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Monday, January 30, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

Really, nothing could be easier but I wanted to post this one because it is my number one winter 'go to' when my family wants pasta. For the past few months, I have not been eating gluten, not trying to jump-on-the-band-wagon but was having some stomach issues and since the doctors couldn't figure it out and still haven't, I thought I would try it and I just feel so much better. Even though my stomach issues aren't completely resolved I generally feel better when I don't eat gluten. However my family loves spaghetti and pasta dishes so I have been swapping out spaghetti squash for noodles when I need it and I haven't felt like I have missed a thing! I LOVE it!! Really love it! And the fact that it has 0-points makes it even sweeter!

1 spaghetti squash
non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a large knife and cut the squash in half lengthwise. You will need to use your super powers, these babies are really tough! Use a spoon to clean out the seeds and gunk that are inside then place it face down in a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Place in the oven and  bake for about 35 minutes. You know it is ready when you touch the back and it gives. Flip over, let cool and eat!

You can sprinkle it with salt and pepper and eat it plain as a side dish or pour your favorite sauce right inside and eat up! You can also scoop it out and serve it on a plate with some marinara and a piece of grilled chicken.
This night I made Chicken Parmesan for my family, I make mine gluten free by first dipping the chicken in egg whites, then in a plate of grated parm next I saute it in some olive oil until done, put some cheese on top and serve it on the spaghetti squash. The one in the picture above is a picture of my daughter's plate, hers was breaded in parm, panko and milled flax.
Weight Watcher Friends: Spaghetti Squash has 0 points!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Asian Mushroom Soup

I made this soup tonight and it was really yummy if you like a veggie soup with a Asian flair. It would make a great starter to any Asian dinner night. We had it tonight with a shrimp stir fry, I will post that later. This was really good, and all of us who like mushrooms in my family loved it! My son who loves mushrooms said, "Mom please make this every night!"

1 t canola oil
3 cups mushrooms (I used 1/2 button & 1/2 portabella)
1 onion, sliced
6-7 baby carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 can sliced water chestnuts
3 stalks Bok Choy sliced (reserve greens)
6 cups Beef Stock
1 cup water
2 T soy sauce (I use gluten free Tamari)
1-2 scallions, sliced

Heat oil in a large sauce pot on medium high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery after about 2 minutes add the garlic and bok choy, let wilt for 3-5 minutes then add beef stock, water and soy sauce. Bring to a simmer, add mushrooms and water chesnuts cook for 15-20 minutes on med low. I served it with the diced greens of the bok choy and sliced scallions on top.

Weight Watchers Friends: This makes 5-7 servings each have 1 point each. A great variation on 0-point veggie soup!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Bites

Whenever I have to pack a snack for myself I love to pack raw almonds, dried cherries or cranberries and throw in a few Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. My husband likes to make fun of me but I always make bites where I take an almond then stack a chocolate chip and then top with a cherry...those three things together make me smile! I have had so many people say how much they loved the Crispy Peanut Butter Cups that I posted in December and I have been trying to come up with something similar, easy and bite-sized, so I used my three favorite ingredients. I thought these would be great and they were. And the best part...they might be the easiest thing I have ever made!

1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (divided in half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray. Mix almonds, cherries and half of the chocolate chips in a bowl. Take 4-5 chocolate chips and place them in the bottom of each muffin cup. I used Ghirardelli and they are a little bit larger than most brands so 4 in the bottom was perfect for me.  If you have any left mix them into the almond, cherry mixture, gently stir then fill your muffin cups with the mixture. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and using the back of a spoon give each muffin cup a little smoosh down so when the chocolate hardens it will hold them together. Then place in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes (if you need to eat them sooner) or in the fridge for about an hour if you can be patient. Once they are cooled use a butter knife to gently pry them from the muffin cups. Store them in the fridge.
The mix..

The arrangement

This is a picture of them 'post-smoosh'.

They aren't perfect, some of them are a little bit crumbly...

But they sure are good!!!

Weight Watcher Friends: These have 2 points each. When I did the calculations for points I divided by 12 and by 15 since there was enough ingredients to make about 3 more. Either way they had 2 points each. Enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Baked Ham and Cheese Roll-ups

These are super simple and very kid friendly! They are a great place to sneak in some healthy fats from ground flax. I have to admit these are not my favorite thing in the world (I'm a veggie girl) but my kids loved them so much that I thought I would share because every once in a while I have to make something that is all about them, right? Don't get me wrong they are a tasty little treat and make a great appetizer just not a full meal for the hubby. It's a good thing to make when he is out of town, although my husband actually really likes these so sometimes I make just a few of them as an app when we are having an Italian dinner night!

