Polish Potato Pancakes

Polish Potato Pancakes are one of my favorite “comfort foods” but they’re definitely one of those foods I only have once in a blue moon.  My grandmother made these often when I was a kid and as the tradition goes, my mother made these throughout my childhood into adulthood once in a while.
They’re actually quite easy to make, meaning the ingredients needed are very few, but the grating of the potatoes takes effort. Typically two potatoes in, my arm is sore and I’m wondering what I got myself into (haha).  There are many different graters on the market but the one I use is my grandmother’s old school potato grater (which I admit are hard to find, but can be found if you search for them), which essentially pulverizes the potatoes into little starchy potato “clouds”. While it pulverizes the potato I have to be VERY careful to not let it nick my hand because it’s not a pretty sight if it does.
These can be enjoyed any which way you like. Plain, with sour cream, or my absolute favorite way: with ketchup!
While I did calculate the points plus values for these, I was able to do so by measuring the oil I used in the beginning and measuring the oil I had leftover at the end. I assumed the oil that wasn’t present was absorbed into the end product.
Serves 10. 6 Points Plus per serving. (Serving size varies based on the amount made – I was able to make 20 pancakes making a serving 2 pancakes).
  • 2 pounds peeled potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste
Place a grater over a large bowl and grate potatoes. Feel free to grate to your desired consistency. I prefer the old style grater which pulverizes the potato into a pillowy substance.
Place a skillet with ½ cup vegetable oil over medium heat.
Strain some liquid from your potato mixture. When the potatoes are grated they let off water, using a gentle hand allow the water to strain from it but do not push the liquid out of the potatoes because you want it to retain some moisture.
Combine egg, baking powder and ½ cup of flour into mixture. Combine, then add in the remaining ½ cup. You want the mixture to be loose but thick.
Using a heaping tablespoon, spoon the mixture into the hot oil and allow cooking until lightly golden on one side, flipping and cooking on the other.  Flip the pancakes over to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes per cooked side.  I find the pancakes need to be cooked additionally on each side before removing from the pan otherwise the inner pancake is raw and gummy.
When cooked, remove from the oil and set on a paper towel lined tray. Sprinkle with salt.
Continue cooking until all batter is used.

Turkey Sausage Stuffing

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Stuffing is one of those foods that I look forward to on Thanksgiving. Since it’s my favorite dish and since I’ve been told in the past I make a pretty mean stuffing … I was tasked with making the dish again this year.  In years past I’ve used boxed stuffing (just the plain dried bread pieces) and I’ve also used homemade cornbread, etc. My personal favorite has been the cornbread turkey stuffing, but since my mother isn’t a huge fan of it … I decided to try a different route this year to make all happy.
The stuffing turned out quite well. It was delicious, meaty, filled with delicious filling and spiced just perfectly. As mentioned previously I’d have loved it a whole lot more if it were a cornbread variety … but maybe next time!
12 servings. 4 Points Plus Values. ½ cup serving.
  • 17 slices Light Italian bread (I used Market Basket store brand), dried
  • 16 oz Jennie-O Turkey Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Smart Balance Light Butter
  • 4 cups fat free chicken broth
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 7 tsp salt free Bell’s Seasoning (I enjoy a bold stuffing flavor, feel free to cut this into 1/3’s and taste testing to your liking)
The day before set the bread out to dry, making sure to flip each slice over halfway through the drying cycle. You can speed this process up by putting it into the oven to dry up – but be careful as it can burn.  I found a good 12-hours and it was perfectly dry.
Cut dried bread into smaller cubes. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat melt the butter. Once melted add in the chopped onions and celery. Stirring frequently, cook until the onions and celery are translucent. Transfer cooked mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Using the same skillet, cook the turkey breakfast sausage over medium high heat. Break up sausage into bite sized pieces as the meat cooks.  The sausage will release some liquid; make sure to drain the liquid off to help get some searing on the sausage bits.
Add the onion and celery mixture back into the pan, toss to combine. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper and half the Bell’s seasoning. Stir to combine, then begin adding in large handfuls of the dried bread pieces – incorporating with the meat and vegetable mixture.
In ½ cup measurements, pour the liquid over the stuffing mixture and stir to combine until all ingredients are incorporated.
Sprinkle with remaining Bell’s seasoning, stirring to combine.
Transfer stuffing mixture to a non-stick casserole dish. Bake until the top is crisped – roughly 20-25 minutes.

