Archive for January, 2011

This is a healthier version of another dish that we had made in the past.  We were looking to make sure that we were not going crazy with the very “pointy” foods.  We had this as our dinner (about 2-3 servings each) and it was definitely enough.  It would also be great as a starter for another meal.  I was originally thinking of making the soup and having quesadillas or veggie and shrimp fajitas.  For a soup, it was also very quick and easy to put together (I should know; I watched while B cooked it). Enjoy!

Shrimp, Scallops, and Corn Tortilla Soup
7 servings (1 cup), 4 PointsPlus per serving (31 total)

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
14 1/2 oz. diced tomatoes (canned), drained
3 cups vegetable broth
8 oz.  canned clam juice
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb. shrimp
1/2 lb. bay scallops
14 tortilla chips (2 per serving)

Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add bell pepper, cumin, oregano, garlic, jalapeno peppers, and tomatoes; sauté 4 minutes. Stir in broth and clam juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add corn, scallops (thawed), shrimp (thawed); cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove from heat; stir in scallions, cilantro, lime juice, and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Crumble two tortilla chips over each serving.

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Frankly, I have no idea what to call this dish.  It was a “this sound good with x,y, and z and OH we have this” concoction. I made most of the veggies beforehand since we were going to the gym later in the evening after work and then added the garbanzo beans and spinach and warmed it through.  I think that method worked out really well because the chickpeas didn’t get really mushy.  The veggies actually ended up being very good PointsPlus wise; the only things that were really adding points to the overall meal were the chickpeas and the crushed tomatoes (which was very low).

In terms of adjustments, I can’t quite put my finger on it but the veggies were lacking something and the tilapia definitely needed to be more flavorful.  The first adjustment that I will make in the future is to add more salt to the veggie mixture.  Second, I think I will add some Parmesan or another type of hard cheese to the mixture to give it more of that flavor since the veggies by themselves add very little.  The tilapia was very lightly flavored and in the future I think i might have cooked that will some of the tomato sauce or at least created more of a marinade.  I think, based on the dish itself, the marinade cannot be too overpowering so perhaps something more like an herb crusting and then searing the tilapia.  Enjoy!

For the tilapia, I just added some garlic powder and basil and seared them in a pan with some cooking spray.  I estimated that a fillet was about 1/8 lb. which was 1  PointPlus.  I also used some “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” spray on the fillets so that they didn’t stick to the pan.

Vegetables in Tomato Sauce
4 servings, 4 PointsPlus per serving (15 total)

Cooking spray
1/4 C onions, chopped
3 tsp garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
3 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
3/4 C Crushed tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans
4 cups fresh spinach

In a medium saucepan, coat the bottom with cooking spray.  Add onions and garlic and cook on medium until onions are translucent.  Make sure to be careful not to burn the garlic.  Once onions are translucent add mushrooms and toss with onion and garlic mixture.  Add salt.  Let cook for approximately 3 minutes then add tomatoes and crushed tomatoes (approximately 1 1/2 C).  Let cook for approximately 30-40 minutes to let vegetables soften to create more of a tomato sauce that a chunky vegetable stew.  Before serving, add  can of chick peas (drained) and spinach.  Cook until spinach is wilted and well integrated into the vegetable mixture.  Serve under tilapia.

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Yet again B come through!  He found and cooked this entire meal while I had the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the Steelers game (we all see who won here).  In all honesty though, it was the perfect meal for a lazy day on the couch watching football championships.  The Lentil Soup took some prep time but most of the time was spent just letting it simmer and the same is true of the bulgur salad.

There are few a adjustments we made to the recipes I’m posting below and a few changes I might make in the future.  First, for the soup.  We doubled all of the spices.  Even with that it was still somewhat lacking.  This recipe also calls for 1/4 C of olive oil.  Since B was making it he made the call to follow the recipe but now, when we make it in the future, we will cut that down to about 1 tbsp.  It was a lot of unnecessary calories since the vegetables all cook well in the soup mixture.

In terms of the salad, the only real change we made was we put in the  juice of half a lemon.  In the future, we would definitely reduce the amount of parsley that went in and maybe use mint instead of cilantro to get a more dynamic flavor.  The parsley was somewhat overpowering for my tastes.

