Thursday, October 9, 2014

4 Homemade Weight Watcher Dinners in 2 Hours and $47

When school started up in September, my sister and I were brainstorming ways that we could save on time during the week, and we came up with the idea to meal swap one meal a week with each other. It was brilliant because we got homemade meals that were Weight Watcher friendly, it wasn't much more work to cook for an additional 2-3 people, and we got to take one night off cooking every week.

So I thought we were brilliant, but then we become beyond brilliant! After weeks of difficulties finding time to swap meals, buying the wrong things in bulk, and then having to write down the instructions so the other person knew how to cook the meal, we came up with a better idea: pick one day a week to go grocery shopping together, buy double the menu for the week, and cook a week's worth of WW meals together!

So our experiment went something like this: we were able to cook FOUR homemade dinners that are less than EIGHT Weight Watcher Points-Plus each, in TWO hours for $47 (so, $94 total for me and my sister, split in half...and includes the disposable pans)!  Granted, it took some time on my part to plan, make out the list, calculate the points, and buy everything at the grocery store, but thanks to me, you can do it in about half the time, because I've already sorted through the recipes for you! 

So, here's how our Four Dinners for Under $50 Experiment went...

Day One:


Japanese-Rubbed Roasted Chicken with Bok Choy and Carrots

Looks good, right?  Well, it wasn't very good and it was a lot of steps, so scrap this recipe and trade it for this recipe:

Honey-Roasted Chicken

Effort Meter (1 to 5): 2

Delicious Meter (1 to 5): 4

Weight Watcher Points: About 6 points for 4oz with substitution (Sub the 3/4C Honey for 1/4C)


1 whole raw chicken
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 TSP pepper
1 TBSP garlic salt
2 TBSP thyme
1-2 C chicken broth (make this from the neck if you like)
1/4 C honey
1/2 C peeled and sliced shallots
1/2 C white wine
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 small lemon, thinly sliced

How to make it ahead of time:

Prep the chicken by rubbing it in the olive oil, and then pat with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme. In a separate dish, combine broth, honey, shallots, wine, peas, and lemon.  Refridgerate seperately until ready to cook.

When ready to cook:

Roast the chicken at 375 for 1-1/4 hours. Drizzle with a small amount of honey over the chicken and roast an additional 5 minutes.  Ad pea/broth mixture to roasting pan and roast for 10 minutes. Remove peas with a slotted spoon.

Day Two:

Sirachi Turkey Burgers

Effort Meter (1 to 5): 2
Delicious Meter (1 to 5): 4
Weight Watcher Points: 8 POINTS PLUS for a 4oz burger on a whole wheat bun


1 Pound of Ground Turkey
1/4C Chopped Onion
2TBSP Soy Sauce
2TBSP Chopped Cilantro
1 Clove Garlic
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
Cilantro, Onion, and Sirachi Mayo (to dress the burger)

How to make it ahead of time:

Combine turkey, onion, soy sauce, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper together and mix with hands. Form into burger patties and separate layers with wax paper.

When ready to cook:

Grill or pan fry burger patties until fully-cooked.  Dress a bun with Sirachi mayo, cilantro, onion, and even stone ground mustard if you like.  Serve with cut potatoes lightly sprayed with olive oil and dusted with panko bread crumbs. Cook potatoes on 425 until crunchy.

Day 3:

Ancho Chili Steaks with Black Beans and Southwest Salad

Effort Meter (1 to 5): 1
Delicious Meter (1 to 5): 5
Weight Watcher Points: 6 POINTS PLUS for a 3oz of steak


2-4 Steaks (we used sirloin but you could even use a cheaper cut, like flank steak or tri-tip)
2 TBSP Ancho Chili Powder (I could only find Ancho Pepper so I used that and cut the pepper in half)
2 TBSP Paprika
1 TBSP Ground Cumin
2 TSP Oregano 
2 TSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 TSP Ground Black Pepper
Half a Onion, Cut it large pieces
1 Can Black Beans
1 Bag of Southwest Cabbage Salad 

How to make it ahead of time: 

In a bowl, mix together Ancho Chili spice (chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cocoa and black pepper). In a large ziploc bag, add steaks and drizzle with a light coating of olive oil. Add Ancho Chili spice and onions, close the bag and massage into steak using the bag.  

