On the Move!

I seriously apologize for the lack of posting – I know, some blog I have going.

It has been a whirlwind of activity! With last week being the 4th of July and us not going anywhere, we decided to have a little get together – which meant 1 solid evening of preparing food and the other putting the finishing touches on everything!

Then we had to run home on the 4th of July, do laundry and pack because on Thursday, we flew to Pittsburgh to stay with one of my best friends from college for a day. We had so much fun seeing her and her fiance, who are getting married in October – and enjoyed exploring the city for a day! The husband experienced his first Primanti’s sandwich (which is piled with your choice of meat, then cheese, coleslaw and french fries!) – and we got to take the incline to the top of Mt. Washington to get an amazing view of downtown Pittsburgh. And, of course, we went to a Pirates game that evening!

On Saturday, we drove to Ohio for another college friend’s wedding – which was absolutely beautiful! Probably a bit hotter than she had bargained for – but it was such a great time, as it always is when I get to hang out with my girls.

So, as y’all may have noticed – it’s been brutally hot lately! A few weeks ago, the husband and I decided to brave the elements and go to a drive-in movie. I had planned on chicken tenders – but he said he wanted something cold before we went. Like a pasta salad.

I was totally okay with that, because I had just the thing to whip up – a tortellini and veggie pasta salad! It is so delicious and I’m sure it would be easy to adapt for tailgating, picnics, etc. by throwing some olives or salami/pepperoni. Consider this delicious recipe my apology for falling off the face of the earth the past few weeks…

Tortellini and Vegetable Pasta Salad (serves 4)

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. minced shallot

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 c. red wine vinegar

1/4 c. olive oil

Salad:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

9 oz. cheese tortellini

1/3 c. red onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 c. fat-free feta, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add dressing ingredients together in a small food processor and pulse a few times until blended well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to directions. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Refill the pot with water and bring to boil. Add asparagus and cook 2-3 minutes. Have a bowl of cold water or ice nearby. Transfer asparagus to cold temperature – this will keep it from cooking any longer and allow it to keep the pretty green color!

Add chopped veggies to the tortellini and stir to combine.

Pour dressing over top and sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined.

Add crumbled feta and stir again until combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Then, it’s time to dig in! I definitely want to double this next time to make some yummy lunches for the week…

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Spicy Peanut Chicken Salad

I feel like I did a marathon this weekend!

I was so fortunate to be able to drive up to St. Louis this past weekend for one of my dear friend’s bachelorette parties.

St. Louis Arch

Clydesdale at Anheuser-Busch: St. Louis

Home of the World Series Champions!

Since I went to school at Penn State and live in Memphis, it’s very rare that I get to spend a weekend with my best friends from college. Like, seriously, we hail from Florida, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both represented), Connecticut and Illinois. So getting together can be a challenge – but when we do, there is no shortage on fun – which includes choreographed dances and Beauty and the Beast sing-a-longs! More to come too – because since November, three of my girls have gotten engaged!

So before I had headed out on my solo road trip that involved a lot of jamming out to my favorite artist (Eric Church) – I made a delicious pasta salad-type dish with an Asian twist.

I could totally eat this for dinner, but it made up a lot of my lunches last week. And man, were my lunches good. Like, seriously. You don’t even have to wait in line for a microwave in your break room at work – because you eat it cold. And dear goodness, it is incredibly delicious.

And only 8 WW points. I know, I know. You love me. =)

It’s a lot of ingredients – but don’t be intimidated! You won’t regret making the full recipe – or even doubling it if you are one of those people (aka me) who let produce die in your refrigerator drawers after 1-2 uses.

(Oh, and I am certain this would make a great vegetarian dish if you just omit the chicken – so let me know, well, if you try it either way what you think!)

Spicy Peanut Chicken Salad– (6 servings)

1 cup red or orange bell pepper, Julienne

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 cup raw zucchini, shredded

1/2 cup raw broccoli, chopped

1/2 cup green onion, chopped

8 oz. raw chicken breast (boneless/skinless)

8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

For Dressing:

6 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. reduced-fat peanut butter

2 Tbsp. sesame oil (Vegetable oil is okay)

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar (regular works too)

1/2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. pickled ginger, chopped

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. Sriracha (I promise this isn’t too spicy – I actually added more to each serving)

3 Tbsp. chopped peanuts

Boil pasta according to directions. Drain, set aside and let cool in a large bowl.

Boil chicken breast for 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Cool 3-5 minutes. Shred with two forks.

Add bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, green onions and broccoli on top of pasta.

Add chicken.

For dressing:

In a food processor, add soy sauce, water, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey, ginger, garlic and Sriracha. Pulse until smooth. Add peanuts and pulse a few more times.

Pour dressing over chicken/veggie/noodle mixture and toss until combined.

Chill at least 1 hour.

Serve and devour. I did add a little more Sriracha and soy to the top of mine and mmmmmmmm was it delicious…

Clearly my goal in life is to make your co-workers jealous…

Squash Boats

I love fresh produce. There is something about walking into a grocery store and surveying all of the yummy, crisp and bright fruits and vegetables. Often times I’ll have a list of things I know I need, but I leave the “produce” section of my list with a few T.B.D.spaces.

Obviously I like to go the store with a purpose…otherwise, I have a lot of fresh fruits vegetables that are not so appealing a week later. So I’ve kind of trained myself to only buy veggies for a week or so at a time. Meal planning has not been my forte in the past, but I have certainly gotten much better about it! I just think it’s fun to go in and see what looks fresh and imagine some delicious side dishes I can make or veggies I can throw into a main course to add some flavor and some color. Too much planning can be disappointing – sometimes the selection isn’t great or it’s completely out (I’ve had kale on my list multiple times and had to find a “plan B”).

