Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rigatoni Cheese and Tomato (Macaroni Cheese and Tomatoes)

There are just some dishes that are too good to want to try to lighten up. One of those dishes is my grandmothers Rigatoni Cheese and Tomato.  This is a dish my grandmother made for years. My aunt makes it occasionally and my mother tends to make it every so often. As traditions pass on, I of course picked it up, but it’s something I’ll only consider making if family are coming over that enjoy it.

This dish is very different in comparison to regular ole macaroni and cheese dishes. Instead of cheddar this is made with good ole American cheese. The cheese is melted down and incorporated with canned peeled tomatoes that are crushed as they’re being added in.  It makes this delicious cheesey, tomatoey sauce that adheres to the pasta as it begins to cool.

This is not a pasta dish you eat while it’s pipping hot. You have to let this sit for about 20-30 minutes for the cheese to cool down a bit and it sticks to the pasta. If you try to eat it hot the cheese and tomato mixture makes a bit of a “soup” and it’s too runny to enjoy the way it should be enjoyed.

Serves 10. 9 Points Plus Values. ¾ cup serving
  • 1 pound Rigatoni pasta
  • 1 pound American cheese
  • 29 oz. canned Whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook your pasta to your liking. I recommend a step or two beyond al dente.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Begin to add in canned tomatoes, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands.

Keeping an eye on your cheese and tomato mixture, mix together gently to incorporate the two mixtures together and melt the cheese fully.  When the cheese mixture is fully melted and incorporated, turn off the flame.

Drain pasta and return back to the pan you cooked the pasta in.  Pour the cheese and tomato mixture over the pasta and stir to combine.

Allow the mixture to sit or 20-30 minutes before enjoying. This dish is best enjoyed warm as this way the cheese and tomatoes are able to adhere to the pasta more.

Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt NonFat Blueberry

Greek yogurt has undoubtedly become my one and only favorite type of yogurt. That sometimes is quite surprising to me because when I first introduced myself to greek yogurt I was not a fan. Not even by a long shot. But I decided to try a few different flavors and different brands and with that I began to find flavors and brands I preferred more.

So, in my quest to try the various Trader Joe yogurts, I picked up a container of Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt NonFat Blueberry and I am glad I did. It’s a moderately thick yogurt and it’s not tart, but rather flavorful. The blueberry flavor is prominent, moderately sweet and just a perfect snack/meal. I sometimes find getting a blueberry greek yogurt that isn’t mild in flavor and/or straight up tart can be difficult. Knowing that I enjoy this, makes me happy because it’s a back-up for another blueberry greek yogurt I tend to enjoy.

A container is 120 calories or 3 points plus values.

What is your favorite greek yogurt?

Facial Transformation

When people tell me they didn't even recognize me ... I now know why. I resemble the same person, or as I’ve been told “You look vaguely familiar…”

After seeing this side-by-side comparison, I can now see why some give me a triple take because they're not quite sure if I am who they think I may be!

The difference between the photos? 3-years.

The similarities between the photos? Same girl. Same type of car selfie ;).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

13-Bean Soup with Chicken Meatballs

13-bean soup is a soup that I’ve been making for over 2-years … but I primarily make it for myself in the fall/winter months because that’s when I enjoy soups/stews the most.  Every time I have made the soup, I change up the flavoring a bit and incorporate different meats into it (chicken sausage, chicken meatballs, diced ham) but this last batch of soup has been the best I have made.

The one thing about this soup is that after it’s put into containers in the refrigerator the bean tend to swell up further and retain the water, so I add additional water to the serving to thin it out as much as I’d like.  I find I enjoy it best the way I make it (by not soaking the beans overnight) because it allows my soup to be on the thicker side.  After the second day I tend to put the entire batch of soup back into a soup pot and add in some boiled Jamaican dumplings. It gives it a bit more body and just makes it feel a little homier.

