Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Smoked Baby Back Ribs


Finally the weather stayed nice and I was able to use my new smoker! I made baby back ribs and they came out awesome!

After a lot of reading about how to smoke meat I think I did pretty darn good for my first time. They got done a lot sooner than I had anticipated, so they did get a little over done and were just a tad bit dry on some of the thinner pieces of meat, but the flavor was so good and the meat was really tender.

The whole process was actually quite simple.  Choose your meat, make a spice rub, and cook it “low and slow”…that is low heat over a few hours time, checking on it occasionally.

I do have a “pork rub” that I usually make, but since I already had a batch of spice rub made up I just used that and then topped them with my sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.

To prep the meat, I removed the thin membrane from the back of the ribs by inserting a butter knife and pulling it up just enough to get a good grip on it. Then, using a paper towel, I pulled it off. I’ve made ribs before but never did this, but apparently it is an important step so that the flavor can get into the meat and it also makes the meat more tender. I then spread Dijon mustard over both sides of the ribs and added the spice rub (be sure to actually RUB the meat with the spices, just sprinkling it on is not good enough). I then vacuum sealed the ribs with my Food Saver and allowed it to sit over night in the refrigerator. The reason I decided to use my Food Saver is because this allows the spices to really soak into the meat. If you don’t have a Food Saver you can just wrap the ribs tightly with plastic wrap. When it was time to put the ribs into the smoker, I removed them from the wrapping and made sure they were still seasoned well, which they were. If you take off the plastic wrap and notice that the rub is looking thinner or it’s stuck to the plastic wrap, you should go ahead and rub some more of the spice rub into the meat. I preheated the smoker to 200 degrees and then added the ribs bone side down, checking on them every 30-45 minutes. I didn’t open the smoker door each time (wanted to maintain an appropriate temperature), I only checked to make sure the smoker was actually producing a good amount of smoke (I kept having to add water to the pan, the smoke seemed to decrease when the water evaporated from the tray). After about an hour I flipped the ribs over and then let them cook for another hour. I then removed the ribs from the smoker and wrapped them in foil. At this point, however, I noticed that the ribs were looking done so I used my meat thermometer to see where they were at and I was right…they were done. Even though they were done, I still wrapped them in foil and put them back in the smoker for another hour…only because I had anticipated a 3-4 hour cooking time and really wasn’t ready for them to be done in 2 hours. Ultimately this really didn’t do too much “damage” except for a little bit of dryness in some of the thinner parts of meat, like I mentioned earlier. Next time I will definitely make sure to have an oven thermometer and meat thermometer inside the smoker. I had read that these are important but I didn’t have them, so just went by the thermometer on the smoker door. Throughout the cooking process the thermometer remained between 200-220 degrees, but I am thinking that it was actually hotter inside the smoker.  After about a total of 3 hours I did remove the ribs and left them wrapped in the foil to rest. I had made our sides on the grill so right before everything was done I spread some barbecue sauce on the ribs and grilled them for a minute or two on each side just to crisp them up a bit.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at smoking meat. These were definitely the best ribs I’ve ever made!!

 

Smoked Baby Back Ribs

1 rack of baby back ribs (or 2 half racks)

Spice Rub

Dijon Mustard

Barbecue Sauce (optional)

  1. Prepare the ribs the day before you plan to smoke them by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs, spreading the ribs on both sides with Dijon mustard and adding the spice rub thoroughly to both sides of the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator for about 24 hours until ready to cook.
  2. Preheat smoker according to manufacturer’s directions to about 200 degrees F.
  3. Place ribs in smoker and allow to smoke for about an hour. After the first hour flip the ribs over to the other side. Allow to cook for another hour. Be sure to maintain heat between 200-220 degrees F.
  4. After 2 hours remove ribs and wrap in foil. Return to the smoker for another hour.
  5. After 3 hours, check the ribs for doneness. If they are not done, return to the smoker.
  6. If ribs are done, allow to rest in the foil for 10-15 minutes.
  7. If desired, coat ribs with barbecue sauce and grill for about 2 minutes per side.
  8. Serve with barbecue sauce on the side and enjoy.
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Whole Wheat Pancakes


Are you sick of breakfast posts from me yet???

