Wild blueberry, banana walnut muffins

I adapted this recipe from Weight Watchers community.  The recipe is listed as the Healthy Blueberry Banana Nut Muffin: http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rcp/RecipePage.aspx?recipeid=294527280.  The only thing I altered was the fact I used frozen wild blueberries in my recipe instead of regular blueberries.
My boyfriend absolutely LOVES blueberry muffins and sometimes I get a mild eye twitch when he goes to Dunkin Donuts to get a blueberry muffin (because honestly how do they get all that FAT into a muffin?!).  Plus with muffins, it’s a great, simple breakfast/snack and I find when we have folks over offering someone a muffin (and mentioning they’re “healthy”) they tend to go faster.  Meaning I don’t have to be tempted for longer than necessary ;).
I will say while baking these my kitchen smelled amazing, you get that delicious banana, blueberry scent.  They puffed up nicely and had a very nice delicious texture AND taste.  Folks who don’t even follow Weight Watchers (and even those that shun Weight Watchers recipes) told me that these were really good muffins.
So, take THAT Dunkin Donuts!
Here is the recipe just incase you cannot access it on the Weight Watchers website:
Serves: 18
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (since I like cinnamon I did a whole teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup wild blueberries, slightly defrosted
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups natural apple sauce (no sugar added)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Cooking spray
You want to bake these in a 350 degree oven, cooking in a lightly greased (with cooking spray) muffin tins.
In a large bowl mix the flour, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
In another bowl mix the bananas, eggs, apple sauce and vanilla extract.
Mix the banana mixture into the flour mixture until it’s smooth – then fold in the blueberries.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins (18 muffins).  Bake in the oven for roughly 16 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted into the middle and it comes out clean.
What is your favorite muffin flavor?

Jamaican inspired dinner

This is a meal I whipped up one night when we had sirloin tips out to eat, but I wasn’t too sure what we were going to do with them or what to have with them.  My boyfriend, the only Irish person on the face of the planet (I kid) is not a fan of potatoes.  He’ll eat them once in a while if they’re made a certain way, but I’m big into baked potatoes … so veggies have to be included it’s going to be a potato going into the rubbish after dinner.
After some thinking I decided to do some stewed steak – but I took the lazy mans way out and did it in the oven.  I cooked up the trimmed sirloin (cut into chunks) with sliced up onions and peppers and seasoned with minced garlic, powder garlic, black pepper, McCormick steak seasoning, a pinch of sea salt, a splash of teriyaki sauce, a squirt of ketchup, and a squirt of BBQ sauce.  I don’t measure when I season my meats because one thing I’ve learned from watching both my father and mother cook is they season with their hands and their noses.  My dad can take anything out of a cabinet or refrigerator, mix it up and make the best tasting marinade or sauce ever – as can my mom.  So I’ve graciously adapted this skill into my life.  I throw what I think is necessary into a pan, mix and smell.  I then adjust seasonings purely based on the scent of the mixture.  If I think it needs something, I go in search of whatever it may need and add it to the pan.
I bake the meat in a 350 degree oven for roughly 15-25 minutes (depending on how much is in the pan).  The one great thing is it creates a bit of a “stew” in the pan which are just the juices or “gravy” which are delicious.  Normally in a Jamaican dish you’d cook this oven an open flame in a pan and create a thickened gravy or “stew” to spoon over your meat and your side dish.
I simple cooked my potatoes in a very quick and easy fashion I’ve grown to love – wash your potato and toss them in the microwave.  Cooking times vary based on the size of the potato and the amount of potatoes you’re cooking – but I’ve cooked a smaller single serving once in 4 minutes, whereas I’ve cooked 8 potatoes in the microwave in ~20 minutes.  You know when they’re done when you can pierce them easily with a fork.
After I started cooking I got an immediate craving for some Jamaican dumplings.  Jamaican dumplings are a hard dough dumpling.  They’re dense, harder, chewy and just delicious.  I’m a quarter Jamaican, so I’ve grown up eating these with a meal or just straight in a bowl with a little bit of butter or gravy on them.  It’s a mixture of flour, salt and water.  You knead the mixture until it’s really well combined (which feels like it takes forever) and not sticky.  You then roll them out into balls and flatten slightly OR you can roll them into log form (which is what I do with soups).  You then boil these in salted water until they begin to float … usually take about 20 minutes or so.
I then went the lazy mans way out and made canned corn and carrots.  Nothing wrong with canned veggies!
Overall dinner was 11 point plus.  3 for the potato, 1 for the corn, 5 for the sirloin, 4 for the Jamaican dumplings.  Completely delicious and amazing!
Have you ever made a dish similar to this one – if not, would you?

