Thursday, December 26, 2013

Yam-A-Leeky Soup

I love making soups with whatever I happen to have handy in the fridge. And I like these soups to be fat free and full of flavour and also low calorie. Soup is such a helpful, healthy way to banish those hunger pangs. Having it to reach for in the fridge when the urge to eat something helps a person stay on track when weight loss is the goal.
Today I have leeks, carrots, onion, sweet potato, and fresh ginger available. And curry paste!  I try to always have salt free vegetable stock in the house to boost the flavour in my soups.
So, here it is:

Yam-A-Leeky Soup - makes 8 cups

2 cups diced carrot
2 cups diced yam
4 cups chopped leek (white and part of the light green)
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp salt free seasoning. (I like Trader Joe's 21 seasoning Salute, but Mrs. Dash will work)
A few sprinkles of kosher salt or sea salt  (optional)
1 liter (or quart) low sodium vegetable stock (I used 2 cups stock and 2 cups water today)
1 TBSP Patak's mild curry paste. Less if you want extra mild.

Sweat the small stuff in a large pot, then add the liquid and allow it to simmer until the vegetables are soft.
Add the curry paste and allow the mixture to cool. Puree with a hand blender until creamy.
Optional: garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.
Enjoy this low calorie soup - only 93 calories per cup (without the yogurt).

This soup has a mild-medium curry flavour with a little bit of a ginger in the background, and is thick and creamy and quite delicious!
To cut back on sodium, use less of the curry paste

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Baked Tilapia with Garlic and Dill

I'm not a big fan of fish - especially fishy tasting fish, but I recognize the health benefits and try to have it once or twice a week. My repertoire is limited - salmon, trout, pickerel and now tilapia!
Tilapia is a very mild, white fleshed fish. If you are not a fish lover, try this one!

 I chose to create a garlic dill topping and baked the tilapia in a 450° oven. This was easy to prepare and resulted in a tasty dish that I definitely will make again.
I would have preferred to use fresh dill but I was unable to buy any this week in the places that normally carry it. So I had to rely on frozen.  This recipe made enough sauce for 3 pieces of fish. Double for more or if you like a lot of sauce,

Garlic & Dill Topping for Tilapia

1 clove of crushed garlic
1  heaping tablespoon finely chopped  fresh or frozen dill

(Grind with a  mortar and pestle if you have)

Add 1-2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
Juice of 1/2 small lime
Pinch of salt (optional)

Mix together and spread on tilapia which has been rinsed and dried. I put it into pan lined with foil and sprayed with vegetable spray,

Bake at 450° for about 20 min. My tilapia had thick and thin parts, so I needed this much time for the thickest parts to cook thoroughly.

The topping kept the fish moist as it baked, and it resulted in a very tasty meal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TVP Stroganoff

In my attempt to prepare vegetarian meals a few times a week, I bought some TVP (Textured vegetable Protein) on impulse when I was in my local Bulk Barn. It is an incredibly cheap source of protein - I paid $1.19 for 3 cups worth. It is low in sodium and fat, high in fibre and protein. It is neutral in taste and takes on the flavours of the sauces in which it is cooked. It provides the texture of ground beef in dishes like chili, soups, stews, burgers and sauces. Dry product will keep up to a year in a sealed container in a cool location.  Once hydrated, it should be refrigerated and used within 2-3 days.

The origin of this recipe is from "The Good Cook Book" by Yves, the company who makes a variety of veggie cuisine. It is loosely based on their recipe for stroganoff which uses Yves Veg. Burger patties.

To rehydrate the TVP, pour 7/8 of a cup of boiling water over 1 cup of TVP granules. Stir it up and let it stand for 10 minutes. This makes approx. 2 cups of usable TVP in the following recipe.
I rehydrated it with Kitchen Basics Low Sodium Vegetable stock - thinking that it would result in a more flavourful dish.

TVP Stroganoff

2 cups hydrated TVP

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup red wine, white wine or veg.stock
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. salt free seasoning -(eg. Mrs. Dash or 21 Seasoning Salute) 
1/2 tsp.salt
pinch black pepper
1-3/4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup light or regular sour cream
1 cup frozen green peas (optional)
4 cups cooked broad egg noodles or rice

  • Hydrate the TVP and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is soft.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until they start to brown. 
  • Add the 1/2 cup of wine or veg, stock and allow it to reduce by half.
  • Stir in the flour, tomato paste, mustard, salt and pepper and stir for a couple minutes to avoid scorching. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the stock - slowly, stirring to avoid lumps.
  •  Return to heat and add the rest of the vegetable stock and the TVP. Cook gently at a lower temp. for 5 minutes.
  • Remove about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid from the pan and add it slowly to the sour cream. This is to prevent the sour cream from curdling when it gets added to the pot of hot ingredients.
  • Add the peas. (I just wanted the pop of colour...this is optional)
  • Stir this mixture into the saucepan.
  • Heat thoroughly - but do not boil.
  • Serve over cooked noodles.
Here's how it looks dry:

and how it looks when rehydrated: 

