Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pork with Mustard Sauce

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

The cold/flu has gotten the best of me. I tried so hard not to get sick, but it didn't work. Instead, I'm a sneezing, coughing, stuffed up mess and up until yesterday I suffered from a sore throat. Luckily, I haven't gotten it as some in my family.

Sickness really derails the exercise/food plan. Even once I'm better I have to be careful working out because of the nasty hacking cough I get. Back in high school the cough turned into an exercise-related asthma attack more than once. And whoever told me raising your body temp through exercise helps keep you from getting sick lies like a rug ;) I jogged on Monday and was full-on sick by Wednesday.

Before I got sick, though, I made my favorite pork tenderloin with mustard sauce. I love this pork because it's so easy and stays really, really moist. The pan sauce is up to you, although the recipe makes a mustard sauce. Usually, you see recipes that call for roasting the tenderloin, but I think the stove top method works well. Just brown it, cover it, turn down the heat, and let it cook for about 20 minutes.

Perfect easy meal.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

My family has the flu. My dad is running a temperature of 101 and my mom thought she was for sure getting sick last night. That left me to make dinner. And after grocery shopping and packing boxes all day yesterday (I'm moving to the cheaper apartment!), I was too pooped to make anything time consuming.

So I cheated.

This soup came from a bag — sort of. I started with potato soup mix. Followed the package's directions for the amount of liquid, but used 1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 water. When it came to a boil, I whisked in a block of shredded sharp cheddar cheese until melted, and then whisked in the soup mix as directed. Then, I added about a head of fresh broccoli florets chopped small.

Then, I let it simmer for 15 minutes like the package says, stirring often. I didn't stir often this time, as evident from the brown-ish chunks of burnt soup. Still tasted OK.

My only complaint about using a soup mix is that the potatoes are clearly reconstituted dried potato chunks. Otherwise, I guess you'd never know I didn't make this from scratch. I can't claim credit for this idea though, the back of the bag suggests adding cheese and broccoli.

Never said I was a genius in the kitchen. :)

I don't have nutritional information for this because I pitched the bag before I thought to write down the number of servings per bag. I found the nutritional information per serving, though, and I would say it serves 6 to 8 depending on what size of bowl of soup you want. I was using regular sharp cheddar because that's what was in my fridge, but you can cut calories with low fat sharp cheddar. But definitely use a sharp cheddar so the flavor doesn't get too lost in with the potatoes.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pan Roasted Tilapia with Buttered Chive Gnocchi

Pan Roasted Tilapia

Friday night before heading to a holiday party for work, I made dinner for my family, Pan Roasted Tilapia with Buttered Chive Gnocchi. I've made it before, except I used cod last time and tilapia this time.

When I got to the party I wasn't hungry so I didn't need to munch much. In fact, a coworker noticed and said, "You're being so good, I wish I had your willpower." I really wasn't trying to be "good." I ate before the party, because while the sign-up list was circulating there were a lot of desserts and not a whole lot of real food on that list. So I decided to eat before I went and sampled some desserts. I had a piece of caramel brownie and a Hershey kiss along with a small sampling of the veggie pizza -- only because it's my party staple and I had to compare it to mine. It was nearly identical by the way.

But eating beforehand is an excellent strategy for holiday parties if you're trying to keep calories in check. This one started at 7 p.m. and if I had tried to wait until I got to the party I would have starved to death and probably inhaled everything in sight. If you know you'll like the food, eat a small snack rather than a full meal like I did. But by eating that full meal I was able to enjoy a couple bites of what looked really good, but wasn't grabbing at everything. Do you have a strategy for holiday parties?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Noodles and Co.

Pan-Fried Noodles

Tonight I had takeout. It's definitely rare for me to grab something out. But I was so happy to fill up my car's tank for less than $10 that I couldn't help myself. Plus my parents went out to dinner and I was on my own.

I ran to the store to pick up more wine (for my semi-nightly treat) and frozen cream puffs for the work party on Friday. I would make something, but my usual work cocktail party fare (a veggie pizza) was already taken. For my own parties, I always make a batch of my homemade caramel corn which is ridiculously easy to make and always goes fast.

So tonight I stopped at Noodles and Company, which is surprisingly not terrible for you. First of all, don't be fooled by their sizes. A regular isn't "regular" it's giant. And a small is good enough. In fact, I was starving when I ate and I had the small Japenese Pan Noodles with the smallest side salad ever:

side salad

And I was stuffed. Too bad they accidentally gave me balsamic vinaigrette when I asked for fat free asian. I didn't use all of it, though. The noodles, with shrimp, clocked in at 7 points, and I estimate the dressing was 2 points at most. I would have preferred the asian, which I'm guessing is zero.

If you decide to try it, definitely check out their site, they have the nutritional info for their entire menu. I love when restaurants do that. Takes the guessing out of it. I always look ahead and decide what I want before I even leave. It's definitely the easiest way to avoid temptation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crispy Chicken Fingers with Sweet Potato Fries

Crispy Chicken Fingers

I've been wanting to post more regularly, but things have been hectic lately. The good news is that I made two successful parts of our Thanksgiving dinner: multi-grain rolls and gravy. The gravy wasn't healthy in the least with 2 cups or so of drippings (my mom roasts her turkey with a ton of chicken stock in the bottom of the roaster), two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of flour. But it tasted great.

A week or so ago I was helping my mom clean out her pantry and found a box of cornflake crumbs, which we've always used to make Crunchy Garlic Chicken. It was kind of old, but I wanted to try it in the Crispy Chicken Fingers recipe I saw. My mom already has a standard baked chicken finger recipe (a WeightWatchers recipe incidentally), but the cornflake crust sounded like an improvement.

The dish pretty much failed for two reasons: the crumbs were stale, and the chicken itself didn't have much flavor. I think it could be improved by adding a little dijon mustard to the buttermilk (like our favorite recipe does) and, of course, always use fresh cornflake crumbs. To be fair, we didn't make the sauce that goes with it. We used regular bbq and ranch to dip in.

On the upside: they were crunchy, which is where our usual recipe fails. So I think if you combine the two, you've got one tasty chicken finger.

Oh, and on the side were Alexia Sweet Potato Fries. Tasted more "fried" than the ones I make from scratch, but were just as soggy. I was hoping these would crisp up more in the oven.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup

Right now I'm eating a bowl of Campbell's Select Harvest Healthy Request Italian Wedding Soup. But I wish I was eating Tortellini Soup, instead. This canned soup is not all it's cracked up to be. It's just missing *something*. Possibly salt. Or just flavor in general. I might as well be eating plain broth with pasta in it.

I bought it to have quick lunch in the event there are no leftovers to eat and because at 110 calories per cup, it's a points bargain. But for $2.50 a can it's not a price or taste bargain. The canned soups the serve in the cafeteria at my office are tastier (which isn't saying much) and cost about the about the same.

I had my doubts about this tortellini soup, but I was wrong. My mom saw this recipe and asked me to make it, but I needed to go work out and it turns out.. they didn't want to wait until 8 p.m. to eat. So my parents put together the meal while I was gone and when I got back it was ready. While I love having my own place, staying at their house hasn't been so bad. A gal could get used to being cooked for more.

We used sweet Italian turkey sausage instead of regular sausage and used less than a pound, cut the amount of green pepper by half and used jarred marinara because I didn't buy enough plain tomato sauce. I think the marinara sauce was an excellent swap, it could have been too bland using plain tomato sauce.

I'm not sure that this makes 11 servings, maybe more like 8 servings? I can't imagine that given less sausage and healthier sausage.. that the nutritional info is much different from the recipe so that's what I went by.

