Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Easy Microwave Popcorn

There's a tip on the Weight Watcher's message board about popping pop corn kernels in a paper bag in the microwave. I thought I would give it a try. You know what? It's pretty good. It's definitely low in points since 3 tablespoons of unpopped pop corn kernels is 1 point. Although if you add any extras, you need to count those points. All I do is spray a little olive oil spray on the pop corn and sprinkle with salt.

What you need:
1 lunch-size paper bag
3 tablespoons pop corn kernels

Place the kernels in the paper bag. Fold over the top of the bag twice. (See the pictures below as a guide.)

Then place the bag in the microwave flat, so the kernels are sitting in the center of the bag.

Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Listen to the popping. If it slows down before the 2 minutes are over, take it out of the microwave before it burns. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

(The entire bowl is 1 pt.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spaghetti Lasagna

I was very industrious today. I had some ground turkey in the fridge and bought this new fire roasted diced tomatoes from Hunt's. I've heard they were good to cook with, giving a smoky flavor to sauces and dishes, so I wanted to try it. It all came together when I thought of making a lasagna, but instead of lasagna noodles, I decided to use spaghetti. It was delicious! I took a picture of it whole and as a slice.

Spaghetti Lasagna
Serves 10

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 clove garlic clove(s), minced
1 medium onion(s), finely chopped
1 pound lean ground turkey (93%)
1 can (26 ounces) Hunt’s Roasted Garlic and Onion Spaghetti Sauce (don't scoff at the choice of sauce, it's actually really good and I learned about it at a cooking class I once attended)
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) fire roasted diced tomatoes
12 ounces Dreamfields or Ronzoni Smart Pasta spaghetti (or any pasta brand of your choice if you're not on WW)
1 container (15 ounced) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 serving egg substitute
1 package (10 ounces) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion to skillet and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add ground turkey to the skillet. Cook until turkey is crumbly and no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

Place the spaghetti sauce and diced tomatoes in a large saucepan. Add the cooked turkey mixture to the pot. Cover and heat over a low flame, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain well.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese and egg substitute. Mix well. Add chopped spinach, mix well.

Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place half of the spaghetti in the bottom of the dish. Top with half of the spaghetti sauce mixture. Top with ricotta cheese mixture. Top with the remaining spaghetti and then with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting into pieces to serve.

Make-Ahead Tip: the sauce can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the dish.

(For those of you counting points, it’s 6 pts. per serving for 10 servings. If you cut it into 8 servings, it’s 8 pts.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fudgy Brownies

The weather today was awful. Now that I work in Connecticut, close to home (yeah!), I had no choice but to go to work (boo!). The roads were a little treacherous to drive this morning, so at around 1:00 or so, my VP told us we could go if we wanted. So I went home, visited with my neighbor Kara and her new dog Cyrus (such a loving yellow lab!), and then my other neighbor Diane called and decided to throw together an impromptu dinner party. Well, I couldn't go empty handed, so I decided to make something for dessert. I always have something on hand, ingredient-wise, so I can make a last-minute dessert (that's just the crazy person I am). I've been in the mood for brownies lately, so there was no question as to what I would make. I used Olivio instead of butter, and egg substitute instead of regular eggs. I was going to use splenda brown sugar blend, but the numbers would have been the same.

Fudgy Brownies
Makes 24

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Olivio spread, melted
Egg substitute, equal to 2 large eggs
4 oz unsweetened melted baking chocolate
2 Tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, melted butter spread, egg substitute, baking chocolate, water and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix vigorously.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with some crumbs, 18-22 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool. When cooled completely, cut into 24 squares. (I was in a rush to cut, which is why they fell apart a little.)

(Each square is 3 pts.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roasted Corn Potato Soup

Ok, back to dieting! Enough of the cookies. Last week on the WW website, they had a bunch of ideas for one-point snacks, one of them a corn soup. I loved the idea, but I thought adding a potato would make it even better. Plus, Trader Joe's has a frozen roasted corn which is so good, it was perfect for this soup. It's really easy to make and double if you want to make extra and freeze for later.

Roasted Corn Potato Soup
Serves 3

3 cups fat-free chicken broth (I used College Inn)
1 medium new potato, peeled (the potato I used weighed 7 ounces)
1 teaspoon Olivio
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen roasted corn
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf

Place the chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Cut the potato into small pieces. Add to the pot with broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium and let cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat Olivio in a small skillet. Add chopped onion and saute until onion is tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add corn, sauteed onion, cumin, garlic powder and bay leaf to the pot. Continue to simmer until potatoes are softened and can easily be pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Remove bay leaf from soup.

Transfer soup to a blender or use an emersion blender in the pot and puree until smooth. Return to heat until heated through.

(Each 1 cup serving is 2 points.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Baby Bottle Cookies

We had my co-worker Jen's baby shower this week, so I decided to tap into my creative baking days and make some iced cookies shaped and decorated to look like baby bottles. I used to love my baking and decorating pre-WW days, but since I've been dieting I haven't trusted myself to bake anything so fattening. Those bites, licks and tastes (BLTs) really add up (and so do the 1, 2 or 7 cookies that passed through my lips). Anyway, here is a great cut-out cookie recipe that can be used for any occasion and cookie cutter.

