Baked Turkey-Quinoa Meatballs with Cucumber Raita

I gave a luncheon on Saturday for six in which I did NOT cater to my gluten-eating, okay-with-lactose friends in any way.

Rather, I served a meal that I felt everyone would like, but it was designed—from soup to nuts—for the two of us who had gluten and dairy sensitivities.

Minority rules! Way to go!

Challenge #1: The original recipe—Incredibly Healthy and Tasty Quinoa and Turkey Balls at the FeedRight for People blog—called for chopped olives. Big problem. The spouse is opposed to olives of any shape, colour, or taste. (Where did I find this man? you may well ask.) On the other hand, I love olives and knew they would add terrific flavour to the dish.

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Blackberry Cobbler (Egg-free)

Imagine yourself in the position I was in on Monday afternoon.

I am in Farmboy, a store somewhat akin to U.S. Whole Foods, standing in front of the discount-food rack (one of my favourite shopping spots) where they put the fruits and vegetables that didn’t sell on the weekend. Items have been repackaged into larger quantities.

I spot two large containers of blackberries.  This is amazing because berries rarely make it onto this rack. Each package is $2.49 and, it later turns out, holds 4 cups of berries.

I study them closely and darned if those berries didn’t look really fresh. No furry spots, no discolouration.

What would you have done? Me…well, I can’t resist the bargain, even though I know I’m going to have to use those berries up very quickly.

One of my strategies was to slightly re-cobble my very low-cal cobbler recipe and double it from 8 to 16 pieces. We’ve been eating the cobbler since Tuesday, and these are the last two pieces. Delicious!

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Non-dieters can drink whatever cold drinks they enjoy during the hot summer months.  Those of us on the other side of the divide must avoid mint juleps, beer, fruit juices, soft drinks (other than diet), and any other delicious drink I forgot to mention.

But what about vegetable purées, which are great winter soups, acting as cold beverages when it’s sweltering?  This question would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t been having a very lazy afternoon on board our boat, the Outrageous, reading on the back deck.

I began to get nagging messages from my stomach (that demanding organ) that it wanted something more filling than diet iced tea.  My brain (another equally demanding body part) reminded me that whatever I ate had to be very low in calories.  I had brought up a container of cauliflower soup, but felt way too lazy to crank up the inboard generator and reorganize the galley so I could use the stove in order to heat up it up.  (Readers may recall that the galley is the size of a shower stall; hence the top of the stove, when not in use, provides storage for a fruit bowl among other things.)  Besides, who wants hot soup on a hot afternoon?

The voilà moment occurred when I asked myself, “Why not drink the soup cold?” I poured some into a glass and added a dollop of yogurt.  I took it out on the back deck, sat back in chair, and drank it down to the last drop.  It was as delicious cold as when hot, delightfully refreshing, and very satisfying—all for the diet-cost of a teaspoon of yogurt.  For me, a new food category was born!

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Cooking tip for making a thick and creamy soup: The correct amount of broth is tricky because vegetables often shrink and also contain their own liquids.  To ensure that the soup will not be too thin, remove 1-2 cups of broth after the cooking is finished and before you start blending.  After a first blend, you’ll know if it needs more broth.  Add in ¼ cup increments until you reach the desired creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 1 very large cauliflower or 2 small ones, washed, trimmed, and chopped into big chunks
  • 8 cups of chicken broth (vegetables can be above the water line; they will reduce while cooking)
  • 1 large sweet onion (the onion’s sweetness is key to this soup’s great taste), chopped into big chunks
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  •  Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Before blending, remove 1 cup of liquid and hold in reserve.
  4. Purée soup with a hand blender or in a processor until smooth.  If the purée is too thick for your taste, add the 1-2 cups of liquid held in reserve.  (If not, you can throw away the liquid or save it as a vegetable broth.)
  5. Put container of soup in the refrigerator until cold.
  6. Pour out a glass and, if you prefer, mix in a tablespoon of goat yogurt or soy milk.

For Weight Watchers: Unless you’ve added a “countable” amount of yogurt or milk, any size serving is 0 points on the Points and PointsPlus plans.

Strawberry-in-Season Cobbler (Egg-Free)

It’s strawberry season! I can’t pass a farm foodstand without stopping and buying the luscious-looking and equally luscious-tasting strawberries.