12 String Cheese (I used the Weight Watcher brand)
12 deli ham slices
2 T egg whites
1 T water
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 T ground flax (I use Bob's)
1 t salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Marinara sauce for dipping (I use my recipe here)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with my Misto (do you have one of these??? If not, your should get one! You just fill it with olive oil and then pump to spray so you don't have to get a bunch of junk from the aerosol sprays)
Next, unwrap your cheese sticks, set out the ham, whisk together the egg whites and water in one bowl and gently mix together bread crumbs, flax, salt and pepper on a separate plate. To make this easy, set up your cheese, ham, egg wash and bread crumb mixture, to make an assembly line with your pan at the end. This just makes it easy to prep. 

Next, wrap a cheese stick in one slice of ham, lightly dip in egg wash, then roll in the bread crumb mixture. Place on the baking sheet about 1-2 inches apart. Finally, spray again with a light mist of olive oil spray to give them a gleam while they brown in the oven. Then bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt out of the edges. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before you remove from the pan. Serve with steam veggies and a big salad for an easy dinner!

Weight Watcher Friends: If you use the Weight Watcher cheese sticks that only have 1 point then each roll-up is 2.5 points each. So two would be 5 points per serving. I cut mine up into bite sized bites and put on top of a large salad with some Italian dressing and it made a great salad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best Guac Ever.

Mmmmmm avocados...I love them! I love them alone with salt, in soup, on salads I just simply love them! I know they aren't the lowest calorie vegetable but I know they are packed with heart-healthy nutrients so I don't feel one bit bad about eating them!

This is a super simple, recipe that calls for nothing but fresh ingredients! Hope you love it as much as my family does!

3 small-med avocados
2 large Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 white onion, diced
1/2 fresh jalapeno,seeds removed and  minced
handful cilantro, chopped
juice of a lime
salt to taste

Slice avocados in half, twist to open then remove the pits (and set aside you will need them later). To remove the pit, take your knife and quickly whack the pit getting the knife stuck in it, then twist and the pit will come right out!

Next make slices in the avocado while it is in the skin, then scoop out the "meat" with a spoon into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients all at once then gently stir together. Taste, if it needs a bit of salt, add it! Serve immediately. If you are taking this to a party, put the pits back into the guacamole to preserve freshness, a tip I learned from my local carniceria.
Weight Watcher Friends: This one depends on how many servings you get out of it, you can easily get 6-8 servings 3T servings out of this depending on the size on your avocados and tomatoes. With this recipe as is, I made it into 6 servings at 4 points each if you make it into 8 servings it would be 3 points each (not including any chips). In my humble opinion, this is one of those things you can feel great about eating because it is truly healthy, use your extra weekly points or your activity points and really enjoy this one!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

6-Layer Greek Dip

Seriously my friends, this is a slam-dunk!!! I made this up last night in my dreams, honestly I really did, I woke up thinking about it and today I made it happen. And you should too! There is some chopping but no cooking and it can be ready from start to finish in 20 minutes and maybe 15 if your kids don't keep coming up to your cutting board and taking the veggies that you just chopped!

8 oz Classic Sabra Humus
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup seedless cucumber, diced
10 black olives, chopped
1 oz feta crumbled
1 T Italian Dressing ( I used Good Seasonings)

Smooth humus on the bottom of a dish. I used a small glass dish that I have it is 7 x 4.5. (I was just testing this out next time I will use a larger dish and double the recipe!) Layer in the following order: the bell pepper, tomatoes, olives, cucumber. Next drizzle the dressing on top and sprinkle with feta.

To dip you could use pita chips, carrots, cucumbers, bell pepper or even make little lettuce wraps. You could spread this on a tortilla and top with chicken for a delicious lunch. The options are endless, be creative and enjoy it!!

Weight Watcher Friends: The recipe as is, makes 4 servings at 3 points each. So dip with veggies and enjoy a delicious 3 pt snack! But be careful, I ate 1/2 of the bowl it so it was 6 points for me :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shepherd's Pie...Made Skinny

For years, the sound of Shepherd's Pie did not even appeal to me at all. I wouldn't even try it. A couple years ago I was over at my mom's house, she was making Shepherd's Pie for dinner and even though I turned my nose up at it I couldn't help but think it smelled so good! I tried it and was incredibly surprised, it was great! I asked my  mom how she made it, she told me and I made it myself, knowing that my husband would love it, what could be better as far as he is concerned meat & potatoes. Tonight I made a lower calorie version of this classic and it was out of this world! I topped it with my Partially Fake-Out Mashed Potatoes and it taste just like the real thing. Obviously any kind of mashed potatoes would be fine, I just like mine. My mom uses frozen steam and mash, there are also sevearl varieties now in the deli sections of the grocery stores.

