Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole with Coffee Whipped Topping

I know what you're thinking. Pumpkin? You? In May? I know, right? I totally broke my pumpkin belongs in the Fall and Winter months rule to make this recipe. And guess what? I loved it. It gave me the same warm and cozy feeling I get when I watch Gilmore Girls and see the red and orange leaved trees. 

Just like my Gilmore Girls, I'll still save pumpkin for special moments out of season and bask in it like crazy in season, but I might occasionally break my rule now. I did break it for a good reason. We had one of our potluck breakfast meals at work. A coworker who started post fall, had heard about my Pumpkin French Toast Casserole and then I didn't have a choice! I like it when people request my food! I just can't say no. 

The other factor that pushed me over the edge to saying yes to making a pumpkin dish? Coffee whipped cream. Let's just start things off right and talk about this! 

Coffee Whipped Cream 


  • 1 package Starbucks Via
  • 1 container fat free cool whip


Combine. Stir. Seriously, that's it. It's the simplest thing every but oh man is it good. I mean how can you say not to anything topped with Coffee Whipped Cream? My coworkers love to put it in their coffee too. It compliments anything pumpkin flavored magically and also just spoon. It's the perfect topping for a good old spoon.

Did I mention it's also guilt-free? 0 points for 2 tbsp or 1 point for 1/4 cup.

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole


  • 1/2 cup Brummel and Brown Yogurt Butter
  • 12 slices Sara Lee Delightful 45 Calorie Bread (I've used Multigrain and Whole Wheat)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups Egg Beaters
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk


Melt Brummel and Brown butter and pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. In a separate bowl whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla together. I like to shake in a little extra cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice into the liquid mixture.

Time to layer. Layer 6 pieces of bread in the pan. Spread a thin layer of pumpkin across the bread. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture over the bread. Layer the other 6 pieces of bread on top and spread with pumpkin. Pour the liquid mixture over the bread. Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar mixture over everything.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, cover the dish with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. It should be golden brown and set.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar to make it pretty. Serve with syrup, butter, whipped cream OR COFFEE WHIPPED CREAM.

Yields 12 medium sized servings at 4 points each or 6 large servings at 8 points each.

If the summer heat is getting to you and you're missing fall as much as me, I highly recommend this dish now!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Meal Planning 101: Week 9

Since I bombarded you with a super crazy long meal plan/update post last week and almost a post every day, I'll keep this one short and simple!

Highlights from Last Week

Roasted Corn with Cilantro Lime Compound Butter
First time trying and cooking with quinoa! Mexican quinoa salad. 

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole, the perfect vehicle for coffee whipped cream. 
Eclair Cake - Recipe coming soon. 
I've officially began collecting stories from my journey to perfect caramel. 
Best Caramel Mishap of the week - Blonde Sauce. 


French Dip Cups, Skinny French Onion Dip with Parmesan Baked Wonton Chips and Baked Onions


Leftover Tilapia and Sauteed Spinach with Toasted Coconut


Melt In Your Mouth Chicken, Oven Baked "Fried" Okra and Country Potatoes


Leftover Melty Chicken


I'm leavin on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again...

Okay... lies! I'll be back next Thursday. I'll be in Indiana for a conference with work where all food will be provided and paid for. So... short meal plan this week and there won't be one for next week either. Because... I get back Thursday and then Friday begins Bridesmaid Weekend Extravaganza. So more predetermined food. BUT Sunday, June 10, I'll be back with a happy OCD meal plan.


Eclair Cake - I intended to make Eclair Cake this week, but it got bumped up to last week to share with friends. I'll be sharing my embarrassingly easy skinnier version of this recipe this week.

Chai Banana Bread Muffin Cupcakes - I didn't get to these last week, but my browning bananas are in desparate need! Maybe I'll bring them with me on the trip in case I meet a cute boy. I mean they do say the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I need something up my sleeve just in case.

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Chicken Florentine Pasta

I gave you a salad recipe and I just must give you a companion recipe to go with it! I'm nice and OCD like that. Salad is probably my favorite thing to eat with pasta. Probably because pasta is so high in points and it needs a super low point side. And there is something about the combination of something heavy and something so light and fresh. 

