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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Plum Variations: Pudding ‘n’ Pie

Ah….the plums overfloweth the bins at food markets. I buy bags of fresh plums. I grab bags of discounted plums that are going to rack and ruin. I buy plums whether they’re black, red, blue, or yellow. And what do I do with all these plums?

One favourite recipe is a plum compote that I call Cinnamony Stewed Plums. No fuss and no peeling…just get rid of the pit and cook in some water for 10 minutes. This is delicious over yogurt or in a smoothie. It’s also a great dish to make with plums that aren’t as fresh as they could be.

I also want to tell you about two new plum variations of dishes that I’ve made in the past: Plum Quinoa Pudding and Crustless Plum Chia Pie.

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“Smoothie” Sailing!

Spinach Smoothie

Does the food blogosphere need yet another smoothie recipe? Probably not, but bear with me, please. There is method to my madness.

The smoothie story begins on the July 1 weekend when we were celebrating Canada Day on our boat with 3 grandchildren (all early teens) and one daughter.

We were having a grand time until a stomach flu swept through the boat in the middle of the night. I’ll spare you the grim details but it involved throwing up and fevers.

The only positive note was that I lost 5½ lbs.!

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Paper Bag Popcorn

All you need are corn kernels and a paper bag. 

AND VOILA!

Popcorn, without the oil and salt, is a great snack. It’s crunchy, filling, nutritious, easy on your pocketbook, and a cinch to make. Oh yes, and rock bottom on the calorie chart.  One cup of corn kernels is only 31 calories.

Admittedly, popcorn without oil and salt is bland, and that’s where this recipe steps in to help.

But, first, let’s be up-front with the negative. Diet popcorn will never be rich with oil. If it were, it would no longer fit in our diets. Hence it will never taste like movie popcorn, bagged popcorn, or DIY-in-the-microwave boxed popcorn bags.

Rather, you can give paper bag popcorn a sweet or savoury adornment, depending on your taste buds. The popcorn will be dry and crunchy; the flavouring, mild but satisfying.

And it will be good for you. According to NutritionSelf.com, popcorn without oil and salt “is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber and Manganese.”

All you need is an open mind about what popcorn is and how it should taste.

In this recipe, I’m going to give you my recipe for sweet cinnamon popcorn. (Yep, the darned sweet tooth insisted.) If you have any terrific flavourings, please let me know, and I’ll add them to this post.

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Gaining Weight on PointsPlus: Part 2

When I first began this blog, Weight Watchers had just shifted to the new PointsPlus (PP) system. Like many of you, I had gone from 22 daily points + 35 weekly bonus to 29 daily points + 49 weekly bonus. Theoretically, the results should have been equal because the new PP program gave a higher point-value to products that are heavy in carbs.

I had been very disappointed (see Part 1) because my weight loss stopped and I started gaining! I was advised by my leader to cut back on fruit which was now free. Theoretically, this should have made a difference.

But it didn’t. I didn’t gain any more weight, true, but I wasn’t losing weight either.

For a while I went back to the old Points program, but I could see that my paper calculator wasn’t going to last forever, and I was going to have to make peace with the new program.

I decided to track my food and point intake on both programs for a week. To ensure equality between both programs, I also gave a point-value to fruit (see Points Values of Fruits on PointsPlus). The result was “six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.” I was within the total point count on both programs.

So I moved myself and the blog into the PP era, started to really exercise, watched my fruit intake, and figured everything would be fine.

It wasn’t. I’ve been hovering around the same weight for the past two months or so.

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Apricot Rosemary Pork Chops with Apples

Last night, with family coming for dinner, I decided to resurrect an old recipe, much favoured by my children back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, known as “Yum-Yum Pork Chops.” The dish was both sweet and savoury—the result of, what I realize now, was a rather pedestrian sauce made from ketchup, honey, and soy sauce. (I think at the time this was considered exotic because of the soy sauce.)

The following recipe is based on the same principles of baking meat in a sauce as Yum-Yum Pork Chops, but takes its inspiration from Orange Rosemary Chicken Breasts with some twists. The result is delicious and far from pedestrian. In fact, this dish could be used for a dinner party. The key to this dish, as with that of the chicken, is the use of fresh rosemary. Note: If you love fruit, you can add more if you wish.

