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!

Baked Turkey-Quinoa Meatballs with Cucumber Raita

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.

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Chicken and/or Turkey Meatloaf with Broccoli Slaw and Feta Cheese

Last night's dinner.

My granddaughter, Adesia (aged 13), comes regularly on Tuesdays after school to cook with me. My challenge is to keep this sous-chef interested so I always plan to have a culinary experiment on hand to intrigue the both of us.

This Tuesday, that challenge was meatloaf. I had both ground chicken and turkey on hand, and I wanted to expand on my earlier ground turkey recipes* by adding in more vegetables.

When I presented the challenge, the sous-chef only wanted to make sure that the dish would include bread crumbs. “A meatloaf without bread crumbs?” I said. “Heaven forbid.”

(Interestingly, my granddaughter’s desire for breadcrumbs meant that I had to add eggs, which I did by using the 1 egg per 1 pound of meat rubric. These additional ingredients raised the calorie count of the meatloaf, and I think it would be possible to do this dish without either breadcrumbs or eggs.)

All of which is a preamble to the final thumbs-up, high-five result: a delicious, spicy meatloaf with saltiness from the cheese, crunchiness from the slaw and green onions, and occasional sweetness from the dried cranberries. Oh, and it was delicious cold when I had it for lunch today.

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Chicken/Turkey Barbecue Bake with Vegetables

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.

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Turkey Meatloaf Muffins: It’s All About Portion Control

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.

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Broccoli Slaw Salad with Chicken, Apple, and Pickle

Looking for a quick, easy-to-make, low-cal lunch?  When we were in Tucson (where we vacationed for a month), I discovered that Safeway carried broccoli slaw which we also have in Canada and which I’ve been using as the basis for a lunch salad.  This salad is as healthy as all get out, covers all the food groups except grains, and has a great, crunchy texture.

I’ll add a photo when I’m a little more settled.  (The photo is now added.  In this version, I didn’t have any chicken or turkey so I threw in a hard-boiled egg instead.  It’s okay, but I prefer the meats.) When we got home from Arizona three days ago, I discovered that my computer wasn’t working and that my hard drive was fried.    I’m sure you can envision the ensuing rigamarole.   In the meantime, get out the broccoli slaw… Continue reading

Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf

As my husband and I are eating less and less red meat, I’ve been turning to turkey to fill some of the gaps.  Hence, for example, the Turkey Burgers  post last month.  The trick, as I noted then, was to counter turkey’s bland flavour by adding spices and other ingredients to enrich it.   

In this recipe, the flavour of ground turkey is enhanced primarily by quinoa, fresh sage, and a little bit of tomato paste.  The result is a tasty, healthy meatloaf, high in protein and low in fat.

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8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix with hands until ingredients are well combined.
  3. Taste mixture to see if it requires additional seasonings. 
  4. Spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan and fill it with meat mixture. 
  5. Bake in a 350° F oven for 75 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reaches at least 160° F.
  6. Drain liquid and let cool for 10 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: Your points depend on your serving size.  Cut your serving and weigh it, counting 1 point per ounce.  Then add .5 point for the quinoa and egg if you’ve made 8 or more slices. Good for both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

(This recipe was adapted from “Turkey and Quinoa Meatloaf” by Drew at allrecipes.com.  You can also check out the 13 custom versions by other chefs at that page.)

Crustless Chicken/Turkey Quiche

My husband and I have a small cabin cruiser, called the Outrageous, which we use as a moveable cottage in the lakes near Ottawa.  We’ve been boating for 20 years and love to anchor or tie up somewhere and enjoy the sun, nature, wildlife, and living without a computer for a few days.

So, you’re asking, what does this have to do with refashioning food? 

Well, to make a long story short, the boat’s galley (kitchen) is the size and shape of a shower stall.  (In the photo, the 2nd porthole in the bow of the boat is the galley’s window.) In it is a scaled-down refrigerator, a microwave, and a cooktop with three burners, except that I can only use one burner at a time because our inboard generator can’t handle more.  Not surprisingly, I prepare as much food as I can at home beforehand, such as washing salad greens, making a quick bread, steaming broccoli, mixing up a batch of spaghetti sauce, and so on.

After a recent trip for which I had roasted a plump chicken, we came home with leftovers.  Needless to say, the allure of chicken had worn quite thin so I decided on a gustatorial disguise—a crustless quiche made with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and sheep romano cheese. Voilà!  The rich, dark taste of the vegetables and the sharpness of the cheese completely overpowered the white and dark chicken meat hidden within.  Oh, and it was delicious too!

