2011 Recap & Wrap Up

2011.  I feel like it went by so fast.  At this time last year, I was a completely different person and I’m happy to report that I’m a better me than I was at the close of 2010.

This year, I achieved things I never thought I ever could.  I choreographed three group routines, I started running and ran four 5K races, I got into grad school and survived my first semester, I realized what I truly want in my life and I am starting to become the person I have always wanted to be.

I worked my third summer with the National Dance Alliance, I now dance in an amazing company in Boston and BU has opened my eyes to incredible new opportunities, including an acceptance into a 6-week study abroad program to cover the London Olympics next summer.

2011 taught me to not take life too seriously.  To enjoy each day, love whole-heartedly and appreciate myself for who I am.  It’s a great feeling to look back on this year and know that I have grown in so many ways.

Back in July, I set some mid-year goals for myself.  So let’s recap them and see how I did.

1.  Work (at least) 8 NDA summer camps.  Done.  I worked 9!  I traveled everywhere from Kansas to Maryland and loved every minute of it.  

NDA friends take awesome photos.

2.  Run 2 more 5Ks.  Done.  I ran 3 more: Run for Ryan’s Cup 5K in SeptemberWitch City 5K in October and the Lynnfield Turkey Trot 5K in November.  I wanted to run one in December as well but since I didn’t get to, I signed up for the “Run Your Hangover Off 5K” on January 1st.  I think it’s the best way to kick off 2012!

I heart bib numbers.

3.  Host a blog giveaway.  Done. I hosted my first giveaway in September for Chocolate and Wine’s 1st Blogiversary!

4.  Stick to Weight Watchers (not playing a numbers game here. Work out, eat right, follow the points, be healthy and let the body do what it will.)  Kinda done.  I don’t exactly stick to the WW plan but I did manage to drop 12 pounds this year and I am VERY happy about that.


5.  Rock the first semester of my grad program at Boston University (all A’s would be sweet but we like B+s too.)  Kinda done.  1 A-, 1 B+ and 2 Bs.  I am very proud; grad school is hard, man.

Dream job.

6.  Try 1 new recipe a week.  Fail.  Sometimes when I cook, I use the same recipes over and over.  But now that I have a beautiful new crockpot, I might be able to achieve this goal in 2012.

7.  Dance in 4 DanceWorks Boston fall pieces.  Done.  I danced in 5!  6 if you include the finale/Flash Mob!  

Some of my DanceWorks family...

8.  Train for and run a 10K.  Fail.  I chickened out.  2012 will hold at least one 10K and maybe even a half marathon.

9.  Take hot yoga regularly.  Fail.  I probably did it a total of 3 times between the summer and now.

Overall, I think this has been a great year.  I achieved most of my goals and really let myself let go of the rest of the emotional baggage leftover from undergrad.

So long, 2011…On to 2012! Goals and “resolutions” to come!

Happy Things

It’s Friday… the best day of the week!  Many happy things going on lately.

Grad school starts in 3 weeks.  I’m excited and nervous.  I won’t be all alone; one of the guys who went to my high school also got into my program, so at least I’ll have one friend.  Nevertheless, the nerves are definitely there.

DanceWorks Boston is back in action.  I’m in 5 routines and could not be happier that I get to dance 3 nights a week.  It keeps me sane, the show is going to be out of this world and I’ve met some great friends through it.  And my piece is going to be unreal, just saying.

I ran 3.1 miles yesterday at a 9:50 pace.   My first 5K pace was around 10:50 min/mile, so I was thrilled to get through the same distance today, 3 months later, a whole minute per mile faster.  I felt great doing it and I was super sweaty at the end.  Win.

I have 2 more 5Ks and my first 10K coming up.  Chelmsford, Salem and finally, the Tufts Women 10K in Boston.  Obviously I still have more training to do for the 10K, but I think I’ll be able to pull it off.  P.S. If you’d like to be my running buddy for any of these, please let me know!

I plan on running a half marathon before next spring.  Yes, you heard me correctly – a half marathon.  13.1 miles.  I considered the Cape Cod Half at the end of October but at the moment, it’s not in the cards.  I have some awesome training plans and lots of support thanks to my runner friends.  A half is definitely happening within the next year.  I currently have my eye on the 2012 Great Bay Half Marathon in Newmarket, NH.  We’ll see.

