Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fiber One Lemon Bar



This is a new snack I was on the hunt for, for weeks!  All I have to say is ... it was well worth the wait.

Fiber One has had snack bars out on the market for a very long time.  I find they’re alright, but they’re typically not something I crave.  So, why did I go on the hunt for lemon bars? Honestly? I love lemon.  They’re point friendly, filled with fiber and I just had to try them.

I opened up the package and I have to admit, they are smaller.  You’d probably be done the bar in 4-5 bites.  Size aside these are delicious.  Just tearing open the pack, a lemony scent wafts up to your nose.  The cakes have a little frosting drizzled over the top, which gives it a bit of a bite since the frosting is harder than the cake (which is soft).  One bite and you’re sold – well at least my boyfriend and I both were.  I love lemon, my boyfriend loves lemon more than I, and we both thoroughly enjoyed this snack cake.  Definitely worth the hunt if you’re in the market for a new low 2 point plus value snack.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Fiber One lemon bars?

Dannon Light & Fit Greek Blends – Banana Cream



I have become such a huge fan of Greek yogurt. I enjoy regular yogurt, but since Greek yogurt has so much more protein in it, it’s far more satisfying and filling. I’ve learned that not all brands of Greek yogurt are for me – some are too tart, some are too sweet, some flavors are just horrendous for my taste buds and some are too high in points to be comfortable with.

One brand I learned I truly enjoy is Dannon Light & Fit Greek.  Typically they’re 2 points plus values, so when I spotted this new line at Walmart I had to pick up one of each flavor that they had available.  I tried the Dannon Light & Fit Greek Blends – Banana Cream flavor and it’s DELICIOUS!  I was and am pumped to have found a banana cream flavored greek yogurt that is points plus friendly.  There are other brands out there on the market for banana greek yogurt but they’re 3-4 points and sometimes I feel that’s too hefty in points for a yogurt.

The flavor of this yogurt is exactly as it reads – a banana cream flavoring. It’s not overly banana cream, nor is it fake tasting, it’s a nice balance in the middle.  It’s filling, tasty and a home run.  I’m just sad that the brand is only sold at Walmart (at least for now?) but I hope my local market picks up the brand because it’s too yummy to have to wait to purchase or play “find the yogurt” at Walmart.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Dannon Light & Fit Greek Blends?

Relearning a Lesson



This past week I skated by it on the seat of my pants.  I know after nearly 3 ½ years as a Weight Watchers member that life happens – there are events that come up that can be out of my control, but it’s up to me to take the bull by the horns and make the best of it.  But this past week, I let that bull grab hold of my leg and drag me through the crowd – face first.  I’m not dwelling on it because it’s not going to help me succeed by beating myself up.  I’ve come too far to let a shaken up week deter me from my path – my goals.  I refuse to let a bad week spiral out of control because as I say “If I eat crap, I feel like crap.”  And well … I don’t want to feel like crap, I want to feel fabulous! So, I accepted the gain and knew I had to focus on being on track and being the best version of myself.

Looking back at my week I know exactly what I did.  I know why I stepped on that scale and was slapped in the face with a substantial gain.  I have no excuses and I know exactly what I need to focus on this week.

-          I barely drank any water.  I think I drank one 20 ounce bottle of water all week.  My beverages were riddled with ice coffees, coke zeros and diet orange sodas.
-          I hardly ate any fruits or vegetables. I usually have a salad at least once, if not twice a day and fruit throughout the day. Last week it was like: Salad? What’s a salad?  Fruit as a snack? Huh?
-          I let a bag of Doritos at a barbecue get the best of me. “Family Size” bags of Doritos are a trigger for me.  I can have individual size bags of regular or baked Doritos and be absolutely fine but a large bag of Doritos twerks me out. It triggers some subconscious in my brain which disallows me to count 11 stinking chips. I realize I cannot control all the foods in my environment, but I CAN move those foods away from me so they’re not right in front of me to eat while talking to family and friends.
-          I went into two back-to-back barbecues without a plan of action.  I didn’t have my scale or my measuring cups, so I eyeballed.  And even 3 ½ years in I’m not the greatest at eyeballing, which is why my scale and measuring cups are my BFF’s at home.
-          I did the tango with a few cookies.  The cookies won.
-          I was extremely sedentary.