Sheppard’s Pie

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Sheppard’s Pie is a dish I grew up eating. I know there are many different ways to make it … but like many of the dishes I’ve grown up eating, I’ve adapted this recipe along the lines of how my mother made it. That is only cutting a few corners to make it “lighter” but still have that same classic Sheppard’s pie flavor I remember from growing up. This is actually a really simple and easy dish to throw together; it can even be assembled the night before and popped into the oven the next day to heat through.  Since I do like the top of the mashed potatoes to crust up a bit, I do cook it for 5-10 minutes longer.
Serves 8.  8 Points Plus Values/serving.
          1 ¾ lb 93% lean ground beef
          2 ¾ lb potatoes, peeled and chunked
          1 medium onion, diced
          ½ cup skim milk
          1 tsp minced garlic
          1 tsp McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
          1 ½ tsp salt, divided
          1 ½ tsp black pepper, divided
          1 ½ tsp Imperial margarine
          14 oz. Del Monte Sweet Corn Cream Styled, No Salt Added
          14 oz. canned corn, no salt added, drained
Fill a large pan with water, season with salt and place onto medium high heat. Add peeled, chunked potatoes to water and allow water to come to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
In a nonstick skillet, add ground beef, onions and garlic. Break up beef as it cooks, season with McCormick Steak Seasoning, salt and pepper.  When beef is cooked through strain of any excess water/fat.
When potatoes are fork tender, strain and return potatoes back to the pot. Season with remaining salt and pepper, add in 1 tablespoon margarine and milk. Mash until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large casserole dish, layer beef and onion mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle meat with strained corn kernels, then top with canned cream style corn. Gently begin to pile mashed potatoes onto the mixture. I find it’s easier to add it in “glops” of mashed potatoes and fill in any holes as you go. If you try to smooth the mixture before all potatoes are added, the creamed corn will just move along with it.
One all mashed potatoes are in place, dice up remaining ½ tbsp margarine and add chunks over the top of the mashed potatoes.
Place assembled sheppard’s pie into preheated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.
Once cooked, allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 equal sized pieces.

Beef and Bean Chili

The moment the weather switched to cooler temperatures instead of the warmer summer weather we’d been having – I was struck with a chili mood.  I know you can really eat chili any time of the year, but I personally usually only enjoy it during the fall and winter months because it’s warm, homey and comforting.
I make a homemade chili because homemade chilis are just the best in my opinion. I know there are shortcut routes like packets of seasoning, but I personally am not a huge fan of those because you can’t control the flavor (or heat).  Depending on my mood I increase the amount of chili and cumin in my dish – but this is typically my go-to “safe” chili to make when having dinner guests over. This is a larger recipe, but when I make chili I make a large pot to have to serve, for lunches and to freeze. It’s a hit, a crowd pleaser and it’s very filling.  The dish is versatile and great as leftovers (to store in the refrigerator or to stick in the freezer) and it can easily be transformed into chili mac.
You could also double your serving to 2 cups and increase the points plus value for a 2 cup serving to 8 points plus values.
Serves 17. 1 cup serving. 4 Points Plus Values.
          1 2/3 lb 93% lean ground beef
          1 large onion, chopped
          2 medium bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), chopped
          2 tbsp minced garlic
          29 oz. Red Kidney Beans (do not drain)
          29 oz. Pink Beans (do not drain)
          14 oz. tomato sauce
          28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
          2/3 cup water (optional)
          1 tsp black pepper
          1 tsp salt
          1 tsp garlic powder
          1 ½ tsp oregano
          3 tsp cumin
          3 tbsp chili powder
Place a large non-stick pot (soup/stock pot) over medium high heat.  Spray the bottom of the pan with non-stick cooking spray, add in ground beef and break up with a spoon. Season meat with black pepper and salt. As the meat begins to cook, add in onion and minced garlic.  Cook until the onions start to sweat down and begin to change color (slightly translucent), then add in the green peppers. Cook until the meat is browned and no longer pink.
Add in can of sauce, diced tomatoes, kidney beans (with brine) and pink beans (with brine). Stir to combine.  Sprinkle in seasonings – chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder – stir to combine.
Depending on the consistency of your chili you can now add in the 2/3 cup water, or you can even reduce it to 1/3 cup.
Lower your heat to medium low, cover and let simmer for 30-60 minutes.  Feel free to adjust your flavors at this point – if you like a spicier chili, add more cumin and chili powder.

