Greek Bacon-Chicken Wraps and BBQ Bacon-Chicken Wraps–Low SmartPoints and Weight Watchers’ Friendly

So, a couple months ago, I joined Weight Watchers to try and get my health pendulum to swing into a more positive direction. I had previously just been calorie counting in My Fitness Pal, but I was getting concerned that I was so focused on the calorie content of foods, I was missing the fundamentals of nutrition and turning to too many processed foods. I decided to give the new Freestyle program a try, and it’s slowly been changing the way I approach most meals (dinner still has to be a compromise for the husband and Heathens). What made me try it? Here is what is making it worth it for me…for now:

  • I used to just grab a ZonePerfect protein bar for breakfast. It only has 210 calories, so that’s good, right? Um, nope. WW rates this bar at a whopping 8 points, which is over 1/3 of the 23 points I’m supposed to eat a day. Not to mention, I’m starving by 10 and sugar-crashing. However, most fruits have 0 points, as do eggs, which means I could eat a larger portion of something that is better for me, and not a processed, added-sugar cocktail.
  • Lunch was typically a Lean Cuisine. Convenient, and low-calories, right? Um, no again. The Chicken Alfredo meal clocks in at 8 points (man, that protein bar is really looking evil now). The portion is tiny, and I’m starving by 2. However, I can now craft one of my wraps below, piling on chicken and spinach, and come away with a 3 point meal with fruit or veggies to fill in any cracks.
  • Dinner, like I said, is a compromise. I try to make a couple of healthier meals, and air-fry extra veggies for me on the less than ideal meals. However, just running the meal through WW to see points helps me adjust my portion back into sane levels.

Overall, I was skeptical that WW had any value for me, because the food equation seemed straightforward. However,  I fell into the trap of a calories-in-versus-calories-out approach to fitness. Now, I am more thoughtful about the underlying value of what my food choices have, and I can say that I can feel the difference. While I still have some processed ingredients, it’s way better than it was.

So, there’s the explanation as to why you will occasionally see me share a few meal ideas for WW peeps. Now, onto my 3 SP lunch this week. Just remember not to overfill if you want to be able to actually wrap them:

Greek Bacon-Chicken Wrap

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Ingredients

  • 1 Ole Extreme Wellness Spinach & Herbs Wrap
  • 2 TBS Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing, divided)
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves (as much as you want)
  • Cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded (as much as you want to try and fit in there)
  • 1 ounce fat free feta cheese
  • 1 tsp. real bacon bits

Procedure

    1. Place wrap on a plate and spread with 1 TBS of the ranch dressing. Add spinach and top with cooked chicken. Top chicken with the remaining ranch, then sprinkle with feta and bacon bits, wrap burrito style, and enjoy!

These wraps clock in at only 3 SP:

Additionally, I also make a BBQ variation that comes in at only 2 SP! Same concept, just swap the ranch for Stubbs BBQ sauce and the feta for fat free cheddar:

P.S. I cook chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on Sundays, shred them, and store them in the fridge, so I have the chicken ready on-hand.

**Disclaimer as usual. Weight Watchers doesn’t know me, my blog is not monetized or sponsored, and nobody gives me free crap or anything like that. Oprah is cool, but she doesn’t know me either. I just want to pass along stuff I like someone might like too**

Italian Pot Roast in the Instant Pot

I love my slow cooker, and as much as I love my Instant Pot, I believe that they cannot be 100% interchangeable when it comes to recipe outcomes. However, after forgetting to start my Italian Pot Roast yesterday morning, I decided to adapt it to the IP and see what would happen. With a couple of changes, it came out tender and delicious.

The ingredients are simple:

And it only takes about 7 minutes to throw together. While the cook time is a little longer than many IP recipes, I think trying to shorten it would result in meat that is not as tender as it should be.

The Heathens ate it over some egg noodles, and I did not have to pull together a more labor-intensive Plan-B dinner. Sounds like everyone is a winner, and sanity reigned for another day. Can’t beat that with a stick.