The bulgur wheat I found in our friendly neighborhood supermarket.  I found it in the “Middle East” section and it was labeled as cracked wheat in English with “bulghur” in a english-arab concoction.

The servings sizes were kind of approximated.  The bulgur wheat salad made  more than 6 servings at a 1/2 cup each it may be more like 4 servings at 3/4 cup each.  For the soup, the recipe we built from said it was six servings, but we calculated that we made 9 1 cup servings.  Based on these guesses that is how I calculated the points.

This is a great dish for a cold day and when you’re craving something with a more Middle Eastern flare.  Enjoy!

Lentil Soup
9 servings (1 C), 5 PointsPlus per serving
Takes about 1 hr and 30 minutes total to prepare and cook.

1 large onion, chopped
1/4 C olive oil
4 stalks celery, shopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground basil
14.5 oz Crush Tomatoes, canned
2 cups dry lentils
8 cups water
1/2 cup spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender.  Stir in garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and basil; cook for approx. 2 minutes.

Stir in lentils, add water and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour.  When ready to serve, stir in spinach and cook until it wilts.  Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add more vinegar is desired.

Warm Bulgur Salad
6 servings (approximately 1/2 C), 2 PointsPlus per serving
Approximately 45 minutes for cooking and preparation time

1 1/2 C Broccoli Florets, frozen
1/3 c parsley, chopped
1/4 C red onion, minced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup Bulgur Wheat

In a medium saucepan, cook bulgur according to package directions.  Meanwhile, microwave broccoli florets in bowl with small amount of water until just barely tender, about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes.  Carefully transfer broccoli to colander to let drain.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil.  In a large bowl, place cooked hot bulgur. Lightly toss with fork to separate kernels.  with fork, mix in parsley, onion, and cilantro.  While tossing mixture lightly with fork, drizzle in juice-oil mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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See previous 2 posts for all of my inner monologue (no need to bore again).  While the past two had more of an Asian and Thai flavor, this recipe is my first foray into Mexican food since starting weight watchers. The one BIG change I would make to this recipe is to drastically reduce the taco seasoning (which is reflected in the recipe I’m posting).  I used an entire packet of taco seasoning since that is what I use when I make meatless tacos. This proved to be WAY too salty for the shrimp and was very over powering.  This was definitely not one of my cooking highlights but it had potential.  The rice and beans were surprisingly really good and if the shrimp were less salty they would also be very good.

I’m including the recipe with a reduced taco seasoning amount but it still may be too salty for some people’s tastes.  I kept it with the taco seasoning since, frankly, it’s the easiest and quickest way to season.  I would recommend instead replacing the taco seasoning with some taco sauce (say 1/4-1/2 cup), cumin (I’d do approx 1 tbsp), cayenne red pepper (I would do approximately 1/2 tsp), salt (to taste), and some pepper (to taste). Good luck and enjoy!

Mexican Shrimp
4 PointsPlus per serving, 2 servings

1/2 pound shrimp, deveined and shelled (approximately 20 shrimp)
1/2 bag Ortega Taco seasoning (or something similar)
3 tbsp onions
2 tbsp cilantro
3 tbsp  vegetable broth

Saute onions and cilantro in broth.  When onions are soft, add shrimp.  Add approximately 3/4 cup of water and then add the taco seasoning.  Heat on medium heat or until sauce is thick.

Mexican Rice and Beans
4 PointsPlus per serving, 4 servings

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice (this was a leftover so it was approximate)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup onions, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable broth
1/2 tbsp cumin
salt and pepper

Add vegetable broth, onions, and cilantro to pot.  Cook until onions are soft.  Add beans, cumin, and rice.  Cover and heat through.

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Sorry for the lack of witty entry into the previous and the rest of the posts for today.  Mostly this is just a “catch up” day where I’m putting in all the recipes that I have meant to enter for awhile.  This blog tends to be put up piecemeal so I’m trying to put these all up before I forget about them and the specifics of making the dishes.  The cans of the things we used (coconut milk and bamboo shoots) were just what was available at our local grocery store.  If you can’t find the specific brand it can likely be swapped out with another (so long as the coconut milk stays light) with little change the points plus value.

