Monday, March 31, 2014

Two Sauce (Alfredo & Red) Meat Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those dishes my mother would make every once in a while throughout my childhood and even into my adulthood.  Like most folks, my mom’s lasagna in my opinion is one of the best lasagnas in the history of lasagna.  I’ve made her recipe in the past, but hadn’t recreated it since I’ve been a Weight Watcher. A little over a month ago, I tried a small piece of lasagna my aunt had made and I was instantly hooked. It was a lasagna she had made by mixing together alfredo and spaghetti sauce while also incorporating her own different ingredients. I decided to use the general gist of mixing alfredo and spaghetti sauce together, but overall followed the general idea behind my moms lasagna … except I used no-boil noodles (which my mother has never used).
This lasagna recipe is no word of a lie – out of this world delicious! I shared the recipe with my mother, my 4-yr old niece, my mom’s friend and her husband … and the general consensus across the board was it was delicious. My niece save me a “2-thumbs up” which is a lot coming from a somewhat picky 4-year old. My mother mentioned the lasagna was SO delicious (which is a big compliment since she’s not the fondest of some of the healthier dishes I whip up).

I had a piece for dinner for a few days and individually wrapped up leftover pieces in saran wrap and tucked them away in the freezer. The lasagna freezes quite well … all that’s required is allowing it to defrost fully in the refrigerator before heating through in the microwave.

Serves 12. 11 points plus / serving
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup diced green pepper
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, strained
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 box No Boil Lasagna Noodles (I used the ridged edge Market Basket noodles – box contained 6 servings)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 jar Ragu Light Parmesan Alfredo
  • 1 jar (26 oz) Barilla Traditional sauce
  • 2 cups par-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 32 oz Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese (I used Sorrento)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (I used Cento)
  • 1 ½ cups water
 Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a non-stick chef’s pan add onions, green peppers, garlic and ground beef. Cook over a medium-high flame until meat is cooked through.

Once meat is cooked through, add in drained diced tomatoes, Barilla spaghetti sauce, Ragu Alfredo sauce, 1 ½ cups of water (add half of the water to eat jar and shake up to get any residual sauce out of the jars). Stir to combine mixture together then season with salt, 1 tsp black pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and 2 tbsp of tomato paste. Mix mixture together until the tomato paste is melted into the sauce then turn off flame and set aside.
In a medium-large bowl, blend together ricotta cheese, ½ tsp black pepper, breadcrumbs, and 1 ¼ cups shredded mozzarella. Smooth mixture together until well combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer 1 to 1 ½ cups of sauce in the bottom of your non-stick cooking sprayed pan. Layer in 4 lasagna noodles to cover the bottom of the pan. Gently smooth 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the noodles, holding the noodles in place as best as you can.  Top the cheese with ½ cup of sauce.

Repeat the noodle, cheese, sauce layers 2 more times (3 cheese/sauce layers in total). Top the last layer of cheese/sauce with the remaining lasagna noodles. Top with the top lasagna noodle layer with the remainder of the meat sauce.

Top the sauce with the remaining ¾ cup of shredded mozzarella.

Cover the pan with 2 layers of tinfoil and place the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

When done, remove the lasagna from the oven and allow to rest on the stovetop 5-15 minutes before cutting into and serving.

Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps – Mini Cheddar

While shopping around The Christmas Tree Shop I spotted a bag of pretzels I have literally been on the hunt for! I know the regular sized pretzels are sold at my local grocery store, but I wanted the minis … and the minis I got!  So, in walked the Snack Factory Pretzel Chips Mini Cheddar.

The pretzels remind me of the Weight Watchers mini pretzel chips in size and bold flavoring. Athough even though these are coated in a cheddar flavoring, I find the natural boldness of the pretzel makes the cheddar flavor not as bold as I’d like it to be.    The fact that the pretzels are mini make the serving size look a lot larger than the regular sized pretzels … which actually make them more enjoyable. The illusion of getting more pretzels as a snack makes a snack more enjoyable. All in all they’re not a bad snack.

A serving is 28 grams (roughly 35 crackers) which is 110 calories or 3 points plus values.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Removing myself from the dreaded Comfort Zone

Over the course of the last year I’ve allowed myself to get somewhat comfortable in my weight loss journey. It’s certainly not that I’ve given up … but I’ve allowed myself to get comfortable. The downside to being in ones comfort zone is nothing really happens there. You sort of float around, maintaining … which isn’t a bad thing, but at this point in my life and journey I need to push myself to be uncomfortable.

