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!

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Carrots

IMGP1894I admit it: I’m recycling. If you follow this blog, you know I write about roasted root vegetables ad nauseum* because I consider them a dieter’s best friends.

Then, to add insult to injury, I am also recycling a spice mix from Spiced Sweet Potato Round and (A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven.

It happened this way: I was staring at a 3 lb. bag of carrots and asked myself, “If that spice mix is so great with sweet potatoes and squash, why wouldn’t it be equally great with carrots?” Yes, such are the profound, metaphysical questions that mark my days.

And, happily, the universe went along because the answer was a resounding “Yes,” not only from the spouse, but also from two grandchildren (aged 13 and 14) who gave it a definitive thumbs up.

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Spiced Sweet Potato Rounds

How do you feel about persnickety recipes?

You know—the ones that require extra time because they have a special presentation and/or taste. Some people love fiddling around, but I’m not one of them. Life is short, I say, and I refashion recipes to make them less finicky.*

Interesting to make, fun to serve, and delicious!

So…what exactly was the siren call that prompted this creation? Well, we were having a guest for dinner, but I’d really chalk it up to my love for sweet potatoes as compared to white potatoes: their taste, their lower WW points, and their **lower glycemic index (important for those of us who are pre-diabetic or have Type 2 diabetes). Plus the presentation intrigued me.

And, I’m happy to report, these rounds are truly keepers! Bite down. First, you hit the sweet crunch of sugar mixed with a complementary hot spiciness. Yum! Then you’re into the creamy sweetness of the potato itself. Yum, yum! By the way, I did sprinkle these with green onions, which happily added to the crunch and complex flavour of the topping, but only just before serving and, alas, there was no time for a photo.

Oh, and they look very impressive, don’t you think?

*Want to make a really easy version of this recipe? You could add the spices to mashed sweet potatoes or make a Spiced Sweet Potato Bean Bake with Green Onions for a low-cal lunch or snack.

**Want to know more about the nutritional value of sweet potatoes? “Are Sweet Potatoes Just Orange-Colored Regular Potatoes?“is a great article.

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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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Chicken and/or Turkey Meatloaf with Broccoli Slaw and Feta Cheese

Last night's dinner.

My granddaughter, Adesia (aged 13), comes regularly on Tuesdays after school to cook with me. My challenge is to keep this sous-chef interested so I always plan to have a culinary experiment on hand to intrigue the both of us.

This Tuesday, that challenge was meatloaf. I had both ground chicken and turkey on hand, and I wanted to expand on my earlier ground turkey recipes* by adding in more vegetables.

When I presented the challenge, the sous-chef only wanted to make sure that the dish would include bread crumbs. “A meatloaf without bread crumbs?” I said. “Heaven forbid.”

(Interestingly, my granddaughter’s desire for breadcrumbs meant that I had to add eggs, which I did by using the 1 egg per 1 pound of meat rubric. These additional ingredients raised the calorie count of the meatloaf, and I think it would be possible to do this dish without either breadcrumbs or eggs.)

All of which is a preamble to the final thumbs-up, high-five result: a delicious, spicy meatloaf with saltiness from the cheese, crunchiness from the slaw and green onions, and occasional sweetness from the dried cranberries. Oh, and it was delicious cold when I had it for lunch today.

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Cheese-Herb Muffins with Green Onion

Best served warm.

Here is a delicious, light, savoury muffin that’s filled with sharp cheese, green onions, parsley, and dill.

You could eat it as you would have a slice of bread to accompany soup, a casserole, or stew. Or have it for breakfast with eggs. Or just enjoy it on its own, toasted with a bit of butter.

I can tolerate very small amounts of milk, such as a butter pat, once in a rare while. This muffin definitely deserves to be is one of those “whiles.”

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Avocado-Tomato Salsa

Avocados have been on sale.  If you’re like me and love avocados, three things then happen.  You can’t resist a sale; you buy more avocados than you should; they all ripen at the same time.  That’s avocado problem number one.