Baby Bottle Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 box (1 pound) confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder or powdered egg whites
3 tablespoons water, divided
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Combine the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time; beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing until combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Re-roll dough as needed. Place shapes on ungreased baking sheets. Bake cookies until firm and lightly browned around the edges, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water and lemon juice and beat with the mixer on medium speed until a thick, smooth icing forms. Divide icing among several bowls (however many colors you plan to use to decorate). Tint icing with desired food colorings, one drop at a time. Place half of the icings in separate resealable plastic bags and snip off a small part of the corner. Pipe outlines around cookies as desired. Thin the remaining icing with the remaining water. Fill in outlined cookies with thinned icing. Let dry completely.

(For those of you counting points, don't even bother eating them! I gained a pound this week. It's hard to eat just one.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia

Sometimes it's really hard to find a new way to make fish--and make it taste good. I created this recipe using cornmeal and seasonings, and then baked it in the oven and it tasted like it had been fried! I serve this with Uncle Ben's Ready Rice whole grain blends, which is the perfect partner for this fish.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia
Serves 2

1 tablespoon egg white, beaten
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tilapia fillets (about 4 ounces each), patted dry

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, seasoning salt and cumin on a plate. Place the beaten egg white in a shallow bowl. Dip the tilapia fillets in the egg white and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture, making sure both sides are completely coated. Place the coated fillets on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly spray the fillets with cooking spray.

Bake, turning over halfway through the baking time, until golden, about 20 minutes.

(Each fillet is 3 points; rice is not included in points value.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chicken Stir-Fry

I recently found a great stir-fry sauce that is so good. It's by La Choy and it's called Garlic Ginger Stir-Fry and Marinade. Four tablespoons of the sauce is 1 point, and a little definitely goes a long way. The recipe I've created serves one, but it can easily be doubled or tripled to serve more. I bulk it up with a lot of zero point veggies, but this time I added some green peas since I had some leftover in the fridge.

Chicken Stir-Fry
Serves 1

3 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons La Choy Garlic Ginger Sauce, divided
2 large baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup green peas
2 baby carrots, grated
1/2 cup cooked brown rice

Place chicken pieces in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons garlic ginger sauce. Stir to combine. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add marinated chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, grated carrots and remaining 1 tablespoon garlic ginger sauce. Cook, stirring continuously, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

(This single serve recipe is equal to 6 points.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

Ok, I'm on a cookie kick. My sweet tooth has been activated and I've been on the search for a low-point oatmeal cookie to enjoy after dinner. What I came up with uses a packet of instant oatmeal. They're perfect as a dessert for two, and they're definitely something to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea (they're a little on the dry, crispy side).

Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 6

1 packet instant flavored oatmeal (maple brown sugar is unbelievable!)
2 tablespoons whipped butter substitute (such as Olivio), melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon splenda brown sugar blend
1/4 teaspoon apple-pie spice or cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Using your hands, mold the dough into 6 flat rounds. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

(For those of you counting points, each cookie is 1.5 points.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Even though I'm on Weight Watchers, it doesn't mean I can't eat my favorite things. The best thing about WW is that, as long as you count the points, you can eat whatever you want. I adapted this recipe from another recipe, and I couldn't be happier with the results.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
Makes 24

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 egg or egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
24 frozen mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and peanut butter. Beat with an electric mixer set on medium speed until blended and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined, about 1 minute.

Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add to sugar mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Place remaining granulated sugar on a plate. Roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls and roll into granulated sugar. Place balls on a large ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through baking time.

Remove sheet from oven and immediately press an wrapped peanut butter cup in the center of each cookie (the cookie will crack slightly around the edges). Let cookies cool completely. (If the chocolate of the peanut butter cup doesn’t set right away, place baking sheet with cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.)

(For those of you counting points, each cookie is 2.5 points.)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Yummy Hummus

I know you might think it's easy to just go to the store and buy hummus, but I have to tell you, it's just as easy to make it yourself at home! My friend Karen made her hummus for book club last week and I loved it so much I wanted to give it a try. She learned it from her aunts, but didn't have a specific recipe, but did have specific ingredients: chick peas, sesame tahini (you can find this either near the peanut butter, or in the health food section of your supermarket), fresh garlic cloves (not the kind that are already peeled; the ones she bought from Stew Leonards didn't have any of the tell-tale garlic smell, which was really bizarre), olive oil and cumin. There was one ingredient that I couldn't find, so I substituted fresh lemon juice. I also cut the prep time by not heating the chick peas first and using the reserved chick pea liquid to thin the mixture. Enjoy!

Yummy Hummus
Serves 8

1 can (19 oz) chick peas, drained, liquid reserved (I used Progresso)
2 Tbsp sesame tahini
3 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves (depending on how much garlic you like)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp table salt or to taste

Place the drained chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic cloves, salt and cumin in the workbowl of a food processor or a blender. Process until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. If the mixture seems too thick as it's processing, add some of the reserved chick pea liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

(For those of you counting points, to divide this for 8 servings, I'm averaging about 1/4 cup hummus is equal to 2 points.)