Favorite Fall Recipes

Where does the time go? I have been nannying for two months now and I feel like I’ve become a mom. I am with the two kids about 40 hours a week and by the time I get home, I just want to crash on the couch and order take out. **Shout out to all those moms out there who don’t get to “clock out” at the end of the day!** It’s a horrible habit but I can’t seem to break the cycle. I have, however, managed to make two of my fall favorites the past few weekends: pumpkin gingersnap cookies and curried celery root and roasted sweet potato soup.

These are my favorite fall cookies that are easy but a bit time consuming. So many of my childhood holiday memories are connected to the cookies, pies and other baked goods my mom used to make around this time of year. Now that I am out on my own, I am trying to create some of my own holiday food traditions.

I stumbled upon this recipe last fall when I had some extra canned pumpkin in my pantry. Gingersnaps were always part of my mom’s repertoire so I thought theses Pumpkin Gingersnaps would be the perfect addition to mine.

Pumpkin Gingersnaps 

½ cup of butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies

½ cup of pure pumpkin (I used Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin)

¼ cup of molasses

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In the bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth using a hand mixer (or a standing mixer if you have one). Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract, mix until well combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for 2-3 days.*

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Place sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough in sugar until well coated and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked and set at the edges. The cookies will still be soft.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I cannot stress enough how important it is that you let the dough chill for AT LEAST one hour. I usually leave mine overnight. If you attempt to roll the dough in your hands and sugar before it is properly chilled, you will have a frustrating sticky mess on your hands (literally). The longer the dough chills, the easier the rolling will be!

This next recipe is loosely on Mark Bittman’s Creamy Curried Celery Root Soup.

Curried Celery Root and Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

Salt and black pepper

1  pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes

1/2 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put sweet potato in a large bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder. Toss to coat. Spread out on a lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes (it might take a little longer so just check in 3-5 minute increments).

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. When it’s melted, add the onion and cook until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes

Add 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute

Add the cubed celery root and stir just to coat it in the curry powder, then add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat so that the stock bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery root is fully tender, 15 to 20 minutes more

Cool the roasted sweet potato and the cooked celery root cool slightly. Add both to a blender or food processor, and purée carefully. You may also add the sweet potato to the celery root, stock and spices and use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pan.

These recipes have become a part of my fall/holiday tradition and I hope you will try them out. They are a little tricky at first but practice makes perfect! Once you get a hang of these, they will be great fall backs when you’re in need for a fall pick-me-up! Enjoy!

If you’re looking for some fall inspiration, check out this list of seasonal fall fruits and vegetables and some other fall recipes, in this  from Buzzfeed!

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Vegetables

I totally forgot to add this link to my post yesterday and it’s probably my favorite. I feel like I am constantly trying to eat for veggies and, why not, most of them are zero point on Weight Watchers! I have been utilizing all of these ideas recently and they really work. Veggies can bulk up anything you are eating quickly and easy!

#1: Shop for veggies one day a week. This one is easy to follow if you visit a farmer’s market once a week. Set aside $20 each week and wander around the market and ask what is best that week. Fruits and Vegetables can have short seasons, so this will ensure that you can try the best of each season’s bounty! Right now, load up on squash (butternut, acorn, kombucha), apples, beets, brussels sprouts, and root vegetables (carrots, kohlrabi, celery root). A good rule of thumb is try to and make your plate look like a rainbow.

#2: Prep your veggies. I don’t usually cut up my veggies but I do remove them from the bags/containers and organize them nicely in a colander or two. I wash them all and then put them in the fridge still in the colander. It makes them look pretty (almost on display) and it’s easy to see what you have to use. I find I waste a lot less by doing this.

#3: Breakfast. Adding peppers, onions, broccoli or even brussels sprouts to an omelette or scrambled eggs. Or try…

#4: Blendtastic. Try making a fruit and veggie smoothie in the morning. If you have a lot of dark, leafy greens that might go bad before dinner time, try my kale smoothie. This is a great way to sneak in a serving or two of vegetables.

