Creamy Mushroom Soup (but without the cream)

Thick and delicious!

I’m not a winter person, but I sure do love the warm soups and thick stews that come with the season. This particular soup happened because I found discounted mushrooms whose best days were behind them, and bought 2.5 lbs. Believe me, that’s a lot of mushrooms. But I have a motto for situations like this.

When in doubt because of quantity and/or quality, make soup!

So I did, and this soup turned out to be the best mushroom soup I’d ever made: delicious, thick, comforting, low in calories, and a cinch to make. What makes it creamy? Using as little liquid as possible…

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Happy Thanksgiving and Check It Out! (5)

First, to my American readers, may you have a wonderful holiday with lots of terrific food and great company!

For those of you dieters who aren’t American and for those you dieters who will have to return to real life tomorrow, here are  interesting recipes that focus on vegetables and beans plus an article about our food preferences.

The Carnivore’s Guide to Vegetables by cookbook writer, Marc Bittman. Bittman is great at providing a recipe and then showing different ways to alter to suit you, family preferences, what’s in your fridge and so on. Here are four recipes, each with variations.

40 Magnificent Mushroom Recipesat the Wise Bread web site, is a compilation of recipes and great ideas for using mushrooms—for example, Vegan Mushroom Risotto, Mushroom Paté, and Mushroom Tikka Masala. Yum!

Beans, beans, and beans! Martha Rose Shulman at the New York Time has two great-looking bean recipes: Three-Bean Soup and Rainbow Quinoa Salad With Fava Beans and Herbs. I haven’t had a chance to try them, but her recipes are always good and reliable.

Finding New Tricks To Get More Satisfaction Out Of Low-Fat Foods, an article from NPR that reports on an interesting study about the thickness and creaminess of foods and how they affect our taste buds and appetite.

 

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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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Mushroom-Olive Pizza Slice with Cauliflower Crust

Google “cauliflower crust,” and you’ll find about a dozen recipes, most very similar. They’re intriguing—imagine eating pizza again! On the other hand, they pose a major problem for yours truly: way, way too much cheese for a dieter.

So I cut the cheese way, way down, made some other alterations, and prayed the crust would hold together. And it did—not that you could hold it in your hand and curve it the way you could a bread crust, but it was

  • Stiff enough to cut with a fork
  • Solid enough to support the sauce, mushrooms, olives, and cheese

And it didn’t taste like cauliflower! In other words—a cause for celebration!

And you know how everyone wants a different topping? We’re no different in this house. Hence the following recipe is ¾ mushroom, onion, olive, and sheep cheese for me, ¼ mushroom, onion, cheddar cheese, and absolutely no olives for the spouse. He really doesn’t know what he’s missing!

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Mushroom Bean Bake with Sage and Olive

What to do with eight cups of marked-down mushrooms that were actually in great shape? (What was that store thinking?)

First I made mushroom soup. Of course. Then I decided to see what would happen if I tried a mushroom bean bake.

I acknowledge that this savoury dish isn’t the prettiest of my experiments to date, but I do love its subtle mixture of flavours. In fact, it turned out to be a perfect complement for Peanut Butter Tomato Soup, which I recently served at a dinner party. Usually I have a gluten-free sweet cornbread, but this bake fit the bill instead. (And imagine the fun I had asking my guests what they thought was the bake’s main ingredient!)

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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!

Printer-friendly recipe

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!)

Potato-Crust Quiche, with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Quiche—that heavenly blend of crust, eggs, milk, and whatever filling—has been off my radar for years because of my lactose-intolerance.  I would go out with friends and watch with envy as they ordered the quiche and salad special for lunch.  Sigh (many times over). 

But now, no more self-pity, thank you very much!  Thanks to a helpful post from Shirley at Gluten-Free Easily on how to build a quiche, I began to re-consider my quiche options: potato instead of flour crust, soy milk instead of regular milk, liquid egg substitute instead of regular eggs, lower-calorie romano cheese instead of higher calorie other cheeses, and lots of vegetables. 

My most successful experiment, thus far, has been quiche with broccoli, mushroom, and onion, and this is what I am posting today.  In this quiche, I follow Shirley’s lead by using grated potato for the crust.  However, you could also use use mashed potatoes or potato slices.  If you do, please do some Internet research on how those crusts are prepared and cooked.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

    • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled
    • 1 bunch broccoli florets
    • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder plus ½ cup water
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms, any type (in the quiche in the photo above, I used enoki mushrooms)
    • ¾ cup liquid egg substitute (approx. 3 regular eggs)
    • 1 cup sheep romano cheese, grated
    • ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk
    • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Grate potatoes (you should have approximately 2 cups).
  2. Spray 9″ or 10″ pie plate with cooking spray.
  3. Using your fingers, spread the grated potatoes around the pie plate and as far up the sides as possible.
  4. Spray completed crust with cooking spray.
  5. Bake crust in pre-heated 425° F oven for 15-20 minutes until crust is brown and crusty around the edges. 
  6. While crust is in the oven, make the filling.
  7. Steam broccoli until soft (about 10 minutes) and then chop florets into small pieces.  You should have about 1 cup of florets.
  8. In small frying pan, heat chicken broth-water mixture until bubbling.  
  9. Sauté onions and mushrooms in broth-water mixture until soft.
  10. In a large bowl, mix together egg substitute, ½ cup of the cheese, milk, broccoli, onions, and mushroom. (If your mixture seems too thick, you can add another ¼ cup of egg substitute or milk.)
  11. Pour into cooked potato crust.
  12. Top with remaining ½ cup of cheese.
  13. Bake in 425° F oven for 10 minutesLower heat to 350° and cook for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: One serving (1 of 8 pie slices) is 2.5 points on the Points plan and 3 points on the PointsPlus plan.  Note: If you want to add ¼ cup more egg substitute or milk, the addition will not significantly affect the point count.

Faux Lasagna, with Tofu and Carrot Noodles

This faux lasagna tastes like the real deal: tomato-y, cheese-y, and just plain delicious.  It was inspired by a lasagna that I saw at a vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa, The Table.  To make it gluten-free, the chef had replaced lasagna noodles with long carrot slices. 

For the first time, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a lasagna that would not upset my food sensitivities or have a calorie count in the stratosphere.  All I had to do was re-think the usual ingredients.  The result not only has carrots in place of noodles, it also has soft goat cheese in place of ricotta and tofu instead of ground beef.  Plus, in the spirit of “vegetables are good,” I added grated zucchini and sliced mushrooms to the tomato sauce.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large, fat carrots, sliced lengthwise (I used a Japanese mandolin slicer to achieve long, wide slices.  Since only the middle of the carrot yields that kind of strip, you’ll end up with a number of extra strips.  I cooked all of them and used the extra as just cooked carrots.)
  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup water, mixed together
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 9 oz. medium tofu, diced small
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 90 grams soft goat cheese
  • ½ cup grated sheep romano
  • 1-2 tbsp. sugar, if grated carrot has not sufficiently reduced acidity of tomatoes (although it usually does)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Tomato sauce: In a large saucepan over medium high heat, begin tomato sauce by sautéeing onions and spices in chicken broth-water mixture.  (Add more water if pot goes dry.) When onions are just tender, add crushed tomatoes, grated zucchini, grated carrot, and sliced mushrooms.  Bring to boil and then lower heat until sauce is simmering.  Taste and add 1-2 tbsp. of sugar if tomatoes are too acidic.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Carrot noodles: While tomato sauce is cooking, create the carrot noodles.  Cook carrot strips until tender.  (You should be able to easily pierce the carrot slice with a fork.)  I put mine in a glass baking pan with some water and covered with plastic wrap, microwaving them for 10 minutes.
  3. Goat cheese: Using a knife, spread one side of each of the 8 best carrot slices with goat cheese.
  4. Constructing the lasagna: Spray a shallow baking pan (mine is 10″ by 10″) with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of tomato sauce, then put down 4 carrot slices covered with goat cheese.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup of sheep romano cheese (see photo).  Add the next layer of tomato sauce and then the remaining 4 carrot slices covered with goat cheese.  Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sheep romano on the top.  (Note: I had about 1 cup of leftover tomato sauce so I should have added more in the layers.)
  5. Bake in 325º F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and cheese on top has melted.

For Weight Watchers: The only ingredients with point-values in this dish are the tofu (total value: 6 points), goat cheese (total value: 6 points), sheep romano (total value: 4 points), and sugar if you’ve added it to the tomato sauce.  I needed 2 tbsp. of sugar (total value: 2 points) because (confession!) I had forgotten to add the grated carrot as I usually do. 

  • With only carrot and no sugar: Each of the 4 servings is 4 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 
  • With 2 tbsp. of sugar: Each of the 4 servings is 4.5 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 

Mushroom-Eggplant Vegetable Pie

BEFORE

BEFORE

Hurray!  After some interesting experimentation, I have arrived at a delicious, extremely low-cal vegetable pie.  It’s rich with mushroom flavour that is complemented by the tang of romano cheese and is filled with interesting textures from soft to crunchy.

 

 

AFTER

AFTER

 

 

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4 servings

Recipe update: I recently added 4 oz. of soft, herbed goat cheese, spread just above the mushroom layer, when making this dish for a dinner party.  Very, very delicious.  But remember, if you do this, to add to the Weight Watcher points value.

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ yellow onion, sliced into onion rings
  • ¼ cup (2 oz.) sheep romano cheese, grated
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Dried thyme, to taste
  • Cooking spray
Creating the pie crust

Creating the pie crust

Directions

  1. Spray 10″ pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. Create pie crust with eggplant slices (see picture).
  3. Spray interior of pie crust with cooking spray, particularly the scalloped top edges of the eggplant.  This will keep them from wilting and turning brown.
  4. Fill pie with sliced mushrooms.
  5. Sprinkle generously with garlic powder and thyme.
  6. Layer onion rings over the mushrooms.
  7. Layer tomato slices over the onions.
  8. Again, sprinkle generously with garlic powder and thyme.
  9. Add a top layer of grated cheese.
  10. Bake in 400° oven for 30 – 40 minutes until the eggplants are thoroughly tender.
  11. Cut pie into 4 pieces, using a serrated knife.
  12. Remove 1 piece and then drain mushroom liquid out of pie plate.
  13. Ready to eat or store for the next day.

