Back to the Blog with Pumpkin Pancakes!

Pumpkin Pancakes sprinkled with erythritol.

Pumpkin Pancakes sprinkled with erythritol.

I know, I know. It’s been two months since my last post. Have I been on an around-the-world trip? Discovered I could eat gluten again? Gotten so thin that I never had to diet again?

Yeah, r-i-g-h-t.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I lost my sense of smell again due to chronic sinusitis. It is now back, thanks to medication, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Oh, and by the way, not tasting anything but sweet and salt for two months did not mean I stopped eating. Sigh.

So I’m back with a delicious, filling, low-carb breakfast. I’m a morning person, and I wake up hungry. These pancakes, loaded with protein and sprinkled with erythritol, turn my growling-tiger tummy into a purring pussycat for 4-5 hours and make my taste buds very happy.

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French Toast Sans Bread

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This recipe was inspired by the kitchen in our rental casita in Tucson, AZ.

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The kitchen’s cute, but the lack of space and basic gear limited my culinary endeavours. Moreover, who wants to spend time in the kitchen when the sun is shining and the mountain trails beckon?

Still, I got a baking urge now and then although I had no supplies for baking. Which got me thinking about egg custards. Which led me, after a little research on the right ratio of egg to liquid. Which brought me to this very easy, very low-calorie dish and variations of it.

Oh, and the spouse also likes it. Also, we both agree that it doesn’t seem to matter if you use regular eggs (higher calories) or liquid egg substitute (lower calories).

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Pumpkin-Spaghetti Squash “Kugel”

Only 1 WW point!

Aren’t leftovers nature’s way of improving human creativity?

That was my take on 1½ cups of leftover pumpkin purée.

Gotta do something other than painting the walls with the stuff.

Hit the creativity button!

1) I remembered my recipe for Apple-Spaghetti Squash Kugel. (Revised January 21, 2014.) 

2) Just by coincidence, we also had spaghetti squash leftovers.

Clearly, fate was trying to tell me something. Even better, I was listening for once!

Some thoughts on this ersatz kugel:

  • It tastes just like pumpkin pie but doesn’t have the same texture. I left the spaghetti squash strands as is, but you could purée them to have a smoother texture. That would make this dish a terrific, low-cal version of the real thing.
  • The WW point count of this dish is 3 points for the eggs + 2 points for the Splenda Brown Sugar Blend = 5 points. Next time I’ll just do ½ cup of the Blend and eliminate the Splenda regular artificial sweetener. That will enhance the brown sugar flavour and add only 2 more points.

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Pumpkin Currant Muffins (no oil, no dairy)

If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the look-out for a diet-friendly baked good. I want carbs to satisfy the Carb Monster and sweetness to satisfy the Sweet-Tooth Ogre. (Yes, I’m inhabited by a bunch of craving maniac gargoyles. Aren’t you?)

Pumpkin Currant Muffins to the rescue!

  • Yummy, pumpkin-pie flavour
  • Sharp sweetness and crunch of currants
  • Moist and filling
  • 1.5 WW points or about 75 calories
  • Comes with the spouse-approved guarantee!

Okay, these muffins aren’t big, I acknowledge that, BUT there are three other important reasons they are great for dieters: no oil, no dairy, no *rice flour—all ingredients which are calorie-rich.

The result? Muffins that won’t overwhelm your daily point count or calorie intake. Enjoy!

*For the gluten-free: Dietwise, there are 4 no-no flours—almond meal, white rice flour, brown rice flour, sweet rice flour—when these flours form the basis of a baked good. For more information on flours, check out Point Values of Gluten-Free Flours, Starches, and Ground Meals.

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Point Values for Commonly Used Seeds

Back in June, 2011, I started realizing that seeds could carve a deep hole in my daily WW points. I knew about the high fats in nuts, but I wasn’t sure about seeds. This was during the height of the chia seed craze, and they seemed to be in every recipe I looked at.

Research on chia seeds confirmed my worst suspicions: 2 tbsps. = 3 points (see note at bottom) because of the high quantity of fat in the seeds. True, chia seeds contain healthy fat but, unfortunately, WW doesn’t distinguish between good and bad fats when assigning point values. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be sprinkling chia, or any other, seeds around with happy abandon.