I made a kickass dinner last night.  Chicken breasts stuffed with a spinach, low fat ricotta cheese and pancetta mixture, spiced corn-on-the-cob and broccoli.  Anything with spinach and cheese just calls my name.

Colorful = Healthy

I’ve lost 10 pounds.  Thanks Weight Watchers, you really work!

I want to know… what’s happy in your life?

Good staffer, bad blogger

I had a revelation and made a big oops: I am a good staffer and a bad blogger.

If you have been reading C&W for more than a day (if this is your first visit, WELCOME!), you know that I travel during the summer with NDA (National Dance Alliance) to teach middle school and high school dance teams at camps all over the country.

Being on staff entails many things, including early mornings, late nights, complex meetings, 2-3 sessions a day, complicated decision making and above all, lots of dancing and lots of teaching.  Being prepared is essential, being unprepared is… bad.

Last Monday, I ventured 5 hours to Long Island, NY to meet up my good friend, Duke undergrad and fellow staffer, Julianne, spent the night at her house and drove 5 more hours with her the following morning to Towson, Maryland for my first big camp of the summer.

Unlike my Kansas camp, this camp was four days long (five for the staff if you include our report day), had many more teams and a much bigger staff (6 of us total.)  I love big “resident” camps because you get to work with multiple teams in four short days and getting close to your other staff members is surprisingly easy.  I think we spend more time laughing than anything else.

Check out those jazz hands. I'm a pro.
It took us about 10 times to get this picture just right. We were too busy laughing.

Nevertheless, I have been neglecting my lovely blog and I have so many things to share with you!

I got my first sponsor!  I received and e-mail the other day from a woman with a darling company in the UK (yep.. I reach that far apparently!) called Bags of Love and asked if I would like to place the link to her “Personalized Aprons” on the sidebar of my blog.  Well, of course I would!  I even figured out how to make a pretty button for the link so click on over and check it out for yourself.  I will be doing a product review for her in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

I have an obsession with frozen yogurt.  I mean, we knew this already but this past trip to New York/Maryland gave me the excuse to ask Julianne, “So you’re from New York and New York has frozen yogurt.  Can we go, please please pleaseeeee?”  I ended up getting froyo four times in the past week: Red Mango, 16 Handles Too (a kiosk of sorts inside of a mall), Yogoya and 16 Handles (the real one!)  Would you like to see what they looked like?

The journey through a frozen-yogurt-packed week:

Red Mango right near Jules' house. I wish I had one.

Frozen yogurt overload.  I’m so jealous of my NYC friends (especially Christine and Ali) for having this at their disposal whenever they want it.

Which brings me to a small update about how my Weight Watchers endeavors are going.  I am now 3 weeks in and down 6 pounds.  I am beginning to see a difference already and it’s really motivating me to eat well and work out.  I hope to see a bit of an increase as the weeks progress but for now, I’m happy and I’ll take it!

Oh and as a staff, we went to see Harry Potter 7.2 on Saturday night.  I proceeded to cry through the entire movie.  It was just that good.  If you haven’t yet seen it, go.  Right now.  You won’t be sorry.

Towson Rock Star Staff

  What’s coming up!!

Today: Normal work day, gym sesh, cooking dinner for the first time in FOREVER.

Wednesday: Normal work day, longer gym sesh, then boyfriend is taking me out to dinner and for some surprises for my upcoming birthday. So excited! He’s a master of surprises, even though he has a total snoop of a girlfriend.

Thursday: Normal work day, gym (or maybe some hot yoga?), repacking my giant suitcase for 2 back-t0-back camps.

Friday: Normal work day, gym, maybe festivities with the fam, bed early.. and oh yeah, my 23rd birthday.

Saturday: 8am flight toLouisville,Kentucky!!

That flight will be followed by 5 days in Louisville and 4 days in New York for two seperate resident camps.  And the last day of July?  DanceWorks Boston auditions!!!  See “Hello World” on that schedule? Yep, that’s me.

So tell me friends… what is your favorite frozen yogurt and where can I find it??

