Cocoa Meringue Cookies

2014-04-13 10.38.07

Orchids and meringues

John and I had a dinner party last night to celebrate our (gasp!) 49th wedding anniversary. Oh, do those years slip away.

One of the friends we had over is on a low-fibre diet which meant foods like legumes were forbidden and everything had to be cooked very well. Here was our menu:

  • Creamy Tomato Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese served with my husband’s fabulous, homemade Challah Bread (regrettably not gluten-free, but it’s his specialty)
  • Lamb Shanks, Braised in Red Wine and Chicken Stock with Carrots and Celery and served over White Rice
  • Puréed Cauliflower, Zucchini, and Leeks
  • Roasted Shallots with Balsamic Vinegar
  • Mocha Tapioca Pudding
  • Cocoa Meringue Cookies

The only dish I had made previously was the soup (the link). Everything else was an experiment. One of the things I enjoy about having a dinner party is that I give myself permission to try out new things. Like making meringue cookies.

Cookies are rarely on my radar because they bring out my Cookie Monster and invite serious, over-the-top gluttony. You know, eat one, eat another one, and…keep right on going. Even in my cookie-baking days with small children, I never made meringue cookies. Up until now, I had been discouraged by the amount of sugar they require and the high-calorie cost of chocolate, if I decide to use it.

But I had an unopened carton of egg whites in my fridge, and research revealed that I could use cocoa powder—the dieter’s alternative to chocolate. In Weight Watcher terms, cocoa powder is 1 point per 3 tablespoons as compared to semisweet chocolate which is 6 points per 3 tablespoons. (For more info, check out All About Cocoa Powder.) 

The result was everything meringue cookies should be—light, crunchy in the centre, and deliciously chocolate.

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DIY Apple-Spaghetti Squash Kugel

Go wild! Go artistic!

Go wild! Go artistic!

Happy New Year to everyone! May it be filled with good health and resolutions held firm…if possible. I’m a little late getting 2014 started blogwise, but I’m charging out of the gates with a new “blog-look” and a revised recipe. Here goes!

Back in 2012, I posted a recipe for Apple-Spaghetti Squash Kugel, adapted from one on the blog, Cara’s Cravings. It was low in calories, had no oil, and tasted yummy. Recently, I decided to make it again, but now the recipe struck me as, well, conservative.

So I went as wild as I could, considering my forever diet. I used currants instead of raisins. I added pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I exchanged regular Splenda with Splenda’s Brown Sugar Blend (I told you I went wild!).

IMGP2040The result was super-yummy and more filling than the original.  Of course, it had more Weight Watcher points, but it also made 8 servings which spread those points around.

Then I realized that I hadn’t plumbed this recipe’s possibilities. Hence, this a DIY recipe because you can mix and match ingredients to your heart’s content.

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Leftovers Cuisine: Second-Day Beef Stew with Quinoa and Beans

IMGP2033 What’s your leftovers attitude?

Mine is: leftovers are terrific opportunities to create a new, different, interesting, exciting dishes! Really. (Or, at the very least, no cooking the next night.)

For example, early this week, we returned from a week-long vacation in Jamaica (Sun! Sea! Sand! Piña Coladas!), and the spouse decided to make beef stew our first night home. It was basic: beef, potatoes, carrots, onions. After one dinner, we had about 1½ cups left—a slightly thick broth, dotted with a few pieces of beef, etc.

To be honest, it did look uninspiring, BUT…

Those Jamaican chefs had inspired me. They had raised leftovers + vegetables + mix-and-match beans to an art form. One night we had turkey as the main meat, the next day at lunch we had a tasty turkey stew with vegetables and two types of beans. Surely, I reasoned, this type of creation was in my cuisine skill set.

Their cooking also had a second appeal for me because it fit the flexible use-what-you-have-in-the-kitchen approach. My recipe uses tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, chickpeas, lentils, and quinoa. Why? Yup, you guessed it.

The result was delicious and filling, plus the spouse liked it! And he doesn’t always go for my mixtures—unfortunately, his mother cooked basic (meat, potato, veg) and served basic (no mixing) and this has had a lingering effect.

If you try this recipe, please use it as a template rather than a fixed-in-stone culinary creation. Feel free to change ingredients, vary quantities, and use your favourite spices. Continue reading

Three-Dinner, Low-Cal Stir Fry

imagesToday, I want to tell you the story of a stir fry.