Serves 17. 1 cup serving. 5 Points Plus Values.
  • 29 oz. Bob’s Red Mill 13-Bean Soup Mix
  • 1 pack Al Fresco Tomato & Basil Chicken Meatballs (16 meatballs), cut into smaller chunks
  • 20 cups water, plus additional when cooking
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 pound baby carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 packet Goya Sazon Seasoning
  • 3 packets Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate
  • 1 pod Knorr Homestyle Chicken Stock
  • 2 packets Swanson Beef Flavored Concentrate
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
Empty bag of beans into a bowl and rinse. Place beans into a big soup pot and cover with water, leaving about 2 inches of liquid above the beans. Place pot onto an open flame and bring to a rumbling boil then cook for 30 minutes.  When done strain the liquid from the beans using a colander.

Spray the bottom of soup pot with non-stick cooking spray. Add in onions, celery and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add beans and water to the pot, and then stir in chopped carrots. Add in salt and black pepper.

Cover and let the mixture gently boil together for roughly an hour. Stir the mixture occasionally, keeping an eye on the water as it will evaporate and the beans will soak up some of the water.  Add 1 cup of water at a time, as needed.

Sprinkle soup with sazon and ham concentrate, stir in. Add in 2 packets of Swanson beef concentrate and gently stir in the Knorr homestyle chicken stock (make sure it melts completely).

Gently incorporate the chopped up chicken meatballs and stir to combine. Cover and allow to gently boil for an additional hour, until beans are softened and no longer hard/crunchy.

If the soup liquid starts to get low, add in 1 cup of water at a time.

McDonald’s Holiday Pie

McDonald’s makes one of the best apple pies which has been a staple on their menu for as long as I can remember.  A number of years ago McDonald’s started offering limited edition pies depending on the season. I know that they had offered a S’Mores pie (which is gross), a pumpkin pie (which is fabulous), and Strawberry & Cream pie (which is alright, but nothing to write home about). But I had never known that they had offered a McDonald’s Holiday Pie up until a few weeks ago.

On the way home from running a few errands, I swung through McDonald’s and decided to pick up a holiday pie to give it a try. Incase you’re not familiar; the holiday pie is a vanilla custard pie which is held inside a flaky, crusty and then topped with a bit of sugar and rainbow sprinkles.  The pies are served warm as is the case in all McDonald’s dessert pies. It’s a holiday party in a little handheld pie … and upon the first bite it brings that party to your mouth.

It reminded me of a Boston Cream donut without the chocolate atop of it. If you go into it with an open mind, not expecting to taste an apple pie, it’s truly delicious.  Secondly, if you enjoy custard in any way, I think you’d find this to be a slam dunk.  My mother tried it and since she truly only likes the apple pie and typically is a fan of flan or coconut custard pie, she wasn’t a fan. But regardless … this was a slam dunk for me.

A pie is 270 calories or 7 points plus values.

What is your favorite pie at McDonald’s?

Archer Farms Chocolate Chip Crispy Cookie Chips

A while back when I had seen the Hannahmax Crunchy Cookie Chips seen here posted all over outlets like Instagram, etc., I initially couldn’t get my hands on them. But I was able to get my hands on the Archer Farms Chocolate Chip Crispy Cookie Chips which are available at Target.

I had these tucked away in my cabinet and finally pulled them out because I was on the hunt for something sweet. These are what an ideal cookie chip should be. They taste like your average chocolate chip cookie chip – not overly sweet, but just perfect. They’re your classic chocolate chip cookie just thinner, flatter and crunchy. There are chocolate chips spread out evenly in ever cookie and they’re really delicious. The one downside is I had a bad case of the “dropies” and kept dropping the bag of cookies on the floor and ended up with a bunch of cookies that were crumbled into not much of anything. But my loose gripping hands aside I (and the boyfriend) give these 2 thumbs up.

A serving, 3 cookies, is 120 calories or 3 points plus values.

Have you tried the Archer Farms Cookie Chips?

Swiss Miss Limited Edition Candy Cane Hot Cocoa

While making a quick run through the grocery store I noticed they had a display up for the new winter flavored Swiss Miss. I figured since it’s getting frigid cold out I’d get a box of Swiss Miss Limited Edition Candy Cane Hot Cocoa to try out.

My boyfriend is more of a mint flavored drink/dessert guy over me. I’m more of a peppermint hard candy girl. One night it was sooo cold I decided to boil a kettle of water and make myself a hot cocoa. Opening the package up, you wouldn’t quite be able to tell its peppermint (aside from the red and white striped marshmallows). After adding the water, I was awarded with a noticeable peppermint scent. The flavor is undoubtedly chocolate with a peppermint infused flavor in it. It’s definitely more peppermint than I’d say the marshmallows gave off. But nonetheless it tastes like Christmas.

