Pumpkin-Spaghetti Squash “Kugel”

Only 1 WW point!

Aren’t leftovers nature’s way of improving human creativity?

That was my take on 1½ cups of leftover pumpkin purée.

Gotta do something other than painting the walls with the stuff.

Hit the creativity button!

1) I remembered my recipe for Apple-Spaghetti Squash Kugel. (Revised January 21, 2014.) 

2) Just by coincidence, we also had spaghetti squash leftovers.

Clearly, fate was trying to tell me something. Even better, I was listening for once!

Some thoughts on this ersatz kugel:

  • It tastes just like pumpkin pie but doesn’t have the same texture. I left the spaghetti squash strands as is, but you could purée them to have a smoother texture. That would make this dish a terrific, low-cal version of the real thing.
  • The WW point count of this dish is 3 points for the eggs + 2 points for the Splenda Brown Sugar Blend = 5 points. Next time I’ll just do ½ cup of the Blend and eliminate the Splenda regular artificial sweetener. That will enhance the brown sugar flavour and add only 2 more points.

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Paper Bag Popcorn

All you need are corn kernels and a paper bag. 

AND VOILA!

Popcorn, without the oil and salt, is a great snack. It’s crunchy, filling, nutritious, easy on your pocketbook, and a cinch to make. Oh yes, and rock bottom on the calorie chart.  One cup of corn kernels is only 31 calories.

Admittedly, popcorn without oil and salt is bland, and that’s where this recipe steps in to help.

But, first, let’s be up-front with the negative. Diet popcorn will never be rich with oil. If it were, it would no longer fit in our diets. Hence it will never taste like movie popcorn, bagged popcorn, or DIY-in-the-microwave boxed popcorn bags.

Rather, you can give paper bag popcorn a sweet or savoury adornment, depending on your taste buds. The popcorn will be dry and crunchy; the flavouring, mild but satisfying.

And it will be good for you. According to NutritionSelf.com, popcorn without oil and salt “is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber and Manganese.”

All you need is an open mind about what popcorn is and how it should taste.

In this recipe, I’m going to give you my recipe for sweet cinnamon popcorn. (Yep, the darned sweet tooth insisted.) If you have any terrific flavourings, please let me know, and I’ll add them to this post.

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Coffee Cup Upside-Down Mini-Cake

The mini-cake is cooked and ready to be turned over.

My mini-cake is a miniature tower.

The spouse’s mini-cake had structural damage
so he cut it into slices.

This mini-cake is fun! (Kids will love it.) It cooks in minutes in the microwave. It’s yummy. And it has built-in portion control. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, we could ask for a consistent shape, I suppose. One mini-cake turned out to be a perfect tower with a dome; the other had its dome collapse and the whole edifice had to be levelled.

Baking perfectionists may ask, “What happened?” Perhaps it was how I put the apple slices in the bottom of the cup (no arranging: I just dropped them in and mixed in the sugar and cinnamon). Maybe it was the way I put in the batter. Truth be told: I have not a clue.

Clearly, this recipe requires more experiments, but how hard will that be with the fruit season just about upon us? I’m thinking peach, mango, plums, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry…

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No-Peel Kabocha Squash “Fries”

2012 is my year for making new vegetable friends. I’ve overcome my fear of strange root vegetables with odd or ugly outsides—for example, celeriac and yucca—which have all turned out to have mild and even sweet-tasting insides. And I plan to get to know chard and kale a lot better.

For this recipe, I ventured outside my squash “comfort zone”—butternut, acorn, pumpkin—and bought a round, yellow-and-green striped gourd called a kabocha. I put it on a kitchen counter, and there it sat for a long time. Occasionally we would stare at each other.

The kabocha seemed quite happy while I dithered. It’s interesting that trying out a new food is a lot like being compelled to learn a new software product. Denial is high, but resistance is futile.

