Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Trader Joe's Very Green 100% Juice Smoothie

Since I've introduced myself to green juice a while ago and since  hadn't had any in a while I decided to have pick up a bottle. With that the Trader Joe's Very Green 100% Juice Smoothie leaped into my shopping cart. Admittedly, I had been looking at it for months and always passed on it.
One day my stomach wasn't feeling the most fabulous so I decided to pick up a bottle of green juice to have. I've heard from numerous people that some green juice when you're feeling under the weather or just not at your best can help perk you up. So, I gave into the theory.
The juice itself is more liquidy than thick (along the lines of Odwalla juice). It is sweet, which can be a little overwhelming on the taste buds (partly because it contains fruit juices in it and I am not a juice drinker) - so I find I have to drink it very slowly. Although I do admit I'd prefer this over some of the more bland, straight green juice/no fruit green juices. Regardless, it is refreshing and tasty so it's a nice drink to pick up to have once in a while - particularly for convenience.

An 8 ounce serving is 130 calories or 3 points plus values - or if you want to have the whole bottle it's 260 calories or 7 points plus values.

Trader Joe's Coconut Creamer

I'm a coffee lover ... but I don't like having my coffee filled with unnecessary calories. Years ago I cut back from being an extra cream, extra-extra sugar kind of girl to stopping coffee all together. After some time kicking the caffeine habit I went back to having coffee, but this time with skim milk and Splenda. Even today, I'm a stickler and don't really like "wasting" points/calories on drinks. Occasionally I'll allow myself a 1-point splurge for a large ice coffee with skim milk.
But since I'm always on the hunt for some lower point options for milk/cream in my coffee I was pretty excited when I spotted this Trader Joe's Coconut Creamer on the shelf. I've tried almond milks in my coffee in the past and I've found the unsweetened variety just didn't give a presentable appearance to my coffee. It made it a muddy brown color and you could see the almond 'specks' floating around/settling to the bottom of the cup ... and it just grossed me out. So when I saw this I was all sorts of excited. Reason being because creamers are known to be thicker in consistency (which means I could use less and get a better suited color to my coffee).
The creamer is moderately thick in consistency, white in color and creamy. Since it is coconut creamer, it does have a very faint coconut flavor to it, but it's not something you'll truly notice in your cup of joe (well, unless you're using a lot of it). Overall I have found I truly enjoy this and will undoubtedly repurchase.

A 1 tbsp serving is 5 calories or 0 points plus. You can have up to 4 tbsp for 0 points plus values.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Haul & Review: Weight Watchers ActiveLink 2.0

When the new Weight Watchers ActiveLink 2.0 was launched I was eager to get my hands on the device. I had the original ActiveLink for a long while and while I enjoyed it, I was eager to see the difference, especially since the 2.0 is a souped up edition of the device. I had been contemplating getting a FitBit since those are now compatable to the Weight Watchers activity monitoring software.
What sold me immediately was that during it's initial launch previous ActiveLink subscribers could get $20 off the top, making the monitor roughly $40. The cool thing for new members, an ActiveLink is included with your membership for a very short period of time in December.
What really sold me was the devices capabilities. Not only is it waterproof (as the last ActiveLink was) but you could wear it in a multiple of new ways - one being on the wrist (using an included wrist strap) or attached to the body. There are interchangeable rings to make the front of the ActiveLink the color of your choice. Another huge plus is that the ActiveLink 2.0 has Bluetooth which makes for super simple syncing to your smartphone to see where you are at activity wise for the day.  The monitor itself has extra lights which light up for every 10% of activity. This is perfect, especially for those folks who are visual and like to see where they're at. It also has the ability to monitor your sleeping habits to see how much of a restful sleep the wearer is getting.
The greatest capability is the ability to sync the device with a smartphone. I love being able to get notifications of when I hit my baseline, or when I reached my goal and being able to see exactly how much I've moved that day. It's a motivator to do a little more, especially if you've only got so many more percentage to hit before getting a bigger and better number. I wear my ActiveLink to bed and in the morning I can tell my ActiveLink when exactly I went to sleep and when I woke up and it'll graph out and movements during sleep. You can then give your sleep pattern your own personal rating (smiley face, neutral face or a frown).
The only downside is the battery power isn't nearly as great as it was in the first ActiveLink. Once the 2.0 is fully charged, I can get roughly 3-4 days out of it before it's in the "danger zone" and needs to be re-charged. On the flip side ... since it has a USB port, you can easily charge the device in your car (if you have the proper adapter), using a wall charger, or as intended on your personal computer. The device charges up to 100% battery life pretty quickly.
Another noticeable difference between the original ActiveLink and ActiveLink 2.0 is the size. The original ActiveLink was pretty bulky and was noticeable under clothing (particularly if you wore it on your bra under your clothing). The 2.0 is smaller in size, while being noticeable under clothing it's not as noticeable as its predecessor.
The 2.0 does light up when you hit base lines/goals so you will occasionally see green flashing lights from where ever you decide to wear it. I don't find it's incredibly noticeable to folks we interact with ... but since I do wear my ActiveLink attached to my bra, I do notice the lights out of my peripheral vision and have a mini panic attack thinking it's a bug/etc.
Overall I quite enjoy my new ActiveLink 2.0 and love it a lot more then the original!

