Monday, March 31, 2008

Ice Cream Sammich - 1.5 pts

Ever been like "oh man, I totally love ice cream sammiches, but they're four points! Damn this Weight Watchers business," and then cried yourself to sleep over a bowl of Fiber One? Well, I've a recipe tailored just for you. And it's easy. Here's the gist of it:

Ice Cream Sammich
Adapted from hearsay

1 long chocolate graham cracker
2 tbsp Fat Free Cool Whip

Break cracker in half, spread your Whip, wrap in foil and freeze. You have the option of putting the sammiches in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing for three hours, then wrapping, but I've had plenty of success using half-thawed Cool Whip and wrapping them immediately.

A regular ice cream sandwich is worth 4 points, these are just 1.5. If you wanna go for the gusto, you can make a long one, but that wouldn't really help your portion control problem, now would it?

1.5 points for 1 sammich: 80 calories, .5g fiber, 1.5g fat

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fake Food Thursday - Fat Free Half and Half

Welcome to Fake Food Thursday! This week we're looking at fat free half and half!

If you're like me and cook with a lot of cream, you'll find that often-times it's in the recipe to add a little flavor to soups and veggie dishes. But since we're told to drink only skim milk, it must be obvious that heavy cream is no good for people on a diet. So what's a cream-lover to do?

Fat free half and half is the way to go. I don't really know how they make it so thick, but by itself it tastes a little sweet. No matter, in recipes it comes out wonderful. I've used it to make a naughty custard, creamier pudding, and I hope to try alfredo sometime soon, but in no instance has it let me down so my hopes
are high.

Cut to table.

Cream Comparison Per 1/4 Cup Serving

CaloriesFatWW Points
Heavy Cream205226
Light Cream134134
Half and Half7972
Land O'Lakes or Garelick Farms Fat Free Half and Half4901
Simply Smart Fat Free Half and Half300.5

These were the only brands of fat free half and half that I could find, and it's worth noting that there's only a .2 point difference among the three fat free options here, but since Weight Watchers insists on its rounding error, one looks like .5 points and the other 1. If you're using either in quantity, be sure to calculate based on the total calories.

I've tried the Land O'Lakes and the Simply Smart and they're equally proficient. I've heard tell that evaporated milk works well too, and I'll be personally taste-testing these options some time soon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Miso Hungry Mushroom Soup - 2 pts

I spent last night with a friend who made me a fantastic mushroom soup. You're probably thinking of the reconstituted Campbell's variety that was so prevalent in mid-century cooking, but it's not that nasty stuff. Now in all fairness, I refuse to try it, so it could taste good, but the idea is a total turn-off. This recipe is just as easy, a hundred times fresher, and only 2 points for a huge bowl of the stuff. You won't regret this.

The proportions here aren't terribly important, just make it to taste. Does the pound of mushrooms seem a bit much? Use fewer. Don't like onion? Leave it out. You can easily add veggies to this, but the mushroom, garlic, onion and scallions are the "true" miso ingredients (at least according to the bowls I have at Americanized Asian restaurants). I suggested putting a dash of fish sauce in there for a bit of Asian authenticity, but sometimes I leave it out of recipes just because I don't want my pantry to smell like fermented fish for the next week, so I can imagine that would deter some people from putting it in there at all.

Allie's Miso Hungry Mushroom Soup
Adapted from watching Allie make it

1 lb mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 tsp olive oil
8 c veggie, chicken or beef broth (bouillon works just fine)
1/4 - 1/2 c soy sauce (reduced sodium has fewer calories, but this isn't terribly caloric to begin with)
dash of fish sauce (if available and desired)
6 stalks scallions

Heat up the olive oil in a large pot (it has to hold about 2 quarts of broth alone, let that be a guide). Slice your mushrooms, press your garlic, and slice your onion into thin little rings and strings, then toss them in and sautee for a bit. Once the onion is starting to get translucent, add in your broth.

Now this part is important: first, give it a little taste. Next, add the soy sauce, one tablespoon at a time, until the proportions are to your liking (and the fish sauce too, if that's your thing). NOW you can bring the pot to a light boil. Keep an eye on it, and when your mushrooms are done, your soup is done.

Slice the scallions into those little scallion rings and sprinkle into the soup. Serve and enjoy!

