Archive | February, 2012

Green-Eyed Monster

26 Feb

New obsession: green fruits.

Exotic kiwi and avocado are all I want to eat.

20120226-121454.jpg

Unfortunately, my otherwise perfect love does not enjoy avocado, so I have to find ways to sneak it in.

I guess it’s not really a chore. It just makes it more adventurous!

Cheesy Italian Stuffed Peppers

22 Feb

Do you have that one meal you continuously come back to?  The one where, when you finally make it, (and if you’re me, that usually means around 10pm on a Sunday night) you always say, “Now, why don’t we have this more often?”

For me, these Cheesy Italian Stuffed Peppers are it.

Generally, stuffed peppers have some sort of grain in them — brown rice, quinoa, etc. — however, that takes away some additional space for the meat.  Plus, you know, it’s less calories/points if you omit the grains.  I don’t think this recipe needs any grains.  The flavors stand alone.

I stuff these peppers with Italian turkey sausage (if I cannot find that, I season some ground chicken or ground turkey crazy well) and some vegetables — whatever I have on hand.   I love spinach and zucchini in this dish.  Sadly, I did not have either of those on hand pre-grocery shopping this weekend.  A lot of times, I make this recipe with less cheese (think, 1/4 of a cup of cheese instead of one whole cup).  I wanted something that tastes decadent, so this is what I decided to go with.  Clearly, this recipe is very versatile.

Cheesy Italian Stuffed Peppers

makes 4 servings; 7 points per serving

Ingredients:

  • 4 uncooked bell peppers (I used green this week because they are usually cheaper)
  • 3 baby carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb of Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (I use Gianelli turkey sausage)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium uncooked onion, diced
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme*
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano*
  • 1 tsp of hot paprika paprika*
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese**

* I honestly am approximating here… I almost always guess at my spices.

** Again, I usually use 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, which would bring the points plus value down to 5 points per pepper.

bubbling pepper stuffing!  

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Take the 4 bell peppers, and cut the tops off.  Remove the seeds from the peppers and set aside.
  3. Take the cut-off pepper heads and chop finely, omitting the inedible ends.  Add this to the rest of your chopped veggies (here we are looking at carrots, garlic, onions, and chopped up pepper bits as our vegetable component)
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil to the pan.
  5. Toss in your chopped vegetables and let them simmer for a minute.
  6. Add crumbled sausage and break everything apart as it cooks down.
  7. After a few minutes, add in spices.   Everything should be mixed together, so give those veggies/sausage a stir.
  8. OPTIONAL STEP: if you are using fresh baby spinach, add this in now with only a few minutes left to go.
  9. After a few minutes of melding the spices, add in the tomato sauce and mix together.
  10. Continue to stir until everything is all melded and cooked together. This should take only a couple more minutes.  The sausage should be completely cooked.
  11. Take skillet off heat and set aside.  Put peppers in a baking dish standing up, and fill peppers evenly with the mixture. (And if you happen to take your finger and grab any leftover scraps from the skillet after everything is cool, don’t worry — this is a judgment free zone. And honestly, those little chopped veggies that didn’t make it into their pepper friends need some loving too!)
  12. Pop into oven and let bake for 12 minutes.
  13. Take peppers out, top evenly with cheese, and return to oven for about 3 minutes, or until everything is all bubbly and cheesy and delightful.
  14. Remove from oven, resist the urge to eat immediately before everything has cooled.

finished pepper, about to be devoured.

In other news, I’ve been non-stop craving bacon this week. And I’m thinking about posting a bacon recipe soon… with points values attached.

Meatless Monday Failure… and Slow-Cooked Oatmeal

16 Feb

We failed this week.  It wasn’t pretty.

Meatless Monday was going well.  I made a casserole on Sunday night, and I was all set to cook meatless stuffed peppers on Monday.  Alas, I woke up on Monday morning feeling sick.  And the last thing I wanted to do was eat healthy food.

To cheer me up, Chris took me down the street to try a new store that opened a few months ago.  It’s called Daniela’s and it’s a small storefront that sells Italian food — pastas, sauces, desserts, etc. — with only two tables.  The prices are so reasonable, you feel like you are committing a crime by only paying $7 for lunch. A delicious, delectable, delightful crime. We went during an off-time (before the dinner rush), and the owner was in cooking some food.  She is an Italian grandma, and even though we were just in to get sick-day cannolis, she asked us to try some crab meat raviolis. HOLY CRAP, they were outta control delicious.  So we ordered lasagna bolognese, which had a creaminess from the bechamel sauce that was out of this world.  So, even though we failed this Monday, I ask you all this: how do you say no to an Italian grandma who just wants to feed you?  You cannot say no. You just roll with it.

(As an aside, I was also feeling ill on Wednesday, and we tried the foccacia, the linguine with meat sauce, saccottino with mozzerella, spinach, and bacon, and again, that magical lasagna. HOMEMADE EVERYTHING.  There is nothing like homemade pasta in this world. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say everything is really delightful there.)

There is always next week!

Now, on to the breakfast recipe that has convinced me that it is not too difficult to pack a breakfast every day.

Slow Cooker Fruity Oatmeal

Adapted from Weight Watchers recipe; worth 5 points on the Weight Watchers Points Plus plan per serving; 9 Servings per recipe

  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 cups of STEEL CUT OATS (not your ordinary oatmeal, folks!)
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup, the pure stuff
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruit (recently, I used blueberries… the original recipe uses cranberries, which are awesome in this)
  •  1 tsp cinnamon
  • a dash of salt
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a slow cooker.
  2. Set slow cooker on low for 6 hours.
  3. Stir, and serve. (I’ve made it several times, and I usually get just under 1 cup per serving)

uncooked, just chilling in the slow cooker.

