Quick “Chinese” food at home!

 


I love Chinese food … but I don’t necessarily like the unnecessary amount of fat and calories that come with some of my favorite dishes. With this I’ve learned to make some of my favorite Chinese dishes at home, to my own liking and I’ve also found some frozen items at the grocery store that I like to have on hand when I’m looking for something different.  This is a dinner we whipped together in under 25 minutes (it took that long because the chicken had to bake in the oven).
Mandarin Orange Chicken is one of the dishes I would like to get at a local Chinese buffet so when I saw this bag at Aldi, I picked it up to store in the freezer.  We baked them off in the oven and when done covered it in the mandarin orange sauce.  It was quite delicious because the chicken was more along the lines of a chicken finger.  The mandarin orange bringing a nice citrusy sweetness to the dish.  I had a 3 ounce serving for 6 points plus values.
The Vegetable Fried Rice is a frozen vegan (don’t be scared!) rice I had picked up at Trader Joe’s.  I normally make my own fried rice, but that takes preparation because the rice has to be stored in the fridge overnight to make it nice and cold.  So with a frozen fried rice, I can stir fry it up and we’re good to go.  This particular rice had me use a tablespoon of olive oil and stir fry it up in a pan.  It was quite delicious and will definitely be something I repurchase. A 1 cup serving is 4 points plus – 5 points plus if you consider the olive oil used to fry it up.
Of course with any meal I added in some steamed frozen broccoli because no dinner is a dinner without some sort of a fresh vegetable.  11 point plus for it all – far less than it would have been if we went out and got this dish at a restaurant.
QUESTION:
Do you make quick “Chinese” food at home?

Minute Maid Light Pink Lemonade

When spring and summer roll around there is nothing better than a nice cold, ice filled glass of lemonade.  Now, lemonade is typically packed with sugar and unnecessary calories, especially for something you’re only drinking and not getting and fullness out of.  I typically rely on Crystal Light for lemonade flavors or even flavoring up my plain ole water.
I’ve been eyeing the Minute Maid Light Pink Lemonade at Target for nearly 2 months now.  I kept thinking “it’s juice, not worth it.”  Well, I saw a post on Instagram about it and found out it’s actually VERY points plus friendly.  You get a nice pink lemonade flavor that’s not overly sweet but not overly tart, nice and smooth.  A serving is 8 fl oz (1 cup) and it’s 0 points plus values!  Now if you wanted two servings 16 fl oz (2 cups) it would be 1 points plus values.  Not bad at all especially for those folks who love Starbucks drinks.  You could pour 16 ounces into a to-go mug and have a very friendly beverage.
There are additional flavors available at select retailers but to see a full listing of all the light juices available you can check it out on the Minute Maid website: http://www.minutemaid.com/light-juice-drink/.  I do need to get my hands on the Mango Passion
QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the Minute Maid Light juices?

Dinner in under 15 minutes


One of the big excuses as to why folks eat junk is because they don’t have time to make dinner – or to think about what they are going to have for dinner.  Some say it’s easier to pick up a phone and order a pizza or Chinese food.  When in reality if you have foods in your refrigerator in freezer that are precooked and only need heating up to consume you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes without much effort.
I had purchased some Bob Evan’s home fries to have with breakfast one day and I also purchased some Simply Smart Lightly Breaded Chicken from the refrigerator section to try out.  One night my boyfriend and I had no idea what we wanted to eat and when he mentioned ordering out I remembered we had these items in the fridge.
The chicken went into the toaster oven, the home fries into a non-stick skillet and dinner was done in 15 minutes.  4.5 oz of chicken strips, 6 ounces of home fries (because it was the closest we were going to get to French fries!) and a small side salad with fat free poppyseed dressing.  11 points plus values.
QUESTION:
Do you have any “go to” quick and easy meals when you don’t have much time or don’t really know what you want to eat?

Snack: Watermelon with Feta & Kalamata Olives

One of my all time favorite summer time snacks is an amazing combination that is so delicious and refreshing at the same time.  Some people may be turned off thinking “What? Watermelon with feta and olives?!”Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! It’s seriously delicious and worth the try.
I chunk up fresh watermelon, pair it with 1 ounce of fresh feta cheese and a few kalamata olives.  The saltiness from the cheese and olives brings out the natural sweetness in the watermelon and makes it even juicier.  The combination is just stellar.  I swear it taste best when sitting around a pool on a very sunny day.
What’s pictured is 3 points plus worth of cheese and olives. Totally worth the “splurge” if you will.
QUESTION:
What is your favorite summer time snack?

