Posts Tagged ‘quick meals’

On June 26th the world welcomed a very special little guy: my nephew!  This is B’s and my first time being an uncle and aunt and, besides being super excited to shower him with love and affection, we wanted to make sure we help out B’s brother and our sister-in-law as much as possible.  As part of our efforts to do so, we decided to make them some food to have to share with guests and for them to eat as they get adjusted to life as new parents.  We ended up making a lot of food (fitting our trend of over-cooking for 2 people).  Here is the menu (I will link the posts I’ve adapted as I post them):

Freezer Meals:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • Recipe forthcoming

Zucchini Bread

  • This was my first time making zucchini bread so I followed the recipe fairly closely (also not 100% sure on the outcome).  I used walnuts but did not use cranberries/raisins.  Also, I probably used over 3 C of grated fresh zucchini.  I grated a zucchini in my food processor and just used whatever was produced.

Banana Nutella Swirl Muffins

  • Two changes: I used 5 bananas and I did not use chopped pecans.  My mother- and father-in-law referred to these as life changing.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • B made these and I’m not 100% clear on the recipe.  I think he just winged the recipe using a Asian inspired rub.

Twice Baked Bacon and Cheddar Potatoes

  • This recipe is more of a guideline.  We have made twice baked potatoes before we so kind of eyeballed it as we normally do.  This was the first time we froze these.  We made the mistake of making them all as if we were going to eat them that day/night.  So we did two things wrong: first, we cooked them completely; second, we cooked them with the green onions.  Some of the freezer prep recipes I’ve found since then (when I was trying to find reheat instructions for my brother- and sister-in-law) have recommended not adding the green onions until ready to eat.  I was informed that they were very good as we did them but in the future I will probably try freezing the proper way.

Blanched asparagus

  • Add asparagus to a pot of boiling water.  Cook for approximately 1 minute.  Remove from boiling water and submerge immediately in ice water to stop cooking process.  Remove from ice water and put on cookie sheet or roasting pan to cool completely.  Place in freezer bag and freeze.  To reheat, thaw the asparagus and reheat in pan with oil/butter and desired spices.

To have on hand:

Italian Roast Pork with Broccoli Rabe

  • For the broccoli rabe, submerge in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes (or until soft with a little bit of crunch).  Remove from boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. In a medium size pan, saute 2-3 cloves of garlic with a generous amount of olive oil.  Add blanched broccoli rabe and cook for approximately 5 minutes more over medium heat.  Serve roast pork and broccoli rabe with sharp provolone cheese and/or roasted red peppers on a hoagie sandwich roll.
  • My brother- and sister-in-law also repurposed the pork (since I ended up using an 8 lb shoulder and made 3 Chinese food take out containers worth.  Each container was 8 sandwiches).  They added some BBQ sauce and adobe sauce to use in roasted pork tacos.  We also discussed how the pork could be repurposed into BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

Chocolate cupcakes with Salted Cannoli Cream Frosting

  • Recipe forthcoming


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I’ve previously mentioned that the “Jen Special” involves fish, starch, green vegetable.  Over the years, I’ve tried to expand what the “Jen Special” means.  Originally, it meant baked salmon, mashed potatoes, and spinach.  Without fail, I had this dish at least once a week before I moved in with B.  Moving in with him lead us to be a little more creative because someone prefers variety.  This is the latest manifestation of the “Jen Special”.   Enjoy!

Pesto Salmon
4 cups packed basil
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2 tbsp pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, fresh (We REALLY like garlic.  If you aren’t a huge fan of garlic, reduce to 2 cloves)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
2- 4 oz. Sockeye (or other Salmon) fillet

Combine basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper together in a food processor until smooth.  Add additional components to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.  Place salmon in dish and spread pesto on top.  Bake salmon for approximately 20 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Orzo Salad*
1/4 lb. orzo pasta, dried
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
3 tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp feta cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
Salt, pepper, and fresh basil to taste

  1. In a pot, bring heavily salted water to a boil.  When water reaches a rolling boil, add dried orzo.
  2. In a separate saute pan, add olive oil and onions.  Cook onions about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until caramelized.  Set aside onions.  Add pine nuts to the pan and toast slightly, making sure not to let them burn.
  3. When orzo is cooked, drain and add to pan with pine nuts and onions.  Mix in tomatoes, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar.  Serve warm.

Asparagus with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze

This was just a bunch of asparagus that I blanched.  I added dollops of goat cheese and drizzled store-bought balsamic glaze.

*Note: I messed up the orzo salad by over estimating (by a lot) how much orzo we needed.  I cooked the whole box (1 lb.) It was waaaaay too much and overpowered the other elements of the dish.  We also ate it for the next three days.  This recipe reflects a reduced amount of pasta but I did not reduce the rest of the recipe components

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B and I were planning on having delicious, unhealthy lunch from Taco Bell.  We talked ourselves out of that and decided to do something healthier.  We started talking about shrimp po’boys and decided to make a healthier version.  We used a lot of Old Bay so make sure you reduce the amount if you don’t like it that spicy/salty.

Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwich
1 serving, approx 8 Weight Watchers PP per serving

1 Hoagie Roll
5-7 Shrimp, deshelled and deveined
1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp bread crumbs

1/4 cup fat free mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip)
1 tsp spicy brown mustard
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Coat defrosted shrimp with Old Bay seasoning, bread crumbs, and pepper.  Coat a pan with non-stick spray.  Saute shrimp for approximately 4-5 minutes.  Mix all of the ingredients together for the remoulade.  Spread remoulade on the sub/hoagie roll.  Place shrimp on roll with tomato slices and lettuce.

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This dish has been made a few times this week and a few different ways.  First, I made it for B and myself for dinner with grilled Quorn Naked Chi’ken cutlet for myself and a grilled piece of chicken for B.  I seasoned both with a dry rub of garlic salt, pepper, basil, and thyme.  I also made it for lunch with a Morningstar Farms Griller’s chicken patty.  I preferred the version with the Naked Chi’ken cutlet but it was also good with the patty sliced up.  Enjoy!

Grilled “Chicken”, Fruit, and Goat Cheese Salad
With 4 oz grilled Chicken: 7 Weight Watchers Points Plus
With piece of Quorn Naked Chicken Cutlet: 6 Weight Watchers Points Plus

Makes approximately 2 servings

1 1/2 large head of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
8 mushrooms, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsp semi-soft crumbled goat cheese
3 tbsp Ocean Spray Craisins
2 clementines, peeled and separated
1 4 oz piece of grilled chicken (or 1 piece Quorn Naked Chi’ken Cutlet)
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Grill chicken (or Quorn cutlet).  Mix everything well and serve.  (I like to cool the grilled chicken before serving but that is a taste preference!)

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Herb Goat Cheese and Shrimp Pasta

Approximately 5 servings, 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine
6-7 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
6-7 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
16 large shrimp, deveined and detailed
5 cups cooked pasta
2 tbsp semi-soft crumbled goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring water to a boil.  Once it is boiling, add pasta and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add oil and half of the garlic.  Let the garlic saute making sure to not let the garlic burn.  Add the basil, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, and white wine.  Muddle the herbs in the oil and wine.  Saute for approximately 2 minutes and add remaining garlic. Add tomatoes and saute on medium-high heat.  When  the tomatoes are softened add the shrimp cooking for approximately 5 minutes.

Drain pasta and add sauce to large pot.  Combine 2 tbsp goat cheese and mix well.  Serve in pasta bowls.

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I’m so far behind on updating/cooking the recipes I have queued up to make my “oh-so-not-witty” stories associated with the next few dishes are not going to be present (joy, you say?).  This recipe was a result of really wanting a non-traditional grilled cheese sandwich and having some leftover goat cheese.  I ate it with a side of tabbouleh salad B had made earlier in the week.  Enjoy!

Grown-Up Grilled Ham and Cheese
1 serving, 6 Weight Watchers Points Plus Points per serving

2 slices bread (I used wheat bread)
1 tbsp soft goat cheese
3 slices Yves Fake Deli Ham (Vegetarian ham cold cut)
1 tsp balsamic glaze
Cooking spray

Heat a pan to medium-high heat.  Spread goat cheese across bread and drizzle balsamic glaze.  Add ham slices.  Spray with cooking spray and add to pan.  Cook approximately 3-4 minutes on each side taking care to make sure that the bread doesn’t burn.  Enjoy!

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As you can see (scroll down ya lazy bum) B and I tried out a New Orleans themed restaurant this weekend.  One of the things that stood out to me on the menu was their Shrimp and Grits.  Unfortunately, it was made with bacon, and ham, and all sorts of things that most people find delicious that I don’t eat.  So I sighed and (tragically) opted for the catfish (can you feel the sarcasm?).

I was inspired though.  I wanted to make Shrimp and Grits at home.  I have never been a huge fan of grits.  My dad is from the south and has them as a side with his eggs and I was always like “eh, I’d rather have home fries with ketchup and hot sauce” also known as the NJ diner way of eating egg sides.  Thumbing through a cookbook in our kitchen I found a recipe for shrimp and grits that I wanted to try to work with.  First, the grits had cheese in the recipe.  I thought, “Self, you love cheese.  This can’t be bad.”  Also, this recipe seemed to be incredibly Weight Watchers friendly (which it turned out it was).  I made a few adjustments to the recipe that can be changed back.  First, I swapped out 6.5 oz of Turkey sausage for one box of Morningstar Farms Sausage links (10 links).  Second, I added a lot more Old Bay Seasoning.  In the future, I think I would dramatically reduce that quantity and increase the amount of hot sauce in the shrimp mix (which the recipe did not originally call for.  I liked the strong Old Bay taste but B seemed a little lukewarm on it.  For mass appeal I would reduce to 2 tsp from 4 1/2 tsp.  A final benefit of this meal, it was incredibly quick to make.  With prep time for chopping it took no more than twenty minutes to make the entire dish. Enjoy!

