light Ragu – Tomato & Basil
  • 1 ½ cups Fat Free Shredded Mozzarella
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Garlic & Herb Mrs. Dash
  • Basil
  • Oregano

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium to medium-high heat.

Liberally season chicken on both sides with black pepper, salt, Mrs. Dash, basil and oregano. Use your judgment depending on your taste buds – I like a bold tasting chicken so I liberally seasoned both sides.

Cook chicken through on both sides – not moving the chicken to allow it to brown before flipping it.  When chicken is cooked halfway through (you can see the white creeping up the chicken cutlet) flip and let it finish cooking through.

When the chicken is done let it cool for at least 5 minutes to let the juices sink back into the chicken. Weigh out your portion (allowing for at least 1 point plus to go towards the olive oil used in the pan – so for instance a 3 ounce piece of chicken will be 4 points plus).  Note: The sauce and the cheese each add 1 points plus values each.
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Lay the weighed out chicken portion in a metal pan, lined with tinfoil (to prevent sticking). Spoon ¼ cup of sauce over the chicken and gingerly sprinkle with ¼ cup fat free mozzarella.  Add a piece of tinfoil to the top of the pan and place into the oven to allow the cheeses to melt and the sauce to get bubbly – about 4-5 minutes.

You can serve this up on toasted garlic bread for a chicken parm sandwich, you can eat it alongside pasta (or Carba-nada as I did), or you can eat it along or with some steamed vegetables.  Whichever is your preference – it’s good in any way, shape or form!




Dinner: Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage & Beer Battered Onion Rings

I think it’s evident from some of my dinner and food finds posts that I love Trader Joe’s.  They offer an array of comfort foods which are point friendly and also delicious.  One day dinner was going to be a staple “comfort food” sausage sandwiches!

I heated up the Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage in the oven along with the Trader Joe’s Melange & Trois mixed red, yellow and green peppers.  The sausages are delicious – a nice smooth garlic flavor, without being overbearing.  Slapped on a hot dog roll with the peppers, a little mustard and ketchup you’d never know you’re eating a chicken sausage (well, you can tell it’s not pork because it doesn’t give you that immediate heavy feeling in your stomach).  It’s also not extremely fatty as pork sausages are.  They are only 3 points plus values for one, plus 2 points plus values for the hot dog bun.

A while back, I picked up a bag of Trader Joe’s Beer Battered Onion Rings and my boyfriend and I have been in love since.  They are quite delicious, sweet and quite possibly THE best frozen onion rings I have ever had.  Onion rings are one of my favorite fried treats (particularly when at the beach) and these are just money.  They’re nicely battered, they’re sweet and they do get nice and crispy in the oven – because soggy onion rings are just a big yuck!  These are straight out delicious. These are so good we typically always have a bag in the freezer as a quick side to a meal.  3 ounces is only 5 points plus values.

Quite a delicious, filling AND simple meal!

QUESTION:
What is one of your favorite simple meals to pick up and make from Trader Joe’s?

Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels



I purchased a bag of these Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels from Trader Joe’s and have had these stashed away in the cabinet. I pulled out the bag this weekend and all I can say is: Oh. My. Word. AMAZING!  But dangerous.

These are little rectangular pretzels that are filled with peanut butter (which are fabulous on their own without chocolate on them) but they are then coated in a thick, smooth, velvety chocolate.  If you’re a sweet and salty lover, this is going to be heaven on your taste buds.   They are so good you may have a hard time stopping at a serving size, so it’s best to take your serving and hide the bag.  It’s not really a good idea to just eat these straight out of the bag because it’s easy to overeat these. Really easy.

A serving size is 6 pieces.  6 pieces will cost you 6 points plus values.  Not really bad for a sweet, salty, chocolate, peanut butter treat – especially if that’s something that you enjoy.  I found them to be heavenly, but had to give the bag to my boyfriend for him to have some and then hide (from me – haha).  He himself fell in love with them and mentioned we need to get more next time we hit up Trader Joe’s.  I think I may forget these off my list, for at least the next TJ’s trip, but I will repurchase at some point.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels?

Special K Pastry Crisps – Cookies & Crème



I’ve been eyeing the Special K Pastry Crisps for a while now but hadn’t purchased them until I saw they had a new flavor – Cookies & Crème!  I love Cookies & Crème as an ice cream flavor so I figured I’d like it as a pastry crisp.