I'm not obsessing over points or calories this week so I wasn't too concerned. My goal on all holiday weeks isn't to lose but maintain, and I'm sure I'll do just that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I made this spaghetti and meatballs recipe for the first time shortly after the ex and I first decided to make the leap from "just dating" to "relationship." I made it with a salad (which he hated but pretended to like) and then made these apple turnovers for dessert.

Then the date ended early because we ended up eating two apple turnovers in addition to splitting an entire bottle of red wine. Drunk + stuffed = felt like I was going to puke.

That was his first and most certainly not last introduction to “beached whale” syndrome, which is short for lying belly up on the sofa groaning in discomfort.

So when my mom requested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner last weekend, I figured this one would go over fairly well.

Making your own spaghetti sauce can be fussy and time consuming, especially this recipe. Having it simmer for 45 minutes and then adding the meatballs for another 15 minutes of simmer? Ugh. For an hour-long process, this sauce needs to be tastier, in my opinion. Don’t they know I have a short attention span?

This isn’t quite as good as my favorite marinara, but my mom liked it because it was lighter and fresher tasting than many jarred sauces. You could certainly use jarred sauce. You’ll need at least a jar if not more, basically enough to cover the meatballs for simmering.

The meatballs, though, are the shining star of this recipe. A mix of sweet Italian sausage and ground sirloin, these little babies are a snap to make and are full of flavor. The only change I made was using dried basil and whole wheat pasta. Otherwise, I made everything as written.

Next time, though, I’ll make different sauce. The meatballs are a keeper.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

From the Archives: Teriyaki Chicken Thighs with Asian Noodle Salad

Chicken Teriyaki

I came home Tuesday evening to find my chicken thighs were still frozen solid. I could thaw them the rest of the way in the microwave, sure, but why would I do that when my parents were offering to buy me Panera?

I never turn down black bean soup and 1/2 a mediterranian vegetable sandwich (which is my absolute favorite).

So, I let the chicken finish thawing for another day and made my entire family these Teriyaki Chicken Thighs with an asian noodle salad. It wasn't exactly a cold-weather meal, but I really like these chicken thighs. And the noodle salad complements it well. Just a tip on timing so it doesn't take an hour to make this meal. Put the water to boil first, then marinade the chicken, then put the noodles in and chop the veggies for the salad while the noodles cook. Then cool the noodles and cook the chicken.

I ended up not marinating the chicken, but broiled and basted instead. I didn't create a plan of attack first and didn't realize the chicken had to marinade. Oops.

Other than that, it was as great as always and the entire meal comes out to 8 points.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diner Meat Loaf "Muffins" and Skillet Roasted Potatoes

meat loaf

Today was the first full snow. Blech. I hate snow. If it's a day off and I don't have to go anywhere, I like the snow, otherwise, I could totally do without it.

I'm not really even good at winter sports like skiing. Once, a former boyfriend took me on a ski trip with his friends to the West Virginia/Maryland state line. I've heard that these ski resorts in good skiing areas claim they have a bunny slope, but really they don't. And this one was no exception. I got off the lift and immediately it's a downward sloping righthand turn. If you don't make the turn, there's a trees and lots of them.

No one bothered to take the time to teach me to ski or offer to let me take lessons, instead, I had to figure it all out for myself. And did I mention I'm afraid of heights? The ski lift was traumatizing enough -- but on the second "bunny" slope, it was so steep I ended up screaming about a 1/4 of the way down the hill, until I nearly lost control and sat down. I then slid down the hill on my butt the rest of the way.

I will not ski again. And I hate snow.

Tonight's meal was a great for this kind of weather. Diner Meat Loaf "Muffins" with skillet roasted potatoes. I can't believe I've never written about these muffins. They're a fantastic way to make meat loaf on a weeknight as they cook in less than 30 minutes, and even though you end up using extra lean ground beef -- they're super moist and flavorful. Hands down my favorite way to make meat loaf and they even come with built in portion control.

On the side I made skillet roasted potatoes. They aren't the lightest recipe in the world, but they are crispier than traditional oven roasted potatoes.

Skillet Roasted Potatoes
1-1/2 pounds small red skinned potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes in half if they're small (if they're less than 2 inches diameter) or in quarters (if they're 2 to 3 inches), making 3/4 inch to 1 inch chunks. Rinse the potatoes in cold water, and spread on a kitchen towel and pat to dry.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until oil shimmers, but isn't smoking. Add the potatoes cut side down and let cook 5-7 minutes until browned.

Turn potatoes skin side up if halved or turn to the other cut side if quartered and cook for another 5-6 minutes.

Stir potatoes and rearrange into a single layer; cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook covered for another 6-9 minutes, or until a paring knife slices through the potato easily. Season potatoes to taste and serve. Makes 4 servings.

The potatoes are 4 points per serving and the meat loaf is 6 points per serving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Herbed Chicken and Dumplings

chicken and dumplings

This weekend, it actually snowed a bit. Just the occasional flurry, but it was still darn cold. I think the high temp was 38-ish, which isn't that cold considering it usually gets down to the teens by February, but when it was 70 degrees just a couple of weeks ago it feels a little more shocking. One of the bonuses of being at my parents is definitely the fireplace.

So tonight I made Herbed Chicken and Dumplings. It was perfect, even if my dumplings were a bit malformed.

It was a bit fussy -- it took 9 minutes to cook the chicken and veggies, 30 minutes to simmer and then 10 minutes more after the dumplings were added. But that's OK. That's why I made it on a Sunday.

Alongside, I warmed up my favorite frozen whole grain rolls for about 376 calories for the entire meal, or 7 points if you're counting. Definitely worth the effort.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Garden Risotto

Garden Risotto

I am so ready for this week to be over. The week has gone by fast enough, but I'm seriously just ready for the weekend.

And because I'm in a comfort food kick, I made Garden Risotto tonight for dinner. I'll eat any vegetable if it's mixed in with creamy rice. I love risotto. It's one of my favorite foods. And this one is only 5 points per 1 cup serving, according to the Recipe Tracker (although the NI says it would be 4 points). If you opt for making the recipe four servings, it's still only 7 points, which is still a good deal, if you ask me.

This one wasn't any particularly special. I think it could have used a bit of butter stirred in at the end. But the asparagus, peas, and spinach made it nurtient rich, that's for sure! It's probably something I'll make again.

The rice doesn't really hide the vegetables, but I think the make them more palatable.

How do you like to "hide" your veggies?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rotini with Sausage and Spinach

Rotini with Sausage and Spinach

My pants are falling down and I need a belt desperately. To get a pair of pants fit in the behind, they’re often too big in the waist.

At least that’s the case with the pants I’m currently wearing. On the other hand, I have a pair of jeans that fit in the waist and look big everywhere else. Go figure. Shopping for pants is ridiculously difficult no matter what size or shape you are.

Tonight’s dinner: a pasta dish with spinach and sausage, kind of similar to the one I tried several months ago.

This one was adapted from Cooks Illustrated. It needed a few tweaks to make it more healthful. I reduced the amount of hot Italian turkey sausage, less cheese, and I used sun dried tomatoes NOT packed in oil, and well, that was about it. It also originally called for penne, but eh, when do I ever actually use the type of pasta the recipe calls for? Usually not often.

So it’s whole wheat rotini tonight. I was actually short on rotini, but I found a partial box in my mom’s cupboards (thanks Mom!). Otherwise it would been a mix of rotini and macaroni.

This was so good. Simple and delicious, just the way I like it.

Rotini with Sausage and Spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 hot Italian turkey sausage links
3 cloves minced garlic
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 1/4 cups water
8 ounce rotini (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (soak them in water until they plump first.. then measure them)
salt and pepper
A 6-ounce bag baby spinach
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage,breaking it up as it cooks, until no longer pink. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in broth, water, rotini, tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until rotini is tender and liquid has thickened, 15 to 18 minutes.

Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

White Bean Chili

White Bean Chili

I read a lot of food blogs. A LOT. I can hardly keep track of them all. Sometimes the writing draws me in, sometimes it's the photos, and sometimes it's the recipes. Even a combination of the three.

I found this "white" chili on a blog, although mine doesn't nearly look as white as hers. But it was really, really good. Even with my tweaks it was 9 points, which is probably more points than most are looking to spend.

I cut the olive oil down to 1 tbsp, because my soup pot is nonstick. And, I only used two turkey sausages. I also used pinto instead of white beans, because it's what I had in the fridge. To cut points, maybe it would be better to cut it down to one sausage per 4 large servings (about 2 cups) or you could leave it out -- although I think it adds a ton of flavor. You could also just eat a smaller serving. If you make it six servings instead of four, which makes it just over a cup per serving, it's 6 points. Either one works when cutting back on points.

I had it with not one, but two rolls leftover from my parents dinner. Probably not the healthiest, but I came home starving from working out and it really hit the spot.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Macaroni and Four Cheeses

Macaroni and Four Cheeses

It was a slow, quiet day at work today. And cold. It's days like these that it's really, really hard to drink plain water. We have a water cooler in our break room, which unfortunately cools the water. Cold water is just not appealing. I haven't yet developed a taste for plain, hot water.

I know, for the sake of WeightWatchers' guidelines, only half of the six 8-ounce servings need to be plain water, but I tend to strive for more than that. I strongly believe I'm fighting my genetics here. According to my mom, I would often go through most of the day without drinking anything.

I'm not sure if that's because I just don't get thirsty, if I'm secretly a camel, or if that just goes to show I hated plain water even when I was an itty-bitty.

I managed to get one water bottle full of water down, (a Kleen Kanteen knock-off) which I'm guessing from holds roughly 32 ounces. I should double check that and I've been meaning to, but well, what can I say — I'm lazy.

Then I *had* to switch to hot fruity herbal teas for my sanity. I was already wearing two sweaters (my cardigan I wore to work today and my "Mr. Rogers" sweater coat) and I just couldn't take another drop of cold water.

Tonight's dinner was a happy accident in terms of planning. A warming comfort-food dish: Macaroni and Four Cheeses, Ellie Krieger's take on a lighter mac and cheese. I've seen this on a few blogs last month and I have her cookbook out from the library, so I thought I would give it a go.

The winter squash intrigued me, and I'm determined to like it in one form or another. I've spent years wishing a store near me would carry frozen winter squash, and now that they do.. I feel compelled to make use of it.

The end result? Eh, it was wasn't really all that cheesey and it was grainy. I've made better. It's not bad as long as you aren't expecting macaroni and cheese.

Here's my other attempts at making macaroni and cheese (with mixed results). Some are light versions and others aren't: Creamy Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese, Grown-Up Mac and Cheese, Macaroni and Cheese

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beef Polenta Pie

Beef Polenta Pie

Wow, I need new lighting.. pronto. This is awful. Seriously awful. I've been tossing around the idea of specialized lighting for a while, but I've been too scared to make any real purchases. Maybe I'll just start with a bulb and see where it goes. This doesn't look very appetizing, but maybe I'm just picky.

I assure you it wasn't as bad as it looks. The Beef and Polenta Pie wasn't a dinner that wows, but it was cheap and cheerful — meaning it filled my stomach, didn't take much time to make, and was cost-effective. By using 1 pound extra lean ground beef and 4 tsp of oil, it comes out to about 10 points per serving. And I felt the portions were fairly large.

I think my general dissatisfaction with dinner this week stems from the salt shaker. I cook with pinches of kosher salt here and there. Because it's a coarse salt, I can see how much is going in to the dish. I've been at my parents house and my mom does things the way she's always done things.. with a salt shaker.

It works for her, but not for me. I just can't seem to get the right level of seasoning and I'm constantly having to taste the dish, whereas a taste or two at home usually is enough to ensure the seasoning's right. And a dish like there, without much in the way of spices or herbs, really needs to have the right balance of salt and pepper. Otherwise it's just kind of tasteless.

Tonight's dinner, which I plan to share on Monday, should be amazing, though. Looking forward to it :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

The other day I was reading For the Love of Oats and I saw her use fresh cranberries in her oatmeal. I thought, "Wow, that's a great idea." So I bought a bag of cranberries to add to my oats in the morning.

Only, the were oddly crunchy and pretty bitter and in my mind didn't make the best addition to oatmeal.

So, I'm flipping through my November food magazines when I realized, duh, I could make those cranberries into a cranberry sauce, and that would be a great add to my morning oatmeal. Why didn't I think of this before?

So last night at 10 p.m., I was making cranberry sauce. It's simple, and takes only 10 minutes to cook. I used the basic recipe in the November 2006 Bon Appetit, but added a pinch of nutmeg and a healthy dash of cinnamon after it was done simmering. It was spiced just right and was great stirred in to my oats this morning.

And it comes out to only 2 points per 1/4 cup, which is plenty for a bowl of oatmeal. I'm sure you can get more exotic with it. I've seen people suggest adding things like nuts and blueberries to it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Stuffed Squash

Stuffed Squash

I should just admit it to myself: I’m not a fan of squash. Butternut squash is just OK in my book, especially the work I have to do to get it into an edible form. And the frozen winter squash puree and I tried and (lucky for you) didn’t actually post wasn’t very tasty, either.

And now I’m pretty sure I can add acorn squash to my “take it or leave it” squash list. So that means pumpkin is the only one I like so far, and maybe spaghetti squash. It’s been a long time since I’ve made that one.

I can’t say I hate acorn squash in all its forms. I didn’t exactly hate it when it was mixed with the stuffing in this stuffed squash recipe. When mixed in with the couscous (whole wheat, of course), walnuts, extra lean ground beef, and dried cranberries, it was a sweet-like complement to the filling.

But the minute I ran out of stuffing to eat it with, oh man. I could hardly take another bite. Even adding extra salt, pepper, and a little butter didn’t help. It was just too squashy tasting — which I should’ve expected because, hello, it’s a SQUASH. But whatever. I learned from my mistakes, though, and while eating the leftovers for lunch took care to make sure eat bite had the perfect ratio stuffing to squash.

I think if you like acorn squash, this is a good fall recipe to try (I LOVE cranberries and walnuts). But if you’re undecided about squash make sure you get a bit of that squash with every bit of stuffing, otherwise you’ll just end up like me with too little stuffing and too much squash.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pomodoro Pasta with White Beans

Pomodoro Pasta with White Beans

First of all, for all my readers who've left comments and e-mailed me about my recent break-up, thanks so much for the kind comments. I appreciate the support.

I’ve been in a funk lately. October was a rough month for me. I know some day I'll look back and probably wonder what the big deal was, but for the time being, I’m just glad it’s over.

And last night I worked out for the first time in at least a month. According to my heart rate monitor I burned 350 calories.. then I promptly undid that with halloween candy and a glass of red wine. Oops.

Tonight I meant to restart the couch to 5k plan tonight since I’ve let it lapse. But the YMCA was a voting place, and it was a zoo. I'll definitely go tomorrow. I'll make a runner out of myself, yet.

For dinner last night, which I enjoyed after I ate a couple of tortilla chips with salsa, but before I dug into the m&m’s, I had the Pomodoro Pasta with White Beans from Eating Well magazine.

I made my version with twice the tomatoes and whole wheat rotini. I forgot the cheese, but I’m not sure it could have saved this. Maybe I'm being critical of these recipes, but I just didn't see anything special about this meal, either.

I really liked the olives in this, but the rest was just OK. I used cooking spray instead of the oil, which cut the recipes points from 11 to 9 per serving. Still too much in my opinion. I can think of a dozen pasta recipes for 9 points or less that I like much better.

