Tag Archives: healthy eating

Recipe: No-Noodle Spinach Lasagna

You guys. Holy crap. We saw this recipe Sunday morning (courtesy of the geniuses at BeyondDiet) and we looked at one another and back at the recipe and back at each other and said: WE HAVE TO.

 

For starters, all the ingredients were stuff we keep in our house anyway.

 

For seconds (?), the points for this glorious dish were only 7 PP a person.

 

For thirds: only a half hour in the oven? Ingredients that can be prepped one at a time? HOKAY YES.

 

And so, we endeavored to make this casserole.

 

Without hesitation, I will tell you it is amongst the best recipes we have ever made. Ever. In our lives. Healthy or not.

 

Now, we got “healthy” versions of the ingredients involved and that influences the points pretty dramatically. So of you’re doing that WW hustle, don’t screw around with reckless ingredient picking.

 

But anyway, here’s the recipe: enjoy!

 

(Oh, and one thing: The recipe’s title says there’s onions in it. But, um, there isn’t? Not in the recipe itself? So… there’s that.)

Ingredients:
— 1 lb ground turkey or beef
— 1 TBSP italian seasoning (for beef, we also used garlic and onion powders)
— 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (we used 16 oz, and we seasoned them with thyme)
— 1 TBSP butter (we didn’t use this at all)
— 4 cups packed fresh spinach (we used closer to 6, and really, there’s no such thing as overdoing it.. spinach cooks down so small!
— 15 oz spaghetti sauce (we got Ragu’s Light, No Sugar Added Tomato Basil sauce, and we used the whole jar. It was incredibly point-friendly. No Sugar Added sauces are your friend!)
— 1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese (we used 1% fat cottage cheese)
— 1/4 tsp garlic salt (or, if you’re Karen & Chelsea, like, a tablespoon of garlic powder and some shakes of sea salt)
— 1 cup raw cheese, shredded (we used Fat Free Mozzarella from Kraft)
— 1 egg

Steps:
— Preheat the oven to 375.
— Grab a skillet. Brown the meat and add whatever seasonings you’re using. When the meat is done, put it in a separate bowl.
— Using the same skillet (Chelsea left the meat juices in, too, to avoid using other liquids or oils or butter), saute the mushrooms until they’re tender. We also seasoned these with thyme. When they’re done, put them in their own bowl too.
— In the same skillet again, wilt the cups of spinach. Place in a bowl, or leave in the pan.
— Drain any water in the spinach and mushroom bowls/pans.
— In yet another bowl, mix the egg, the cottage cheese, and the garlic salt (and any other seasonings — we added chives).
— Grab a 2 qt casserole dish. Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom (we did 1.5 cups on the bottom).
— Add a layer of turkey, then spinach, then mushrooms, then a layer of cottage cheese. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and repeat the layering process a few times until you’ve got 2 or 3 layers and your ingredients are gone.
— Top final layer with whatever’s left of your shredded cheese.
— COVER THE CASSEROLE IN TIN FOIL, and bake for 35 minutes.
— Take it out after 25, remove the foil, and cook it for 10-15 more minutes until the cheese browns a little and everything is bubbly.

 

YOU WILL NOT REGRET THIS DISH.

If you’re aiming for 2 cups of lasagna a person, it makes 4 servings. Each serving: 7 PP.

 

Mind. Blown.

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Recipe: Zucchini Fries

This one is definitely worth going out on a limb to try! And further, for those of  you on WW or who are conscious of your calories/diet, the “substitute” ingredients we purchased were CLUTCH to making these healthy and low-point. One of the biggest diet traps is making stuff like this and thinking “OH IT’S JUST ZUCCHINI NOM NOM NOM I CAN EAT IT ALL NOM NOM NOM MOSTLY WATER ANYWAY NOM NOM NOM GUILT FREE NOM NOM NOM” because things like flour and bread crumbs are NOT free, not even A LITTLE. And so we’ve included the directions to the original recipe, and some notes about what we followed or tweaked.

Now, as a former fried-food-fan (these days, I genuinely don’t think I’d enjoy most actually fried foods if I were to eat them), I really miss things that have that salty, crispy casing on them. As I progress on my WW-journey, I’ve learned to become cool with things that have a semblance of that casing and are BAKED instead of fried. And so when I saw this recipe for zucchini fries, I thought, “Well, heck, it’s the weekend and I’ve got over 40 activity points saved up and all my weekly flex points, so let’s toss this recipe into the recipe builder on my iPad app and see what we’ve got.” Turns out, for 45 fries (our batch made 50), the way WE did it was only 4 PP a person if you split the spoils IN HALF. You heard me: 20-some of these zucchini fries (they are not small) for 4 PP.

