Before Taking Down the Christmas Cards…

This isn’t health or lifestyle related, but I can’t resist sharing.  My friend, Maja, gave me a great idea of what to do with Christmas cards before taking them down.  Snap a picture of the card and use the photo as the contact picture in your phone’s address book.

On my iPhone (with iOS7), simply open the person’s contact card in your address book, tap Edit in the top righthand corner and then tap Add Photo in circle near the top left.  Follow the prompts and save the image.  The picture will now pop up on the home screen when making  or receiving calls from that person.

Look at these beautiful pictures that I’ll now get to enjoy year-round:

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Brilliant, Maja!  Thanks for the tip.

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Christmas Cookie Food-Swap

Making and enjoying Christmas cookies is a tradition in many households, including ours.  I wouldn’t dream of dropping such a tradition, even with trying to ‘maintain, not gain’ this holiday season.  Instead, we’ve come up with a couple of swaps that will allow us the same kitchen bonding time and a delicious result, but with less fat and calories (no butter).  This year, we’re dipping!

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We bought pretzel “wreaths,”  Ghirardelli Chocolate’s Dark Melting Wafers and Christmas nonpareils.  Simply heat the wafers in the microwave in a small glass bowl at 50% power (or defrost setting), stirring occasionally.  Dip the wreaths half-way in chocolate (no need to load them up with chocolate!), dredge over the edge of the bowl and place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or foil.  Sprinkle with nonpareils and allow the chocolate to harden.

To pass out loved ones, we packaged them into clear cellophane food-safe bags and tied with a bow.

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Our next dipping project is marshmallow pops.  (Thanks to a friend for the fantastic idea!)  We took those same Ghirardelli Chocolate’s Dark Melting Wafers, Wilton cake pop sticks, crushed graham crackers and Christmas nonpareils.

Again, melt the wafers in the microwave in a small glass bowl at 50% power, stirring periodically.  Dip the end of the stick barely into the chocolate and push into the marshmallow.  (This will help keep the stick from heaving out.)    Then dip the marshmallow half-way into the chocolate, shaking off the excess and dredging the bottom edge across the bowl rim.  (Again, no need to load them up with chocolate.)  Roll or sprinkle with toppings and stand on parchment paper or foil and allow to harden.

We made s’mores, Christmas and plain marshmallow pops.  The kids can’t decide which are the best.

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For Weight Watchers followers, by my calculation, a serving of 19 pretzel rings (28g) dipped in 9 chocolate wafers (20g) is 6P+.  Each marshmallow pop is 2P+ (marshmallow, 4g chocolate [approximately 2 wafers] and toppings.)

By making a delicious food-swap and practicing portion control, you can enjoy a Christmas tradition, while shelving some of the fat and calories.  Ho, ho, ho… Merry Christmas!

Take an On-the-Go Snack

By taking a snack along with you when you leave the house, you can hopefully stay ahead of your hunger, thus avoiding bad food choices.  If you create a habit of stocking your kitchen with healthy snacks, it’s quite easy to just grab and go!

This time of year, my favorite on-the-go snack consists of two clementines (0P+) with a piece of light cheese (1P+).

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This was the snack that I took along in the car for my daughter and me to share, when we recently ran errands together.  Three clementines, two Mini Babybel Light cheese rounds (1P+ each), a carbonated water and a Hello Kitty Thermos with ice water.  (Guess which drink was mine and which was my daughter’s?)

After having more than a couple clementines end up as mush in the bottom of my bag, I finally learned to put them into a locking container.  Not only does it keep the fruit in good shape, but it’s also a great way store the waste until you’re back home.

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Quick grab-and-go snacks that I like are:

  • Apples (0P+)
  • Bananas (0P+)
  • Clementines (0P+)
  • Teriyaki beef jerky (usually 2P+ per ounce)
  • Light cheese sticks (usually 1P+ per piece)
  • Fiber One brownies (2P+)

With a little pre-planning, you can also hold off hunger when on the go and hopefully spare yourself an unwanted trip to the mall food court or fast food drive through.

P.S.  I’m always looking for fun and tasty on-the-go snacks.  If you have any you’d like to share, please do!

