Haul: Weight Watchers Ultimate Chicken Cookbook

When I saw that Weight Watchers had released a new cookbook I knew I had to pick it up.  I love Weight Watcher cookbooks even though I am a relatively experienced cook because there are times where thinking of what to make for a meal can be annoying because options just aren’t presenting themselves to me.  So with that I picked up the Weight Watchers Ultimate Chicken Cookbookon Amazon for under $19.
I love chicken – but I admit chicken can get plain gross and boring if it’s not seasoned properly or if it’s something I steer towards when cooking all the time.  Sometimes it takes an interesting description or picture in a cookbook to make me think “hey that sounds good!” So I figured this would help me break out of my chicken box and try new things – and having the Points Plus values definitely make it a lot simpler to try out a new recipe.
I haven’t tried anything from the cookbook yet, but I have given it a run through and I do have a number of recipes flagged as recipes I’d like to try.  With that, I’m hoping to perhaps try one this week at some point.
What is one of your favorite cookbooks you’ve picked up recently?

Hello … my name is Shannon

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Hello.  My name is Shannon and I’m a self-proclaimed Carboholic.  I also am attracted to things with the word “New” on them.  The “New” thing doesn’t get me into trouble as much as carbs do.  Okay, so not even carbs of all kinds … I’m most importantly talking about, bread!
I love bread. Always have. Bread, like almost any child, is a staple from a very early age. Toast, peanut butter and jelly, sandwiches, French toast, etc.  They all begin with bread.  Three of these were introduced to me as a child, minus, peanut butter and jelly.  Yes, I had my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my teenage years (I want to say I was 15 or 16 ) and I had it out of sheer curiosity. I know! When I say this to people I get sideways glances. But truth be told, I just never really wanted one … I mean as a child in my mind peanut butter was meant to be eaten on crackers, not bread!
I remember my mom coming home with a fresh stick of hot Italian bread from the local bakery. The smell would draw me (and my nose) in.  I would eat it either plan or with butter on it. To this day, if someone has a stick of hot bread in their house I’m going to sniff it out. I’m like a hound dog – it’s crazy. And it drives me absolutely insane when my local grocery store takes the fresh bread out of the oven because I swear they pump that smell through the ventilation system. My stomach starts growling and suddenly I want to make subs for dinner. Forget the groceries in the cart, subs! That’s when I breathe through my mouth and quickly find my way to the checkout aisle – sans stick of hot bread.
Since starting my weight loss journey I’ve sideways tackled the bread obsession. If I do have bread, its light bread, light wheat or multigrain slims. I buy pita bread from the local Lebanese bakery if I want pita bread – or I buy the wheat flax pita from the grocery store.  I admit the breads that I buy for myself aren’t a trigger for me. I don’t love light white bread.  BUTwhat I found this past week was that I subconsciously reach for bread to incorporate with meals that I may not necessarily need with a meal.
For instance, the week before last I was out of my element dog/cat/house sitting for my aunt and uncle while they were on vacation. Due to this I had to pre-plan every meal to a T. My usual staples weren’t at my fingertips so I had to eat what I brought with me.  Looking back at that week I was kind of subconsciously following the simply filling technique by eating more power foods (see here), and found I was satisfied and full after meals. If I had bread, it was a multigrain slim or light bread and it was with one meal – either with my egg salad or with a hamburger, etc. at dinner.  That week when I stepped on the scale my reward was a pretty hefty loss (nearly 5 pounds).  I was shocked.
Fast forward to going back home, being in my element and eating the way I tend to eat at home. I realized I wasn’t as satisfied as I was the week prior. By 5-days in, I felt I was a little bit bloated. Looking back at my week there were some days where I had a sandwich for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and I may have had a piece of bread to go along with dinner. I also wasn’t having my fruit salad as my nightly snack as I was the week prior.  It was definitely a learning lesson and one that has made me create a goal for myself this week.
My goal this week (as the weeks to follow) is to be more conscious when making choices surrounding bread. I want to try to have 1 serving of bread a day, but I’m not going to be overly strict on myself because I don’t like rules. I break rules. But I am going to question myself “Do I need to eat this as a sandwich?” and if the answer is no, I’m going to try it without the bread and see how I like it. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but I honestly like bread, I like sandwiches and I’ve lost weight eating them. But I’m trying to make healthier choices for myself. If I skip on the bread, I could provide my body with more protein at dinner or at lunch. Which means being satisfied longer … and that’s what I’m aiming for.
So what is one goal you’ve set for yourself this week or month?