This meal is different than most of the others because B came up with it and did most of the cooking.  Although I’m the one doing the weight watchers stuff more stringently he is plugging along with me and helping to keep me going!

Tilapia in Red Curry Sauce
4 PointsPlus per serving, 4 servings

1/2 pound tilapia (I estimated, this was 4 thicker filets)
1 can “A Taste of Thai” Lite Coconut Milk (could also use a comparable coconut milk, the light part is key though)
1 tbsp “Thai Kitchen” Red curry paste
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 cup summer squash, quartered
1 cup sliced carrots
1 tbsp cilantro
1/2 can “Reese” Bamboo Shoots
1 tbsp “Sriracha” Chili Sauce

In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk with the red curry paste and chili sauce.   Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Rinse and pat dry the fish.  Add vegetables (bell pepper, squash, carrots, and bamboo shoots)   into the pan and saute until they are soft (I used a few sprays of cooking spray to make sure they didn’t stick). Add the coconut milk mixture and heat on medium heat for approximately 5 minutes.  Place the fish into a pan.  Cover and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flaky.  Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Orange Ginger Brown Rice
4 PointsPlus per serving, approximately 5 servings

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 cups onions, diced
1 cup Vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Begin by sweating the onions in oil in a medium-sized pan until they are translucent.  Add the rice and saute for approximately 1 minute.  Add the orange zest and ginger and cook for another minute.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan with a lid and cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes or until rice is tender.  Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

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Another in my series of “how can we cook delicious food and still be within the boundaries for the weight watchers diet plan.  We made this last week but I have been computer-less for a week given an incident with the dog and a large glass of water that ruined my keyboard.  We served this chicken with some asparagus and quinoa.  Was very good!  This recipe is adapted from one that was actually on the weight watcher’s website. Enjoy!

Balsamic Quorn with Mushrooms served with Asparagus and Quinoa
7 PointsPlus per serving, 4 servings
(points are calculated with Quorn since that is what I eat)

2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 Quorn naked chick’n cutlets
2 tbsp garlic, chopped
2 cups mushrooms
1/3 cup Regina (or any other comparable) white cooking wine
1/4 tsp dried thyme
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

20 asparagus spears (this was just how many was in my bunch, they don’t have a point value so quantity doesn’t matter much)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups cooked quinoa

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F or lower.

In a non-stick skillet, heat 1 tsp of oil.  In a medium bowl, mix 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, mustard, and garlic.  Add quorn and turn to coat.  Transfer quorn and marinade to skillet. Saute quorn until warmed through (about 3-4 minutes), flipped occasionally so the garlic does not burn.  Transfer quorn to a plat and keep warm in a pre-heated oven.

Heat remaining tsp of oil in skillet.  Saute mushrooms for 1 minute.  Add wine, thyme, and remaining tbsp of vinegar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are deep brown, about 2 minutes longer. Serve quorn topped with mushrooms.

In a separate pot, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the box.

Steam asparagus in a microwave or on the stove top.  Before serving, top with 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice.

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This week, after at least a month of telling B “I think I’m going to join Weight Watchers” after hearing about others success I finally pulled my butt into action and did so.  Since I’ve entered grad school I’ve put on an embarrassing amount of weight.  I was able to lose about half of it prior to our wedding last June but I have been struggling to keep it off and take more off since then.  My goal is to get back to my weight from my college  graduation (about 25 lbs from right now).  The point of this diatribe is to frame the recipes coming in the future.  For the past couple days I’ve been coming up with various recipes while being very conscious of the Points Plus value for the meal.  For example, earlier this week we made tilapia and roasted veggie dish (very simple so I didn’t think it warranted an entry since it was just salt, pepper, and lemon on the tilapia, and salt, pepper, and thyme on the veggies).

Taking a cue from this effort we decided to make a Weight Watchers friendly pizza. For our wedding we got a pizza stone and we’ve been talking for some time about using it. We decided to go for more of a tomato pie flare to the pizza in order to not ridiculously increase the points by adding cheese (holding back on the cheese makes me shed a tear or two by the way).  We wanted to make our own pizza sauce since we’re purists (given where we grew up) and most pizza sauces and pizza sauce recipes are too sweet for our tastes.

