Three-Dinner, Low-Cal Stir Fry

imagesToday, I want to tell you the story of a stir fry.

When I started this stir fry, I had no idea that it would be ongoing and evolving, providing dinners for two people for three nights. Without going limp! Without losing its flavour! Without a photograph! It was just a simple stir-fry. Who knew?

imagesI am likely a latecomer to what I’ll call the “add-on” cooking method, but being a blog writer means I can’t wait to share it with you anyway.

Now, like most stir fry dishes, this one was easy. The two tricks that kept it going and going were the following:

  1. COOKING ONLY UNTIL CRUNCHY
  2. ADDING FRESH INGREDIENTS

green-onionsNow, for the sake of the story, I’m going to assume that you know how to make a stir-fry with very little or no oil. (See Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry if you’re not sure about the no-oil method.) Secondly, your favourite vegetables and condiments may differ from ours so substitute to your heart’s content. And thirdly, your quantities may vary because the spouse and I don’t eat large dinners or meat portions.

So here goes! Once upon a time there were some vegetables…

Dinner #1: Just Veggies

images-3To cook only until crunchy means starting with the vegetables which will take the longest to cook and adding the faster-cooking ingredients at the end. Hence, put ingredients #1 to #6 in a heated pot:

  1. 2 zucchinis, sliced
  2. 20 pea pods (roughly, I wasn’t counting) with the tips trimmed off and halved
  3. 1 leek, sliced thin
  4. 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  5. ½ bag broccoli slaw
  6. 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  7. ½ head of Savoy cabbage, chopped
  8. 1 bag of sprouts

leekCover the pot, wait 1-2 minutes, stir, and repeat the sequence until the zucchinis are just starting to look translucent but are not fully cooked. (5-7 minutes? Unfortunately, I wasn’t watching the clock.)

recipe-4359Add #7 and #8 and cover the pot, etc., until the sprouts are warm but still firm and barely cooked. (2 minutes?) Everything should be crunchy except for the cabbage which wilts quickly (Savoy cabbage leaves are thinner than regular cabbage and cook faster).

We served this initial stir fry over rice as an accompaniment for fish.

Important tip: After cooking, remove the pot immediately from the heat and leave it uncovered. If you put the cover on while eating, the vegetables will continue to steam-cook.

Dinner #2: Chicken Breast and Shirataki Noodles

“Beef up” the vegetables with chicken and noodles:

  1. Sautée 1 chicken breast, cut into cubes, with 1 tbsp. minced garlic and 1 tsp. minced ginger.
  2. shiratakiAdd the leftover veggies from Dinner #1 into the pan with the chicken, turn off the heat, and stir. (If your pan doesn’t hold heat well, cook as little as you can.)
  3. Mix in 1 bag of Shirataki noodles, rinsed well with hot water so they don’t require heating. (Learn more about Shirataki noodles if you’ve never used or heard about them before.)

peasDinner #3: Last But Not Least

Cook more veggies to “crunch” status and then add the leftovers from Dinner #2, turning off the heat and mixing.

  • images-22 leeks, sliced thin
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

And the moral of the story? Eat your leftovers! Bon appetit!

Tomato Quinoa Salad with Corn and Feta Cheese

Hi all! We are back from a two-week boat trip to the Thousand Islands. (Actually, there are 1800 islands, but that wouldn’t make a catchy enough phrase, I guess.) We had grandchildren aboard as second “mates,” i.e., minimal help, maximal eating. Couldn’t get a one o’ them ther kids to swab a deck!

Kitchen space on the Outrageous

As you may recall, I’ve described the boat galley as…well, somewhat restrictive. Here is a pix showing the total extent of its counter space with the fridge off to the left and stove to the right. The wooden board on the counter is the top to the garbage pail beneath. Clever, huh?

The galley is always fun for a while, and then, not surprisingly, I’m glad to return to my spacious, appliance-rich, air-conditioned kitchen.

