Weight Watchers – Week 9

Our goal is to test each recipe before sharing it here, and this week we were able to try four out of the six.  All of them were winners! In real life, we don’t eat six new dishes a week, but I love coming up with lots of options for everyone.

Beef Stir-fry Noodles – 7 points. (1/4 recipe with 1/2 the amount of noodles and lots of added veggies, no oil). This is very good but to make it filling, add a generous amount of veggies.  I cut the recipe in half and added a small crown of broccoli, five large mushrooms (sliced), about a cup of leftover kale salad, and 6-7 baby carrots cut into thin matchsticks.  It would also be good with thinly sliced peppers, snow peas, shredded cabbage and just about any other veggie you might have on hand.  I used 2 oz. of ramen noodles from the Asian market, but spaghetti or other  pasta would certainly work, and it doesn’t  need much. Family add ons could be bread, biscuits, and/or dessert.

Blackberry Sage Pork Chops – 7 points (1/4 recipe, sugar free jam). This is really good and simple to make. If you use thicker chops, return the chops to the skillet with the sauce to finish cooking. Serve with 1/2 cup rice (3 points), cauliflower rice, green salad, roasted veggies, or other veggie side dish.  Add -ons for family could be crusty bread, rice, buttered noodles, potatoes, and/or dessert.

 


One Skillet Chicken & Broccoli – 3 points (4 oz of chicken per serving). Serve with rice (1/2 cup is 3 points). I made this for Kayte and I, adding more veggies (mushrooms, red peppers) and without the celery because we didn’t have any.  I also substituted Thai Sweet Chili Sauce for the Sriracha, and it gave it a great taste.  Kayte agreed but said she would probably double the amount next time. Family add-ons could be more rice, potatoes, crusty bread and/or dessert.

Honey Sriracha Salmon – 8 points (1/4 recipe). Serve with roasted veggies, a green salad or the Cold Sesame Cucumber Noodle Salad (1 point for 1/4 recipe including all the optional ingredients) talked about in the blog post. Family add-ons could be sweet or white potato fries, rice, bread and/or dessert.

Taco Torte – 8 points (1/6 recipe, substituting 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, corn tortillas, 3 cups of beans). If you eat 1/4 recipe, it would be 12 points. A green salad, some raw veggies or fruit on the side could make it more filling. We haven’t had a chance to try this one, yet, but it is bound to be good. Add ons for family could be Spanish rice, tortilla chips, a side of refried beans, and/or dessert.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup – 5 points (1/8 recipe). We haven’t had a chance to try this one but it looks like it would be good.  If you make it, let us know how it turned out.  Unfortunately, I do not like butternut squash (gasp!) so I am leaning on Kayte or Rachael to try it out.  Rachael just made Butternut Squash Chili (recipe coming next week), so  this week they were both eating that. Add ons for family could be bread and/or dessert.

Weight Watchers – 12 Last Minute Meals

I am doing something a little bit different today in my series of Weight Watcher posts.  One of the hardest parts of doing Weight Watchers (or any other avoiding-processed-food plan) is what to fix for dinner on busy days.

Sometimes life gets in the way of your good intentions to plan your meals out ahead of time and fix delicious balanced meals for your family.  When that happens it is so easy to just order in a pizza or hit the closest fast food place.  If you have a few staples that you keep on hand all the time, you can avoid that and still quickly feed the hungry hordes. I am not posting WW points here, because there are so many variables in the ingredients. This may also be a good time to use some of those extra bonus points to minimize your stress level. Here are a few suggestions (I have included what you need to have on hand):

Fried burritos (flour tortillas, refried beans, cheese) These come together in literally five minutes’ time and are surprisingly good.  It is always a plus if you have some leftover cooked meat (my favorite is a crisp slice of bacon) to add to the filling, and salsa, chopped onion, diced tomatoes, sour cream, crumbled feta and/or shredded lettuce to top them with.  If you need more info, click here.
Leftovers buffet bar – This was actually one of my kids’ favorites when they were growing up.  All the leftovers were put on the counter, and everyone got to select how much of what they wanted (first come, first served).  Try to have plenty of raw veggies and/or fruit available to round out the meal.
Soup and sandwich (canned soup, sandwich makings) A traditional favorite is tomato soup and grilled cheese, but any kind of soup pairs well with a sandwich.  You can also use tortillas, English muffins, biscuits or even crackers to make the sandwiches.
Snacky dinner (crackers or bread, cheese, cold meat, raw veggies, fruit)  Set out an assortment of whatever you have on hand, and it is a plus if you add a dip.  Try to make sure it is somewhat balanced with a grain, a protein, and fruits and/or veggies.

