Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Crispy, crunchy, tangy spring rolls filled with fresh vegetables and herbs—to be honest, I thought they’d be hard to make.  In fact, I printed out a recipe I could adapt but put it in the back of my mind. 

Then, just by chance, I spotted the wrappers in my local bulk grocery store.  Clearly, forces in the universe wanted me to make spring rolls.  And truthfully? They turned out to be easy, from making the filling to wrapping and rolling, once I got the hang of it. 

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Shirataki with Tomato and Cheese

One of my favourite quick lunches is a package of shirataki (tofu) noodles tossed with diced tomatoes and grated sheep romano cheese and cooked for a couple of minutes in the microwave.  It’s not only tasty, the noodles have hardly any calories or carbs and even better: No Weight Watcher point-value! 

Other benefits of Shirataki: 1) The noodles don’t require cooking and that’s what makes it so useful when you’re hungry and want a meal fast; and 2) it’s not expensive because it is a noodle commonly used in Asian cooking.  You can find Shirataki in Asian food stores.

If you haven’t met Shirataki before, let me introduce you.  Shirataki is made of water, tofu, and yam flour.  However, this flour is not related to the yam we see in our grocery stores.  It comes from the Asian konjac yam and does not act like other flours. 

According to eHow Health, the yam flour creates a gelatinous mass when mixed with water, and this mass is not digestable.

Rather, the gelatinous mass moves through the digestive system, stimulating the peristalsis of the stomach and the intestines.  It also acts as a diet aid…Its ability to swell when mixed with water allows it to fill the stomach. It also moves through the digestive system very slowly, making the appetite feel satisfied for a longer period of time… [The yam] has an effect on diabetes as well. Its ability to move through the digestive tract very slowly also slows down carbohydrate absorption. This slowed absorption will keep the blood sugar at a moderate level. 

Although we do not digest the flour from this yam, eHow Health says it is healthy for us:

It is an alkaline food that provides several nutrients to the body. It contains water, protein, carbohydrate, lipids, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, pantothenate, niacin, fatty acid, folic acid and dietary fiber.

You can use Shirataki in any recipe which calls for pasta.  In fact, when serving spaghetti, I have regular noodles for everyone else and Shirataki for me. Does it taste like pasta?  Not really, but it does the trick, and that’s what counts for me.  Here is the recipe for my oh-so-quick lunch:

Makes 1 serving

Preparation Tip: You must drain the shirataki noodles and rinse them thoroughly.  They have a somewhat fishy smell when they come out of the package. 

Ingredients

  • One package Shirataki (8 oz.), drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes and juice
  • 2 tbsp. grated sheep romano cheese

Directions

  1. Rinse noodles and put in microwavable bowl.
  2. Add tomatoes and cheese.  Mix well.
  3. Microwave at High for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Eat!

For Weight Watchers: The package of noodles and the tomatoes have no point-value.  Only the cheese counts.  This lunch is 1 point in both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 

  

Dieter’s Pad Thai

Look, Ma, no oil!

Look, Ma, no oil!

This lower-calorie, delicious version of Pad Thai includes the spicy peanut sauce but avoids the use of oil, doesn’t use an egg, cuts back on the amount of noodles, and adds vegetables. 

The trick here is to prepare all the ingredients in advance before the last step, which involves combining everything together—it only takes about 2 minutes!  Here’s how to do it.

 Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4 servings

Step 1: Make the Sauce

Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup wheat-free soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup artificial sugar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • Chili paste to taste (I use 1 tsp. but we’re conservative)

Sauce Directions: Mix together all ingredients.  The peanut butter will not mix in completely but break up into small bits.

Step 2: Cook the Rice Noodles

 You can use any type of rice noodle.  My choice is rice vermicelli, which has two qualities: one good and two bad. 

  • The good quality is that it cooks in about 1-2 minutes in boiling water. 
  • The bad qualities are (1) it is packaged in incredible long strands that will clump into a ball into your Pad Thai, and (2) if you try to break up the dry vermicelli, you will have pieces of it all over your kitchen. (You can trust me on both of these!)

 Noodle Ingredients: 80 grams or 3 oz. rice vermicelli, weighed dry

 Noodle Directions:

  1. Bring water to boil in a pot.
  2. Put in rice vermicelli
  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes until soft.
  4. Drain water.
  5. Using kitchen shears, snip cooked vermicelli into small lengths.

Step 3.  Prepare the Vegetables

 You can vary the vegetables and the amounts.  However, it’s important not to add so many vegetables that you don’t have enough sauce to go around.

Vegetable Ingredients

  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped finely
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, enoki, shitake, or king oyster
  • 3-4 cups bean sprouts

 Vegetable Directions

  1. Prepare scallions, bok choy, and mushroom and put into a bowl.
  2. Put bean sprouts in separate bowl.  It will be added to the dish at the end of cooking.

 Step 4: Make the Garnish

 Garnish Ingredients:

  • ½ cup peanuts
  • ½ cup cilantro

Garnish Directions: Put peanuts and cilantro into a food processor.  Mix until chopped.

