Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Braid

Of all the kitchen supply parties, I think Pampered Chef serves the best food :)  I've never actually been to one, but I've sat in enough kitchens behind the scenes and helped prepare food.  My favorite recipe of the bunch is the Chicken Broccoli Braid.  I love it, and could eat it all the time.  Since Austin doesn't like dill and mayo (mayo isn't the best healthy option either...), I decided to change the flavor profile a bit with pesto and Greek yogurt.  I also only used 1 package of Crescent rolls instead of two since one roll is three points!

The results were great!!  It's not quite a casserole, but it is a complete meal all in one.  Hope you all like it too :)

Chicken Broccoli Braid

1   cup chopped broccoli florets
2   cups chopped cooked chicken breasts, about 2 chicken breasts
1/2   cup diced red pepper (I used a frozen mix)
1   cup shredded cheddar cheese, reduced fat
1/2   cup low-fat Greek yogrt
1   garlic clove, pressed
1   Tbs pesto mix
1/4   tsp salt
1   pkg reduced fat Crescent Rolls (Pillsbury is the best)
1   egg white, lightly beaten
2   tbsp slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine broccoli, chicken, pepper, cheese, yogurt, pesto, pressed garlic, almonds, and salt.

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Unroll one package of the crescent dough and push the perforated edges back together.

Spread filling evenly over center of dough.  Do not push filling to ends of dough. Cut matching strips of dough down the sides of the filling.

To braid, lift dough strips across filling to meet in center, twisting each strip one turn. Brush egg white over dough.

Bake 25-28 minutes or until deep golden brown

Serves 6, 7 points a serving.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chicken Pad Thai

Pad thai is my absolute favorite (Well, one of them.  You should know by now that I love all food.)  This recipe has most of the flavors but not all the points as in the restaurant or more authentic.  In my opinion, this recipe is a great substitute for the real thing!

Chicken Pad Thai
from Weight Watchers online


7 oz packaged rice noodles  
1 pound uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
1/4 cup fish sauce, divided  
4 cups uncooked broccoli, florets
1/2 bag frozen pepper mix  
1 medium uncooked carrot, finely sliced  
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided  
2 Tbs sugar  
3 Tbs water  
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp peanut oil, divided  
1 tsp green hot chili peppers, deveined, seeded, minced (I used a couple jalapenos and called it a day.  Not authentic but gave it the spice I wanted)
1 garlic clove, minced  
1 1/2 cups uncooked bean sprouts  
1/2 cup peanuts, dry-roasted, salted, minced
1/2 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, minced  

Austin was serious about smashing the peanuts!

Soak noodles in cold water for 1 hour.  Make sure it's at least an hour.  I didn't soak mine long enough

Place chicken in a small bowl and cover with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce; set aside.

Steam broccoli, peppers, and carrot until crisp-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately immerse in cold water; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in another small bowl, combine remaining 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of lime juice, sugar, water and ginger; mix well and set aside.

Coat a large wok or skillet with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat; add 2 teaspoons of oil. When hot, add chicken; cook, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and cover to keep warm; set aside.

Drain noodles thoroughly. Off heat, coat same wok or skillet with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat; add remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. When hot, sauté garlic and chili pepper until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add noodles and fish sauce mixture; cook, stirring, until sauce is mostly absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in chicken and peanuts; remove from heat. Add remaining tablespoon of lime juice, bean sprouts and cilantro; mix well. Serve immediately.

Yields about 2 cups per serving. 9 points a serving.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spoiled Bride, Part 1

I am getting married in a little over a month, and I CAN'T WAIT!!!  I am so excited to be married to Austin- I am ready to be married and to be done with wedding planning :)

Don't get me wrong, I like to plan (no one would have ever guessed that, right?), but now, it is just stressful.  I want to begin my married life with Austin, and a little over a month seems like just too long!

However, I have liked being a bride-to-be.  In fact, I may be the most spoiled bride ever.  Next week, I will have my fourth bridal shower.  Yes, 4!  And, I have had 2 bachelorette parties in my honor.  I am so lucky and blessed.  And yes, spoiled!

I want to share how wonderful my friends and family are, so I'm going to devote the beginning of each week (and maybe more too....) to my life as a spoil bride!

