Grape/Cherry Tomato Salad with Soy Sauce Dressing

Tomatoes star in this salad.

Tomatoes star in this salad.

Here’s a scrumptious salad with an unusual (to me), delicious, and easy-to-make dressing.

The credit for this recipe  goes to Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything: his idea, his dressing. My only contribution was to expand the recipe ingredients. I added six sprigs of cooked asparagus because I had them. And I would have added a few green onions if I had them.

The point is that, unlike regular salads in which tomatoes are bit players, this salad makes them the stars. And, as Bittman says, you can get these tomatoes fresh all winter so when you get a craving for something not canned and have a little extra $$ in your pocket…well, you get the idea.

Kimlan's multi-grain soy sauce

Kimlan’s multi-grain soy sauce

Oh, and by the way, if you can tolerate a small amount of gluten soy sauce as I can, you might consider trying other brands beside those in your grocery store.

Our Asian market carries about 20 different varieties, and they don’t all taste the same. One I particularly like is Multi-Grain Soy Sauce, and it has a more mellow flavour than regular soy sauce.

P.S. Sorry for the photo; I took it on a dark day.

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No-Peel Kabocha Squash “Fries”

2012 is my year for making new vegetable friends. I’ve overcome my fear of strange root vegetables with odd or ugly outsides—for example, celeriac and yucca—which have all turned out to have mild and even sweet-tasting insides. And I plan to get to know chard and kale a lot better.

For this recipe, I ventured outside my squash “comfort zone”—butternut, acorn, pumpkin—and bought a round, yellow-and-green striped gourd called a kabocha. I put it on a kitchen counter, and there it sat for a long time. Occasionally we would stare at each other.

The kabocha seemed quite happy while I dithered. It’s interesting that trying out a new food is a lot like being compelled to learn a new software product. Denial is high, but resistance is futile.

And thank goodness for that because these fries are delicious—both peel and flesh. They are sweet and slightly salty with a flavour somewhere between butternut and pumpkin. And they’re versatile: good hot and cold; good as a snack or side dish.

Enjoy!

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Avocado-Tomato Salsa

Avocados have been on sale.  If you’re like me and love avocados, three things then happen.  You can’t resist a sale; you buy more avocados than you should; they all ripen at the same time.  That’s avocado problem number one.

Avocado problem number two has to do with losing weight.  Avocados are incredibly nutritious (check it out at California Avocado Commission), but they are also extremely high in calories for a vegetable.  In fact, the Weight Watcher program, which allows its adherents to eat 99.9% of vegetables for free, has singled out the avocado for its high level of fats.  Good fats, of course, but fats nonetheless. 

An avocado is 8 points on the Points plan and 12 points on the PointsPlus plan.  That is, respectively, the same as eating 8 or 12 apples!

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Orange Marmalade Baked Tofu

Do you suffer from the “no cheese” blues?  If you’re dieting and lactose-intolerant, I’m sure you know what I mean.  Cheese is a high calorie food, and non-cow cheeses are high in cost.  Other people can grab some ordinary cheese for a snack while you and I just sigh with longing.

To counter these blues, you might consider baked tofu.  When you let the tofu bask in a tangy marinade before baking, you end up with a tasty, cheap, low-calorie, and easy-to-make protein alternative that you can grab as a snack or chop up and add to a salad.

Note: I also recently packed up some of this bake for an airplane trip to Florida.  Our plane from Ottawa was late to Newark, and we didn’t get a chance to have dinner.  We arrived in Florida at midnight and, thanks to tofu along with some fruit and pistachio nuts, we didn’t starve!

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Quinoa Vegetable Stir Fry

In this dish, you get the crunch and snap of lightly steamed asparagus, zucchini, and carrot plus the nutty flavour of quinoa—all subtly highlighted by ginger and soy sauce.  

This stir fry is a great way to use leftover quinoa and to take advantage of whatever vegetables happen to be seasonal and cheap at the moment.  This version was inspired by specials on yellow and green zucchini as well as cheaper, spring asparagus.

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Makes 8 1-cup servings

 Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1½ tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 bunch scallions/green onions, sliced
  • 2 yellow zucchini, sliced
  • 2 green zucchini, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and spears cut into 1-2 inch lengths
  • 1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
  • 1½ cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp. gluten-free soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

This recipe requires a skillet or wok with a lid.

