Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cupcakes from Eat Cake!



If you’re a fan of cupcakes and a fan of Food Network then you may have seen an episode or two of Cupcake Wars.  I admit, I’ve seen a few Cupcake War episodes in my past and I have a slight love of visiting spots that have been featured on the Food Network – primarily out of curiosity to “see what the fuss is all about.”

Almost 2 years ago my boyfriend and I stumbled upon this little bakery in Newburyport called “Eat Cake.” I was intrigued because there was a Food Network sign in the window and a little blurb about the shop being featured on Cupcake Wars. I was suddenly transformed to a magnet and the cupcake shop was my large piece of metal.  Heading inside the shop they typically have 5 variation of flavored cupcakes of the day.  You never know what you’re going find unless you go there or visit their Facebook page to see what the flavors of the day are.  Each cupcake is also $3/ea which is a bit pricey but for the experience and the different flavors, it’s worth it once in a while.

Popping into the shop the cupcakes are the main attraction.  The countertop is lined with glass covered cake pans with cupcakes piled high with buttercream – all assorted in flavors.  In front of the counter is a chalkboard which has the daily menu printed on it – to help make choosing easier. Or in my case, a little more difficult.

After giving the cupcakes a once over, my boyfriend and I decided on three. One cupcake he really wanted, one I really wanted and one we each wanted to try.  So 3 cupcakes we got were:

Coconut-Coconut Goo- Vanilla Butterceam.  Our pick. This cupcake was a vanilla cupcake, which was topped with a coconut “goo” which really reminded me of the inside of a mounds bar, just stickier.  It was then topped with a vanilla buttercream and garnished with toasted coconut.  It was moist and delicious, but definitely sweet.

Chocolate Fudge – Strawberry Buttercream. My boyfriends pick. This was a chocolate cupcake dipped into a fudgy chocolate, then topped with a strawberry buttercream and garnished with shaved chocolate pieces. My boyfriend enjoyed it as he’s a chocolate cake fan. His was actually not as sweet as one would suspect and it was undoubtedly moist.

Hummingbird Cake – Honey Cinnamon Buttercream. My pick. I have been eyeing a hummingbird cake recipe online for months – the only thing holding me back from making it being the fact I don’t have pecans in the house. So when I saw this listed on the sign, I immediately wanted it. The cupcake is a classic hummingbird flavored cake – bananay, cinnamonny, nutty and just delicious.  The buttercream was sweet with a cinnamon flavoring to it. Undoubtedly delicious. It reminded me of banana bead in a light and airy cupcake form.

I at first estimated each cupcake being 9 points plus values. After taking a bite, I decided to roll those estimates up to 12 points plus values.  Sure, it was high for a dessert … but it was worth it.

QUESTION:
What is the best cupcake you’ve ever tried?

Tuna Salad on Salad


Lately I’ve been going for tuna fish to be a staple lunch or even dinner for myself.  With it being summer, tuna salad is one of the dishes I find myself enjoying more than normal. My tuna salad I used to make was 5 points plus values, but I had been looking to cut back on the points to make a tasty tuna salad for half the points.  I was fiddling with the recipe and came up with a concoction that I totally love and find to be very appealing on the palette.  It’s great on top of a bed of salad, while it’s also great on bread or pita as a yummy sandwich (with some added tomato and lettuce to bring it home).

3 Points Plus Values. Serves 1.
  • 1 can tuna (weighed out 3 oz), drained, shredded
  • Onion, diced (adjust to your liking)
  • Pickle, diced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp crushed hot peppers
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on salad or on bread (adjust points plus values to reflect bread choice.

Dannon Light & Fit Greek Blends – Key Lime



On my quest to try out the new Dannon Light & Fit Greek Blends yogurt I found the Key Lime flavor after thinking there were only 3 flavors in the line.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times in my blog, I really enjoy Greek yogurt. Because of this, I love finding different Greek yogurts that are points plus friendly and equally delicious.  I was intrigued because I have tried other key lime yogurts and have quite enjoyed them. Key lime is one of those tangy flavors that’s just different and unique.

If you’re not a fan of lime, then this yogurt will probably not be a homerun for you.  It’s not tangy, it’s a sweeter lime flavor, and in my opinion it’s definitely delicious.  It reminds of the Dannon Oikos key lime yogurts which I have grown to love.  Granted, they’re made by the same company so they may very well be the same thing in different packaging.

As with the other yogurts in this particular line, these are 2 points plus values.

