Monday, January 31, 2011

Crock Pot Mushroom Chicken - 4 points

First, a mystery...what happened to this poor mushroom?

Now I am going to give you a speedy quick recipe. My mother, father, and grandmother are here visiting with me for the week. I don't want to take too much time away from our visit, so I am going to share the super-easy but very delicious meal that I made for us tonight. I knew that I would have a long faculty meeting after school today, and I wanted a nice meal to greet my family when they came in. So, I turned to my trusty crock pot!

Crock Pot Mushroom Chicken
3 lb chicken, cut into large chunks
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
1 can low fat cream of mushroom soup
3 cubes chicken bouillon
1/4 cup water

1. Place all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
2. Yields 10, 4 point servings

I served ours over basmati rice.  Everyone enjoyed it:)

Now, for the mystery of the mushroom. Simon accompanied me on my shopping trip Saturday. I was reaching into the freezer section for a chicken when he said, "Mmmmm...I love mushrooms!" I turned around to see him attempting to take a big bite through the plastic wrap on my carton of mushrooms! Don't tell Alanna - she will revoke my auntie privileges.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lebanese Crock Pot Chicken- 4 points

I had ever so many wonderful things to tell you tonight, but - alas, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. I have had horrendous vertigo on and off all day, so my family has made me promise to go to be on time tonight. So, I will give you a quick and easy crock pot recipe that I made one day this past week. I love the combination of sweet and spicy in this recipe, and that little hit of smoke added by the paprika. Best of all was walking into my house after a long day at work and smelling exotic spices calling me to put my feet up, relax, and enjoy!

Lebanese Crock Pot Chicken
1 lb chicken breast, cut into strips
2/3 cup fat free yogurt, plain
2 cans diced tomatoes, 1 drained - 1 with juice
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Place chicken in crock pot. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.
2. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken.
3. Cook on low heat 6 - 8 hours.
4. Yields 4, 4 point servings

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sourdough Cornbread - 4 points

In an attempt to use my Amish sourdough starter in a non-traditional way, I decided to make cornbread pancakes with it. Because cereal was expensive where I was raised, I grew up eating a hot breakfast every morning and most mornings that meant cornbread pancakes. My dad would break them up in a glass of cold milk and eat them with a spoon. My mom preferred them with butter and syrup. I ate them buttered, and Alanna liked to top hers with cheese. However you eat them, they are a wonderful breakfast.

This time, I served them as a side dish for some fantastic fish that I will post later. I was really pleased with their consistency and flavor. They were sweet like a good Southern cornbread but also had a distinct sourdough tang. Well worth the effort of tending to a starter!

Sourdough Cornbread
1 cup Amish sourdough starter
3 egg whites
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 cup whole grain cornmeal
1 can corn (not vacuum packed)

1. In a medium bowl, gently stir starter, egg whites, canned corn, and butter until just combined.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. If you are left with pieces of whole grain in your sifter when sifting the flours, just dump it into the bowl. The sifting is meant to separate the pieces, not keep out fiber!
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the starter mixture. Slowly mix the dry and wet ingredients together until just combined.
4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry cakes two at a time, using 1/4 cup batter each. Follow normal pancake frying protocol.
5. Yields 15, 4 point servings

I really, really want to tell you about that fish, but is already late, and I have to get some exercise if I am going to meet my goal for the year! Have a good night.

Amish Sourdough Starter for Friendship Sharing

Last week, the Amish friendship bread started up at work again. Every couple of years, someone brings in baggies full of white, yeasty starter and a pile of recipe papers. The next week, there are four times as many baggies from people who have made more to share. Eventually, we end up with a teacher’s lounge table overflowing with baggies that no one will take.

Since I know that this is the process, I have chosen to use all of my starter at home. Now, this is not a traditional sour dough starter. First, because it uses yeast –which is a big no-no among sourdough aficionados. Second, the addition of so much sugar makes it very sweet.

I also find the word Amish suspect. I do not know any Amish people personally, and therefore am unable to verify that this recipe actually originated with them. But…in order to differentiate it from traditional sourdough…I will go ahead and use “Amish” despite my uncertainty.

If no one at your workplace is proffering bags of starter, here is the recipe.

Amish Sourdough Starter
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

Day One: Mix ingredients gently in a glass or plastic container (Ziploc bags are typical).
Days Two-Four: Stir the ingredients. (If using a bag, squish the contents around a little).
Day Five: Add another cup each milk, flour, and sugar.
Days Six- Nine: Stir or squish
Day Ten: Add one cup each milk, flour, and sugar. If you are giving the mix away, take out four cups (placing each cupful in a separate container). Give four friends each one cup of starter, instructions for days two – ten, and a recipe. Use one cup of your starter and keep the rest to start the steps over.

