Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Breakfast and Lunch - Healthy Meals For Work/School

For weeks and weeks now I've been preparing breakfast and lunch to take to work. I do this almost every night and then I take a picture of my food (with my phone which is why the images aren't great) to share with my friends on Facebook. Somehow it keeps me going! I've saved a lot of money by not eating out as much as I used to, and the thing about Weight Watchers is that it can be very difficult to calculate restaurant food. It's almost not worth the trouble! It's just easier to prepare your food at home. And did I mention I'm saving money? Not only that, but this is so much healthier!

There are some fabulous lunch boxes online but some of them are expensive. The main reason I haven't purchased any online is because I'm too impatient to wait for them to arrive! So one day about a week or two ago, I went to several stores hunting for the perfect divided lunchbox. I came across a nice one with 3 sections at Superstore (a grocery chain we have here) and the lid has an icepack in it. It's very cool, except that I pack my lunch in the evenings so if I wanted to freeze the lid, I'd have to cover my food with plastic for the night, and I don't want to waste a piece of plastic every night so ... I just don't freeze the lid. It would have been nice if the ice pack would come off, but it doesn't. Oh well! I still love the box anyway. And the top has a space for cutlery (included).

Now, if you want to purchase boxes online, I think the most popular are the EasyLunchboxes. Their website says they're out of stock right now, however, if you run a google search, they are available at other online retailers now. Mine is a Stay-Fit Lunch 2 Go (available on Amazon if you can't find a store). I also use a Lock & Lock with 2 spaces but I can't remember where I got that one. Actually, I pack 2 boxes every day. As I said, I eat 2 meals plus snacks at work. If I eat at home before I go to work, I need to eat more during the work day because I get hungry too soon, and I don't want to do that.

There are also a lot of places online to buy bento supplies. I just went to the dollar store and purchased a few different colours of silicon muffin cups. If you want to get fancy, you can buy all kinds of little toothpicks and things.

Here are a few of my favourite meals from the past few weeks, starting with what I packed for tomorrow.

For breakfast I'm having some marinated feta, buffalo turkey and Pepperidge Farm Cracker Chips. The fruit is my morning snack. I also have a banana on the side just in case. When I'm shopping I always use my iPhone to calculate points value of what I'm buying before I put it in the cart. These crackers, for example, are only 2 points for 20 chips! That's the same as a tortilla or 1 slice of bread. 2 slices of bread or 1/2 a pita is worth 3 points. Choose any of these items as your carb.

For lunch I made a wheat better and turkey salad and piece of rye with just a little Nutella. For the afternoon I've also packed a Nature Valley Oatmeal Thin.
And here's everything I packed for tomorrow.
For the salad, mix wheat berries with cooked turkey breast, Kraft Olive Oil Tuscan dressing, lemon juice, dried cranberries and scallions. I added chopped tomato the second day. 5 PointsPlus on that using 1/3 cup wheat berries and a little less than 2oz turkey per serving.

Here's what I had the day before. Breakfast was a turkey sandwich with some watermelon. Lunch was a bunch of fruits and veggies with wheat berry and turkey salad. And a little chocolate raspberry cupcake on the side. I mixed chocolate cake mix with apple sauce and added raspberries. Then put a little marshmallow on top about 5 minutes before they were done. If you make these, go easy on the raspberries, they were gloopy but tasty.

I always like to put 4 things into my meals. Protein, carb, fruit and veggie. It doesn't always work out that way, but I try.When I don't feel like cooking meat, I might make a salad with chickpeas, or even take hummus and pita. Sometimes even an egg for lunch.

I enjoyed this day too. Some honey maple ham and an aMooza (string cheese) with some goldfish on the side. Breakfast was just some more ham with an egg topped with tomato and scallion. I then wrapped it in a tortilla. Yum yum! I love these 100 calorie snacks too. You can make your own by buying larger bags of things like chips or pretzels, and then dividing it into snack size portions. This particular item from SnackWell's is 3 PointsPlus.

Here's the inside of my breakfast wrap. I prepared this in the morning, but if I was going to prepare it at night, I probably would have cooked it a little more and refrigerated it, then reheated it at work the next day. I like my yolks runny though so this was a good day =).
Have no idea where to start? Well, first find yourself a nice lunch box and then, visit one or all of these great blogs/sites. They have some incredible lunch ideas and there's no way you'll leave without being inspired. No way!

- another lunch
- MOMables
- EasyLunchboxes
- Bentolicious
- Family Fresh Cooking
- Family Fresh Meals
- Keeley McGuire

and so many more!

And if you have a blog or website like the ones above, let me know! I'd love to check it out and add it to my list. I'm always looking for new ideas.

