Thursday, September 29, 2011

Apple Cider Beef Stew

I created this recipe today after looking at several different ones for apple cider beef stew. Since I'm too lazy to simmer anything on the stove for over 2 hours, I brought the slow cooker into play, and came up with this. It was very tasty, with a nice combination of sweet and savory flavors.

Apple Cider Beef Stew

1/2 lb lean and trimmed stew beef (I buy mine at Walmart, it's called "super trim" there)
1 medium potato, peeled & diced
1 large carrot, peeled & cut into 3/4" chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2" slices
1 medium apple, peeled, cored & diced
1/2 small onion, cut into large squares
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups apple cider*
4 tsp apple cider vinegar

Layer vegetables and meat in bottom of 2 1/2-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle seasonings over meat. Pour cider and vinegar over all. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Makes 3 servings of 1 1/2 cups each.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

While it's not quite the same as grandma's buttery version, this mac and cheese is very creamy, cheesy and satisfying. There is a small amount of flour in the recipe, but it's not enough to bother counting (unless you consume the whole recipe all by yourself). Each serving also contains 1 tsp of healthy oils for the day.

I usually cut this recipe in half and bake it in a 1-quart casserole dish for just my husband and I (and that's what's in the photo). The full recipe as written below contains 6 servings of about 3/4 cup each -- if you plan to eat more or have a large family you might want to double it. The original recipe also uses whole wheat penne, but I find that the medium shells work better and seem more classic "mac and cheese"-like.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

8 oz whole wheat pasta (I use Whole Foods Organic Whole Wheat Shells)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
2 1/3 cups fat free cheddar cheese (divided)
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain & rinse with warm water; set aside. In a large saucepan (a round-bottomed saucier pan works best) heat oil over medium, then whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk gradually until smooth. Bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of cheese and salt and pepper. Stir in pasta. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and top with remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

When it gets a little chilly outside, I love to sit down and relax with a nice cup of hot cocoa. I have a favorite hot cocoa mix recipe that looked like it would be easily made lower calorie, and it turns out I was right! Now I can enjoy my hot cocoa without having to count points for it (except the marshmallows, of course). This would also make a great gift for a fellow Weight Watcher or someone with diabetes.

Homemade Sugar Free Hot Cocoa Mix

4 cups dry nonfat milk powder
1 1/2 cups granulated Splenda
1 cup fat free powder nondairy coffee creamer
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 small box sugar free instant chocolate or chocolate fudge pudding mix*

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Makes 5 1/2 cups of mix. Store tightly sealed. (I use mason jars.) To make cocoa, put 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup mix in a mug (depending on how rich you want it), add 8 oz hot water, and stir.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Texas Trail Beef Macaroni

This recipe gets passed around a lot on the Weight Watchers Power Foods board. I believe it was originally posted by Anne, and I have seen it posted many times by others as well, always with rave reviews. I had been meaning to try it for a while but never had a full box of whole wheat elbow macaroni or enough tomato sauce. Yesterday, I purchased both and decided to give it a try. I am very pleased with the results -- tasty, cheap, and made a lot of leftovers for later lunches and dinners.

Texas Trail Beef Macaroni

Source: Anne from the Power Foods Board

1 lb 93% lean ground beef
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
32 oz beef broth
29 oz tomato sauce
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried basil
4 cups dried whole wheat elbow macaroni

In a large stockpot, brown ground beef with onion and garlic. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, cover and cook 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve topped with fat free cheddar cheese and/or sour cream, if desired. Makes 8 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cinnamon Vanilla Applesauce

In the fall, one of our local orchards here in Southern Indiana sells half-bushels of "utility" apples for a cheap price. I bought one last year and made a lot of apple butter, apple pie filling, and applesauce. This year, I bought another, looking forward to canning some yummy goodies for my husband and I to enjoy this winter. First up? Cinnamon Vanilla Applesauce. I used a 5.5 qt slow cooker for this recipe, and had it full to the brim with finely chopped apples when I started. This made 6 full pints to can plus one mostly filled pint to enjoy as a reward for all of that hard work. :) If you want to can this, use my recipe...if not, use the original version linked below.