Italian Pot Roast

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Ingredients

  • 3-lb chuck roast
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1 (14-ounce) can beef broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 3 TBS cornstarch

Procedure

    1. Season roast with pepper on all sides. Set Instant Pot to Sauté setting and let it get hot. Add the canola oil and brown the roast on all sides (this can be a little awkward but it can be done).
    2. Remove roast from IP and set aside. Add mushrooms and onions to the IP, stirring well so they can pick up any browned bits from the bottom of the IP. Return roast to IP. Top roast with onion soup mix, beef broth and tomato paste.
    3. Place lid on IP and switch to Manual mode for 70 minutes at high pressure. When cooking is complete, let it release naturally for 5 minutes, then manually release the pressure. Skim as much fat from the top as you feasibly can.
    4. Switch IP to Sauté mode Add the tomato paste and Italian seasoning. Mix cornstarch with 3 TBS of water and add to the IP, stirring well. Let simmer 5 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Shred beef to desired texture. Serve over hot egg noodles and garnish with parsley if you are feeling fancy.

Black-Eyed Peas in the Instant Pot

I made black-eyed peas in the Instant Pot for the traditional New Year celebration. It super easy, and much faster than the usual stovetop method. I did soak the peas in water several hours before cooking them because this little boogers absorb a lot of liquid. The end results were delicious perfection, and plenty to feed a crowd.


Black-Eyed Peas in the Instant Pot

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Ingredients

  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 pounds dried black-eyed peas, soaked for several hours
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ham hock
  • salt and pepper to taste (I’d start with a TBS of salt then add more later of needed)
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS White vinegar

Procedure

    1. Set the Instant Pot to the saute setting and let it get hot. Add the butter, and when melted, add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
    2. Add the peas, chicken broth, ham hock, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Switch the Instant Pot to manual, add the lid and check that the value is correctly positioned for sealing. Set time for 20 minutes on Manual mode. (Note–with this much stuff in the IP, it will take about 20 minutes to come to pressure).
    3. When the timer is up and the IP beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then do a quick pressure release if the pin hasn’t dropped already.
    4. Remove IP lid and stir in vinegar. Check for seasonings and enjoy!

Super-Easy Petite Cheese Cakes

We had a nice, relaxed family get-together yesterday, and I wanted an easy dessert that I was pretty sure *most* of us would like. These little cakes are so stupid-easy, and for something so simple, they still taste like delicious indulgence.

Petite Cheesecakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 18 vanilla wafers
  • jam of your choice for topping, if desired

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cupcake pans with 18 paper baking cups. Place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cup. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with cream cheese mixture and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Cool 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with jam, if desired.

How easy is that?!?

Blog Update for the Recipe Page

Hey Y’all. I’ve been trying to update the recipes page to include a comprehensive link list, while also going back and coding the recipes into a printable format within the posts. While a few recipes/posts got voted off the island, most should be on the Recipes page now. Please note, formatting on some may vary, because I just added the code, rather than rewrite post after post. This just means some recipes will have a running-ton of pictures in the procedure sections.

Remember, I’m just a chick with a free-hosted blog that I tinker with on my laptop…when I’m not hiding in the bathroom with wine hoping my kids won’t find me. If you encounter an incorrect link, a problem, or some other kooky hiccup, please let me know.

See that pic? Those are the Chocolate Cake Cookies, which would be perfect for Santa. I’m just saying is all…

Guess where you can find that recipe? Oh yeah, that page thingy I just talked about.

Easy Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

School is out, which means we are in the final countdown toward Christmas. I’m making cookies with the kids, which is equal parts fun and frustrating as they argue about who gets to use which cookie cutter first. My kids could fight about what air tastes like if given the opportunity.

We are on to sugar cookies today, but ended up making Gingerbread Cookies last weekend. The recipe I use is pretty easy to work with and forgiving, so it’s great if you really want to get into decorated cutouts. If you need to distract restless kids, I highly recommend baking up a batch, and investing in a few dollar tubes of icing from the store so they can decorate and be distracted from arguing about that whole air thing.

