Spaghetti Squash Bake

Happy Tuesday! How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours started out really good and then ended kind of a low note…my strep throat returned and a busted tail light :-/ Womp womp!  Hubs accidentally backed my car into his…the worst kind of accident. But luckily, everyone is okay.  Easy (but pricey) fix.
fenderbenderI started feeling kind of crappy on Sunday when I woke up, but pressed forward with baking cookies with my little darling.
IMG_2530After that adventure and cleaning up the kitchen, I was exhausted and could feel my throat starting to swell up.  I called my doc to call in another round of antibiotics, so hopefully this round will do the trick.  I have a half marathon to run this weekend and I want to go into it feeling 100%.
To continue on with celebrating National Nutrition Month, I want to share an amazing recipe using spaghetti squash in place of pasta.
Both pasta and spaghetti squash have their own nutritional benefits.  For example, pasta is a better source of folate, where as eating spaghetti squash will provide you with more antioxidants.  Both are low in fat, but if you’re watching your carbs, spaghetti squash would be the better choice.  There are 7 grams of carbs in spaghetti squash compared to pasta’s 31 grams of carbs.  And calories? 1 serving of pasta (and let’s face it, most of us are consuming more than the recommended amount) packs in 158 calories, while spaghetti squash contains 27 calories. (source)   Overall,l if you’re trying to eat low (complex) carbs, low-fat, gluten-free or whole, unprocessed foods, I would say that spaghetti squash is the way to go.
Last week I made this delicious number.
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I cut 1 spaghetti squash in half (lengthwise), brushed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 400 for about 45 minutes.  While that was baking in the oven, I cooked up some italian chicken sausage, spinach, and pasta sauce.  Once the spaghetti squash was out of the oven, I took a fork and “fluffed” up the “noodles”.
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Then spooned the chicken sausage mixture over top and then added a sprinkle of goat cheese crumbles.  And voilà! Dinner :-)
What’s your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash? I used to scoop it out onto a plate and eat it like spaghetti, but I found this way to be much more appetizing and EASY!

Asian Chicken Salad

Happy Tuesday!  How was everyone’s weekend?  Ours was pretty busy over here, with drill and the last of our work holiday parties plus taking care of a sick kiddo.  Let’s just say, I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Last week, I was on a mission to use up some of the pantry items I’ve had on hand for awhile.  There were a lot of random meals being made and at one point, I said to hubs as we sat down to dinner, “I have no idea how this is going to taste, but all these things sounded like a really good idea.”  And it was.  I did, however, make one meal that I knew would be a for sure winner.

Every time we have a big family gathering, my grandma makes this Oriental Salad and it’s always a hit.  The salad is made with a pack of ramen noodles and you use the flavor packet as part of the dressing.  It’s amazing.  I would like to experiment with making the dressing completely from scratch one of these days just because I know how much sodium is in that little flavor packet.  If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears!  To serve as a main meal, I cut up two chicken breasts into bite size pieces and sautéed them in sesame oil and black pepper.  The chicken definitely added some staying power to the salad.

IMG_2488Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb bag angel fine cole slaw
  • 1 pack oriental flavored ramen noodle
  • 1/2 c diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 c honey roasted sesame sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted almonds sliced

Dressing

  • 1 flavor pack that comes with noodles
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 c oil

In a large bowl, mix up all of the salad ingredients.  Crush the ramen noodles up for garnish if you want to.  It adds a nice crunch to the salad.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and stir.  Mix well into the salad.  Add in the chicken.  There you have it!  A salad packed with flavor that has some staying power.  Win win!

This week, my meals are well-planned out but my workouts are kind of all over the place, but I’m getting it done!  Here’s what’s on the agenda for this week:

Monday: PF Chang’s Asian Lettuce Wraps (thumbs up!) + Interval Barre & Running 3 miles

Tuesday: Runner’s World Meatloaf  (sooo good!) + foam rolling & stretching

Wednesday: leftovers + barre bee

Thursday: Jerk shrimp stir-fry + my Air Force PT Test!! (I’m anxious to see how all the push-ups in barre have helped me!)

Friday: Mexi night + Barre & running maybe?

I’ve been putting my Runner’s World cookbook to use!  I have yet to make a disappointing recipe from it and can’t wait to try out some of the desserts.  It was one of the most useful birthday presents that I received last year.

Question of the night:  What’s your favorite recipe book?  I could always add more to my collection!  My favorite would have to be a gift from my grandma.  One year for Christmas, she made up books for all of the women in my family of all of her best recipes.  It’s a cookbook I will keep forever!

