Thursday, October 7, 2010

Update and a Skillet Pasta Recipe

I've been a bad blogger of late, but I've been quite a good dieter, down 20lb since I started.  It's a good steady loss and I feel great.  I've also joined a gym and have an amazing personal trainer who kicks my ass Biggest-Loser style.  I am constantly in agony as he keeps pushing me, but as my husband likes to remind me "pain is just weakness leaving the body!"  All in all I know I'm on the right track and will be staying on it!

Above is a really quick dinner that's absolutely delicious.  My kids went wild over this and I loved it as it felt very substantial and more importantly it was something interesting to do with boring old ground beef.  It's a bit of a cheater as a lot of the flavour comes from jarred salsa, but when it works, it works!  It's all done in one dish and takes about twenty minutes to cook.  It serves 6 and works out at 6 points per serving.


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 jar hot salsa
  • pinch sugar substitute/sweetener
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 8 fl. oz pasata
  • 8 fl. oz water
  • 2 cups dried macaroni/shells
  • large handful chopped coriander
  • 1/2 cup low fat cheese
Heat large lidded skillet and brown beef.  Drain and add corn, tomatoes, passata, water, cumin and pasta.  Reduce heat to a simmer and put lid on skillet.  Cook for 12-18 minutes stirring sporadically until pasta is cooked.

Remove from heat, stir in coriander and top with cheese.  Replace lid and let stand until cheese melts.  Serve immediately with a dollop of fat free Greek yoghurt and garnish with additional coriander (cilantro.)  Delicious!

Serves: 6
Calories: 370
Fat: 6g
Sat. Fat: 2.5g
Points: 6

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cinnamon Apple Pancakes

Every Saturday or Sunday we have either waffles or pancakes.  The kids love it.  I generally make Irish style pancakes or crepes, while their American Daddy whips up fluffy American style ones.

I didn't think it fair to deny them their favourite weekend breakfast, yet I didn't want to sit their munching on celery either.  I figured I'd made enough varieties of pancakes over the years to conjure up a nice low fat but tasty version and I think I succeeded.

These are extremely filling due to the whole wheat flour.  My girls would usually put away 2-3 each, but 1-2 was more than enough of these.  You can taste the whole wheat, so if you prefer it more neutral tasting, use half and half white/whole wheat.  This will increase points a bit and decrease fibre. You can serve these with maple syrup, honey or any other topping you like.

  • 1.5 cups* whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup skim milk, plus a bit extra
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 small apples, grated
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt

Whisk together flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.   Whisk egg whites, oil and milk in a separate bowl and slowly pour into dry ingredients.  Whisk until combined.  Fold in apple and cinnamon.

Heat a small non-stick pan to medium heat.  Use a quarter cup measure to pour the batter in the pan.  You may need to spread it with a spatula.  Cook until it sets around the edges and bubbles are popping in the middle.  Flip and cook for another minute.  Keep warm while cooking remaining pancakes.  Makes 10.

Calories: 104
Fat: 1.8g
Saturated: 0.2g

WW Points: 1.5 per pancake

* Measuring with cups is the American standard of cooking.  A cup equals eight fluid ounces and solids as well as liquids are measured in this manner.  You can pick up cup measures at most kitchen stores or use a small pyrex jug with ounces.  If you use the internet for recipes, it's something I'd definitely invest in!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Guilt-free Chocolate Cupcakes

Somewhere someone decided to make cakes with diet coke and I laughed.  I prefer my cakes baked from scratch with the finest butter and vanilla, but alas Weight Watchers does not like butter... not in the way I like butter!

I had read about Diet Coke cake for some time and indeed my own best friend is a die-hard convert, but I've long resisted the temptation.  That is until I had a major chocolate craving today.  I hauled my ass to the grocery store and got a 2L and a cake mix and whipped up some cupcakes.  Himself was an even bigger skeptic, but declared them delicious and not in need of icing.  High praise from someone who likes to laugh at all diet-y food.  The kids of course devoured them and at a mere two points each, I can have one without feeling at all guilty.  This is not so much a recipe as it is a guide, but I cannot recommend this enough!  We have some birthdays coming up, so I will be experimenting with low-fat icing in the meantime, but at least I know that I have a delicious standby for the cake part!

