Posts Tagged ‘Weight Watchers’

When you are an important executive, like myself, you may one day find yourself with two vital pieces of office machinery in your private work suite. These items are: a microwave and a mini-fridge. The mini-fridge is especially indispensable for filing away your most important files (a 6 pack of Bud Light), and the microwave is critical to your overall desktop dining experience, lending its magical heating powers to your favorite new work lunch: the Refried Bean Surprise. Allow me to tell you how this delightful dish came to pass.

I’ve recently re-joined Weight Watchers – that Jessica Simpson got me all pumped about the Simple Start two week program:

Ok, this body has made zero amazing little human beings, however, it’s eaten a lot of amazing donuts & pizza and drank its fair share of booze, which is sort of like the same thing. 

Enter the Weight Watchers Simple Start program. It’s easy – eat until you’re satisfied from a prescribed list of Power Foods, lose weight. Take 7 Points Pluses a day for fun stuff not included in the list, like doughnuts and booze.

Weight Watchers Simple Start List of Power Foods

Weight Watchers Simple Start List of Power Foods

It really is that simple – and it works. I lost 3.2 pounds in my first week; I’ll keep you posted on the results of the second week.

But what I’m really getting at here is that my favorite “Power Food” from the list is fat free refried beans, specifically the Old El Paso spicy ones. These mushed up beauties are an essential source of protein and deliciousness in my new simple diet. Combine them with almost any meat, a sprinkle of fat free cheese (it’s as disappointing as you might imagine), a liberal dousing of hot sauce, some fat free Greek yogurt to top it off, and you’ve got yourself a truly respectable office meal. It’s like a tostada without all the best parts, but with cheese that almost melts – kind of. Just look at this thing of beauty – yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m losing weight eating that.

Dining at my Desk Refried Bean Surprise

Refried Bean Surprise

At this point, I’m sure you’re dying to know what the surprise is. Well, the surprise is that fat free Greek yogurt does not taste exactly like sour cream, as promised by my best friend, Renee. The first day I tried it as a substitute was in a bowl of chili, resulting in a big blob of yogurt in my chili. Cool. That being said, the fat free Greek yogurt does work a little better in Mexican-themed dishes, especially if you put enough hot sauce on it.

If you’d like to try your hand at making Refried Bean Surprise in your own office, I’m sure you can figure it out for yourselves, but just in case, here’s the recipe:

Refried Bean Surprise – Weight Watchers Simple Start Approved

Ingredients (all Weight Watchers Power Foods):

  • Fat Free Refried Beans (you’ll need a can opener if you’re making this at your desk)
  • Meat (beef, chicken, pork) I used some sort of beef I found at Aldi they claimed was perfect for making a Mexican-sounding dish that I cannot remember. I found it to be a cross between ground beef and steak. I dumped some fajita seasoning in it and threw it in the crockpot.
  • Fat Free Cheese (ugh)
  • Hot Sauce (don’t skimp)
  • Fat Free Greek Yogurt (or fat free sour cream)

Fat Free Refried Bean Surprise


  • Put some refried beans on a plate. Spread them around in a pleasing fashion.
  • Put some meat on top of the beans.
  • Sprinkle a liberal dose of fat free cheese on top.
  • Heat in the microwave just long enough for the entire office to smell like Refried Bean Surprise, about 2 minutes.
  • Debate whether to put the hot sauce or the yogurt on first. I’m sure it doesn’t matter. Again, you can figure this out.
  • Optional toppings: I could see lettuce, tomato, onion and cilantro working nicely with this.



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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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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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One of my most favorite apps is It’s your horoscope, only translated from French, so sometimes things don’t always come across…as intended. A few of my favorites have been when it suggested my hair was dull and lifeless and to remedy this by starting an intensive vitamin regimen, and when it basically told me I had cankles. So, yes, let’s agree, this thing knows me. Knows me so well that here is today’s wellness forecast:


Well, that last part isn’t exactly true, but “gobble down astronomical amounts of food”…spooky.

So, yes, I’m back on Weight Watchers, and I’ve been mostly kicking ass. I’m down 6.8 from the height of my Christmas cookie consumption glory days, my pants are going on with a minimal amount of squats and lunges, and I seem to have lost that attractive fat face look I’m prone to getting in photos.

But old habits die hard, and it’s so easy to assume you have enough weekly points for half of your friend’s movie theater popcorn that you buttered yourself, even using a straw to deliver butter to the lower layers. Hot damn I love movie theater “butter.” The worst part? No, it wasn’t the suffering/sleeping through entirely too much Jar Jar Binks, although easily a very close second. I packed my own snacks and abandoned them entirely. One portion controlled bag of cheese popcorn (4 points pluses), two Cuties (0 points) and one Coke Zero. I’m such an idiot.

