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.

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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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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Grilled Veggies


This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and it also means “Grilling Season” (although for those of us who love to grill I’m sure this started already!).

For those of you who have been following my blog and are more interested in some of my “healthier” posts, I just wanted to say that despite my lack of posting about my weight loss journey and Slimmed Down Sensations, I am still going strong (just not as quickly as I’d hoped)!  I’m still filling up with lots and lots of veggies and made this side the other night with dinner. It does have a higher Weight Watchers Points Plus value because of the oil, but I’ve played around with it a bit and found that this was the minimum amount of oil I could use to get that great flavor. Throughout the meal I couldn’t stop mentioning how awesome the veggies were! I completely cleaned my plate!!

 For me to rave about vegetables is MONUMENTAL!! This makes a really big portion and is very filling. I used a grill basket to put everything in. You could do this on foil, but you won’t get the same chargrilled taste. Also, if you are very particular about the texture of your veggies you may want to add the different veggies based on the length of time they’ll take to get done…for instance the carrots, broccoli and eggplant will take a little bit longer than the asparagus & onions. I put everything on at the same time and the asparagus, onions and even the broccoli were a little bit softer than they should have been, but this really didn’t bother me because the overall flavor was so good I didn’t even think about the texture. You could also par-boil the carrots to soften them up and they won’t need to be on the grill for so long.  You can pretty much add whatever veggies you want, but for me the veggies listed in the recipe have been the best combo I’ve tried so far.

 So without further ado…here is my grilled veggie recipe (modified from an Emeril recipe ).

Cheers to Grilling Season!!!!

Grilled Veggies (Makes 4 servings; 1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus)

(Source: Emeril Lagasse)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 small eggplant, cubed

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

6-8 asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces

1 small head of broccoli, chopped

1 small onion, sliced

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs.
  2. Prepare vegetables as stated above and add to a large Ziploc bag.
  3. Pour marinade over vegetables and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Preheat grill to medium heat and place vegetables in a grill basket over direct heat for about 10 minutes.
  5. After the first 10 minutes move grill basket to indirect heat for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
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Slimmed Down Cakes!!


Well, as expected, this week’s weigh-in was not a pleasant one….gained 2 lbs. Although I am not surprised between feeling lousy (stupid allergies!) and eating badly (it had to be the all you can eat meat buffet I took Hubby to for his b-day or the ice cream cake I made him!) I’ve just had a rough week. I’m really hoping I can get my butt back in the saddle ASAP because summer is quickly approaching and I am nowhere near where I want to be. I just have zero motivation…even the things that normally motivate me are not…just feeling kind of blah.

So I’m wondering what those of you out there do when you feel this way? How do you keep up your motivation? I really could use some advice. It’s so disheartening when I was doing so well and I thought I was really changing for the better…here I am 2 lbs heavier…:(

Anyway, enough of that pity party nonsense. Let’s get to something more interesting…like CAKE!

So as I mentioned in Sunday’s post I wanted to share some “Slimmed Down” cake recipes. I do not actually have my own recipe that I’ve come up with but I can tell you what I’ve found to be the tastiest recipes from others. Hungry Girl offers this information for cake mix and I’ve tried the pumpkin, diet soda, and yogurt versions. I have to say that my favorite is the pumpkin. It is the truest to tasting like whatever flavor cake mix you are using and has a nice texture and remains moist. The yogurt is pretty good too and the diet soda version is just “ok.” It makes an unusual texture (but stays moist) and depending on what flavor combo you use (for example: vanilla cake mix with lemon lime soda) you can taste the flavor of the soda.

Cupcake Made from Yellow Cake Mix and Diet Lemon-Lime Soda

Then there’s microwave cakes…I’ve seen so many different ways to make microwave cakes either from scratch or with a cake mix & have tried most of them, that it’s hard to even keep track of which is better than which. However, I have to say my favorite at this point is a recipe I came across on the Taste of Home website Community Boards called 3-2-1 cake (If you do a google search for this you will find a gazillion bloggers have already blogged this so I’m not sure where the recipe originated). First and foremost it’s only 2 Weight Watchers Points Plus (most of the other individual microwave cakes are 3 or 4 WWPP) and second it is the easiest to make. Basically you combine a box of angel food cake with any flavor cake mix in a large Ziploc bag. Then when you want cake you simply measure 3 tbsp. of the angel food/cake mix mixture into a small microwaveable dish, then add 2 tbsp. of water stirring until all the lumps are gone and then microwave for 1 minute! Comes out perfect and tastes great!

