Sunday, August 18, 2013

A twist on chicken pot pie

My absolute favorite dish that my mom makes is her chicken pot pie. 

I can remember begging her to make it when I was a kid... when I was sick... when I was home for the weekend from college... when I was pregnant... pretty much anytime I wanted a home-cooked meal that had my mom's special touch. 

She makes it right - with a buttery and flakey crust, creamy gravy and rotisserie chicken. In her house, it's served with a fresh salad covered in Ott's dressing, red-hot apples and sweet tea. This is the ulimate comfort meal for me. 

Someday I'll post the recipe and tag it as having 100 points plus per serving. Today, though, I have something else for you - especially if you read that entire description and thought it sounded good, but don't want to spend a week's worth of points on one meal. It's a quinoa, chicken and veggie dish, and it's so easy to make. Here's my version: 

1 tsp. olive oil 
1/2 diced onion 
8 sliced baby carrots 
1 cup rotisserie chicken 
1 cup portabello mushrooms 
2 sliced celerty stalks 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
4 cups chicken broth 
1 cup water 
3/4 cup quinoa 
1/4 tsp. thyme 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Heat the oil in a pot and cook onion, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and celery until tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Liquid will disappear, so keep an eye on it and stir frequently. 

Divide into four, one-cup servings, 6 points each. This was supposed to make a soup, but the end result tasted a whole lot like the inside of Mom's chicken pot pie. 

I'm comforted just thinking about it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Caprese salad

My co-worker, Norma, arrived at work this week with a cardboard flat full of fresh tomatoes. 

There's nothing better than a home-grown tomato, so I bolted over to her desk and picked out several succulent, red beauties and stuck them in my lunch bag. 

I knew exactly what I was going to do with them: make a caprese salad. 

JJ's not one for fancy salads and he's picky about the amount of basil that can be used in any dish. But he loves caprese salad - and so do I. 

This quick recipe only took minutes to throw together. Just gently toss the following ingredients: 

3 tomatoes, cut into chunks 
8 oz. fresh mozarella pearls 
2 tbsp. olive oil 
2 tbsp. balsalmic vinegar 
18 basil leaves, chopped 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 

This recipe made five servings for only 2.5 Weight Watchers points each. 

Thank goodness for Norma's garden!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You don't even have to go to Taco Bell

I've been counting calories since junior high school, which means fast food restaurants are not establishments that I frequent. 

However, during my freshman year of college, Taco Bell introduced its short-lived "low fat" menu. This was a great addition for a budget-strapped, fat-conscious college student who just wanted to eat something other than dorm food. I can remember taking my books over to the local Taco Bell and smiling from ear-to-eat while sitting in a booth with my tray of goodies. 

One of my favorite low-fat items from the Taco Bell menu was the mexican pizza. If memory serves, they made it low-fat by swapping flour tortillas for corn, full-fat sour cream and cheese for light, beef for beans and piling it high with veggies. It was delicious. 

So you can imagine how happy I was to find a recipe on Pinterest that resembled what I remember of the low-fat mexican pizza. I had to try it! 

2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 green onions, sliced thinly 
4 garlic cloves 
1 lb. extra lean ground beef 
1 package taco seasoning mix 
1 can black beans, drained 
2/3 cup frozen corn 
 8 ounces fat-free cream cheese 
1/3 cup chicken stock 
salt and pepper 
6 corn tortillas 
1 3/4 cups 
2 percent shredded mexican cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook for 1 minute, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain all grease from the pan, using a paper towel to soak up any extra grease. 
2. Add the chicken stock, taco seasoning, black beans, corn and cream cheese to the skillet. Cook while stirring until it is creamy. Taste and add salt and pepper as you feel is needed. Remove from heat. 
3. Spray a standard 9X13 casserole dish with oil and place 2 corn tortillas (making 2 stacks) in the dish. Spread 1/3 of the meat mixture on top of the two tortillas. Top with 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat this step 2 times, ending with cheese. (Note: I messed mine up a bit, if you noticed in the picture.)
4. Loosely tent your casserole dish with foil. 
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. 
6. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. 

I cut each of the mexican pizzas into four servings, for a total of eight servings from this recipe. Each serving was 6 points each, but I at with some fat-free sour cream and some salsa on top - bringing the total to 7 points per serving. 

And yummmmm... This was so much better than Taco Bell.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Five-ingredient peach cobbler

Fresh peaches are on my "Top 10 reasons summer is better in the South" list.

All summer long, I have made a weekly trip to a nearby peach orchard to buy a 1/2 peck of peaches. I eat them as a snack (0 points!), put them in my overnight oatmeal and mix them in smoothies. 

But I must have been slacking on my daily peach-eating routine this week, because yesterday I found myself with four over-ripe peaches. 

