Homemade Shamrock Shake

My husband and son were recently driving together when my boy realized that it’s that special time of year when all of the talk in the treat world seems to find its way back to the shamrock shake.  My husband, who has more faith in my kitchen skills than I deserve, suggested that Mom could make one that would be much healthier and just as delicious as the fast food giant’s shake.

Taking it as a challenge, I set out to make a shamrock shake that the kids would love and that I could feel good about serving.  After several test runs, we came up with a tasty concoction.

Homemade Shamrock Shake (Makes 4, 1/2 Cup servings)

  • 2 C vanilla low-fat frozen yogurt
  • 3 C fresh spinach, loosely packed
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 frozen banana (Freeze ripe bananas whole.  To partially thaw, microwave at 20% power for 1 minute.)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract

Combine ingredients in a blender.  Enjoy!

In the spirit of “just a dot,” my recipe is for 1/2 cup servings.  Using Weight Watcher’s recipe builder, a 1/2 cup serving is 4 PointsPlus and a 1 cup serving is 7 PointsPlus.  (Topping with whipped cream and cherries could add to the PointPlus total.)

Can you believe that the beautiful green color is all natural?  No green food dye!

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When you want to eat a lot, eat THIS popcorn

If you’re feeling the need to eat a lot of something, popcorn just might be the answer.  A huge bowl (which is about 7 cups) of THIS popcorn, is only 5 PointsPlus for Weight Watchers followers.  And making good, healthy popcorn that is free of the chemicals and additives often found in microwave popcorn is easier than you think.

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What you’ll need:
A pot with a capacity of at least 2 quarts and its lid
1 tsp. oil (preferably coconut oil or canola oil)
1/4 cup popcorn kernels (gourmet kernels are a real treat, if your grocery carries them)
1 tsp. melted butter
Popcorn salt

How to:
Heat oil in the pot over medium-high heat.  After hot, add the kernels and cover with the lid. Periodically give the pot a few firm shakes, so the kernels don’t burn.  As the kernels pop, continue to give the pot a few firm shakes periodically and vent the lid briefly to allow steam to escape.  As the popping slows, remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.  Top with the melted butter and popcorn salt.  (Note: Popcorn salt is a finely ground salt that allows it to settle in the crevices.  Table and kosher salt are larger and heavier, and the granules tend to fall to the bottom of the bowl.)

A quarter cup of kernels yields all of this:

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So when you’re feeling the need to have a snack with a lot of volume, try popping some stovetop popcorn.  It’s healthy, delicious and satisfying.

(If want your popcorn to be really lean, you can forego the oil and butter and simply place the popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag, roll down the top a few times and place the bag in the microwave on high until the popping slows to one pop every 2 to 3 seconds.  This “naked” popcorn would count only 3 PointsPlus for Weight Watchers followers.)

Time to Get Out of this Rut

I’ve been in a rut.  Life has been busy and I’ve been relying heavily on go-to foods and recipes, which is a great strategy as long as the phase doesn’t drone on to the point that everything becomes routine and boring.  It has.

To break out of this, I’m committing to trying new recipes and foods.  Starting now.

Every Sunday, we cook Sunday brunch.  Today, I’m scrapping brunch in favor of homemade chocolate chip scones.  SkinnyTaste.com, one of my favorite healthy eating and Weight Watchers-friendy websites, has a recipe for Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Scones.  As luck would have it, all of the ingredients are on hand.  And here goes nothing!

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The scones were a HUGE hit.  They were easy to make, delicious and 5P+ each.  Paired with some fresh fruit, they were perfect for a late breakfast.  (The addition of some protein would have been nice, but it just didn’t happen.  Oh well!)

The hunt for more new, exciting, healthy recipes is on.  Please share your favorites!

Deceptively Delicious Veggie Dip — Just in time for the Super Bowl

Don’t want to sit the bench at this weekend’s Super Bowl party?  With this delicious (and easy!) Ranch veggie dip, you won’t need to.

Deceptively Delicious Veggie Dip

Ingredients

16 ounce tub of light sour cream
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dips mix (Note: must be the Dips packet, see picture)

Mix the two together and VOILA!… amazingly delicious veggie dip.

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Pair the dip with a heaping plate of your favorite veggies.  My favorites are:

  • Mini-sweet peppers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh french green beans
  • Baby carrots
  • Salted cucumber slices
  • Radishes
  • Sliced mini-portabella mushrooms
  • Celery sticks

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Two tablespoons (30g) of Deceptively Delicious Veggie Dip is only 1 PointPlus for Weight Watchers followers.  A whole 1/4 cup (4 TBS or 60g) is only 2P+!  Along with a plate of fresh veggies, that’s a Super Bowl bargain, as far as I’m concerned!

Two quick tidbits – First, I tried substituting Greek yogurt for light sour cream and I didn’t care for the resulting texture, despite usually loving Greek yogurt.   Secondly, in a pinch, I once bought a store brand light sour cream.  Though store brands are often good quality, I could taste the difference.  It would be my recommendation to purchase a name brand light sour cream.  Personally, my favorite is Daisy Light Sour Cream.

Easy Portobello Tailgate Burger

With the NFL playoffs beginning this weekend, burgers are on many people’s menus, including mine.  While at the grocery last week, the portobello mushroom caps caught my attention, so I decided to give portobello burgers a try.  It was easy, quick, good and light!  (They’re so good that I’ve made them three times in the last week.)

Simply pre-heat your oven to 410 °F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly cover with non-stick spray.  Wipe the mushroom cap with a damp paper towel (or rinse and allow to completely air dry).  Trim the stem so that the cap lays flat on the baking sheet.  I basted mine with Soyaki from Trader Joe’s (1 TBS for 1P+) to add some flavor, but you could also use olive oil (1 TSP for 1P+), salt and pepper.

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Bake for approximately 12 minutes.  Dress like a hamburger.  I chose a sandwich thin instead of a bun (3P+), then added Dijon mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and green onions (all 0P+).

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Add a side of fruit, and that’s a complete meal for only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus!

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With such a light meal, that should leave a little room for other tailgate snacks, including my favorite: popcorn.

Go Team!

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!

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!