Cinnamon Vanilla Applesauce

Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

25-30 small and medium-sized Jonathan apples (depending on size), about 8 lbs
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
2 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar or raw cane sugar (see note below)
1 1/2 cups water

Peel & core apples, and finely chop using a food processor (working in batches). As each batch comes out of the food processor, dump it into the Crock Pot with the lemon juice and stir to prevent apples from browning. (If some browning occurs, it's okay...this is a spiced applesauce so you won't be able to tell.) Stir in vanilla extract, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour water over all. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours or high for 2 hours. Very carefully puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. (Hot liquids will expand in a regular blender so be sure you pop the top vent loose and cover it with a kitchen towel while blending.)

Processing: Ladle applesauce into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Wipe rims, place lids on top, and secure with rings. Process in waterbath canner for 20 minutes. Remove from canner and allow jars to sit undisturbed for 24 hours to cool completely. Check seals. Reprocess any unsealed jars or refrigerate and enjoy within 7 days.

You could also freeze the applesauce if you prefer not to can it. Ball makes stackable freezer jars that work perfectly for this purpose. To freeze it, just allow it to cool and ladle into freezer containers, refrigerate overnight, then freeze.

Note: There is a small amount of sugar in this recipe, which I left in because of sugar's preservative properties in canning. However, there is nothing to count in a serving. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Quick & Easy Chili

I love easy recipes, and when it gets cool outside, I love chili. This recipe brings them both together in a simple but tasty chili that is ready in less than 30 minutes. It's very flexible and versatile -- you can add extra veggies (like green peppers), sub veggie burger crumbles for the ground beef, use ground turkey or ground chicken, use a different kind of beans, whatever suits your fancy! It's more of a sweet chili than a spicy one, so if you want extra spice, sub out a can of Mexican-style diced tomatoes for one of the cans of diced tomatoes, add a can of diced green chiles, or add some cumin or cayenne. This recipe is also very easily pared down for fewer servings -- I usually make a half batch for dinner, and end up with one bowl left over for lunch the next day.

Quick & Easy Chili

1 lb 93% lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (not drained)
2 14.5 oz cans kidney beans (rinsed & drained)
2 tbsp chili powder

Brown ground beef with onion in a large pot. When beef is done, drain excess fat and add remaining ingredients. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Serve topped with fat free cheddar cheese and sour cream. Makes 6 servings of about 1 1/2 cups each.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

With a bit of a fall chill entering the air, it's time for all of those seasonal, pumpkin-y things to come out and play. Some I like and some I don't, but this was pretty tasty. I used apple pie spice instead of pumpkin pie spice because I don't like cloves anyway and didn't feel like going out to buy some. I don't think it affected the flavor at all!

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

1 Weight Watchers French Vanilla smoothie packet
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or apple pie spice, or cinnamon and nutmeg)

Put all ingredients together in a blender and blend away! Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tex Mex Summer Squash Casserole

I found this recipe while looking for a vegetarian casserole for my "Meatless Monday." Since I had a couple of large zucchini from the farmer's market waiting to be used up, I decided to give it a go. I cut the original recipe in half and modified the serving size to fit the needs of our two-person family. If you are feeding more than 4 people or you have big appetites, you'll want to double the recipe. In the interest of full disclosure, I used 2% cheese when I made this because I needed to use some up before it went bad. If you use fat free cheddar instead, the only non-power food to worry about is the flour, which isn't enough to bother counting unless you eat the whole casserole. ;)

It turned out delicious, with the green chiles adding more flavor than heat; just the way I like it! Another good addition might be some drained & rinsed black beans to up the fiber & protein a bit. It was fairly filling as written though.

