Buffalo Chicken Chili {5 WW+ Dinner}

When I saw this recipe it reminded me so much of the buffalo chicken dip I made for a friend's girls night in and I had to try it. Now as soon as I put it on my menu for the week I knew that my husband wouldn't like it. But there are quite a few recipes that I pass on because my husband won't like it. So while doing this challenge I figured why not try a recipe I wanted to eat. Something just for me. And this definitely was that recipe.

I was right. The hubs decided to order a pizza instead of trying a bite of this chili but I enjoyed a huge bowl. It was spicy, flavorful and creamy. I added greek yogurt and frozen corn kernels instead of the original recipe's creamed corn, and I also included some mozzerella cheese to the mix at the end for some added creaminess. I think I might try this again and add more chicken and some cream cheese to the mix . But I'll wait till I have my girlfriends over so my husband won't have to order another pizza.

Inspiration: Taste & See

Buffalo Chicken Chili
  • 2 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1/2 bottle Franks red hot sauce
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 1 can beans of your choice (I used pinto)
  • 1 can diced green chilies 
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded light mozzarella cheese

Add all ingredients except yogurt and cheese to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Take chicken out and shred, add back in and include greek yogurt and cheese to the chili. Stir well and let cook another 15-30 minutes.

Serve with celery, a nice baguette, tortilla chips or anything else you might have on hand. I enjoyed using my celery as a spoon to eat my bowl. Kept me away from the extra carbs...

Serves 6 | 5 WW+ Points

Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings {9 WW+ Dinner}

What's been great about this challenge so far is the fact that we've had dinner on the table by 6pm every night this week! It's totally awesome. And I know exactly what we're going to have without scavenging through the pantry and fridge to come up with a last minute meal. This has been helpful both in the weight loss department and in the stress department. When all of your family members are hungry at the same time each day and you don't have something to give to them to satiate that hunger you have a lot of whine to deal with.

What's not so great? The lighting in our house now that Daylight Savings Time has entered the picture. I used to be able to get semi-decent shots of my meals without the use of a light box or other contraption. Now it looks like I may have to invest in something in order to bring you delicious looking foods to crave... unless this does it for you. What do you think? Would you make this meal based on the pictures and title alone?

Oh, and a small word about the actual dish we ate... I don't recall ever eating chicken and dumplings before. Chicken pot pie, sure... but not chicken and dumplings (Mom, I'm sure you can confirm or deny this for me) and I have to tell you this was mighty tasty! Creamy, bready goodness. All of the great things about pot pie and biscuits and yummy warmth radiating from this dish. Mmmm!

Inspiration: Rachel Ray Magazine via Campbells

Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup whole baby carrots
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 can Campbell's® 98% Fat Free Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cups Trader Joe's all-purpose baking mix
  • 1/3 cup milk
Place the chicken, potatoes, carrots and celery into a 6-quart slow cooker.
Stir the soup, water, thyme and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour the soup mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours* or until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir the baking mix and milk in a medium bowl. Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto the chicken mixture. Increase the heat to HIGH. Tilt the lid to vent and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked in the center.

*Or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Serves 4 | 9 WW+ Points

The difference between daylight pictures and nighttime pictures in my house... The picture above is when I started my slow cooker (about mid-day) and the picture below is when we ate dinner at 6pm. Dark outside and no good light in the home :(

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches {8 WW+ Dinner}

When  I joined the slow cooker challenge I knew I wanted to try out a new pulled pork recipe. Pulled pork is one of those slow cooker dishes that our family just loves. And left overs are met with happy smiles! The reason why I love this recipe so much is the lack of barbecue sauce needed. You essentially make your own with all of the ingredients and are actually left with a little liquid in the cooker when everything is done cooking. This makes for a moist and very tender meat that is absolutely delicious! I usually brown my meat before cooking it to give it more texture but didn't have time and it still turned out great.

Inspiration: Two Peas and Their Pod

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 pounds pork loin
  • 8 whole wheat buns
Combine all of the ingredients except the pork and the buns in a large slow cooker. Stir together with a spoon until well combined. Add the pork and place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low or until pork is tender and easily pulls apart.

Take two forks and shred the pork. Place the pork back into the slow cooker with the remaining sauce. Stir well and serve on rolls or buns.

