Thursday, August 29, 2013

Football Food Makeover #5: Low Fat Red Potato Salad

It's almost an oxymoron, isn't it?  Low fat potato salad.  How on earth can potatoes, eggs, mayonaisse, and the likes be on a WW diet?  Well, with a few easy substitutions like non-fat sour cream and Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise, this salad cuts fat without sacrificing flavor.  With the help of green onions and LOTS of dill, that is.  In honor of the return of college football, here's my first football food makeover of the year.  Because what barbeque/party/get-together/event is complete without a good potato salad?  Here's how Mama makes it:

Low Fat Red Potato Salad

Makeover version: (makes 10 servings, 4 pts each!)
- 3 lbs. red potatoes, quartered with skins on
- 1 c. non-fat sour cream (yes, I used low-fat this time because that's what my mom had in her fridge)
- 1/2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
- 4 hard boiled eggs, diced
- 1 bundle green onions, diced
- 2-3 T. dill (we like a lot in our family)
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 2-4 T. skim milk, to thin

Original recipe:  substitute 1 c. mayonnaise and regular sour cream for the greek yogurt and non-fat (or low-fat) sour cream.
**WW comparison:  original recipe has 10 points per serving, makeover version is only 4 pts per serving!  Tastes like a bargain to me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Peanut Post: Go Away!

Somewhere I have a little book to write down all the funny things my kids say so I can share it with them later and look back and laugh at all the silly things they said/did.  I vividly remember receiving that book as a shower gift and thinking, "wow, it will be forever before I need one of these!"  WRONG.  Yesterday I realized my baby has hit yet another "milestone" if you will - the my-kid-says-hilarious-things stage. *sigh*

It's true, it's time to dig that little book out of Annalyn's bookcase because suddenly she is cracking jokes, and using inflections, and chock full of personality.  Yesterday, I was sitting next to her on the couch and she realized that there was a throw behind me. The little conversation that ensued was funny/shocking/scary all at once.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

12 Weight Watchers Essentials

As I've talked about in past posts, I used Weight Watchers online to lose the baby weight after Annalyn was born.  I found it incredibly simple, educational, and healthier than most fad diet plans.  It taught me about portion control, choosing healthier snacks, and recognizing not only what, but also why I was eating (boredom, upset, etc. vs. actual hunger).  After 2 months of following the plan, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and a few months later I was about 10 lbs. less than that.  Between the online tools, recipes, and even iPhone apps, it was very easy to track what I was eating and learn more about choosing healthier alternatives.  Eventually I got to where I didn't even need to track my daily points because I'd made so many wonderful changes that it was second nature to eat healthily. It definitely made me a believer.

Then came and holidays and like a lot of people, I let my diet get a little less healthy.  Between all the travel, stress, and deaths of loved ones in the next few months, I pretty much went back to eating anything and any time.  I planned Annalyn's meals perfectly, but my own seemed more of an afterthought, usually some sort of comfort food involving lots of cheese (probably my biggest weekness)

some of the many tools on the iPhone app

With just 5 weeks until my little brother's wedding, I finally found the motivation I needed to recommit to my healthy diet plan.  I rejoined WW and was very excited to see that they actually saved all my recipes/favorites/etc., including the recipes I entered on my own (the online tools include a recipe builder which is perfect for me!).   After only a week, I'm 5 lbs. down and feeling better already. 

In honor of my recommitment to a healthier diet, here's some of my WW essentials:

1.  Nonfat Greek Yogurt - This stuff is great when it comes to remaking recipes.  Use it in place of sour cream, mayonnaise, dressing, and more.  This lightened up chicken salad is proof of it's magic. (
about 3/4 c. served in whole wheat pita pocket is around 6-7 WW points, depending on type of pita, etc) 
Just this weekend, I used it in a red potato salad that's only 4 pts per serving (coming soon!) along with this baked Dijon dill chicken at only 3 pts per 4 oz. piece of chicken.

2.  Salsa with veggies - Salsa is a great WW snack, especially when eaten with carrots/snap peas instead of chips.  I made up a big batch of this restaurant style pineapple salsa to have on hand.  2 pts for 1/2 c. salsa and 1 c. carrots/snap peas.

3.  Fat free evaporated milk - This can be used in place of cream in recipes such as this corn chowder (9 pts per serving) and this slow cooker mac 'n cheese.


4.  Fresh Vegetable Soup - Here's a recipe no WW can do without!  Full of fresh veggies and flavor, this soup is only 2 pts per cup or 3 pts for 2 cups.  I just made a big batch and put in mason jars in the fridge.  Half the battle is having healthy food available when the hunger strikes!  If you don't buy it, you won't eat it and vise versa, right?  Even Peanut loved this nutrient-packed dish.

