Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

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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Chicken Fajitas


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Even though I am not technically calling this a “Slimmed Down Sensation” it is a healthy low-fat dish and it’s definitely not lacking in the flavor department. This recipe is a little different from other Fajita recipes that I’ve come across which require a marinade. This one is like the pre-packaged mixes you get at the grocery store…only better because you know exactly what is going into it and there is not as much sodium.

This is a great weeknight meal that tastes great, but requires little effort….guaranteed to please the entire family.

Prepare the seasoning mix ahead of time and pull it out when you need a quick meal!

Chicken Fajitas (Makes 4 servings, WW Points Plus = 5, not including tortilla)

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

1 c. water

4 flour tortillas (white or whole wheat)

Fajita Seasoning:

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tsp. chili powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. parika

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. chicken bouillon powder

½ tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add chicken and cook until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F. About 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the Fajita Seasoning by mixing the cornstarch, chili powder, salt, paprika, sugar, bouillon, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a bowl.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through, add 1 cup water and seasoning mixture. Stir well and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the green pepper and onion. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.
  7. Serve on flour tortillas with Mexican style shredded cheese, if desired.
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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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Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs


This is a really flavorful & quick chicken dish…perfect for a busy week night meal. You can use either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or regular thighs.  I have a Nu-Wave Oven, which is how I made the chicken in the picture above, but you can bake them in your regular oven and broil for the last few minutes to get them just as crispy.

I originally saw this recipe in Cooking Light magazine and modified it to suit my own taste. Serve with mixed veggies, rice, or roasted potatoes.

Spicy Honey Chicken Thighs (Serves 3-4)

Modified from Cooking Light Magazine

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or 6 regular chicken thighs

6 tbsp. honey

2 tsp. cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a large ziploc bag. Add chicken to bag, seal and shake, coating the pieces of chicken.
  3. Place chicken in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  4. While the chicken is baking, combine the honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well.
  5. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from oven. Set oven to broil.
  6. Brush chicken pieces with half of the honey mixture.
  7. Broil 1-2 minutes.
  8. Remove chicken from oven and turn pieces over.
  9. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture.
  10. Broil 1-2 minutes or until chicken is crisp.
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Warm Weather Means Cool Treats!


As the weather warms up, I have been getting back into eating Smoothies for breakfast, as a healthy snack or sometimes even as dessert. There are a million and one different smoothie recipes out there but today I’ll be sharing my personal favorites.

(BTW, I haven’t snapped any photos of my smoothies so this was one I found on a free photo site.)

This past week has been a struggle….and I’m not sure why, but I have been feeling so hungry. I did drop 2 more pounds, and really didn’t go off the wagon (stayed in my WW “points” budget despite eating fast food and indulging in some “Faturday” treats! Thanks WW!). I feel like I am eating a lot, but still I am hungry!  I’ve increased the amount of veggies and fruits I eat (since they are 0 points and packed with fiber) but it just doesn’t seem to be helping.  I know all the nutritional information out there says that fiber-rich foods will fill you up but this just does not happen for me!

Which brings me to protein powder…

I do sometimes add vanilla whey protein powder to my smoothies, especially if I make them for breakfast so as to help keep me fuller. I’ve read a bit here and there about protein powders in regards to the average person (not athletes or body builders) and there is a lot of mixed information, including some studies that say protein powders do not work and that you are basically just consuming chemicals….hmmmm…interesting.

So based on what I’ve come across I choose to believe:

  • They can be harmful if over used or not used properly.
  • They should not be used for weight loss (i.e. don’t replace all or most meals with protein shakes) and they should only be used if you are not getting enough protein in your diet.
  • They do make you feel fuller.
  • As long as I am not ingesting more grams of protein than I should be in a day, then I will use them every now and then.

And as I’ve mentioned before, when I begin the “healthy phase” of my transformation (that is when I am finished with my diet, have dropped all the pounds I need to, and work towards a healthier lifestyle), I will try to find an alternative, as I do not think they really fit into the category of what is genuinely “healthy”.

Speaking of alternatives….

I’ve started to switch over to Greek yogurt which has much more protein than regular yogurt. At first I really didn’t like it, but it has grown on me and I do like to use it for baking (it’s awesome in pancakes & waffles!) and now in my smoothies. So if you use Greek yogurt you definitely would not need the protein powder because you’ll be getting a large amount of protein from it. For the recipes in this post that use yogurt, my personal favorite is Dannon Light N’ Fit Vanilla, but you can use whatever you like.

One last note about using a blender…the most important thing to do when using any type of blender is to follow the instructions that came with your blender. They should include instructions on how to crush ice, as well as what order to put the ingredients in. For example, in the case of smoothies or things with ice, you typically would put in the liquid ingredients first and building up to the ice last. Until I realized this, I could never get my stuff to blend well….even with a decent blender.  After getting fed up I turned to the instruction manual and learned that I had been doing it all wrong.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. I’d love to hear what your favorite smoothies are and please feel free to share your own thoughts on making these delicious treats!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Smoothie (WW pointsplus: Without protein powder = 4; With protein powder = 7)

1 cup light chocolate soy milk

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup ice

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

Splenda, to taste (optional)

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until ice is crushed and it reaches smoothie consistency.

 

Strawberry Cheesecake Smoothie (WW pointsplus: with protein powder = 7; Without protein powder = 4)

½ cup fat free skim milk or almond milk

1/3 cup fat free cottage cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. splenda

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

1 cup frozen strawberries

2 tbsp. fat free whipped cream (optional)

  1. Add cottage cheese to blender and blend for about 30 seconds until smooth.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Top with whipped cream.

 

Strawberry Banana Smoothie (WW pointsplus = 5)

½ banana, sliced, frozen

½-3/4 cup frozen strawberries

½ cup fat free vanilla yogurt

½ cup fat free skim milk or almond milk

2 tbsp. splenda

 

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and run until well combined and smooth.

 

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (WW pointsplus: with protein powder = 9; without protein powder = 5)

1 cup fat free skim milk or almond milk

2 tbsp. PB2 or  reduced fat peanut butter

1 tbsp. Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa

2 tbsp. splenda

1 cup ice

1 scoop protein powder (optional)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and run until smooth.

 

Tropical Fruit Smoothie (WW pointsplus =  5)

1/2 cup non-fat yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1 cup frozen mixed fruit (like the kind by Dole)

1 cup ice

1-2 tbsp. splenda (optional)

  1.  Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

 

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Slimmed Down Sensations: Whole Wheat Pizza with Chicken and Arugula


As I lie awake at night and mentally compile a list of recipes I want to share on this blog….and as I scroll through Pinterest and I’m bombarded with pictures of beautiful and decadent looking food, I’m hit with a harsh reality….I AM HUNGRY!!! I’m thinking starting a food blog and a diet at the same time was not a great idea. Today marks one week that I’ve been using Weight Watchers online and so far so good I’ve lost 4 lbs! But is it so wrong that I want to continue to make my yummy sweet treats and rich, savory meals!? I want a cupcake!! I want pasta with cream sauce!! But could it be my new found passion for cooking is the reason I am now faced with the need to lose 40 pounds? You see, not only do I love to cook food…I love to eat it…and I typically only like to make food that I like. I am not ashamed to admit I love junk food and comfort food. Of course, I love a good salad and veggies once in a while, but what is even better…veggies smothered in cheese! Salad with creamy dressing and croutons!

Nowadays (luckily for me) there are good recipes that are low fat, low carb, low calorie, etc. and with using the Weight Watchers tools it is easy to punch in a recipe and see how many points it is and it’s actually kind of fun to try to make ingredient substitutions to see if you can lower the WW points value  (and still have it taste good!). Of course, nothing tastes as good as the real thing (sugar, butter, whole milk, heavy cream, white flour….ok I need help!) but I think I’ve come up with some decent recipes for those of us who are not blessed with genes to eat anything we want and stay slim.

So with that, I am going to provide “slimmed-down” versions of some of the recipes I share on this blog, as well as some others I’ve come up with. The first one is for pizza, since my first post was pizza dough. This pizza uses a whole wheat crust and other low fat ingredients. If anyone tries it out I’d love to hear your feedback and advice on how to make it better. It is “diet food” (yes, I am still going to use the term “diet”, even though it is taboo this day in age!) but it’s actually pretty good diet food…however, I’m sure it can always be better! So please share your thoughts!

Ok, so here is the recipe. For those Weight Watchers users out there this recipe has a Pointsplus value of 4, and a serving is 1/8 of the pizza. Also, I would suggest adjusting the spices to your own taste. I’ve provided exact measurements, but you may want to adjust things based on your own preferences. Remember, if you adjust the other ingredients (amount of chicken, types of cheese, etc.) the Pointsplus value will change.

Whole Wheat Pizza with Chicken & Arugula

Ingredients:

Dough:                                    

2  to 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour

2 ¼ tsp. quick rise yeast

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sugar

1 tbsp. olive oil, + ½ tbsp. olive oil for bowl

1 c. very warm water (125 degrees)

Pizza:

4 oz. cooked, boneless skinless chicken breast, shredded

1 cup arugula

2 part-skim mozzarella string cheese, shredded in food processor or blender.

2 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

Salt, to taste

2 tsp. minced garlic  (or ½-1 tsp. garlic powder)

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the dough:
  • In a food processor, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt. Pulse one or two times to combine the dry ingredients.
  • Add water and olive oil and process until a smooth dough forms.
  • Add the remaining flour 2 tbsp. at a time, processing between each addition, until the dough forms into a manageable ball. (It should not be sticky)
  • Poor ½ tbsp. of olive oil into a bowl and place the dough ball into the bowl, turning to coat with the oil.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm, dark place for about 35 minutes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Prepare the sauce by combining the crushed tomatoes, salt, garlic, oregano and basil in a small bowl.
  3. Once the dough has risen, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  4. Bake the pizza crust for about 5 minutes in the preheated oven (this will give you a crispier crust). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two.
  5. Top the crust with the sauce, arugula, chicken, and cheese, making sure to spread the ingredients evenly over the crust.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Cut into 8 pieces and enjoy…but don’t eat the whole thing! 😉

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