Weight Watchers – Week 10

Easy Beef Stroganoff – 6 points (1/4 recipe, 1/2 lb beef, 3/4 cup light sour cream, reduced fat soup).  Serve over rice (3 points for 1/2 cup), noodles (3 points for 1/2 cup) or crusty bread (2 points per slice). Serve with a salad, fruit or veggie side dish.  Add-ons for family could include bread and/or dessert.

Pork ribs & sauerkraut – 6 points (4 oz of rib meat).  You can cook the potatoes in the slow cooker, cutting them in chunks and putting them in first, but I prefer to cook them separately. I like to put the sauerkraut over the potatoes, so you get a bite of combined potato and kraut.  If you don’t like sauerkraut, try this anyways.  During the cooking the kraut becomes much milder tasting and the meat picks up a great taste.

Chicken Fingers – 3 points (4 oz meat, 1/2 tablespoon oil per serving). Cut chicken breast into strips and coat with Louisiana Crispy Fish Fry  mix (no other seasoning needed).  The link is there to show you what the package looks like – it can be found in most grocery stores. Fry briefly in a small amount of oil (only takes a few minutes). You could also bake them with a spray of Pam. This is a sure-fire winner with both kids and adults. Add a salad or raw veggie tray with homemade Ranch dressing (2 tablespoons are 1 point), oven fries ( 6 points for medium potato + 1/2 tablespoon of oil), or rice (1/2 cup is 3 points). Family add-ons could include bread and/or dessert.



Easy Breaded Shrimp – 4 points (4 oz shrimp per serving).  I made this for Kayte and I, using some fairly small shrimp she had on hand and Panko bread crumbs.  We didn’t have the lemon called for so I used lemon pepper instead.  They were delicious, but would have been even better with larger shrimp.  I also used a good spray of Pam on both sides of the shrimp instead of olive oil, and turned the shrimp when the bottoms got brown.  We served it with a raw veggie selection with homemade Ranch dressing (1 point for 2 tablespoons). Family add-ons could be rice, potatoes, bread, potato salad, cole slaw, and/or dessert.  (This is low enough points you could choose to have something from this list, too.)

Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili – 6 points. (1/4 recipe without toppings).  Add avocado (2 points for 1/4), light sour cream (2 points for 2 tablespoons), cheese (2 points for 1/2 oz) or other toppings.  Rachael made this and her family loved it, including the leftovers.  Read the blog post for more information.  Add ons for family could be tortilla chips, crusty bread, and/or dessert.

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup – 5 points (1/8 recipe).  This is one of the best soups ever (and I usually don’t like soup)!  I made it on top of the stove instead of in the slow cooker.  I substituted diced tomatoes and their juice for the tomato sauce and used broccoli rabe, but you could easily use other greens such as spinach or kale, and other veggies.  Add ons for family could be crackers, biscuits, bread, and/or dessert.

Quick Tip Tuesday – Easy Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing tends to be very popular, especially with kids.  It is really easy to make your own, and it tastes even better than when made with the packet from the store, not to mention much less expensive.  I make four times the seasoning recipe and keep it in a small jar with the instructions written on the top.  To make the dressing, add the mix to buttermilk, mayo and sour cream.  If you use light mayo and light sour cream, 2 tablespoons is only 1 Weight Watcher point.  Using it as a dip is a great way to get your family (and you) to eat more raw veggies.

Ranch Dressing

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  •  1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pinch dried dill weed
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together until well blended.
  2. Refrigerate for several hours (or even better, overnight) to allow flavors to meld together.
  3. Keep refrigerated; use within seven days.
 To make 4 times the amount of the seasoning mix, use:
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon garlic powder
·         1 teaspoon onion powder
·         1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
·         1/2 teaspoon black pepper
·         1/8 teaspoon dried dill
·         1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
 
Mix together in a small jar.  To make the dressing, use 1 teaspoon of the mix to 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup of mayo and 1/4 cup sour cream.  Whisk together, and let set for at least 30 minutes before using.
*Buttermilk freezes great.  I always end up with a lot more buttermilk than I can use before it goes bad, so I freeze small portions in freezer-safe mason jars.  Do not try to freeze sour cream.

Frugal Friday: Ebates

Over a year ago, I posted about one of my favorite ways to get a little more bang for your buck: Ebates. With the new year here, and some changes to the program, I want to make sure everyone knows about it!
 Ebates is a way to get cash back on purchases you are already making. It is a website, but is also available as an app. You may have even seen some TV commercials for it. I’ve been using this site for nearly 3 years. I don’t make a lot of online purchases, and I forget about ebates almost every other time. Initially Amazon was not included, which is a majority of my online shopping, but it is now. However, in that time, I’ve gotten over $150 back on purchases I was going to make regardless. This cash is in addition to cash back from my credit cards rewards program. Cash back ranges from 1% up to 10% or more. Additionally, Ebates includes sales and discounts for some stores.

