Creamy Mushroom Soup (but without the cream)

Thick and delicious!

I’m not a winter person, but I sure do love the warm soups and thick stews that come with the season. This particular soup happened because I found discounted mushrooms whose best days were behind them, and bought 2.5 lbs. Believe me, that’s a lot of mushrooms. But I have a motto for situations like this.

When in doubt because of quantity and/or quality, make soup!

So I did, and this soup turned out to be the best mushroom soup I’d ever made: delicious, thick, comforting, low in calories, and a cinch to make. What makes it creamy? Using as little liquid as possible…

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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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(A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven

Dear fellow-dieters,

Here’s the bad news. My weight has been gradually inching in the wrong direction (along with my hips!) even though my thyroid is fine and I’m tracking my food, staying within plan, and exercising 3-5 days a week.

So, yesterday at the WW weigh-in, I brought in my food tracker so the leader could see that I was a faithful dieter who should be losing weight. The diagnosis? Too many carbs among the fruit, cereal, and baked goods that I ate.

Some people, the leader said, can’t throw off carbs easily, adding that she was one of them and I was clearly another. I can’t print here what I thought about that (several not-nice words came to mind.). But I clearly need a carb-rev-up button. Is there anyone else out there who considers their body Enemy Numero Uno?

The solution = vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables.

The creative wheels began to turn, and I remembered those Spiced Sweet Potato Rounds. Why not add that wonderful spice blend to cooked, mashed winter squash instead? The result was a vegetable

  • Lower in calories/carbs than sweet potatoes
  • As filling as sweet potatoes
  • Equally delicious!

Voilà! (A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven. Truly.

Yours in the uphill climb,

Claire

P.S. Re the photo: I was trying for a sprinkled paprika topping, but got a little carried away.

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Pumpkin Currant Muffins (no oil, no dairy)

If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the look-out for a diet-friendly baked good. I want carbs to satisfy the Carb Monster and sweetness to satisfy the Sweet-Tooth Ogre. (Yes, I’m inhabited by a bunch of craving maniac gargoyles. Aren’t you?)

Pumpkin Currant Muffins to the rescue!

  • Yummy, pumpkin-pie flavour
  • Sharp sweetness and crunch of currants
  • Moist and filling
  • 1.5 WW points or about 75 calories
  • Comes with the spouse-approved guarantee!

Okay, these muffins aren’t big, I acknowledge that, BUT there are three other important reasons they are great for dieters: no oil, no dairy, no *rice flour—all ingredients which are calorie-rich.

The result? Muffins that won’t overwhelm your daily point count or calorie intake. Enjoy!

*For the gluten-free: Dietwise, there are 4 no-no flours—almond meal, white rice flour, brown rice flour, sweet rice flour—when these flours form the basis of a baked good. For more information on flours, check out Point Values of Gluten-Free Flours, Starches, and Ground Meals.

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Dieter’s Tomato-Tofu Sauce

Everything But the Kitchen Sink!

Everything But the Kitchen Sink!

Ubiquitous (being found everywhere) is not a word I get to use very often, although I really like the way it sounds: the tart, hard consonants b, q, t and the soft vowels.  The word reminds me of a crunchy, well-textured salad…but I digress. Ubiquitous is the perfect descriptor for tomato sauce, which is used in almost every North American kitchen.

In fact, prior to being a food refashionista, I always had jars of tomato sauce on hand. I used to make my own sauce back in the olden days when stores only stocked lousy-tasting canned sauces, but I had stopped because there was now such a good choice on the grocery shelves. Unfortunately, as we know, these choices are full of sugar, oils, and additives; healthy eating meant getting off the fast-food track and going back to basics.

So what makes this a dieter’s sauce? No meat, no oil, no sugar, no tomato paste—just tofu and loads of vegetables. And this is one of those recipes that invites variations, so have fun! 

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Focaccia Mini-Loaves

I am truly, honestly, thrilled by these mini-loaves.

In the gluten-free, dairy-free, diet journey that is my life, I have been truly thrilled on three occasions:

  • When I made my first gf baked product—cornbread. I was ecstatic at having a starch to eat that wasn’t rice, potatoes, or rice cakes.
  • When I made my first successful loaf of gf bread. I was ecstatic that I had advanced beyond creating heavy door stops!
  • When I discovered bean bakes. I was ecstatic that beans and eggs could provide me with low-cal, easy-to-make, and healthy alternatives to flour-based products.

Real thrills. Ordinary people would tell me to get a life, but you and I know differently, right? So I hope you’ll be thrilled along with me about these mini-loaves. They provide a yeast bread experience without the yeast! Rich, satisfying, and delicious.

Three more things:

(1) I’m not really sure whether these loaves classify as focaccia. They’re not made with yeast or are flat and dimpled, but they do have spices, including rosemary, on top. But they’re made with yogurt, not water…yada, yada, yada…but, what the hey, they need a name.

(2) This is an adaption of an already gf recipe. Many thanks to April at the Gluten Free Zen blog for a great recipe: “Italian Flatbread.” I knew her bread would be delicious but, alas, not for me. It wouldn’t fit into my diet at 22.5 points per mini-loaf. So I changed the flours, altered the ratio of flours to starches, cut the oils as far back as I could, and managed to just about halve the point value: each mini-loaf is now 12.5 points, and a ¼ portion at 3.25 points makes a fine and low-cal addition to a soup or salad.

(3) These freeze beautifully and taste just as good after defrosting.

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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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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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Chocolate-Orange Bean Bake

This bean bake has…

  • A light chocolate flavour.
  • A hint of orange.
  • A cake-like texture.

 

It’s delicious, and I’ve been eating it for breakfast.

Even the spouse, who is not fond of chocolate (how is that possible?), likes this bean bake—although he did say that it would probably be better if it were topped with whipped cream.

Well, what wouldn’t??!!

Is it not a truth well known to all dieters that everything we can eat would taste much more exciting if it were fried, blended, mixed, chopped, or topped with the foods we can’t eat?

And I told him so in no uncertain terms, thank you very much!

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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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