Leftovers Cuisine: Second-Day Beef Stew with Quinoa and Beans

IMGP2033 What’s your leftovers attitude?

Mine is: leftovers are terrific opportunities to create a new, different, interesting, exciting dishes! Really. (Or, at the very least, no cooking the next night.)

For example, early this week, we returned from a week-long vacation in Jamaica (Sun! Sea! Sand! Piña Coladas!), and the spouse decided to make beef stew our first night home. It was basic: beef, potatoes, carrots, onions. After one dinner, we had about 1½ cups left—a slightly thick broth, dotted with a few pieces of beef, etc.

To be honest, it did look uninspiring, BUT…

Those Jamaican chefs had inspired me. They had raised leftovers + vegetables + mix-and-match beans to an art form. One night we had turkey as the main meat, the next day at lunch we had a tasty turkey stew with vegetables and two types of beans. Surely, I reasoned, this type of creation was in my cuisine skill set.

Their cooking also had a second appeal for me because it fit the flexible use-what-you-have-in-the-kitchen approach. My recipe uses tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, chickpeas, lentils, and quinoa. Why? Yup, you guessed it.

The result was delicious and filling, plus the spouse liked it! And he doesn’t always go for my mixtures—unfortunately, his mother cooked basic (meat, potato, veg) and served basic (no mixing) and this has had a lingering effect.

If you try this recipe, please use it as a template rather than a fixed-in-stone culinary creation. Feel free to change ingredients, vary quantities, and use your favourite spices. Continue reading

Three-Dinner, Low-Cal Stir Fry

imagesToday, I want to tell you the story of a stir fry.

When I started this stir fry, I had no idea that it would be ongoing and evolving, providing dinners for two people for three nights. Without going limp! Without losing its flavour! Without a photograph! It was just a simple stir-fry. Who knew?

imagesI am likely a latecomer to what I’ll call the “add-on” cooking method, but being a blog writer means I can’t wait to share it with you anyway.

Now, like most stir fry dishes, this one was easy. The two tricks that kept it going and going were the following:

  1. COOKING ONLY UNTIL CRUNCHY
  2. ADDING FRESH INGREDIENTS

green-onionsNow, for the sake of the story, I’m going to assume that you know how to make a stir-fry with very little or no oil. (See Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry if you’re not sure about the no-oil method.) Secondly, your favourite vegetables and condiments may differ from ours so substitute to your heart’s content. And thirdly, your quantities may vary because the spouse and I don’t eat large dinners or meat portions.

So here goes! Once upon a time there were some vegetables…

Dinner #1: Just Veggies

images-3To cook only until crunchy means starting with the vegetables which will take the longest to cook and adding the faster-cooking ingredients at the end. Hence, put ingredients #1 to #6 in a heated pot:

  1. 2 zucchinis, sliced
  2. 20 pea pods (roughly, I wasn’t counting) with the tips trimmed off and halved
  3. 1 leek, sliced thin
  4. 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  5. ½ bag broccoli slaw
  6. 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  7. ½ head of Savoy cabbage, chopped
  8. 1 bag of sprouts

leekCover the pot, wait 1-2 minutes, stir, and repeat the sequence until the zucchinis are just starting to look translucent but are not fully cooked. (5-7 minutes? Unfortunately, I wasn’t watching the clock.)

recipe-4359Add #7 and #8 and cover the pot, etc., until the sprouts are warm but still firm and barely cooked. (2 minutes?) Everything should be crunchy except for the cabbage which wilts quickly (Savoy cabbage leaves are thinner than regular cabbage and cook faster).

We served this initial stir fry over rice as an accompaniment for fish.

Important tip: After cooking, remove the pot immediately from the heat and leave it uncovered. If you put the cover on while eating, the vegetables will continue to steam-cook.

Dinner #2: Chicken Breast and Shirataki Noodles

“Beef up” the vegetables with chicken and noodles:

  1. Sautée 1 chicken breast, cut into cubes, with 1 tbsp. minced garlic and 1 tsp. minced ginger.
  2. shiratakiAdd the leftover veggies from Dinner #1 into the pan with the chicken, turn off the heat, and stir. (If your pan doesn’t hold heat well, cook as little as you can.)
  3. Mix in 1 bag of Shirataki noodles, rinsed well with hot water so they don’t require heating. (Learn more about Shirataki noodles if you’ve never used or heard about them before.)

peasDinner #3: Last But Not Least

Cook more veggies to “crunch” status and then add the leftovers from Dinner #2, turning off the heat and mixing.

