Real Food for Real Life

Monday, August 19, 2013

Out of nothing...

Caramel Peanut Butter Pie

Here I am back in Ohio after my wonderful summer down south.  While the time away is heavenly, there is sooo much to catch up on when I get home, including, apparently, restocking all the kitchen staples.  We were going to a friend's house on Saturday night and I wanted to take a dessert (per the not so subtle hint delivered my the host), and since I was making dessert I wanted something rich and decadent. 

 Back story here-   I've been on a "diet break" after losing 65 pounds and maintaining it for 2 months.  As the "diet" starts again today for the last 35 pounds, I wanted something really, really naughty.

But, although I wanted this naughty decadence, I did not want to go to the grocery.  I knew I had a pie crust in the freeze, so a pie it was going to be.  My first thought was Key Lime, but alas, no fresh limes, nor even enough bottled lime juice for this.  This got me eying the nearly full bottle of lemon juice in the fridge, so I decided to sub the lemon juice into my standby recipe.  This led to the pantry where I found only one can of sweetened condensed milk, not the necessary two.  Darn!  Now what? 

I did find two cans of dulce de leche, a caramelized sweetened condensed milk, and I remembered making something that had combined the two types.  I couldn't find anything in my recipe directory, but that was because it was in my "yet to be blogged" folder ( I really, really need to get that caught up, too).  The recipe in question was for a chocolate and peanut butter fudge...


But I had no chocolate in the house, grrr!  I decided then to use both cans of dulch de leche to make the custard base and mix peanut butter into that to create a caramel peanut butter pie.  I went to grab the peanut butter from the pantry, because everyone has peanut butter in their pantry (right?), and all I found was a jar that had granola mixed into it.  What the heck?  But the decision had been made, so that was it, granola and all.  The granola floated to the top of the custard, but that was hidden by whipped topping, and with the addition of chopped peanuts on top, wasn't even noticed.
After all that, the pie turned out fantastically, with the host finding it "to die for" and having two slices(!!).  This pie is very sweet and rich, so I would strongly smaller slices than the eight I cut this in to (I could only eat half).

Caramel Peanut Butter Pie

1 prepared pie crust
2 14oz cans dulch de leche
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
Whipped cream/topping and chopped peanuts, to serve

Combine key dulce de leche, peanut butter, and eggs in a bowl and whisk until the ingredients are well blended.  Pour into the pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until just barely set.  Allow to cool, serve with whipped cream or topping (I used Cool Whip Lite, also found in the freezer) and chopped peanuts (I used unsalted dry roasted, but I think salted ones would have been very nice).
See the granola on top?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just not feeling it...

Look at those lonely oranges and apples left behind after all the other fruit has been devoured.  I've added more fresh fruit to my diet and thought it would be a good idea to have some less perishable fruit around for the days when I had eaten all the more perishable peaches and strawberries.  The idea behind these less perishables was to keep from ever resorting to canned fruit again; my readers on Facebook may remember my lament about the yuckiness of canned peaches.  But despite the good intentions, I just wasn't enjoying these old standbys, leaving them to languish in the fruit bowl.

Well, even the less perishables will one day shrivel up in sad defeat, so after waiting in the bowl for a month, I had to do something with this fruit (I mean other than picking it up and eating it as is).  I have also been eating a ton of salads, so salads they became, the oranges with red onion and the apples slivered up and added to Cobb salad, the tart sweet apple a perfect foil for the bleu cheese.

Here I served the orange and red onion salad over a bed of romaine and sprinkled on some fat free feta.  This was so good I may buy oranges just to make this.  What follows isn't a recipe so much as a guide; adjust according to what you have on hand and the quantities you like.  That pink beverage in the corner?  Raspberry green tea.  If you haven't tried it, you should.  I've been drinking a half gallon a day of this stuff (unsweetened, of course).

Orange and Red Onion Salad

oranges, peeled and cut to whatever size you prefer
red onion, slivered
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
fresh ground black pepper

Toss the oranges and onion slivers in a bowl with a good drizzle of the olive oil, a splash of the vinegar, and a very generous grinding of the pepper.  This salad will keep for several days in the fridge for a few days, making it nice to have around for easy meals.  This was fantastic with the feta and I'll be trying it with sliced avocado next.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Changin' it up and finding a very pleasant surprise...