Obviously, we had to try it.

So there I was, looking at the ingredient list for this recipe. It called for flour and bread crumbs. The author of the recipe (original format here) used something called “chickpea flour/besan,” which I had never heard of before. I did some point-sleuthing and, wouldn’t you know it, this miracle powder is LESS POINTS than regular flour! So we needed it. Hmph.

Chelsea, I declared, We’re going to the hippie store.

I affectionately call our local organic/whole foods grocery shop “the hippie store,” and I spend a lot of my time there these days. I’m really looking the part lately, too. Vegan Baggalinni? Check. Prius? Check. Lesbianism? Check. I fit right in. :-p

I’ve noticed that while not EVERYTHING at Down To Earth is at a reasonable or competitive price (their peanut butters cost nearly twice as much as the same brands do at Wegman’s!), their bulk foods and baking stuff cannot be beat. Plus, if ANYWHERE was gonna be selling chickpea flour, it was Down To Earth. So off we went. And we found it. And it was $2.00 for a pound of it. Success.

 

Now, bread crumbs… I looked into panko (which we have in the pantry) and wasn’t elated by how many points the recipe would become through its use. A cup of panko is no small amount of points, ya dig? Italian bread crumbs are even worse. So I endeavored to make my OWN bread crumbs, by buying a loaf of WW’s whole wheat bread, double toasting it, and then chopping it in the food processor. Success.

 

The recipe itself is so simple you’ll smack yourself for not having come up with it, and the results are so delicious that you’ll immediately wish you could un-smack yourself since now, you’ll be grateful SOMEONE came up with it.

 

Here goes:

Ingredients:
— 2 or 3 small zucchini, cut into fry shapes. (I used 2 zucchini — small ones — and first cut them in half, then into quarters, then into fry shapes from there. Oh, and I cut off the ends before doing the above.)

— 1/4 cup chickpea flour (We ended up needing a little bit more than this. Probably about 1/2 a cup — but it didn’t all get used. When we were getting down to the bottom of the original 1/4, though, the fries were hard to coat because of the shape of the bowl. So more flour made for easier coating, even though we didn’t use it all. If that makes sense)

— 1/4 tsp garlic powder (HAHAHA I scoff at anyone who says I should use less than a tablespoon of garlic powder at any time for any reason. You KNOW Chelsea and I upped the ante on that ‘ish.)

— 1/2 cup milk of choice (we used flax milk, and we needed more than 1/2 a cup)

— 1 cup breadcrumbs (again, we needed more than this — but that’s in part because our crumbs were getting soggy from all the dippage. You’ll see. Maybe other types of crumbs are more resilient.)

 

Steps:
— Preheat the oven to 420.
— Spray a bake-able cooling rack with cooking spray and put it on a pan. (Pics in the original recipe’s post will be helpful here).
— Make an assembly line: in one bowl, your flour, garlic powder, and any other seasonings. In a second bowl, your milk. In a final bowl, your breadcrumbs.
— Dip each little zucchini piece first in the flour, then the milk, then the breadcrumbs. Add to the cooling rack.
— Bake for about 20 minutes (in our experience).

 

Enjoy!

The above recipe, using flax milk and WW crumbs and chickpea flour, made an 8-PP overall recipe that became 4 PP a person. And we couldn’t even eat them all in one sitting. And so, a point-friendly delicious snack.

 

Recipe: Healthy Blueberries & Cream

Discovered this recipe last night on Facebook, and when I realized we had all the ingredients — well, I decided to make it as my evening snack.

Now, the original recipe differs from what I used — the ingredients below are what I used in my rendering. I think it nets a little more sweetness and it’s low-points. My secret? Sugar-free maple syrup. Believe it or not, I find the sugar-free brand we use to be freakin delicious — I actually prefer it to regular syrup at this point (excluding, of course, super high-quality maple). Anyway, enough exposition. Here it is!

Ingredients:
6.5 oz plain Greek yogurt (fat free)
2 TBSP sugar-free maple syrup
1/2 TSP vanilla extract
“3 good shakes” of cinnamon*
1 cup blueberries

Steps:
Mix in a bowl, then enjoy!

* = Their words, not mine… I just sprinkled some cinnamon on top.

Total PP: 3

YOU HEARD ME.

Yeah; that’ll be the last time anyone scoffs at sugar-free syrup in THIS blog.

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Recipe: Reuben Casserole

Holy crow, you guys: THIS ONE IS GOOD.