Another one of my favorites is to make a pumpkin cake in the microwave using 2 tbsp. of yellow cake mix, 1 tbsp. of pumpkin, and ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice. This cake is great with a scoop of fat free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. The individual cake is also only 2 WWPP.

Last month when I made Hubby his Cadbury Cupcakes, I made a slimmed down version using devil’s food cake mix and pumpkin. Below is the recipe to make 4 cupcakes and a slimmed down frosting (will make enough for the four cupcakes). You will need a food scale to weigh the ingredients of the cupcakes. This is the best way to figure out the appropriate amount for a small batch of cupcakes. If you want to make the Cadbury cupcakes like the ones pictured, just add one mini Cadbury Crème Egg to the batter. This will make the WWPP go up to 4.

 

Slimmed Down Devil’s Food Cupcakes (Adapted from Hungry Girl)

Makes 4 cupcakes (WWPP = 3)

3 oz. devil’s food cake mix

2.5 oz. canned pumpkin

  1. Combine cake mix and pumpkin in a bowl and mix until well combined. Mixture will be thick, but do not add water!
  2. Divide batter into a muffin tin.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree F preheated oven for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Slimmed Down Vanilla Frosting(Makes enough for 4 cupcakes, approx. 1 tbsp per cupcake. WWPP = 1)

2 tbsp. fat free Cool Whip, thawed

1 tsp. Sugar Free Fat Free Instant Vanilla Pudding

1 tsp. fat free or skim milk

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined and smooth.
  2. Top each cupcake with approximately 1 tbsp. of frosting.
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Slimmed Down Caesar Salad Dressing


Wednesday was my Week 9 weigh-in with a loss of .5 pounds. Happy to see that I lost this week after last week’s stand-still. I’m still moving at a snail’s pace, but I am ok with that…as long as I keep losing that’s all that really matters.

Remember last week how I went on to preach about how I can feel my bad habits and lifestyle changing (much to my own amazement!)? Well here is another example…the other day I ran to the grocery store for a few random items that we were out of and ended up with a huge basketful of mostly all fresh veggies! I was in total shock when I noticed this as I placed everything on the belt at the checkout.

I never go to the grocery store and only get the one or two things I need…I always end up buying  extra things…things like snacks, candy, cupcakes, chips, etc. This time, I didn’t even give those things a second thought but was compelled to go a little overboard in the produce section! The best part about this was that I genuinely just thought “oh that looks good.” Not, “I guess I’ll get some broccoli and force myself to eat it because it is healthy.” The next best part…I wasn’t even thinking about the goodies that I was bombarded with throughout the store (you know those bright & colorful displays of cookies, cakes & donuts?!).

Now some of you may be thinking, “so what? I always stock up on produce.” But for a junk food junkie like me this is amazing! I feel so proud…this is such a big accomplishment. So for those of you who can relate…don’t give up! Just keep working to break those bad habits and before you know it you’ll be over-spending in the produce section instead of the bakery!!

So to commemorate this special event…here is my recipe for Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. This is probably my favorite kind of salad….but as I’m sure those of you who are watching what you eat know…Caesar dressing is loaded with fat (especially the “creamy” version)! So to make the dressing a little healthier I’ve altered my usual Caesar dressing by decreasing the oil and adding chicken stock to make it go a little bit further. The chicken stock does make the dressing a bit more runny than regular dressings, but if you add the dressing to the salad and shake it up in a container with a lid, you’ll never even notice that it’s thin…you’ll just taste the great flavor. You can pretty much make your Caesar salad however you like but I’m including how I make the whole thing. I’ve only included the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the salad dressing, though. If you follow WW I’m sure you can figure out the points value based on the amount of chicken you use along with any other ingredients you may add.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing

2 oz. grilled or baked boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper & garlic powder

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

4 Fat Free Caesar-style croutons

2 tbsp. “Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing”

  1. Chop or slice grilled chicken breast.
  2. In a large bowl with a lid add the lettuce, cheese, and chicken.
  3. Add dressing and place lid on bowl. Shake to coat.
  4. Place salad on a serving plate and top with croutons.

Dressing: (Makes 6 servings; 1 serving = 2 tbsp. Weight Watchers Points Plus = 2)

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange juice

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ cup chicken stock

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for the olive oil and parmesan cheese, in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined.
  2. While the blender is running on low, slowly pour in the olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Add the parmesan cheese and run for a few more seconds to incorporate the cheese.
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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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