Skinny Cow Pretty in Pink Velvet Truffle Ice Cream

I feel I always sing praises round Skinny Cow ice creams.  They make healthier alternatives to ice cream that taste amazing.  The one thing that comes with eating healthier is you sometimes have to sacrifice flavor and thankfully that is not the case with this.
This is the first time I’ve tried the Pretty in Pink Velvet Truffle Ice Cream and I have to say it’s quite delicious!  It’s a cream cheese flavored frosting that is drizzled over a pink velvet ice cream.  AMAZING!  It’s so creamy and delicious.  It almost has that creamy cheesecake sort of feel to it even though it’s ice cream.  I just found I really enjoyed this flavor.  And the greatest part with Skinny Cow is they print the Weight Watchers points right onto the back of their product containers which makes things (well, easy point wise – not choice wise!).  All this goodness for only 3 Points Plus!
What is your favorite Skinny Cow ice cream?

Dinner: Whole Wheat Beef & Bean Stuffed Burritos

I decided to make stuffed burritos at home one night, so I picked up an Oretega burrito mix at Target and I will say – honesty, next time I will make them with taco seasoning because the Ortega burrito seasoning was FAR too spicy. So spicy indeed I had to add some sour cream to the meat in hopes of muting the spice, but even that didn’t help.
We had a few people over for dinner and everyone mentioned how spicy they were.  I felt bad; my boyfriend couldn’t even finish his because the spice was just killing his taste buds.  I fought through the burn because outside of JUST the spice they were delicious.. They would have been a homerun if I substituted taco mix (which I originally planned on using) until I spotted the burrito mix.
Hoping to further mute the spiciness of the seasoning pack, I layered refried beans into the tortilla shells – which helped a bit.
Here’s what I used:
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 packet reduced sodium Ortega Burrito seasoning
  • 5 tablespoons fat free sour cream
  • 1 can fat-free refried beans
  • 1 pack Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
  • Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
I had some Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tortilla shells I wanted to use up, so I filled those with 2 ounces of meat to 1 tablespoon of fat free refried beans.
With the remaining mixture I mixed those onto the Joseph’s wraps using 4 ounces of meat mixture  and 1/3 cup refried beans).  I personally found these to be more palatable because the s[ice was minimized.
I paired the burritos with a simple tossed salad.
The Joseph’s wraps were 9 points plus for the 2,whereas the Trader Joe’s wraps were 8 points plus for 2.

Have you ever made burritos at home?

Trader Joe’s: Dilettante Fruit Medley

While at Trader Joe’s I spotted these Dilettante Fruit Medley chocolate covered fruits.  The container contained cherries, strawberries, apricots and blueberries covered in chocolate with a mild coating on the outside to keep the chocolate from melting.  Chocolate covered fruit?  Hello, welcome to my shopping basket!  Sure, it’s a bit expensive (I believe they’re $4.99/5.99) but they are SO delicious.  I looked up the brand online and found it’s sold online for a lot more than what Trader Joe’s was selling it for, so no complaining from me!
One of the greatest part is the serving size – you get 7 pieces and it translates to being only 5 Weight Watchers Points Plus.  Not bad at all because you get a fabulous tasting snack.  The cherries and apricots are probably my favorite flavor. I will say the blueberries were rather lacking in the container.
The candies within the chocolate are almost a version of a dried fruit, but not dry and hard – kind of in between.  The chocolate is nice and mild.  The only downside is they can be completely addicting.
Have you ever tried the Dilettante Fruit Medley from Trader Joe’s?