This is my last one, at least for a while. I thought it would be good to do a “theme” this week. 🙂

Today’s post is for whole wheat pancakes. I love making these in advance and then freezing them in individual servings. Be sure to make them small enough to make 15 pancakes. You can then eat three pancakes for only 3 Weight Watchers Points Plus! They are filling and the sight of three pancakes on my plate (even though they are small) makes me feel like I am eating a whole lot. I like these just as is, but of course you can add fruit or chocolate chips.

Breakfast Foods Rule!!!

Whole Wheat Pancakes (Makes 5 servings; 1 serving = 3 pancakes; WW PointsPlus = 3)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup almond milk (original, unsweetened)

2 tbsp. Splenda

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup refrigerated egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters)

  1. In a medium bowl whisk the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, & salt), then add wet ingredients and mix well.
  2. Poor about ¼ cup pancake batter onto a pre-heated griddle or non-stick frying pan. When batter forms bubbles on top, carefully flip the pancakes and cook for another minute until cooked through and golden brown.
  3. Serve with fresh fruit or ¼ cup sugar free pancake syrup.
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Chocolate Chip Yogurt Waffles


So yesterday’s post was for some really good waffles made with Carbon’s Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour. Today is the “Slimmed Down” version I have promised you all. This recipe is so tasty and filling! This makes one large Belgian waffle, so I eat half as a serving and it is definitely enough. If you have a smaller waffle maker this may make more than one waffle, so you’ll need to adjust your serving size accordingly.

The key ingredient in this recipe is to replace the egg and butter with nonfat Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a great substitute for many things and is great in baking, as well as in pancakes and waffles (check out this substitution chart I came across on Pinterest). I do add just a teaspoon of olive oil, but this is completely optional. I think it gives it that little extra something and it doesn’t change the Weight Watchers Points Plus value. Also, you can omit the chocolate chips and have a plain waffle or add fruit to it instead.

If you don’t have Carbon’s you can probably substitute Bisquick or another pancake/waffle mix. When I don’t have any Carbon’s on hand, then I use this recipe for Almond Flour Yogurt Waffles as my next favorite waffle. It is also extremely delicious and it is low-carb and gluten free. This blog, All Day I Dream About Food, has a lot of good low-carb recipes, so I would definitely recommend checking it out. Another thing that I do that really comes in handy is that I make a big batch and then divide it into single servings and freeze (usually freeze in Ziploc freezer bags or my Foodsaver). That way, I can just grab one for breakfast whenever I want.

Which brings me to the “advice” part of this week’s “slimmed down” post…

This time around on my “diet” I make sure to eat something different for breakfast, lunch & dinner pretty much every day. From what I’ve read and now have experienced first hand, it is important to keep your body guessing what’s coming next varying the foods you eat and the amount of calories at each meal. This may be something you’ve heard before, which I had, but being the picky eater that I am…not to mention the food jags I experience from time to time, I never paid it much attention. For me, it became clear this time around because I had some comparison. This time around (using Weight Watchers) I have been consistently losing weight each week (except for this past week, but I already knew that was coming I’m just glad I didn’t gain!) and I have not been growing tired of eating the same thing or same types of foods. My comparison is from two years ago when I decided that Nutrisystem might be a good diet option for a lazy person like myself. The first month of food I ordered, I made sure to order all different foods and even try things that I normally wouldn’t eat (such as soup..ick!). Well, after a few weeks I tired of certain things pretty quickly (mainly because the food is just not that good) and when it would be time for me to place my next month’s order I would start ordering more and more of the same foods because I was having a hard time liking some of the other stuff. So, for example, the first month I lost 10 pounds right off the bat, but then the second month I started eating the same things for breakfast (usually muffins), lunch (chicken Caesar salad) and dinner (pizza) and barely lost anything (I think I lost about 2 pounds). My body got used to eating the same thing over and over not to mention that I just got fed up with the food and just quit even trying…and probably if I try really hard to remember I would end up just binging on food I wasn’t “supposed” to be eating in the first place. Although, at the time losing 15 pounds was a good amount for me (I only weighed 158 when I started that one…this time my starting weight was 174! Yikes!) it seemed ok that I only “dieted” for those 3 or 4 months. However, I never met my goal weight nor did I learn any type of good eating habits or how to change my lifestyle.