An envelope packet is 90 calories or 2 points plus values.

What is your favorite Swiss Miss flavor?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog

Egg nog! One of those beverages that I love … but I find the calories/points associated with it not even worth it … so I don’t have it. When Thanksgiving/Christmas roll around I start eyeing the egg nog selections hoping someone will invent a delicious egg nog that’s calorie/points plus friendly. Last year I tried the Silk version and it’s tasty but it’s as thin as water. Egg nog is delicious because of its flavor, but also due to that recognizable thick and creamy texture.

While at Wal-Mart I noticed they carried Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog, so I checkd the nutrition facts label and stuck the bottle in my cart.  I’ve only tried Bolthouse Farms salad dressings, so I wasn’t entirely sure how the nog would be.  After cracking open the bottle as a late night treat, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was thicker in consistency. Very egg nog-like which was appreciated well before I even took a sip.  After I did take a drink I was sold … this is hands down the best lighter alternative to egg nog that I have had. It’s thicker, it’s creamy, it’s nutmeggy, it’s vanillay … and it’s just a party in a glass.  I’m truthfully quite floored as to how good this is so once I finish the bottle I purchased, I will gladly purchase another.

A 4 ounce serving (1/2 cup) is 80 calories or 2 points plus values.

Have you ever tried a Bolthouse Farms limited edition beverage?

Quick & Easy Jamaican Rice and Beans

This is my quick and easy way to make Jamaican Rice and Beans. Typically when making rice and beans, I’d soak dry red kidney beans in water overnight, then boil them the next morning and when done incorporate my rice, onion, coconut milk, seasoning, and water (that the beans were boiled in) together to cook together until the rice was done. Although … somebody (*raises hand*) forgot to soak the beans so authentic rice and beans was out of the question. So I opted to go with the quick and easy method … using my rice cooker.

It’s quite simple and delicious. I admit something about boiling it all together on the stove gives it that much more pizzazz but this is good and if no one saw it coming out of a rice pot, they truthfully wouldn’t know.

Serves 9.  9 Points Plus Values. 1 cup serving. OR Serves 18. 5 Points Plus. 1/2 cup serving.
  • 4 cups uncooked white rice (I use Goya Golden Canilla Parboiled Rice)
  • 15 oz canned Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz canned Light Coconut Milk
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 6 ¼ cups water (since you are using the light coconut milk, you need to cut back on the water because you have 1 ¾ cup of light coconut milk – in total you want 8 cups of liquid as it’s normally 2 cups water per 1 cup rice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 pieces of Thyme (optional)
Add rice, beans, coconut milk, water, onion, salt, pepper and thyme (if using) to rice pot.

Set rice pot on to cook, “set it and forget it.”

Your dish will be done when the rice pot is finished cooking. Make sure to remove the sprigs of thyme before serving.

Serve up with one of your favorite dishes (I recommend curry cabbage, curry chicken stewed chicken or jerk pork/chicken).

Joseph’s Falafel Veggie Patties

I’ve mentioned this numerous times but I am a big fan of Mediterranean/Lebanese foods. They’ve always been foods that I ate growing up because I live in an area where there are a few Lebanese bakeries and restaurants, plus my uncle is Lebanese and will make dishes and share with the whole family. I’ve seen these Joseph’s Falafel Veggie Patties at the grocery store a few times, but always waited to purchase because I already had a plan as to what I was eating that week.  Well, this week I knew I had hummus I wanted to have so I decided to give these a try.

If you’re not familiar with falafel it’s a vegetarian dish made of chick peas or fava beans which are blended and incorporated with spices, and typically deep fried.

The Joseph’s falafel is absolutely delicious and in a way reminds me of vegetarian kibbe. It’s very flavorful, filling and a perfect addition to salad alongside some hummus and even pita bread. It’s been my lunch of choice for the past few days. Outside of homemade falafel this is one of the best premade falafels I have had.

A 2 patty serving is 120 calories or 3 points plus values.