Plain Cheesecake Minis with Fresh Raspberries
Bake in May I had made some Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Minis for National teacher's appreciation day.  These low fat, low sugar treats were delicious and well worth the 5 Wight Watchers PointPlus that they tallied in at.  I mentioned that cutting the fat and sugar yet more could bring them down to 3 points.  For Mother's Day (yes, I made my own desert) I made the minis again, using all fat free cream cheese and subbing ginger snaps for the chocolate wafer cookies and stevia for the splenda-sugar blend.  These were delicious topped with fresh raspberries and I don't think the friend I had over for coffee later in the week even noticed they were "diet friendly."  In fact, she asked for a second!

Fast forward a month and I asked Ben what he wanted as his Father's Day desert.  Without much thought he declared he wanted a key lime cheesecake.  If you search the web for recipes, key lime cheesecake seems to involve separate layers of lime custard and cheesecake, not exactly what I had in mind.  Remembering my success the previous month with the super friendly cheesecake minis, I decided that I would take those and infuse them with lime flavor through the use of fresh juice and zest.

The verdict?  Another home run! The lime taste was very present, without overpowering the cheesecake.  It is not visible in any of the photos, but the lime zest added pretty little green flecks to the cheesecake.  I was afraid that I would need additional sweetener with the use of the lime juice, but any loss in sweetness was corrected by the bit of fat free Cool Whip, so perfection was achieved.

Key Lime Cheesecake Minis
makes 12 cheesecake minis

12 vanilla wafer cookies 
2 8oz pkgs. fat free cream cheese, softened
stevia equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar (if using packets, 12)
large pinch of salt
zest and juice of 3 limes
2 large eggs
12 tablespoons fat free Cool Whip

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream the stevis, salt, lime zest and cream cheese with a mixer until well blended and fluffy.  Introduce the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated; add the lime juice and stir to incorporate.  Line a (1/2 cup-12 capacity or two 6 capacity) muffin tin with foil  cupcake liners.  Place a vanilla wafer cookie into the bottom of each cup.
Naked (zested) limes ready to juice.
Limes after juicing.  Make sure you get it all and don't worry about a bit of pulp.
Divide the cheesecake batter evenly among the liners.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until almost set- they will still be a bit jiggly, but will firm when chilled. Remove from the oven and let cool at least a half hour so they are no longer hot to the touch and then place in the fridge until completely chilled.  Once chilled, top beach mini with a tablespoon of the Cool Whip, spreading carefully to cover the surface.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.  I garnished these with very thin lime slice quarters, but thin curls of lime zest use a vegetable peeler) would have been very pretty,
So, so good...
 WW PointsPlus

I was very pleased to find that even with the addition of the Cool Whip and lime juice, that these tallied in even LOWER than the plain minis, ay only 2 points each.  I think we will be having these again (and again).   The 'Nilla wafer cookies are evidently much friendlier than chocolate wafers or gingersnaps.  Who knew?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A feast for a father...

What did you do for Father's Day?  Ben is actually driving back to Ohio today so we had an early celebration yesterday.  I am sharing dinner photos from the evening spent celebrating the love of my life (and pretty damn fine dad).  Here's wishing everyone and enjoyable rest of the day...

The first course was a wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing and bleu cheese crumbles, perfect for the steak to follow.
The main course was grilled beef tenderloin, grilled new potatoes, and grilled (in the husk) corn on the cob.  Ben gave the grill a workout for this dinner that I made him.  I did butcher the whole loin myself with five more meals waiting in the freezer.  The potatoes were parboiled, tossed in a bit of olive oil and coated in Montreal style seasoning.  This seasoning is good on everything, and I do mean everything.
Ben wanted key lime cheesecake so dessert was a key lime cheesecake mini.  This turned out to be a fantastic combination of flavors.  The recipe will follow in the next post.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chicago by way of Hilton Head...

