Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

Jumping on the Meatless Monday Bandwagon


Typically I don’t really like to conform to the latest fad, but eventually I usually “jump on the bandwagon” if it is actually a good idea…like “meatless Mondays”. I have been planning our meals in advance for quite some time now and in an effort to get skinny and healthy again I’ve really tried to make sure we are limiting our red meat consumption, as well as try to have a variety of different foods, which can be challenging. I know Hubby doesn’t want to eat chicken 5 times a week!  I guess another reason why I never considered a “meatless” day is because I love meat & so does Hubby. However, like I said I thought this would be a nice idea for a healthier me (& Hubby gets the benefits too!). I have to admit I was nervous that Hubby wouldn’t go for it, but so far (I’ve only done it two Mondays now) the meals have been a hit with him.

Last night I made 4 cheese stuffed shells with arugula. I know you’re probably thinking that doesn’t sound like a good meal to eat to achieve a skinnier body, but with a little tweaking and some fresh seasoning, this turned out to be one heck of a “Slimmed Down Sensation”! This recipe makes 3 servings (1 serving = 3 shells and approx. 2/3 cup of sauce) and one serving is only 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus. It is super tasty and better yet super filling! Usually I get pretty hungry again after dinner and before bed, but these bad boys filled me up for the whole night!

Can’t wait to try some more Meatless Monday Meals!!!

 

Slimmed Down Four Cheese Stuffed Shells with Arugula

(Makes 3 servings; 1 serving = 3 shells + 2/3 cup sauce = 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus)

9 jumbo pasta shells

1 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Filling:

1 cup fat free ricotta cheese

½ oz. parmesan cheese, grated

1 oz. asiago cheese, shredded

1 tsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups arugula, chopped

Sauce:

1 tsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, finely chopped

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

  1. Cook shells according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. Make the filling. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Cook garlic about 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant and just turning brown. Add the arugula and continue to cook for another minute or two until the arugula becomes just slightly wilted.
  3. In a medium size bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and asiago cheeses. Add the arugula & garlic mixture and mix well to combine.
  4. Fill the shells with approximately 2 tbsp. of the filling.
  5. Make the sauce. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onions. Cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for another 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.
  6. Add remaining ingredients, except for basil and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Add about 1/3 of the sauce to the bottom of an 8×8” glass dish, sprayed with cooking spray.
  8. Place the shells in the dish and cover with the remaining sauce.
  9. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  10. Bake in a 350 degree F. preheated oven for 20 minutes. These can be made ahead and refrigerated. If baking from refrigerator cook for 30-40 minutes, or until shells are heated through and sauce is bubbly.
2 Comments »

Flour Tortillas


I wanted to make fajitas the other night for dinner, but had no tortillas. I didn’t want to run to the store so I just did a quick search on the internet to see if I could make them. After reading a few recipes, it was quite clear that these are so EASY!!! They were easy, they were quick and tasted great. Why didn’t I ever try to make these before???!!! I will definitely never buy flour tortillas anymore! I froze the leftovers…and they reheat great in the microwave!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Flour Tortillas(Makes 12)

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. vegetable shortening

3/4 cups water

  1. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the shortening with your fingers or a pastry blender until the flour resembles cornmeal.
  3. Add the water a little bit at a time and mix until the dough is able to be made into a ball.
  4. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
  6.  Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll each dough ball into a thin, round tortilla.
  7. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  8.  Place tortillas, one at a time, into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side.
4 Comments »

Microwave Zucchini Chips « Slimming Down


Check out these yummy zucchini chips that you can make right in the microwave!

 

Microwave Zucchini Chips « Slimming Down.

via Microwave Zucchini Chips « Slimming Down.

Leave a comment »

Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad


Have I mentioned recently how hot it’s been?! Not that I am complaining…I LOVE when it is hot. I’ll take 90s/100s any day. However as much as I love it, the heat does take its toll on me including not wanting to cook anything major or eat anything heavy. I found this recipe for Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad in Cuisine at Home Magazine and knew it would be perfect for dinner on a hot summer night.  I make salad a lot for myself and occasionally for both Hubby and me, but sometimes grilled chicken on a bed of lettuce gets to be a little bit boring. This version with a pecan crusted chicken was a very nice change of pace. It was quick and easy to make and the dressing was delicious!