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

Minute Maid Light 15 Calories Light Mango Passion Fruit Drink

I had picked up the pink lemonade version and since it was so good, I decided to try out the Minute Maid Light 15 Calories Light Mango Passion Fruit Drink. I adore mango passion fruit mixes (yogurt, juice, etc.) so I was hoping this wouldn’t let me down.

I do want to mention you have to shake this bad boy up. It has a bit of “settlement” on the bottom when it’s been sitting in the fridge untouched.  Shake it up and you’re good to go. The juice is absolutely delicious.  It is sweetened with aspartame which may be a determent for some.  The artificial sweetener isn’t a no-go for me, so I did enjoy this. It’s probably one of the best guilt-free juices I have had.  It’s a perfect blend of mango and passion fruit.  The only thing that could make this better would be a tropical beach, warm water and a little umbrella in my icy beverage.

A serving is 1 cup (8 fl. oz) which calculates out to be 0 points plus.  You can have up to 1 ½ cups (12 fl. oz) for 0 points plus, but if you’d like 2 cups (16 fl. oz) it would be 1 points plus.  Certainly a great bang for your buck!

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Minute Maid light drinks?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Trader Joe’s Greek Style Chicken with Orzo, Spinach and Feta Cheese



I’ve begun dabbling more and more into the selection of “heat and eat” meals at Trader Joe’s.  I’ve found a number that are repeat purchases for me, while with others I’m first trying them out.  The Trader Joe’s Greek Style Chicken with Orzo, Spinach and Feta Cheese is one of those meals I’ve seen couintless times but just had not purchased.  That is until my last Trader Joe’s trip where I picked it up to try something new.  Typically with these heat and eat meals, I share them with my boyfriend or end up sharing with my mother (depending on the meal).  This is one of those meals I ended up sharing with my mother (hence the feta cheese and olives – they’re not my boyfriends forte).

Typically I find with most of the heat and eat meals, they contain 2 servings but this particular meal contains 3 servings.  1/3 of the container is a serving size – weighed out a serving is 170 grams.  The serving should typically consist of 2 slices of chicken and then 1/3 of the orzo mixture.  The interesting thing with this particular meal is you can either eat it cold or hot.  I prefer hot because I don’t necessarily care for cold meats (aside from deli meat).

The meal itself is good. The chicken is on the plainer side, but it is moist.  The orzo mixture is delicious, although I will say when eating it with the olives it makes it VERY salty.  So salty, that I had to pick the olives out of my meal and discard them.  I’m also not a fan of sundried tomatoes so I had to pick those out of the meal as well.  Nonetheless, regardless of having to remove a few additions, I found the meal was good.  I would repurchase it again, but it’s not a meal that I’d repurchase every time I popped into Trader Joe’s.  I found the serving size to be more than adequate and filled me until dinner time.  It really turned me onto orzo, which I’ve never had in a meal before.

A serving size calculates out to 8 points plus values.

QUESTION:
What “heat and eat” meals have you tried from Trader Joe’s?

Skinny Cow Cupcake Batter Ice Cream



When I saw Skinny Cow had released a new single serving ice cream Cupcake Batter Ice Cream (wayyyy back in March!), I was immediately on the hunt.  Sadly, my hunting continuously came up high and dry because I couldn’t find them anywhere – they just were not available in my area for the longest time -- until recently. I’ve seen them popping up on grocery store shelves, so I of course had to grab one to give it a whirl.

One thing I love about Skinny Cow ice creams is they taste just as good as the full-fat point heavy ice creams on the market. They also make shopping simpler because the points plus values are printed on the packaging making choosing a little easier.

I’m a lover of cake batter ice cream, but I believe I may have hyped this point friendly cupcake batter ice cream up more than I should have. Perhaps I made it too good to be true because after a few bites, sadly, I was no longer impressed.  The cupcake/cake batter flavor fizzled after 3-bites and I was left with something that kind of resembled caramel.  It was odd. I doubt I’ll be buying another one of these … I’ll stick with my beloved Skinny Cow cones and sandwiches.

This single serve ice cream cup is 4 points plus.

QUESTION:
What is your favorite Skinny Cow ice cream?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Justin’s Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups



When I spotted these Justin’s Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups I was immediately excited. I LOVE peanut butter cups – or rather, I should say: I LOVE Reese cups … as well as homemade buckeyes.

I’ve seen Justin’s peanut butter in small serving pouches countless times at Target, but I have never picked up a pack.  On its own, I’m not the biggest peanut butter fan.  I enjoy it once in a while on toasted bread, but I felt purchasing the peanut butter was a waste since I’d rather a Cookie Butter sandwich over a pb sandwich any day.  Chocolate and peanut butter is a heavenly sin and since Justin’s is a healthier form of peanut butter and since it was organic, I decided I’d give it a shot.