Up first, my family bachelorette party :)  Yes, I did say family bachelorette party!  I have the best family ever- my mom is one of ten children, and I grew up with lots of family around me.  Having almost all my aunts (including those from out of town) travel up to Buffalo, NY for the party and bridal shower (all in the same weekend) meant so, so much to me!

Here are some of the highlights.  WARNING:  some pictures not appropriate for kiddos, but it's all in good fun :)

The spread of drinks.  We had lemon drop martinis and cosmos.  A couple were even "skinny" mixes.

The but a little creepy to drink out of....

The super cute plates that my sister got!

The cookies my mom made.  Yes, my mom made these :) She said
the trick for the frosting was to use a little bit of blue food coloring.

Crushed up oreos mixed with cream cheese and dipped in white chocolate.  Can we say YUM?

My sisters who threw it all together!

My glass:  "Sorry boys, I'm taken"

Pin the junk on the funny!!!

Some of my AMAZING cousins who came over to celebrate!
My crazy and awesome mom and sisters. Am I lucky or what?!?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dinner on the Fly

What do you get when you have a freezer full of meat, a fridge full of veggies, and a pantry full of grains?  A random smorgasbord dinner :)  The meal was a complete experiment, but I think it worked out well!

What are your favorite concoctions for dinner on the fly?

Beef with Veggies and Grits

1 Tbs olive oil
1 pound beef stew meat
1 cup vegetable broth
1 bundle green onions/scallions, chopped
4 radishes, sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
3-4 summer squash and zucchini, peeled and sliced
1 Tbs garlic salt
2-3 Tbs McCormick's Smokehouse Maple seasoning  (or flavor-crack as we refer to it)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In wok type pan (or size), heat oil.  Brown stew meat.  Generously add garlic salt and flavor crack :).  Add vegetable broth and continue to cook beef (stew meat always gets dry for me, so the broth helped to keep it moist).  Add veggies and generously add garlic salt and smokehouse maple seasoning.  Cook, covered.

Meanwhile, cook grits according to package instructions.  At the end, add lemon juice and cheese.

Serve beef and veggies over/next to grits.  When adding beef and veggies, use a slotted spoon or else there will be too much broth on the plate.

10 points a serving, serves 3-4.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

i HEART elephants

How can I post 4 days ago talking about how I want to live life active and then go MIA on the blog?  I'm here, but I don't really feel like I am living life.  I was at a conference in DC last week, and they had us booked solid.  I arrived home late Sunday night, worked Monday to come home to making dinner and sending out wedding invites...yay!, and then left for another work trip Tuesday morning.

I feel very unsettled.  Stuff is getting done, but I feel like everything is a mess.  Possibly because my house is a mess and not organized :(  And I don't know when it's going to get better.  As you read this (Wednesday AM), I am driving back from my trip and right back to the office.  Help!!  When am I going to get everything on my to do list done for the wedding and work AND make the rest of my liveable?  Any suggestions?  I am totally open to them!

The one good thing about my trip was some amazing meals and a great trip to the zoo!  Stay tuned for some restaurant reviews (eating well did not work out this week, -65 Points!).  Enjoy my favorite animals from the zoo.  Don't they have the life?!?

i HEART elephants....i even bought a bag that says it :) 

Can you find the gorilla?
So cute you want to pet him, until he bites your hand off!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Live Life Active!

We are in the middle of a six-week Weight Watchers challenge to Live Life Active.  Austin and I are doing our best...but it's tough!

I am away at a conference for work, so I am trying (emphasis on trying) to be active while sitting in a conference room all day.  I'm going to the gym (this is so hard when you're programmed from 9 am to 8 pm), but also enjoying the city.  I'm right in the middle of Washington, DC, and I am loving walking in the early evening/night.

However, I do miss enjoying the real outdoors back in Williamsburg!  One of our new favorite things to do is kayaking.  There is a great park near our house that has a huge lake and some hiking trails.  We've been hiking and spent two hours barely making it around a quarter of the lake and just wasn't as fun as paddling around the water.

What are your fun summer exercise plans and activities?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zucchini Tots

Last week, we got our first CSA produce for the season.  I was so excited!  I knew I was going to make chicken for dinner the night we picked up the produce, but I didn't know what else I was going to add to the meal.  I had to wait until the basket came plan for a complete meal makes me nervous...