That's it for today. My laptop is running low on juice so I have to plug it in. I'll post more pictures of my meals later.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Banana Bran Muffins

Here's another recipe I'm just now moving over from FB. I'll calculate points later. For now, here's the recipe for some yummy banana bran muffins Oh, and I brushed the top of the muffin tin with a little canola just in case the muffins spill over the edges they won't stick to the pan as much. Cooking spray would work too.
Banana Bran Muffins
12 Servings | PointsPlus per Serving: ??
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 medium bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flax seed (whole or ground)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins
1 medium apple, diced
Preheat the oven to 350F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Mix buttermilk with the bran and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the ingrediets.

Beat apple sauce, oil, sugar, bananas, vanilla and eggs with a fork until well combined. Add buttermilk mixture and mix until well combined.

Add all other ingredients and stir just to combine.
Divide between 12 muffin cups (or even 18). Sprinkle the tops with some oats if you want.

Bake for about 18 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

(( I just noticed I sampled the edges of the one on the bottom right ... oops .. still too hot to eat the middle. ))See More

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie Bundles

Here’s another great Pinterest find! I’ve adapted this recipe from Meal Makeover Moms. The original recipe called for 1lb of raw chicken (that’s 16oz). I used 2 medium size breasts that I’d roasted earlier and when I weighed them they were 9oz cooked. I didn't measure, but it looked to be about 2 cups worth of chicken. I bulked up the recipe (and saved points) by adding some mushrooms instead of using more chicken. I also didn’t have any corn or parmesan so I left them out. The carrots and peas make it sweet so I'm kinda glad I didn't add corn too. I might add a splash of Maggi liquid seasoning next time too.That stuff is good in anything that has a gravy-like sauce.

Something else you should know is that the texture of these won't be the same as a deep fried egg roll. They'll be crisp but in a chewy sort of way. My kids loved these too!

I found it easier to wrap the egg roll wrappers around a little pudding cup, and then put them into the muffin tin.

Chicken Pot Pie Bundles
12 Servings | PointsPlus per Serving: 3

1½ tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 cup, peeled and diced carrots
1 cup diced button mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
9oz cooked chicken breast, cubed (small) (that was 3 medium breasts, I weighed them after cooking)
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
4 teaspoons cornstarch
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
12 egg roll wrappers (not wonton wrappers – they’re too small)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the carrots, onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the chicken, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Give it all a good stir.

Mix the broth and cornstarch in a bowl and then add the mixture to the pan along with the peas. Bring this up to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until it thickens. You want to stir this while it’s thickening. Set this aside for now.

Now, take a 12 cup muffin tin and place a wrapper inside each one. The recipe said not to spray the tin so I didn’t. They popped out with no problem.

Divide the chicken mixture among the muffin cups, then, fold the corners over the filling. Brush the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil over the tops.

Mine took about 20 minutes to get golden and crispy. Cool slightly before eating.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pulled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

I was looking for something light tonight and came up with this. My 4 year old said it was "the best chicken ever". I'm so glad because it was also the easiest chicken ever. On Monday I roasted a few chicken breasts to have in the fridge for whatever. All I had to do was reheat it and add some sauce.

The PointsPlus value will depend on how much chicken and BBQ sauce you use. 1 PointPlus per oz of chicken plus the sauce. Mine was 1 per tablespoon. The salsa has no points, and the broth also has no points because you're using it really just to reheat the chicken.

Pulled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa
1 Serving | PointsPlus per Serving: See not above.

cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
chicken broth
BBQ sauce of choice
fresh pineapple, diced
red onion, diced
green pepper, diced
lime juice
cilantro, chopped
lettuce leaves

Heat some broth in a small pot over medium heat. Shred the chicken and place it in the hot stock just to reheat it, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl and toss with barbecue sauce of choice.

Combine the rest of the ingredients and set aside.

Place the chicken onto lettuce leaves (or a bun) and top with salsa.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No-Bake Peanut Butter and Banana Cheesecakes - Crazy Cooking Challenge

For this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge, I decided to come up with my own recipe. Even though I'm on Weight Watchers, I don't like using low fat cream cheese. It just doesn't have the same consistency as the regular one. Normally when I make no-bake cheesecakes, I use heavy whipping cream, but this time I chose to use the 95% fat free Cool Whip which worked out just as well, with no whipping involved! If you do decide to use light cream cheese and reduced fat peanut butter, the PointsPlus will be 6 per serving.

I also had to come up with something other than the cherry pie filling that I love on cheesecake. I kept it light with just a drizzle of melted chocolate, a slice of banana and a peanut for decoration.

I decided to prepare this recipe in individual cups, that way I made only the number of servings I needed and the portion size was already sorted out for me. With no leftovers, there was no temptation to eat more later. I'm glad my kids enjoyed this because I've been know to clean their plates (if you know what I mean). Something I've had to learn not to do.