And let’s talk yesterday’s lunch. See, yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and Tuesday – realtor open house day. Chicken salad with guacamole (!) in my favorite little garlicky pita day. Mini cupcake day. (Flowers courtesy of my new office manager – so nice!):

Chicken Salad Pita

Ah, actually not so bad, right? Well, I couldn’t wait to eat one of those pitas, so one is absent from the photo as the photographer was busy eating it as fast as humanly possible. Amount of Points? Indeterminate, as I just didn’t care at the moment. And the not caring extended into the evening, when I ate a sensible meal…and then another sensible meal, with a pause for a lot of chips and hummus and capped off by…just guess…cereal. Luckily it was just one of those little boxes, but, still. This is not exactly how you run a clean Weight Watchers program.

So, today is a new day and the true beginning of my WW week. We’ll let last night fall into that weird twilight zone between weighing in and starting the next day/week of points, and sorry, I can still eat quite a bit. I just have to promise to care and promise to track it.

ps Couldn’t Have Said it Better Myself is my favorite Meatloaf song (just over 7 minutes of epicness) AND I’m having meatloaf for lunch. Full circle.

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That, kids, is what I imagine many of you suffered through during your precocious child years and awkward adolescent phase(s) in public school, your last your “oops, I had to have my stomach pumped” hospital stay or perhaps what they served up at the retirement village during grandkids’ day. This celebrated dish is previously frozen salisbury steak with something of a gravy and garlic Cream of Wheat mashed potatoes.

And if you’re not yet convinced that I dine at a desk instead of at the old folks home well, I don’t think this next picture will help things.


Mmmm. Strawberry sugar free Jello, with the last dredges of some Cool Whip on top. For the 30 year old that longs to run in the 70+ circles. Note the ancient pink Tupperware. Step in the right direction.

Also of note is the leaky plastic Baggie (sorry, the iPad REALLY wants to capitalize Baggie. See?) of dill pickle spears. That thing leaked all over my fridge, desk, etc…and everything all day had the pungent smell of pickle.

Total cost of today’s lunch: 4ish WW points pluses and the last hopes of a wasted youth.

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Hey, it’s day 3, and to celebrate, why not have a recipe that I’ve actually made? That’s right – I made this Creamy Lemon Tortellini Bake the week before Thanksgiving, and it was excellent! I cooked this for a vegetarian friend, so I (sadly) omitted the bacon, and added mushrooms. I actually couldn’t find the dried tortellini, even after traipsing all around Lake Forest, so I subbed frozen cheese ravioli. The end result was delicious, and the sauce could easily be made on its own with another pasta dish. The lemon is subtle, but noticeable. Overall, I really liked this one, and I already have all the ingredients on hand to make it again.

The blog where this recipe is from is Emily Bites, and she has tons of recipes that are all Weight Watchers-friendly. This recipe has 9 Points Pluses per serving.

Creamy Lemon Tortellini Bake

Creamy Lemon Tortellini Bake from Emily Bites

Creamy Lemon Tortellini Bake:

12 oz package of dry Cheese & Spinach Tortellini (I used Barilla – find in the dry pasta aisle)
2 slices center cut bacon
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T flour
2 c skim milk
¾ t salt
1/8 t black pepper
1 ½ t dried basil
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t lemon zest
2 c fresh spinach, loose, not packed
1 ½ oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2/3 c reduced fat 2% shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 350. Lightly coat an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2.    Cook the tortellini in a large pot according to package directions.
3.    Meanwhile, place bacon in a sauté pan or large skillet and bring over medium-high heat. Cook for 7-9 minutes until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and place on paper towels to dry. Leave one tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan (if you have less than that like I did you may want to add a little butter to make up the difference. I counted one tablespoon of bacon grease in the recipe builder. If you want to make this vegetarian then just skip the bacon altogether and use butter). Add the garlic to the bacon grease and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour to the pan and whisk into grease. Add the milk slowly and continue to whisk until combined. Add the salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes and stir. Bring sauce to a simmer.
4.    Once sauce is simmering, add lemon juice and lemon zest to sauce. Stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.
5.    Drain the tortellini and place back into the pot. Crumble the bacon and set aside. Add the spinach along with most of the Parmesan and the Mozzarella (reserve some of each to sprinkle on top). Add the sauce and stir everything together to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan, Mozzarella and bacon over the top.
6.    Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes.

Creamy Lemon Tortellini Bake

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