  • images-22 leeks, sliced thin
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

And the moral of the story? Eat your leftovers! Bon appetit!

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. 

Continue reading

Faux Lasagna, with Tofu and Carrot Noodles

This faux lasagna tastes like the real deal: tomato-y, cheese-y, and just plain delicious.  It was inspired by a lasagna that I saw at a vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa, The Table.  To make it gluten-free, the chef had replaced lasagna noodles with long carrot slices. 

For the first time, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a lasagna that would not upset my food sensitivities or have a calorie count in the stratosphere.  All I had to do was re-think the usual ingredients.  The result not only has carrots in place of noodles, it also has soft goat cheese in place of ricotta and tofu instead of ground beef.  Plus, in the spirit of “vegetables are good,” I added grated zucchini and sliced mushrooms to the tomato sauce.

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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large, fat carrots, sliced lengthwise (I used a Japanese mandolin slicer to achieve long, wide slices.  Since only the middle of the carrot yields that kind of strip, you’ll end up with a number of extra strips.  I cooked all of them and used the extra as just cooked carrots.)
  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup water, mixed together
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 9 oz. medium tofu, diced small
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 90 grams soft goat cheese
  • ½ cup grated sheep romano
  • 1-2 tbsp. sugar, if grated carrot has not sufficiently reduced acidity of tomatoes (although it usually does)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Tomato sauce: In a large saucepan over medium high heat, begin tomato sauce by sautéeing onions and spices in chicken broth-water mixture.  (Add more water if pot goes dry.) When onions are just tender, add crushed tomatoes, grated zucchini, grated carrot, and sliced mushrooms.  Bring to boil and then lower heat until sauce is simmering.  Taste and add 1-2 tbsp. of sugar if tomatoes are too acidic.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Carrot noodles: While tomato sauce is cooking, create the carrot noodles.  Cook carrot strips until tender.  (You should be able to easily pierce the carrot slice with a fork.)  I put mine in a glass baking pan with some water and covered with plastic wrap, microwaving them for 10 minutes.
  3. Goat cheese: Using a knife, spread one side of each of the 8 best carrot slices with goat cheese.
  4. Constructing the lasagna: Spray a shallow baking pan (mine is 10″ by 10″) with cooking spray.  Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of tomato sauce, then put down 4 carrot slices covered with goat cheese.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup of sheep romano cheese (see photo).  Add the next layer of tomato sauce and then the remaining 4 carrot slices covered with goat cheese.  Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sheep romano on the top.  (Note: I had about 1 cup of leftover tomato sauce so I should have added more in the layers.)
  5. Bake in 325º F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and cheese on top has melted.

For Weight Watchers: The only ingredients with point-values in this dish are the tofu (total value: 6 points), goat cheese (total value: 6 points), sheep romano (total value: 4 points), and sugar if you’ve added it to the tomato sauce.  I needed 2 tbsp. of sugar (total value: 2 points) because (confession!) I had forgotten to add the grated carrot as I usually do. 

  • With only carrot and no sugar: Each of the 4 servings is 4 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 
  • With 2 tbsp. of sugar: Each of the 4 servings is 4.5 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plans. 

Zucchini Cinnamon Bread

(Update April 2012: I have refashioned this recipe to lower the calorie-count and changed it from a bread to Zucchini Cinnamon Squares.)

This bread is dense, rich, moist, and fragrant with cinnamon and other spices.

It’s healthy for you too, covering all the food groups: grain (rice flour), vegetables/fruit (zucchini and applesauce), protein (quinoa flour), and oils (olive oil).

The quinoa flour has another benefit for dieters: it’s “cheaper” than rice flour in terms of calories and Weight Watcher points than the white rice flour that was called for in the original recipe.