If you like this recipe, you can vote for it by clicking on #73 below!
Peanut Butter Banana Cheesecakes
3 servings | PointsPlus per serving : 7

1/2 an envelope unflavoured gelatin
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/4 cup regular cream cheese, softened
1/8 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup 95% fat free Cool Whip, thawed
3 graham crackers, crushed
1 medium banana, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon chocolate chips, melted
3 salted peanuts

Dissolve the gelatin in boiling water and allow to cool. This gelatin mixture is optional, it just firms things up a little. Leave it out if you want, your dessert will just be a little creamier. I always use lemon gelatin in my cherry cheesecake for extra flavour, but I didn't think it would go very well with peanut butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together cream cheese, confectioners sugar, peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Whisk in cooled gelatin mixture if using.

Stir in the Cool Whip and set aside.

Reserve 1/2 a teaspoon of the crushed graham crackers and 2 slices of banana. Divide the rest of the cracker crumbs among 3 glasses or ramekins. Arrange banana slices on top of graham crackers.

Divide the cheese mixture among the glasses and use a spoon to spread it out a little. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cheesecakes, then, sprinkle the reserved crackers on top. Decorate with a peanut and a banana slice. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Margarita Pizza with Fresh Basil and Tomatoes

I can’t remember when the last time I had pizza was! Then on Wednesday when I arrived home from work, the new issue of Canadian Living magazine was waiting for me. It had pizza on the cover! The same day Hearty Appletite saying that she had there was a similar recipe posted on Hearty Appletite. So I went to check it out of course! It’s a recipe for Margarita Pizza. I cut the recipe in half and rolled the dough really thin in order to save points. I used a storebought pizza sauce because I was too lazy to make my own, and the cheese I used was an italian blend. I pinned a recipe recently for mozzarella from Hearts, Hands, Home. There was some debate within the comments from Italians and non-Italians about this recipe. The Italians were saying that it wasn't real mozzarella. Well it looks good to me and I'm going to make it one day, real mozzarella or not.

My crust turned out to be thin and crispy. I don't think it was supposed to be that way. Either I didn't add enough water to the dough, or I rolled it too thin. But it was delicious anyway, just like a cracker almost. I also added red onion because I like them on pizza.
The PointsPlus calculation below is for the Margarita Pizza. I built the recipe in the WW recipe calculator as though I was going to divide the dough in 6, and make 6 Margarita Pizzas. Then I changed the servings to 8 to see what it would work out to. I’ve included both calculations below. Adding other toppings will change the value. Unless you’re adding 0 PointsPlus vegetables that is.

Margarita Pizza with Fresh Basil and Tomatoes
6 Servings | PointsPlus per Serving: 8
8 Servings | PointsPlus per Serving: 6

2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon yeast
¾ cup water, room temperature
6-8 tablespoons pizza sauce
2 cups grated Kraft Italian Blend (or other grated cheese)
2 large tomatoes, sliced
½ cup fresh basil leaves
thinly sliced red onion

Let’s start with the dough. Simply mix all the ingredients together and let it rest for 30 minutes. I covered it with a piece of plastic wrap.

Now, preheat the oven to 425F and place the rack on the bottom (as suggested by Sandra). Line some baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners.

Cut the dough into 6 or 8 pieces depending on how many pizzas you want to make. Lightly flour the counter and the top of each piece and start rolling to your desired thickness (or thinness). Place the dough circles on the lined sheets and spread some sauce on top. Divide half of the cheese over the pizzas, followed by the basil and tomatoes (and onions), and finally the second half of the cheese. It's not as much cheese as I'd normally use but Weight Watchers has me eating differently these days.

Bake the pizzas for 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Does pizza get any easier? I don’t think so!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Low Fat Gingerbread Cookies with Applesauce

My kids love gingerbread cookies. They eat them all year round in different shapes such as butterflies or flowers. So I went on the hunt for a lower fat version and came across one on Skinny Taste that sounded easy enough, and looked just as good as any gingerbread I’ve ever seen! But when it came time to roll them, I just couldn’t do it. Gina did say it was sticky and she wasn’t lying! I even added an extra ½ cup of flour thinking it might help a bit but it didn’t. I didn’t want to keep adding flour in order to roll it in case the point value increased. Then I went back and read a few tips from other readers after I made them, and someone suggested using cornstarch when rolling. I’ll try that next time. I should have been a little smarter and read the comments first. =) I did enjoy the flavour though! The texture was cakey in case you’re wondering. My co-workers also enjoyed them. You get a lot of cookies so I brought some in. We can’t eat that many at home.