Made it twice this weekend — once in Scranton for mom and dad, and when mom generously donated the extra corned beef and cheese to our cause, we made it again tonight for ourselves.

This casserole hits the same “spot” taste wise as eating a big deli sandwich or pub food — but for a m of the dietary damage!

NOTE OF CAUTION: Portion size is key.

Ingredients:
— 0.5 lbs corned beef, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
— 1 onion, sliced thin
— 2 teaspoons canola oil
— 0.5 lbs sauerkraut (packaged, NOT canned), drained and dried well
— 0.75 cups reduced-fat Jarlsberg cheese, shredded (Wegman’s has it, and it’s not expensive at all)
— Rye crust, crumbled (we used the Weight Watcher’s seedless rye, four slices, toasted then crumbled)
— 2 tablespoons FAT FREE Thousand Island dressing
— 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
— 2 cups canned potatoes
— 1 cup water

Directions:
(Preheat oven to 375)

1. In a flame-proof casserole dish, heat the canola oil and add onion (slice it thin!), cook until browning.

2. Add the stained, dried sauerkraut. Cook until browning.

3. Add 1 cup water, corned beef, potatoes, and caraway seeds. Bring to a boil.

4. Once boiling, drizzle 2 TBSP of the Thousand Island Dressing on top, then scatter the shredded Jarlsberg on top. Lastly, sprinkle the bread crumbs and spray lightly with cooking spray.

5. Cook for 25 minutes at 375, or until crumbs are golden brown.

Yields 4 even cups.

Each cup: 5 PP

We doubled the recipe, giving ourselves each 10PP worth of Reuben casserole for a special Sunday dinner. It did NOT disappoint!

Vegan Cheese: A Reckoning

So, Chelsea and I were at Wegman’s on Friday, scouting for some things (including the coconut oil used for pulling, which is a different post entirely) and we were in the organic section. I was looking at the pre-seasoned tofu (Who has time to press and drain all the damn time?) when suddenly, Chelsea chimes in:

“Hey, look — vegan nacho cheese. The whole thing is only 10 points!”

Indeed.

She was holding a brick of Daiya nacho cheese, and like she said, the whole thing was ten points. That would be a LOT of cheese — even if we had a “treat night” and split it, it would be only five points! To put this in perspective: one ounce of almonds is 4PP; a Greek yogurt with one tablespoon of flax is 4PP. 5PP IS NOT BAD as far as nacho-cheese-goodness goes, or as anything goes at all.

So we brought it home and Chelsea did some internet sleuthing — one woman suggested adding salsa. Okay. Done. Chelsea melted the cheese and stirred the salsa in — I’ll have to ask her for details, since I wasn’t watching.

The result: Oh lord, it was so good. It tasted to me (especially with tomato salsa included) like the cheese on top of a pizza that has been mixed with sauce. It was DELICIOUS. We ate it by dipping celery sticks, and it was truly delicious.

I think in the future it would totally kick the pants off a craving for actual nachos or for wings or that type of pub food.

The best part: unlike its “real” counterpart, this stuff wasn’t oily at all and didn’t leave me feeling gross.

A winning situation all around!

Now, we have heard that a lot of vegan cheeses are terrible. We have never tried any before this — we’re not vegans, or even vegetarians — but if this nacho flavored one is any indication, the Daiya brand seems pretty okay by me.

Just a tip.

For real though if you like cheese or savory dips but can’t spare the calories/PP, you’ve GOT to try this stuff.

In my eyes, it is for celery what nutritional yeast is for EVERYTHING ELSE.

And ya’ll KNOW how I feel about that ‘ish.

Who Ever Knew????

Guys.

So already I’ve made it clear that I rediscovered a love of tuna salad. But did you know that you can put COTTAGE CHEESE in tuna instead of mayonnaise?!

We had some fat-free cottage cheese in the fridge and decided to give it a try; we used three tablespoons (1PP) per person, in one full can of tuna each.

It was SO GOOD.

Legit: my new favorite way to make tuna salad.

The cottage cheese adds bulk, texture, and a mighty wallop of protein to boot. Everyone wins!

Kitchen Scales are the Jedi Light Sabers of the WW World.

That is not an exaggeration.

I was talking, this weekend, to some family members about how clutch portion size is to successful weight loss — and to breaking the trend of disordered eating that holds so many of us captive.

We live in a culture where food is a reward for the good, seemingly a requirement (in large quantities) for the strong, something to both rail against and then unhealthily over-indulge in (women and the media-body crisis, and then the excuses we make to ourselves as to why a pint of ice cream is ok after a breakup or why we need four gin and tonics on a weekend night) — everything ABOUT our American relationship with food is wrong, and a lot of the wrongness stems from portion size.

