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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kitchen Before and After Pictures

The kitchen was the first renovation that we tackled, and the most major to date. As I mentioned, in the dining room post, we tore down the wall  that was in between the dining room and the kitchen to really open up the space and give us a ton of much needed counter top space. I wish I had more before pictures to show you how truly awful the original kitchen was.

We gutted the old kitchen and replaced everything from the wiring, to the walls, to the floor, and even the back door. The only thing we kept was the fridge!  To see my posts about the progress of the kitchen renos, click here. We still have a few things left to do here and there (as always, it seems impossible to completely finish a room)!

See how nice and open it is without a wall there? For additional storage space (cabinet spots were limited) I bought the Belmont Kitchen Island from Crate & Barrel (pictured on the right). It gives me just the additional storage space that I need and is great to house bigger items (like my dutch ovens and baking dishes). Plus, I have a little extra "counter top" space on the top of it.


We had to keep the layout fairly similar to how it was before but tried to utilize the space to get in as many cabinets as possible. We got extra tall cabinets, and put one up in every inch that we could. We even added the small cabinet over the peninsula which is great for showcasing glasses or dinnerware.




By getting rid of the wall stove, and putting in a microwave over the range, we added a lot more counter top and cabinet space. Cabinet space is especially essential since we don't have a pantry.

 I love the peninsula, it gives me such a large place to prep. This is where I do the majority of my prepping. It is also has an overhang for a counter top bar. We use the counter top bar every day.


 We expanded that completely functionless area to create as much storage as possible in the peninsula and added the pendant lights over top of it.

As you can see, we still need to finish off that light switch box. We had to move the wiring that was in the wall that was torn down and add a switch somewhere, this was the best spot for it but I think we are still trying to figure out the best way to finish it off.

I keep the dog food in those two canisters since we have no pantry or place to hide it. I got the canisters from

There you have it! It was one intense and long DIY project but it was well worth it in the end. I think it took us (us being Casey, my dad, and me) about 4 months from the time it was gutted to the time it was up and functional. That was a looong 4 months! The only professional people who worked on it were the people who installed the granite. Everything else was 100% DIY.

Done: new walls, re-wired, painted, new moulding, added light above sink and pendant lights, new granite floors, new cabinets, new appliances, new granite counter top, new sink/faucet/disposal, subway tile back splash, painted walls and ceiling, new window, new vents/switches/outlets, under cabinet lighting, new ceiling light fixture, new back door

To-do: finish off light switch, finish boxing in the cabinets in a few areas, finish off transition between stove and dishwasher, install glass in open cabinets, finished off area below back door, finish off area around the window

Visit the renovations tab to see the rest of our before and after pics! Coming next, before and afters of our finished back patio area!

Linking up to:

 BWS tips button

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Light Buffalo Chicken Fingers

I am on a roll with the weight watcher recipes lately, they actually have a ton of good ones which is one thing I love about the program. These Buffalo chicken fingers didn't disappoint and, although a little messy for a finger food, they were quite satisfying. I wasn't sure how the fat free blue cheese dressing was going to be but it wasn't bad at all on the chicken. Serve this with some oven fries and you have a great healthy version of a classically high-fat meal.
1 spray cooking spray
1 1/4 pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 16 strips total (or 1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless tenderloins)
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp fat-free margarine
4 tsp hot pepper sauce, or to taste (I used a lot more than this) 
1/2 cup fat-free blue cheese dressing
4 medium stalks celery, trimmed, cut into 4 sticks each

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.

Place chicken on a plate and sprinkle with salt and paprika. Add chicken to skillet and cook, turning occasionally until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic; reduce heat to low, stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove skillet from heat; stir in margarine and hot sauce until margarine melts and chicken is coated with the sauce. Serve chicken with blue cheese dressing and celery on the side. Yields about 4 pieces of chicken, 4 celery sticks and 2 tablespoons of dressing per serving.

Servings: 4
Points: 4

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chili-Beef Tacos

Who doesn't love a good taco night? I adapted this recipe from one I found on Weight Watchers and it was delicious! A great low cal taco. I upped the amount of beef from the original recipe which took the points value up but I thought it was well worth it. I topped our tacos off with cilantro, tomato, and shredded lettuce. The points value for this includes 1/2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream per taco but if you add shredded cheese you will need to add in the extra points. I served this with Smashed Black Beans for a great meal. Use leftovers to make a taco salad or burritos.

