Thursday, November 12, 2015

Emily Bites Bubble Up Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

 With the fall (and truly winter in my area) weather upon us, all I have been wanting to eat are homey cozy meals. I'd been in a pot pie mood (seemingly after cooking a homemade turkey pie I had in the freezer) so I decided to give Emily Bites Bubble Up Chicken Pot Pie Casserole a shot. I had been wanting to make the dish for some time and since I had most of the ingredients on hand I added it to my menu for the week.

Out of all of the bubble up casseroles on the Emily Bites website, I will say this is hands down my favorite one (the pizza casserole being my 2nd favorite). This particular recipe is homey, cozy, delicious, comforting, filling and an overall crowd pleaser.

In classic Shannon fashion, I opted to omit the olive oil and instead of sauteing my carrots to soften them, I used frozen peas and diced carrots I picked up at the local grocery store. I figured it'd make putting the dish together a lot easier since I was trying to get dinner prepped and into the oven in a shorter amount of time. They cooked up perfectly while the dish was in the oven without the need to saute. The chicken I used was chicken breast I had cooked in the crock pot. I will say, in the two instances I've made this, I find cutting the chicken into chunks is a lot better than using shredded. On my second attempt making this, my chicken was too hot when I was cutting it up and most if shredded. The shredded chicken absorbs more of the gravy which leaves the end result a little drier.

I personally find the dish to be filling enough that one slice is all I need. There's no need for a small side salad or even a piece of fruit to go along with the meal. So far, all that have tried it have really enjoyed it as well.

A serving, 1/6th of the recipe, is 318 calories or 8 points plus values.

Amy's Light & Lean Spaghetti Italiano

I've always had an interest in Amy's frozen dinners so one day after finding them on sale at my local Target, I decided to pick up the Amy's Light & Lean Spaghetti Italiano. I'm not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination but I do enjoy meatless meals every once in a while. Now, I'd say if you're venturing into meatless possibilities ... definitely give this particular dish a try.

The meal comes packaged encased in a plastic casing, which makes for easy microwave heating (or if you want to be fancy, you can opt for the oven method). With the addition of the bowl once done, you can remove the plastic sleeve and have your lunch/dinner already plated up for you. Now you're probably wondering what exactly the dish consists of. Well, the website lists the dish as "Organic semolina spaghetti, meatless meatballs made of of lentils, quinoa and tofu, topped with a sauce of simmered organic vegetables, roasted garlic and seasonings and a side of broccoli florets."

Admittedly, eating the meatball, I wasn't aware that it was made from tofu (I found this out after the fact). I've never actually had tofu before this dish and I was pleasantly surprised. The meatballs were soft, moist and had a meat like (but not spot-on) texture to them. The pasta was perfectly cooked, the sauce was flavorful. The only thing that took a little getting used to was the addition of the diced zucchini and broccoli running throughout the dish. I've never had broccoli with sauce so it took a bite or two before my taste buds and I were on the same page.

I quite enjoyed it and will undoubtedly repurchase in the future. You certainly get a good bang for your buck food wise vs. calorie wise. It doesn't taste like cardboard and a serving should leave you relatively satisfied.  Another positive note was the fact the sodium wasn't sky-high as it normally is with other prepared frozen meals. Two thumbs up, Amy's!

A serving, 1 bowl, is 240 calories or 6 points plus values.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Oreo Thins

Oreo's have forever been one of my all time favorite packaged cookies - more specifically the classic original chocolate cookie, vanilla cream Oreo's have been my number one stunner. So, needless to say when I saw Oreo's came out with a thinner version of their cookies I was on board. Deciding to give it a whirl, I picked up a package of the classic Oreo Thins.

The cookies themselves are truly your classic Oreo ... just thinner. The cookie itself is crispy, chocolatey and just perfect. It's paired along the classic vanilla cream providing a thinner, delicious Oreo exploration. Truthfully ... these are hands down one of my all time new favorite Oreo's. I think I really like these more than the classic Oreo's which have forever had a piece of my heart. Even my mother, who isn't the biggest Oreo fan, prefers the Thins over the original any day of the week.

The crispiness of the cookie, and the fact that you can have 4 (compared to the normal 2) even though these are smaller is a win-win. I've only heard great things about the other two varieties that are available: golden and mint ... so I'll probably dabble in those sooner than later to see what all the fuss is about.
A serving, 4 cookies, is 140 calories or 4 points plus values.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Applebee's Napa Chicken & Portabellos

Opting to go out to dinner with my boyfriend one night, we found ourselves at a local Applebee's. Scanning the menu well before we went, I had two options in mind but ultimately decided I'd try the Applebee's Napa Chicken & Portabellos after our server recommended it.

According to the menu the dish is "A grilled chicken breast topped with portobello mushrooms and onions smothered in a rich red wine sauce and our Parmesan cheese blend. Served over sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, red onions and crispy red potatoes."