#5: Snack time. I always have cucumbers, bell peppers and baby carrots in my fridge. Always. I also always keep some sort of healthy dip in there- baba ganoush, hummus and tzatziki are my favorites. It takes about 3 minutes to chop up the peppers and cucumber and these snacks are guilt free!

#6: Lunch. Salad in a mason jar. Enough said.

#7: Dinner. Cooking veggies in a crock pot is a great but not everyone has one sitting on their counter. I love roasting vegetables, especially all the fall/winter root veggies. Just cut them into bite size pieces, spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (lining with foil or parchment will make clean up a breeze), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. It will probably take a bit longer than 20 minutes, so check them at that time and then check them every 5 minutes until they are done to your liking (it will probably take more like 30-45 minutes).

#8: Dessert. I haven’t personally tried using vegetables in dessert but think zucchini bread, banana bread, etc. Or anything pumpkin- just try using another type of squash!

I hope this helps some of you eat more vegetables. Let me know any tips or tricks you might have!

Quinoa Veggie Burgers

I just spent an amazing, life-changing two weeks in Spain and France. I spent three days Madrid, a weekend outside of Montpellier in southern France, five days in Barcelona and a weekend in San Sebastian. The food was different in every location and it is impossible to decide which was my favorite. Everything was just that good. I ate my way through every town we visited and I am now paying the price.

I made the decision to eat vegetarian for this first week back in order to get my diet and body back on track. I don’t usually consume dairy- cheese is really the only thing I eat on a somewhat regular basis- or meat – rarely more than two or 3 times a week. I’m pretty sure my typical diet would survive living in Spain… cafe con leche at least twice a day, frequent visits to a museo de jamon, pintxos in San Sebastian with thick slices of goat cheese, etc., etc., etc.

My first attempt at a filling and delicious vegetarian meal is a version of a veggie burger my friend, Lauren, introduced to me a few weeks before my vacation. She had me over for dinner and we made veggie burgers using quinoa and black beans (both for protein) and colorful vegetables to brighten and bulk it up a bit. Here’s a look at the version I created:

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Ingredients

1 cup white quinoa, cooked according to the packages instructions

1 cup black beans, rinsed*

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/3 of a medium red bell pepper, minced

1/2 of a red onion, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 egg

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine

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Form into 4 “patties” using your hands. It might help to wash your hands in between each patty

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Warm a frying pan over medium heat and cook each patty in about a teaspoon of oil for 3 minutes per side

WW Points: 3 points/patty

*I used vegetarian chili because, in my fog of jet lag, I bought chili instead of normal black beans. Don’t do this- it made the patties wetter than necessary and they didn’t hold their form that well!

DIY Raw Cleanse

Every once in a while I can tell that my body needs to be rebooted. This is when I turn to cleansing. I have done a few different kinds (Organic Avenue and Isagenix to name two) but they can get very expensive, very quickly. When I got home from the beach after the 4th of July, I knew I needed to cleanse. 6 days of beer, wine and all those American favorites- burgers, steaks, hot dogs, chips, bagels, etc- had put me over the edge. I did some research and found this easy-to-follow DIY raw cleanse on a blog called Small Kitchen College.

The thing I like about this cleanse is it can be 100% tailored to your needs. We decided to do it for just one day to do a quick reboot but we’ve committed to doing this once a week. You can also try cleansing for 3 days a week every once in a while or, if you have the will power that I definitely do not, you can cleanse for a week every month or for one month every year!

Here’s what to do:

1. Begin the day with a large glass of filtered water with the juice of half a lemon. This aids digestion and stimulates the liver to begin the day’s detoxification process. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to balance out your blood sugar.

2. Only consume liquids (smoothies, fresh juices, herbal tea, water) until noon. Snack on raw fruits and veggies if necessary.

3. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of filtered water each day. For example, if you weigh 120 lbs. you should drink at least 60 oz. of water. This is a good rule of thumb for overall health!

4. Eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible. Go for organic, especially for the dirty dozen.

5. Enjoy 1/2 cup raw nuts and and seeds per day.

6. Fill up on 2 cups of cooked whole grains throughout the afternoon and evening. But! Avoid gluten (whole wheat, barley, rye).