Diet Coke Cake

  • 1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 10 fl. ox Diet Coke
Mix the coke and cake mix until thoroughly combined.  Bake according to package directions (will depend on whether you make cupcakes, layers or sheet cake.

WW Points: 2 per cupcake (makes 20) or 40 per recipe.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grilled Chicken Gyros

This is one of my regular family recipes that I have doctored to make lighter.  I make this at least once a month and it always goes down a treat with kids and husband alike.

The original recipe uses full-fat Greek yoghurt and more olive oil, but still is a fairly healthy recipe on it's own.  It also uses pita bread, but I liked the lower point alternative of a WW wrap.

This works well with thinly sliced lamb or beef too.  I slice the chicken with a super sharp (very sexy Global) knife while it's still frozen.  This ensures I get nice even thin pieces, which I find maximises flavour as more surface area is exposed to the marinade and it's also reminiscent of real pita houses in the Mediterranean.  Points listed below are for 1 wrap with 132g chicken (uncooked weight) and 3tbsp of tzatziki on a 1.5 point WW wrap.

For the meat:

  • 600g chicken fillets, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp non-fat greek yoghurt
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz) Greek non-fat yoghurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, de-seeded
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • dash olive oil
  • dash white wine vinegar
  • squeeze of lemon
  • LOTS of salt and pepper
To assemble:
  • Wraps, lavash or pita bread
  • Chopped vine tomatoes
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Cos/romaine lettuce, chopped (optional)

For the chicken, mix all marinade ingredients together and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.  Alternatively, marinate and freeze in portions to thaw and use as needed.

For the tzatziki sauce, you can drain the cucumber if you're fussy, but I've never had a problem with excess liquid and there's never any sauce left to check later on.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Cucumber and yoghurt both need quite a bit of salt and this will also season your finished wrap, so be liberal!

To assemble, place meat, veg and chicken on a wrap and roll up.  I was going to serve this with a baked sweet potato, but I learned the hard way that you can't cook them in the microwave! ;)
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Quick and Delicious Asian Noodle Soup

This is a ridiculously easy yet extremely tasty lunchtime snack.  I went with a vegetarian option, but you could easily add some chicken or prawns or to keep veggie, some tofu.  The points come from the egg noodles, everything else is free, so by all means, add loads of your favourite veggies.  Mange tout, peppers, asparagus and carrots would all be excellent additions.  Below is how I made mine.

Quick and Easy Asian Noodle Soup
(serves 1)

1/2 pint chicken stock
50g dried Chinese egg noodles
1/2 red pepper, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
pinch sugar / sugar substitute (to taste)
Handful bean sprouts
2 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped

Bring stock to a boil and add noodles.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add red pepper, cook for a further minute or two.  

Add ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar.  Cook until noodles are done.  Add scallions and bean sprouts, reserving some for garnish.

Ladle into a large bowl and garnish with remaining sprouts and scallions and top off with the coriander.  Serve immediately. 

WW Points: 2.5

Spaghetti and Meatballs

My kids adore meatballs, so I was challenged to create a recipe that they would love as much as my regular beef/pork combination but that wasn't going to suck my daily point allowance up.

I decided to use turkey in place of the meat.  I added some parmesan to keep some fat in the meatballs so as they wouldn't dry out.

Instead of breadcrumbs I used (don't laugh) a package of mini-tuc crackers, crushed.  I did this because it was all I had on hand and I thought the buttery flavour from the tucs might add some extra flavour to the meatballs, which it did!  It added three points to the recipe, whereas my usual amount of breadcrumbs would have added at least six, so all in all, it worked out an excellent substitution.