This salad (both sweet and salty; soft and crunchy) happened because we stopped at a farmer’s market on the way home and bought big, delicious, juicy tomatoes. It makes a great side dish for dinner or main dish for lunch

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Minty Lentil and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese

Back in June, 2011, I wrote a post that included the travails of cooking (includes photo) aboard our 30-year old, 32-foot cabin cruiser, the Outrageous, which we use as a moving cottage on the lakes around Ottawa and as a means of travel to the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands.

At the time, I likened the galley to a shower stall, and guess what? Nothing has changed its size between now and then. Thus another summer finds me once again seeking out ways to maintain my healthy, gluten-free, and low-cal diet while on the water. Basically, I need a variety of dishes that I can make in advance and that are easily portable.

Hence a Weight Watcher recipe for “Lentil Salad with Fresh Mint and Goat Cheese” caught my eye. It had no flour, I love mint, and legumes are my friends. Most importantly, it fit my seafaring criteria. The problem? After I made it, I found its flavour too dense—it had…well, too many lentils in one bite.

I began to mix it with other dishes: a lettuce salad, a chicken salad. All were good, but nothing I’d write home about. Then I decided to add cooked quinoa and hit the jackpot, taste-wise and nutritionally speaking. A cup of this salad is a power-house of filling protein and a great mix of tastes, both fresh (mint) and salty (cheese), and interesting textures, both crunchy and soft.

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Braised Pork with Apple, Carrot, and Onion

Spicy, tomato-y, and yummy. I made this dish with a pork tenderloin that had been in the freezer too long, but it would also be great with pork chops. I served the meat and sauce over spaghetti squash with a side of broccoli florets.

This dish is also very easy to make but not quick to cook, because it requires braising—a cooking method that requires low heat and long, moist bakes. Out of curiosity, I googled “braise” to learn why this method makes meat so tender.

According to The Reluctant Gourmet, the braising “process breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat to collagen. Through time, the moisture and heat build and the collagen dissolves into gelatin. Heat also contracts and coils the muscle fibers. Over time, these fibers expel moisture and the meat becomes dry. Given even more time, these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat and melted gelatin.”

The result is that the meat, no matter how cheap the cut, becomes tender, moist, and tasty.

Now, theoretically, the meat should be seared in oil before the baking, but I confess to skipping this part because of the oil. Does it make a difference? I haven’t a clue. Maybe someone out there has an answer?

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Chicken/Turkey Barbecue Bake with Vegetables

Back from our vacation in the Dutch Antilles and back in my kitchen where I almost kissed every appliance. The kitchen in our Bonaire apartment was smaller than most bathrooms, not air-conditioned, and lacking basics, like an oven!

And as for gluten-free products? I found one natural food store with hardly anything to sell and sky-high prices. A small bag of red quinoa was $18.00!!!

But the snorkelling and scuba-diving were great, we missed a major snowstorm in Ottawa, and I (seeking sloth) and my new e-reader bonded together spectacularly.

I also took a shine to the name of the local supermarket—so much more interesting than “Safeway” (US) or “Metro” (Canada), don’t you think?

Once back home, I was determined to make the perfect gluten-free angel food cake. I had tried this three times already, and had gotten a fairly decent rise but was still working on the taste. This time, the dratted thing collapsed entirely. Blessings on the head of my sweet 13-year-old granddaughter and sous-chef, Adesia, who declared it still delicious and took it home for school lunches.

So…instead, today, I bring you a no-fail, cinch-to-make, reminiscent-of-summer Barbecue Bake that I’ve used for both chicken and turkey breasts. (It would also be great for thighs and legs.)

This photo is of last night’s dinner—a turkey breast, this time, baked with potatoes and vegetables to make a complete meal. The spicy sauce helps the meat stay moist during baking and provides a delicious grace note of taste to the entire meal.

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Pumpkin “Pie” Bean Bake

This bean bake looks like pumpkin pie filling. It tastes like pumpkin pie filling. It has the creamy texture of pumpkin pie filling.

Add a pie crust, and I’ll bet most people wouldn’t guess that this dish was made with beans instead of dairy.

