Weight Watchers Under 20 Cookbook Haul

With the new Simple Start Weight Watchers plan rolling out, that means new products … and new cookbooks!  I’m a sucker for Weight Watcher cookbooks. So when I saw the new Under 20 at my meeting, I wanted to give it a go.
The cookbook is geared more towards Simple Start, which for those who’ve been members prior to this new roll out – it’s ultimately Simply Filling recipes. I’ve wanted to try simply filling in the past, but for one reason or another – the idea of making simply filling meals that my family and I could enjoy collectively was always mind boggling. I’m not sure why, but something about looking at a list of foods (power foods) and trying to come up with a meal was daunting. Not sure why, but it was.
So, I picked up the cookbook to jump start me into getting my thinking cap on tight. Seeing these meals ultimately made things “simpler” in my mind. Plus having a meal on the table in under 20 minutes is sometimes the way I like to roll!
The book has 200 dishes in it, which range from meats (beef/pork/etc.), to poultry and fish, to vegetarian dishes and even small plates (tapas). Ideally there is something for everyone in the book and I’m looking forward to giving a few of the recipes that caught my eye a go. Once I do try those out, I’ll gratefully share my thoughts/review on it.
Have you purchased the new Under 20 cookbook in your Weight Watchers meeting?

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.

Haul: Hungry Girl to the Max

Last weekend I submitted an order on Amazon and one of the items I ordered was the cookbook Hungry Girl to the Max.  I’ve been a fan of the Hungry Girl website and newsletters for years and I own 1 or 2 of the cookbooks.  I haven’t purchased a new Hungry Girl cookbook in some time, so I figured why not?  All recipes are Weight Watchers friendly and show unique ways to cut calorie corners.
I realize all recipes are hit or miss, but from the number of Hungry Girl recipes I have tried, I have been a fan. Like most healthy alternatives meals, those eating it truly have no idea it’s healthier for them. I’ve made a number of hungry girl dishes and after eating, I’ve let “the cat out of the bag” that it was a healthier recipe and so many people have been surprised.
So, here’s to finding some great, tasty and unique recipes to try out in the kitchen!
Do you have any Hungry Girl recipe recommendations?

Pot Roast Dinner

I had some beef eye round steaks in the freezer, so I decided to use them in a pot roast bag to make dinner a lot simpler.  I’d been in the mood for pot roast so this was going to be a perfect dinner. I trimmed the edge of fat off the steaks and I have to say, I was a little surprised to see how lean they were. I’ve never had or cooked eye round steaks.
I opened up a McCormick Pot Roast bag, layered in the steaks, added in one cut up onion, some baby carrots and potatoes. I mixed up the seasoning mix with water, poured it over the mixture and found it wasn’t quite enough liquid. So I used half a pack of onion soup mix, mixed it up with water and poured that in. closed up the bag and baked it for 1 hr and 20 minutes.
It came out perfect. There wasn’t a lot of “gravy” in the bag but I think it’s due to my choice in using a leaner cut of beef and it not releasing a lot of water during the cooking process. It was a great dinner that provided leftovers for the next day!
The whole plate pictured was only 8 points plus!

Pumpkin Oatmeal

With fall upon us I had a strong inkling for pumpkin oatmeal. With that, I decided to whip up a pot of pumpkin oatmeal to have on hand for the week.  I have seen pumpkin oatmeal recipes for the crock pot but they involved chunks of real pumpkin in it.  Since canned pumpkin is readily available to me I decided to venture down a different path.  I did google pumpkin oatmeal and I found a recipe by Aarti Sequeira from the Food Network. I used that as a stepping stone for my oatmeal and adapted it to the flavors I would like in my oatmeal as well as keeping an eye on the ingredients I used because I didn’t want my oatmeal to be astronomically high in points plus values.
I have to say the end result is pretty delicious. Its pumpkin flavored, but mildly sweet and I can have a variety of different serving sizes depending on my hunger at the time (1 1/4 cups = 6 points plus, 1 cup = 5 points plus or 1/2 cup = 2 points plus).  The thing I like about the dish is that it can be adapted to how you like your oatmeal – whether you like it wetter or dryer, you can increase or decrease on the additional water I added at the end.    The whole recipe made 5 cups of oatmeal.
Serves 5. Serving Size – 1 Cup.  5 Points Plus Values.
          14 oz pumpkin puree
          2/3 cup skim milk
          1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
          1 cup water, plus 2/3 cup reserved
          1 tsp pumpkin spice
          1 tsp cinnamon
          1 tsp brown sugar
          ¼ cup sugar free maple syrup
          ¼ tsp salt
          1 ¼ tbsp honey
          3 packets Equal (optional)
          2 cups quick cooking oats
In a large pot add pumpkin, milk, almond milk, brown sugar, 1 cup water, cinnamon, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.  Turn flame on to medium heat and blend pumpkin together with the remaining contents until blended smooth and starting to bubble.
Once bubbling add in the quick cooking oats and stir to combine. When combined drizzle in the honey and stir to combine.  Depending on the thickness, slowly add in some of the reserved 2/3 cup water and blend water into the oatmeal until absorbed.
Taste the flavor of the oatmeal and if not sweet enough for your liking, sprinkle in 3 packets of Equal and stir to combine.  Allow the pot to simmer for 1-2 minutes before turning off the heat.