Lesson relearned: old habits can creep up on you when you’re not fully in the game. But this was a lesson and I learned from it and I’ve already started back on the correct path.  We’ll see what the scale has to say when I weigh in Wednesday (early since my center is closed on the 4th).

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Open Faced Breakfast Sandwich



I decided to make something different for breakfast, so I opted to go for an open faced breakfast sandwich.  You know, just twisting up the usual bacon and eggs.  Since I used egg substitute to scramble up, it makes quite a good amount of eggs, which is more than enough to place onto two English muffin rounds. It was yummy and filling.  Plus, since I’m a volume eater, seeing “more” on the plate subconsciously made me more satisfied.

The greatest part is that the whole plate was only 4 points plus.  I did top my eggs with sriracha and some reduced sugar ketchup.  Here’s what I used:

½ cup egg substitute
1 light English muffin (I used my local store brand they’re 2 points plus)
3 slices Butterball Ultra Thin turkey bacon

QUESTION:
What is your favorite breakfast “shakeup”?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cold Brew Coffee



I happen to LOVE coffee, especially ice coffee.  Unfortunately that love for ice coffee usually puts a pretty dent in both my pocket as well as my boyfriends.  To try to save money we’ve begun making ice coffee at home.  I try to jazz it up using different flavors of coffees, different creamers and even different sugar free syrups. One night I stumbled upon this online topic around cold brew coffees.  I decided I needed to try it at home, so I ordered a sifter and a set of funnels on Amazon. Sure, quite an investment for something I wasn’t sure if I was going to like … but I figured I could use these tools in the kitchen regardless.
 
I have made 4 separate pitchers of this coffee and I have to say, I am QUITE a fan. My boyfriend loves it as well, so this is going to be a staple coffee in my household.  It is a time consuming process because you have to let the coffee sit for at least 12 hours overnight in the refrigerator.  You then need to strain the coffee grounds off the liquid and then strain the liquid through a coffee filter.

Tasks aside, this is the smoothest, tastiest coffee I’ve ever had.  The flavors are far more pronounced, the brew is not bitter and it just makes a perfect iced coffee.

Depending on how strong you like your coffee, you’d have to play with the ratio but this is how both my boyfriend and I enjoy our coffees:

Cold coffee brew:
1 ¾ cup ground coffee
3 ½ cups of cold water

Shake contents and place into a refrigerator for at least 12 hours.  When done sift off grounds and then strain liquid through a coffee filter.

Ice coffee:
1 cup cold brew coffee
1 cup cold water
Ice
Milk or creamer (to your color consistency)
Sweetener (if you take it)

When I make my ice coffee it’s either 0 or 1 points plus (depending on the amount of skim milk I put into it).  Overall, I love it and cannot wait to experiment with more coffee flavors!




QUESTION:

Have you ever made cold brew coffee?

Plated: Seared Skirt Steak with Corn Salsa and Lime Potato Salad & Hoison Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles


I decided to try out Plated for a second time after receiving my initial box.  There were 3 dishes that seemed really interesting to me this time around, but I eliminated one solely on the fact I guestimated the points plus values would be astronomical.  I talked about the Plated membership during my first review of the subscription service (see here: http://shannonslifestyle.blogspot.com/2013/06/plated-membership-ft-chicken-tacos-w.html).  As mentioned previously Plated is offering a free monthly subscription and 4-plates to anyone who signs up during the month of June using the promo code: junefreegift.

I was weighing my options between the two dishes I chose and a paella dish.  Figuring the paella would translate into far too many points plus values that I’d be comfortable with I decided to order the Seared Skirt Steak with Corn Salsa and Lime Potato Salad and the Hoison Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles.

The first dish I put together was the Seared Skirt Steak with Corn Salsa and Lime Potato Salad.  It took about 30 minutes to put together, which was quite simple since there was very minimal chopping and mixing involved.  The only thing I altered was I eliminated a tablespoon of olive oil, seasoned my steak in McCormick steak seasoning and when my skirt steak was finished searing, I let it rest, sliced it up and then returned it back to the pan because I prefer my steak dead and buried.

The one thing I will point out is the vinaigrette which went over both the corn salsa and the potato salad was rather spicy. The chili powder was a little overwhelming, but regardless of the heat from the spice it was a pretty tasty meal.  I was able to make 2 ½ meals out of all I was provided, so points plus wise my dish was 12 points plus values.  I had 2.5 oz steak, 5.5 oz potato and 1/3 the corn salsa.