Feta  Pesto Pasta  (pasta, cooked chicken, feta or goat cheese, tomatoes of any kind, and pesto sauce).  This comes together in about 15 minutes.  For the recipe, click here.       
Kayte’s Motley Rice (uncooked rice, chicken broth or bouillon, veggies, salad dressing).  If the veggies are raw, make sure they will cook in the same time as the rice.  For the recipe, click here.
Homemade Ramen Soup (broth or bouillon, frozen mixed or leftover cooked veggies, oregano, ramen noodles or uncooked thin spaghetti, soy sauce) So much better than the packaged kind!  For the recipe, click here.
Hamburger Gravy (ground beef or turkey, Cream of Whatever soup, and something to serve it over – bread,  rice, potatoes, quinoa) It’s a plus if you add veggies. For a recipe, click here.
Breakfast Tacos (tortillas, eggs, bacon, cheese – cheddar and/or feta, tomatoes, onions, lettuce or cabbage).  I often eat this for a meal other than breakfast.  I like to top mine with shredded cabbage instead of lettuce, but either one works.  Sour cream is also a great addition.  For the recipe, click here.

Clam spaghetti  (spaghetti, butter, canned clams, garlic, parsley, Parmesan cheese, lemon pepper) This makes a good meal for unexpected company or just a last minute meal for your family.  The sauce is done in the time it takes for the pasta to cook.  Don’t skimp on the Parmesan cheese or the lemon pepper! For the recipe, click here.
Fried rice (cold cooked rice, veggies, egg, soy sauce)  This is a great way to use up little bits of  veggies and cooked meat if you have cold cooked rice on hand.  The recipe (click here) is just guide since you can add just about anything.

Breakfast for dinner  (eggs, bacon or sausage, bread, pancake mix, frozen waffles, French toast)  This, too, was a family favorite when my kids were growing up. Let your imagination be your guide – even a bowl of cereal can work. Add some fruit to make it even more special.

Here are some previous posts in the Weight Watchers series:

Taco Casserole

As I was rummaging through my refrigerator and freezer, I came across the makings for a simple but tasty casserole.  I had a few corn tortillas that were past their prime, some cheddar cheese, salsa, leftover taco meat and some red beans that I had cooked from scratch.  That’s all I needed to put together a taco casserole.
Taco Casserole

  • 2 cups ground beef, browned (or leftover taco meat)
  • 2 cups cooked beans (pinto, red, black, white, or whatever you have on hand)
  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover bottom of a 8″x8″ casserole dish with a thin layer of salsa. Cover that with a single layer of corn tortillas, tearing as necessary to fit. Add 1/2 the meat, beans and cheese, spreading it out evenly. Add another layer of tortillas, then meat, beans and cheese. Feel free to add more salsa on each layer if you like. It would also be good with cooked corn added to the layers if you have some. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Take foil off and bake for another 5-10 minutes until bubbly and starting to brown. Cut into squares and serve. It is good just as is, but adding any combination of chopped tomatoes, sour cream or feta cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped onions, or fresh chopped cilantro really takes it over the top.

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

It is way too hot here to get excited about cooking, but in the process of trying to use up some leftovers, I came up with a great summer dish.  I had leftover cooked quinoa, black beans and a little bit of pico de gallo salsa.  I mixed them all together and sprinkled a little feta cheese over the top, serving it cold.  It makes a perfect summer meal!
Black Bean & Quinoa Salad
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup pico de gallo*
  • 1 cup black beans (rinsed well)
  • Feta cheese to taste (optional)
Mix together everything except feta, then sprinkle feta on top if using.  This makes 2 generous servings.  Feel free to multiply as needed for more servings (no adjustments necessary).
*Substitute 2/3 cup diced tomato, 1/3 cup diced bell pepper, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and some chopped cilantro if you don’t have pico de gallo. Add salt to taste.

