January 24, 2013

Clean Eating White Bean and Vegetable Soup

I thought I'd share a recipe that I've made twice this week! It was a little experiment I called "kitchen sink" vegetable soup because I put everything but the kitchen sink in it! After making it the first time around my husband pronounced it the best soup he had ever eaten and requested that I make it again. The second time around I carefully measured ingredients so that I could turn in into an actual recipe. It was just as good the second time around.

Clean Eating White Bean and Vegetable Soup

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons minced garlic
8 cups (2- 2 lb. cartons) vegetable broth
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup corn
2 (15.5 ounce) cans great northern beans, undrained
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, diced (washed and unpeeled)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt (more to taste)

Spray a large stock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Saute the carrot, onion, and garlic over low heat until softened (about 5 minutes). Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmered, covered, for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Serve hot.

Makes 15 one cup servings at 3points plus values per serving. 

January 17, 2013

Crowd-Pleasing Italian Meat Sauce

As I mentioned in a previous post, we hosted a gathering for all of our church leaders last week. I have very little experience cooking for large groups so I was a little nervous going in. I decided to serve pasta and Italian meat sauce because it goes a long way, it's cheap, and it is really easy to prepare. It also goes well with simple sides like salad, garlic bread, and a veggie. I adapted a recipe I found online, and it turned out to be a great success. This recipe feeds 30-40 adults. As far as pasta noodles, 4-5 pounds should be enough. If preparing this sauce for my family, I divide everything by 4, and it turns out just as delicious. We usually have leftovers, but, in my humble opinion, spaghetti sauce leftovers are even better the next day!

**Pay attention to the ounces in this recipe. The can sizes may not be what you're used to buying. 

Crowd-Pleasing Italian Meat Sauce 


  • 4 pounds ground beef
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) tomato paste
  • 1 can (29 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cans (4-1/4 ounces each) chopped ripe olives, drained
  • 2 cans (4 ounces each) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons pepper


Cook 2 pounds of beef, 2 onions, and 2 cloves of garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Add the cooked meat mixture to a large stock pot and cover to keep warm. Repeat the process with the rest of the beef, onion, and garlic. Once all the ground meat is cooked down with the onion and garlic, add the rest of the ingredients to the large stock pot. Simmer over a low heat for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Serve over pasta. 

Ingredients (minus the ground meat)
Browning ground meat to add to the stock pot.
When I say large stock pot, I mean large.

January 14, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Orange Salad + Reader Q & A

  Hey friends! It's good to back after a busy weekend! I won't be posting my complete food logs for the next week because our church is participating in a corporate partial fast, which we do annually at the beginning of each year. Basically, we're denying our physical appetites in order to deepen our appetite for God. John piper echos our reasons for doing so, "Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is this path of pleasant pain called fasting... If we don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great... If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul's appetite for God." 

So you'll only be getting snippets this week, but I hope to be back next week with more complete food logs!
This is a salad I made over the weekend. I adapted it using this recipe. It was 6 PPV. I really loved the flavored tuna, but it was really expensive so I think I'll just season my own from now on!
Today I wanted to share a couple of really good questions that I've gotten from readers recently about Weight Watchers. I think these questions are probably really popular with people interested in the program so I thought it would be helpful to share my answers with others who may be interested. (P.S. If you have any questions, please Facebook message me (https://www.facebook.com/bcelestin), and I'll be happy to answer! They may be featured on the blog, but I'll never disclose your personal identity!)

So with no further adieu...

Q: Do you find it's [Weight Watchers] easy? How do you deal with making food from "scratch" and having to have all the ingredients out and adding it all to the tracker? I did it before, but for some reason I found it extremely hard to track those pestering point.

A: I have to admit when I first started Weight Watchers, it took a little getting used to. We pretty much ate the same things over and over again for a while until I felt more comfortable venturing out. The weight watchers phone app allows me to save my favorites so that I don't have to look things up all the time. If you don't have the app, you can keep a little notepad in the kitchen to write down all of the regular foods you eat and their point values. It's like a cheat sheet!
As far as cooking from scratch, I don't find that Weight Watchers makes me cook any more from scratch than I was already doing. We try not to eat a lot of processed food, but we also don't eat elaborate meals. We also don't eat a lot of casseroles, which are probably harder to calculate. Also, I've found lots of recipes online that have the points already calculated.
Our typical dinners include:
**Baked fish with a side of rice and veggies
**Tacos or Fajitas (these are our favorite tacos: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/12/slow-cooker-chicken-black-bean-tacos.html)
**Slow Cooker Lasagna with a side salad (I use the weight watchers recipe: http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rcp/RecipePage.aspx?recipeId=135321)
**Red Beans or White Beans and Rice, which is pretty easy to calculate)
**Hamburgers (http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rcp/RecipePage.aspx?recipeId=115221) on a low calorie bun with a side of chips
**Pulled chicken sandwiches (http://www.hungry-girl.com/newsletters/raw/1284) with ranch roasted potatoes (http://www.laaloosh.com/2011/01/24/ranch-roasted-red-potatoes-recipe/)

Q:  I am so glad you are blogging you Weight Watchers food log! I am just beginning to try to follow Weight Watchers, but can't afford to join right now so I'm a little lost. I only get 26 points a day and have yet to eat less than 29! I usually have a serving of fruit a few times a day to...my coffee cup is a struggle and so is breakfast because we eat big breakfasts. Any tips? I'm not much of a fan of diet foods with artificial stuff.

A: I lost all my weight eating 29 points per day. Weight Watchers changed the point system a few months ago, but I stuck with 29 because I was successful with that number and felt hungry eating less. Plus you get 49 weekly points that you can use however you want. I always used most of mine, and still lost! Some people add 7 points to each day, and some people save the 49 for special occasions. It's totally up to you. As far as breakfast, you can save some calories by choosing lower calorie breads and butters. Nature's Own makes a wheat bread that's only 1 point/slice (http://www.naturesownbread.com/products/ReducedCalorieBreads/40CalorieWheatBread/) . Also, Land O' Lakes makes a light whipped butter (http://www.landolakes.com/Products/Custom/15116.aspx) that's only 1 point per tablespoon. When I buy things like this, I strictly use them for Kevin and I's meals. I buy the regular butter and heartier breads for the boys. Eggs are two points per egg, but you can get 4 egg whites for only 1 point. You can either put whites in with your whole egg or mix in plenty veggies with your whole egg. It helps to fill you without many points. I use NuStevia (https://nunaturals.com/product/122) in my coffee. I order it in bulk from iherb.com because I get good deals and coupons from them. It's a zero point sweetener. It's PERFECT for lemon water as well- no aftertaste with the lemon water. There's a slight aftertaste with the coffee, but it doesn't take long to get used to. Almost any flavored creamer will be 2 point for 2 Tablespoons. I use those sometimes, but if I want a lower-point cup, I use 2 Tablespoons of evaporated milk (the regular whole kind- not low fat) for 1 point. Or even better 2 Tablespoons of whole milk for zero points! You can buy the small little bottles of whole milk and use it just for coffee. We also like turkey bacon. You can get 3 slices for 2 points. Other grab-and-go breakfast ideas are a banana with peanut butter or a granola bar. We hardly ever eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast because we prefer an eggs-and-toast-type breakfast. I hope this helps!

And I hope it helps you to!