Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

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.

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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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It’s Been A While…


Well to say it’s been a while is pretty much an understatement. It has been almost exactly 6 months since I posted my last blog. I wish I could say that my life was so busy and amazing that I just didn’t have the time….but the truth is I just didn’t do it!

So I have no important life events or amazing news to share…but I can share that over these past few months I’ve been trying my best to work towards a healthier lifestyle. My focus now is to lose weight (hmmm….didn’t I say that before??), but overall I have come to a point in my life where I want to be healthy and stick around till I’m old and dyed blonde (no grey hair here!). To really make this lifestyle change I am approaching it with baby steps. I have adopted the attitude that every little thing helps….so even if it is just one little change it is still a change and that’s what matters. One of the first things I’ve started doing is trying to cut out as much processed food as possible (although I am starting to think I need a support group to break my Diet Coke addiction). Another step I’ve taken is to try different “health foods”. One of the foods I’ve fallen in love with is the now trendy “Quinoa”. It is very healthy and if you’d like to see why you can read it here…sorry I just don’t feel like going over why it is so good for you! I am overall a picky eater and have a lot of issues with food textures (where was Early Intervention when I was a kid??) so even though I kept seeing Quinoa recipes everywhere I turned, I was hesitant. I finally took the plunge and it’s a keeper. I use it in my salads, replace it for rice & pasta, and use it for breakfast foods like protein bars and “oatmeal” (quinoa in place of oats), etc.

Tonight I decided to modify my Creamy Chicken Piccata recipe and not only make it a “slimmed down version” but to replace the pasta with quinoa. It was so delicious…..I was inspired to sit down and get back to blogging!!!! Woohoo!!

So here it is….a slimmed down healthier version of, ironically my last post…and unfortunately since Hubby was working late I only made this for one person so the serving size is one, but you can easily alter the ingredients to make as much as you want.

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Piccata

(Serves 1)

For the chicken:

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4″ thick

salt & pepper, to taste

1/4 -1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Quinoa:

1/2 tbsp. light butter

1/2-1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup fat free half & half

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tbsp. capers

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

To make the chicken, sprinkle both sides with the lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the garlic. Brown the garlic in the butter for 30 seconds to 1 minute and add the lemon juice.

Whisk in the half & half and bring to a slow boil, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until heated through and slightly thickened (may take longer than 5 minutes).

Add the basil, salt & pepper.

Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese. At this point, if you want a thicker sauce, return to heat and simmer until slightly more thickened. You can also add more cheese if you like.

Stir in the quinoa and the capers. Serve on a pasta plate.

Slice cooked chicken into thin strips and place over the quinoa. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, if desired and serve.20130222-204624.jpg20130222-204638.jpg20130222-204653.jpg

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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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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.

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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.

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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.
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A Healthy Side Dish…Disguised as a Bad Guy!


So I have a confession to make….I have been eating total crap (and lots of it too) for the past few weeks! It’s weird…because as much as I love my junk food, my body is totally crying out for some healthier options like more fruits and veggies and less processed CRAP!  Blame it on the heat, stress at work, boredom, whatever…but I am not heading down a good path. However, slowly but surely I’ve been getting back in the swing of things…but of course I can’t let my junk food go to waste so I’ve still been eating it in between some of the healthier stuff. 😉  I promise next week I’ll be back on track!

One way that I’ve been trying to go the “healthier” route is that I’ve been sneaking in a lot of greek yogurt into our meals.  I haven’t told Hubby (although once he reads this he’ll know!) but it’s amazing how well it substitutes into everything. I’ve used it in pasta dishes, baking, salad dressings, etc. Let’s face it…by itself it’s disgusting, so it took me some time to try it as a substitute…but now that I have I’m totally hooked.

So here is a quick side dish that I made with pulled pork sandwiches. One serving (about 1/2 cup) is only 1 Weight Watchers Points Plus! It tastes great and all I did was substitute the mayo for greek yogurt and you would never ever know! Hubby didn’t! 😉 Also, I was feeling lazy so I bought a bag of Dole shredded red cabbage which is about 3 cups. It saved a lot of time from having to cut up an actual head of cabbage!

So go make this for your next barbecue and you can feel good knowing you served something healthier than traditional coleslaw!