#TBT – White Bean Chicken Chili

Another Throwback Thursday to one of our most popular posts.  This is an easy meal to serve a crowd and always gets rave reviews.  It is especially economical if you make your own chicken broth and cook dried beans from scratch (and it really enhances the flavor). Although it may be thought of more as a winter-time dish, it works well in the summer when made in a slow cooker. Click here to go to the post.

White Bean Chicken Chili

     We recently hosted a small Christmas card family get together for my husband’s family (mostly as a last ditch effort to force ourselves to actually send some out this year). Everybody came with their Christmas cards and address books, and the plan was to make it a group activity. Every year my husband and my intentions and plans for Christmas cards get more elaborate, and each year we fail miserably. This year we were going to take photos for the cards at a Christmas tree farm, the children frolicking like tiny adorable wood nymphs among the trees, me looking like a winter goddess, and my husband manly and strapping as he cut down our tree in his annual Christmas kilt. The reality? It’s the day before the Christmas card party. My 10 year old has lost his only slightly festive and dressy sweater: reindeer t-shirt substituted. We were unable to gather our brood and leave the house as planned that morning before baby’s naptime: instead we rolled down the driveway at 4:45 p.m., just as the sun was going down. My husband is a man determined at this point, and still considered making the trek even after his GPS announced we were 40 minutes from the tree farm. Needless to say, pictures were NOT happening. A 10 minute trip to Home Depot for a tree was in our future.

Last year’s Christmas photo. Will probably take us another 12 months to do this year’s.
     Thankfully, the party was much more successful than our efforts to document our family for the holidays. While the company was awesome, the cookies were divine (OMG everybody must try the Jo’s peppermint cookies from World Market), and the children were adorably well behaved and entertaining, the white bean chicken chili was the piece de resistance. I’ve always loved beans, and this recipe is one of my favorites. This time, however, was off the charts due to borrowing a page from my mother’s brilliance and the innovation forced by missing ingredients. On a side note, my mother successfully freezes cooked beans, and I suspect this meal would translate well into a freezer meal. It is also very cost effective, as I fed 10+ people for under about $15.
     At the last minute I realized I did not have a sufficient amount of frozen homemade chicken stock (gasp!) in the freezer. Thankfully, I had some frozen homemade chicken bouillon squares my mom had made as an experiment, which she made by reducing a gallon of her chicken broth down to approximately 1 cup, then freezing on parchment paper. At the time I had no idea how concentrated these squares were, so I started with the two cups of water and 3-4 squares of the bouillon (approximately 2 in. squares). The broth this made was deep brown like beef broth, and smelled amazing. I had no idea this recipe could taste this good until I took my first bite. 
     My husband, who is usually a man of few words at the dinner table, muttered to himself at least 3 times, “Wow, this is really good.” Even more impressive, my 10 year old took his first bite then looked at me and said, “Wow, I had no idea this was going to taste like this!” This soup received rave reviews from my husband’s family, and was the perfect recipe to make a triple batch and feed a crowd of 10+. The original recipe calls for it to be cooked in the slow cooker (Low, 3.5 hours), but I’ve done it both in the pressure cooker (High, for 20 minutes) and in the oven (250 for 2 hours) with great results.
Best served with crusty bread or cornbread. 

White Bean Chicken Chili

3/4 pound chicken thighs, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I’m lazy and mash jarred diced jalapeno with a fork)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 15-oz cans white beans (I prefer Great Northern, made from scratch to avoid BPA)
3 cups chicken broth (or water with a few squares of reduced broth bouillon, recipe HERE!)
Optional toppings: sharp cheddar, sour cream, cilantro
Directions:
1. Brown cubed chicken in oil
2. Add onions and garlic the last few minutes and cook until the onions are translucent.
3. Rinse and drain beans into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker, and add broth and spices.
4. Mash the beans lightly a few times with a potato masher, as this thickens the final soup into a creamy stew-like consistency.
5. Add chicken and onion mixture into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker and stir.
6. Slow cook on low 3-3.5 hours OR pressure cook on high 20 minutes OR bake at 250 for 1.5-2 hours or until chicken is tender.

