Archive for March, 2011

Now the Weight Watchers aspect of this recipe perplexes me and is the main reason I posted it.  It’s a fairly boring recipe (just a combination of whatever vegetables we had) with some soy sauce and oil.  What makes me go *head tilt* is the points value that the Weight Watchers eTools recipe builder gave to it.  The thing that WW has seemed to drill into my head is that most vegetables do not have any points.  True to form, when I put in the vegetables I used (eggplant, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli, tomatoes) each was considered to have 0 points.  However, while the soy sauce and oil (which could be reduced I don’t know why I used nearly that much) have a combined points value of 15 points BUT the total points value for the meal (including veggies) was considered to be 24 points….*head tilt*.  This is increasingly puzzling when I figured out that if you enter the proportion of what I put in (i.e., if I put in 1 cup of something, I could enter in 1/5 C for that element) in my daily points tracker the points value came out to 3 PP.

I’m going to ask my leader at our meeting this week to explain this because I don’t understand how 6 vegetables can add 10 points but be 0 points on the line item.  If anyone happens to read this (I know there is at least someone who has to read this….right?…right?…*crickets*) and knows the reason before Thursday when I update please inform me!  My hunch is that it has something do with the recipe builder assuming something about the way it’s cooked and it breaking down the “good” aspects of the vegetables.

EDIT: I spoke with my leader and she told me that I should rely on the tracker not the recipe builder for the points.  She and another leader both said the same thing: the recipe builder calculates the total fiber, carbs, fat, and protein and then calculates the points.  As a result, this may create a higher point value than would be true if you put each part into the tracker.  I guess this means that some of my recipes may have a higher point value attached to them then they really have.

Vegetable Stir Fry
5 servings, 5 WW PointsPlus each serving

1/4 cup vegetable oil (like I said, this can be reduced, I don’t know why I added that much)
1 1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
1/4 of a large onion (approx 1 1/2 C), chopped
1 large eggplant, cubed
1 1/2 C baby carrots, chopped
1 1/2 C water
1 C broccoli
3 tomatoes, cubed
2 tsp Sriracha Chili Sauce
1/3 C low sodium soy sauce

In a wok (or large pan) heat the oil on high.  Add garlic and onions and cook until onions are slightly translucent (make sure garlic doesn’t burn!).  Add eggplant.  Make sure to mix well and continue mixing well until eggplant is fully cooked.  In a liquid measuring cup, I added the chopped carrots and then filled it to the 2 C mark with water (so the water above is just an estimation).  Add to the eggplant mixture.  Add broccoli and mix well.   Add Sriracha and mix well.  Add cubed tomatoes and soy sauce and cook for an addition 3- 4minutes making sure to mix everything well.  Serve over rice.

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B’s birthday is today and for some time I’ve been planning quite the culinary feast for him.  Since I am terrible at getting gifts (read: horrendous) I made the decision quite some time ago that the bulk of the actual good part of his birthday would come from me making special things for him.

The cupcakes I made late last week/this weekend since B’s parents were coming in from out-of-town to celebrate both of our birthdays (which are within almost a month of each other).  These cupcakes defy any type of Weight Watchers criteria.  B figured out I was making cupcakes (but only one of the three types) a few weeks ago and specifically requested that I don’t play with any of the ingredients to make it healthier.  I made three types of cupcakes (I watch way too much of Cupcake Wars I guess) all tailored to B’s favorite flavors.  First, bananas foster is one of his favorite desserts.  Second, the dark and stormy drink is something we have both greatly enjoyed since discovering it on our honeymoon in Key West.  The final cupcake is the real B flavor: fake banana!  He loves fake banana flavor.  Last year for his birthday I made him a chocolate banana (with banana flavoring) cake with banana (flavoring) whipped cream icing.  I also made it into the (vague) shape of a baseball diamond since he’s a big baseball guy.  This year for the banana flavoring concoction I decided to go with the same chocolate/banana blend for the cake but I included banana pudding inside the cupcake and topped it with a banana meringue.

For his actual birthday, I wanted to make something special for him to take to lunch because I would be busy during lunch with my own work related activities.  I made soda bread because it’s the week of St. Patrick’s and I thought it would go well with the stew.  This stew I have been telling B I was going to make him since before Christmas (I promised for months I’d make it for him while I was away the week before Christmas.  I ran out of time and I will never live it down).  Finally I took the plunge!