Leftover Turkey Soup

Hi guys!  I’m so so grateful that I have Mondays off.  Our weekend was so jam-packed, it was nice to play catch up today-a day full of running errands, working out and cleaning.  This morning, I met up with a friend for a gym date.  I got there a little early and did 30 minutes of light cardio on the elliptical.  She met me afterward and we did a killer lower body workout.  It’s so much better doing resistance training workouts with friends!

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Thanksgiving Recipes 2013

Happy Holiday weekend!  Anyone score any great black friday deals?!  This is the first year I partook in the madness that is black Friday/Thanksgiving night shopping and I nearly got run over at Kohls’ for the last Shark steam mop.  On Friday, hubs and I enjoyed a much leisurely shopping experience at Home Depot where we got a great deal on a dishwasher. Ours broke a few months ago and we’ve kind of put it on the back burner until now.  Dishes aren’t too bad in our house since it’s just the two of us and the munchkin, but it’s nice that we will now have options.

This was my second year hosting Thanksgiving, but a first in our new house.  Overall, everything went fairly well.  We had a few misjudgments about the turkey, but having a double oven really helped out with things.  I don’t think I will ever be without one ever again.

With Madelyn being dairy-free, this year posed some new challenges, substitutions and lots of finger crossing.  I wanted her to be able to eat anything on the table.  Our first dairy-free Thanksgiving was a HIT!!  Everyone raved about my sweet potatoes and had some requests for the recipe, so here it is!
sweetpotatocasserole

Dairy Free(gluten free) Soul Sweet Potato Casserole (Serves 15)
Ingredients

  • 8 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of coconut cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups pecans chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted dairy-free butter (I used Earth’s Balance)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 and place potatoes on baking rack.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.  When the potatoes are finished, place on a big cutting board and let them cool. Once they’re cool, cut all of the sweet potatoes down the center and scrape out the inside.  Place the insides of the sweet potatoes into a very large mixing bowl.  Increase the oven temperature to 400.

Next, add in the sugar, coconut cream, eggs, vanilla and salt.  MASH the mixture up with a potato masher until all ingredients are combined and somewhat lumpy.  Spread the sweet potato mixture into a square or oval baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mash the brown sugar, pecans, flour and butter with a fork until thoroughly mixed through.  Sprinkle the crumbly mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Bake it until the top is golden brown, about (45 minutes).

The next dairy-free dish I made was dessert.  Hubs requested a traditional pumpkin pie so I made that with dairy.  But for Madelyn and anyone else who wanted some, I made dairy-free pumpkin pecan pie bars.  They turned out really good, and I will definitely make them again.  I preferred this pumpkin pie filling over the traditional actually and couldn’t even tell that it was dairy-free. Coconut milk and cream is a great substitute for pumpkin desserts.

dfgfpecanpumpkinbars

DF & GF Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (Serves 12)
Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used C4C)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 can (15oz) pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pecans chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • soy whipped cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar and butter into a small bowl.  With a hand mixer, beat at low speed for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is crumbly.  Take the mixture and press on the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 baking pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