5.  Fat free Cool Whip, low-fat yogurt, and sugar free pudding mix - with these three things you can make all kinds of concoctions to suit any sweet craving.  Experiment with different flavors of yogurt and pudding mixes, or add in some fruit or mini-chocolate chips (another tip:  using the mini's allows more chocolate flavor by using less!).  This was one of the start-up tips Shawna gave me, so it's been tried several times between the two of us!

6.  Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal - I prefer steel cut, but Michael likes rolled oats - either one works fine.  I love that I can make us a filling, low-fat breakfast the night before, pop it in the fridge, and easily heat it up in the morning.  My general formula is: 1/4 c. oats, 1/4 c. skim milk, 1/4 c. low-fat yogurt, 1-2 t. ground flax, 1/2 t. cinnamon.  (for Michael:  1/2 c. rolled oats, 1/2 c. milk, 1/4 c. yogurt, 1/2 t. cinnamon)  The next morning, add in fruit, a tablespoon of jam, or whatever else you like in your oatmeal.  Having a filling breakfast helps me get to lunch without a snack.  7 pts well spent!

7.  Banana Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies - A recent addition to my list, I found this recipe on Pinterest and was surprised with the results.  Mash 2 ripe bananas, add 1 c. rolled oats, 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips, and 1 t. cinnamon.  Mix well and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Makes about 16 cookies, 2 pts each or 3 pts for 2 cookies.  Because sometimes you just need some chocolate!

8.  Snack sized Ziplock bags - Not a food exactly, but these are great for portion controlled snacks.  One of the biggest parts of WW is actually measuring portion sizes, not guessing.  For instance, I'm in love with these edamame crisps from Trader Joes.  So, I measure out portion sizes in these bags and write the point total on each.  Ready to grab healthy snacks = setting yourself up to succeed!

9.  Fresh fruit & veggies - This might be a no-brainer, but fresh fruit, veggies, and salads are all great for WW diet plans and healthy diets in general.

10.  Natural or homemade applesauce - With the natural sweetness of apples, there's no need to add sugar (cinnamon, sure, but sugar, no).  Add this to oatmeal, eat on its own or topped with granola for a low point snack or breakfast.

11.  Diced tomatoes - Stock your pantry with a few cans of these - they are zero points and make a great base for sauces, soups, and casseroles.

12.  WW Ice Cream Candy Bars - Now I don't usually buy too much of the actual WW food products, simply because they are somewhat expensive and I make most of our meals.  But these are outstanding!  They taste just like the Snickers ice cream bars and at only 4 pts per bar, they are a semi-guilt free treat.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Beautiful Disaster: Rustic Raspberry Peach Tart

Here's one of those creations that just keeps going wrong, but somehow ends up great - a beautiful disaster.  This recipe was born after promising my student and technician at work that I would make them a pie, only to realize I only had a single pie crust at home.  Sure, I could've made one, but I just didn't have the time or patience that day.  So, I decided to improvise and make a one-crust rustic-looking tart instead.  Aside from using a little too much peach filling, it was one heck of an improvisation!   I even got to use some of my freshly picked home-grown raspberries.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Rustic Raspberry Peach Tart

- 1 pastry for 9" pie
- 1 c. can peach pie filling (slightly less than 1 can)
- 1/3 c. raspberries
- 1 T. honey

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dutch Apple Pie (using homemade canned filling)

In preparation for my friend, Kinzie's wedding, I decided to test out a batch of my homemade canned pie filling.  I cannot believe how easy it was to make an apple pie when the filling's already made!  I feel much less anxious about making 12+ pies in a day, now.  Plus, I was excited to let the bride & groom-to-be taste it.  Win/win I'd say.  Pie for everyone!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Dutch Apple Pie

- 1 pastry for 9" pie (I actually tested out a Marie Calendar's frozen one for this pie)
- 1 quart jar apple pie filling
- 1 c. flour
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1/4 c. quick-cooking oats
- 6 T. butter, softened or slightly melted

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Family Friendly Cooking: Tamale Muffins

Here's an exciting family friendly recipe that makes a great make-ahead toddler meal.  Freeze in foil lined muffin liners for an easy meal in a pinch.  Inspired by one of my favorite Mexican dishes, it's interesting, flavorful, and so easy to make - sure to be a croud pleaser!  It takes about half of a batch of taco meat, so you can use leftovers from the night before, or make tacos and taco salads with the extra from this dish.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Tamale Muffins