"Anything is possible. It’s your choice whether or not you choose to make IT happen."

Visual change December 2009 – July 2012.

We as humans have dreams and aspirations. Many of us hope for a brighter future, many of us hope to find the will power to “survive”, while many of us dream to see the day something happens.  It’s many of these dreams and aspirations that help push those who are willing into a healthier lifestyle.  Many of the times, we have to find our own “a-ha” moment which makes everything become crystal clear.  We set a goal and we begin to work towards that goal.

I have been overweight my entire life.  I’ve been the heaviest kid in kindergarten all the way through high school.  My weight began to pack on because my very polish grandmother (who was severely obese herself) showed you she loved you with food.  And by food, I mean an over abundance.  I remember there being stacks of french toast, potato pancakes, deep fried eggplant, etc., all over the table for me to eat (not all at the same time, but different days of the week).  My grandmother had me “help” her cook these dishes, which in turn made eating them “fun”.  From a very early age I learned in a way to cope with food.  Food was a cure for my feelings.  Happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, frustration — you name an emotion and food was always there.  This “cure” followed me throughout adulthood and had me tipping the scale at nearly 400 pounds.

I knew I was overweight.  I knew the world knew I was overweight (and I could tell by the looks and the whispers when out in public).  But when you don’t want to see something and you aren’t willing to admit it, you pretend it doesn’t exist.  I didn’t like seeing photographs of myself (hence why many of my photographs at my heaviest have been shoulders up).  I’d get upset, I’d get angry but I mentally wasn’t prepared to do anything about it — so I ate to console my emotions.  The sadder I felt, the more I ate and it was a downward spirale.  Emotional eating was going to be my untimely killer.

Finally, one day in February 2010, the light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I truly needed to change.  I needed to get healthy.  I needed to find happiness (because I was a miserable, unhappy person for so long).  My weight was holding me back from things in life (I didn’t like going out). I knew these things were not going to happen overnight.  I knew my weight had not packed on in a week — this was years and years of damage and I knew it was going to take quite a while to get it off.  They always say it’s easier to put it on, than it is to take it off and that’s the truest statement of all.

I admit, I knew Weight Watchers worked because I was a member when I was 18-years old.  But like most Weight Watchers members, the week before I joined I made sure to have some of the greasiest foods I enjoyed because I knew I wasn’t going to have them for a while.  Not the smartest thing to do, but I did it and I don’t regret doing it because of where I am today and where I was then are two completely different spectrums.

When I joined Weight Watchers I followed the plan to a T — and I admit I was a bit grouchy for the first 2-weeks, but I needed to do it that way because I needed the structure.  I needed the discipline.  My first week I lost just under 10 pounds and was astounded.  Week after week I lost and week after week my food choices became healthier and wiser.  I avoided certain foods for a while because I knew mentally I couldn’t handle having them — so they stayed away.  I believed in the program and believed in myself, which is what pushed me to continue because every Thursday, stepping on that scale, it was a rewarding experience.

I found, I began to love myself.  This was a really odd experience for me at first because it was so foreign.  I disliked who I was for SUCH a long time, that to go from being miserable and really hating myself for what I allowed myself to become, to loving me and who I was becoming was mind boggling.  Becoming. It was a daily thing and I found new things I liked about myself.  And one day, I was able to say to myself and I was able to say out loud “I love myself!”

I love myself?  Wow!  Yes, I LOVE me!

My weight loss journey, courtesy of the Weight Watchers program and going to the gym, really brought a whole new ray of light to my life.  I enjoy life now.  I am happy.  I am healthy.  My doctors are pleased with me (and I no longer go really long stretches between seeing them because I didn’t want to be ‘nagged’ at).  I enjoy going for a walk at lunch.  I love the fact I can go to ANY store and purchase clothing.  I love being able to either pass down or donate the clothing that I have since grown out of (meaning they’re too big and not too tight).  I enjoy zumba classes.  I want to go to the gym. I enjoy seeing the scale go down at my Thursday weigh-ins.  I am also tickled by the fact that once I hit goal I will no longer have to pay to be a Weight Watchers member.

