DIY Apple-Spaghetti Squash Kugel

Go wild! Go artistic!

Go wild! Go artistic!

Happy New Year to everyone! May it be filled with good health and resolutions held firm…if possible. I’m a little late getting 2014 started blogwise, but I’m charging out of the gates with a new “blog-look” and a revised recipe. Here goes!

Back in 2012, I posted a recipe for Apple-Spaghetti Squash Kugel, adapted from one on the blog, Cara’s Cravings. It was low in calories, had no oil, and tasted yummy. Recently, I decided to make it again, but now the recipe struck me as, well, conservative.

So I went as wild as I could, considering my forever diet. I used currants instead of raisins. I added pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I exchanged regular Splenda with Splenda’s Brown Sugar Blend (I told you I went wild!).

IMGP2040The result was super-yummy and more filling than the original.  Of course, it had more Weight Watcher points, but it also made 8 servings which spread those points around.

Then I realized that I hadn’t plumbed this recipe’s possibilities. Hence, this a DIY recipe because you can mix and match ingredients to your heart’s content.

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Leftovers Cuisine: Second-Day Beef Stew with Quinoa and Beans

IMGP2033 What’s your leftovers attitude?

Mine is: leftovers are terrific opportunities to create a new, different, interesting, exciting dishes! Really. (Or, at the very least, no cooking the next night.)

For example, early this week, we returned from a week-long vacation in Jamaica (Sun! Sea! Sand! Piña Coladas!), and the spouse decided to make beef stew our first night home. It was basic: beef, potatoes, carrots, onions. After one dinner, we had about 1½ cups left—a slightly thick broth, dotted with a few pieces of beef, etc.

To be honest, it did look uninspiring, BUT…

Those Jamaican chefs had inspired me. They had raised leftovers + vegetables + mix-and-match beans to an art form. One night we had turkey as the main meat, the next day at lunch we had a tasty turkey stew with vegetables and two types of beans. Surely, I reasoned, this type of creation was in my cuisine skill set.

Their cooking also had a second appeal for me because it fit the flexible use-what-you-have-in-the-kitchen approach. My recipe uses tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, chickpeas, lentils, and quinoa. Why? Yup, you guessed it.

The result was delicious and filling, plus the spouse liked it! And he doesn’t always go for my mixtures—unfortunately, his mother cooked basic (meat, potato, veg) and served basic (no mixing) and this has had a lingering effect.

If you try this recipe, please use it as a template rather than a fixed-in-stone culinary creation. Feel free to change ingredients, vary quantities, and use your favourite spices. Continue reading

Tomato Quinoa-Bean Squares

Today I’m writing to you about a culinary triumph and a baking disaster.

Disaster first. Those who follow this blog may recall that I planned to experiment with my gluten-free angel food cake recipe to bring down the carb and calorie count. Well, experiment I did, substituting erythritol for some of the sugar. Erythritol is granular like sugar, has no calories or aftertaste, and is very low on the glycemic index.

sadfaceSo what happened? The erythritol (1) melted and created a messy, black residue on the bottom of the oven that had to be scraped off, (2) sealed the tube section to the rest of the pan so tightly that the spouse had to pry it loose with a knife—good-by pan, and (3) resulted in a very crumbly, nowhere near as delicious, version of the real thing.

The cake did rise and stay that way, but…sigh. Upwards and onwards…

Now the triumph—A tasty, filling, low-cal, vegetarian bake!

IMGP1980

This dish is packed with protein via the beans, quinoa, and cheese. As well, the quinoa can  help you fill your daily whole grain quota, which is not always easy to do on a gluten-free diet.

This is also a great way to get rid of quinoa leftovers. In fact, it was the cooked red quinoa hanging around in my fridge that got this dish off the ground along with some recipe-surfing on the Internet.

And what’s more, it is flexible.

  • Not quite enough quinoa? Not to worry.
  • Want to add more beans? Go ahead.
  • Prefer tomato paste to pizza sauce? Do your own thing and throw in some basil and oregano.
  • Like it hot? Go for it.

But most of all, enjoy!

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Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs and Pomegranate Seeds

A Tale of Two Salads!

The first salad is a winner! It has complex levels of flavours from the fresh bite of mint and cilantro to the small explosions of pomegranate sweetness. And each mouthful is a study in textual contrasts among soft, chewy, and crunch. Nothing about this salad is expected or traditional. Plus it’s pretty too. Yum, I love it!