Traditionally, the recipe you give is one for an Amish friendship bread. Since I haven’t made one in awhile and can’t vouch for the recipe that I was given (since I used mine for other recipes) I will not include that here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shrimp Scampi - 5 points

Tonight I am back to one of my first Weight Watcher's approved loves: shrimp. I love that the meat itself is low in points, so I feel like I have a little more freedom with the other ingredients. This is another recipe from Lean and Luscious that I modified to fit my points. I left the tails on the shrimp on purpose because I knew that it would slow down my eating and - thus- help me eat less.

Shrimp Scampi
1/3 cup white wine
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb shrimp

  1. Combine all ingredients but shrimp in a shallow dish. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.
  2. Remove shrimp from marinade and place in a shallow pan or oven safe skillet. Make sure the pan is large enough for the shrimp to be in a single layer.
  3. Broil shrimp for 6 minutes, turning after 3.
  4. Meanwhile, place the marinade in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Pour through a strainer if a smooth sauce is desired.
  5. Serve shrimp with sauce in a small bowl for dipping.
  6. Yields 4, 5 point servings

I needed some white wine for the marinade and all I had in the house was a bottle I bought at my favorite local wine shop before Christmas. I was planning to have a small get together and wanted something different in addition to my normal blush and red, so I chose a honey and passionfruit wine from the special wines section. The party was cancelled, so I was left with my bottle of Mad Housewife, Shiraz, and this passionfruit wine. As you have read, the Mad Housewife and the Shiraz have since been used (click the wine to see the recipes).

I wasn't sure about using this wine in the scampi, since I have never tasted it before, so I took a sip before adding it to the marinade. As soon as the glass touched my lips, I heard the music of the angels wafting through the air. This is The Best Wine in the World. It is amazing. It is sweet and a light and crisp and it smells like a warm, lazy summer day. In other words, I recommend it. Oliver Winery Passionfruit and Honey wine:

There is even this pretty little flower detail in the glass:
Now, on to my third topic. A huge thank you to everyone who has followed this link to view the post about my friend Deborah and her efforts to raise money for the adoption of her beautiful little boy from China. As soon as my coffee comes in, I will post a review. I ordered a medium roast Ethiopian coffee.

Finally, it is 10:30 on Friday night. I have a tummy full of delicious food and good wine, Zero 7 is crooning "In the Waiting Line" through my Zen, and I am about to go tell my boyfriend to stop studying and dance with me before he goes home. Have a lovely evening and a

Fried Zucchini - 1 point

This is probably one of the easiest recipes in the world, but one should never underestimate the power of simplicity! My mom started making zucchini this way when I was in high school, and it is now one of my only non-carb comfort foods.

Fried Zucchini with Onions
1 large onion, sliced
1 1/5 lb zucchini, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or kitchen spritzer. Add onions and garlic and sauté 3 minutes.
  2. Add zucchini. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes or until zucchini is soft.
  3. Yields 4, 1 point servings. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cooking with Simon, Soy Cream - 3 points, Chocolate Corn Pop Clusters- 3 points

Weight Watchers has been sending me challenges to try as part of the Points Plus system. The one for this week was to invite someone into the kitchen to cook with me. It was supposed to be someone who does not normally help me. I am surrounded by very helpful people, so it was difficult to think of someone who is often around but not often doing kitchen duty. Then it came to me - Simon!

My nephew is often under foot when I am cooking, but he has never helped much. He has mashed bananas a few times, but we have never walked step by step through a  recipe together. I was working on a cooking project for us and happened to come across a recipe for soy cream in his High Five magazine. It was lots of fun to make!

Chocolate Soy Cream
1/2 cup chocolate soy milk
1 tbsp sugar
lots of ice
7 tbsp salt

1. Place several cups of ice in a gallon sized Ziplock bag. Top with salt.
2. In a quart size Ziplock bag, combine soy milk and sugar. Seal the bag tightly and place it on top of the ice in the gallon bag.
3. Pour more ice in over the soy milk bag. Seal the gallon bag tightly.
4. Shake the gallon bag for 5-10 minutes, until the soy mixture has hardened. (This part was lots and lots of fun. We wore gloves to protect our hands and made up very complex songs like, "Shake it, Simon, shake it. Shake it, Auntie, shake it!")
5. Yields 1, 3 point serving

Stone is having a dessert party tomorrow (his kids picked the theme) but has lots and lots and lots of graduate work to do this week. Last night, Simon and I graciously volunteered to help him by making Stone's contribution to the party. I looked around my kitchen - which is looking very much like the larder of a teacher who has come to the last budget week of the month (in other words, poorly stocked). Hmmm...what do I have? Corn Pops. Chocolate chips.

