Baked Turkey-Quinoa Meatballs with Cucumber Raita

I gave a luncheon on Saturday for six in which I did NOT cater to my gluten-eating, okay-with-lactose friends in any way.

Rather, I served a meal that I felt everyone would like, but it was designed—from soup to nuts—for the two of us who had gluten and dairy sensitivities.

Minority rules! Way to go!

Challenge #1: The original recipe—Incredibly Healthy and Tasty Quinoa and Turkey Balls at the FeedRight for People blog—called for chopped olives. Big problem. The spouse is opposed to olives of any shape, colour, or taste. (Where did I find this man? you may well ask.) On the other hand, I love olives and knew they would add terrific flavour to the dish.

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Creamy Tomato-Quinoa Soup

Remember when tomatoes tasted like tomatoes? No? Well…you may have to be of a certain age. Today, the only time tomatoes come close to tasting like the real thing is during the harvest season when field tomatoes are available.

FYI: According to a New York Times article, scientists have recently discovered “a genetic reason that diminishes a tomato’s flavor even if the fruit is picked ripe and coddled.” Briefly, producers, appealing to consumers who wanted lush red tomatoes, unwittingly bred in a mutation that reduces the sugars that contributed to the tomato taste. Sigh.

So…back in my kitchen where I’ve purchased baskets of field tomatoes whose lives will end in my soup pot.

In the early days of this blog, I posted a family favourite soup in which a small amount of peanut butter, rather than cream, was added to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes and make it okay for the lactose-intolerant. Now I’ve upgraded the original recipe by adding a dollop of cooked quinoa for some healthy protein and crunch.

This soup is creamy, rich, and delicious—hot or cold.

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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.

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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.)

 

Peanut Butter Squares

These no-flour squares are like candy; they melt in your mouth.  They’re a big hit with everyone, especially children.  My granddaughter, Adesia, said to tell my blog readers: “They’re great for any peanut butter lover!”

For dieters: I have tried to make these with artificial sugar and with an artificial sugar/real sugar mixture.  Neither really worked. 

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Cooking tip: The more you beat this mixture, the lighter the squares will be.

Makes 16 squares.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 8″ x 8″ or 9″ by 9″ pan with cooking spray.
  3. Put sugar and egg into a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Beat until light and fluffy.
  5. Add peanut butter and vanilla, beating until combined (forms a soft ball).
  6. Spread mixture evenly in the sprayed pan (I use my hands).
  7. Bake until top is light brown and sides have pulled away from the edges, approximately 20 minutes.
  8. Cool for 5 minutes before cutting into 16 squares.

For Weight Watchers:  Each square is worth 3 points in the Points plan and 4 points in the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Chocolate Nut Squares” in Weight Watchers Favorite Recipes, 1986)