Paper Bag Popcorn

All you need are corn kernels and a paper bag. 

AND VOILA!

Popcorn, without the oil and salt, is a great snack. It’s crunchy, filling, nutritious, easy on your pocketbook, and a cinch to make. Oh yes, and rock bottom on the calorie chart.  One cup of corn kernels is only 31 calories.

Admittedly, popcorn without oil and salt is bland, and that’s where this recipe steps in to help.

But, first, let’s be up-front with the negative. Diet popcorn will never be rich with oil. If it were, it would no longer fit in our diets. Hence it will never taste like movie popcorn, bagged popcorn, or DIY-in-the-microwave boxed popcorn bags.

Rather, you can give paper bag popcorn a sweet or savoury adornment, depending on your taste buds. The popcorn will be dry and crunchy; the flavouring, mild but satisfying.

And it will be good for you. According to NutritionSelf.com, popcorn without oil and salt “is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber and Manganese.”

All you need is an open mind about what popcorn is and how it should taste.

In this recipe, I’m going to give you my recipe for sweet cinnamon popcorn. (Yep, the darned sweet tooth insisted.) If you have any terrific flavourings, please let me know, and I’ll add them to this post.

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The Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Dieter’s Fabulous Bean Bake!

Bean bakes are the best thing to come my way, foodwise, as a gluten-free, dairy-free dieter. Seriously. They’re delicious and, most amazingly, doesn’t have a hint of beans.

Interior: Banana-Coconut Bean Cake

Taste is important but it isn’t the best part of the story. A bean bake has a cake-like texture because it rises as it cooks. The result is that the bean bake tricks my body. I feel as if I’m eating carbs—thus satisfying my carb cravings—when what I’m actually eating is primarily protein, very nutritious, and filling, despite being low in calories.

Now, that’s fabulous!

And there’s more:

  • Bean bakes are versatile. First, they can be sweet (with a fruit) or savoury (with a vegetable), depending on what’s in your kitchen. Secondly, whether sweet or savoury, you can eat a slice at breakfast or as a snack, a side dish at lunch or dinner or, in the case of a sweet bean bake, a dessert.
  • Bean bakes are extremely easy to make. You put all the ingredients in a food processor, mix, and then bake.
  • Bean bakes are inexpensive. Two cups of white navy beans, three eggs, one cup of fruit or vegetable, maybe one-half cup of cheese, some spices—compare the price of that with eight servings of meat.
  • Bean bakes get along with my digestive tract. In addition to diagnosing gluten-sensitivity, my doctor told me I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). While many foods/dishes can upset me—for example, a daily intake of too many flour-baked products (no matter how gluten-free). Bean bakes, on the other hand, leave the irritable beast slumbering away.
  • Bean bakes and the spouse are happy together. I consider my husband as the acid test of anything I make, particularly in this case because he’s far fussier eater than I am. My guarantee: if he likes bean bakes, other people will too.

To accommodate this new recipe and its numerous variations, I have created a new blog, The Bean Bake Blog.

And keep in mind…

1) White navy beans top the charts for fiber. For more information about these beans, check out:

2) Taste tip: Bean cakes are more flavourful the day after cooking. Also, savoury bean bakes taste best warm; sweet bean bakes taste best cold.

3) Calorie calculation: Cauliflower Bean Bake with Cheese, Dill, and Olive

Total calories:

  • Entire bean bake: 1,010
  • Per 1/8 serving: 126.25

Light Cocoa Carob Squares

These squares came about because I found myself with 2/3 cup of soured milk that I had forgotten to put in a different bread I was baking.  How did I do that?  Well, I had to give the milk time to sour so I put it to one side as I got the rest of the ingredients put together and then completely forgot about it.  When I mixed the batter, I found the dough—not surprisingly, in retrospect—terribly dry.  Needless to say, this hodge-podge didn’t turn out too well.