“Big strong men” only need an excess of calories, whether meat-based or otherwise, if they’re working out and expending those calories.

We don’t specifically “deserve” calorie laden treats — have you ever wondered why we even think of food as a reward or it’s denial as a punishment?

When we have a “girls’ night” that involves gorging ourselves on brownies and ice cream, we continue to re-associate food with “feeling good.”

These are patterns I’m trying to break.

Admittedly, I used to be TERRIBLE with portions.

“A half-cup of cereal CERTAINLY couldn’t be enough. One packet of oatmeal?! A breakfast for INFANTS, not ME. I need more mashed potatoes, a bigger piece of chicken, and probably more salad too because, you know, I’m eating healthy.”

I was that person.

Then, I got a kitchen scale.

And man, does it EVER feel like a mental slap in the head when you start paying attention and doing the work and you realize just how broken your brain is when it comes to something as simple as reasonable food intake.

I got my little Weight Watchers scale and I started measuring my snacks, like pretzels and popcorn. Needless to say, what I THOUGHT was a reasonable serving and what actually IS a serving didn’t match — and all those times I had “guesstimated” points had really shot me in the foot.

After I got my snacking under control I started measuring the food that previously I had refused to question: my main meals. Some part of my brain had always been saying, “You’re not snacking as much — you NEED this food at dinner” or lunch or whatever. And so I had been afraid to question it — I needed that size of dinner, didn’t I? I needed that much soup, that much chicken. I needed it or I would feel weak or go hungry.

Well, news flash: the truth is, as a middle-class person in a First World country, I’m never going to truly go hungry. And nobody ever died between lunch and dinner, or from not eating til the point of stuffed-ness.

So I started by reading the nutrition labels on our side dishes.

Turns out, we were eating quite a bit of mashed potatoes, damnit. These days we don’t eat them at all – but that was before my “Cooking Enlightenment” during the summer of 2013.

So I tried cutting back my sides portions and adding more vegetables.

It would take another year before I was willing to admit that pan-frying my veggies in Wegman’s basting oil (several tablespoons of it) might need re-evaluation, too.

The last horizon: my protein intake.

I remember my shock, awe and horror the day I realized we were each eating about ten points of chicken per person per dinner. I thought we were eating 4 — WW says a chicken breast is 4 points, right? Well, it’s 4 points for 4 ounces. And there are certainly 4 oz chicken breasts out there. I just hadn’t been eating them.

When I weighed my food, suddenly I saw just how far the buck spread, when it came to eating and feeling satisfied.

Pretzels, at 3 points a serving, NEVER made me truly feel full.

Kale chips, at 0-1 PP a serving, satisfy the crunch craving and make me feel plenty sated.

Fast food, at horrifying PP values, always leaves me wanting more.

Greek yogurt, flax seed and snap peas for lunch: I am content.

Gone are the heaping tablespoons of peanut butter, the ignored quantity of butter on a piece of toast, the “handfuls” here and there of pretzels, jelly beans, chips.

Turns out, I never died from not having a snack. And turns out, I can do a Crossfit WOD or run a few miles without being weak, even without eating that afternoon Clif Bar (7PP) that I was so convinced I needed for “energy.”

The list goes on.

I owe these realizations to my scale and my measuring cups for showing me how unreasonable and how mindless what I was doing really was. I also owe it to myself, for being able to admit that I was wrong.

I mean, I just was, guys. I was wrong.

I had so many flat-out WRONG notions in my head about how much was enough, about how much I needed, about how much I would need on workout days compared to non-workout days, about how much would make me feel full.

And then I learned: Oh, a half-cup of breakfast cereal doesn’t make you feel full? Instead of doubling the portion, FIND ANOTHER BREAKFAST. Here I stand, with my smoothies, almonds and berries, happier than ever.

Here’s the other honest thing, though: It was not easy and it was not fun. It was not a good feeling to stare holes in the pretzel jar, or to have a rumbly tummy a half hour after lunch on the days I stopped eating a fast food sandwich WITH my “healthy lunch.” It was not easy to go out to a restaurant at the end of a long week, and see wings on the menu, and order…. SALAD. It wasn’t easy.

At first.

But it got easier. I sat with that hunger and I wondered why it was there. Often, it was boredom. Often, it was habit. Rarely was I ever actually under-fed. Rarely did I get light-headed. When I did, I ate something.

I started taking vitamins, making sure I got my Omega-3’s, making sure I ate my greens.