Special K – Protein Cereal

I was looking to boost up my protein intake and after looking a few things up online I stumbled upon an article about Special K’s brand of cereal that is very high in protein.  I looked up the product and put it on my shopping list.  I had a hard time finding it at the store at first and then spotted it on the very bottom shelf and it was the last box left.  I calculated the points plus values (3 for a ¾ cup serving) and into the cart it went.
The greatest part of this cereal is the fact that it offers 10 grams of protein in a single ¾ cup serving.  I try to have protein with every meal and I find this cereal completely satisfies me and keeps me full.  Typically cereals satisfy my hunger for a couple hours and then I’m immediately starving.  Adding some fruit to the cereal definitely bulks it up and makes it a very satisfying and filling breakfast.
The flavor of the cereal reminds me of a cross between Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes. They’re not sweet but there is a hint of sweetness to it (if that makes sense).  They’re crunchy but it’s softer than Frosted Flakes would be because this cereal is made from wheat.  I would suggest waiting to put your milk on it right before you begin to eat it because your cereal will sog out on you quickly (within 10 minutes at least).
I do quite enjoy this cereal and will definitely pick up another box once I finish this one.
QUESTION:
What is your favorite high protein/fiber cereal?

Walden Farms Chocolate Dip

Walden Farms has been out for years. Their big claim to fame is providing food products (condiments, salad dressings, dips and ice cream toppings) guilt free as well as calorie free.  I’ve tried some Walden Farms products in the past and wasn’t a fan, but I’ve also found others that I quite enjoy.
I was eyeing the cream cheese dip in the prepared fruit section of the grocery store, then spotted the Walden Farms Chocolate Dip and I decided to pick it up. I hadn’t tried the chocolate variety – but I had tried a calorie free caramel dip and absolutely hated it.  But I felt chocolate was safer because it was less able to be screwed up – and I was right.
The consistency of this dip is along the lines of a thick pudding. It can be a little “clumpy” but if you dip fruit into it, it’s really not bad. I quite enjoyed it with strawberries, apples and even bananas.  I didn’t find that it had a significant aftertaste and it did taste like chocolate to me.
Calorie wise is listed as 0 and to calculate the points plus values it comes out as 0 points plus.  Granted, some folks give this a point or two when they eat it – but it’s up to those who eat it and how much they’re eating it to be the judge.
QUESTION:
Have you tried any Walden Farms products? If so, what have you tried and what have you liked/disliked?

Mini Meatloaves, Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Potatoes & Steamed Veggies

Almost two years ago I received some recipe cards from Weight Watchers.  I believe they were sent with a packet to subscribe to a cookbook.  Flipping through the cards, I noticed a meatloaf recipe and I decided I’d give it a try.  Of course growing up I swore (and still do) that my mother makes the BEST meatloaf. Her recipe is very simple, but she does use a fattier meat to make it moist.  Considering I typically only eat 93% lean I knew making my mothers recipe with that cut of beef would ultimately make it a hard, dry mess.
The Weight Watcher recipe I use is FABULOUS! I’ve made this recipe countless times and every time I do, all the folks that are over for dinner absolutely rave about it.  Plus, it’s perfect to have a portioned piece of meatloaf on your plate.  It’s delicious the day you make it and I swear it taste better the next day – but I always think meatloaf is better the second day.  Plus it’s only 5 points plus so you cannot go wrong.
We paired it with red roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes.  I had a McCormick microwave steam bag in the cabinet and it literally made making roasted potatoes the simplest thing ever.  2 pounds of potatoes washed and chopped then added to the steam bag. 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the potatoes were tossed around in the bag then the seasoning packet was added and tossed around.  Lay the bag flat on a microwave safe dish, close the bag, pierce it with 4 slits and microwave for 10 minutes.  They were delicious! Normally roasted potatoes take 45 minutes to an hour in the oven.  1/6th of the serving was 4 points plus.
Lastly we paired it off with some fresh steamed broccoli and carrots.  A perfect side to meatloaf (outside of corn that is).
QUESTION:
What is your favorite Weight Watchers friendly meatloaf recipe?

Trader Joe’s Chicken Asada


I purchased this Trader Joe’s Chicken Asada meal for my boyfriend and I when we were going to be going away for our anniversary.  I figured having at least one meal that was going to be point friendly would be best for me. After purchasing, I found out our hotel did not have a refrigerator or microwave in the room – but the staff advised that they’d gladly heat anything up for me in the staff microwave.  That put dampers on bringing meals for the few days we were there – but that made having dinner at the hotel a score for the first day there.
The Chicken Asada meal comes with 2 servings in the container.  It’s sold in the refrigerator section at Trader Joe’s because all you need to do is heat it up in the microwave and your meal is ready to roll.  It consists of grilled chicken, poblano peppers, red peppers and onions.  I was quite surprised at the sheer amount of chicken I was able to have in my meal.  It looked like something you would order at Chili’s but ten times better!  It tasted delicious, fresh and flavorful.  The greatest part was that the serving (1/2 the package) was ONLY 5 points plus values!
My boyfriend and I ate this with wheat flax tortillas, so we were able to have chicken asada tortilla wraps.  It was absolutely delicious!  This is so good I actually have one in my freezer, which I’ll probably be taking out this week for lunch.  Yum!
QUESTION:
Have you tried the Chicken Asada meal from Trader Joe’s?