Like I said in my first post, I would share both the good, the bad and the ugly.  This was definitely an example of the ugly.  Everything was fine and dandy with the pizza and then we tried to move the pizza on to the pizza stone.  Since we’re no pizzeria we didn’t have one of those wooden things to move the pizza.  Try as we might we just mangled the pizza beyond repair.  It became a calzone/pizza hybrid to salvage what we had.  I would recommend having a good strategy to get the pizza into and out of the oven.  Good luck to you!

Tomato Pizza Pie (4 servings)
According to the eTools Recipe builder it is 28 WW PointsPlus (total), 7 PointsPlus per serving

6-8 plum tomatoes, whole (approximately 5 cups)
5 tbsp basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 oz. Mozzarella cheese (fat free), shredded
10 oz frozen/pre-made pizza crust dough

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Carefully put tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds.  Retrieve them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool.  When cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to remove the core end of the tomato and peel away the skin.  Cut tomatoes lengthwise and seed tomatoes.  Coarsely chop tomatoes by hand or food processor and put into a sauce pan, adding 5 tbsp basil and 2 tbsp minced garlic to the pan as well.  Simmer  sauce for 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. For smoother consistency use a food processor until the desired consistency is achieved. (Sauce can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen).

(Excuse my dirty stove top, it was a rough week)

Lay out pizza dough on pizza stone.  Spread out sauce, cheese, and basil evenly over pizza dough.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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Dinner Out (Mussels)

Now I cook a lot of meals at home but I also love me some going out to eat.  If we could afford it, I think we’d be going out multiple times per week.  However, le sigh, we cannot so we make the most of any place we do get a chance to go out to. I’ve been meaning to type of reviews of many of the places we’ve gone to over the past few months (most of them we’ve been to multiple times) in order to share all of my culinary adventures.

This weekend we were out-of-town for a wedding and stayed with B’s parents in South Jersey.  We (the family) decided to go out to eat to celebrate the engagement of my brother-in-law and his fiance.  We picked this place that I’ve been hearing a lot about but have never had the opportunity to try.  This inspired me to write this post because there are two places where I’ve had the best mussels ever, this place and another in the city we’re currently living in.  I wanted to spread the word for those that enjoy a good mussel plate.

Ralph’s Italian Restaurant (760 S. 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA)

My father-in-law and his group of friends go here every year the day after Christmas.  Everything I’ve ever heard is that they go specifically for the mussels.  So, of course, we got the different versions of the mussels when we went there this weekend.  Ralph’s offers two different types of mussels in either white or red sauce.  The mussels were cooked perfectly (they almost melted in your mouth) and the sauce was awesome for any and all bread dippers.  The white sauce is fairly traditional with wine, butter, etc.  They add a bit of red pepper flakes to the mix to give it a little bit of a kick.  The red sauce is different than I would have expected; when I think red sauce with mussels as an appetizer I generally think basically a white sauce with chopped tomatoes.  These mussels were in marinara sauce.  Oh man, let me tell you, I have to try this in the future.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to do this as an appetizer (although I’ve gotten it over pasta for dinner before) and it was awesome.  I would recommend these mussels to anyone looking for a nice dinner out in Philadelphia.  Also, Ralph’s is one of the more reasonably priced restaurants in this neighborhood in Philadelphia. (Side note: I had shrimp scampi for dinner and it was also very good.  It was done slightly differently than normal (this is my go to “I want to try a new place” dish and it was my “every dinner out” dish when I was a kid).  Instead of being in more of an oil sauce it was in a creamier sauce.  B and I also shared the cannoli cake.  I would very much recommend that.  The filling was the traditional cannoli filling and the icing was whipped cream icing.)

