Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disaster in the Kitchen: Coconut and Ginger Beef and Vegetables

Tonight was an absolute disaster.  Anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and surprisingly, the meal wasn't half way at the end of cooking.

Here is the original recipe.  When I see the word slow cooker, I think of throwing ingredients in a pot and letting it cook all day.  This recipe, however, said use the slow cooker pan on the burner-- I was and still am confused by why you would do that and not use of slow cooker or just use a wok pan.  Instead of following those directions, I just used a wok on the burner.  You'll also see that the recipe calls for chicken.  When I went to cut the chicken, it felt very sticky instead of the normal slimy consistency of chicken.  I think there might have even been a little odor.  The only other thing that was defrosted was a flank steak, so it became a beef stir-fry.  Flank steak wouldn't be my first choice, but it worked out just fine.


I never used turmeric and coriander before, and it smelled delicious.  Wal-mart also came through with their awesome stirfry veggies.  Next time, I would buy some extra baby corn.

Here's where the recipe went really wrong.  I opened up the coconut milk, and this is what I found-- solid coconut milk :(  It's supposed to be a thicker liquid on the bottom with a thinner, translucent liquid on top.  This was not that...ah!  Luckily, I had 1/2 a can of coconut milk in the fridge and threw it in instead.

Cornstarch is another mystery to me.  It supposed to thicken the sauce, but I didn't think it needed to be thickened, so I added water before adding the cornstarch.  Still not sure why I was using it (if anyone knows, comment and let me know!), but it did change the texture.  Overall, good but not great....maybe next time :)

Coconut Ginger Beef & Vegetables



  • In food processor, combine ginger, garlic, and onion. Pulse until it forms a paste. In wok style pan, heat olive oil. Add paste from food processor. Cook for a few minutes and then add pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly. Move things to side of wok and add beef. Cook beef on all sides. Pour coconut milk over top. Add veggies and cook/simmer. Once frozen veggies are warm/hot, add corn starch. Cook for 1/2 hour. Make rice according to instructions.  10 points overall.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where have I been all week?

Apologies are in order.  I have completely MIA for almost a week, and I am sorry.  I let you all know about my misadventures about In N Out burger, and I am sorry to say that I never got one of those delicious burgers.  I guess the Weight Watchers fairy was looking out for me...

I did a three-day whirlwind trip last week for work.  Tuesday a reception for admitted students in LA, Wednesday a reception for admitted students in San Francisco, and Thursday flying home.  I was exhausted, so cooking (and blogging unfortunately) were the last things on my mind.

Not a bad place to have a reception...look at the view!
But it also made me realize that with blogging almost everyday, I was setting up unrealistic expectations for myself.  From here on out, I will blog 3-4 times a week, more often on special occasions.

Hope you all have a great weekend and are ready for a great start to the work week!

P.S.  Trying to be healthy on the road stinks.  I would order a salad in the airport, but then they would load it with dressing and mix it before it got to me :(  I made better choices while traveling but definitely went over my points.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The food that I have eaten that has brought me closest to heaven is an In N Out burger.  Yum.  Today I am in LA for work, and all I wanted was an In N Out burger-- I even know by where the closest one is to the rental car pick-up location.

Got my rental car and on my way to heaven, the power in that part of LA went out.  All traffic lights blank-- it was a mess.  But I was determined to get that burger, so I navigated through the four way stops with 3 lanes of traffic (and a turn lane) in each direction.  Finally, I made it to In N Out burger.  To my horror, they were out of power and closed the restaurant until power was restored :(

So I walked away empty handed.....good for my Weight Watchers, bad for my soul.  But tomorrow is a new day, and I am heading back to the airport.  I'm thinking that a stop at In N Out may be necessary, even if it will be 10 am.

P.S.  Heaven is almost mid-70s weather in LA in February.  Everyone knew I was a tourist in my sandals and tank top when the locals were in their Uggs and sweaters.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Buffalo Turkey Chili

Soups are some of my favorite things to make-- I love adding things to a pot and just letting it cook.  The weekend is a perfect time to let soup cook on the stove and let the smells come through the house all afternoon/evening.

The only thing missing was Frank's hot sauce-- it's my favorite and Walmart was all out- gasp!  Texas Pete was an okay substitute, but next time, we'll definitely use Frank's.

Buffalo Turkey Chili



  • Heat oil in large pot. Add turkey, break up while cooking. Add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 7-8 minutes. Add chicken stock, hot sauce, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Bring the chili to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  6 servings, 4 points a serving.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Egg in a Mug

A woman who goes to our Weight Watchers' meeting told us her favorite and easiest breakfast.  She calls it egg in a mug- crack an egg in a mug, add a little bit of milk, whisk with a fork, and pop in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.  The egg is light, fluffy, and yummy.  Best of all, it's 2 points and a filling breakfast.