In April of last year, I had surgery. It was deemed to be a routine procedure where the recovery period was to be 6-weeks.  Unfortunately, due to complications, it turned out to be a 6-month recovery. During that time I was advised by my physician to not do any activity. Nothing, nada, zilch. It was a very long 6-months which involved weekly trips to a physical therapists office to try to help myself get better. A lot of frustration – both emotionally and physically and to this day I’m still dealing with a few issues from the procedure.

I’ve been so used to tracking and planning my meals so when I was advised after surgery to eat protein to speed up the healing process, I was like “Alright…”. Truthfully, in my mind, I was like “Okay … I can eat protein and track it.” But during that time I was told to not follow any weight-loss program… so I followed doctors orders for the first 4-weeks and didn’t track but ate mindfully (and maybe subconsciously tracked points in my head just to feel a sense of accountability and not like it was a free-for-all). During that first 6-week period zero activity was fine for me because I had a hard enough time walking a short distance. I suffered an unrelated shoulder injury during surgery and it affected my posture, my ability to move, etc. I had abdominal surgery which also added onto my pain and also added onto some of the complications I suffered.

Fast forward to 6-months post-recovery and I was advised that I could begin activity, in small doses, and do what felt right. I was also advised to not lift anything over 20-pounds for 3-months.

I’ve had my ups and my downs over the last year … but for the most part I have been maintaining. I’m proud of myself for being able to maintain for that length of time, particularly after all the emotional and physical jolts I’ve been through. But now that it’s about a year later … it’s time to put my “big girl panties on” and keep it moving.
It’s time to make myself uncomfortable because nothing “life changing” begins in my comfort zone.

My goal weight is within sight, but I don’t want to focus on the number. Focusing on how much I have to lose and how close I am sometimes scares me. As with anyone who’s lost weight we sometimes panic when we’re nearing the end of our weight loss journey and I personally don’t want to freak out. I also realize that since I’ve been a Weight Watchers member for 4-years, it would be REALLY nice to not have to pay my monthly membership once I get to goal and lifetime.

So how am I going to shake things up and get myself out of my comfort zone?

Well, I’m finally going back to work … I was laid off from my job last year and I was recently extended a full-time ob opportunity, which I accepted , that will give me some structure during the day. The kitchen won’t be accessible so I’ll be forced to be prepared. This way, whatever food I bring with me to work will be what I have for the day (all pre-tracked and portioned). My new job is also about a 10-minute drive away from my gym …so that means I can start taking some classes that begin at 5:30pm and I can also include some weight training into my routine. I’m aiming to make a “work, gym, home” routine for myself. Of course I’ll have to coordinate my workouts to work with my physical limitations, while working at gaining more strength without hurting myself. I’ve also been making meal plans for the week, so I can have an idea of foods I have available to whip together for myself, depending on the mood I’m in and if I want to take my time making something or if I want to make something quick.  I’ve also been working on asking myself if I really want something and not just having it because I feel like it or because it’s there and seems like a good idea. Also, working towards eating more power foods and reaching for carbohydrates a little less will definitely help me out. I’ll also be going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier, which will help get me “back on track” in that respect … because sleep is very important not only to function but it can make or break weight loss.

All of these in combination will undoubtedly shake up my world, bring me out of my comfort zone and keep me focused on being a better version of myself each and every day. It may lead to a new routine that is chugging forward instead of floating gracefully in the abyss.

Wheat Thins Popped Sour Cream & Onion

While shopping I did a double take because initially I thought Wheat Thins had been repackaged.  Since curiosity got the best of me, I headed over to the display and was intrigued, so I picked up a bag of Wheat Thins Popped Sour Cream & Onion. I’m a big fan of Wheat Thins in general so I couldn’t wait to give these a try.

Unfortunately, they didn’t live up to expectations. The chips themselves are truly reminiscent of Pop Chips. They taste nothing like Wheat Thins (which have that classic smooth wheat taste) and taste just like a popped snack chip.  They’re flavored quite well where the entire chip is covered in a sour cream & onion coating. They’re not bad but they’re nothing that a person would expect them to be – particularly by having the Wheat Thins name on the item.  If you like Pop Chips, or any brand of popped chips, then you’d like these.

A serving is 26 chips (30g) and is 120 calories or 3 points plus values.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Skinny Cow Cookies ‘n Crème Truffle Ice Cream

Skinny Cow is one of my “preferred” ice cream brands at the market when I’m looking for single serving ice creams. While at the store I spotted Skinny Cow Cookies ‘n Crème Truffle Ice Cream and I decided to pick it up since cookies & cream is one of my favorite flavors. Admittedly another reason I love Skinny Cow ice cream is the fact the Weight Watchers Points Plus values are printed on the boxes … which makes choosing easier.

