Coz’s French Toast Strips

french toast

Sexy strips du toast a la francais. Oui oui!

I know I said that last week was “breakfast week” and then I posted only one breakfast recipe before socking you in the face with some lamb stock. How very rude of me. I should have given you at least ONE other breakfast dish! I’ll make up for that now.

Jess is utterly fantastical at breakfast food. I’ve mentioned before how she used to lure me out of my slumber with hot breakfast sandwiches and fresh coffee. These days, she’s been doing it with french toast sticks. I’m not complaining.

I don’t even remember the last time I had french toast at a restaurant. It’s just something that’s so easy to make at home that it seems silly to overpay for unhealthy versions of it at a local chain. I’ve seen some of the stats for restaurant french toast. SCARY. The Strawberry Banana French Toast at IHOP tops out at 1060 calories! That’s around 28-30 PP? FOR BREAKFAST?!?! Noooo thank you. In the Original Pancake House’s Sourdough French Toast, one plate is 1250 calories. Sweet Jesus! I feel like a clogged an artery just reading about it.

Well, this french toast is absolutely delicious and will NOT clog your arteries. It tops out below 250 calories and is sure to leave you satisfied. You can even put some slices of fresh strawberry and banana on it AND a dollop of Cool Whip Free and you won’t even be adding on any extra points. Take THAT, food chains!

french toast

Basking in the sunlight for a photo shoot before ending up in mah belly

Coz’s French Toast Strips
Servings: 2 (8 strips total)
PointsPlus per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of your favorite 2 PP bread (I use Meijer Organics Multigrain), 9 PP
  • 1 egg, 2 PP
  • 2 egg whites, 1 PP
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • cooking spray

Directions

1. Whisk together all ingredients except the bread in a large bowl (because you need the space on the bottom to fit a slice of bread). Get a non-stick skillet or panini pan heated up to right above medium low.

2. Dip your first piece of bread into the mixture and let it sit for a minute to soak up the flavor. Spray the pan with cooking spray and then put bread on. Cook about 1 minute each side. Repeat with other remaining slices. Cut each finished slice into four strips. Top with some sugar-free syrup (around 1 PP per 1/4 cup) and a sprinkle of powdered sugar or coconut flakes and enjoy!

Beef and Pinto Bean Chili

chili, beef, pinto bean, warm meals, soup, stew

January is one of my favorite months to make stews and chilis.  It’s the best way to heat up your body when you literally turn into a meat popsicle the minute you step outside.  Eat some chili to stop being chilly!  The word “chili” actually comes from “chile con carne”, which means “peppers with meat” in Spanish, which makes complete sense, so I’m going to stop myself from spewing out a bunch of ridiculous, stupid-American jokes about food vs. weather :)

In all actuality, I want to focus on warm soup/chili/stew recipes in January because you all are probably looking for some new ones to try while you’re trying to stay warm.  Here’s the first one!  I found it on the 2013 Cooking Light recipe box calendar that Jess got me for Christmas.  I love it!  I’m speaking about the calendar AND the chili.

Calendar = food porn.  Chili = delicioso.

I happened to have a bag of dry pinto beans laying around from an Aldi shopping trip from loooooong ago.  Seriously, I’ve had these beans for a YEAR.  They’re not my bean of choice, so naturally I didn’t think to use them. When I saw this recipe and realized I had every single ingredient in my kitchen (including the pinto beans!), I knew I had to make it!  So I did.  At 11pm on a Thursday night.  I soaked the beans for a day, then I stuck all the ingredients in the crockpot, put it on low and went to bed.  And at 3am, Jess woke me up because the delicious smells lured her out of sleep, lol.