A pack is 6 points plus, or you can have one cup for 3 points plus.  I opened the package, took my photos, gave my boyfriend a cup and took a bite of mine … and was immediately done.  The peanut butter was dry. The chocolate was drier. It was pale in comparison to the peanut butter cups I’m used to enjoying. Truthfully, after the first bite, it wasn’t worth my points and I offered it to my boyfriend.  He felt they were “ok” but agreed they were very dry.

I’m sorry to say but I’ll be sticking with my Reese cups going forward. Those never let me down plus they’re the same points plus values as the Justin’s.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Justin’s peanut butter cups?

Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Chucky Guacamole



I picked up this Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole at Trader Joe’s after hearing that it was pretty good.  I checked out the nutrition label and was duly impressed, so I made sure to bring it home with me to try out.  Guacamole is typically higher in fat and calories when made the regular way – but Trader Joe’s found a way to make it a friendly food by incorporating the dish with greek yogurt.

Trader Joe’s really does impress me with some of the items they come out with – needless to say, this is one of them.  I can’t say I’m a huge guacamole fan, but this particular guacamole easily became my favorite (I don’t love avocados).  I was incorporating this into my nachos, chicken burgers, or plain right alongside some tortillas/crackers. It’s a smooth and creamy guacamole which is packed with flavor. There are smaller chunks of vegetables (and even pieces of avocado if you’re lucky) running through the guacamole with a cilantro, lime flavor in the background.  I don’t find it to be spicy even though the label does state there are jalapeno’s in the dish. It’s creamier than your average guacamole, which I feel is to be expected because there is Greek yogurt in the dish.

Amazingly, a 2 tablespoon serving is only 1 points plus values!  Definitely worth a shot if you’re even remotely a guacamole fan OR just living life on the edge!

QUESTION:
Have you tried the reduced guilt guac?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dinner: Big Ole Salad w/ Perdue Chicken Breast & Fire Roasted Corn



Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy salad.  A plain salad is fine for me as long as there’s a yummy dressing or feta cheese for it.  But I find I enjoy salad a lot more than I add additional “toppings” to it. This dinner really went hand-in-hand with this weeks Weight Watchers topic – salads!  Salads don’t have to be boring, salads can really house anything you want to put on them – vegetables, fruits, proteins, dressings.  You name it; it can probably go on a salad in some way shape or form (and it’ll be delicious).

We had some of the Purdue Perfect Portions Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts in Italian season defrosting.  I really enjoy that chicken because I don’t have to measure out 3 ounces – each cutlet is perfectly portioned so I can grab a chicken breast, put it on my salad and I don’t have to think about it or weigh it out.  Anyway, initially I was making a salad to have on the side, alongside some fire roasted corn and potato – but then said “why not just make a big ole salad.” So that’s exactly what I did.

My salad consisted of the basic romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and cucumber.  I paired it with 1/3 cup fire roasted corn (1 points plus values, or a full serving 2/3 cups is 3 points plus) and topped it with the grilled Perdue chicken breast (3 points plus values) which I sliced up.  I then topped it with some honey mustard dressing. The whole salad was only 5 points plus values, incredibly filling and above all delicious.  The fire roasted corn gave the salad a bold interesting kick, which really brought everything together and made it unique.

Certainly delicious and anything BUT boring!

QUESTION:
What do you do to jazz up your salads?


Trader Joe’s Pulled Chicken Breast



Over the course of the past year, I have been trying out different packaged pulled chicken meals. I like a slightly sweet yet smoky barbecue sauce with my pulled chicken.  I had high hopes for this Trader Joe’s Pulled Chicken Breast with Rib Meat in Smoky BBQ Sauce.

A serving size is 1/3 of the package – 151grams.  Its 140 calories for the serving and only 3 points plus values which I felt was impressive.  What really sold me was the “smoky BBQ sauce” so I decided to take a gamble and pick up a package.  I heated it through for lunch one afternoon, piled my serving onto a Trader Joe’s multigrain slim and paired it with a cut up microwave cooked potato for “fries.”

At first it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t delicious.  It was smoky but also somewhat sweet. It was a simple meal – rather mediocre and not rave worthy.  I finished my serving, put the rest away and the next day I heated the remainder through to make a sandwich for my boyfriend and I.  Well, I bit into a piece of what I call grizzle.  You know that hard, “plastic” type cartilage that you can sometimes find in chicken?  Well … let me just say, I have texture issues and the moment I bit into that, I was done. I was no longer hungry, I was repulsed and my sandwich went into the garbage.