Serves 8 | 8 WW+ Points (includes bun)

Slow Cooker Red Wine Braised Short Ribs {6 WW+ Dinner}

On the last visit to Costco  we left with some boneless short ribs in our cart. I have no idea how they got there but knew I had to find a recipe to cook them up. My husband went in search of the perfect recipe and found a great one in our America's Test Kitchen cookbook. He kept mentioning it and finally I was ready to try it out. Too bad I didn't fully read the recipe before commiting to making it. I would have found out that we needed bone-in ribs, not boneless. And I forgot to cut the ribs smaller. And had no celery or carrots on hand. Oy!

In the end, with all odds against me, I was happy with what the end results was. The meat was tender, had amazing flavor, and was the perfect portion. I served the ribs over brown rice and included the veggies with the sauce instead of discarding them because they tasted delicious. But if you try the original recipe with carrots and celery you might want to discard and serve with your favorite steamed or roasted veggie (or a great salad!).

Inspiration: America's Test Kitchen via The Little Kitchen

Slow Cooker Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
  • 2 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 3" pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onions, chopped medium
  • 1 zucchini, chopped medium
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves

Dry short ribs with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12‑inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown short ribs well on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

Add onions, zucchini, garlic, , tomato paste, and thyme to fat in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in wine and vinegar, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps. Bring to simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir broth and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Transfer short ribs to serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Strain braising liquid, discarding solids, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley. Spoon 1 cup sauce over short ribs and serve with remaining sauce.

Serves 8 | 6 WW+ Points

A Preview of My #SlowCookerChallenge Menu

Next week I'll be attempting something I've never done before. Using my slow cooker to make one meal every day of the week! That's right. 7 days in a row. No eating out, no "I don't know what we're going to have tonight." I'll have each day planned out. And hopefully lunch ready for the next day! Each meal will be turned into Weight Watcher friendly options and I'll try not to exceed 10 points per meal unless it's REALLY delicious and worth it.

I thought I'd share my menu with you before the challenge starts. That way if you're inspired and want to join in on the challenge you have time to prepare!The challenge will run from this Monday, November 7th to Sunday, November 13th and if you're interested in joining check out our Facebook group. I'll include a linky with the names of the other blogs participating in the challenge on Monday. You can check out their progress the following Monday when we all update with our results.

Stay tuned to see if I'm able to stick with it! This will be a monthly event so if you're not ready this month but want to participate next month jump on board!

Slow Cooker Challenge #1 Menu

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs 
Chicken & Dumplings
Barbecue Pulled Pork
Crock Pot Bacon & Cheese Chicken
Ham and Potato Soup
Slow Cooker Meatloaf
Buffalo Chicken Chili

Do you have any awesome slow cooker recipes to share? I'd love links and recipes to save for upcoming challenges! I've even started to add some of my favorites to my slow cooker Pinterest board.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars {5 WW+ Dessert}

When Fall comes there is one thing I am most excited about. The return of canned pumpkin on the shelves! I start out small. Buying maybe 4 cans of pumpkin on my first spotting. Then I get a bit crazy. I need to stock up for the rest of the year. How can I not have 10 or so cans of pumpkin in my pantry by mid-October? And what do I use these cans and cans of pumpkin for? Healthier recipes!

Pumpkin is a great ingredient in baking, cooking and no-bake recipes such as this one. It's simple and easy to use and best of all... it's super tasty and healthy! Now I've already been making my pumpkin waffles, pumpkin muffins and even a pumpkin oatmeal shake. But I hadn't yet tried anything with pumpkin and cheesecake before. So this past weekend I decided to try out a no-bake recipe for pumpkin cheesecake bars. And they were delicious. If you have a can of pumpkin lying around you have to try it!

Inspiration: Kraft Foods

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
  • 1 package (8 oz.) neufchatel cheese, softened*
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar (or 1/2 cup sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip Free whipped topping, thawed, divided
  • 1 package graham crackers (about 24), crushed
  • 4 tablespoons light butter, melted
Line an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish with plastic wrap. Mix graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until the crumbs resemble moist sand. Push crumb mixture into dish with your fingers evenly to create a level crust on the bottom. Make sure to get the crumbs into the corners of the dish as well.