When I make it again, I will double the amount of mushrooms and omit the red wine and opt for some additional herbs and possibly double the tomato paste for flavour. I found it to be somewhat bland. I'll take some time to research and see what others use for spicing up a stroganoff and embellish the recipe. After all, I still have a couple cups of the TVP to use up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Skinny Smoothie

I am a sucker for Infomercials and am often convinced that some of the "As seen on TV" items are must-haves. So I own a Magic Bullet! The device makes good single serving smoothies. I also have a blender which can do the same trick, but my Magic Bullet is accessible and easy to use.

My "Skinny Smoothie" was "invented" one day when I had no skim milk in the fridge and had already dumped the fruit ingredients and yogurt into the container. But I did have flavored Vitamin Water, bought on a whim on sale...seduced by the "Only 10 Calories" label. It worked....and my "Skinny Smoothie" was born!

Today's smoothie contains a banana and frozen raspberries, yogurt and vitamin water. Any fruit combination works. I usually pair a banana with some other fruit as the banana makes it nice and thick!

Now that fruit is "free" on the Weight Watcher point system, this refreshment is very Weight Watcher friendly!

Skinny Smoothie

Place in blender:

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen raspberries or any fruit
1 container yogurt (I used Iogo 35 calorie product)

Top up with flavoured vitamin water or skim (no fat) milk.

Option: add 1 tbsp. ground flax  (but be sure to clean your blender right away because it really sticks!)

Blend well and enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Kitchen Must Have's

My Top 3 Seasonings

I've taken a long hiatus from blogging and from WeightWatchers®! And of course, the inevitable happened....I put back on some of the weight that I lost when I diligently tracked my points and knocked of the pounds in a regulated fashion. The story of my life, it seems!
I've returned to Weight Watchers®...and I will resume blogging. It seems to work best for me when I am accountable and track my points even though it involves planning and careful preparation.  I find myself referring to my blog for recipes I've posted in the past - so blogging is a useful endeavor. I also found that the challenge of coming up with new recipes or altering existing recipes to lower the fat and sugar content and yet retain flavor is a way to keep me motivated.

I've decided to devote this blog to some of my kitchen "Must Haves"

For seasoning with an Asian slant, I like the Bragg's All Purpose Liquid Soy Seasoning®. It's all natural, low sodium and a great substitute for Soy Sauce. Among my husbands dietary restrictions are a salt restriction, so this works very well. It's available in Superstore® and health food stores.

Another favorite seasoning is a Trader Joe's® exclusive product called "21 Seasoning Salute®" which is only available in the US. It contains no salt and is a lovely blend of herbs. When I am in Trader Joe's® in US cities, I stock up since I can't get it in Canada. I have converted a number of friends to the seasoning so now I have to bring home enough to share and enough for my own use. I use it on meats, potatoes, in soups....everywhere that needs a flavor boost.

Another of my Must Have's is a Fajita Seasoning from Victorian Epicure®. A little goes a long way, and it is a very low sodium seasoning. It adds a nice kick and a Southwest flavor to many stir fry dishes.

Since I am trying to cut back on fat and salt, these seasonings are indispensable.

My #1 Food Prep Must Have

As a kitchen tool, I could not survive without my Salad Spinner. I use it every day and could not imagine food preparation without it.  I have worn out several over the years and have now graduated to one I consider the cream of the crop: my OXO® salad spinner. It carries a $30 price tag, so I waited until I saw it on sale!

Now I'd better get to work creating taste tempting recipes that will help keep me on my weight loss track!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yummy Yammy Soup

I made a version of this soup last week but I didn't record my recipe. Well - there was no recipe - it was another of my "create a soup with what's available" endeavors. It was quite tasty, and I am going to attempt to re-create - and hopefully improve upon it.

Last time I pureed the soup with my hand blender, some bits of the celery string were present. This always bothers me when I use celery in a pureed soup. So this time attempted  to "de-string" the celery with a vegetable peeler to improve upon the texture. It seemed to work!

My preferred store bought vegetable stock is a brand called "Kitchen Basics"® .
 It has less salt that most other brands (230g/serving), no MSG,  no glutens, and the salt it does have is sea salt. And I recently found a "No added salt" version which I have yet to try. Not today, though!