Homemade Pulled Pork (Crock pot)

One kitchen device I have grown to love is undoubtedly my Crock pot!  It simplifies life, makes meals all on its own (well, with a little assistance from myself) and I can come home from work or running errands all day and dinner will be ready.  I’ve changed up this recipe using chicken and pork tenderloin – both of which are fabulous. I love BBQ meals and pulled pork (and pulled chicken) are two of my favorites.  Growing up my mother spoiled us making homemade pulled pork that she’d roast overnight and because of that it made me very picky going out to eat to get pulled pork.  This of course doesn’t trump my mothers, but its Weight Watchers Points Plus friendly, simple, filling AND it’s delicious.
Serves 10-15.  Serving size: 3 ounces.  4 Points Plus Values.
Ingredients:
  • 3 pounds lean pork loin (extra fat removed)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 pack Crockery Gourmet Barbecue Seasoning Mix (if you cannot find this, McCormick sells a barbecue ribs packet)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Water (use the amount on the Barbecue Seasoning mix packet)
Trim the fat off your pork loins and set them into the bottom of the crock pot.
Cover pork loins with sliced onions and minced garlic.
In a bowl mix together the Crockery Gourmet Barbecue Seasoning Mix, tomato paste and water.  Stir until combined and pour the sauce over the top of the onions and pork loins.
Cover with a lid and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4-5 on high.
Before serving, remove the pork loins from the crock pot and shred with two forks. Place shredded meat back into the barbecue sauce and stir to coat all meat.
This recipe goes great with homemade garlic bread and homemade coleslaw (see here: http://shannonslifestyle.blogspot.com/2013/05/coleslaw.html)

“Naked” Chicken Parm


I love chicken parm but I don’t like how heavy it is nor do I enjoy how it makes my stomach feel hours after eating it.  Because of that I can’t say that I have chicken parm very often. I occasionally make a lighter version at home (a quick and easy way is to use frozen chicken patties that are lightly breaded) when I want a bready version.
At the end of the day, chicken parm is solely about the sauce and cheese that is on the chicken (well, at least for me).  That after all is what makes it chicken parm!  We had some thin sliced chicken cutlets in the freezer, so I took them out to defrost and decided to try my hand at naked chicken parm.  I seasoned my chicken up nice and well on both sides – I eyeball my spices, I don’t measure I just use what I am comfortable with. Since I feel there is nothing worse than bland chicken, I may have over seasoned them – but that’s fine because you end up losing some of the bits onto the bottom of the pan.
I paired my portion off with 1 ½ cups of Carba-nada pasta with ¼ cup Light Ragu tossed with it. Totally delicious and it was as filling as going to an Italian restaurant would have been.  Well, that without having a sick feeling tummy!
Serves 6. 6-8 Points Plus (depending on the weight of the cooked chicken before adding sauce and cheese onto it I served up 3 ounce pieces making the chicken 4 PPV before sauce and cheese)
Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets (no skin/fat)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups Light Ragu – Tomato & Basil
  • 1 ½ cups Fat Free Shredded Mozzarella
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Garlic & Herb Mrs. Dash
  • Basil
  • Oregano
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium to medium-high heat.
Liberally season chicken on both sides with black pepper, salt, Mrs. Dash, basil and oregano. Use your judgment depending on your taste buds – I like a bold tasting chicken so I liberally seasoned both sides.
Cook chicken through on both sides – not moving the chicken to allow it to brown before flipping it.  When chicken is cooked halfway through (you can see the white creeping up the chicken cutlet) flip and let it finish cooking through.
When the chicken is done let it cool for at least 5 minutes to let the juices sink back into the chicken. Weigh out your portion (allowing for at least 1 point plus to go towards the olive oil used in the pan – so for instance a 3 ounce piece of chicken will be 4 points plus).  Note: The sauce and the cheese each add 1 points plus values each.
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Lay the weighed out chicken portion in a metal pan, lined with tinfoil (to prevent sticking). Spoon ¼ cup of sauce over the chicken and gingerly sprinkle with ¼ cup fat free mozzarella.  Add a piece of tinfoil to the top of the pan and place into the oven to allow the cheeses to melt and the sauce to get bubbly – about 4-5 minutes.
You can serve this up on toasted garlic bread for a chicken parm sandwich, you can eat it alongside pasta (or Carba-nada as I did), or you can eat it along or with some steamed vegetables.  Whichever is your preference – it’s good in any way, shape or form!