“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.!

Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

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.”

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!

Printer-friendly recipe

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.

Crustless Strawberry/Raspberry Lime Chia Pie

Hot summer days just beg for cold, refreshing desserts that are both sweet and tart at the same time.  This pie not only delivers on taste, it’s also lovely, light, and very low-cal.  Oh, and it’s also a little crunchy, thanks to the chia seeds. 

I’ve made this pie with strawberries; then I made it with raspberries (in the photo).  I’m sure you could even mix them for a third delicious flavour!  And now that I think about it: what about blueberries…?

Many, many thanks to Susan at the Sugar & Spice blog for providing the inspiration for this pie with her delicious Strawberry Lime Chia Pudding.

Printer-friendly recipe

Servings: Divvy it up any way you want!

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg. gelatin (1 tbsp.)
  • ¼ tepid water + ¼ boiling water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cups strawberries or raspberries
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk
  • ¼-½ cup erythritol sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. almond extract

Directions:

  1. Prepare the gelatin by pouring the powder over the tepid water, adding the boiling water, and then mixing until completely dissolved.
  2. Prepare lime by juicing it.
  3. Put gelatin, lime, ¼ cup erythritol, and all other ingredients into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
  4. Taste for sweetness and add remaining ¼ cup erythritol if necessary.
  5. Pour into an 8″ or 9″ pie plate.
  6. Refrigerate until set—about 4 hours.

For Weight Watchers: The total pie is worth:

  • With soy milk (80 calories/cup): 4 points on the Points plan and 3.5 points on the PointsPlus plan. 
  • With almond milk (60 calories/cup): 3.5 points on the Points plan and 3 points on the PointsPlus plan. 

Crustless Chicken/Turkey Quiche

My husband and I have a small cabin cruiser, called the Outrageous, which we use as a moveable cottage in the lakes near Ottawa.  We’ve been boating for 20 years and love to anchor or tie up somewhere and enjoy the sun, nature, wildlife, and living without a computer for a few days.

So, you’re asking, what does this have to do with refashioning food? 

Well, to make a long story short, the boat’s galley (kitchen) is the size and shape of a shower stall.  (In the photo, the 2nd porthole in the bow of the boat is the galley’s window.) In it is a scaled-down refrigerator, a microwave, and a cooktop with three burners, except that I can only use one burner at a time because our inboard generator can’t handle more.  Not surprisingly, I prepare as much food as I can at home beforehand, such as washing salad greens, making a quick bread, steaming broccoli, mixing up a batch of spaghetti sauce, and so on.

After a recent trip for which I had roasted a plump chicken, we came home with leftovers.  Needless to say, the allure of chicken had worn quite thin so I decided on a gustatorial disguise—a crustless quiche made with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and sheep romano cheese. Voilà!  The rich, dark taste of the vegetables and the sharpness of the cheese completely overpowered the white and dark chicken meat hidden within.  Oh, and it was delicious too!

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 8 oz. cooked chicken or turkey
    • 1 bunch Swiss chard or spinach (I used Swiss chard and had 8 cups worth)
    • 1 cup water
    • ½ cup of chicken broth or 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder + ½ cup water
    • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms, any type
    • Spices of your choice (I used 2 tsp. of chopped fresh sage)
    • 1 cup liquid egg substitute (approx. 4 regular eggs)
    • ½ cup sheep romano cheese, grated
    • ¼ – ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, if necessary
    • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Chop cooked chicken into small pieces and put in a large bowl.
  2. Prepare chard by soaking in cold water to clean and removing hard stems.  Drain and then cut in two steps: first lengthwise (creating ribbons); then crosswise, chopping coarsely.
  3. Put chard in a saucepan, add 1 cup of water, and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat until leaves are wilted.  Drain and press out additional water.
  4. In a non-stick frying pan, heat chicken broth until bubbling.  
  5. Sauté garlic, onions, mushrooms, and spices in broth until soft.
  6. In the bowl containing the chicken, add all other ingredients: drained chard, sautéd onion and mushroom mixture, egg substitute, and cheese.  (If your mixture seems too thick, you can add ½ cup of milk.)
  7. Spray 10″ x 10″ pan and pour mixture into it. (I wasn’t sure I could fit the mixture into a 10″ pie plate.)
  8. Bake in 350°F oven and cook for 40-45 minutes or until dish is set and edges are brown.

For Weight Watchers: One serving is 4 points on the Points plan and PointsPlus plans.  Note: If you want to add milk, the addition will not significantly affect the point count.

(Adapted from “Swiss Chard and Mushroom Squares” at Kalyn’s Kitchen blog.  Thank you, Kalyn!)