Even though I said early on when I started doing my “slimmed down” posts that my main focus right now was just getting the weight off and that later I’d worry about eating “healthier”, as much as I hate to admit it…I am learning healthy habits with Weight Watchers…just like the commercials said I would. My family & Hubby are probably shocked to hear me admit this…being the stubborn feisty woman I am…but it is true! I am much happier this time around and even when I am starving I usually reach for an apple or a fruit slushie rather than a candy bar…this may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but this is HUGE for me! I’ve never gotten to a point where I felt that I could just have an apple and be happy and fulfilled…in the past that apple represented being denied junk food and having to sacrifice.  (Who remembers “LA Weight Loss”? Of course I did it…I’ve tried EVERY diet…and it worked great, lost 25 pounds in 4 months…but I was miserable and would literally break down into tears because I was hungry…I just wanted a cupcake or something delicious! Anyway…) Now I never deny myself anything and I am able to only take a little bite of something that’s less than healthy (cheesecake anyone?) and if I’m still hungry fill up on fruits and veggies. I finally feel like maybe I can live like this for the rest of my life….and I’ll maintain a healthy weight, looking and feeling a lot better! I actually have “hope” that this will be the last time I have to lose an excessive amount of weight.

So, why do I share all of this with you?? Because I know there are probably some people out there who’ve felt like I have…that you’ll never be able to change that you’ll always have to do some sort of diet…that you will always have to be denied the things you love…but it’s not true…even the most stubborn junk-food addicted person can change…I am living proof!

Now, if I can just start exercising….. 😉

Baby steps!!

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Waffles (Makes 2 servings; 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving)

1/3 cup Carbon’s Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour

¼ cup nonfat greek yogurt

¼ cup water

1 tsp. oil (optional)

1 tbsp. mini chocolate chips

  1. Combine the flour, yogurt, water and oil in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Cook waffle in a waffle maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  3. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or 2 tbsp. sugar free pancake syrup.
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The Breakfast Madness Continues…Waffles!


So I thought I would stick with a “breakfast theme” for the remainder of my posts this week. I love breakfast food…I could eat it in the morning, for lunch, or for dinner. I especially love the Belgian-style waffles you get at diners and buffets. As a matter of fact, last Spring, Hubby and I took a ride to Atlantic City and ended up staying over at a hotel. We hit up their breakfast buffet and they had the waffle maker and waffle mix to make your own Belgian waffles….holy moly…these were THE best waffles ever!! I loved them so much that when we got home I did a little research to find out what kind of mix the hotel chain used and found out it was Carbon’s Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour. I then immediately ordered three huge cans of it from Amazon and Hubby bought us a nice big waffle maker.

When I whipped up these waffles…I was happy to find out they tasted the same as I remembered. Although I’ve read numerous reviews talking about adding other ingredients to make it better…in my opinion, the best way to make them is to follow the recipe on the can. They come out light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. They have such a great flavor…mmmmmm….sorry I was daydreaming about biting into them.

So anyway, if you are looking for a great restaurant-style waffle then I would highly recommend splurging on Carbon’s. It is a bit pricier than the $2 waffle mix you can find in the grocery store but it is well worth the extra few dollars. I’ve never seen it sold in stores, but if you do an internet search you can definitely find a bunch of sites that sell it. I went with Amazon because they had a pretty good deal and I liked the fact that you could get it in bulk (3 large cans) so you don’t have to order it every other week.  Carbon’s offers a large variety of its pancake and waffle flour including gluten-free, natural, and organic varieties, as well as a “just add water” version.

As for our waffle maker…this has been a good purchase as well. It makes great waffles and although it is a little bit on the bigger side it is not as large and bulky as some of the other waffle irons out there. I love that it flips over for even cooking and has a temperature control with a good range (0-10).

