Coffee Cup Upside-Down Mini-Cake

The mini-cake is cooked and ready to be turned over.

My mini-cake is a miniature tower.

The spouse’s mini-cake had structural damage
so he cut it into slices.

This mini-cake is fun! (Kids will love it.) It cooks in minutes in the microwave. It’s yummy. And it has built-in portion control. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, we could ask for a consistent shape, I suppose. One mini-cake turned out to be a perfect tower with a dome; the other had its dome collapse and the whole edifice had to be levelled.

Baking perfectionists may ask, “What happened?” Perhaps it was how I put the apple slices in the bottom of the cup (no arranging: I just dropped them in and mixed in the sugar and cinnamon). Maybe it was the way I put in the batter. Truth be told: I have not a clue.

Clearly, this recipe requires more experiments, but how hard will that be with the fruit season just about upon us? I’m thinking peach, mango, plums, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry…

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Low-Calorie Snacks

Snacks and dieting…dieting and snacks. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, these are two things that don’t go well together.

In my pre-diet days, I loved the oh-so-easy snacks. I’d just grab something from the fridge or cupboard that would quickly satisfy my carb or salt cravings.

Snacks on a diet don’t have that happy-go-lucky quality. For me, snacks now require careful planning from the grocery store right up to the finished product. Even a simple nosh like an apple requires making sure I always have apples in the house.

But this post isn’t about the simple snacks. I don’t know about you, but sometimes an apple, a handful of carrots, or a bowl of popcorn (how to make your own in the microwave, oil-free) just won’t cut it. I want a snack more interesting in taste and texture that is also

  • Low in calories, i.e., has little or no fat. (Sugar isn’t a problem for me; I use artificial sweetener.)
  • Healthful because it has nutritious ingredients.
  • Filling so that I don’t get hungry again so quickly.
  • 2 Weight Watcher (WW) points or less so it doesn’t overwhelm my daily count. (Roughly 100 calories.)

To that end, I am now experimenting with snack recipes, mine and others’, with the express purpose of keeping the calorie count down. As part of this effort, I decided to compile a list of all my low-calorie recipes to better understand how to replace empty calories with good ones. I thought you’d find this list helpful.

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Butternut Squash Brownies (oil-free)

Butternut Squash Brownie
served with yogurt and clementine

Looking for a yummy and filling brownie that’s also low-calorie? This one has no oil, and that makes a big difference. I am always amazed when calculating Weight Watcher point-values how fast they go up when you add in the oil—3 points for every tablespoon. Whew!

You can substitute other gluten-free flours in this recipe, but that may change the amount of liquid (in the form of eggs or milk) that you may need. Different flours are thirsty in different amounts.

If you do decide to vary the recipe, mix batter without the egg and add, as necessary, in ¼ cup batches. The batter should be thick but spreadable.


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Blackberry Cobbler (Egg-free)

Imagine yourself in the position I was in on Monday afternoon.

I am in Farmboy, a store somewhat akin to U.S. Whole Foods, standing in front of the discount-food rack (one of my favourite shopping spots) where they put the fruits and vegetables that didn’t sell on the weekend. Items have been repackaged into larger quantities.

I spot two large containers of blackberries.  This is amazing because berries rarely make it onto this rack. Each package is $2.49 and, it later turns out, holds 4 cups of berries.

I study them closely and darned if those berries didn’t look really fresh. No furry spots, no discolouration.

What would you have done? Me…well, I can’t resist the bargain, even though I know I’m going to have to use those berries up very quickly.

One of my strategies was to slightly re-cobble my very low-cal cobbler recipe and double it from 8 to 16 pieces. We’ve been eating the cobbler since Tuesday, and these are the last two pieces. Delicious!

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Chocolate-Orange Bean Bake

This bean bake has…

  • A light chocolate flavour.
  • A hint of orange.
  • A cake-like texture.


It’s delicious, and I’ve been eating it for breakfast.

Even the spouse, who is not fond of chocolate (how is that possible?), likes this bean bake—although he did say that it would probably be better if it were topped with whipped cream.

Well, what wouldn’t??!!

Is it not a truth well known to all dieters that everything we can eat would taste much more exciting if it were fried, blended, mixed, chopped, or topped with the foods we can’t eat?

And I told him so in no uncertain terms, thank you very much!

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Pumpkin “Pie” Bean Bake

This bean bake looks like pumpkin pie filling. It tastes like pumpkin pie filling. It has the creamy texture of pumpkin pie filling.

Add a pie crust, and I’ll bet most people wouldn’t guess that this dish was made with beans instead of dairy.

In fact, it tasted so much like pumpkin pie filling that I thought it needed something extra—after all, it’s different, right? So I added a healthy dollop of coffee liqueur (like Kahlua). And, upon re-tasting the batter, I had the distinct sensation the the spices were blending better. But maybe it’s just my love of coffee liqueur? At any rate, adding a liqueur is optional.