Light Alternative for Family Pizza Night

At our house, family pizza night has been a longstanding tradition.  When I first began losing weight and honing in on variables that caused setbacks, pizza night was one of the first offenders that I identified.  Pizza and my waistline don’t play friendly together.

Over the last two years, I’ve been on a quest to perfect a plan that allows me to enjoy one of my favorites foods, while not sabotaging my efforts and not having to splurge on Weight Watchers points.

The progression went something like this:

  1. I switched to thin crust restaurant pizza
  2. Then to thin crust with veggie toppings
  3. Next to homemade individual pizzas (read: instant portion control)
  4. Then to ultra-thin crust take and bake pizzas
  5. And now FINALLY… the solution that I’ve been searching for!

Though applicable to anyone watching their waistline, the revelation came during a phone call with a fellow Weight Watcher.  She was making pizza for her family for dinner, but was lamenting how many points she would have to eat-up if she partook with the family.  In my philosophy of no deprivation, just moderation, we were talking through ways to lighten up the pizza.  One suggestion that I made was to make a pizza wrap with a tortilla.  And the lightbulb went of!  Not a wrap, but a pizza using a tortilla instead of crust.

She tried it out that night and it met with high praise.  I tried it out a few days later and was also impressed.  Over the last few family pizza nights, I’ve played with different variables and have come up with a winner.  This pizza seems indulgent, is satisfying and most importantly keeps you in on the fun of family pizza night!

Just a Dot, Not a Lot’s Favorite Pizza

Ingredients
1 tortilla (my recommendation: Xtreme Wellness, by Ole Mexican Foods), 1P+
3 TBS pizza sauce, 0P+
1/3 C finely shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, 2P+ (points may vary by brand and variety)
1 TBS diced green pepper, 0P+
1 TBS diced onion, 0P+
3 sliced mushrooms, 0P+
8 slices turkey pepperoni, 1P+
1 TBS pine nuts, 1P+
1 TBS bacon bits, 1P+
2 TBS corn kernels, 1P+
5 sliced olives, 1P+
3 yellow cherry tomatoes, 0P+
Italian seasoning to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 °F .

Place tortilla on a baking sheet or pizza pan.  Top with pizza sauce and cheese.  Add toppings and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake for 15 minutes, until tortilla edges are crisped and cheese is browned.

(As described, 8P+ for Weight Watchers followers.  Of course, use the toppings that you like and have on hand.  The above pizza is what I had available when I made this delicious sample pizza.)

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By finding a satisfying workaround, I’m still able to enjoy our family’s pizza night tradition while staying on track with my goals.  That makes it a win-win in my book!

It’s Official: Oranges are in Season

The start of the citrus season is (finally!) here.  For me, citrus fruits are a bright spot in the cold, long winter months, and they make a daily appearance on my family’s table.

The Navel variety is the probably most well known type of orange.  But did you know how it got its name?  It’s because the blossom end of a Navel orange resembles a belly button.  See….

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This variety of orange is praised for its sweet taste.  If you don’t mind getting your hands juicy, simply peel the rind and then divide the fruit along the natural segmentation.  I prefer to quarter the orange then cut it away from the rind though.

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Navel oranges are quite versatile.  My favorite uses are:

  • Cut into bite-size pieces for on top of salads
  • Squeezed to make orange juice
  • For my late-afternoon snack (0P+), with a small piece of cheese (1P+) and a cup of coffee (0P+)
  • Quartered in my kids’ lunch boxes (with the rind partially separated, for easy peeling by little hands)
  • Next to eggs and toast for breakfast
  • I could go on and on….

And because I love useless facts, here are some about the Navel orange:

  • The first Navel orange was grown on a Brazilian plantation in 1820
  • The variety is the result of a  mutation that causes an undeveloped “twin” orange to grow inside the blossom end
  • Since Navel oranges are seedless, all trees are propagated through cuttings, so essentially every orange can be traced back to that original tree
  • A single Navel orange contains 137% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C
  • And of course, if you’re a Weight Watchers follower, fresh oranges are 0P+

So, if you haven’t sampled this season’s crop, don’t delay.  There’s no time like the present!