Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese

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Confession: I’m on a soft-goat-cheese + soup kick.

It started with my Skin-and-All Creamy Tomato Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese when I decided to use goat cheese to make the soup creamy. In the past, I’d been adding milk or yogurt to vegetable soups (see Creamy Cauliflower Soup). Then I found that herbed goat cheese is richer and the herbs add a lovely flavour. True, it’s also caloric but, when you’re making a quart or more of soup, the amount per 1 cup serving (roughly 20 calories) isn’t going bust your diet.

And this soup has two great pluses:

  1. It’s delicious hot or cold so I also use it as a drink at dinner rather than water. More vegetable intake and refreshing!
  2. It yields 2-3 cups of homemade chicken-vegetable stock that can be used in other recipes. Yum!

P.S. The soup in the photo also included a zucchini and leek because they were hanging around in my vegetable bin, but just cauliflower and regular onion would be just fine.

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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-Turnip Vichyssoise

A true vichyssoise is a thick soup that includes potatoes and cream. Regrettably, it is outside of my dietary bounds, no matter how much I love it or try to alter it with low-cal milks.

So I was utterly delighted with this culinary experiment. The soup looks like a vichyssoise! It tastes like a vichyssoise! (Well…okay…sorta…)

The spouse even agreed the soup was good and then said suspiciously, “What’s in it?” Yes, he knows me well.

The experiment began, as many of them do, at the discounted vegetable rack where I picked up 2 heads of cauliflower and 14 turnips. (I didn’t quite expect so many in the bag, but I hadn’t counted them either.)

After I got home, I realized I had something of a turnip dilemma. Why not, I reasoned, add a couple of turnips to my Creamy Cauliflower Soup?

Why not? As it turned out, the two vegetables have a lovely, toning-down touch on each other’s flavour. The taste is a subtle, happy mix of the two, and the soup is smooth, creamy, and delicious, hot or cold.

“Turnip!” the spouse said. “I knew it!” I beg to differ.

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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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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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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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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.

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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.)

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Forgive me, but I’m on on a soup roll.  After satisfying myself that Creamy Cauliflower Soup makes a terrific cold drink on a hot summer day as well as, I’m sure, a fabulous hot soup on a cold winter day, I turned to broccoli and gave it the purée treatment.  Voilà!  An equally delicious, refreshing, filling, and easy-to-make soup.

The photo is of my lunch today—Creamy Broccoli Soup, with soy milk swirled in, and a piece of Sweet Quinoa Cornbread. Yum!

 

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Cooking tip for making a thick and creamy soup: The correct amount of broth is tricky because vegetables often shrink and also contain their own liquids.  To ensure that the soup will not be too thin, remove 1-2 cups of broth after the cooking is finished and before you start blending.  After a first blend, you’ll know if it needs more broth.  Add in ¼ cup increments until you reach the desired creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of broccoli, washed, trimmed, and chopped into big chunks
  • 6 cups of chicken broth (vegetables can be above the water line; they will reduce while cooking)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  •  Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Before blending, remove 1 cup of liquid and hold in reserve.
  4. Purée soup with a hand blender or in a processor until smooth.  If the purée is too thick for your taste, add the 1-2 cups of liquid held in reserve.  (If not, you can throw away the liquid or save it as a vegetable broth.)
  5. Put container of soup in the refrigerator until cold.
  6. Pour out a glass and, if you prefer, mix in a tablespoon of goat yogurt or soy milk.

For Weight Watchers: Unless you’ve added a “countable” amount of yogurt or milk, any size serving is 0 points on the Points and PointsPlus plans.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Non-dieters can drink whatever cold drinks they enjoy during the hot summer months.  Those of us on the other side of the divide must avoid mint juleps, beer, fruit juices, soft drinks (other than diet), and any other delicious drink I forgot to mention.

But what about vegetable purées, which are great winter soups, acting as cold beverages when it’s sweltering?  This question would never have occurred to me if I hadn’t been having a very lazy afternoon on board our boat, the Outrageous, reading on the back deck.

I began to get nagging messages from my stomach (that demanding organ) that it wanted something more filling than diet iced tea.  My brain (another equally demanding body part) reminded me that whatever I ate had to be very low in calories.  I had brought up a container of cauliflower soup, but felt way too lazy to crank up the inboard generator and reorganize the galley so I could use the stove in order to heat up it up.  (Readers may recall that the galley is the size of a shower stall; hence the top of the stove, when not in use, provides storage for a fruit bowl among other things.)  Besides, who wants hot soup on a hot afternoon?

The voilà moment occurred when I asked myself, “Why not drink the soup cold?” I poured some into a glass and added a dollop of yogurt.  I took it out on the back deck, sat back in chair, and drank it down to the last drop.  It was as delicious cold as when hot, delightfully refreshing, and very satisfying—all for the diet-cost of a teaspoon of yogurt.  For me, a new food category was born!

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Cooking tip for making a thick and creamy soup: The correct amount of broth is tricky because vegetables often shrink and also contain their own liquids.  To ensure that the soup will not be too thin, remove 1-2 cups of broth after the cooking is finished and before you start blending.  After a first blend, you’ll know if it needs more broth.  Add in ¼ cup increments until you reach the desired creaminess.

Ingredients

  • 1 very large cauliflower or 2 small ones, washed, trimmed, and chopped into big chunks
  • 8 cups of chicken broth (vegetables can be above the water line; they will reduce while cooking)
  • 1 large sweet onion (the onion’s sweetness is key to this soup’s great taste), chopped into big chunks
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  •  Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Before blending, remove 1 cup of liquid and hold in reserve.
  4. Purée soup with a hand blender or in a processor until smooth.  If the purée is too thick for your taste, add the 1-2 cups of liquid held in reserve.  (If not, you can throw away the liquid or save it as a vegetable broth.)
  5. Put container of soup in the refrigerator until cold.
  6. Pour out a glass and, if you prefer, mix in a tablespoon of goat yogurt or soy milk.

For Weight Watchers: Unless you’ve added a “countable” amount of yogurt or milk, any size serving is 0 points on the Points and PointsPlus plans.

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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