Gingerbread Cutout Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Procedure

    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg, mixing well to combine.
    2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and making powder, stirring well.
    3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, mixing to form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.
    4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with desired cutters and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Braised Beef Brisket in the Instant Pot

I am all about comfort food lately, but between shopping, baking, running 1000000000 errands, wrapping gifts, etc., I haven’t had a whole lot of time to enjoy extended cooking sessions. So, I got creative this week and adapted my favorite braised brisket from Guy Fieri’s cookbook for the Instant Pot so I could have what is typically a Sunday dinner on a weeknight. Here’s how I did it:

I seasoned the brisket and browned it with the Instant Pot set on the Sauté setting. It took a little maneuvering, but it worked:

Next, I chopped up some shallots, carrots, onions, celery, and leeks, and put them on top of the brisket:

I combined a bottle of chili sauce with some beef broth and poured it over the top:

Then, I closed the pot, and set it to 60 minutes on Manual. When it was done, I did a quick pressure release. I turned the brisket over, and added a bottle of Shiner Bock beer to the pot, being sure to baste the meat with the sauce and veggies. I closed the pot and set it to 30 minutes on Manual. When it was done, I let it the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then did a quick pressure release (however, if you have time, I would let the pressure release naturally and let the brisket rest for another 20 minutes in the pot thereafter for best results. This isn’t necessary per se, but I think braised brisket could always use a healthy rest period).

So, this is what it looked like. I removed the brisket to a cutting board and set aside. I broke out the immersion blender, and blended the juice/sauce/veggies in the Instant Pot until combined into saucy deliciousness. After slicing the brisket, I returned it to the pot for a quick sauce bath, then served with more sauce spooned over the top:

It was dang tasty, and nearly effortless.

Braised Beef Brisket in the Instant Pot

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 to 5 pounds beef brisket
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1- inch rings
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and cut into thirds
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then into 1- inch chunks
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into thirds
  • 1 bottle chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 12-ounce beer, at room temperature ( I like Shiner Bock or Amber Bock)

Season brisket with salt and pepper. Set Instant Pot to the Sauté setting and when hot, add canola oil. Brown brisket on all sides as best you can. Top brisket with onions, leeks, shallots, carrot, and celery. In a small bowl, whisk together chili sauce and beef broth, and pour over brisket. Secure lid on Instant Pot and set to Manual for 60 minutes. When cycle is complete, do a quick pressure release. Turn brisket over, add beer to Instant Pot, and baste brisket with liquid and veggies. Place lid back on pot, and set to Manual for 30 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 20 minutes then do a quick pressure release.** Remove brisket to cutting board and slice. Using an immersion blender, blend the liquid and veggies in the Instant Pot until smooth. Return brisket to the Instant Pot, cover with sauce, then serve, topping with more sauce if desired.

**If you have the time, let pressure release naturally and let brisket rest another 20 minutes or so after the pin drops**

 

Cajun 15 Bean Soup in the Instant Pot

I survived Thanksgiving week, which ended up being a relaxed, fun holiday despite the fact that I made more food than any reasonable person should. We ate leftovers for days, and I cranked out 4 big casseroles for the freezer with the remaining turkey. For the holiday, my sister brought a Honey-Baked Ham, and afterward, we froze the ham bone (that still had a good chunk of meat on it) for later use.

A leftover ham bone (or leftover ham in general) is the perfect foundation for 15 Bean Soup, which I typically cook on the stovetop with the above mix. However, I decided to adapt it to the Instant Pot so I could get it done, start to finish, after getting the Heathens from school.

First, I did soak the beans for barely a couple of hours, but I think you can get by without that if necessary. I added the ham bone and rinsed beans to the Instant Pot:

Then, I added 8 cups of water. I did not add salt because the ham itself is pretty dang salty, and the seasoning packet to be added later also contains salt. I put the lid on, and set it to Manual for 50 minutes on high pressure (note–with that much liquid in the pot, it takes about 20 minutes to come to pressure, so plan accordingly). Once it beeped, I did the quick pressure release, and removed the ham bone. I carefully removed as much meat from the bone as possible, then returned the meat to the pot while discarding the bone. I then added a minced onion, three cloves of minced garlic, a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, the juice of a lemon, and the seasoning packet:

I put the lid back on the pot and reset it to Manual for 10 minutes. Once was it done, I did another quick pressure release, stirred, and served with cornbread:

The original recipe calls for sausage and sautéing the onion and garlic. While you can do this with sausage, ham hocks, or generally any smoked meat, I think the Instant Pot negates the need for unnecessary sautéing steps. Overall, we used up every last scrap of ham, which is a good thing because Honey-Baked Hams are not cheap…which is probably why they are so dang tasty. If you want to stretch this, you can also serve it over rice, but I like it as is and my scale could not justify any more calories…like at all…ever. If you need me, I’ll be at the gym.