As you can see in the photo, the bean bake has lost some of its smooth, brown edging. This occurred when I removed the circular outer part of the springform pan, and some of the edging came off with it. Lesson learned—remove said pan part right after baking. Do not wait until the dish has been refrigerated overnight.

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Baking Gluten-Free “Quick Breads”: FAQs

I wrote a version of this article for and decided to post it here as well.  By “quick bread,” I mean a bread made without yeast that can be shaped into a loaf, muffins, or squares. 

This information in the form of a Q&A is the result of a 10-month learning curve that started about three months after I discovered I was gluten-sensitive.  By then, I’d become so screamingly bored with rice cakes, I decided I had to change my life.  I bought a batch of alternative flours, starches, and gums. and began my journey into non-gluten baking.

Q: Why would I bake gluten-free when I can now buy a variety of gluten-free products at a grocery store?

A: You may enjoy baking and want to continue.  Or you may want to save money and not buy packaged foods.  Perhaps, you’re not happy with the quality or taste of what’s available. Continue reading

Pumpkin Cornbread Squares

I love pumpkin pie, but it doesn’t love my diet.  Think pie crust, and you’ll know what I mean.  The flour and shortening…or if you’re inclined to alternative pie crusts, the very nutritious nut meal flours which are, unfortunately, high in calories.  The day someone figures out a diet pie crust, that person should win a Nobel prize.  Seriously!

Now, I also love cornbread (e.g.,  Sweet Quinoa Cornbread), whose calorie count falls within my dietary ambit.  So why not combine pumpkin and all those pumpkin pie spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger—with the nubbly texture and rich taste of cornbread?  The result: a delicious, spiced bread, redolent of the best fall flavours.

Cooking update (April 10, 2012): I make this oil-free and it was still terrific. Just replace the 2 tbsp. of oil with 2 tbsp. of apple sauce.

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Lemon Bean “Cheesecake” with Fruit Sauce

Imagine mixing white beans with some lemon, eggs, sugar, and baking powder and baking the concoction for 45 minutes.

What would you have?

The photo of the cake in the pamphlet looked nice.  But what about the taste?  And the texture?  I wasn’t hopeful.  After all, the pamphlet was published by the Ontario White Bean Producers, and you know they’ll root for their product, no matter what.

Now imagine my surprise when I took a taste and realized I had baked a sweet white cake that was tartly flavoured with lemon and textured like cheesecake!  I was so excited I ran to the spouse and fed him a piece.  He confirmed that my tastebuds hadn’t gone around the bend.

Of course, it isn’t real cheesecake.  It isn’t as thick and it lacks that to-die-for creaminess which comes from loads of butter fat.  But for someone with lactose-intolerance who hasn’t eaten cheesecake in years, this faux version is truly a thrill.

Cooking update (10/2011): My stove died, and I don’t get quite the same results with my new stove.  The texture is more cake-like than cheesecake, but the taste is much the same.

Oh, and this dish is whole lot healthier than real cheesecake.  It’s high in protein, low in fats, and if you use artificial sugar, it’s also low in calories.

Speaking of which, if I were to make this for a dinner party, I’d use real sugar.  I could slightly taste the artificial sugar and may try it with 50% sugar/50% artificial sugar the next time I make it just for me.

More info (10/2011):

  • I did make this with real sugar for a dinner party with excellent results.
  • I’ve tried to lower the calorie/cholesterol count by using a liquid egg substitute.  Doesn’t work!  The result is soggy cake.

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Makes 8 slices

Ingredients for cake

  • 1 lemon, juiced (¼ cup) and zested
  • 2 cups white navy/pea beans (19 oz. can), drained and rinsed
  • 3 eggs (don’t use liquid egg substitute)
  • 1 cup sweetener (artificial or real)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Cooking spray

Directions for cake

  1. Put lemon juice, zest, and beans into a processer and mix until smooth.
  2. Add eggs, sugar, and baking powder.  Blend well.
  3. Spray an 8″ or 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.
  4. Bake in 350° F oven for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve with a dollop of fruit sauce.

Ingredients for fruit sauce

  • 1 cup fruit (Fresh is best but frozen is fine.  I’ve used frozen raspberries and strawberries.)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar

Directions for fruit sauce

  1. In a small saucepan, put in fruit, water, and sugar and boil for 3-5 minutes until thick.
  2. Let cool and spoon over each served slice.
  3. If you have extra fresh fruit, you can either add it to the sauce or use it as a garnish.

For Weight Watchers:

  • With artificial sugar: 1 slice is worth 1.75 points on the Points plan and 2 points on the PointsPlus plan.
  • With real sugar: 1 slice is worth 3.75 points on the Points plan and 4 points on the PointsPlus plan.
  • Fruit sauce for 1 serving: The sugar quantity per serving is negligible.  If you’re on the Points plan, calculate the points of 1/8 a cup of the fruit that you use.

(Adapted from “Lemon Bean Cake with Fresh Fruit Sauce” from The Supreme Bean by the Ontario White Bean Producers.)