The box describes the ice cream as “chocolatey ribbons drizzled on cookies ‘n cream low fat ice cream”.  I was excited to have my first ice cream for dessert because I’m a huge fan of the Skinny Cow cookies & cream sandwiches. Although, I have to say I was left mildly unsatisfied.  The ice cream does have chocolatey ribbons surrounding it, which give it a nice mild sweetness, but my ice cream tasted more of “cream” than “cookies.” There are cookie bits running throughout it but some of them are so tiny that my taste buds didn’t even pick up the flavor, let alone the texture of cookie bits. They’re not bad, but they just didn’t live up to my expectations.

Each bar is 110 calories or 3 points plus values.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Power of Pre-planning Weekly Meals

Pre-planning is something I’ve done for a very long time. But typically when I pre-plan, I’m planning for the day ahead. For instance, on Monday I would plan for Tuesday, Tuesday I would plan for Wednesday, etc. It helps because it takes the guessing out of the day (while also helping me to decline temptation) … but I find in my case it only helps if my world has a natural routine to it.

Lately my routines have been thrown into a tailspin. My day starts off normal, but by the afternoon my entire day is shook up and I’m running around until 8:30/9pm at night. That alone makes things difficult and for a few weeks was totally throwing me off my “game.”  My preplanned meals slowly became a distant memory and grabbing food on the go was what I found myself doing. It took about two weeks, but I realized that I had lost the focus on myself. I was putting my successes on hold while I dealt with others lives. Which at the end of the day isn’t and wasn’t fair because I need to be my number one priority.

Over the course of four years I’ve learned when my world is shaken up that I need to build as much structure as I can because it makes things easier on me. It brings on focus, awareness and it eliminates any possibility for guessing and diminishes the attractiveness of temptation. It really helps in steering me away from pulling through a fast food restaurants drive-thru or picking up a pizza. Seeing a meal plan on paper allows me to look at my calendar and see where days are anticipated to be busier. In that event, I can prepare a meal for the following day to have a “grab and go” available in the refrigerator.

A weekly planned menu also allows me to look back at my week to note if I felt hungry, satisfied, or even bored with a particular meal. It makes me aware of what I’m eating, or even what I really enjoy (such as my banana oatmeal which I could eat 3-times a day and not get sick of – at least for now). I can also look at a week and see where perhaps I could switch things up and even add more “power foods” into the routine.  Granted with my Weight Watchers tracker I can look back at my week, but I use the online tracker which isn’t quite as “in your face” as a paper tracker.

One of the other positive sides of pre-planning a weekly menu is you can use up items in your cabinet, freezer and refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trader Joe’s Chicken Chow Mein

I picked up this bag of frozen Trader Joe’s Chicken Chow Mein on one of my last run-throughs. I’ve been trying to find quick and easy meals that we could stick in the freezer for days where dinner isn’t quite planned out perfectly or for days where quick and easy is necessary. I have purchased this in the past and enjoyed it so much that I made sure to repurchase it (and will continue to repurchase).

In my area this dish is called lo mein, whereas chow mein in my area is more along the lines of a dish made out of thickened gravy, bean sprouts and veggies. Fun fact aside …

This chicken chow mein dish literally took about 8 minutes to cook and it is absolutely DELICIOUS! The package calls for a tablespoon of olive oil to be added to the bottom of a skillet and I have done that in the past, but I find a spritz of non-stick cooking spray to the bottom of a non-stick skillet does the trick (depending on how it’s cooking I add in about a tablespoon of water after about 5 minutes of cooking). Once the skillet is heated through, assembly is easy … open bag and dump the contents into the pan (not including the package of sauce). Cover the pan with a lid and let it do its thing … stirring occasionally. I toss the sauce packet in a bowl of warm water so it defrosts but it would probably defrost naturally just sitting out because it’s not a frozen solid block. The noodles take a little while to break apart but I had no problem with burning, etc. Everything cooked perfectly and evenly. Once it’s all heated through, all that’s left to do is open the sauce packet and stir it in. Literally 30 seconds after that, dinner is complete and ready to be served.

This is hands down one of the best frozen dishes available at Trader Joe’s! It takes having “Chinese food at home” to a whole new level. The dish is fabulous, the noodles are al dente, the chicken is perfect and white meat, the vegetables are plentiful and the sauce just brings it all together. The whole dish comes together perfectly and has been a crowd pleaser in my household for over a year.

The package states it contains 3 servings but it can also easily be made into two meals, or split into 3 meals (when split into 3 evenly it’s a little less than the amount intended per serving on the label). A fresh steamed vegetable and another side (spring rolls, egg rolls, etc.) make this a perfect complete meal.