I brought some in to work on Friday to share with my friend, Richard.  He is a spicy food fanatic like myself and he recently acquired this ridiculously spicy hot sauce.  The first time Richard tried it, his mouth was on fire, he felt like he was dying and laid on the floor curled up in a ball for about two hours.  He put a bit too much on his BBQ sandwich.  He also felt like a demi-god when he survived it.  So, of course, I wanted to try it!  What more perfect pairing is there than chili and hot sauce?  NONE!  (except maybe sea salted caramel and dark chocolate)  So we put about 1.5 tsp into a mere 1.5 cups of chili, stirred it up and ate it in the break room at work.  HOLY CRAP.  That sauce is HOT!  A sweet hot with a gentle, but voracious fire that makes the inside of your mouth sweat and then fires up your belly slowly from the top down.  But you know what?  It tasted great even when it was burning its way through my body and I now feel like a superhuman!  I WANT MORE.  I’m totally getting a bottle because it belongs in my kitchen.  And in this chili.

beef, pinto bean, bean, chili, soup, stew, dinner

Beef and Pinto Bean Chili (from Cooking Light)
Servings: 6
PointsPlus Per Serving: 8 (10 with topping) *See tips on lightening it up even more at the bottom*

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces, 18 PP
  • 1/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 tbsp canola oil, 7 PP
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup minced jalapeno peppers
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 12-oz bottle beer, 5 PP
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1 PP
  • 3 cups fat-free beef broth (like Better Than Bouillon Beef Base), 1 PP
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained, 8 PP

Topping

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
  • 1 avocado, chopped, 9 PP
  • 6 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 6 tbsp light sour cream, 5 PP
  • 6 lime wedges

Directions
1. Heat a dutch oven over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle beef evenly with 1/4 tsp salt. Add beef to pan; saute 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove from pan.

2. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and jalapeno; saute 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a boil. Cook until liquid almost evaporates (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in paprika, cumin, and tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Return beef to pan. Add broth, tomatoes and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1.5 hours or until mixture is thick and beef is very tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/2 tsp salt.

4. Ladle 1 cup chili into each of 6 bowls and divide toppings evenly.

OR JUST PUT ALL THE INGREDIENTS IN A CROCKPOT (minus the olive oil) AND COOK ON LOW FOR 4-8 HOURS.  heh.

**WAYS TO LIGHTEN THIS UP**
– Use half as much meat and this goes down to 6 PP per cup.
– Need some extra filler in now that you’ve take out some of the meat? Add a cup of diced zucchini and 1/2 cup chopped celery and your chili will be hearty and healthy and remain at 6 PP per cup.
– If you use half the oil and only 2.5 cups of onion (not adding in the celery and zucchini), it goes down to 5 PP per cup.
– Top with fat-free sour cream or leave out either the light sour cream or the avocado and you’ll only be adding 1 PP per bowl rather than two. (if you’re using the topping).

Pork Enchilada Soup

Click here for this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe from the “Cooking Classy” blog!

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us and I DID promise this recipe to a few of my facebook followers, so here you go! You can be thankful that I got it up amongst my busy days :)

This is a soup that is very easily thrown together and very easily modified to your own tastes. I prefer green enchilada sauce, but I’m sure that red enchilada sauce would work as well. This is also amazing as leftovers! I just top it off with some tortilla strips and I’m in heaven. I’ve made it with chicken before, but I think there’s something extra special about the pork flavor in here, so try it with the pork first if you can. And at 6 points per serving (and they are quite large servings; almost 2 cups worth!) this is definitely a soup you can enjoy as a dieter!

FYI, I recently downloaded a great app to my iPad called My Recipe Book. It lets you import recipes directly to your iPad! You can either import them from typical websites like AllRecipes or Epicurious, or you can “custom import” recipes from ANY website, including blogs! I started importing some of my own recipes using the app and I found that when I had the little dashes in front of my individual ingredients, it messed up the import and I needed to manually remove them. In order to make it easier for you all to import my recipes when using this app or similar ones, I’ll be going through all my recipes and removing the dashes from in front of the ingredients. Apps are about convenience, so I’d might as well do my part to make getting my recipes through this app TRULY convenient! You should all check it out. I love it!

Click here for this Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe from “The Family Kitchen”!

Pork Enchilada Soup
Servings: 6
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, 4 PP
  • 8 oz raw pork loin, cut into bite sized chunks 8 PP
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder or regular chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp hot chili pepper, minced
  • 4 cups fat-free chicken broth, 1 PP
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pouch/can green enchilada sauce, 4 PP
  • 1 tbsp dried cilantro flakes (or fresh!)
  • 1 cup corn, 5 PP
  • 2/3 cup uncooked white rice, 12 PP (replace with brown rice if you’d like. It’ll just take longer to cook)
  • 2 large jalapeno peppers, chopped, 1 PP
  • 2/3 cup mixed sweet peppers, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Click here for this Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe from “Amy Bites”!

Directions
1. Heat up a large soup pot with the olive oil over medium heat. Put in the onion, hot pepper (I like habanero!) and garlic and cook until fragrant (just a couple minutes at most). Then put in the pork. Sprinkle the chili powder and some salt and pepper over top. Cook until the pork is no longer raw and then pour the chicken broth and extra water over top.

2. Pour in the enchilada sauce, cilantro flakes, corn, rice, jalapeno peppers and sweet peppers. Bring to a boil and let it boil for a few minutes, then turn it down to medium low and let it cook until the rice is done. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Top it off with some tortilla strips and MAYBE some sour cream and/or cheese if you’d like and enjoy! Quick and easy!

You can add beans in there if you want, but with the rice and corn, your carb sector is covered. Basically, anything that you’d want to eat as a normal enchilada, put in the soup (except for the actual soft tortilla). You could do sweet potato, black bean and pork. You could try shrimp, zucchini and corn. It’s really hard to fail at this one. Just remember to put in the enchilada sauce! It really makes it.

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Steak Diane

We hooked up our cable cord to the TV before the Olympics started. Prior to that, we haven’t had regular TV for over two years.

My (somewhat) productive life is on the brink of destruction.

Create TV is just about the only thing we watch now, and we watch a LOT of it. There’s just so many cooking and travel shows that it’s as if we’re watching so much just to make up for all that we’ve missed out on for the past two years! Not good.

But there’s a silver lining. Julia Child dominates that station. On Sunday alone, I learned the joy of omelettes (especially when drenched in clarified butter), three different uses for focaccia dough, how to make chocolate cups, a delicious yellow cake with fresh raspberry sauce, Julia’s obsession with parsley garnish, steak au poivre and steak diane. Julia made steak diane in literally 5 minutes. I wanted to do that.

So, when Jess went to pick up a few things at the grocery store, I told her if she picked up some steaks, I’d make her steak diane for dinner. She picked them up and steak diane we ate! Granted, this is a different version than Julia’s because it’s not drenched in butter or cream, but this version was quick, healthy and VERY tasty. I simplified the ingredient list and I’m pretty sure you have everything you need in your fridge right now.

Don’t have sirloin steak? Use a different cut. The points might vary a little, but as long as you beat your meat down to about 1/2 an inch thick, it’ll work just fine. Don’t have shallots? Use garlic or yellow/white onion and it’ll taste just as good. Don’t have spicy brown mustard? Use some dijon. Don’t have any of the ingredients? Well, damn. It’s time for you to go shopping.

Here’s my perfectly portioned steak diane with a mountain of cast iron roasted veggies (carrots, onion and purple potatoes). And a cilantro garnish since I had no fresh parsley!

Steak Diane (my quick and easy version)
Servings: 2
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz lean sirloin steak or eye of round, trimmed of all fat, 7 PP
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, 4 PP
  • 1 tbsp light butter, 2 PP (I used a coconut butter since I’m dairy-free now and it worked just the same)
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp diced shallots

Directions
1. As Julia Child says “beat the meat to within an inch of it’s life”. Place the meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a meat mallet or even a rolling pin until it’s about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. Then, rub half the olive oil and soy sauce on one side, flip it and use the other half of the olive oil and soy sauce on the other side.

2. Warm up a pan (I’d use a stainless steel one if you have it, but nonstick will work fine too). Once it’s around a good medium heat, add in the butter to melt and then put the steak in. It’ll need about 2 minutes on each side. Put the meat on a plate and set aside.

3. Whisk together the beef broth and mustard. Pour about 1/2 the mixture into the pan and scrape all the good crusty bits from the meat into the broth to flavor it even more. Add the shallots to the pan and saute for about a minute. When the mixture starts getting a bit thick, add more broth until it’s more of a saucy texture.

4. Put the steak right back into the pan on top of the shallots. You can also pour the juices from the steak plate back into the pan as well. Cook for about a minute each side (or 30 seconds each side if your meat is super thin), adding more broth if the sauce gets too thick. Plate right away, pour the delicious pan sauce over the meat, top with a bit of chopped parsley or cilantro and eat it up!

Why do I consider it to be a healthy dish for those on a budget? Because you can use a cheaper cut of meat! A delicious and cheap one is an “eye of round” steak. It averages around $2-$3 per lb. And a lb is 16 oz. If you’re like me and you try to only eat around 4 oz of protein per meal, you’re doing it right! Here’s the breakdown for the steak diane.

– Meat: $1.25 (for 8 oz)
– Butter, Soy Sauce, Olive Oil: maybe 75 cents total?
– Beef Broth: 25 cents
– Mustard: 10 cents
– Shallots: 50 cents

Total Cost: $2.85
Total Cost per Serving: $1.42

WIN!  Even if you eat all 8 oz yourself, it’s a RARE occasion to get a nice steak for under $3.  I haven’t seen that price at Texas Roadhouse in…. EVER.

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Warm Curried Beef Salad

For this week’s Our Harvest Coop Newsletter, I’ve decided to share a delicious salad recipe.  I made this one up when I was searching for something different to do with a bottom round steak I had in the fridge.  I wanted the right combination of savory and sweet flavors without going crazy and I definitely found it.

These days, it seems like we’re waiting for a good deal to buy meat. When I was younger, my parents refused to buy meat until it was under $2.00 a lb. Times have changed and some days we’re just hoping it will get under $4.00 a lb! But the price you pay depends most on which cut of meat you get. For us, the most affordable cuts are tri-tip steaks and bottom round steaks. Tri-tip is succulent and easy to chew and usually just a tad more expensive than the round, but it’s definitely cheaper than flank steak! Bottom round is a bit tougher to chew, but going at it with a meat mallet always does the trick.

Warm Curried Beef Salad
Servings: 2
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 oz raw beef bottom/top round, lean and trimmed, 7 PP
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 3 handfuls leaf lettuce mix (you can throw some spinach in there too)
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/2 tomato, diced (optional)
  • 2 oz reduced fat feta cheese, 4 PP
  • 2-3 tbsp low-fat garlic-based vinaigrette (like the House dressing from Aldi), 1 PP

Directions
1. Warm up a cast iron grill pan with just a spray of Pam over medium-low heat. Mix together your spices and rub it on both sides of the beef. Then, cook the beef. It should take around 3-6 minutes per side depending on it’s thickness.

2. While it’s cooking, wash your lettuce, slice up your carrot (diagonal cuts make this aesthetically appealing!) and put into a big bowl.

3. Once the beef is done cooking, slice up diagonally into 1-1.5 inch long pieces and throw into salad bowl. Sprinkle feta cheese over top and pour in the vinaigrette. Mix up with salad tongs. You can serve immediately or put it into a tupperware container for lunch later!

I’ve been able to find the bottom round beef steaks for around $3.50-$3.86 per pound. Since we’re using only 6 oz here, that’s less than $1.75. We’ll round that to $1.50. Depending on where you get your salad from, you can pay anywhere from $2-4.00 for a half pound of leaf lettuce. Since we’re using 3 handfuls, let’s call that $2.00 for quality lettuce in this dish. Feta cheese? Maybe 75 cents for 2 oz and 15 cents for a carrot. 3 tbsp of low-fat vinaigrette? I’d say around a quarter (since I get mine from Aldi!)

COST:
$1.50 – Beef
$2.00 – Leaf Lettuce mix
$1.15 – Cheese, carrot and vinaigrette

$4.65 – TOTAL COST
$2.32 – COST PER PORTION

I’d call that a deal. You would definitely find yourself paying close to $7 or $8 if you were purchasing this salad at a restaurant. Now you’ll be saving over $5 PER PORTION! That’s $10 you’ve saved for the whole meal. $10 you can put towards that vacation you’ve been wanting to go on, right?

Homemade Gyro Pizza

All the flavors of a gyro with 1/3 of the points? Yes please!

Today’s pizza was inspired by the bit of Greek heritage that I hold on to. I can barely claim any… it’s only like 1/16th or something, but it’s in there somewhere! Probably one of my Italian relatives got all lovey-dovey with a neighbor and BING! Baby making happened. And now I’m here, pulling it out for all you lovers of a damn good gyro.

Pizza in Weight Watchers world isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually, a slice of cheese pizza banks in at 6 PP per slice. But this woman can’t live on cheese alone. And when you start putting other toppings on a pizza, the points start piling up. So you’ve got to be creative.

Pizza + Olive Oil base + Red Sauce

Now, a gyro in Weight Watchers world can START at 16 PP. SIXTEEN. For one gyro. NO GOOD! Although I DID have one last night for dinner when we went to pick up the tzatziki sauce from our local Niro’s Gyros (sometimes it’s easier just to buy the sauce rather than make it). This gyro was a white bread puffy pita that was probably lightly fried on the grill, a big pile of mysterious meat, some tomato, some white onions, some sweet peppers (my addition) and some tzatziki. It was delicious and it filled me up, but still, it’s not exactly a “power food”. Well, I took home the leftover tzatziki and planned on making a healthier version into a pizza today.

I’d already planned this, though. That’s why I already had my eight ounces of trimmed lamb leg marinating in the fridge for a day. You’ll want to do this too. Trust me. Do NOT attempt to make the pizza with the local gyro shop’s lame-o gyro meat. It won’t be nearly as flavorful (or healthy for you!) This lamb was seasoned to perfection with a special mix of spices and herbs that I found, so you’ll want to do that. DO IT.

Everything in the last picture + TOPPINGS! Although the last 1/2 of the cheese still needs to be sprinkled on top.

A few pizza making tips before I give you this amazingsuperfantasticalculinarilydecadent recipe.
– Use this pizza dough recipe and add in the vinegar that I talk about towards the bottom. It makes it much more pliable.
– If you make it about 1/4 inch thick all around, your pieces will be larger. YAY!
– Brush your dough with olive oil and then sprinkle some garlic powder on it to pump up the flavor
– If you have too much of the “wet” ingredients, your pizza will be soggy, so be careful.  Limit the sauce, people.
– Cook it for half the time on the top rack and half the time on the bottom rack to make sure both the top and bottom of the pizza have been thoroughly cooked (this keeps away the soggy-ness too)

Homemade Gyro Pizza
Servings: 6
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6 (or 17 PP for half of the whole thing)

Ingredients

Greek Gyro Rub for Lamb, Beef, Chicken or Mushrooms (or pretty much anything else). This will make a small jar of seasoning, but you only need to use about 2-3 tsp per 8 oz of meat, along with 1-2 tsp lemon juice (and maybe some plain greek yogurt) mixed together in a bag for marinating. Let it marinate for 2 hours up to overnight, then grill in a cast iron skillet until cooked. Now you’re ready to use it!

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika, hot or sweet
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme (I didn’t have any, left it out and it didn’t make a difference)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Baked and sliced. It was sooooo tasty.

For the Pizza

  • 6 oz pizza dough, 13 PP (store bought would probably work just fine too, but my recipe rocks!)
  • 5 oz Greek marinated lamb, grilled and sliced 6 PP
  • 2 oz shredded RF mozzarella cheese, 4 PP
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese, 4 PP
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce of your choice, 1 PP
  • 6 large black olives, sliced, 1 PP
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced (optional)
  • sweet or hot peppers (optional)
  • 2 1/2 tsp olive oil, 3 PP
  • 3 tbsp tzatziki sauce, 1 PP

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Take out the dough and roll it to about 1/4 inch thick and put it on a pizza pan coated in cooking spray. Pour olive oil on and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to spread it over the whole thing. Then do the same with the pasta sauce.

3. Pile on your toppings next. I put half the cheese down first (mixed the two kinds together first, though), then the tomatoes, lamb and black olives. Next, I used my finger to dollop out the tzatziki sauce all around. Then I sprinkled the rest of the cheese over top.

4. Put in the oven on the top rack for about 10 minutes, then move it to the lower rack for another 5-6 minutes to ensure doneness. Take out, slice and enjoy!

Game Update and a Sweet Treat

It’s Day Three of our game and the fiancee and I are doing quite well!  At first the food was starting to taste quite repetitive (a BIG no-no for us), so we had to get creative.  The basics are pretty much the same, but the flavors are definitely starting to change!

Last night Bella grilled up a beautiful eye of round steak roast with just a little spicy adobo rubbed all over it.  Seven minutes on each side and it was perfection.  We didn’t eat it then, though, since our meal off was that evening’s dinner and we spent it at El Toro (that’s a whole separate paragraph)!  We put it in the fridge, along with the red, orange and yellow peppers that I sliced and sauteed (with just a spray of Pam and some adobo seasoning!).  So, this morning, I made myself an egg white, RF cheddar cheese and tri-color pepper omelet with just about a tbsp and a half of brown rice in the egg.  I also spiced the eggs with adobo seasoning and some of my absolute favorite hot sauce, El Picante Green Habanero Sauce.  Aaaaahhhhmazing.  And a kiwi on the side to add a little sweet!

So, with this meat, I’ve discovered a fabulous microwave meal – 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 oz shredded RF cheddar cheese, green sauce on one side, and then sliced peppers, slice raw zucchini with salt and pepper, and about 2.5-3 oz of the beef on the other side.  I nuked it for about 2.5 minutes and I was in heaven.  The green sauce really makes it!  It was a perfectly filling, perfectly tasty lunch.  And since zucchini is so delicate, the small bit of nuking (and the peppers resting on top of it) cooked the zucchini just right.

With meals like that, going out for Mexican food really doesn’t seem like a necessary expense.  I’ll admit, it was nice to get out and have someone else prepare our food, but the flavors weren’t perfect and the portions were HUGE.  I ordered a fajita taco salad with shrimp.  It was pretty good, but I’ve had better.  Too much bean and not enough veggies!  Bella ordered the burrito loco; the chicken was a bit overcooked and the sour cream tasted more like a sweetened cream!  Not good.  And since it was our meal off, neither of us took the leftovers back.  I do believe that’s the first time in the history of my life that I haven’t taken leftovers home.

Needless to say, I exercised hard this morning!  About 40 minutes of different routines on the “Challenging” difficulty.  It felt good to sweat again.  I’ve had so much more energy these past few days that I’m getting more done in the mornings and at night!  Most of it goes towards exercising and getting breakfast + 3 small meals to eat at work all ready before I walk in.  That’s when I discovered my newest sweet treat!

The perfect treat to curb that sweet tooth!

Dark Chocolate Pecan Ricotta Dream
Servings: 1
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6 PP

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese, 4 PP
  • 1-2 packets truvia
  • 1 drop vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped pecan halves, 1 PP
  • 1 tbsp special dark chocolate chips, 1 PP

Directions
1. Mix ricotta, truvia and vanilla together. Then mix in pecans and chocolate chips. Sit back and enjoy!

Not only is this treat sweet, but it’s also filling.  It’s not fully of empty carbs.  It will actually fill you up since low-fat ricotta is basically protein!  The nuts are also filling as they are healthy fats and the special dark chocolate chips give you some antioxidants.  Truvia is a natural sweetener made from stevia, so even THAT is healthy!  Paired with a winesap apple from the local orchard, this has become a staple for my game days.  I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve eaten it like 3 days in a row… but now I’m out of ricotta.  Time to go to the store!  And if I start to get tired of this combination, I can change it up… maybe walnuts and banana slices?  Or just a tbsp of pure maple syrup and some other fruit?  You can really do whatever you want since ricotta lends itself to a huge variety of flavors.

One more thing, ricotta has a bit of a grainy texture, so if you don’t like that kind of texture when you are eating sweet things, you probably won’t enjoy this.  But if that doesn’t bother you at all, you will absolutely love this!

Asian-Flavored Quinoa Salad

Photo Courtesy of: Mimsy

This recipe is brought to you by…. Mimsy!  Otherwise known as my mom :)

She took a beautiful photo of this dish after she made it and I thought it looked beautiful and tasty, so I had to share it with the rest of you.  The recipe actually comes from a Weight Watchers Weekly magazine, but Mimsy did make a few substitutions.  And I figured out the point breakdown for her way and their way.

I haven’t actually made this yet, but I’m excited to try it!  The colors look wonderful and the flavors of the ingredients are already great individually, so I can only imagine how yummy they are combined together.

Asian-Flavored Quinoa Salad (from Weight Watchers)
Servings: 4
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6 (with sugar snap peas), 7 (with edamame)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 uncooked quinoa (or 1.5 cups cooked quinoa), 12 PP
  • 2 tsp dark sesame oil, 2 PP
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger root
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas (or 1-1.5 cups shelled edamame, 6-8PP)
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, 1 PP
  • 2 tbsp orange marmalade, 3 PP (if using low-sugar marmalade, it’s 1 PP)

Directions
1. In a small saucepan, combine broth and quinoa; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, to make dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, marmalade, oil, ginger, and salt; set aside.

3. After quinoa has cooked for 10 minutes, toss in snap peas (or edamame) to partially steam them; cover and simmer until most of liquid has been absorbed, about 5 to 6 minutes.

4. Remove pan from heat and stir in carrots cabbage, peppers, and dressing; mix to thoroughly combine. Garnish with cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled. Yields about 1 heaping cup per serving.

NOTES: Check the box of quinoa you bought to see if it has been “pre-rinsed”. Of not, rinse the quinoa in a colander before cooking to remove its bitter outer coating. Use prepackaged coleslaw mix or shredded vegetables to speed the preparation of this dish.

Also note – If you used low-sugar marmalade and the sugar snap peas, the PP goes down to 5 PP per serving. If you use low-sugar marmalade and only 1 cup of edamame rather than 1.5, the PP goes down to 6 PP per serving. Mimsy prefers edamame to sugar snap peas because she believes that they don’t overpower the other flavors of the dish, whereas sugar snap peas have a very distinct flavor and tend to be the highlight of any bite where it’s included. I’m sure either way you make this, it’s going to be fantastic!

Salted Caramel Brownies

Click here for this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies recipe by Recipe Girl!

I am in love, people.  In love with this brownie.  I saw the picture in my Cooking Light magazine and knew I had to make them.  See, I have this obsession with foods that contain the wording of “salt and vinegar” or “salted caramel” in the title.  My culinary taste buds go wild when that combination of sweet and salty enter my mouth.  And you know what?  A lot of “salt and vinegar” flavored items actually have less sodium than their cheesey, ranchy, french onion flavored counterparts.  Why?  Probably because the salt is a main flavor and not just included in a mixture of all sorts of other spices.  Maybe because you don’t need something salty to compliment the flavor of salt…  Or I could be spewing crazy talk (definitely don’t quote me as anything other than a theory here!)  Either way, it is absolutely a winning combination in my book.

Cooking Light definitely hit the jackpot with this one and I am more than happy to share the recipe with you!  The minute I bit into one of these brownies, I knew I was in trouble.  They are SOOOO GOOOOOOD.  I had to cut them all up, wrap them in tin foil and put them in the freezer just to keep from eating them all in one sitting.  Due to the higher amount of butter and sugar, these brownies aren’t completely WWF… I mean, they DO have 5-6 PP per serving.  But there are definitely brownies with a lot more PP out there!  These ones were just too good to pass up.  They are worth the PP, at least in my book :)  I was supposed to have a picture of them, but due to some camera issues, that’s not happening!  So just take a look at these other delicious brownies that I’ve linked to.

These look similar to what mine looked like. This picture is from the Point-less Meals blog.

Salted Caramel Brownies (from Cooking Light)
Servings: 15-20
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6 PP for 15, 5 PP for 20

Click here for this Chocolate Chipotle Brownie recipe from the Cooking by the Seat of my Pants blog!

Ingredients
Brownies

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 9 PP
  • 1 cup sugar, 22 PP
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 6 PP
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 12 PP
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp melted butter, 13 PP
  • 2 large eggs, 4 PP
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • cooking spray

Topping

  • 1/4 cup butter, 9 PP
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 6 PP
  • 3 1/2 tbsp evaporated fat-free milk, divided, 1 PP
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 6 PP
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp coarse sea salt, 4 PP

Click here for this WWF Cheesecake Brownies recipe from LaaLoosh!

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. To prepare brownies, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 6 tbsp butter, eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Scrape batter into a 9 inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray (I used an 8×11 glass one). Bake at 350 for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging (it took me about 23 minutes). Cool in pan on a wire rack.

3. To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.

4. Combine 2 tbsp milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.

Long Weekends = New Recipes!

A beautiful picture of the STL Arch taken by the girlfriend!

And they make everything better.  It’s true, isn’t it?  Long weekends are a time to get everything done that you can’t during the week, whether it be relaxing, cooking, cleaning or getting away from it all.

My girlfriend and I did all of the above!  We went to Saint Louis, MO for a couple of days to get away.  Last year, we went for our one year anniversary and didn’t have the best time with the activities that we chose.  We did a Riverboat Dinner Cruise…. let’s just say that watching an old lady choke on an ice cube, get heimliched and puke right in front of us as we were eating our dry salads kinda ruined that for us.  We did go up the Arch, though and that was fun.

This time we stayed on the outskirts of the city and drove in and around the city to get to the activities that we had lined up.  We went shopping at the Galleria, got a few chicken wings at Wingfest 2011, got soaked from a torrential downpour as we walked back to our car, but the best part was the Soulard Farmer’s Market.  OMG.  I was in heaven.  But more on that later this week as I’ve asked my girlfriend to write a guest blog and she’s going to talk all about it!  Throughout the days, when we were relaxing at the hotel, we were able to watch my favorite cable channel – FOOD NETWORK!!  I found myself ready to get home and start cooking and blogging again.

Me and Max waiting for the Double Feature to start at the Drive-In!

When we got back on Sunday, we did some cleaning, a little cooking and a lot of relaxing.  My girlfriend made pizza dough and a yummy lemon-butter-garlic chicken and vegetable roast and I blanched our abundance of tomatoes so they wouldn’t go to waste.  Then we went to a double feature at the local Drive-In.  Monday, though… that’s a whole different story.

I made EIGHT different dishes yesterday.  After a weekend of spending money on eating out, we knew we had to buckle down and make some things to last us throughout the week or we’d end up spending waaaay too much money!  Here’s the breakdown of what was made:

– Low-fat Layered Taco Dip
– Ciabatta Pizza Squares
– Chicken and Rice Soup
– Saucy Italian Chicken
– Grilled Zucchini
– Mediterranean Brown Rice Vegetable Bake
– Salted Caramel Brownies
– and something else… I can’t remember!

I’ll be posting the recipes for the taco dip, ciabatta pizza squares and salted caramel brownies later, but today, you get the recipe for the Mediterranean Brown Rice Vegetable Bake! I found a recipe in my Cooking Light magazine that looked good, but I made a BUNCH of changes to better fit our taste preferences and what we had available in our fridge.

Mediterranean Brown Rice Vegetable Bake (modified from Cooking Light)
Servings: 8-10
PointsPlus Per Serving: 6 for 8 servings, 5 for 10 servings

Photo of the original recipe in the September 2011 issue of Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, 7 PP
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup diced red/yellow/green peppers (CL uses 1 cup fennel)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (CL uses 2 cups mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, 2 PP (I had dried ones, so I re-hydrated them first and then cut them up)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese, 4 PP
  • 2 eggs, 4 PP
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp dried parsley (CL uses 1/4 cup fresh parsley)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, 11 PP
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped, 9 PP
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, 6 PP
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, 3 PP (optional; it doesn’t change the PP value so add it!)

Directions
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onions, garlic and peppers; saute 6 minutes. Add zucchini and tomatoes. Add basil and parsley and red pepper flakes. I also added a bit of garlic powder here. Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Set aside and cool completely.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together ricotta cheese and eggs. Add cooled, cooked vegetable mixture and the remaining ingredients, including brown rice (and a little extra basil and parsley if you like). Mix well.

3. Preheat oven to 350.

4. Lightly coat a 1 1/2 quart ovenproof baking dish with oil. Place mixture in a dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes. (This is where CL stops, but it wasn’t done when I pulled it out, so…) Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Check it when you pull it out to make sure it’s done. There should be no liquids pooling on top and it should cooked and steamy when you slice through. Serve immediately or save for later! This warms up well.

When we ate it, my girlfriend really loved it and so did I. I did feel like it was missing a little something, so I added feta cheese to the recipe at the top. I believe the salty tartness of the feta is exactly what the missing ingredient is! This dish was so easy to make that I can definitely imagine making up a few others with different flavor focuses – mexican, fajita, indian and greek.