Blueberries & Creme Crepe

This is an oldie but a goody so I wanted to share – my attempt at a blueberry compote & cream crepe. I haven’t made these in a while, simply because I forgot I had this recipe on hand. I like crepes in the fall time, so I’ll probably make this again next month. These crepes are finger licking (or plate licking if you’re into that sort of thing – haha) good.

I followed the Skinnytaste recipe for Czech Crepes (Recipe here) to make the crepe batter, but I used my own recipe to make the blueberry compote. After making the batter I took out my smaller frying pan, coated it with non-stick cooking spray and over a medium flame, poured in 1/4c batter, swirled it around the pan and let it brown. Since I don’t have a crepe pen, I used a small dish, slid the crepe out onto the dish, and then returned it back to the pan to cook the other side. Transferring the partially cooked crepe to a plate and transferring back to the pan took the most time but it wasn’t a painstaking process. It actually became easier the more I made. Since I didn’t make the whip cream and fruit as the initial recipe shows, I threw the crepe recipe into Recipe Builder and it provides a 2 points plus values for each crepe (I made 12).

I made my blueberry compote (Recipe here) to dress the crepes. Sweet, slightly tart, and pure deliciousness – plus it’s only 1 points plus value per serving. When added to the crepe it really brings it home. It truly reminded me of blueberry pierogies my grandmother used to make when I was a kid.

To top off the blueberry compote I had a tub of Fat Free Cool Whip that I placed 2 tbsp on top of the blueberries and folded it shut. You can use as little or as much as you’d like but adjust your points plus accordingly. It was SO yummy and definitely a hit! Not bad for a 3 points plus value dessert in which no one knows is Weight Watchers friendly!

Have you ever made crepes at home?

Inside Out Sauerkraut Pierogi Pasta (Take 2)

I have made a variation of this before using egg noodles, but I decided to remake it using egg fettuccine Carba-nada noodles. I love Carba-nada noodles because they taste just like regular fettuccine pasta although I’m able to have a 1 ½ cup serving for only 3 points plus values.
On this particular night I was craving sauerkraut, so I whipped up a batch (well, two one for dinner and one for lunch the next day). My mother always cooked our sauerkraut with onion and butter, so that’s how I make mine … although I do skip on the butter and use spray butter just to get a buttery flavor in the mix without all the added fat. After all, I’m looking for a sauerkraut and onion flavor, not a greasy buttery flavor.
I found the sheer volume of food on my plate was wowing. Especially since it was only 3 points plus values worth!
Serves 1. 3 Points Plus Values.
          1 ½ cups Carba-Nada, Egg Fettuccine
          1 can sauerkraut, drained and squeezed
          1 small onion, sliced
          Salt, to taste
          Pepper, to taste
          Spray butter
          2 tbsp water
Bring a small pan of salted water up to boil.
In a non-stick skillet begin to sauté onion. Cook until onion begins to brown and cook.  Add in 2 tbsp of water and stir, fold in drained sauerkraut and break apart with spoon.  Season with black pepper and salt.
Pressing sauerkraut into the pan to warm through, spritz with spray butter to give the dish a buttery flavor. Continue to fold and cook for roughly 2 minutes before removing from the heat.
When pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan. Add in ½ the sauerkraut mixture and stir to combine.
Plate up and enjoy!

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata is a dish my aunt actually introduced me to. She’d make this for parties at her house and it is totally delicious. I enjoyed it so much she gave me the recipe.  I decided to whip this up (actually, I tripled the batch – which wasn’t the original plan but I peeled two eggplants which gave me 9 cups of eggplant) to bring it to my aunts party as an appetizer dish to put out on the tables.
The tedious task sits in cutting up all the vegetables, but once that’s done its smooth sailing. It comes together quickly, simmers for a short period of time and can be eaten either hot or cold. The caponata does taste so much better after it’s had a chance to marinate in the fridge 1-2 days.  I would say, I’d eat the caponata over pasta while it’s hot, but then after its cold I prefer it with crackers.
Serves 15. ~ 1/4 cup serving. 2 points plus.
          3 cups eggplant, peeled and cubed
          1/3 cup olive oil
          1 medium onion, chopped
          3 cloves garlic, crushed (or you can use minced jar garlic)
          ½ cup chopped green pepper
          2 celery stalks, chopped
          ½ cup black olives, chopped
          1 can tomato paste
          ¼ cup water
          2 tbsp red wine vinegar
          1 tsp oregano
          1 tsp salt
          1 tsp black pepper
          ½ tsp sugar
Place a large pot over medium, high heat.  Add in oil, garlic and onions and sauté until onions are slightly translucent.
Add in eggplant, celery, and green pepper. Stir frequently and cook down until eggplant begins to soften.
Add in olives, sugar, black pepper, salt, oregano, and red wine vinegar.  Mix tomato paste and water together and gently fold into the mixture until all ingredients are well combined.
Lower heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve hot or cold.