So, I searched the blogusphere and found a recipe for chocolate Corn Pop clusters at Sunday Treats. We had a blast making them. Simon especially enjoyed melting the chocolate in the microwave. "It look like chocolate yogurt, Auntie!"

Chocolate Corn Pop Clusters from Sunday Treats where they were adapted from Kellog's
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups butterscotch chips
4 tbsp peanut butter
8 cups Corn Pops

1. Combine chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter in a large, microwave safe bowl. To melt, microwave on high, stirring at 30 second intervals until smooth.
2. Add Corn Pops to bowl and stir to coat.
3. Drop by rounded tablespoons full onto waxed paper. Cool until firm.
4. Yields 50, 3 point servings

Please keep in mind that Simon is the one who spooned these out. I think he did an excellent job for a two year old!

Do you think he likes them?

Now, on a completely separate note. My friend Deborah took a trip to China to do volunteer work at an orphanage. While she was there, she fell in love with a beautiful little boy named Jack who has special needs. She and her husband (along with their four little girls) are in the process of adopting Jack. It is very expensive, and they need all the help they can get. If you are a coffee lover, please consider looking at this post. You can order some delicious, fair trade, organic coffee and help bring Jack home. In any case, I hope that you will send loving thoughts to this family as they work to complete the piles of paperwork that stand between Jack and the family who wants him to come home.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resolution Round Up

It has been 1 month since I hopped back on the healthy wagon after my holiday hiatus. So, it is time for my Resolution Round Up.

1.      Get down to goal weight of 127 pounds. Starting weight: 149.5, so -21.5 pounds. About ½ pound per week.

My weight last Friday (weigh in day) was down to 143.5 – a loss of 6 lbs so far. Now, because it is a truer picture of my weight loss journey, I wanted to share a few things. First, 149.5 was my weight at the beginning of this blog but a far cry from my highest weight ever. About 2 ½ years ago, I weighed somewhere above 213 (213 is the last time I consciously remember stepping on the scale). I don’t really remember how much above but probably around 220 – well into the obese category for a 5’3” female. I tried to lose on my own, and was down to 193 last February. That is when I started making revolutionary, Weight Watcher’s style changes in my life. I will tell more about my weight history another time.

Here I am today (hiding my greasy, no make-up, snow day face). Check out my awesome claw grip on that camera. Argh....

2.      Log 130 workout hours (the equivalent of 30 minutes, 5 times per week). I chose total hours instead of times per week because I will inevitably be sick for at least a week and then feel like a failure for not exercising.

Before starting this blog, I was not committed to physical exercise. The closest I got was wearing my Shape-Ups every day. I have now switched to Fila’s, which I love (thank you to Stone’s mother for both pairs of shoes).

I added wii Fit Plus to my workout as a way of getting moving. At first I felt guilty for not going hard core on the treadmill or something, but the point is that I am moving every day. It turns out that some of those wii Fit Plus exercises are hard! I have logged 16.7 hours so far.

Here is my little personal trainer, telling me what to do next.

3.      Make plans to do something special with my best friend once a month. We talked about it; I will plan one month, he will plan the next.

As you can see, we enjoyed a very nice night out. Also, he is now my boyfriend (I hate that word, it makes me feel 12 – I need a good alternative).

Here is a grainy picture of Stone playing with Simon last year.

4.      Take my nephew out to do something special at least once per month.

We didn’t get to do what I wanted because we were snowed in on the day I had set aside. I did take him to the Discovery Center, though, and we had a blast. I also took him to get a cookie at Julia’s one day, and did lots of fun stuff with him at home.

Snack we made at the Discovery Center:

One of our crafts from afternoon Auntie Antics:

5.      Go on two vacations. (I really want three, but two seems more achievable).

I have one vacation booked for later this springJ

6.      Update blogs for a total of 5 updates per week.

Obviously I have overshot this goal. I have a total of 66 blogs this month between my two blogs. One blogger pointed out to me that blogging every day may get annoying to one’s readers. If that is the case, I apologize. Since I have just started, everything I cook is a “new” recipe for this blog. If it’s good, I put it up (believe me, there have been some not worth sharing). As time passes, I will still be cooking these recipes and won’t have as many “new” to share. I am sure my blogging will slow down.