The Month of July & Some Mid-Year Goals

Hello July!! I’m so excited you are here; you are my favorite month and not just because of my birthday.

Here’s what’s going on in Marie’s July:

July 3rd: Annual epic 4th of July celebration on the South Shore. YES.
July 4th: Independence Day.  Happy Birthday America! I’ll be celebrating on a plane and then going to bed early.
July 5th-7th: First NDA camp of the summer in Kansas!
July 9th: Dance2Save benefit with DanceWorks Boston. SexyBack style.
July 12th: Road trip to Long Island/sleepover with one of my best NDA friends.
July 13th: Drive to Towson, Maryland with said NDA best friend.
July 14th-17th: NDA Towson camp (2nd year on this one baby)
July 20th: Birthday celebrations with Boyfriend (he won’t tell me a freakin’ thing)
July 22nd: My 23rd Birthday… gah.
July 23rd-27th: NDA Louisville camp (helloo Kentucky, I’m back!)
July 27th-30th: NDA Adelphi camp (I didn’t make a mistake.. they do overlap)
July 31st: DanceWorks Boston dance auditions!

Whew!!!  What a month.  I’ll be away 21 of the 31 days and dancing through all of them.  I love my job.  Thank you NDA for making the summer more fun!  And DWB friends, I apologize in advance for being practically crippled at auditions.

As for these mid-year goals, I realized that I didn’t do a 2011 goals post like so many other bloggers.  After reading Ali and Emily’s mid-year check-ins, I figured it’s better late than never to set some goals.  At least I’ll have something to check-in for when December rolls around.

2011 Mid-Year Goals:

  • Work (at least) 8 NDA summer camps.
  • Run 2 more 5Ks.
  • Host a blog giveaway.
  • Stick to Weight Watchers (not playing a numbers game here. Work out, eat right, follow the points, be healthy and let the body do what it will.
  • Rock the first semester of my grad program at Boston University (all A’s would be sweet but we like B+s too)
  • Try 1 new recipe a week.
  • Dance in 4 DanceWorks Boston fall pieces.
  • Train for and run a 10K.
  • Take hot yoga regularly.

Those seem pretty good if I do say so myself.  This summer is one of the busiest I’ve ever had but 2011 is flying people, and I can’t wait to see how I do by the start of 2012!

I wanna know… how are your goals coming this year? What goals do you still need to work on? Any new ones in mind for the last 6 months of the year?

Pinkberry, SYTYCD and dance friends = perfect Wednesday night

Yesterday was one of the best Wednesdays I’ve had in quite a while.

My work day flew by (for the most part) and at 3:30, I was changed into my gym clothes and practically running out the door to get to the gym.  The reason?  Well, I read Ali’s blog every day and she is the NYC queen of fitness classes.  She’ll do Chisel followed by Spinning, all after a long day at work and a 5am run.  Seriously, I want to be her.

So I got myself motivated and chose my class of the day: Barbell Pump.  60 minutes of muscle-conditioning goodness.  The type that provides a special genre of soreness, one I am feeling right now.  But it was awesome.  The instructor is tough, but hilarious and I think we did lunges and squats for a straight 20 minutes without stopping.  I was short on time because of my night’s plans so when I got to the gym at 3:42 (class starts at 4), I quickly set up my area and got in a quick 10 minutes of cardio on the treadmill.  I ran a fast 9:05 mile (READ: I’ve never run a mile that fast EVER IN MY LIFE) and rounded out 10 minutes for a solid sweat.  And oh yes, was I sweating.

The sweat continued throughout the muscle class and I left the gym feeling accomplished and worthy of my Wednesday night treat: Pinkberry and So You Think You Can Dance with my DanceWorks Boston Wednesday night friends. 

After a speedy shower and even speedier dinner (Weight Watchers Ravioli in Marinara… a delicious 7 PointsPlus investment), I was out the door and on the train to Newbury Street to meet up with the ladies.

Pinkberry = Perfect frozen (guilt-free!) treat on a warm summer night.

Chocolate fro-yo with lots of strawberries.

We then headed back to Lisa’s beautiful apartment to watch some quality dancing.  A little DWB Project, a little So You Think You Can Dance… what’s not to love?