2 points per 2.5 cup serving (1/4 batch): 128 calories, 4.5g fiber, .4g fat

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spiced Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup - 5.5 pts

My first couple weeks on Weight Watchers were really tough. Before WW, I was that chick who always got alfredo every time it's on the menu, then ate the whole pound of pasta and I can tell you where the best alfredo is in the state, but I'm not going to because that would kind of defeat the purpose of WWFF.

At that point, I thought that I was going to have to shun forever all my favorite meals because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to substitute, nor what foods were substitute-able. But I found a winner in grilled cheese and tomato soup. Pretty much any tomato soup will do, but if you're making the Campbell's condensed variety, make sure you use water. I prefer the Campbell's Select Tomato Soup, as it isn't as watery as the condensed stuff ends up being, and has fewer calories than preparing the condensed with milk.

I also use Kraft fat free American cheese slices, which are uber processed, taste gross raw, but only .5 points a slice and when melted is surprisingly yummy—no weird aftertaste or anything. I'm still using up my WW whole wheat bread, but if you're sick of whole wheat Allie found a light french bread with only 70 calories for two slices. So go to your grocery store, line up your bread options and use your little slider to find a reasonable compromise.

Spiced Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Using Dano's spice mix!

2 slices bread
2-3 slices fat free American or Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp Smart Beat Smart Squeeze
salt & pepper
a pinch each: chili powder, cayenne pepper, basil and oregano

1 can tomato soup

Prepare your soup. Squirt some fake butter on there, sprinkle the spices, then use a butter knife to smooth the spices into the "butter." Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray (Smart Beat sticks to pans), lay down a slice of bread, butter side down, then the cheese, then the other slice of bread. This seems really involved, but it's the neatest way to do it and the liquid butter makes the bread super hard to handle. You can put some tomatoes between your cheese slices for free.

Serve with an entire can tomato soup. It's heavenly.

5.5 points per serving, 320 calories, 7g fiber, 1g fat

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon) - 2.5 pts each

These are a special treat for me when I can find them at restaurants. They're often listed as Summer Rolls, but the literal translation is "mix salad roll" (thanks, Wikipedia). Usually I hate the word "salad" unless preceded by "ham," "tuna," "potato," "pasta," or "bacon cheese and roast beef," but I make a special exceptions for the particularly delicious, and that includes these rolls.

The traditional recipe includes pork and peanuts, but they're equally yummy without the extra fat, I promise. Most recipes also include mint and cilantro, but I rarely see basil; I think the basil balances the flavor of the cilantro. I like to put my condiments directly in the wrapper, and they're not really the "appropriate" ones, but they're the ones I always have on hand, and they definitely work. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can throw whatever you want in there for veggies, so this is just a guideline.

Goi Cuon
Adapted from restaurants and stuff

16 sheets rice paper (banh trang)
8 oz rice noodles (banh hoi), cooked
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 lb shrimp, steamed and cut in half lengthwise
1 bunch mint, leaves only
1 bunch basil, leaves only
1 cucumber, sliced into thin sticks, skin-on and seeds removed
1 cup shredded carrot (or use a potato peeler to make thin strands)
Hoison Sauce
Sriracha Sauce
1 head lettuce, cut into 1/2 inch strips (bib lettuce has more flavor, but any will do)
8 oz bean sprouts

Prep all your veggies according to the ingredient list, and create a little assembly line of your ingredients in the prep area because you're going to be moving fast. Lay a clean town down where you'll be rolling the uh, rolls. Now get ready to rock and roll [editor's note: I didn't realize this was a pun until after I was done writing the recipe, so, uh, pun unintended?]

There are a lot of *things* in each roll, so do a test run and try to include very small amounts of everything. Then you can adjust amounts so you know that everything will fit.

Fill a large bowl with warm, not hot, water. Lay a sheet of the rice paper in the bowl, make sure the whole thing gets wet, then place on your towel. The order of the insides doesn't matter much, but you can create a prettier arrangement by starting with four cilantro leaves in the middle of the paper. Behind that, arrange about 5-6 shrimp slices in a row, like they're spooning. Next 4 leaves mint, 2 large basil leaves, a pinch of cucumber sticks, a pinch of carrot shreds, a little squiggle each of sriracha and hoison, some lettuce, about 1/2 oz bean sprouts, then about 1/2 oz rice noodles.

Next, fold in the sides, then starting from the end nearest you, roll away from you. Set onto a plate with the seam of the wrapper down, just to make sure it doesn't spring open on ya. Cuz then it'd be a spring roll.

