Friday, September 30, 2011

How I Love Herbs!

It is true!

One of my favorite ways to add interest to food is through the addition of herbs. They pack a lot of flavor, visual appeal, and health-boosting vitamins and antioxidants.

If you are interested in boosting the nutritional value of the foods you are fuelling your athletic body with, then you should look into adding herbs to your plate on a daily basis.

When we lived year round in a house with a garden, I grew most of my herbs including chives, parsley, dill, rosemary, sage, savoury, mint, and various types of basil and thyme. It was wonderful to go out and get fresh cuttings whenever I needed them. For winter use, I dried and froze the summer’s bounty.

These days I rely on being able to purchase fresh herbs at the produce market, and dried herbs from the grocery store.  I have tried growing basil and rosemary on the boat, but the pots tend to get in the way.

When I think about the jars of dried herbs on my counter, the ones I seem to refill the most often are basil, oregano, and thyme.   And that is a good thing, as dried herbs really don't keep very well for more than a couple of months... they lose flavor and color.

When I use dried herbs, I rub them between my fingertips before sprinkling them into my recipes.  I find this releases the flavor and the aroma of the herb very nicely.

And, if you are subbing dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh, start out with 1:3 ratio of dried:fresh.  For example, use 1 tsp dried where the recipe calls for 1 Tbs fresh (1 Tbs = 3 tsp).

If the herb is used as a seasoning, this will likely be all right, but if it is a main ingredient, such as in a basil pesto, for instance, it is not going to work at all.

Sweet Basil

Greek Oregano

I like to sprinkle basil and oregano on my omelets, salads, and pasta sauces.   Here is a sampling of my recipes that use these herbs:

Chicken Pasta Primavera

Frozen in ice cube tray for ease of use.

Thyme is lovely in soups, eggs, mushrooms, and on chicken and other meat dishes. I think a little goes a long way.

Wild Thyme

These dishes all make use of thyme:

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar, Sweet Onions, and Thyme

The two fresh herbs that I use most often are onions of all kinds,  and garlic.

Green Onions


Garlic Cloves

I use one or the other, or both, in almost every savoury dish I make... sauces, stir-frys, dips, dressings, omelets, stews, soups, casseroles, and chilis. In our house, there is never such a thing as too much garlic!I have been known to use garlic powder and onion powder in place of the fresh ingredients, if we have been out crusing for weeks on the sailboat, and haven’t put in to port to replenish the ice box.

And one other fresh herb that I have really come to apprciate this past year is cilantro. It adds such a distinct flavor and really goes nicely with lime and with garlic, too.


These recipes really show off the wonderful flavor of cilantro:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Garlicky White Bean Dip

This dip is so tasty you might be tempted to just sit and eat it by the spoonful!  But add some veggies or crackers (Wasa are my faves) and you could have a full meal... or at least a lovely, healthy snack plate to serve to family and friends.

It keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days so don't be afraid to make it up ahead of time... it does get more garlicky too. 

Garlicky White Bean Dip
Makes 8 servings, 2 Tbs each
  • 1 15-ounce can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Mash beans till smooth, or puree in food processor. 
  2. Add the other ingrdients and combine well.
  3. Place in refrigerator, covered, until read to serve.  The longer you leave it, the more garlicky it becomes!

Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 1.
Calories 36; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 5g; Fat 1g; Fibre 1g.

These beans were mashed by hand.

Make sure to smash and finely mince the garlic cloves, to release all the flavor.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quick Beans 'n Bacon over Pasta

This dish was born of the need to get something on the table for dinner, in a hurry!

We had a busy afternoon and by the time I got around to thinking about making something to eat, it was already well past our normal meal time and we were hungry.

I put water on to boil, measured out 4 ounces of spaghetti noodles and started rummaging through the refrigerator for something to put together together to call a sauce.

Here is what I came up with... it was delicious, ready in 15 minutes, and The Captain said he would like to have it again.  It is quite garlicky so if that deters you, either leave it out or use less.  I bet it would be great over brown rice or farro too.

Beans 'n Bacon Over Pasta
Makes 2 servings
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 cup canned dark red kidney beans
  • 2 Tbs pre-cooked real bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • dash of spaghetti seasoning
  • 1 Tbs lite parmesan shreds
  1. Cook pasta of your choice according to the directions on the package.  I normally allow 2 ounces dry pasta per serving.
  2. In the meantime, in a microwave casserole dish, combine the garlic, onion, beans, bacon bits,tomatoes, and seasoning.
  3. Cover the dish and place in the microwave oven on HIGH for 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid, stir the contents and cook for another 3 minutes.
  5. Divide the cooked and drained pasta between 2 dinner plates and spoon half of the sauce on top of each serving of pasta. 
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan shreds.