I gotta say… Melanie from this season is my absolute favorite.  All of the contestants this year are really talented and there aren’t any obvious weak links so I think kicking people off is going to be harder and harder each week.  All of the dancers have incredible technique but Melanie stands out for me.

Question: Do you watch SYTYCD?  Who is your favorite this season?  And what’s your favorite routine this far?  Mine is a 3-way tie between Melanie and Marko’s stone contemporary dance from week 1, Melanie and Marko’s lyrical-hip hop last night and Caitlynn (my other favorite girl) and Mitchell’s lyrical (with the chairs) from Week 2.

After a spectacular night in Boston, I took the train home, reviewed some NDA material and hit my bed hard.  Sign of a good day.

I also decided I want to open a Pinkberry near my house because the closest one is in Boston and that’s just a tad too far to drive for fro-yo.  Who wants in?

Cake Pops

My NDA summer officially begins next Monday (yep – the 4th of July) when I board a flight to Kansas.  Never been there and very excited to visit.  Ergo, I have lots of routine learning to do which is why I opted out of the gym yesterday to dance around in my living room.

My afternoon...
And some Rachael Ray!

I also decided that I want to invest my time in trying at least 2 new recipes a week.  Recipes that are healthy, fun and different.  Last night, I dove into the world of Cake Pops after Hungry Girl remade them.  (The secret to their low calorie success = marshmallows!)

Warning: This recipe, while not complicated, gets VERY messy.  It says to “dampen your hands often” to prevent the cake from sticking, but the cake will probably stick to your hands anyway.  You will become a gooey mess and wonder why the hell you are doing this about halfway through the process.  Are we all okay with that?  Alright.  Moving on…

The cake pops are chocolate-y, soft and rich and while they are supposed to resemble the classic pops that Starbucks now offers at 200 calories each (and those things are teenie tiny), this recipe lightens the load and they are BIGGER.  They are 3 PointsPlus on Weight Watchers (oh yeah, did I mention I’m trying that again? But the book version this time, not the online.. more details about that another time) and I could’ve eaten the whole tray.  I restrained myself, don’t worry.

Cake Pops
Adapted from Hungry Girl
Should yield 20-24 pops, I got 21

Half a box of Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake Mix (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup no-sugar-added applesauce
1 cup Cool Whip Free
12 regular-sized marshmellows, halved widthwise
1 cup mini chocolate chips
20-24 lollipop sticks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8×8 baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.

Combine cake mix, applesauce and 1/2 cup water in a bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.  The batter will be thick but if it’s a bit lumpy, add a bit more water to thin in it.  Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and bake in oven for approximately 35 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean.

Let cake cool completely.  This is very important – don’t ignore it!

While the cake is cooling, you can line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make room in your fridge for it.  That should take all of 30 seconds, leaving you plently of time to watch tv, read a book or stalk follow a blog.

Once cake is cooled, place it in a large bowl and crumble it with your hands until you have crumbs.  Add the Cool Whip and use your hands to combine the two.  The mixture should hold its shape once fully combined and will be very moist.

Place half of the mixture on a non-wooden cutting board and form a log.  Slice the log into 12 equal pieces.  Dampen your hands often to help prevent the cake from sticking (…..) Take each piece, roll into into a ball and flatten it on your palm.  Place a marshmallow half in the center of the cake and mold the cake around the ‘mallow until it is completely covered.  Roll the cake-covered-mallow in your hands to form a ball and place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with all of the pieces and the other half of the cake mixture until you have a lovely sheet full of cake-covered marshmallow balls.

Insert a lollipop stick into the center of each pop.  Be careful not to go all with way through the ball. 

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Start with 45 seconds on 50% power, and then in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between until the chips are melted completely.

Using a spoon, cover each cake ball with chocolate and place back on the baking sheet, stick up.  Transfer sheet to fridge and let the chocolate harden (should take about 45 minutes.)

Then mow inhale enjoy responsibly!

Marshmallow-y goodness.

My Not-So-Lazy Weekend

This past weekend, I decided to forgo sleeping in until 2pm and managed to pull myself out of bed early enough to have a productive two days.