Yummy Yammy Soup

1 large yam, peeled and cubed
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 stalks of celery, strings peeled away and chopped
1 large chopped onion (or 3 medium leeks, white part - thoroughly cleaned and sliced)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 quart or litre of vegetable stock
2 tsp. dried thyme
Fresh pepper
Pinch of kosher salt - or to taste if you're not worried about too much salt
Chopped fresh dill for garnish

1. Soften the onion and celery in oil. Sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper. Add garlic, carrots, yam and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
2. Add thyme and vegetable stock. bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 - 30 minutes . Check carrot and yam for softness and cook a little longer if necessary.
3. Cool mixture for a little while, then puree with a hand blender.
4. Add chopped fresh dill and serve!

This recipe made about 7 cups of soup.
I swore I would never be one to  puree soups because they seem not to be as filling as soups that have the chunks of vegetable intact, but I am finding that not to be the case! And the added bonus is being able to camouflage all sorts of vegetables from your refrigerator drawer in your soup for added nutritional punch!

Now that Weight Watchers® has moved to the Points Plus® Program, I have not determined the points value per cup - but I'm estimating that each cup contains at least half a cup of pureed sweet potato, which counts as 2 points. All the other ingredients are 0 points. The oil adds barely .5 of a point to each serving.
Paired with a nice salad and a roll, it makes a lovely Weight Watcher® friendly lunch.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cabbage Rolls like my Mother Used to Make - Vegetarian

When I crave the taste of cabbage rolls,or holubchi,  I make the lazy version - as outlined in an earlier blog. For special occasions I will make the authentic kind - rice actually rolled into cabbage leaves and simmered in a low oven for several hours. This is the kind my late mother used to make. Only hers were dainty and petite and of uniform size. Mine - not!

They are picky and time consuming to make so it is a rare occasion indeed that I deign to make them. On Dec.25th we were going to my nephews home for dinner, so I volunteered to make cabbage rolls to take along.

The pickiest part is preparing the cabbage for rolling. I use the steamer basket of my stock pot to prepare the cabbage. I get an early start so there's plenty of time to get each stage done.
Because the job tends to be messy and wet, I like to spread a nice clean towel on my work surface and get started. I'll be using the towel to separate the cabbage leaves from the head and allow them to cool on it.

Cabbage Rolls

1 med. cabbage
2 cups long grain rice
1 large onion
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cans tomato soup

Stage 1: Preparing the cabbage

1. Cut the hard bottom off the cabbage and make slits around the base of the core. This is to allow steam to get in and make the leaves easier to remove. Remove any imperfect outer leaves and save. Wash thoroughly.

2. Place the cabbage in the steamer basket , core side down, and allow to steam for a good 10 minutes before checking to see if the outer leaves can be easily removed. After 10 minuted, remove steamer basket. You should be able to remove a few of the outer leaves. I got 5 on the first go and that seems to be all I could get per round of steaming.

They must come off the cabbage easily and be removed without tearing. As soon as you feel resistance, it's time to put the cabbage back into the steamer for more steaming. Deepen the slits around the core - being careful not to cut too deep in order not to damage leaves. You may have to cut away a little more at the base of the leaves in order to free it from the cabbage with each removal round.
 Continue with this process until all leaves of a size that will be suitable for rolling have been removed. The closer you get to the inside of the cabbage, the thicker the leaves. Return the loose leaves to the steamer for several minutes to soften. They'll collapse into the steamer and lose stiffness.
Trim the thick center ribs as thin as possible without making a hole in the cabbage.

Stage 2: Preparing the Rice

1. Partially cook the rice. Normally water to rice is a 2:1 ratio. For par-cooking, I use a 1:1.
2. Saute onion in vegetable oil until soft.
3. Combine onion, remaining oil, rice, salt and pepper and allow to cool so that it can be handled.

Stage 3: Rolling, rolling, rolling.....

1. Place a spoonful of rice on each leaf, and roll.Tuck in the side edges as you go.

2. Place into a roasting pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray and lined with remaining leaves that were too small to use for rolling or with the outer leaves that were removed earlier. (If no leaves are available, not to worry!)
3. Salt and pepper each layer.
4. Dilute 2 cans of tomato soup with 1-1/2 cans of water, mix well, and pour over the cabbage rolls.
5. Cover with foil or remaining leaves and roaster lid and bake for 3 hours at 325°. Check to make sure cabbage is done, and increase cooking time if necessary.

Alas, they were gone too quickly and I neglected to get a picture of the cabbage rolls once cooked.

I'm told that I can save a lot of hassle preparing the leaves if I freeze the head of cabbage, and thaw before rolling. Then I can eliminate the steaming step. I have not tried this, but I will for the next time. It will certainly make the preparation a much quicker process!