One last thought…like I said, the best way to use the Carbon’s flour is to make it following the recipe on the back of the can, but you can definitely get creative by adding all kinds of different things to the waffles, such as fruits (blueberries, apples, bananas, raspberries, etc.) or chocolate chips or nuts. I’ve tried pretty much all of these and they all tasted great.

Oh and don’t worry…..I have a “Slimmed Down” version of these waffles, which I’ll be sharing soon! So even if you are watching what you eat you don’t have to give up this awesome waffle mix! Be sure to check back for this lower fat option.

 

Carbon’s Golden Malted Waffles (Makes 3 small-medium waffles or 2 ½ large Belgian size waffles)

(Source: Carbon’s Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour Canister)

1 cup Carbon’s Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour

1 egg

5 oz. water

2 tbsp. melted butter (or 2 tbsp. vegetable oil)

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Pour mixture into waffle maker and cook per manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

 

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Bacon, Egg & Hash Brown Skillet Breakfast


My inspiration for this recipe comes from those yummy Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowls. Hubby & I used to buy them now and then but of course they’re loaded with a ton of sodium and preservatives and who knows what else. Then one day it hit me…”why don’t I just make my own?”

It came out way more tasty (and these pics don’t do it justice…stupid iPhone!) and plus you can add pretty much whatever you want. Typically I use the Jimmy Dean precooked turkey sausage patties, but I like it with bacon as well. Since I had some leftover thick cut hickory smoked bacon from the farmer’s market I used that for Sunday’s brunch.

You can really get creative with this recipe by adding different veggies and different meats and even different cheeses and of course adjust the seasoning to your own preference. It is a great “base” recipe.

You’ll see in the recipe you are instructed to use a mandolin slicer with the julienne blade to cut the potatoes into hash brown pieces.

If you don’t have a mandolin slicer you can just cut the potatoes in cubes (this is what I used to do before I got my mandolin), but if you do I would recommend putting the potato cubes in a microwave safe bowl, filling with water and microwaving for at least 10-15 minutes to soften the potatoes up. If you don’t take the time to do this step, it will take forever for the potatoes to get done in the skillet and you’ll probably just end up burning the outside of the potato and they may not get tender at all…trust me I’ve learned from experience! 🙂 Serve this in a bowl as a meal or with pancakes, waffles or toast.

All this talk about breakfast foods has made me hungry! It may be a “BFD” kind of night…that is, “breakfast for dinner.”

Who doesn’t love BFD??

Bacon, Egg & Hash Brown Breakfast Skillet (Makes approx. 4 – ½ cup servings)

2 potatoes

3 slices thick cut bacon

3 eggs

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. paprika

½ tsp. onion powder

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Wash potatoes and cut them with a mandolin slicer using the julienne blade.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes into a bowl with a lid and add the salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder. Place the lid on the bowl and shake it up to cover the potatoes with the seasonings. Set aside.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain grease.
  4. To the skillet, add the eggs and scramble, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper. Once eggs are completely scrambled and no liquid remains remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Using the same skillet, heat the olive oil. Add potatoes and cook covered for about 4 minutes. Carefully “flip” the hash browns over and cook (covered) on the other side for another 3-4 minutes or until crisp tender. (*Tip: Resist the urge to “stir” the potatoes frequently. This will cause them to be soggy and they will not get crispy like hash browns.)
  6. Remove the lid and make sure the potatoes are tender and browned. If they are done, add the egg, stirring to break up the egg.
  7. Crumble or cut the bacon into small pieces and add to skillet and stir to mix all the ingredients up.
  8. Finally, add the cheese and allow to melt, stirring occasionally. Once cheese has melted and is well-combined remove from heat and serve.

 

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Grilled Asiago & Parmesan Twice Baked Potatoes


In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I served my grilled lamb chops with a side of grilled twice baked potatoes. So today I am sharing that recipe. It has a unique blend of flavors by using ricotta cheese, asiago & parmesan. Typically you find that most twice baked potatoes are made with sour cream. Grilling them makes the skins super crispy and tasty and the inside ultra creamy! For this recipe I do not typically measure my ingredients so I’ve listed in the recipe below what I feel is a good starting point. It is best to taste as you go and adjust your spices and cheese according to your own taste.