Next, combine the maple syrup, pumpkin, coconut milk, eggs and pumpkin pie spice in a larger mixing bowl.  Beat at a medium speed for 2 minutes and pour over crust.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Combine the pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a smaller mixing bowl.  After the 20 minutes is up, sprinkle pecan topping over filling.  Continue to bake for about 20 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.  Cut into 12 bars and serve with whipped cream.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and spending quality time with family and friends.  Today, we ventured off to Sprecher Brewery for a tour with Madelyn :-) She did surprisingly well and was a hit amongst our group.  I’m off to watch some Christmas movies on the couch with Larry.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s that time of year.  Cold salads are out and soup and comfort food is in.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it really hard to get my daily serving of vegetables when the temps start to drop.  The last thing I want when it’s 20 degrees is a salad.  Enter soup.    This last week, I wanted to try my hand at making chicken noodle soup from scratch-broth and all.  I found a few recipes, pieced together a few things and learned some cost-saving tips along the way :-)
The first thing that all the recipes called for was a whole chicken.  I ventured to the butcher section of Whole Foods to pick myself up a chicken and was stumped? Fryer chicken or roasting chicken? Where was the soup chicken??  So I asked the butcher which one to use.  He said that if I wanted more of a meaty soup to get the roaster chicken.  As I sat there and pondered if I wanted meaty soup or not, a nice lady over heard me talking to the butcher about my plans for this chicken and she offered another alternative: chicken backs.  She told me that she normally gets chicken backs and then will buy chicken breasts (bone-in and with the skin) to add in some more meat.  You can get some meat off of the chicken back but you’re buying them mostly for their bone.  The cost of the chicken backs and breast was about $8 as opposed to $15 for a whole chicken that I didn’t even need.  We had plenty of meat for the soup.
After you’ve decided what kind of chicken you want for your soup, next up is the broth: the heart of a good soup.  Place your chicken in an 8qt stock pot and fill with enough water to cover the chicken.  Then, add in onion, garlic, the leafy part of the celery, salt and pepper.  Boil for about 2 hours. The meat should be tender and falling off the bone by then.
IMG_2294After the two hours is up, remove the chicken from pot, place on a cutting board, and remove all the meat from the bones.
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Place the meat in a separate pot (I used a 6qt pot) and throw the bones and skin away.  Strain the broth with a fine mesh strainer into the new pot (the 6qt).  Add in egg noodles, carrots, celery, parsnips, salt, pepper, and any other desired vegetables.  Cook until the vegetables are tender and the noodles are done :-)   Serve and enjoy!!
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Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken or chicken parts with bone and skin
  • 1 large white onion sliced up
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 stalks of celery plus the leafy parts for broth
  • 2 parsnips chopped up
  • 4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • egg noodles broken up into smaller pieces
  • chopped parsley
  • water

I’m off to bundle up for a 5k that Larry and I are doing this afternoon.  It’s going to be a fast one since it’s 20 degrees out!  Motivation to hurry up and get inside :-)

What fun plans do you have this weekend? 

Bison: It’s What’s for Dinner

Happy Veteran’s Day to all of my fellow Airmen and Soldiers out there :-) For those serving and for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, thank you!

We spent the weekend with friends, catching up on much needed rest, cooking and taking advantage of the Jo-Ann Fabrics Veteran’s Day sales.

On Friday, I had off of work, so Larry & spent the day cleaning and doing some serious yard work and then later that night, I met up with some girlfriends from high school at a bar in the city where we grew up.  It was nice to have some drinks, catch up and secure our plans for our annual girls Christmas Soirée!

girlscl

Saturday I headed to the gym to test out and calibrate my Garmin foot pod.  It took a dump on me right after the marathon, so my lovely friend, Kristine, sent me a new one.  I “googled” the heck out of how to trouble shoot it but then was told sometimes these things just don’t last very long.  My first foot pod lasted about a year before it died on me (Just to give those of you who have one a heads up).  I’ve become so reliant on having one now, especially with the colder weather now upon us.  It’s nice to be able to use your Garmin in doors :-) What did I ever do without that thing??

Saturday night, we had a date night in.  Larry and I like to start doing these when the weather gets cool and the days get short.  I pretty much create a really good dinner with quality ingredients from either Whole Foods or Outpost.  He helps chop stuff up and we drink wine or beer and listen to music in the kitchen.  Since having Madelyn, our date nights in don’t usually allow us to eat until about 8:30 or 9, but it’s something we both really enjoy doing and it’s a nice change of pace from the fast, week day meals that get consumed.

wine

This past weekend, we made Bison burgers, french fries with truffle cream sauce and a beet salad.  The bison burgers were inspired from a whole foods recipe, the truffle cream sauce fries came from me wanting to relive our DMK burger experience and the beet salad was a recipe from the Runner’s World Cookbook that I was gifted for my birthday :-)  Just a note with the truffle cream sauce…it’s the same consistency as mayo and I cannot express the importance of adding the canola in VERY SLOWLY!! The first batch did not turn out and I had to send Larry to the store for more eggs and oil.  The second batch, turned out wonderfully and I can proudly say that this weekend I learned how to make my own mayonnaise.  This opens up a whole new level of cooking :-)

So why Bison as opposed to beef?  According to the USDA, a grass-fed 3 ounce bison patty 152 calories and 7 grams of fat.  That’s less than a broiled, 90 percent lean beef burger, which averages 184 calories and 10 grams of fat.  It’s even less than a broiled, 93 percent lean turkey burger, which averages 176 calories and 10 grams of fat (source).  It’s a lot more costly than beef, but I think it’s worth it because it tastes better too.

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Goat Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Bison Burgers

  • 4 ounces of goat cheese crumbles
  • 3 Tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • sea-salt and black pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
  • 1.5 lb ground bison meat.