Have you ever had falafel?

Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Hummus

There was a time where I only ate original hummus or I’d take “a walk on the wild side” and eat roasted red pepper hummus. A few years ago I began to branch out and try other flavors and thanks to Trader Joe’s, I’ve branched out even further and have tried flavors I never anticipated. Now I’ve had garlic hummus in the past and I realize each brand has different flavor categories. So I decided to pick up the Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Hummus and I am glad I did.

Trader Joe’s hummus is unlike any hummus I’ve had before. The hummus is very light in texture, but it’s delicious and flavorful. It’s creamy in texture and goes well with pita chips, on sandwiches or even incorporated into salads. This isn’t as “fluffy” as some of the other hummus varieties available, but this is quite satisfying and the garlic flavor isn’t overwhelming. Basically … after eating it your breath won’t ward off vampires. This flavor is undoubtedly one of my top three favorite flavors from Trader Joe’s.

A 2 tbsp serving is 60 calories or 1 points plus values.

Are you a fan of hummus?

Jennie-O All White Meat Turkey Burgers

Everyone always says turkey burgers are plain and dry. But I’ve learned over the years that they CAN be plain and dry if you over cook them and if you don’t season them properly. After trying the Trader Joe’s turkey patties, my opinion on frozen turkey burgers was totally transformed. So while at Target, I decided to pick up a box of Jennie-O All White Meat Turkey Burgers. There were a few options, but the white meat sounded more appetizing to me, particularly because I’m a white meat type of girl.

What I liked off the bat was when I opened the box, the burgers are individually wrapped! I love that because so many times when I purchase premade patties they’re all wrapped together in plastic wrap and separated with wax paper. That can be frustrating especially when I’m only planning on making a few burgers.

I heated up my nonstick skillet and put the patties into the pan – which were more than halfway frozen.  As the patties cooked I sprinkled a small helping of hamburger seasoning over one side.  I found they cooked evenly and resembled any other chicken/turkey burger I’ve cooked in the past.  When done I served it on a sandwich thin with lettuce, tomato and onion. I found them to be quite perfect, very filling, and delicious. I found one turkey burger with a 3 ounce helping of French fries was more than enough.  So much more satisfying than anything I’d get out at a fast food restaurant.

A burger (1/3 pound) is 200 calories or 5 points plus values. Completely worth it.

Have you tried any of the Jennie-O turkey burgers?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Limited Edition Gingerbread Oreos

A few weeks back I noticed in the Wal-Mart ad they had Limited Edition Gingerbread Oreos advertised. Gingerbread is one of those Christmas/winter flavors for me. Gingerbread cookies and muffins have always been a favorite of mine … so that just meant I had to give these Oreos a go.

After two attempts at picking these up I finally located them and of course, purchased them. I will admit, I love the original Oreo’s but with those I find a serving size (2 cookies) is simply not enough … so I do not buy them. But for some reason with flavored Oreo’s or any Oreo outside of the original, 1 or 2 cookies is enough and I don’t go back for more.  These cookies fall into that 1 or 2 cookies is enough and I’m satisfied, so that’s a win-win.

Flavor wise the cookies are absolutely delicious. I shared them with my boyfriend and my mother and both agreed they are fabulous.  They’re your classic crunchy cookie, a sweet frosting, and a perfect gingerbread flavoring.  I find them to be a delicious and different treat.  The only downside is they are limited edition.

A serving, 2 cookies, is 150 calories or 4 points plus values.

What is your favorite limited edition Oreo?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jamaican Boiled Dumplings

Dumplings come in many different forms … but the only form I enjoy them in, is this one. Jamaican Boiled Dumplings are made from very simple ingredients, but the trick behind Jamaican dumplings is kneading the dough. The dough has to be kneaded, by hand, until the dough is hard and firm. Once kneaded, the dumplings are boiled in salted water and eaten with either butter, stewed cabbage, stewed meats or they can even be incorporated into soups/stews.

I realize there’s no “real” nutritional value to them, but being a quarter Jamaican having an authentic dish is something I enjoy every once in a while.  I find soups/stews are far more enjoyable with dumplings in them because it gives the soups a new texture and it jazzes it up a bit. I love them … and I haven’t found a person who has had Jamaican dumplings that hasn’t enjoyed them.