The pastry crisps themselves are similar to that of a very thin poptart.  It’s a pastry outside, a cream filling in the middle with a little frosting drizzle over the top.  They are smaller, but you do get a serving size of 2 crisps.  They do give you that sweet chocolatey crunch you may be looking for.  I ate them straight out of the package, but next time I have one I am definitely going to be putting it into the microwave or toaster oven for a few seconds to warm through.

A package of pastry crisps will cost you 3 points plus values.  Not entirely bad for a snacky food which can cure your sweet tooth.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Special K Pastry Crisps? If so, what is your favorite flavor?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt Dip – French Onion

Dannon makes one of my favorite brands of Greek yogurt so when I finally spotted the Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt Dip in French Onion I immediately had to put it into my cart.  I’m a big fan of chips and dip and dips are not the most point friendly type of sides, especially because most dips have a 1 or 2 tablespoon servings and typically are loaded with fat.  Because of that it’s really easy to overeat because it can be one of those types of foods you accidentally overeat while chatting, etc.

One great thing about this product is, the serving size of the Dannon Oikos dips are 2 tablespoons.  2 tablespoons is 1 points plus BUT so is 4 tablespoons!

Now, this is made from Greek yogurt (and if you like Greek yogurt you know that plain Greek yogurt is VERY tart) so you cannot take a bite of this and hope it taste just like a full fat French onion dip.  The French onion flavor is kind of overwhelmed by the tartness of the yogurt, but it is a nice dip to have with chips or carrots.  The French onion flavor is there, but it’s not as bold and in your face as it would normally be because the Greek yogurt is tart and does bring that flavor category down a bit.  Nonetheless it is tasty and a nice treat to have one in a while.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the new Dannon Oikos Dips?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Meetings make a difference



While sitting in my Weight Watcher meeting I was struck with inspiration and decided on a few topics to blog about – this being one of them.

Being a Weight Watcher I’ve quickly learned that meetings undoubtedly make a difference!  I understand there’s a price differential between online vs. weekly vs. a monthly pass.  Many people find success solely using the online program – whereas others find success with meetings.  I’m in the success with meetings category.

When I joined Weight Watchers three years ago, it never crossed my mind to be solely an online member. I know me. I would end up winging it because at the end of the day I’d be weighing myself and nobody but myself would know my successes/failures.

With meetings I find they give me a sense of accountability.  I know every Thursday I am going to have to step on the scale and I am going to be faced with whatever number is on that scale.  Up, down, or the same – it’s going to be presented to me and I am going to have to take that and keep moving. I’m also going to have to swallow the fact that someone else (a Weight Watchers employee who isn’t going to judge me) is providing this information to me.  Once again – I get that sense of accountability.

The meetings themselves are extremely helpful. With being a monthly pass member, I can go to a meeting every day if I wished, but I typically stick to my Thursday night meeting only.  Each week I learn new tips and tricks.  Yes, I’ve been doing this 3 years and I still learn new things. Listening to what fellow members have to say can truly change your way of thinking and it can completely lift your morale.  Considering we’re all different, we all think differently and we all do things differently.  There’s a lot of understanding, relating and even finding humor in the topics being discussed – at least in my experience.

I know every week on Thursday I cannot schedule to be anywhere or do anything between 5:30-6:45. If someone wants to go to dinner, we’ve got to schedule that for after 7pm – if not, then we’ll need to pick another day.  I am a stickler with my meetings.  I'm quite positive everyone I work with and everyone that's around me knows about my Thursday meeting.  One time at lunch at work I mentioned how traffic was annoying because it almost made me late to my meeting and my coworker said "Meeting? What, like, AA?".  Close ... but no cigar!

After being a member 3 years, I have only skipped out on probably 4 meetings because of prescheduled travel plans.  When this happens I make sure I find another nearby location to at least weigh-in to have that accountability for the week and to pick up a Weight Watchers Weekly.  One time my boyfriend and I were considering going to South Carolina and I found a Weight Watchers location nearby where we were considering staying in South Carolina so I wouldn’t have to miss a meeting.

I love meetings and even once I hit goal and then lifetime (because that will happen!) I’ll still be attending meetings. Why? Because meetings work.

