Light Cocoa Carob Squares

These squares came about because I found myself with 2/3 cup of soured milk that I had forgotten to put in a different bread I was baking.  How did I do that?  Well, I had to give the milk time to sour so I put it to one side as I got the rest of the ingredients put together and then completely forgot about it.  When I mixed the batter, I found the dough—not surprisingly, in retrospect—terribly dry.  Needless to say, this hodge-podge didn’t turn out too well.

Then, of course, I discovered the soured milk.   I couldn’t throw it out, could I?  Nor could I ignore a certain chocolate craving that had arisen because I’d bought some carob chips earlier in the day.  It’s interesting how a craving (which knows it can be fulfilled) just keeps nudging at you, isn’t it?  At any rate, the result is a delight.  Squares that are mildly sweet and light in texture, taste, and calories. 

Cooking note: The original recipe called for ½ tsp. of unflavoured gelatin.  As this wasn’t a “jell0” style cake, I didn’t know what function the gelatin served.  Some research later: In order to avoid having a cake cracking along the top as it cools, you should “Add gelatin to the cake batter as you mix it. The gelatin works to keep the cooling cake intact and it can also add fullness to the baked cake.”  (eHow Food)

Update: I recently bought my quinoa flour at a different store than usual and discovered, when making these squares, that I had to add more liquid.  In fact, I’ve altered the recipe for 1 cup of soured milk.  Feel free to add ¼ or so of water or alternative milk if you still find your batter too dry.

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Makes 16 squares

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. unflavoured gelatin
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or 1 soy or lactose-free milk + 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup liquid egg substitute
  • 4½ tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1½ tbsp. oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened carob chips
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. If not using buttermilk, mix alternative milk with lemon juice, let sit for about 5 minutes, and then stir.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: rice flour, quinoa flour, artificial sugar, tapioca flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, gelatin, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl mix together all liquid ingredients, buttermilk or soured milk, liquid egg substitute, applesauce, oil, and carob chips.
  4. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix until it forms a thick batter.
  5. Spray a 9″ x 9″ baking pan with cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into the pan and bake in a 350° F oven for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool and cut into 16 squares.

For Weight Watchers: Each square is worth 2 points on the Points plan and 2.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Altered from “Irish Soda Bread” by Jefferson Adams at www.celiac.com)

Cuban Crazy Quilt Pork Stew

You are likely to think I’m not quite in my right mind to be making a stew using winter vegetables in the summer.  But, honestly, there’s a method to my madness.  Some of you may recall my post about cooking for stays on our boat.  We have a barbecue on the stern rail where the captain can grill meats and vegetables, but I also prepare food in advance so that we can have variety and I don’t have to toil in the miniscule galley.

FYI: My husband is the captain, and I am first mate and cook.  When we’re on the boat, we share about 300 square feet of living space.  How does this work maritally?  Well, he has a shirt that says “Captain,” and I have a shirt that says “Don’t Yell at Me!”  Generally, the atmosphere is very pleasant although there have been moments…but back to the stew.

So, as you can see, it isn’t so crazy to make a tasty, filling, healthy, and crazy-quilt colourful pork stew whose leftovers can be frozen and then eaten when floating at anchor.  This recipe takes some chopping but it’s worth it!

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Crustless Strawberry/Raspberry Lime Chia Pie

Hot summer days just beg for cold, refreshing desserts that are both sweet and tart at the same time.  This pie not only delivers on taste, it’s also lovely, light, and very low-cal.  Oh, and it’s also a little crunchy, thanks to the chia seeds. 

I’ve made this pie with strawberries; then I made it with raspberries (in the photo).  I’m sure you could even mix them for a third delicious flavour!  And now that I think about it: what about blueberries…?

Many, many thanks to Susan at the Sugar & Spice blog for providing the inspiration for this pie with her delicious Strawberry Lime Chia Pudding.

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Servings: Divvy it up any way you want!

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg. gelatin (1 tbsp.)
  • ¼ tepid water + ¼ boiling water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cups strawberries or raspberries
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk
  • ¼-½ cup erythritol sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. almond extract

Directions:

  1. Prepare the gelatin by pouring the powder over the tepid water, adding the boiling water, and then mixing until completely dissolved.
  2. Prepare lime by juicing it.
  3. Put gelatin, lime, ¼ cup erythritol, and all other ingredients into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
  4. Taste for sweetness and add remaining ¼ cup erythritol if necessary.
  5. Pour into an 8″ or 9″ pie plate.
  6. Refrigerate until set—about 4 hours.

For Weight Watchers: The total pie is worth:

  • With soy milk (80 calories/cup): 4 points on the Points plan and 3.5 points on the PointsPlus plan. 
  • With almond milk (60 calories/cup): 3.5 points on the Points plan and 3 points on the PointsPlus plan. 

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.

Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf

As my husband and I are eating less and less red meat, I’ve been turning to turkey to fill some of the gaps.  Hence, for example, the Turkey Burgers  post last month.  The trick, as I noted then, was to counter turkey’s bland flavour by adding spices and other ingredients to enrich it.   

In this recipe, the flavour of ground turkey is enhanced primarily by quinoa, fresh sage, and a little bit of tomato paste.  The result is a tasty, healthy meatloaf, high in protein and low in fat.

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8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • Cooking spray

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 seasonings. 
  4. Spray a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan and fill it with meat mixture. 
  5. Bake in a 350° F oven for 75 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reaches at least 160° F.
  6. Drain liquid and let cool for 10 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: Your points depend on your serving size.  Cut your serving and weigh it, counting 1 point per ounce.  Then add .5 point for the quinoa and egg if you’ve made 8 or more slices. Good for both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

(This recipe was adapted from “Turkey and Quinoa Meatloaf” by Drew at allrecipes.com.  You can also check out the 13 custom versions by other chefs at that page.)

Crustless Chicken/Turkey Quiche

My husband and I have a small cabin cruiser, called the Outrageous, which we use as a moveable cottage in the lakes near Ottawa.  We’ve been boating for 20 years and love to anchor or tie up somewhere and enjoy the sun, nature, wildlife, and living without a computer for a few days.

So, you’re asking, what does this have to do with refashioning food? 

Well, to make a long story short, the boat’s galley (kitchen) is the size and shape of a shower stall.  (In the photo, the 2nd porthole in the bow of the boat is the galley’s window.) In it is a scaled-down refrigerator, a microwave, and a cooktop with three burners, except that I can only use one burner at a time because our inboard generator can’t handle more.  Not surprisingly, I prepare as much food as I can at home beforehand, such as washing salad greens, making a quick bread, steaming broccoli, mixing up a batch of spaghetti sauce, and so on.

After a recent trip for which I had roasted a plump chicken, we came home with leftovers.  Needless to say, the allure of chicken had worn quite thin so I decided on a gustatorial disguise—a crustless quiche made with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and sheep romano cheese. Voilà!  The rich, dark taste of the vegetables and the sharpness of the cheese completely overpowered the white and dark chicken meat hidden within.  Oh, and it was delicious too!

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 8 oz. cooked chicken or turkey
    • 1 bunch Swiss chard or spinach (I used Swiss chard and had 8 cups worth)
    • 1 cup water
    • ½ cup of chicken broth or 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder + ½ cup water
    • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms, any type
    • Spices of your choice (I used 2 tsp. of chopped fresh sage)
    • 1 cup liquid egg substitute (approx. 4 regular eggs)
    • ½ cup sheep romano cheese, grated
    • ¼ – ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, if necessary
    • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Chop cooked chicken into small pieces and put in a large bowl.
  2. Prepare chard by soaking in cold water to clean and removing hard stems.  Drain and then cut in two steps: first lengthwise (creating ribbons); then crosswise, chopping coarsely.
  3. Put chard in a saucepan, add 1 cup of water, and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat until leaves are wilted.  Drain and press out additional water.
  4. In a non-stick frying pan, heat chicken broth until bubbling.  
  5. Sauté garlic, onions, mushrooms, and spices in broth until soft.
  6. In the bowl containing the chicken, add all other ingredients: drained chard, sautéd onion and mushroom mixture, egg substitute, and cheese.  (If your mixture seems too thick, you can add ½ cup of milk.)
  7. Spray 10″ x 10″ pan and pour mixture into it. (I wasn’t sure I could fit the mixture into a 10″ pie plate.)
  8. Bake in 350°F oven and cook for 40-45 minutes or until dish is set and edges are brown.

For Weight Watchers: One serving is 4 points on the Points plan and PointsPlus plans.  Note: If you want to add milk, the addition will not significantly affect the point count.

(Adapted from “Swiss Chard and Mushroom Squares” at Kalyn’s Kitchen blog.  Thank you, Kalyn!)

Quinoa Pudding #4: Mango-Banana

I bought a box of 18 mangoes because the price was…well, so compelling.  I could just hear those mangoes calling out to me.  When I arrived home, my husband groaned at the sight…yes, I’ve done this before, but this time the price was even better!  This earned me a rolling of the eyes, which I completely disregarded as we’ve been married for 45 years, and a few mangoes can’t threaten that marital bond, can they?

Okay, so what to do with all this ripening fruit?  My solution was to make several iterations of Coconut-Mango Squares and to turn to my versatile quinoa pudding recipe.  Since I also had one small, overripe banana, I decided to throw that in with some mangoes (although I’m sure you could just use mangoes).  The result: a pudding so sweet that it required no additional sweetener.  And, as with the Summertime Banana Quinoa Pudding, I served this cold—a delicious, refreshing, and filling treat for my late-afternoon snack.