Cooked and loving life!

I don’t know why I hadn’t discovered steel cut oats prior to this Weight Watchers recipe, but now I’m so happy that they are in my life to stay!

Sunday of Cooking, Monday of Meatlessness

10 Feb

Meatless Monday week 2 was an even better success than I had hoped for!  The man and I were both well-fed, full, and enjoying tasty meals.  On Saturday night, we went grocery shopping.  We have his kids most weekends, and this past weekend we did not, so we were able to go grocery shopping together (I usually go alone during a more normal hour than 10pm on a Saturday).  I had meal plans for the week and this weekend.  Everything went very smoothly… until he decided we NEEDED a knife and a mandolin.  Within 12 hours after purchasing said knife, 10 of which were spent sleeping, I proceeded to cut myself.

I never said I was a graceful cook.

I made several meals on Sunday, most of them created to eat throughout the work week:

  • a huge pot of (meatless) lentil soup
  • black bean casserole in the slow cooker (surprisingly delish!)
  • ricotta chocolate chip muffins (from skinnytaste.com)
  • egg and vinegared pepper scramble
  • lemon-parmesan garlic cauliflower
  • roasted potato/pepper/sausage hash
  • garlic mashed potatoes

some lentils… yum!

My Sunday of cooking, coupled with my careful protein-laden meal-planning, gave us a successful meatless monday.  The casserole and lentil soup were crucial because of the beans/lentils… I really need that protein.

We also bought some healthy snacks, like hummus and edamame.  Delish!

I thought I’d post a recipe that I used to make EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND as it was the only thing I could make for a long period of time.  I know it’s basic, but it has a kick and is very satisfying!

 

Eggs and Vinegared Pepper Scramble

serves two; 7 points on Weight Watchers points plus system without parmesan cheese

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup canned chopped vinegared peppers
  • 1 Tbsp fat-free skim milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • OPTIONAL for additional points: a tbsp of parmesan cheese

Whisk eggs, milk, black pepper, and option parmesan cheese until the yellow parts of the yolks are combined and everything is one uniform color.

Cut the vinegared peppers (you can find these canned in a jar; or, if you are like me, and you have a lovely Italian grandma who likes to can, you will find jars of these easily in your pantry) into thin strips.  Heat a skillet on medium heat with 1 tsp of olive oil, and once heated, add the vinegared peppers.  Cook for several minutes, until the peppers are starting to look a bit browned.  (Browning helps to release the spicy-ness!)

Add the eggs and cook with the peppers, stirring occasionally.  Cook until almost cooked through, and then add the cheese and stir.  Make sure the cheese is evenly distributed throughout.

Serve!  (Add a piece of multi-grain toast for a low-point finish.)

I know it’s simple, but sometimes, especially when you are cooking ALL DAY on Sunday, you just want a simple brunch.

 

My goals for this week: work out (hah! I mean it!), meal plan for the entire week, and cook ahead again this weekend.

 

 

Meatless Monday, week 1

2 Feb

Well… it was a success.  The fact that I stuck to my guns and we actually had a meat-free Monday = successful.  To be honest, I couldn’t tell you the last time I went without meat.  Really.  We are big meat eaters — not to say that we stock up on protein all the time or anything, but there is usually at least 3 oz. of some type of fish/meat with lunch and dinner every night.

Why Meatless Monday? 

I know it’s a big national movement ( http://www.meatlessmonday.com/).  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with movements in general. The website can tell you all about how eating less meat will reduce your carbon footprint and also aid in your general health and well being.  Whatever.  My main concern is that we are spending a ridiculous amount of money at the grocery store.  Yes, I like to buy nice produce, and yes, I am picky about what I spend my money on.  No, I do not want to skimp on my food quality.  My good friend is a vegetarian and her grocery bill is a lot smaller than mine, so I figured, if we could just be meatless for 1 day out of 7, we could reduce some of our costs.

My secondary reason is that I enjoy a challenge. 

(Some other challenges I am contemplating at the moment are: finding a nice hotel by Central Park in NYC that doesn’t cost $$$$, attempting to hold a legitimate conversation before having a cup of coffee in the morning, and trying not to buy all the shoes on sale whenever I peak into DSW.)

Yes, eating vegetarian for one day is a monumental challenge.  Given our meat consumption, my disdain for diets that do not include delicious bacon, and my tendency to give into what is easy (beef jerky left over from a business trip) when I am hungry, this one day vegetarian adventure was very challenging.

Immediately I sent a cry for help (very undramatically, of course), emailing my friends who cook to see if they have any healthy veggie recipes.  I knew I didn’t want to just carb-load on pasta… I definitely do not want to blow all of my anytime Weight Watchers points on a veggie dish.

I made a rice casserole with refried beans and lots of veggies for lunch (6 portions = 3 days of lunch for us!) and spicy bean burritos for dinner on Monday night.  By the time Monday night rolled around, the man and I were STARVING.  We could barely function.  But we succeeded.

Upon further reflection, I realized that we needed to include more snacks with protein (aka not only two pieces of fruit, which is my usual M.O.).  Hummus, nuts, rice cakes, edamame… these would all be tasty snacking ideas.  I also came to the startling realization yesterday, after consuming the rice casserole for three consecutive lunches, that I was LESS hungry mid-afternoon than previously.  Does my body just need time to adjust to less food?  Hmmm.

We will be attempting Meatless Monday week 2 this Monday!  If there are any tasty and filling recipes, I will post them.