When I was little, I ate microwaved eggs all the time.  My mom tells me stories of how I would tell her to cook my eggs:  "One egg, one minute.  Two eggs, two minutes."

Hope you enjoy an egg in the mug.  A great breakfast for when you're short on time (like I am every morning) or you only want to dirty a mug instead of a pan.

And thanks to our friends Mike and Katelyn Furr who gave us these great glass mugs for their wedding favors.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Caldo Verde

I have been told how great kale is for you, but since I had never used it before, I was apprehensive of cooking a recipe that called for kale.  I didn't even know what it looked like :)  I tried to make this recipe once before, but Trader Joe's was out of kale :( but I did get in on the most recent trip to my favorite food store.

The recipe was easy enough-- I should just chop all my veggies for the week on a Sunday since I use onions, garlic, etc almost everyday.  However, there is something therapeutic about coming home and chopping food and preparing dinner.  The most difficult part was adding the potatoes since grating anything, in my opinion, is just a pain.

Caldo Verde is a Portuguese dish, and in adapting this recipe, I added hot sauce and crushed red peppers for a little bit of spice.  The soup was perfect for a winter day.

Caldo Verde



  • Spray a large saucepan with nonstick spray; set over medium heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds.
  • Add the sausage; cook, stirring often, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the broth; bring to a simmer, stirring often.
  • Using the small holes of a box grater, grate the potato into the stew. Stir well while returning to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
  • Stir in the kale; cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and hot sauce before serving. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving, about 6 servings.  5 points per serving.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day M&M Cookies


I love my mom and her baking, and in celebration of my love of her cookies-- I made her famous chocolate cookies for Valentine's Day.  I didn't calculate the points value of the cookies until after I made them since I know some of the ingredients are not the best (aka Butter Flavored Crisco)-- surprisingly, each cookie is only 3 points.  One batch makes about 50 cookies, and I used a small to medium scoop to make sure they were all close to the same size.

I love using M&M's instead of chocolate chips for any holiday because it's an easy way to make things festive.  I had grand ambitious for heart shaped cookies, but I decided my mom's cookie recipe was a perfect substitute.  

Hope you all have a Happy Valentine's Day! 


Valentine's Day M&M Cookies



  • Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Mix Crisco, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla. Add eggs and mix. Add baking soda, salt, and mix. Add flour, bag of chocolate chips, and mix. Scoop cookies to evenly spaced air-baked cookies sheets.  Bake 9-10 minutes .

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Best Pizza EVER

One week ago today, I was eating the best pizza I have ever eaten and probably ever will eat.  Bocce Pizza is amazing.  I think part of it is that we always order sheet pizzas, and there's something awesome about eating square pieces, but it's also delicious.  Even my dog-niece Zoey Pickles couldn't wait to get some!

I only eat the middle pieces because it allows for the most sauce and cheese, and luckily my family allows me to manhandle the pizza to get my perfect piece.  While I was in high school, my family lived in northcentral PA, and the pizza was subpar.  Whenever they came to visit us, my grandparents would bring us a Bocce sheet pizza every time-- life was good on those days!

While home, I refrained from eating more than 2 pieces that first day, but I did hide some leftovers from my family to take home with me.  Even cold, this pizza is amazing, and I have been able to enjoy it every other day since last Sunday :)  Too bad I only have one piece left....I'm lucky that Bocce ships nationally!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Trader Joe's Brownies

One of my favorite things to do is to bake.  When I'm stressed and have lots to do, baking calms and centers me.  And it's only after I have baked something delicious that I can focus on the other million tasks at hand.  Between work, school, wedding planning, taking care of my house, etc, I had bake tonight.  I also love baking because I have great memories in the kitchen baking with my mom.  Even as a little girl, she always let me be her helper.

With Weight Watchers, I find it difficult to bake savory sweets that are also low in points, so when I saw this brownie mix at Trader Joe's, I threw it in my cart immediately.  

I was very skeptical of the mix-- can fat free anything really be good?  But it was worth of shot to see they were halfway decent.  It also didn't hurt that the brownies were easy to make, just combine the mix with yogurt.  The recipe calls for non-fat vanilla yogurt, but I had half a container of regular non-fat yogurt left in the fridge from the Talapia Masala, so I used that instead.

It's 3 points a brownie using an eight inch pan-- I used a larger pan for 18 brownies.  Now only 2 points a brownie!! And the brownies were delicious.  They tasted more like cake than a typical brownie, but had an awesome chocolaty taste.

