Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

The Last Supper


Just a reminder that I wrote these blog posts back in October but never got around to posting them. I thought it would be good to chronicle my 21 Day Sugar Detox experience for anyone who may be considering it.

October 14, 2014

I am ready.

Tomorrow is the big day. The 21DSD! Hubs has decided to join me in this and after an enormous bill from Whole Foods and bags upon bags of processed and unhealthy foods thrown into the trash we’re ready to go. I’ve created our menus and the preparation has begun.

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I am excited, but know it will be hard because there are some things I just love!!

The things I will miss the most during this time (in order) include:

Diet Coke – oh how I love you! I will miss you so…and don’t take it the wrong way but if this works out, you will never touch these lips again!

diet cokeWine – My weekend indulgence; I love the way you go so well with all things from cheese, to steak, to chocolate, to a good book. Our love affair will probably not end after this, but will be reduced.

wine diet

Ketchup – OMG…I just can’t even! I need ketchup on my eggs!

kethchup

Cereal – You’ve always been there for me when I didn’t feel like cooking dinner. With your sugary flakes and your marshmallow-y goodness.

perfect world

Potatoes – Mashed, fried, baked, hash, you name it…I love it!

potato ninja

Tonight we indulge in our last meal of spaghetti with meat sauce…a big old plate of it. So here is my spaghetti sauce recipe. I usually add ground beef or ground Italian sausage, but it is good without meat too. It is easy and tastes way better than that stuff you buy in a jar! Enjoy!

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Spaghetti Sauce (Modified from this recipe.)

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste

2 (6 oz.) cans tomato sauce

½ cup water

1 tbsp. honey (or 2 tbsp white sugar)

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. fennel seed

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp salt (more or less to taste)

¼ tsp. black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft & slightly browned. Add garlic and continue to cook for about 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours minimum. Remember to stir occasionally!

If not using immediately, allow to cool and refrigerate or freeze.

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Happy Belated New Year!


I hope everyone is having a great 2015 so far….and I hope you’re all sticking to your resolutions. I haven’t made resolutions this year, but rather have extended my goals from 2014 (all of which are going quite well!) and added a few new one’s here and there. One of my main goals is to get back to cooking and blogging! Grad school will be over in just four months so there are no more excuses. I’ve had some posts written but never got around to posting so you can look forward to those in the next few weeks. The end of 2014 was full of positive changes for Hubs and me. We are regularly exercising and eating clean. Most importantly we are feeling great, better than ever before. You can look forward to some delicious recipes made with real food.

small-steps

So to kick off the return of my blog here is a quick recipe to make zucchini & carrot noodles with red sauce. I use this product to make the noodles but there are all kinds of contraptions on  the market that you can pick up. You can also just use a julienne slicer if you don’t want to buy another kitchen gadget. If you can, I recommend using organic canned crushed tomatoes or make your own.

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Zucchini & Carrot ‘Noodles’ in Red Sauce

(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium carrot

1/4-1/2 small zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup organic canned crushed tomatoes

1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Peel the zucchini.
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne cutter make the carrots and zucchini into noodles.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchini & carrots and boil for 1-2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them; you want them to be firm and overcooking will cause them to be mushy. Remove from water and set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  6. Add sauce to the noodles and serve!

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Creamy Chicken Piccata


So like many bloggers…and many many women out there…I am obsessed with Pinterest. I have found such great ideas, recipes, clothes, tips, etc. Today’s post is for one of the very first recipes I found on Pinterest and tried out. Like any recipe it required some adjusting to get it just right, but last night when I made it Hubby & I both agreed that I had hit the mark! The original recipe, “Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata”, calls for you to grill the chicken but since I didn’t plan ahead to make this I didn’t have a chance to marinade the chicken and thus I just decided to go ahead and make it in a pan. I used all fresh ingredients (no dried herbs, please!!!!) so if you do substitute dried you can just add the dry herbs (ex. basil, garlic powder) directly to the flour, rather than blending them like the directions below. I’ve also made a “slimmed down” version of this which tasted great, as well.  Hubby didn’t even know it was “healthified”, which is my test for how good my “slimmed down sensations” really are (trust me, he usually can tell right away when I make it low-fat). Too make it healthier use whole wheat pasta, fat free half & half, light butter, and only 1/2 cup of cheese and you can use a non-stick pan to eliminate the need for olive oil, or you can grill your chicken like the original recipe calls for.

Make this for a quick and easy weeknight meal or for date night in with your Honey! You won’t be disappointed!!