I’m starting to believe my quest to find A++ style pulled chicken, that’s not bad points plus wise, is not going to happen unless I just make it myself.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the Trader Joe’s pulled chicken?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Homemade Burgers and “Fries” at home!

I’ve been craving this burger for weeks.  My boyfriend makes undoubtedly THE best hamburgers. He seasons the meat with a few ingredients, but he adds onions and green peppers to the mixture.  He does it in a way that everything still stays together, without the use of an egg, and doesn’t fall apart on the grill.  It’s amazing and SO delicious.  One would think it would taste like a meatloaf, but it really doesn’t. It’s just a butt kicking hamburger! In the past, he would have used a 80/20 or 85/15 cut beef, but for me he graciously uses my 93/7 ground beef.

He made his burgers, grilled them and served them up along with some sliced tomato and lettuce.  This really is a perfect summertime food.  I enjoyed mine on a Trader Joe’s Multigrain Slim with some reduced sugar ketchup and spicy mustard.  My whole burger was only 5 points plus and it was incredibly filling.

On the side, since it was too hot to turn the oven on, I threw a potato in the microwave for a few minutes until it was cooked through.  I sliced it up into wedges, topped it with a little French fry seasoning and garnished it with a side of ketchup. It’s a little ode to fries.  I saw this on a fellow blogger and Weight Watcher members Instagram feed and immediately decided I had to try it (since I love potatoes and ketchup).  It’s a match made in heaven … and it’s only 3 points plus (for a 5.5 oz cooked potato).  Potatoes = Power foods which equals fullness!

Who needs McDonald’s when you can have a delicious meal like this at home?  Especially when the whole plate pictured only “cost” me 8 points plus values!

QUESTION:
Do you have a favorite summertime food?

Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches – Mesquite BBQ Chicken



I picked up a box of Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches – Mesquite BBQ Chicken because it was the closest I could get to the original Hot Pockets BBQ Chicken pockets. Plus it was only 6 points plus for a single serving (BTW I love the fact that Lean Pockets has the Weight Watchers points plus values listed ON the box! It makes picking up frozen items for quick meals so much easier!)

Heating it up in the microwave, I could smell the BBQ chicken so it gave me high hopes for the lean pocket. Unfortunately, after the first bite and then the second those high hopes were quickly smashed.  The pretzel crust totally overwhelmed the mesquite BBQ flavoring; it was actually not even noticeable with the crust.  The pretzel crust just stole the show – which was unfortunate because I wanted the filling to steal the show.  These taste just like the “skin” of a cooked, soft pretzel without all the added salt.  You may be lucky to get a hint of mesquite out of the pretzel crust – but nonetheless I wasn’t impressed.  I think I’ll be refraining from purchasing any Lean Pockets that have a pretzel crust just because I wasn’t a true fan of the flavor.

QUESTION:
What is your favorite flavor Lean Pockets?

Weight Watchers Greek Frozen Yogurt Peach Swirl



I had been looking for these Weight Watchers Greek Frozen Yogurt bars since they started popping up in advertisements in my Weight Watchers Weeklies. Finally, I spotted them in the local grocery store and picked up a box of Peach Swirl.

I personally find them to be delicious.  I’ve tried Greek yogurt bars in the past and some have been a hit, while others a miss … and these have to be the best that I have tried so far.  They taste just like the Greek peach yogurt I typically purchase by Dannon Light & Fit.  The frozen yogurt bar is a plain greek yogurt with a swirl of peach flavoring throughout it.  I find it to be subtly sweet and the peach flavoring really packs a punch.  It’s creamy, refreshing and delicious.  My boyfriend (who doesn’t like Greek yogurt in true yogurt form), actually really enjoyed these and ended up having one every night with myself.

Nutritional fact wise, these only have 80 calories and contain 5 grams of protein.  Each bar is 2 points plus values.  For the points and the amount of frozen yogurt you get, I feel it’s totally justifiable.

If you are a Weight Watchers member, keep your eyes open for the $2 off any Weight Watchers frozen novelty coupon at your local meeting.  The coupons are a great incentive to try something new from the line that you may be on the fence about.  I picked this box up for under $1.50 (after the coupon). If I didn’t like them, then I wouldn’t be out of a whole lot of money either but now that I do …. I need to restock because I’m completely out.  I guess that’s what happens when you share your Weight Watchers treats with loved ones! J

QUESTION:
What is your favorite Weight Watchers brand ice cream?