Chicken Florentine Pasta 

(adapted from Pioneer Woman's recipe)


  • 1 pound of whole wheat penne
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt, pepper and Tony's to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Brummel and Brown butter
  • 3 teaspoons refrigerated minced garlic (or 4 cloves minced)
  • 1 1/2 fat free chicken broth
  • 1 bag baby spinach (6-8 ounces)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved length wise
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, shaved with vegetable peeler

How can you go wrong with grape tomatoes and fresh Parmesan? Go fresh! It's the best way.


Cut up chicken into bite sized chunks and season with salt, pepper and Tony's. Heat olive oil over high heat and add chicken chunks.

While chicken is cooking start your pasta.  Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. Drain and set aside. You can also salt and pepper your tomatoes at this time and shave your Parmesan. Multitasking!

Let the chicken brown on one side and then turn it to brown on the other. About 5-7 minutes on each side. Once done, remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Increase heat to medium, add butter and garlic, and stir quickly so it doesn't burn. After a few sizzling seconds, pour in the chicken broth and stir to deglaze the pan. Allow the mixture to bubble and reduce heat to medium low. Allow the mixture to reduce by half, it should still be bubbling, just not heavy boiling.

Turn off the heat, add spinach, salted tomatoes, chicken, and pasta to the pan. Toss to combine. Add the Parmesan and toss more. Tomatoes will get warm and cozy. Spinach will get wilty and perfect. Serve with extra Parmesan shavings if desired.

Yields about 7 cups of pasta. Each 1 cup serving is 10 points for a filling hearty pasta. A good BIG meal to serve to other people. It makes much.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Wedge Salads & Spicy Avocado Lime Dressing

More green! I do love green stuff a whole lot. It worked out well for me when I started Weight Watchers, the loving veggies and fruits thing. I quickly discovered how to make a big salad filled with 0 point things and selectively pick my point worthy toppings of choice. 

I'm always looking for ways to spice up a salad, make it main dish worthy, or tweak the flavors to make it a perfect side for any meal. One of my favorite ways to do that is to make my own salad dressing. I can eat a salad without dressing if it has the right toppings, but mostly, I have to have some dressing on my salad. Store bought creamy dressings are always high in points and so they are my favorites to make at home. Skinny Taste is the best source for healthy made at home creamy salad dressings.

Spicy Avocado Lime Dressing

(adapted from Skinny Taste's recipe)


  • 3 tablespoons powdered butter milk + 3/4 cup water (or 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • juice of two limes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Green. Green. Green. 


Add cultured buttermilk powder and water in a food processor first to combine. If you're using normal buttermilk, just toss it all together. Add in all the other ingredients. Most of them don't need to be pre-chopped. Deseed the avocado and remove the meat from the shell and just toss it in whole. Slice the jalapeno in half lengthwise and then again and toss in. Roughly chop the green onions. Add cilantro, sugar, garlic, lime juice, salt, cumin and pepper. Pulse until blended well. 

Note - If you don't add the jalapeno seeds, decrease the amount of sugar, it would probably be a little too sweet. 

Warning - this is SPICY! Like serious kick here folks. I liked it, but it's even spicier than the salsa I made earlier in the week. 

Last step. Don't misspell spicy when you go to take a picture of your yummy dressing for you blog. Oops. 

Yields 1 1/2 cups and 12 servings. Each 2 tablespoons serving is only 1 point! Add to your favorite salad or make one of these lovely wedge salads I made!

Wedge Salad


  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • handful of chopped red grape tomatoes
  • handful of chopped yellow cherry tomatoes
  • julienned cucumbers
  • chopped green onions
  • turkey bacon bits
  • reduced fat blue cheese crumbles
  • balsamic vinegar
  • Spicy Avocado Lime Salad Dressing (or your choice)
  • any other toppings you like


Assemble. Really! It's that easy. Use a big mega knife (I used a watermelon knife) to slice a head of iceberg lettuce in half and then in half again. Cut off the hard end of edge wedge. These made BIG salads. If you want smaller ones you could cut each iceberg half into thirds instead of in half again. Carefully sprinkle on your toppings. Drizzle with your favorite dressing and splash with a little balsamic. 

