Cocoa Meringue Cookies

2014-04-13 10.38.07

Orchids and meringues

John and I had a dinner party last night to celebrate our (gasp!) 49th wedding anniversary. Oh, do those years slip away.

One of the friends we had over is on a low-fibre diet which meant foods like legumes were forbidden and everything had to be cooked very well. Here was our menu:

  • Creamy Tomato Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese served with my husband’s fabulous, homemade Challah Bread (regrettably not gluten-free, but it’s his specialty)
  • Lamb Shanks, Braised in Red Wine and Chicken Stock with Carrots and Celery and served over White Rice
  • Puréed Cauliflower, Zucchini, and Leeks
  • Roasted Shallots with Balsamic Vinegar
  • Mocha Tapioca Pudding
  • Cocoa Meringue Cookies

The only dish I had made previously was the soup (the link). Everything else was an experiment. One of the things I enjoy about having a dinner party is that I give myself permission to try out new things. Like making meringue cookies.

Cookies are rarely on my radar because they bring out my Cookie Monster and invite serious, over-the-top gluttony. You know, eat one, eat another one, and…keep right on going. Even in my cookie-baking days with small children, I never made meringue cookies. Up until now, I had been discouraged by the amount of sugar they require and the high-calorie cost of chocolate, if I decide to use it.

But I had an unopened carton of egg whites in my fridge, and research revealed that I could use cocoa powder—the dieter’s alternative to chocolate. In Weight Watcher terms, cocoa powder is 1 point per 3 tablespoons as compared to semisweet chocolate which is 6 points per 3 tablespoons. (For more info, check out “>All About Cocoa Powder.) 

The result was everything meringue cookies should be—light, crunchy in the centre, and deliciously chocolate.

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WOW! Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

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Every once in a while, I get a real thrill when baking for this blog, and this is one of those times. Why? Because what I’ve made not only exceeds my expectations, it proves that gluten-free cakes and breads can be just as good as those that include wheat. (Other thrills were cornbread, a loaf of yeast bread, and non-yeast mini-bread loaves.)

So…ta-da! I’m utterly thrilled and delighted to be able to bring you a gluten-free angel food cake that rose beautifully in the oven and didn’t sink while cooling. This success was wonderful in itself because I’ve tried other angel food cake recipes and had major flops (pun intended).

Best of all, this cake tastes like the real deal—sweet, moist, light, and delicious. Mmmm.

The credit for this marvel goes to the Taste of Home website and what you see here is 99.9% of their recipe (somewhat rewritten for clarity). My .1% contribution? I added cocoa powder because one of my mottos is “Chocolate Whenever!”

Speckled swirls?

Speckled swirls?

I thought I could get a black/white swirly thing going. Instead I got a speckled somewhat swirl, but…well, who cares? It’s still…Mmmm.

However, I have plans for this recipe. Right now, it is not a low-carb version. It has 1¼ cups of sugar and, if you slice this 16 ways, each piece has 23 g of carbohydrate. (For more nutrition info, see below.)

I’d like to bring the carbs down because I’m pre-diabetic and need to be careful about my carb intake. I plan to experiment with creating a cake that has a sugar/xylitol or sugar/erythritol combination.

Both of these sugar alternatives have the crunch of sugar but are much lower on the glycemic index and, thus, will have less impact on my blood sugar levels. An added benefit? A lower calorie version as well.

I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, bake…eat…enjoy!

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Happy Holidays and a Song Just for You!

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It’s that season again. At a Xmas potluck lunch for my Aquafit class, the dishes filled every square inch of the table. There were so many cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and cookies, it looked like a bakery gone wild.

What’s a GF, non-dairy, dieter to do? Be oh-so very, very careful. I had four choices: marinated shrimp, barbecued chicken wings, fruit, and the GF cornbread that I had brought. Needless to say, the tooth-picked pieces of melon were my mainstay.

And, this was really just the start—I still have the rest of Christmas and New Year’s to go.