And you know what? I stopped being so goddamn hungry.

I guess the bottom line here is two-fold:

1. Use a scale. Measure your portions. At first, you might be disappointed, but you’ll find better foods that pack a bigger punch to sub-in. And if in the meantime you are hungry…
2. Don’t be afraid to be a little hungry. Your body needs time to adjust to new portion sizes, new foods, and new hobbies. You wouldn’t change your sleep habits or workout habits or anything else without expecting bodily resistance, right? But you would at the same time eventually expect to acclimate, right? This is no different. The hungry-belly feelings will go away.

And so will those pounds. And so will all the myths you believed that helped you gain those pounds.

You’ll be happier, I promise.

Start weighing-in more than just your body — and see just how insanely gratifying the results will be, once you get on the other side of those initial rumbly-tums.

 

 

Recipe: Herbed Tofu

I tried this as a first attempt at tofu baking, and it went alarmingly well.

Ingredients:
– 14 oz firm tofu, pressed and drained
– 2 tablespoons soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
– 1.5 teaspoons rosemary
– 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
– 1.5 teaspoons oregano
– 1.5 teaspoons basil
– Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
– Preheat oven to 400
– Press and drain tofu (Google it!)
– Cut into cubes
– Combine all other ingredients and whisk
– Marinate tofu cubes for at least 30 minutes
– Place on baking sheet that’s been sprayed with cooking spray
– Bake 15 minutes then flip ’em over and bake another 15.

Then enjoy! We sure did.

This is best served atop a salad or stop something in general since theittle cubes are about crouton size. We had ours over salad.

Total recipe makes 14 PP worth of tofu; divided by two it became 7 PP a person.

Tofu: How Did I Not Know?

I have a new love.

It is tofu.

Cue all the non-vegetarians bitching about how terrible tofu is.

Cue me not listening.

I have seen the light and it is high protein, low carb, and all delicious.

Now, I know what you’re wondering: hasn’t she had tofu before?

The answer: Of course I have. Any good gay lady worth her wool socks has dated (or is) a vegetarian or vegan at some point. Requirement is usually at least one year of meatless living to advance to full-on Pride Lyfe.

And yes, those girls all cooked tofu for me.

But they cooked tofu the way College Me cooked anything other than tofu: AKA, they were terrible at it. Their tofu was not much to sniff at. Neither was anything else I made, though, in their defense.

So I’ve never REALLY had GOOD tofu.

Until recently.

The other night, I was at Wegman’s picking up some things when I decided to make Chelsea and I each a salad bar salad as a treat. I did mostly greens, some veggies, none of the grain salads or anything. Then, I saw some herbed tofu. Something possessed me to want to try some, so I did. Two scoops.

Went home, at my salad/tofu, fell in love.

Tofu is, apparently, a WW power food. It’s high protein, low carb, and medium fat — aka the perfect blend of punch per point. It comes in various forms, can go in almost anything, can be cooked about a million ways.

Of course, my vegetarian friends already know this. To them, I say, ADD THIS TO THE LIST OF KALE, QUINOA AND NUTRITIONAL YEAST.

I legit no longer trust the vegetarians and vegans in my life because they keep all these hugely delicious secrets from me.

In any event: Sunday night, I made tofu for the first time.

Me pressing the tofu was a hot mess/disaster of epic proportions. I mean, it got done, but I looked ridiculous probably.

I made oven-baked Italian herb tofu and topped a salad with it.

And I made it from scratch.

And it was delicious.

And it was 7 PP for each portion.

And now all I wanna do is try new tofu recipes forever.

I saw a tofu Parmesan that involved nutritional yeast… And y’all KNOW how I feel about that ish.

It’s only a matter of time before I start a daily tofu pressing regimen in my kitchen, perhaps even buying a tofu press.

Yes, I am carried away with the delight of it all and yes, I know. And yes, I lack a single care about it.

If YOU had the tofu I made Sunday night, you’d be excited too.

Hmph.

Recipe: Healthy Shamrock Shakes

These taste just as good as the real thing!

Pro tip/No tip:To save myself an extra 1PP, I made mine with almond milk instead of fat free milk. The almond milk didn’t fluff up the same way the regular did — it also didn’t taste as good as Chelsea’s, and hers was made with the recipe as it is written below. So in the future, I’ll make mine with milk.

Ingredients:
1 cup fat free vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup fat free milk
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
4 ice cubes

Directions
Just blend it!

Makes one 16oz serving.

We didn’t add food coloring but you totally can if you’re seeking to complete the official shamrock shake feel!

PP per serving: 5