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 8 oz. cooked chicken or turkey
    • 1 bunch Swiss chard or spinach (I used Swiss chard and had 8 cups worth)
    • 1 cup water
    • ½ cup of chicken broth or 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder + ½ cup water
    • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms, any type
    • Spices of your choice (I used 2 tsp. of chopped fresh sage)
    • 1 cup liquid egg substitute (approx. 4 regular eggs)
    • ½ cup sheep romano cheese, grated
    • ¼ – ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, if necessary
    • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Chop cooked chicken into small pieces and put in a large bowl.
  2. Prepare chard by soaking in cold water to clean and removing hard stems.  Drain and then cut in two steps: first lengthwise (creating ribbons); then crosswise, chopping coarsely.
  3. Put chard in a saucepan, add 1 cup of water, and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat until leaves are wilted.  Drain and press out additional water.
  4. In a non-stick frying pan, heat chicken broth until bubbling.  
  5. Sauté garlic, onions, mushrooms, and spices in broth until soft.
  6. In the bowl containing the chicken, add all other ingredients: drained chard, sautéd onion and mushroom mixture, egg substitute, and cheese.  (If your mixture seems too thick, you can add ½ cup of milk.)
  7. Spray 10″ x 10″ pan and pour mixture into it. (I wasn’t sure I could fit the mixture into a 10″ pie plate.)
  8. Bake in 350°F oven and cook for 40-45 minutes or until dish is set and edges are brown.

For Weight Watchers: One serving is 4 points on the Points plan and PointsPlus plans.  Note: If you want to add milk, the addition will not significantly affect the point count.

(Adapted from “Swiss Chard and Mushroom Squares” at Kalyn’s Kitchen blog.  Thank you, Kalyn!)

Turkey Burgers with Dried Cranberry

The grilling season is back with lots of good things that my husband gets to cook (for a change)!  Tonight’s meal was turkey burgers with asparagus (the local crop is in) and a salad.

The challenge: How to make turkey burgers that weren’t bland facsimiles of beef burgers.  I wanted to make the meat so tasty that we wouldn’t need ketchup, mustard, and pickles—condiments that enhance beef but would drown the more delicate taste of turkey—and buns that are just designed to hold in all the burger dressings and add way too many carbs. 

The solution: Spice the meat with rosemary, highlight it with green onions, and add the occasional sweet surprise of dried cranberries.  These burgers have a delicious, delicate flavour and don’t require anything beyond themselves to satisfy the palate.

Printer-friendly recipe

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs, gluten-free (If you don’t have any, you can substitute with a mild alternative flour.)
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt (This was sufficient for me, but you may want more.  See Directions.)
  • ¼ tsp. worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix with hands until ingredients are well combined.
  3. Taste mixture to see if it requires additional salt.  Add by ¼ tsps., if necessary.
  4. Make into 4 burger patties. 
  5. Cook on heated grill for 5-7 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: Eat patty is 5 points on the Points plan and 5.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

Curried Chicken with Yogurt

This dish is a tangy, spicy, and low-calorie way to dress up chicken, and I’ve been making it since the 1970s so it’s tried and true.  It was a dish much beloved by my children when I served it with pasta and, particularly, when I made it with thighs and legs which tend to be more tasty than the breast. 

Under my gluten-free and Weight Watcher regime, however, I now make it with chicken breasts, halve them for portion control, and serve the dish over a carbohydrate such as quinoa or rice, which is shown in the photo. 

I also like to add a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese (which is not in the photo) to each serving.  It’s interesting how an Italian cheese can enhance the flavour of an Indian dish. 

Because I love the sauce, I have always doubled the quantity that was made in the original recipe.  Feel free to cut back if you wish.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1½ – 2 lbs, chicken pieces, bone-in and skinless
  • 1 cup plain goat or sheep yogurt
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. each ground coriander, ground ginger, and salt
  • 2 tbsp. chicken-broth powder and ½ cup water or ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1½ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 tbsp. non-cow parmesan or romano

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, spices, and salt.
  2. Roll each chicken part in the yogurt mixture and then place in a pan.
  3. If you leftover yogurt mixture, pour it over the chicken.
  4. Let coated chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  If you make do this early in the day and won’t be cooking it until dinner, cover the pan with clear wrap and put in the refrigerator.
  5. In heavy casserole pot, bring chicken broth-water mixture to a boil.
  6. Add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes until soft.
  7. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Add chicken with yogurt mixture, and stir to combine.
  9. Bring mixture to a boil.
  10. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer about 30 minutes.  If you’ve reduced the sauce, turn pieces over one or twice, while cooking.  Chicken will give off liquid over time and increase sauce quantity.
  11. Put each piece over rice or pasta and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. cheese

For Weight Watchers: The only point values in this dish are in the chicken, the yogurt, and the cheese.  This dish is also very flexible.  You can choose what chicken to use, how much, and cut back on the sauce if you like.  Therefore, it’s impossible to calculate how much sauce you will have.  In my recipe, the total point value for the sauce is 4 points in both the Points and PointsPlus plans.  Whatever your sauce WW points, just remember to add in the value of the cheese and your chicken!

(Adapted from a very old Weight Watcher cookbook whose name is long gone.)