Uncle Guy, a satisfied customer who came back for seconds.

FYI – Best. Cookies. Ever. (Buy them here at World Market). I wish I could un-learn of their existence.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is a family favorite and I am happy to say a (somewhat) toddler approved meal. I started making this at least five years ago, and have lost the original recipe. Regardless, I’ve made many changes over the years. The current version has to be the most satisfying, and its very busy-mom/OAMC/freezer friendly!
When I first started making this recipe, I cut the bell peppers length wise, and made little boats. I baked them in a casserole dish. Later I begun doubling our recipe, and freezing a second tray. More recently I discovered that it was possible to make these in the crock pot! Not only does this require significantly less active cooking time, it requires quite a bit less prep. The recipe below makes approximately 10 peppers. I cooked 5 the other day (enough for dinner and left overs) and then froze the remaining peppers. As they are individually freezable, you can choose how many you want to freeze and/or cook in the future. Lastly, I included some suggestions, these are quite customizable to your taste.

Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans*
  • 1 can pinto beans*
  • 2 packages taco seasoning**
  • 1/2 cup water (per taco seasoning directions)
  • 10 bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup salsa (or Rotel)
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican/taco cheese
Optional ingredients & toppings
  • additional shredded Mexican/taco cheese
  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • Jalapenos
*You can substitute cooked dry beans, I just didn’t know how to make them until recently. Check out Mary’s post for more info. 

**I purchase this ingredient in bulk at Costco. I know some people make their own. (Another project for the future!). Use enough seasoning for 2-2.5 lbs worth of meat.

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside.
  2. Brown the ground beef.
  3. Add onions, beans, taco seasoning, and water to the pan.
  4. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften (approx 5 minutes)
  5. This is a good time to cut the tops off the bell peppers, and clean out the seeds/insides. Set aside for later.
  6. Stir in 1/4 C salsa or Rotel
  7. Add in cream cheese – I slice mine up into chunks to make it easier to blend
  8. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese based on your preferences
  9. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  10. Scoop the mixture into the bell peppers. Top with shredded cheese
To Freeze: Place peppers upright on a pan or plate. Freeze over night. Wrap individually or put in bag or container.
To Cook (in slow cooker) Place peppers in slow cooker with 1/4 C salsa + 1/4 C water. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. You can also use taco sauce in the slow cooker instead of salsa and water.
To cook (in oven): This requires an additional step. Before stuffing, boil bell peppers for approximately 5 minutes to soften and start the cooking process. Then follow the steps listed above. When complete, cover the bottom of a casserole dish with salsa, or taco sauce, place peppers and bake covered for 20 minutes at 350. When cooking this way, I slice the tops of the peppers, then length wise to make boats, so a cover can fit on my dish. You can fit 4 upright peppers in a square casserole dish, or 4 pepper boats (2 whole peppers). They could be frozen this way as well. 
To Serve: Eat each pepper as is or topped with crushed tortilla chips, hot sauce, jalapenos, or whatever other topping you may enjoy.  

Variations & notes: 
  • While it was not part of the first recipe I used, many versions of this include cooked rice. I’ve never made it with rice, but you could add it. In addition to onions, you can add bell pepper (I was left with an entire bowl of diced bell pepper from the tops), mushrooms, or other veggies (like corn).
  • We used salsa since my toddler cannot eat spicy foods, but prior we usually used Rotel. I’d probably add some chipotle peppers in adobo if we could eat spicy now. 
  • I like this combo of beans and meat, but you could double the meat, or use only one type of beans, or do all beans or beans and rice for a vegetarian version. I’ve never tried it, but I bet this would taste good with chicken or pork also. 
  • I’ve seen versions of this made with raw meat. As 6 hours on low in a slow cooker is more than enough time to cook raw ground beef, this would cut way down on prep time, but I’m not sure how mixing all the ingredients (spices) together raw would work. 
  • Finally, we’ve used pretty much this same filling with some additional taco sauce to make taco stuffed pasta shells…. another recipe which is delicious as well as easily prepared and frozen.