The Weight Watchers points value of your wedge salad will depend on what you add to it. 2 tablespoons of reduced blue cheese crumbles are only 1 point. 1 tablespoon of turkey bacon bits is 1 point. 2 tablespoons of the dressing is 1 point. The rest is 0! My whole big salad was 3 points, and less probably! I didn't use a whole 2 tablespoons of dressing or blue cheese, but always better to round up a little. 

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Homemade Salsa & Smashed Beans

Meal planning ideas and inspiration come from everywhere for me. Other food bloggers inspire ideas often, restaurant dishes, cravings, the Food Network and it's many shows that are often [read always] playing on my television, walks down the grocery isle, or just crazy brainstorming. 

This meal plan inspiration was a combo! First my friend and fellow blogger Emily made my mouth water and cravings begin with a salsa recipe she posted. She adapted hers from the Pioneer Woman's homemade salsa recipe. Once I knew I had to make salsa, I was on the lookout for other ideas to make it into a meal. Along came Melissa D'Arabian's Ten Dollar Dinners' chile episode. I used her Smashed Black Beans as an inspiration to make my own version. 

Note - I also added stuffed peppers to this meal that were a total flop. Melissa made cheese and corn stuff peppers, battered and fried. I tried to do a veggie stuffed pepper idea with corn, spinach and tomatoes, baked. Some recipes are great! They work out, I share them, I make them again. Some just aren't! Real life folks. Everyone creates recipes that don't work, even people with food blogs. 

Green! I told you this week's recipes could be summed up with one word, green. But seriously, how can something not be good that starts so fresh!?

Homemade Salsa 

(adapted from Pioneer Woman's recipe)


  • 1 - 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies (like Rotel, I used Great Value brand)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of jarred/bottled minced garlic (or 1-2 cloves to taste of fresh chopped)
  • 1 whole jalapeno, sliced (I left the seeds, but if you don't like spicy, discard them.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup cilantro (You either love or hate cilantro, I love it. If you hate it, leave it out or add less.)
  • juice of 1 lime


I made mine in a big food processor, but Emily made hers in a blender. Either would work. Toss everything in and pulse/blend! Do it to a consistency that you like. I like it pretty thin. It's like your favorite Mexican restaurant's salsa, but BETTER! Yes. I said it. I like this made at home salsa even better than the Mexican restaurants' versions. 

Refrigerate for at least an hour. Yields about 5 1/2 - 6 cups. GUILT FREE! 0 points. Serve with chips. 

Look at that seed! It's got a kick. I like it, but if you are sensitive to spiciness you might want to leave out the seeds. That said, I'll never leave them out. I was quite proud of my taste buds for handling/liking it. 

I don't know why I've never braved salsa before! I always thought it was some long expensive process involve blanching and skinning tomatoes plus more. The canned tomatoes in this recipes and the simplicity won me over forever. Don't count on me serving jarred salsa to anyone again, unless I'm in an unplanned pinch. 

Smashed Mexican Beans


  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons jarred/bottle minced garlic (or 3 cloves fresh minced)
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of dark red kidney beans
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid


Cook the onions and jalapeno in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add cumin, oregano, salt and garlic. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add the beans and stock and bring to boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes.

Remove the beans from stove top and strain, reserving the cooking liquid. Smash beans with a potato masher. Add in vinegar and cooking liquid and continue to smash until combined and a consistency that you like.

Yields about 3 cups. Each 1/2 serving is 2 points (6 servings). Slightly larger 3/4 cup servings are 3 points each (4 servings).

And what do you do when the main dish to go with your two yummy sides that are way better than the main dish doesn't work out? Made the sides into their own main dish of course. Nachos! Layered with good corn tortilla chips, beans, a little cheese and avocado chicken warmed in the oven at 350 for 7-10 minutes. Topped with fresh chopped avocado and served with abundant salsa for dipping.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pineapple Dreamsicle Fluff

You know I don't love summer. I'm admittedly a little bit of a diva and I hate sweating. If I could have it my way, I'd live in a place where people had the same hospitality and helpful spirit as my great Mississippi, cooked just as well, but the temperatures would be quite different. All year round it would never be too hot to wear cardigans. In Cardiganland I'd never sweat or be hit in the face with pea soup thick humidity that makes my hair look like a mess. 