The Northerner’s Take on Shrimp and Grits
4 Servings, 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus Points per serving


16 large shrimp, deveined and detailed
4 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 large green bell peppers, diced
10 links Morningstar Farms Sausage Links
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Frank’s Hot Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat a large non-stick pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add shrimp, 3 tsp of seasoning, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Cook approximately 3 minutes or until the shrimp are done, stirring frequently.  Remove shrimp from pan and keep warm.

2) Return pan to medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add bell pepper.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add sausage, remaining seasoning, and hot sauce.  Cook approximately 2 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently.  Add reserved shrimp and garlic.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add 1/4 cup of water.  Cook for about 30 seconds scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Remove from heat and let stand for about 2 minutes.


1/2 C Quick 5 minute Grits
1/2 C fat free milk
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring 1 1/2 C of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Gradually stir in grits to boiling water.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in milk.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve shrimp over the grits.  And serve warm!

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I’ve been craving smoothies.  Its spring and its (rarely) sunny and warm here in beautiful Steelers Nation.  Most places I know that sell smoothies make them incredibly unhealthy with lots of sugar, ice cream, or full fat yogurt.  I decided I’d satisfy my craving by making a similar one at home.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Greek Yogurt
1 serving, 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

5-6 ice cubes (or crushed ice)
6 large strawberries quartered
1 large banana
1/2 C Fage 0% Greek Yogurt
2 tsp Splenda (or another no calorie sweetener)

In a blender (or in a Cuisinart, since my blender is non-functional) add ice.  Run until ice is transformed into a slushy mixture.  Add strawberries and bananas.  Run until fruit is smooth.  Add yogurt and Splenda.  Again, run until smooth.  Serve immediately.

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The past two years my in-laws have made the five-hour trek from our home state out to our current residence of Pittsburgh, PA for one purpose on Easter weekend: The Grand Concourse Sunday Brunch.  If you snicker you have clearly never been to said brunch.

We had found the brunch because it had been on a friend’s “bucket list” of things to do before leaving Pittsburgh (which I am quietly composing in my head as well).  For the non-meat and fish eater, you don’t really get your money’s worth.  But if you eat at least fish it is fantastic.  It is everything awesome about gluttony.  The highlights include fresh donuts, omelette, pancakes, and waffles to order, bananas foster, carving stations with ham, roast beef, etc., lox, different types of fish dishes, and the  list goes on and on.  This year it was just four of us (my brother-in-law and his fiance stayed away this year) but we made the most of it.

The big problem with going to the brunch is that you’re absolutely stuffed until at least 6pm.  This doesn’t make trying to plan an Easter dinner very easy.  What I decided to do was to come up with a antipasto platter and a tomato and mozzarella salad.  I also had some back up appetizers (cocktail shrimp and, if necessary I was planning on whipping up deviled eggs) in case the four of us were hungrier after 6pm than I expected (we weren’t).

Since very little cooking was involved this was a great quick and easy way to feed the family without all the hassle.  I did roast a lot of vegetable a few days earlier so the prep time was more extensive than the actual cooking time.  Also, this let everyone take what they wanted since we were all at different levels of hunger from the brunch earlier in the morning.

Antipasto Platter
(I didn’t calculate the points here because it all depends on the size of your sandwich and exactly what you put on.  Since I was only eating the roasted vegetables I estimated about 1 tsp olive oil for those since I had drizzled it on top after roasting, the PointsPlus for the bread, cheese, and marinated artichokes).


Organic Prosciutto
Sweet Capicola
Hot Capicola
Genoa salami
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Sharp provolone, sliced
Roasted Eggplant (grilled and then sliced and I drizzled some olive oil on it and cooled overnight in an airtight container)
Roasted Red Peppers (grilled, cleaned, and cooled overnight in an airtight container)
Roasted tomatoes (baked at 275 for approximately 3 hours in the oven, drizzled some olive oil on it and cooled overnight in an airtight container)
Roasted portabello mushrooms (grilled, sliced, drizzled some olive oil on it, and cooled overnight in an airtight container)
Roasted long hot peppers (Not pictured) (grilled in a tinfoil pouch until the skins are blackened.  Allow to cool and slice before serving)
Green olives (these came from the supermarket olive bar)
Marinated artichokes (out of a jar, I had no idea where to start with those)
Sun-dried tomatoes (out of a jar, again no idea where to start with that)
Pepperoncini peppers (out of a jar)
Fresh basil

I used a very crusty Tuscan italian loaf from a local bakery.  I was looking for something that would hold up to the liquids produced from the roasted vegetables.  The woman at the bakery had originally suggested a ciabatta bread but I did not think the inside would be dense enough.  Even this denser, crustier bread got a little wet from the vegetables.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
(I didn’t calculate the points but 1 oz of the fresh mozzarella according to the eTracker is 2 points and 1/4 tbsp of olive oil, which would be more than a serving, is 1 PointsPlus)

2 containers plum tomatoes, halved
1 container of small fresh mozzarella balls
1/2 cup basil, rinsed and chopped
approx 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all together but be careful not to over mix and break apart the tomatoes.

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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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