When ready to cook:

Remove steaks and shake off access marinade/rub. Grill steak on a BBQ to your desired doneness. You can put the onions in tin foil and grill those as well. Serve over a bed of black beans and with a Southwest Cabbage Salad.
Day 4

Quinoa Mac and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

Effort Meter (1 to 5): 3.5 
Delicious Meter (1 to 5): 3
Weight Watcher Points: 7 POINTS PLUS for 1/4 of the pan


1-1/2 TBSP Oil
2 C Cooked Quinoa (I used the wild rice blend from Costco)
1 Head Fresh Broccoli (cooked)
1 C Sliced Mushrooms
12 Oz Cooked Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 TSP Salt
1/2 TSP Pepper
1-1/2 C Chopped Onion
6 Cloves of Garlic
1/2 C Skim Milk
2-1/2 TBSP Flour
1-1/2 C Chicken Broth
1/2 C Parmesan
1/4 C Lowfat Mayo
2 C Sharp Cheddar (shredded)

How to make it ahead of time: 

Add cooked quinoa, cooked chicken, steamed broccoli and mushrooms to a casserole pan. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over Med-High heat, add oil, onions, and garlic. Cook until transparent. Slowly stir in a mixture of the milk and flour to avoid clumping. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add Parmesan, mayo and cheddar with a whisk.  Pour mixture over the quinoa/chicken/veggie pan and cover with tin foil and refrigerate (or freeze) until ready. 

When ready to cook:

Bake at 400 until warm in the middle (about 25-30 minutes).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Knock Off Recipe: Pastini's Fusilli Alla Roma

Copycat Fusilli Alla Roma Recipe from Pastini's
It never fails that when roaming aimlessly through the Mill District trying to decide where to eat, that despite my desire to say no to cream and carbs, I always end up at Pastini's ordering the dreaded fat and carb-filled favorite: Fusilli alla Roma!

I can't help it!  I just love that darn dish! So creamy, garlicky, and satisfying, I just can't say no. But I've always wished for a way to infuse it with slightly less calories.

Now, if you ever frequent Pastini's, know this: any of their dishes can be substituted for wheat pasta, broccolini, or spinach instead of their white pasta.  And it's still delicious without! But I may have found a way to satisfy my Fusilli alla Roma cravings with even fewer calories...because...I have created a knock-off Fusilli alla Roma!

I have to say I even surprised myself in figuring out this recipe, and, by substituting some of the fat with Fat Free Half and Half and Skim Milk, and pairing it with Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini, Spinach, or Broccolini, I believe I have cut out a great deal of fat and carbs. Hey now! I'm not saying it's good for you...just better for you. Oh, and it's delicious so it's worth it! Tastes nearly exactly the same as the real deal!

Knock-Off Pastini's Fusilli alla Roma Recipe

Effort Meter (1 to 5): 2.5 

Delicious Meter (1 to 5): 5

Serving Suggestion: Serve with a thick shaped pasta (like Fusilli) or for a more healthy option, blanket the sauce over whole wheat pasta, broccolini, spinach, or shredded squash.

Weight Watcher POINTS - Seriously...this isn't a WW dish. But if you cut out the pasta, and put the sauce over veggies, you could probably get it somewhere in the 7-point range.


1 - 2 TBSP Roasted garlic
1 - 2 TBSP Minced, fresh garlic
1/4 Stick of real butter
3 TBSP Olive Oil
1 - 2 TBSP Flour
1/2 C Fat-free half and half
1 C Reduced Fat or Skim Milk
1/4 C Fresh basil, chopped
8-10 Pieces of frozen, pre-cooked boneless skinless grilled chicken breasts
1/2 Lb Roma tomatoes, halved
Parmesan, Salt and Pepper (to taste)


In a large saute pan over high heat, saute garlic, butter and olive oil until slightly brown. Slowly add 1-2 TBSP of all purpose flour, stirring vigorously to avoid clumping, until sauce is a well-mixed, paste-like consistency (you may have to reduce the heat to accomplish this). 

Reduce heat to Medium, and slowly stir in half and half and milk until it becomes a well-mixed, creamy sauce. Add basil, chicken, roma tomatoes, and salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until tomatoes begin to break up and sauce is tinged with a slightly pink color.

Serve immediately over a bed of pasta, broccolini, squash, or spinach and top with Parmesan.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

No-Bake Blueberry Lime Cheesecake Bite Dessert

No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake Bites
I think there are two kinds of people in the kitchen: those who can bake, and those who can cook. I fall into the latter.  So, the only kind of dessert I can make well is one that has very "baking" involved.

So this is my version of dessert, and I surprised to find that it actually was much better than many "cooked" desserts.  The whole thing took just a few minutes to make and I had all the ingredients already in my cupboard (double bonus!).

No-Bake Lime Blueberry Cheesecake Bites


12 Muffin tins
3/4C graham cracker crumbs
3TBSP butter, melted
8oz cream cheese, softened (I used fat-free)
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3C juice from a fresh lime, lemon, or both!
2 packets Splenda or Equal
2TSP  lime/lemon zest
Handful of blueberries, halved
8 oz container frozen whipped topping, thawed


Line 12 muffin pan cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and and melted butter. Press one tablespoon of crumbs into the bottom of each liner.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the condensed milk , lemon/lime juice, and Splenda and mix well. Check for taste, if not sweet enough for you, add a touch more sugar.
Fold in the lime zest, blueberries, and 1 cup of the whipped topping.
Divide the mixture evenly among the lined muffin cups. Cover pan with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
When ready to serve, garnish with whipped cream and sliced lime or blueberry, if desired.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mini Rueban Sliders for St. Patrick's Day

Want a fun twist on the Reuben sando for St. Patrick's Day? Try Mini Reuben Sliders.  They are better than the real thing and oh, so easy!