7. Follow the 80/20 Rule: at least 80% of your cleanse should include raw foods, and 20% can be cooked vegetables, grains, and beans.

8. Take a daily multivitamin.

9. Eliminate: dairy, eggs, meat, fish, sugar, gluten, and alcohol. Cut out caffeine if you can, but this is where I cheat. A small cup of coffee or tea in the morning is actually good for you!

I decided to easiest way to shop for this cleanse was to order from Fresh Direct.

Here’s What I got:

Almond Milk- Blue Almond Unsweetened Vanilla

Naked 100% Fuit Smoothie Blue Machine

Kale Pineapple Breakfast Smoothie ingredients

6 Organic Lemons

Organic Strawberries

Organic Red Grapes

Arugula

Organic Red Bell Pepper

Avocado

Cucumber

Organic Shelled Sunflower Seeds

Organic Raw Almonds

Fresh Direct Super Salads*

Chamomile Herbal Tea

We loosely followed the above guidelines and kind of did our own thing. Although we only did this for one day, I felt a huge difference. I lost 2 pounds (most of which, I understand, was water weight) and felt thinner and full of energy. Our groceries cost about $120 (we originally planned on doing the cleanse longer so we bought groceries for 3 days- $20/person/day) but we have added many of the ingredients into other healthy meals on non-cleanse days. This is by far the cheapest and most flexible plan I have ever found for cleansing and I plan on doing it at least once a week to keep myself on track!

I hope you’ll try it out and let me know how it goes!

* I bought these instead of doing grains on my own- I was not happy with them because they lacked flavor and texture.

 

Summer Salad Ideas

After a great week away at the beach for the 4th of July, I was happy to stumble upon this article from Buzzfeed about summer fruit salads. My favorite on this list is #6- grilling fruit, especially stone fruit, is the best thing about summer! The recipe in the Buzzfeed was taken from the Healthy Foodie and it looks absolutely delicious.

Something I did over the weekend to change things up a bit was the “grill” strawberries with balsamic and brown sugar. This was great to pick at and eat after our meal of burgers and sausage on the 4th but I think it would be even better over some vanilla ice cream. This is along the same idea as the compote I posted about a few days back but the grill imparts an intense flavor that cannot be matched in any other way.

Ingredients

12 strawberries

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 packet brown sugar in the raw

tin foil

Directions

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat

Cut the stems off of the strawberries and cut them in half length-wise

Make a small “bowl” out of tin foil and arrange the strawberries in a single layer

Sprinkle the strawberries with the brown sugar in the raw and drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar

Cook on the grill for about 15 minutes until the strawberries begin the break down but still hold their shape

WW Points: 1 point per serving 

(makes 2 servings)

 

Blueberry and Raspberry Compote

This is an easy way to use fresh berries that are just past their prime. I have found that, although berries are a little pricey, berries are a great snack to keep in my fridge- I mentioned this in my Anthropologie Farmers Market Basket post back in April. Whenever I need something a little sweet, I just open the fridge and grab a handful for ZERO points!

I bought some blueberries and raspberries a few days ago but haven’t been eating them as quickly as usual. So, this morning, I decided I would make a quick compote to put on top of the last two Van’s Waffle I had in the freezer!

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Ingredients

1 cup of berries

1 tsp of agave nectar

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat a small frying pan over low to moderate heat

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Add all the berries to the warm pan and smash them gently as they being to heat up (using the back of a fork or potato masher will work well)

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Cook for 4-5 minutes. Continue to break down the berries with your fork or masher. Once most of the berries have burst (this should be right around the 5 minute mark), add in the agave nectar and balsamic and stir to combine

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Increase the heat slightly (to a moderate heat) and stir often for 8-10 minutes

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Continue to stir until the sauce has reduced by half (above: before being reduced; below: after being reduced by 1/2)

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All done! Remove from heat and serve immediately over waffles, pancakes or even vanilla ice cream! Reserve any unused compote in a small Ball jar or tupperware and use within 2-3 days.

