I gave a luncheon on Saturday for six in which I did NOT cater to my gluten-eating, okay-with-lactose friends in any way.
Rather, I served a meal that I felt everyone would like, but it was designed—from soup to nuts—for the two of us who had gluten and dairy sensitivities.
Minority rules! Way to go!
Challenge #1: The original recipe—Incredibly Healthy and Tasty Quinoa and Turkey Balls at the FeedRight for People blog—called for chopped olives. Big problem. The spouse is opposed to olives of any shape, colour, or taste. (Where did I find this man? you may well ask.) On the other hand, I love olives and knew they would add terrific flavour to the dish.
Everything But the Kitchen Sink!
Ubiquitous (being found everywhere) is not a word I get to use very often, although I really like the way it sounds: the tart, hard consonants b, q, t and the soft vowels. The word reminds me of a crunchy, well-textured salad…but I digress. Ubiquitous is the perfect descriptor for tomato sauce, which is used in almost every North American kitchen.
In fact, prior to being a food refashionista, I always had jars of tomato sauce on hand. I used to make my own sauce back in the olden days when stores only stocked lousy-tasting canned sauces, but I had stopped because there was now such a good choice on the grocery shelves. Unfortunately, as we know, these choices are full of sugar, oils, and additives; healthy eating meant getting off the fast-food track and going back to basics.
So what makes this a dieter’s sauce? No meat, no oil, no sugar, no tomato paste—just tofu and loads of vegetables. And this is one of those recipes that invites variations, so have fun!
Spicy, tomato-y, and yummy. I made this dish with a pork tenderloin that had been in the freezer too long, but it would also be great with pork chops. I served the meat and sauce over spaghetti squash with a side of broccoli florets.
This dish is also very easy to make but not quick to cook, because it requires braising—a cooking method that requires low heat and long, moist bakes. Out of curiosity, I googled “braise” to learn why this method makes meat so tender.
According to The Reluctant Gourmet, the braising “process breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat to collagen. Through time, the moisture and heat build and the collagen dissolves into gelatin. Heat also contracts and coils the muscle fibers. Over time, these fibers expel moisture and the meat becomes dry. Given even more time, these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat and melted gelatin.”
The result is that the meat, no matter how cheap the cut, becomes tender, moist, and tasty.
Now, theoretically, the meat should be seared in oil before the baking, but I confess to skipping this part because of the oil. Does it make a difference? I haven’t a clue. Maybe someone out there has an answer?
Mushroom-Olive Pizza Slice with Cauliflower Crust
Google “cauliflower crust,” and you’ll find about a dozen recipes, most very similar. They’re intriguing—imagine eating pizza again! On the other hand, they pose a major problem for yours truly: way, way too much cheese for a dieter.
So I cut the cheese way, way down, made some other alterations, and prayed the crust would hold together. And it did—not that you could hold it in your hand and curve it the way you could a bread crust, but it was
- Stiff enough to cut with a fork
- Solid enough to support the sauce, mushrooms, olives, and cheese
And it didn’t taste like cauliflower! In other words—a cause for celebration!
And you know how everyone wants a different topping? We’re no different in this house. Hence the following recipe is ¾ mushroom, onion, olive, and sheep cheese for me, ¼ mushroom, onion, cheddar cheese, and absolutely no olives for the spouse. He really doesn’t know what he’s missing!
Back from our vacation in the Dutch Antilles and back in my kitchen where I almost kissed every appliance. The kitchen in our Bonaire apartment was smaller than most bathrooms, not air-conditioned, and lacking basics, like an oven!
And as for gluten-free products? I found one natural food store with hardly anything to sell and sky-high prices. A small bag of red quinoa was $18.00!!!
But the snorkelling and scuba-diving were great, we missed a major snowstorm in Ottawa, and I (seeking sloth) and my new e-reader bonded together spectacularly.
I also took a shine to the name of the local supermarket—so much more interesting than “Safeway” (US) or “Metro” (Canada), don’t you think?
Once back home, I was determined to make the perfect gluten-free angel food cake. I had tried this three times already, and had gotten a fairly decent rise but was still working on the taste. This time, the dratted thing collapsed entirely. Blessings on the head of my sweet 13-year-old granddaughter and sous-chef, Adesia, who declared it still delicious and took it home for school lunches.
So…instead, today, I bring you a no-fail, cinch-to-make, reminiscent-of-summer Barbecue Bake that I’ve used for both chicken and turkey breasts. (It would also be great for thighs and legs.)