Directions.  Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  You might need to wet your hands with water to keep the meat from sticking.  Form into 6 patties of even thickness.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Preheat grill or stove.  I added a little bit of Earth’s Balance to grease up the grill pan we have and to keep the burgers from drying out since Bison is so lean.  Cook about 4 minutes on both sides or until desired temperature is achieved.  Top with your favorite burger fixin’s and enjoy!

I’m off to drink some tea, cuddle up on the couch and start reading this for fun! I hear it’s a good one!

gonegirl

What’s the last book that you’ve read?  I’m always looking for good recommendations!

Carrot & Caramelized Onion Soup {Dairy Free}

When we moved into our new house, we decided to join a local Co-op, Outpost.  Every season, they come out with a newsletter, Graze, that tells about some of the items they have in the store, along with really good recipes.  Last Winter, I made their Carrot & Caramelized Onion soup and it was a win.

This week with the forecast only hitting a high of the mid to high forties (EEK!), I thought it was the perfect time to plan some soup into our meals.  I really wanted some onion soup, but didn’t really have time to experiment with French onion soup, so I decided to make the carrot and caramelized onion soup instead.  The original recipe called for butter & heavy whipping cream, and since I’m all for making my meals, especially soups, “Madelyn-friendly” (Dairy-Free) I decided to try some substitutes and it was amazing!  This soup is great to make because it’s so easy and you can freeze the leftovers if needed.

carrot and onion soup

Carrot & Caramelized Onion Soup {Dairy-Free}Serves 10                               

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp butter (I used Earth’s Balance vegan, organic spread)
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 in, coins
  • 2/3 c basmati brown rice, uncooked
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 cup coconut cream

Melt butter is a stock pot and add onions.  Stir the onions and make sure they are covered in “butter”.  Reduce heat and stir onions until they are soft and gold brown, about 8-12 minutes.  Next, add carrots, rice, vegetable stock, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Cook until rice and vegetables are very tender.  Remove from heat and slightly cool.

Slowly transfer the soup to a blender and puree.  After the soup has been pureed, transfer back into the stock pot and add the coconut cream.  Mix well and serve!

Enjoy the rest of your evening!  What’s your favorite cold-weather food to make?  After a good soup, a hearty chili is my favorite!

PAIRDD

I want to preface this post by stating, that I do not have celiac disease nor do I avoid gluten as a weight-loss technique.  I am aware of the seriousness of people having to be gluten-free.  I  simply try to eliminate it (along with dairy) from my diet as best as possible because my body is much happier :-)  Sometimes I’m successful, and other times I’m caught at a moment of weakness.
A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook invite to check out Pairdd.  Pairdd is a home delivery service that will deliver fresh, gluten-free ingredients to your door for you to prepare a meal.  You simply go onto their website, pick a recipe from a gluten-free blogger that sounds tasty to you, order and expect delivery in about a week.  Unfortunately, it’s only available to people currently living in Wisconsin.
Last week, I decided to try it out and chose a recipe from my friend, Sarah, at Celiac in the City.  With the weather making a nice transition from tank tops & shorts to skinny jeans and boots, I thought it was the perfect time to make my first batch of chili for the year.  What really sold me about this recipe wasn’t the chili but it was the parmesan biscuits that served as a side.  I’ve never made gluten-free biscuits so I was really excited about these.
My Pairdd box was sitting in the driveway when I arrived home on Tuesday and I couldn’t wait to get cooking!
pairddbox
Everything came packed on ice and included all of the ingredients needed to make Italian chili and parmesan biscuits except milk, salt and pepper.  When you order your meal online, the website does inform you of the ingredients you’ll need to have already available in your kitchen.
pairddingredients
I love that everything was already measured out and chopped up.  And most importantly, I didn’t have to peel garlic!!!!  A HUGE plus for me because of all the things to peel, I find garlic to be the WORST!  I did have to chop up some onion and green pepper, but that I didn’t mind so much.
Along with the package comes the list ingredients and the recipe to make the meal.  So now I have a yummy new recipe to add to my collection.
chili recipe
The directions were super easy to follow and I liked that the box included a picture of the completed meal so that I knew what to expect.  The Italian chili was some of the best chili I’ve ever had!  Normally, I either make sweet potato and black bean chili or Italian Chili with pasta but this was perfect because it contained meat but didn’t have the heaviness that the pasta adds to chili.  It made enough to feed two very hungry adults and a baby x 3 meals.  Madelyn loved it as well :-)  The biscuits were AMAZING and we ended up making 9 decent sized biscuits.
The whole meal cost us $15 because we used a coupon code from Sarah.  Normally, the price would’ve been $30 which I still didn’t think was bad for all the ingredients plus delivery.
We will definitely be ordering from Pairdd again!  And thanks to Sarah for preparing an AWESOME meal for us!
What’s your favorite thing to get delivered? I’m really loving groceries via Peapod, especially on drill weekends!