Tex Mex Summer Squash Casserole

Adapted from

1 1/4 lbs zucchini or summer squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
4 oz can green chiles
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sharp cheddar cheese, divided (fat free)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mild salsa

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine squash, onion, chiles, salt, and 1/2 cup cheese. Sprinkle flour over top and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to 8x8" casserole dish coated with cooking spray and cover with foil. Bake 35-45 minutes or until squash is done and casserole is bubbling. Spoon salsa over top, cover with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, until golden and heated through, about 20-30 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pumpkin Polenta Muffins

Another yummy healthy baked good! These are basically a pumpkin-flavored and seasoned corn muffin. A nice, filling way to have a fall-themed baked good without breaking the bank. ;) One was plenty for a nice afternoon snack.

Pumpkin Polenta Muffins
Posted on the Weight Watchers Power Foods Board by Lynn

2 cups canned pumpkin (one can)
1 cup Egg Beaters® 99% egg substitute
1 cup granulated Splenda
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used apple pie spice and a little extra cinnamon because I had it on hand; you could also use 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp each of ginger and nutmeg.)
1 cup skim milk
2 cups cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill Stone Ground Cornmeal, medium grind)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon into 12 regular-sized muffin cups and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sweet Potato & Chipotle Soup

Time for another of Martha's recipes! :) This soup was a delicious way to enjoy the nutrition of a sweet potato, with a slight heat and smoky flavor. With its bright orange color, it seems perfect for fall! I served it with slices of a multigrain loaf from Walmart's bakery (counting points for that) and a dollop of fat free sour cream stirred into each bowl. I also cut the original recipe in half to size it down for my two-person family. ;)

Sweet Potato & Chipotle Soup

Adapted from

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped
1/2 or 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
3 1/2 cups fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth
Salt & pepper
Fat free sour cream, for serving

In a medium to large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt & pepper, and cook until edges of onion start to brown, about 7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 1 minute). Stir in sweet potatoes, chile, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer rapidly until potatoes can be easily mashed with the back of a spoon (about 20-25 minutes). Let cool slightly, then puree carefully in batches in a blender. Pour back into pot and rewarm over low heat. Stir a dollop of fat free sour cream into each bowl.

Makes 3 servings of 2 cups each, with 1 tsp of healthy oils per serving.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Minestrone with White Beans & Collard Greens

A friend of mine recently recommended an excellent collection of 60 quick and easy soups on the Martha Stewart web site. You'll probably be seeing quite a few of them on this blog in the fall and winter months. ;) I chose this soup for tonight because I had a bag of collard greens in the fridge I purchased for another meal that I ended up not making. Not wanting to waste them (or the many cans of Great Northern beans I discovered in my pantry last week), I decided to give it a try.

Minestrone with Collard Greens and White Beans

Adapted from

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
coarse salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb bag pre-chopped collard greens, or 2 bunches, chopped (discard stems)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cans (15.5 oz each) great northern beans
14.5 oz can diced Italian style tomatoes in juice

Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic; season with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, rinse & drain beans in colander. Take 1/4th of beans and place in bowl; mash with back of spoon. Add tomato paste to onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is coated. Add greens, thyme, and pepper flakes. Cook and stir 2-4 minutes, until greens start to wilt. Add all beans to the pot, along with tomatoes and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes or until greens are tender.

Makes 8 servings of 1 1/2 cups each, with 1/2 tsp of your healthy oil in each serving.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Stew

I have seen this recipe in a few different places on the internet, with different variations. Today, I made my own variation in the slow cooker, since the heat has returned here in Indiana and the last thing I want to do is heat up the kitchen running the oven or simmering something on the stove. It's super easy to throw together, and fairly cheap, especially considering that it makes 8 servings. The chicken taco seasoning gives it a different flavor from regular ground beef taco seasoning. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before all of the leftovers were either gone or in the freezer! I will take one the next time I make it and update the post.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Stew

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups frozen corn
15 oz can Mexican-style diced tomatoes, with liquid
15 oz can regular diced tomatoes, with liquid
15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 packet McCormick Chicken Taco Seasoning
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Mix all ingredients except chicken in 4 1/2-quart slow cooker (larger is fine). Lay chicken on top and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Remove chicken breasts, allow to cool slightly, shred with forks, and stir back into stew. Enjoy!

The serving size is 1 generous (slightly heaping) cup, and the recipe makes 8 servings.