Oven-baked French Fries

This is an easy way to make homemade French fries that are delicious and much healthier than the traditional deep fat fried ones.  You will never miss the extra calories!

Oven Fries
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut potatoes into fries, as large or small as you like (peeled or unpeeled)
  • Put the fries in a plastic bag and add some olive oil (about 1 1/2 teaspoon for one potato)
  • Shake well until the fries are coated with oil
  • Pour onto cookie sheet, forming a single layer
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes, then stir, turning the fries to their other side
  • Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until browned. 

 I like to add some minced garlic along with the olive oil, and sometimes also add some rosemary. Be sure the fries aren’t crowded and are in a single layer.  After they come out of the oven, sprinkle with salt and/or other seasonings as desired. To make them browner and crispier than you see in the picture, roast them a little longer. You can also do this with sweet potatoes.


#TBT – Clam Spaghetti

Here is one of my family’s favorites that comes together quickly and is a great choice for a meal when you have guests. The sauce cooks in the time it takes to prepare the pasta, and if you keep canned clams on hand, you probably have everything else you need to make it. It is good served alone, but is even better (and more balanced) if you add garlic bread and a salad.  

For the original post, click here.

Blistered Tomatoes

I’ve stumbled across a cheap, delicious, fast, practically calorie free side dish (and free on Weight Watchers). Sound too good to be true? Well, apparently it’s not.

We love to buy the containers of cherry tomatoes from Costco, and they sell them in the plain red variety and also a multicolor heirloom mixture that has red, yellow, green, and even purple bite-sized tomatoes. My toddler loves them, to the point that we’ve even resorted to hiding them in the pantry or he’ll drive us crazy wanting them all day. They’ve also ended up under our couch for reasons that still mystify me. We fancy ourselves salad eaters, but often the salad mix and tomatoes end up going bad before anyone can use them. I saw them sitting there the other day and thought, heck, why not.
I had just panfried myself some chicken breast with lemon juice, an attempt at a low calorie meal as I’m trying to get all this baby weight off. I gave my hot pan a quick spray of Pam, and threw in a double handful of tomatoes, and fried them until they were brown and blistered on one side then gave them a good stir. Toward the end I felt they were getting a little dry so I added in a couple tablespoons of water to sort of deglaze the pan. As soon as they started looking a little blistered and wrinkly (about 3 minutes), I added a half a teaspoon of minced garlic and salt, stirring a couple more times. The results were these wonderfully hot, flavorful tomato bites that burst in your mouth with the most potent tangy tomato flavor ever. They tasted similar to sun-dried tomatoes, but without the dry and leathery bit.
Feel free to experiment  by adding additional seasonings.  I tried adding Italian seasonings and it was delicious, a taste reminiscent of spaghetti.  Basil would probably be good, also.

This post was written by Kayte, but because she emailed it to me, it showed that I wrote it.


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:

#TBT – Dressed Up Mac & Cheese

I seldom use boxed macaroni & cheese, but usually keep it on hand for when my grandchildren visit since it is a sure winner with most of them.  It also comes in handy if I need to fix a last minute meal and am fresh out of inspiration or have extra people to feed.  It is easy to stretch it out for more servings and add greatly to the taste with a few simple additions.

Read the original post here for some suggestions, and then let your imagination be your guide.

Weight Watchers, Week Two

Week one was definitely a learning experience, but I did lose 1 1/2 pounds!  One of the lessons I came away with is that the only way I am going to be able to keep on track is by planning out my menus for the week.  Without that, there would have been too much temptation to just grab something or even run through the drive-through at a fast food place.  Kitchen scales make the planning much easier by taking the guesswork out of portion sizes.

This is a simple Excel spreadsheet that is easy to set up. I start by filling in any activity I have going on a specific day (the red in the center column) so I know how much time I will have to cook on that day.  I usually eat the same breakfast, so I only plan lunch and dinner.  I eat my main meal at lunchtime, and then a light meal for supper.  (It will probably be the other way around for most of you.)  I am careful to plan for leftovers, both so I don’t waste food and also because it means I don’t have to prepare another meal. I use the right-hand column to list anything I need to buy, and try not to make more than one trip to the grocery store each week. 
Now just because I planned all the meals for the week doesn’t mean that is what I ate.  I stuck pretty close to the plan for most of them, but forgot to get the fresh ginger for the Asian Ground Beef & Rice on Wednesday, so I used some of the ground beef to make a hamburger (without the bun), and had some kale salad as a side.  I was much later getting home on Thursday than I anticipated and didn’t have any rice cooked so I ate a sandwich.  Kayte had some Eggplant Parmigiana leftovers on Friday, so I ate that for lunch and had the tuna salad for supper. The point I am making is that although having something planned is great, it isn’t set in stone. Maybe you are just not in the mood for what is on the plan for that day, or life happens, so switch it with one of the other days or eat something else.
Well, enough about the planning – let’s get on to the food!  Here are six suggested meals for the coming week:
Baked Spiced Chicken – 8  This is for 2 drumsticks with skin and bone. Use a chicken breast with skin and bone instead for 7 points (it is much tastier when baked with skin and bone). Roll raw chicken in whatever your favorite mixture of spices is (chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, etc.) until completely coated so that you can’t see the raw chicken. Think the old-fashioned Shake & Bake, my favorite way is to dump spices into a gallon freezer bag and shake with the chicken. (Johnny’s garlic spread  from Costco is one of my favorites.) Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, turning halfway through, or until done. The spice mixture will form a crunchy crust (don’t be afraid of the chili powder, it isn’t that spicy). Round out the meal with salad with light dressing (2 points) and/or fruit.  Add-ons for family could be baked or mashed potatoes, rice, bread and dessert.
Steak – 3  Lean steak is surprising low in points (this is figured for 3 oz.). Serve with small baked or boiled potato topped with 2 tablespoons light sour cream and chopped onions or chives (4 points) and roasted veggies or a salad with light dressing (2 points). Add-ons for family could be crusty bread and dessert.
Pork Cube Steaks – 9  This is for 4 oz. of lean pork, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder, and paprika, coated with flour or masa harina (my favorite), and fried in 1 Tablespoon oil (it cooks fast, do not overcook). Serve with crudites (raw carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, etc.) fruit, or a salad with light dressing (2 points). Add-ons for family could include rice, potatoes, bread and dessert.