Repeat 16 times. Serve to your friends and impress the hell out of them.

2 points per roll (1/16 of batch): 119 calories, 1.8g fiber, .8g fat

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fake Food Thursday - Liquid Butter Substitute

I'd like to point out that, "Fake Food Thursday" would have way better alliteration if I had an urban Brit accent. So think of Ali G saying it.

I'm going to use Thursdays to highlight products that are great substitutes or fit surprisingly well into the plan. I compare my points A LOT at the grocery store, and often times you can save yourself a point or even two a serving by buying the right brand of what at first glance appears to be the exact same thing. These aren't actually fake food, but that's more fun than, say, Substitution Sunday or Mow On This Monday (is it 'mow?' maybe 'mau' or 'mao?')

The first product I want to feature is one that gets a lot of buzz and has a bit of controversy around it . . . I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray. This little pump bottle gets people stoked because 5 spritzes are free! Needless to say this sounds a little too good to be true, and it is. First of all, the serving size is half what I use on a single piece of toast. Secondly, people dump it all over everything they eat. But I think every meeting my leader mentions how there's 900 calories in that 8oz bottle of spray, so is there a suitable alternative?

Why yes there is! I did a little digging and found a product called Smart Beat Smart Squeeze and did some comparison work. ICBINB is all well and good to spritz, but how does it measure up in terms of the tablespoon I put on my piece of toast? Check it out.

Butter Comparison Per 1 Tbsp Serving

CaloriesFatWW Points
Real Butter100453
Land O Lakes Light Butter4551.5
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray113133.5
Smart Beat Smart Squeeze (by Smart Balance)131.5

Did you see something there? SOMETHING INCREDIBLE? Yes, that's right, ICBINB is great for portioning out butter, but if you're going to do that you're better off spritzing full fat butter through that nozzle because it will actually be FEWER points. I'm renaming this product to I Can't Believe It Has More Calories Than Butter Spray.

The good news is that Smart Beat business starts to look pretty good. It's carried at Shaw's and is a truly good substitute in cooking, though you wouldn't be able to use it in baking and it sticks to pans, so don't throw away your nonstick spray just yet. Maybe there's something to be said about curbing down fat cravings, but if you're dipping your pizza crusts in this stuff anyway, Smart Beat's your best bet.

That said, Smart Balance blends, the sticks that are half Smart Beat and half real butter have the same nutrition content as butter. So read and compare every label. It's also worth noting that Smart Balance tastes great and carries organic and vegan butter as well, carrying universal appeal to diets of all kinds.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turkey-Veggie Burger - 3 pts

Oh hell, I'm on a burger spell.

I've been reading the Weight Watchers Recipe blog for awhile now, but haven't seen much in the way of innovative recipes (hence WWFF—that's my fancy new abbreviation for 'Weight Watchers for the Foodie'). HOWEVER, they had a fantastic recipe for Chicken Burgers today and I gave it a shot tonight. It's kind of a hybrid between a chicken patty and a veggie burger, except the good kind that isn't trying to taste like meat. Caution: the picture looks nothing like what you get.

The good ideas are the chicken patty bulked up with veggies and served on a whole wheat English muffin. I found that Thomas' Light Multigrain are the friendlist to the plan--just half a point for an entire muffin. I almost started jumping up and down in the grocery store.

I kept the main ideas of the original, but made it a smaller batch and modified according to my experience with it. Here goes!

Turkey-Veggie Burgers
Adapted from Weight Watchers Recipes' Chicken Burgers Recipe

4oz ground turkey
2 tbsp egg substitute, lightly beaten
2 oz mushrooms (about 3 medium button mushrooms), chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoons soy sauce, salt reduced
4 whole wheat English muffins
1/2 tomato
some lettuce leaves

Toss the mushrooms, celery, onion, egg white and soy sauce into your food processor and grind until smooth. Mix your veggies with your ground chicken and enough bread crumbs to make a texture like regular beef patties. Divide and roll into 8 balls, then pat these down into patties; cook in a sprayed nonstick pan until chicken is no longer pink and the patty stays together well.

Toss those suckers on an English muffin with your choice of lettuce, tomato, extra onion, ketchup and/or mustard.