For Weight Watchers: Only the cheese has a points value in this pie for a total of 2 points.  This makes a ¼-pie serving worth .5 point in both the Points and PointsPlus plan.  (If you have points to spare, consider doubling the cheese.)

Dieter’s Pad Thai

Look, Ma, no oil!

Look, Ma, no oil!

This lower-calorie, delicious version of Pad Thai includes the spicy peanut sauce but avoids the use of oil, doesn’t use an egg, cuts back on the amount of noodles, and adds vegetables. 

The trick here is to prepare all the ingredients in advance before the last step, which involves combining everything together—it only takes about 2 minutes!  Here’s how to do it.

 Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4 servings

Step 1: Make the Sauce

Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup wheat-free soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup artificial sugar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • Chili paste to taste (I use 1 tsp. but we’re conservative)

Sauce Directions: Mix together all ingredients.  The peanut butter will not mix in completely but break up into small bits.

Step 2: Cook the Rice Noodles

 You can use any type of rice noodle.  My choice is rice vermicelli, which has two qualities: one good and two bad. 

  • The good quality is that it cooks in about 1-2 minutes in boiling water. 
  • The bad qualities are (1) it is packaged in incredible long strands that will clump into a ball into your Pad Thai, and (2) if you try to break up the dry vermicelli, you will have pieces of it all over your kitchen. (You can trust me on both of these!)

 Noodle Ingredients: 80 grams or 3 oz. rice vermicelli, weighed dry

 Noodle Directions:

  1. Bring water to boil in a pot.
  2. Put in rice vermicelli
  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes until soft.
  4. Drain water.
  5. Using kitchen shears, snip cooked vermicelli into small lengths.

Step 3.  Prepare the Vegetables

 You can vary the vegetables and the amounts.  However, it’s important not to add so many vegetables that you don’t have enough sauce to go around.

Vegetable Ingredients

  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped finely
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, enoki, shitake, or king oyster
  • 3-4 cups bean sprouts

 Vegetable Directions

  1. Prepare scallions, bok choy, and mushroom and put into a bowl.
  2. Put bean sprouts in separate bowl.  It will be added to the dish at the end of cooking.

 Step 4: Make the Garnish

 Garnish Ingredients:

  • ½ cup peanuts
  • ½ cup cilantro

Garnish Directions: Put peanuts and cilantro into a food processor.  Mix until chopped.

 Step 5: Sauté the Meat

 When it comes to the meat content, you have three choices:

  1. You can use chicken, pork, shrimp, or firm tofu. 
  2. The amount you choose depends on how many calories you want from meat. 
  3. You can start with the raw meat or used leftover meat.  If you use leftovers, just add the meat at the end of the recipe when you’re combining all the ingredients.

In this example, I start with raw pork tenderloin.

 Meat ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into small pieces

 Meat Directions

  1. Using medium high heat under a large skillet or wok, bring chicken broth-water mixture to a boil.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add meat and cook, stirring, until cooked through (about 3 minutes).
  4. Remove meat and put into a bowl.

 Keep heat under pot in preparation for the vegetables. 

Step 6.  Cooking the Vegetables

  1.  Add ¼ cup water if your pot is dry.
  2. Add scallions, bok choy, and mushrooms.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender but crunchy (about 2-3 minutes).

Step 7. Combining All Ingredients

 As you add each ingredient, stir to ensure that it is distributed evenly in the pot.

  1. Turn down heat to medium.
  2. Add cooked meat to vegetables and stir.
  3. Add rice vermicelli to meat-vegetable mixture and stir.
  4. Add bean sprouts and stir.
  5. Pour over peanut sauce and stir.
  6. Take pan off the heat.

Step 8. Sprinkle on the garnish

Garnish directions: I use a large skillet with straight sides so when I take the pot off the heat, I flatten down all the ingredients so that the surface of the pad thai is even.  I then spread the garnish over the surface.  Finally, I divide the pad thai into four parts. 

If you’re using a wok, you will have to measure the quantity, e.g., 8 cups, and divide by 4.  You may decide to divide the garnish among the four individual servings.

For Weight Watchers: For ¼ Pad Thai, without meat, on the Points plan, the point value is 6 points and on the PointsPlus plan, the value is 9 points.  To reduce the point-count, you could

  • Cut down on the amount of peanut butter in the sauce
  • Go vegetarian and not add tofu, meat, or shellfish
  • Not have any noodles
  •  Eliminate the peanuts in the garnish and just use cilantro

The breakdown of the point-value per serving is as follows: 

Per ¼ serving Sauce Rice noodles Meat Vegetables Garnish
Points 2 1 your choice 0 3
PointsPlus 3 2 your choice 0 4

 (Adapted from “Chicken Pad Thai” in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski.)