When the CSA basket came, there were so many goodies; I had no idea what to choose to make as the side dishes.  I decided on fresh green beans with almonds and zucchini tots from Emily Bites.  Getting all these fruits and veggies each week will definitely keep me on my toes when it comes to cooking, but I'm looking forward to eating more fresh foods this summer :)

Zucchini Tots

1 cup shredded zucchini, or 1 medium to large zucchini (using grated)
¼ onion, chopped
1 egg
¼ cup dry bread crumbs (Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 12 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients.  Fill the 12 muffin cups evenly and press down the filling to make compact.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are beginning to turn golden. Run a knife around each cup to help the tots come out.

I LOVED these tots- Austin was sad they weren't made of potatoes, but that could be for next time :)

Each tot is 1 point- score!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

I didn't know what quinoa was until a few years ago when I stayed with a friend in Seattle, and she made one delicious meal after another during my visit.  I loved them all, but my favorite was a recipe with this mysterious grain:  quinoa.  The recipe she got from Epicurous became a staple for me.

While I have become more adventurous with quinoa, I still wanted to share the recipe that sparked my love of quinoa :)  Enjoy!!!

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

2 tsp grated lime zest
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1 cup quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced (I've also used a large can of diced tomatoes, drained)
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach (can also use cilantro)

Cook quinoa according to package instructions.  After it's cooked, add rest of ingredients to quinoa.  Serves 4, 7 points a serving.

*The orginial instructions had more steps but it's tastes the same by making it simple :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Double Trouble- Mexican Shepherd's Pie and Jalapeno Cornbread

Remember our Fiesta?!?  As you know, we had so much extra ground beef and tortillas that we made many recipes out of leftovers.  Here's another one...don't worry, we didn't leave this in the fridge until now.  I made the recipe a while ago but decided no one wanted three Mexican recipes in one week!  Although,  you could freeze the ground beef and use it again no problem too!

Enjoy the last fiesta themed recipe- Mexican Shepherd's Pie (adapted from The Gracious Pantry) with delicious jalapeno cornbread (from, I'm hungry!!

Mexican Shepherd’s Pie

2 pounds potatoes, peeled
1 Tbs minced onion/onion powder
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup skim milk
1 cup chicken broth (fat free, reduced sodium)
1 pound ground beef
1 taco seasoning packet
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 bag frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Boil the potatoes in a large pot until soft and easily pierced with a knife or fork.  While the potatoes boil, cook ground beef with taco seasoning.  Drain grease.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mash potatoes with milk, chicken broth, garlic powder, minced onion, pepper, and salt.

In 9 x 13 casserole dish, spray with cooking spray.  Spread half of the potato mixture at bottom of pan.  Next, layer ground beef, followed by the tomatoes, corn, and black beans.  Sprinkle cheese over top.  Spread rest of potatoes over top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serves 8, 7 points a serving.

Jalapeno Cornbread

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons canned jalapeno peppers, diced (Be careful with the jalapenos.  My biggest fear is that I will touch jalapenos and then touch my eye- ouch!!)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Combine cornbread mix, egg and butter in a mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients. Combine well. Mixture will be thick and lumpy.

Place cornbread in a greased muffin tin, mini muffin tin or 2-quart casserole dish.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown.

Serves 8 generously, 4 points a serving.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pecan-Crusted Mahi Mahi

I love seafood, and we like trying all different kinds of fish.  Trader Joe's didn't have any trout (that's what the original Weight Watchers recipe called for), so we thought mahi mahi would be a great substitution.  It was :)  This recipe was such a quick and easy dinner; perfect for our busy schedule!

And in some weight loss news, there is nothing exciting going on at the scale (I gained 2.4 pounds after a week of eating really poorly and then lost the same amount this week- so even on the scale), but someone at WW did point out that she could not see my collar bone.  Wait-- I had a collar bone?!?  Yay!!  I may not be losing pounds as quickly as I want to but at least I'm looking a little skinny and people can see the collar bone where it was once hidden :)  It's the small things, but I'll take it!!!!