Well, one of our absolute favorite side dishes (which is also incredibly WW friendly) involves a lot of vegetables! And cheese. And bacon. And butter. Okay, so I use the light versions of those three ingredients – but still, it’s amazing. These are also really easy to prepare ahead of time – and your guests (or spouse) will be thoroughly impressed with this fancy looking side dish!

Squash Boats (serves 4)

Pretend there is a red bell pepper here...and bacon. =)

2 medium to large yellow squash

1/2 cup chopped tomato

1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup red onion, chopped

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. white pepper

2 Tbsp. fat-free shredded Cheddar

2 slices turkey bacon

Butter spray

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add squash. Cook 10-12 minutes.

Cut up your tomato, bell peppers and onion. Add cheese, salt and pepper. Mix and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook bacon until crisp. Crumble and set aside.

Heat your oven to 350.

Slice squash in half. You may need to let it cool so that you don’t burn your hands! Scoop out the “flesh” (aka seeds and string).

Set hollowed squash halves in a lightly greased baking dish.

Add crumbled bacon to vegetable mixture. (I just ended up using some Bacon Bits). Spoon mixture into squash halves and spray with some butter spray.

Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and boats are heated through.

You can easily adapt these – I leave cheese off one or two when my sister is dining with me. I’m sure you can add some other veggies and make them your own! I made some cold ones a while back with avocado, cucumber, tomato, onion and a lime vinaigrette!

These are SO good for you that you can even make this into just 2 servings…nothing wrong with eating your veggies!

Thanks for reading!

Orange Chicken with Fried Rice

So do you have a type of food that you are rarely in the mood for, but when you are, watch out? No? Just me?

There are some foods I think I could eat for every meal – like sushi. But for some reason, Chinese food rarely sounds good to me. Then, I met the husband, who could actually do those Chinese buffets that just eek me out. He loves Chinese food…and Mexican, another one of my “rare craving” cuisines. (Pizza is always good for both of us though…of course.)

Well – when I started Weight Watchers – it was a lot of chicken and seafood and ground turkey. Nothing wrong with those, but afterd a while it was time to branch out and get really “freaky” – I decided to make Chinese food. And guess what I discovered – when I know what’s in a dish and I make it myself, I friggin love Chinese food!

So now it’s a staple and once you have all of the ingredients, it’s super simple and super delicious!

Orange Chicken for 2:

8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. pickled ginger, minced

1 Tbsp. chili-garlic sauce

1 tsp. Sriracha (or more if you like an extra kick!)

1 Tbsp. orange zest (about 1 medium orange)

2 1/2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice (about 1/2 a medium orange)

2-3 ounces snow peas

1 Tbsp. peanut oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, chili garlic, Sriracha, orange zest and orange juice. Chop the chicken into 1/2 inch pieces and add to liquid. Marinate about 1 hour.

Once chicken has marinated, heat 1 Tbsp. peanut oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, reserving as much of the liquid as possible. Cook 3-4 minutes before flipping. Add remaining liquid and snow peas. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the liquid has thickened into a sauce.

Now for the fried rice…

Vegetable Fried Rice for 2:

1/4 cup egg beaters

1/4 Tbsp. reduced calorie margarine

1/2 medium carrot, diced

2 Tbsp. yellow onion, diced

3 Tbsp. soy sauce (you can always use reduced sodium or reduce to 2 Tbsp. if desired)

1 tsp. black pepper

2 Tbsp. frozen green peas, thawed

1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 1/2 cup cooked white rice

Coat a wok (or large skillet) with non-stick spray and heat to medium. Add egg beaters, swirling around to get a very thin layer of cooked egg. Once it is no longer runny – use a rubber spatula to scrape and break into small pieces. Set aside in a small bowl.

Now add margarine, carrots, onions and garlic and cook until tender – about 5 – 7 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add rice, sesame oil, black pepper, and green peas. Cook 2-3 minutes before adding in soy sauce. Stir well until all of the rice has the “brownish” color to it. Add in egg and stir until it is incorporated.

Serve rice with orange chicken and enjoy!

Bring on the fortune cookies!

Parmesan Green Bean Casserole

Let’s face it folks…sometimes you just don’t have fresh, crisp veggies to pair with your meals. You may think you have veggies in your “crisper” drawer…only you find that they aren’t magic vegetables that have survived 3 weeks in said drawer.

I know, sad face.

Personally, I really enjoy canned french cut green beans. I like them with just a little spray butter, salt and pepper. I like them with crispy onion straws on top.

But my favorite? Sorry (again) to my sister…is with cheese. Duh.

What’s great about this recipe is that it is so easy to throw together and serve it up immediately or you can stick it in the oven if the whole meal timing thing isn’t your forte. It’s also delicious, but I hope you know I’m not going to share a recipe with you that I find repulsive.

So here’s the starting line-up:

Parmesan Green Bean Casserole (for 2)

8 oz. can french cut green beans (it’s the adorable can)

2 oz. fat-free cream cheese

3 Tbsp. skim milk

2 Tbsp. grated reduced fat parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp. garlic salt

1/8 tsp. salt

Add green beans to a small bowl and cook for about 1 minute in the microwave. Drain liquid and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk and cream cheese over medium-low heat. When cream cheese has softened, add Parmesan cheese, salt and garlic salt. Whisk until smooth.

I love my tiny little whisk!

Add the green beans to the cheese mixture and stir until everything is incorporated. Serve immediately or add to casserole dish and transfer to oven.

I had this alongside my Chicken Parmesan paired with some whole wheat spaghetti…and a glass of wine, of course.