On Saturday morning, after an quick and easy breakfast of a banana and my favorite yogurt (Light & Fit 80-calorie Vanilla!), I watched the tube for a bit before completing a Jillian Michael’s workout DVD and taking a quick jog around the neighorhood.  Sweaty and pumped up, I showered and decided to grab a coffee and visit my Grammy.

During my visit, my Aunt Deb reminded me of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer (the one that was my Grammy’s that she was giving to me) and I noticed it sitting on the kitchen table.  I had completely forgotten about it (seriously, how could I?)  I dragged it home (it’s a heavy sucker) and immediately began figuring out ways to use it right then and there when an opportunity presented itself.. more about that in a bit.

My boyfriend, Stephen, and I had made plans for Saturday night to cook dinner together at his house and spend the night drinking wine and watching movies.  When our parents caught wind of this, they decided to join in the fun (and gave me an excuse to make chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting in my new mixing toy.)  Let me preface – my parents and Stephen’s parents get along well, really really well.  Like they’re best friends.  I don’t hate it.

When Stephen mentioned to me that his mom had a Weight Watcher’s recipe for Turkey Chili, I knew it was going to be a good dinner.  Unfortunately, he and I planned on (and executed) a double batch of the stuff before realizing that our parents ordered pizza instead.  Minor blunder.  The chili, which we added extra veggies to on top of what the recipe called for, was hearty, warming and simply delicious.  I made Hungry Girl Cornbread Muffins to go with it.

Oh and the cupcakes?  Hungry Girl’s recipe (I know, I’m on an HG kick.  I love her, what can I say?) for simple chocolate-y cupcakes and my own simple buttercream.  I dusted some green sugar sprinkles over the top.  For some reason, maybe the use of the mixer or maybe I just didn’t add enough powdered sugar this time, but my frosting was, well… very thin, this time around.  Still delicious and very shiny but not the thick buttercream I am used to.  Oh well, they got eaten anyway.

I spent the rest of the night drinking a new red wine, Black Opal Cabernet (circa Australia 2009), which was deep and full with cherry flavor.  It defintiely wasn’t my favorite of all time but for approximately $7.99 and a night with the fam, I would drink it again.  It paired nicely with the chili anyway.

Waking up Sunday morning posed a bit more of a dilemma.  I pulled myself out of bed around 8:30, called Stephen to make sure he was awake, made him promise me that he would be ready for the gym when I picked him up in an hour and sleepily made my way downstairs. 

Since I don’t like to eat heavy before the gym, I grabbed an apple and plopped on the couch to watch Hairspray.  Before I knew it, I was changing into my gym clothes and getting my iPod ready, all the while the Couch to 5K Week 5, Day 3 lured – no, haunted – every thought in my mind.

At the gym, we met up with our two friends and I immediately hit the tread.  My friend Kimmy is using the Couch to 5K training plan too but the lucky bi-otch is in the early stages where you run 90 seconds and walk 2 minutes.  Man, I miss those days.  I began with my 5 minute walk that ended all too quickly.  With my music set and my sweatshirt covering the timer, I kicked my run into a higher gear (approximately 10:54/mile) and just ran.

20 minutes later (my quota for the day), I was sweaty, out of breath and feeling GREAT.  I even got high-fives from Kim during the last 2 minutes because I thought my lungs were going to explode.  But overall, I felt accomplished and was elated telling Stephen and Kim’s boyfriend, Matt, about my epic run.  Yes, epic.  Whatever – it was epic to me.

After parting from the other couple, I dropped Stephen off at his house and went home to shower.  I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Boston University Barnes & Noble in Boston with Kim… aka wandering around the BU section trying to decide what to buy.  I finally decided on a red t-shirt, a red sweatshirt, 3 car stickers and a shot glass.  Grand total: $80.. well played BU, well played.

At least my car looks cool.

That night, I went back to Stephen’s (I kinda like the kid…) and we watched Little Fockers with his parents and sister, Nina.  It was hysterical; go rent it.

Overall, it was quite a successful and productive weekend.  Hopefully next weekend will be too!

Oh – by the way, today is my friend/co-worker, Tracie’s 40th birthday.

Happy Birthday Work Mama!