Now onto the most delicious lettuce wrap I have ever had in my life that I will undoubtedly be making again and again and again.  Hoison Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles probably one of the most delicious and relatively simple meals I’ve whipped together that wasn’t one of my own creations. 

The only difference from the recipe provided was I eliminated 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Otherwise the recipe is exactly as stated.  With this meal I was able to make 3 dinners out of the entire box provided and 1/3 of this was 13 points plus values.  This dish was the most delicious and refreshing meal.  The lettuce wraps totally lightened up the dish, but still allowed it to be filling and delicious.  My boyfriend mentioned that it should be a staple on our food menu – which I think it may very well become.

QUESTION:
Have you tried Plated?



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner



Having breakfast for dinner is starting to become a staple dish within my household.  My boyfriend isn’t a big breakfast guy, while I on the other hand am a breakfast girl.  Granted, my breakfasts are usually not as lavish as they’d be if they were for dinner, but regardless I’m having something in the morning!

This entire meal was really brought on because I purchased the new Al Fresco Country Style Chicken Sausage Breakfast Patties.  I’m a big fan of the Al Fresco sausage line and I was completely intrigued after finding out one sausage patty was only 2 points plus values.

I whipped up some scrambled egg substitute with some frozen pepper stripes in it, seasoned with pepper, salt and a handful of spices.  I did sprinkle a tablespoon of shredded fat free mozzarella over my eggs for a little added pizzazz.

I like to purchase shredded potatoes in a bag or even diced potatoes in a bag because you can typically have 3 ounces for 2 points plus.  Even if they are seasoned, I do re-season them with garlic, black pepper and a dash of salt.

As a staple to tie it all together, I garnished my plate with 2 slices of light Italian bread toasted and spritzed with spray butter.

For a side I had a few pieces of cantaloupe and 2 strawberries cut up.

The entire plate was 7 points plus.

QUESTION:
What are some items you like to have for breakfast or even breakfast for dinner?

About the Blog



Shannon Lightening the Load – a statement that can be taken both literally and figuratively.  I started this blog as a place to share my weight loss journey with anyone who was willing to read along with me.  A sort of paying it forward, if you will.

I’m a real girl, who eats real food, who lives in an everyday world but still manages to lose weight and be healthy.  It’s true, I eat potato chips, cupcakes and snacks but the difference is I eat them in moderation, I know the points plus values associated with them and I allow myself to have things I want.  It’s all about moderation, not deprivation.  There isn’t one thing I cannot have because if I or someone says I cannot have it, I’m going to want it more than ever.  Plus, I’m all about following a plan I can manage and maneuver my entire life – not a fad diet which is going to make me crash and burn.

With my blog, I like to have a platform where I can talk about the different things that matter to me, while also having the ability to discuss passions of mine.  I blog about different dishes I’ve cooked (making sure to provide the original recipe to whatever dish I’ve recreated).  When I make a dish that is my own, I provide a recipe for that with the Weight Watchers points plus values associated with it.  I like to express my non-scale victories, my experiences and my honest opinion.

If you read my blog, you’ll know I’m a bit of a foodie at heart.  Because of this, I do feature Food Finds on my blog.  I find this to be so interesting because I recall when I first started Weight Watchers; the grocery store was a big sigh.  I loved shopping (still do) but the thought of having to calculate every single thing before buying it was tiring (but I still did it!).  The more I got accustomed to buying certain items, the less I had to recall how many points they were because it was all engraved in my brain.  These days when I find a new product, I like to share the points plus values of the item, the nutrition information (if I remember to photograph it) as well as my initial first impression/review of the product.  I recall pre-Weight Watchers I liked hearing what family/friends had to say about something that was new on the market because if they said it was awful, I’d typically steer clear of it.

I like to be able to share and help people.  From all this, to know that I perhaps helped one person makes my journey even bigger and brighter.

Trader Joe’s Multigrain Slims



I am a self proclaimed carb-a-holic.  I love bread particularly bread straight out of the oven.  But since I try to limit my intake of certain types of bread (particularly warm sticks of bread) I’m always on a mission to find a new flavor/type of bread that’s unique, different and low in points plus values.

When Arnold’s came out with their flat breads I was sold. I used them for sandwiches, I used them as replacements for hamburger/hot dog buns and I even made grilled cheese sandwiches on them.  So while at Trader Joe’s, I spotted their Trader Joe’s Multigrain Slims AND they were a point plus value LESS than the Arnold’s brand.  Sold!