B’s Birthday Sweets:
Bananas Foster Cupcakes
Dark and Stormy Cupcakes
Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

B’s Birthday Treats:
Irish Soda Bread
Beef and Guinness Stew


Overall, the cupcakes were VERY well received.  Granted, I didn’t deviate from the recipes much since my baking skills are lacking so the credit really lies with those individuals that created the source recipe.  The banana’s foster cupcakes were a favorite of my in-laws.  I was a little disappointed in those, however.  Since I had to cook them longer than the recipe suggested because the toothpick didn’t come out clean they were a little drier than I would have liked.  The chocolate banana cupcakes I thought were very good; the meringue came out looking and tasting great, the cupcakes were very moist.  The only complaint was that the Jell-O instant pudding was kind of weird inside of the cupcakes.  If I ever do them over again I will omit the pudding filling.  The dark and stormy cupcakes were the highlight of the cupcake wars experience.  They were moist, flavorful (with rum, ginger, and citrus).  Basically they were a dark and stormy drink in cupcake form.

B tells me the beef stew tastes very good (and very Guinnessy which is good for the week of St. Patrick’s Day, I guess) and that the soda bread tastes very good.  I haven’t had a chance to taste the bread yet and I won’t be tasting the beef stew for obvious reasons so we’ll all have to take his word for it on those.

I hope you find an opportunity to try these recipes since they were all seen as a success!


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This also was taken directly from source for two reasons: (1) I’ve never made beef stew and (2) I don’t eat beef so there’s no way for me to taste it to see if its good. (Source)

Beef and Guinness Stew

2 lbs. beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (use beef chuck or similar)
2 tbsps. garlic, chopped
1 cup carrots, rough chop
1 large yellow onion, rough chop
1/2 cup celery, rough chop
1/2 cup Jack Daniel
2 cups potatoes, rough chop
2 pint cans of Guinness
1 quart beef stock
4 fresh thyme sprigs (I used 1 tbsp of dried thyme since that was in our cupboard)
2 fresh rosemary sprigs (I used 1 tbsp of dried rosemary since that was in our cupboard)
1/2 cup leftover coffee (we want the bitterness)
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper


In a large stockpot, heat up a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the beef and brown for about 5-7 minutes.

Once the meat is beautifully browned, add the garlic and other vegetables except for the potatoes and caramelize until they have a bit of color (about 8-10 minutes). “Deglaze” by adding the Jack Daniel’s to release the brown bits at the bottom of the pot. The liquid will boil, loosening the caramelization and adding flavor back to the stew (In our’s there was quite a bit of liquid.  I’m not sure if this was the cut of the beef cubes I got or what so there was very little “loosening of the caramelization” going on). Cook for 1 minute.

Add all the liquid, the whole sprigs of herbs (tie the herbs together with some string) (Since we used dried, we used some cheese cloth and put our dried herbs in that), potatoes, some salt and pepper and reduce the heat to a simmer (the soup should have small bubbles rise on the sides of the pot) for 1 hour or longer until the meat is super-tender.

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Irish Soda Bread

This was taken directly from source.  It was my first time making Irish soda bread and I did not want to mess it up. (Source)

Irish Soda Bread

5 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups mixed light and dark raisins, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and drained
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, slightly beaten


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 2 (9 by 5-inch) bread pans (I ended up using 1 8.5 x 4 and 2 aluminum bread tins you get from the supermarket.  Of the two aluminum pans, 1 was full and one was about 3/4 of the size of the other two).

Stir together the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter and mix very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds.

Add the buttermilk and egg to the flour mixture. Stir until well moistened. Shape dough into 2 loaves (these weren’t really shape-able so I spooned the dough into the pans) and place in the pans.

Bake for 1 hour. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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These were a little out of my league in terms of baking skills so again I followed the recipe (source). For the frosting, I made the same batch of cream cheese icing for these and the dark and stormy cupcakes.  Then I added rum to the dark and stormy ones.  This was much more fluid than I anticipated for both because I beat the cream cheese to long and it reached room temperature.

Dark and Stormy Cupcakes

Dark (ginger cake) Batter
2 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and grated (I used approximately 3-4 tsp ground ginger because I didn’t have fresh)
1/2 c molasses
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (I used allspice due to availability in my cupboard)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c water
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg

Light (rum cake) Batter
3/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, minus one white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
1/2 c dark rum
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 c heavy whipping cream


Dark Batter
In a large bowl, mix the molasses, sugar, and oil; in another bowl, stir the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper together. Microwave the water, stir in the baking soda, then add to the molasses bowl. Stir in the grated ginger. Whisk the flour mixture into the molasses mixture, then add the egg and mix until thoroughly combined (you’ll have a dark, bubbling bowl).