Chicago Dog and Simple Slaw
We were planning on grilling some chicken sausages and when I found beautiful poppy seed hot dog buns at the Bi-Lo bakery I knew exactly how we were having them.  We are big fans of the Chicago style hot dogs so we thought we'd do a fresh and lighter version, using the chicken sausage instead of a hot dog, sweet Vidalia onion because it is summer and we are in the south, and fresh jalapeño slices instead of the pickled sport peppers.  On the side we had a simple slaw of sliced green cabbage, scallions, and tiny sweet peppers marinated in seasoned rice vinegar.  Super simple, but so super scrumptious. 
Ben's Plate
 Chicago Dog, Hilton Head Style

fresh poppy seed hot dog buns from a bakery
chicken sausages, we used Johnsonville 3 cheese Italian
spicy brown mustard
Vidalia onion, sliced in thin half moons
summer tomato, sliced in thin half moons
fresh jalapeño, sliced into thin rounds, keep the seeds
celery salt

Grill the sausages.  Slice the rolls and spread each side with the spicy brown mustard.  Layer one side with tomato and season generously with the celery salt.  Layer the other side with onion and jalapeño slices.  Insert grilled sausage.  Eat.  Enjoy.
Oozy cheese yum...
WW PointsPlus Breakdown

The sausage will be 4 or 5 points, depending on the brand.  Unless it is a huge bun, the hot dog bun will generally b 4 points.  The condiments are free. as was the slaw.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

When in the south...


Baked Eggs, à la South Carolina
I've been back in South Carolina for a week know and loving every minute of it.  After a morning of exploring a local park, I wanted something easy, but still substantial, for lunch.  Spying some leftover collard greens in the fridge, I remembered the spinach baked eggs Ben had made me for Mother's Day and I thought, "why not?".  I popped the dish in the oven before popping myself into the shower, emerging to find lunch done.  This was so damn good that I called Ben to make him jealous of hat I was having for lunch, but with the promise to make it for him when he joins me next week.


Baked Eggs, à la South Carolina

For each serving:
1 heaping cup of your favorite leftover collard greens, preferably with lots of ham bits
1 or 2 eggs
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly spritz oven-safe dishes or ramekins with cooking spray.  Place a heaping cup of prepared collard greens into each of the oven-safe dishes, making a well or two in the center of each.  Break an egg into each well and season with salt and pepper.  Place the ramekins on one or two rimmed baking sheets and bake until the whites are set and the yolks are firm around the edges but still soft in the center, about 17 minutes or to your liking. Serve immediately. 

Serve this with a whole grain bread or English muffin and some hot sauce.  Texas Pete is very popular here.

WW PointsPlus:
2 points per egg, but the greens will depend upon how they were prepared.  Mine, made with lean ham and defatted ham broth, are 2 points for a heaping cup.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best Friends and Tequila, part 3...

Chocolate Molten Cake
I knew I wanted to indulge on Saturday night, albeit reasonably, so I was good all week, saved my points. and was it ever worth it :)  We had our Skinny Ritas, and Creamy Guacamole with baked tortilla chips, hummus with baby carrots and whole grain crackers, and sweet and spicy wasabi peanuts.

 The final indulgence for the evening was a chocolate molten cake...think gooey brownie and you know what I'm talking about.  I have been wanting to make something like this for a long time, but for some reason thought it would be difficult or time consuming.  Then I found Mark Bittman's  article and video in the NYT and knew the time had come.  (As a side note_ I love Bittman and his straight forward approach to cooking).

This recipe requires only five ingredients and is incredibly easy to make.  Pay close attention to the baking and don't do as I did- at seven minutes it didn't look done enough so I gave it the nine.  The interior was still very soft, but not "molten" as had been my desire.  That aside, this cake was deliciously sinful and worth the points hit I took.  I will be making this again for the family, but may cut the amount of sugar a bit to get more of the dark chocolate bitterness that we (okay. I mean me) love so much.