Turkey/Veggie Chili (HUGE AMOUNT. Great for leftovers and parties)
Adapted from Weight Watchers

2 pound lean ground turkey (94% fat free works great)
2 (14.9 ounce) can black beans (not drained.. you’ll need the liquid)
3 (14.9 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
3 (14.9 ounce) cans fat-free, low sodium beef broth
8 ounces whole button mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 jalepeno, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped
2 zucchinis, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 yellow summer squash, cut into bite-sized pieces

Brown turkey in large pot sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Add all vegetables and canned items and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. 

Lower the heat and let simmer at least 1 hour. 

Serve hot with cornbread muffins.  If desired, sprinkle parm cheese over individual servings.

Cornbread Mega-Muffins
From Hungry Girl’s 300 Under 300

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional.. I accidentally left it out and they still tasted good)
1 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 small can (8 ounces) cream-style corn
3/4 cup egg substitute
3/4 fat-free plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour, cornmeal, Splenda, sugar (if using), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix well and set aside.  In a seperate medium bowl, mix corn, egg substitute, and yogurt.  Whisk thoroughly.  Add contents of medium bowl to the large one and mix until completely combined.

Generously spray 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly distribute batter among the cups (they will be FULL.. that’s okay!)

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

One night, three hits…

The other night I decided to make 3 completely new recipes, ones I had found in some internet searching but never tried.  It was a three-course dinner the other night with recipes from three different places – an appetizer from a fellow blogger, the entree if a mere 4 points from Weight Watchers (and worth each delicious point) and the dessert, from Miss Giada di Laurentis herself. 

I must say though, of the three, I was the most disappointed in Giada’s recipe.  I wish I had taken pictures, but I forgot, of course.  More details about this in a bit.

I decided to make “Spinach Brownies” as the appetizer for a few reasons.  One, they are from a blogger whose website I visit frequently.  Jamie, the lovely young lady who writes My Baking Addiction is, to me, a culinary genius.  (Not to mention one of the most creative cupcake makers I’ve come across.)  I know the name seems a little off-putting but don’t be fooled – these things are incredible.  I decided to make them because even though my original appetizer recipe for spinach balls was a hit with my family, this recipe is much less time consuming (and definitely more delicious).  I made a few changes – her original recipe calls for bell peppers and bacon, but I think they were just as yummy.

Spinach Brownies (adapted from My Baking Addiction)
(10 ounce) frozen package spinach
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 onion; chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (more like a cup if you’re like me)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 8×8 inch baking dish.
2. Place spinach in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until spinach cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain thoroughly and set aside.
3. Sautee onions and garlic in a pan over medium heat until vegetables are slightly softened.
4. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and butter. Mix in spinach, onion mixture and mozzarella cheese.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Next up, the entree.  While browsing my account on Weight Watchers, I was looking up healthy dinner recipes featuring ground turkey for the sole reason that I had some in my freezer and I’ve been dying to experiment with it.  Plus, I had to find some way to “hide” it well enough in flavor that my dad (who prefers fatty ground beef, obviously) would love it.  When I found this recipe, a mere 4 points a serving, I knew it was the one. 

It features some of my favorite things – the turkey, spaghetti squash (note to self, use more often!), and two types of cheese!  I was a little weary at first but as my dad took a bite and complimented me on it, I was elated.  Call it a new staple in my kitchen.  (By the way, we did tell him it was ground turkey.  Didn’t stop him from eating 2 helpings!)

Weight Watchers Italian Turkey & Spaghetti Squash Pie

  1 medium raw spaghetti squash   
  1/2 pound(s) uncooked ground turkey breast (or 1 whole pound if you’ve got it)
  2 tsp olive oil (I just use cooking spray to saute veggies)
  1 small onion, chopped   
  1 clove (medium) garlic cloveminced   
  28 oz canned diced tomatoes, undrained   
  1 tsp italian seasoning, or more to taste   
  6 oz fat-free ricotta cheese (I used low fat)
  1 large egg
  1 spray cooking spray, nonstick (more if you are using it to saute)
  1/2 cup(s) shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese (yeah right – definitely