Ingredients: (makes 12 muffins)
- 2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 c. milk
- 1 lb. ground beef or turkey
- 2 T. taco seasoning (or taco packet in a pinch)
- 1 can kidney or pinto beans
- 1 can sliced black olives
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1/3 c. water
-  1/3 c. shredded cheese
serving suggestion:  top with salsa (we used a peach version of this salsa)
(8 WW pts per muffin)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Adventures in Canning: Homemade Apple Pie Filling

In preparation for a friend's wedding, I decided to try my hand at canning apple pie filling.  Having the filling ready to go will save me lots of time the week of the wedding when I'm making the pies.  Since we had an overabundance of apples from our trip to Stuckey Farm, I decided to double the recipe, so we'd have plenty of cinnamon apples on hand for Fall to use in pies, crisps, cobblers, and fruit braids.  Honestly, it was much less work to double the recipe now then to do all the work twice.  We ended up with 13 quart jars!  Now, I won't claim to be an expert at canning - in fact, I've only done it a few times.  But with a little help from Michael, it turned out just fine.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Homemade Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients: (for a double batch)

- 9 c. sugar
- 2 c. cornstarch
- 3 T. cinnamon
- 1 t. nutmeg
- 1 T. + 1 t. salt
- 20 c. water, divided
- 1/4 c. + 2 T. lemon
- 12 lbs. apples

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Red, White, & Bleu Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

So, the name might be a tad bit cheesy (there I go again), but this is one amazing sandwich.  American cheese, bleu cheese crumbles, and lingonberry jam on sourdough bread, and grilled to perfection.  I'm not sure which is going to sound stranger - the idea of adding bleu cheese or lingonberry jam to a grilled cheese sandwich.  Never fear my friends, this is not as crazy as it sounds.  By adding just a hint of bleu cheese and a little sweetness/tartness from the jam, you end up with this amazing blend of flavors all within the creaminess of the American cheese.  Where on earth did this idea come from?  Well, this year at the Indiana State Fair, the dairy barn's new sandwich is an American/bleu cheese on sourdough bread.  I heard it described on the radio and was curious enough to give it a shot.  After trying the first one, my dear hubby decided to add some lingonberry jam to his sandwich.  I must say, it was even better!  So, this recipe was born and I was compelled to share it with all of you.  Here's how Mama (and Daddy) makes it:

Red, White, & Bleu Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ingredients: (for 2 sandwiches)
- 4 slices sourdough bread
- 4 T. yogurt butter
- 4 slices American cheese
- 1/4 c. bleu cheese crumbles
- 2-4 T. lingonberry jam (we found ours at Whole Foods)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Caramelized Sweet Onion Tart

Shawna, if you're reading this, just close it now.  While I congratulate you on being brave enough to even attempt to read this post, this one is not for you.  Sure, most of my recipes you can simply leave out the onions or chop them up tiny enough that you don't mind it.  But not this one.  This recipe is for all my fellow onion lovers.  Does it taste like eating straight onions?  Of course not.  It's actually surprisingly sweet and oh-so rich.  But that doesn't change the fact that it's onions.  In tart form.

Now, for everyone else still reading, I know I've gotten your attention and you're either salivating in anticipation, or so grossed out that you just can't look away.   Hopefully it's not the latter - seriously guys, just close the screen now, check out another of my safer, tamer recipes.  The rest of us are trying to make onion awesomeness.  Sweet caramelized onions with pecans, dates, and just a touch of honey baked to perfection in a pastry, to be exact.  And here's how Mama makes it:

Caramelized Sweet Onion Tart


- pastry for 1 crust pie (again, I usually buy refrigerated - feel free to substitute your favorite homemade recipe)
- 3 medium onions, sliced
- 3 T. butter
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1/4 c. chopped pecans
- 1/4 c. chopped dates
- 1/4 c. milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 t. nutmeg
- 2 T. flour
- 2 T. honey, divided

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Peanut Post: 18 Month Update

Once again time has gotten away from us and it's almost your half birthday!  Looking back at my last update (which was 3 months ago!), I can't believe how much you've grown up this summer.  You are more and more a little kid and less of a baby (though I still call you my baby).  You have become fearless, strong, and very coordinated - a dangerous combination! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mama's Favorite Things - Apple Peeler, Corer, & Slicer

As I've told you all before, I absolutely love kitchen gadgets.  So when I discovered there was a contraption that peeled, cored, and sliced apples with the turn of a handle, I had to check it out.  Especially since I was getting ready to can pie filling.  I don't know about you guys, but my least favorite part of making apple pies is all the peeling and coring - it takes forever!  But not anymore...