Then, of course, I discovered the soured milk.   I couldn’t throw it out, could I?  Nor could I ignore a certain chocolate craving that had arisen because I’d bought some carob chips earlier in the day.  It’s interesting how a craving (which knows it can be fulfilled) just keeps nudging at you, isn’t it?  At any rate, the result is a delight.  Squares that are mildly sweet and light in texture, taste, and calories. 

Cooking note: The original recipe called for ½ tsp. of unflavoured gelatin.  As this wasn’t a “jell0” style cake, I didn’t know what function the gelatin served.  Some research later: In order to avoid having a cake cracking along the top as it cools, you should “Add gelatin to the cake batter as you mix it. The gelatin works to keep the cooling cake intact and it can also add fullness to the baked cake.”  (eHow Food)

Update: I recently bought my quinoa flour at a different store than usual and discovered, when making these squares, that I had to add more liquid.  In fact, I’ve altered the recipe for 1 cup of soured milk.  Feel free to add ¼ or so of water or alternative milk if you still find your batter too dry.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. unflavoured gelatin
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or 1 soy or lactose-free milk + 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup liquid egg substitute
  • 4½ tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1½ tbsp. oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened carob chips
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. If not using buttermilk, mix alternative milk with lemon juice, let sit for about 5 minutes, and then stir.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: rice flour, quinoa flour, artificial sugar, tapioca flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, gelatin, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl mix together all liquid ingredients, buttermilk or soured milk, liquid egg substitute, applesauce, oil, and carob chips.
  4. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix until it forms a thick batter.
  5. Spray a 9″ x 9″ baking pan with cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into the pan and bake in a 350° F oven for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool and cut into 16 squares.

For Weight Watchers: Each square is worth 2 points on the Points plan and 2.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Altered from “Irish Soda Bread” by Jefferson Adams at www.celiac.com)

Quinoa Pudding #4: Mango-Banana

I bought a box of 18 mangoes because the price was…well, so compelling.  I could just hear those mangoes calling out to me.  When I arrived home, my husband groaned at the sight…yes, I’ve done this before, but this time the price was even better!  This earned me a rolling of the eyes, which I completely disregarded as we’ve been married for 45 years, and a few mangoes can’t threaten that marital bond, can they?

Okay, so what to do with all this ripening fruit?  My solution was to make several iterations of Coconut-Mango Squares and to turn to my versatile quinoa pudding recipe.  Since I also had one small, overripe banana, I decided to throw that in with some mangoes (although I’m sure you could just use mangoes).  The result: a pudding so sweet that it required no additional sweetener.  And, as with the Summertime Banana Quinoa Pudding, I served this cold—a delicious, refreshing, and filling treat for my late-afternoon snack.

When varying this recipe: The trick, I find, is to make sure that you have a total of 3½ cups of liquid between the milk and the puréed fruit.  When I combined the banana with 2 small, yellow ataulfo mangoes, I ended up with 1½ cups and, therefore, reduced the original 2½ cups of almond milk down to 2 cups.  Two other differences from the banana pudding: I altered the spices to adapt to the mango flavour and had to cook the pudding longer.  I’m not sure why: perhaps because there is more fruit and less milk?

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Quinoa Pudding #3: Summertime Banana

Sweet, cool, soothing, filling, and easy to make—this is a pudding that’s just right for hot summer days.  This dish is also a new version of a versatile favourite. (Earlier warm pudding versions used dried cranberries and puréed pumpkin or squash.)

I keep finding myself coming back to this pudding recipe whenever a possible ingredient makes itself  known: in this case, aging bananas crying out to be puréed.   But bananas are calorie-expensive, my rational mind argued.  But they’d be delicious in this pudding, my stomach-inclined mind replied.  Think of something! 

That something was to tweak the original recipe by using liquid egg substitute instead of whole eggs and almond milk instead of soy milk.  That didn’t make a significant change in taste but it did lower the Weight Watcher points and, hence, calories.  My stomach-inclined mind immediately thought of adding chocolate or coconut, but I ignored it as best I could!