2 Tbsp chili powder, or Mexican seasoning
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
8 oz canned tomato sauce
8 items Old El Paso Regular Taco Shells, or equivalent product (about 1/3 oz each)
4 Tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
4 tsp cilantro, fresh, chopped
16 oz uncooked lean ground beef (with 7% fat)
Chopped tomato and lettuce for topping

Toast chili powder and cumin in a medium skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add oil to skillet and heat; add onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add beef and cook until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce; cook 5 minutes more or until heated through. (Note: To turn up the heat, toss in some chopped chipotle peppers with the tomato sauce.)

To assemble, fill each taco shell with 1/8 of the beef mixture; top each with 1/2 tablespoon of sour cream and 1/2 teaspoon of cilantro. Yields 2 tacos per serving.

Servings: 4
Points: 7


Linked to Mostly Made by You at Mostly Food and Crafts.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Blackberry Pie

I came across this Blackberry Pie recipe on Simply Recipes and knew I had to try it. I love blackberries. This pie did not disappoint! Delicious served warm and with vanilla ice cream.

Doubled batch of basic pie dough (one for bottom and one for top crust)
5-6 cups blackberries, rinsed, picked clean, patted dry (if you use frozen berries, defrost and drain them)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your berries are, I used 1/2 cup because I like more tart than sweet)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 Tbsp quick cooking instant tapioca (can usually find in the baking aisle of your local supermarket)

Place blackberries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, almond extract, and quick cooking instant tapioca in a large bowl. Gently fold the berries until they are all well coated with sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. You should have two balls of pie dough, one for the bottom crust, one for the top crust. Roll out one of the balls of pie dough on a lightly floured surface to 12-inch diameter if you are using a 9-inch pie pan, or 13-inch diameter if you are using a 10-inch pan. Line the bottom of your pie pan with the dough. Chill in refrigerator while you roll out the bottom crust.

Roll out the second ball of pie dough for the top crust.

Spoon the berry mixture into the dough-lined pie dish. For a lattice top, weave strips of pie dough over the top of the fruit-filled pie dish. Here are directions for a lattice top pie crust. For a solid top, place the second rolled-out pie dough crust on top of the pie. Press ends of strips into the rim of the bottom crust. Use scissors to trim the edges to 1/2-inch from the outer edge of the pie pan. Fold the edges back over themselves and use your fingers to crimp to seal the edges. If you are using a solid top crust, score the top with a sharp knife to create air vents for the steam to escape.

Place the pie on the middle rack of the oven. Put a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any juices that might bubble out of the pie while it's cooking. Bake the pie in two stages. First bake it at 400°F for 30 minutes. Then place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pie to protect the edges and tops from getting too burnt. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until crust has browned and filling is bubbly.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Cool completely before serving. If you would like to serve warm, reheat in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Project 365: Week 35 - Baby Matt

The other weekend we met up briefly with some friends and their baby, Matt. How cute is this little sweetie pie? He had just woken up from his nap so was a bit sleepy but I snapped a few pics anyway. I did another baby portrait session with my friend, Amy, that I hope to have ready to share soon!


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WW Friendly Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

You know those days that you feel too tired to cook and you want to eat something comforting and bad for you and are contemplating reaching for the phone to order Dominos? Well, on those days I make grilled cheese and tomato soup. It is comforting, filling, and it settles my greasy, cheesy cravings. And it works with my WW point range.

What do you reach for when you are feeling like you need some comfort?

1 can can tomato soup
1 can full of fat free milk
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Dried basil, to taste
4 slices weight watchers bread
4 slices 2% milk singles
Butter flavored cooking spray


Heat up one can of tomato soup and one can of fat free milk over medium high heat. Once heated through, add fresh ground pepper and dried basil, to taste.
Spray one side of each slice of bread with butter flavored cooking spray. Assemble two pieces of cheese between two slices of bread. Place each sandwich in a non-stick pan and cook until both sides are browned.

Serves: 2 (half of the soup, and one grilled cheese sandwich each)
Points: 6 (for an extra 3.5 points, make yourself two grilled cheese sandwiches)

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chicken Feta Burgers

These Weight Watchers chicken burgers turned out quite nice (nicer than the pictures did). They were moist and flavorful and the red pepper and olive topping was a perfect addition. The Blue Cheese Chicken Burgers are still my favorite low-cal burger but these are great for a little Greek flair. Serve with a Greek Salad on the side or some Oven Fries.

