Sweet and Spicy Roasted Carrots

IMGP1894I admit it: I’m recycling. If you follow this blog, you know I write about roasted root vegetables ad nauseum* because I consider them a dieter’s best friends.

Then, to add insult to injury, I am also recycling a spice mix from Spiced Sweet Potato Round and (A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven.

It happened this way: I was staring at a 3 lb. bag of carrots and asked myself, “If that spice mix is so great with sweet potatoes and squash, why wouldn’t it be equally great with carrots?” Yes, such are the profound, metaphysical questions that mark my days.

And, happily, the universe went along because the answer was a resounding “Yes,” not only from the spouse, but also from two grandchildren (aged 13 and 14) who gave it a definitive thumbs up.

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Thanksgiving: A Dieter’s Suggestions

Arghhh…Thanksgiving, the dinner that just keeps on giving—weight-wise that is. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie…and the list goes on.

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving and, as our Weight Watcher leader brought us through techniques for diet-managing the bounty of food, I began to think about my own strategies.

In our house, the spouse handles most of Thanksgiving. That is, he makes the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy and is not—repeat, is not—open to diet suggestions. Daughters bring salads and desserts.

I’ll have roast vegetables, probably Brussel sprouts, to ensure there’s lots for me to eat. But here are some other dishes I’ll make to keep my Thanksgiving calories down.

Dieter’s Spiced Cranberry Relish

Dieter’s Spiced Cranberry Relish: Love cranberry sauce? Don’t waste your valuable points on the canned stuff. This relish, made with cranberries, oranges, spices, and artificial sweetener, is easy to make, delicious, and 0 points!

Sweet Potato Bean Bake with Currants

Sweet Potato Bean Bake with Currants: If you can, try to avoid the white mashed potatoes and gravy; it’s just one big point-fest. This dish, on the other hand, provides protein, carbs, and great taste for only 3 points per serving. (Think 1/8 of a pie–see photo for Crustless Pumpkin Pie.) BTW, this is my favourite bean bake, and I often have a pan of it in my fridge. Bean bakes will keep for 4-5 days when refrigerated.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Crustless Pumpkin Pie: At the WW meeting, the leader passed around a recipe for a “crustless pumpkin pie.” My hopes lifted but then dashed. The recipe called for evaporated milk, and I don’t know how to replicate that with soy or another alternative milk. So…what will I substitute? Pumpkin “Pie” Bean Bake, that’s what! It looks like pumpkin pie, tastes like pumpkin pie, and is creamy like pumpkin pie. And even better? WW value: 2 points per serving unless you add coffee liqueur (optional).

Curried Cauliflower-Sweet Potato Puree with Quinoa

HURRAY!

IT’S CAULIFLOWER SEASON!

But here’s the problem with this wonderful and versatile vegetable: the heads are big and awkward, and they takes up too much room in my fridge. So when I’ve gone a little overboard (bought 2-3 heads because they’re cheap as all get out), my instinct is to cook immediately and purée.

This dish occurred because, in addition to cauliflower, I already had half-a-microwaved sweet potato and cooked quinoa on hand.  Why not throw them all together, add some onion and Indian spices, and see what happens?

The result? A new and interesting taste for me and the spouse: spicy in a curry-ish way with a slightly onion-y crunch and an undercurrent of sweetness. We ate it last night with chicken sausages and…yum!

Now, you might find this dish too bland because I am always catering to my sensitive stomach. Therefore, I suggest you mix all the main ingredients together and then spice to taste. You could also play around with the amounts of cauliflower, sweet potato, and quinoa, depending on what you have.

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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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Yucca vs. Yuca + Yuca vs. Potatoes

Does the title of this post make you feel slightly dizzy? Me too. That’s why I felt compelled to put fingers to keyboard.

Without realizing it, I have been using the words “yucca” and “yuca” interchangeably when, in fact, they refer to two completely different plants.

And I’m not the only one. A Google search of “yucca preparation” yielded 554,000 results, although the web sites were really trying to demonstrate the preparation of “yuca.”

And, to add insult to injury, I’ve been pronouncing the two words exactly the same: “yuck” and “a.” However, this is only correct for “yucca,” not for “yuca” which sounds like the beginning of Yucatan.

Moreover, I realized I knew nothing about the root vegetable I’ve started using as part of my “Get Acquainted with Vegetables” year.

So, in honour of living and learning…

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Sweet Potato-Tofu Bake

Okay, okay, I agree. This dish looks exactly like several others I’ve posted lately—that is, the bean bakes.

But don’t judge a bake by its colour. This dish has nothing to do with beans although its flavour is reminiscent of Pumpkin “Pie” Bean Bake.

The spouse, who professes not to like sweet potatoes very much, has been making this dish on a regular basis for years. We get it on Thanksgiving for sure, sometimes for Christmas dinner, and other times during the year such as yesterday when, for reasons unknownst to me, he gets inspired. (But it’s these unpredictable quirks that keep a 46-year marriage going, don’t you think?)

This bake tastes great, has terrific nutritional value, is a cinch to make, and is good both hot and cold. (Note: the recipe has been doubled in the photo.)

So…from my kitchen to yours…

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Cuban Crazy Quilt Pork Stew

You are likely to think I’m not quite in my right mind to be making a stew using winter vegetables in the summer.  But, honestly, there’s a method to my madness.  Some of you may recall my post about cooking for stays on our boat.  We have a barbecue on the stern rail where the captain can grill meats and vegetables, but I also prepare food in advance so that we can have variety and I don’t have to toil in the miniscule galley.

FYI: My husband is the captain, and I am first mate and cook.  When we’re on the boat, we share about 300 square feet of living space.  How does this work maritally?  Well, he has a shirt that says “Captain,” and I have a shirt that says “Don’t Yell at Me!”  Generally, the atmosphere is very pleasant although there have been moments…but back to the stew.

So, as you can see, it isn’t so crazy to make a tasty, filling, healthy, and crazy-quilt colourful pork stew whose leftovers can be frozen and then eaten when floating at anchor.  This recipe takes some chopping but it’s worth it!

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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.)