A serving is 189 grams, which is 210 calories or 5 points plus values.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Healthier Alternative on Supreme Pizza

Pizza is my favorite food so I’m always looking for new ways to make my favorite food in “point friendly” ways. I’ve looked into premade pizza crusts on numerous occasions but I’ve found that most of them, regardless of how “thin” they look or how they’re advertised they’re usually not the greatest nutrition stats wise. I’ve made pizza out of fresh dough, pita bread, flat out breads, etc., but thanks to a friend on Instagram I found a premade pizza crust that’s low in points and makes a great pizza.

Boboli 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust can be a bit hard to find in all grocery stores … but its pretty stand up pizza crust. Admittedly the crust does have that classic wheat flavor to it, but it's not overwhelming and with the toppings it brings the focus off the wheat aspect.  What I love the most, is I’m able to make a supreme pizza in the comfort of my own home in less than 12 minutes. The crust contains 5 servings, but I stretch it into 6 servings. After adding all my toppings, the pizza comes out to a pretty fabulous 5 points plus per slice. If you wanted 2 slices, it would be 9 points plus.

Serves 6. 5 Points Plus Values.
  • 1 whole (5 serving) Boboli 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
  • ½ cup pizza sauce (I used Trader Joe’s pizza sauce – I’ve also used Hunts Pizza Starters sauce in the past with the same points plus)
  • ¾ cup Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Crumbles
  • ½ cup Kraft Fat Free Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 12 slices Hormel Turkey Pepperoni
  • ½ small red pepper, sliced
  • 1/3 small onion, sliced
  • Vlassic Deli Style Banana Pepper Rings (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oregano

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place Boboli pizza crust in a large baking dish, top pizza crust with sauce, then shredded cheese.

Layer on pepperoni, sausage, pepper and onion slices and top with banana pepper rings.

Sprinkle top of the pizza with oregano and place pizza into oven and bake for 8-12 minutes.

Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fiber One Caramel Sea Salt Bar

Shopping at one of my favorite stores – Target, I spotted and picked up a limited edition Fiber One bar. Fiber One Caramel Sea Salt Bars are available exclusively at Target retailers for a limited time. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the chocolate fiber one bars but I do love the lemon and cinnamon coffee cake bars … and caramel sea salt sounded delicious, so I brought it home with me.

Upon opening the package your sniffer is presented with a caramel scent. Looking at the bar, there is a caramel drizzle over the top, but any visible salt is truly minimal. Upon first bite, I will admit they do have a caramel flavor to them but it’s more along the lines of an imitation caramel flavor (think sugar free caramel syrup). They also smell a bit like imitation caramel. I wouldn’t necessarily call them “Caramel Sea Salt” because the salt aspect is very minimal and presented on only a few bites. Those factors aside, I did enjoy these. I would enjoy them more with a nice tall iced coffee. They’re a good snack to have to switch things up a bit … plus it’s a twist from the same ole same ole.

Each bar is 90 calories or 2 points plus values.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Garden Lites Loaded Potato Souffle

As I’ve been allowing myself to get more comfortable with the Garden Lites brand I decided to reach out of my “comfort zone” and try a new meal. Years back I found I wasn’t a fan of some of the classic soufflés, but the Garden Lites Loaded Potato Souffle sounded different and delicious, so I picked it up.

The description “a delicious soufflé of potato, broccoli & fresh chives topped with cheddar cheese sauce” and picture on the box held my hopes high that it would be a delicious dish. I decided to have it the other day, yet sadly my hopes were smashed after two bites. Now, I’m a big onion fan and I usually only have chives on my potatoes when going out and the potato is offered with chives on it. But I found the soufflé itself smelled like grated onion and tasted just as such yet with a mild broccoli flavor in the background. There wasn’t a potato or cheddar flavor there because the chive/onion flavor was certainly overpowering and sold the show – yet not in a delicious way. I was so overwhelmed by the flavor I actually threw the dish away because I couldn't fathom forcing it down - because if I find something isn't worth it, it certainly isn't worth it.

Each dish is 200 calories or 5 points plus values.

Weight Watchers Peanut Butter Cookie Explosion Mini Bars

While at my Weight Watchers meeting I noticed a new product on the shelf, but was initially hesitant to pick it up. The reason being, years back I tried one of the peanut butter snack bars and was not impressed. I was going to pass them up until I heard a number of folks in my meeting saying how good they were as they sampled the bars they purchased. So while waiting to buy my smoothie, I grabbed a box of the Weight Watchers Peanut Butter Cookie Explosion Mini Bars.