QUESTION:
Do you like attending Weight Watchers meetings or are you considering joining meetings?

Homemade Breakfast Turkey Sausage Patties



Trying to switch up what I eat, I felt inspired to make breakfast turkey sausage patties.  For the most part when my boyfriend and I have ground turkey out, we make tacos or pasta sauce, so this was a great way to “think outside the box.”  We actually ended up making this for dinner because breakfast for dinner is always a great way to go!

We served these up with scrambled eggs; bagel thins and shredded hash brown potatoes with a half of a sliced pear for garnish (my boyfriends personal touch!). Great delicious meal!

Serves 8. 2-3 Points Plus (depending on weight after cooking).

Ingredients
  • 20.8 oz (1.3 lbs) 93/7 Lean Ground Turkey (I used Shady Brook Farms)
  • ¼ cup Sugar Free Vermont Maple Syrup
  • ~1 teaspoon salt (or whichever you’re comfortable with)
  • ~1 teaspoon black pepper (or however much you’re comfortable with)
  • ~2 1/2 tablespoons Bell’s Seasoning
Combine ground turkey, salt, pepper and bell seasoning in a bow.  Add in maple syrup and combine well.  You can adjust your seasonings by judging the smell of the meat.

Score meat with your hand into 8 even sections (note: you can make as many patties as you wish and you can make your patties as thin or as thick as you wish – cooking time and points plus values will vary). Roll the meat into balls and set in the bowl to try to get all patties the same size.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and begin to place your formed patties into the pan.  Let the patties cook, not moving the patties to allow them to form a “crust”.  When half-way cooked (roughly 4 minutes or so) flip and cook on the other side.  Since this is poultry, please ensure your sausage is cooked all the way through!


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Cake



For my birthday I did not want a store bought cake. I would rather have a cake made for me at home because 1) I would know exactly what was going in it and I could figure out the points and 2) even though I love cake, I prefer homemade cakes so much more over store bought cakes.  I decided a chocolate cherry cake would be phenomenal and it would also be a crowd pleaser (which is always welcomed because it makes less food/dessert lying around)!

The great thing about this recipe is that not only is it incredibly Weight Watchers friendly, but it’s simple to make, moist, delicious and nobody will know its points plus friendly!  My boyfriend was in heaven, I was in heaven and even my mother and neighbors daughter were raving about the cake.

Serves 12. 4 Points Plus values/serving.

Ingredients:
  • 15.25 oz Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
  • No Sugar Added Cherry Pie Filling (I used the Walmart brand because the sugar free Comstock isn’t sold at my local grocery store)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup water
  • Non-stick Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 (or whatever temperature is listed on the back of your cake mix box depending on how you decide to bake these - whether in a cake pan, cupcake pan or bundt pan).

In a large bowl mix together the cake mix, cherry pie filling and eggs in a large bowl. Blend well until combined.  If your mix isn’t combining completely or is too “fudgy” add in the ¼ cup water and mix well to combine.

Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour the cake batter into the pan. Smooth out the top and bake per the box directions.  My oven cooks fast, so my cake was done in 27 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely and then cut into 12 even pieces.

I topped my slice with 2 tablespoons of fat free cool whip making it a completely guilt-free treat.  The cake is even delicious the day after because it is VERY moist.



Pasta Salad


When spring and summer roll around this is one dish that is highly requested from me to bring to cookouts (as well as my simple tossed salad for some reason) and it’s such a simple recipe.  My boyfriend LOVES my pasta salad and if I ever mention the phrase “pasta salad” we typically end up having it that week in the fridge to pair against all of our meals.

It takes about 20 minutes to whip together and it does taste delicious straight out of the bowl after making it, but if you allow the flavors to marinate overnight in the fridge it really tastes 100% better.  If I do make this and have it for the next day, I do add a little more dressing to it just to make it wetter – but otherwise it’s perfect.

This is a great side to bring to a barbecue because this way you can rely on at least one side dish that you know is point friendly.  It’d also be great to have as a side dish with any meat – chicken, steak, sausage, hamburger, etc.