Serves 8. 4 Points Plus Values.
  • 3 cups flour (white)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ¾ cups water
In a large bowl mix together flour and salt.

Begin to slowly incorporate the water, about1/4 cup at first and as you add more water 2 tbsp at a time.

Using your hands knead together the flour and water mixture. As it starts to form but look “frayed” (meaning the dough is combining, but it’s not nicely formed) use your hands and knead the dough. Press it into each other with your knuckles and the pad of your hand. Don’t be afraid to “overwork” the dough because you want it to be tough, so get as rough as you want with the kneading.

When the dough is formed into a hardened ball, begin to tear off smaller pieces and roll into logs or form into small balls that you use your thumb to flatten out a bit.  Once all your dough is formed, drop the dough into boiling salted water.

Cook until the dumplings begin to float (roughly 10-15 minutes).

Jamaican Stewed Curry Cabbage

Jamaican Stewed Curry Cabbage has always been one of my longtime favorite side dishes. Growing up this was a side dish my parents would make occasionally (depending on what exactly we were having) when having Jamaican food for Sunday dinner. It’s delicious, it’s flavorful, and it’s truly simple to make.

My mother would sneak an entire stick of margarine into the bottom of the pan before adding in the cabbage, but I think that’s just an obscene amount, so I’ve recreated this recipe numerous times using only 2 tablespoons of light butter. Since you’re not going after a buttery flavor, it helps stew the cabbage down, but the curry and vegetables truly are what you want to shine through.

This is served best alongside either: rice, rice and beans, or Jamaican dumplings and of course some sort of protein.

I do want to note Jamaican curry powder will stain your hands, your clothes and your bowls. Do not get it on your clothing, or you will have a mustardy colored stain on you garment forever. When storing in the refrigerator, your bowl of choice will develop a yellow hue. I just wanted to note this because whenever serving the dish to someone who hasn’t had it, I give them the “fair warning.”

Please note, Jamaican curry powder is very different from other curry powders on the market. Do not get the spicy; it’ll be very, very hot. Traditional curry is reasonably spicy, but it’s not overwhelming. If you switch the curry recommended out with another, I can’t advise as to how your dish will turn out.

Serves 7. 2 Points Plus Values. Roughly ~2/3 cup serving.
  • 2 lb head of cabbage, sliced (core removed)
  • 4 carrots, shredded (with potato peeler)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp Smart Balance Light Butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp Oregano
  • 4 tbsp Jamaican curry powder (I recommend a container of Grace Curry powder, seen here)
  • 2 tbsp Jamaican meat seasoning (I recommend a container of Grace Chicken Seasoning – seen here)
  • 1 cup water, divided

In a large pot, with matching lid, add 2 tablespoons of light butter to the bottom of the pan. Layer in sliced cabbage, onion and carrots.

Place pot over medium heat and add in about ¼ cup of water.  Allow the mixture start to cook down, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

You want to have a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan to keep it from burning/sticking, so as the water evaporates add in ¼ cup of water.

Sprinkle vegetable mixture with garlic, oregano, meat seasoning and curry powder. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on medium low. Stirring occasionally – adding in water as needed.

Dish is done when cabbage is stewed down and softened (roughly 20-25 minutes).

Twix Gingerbread

Around the holidays, I like scoping out the new and interesting flavors companies come out with.  Needless to say when I spotted Twix Gingerbread at Wal-Mart, they found a temporary home in my shopping cart.  Since these are “fun size” they’d be perfect in the candy dish in the living room, so they’d inevitably be eaten, especially during the holidays.

The other night I was in the mood for a little sweet, so I cracked open the bag. Peeling it, it looks like your plain ole Twix.  After the first bite, I wasn’t impressed – my initial reaction was “Gingerbread? There’s no gingerbread!” But after the second bite I found the gingerbread flavor … and I found it to be strange. Twix are chocolate, cookie and your classic caramel, so having a gingerbread flavor in it, takes it to a whole new level. I admit I’ve had gingerbread cookies, muffins, etc., but I’ve never had gingerbread meet chocolate or caramel.  These aren’t gross, but I feel they’re “meh”. Nothing to truly write home about… or run out to buy, but if you enjoy gingerbread and chocolate you may truly enjoy these.

