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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Check It Out! (1)

I do a lot of reading about food and issues related to eating, dieting, and health. I often think: I’d like to share that with people who come to this blog.

So I decided to write a “Check It Out!” post for this kind of information. If you like the idea, let me know.

For the lactose-intolerant: I’d been thinking about investigating non-cow milks to find out the pros and cons, but this article, Which Non-Dairy Milk is Best? by the Nutrition Diva, covers a lot of good territory.

For curious dieters: Have you ever wondered how restaurant critics maintain their weight? Diet Differently: Shed Weight by Maximizing Your Flavor Per Calorie is about one critic who lost 40 pounds and kept it off by believing in gratification, not denial.

For the philosophically inclined: It turns out that peas can communicate with one another. Thoughts to ponder at If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them?

For pepper lovers: The spouse won’t eat peppers so I don’t have recipes that include them. But that doesn’t mean I don’t salivate at the occasional good-looking possibility. Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers look delish!

And, finally, in the “Lose Your Appetite” department: Read about 28 mealbreakers: “nasty, non-edible surprise[s] found in food while it is being eaten; often lawsuit-provoking, sometimes fabricated, always disgusting.”

27 Substitutes for Gluten-Free Eating

This article (slightly retitled here), written by Kate Morin and on the The Greatist web site, caught my eye.  While some of the tips were old hat to me, others were new and welcome.  I decided to share it with you and have added my own edits, comments, and links in italics.

1. Corn tortillas for sandwich bread
Cold cuts and deli cheese just aren’t the same unless they’re sandwiched between something starchy. When gluten-free bread isn’t an option (or if trying to watch the carbs and calories), corn tortillas are a great stand-in. Corn tortilla sandwiches are great. My fave is turkey/chicken with lettuce, a dill pickle slice, a thin slice of Manchego (sheep cheese), lettuce, and a little bit of mustard.  Caveat: the tortillas are best when fresh; otherwise they have a tendency to rip and crumble.

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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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Cucumber Blueberry Mint Salad

This salad is “an end-of-summer delight”—a combination of savoury cucumber (now in season) and sweet blueberries (still on the shelves) whose flavours only work together when they are textured with the fresh tang of mint. 

I know this because I made it without mint earlier in the summer, and the spouse who had never seen the original recipe said, “This would benefit from some mint, don’t you think?”

Anyway, I say “end of summer” because the temperature reached 30° C (86° F) today, and it sure as heck didn’t feel like the second week of September.  We used to get a first frost in early September but those days seem to be long past.

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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.

Tomato-Basil Egg Drop Soup

I grew up with a basic egg drop soup because my mother used to make it when we were recuperating from some illness.  As a kid, I liked the way the stirred eggs, mixed with parmesan cheese, would burst into tiny “flowers” when the mixture was dripped into a boiling broth.  It also tasted good, too.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized our non-Italian family was eating a very well-known Italian soup: stracciatella.

This delicious version includes tomato and spices, all of which enhance the original, delicate flavour.  It’s also a lot more elegant and would be great for a dinner party.  And you could verbally dress it up for guests by calling it “Tomato-Basil Stracciatella.”  Sounds a whole lot more impressive than a soup for kids with tetchy stomachs!

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2-4 servings

Cooking tip: Although making a hot soup in summer may not seem entirely logical, this soup benefits from freshly grown basil and local, ripe tomatoes—summer ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ¾ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 sprig of basil
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup sheep romano cheese, grated
  • 2-4 tbsp. of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, and chives
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 

Directions

  1. In a medium pot, add ½ cup of chicken broth, garlic, diced tomatoes, and sprig of basil.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. While this mixture is cooking, whisk eggs, cheese, and herbs together in a small bowl  until frothy.
  4. Add rest of broth to cooking pot and bring to a full boil.
  5. Stirring constantly, slowly drip the egg mixture into the boiling broth.
  6. Reduce heat, simmer for 2-3 minutes, and remove basil sprig.
  7. Taste to adjust seasonings.

For Weight Watchers: The point value depends on how many servings you decide to make.  The total overall point value of the soup is 6 points on the Points and PointsPlus plans.  Divide this amount by the number of servings.

(Adapted from “Tomato Stracciatella” by Martha Rose Shulman, published in The New York Times.)

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.

Variation on Mark Bittman’s Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Those of you who are familiar with Mark Bittman’s recipes in The New York Times know that he likes to take the mystery out of good food.  His recipes are rarely complicated and always delicious.  Hence, given my adoration of watermelon, I had to make his Watermelon and Tomato Salad which, indeed, delivered a wonderful taste-and-texture mixture: watermelon sweetness plus the tart tomatoes and savoury cheese, all tied together by a vinaigrette dressing.  (I’ve added Mark Bittman’s video on making this salad at the end of the post.)

Of course, I had to start adapting the recipe immediately because his cheese suggestions—Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Maytag blue cheese—don’t work for for anyone who is lactose-intolerant.  I used goat feta instead.  My second adaption was to cut back on the oil to reduce calories.  Finally, on my third making of this salad, I decided to cut back on the cheese and add cooked quinoa. I wanted to give the salad more “heft” so that it could be a meal unto itself as opposed to an accompanying salad.  It was still delicious although, if you can afford the extra calories (or the 3 extra WW points), I’d keep the cheese at the 2.6 oz. level.  There’s nothing like cheese to take a dish from delicious to sublime.

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Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups watermelon in 1″ cubes or balls (cut over a bowl so that you can catch the juice and reserve it)
  • 1½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1.3 oz. goat feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup green onions, finely minced
  • ½ cup cooked, cold quinoa
  • 1 tbsp. of watermelon juice
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar (Mark Bittman suggests sherry; I had balsamic)
  • ½ cup cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine watermelon, tomato, cheese, green onions, and quinoa in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together watermelon juice, oil, and vinegar.
  3. Pour vinagrette over salad mixture.
  4. Garnish with coriander or parsley.
  5. Salt to taste.

For Weight Watchers: 5.5 points per serving on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.  (This is cheaper on PointsPlus because the watermelon has no point value.)