7.      Finish editing the book of short stories I wrote last year. Contact at least one agent.

I have 200 of 225 pages edited. Which is great. I am starting to get super nervous about contacting an agent, though. Emotionally, I hadn’t dealt with anything beyond editing. Now that editing is drawing to an end, my thoughts center on the basic idea that my writing sucks and no agent in the world would be interested. 70% of me believes those thoughts. The other 30%, which says, “Go for it anyway” is going to have to start talking a lot louder for me to actually send a letter off.

8.      Pay off the remaining loan on my car.2,792.61 which I owe to a relative who does not ask me to make regular payments.

Since the budget month of January is not over yet, I can’t assess this one yet.

9.      Say no more often.

I’m working on it. I am 1 for 3 right now – I can think of one time that I stood up for myself, and two times I caved in. Progress is progress.

10.  Make time to do things that make me happy.

I gave up a huge, time consuming hobby – couponing. It was taking up a good 14 hours of my week. With that gone, I am cooking a lot more often, which makes me very happy. Also, making a concerted effort to spend more time with Stone and Simon has been fantastic. They are both so important to me and make my life richer, calmer, and more joyful. As for the lost “savings” of couponing – those are not the foods I needed to be eating, anyway. How often do you see coupons for fresh fruit, veggies, and lean meat? I have to be more careful with my grocery money, but I also saved money by eating at home almost every night (I only ate out three times this month).  

Here is something I really enjoyed cooking this month, Diet Coke Brownies:

11.  Make an effort to be a better person.

I am trying. My other blog was a starting point, forcing me to spend time in thought and meditation.

This blog has been an eye-opening, splendid experience so far. Before I started this, I had no idea who many amazing people were out there – pouring your hearts out, practicing your creativity,  making wonderful food, and inspiring others through your stories. I am always humbled when I see that someone has visited this blog, and I greatly appreciate your comments. I owe a special thank you to two of my favorite bloggers for making me feel extra welcome by including me in their own blogs. Thank you to the fabulous diva of Sizing Down the Diva for including me in your blogroll and to Taking Less Space (i.e. Lynda) for including me in your Food Bloggers post.

See you next month for another Resolution Round Up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes - 3 points

Today was...well, kind of Monday. Except, on Tuesday. I had to keep detention after school today. I realize that the kids are the ones being detained, but being trapped in the room full of teenagers who are all unhappy to be there feels sort of like I am the one being punished. When I got home, I needed some comfort food.

I usually make this recipe with regular potatoes, but I decided to try it with sweet potatoes this time. Oh. My. Gosh. Why on earth did I not do this ages ago? They were so very, very good.

Note of caution: I like spicy food. So, if you are a person who prefers your fare mild, you will probably want to cut the spices in half and add a little seasoning salt instead.

Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes - 3 points
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic, halved
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion salt

1. Rub sweet potatoes all over with garlic, cut side down.
2. In a small bowl, combine spices. Sprinkle over both sides of each potato.
3. Place sweet potatoes cut side down on a non-stick oven safe dish or one sprayed with non-stick spray. (I used my large pizza stone, so no need for spray). Spritz potatoes very lightly with a kitchen spritzer full of olive oil.
4. Roast potatoes in 375F oven for 45 minutes.
5. Yields 4, 3 point servings

Toasted Bobotee Sandwich - 5 points

I used to love left over night as a kid! Actually, we called it "left open" night because someone had once misspoken it that way and we thought it was funny. If you have had something amazing to eat, and really enjoyed it, what's better than another go around? Since starting this blog, I usually take "left opens" for lunch now. Every once in awhile I like to repurpose them in a new, tasty form. This was my lunch today, made with a leftover bobotee muffin pulled from the fridge. It was yummy!

Toasted Bobotee Sandwich
1/2 large tomato, sliced
1 piece high fiber bread like WhiteWheat
1 serving bobotee, sliced
1 tbsp reduced fat feta

1. Place tomato slices in an oven proof skillet (spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray unless using cast iron). Place skillet under broiler on full broil until the tomatoes being  to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove tomatoes from skillet. Place bread in skillet; top with a layer of roasted tomatoes. Cover with bobotee slices and top with cheese.
3. Place under broiler again until cheese begins to brown.
4. Yields 1, 5 point serving

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beer Bread - 2 points

A couple of years ago, I heard a sermon about bread. The pastor was explaining, as a illustration, how he had to work dates with his fiance around what bread she was in the mood for. I completely identified with that wise woman. I too fantasize about bread...cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster, yeast rolls from Logan's Road House, garlic bread from Ahart's Pizza Garden, onion kulcha from the Clay Pit. I could go on, but this blog is supposed to be helping me stay healthy and thinking about all of those carby treats is not helping my resolve.