  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Halve squash lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut sides down, in a large baking dish and prick skin all over with a fork. Bake until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook turkey, stirring occasionally, in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain, remove from skillet and set aside.
  • In a same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; add cooked turkey and simmer, stirring often, until desired consistency, about 5 minutes.
  • Place ricotta and egg in a food processor or blender; puree until smooth (or forget the gadgets and blend it with a whisk by hand)
  • Coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Remove squash from oven and increase oven temperature to 375ºF.  LET COOL OR YOU WILL BURN YOURSELF.
  • Using a fork, carefully rake stringy squash pulp from shell, separating it into strands that look like spaghetti. Arrange spaghetti squash strands in bottom and up sides of pie plate to form a crust.
  • Add ricotta cheese mixture and gently spread over squash. Pour tomato-turkey sauce over cheese mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before slicing into 6 pieces. Yields 1 piece per serving.

And of course, my favorite part of any meal – dessert.  More specifically, Giada’s Lemon-Ricotta cookies.  Originally, I made these for a colleague at work because she requested them a while ago.  I made a half batch because really, who needs 45 cookies? 

Well, these things are awesome in theory – and the batter was pretty tasty too.  I mean, who can go wrong when you put 1/2 a container of ricotta in cookie batter?  Unfortunately, these were more like lemon-ricotta pancakes when they came out of the oven.  Even though I added the correct amount of each ingredient, I’m sad to say that the execution was a little elusive to what I was trying to achieve.  Nonetheless, I’ll save the recipe and try them again for experiment’s sake.  For Giada’s recipe, check out one of my favorite websites (that of course, doesn’t load while I am at work): www.foodnetwork.com

Overall, my three course experiment was very successful.  Next up?  Christmas – let the Season of Joy & Sweet Treats begin!

Slow start, good food

After a few reluctant days, I have dedicated myself to my Weight Watchers program and some of it’s recipes.  Last night, I tried two: mashed sweet potatoes and mini chocolate cheesecakes to go with my Hungry Girl “Tried & True” Inside-Out Cheeseburgers.

The verdict? Delish (for the most part).  The sweet potatoes used fat-free plain Greek yogurt to make them thick and protein-enriched.  The best part was that you couldn’t taste the somewhat-bitter tang of the yogurt; it was more of a thickener than anything else.  Both of my parents liked them too and my dad even guessed the secret ingredient.

The mini chocolate cheesecakes, though not as successful, were still pretty good.  Since it called for two packets of unflavored gelatin, the promised “cheesecakes” came out more like jiggly pudding molds.  Nevertheless, with the addition of a chocolate wafer, one (about the size of a muffin cup) definitely satisfied my sweet tooth for the night, which I was more than pleased about.

Tonight, I will be trying WW focaccia bread!  At 2 points a serving for bread, it just can’t be beat – especially in my book.  I could eat bread all day, everyday if it wouldn’t make me look like a loaf.  The recipe surprisingly uses no oil, a common key ingredient in focaccia, so I suppose we’ll see how this little experiment goes. 

Oh, and I have not abandoned my appetizer project; it’s just on hold for the moment.  I have to spread out my culinary genius after all.

Until dinner…!

Weight Watchers .. Millions tested, Me approved?

I have a confession.  After much debate, I have decided to join Weight Watchers Online.  Not that I have 100 pounds to lose or anything but I think it will be a good way to get back into prime shape and maybe drop a few pounds that I’d rather not see on the scale.  So, what does that mean food-wise?  Cue every Weight Watchers website, cookbook and recipe that I can get my hands on.

I’m not necessarily ashamed to say that I joined the program – I know lots of people who have tried it and its really worked for them.  I think that what it comes down to for me is that I just want to be the healthiest I can be and look the best I can.

Fortunately, Lisa Lillien, the creator of Hungry Girl, includes WW points in all of her online recipes and has endorsed it as being a great program even if you just want to maintain your weight.  Well, I definitely plan on losing some, but hey – any encouragement helps right?

Now I’m on a mission to find the best WW recipes and make them consistently for my family (and trick my Dad – I don’t want him to realize that he is actually eating better-for-him food too!)  I think that overall it will help my entire family lose weight and feel better about eating.  Our habits are terrible but there is definitely room for improvement.

Have any killer WW recipes that I can try?  Send them to me and I’ll let you know what I think!