Dislike for Mississippi heat and summers aside, there are parts of summer I like. I like afternoon storms, even the ones with lightening and hail like we had yesterday. I like snow balls. I like popsicles. I like Smith County watermelons. I like paper sacks full of home grown veggies from my pawpaws garden. I like cookouts and BBQs. I like sandals. I like swimming pools. And despite my love obsession with fall and all its flavors, I actually love the flavors that go along with the rising temperatures of summer. This little easy to make treat is guilt free, full of summer flavors and reminds me of my favorite snow ball, dreamsicle! 

Pineapple Dreamsicle Fluff


  • 1 can mandarin oranges, drained (in Splenda)
  • 1 can crushed pineapple, not drained (in Splenda)
  • 1 package sugar free vanilla pudding (big box)
  • 1 container of fat free cool whip 
  • coconut shavings (optional edible garnish)


Stir together pudding mix, cool whip, drained oranges, and pineapple with its juice until combined. Chill and eat!

Yields 5 cups and 10 - 1/2 cup servings. Each 1/2 cup serving is 1 point on Weight Watchers! Totally guilt free. I sprinkled a little shaved coconut on top of mine. 1 tablespoon of sweetened coconut is 1 point, but I didn't use a whole tablespoon. I'm certain I will keep my refrigerator stocked with this all summer. 

What's your favorite summer treat? 

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Dr. Pepper Ten Brownies

Weight Watcher's at home chefs and bakers have to be some of the most innovative people out there! Tips and tricks are passed down at every meeting. Shortcuts and substitutes can be found on any food blog that shares Weight Watcher recipes. Some of my favorite recipes are the SUPER easy ones. The mix this with a box of that and done ones! Lower in points and easier? Win win! 

Cake mix recipes mixed with cans of diet soda (or assorted cans of fruit) are all over the place. I haven't actually had a cake mix with soda that I like yet. (However, I do enjoy cake mixes mixed with pumpkin or pineapple.) But... when I saw this Diet Coke Brownies recipe, my interest was stirred. It helped that it came from a healthy eating blog that I trust. Craving chocolate probably helped a bit too. Needless to say, I found myself having to try out a version of these brownies. Dr. Pepper Ten is my all time favorite diet soda and I always have it. If I don't, I'm mad at someone for drinking the last one. I think it was the perfect diet soda for these easy peasy brownies. 


  • 1 box of brownie mix
  • 1 can of Dr. Pepper Ten (or diet soda of choice)


Stir brownie mix and soda together until smooth. Pour into a sprayed 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 30 - 40 minutes. Follow the package directions for cooking, but you may have to cook it a tad longer. Just rely on the tooth pick trick. 

Now... if you want to be good and very self controlled, you can (and should) stop there. However... Since we're not adding eggs or oil, why not add a little coconut shavings? I mean aren't they just so pretty and just in need of being the perfect topping for something? 

Since we're adding things, a few chocolate chips sprinkled on hot right out of the oven brownies are the inseparable best friend to coconut shavings. 

Then... the fat free sweet condensed milk just felt left out! He asked nicely to be drizzled atop. I just couldn't bring myself to tell him no. 

And that's how Dr. Pepper Ten Brownies became Coconut Dr. Pepper Ten Brownies.

The Weight Watcher's Recipe Builder was down tonight, so I couldn't add it the little extras. But word to the wise, make these for people! They are dangerously good and easy to snack on. Without the extras, according to the recipe I used as a base, they are 4 points each for 18 servings. Mine made 12 large servings or 24 small ones.

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Meal Planning 101: Week 8

(Disclaimer - This is a catch up post! If you just want the meal plan, scroll to the bottom.)

Oh hi there. I took a little unplanned vaca from cooking and blogging.

Good news? I'm back with tons of cooking and blogging inspiration and vowing to not eat anything prepacked or frozen for at least a month.