Strawberry Banana Froyo

I met up with a friend – a fellow Weight Watchers member for frozen yogurt while I was in the city for a doctors appointment. I was supposed to bring my handy dandy 1/2 cup measuring cup BUT alas I was running late for my appointment and completely forgot the cup at home.

Measuring cup fail aside, I went into the frozen yogurt experience with a plan. I knew I was going to have at least 6 points worth of frozen yogurt (which according to Weight Watchers e-tools would be about 1 cup of plain frozen yogurt). Low and behold upon arriving to the yogurt shop they actually had the nutrition information on the screen. This excited me beyond words. You mean, I could pick any flavor I wanted because I could know the points plus associated with it beforehand? Epic kid in a candy store moment! They had at least 10 different flavors ranging from plain to strawberry, cookies and cream to peanut butter. The gentleman who was working in the shop asked if I’d like to sample any of the flavors, but I declined realizing that my BLT’s (bites, licks and tastes) would still add up.

My boyfriend is the one who actually decided to have strawberry banana frozen yogurt. Typically when we buy a half gallon of frozen yogurt, that’s the flavor I tend to choose because I enjoy it. So I calculated the points plus and was floored to find it was only 4 points plus for a full cup of froyo! SCORE!

I picked my cup (opting for the shallower, wider bowl) and tried to center my froyo into the center and eyeballed as close as I could to what I assumed would be a cup. I added an additional point incase I was off by any. Then came the decision factor … toppings! Ice cream sundaes and froyo are known for their delicious and not always health conscious toppings. Trying to play it as safe as possible I opted for a few colored jimmies (sprinkles), fresh strawberries, fresh mango and of course a few tiny pieces of cut up Snickers. I guestimated possibly 3 points for toppings and off I went to pay for my delicious treat.
The frozen yogurt was delicious. Nicely flavored, refreshing and it was perfect with or without the toppings. Plus, having the nutrition information at my fingertips really made the experience a lot easier to swallow.
It was nice going out for froyo, enjoying myself, having wonderful conversation with a friend and being on plan. Goes to show you can go out and enjoy yourself as long as you plan for it ahead of time. This way there are no surprises or “freebies.”

What do you typically get at the frozen yogurt or ice cream shop?

Turkey Sausage, Pepper, Onion & Cheese Omelet

I had a real hankering for an omelet.  Since I was craving it, I decided to make myself one for dinner.  The omelet I made was mighty impressive (at least in my opinion), filling and extremely low in points plus.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been a few extra veggies added into the mix.  I was quite happy with how it turned out because I enjoy my eggs a bit on the “well done” side of things and this was exactly that with the inside being softer, cheesy and filled with sausage crumbles.
Typically when I make omelets I use the same base, although I switch up what I add to it – sautéed vegetables, diced up broccoli and tomato, bacon, cheese, etc.  You name it; if I have it readily available it can be part of my omelet creation.
Here’s how I made my omelet:
Serves 1. 4 Points Plus Values.
  • ½ cup fat free, egg substitute
  • ½ cup Jimmy Dean turkey sausage crumbles
  • Peppers, sliced (either cooked or raw)
  • Onions, cooked, sliced
  • 1 slice fat free American cheese
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
Heat a non-stick skillet, spritzed with Pam, over medium heat.
Add the egg substitute to the heated pan, sprinkle with pepper and salt. Add in peppers, onions then sprinkle with sausage crumbles. Let the mixture cook in the pan, turning the pan ever so slightly to get the raw egg to slide over onto the side of the omelet to cook.
When mixture is half-way cooked (you can see the texture changing in the egg) place cheese over one half of the omelet.
Continue to cook and when almost all “liquid” is gone, carefully fold the omelet in half. Pressing down to have the cheese work as glue to hold it together. Press the omelet softly into the frying pan, cook for roughly 1 minute before cooking to let cook on the other side.
Serve immediately.