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Become a GF, LI, WW Food Activist!

Being away from home and travelling to new places is always an eye-opener.  At home, I know where all my resources are; in another city, I have to search and ask.  One result of our travel was that I became a gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, weight-watching activist. I wanted to find healthy food in general and food I can eat in particular—in, for example, restaurants, hotels, and airports.  The question was: how could I best do this?

The answer came to me in a museum where my husband and I, tired and hungry, stopped at its cafeteria for a snack. The choices were cookies and cupcakes, pretzels and potato chips, and assorted drinks.

Much against my will, I bought the only snack I could tolerate although it meant throwing my diet out the window: potato chips.  And much against my dislike of being labeled a complainer, I decided to speak up.  “Would you consider carrying gluten-free products?” I asked. “I can’t eat most of what you have.”

After agreeing with me that their selection was poor, the sales clerk said, “We should have something.  So many people are having gluten problems, aren’t they?”

I had noticed that the cafeteria didn’t make its own food, that everything was packaged, and nothing required refrigeration.  “You could carry Larabars,” I suggested.  “Some of them are gluten-free and dairy-free.”

She got out a pencil and paper.  “Could you spell that?” she asked.

I don’t know if the museum cafeteria has stocked the bars but, at that moment, I’d taken my first step into GF activism.  In speaking out, I’d compelled an establishment to acknowledge a lack of GF products and think about an alternative.

Since then, I’ve made a point of talking to people in hotels, restaurants, and food markets about food selection at their place of business.  Here are some of my strategies for raising awareness and encouraging managers to rethink their food purchases:

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Tomato Soup with Spinach Meatballs

As the weather gets colder, my taste buds yearn for hot, hearty soups.  This tomato soup is thick, rich, aromatic, and a dinner unto itself.  Two things set it apart from spaghetti sauce: the emphasis on fresh basil (it has no oregano), and the meatballs are made of spinach and three types of meat, rather than just beef.

This dish can be eaten simply as a soup or with noodles or rice.  If you’re dieting and want to add noodles, consider using shirataki which is almost pure fiber and won’t add to your calorie count.  Also, you can make the soup thicker (as I did) by using canned crushed tomatoes as well as diced tomatoes.

I was making this soup with two of my grandchildren who are avid beginner cooks.  To keep them busy and feed their early teen appetites, I decided to triple the meatball mixture called for in the original recipe.  Feel free to cut back if you prefer.

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Brussel Sprout Bake with Leek and Sage

In a recent post on the food possibilities for roasted vegetables, I listed 16 different types of vegetables.  Now, I’m not a math person in the slightest, but a bit of Internet research suggests that the total number of veggie combos (from any 2 to all 16) would be “factorial 16” or approximately 21 trillion different dishes!  To put it mildly, we’ve got plenty of scope to experiment.

I’ve certainly been on a roasted-vegetable roll and suspect it will go on all winter.  First, these vegetables are easier on my wallet; they tend to be plentiful and cheaper in the winter.  Second, they’re good for me, being full of super-healthy nutrients.  And, finally, I can just about  eat them to my heart’s content.  Ever heard of anyone overdosing or gaining weight on brussel sprouts?  Me neither.

This recipe came about because I thought brussel sprouts would be delicious with leeks, which are sweeter than regular onions, and that fresh sage, which I love, would suit the combination.  So I just threw them all together and then decided to sprinkle on some grated sheep romano cheese.  Yum!

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DIY Roasted Vegetables Medley

That autumn thing is happening again.  Every once in a while we have a day with a chilly breeze, and the nights are always cool.  It’s no longer light until 9:00 or 10:00 o’clock in the evening.  And the vegetable stores are outfitted with pumpkins, squashes, and gourds.  When it comes to dieting, this is my season for hearty soups (see So Very Vegetable Soup) and roasted veggies.

Now, the thing about making a roasted vegetable dish is that what goes into it depends on what you like and what you have in the refrigerator.  Just about any hardy vegetable (does not fall to pieces) will do.  And the nice thing?  This dish doesn’t use exotic, elegant, expensive vegetables.  Nope, if you’re thinking “humble,” “cheap,” and “peasant fodder,” then you’re in the right mind-set.

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