I opened the box the next day for a sweet tooth fix … and I have to say these snack bars are utterly delicious! I will admit they are very small … but they’re loaded with flavor which makes them well worth it.  I describe these to friends as “peanut butter cookie amazingness.” The bars taste just like a peanut butter cookie, and there is a smooth soft layer in the bar which is slightly reminiscent of peanut butter fudge. It’s undoubtedly a peanut butter explosion which in my opinion is a perfect name for the product.  The bars are available for purchase at standing Weight Watchers locations.

Each bar is 80 calories or 2 points plus.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Butter Fried Chicken

Growing up my mother used to make this chicken she fried in butter once in a while for dinner. It’s always been a delicious crowd pleasing dish. What really makes the dish pop is the “dressing” added to it when serving. It’s not your typical dressing … it’s more along the lines of a salad. It’s a tomato, scallion (green onion) and Italian dressing salad. The combination of the salad over the moist buttery chicken make for what I call a party on a plate.

I’ve of course gone through and cut down on the recipe where I could to make it “point friendly”. I cut the butter way down just to have enough to brown the chicken, give it flavor and I added in a tad of olive oil to get it just a bit crispier on the outside.

6 Points Plus Values. Serves 5. 2 ¾ oz serving.
  • 1 1/8 lb  boneless skinless chicken breast, cleaned and cut into chunks
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp Smart Balance Light Butter
  • 2 tbsp Imperial Vegetable Oil Spread
  • 1 tsp olive oil
Clean all fat off chicken and cut into chunks. Once all chicken is clean, lay pieces between parchment paper or plastic wrap and gently pound/tenderize. You don't want the chicken to be too thin, but slightly thinner than it was before pounding.

Combine together flour, garlic powder, oregano, black pepper and salt in a paper bag. Shake to combine all ingredients together.

Rinse chicken under cold water then drop chicken pieces into the bag. Hold the bag tight and shake to coat all sides of the chicken with the flour batter. Remove chicken from bag and set aside, discarding the bag with the remaining flour.

Place light butter and margarine into a non-stick skillet. Heat pan over medium-low heat – as the pan warms gently swirl the butter around. Place chicken pieces into the heated skillet and allow cooking without moving or flipping until chicken is cooked half-way through. Gently flip the chicken and allow cooking on the uncooked side.

At this point the butter will start to dissipate in the bottom of the pan, so gently drizzle the 1 tsp of olive oil over the chicken in the pan and give the pan a gentle shake.  When the cooked side down begins browning, gently flip the chicken onto the other side to allow the chicken to be fully browned and crisped on each side.

When done, remove from the pan and serve alongside the sides of your choice. I highly recommend serving with mashed/baked potato and serving the chicken with the tomato and scallion salad (Italian – original, light, low fat, fat free – whichever you choose) tossed with the salad.

McDonald’s Vanilla Cone

Every once in a while I’m in the mood for soft serve ice cream. I’ve found over time that McDonald’s has one of the best vanilla cones! During the summer time, I bypass the ridiculously long lines at Dairy Queen and go straight to Mickey D’s!

Unlike other ice cream stands, the cones at McDonald’s are one standard size. There’s no temptation in getting a small/medium/large cone for a few cents more.  The cones are filled with McDonald’s classic reduced fat vanilla ice cream, which is your standard state of the art soft serve ice cream. I find the frozen treat to be filling, delightful and when others are having ice cream I’m not the one standing to the side saying “no thanks.”

One of the greatest parts is the ice cream cones are $1 and sometimes during the summer (at least in my area) they’re 2 for $1.  The only downside is they’re only available in vanilla … no swirl or chocolate available (except during the summer McDonald’s is known to offer a chocolate dip cone).

Each cone is 170 calories or 5 points plus values.

Weight Watchers Haul

I’ve mentioned before that I have an attraction for the word “new”. It’s like I’m the magnet and the product is the metal. There’s an instant attraction. Even though the attraction is there, I still decide whether I think something is worth it or if I’d even enjoy it. A few weeks ago at my Weight Watchers meeting a Greek yogurt smoothie was revealed and I was going to buy it … but decided to wait for it to go on sale.  Last week walking into my meeting I noticed the smoothies and snack bars were on sale … but also that there was a new snack bar. Admittedly, I was hesitant because there was a peanut butter snack bar a few years ago and I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. After hearing a number of folks in my meeting rave about how good they were, I picked up a box.  I also picked up the new Weight Watchers water bottle because I struggle getting my water in some days and I’ve learned that it’s because I’m drinking water out of a bottle or cup. When I drink out of a straw, I can get my liquid in soo much easier. The great thing about the cup is it holds half the daily liquid requirement and it can house both hot and cold beverages!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Trader Joe’s Traditional Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those comfort foods … it’s a dish, that at least when I think of it, it makes me think of home, mom cooking in the kitchen, etc.  I’ve learned over time that I’m a bit of a meatloaf snob, because no two people make meatloaf the same. I’m fond of the meatloaf I grew up eating, as well as a Weight Watchers miniature variation that I’ve recreated time and time again and find it equally enjoyable every time. So needless to say, I have seen the Trader Joe’s Traditional Meatloaf in the refrigerated meals section of Trader Joe’s numerous times but always skipped on it … until my last trip there.

