Archive for February, 2011

…kind of.

We were planning on making one of the “Jen Special” dishes that I have previously blogged about (protein, starch, vegetable in their little corners).  B found a recipe for quinoa risotto and we decided to try to adapt from that (original recipe).

I made a number of different adjustments to this original recipe.  First, I cut it down quite a bit.  It called for 1 1/2 cups of quinoa so I cut it in half so that it would make enough for dinner and one set of leftovers for two people.  Second, I also increased the amount of garlic cause garlic is awesome.  Third, I used mozzarella and parmesan cheese instead of the goat cheese due to cheese availability in our apartment.  Finally, I added shrimp to the risotto to add some more protein.

The only complaint that I had was that it ended up a little saucier than I anticipated.  This, however, was due to my own problems with timing.  I threw in some more water when I added the shrimp to make sure the quinoa did not get too dry.  Unfortunately, the liquid did not evaporate as quickly as the shrimp cooked.  Since I didn’t want to overcook the shrimp I sacrificed the liquid level of the risotto.  I served with a little bit of balsamic reduction to provide a little bit more flavor.

Here is a close up of the risotto itself:


Shrimp and Mozzarella Quinoa Risotto
Serves 5, 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

4 oz shrimp (approximately 16), thawed, de-veined, and de-tailed
Cooking Spray
2 bags spinach
2 tsp Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1 1/2 Cup vegetable broth
2 1/4 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese (when I was cooking I was finishing up a bag of Sargento cheese so when I calculated the points it was done with 1/2 oz Sargento Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese and 1 3/4 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese).
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse quinoa in a fine metal strainer until the water turns clear.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray.  Sauté 1-2 cloves of garlic with spinach until the spinach is tender. Set aside.

Heat Smart Balance Buttery Spread and olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until tender.  Add garlic and cook for one minute (make sure garlic doesn’t burn).

Add quinoa, wine and cayenne pepper into the pan.  Cook until the wine is almost evaporated, stirring frequently.

Add broth to cover quinoa.  Simmer uncovered over medium low heat.  Add broth as the liquid absorbs and stir frequently.  Cooking quinoa will take about 15-20 minutes.  Stir in approximately 1 lb of the spinach and shrimp in last two minutes of cooking.

Remove quinoa mixture from heat and add salt (to taste), pepper (to taste), mozzarella, and  parmesan cheese.  Stir well.

To serve, make a layer of spinach on the plate.  Add the quinoa mixture on top of the spinach.  Add balsamic reduction sauce if desired.

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In an effort to make quick and easy meals that can store easily since B had a lot of long nights this week, I decided to make a dish that I have previously made in the past,  lentil soup, but I wanted to make something else with it.  For the lentil soup, I did make a number of changes (both voluntary and involuntary).  First, I decreased the amount of olive oil in the soup to 1 tbsp.  Second, I increased the spices by 3x as much as was in the original recipe (since we doubled last time and it was still fairly flavorless).  In terms of the involuntary adjustments, I forgot to add in the spinach and vinegar at the end.  B said he preferred the first version better whereas I liked this one slightly more.  Hopefully next time I’ll remember to add all the ingredients so we at least have a good judge for exactly where this recipe should be.

To go with the lentil soup, I made a rub for the chicken and let it “marinate” in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.  For my vegetarian chicken sandwich, I used the Morningstar Farms Chi’ken strips.  I used the same rub for both the strips and for the real, defrosted chicken.  I served the chicken in a pita like an open-face sandwich (which is how I ate it) or a soft taco (which is how B ate it).  I’m very proud of the Tzatziki, I think it came out very well (especially for my first attempt at making it since B had been the one to make it in the past).


Greek Chicken (Chi’ken Strips) with Mint Tzatziki

Points values include Tzatziki sauce.
With Chicken (with wheat pita): 10 Weight Watchers PointsPlus (13 Weight Watchers PointsPlus)this estimated by guessing that the meal made 1-190g chicken breast, I’m not sure exactly how much it was since this was B’s meal and he doesn’t measure food since he’s not on WW.
With Chicken Strips (with wheat pita): 7 Weight Watchers PointsPlus (10 Weight Watchers PointsPlus)

Chicken and Rub
1 chicken breast, thawed (or 12.5 oz Morningstar Farms Chicken Strips)
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
1/4 tbsp butter (I used this to saute/cook the chicken, olive oil or coking spray could be used instead.  This would remove 1 PP per serving)

In a large Ziploc (or similar brand) bag, add all the ingredients and chicken.  Shake well and make sure chicken is well coated.  Put aside in refrigerator until ready to cook.  When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350-400 degrees (for chicken) and have a glass dish inside getting warm.  For both chicken and chi’ken strips, melt butter into a saute pan.  Add chicken (or chi’ken strips) coated with herb rub into the pan to sear.  Cook chicken about 2 minutes on either side until it has a golden brown color.  Add chicken to oven in the glass dish and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

When ready to serve, add tzatziki over top of the chicken and pita.  Garnish with mint.