When the meal came out it looked aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, that's where it stopped. My vegetables were overcooked (minus the onions on top of the chicken which were barely cooked). Aside from that the entire dish was so incredibly salty it was almost too much to handle. Not wanting to complain I picked around my dish and ate what I could handle, leaving back some of the charred salty vegetables and the overwhelming amount of white onion. 

The crispy red potatoes were probably my favorite part of the whole dish. Needless to say if I were to ever consider ordering this again, I'd ask beforehand if there was a way for them to monitor the sodium level in the dish (maybe limiting the sauce/seasoning they use to cook everything) ... if not, I'd steer clear and do myself a favor and pass on re-ordering this.

A serving is 490 calories or 12 points plus values.

Trader Joe's Chickenless Crispy Tenders

Every once in a while I like to step out of the norm and try something different. I usually find myself getting adventurous when it comes to meat alternatives. I've stumbled upon some decent meat alternative foods at Trader Joe's, so when I spotted the Trader Joe's Chickenless Crispy Tenders I decided to pick up a bag to stash in the freezer.

One day I had salad in the refrigerator for lunch, but nothing to go with it ... so I brought my bag of chickenless tenders to work and heated up 2 servings in the toaster oven. The tenders themselves aren't very large, but they are satisfying. Even cooking them in a toaster oven, they crisped up perfectly. Each tender provided a nice crunch, while the inside was soft and moist.

I opted to have them alongside a garden salad and in true I'm a toddler fashion - I ate them dipping the tenders into ketchup. They were honestly really good, satisfying and I enjoyed how crispy they were. They didn't have that meat substitute texture/taste/etc. It honestly tasted like a frozen, processed chicken finger. The only noticeable difference was that the tenders themselves are thinner than average chicken tenders and the coating looks "healthier" if you will.

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Emily Bites Cheesy Potluck Potatoes

Lately I've been getting into a food rut so I decided to step out of the box and try a new side dish. Turns out I've enjoyed it so much, it's been almost a weekly staple I've made to go alongside the various proteins I make for meals during the week.

On my weekend trip through the grocery store I picked up the ingredients needed to make Emily Bites Cheesy Potluck Potatoes and popped my frozen hash brown potatoes in the refrigerator to thaw once I returned home. When I got around to making the dish, while mixing all the ingredients together, I wasn't sure how it'd turn out. Thankfully the end result muted any potential doubt in my mind.

The recipe takes absolutely no time to whip together, perhaps just a little preparation work which means setting a bag of frozen hash browns potatoes in the refrigerator to defrost. After that it's pretty much a matter of dump, stir, bake.  I will admit, I have omitted the onion from the recipe simply because my boyfriend has an allergy - but either way, it's been absolutely delicious. The potatoes bake up wonderfully - the outside creates a nice crust, while the inner layer stays gooey and cheesy. So far all that have tried it (I have made this recipe 4-times since giving it a go) have really enjoyed it and look forward to it. 

If you're concerned with the use of the fat free cream of chicken soup - have no worries, the soup does not create any chicken-esque flavoring. I've enjoyed this as a side dish alongside steak, chicken and one of my absolute favorite ways to have this is included with my breakfast. A little scrambled eggbeaters over the top with a side of bacon/sausage make it a home run.

A serving, 1/8th of the recipe, is 190 calories or 5 points plus values.

Trader Joe's Tempura Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce

After eyeing the Trader Joe's Tempura Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce for months on end, I finally decided to pick up a bag. I popped it in my freezer, deciding to make it for a quick and easy lunch one weekend afternoon. That day rolled around and I pulled the bag out of the freezer, popped the chicken onto a non-stick baking sheet and popped the sweet and sour sauce in a bowl of water.

I baked the chicken per the packaging directions, shaking the chicken around halfway through and topped with the defrosted sauce when done. The tray cooked up nice and evenly. Meanwhile the sauce completely defrosted in some warm water and adhered to the chicken nicely once tossed together. There was extra sauce which pooled into the bottom of the dish, so if whomever is having a dish can add a little extra sauce to his/her liking.

The tempura chicken itself was very good. White meat chicken, nicely battered, moderately crispy. The smaller pieces were crunchier (those are my favorite) while the larger pieces were crispy on the outside, but airy and soft on the inside. It reminded me a lot of the chicken fingers you can get at a local Chinese restaurant. The sauce is your classic sweet and sour which provided absolutely no fuss.

Overall I found it to be quite enjoyable. The only thing that was disappointing was when plating it up - 3 ounces looks like absolutely nothing on a plate (it was roughly 5-6 smaller pieces of chicken). Of course if you bulked it up with vegetables, it might carry you over into your next meal. But if you're in the mood for Chinese and don't want to order take out - this was a pretty delicious option.

A serving, 3 ounces, is 210 calories or 6 points plus values.