OatFit Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal

I picked up a box of OatFit Cinnamon Roll Oatmeal at Target to have as an "emergency" food in my desk. You know, something to have just in case a breakfast option wasn't to work out and it would deter me from eating junk or whatever I could get my hands on. I'm not much of an instant oatmeal fan these days ... but for a convenience, once in a while food, I figured why not?
The one thing I liked immediately off the bat was the packages are elongated and once you pour the oatmeal out into a bowl, there's a "fill" line on the bag to measure water/milk in. This is great because I don't always bring my measuring cups with me, unless I've got a preplanned meal that I've got to measure out of knowingly. Cooked the oatmeal pairs well with fresh fruit (berries/banana) and is a satisfying meal.
The oatmeal is alright ... it's your average instant oatmeal. The flavor is good - very cinnamon roll but oddly, I find the oatmeal, once cooked comes out whitish in color. It's satisfying, but if you're more of a steel cut/whole oats person the consistency will be off. It's more along the mushy side of things. I'm not the biggest fan of that but it's doable when needed. Consistency doesn't mean it's a bad ... it all just boils down to personal preference.

A package of 100 calories or 3 points plus values (or you can have 2 packets, for 200 calories or 5 points plus values).

Monday, December 22, 2014

Trader Joe's 'Spearean Risotto

Looking for a new side dish to jazz things up, I picked up a package of Trader Joe's 'Spearean Risotto one afternoon while picking up a few groceries. I've had risotto once, many moons ago, and since I love asparagus I figured it was going to be a unique and different side to have alongside dinner one night. That was, in fact a good thought.
The bag lists the dish as a "creamy risotto with a generous amount of savory and crisp cut asparagus spears." The dish is frozen and easily heated up in a pan over an open flame (or in the microwave if you're going for simple). The risotto and asparagus are frozen, while the creamy "sauce" is frozen in chunks which melts as the dish heats through - creating a creamy risotto dish. The asparagus isn't all tops as they appear on the bag ... it's more like stems and an occasional asparagus tip. Honestly, I like asparagus so it didn't bum me out that it wasn't all tops.
The risotto is softer in texture, the "sauce" is buttery and creamy, while the asparagus remains firm and not overcooked. Overall it was an enjoyable dish. Not overly rich in flavor but satisfying. If it were overly buttery my stomach would have probably put up the white flag and I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. But overall, it got two thumbs up from me and I will repurchase.
A serving is 1 cup, which is 170 calories or 5 points plus values.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Skinnytaste Turkey Pastelon (Sweet Plantain Lasagna)