Dinner: Homestyle Stuffing Chicken Breast w/ Potato

For the first time in a while, my boyfriend made a dinner request – stuffed chicken breast. So that’s what we planned on having and that’s exactly what we had!  I have to admit, it was a super easy and quick meal, but it was also delicious.
Barber Foods sells boxed stuffed chicken breasts which are raw. Basically, you remove the chicken breast from it’s individual packaging, put onto a baking sheet and bake it in the oven for the designated amount of time until cooked through.  I’ve been a fan of this brand for along time – their broccoli and cheese being one of my personal favs. But since Barber Foods makes a lot of their chicken with cheeses in them – it really limits what we can purchase since my boyfriend is not a fan of cheese.  The Barber Foods Seasoned Raw Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Homestyle Stuffing is a hot commodity and pretty hard to find sometimes. It’s a simple seasoned chicken breast, which is stuffed with homestyle stuffing.  They are delicious, moist and just a super quick and easy way to get dinner on the table without the extra work if you were to assemble stuffed chicken breast on your own.
While the chicken was cooking, we “cheated” and cooked the potatoes in the microwave.  We also used canned green beans as a side and unsweetened natural applesauce.  Dinner was done and plated in less than 35 minutes.
My entire plate shown was 9 points plus.  6 points plus for the Homestyle Stuffing Chicken Breast, 3 points plus for 5.5 ounce of potato, green beans and ¼ cup apple sauce.
Have you tried any of the Barber Foods chicken breasts?

Cupcakes from Eat Cake!

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If you’re a fan of cupcakes and a fan of Food Network then you may have seen an episode or two of Cupcake Wars.  I admit, I’ve seen a few Cupcake War episodes in my past and I have a slight love of visiting spots that have been featured on the Food Network – primarily out of curiosity to “see what the fuss is all about.”
Almost 2 years ago my boyfriend and I stumbled upon this little bakery in Newburyport called “Eat Cake.” I was intrigued because there was a Food Network sign in the window and a little blurb about the shop being featured on Cupcake Wars. I was suddenly transformed to a magnet and the cupcake shop was my large piece of metal.  Heading inside the shop they typically have 5 variation of flavored cupcakes of the day.  You never know what you’re going find unless you go there or visit their Facebook page to see what the flavors of the day are.  Each cupcake is also $3/ea which is a bit pricey but for the experience and the different flavors, it’s worth it once in a while.
Popping into the shop the cupcakes are the main attraction.  The countertop is lined with glass covered cake pans with cupcakes piled high with buttercream – all assorted in flavors.  In front of the counter is a chalkboard which has the daily menu printed on it – to help make choosing easier. Or in my case, a little more difficult.
After giving the cupcakes a once over, my boyfriend and I decided on three. One cupcake he really wanted, one I really wanted and one we each wanted to try.  So 3 cupcakes we got were:
Coconut-Coconut Goo- Vanilla Butterceam.  Our pick. This cupcake was a vanilla cupcake, which was topped with a coconut “goo” which really reminded me of the inside of a mounds bar, just stickier.  It was then topped with a vanilla buttercream and garnished with toasted coconut.  It was moist and delicious, but definitely sweet.
Chocolate Fudge – Strawberry Buttercream. My boyfriends pick. This was a chocolate cupcake dipped into a fudgy chocolate, then topped with a strawberry buttercream and garnished with shaved chocolate pieces. My boyfriend enjoyed it as he’s a chocolate cake fan. His was actually not as sweet as one would suspect and it was undoubtedly moist.
Hummingbird Cake – Honey Cinnamon Buttercream. My pick. I have been eyeing a hummingbird cake recipe online for months – the only thing holding me back from making it being the fact I don’t have pecans in the house. So when I saw this listed on the sign, I immediately wanted it. The cupcake is a classic hummingbird flavored cake – bananay, cinnamonny, nutty and just delicious.  The buttercream was sweet with a cinnamon flavoring to it. Undoubtedly delicious. It reminded me of banana bead in a light and airy cupcake form.
I at first estimated each cupcake being 9 points plus values. After taking a bite, I decided to roll those estimates up to 12 points plus values.  Sure, it was high for a dessert … but it was worth it.
What is the best cupcake you’ve ever tried?