Coincidentally, my dad and my brother were on their way to my house and I wanted to make something sweet to treat them. My dad loves fresh peaches more than anyone I know - he actually found the somewhat-unknown peach orchard.

A quick scan of Pinterest revealed an easy peach cobbler recipe I knew I could alter:

2 cups sliced peaches
3/4 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup flour
1/2 sugar
1/2 stick butter
Lots of cinnamon (my addition!)

Melt the butter in the bottom of an 8X8 pan. Mix sugar, flour and milk, and pour over the butter. Pour peaches on top. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes. 

I cut mine into nine servings for 2.8 Weight Watchers Points Plus each.

The boys didn't even make it into my house before exclaiming "what smells so good?!" I didn't tell them the cobbler was low in points. 

For them, it wouldn't have mattered anyways.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fire pizza

If something could go wrong this week, it did.

JB got sick. The contractor working on our bathroom remodel messed up our shower. AM's dog allergy flared up and her eye swelled shut.

So what does this have to do with Weight Watchers? Oh yes, because our oven also caught on fire.

The day before JJ left on his week-long business trip, we noticed sparks coming from inside the oven. (AM was cooking her Eggos.) After realizing the coil was flaming and it clearly was an electrical fire, JJ pulled the plug on our oven. That stopped the issue, but it rendered me oven-less for the week - a repairman said he couldn't come by for four days AND he had to order a part.

This threw a big loop at my already-prepared weekly cooking list! So what's a Weight Watchers girl to do? Get creative!

JJ plugged the oven back in so I would have my stovetop. I also had the grill, microwave and crock pot. The pantry boasted one of my favorite products - Flat Out Bread - and the farmer's market gave us lots of fresh veggies. I decided we would grill individual pizzas for several nights.

Except it rained - all week long.

Turns out, you can carefully "grill" pizza on your stovetop and it's pretty good. Pre-cook your veggies, and keep a low temperature so your bread and cheese slowly heat up. Your bread will be a bit crispy, but that provides some support to add more veggies!

Here's what I used to make my stovetop pizza:

1 Flat Out bread 
2 tablespoons pizza sauce
Portobello mushrooms
Green pepper
1/4 cup 2% mozzarella cheese

This felt like a huge meal for 5.2 points plus. And it was really tasty.

I'll probably even make it again, but have to admit I'll be glad to cook it in the actual oven - now that it's fixed.

(P.S. My picky kids opted to have only turkey pepperoni and cheese on their stovetop pizza. I had a bite and it was also yummy.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Quinoa what?

Quinoa is all the rage among the super-duper health-conscious members of my family and friends.

My "normal" family and friends can't even pronounce it. 😄

This past weekend, JJ and I invited these "normal" folks to our house for a cookout. Since summer BBQs almost always feature hamburgers, hot dogs and chips, it seemed necessary to make a salad for a somewhat healthy addition. 

I figured I would be one of the few who would enjoy this quinoa, bean and veggie salad. Boy was I wrong! Nearly everyone had at least one bite - and many had seconds. 

My friend, Sue, asked for the recipe, and told me she whipped up a batch the very next day at her husband's request. 

I will be making this again!

Quinoa and bean salad

Mix these ingredients together in a bowl:
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cobs grilled corn (slice cooked corn off the cob)
2 grilled peppers, sliced
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup dry quinoa (cook according to directions)
1 avocado, sliced 

In a food processor, mix these ingredients to make the dressing:
1 cup cilantro
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey
1 lime, squeezed
Dash of hot sauce

Drizzle each serving with the dressing before serving. I don't recommend tossing the salad and dressing because it makes leftovers soggy. 

This recipe made 10 servings, 5.4 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Weekend waffles

AM loves Eggo waffles.

Every weekday morning as I'm scrambling around the kitchen in my heels, getting lunches together, making coffee, checking my blackberry, sometimes listening to a conference call and running late, AM inevitably asks me to let her cook Eggos.

We've struck a deal that she sticks with cereal or something easy during the week, and can have Eggos on the weekends. (Yet, she still asks.)

Even though I have to admit the low-fat, whole-grain Eggo waffles are somewhat tasty, I much prefer JJ's "homemade" waffles right from our waffle maker. This morning, while he slumbered away, I decided to experiment with his recipe and see if I could decrease the points value. It was a success - thanks to almond milk and applesauce supplements. I also threw some fresh blueberries into the batter, but only for my batch - everyone else crinkled their noses at that suggestion. They don't know what they're missing.

Low-points waffles

2 cups Reduced-Fat Bisquick
1 1/3 cup almond milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons natural applesauce
Splash of vanilla

Evenly divided, this batter made five waffles in our waffle maker for 5 points plus each. Topped with 1/4 cup of sugar-free syrup for 1 point plus, you're looking at an awesome breakfast for just 6 points.

AM told me they're good, but she likes her Eggos better "because Eggos are crunchy." (True, the applesauce replacement did make these waffles very soft.)