Creamy Chicken Piccata

(Modified from Plain Chicken)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (approx. 8 oz. each)

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters (or 1 egg)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 lemons

2 cups fresh pasta, such as penne or gemelli (if you don’t want to make your own it is available in the dairy or deli refrigerated section of the grocery store)

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed & drained

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup asiago cheese (or other cheese of your choice)

  1. Prepare the chicken by pounding to about 1/4″ thick. In a shallow dish or plate combine the flour, salt & pepper. Combine the juice of 1 lemon, the egg substitute, 1/4 cup basil, and 1 clove of garlic in a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds to combine all ingredients, making sure the garlic is finely chopped. Pour this into another shallow dish or plate.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, making sure to coat well and shaking off any excess. Next, dredge the chicken through the egg mixture, shaking off any excess.
  5. Place the chicken in the heated oil and cook for about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (If chicken gets done before sauce cover with foil and place in an oven on the “warm” setting (around 170 degrees F).
  6. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat (I used the same pan that I used to cook the pasta). Add 1 clove of minced garlic and cook just until fragrant (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Add the juice of 1 lemon. Next add the heavy cream by whisking in and continuing to whisk until heated through. Whisk in the cheese, stirring until cheese has melted. Once sauce has thickened (should just coat the back of a spoon) add the capers and basil and stir until just combined. If sauce is too thick add some of the reserved pasta water a little bit at a time until you reach desired consistency. Last, add the pasta and stir to coat well.
  7. Serve about 1 cup of pasta in a bowl and place one chicken breast over the top. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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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.
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Chicken Pomodoro


I came across this recipe in Cuisine at Home magazine. I had never heard of chicken pomodoro so I wasn’t exactly sure if the recipe is similar to an authentic version of the dish or not. An internet search didn’t provide too much information, so maybe one of you can enlighten me!?!? In any case this is a really good dish. It is definitely one of those restaurant quality meals that your guests and/or loved ones will think you slaved away making, when in reality, it’s pretty simple to make. I served this with a side of pasta with a light tomato sauce.

The recipe calls for vodka, which kind of intrigued me.  I cook with alcohol all the time, but if you are not too keen on doing this I’ve read that you can substitute white grape juice for vodka. However, I’ve never tried it so I am not saying that it will work or that it will taste good.  If anyone has tried it or has other suggestions please share!! Anyway, be careful with the vodka…it is best to remove the pan from the heat and then add the vodka to deglaze the pan. Don’t forget to pound your chicken to ¼” thick to ensure even cooking. Also, I didn’t have any scallions on hand so I just cut up some fresh basil and used that to garnish.

Chicken Pomodoro

Source: Cuisine at Home

10-12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded into cutlets

Salt & Pepper, to taste

¼ cup all purpose flour

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup vodka

½ cup chicken stock (or low-sodium chicken broth)

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ cup tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp. heavy cream

Scallions, for garnish

  1. Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and then dredge in the flour.
  2. Heat a sauté pan to medium high and add the oil. When the oil is hot sauté the cutlets until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (approximately 5 minutes per side). Remove chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside.
  3. Remove pan from heat and deglaze with the vodka.  Return to heat and cook until nearly evaporated.
  4. Add chicken stock and lemon juice and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium high. Stir in the cream and chopped tomato and heat through.
  5. Pour the sauce over the cutlets and garnish with scallions.
  6. Serve and enjoy!
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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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Italian Sausage and Three Cheese Raviolletti


This is a quick pasta dish great for a weeknight meal. Full of flavor and fresh ingredients the whole family will love it! I know my Hubby did! 😉 I originally saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine, but I did change it up significantly starting with the type of sausage and pasta. It is a pretty basic recipe, so you can definitely use any pasta you like or spicy sausage or a different type of meat. For this recipe I used Buitoni Three Cheese Raviolletti which you can find in the dairy section of the grocery store.

Back in the day  in high school (we won’t mention how far back)I had learned in cooking class to always get all your ingredients prepared and measured out and ready to go before you begin the actual cooking or baking part. Fast forward to adulthood and when I first started out cooking I seemed to have forgotten this important “preparation” step. My cooking was unorganized, timed poorly and just an all around mess. As a matter of fact my own Mother commented that I was “a messy cook.” Initially this didn’t really matter to me so much as long as the end result tasted good! However, as I’ve gotten better and better I realized taking 10-15 minutes to prepare everything and have it readily available makes everything run so much smoother and easier….no more running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off. As you can see in the picture, I took the time to chop the garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes, as well as cooking the pasta while I cut everything up. Once it was time to cook, I just grabbed everything as I went along. The total time for me to make this and put it on the table was about 40 minutes with minimal clean up afterwards. I guess those old cliche’s are true…practice does make perfect!

Italian Sausage & Three Cheese Ravioletti (Makes 4 servings)

9 oz. Buitoni Three Cheese Ravioletti

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. Italian Sausage (casings removed)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

6 oz. mushrooms, sliced

1/2 tsp. salt

Black Pepper, to taste

1-2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until it begins to brown.
  3. Add the scallions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, mushrooms, salt & pepper, stirring occassionally until the mushrooms start to brown.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften slightly, about 3 more minutes.
  6. Add the chicken stock to the skillet and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  7. Stir in the pasta and cheese, cook until the cheese has melted.
  8. Divide among bowls, topping each bowl with some parmesan cheese.
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