4 Points Plus Values per serving.  Serves 20.  Serving size is roughly 1/2 - 3/4 cup.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound box of Barilla medium shells (or your favorite pasta brand)
  • 15.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed (note: if you prefer you can substitute white beans/ pinto/kidney/etc)
  • 7 3/4 oz can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 15.5 oz can of low sodium corn, drained
  • 1 large red peppers (OR green), diced
  • ½ large red onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup Wishbone Light Robusto Italian dressing
  • 1 oz (less than 1/2 the container) McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme seasoning (see here: http://www.mccormick.com/Spices-and-Flavors/Herbs-and-Spices/Blends/Perfect-Pinch-Salad-Supreme-Seasoning)

Bring a seasoned (with salt) pot of water up to boil and boil your pasta until al dente.

While your water is boiling dice up your red peppers (you can use red and green if you wish or green, I change it up depending what I have on hand) and set aside.  Dice up your red onion and set aside.

Drain your beans and rinse with water to get all the starchy water off and set aside. Drain your corn and set aside.  Add your frozen peas to the bowl and set aside.

When your pasta is finished boiling, drain and shock with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain well and add to a large bowl.  Add in chopped up fresh vegetables and stir to combine.  Add in canned beans, corn and peas and stir to combine.

You can begin to season with the McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme seasoning.  This is where you can use your own discretion. I season my pasta salad in 3 layers.  A sprinkle after I add in my veggies and combine.  I add in ½ cup of salad dressing and stir to combine – then start seasoning with additional salad supreme.  Once all mixed I add the remaining ½ cup of salad dressing and sprinkle in more salad supreme.  I don’t measure because I go by looking at the color of the mixture … I’d say I use about 1/5 to 1/4th of the container at a time.

Stir to combine and serve straight away or let the salad sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let it get nice and cold.

DiGiorno Pizzeria! Supreme Speciale Pizza



The last time I had DiGiorno pizza has been probably 3 years ago. Whys that?  Well, DiGiorno used to be my favorite frozen pizza and that’s because during the time in my life where I didn’t read nutritional information and I solely went on what I liked to eat.  Well, I liked DiGiorno pizza and I ate about ½ a pizza on my own.  Well, fast forward to joining Weight Watchers and I realized that a serving in a rising crust DiGiorno pizza is 1/8th of the pizza.  Around the time I calculated it out and it was 9 points per SLICE of pizza (1/8th).  Needless to say, I hadn’t purchased another DiGiorno for myself to eat in a VERY long time.

That is, until I saw the new Pizzeria! line launched to my local Target and I checked out the points plus values. 1/4th of a pizza was 9 points plus? Say what?!  I was running a ton of errands around the beginning of April and wasn’t going to be home for 3+ hours so I didn’t buy it.  So when I did want it (by mid-April) I was sending everyone on Pizzeria! hunting missions and all were coming up empty handed.

We found the DiGiorno Pizzeria! Supreme Speciale Pizza at Walmart and paid $3 for it after a coupon.  My boyfriend and I had it for dinner one night and I swear … this is THE best frozen pizza I have ever had!

I am a pizza officiando (I think I can accurately wear that hat – because I’ve eaten many pizzas in my hay day and even post-Weight Watchers start).  I order out pizza at least once a week, and if we don’t order it out, we’re either making our own or heating up a frozen pizza.  This takes the cake where frozen pizzas are concerned.  It’s got a moderately thick crust. The sauce is delicious. The vegetables are sautéed and just delicious – they’re not that plain jane throw frozen veggies on the frozen pizza and call it a supreme.  This is the bad mama jamma of frozen pizzas.  They’re so good we now have 2 more in the freezer for whenever a moment of pizza weakness arises.

1/4th = 9 points plus.  Totally worth it!

QUESTION:
What is your favorite frozen pizza?


Birthday Dinner – Not Your Average Joe’s style



A local chain restaurant, Not Your Average Joe’s, has a really nice “reward” program for customers on their birthdays.  When you sign up for their e-mail club, you are e-mailed a certificate for a free dinner entrée and dessert – which is valid for a few weeks before and after your birthday.

What I typically order is no longer offered on the menu, which meant I had to figure out what I wanted to eat on the fly.  A quick glance over the menu I decided to go with the Java Pork Tenderloin.  I ordered the pork because it sounded yummy and I know in the back of my mind that pork tenderloin is one of the leanest meats and it was a step outside of the normal chicken box.