What I ended up doing was using my small cookie scoop to drop the dough onto the prepared sheet, then I used a straw to make buttons. I got 54 cookies. If you could make them slightly smaller and get 58 cookies, the PointsPlus value goes down to 1 per serving! I was desperate to stretch it to 58 but I ran out of dough at 54 (lol) so 2 PointsPlus it is.

Also, I chose to do a simple icing of confectioners’ sugar and milk but you could always make the royal icing with egg whites if you like. The PointsPlus value is the same with or without icing on the cookies.

Low Fat Gingerbread Cookies with Applesauce
54 Servings | PointsPlus per Serving: 2

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1/3 cup fancy molasses  
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup confectioners’ sugar   
1 teaspoon 2% milk
½ teaspoon vanilla    

Beat the butter, sugar and applesauce together in a large bowl until smooth.

Add the egg and molasses and give it a good mix.

Combine the flour, baking soda and spices in another bowl and stir it into sugar and molasses mixture.

Divide the dough into two balls, flatten them and cover with plastic. Chill for an hour or longer.

Preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone pads.

Now, if you want to roll this out, you’ll need to use a lot of flour (or try the cornstarch idea). Roll the dough to about ¼” thickness then use cookie cutters to cut the shapes. Or, do what I did and use a small cookie scoop to drop balls of dough 1 or 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Wet the back of a metal spatula with cold water (shake it off a little) and use it to flatten the balls to look like buttons. You’ll need to re-wet the spatula for each one. Then, I took a straw and started poking holes to make the cookies look like buttons.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes (this depends on the size of them) until they start to turn a little golden on the bottoms and are firm to the touch. Cool completely before icing.

To make the icing; combine the sugar, milk and vanilla in a cup. It should be thick enough to hold a shape when piped. Add milk a few drops at a time if it seems to thick. I cut off the tip of a plastic baggie and put the icing in there, then decorated the buttons that way. Let them sit on the counter until the icing hardens, then you should be able to stack them in an airtight container.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Microwave Nutella S’mores

Need a sugar fix in a hurry? I was sitting at work the other day, thinking about what I was going to have with my evening coffee, and I remembered making microwave s’mores in the past. This time I decided to add Nutella, because who doesn’t LOVE Nutella? I didn’t have any big marshmallows so I used 1/8 cup of mini ones.

Microwave Nutella S’mores
4  serving | PointsPlus per Serving: 3

8 graham crackers
4 teaspoons Nutella
1/2 cup mini marshmallows

Spread a teaspoon of Nutealla on 4 of the crackers and set aside.

Place the marshmallows in a single layer on the other 4 crackers. Place this on a microwave safe plate and let it go for about 10 seconds. If it's not gooey, let it go for another 5 seconds or until it is gooey.

Remove the plate from the oven and immediately place the Nutella cracker on top of the marshmallow cracker. Now squish!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Moroccan Quinoa with Chickpeas and Raisins

I just want to say that I love Chef Michael Smith. I saw him two years ago at the Canadian National Exhibition. I didn’t really get to watch his demonstration as well or closely as I had hoped, because by the time we found him we ended up way at the back of the crowd. But anyway, we can always see him on TV! I came across a recipe of his in my search for Moroccan Couscous. Actually, I wanted to use quinoa but I knew finding a couscous recipe would be easy. I found Moroccan Couscous with Chickpeas and Raisins and decided to go with it.

I had to adjust a few things in this recipe to bring down the PointsPlus value, but it was pretty good. Perhaps a little bit too lemony though. Or maybe too orangy? I can't decide. I used only ½ a can of chickpeas for example, and cut back the amount of nuts and dried fruit. I used half fresh squeezed orange juice and half chicken broth, where the original recipe called for 2 cups of orange juice. I'm thinking I might just use all broth next time.

Make it vegan by using vegetable broth instead. Also, you can substitute couscous for the same PointsPlus value.

August 2010. CNE

I believe he was making chocolate chip cookies.

Moroccan Quinoa with Chickpeas and Raisins
4 Servings | PointsPlus per Serving: 11

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ a can of chickpeas (9.5oz), drained and rinsed well
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots, sliced
Juice of 2 oranges (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 cup slivered almonds
¼ cup chopped cilantro or Italian parsley

Cook the onion, garlic and spices in the oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes until the onion starts to turn golden.

Add the chickpeas, quinoa, raisins, apricots, orange juice, chicken broth, lemon zest and juice, and season with salt and pepper. Give it a good stir.

Bring this up to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and put a lid on it. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. If it seems too liquidy, cook it for a few minutes longer with the lid off.

Let it rest off the heat for 5 minutes before fluffing it up with a fork. Sprinkle the almonds and cilantro over top just before serving.

08/28/12 - Featured in DailyBuzz Food top 9 Cooking with Quinoa