A serving is a cookie bar, which is 80 calories or 2 points plus. If you can’t stop yourself at one, you can have 2 for 160 calories or 5 points plus values.

Have you tried any of the Twix Gingerbread candies?

Trader Joe’s Creamy Corn & Roasted Pepper Soup

When I spotted the Trader Joe’s Creamy Corn & Roasted Pepper Soup I was intrigued. I admit, I’m not the hugest fan of the idea of boxed soup … but I love corn and I especially love corn chowder, so I felt this could be reminiscent of something. More than likely a tip of the hat to my love of corn more than anything else.

I measured out my serving and heated it in the microwave. When it was done, I let it cool for a few minutes before digging in.  I have to say … I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this soup. It’s creamy, which is expected and it tastes mildly like corn, but also tastes like tomato soup, and has a bit of background spice to it.  I found 1 cup is simply too much at once, ¼ to ½ cup is more than enough for my palette at least. Not bad, but not entirely my cup of tea

A 1 cup serving is 110 calories, or 3 points plus values.

What is your favorite premade soup?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dinner: Broccoli & Carrot Alfredo w/ Chicken Cutlet

This is a quick and easy dinner I whipped up the other night. I knew pasta was on the dinner menu, but I had no real other inclination as to what to do with it … until I saw a jar of Ragu Light Alfredo sauce. Alfredo pasta it shall be!

This was a rather quick, easy and filling meal I was able to whip up in less than 20 minutes.  I had some Tyson Lightly Breaded Chicken Strips that I popped into the oven to crisp up while I set a pot of water on to boil. I was boiling up some Al Dente Carba-Nada pasta for myself.  I popped a bag of fresh broccoli and carrots into the microwave and let them steam.  When the pasta was done, I drained it, added in some black pepper, tossed in the broccoli and carrots, then added in some Ragu Light Alfredo sauce. I actually made 2 servings, one serving for diner and another to have for lunch the following day.

Since pasta, without a protein is something I don’t eat; I weighed out 3 ounces of chicken and served that alongside my pasta dish.  It was delicious, filling and a perfectly different meal.  The entire plate was only 10 points plus values.

Do you like alfredo pasta?

Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Thin Sandwich Rolls

While picking up some groceries at the store I spotted a new sandwich thin from Joseph’s. I’ve been a big fan of the Joseph’s Flax line (pitas, tortillas) so when I spotted the Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Thin Sandwich Rolls I checked the nutrition facts and set the package into my grocery cart.

Immediately the thin sandwich rolls reminded me of the Trader Joe’s Multigrain Slims.  They’re around the same nutrition information, while they’re the same points plus values.  If you haven’t had either, this would be similar to the Arnold’s sandwich thins, but the Joseph’s feel a little lighter.  The bread itself is filing and holds up pretty well when toasted.  Side note – I really feel I prefer these over the Trader Joe’s multigrain slims!

If you live in an area where Market Basket is your local grocer – I just want to note that Joseph’s breads are on sale 50% off until the end of December.  

Each roll is 90 calories or 2 points plus values.

Have you tried the Joseph thin sandwich rolls?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Barilla Traditional Pasta Sauce

Jarred pasta sauce is one of those food items I like to keep in my pantry. I’m a huge fan of homemade sauce … but I admit, sometimes homemade sauce is not something I have the time to make, especially when we need to put dinner together in a pinch. Searching for pasta sauces is an interesting thing because I’m one of those people that stands there, looking at all the labels, comparing and calculating. So, typically when I find something that’s “point friendly” I try it, and if it tastes good … I just gravitate towards that and buy it.

A few weeks back Barilla pasta sauce was on sale, so I decided to pick up a jar. I was surprised when I turned the jar around and checked the nutrition facts. It was surprisingly low, especially for a name brand sauce that wasn’t advertised as a “healthy alternative”.  Due to the sale my store only had the Barilla Traditional Pasta Sauce available (the others were sold out) so I grabbed a few jars.

We opened a jar last night for dinner because my boyfriend doesn’t like alfredo and I have to say, this sauce is VERY good! It’s moderately thick, flavorful and a great addition to pasta. Sometimes I find with “traditional” flavored sauces they can be a little bland – but I found this one to be perfect. My boyfriend really enjoyed it and this will become a staple purchase for me and my family.