Just when I was feeling sorry for myself, I discovered this musical spoof on food sensitivities, “One More Grain,” written by Michael Bihovsky, and based on the song, “One More Day,” from Les Miz.

It made me smile; it made me laugh. Enjoy!

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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Navy Bean Brownies with Carob Chips (no flour, no dairy)

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How’s your Chocolate Monster? Mine is alive and well, thank you very much.

In fact, I would say that she has been on a bit of a rampage lately. I’ve made two batches of brownies in 3 days. I eat them for breakfast, snacks, and dessert.

Breakfast! you exclaim. Brownies for breakfast? 

Yup, unless you’ve got something against eggs and beans first thing in the morning. No kidding. These brownies* are not only delicious and filling, they’re good for you—high in protein, low in carbs, and low in calories.

So how can your Chocolate Monster or mine resist?

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GF Dieters: Please Be Cautious with this Cookbook!

Recently, I checked The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace out of the library. It is a newly published cookbook, and the title and claim—“80 low-carb recipes that offer solutions for celiac disease, diabetes, and weight loss”—sounded as if its recipes would be perfect for me and many of the readers of this blog.

The reality, however, doesn’t live up to the hyperbole, particularly if viewed through a Weight Watchers lens. If you’re a gluten-free dieter or a person with diabetic issues who has to keep your weight down, caution is in order. Here’s why.

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How to Blend Low-Calorie, Gluten-Free Flours/Starches

Recently, I got a reader comment that surprised me.

Katherine from the Kat’s Health Corner blog was remarking on my Pumpkin Currant Muffins and wrote, “I love how you combined the chickpea and quinoa flours — how creative!” What surprised me was the praise. (But thank you, Katherine, thank you!)

The truth is I’m driven, not so much by the desire to be creative, but by the search for low-calorie GF flour/starch blends for baking.

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Curried Cauliflower-Sweet Potato Puree with Quinoa

HURRAY!

IT’S CAULIFLOWER SEASON!

But here’s the problem with this wonderful and versatile vegetable: the heads are big and awkward, and they takes up too much room in my fridge. So when I’ve gone a little overboard (bought 2-3 heads because they’re cheap as all get out), my instinct is to cook immediately and purée.

This dish occurred because, in addition to cauliflower, I already had half-a-microwaved sweet potato and cooked quinoa on hand.  Why not throw them all together, add some onion and Indian spices, and see what happens?

The result? A new and interesting taste for me and the spouse: spicy in a curry-ish way with a slightly onion-y crunch and an undercurrent of sweetness. We ate it last night with chicken sausages and…yum!

Now, you might find this dish too bland because I am always catering to my sensitive stomach. Therefore, I suggest you mix all the main ingredients together and then spice to taste. You could also play around with the amounts of cauliflower, sweet potato, and quinoa, depending on what you have.

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Cookies

This post could be called “When Two Recipes Converge.” Interestingly, these two converging recipes don’t, at first glance, appear to have anything in common.

Well…they’re both sweet. I’ll give you that.

My creative moment arrived when I idly wondered what would happen if I replaced the banana in the quinoa cookies with something else to give them a different taste and texture.

What would do the trick? Grated carrot came to mind (another day’s project), but I had, on hand, a very large, already cooked sweet potato.

(The sweet potato was shaped like a pistol, which doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but I’m sharing so you get the full flavour of this creative moment.)

I had nuked the sweet potato for the bean bake but had more than I needed—about ½ a cup too much. (Basically, the handle of the pistol.) What to do? Aha! And the cookie mix, as they say, thickened.

I used the spices from the bean bake recipe and also the currents. I altered the flour from the cookie recipe to get rid of the almond meal—too high in calories to have with the currants. (Have you ever noticed that diet baking is a continuous process of taking from Peter to pay Paul?) And, as usual when you change GF flours, the liquid requirements change too. Hence more applesauce and some milk for good measure.

So, without more ado, let me introduce you to another yummy, protein-packed, low-calorie cookie.

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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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