Archive for the ‘Weight Watchers’ Category

I have a problem with frugality. I just can’t handle paying more for a good or service of exactly the same quantity/quality that is cheaper elsewhere. For instance, Jewel, I love ya, but if I walked out of your doors with 3 giant bags of produce, it’s going to cost at least $50 and wipe out a huge portion of my grocery budget. Seeing that one of the things I truly excel at is buying produce, letting it sit around until it starts to turn bad and then throwing it all away, I should be buying the cheapest produce I can find. I can’t spend $50 on this process – I need to spend $11.

Stanley's Produce Chicago, IL

$11-$12 is about the average I spend at Stanley’s Fruits and Vegetables, conveniently located at North Avenue and Elston, within walking distance of my apartment. In case you can’t visualize what 3 packages of tomatoes, 2 large packages of raspberries, packaged sliced watermelon, a cantaloupe, a giant pack of grape tomatoes, an avocado and a large bag of grapes looks like for $11, let me show you:

Stanley's Fruits and Vegetables ChicagoSometimes I actually feel bad, like I should be giving them more money. “I mean, are you SURE all of this only costs $11?”

If you’ve never been to Stanley’s, let me tell you a few things. First of all, people LOVE it. Check out the Yelp reviews. Secondly, their products are ripe – this is not the kind of produce you’ll have a lot of time to let sit out on the counter before you throw it away – Stanley’s cuts down on this process by offering the type of produce that needs to be eaten within a very short days of purchase. Also, it’s going to be crowded (remember, people love it)…unless you go at 6 a.m. when they open. I highly recommend going around this time, or prepare yourself for a vulture-esque $#!t show in the parking lot, the good people of Chicago who’ve been whipped into a frenzy by the promise of 10 for $1 pluots and 5 for $1 avocados, eager to cut you off from the parking spot you’ve been eyeing, the same way they’ll cut up the 6 pounds of onions they buy for 10 cents. Seriously, beware, that parking lots gets nuts.

The variety of fruits and veggies is sizable, many items rotating seasonally. Now, if you’re into organic produce, they’ve got that too, also at great prices. The organic portion of the store is located by the deli – yes, they’ve got a deli, too. The staff is really friendly and the cashiers are extremely fast at bagging the cartfuls of produce people buy. Besides produce, they carry eggs, milk, some pastas, rice, salsa, breads and canned goods. The prices are dirt cheap, making Stanley’s one of my absolute Chicago favorites. I’ve even been trying to stretch my $11 further lately by actually washing and cutting everything up as soon as I get home – cutting down on the throwing away process tremendously. After I’ve cut everything up, it’s ready to go for the week, meaning healthy fruits and veggies at my fingertips at work and home:

Stanley's Fruit & Veggies


Sigh…the only bad part of healthy fruits and veggies is that on Weight Watchers, all of that would be 0 points. I’m currently counting calories using MyFitnessPal, and I’d have to track it all.

…I think…I might go back to WeightWatchers. After all, even though I haven’t been on program for over a year, I still pay for WW Online. Why is that not surprising?



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It’s been so long since I’ve blogged, and I blame it entirely on one thing, and one thing only:

Candy Crush Saga

If you’ve fallen into the Candy Crush Saga rabbit hole, you know how deep it really goes. I recently spent $4 on extra moves to beat a level in the 200s- this coming from the girl who hems and haws in the grocery store checkout lane, debating whether an extra $1.39 can be spent on a pack of gum. Hours fly by, lives regenerate, and when you just can’t wait, you can ask your high school acquaintances for more! How social! (Actually you can just set the clock forward on your mobile device to get more lives – two hours usually does the trick, unless you paid $16 for the 8 live regenerator, which I did, in which case you’ll want to go 4 hours).

The moral of this story – if you don’t yet have Candy Crush on your phone, go ahead and keep it that way if you enjoy your free time and relative sanity. If you have plenty of free time and are a little nuts to begin with, you can get Candy Crush on Facebook, or your iPhone, iPad or Android device. It’s free – until you can’t beat a level.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, blogging and my lack thereof. Sorry, all that talk of Candy Crush made me want to sneak in a few games. Now that I have some free time before my lives regenerate, I can tell you about my renewed and reinvigorated love of Weight Watchers and the fancy schmancy, low-points meals I’ve been whipping up. Oh, and I got a toaster oven, which I honestly don’t know how I lived without. It’s a tiny oven, akin to an Easy Bake. I never had an Easy Bake when I was a kid, so it’s no wonder why I just adore the crap out of my new toaster oven. Besides toasting and baking, it broils – the very secret to melty, browned cheese, like the kind in the Chicken, Artichoke & Gouda Portobello Pizzas I made the other day.