And thank goodness for that because these fries are delicious—both peel and flesh. They are sweet and slightly salty with a flavour somewhere between butternut and pumpkin. And they’re versatile: good hot and cold; good as a snack or side dish.

Enjoy!

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Sweet Potato-Tofu Bake

Okay, okay, I agree. This dish looks exactly like several others I’ve posted lately—that is, the bean bakes.

But don’t judge a bake by its colour. This dish has nothing to do with beans although its flavour is reminiscent of Pumpkin “Pie” Bean Bake.

The spouse, who professes not to like sweet potatoes very much, has been making this dish on a regular basis for years. We get it on Thanksgiving for sure, sometimes for Christmas dinner, and other times during the year such as yesterday when, for reasons unknownst to me, he gets inspired. (But it’s these unpredictable quirks that keep a 46-year marriage going, don’t you think?)

This bake tastes great, has terrific nutritional value, is a cinch to make, and is good both hot and cold. (Note: the recipe has been doubled in the photo.)

So…from my kitchen to yours…

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Creamy Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese

Thanksgiving brings one’s thoughts around to sweet potatoes…at least, it does mine.  I have to admit, however, that my family is split on the issue.  On one side we have the sweet potato lovers; on the other side, we have those who would rather skip them altogether, if you don’t mind.  Well, what do they know anyway? I am firmly in the sweet-potato-lover camp…three times over.

  • First, I love the taste.
  • Second, I love their nutritional value.  According to Nutritiondata.self.com, sweet potatoes are low in Sodium, and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol…a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6 and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Manganese.
  • Third, I love the fact that, because of their high fiber content, sweet potatoes score lower in point value than regular potatoes in the Weight Watchers program.  More food, less guilt!

So…what’s not to like?  Especially in this easy-to-make dish, where sweet potatoes are blended with soft goat cheese and spiced with cinnamon and ginger. Continue reading

Dieter’s Spiced Cranberry Relish

We Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on October 10 so our family had its groaning board yesterday, replete with turkey, stuffing, and all the usual wonderful and calorie-rich accompaniments.

In the past, I used to throw caution to the winds and dolloped lots of cranberry sauce (canned) on my turkey even though I knew it was chock-full of sugar.  This year, I decided to make my own cranberry sauce and spend those calories elsewhere—on pumpkin pie, for example, and some stuffing.  And this was a good thing for two reasons.

First of all, this relish was a much superior product to the canned variety: the cranberry flavour enhanced by spicy undertones of orange and spices.  And secondly, I needed to save those extra calories because one daughter brought home-made coconut macaroons, which were to die for.

And, honestly?  My diet did die a little…a smidgeon, really, dear god of weight loss.  But then, such is the fate of diets when Thanksgiving rolls around.

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Spiced Frozen Bananas

My favourite breakfast is fruit and yogurt so my idea of heaven is a berry season that goes on year-round which, alas and sigh, is not the case here in Ottawa.  So bananas are my staple for fall, winter, and spring—that is, until reader and friend, Becky, sent me this recipe.

So what turned me back onto bananas in the summer?  The small explosions of what tasted like vanilla ice cream in my fruit-yogurt mix, courtesy of frozen bananas that have been brushed with a light coating of spice. 

Of course, you can eat these bananas by themselves for an “ice cream” treat, but I found that mixing them with other fruit minimized the banana flavour (which I can get in other seasons) and emphasized the vanilla ice cream taste.

Makes 8 servings of ¼ banana each

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (pure is better than artificial)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon (the original called for allspice which I don’t like but you may)
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger

Directions

  1. Prepare bananas by quartering them.
  2. Mix vanilla extract and spices.
  3. Using a brush, apply spice mixture on all sides of bananas.
  4. Place bananas cut-side down on wax paper.
  5. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before using.
  6. Cut into small slices and add to a fruit mixture.

For Weight Watchers:  .5 point per serving for the Points plan and 0 points for the PointsPlus plan.