I wanted a nice, hot, crusty bread to accompany my Lebanese beef stew. Lean and Luscious came to my rescue. Why on earth I had a light beer (a Turkish Eefes of all things) in my pantry is a mystery. I don't drink beer. I will buy it again, though, because it makes darn good bread!

Beer Bread
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1, 12 oz bottle light beer
1/8 tsp onion powder
1 tsp caraway seeds

1. Combine dry ingredients; mix well. Add beer. Stir until foam subsides and all ingredients are moistened.
2. Pour into a 4x8 inch loaf pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Bake 45 minutes at 375F.
4. Cool 5 minutes in pan before turning out onto wire rack.
5. Yields 12, 2 point servings

Lebanese Beef Stew - 5 points

Years ago I purchased a fabulous cookbook called Step by Step Lebanese Cooking. It has very few recipes in it, but every single one that I have tried is outstanding. Probably my favorite is the beef and okra stew. Unfortunately, it is so full of meat and potatoes that it was going to break my Weight Watcher's points bank. So, I made some modifications. Now, do I miss the vast quantities of meat? Yes, because most days I could eat a small cow. However, this is still a very good stew that gives me a rich flavor without costing a fortune in points.

Beef and Okra Stew - 5 points
1 lb round steak, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
1/3 cup red wine
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 cups frozen okra
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups water

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; spray with non-stick cooking spray. Saute onion until well browned.
2. Add meat, browning on all sides. Add wine, tomatoes, and cilantro. Cover and simmer 35 minutes.
3. Add cauliflower, bouillon cubes, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
4. Add parsely and okra; simmer 10 minutes, covered.
5. Yields 6, 5 point servings

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sour Cream Pork Chops - 7 points, "Rotisserie" Chicken #2 - 3 + points

For dinner, I decided to try pork in a sour cream sauce. Now, this is a recipe I had to majorly overhaul to fit with my new Weight Watcher's lifestyle. I was not expecting great things. I was not even expecting good things. Imagine my surprise when this turned out to be better than the high fat version I was craving! Leaving out the breading and the butter seemed to allow the flavors of the pork and the paprika to come out even more beautifully.

Sour Cream Pork Chops
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2, 4 ounce pork chops
1 cube chicken bouillon
8 oz canned, sliced mushrooms, drained
1 tsp djon mustard
2 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp paprika
1 small onion, sliced into rings
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup water

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork chops, cooking just to brown on both sides.
2. Mix remaining ingredients, save sour cream and onions, in a small bowl.
3. Layer onion rings over pork; place remaining onions directly on the skillet. Pour the sauce over the chops.
4. Simmer for 1 hour, or until pork is very tender.
5. Add sour cream; reheat.
6. Yields 2, 7 point servings

I also made a "Rotisserie" chicken tonight. I will use the meat this week, and it is much easier to roast a chicken on a Sunday afternoon than to try and fix one after work. Instead of my usual seasonings, I used an incredible rub from A Year of Slow Cooking. I didn't skin my chicken. I rubbed the spices both under and over the skin as well as placing some on the cavity. I highly recommend it; it does taste just like the rotisserie chicken that I love from Sam's Club. Stone - former best friend and new boyfriend -  obviously approves as well, since I just caught him leaning over the stone with an empty fork and a full mouth.

Instant Oatmeal Pancakes - 2 points

My fab friend Lisa sent me a recipe for pancakes using instant oatmeal. I thought it was a terrific idea! Unfortunatly, I couldn't find the recipe that Lisa sent, but I was able to find another one on the internet at I used the basics of that recipe to put these pancakes together. They were tasty, filling, and are a quick, hot breakfast for a busy morning.

Instant Oatmeal Pancakes
2 packets instant oatmeal (I used cinnamon roll flavor)
1 banana, mashed
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder

1. Mix all indredients together in a medium bowl.
2. Place a medium skillet over medium heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Fry as for regular pancakes.
3. Yields 8, 2 point servings

I had mine with powdered sugar and all fruit spread. Thanks again, fab friend Lisa:)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MexiVen, JoZoara, and Dating!

So, I started my day with a lovely Hummus and Tomato Pizza for breakfast. I enjoyed the reception at church without overindulging (veggies and fruit only) and returned home to reward myself with a warm bowl of Chicken Paprikash accompanied by a savory, delicious Roasted Cauliflower. A full day of YUM.