Molten Chocolate Cake
Makes 4 individual cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the molds
4 ounces dark chocolate chunks
4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar (or equivalent substitute)
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting the molds

Put the butter in a medium bowl and melt it in the microwave. Add the chocolate to the hot butter and stir until melted.Crack 2 eggs into a bowl, and add 2 more yolks (reserve the extra whites for another use).  Add the sugar, and beat or whisk until light and thick, about 1 minute.  Add egg mixture and 2 teaspoons flour to the melted chocolate; beat until combined.

Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds or ramekins (make sure not to miss any spots, or the cakes will stick). Tap out the excess flour.  Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate them for up to 3 hours; just bring them back to room temperature before baking.)

When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Put the molds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the cakes have puffed up a bit, the tops are barely set and the cakes still jiggle slightly when shaken, 7 to 9 minutes (better underbaked than overbaked).  Let sit for 1 minute,  Put a plate on top of the ramekin and (with a potholder to protect your hand) carefully invert the cake onto the plate.  Let it sit for 10 seconds, then lift up the ramekin.  Serve immediately, with ice cream, sorbet, whipped cream, or just a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

WW PontsPlus - Each cake is 11 points.  Using stevia instead of sugar would bring it down to 10 points.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Best Friends and Tequila, part 2...

Creamy Guacamole
This guacamole recipe I made both the husband the best friend try without knowing what was in it.  It is creamy, delicious, diet friendly, and it DOESN'T TURN BROWN like most guacamole.  The secret?  Cottage cheese.  Yes, cottage cheese.

I found this recipe in an article about 25 Uses for Cottage Cheese.  Fat free cottage cheese has become a recent favorite, so I had to read this article (and bookmarked four different recipes from it).  I have made this recipe three times since, the last time adding a second jalapeño, making it perfect for Ben and I.  I am also going to try this thinned out as a salad dressing, my version of Green Goddess.

I've adapted the recipe a bit (but of course), because who really uses a tablespoon of chopped scallion and 3/4 teaspoon of jajapeño?  Use the whole thing and actually be able to taste it.  You can find the original recipe here.

Creamy Guacamole with Cottage Cheese
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 ripe avocado
2/3 cup fat free cottage cheese 
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 scallion
1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, more or less as desired
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Makes 1 1/2cups.

WW PointsPlus Breakdown - Each quarter cup is 2 points

This guacamole was delicious spread on whole wheat toast with salt and peppered tomato slices, something I usually do with hummus.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best friends and tequila...

The Skinny Rita
Girl's nights are great.  Is there a better way to spend an evening than with a girlfriend (or more), sipping adult beverages, nibbling on tasty bites, and just talking?  It is hard to beat.  I spent Saturday evening, and late into the night (sorry to keep her so late Mr. M), with one of the best friends a girl could ask for, and over the next few posts I'll be sharing some of our treats from the night.

If you know me at all, you know that I much prefer my adult beverages on the dry side, and I find that premade cocktail mixes are entirely too sweet.  I've written before about creating the perfect margarita, but when I went to make one last week I found that I was out of triple sec.  This actually ended up being a good thing because it led to the "Skinny Rita," a margarita that could not be lower in calories and still contain the all important tequila.  Please don't turn your nose up at the use of bottled lime juice.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to squeeze enough limes to get the juice necessary for multiple cocktails, and I assure you, it tastes better than any mix on the market.  And for the calories?  The juice adds minimal calories, so you are really only getting those from the tequila.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Skinny Rita
Makes 1

1 1/2 ounces silver tequila
1 1/2 ounces lime juice
lime flavored sparkling water, calorie free sweetened
salt and lime wedges, as desired

 Pour the tequila and lime juice over ice in a salt rimmed glass (optional), with a lime wedge.  Top off the glass with the desired amount of sparkling water, just give it a twirl with your finger in the glass.

WW PointsPlus Breakdown - Each cocktail is 5 points

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Was that ever good!!