My husband, who has a stomach of iron, can eat anything, and doesn’t need to lose weight, used to stay away from my gluten-free, diet experiments.  Not any more.  Now the sounds and smells of bread coming out of the oven has him wandering down to the kitchen just in time for a sample before I take the photographs. 🙂

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Makes 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup artificial sugar
  • ½ tsp. xanthum gum
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ginger
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup soy milk or other alternative milk, if needed
  • 2 cups green zucchini, shredded (about 2 small zucchini)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: brown rice flour, quinoa flour, tapioca flour, just ½ cup of artificial sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs.
  3. Add applesauce, oil, and vanilla to the eggs.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients to the liquid ones.  If batter gets too thick, add milk.
  5. Taste batter.  If it needs more sweetening, add the remaining ¼ of artificial sugar. (The original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, but I was conservative here.  I like this bread at ½ cup of artificial sugar, but you could add more sweetener if you think the bread needs it.)
  6. Spray 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray.
  7. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  8. Bake in 350º F oven for 75 – 85 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers: Each one of 8 slices is worth 4 points on the Points plan and 4.5 points on the PointsPlus plan.  Points include soy milk.

(Adapted from “Zucchini-Spice Bread” in Gluten-Free Every Day Cookbook by Robert M. Landolphi)

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.)

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.

So Very Vegetable Soup

The Diet Equation: vegetables + vegetables + vegetables 

 The Solution: soup + soup + soup

 

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup was my first soup creation and, after some tweaking, I pronounced it good—tasty, satisfying, and filled with different textures because some ingredients are crunchy while others are softer.  Then it turned out to be extra-good when I added a dollop of goat cheese or a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese to a serving. 

This soup is easy to make (except for lots of chopping), is foolproof (except if overcooked), and has so much fiber, you don’t have to worry about the carbs.  You can eat all you want with no weighing or measuring.  Or you can enrich the soup by adding potatoes, peas or legumes. A can of lentils, in particular, really enhance the taste.  But remember: additions like this will bring you back into the world of diet calculations.

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

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Caveat culinaria/us: The vegetable quantities below are rough estimates because I take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach and just put in what I have.  You can add more of one vegetable and less of another, but you should aim for balance.  For example, too many carrots could make the soup too carroty and too sweet.

Basic Ingredients

  •  3-5 cups of chicken stock, broth, or bouillon to barely cover the vegetables.  The amount really depends on how many vegetables you’ve added.
  • 1-2 onion(s), chopped.  Any type will do.
  • Garlic to taste.  I add 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic.
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ – ½ head of cabbage, chopped to bite-size pieces
  • 1-2 tsp. of a spice that appeals to you.  I find that parsley, thyme or basil works nicely.
  • Salt to taste. 

Other Vegetables You Can Add

  • 2-4 celery stalks, sliced.  You can leave on the leaves as well.
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced 
  • 2-4 green zucchini, sliced
  • 2-4 yellow zucchini, sliced (Add halfway through cooking so this vegetable survives.)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup turnip or rutabaga, diced
  • 1 cup daikon or lo bok, diced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped

Problematic Vegetables

  • Beets may overpower the taste of other vegetables, not to mention the colour of the soup.
  • Mushrooms give off a liquid when cooking that could alter the balance of the soup.  I suggest mild mushrooms such as enoki.
  • Spinach, because of its consistency, would have to be cooked separately, chopped, and added at the end.

 Directions

  1. Chop vegetables beforehand.
  2. Turn heat under a large pot to high.
  3. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth.
  4. Add garlic, onions, and all other vegetables.
  5. Add canned tomatoes and mix well.
  6. Add more chicken broth until vegetables are barely covered.  You want the soup to be chock-full of vegetables.
  7. Add spice(s).
  8. Bring soup to boil, then turn down heat until it is simmering.
  9. Taste to see if you need to add salt.  Start with 1 tbsp. and then taste, and so on.  My salt philosophy is to cook with it sparingly and let people add their own after being served.
  10. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan.  If you’re dieting under the Points plan, you don’t have to worry about carrots or parsnip unless you plan to eat all the soup in one sitting!  The  quantity of soup will be so great that any individual bowl serving won’t have enough of either to count.