Tonight was best friend night (per my New Year's Resolution to have a night out with best friend Stone once per month).  I had a bunch of points saved up for this night, as Stone had chosen two of our favorite noshing locations for the evening.

First, we started at MexiVen, a fabulous restaurant run by a couple who are from Mexico (him) and Venezuela (her).  This hole in the wall eatery serves some of my favorite foods, like papusas, tortas, and fish tacos.  They also make fresh, fruity drinks that taste like tropical island getaways.

Stone ordered a grilled chicken torta, a fish taco, and a glass of horchata. Here is his plate:

My plate looked almost identical, since I ordered a grilled beef torta, a fish taco, and a glass of mango juice. (I got a ground beef torta, but that is my fault because I would insist on trying to order in Spanish even though my Spanish sucks.)

After we finished this completely amazing meal, we moved on to dessert at JoZoara, a funky coffee shop that sells handmade crafts, free trade coffee, pastries, and delicious lunches.  We split a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll because A) we ate a lot of food at MexiVen and B) I am a teacher and he is a librarian, so we are not rolling in cash.

It was over this warm, icing drenched pastry and bold cup of joe that we decided we are done with being friends. We have decided to date:)

Roasted Cauliflower - 2 points

Adapted from Superfoods for Women.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, mix garlic and sesame oil.
2. Place cauliflower in a cake pan or stone. Pour oil over cauliflower and toss to coat.
3. Roast for 15 minutes in a 375F oven, turning every 5 minutes to ensure all sides are browned. Before serving, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Yields 4, 2 point servings

Chicken Paprikash - 6 points

Chicken Paprikash
3 lbs baked or rotisserie chicken meat, pulled apart
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cube chicken bouillon
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 medium tomato, diced
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup fat free sour cream

1. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add onions and garlic; saute until onions are tender.
2. Stir in bouillon, water, paprika, salt, black pepper, tomato, and chicken. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in bell pepper; simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
4. Stir in sour cream and leave on the stove just long enough for the contents of the skillet to reheat.
5. Yields 8, 6 point servings

Hummus and Tomato Pizza - 5 points

Hummus and Tomato Pizza
1 low carb pita
1 tbsp roasted red pepper hummus
1/2 tomato, sliced
2 tbsp onion, chopped
1/8 cup reduced fat feta

1. Spread pita with hummus. Layer on tomatoes; sprinkle with onions. Top with feta cheese.
2. Place on a stone or baking sheet.
3. Bake at 350 for ten minutes. Turn heat to broil and cook an additional 2 minutes to brown cheese.
4. Yields 1, 5 point serving

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lemon Pecan Butter Cake - 4 points

One of my very favorite bloggers left a comment on my last post about cake made with soda and cake mix. Now, this happens to be one of my favorite low point dessert recipes, and I have been craving cake. Happily, I have occasion to bake. Tomorrow there is a reception at church for one of our wonderful pastors, Carlos, who is leaving us. I changed my plans from scalloped potatoes to cake! I don't think that anyone will notice that I took out a piece, photographed it, stole a sliver of it, and then cleverly replaced it;)

Lemon Pecan Butter Cake - 4 points
1 can diet lemon/lime soda
1 box butter pecan cake mix
1 tub fat free whipped topping

1. Stir cake mix and soda together in a medium mixing bowl until combined.
2. Follow baking directions on box.
3. Allow cake to cool completely before "frosting" with whipped topping.
4. Yields 16, 4 point servings

The great comment that inspired me mentioned "vanilla cake mix with ginger ale, chocolate cake with root beer".  I haven't tried vanilla and diet ginger ale, but that sounds fabulous. Chocolate cake with diet root beer ties for my first place favorite. Here are mix/soda combinations I have tried and loved:

Strawberry cake mix with diet lemon lime soda (my friend Leslie introduced me to this - she rocks)
Chocolate cake mix with Diet Dr. Pepper, diet root beer, or diet cola
Spice cake mix with diet ginger ale
Carrot cake mix with diet ginger ale
White cake mix with soda water (if you just want the cake flavor)
If you have other flavor ideas, please share. I want to try one with a diet orange soda, but haven't decided what to use as my cake mix.

I have a snow day, by the way. Look at my poor little gnome.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cake Mix Cookies - 2 points

Simon (my adorable 2 year old nephew) is going to be spending some more time with me. Due to a work schedule issue, I will now have the privilege of picking him up from day school and spending 30-45 minutes with him before Alanna comes to pick him up. I am sorry that Alanna is having to work late, since I know that she would like to be the one spending time with Simon. Simultaneously, I feel lucky to have this time with my favorite toddler.

