Navy Bean Brownies with Carob Chips (no flour, no dairy)

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How’s your Chocolate Monster? Mine is alive and well, thank you very much.

In fact, I would say that she has been on a bit of a rampage lately. I’ve made two batches of brownies in 3 days. I eat them for breakfast, snacks, and dessert.

Breakfast! you exclaim. Brownies for breakfast? 

Yup, unless you’ve got something against eggs and beans first thing in the morning. No kidding. These brownies* are not only delicious and filling, they’re good for you—high in protein, low in carbs, and low in calories.

So how can your Chocolate Monster or mine resist?

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Can Our Taste Buds Have Orgasms?

This question begins with two stories: one about cauliflower and the other about an omelette.

First story: Being the harvest season, the cauliflowers are fresh and abundant. I microwave a head and serve it without adornment for dinner. The flavour is the essence of “cauliflowerness”: light, slightly sweet, delicious. I rhapsodize about it to the spouse.

He says, “It tastes like cauliflower.”

“But,” I remonstrate with him, “the taste is delicate and lovely.”

And he replies, “It still just tastes like cauliflower.”

Second story: We’re in a restaurant and both the spouse and I order omelettes. His is a cheese omelette; mine, plain. But the waiter, by mistake, gives me the the wrong omelette. Not realizing what has happened and not really looking to check, I take a large forkful, bite down, and…

POW! An intense and incredibly pleasur-able, salty, cheese-y taste explodes in my mouth. The thrill of it suffuses through my body. I swear I can feel it in my toes.

And not only am I hit hard, I want more of it of that creamy, salty, and rich flavour. Boy, do I want more. It takes all I have to push the dish over to the spouse and say, “This is yours.”

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“Smoothie” Sailing!

Spinach Smoothie

Does the food blogosphere need yet another smoothie recipe? Probably not, but bear with me, please. There is method to my madness.

The smoothie story begins on the July 1 weekend when we were celebrating Canada Day on our boat with 3 grandchildren (all early teens) and one daughter.

We were having a grand time until a stomach flu swept through the boat in the middle of the night. I’ll spare you the grim details but it involved throwing up and fevers.

The only positive note was that I lost 5½ lbs.!

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Cookies

This post could be called “When Two Recipes Converge.” Interestingly, these two converging recipes don’t, at first glance, appear to have anything in common.

Well…they’re both sweet. I’ll give you that.

My creative moment arrived when I idly wondered what would happen if I replaced the banana in the quinoa cookies with something else to give them a different taste and texture.

What would do the trick? Grated carrot came to mind (another day’s project), but I had, on hand, a very large, already cooked sweet potato.

(The sweet potato was shaped like a pistol, which doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but I’m sharing so you get the full flavour of this creative moment.)

I had nuked the sweet potato for the bean bake but had more than I needed—about ½ a cup too much. (Basically, the handle of the pistol.) What to do? Aha! And the cookie mix, as they say, thickened.

I used the spices from the bean bake recipe and also the currents. I altered the flour from the cookie recipe to get rid of the almond meal—too high in calories to have with the currants. (Have you ever noticed that diet baking is a continuous process of taking from Peter to pay Paul?) And, as usual when you change GF flours, the liquid requirements change too. Hence more applesauce and some milk for good measure.

So, without more ado, let me introduce you to another yummy, protein-packed, low-calorie cookie.

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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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Roasted Veggies Redux or “How will I gorge on vegetables today?”

I haven’t talked about roasted vegetables recently, but that doesn’t mean they’re far from my mind. Uh-uh.

As any dieter knows, the only food we don’t have to eat in moderation is vegetables. In fact, we’re encouraged to eat those veggies the way we used to eat chips, mmm, and cookies, yum, and ice cream, delish!, and…but, ahem, I digress.

Back to vegetables. I have many new readers to the blog, and I thought it would be helpful to re-visit roasted vegetables because they provide a really good solution to that never-ending diet question:

How will I gorge on vegetables today?

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Quinoa Pudding: Basics and Variations

Mango-Banana Quinoa Pudding

The fruit season is just upon us here in Canada, and I’m looking forward to expanding my list of quinoa puddings.