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 9-10 ½-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa seeds
  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
  • ¼ cup artificial sugar, to taste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg 
  • 1 cup puréed bananas

Instructions

  1. Rinse quinoa seeds if the manufacturer has not indicated that this has been done.
  2. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Add quinoa and bring to boil again.
  4. Lower heat to simmer.
  5. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.  The quinoa should have absorbed all the water, and you should have approximately 2 cups. 
  6. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk.
  7. Stir in milk, vanilla, salt, spices, and puréed banana.
  8. Test for sweetness and add artificial sugar if necessary. 
  9. Add cooked quinoa to liquid ingredients.
  10. Bake in 325 degree oven for 55 minutes. The quinoa will not be set yet.
  11. Let stand for 15 minutes for liquid to absorbed.
  12. Chill in refrigerator

For Weight Watchers: 2 points per ½-cup serving on both the Points plan and PointsPlus plan.

Coconut Mango Bread or Squares

Do you love coconut?  And sweet, moist, rich squares?  And goodies you can eat without destroying your diet?  Voilà!  These squares fit the bill perfectly.

I’ve made this recipe both as a bread and squares but, following my desire for small portions, I think I’ll keep to squares.  I know, I know…I could cut a bread slice in half and get the same caloric intake, but not the same mental satisfaction.  The other half of the bread slice would sit there, just begging to be consumed.  A square, on the other hand, is an entity unto itself, happily eaten as a stand-alone.  (Such are the mental gymnastics of the dieter.)

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 bread slices or 16 squares

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour/starch
  • ¼ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup sweetener (Note: Weight Watcher point values are based on the use of artificial sugar.)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut, sweetened
  • 1 cup puréed mango (approximately 1 large or 2 small)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2½ tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flours, sugar, spices, xanthan gum, and salt.
  2. Add coconut to dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together wet ingredients: mango, egg, vanilla, applesauce, and oil.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing after each addition. (Final batter will be thick but will pour well.  I found this batter to be more liquid than many others that I make with gluten-free flours.)
  5. Spray 9″ x 9″ baking pan or 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray.
  6. Pour in batter and bake in 350º F oven, 25-30 minutes for squares or 55-60 minutes for bread, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers:

  • Squares: 1 square of 16 squares is 1.5 points on the Points plan and 1.75 points on the PointsPlus plan.
  • Bread: 1 slice of 8 slices is 3 points on the Points plan and 3.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Altered from “Mango Coconut Bread” at http://www.briarrosebb.com/r/mango-coconut-bread.html)

Quinoa-Sorghum Carrot Bread

This fragrant, light, and moist quick bread is not only delicious, its success is an inspiration for me to continue experimenting with alternative flours.  

The original recipe called for ¾ cup each of white flour and whole wheat flours.  Recently, after some searching, I managed to find sorghum flour and decided to try it in a blend with white rice and quinoa flours.  The result is a bread with a lovely, cake-like texture.  (If you can’t find sorghum flour, you can substitute white rice flour or brown rice flour.  I suspect either of these will alter texture and taste slightly; however, it would not change the Weight Watcher point count per slice.)

Another benefit of sorghum flour: For gluten-sensitive dieters, it is, like quinoa flour, a low-calorie alternative to the basic white and brown rice flours. (Check out its Weight Watcher point value. )

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Cooking tip: This recipe is like the others I’ve made using alternative flours.  The original recipes don’t add enough moisture, and I ended up with a thick ball of dough.  To arrive at a thick batter, I needed ¾ cup soy milk.

Makes 8 slices

Ingredients

  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup artificial sweetener
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. olive or canola oil
  • ¾ cup goat or sheep yogurt
  • ¾ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, as needed (see tip above)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup carrot, grated
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients: 3 flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, nutmeg, salt.
  2. In large bowl, beat egg until well mixed.
  3. Add oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and carrots.
  4. Gradually add flour, mixing as you go.
  5. Add milk, if necessary. (Dough should be thick but not in a ball.)
  6. Spray a 9″ x 5″ bread pan with cooking spray, and scrape in dough, levelling the surface.
  7. Bake in 350° F oven for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: each slice is 3.5 points in the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Cinnamon Carrot Bread” in Lighthearted at Home: The Very Best of Anne Lindsay by Anne Lindsay)

Zucchini Cinnamon Bread

(Update April 2012: I have refashioned this recipe to lower the calorie-count and changed it from a bread to Zucchini Cinnamon Squares.)