Kellogg’s Special K Nourish – Lemon Twist



I had been seeing these Kellogg’s Special K Nourish at Walmart for a few weeks but was hesitant to pick up a box because I already had a growing stash of nutrition bars to enjoy.  Finally, after finding a bin containing single bars, I purchased the Lemon Twist flavor because I love lemon.  The nutrition bar is made with a blend of multi-grain and quinoa, which I felt was really different.

After gathering the will to try it, I opened the package and immediately smelled this earthy fragrance with a strong note of lemon.  The lemon wasn’t unpleasant but the earthy fragrance was, well, rather daunting.  Looking at the bar, you can see the quinoa and you can see a mixture of grains which are all stuck together with a lemony icing over the top of the bar.  Earthy crunchy smell aside, I took a bite.  It was okay … nothing fabulous, but nothing wretched.  The texture is chewy, it’s not very sweet, but it is lemony although not overpowering.  I can’t say I was a huge fan of these, nor can I say that I would be purchasing another box – but it was interesting to “step outside the box” in the nutrition bar realm.  My only suggestion would be if you do want to try these or any of the other flavors available … try to get your hands on a single bar instead of a whole box. It might save you a couple bucks if you end up disliking these.

A single bar is a serving and it’s 4 points plus values. Admittedly these are one of the lower point nutrition bars I have tried … but the taste isn’t quite up to par for me, so I’ll stick with my slightly higher in point nutrition bars.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Kellogg’s Special K Nourish bars?

Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Patties



I picked up a box of the Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Patties while at Walmart to have them for dinner (aka brinner).  I usually buy larger sausage patties to make sandwiches, but these looked good and I had heard good things about the Jimmy Dean turkey sausage line.

Cooking them up (well, really only heating them through and browning them a bit) was simple.  Taste wise they really reminded me of regular pork sausage patties. They had that “fatty” flavor that comes with pork sausage, but without all the fat and calories in typical pork sausage.  These weren’t greasy feeling nor did they make me have a stomachache (as some full-fat products sometimes do).  They also don’t have a real turkey flavor to them – they taste more like pork sausage, which is interesting.  Enjoying the sausage with eggs and toast really made a very filling meal.

A serving size is 2 sausages which calculate out to 3 points plus values or you can have 1 sausage patty for 1 points plus value.  Two thumbs up!

QUESTION:
What is your favorite sausage type & brand?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Cheese Puffs



I spotted these Reduced Fat Cheese Puffs near my local Trader Joe’s checkout aisle, which of course caught my attention.  I flipped over the bag, took a peek at the nutrition facts and dropped the bag into my cart.  I love cheese puffs (or crunchies) and the serving size was a wowing 35 puffs (1 oz)!

They taste like cheese puffs, although you can tell they are reduced fat – which is typical with “reduced fat” foods.  They’re not missing any flavor because they are undoubtedly cheesy, but you can typically tell there is a reduction of fat in certain foods (I sadly don’t have a better way of explaining that).  That fact doesn’t make these bad, they’re actually quite tasty.  I enjoyed them over the course of the week, my four year old niece liked them (so much she wanted to take the bag home with her – hah), and even my mother was enjoying them.  

A serving if cheese puffs is 4 points plus values. Well worth it for the sheer volume of cheese puffs you get in a serving size.

QUESTION:
Have you tried the reduced fat cheese puffs from Trader Joe’s?

Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Crisps



These delicious little Milk Chocolate Crisps are a chocolate I have been eyeing on numerous trips through Trader Joe’s.  I evidently was in a chocolate mood because they finally made their way into my shopping cart.  I will point out that I have seen a Walgreen’s version of this sold in their stores BUT I have not tried those, so I cannot vouch for those but I can vouch for these.

There were a few things that sold me on these particular chocolate crisps.  First and foremost they are shaped like potato chips. Secondly they are milk chocolate with crunchy bits in them. Third of all they have a 12 piece serving size.  To say these lived up to my expectations, isn’t saying enough. These delicious little treasures exceeded my expectations.  They were just phenomenal from the first bite. Smooth and creamy milk chocolate with little crunchy rice bits (which really reminded me of broken up potato chips).  In all honesty 6 pieces is more than enough to satisfy any sweet tooth because they can become very rich after a few crisps. They just hit a home run for my boyfriend and I.

For 12 pieces it calculates into 6 points plus values, which I felt wasn’t bad for the serving size.  The serving size can easily be cut in half for 3 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the crisps from Trader Joe’s and/or the Walgreen’s version of these?