Per serving, not including pasta.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
Calories 177, Protein 14g; Carbohydrate 23g; Fat 3g, Fibre 6g.

If you do not have spaghetti seasoning, substitute dashes of dried basil and oregano.

Everything in the mike dish, ready to cook.

15 minutes later, plated and ready to eat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Favorites

In the Fall,  this hungry woman's fancy turns to.... Pumpkins!

I love everything about pumpkins... the feel of the outside skin, the goey soft inner flesh and seeds, the aroma and texture of the cooked flesh, the taste, the shape, and especially the color.  And I love that all of this is so good for me!

Pumpkins and other winter squashes are chock full of vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and minerals.  Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Half a cup of cooked pumpkin has 3.5 grams of fiber.

I live in a part of the country where pumpkins grow profusely, and during the late Summer and early Fall  the local fields are orange with beautiful, plump pumpkins.

I am always on the lookout for new ways to use pumpkins and other winter squashes.  They can usually be interchanged in recipes without any fail.  Especially where you are subbing pumpkins for other orange squashes such as ambercup or red kurri.

One of my very favorite dishes to make for special dinners during the Fall is home made chili, served in baked sugar pumpkins.  You just cut a lid in the top of the pumpkin and then scoop the seeds out of the centre. Bake the pumpkins for about an hour, fill them up with hot chili and serve on a plate.

You will have a lovely edible bowl and your family and guests will be knocked out by the visual delight and wonderful flavor that the pumpkin bowl brings to the meal.  And the best part is, that as you eat the chili, you eat the cooked pumpkin along with it!

You can also serve soup in the baked pumpkins, or you can use raw pumpkins for dips and fruit salads.

I like to make a special coffee drink in the Fall and Winter, with canned pumpkin puree.  It is very similar to one you can find at your favorite coffee house, but without the fat and calories!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Makes 2 servings 
  • 2 cups fat free milk
  • 4 Tbs pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
  • 2 packets Splenda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee 
  1. In a saucepan combine milk and pumpkin and cook on medium heat, stirring, until steaming.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in Splenda, vanilla and spice, and whiz with immersion blender till foamy, about 15 seconds.
  3. Pour into two mugs.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of the hot coffee over each.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.
Calories 90; Protein 10g; Carbohydrate 14g; Fat 0g; Fibre 1g.

If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, use dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and allspice

Heating the pumpkin and millk on the stove.

Dust the foam with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg before serving.

Here are some of the recipes I have previously featured that have pumpkin in them.

I have two other recipes I want to share with you ... these are both old Weight Watchers favorites and have been making the rounds amongst members every Fall for the past many many years.  I have update the nutritional information for them both, to reflect the current Weight Watchers Points Plus Program values.

But if you are not a Weight Watcher, don't let that deter you... these are both great recipes in their own right and you and your family and friends would never know they are low fat and low calorie too.  They are both delicious!

No-Bake Pumpkin Fluff Pie
Makes 8 servings

  • 1 can (15 oz.) canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 pkg Jell-o fat free instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice
  • 1 packet Splenda
  • 1 low fat graham cracker crust
  • 8 Tbs  (1/2 cup) fat free whipped topping
  1. In a medium bowl mix the pumpkin, pudding mix, milk, spices, and Splenda together until well blended.
  2. Pour the mixture into a low fat graham crumb pie crust.
  3. Place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
  4. To serve, cut the pie into 8 pieces and plate each piece.
  5. Spoon 1 Tbs of fat free whipped topping onto each piece.

Per serving, 1/8th of pie.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
Calories 162; Protein 3g; Carbohydrate 25g; Fat 5g; Fibre 3g.

Printable Recipe

And here is the other one....

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Makes 8 servings 
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin pumpkin puree
  • 1 (12 oz.) can fat free evaporated milk
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 12 packets Splenda 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and beat until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into a 9" pie pan that has been lightly coated with non-stick spray.
  4. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, and then at turn oven to 325°F and bake for 45 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. To serve cut into 8 pieces and plate each. Top with fat free whipped topping if you like.
Per serving, 1/8th of pie, without topping.
Weight Watchers P+ = 1.
Calories 50; Protein 4g; Carbohydrate 8g; Fat 0g; Fibre 2g.

If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, use dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and allspice

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Banana Baked Oats for One

This morning I was craving baked oatmeal for breakfast, but The Captain wanted eggs, so I opted to make up a single serving of the crunchy baked oats.  Instead of using applesauce, I used mashed banana, and it turned out quite nicely.