Beat cream cheese, pumpkin, agave and pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Increase speed to medium and mix for another 3 minutes or until no lumps are visible. Gently stir in 2-1/2 cups of the whipped topping. Cover and refrigerate remaining whipped topping for later use.

Spoon cream cheese mixture into crust and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Serve topped with remaining whipped topping. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

*How to Soften Cream Cheese
Place completely unwrapped package of cream cheese in microwavable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or until slightly softened. If you cannot find neufchatel cheese in your grocery store just go for the reduced fat cream cheese. Same thing, different name.

Serves 16 | 5 WW+ Points

Meatball Subs {9 WW+ Dinner}

A few months back I made a tasty meatloaf parmesan dish. After I made the patties for our dinner for two I formed the rest of the meat mixture into meatballs to be used later. These meatballs became the perfect star to this sub. The sub was tasty, filling and pleasant to look at. And I loved not feeling guilty about eating so much bread since I removed a bit of the inner part to make room for the meatballs and sauce.

The size of this meatball sub was a bit hard to wrap my hands around. I had to smoosh it a little bit to fit it into my mouth. When you have to smoosh a sandwich you know it's going to be good and fill you up! I froze extra meatballs and grabbed them out of the freezer as needed when I wanted my meatball sub fix. Definitely a great way to have an easy meal for later on in the week when it gets busier!

Inspired by my Italian Meatloaf Parmesan

Italian Meatball Subs
  • 18 Italian Meatballs (without the cheese)
  • 2 small baguettes of french bread, some of the insides removed
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, store bought or homemade
  • 6 slices provalone cheese, cut in 1/2
Slightly toast the french rolls in a toaster oven. Place two pieces of cheese (one whole slice) on one side of the roll and broil until just melted.

Add 1/4 cup of marinara sauce to each roll, either on top of the cheese or on the other piece of bread, and top with three meatballs. Close the sandwich up and enjoy!

For toddlers, just cut the sandwich into thirds so they can fit it in their hands and mouth easier. I know this made it much more easy for my son to eat. 

Serves 6 | 9 WW+ Points

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread {4 WW+ Breakfast}

I love the end of summer. For one it starts to cool down at night and secondly my mother-in-law is always sure to bring over some yummy (but very large) zucchini. Figuring out ways to use up the zucchini is always fun and shredding it to put in baked goods and savory meals is usually the way to go. Especially since my son has a fascination with our food processor.

When searching for a recipe to use up some of our zucchini I stumbled upon a delicious looking muffin recipe. Chocolate and zucchini? Why it's a match made in heaven! This bread tastes exactly like a chocolate cake. My son would have had no clue that there was zucchini in it had he not been the one to help mix the ingredients together. And the mini chocolate chips just add a bit of deliciousness and push this bread over the edge. Next time I might consider adding a few walnuts to the mix. Mmmm....

Inspiration: Meg's Everyday Indulgence

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1 1/2 cups unpacked brown sugar 
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup regular egg substitute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, allspice and cinnamon; set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar and applesauce. Beat in egg substitute until just combined. Stir in vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini and chocolate chips. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Divide batter equally among the two loaf pans. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and muffin tops are springy to the touch, 45 to 55 minutes; rotating halfway through baking time. Cool loafs in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 20 | 4 WW+ Points

Side Note: One LARGE freshly picked zucchini from my mother-in-law's garden yielded this much shredded zucchini!

Tuna Noodle Cups {Adventures in Toddler Food}

Oh how I've missed cooking. For some reason I either forget to take pictures of my new meals or I just make the same meals we know and love night after night. And this wonderful blog gets neglected. Well... I'm going to try and take some time to update over the the next few weeks with the fun recipes we've tried over the summer and the fun inventive ways we've turned our favorites into new dishes.

This tuna noodle casserole is something I make often. However I usually just top with a bit of cheese instead of mixing it in. And I usually make it in a casserole dish. But I received a little inspiration from a blog I've started following called Muffin Tin Mom. And figured it'd be a great way to portion control our meals if we made them in smaller containers. Plus how cool are her muffin tin meal ideas? Genius for toddlers kids!