Trader Joe’s Five Seed Almond Bars



I randomly spotted these Trader Joe’s Five Seed Almond Bars and was so glad I did.  I had been looking for some sort of an almond bar at Trader Joe’s, but always came up empty handed because I was looking down the snack aisle instead of the pre-packaged cookies over the freezer section (at least in my store).  Almond bars are one of my guilty pleasures – and I say guilty pleasures because the almond bars sold at my local Italian bakery are so sweet, small and higher in points.  There were two different types of almond bars – one in a covered bowl and these.  I’m glad I chose these because they were well worth the wait, the hunt and the points!

The almond bars are made of a blend of flax, poppy, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds which are combined with almonds.  The bar itself is softer and chewy (which is how I really like my almond bars!).  They actually are quite large for a serving, when in comparison to “regular” almond bars out at bakeries.  I feel these are probably one of the healthiest almond bars you can find and have because there’s so much good stuff in it.

Each bar is 110 calories – 3 points plus values.  Taste wise?  It reminds me of a hermit.  If you aren’t familiar, hermit cookies (or healthy hermits which are made with seeds and are equally delicious) are a molasses spiced cookie which has raisons in it.  They’re not as spiced as hermits, they’re toned down, but you can taste a bit of spice and sweetness in the background.  They’re simply delicious and a great snack.

QUESTION:
Have you tried these Five Seed Almond Bars?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Positive thinking brings positive results



One thing I learned early on into my weight loss journey as that as the old saying goes Positive thinking brings positive results!  As cliché as it might sound, it’s so very true.  The moment you can change your thinking, you can change your life. This saying has become such a staple in my life that I actually have a mini dry erase board behind my bedroom door with it written on it – so I see it daily as a gentle reminder.

At the beginning of my journey, the first 2-3 weeks were the hardest. It was a new routine; I had to be conscious of what I was eating.  Grocery shopping became a 1+ hour ordeal, instead of a quick dash and grab routine.  I actually had to give thought about what I wanted to eat, and then I had to figure out what the points were for those items that I wanted to eat.  It can seem a little overbearing and stressful but if you remember why you originally started this journey it makes all those things not so bad.

As I progressed in my journey, I found whenever I thought negatively (which was all the time – I was VERY negative) everything was harder. Nothing was easy, I’d get frustrated easily – but the one thing I can say is I never gave up.  The first 2-weeks were the hardest … declining temptations (like all you can eat cookies, cakes and snacks in the kitchenette at work), sticking with what I brought to work for lunch instead of ordering out on Friday (or in my pre-Weight Watchers day 2-3 times a work week), and eating portion sizes of foods instead of my normal “all you can eat” mentality.

After losing my first roughly 80 pounds, I felt more comfortable in my skin.  I had more energy and I felt comfortable enough to go to the gym.  I admit when I first walked into the gym to walk on the treadmill (I had been an active gym member years prior but as I packed on more weight I simply stopped going) I felt like everyone was looking at me thinking look at that one….  In reality, nobody was looking at me, but in my self conscious mind I turned my step into getting healthier into a negative experience.  It took me until my third trip to the gym to realize that no one was looking at me; everyone was too busy doing their own thing to care.  There was no WWE announcer announcing, “And here’s Shannon, 300 pounds, entered the gym, on her stalk to the treadmill. Let’s get ready to rummmbbbllleeeeee!!!!”

The gym is a common place – people go there to get healthy (whether that be lose weight, build muscle, train for an event, or attend a class they enjoy).  Once I changed my attitude towards the gym, it made going to the gym so much easier.  Eventually I got a bit bored with the treadmill and decided to step WAY out of my comfort zone and I went to my first zumba class.  I stood in the back mind you because I was the new kid in town and had no idea what I was doing. After dancing like a fool (I was legitimately born with two left dancing feet) I found I was really enjoying myself and I was sweating up a storm.  Even though I was very uncoordinated in the beginning and was off doing my own little versions of the steps, I learned I wasn’t concerned others were looking at me, because no one was. Sure there are mirrors on the walls, but no one can focus on the instructor bouncing around, focus on themselves bouncing around AND focus on me bouncing around.

In all reality, the instructor was the only one who paid me any attention.  They’re there to help you get a good workout but they also don’t want you to hurt yourself. I may have felt a little self conscious the first time the instructor came near me to show me the correct foot work (because it all starts at your feet), but she followed that up with a “great job” and I felt better about the experience.  The more I went to the classes, the more I picked up the routine and it eventually got to the point that I felt like a superstar and like I could help lead the class (in my mind – haha).  I taught myself, by training my brain, that the gym was a safe place and it was a place I didn’t have to be shy or make daunting.