Banana Baked Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Raisins
Makes 1 serving
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • dash of cinnamon
  • splash of vanilla
  • 1/8 cup mashed banana
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 Tbs raisins 
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine raw oats, spices, applesauce, and water.
  3. Coat 1 small ramekin with non-stick spray and pour batter into it.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, or more until it’s firm.
  5. Change setting on oven to “high broil” for 3 more minutes (for crusty effect).
  6. Remove from ramekin to cereal bowl and add toppings.

Per serving, without toppings. 
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 130; Protein 5g; Fat 2g; Fibre 5g.

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Put in ramekin that has been coated with non-stick spray.

When baked, remove to a cereal bowl and top with your favorites... yogurt, fruit, nut butters are lovely additions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quick and Skinny Fruit Crisp

Have a yen for something sweet?

This makes up so easily and so quicky you will make it again and again.  The basic idea came from one of my Weight Watchers buddies... the one who shared the jellied salad recipe a while back.  She suggested using 1 Tbs brown sugar but I wanted to lower the P+ value somewhat so I substitued 2 packets of Splenda for it..

Use any kind of fresh fruit you like.  Today I chopped up a ripe nectarine and tossed that with 1 cup of blackberries.  I think mixed berries, peaches, apple, rhubarb, cherries, or even plums would be lovely.

Quick and Skinny Fruit Crisp
Makes 4 servings
  • 2 cups fruit of choice, cut in 1/2 chunks
  • 3 packets of Splenda
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1 Tbs flour, any kind
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly coat a medium small casserol dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Place 2 cups of fruit in the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle with 1 packet of Splenda.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the oats, flour, cinnamon and 2 packets of Splenda. 
  5. Cut in the butter or mix in with your fingers, till resulting mixture is crumbly.
  6. Spread the mixture over the fruit in the casserole dish and place in the oven.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until it bubbles and is golden brown.
  8. Serve with yogurt or a bit of light whipped topping on top.

Per serving, not including topping.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 105g; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 17g; Fat 4g; Fibre 4g.

Place your fruit in the dish you will use for baking.

Baked and topped with vanilla yogurt.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fat-Free Chips... Hurray!

I have just discovered the most wonderful little kitchen gadget and I want to share it with you!

A couple of weeks ago, one of the ladies who attends the same Weight Watchers meeting I occasionally do, on Fridays, announced that she had found a device that cooks vegetables in the microwave oven, turning them into crispy chips.  She has done potatoes, zukes, carrots, and yams.  Really?

Several of us who were there that morning ordered from her and a couple of days ago she delivered the goods. I paid her my 11 $CAD and could hardly wait for the meeting to be over with so I could go home and make lunch!

The Micro Chip Crisp'r comes in a nice, compact little package. 

One side...

and the other.

Upon opening it, I found some simple instructions, a shallow clear plastic bowl and slotted lid, a mandolin (slicer), and another plastic piece that allows you to push the last of your vegetable through the mandolin (and save your finger tips).

The bowl is about 6 inches across the top.

We decided to make potato chips to go with our lunch burgers, so I scrubbed and dried a russet potato and then The Captain got busy.

He cut the potato in half crosswise.  Then he set the mandolin on the shallow bowl and started slicing. 

The mandolin fits on top of the bowl, which will catch the potato slices.

The slotted cover holds 12 slices so he filled it up and placed it in the centre of the microwave oven.

Ready to pop into the mike.

The instruction sheet recommends 4 minutes on HIGH for a 1250 watt microwave oven.  We decided to be cautious and started with 4 mintes.  We could see that the potato slices were cooked, but had not changed in color, so we decided on 2 minutes more.

The slices started to puff up and turn brown so we took them out of the mike.

Puffy and golden, crispy chips!

The Captain removed them from the rack and placed them in a bowl, and then quickly sprinkled salt over the top and set about making another batch.  6 minutes later, they were cooked perfectly.


The longer they cool, the crisper they get.  Lovely golden, puffed, CRISPY chips and not a hint of fat!

No problem with portion control here... there are only 24 slices per batch!

Today I decided to try zucchini chips.  For the first batch, I sliced the medium-sized zucchini straight across the grain... the slices fit nicely into the slots.

Perfectly round sllices.

But when they cooked, they were small enough that many of them fell through into the bowl...  they turned out really nice and crispy though!

Crunchy and golden.

The second batch we sliced slightly at an angle so they would be larger and therefore not fall through the slots... but not a great idea as the zukes are such a wet veggie to begin with that the larger slices took about 8 minutes to cook.  They were all right, but not as good as the smaller ones.

This item is in the Regal catalog and available online.  I highly recommend it.

And for my American friends, I found this on 2 web sites... and also  and for even less $$ than in Canada.