Inspiration: Dinner with Danielle Original Reworked

Tuna Noodle Cups
  • 8 ounces Wacky Mac Noodles (or egg noodles)
  • 1 can reduced fat cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can tuna in water, drained
  • 2 tablespoons 1% milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Smart Balance Light

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the Wacky Mac as directed on the package, drain and set aside.

While noodles are cooking open the can of tuna and soup and measure out the milk, cheese and peas. Let your child combine the soup, tuna, milk, cheese, peas and seasoning in a large bowl with a spatula.

Add cooked noodles to the mixture and let the child stir just until combined (or switch kids and let another stir in the noodles). Grab a measuring cup or cookie scoop and let your child scoop the noodle mixture into a muffin tin pan. Sprinkle each "cup" with parmesan, bread crumbs and small pieces of the Smart Balance.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the top of the cups are golden and a little crisp. Remove from the oven and let the noodle cups cool in the pan for 5 minutes. This will allow them to keep their shape when you remove them from the pan. Take a spatula and work around the edges of each noodle cup before removing them from the muffin tin pan.

Serve and enjoy! My son enjoyed his Tuna Noodle Cups with a yummy salad of greens and his favorite ranch dressing.

Serves 13 | 4 WW+ Points 

Do you see his little tongue sticking out? He's concentrating!

Homemade Hamburger Buns {7 WW+ Bread/Side}

I love everything  about making bread. The smells, the texture, the taste. It's amazing how creating one little roll or loaf makes me so happy and proud. I did it. I played with yeast and it didn't turn into a rock. So when my husband asked about making buns for an upcoming holiday dinner we were hosting at the beginning of summer I went in search of a great recipe.

I suggested a recipe over on Annie's Eats since Annie has never failed me with her recipes. My husband glanced over it, said ok, and started doing something else. So when it was time to make the buns I was surprised when he announced that he'd be making them. Wait, what? He was going to attempt to play with yeast? Ok, go for it honey!

And boy was I happy that he took over. The recipe he chose was not my suggestion. He went with his trusty King Arthur Flour website and chose a bun recipe from them. The buns turned out great however they weren't as soft as we like our buns to be. So he took it upon himself to search for another recipe (on the same site) and wanted to try it out this weekend after I announced I was making root beer pulled pork for dinner. And he found a recipe that I am sure will become a weekly regular in this house. These buns are perfect for not only hamburgers but sandwiches as well. And boy are they soft and fluffy!

Inspiration: King Arthur Flour

Homemade Buns
  • 3/4 to 1 cup* lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, reserved for topping
Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients, except the melted butter, by hand, mixer, or bread machine (we went with the bread machine) to make a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk.
Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3" across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.

Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter. Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. This will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust.

Cool the buns on a rack.

Serves 8 | 7 WW+ Points (and so worth it!)

*For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.

Cranberry Cream Scones {9 WW+ Breakfast}

I know I've said this before but whenever I need something quick and tasty for either breakfast or dessert I almost always go to scones. How can you not? They're super filling, very versatile and quick to throw together. You can put just about anything in a scone. Have some raisins? Throw them in! Down to a handful blueberries? Why not use those. And while your at it get some fun ingredients together for toppings. Cinnamon sugar, cream, powdered sugar icing, chocolate, strawberry jam... lots of options!

I also love that I can form the scone into any shape I want. I can make them into biscuits. I can cut them into small triangles or big triangles. I could even use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. This will be perfect for an upcoming party I'm starting to plan for a special someone's first birthday. And the best part about this recipe is that they not only taste super good on the day they're made but they taste great the day after as well. The perfect companion to a cup of coffee or tea.

Inspiration: Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

Cranberry Cream Scones
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons regular butter 
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1/4 cup Vanilla Fat Free Creamer
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse 2-3 times to mix. Add the butter and pulse 7-8 times just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. Scatter the cranberries into the dough and pulse until just moist.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured countertop or work space and press it together gently until the dough forms a ball. Pat in a round about 1/2 an inch thick and 6-7 inches wide. Cut the round into 6 wedges*, or use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Place the wedges 1 inch apart on the prepared pan.

To make the sugar topping, stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix the milk and creamer in another small bowl or measuring cup. Brush the wedges with the milk mixture and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Bake until golden brown, 13-17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve warm.

