Tomato Quinoa-Bean Squares

Today I’m writing to you about a culinary triumph and a baking disaster.

Disaster first. Those who follow this blog may recall that I planned to experiment with my gluten-free angel food cake recipe to bring down the carb and calorie count. Well, experiment I did, substituting erythritol for some of the sugar. Erythritol is granular like sugar, has no calories or aftertaste, and is very low on the glycemic index.

sadfaceSo what happened? The erythritol (1) melted and created a messy, black residue on the bottom of the oven that had to be scraped off, (2) sealed the tube section to the rest of the pan so tightly that the spouse had to pry it loose with a knife—good-by pan, and (3) resulted in a very crumbly, nowhere near as delicious, version of the real thing.

The cake did rise and stay that way, but…sigh. Upwards and onwards…

Now the triumph—A tasty, filling, low-cal, vegetarian bake!

IMGP1980

This dish is packed with protein via the beans, quinoa, and cheese. As well, the quinoa can  help you fill your daily whole grain quota, which is not always easy to do on a gluten-free diet.

This is also a great way to get rid of quinoa leftovers. In fact, it was the cooked red quinoa hanging around in my fridge that got this dish off the ground along with some recipe-surfing on the Internet.

And what’s more, it is flexible.

  • Not quite enough quinoa? Not to worry.
  • Want to add more beans? Go ahead.
  • Prefer tomato paste to pizza sauce? Do your own thing and throw in some basil and oregano.
  • Like it hot? Go for it.

But most of all, enjoy!

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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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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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Roasted Veggies Redux or “How will I gorge on vegetables today?”

I haven’t talked about roasted vegetables recently, but that doesn’t mean they’re far from my mind. Uh-uh.

As any dieter knows, the only food we don’t have to eat in moderation is vegetables. In fact, we’re encouraged to eat those veggies the way we used to eat chips, mmm, and cookies, yum, and ice cream, delish!, and…but, ahem, I digress.

Back to vegetables. I have many new readers to the blog, and I thought it would be helpful to re-visit roasted vegetables because they provide a really good solution to that never-ending diet question:

How will I gorge on vegetables today?

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For Newbies: A Day in the Gluten-Free Life

When I became a gluten-sensitive newbie a year ago, I couldn’t figure out what I’d eat on a day-by-day basis.

This hadn’t been a problem when I became lactose-intolerant because so many alternatives to cow’s milk products were in the grocery stores. Nor had it been a diet problem because my program (Weight Watchers) was not restrictive in choice, just in portion size.

But gluten-intolerance (and also a problem with oats, alas) threw me into a complete tizzy. So many of my favorite foods were out the window. What was I going to eat at breakfast? For lunch? What about when I just wanted to grab a snack?

Oh yes, I could eat potatoes, rice cakes, rice crackers, and rice/corn cereals until I was blue in the face, but eventually I overdosed. Basically, my food choices shrank to the point that they fit in a very small box. To say I was unhappy would have been a major understatement.

Fast forward a year later: I’m no longer down in the no-gluten dumps. In fact, I have a more varied and interesting diet than I’ve ever had. Why? It’s not because stores are carrying a lot more gluten-free products. I can’t eat most of them because they contain milk and/or are too high in calories.

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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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Lemon Lentils with Spinach

I love the taste and dense richness of legumes and that doesn’t even count all the healthy nutrients they contain.  So when this recipe appeared in our local paper, courtesy of a restaurant chef in Calgary, I had to try it—with alterations, of course.  In addition to not using oil for sautéing, I increased the fresh spinach.  Why use only one cup when you can use four and reduce the calorie count per serving at the same time?  It’s a no-brainer for a food refashionista. 

According to the recipe, this dish will serve 6-8 as an accompaniment to lamb or chicken, but I used it as a main dish for lunch as it is filling and satisfying and got four 1-cup servings. 

This recipe also came with some restaurant touches (generated by a cook with lots of time and a larder full of ingredients) such as julienned onion and spices that begin as seeds and are toasted and then ground.  I’ve indicated this in the recipe below, but you can always just chop the onions and, if you’re like me and don’t have seeds only ground spices, you can use those.  This is not to say that looks aren’t important or that toasting the cumin and coriander seeds might not add an additional layer of subtlety and make this dish even more delicious—just that you can improvise with what you have.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4 1-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder + ½ cup water or ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium yellow onion, julienned (to do this just cut the onion into strips)
  • 4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 4 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. toasted and ground coriander seed (or just ground coriander)
  • 1 tbsp. toasted and ground cumin seed (or just ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp. ancho chili powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1½ cups red or yellow lentils, picked over and rinsed 
  • 1 lemon, skin washed
  • ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • Goat yogurt as a garnish

Directions

  1. Heat chicken broth powder + water mixture or chicken broth over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and stir until onions are tender.
  3. Add spices: cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cinnamon stick.
  4. Stir for 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant (if the pan gets dry, add a little water).
  5. Add broth and lentils.
  6. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into the pot.  Then add rest of lemon as well.
  7. Stirring often to prevent sticking, bring pot to simmer over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes until lentils are cooked.  (Add more broth if lentils are getting dry but not yet cooked.)
  8. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon halves.
  9. Stir in cilantro, garam masala, and spinach.
  10. Cook until spinach is wilted.
  11. Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt.

For Weight Watchers: A 1-cup serving is 3 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

 (Adapted from a recipe by Chef Andy Bujak, Boxwood Cafe, Calgary.)