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.