For the dressing, I highly recommend using “raw honey”. It is a little bit more pricey than regular honey, but it tastes so much better and is better for you. You can usually find it at specialty stores or in the “organic/natural” section of most large chain grocery stores. You will get the most health benefits from it if you can buy it local from a farm. The reason being is that raw honey has pollen in it and every region has different types of pollen. Eating local raw honey will help build up your immunity to these types of pollen. (For more information read this article). It also has a lot of other benefits, so check it out!  If you can’t find raw honey or just want to use the regular kind, that’s cool…but you are definitely missing out! 😉  This recipe makes 4 “entrée” size salads, but can easily be changed to make whatever size you like.

Hmmmm…seems like I have a lot to say about “salad” this week!!!

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

(Recipe modified from “Cuisine at Home” Magazine)

Honey Mustard Dressing

¼ cup raw honey

3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. minced shallots

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Pecan Crusted Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½” thick

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp. cornstarch

Juice of ½ lemon

1 cup panko-style bread crumbs

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Zest of 1 lemon

Salad

3 cups romaine lettuce (or mixed greens)

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or shredded

4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the egg, cornstarch and lemon juice in a shallow dish.
  3. In another shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper & lemon zest. Add the pecans, oregano, thyme, paprika,  and cayenne.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the egg mixture then the breadcrumb mixture and place in the prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  6. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the honey, Dijon, olive oil, shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl for the dressing until blended.
  7. Toss the lettuce, onions, carrot and cheese in a large bowl. Divide salad among four plates.
  8. Slice the chicken and place on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle any toasted crumbs left in the baking dish on top of the salads.
  9. Serve with dressing on the side.
1 Comment »

Slimming Down


In yesterday’s post I talked about how I always give up on dieting and eating healthy.  Today I am completely back on track with a solid plan and goals in place. To help myself be more accountable and hopefully to get support from others in the blogging world and maybe even share some information that will help someone else (or even motivate someone) I have decided to start another blog devoted specifically to my weight loss/healthy living trials and tribulations. So, head on over to my new blog “Slimming Down”  to see my goals, cheer me on, share your own stories, and of course get some healthy food & recipe ideas.

Leave a comment »

A Little Self-Loathing with a Side of Cucumber Salad


Yesterday I started writing a blog complaining about my lack of willpower and consistency when it comes to dieting and eating healthy. I am a total introvert so I was only blaming myself…and feeling pretty down about it. The problem is when it comes to weight loss and eating healthy I just can’t seem to stick with it. It’s like I am always starting over….I mean I can’t really call months of horrendous eating, a sedentary lifestyle, and gaining back almost all of the weight I had previously lost…just a set back or getting off track a little. A setback is pigging out at that July 4th barbecue…getting off track is not going to the gym for a week, right? Or am I being too hard on myself? It seems like when I read other blogs or talk to other people they talk about having a bad day or maybe a bad week…not having to start again! I truly don’t know why I never stick with it…I don’t want to say I have no willpower because I know if I really tried I could do it. So where do I go wrong???

Anyway, today I’m feeling a little better…I ate healthy yesterday and today (forcing down some nasty watermelon as I type this, which I overpaid for at the food truck). However, I just keep thinking that there is something wrong with me that I cannot stick with it for longer than a few months, or sometimes even only a few weeks.