Serves 6 | 9 WW+ Points

* You can cut the wedges into thirds to create smaller scones that are more WW point friendly (3 points each) for a quick snack or treat.

    Italian Meatloaf Parmesan {7 WW+ Dinner}

    I had exhausted all of my ground turkey and ground beef recipes and needed something that was different but would satisfy me and the husband. So I went to a blog that I knew wouldn't disappoint. Joelen always has the best spins on recipes. I knew if I tried something from her that I could please everyone in the family. And I was right!

    This dish was great! Perfect and flavorful. I may just use this for our new meatball recipe. Plus I can double it up and freeze left over meatballs for future meals! I love being able to do that. Makes dinnertime that much easier with options in the freezer. If you have some ground turkey or ground beef in the fridge or freezer ready to use then try this one out!
    Inspired by What's Cookin', Chicago? 
    Originally from Michael Chiarello

    Italian Meatloaf Parmigiana
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 red pepper, seeded, diced
    • 1/2 onion, diced
    • 2 teaspoons (about 3 cloves) chopped garlic
    • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
    • 1 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tablespoons dried basil
    • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 cups marinara sauce (jarred or homemade); divided
    • 1/2 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 1/2 cup fat free shredded mozzarella cheese
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat and add the peppers, onions and garlic. Saute until just soft, remove to a plate and cool.

    When the peppers and onions are cool, combine all of the remaining ingredients together except for the marinara and shredded cheese.

    Form 6 large patties* from the meat mixture and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with 1 cup of the marinara making sure to spread evenly over the top. Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes to ensure it's cooked through.

    Remove from the oven and top with shredded cheese; return to oven for 5 minutes to allow cheese to melt. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

    Toss your favorite pasta with the reserved sauce. Serve meatloaf on top of the pasta.

    Serves 6 | 7 WW+ Points (not including pasta)

    * You can also form 12-18 meatballs instead of patties if you want a smaller portion of meat. I formed 2 patties and made the rest of the meat mixture into meatballs to use later. Worked out perfectly for lunches the next day.

    Peach Upside Down Cake {6 WW+ Dessert}

    I recently held a playdate over at my house for my playgroup and one of the mamas came over with a large carton of peaches in tow to share with everyone. When she left she graciously left the remaining peaches. Now there are a lot of foods I'll eat without a problem but I've never taken well to peaches, nectarines and apricots. Something about them has never been very appealing. So I was very surprised when my son started asking to eat the peaches and could consume a whole, large one on his own for breakfast. But even though he showed an interest in them he couldn't eat the peaches fast enough to go through the whole bunch.

    I had to start thinking of a way to use up the excess peaches. And so I went off to Google in search of a good recipe to use for our upcoming 4th of July dinner at my brother-in-law's house. As soon as I landed on this recipe by one of my favorite cooks, Alton Brown, I knew he wouldn't disappoint me. But since I was feeding a larger group and also didn't have the time to prep and bake this dessert at my brother-in-law's house I tweaked the recipe a bit to allow for making larger cakes.

    This came out perfectly! And the addition of vanilla bean ice cream took this dessert over the edge. And remember I'm the one who isn't so crazy about peaches! I even ate a piece for breakfast the next day! I'll definitely be trying this with apples the next time I attempt it.

    Source: Alton Brown

    Peach Upside-Down Cake
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 3 medium peaches, peeled
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Ice cream for serving, optional
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Divide 4 tablespoons of the butter between 2 8 inch pans. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and set aside. Evenly divide the brown sugar between the pans; sprinkling it on the bottoms. Cut each peach into 12 to 14 pieces. Lay the peaches on top of the sugar; evenly dividing them between the dishes and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Set aside.

    In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combine. Pour the batter over the peaches; dividing the mixture evenly between the two pans. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer and is slightly golden brown on top.

    Remove from the oven to a rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each pan and turn upside down onto a serving plate. Repeat with each cake. Serve immediately with ice cream if desired.

    Serves 12 | 6 WW+ Points

    Almond Chocolate Banana Bread {9 WW+ Breakfast}

    We always have a bunch of bananas on our countertops. It's just the easiest way to get breakfast on the go when we're running from one activity or another. So sometimes we're left with a few very ripe bananas that no one is willing to eat. And we have to use them up so I am always looking for a good banana bread recipe. I've finally found one that I think I'll stick with for a while.