3 points per burger (1/4 batch): 180 calories, 9.4g fiber, 3.4g fat

The Ubiquitous Portabella Mushroom Burger - 1 pt

This is one I thought I came up with on my own, but apparently it's a big seller in the WW community—and with good reason. I find it hard to work meat into my diet on WW, particularly beef, which is really the only kind I like. Portabellas are nice and meaty and practically calorie-free. I find them to be an extremely satisfying addition to dinner, almost like fast-food for dessert. I eat them without bread, as the bread just seems to get in the way and adds unnecessary points (but feel free to throw it on a slice of WW toast if that's your thing, just don't forget the added points).

I couldn't find a lot of details on HOW to cook the mushroom, so here's what I do. You'll notice the points are not 0, which is what they usually claim this burger is worth, but I included all condiments, the broth and veggies and it works out to 1pt. Still not bad, right?

The Ubiquitous Portabella Mushroom Burger

1 Portabella mushroom cap
1/4 c chicken broth (or veggie broth)
2 slices tomato
1 slice onion, chopped
1 leaf lettuce
Optional for .5 pt: 1 slice fat free cheese (Kraft takes a decent stab at this, but it only tastes good when melted)

Rub the mushroom with a paper towel to get all the dirt off. I'd read that mushrooms have enough moisture without being rinsed, and anyway, I never found that rinsing mushrooms worked particularly well in terms of the moist soil all over them. Take a few jabs at the mushroom with a knife, this lets the moisture out and keeps the mushroom from burning too easily. Heat up a little bit of the chicken broth in a nonstick pan, then add the mushroom. Cover with a lid and let cook about 15 minutes. Check up on it every five minutes or so and add more broth as needed.

Once the mushroom seems reasonably done, throw a slice of the cheese on there if you want it and put the lid back on til it's melted. Then put your patty in a bowl, smear some ketchup and mustard over it, then top with onions, tomato and lettuce. It tastes so much like a burger it's remarkable.

1 point per serving(without cheese): 79 calories, 1.9g fiber, .1g fat
1.5 points per serving with cheese: 109 calories, 1.9g fiber, .1 g fat

Monday, March 17, 2008

Open-Faced Oatmeal Sammich - 4.5 pts

This is a favourite from my childhood, it's super filling, though probably less of a foodie-food than I usually do. Makes for a great way to start the day, though, and only four points altogether.

2 slices WW whole wheat bread
1 pkg maple sugar oatmeal
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray

Toast bread, prepare oatmeal. Spray butter on toast, spread oatmeal over toast, gnosh all over that business.

4.5 points per whole sammich: 250 calories, 8g fiber, 2.5g fat

Turkey Taco Chili - 3.5 pts

This is a great recipe I got off the back of a package of lean ground turkey, but I can't remember what brand and can't seem to find the recipe online anywhere. This means I get to take credit! Hooray!

This chili tastes a lot like tacos, mostly because of the cumin and is actually quite healthy. Just 3.5 pts for 1 cup, and a cup filled me even pre-WW. If you wanna go all-out, add a quarter a cup (dollop) of fat free yogurt in place of sour cream (add .5 pts) or a quarter cup fat free cottage cheese (1 pt). With such a light meal, you can really afford to add to it.

This is also a little mild, so if you want to be really bold, use hot salsa and switch up the 1 tbsp chili powder with .5 tbsp chili powder and .5 tbsp cayenne pepper. I gotta say, if you go over that proportion, you're gonna be sitting in heat. I love spice, but found it practically inedible the time I though that chili powder=cayenne pepper. It really does not.

Turkey Taco Chili
Origin unknown

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves minced or pressed garlic
1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 x 28oz can stewed or diced tomatoes
1 x 14.5oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 c salsa or picante sauce

Cook onion and garlic in olive oil 5 minutes. Add turkey and spices and cook 5 more minutes. Add everything else and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered 10 mninutes, stirring occasionally.

3.5 points per 1 c serving (1/6 batch): 204 calories, 5.4g fiber, 1.6g fat

Greek Pasta - 6.5 pts

In college I got this cookbook of quick (and cheap!) meals for Kids Who Are Just Moving Into An Apartment Where Mom Doesn't Cook, and it was fantastic. I had two copies, gave one away, and somehow lost my own, until I found the UNH Good Eats website which had all the recipes right there! Woohoo!

