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 – Kayte’s Motley Rice

In keeping with my recent theme of featuring quick and easy meals for summertime, Kayte’s Motley Rice is a perfect side dish for grilled meat or fish of any kind, a main dish with the addition of any kind of cooked protein, or even a stand-alone vegetarian dish.  It’s a great choice for the novice cook, inexpensive, and an excellent way to use up small amounts of various leftovers.

For the original post, click here.

Kayte’s Motley Rice (aka Everything But the Kitchen Sink Rice)

I’ll admit it: I’ve become a chicken broth hoarder since my mom discovered it can be reduced and frozen in bouillon squares (directions here). I stopped counting after 48 squares, which is enough to make 48 cups of chicken broth. That’s just crazy. But the fact that they are all contained in one gallon sized freezer bag assuages my guilt.

Now I find myself looking for fun ways to use my bounty of bouillon. I’ve found that you can throw it in just about anything as a flavor enhancer, but by far my favorite current use for it is in this rice I’ve invented. It makes a perfect side to almost anything, is completely customizable, and a great way to a) sneak some vegetables into reluctant family members and b) clean out random remnants from your fridge/freezer. Basically, you cook your rice as directed on the package, substituting the liquid with a combination of bouillon cubes, water, and a salad dressing/marinade of your choice. To do this, I simply place the frozen bouillon cubes in my measuring cup then start adding salad dressing and water until I reach the desired amount of liquid. Use whatever ratio of rice:water that is called for on your chosen package of rice. I ran out of Italian dressing this last time, so added some of this citrus marinade from Costco. This gave the rice an amazing sweet hint that even my 10 year old appreciated and commented on. The pictures really don’t do this rice justice, it is bursting with flavor.

I parted with 2 of my frozen bouillon cubes for this.


Another Costco win.
Kayte’s Motley Rice, pork carnita taco, and random slices of apple. Don’t judge.
I served this with carnita tacos (recipe here) and apples, which is admittedly weird but I’m that desperate to sneak fruits and veggies into the hoodlums I live with. I get less guff if it’s on a dinner plate and I’m sitting at the table watching them eat it, for some reason. You probably think I’m referring to my children, but my husband is just as bad.

Kayte’s Motley Rice

1 cup jasmine rice
1 cup frozen/leftover mixed veggies (peas, corn, etc.)
1/4 cup diced onion (optional)
1/2 tsp dried oregano (optional)
1.5 cup total combined liquid and bouillon:
     2 cubes bouillon (use vegetable bouillion for vegetarian)
     1/2 cup Italian dressing (any oil/water based dressing works!)
     1/2 cup balsamic citrus basil marinade
     *enough water to reach 1.5 cup mark

Add all of the above ingredients (still frozen) to a saucepan and bring to a boil. (Cook according to rice package directions.) Cover, simmer for 15 minutes, then stir and fluff with a fork.

Any other ideas for random ingredients that I should add to this? 

Fried Rice and Cookies


[This is a follow-up to a previous post, The Dream House – Cooking for a Crowd.  In that post, I talked about how to adapt a recipe to feed a lot of people.  Here is how I make this in a far smaller portion for myself.]

This is a quick and easy way to use little bits and pieces of leftovers to make a satisfying main dish. You can use any kind of cooked protein – chicken, beef, pork, etc. – or keep it meatless.  The one crucial ingredient is cold, cooked rice or quinoa.  You can use any kind of vegetables you have on hand, either cooked or raw.  If they are cooked, add them at the end and cook just until heated through.   This is a perfect way to use very small amounts of meat or veggies that aren’t enough to serve by themselves.  One of my favorite meats to use is bacon, since I always have it on hand, or leftover meat from a rotisserie chicken.