Potato-Crust Quiche, with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Quiche—that heavenly blend of crust, eggs, milk, and whatever filling—has been off my radar for years because of my lactose-intolerance.  I would go out with friends and watch with envy as they ordered the quiche and salad special for lunch.  Sigh (many times over). 

But now, no more self-pity, thank you very much!  Thanks to a helpful post from Shirley at Gluten-Free Easily on how to build a quiche, I began to re-consider my quiche options: potato instead of flour crust, soy milk instead of regular milk, liquid egg substitute instead of regular eggs, lower-calorie romano cheese instead of higher calorie other cheeses, and lots of vegetables. 

My most successful experiment, thus far, has been quiche with broccoli, mushroom, and onion, and this is what I am posting today.  In this quiche, I follow Shirley’s lead by using grated potato for the crust.  However, you could also use use mashed potatoes or potato slices.  If you do, please do some Internet research on how those crusts are prepared and cooked.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

    • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled
    • 1 bunch broccoli florets
    • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder plus ½ cup water
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms, any type (in the quiche in the photo above, I used enoki mushrooms)
    • ¾ cup liquid egg substitute (approx. 3 regular eggs)
    • 1 cup sheep romano cheese, grated
    • ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk
    • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Grate potatoes (you should have approximately 2 cups).
  2. Spray 9″ or 10″ pie plate with cooking spray.
  3. Using your fingers, spread the grated potatoes around the pie plate and as far up the sides as possible.
  4. Spray completed crust with cooking spray.
  5. Bake crust in pre-heated 425° F oven for 15-20 minutes until crust is brown and crusty around the edges. 
  6. While crust is in the oven, make the filling.
  7. Steam broccoli until soft (about 10 minutes) and then chop florets into small pieces.  You should have about 1 cup of florets.
  8. In small frying pan, heat chicken broth-water mixture until bubbling.  
  9. Sauté onions and mushrooms in broth-water mixture until soft.
  10. In a large bowl, mix together egg substitute, ½ cup of the cheese, milk, broccoli, onions, and mushroom. (If your mixture seems too thick, you can add another ¼ cup of egg substitute or milk.)
  11. Pour into cooked potato crust.
  12. Top with remaining ½ cup of cheese.
  13. Bake in 425° F oven for 10 minutesLower heat to 350° and cook for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: One serving (1 of 8 pie slices) is 2.5 points on the Points plan and 3 points on the PointsPlus plan.  Note: If you want to add ¼ cup more egg substitute or milk, the addition will not significantly affect the point count.

Quinoa-Flax Sweet Potato Squares

Okay, I admit it—I’m having a lot of fun trying out non-gluten flours and meals made from seeds and nuts, primarily because I’ve given up worrying about failure. 

My parents grew up during the 1930s Depression and taught me that food should never, ever, be thrown out under any circumstances. “Think of all the starving children in the world,” my mother used to say.  I wasn’t sure that even a starving child would want to eat horrible canned spinach, but I managed to pick up a lot of food guilt from such admonitions.  And the trouble with recipe experimentation is that failure means stuff ends up in the garbage.  Guilty!

Well, I’ve stepped away from the guilt.  Yes, I have.  It’s still there, but it’s a shadow of its former self.   In fact, one of these days, I’m going to tell you about my first attempt at a gluten-free yeast bread.  Promise.

Today, however, I’m reporting on a success: tasty, moist, rich, dense, and very filling squares.  I made 12 squares because I was serving them as part of a lunch for a meeting.  Otherwise I would have made 16 to keep the portions small.  

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 12 (or 16) squares

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup flaxseed meal (not flax seeds)
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 2 tbsp. tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. canola or olive oil
  • 1 – 1½ cup unsweetened soy milk or other alternative milk, as needed
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: rice flour, flaxseed meal, quinoa flour, potato starch, artificial sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sweet potato puree, applesauce, oil, and 1 cup of the milk until smooth.
  3. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  4. If batter begins to form a ball, add in additional milk, as needed. (I needed the full 1½ cups.) Batter will be thick.  
  5. Spray 9″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.
  6. Scrape in batter, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  7. Bake in 400° F oven for 30 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers:

  • 12 squares: Each square is 4 points on the Points plan and 6 points on the PointsPlus plan.
  • 16 squares: Each square is 3 points on the Points plan and 4 points on the PointsPlus plan. (Why not 5? Beats me.)