If you’re familiar with the Arnold’s flat breads, then these taste exactly the same (like a thin multigrain bread). The thickness it the same, they don’t taste any different and they’re only 2 points plus values!

One thing to keep in mind is Trader Joe’s breads typically do not contain preservatives so they tend to go bad (mold) quickly, so I wouldn’t suggest stocking up on these unless you plan on possibly freezing a pack.  Otherwise, they are delicious.  I stored mine on the counter top and they were good for the week.

Karma Wellness Water – Pineapple Coconut

While browsing the water selection at the local market I spotted a new product that I just had to try.  I love water, but plain water can get boring sometimes, especially when it’s hot out and I want a little flavoring in it (particularly when around others who are drinking frozen drinks, kool-aid, and sugary lemonades).

I admit the packaging kind of sucked me in at first.  It was a neat square bottle with a see-thru label.  The cap had a colored powder in it so I picked it up and gave it a whirl.  Karma Wellness Water is a natural, low calorie flavored water which is formulated with vitamins and antioxidants.  It’s literally jam packed with vitamins: A, D, E, B6, B12, Potassium, etc.

I think the coolest thing about this water is the fact that the flavoring is housed in the cap.  You have to peel the sticky covering off the top and push down (a bit hard, you’ll feel a pop) and the powder flavoring is released into the water.  A little shake and your beverage is transformed into the flavor and color of your drink choice.

Out of the 4 flavors available at my store the pineapple coconut seemed to be the most intriguing, so it’s the one I purchased.  Flavor wise it’s definitely pineapple with a hint of coconut.  It doesn’t have an artificial taste to it, it’s very smooth tasting. I quite enjoyed it. It’s also makes me feel a little fancy.

A whole bottle is 1 points plus value.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Karma Wellness Waters? If so, what is your favorite flavor?

Trader Joe’s Hummus with freshly ground Horseradish

I am and always have been a huge fan of hummus. I also tend to really love horseradish, typically in obscene amounts.  So when I saw this Trader Joe’s Hummus with Freshly Ground Horseradish I knew I had to pick it up without even a second guess.

I’ve been using the hummus on sandwiches as a condiment and I have to say it’s straight up delicious.  Flavor wise it’s definitely hummus, but in the background there is a slight tang of horseradish.  It’s definitely not overwhelming, overpowering or wowing – but it’s there, very mildly.  The hummus undoubtedly brings down the heat index of the horseradish and in turn gives it a very subdued flavor.  I would enjoy it if it were spicier, but all-in-all its fine as it is.

2 tablespoons is a serving size and it calculates out to be 1 points plus values.

QUESTION:
What is your favorite hummus flavor?

Monday, June 24, 2013

My very simple polish dinner



I decided to make a very polish dinner because I’d been dying for some sauerkraut (which my boyfriend hates) and needed a reason to make the sauerkraut pierogi’s I had purchased at a local grocery store.  My mother and aunt typically make homemade pierogi once a year, but that’s around Christmas time, so the other 11 months out of the year I rely on frozen options.  I purchased a refrigerated type by the brand Kasia’s from Shaw’s.  These are the most authentic pierogi’s I’ve had – because even though I enjoy frozen pierogi they’re nothing in comparison to homemade and the Kasia’s brand is the closest I can get.

I made corn on the cob (2 points plus), turkey kielbasa with peppers and onions (3 ounces – 3 points plus), sauerkraut (0 points plus) and sauerkraut pierogi’s (3 for 4 points plus).  It was a delicious, easy to make and filling 9 points plus dinner. I was overloaded in sauerkraut, I admit, but I enjoy sauerkraut so much it was delicious.

QUESTION:
What is your favorite brand of pierogi?


Hormel Rev #5 Italian Style Ham Wrap



This is the type of thing I purchase when I go out for a quick errand with my mother, which then turns into an unexpected 3+ hour jaunt.  3+ hour unexpected jaunts typically equals a starving Shannon.  A starving Shannon in Walmart smelling fried foods near the deli is usually a bad combination.  They always say not to shop hungry and since I wasn’t borderline hangry (hungry angry) at the moment I was able to think level headed.  Quickly bypassing the fried foods section, I made my way over to the pre-packaged deli meat section and decided to pick up this Hormel Rev #5 Italian Style Ham wrap.