Stuffed Peppers

Growing up my mother made THE best stuffed peppers (she still does).  She makes them the way my grandmother made them which also means they’re a family favorite. I’ve since learned how to make them and since becoming a Weight Watcher I’ve changed the recipe up just a tad (really only changing the ground beef and the choice of sauce) to make it a bit more point friendly.  The flavor is still there, it’s still reminiscent of my mother’s stuffed peppers and better yet she has even given them the stamp of approval!
As I got older, I realized that stuffed peppers can and are made in a wide range of ways. Bake, boil, par-boil, etc. Ingredients are plentiful and widely different.  You name it, it’s done.  But I will say, I’ve tried stuffed pepper recipes which are baked and par-boiled … but this way has always stolen my heart and taste buds. Perhaps that’s just because of how I’m used to having them but they’re perfect.
These can be eaten plain, as they are … but I do enjoy them with a little bit of ketchup on them. Again, childhood thing and it’s something I’ve never outgrown.  Another great thing about these is you can increase or shrink the recipe to however many peppers you’re aiming to make.  I’ve made 6 which was dinner for 3 individuals back-to-back, and then I’ve made 12 because we were having dinner guests.
I will point out my favorite way to have the peppers is with a tried and true green bell pepper. I feel it brings out more of the meat flavor and holds up during the boiling process a bit better.  I’ve also switched out my choice of pasta sauce using either canned (when making a smaller batch) or jarred when making more than 6.
Serves 6. Serving size 1 stuffed pepper. 10 points plus values.
          6 Medium Bell Peppers (red or green – just try to keep them around the same size)
          1 large onion, chopped
          1 ½ lbs 93% lean ground beef, raw
          1 ½ cups uncooked white rice (I prefer Goya Golden Canilla I find the rice keeps shape and doesn’t mush up but any white rice will do)
          1 can Hunts Pasta Sauce – Chunky Vegetable
          1 ½ tsp salt
          1 1/2 tsp black pepper
Wash peppers and cut to remove the stems and inner seeds. You can either take off the whole top, or cut a hole into it. Make sure to leave the pepper intact – like a bowl.
In a large bowl combine raw ground beef, rice, onion, salt and black pepper. Mix to combine (I use my hands).  Add in about ½ can of sauce and combine until well incorporated throughout the meat and rice mixture.
Stuff each pepper with equal amounts of meat. It’s okay if the peppers have a rounded top to them. Place the peppers into a deep pan that has a matching lid.
Fill the pan with water so the peppers are covered roughly ½ way up the sides.  Pour remaining sauce over the top of the peppers and into the water.
Place the pan over a medium flame until water begins a mild boil.  Cover, lower flame to medium-low.  Cook for approximately 40-45 minutes.  You can test if it’s done by making sure the rice granules are cooked through. If not done after 45 minutes, cook for 5-minutes longer.

Trashy Taco Soup

I first stumbled upon this recipe after reading over a post on Emily Noel’s blog.  My initial thought was what on earth is this trashy taco soup?  After reading over the general gist of the recipe (see original recipe here), I decided to throw the recipe into Recipe Builder to see how many points a serving would be. I tend to be a bigger fan of stews and since this was said to be on the thicker side I was all on board.  Going through the ingredients I had on hand, I decided I would switch the recipe up just a tad and I have to say, I LOVED the end result.  It was filling, delicious and the possibilities are undoubtedly endless because it can be switched up to cater to any craving one may be having.  Here’s how I switched up mine just a bit:

Serves 8. 1 cup serving. 6 points plus values.
          1 pound 93% lean ground turkey (or if you prefer 93% ground beef)
          1 medium onion, diced
          1 tablespoon minced garlic
          14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes
          10 oz. Rotel diced tomatoes & green chiles – original
          15 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
          15 oz. canned small red beans, drained and rinsed
          15 oz canned corn, no salt added
          15 oz. canned tomato sauce
          1 envelope McCormick Taco Seasoning
          1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch  dip
          Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute (or hamburger seasoning) – Optional
In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook together your ground meat, onion and garlic.  Season with 21 Season Salute or hamburger seasoning (if wanted).  Cook until onions are translucent and ground meat is cooked completely.
Transfer meat mixture to a Crock pot (or if you wish to cook it on the stove, transfer your meat to a soup pot).  Add in beans, Ro-tel tomatoes, diced tomatoes, black beans, red beans, corn, tomato sauce, ranch seasoning, and taco seasoning.  Mix together ingredients.

Set crock pot onto low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours.  45 minutes before serving I turned the crock pot off to allow the mixture to cool and thicken up just a tad.