Yesterday, Simon wanted to bake cookies when we got home. It had to be something fast if they were going to get done. My usual quick cookie is a cake mix cookie. You mix 1 box of cake mix with 1/2 cup oil and two eggs; roll into 36 teaspoon size balls; flatten with a glass dipped in sugar; and then bake at 350F for 10 minutes. They are very good, but I felt they could use a little less fat. So, I made the recipe below.

The cookies turned out to be fabulous; they are very moist and taste like tiny banana bread treats. Simon took them to school to share with his little friends.

Cake Mix Cookies
1 box white cake mix
1 large banana, mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 egg whites

1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
2. Drop by teaspoonfull onto a dry stone or a pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes. (I did half on the stone and half on metal. The stone version took 15 minutes, whereas the metal needed 18.)
4. Yields 36, 2 point servings

Please note that my cookies have black and orange dots because the cake mix had Halloween sprinkles in it (they were on clearance in December - I am nothing if not thrifty). 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Creamed Spinach - 1 point

This is one of my favorite ways to eat spinach. I was happy to find that I didn't even have to change anything to make it just 1 point per serving!

Creamed Spinach
1 lb spinach, rinsed and chopped
2 tbsp onion, diced
2 tbsp light cream cheese
1/8 tsp salt
pinch ground nutmeg

1.Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Saute onions in skillet over medium heat until softened.
2. Add spinach; cook until wilted (about 2 minutes). Drain any liquid from skillet.
3. Add the cream cheese, salt, and nutmeg. Cook, stirring, until cheese has melted and there is no excess liquid in the skillet.
4. Yields 6, 1 point servings

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Broccoli Salad- 2 points

Broccoli Salad
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced into rings
2 slices of bacon
1 tsp Splenda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water

1. Place broccoli and onion rings in a large bowl.
2. Chop bacon. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Fry bacon in skillet until crisp.
3. Add Splenda, salt, pepper, vinegar, and water to skillet. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4. Pour bacon dressing from skillet over broccoli and onions. Toss to coat.
5. Yields 5, 2 point servings

Bobotee- 4 points

Bobotee is a traditional South African meatloaf. My mom got this recipe (well, the original, non-Weight Watchered version) from a South African woman who was Mom's pupil. I remember the first time Mom tried it; her excitement over the new recipe was matched by our enthusiasm consuming it!

Bobotee- 4 points
1 slice high fiber bread
1 cup low fat soy milk, plain
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, chopped
3 egg whites
2 lbs lean ground beef
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp Splenda

1. Soak the bread in milk for 1 hour, then squeeze out as much milk as possible (being sure to save the milk).
2. Spray a small skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Saute onion over medium heat until translucent.
3. Mix bread, milk, and onions with all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
4. Bake at 350F for 50 minutes in a 13x9 inch pan. Bake at 450F for 20 minutes if in muffin tins.
5. Yields 12, 4 point servings

Note: Traditionally, 3 lemon leaves are rolled up and stuck into the meat before baking. This does add a wonderful flavor. However, I live too far North to have a lemon tree in my yard now, so I omitted this ingredient. Also, you can put 2 of the egg whites in the meat. Take the remaining egg white, beat it with 2 tbsp milk, and pour it over the meat after 45 minutes of cooking. Leave the bobotee in the oven long enough for the egg to set. Since I made my bobotee in my Pampered Chef Stonewear Muffin Pan, I did not attempt to pour the egg over the individual bobotees.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mushroom Pita Pizza - 4 points

Tomorrow there is a breakfast at work, which means that I need to make sure to carefully budget my points. I wanted a low point lunch to take with me, so I grabbed a low carb pita and made this little pizza for only 4 points.

Mushroom Pita Pizza
1 low carb pita
1 tbsp store bought marinara sauce
1 tbsp chopped onion
1/8 cup sliced mushrooms
1/8 cup reduced fat feta cheese

1. Spread pita with marinara sauce. Sprinkle onions and mushrooms over sauce; top with feta.
2. Bake in 350F oven for ten minutes.
3. Turn oven to broil. Cook pizza for additional 2 minutes, just to brown.
4. Yields 1, 4 point serving

Julia's Homestyle Bakery

Here is something I love about Weight Watchers: I can still eat cake! Now, I completely agree from a nutritional standpoint that the majority of my points need to go to lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I also agree that my extra points are best used for high point healthy fats like avocado and almonds. At the same time, I have been on diets that never, ever allowed me to splurge. I was miserable and grouchy and the diets didn't last. Weight Watchers is a lifestyle, and it is a realistic one. Which means, if I understand how to balance out my eating, I can still have my favorite high fat, high sugar foods every now and then.