Admittedly the thing that kept me from purchasing it was the “in a classic tomato sauce” description. I’ve never been a fan of meatloaves with a tomato sauce over them … but I do like meatloaf that has ketchup over the top. I scanned the ingredients section on the label and was pleased when I saw the word “ketchup” and put the meal into my shopping cart. I had it in the refrigerator for a couple days and heated it up one day for a quick lunch.  I have to say … this meatloaf is “money”, meaning it’s absolutely delicious! It truly reminds me of the miniature meatloaf recipe I recreate.  The sauce is a sweet and tangy mix which is very complimentary to the meatloaf itself. The meatloaf is meaty but not heavy and a perfect quick meal.

I served this alongside some mashed potatoes and fresh steamed carrot sticks. I merely served this up asking if anyone wanted meatloaf. The general consensus after eating was “that was really good!” and “did you make that?” After letting the cat out of the bag that it was actually a Trader Joe’s refrigerated meal it as noted that we should most definitely pick that up again … and on my Trader Joe’s list it went!  Without further ado I highly recommend this if you’re a meatloaf lover.

A 5 ounce serving is 280 calories or 7 points plus values.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Trader Joe’s Poutine

A number of years ago a friend introduced me to the deliciousness that is Poutine. If you’re not familiar poutine is a Canadian dish that originated out of Quebec. The dish itself is a combination of French fries, brown gravy and cheese curds. There are only 2 places in my local area that sell the dish … so when I spotted the Trader Joe’s Poutine in the grocery freezer section, I was excited.

I knew going into this, it could go either way … it could be exceptionally delicious or it could be a complete fail.  I followed the package directions and baked the French fries off in the oven and put the gravy and cheese curd pouch in a pan of water and put it on a low flame to heat through.  When everything was done, I assembled the poutine and dished up a serving for myself.

Sadly… this was a total fail. The French fries were mediocre, the gravy was a bit on the plainer side and was in some serious need of seasonings and the cheese curds (admittedly not the worst thing) were so rubbery and chewy (far more than fresh cheese curd). If someone had never had poutine in the past, perhaps this would be a passable dish … but if you’ve ever had the real deal this more than likely wouldn’t even come close. The general consensus across the board from all those that tried it were pretty much the same.

A serving size is 16 fries with sauce and cheese (120 grams), which runs 200 calories or 5 points plus values.

Egg & Canadian Bacon Muffins

Egg muffins are one of the breakfasts I enjoy when I want to have a quick “grab and go” breakfast on hand during the week. They’re quick and easy to whip together and they store perfectly in the refrigerator. Admittedly, I haven’t tried freezing these – but I can’t see how one couldn’t especially if they’re left to defrost before reheating.

I prefer to cook these egg muffins in disposable aluminum muffin pans instead of my regular standard metal muffin tins. I find in regular muffin tins the egg tends to brown up a lot more and dry out – which is fine if eaten the same day. But I find when reheating the next day, the eggs become rubbery. When cooking in a disposable aluminum pan I find the eggs keep some moisture to them and reheating them keeps them from getting rubbery.

I prefer to serve these over toast with a bit of sriracha and ketchup.

2 Points Plus. Serves 3. 2 Egg Muffins/serving.
-          1 ½ cups Egg Beaters or liquid egg substitute
-          6 slices Canadian bacon (I used the Land O’Frost Sweet Country Maple)
-          6 slices Hormel Turkey Pepperoni
-          Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy (or any seasoning of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray each muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

Chop up 1 slice of turkey pepperoni and Canadian bacon and place into the bottom of a muffin tin. Repeat for the remaining tins.

Pour ¼ cup egg beaters into each muffin tin.  Sprinkle the top with the seasoning of your choice.

Place muffin tins onto a cookie sheet (incase of any overflow) and place into preheated oven and bake for roughly 15-20 minutes until egg muffins are cooked through.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Skinny Cow Chocolate Mint Ganache

Skinny Cow is one of my favorite ice cream brands on the market. Why? Well, they make decadent desserts which are healthier for you, taste great and don’t leave you feeling like you’ve been ripped off.  Needless to say when I spotted the Skinny Cow Chocolate Mint Ganache at my local Target, I had to pick up a box.