I served it with wholewheat spaghetti, which is something I normally do to get some more goodness into the kids.  Spaghetti is the one wholewheat pasta that is really quite unnoticeable so I use it all the time anyways.  The point value is the same whether you use wholewheat or white, but wholegrain will fill you up much longer and gives you added fibre, so it seems a no-brainer to me!

Turkey Meatballs with Zero Point Sauce
(makes 12 meatballs)

1 lb ground turkey
1 white onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp Parmesan, grated
1 egg, beaten
1 packet snack size Tucs, crushed
salt and pepper
Cooking spray

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and shape into twelve meatballs about 1.5 inches in diameter.  Place on baking sheet and mist with cooking spray.  Bake for 15 minutes until turkey is cooked through, but still moist. Remove from oven.

For the sauce:

1 small onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Cooking spray
4 fl oz boiling water + chicken bouillon cube
1 can tomatoes
8 fl oz passata or tomato juice
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp sugar / sugar substitute
salt and pepper, to taste

Spray a medium pot with cooking spray and bring up to a medium heat.  Toss in onions, celery, carrot and pepper.  Sauté for a few minutes until vegetables start to soften.  Add garlic and chicken stock.  Saute for about five more minutes until stock has considerably reduced and vegetables are soft.  Add tomatoes, passata and seasonings.  Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes while meatballs cook.

At this stage, I puree the sauce, because my kids are picky, but if you prefer a chunky sauce, serve as is.

Add meatballs to sauce and serve with cooked spaghetti and Parmesan Cheese!

WW Points: 3 meatballs = 5 points 
Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer Chicken and Couscous Salad

This is a deliciously fresh and invigorating summer lunch.  Packed full of herbs and veggies, the couscous and chicken will tie you over until dinner time.  You could certainly substitute quinoa or bulghar wheat for the couscous if you prefer.

I had chilli and coriander marinated grilled chicken leftover and wanted something that would fill me enough so that I wouldn't have to think about food again until this evening.  Feel free to add additional veggies and herbs, as they won't add any points to the recipes.

Summery Couscous and Chcken Salad
(serves 1)

60 g (dry) couscous
Chicken stock
100g grilled chicken
1 heaped tbsp sultanas
1 small tomato, diced
1/8 cucumber, peeled and diced
3 scallions, diced
1 tbsp white wine or balsamic vinegar
pinch sugar substitute
grating of lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh green herbs, chopped  (I used coriander, parsley and chives)

Prepare your couscous according to the package directions only using stock instead of water.  Add the sultanas at this stage so they plump up with the couscous.

Chop your vegetables and toss them with the herbs, vinegar, lemon zest and sweetener.

Once couscous is ready, fluff it a bit and add to the vegetables.  Mix thoroughly and season to taste.

Top cous cous with chicken and dig in! :)

WW Points: 6 (leave out sultanas to subtract a point)

TIP: Buy large packages of chicken breasts from the butcher and when you get home marinade them right away and pop them in the freezer.  Garlic, herbs and olive oil work well as does lime juice, coriander and ginger.  Somehow the process of freezing seems to instill even more flavour of the marinade to the meat.

Creamy Mushroom Omelet

I keep seeing recipes in the weight watchers materials for creamy mushrooms on toast.  I generally don't like to eat carbs in the morning as I feel I get hungry again quickly, whereas if I eat a protein packed breakfast I am well-satisfied for several hours.  The creamy mushrooms looked lovely so I looked for a way to make them into an omelet.  I've always been a fan of boursin in omelets, so decided to go with a lighter, but still tasty alternative.

Philadelphia light cheese is fairly decent.  the extra-light is god-awful powdery stuff and not worth it in my humble opinion, but the light is tasty enough.  I used the fine herbs and garlic variety in the omelet, which with the fresh herbs in the eggs tasted just like real boursin.  This was a delciously indulgent breakfast that came in at 3.5 points.