1 lb lean ground beef (93% lean)
1 small onion, diced
3 t garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrots, diced small
1/2 green peas, frozen
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2-3/4 cup beef stock
2 t cornstarch mixed
2 t warm water
3 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t ketchup
3-4 shakes of hot sauce (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 cups of Partially Fake-Out Mashed Potatoes

Optional toppings:
1-2 slices of cooked bacon
1/4 cup shredded cheese
chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown ground beef, drain any fat if you used meat with a higher fat content. Add onion, carrots, garlic, mushroom and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Add beef stock and cook for about a minute, mix cornstarch with warm water, whisk together then add to the beef mixture, stir to combine. Add Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and peas and hot sauce if you choose. Continue to stir, if it seems dry you may need to add a little more stock. Should look like this...
At this point you want to taste the beef mixture and decide if you need to add salt. Pour beef mixture into a pie/baking dish.
Top with mashed potatoes...
Place in the oven and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add cheese place back in the oven for 5 more minutes to melt cheese. Top with bacon and scallions.
I'm not sure this looks nearly as good as it tastes! Let it cool for 15 minutes before cutting into 6 servings.
 Both of my kids acted like they did not want to eat this, I was concerned they would balk at it since it was covered in mashed potatoes but we have a rule at our house that you have to try everything, you don't have to eat it if you don't like it but you have to try it. They loved it! They even ate the mashed potatoes!
 Weight Watcher Friends: This dish has six servings and each has 6 points a each. If you use different mashed potatoes than I did, you will have to adjust the points.

Partially Fake-out Mashed Potatoes

Who doesn't love mashed potatoes???? Well my kids don't, it is insane to me, they will eat raw spinach, beets, squash, bell peppers all kinds of things that other kids say NO-WAY to but they honestly won't eat potatoes unless they are in the form of a french fry, and truthfully they really don't even like them as fries! I know, it's very odd. Nevertheless, my husband and I love them! He loves them the way his mother used to make them, with a bar of cream cheese, a stick of butter and a container of sour cream! I'm not gonna lie, they are good her way but let's face it they are horrible for your body. I love fake out versions using steamed cauliflower but my husband wants to just throw it in the trash! So tonight I was planning to make Shepperd's pie for dinner and thought this would be the perfect place to try my 1/2 fake out mashed potatoes and I never told him and he never knew! It seemed like it was going to be a pain but actually they were really easy to make and super yummy!

1 small head of cauliflower, steamed (aprox 2 cups)
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
1/2 an onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T chicken stock
2 t butter (I aways use real butter)
3 T reduced fat sour cream
4-6 shakes of garlic powder
4-6 shakes of onion powder
1-2 t salt
fresh cracked pepper

While the cauliflower is steaming, add diced potatoes, onion and garlic to a pot of cold water, bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes can be easily mashed with a fork about 8-10 minutes. Drain the potato, garlic, onion mixture then pour into a bowl. Roughly chop the cauliflower and add to the potatoes, using a fork, spoon or a potato masher; begin to combine mashing the potatoes and the cauliflower. Add remaining ingredients and continue to mash to your desired consistency. Mine were a little too chunky and since I was clearly trying to deceive my husband I used my stick blender to hide all evidence of the cauliflower!

Can you even tell the difference between potatoes and the cauliflower? Okay I know you can but barely!

As far as the seasoning goes, mashed potatoes are one of those things that you just have to taste until they are right. If they need more flavor I using go with more garlic or onion powder before salt because they can add great flavor without boosting the sodium content. These are great on top of Shepherd's Pie!

Weight Watcher Friends: This recipe makes 4 servings, and it has 2 points per serving.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Single Skillet Chicken and Rice

Sounds simple right? Actually it was really easy, just do your chopping, have your ingredients handy and you can make this from start to finish in less than 30 minutes and only have to wash one pan. Last week I was trying to make dinner and 'use what I had' in the house and I had no plan. After looking in my fridge and finding a package of chicken breasts, 3/4 a package of sliced mushrooms, 3 slices of bacon, some beef stock and a shallot I came up with this, and it was really good. And anytime I can throw some bacon into dinner I get extra credit from my pork loving husband!

3 slices Bacon
2 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally so they are thin
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
Splash of white wine (about a 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup beef stock
1 t cornstarch mixed with 2 T warm water
1 t butter
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 onion, sliced
2 cups Brown rice
1 cup green peas (I used frozen)

Cook bacon until crisp, move to a paper towel and drain pan leaving a small amount of bacon grease to cook the chicken.

Season the chicken as you would like (I used salt, pepper, paprika) then add to the pan where you cooked the bacon, cook on each side for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through, then move to a plate and cover with foil. Use the same pan and turn the heat on high and add the wine, let it simmer and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly to release the bits of bacon and chicken off the bottom of pan. Add beef stock and continue to cook together. In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch and warm water once you have a white liquid add 1 T of the mixture to the sauce stirring to combine. You may have to add more if you want your sauce thicker I ended up adding an additional teaspoon. Once you have a thin gravy pour into a bowl/cup and set aside. Should look something like this...

Add the butter to then pan, add onion, cook for about a minute, add mushrooms cook for a minute then add shallots and garlic and cook all together for 2-3 minutes, add the peas and cook for 1 more minute. At this point chop the bacon, slice the chicken into thin strips then add the rice, chicken and bacon back to the pan cover with your sauce and gently stir to combine. Season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper if you would like.

Weight Watcher Friends: This makes 5 servings and has 6 points each. Enjoy!!!