The fact these ice creams have a chocolate ice cream cone were a winning factor for me. Admittedly mint ice cream isn’t one of my absolute favorites but it was a twist.  The vanilla portion of the cone I find to be on the border of too minty, whereas the chocolate portion is a perfect blend of mint and chocolate. Not overwhelming, perfectly delicious on the palette. The only downside is the description lists “ganache” but there’s only a little dollop of ganache at the very top of the ice cream cone. Once that’s eaten … there is no more magically delicious ganache. There is no ganache in the bottom of the cone … which I have to admit is a bit disheartening because the ganache is the flavor you’d like to be left with when all is said and done.

Overall they’re a pretty decent ice cream cone … but if you’re not a fan of mint (even the slightest), you won’t be a fan of these.

Each cone is 160 calories or 4 points plus values.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gluten Free Grilled Chicken Breast with Baked Potato & Steamed Broccoli @ The Chateau

On Valentine’s Day my boyfriend and I decided to go out for dinner. Since we had a gift card to a local restaurant The Chateau we decided to go there. Since it was Valentine’s Day we had over an hour wait to be seated (the restaurant wasn’t taking reservations that night).

Unlike the last time I went to The Chateau I was really in the mood for grilled chicken … so after taking a look on the menu offered on the company’s website I decided to order off the gluten free menu. Granted, I don’t have a gluten intolerance, but it was the only menu where grilled chicken was offered except for an option to add to a large dinner salad.

My meal itself was completely delicious. I opted to get the garden salad with fat free zinfandel dressing on the side. Whereas for my dinner I was served 2 large “butterflied” chicken breasts, a baked potato and steamed broccoli. The meal also came with a small container of jellied cranberry sauce, which I decided to not eat since I didn’t quit need the additional flavoring.  Since we were going to get a dessert to share I ate a little less than half my meal … to save room for dessert that is.  Strawberry shortcake was served over a warm biscuit, topped with strawberries in sauce, ice cream and whipped cream. A decadent and delicious treat to the end of a delicious meal.

The leftovers I did take home and enjoyed the following day.

Pace Nacho Cheese Taco Shells

 If you’re a fan of tacos and even possibly Doritos, then you may have at one point or another ventured over to Taco Bell and tried a Doritos Locos Taco. Since I saw Taco Bell offering these tacos I have been anxiously waiting to see the taco shells sold in a grocery store. Thankfully, that day had come when I picked up a box of Pace Nacho Cheese Taco Shells at Wal-Mart.

I want to start off by saying these are not an exact “dupe” of the Taco Bell Doritos shells … but they’re as close as you’re going to get.  The shells are not as firm/hard as traditional taco shells; they’re on the softer side of crunchy. As the box describes, they’re nacho cheese flavored and they’re perfect stuffed with taco meat, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream … or whatever may tickle your fancy. I found they added great flavor to my meal and I enjoyed them even the next day crumbled over a taco salad.

Pace also sells an original and kickin’ jalapeno flavor. So far, I’ve only noticed them at Super Wal-Mart locations. Price wise, if I recall correctly, they were under $1.50

A 2 shell serving is 130 calories or 3 points plus values.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

I often get asked if I have a recipe for my Jamaican jerk pork or jerk chicken.  Quite honestly, I don’t. When I was a kid my parents would make homemade jerk seasoning … but as a jarred season began to be sold in a local market, it was easier to purchase a jar than it was to make the seasoning.  I purchase a jar of Mild Grace Jamaican Jerk Seasoning for $4.99 and it lasts for a very long time. If you’re in the New England area, I happen to purchase this season from Stop & Shop retailers … whereas if you’re closer to the inner city, I can also purchase this at tropical stores.

If you are planning on purchasing the seasoning, be aware that a little goes a long way! One tablespoon of seasoning can be stretched to cover a 2 pound pork roast or even 1 ½ pounds of chicken breast. The more seasoning you add, the spicier it’s going to be. There have been times where I’ve been too heavy handed with the seasoning and after my meal was cooked, no one wanted to eat it because it was so hot.

The seasoning comes in a paste form and provides delicious, classic Jamaican jerk flavoring. It’s wonderful and a great seasoning to be paired up with any meat. Whether chicken or pork, after the seasoning is rubbed onto the meat, I bake it in a 350 degree oven until cooked through. It’s perfect, delicious and an authentic seasoning.

Quest Bar Cookies & Cream

Well over a year ago I was introduced to Quest Bars. While trying different flavors I found there were some that I enjoyed and others that I was not a fan of. But that’s typically how it is when trying something new. Since I happen to be a huge fan of Oreo cookies I decided I had to give the Quest Bar Cookies & Cream a try.