One of my favourite meals of all time (and truth be told, I've never made it for anyone who didn't love it) is Greek Style Pasta. This one doesn't require many modifications to add up to about 7 pts per serving, and we're talking big servings here—1/4 of a batch. I halved the amount of pasta to 1/2 lb, since the sauce is so delicious that I sometimes even eat it alone. Still, having a little bit of carbiness in there helps make you feel fuller.

Also, don't be scared of the spinach. This is an excellent dish if you think you don't like spinach because it's fresh and just barely wilted. The result is an unobtrusive flavour that doesn't make everything taste like dirt and almost has a cheesey sort of taste to it. If you're reheating this, however, I'd recommend leaving out the spinach til it's go time. More on that later.

Feta was included in the original recipe, but didn't seem to add much to the flavour. It's amazing how such a simple dish can be so delicious!

Greek Style Pasta
Adapted from UNH's Good Eats: Quick & Easy Food for Busy College Students

1 tsp olive oil
4 minced or pressed garlic cloves
1 x 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp Kosher salt
1 x 15-19oz can cannellini drained & rinsed
10 oz coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach
8 oz penne pasta (I used Dreamfields to calculate points)

Cook your pasta. While it's cooking, heat oil in a large pot and cook garlic for a minute. The large pot will be very helpful later one when you're trying to add a full bag of spinach to the mix and don't want it to flop out all over your stove. Add the full can of tomatoes, juice and all, the beans that have been rinsed, and your spices. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook uncovered 10 minutes.

If you're making some of this for later on, remove that portion now. The spinach doesn't reheat well, and you're better off nuking the leftovers, then stirring in the fresh spinach at that point.

Now, scale the spinach to whatever you're keeping. So if you're serving half the batch tonight, then you'll want to throw in only half the spinach. Stir it in until it's just barely wilted, then remove from heat and serve on the pasta that is probably done by now.


6.5 points per 1/4 batch: 355 calories, 16g fiber, 1g fat

Green Bean Casserole - 2 pts

This recipe was the first to really highlight the difference between Regular People Food and Foodies' Food. It's Nook and Pantry's The Foodie's Green Bean Casserole and it's divine. In its previous form, the complete recipe is at 40 pts, but with a few substitutions you can make it WW friendly at just 10 points for the entire dish (consider that absent French Fried Onions alone are about 10 pts). Eat half for 5 (at WW portions, it is quite filling) or a quarter for 3 and pair with some lean meat for a well-balanced meal!

Image courtesy of Nook and Pantry

The Foodie's Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Nook and Pantry

1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and broken in half
8 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped (these are also called Baby Bella in some places)
3 tbsp Land O'Lakes Light Butter
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
1/2 c chicken stock (chicken broth and Better Than Bouillon also work)
1/4 c Land O'Lakes Fat Free Half and Half
1 sauteed chopped onion

Preheat the oven to 400o F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushroom, garlic, some salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms are starting to release their liquid. When the liquid is starting to reduce, add the beans and cook until they are bright green and still a bit crunchy, about 5 minutes. You will only bake the casserole for a few minutes in the oven so cook the beans a little less than your desired tenderness.

While the beans are cooking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the flour, whisk and cook until the roux is slightly golden. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, while continually whisking. Simmer the mixture for about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the half and half, and add the green bean and mushroom pieces; toss to coat.

Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 Pyrex or a 9" diameter pie dish. Sprinkle with sauteed onions. Bake about 10 minutes.

Many thanks to Nook & Pantry!

2 points per 1/4 batch: 129 calories, 5.2g fiber, 5g fat

About Weight Watchers for the Foodie!

Four or five years ago I lost a ton of weight by cutting out processed foods and eating tons of vegetables. Unfortunately, I gained that weight back by getting used to restaurant food and getting an office job. These days I feel like I eat alright, but obviously not well enough, so I joined Weight Watchers.

Big problem: in the meantime I've become a bit of a foodie. Stirfry every night isn't going to cut it any more, but that's not to say that it can't be done! I checked out WW's recipe list (created by members!) and found it clunky and not always great—recipes were a little bland and it was hard to find things I would really even want to make. Food blogs have spoiled me with tantalizing photos of delicious foods I'd never even thought to make before, and now I demand pictures.

This blog is meant to give credit to the food blogs I love with modifications to the recipe and points. I'm gonna try to get pictures with permission, but I promise, just about every link I give will have photos to make you drool, even if I couldn't get it for myself.

So enjoy! Leave comments! Make suggestions! Hopefully people will read this.