Light Batter
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, then lemon rind, then rum (I used Gosling’s), beating each time until blended (you’ll have curdled-looking chunks from the lemon; don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that). Combine dry ingredients in another small bowl, then add to batter, alternating with the cream, beginning and ending with the dry stuff. Stir until just blended after each addition.

Ladle dark batter into lined cupcake pans so that each is just over half-full, then top each with a big dollop (say, 2 to 2 1/2 tbsp) of light batter (Even with this they still over flowed the cupcake pan in my batch. I would recommend making it less than half-full).

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cupcakes for about 15 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to two large platters and poke the hell out of them with a fondue fork (or a seafood fork).

Combine 4 tbsp of butter, 3/8 c sugar, and 1/3 c dark rum (I used Gosling’s) in a saucepan over medium heat; when mixture is liquid, stick it over by the window where the cupcakes cooled for about 10 minutes.  Ladle a large spoonful of the cooled rum sauce over each cupcake.

For frosting
8 oz cold cream cheese
2 1/2 tbsp softened butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
about 1 1/2 (1 shot) – 2 oz of dark rum

Beat cold cream cheese with softened butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until combined. Add dark rum (I used Gosling’s) and stir to combine; repeat as necessary until frosting has reached your optimal level of rumminess.

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Bananas Foster Cupckakes

This original source can be found here: (source).  I made one adjustment: I only made half of the batch since I was making two other types of cupcakes.  For the frosting, I made the same batch of cream cheese icing for these and the dark and stormy cupcakes.  Then I added rum to the dark and stormy ones.  This was much more fluid than I anticipated for both because I beat the cream cheese to long and it reached room temperature.

Banana Mixture
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar packed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 firm but ripe bananas, sliced
2 tbsp dark rum
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp dark rum
1/3 cup sour cream (plus a little more, original recipe was 3/4 C so I halved it)

For the Bananas:
In a saute pan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cook until butter melts and sugar is dissolved (4 to 5 minutes). Add the banana slices and cook until tender, turning once for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Stir together rum and vanilla.  Turn off the burner and add the rum mixture to the pan.  Using a long match, light the alcohol by placing the flame just in the outer edge of the pan.  Stand as far back as possible. The flame should extinguish in a few seconds. Gently shake the pan from side to side to coat the bananas with the sauce. Spoon the bananas into a bowl and set aside.

For the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, vanilla, rum and banana mixture. Mix well.  Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream; blend thoroughly but do not overmix.  Pour into prepared cupcake pans.  Bake 20 – 25 minutes (recipe calls for this, mine took 35 minutes to cook) or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for 4-5 minutes in pan on rack. Remove and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1 1/2 tablespoons homemade or store bought caramel sauce (I forgot this in my batch)
2-3 cups confectioners or powdered sugar (to get desired consistency)
1 tsp of cinnamon, sprinkled on top

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until fluffy; add the caramel sauce and beat until fully incorporated.  Slowly add confectioners or powdered sugar into the bowl, 1/2 cup at a time and beating after each addition. Continue adding the sugar until you have a thick frosting of your preferred consistency.  If the frosting becomes too thick, add a tablespoon or more of fat free milk to thin out.

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Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Banana Meringue Frosting
8 servings, 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

1 cup flour
5/8 cup granulated sugar
5/8 teaspoon baking soda
5/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup oil
5/8 cup water
5/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
5/8 teaspoon banana extract
5/8 tablespoon vinegar
1 packet Jell-O Instant Banana Cream pudding

Frosting (note: this made way too much so I tried to make cookies out of the rest)
1 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp banana extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix the instant pudding according to instructions on packet (points based on fat free milk).  Put in fridge to set.  Mix all other ingredients together until moist and well blended.  Put in a lined cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool.  Once cupcakes are cooled, remove a “cone” of cupcake from the middle.  Remove the inside part of the cupcake while keeping the top.  In the “cone” add the instant banana pudding.  You should use about 1/2 cup of pudding for all 8 cupcakes.


Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a water bath.  Whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.  Transfer bowl to electric stand mixer, beat on high-speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.  Add banana and vanilla extract.  Beat on medium speed.  Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag and toast with a torch if you have one.

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