The best part about summer…

These days, the best part about summer, outside of the changing weather and the ability to wear shorts and sandals for months on end, is being able to purchase a new bathing suit in a smaller size!

For the past 3 years I have purchased new bathing suits every summer.  Quite a change from the girl who went to the beach and around pools in oversized shorts and long t-shirts.  Before my weight loss journey I never wanted to be bothered with the “hassle” of finding a bathing suit.  The experience was depressing and aggravating — but for the past 3 years I’ve welcomed it with open arms.  The last 2 years I’ve purchased one piece “dress” style bathing suits — you know the type that’s a bathing suit that has a slinky “dress” covering over it that covers you up to your thighs.

This year I purchased my first ever tankini!  Talk about a happy dance non-scale victory!  The fact that I feel comfortable enough in my skin to wear a tankini is amazing.  And the greatest part was, I saw this exact bathing suit online and when I went into the store I found the two pieces, separated from one another, in my size and they were the only ones available!  Talk about meant to be!

I got a great deal on the suit — each piece being 50% off the original price.  Double score!  The coloring is adorable and is very flattering against my skin tone.  It shows off my shape and I just simply love it.

Whodathunk this girl would be in love with a bathing suit?  If you asked me that question 3-years ago I’d have looked at you like you sprouted a new head.  It’s amazing what time and a healthy attitude can do for a person!

Al Dente Carba-Nada Egg Fettuccine Noodles Haul

Ever since I tried the Al Dente Carba-Nada Noodles I have been hooked.  I purchased the Egg Fettuccine and Garlic noodles from my local meat market and have incorporated them into my meal planning (for myself) because for 1 ½ cups its 3 points plus values. I admit when I purchased them in store I paid upwards to $5 a bag, which is pricy, especially when a box of pasta typically runs $1-1.50/box.
These noodles themselves taste like pasta and with red sauce or alfredo sauce on them you truly don’t notice a difference between the Carba-Nada and normal run of the mill fettuccine.  I’m especially a fan of the serving size because since I am a volume eater having 1 ½ cups is definitely something I enjoy, especially without the added guilt.
I searched on Amazon for the Carba-nada noodles and I found the Egg Fettuccine Noodles for sale in a 6-pack case for a pretty decent price.  The case cost me $20.53 which came out to be $3.42/bag.  Ideally I do have more pasta on my hands, but I saved about 1/3 so I’ll gladly store it away and use it up.  I will note if you’d like to try the brand check out the Al Dente website, find a store that sells it in your local area and then call that store before going in. There are stores that carry the Al Dente brand but not the Carba-Nada line.  If you do end up liking them I’d strongly suggest comparing your store prices to the Amazon prices.  A penny saved, is a penny earned, right?
Have you tried the Al Dente Carba-Nada line?

Plated Membership – ft. Chicken Tacos w/ Mango Salsa & Spiced Flank Steak w/ Couscous and Carrots

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I was awarded a Klout Perk which provided me with a free monthly membership to Plated as well as four plates for the month.  I admit I was pretty stoked to receive the perk because with my weight loss journey I’ve learned that I truly do love to cook.  Plus, with Plated, it would provide me with “out of the box” foods that perhaps, I would not consider to make for myself at home.
In case you are not aware, Plated (see website here: https://www.plated.com/)is a new subscription service in which you pay $10-12/per plate as well as a flat membership fee.  A menu is presented to you for the week and you get to choose the plates of your choice (minimum order of 2-plates per menu item).  Typically the dishes contain either a poultry, beef or a fish.  Currently vegetarian options are not available but the website does plan to launch those in the near future.  The idea is to be able to cook yourself a gourmet meal within 30 minutes with the stress of meal planning and grocery shopping being lifted off your shoulders.  All items are delivered to your home address the day after the items are shipped (typically menu’s are listed on the website for a week and once that menu has “closed” the shipments ship out by the promised date).  All ingredients are provided within the box, along with the recipe card for easy preparation.  Typically there is one item which is a “pantry” item (typically it’s olive oil) which is the only item you’d need to reach for within your pantry because everything else will be provided to you. Also, every week a member is subscribed Plated donates a pound of food to a local food bank.