Typically, this is not something I would purchase, but since I just needed something this was a far better option for me.  I’ve seen these Hormel wraps featured on a few people I follow on Instagarm’s feed so I decided to give it a shot.  The Italian Style Ham wrap is an Italian herb wrap with smoked ham and mozzarella cheese.  The wrap itself is 5 points plus for the whole wrap or 3 points plus values for ½.

My thoughts?  The wrap was alright, palatable and satisfying but it definitely was not something I’d run out to buy a few to have in the fridge.  It was a healthier alternative to the other things around me at that particular moment, but I wasn’t “wowed” by it.  I would repurchase if I was in a bind and needed something that didn’t take much thinking, but I’d prefer (in most circumstances) to be able to make my own sandwich for the same points but far more satisfying.  I guess we can say I’m at the middle of the road with this one.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Hormel wraps?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Trader Joe’s – Trader Giotto’s - Eggplant Parmesan Towers



I’ve seen this Trader Giotto’s - Eggplant Parmesan Towers refrigerated dish at Trader Joe’s for months on months and I’ve always said “next time” because my meals for the week were rather planned out. I picked this up and decided I’d have lunch with my mother.  The dish serves 2, so sharing is caring, particularly with something you would gladly eat two servings of if it was sitting in the refrigerator.

The box describes the dish as eggplant made with romano, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and Marinara sauce.  These particular cutlets are breaded (there is another eggplant dish – frozen at Trader Joe’s that has grilled eggplant in it).  I make homemade eggplant once in a while because it reminds me of my grandmother, but I felt purchasing this not only simplified the process BUT it also eliminated the massive amounts of eggplant that typically stay when I make homemade eggplant.

Heating can be done in either the microwave or the oven, but I decided on the microwave (I was hungry).  It turned out pretty delicious!  Serving size was ½ the tray – 7 ounces.  My mother was equally impressed and she really enjoyed it as did I.  The flavors were perfect all the way through.  A perfect Italian dish that was satisfying and hit that eggplant parmesan craving over the head.

A serving size is 8 points plus, which I felt was justifiable for a cheese filled and sauce and cheese covered, breaded eggplant dish.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nestle Raspberry & Cream Ice Cream Bars



A couple weeks ago Shaw’s was having a sale on Nestle ice creams.  If you purchased 4 boxes of ice cream you got them for $1.77/ea.  I had $1 off any Nestle ice cream coupons, making each box of ice cream 77 cents.  Since my boyfriend likes Drumsticks and they’re ridiculously expensive I decided to get a few boxes to stick in the freezer and spotted these Nestle Raspberry & Cream bars for myself.

The bars have a raspberry flavored “popsicle” coating on the outside (it’s crunchy and hard as classic popsicles are) with the middle being a creamy ice cream. The combination is really delicious and thirst quenching, particularly on those hot summer days.

One of the great parts is that a popsicle is only 2 points plus values.  I love finding low points plus ice cream finds!

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Raspberry & Cream bars?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trader Joe’s Soft & Juicy Mango

I’ve heard a lot of people raving about Trader Joe’s line of dried fruits so on my last Trader Joe’s trip I decided to just take a quick (and I mean quick I didn’t even really scan all the shelves) peak at some of the items.  I spotted two different bags of dried mango and decided to pick up the Trader Joe’s Soft & Juicy Mango.

I know, I know, dried fruit has so much more sugar than the regular fruit – but I feel as though there are certain instances where if it’s something you like, something you enjoy and something you don’t mind splurging on once in a while it’s worth it.  In this case, dried mango is worth it for me.  Why? Because I don’t eat it all the time, it’s a once in a while type of food I have and enjoy.  Even though I do eat mangos, dried mango is just so different, particularly because of the texture.

The Trader Joe’s mango reminded me of the Philippine Brand of natural dried mango I purchase at my local wholesale club every once in a while.  Deciding to open it up and give it a try, I was quite happy with the flavor, texture and taste of the mango.  It truly reminded me of the Philippine Brand although it’s a little bit softer, stickier (because of the less sugary coating on the outside) and it tastes so much fresher.  It’s quite affordable as well $1.69 for a 6 oz bag.  I believe the bag I occasionally purchase at my wholesale club houses 30 ounces, but is $10 for the bag.