Slimmed Down Red Cabbage Cole Slaw

(Makes 6 servings; 1 serving = 1/2 cup = 1 WWPP)

3 cups shredded red cabbage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

2 tbsp. cider vinegar

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup non-fat greek yogurt

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. celery salt

  1. In a medium size bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except for the cabbage, until well combined.
  2. Stir in the cabbage and allow to sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.
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Whopper of a Zucchini!!


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Today I picked my first zucchini from my garden!!! It was so huge too! Perfect in every way!! Hubby thought I was pulling a fast one until we went to the garden & I showed him my mutant zucchini!! Tonight I chopped some of it up and put it in my grilled veggies. Yummy!
Tomorrow I plan to bake up some zucchini bread!
I’m so excited to have actually grown my own food! Such a great feeling!

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Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken


Well so much for getting back in the groove like I said I was last week! Since my last post I’ve been slacking all around in the diet department, the blogging department, and the cooking department. Too much eating out and a lack of fresh groceries in the house has caused me to gain 2 lbs. at this week’s weigh-in…*sigh*!  But, I have no one to blame but myself. So here is my attempt to once again get back in the groove with eating better, cooking yummy food for me & Hubby and sticking to my blogging.

 

Tonight’s dinner consisted of a simple yet very flavorful chicken dish served with a side of grilled veggies. This chicken was inspired by the Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops recipe I posted a while back. To make it “slimmed down” I eliminated the oil and used rosemary instead of thyme (only because I ran out of fresh thyme, but had the rosemary). Since there is no oil and a minimal amount of lemon juice the Weight Watchers Points Plus is equal to the amount of chicken you use. So for this recipe I used 4 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast (weighed before grilling) which is a WWPP value of 3.

Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken (1 serving = 3 WWPP)

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

Juice of ½ lemon

1-2 cloves garlic

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves

  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until well combined and garlic and rosemary is chopped.

  2. Place chicken in a glass dish and pour the mixture over the chicken. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat grill to medium high and grill chicken until done (internal temperature of 165 degrees).

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Trying to Stay in the Groove


Wow, despite my best efforts I just haven’t been able to keep up with my blogging.  I’ve read quite a few blogs where this has happened…and the writer genuinely apologizes for not posting in so long and clearly it was simply that little thing  we call “Life” that got in the way.  For me, however, that is not the case (although I was really tempted to sit down and say that I just got busy and therefore could not blog…but a liar I am not!!!) I honestly just haven’t been feeling like it….despite my best efforts to plan out what delicious recipes or interesting tales I want to share I just don’t sit down and do it! So…today I am getting back into the groove.
Speaking of getting back in the groove, I’ve been pretty much staying on task with my Weight Watchers and eating pretty good (well except for those Curly Fries I inhaled last night!), but this has also been a challenge. Again, I have very good intentions and plan all of my meals, prepare all of my food in advance to make life easier, but still sometimes I just don’t feel like eating a salad…and so it is quite easy to bring on the french fries.
Anyway, earlier in the week Hubby took me to Whole Foods (stay tuned for my Whole Foods post) and all that fresh local produce and healthy stuff inspired me to make this delicious strawberry yogurt parfait for our dessert the other night.

 Hubby rated it a “5”!!! That’s right a “5”!!!! The best he could give me based on our little rating system. I was happy I made something so yummy, yet so easy and most importantly something healthy that we both enjoyed.  The Weight Watchers Points Plus value is 6, however you could replace the honey with artificial sweetener (such as Splenda) and you can use another kind of yogurt like Dannon Light & Fit Vanilla and it will help reduce the points plus value.  Also, I highly recommend you use “Raw Honey” if you can find it (Whole Foods carries it and a lot of Farmer’s Markets). It is sooooo much better than the regular honey you typically find in grocery stores. The first time I ever sampled it at a little store in Lancaster County I was totally hooked!! I guess like most foods…natural always tastes best.

Strawberry Yogurt Parfait (Makes 2 servings; 1 serving = 6 WW Points Plus)

1 cup plain non-fat Greek Yogurt

1 cup fresh strawberries, tops cut off and halved

1 tbsp. raw honey (more or less to taste)

1/4 cup granola with almonds (i.e. Bear Naked Fit Vanilla Almond Crunch)

  1.  puree strawberries and honey in a blender.

  2.  Add 1/2 cup yogurt to a serving dish. Top with half of the strawberry puree and 2 tbsp. of the granola.

  3. Serve and eat immediately.

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