Faux Lasagna, with Tofu and Carrot Noodles

This faux lasagna tastes like the real deal: tomato-y, cheese-y, and just plain delicious.  It was inspired by a lasagna that I saw at a vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa, The Table.  To make it gluten-free, the chef had replaced lasagna noodles with long carrot slices. 

For the first time, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a lasagna that would not upset my food sensitivities or have a calorie count in the stratosphere.  All I had to do was re-think the usual ingredients.  The result not only has carrots in place of noodles, it also has soft goat cheese in place of ricotta and tofu instead of ground beef.  Plus, in the spirit of “vegetables are good,” I added grated zucchini and sliced mushrooms to the tomato sauce.

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large, fat carrots, sliced lengthwise (I used a Japanese mandolin slicer to achieve long, wide slices.  Since only the middle of the carrot yields that kind of strip, you’ll end up with a number of extra strips.  I cooked all of them and used the extra as just cooked carrots.)
  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup water, mixed together
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 9 oz. medium tofu, diced small
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 90 grams soft goat cheese
  • ½ cup grated sheep romano
  • 1-2 tbsp. sugar, if grated carrot has not sufficiently reduced acidity of tomatoes (although it usually does)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Tomato sauce: In a large saucepan over medium high heat, begin tomato sauce by sautéeing onions and spices in chicken broth-water mixture.  (Add more water if pot goes dry.) When onions are just tender, add crushed tomatoes, grated zucchini, grated carrot, and sliced mushrooms.  Bring to boil and then lower heat until sauce is simmering.  Taste and add 1-2 tbsp. of sugar if tomatoes are too acidic.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Carrot noodles: While tomato sauce is cooking, create the carrot noodles.  Cook carrot strips until tender.  (You should be able to easily pierce the carrot slice with a fork.)  I put mine in a glass baking pan with some water and covered with plastic wrap, microwaving them for 10 minutes.
  3. Goat cheese: Using a knife, spread one side of each of the 8 best carrot slices with goat cheese.
  4. Constructing the lasagna: Spray a shallow baking pan (mine is 10″ by 10″) with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of tomato sauce, then put down 4 carrot slices covered with goat cheese.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup of sheep romano cheese (see photo).  Add the next layer of tomato sauce and then the remaining 4 carrot slices covered with goat cheese.  Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sheep romano on the top.  (Note: I had about 1 cup of leftover tomato sauce so I should have added more in the layers.)
  5. Bake in 325º F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and cheese on top has melted.

For Weight Watchers: The only ingredients with point-values in this dish are the tofu (total value: 6 points), goat cheese (total value: 6 points), sheep romano (total value: 4 points), and sugar if you’ve added it to the tomato sauce.  I needed 2 tbsp. of sugar (total value: 2 points) because (confession!) I had forgotten to add the grated carrot as I usually do. 

  • With only carrot and no sugar: Each of the 4 servings is 4 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 
  • With 2 tbsp. of sugar: Each of the 4 servings is 4.5 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 

Quinoa Tabouli for Dieters

Tabouli is a wonderful dish.  It’s delicious and healthy for you, textured with crunch and snap, and has a lovely smell, dominated by fresh parsley, green onions, and lemon.

Still, from a weight watcher’s perspective, tabouli has problems.  It can be heavy in carbohydrates if the ratio between quinoa and vegetables leans towards the quinoa.  And many recipes call for more oil than a dieter would want.

How, I wondered, could I make this more of a diet dish while still retaining the tabouli goodness?  My solution was to cut the oil dramatically and add new crunchy vegetables, snow peas and green beans, to the classic ingredients of tomato, cucumber, parsley, and green onions.  I’m now thinking that I could have also added baby bok choy; I’ll try that next time and let you know.

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Quinoa-Sorghum Carrot Bread

This fragrant, light, and moist quick bread is not only delicious, its success is an inspiration for me to continue experimenting with alternative flours.  

The original recipe called for ¾ cup each of white flour and whole wheat flours.  Recently, after some searching, I managed to find sorghum flour and decided to try it in a blend with white rice and quinoa flours.  The result is a bread with a lovely, cake-like texture.  (If you can’t find sorghum flour, you can substitute white rice flour or brown rice flour.  I suspect either of these will alter texture and taste slightly; however, it would not change the Weight Watcher point count per slice.)

Another benefit of sorghum flour: For gluten-sensitive dieters, it is, like quinoa flour, a low-calorie alternative to the basic white and brown rice flours. (Check out its Weight Watcher point value. )

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Cooking tip: This recipe is like the others I’ve made using alternative flours.  The original recipes don’t add enough moisture, and I ended up with a thick ball of dough.  To arrive at a thick batter, I needed ¾ cup soy milk.

