Friday, January 28, 2011

Spicy Lentil & Sausage Soup

Ode to a Lentil

Lentil, your wholesome.
Lentil, you're tasty.
Lentil, you make my
Dinnertime hasty.

Okay, so I'm no Robert Frost. But I do love me some lentils! And what's not to love? They're nutritional powerhouses. They're just about as cheap as food comes these days. They're versatile. They're quick. And they're delicious. This soup has just three main ingredients, yet the flavors that come out of it suggest a much more complex recipe. Warm your belly and your taste buds this winter. Belly up to a bowl of lentil soup. Here's a great way to make it.

Spicy Lentil & Sausage Soup
Serves 4 or 6 (8 Points Plus value at 4 servings; 5 Points Plus Value at 6 servings)

What You Need:
  • 1 lb turkey sausage (hot is what I used)
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 6 cups chicken stock (homemade is best by far)
  • salt & pepper to taste
How it's Done:
  1. Brown the turkey sausage, but do not drain when you're done.
  2. Add the chicken stock.
  3. Add the lentils.
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender but not mushy.
  5. If the soup is too thick, add more stock. I like mine thick. Salt and pepper to taste before serving.

One year ago: Buttermilk Bread

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Menu Plan: 1/26 through 2/2

A day late, but here nonetheless. Here's my weekly menu plan for dinner:

Wednesday (yesterday): Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Thursday (today): Crock Pot Italian Chicken & Veggies on Rotini; Whole Wheat dinner roll

Friday: Burgers on Sandwich Thins & Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Saturday: Spanish Tortilla & baked apple pancake

Sunday: Classic American Pot Roast

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Lentil Soup with Turkey Sausage

Wednesday: Steak, Fries, Broccoli, and Dinner Rolls

What's on your menu this week? Are you trying anything new?

Pasta with Vodka Sauce...on Weight Watchers!

I want to take minute to talk to you all about one of most dieter's pet peeves. The ever-present Food Police. You know the type. They are always asking things like, "Should you be eating that?" or "Are you allowed to eat that on Weight Watchers?" or "Isn't that high in fat/calories/carbs?"

First: If you love a person and truly have their best interest at heart, phrase the question nicely, calmly, and in a caring manner. We might still snip at you, but your intentions will show through and we'll appreciate the support. I mean, if I was about to sit down to a pan full of brownies, I'd want my husband to ask me if I really thought that was a good idea. I would want the support.

But if I'm sitting down to a brownie a la mode, with a big ol' grin on my happy face, I've already counted the points values for those items on my plate. I've planned. I've sacrificed. And gosh darn it, I'm going to enjoy every bite of it.

And I'm allowed to eat whatever I want to eat. Even brownies. Even a la mode.

And so Food Police asking if I can/should/really want to/am allowed to eat that decadent dessert are just nosy and rude.

Weight Watchers isn't about deprivation. As a matter of fact, we're encouraged to treat ourselves, however we see fit, every week, even!

This recipe uses vodka sauce. Vodka sauce has heavy whipping cream in it! Yes, even heavy whipping cream has a place in Weight Watchers.

This is a Weight Watchers recipe, mildly modified to suit what I had on hand. And it goes from pan to table in the time it takes to cook the pasta!

Pasta with Vodka Sauce
Serves 6 (9 Points Plus value per serving)

What You Need:
  • 12 oz pasta (penne is traditional but use what you have)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
How it's Done:
  1. Cook pasta al dente and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute' the onion and garlic for three minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for about five minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan.
  4. Pour in the vodka, cook and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, for three minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Cook and stir three more minutes.
  6. Toss sauce with the pasta. Yields about one cup per serving.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Announcing Something Exciting...

What would you do with a cool $50 from CSN Stores? Would you pick up a new laptop messenger bag?

Or maybe you're in the market for a new baker's rack. This one would look stylish in the kitchen!

No matter what you're looking for, you can find it at I've been fortunate to work with CSN stores as a preferred blogger for several months now, doing giveaways and reviews. I think very highly of the company, and I look forward to giving one of my lucky readers the chance to get to know CSN Stores, too. Look for the giveaway very soon!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Breakfast for Dinner

A really great way to stretch your grocery budget AND to make your family think they're getting a great treat is to serve breakfast for dinner. I do it once a week now. I was afraid that when I started Weight Watchers, I'd have to give up my breakfast for dinner routine. As a matter of fact, I thought I'd have to give up a lot of things.

As it turns out, I gave up nothing, except for 35 pounds so far (since mid-September). I still eat everything I used to eat. I just watch my portion sizes. I have never, not once, felt deprived, or "on a diet" since beginning with Weight Watchers. And that's key to sticking to a weight loss plan, isn't it? Feeling satisfied!

Last night, we had pumpkin waffles (two waffles each, for just 5 points!) and baked apples. It was delicious, satisfying, and belly-warming on that cold winter night. I want to share with you the recipe for baked apples. I modified it slightly from the original Weight Watchers recipe, but the Points Plus value remains the same.