Bad news? I got a little over inspired and spent more than my planned grocery budget. Oops. I now vow also to not eat out for a while (good plan anyway, but I kinda used the eating out budget for groceries).

Since it's been a while, let's catch up. My life since the last time we chatted can be summed up in three words.

Moving. Instagram. Birthday. 

Since I missed you, and I'm certain you missed me back, can I walk you through a quick picture recap?

Birthday. I'm officially "almost 30." I have now begun my last year in the "20 Somethings" age range. I have to say it... #YOLO!

Since you've missed me and my rambliness (and my ability to make up words like rambliness) let's linger on YOLO. Just for the record, I think YOLO, the acronym and common hashtag for "you only live once," is the cheesiest, silliest, most ridiculous hashtag/acronym/buzzword out there. BUT... it makes me giggle. And hey, sometimes it just fits. While we're interjecting and rambling about YOLO I have a quick story. On the last night of the semester, my RAs and I kept joking and YOLO. At the RA Banquet, we decided that we had to have a YOLO moment that night, our last night together as a staff. Our version of YOLO turned out to be "borrowing" a whole pineapple from the fruit table. We "borrowed" it all the way home, cut it up, ate it and tweeted a picture with the infamous #YOLO hashtag. Yeah. We're cool.

Back to business. The beginning of my last year as a 20 Somethings was great! There was lots of food, lots of friends and lots of love.
Birthday Breakfast (Starbucks - duh!)
Birthday Dinner at KEIFER'S
FREE Birthday Frozen Yogurt
My first Tervis Tumblers! 
Favorite flowers from Melony
Crafty sewing book from the RDs

Moving. We know I hate it. Packing. Unpacking. It stinks! But I'm being positive and making the most of it. I brought all my favorites, finally unpacked, and am loving my quirky kitchen for the summer. 

A happy entrance makes me feel better about
walking in to the pseudohome. 
It has buttons for the eyes and it's yellow! 
I brought ever single kitchen gadget I own.
I couldn't part with them, even for 2 months. 
Favorites make it homey. Pictures and owls are a must. 

Instagram. I've had it for ages, but finally figured out how to use it last week. I'm certain I've been driving people crazy with my instagramming updates. But hey. It's a social media driven world, I'm just living in it. I also also use Diptic (for collaging and taking darkness out) and Picfx (for fun light filters) like nobody's business. 

I finally got my Starbucks Gold Card! (And
learned how to do the cool fade technique.)
Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappe with Chocolate Whipped
First Home Goods Visit and the isle the captivated me.
Okay so, I had a lot of Starbucks last week. 
Coconut shavings - my new favorite thing ever. 
No more shipped tahini! My local grocer carries it now.


Veggie Stuffed Peppers, Homemade Salsa and Smashed Beans


Chicken Florentine Pasta and Wedge Salad with Zesty Avocado Buttermilk Dressing


Leftover Pasta


Leftover Fancied  Up Salad


Grilled Tilapia, Grilled Corn and Mexican Quinoa Salad


Leftover Tilapia


French Dip CupsCaramelized Onion Dip with Asparagus Spears and Wonton Chips and Baked Onions

This weeks meals can be summed up in one word. Green! Look at all the green in my fridge. I don't hate it.


Dr. Pepper Ten Brownies - Inspired by Diet Coke Brownies. Made Saturday night. Brought to small group on Sunday night. Recipe coming this week.

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole - Three or four times a year, mostly during the breaks that students are gone, we have a potluck breakfast in the our office suite. This past fall I brought a Pumpkin French Toast Casserole with Coffee Whipped Cream. We're having another breakfast this Tuesday. I have that think where I think pumpkin only works in fall and winter months, but this was requested by multiples! I'm breaking my rule because I like my coworkers a whole lot.

Chai Banana Bread Muffin Cupcakes - I have bananas that need to be used. This seems like a perfectly good destiny for them.

Creamy Pineapple Dessert - Whipped up an altered more healthy version of this tonight. Recipe coming this week. Perfect for lunches or a quick healthy sweet tooth fix. And quite summery!

Can we still be friends? Even though I took an unannounced vaca and just posted a million and five pictures?

What's for dinner at your house this week? 

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