Baked Eggs Florentine
Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful mothers out there.  I told Ben this morning I had dreamt that he and Christopher had hidden some flowers for me.  His answer was that they had hidden them all over the yard in the flower beds.  Oh well, so much for the not so subtle hint.  What I did get this morning was a most delicious baked egg dish from skinnytaste that I had posted to his Facebook wall earlier this week.  Sometimes you can't be subtle, you just have to show them what you want :) 

Ben found this dish easy to make, but if you like your eggs runny like he does, you will want to decrease the baking time a bit.  This recipe is a definite keeper and would make for a great dinner, too.  The next time we have it we are adding a bit of minced garlic and red pepper flake to the spinach, and sprinkling the cheese on top rather than mixing it in (it did get a bit lost).  The addition of a tomato slice or two under the spinach would be fantastic, especially once summer tomatoes are here.  Come on summer!

Baked Eggs Florentine 

2 tsp olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 lb baby spinach, large stems removed
4 large eggs (or more)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp shredded Asagio or Parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly spritz four oven-safe dishes or ramekins with cooking spray.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, add oil, shallots and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add spinach, salt and pepper and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in cheese and remove from heat.
Divide the wilted spinach among the oven-safe dishes, making a well or two in the center of each.  Break an egg into each well and season with salt and pepper.  Place the ramekins on one or two rimmed baking sheets and bake until the whites are set and the yolks are firm around the edges but still soft in the center, about 17 minutes or to your liking. Serve immediately.  These were perfect with a toasted light whole grain English muffin on the side.

WW PointsPlus 
 One quarter of the spinach with one eggs is 4 points, two eggs are 6 points.  A light whole grain English muffin is 2 points.

All done!!






Tuesday, May 7, 2013

National Teacher Appreciation Day...

Low Fat Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Mini

 Christopher:  Why are you making those?
Mom:  For a lunch for your teachers.
Christopher:  But why?
Dad:  To bribe them so they will let you pass this year.
Christopher:  (angry eyebrows)

Today, Tuesday, May 7, is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and Christopher's school is having an appreciation lunch today.  Recruited by a friend to provide a dish for the luncheon, I said yes with no hesitation.  Teachers are beautiful, hardworking people who have chosen a difficult and under-appreciated profession, so there was no question that I would help out.  And my son's teachers?  Well, they put up with him, so enough said  :)

But then she said she wanted a desert.

I had assumed she wanted a savory dish (and we all know he saying about assumptions).  Regular readers know that deserts are not my forte and I rarely make them...to the deprivation of my children according to the above mentioned Christopher.  Ben suggested mini cheesecakes which sounded like a fine idea.  He also suggested full fat, full sugar ones, which didn't sound like such a fine idea.  This recipe is for 12, so double or triple if necessary.

Low Fat Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Minis
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes

12 small chocolate wafer cookies 
1 8oz pkg. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 8oz pkg. fat free cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Splenda Sugar blend
large pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
5 Tbsp. raspberry preserves, divided use
2oz (about) dark chocolate chunks
6oz pkg. fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream the sugar blend, salt, vanilla and cream cheese with a mixer until well blended and fluffy.  Introduce the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated.  Line a (1/2 cup-12 capacity or two 6 capacity) muffin tin with foil  cupcake liners.  Place a small chocolate wafer cookie into the bottom of each cup.

Note:  The wafer cookies I found at Kroger were too large for the liners, so I dismantled some store brand "Oreos" and used the stuffing free half for this purpose.  The stuffed halves I stuck together to make "double stuffeds" and let the boy have them.
Top each cookie with a teaspoon of the raspberry preserves (you could sub sugar free preserves here easily).
Divide the cheesecake batter evenly among the liners and top each "cake" with 4 chocolate chunks, pressing them into the surface of the batter.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until almost set- they will still be a bit jiggly, but will firm when chilled. Remove from the oven and let cool at least a half hour so they are no longer hot to the touch.  In a microwave safe bowl, warm one tablespoon raspberry preserves with a splash of water just long enough to melt, about 15 seconds.  Stir to make a glaze for the raspberries and very GENTLY toss in the berries to coat lightly (a heavy hand here will mash the berries, and while still delicious, it would not be as pretty). Top each cake with an equal portion of the glazed berries, probably 3 or 4 berries each.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Doesn't that look good?  Now if I had only thought to pick up some fresh mint with which to garnish.
Packaged for safe transport to school.  I used one of those short boxes that contain condensed soups at the grocery and covered it with foil.  The perfect size for two dozen cakes so I'll be stashing a few of these aside when I find them.

