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!
I know that most of you are watching your weight and may be on some type of diet.
Which is why I’m convinced that you’ll know exactly how I felt when I stepped on the scale at a Weight Watcher meeting last week and discovered that I had finally lost 1 lb. after 1 year of dieting.
Who takes 1 year to lose 1 lb.? A person with a thyroid problem, that’s who.
One of the challenges of writing a food blog is deciding whether changes to a recipe are just variations on a theme, or if they create a product different enough to justify a new post.
To be honest, I wobbled on this one. To create it, I had made three changes to the Blueberry Buckle Sans Streusel:
- Used blackberries (on sale!) instead of blueberries
- Used white bean flour instead of garfava flour
- Added a topping made of erythritol and cinnamon
Each of these would be a variation if it were on its own, but put them all together…well, I felt they made a considerable change of texture from the original recipe.
Most significantly, the cake is less moist although I used a smaller pan which made the batter deeper. Was the dryness the result of a difference in fruit, in the flour, or in both? The short answer: I don’t know.
I do have a longer, rambling speculation, but I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that gluten-free baking remains as fascinating to me as ever.
The second textural change involved the topping. I only added this because the blackberries were tart, but they gave each piece a sweet crunch that didn’t exist in the original…and even merited a compliment from my grandson.
So, given that I think texture is as important as taste…
Does the title of this post make you feel slightly dizzy? Me too. That’s why I felt compelled to put fingers to keyboard.
Without realizing it, I have been using the words “yucca” and “yuca” interchangeably when, in fact, they refer to two completely different plants.
And I’m not the only one. A Google search of “yucca preparation” yielded 554,000 results, although the web sites were really trying to demonstrate the preparation of “yuca.”
And, to add insult to injury, I’ve been pronouncing the two words exactly the same: “yuck” and “a.” However, this is only correct for “yucca,” not for “yuca” which sounds like the beginning of Yucatan.
Moreover, I realized I knew nothing about the root vegetable I’ve started using as part of my “Get Acquainted with Vegetables” year.
So, in honour of living and learning…
Yesterday I returned from a lovely five-day trip in NYC with my grandson Alex. We stayed with wonderful friends, Tom and Linda. Linda was my best friend from high school—do not ask how many years back that relationship goes. Suffice it to say: in the second half of the previous century.
Alex and I walked miles, travelled subways, investigated museums, etc. and so forth. I did not eat gluten or dairy, and I tried my best to stay on my diet by sticking with protein and vegetables/fruits.
You and I could quibble over my choice of honeyed peanuts instead of plain peanuts, but if I told you that I succumbed while waiting for a flight home that was three hours late, I’m sure you’d understand.
In other words, the Angel of Diets had taken generally good care of me. I had a piece of cake here and some coconut ice cream there, but my activity level was also sky-high. I figured that I hadn’t gotten off the diet track in any serious way.
But what is it they say about good intentions?
The mini-cake is cooked and ready to be turned over.
- My mini-cake is a miniature tower.
The spouse’s mini-cake had structural damage
so he cut it into slices.
This mini-cake is fun! (Kids will love it.) It cooks in minutes in the microwave. It’s yummy. And it has built-in portion control. Who could ask for anything more?
Well, we could ask for a consistent shape, I suppose. One mini-cake turned out to be a perfect tower with a dome; the other had its dome collapse and the whole edifice had to be levelled.
Baking perfectionists may ask, “What happened?” Perhaps it was how I put the apple slices in the bottom of the cup (no arranging: I just dropped them in and mixed in the sugar and cinnamon). Maybe it was the way I put in the batter. Truth be told: I have not a clue.
Clearly, this recipe requires more experiments, but how hard will that be with the fruit season just about upon us? I’m thinking peach, mango, plums, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry…
So far, on this blog, I’ve avoided cookies. I have some good excuses—no children at home anymore and, well, fear of the Cookie Monster.
You know this ogre.
She has tentacles that go straight into your sweet tooth and carb cravings. You will try to quit after one or two cookies while the monster manipulates your taste buds so that the first cookie—nay, the first bite—creates a powerful urge to keep right on going.
For those of you who can eat a whole bag in one sitting—YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
So I’ve avoided cookies for good reasons. Then I spotted a recipe that had good health and diet potential because of the quinoa which is high in protein and, therefore, stomach-filling. I did some adjusting to give it even more protein and reduce calories, and I kept the sweetness at a low ebb so it wouldn’t arouse the sleeping, but ever vigilant, monster.
My spouse was the first sampler. “It’s good,” he said, “but I thought it would be sweeter. Cookies are usually sweeter.”
See how the food manufacturers have trained our palates?
Crispy, crunchy, tangy spring rolls filled with fresh vegetables and herbs—to be honest, I thought they’d be hard to make. In fact, I printed out a recipe I could adapt but put it in the back of my mind.
Then, just by chance, I spotted the wrappers in my local bulk grocery store. Clearly, forces in the universe wanted me to make spring rolls. And truthfully? They turned out to be easy, from making the filling to wrapping and rolling, once I got the hang of it.
Cauliflower is in season! When I pass by a pile, my hands get a sensation of yearning. I wanna, wanna. And, no, it isn’t just the great seasonal price. Truly. For example, I don’t get this needy feeling around the bins of broccoli, which are also in season and equally cheap. Maybe cauliflower looks like a comfort food? Like mashed potatoes? Or cream of wheat? Whatever…I’ll leave it to the food psychologists. (Photo by FreeFoto)
Anyway…I want to buy lots of cauliflower, but what to do with it all? I can always make soup, but variety is the spice of life. Hence I was happy to find a cauliflower recipe by Stephanie Bostic, a fellow food-blogger and author of the newly published cookbook, One Bowl: Simple Healthy Recipes for One. Her recipe, “Carrot Cauliflower Purée,” adds a subtle flavouring of thyme, dijon mustard, and lemon to the vegetables. Delicious. Thank you, Stephanie.
This recipe also reminded me of a cauliflower recipe that my husband makes for meals when children, their partners, and grandchildren are coming over. The cauliflower is baked after being first puréed with butter, milk, and parmesan cheese. It’s a great-tasting dish, except for two problems: it doesn’t taste like cauliflower any more, and it’s loaded with calories. But…but, I thought, why not refashion Stephanie’s recipe to bring it beyond a side dish and into a main course for lunch by baking the purée with a topping of cheese?
So here it is…with a few tweaks to the original to accommodate my taste and kitchen.
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.
Makes 4 1-cup servings
- 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
- Heat chicken broth powder + water mixture or chicken broth over medium heat.
- Add onion, garlic, and ginger and stir until onions are tender.
- Add spices: cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cinnamon stick.
- Stir for 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant (if the pan gets dry, add a little water).
- Add broth and lentils.
- Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into the pot. Then add rest of lemon as well.
- 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.)
- Remove cinnamon stick and lemon halves.
- Stir in cilantro, garam masala, and spinach.
- Cook until spinach is wilted.
- 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.)