15 Bean Soup in the Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker

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  • 1 pkg. Hurst’s Cajun 15 Bean Soup Mix
  • 1 ham bone with leftover ham if possible
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Remove seasoning packed from beans and set aside. If desired, soak beans for a couple of hours. Place ham bone and leftover ham in Instant Pot. Add drained beans and 8 cups of water. Place lid on pot and set to Manual for 50 minutes, then do a quick pressure release. Remove ham bone from pot and remove as much ham as possible from the bone. Return ham to the pot and discard bone. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and seasoning packet to the pot and stir. Return lid to pot and set to Manual for 10 minutes. Do a quick pressure release, stir, and serve.

Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas…Because It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Ok, so if you are just joining us, here are some helpful past posts regarding my favorite holiday, specifically my Thanksgiving Planner (which is still my proverbial holiday bible of organization and recipes), the What I Wish I Knew post, and if you want to see a diatribe about the disappearing Thanksgiving, click here. Thanksgiving is my personal Superbowl, and I’ve cooked for crowds both large and small. I love it, but since I cook sooooo freaking much food, I really do need leftover ideas, because the Heathens will balk at eating the same meal for three days afterwards. My leftover approach is two-fold: have a selection of dishes that I make and freeze, then a selection of meal ideas to take us through the long weekend. After spending a small fortune on Thanksgiving, you can bet your behind I’m going to stretch those leftovers like crazy.

So, here’s some options:

Make and Freeze

  • Turkey Tetrazzini–I now use Pioneer Woman’s recipe which I love. I make several batches and freeze them for easy, weeknight meals. The bacon and peas add a great dimension to the turkey and it definitely is a taste profile that is approachable to all of us. I put it in foil pans, and wrap in both foil and plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Just be sure to remove the plastic before baking.
  • Turkey and/or Ham Pot Pies–I confess that this is the one post-Thanksgiving dish where I take ALL the shortcuts. I use refrigerated pie crusts, canned soups, canned veggies, and fresh herbs to feel better about myself. I assemble and freeze, then defrost and bake until golden and bubbly. If you are burnt out from cooking, these are a way to get something in the freezer in 10 minutes or less.
  • The ham bone (usually with a few scraps on it)–I freeze this by itself and make 15-bean soup later (crockpot or Instant Pot).
  • Stock–I simmer the turkey carcass with aromatics and freeze for later use.
  • Soups, chili, casseroles etc–These are viable options and pretty much any chicken soup or casserole you can freeze, just swap in the turkey.

Meals

  • The Thanksgiving Panini of Awesomeness–We use the gravy like mayo, then basically pile everything on it, including turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and more. If it’s lying around, it can go in. Grab some French bread and panini all the leftovers into delicious submission.
  • Along those lines, we slap some ham and American cheese between two glazed donuts and panini those in the waffle maker…because it’s sinful and delicious, and waffling makes everything better.
  • These Monte Cristos, but instead of tomato chutney for garnish, I sauté a little chopped (fresh) jalapeno in butter, then add leftover cranberry sauce, heating until it’s thinned down and sauce-like (think sweet and spicy). These sandwiches are much easier than a mess of the traditional frying.
  • “Funeral Sandwiches”–Google it, but ham has never been happier…except in that donut panini thing. Bear can put down a whole tray of these.
  • Similarly, mix up some turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, fold into won-ton wrappers, and fry until golden. Wonton and egg roll wrappers offer plenty of options to mad-scientist your way through creative leftover mash-ups, just wrap the mess up and fry it!
  • Here’s some of my Food Network ideas: Stuffed Pork Chops (made these and love them),  I haven’t tried these Crispy Turkey Bites, but they are on the list, and this stuffing/mac and cheese mash-up looks so crazy, it may be good.

Overall, my best advice for leftover management is to be creative, but don’t wait until this week *cough, cough* to come up with a plan next for next year. I jot down ideas all year long as I see them, so that, come Friday, I have 10 different plans waiting in the wings so I stretch the most expensive meal of the year into endless adventures in decadence. I’ll see you at the gym come Monday.

 

Thanksgiving Menu–2017

Welp, I finalized the Thanksgiving menu. Overall, it’s all do-able, and I’ll make the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot to free up burner space.  Otherwise, it’s going to be an adventure.

Best be hitting the gym now…