WW PointsPlus Breakdown

These were 5 points each as made.
If you use all fat free cream cheese they would be 4 points, and also using stevia instead of the sugar blend would bring them down to a miserly 3 points each.  I plan to make some plain ones (Ben's preference) in this manner, but will sub gingersnaps for the chocolate wafers and add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the batter.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crazy good...

Sriracha BBQ Sauce sitting on my rainy day window sill...

I've spent the last few days working on my sunburn, which means I've been outside working in the (too many) planting beds.  Today brought dreary rain and miserable (at least to me) cold, so a day in the kitchen was in order. 

One of the things I made today was a Sriracha BBQ sauce that I discovered last week on Slender Kitchen.  The BBQ was featured as the dipping sauce for grilled chicken and I made both earlier this week.  The chicken was very good, but not unlike other grilled chicken I have made many times.  What was CRAZY GOOD was the BBQ sauce.  Ben was wiping his little serving bowl clean with his finger to make sure he got every drop!  We had the leftovers last night as a dip for fries and Ben offered a repeat performance of how to clean a bowl  :) 

To fill a pint jar, I quintupled (Is that even a word?) the recipe.  I'm not sure how long it will keep in the fridge since it has the fresh ginger, but I suspect it won't be a problem for us.  I did increase the amount of Sriracha from the original, so just decrease it to one tablespoon (or less) if you like things less spicy, but try this sauce you must.

Sriracha Barbecue Sauce

3 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoon Sriracha (or less)
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon peeled fresh ginger, finely minced
4 teaspoons rice vinegar

Combine the ingredients at least an hour before serving to let the flavors marry. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

WW PointsPlus Value
1 point per 2 tablespoons

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Some things o love...

We have been on Weight Watchers for nine weeks now and I've lost 28 pounds, although Ben has lost an astonishing 42 (men!!).  I had promised when we started that this was not going to become a "diet" blog, a promise I intend to keep, but I wanted to share some things that have become favorites and helped us on our journey.  If you are trying to lose a bit of weight, or just want some easy meal ideas, I hope this is helpful.

Corn tortillas and fat free canned refried beans
I have always preferred corn tortillas to flour, but Ben was slower to come around.  But three corn tortillas are only 2 PointsPlus, as is 1/3 can of the beans.  Bean tacos topped with chopped onion, cilantro, and hot sauce have become a common lunch for me, and only 4 points.  We have been eating a lot of burrito bowls, a la Chipotle, and the beans are always at the bottom of the bowl.

Pre-chpped veg and salad in the fridge
Bell peppers, red and green, onions, halved grape tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, romaine, cabbage, radishes, cucumber...these are some of the things that I've been keeping in the fridge already sliced up and ready to go.  Salads, breakfast omelets, pizzas, tacos, burrito bowls. sandwiches- all sorts of meals come together quickly without too much thought or fuss.

Liquid egg whites and fat free cottage cheese
Most of the foods on my favorites list are not new to me, the exception being the liquid egg whites.  A half cup of these and a big handful of chopped veg are the base of a delicious and easy omelet in a bowl, and come in at one teeny, tiny point.  The cottage cheese isn't new, what's new is how much of it we are eating.  A whole cup is only three points and delicious on a salad with some fresh ground black pepper or fresh fruit.  This is good for a gal now in her forties (yikes) who needs to increase her calcium intake, but doesn't like milk.

Single serve tuna pouches
These easy pouches are only 2 PointsPlus and are available with a variety of seasonings, my favorite being the sweet and spicy.  A small can of drained tuna in water is also only two points, but I really like the ease and variety of these packs, and they are sooo much easier for lunch packing.  The last time these went on sale I bought a dozen; now I'm about out and waiting for the next sale.  I really love the tuna and cottage cheese together on a salad dressed only with balsamic vinegar

 Salsas, hot sauces, and pepper flakes
Again, nothing new here, but the amount of salsa we are eating has skyrocketed with the introduction of omelet and burrito bowls. Salsa and hot sauce are "free" additions to your meal, and in addition to adding delicious flavor, capsaicin has been shown to speed up the metabolism and bring on endorphins, which act to improve mood.  So hurray for the heat, bring it on.