These definitely go well with any meat dish and are a nice change from the usual kinds of potato sides that you come across!

Grilled Asiago & Parmesan Twice Baked Potatoes

2 potatoes

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated asiago cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 slice thick cut bacon

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare potatoes by washing and scrubbing with a vegetable brush.
  3. Bake potatoes in preheated oven for 45 minutes-1 hour (or until fork inserted into potato goes in easily).
  4. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Cut a small circle in one side of each potato and scoop out the insides. Place the insides in a mixing bowl.
  6. To the potato insides, add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and ricotta and mix on medium speed until smooth.
  7. Add the asiago and parmesan cheeses, mixing again until well combined.
  8. Add the potato cheese mixture back into the potato shells.
  9. Wrap each potato in foil and place on the grill over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  10. Place the bacon on the grill as well and cook until crisp. You can add this at the same time as the potatoes over indirect heat and they will both be done at the same time.
  11. When potatoes are done, remove from foil and carefully scoop back any filling that may have melted out and over.
  12. Crumble the bacon and add evenly over the potatoes.
  13. Finally, top each potato with the chopped fresh parsley.

 

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Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops


Well, I’ve decided to put my Smoked Ribs on hold…the forecast includes rain and the last thing I want to deal with is having my ribs cooked halfway and it starts to rain!   So today’s post is of last night’s meal, which I luckily remembered to take pictures of (although I had to use my iPhone because my camera battery was dead!).

This is the first time I’ve grilled lamb chops and they came out great! It also the first time I ever marinated them. Also, I should mention that I don’t eat lamb…I’ve eaten it and I’ll taste it when Hubby has it but there’s something that I just can’t get past when thinking about the poor little baby sheep that I am consuming. It’s totally in my head, I know…because everytime I have eaten it it’s tasted really good. I am a total carnivore and LOVE meat…and I have no problem consuming anything else that was once a cute animal…so I guess it is just one of my many unusual little quirks!

Anyway, I have one “top secret” lamb chop recipe that I typically use to make Hubby his lamb chops. He has labelled them “Restaurant Worthy” and therefore when I do experiment with other lamb chop recipes they don’t live up to the original. Since I am totally in love with my grill I wanted to try something new….I scoured the internet to find something unique, but came up empty so when I was at the farmer’s market and saw all the fresh herbs they had I was inspired to create something on my own.

For this recipe I would definitely recommend only using all fresh ingredients. Do not substitute dried herbs for the fresh and make sure you use real lemons and not bottled lemon juice. Also, make sure to watch your grill closely because the marinade will cause the grill to shoot up flames…which you want because it adds good flavor, but if the fire does not go out it will burn the outside before the inside can get done. If the flames will not die down, simply move the chops to a cooler part of the grill.

I served these with a side of grilled veggies and my grilled twice baked potatoes. These would also taste great with a side of garlic mashed potatoes!

Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops

4-6 lamb chops

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lemon, cut in half

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

3-4 sprigs of thyme

  1. In a blender or food processor add the olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme leaves, salt and pepper, and juice of half of the lemon.
  2. Blend/process until well combined.
  3. Add chops and marinade to a ziploc bag and allow to marinate in refrigerator for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove chops from refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before grilling.
  4. Lightly oil grill grate and preheat for about 5 minutes to medium heat (around 400 degrees).
  5. Grill chops for 5-6 minutes per side. (More or less time depending on preference of rare or medium chops)
  6. Before serving, sprinkle chops with remaining juice from other half of lemon, if desired. Allow chops to rest for 5-10 minutes after removing from grill.
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2 for 1: 12 Spice Dry Rub Mix and Sweet & Tangy Barbecue Sauce


Grilling season is in full effect and I am loving my new grill!! Since tomorrow is Saturday and the weather is supposed to be nice again I’m going to attempt to make smoked baby back ribs. In preparation, I’ve made a nice big batch of barbecue sauce to go with them. My inspiration for this recipe comes from Monica at The Yummy Life.  The recipe calls for her 14-spice dry rub mix, so I’ve also included my modified version of this recipe as well (ergo the “2 for 1”), which is actually a 12-spice dry rub mix which can be used on pork or chicken and can also be used in sauces, such as the barbecue sauce I’m sharing with you today.