When I started this stir fry, I had no idea that it would be ongoing and evolving, providing dinners for two people for three nights. Without going limp! Without losing its flavour! Without a photograph! It was just a simple stir-fry. Who knew?

imagesI am likely a latecomer to what I’ll call the “add-on” cooking method, but being a blog writer means I can’t wait to share it with you anyway.

Now, like most stir fry dishes, this one was easy. The two tricks that kept it going and going were the following:

  1. COOKING ONLY UNTIL CRUNCHY
  2. ADDING FRESH INGREDIENTS

green-onionsNow, for the sake of the story, I’m going to assume that you know how to make a stir-fry with very little or no oil. (See Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry if you’re not sure about the no-oil method.) Secondly, your favourite vegetables and condiments may differ from ours so substitute to your heart’s content. And thirdly, your quantities may vary because the spouse and I don’t eat large dinners or meat portions.

So here goes! Once upon a time there were some vegetables…

Dinner #1: Just Veggies

images-3To cook only until crunchy means starting with the vegetables which will take the longest to cook and adding the faster-cooking ingredients at the end. Hence, put ingredients #1 to #6 in a heated pot:

  1. 2 zucchinis, sliced
  2. 20 pea pods (roughly, I wasn’t counting) with the tips trimmed off and halved
  3. 1 leek, sliced thin
  4. 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  5. ½ bag broccoli slaw
  6. 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  7. ½ head of Savoy cabbage, chopped
  8. 1 bag of sprouts

leekCover the pot, wait 1-2 minutes, stir, and repeat the sequence until the zucchinis are just starting to look translucent but are not fully cooked. (5-7 minutes? Unfortunately, I wasn’t watching the clock.)

recipe-4359Add #7 and #8 and cover the pot, etc., until the sprouts are warm but still firm and barely cooked. (2 minutes?) Everything should be crunchy except for the cabbage which wilts quickly (Savoy cabbage leaves are thinner than regular cabbage and cook faster).

We served this initial stir fry over rice as an accompaniment for fish.

Important tip: After cooking, remove the pot immediately from the heat and leave it uncovered. If you put the cover on while eating, the vegetables will continue to steam-cook.

Dinner #2: Chicken Breast and Shirataki Noodles

“Beef up” the vegetables with chicken and noodles:

  1. Sautée 1 chicken breast, cut into cubes, with 1 tbsp. minced garlic and 1 tsp. minced ginger.
  2. shiratakiAdd the leftover veggies from Dinner #1 into the pan with the chicken, turn off the heat, and stir. (If your pan doesn’t hold heat well, cook as little as you can.)
  3. Mix in 1 bag of Shirataki noodles, rinsed well with hot water so they don’t require heating. (Learn more about Shirataki noodles if you’ve never used or heard about them before.)

peasDinner #3: Last But Not Least

Cook more veggies to “crunch” status and then add the leftovers from Dinner #2, turning off the heat and mixing.

  • images-22 leeks, sliced thin
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

And the moral of the story? Eat your leftovers! Bon appetit!

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese

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Confession: I’m on a soft-goat-cheese + soup kick.

It started with my Skin-and-All Creamy Tomato Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese when I decided to use goat cheese to make the soup creamy. In the past, I’d been adding milk or yogurt to vegetable soups (see Creamy Cauliflower Soup). Then I found that herbed goat cheese is richer and the herbs add a lovely flavour. True, it’s also caloric but, when you’re making a quart or more of soup, the amount per 1 cup serving (roughly 20 calories) isn’t going bust your diet.

And this soup has two great pluses:

  1. It’s delicious hot or cold so I also use it as a drink at dinner rather than water. More vegetable intake and refreshing!
  2. It yields 2-3 cups of homemade chicken-vegetable stock that can be used in other recipes. Yum!

P.S. The soup in the photo also included a zucchini and leek because they were hanging around in my vegetable bin, but just cauliflower and regular onion would be just fine.

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Homemade Spiced Cranberry Relish

This is a come-back* recipe!

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving and, once again, I will be whipping up delicious, low-calorie, and easy-to-make cranberry relish.

This relish with its lovely undertones of orange, cinnamon, and ginger is so superior to the canned variety—taste-wise, nutrition-wise, and calorie-wise—that I decided to re-post it just in time for the Canadian holiday and well in time for American Thanksgiving.

Happy holidays to all!

*It’s original title was Dieter’s Spiced Cranberry Relish.

 

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Grape/Cherry Tomato Salad with Soy Sauce Dressing

Tomatoes star in this salad.