Fat free sour cream (and Greek yogurt), prepared hummus and grainy mustard
We were already eating these things, but have practically done away with out use of reduced fat mayo, which is still pretty hefty in the point department, considering what you get for it.  We haven't missed the mayo at all.  An easy snack that I have been having of late is two slices of toasted whole grain bread, each spread with a tablespoon of hummus for a total of 4 or 5 PointsPlus, depending on the bread I use.  Hummus can be a bit pricey if not on sale, but Aldi offers several delicious varieties for only $1.49 (in SW Ohio).

Red grapefruits and clementines/mandarians
I have become seriously addicted to both, sometimes eating two grapefruits in a single day.  And I don't do any of that silly nonsense of cutting them in half and sprinkling with sugar; I peel and eat them like an orange.  It's a bit time consuming to remove all the pith, but well worth it.  The green apples?  Wish I was enjoying them more, but just not feeling it right now.  Maybe once the citrus is out of season and not so flavorful.

Some other favorites not pictured:  2% milk cheeses and part skim mozzarella  are lower in fat but still provide the melty nature of cheese- the fat free cheeses just don't cut it.  Flat breads for pizzas and wraps- the Flatout brand lights are 3 points each, and the Aldi brand Fit and Active are 2 points each.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Something delicious came of the wine after all...

Beef Stew with FRe Merlot and Rosemary

We have given up alcohol for Lent and, overall, it hasn't felt like much of a sacrifice (note to self, give up dark chocolate next year).   That said, there are some meals that are perfected with the inclusion of a nice glass of wine, so I thought we'd give "FRe" by Sutter Home a try, picking up the Red Blend and the Merlot. The Red Blend wasn't horrible, but sweeter than we like, and seemed rather thick on the tongue. Fair enough, I bought it without knowing whether it would be dry or sweet.

So we opened the Merlot.  Merlot is supposed to be a medium bodied DRY red, so this should have been the one. WRONG. It tasted similar, but yet worse, than the blend. Ben called it bad Welsh's.   Now what to do with these $8 bottles of bad Welsh's?
The Red Blend was doled out in small amounts to flavor clear soda.  Not a bad use, although an expensive way to flavor soda.  The Merlot went into a rich and delicious beef stew.  I have made beef dishes before with pomegranate juice, so I figured  this would not be too  far a stretch.  The ample use of garlic, rosemary, and black pepper counterbalanced the sweetness perfectly.  I will certainly make this again, although I'll probably forgo the $8 FRe and "settle" for a $3 bottle of POM.  Be sure to serve this with a crusty loaf to sop up all the goodness; I served a rosemary focaccia.  Perfect!

Beef Stew with FRe Merlot and Rosemary
1 1/4  lb. lean beef stew meat
2 T olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 medium onion, large dice
8 oz baby carrots
12 oz mushrooms, wiped and sliced thick (I used small portobellos)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t dried rosemary, crushed
1 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups FRe Merlot (or Red Blend, or POM)
1 cup beef stock
1 T cornstarch

Heat the olive oil a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat; generously season the beef with salt and pepper, removing any particularly fatty looking pieces.  When the pan is hot, sear the beef in batches, removing to a small bowl as each batch becomes nice and caramelized.  You should be developing a nice and caramelized pan bottom, too.  Flavor. flavor, flavor.

 When the beef is done, add the onions to the pan and cook just until they begin to color.  Add the carrots, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves; cook another minute or two, until fragrant.  Add about half the wine and deglaze the pan, scrapping up all the brown bits.  Add the reserved beef with any accumulated juices, the remaining wine, and the beef stock.  The amounts of wine (or juice) and beef stock can vary a bit depending on what you have, and how much you need to come almost to the surface of, but not covering the veg and beef.  Bring to a bowl, cover with a well-fitting lib, and place in a 350 degree oven for one hour (or simmer on the stove top if you prefer). 