Directions  

  1. Using a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, cook chicken broth powder-water mixture until bubbling hot
  2. Stir in garlic, ginger, and scallions and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add zucchini, asparagus, and carrot.
  4. Turn heat to medium and cook covered for 12 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until carrots are tender.  The zucchini gives of liquid as it cooks so you shouldn’t have to add water but, if your pot dries, add ¼ cup of water.
  5. Stir in cooked quinoa and soy sauce.
  6. Remove from heat when ingredients are uniformly hot.
  7. Add salt if necessary.

For Weight Watchers: 1 point per 1-cup serving on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

Note: the chicken broth powder is not included in the nutritional information as it is not on the database that I am using.  It contains no sodium or MSG.

  •  Calories 135 (8 from fat)
  • Fat 1 g
  • Carbohydrate 28 g
  • Fiber 11 g
  • Protein 11 g
  • Sodium 1020 mg

This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol.  It is also a good source of protein, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), niacin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A,  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin Bb6, folate, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese.

“Free Spirit” Fried Rice

"Free Spirit" Fried Rice with Asparagus and More Carrots

Tasty, nourishing, and filling—this rice and vegetable dish is for “free spirits” who like to experiment.

You'll like us in your stir fry!

You'll like us in your stir fry!

It can be expanded indefinitely with other fresh vegetables (I’ve provided a list of those I’ve used below) as well as firm tofu (cubed), or cooked shrimp, chicken, or turkey if you want a main meal.  In the picture above, I added leftover Sesame Asparagus with Carrots to the basic recipe.

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Cooking tips:

  • This dish cooks quickly so you should have all your ingredients prepared and measured beforehand.
  • If you add additional vegetables, you may have to increase the amount of soy sauce if your pan gets too dry.

Makes 4 servings of 1 cup each

Basic Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of two eggs)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup scallions, sliced
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup low-sodium or other no-wheat soy sauce
Other Vegetables You Can Add
  • ½ pound daikon, chopped
  • 2 cups bok choy (any type), shredded
  • 2 cups napa, Chinese, or regular cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch asparagus

Directions

  1. Spray large non-stick fry pan with cooking spray.
  2. Warm pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add liquid egg substitute, tilting pan so that the liquid covers the bottom.
  4. Scramble the eggs and then break them into pieces (2-3 minutes).
  5. Remove eggs onto a plate and set them aside.
  6. Take pan off heat and spray again with cooking spray.
  7. Put back on medium-high heat.
  8. Add carrots and scallions (tofu and other fresh vegetables should also be added at this time).
  9. Cook until crisp-tender (2-3 minutes).
  10. Stir in rice, peas, and soy sauce.
  11. Cook until heated through, stirring once or twice (1-2 minutes).
  12. Stir in egg (and any cooked meat or shellfish).

For Weight Watchers: The basic recipe yields 4 servings of 1 cup each.

  • Points plan: The total count is 15 so each cup is worth approximately 4 points.
  • PointsPlus plan: The total count is 18.5 so each cup is worth approximately 4.5 points.

Notes:

  1. If you add more vegetables, you will add quantity but no other points.  Therefore, you’ll be lowering your point count per cup.
  2. If you add tofu, meat, or shellfish, you will have to add on its value to each serving.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

  • Calories 200 (13.5 from fat)
  • Protein 10 grams
  • Fat 2 grams
  • Carbohydrate 42 grams
  • Fibre 3 grams
  • Cholesterol .3 mg
  • Sodium 1106.5 mg

(Adapted from “Easy Fried Rice” in the 2010 Weight Watchers Points Plus Getting Started booklet.)

Chicken Dumpling Soup, Japanese-Style

This dish makes a tasty and filling soup for a lunch, or it can be expanded into a rich dinner meal if you serve it over rice or noodles.  In the picture of the soup below, the mushrooms are enoki, and the bowl includes a small amount of rice vermicilli.

Tasty and filling chicken dumpling soup

Tasty and filling chicken dumpling soup

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This dish cooks very quickly so you should prepare the three separate elements of the soup in advance:

  1. The broth
  2. The dumplings
  3. The vegetables

Creating the Broth

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup soy sauce made without wheat
  • 1 ½ tbsp. sherry, mirin, or sake

Mix together stock, soy sauce, and sherry, mirin, or sake into large pot. 