Serves 5, 1 PP per serving on its own (serving size 1/2 cup)
1 cup Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/3 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

In a bowl, add olive oil, vinegar, garlic salt, garlic powder, and cucumber.  Mix well until cucumber is well coated.  Add mint and mix well into the cucumber mixture.  Fold in greek yogurt.  Let sit in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before serving.

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This was another thing that I came up with on a whim.  Our refrigerator is lacking at best.  With my birthday last week, my mother visiting from out-of-town this weekend, and B and I going away next weekend there is little desire on my part to actually restock our fridge for an extended period of time.  Due to time considerations, I threw the quesadilla in the microwave for 2 minutes and then put in a pan for about 1-2 minutes on either side just to make it crispier.  This made the tortilla slightly tough and doughy.  In the future, I think I would make a few changes.  First, I will only use 1 tortilla instead of two.  Second, melt the cheese and toast in a pan instead of melting the cheese in the microwave first.  Finally, sprinkle some panko on top of the cheese to give it a bit more crunch.

Jalapeno Popper Quesadillas
1 serving, 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

2 whole wheat tortillas
1 oz fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup Sargento Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese
1/3 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp jalapeno poppers, chopped

Spread the cream cheese across one of the tortillas.  Sprinkle cumin and chopped jalapeno peppers on top of the cream cheese.  Spread cheddar cheese on top.  Top with the other whole wheat tortilla.  Microwave for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Put in a large, hot pan for about 1-2  minutes on either side to make the tortilla crispy.  Serve with sour cream and/or salsa.

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B and I have an inside joke where certain dinners are “Jen Special…” dishes.  This is mostly because prior to moving in with B (and even to a certain extent now) there are a few standards I go to.  One of the “Jen Special…” dishes involves some sort of protein, vegetable, and starch with herbs, lemon, and/or garlic.  The past few nights we’ve had curry and Korean take-out so I wanted something boring and, well, one of the “Jen Special…” dishes.  Tonight I made shrimp with broccoli, mushrooms and quinoa.  Most of the PointsPlus come from the quinoa (1 cup = 5 PP and 1/2 cup = 3 PP).  This was also very quick to make; I think it only took about 20 minutes to prepare and cook (which is why its the perfect weekday dish).  Enjoy!

Weekday “Jen Special” Shrimp and Vegetables
6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving (12 total), 2 servings

16 shrimp, thawed and detailed
2 cups broccoli
1 cup mushrooms
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup water (used just to keep a sauce so this is flexible)
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
5 sprays “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cooked quinoa

In a large saute pan, add “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray and olive oil.  Add garlic and onions making sure not to let the garlic burn.  Add mushrooms and saute for 1-2 minutes until the mushrooms are lightly browned.  Add broccoli, vegetable broth, water (as necessary), salt, rosemary, and basil.  Allow to saute/steam for about 4-5 minutes or until liquid has reduced.  Add shrimp and cook for about 1 minute on each side or until the shrimp have reached the pink color necessary for them to be completely cooked.  Serve over quinoa.

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Homemade Marinara Sauce

As I said in the introduction I wrote to this blog, about one year into my relationship with B he insisted, nay demanded, that I stop using sauce out of a jar and start making my own sauce.  As the good girlfriend/fiance/wife of an Italian I’ve continued making it since that very day.  There are a few things that I change up from time to time (namely, the amount of garlic, basil, and whether or not there is Chianti in the sauce).

Homemade Marinara Sauce
14 servings (approx 1 cup), 2 PointsPlus per serving

2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 cans pureed tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped (I’ve replaced it with 2 tbsp dried basil when I had no fresh basil available)
1/2 cup Chianti (optional)

Saute the garlic in a large pot with the olive oil.  Be careful to not let the garlic burn.  Add both cans of crushed tomatoes.  Use water to rinse the remaining crushed tomatoes off the side of the can and add to pot.  Add 1/2 of basil and sugar.  Cover and let simmer for 45-60 minutes.  Add two cans of tomato puree again adding water to rinse the sides of the can and add to mixture.  Add remaining basil.  Simmer for an additional 45-60 minutes.  If adding Chianti, add after this period and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.

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Updated: Now with reviews!

So I currently live in Pittsburgh.  If you haven’t noticed there’s something going down this weekend.  It has the entire city of Pittsburgh abuzz and with black and gold fever.  I’m more of a football fan in general and B is actually an Eagles fan so we enjoy the atmosphere of being in the city of a Superbowl team but we won’t have a his and her’s bottle of Jack Daniels available in case Big Ben and the rest of the Steelers fail to pull their weight.