The second salad is a loser! It has too many tastes and textures plus really annoying pomegranate seeds. This story belongs to the spouse who grew up in an upright English Canadian family where dinner was a roast, potatoes, and peas. Not surprisingly, he prefers food that comes without surprises.

two eaters…two salads…the same serving bowl

Sometimes, I contemplate two kitchens, but honestly, the spouse does put up with a lot of culinary experimentation and manages to remain good-humoured—well, most of the time.

Besides, wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?

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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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Curried Cauliflower-Sweet Potato Puree with Quinoa

HURRAY!

IT’S CAULIFLOWER SEASON!

But here’s the problem with this wonderful and versatile vegetable: the heads are big and awkward, and they takes up too much room in my fridge. So when I’ve gone a little overboard (bought 2-3 heads because they’re cheap as all get out), my instinct is to cook immediately and purée.

This dish occurred because, in addition to cauliflower, I already had half-a-microwaved sweet potato and cooked quinoa on hand.  Why not throw them all together, add some onion and Indian spices, and see what happens?

The result? A new and interesting taste for me and the spouse: spicy in a curry-ish way with a slightly onion-y crunch and an undercurrent of sweetness. We ate it last night with chicken sausages and…yum!

Now, you might find this dish too bland because I am always catering to my sensitive stomach. Therefore, I suggest you mix all the main ingredients together and then spice to taste. You could also play around with the amounts of cauliflower, sweet potato, and quinoa, depending on what you have.

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Plum Variations: Pudding ‘n’ Pie

Ah….the plums overfloweth the bins at food markets. I buy bags of fresh plums. I grab bags of discounted plums that are going to rack and ruin. I buy plums whether they’re black, red, blue, or yellow. And what do I do with all these plums?

One favourite recipe is a plum compote that I call Cinnamony Stewed Plums. No fuss and no peeling…just get rid of the pit and cook in some water for 10 minutes. This is delicious over yogurt or in a smoothie. It’s also a great dish to make with plums that aren’t as fresh as they could be.

I also want to tell you about two new plum variations of dishes that I’ve made in the past: Plum Quinoa Pudding and Crustless Plum Chia Pie.

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Tomato Quinoa Salad with Corn and Feta Cheese

Hi all! We are back from a two-week boat trip to the Thousand Islands. (Actually, there are 1800 islands, but that wouldn’t make a catchy enough phrase, I guess.) We had grandchildren aboard as second “mates,” i.e., minimal help, maximal eating. Couldn’t get a one o’ them ther kids to swab a deck!

Kitchen space on the Outrageous

As you may recall, I’ve described the boat galley as…well, somewhat restrictive. Here is a pix showing the total extent of its counter space with the fridge off to the left and stove to the right. The wooden board on the counter is the top to the garbage pail beneath. Clever, huh?

The galley is always fun for a while, and then, not surprisingly, I’m glad to return to my spacious, appliance-rich, air-conditioned kitchen.

This salad (both sweet and salty; soft and crunchy) happened because we stopped at a farmer’s market on the way home and bought big, delicious, juicy tomatoes. It makes a great side dish for dinner or main dish for lunch

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Minty Lentil and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese

Back in June, 2011, I wrote a post that included the travails of cooking (includes photo) aboard our 30-year old, 32-foot cabin cruiser, the Outrageous, which we use as a moving cottage on the lakes around Ottawa and as a means of travel to the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands.

At the time, I likened the galley to a shower stall, and guess what? Nothing has changed its size between now and then. Thus another summer finds me once again seeking out ways to maintain my healthy, gluten-free, and low-cal diet while on the water. Basically, I need a variety of dishes that I can make in advance and that are easily portable.

Hence a Weight Watcher recipe for “Lentil Salad with Fresh Mint and Goat Cheese” caught my eye. It had no flour, I love mint, and legumes are my friends. Most importantly, it fit my seafaring criteria. The problem? After I made it, I found its flavour too dense—it had…well, too many lentils in one bite.

I began to mix it with other dishes: a lettuce salad, a chicken salad. All were good, but nothing I’d write home about. Then I decided to add cooked quinoa and hit the jackpot, taste-wise and nutritionally speaking. A cup of this salad is a power-house of filling protein and a great mix of tastes, both fresh (mint) and salty (cheese), and interesting textures, both crunchy and soft.

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