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.
Ingredients:
          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
          Water
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.

Why I can eat what I want and still lose weight

I frequently get asked “how can you eat that and still lose weight?”  Sometimes, the question boggles my mind.  The first few times I was asked that, I was honestly, flabbergasted and didn’t quite know what to say because I was taken back.
The word “diet” gets thrown around so much when someone is trying to better their health/lifestyle. I don’t like the word diet because diets are a temporary solution to a permanent problem.  You can change your habits, you can be as strict as you want – but in my case I have to ask myself “will I be willing do to this the rest of my life?” and when it comes to diets the answer is no.  I could not live off drinking a shake for 2 meals a day.  I could not live off eating canned beans and a boiled egg.  I could not deal with giving up foods that I enjoy simply because it’s what my diet says I need to do. And I would probably hurt somebody if I had to eat a plain piece of cooked chicken with broccoli for dinner day-in and day-out.  Actually, put me on a diet like that for a week and I think everyone who walked in front of me might get the evil eye.  I’d be miserable and at the first whiff of whatever “unhealthy” food I smelled, I’d dive in and eat until my stomach was about to explode … or I passed out.
I’ve never considered my weight loss journey with the help of Weight Watchers a diet because it’s not. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a plan I can follow for the rest of my life without feeling deprived. I love Weight Watchers because nothing is off limits.  I’ll be completely honest, if the day I walked into my Weight Watchers meeting to sign up and was told “you can never eat cake, chips, or bread again” I’d have froze, looked around the room – said screw this and walked back out.  I’m the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something, the stubbornness in me is going to come out and I’ll do it JUST to show you I can.  I love Weight Watchers because it allows me to live in an every day world without feeling as though I don’t “fit in” because I’m not eating the way others are eating.
Everything boils down to moderation, not starvation, or deprivation.  I’m a big snacker.  Always have been, always will be – it’s a part of my lifestyle and it’s something I enjoy.  There are snacks I’ve enjoyed in the past that I simply choose not to have anymore because 1) I can’t control myself with them (known as a trigger food) and 2) they’re just not worth the points associated with them. It doesn’t mean they’re off limits the rest of my life – but they’re foods I don’t keep around, at least until I can feel comfortable with them in the house.
So, back to how do I eat what I eat and still lose weight?  Well, these days I know what a portion size is. I hold myself accountable by eating what is recommended as a serving.  If I want a little extra, I have a little extra, but I hold myself accountable to those extra points plus values associated with that “extra”.  Secondly, I don’t eat out every day. I for the most part cook (or have a pre-packaged meal I weigh-out a serving of) every single meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I can have pizza, cupcakes, French fries, steak and cheese sandwiches, and chips when I want them (granted, not all at the same time!), but I track what I eat, I track what I want and I don’t feel guilty about it.  One thing to keep in mind is I’m not eating these foods day-in and day-out.  Lastly, I don’t even remotely eat like I used to.
I keep myself accountable for whatever I put in my mouth.  I eat my cravings – because I’ve quickly learned that if I try to not have something I want, I eat around it when all is said and done, I should have just eaten what I originally wanted. I enjoy my food. I’ve learned what is and what isn’t worth it. I enjoy preparing meals and shaking things up because the possibilities are endless.  I get in activity when I can.  And I’m not on a diet … this journey isn’t temporary, its a lifestyle.  That is why I can eat whatever I want and still lose weight.

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’).

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

This past week I decided I wanted to do a little baking and Spice Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookieswere on the menu!
I wanted to make these the week prior, but time just didn’t allow so I went ahead and whipped these up over the weekend and boy, oh boy, were they delicious!  Not only were they delicious, but they were so simple to make.  It involved opening packages and a can, dumping the contents into a bowl and measuring out chocolate chips and walnuts.  Easy as pie.
The Points Plus values do vary depending on the amount of cookies you make so your individual recipe would have to be thrown into Weight Watchers Recipe Builder to uncover the points plus value per serving.  I ended up making 68 cookies and it made each cookie 1 points plus value each.
These cookies are softer cookies – but they are heavenly.
Ingredients:
  • 1 box Spice Cake Mix
  • 1 can 100% pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • ~1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Blend spice cake mix. Pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin together until evenly combined and there are no bumps left.  Add in the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips and fold until combined.
Using a melon baller, teaspoon or the tip of a tablespoon drop cookies onto a non-stick cookie sheet.  Note: the cookies don’t really rise or spread so having them close together (but not touching) on the pan will not affect the end result.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for roughly 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Cooking times vary oven to oven, so it may take up to 15 minutes to bake.
Last but not least – enjoy!