I live in a predominantly hispanic area so I've grown up incorporating spanish dishes into my palette since I was a kid. Prior to joining Weight Watchers I've had my share of pastelon, although to save time we'd make Canoas - which are stuffed sweet plantains. The plantains were peeled, cut down the middle, lightly fried, then placed into a casserole dish, topped with a ground beef mixture, topped with cheese and baked off in the oven for the plantain to cook through. The "lazy mans lasagna" of pastelon.
As an avid fan of the Skinnytaste website/cookbook I've had the Skinnytaste Turkey Pastelon (Sweet Plantain Lasagna) dish pinned and printed for quite some time. My boyfriend at the time wasn't a fan of cheese, so avoiding having to make two dishes for dinner I opted to just not make it. That is until I stumbled upon the recipe again and decided I was going to prep it for dinner one night.
Prepping the dish was quite simple. Although I find after assembling began that I should have sliced my bananas thinner to make for a "lasagna" effect but since they weren't thin enough I only had enough bananas to cover 2 layers worth instead of 3. That fact aside it didn't cut back on the taste or flavor.
I have to say this dish is absolutely delicious! It's flavorful, packed with delicious flavors, topped with a wonderful cheese and egg mixture which truly does help hold the dish together. It's filling, packed with protein and is satisfying enough to have alongside a side salad for dinner.  I shared the dish with my parents and they both equally enjoyed it - so it was undoubtedly a crowd pleaser and something I will be making again when the craving strikes!
If you'd like to make the dish yourself, you can find the recipe on the Skinnytaste website: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/09/turkey-pastelon-sweet-plantain-lasagna.html.
A serving is 282 calories or 7 points plus values.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Trader Joe's OH Almond Kringle

After a trip to Trader Joe's one afternoon I was hoping to pick up another pumpkin caramel kringle but to my surprise they were all sold out. But they did have the Trader Joe's OH Almond Kringle available ... so I decided to pick it up to give it a try. I mean, after all, I do tend to enjoy almond desserts.
The kringle was shaped exactly as the pumpkin caramel, in an oval shape which had a thin layer of icing over the top of the kringle. The dessert was that classic, flaky crust and the inside was smeared with an almond flavoring. It wasn't truly along the lines of a filling, but it looked like almond paste may have been included with the flaky layers and layered together. It was along the lines of a dense, packed consistency which had a little bit of moisture to it.
Flavor wise I wasn't truly that impressed. The pumpkin caramel kringle was phenomenal and I found the almond kringle to be overly sweet and rather lackluster. It wasn't "wowing" and it wasn't utterly delicious. I found it to be too sweet to truly enjoy.
Like they say, you win some ... lose some ... and this was a loss.

A serving, 1/12th of the dessert, is 190 calories or 5 points plus values.

Trader Joe's Harvest Bagels

Considering I'm a self-described carbivore I tend to check out the bagel section at Trader Joe's ... specifically the new seasonal flavors. I was all excited to find the new Trader Joe's Harvest Bagels so I grabbed a bag to give them a try.
The bagels are your classic multigrain bagels which is kicked up a notch by incorporating both cranberries and seeds. The seeds give it a bit of a crunch and the cranberries offer a nice subtle sweetness. They toast up perfectly, are delicious with just a little butter on them or even as a side to a breakfast dish. Since I'm into a savory sandwich with bagels I really enjoy them with a little deli polish ham, sliced tomato and crushed hot peppers. The slight sweetness from the bagel balances perfectly against salty ham and spicy hot peppers.

The bagels crisp up and offer good crunch while also having that classic chewy bagel texture. I quite honestly really enjoy these bagels and have repurchased them already. The downside these are a limited edition seasonal item.

A bagel is 230 calories or 6 points plus values.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin O's

With the Fall season, Trader Joe's 'unleashes' their pumpkin flavored goodies Some of which are so delicious they should truly be incorporated into their everyday items. One of these products is the Trader Joe's Pumpkin O's. When I first picked up the box I wasn't sure if it was going to be true slam dunk pumpkin flavor ... but these are everything one wold imagine.

For comparison purposes I'll say they are a pumpkin version of Honey Nut Cheerios. The cereal itself has a classic wheat cereal flavor, but it's not overwhelming. The pumpkin flavor is at the forefront and it's clearly evident you're having a pumpkin cereal. It's not a dish that's so lightly flavored you have to "search" for the main flavor. The cereal also has a light sugar coating to it which gives it only a hint of sweetness.
Overall I find this to be one of the best pumpkin breakfast items I have tried. Even those who have tried some have all agreed that it's quite delicious (and even more delicious than one would assume). The only downside is ... it's seasonal and once it's gone, it's gone (until next season).