A ¼ cup serving (35g) serving is 3 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Do you have a favorite dried fruit you’d recommend I try?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trader Joe’s Grilled Chicken Cacciatore over Carba-Nada pasta



I spotted an item I hadn’t seen at my local Trader Joe’s before so I decided to pick it up.  After a few days, I opted to make the Trader Joe’s Grilled Chicken Cacciatore into a lunch.  Because I typically eat my homemade chicken cacciatore with rice or pasta, I whipped up 1 ½ cups of Carba-nada pasta. While my pasta was cooking, I heated the grilled chicken cacciatore in the microwave per the directions on the back of the package.

After emptying the contents out of the cooking pouch, the chicken is provided in a large breast.  Not a big deal to have to cut the chicken up because each container houses 3 servings.  After dishing up my serving over my pasta, the true taste test happened.  The sauce is decent – not the greatest tasting sauce, but okay.  It’s got flavorful spices in it as well as a few vegetables such as peas, mushrooms and onion.  The chicken is where it got a little weird for me.  The chicken is labeled as grilled but texture wise it didn’t have any textured char marks on it meaning the chicken was rather soft.  I am a texture person when it comes to food and after a few pieces of chicken I ended up giving the remainder of my chicken to my dog – but I did eat the rest of the sauce with my pasta.

I am not saying this is horrible, it’s a passable meal, but if you’re weirded out by textures of meats then this may very well be a skip for you.  I think if the chicken had actual char marks on it which changed the outside texture of the meat, it would be decent.  If you like quick and easy dinner/lunch ideas and are a fan of cacciatore then this would be something worth picking up.

A serving – 1/3 of the package is 4 points plus.  The entire meal pictured including the pasta was 7 points plus.

QUESTION:
Have you ever tried the grilled chicken cacciatore from Trader Joe’s?


Trader Joe’s Garlic Fries

I’ve seen these Trader Joe’s Garlic Fries the last few times I’ve been to Trader Joe’s but I’ve avoided purchasing because I had a few frozen potato options in the freezer.  Finally, I decided to just pick them up because I simply wanted to try them. Honestly? I wish I picked them up the first time I saw them instead of waiting!

If you like garlic, especially if you love garlic, you will absolutely LOVE these French fries!  These are a garlic lovers dream French fries and I’m pretty positive they’ll make a person who doesn’t necessarily love French fries, enjoy them.  They will give you stinky garlic breath, they may even ward off vampires and unexpected guests BUT they are worth it.

The French fries have a little bit of a coating on them and all to do is lay them flat on a baking tray and put them into a preheated oven.  I did spritz mine with cooking spray before popping into the oven.  Within the pouch there is a frozen garlic spread which is to be defrosted in a cup of water.  Once the fries are done cooking, all that’s left to do is toss with the garlic spread. It’s a garlic spread, which I believe is incorporated with oil and seasonings.  All of us who had these for dinner totally loved them, so I purchased another bag on my latest Trader Joe’s shopping trip.

A 3 ounce serving is 5 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Do you like flavored French fries?

Whole Foods Chicken Tikka Masala



I purchased this reheat and go Chicken Tikka Masala from Whole Foods.  I love Indian food, but I don’t have it very often. Since my boyfriend isn’t a huge fan for spicy Indian dishes, I tend to gravitate towards frozen or microwavable Indian dishes so I can enjoy them.  Needless to say when I saw this at Whole Foods – without the rice, I had to pick it up.

I heated it up in the microwave and separated it into two containers.  The first day I ate it out of a bowl with some pita bread.  I was literally starving and was boarding on “hangry” and I found it was satisfying and filling.  It is s spicy dish; spicy enough to make my nose start to run, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot.    The next day I ate the remainder for lunch over some salad and I found the greens and carrots really helped bring the heat intensity down and it was delicious.  Definitely a nice “go to” meal for me to pick up if I were ever in a bind (at work with a Whole Foods local) and needed something flavorful but lower in points for lunch.

The container houses 2 servings, a serving being 8 ounces (containing the sauce, not just the chicken).  Weighing it out I found there was roughly about 3 ounces of chicken (coated in sauce) in my meal and I added in about 2 ounces of extra sauce.  According to the nutrition information label an 8 ounce serving translated to 4 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of Whole Foods packaged microwavable meals?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thomas’ Limited Edition Banana Bread English Muffins



I love banana bread so when I saw these Thomas’ Limited Edition Banana Bread English Muffins they immediately had to become part of my grocery purchase.