I won’t say changing the way you think is a simple task, nor will I say it is something that you can change overnight.  It takes time, it takes work, but if you want it bad enough you’ll work towards that goal.  I find it was especially rewarding for me because once I began changing my attitude towards things and towards life, good things started happening.  The more my thoughts changed to a positive perspective, the happier I became (funny how that happens).

As my thinking began to change to a positive frame of mind, I began to pick up and recognize on the behavior of those around me. I quickly learned that if I was around someone who was genuinely negative I started to become negative.  Negativity is a vicious cycle, a leech, and it will latch onto anyone standing within arms reach.  Not liking the experiences I was becoming part of, I realized that perhaps it was best to remove myself from those situations.  That meant removing people from my life, distancing myself from certain people and remaining with those that were simply positive.  It is a difficult thing to do, but in the end, it had to be done.  At the end of the day, my happiness matters more than being around someone that brought me down.

Thinking positively isn’t always easy. It’s something that requires daily work because things happen. Stuff arises that we weren’t expecting and it may knock us upside the head and our immediate reaction may be a negative one. But the more positive I am, the easier it is to step back, take a breather and think “what can be thought positively about this situation?” Even in the darkest of situations, there is always some glimmer of positivity and if that glimmer is what’s focused on, things get bigger, better and above all easier.

Positivity has given me such a clearer and cleaner way of thinking. It’s provided me with endless possibilities. It’s allowed me to find happiness.  It’s allowed me to focus on me and filter out the toxicity I was surrounded by.  It’s given me encouragement during my weight loss journey because I’d look at how far I’ve come instead of throwing my hands in the air and saying “forget it” over something small.  It’s given me this ray of light from inside that makes me overall a happier person.  That in itself is rewarding because it truly shines on my face.

And without it … I would not be where I am today.

Trader Joe’s British Style Crumpets – Cinnamon

I’d heard about British Style Crumpets being sold at Trader Joe’s via a YouTube video, so that sent me into motion. I put crumpets on my shopping list and spotted them while at Trader Joe’s.  They had original (which I find are also sold at my local grocery store) and Cinnamon.  Figuring out the points plus values, I decided they were point friendly enough to come home with me – so home with me they came!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first tried them but surprisingly they are really good!  It reminded me of a total cross between an English muffin and a pancake. Now that I think of it, McDonald’s more than likely “developed” their McGriddle around the lines of a crumpet. The cinnamon flavor is very mild, it just kind of lingers in the background – it is no where a “BAM! Cinnamon” flavor.

I enjoyed them warm and slightly crisped out of the toaster, spritzed with spray butter.  I found they were yummy and simple in this manner. But the possibilities are quite endless.  Jelly, jam, peanut butter, cookie butter – even cutting them in half and using it as a breakfast sandwich bread.  If I recall they weren’t very expensive, under $3 a pack and yes, I will be repurchasing them because I did enjoy them.

These are also 3 points plus each.

QUESTION:
Have you ever had a crumpet? If so, how do you enjoy yours?

Zeppy’s Ciabatta Bread – Everything

My love for ciabatta bread began during my college days.  I’d order a grilled chicken sandwich on ciabatta with cheese, barbecue sauce, hot peppers, onion, lettuce and tomato.  Delicious!  Not so “healthy” (especially when eating it with the abundance of chips provided on the side of it) but it was one of my staples during college.

I spotted these Zeppy’s Ciabatta Artisan Breads in Everything flavor at my local grocery store.  I was surprised at how large they were, so I had to flip over the pack and check out the nutrition facts.  To my surprise a whole ciabatta was one serving.  They are thinner than regular ciabatta bread but these are delicious, plus they come in different flavors.  They remind me of a cross between a bagel, a flat bread and a ciabatta bread.  Quite unique and I prefer it toasted in the toaster oven.

Since I do like to see volume on my plate, these breads do really psych out your mind.  I felt as though I was getting this gigantic sandwich, when in reality my sandwich was 6-8 points plus values (including all toppings, etc.).  The breads on their own are 4 points plus values.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Zeppy’s brand products?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Easy Chinese at home w/ Trader Joe’s and InnovAsian



For moments where I’m in the mood for Chinese food I like to keep some items I’d normally order from my local Chinese restaurant on hand incase a random craving for dinner were to arise.  Many of my favorites at my local Chinese restaurant just simply are not worth the points plus values to me.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I do order out Chinese once in a while, but for the most part I’d rather make it at home – homemade or frozen.  This time around we went with frozen since I didn’t have any cold rice on hand to make homemade fried rice.
 