Pizza for Dinosaurs

Good evening friends!  I hope you’re enjoying your weekend as much as we are here.  Ours has been filled with pool adventures, distressing furniture, marathon training, harvesting veggies from our garden and paleo pizza.

Yesterday I was in the mood to make it a wine & “build-your-own” pizza night.  After we put Madelyn to bed, hubs and I set off to make our own “his & her” pizzas.  While he went the traditional route and used a pre-made crust from Trader Joe’s (that he said was really good), I went balls to the walls and made my own crust and sauce.  Since Madelyn has to go completely dairy free for a whole month, I decided that I should also probably get back to being dairy free (since cow’s dairy messes with my stomach) so I’ve been doing a lot of research on the paleo diet. While I don’t follow it to a T, I’d miss my wine way too much, I try to already eat this way anyway-more whole foods; less processed food.

So I came across a recipe on-line and recreated it so that it’d be my own.  I was so happy with how it turned out that I thought I’d share.  I also made my own pesto sauce using the garlic and basil from our garden.  AHHHMAZING! That recipe’s on here too.

Paleo Honey-Almond Flour Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 C almond meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • a dash of oregano & rosemary

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients together to form a dough.  LIGHTLY oil two pieces of parchment paper and roll out the dough between the two pieces of paper. Uncover the top parchment paper and place pizza on a pizza pan or directly in the oven (On the bottom parchment paper like I did).  Heat for about 15 minutes (depending on how thick the crust is-just make sure the middle is cooked through).  Load on your ingredients and then place back in the oven for about another 15 minutes.  Eat and enjoy!  I tried the vegan shredded mozzarella from Trader Joe’s and I was pretty happy with how it turned out.  It tasted great and melted perfectly.

paleopizza

And now for the crazy amazing pesto…

Pesto Sauce

  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • 1/4 c walnuts
  • 4 c basil leaves
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c EVOO

Pulse the garlic and pine nuts in a food processor (or vitamix) until chopped.  Add the basil and cheese and mix until you have a smooth paste.  Scrape the side of the container and with the blade still going, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Process until the oil is blended through.

thebestopesto

I’m off to watch some reruns of GIRLS…I can’t believe I have to wait until 2014 for it to air again!

Slow Cooker (kinda) Enchiladas

I hope everyone had a great day!  Despite the fact that we really don’t celebrate this “holiday”, I had the best Valentine’s day:  A picnic with my funny valentine:

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Normally, she would’ve been at daycare today but they called me yesterday at work telling me that she had spiked a fever-so we spent the day playing and cuddling.  It amazes me that even though she feels so crummy, she can still manage to laugh and smile-I hope that she always keeps that positive attitude.  

It’s been a while since I’ve made a recipe worthy of sharing.  If I’m not making some sort of chili in the slow cooker, our meals usually consist of a protein (poultry or fish) vegetables, and sometimes a carb/starch.  Exciting stuff happening in the kitchen…I know.

Well tonight, I wanted to mix it up and do something different, yet easy.  Dealing with a sick baby who won’t nap leaves very little time for tinkering around in the kitchen.  Yesterday, one of my co-workers made an enchilada casserole that was amazing and I recently saw something on Pinterest for slow cooker chicken enchiladas.  So I combined the two recipes for something amazing.

  • I lined 5 chicken breasts at the bottom on my slow cooker and poured just enough chicken broth in the pot so that they wouldn’t burn.
  • I sprinkled the chicken with taco seasoning and then topped them with enchilada sauce verde along with low-fat cream cheese cubes.
  • I cooked them on low for 7 hours.  
  • About an hour before I was done cooking them, I covered them with a shredded mexican cheese blend and green onions.

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Instead of shredding the chicken, I found it to be easier to just put each breast on top of a tortilla and served it with a side of rice and beans.  Easy peasy and very delicious.  Each chicken breast ends up being 7+ points.  Skipping the cheese, would set you back 5+ points, but let’s be realistic :-) 

ImageI’m off to cruise Craigslist for some furniture to rehab!  If Pinterest were my full-time job, I’d be an expert at it :-)