After an hour, check that the beef is tender, if not, continue cooking a while longer.  Once tender, taste the cooking liquid for seasoning and adjust as needed; I added more salt and MUCH more pepper at this point.  Dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of water to make a slurry and stir into the pan.  Cover and return to the heat for 15 minutes to thicken.  Serve.  Eat.  Smile.

WW PointsPlus Values:  11 points if serving 4 for dinner, or 7 points if serving 6 for lunch.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A favorite restaurant dish redo...

 Kool Nachos Salad

While we are still eating out on occasion, it has slacked off considerably since we have been on Weight Watchers.  Last Wednesday I had our dinner planned, prepped, and even had the table set, but then found a Facebook posting from a favorite local restaurant.  Ten percent of their sales that day were going to The Caring Closet, so everything was put away and we headed over come dinner time.  Besides having great food (the bleu cheese dressing is a must have), and  reasonable prices, the restaurant has been an ardent supporter of TCC, so will always get our business.

The boy always likes to get boneless wings with sweet BBQ (the wimp) with chips or curly fries (with cheese, please), Ben likes a burger or boneless wings with extra hot sauce (although we have both gone for the triple on occasion), while I have started ordering the Kool Nachos almost every time we go.  Although on the starter menu, these nachos are enough for dinner.  On this visit I asked for the chicken to be grilled instead of breaded and fried, and half the amount of chips.  The chicken did not suffer in the least for the skinny treatment, and I still didn't finish all the chips, so a win win.

All through dinner, Ben was checking out my plate, and said he was going to order it next time.  But in the meanwhile we could make it at home, so that is what we did.  Making this skinny wasn't too tough, but their bleu cheese dressing is the best, so I wasn't even going to attempt to "skinnyfy" it.  I used fat free sour cream for the creaminess and cooling and will save the bleu cheese as an occasional indulgence.  Those with more tender palates may wish to sub BBQ sauce for the hot sauce.

I had already started eating when I realized I left off the jalapeños and olives!

Kool Nachos Salad

For each serving:
2 oz. Baked Tostitos
1 oz. 2% milk Velveeta (we used the Aldi store brand)
1 oz. skim milk
4 oz. plain baked chicken breast
hot sauce of choice, to taste (we used Frank's Extra Hot)
2 handfuls shredded romaine
diced red onion and tomato, to taste
sprinkling of of sliced green (or black) olives
pickled jalapeños (we used mine, because the are the best :)
1/4 cup fat free sour cream

To prepare the chicken:
Take the desired number of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and trim them of all visible fat.  Place the chicken on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray and season generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove and let cool to the touch before cutting into bite sized chunks; set aside.  I made more chicken than we needed for dinner, so the leftovers are waiting in the fridge for another easy meal.

To prepare the salad:
 Melt the Velveeta with the milk for about a minute in the microwave at 50% power; stir until smooth.  I was making several salads so I did this in a large glass measuring cup, allowing me to easily measure out the correct amount for each.  If you prepare this larger amount, you will need to adjust your cooking time.
Place the baked Tostitos in the bottom of your bowl(s) and drizzle with the cheese sauce; toss to coat the chips with the cheese.
Top the chips with the lettuce, tomatoes, onion, olives, and jaaapeño slices.
Toss the desired amount of chicken in a small bowl with the chosen sauce before piling on top of the salad.
Top with the sour cream.  Eat.  Enjoy.

WW PointsPlus Values:
Baked Tostitos, 3pt  per ounce
Cheese sauce as prepared, 2pt per serving
Chicken with hot sauce, 1pt per ounce, add apt per T for BBQ
Romaine, tomato, onion, jalapeños, and olives (in small amount) are free
FF sour cream is 1pt for a quarter cup

Note:  This post has been edited to remove links and references to the name of the restaurant as it would appear that the ownership was displeased with this post for some reason.  I would hate to continue providing them with free advertising.
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