For this particular meal I used two Trader Joe’s items, an InnovAsian meal and a bag of frozen green beans.  Talk about clearing out some freezer space!  My whole plate was 12 points plus, which I feel was very justifiable for the assortment of food and the volume of food I had on my plate.  Yummy!

Trader Joe’s Lemongrass Chicken Stix. These are a crunchy, Thai spring roll.  Spring rolls (and egg rolls) are some of my favorite appetizers.  These lemongrass chicken stix are delicious – they’re about a finger length, crispy on the outside with a chicken filling that’s flavored with lemongrass.  They’re yummy, slightly lemony but not overwhelmingly lemony.  They were super easy to heat up – either in the microwave or in a deep fryer.  I opted for the oven and within 11 minutes they were ready to serve.  A serving is 2 for 3 points plus values.

Trader Joe’s Chicken Fried Rice.  This has to be one of the best frozen chicken fried rice dishes I have tried.  It’s flavorful, packed with veggies, chicken bits and egg bits.  You can heat it up in two ways – using olive oil to fry it (to get a crispier, crunchier exterior) or you can use water to cook it through. I went with the water method and found it was perfect. I don’t generally like harder fried rice, so this was perfect - nice, softer and fluffy.  A 1 cup serving is 5 points plus values.

InnovAsian Black Pepper Chicken. I admit the picture on the box looked far more appealing than the meal that it truly was, but it tasted up to par.  The box described it as a chicken breast chunks with green beans, red bell peppers, water chestnuts, onions and a savory black pepper sauce.  That is exactly what I got.  This also can be cooked in two ways – on a stove top or in a microwave.  I opted for the microwave option since it was quick and easy.  All I had to do was pour off some of the water that came from the food cooking in the microwave – whereas if I cooked it on the stovetop it would’ve evaporated.  A 1 cup serving is 4 points plus values.

All in all it was a great, filling meal.  Sometimes you just want something that taste good, but does not involve a lot of effort and/or thought.  This was a far better choice for me than say, going to Burger King.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of these frozen dishes?




Smart Ones Chicken Fajitas



I picked up the Smart Ones Chicken Fajitas when I spotted them at the grocery store in the freezer section.  I was intrigued because, even though I don’t eat a lot of Smart One meals, I do have a few favorites and I enjoy trying some of the new items the brand comes out with.  I love fajitas, so at purchase I felt this was a score all around.

The box describes the meal as grilled white chicken with seasoned peppers & onions with a side of rice and beans along with 2 tortillas.  The whole meal is only 7 points plus, which I also felt was quite a steal (particularly for a frozen dish).

I heated this up for a late lunch because I was absolutely starving.  But I felt as though this was simply … just food.  The meal was very bland and rather boring.  There was nearly not enough seasoning in any of it. The rice was bland, the chicken fajita was bland. If I was to ever eat this again, I would need to load it with some hot sauce or salsa – just something to give it flavor.  But with that … I probably will not repurchase this.  I do have the pork variety in the freezer to try out at some point.  But I’ll stick with my homemade fajitas that are less points and far more satisfying (filling and flavor wise).

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the new Smart One dishes out there?

Pure Protein Shake Frosty Chocolate

Recently, you may have seen me post about the Vanilla Cream Pure Protein Shake.

Well, while at the supermarket I was meandering through the aisles in the health food section and noticed they carried 4-pack screw top bottles of Pure Protein Shake so I picked up the Frosty Chocolate to try.  There was also a Cookies & Cream flavor, which I undoubtedly want to try next.  Although I have since spotted the brand at Walmart (as well a keg of pure protein powder).

There are days and instances where I just need to boost my protein intake.  I admit I don’t like to drink my points, but for a whole can which can give me 23 grams of protein for only 3 points plus values – I’ll take it.  Most protein powders/shakes/drinks are in the 5+ points value range particularly when they get into the higher levels of protein such as this (23g).  Occasionally on days where I’m not really hungry for good for breakfast, I’ll have a shake and it tides me over for a few hours until lunch time.

The Frosty Chocolate isn’t bad, but I think the vanilla is better.  This doesn’t have a solid aftertaste, but it does kind of remind me of a chalky chocolate – but it’s nothing disgusting.  I’ve drank two cans of these already and they just do the job.

QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Pure Protein Shakes?