These desserts are a low-cal favourite in our family. Or to put it another way: the spouse eats them faster than I can make them.

These recipes are all variations on the same theme: cooked quinoa, puréed fruit or squash, milk, eggs, spices/extracts, and sweetener. Once you know the basics, it’s easy to try new ones.

I thought it might be useful to bring my favourite recipes together in one post so you can see how they work. I’ll keep adding to the variations as I make them and, if you create one worth sharing, let me know and I’ll post it here.

For Weight Watchers: The point value depends on the milk that you use, but the recipe makes roughly 10 ½-cup servings with a point value of about 2 per serving.

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Zucchini Cinnamon Squares

Craving carbs and rummaging in the kitchen for a snack?

These squares are moist, mildly sweet, and chock-full of protein because of the bean and quinoa flours. This means that they will contribute more to filling you up than, say, rice flours.

As I noted in a recent post on low-calorie snacks, I’m going back to early recipes to lower their calorie counts, using what I’ve learned since I started this blog in February, 2011.

These squares…well, really rectangles…are adapted from my Zucchini Cinnamon Bread, and the changes reduced the Weight Watcher point count for the total product from 32 to 23, or approximately 1600 calories to 1150, based on 50 calories per point.

  • Flour/starch blend: I replaced the brown rice flour with white bean flour which has an extraordinary amount of protein and fiber per cup. The result is that it’s significantly lower in calories than white or brown rice flour. (Weight Watcher info: the point count of a cup of rice flour is 16; for the bean flour, 9!) I also added potato starch to help with texture and lift.
  • Oil: I eliminated fats altogether. (So there, Satan of Weight Gain!)
  • 12 squares instead of 8 bread slices: I want to keep my snacks at only 2 WW points (or 100 calories). Also, I find it easier to cut equal-size squares than equal-size bread slices.

I also decreased the zucchini from 2 cups to 1 cup. The original bread was sometimes too moist and broke apart too easily, partially, I believe, because the zucchini let off moisture as it cooked. Even so, you’ll need to cook the squares for as long as possible to dry out the batter. 

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For Newbies: A Day in the Gluten-Free Life

When I became a gluten-sensitive newbie a year ago, I couldn’t figure out what I’d eat on a day-by-day basis.

This hadn’t been a problem when I became lactose-intolerant because so many alternatives to cow’s milk products were in the grocery stores. Nor had it been a diet problem because my program (Weight Watchers) was not restrictive in choice, just in portion size.

But gluten-intolerance (and also a problem with oats, alas) threw me into a complete tizzy. So many of my favorite foods were out the window. What was I going to eat at breakfast? For lunch? What about when I just wanted to grab a snack?

Oh yes, I could eat potatoes, rice cakes, rice crackers, and rice/corn cereals until I was blue in the face, but eventually I overdosed. Basically, my food choices shrank to the point that they fit in a very small box. To say I was unhappy would have been a major understatement.

Fast forward a year later: I’m no longer down in the no-gluten dumps. In fact, I have a more varied and interesting diet than I’ve ever had. Why? It’s not because stores are carrying a lot more gluten-free products. I can’t eat most of them because they contain milk and/or are too high in calories.

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Blackberry Cobbler (Egg-free)

Imagine yourself in the position I was in on Monday afternoon.

I am in Farmboy, a store somewhat akin to U.S. Whole Foods, standing in front of the discount-food rack (one of my favourite shopping spots) where they put the fruits and vegetables that didn’t sell on the weekend. Items have been repackaged into larger quantities.

I spot two large containers of blackberries.  This is amazing because berries rarely make it onto this rack. Each package is $2.49 and, it later turns out, holds 4 cups of berries.

I study them closely and darned if those berries didn’t look really fresh. No furry spots, no discolouration.

What would you have done? Me…well, I can’t resist the bargain, even though I know I’m going to have to use those berries up very quickly.

One of my strategies was to slightly re-cobble my very low-cal cobbler recipe and double it from 8 to 16 pieces. We’ve been eating the cobbler since Tuesday, and these are the last two pieces. Delicious!

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