Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

They Call It The Winter Blues


Barbecue Pulled Beef Lettuce Cups

Winter has me in a funk. It has been so cold and I feel like I only see the sun about once a week. I have no motivation. I don’t feel like doing my schoolwork. I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning. I don’t feel like going to workout. I guess you could say I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m trying not to allow myself to be swallowed up by this grumpy weather-induced state, but it is extremely difficult.

winter blues

Although I have been doing pretty well with my food choices these past six months, I noticed that I was definitely eating better in the summer and fall. I also cooked more. I find it harder and harder with each passing cloudy, cold day to get up early and make my breakfast and pack my lunch. It’s harder to resist those treats that inevitably show up at meetings or say no to the office birthday cake. It’s harder to stick to the dinner menu I plan for us each week.

sorry

Isn’t it weird how the weather can have such a huge impact on a person’s mood? In the winter I feel like I am walking through life in a fog…doing what is only absolutely necessary (in layman’s terms…I become lazy!). Cooking is necessary…. and even though I may not cook as much as I should, it’s during times like these I like to turn to my slow cooker.

bad mood

Slow cooker meals are great because they are typically quick and easy with both preparation and clean up. I tend to avoid those slow cooker recipes I see that involve a lot of work or separate pans. This pretty much defeats the purpose, in my opinion. (Why do you need to sear the beef first? Is there really any difference in the taste? I don’t think so.) I also like slow cooker meals because you can make enough to ensure leftovers…thus you won’t have to order out with your coworkers everyday!

Barbecue Pulled BeefI made this paleo recipe the other night with a few modifications. If you check out the original it is one of those recipes that I usually wouldn’t consider making due to all of the extra work outside of the slow cooker. I ended up making a more flavorful, simplified version. I have to say it was really good! When I made it I used flank steak because that was all I had on hand, but you can pretty much use any cut of beef you like (the original calls for brisket). It will work well with cheaper cuts of meat because of the long cooking time and the wonderful flavor of the sauce and spices. It does have some non-paleo ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, but you can easily find a recipe to make a paleo version. I used this one. I recommend tasting it after about six hours to make sure the seasoning is how you want it. You don’t want to wait until the very end to add more seasoning because you want the flavors to really be incorporated into the meat. You can serve it in lettuce cups, on a salad, by itself or on a roll.

Barbecue Pulled Beef

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Beef

Modified from FedandFit.com

2-3 pounds boneless beef roast (chuck or round is ok), or beef brisket, flank steak, etc.

1 small onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic

½ tsp. black pepper

¼-1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/4 cup beef stock

½ cup organic tomato sauce

3 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. organic mustard

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. liquid smoke

1 tbsp. chili powder

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Lettuce, iceberg or bib

  • Place beef, onion and garlic in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the beef stock, tomato sauce, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, chili powder, and apple cider vinegar. Pour sauce over the meat in the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • After about 6 hours, taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to your preference. At this time, also remove the meat from the slow cooker allow to cool for about 10 minutes and shred, using 2 forks.
  • Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and finish cooking.
  • Serve in lettuce cups or as desired.

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It Tastes Exactly Like…


Some things really irritate me. One of those things is when people make “food swaps” and say that it tastes EXACTLY like the real thing! It also irritates me when people add healthy ingredients to recipes and say “you can’t even taste it.” That’s how I ended up making today’s recipe, zucchini pizza crust.

zucchini crust 2

A colleague at work was drinking a green smoothie…another person heard us talking about it, chimed in and made the dreaded mistake of saying that she loves green smoothies because she eats veggies she normally wouldn’t because “you can’t even taste it.” This is a lie. Face it. I am not saying that it doesn’t taste good or that you can distinctly say “oh I taste kale”, but it adds a different flavor profile than just drinking a smoothie without veggies. You know I’m right!!

Our conversation then turned to food swaps…you know those things that claim to taste like the real thing but are so much healthier. Pizza crust is a popular one. I’ve seen pizza crust recipes made from sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, and about 100 different Paleo pizza crusts. I decided I wanted to prove my point and so, I came home found some frozen shredded zucchini in the freezer and got to work. I read through numerous zucchini crust recipes, developed my own from what I’d read, and jumped in.

zucchini crust 4

Now, I’m sure this is the point where you are waiting for me to tell you that I was wrong and that faux-pizza crust tastes just like real pizza crust. If you are attuned to the blog world and if you believe in all those picture perfect Pinterest recipes you dutifully pin each day…then yes, you would expect that I was wrong. But…

I was not wrong…it tasted nothing like pizza crust.