Baked Apples
serves 6 (5 points each)

What You Need:
  • 6 apples (I used red delicious, because they were on sale!)
  • 12 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp chopped toasted pecans
How it's Done:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each apple, so that it stands up straight in your baking dish.
  3. Scoop out the core with a knife and spoon or a melon baller, but leave the bottom intact.
  4. Fill each apple with 2 Tbsp raisins. Sprinkle them with the cinnamon.
  5. Combine the cider and maple syrup. Pour this around the apples.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for about an hour. Baste the apples with the syrup/juice mixture every ten minutes.
  7. Top each apple with 1 Tbsp yogurt and 1 tsp chopped pecans. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pardon My Dust

...I'm changing some things on the blog. Weight Watchers is important to me. It's already helped me to lose over 35 pounds. Now, I'm reaching out and sharing my journey. You can expect home-cooked, healthy recipes. No weird processed foods. No added fiber (Fiber One..blech!). Just the same good stuff as always... with Points attached.

I'm looking for new blog design items right now, so we're going to have a period of awkward adjustment.

It's gonna be a great year!


Saturday Baking

I got myself a little present. A pizelle maker. I've been waiting until Saturday to use it, because my Weight Watchers Points reset on Saturdays, and it's the day I've designating for relaxing my eating AND for baking.

So I made some yummy cookies.
This is a messy project. Keep a wash cloth handy.

I first tried a pizelle at the home of an Italian friend. She made traditional, anise-flavored cookies. I was impressed not only with the flavor, but also the texture of the cookie and its presentation.

Ever since then, I've wanted a pizelle maker. I got mine from for about $50.
Pizelle makers' nooks and crannies are much shallower than waffle irons'.

Pizelles can be formed into cannoli shells, waffle cones, or any number of finger foods (fruit and cream in pizelle bowls would be gorgeous). However, they're super yummy plain, straight off the cooling rack. And that's how we're eating them today.

Chocolate Pizelles
makes 24 large cookies, at 3 Weight Watchers Points Plus value each cookie

What You Need:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled (salted sweet cream butter)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
How it's Done:
  1. Plug in and preheat your pizelle maker. Spray it with nonstick cooking spray or brush it with melted butter (only do this before your first batch of the day).
  2. Beat eggs with sugar until smooth and creamy yellow. Add butter and cocoa powder.
  3. Gently fold in flour and baking powder only until combined.
  4. Drop by heaping tablespoon onto preheated pizelle maker and close the lid.
  5. Bake 30 to 45 seconds each batch. Remove from maker with spatula. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Menu Plan 1/19 through 1/26

To help keep variety in our menus, I've implemented a commonly used strategy in my meal planning. The skeleton of the plan is done for me, and all that's left to do is fill in the blanks. Here's what I mean:

Every Monday, I'll serve leftovers. On Tuesdays, poultry will make an appearance on my table. Wednesdays will fill us with some sort of beef. Thursdays are reserved for my Crock Pot or a casserole dish, often featuring beans. Fridays are my junky days (made wholesome, of course), with hand-held foods like burgers, pizza, tacos, or a simple pasta dish. Saturdays, it's breakfast for dinner. And Sundays will always feature a traditional roasted family meal, like ham or whole roasted chicken, or roast beef.

Having the plan in place speeds up menu planning and helps me make sure I'm serving a wide variety of foods. Here's what this week looks like:

Wednesday: Shepherd's Pie

Thursday: Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup with Ham

Friday: Bowties with Sausage and Veggies

Saturday: Pumpkin Waffles & Baked Apples

Sunday: Roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Chicken Soup with Butter Dumplings & Toasted Baguettes with cheese

Wednesday: Chicken-fried steak, rice, and collard greens

What's on your menu plan for the week? Do you have a weekly guide like me?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boiled Water

For my birthday, my mother bought me the Bittman book collection, How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I'm so excited because I love Bittman, his food philosophy and cooking style.

Today, I made the most interesting soup. It's really just bread and water. And Bittman calls it Boiled Water.

And you know what? It's simple. And fast.

And delicious.

It tastes like grilled cheese. Grilled Cheese Soup.

Boiled Water
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

What You Need:
  • 4 cups of water
  • 6 to 10 cloves of garlic, crushed (I used minced garlic instead and used 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 bay leaf (didn't have, so I added some oregano instead)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 thick slices of French or Italian bread, stale (I used a baguette and did three small slices per bowl)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley for garnish (I skipped it)
How it's Done:
  1. Bring to a boil the water with the garlic, salt, pepper, and bay leaf (or oregano). Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toast bread in it. It's quick, maybe a minute total cooking time.
  3. Put the bread in each of four bowls. Sprinkle with the cheese.
  4. Bittman says to strain your broth here. I didn't strain mine. It's up to you.
  5. Ladle one cup of broth over each bowl.  Serve immediately.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Grocery Trip: mid-January through mid-February

I went to three stores (Publix, WalMart, and the post commissary) for my shopping for the month. I did very well, because I bought NO nonsense. Here's what I bought:


Lenders Bagels B1G1F 2 bags @ $2.09
Cabbot Greek Vanilla Yogurt 2 tubs @ $3.99 each
Cabbot Plain Greek Yogurt 1 tub @ $3.99
Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Rotini 2 @ $1.79 each
Ronzoni bow ties & ziti (B1G1F) 1 each @ $1.39
Hunts Spaghetti Sauce 3 Jars @ $1 each
Whole Grain Cheddar Goldfish $1
Jollytime microwave popcorn @ 1.00 each plus a $.50 coupon, 2 boxes for $1.00
Half ham, $12.71 on sale
Granola, 2 bags (Back to Nature brand) @ $3.59 each
Publix reduced calorie wheat bread, 2 loaves @ $1.69 each
Thomas Whole Wheat English muffins B1G1F, 2 bags @ $3.69
Baguettes from the bakery, 3 @ $1.00 each

TOTAL @ Publix: $55.76 with tax


5 lb whole wheat flour $2.72
instant milk $6.23
2 lb lentils @ .98 each
2 lb pinto beans @ $1.08 each
kidney beans $1.16
great Northern beans $1.08 (all beans dried)
canned diced tomatoes, 2 cans @ .63 each

TOTAL @ Walmart: $17.07 with tax


Keebler Entertaining cracker collection, 2 boxes bought on clearance for $1 each
Dawn dish soap $1.99
automatic dishwasher detergent $2.49
light butter $1.95
Weight Watchers light Mexican blend cheese $1.89
Weight Watchers light 4 cheese blend, 2 bags @ $1.89 each
3 gallons 1% milk @ $2.63 per gallon
2 dozen large eggs @ $1.39 per dozen
large bag frozen broccoli cuts $1.69
frozen chopped collard greens .89
frozen orange juice concentrate .99
whole roaster chicken $5.48 (.89 per pound)
shampoo and conditioner, 1 each @ .79
95% lean ground beef, 1.25 lb $3.42
1 lb flank steak $5.08
3 lb yellow onions $1.59
4 lb sweet potatoes $2.51
golden potatoes, 3 lb @ $1.98
bosc pears, 3 lb, $2.50
1 lb carrots .59
3 lb red delicious apples $1.98
bananas, 5 lb $2.64

COMMISSARY TOTAL: $59.82 with surcharge


My budget for the month was $200. So I'm very happy to be so far under budget. It leaves some much-needed breathing room this month.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Here in Georgia, we've had a major cold snap this week. We had an ice storm (snowstorm for much of northern Georgia) that cancelled school for two days and threatened to take out the electricity (it did manage to take out the cable and Internet).

Weather like that calls for belly-warming food. Belly-warming food on a diet can be tricky.

Enter turkey chili. Warm, filling, hearty, nutritious, low in fat, it's the perfect Crock Pot meal for winter days.

If you think turkey tastes bad (I used to, until I started using only turkey breast), substitute lean beef or ground chicken. Either way, it's delicious.

And cheap.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
makes a lot. ;) (enough to feed three adults and two children twice, plus leftovers)

What You Need:
  • 1 lb small red beans (or pinto, or kidney, or whatever you feel like using), dried, sorted through and rinsed (or four cans of beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 large bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 2 cans of chili-ready diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (4 oz)
  • 8 oz water
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • cayenne pepper to taste (up to a teaspoon for hot chili)
  • 2 tsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee (optional, but adds another dimension)
  • 1/3 cup masa mixed with 1/2 cup cool water
How it's Done:
  1. If you're using dried beans, cook them. If you're using canned beans, rinse and drain them. I use cooked beans almost always. They're a fraction of the cost of canned, and I've got some financial goals to accomplish this year, so it's dried beans for this household. I digress....
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the turkey with the onion and peppers.
  3. In the crock of your slow cooker, combine all of the ingredients except for the masa mixed with cool water. That comes later.
  4. Cover and cook on low for ten hours. Then, give it a stir, and decide if you want to thicken it up a bit. If so, stir in the masa flour combined with cool water. Cook and stir for a few minutes in the crock.
  5. Serve with sour cream and/or cheese, over spaghetti, or with crackers, or however you like your chili. Freeze the leftovers. :)

Menu Plan for the week

I hope the week has been treating you all well so far. Wednesday is my new menu plan day. It works out better for me because the sales ads come out on Wednesday so it allows me to plan my meals based on sale items. Here's the plan for this week. Later today, I'll be sharing a slow cooker chili recipe, just in time for all this cold weather across the United States.

Wednesday: Asparagus, Bacon, and Cheddar Fritatta and fresh fruit

Thursday: Slow Cooker Chicken Burritos

Friday: Eating with friends -- Chicken & Noodles and dessert

Saturday: Steak Hash & scrambled eggs

Sunday: Baked ham, cornbread dressing, broccoli, and dinner rolls

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Panko-Parmesan Drumsticks, Sweet Potato Fries, and cooked cabbage

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I've come to the end of a year of home cooking. Originally, I had intended to post here daily. However, it quickly became obvious that life had to come first. I hope you've enjoyed my recipes all year.

I'm not shutting down the blog.

I'll always be cooking. Mostly from scratch.

Stay tuned for new recipes in 2011. For now, the domain will remain unchanged.

I wish you all peace and happiness this year! See you tomorrow with a brand new post!

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