They (because I had 2 instead of 1) hit the spot, and I am so excited to have found a great treat that doesn't bust my point bank.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Satisfying a Pasta Craving

I love pasta.  Plain and simple.  I grew up in a household where we had pasta as the main dish or the side dish practically every night.  I struggle with weight watchers, particularly since I crave pasta more than any other food (although chocolate sometimes takes a close second).  My problem is that there are too many points in the amount of pasta that I need (well, need might be an overstatement, but you get the idea).

While wandering around Trader Joe's, I found whole wheat gnocchi in the refrigerated section.  1/2 of a pretty good sized container of gnocchis is only 6 points, and if you're ever had gnocchis, you know that they are pretty filling.  I was psyched to bring them home and test them out!

I paired them with my favorite (and cheap) spaghetti sauce-- Francisco Rinaldi.  I stock up on them when they are 10 for $10.  We cooked the gnocchi a little too long, so the pasta was a little gooey than I preferred, but it definitely hit the spot.

We also added a piece of Texas Toast for each of us (it was in the freezer from our pre-Weight Watchers days, and you can't let good Texas Toast go to waste.  A perfect and simple Sunday dinner.

Point Values- Gnocchi 6, Sauce 4, Texas Toast 4, Parmesan Cheese 1.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I went home this past weekend, and while I didn't eat the healthiest, I definitely ate healthier than I normally do when I go home.  My mom and sister are both doing Weight Watchers, so the house was loaded with such delicious and fresh food.  Oh, to live in a house where fresh produce is eaten and doesn't go bad...

Being at home for the weekend was so amazing.  I normally only go home for the holidays, and even then, it's only for a few days and is so rushed.  Especially with wedding planning, going home consists of going from one appointment to the next and doing as much as we can in one visit.

This trip was different.  I booked a flight on a whim because the deal on southwest.com was so great and didn't have any plans.  The weekend was lovely, especially because I was home for almost 4 full days, and relaxation was the ticket.

Day 1:  Spending time with the mommy, running errands and a pedicure.

Day 2:  Ordering my sisters' bridesmaid dresses (my mom also bought her mother of the bride dress and my sister her graduation dress) and massage, shopping, and dinner with my sister Sarah.

Day 3:  Brunch with my wonderful cousin Katherine and watching the Super Bowl.  At my family's Super Bowl party, I got to help celebrate my brother's recent engagement, see my grandpa and all my siblings, and  enjoy delicious food...see pictures and recipe below!

Day 4:  See the bookstore that my mom did a wonderful job revamping, meet with and secure a priest for our wedding, and have lunch with the parents.

I couldn't have asked for a better weekend!

For the Super Bowl, my mom and sister were great with menu planning-- there was pizza and wings but also fruit, veggies, fresh guacamole, and jambalaya.  The jambalaya was adapted from Weight Watchers, but my mom (best cook I know) doctored it up to make it that much better!!

Shrimp and Chicken Jambalya

Mom showing off her delicious dish in the world's largest crock pot.



  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper; cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in chicken; cook, stirring, until chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients, except rice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in rice; continue cooking until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is thoroughly heated, about 2 minutes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beef and Lentil Slow-Cooker Stew

Today was a crock pot day.  I love being able to throw everything into the slow cooker and come home to a cozy house, smelling of cooked food.  Prep is minimal, especially if you buy stew beef (I had an extra section of the roast, so I cut that into chunks instead) and do the chopping of the veggies the night before.

We have a big crock pot, and the stew filled it up.  It makes 6 very large servings (and only 5 points!)-- hearty and delicious.  Austin was skeptical since he is not a lentil fan, but the lentils were soft and didn't open up, so even he ate it up!

Beef and Lentil Slow-Cooker Stew


  • Place all ingredients, except basil, in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker; stir well. Cook on LOW setting for 6 to 7 hours.
  • Remove cover; stir in basil. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 5 minutes more. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving. 5 points a serving.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Alive!

I bought my first laptop in the summer of 2004, and it served me somewhat faithfully until 2008.  At that point, it decided not to work :( and was stored away until my move to Virginia in August.  So last week, Austin found it in its new storage spot, and he actually turned on!!!

He decided that it was still too slow to be a real computer but would be perfect for a music program.  After wiping my hard drive cleaned and reinstalling Windows 7.  The program is a midi controller that triggers sounds on the computer from a keyboard that he had lying around.  Austin the rock star-- now he can record keyboard parts and add them to what he can do on the guitar.  I was/am very impressed by his tech-savvy.  The computer is alive...yay!

Meanwhile, I was studying diligently for my class (or trying not to fall asleep) while Austin used his new keyboard program :)