Stay tuned for my smoked ribs adventure…it’s going to be an interesting journey into unknown territory! 🙂 Until then whip up this tasty barbecue sauce and throw some meat on the grill!!!

Sweet & Tangy Barbecue Sauce (Makes approx. 2 1/2 cups; Weight Watchers Points Plus = 1 for 2 tbsp of sauce)

Source: “Barbecue Sauce” @ The Yummy Life

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

2 tbsp. honey

2 cups ketchup

2 tbsp. 12-spice dry rub mix (recipe follows)

1 1/2 tsp. liquid hickory smoke

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

12-Spice Dry Rub for Pork or Chicken (Makes approx. 1 3/4 cups)

Source: “14-Spice Dry Rub Mix” @ The Yummy Life

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. salt

1/2 cup smoked paprika

1 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. celery salt

2 tbsp. chili powder

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. dried sage

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. ground mace

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

  1.  Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.
  2. Keep rub in an air-tight container and use as desired.
  3. For use on chicken or pork sprinkle rub on meat and rub in on all sides. For best results, wrap seasoned meat in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. When ready to cook, remove meat from refrigerator and sprinkle a little bit more of the rub onto the meat.
  4. Cook meat as desired (grill, bake, broil, etc.).
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Girl Scout Cookie Fix & Why Slow Weight Loss Wins


Today was my Week 7 weigh-in with a loss of another 1.5 lbs. bringing my total loss so far to 13.5 lbs. Even though I strive to lose 2 lbs/week that has not been happening…and after indulging in some Panera Bread (why do they offer a ‘side of bread’ when you order a sandwich? I swear I wanted to say ‘apple’ but a craving for refined carbs took over!!) on Monday I thought for sure I’d only lose another pound so I was pretty excited to see that extra 1/2 lb. on the scale.

In last week’s weigh-in post I mentioned that it was probably time for me to start exercising….so some of you may be wondering how that is going….well it’s NOT!!! What can I say? I’ve been so worn down and have had allergy-related migraines for the past 3 days so it’s been a struggle just to make it to work each day. Hopefully I’ll start to feel better and I’ll have no more excuses! And hopefully that will help me get back to 2 pounds per week.

Even if it doesn’t….I am ok with that. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself. I read this article “Why Slow Weight Loss Wins” on the Weight Watcher’s website and it is a nice little reminder how losing weight too quickly will pretty much guarantee that you’ll put it back on. I can definitely relate to this because I’ve been through many diets and with a lot of them I lost pretty fast, but yet here I am back to my larger self….so obviously something went wrong. Maybe all those cliche’s are right…”slow and steady wins the race”, “one pound is better than no pounds”??

Anyway…on to the good stuff: Girl Scout Cookies! I am proud to say I survived Girl Scout Cookie Season unharmed…even though everywhere I turned there were cute little girls outside of stores asking me to buy and my co-workers had boxes perched on their desks…I did not eat any!! What is in those things anyway? Some form of Girl Scout crack?!?!

My favorite kind is Thin Mints and so when I came across Edy’s Light Thin Mint Ice Cream (Available for a limited time only!) at the grocery store I grabbed it and it tastes awesome!

I pair it up with Fiber One Brownies  for a “brownie sundae” that is low-fat, low-cal heaven! Have you tried these brownies? I was a little skeptical at first, but they are only 2 WW PointsPlus so I gave them a try and was blown away by how good they taste. They are sooooo chocolatey!!