So, earlier I had been feeling sorry for myself when I was in line at Saladworks listening to the couple behind me talk about “eating healthy” (they were invading my personal space so I couldn’t help but eavesdrop!). The woman was extremely overweight…obese… the guy appeared to be a normal weight and they were probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Anyway, she was telling him how much she loves eating there (if you’re not familiar with Saladworks, check them out…it is an awesome place).  Apparently it was his first time so she was telling him you can order one from the menu or create your own. She proceeded to explain it’s better to create your own because it’s much healthier. As I listened to them talk and decide what was healthy…they chose to put on top of their lettuce…pasta, buffalo chicken, cheddar cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and some other random veggies topped off with Ranch Dressing! I was absolutely blown away that they both thought this was “healthy”. Now I’m sure it is better than going to McDonald’s for lunch, but I really wanted to turn around and let them know aside from the vegetables and maybe the chicken they really weren’t doing themselves any good. It made me realize that at least I have the appropriate knowledge when it comes to eating healthy. That at least I am not fooling myself into thinking that just because I eat at a place called “Saladworks” I am on my way to weight loss.  I also realized how thankful I am that I only have 30-40 pounds to lose and not 100…because honestly if I didn’t keep trying and starting over I’d probably be much heavier!!  It is hard for me to understand how in this day in age with information readily available at our fingertips that there are still people out there who truly don’t understand what they need to do to eat healthy or lose weight. I feel grateful for the knowledge that I have, which made me feel much more positive…that I can do it if I really want to and really try hard. I also came to the conclusion that starting over is better than quitting completely and just not caring. No matter how many times you get flung off of the horse, the important thing is that you get back on, right? No matter how many times….eventually you may just be able to stay on top!

Since I’ve been doing well with my food choices these past 2 days, here is a recipe for a cucumber salad that I served as a side to some grilled pork (that’s beef in the picture though!) the other night. I am not a huge fan of cucumbers but will eat them once in a while. This is a classic sweet & tangy cucumber salad that you’ve probably had at a barbecue or somewhere along the line…and didn’t even realize it was healthy. This salad is only 1 WWPP (it makes about 4 servings). If you like a sweeter salad then you will need to add more sugar, but keep in mind this will increase the Weight Watchers Points Value. If you like it a bit more tangy then you will need to decrease the amount of sugar. You can also substitute Splenda or another sweetener for the sugar, however this will not affect the WWPP.

Sweet & Tangy Cucumber Salad (Makes 4 servings; 1WWPP per serving)

1 cucumber, sliced thin

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ small onion, sliced thin

2 tbsp. sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 tsp. dried dill

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar just to boiling. Stir until sugar dissolves and remove from heat.
  2. Place the cucumber slices, onion slices, and tomatoes in a bowl and add the vinegar. Pour the sugar water into this and stir. Add the dill.
  3. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
6 Comments »

Summer Corn Chowder


Well it’s been one hot summer so far here in the northeast…and from what I see on the news it isn’t much better throughout most parts of the U.S. The last thing you are probably thinking about during these hot summer days is hot food like soup. Despite the heat, the other day  I decided to make a big pot of summer corn chowder. It is one of my favorite ways to use fresh corn on the cob. I got this recipe from a cooking class Hubby took me to for my birthday last year.

We made it in the class and even though I HATE SOUP (chowder is soup in my book) I told myself that I was going to try all the stuff we made, as this is an important part of cooking. I tasted it and loved it! I make a huge batch and then freeze it in smaller portions. It freezes really well and I love stumbling across it in the freezer after summer is over and you can’t get corn on the cob anymore. Tasting that sweet fresh corn is the best!

So whether you make this now or freeze it for later you will not be disappointed. For a heartier meal, you can add some cooked chicken cut up into small pieces. Serve with fresh homemade French Bread (check out my Mini French Loaves recipe!) and a small salad for an amazing summer meal.

Summer Corn Chowder

4-6 ears of corn

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh tarragon

2 tbsp. butter

1 large onion, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 medium red potatoes, diced

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cubed (optional)

  1. Shuck the corn and using a knife strip the kernels into a bowl. Put the cobs in a large stock pot with 4 cups of water and herb sprigs (tie the herbs together with string); bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium high. When the butter melts, add the onion, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion soft, about 5 minutes; add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes.
  3. After the corn cobs have cooked, strain the liquid into the onion mixture. Bring to a boil, add diced potatoes, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. When the potatoes and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, add the corn kernels and cream and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish with parsley, and serve.* Can be made the day before or frozen.
Leave a comment »

Chocolate Candy Cookies


A friend of mine calls me her “personal pastry chef”. She is always asking me to make baked goods for her, especially when there is a party or event coming up. Her son’s birthday was this past Saturday so she asked me to make some cookies and bring them to the party. She said it was because he just loves my cookies, but I am really thinking his mommy loves them too! 😉

I chose these because I thought they were a good choice for a kid’s birthday party with the candy pieces making it look nice and festive. I’ve made these before and I typically am not a fan of using shortening in recipes, but after much trial and error making substitutions, I’ve found that the best way to make these is to just go ahead and use the shortening. These will make 3-4 dozen cookies depending on how big or small you make them. I usually make my cookies about 1”-1 1/2 “ just because I personally like a smaller cookie, plus they tend to keep their shape better and not run together. Make sure you do not skip the refrigeration step. This will save you a big headache in the long run. Also, remember to put the dough back into the refrigerator between batches.