However, it did make a great base for my pizza and was a nice alternative to all that flour and carbs. In all honesty, it didn’t really taste like much of anything. I am glad I added some seasonings because this did help the flavor. I may have gotten a little carried away with trying to make it super crispy, so it looks a little dark on the bottom. (Also, what is up with these pictures??? I think a 5 year old could take better pics…I promise to work on this!)

zucchini crust 3

So my point is this…if you want to try to make “faux-foods” and swap out ingredients for healthier ones than go for it. After all, any step to being healthy is a step in the right direction. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is going to replace the real thing. I think all these paleo treats and food swaps just reinforce our toxic relationship with food.

My advice: if you want pizza go ahead and eat a piece…just one piece! Eat most of your meals as they are meant to be and skip the paleo brownies (more on paleo treats in an upcoming post!) and if you just absolutely want a brownie, go ahead and eat a real one (because that paleo brownie does not taste just like the brownie you want and you’ll probably end up eating a whole pan of real brownies after your “healthy” one just didn’t cut it).

It’s all about balance. I know that it’s easier said than done…trust me I have struggled with this all my life. I feel I’m doing pretty well with this now…but I am human and humans just have a hard time breaking bad habits. Just don’t give up. You can do it….and if you mess up along the way don’t give up. Get back on that horse and try again!

zucchini crust 1

Zucchini Pizza Crust

2 cups shredded zucchini, drained of all excess water

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 egg, beaten

  1. In a bowl combine the zucchini (make sure to squeeze out all the excess water as much as you can!), garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
  2. Add the beaten egg a little bit at a time. You don’t want it to be too wet but if it doesn’t stick together add a little more egg.
  3. Mix it all together, spread it out on parchment paper in a nice flat layer…if you have a pizza stone I highly recommend it because it’ll get crispier.
  4. Bake on the pizza stone for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and top with pizza sauce and toppings put back in for 5-10 minutes.

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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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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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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.
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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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Italian Classic Slimmed Down


So I have finished week 6 on Weight Watchers with a total loss of 12 lbs. Not too bad although my weight loss has slowed a bit. I’m afraid to admit that I might be forced to start exercising regularly. I know I should be doing this anyway, but I’m not going to lie…I pretty much hate exercise. I’ve done it in the past because I know it is important not only for weight loss but for your overall health, but I’ve never been able to stick to any type of exercise plan. So this upcoming week my goal is to start moving a bit…wish me luck!!!

At least the eating part of losing weight has started to get easier. There are days when I’m still hungry, but not like before. I’m getting more and more creative with ways to “slim down” my favorite foods. I have to say this makes life a lot easier. There is nothing worse than the feeling of deprivation. Even if I can’t come up with a slimmed down version of something, I do not deprive myself. I actually can eat just a small amount and feel good about it. I have definitely surprised myself this time around with my change in thinking….before it was “well I already had one bite of cheesecake so I’ve ruined whatever good I’ve done; might as well go ahead and eat the whole piece.” But now I genuinely am happy to only have one small sliver of cake, or only one cookie, or one piece of candy. I’ve heard this many times before and I’m sure you have too. For some reason I could just never control myself when it came to treats or “junk food” and when I say control myself I mean I would always want more and more and more. I could not just eat one or two so I thought it was better to just avoid it all together. Ultimately though I would always end up over-indulging….and I always thought this was just the way I am. I really never thought I could change.

If this sounds familiar, I am here to tell you that you actually can change your thinking and maybe you think you have no will-power but it is within you….you just have to find what works for you. This is coming from someone who thought they would never be able to change and would never be satisfied with just one small bite of something.

Now, if I can just change my thinking when it comes to exercise…..

Until then here is a Slimmed Down Sensation for Chicken Franchaise (sorry about the quality of the pics. Forgot to take some so snapped a few on my phone before we ate). A favorite Italian dish of mine, which like a lot of dishes uses lots of oil and butter. So, this was a pretty easy one to slim down since it’s mostly about cutting down on the “bad stuff.” The whole recipe, including the lemon pasta is only 10 WW Points Plus. Serve with a big heaping of veggies on the side and you’ll feel like you just ate at a fine Italian Restaurant.

Slimmed Down Chicken Francaise (Serves 1; WW points plus = 10)

Chicken:

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

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. whole wheat flour

1 tbsp. refrigerated egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 pinch black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. white wine

2 tbsp. chicken stock

1/2 medium sized lemon, sliced thin

1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Lemon Pasta:

1/2 cup cooked whole wheat spaghetti

1/2 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. seasoned bread crumbs

salt & pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

  1. Cook spaghetti per package directions. Set aside.
  2. Prepare chicken by pounding it to about 1/4″ thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chicken.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add oil.
  4. Place the flour and egg substitute in two seperate shallow bowls.
  5. Dredge the chicken in the flour, coating well on both sides, shaking off any excess. Then dip the chicken in the egg substitute making sure to drip off any excess.
  6. Add to the hot oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side. Use a meat thermometer to determine if the chicken is fully cooked. It should read 180 degrees F.
  7. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside, covering loosely with foil to keep warm.
  8. To the pan, add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Next add the wine, chicken stock and the slices of lemon. Continue to cook over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until reduced slightly.
  9. Pour sauce over chicken.(Remove lemon slices, if desired. The flavor will still be in the sauce)
  10. To prepare the pasta, add the olive oil, lemon juice, bread crumbs, salt & pepper, garlic powder and parsley. The pasta can be served hot or cold. If your spaghetti is cool heat over low heat for a few minutes, being careful not to scorch.
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Slimmed Down Sensation: Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla


This is a really quick, filling, and downright delicious low-cal dish! I often make this for dinner or make it at night and pack it in my lunch…it’s actually not so bad reheated in the microwave. I serve it with a salad or a very large side of seasoned steamed green beans. In the picture below, I used Mission 96% Fat Free wheat tortillas, but the low carb whole wheat tortillas are actually better in regards to calories and carbs and are less WW points.  I picked these up because they were on sale :).

Also pictured is my really old school kitchen scale (purchased at the Dollar Tree for $1!!). This scale has served me well for many years and I am sad to report that it just broke on Sunday! It has now been replaced by a more upscale digital version. I had to replace it quickly since a scale is one kitchen gadget I cannot live without.  If I have learned anything about eating healthy…even when you’re not trying to lose weight, but want to maintain that girlish figure…it is that you should always measure your food. Portion control is so important and especially crucial for losing weight. I know you have heard this before, but I am telling you as someone who has learned from experience. I didn’t always measure everything because I thought I had pretty good judgment of what the serving size of something should be…and with practice I actually do have good judgment, but nothing compares to actually measuring it out. I now even keep measuring cups and measuring spoons at work for times when I eat things that can be kept at the office (i.e. salad dressing, cereal, milk, etc.). Yes, my co-workers look at me like I’m weird, but I don’t care! This time around on WW I religiously measure and/or weigh everything! So far this seems to be working out quite well as I’ve been losing weight at an average of 2 lbs. per week.  Save using your “best judgement” for eating out.

Some of you may wonder, “Should I measure fruits and vegetables?” I typically do not measure veggies because on WW you can basically eat as much as you want, but it is good to know what an actual “serving” of veggies is. For instance, did you know that a serving of asparagus is only about 6 stalks? I sure didn’t…I probably usually eat 20 in one sitting! But veggies have been my savior this time around in my weight loss quest. I fill up on a huge salad or a large side of veggies along with my other food at both lunch and dinner so that I am not hungry. As far as fruit goes, yes it is a better alternative to picking up that candy bar, but it still has sugar, so I do measure my fruit. Remember, the dietary guidelines for fruit is 2-4 servings per day and a serving is considered ½ cup or 1 whole apple, banana, orange, etc.

Ok, ok…that concludes my advice for this post….let’s get back to the good stuff! This amazingly large and yummy quesadilla!

Word of caution…this will be sloppy when eaten!

Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla (Makes 1 serving; 5 or 6 WW points plus, depending on type of tortilla used)

1 Whole Wheat Tortilla

1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle Cheese

2 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked, shredded

½ cup fat-free salsa

1 tbsp. black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp. fat free cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. In a bowl, combine the salsa, chicken and black beans. 
  2. Spread the Laughing Cow cheese over the tortilla. 
  3. Spread the salsa/chicken mixture on half of the tortilla and top with the cheddar cheese. 
  4. Fold over the other half of the tortilla and press down gently, being careful not to push out any of the filling. 
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Place the quesadilla in the pan and carefully turn over after 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and crisp. Cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes until heated through and the bottom of the tortilla is brown and crisp. (Alternately you could bake this. I usually make mine in my Nu-Wave oven and it comes out just as crispy and delicious!)
  6. Remove from pan and using a pizza cutter, carefully cut the quesadilla into 4 pieces. 
  7. Serve with extra salsa and fat free sour cream on the side. Don’t forget plenty of paper towels!
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Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)


I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy eating at Friendly’s once in a while. I know quite a few adults who LOATHE Friendly’s!

But sometimes you just crave some high fat high calorie fried comfort food…and of course you can’t eat there without getting ice cream. So if you’re trying to eat even a little bit healthy this is not the place to go. My current favorite dish is the Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad. Sometimes I just sit at home and crave it…I must have it!

Friendly's Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad

It’s actually one of their more “adult” meals with crispy romaine lettuce topped with Sirloin steak, pepper, carrots, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and crispy onion strings. Served with a dijon vinaigrette….ok I am drooling just writing out the ingredients. Of course, like most “entrée salads” at chain restaurants, this yummy dish comes at a costly (including salad dressing) 860 calories, 40 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 83 carbohydrates (23 WW points plus). Sometimes I am willing to indulge in this as long as it is my “Faturday” and it won’t send me over my “Points” limit, but then I got to thinking…why don’t I save some money and some calories and make my own?