    The best part about this recipe is that it's so light and airy. The bread is not dense at all. I think the cake flour really helps. And it was a total accident that I used cake flour instead of AP or whole wheat flour because we were out of everything else. I am NEVER out of flour. I mean I use it weekly so we're always buying it but I'm glad I was out. The substitution was great! And the addition of a chocolate bar made the bread even more amazing.

    I recommend enjoying this banana bread the same day it's baked for the best results. I found that when I placed it in an airtight container for safe keeping that it lost that delicious crunch to the crust of the bread. And I think that the crust was the other reason why I fell in love with this recipe. But if you must, you can store and serve later. I'm sure it'll be gobbled up quickly though!

    Inspired By FamilyFun

    The Best Banana Bread
    • 2 cups cake flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3 medium-large very ripe bananas (1 cup mashed)
    • 1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
    • 1 Hershey's Chocolate Bar with Almonds, broken into small pieces

    Heat the oven to 325ยบ. Line a 5- by 9-inch loaf pan, preferably one with a light interior, with enough waxed paper to drape over the long sides. This will make the baked bread a cinch to remove and the pan easy to clean. Set the pan aside

    Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter using an electric mixer. Gradually add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Next, add the vanilla extract and blend briefly. Set both bowls aside.

    Peel the bananas and place them in a separate bowl. Mash them with a fork or a potato masher and measure out 1 cup. Add the sour cream and stir to blend. Set the bowl aside.

    Using a wooden spoon, blend a third of the dry mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients in this order, stirring well after each addition: half of the banana mixture, half of the remaining dry mixture, the rest of the banana mixture, the rest of the dry mixture. Next, fold in chocolate pieces.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Bake on the center oven rack until a tester inserted deep into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 70 to 75 minutes.

    Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and cool it in the pan for about 20 minutes. Using the waxed paper, lift the bread from the pan and place it on the rack. Pull down the sides of the paper and allow the bread to cool thoroughly before slicing.

    10 Servings | 9 WW+ Points

    My Daughter's First Photo Contest {Please Vote!}

    Ok, friends and family in the blogging world, I need your help! I've entered my youngest, Molly, into a photo contest and would LOVE it if she won. My good friend, Tessa, of Grin & Share It Photography is holding a contest for the cutest summertime photo of your child(ren).

    I spent a lot of time trying to come up with the perfect photo. I even staged a few mini-shoots including one beach time fun in our sandbox and one picnic scene in Uncle Andrew's back yard. But the best one out of the bunch was of Miss M "gardening" in our front yard. Her favorite thing to do lately is pull all of our weeds out (and try to eat them) so I thought this not only turned out to be an awesome photo but it also captured what she is really into this summer. No sand and water for her... it's all about the dirt and mud!

    Today is the last day to vote and voting ends at 2pm PST so if you could follow the instructions below we'd be very grateful! 

    So to vote please go to Grin & Share It Photography's facebook page and like her page. Then go to Molly's photo (#8 - here) and comment on it with your vote (likes don't count). I really appreciate any and all votes for my baby girl!

    The other two I was choosing from (click on photo to enlarge):

    Banana Freeze {0 WW+ Dessert}

    I first heard of this over on the Weight Watchers message board. And when I read it I had to go to Google and find a recipe to make sure it was real. Well... it was! And although the results weren't *exactly* like jumping into a pint of Ben & Jerry's it was pretty darn close. And my son couldn't tell the difference. His bowl was cleaned (and licked) within 5 minutes.

    Since it's so easy to make I highly suggest you putting some bananas in the freezer now so you can make this in the afternoon. It's summer! You need a light and cool snack to refresh you and this is just the thing. And you might find that making it is pretty fun and kid/baby friendly too. Next time we make this I'm going to play with mix ins. I could imagine a handful of walnuts or some peanut butter chips would knock this treat out of the park!

    Inspired By: The Kitchn

    Banana Freeze Ice Cream
    • 3 bananas
    Peel bananas and dice into small pieces. Place banana pieces in a ziploc bag or a plate and freeze for 1-2 hours. Place frozen bananas in the blender and turn it on. When the bananas go up the sides of the blender scrape them down back into the bottom and wait for the magic to happen.