Last week was Alanna's birthday, and I didn't get to celebrate because I wasn't feeling well. She came by today with a box from Julia's Homestyle Bakery containing the following items.

Chocolate Truffle Cake (for Alanna, my sister)

S'mores Pop (for me)

And a frog cookie (for Simon)

Oh, Julia's, I love you! But only every once in awhile;)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Apricot Twists - 4 Points

Problem with chicken pot pie: I was left with four refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls. What am I supposed to do with them? I searched Pillsbury's website, did some Weight Watchers adjusting and ta-da! (This one is also a little bit for my mom who reminds me to eat almonds when I have extra points.)

Apricot Twists
4 refrigerated, reduced fat crescent rolls
1/8 cup all fruit apricot spread
1/8 cup chopped almonds

1. Separate crescent rolls into two rectangles. cover one rectangle with apricot spread; sprinkle with almonds.
2. Place remaining rectangle over almonds. Seal longs ends of crescents (top and bottom) together.
3. Cut crescents into four short pieces. Twist each piece twice.
4. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. Yields 4, 4 point servings

Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie- 6 points

My fab friend Lisa sent me a Weight Watchers recipe for chicken pot pie and told me I had to try it. Since Stone was sick, I thought this would be a fitting comfort food for his dinner. Of course, I had to mess with the recipe because I didn't have exactly what it called for. You can take Lisa's word for it that the WW version is divine, and my word that the adapted version is splendid.

Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups frozen, mixed vegetables
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 cup water
3 cups chopped roasted chicken breast
2 tsp tapioca flour (put 2 tsp minute tapioca through food processor or coffee grinder)
1/2 cup fat free yogurt
4 refridgerated reduced fat crescent rolls

1. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Spray with kitchen spritzer or non-stick cooking spray. Add onions and mushrooms; saute until tender.
2. Add spices, chicken, bouillon, water and vegetables to skillet. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Stir tapioca and yogurt into skillet. Simmer 5 additional minutes.
4. Transfer contents of skillet to a medium casserole dish. Arrange four crescents around the edges, leaving  a whole in the middle.
5. Bake in a 375F oven for 15 minutes.
6. Yields 6, 6 point servings

The Weight Watchers version can be seen here.

My version can be seen below.
Thank you fab friend Lisa for the great recipe. As always, you rock!

"Rotisserie" Chicken - 3 points +

This is one of my favorite weight loss gadgets:

This is a Pampered Chef Stonewear Fluted Pan. At the last Pampered Chef party I hosted, this was on the top of my wish list. I was so happy when got it! Here is what is great about it - you can use it to make "Rotisserie" chicken in your oven. (BTW, if you are thinking that it looks dirty- it is supposed to look that way. The more you use stonewear, the more it browns a blackens from seasoning.) 

"Rotisserie" Chicken
1 roasting chicken
1/2 lemon

1. After removing giblets, wash chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Rub chicken all over with 1/2 lemon (pulp side down). Salt and pepper the chicken liberally.
2. Place the cavity of the chicken over the center of the bundt pan (do not attempt this with just any bundt pan - most of them have open holes in the middle and will make a mess of your oven).
3. Roast the chicken in a 350F oven for 20 minutes for each pound of chicken.
4. Yields a variety of servings depending on the cut of chicken, for example, 3 points for skinless 1/2 breast

Here is what the chicken looks like on the pan. 

And here is what it looks like on the plate.

Annie's Organic Shells and White Cheddar - 7 Points

This isn't exactly a recipe, but I wanted to share it because I was impressed at being able to have mac 'n' cheese for 7 points. Stone, the best friend, got sick today. It was not my fault! I did not share my cold with him; he has a stomach virus. I decided to cook for him since he has been so nice to help take care of me over the last few days. For lunch, he wanted mac 'n' cheese. I had a box of Annie's Homegrown Shells and White Cheddar.
I love Annie's because it is organic and it has an excellent, real cheese flavor. I noticed on the box that "Annie" suggest that you can use yogurt in place of the butter and milk. I decided it was worth a shot, so I mixed 1/2 cup fat free yogurt with the cheese powder before adding it to the noodles. It was fantastic! The yogurt added a tangy flavor that reminded me of a sharp cheddar cheese. Doesn't it look good?
I am not sure if this trick will work with other brands, but it is well worth a try. After all, a regular cup of boxed mac 'n' cheese will cost you 9 points. This will only cost you 7 and gives you the health benefits of yogurt instead of the health deficit of butter. Enjoy!