We had already decided to make a number of little appetizers to enjoy throughout the game.  This was the list we came up with and the recipes (or sources) are included:

Skinny Baked Jalapeno Poppers (Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)
Serves 8 (2 poppers per serving), 1 Points Plus per serving (11 total)

8 jalapeno peppers, sliced in half lengthwise
3 oz fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup Reduced Fat mild cheddar cheese
1/3 cup egg beaters
1/8 cup scallions, sliced
1/3 cup Panko crumbs
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and membrane (Wear rubber gloves to make sure you don’t get the oil on your hands). Combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and scallions in a medium bowl. Combine panko, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in another bowl.  Fill peppers with cheese filling. Dip peppers in egg beaters. Then place pepper in panko mixture, mixing the panko mixture after ever pepper is coated. Spray a baking pan with oil spray. I lined my pan with tin foil for easier cleanup. Lightly spray the peppers with a little more oil spray. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until golden and cheese oozes out. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Serve hot.

Review: This actually ended up coming out somewhat flavorless.  I would include some more seasoning into the cheese mixture or add more cheddar cheese.

Approximately 16 servings (2 tbsps per serving), 2 PointsPlus per serving

2 medium avocados, seeded and mashed
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup onion, diced (I used scallions this time since we had some leftover from the poppers)
1/4 cup jalapenos, diced
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (about a half a lime)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper

Cut the avocados in half and remove meat from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or masher.  Add tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, and lime juice and mix well.  Add garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix well.   Add more seasonings to taste.

Review: This is my patented guacamole recipe.  Therefore, it was and will continue to be awesome.

Veggies with  ranch dip
Time considerations led us to take the easy way.  16 oz. Fat free Sour Cream and 1 packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dip (makes 16 servings (2 tbsps per serving) that are 1 PointsPlus per serving)

Review: Easiest thing I made.  Just mix and serve.  I’m going to start looking for a new homemade ranch recipe for the future though because this feels like cheating!

Buffalo Shrimp
(we had 24 servings, 1 PointsPlus per serving)
This is a recipe B found and wanted to make.  It comes from Stephanie Cooks.

Review: This was, by far, the best thing we made.  I was amazed with how tasty it was.  We baked it with the panko mixture and then tossed in a large bag to get well coated.  The panko didn’t get soggy and it still had a nice crunch to it.  B also made a homemade blue cheese dip so the tanginess of the dip with the spiciness of the shrimp were great!  We’re probably going to have the leftovers over rice for dinner tonight (Day after the superbowl).

Pizza Bites
Got this one from Annie’s Eats.  The biggest changes we made was we cooked each separately on a cookie sheet instead of in a pan together and we cut back on the oil and cheese

Review: Frankly, I was disappointed with this recipe.  I’ve made some other dips from this website with a few changes (jalapeno popper dip and spinach and artichoke dip) and they were fantastic.  This recipe ended up being somewhat doughy and flavorless.  We made half with just cheese and half with pepperoni.  In both, you tasted very little of the cheese and pepperoni.  B and I decided that if we made it in the future, we’ll increase the amount that goes in the bites or we’ll make “calzone” bites by adding some ricotta cheese into the middle.

Large Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundaes
11 servings (large cookies), 7 PointsPlus per serving

1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1 cup Splenda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts.  Using plastic wrap, roll dough into a loaf.  Refrigerate to let the dough harden.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Cut loaf into 24 large chocolate chip cookies.

Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and whatever other toppings you would like.

Review:  This, unfortunately, was also a bit of a bust.  This was my first attempt to make “healthier” chocolate chip cookies by replacing butter with applesauce and sugar with splenda.  The cookies ended up tasting alright but the texture was just very odd.  They were very chewy and then tough on the bottom where it was touching the pan.  The cookies actually stuck to the pan (which was a first for me for chocolate chip cookies) and I had to pry them off.  Oh well, live and learn.

Have a great Superbowl Sunday!

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Lately I’ve been craving two things: greasy, oh-so-terribly-bad-for-you nachos (with a huge amount of guacamole) and tuna steaks. Since my Weight Watchers weigh in is tomorrow and I’ve been doing so well (reduced 5% of my weight in 3 weeks) I went with the less amazing alternative – the tuna! I kid, because the tuna I ended up coming up with was actually really delicious.  My point is that nothing compares to those delicious, delicious nachos (I’m saving those (and my extra points) for the Superbowl this weekend).  I served the tuna over spinach and we had a side salad.

Ahi Tuna Steaks with Herb Sauce served over spinach
Serves 2, 6 PointsPlus per serving (13 total)

2 Ahi Tuna steaks (ours came out to about 14 oz.)
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp garlic salt
8 sprays “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
8 oz fresh spinach

Add vegetable broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, herbes de provence, garlic salt, 1 tsp olive oil, and 6 sprays of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray to a large bowl with the tuna steaks.  Rub the mixture on the tuna.  Add the tuna to a hot griddle or pan.  Cook approximately 2-3 minutes on either side until cooked through.  Once tuna is cooked, add the sauce from the marinade to pan to cook the sauce through.

In a separate pan, add the remaining 1/2 tsp olive oil and 2 sprays of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” spray with 1/3 cup of water.  Add the spinach and saute until spinach has wilted down.

Serve tuna over spinach and spoon sauce on top of the tuna.  I served it with a small lemon wedge but it already had a pretty good lemony taste.


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