Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Plantains

IMGP1886Sometimes, American expats, like myself, get together for an American Thanksgiving. Which is how the spouse and I recently found ourselves with friends, Tony and Gail, eating turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, etc., etc., and etc.

Tony had made a delicious entrée, Spicy Squash Soup, from a recipe on Oprah’s web site where it is billed as being influenced by “the vibrant flavors of the Caribbean.”

To be honest, I’ve been in various countries around the Caribbean and never had anything that tasted like this soup. But who cares? A yummy winter soup is a thing of culinary beauty and a joy to sup forever.

Here it is then, adapted to lower the calorie count and replace missing ingredients. I forgot to buy the required Vidalia onion and celery so I used leek and carrot. Furthermore, I didn’t have “Madras-style” curry.

Did you think curry was just curry? So did I. However, in addition to “Madras-style,” I’ve now also seen a recipe that calls for “Mexican” curry! Who can keep up with such fast-moving trends?

Throw caution to the wind, I say, and use whatever’s in the spice drawer.

Enjoy!

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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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Carrot-Parsnip Puree with Cauliflower “Breadcrumbs”

Recently, I posted a Cauliflower “Pizza Crust” recipe in which raw cauliflower florets are food-processed until they are the size of “tiny pebbles.”

That culinary metaphor seemed okay at the time, but it didn’t turn my imagination in any other direction.

Then I made more pizza and had cauliflower pebbles left over—three cups, in fact.

What to do with all that cauliflower? While staring at it, another metaphor came to mind: “coarse breadcrumbs.”

Now dieters can only make limited use of real breadcrumbs—too many carbs, too many calories. But why couldn’t I substitute cauliflower “breadcrumbs” instead?

It was one of those “aha” moments.

So I had a topping. Now what about a base? That choice was easy: one of readers’ favourite recipes on this blog is Cauliflower-Carrot Bake. I decided I’d do a carrot “something” and this was the result…

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Cauliflower-Carrot Bean Bake with Ginger and Garlic

Okay, y’all. Here’s another one. The possibilities are so endless, I just keep on going. But I do promise you no more on this blog as I’m in the process of creating a blog just for bean bakes. I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, this bean bake is amazing, and not only because it’s a bright yellow-orange. (At last, a pretty bean bake!) The taste is also terrific!

It’s neither cauliflower nor carrot, but a delicious, rich mix with a tang of ginger and a hint of garlic. For meat-eaters, it would be a great complement to a roast beef or steak.

I wish I had better words to describe the flavour. But this, I find is the cook’s bean-bake dilemma: the beans absorb and/or enhance flavours in unexpected and indescribable ways. In fact, I was afraid that this bean bake might be bland; hence the sprinkle of grated cheese. But it didn’t need the additional seasoning. It was very, very good just on its own.

By the way, I’m on my 5th attempt with kiwi, trying to get the right mix of taste and texture. Upwards and onwards!

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Demystifying Root Vegetables + A Get-Started Recipe

Q: I want to eat a healthy diet/lose some weight/keep those pounds off. I know I have to eat lots of vegetables. But how do I get beyond raw carrots, steamed broccoli and salad, salad, and more salad? 

A: Have a wide variety of vegetable dishes at your fingertips.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up learning how to be innovative with vegetables. In fact, they were generally just a humble afterthought, plopped down next to the good stuff—meat and potatoes—and followed by the highlight of our family dinner—dessert.

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Cauliflower-Carrot Bake

Cauliflower is in season!  When I pass by a pile, my hands get a sensation of yearning.  I wanna, wanna.  And, no, it isn’t just the great seasonal price.  Truly.  For example, I don’t get this needy feeling around the bins of broccoli, which are also in season and equally cheap. Maybe cauliflower looks like a comfort food?  Like mashed potatoes?  Or cream of wheat?  Whatever…I’ll leave it to the food psychologists. (Photo by FreeFoto)

Anyway…I want to buy lots of cauliflower, but what to do with it all?  I can always make soup, but variety is the spice of life.  Hence I was happy to find a cauliflower recipe by Stephanie Bostic, a fellow food-blogger and author of the newly published cookbook, One Bowl: Simple Healthy Recipes for OneHer recipe, “Carrot Cauliflower Purée,” adds a subtle flavouring of thyme, dijon mustard, and lemon to the vegetables.  Delicious.  Thank you, Stephanie.

This recipe also reminded me of a cauliflower recipe that my husband makes for meals when children, their partners, and grandchildren are coming over.  The cauliflower is baked after being first puréed with butter, milk, and parmesan cheese.  It’s a great-tasting dish, except for two problems: it doesn’t taste like cauliflower any more, and it’s loaded with calories.  But…but, I thought, why not refashion Stephanie’s recipe to bring it beyond a side dish and into a main course for lunch by baking the purée with a topping of cheese?

So here it is…with a few tweaks to the original to accommodate my taste and kitchen.

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