If you’re unfamiliar with Quest Bars they are protein bars which are pretty low in calories in comparison to other protein bars on the market. They’re also low in carbs, high in fiber, high in protein, there’s no sugar added and they are gluten free.  They are available for purchase through select online retailers while they are also sold (individually and in case packages) at fitness shops such as GNC and select vitamin/nutrition shops.  You can search Quest Bar retailers in your area on the brands website:

The cookies & cream bar has more of a cream taste to it (think the filling of an Oreo). But there are plenty of cookie bits and chunks running throughout the bar.  It’s definitely a healthy take on an indulgent treat. The great thing about Quest Bars is they can be eaten straight out of the packaging; they can also be eaten warmed in the microwave or baked for a few minutes in an oven. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite Quest Bars to date that I have tried. They don’t have an aftertaste, they don’t have a weird texture … they’re just “money”.

The only downside? They can be pretty hard to find since they are one of the newer launches to the brand.

This particular bar is 180 calories or 5 points plus values.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weight Watchers Hoisin Steak Stir-Fry

Skimming through the Weight Watchers Good Deal cookbook for dinner ideas, there was a particular Asian flare dish that really caught my attention. I’m thinking it was primarily due to the fact it was a beef stir fry. I decided it had to be on the dinner menu, so I put the few items I needed to pick up at the grocery store on my shopping list … and dinner was on its way to being created.

I followed the recipe to a T and found it to be rather easy to whip together. Dinner came together in under 30 minutes which was also a bonus.  The beef turned out rather moist, the sauce was just right and the vegetables were perfect – cooked but still had some crunch to them.  The recipe actually calls for the serving of brown rice which I liked to see because most recipes call for one dish, not the accompanying sides. In addition to the rice, I served this alongside some fresh steamed broccoli.

The greatest part? The entire meal was only 6 points plus values! ¾ cup of beef mixture and ½ cup rice.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Limited Edition Cookie Dough Oreo’s

A number of posts back I showcased the Limited EditionMarshmallow Crispy Oreo’s … but what I haven’t posted about yet are the Limited Edition Cookie Dough Oreo. I waited to open the package after the marshmallow crispy cookies were gone.

The original chocolate Oreo’s are my absolute favorite cookie. Admittedly I typically opt to skip on flavored chocolate cookie Oreo’s because I usually feel nothing can live up to the original. Although when I saw these, I was intrigued so of course I had to try them. Upon first bite, I found the cookie itself is a softer crispy cookie and they taste extremely fresh, a lot fresher tasting than the original cookie. The unique thing with these cookies is the fact the frosting is flavored and it has chocolate chip pieces/slivers in it.  The pieces/slivers of chocolate provided no new texture.  Would I say it tastes exactly like cookie dough? No, but it is reminiscent of it.  The cream itself has a chocolaty flavor to it from the chips but it has a bit of a caramel flavor to it. If you eat the cream alone it tastes along the lines of a chocolate caramel, but when eaten with the cookie it’s reminiscent of cookie dough. But on the plus side they’re not overly sweet and certainly not as overpowering on the sugar factor when in comparison to the Marshmallow Crispy Oreo’s.

A serving is 2 cookies, which are 140 calories or 4 points plus values. 1 cookie would be 70 calories or 2 points plus values.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Skinny Cow Chocolate Mousse Ganache

When I had saw that Skinny Cow had come out with a new ice cream cone, I was put on the hunt. Unfortunately I came up empty handed for nearly 2 months until just recently I spotted the Skinny Cow Chocolate Mousse Ganache ice creams at my local Target. Since I was so excited to find them I purchased a box and unfortunately enough they weren’t on sale when I purchased.

Typically I am a fan of Skinny Cow ice cream because I find the brand simply gets it right. Deliciously “healthier for you” ice cream which is lower in fat, calories or points plus values in comparison to some of the other ice creams on the market.  The ice cream itself is a blend of vanilla and chocolate ice creams and chocolate ganache. The whole shebang is pretty good … but I have to say the best part is the little glob of ganache at the center of the top of the cone. Sadly, the ganache wasn’t as plentiful as I would have hoped for (I was hoping for a chocolate ganache core). The ganache was the flavor that I savored the most … whereas the rest of the ice cream is the classic smooth creamy ice cream Skinny Taste is known to provide.

Would I repurchase them again? Probably if I were in the mood for an ice cream cone … although I may give the mint a shot to see if it’s any better than the chocolate mousse.

Each cone is 160 calories or 4 points plus values.