    Once the bananas resemble soft serve ice cream transfer to a bowl, stick a spoon in and enjoy! If you'd like top with some chocolate syrup 

    Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

    I got the idea for this cupcake when I was reading Dorie's Baking from my Home to Yours in search of a great dessert for my family reunion. I was looking in the brownie section at her chipster brownies (great picture here by Brown Eyed Baker) but really didn't want to have to make a couple of batches. So I started thinking of other ways to incorporate these flavors and decided on a cupcake!

    This recipe is pretty fun to make and my 2 year old loved helping scoop the cookie dough and place it into each cupcake liner. The best part is that even though I chose to bake from scratch you don't have to! If boxed cake and refridgerated cookie dough are more your style than by all means use that instead and I'm sure you'll end up with the same results. Next time I'm going to make brownie cupcakes!

    Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line with cupcake wrappers. Place 1 tablespoon of cookie dough in each liner (or use a cookie dough scoop). Add 1/3 cup of cake batter on top of each scoop of cookie dough. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting. Add chocolate chips to the tops of each frosted cupcake and serve!

    Serves 24 | No WW+ Info

    Pizza Balls {7 WW+ Dinner}

    I really love pizza. And no matter what I do I can't stop thinking about it when I'm watching what I eat. So instead of being tempted to order a pizza from my favorite pizza place I try and make it at home more often than not.  So I needed to change things around. Step it up a bit. And I was taken back to a meal that my mom made for us growing up. I had some pizza dough from Trader Joe's in the fridge so I figured I'd try to wing it and hope for the best.

    Well my attempt not only turned out good... it turned out better than I remembered! I was so excited to share this meal with Joseph and E and was super happy to find out that their reaction was very pleased. E even asked me to make them again the next day. And he was going to help :) This is now on our monthly rotation as either dinner or lunch and E always helps add the toppings and roll up the pizza dough into balls.

    Inspiration: Family meal from my childhood (my mom)

    Pizza Balls
    • 1 ball of pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's whole wheat)
    • 1 serving Hormel Pepperoni (14 slices/28g)
    • 1/2 cup Trader Joe's Three Cheese Blend
    • 1/2 cup diced crimini mushrooms
    • 1 1/2 cups spinach, chopped
    • 1 cup marinara sauce, for dipping
    Place pizza stone in oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and roll out each piece into a 4-5" circle. Place an equal amount of each topping in the middle of the dough circle and bring the edges of the circle up over the toppings. Pinch edges together to form a ball. Repeat with the other circles.

    Take pizza stone out of the oven and place pizza balls on stone. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until the pizza balls are golden brown. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving with marinara dipping sauce.

    Serves 6 | 7 WW+ Points

    Rosemary Corn Muffins {5 WW+ Side}

    Chili is something I throw together quite often. I have posted various recipes on this blog and always seem to be changing it up. The one thing I don't do is spice up the side, usually broccoli or a corn muffin or corn cake. So tonight I had some extra time (read: youngest was sleeping and oldest was playing quietly in his room) to whip up some corn bread muffins with just a little oomph in them.

    The rosemary just makes these muffins so much more than corn muffins. And while they are pointy, they're worth it. Plus chili usually doesn't add up to too many points when you add as many veggies in as I do. This time I even threw in some mushrooms I had left over. Yum!

    Inspiration: Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours

    Rosemary Corn Muffins
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup corn meal
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 pinch nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped 
    • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
    • 1 egg
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 cup buttermilk 
    • 1 cup baby corn ears

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prep muffin tin with either cooking spray or liners.

    Mix dry ingredients together. If you'd like more rosemary flavor, mix rosemary and sugar and rub together with your fingers. Set aside.

    Whisk wet ingredients together (leave corn out) and pour into dry ingredients. Whisk or stir together with a spatula. Don't overstir and don't worry about lumps! Once everything is combined fold in the corn.

    Fill muffin tin and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy with a nice bowl of chili!