Baked Salmon with Garlic & Dijon – 9   The recipe can be found here. This is for a generous 6 oz. of salmon. Serve with a side of roasted veggies or a salad with a squeeze of lemon juice instead of dressing for no added points or add a light dressing on the salad (2 points).  I prefer to use parchment paper instead of foil to line the baking dish.  Add-ons for the family could be rice or potatoes, bread and dessert. (Thank you, Lauren, for the picture and  recipe.)     

Pesto Pasta & Roasted Veggies – 9  This is a recipe from Kayte that she put together with items she had on hand and she says it’s a keeper.  Roast a variety of veggies (she used red peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts and carrots – use whatever you like, the more the better), combine veggies and cooked rigatoni or pasta of your choice (2 oz dry weight per serving) with a little feta and 1 tablespoon of pesto per serving and mix well. Pasta is high in points, so the goal is to minimize the amount of pasta and maximize the veggies. Keep in mind that the veggies shrink quite a bit during the roasting process, so use at least twice as many as you think you need.. Add-ons for the family could be cooked chicken or other meat, bread and dessert.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew – 8  The recipe can be found here.  A great dish for a busy day.  Prep the night before, refrigerate and start slow cooker before heading out for the day.  Nothing is better than coming in to a house filled with a wonderful aroma and dinner ready to serve.  It doesn’t really need anything as a side, but is good with 6 whole grain crackers (3 points), 1 small slice cornbread (4 points), or a biscuit (41 grams, 3 points).  Add-ons for family could be any of the above sides or crusty bread and dessert. Update: I made this and found it a bit bland. I added a can of fire-roasted tomatoes to the leftovers and it was really good. I will definitely make it again and add the tomatoes at the beginning of the cook time.

You may have detected a theme here in the first two posts.  I am trying to post a recipe for chicken, beef, pork, fish, meatless, and slow cooker each week. I am working a two more posts, one that will focus on last minute meals when you have run out of time and/or energy, and another one on some good veggie side dishes that add few or no points.  Fruit is always a great add-on that doesn’t add points as long as it doesn’t have added sugar.

Here is a previous post in this series:

Weight Watchers Meals, Week 1

Several of us who are doing Weight Watchers online have formed our own group to plan some weekly meals that are reasonably easy to fix and with points already figured.  I am going to try posting here each week as a central place to plan six main meals each week, add notes on what to add to make the meals family-friendly, and share links to the recipes when needed.

Asian Ground Beef & Cabbage – 10 points.  The recipe can be found here.  This is a very generous and filling portion (1 serving = 1/2 recipe).  Suggested add-ons for the family would be rice and/or dessert.

Fish & Shrimp Packets – 7 points.  The recipe can be found here.  Some easy add-ons to make it more filling and/or appealing to the family would be rice, potatoes, additional veggies, bread and/or dessert.
Homemade Fried Rice – 7 points.  More information can be found here.  This is a great way to use up any small amounts of leftovers. The point total is using one cup of rice and about 1 more cup of additional veggies (no meat), but it can easily be adapted to include any kind of vegetables or cooked meat.  If the veggies are raw, they need to be briefly sauteed before adding the rice, and if they are cooked, add them at the end and cook just until heated through.

Tuna Salad – 5 points.  Drain and mix a 4 oz. can of tuna with 1 tablespoon of mayo, some sweet or dill relish and finely chopped onion.  Serve with 6 whole-grain crackers (3 points) or over lettuce. Suggested add-ons to make it family friendly could be bread (to make it into a sandwich), chips,  and dessert.

Oven Baked Pork Chops – 4 points (3 oz of meat without bone). The instructions are here. Serve with a salad with 2 tablespoons light dressing (2 points).  Suggested add-ons for the family would be rice, potatoes, bread, and/or dessert.

White Bean Chicken Chili (Slow Cooker) – 7 points.  The recipe is here.  Suggested toppings are sharp cheddar (1/2 oz = 2 points), lite sour cream (2 tablespoons = 1 point) or chopped cilantro. Suggested add-ons would be crusty bread, cornbread, tortilla chips, and/or dessert.

Here is my first attempt at this.  I welcome any suggestions or constructive criticism!