WW Points: 3 points for the whole “recipe”

Easy Lentils

IMG_6246I’ve had lentils sitting in my pantry for a long time. Last week, I need a quick, easy and nutritious meal to take to work with me so I decided to give them a try. Lentils are a great source of protein- about 30% of their calories come from protein which makes them the third highest legume in protein content. Adding some fresh veggies is the perfect way to get a well-rounded meal that keeps in the fridge for a few days!

I had some vegetable broth left over from making the WW Asian-Inspired soup a while back that I was able to pull out of the freezer and use instead of water while cooking the lentils. This is also a great way to use up extra veggies you have in the fridge!

Ingredients

1 cup dried lentils

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, or other seasonings (optional)

1/4 – 3/4 teaspoon salt

Vegetables, chopped (I used asparagus and red bell peppers so there would be a few different colors)

Directions

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Measure the lentils into a strainer or colander. Pick over and remove any shriveled lentils, debris, or rocks. Thoroughly rinse under running water

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Transfer the rinsed lentils to a saucepan and pour in the vegetable or chicken stock. When I am making a dish with a vegetarian protein, I like to keep it all vegetarian. If you want another layer of flavor, use a chicken stock. Add any seasonings being used, reserving the salt

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Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Do not stir- this will make them turn to mush! Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy

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Strain the lentils over a bowl so you can use the reserved stock to cook any vegetables you may want to add. Remove any seasonings. Add the stock back into the saucepan and bring back to a boil

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Boil the asparagus in the vegetable stock for 8-10 minutes (or until it is at your desired tenderness- I like mine a little crunchy). Strain the asparagus and add cooked lentils, asparagus and raw chopped bell pepper back into the pot to combine

WW Points: 6 points for half the recipe

Creamy WW-Friendly Mac n’ Cheese

Everyone knows that I love anything that Mark Bittman does. So when I ran across this recipe two years ago, I absolutely had to try it. Bittman’s article, “Creamy Cauliflower Mac“, is genius- use pureed cauliflower in place of a bechamel! Not only does the recipe call for an entire head of cauliflower, it cuts out all butter and flour from the recipe! Oh the calories you save.

Apparently, Kraft sneaks freeze-dried cauliflower powder into its mac n’ cheese so Bittman figured he would make a vegetable-heavy, less caloric, unprocessed version of this popular American dish. When I made this recipe for the first time a while back, I followed it to a tee. It was good but the dijon mustard flavor over-powered everything so, this time, I decided to tweak it a bit.

I had a busy afternoon of cooking yesterday. In addition to this delectable mac n’ cheese, I made some homemade tortilla chips (post to follow) and another batch of the Ina Garten Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. It was a good day in the kitchen- something I have definitely been missing these past two weeks or so! Give this recipe a try and tweak as needed for your family. This is by far one of the sneakiest ways to slip in a big serving of vegetables without the kids knowing! You could even amp it up a bit more by adding broccoli florets in place of some of the pasta…

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Creamy Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese*

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish (I used Pam)

Salt

2 1⁄2 cups vegetable or chicken stock plus 2 cups water (I used the stock I had in my freezer)

1 cauliflower, cored and separated into large pieces

8 ounces elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta, preferably whole wheat (I used gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta**)

1 ⁄2 cup grated fontina cheese

3/4 cup grated cheddar

6 scallions chopped, white and pale green only

1/2 tbsp- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, or to taste

1 ⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste

Black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, separated

Bread crumbs to cover casserole

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking dish with a little Pam.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and salt it (unless your stock is already pretty salty)

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(I cooked the cauliflower in just the stock before adding 2 cups of water for the last 10 minutes of cooking. This is was because the liquid level got too low. Just add the 2 cups of water at the beginning to avoid having to do this)

Cook the cauliflower in the boiling stock/water until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes

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Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a blender or food processor

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Add the pasta to the boiling stock/water and cook until still somewhat chalky inside and not yet edible, about 5 minutes