This bread is dense, rich, moist, and fragrant with cinnamon and other spices.

It’s healthy for you too, covering all the food groups: grain (rice flour), vegetables/fruit (zucchini and applesauce), protein (quinoa flour), and oils (olive oil).

The quinoa flour has another benefit for dieters: it’s “cheaper” than rice flour in terms of calories and Weight Watcher points than the white rice flour that was called for in the original recipe.

My husband, who has a stomach of iron, can eat anything, and doesn’t need to lose weight, used to stay away from my gluten-free, diet experiments.  Not any more.  Now the sounds and smells of bread coming out of the oven has him wandering down to the kitchen just in time for a sample before I take the photographs. 🙂

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup artificial sugar
  • ½ tsp. xanthum gum
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ginger
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, if needed
  • 2 cups green zucchini, shredded (about 2 small zucchini)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: brown rice flour, quinoa flour, tapioca flour, just ½ cup of artificial sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs.
  3. Add applesauce, oil, and vanilla to the eggs.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients to the liquid ones.  If batter gets too thick, add milk.
  5. Taste batter.  If it needs more sweetening, add the remaining ¼ of artificial sugar. (The original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, but I was conservative here.  I like this bread at ½ cup of artificial sugar, but you could add more sweetener if you think the bread needs it.)
  6. Spray 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray.
  7. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  8. Bake in 350º F oven for 75 – 85 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: Each one of 8 slices is worth 4 points on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.  Points include soy milk.

(Adapted from “Zucchini-Spice Bread” in Gluten-Free Every Day Cookbook by Robert M. Landolphi)

Tasty Turnip Fries

Quantity here is 2 lbs. of turnip

Quantity here is 2 lbs. of turnip

These turnip fries look so much like french fries that my daughter, forgetting they were made of turnip, once told her daughter, age 11, to stop eating up the whole bowl.  To which my other daughter said, “Do you want her to stop eating her vegetables?”

Yep, despite being made from the humble turnip, these fries are surprisingly tasty and satisfying.  They are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The exterior can be as spicy and salty as you like while interior flavour is mild.  Best of all, they are healthy for you and make a terrific snack for dieters.

Taste tip: You will likely want to adjust the spices and salt to suit your palate.  I’ve followed my philosophy of little or no salt and let the individual salt his or her portion.  However, if you want more salt, you could replace the onion and garlic powders with onion and garlic salts.  With regard to spices: I haven’t tried this personally, but you could also use curry or chili powder instead of paprika to give the fries colour and add a different flavour.  And, you could also increase the amount of cheese, but that will increase the Weight Watcher points.

Printer-friendly recipe

Recipe is based on 1 medium turnip of approximately 1 lb.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium turnip (1 lb.), cut into french-fry strips
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Put turnip strips into a large bowl and toss with oil to coat.
  2. If you have a shaker: fill with cheese, spices, and salt.  Shake over oiled strips and toss so that strips are evenly coated.
  3. If you don’t have a shaker: put cheese, spices, and salt into a plastic bag.  Shake to mix.  Add oiled turnip strips and shake until evenly coated.
  4. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Spread strips out onto the baking sheet.
  6. Bake in 425º F oven until outside is crispy and inside is tender when a fork is inserted, about 20-25 minutes.  Steam will pour out of the strips near the end; don’t worry; you’re not setting them on fire.
  7. Good hot and cool.

For Weight Watchers: 2 points for per 1 lb. turnip on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

(Adapted from “Crispy Turnip ‘Fries'” by IM COOKIN on allrecipes.com)