Makes 8 slices

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup artificial sweetener
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. olive or canola oil
  • ¾ cup goat or sheep yogurt
  • ¾ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, as needed (see tip above)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup carrot, grated
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients: 3 flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, nutmeg, salt.
  2. In large bowl, beat egg until well mixed.
  3. Add oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and carrots.
  4. Gradually add flour, mixing as you go.
  5. Add milk, if necessary. (Dough should be thick but not in a ball.)
  6. Spray a 9″ x 5″ bread pan with cooking spray, and scrape in dough, levelling the surface.
  7. Bake in 350° F oven for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: each slice is 3.5 points in the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Cinnamon Carrot Bread” in Lighthearted at Home: The Very Best of Anne Lindsay by Anne Lindsay)

Carrot Soup with Leek, Ginger, and Garlic

This puréed soup is easy to make, thick, mild, sweet, and beautiful; it’s good enough for a dinner party.  I discovered it several years ago when I took advantage of the seasonal prices on carrots and bought 10 lbs. worth.  My husband looked askance at the two huge bags and asked, “What are you going to do with all those carrots?” 

That was a good question.  I began to research carrot recipes and discovered many for carrot soup.  I took ideas from several recipes and made a soup using large Spanish onions.  The soup was good but not great.  That’s when I switched to leeks and discovered that they were key to a great flavour.

This soup also appeals to children.  My grandchildren (ages 9-11 when I started making this soup) like this soup best of all the soups I make—even the granddaughter doesn’t like cooked carrots enjoys a bowl of it.

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Ingredients

    • 6-8 cups of carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
    • 3-4 leeks, cleaned and the whites chopped into chunks
    • 8-10 cups chicken broth, enough to barely cover the vegetables
    • 1½ tbsp. garlic
    • 1 tbsp. ginger

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients into one large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Vegetables should be very tender.
  4. Purée with hand blender or in a processor.

 

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

Quinoa Vegetable Stir Fry

In this dish, you get the crunch and snap of lightly steamed asparagus, zucchini, and carrot plus the nutty flavour of quinoa—all subtly highlighted by ginger and soy sauce.  

This stir fry is a great way to use leftover quinoa and to take advantage of whatever vegetables happen to be seasonal and cheap at the moment.  This version was inspired by specials on yellow and green zucchini as well as cheaper, spring asparagus.

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Makes 8 1-cup servings

 Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1½ tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 bunch scallions/green onions, sliced
  • 2 yellow zucchini, sliced
  • 2 green zucchini, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and spears cut into 1-2 inch lengths
  • 1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
  • 1½ cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp. gluten-free soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

This recipe requires a skillet or wok with a lid.

Directions  

  1. Using a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, cook chicken broth powder-water mixture until bubbling hot
  2. Stir in garlic, ginger, and scallions and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add zucchini, asparagus, and carrot.
  4. Turn heat to medium and cook covered for 12 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until carrots are tender.  The zucchini gives of liquid as it cooks so you shouldn’t have to add water but, if your pot dries, add ¼ cup of water.
  5. Stir in cooked quinoa and soy sauce.
  6. Remove from heat when ingredients are uniformly hot.
  7. Add salt if necessary.

For Weight Watchers: 1 point per 1-cup serving on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

Note: the chicken broth powder is not included in the nutritional information as it is not on the database that I am using.  It contains no sodium or MSG.

  •  Calories 135 (8 from fat)
  • Fat 1 g
  • Carbohydrate 28 g
  • Fiber 11 g
  • Protein 11 g
  • Sodium 1020 mg

This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol.  It is also a good source of protein, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), niacin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A,  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin Bb6, folate, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Stir Fry

This dish dresses up the dieter’s friend—the humble cabbage.  It’s filling and tasty—lightly sweet, lightly sour—and very low in calories. I’ve made this dozens of times, using different types of cabbage, but I find that regular cabbage gives it the best texture, slightly crunchy.  Sometimes, I add onion to give it extra bite; sometimes I add carrots to provide additional healthy substance.  And it works for me hot or cold.