Of course, this does not taste as good as the original, but it is pretty darn tasty…and when I think of all the calories and fat I am saving, it makes it taste even better! I am still working on getting the dressing to taste like Friendly’s…can’t quite get that one down yet, but the Dijon Vinaigrette I’ve listed in the recipe is still really good on this salad or any salad, for that matter.  One word of caution, though, it is a bit on the thin side and so it’s a bit runny. The best way to use it is to put your salad in a container or bowl with a lid and shake it up. This way it will get distributed throughout and you’ll see that this small amount really goes far.

As far as the steak you can use whatever type you like, as long as it is a fairly lean cut and is trimmed of fat. I suggest sirloin strip, but the steak in the picture above was a filet mignon. Be sure to weigh your steak before cooking it to make sure you are following the appropriate portion size.

As far as Weight Watchers points, the great news is that my version is only 6 points!

Friendly’s = 23; Mandy’s  = 6!!!!!!

Holy Cow, that is a BIG difference!! It means, I can still have some light ice cream along with it and not feel so bad!

Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)

(WW points = 6, this is for the whole salad including the onion crisps & dressing)

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

1 carrot, sliced or shredded

¼ of green pepper, sliced (more if you really like green peppers)

4-6 cherry tomatoes

3 oz. sirloin steak, trimmed of fat

salt & pepper to taste

2 tbsp. reduced fat blue cheese crumbles

¼ serving, Onion Crisps (recipe follows)

2 tbsp. Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (recipe follows.)

  1. Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Cook steak either on the grill or under the oven broiler to desired doneness. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice into strips or cut into cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salad by putting the lettuce, carrots, and pepper in a bowl or container with a lid. Add the dressing and shake well to coat all the vegetables.
  3. Transfer to large bowl or plate and top with steak, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes and onion crisps.

 

Onion Crisps (WW points plus = 1)

1 small onion, sliced thin

¼ cup fiber one cereal, crushed

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup refrigerated egg substitute (i.e. egg beaters)

  1. Slice onion in very thin pieces, preferably with a mandolin slicer.
  2. Crush the cereal by either placing in a plastic Ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin or use a blender/food processor.
  3. Put the cereal, salt & pepper in a Ziploc bag.
  4. Put the egg beaters in a bowl and dip the onions shaking off excess. Once you dip the onions place in the bag with the cereal. Once all pieces have been dipped in the egg beaters and added to the bag, shake to coat.
  5. On a non-stick baking sheet, spread out the coated onions and bake in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until crispy.

 

Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (1 Serving = 2 tbsp.; 2 tbsp. = 1 WW points plus)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup chicken stock

1/8 tsp. onion powder

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the olive oil slowly into the running blender to emulsify.
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Slimmed Down Sesame Chicken


So as I mentioned yesterday, I had a craving for Chinese food. Not exactly the best thing to be eating when you’re trying to lose weight! I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to try one of Hungry Girl’s recent recipes, “Sweet ‘n Sticky Sesame Chicken”. She has come up with some amazing recipes and I highly recommend you watch her show and pick up a few of her cookbooks! (Can you tell I’m a huge fan?!)

Anyway, I initially made the recipe exactly as written and it was pretty good but it was just a little bit on the bland side. I played around with it a little bit and came up with this modified version. For those Weight Watchers users out there this recipe is 7 points and makes one serving. Serve with ½ cup brown rice.

On a more personal note, I have successfully made it through three weeks of Weight Watchers…down 2.5 more pounds at today’s weigh-in. Thank goodness for all those other great bloggers out there dedicated to sharing tasty recipes that are low fat, low calorie, and healthy. I love finding great recipes that fit into my diet and I love sharing the ones I come up with as well! So, if you’ve been enjoying my posts please “Like” my Facebook Page.

I’m getting hungry….think I’ll make some more of this yummy chicken!

Slimmed Down Sesame Chicken (Makes 1 serving; 7 WW Pointsplus)

(Source: Hungry Girl)

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. fat free liquid egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters)

5 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed

2 tbsp. whole wheat flour

2 tbsp. chicken stock

1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. sugar-free pancake syrup

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce

1/4 tsp. sesame oil

1/4 tsp. crushed garlic

1/2 tsp. sesame seeds

1 scallion, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl combine the onion powder, garlic powder, soy sauce, vinegar and egg substitute. Add the chicken and make sure all the pieces are covered. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Add the flour in a shallow dish or bowl and dredge the chicken pieces in it, coating all sides. Place chicken on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining chicken stock with cornstarch and whisk to dissolve. Heat over medium heat and add syrup, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. Stirring often, cook until the sauce becomes thick.
  5. Add chicken to sauce and toss to coat.
  6. Serve and top with sesame seeds and scallions.
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