This is a lifelong journey I am on.  I will be following this program for the rest of my life because without it, I don’t have that structure that I need in my life. They always say old habits die hard and I don’t want to see that scale creep up to the numbers it used to be at.  I won’t allow that to happen.  Do I struggle at times?  Sure.  I am human and we all go through trials and tribulations, but it is up to me with how I deal with them.  Do I eat the foods I love?  Of course.  If someone told me I had to give up pizza and cupcakes I would have walked out the door.  But the difference between me now and me then was — 1 or 2 slices of pizza (tracked of course) are enough.  I don’t need a whole box with a side of bread sticks.  I can have A cupcake, I don’t need to sample each of the different flavors in the box.

Does emotional/stress eating creep up from time to times? It sure does, but I find ways to deal with it.  Depending on the stresser that’s causing it — I chew gum, I drink water, I go for a walk, I vent (to someone I can trust) or if I feel I have to have something because I am truly hungry, I try to make a healthier choice — an apple, a banana, or some grapes.  Or if it’s before I have my daily snack, I simply eat my snack earlier.  But nobody is going to push me into a Burger King drive-thru and eat my way through a Whopper meal because those things just don’t happen these days — and they won’t.

Lasagna in a Bun

I adapted this recipe from a recipe posted on the Taste of Home website: (See original Recipe here: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Easy-Lasagna-in-a-Bun)
It looked so good I decided to make it at home, although I did not follow the recipe to a T. I made my meat mixture and cheese mixture as I would with regular healthier flare on lasagna and I really enjoyed the way it turned out! I also used regular deli “sub” bread since I could not find hoagie rolls. It was SO delicious I ate it for a couple days. I loved how the bread acted as the pasta for the dish, it was just nice and crunchy and yumminess all around!
Now here’s how I changed up the recipe:
·         1 pound 93% lean ground beef
·         1 cup Kraft Fat Free Shredded mozzarella, divided
·         ¼ cup egg substitute
·         ¼ packet Lipton onion soup mix
·         3/4 cup fat free-ricotta
·         ½ tablespoon minced garlic
·         1 can diced tomatoes, drained
·         1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
·         2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
·         Pinch of black pepper (to taste)
·         Pinch of salt (to taste)
·         Garlic powder (to taste)
·         2 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs
·         8 sub rolls
I cooked my lean beef with minced garlic and chopped onion. When cooked, I added in a can of drained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
I then made my cheese mixture by combining ricotta cheese, ½ the shredded mozzarella, egg, substitute, black pepper, a pinch of salt and a sprinkling of Italian flavored bread crumbs in a bowl and mixed well.
To combine I layered some of this cheese mixture onto one side of the bread, adding the meat onto the other side and rolled the sandwich up in tinfoil and baked in a 400* oven until done (roughly 15-20 minutes depending on how fast your oven cooks).
Since my boyfriend does not like cheese his sandwich just had the meat mixture on it.
This was SUCH a great meal and was such interesting twist on a classic.
Each sandwich was 9 points plus each.
Do note, sandwich breads have different nutritional information – I used my local Super markets brand of bread (which was 5 points per ‘loaf’).

Starbucks Iced Coffee by Pepsi Co.