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Carefully process the cauliflower with 2 cups of the stock, the 2 tablespoons oil, fontina cheese, cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan, scallions, mustard, nutmeg, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (I had to do this in two batches because I only have a 7-cup food processor)

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If the sauce seems too thick, add the remaining 1⁄2 cup stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning

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Pour the sauce into a large bowl and add the partially cooked pasta, toss, and spread the mixture evenly in the dish

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Sprinkle the top with the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and bread crumbs if you’re using them. Bake until the pasta is bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, 15 to 20 minutes (check every 2-3 minutes after the 15 minute mark). Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings

WW Points: 9 points per serving

I made this batch yesterday and enjoyed a piece for lunch today. The fontina cheese is tangy and different and is nicely balanced out by the salty parmesan and creamy Cabot cheddar. I will definitely be making this more in the future!

*This is adapted from Mark Bittman’s version.

** Using the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta and eliminating the bread crumbs on top make this a gluten free dish!

Van’s Waffles

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Whenever I’m in a cooking rut, I tend to move towards more prepared and frozen food (and often processed) because it is just easier sometimes. I, obviously, love to cook and very rarely do I look at it as a chore, but these past few weeks have been hard! With frozen meals you don’t have to think about what you’re going to cook and it doesn’t seem like a chore at all. Just pop it in the microwave, toaster oven, etc and a few minutes later you have a meal!

That said, if I do buy frozen food, I try to buy low-sodium, when possible, and to buy the products with the shortest (and most easily understood) ingredients list. I thought I’d share one of my freezer staples for when I am feeling uninspired, tired and really hungry first thing in the morning- Van’s Waffles!

I first tried Van’s Waffles about two years ago. I have been trying different varieties (there are 17) but mostly sticking to the “lite” or gluten free options. I have the lite waffles (pictured above) in my freezer right now and, although, they aren’t my favorite, they are only 2 points per waffle! My absolute favorite are the gluten free, blueberry waffles. They are 3 points a waffle but they are exponentially better in my opinion- you wouldn’t think that they were gluten free!

If you’re like me and need some help in the mornings on occasion, give Van’s a try. Now off to the store to get ingredients to make some (WW friendly) Mac n’ Cheese!

Fried Green Tomatoes

I mentioned yesterday that Nick and I bought green tomatoes on Monday so I decided to tackle making fried green tomatoes for the first time ever! I did some research (as always) before choosing a simple recipe from a blog called “Pretty Tasty Things.” I pretty much left this recipe alone other than adding in a little cayenne to the flour for some extra heat.

Whenever I batter and fry anything (which isn’t all that often), I look for a batter that uses flour and buttermilk as part of the dredging process. The flour is a perfect first step because it helps coat whatever you are frying so you get a true batter around everything. The buttermilk helps create the next step of the barrier and gives the outside layer some moisture to adhere to. The cornmeal and bread crumb outer layer creates a crunchy bite. So when I saw these in this recipe, I had to try it!

This recipe is relatively easy but the dredging can be a little tricky. I found using a fork to flip, cover and move the tomato slices from bowl to bowl was the easiest way. You can use your fingers but be careful to use one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the wet ingredients so you don’t end up with a gloppy mess!

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Ingredients

3 green tomatoes

1 cup of flour

1 cup of plain bread crumbs

1 cup of yellow cornmeal

1 cup of buttermilk

salt and pepper

cayenne

vegetable oil

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the green tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt.

(pictured above)

In three separate bowls, add flour to the first one with some salt and pepper, buttermilk to the second, and combine the breadcrumbs and cornmeal in the third.

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Taking a slice of tomato, lightly coat it in the flour, coat both sides with the buttermilk and then dredge into the breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture. Repeat process for all the slices.

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Heat a large skillet on medium heat with vegetable oil about 1/4-inch high. Once the oil is hot, gently place 5-6 slices into the pan. Let one side turn golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, before turning it over.

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Remove and place on a baking rake to drip the excess oil. I kept mine in the oven until all the slices were fried (at 170 degrees).

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WW Points: 5 points for 2 slices

Don’t forget to try them with the buttermilk ranch dressing from yesterday’s post!