    WFD? Week of 6/5/2011 {Weekly Meal Planning}

    Ok, ok... I know I've been a HORRIBLE blogger these past two weeks. But the same excuse I use every time I take a little break really is true! I've been super busy with work, the kids, the house and sticking with my weight loss. So far I'm doing pretty well. I'm down just under 14 pounds and finished my first 5K two weeks ago! How awesome is that? 

    And another thing that's been keeping me busy is that I've been working three days a week vs. my normal two. But that's all about to change soon. Without going into too much detail I have had to quit my job to stay home with my kids. My 6 month old has always refused a bottle but now it's getting way too hard to keep her distracted during the day while I'm at work. So I'll have a bit more time to stick with my menu and keep the recipes coming!

    Monday -
    Chili w/ cornbread 

    Tuesday - 7 WW+ Points
    Pizza Balls & Salad (made these for lunch on Saturday and they were awesome!)

    Wednesday -
    Garlic Chicken with maybe a tad less olive oil

    Thursday -
    Chicken Enchiladas (w/ leftovers from garlic chicken) 

    Friday -
    Eating Out

    Saturday -
    Pot Roast via Alton Brown

    Sunday -
    Tomato Basil Soup & Grilled Cheese Sammies via Peppercorn Press

    Apple Carrot Nut Muffins {3 WW+ Breakfast}

    I was hosting a playgroup playdate at my house yesterday morning and didn't really have much planned in the form of snacks. I had the usual toddler fair of dried cranberries, cheerios and pretzels but nothing of substance for the mamas. So I asked Ethan what he wanted. And like your typical kid he asked for cupcakes. So I made the next best thing.

    I grabbed one of my recipe books and started flipping. And fell upon a recipe that I had all of the ingredients for (sans a few substitutions). And the results were pretty darn yummy. I'll definitely be making these muffins for future get togethers.

    Inspiration: Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking

    Apple Carrot Nut Muffins
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup bread flour
    • 1/3 cup SPLENDA® brown sugar blend (or 2/3 cup regular brown sugar)
    • 2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
    • 2 egg
    • 1 1/2 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 small apples, 1 shredded and 1 diced small
    • 1 cup shredded carrots
    • 1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 2 muffin tins or prep with cupcake liners.

    In a large bowl whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, soda & salt together until well mixed.  In a seperate large bowl whisk eggs. Add yogurt and butter. Stir until combined.

    Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated together, about 15 strokes. Do not overmix. Fold in apples, carrots & pecan halves.

    Fill muffin tins 2/3rds of the way full. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Top each muffin with sugar blend. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

    24 servings | 3 WW+ Points*

    *by omitting the nuts you can reduce this recipe to 2 WW+ points each

    A great quick breakfast alternative for those on the go

    Roasted Tomato & Asparagus Pasta with Chicken and Feta {10 WW+ Dinner}

    After yet another busy weekend (surprise, surprise) I hadn't yet meal planned for the week (Still haven't! Someone please kick my butt!) and had to scour the cupboards and fridge yet again. Luckily I roasted an extra piece of chicken this weekend so I had one chicken breast to work with. It's kinda hard to make a meal out of one chicken breast so I decided on a pasta dish. That way I could dice up the chicken into small bites and make it go farther with the pasta. Well, it worked!

    Along with some roasted vegetables I had left from another dish I made last week and some yummy flavored feta cheese I picked up on sale I threw together one of my more tasty last minute meals. This pasta dish is definitely perfect for the spring season. Simple, tasty and makes the ingredients stretch. Definitely budget friendly.

    Roasted Tomato & Asparagus Pasta with Chicken and Feta
    • 2 cups tomatoes, whole (small round varieties like grape and cherry are best)
    • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch sections
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or if you prefer roasted whole with vegetables)
    • 8oz pasta, gemelli or fusilli 
    • 1 roasted chicken breast, cut into small pieces
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup reduced-fat feta, tomato and basil flavor
    • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place foil on a rimmed cookie sheet and put vegetables on sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. (Alternative method - roast asparagus for 8 minutes on sheet and tomatoes for 20 minutes in glass dish. I'm lazy and did it all on one sheet).

    While vegetables are roasting, boil and cook pasta.

    Place roasted vegetables in a large bowl and add garlic, tomato paste and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. Add pasta, chicken and cheese and toss. Top with fresh parsley and serve.

    4 servings | 10 WW+ Points


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