Whenever I think of Starbucks, I think of going into my local coffee house and ordering my coffee from a friendly barista and putting my own low fat milk into it, to make it as point friendly as I possibly can.
I know Starbucks has a line of frappes out on the market, but I can’t tell you the last time I touched one of those.  So when I spotted a new iced coffee version on the shelf, I was immediately intrigued and had to calculate the Points Plus values.  I picked up the low calorie coffee which was made with 2% milk and was lightly sweetened and decided to give it a try – after all it was only 1 points plus value for the entire bottle.
I am an avid coffee (and ice coffee) drinker, so I wanted to have something like this on hand, for on the fly, when I wanted coffee and either didn’t want to go out to buy one or just simply didn’t want to make one.  After giving this a try (even straight out of the bottle – chilled) I have to say this is a pretty home run hit for Starbucks/Pepsi Co (who manufacturers it).  The coffee tastes like a coffee I would order out.  The only thing I think that could make this better would be to open it up and pour it over a nice tall glass of ice.  Perfectly refreshing with that nice true caffeine taste.
Have you tried the new Starbucks to-go iced coffees?

New England Style Roast Beef Dinner (Take-Out)

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In the New England area there are two styles of roast beef.  Cold (which you can get from the deli at a market OR if you’re at a sandwich shop it’s listed under “cold sandwiches”) or hot (which is typically sold at certain roast beef sandwich shops because the roast beefs are slow cooked all day, shaved upon order and put onto a roll).
I don’t enjoy cold roast beef — but I on the other hand I LOVE hot roast beef.  Hot roast beef sandwiches are typically made with BBQ sauce (a particular brand, it’s runnier than regular BBQ sauce and spicy), but folks can also order them with horseradish, mustard and mayonnaise– as well as sides such as lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.  I was craving a roast beef sandwich and it sounded delicious to my boyfriend so we decided that was going to be what was for dinner. Hot roast beef sandwiches (typically) come in 3 sizes, junior, large and super (which means it’s served on an onion roll).
Since we were having dinner with my mom we ordered a roast beef dinner – which came with a small size salad, onion rings and French fries for all to share.  Sandwiches – we ordered a junior with sauce and cheese, a super with mustard and onion and a super with bbq sauce, horseradish, onion, lettuce and tomato.
About 3 bites in and I was TKO’d, so I ended up putting my sandwich into the fridge and enjoying it as a s few smaller meals the next day.  Since I only ate, not even ¼ I said it was 5 points plus – typically, if I was to eat the whole thing (due to the BBQ sauce and the roll) I say it’s anywhere between 18-19.  And if I want to get technically, I DO sometimes take the meat off the bun and weigh it.
As a side note, I do make hot roast beef sandwiches at home — but the cheap mans way out. I take thin and trim deli roast beef and lightly warm it up in the oven/toaster oven and then add my condiments to it.  It’s then a much “healthier” alternative because I’m using point friendly items.  But nonetheless – both ways are delicious!
Have you ever had a New England style roast beef sandwich?

Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Mustard

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I was in Trader Joe’s about a month ago and on this particular day (as any day) Trader Joe’s was offering free samples of their honey baked hams (it was right before Easter) and for a dipping sauce they had their Hot & Sweet Mustard to go along with it.  I requested a sample of both and immediately fell in love with the mustard.  My boyfriend has made me a mustard fan.  I used to use it sparingly, but now I tend to use it on a lot of things – plus being a Weight Watchers member most mustards are 0 Points Plus values, so it makes them my friend because plain food is boring food!
The mustard is on the “looser” side, if that makes sense.  It’s not runny, but it’s not very thick – it’s kind of somewhere in the middle of consistency.  It’s sweeter, but there’s a tinge of spice in the background which really levels out the sweet factor and makes this fabulous mustard.  It’s great on ham sandwiches, it’s great on pastrami sandwiches and it’s delicious alongside a fresh baked ham at Easter time (or any time you want to eat ham!).  I haven’t experimented too much with this mustard, but I’m sure it could be used to make some sort of a glaze for pork chops (since I have used Dijon mustard to make a glaze for pork chops in the past).
For a 1 tsp serving its 0 points plus – while it’s also 0 points plus for 2 tsp’s.  Not bad at all because it gives sandwiches a whole new layer of flavor which is just fabulous and I am a fan for life.  Please, Trader Joe’s – never discontinue this mustard!
Have you tried the Hot & Sweet Mustard from Trader Joe’s?