English muffins are quite a breakfast food staple, at least for me – growing up it was either toast or English muffins.  Whereas, banana bread has always been a classic homemade breakfast food/snack/dessert that my family made for each other as well as family friends.  I quite enjoy the two on their own and have even incorporated English muffins into pizza and banana bread flavorings into pancakes.  So, needless to say when I spotted these I was completely and utterly intrigued. I just made homemade banana bread which was the same points plus equivalent.  These also smelled heavenly – even through the plastic bag they’re sold in!

My 15 month old nephew was over, so I figured it was a perfect time to try one out, so I toasted one up, spritzed it with spray butter and he and I shared one.  I thought it was so yummy - a modern twist on a classic.  Since I toasted mine, you get that expected exterior crisp on the outside, the inside being a little bit softer.  The flavor is undoubtedly banana bread (sans nuts) and I did not find the flavoring to be overwhelming or “fake”.  I quite enjoyed it. You may be asking, what were my nephew’s sentiments? “Yum!”

One muffin is 4 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Thomas’ banana bread English muffins?

Trader Joe’s Chocolate and Vanilla Macarons



Macarons!  Apparently to never be misconstrued or misspelled as macaroons.  I never thought I’d lay my eyes on the actual thing.  That is until I spotted and purchased these Chocolate and Vanilla Macarons from Trader Joe’s!  I live in an area where the French delicacy is not sold.  I’ve heard other specialty food shops sold them – but my local locations do not.  In my area coconut macaroons are a big seller and are sold in numerous stores and specialty bake shops (particularly Italian bakeries).

These macarons were $4.99 for the box and were sold out of the freezer section at my local Trader Joe’s.  The only packaged flavor available at my location was the chocolate and vanilla variety.  I let the cookies defrost per the package directions and enjoyed.

Since I’ve never had the cookie before I have nothing to compare against – but I have to say I really loved these!  They were soft, moderately chewy and not very sweet.  They did break apart very easily, but I suspect that’s due to freezing, defrosting and bouncing around in the shopping bag in the trunk of the car.  I found the vanilla cream (frosting) was a lot softer and was spilling out of the macaron whereas the chocolate was firmer and stayed in place.

2 cookies are a serving size and they only translated into being 2 points plus values. Completely worth it, worth the experience and just plain delicious all around.  I’m a fan.  I’m also glad macarons are not sold in my area (at least no place that I know of) because I’d have to taste test.  I’ve taste tested the coconut macaroons at my local Italian bakery in the past – so I can see possible “damage” if they were sold around me like the coconut macaroons are.  But nonetheless I would and will repurchase these again … so please, Trader Joe’s, do NOT discontinue these!

QUESTION:
Have you tried Trader Joe’s macarons? Did you enjoy them?  If not, have you ever had a macaron?

Berry Dump Cake


After hearing so much about dump cake I decided to make my own rendition.  I knew the recipe contained 3 items – cake mix, fruit and diet soda.  While shopping I picked up a bag of frozen berries and a box of cake mix because a fruity cake sounded delicious.  Upon getting home and assembling the cake, I found the single bag of frozen berries were not enough but thankfully I had ¾’s of another bag of frozen fruit in the freezer so I added that into the tray.

The cake turned out to be quite delicious.  Actually, I wouldn’t quite call it a cake because it was more of a berry cobbler.  The topping was a cake consistency, but the bottom was wet like cobbler is.  I do want to point out that this can sit for roughly 2 days but on the third day the top portion of the cake will become wet and gooey because the berries eventually get the better of it.  Because of that I’d suggest having this when you’re having people over who can enjoy it.

I used an assortment of berries on this particular “trial run” but I do want to make this with frozen peaches for a summer BBQ.  I think that’d be ultimately fantastic!
 
4 Points Plus per serving.  Serves 12.

Ingredients:
  • Betty Crocker Super Moist French Vanilla cake mix
  • Fresca diet soda
  • Wyman’s Frozen Mixed Berries (You can use 2 bags of these berries, or mix up any combination of frozen fruit you’d like to try)
  • Trader Joe’s Frozen Very Cherry Berry Blend
  • Spray butter (optional)
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat your oven per box directions.

Spray a 13x9 cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Empty the bags of frozen fruit into the bottom of the cake pan.  Sprinkle fruit with dry cake mix, have cake mix cover fruit evenly trying to avoid any potential clumps of dry cake mix.  Slowly pour the diet soda over the cake mix.