I think I’m just not a huge fan of fresh tomato "sauces." Do you have one you like? Maybe if I try a tried and true recipe it'll go over much better.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bean Burritos

Bean Burritos

I decided these bean burritos because they included instructions to reheat from frozen, I thought these would be a great thing to have for those nights when I come home famished and just don't feel like cooking. Or when I run out of food money and still need to feed myself for the week. Rare, but it could happen.

They were just OK. I was reading through some of the reviews on the Everyday Food site and some said they were bland. And I agree.. even though I used pepper jack and chili powder. I even used an entire jalapeno and half still had the seed and ribs. I'll eat the ones I wrapped for the freezer, but I don't think they're worth making again, especially considering one burrito comes to 8 points. For that many points, the burrito should be tastier, I think.

Bean Burritos
1-1/2 cups rice, cooked (brown or white)
Cooking spray
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, chopped (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bag frozen corn kernels, (5 ounces)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
6 whole wheat tortillas, 8 inches
3/4 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Salsa and sour cream, optional

Cook rice according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a pan coated in cooking spray over medium. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin and chili powder; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add beans and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions.

Heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with 1/4 rice, 1/2 cup bean mixture, and 2 tbsp cheese. Fold, and hold in sides. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.
Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap individually in plastic and freeze up to 3 months.

To reheat from frozen: Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mushroom Spinach Quesadillas

Mushroom and Spinach Quesadillas

I might get to move to a smaller apartment and save some money in the process. While I love having so much space, a possible $100 a month savings is too much to pass up. When I first got this new job with a bigger paycheck I promised myself I wouldn't let money get as tight as it was when I had my last job. I couldn't really help it then but I can help it now. Sort of.

My current situation I can't really help.

But it's exciting news anyhow. Maybe my luck is starting to change now that October is over.

I did find the perfect recipe to use up the odds and ends in my fridge. The people at Everday Food must have been able to see inside my fridge. I had both mushrooms and spinach to use up. But I decided to change the recipe, quite a bit.

I thought it might be a bit bland so I added about 1/2 tsp each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and about a 1/4 tsp oregano. I also cut the amount of cheese in half, cut the oil to 4 tsp (you can use less to saute and spray the tortillas with cooking spray) and used only one tortilla per serving. If you can find taco sized it'd probably be OK to use two, but the brand I have is 3 points per tortilla, so I only used one and folded it in half.

On the side roasted green beans. I put green beans in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes after tossing them with a little oil, salt, and garlic herb season. Even though it was all pretty much on the fly, it was a great dinner.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup

I don't know about where you live, but here in Ohio it's a drizzly cold mess. At least it has been the past couple of days. I hate that it's almost winter. I think I'm meant to live in a more temperate climate.

When it's so yucky I crave soup and lots of it.

Pre-WeightWatchers I would definitely say my favorite soup was Panera's baked potato soup in a bread bowl. But that meal (sometimes washed down with a bag of their potato chips) clocks in at 820 calories, 13 grams of fat and 6 grams of fiber. The fat and fiber isn't awful considering, but 820 calories? Yikes. That's a little over half an entire day for me. And I could probably eat that entire thing.

So, over the years I've looked for a suitable swap in the baked potato soup department. And I think I've found the winner. This baked potato soup recipe is one of the top-rated soups at Cooking Light and I can definitely see why. It's so creamy and delicious, you won't believe it's only 329 calories per serving.

It says you get 8 servings out of the recipe, but I halved it and didn't nearly get 1-1/2 cup servings out of that. It was closer to a cup I suppose. So it's fairly pointy for just a cup, but it's so satisfying and rich tasting.

If halving it, you would use 3 cups of milk. I only had a pint of 2%, so I used 2 cups of 2% and a cup of skim. You might even be able to get away with 1 1/2 cups of skim and 2% if you're looking to cut calories. I also used center cut bacon instead of regular. And I would used more salt than it called for. For me, salt=taste.

This one's definitely going in the make again file.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stuffed French Toast

Stuffed French Toast

I found a new "butter" at Trader Joe's: Cranberry Apple Butter. This might not be new to some, but it's new in my store and it's wonderful. I might even like it more than the pumpkin butter. Unlike the pumpkin butter, I could eat this stuff by the spoonful. But I won't.

If you like cranberry sauce you'll love it as much I do. This week I'm stirring it into my cream of wheat, but I also made Stuffed French Toast with it. This french toast from Vegetarian Times, is low enough in calories and fat that it's not breaking the bank to have two servings drizzeled in plenty of warm maple syrup with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

I've tried the recipe twice now, once with cinnamon bread and pumpkin butter and the second time with cinnamon raisin bread and cranberry apple butter. I like both of the fillings, but I think I prefer the cinnamon bread over the cinnamon raisin. Or maybe it's because the raisins and the cranberry together are just a little too much for my tastebuds.

And if you don't have vanilla soy milk you could use regular milk. I might add just a smidge of vanilla, though, if you use cow's milk. What's french toast without a hint of vanilla in the background?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken

Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken

This past weekend was for the most part, gorgeous. I saw it as one of my last chances to grill out before it's supposed to snow. Can you believe they're calling for flurries already? I guess it's nearly November, but still.

So I made Pineapple-Teriyaki Chicken from Eating Well. I'm pretty sure I meant to make this a month or so ago. I had pineapple rings in the pantry and I vaguely remember wanting to try this recipe. I love chicken thighs, I love pineapple, oh and teriyaki, too. And like yesterday's post, if you don't have chicken thighs, you can substitute bonless/skinless chicken breasts. But if you haven't tried chicken thighs.. do so.

The only problem I had with the recipe was that I walked away from the sauce when it was coming to a boil and by the time I made it back to check on it, it was boiled to the point it was almost gone. I think making extra marinade would be a good idea, anyhow. The sauce over the top of the chicken is what really makes it special. Otherwise it's just grilled chicken.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stuffing-Topped Chicken with Creamy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Stuffing-Topped Chicken Thighs

A cold front is coming in today, I think. And I've been craving comfort food. Eating Well's Stuffing-Topped Chicken Thighs combines Turkey Day favorites like stuffing and gravy in a skillet casserole. On the side, I made Creamy Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

I loved the chicken and stuffing. It came together quickly and tasted a lot more fattening that it really was. And it would be easy to modify based on what you have on hand. Don't have chicken thighs? Use boneless/skinless chicken or even turkey cutlet or tenderloin cut up. Don't have shallots? Use some onion instead. I made one swap. Instead of country white bread I had whole wheat so I used that instead. I'm always looking for ways to use whole grains.

It's definitely something I'll make more often.

The mashed sweet potatoes, on the other hand.. I'm torn. The weren't at all what I was expecting, but they weren't bad. They were more like a sweet potato puree rather than mashed. I ended up using a little too much chicken broth. What I liked about them was that they weren't sweet.

I always thought I hated sweet potatoes because the only ones I'd ever had were the canned yams with marshmallows at my grandma's house. Blech. Now, I crave sweet potatoes.

Overall, a pretty tasty meal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta

Butternut Squash Risotto

I have the worst crick in my neck. I think I pulled a muscle in my neck/shoulder before I fell asleep. I remember turning funny, feeling something pop with a rush of pain, then thinking "Crap, I'm not going to be able to turn my head."

It's not as bad as the last time I did this a year or so ago. Then, when someone asked me to look left, I'd have to turn my whole body to the left. I couldn't even sit at my desk and type. Even though it's not that bad this time, it did keep me from working out last night and it meant I was on the couch nursing my neck with a heating pad.

Thankfully, it feels better today.