Mini Reuben Sandwich Sliders


Rye Bread Sandwich Minis (Mini Loaf)
Cooked Corned Beef
Sauerkraut (drained)
Swiss Cheese
Thousand Island Dressing


Top a single slice of Rye mini-loaf with corned beef, sauerkraut (be sure to drain first in a napkin), and Swiss cheese. Cover another slice with Thousand Island dressing liberally and top on sandwich.  Bake at 450 degrees for a few minutes, until slightly brown and cheese is melted.

Check out my other St. Patrick's Day Hosting ideas, St. Patrick's Day recipes, and how to make a Shamrock Cake.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Free Recipe Kitchen Art Download

I remember the days of hand-me-down couches, crate nightstands, and paper towel hand cloths.

I've been there--the poor, broke, new homeowner. I think that's why I'm always looking out for inexpensive ways to update a house on a small (or nearly non-existent) budget.

I was watching the Today show the other day when they featured fast updates for a kitchen and suggested framing recipes.  What a brilliant idea, I thought!

My sister, who recently moved out, is always asking "what's in that chicken I love so much?" or "how long to roast that chicken you make?"  So, the idea of framing some of our favorite recipes kills two birds with one stone: 1) my sister will have my recipes within reach; and 2) it will help fill the absurdly blank walls of her new digs.

So...I took three of my favorite recipes, as well as a graphic of how to set a table, and framed them into four similar frames I found at Goodwill to create a wall collage.

After all that work, I thought, "Wow! I should just share these!"  And so, here you go...fancy downloadable copies of recipe art.

A Hand-Made Tub Table from Juniper Shed

I wish I was enjoying this beautiful tub table my husband made me instead of working...
It goes so well with the Juniper frame he made for my bathroom mirror.
 He custom made the tub table to fit my bathtub perfectly out of some Juniper shred his friend found while hunting.  It even has a place for my coffee cup (er, uh, wine glass).

...And one day...maybe when the kids are grown...I might actually get to use it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Once You've Gone Asian...(Thai Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Slaw)

Thai Chicken Skewers
I've spoke before about cooking what you love, and loving what you cook.  I truly believe that you cook best what you love to eat best.  I happen to love Asian food.  Not really traditional Asian food--my stomach gets nauseous just thinking of Chinese take-out--but I love Asian-fusion dishes, and my culinary credo just keeps going up by adding Asian-inspired dishes to the menu.

If you haven't yet tried one of my dishes but love healthy Asian dishes, please consider giving these (as well as the recipes I'm about to share) a whirl:
So...these recipes rock.  However, there's a new Asian-fusion recipe to add to your reportrois.  I found it while digging through a stack of torn magazine pages that I had cut out and saved in hopes of giving them a try "one day."

I was hosting Elf Bowling night, and I needed an easy way to feed a ton of people with a recipe that was as far away from the holiday classics as possible.  Here's the menu I came up with.  Call it Asian Persuasion I'll never go back.

Thai Chicken Skewers with Lemongrass
Thai Chicken with Lemongrass


2TBSP Fish Sauce
3TBSP Soy Sauce, divided
1TBSP Brown Sugar (or lighten it up with Splenda)
1TBSP Minced Garlic
1TBSP Lemongrass (if using dry, soften in a bowl of water for a half hour first)
2 Green Onions, in 1/2" pieces 
2Lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut into large 2" pieces)
2TBSP Rice Vinegar
1/4C Vegetable Oil
2TBSP Ginger
1TBSP Garlic Chili Sauce (less if you don't like spicy)


Combine fish sauce, 2TBSP soy sauce, sugar, garlic, lemongrass, green onions, and chicken in a bowl. Toss to coat and let marinate 30mins to 6 hours.

Whisk remaining soy sauce, rice vinegar, oil, ginger, and chili sauce together.

Remove chicken from marinade and skewer using grill-save skewers. Grill chicken on the BBQ, bashing it as it cooks using the soy sauce/vinegar mixture.

Serve with Coconut Lemongrass Rice (follow link for recipe).

Citrus Broccoli Slaw


2TBSP Sugar or Splenda
Thai Broccoli Slaw
1/3C Rice Vinegar
1/3C Olive Oil
1 12oz Can of Mandarin Oranges
1-2C of Shredded Carrots
1-2C Broccoli (cut into slivers)
2 Green Onions (sliced into 1/2" pieces)
1C Cabbage (optional)
1/4C Cilantro (fresh)
Salt and Pepper


In a mason jar, combine sugar, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Shake to mix.

In a large bowl, add oranges, carrots, broccoli, onions, and cabbage.  Pour dressing over top and mix well.  Top with cilantro.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

PF Chang's-Style Lettuce Wraps
Lettuce Wraps (like PF Changs) (follow link for recipe).