For those who follow Weight Watchers, I found it was quite simple to find out the points plus values for the dishes.  I used the Recipe Builder on the Weight Watchers website.  Since the recipe cards were provided to me, I put everything in.  Since I know I typically only eat certain amounts of food (like 1 cup of starch, 3-4 ounces of meat) I adjusted my grains and proteins around that on my tracker.
If you would like to sign up for Plated, please feel free to use my referral link: https://www.plated.com/invites/620cba.  Also, if you would like to try a FREE 1-month & 4-plate Plated box during the month of June, please sign up using the following code: junefreegift.
With my membership I decided to try two different dishes – a chicken and a beef.  I ordered 2 plates each of Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa and Spice Rubbed Steak with Baby Carrots and Israeli Couscous.

My box arrived and unpacked it all to put the items away.  One of my barbecue sauces was exploded, but it wasn’t a big deal.  I put the majority of the items away and aside.  I was more excited about the Chicken Tacosso I opted to make those the first night.  My boyfriend cleaned the chicken (because raw chicken grosses me out!) and I then marinated it in the barbecue sauce.  The preparation for the mango salsa was quite simple – just some dicing and chopping.  The mango was perfect, just the way I like it – at the stage where it’s ripe enough to eat and sweet.  I decided to use ¼ of the jalapeno because I’ve learned using too much jalapeno can make dishes unappetizing.  The salsa came together and was delicious.
I cooked my chicken in a grill pan until it was perfectly done. I then went to cut up my avocado and quickly learned it was not ripe.  I could barely get the seed out of it and I couldn’t scoop the avocado out of the skin. It was like rubber.  I’m not the biggest fan of avocado (I occasionally like guacamole but that’s about it), so it wasn’t a huge loss.  I just dropped it into the garbage pail.
We heated through the taco shells on an open flame, assembled and dove on in.  I have to be honest … I was not a fan of the chicken tacos at all.  I’m a flavor lover and these were just plain jane to me. I couldn’t eat my second taco because I was not enjoying it.  It would have been better if there was some sort of sauce to put on it.  The mango salsa was good but it needed another level of flavor.  My boyfriend even thought it needed an added boost of flavor.  It was not worth the 7 points plus values this calculated out to be (for 2 tacos, not 3).
The next day it was Spice Rubbed Steak with Baby Carrots and Israeli Couscous on the menu.  The preparation for this meal was so simple.  I’ve never made couscous before so I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, or if I was going to like it.  I seasoned my steak in the spice rub and let it sit out for 10 minutes while I peeled and sliced my baby carrots, tossed them in the honey, butter and cumin mixture and set them into the oven to roast. I added 2 cups of water to a sauce pan, brought it on to boil, added my couscous and let it simmer for the recommended amount of time.  I then brought out my grill pan, put my steak onto it and let it cook.

One thing about me is I do NOT like meat that’s red in the middle.  I can eat a medium-well hamburger and steak tips (occasionally) but for the most part I don’t want my beef to moo at me.  Once my steak was done, I set it onto a cutting board to rest for 5-minutes and then sliced it.  It was SO red inside I had to put it all back into the grill pan to cook on each side for an additional minute or two.
When the couscous was done, I opted to skip on adding the olive oil, so I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper and a couple spritz of spray butter.  I tried it and I have to say, it was AMAZING!  So amazing, I am going to buy some couscous to have on hand as an option when we don’t want rice or potato.
This meal was quite delicious and only 13 pointsplus values!  The steak was spicy, but with the sides it really brought everything together.  My attempt to bring the heat down was to add steak sauce on top of the meat – but it was a fail because the spice had penetrated the beef and my taste buds were screaming Dixie.  If I knew the spice rub was as spicy as it was, I would have used far less to marinate my meat.  But we live and we learn – nonetheless the steak was undoubtedly 2 thumbs up!
I enjoyed the Plated membership and I think it would be perfect for the individual who doesn’t enjoy grocery shopping OR the individual who just wants to try something different.  I will admit, some of the recipe items are hit or miss (depending on your taste) but there are 2 dishes this week that I really would love to try.  If you do decide to give this subscription service a try – HAPPY PLATING!
Have you ever tried Plated or would you like to?

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.
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?