Avocado problem number two has to do with losing weight.  Avocados are incredibly nutritious (check it out at California Avocado Commission), but they are also extremely high in calories for a vegetable.  In fact, the Weight Watcher program, which allows its adherents to eat 99.9% of vegetables for free, has singled out the avocado for its high level of fats.  Good fats, of course, but fats nonetheless. 

An avocado is 8 points on the Points plan and 12 points on the PointsPlus plan.  That is, respectively, the same as eating 8 or 12 apples!

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Variation on Mark Bittman’s Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Those of you who are familiar with Mark Bittman’s recipes in The New York Times know that he likes to take the mystery out of good food.  His recipes are rarely complicated and always delicious.  Hence, given my adoration of watermelon, I had to make his Watermelon and Tomato Salad which, indeed, delivered a wonderful taste-and-texture mixture: watermelon sweetness plus the tart tomatoes and savoury cheese, all tied together by a vinaigrette dressing.  (I’ve added Mark Bittman’s video on making this salad at the end of the post.)

Of course, I had to start adapting the recipe immediately because his cheese suggestions—Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Maytag blue cheese—don’t work for for anyone who is lactose-intolerant.  I used goat feta instead.  My second adaption was to cut back on the oil to reduce calories.  Finally, on my third making of this salad, I decided to cut back on the cheese and add cooked quinoa. I wanted to give the salad more “heft” so that it could be a meal unto itself as opposed to an accompanying salad.  It was still delicious although, if you can afford the extra calories (or the 3 extra WW points), I’d keep the cheese at the 2.6 oz. level.  There’s nothing like cheese to take a dish from delicious to sublime.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups watermelon in 1″ cubes or balls (cut over a bowl so that you can catch the juice and reserve it)
  • 1½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1.3 oz. goat feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup green onions, finely minced
  • ½ cup cooked, cold quinoa
  • 1 tbsp. of watermelon juice
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar (Mark Bittman suggests sherry; I had balsamic)
  • ½ cup cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine watermelon, tomato, cheese, green onions, and quinoa in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together watermelon juice, oil, and vinegar.
  3. Pour vinagrette over salad mixture.
  4. Garnish with coriander or parsley.
  5. Salt to taste.

For Weight Watchers: 5.5 points per serving on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.  (This is cheaper on PointsPlus because the watermelon has no point value.)

Turkey Burgers with Dried Cranberry

The grilling season is back with lots of good things that my husband gets to cook (for a change)!  Tonight’s meal was turkey burgers with asparagus (the local crop is in) and a salad.

The challenge: How to make turkey burgers that weren’t bland facsimiles of beef burgers.  I wanted to make the meat so tasty that we wouldn’t need ketchup, mustard, and pickles—condiments that enhance beef but would drown the more delicate taste of turkey—and buns that are just designed to hold in all the burger dressings and add way too many carbs. 

The solution: Spice the meat with rosemary, highlight it with green onions, and add the occasional sweet surprise of dried cranberries.  These burgers have a delicious, delicate flavour and don’t require anything beyond themselves to satisfy the palate.

Printer-friendly recipe

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs, gluten-free (If you don’t have any, you can substitute with a mild alternative flour.)
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt (This was sufficient for me, but you may want more.  See Directions.)
  • ¼ tsp. worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix with hands until ingredients are well combined.
  3. Taste mixture to see if it requires additional salt.  Add by ¼ tsps., if necessary.
  4. Make into 4 burger patties. 
  5. Cook on heated grill for 5-7 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: Eat patty is 5 points on the Points plan and 5.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

Quinoa Tabouli for Dieters

Tabouli is a wonderful dish.  It’s delicious and healthy for you, textured with crunch and snap, and has a lovely smell, dominated by fresh parsley, green onions, and lemon.

Still, from a weight watcher’s perspective, tabouli has problems.  It can be heavy in carbohydrates if the ratio between quinoa and vegetables leans towards the quinoa.  And many recipes call for more oil than a dieter would want.

How, I wondered, could I make this more of a diet dish while still retaining the tabouli goodness?  My solution was to cut the oil dramatically and add new crunchy vegetables, snow peas and green beans, to the classic ingredients of tomato, cucumber, parsley, and green onions.  I’m now thinking that I could have also added baby bok choy; I’ll try that next time and let you know.

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