This recipe is more of a guide, since just about everything can be left out or substituted, according to your tastes and what you have on hand.  I purposely didn’t give quantities since it all depends on what you have available and your personal tastes.  I usually use about 1/2 – 1 cup of rice, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic, 2 strips of bacon and about a cup or so of assorted veggies for one serving for myself.
Fried Rice
  • Cold cooked rice or quinoa (preferably cooked with chicken or beef stock)*
  • Cooked meat, cut in bite-sized pieces (chicken, beef, pork, bacon, etc.)
  • Raw veggies, cut in bite-sized pieces (mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, greens, green beans, snow or snap peas, green onions, asparagus, bean sprouts, etc.)
  • Chopped or minced garlic
  • Oil for frying (I use avocado oil and a little sesame oil)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Soy sauce or tamari
Heat oil in skillet, add garlic and raw veggies, stir frying until just until crisp/tender. (If using cooked veggies, be sure they are well drained and wait and add them in at the last, heating just until heated through.) Add meat and rice, breaking rice up into individual grains, and stir fry briefly until heated through.  Push everything over to one side of the skillet, add a little oil if needed, and quickly scramble the egg, breaking into small pieces and mixing with the rice mixture.  Sprinkle with soy sauce, cover and let set off the heat for a minute or two.  (There is usually some of the mixture stuck on the bottom of the pan, and this allows it to soften so you can stir it in.)  This is easily converted to vegetarian or vegan by leaving out the meat and/or egg.

*You can also substitute cauliflower rice (raw cauliflower grated or finely chopped in a food processor).

In my previous post, I talked about two kinds of cookies that I made and promised I would post the recipe for the Oatmeal Raisin ones.  (There is a link to the pumpkin cookie recipes in that post.)  I don’t remember where I got the original Oatmeal Raisin recipe, but I have changed it quite a bit anyhow.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil* 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup  raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Set aside.  Beat the coconut oil, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the oil/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, drained raisins and walnuts, if using them.
To get a thick, chewy cookie, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.  You can bake them right away, but they will be thinner.  Heat oven to 350° before forming the cookies, so that oven is hot when you put them in to bake.
Drop by spoonfuls two inches apart on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet. The dough is very thick and I usually flatten them down a bit with my hand.  Bake them for 12-15 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges. Transfer them to a rack to cool.
This recipe also works great to freeze the unbaked cookies ahead of time and then just bake however many you want right before eating.  Prepare as instructed down through forming the cookies on the baking sheet (be sure to use parchment paper).  Put the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze, then put the frozen cookies in a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer until needed, taking out only as many as you want at any one time.  If cooking unthawed, increase baking time by about 5 minutes.

*If you don’t like coconut, use softened butter instead.