In fact, it tasted so much like pumpkin pie filling that I thought it needed something extra—after all, it’s different, right? So I added a healthy dollop of coffee liqueur (like Kahlua). And, upon re-tasting the batter, I had the distinct sensation the the spices were blending better. But maybe it’s just my love of coffee liqueur? At any rate, adding a liqueur is optional.

As you can see in the photo, the bean bake has lost some of its smooth, brown edging. This occurred when I removed the circular outer part of the springform pan, and some of the edging came off with it. Lesson learned—remove said pan part right after baking. Do not wait until the dish has been refrigerated overnight.

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The Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Dieter’s Fabulous Bean Bake!

Bean bakes are the best thing to come my way, foodwise, as a gluten-free, dairy-free dieter. Seriously. They’re delicious and, most amazingly, doesn’t have a hint of beans.

Interior: Banana-Coconut Bean Cake

Taste is important but it isn’t the best part of the story. A bean bake has a cake-like texture because it rises as it cooks. The result is that the bean bake tricks my body. I feel as if I’m eating carbs—thus satisfying my carb cravings—when what I’m actually eating is primarily protein, very nutritious, and filling, despite being low in calories.

Now, that’s fabulous!

And there’s more:

  • Bean bakes are versatile. First, they can be sweet (with a fruit) or savoury (with a vegetable), depending on what’s in your kitchen. Secondly, whether sweet or savoury, you can eat a slice at breakfast or as a snack, a side dish at lunch or dinner or, in the case of a sweet bean bake, a dessert.
  • Bean bakes are extremely easy to make. You put all the ingredients in a food processor, mix, and then bake.
  • Bean bakes are inexpensive. Two cups of white navy beans, three eggs, one cup of fruit or vegetable, maybe one-half cup of cheese, some spices—compare the price of that with eight servings of meat.
  • Bean bakes get along with my digestive tract. In addition to diagnosing gluten-sensitivity, my doctor told me I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). While many foods/dishes can upset me—for example, a daily intake of too many flour-baked products (no matter how gluten-free). Bean bakes, on the other hand, leave the irritable beast slumbering away.
  • Bean bakes and the spouse are happy together. I consider my husband as the acid test of anything I make, particularly in this case because he’s far fussier eater than I am. My guarantee: if he likes bean bakes, other people will too.

To accommodate this new recipe and its numerous variations, I have created a new blog, The Bean Bake Blog.

And keep in mind…

1) White navy beans top the charts for fiber. For more information about these beans, check out:

2) Taste tip: Bean cakes are more flavourful the day after cooking. Also, savoury bean bakes taste best warm; sweet bean bakes taste best cold.

3) Calorie calculation: Cauliflower Bean Bake with Cheese, Dill, and Olive

Total calories:

  • Entire bean bake: 1,010
  • Per 1/8 serving: 126.25

Cauliflower Bean Bake with Cheese, Dill, and Olive

I had one of those lightbulb moments over the holidays.

What would happen, I asked myself, if I altered my faux cheesecake recipe, made with white beans, into a savoury instead of a sweet? As a savoury, it would be perfect for most people with food sensitivities except those who can’t handle eggs. It has no flour (gluten-free), no milk (dairy-free), and no sugar (good for dieters).

The question now was: What could I add to give it nutrition and flavour?  For my second experiment, my choices were cauliflower, cheese, fresh dill, and olives.  The result? A delicious and completely new eating experience!

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Top 5 Posts: What You Liked Best in 2011

A VERY BIG THANK YOU to all those readers who visited this blog.  Some of you came and went; others have revisited time and again.  Sometimes you let me know you liked a post and other times you left comments—all of which brightened my days.

Your five favourite posts were not the same as mine, a fact that I found very interesting.  Here they are:

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Stir-Fried Pork Tenderloin with Eggplant and Apple

Who among us doesn’t need a fast and easy supper dish in our repertoire?  I’ve been making this stir-fry for a long time, and part of its attraction is that I don’t have to peel a thing!  Just chop and cook.

The flavour is mild which gives you the scope to spice it up with a hoisin or hot sauce.  And you can use however much pork, eggplant, apple, or onion you please.  This particular recipe makes 2 meals for my husband and myself, but then we don’t eat a lot of meat.

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