So how does it work? When you’re ready to do some shopping, go to the ebates website (or app) and log in. Then search for the store you want to shop at. Ebates will display how much cash back and the terms. Click the store, and a ticket will open into a new window, then the store website itself will be displayed. At this point you shop like normal. It sounds like a lot, but it honestly adds 30 seconds to your shopping experience.
Ebates actually has recently added the ability to get cash back for in-store purchases at certain stores if you link your credit card. Again, this is in addition to any discount, loyalty programs, or credit card cash-back programs you are already a part of.
Ebates policy allows for a certain number of days before your cash back appears, but I typically see it within 48 hours. Cash is sent back to you each quarter. Typically it’s sent back via paypal, but sometimes there are options for gift cards.
New users receive a $10 gift card after their first $25 purchase, so sign up today.

Quick Tip Tuesday: You Can Freeze Almost Anything

Over the years, and I’ve read any number of tips that have changed my life. Not only do many of these tips save me time and energy, some of them save me money too. So as part of the new MMC, we are now bringing you “Quick Tip Tuesday”: time and budget saving tips in short blog post form.
Are you ready for it…….Here’s this weeks tip………
YOU CAN FREEZE ALMOST ANYTHING
This is life altering for many many reasons. First, freezing your food means that, like most of our meals, its available for use in the future. Second, if you ended up with some unexpected left overs, or excess produce you can’t finish in time, you can save it for later – this way it does not go to waste, and it saves you money in the future. Third, you can buy just about anything in bulk that is on sale.

Frozen Banana Slices – Perfect for Smoothies

I was quite skeptical in the beginning, of what I could or couldn’t freeze. I played it safe. Lately, I’ve been branching out, and doing some research and it has definitely paid off. Can’t finish off that huge container of Costco spinach? Freeze it. Throw it in smoothies, dishes calling for frozen or fresh spinach. What about the ridiculous large container of Costco pesto? Freeze it in cubes, throw in dishes at a later date. Bought a fridge full of squash and zucchini and suddenly have to leave town? Slice it up and freeze it. Throw it in some orzo at a later date. And those are just a few. 
Frozen Pesto Cubes!
I could go on and on, but in the interest of this being a short post, I’ll leave you with a few basics and some links. First and foremost – most things should be quick frozen on a cookie sheet, freeze for 1 to 24 hours, then bag. This freezes all the items separately, so you can store in a single bag and grab as much as you need. For example: slice up bananas and lay on a parchment paper lined pan. When frozen, transfer to a freezer safe bag. Scoop out what you need for a smoothie when you need it. This is the same for most fruits. I do the same procedure for meatballs and individual burritos. Sauces freeze great in ice cube trays. Once frozen, put in a bag. 

#TBT – Budgeting Can Relieve Stress

For these next three Thursdays, I am going to revisit the series of posts that we ran going into the New Year last year.  
I don’t know if you make New Year’s resolutions, but it is always a good time to step back, evaluate where you are, and decide if you want to make changes going forward.  If you do want to make changes, it is very important to be specific – not “I want to start saving”, but instead “I will put $20 in my savings account every payday”. A good change to make would be to take control of your money, and maybe this post can help you figure out where to start.  Click here for post.

Growing Your Own Sprouts

I love to add sprouts to sandwiches or salads, but they can be a bit pricey at the grocery store, and aren’t always very fresh.  I started growing my own, and discovered it is really easy.  Another big advantage of growing your own is the great variety available, not just the plain jane alfalfa sprouts most commonly found when grocery shopping.  I like the finer seeds, such as radish, broccoli, red clover, alfalfa, etc. and Kayte prefers the chunkier seeds like lentils and beans.  Although the seeds can seem expensive at first, they make a lot of sprouts and go a long way.  Of course, the other advantage is that you know just how fresh they are and that they haven’t been contaminated during the growing or processing period.
All you need to get started is a jar, lids with holes (for draining) and some seeds.  Amazon has a great starter kit of lids that fit wide-mouth Mason jars. I ordered the sampler pack of sprouting seeds (also on Amazon), and it is a great way to try a large variety of different mixes.  I shared it with Kayte, and that is how we discovered we have distinctly different preferences.  There are lots of other sources for seeds, and you may be able to find some at local health food stores.  Be sure you are buying seeds made specifically for sprouting, and not for planting.  Seeds for planting are often treated with fungicides or other chemicals.
To start, add seeds to the jar, cover with cool water and let soak for 8 hours or overnight.  I use a heaping tablespoon of small seeds in a pint jar, but you will need to add more seeds if you are using larger varieties.  After soaking, drain off the liquid, then rinse twice with cool water. Drain well, and position jar so that any remaining water can continue to drain (the lids from Amazon allow you to put the jar upside down).  Rinse twice with cool water morning and evening for the next several days until your sprouts are the size you want them.  Mine usually take about 3-4 days, and I like to put them where they get plenty of light for the last day or so to become nice and green, but that isn’t necessary. Store covered in the refrigerator when finished growing.  (You can take a few out during the growing process and allow the rest to continue growing.)

#TBT – Homemade Goldfish Crackers

If one of your go-to snacks for your toddler (especially when you need something portable) is goldfish crackers, here is an easy recipe to make your own so you can control exactly what goes into them (and it isn’t much).  
I will warn you, though, that you just about have to use a food processor. They are really good.  For the original post, click here.