Having bought several quarts during the past weeks I’ve been looking for ways to use the strawberries that are a bit more elegant than munching on fistfuls. Hence I turned to my Cinnamon Blueberry Cobbler recipe and rejigged it for strawberries. Mmm…good!

Again, I’ve used erythritol as a sweetener because it has no aftertaste and the cobbler has a delicate flavour. Also, without eggs and using only two tablespoons of yogurt, this cobbler remains my lowest-calorie baked dessert.

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Taste tip: It is important to cool the cobbler down completely before eating it. When it is hot, the cake is a little gummy. 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 erythritol + 2 tbsp. erithyritol
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. plain goat yogurt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups stawberries, washed and sliced
  • 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, add strawberries and 2 tbsp. erythritol, and mix gently until fruit is coated.
  7. Cover cake batter with strawberries.
  8. Bake in 350° F oven for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean and edges are pulling back from the sides of the pan.
  9. 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.

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.)

Eggplant Strata with Minted Yogurt

Once again I succumbed to the discount rack and recently brought home four marked-down eggplants.  I could make eggplant soup out of two of them, but what about the other two?  I couldn’t make a vegetable pie because I had no mushrooms. Time for research!

I cruised my cookbooks and the Internet for eggplant dishes, and found that most were heavy on oil, cream, and/or cheese.  However, in this delicious and low-calorie version, the oil is replaced by chicken broth, the cream by yogurt, and the cheese toned down to a sprinkling of sheep romano. 

The key to this dish is the fresh mint which provides a subtle, Middle Eastern backdrop to the vegetables. The original recipe called for 3 tbsp. of chopped fresh mint.  I used 4 tbsp. or ¼ cup.  If you love mint, I suggest adding more!

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Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup goat or sheep yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup chicken broth powder
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 1-2 unpeeled eggplants (about 1½ lbs. total), sliced into ¼” slices
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup grated sheep romano cheese

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, mint, garlic, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, mix together chicken broth and warm water.
  3. Using a large nonstick skillet, pour in ¼ cup of chicken broth-water mixture.
  4. Over medium-high heat, saute onions until tender.  Remove to a plate.
  5. Add ¼ cup of chicken broth-water mixture.
  6. Saute eggplant slices (in batches), turning them once, until softened but not falling apart.  Add more chicken broth-water mixture if pan dries out.
  7. In a shallow baking dish, overlap ½ eggplant slices to form a layer.
  8. Layer on ½ tomato slices and then ½ onion rings.
  9. Repeat eggplant-tomato-onion layering.
  10. Drizzle yogurt mixture over the surface until it is covered.
  11. Sprinkle with cheese.
  12. Bake in 350° F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until strata is hot and bubbly.

For Weight Watchers: I cut the strata into six pieces because this recipe has only 6 points total on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.  Therefore, each serving (approximately 1-1½ cups) was worth 1 point.

(Adapted from “Middle Eastern Eggplant Baked with Yogurt and Fresh Mint” in Lighthearted at Home by Anne Lindsay.)

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)

Curried Chicken with Yogurt

This dish is a tangy, spicy, and low-calorie way to dress up chicken, and I’ve been making it since the 1970s so it’s tried and true.  It was a dish much beloved by my children when I served it with pasta and, particularly, when I made it with thighs and legs which tend to be more tasty than the breast. 

Under my gluten-free and Weight Watcher regime, however, I now make it with chicken breasts, halve them for portion control, and serve the dish over a carbohydrate such as quinoa or rice, which is shown in the photo. 

I also like to add a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese (which is not in the photo) to each serving.  It’s interesting how an Italian cheese can enhance the flavour of an Indian dish. 

Because I love the sauce, I have always doubled the quantity that was made in the original recipe.  Feel free to cut back if you wish.