This photo is of last night’s dinner—a turkey breast, this time, baked with potatoes and vegetables to make a complete meal. The spicy sauce helps the meat stay moist during baking and provides a delicious grace note of taste to the entire meal.
Who among us doesn’t need a fast and easy supper dish in our repertoire? I’ve been making this stir-fry for a long time, and part of its attraction is that I don’t have to peel a thing! Just chop and cook.
The flavour is mild which gives you the scope to spice it up with a hoisin or hot sauce. And you can use however much pork, eggplant, apple, or onion you please. This particular recipe makes 2 meals for my husband and myself, but then we don’t eat a lot of meat.
Do you want burgers that you don’t have to fry or broil? Or meatloaf that can be done in 30 minutes? Or find a strategy for helping with portion control?
Then you might find this recipe helpful. Basically, I altered Turkey Burgers with Dried Cranberries into a meatloaf “format,” used sage instead of rosemary, and used a muffin, instead of a loaf, pan.
I had three terrific results: the muffins were as delicious as the burgers (although nothing can beat those burgers when they’re grilled on the barbecue); they cooked in less than half the time for a meatloaf; and (best of all) they provided instant portion control.
Last night, with family coming for dinner, I decided to resurrect an old recipe, much favoured by my children back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, known as “Yum-Yum Pork Chops.” The dish was both sweet and savoury—the result of, what I realize now, was a rather pedestrian sauce made from ketchup, honey, and soy sauce. (I think at the time this was considered exotic because of the soy sauce.)
The following recipe is based on the same principles of baking meat in a sauce as Yum-Yum Pork Chops, but takes its inspiration from Orange Rosemary Chicken Breasts with some twists. The result is delicious and far from pedestrian. In fact, this dish could be used for a dinner party. The key to this dish, as with that of the chicken, is the use of fresh rosemary. Note: If you love fruit, you can add more if you wish.
As the weather gets colder, my taste buds yearn for hot, hearty soups. This tomato soup is thick, rich, aromatic, and a dinner unto itself. Two things set it apart from spaghetti sauce: the emphasis on fresh basil (it has no oregano), and the meatballs are made of spinach and three types of meat, rather than just beef.
This dish can be eaten simply as a soup or with noodles or rice. If you’re dieting and want to add noodles, consider using shirataki which is almost pure fiber and won’t add to your calorie count. Also, you can make the soup thicker (as I did) by using canned crushed tomatoes as well as diced tomatoes.
I was making this soup with two of my grandchildren who are avid beginner cooks. To keep them busy and feed their early teen appetites, I decided to triple the meatball mixture called for in the original recipe. Feel free to cut back if you prefer.
Those of you who are familiar with Mark Bittman’s recipes in The New York Times know that he likes to take the mystery out of good food. His recipes are rarely complicated and always delicious. Hence, given my adoration of watermelon, I had to make his Watermelon and Tomato Salad which, indeed, delivered a wonderful taste-and-texture mixture: watermelon sweetness plus the tart tomatoes and savoury cheese, all tied together by a vinaigrette dressing. (I’ve added Mark Bittman’s video on making this salad at the end of the post.)
Of course, I had to start adapting the recipe immediately because his cheese suggestions—Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Maytag blue cheese—don’t work for for anyone who is lactose-intolerant. I used goat feta instead. My second adaption was to cut back on the oil to reduce calories. Finally, on my third making of this salad, I decided to cut back on the cheese and add cooked quinoa. I wanted to give the salad more “heft” so that it could be a meal unto itself as opposed to an accompanying salad. It was still delicious although, if you can afford the extra calories (or the 3 extra WW points), I’d keep the cheese at the 2.6 oz. level. There’s nothing like cheese to take a dish from delicious to sublime.
Makes 2 servings
- 2½ cups watermelon in 1″ cubes or balls (cut over a bowl so that you can catch the juice and reserve it)
- 1½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1.3 oz. goat feta cheese, crumbled
- ½ cup green onions, finely minced
- ½ cup cooked, cold quinoa
- 1 tbsp. of watermelon juice
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 1 tbsp. vinegar (Mark Bittman suggests sherry; I had balsamic)
- ½ cup cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
- Salt, to taste
- Combine watermelon, tomato, cheese, green onions, and quinoa in a bowl.
- Whisk together watermelon juice, oil, and vinegar.
- Pour vinagrette over salad mixture.
- Garnish with coriander or parsley.
- Salt to taste.
For Weight Watchers: 5.5 points per serving on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan. (This is cheaper on PointsPlus because the watermelon has no point value.)