According to the menu, the Java Pork Tenderloin is a “rubbed with sumatran coffee with hints of smoky cedar and cinnamon, grilled and topped with orange chipotle bbq glaze, with mango jicama slaw and jalapeno spiked cornbread.”  Now, I am a coffee lover – so coffee rubbed meat? Count me in!  I ate probably ¼ of my food because I admit the bread and dipping oil reeled me in (I’m weak when it comes to Not Your Average Joe’s onion bread and parmesan hot pepper oil).

The nutrition information for this meal is not provided on the website so I had to wing what I assumed to be the points plus values. I guestimated 11 points plus for the pork, 3 points plus values for the slaw and 14 points plus values for the corn bread (because it was HUGE). I ate about a fourth and ended up putting the rest in the fridge.  By the next day, the slaw was a little soggy and the corn bread was wet so I was left with the pork loin – which I was secretly happy for because the cornbread would have been screaming at me “EAT ME!”

For dessert I ordered my staple Crème Brûlée Cheesecake.  Since it was to go, it was sans whipped cream and raspberries (they were replaced with strawberries which I enjoy more).  According to the menu, “we’ve blended the most popular desserts—creamy cheesecake with a caramel drizzle, fresh whipped cream and raspberries.”  I’m glad this is a staple on their menu because I had it last year for my birthday and fell in love (I normally don’t order desserts unless we’re at a Greek restaurant). It’s just delicious and my boyfriend also enjoys it – so it’s great to be able to share my sweets with my sweet!  The whole slice of cheesecake is calculated to be 13 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Are you comfortable eating out at restaurants and/or having to change your mind on a food choice on the fly?



Weight Watchers – Popped Roasted Red Pepper Crisps



A new snack has been released to Weight Watchers locations – that snack being the Popped Roasted Red Pepper Crisps. After hearing the receptionists talk about how delicious they were, I decided to pick up a box. They were on sale for I want to say $3.50 or $3.95 – I can’t remember.  I love roasted red pepper hummus, so I was intrigued to see how this would correspond in chip form.

The interesting part of these chips is they really DO taste like roasted red pepper hummus.  They are made out of chick pea flour and rice flour.  The flavor of the roasted red peppers is clearly evident BUT it’s not overwhelming.  The coloring may stick to your fingers and it may very well give you slightly red fingertips.  I found they were a nice snack. They’d be great to pair with a sandwich or even to have as a snack with a small piece of fruit (well, I suggest fruit because I am a volume eater and a bag of chips is not going to completely fill my stomach.)

They really aren’t bad for 2 points plus values.  I love crunchy, snacky foods and the normal flavors that are out in the market can sometimes get boring – so these “spice” things up a bit (and no, they are not spicy).

QUESTION:
Have you tried the new Popped Roasted Red Pepper Crisps?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dinner: Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Seasoned Pork Roast with Barbecue Sauce



I had purchased this fully cooked Seasoned Pork Roast with Barbecue Sauce at Trader Joe’s and stuck the package in the freezer since it just wasn’t on the dinner menu for a while. We spotted it in the freezer, took it out to defrost and made it for dinner and I have to say – this is absolutely DELICIOUS!

Since the pork roast is already fully cooked it can be heated through in either the microwave, or in the oven.  I chose putting it into the oven and heating through that way – it made it feel more of a home cooked meal than a fully cooked packaged meal.  I lined my pan with foil (for easy cleaning) and topped it with foil to steam.  It came out perfectly, the meat was really moist and the barbecue sauce survived 20+ minutes in the oven without drying up and getting “chewy”.

My boyfriend, mother and I all had this for dinner (they both raved about the pork) – paired with a baked potato and some canned no sodium corn and it was a perfect meal. Delicious, filling and a great quick and easy meal.

The serving size is totally generous – 5 ounces (including the barbecue sauce) and it only comes out to 6 points plus values!  How can you go wrong for 5 ounces of barbecue pork?  I’m all about getting the most bang for my buck regarding points plus values and this is totally worth it. I can’t recall how much this cost, but I want to say it was under $10 for the package – maybe $8?

My meal in the above photograph is 10 points plus values. 6 – pork, 3 – potato, 1 – corn.

QUESTION:
What is one of your favorite fully cooked meat products at Trader Joe’s?