 Step 5: Sauté the Meat

 When it comes to the meat content, you have three choices:

  1. You can use chicken, pork, shrimp, or firm tofu. 
  2. The amount you choose depends on how many calories you want from meat. 
  3. You can start with the raw meat or used leftover meat.  If you use leftovers, just add the meat at the end of the recipe when you’re combining all the ingredients.

In this example, I start with raw pork tenderloin.

 Meat ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into small pieces

 Meat Directions

  1. Using medium high heat under a large skillet or wok, bring chicken broth-water mixture to a boil.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add meat and cook, stirring, until cooked through (about 3 minutes).
  4. Remove meat and put into a bowl.

 Keep heat under pot in preparation for the vegetables. 

Step 6.  Cooking the Vegetables

  1.  Add ¼ cup water if your pot is dry.
  2. Add scallions, bok choy, and mushrooms.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender but crunchy (about 2-3 minutes).

Step 7. Combining All Ingredients

 As you add each ingredient, stir to ensure that it is distributed evenly in the pot.

  1. Turn down heat to medium.
  2. Add cooked meat to vegetables and stir.
  3. Add rice vermicelli to meat-vegetable mixture and stir.
  4. Add bean sprouts and stir.
  5. Pour over peanut sauce and stir.
  6. Take pan off the heat.

Step 8. Sprinkle on the garnish

Garnish directions: I use a large skillet with straight sides so when I take the pot off the heat, I flatten down all the ingredients so that the surface of the pad thai is even.  I then spread the garnish over the surface.  Finally, I divide the pad thai into four parts. 

If you’re using a wok, you will have to measure the quantity, e.g., 8 cups, and divide by 4.  You may decide to divide the garnish among the four individual servings.

For Weight Watchers: For ¼ Pad Thai, without meat, on the Points plan, the point value is 6 points and on the PointsPlus plan, the value is 9 points.  To reduce the point-count, you could

  • Cut down on the amount of peanut butter in the sauce
  • Go vegetarian and not add tofu, meat, or shellfish
  • Not have any noodles
  •  Eliminate the peanuts in the garnish and just use cilantro

The breakdown of the point-value per serving is as follows: 

Per ¼ serving Sauce Rice noodles Meat Vegetables Garnish
Points 2 1 your choice 0 3
PointsPlus 3 2 your choice 0 4

 (Adapted from “Chicken Pad Thai” in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski.)

 

Chicken Dumpling Soup, Japanese-Style

This dish makes a tasty and filling soup for a lunch, or it can be expanded into a rich dinner meal if you serve it over rice or noodles.  In the picture of the soup below, the mushrooms are enoki, and the bowl includes a small amount of rice vermicilli.

Tasty and filling chicken dumpling soup

Tasty and filling chicken dumpling soup

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This dish cooks very quickly so you should prepare the three separate elements of the soup in advance:

  1. The broth
  2. The dumplings
  3. The vegetables

Creating the Broth

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup soy sauce made without wheat
  • 1 ½ tbsp. sherry, mirin, or sake

Mix together stock, soy sauce, and sherry, mirin, or sake into large pot. 

Preparing the chicken dumplings

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, either ground or skinned, boned, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. miso (for helpful information about this ingredient, click here)
  • ¼ cup liquid egg substitute
  • ¼ chopped scallions

Place chicken, ginger, miso, egg substitute, and scallions in a food processor bowl.  Mix until the mixture becomes a coarse paste.  Form dumplings by gently rolling chicken mixture in cupped hands to create 20-24 dumplings, approximately 1” in diameter.

 Chopping the vegetables

  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced at an angle
  • ½ lb. daikon, cut into sticks approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 cups mushroom, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup bok choy, sliced

Cooking Directions 

  1. Bring broth to a boil and then reduce to a lively simmer.
  2. Drop 6-8 dumplings (depends on size of your pot) into the simmering broth. 
  3. When dumplings pop up to the surface they are cooked (approximately 3 minutes). 
  4. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  5. Continue dropping, cooking, and removing dumplings until you have used up all of the meat mixture. 
  6. Leave dumplings on the plate.
  7. Add vegetables to broth and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Return chicken dumplings to broth.

For Weight Watchers: Points depend on how many dumplings you make and eat. Here’s the best way to calculate your points.

  • Each ounce of chicken is worth 1 point. 
  • 1 lb. of chicken is 16 points. 
  • If you make 24 dumplings, each dumpling is worth roughly .75 points. # 
  • If you eat 6 dumplings for a serving, then that serving is worth 4.5 points in both the Points plan and the PointsPlus plan.
  • Remember to count in the rice or noodles if you include either of them.

#Why “roughly?” Because the actual point count is .666 which is difficult to work with when adding up points for the day.  I’ve rounded each dumpling up to .75 points to make for easier counting and also to cover the points in the egg substitute, miso, and sherry which are spread throughout the dish. 

(Adapted from “Sumo Wrestler Hot Pot” in Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat and “Japanese Chicken Soup” in Ontario Chicken: Food for Living by Chicken Farmers of Ontario.)