Tomato Quinoa-Bean Squares

Today I’m writing to you about a culinary triumph and a baking disaster.

Disaster first. Those who follow this blog may recall that I planned to experiment with my gluten-free angel food cake recipe to bring down the carb and calorie count. Well, experiment I did, substituting erythritol for some of the sugar. Erythritol is granular like sugar, has no calories or aftertaste, and is very low on the glycemic index.

sadfaceSo what happened? The erythritol (1) melted and created a messy, black residue on the bottom of the oven that had to be scraped off, (2) sealed the tube section to the rest of the pan so tightly that the spouse had to pry it loose with a knife—good-by pan, and (3) resulted in a very crumbly, nowhere near as delicious, version of the real thing.

The cake did rise and stay that way, but…sigh. Upwards and onwards…

Now the triumph—A tasty, filling, low-cal, vegetarian bake!

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This dish is packed with protein via the beans, quinoa, and cheese. As well, the quinoa can  help you fill your daily whole grain quota, which is not always easy to do on a gluten-free diet.

This is also a great way to get rid of quinoa leftovers. In fact, it was the cooked red quinoa hanging around in my fridge that got this dish off the ground along with some recipe-surfing on the Internet.

And what’s more, it is flexible.

  • Not quite enough quinoa? Not to worry.
  • Want to add more beans? Go ahead.
  • Prefer tomato paste to pizza sauce? Do your own thing and throw in some basil and oregano.
  • Like it hot? Go for it.

But most of all, enjoy!

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Quinoa Brownies for Serious Chocoholic Dieters (no flour, no oil)

Hit by an intense and unceasing chocolate craving? Fear not, these brownies will come to the rescue.

They are moist, rich, and chocolate-y to the nth degree.

They’re also healthy, chockfull of protein, and good for your diet.  Plus, a cinch to make.

Sounds impossible? Read on!

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Roasted Veggies Redux or “How will I gorge on vegetables today?”

I haven’t talked about roasted vegetables recently, but that doesn’t mean they’re far from my mind. Uh-uh.

As any dieter knows, the only food we don’t have to eat in moderation is vegetables. In fact, we’re encouraged to eat those veggies the way we used to eat chips, mmm, and cookies, yum, and ice cream, delish!, and…but, ahem, I digress.

Back to vegetables. I have many new readers to the blog, and I thought it would be helpful to re-visit roasted vegetables because they provide a really good solution to that never-ending diet question:

How will I gorge on vegetables today?

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The Sugar Wars

Recently, I’ve had my consciousness raised about sugar.  It started with an April 13 article in the New York Times Magazine, entitled, “Is Sugar Toxic?” by Gary Taubes.  This article examined the current science around refined sugar use, metabolism, obesity, and disease, and the author concluded that, while there was no one answer to this question because we are complex biological beings, refined sugar should definitely be used in moderation.

I then had Shirley of the Gluten-Free Easily blog suggest to me that not all natural sweeteners spike blood glucose the way refined sugars do (the diabetic problem).  After some research I learned that I had been abysmally ignorant about the glycemic indexes (GI) of sugar alternatives. Claire, I said to myself, wake up and smell the sweeteners! 

Then I read a very useful post by Karina of the Gluten-Free Goddess blog about alternatives to refined sugars—a post that was followed by numerous comments that revealed a great deal of worry, upset, and confusion about all kinds of sugar use, including artificial sugars. I was struck by the number of people who had gone off artificial sugars and felt better.

So…where does all of this leave a gluten-sensitive, lactose intolerant, potentially diabetic dieter? 

First, the facts about refined sugar.  It is clear that refined sugar in our society is absolutely harmful when its use is measured in the aggregate. More and more folks are too heavy, if not obese, and many of those pounds are connected to caloric intake from sugar.  And obesity is 100% linked to diabetes, heart disease, other illnesses, and mortality.

Secondly, the facts about artificial sugars, particularly Splenda.  The comments on the Gluten-Free Goddess post suggest mixed physical reactions.  Some people have no problems using artificial sugar while others clearly do.  Are there other facts? A Google search shows lots of controversy as well as scientific studies that demonstrate that Splenda is not harmful. 

But I’ve noticed that science doesn’t always get it right. Do you remember the egg flip-flops?  “Eggs are good for you—no, eggs are bad for you—wait, eggs are now good for you again.” The more accurate scientific tools get, the more the nutritional experts can measure and discover new facts that can change earlier conclusions. Also, it can take years to find out results from the use of any substance—be it a food or drug.  It’s all very frustrating from a civilian point of view.

Then there are the words: natural, processed, and chemical, which swirl around us but don’t quite get pinned down. I know I get a warm, fuzzy feeling about the word natural and a not-so-nice feeling about the words processed and chemical

But I also know that natural isn’t always better. We could say that North Americans lived “more naturally” in 1900, but the average age of mortality then was 47.  Nor are processed or chemical always bad.  How many of us wouldn’t cook because it processes our food and alters its chemicals?  Or not take medications which are the result of chemical processes?

It’s a conundrum, rolled up in an enigma, and packaged like a puzzle.

The majority of people in North America are not plagued by the reactions to foods that affect those of us in the gluten-free community.  Are we just oddities then?  No, I think we’re like the canary in the coal mine.  We’re the indication to the rest of the world that there is something going on in our society and environment that isn’t good for the human gut.

Maybe it’s pollution or plastics or antibiotics or too much processed food or not enough protection against ozone or  ________. (Put in your theory.)  Or, most likely, there isn’t one simple answer.

So…what can a person do?  My solution: listen to my body, live and eat with moderation, and try to make the best decisions possible for myself, given available knowledge.

Because I have the metabolism of a snail on tranquillizers, I gain weight easily and lose it with difficulty. One of my decisions, which affects this blog, is that any true sweetener—be it brown sugar, stevia, dates, raisins, whatever—is more “toxic” for me than artificial sugar because it is high in calories. To be blunt: I’m more likely to die from being overweight than from eating artificial sugars.  

Splenda, which I tolerate well, enables me to eat, albeit sparingly, baked products that would otherwise be verboten.  A variety of foods and a feeling that I am not being completely deprived enable me to stick to a successful diet regime.  That regime is essential to my health.

So, I can’t take artificial sugar out of my recipes; otherwise, this blog would simply no longer be true to myself.  Nor would it be valid for those who share my health problems.

It’s a free world. 

But you’re not me, and may make decisions that are different than mine.  If you decide not to use artificial sugar, you can substitute any real sweetener that you prefer in this blog’s recipes.  I use Splenda which is a one-to-one substitute for regular sugar.  Just remember that every tablespoon of sugar or alternative sweetener is 1 point on both the Points and PointsPlus Weight Watcher plans, and add the additional point(s) to the per serving point values.

Yours deep in the puzzle,

Claire