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Note on the amount of cabbage: This recipe is great when you have extra cabbage on hand, because you can vary the amount you use.  However, too little cabbage will make the sweet and sour taste too intense; too much cabbage and you’ll lose flavour.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder, mixed with ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 onion, sliced (optional)
  • 5-7 cups cabbage, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, shredded (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. artificial sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt to taste

 Directions:

  1. In large skillet, heat chicken broth-water mixture over medium-high heat.
  2. When bubbling, add ginger and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add cabbage and carrots.
  4. Cook for 8-10 minutes (uncovered) until cabbage is wilting, stirring occasionally.
  5. Take off heat.
  6. Mix in vinegar, artificial sugar, and scallions.
  7. Salt to taste.
  8. Serve hot or cold.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on either the Points or PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from a Weight Watcher’s recipe that I no longer have.)

Sesame Asparagus with Carrots

Heighten the flavour of fresh, spring asparagus with carrots and the light application of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch asparagus, about 3-4 cups
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. of chicken broth powder mixed with ½ cup of water, or ½ cup of liquid chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. wheat-free soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

This dish requires a skillet that has a lid.

Directions

    1. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil in a bowl and put to one side.
    2. Break off woody ends of the asparagus and cut remaining spears into pieces about 1 inch long.
    3. Cut carrots into thin slices (about ¼ inch).
    4. Pour chicken broth-water mixture to skillet and place over medium-high heat.
    5. When bubbling, add minced ginger.  Cook for 30 seconds.
    6. Add carrots and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
    7. Lower heat to medium. 
    8. Cover skillet and let carrots steam until crisp (about 15 minutes).  If the pan gets dry, add ½ cup of water.
    9. Add asparagus and mix with the carrots.
    10. Cover and let all vegetables steam until tender (about 10 minutes).
    11. Uncover and let water boil off.
    12. Remove from heat.
    13. Add soy sauce-sesame oil mixture and toss vegetables to coat.
    14. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and mix.

For Weight Watchers: Overall point value in both the Points and PointsPlus is 2.5 points for the entire dish.

Sweet Cardomom-Carrot Pudding

We're happy to be your comfort food.
We’re happy to be your comfort food.

Shredded carrots and rice simmer in soy milk and are then sweetened and delicately flavoured with cardamom.  This pudding is related to carrot halwa, an Indian dish, but it’s lower in fat and sugar and doesn’t include nuts.  It’s filling and delicious whether hot, warm, or cool.

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Makes 5 ½-cup servings

 Cooking Tip:

 The key to this dessert is the stirring.  You should stir frequently during the first 45 minutes and regularly in the last 15 minutes.  Is this a lot of stirring?  Yes.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.

 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups soy or other alternative milk (your choice may affect the points count)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (2 large carrots)
  • 2 tbsp. uncooked white rice
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 1 tsp. margarine
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom

Directions

  1. In medium-size heavy saucepan, put milk, carrots, and rice.
  2. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered.
  3. Stir frequently so that milk doesn’t form a skin or burn to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Simmer for about 45 minutes until milk is reduced by half.
  5. Stir in artificial sugar and margarine.
  6. Continue simmering and stirring for another 15 minutes (mixture will be thicker).
  7. Pour into 1/2 cup serving dishes.
  8. Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
  9. Serve hot, warm, or cool.

For Weight Watchers: 2 points per ½-cup serving on the Points plan and 3 points per ½-cup serving on the PointsPlus plan.

Nutritional Information for a ½-cup serving:

  • Calories 122.4 (33.2 from fat)
  • Protein 7.4 grams
  • Fat 3.8 grams
  • Carbohydrate 14.8 grams
  • Fibre 2.2 grams
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 68.8 mg

This food is very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and Calcium.

(Adapted from “Carrot Pudding” in A Collection of Recipes Celebrating Ontario’s Flavours)

“Free Spirit” Fried Rice

"Free Spirit" Fried Rice with Asparagus and More Carrots

Tasty, nourishing, and filling—this rice and vegetable dish is for “free spirits” who like to experiment.

You'll like us in your stir fry!

You'll like us in your stir fry!

It can be expanded indefinitely with other fresh vegetables (I’ve provided a list of those I’ve used below) as well as firm tofu (cubed), or cooked shrimp, chicken, or turkey if you want a main meal.  In the picture above, I added leftover Sesame Asparagus with Carrots to the basic recipe.

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Cooking tips:

  • This dish cooks quickly so you should have all your ingredients prepared and measured beforehand.
  • If you add additional vegetables, you may have to increase the amount of soy sauce if your pan gets too dry.