A ½ cup serving is 70 calories or 1 points plus value.

What is one of your favorite jarred sauces?

Garden Lites Pizza Souffle

After deciding to give the Garden Lites brand a second shot, I’ve been intrigued by some of the “newer” flavors, so I’ve been giving those a shot. One of the flavors on my list has been the Garden Lites Pizza Souffle and I was glad to find it at a local super Target.  I had it in the freezer for a couple weeks and decided to finally give it a whirl.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods and I’ll be honest when I say I was a little apprehensive. Pizza … soufflé … how exactly is this going to taste? The box describes the dish as “a savory veggie soufflé topped with our delicious pizza sauce & herbed mozzarella cheese.”

When it was done cooking in the microwave, I let it rest for a few minutes before taking the first bite and I have to say, this is DELICIOUS! The bottom part of the soufflé is a little wetter, but it’s not soggy, nor does it make it gross.  The sauce is so vibrantly flavorful that it really brings the dish to a whole new level. The cheese is like the icing on cake, where it really brings it all together. Out of all the Garden Lites I’ve recently tried (pumpkin spice & veggie chili and cornbread) this has to be my favorite.  The only downside … they’re not available at any location that’s a hop/skip away.

A serving (the whole 7 ounce container) is 200 calories or 5 points plus values. It’s delicious and relatively filling and could be suitable for a lunch alongside with a side salad.

Have you tried any of the Garden Lites products? If so, what’s one you’d recommend trying?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lay's Wavy Original Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate

Milk chocolate potato chips … truly the ideal best sinful desserts known to man … or at least, known to me. That sweet/salty combination is truthfully a taste I enjoy, especially when I want something crunchy, or even when I’m in the mood for something sweet. Killing two birds with one stone is sometimes the way to go.  But there are times when killing said bird can rack up a little more calories/points than rather “necessary”. With that thought in mind in walks … Lay's Wavy Original Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate.

I’m not sure if these are limited edition or if these are a permanent addition to the Lays line.  The chips themselves are your classic wavy potato chips which are dipped in chocolate, primarily on one side. The one side of chocolate truly gives your taste buds that salty and sweet taste. The chocolate makes the chips “heavier” than regular potato chips, which I feel is expected. They’re delicious and sweet, so a serving is truly enough.

A 1 ounce serving (roughly 4 covered chips) is 160 calories or 4 points plus values.  Sure, this may seem like a lot for the amount you get but I figure if I were to eat a candy bar with a bag of chips (even single serve) I’d be spending a lot more calories and points.  So this was well worth it to me.

BTW I have only seen these for sale at Target locations.  Again, I’m not sure if this is a limited edition or even Target specific product.

Have you tried the Lays Wavy Chocolate Covered Potato Chips?

Pan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

A few weeks ago I was watching YouTube videos, catching up on some videos in my subscription box when I refreshed the page and decided to watch a new video by Laura Vitale. In case you don’t know who she is, she has a cooking channel on YouTube – where she also has a blog where all of her videos and corresponding recipes are posted.  I’ve been an avid watcher of Laura’s videos for a while and have wanted to try a few recipes but honestly haven’t gotten around to it.

But it just happened that I watched her roasted sweet potato video and a light bulb went off in my head. I had sweet potatoes on the counter that I had been meaning to use and since I had bacon in the fridge and we were planning on bacon for dinner. We’ve got a winner-winner chicken dinner!

I watched the video and maneuvered downstairs to the kitchen before I even checked her website. I followed the general gist of the recipe, but catered it to my tastes to make it “point friendly”. The end result was a completely delicious side dish and my boyfriend was a big fan … which I found to be surprising because he’s not a potato kind of guy.

Serves 4. 4 Points Plus Values.
* 2 slices Trader Joe's Center Cut Bacon (or reduced fat bacon)
* 1 tbsp minced garlic
* 1 pound & 3 oz. uncooked, peeled sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
* 1 1/4 tsp olive oil
* Salt & Pepper, to taste

After potatoes are cut into chunks, layer onto a microwave safe dish all in one layer and microwave for 3-4 minutes.

