Creamy Tomato-Quinoa Soup

Remember when tomatoes tasted like tomatoes? No? Well…you may have to be of a certain age. Today, the only time tomatoes come close to tasting like the real thing is during the harvest season when field tomatoes are available.

FYI: According to a New York Times article, scientists have recently discovered “a genetic reason that diminishes a tomato’s flavor even if the fruit is picked ripe and coddled.” Briefly, producers, appealing to consumers who wanted lush red tomatoes, unwittingly bred in a mutation that reduces the sugars that contributed to the tomato taste. Sigh.

So…back in my kitchen where I’ve purchased baskets of field tomatoes whose lives will end in my soup pot.

In the early days of this blog, I posted a family favourite soup in which a small amount of peanut butter, rather than cream, was added to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes and make it okay for the lactose-intolerant. Now I’ve upgraded the original recipe by adding a dollop of cooked quinoa for some healthy protein and crunch.

This soup is creamy, rich, and delicious—hot or cold.

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Dieter’s Tomato-Tofu Sauce

Everything But the Kitchen Sink!

Everything But the Kitchen Sink!

Ubiquitous (being found everywhere) is not a word I get to use very often, although I really like the way it sounds: the tart, hard consonants b, q, t and the soft vowels.  The word reminds me of a crunchy, well-textured salad…but I digress. Ubiquitous is the perfect descriptor for tomato sauce, which is used in almost every North American kitchen.

In fact, prior to being a food refashionista, I always had jars of tomato sauce on hand. I used to make my own sauce back in the olden days when stores only stocked lousy-tasting canned sauces, but I had stopped because there was now such a good choice on the grocery shelves. Unfortunately, as we know, these choices are full of sugar, oils, and additives; healthy eating meant getting off the fast-food track and going back to basics.

So what makes this a dieter’s sauce? No meat, no oil, no sugar, no tomato paste—just tofu and loads of vegetables. And this is one of those recipes that invites variations, so have fun! 

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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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When Brussels Sprouts Sing…(Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion and Olives)

I know, I know: another roasted vegetable dish. But this one is special. Really.

As some of you may recall, I roast vegetables in a way that is “not for the faint of heart,” mixing and matching all kinds of root and non-root vegetables. These dishes solve my dieter’s problem: “How am I going to gorge myself on vegetables today?” And I usually don’t add oil so the calorie count is as low as it can go.

Recently, however, two pounds of Brussels sprouts sang a different melody to me.  They sang of being on the main stage, second to none. I could see their point. They were lovely and fresh. They didn’t want to be stuck with carrots, celery root, turnips, parsnips, and whatever else I had in the fridge.

So…what do you do when Brussels sprouts sing? Listen, of course.

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Basic Cold Summer Soups

This post comes to you via the dieter’s never-ending question, “How do I gorge on vegetables today?” And it comes with a picture of Cold Creamy Cauliflower Soup, made last summer.

In the winter, it’s fine to roast vegetables but, in the summer, you want something cool, refreshing, and delicious to drink. But you can’t guzzle down what everyone else can: beer, soda, fruit juices, mint juleps, etc. Even that old fallback, diet soda, is getting a bad rap.

Have you ever considered a cold, delicious, vegetable soup?

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Cauliflower-Turnip Vichyssoise

A true vichyssoise is a thick soup that includes potatoes and cream. Regrettably, it is outside of my dietary bounds, no matter how much I love it or try to alter it with low-cal milks.

So I was utterly delighted with this culinary experiment. The soup looks like a vichyssoise! It tastes like a vichyssoise! (Well…okay…sorta…)

The spouse even agreed the soup was good and then said suspiciously, “What’s in it?” Yes, he knows me well.

The experiment began, as many of them do, at the discounted vegetable rack where I picked up 2 heads of cauliflower and 14 turnips. (I didn’t quite expect so many in the bag, but I hadn’t counted them either.)

After I got home, I realized I had something of a turnip dilemma. Why not, I reasoned, add a couple of turnips to my Creamy Cauliflower Soup?

Why not? As it turned out, the two vegetables have a lovely, toning-down touch on each other’s flavour. The taste is a subtle, happy mix of the two, and the soup is smooth, creamy, and delicious, hot or cold.

“Turnip!” the spouse said. “I knew it!” I beg to differ.

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Braised Pork with Apple, Carrot, and Onion

Spicy, tomato-y, and yummy. I made this dish with a pork tenderloin that had been in the freezer too long, but it would also be great with pork chops. I served the meat and sauce over spaghetti squash with a side of broccoli florets.

This dish is also very easy to make but not quick to cook, because it requires braising—a cooking method that requires low heat and long, moist bakes. Out of curiosity, I googled “braise” to learn why this method makes meat so tender.

According to The Reluctant Gourmet, the braising “process breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat to collagen. Through time, the moisture and heat build and the collagen dissolves into gelatin. Heat also contracts and coils the muscle fibers. Over time, these fibers expel moisture and the meat becomes dry. Given even more time, these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat and melted gelatin.”

The result is that the meat, no matter how cheap the cut, becomes tender, moist, and tasty.

Now, theoretically, the meat should be seared in oil before the baking, but I confess to skipping this part because of the oil. Does it make a difference? I haven’t a clue. Maybe someone out there has an answer?

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Butternut Squash Brownies (oil-free)

Butternut Squash Brownie
served with yogurt and clementine

Looking for a yummy and filling brownie that’s also low-calorie? This one has no oil, and that makes a big difference. I am always amazed when calculating Weight Watcher point-values how fast they go up when you add in the oil—3 points for every tablespoon. Whew!

You can substitute other gluten-free flours in this recipe, but that may change the amount of liquid (in the form of eggs or milk) that you may need. Different flours are thirsty in different amounts.

If you do decide to vary the recipe, mix batter without the egg and add, as necessary, in ¼ cup batches. The batter should be thick but spreadable.

Enjoy!

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Chicken and/or Turkey Meatloaf with Broccoli Slaw and Feta Cheese

Last night's dinner.

My granddaughter, Adesia (aged 13), comes regularly on Tuesdays after school to cook with me. My challenge is to keep this sous-chef interested so I always plan to have a culinary experiment on hand to intrigue the both of us.

This Tuesday, that challenge was meatloaf. I had both ground chicken and turkey on hand, and I wanted to expand on my earlier ground turkey recipes* by adding in more vegetables.

When I presented the challenge, the sous-chef only wanted to make sure that the dish would include bread crumbs. “A meatloaf without bread crumbs?” I said. “Heaven forbid.”

(Interestingly, my granddaughter’s desire for breadcrumbs meant that I had to add eggs, which I did by using the 1 egg per 1 pound of meat rubric. These additional ingredients raised the calorie count of the meatloaf, and I think it would be possible to do this dish without either breadcrumbs or eggs.)

All of which is a preamble to the final thumbs-up, high-five result: a delicious, spicy meatloaf with saltiness from the cheese, crunchiness from the slaw and green onions, and occasional sweetness from the dried cranberries. Oh, and it was delicious cold when I had it for lunch today.

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Tomato Split-Pea Lentil Soup with Carrot and Cumin

This tomato-y soup is a blend of delightful flavours and textures.  It is slightly…

  • spicy from the cumin.
  • sweet from the carrot.
  • smooth from the tomatoes.
  • crunchy from the onion and lentils.

It’s also rich, filling (great for winter’s cold days), and very easy to make: only five main ingredients and a minimum of chopping.

Enjoy!

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