But whenever I don't work out I end up making poor eating choices. I actually snacked continuously while cooking, downed a couple of glasses of white wine, and then ate dinner. My stomach definitely does not like me this morning. Note to self: don't gorge on tortilla chips and salsa, random bites of cheese, and a ton of wine unless you are wishing for gastrointestinal distress.

I woke up feeling so ick today I downed a good 36 ounces of water before I even left for work. It helped, but I'm still not feeling less than stellar.

So about dinner... it took forever to make. Seriously. This butternut squash tutorial makes it look so easy. But a four-pound squash is not that easy to peel. Or cube. Or cook for that matter.

What was good about this butternut squash risotto is that it goes go in the oven — no stirring makes me happy inside. The bad part? I had to have the squash done in time for the oven to cool off to 325 degrees. So the whole meal took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. It was good, but I'm not sure I'll make this again for the same reason I don't make most squash dishes. I'm just not sure it's worth the hassle.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

I’ve got good and bad news. The bad news: I really wanted a Coke Zero but the machine was sold out. The good news: the machine converted my hodge-podge collection of dimes and nickels into two quarters and two dimes.

Let me take a minute, though, and profess my workday love for Coke Zero. I hate artificial sweeteners. The make me want to gag most of the time. (See Coffee). But I heart Coke Zero for some reason. I blame my dad.

At lunch a month or so ago he was sharing his nutrition “wisdom” at lunch (i.e. what he heard on the TV news) on how supposedly the fake sugar in diet sodas (whatever that big long p-word is on the can) might kill you. And I said I thought Coke Zero had Splenda in it. So, to prove to him that I’m all-knowing I bought a can.

I was wrong. It totally had the p-word on the can. Oops. But now I was stuck with the diet soda that I didn’t really plan on drinking. Not one to waste my hard-earned 70 cents(!) I drank it. And it wasn’t bad. It actually kind of tasted like Coke. Plus, it only kind of had an aftertaste. I might die from it someday, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

So now when I’m an afternoon slump and need just a little caffeine boost I reach for the Coke Zero. Well, not yesterday anyway. Because, you know, it was sold out.

I didn't even work out like I had planned. I was just draaaaaging. Instead, I spent time with my family and ate a veggie omelet from Bob Evans with steamed veggies on the side. And a slice of pumpkin bread. Overall, I made fairly good choices, though, I probably should have skipped the pumpkin bread.

When I got home, I made this Black Bean Pumpkin Soup I saw on Smitten Kitchen. I love the photography on this blog. Everything looks delicious, and I was particularly excited to make this because for the second week in a row the grocery store only had the gigantor cans of pumpkin. Good thing I love pumpkin.

I made half the recipe and froze a couple of servings for later because I never know when I’m not going to be in the mood to cook. Each cup and a half (or so) serving figures out to 6 points if you cut out half of the butter the recipe calls for. For those counting calories, it's about 347 calories as run through

It's for lunch today, but I took a bite last night just to taste it. The soup was satisfying, spicy, creamy — everything I was looking on a chilly evening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the Archives: Gnocchi with Pancetta, Tomatoes, and Wilted Spinach

Gnocchi with pancetta, tomatoes and wilted spinach

I rarely make a dish more than once and if I do, I usually don't blog about it.

I normally have a backlog of recipes to share, but these past couple of weeks have really thrown me off my usual routine. I can't really discuss much about the now ex-boyfriend and I's demise mostly because I don't think I fully understand what went wrong for him.. and he's probably reading this anyhow.

Sometimes I miss the way things were. It wasn't my idea to breakup and I had no idea it was coming. But honestly, I'm not as sad as I thought I would be. I'm viewing this as a new beginning of sorts.

Not only is it a chance for me to focus on creating a healthy, active lifestyle for myself, I even can put more focus on my career. I hesitated going for a master's degree while he was still working on his bachelor's, but now I have all the time in the world.

Anyhow.. on to dinner. I really did make this gnocchi again last night sans the whole wheat bread in the photo. And I'm using it to illustrate a point I made over on the WeightWatchers' boards.

One member was having difficulty fitting in vegetables. I admit, I'm a reformed veggie hater. And it's recipes like this one that have helped me love veggies. An easy trick is to find a recipe that has a lot of vegetables in it and double them. Voila. Lots of veg mixed in with other things. I can handle that. I can't always handle a big pile of plain vegetables.

Here, the tomatoes soften to create a sauce and the garlic scents the whole dish. Even if you think you're not a fan of cooked spinach, try it in this recipe. It originally calls for watercress, but here in Columbus, watercress is not easy to find. Spinach is close enough. You could probably also use arugula with similar success.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

I was in a good mood yesterday. I'm down at least another pound this week. That's only four pounds total since I've really recommitted a little more than a month ago, but I just felt thinner. I’m not too worried about what the scale says, though. For all the ups and downs I’ve had in the past few years, I have a healthy relationship with the scale. It’s just a marker of my progress and it’s these thin-feeling days that I think count more.

Plus, I know my health numbers are perfect. That’s a big help. I should take my measurements, too.

Now on to dinner. My friend, Valerie, tried these enchiladas from Karina's Kitchen and loved them. Because they came from a gluten-free blog, I ended up making some substitutions like using cornstarch instead of arrowroot. And I used regular white corn tortillas. I also think that because of the writer’s location, chiles are more available. Ours are about $3.99 a pound here, which is just outrageous in my opinion. My food budget is approximately $60 a week for just me — not hard to stick to — but I still have to make smart choices with my money. So I used canned roasted green chiles instead.

These would have to be trying to be horrible in order for me not to like them. They got a good review from a friend who has good taste in food and, duh, they’re enchiladas. I haven’t met an enchilada I haven’t liked. And obviously, they were delicious. I inhaled them.

On the side I made of my go-to salads for Mexican-type foods. Mixed greens with mandarin oranges, red onion, and honey vinaigrette. Yum.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Chops

BBQ pork chops

I'm back with all new recipes and all new photos. For the time being I'm borrowing my parents' digital camera while I decide how much money I have/want to spend on my own camera.

My dad insists a simple point and shoot with a macro function is all I need. I'm unconvinced, but promised I would give his a try with the aid of a tripod.

I made the asparagus next to the pork chop, but the pork is my dad's handiwork. If you can call it that. It's a slow cooker recipe my mom found at for BBQ Pork Chops that doesn't really require much cooking. Not that he can't cook, because he's not all that bad. He just didn't do much of here.

Can't say it was the best thing I've ever eaten, but it wasn't the worst either. I think it would be good as shredded pork for pulled pork sandwiches. And I believe instead of the 1 cup ketchup it was 1/2 cup ketchup and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.

I think it would definitely be a budget-friendly busy day meal.

Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

From the Archives: Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan

I'm cheating. This isn't even that old of a recipe. I made it roughly two months ago. But it's delicious, and it's what's for dinner tonight.

My mom is pre-diabetic, as I think I've mentioned before. So, her meal planning centers around carb counts. I've offered to make dinner, but I'm grilled about the amount of carbs in a recipe. As a long-time member of WeightWatchers, I have to admit I don't give a darn. I can tell her how many points. And sometimes even calories, fat, and fiber. But carbs?

Sure, I can run it through NutritionData and find out. But that's just so time consuming. So I started looking through Cooking Light recipes and others I have full nutrition information for without having to calculate it myself. Do you know how hard it is to find an ENTIRE meal under 45 carbs? I didn't realize my day was such carb-fest.

And then there's my parents' dislikes. Which includes most vegetables — except, of course, for the ones with carbs, like lima beans and corn. She won't eat sauteed spinach in olive oil and garlic but lima beans are delicious? I don't get it.