In a large non-stick skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and chop up, but do not discard residual bacon grease.

Add olive oil to bacon grease and add in microwaved potatoes. Make sure potatoes are all layered into the bottom of the pan and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes. Turn to continue cooking on the other side for an additional 5-6 minutes or until potatoes are cooked throughout.

Season potatoes with salt and pepper. Return chopped up bacon to the pan and toss -- then serve.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gevalia Mocha Latte

I received a sample of the new Gevalia Mocha Latte k-cup “foam at home” drink.  I was intrigued by these because I am a fan of lattes, coffee and milk chocolate and this just seemed so interesting. The lattes are sold with k-cups and foam packets, so you add the foam packet to your coffee mug, put the k-cup in and brew.

The lattes are sold in three flavors: mocha latte (a creamy blend of cocoa and coffee topped with a velvety layer of froth), caramel macchiato (creamy and smooth with the indulgent flavor of caramel, made from real milk) and cappuccino (smooth, mildly sweet, with subtle roasted notes, made from real milk).

The mocha latte is truly as described – a delicious blend of coffee and cocoa. It tastes as if you brewed a cup of coffee and put half a packet of hot chocolate into it. It’s smooth, mildly sweet and a decadent late night treat or even early morning wake-me-up. I did not add any extra milk or sugar into my cup as I found it to be perfect. What I will note is that it was making this really strange crackling sound as the coffee was drizzling into the foam. Initially I thought some sort of glass was cracking in my kitchen until I realized it was coming from the cup that was brewing.  After a few stirs once my keurig was done brewing, the crackling sufficed once the powder mixture was fully incorporated. I enjoyed this quite a bit and will be picking up a box next time I spot it in stores.

Each cup is 80 calories or 2 points plus values.

Have you tried any of the Gevalia foaming drinks?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spiced Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins

Last week I whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Walnut Muffins and they were such a hit they were gone in a couple days.  So being in the baking mood I decided to make a similar batch but using spice cake mix.  Spice cake is one of my favorite types of homemade cakes, but since I don’t always get to have it homemade, boxed is second best.  I used a very similar recipe to what I did with the pumpkin muffins, although with this batch I increased the amounts of some ingredients.

These came out perfect – they’re moist, delicious, and again another crowd pleaser. These were even given the stamp of approval from my 4 year old niece. I’d call that a success in my book.

4 Points Plus. Serves 16.
  • 1 box Betty Cocker Super Moist Spice Cake Mix
  • 15 oz can Libby’s Pure Pumpkin
  • 3 tbsp egg whites
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)
  • 3 tbsp chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers, each paper spritzed with non-stick cooking/baking spray.

In a large bowl mix together cake mix, pumpkin, egg whites, baking soda and water until blended and smooth.

Evenly distribute batter to each cupcake paper. I found large heaping tablespoons helped distribute the batter evenly, with the remainder being distributed throughout the cups.

In a small bowl mix together chocolate chips and walnuts, then evenly sprinkle over the top of each muffin. I used a ½ teaspoon to distribute.

Bake per box directions.  Cupcakes are done when a knife is inserted and comes out clean – roughly 15-18 minutes.

Haul: She Believed She Could So She Did Necklace

One quote I have truly fallen in love with while partaking in my lifestyle change journey is “She believed she could, so she did.” It truly solidifies everything in such a poetic, simple and beautiful statement. I always tell folks, regardless of what they’re trying to accomplish in life, that if you believe in yourself anything is possible.

I’ve wanted some sort of jewelry piece with this statement on it but had not truly found one that I liked. I’ve seen silver bangle type bracelets, but since I’m not a silver jewelry wearer it wasn’t something I was interested in.  I posted the quote on Instagram saying I wanted a jewelry piece and a few ladies told me to heck out Etsy. I truthfully had never purchased from Etsy before so after doing some scouring of the website I stumbled upon a beautiful necklace.  It’s not in the gold that I had hoped for, but it’s in antique bronze which fine with me.

If you’re interested in getting yourself a necklace, they come in antique bronze and silver. The seller I purchased from is Rosie’s Pendants on Etsy.  I placed my order and received my necklace less than a week later (ships from California).