Bake in the oven.  Cooking times will vary, but I cooked mine for 35 minutes, took the cake out of the oven, spritzed the top with spray butter and put back into the oven for another 5 minutes.

The cake was yummy, especially with some fat free cool whip.  If serving at a BBQ, this would be fabulous with some ice cream over a warm piece of dump cake. Yum! Talk about a guilt free dessert!



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Skinnytaste Low Fat Banana Nut Bread



I had some ripe bananas on the counter that needed to be put to good use. I’m very picky with bananas if they start to get brown spots on them, I don’t want to eat them so I typically let them sit to get browner so I can make a dessert with them.  I had an over abundance of bananas to use up so I decided to make banana bread so I could bring a bread to my dad for Father’s Day (since banana bread is one of his favorites).

I followed the recipe exactly as listed and it was so easy to make.  The most time consuming part is waiting for them to finish baking.  I let them sit overnight to cool completely, wrapped one up and brought it over to my dad the next day and the remaining banana bread I kept for the house.  My boyfriend is a big fan of banana bread and he was enjoying it. I had a slice and it was seriously delicious.  The greatest part was 1/13th of each individual bread is 4 points plus (with the walnuts).

My dad had some banana bread later on in the day when I had given it to him, so he gave me a call to let me know it was delicious.  Winning banana bread!

To see the recipe I followed to make these yummy banana breads, see here: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2008/11/makeover-banana-nut-bread-3-pts.html

QUESTION:
Have you made banana bread at home?

Father’s Day Dinner @ Longhorn!

On Father’s Day I took my dad out for lunch to the restaurant of his choice.  After talking about where to go, my dad decided on Longhorn.  After he made his decision I went onto the Longhorn website, checked out their menu and nutritional information and decided on the dish I was going to order.  I had never been to Longhorn before so I was going into my choice rather blind.  Sure I was able to read the description, but I’ve found something can sound yummy on paper – but when you’re presented it, it’s not palatable. Thankfully my food choice was delicious.

I ordered off the Flavorful Under 500 section of the menu.  The specific dish I ordered was the Sierra Chicken, lighter portion.  The meal came with the chicken, along with fresh vegetables or green beans and a side salad.

The Sierra Chicken is a piece of grilled chicken served with tomato-basil salsa over the top.  The regular Sierra Chicken dish is served over a bed of rice, but since my dish was from the Flavorful Under 500 I opted for green beans.  I did request that the green beans be plain (they typically come pre-seasoned with garlic) and thankfully the kitchen staff were able to provide me with plain steamed green beans.  Whereas for my side salad it was recommended to order the salt with cheese, no croutons and raspberry vinaigrette.  I opted for a salad with no cheese and croutons but with low fat ranch on the side (not tossed with the salad as it typically comes).

The Sierra chicken dish was 7 points plus and I gave the low fat ranch dressing 1 points plus because I was dipping my fork into the dressing and barely used any.  Nonetheless this was a completely delicious meal and it may be the very reason I return to Longhorn!

QUESTION:
Do you have a favorite dish at Longhorn?

Weight Watchers Blueberry Granola Clusters w/ Blueberry yogurt

I received a package of the new Weight Watchers Blueberry Granola Clusters at my local Weight Watchers meeting and after holding onto them for a week, I decided to give them a try.  I typically like to be able to try new Weight Watchers products before purchasing just incase I am not a fan – but like with any food product it’s trial and error.

I decided to pair the blueberry granola clusters with blueberry yogurt for a 5 points plus dessert. I used to love granola with yogurt but since granola tends to be higher in points I typically skip the granola so I was hoping I’d be in for a delicious treat with these.

I will say the flavor is good, the smaller bits aren’t bad but the large round blueberry clusters are SO hard they’re almost to the chip/break your tooth crunchy limit.  I mixed mine into the yogurt and it didn’t soften them up – but perhaps if you let them sit in yogurt for about 5 minutes or more perhaps it’d make them a little softer.  But these are crunchy.  I will not be purchasing a box of these BUT I have heard the other variety available at Weight Watchers locations is good and not as crunchy – but since I haven’t tried those I cannot say for sure.

Each pack is 3 points plus values and I do feel you get a pretty decent amount for your points.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the new Blueberry Granola Clusters?