Chicken, Artichoke & Gouda Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Chicken, Artichoke & Gouda Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

When you’re really counting your points, you’re constantly hungry looking for ways to eat what you really want without using a ton of points. And what I want, all the time, unequivocally, is pizza. I’ve had my share of  different skinny pizza crusts – English muffin (2 points) and sandwich thin (3 points), but what I’d never used as “crust” before was a 0 point portobello mushroom cap. It rocked. As my new roommate put it “this tastes like something you would pay a lot of money for at a restaurant.” True, but the best part of these pizzas is that they really are skinny. You can eat one of these bad boys for approximately 4 – 5 points, depending on how fancy you want to go.

Chicken, Artichoke & Gouda Portobello Mushroom Pizzas |

Chicken, Gouda & Artichoke Portobello Pizza

Chicken, Artichoke & Gouda Portobello Pizzas

  • Portobello Mushroom Caps
  • Sliced Gouda Cheese
  • Artichoke Hearts in Water
  • Diced, Cooked Chicken Breast
  • Jarred spaghetti sauce
  • Italian seasoning
  • Garlic salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  1.  Thoroughly wash the mushroom caps (a step I kind of half-assed)
  2. Remove the stem portion of the mushroom (should just kind of pop off with a little prying)
  3. Flip mushroom on its back so the underside is up; spread spaghetti sauce (as little or as much as you’d like – I like mine pretty saucy) over mushroom, making sure the sauce doesn’t go over the edges of the mushroom.
  4. Sprinkle diced chicken and artichokes over the sauce; sprinkle with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes
  5. Top with a slice of gouda and another sprinkle of herbs.
  6. Place in parchment lined baking sheet in toaster oven or regular oven (make sure your parchment is not touching the heating elements of your toaster oven). Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 – 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms start giving off some liquid and the cheese is melty.
  7. Switch over to the broiler setting and broil for a few minutes, until cheese is nice and brown.
  8. Eat!!

Again, you can eat one of these for approximately 4-5 points, depending on how much you stuff into your mushroom. These little pizzas are truly delicious, and one or two with a side salad is the perfect dinner.

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Portobello Pizza

Chicken, Gouda & Artichoke Portobello Pizza

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It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the urge to blog. It happens. But inspiration hit while eating a brand new (to me) Lean Cuisine.  Almost nothing excites me more than finding a new Lean Cuisine that I love, so please allow me to share my thoughts on this one with you.

Lean Cuisine Ranchero Beef

Clocking in at 6 Points Pluses, this Lean Cuisine Culinary Collection Ranchero Braised Beef is described as “braised beef in a spicy red chile sauce served with a side of chipotle mashed sweet potatoes.” Mmmm, frozen meal quality beef – one of my favorites! Seriously.

Lean Cuisine Ranchero Braised Beef

While this might not look like much (and let’s be honest, there were like 4 chunks of meat in this), it tastes DELICIOUS! The whole thing actually has tons of flavor – the weird beef is fantastic with a bbq-like spicy sauce with weird chunks in it (onions? chiles? who cares!) and the chipotle mashed potatoes are sweet with a bit of a smoky kick. Because I can’t get enough carbs with spray butter, I sprayed the potatoes and added salt. It wasn’t totally necessary, but I have an itchy spray butter finger.

I’ll definitely be adding this to the lunch roto, provided I can find Lean Cuisines on sale (yeah, I’d never pay $4 for this).

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Candied Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad

My love affair with sweet corn and backyard photo shoots continues. I came across the idea for this recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny. At the time, I was searching for something I could bring to a party, and although I ended up going with the super yummy Funfetti Cake Dip, the Candied Balsamic Tomato & Mozzarella Salad was never too far from my mind. Grape tomatoes already taste like candy to me, so I was intrigued by the idea of sprinkling them with sugar and balsamic vinegar.