Hamburger Steaks with Onion Gravy

I had been craving this meal for over a week and finally decided to make it for Sunday dinner.  Tasty, healthy, comfort food at its finest.  It may not be the prettiest dish, but the flavors are so prominent and layered perfectly. It’s a hats off to Salisbury steak with a slight twist.  This can be paired alongside any side dish – I chose to do yellow skinned mashed potatoes with frozen green beans.
Serves 8 – 4 Points Plus per serving.
          1 ½ pounds 93% lean ground beef
          1 egg
          ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
          2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
          ~1 teaspoon black pepper
          ~1 teaspoon salt
          1 tablespoon garlic powder
          2 teaspoons McCormick Onion & Herb seasoning
          1 tablespoon McCormick Hamburger seasoning
          1 medium/large sweet onion, sliced
          1 tablespoon olive oil
          2 tablespoons white flour
          1 ½ cups low sodium beef broth
Mix hamburger, bread crumbs, egg, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion & herb seasoning, and hamburger seasoning in a large bowl. Mix until well combined, then section off hamburgers into 8 equal pieces.  Roll into balls, then flatten slightly into hamburger shape – roughly 1 to 1 ½ inches thick.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in the tablespoon of olive oil and swirl in the pan to evenly coat.  When the oil is heated, add in the hamburger patties and let them begin to cook.  Do not move the patties as they will fall apart.  Cooking times may vary but cook roughly 5 minutes on the first side before flipping.  You are looking to have a nice browned outside.
After flipping add in the sliced onions on top of the browned side of the burgers.  Let the burgers get a bit of a crust before moving around in the pan to incorporate the onions.
Sprinkle in the 2 tablespoons of flour and let the flour cook for a minute with the onions to get rid of any harsh flavoring.
Add in half of the beef broth into the pan, stirring to combine.  The sauce will begin to thicken – as it thickens add in the remaining beef broth and stir all to combine.  Let simmer for a few minutes then remove from the flame.

Dinner: Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage & Beer Battered Onion Rings

I think it’s evident from some of my dinner and food finds posts that I love Trader Joe’s.  They offer an array of comfort foods which are point friendly and also delicious.  One day dinner was going to be a staple “comfort food” sausage sandwiches!
I heated up the Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage in the oven along with the Trader Joe’s Melange & Trois mixed red, yellow and green peppers.  The sausages are delicious – a nice smooth garlic flavor, without being overbearing.  Slapped on a hot dog roll with the peppers, a little mustard and ketchup you’d never know you’re eating a chicken sausage (well, you can tell it’s not pork because it doesn’t give you that immediate heavy feeling in your stomach).  It’s also not extremely fatty as pork sausages are.  They are only 3 points plus values for one, plus 2 points plus values for the hot dog bun.
A while back, I picked up a bag of Trader Joe’s Beer Battered Onion Rings and my boyfriend and I have been in love since.  They are quite delicious, sweet and quite possibly THE best frozen onion rings I have ever had.  Onion rings are one of my favorite fried treats (particularly when at the beach) and these are just money.  They’re nicely battered, they’re sweet and they do get nice and crispy in the oven – because soggy onion rings are just a big yuck!  These are straight out delicious. These are so good we typically always have a bag in the freezer as a quick side to a meal.  3 ounces is only 5 points plus values.
Quite a delicious, filling AND simple meal!
What is one of your favorite simple meals to pick up and make from Trader Joe’s?

Dinner: Homemade Meatballs & Sauce on fettuccine

 I ended up making a large family-style dinner a couple weeks ago.  I had originally planned to make this meal on Sunday – but my brother, sister-in-law, niece & nephew came down on Saturday so I decided to make this then.  I’ve made sauce a number of times in the past but never made my own meatballs.  I’ve always helped my mother make her meatballs when I was younger so I had a general idea of what I needed.  Because I’m a Weight Watchers member I measured my ingredients out and converted them into PointsPlus Values so I’d know how many points my dinner would be.  Overall – I’d say the meatballs came out quite well.  Next time I’d add a little more garlic and a hair more parsley.  How about my sauce? Perfect!

Here’s my recipe:

1 ¼ pound lean (93%) ground beef
1 ¼ pound lean ground pork
½ cup wheat Italian breadcrumbs
2 large eggs (beaten)
3/4 cup reduced-fat parmesan cheese (1/2 cup into the meatballs, the other half goes in the sauce)
Small handful fresh Parsley
~4 tablespoons minced garlic (2 tablespoons in sauce, the other half in the meatballs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup skim milk
3 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes (with garlic) – Drained
Large onion (cut in half)
Dried Italian seasoning
Black pepper
Sea Salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
Garlic powder


Mix the ground beef, pork, eggs, parsley, minced garlic, breadcrumbs, milk together in a bowl.  Season with some black pepper, salt, Italian seasoning (I added extra even though the breadcrumbs were already seasoned). Season appropriately to obtain the smell you’d want.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Cooking time varies based on your oven – my oven cooks very quickly.  Make sure to shake the pan halfway through to turn the meatballs.

In a large sauce pan, add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat through.  Add garlic and halved onion.  Let the flavors marinate then add in cans of crushed tomatoes, can of diced tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and season with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes.  Let simmer.

When meatballs are done cooking – add to the sauce. Cover and let simmer for 1-2 hours on medium-low.

A serving of 3-meatballs with sauce was 6 PointsPlus values.  I ate this with 1 cup of whole grain fettuccine making it an 11 PointsPlus dinner.