Creamy Mushroom Herb Omelet
(serves 1)

1 egg + 1 egg white, beaten
1/2 package mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
2 tbsp chicken stock
60g Philadelphia Light Herb and Garlic Cream Cheese
salt and pepper
Chives, to garnish

Pre-heat oven grill.

Beat eggs with salt, pepper and herbs.

Saute mushrooms in a non-stick pan with chicken stock until they are beginning to brown and stock has evaporated.

Add egg mixture and reduce heat to low.  Cook until egg is set on bottom and pop under the grill until the egg is set on the top.  Dot with cream cheese and pop back under the grill until it begins to melt.

Fold onto a plate, garnish with chives and enjoy!

WW Points: 3.5
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Onion Bhajees

Oh YES, you heard me right... onion bhajees, a dieter's nemesis.  Not these onion bhajees though.  These bhajees are crispy on the outside and moist and flavourful on the inside, they are full of flavour and spice with just a hint of caramel sweetness.  The ultimate challenge here, turning a greasy, fattening and oh-so-delicious takeaway favourite into something homemade and unrivalled in delciousness that it ultimately fat-free!  This entire recipe weighs in at a mere 4 weight watchers points.  I made twelve small bhajees, so you can eat three for a one point snack.  This is so simple that I suspect they will become a regular healthy snack around here!

WW Onion Bhajees
(makes 12)

1 large onion, roughly chopped
3-4 tbsp chicken stock
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp water
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp tandoori curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
pinch Splenda/sugar/sugar substitute
pinch ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh coriander stalks, finely chopped
Cooking Spray

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.

Sauté the onions in the chicken stock until the stock is gone and they are just barely browning.  Remove from heat.

Mix flour, water, spices and coriander to form a smooth paste. Add onions and season.

Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray and spoon the onion mixture into the twelve muffin cups.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until beginning to crisp.  Flip over bhajees and bake for a further five minutes until golden brown and crisp on the outside.  Garnish with torn coriander leaves.  Serve as is or with raita and mango chutney.

WW Points: 1 per 3 bhajees.  

Migas: The perfect breakfast?

It sounds like a Spanish word for something naughty, but in this context, it's referring to the most incredible Tex-Mex breakfast I've ever encountered.  I first read about them over at Pioneer Woman and like 99.9% of her recipes I knew I had to make them... NOW!  So I made them and like any other fatty I inhaled about three portions.  They are truly sublime and must be tried by all.  When I decided to start WW I knew that wouldn't change and that I had to make a weight watchers friendly alternative.

I'm quite the foodie, so I do not go in for extra-light chemical ridden varieties of real food.  I'd rather skip out on something than use a half-assed substitute for it, so I knew this could be a challenge, however I managed to pull off migas that tasted just as good, with virtually no fat!  The nutritional information and points will vary depending on the corn tortilla's you use.  Mine had 128 calories.  This will make enough migas to satisfy even the hungriest of dieters and only cash in at three points!  I omitted the cheese entirely (and couldn't really tell), but you could easily add it back and adjust the points.

WW Migas

(serves 1)

1 egg
2 egg whites
1/4 green pepper, diced
1/4 red pepper
1/2 onion, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 small jalapeño, diced
1 corn tortilla
2-3 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
cooking spray

Heat a medium skillet and place tortilla in the dry pan.  Heat for a few minutes until it just starts to brown.  Flip and heat the other side for a little bit longer.  Remove from heat.  It will crisp up as it cools. Once cool, slice into thin strips then slice the strips into thirds.

Spray skillet with cooking spray and add the pepper and onion, frying for a few minutes, stirring often.  Add tomatoes and jalapeno and stir for another minute.

Meanwhile, beat egg with egg whites.  Add to vegetable mixture with tortilla and turn heat down low.  Scramble slowly so as not to burn.

Once cooked to your liking, move to a serving plate and sprinkle with roughly chopped coriander.  Eat up!

WW Points: 3
Inspiration: Pioneer Woman