Then I remembered the Chicken Parmesan I made in August. It was easy, tasty, and only 31 carbs, leaving just enough for a side veggie. I'm hoping for few complaints tonight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From the Archives: Hummus Sesame Noodles

Hummus Sesame Noodles

This week I'm snacking on hummus. I love hummus. In fact, I might be inclined to buy a giant tub from Costco although it's only me eating it.

Sometimes I make my own.

But if it's only just me, then what do I do with the leftovers? That's an easy one. I make Hummus Sesame Noodles. I made my version with whole wheat noodles. And this recipe fits well into my new "economical" meal kick.

Store-bought hummus can be pricey, but homemade is super cheap (especially if you used dried garbanzos to start with). You can buy only the amount of peanuts you need by hitting up the bulk bins and if your store is like mine, I can can choose how many snow peas you buy.

Looking back on the original post, I wasn't a fan of the raw ones. But you can also buy them frozen, for not a lot of money, too. I should make this again soon.

Maybe I'll be buying the vat o' hummus afterall because I'm now craving this and feeling bit lazy.

Original post: Hummus Sesame Noodles

Monday, October 13, 2008

From the Archives: Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi

Ricotta Gnocchi

My friend Laurel calls me to ask about this recipe frequently. It's a favorite of theirs and much simpler than making potato gnocchi from scratch.

This is one of my all-time favorite WeightWatcher's recipes. It's really simple to make and quick to cook. I think you can even freeze them prior to cooking them.

Here, I paired it with my favorite marinara sauce, from Cook's Illustrated.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mediterranean Chicken Stew

Mediterranean Chicken Stew

Sorry for the absence. This really has been the worst month. The boyfriend (of more than two years) broke up with me last week with no warning. It took a few days to get my bearings.

Unfortunately, the camera was his, so I'm still looking for a photo solution. If I have to do a few reruns, I will. I'm sure not everyone has seen every recipe I've ever shared.

Pantry-based meals are going to be even more important these next few months. I went to the store today and bought stuff for lasagna and beef stew and the fixins for pumpkin pie oatmeal and some hummus and carrots/crackers for snack and still spent $47. It did a double-take in the checkout lane. I couldn't believe it.

Earlier last week I made Mediterranean Chicken Stew. It wasn't anything fantastic, but it wasn't bad, either. Just OK. I made it because it's super cheap and relies on pantry stables like garbanzo beans and kalamata olives and corn meal. But the flavor was just average. It might have been better if I had fresh parsley, but I was out.

I miss having money for groceries.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hot Cereal with Pumpkin Butter and Walnuts

Hot Cereal with Pumpkin Butter and Walnuts

I am in love with Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter. I was unsure it first. I thought it would taste more pumpkin pie-like. But it definitely grew on me. And I bought it only because I couldn't find an affordable, smallish jar of apple butter.

I have a couple of recipes that called for apple butter I wanted to try and when I went to my usual grocery store all I could find where these behemoth jars that cost no less than $5. And generally speaking, we don't go through a lot of jam or jelly at our house. And if losing power for more than 24 hours last month taught me anything it's buy only what you can honestly use.

I thought for sure Trader Joe's would have a small jar of apple butter, but they didn't. They only had the pumpkin butter. It was "butter" afterall, and I'd heard good things about it so I decided to give it a try.

I stirred a bit into my whole grain Cream of Wheat and added chopped toasted walnuts for 6 points per serving. Wonderful. I'm already planning a trip to pick up another jar.

Hot Cereal with Pumpkin Butter and Walnuts
Adapted from Everday Food
1 cup skim milk
3 tbsp cream of wheat (not instant) (I used the new whole grain variety)
2 tbsp pumpkin butter
1 tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted

Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cream of wheat, reduce heat and and follow the package's directions for cooking time. Mine was about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in pumpkin butter and top with walnuts.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Annie's Shells and Aged Cheddar with Tangy Mustard Coleslaw

Annie's Shells and Cheese with Mustard Coleslaw

The boyfriend and I have really had to watch our pennies this month. Budgets are no fun. Especially when you don't plan well and you end up one meal short and no money left in the budget.

The result was Annie's Shells with Aged Cheddar with Tangy Mustard Coleslaw on the side. I looked in the pantry and found the box on macaroni and cheese. Then I found half a head of cabbage and a partial red onion. And I always have vinegar, mayo and spicy mustard on hand.

It was a weird pairing, but it might be something you'd eat on the same plate at a cookout. Or at least that's how I pitched it to the boyfriend when he gave me a strange look. It's not a typical meal.. but sometimes you've got to make things work.

Annie's Shells and Cheese is only 6 points per cup and has natural ingredients, which I like. It has similar nutritionals to Kraft Mac and Cheese. The coleslaw is only 1 point. Not bad for a last minute dinner.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chicken-Apple Chili

Chicken-Apple Chili

I think I might enter this Chicken-Apple Chili in my department's chili cookoff next week. I really liked how unique it is. Just like me. :) Kidding.

It's creamy and the apple are sweet but not over-powering. The only problem I had with it (besides the fact it called for WAY more oil and cheese than it really needed), was that it lacked the "kick" that many chili has behind it. It was plenty smokey with the cumin. But it needed heat.

So before I enter it, I'm tweaking it just a bit. I'm going to add some ground red pepper and instead of monterey jack I may take the leap and use pepper jack. Here, I also used cilantro on top, which was a nice addition. I did so mainly because I ran out of green onions. But I liked the swap.

My "lighter" tweaks were using 4 tsp of oil rather than the 4 tablespoons it called for. I have a non-stick stock pot I sometimes use, so there's not need to use that much oil. Also, I cut back on the cheese. I used 1/2 cup of cheese. I should also note I cut the entire recipe in two to make four servings. I left the 2 tbsp butter and flour so it would thicken up properly but used skim milk rather than 2 percent or whole. Worked wonderfully.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Southwestern Turkey Burger with Chili Oven Fries

Southwestern Turkey Burger with Chili Fries

Do you have extra points to spend? I don’t this week. I gobbled up my flex points and then some at the beginning of the week. Stress eating got the better of me. I’ll spare you the drama but I got into a minor fender bender with an uninsured driver (they’re at fault) and the boyfriend may lose his job.

There has been more, but I think even those two instances might drive a normal person toward a snacking binge. I probably won’t show a loss on the scale this week, but I’m fine with that. I’m proud of myself for salvaging the week as best I could.

Last week, though, I had plenty of time to work out and for some reason I ended up with a bunch of flex points toward the end of the week. Wasn’t I lucky?

So I used them to make a burger I had on my list for a while – the southwestern turkey burger. And because I had so many points, I could make chili fries that are baked in a little more oil than I typically use. And — this was possibly the best part — I could wash it down with my most favorite beer. Octoberfest.

The boyfriend complained about the burgers falling apart a little on the grill. Maybe because they didn’t have much of a binder? But they were delicious anyhow. And those chili fries never disappoint. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe yet.

The burger, with a “typical” generic wheat hamburger bun was 11 points and the fries are 3 points per serving. More than many oven fries, but totally worth the extra point in my opinion. My mouth is watering just thinking about how good they were.

Chili Oven Fries
Adapted from Everyday Food

1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut potatoes into wedges.

In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.

Put the potato wedges cut sides down on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray. Bake, turning potatoes halfway through, until they are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Today's a grey, yucky day. And it's these kinds of morning where I really crave a hot breakfast. I often will settle for a bowl of cold cereal and milk on most days, but sometimes there's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of oats.

I could buy the flavored instant oatmeal from the grocery store. They sell all kinds including reduced sugar, but I really to make my own. It's about 100 times more satisfying. Here, I made Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal I adapted from Clean Eating magazine, but I have made a bunch of different combinations. This one has been one of my favorites. At first, I was weary of the protein powder, but it turned out much tastier than I expected. Points will vary depending on how much sweetener and what kind you use, but my recipe comes out to 5 points per bowl. It's a small bowl...but has more staying power than I expected.