Preparing the chicken dumplings

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, either ground or skinned, boned, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. miso (for helpful information about this ingredient, click here)
  • ¼ cup liquid egg substitute
  • ¼ chopped scallions

Place chicken, ginger, miso, egg substitute, and scallions in a food processor bowl.  Mix until the mixture becomes a coarse paste.  Form dumplings by gently rolling chicken mixture in cupped hands to create 20-24 dumplings, approximately 1” in diameter.

 Chopping the vegetables

  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced at an angle
  • ½ lb. daikon, cut into sticks approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 cups mushroom, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup bok choy, sliced

Cooking Directions 

  1. Bring broth to a boil and then reduce to a lively simmer.
  2. Drop 6-8 dumplings (depends on size of your pot) into the simmering broth. 
  3. When dumplings pop up to the surface they are cooked (approximately 3 minutes). 
  4. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  5. Continue dropping, cooking, and removing dumplings until you have used up all of the meat mixture. 
  6. Leave dumplings on the plate.
  7. Add vegetables to broth and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Return chicken dumplings to broth.

For Weight Watchers: Points depend on how many dumplings you make and eat. Here’s the best way to calculate your points.

  • Each ounce of chicken is worth 1 point. 
  • 1 lb. of chicken is 16 points. 
  • If you make 24 dumplings, each dumpling is worth roughly .75 points. # 
  • If you eat 6 dumplings for a serving, then that serving is worth 4.5 points in both the Points plan and the PointsPlus plan.
  • Remember to count in the rice or noodles if you include either of them.

#Why “roughly?” Because the actual point count is .666 which is difficult to work with when adding up points for the day.  I’ve rounded each dumpling up to .75 points to make for easier counting and also to cover the points in the egg substitute, miso, and sherry which are spread throughout the dish. 

(Adapted from “Sumo Wrestler Hot Pot” in Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat and “Japanese Chicken Soup” in Ontario Chicken: Food for Living by Chicken Farmers of Ontario.)

 

Simply Stir Fry

A stir fry is a really easy and delicious way to fill up with vegetables.  You can eat the dish as is or, if you want to add carbs, you can serve it over rice or noodles.

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Count Me In!

Count Me In!

Tips to superb stir frying:

  1. Use fresh ingredients.  Unlike soup where you can get away with vegetables that have seen better days, a stir fry  requires vegetables at their best.
  2. Peel, core, chop, dice, and slice all vegetables in advance.  This dish cooks so quickly that you won’t have time to prepare them as you go.
  3. Use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth/bouillon rather than oil.  
  4. Start with the vegetables that will take the longest to cook (onions, cabbage, green zucchini) and end with those that hardly need cooking (bean sprouts). 
  5. Be creative.  The wonderful thing about a stir fry is that you can use any vegetables that you want. 

 Ingredients

  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 yellow onion, diced, or 1 bunch of green onions, sliced (or both if you love onions!)
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ head cabbage, diced  (I prefer napa cabbage but any cabbage is fine)
  • 2 green zucchini, cut in half length-wise and sliced
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups bok choy, chopped
  • ½ lb. firm tofu cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 2-3 cups bean sprouts

Sautéeing Tip: Many recipes call for onions, garlic and other spices to be sautéed in oil to release their flavours.  I mix 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup of water as a replacement for oil.  This mixture will thickens as the onion and garlic cook. 

 Directions

  1. Put ½ cup chicken broth (see tip above) in a wok or large fry pan (that has a cover) over medium to high heat.
  2. When broth is bubbling, add onion or green onions, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Sauté until onion is soft (add a little more broth if onion starts to stick).
  4. Add soy sauce, cabbage, zucchini, mushroom, and bok choy.
  5. Mix and cover for 1 minute, then mix and cover again (this allows the vegetables to cook by steaming)
  6. Continue until vegetables are soft.
  7. Add tofu, if desired, and mix well.
  8. Add bean sprouts as a top layer.
  9. Cover and cook for approximately 2 minutes.  Sprouts should be hot but crunchy.
  10. Serve with a slotted spoon (you may have more liquid than you need).
  11. Salt your serving to taste or add more soy sauce.
  12. Enjoy!

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan, unless you add tofu.  If you do, calculate the total tofu points and divide by number of cups of stir fry you have made.