Nutritional Information for 12 and 16 squares:

12 squares

  • Calories 221 (70 from fat)
  • Fat 8 g
  • Carbohydrate 29 g
  • Fiber 4 g
  • Protein 9 g
  • Cholesterol 171 mg
  • Sodium 351 mg

16 squares

  • Calories 161 (47 from fat)
  • Fat 5 g
  • Carbohydrate 22 g
  • Fiber 3 g
  • Protein 7 g
  • Cholesterol 128 mg
  • Sodium 263 mg

(Adapted from “Sweet Potato Flax Muffins” by The Dusty Baker.)

When is a Biscuit a Square?

Biscuit Squares with Watercress

It’s so exciting being at the leading edge of cuisine, especially when it happens because you’re in the midst of a culinary disaster.  The chain of events went as follows: A reader had asked me to find a recipe for biscuits—a request which I had filed away in my memory banks.  Then I bought watercress on sale.  Then I looked through cookbooks for watercress recipes.  The New York Times Cookbook obliged with a recipe for watercress biscuits.  “What an odd but good idea!” I thought, because it fit in with my desire to add nutritious vegetables wherever I can. 

Then I found a biscuit recipe in Bette Hagman’s The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods, which I particularly liked because it didn’t use a lot of shortening.  However, the recipe wasn’t for the lactose-intolerant because it included buttermilk.  I had read in Living Without magazine that I could substitute 1 cup of soy milk mixed with 1 tbsp. lemon juice for 1 cup of buttermilk.  Problem solved.  Except that I couldn’t use the Featherlight Rice Flour Mix called for in the recipe, because I didn’t have any potato flour on hand.  I decided to use the Gluten-Free Mix instead.  Problem solved. 

Then I went into cooking mode.  Measure, add, mix…measure, add, mix.  “Hmmm, a little moist,” I thought.  Clearly, I think in understatements.  When I tried to roll out the dough, the disaster revealed itself.  Way, way too moist.  Was it doomed because the soured soy milk wasn’t as thick as buttermilk?  Or because I hadn’t used the right flour blend?  Or maybe the watercress was adding to the moistness?  Whatever the cause,  I was either going to have to add lots more flour, which could make the biscuits too heavy, or…, I know, bake the biscuits as they were squares! 

The result?  They smell like biscuits, and they taste like biscuits with a slight tang of watercress.  But, of course, but they don’t look anything like biscuits.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?  So…I give you the recipe, using the correct flour mix, with two endings: the recipe’s actual ending and my ending.  I do plan to try this again and will keep you posted!

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 servings

The Featherlight Rice Flour Mix is as follows:

  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. potato flour (not starch!) 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsweetened soy milk or other alternative milk
  • 1½ tsp. lemon juice
  • 7/8 cup Featherlight Rice Flour Mix
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sugar (I used the real thing because the amount was so small, but you can substitute artificial sugar)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. shortening
  • 1 bunch watercress, big stems removed, and processed until finely chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix soy milk and lemon juice and let sit while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour mix, xanthan gum, baking soda, sugar, and salt.
  3. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in the shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Stir in soured soy milk.
  5. Add watercress, if desired.
  6. Ending #1: If your dough forms a ball, turn it out onto a surface dusted with rice flour and pat or lightly roll to ¾” thickness.  Cut dough into 2½” rounds.  Place 1″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in 450º F oven for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Ending #2: If your dough is too moist to roll, pour into a sprayed 8″ x 8″ baking pan.  Bake in 425º F oven for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: Each serving is 3.5 points on the Points plan and 4 points on the PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from “Featherlight Biscuits” in The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Food by Bette Hagman)

Quinoa Pudding #2: With Pumpkin or Butternut Squash

Right out of the oven

Right out of the oven

I’ve been experimenting with this pudding and have discovered that it offers great versatility.  Quinoa Pudding #1 had cranberries and was delicious.  I then made the pudding with 1 cup of pumpkin purée and liked it even better.  It was filling and a sweet comfort food.  I also had to cook the pudding longer because there was more of it.

Yesterday I made it with mashed butternut squash to see what would happen.  Another success and it made the kitchen smell like butterscotch!  My husband liked the pumpkin pudding better, but I’d rate both as equal.  Also, both pumpkin and butternut quash are great foods for dieters because both are 0 points on the Weight Watchers program.

Update: I have also created a summer version with banana that is now posted.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 9-10 ½-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa seeds
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 2½ cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée or butternut squash, cooked and mashed

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 artificial sugar, milk, vanilla, salt, spices, and mashed squash.
  8. Test the flavour to ensure that it is sweet enough for you or needs more spices.
  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.

For Weight Watchers: 2 points per ½-cup serving on the Points plan and 1.5 points per ½-cup serving on the PointsPlus plan.