If you make a bowl of oats in the morning, what's your typical recipe?

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
1/4 cup light vanilla soymilk (you could use regular milk if you prefer)
6 tbsp water
1/4 cup quick oats (old-fashioned is fine)
A pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
sweetener to taste
2 tbsp canned pumpkin
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder dissolved in 2 tbsp water
2 tbsp chopped nuts

Bring the water and milk to a boil over medium heat. Add the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until oatmeal has thickened, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the sweetener (I use 1/2 tbsp agave syrup), pumpkin, and dissolved protein powder. Add chopped nuts such as walnuts, almonds or pecans and serve.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Breakfast for dinner

Breakfast for dinner

I don’t know what was with me last week. I was seriously dragging.

I came home Thursday fully intending to change into my workout clothes and do a round of the Firm’s Cardio Sculpt. One thing I failed to remember was that they were painting our porch and its entire contents were hanging out my living room. That includes two andridonak chairs with a side table, two mountain bikes, a grill, a large empty flower pot (because I killed the plant that was in it) and a fake hanging basket of flowers (It looks real.. it even fooled our 90-year-old neighbor who was surprisingly still “with it.”)

To fit all of that junk, the boyfriend moved the chair and ottman usually in the living room closer to the center, making it hard for me to move the coffee table out of the way. And because I was already crabby and not really wanting to do anything but veg, I gave up.

And then we had breakfast for dinner. Pancakes from a box, oh yeah. I usually make pancakes from scratch. But I just couldn’t muster the energy and we were out of sugar.

We did have a box of the Hodgsons Mill whole wheat buttermilk pancake mix in the pantry so that’s what we had with scrambled eggs and a couple slices of center cut bacon.

I’m going to choose a mix, this is one I like. It has no weird ingredients and has a good amount of fiber per serving. Make them even tastier by adding a dash of cinnamon to batter. It just bumps the flavor up a notch, and by adding that unexpected flavor they taste homemade even though they aren’t. I bet your friends and family wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.

What’s your favorite lazy-night meal?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Broccoli Chowder

Broccoli Chowder

I love soup. And I love bread with my soup. Those bread bowls at Panera? Best. Thing. Ever. Too bad the bowl (minus the freaking soup) is 590 calories.

Every time I make a batch of soup I have the best intentions to make a batch of homemade rolls. I have a bread maker that would do most of the work for me, but I’m still not able to get my act together.

So when I found these Alexia whole grain rolls at my local health food store, I nearly peed myself in the aisle. They’re whole wheat, made with ingredients I can pronounce, are individually frozen and heat up in only 8 minutes in the oven. Best yet, they’re 90 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of fiber – that’s 1 point if you’re counting. They’re so awesome I nearly grabbed a second one, but luckily was able to reign myself in a bit.

That left me plenty of points to make this Broccoli Chowder and still use the whole milk it called for. Skim milk just doesn’t cut it in soups. Creamy soups need to be creamy… not watery and separated looking. Plus whole milk just tastes really, really good. In this recipe it’s only ¼ cup per serving – not so bad points-wise. Only swap I made was center-cut bacon instead of regular.

And this soup was fantastic. I’m not usually a fan of broccoli in my soup. I’ve gagged on cream of broccoli or broccoli cheddar soups more times than I can count. No matter how hard I fight it, I still have a lingering dislike for the vegetable.

The boyfriend loves broccoli. So this was a nice compromise. There was plenty of potatoes and corn (yay carbs!) to keep me interested and enough broccoli to keep him happy. Oh, and it reheated well, too, which is essential because it made one gigantic pot of soup, and it's only 6 points for four large bowls! Lastly, to make it less chunky I processed it a bit with my immersion blender to give it a thicker consistency. Yum!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Apple-Spinach Chicken

Apple-Spinach Chicken

I love fall. The changing of the leaves, pumpkins, apples, and plenty of warm soups and stews are something I look forward to every year.

Pre-WeightWatchers, fall meant apple turnovers and loaf after loaf of pumpkin bread. While those occasionally appear in my menus, I’m trying to find more healthful ways to incorporate these foods beyond, you know, eating a whole apple as a snack.

I’ve seen those recipes that call for spice cake and can of pumpkin and there are tons of people who swear by pumpkin fluff or baked apples with cinnamon and Splenda. But how do I deal with incorporating these foods in a low calorie/low fat, whole food way? I won’t eat anything with high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils (even if it says it’s trans-fat free) and if it has ingredients I can’t pronounce I try to stay away from it.

Baking is difficult to do in a low-point way, if you expect it to still taste anywhere close to the real deal, so I’ve opted for using typical fall ingredients in savory dishes.

In my most recent attempt I made Apple-Spinach Chicken from Health magazine. What’s good about the dish is that if you use 4 oz. chicken breasts, it’s only 4 points per serving. Low enough that you can add some whole wheat couscous or brown rice, or even a quick pilaf.

The meal overall wasn’t that exciting, though. The sauce was good, but the apples and spinach side dish really didn’t do anything for me. And the chicken was just chicken.

But, that’s not to say I haven’t made a good savory dish with apples or pumpkin. Here’s some of my greatest hits:

What are your favorite pumpkin and apple recipes? I’m always looking for new ones, so send them along!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Herbed Rotini with Grilled Vegetables

Herbed Rotini with Grilled Vegetables

Last night my kitchen was covered with pots, pans, dirty dishes and things were burning while I frantically decided what my next step would be. I'm hardly ever this disorganized. I plan ahead.

But I'm also scattered. I planned to make penne with roasted vegetables and goat cheese, but when I looked at the recipe I noticed I forgot to buy the ingredients for more than half the recipe. So I had to do some quick thinking.

I considered making the grilled vegetable pitas with goat cheese I had planned for later in the week, but then I realized I didn't have time to make the coleslaw, and oh yeah, I was going to buy some corn to grill with that. Oops. Luckily, I flipped the page in the magazine and saw that Cooking Light used those same vegetables in a separate dish. Herbed Penne with Simple Grilled Vegetables. So I made that — sans the basil, which I had also conveniently forgot to purchase.

But dinner was already disorganized at this point and my rhythm was off. I added garlic to the pan to increase the flavor, and then burnt it while I not-so-patiently waited for the boyfriend to bring the vegetables in from the grill. Then I cut pinkie while chopping parsley. What my pinkie was doing in the way of the blade I'm not sure.

These things tend to happen when I haven't prepped dinner before I start cooking. But in the end, dinner somehow came together. And it was a happy accident. And it's even a make again. The vegetables were perfect grilled, they wouldn't have worked any other way.

Best yet, it was only 8 points for a 2 cup serving, so it was filling and didn't break the points bank.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Glazed Pork Chops

Glazed Pork Chops with Smashed Potatoes and Stewed Green Beans

It's been pork central in my household lately, I suppose. First it was ham and now pork chops.

Eh, I guess it doesn't matter much. Pork is delicious. This recipe came with not one, but two side dishes. I love it when magazines and cookbooks suggest sides to pair with the main course. I'm such a doofus when it comes to planning a full menu. And boring, too.

It helps me get out of my Midwestern upbringing rut. Meat with a starchy side and a veggie. I don't really think out of the box. Usually it's rice or potato.. maybe pasta or couscous.

OK. You've got me this time, though. This is a starchy side and veggie combo. BUT these green beans aren't just any green beans. They're stewed. With celery, onion, and tomatoes. Much fancier than my usual steamed green beans with Smart Balance spread.

The potatoes were just smashed potatoes, but the garlic really made them something a little more special for some reason. They were my favorite part of the meal. The green beans were better the next day, surprisingly, and the pork I could take or leave. The glaze just didn't do much for me.

