Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissants

Whenever I’ve been in Trader Joe’s I’ve noticed one of their decadent desserts in the freezer section, but had always passed it by … until I finally bit the bullet and purchased the Trader Joe’s Chocolate Croissants. Low and behold I’m not sure why I ever waited so long.
The croissants are sold packaged in a box of 4 and are housed in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s.  They are certainly a dish one must plan to have because the croissants have to be placed onto a baking sheet to proof for 9-hours. I decided to sit them out overnight and I baked them off the following morning. The croissants have to be placed pretty far apart from one another because they do balloon do nearly triple the size when thawed and fully proofed. Since my oven is on steroids my croissants baked up to a fabulous brown color in 13 minutes.
I transferred the cooked croissants to a dish and allowed them to cool. A few hours after they were done I enjoyed one and they’re perfect. They’re flaky, soft, chocolaty and totally delicious. They’re rather decadent and one of the best chocolate croissants I have ever had (I want to be honest and say I do not have a local bakery/restaurant that sells homemade croissants so I’ve always had packaged chocolate croissants). They’re good the following day as well … although they’re at their peak of freshness anywhere from after baking to 4-hours into cooling.  Admittedly, they are that good that I’ve purchased another box to tuck away in the freezer!
Each croissant is 320 calories or 9 points plus values.

Chicken Barb Sandwich

I live in an area where the Chicken Barb Sandwich was born. Chicken barbs are known universally throughout my area and the cities surrounding it. When someone who is not from my area hears of the sandwich they assume it means chicken with barbecue sauce … but that is not it.
Here’s a little history … chicken barbs were “developed” in Lawrence, Massachusetts. If you get it from a restaurant/diner the chicken is cooked in a pressure cooker which was cooked in a seasoned water.  The sandwich is constructed on a bun and has lettuce, mayonnaise, shredded chicken and lettuce leaves on it.  When I make these at home I boil my chicken (which I’ve seasoned with poultry seasoning) and boiled off in a covered pot with chicken stock. Since I make them at home I tailor them to my liking – by adding some tomato to it and seasoning it with a little extra black pepper and a dash of salt.
It’s a delicious, simple yet filling sandwich and it’s so unique that I love it.  The entire sandwich was only 9 points plus.
QUESTION:
What is one of your favorite foods that have been ‘invented” in your area?

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Spaghetti Squash Bake with Turkey Meatballs

I have developed a true love for spaghetti squash, although I will admit having it the same way over and over again can get a little redundant and boring. So with that I ended up switching it up a bit, using the same ingredients but adding some cheese atop. It turned out absolutely perfectly. The spaghetti squash crisped up just slightly on the outside and the cheese was a perfect touch. Considering this was using some of my leftover meat sauce I had made it was also a great way to use up some leftovers in a new and unique way.
My meatballs are actually frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s.  I pick these up every once in a while at Trader Joe’s because my boyfriend and I just genuinely like these! I’m usually not a frozen meatball fan (I prefer homemade) but these are tasty and perfect for a quick meal. I’ve heard from a few that the sodium level is too high for their liking – but I feel as though these aren’t an item I eat all the time, so a higher sodium level isn’t going to be a damper.
To make my spaghetti squash bake, I layered spaghetti squash into the bottom of a small baking dish. I layered ½ cup of homemade meat sauce over the top, then sprinkled the top with 1/3 cup of fat free mozzarella.  I then baked it in the oven for roughly 15-20 minutes until the cheese was nice and melted.
The greatest part was my entire meal was only 9 points plus!
QUESTION:
Have you ever had spaghetti squash bake?

DiGiorno Pizzeria! Bianca/White Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods and lately my boyfriend has been on a frozen pizza kick. While shopping at Walmart, I spotted the DiGiorno Pizzeria! Bianca/White Pizzaand decided to get it for myself to try.  One day after running holiday errands with my mother, in order to avoid going out to eat, I suggested I make this pizza … and that’s what we did.
I cooked the pizza in my convection oven and when done, cut it up into 8 slices. The pizza has the classic DiGiorno Pizzeria! crust which is thicker but not as thick as classic DiGiorno. The pizza is described as having mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, spinach, garlic, cream fraiche sauce and olive oil on it.
I am quite a fan of the Pizzeria line, but I have to say this particular pie looked a lot better straight out of the oven than it did in the taste category.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not the best spinach pizza I’ve had (I prefer Ristorante) and it’s certainly not one of the best Pizzeria line options (I prefer the supreme). There are hints of mild garlic running throughout the pizza but for the most part it was on the plain side. I realize spinach and ricotta are rather bland foods, but I’m a stickler when it comes to seasoning foods to help increase the flavor category. This just didn’t hit that note for me. My mother didn’t enjoy it, she ate her 2 slices and didn’t want anymore.
A serving is ¼ of the pizza and is 320 calories or 9 points plus values.
QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the DiGiorno Pizzeria pizzas?