One last word of caution….you will not be able to just eat one of these!! Enjoy!!

M&M Cookies

1 cup shortening

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 ¼ cup flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 bag (12 oz) candy coated milk chocolate pieces (i.e. M&M’s)

  1. Thoroughly cream together shortening, sugars, eggs and vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, except the candy. Add to creamed mixture a little bit at time, beating on low and until well combined.
  3. Stir in the candy and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least an hour up to overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. When ready to bake, drop the batter into 1” round balls onto the cookie sheet.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow to sit for 2 more minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack.
2 Comments »

Scalloped Potato Foil Packets


Sometimes I feel like we have the same side dishes for all our meals. We have rice or potatoes or pasta plus a veggie or just a veggie. I try to mix it up but sometimes I just run out of ideas or I don’t feel like putting the effort into making an elaborate side. During the summer it is a little bit easier because there are a lot of fresh veggie sides you can whip up pretty easily and of course there’s potatoes…which are great for grilling. However, after making potatoes numerous different ways I was really thinking about making something different. I love cheesy scalloped potatoes, but who wants to heat up the oven when it is 100 degrees outside!?

So I decided to make scalloped potato foil packets to cook on the grill and much to my delight they came out pretty darn good. Foil packets of any kind are great especially if you are only cooking for two…it is also a really good way to practice good portion control. It is best to make individual sized packets…you may be tempted to make one big packet or put a few servings in one packet, but trust me…it will be easier to handle, the food will cook through better and it will just make your life a lot easier. The recipe below makes two foil packets, the measurements are suggestions, you can definitely increase or decrease the cheese to your taste or use whatever cheese you like best.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scalloped Potato Foil Packets(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium potato, sliced thin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup chopped onion

2 slices provolone cheese

½ cup Gruyère or swiss cheese, grated

1 tbsp. parsley, chopped

Salt & Pepper, to taste

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

  1. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes to about 1/8” thick.
  2. Cut two squares of foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Divide the sliced potatoes evenly between the two squares of foil. Top each foil square with garlic, 2 tbsp. chopped onion, ¼ cup Gruyère cheese, salt & pepper, 2 tbsp. heavy cream and one slice of provolone.
  4. Fold the edges of the foil up around the potatoes to make a packet; making sure that nothing can spill or leak out.
  5. Place on the grill potato side down for 20-30 minutes over medium direct heat. Check that the potatoes are tender and cooked through and the cheese is melted before removing from the grill.
  6. Remove from foil and transfer to a plate. Top with parsley and serve.
2 Comments »

Zucchini Bread


Well for those of you who have been keeping up with my blog, you probably know that the zucchini from my garden has been quite plentiful so far. Like I mentioned in a post a while back, I planned to make zucchini bread. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to it until this weekend. I made a couple of loaves and gave them out to my neighbors along with a zucchini. I had so many large zucchini I had to get them out of the garden because they were starting to kill the other plants!

I love this zucchini bread recipe, which I originally found on www.allrecipes.com. I’ve tried others but this one is my favorite. It is super moist with just the right amount of sweetness. I have to say zucchini bread is my favorite thing to make from zucchini…of course that’s only because it is a baked good…and I love baked goods! 😉  The recipe makes 2 loaves, so you’ll have some to share if you feel like it! It also freezes well. Also, I forgot to take pictures of the bread before I wrapped it up for the neighbors, but you get the point!

 

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cup sugar

2 cups uncooked zucchini, grated

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans and set aside.
  2. Combine the oil, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium until well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and the zucchini.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add this a little bit at a time to the wet ingredients, mixing on medium.
  4. Divide the batter in half and pour into two greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until baked through.

 

 

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: