Posted in Food, New Food, Recipe, Weight Watchers

Super-easy short-cut for WW Grilled Fish with Mango Salsa

Ha!

So, WW is super diligent about watching out for copyright infringement, so I can’t post the whole recipe or directions here, but in the book I bought there’s a recipe for Grilled Fish with Mango Salsa.  There are 6 ingredients and the prep time is probably around 15-20 minutes.  I wasn’t in the mood to de-vein jalapeños or deal with slimy mangoes (especially in winter?) so I cheated a little bit.  Here’s the condensed version of WW Grilled Fish with Mango Salsa:

Ingredients:

1- bowl of fruit salsa from your local deli
2- fillets of cod (skin removed)
little bit of lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:
Unwrap fish from the paper it comes in, place in a skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle with a little bit of lemon, salt, and pepper.  Depending on the thickness of your fillet, it’ll be ready to flip around 3-5 minutes.  Apply the same techniques to this side – lemon, salt, pepper as desired.  This will be done in about 3-5 minutes as well.  The fish will be done when it can be flaked with a fork and is no longer translucent.  Don’t over-cook the fish or it’ll get rubbery.

Top with spoonfuls of the prepared salsa and enjoy 🙂

Total time – 10 minutes.

Fish with Mango Salsa

Posted in Food, New Food, Weight Watchers

K.I.S.S. – having a meal plan

When it comes to dinner, sometimes my good intentions go right out the window.  It’s been a long day of doing [x, where x=working, cleaning, or doing nothing] and when it comes to dinner time, even if there’s a “plan” in place, the excuse of “I don’t feeeeeeeeeeeeeel like cooking! *huff/stomp/pout*” comes out.

In this moment, it seems like it would be easier to just pick up the phone or go online and place an order for some sort of sustenance to fill the hungry hole. But what does that sort of decision cost in the way of time and money? And is it REALLY worth the effort?  Let’s break it down:

Our top three options for ‘I dont wanna’ usually include Domino’s, Jimmy John’s, or Wendy’s.

Domino’s: 
1 – Large Specialty Pizza, + taxes and delivery, +tip ~$25.00
1 – Side order of parmesan bread bites because we just can’t resist ~ $3
Total: ~$28.00, 30 minutes of waiting, 10 minutes of eating, hours of guilt for spending money we didn’t need to, eating bread bites we didn’t need to, and loading up on greasy cheesy pizza that is essentially nutritionally void. Worth it?

Jimmy John’s: 
2 – Bootleggers, + taxes and delivery, + tip ~$14.00
2 – side order of chips because they’re too good to resist, ~$3.00
2 – side order, giant chocolate chunk cookie, ~$4.00
Total: ~$21.00, 10 minutes of waiting, 10 minutes of eating, up to an hour of guilt for spending money we didn’t need to, eating almost 400 calories worth of mayo because I always forget to tell them to leave it off, upset stomach due to the kettle chips and the chocolate chunk–and why? Because we didn’t feel like cooking. Worth it?

Wendy’s
2 – Asiago Chicken Ranch Clubs
1 – 1/4 lb. Classic
1 – side of chili
2 – Softdrinks (small)
Total: ~$15-20, depending on prices and variables in choices; prices are not published online. Wendy’s doesn’t deliver, but they’re up the road from us, less than a mile so we take the time to go down to the car and drive there (yep. you read that correctly), go through the drive-through, and then drive home because we don’t feel like cooking. But we feel like getting dressed, putting shoes on, waiting in line, paying money for food that (again) is nutritionally void, going back home and disposing of all the trash.  Worth it?

See?  When you really take a look at how ‘convenient’ convenience food really isn’t it becomes easier to make meals at home.  One of our new discoveries is from Campbell’s and it’s called ‘Skillet sauces‘ – you just add chicken (or beef, or shrimp) and serve over pasta or rice.  So, the box of rice is a couple bucks and it lasts us a couple months.  This is the first one that we tried, but, we were pretty impressed with it. The skillet sauce packets likely goes on sale, so if you get a chance, you could stash them in the cupboard for days when you just don’t feel like it.

Last night, we were tired and unmotivated and having one of those ‘don’t feel like it’ moments.  I felt the urge rising to call for pizza, but, my new year’s resolutions are to lose weight, save money, and get better at my job.  Well, heyo!  Ordering in goes against two of those objectives.  Keep it simple, stupid–cook at home!  Save time, save money, control portions and nutrition.

I defrosted chicken in the microwave while setting a pot on the stove to boil water for the rice.  I measured the rice and sliced up a cucumber while those two finished.  While the rice started cooking, I sliced up the chicken and browned it in the skillet.  Add the toasted sesame ginger sauce on top and heat through–voila, meal is done.  We went from frozen chicken and two packets of ingredients to a nutritionally sound meal in approximately 20 minutes for a cost less than $3/person.

2013-01-01_18-04-43_152

When making your new year’s resolutions, flesh them out a bit.  How does having a meal plan or back-up plan take my KISS goal and make it a SMART goal?

S – Specific – I want to save at least $100/month for the next year.

M – Measurable – I saved (by not spending) net $17.00 by not ordering in.

A – Attainable – If I can continue to make decisions to eat at home like this, I can definitely save over $100/month.  This would include brown-bagging it for lunches and eating breakfast at home, too.

R – Relevant – Preparing and eating food from home, let’s say 4/5 work days, is relevant and applicable to my goals to save money, lose weight (remember I can control portion and nutrition), AND to become better at my job – when I stop to pick something up on the way to work, I usually scoot in a few minutes late.  Being punctual will improve my perception at work, and, perceptions are realities.

T – Time-bound – The time is weekly, adding up to monthly, adding up to the entire year of 2013.

What are some other ideas that you have for quick back-up plans for when you don’t feel like cooking?  Crock-pots are always good because you can just toss in a few ingredients and it does its thing while you do yours.  What else?

Posted in Counseling, Food, Life + Living, Menu Planning, New Food, Recipe, Weight Watchers

Menu Monday: Saffron

The cool thing about seeking counseling is that it doesn’t make you weird.  To prove it, I’m going to write a very NORMAL entry.  Well, aside from Saffron… a spice that is valued in tiny quantities, but dangerous in abundance.  This week, Jeff and I expanded our spicy horizons to include threads of Saffron.  We’ve been talking a lot about things that make us happy, things we enjoy doing as a couple.  One of the things that we really enjoy (time permitting) is cooking together.  While making the menu this weekend, I came across a recipe for “Spanish Chickpea, Tomato, and Kale Stew.”  Interesting.. I thought..

  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads

Oop.. this recipe is out.. Saffron.  Who just has saffron sitting around in their pantry? *scoff*

  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 bell pepper (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)Wonder how much saffron costs.. I’ve got most of the rest of these ingredients.. 
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh oregano
    I’ve got dried..I’m sure that’ll do.. 
  • 1 tbsp smoked or regular paprika
  • 4 cups chopped fresh kale
    HUZZAH! Finally a way to use that bunch that we bought “for smoothies” that’s about to wilt in the crisper drawer…
  • 1/4 cup sherry
    One for you, one for me *glug*  Wait, what is sherry?  Do they sell that at the grocery store?  I’m probably going to have to go to the liquor store.. ugh. OOh! Maybe I can buy some vodka at the same time.  Maybe this recipe isn’t such a lost cause…
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

So yeah, reading through the recipe I waffled a couple times on whether we could actually pull this recipe off.  I’d LOVE to show you a picture of our masterpiece all pretty in our matte black bowls… but guess who forgot to go to the liquor store?  Ha. Guess that means we can’t re-enact any scenes from My Drunk Kitchen (Pizza, unlike old coca-cola is best served flat!)

Anyway.. after mulling over the stew recipe (combine saffron + water, set aside, heat onions and bell pepper in the oil until onions start to soften, then stir in all seasonings including saffron-water, add kale and cook, stirring constantly, until either you or the kale are wilted.  Add sherry–to the stew, not your mouth, and cook until almost all the liquid is gone.  Add everything else and bring to a boil.  Cover, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.)  The actual recipe in all of its lovely entirety can be found in the Weight Watchers Points Plus Power Foods Cookbook: 200 Simple & Satisfying Recipes book, on page 188. Copyright Weight Watchers International, Inc. 2011.

The rest of our menu is pretty straight forward with nothing nearly as exotic as saffron stew.  It’s got things like salmon, spaghetti, and meatloaf on it.. The good news, though, is that I was able to organize my cupboard in my quest for recipe ingredients.  Isn’t it pretty?

Yeah.. it’s probably wrecked by the time you’re reading this… >_>

Posted in Food, Life + Living, New Food

Writers Block/blog

Oi ladies and gents.. I have writer’s block.

I have lots of blog fodder just waiting to get off of my phone but every time I sit down to try to write, nothing worthwhile comes to mind.  I think I’ll just pick a photo from my phone and write about that… here.. listen to this song while you wait (don’t worry, it’s squeaky clean):

The new title of the entry you are about to read is “Sushi: with friends

Jeff and I have a friend that was talented and studious enough (note: I didn’t say lucky, she worked her bum off) to get into TSU in Japan.  She’s been stateside for a couple of months and completely absorbed with visiting family and friends, attending weddings, barbeques, and doing all of the things that one does when visiting home in between living as an expat.

I invited her to meet up with me at a craft store as it is a common interest that we share, but due to a mix up with a friend’s wedding plans, she wasn’t able to make it.  That’s okay, though, c’est la vie, and we rescheduled for dinner on Tuesday. 

When I checked in with her the day of our event, unfortunately, something else came up again — this time with family in a not so good way and she had to cancel.  No rain check this time.  Maybe it’s because we were going to have sushi and she would soon be going  back to the land of sushi.  Maybe we should have invited her out to a burger. 

Oh well.  We didn’t make what was on our menu for dinner because we thought we were going out, and so Jeff and I headed out without our friend.  We went to a great newish restaurant in the area called “Kona Grill” 

Originally, I had gone to Kona with a friend from work who had made the drive to the home office from Iowa.  She was going to go by herself but she said “sushi” and “awesome” and “by myself” all in the same sentence and so I knew that someone would have to intervene… and go eat awesome sushi with her.  We had a great meal and I knew that I’d have to come back and introduce other people to this new local delight.  Jeff and I got a table in the bar since there was no wait and just enjoyed each other’s company.  We didn’t have a lot to talk about, so we shared stuff with each other on our phones.  At one point, our heads were leaning against each other as we looked at something (it was quite loud, so this also helped us to hear each other’s comments without yelling) and the waitress appeared out of thin air and commented “Awe, could you be more cute?”  We tried to cut the PDA a little bit after that.. *sheepish grin*

The meal that Jeff and I had was even better than the first time I had gone to Kona.  Jeff and I both ordered a Dragon Roll [crab special roll topped w/eel, eel sauce & sesame seeds], I ordered a Philly Roll (it’s Americanized…) [smoked salmon, cream cheese & cucumber], and Jeff ordered a Bama Roll [crab mix, cream cheese, jalapeño wrapped in soy paper topped w/tuna, avocado, fish roe and spicy mayo].  One roll is probably enough for anyone, but I was looking for left overs 🙂 I was able to save more than half of what we ordered. It’s a good thing I saved room, too, because their seasonal item was a pineapple upside down cake–it was a dessert to redeem the evening:

 

Posted in Food, Life + Living, New Food, Recipe

Tuna Stuffed Shells (Recipe)

Hey guess what!

If you guessed that my computer crashed, you would be correct.  The signs have been there for a little while now, but we just don’t have it in the budget to go and get a new hard drive at the moment.  I had to bring my work laptop home in order to finish my homework for my business class, but so far, so good.  I passed the first half of the final with 100% and some kind remarks from the instructor.

Not long after my computer crashed, the monitor for Jeff’s computer decided to go on strike… so, we took the working parts of my computer and used them to replace the broken parts of Jeff’s computer and voila! We’re back in business.

It’s a good thing too, because now I can share this idea with you.  I kept coming across ideas on Pinterest.com for stuffed shells recipes, but it has been entirely too hot to turn on the stove.  Instead, Jeff and I decided to make a summer version of Tuna Stuffed Shells.  It’s super cheap, quick, and easy:

Summer Tuna Stuffed Shells:

Ingredients:
Jumbo Shells
Starkist Chunk Light tuna in water (drained)
Alfredo sauce with bell pepper
Onion
Celery
Garlic powder
Pepper

The amount of each ingredient really depends on your taste preference and how many people you’re feeding.  Jeff and I wanted about 4 shells each plus some extra so we started by boiling half a box of the shells.  While that was happening, I took a mixing bowl and combined 4 regular-sized cans of tuna with about 2 tablespoons of alfredo, 1/4 cup each of onion and celery, and sprinkled garlic powder on top.  Stir it up and set aside. Heat the remainder of the alfredo sauce in a small sauce pan until it’s bubbly–about 5 minutes or so.

When the noodles are cooked, strain them and then place on waxed paper to cool.  Jeff worked on that part while I sliced up an orange bell pepper to go on the side.  When you’re ready, stuff the cool tuna mixture into the shells and spoon alfredo sauce over top.  Sprinkle with pepper (optional, but a really nice addition), and garnish with a side of orange bell pepper.

Posted in Food, New Food, Recipe, Wedding Planning

I dream’t of a s’more…

When I was growing up, one of my very favorite things to do was to go camping and to roast marshmallows. And of course, to squash those marshmallows between chocolate and graham crackers. And, once finished in marveling at my masterpiece, my next favorite thing to do would be to bite into the s’more so that chips of graham cracker fell by the wayside, marshmallow stuck to my cheeks and chocolate melted onto my tongue. Oh to be a kid again.

When I got my first apartment, I figured out that if you microwave a marshmallow for about 10 seconds, it gets gooey and you can make make-shift s’mores.
In my 3rd apartment, my roomies knew how to grill and I figured out that s’mores made over charcoal are distinctly different than s’mores made over a campfire.
Propane is not an option.
Neither, really, is making them over a gas range.

I love s’mores so much that I was trying to think of a way to incorporate them into our WEDDING for goodness sake!

This weekend, I was having a few people over and I wanted to serve s’mores for dessert. I didn’t want to take the time to microwave marshmallows in front of my guests, because something about that just felt unrefined. As I went to sleep thinking on it, there came to me a glorious idea–S’mores in a muffin tin!

ha!

In my dream, I just crumbled graham crackers into the bottom of the cups and then put a marshmallow and chocolate on top.

In the cruel light of day, that did not work, but I had a dream! It must be pursued!

I found a recipe for a graham cracker crust online and that did the trick for me… I topped THAT with a marshmallow and a milk-chocolate saddle, then gave it a graham cracker crust hat. I baked at 350 for 25 minutes. Somewhere between the idea and the end result, the marshmallow disappeared, but the final product was still a scrumptious offering. The next time I try these, I may have to tweak the recipe a bit. When I find one that works better, I will definitely share it with you:

S’mores in a Muffin Tin

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1-2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp baking powder

marshmallows

chocolate bars

Instructions:

1) Set the Marshmallow and the Chocolate aside for now, we’ll come back to that.

2) Cream together butter and both kinds of sugar

3) beat in egg & vanilla (NOTE: you can do this with a fork, but a mixer would probably be easier)

4) In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

5) Mix the dry and the wet ingredients until you have a well-combined crumbly crust.

6) Prepare the muffin pan with cooking spray so that the cups don’t stick.  Don’t use muffin paper.

7) Take some dough and roll a ball about 1″ or so in diameter and then press into the bottom of each muffin cup

8) Put 1 marshmallow (regular sized) and 1/4 Chocolate Bar (if you’re using Hershey’s, it’s about 3 small rectangles worth) in each muffin cup.

9) Top each one with a graham cracker “hat” (play patty-cake with the dough-ball to flatten it out just like the bottom crust

10) Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until the crust firms up.  The cups remove easily once they are cooled.

Posted in Food, Menu Planning, New Food, Recipe, Weight Watchers

Orange Chicken

Yeeeaaaahhh… My version of orange chicken turned out almost nothing like the picture that I pinned on my pinterest foodies board.  When I was at the grocery store, a friend in need called and I missed out on a couple of ingredients such as the  sesame seeds, red pepper flakes and scallions.  We made due with what we had, though, and it turned out pretty wicked (in a good way).

After going through this process, I would say that there are some things to be desired in the recipe, as far as instructions go.  Here is how the recipe was published on laaloosh:

Orange Chicken Recipe

Ingredients:
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch strips
2 cup cooked white rice, kept hot
Rind of a small orange sliced into thin strips
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup canned chicken broth, reduced-sodium
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp peanut oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 medium scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or 1 dried chili pepper, minced
1 tbsp sesame seeds

**For added nutritional value, substitute the white rice with brown rice

Directions:
In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, broth, sugar, cornstarch, ginger, and vinegar, then set aside.
In a large skillet, heat peanut oil on medium-high heat. Add orange rinds, scallions, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the chicken and cook for approximately 6 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown.
Now mix in the sauce and let simmer until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the sauce starts to get thick, this should take approximately 3-4 minutes. On a plate, serve chicken and sauce over rice and garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds

Serving size = 1 cup of chicken and 1/2 cup of rice

Here is what I learned by doing:

– Cook the rice according to package directions.  Then strain the rice because there’s still too much liquid when it’s done.

– Use an itty bit more oil.  It was pretty well gone before the chicken even got there.

– Dice the orange rind if you intend to eat it.

– On that note, add a little bit more sugar to the sauce recipe so that it caramelizes a little more.

– Dried chives are not the same as fresh scallions.

– Rice vinegar, though, is a good substitute for white wine vinegar.

– Use the pulp from the orange that you chopped up in a fresh house salad to serve alongside your chicken:

All in all, this recipe has got lots of potential, but we just need to refine the way that we cooked it a little and actually use all of the ingredients called for 🙂 We will probably make this again.  1 serving has 6 points on a popular weight loss program.

Posted in Food, New Food, Recipe

Bacon + Shrimp + Pineapple = Awesome

For dinner this week, Jeff and I are just using up what we have in our freezer.  We happened to have a bag of pre-cooked, washed, de-veined shrimp available that we thought would suit our needs.  The cool thing is that we only had to thaw them out (and rinse them) in order for them to be ready to eat.

I am not much of a sea-food fan, but shrimp has long been the exception.  Still, I wanted to make sure that this would be a meal and not just a tasty snack, so.. what makes everything better? BACON!

We would take half-pieces of bacon and wrap them around the shrimp, dip it in cocktail sauce and revel in the salty-shrimpy goodness.  The pineapple was frozen at the peak of freshness and thawed out for just such an occasion.  I was skeptical of whether or not the fresh-frozen-thawed pineapple would be any good, but it actually maintained it’s textural integrity after thawing in the refrigerator overnight.  It tasted so sweet and was the perfect counter-note to the bacon + Shrimp.  This meal came together in only as long as it took to cook up the bacon 🙂

Posted in Food, Menu Planning, New Food, Recipe

Day 3: Garden Vegetable Tortellini

Garden Vegetable Bake - Raw

“I really liked working with Mike on this one.  He chopped a lot of the vegetables, I chopped the chicken and the peppers… it all just came together, add this, add that… done.  It took about 45 minutes to get everything done, but a lot of it could have probably been done ahead of time… the recipe says that you can just do it all a day or two in advance and just throw it in the oven when it’s ready to cook.”  -Jeff

Since Jeff has more time at home than I do lately, he’s really been stepping up and volunteering in the kitchen.  He mastered the art of slow-cooker Enchiladas* and today he and our room mate Mike tackled the Garden Vegetable Tortellini. For this weeks menu, jump back a couple entries to Menu Monday: Pinterest Edition.  So far, he says that cooking this week has been pretty fun.

*Note about the enchiladas–we added about a pound of lean ground beef and it made about sixteen enchiladas instead of twelve.. but.. I don’t see anyone complaining 😉  We had them for dinner last night (which is why you don’t see a Day 2 Post).

Garden Vegetable Bake

There were no complaints to be found regarding the Garden Vegetable Tortellini, either!  Well.. Jeff complained because I missed a few ingredients on the grocery list… but.. oh well *sheepish grin*

This dish was great.  The roasted tomatoes were perfect and I couldn’t imagine leaving them out.  The mushrooms were kind of lost in the mix, but the pea pods were really good too.  We can’t take much credit for the Tortellini, but it was delicious (we used the Roundy’s brand of cheese stuffed tortellini).  Jeff cut the chicken to 1″ cubes and the rest of the veggies were cut to bite-sized pieces as well.  Jeff cooked the chicken, carrots, peas, etc. before it could be baked in the oven and he did a really great job–they were not over or under-done at all. Both Gloria and I vote for more veggies next time, they were so good.  An idea just popped into my head… this would be awesome with crispy bacon pieces on top.  Like a garnish.  And I’m not talking about bacos.

Even without bacon though…. each of us went back for more.  I’d say there’s about 8 1/2 good-sized servings in this dish.  We nearly finished it off… There’s just enough to compliment lunch tomorrow.

I licked the bowl...

Posted in Food, New Food, Recipe

Day 1: Crock Pot Enchiladas

Nothing a little cheese can't fix...

Jeff made crock pot enchiladas today and the end result was absolutely fabulous.  Seriously, whoever thought of this idea is a genius.  The consistency of the tortillas was chewy in a good way, except for on the back of the crock pot where they got a little scorched.  Fun Fact: I can never remember how to spell scorched.  I always add extra frivolous letters and end up spelling it skortched or schortched or skorched… Maybe it’s because scorched just doesn’t look like the letters are strong enough to make the sounds when we say it outloud… hm… 

Moving on–much like lasagna or brownies, I liked the scorched bits.  I think that the next time we make this (if I make it, that is), I will add more veggies and I will omit the ground beef.  The beef was good, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it added much to the dish aside from being an expected part of the meal.  Jeff slathered this stuff with cheese.  At first, I raised my eyebrows at him (trying to eat healthier, no?) but seriously? Extra cheese was extra good.  And a girl needs her calcium, right???

I give this dish two thumbs up, a clean plate, and a recommendation that you go put this on your menu asap!

NOTE: This made 16 enchiladas.  Unless you have company, you *will* have left-overs.  Plan accordingly.