Makes 4 servings of 1 cup each

Basic Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of two eggs)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup scallions, sliced
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup low-sodium or other no-wheat soy sauce
Other Vegetables You Can Add
  • ½ pound daikon, chopped
  • 2 cups bok choy (any type), shredded
  • 2 cups napa, Chinese, or regular cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch asparagus

Directions

  1. Spray large non-stick fry pan with cooking spray.
  2. Warm pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add liquid egg substitute, tilting pan so that the liquid covers the bottom.
  4. Scramble the eggs and then break them into pieces (2-3 minutes).
  5. Remove eggs onto a plate and set them aside.
  6. Take pan off heat and spray again with cooking spray.
  7. Put back on medium-high heat.
  8. Add carrots and scallions (tofu and other fresh vegetables should also be added at this time).
  9. Cook until crisp-tender (2-3 minutes).
  10. Stir in rice, peas, and soy sauce.
  11. Cook until heated through, stirring once or twice (1-2 minutes).
  12. Stir in egg (and any cooked meat or shellfish).

For Weight Watchers: The basic recipe yields 4 servings of 1 cup each.

  • Points plan: The total count is 15 so each cup is worth approximately 4 points.
  • PointsPlus plan: The total count is 18.5 so each cup is worth approximately 4.5 points.

Notes:

  1. If you add more vegetables, you will add quantity but no other points.  Therefore, you’ll be lowering your point count per cup.
  2. If you add tofu, meat, or shellfish, you will have to add on its value to each serving.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

  • Calories 200 (13.5 from fat)
  • Protein 10 grams
  • Fat 2 grams
  • Carbohydrate 42 grams
  • Fibre 3 grams
  • Cholesterol .3 mg
  • Sodium 1106.5 mg

(Adapted from “Easy Fried Rice” in the 2010 Weight Watchers Points Plus Getting Started booklet.)

So Very Vegetable Soup

The Diet Equation: vegetables + vegetables + vegetables 

 The Solution: soup + soup + soup

 

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup was my first soup creation and, after some tweaking, I pronounced it good—tasty, satisfying, and filled with different textures because some ingredients are crunchy while others are softer.  Then it turned out to be extra-good when I added a dollop of goat cheese or a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese to a serving. 

This soup is easy to make (except for lots of chopping), is foolproof (except if overcooked), and has so much fiber, you don’t have to worry about the carbs.  You can eat all you want with no weighing or measuring.  Or you can enrich the soup by adding potatoes, peas or legumes. A can of lentils, in particular, really enhance the taste.  But remember: additions like this will bring you back into the world of diet calculations.

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

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Caveat culinaria/us: The vegetable quantities below are rough estimates because I take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach and just put in what I have.  You can add more of one vegetable and less of another, but you should aim for balance.  For example, too many carrots could make the soup too carroty and too sweet.

Basic Ingredients

  •  3-5 cups of chicken stock, broth, or bouillon to barely cover the vegetables.  The amount really depends on how many vegetables you’ve added.
  • 1-2 onion(s), chopped.  Any type will do.
  • Garlic to taste.  I add 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic.
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ – ½ head of cabbage, chopped to bite-size pieces
  • 1-2 tsp. of a spice that appeals to you.  I find that parsley, thyme or basil works nicely.
  • Salt to taste. 

Other Vegetables You Can Add

  • 2-4 celery stalks, sliced.  You can leave on the leaves as well.
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced 
  • 2-4 green zucchini, sliced
  • 2-4 yellow zucchini, sliced (Add halfway through cooking so this vegetable survives.)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup turnip or rutabaga, diced
  • 1 cup daikon or lo bok, diced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped

Problematic Vegetables

  • Beets may overpower the taste of other vegetables, not to mention the colour of the soup.
  • Mushrooms give off a liquid when cooking that could alter the balance of the soup.  I suggest mild mushrooms such as enoki.
  • Spinach, because of its consistency, would have to be cooked separately, chopped, and added at the end.

 Directions

  1. Chop vegetables beforehand.
  2. Turn heat under a large pot to high.
  3. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth.
  4. Add garlic, onions, and all other vegetables.
  5. Add canned tomatoes and mix well.
  6. Add more chicken broth until vegetables are barely covered.  You want the soup to be chock-full of vegetables.
  7. Add spice(s).
  8. Bring soup to boil, then turn down heat until it is simmering.
  9. Taste to see if you need to add salt.  Start with 1 tbsp. and then taste, and so on.  My salt philosophy is to cook with it sparingly and let people add their own after being served.
  10. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan.  If you’re dieting under the Points plan, you don’t have to worry about carrots or parsnip unless you plan to eat all the soup in one sitting!  The  quantity of soup will be so great that any individual bowl serving won’t have enough of either to count.