French Toast

Whoever said you can’t have your French toast and eat it too? Certainly, not I! I love breakfast foods.  French toast is one of those staple meals which can be flavored in any which way you please – pumpkin French toast, cinnamon French toast, stuffed French toast – you name it, you can make it.
I particularly love breakfast foods for dinner – so this is what I had one day after having a very low point breakfast and lunch.  French toast garnished with fresh sliced strawberries and some sugar free maple syrup alongside some scrambled turkey sausage and scrambled egg substitute.  The entire meal as pictured was 10 points plus values.  2 points plus for ½ cup Jimmy Dean scrambled turkey sausage, 3 points plus for 1 cup of egg substitute, 1 point for the Vermont Maid sugar free maple syrup, 4 points for 4 slices of light Italian bread and of course 0 points for the fresh strawberries.
I’ve been asked a few times how I make my French toast, so I decided to share my very simple recipe.  I find this recipe makes exactly 4 slices of French toast (it’s the right amount of egg to soak up into exactly 4 slices of bread).
5 Points Plus Values (NOTE: This calculation is for all 4 slices, if you were to have 2 slices, it would be 3 points plus values).
  • 4 slices light bread
  • ½ cup liquid fat-free egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Cinnamon, to taste
During the fall season you can add pumpkin pie spice to the mixture to make pumpkin french toast, etc.
In a shallow bowl, blend together liquid egg substitute, vanilla and cinnamon – mixing until combined.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Dredge slice of bread on each side. Once both sides are dredged, place onto the frying pan. Repeat until all slices are dredged in egg mixture.
Let the French toast cook – do not move or touch the French toast until half-way cooked, roughly 3-4 minutes in.  You can check each piece by gently lifting the edge of the slice – when cooked to your desired coloring, flip and let cook another 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
Plate up and serve with any toppings you wish.

Rice Ball Casserole

In my area there is an Italian shop that sells Sicilian specialties … the two prominent things on their menu are crispelle (fried dough balls – either “plain” which is coated in sugar, cheese (ricotta) or anchovies).  They also sell fried rice balls which come with or without a side of sauce.  Growing up we’d stop into the shop once in a while to get some crispelle and a few rice balls to bring home.  Rice balls are a delicious treat, but they’re not so forgiving to my thighs.  These particular rice balls were made of large amounts of rice with a hollowed out center where a mixture of meat (chicken, a dash of sauce, spices, cheese and peas were “buried” in the middle).  The ball was then formed together, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried until cooked. The way I liked them was drowned in homemade Italian sauce.
I’ve learned of ways to have some of my favorite not-so-healthy dishes in ways that become healthier and far more point friendlier.  I haven’t made a rice ball casserole in a while and for some reason, while jotting down my meal plan for the week rice ball casserole popped into my head – so rice ball casserole it was going to be!
This dish is quite possibly one of the easiest dishes to assemble and serve up.  I opted to use my homemade sauce in the casserole, as well as on the side to “garnish” each piece.  I sent a slice to my aunt to try and she sent a message back saying I should begin creating a cookbook.  My boyfriend was in food heaven and my mother raved about

how good of a cook I’ve become.

The slices are pretty large size slices and you could always cut it in half but since I prefer dinner to be my most filling meal, this was perfect.
To see the sauce recipe I used in this casserole, please see here: http://shannonslifestyle.blogspot.com/2013/07/homemade-quick-cook-sauce.html
Rice Ball Casserole.
Serves 8.  8 points plus values/serving.

  • 8 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas
  • 3, 13 oz cans of 98% Fat Free Premium Chunk Chicken Breast (after draining it was 585g)
  • 2 cups homemade “quick cook” pasta sauce
  • 1/3 cup Whole Wheat seasoned bread crumbs
  • Non-stick cooking spray
Steam rice beforehand, using whatever method you choose, and let cool for 30-60 minutes.  (I cooked 4 cups of raw rice in my rice cooker and let cool for an hour afterwards.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees,
Measure out 8 cups of rice into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, pour ½ cup egg substitute over rice and mix well to combine.
Drain canned chicken and measure weight of chicken on a food scale (I used 585 grams).  Shred chicken up into smaller pieces, combine with frozen peas.  Add in sauce ½ cup at a time to ensure all chicken and peas are coated.  You’re not looking for the mixture to be drenched, but you’re looking for it to be coated but not wet.
Spray a 13×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, evenly distribute 4 ½ – 5 cups of rice onto the bottom of the pan – add a little extra if there are any noticeable “gaps” in the bottom layer.
Spoon in chicken and pea mixture spreading evenly to cover all of the rice. Spoon remaining rice mixture on top of the chicken and pea mixture making sure to cover the entire area.  The top layer doesn’t have to be as “thick” as the bottom layer.
Sprinkle top of the casserole with bread crumbs and spritz lightly with non-stick cooking spray (to give it a little more golden finish).
Cook in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes until nicely golden brown.  When done, let cool for at least 25 minutes before cutting.
Serve with additional homemade sauce on top (I recommend it that way; I feel it really brings all flavors together even more).  When I add additional sauce, I give my meal 1 additional points plus value.