After a trip to Trader Joe’s for an engagement party present (aside: after blanking on the fact that I should probably get a gift for said engagement party, I thought buying a bunch of different sparkling wines and including in the card “hope the memories of your engagement sparkle” would be a great idea. I ended up finding this super cute picnic basket at Crate & Barrel, and it really came together perfectly. Trader Joe’s obviously played a vital part for their large selection of cheap champagne!), I also ended up with my favorite mini pearl grape tomatoes. I love those little guys, and you can often find me actually dining on them…at my desk! I took a handful with me to work today, but left the rest for this original recipe. Yes kids, this is truly the first (semi) original recipe on Dining at My Desk. Or, at least one with its own back yard photo shoot.

I can already tell you that I’m not super great with measuring, cooking times, recipe-writing, etc… and sort of cook by feel and taste, so please feel free to add a little more of this or that if you want to recreate this one yourself. I didn’t have any fresh mozz in the fridge, but I DID have corn, and I figured that combination sounded sounded pretty tasty to me. It turned out really great, and I’m actually on track to eat the whole bowl myself while I write this post!

Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad


Candied Balsamic Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad

4 cups grape tomatoes (approx 1 Trader Joe’s container)
1 cup corn (fresh cut off the cob is best)
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves, torn
Cooking spray

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, coat with cooking spray.  Add tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes release juices.  Combine sugar, salt and pepper; sprinkle over tomatoes; cook 2 more minutes.  Drizzle with vinegar and cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Transfer tomato mixture to a serving bowl.  Add corn, onion and basil and toss gently. Can be served immediately warm or chilled. I added the corn in the serving bowl, but you could also add the corn earlier in the pan. The recipe makes approximately 3-4 servings.

Candied Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad
Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad
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Corn & Blueberry Salad

Update: This is one of my most-pinned recipes, and since we all know I’m not whipping up tons of recipes, and bringing them to my backyard for a photoshoot, I’m re-posting and re-pinning. This salad really is delicious, and a departure from the traditional backyard BBQ fare. 

Well…what a strange combination. Corn and…blueberries? Yep, totally weird – but quite possibly the most unique, amazing, refreshing summer salad…ever? I actually made this for the first time last summer after finding the recipe on Better Homes & Gardens.  I was VERY excited to tell people after I made it – I told people at work, I told my Mom, I told my friends…I even told my gynecologist. I mean, seriously, corn and BLUEBERRIES? Everyone needed to know about this.

But alas, last summer I had a dumbphone that could barely text let alone take fancy photos, I didn’t even know what Pinterest was, and I was totally unversed in the art of backyard photo shoots. Of course, this may have been my first backyard photo shoot, but still.

So today, on quite possibly the hottest day of the year, I whipped up this salad and took it to my backyard and proceeded to arrange my food in an artful and pleasing manner, when I noticed my neighbor on her second floor deck. I felt like what I was doing needed some explanation, so I explained to her that I was a mediocre food blogger just trying to make my way in the world, artfully arranging food on my neighbor’s patio furniture in a pleasing manner and taking pictures of it with my fancy phone. She seemed interested, but one thing led to another, and soon we were talking about more interesting things – like the evolution of Bucktown’s streetwalker population over the years. …I wonder if they would like this salad. But I digress.

There really is something so refreshing about this salad. The corn and blueberries are accented by the cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice, and even the cucumber (not a really a fan, but coming around) has a place here. The end result is something light and unique to be enjoyed on the hottest of summer days. And if you chopped up or omitted the cucumbers and added a little more heat, I could see this being a great fruit and corn salsa.

Without further ado, I give you this Summer Blueberry & Corn Salad:

Chilled Corn & Blueberry Salad

Summer Blueberry & Corn Salad*


  • 6 ears fresh sweet corn, husked
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped


  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (or more to taste)
1. Cook sweet corn to desired tenderness in large pot of boiling water (usually around 10 minutes).

2. In a serving bowl combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. In a screw-top jar (I used a water bottle) combine lime juice, oil, honey, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. garlic salt. Cover; shake well to combine. Add to salad; toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours). Makes 6 to 8 servings. Weight Watchers Points+ = 4/serving

*Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Corn and Blueberry Salad: Dining at my Desk

Corn and Blueberry Salad: Dining at my Desk

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