My breakfast-eater, on the other hand, was a happy boy. He ate two full waffles.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer salsa

There's only person in my house who likes peppers.

Since that person is me, I get to claim all six servings of the freshest, yummiest summer salsa - which was just made today. (Yes, we visited the farmer's market).

This stuff is so good that you don't need to eat it with baked tortilla chips. It's awesome as a side dish, a topping for tacos or, if you must, as a chip dip. 

Every ingredient in today's batch was fresh, sans the canned black beans. I think that's what made it extra amazing. However, I've made it before with all store-bought produce and remember it was a crowd-pleaser. 

Seriously, you can't go wrong.

Here are the ingredients:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 peppers, diced (I used a red, yellow and orange bell pepper)
1 diced hot pepper (I used a spicy banana)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
3 ears of corn, cut from the cob after cooked
1 garlic clove
Lime juice, to taste

By my calculations, 1 cup of this should cost you 2 WW points plus. 

Thank you, 0-point peppers!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hidden veggie pasta

My father-in-law is one of the pickiest eaters I know.

Early in my marriage to JJ, I learned the importance of pureeing vegetables when my FIL was coming over for dinner. It still makes me giggle to remember how he gobbled up my spaghetti sauce, which included a hidden zucchini, onion and pepper - all foods he would never eat on their own.

Since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, this act of hiding veggies from my husband's blood line has come in handy. My own children can be less-than-adventurous about their vegetables, and so I'm always looking for recipes that will allow me to use my sneaky skill.

Last week, I found one on SkinnyMs that looked good, allowed me to use some of the fresh basil in my garden and featured one of my favorite vegetables, zucchini. (Plus, it is a crockpot recipe, which is always a bonus for the working mom!)

The small critics, my kids, asked about "the green stuff" (shredded zucchini), which I sold as "spices." The big critic, JJ, asked me to cut back on the basil the next time I make it. 

Did you catch it? The next time I make it.

They liked it! Four "clean" plates at the end of dinner helped prove that point.

And, speaking of points, this was a bargain for 5.2 for a heaping cup of cheesy, veggie pasta. 

We'll be having it again tonight. 

(Working moms also love leftovers.)

Zucchini Pasta - my modified version

1 jar of light Ragu marinara sauce
3 cups of dry, Smart Taste penne pasta
2 cups of Great Value fat-free cottage cheese
2 cups of 2% Kraft Mexican shredded cheese
1 zucchini, shredded
Pinch of oregano
Fresh basil (I used about 1/4 cup - too much for JJ's taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of salt
Pinch of garlic

Mix all ingredients and pour into crockpot. Cook for two hours, or until the pasta reaches your desired consistency. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stress cone

It's only Tuesday.

And yet it's already one of those weeks.

I came home from work tonight, fixed a healthy dinner for the family, topped it off with a piece of sugar-free and low-points chocolate cake, and journaled my food. A few hours later, the kids are in bed and I want a treat. Now. 

Yes, I know, we shouldn't reward ourselves with food. This fosters bad habits. Got it. But it's one of those weeks, and so maybe just this one time it will be ok. 

(See, even wannnabe Weight Watchers leaders have "off" days.)

The good news is there isn't much in my kitchen that can be classified as "bad."

I can choose from low-fat popcorn, baked chips and salsa, a bowl of Lucky Charms (my vice!) or frozen yogurt.

Here's what I selected:

A frozen yogurt cone - which feels so scandalous - cost me only 3.7 points (3.3 points for 1/2 cup of yogurt and 0.4 pints for the cone). And I cherished every single, tasty, creamy bite.

(And here's a message to my kids...)

Now, I'm ready to face Wednesday!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Outstanding overnight oatmeal

My mom calls my son "a breakfast eater."

Most mornings, he eats at least two breakfasts - sometimes three - and when I tell him he needs to slow down, he protests "Nana says I'm a breakfast eater."

My consolation for this overeating behavior is that JB doesn't eat much in the evenings.

But perhaps his breakfast-eating ways come from my side of the family. After all, I'm somewhat obsessed with breakfast myself.

This week's morning menu - my personal one - features overnight oats. 

Heard of them? They're all the rage on Pinterest.

I like the recipe on Skinnytaste (of course) and have modified it to fit my own taste buds:

1/4 cup of oatmeal
1/2 cup of Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 tablespoon of milled flaxseed
1/4 of a banana, mashed
1/4 cup of your favorite fruit
Sprinkle of cinnamon
1 packet of Splenda

Mix all of these ingredients together, place in a jar or Tupperware bowl (my preference) and put it in the fridge. Wait at least 12 hours before eating.

My calculations show this to be a four-point breakfast - unless you top it with natural almonds or walnuts, which is fantastic.

For the next four days, I have lots of overnight oats options - strawberry and blueberry, blueberry and raspberry, and peach. 