DiGiorno Thin & Crispy Pepperoni and Peppers Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods, so I like to keep frozen pizza on hand incase dinner/lunch plans go array.  This past weekend I really felt like pizza so I opted to pull out a new pizza to give it a try.  While grocery shopping a few weeks ago I purchased the DiGiorno Thin & Crispy Pepperoni and Peppers Pizza.
I was surprised to see a true thin crust pizza on the shelf by DiGiorno. I realize there are frozen pizza companies that sell “thin crust” pizzas which truly aren’t what thin crust pizza is supposed to be. What interested me even further is that the pizzas for the most part contain 2 servings.  I opted to go with the pepperoni and pepper figuring my boyfriend would share it with me (which he did).
The pizza itself is pretty good. The sauce although isn’t what I typically expect from DiGiorno (or perhaps their Pizzeria! line has totally spoiled my taste buds).  It’s mediocre in the sauce department, meaning it tastes more on the plain side than packed with flavor and seasoning.  Topping wise it’s on point. There’s a good amount of cheese and the pepperoni and peppers are plentiful and are scattered over the whole pizza.   The crust is thin, but thick enough to give you a nice moderately puffy crust (which is my favorite)!. Size wise, it’s smaller than an average DiGiorno pizza, it’s about the size of a medium pizza.  Alongside a side salad it’s a perfect meal.
A serving is ½ the pizza, which is 370 calories or 9 points plus values.
QUESTION:
Have you tried any of the new DiGiorno thin and crispy crust pizzas?

Rigatoni Cheese and Tomato

There are just some dishes that are too good to want to try to lighten up. One of those dishes is my grandmothers Rigatoni Cheese and Tomato.  This is a dish my grandmother made for years. My aunt makes it occasionally and my mother tends to make it every so often. As traditions pass on, I of course picked it up, but it’s something I’ll only consider making if family are coming over that enjoy it.
This dish is very different in comparison to regular ole macaroni and cheese dishes. Instead of cheddar this is made with good ole American cheese. The cheese is melted down and incorporated with canned peeled tomatoes that are crushed as they’re being added in.  It makes this delicious cheesey, tomatoey sauce that adheres to the pasta as it begins to cool.
This is nota pasta dish you eat while it’s pipping hot. You have to let this sit for about 20-30 minutes for the cheese to cool down a bit and it sticks to the pasta. If you try to eat it hot the cheese and tomato mixture makes a bit of a “soup” and it’s too runny to enjoy the way it should be enjoyed.
Serves 10. 9 Points Plus Values. ¾ cup serving
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Rigatoni pasta
  • 1 pound American cheese
  • 29 oz. canned Whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook your pasta to your liking. I recommend a step or two beyond al dente.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, add in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Begin to add in canned tomatoes, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands.
Keeping an eye on your cheese and tomato mixture, mix together gently to incorporate the two mixtures together and melt the cheese fully.  When the cheese mixture is fully melted and incorporated, turn off the flame.
Drain pasta and return back to the pan you cooked the pasta in.  Pour the cheese and tomato mixture over the pasta and stir to combine.
Allow the mixture to sit or 20-30 minutes before enjoying. This dish is best enjoyed warm as this way the cheese and tomatoes are able to adhere to the pasta more.

Quick & Easy Jamaican Rice and Beans

This is my quick and easy way to make Jamaican Rice and Beans. Typically when making rice and beans, I’d soak dry red kidney beans in water overnight, then boil them the next morning and when done incorporate my rice, onion, coconut milk, seasoning, and water (that the beans were boiled in) together to cook together until the rice was done. Although … somebody (*raises hand*) forgot to soak the beans so authentic rice and beans was out of the question. So I opted to go with the quick and easy method … using my rice cooker.
It’s quite simple and delicious. I admit something about boiling it all together on the stove gives it that much more pizzazz but this is good and if no one saw it coming out of a rice pot, they truthfully wouldn’t know.
Serves 9.  9 Points Plus Values. 1 cup serving. OR Serves 18. 5 Points Plus. 1/2 cup serving.
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups uncooked white rice (I use Goya Golden Canilla Parboiled Rice)
  • 15 oz canned Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz canned Light Coconut Milk
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 6 ¼ cups water (since you are using the light coconut milk, you need to cut back on the water because you have 1 ¾ cup of light coconut milk – in total you want 8 cups of liquid as it’s normally 2 cups water per 1 cup rice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 pieces of Thyme (optional)
Add rice, beans, coconut milk, water, onion, salt, pepper and thyme (if using) to rice pot.
Set rice pot on to cook, “set it and forget it.”
Your dish will be done when the rice pot is finished cooking. Make sure to remove the sprigs of thyme before serving.
Serve up with one of your favorite dishes (I recommend curry cabbage, curry chicken stewed chicken or jerk pork/chicken).