Pecan-Crusted Mahi Mahi

Cooking spray
1/2 cup uncooked old fashioned oats    
1/4 cup chopped pecans     
2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (we used Rendevous special spices)
1/4 cup skim milk     
1 large egg white, beaten     
1 pound mahi mahi (this ended up being two large filets that we cut in half)   
1 bag fresh spinach, steamed and mixed with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine oats, pecans and seasoning in a resealable plastic bag; seal and shake well.

Mix milk and egg white in a shallow bowl. Dip fillets into egg white mixture. Place mahi mahi in bag and shake until well coated with oat mixture.

Place fish in pan and bake for 10 minutes. Serve each fillet with 1/4 of spinach. 

Serves 4, 7 points a serving.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tomato & Sausage Risotto

Risotto for me is hit or miss...I mean, it is the food that everyone gets sent home with on Top Chef.  But, in starting this blog, I said I was going to try new things.  There you go- risotto made it on the menu!  Thanks to Emily Bites for the recipe.  

We even had people over for dinner for this culinary test.  I was nervous while cooking, but was so excited when the risotto came out perfectly, and my guests loved the meal- YAY!

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes (I normally buy the cans with basil and oregano
3 cups water
¾ lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I used sausage from Sausagecraft- it's amazing! And removing the casings is not as gross or as hard as I thought it was)
1 onion, chopped
salt & pepper, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine (I used whatever was leftover, so my wine was sweet)
1 bag fresh spinach, chopped 
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs light butter

Simmer canned tomatoes (with juice) and water in a saucepan. Turn heat to low to keep the mixture warm.

In a large pot, combine the sausage, onion, and add salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking the sausage up until meat is brown and onions have softened. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice and combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add wine. Stir until wine is absorbed (1-2 minutes).

Add two cups of the tomato mixture to the rice and stir. Turn the heat down to a simmer (medium-low heat) and cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Keep doing this (with one cup of the tomato mixture instead of two) over and over again until the tomato mixture is gone. 

Rice will be tender and creamy. Add the chopped spinach and stir in until combined. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted and combined.

Remove risotto from heat and add the butter and cheese. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Serve and enjoy.

Serves 6, 8 points a serving

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Guacamole Macaroni and Cheese

Love, love, love avocado!  My former job had me in California almost two months a year, and I’m pretty sure I had something with avocado in it every day.  Now that I’m based mostly in Virginia, I crave avocado.  This recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod hit the spot!  Austin thought Guacamole Mac and Cheese sounded better since it really did taste like pasta, cheese and guacamole.  What could be more delicious?

Guacamole Macaroni and Cheese

10 ounces dry elbow macaroni
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
2 tbs fresh lime juice
¼ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
1 tbs butter
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
¼ cup light sour cream
1 ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese
Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish

Cook pasta in pot and set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, make the avocado sauce by placing the garlic, avocados, lime juice, sour cream, salt and pepper into a food processor.  Process until smooth.

For me, this was the tricky part because my time management with the chopping of the garlic and avocados was a little off.  To make the cheese sauce, place butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a paste (mine was very paste like, but it ended up turning out okay). Whisk in milk until smooth. Stir until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in cheese and stir until cheese is melted.

Add pasta and avocado sauce.  Stir until mixed. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks.
The lime juice is supposed to keep the avocado from browning, but that didn’t quite work.  The next day, and mac and cheese was still delicious but not very appealing to look at.  Any suggestions to help our mac and cheese keep its color?

Serves 6, 9 points a serving.  We ate this with a salad full of veggies to keep the total meal points down.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Prosciutto Asparagus Spirals

This recipe has been on my pinterest board since I started using the site.  They looked so delicious and very easy to make.  They are meant to be more of an appetizer, but they seemed like a perfect side dish for our steak dinner!  I used reduced fat crescent rolls and Laughing Cow cheese, but the recipe comes from Pepperidge Farm.

Prosciutto Asparagus Spirals

1 package reduced fat crescent rolls
2 light Laughing Cow cheese, sun-dried tomato flavor
8 slices prosciutto
2 bundles asparagus spears, trimmed

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Unfold crescent rolls.  Spread cheese over crescent rolls.

 Spread out prosciutto.  Cut into strips based on the number of pieces of asparagus. (I ran out of asparagus and just made some regular prosciutto rolls).

Wrap 1 pastry strip around each asparagus spear, prosciutto-side in.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.

4-5 points per asparagus....a little high in points but worth it!