1 pound uncooked ground chicken breast
1 tbsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
7 tbsps feta cheese, crumbled
4 reduced-calorie hamburger rolls
1 cup lettuce, romaine, cut into thick strips
2/3 cup roasted red peppers, sliced (without oil)
5 small olives, black, sliced (about 4 tsp)

Preheat grill or broiler.

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, oregano, garlic powder and feta; divide mixture into four balls and then press them gently into patties.

Grill or broil patties until internal temperature of burgers reaches 165°F, about 7 to 8 minutes per side.

Serve each burger on a bun with 1/4 of lettuce, 1/4 of peppers and 1 teaspoon of olives. Yields 1 burger per serving.

Servings: 4
Points: 5

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chicken with Eggplant, Peppers, and Olives

This was a great, healthy and hearty dish from Weight Watchers. I accidentally used chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs, which turned out just fine. I actually think I would almost prefer this as a vegetarian dish without any chicken. I just loved the combo of all the veggies and didn't think the chicken added a ton (although Casey would probably say otherwise). If I did use chicken next time, I might season it up first with some oregano, garlic powder, pepper, etc. I served it over plain, cooked quinoa and topped with a bit of feta cheese. This makes great leftovers, too.

1 medium raw eggplant, chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, boneless, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium celery stalk, chopped
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 medium tomatoes, very ripe, chopped
2 tsp sugar
10 olives, kalamata, pitted and chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp capers
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste

In a colander, sprinkle eggplant with salt and toss. Set aside.

Spray a large, nonstick skillet with olive oil cooking spray. Sauté chicken over high heat until browned. Remove and set aside.

Rinse eggplant with water and let drain. Combine onion, celery, garlic, red and green peppers and eggplant in skillet and sauté over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. If skillet becomes too dry add a tablespoon or 2 of water.

Add chicken, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, olives, capers and ground pepper to pan. Stir. Cover and let simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Serve.
Servings: 4
Points: 4


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dining Room Before and After Pictures

I will post the kitchen ones later this week. We didn't have to do too much to the dining room (compared to the rest of the house). The main change was tearing down the wall between the dining room and kitchen in order to open everything up and so we could have a counter top bar which we love and eat pretty much every meal at!

We are not 100% done with renovating the stairs yet either, we will be replacing the stair treads and finishing off the upper banister.

You can see the rest of our house renovation before and after pictures here.











Done: painted walls, ceiling, new crown moulding, new base boards, tore down kitchen wall, rewired, attached bead board on back of cabinets on peninsula, painted stair railings, attached banisters, removed carpeting from stair treads, painted stair treading black, new outlets, switches, light fixtures and vents.

To do: finish off light switch box, finish top banister, replace stair treads, figure out what to do with lower steps and moulding.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

After a long summer of consuming too many things like ultimate BLTs and blue cheese stuffed burgers I have decided it is about time to get rid of the pesky extra 10 pounds that have taken up residence on me for the past two years. I call it my post-wedding weight. So, I am starting up weight watchers again as I have had success with it in the past. I will be posting lots of weight watchers friendly recipes for the next few months. Of course, I will still make some treats here and there, I will just have to pawn them off on my co-workers and friends (I am sure they won't mind).

Please let me know of any blogs with good, healthy recipes!

This recipe is from one of my all time favorite skinny recipe sites, Gina's These individual lasagnas are fun to make and only 4 points each. Although you can tell they are low calorie, they taste good and are actually quite filling. They also freeze well and make a great hot lunch.

9 lasagna noodles, cooked
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
15 oz fat free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and fresh pepper
32 oz tomato sauce (recipe follows)
9 tbsp (about 3 oz) part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish.

Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure noodles are dry. Take 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodle.

Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Ladle sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with 1 tbsp mozzarella cheese.

Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts.

To serve, ladle a little sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.

Servings: 9
Serving size: 1 roll
Calories per serving: 225
Points: 4

Tomato Sauce

2 (28 oz) cans imported tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion finely chopped
1 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup fat free chicken stock
fresh basil

Saute garlic in oil, add onions and carrots and saute on medium-low for about 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add tomatoes and chicken broth and simmer 45 minutes on low.

Add fresh basil last 10 minutes (herbs will become bitter if cooked more than 20 minutes).
Taste for acidity, if sauce is a bit tangy (acidic) then add 1 tbsp of sugar. For a calorie free way to cut the acidity in the sauce add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.

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C + C Marriage Factory: September 2010

C + C Marriage Factory