So here is my recipe for a quick and tasty snack with a total WW Points Plus value of 4! Enjoy

Thin Mint Ice Cream/Fiber One Brownie Sundae(Makes 1 serving; 4 WW PP)

1 Fiber One Fudge Brownie

1/4 cup Edy’s Thin Mint Light Ice Cream

  1. Unwrap brownie and place in a bowl. Scoop out 1/4 cup of ice cream, place on top of brownie and indulge!!!

 

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Homemade Hamburger Helper….Slimmed Down!!


So who out there is going to own up and admit they like Hamburger Helper?

Ok, I’ll start…I like Hamburger Helper…ok, ok…I love Hamburger Helper!

I love Hamburger Helper and I am not ashamed to say it!!!

Now, doesn’t it feel good to come clean about these things? 😉

Hamburger Helper has been around for about 40 years now (According to Wikipedia it was first introduced in 1971). If you were lucky like me as a kid you got to eat it for dinner once in a while and you probably loved it. If you have kids now and you are cool enough to serve them Hamburger Helper they probably love it as well. Even in adulthood I’ve never tired of the ease of browning some ground beef and adding a few ingredients and coming out with a quick and tasty meal. Now when I say “tasty” I really mean salty and processed. As a child I never realized that this yummy food was any different than when my mom cooked a real meal, but as I got older this meal became a guilty pleasure knowing that it is basically a box of chemicals and salt. I even started adding broccoli to it, to make it “healthier”. LOL!! (Don’t you just love how easily I can rationalize things?)

So this past weekend when I did my meal planning (yes, I started planning all of my meals, as well as Hubby’s dinner, a week in advance) for the week and knew I’d be getting home late from work one night I put Hamburger Helper on the menu. It’s perfect for a busy night because you can just throw everything together in no time and still say you “cooked”! Then the guilt started to set in….I mean it’s not a very Weight Watchers friendly food…or a healthy food in general. So, I got to thinking…someone out there must have come up with a “homemade” version.

After a quick search on Google, I found this blog. Awesome!!! Not only does she give you the “base” for the helper recipes, she gives you all different varieties. There are also instructions for making your own “packets” to keep on hand just like the boxed variety. Genius!!! The recipe I’m sharing with you today is a slimmed down slightly altered version of her recipe for the cheeseburger macaroni flavor.

Here is where I have to warn you…I thought it was pretty good, but immediately noticed a difference between this and the real thing. Hubby didn’t like it at all. I’ve determined, however that the reason it seems so different is because it is a lot less salty. I did up the salt a little bit in my recipe but I’d suggest starting with 1 tsp. and then tasting it as you go along and add more if you feel the need to do so. My recipe calls for broccoli but you can omit it if you want or you can be creative and add other veggies.

Also, it freezes quite well so I made up bags of 1 cup portions with my Foodsaver (you could use freezer bags or plastic containers, but it won’t be as good or last as long) and then freeze them. I pack them in my lunch and this has become a much better option than buying those expensive microwave meals (Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, WW Smart Ones, etc.). I just open the pack, put it in a bowl with a splash of fat free milk and microwave it. Tastes great and I don’t have to feel bad about eating food with all kinds of sodium and other additives…and since it’s “Slimmed Down” it is a satisfying meal for only 5 WW points plus.

So go on and try my version and you will no longer have to be ashamed that you like Hamburger Helper!! Here’s to guilty pleasures… 🙂

Slimmed Down Cheeseburger Macaroni “Hamburger Helper”

(Makes approximately 8 cups; 1 serving = 1 cup; 5 WW Points Plus)

Adapted from Chickensintheroad.com

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

1 cup whole wheat macaroni

1 cup hot water

2 cups fat free milk or unsweetened almond milk

1 seasoning packet (see below)

2 cups chopped frozen broccoli

1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese

~Seasoning Packet:

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. paprika

1 ½ tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

  1. In a small bowl or Ziploc bag, combine all the ingredients for the seasoning packet.
  2. Brown the ground beef and drain any excess grease.
  3. To the browned ground beef, add the hot water, milk, macaroni, and seasoning packet. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for a total cooking time of about 12 minutes, being sure to stir frequently. Add the broccoli after 7 minutes and the cheese at 10 minutes, stirring until the cheese is melted and well combined.
  4. Remove from heat and serve.
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