For about $20, this peeler has a vacuum seal base and is capable of peeling, coring, and slicing apples, pears, potatoes, etc.  I've only tried it with apples so far, but after 12 lbs. of apples, it's still working great. 

Staycation part 2: Apple Picking at Stuckey Farm

As promised, here are some pictures from our staycation adventure to Stuckey Farm, a local apple orchard with u-pick apples.  They have so many different varieties that depending on the time of year you go, there are different types of apples to pick.  Our favorite from this trip were the Paula Red apples.  They had an amazingly crisp texture and the perfect mix of sweet and tart flavor.  I'm pretty sure they will make some awesome pies!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Staycation part 1: Apple Induced Euphoria

After much debate, we decided to use my 4 day weekend for a little staycation here in Indy.  Not the kind where you stay home, do nothing, and just enjoy the fact that you have no plans.  No, this staycation is more of a vacation that takes place in the area we live.  We even wrote out a little itinerary to help ensure we made the most of our time off together before Mike starts back teaching.  Like any vacation, we've been eating delicious food (granted we've been cooking it), exploring the area, and not worrying much about accomplishing anything.  We went shopping in Edinburgh at the outlets, picked apples at Stuckey's Farm in Sheridan, took Annalyn to her first splash park in Zionsville, and somehow found time to make 13 quarts of apple pie filling!  And that's all in the first two days...
Pictures and recipes will be coming soon, but in the meantime, here's a peak at my current source of insane happiness.  Well before Fall makes an appearance, we have lots of apple pie filling canned and ready for pies, crisps, and cobblers.  I can't even tell you how happy my kitchen is tonight! Take a peak:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homemade Granola

Who knew granola was so simple to make and tasted sooo much better homemade?!  I sure didn't, but tasting is believing my friends and as of today, Peanut and I are believers.  I whipped up a batch before Annalyn woke up, so she got to try it fresh out of the oven.  All day long she's been asking for more.  I also love how versatile granola can be.  Mix and match any kind of nuts, seeds, and fruit you like.  Or experiment with different extracts and spices to change the overall flavor of the granola.  Once made, sprinkle on yogurt, fresh fruit, baked apples, ice cream, or do like us and eat it with a spoon.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Homemade Granola
- 3 c. rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
- 1/2 c. chopped pecans (or nuts of your choice)
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 2 T. sesame seeds
- 2 T. flaxseeds
- 1/3 c. water
- 1/4 c. honey
- 3 T. molasses
- 2 T. oil
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 1/3 c. dried cherries

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Garden Fresh Tomatoes

Is there anything better than tomatoes fresh from the garden? Add a little salt and pepper, a few basil leaves, and drizzle with balsamic for a quick and delicious summer side dish.  It's beautiful and absolutely scrumptious.  
Happy summer, everyone!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken with Artichokes & Olives

Here's a good example of being flexible.  This recipe, originally taken from this one on, combines some of our favorite things.  Spices, check.  Olives (al-la as Peanut calls them), check.  Artichokes, check. It was one I absolutely couldn't wait to try, but in the middle of a bathroom remodel, there was no way I could spare a good hour to prep and cook it.  Meals are not so planned and methodical when doing house projects.  So, in a moment of Mama superpower, I decided to toss it all in a slow cooker and hope for the best!  We ended up serving it over pasta we had on hand since my parents made it in time for dinner and we needed to stretch it out a bit.  Honestly, it was delicious even on its own.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Slow Cooker Chicken with Artichokes & Olives

- 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- salt & pepper
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 T. minced garlic
- 1 t. turmeric
- 1/2 t. ground cumin
- 1/2 t. ground coriander
- generous pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 1 t. grated lemon zest
- 3 T. lemon juice
- 1 c. canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 1/2 c. pitted green olives
- optional:  2 T. cornstarch and 2 T. water to make a thicker sauce

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

Here's a recipe I've seen circulating around lately and just had to try!  There are several versions out there (all pretty similar), but this one came from www.foodiewithfamily.  The flavors of this dish are so simple and yummy and that you will not believe it came from a slow cooker.  Not to mention, it just looks pretty, and who doesn't love pretty food?  It was a hit with my family and with such simple ingredients, it's sure to please even your pickiest eaters.  With minimal prep time, it's perfect for a weekend of house projects or a toss together working mama meal.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

- 3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1/2 c. diced onion
- 3/4 c. honey
- 1/2 c. soy sauce
- 1/3 c. ketchup
- 1 T. canola oil
-1 T. toasted sesame oil
- 1 T. ginger
- 4 cloves minced garlic (about a spoonful)
- 3/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 t. cornstarch
- 1/4 c. water
- sesame seeds, chopped green onions, and rice for serving