I wrote about the seed problem in what has turned out to be the 2nd most popular post on this blog, To Chia or Not to Chia: This is the Seed/Nut Question. I attribute part of this popularity to the fact that the WW Pocket Guide doesn’t include point information on seeds—nuts, yes; seeds, no.

But I hadn’t really delved into all the seeds or provided an easy basis for comparisons among the seeds. My remedy is a “Point Values of Commonly Used Seeds” chart which uses 1 tbsp. as the common quantity.

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Thanksgiving: A Dieter’s Suggestions

Arghhh…Thanksgiving, the dinner that just keeps on giving—weight-wise that is. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie…and the list goes on.

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving and, as our Weight Watcher leader brought us through techniques for diet-managing the bounty of food, I began to think about my own strategies.

In our house, the spouse handles most of Thanksgiving. That is, he makes the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy and is not—repeat, is not—open to diet suggestions. Daughters bring salads and desserts.

I’ll have roast vegetables, probably Brussel sprouts, to ensure there’s lots for me to eat. But here are some other dishes I’ll make to keep my Thanksgiving calories down.

Dieter’s Spiced Cranberry Relish

Dieter’s Spiced Cranberry Relish: Love cranberry sauce? Don’t waste your valuable points on the canned stuff. This relish, made with cranberries, oranges, spices, and artificial sweetener, is easy to make, delicious, and 0 points!

Sweet Potato Bean Bake with Currants

Sweet Potato Bean Bake with Currants: If you can, try to avoid the white mashed potatoes and gravy; it’s just one big point-fest. This dish, on the other hand, provides protein, carbs, and great taste for only 3 points per serving. (Think 1/8 of a pie–see photo for Crustless Pumpkin Pie.) BTW, this is my favourite bean bake, and I often have a pan of it in my fridge. Bean bakes will keep for 4-5 days when refrigerated.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Crustless Pumpkin Pie: At the WW meeting, the leader passed around a recipe for a “crustless pumpkin pie.” My hopes lifted but then dashed. The recipe called for evaporated milk, and I don’t know how to replicate that with soy or another alternative milk. So…what will I substitute? Pumpkin “Pie” Bean Bake, that’s what! It looks like pumpkin pie, tastes like pumpkin pie, and is creamy like pumpkin pie. And even better? WW value: 2 points per serving unless you add coffee liqueur (optional).

Low-Calorie Snacks

Snacks and dieting…dieting and snacks. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, these are two things that don’t go well together.

In my pre-diet days, I loved the oh-so-easy snacks. I’d just grab something from the fridge or cupboard that would quickly satisfy my carb or salt cravings.

Snacks on a diet don’t have that happy-go-lucky quality. For me, snacks now require careful planning from the grocery store right up to the finished product. Even a simple nosh like an apple requires making sure I always have apples in the house.

But this post isn’t about the simple snacks. I don’t know about you, but sometimes an apple, a handful of carrots, or a bowl of popcorn (how to make your own in the microwave, oil-free) just won’t cut it. I want a snack more interesting in taste and texture that is also

  • Low in calories, i.e., has little or no fat. (Sugar isn’t a problem for me; I use artificial sweetener.)
  • Healthful because it has nutritious ingredients.
  • Filling so that I don’t get hungry again so quickly.
  • 2 Weight Watcher (WW) points or less so it doesn’t overwhelm my daily count. (Roughly 100 calories.)

To that end, I am now experimenting with snack recipes, mine and others’, with the express purpose of keeping the calorie count down. As part of this effort, I decided to compile a list of all my low-calorie recipes to better understand how to replace empty calories with good ones. I thought you’d find this list helpful.

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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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Pumpkin Cornbread Squares

I love pumpkin pie, but it doesn’t love my diet.  Think pie crust, and you’ll know what I mean.  The flour and shortening…or if you’re inclined to alternative pie crusts, the very nutritious nut meal flours which are, unfortunately, high in calories.  The day someone figures out a diet pie crust, that person should win a Nobel prize.  Seriously!

Now, I also love cornbread (e.g.,  Sweet Quinoa Cornbread), whose calorie count falls within my dietary ambit.  So why not combine pumpkin and all those pumpkin pie spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger—with the nubbly texture and rich taste of cornbread?  The result: a delicious, spiced bread, redolent of the best fall flavours.

Cooking update (April 10, 2012): I make this oil-free and it was still terrific. Just replace the 2 tbsp. of oil with 2 tbsp. of apple sauce.

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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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