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

Trader Joe's Mashed Potatoes

Whenever I'm at Trader Joe's I always scope out the store - see what's new, what's unique or what seems interesting. I love mashed potatoes (or potatoes in general) so when I spotted a bag of frozen Trader Joe's Mashed Potatoes in the freezer section I was intrigued. There aren't very many instant potato brands that I enjoy (outside of Idahoan packages) but I was intrigued by this. Fresh mashed potatoes that are frozen, convenient AND portion sized?
I had the package in my freezer for some time, not quite sure what I was going to do with them. I pulled them out the other day for a side with dinner and I have to say ... these potatoes are pretty amazing.  They come frozen, shaped in little round "coin" sized balls. You can cook as little or as many as you choose depending on how much you want as a serving.
I placed all the potato balls in the bottom of a non-stick pan, added in the water as directed and let it come together over medium-high heat. I was quite pleased with the end result. Smooth, creamy, mashed potatoes that involved little effort. No potatoes to peel, chop and boil.
The bag states you can flavor them up with chicken broth, butter, or the simple water method (which is what I chose). I seasoned them with a little sea salt and black pepper and they were good to go. Delicious paired alongside some meatloaf and mixed veggies. They were so good I picked up another bag on my latest trip to Trader Joe's to have on hand for days where I feel like mashed potatoes.
A serving, 8 pieces (4 ounces) is 90 calories or 2 points plus values.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Starkist Tuna Salad - Albacore

After I tried the Starkist Tuna Salad and was told they had an Albacore version - I went on the hunt. I finally found the Starkist Tuna Salad - Albacore one day in Wal-Mart so I picked up 2 packs. If I make a tuna sandwich - it's always with albacore so I figured this would be a good convenience food to have on hand at my desk at work.
One afternoon I was in the need of a protein boost, so I opened a package and put it over a very small garden salad. The tuna salad I found to be rather plain with no flavor. The plus side was that it has mayonnaise in it and was a solid white tuna fish. This can be jazzed up with a little sprinkle of salt and pepper ... and if you enjoy a little pizzazz with your tuna, a little crushed hot peppers or even banana pepper rings. I can't say it's one of my favorites but it's good to have on hand as a purely convenience food.

A pouch is 100 calories or 2 points plus values.

Weight Watchers Bacon Meatloaf

I picked up the Weight Watchers Comfort Food Cookbook at my meeting with the intention on making a few recipes from it. With fall (and now winter-like weather) upon us comfort foods are where it's at. I have a fan favorite meatloaf that I always tend to make but seeing a Bacon Meatloaf I knew I had to give it a try.
So one evening I whipped up a meatloaf for dinner and I have to say it was delicious! My sister-in-law even said that it was one of the best meatloaves she has ever had (she may have even said it's better than the one her mother made). I personally found it to be one of the better meatloaves I have had in a while. It was juicy, flavorful and an overall crowd pleaser. It was so good I reinvented it into mini meatloaves which came out fabulously.

The recipe itself takes a small amount of prep work but everything comes together quickly and effortlessly - and before you know it, dinner is on the table.
Weight Watchers Bacon Meatloaf
Serves 6. 7 Points Plus Values/serving. 2 slices per serving. 257 calories.

* 1 tbsp canola oil
* 3/4 lb white mushrooms, finely chopped
* 1 onion, finely minced
* 1 1/2 lbs ground lean beef (&% fat or less)
* 1/2 cup plain dried whole wheat bread crumbs
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1 large egg, beaten
* 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tsp salt
* 2 slices center cut bacon, cut lengthwise in half
1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Spray small roasting pan with nonstick spray
2. Heat oil in large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion, cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
3. Transfer mushroom mixture to large bowl; let cool slightly. Add beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and salt; mix until blended but not over-mixed.
4. Transfer meat loaf mixture to prepared pan; shape into a 4 x 8 inch loaf. Lay slices of bacon on top. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of load registers 160*F for well done, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into 12 slices.