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Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1½ – 2 lbs, chicken pieces, bone-in and skinless
  • 1 cup plain goat or sheep yogurt
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. each ground coriander, ground ginger, and salt
  • 2 tbsp. chicken-broth powder and ½ cup water or ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1½ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 tbsp. non-cow parmesan or romano

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, spices, and salt.
  2. Roll each chicken part in the yogurt mixture and then place in a pan.
  3. If you leftover yogurt mixture, pour it over the chicken.
  4. Let coated chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  If you make do this early in the day and won’t be cooking it until dinner, cover the pan with clear wrap and put in the refrigerator.
  5. In heavy casserole pot, bring chicken broth-water mixture to a boil.
  6. Add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes until soft.
  7. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Add chicken with yogurt mixture, and stir to combine.
  9. Bring mixture to a boil.
  10. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer about 30 minutes.  If you’ve reduced the sauce, turn pieces over one or twice, while cooking.  Chicken will give off liquid over time and increase sauce quantity.
  11. Put each piece over rice or pasta and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. cheese

For Weight Watchers: The only point values in this dish are in the chicken, the yogurt, and the cheese.  This dish is also very flexible.  You can choose what chicken to use, how much, and cut back on the sauce if you like.  Therefore, it’s impossible to calculate how much sauce you will have.  In my recipe, the total point value for the sauce is 4 points in both the Points and PointsPlus plans.  Whatever your sauce WW points, just remember to add in the value of the cheese and your chicken!

(Adapted from a very old Weight Watcher cookbook whose name is long gone.)

Chicken Dijon, Breaded and Baked

Half-breasts and thighs: Ready for the oven

Half-breasts and thighs: Ready for the oven

This breaded  chicken dish has everything going for it.  Crisp and tasty on the outside.  Moist meat on the inside.  A cinch to make.  And it never goes wrong.  I’ve made it with chicken breasts and chicken thighs, both boned and boneless.  100% success rate!

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Serving Tip: If you think your chicken pieces are too large for one serving, you can cut them in half.  I often cut chicken breats in half cross-wise.

Taste Tip: The key to good taste in the crust is the yogurt-mustard mixture—so be generous.   If you run out of the mixture, just make some more.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless pieces of chicken (breast, thigh, leg, or drumstick), bone-in or boneless 
  • 1/2 cup goat or sheep yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup non-wheat, dry bread crumbs (see how to make breadcrumbs in video below)
  • 1 tsp crushed dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Combine yogurt and mustard in a small bowl.
  3. Mix bread crumbs, thyme, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  4. Coat each piece of chicken with yogurt-mustard mixture; then roll in breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Place each piece of chicken on sprayed baking sheet.
  6. Bake in 350 degree oven for until golden brown and meat is no longer pink.  45-50 minutes for bone-in chicken; 30 minutes for boneless chicken.
  7. Can be served hot, warm, or cold.

 

For Weight Watchers: Point count in either plan depends on your choice of chicken piece, the size of the chicken piece, and the fat content of your yogurt.  According to the original recipe (which called either for a chicken breast or leg and low-fat yogurt), the point count per serving was 4 points on both the Points plan and PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Chicken Dijon” in the Lighthearted at Home cookbook by Anne Lindsay.)

Elegant But Easy Eggplant Soup

This pureéd soup is a pale green and has a lovely, delicate flavour.  It’s good enough for a dinner party.  Just before serving, I add a tablespoon of plain yogurt to each bowl in the center and then swirl it slightly so that it makes a slender white spiral.  Not just delicious but pretty too!  You can also add soy milk or sprinkle it with softened goat cheese.

Eggplants Learn Good Soup Behaviour

Eggplants Learn Good Soup Behaviour

One key to this recipe in terms of taste is the sweet onion.  I’ve tried both yellow onions and leeks as well but without the same success.   The second key has to do with thickness.  Most recipes that feature eggplant as the only vegetable also include cream to make it richer and thicker.  My strategy is not to add too much broth.  The less liquid you add, the thicker your soup will be.  (See cooking tip below.)

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into thick chunks
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into thick chunks
  • 4 or more cups of chicken broth, to cover
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

Cooking tip for making a thick and creamy soup: The correct amount of broth is tricky because vegetables often shrink and also contain their own liquids.  To ensure that the soup will not be too thin, remove 1-2 cups of broth after the cooking is finished and before you start blending.  After a first blend, you’ll know if it needs more broth.  Add in ¼ cup increments until you reach the desired creaminess.

  1.  Pour three cups of broth into a large pot.
  2. Add garlic, onion, and eggplant.
  3. Add broth to barely cover the vegetables.  (The eggplant pieces will float so push them down to figure out if they are “covered.”)
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Cover and reduce to a simmer.
  6. Cook for 30 minutes.
  7. Cool and then puree in a blender or by using a hand blender.

The quantity should be about 6-8 cups depending on the size of the eggplants and the amount of broth.

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