Point Brugge Cafe, 401 Hastings Street, Pittsburgh, PA

We learned about Point Brugge a few years back from word of mouth recommendations.  If this above post didn’t demonstrate it I am a HUGE seafood person (also demonstrates why I went from 2 1/2 years as a vegetarian to a pescetarian) so when we heard “this place has awesome mussels” I think I had my coat on and was out the door before B had a chance to realize we were going out to eat.  Before I get started talking about the mussels I just want to point out that I have never had a bad meal at Point Brugge either; I’ve had entrees, salads, and sandwiches and neither B nor myself have had something we didn’t like.  Similar to Ralph’s, Point Brugge’s mussels really melt in your mouth.  In terms of sauces, they also has the traditional mussels in white wine sauce.  Their white sauce is more dynamic than Ralph’s.  They also offer a red curry and tomato and fennel version.  Our favorites are definitely the latter two; while the white wine sauce is delicious, its one of those sauces that is seen most places where mussels are served.  My only complaint about these mussels is the amount of broth for the dipping.  Whereas at Ralph’s the dip to bread ratio was ALWAYS in favor of the broth, we usually run out of broth fairly quickly when dipping our bread at Point Brugge.

Enjoy these two locales at opposite sides of the Keystone state!

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This is another recipe that came about from “we have x, y, and z, how can we get rid of it?”  On New Years Day we made tofu/veggie steamed dumplings from scratch.  We had leftover won ton wrappers and various vegetables left over.  Of the recipes that I’ve made over my many years of bad and good cooking experiences this one was slightly more labor intensive since I had to make the won ton tacos.  However, on a scale of 1-10 with 5 being chocolate mousse and 10 being turducken this is only about a 2 or 3.  The only complaint that I have about this dish is that it was very, very messy.  Be prepared with many napkins.  Alternatively, you can double layer the won ton tacos to make them slightly more rigid.  Most of these amounts were approximated since many of the elements are simply things that were leftover.

Won Ton Veggie Beef Tacos (Serves 2-4)

Won Ton Taco Shells
5-12  won ton wrappers
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 375F.  Brush melted butter onto each side of the won ton wrapper.  Arrange in a muffin tin so that the edges go up (this makes somewhat of a mini-won ton taco bowl).  Bake in oven for approximately 1-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool for about 30-45 minutes.

Veggie Beef Won Ton Taco Filling

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/8 cup scallion, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups cabbage, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely shredded
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp Asian Sesame dressing
2 cups Bok Choy, finely chopped

Add vegetable oil, sesame oil, garlic, onion, and scallions into a large saute pan.  Saute until onions are slightly soft making sure that the garlic does not burn.   Add cabbage and carrots.  Saute for a minute of so and add water and soy sauce.  Cover to steam for about 15 minutes or until cabbage is soft.  Add cilantro and Asian sesame dressing and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  Add Bok Choy in and cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and keep covered to ensure that Bok Choy is cooked.  Let mixture cool slightly and put in another bowl.  Set aside to serve lukewarm.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 bag Morning Star Farms ground soy crumbles (vegetarian ground beef)
2 tbsp Asian Sesame dressing

Heat vegetable oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce.  Add soy crumbles (you may need to defrost them before adding them).  Cook until liquid is well absorbed into soy crumbles (you may need to add water to mixture to make sure that the soy crumbles do not stick to pan).  When well absorbed, add dressing and cook for an additional 5 minutes or so until the dressing reduces down.

To serve, take won ton taco out of muffin pan.  Layer beef on the bottom and add vegetable mixture on top.  Serve with rice.

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This could fit into the “semi-homemade” category.  This recipe was originally intended to be lunch New Years Day but the New Years Eve festivities were just catching up with us.  We ended up eating it for dinner and it was great as dinner as well.  I adapted this recipe from something that I had at my mother-in-law’s over Thanksgiving weekend. Its quick easy and delicious! Enjoy!

Crab and Corn Tomato Bisque
2 cans jumbo lump crab meat, drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
2 cans Campbell’s tomato bisque
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Croutons for garnish
Grated mozzarella cheese for garnish

In a pot, saute up olive oil, garlic powder, and frozen corn.  Add crab meat to corn.  Add tomato bisque and 2 cans of water to crab and corn mixture and simmer until heated through. Garnish with croutons and a sprinkle of grated mozzarella cheese.

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