And there's no way I could pick a favorite.

You can't ask that of a breakfast eater.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Found: World's Best Lean Cuisine

I was about to hang "Wanted" posters all around town, complete with reward money for the person who could help me find it.

Stouffer's managed to get me addicted to their Butternut Squash Ravioli Lean Cuisine - the world's best frozen dinner - and then suddenly it was nowhere to be found.

Let me tell you how much I love this Lean Cuisine. 

I am a faithful Walmart SuperCenter shopper. The prices can't be beat and if I shop early enough in the morning to beat the crowd, the experience is fantastic. As a "Mom CEO," (I love this popular, new demographic - it makes me sound powerful!) I appreciate the ability to buy everything in one place.

That said, the Butternut Squash Ravioli wasn't available at my SuperCenter. So I was making special trips to a Neighborhood Market to buy some. When the NM stopped carrying it, I found it at Target - and literally only went there just to buy my favorite frozen meal.

Then they disappeared. 

I had one stuffed in the back of the freezer for a special occasion. Imagine how much I cried, when JJ and I came home one night from a date and our babysitter was munching away on the last Lean Cuisine. (In all fairness, I always tell her to "help herself to anything in the kitchen.")

Months went by - and every week, I crossed my fingers as I walked down the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Every week, there was only disappointment.

But finally it happened: the world's best Lean Cuisine has reappeared - and at my SuperCenter nonetheless!

I can't tell you how many I bought, for it would be embarrassing. It would've been worse if we owned a deep freeze, trust me.

Just know this: those seven WW points are worth every single bite.

If you can find them! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just like Magnolia Bakery

During a long weekend trip to the Big Apple a few weeks ago, my mom and I happened upon the famous Magnolia Bakery.

Overwhelmed by the selection of gorgeous and sure-to-be scrumptious cupcakes, I wasn't worried about points. After all, we had already walked nearly nine miles in one day. Mom chose the featured cupcake for the day - hummingbird - while I struggled to make a decision, finally landing on a strawberry and cream cheese beauty. 

We trudged back to the hotel, where Mom promptly fell asleep. After a long shower, I settled in with a movie and decided to enjoy my sinful dessert. Who in the world knows how many points were in that little piece of heaven? Halfway through it though, the Catholic guilt set in and I tossed it in the trash. Note: this act of wastefulness didn't have anything to do with the taste - it was magnificent!

The next morning, Mom woke up and decided to have her hummingbird cupcake for breakfast. "It's kind of like a breakfast cinnamon cake," she told me, with a giant smile on her face. Unlike me, she didn't toss half of hers in the garbage bin, but she did let me have a morsel of a bite (which probably cost me five points). It was even better than the strawberry cupcake! 

This got me to thinking that there had to be a way to enjoy such a delicious treat without breaking the Weight Watchers daily bank. 

Enter Skinnytaste - in my opinion, one of the best Weight Watchers recipe blogs around. Gina, the blogger, had a slimmed-down version of a hummingbird cupcake. Last night, I got a baking wild hair and decided to see how these would compare to those at Magnolia. 

Three words: Make them now. 

Eat them for breakfast; eat them for a snack; or eat them because you've walked nine miles in New York City and owe yourself a treat. Just make them.

Oh, and bonus, you can make 22 of these for less than it cost me to purchase two cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. 

And that's counting dollars, not points. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Leaning in: back to blogging

A thought-provoking post showed up in my Facebook feed this week from Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In team.

"What would you do if you were not afraid?"

There are so many possible answers, but one really stood out: I would finally take the steps to become an official, on-the-record, certified Weight Watchers leader. 

This would require a commitment of time, something I feel like I don't currently have - between raising kids, being a wife and a little gig called a full-time job in Corporate America. Then I remembered this blog, which I have ignored for over a year. This blog is an easy way fuel that passion, by sharing my WW tips and recipes. 

So, I'm back. Promise.

I'm still living the WW lifestyle. Last year was key for me. I shed 16 pounds to get back to the magic 1-3-5, and even dropped below those numbers. Faithfully journaling has been the key, along with lots of cooking at home. 

This morning, I tried a new breakfast option and I'd like to share. The first meal of the day is important for me because I typically (1) eat it in the car during my commute or (2) eat at my desk once I get to work. (Someday, I will be able to quietly enjoy my cup of coffee while sitting on the deck in my robe.) It has to be filling because, once work kicks up, I run all day. Lunch sometimes doesn't come until 2 p.m. so breakfast is crucial.

Today's breakfast spot was my poffice. On the menu was Chobani greek yogurt (3.4) with fresh strawberries (0) and two tablespoons of KIND granola (1.3). It was fantastic! And all for 4.7 points.

I'm not afraid to try new things, and I'm not afraid to get this blog back up and running.

I'm leaning in.