Cinnamon Blueberry Cobbler (Egg-free)

One of my goals in life is to create baked products that meet both the needs of my diet and my sweet tooth.  I have trained the latter to be satisfied with a lower level of sweetness, but it likes its treats and grumbles when its demands are ignored. (Anybody know a dentist who can deal with this little monster?) 

Anyway, after much experimentation, I have managed to come up with a cobbler (cake with fruit on top) that is moderately sweet, light, and about as healthy as a cake can be (it includes quinoa flour, yogurt, and blueberries).  But it has no eggs and virtually no oil, making it my lowest-calorie baked product, thus far. 

This recipe is also the first time that I’ve baked with erythritol, a granulated sugar alcohol with a low glycemic index (good for diabetics) and no aftertaste whatsoever (good for everyone else).  

At the moment, erythritol ranges between $13-16 a pound in Canada for the Now Natural Food product and $18-20 for the 12-ounce pack of Organic Zero.  This is twice as expensive than the same products in the U.S.  This makes me a little crazy.  To keep my sanity, I’m looking into ordering in bulk, from a U.S. online seller.  If anyone has done this, please let me know.  At any rate, I’ll keep you posted.

Update: I have now also made Strawberry-in-Season Cobbler, which used this recipe but required a bit of tweaking.

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Taste tip: It is important to cool the cobbler down before eating it.  When it is hot, the cake is a little gummy.  In fact, I had thought, at first, that I had another disaster.  However, after it cooled, it was fine.  Why?  Who knows?

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup white rice flour
  • ¼ cup quinoa flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca starch
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp. sweetener (Note: Weight Watcher points for this recipe are based on the use of a no-calorie sugar.  I used erythritol.)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. plain goat yogurt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: rice flour, quinoa flour, tapioca starch, ½ cup erythritol, 1 tsp. cinnamon, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together water, yogurt, and vanilla.
  3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients.
  4. Spray 8″ x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray.
  5. Pour cake batter into pan.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining  2 tbsp. of erythritol and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.
  7. Add blueberries and mix gently until coated.
  8. Cover cake batter with blueberries.
  9. Bake in 350° F oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean.
  10. Do not eat until cool!  Cut into 8 servings and enjoy!

For Weight Watchers: Each serving is 2 points on the Points plan and 2.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Very Berry Cobbler” at Raia’s Recipes.)

Quinoa Pudding #3: Summertime Banana

Sweet, cool, soothing, filling, and easy to make—this is a pudding that’s just right for hot summer days.  This dish is also a new version of a versatile favourite. (Earlier warm pudding versions used dried cranberries and puréed pumpkin or squash.)

I keep finding myself coming back to this pudding recipe whenever a possible ingredient makes itself  known: in this case, aging bananas crying out to be puréed.   But bananas are calorie-expensive, my rational mind argued.  But they’d be delicious in this pudding, my stomach-inclined mind replied.  Think of something! 

That something was to tweak the original recipe by using liquid egg substitute instead of whole eggs and almond milk instead of soy milk.  That didn’t make a significant change in taste but it did lower the Weight Watcher points and, hence, calories.  My stomach-inclined mind immediately thought of adding chocolate or coconut, but I ignored it as best I could!

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Makes 9-10 ½-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa seeds
  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
  • ¼ cup artificial sugar, to taste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg 
  • 1 cup puréed bananas

Instructions

  1. Rinse quinoa seeds if the manufacturer has not indicated that this has been done.
  2. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add quinoa and bring to boil again.
  4. Lower heat to simmer.
  5. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.  The quinoa should have absorbed all the water, and you should have approximately 2 cups. 
  6. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk.
  7. Stir in milk, vanilla, salt, spices, and puréed banana.
  8. Test for sweetness and add artificial sugar if necessary. 
  9. Add cooked quinoa to liquid ingredients.
  10. Bake in 325 degree oven for 55 minutes. The quinoa will not be set yet.
  11. Let stand for 15 minutes for liquid to absorbed.
  12. Chill in refrigerator

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