In this recipe I cut the butter in half and used skim milk instead of whole. The result, 10 points per serving with the chops, green beans and potatoes.

What's your favorite way to do pork chops?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Green Bean, Ham and Fontina Frittata

Green Bean, Ham and Fontina Frittata

This weekend the boyfriend and I stopped to get a late lunch while we were out running are usual Saturday errands: the library, grocery store, etc. But because we ate a large lunch at 1:30 p.m., it was just past 8 p.m. when we even got a little hungry.

Not wanting a big dinner, I decided on this Green Bean, Ham and Cheese Frittata. Frittatas are my favorite go-to light meal. They're filling without being heavy. And most, like this one, just call for a few vegetables cooked in a pan, top with beaten eggs and shredded cheese mixture let it set up a bit, and throw it in the oven to finish cooking. Mostly hands-off.

I actually only made one swap in this recipe. I was cooking with what I had on-hand and I was out of scallions. So, I swapped it for regular onion. One note I might make: the ham I bought was super salty, so if your ham is salty do yourself the favor and leave out some of the salt. Mine came out tasting overly salty.

Otherwise, the boyfriend thought it was one of the better frittatas I've ever made. At the very least, it didn't come out as flat as a pancake like usual. Maybe it's because I used the eight whole eggs like the recipe called for. Without any modifications, the recipe is 9 points per serving. You can make it lower points by using a combination of whole eggs and egg whites, or you can use less cheese or use a lower fat cheese.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini

Because we got our power back before a lot of the area did, open grocery stores weren't the easiest to find. And the ones that were open probably were without power and some point and I think even with generators they lost some food in the blackout.

So the pickings were slim. I usually keep a hunk of parmesan ready to grate, but we were out. And apparently, so were the stores. All I could find was a tub of shaved parmesan. And as you can see, it melted in the oven in one big clump.

Otherwise, the Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini was great. As soon as the zucchini hit the oven the house filled with the smell of garlic. And cheese ravioli? My favorite. A one-cup serving is 7 points, which really isn't that bad in my opinion.

We ended up having it with grilled corn on the cob drizzled with olive oil on the side because we didn't have anything else to make. It was a slightly odd pairing, but delicious all the same.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ratatouille with Egg

Ratatouille with Egg

This has been a strange week. Sunday, we lost power for more than 24 hours. Hurricane-force winds from Ike actually made it to Ohio and knocked over tons of trees and power lines. Apparently more than a million people were without power.

I was lucky to have power back by 8 p.m. on Monday. Many are still without power. I still lost the entire contents of my fridge and freezer, which is so aggravating because I had *just* gone to the store. Fortunately, I have a backlog of meals to share, so there hasn't been any blogging downtime.

I didn't think anyone would be interested in our steady diet of takeout and grilled hot dogs while our power was out (sometimes it sucks to have an all electric apartment!). But it got me to thinking, maybe readers want to know the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. Would you be interested in seeing a day-in-the-life entry once and a while? Something like Kath Eats Real Food, Eat Like Me, or The Kim Challenge — where I chronicle a day's worth of meals?

I couldn't do it often because that kind of blogging takes more time than I have to spend.. but it might be a good occasional feature. Send me some feedback.

Anyhow, on to the ratatouille. I can't say I was particularly impressed. This wasn't anything spectacular, but it is a good use of summer's produce and fairly simple to put together. And, I got to make an over easy egg. I'm so pleased I found some simple instructions. I always managed to ruin it before. Now, why didn't I think of using a lid?

And even though I made only half the recipe, it still made a ton. I ended up freezer some.. which I then promptly lost due to the power outage. Such is life, I guess. But the best part is this meal is extremely point friendly. It's great for those days where you lack points to spend and veggie servings. I cut the oil down to 4 tsp, so a serving without the egg is only 2 points. I added the egg, though, and a hunk of whole grain bread to make it even more filling.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mushroom and Zucchini Tacos

Mushroom and Zucchini Tacos

Meat is expensive. Especially pork and beef, which can be $3 a pound or more. And when you're trying to stay on budget, a couple of pounds of meat at $3 a pound can eat up a big chunk of your grocery bill.

So, each week I do plan a couple of meatless meals. There's just one small problem — the boyfriend won't eat beans of any kind. Try finding a meatless meal that doesn't have beans. It's actually kind of difficult.

I ran across these tacos that have zucchini and mushroom and red onion for the filling and was immediately excited. Meatless with no beans and zucchini are about 99 cents per pound. Less if I buy it at Aldi's in a 3-count package.

And they were simple. Just roast the veggies, warm the tortillas, and top with cheese and salsa, and ta-da, dinner is served.

The boyfriend had just one complaint: "Mushrooms in my tacos are weird." I, however, disagree.

On the side, I served it with my new favorite salad: Romaine Salad with Corn and Pepitas. Pepitas are green pumpkin seeds. Here, they're suggesting you buy the raw ones and toast them yourself. It's healthier that way. But I bought the roasted on accident, so I skip the baking step.

The tacos are a steal at 5 points for a three taco serving if you use only 4 tsp of oil (you may also need some cooking spray) and only a 1/2 cup cheese if using full-fat monterey jack as I did. The salad is 2 points per serving as written.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pepper Crusted Steak with Summer Bread Salad

Pepper Crusted Steak with Summer Bread Salad

It seems like every time I plan to use my grill, it rains. And not just sort of rains. We're talking torrential downpours. So when I woke up to see dark skies and lots of rain last week. I figured we'd have to find some other way to make the top sirloin steak I put out the night before.

But happily, I was wrong. It cleared up just in time for dinner. I think the sun even came out.

The boyfriend wanted to do the grilling and I was skeptical. Once, he fed me a still cold in the center hot dog. And last time, he burned the chicken to a crisp (although I think it was more the skin factor rather than the boyfriend can't grill factor). I was busy making the Summer Bread Salad, so I reluctantly agreed.

And this time, he actually came through. I also armed him with an instant read thermometer so I didn't end up with well done meat or meat that was still mooing. I prefer a nice medium rare.

To add extra flavor we crusted it with salt and pepper. Delicious. The bread salad was a nice complement, although I was lazy and skipped through half the steps by just throwing the whole thing together. I didn't even toast the bread, but I needed to. It was a bit on the soggy side. Otherwise, it tasted great.

The salad says it makes 6 to 8 servings. I halved the recipe and made it four servings for 4 points a serving. I also used a whole grain baguette instead of ciabatta. I estimated the steak comes out to 5 points a serving for four servings out of a 1 1/2 pound top sirloin steak, well trimmed. But what you buy might vary. Always use the info on the package.

I'm so proud of the boyfriend's grilling. Next, I'll have to teach him how to put grill marks on the meat.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chicken Couscous Salad

Chicken and Couscous Salad

I received great news yesterday. I'm the picture of health. My HDL cholesterol levels are much higher than average and my triglycerides are so low the machine doesn't even read them. My blood pressure and fasting glucose are also perfect.

Just goes to show that although I'm currently about 20 pounds above the highest weight for my height range, I'm still healthier than most. Weight isn't always a determining factor. Still, I'm going to continue watching my portions and exercising and strive for a health weight so I can stay this healthy.

The nurse sharing my results shared that triglycerides can be high if your diet is rich with white pasta, white bread, and white potatoes, and alcohol. Basically any food that's converted to sugars in your body.

So maybe that's why mine is so low -- because I enjoy meals like this Chicken Couscous Salad, which I made healthier by using 100% whole wheat couscous. Instead of buying frozen cubed chicken, I kept it all natural by using leftover chicken from a chicken I roasted earlier.

I served it with toasted whole wheat pitas and it was a huge hit. With the chicken, it makes a main dish, but it can also make a side for a cookout or picnic.