The Dream House – Cooking for a Crowd

I recently had the privilege of cooking dinner for Maia Moms’ first Mentor Match Night at The Dream House.  It was a truly inspirational night, with such a wonderful spirit of love, support and acceptance.  It was also a lot of fun with the little ones, running about and playing – no chance of it getting too formal and boring!
Let me start off with a little background information. MaiaMoms is a nonprofit organization located in North Charleston, SC, whose mission is to support single moms and their children who are struggling to make a better life for themselves. The organization is funded primarily by private donations, along with some fundraisers, corporate support and grants, and is always looking for supporters and volunteers.  Maia Moms helps by subsidizing the rent for moms who are pursuing higher education for themselves to enable them to spend more time with their children while they prepare for a career that can provide a decent living for their family.  While they are receiving the subsidy, they have to meet certain requirements including meeting with their family advocate regularly and attending a variety of life skills classes.  Another very important part of the program is matching each of them up with mentor teams of up to 3 women who just “do life” with them, providing love, encouragement and leading by example.    Calling these team members “mentors” is a bit of a misnomer, and a more accurate term would be “mom coachs”. 
A few months ago, Maia Moms was given the opportunity to partner with Seacoast Church’s Dream Center in The Dream House, a transitional home for mothers and children.  The Dream Center bought the house and handles all the upkeep and repairs, and Maia Moms provides and supervises the residents, all of whom are in the Maia Moms program.  The requirements for the moms living in The Dream House are a bit different than the rent subsidy moms in that they are not required to be pursuing higher education, but all the other requirements are the same – meeting with a family advocate, taking life skills classes, having a mom coach team.  The Dream House can house up to 4 families, although due to space constraints, they each must have children no older than 4 years old.  The first residents moved in on November 1st.
On November 18th, the moms, including the ones in the rent subsidy program, and their mom coach teams met up to be officially matched.  I cooked a simple dinner for everyone of a chicken and rice dish, a kale salad and both pumpkin and oatmeal raisin cookies.  I like to cook, but this was a challenge since I am not used to cooking for a larger crowd, and it was especially important that the meal be toddler-friendly.
For the main dish, I bought two rotisserie chickens from Costco and stripped all the meat off, leaving it in bite-sized chunks, and putting it in the refrigerator.  I took all the left-over scraps and bones and put them in a large slow cooker, adding an onion, a generous handful of carrots, and a heaping teaspoon of chopped garlic, and then filling it with water.  I set it on high until it was close to boiling and then turned it down to low, allowing it to cook overnight.  The next day, I strained all the solid pieces out of the broth and discarded them, added 1 teaspoon of each thyme and basil, and then simmered the broth for a couple of hours to reduce it down a bit and concentrate the flavors, adding salt to taste.  I used this broth as the liquid to cook 3 cups of uncooked rice.  While the rice was cooking, I prepared about 5 cups of frozen mixed vegetables according to package directions, and reheated the cooked chicken by quickly stir frying it in batches in a little sesame oil.  Once everything was cooked and hot, I combined it all in the slow cooker set on warm, and served it directly out of there.

The salad was super easy and won rave reviews.  I bought packaged kale salad from Costco – it contains everything including poppy seed dressing, dried cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds right in the same package.  It has several different types of green ingredients including kale, sliced brussels sprouts, chicory, broccoli and cabbage.  It sounds like a crazy combination, but it is absolutely delicious.  (Side note: It is also great stir fried, especially if you add a little bacon.)
I baked 2 kinds of cookies, and the pumpkin ones were the most popular. I will do a separate post on the oatmeal raisin ones, since I changed the recipe a bit and this post is getting a bit long.  In that next post, I will also tell you how I would normally do the chicken and rice for a much smaller batch.
For more information about Maia Moms, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.

Quick and Easy Taquitos

Taquitos are a fast but satisfying appetizer, snack or lunch, especially if you have some shredded meat of any kind in your refrigerator or freezer.  Two of my favorite meats to use are Rio Chicken and Carnitas.  I usually make a big batch during one of our freezer-cooking sessions and package in individual portions for easy access.  I am sure the Taquitos could be made vegetarian by using refried beans and/or cheese instead of the meat.

They are so simple to make that it is almost ridiculous to write out a recipe but here goes:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded meat (or refried beans and/or cheese)
  • Olive oil or cooking spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put a couple of tablespoons of desired filling down the center of a corn tortilla. and then fold both sides over to form a roll (do not tuck ends in).  Warm tortilla briefly in a skillet or the microwave if necessary to keep from cracking when you fold it, although they tend to crack anyhow while baking. (Don’t try to overfill or they will come apart.)  Place tortilla rolls on a cookie sheet and brush or spray with oil.  Bake for 10 minutes, turn rolls over and  brush or spray again, then bake for an additional 10 minutes until lightly browned and crisp.  Eat as is or serve with salsa and/or sour cream.

If I am eating the taquitos for a meal, I usually add a side dish of some rice cooked in the broth from the Rio Chicken or Carnitas and, if I am really going all out, a green salad.  Another good side is to roast some veggies in the oven at the same time the Taquitos are cooking. (All the recipes referenced here are also in the Recipe page on the menu at the top of the page.)