Weight Watchers – Veggie Side Dishes

It is always a challenge to get enough fruits and especially veggies into my daily meals, and when you have small children, it becomes even more difficult.  Here is a list of things you might try (and as I have written them down, I realized that I need to keep that list handy, also).

Okra & tomatoes – 0 points – Try this even if you don’t like okra.  Combine raw or frozen okra and 1 can of diced tomatoes.  Microwave or boil until okra is tender.  It is even better if you fry a piece of bacon – 1 point – and some diced onion in the pot before adding the okra and tomatoes.  I guarantee that there isn’t even a trace of okra’s characteristic sliminess.

Stir fried veggies – 2 points with 2 teaspoons of oil – (mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, carrots, snow peas, green onions, zucchini, etc.) Cut everything into  pieces or strips and stir fry in a little oil until tender, starting with the veggies that take longest to cook (peppers, carrots, broccoli) and then adding the rest.  When done, sprinkle with soy sauce. A good way to use small amounts of raw veggies, or buy the frozen stir fry mix. To make this a meal, add some protein if you like and serve over cauliflower rice.

Cauliflower rice – 0 points. Separate raw cauliflower into individual florets and pulse in a food processor briefly just until it looks like rice (or grate it).  I usually heat mine in a dry skillet, stir frying it just until hot.  You can also microwave it briefly.  When used as a base for stir fry, stroganoff, etc. you can’t tell the difference.  It also freezes well (uncooked) – I do a whole head at a time and put the extra in a baggie in the freezer.  You can also try Oven-Roasted Cauliflower Rice (I use olive oil instead of the coconut oil called for in the recipe).
Crudites – 0 points. whatever raw veggies your family likes, such as baby carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, raw broccoli or cauliflower florets, etc.  Adding a dip is a bonus, but will add Weight Watcher points.

Kale salad – 3 points.  Go light on the dressing and add-ins, the veggie part is free of points. Available at most grocery stores in the package salad section, this is a great change of pace.  It comes complete with poppy seed dressing as well as cranberries and pumpkin seeds.  If the veggie part gets a little past its prime, stir fry it and serve it hot.
Cole Slaw2 points with 1 tablespoon cole slaw dressing. (Reduced fat is same points as regular, probably because of the added sugar). Shred cabbage or buy the slaw mix in the produce section, and add cole slaw dressing. If you mix it up 30 minutes or an hour before serving, the cabbage softens a bit and the flavors meld.
Salad Bar0 points. Set out some greens, torn into pieces, and a variety of veggies such as diced or grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, sliced or diced raw mushrooms, sliced or diced peppers, raw broccoli or cauliflower, etc.  Sliced or diced apples, strawberries, or other fruit, craisins, chopped hard boiled egg, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds (points depend on amount added) make it even more interesting.  Provide a variety of salad dressings (2 points for 2 tablespoons reduced fat).  Let everyone build their own salad.

Fruit salad or just plain sliced or diced fruit – 0 points.  Not really a veggie, but a great side dish and it doesn’t need a dressing (which would add Weight Watchers points).  The other bonus is that kids usually love it.

Roasted veggies – 0 points if using a spray of Pam instead of oil, although I like the taste better with a little olive oil – 1 point per teaspoon. Do a combination of your favorite veggies or try some you don’t particularly like but know you should eat.  They have a completely different taste.
Oven-baked French fries – 6 points (medium potato + 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil). These are really easy and I actually prefer the taste of them to the traditional deep-fried ones.  Try this with sweet potatoes, also.
Grow-your-own sprouts 0 points. it is really easy to grow your own sprouts and they are great on a sandwich or salad.  The thing I like best about growing my own is using a variety of seed mixes, not just plain alfalfa.

Here are some links to previous posts in this series:

Weight Watchers, Week One
Weight Watchers, Week Two
12 Last Minute Meals
Weight Watchers, Week Three

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.


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.

 

Salmon With Orzo Pilaf and Veggies

This meal is in regular rotation at our house. It’s not exactly a freezer meal, though the ingredients come straight out of my freezer, or pantry. We always have a bag of Kirkland Signature Boneless/Skinless Salmon Fillets in our freezer. These bags retail for about $28, and contain 7 individually wrapped fillets (around $4/Fillet, a pretty good price for Salmon). I usually have a variety of frozen veggies on hand, too.  I also keep several types of pasta in my pantry, including orzo. Again, I stock up when both these items are on sale and use them as needed. 
The picture above is salmon, cooked according to the bag directions, with a bit of olive oil and Penzy’s Shallot Pepper Seasoning. I’ve made it with salt & pepper, seafood seasoning, and other seasoning mixes, as well. The recipe for the orzo is listed below. 
 Orzo Pilaf with Veggies

Ingredients

  • 1 TBL Butter
  • 2+ Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 2 Cup Water (Or Chicken Stock)
  • 8 oz Orzo (1/2 box)
  • 1/4 C Italian Cheese/ Parmesan/ Goat Cheese
  • 1 Bag frozen veggies (see pic for my favorite!)
Directions
  1. Melt butter in pan on medium heat. 
  2. Saute garlic, until fragrant
  3. Add orzo. Cook until it begins to brown, approximately 3 min. 
  4. Add water (stock), frozen veggies, and seasoning,
  5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add cheese, stir and remove from heat. Serve. 

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.

Roasting Vegetables


An easy way to add veggies into your family’s diet is to try roasting them.  It is amazing how different they taste than when fixed any other way.  This is also a great way to use up small amounts of raw vegetables by combining several at a time.  One of my favorite vegetables to roast is brussel sprouts. They completely lose the bitterness and actually taste almost nutty.  About a year ago, one of my grandsons, who absolutely will not eat any kind of vegetable, was at my house at lunchtime one day and for some reason helped himself to a roasted brussel sprout.  His eyes got big and he said, “That’s really good!”. I knew he was sincere when he asked me to bring roasted brussel sprouts to Thanksgiving dinner.  (Yes, Kyle, I’m talking about you.)

Ready for some good eating!
source: Sean Dreilinger
Just about any kind of veggie can be roasted, although the time may need to be adjusted.  The most important thing is to be sure everything is cut into bite-sized pieces that are all roughly the same size. Unless the brussel sprouts are really small, I cut them in half.  This is also a great time to experiment with different flavors – use coconut oil and cinnamon for carrots or sweet potatoes, add some rosemary with regular potatoes, try out any other favorite seasonings with appropriate veggies.


Ingredients:
  • Raw vegetables – brussel sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes – let your imagination be your guide!   
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil (or melted coconut oil, depending on what you are roasting)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
  • Salt (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  (A lower temperature can be used, just adjust the time accordingly.)
  2. Cut your vegetables into bite-sized pieces (important to keep the sizes roughly the same).  Put oil, garlic and cut veggies into a plastic bag and shake to coat all the pieces.  I like a mixture, so I start off with the things that take the longest – brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, etc.- and put them in to roast about 10-15 minutes before adding the quicker-cooking items – mushrooms (cut in half), cherry tomatoes, onion wedges, etc.  
  3. Pour onto a heavy cookie sheet or oven-proof pan large enough to let everything spread out in a single layer without being crowded.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, take out and turn to other side, then return to oven for another 15-20 minutes or until tender and browned.  
  4. Sprinkle with a little salt and dig in!