When varying this recipe: The trick, I find, is to make sure that you have a total of 3½ cups of liquid between the milk and the puréed fruit.  When I combined the banana with 2 small, yellow ataulfo mangoes, I ended up with 1½ cups and, therefore, reduced the original 2½ cups of almond milk down to 2 cups.  Two other differences from the banana pudding: I altered the spices to adapt to the mango flavour and had to cook the pudding longer.  I’m not sure why: perhaps because there is more fruit and less milk?

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Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?

The Washington Post had a very interesting article yesterday about weight gain and loss, “Potatoes Bad, Nuts Good for Staying Slim, Harvard Study Finds.” This article discusses a 20-year research project that followed more than 120,000 U.S. men and women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s for four-year intervals to see how changes in what they ate, drank, and did affected their weight.

Programs like Weight Watchers assume that “a calorie is a calorie” no matter where it comes from, but this study suggests that this assumption isn’t accurate.  The article has a terrific graphic that demonstrates the impact of an additional serving of a variety of foods, including meats, potatoes, vegetables, dairy, diet soda, fruit juice, etc. 

Here is a highlight of results that interested me as a dieter.  Please note that the study refers to additional and extra servings above and beyond what the researchers considered as a daily portion.  What “daily” constituted was not stated in the article; however, you can go to the USDA website for the new, 2011 food guidelines, “Choose My Plate,” and search a food to find out what is appropriate for a person of your age.

Potatoes: Every additional serving of potatoes that people added to their regular diet each day made them gain an average of 3.35 pounds over the four years.  The type of potato was important. Every order of french fries put on 3.35 pounds; a snack of potato chips added 1.69. But even each helping of boiled, baked or mashed potatoes contributed a little more than a half-pound…Although the study did not evaluate why potatoes would be particularly fattening, other research shows that starches and refined carbohydrates such as potatoes cause blood sugar and insulin to surge, which makes people feel less satisfied and eat more as a result.

Refined Grains: Every extra serving of refined grains, such as white bread, added 0.39 pounds over four years — almost as much as indulging in some sweets or desserts.

Milk: The difference between the weight gain/loss of people who drank an additional serving of low-fat milk versus those who drank whole-fat milk was negligible over the four-year period.

Fruits and Vegetables: Every added serving prevented between a quarter- and a half-pound gain over four years.

Nuts: Every extra serving prevented more than a half-pound of weight gain over four years.

Yogurt: Every additional serving kept off nearly a pound over four years.  Researchers speculate that this may be because of subtle shifts of microbes in the digestive tract, or perhaps because people who eat more yogurt also tend to do other healthy things. 

Many thanks to friend and reader, Sharon, for bringing my attention to this article.

Egg-White Omelette with Spinach and Tomato

A dieter’s dream omelette that—and I was amazed—tasted as if it were made from whole eggs: in other words, delicious!

The original recipe called for less vegetables but, in the spirit of more-vegetables-are-better, I added green onions and used an entire package of spinach rather than the called-for cup of loosely packed spinach leaves.

I knew that this would create a lot of filling and likely mean I wouldn’t have a  picture-perfect omelette, but damn such consequences, I say.  I’d rather have a diet-perfect omelette.  Full speed ahead!

By the way, eggs and spinach seem to be a match made in heaven, but you could try this with other vegetables and, if you don’t mind some additional calories, use soft goat cheese instead of sheep romano.

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Quick Blueberry (or any fruit) Quinoa Bake

Yum, blueberries, yum, coconut…and that’s just for starters.  I like a good breakfast that includes protein (or I’m hungry by 10:00 a.m.), and this bake is filling and chock-a-block full of healthy nutrients.  In addition to the fruit, it includes two recently lauded superfoods: quinoa (protein) and chia seeds (good-for-you fats and protein).  Who can argue with sweet, beneficial, and satisfying?  Yum!

The key to this bake’s great taste is the fruit.  It requires fresh, ripe fruit.  I made it with strawberries as well, but the berries we get at this time of year are imported, a bit “woody,” and nowhere near as as flavorful as the local berries when they’re in season.  The result: good, but not great.  The blueberries (also imported) were much better.  Next time, I’m going to try peaches.  This is a recipe that calls out for experimenting.

Update: I made this with freshly harvested local strawberries.  Delicious! 

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Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup blueberries (or any other fruit)
  • ¼ cup quinoa flakes
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened coconut, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. applesauce
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Mash blueberries to form a pulp.
  2. Mix in quinoa, sugar, chia seeds, apple sauce, and coconut.
  3. Spray an 8-oz. (½ cup) baking dish (I use small pyrex containers) with cooking spray.
  4. Press blueberry mixture into dish, smoothing the surface.
  5. Microwave at High for 3-3.5 minutes.  According the original recipe, you know it’s done because it has risen slightly, is harder to the touch, and pulls away from the side of the dish.  The strawberry bake did rise, but the blueberry didn’t.  No problem…it was cooked—even crunchy!

For Weight Watchers: 7 points in both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

(Adapted from “5 minute Strawberry Quinoa Flake Bake” at Healthful Pursuit.