Magic Apple Pie

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This is my grandmother’s Magic Apple Pie recipe. Growing up my grandma would make this during the fall season and my mother continued on with that tradition.  A few years ago I started with the tradition of making the pies – and I have even froze a few pies in the past and defrosted and baked off for 20 or so minutes for a Christmas Eve celebration.
This truly is a delicious pie – but I will admit it’s very sweet.  I make the traditional recipe for family and friends and I have lightened up the recipe for myself so I can enjoy a classic wit a twist.  The crust is more along the lines of a pancake batter and blends with the apples and cooks up to a nice crunchy top with a nice soft cinnamon/sugar apple beneath it. It’s perfect … especially warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside it.  The pie is also along the lines of an apple crumble where it doesn’t have a bottom crust.
I do want to point out crust (usually around the center) can get a little wet after a few days because it’s more of a pancake type crust. If that happens, you can always put a slice in the toaster oven, or even return the pie back to the oven in 5 minute intervals until the top crisps up again.
Keep in mind this is the original recipe so it will be higher in fat, calories and points plus values.  I have created a lighter version, which gives a similar effect but the crust is totally different. So … onto the recipe!
Serves 8. 9 Points Plus Values.
  • 1 pound peeled sliced apples (I use McIntosh or Cortland)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ sticks margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss peeled, sliced apples with roughly ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. Toss to coat, then pile apples into a pie or cake pan.
Add flour in with leftover sugar from tossed apples and add in remaining sugar, margarine, egg and mix until well combined and blended together. The batter will resemble a runny pancake batter.
Fold in walnuts until well combined, then pour mixture over the apples.
Bake for 1 to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Pie is done when top is golden brown and slightly hardened.  Test the center of the pie with a fork – if the batter looks undercooked (it will be gooey), return to the oven in 5 minute intervals.

Homemade Chicken Shawarma Sandwiches

Chicken shawarma sandwiches are one of my favorite Lebanese dishes. I enjoy them so much that I purchase the shawarma seasoning at my local Lebanese store and make them at home. Although my shawarma sandwiches are slightly different than a shawarma you’d get at a restaurant.
Incase you’re not familiar with shawarma it’s an Arabic dish that consists of either chicken, lamb, beef, turkey or veal that has been seasoned with spices and grilled or “roasted” on a spit. If cooked on a rotating spit, the meat is trimmed off and added to your sandwich. I’ve had shawarma that way while in NYC, but back at home I’ve always had it grilled or cooked on a hot top. The sandwiches are usually encased in pita bread.
Shawarma can be served up in a number of ways – really depending on where you get the sandwich from.  It can be served with tabbouleh, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, tahini, hummus, pickled turnips, pickle, garlic mayonnaise, hot sauce, etc.
Making the dish at home, I clean and cut up my chicken into small chunks. I then make my shawarma seasoning, which is mixed with water.  The directions call to marinate the meat and grill up after marinating, but I pour the marinade over the chicken, add in tomato, garlic and onion and I bake it off in the oven for roughly 30-40 minutes.  After it’s cooled for about 5 minutes, I add in a few tablespoons of hummus to help thicken the “sauce”.  I serve the chicken, tomato and onion mixture on pita bread, with lettuce, red onion, and tabbouleh.
It’s completely delicious, filling and it’s a nice ode to a classic sandwich.  The whole sandwich pictured is only 9 points plus values. Worth it? You betcha!
QUESTION:
Do you make your own version of a classic sandwich at home?

Dinner: Ginger Garlic Roasted Pork Loin, Baked Potato & Veggies

This is a tasty dinner we had a few nights ago.  We picked up some pork loin at the local grocery store and I asked the butcher to slice up half of it into chops and leave the other half whole.  After returning home I cut the fat off the sides of the chops, rinsed them and put them into the Knorrs Garlic Ginger roasting bag. I sprinkled the pork on each side with the garlic ginger seasoning and opted to add in some sliced onion and a bag of baby carrots.
The package didn’t call for anything other than the pork to be added to the bag … but I love vegetables with my food so I added them.  Plus ginger garlic carrots sounded amazing.  It was quite simple to throw together, tie the bag shut with the plastic tie and pop it in the oven for 35 minutes and done-so!  The seasoning itself was 1 points plus per serving.
I served the meal up with cooked potato (I went the easy way out and steamed them in the microwave) as well as some fresh steamed green beans.  My pork was 3 ounces, plus the seasoning made it 5 points plus. My entire plate was only 9 points plus and delicious.

QUESTION:
Do you like using cooking bags to make a quick, tasty and easy meal?