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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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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Rutabaga and Pear Puree

IMGP1976Many eons ago the spouse read somewhere that you could add pears to a rutabaga to mellow its taste.

Since he is a pear aficionado and I am not, this purée became his dish to make and consume. I still found it too bitter.

So when he said he was going to make it for our Easter meal, I was somewhat less than enthusiastic. I think I shrugged.

Hence you can imagine how surprised I was to discover that this dish was light and delicious! What had changed? The spouse had used canned pears in water instead of real pears.

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Banana Bread with Carob Chips

chocolatechipbananabread2Okay, okay, it’s a recycled recipe. But here’s the good news.

I shaved 11 WW points (roughly 500 calories) from the original recipe by changing one flour and eliminating the oil altogether. Thank you, applesauce, for being such a great replacement!

Using millet flour instead of rice flour not only added nutrition and cut points, it also got rid of the need for milk—another calorie savings. Millet flour, I’m learning, is less thirsty than rice flour.

Of course, the applesauce may have something to do with it, but who knows? This is the kind of mystery that makes gluten-free, low-calorie baking so intriguing…she says with a smile.

Anyway, light and delicious, this banana bread can be served as a loaf, a muffin, or a square (as shown in the photo.)

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Plum Variations: Pudding ‘n’ Pie

Ah….the plums overfloweth the bins at food markets. I buy bags of fresh plums. I grab bags of discounted plums that are going to rack and ruin. I buy plums whether they’re black, red, blue, or yellow. And what do I do with all these plums?

One favourite recipe is a plum compote that I call Cinnamony Stewed Plums. No fuss and no peeling…just get rid of the pit and cook in some water for 10 minutes. This is delicious over yogurt or in a smoothie. It’s also a great dish to make with plums that aren’t as fresh as they could be.

I also want to tell you about two new plum variations of dishes that I’ve made in the past: Plum Quinoa Pudding and Crustless Plum Chia Pie.

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“Smoothie” Sailing!

Spinach Smoothie

Does the food blogosphere need yet another smoothie recipe? Probably not, but bear with me, please. There is method to my madness.

The smoothie story begins on the July 1 weekend when we were celebrating Canada Day on our boat with 3 grandchildren (all early teens) and one daughter.

We were having a grand time until a stomach flu swept through the boat in the middle of the night. I’ll spare you the grim details but it involved throwing up and fevers.

The only positive note was that I lost 5½ lbs.!

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Blackberry Buckle with Faux-Streusel

One of the challenges of writing a food blog is deciding whether changes to a recipe are just variations on a theme, or if they create a product different enough to justify a new post.

To be honest, I wobbled on this one. To create it, I had made three changes to the Blueberry Buckle Sans Streusel:

  1. Used blackberries (on sale!) instead of blueberries
  2. Used white bean flour instead of garfava flour
  3. Added a topping made of erythritol and cinnamon

Each of these would be a variation if it were on its own, but put them all together…well, I felt they made a considerable change of texture from the original recipe.

Most significantly, the cake is less moist although I used a smaller pan which made the batter deeper. Was the dryness the result of a difference in fruit, in the flour, or in both? The short answer: I don’t know.

I do have a longer, rambling speculation, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that gluten-free baking remains as fascinating to me as ever.

The second textural change involved the topping. I only added this because the blackberries were tart, but they gave each piece a sweet crunch that didn’t exist in the original…and even merited a compliment from my grandson.

So, given that I think texture is as important as taste

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Blueberry Buckle Sans Streusel

A “buckle” belongs, I have discovered, in the early American family of fruit cobblers with names such as crisps, crumbles, grunts, slumps, soakers, and pandowdy (ies?).

(I just can’t help thinking about the First Household. George, grumbling: “This cake is a mess!” Martha, spritely: “It’s a new recipe. I call it a slump.”)

Anyway, a buckle was a blueberry cake with a streusel topping of flour, butter, and sugar that buckled or crumpled when baking.

Well, here’s the good news, dieters! In this recipe, the top—not streuseled to save calories—buckled anyway. The cake rose as it baked and then sank and cracked along its own internal geological lines as it cooled. How authentic is that!

In other good news, these low-calorie squares taste splendid—moist and fruity—with a blend of millet and garfava flours. Why the new blend? 1) Millet has a sweetness and texture I like. 2) Garfava flour is an easy-to-find bean flour, a mix of chickpea and fava bean flours. Bean flours up the protein of a baked product and add fewer carbs and hence calories.

Bon appétit!

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Protein-Packed Chocolate Quinoa Cookies

So far, on this blog, I’ve avoided cookies. I have some good excuses—no children at home anymore and, well, fear of the Cookie Monster.

You know this ogre.

She has tentacles that go straight into your sweet tooth and carb cravings. You will try to quit after one or two cookies while the monster manipulates your taste buds so that the first cookie—nay, the first bite—creates a powerful urge to keep right on going.

For those of you who can eat a whole bag in one sitting—YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

So I’ve avoided cookies for good reasons. Then I spotted a recipe that had good health and diet potential because of the quinoa which is high in protein and, therefore, stomach-filling. I did some adjusting to give it even more protein and reduce calories, and I kept the sweetness at a low ebb so it wouldn’t arouse the sleeping, but ever vigilant, monster.

My spouse was the first sampler. “It’s good,” he said, “but I thought it would be sweeter. Cookies are usually sweeter.”

See how the food manufacturers have trained our palates?

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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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