Tomatoes star in this salad.

Here’s a scrumptious salad with an unusual (to me), delicious, and easy-to-make dressing.

The credit for this recipe  goes to Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything: his idea, his dressing. My only contribution was to expand the recipe ingredients. I added six sprigs of cooked asparagus because I had them. And I would have added a few green onions if I had them.

The point is that, unlike regular salads in which tomatoes are bit players, this salad makes them the stars. And, as Bittman says, you can get these tomatoes fresh all winter so when you get a craving for something not canned and have a little extra $$ in your pocket…well, you get the idea.

Kimlan's multi-grain soy sauce

Kimlan’s multi-grain soy sauce

Oh, and by the way, if you can tolerate a small amount of gluten soy sauce as I can, you might consider trying other brands beside those in your grocery store.

Our Asian market carries about 20 different varieties, and they don’t all taste the same. One I particularly like is Multi-Grain Soy Sauce, and it has a more mellow flavour than regular soy sauce.

P.S. Sorry for the photo; I took it on a dark day.

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Skin-and-All Creamy Tomato Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese

Have you ever wanted to make tomato soup from scratch? But then did without the pleasures of fresh tomatoes because you didn’t feel like skinning them? If you have, count me in and please read on. This recipe might be perfect for you.

Delicious and filling--hot and cold!

Delicious and filling–hot and cold!

Okay, here’s the story. I came away from the fruit-and-vegetable store with nine large, discounted tomatoes ($1.49). Two were hardly blemished so they’ll be used in a salad, but seven squishy sad sacks definitely qualified for a soup.

Now skinning tomatoes isn’t hard, but if I’m going to go to the trouble of boiling a large pot of water, etc., etc., etc., I’ll do it for 18 tomatoes but not a measly seven.

A Hand Blender Sorta Like Mine

A Hand Blender Sorta Like Mine

Questions came to mind:

  • What if I didn’t skin them?
  • What if I just removed the tough stem sections at the top of the tomatoes, cut them in quarters, cooked them to death with that leftover, half-onion, added some soft, herbed goat cheese, and then applied my hand-blender to them?
  • Would I be supping at my soup and find myself chewing on pieces of tomato skin?

The Goddess of Cuisine smiled down on me. The hand-blender chomped the skins into tiny pieces. (See red spots in the photo.) And the results are yummy.  The goat cheese made the soup creamy and took the tartness out of the tomatoes. The herbs added a light, savoury flavor. And the shirataki noodles provided more bulk.

A great recipe when you want fast and easy-peasy!

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Back to the Blog with Pumpkin Pancakes!

Pumpkin Pancakes sprinkled with erythritol.

Pumpkin Pancakes sprinkled with erythritol.

I know, I know. It’s been two months since my last post. Have I been on an around-the-world trip? Discovered I could eat gluten again? Gotten so thin that I never had to diet again?

Yeah, r-i-g-h-t.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I lost my sense of smell again due to chronic sinusitis. It is now back, thanks to medication, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Oh, and by the way, not tasting anything but sweet and salt for two months did not mean I stopped eating. Sigh.

So I’m back with a delicious, filling, low-carb breakfast. I’m a morning person, and I wake up hungry. These pancakes, loaded with protein and sprinkled with erythritol, turn my growling-tiger tummy into a purring pussycat for 4-5 hours and make my taste buds very happy.

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Spinach-Tomato Quiche with a Quinoa Crust

IMGP2007The spouse and I find ourselves increasingly cutting back on meat and eating more vegetarian meals. So I am always surfing around the internet looking for interesting recipes that include quinoa and/or beans.

This dish began when I surfed onto the “Gazing In” blog where author Sarah had created a toil-free quinoa crust while developing her Spinach Quinoa Quiche.

How, you may be wondering, can a crust be toil-free? Here’s how: By adding uncooked quinoa to a liquid mixture where, during cooking, the grain falls to the bottom and thickens. Neat, huh? I also found that the quinoa crust kept thickening even when quiche leftovers took a time out in the refrigerator.

Sarah’s recipe looked good and easy, but it didn’t suit someone with lactose sensitivity who was dieting. Thus began my adaptation: Using non-cow dairy products, switching to liquid egg substitute, cutting back on the cheese, and making up for the missing cheese by adding pizza sauce for a tomato flavour, etc.

So, here it is—a tasty, dieter’s vegetarian dish that’s easy as pie…er, quiche!

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