Monday, August 27, 2012

Enjoying Summer's Bounty

It has been such glorious weather these past few weeks so we have been enjoying lunch on our balcony as often as we can.  It is nice to be able to sit out and enjoy the bustle of the city passing us by and watch the herons, turtles and other waterfowl in the park across the street.

We walked to a different neighborhood market on Saturday morning, and, inspired by all the lovely fresh local produce, I came home and made us a cold gazpacho for lunch... and decided to dress up our balcony surroundings a bit, by turning it into an Italian Trattoria!

I used our red checked linens on the table, and The Captain poured us each a cold glass of Pino Grigio to go with the soup that I whipped up in few short minutes, with the food processor.  It was really nice to sit out and watch the turtles come and go from a log in the lake at the park across the street and while away some time....

The soup is just a bunch of ingredients that you already likely have on hand... and it has very few calories, lots of vitamins and antioxidants.!  You can certainly improvise and add what you like for seasonings.  If you have more time than I did, you may want to leave it chill in the fridge for an hour or more before you eat it. And, if you like you can add a bit of olive oil to it if you haven't had your healthy oil servings for the day.

I would suggest this easily makes an appetizer course for 4 people or a lunch for 2.

My Summery Gazpacho
Makes about 4 cups
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, including some juice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1/2 medium green pepper
  • 6 inch piece of long English cucumber
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • Fresh basil, 4 or 5 large leaves, or 1 Tbs dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place all of the vegetables inthe bowl of a food processor.  Add 3 basil leaves and a few dashes of salt and pepper.
  2. Puree about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove to fridge and chill thoroughly.
  4. Divide into bowls and garnish with the other basil leaves and a bit of parmesan cheese and tomato pieces.
  5. Serve chilled.
The whole batch only has 145 calories and is made up of vegetables so I didn't bother to break down the nutritional information for this recipe.

Simply puree everything in the food processor.

The table, set and waiting for us!

Buon Appetito!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Homemade Balsamic Ketchup... Tasty and Easy

Several  months ago I ran across a blog post on Cupcakes and Kale Chips that featured home made ketchup, bookmarked it, and then promptly forgot about it.

But since I have become a voracious label reader these past several weeks, I recalled that post and went back to look at it again.

Yes, this home made ketchup not only had a list of good, healthy, sensible ingredients, it sounded very tasty so I decided to try it.

I halved the amounts just in case I didn't like it... and also because we really don't eat a lot of ketchup.  I know it will keep for some time in the refrigerator, but it would be better to make it more often that expect it to keep for months on end.  I also did make some slight changes to the proportions of the seasonings.

I usually only eat ketchup on baked yam 'fries' and on my kale chips.  But The Captain does like it occasionally on other things so we always have some on hand... but why not make it instead of buying the sugar-laden commercial varieties?

I think you could have fun experimenting with various vinegars and seasonings, too.

Homemade Balsamic Ketchup
Makes 1 cup
  • 1 small can tomato paste (in Canada 5.5 oz, in the U.S. I believe they are 6 oz.)
  • 3/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Place in storage container.
  3. Refrigerate and use as desired.
Per 1 Tbs serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 0.
Calories 9; Protein 0g; Carbohydrate 2g; Fat 0g; Fibre 1g.

Most commercial varieties come in at double the calories because they have added sugar.  I like that this one does not... nor any chemicals with names I cannot pronounce!  The balsamic vinegar gives it just enough sweetness.

You will also notice that the color is a bit darker than a commercial ketchup... again thanks to the balsamic vinegar.  The Captain suggested that the next time I make a batch, that I should try it with white balsamic vinegar... and I think I will!

Put all ingredients into a small bowl.
And then mix well.

This was really good on my veggie omelet!

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Grain/Gluten-Free Wrap

    I have been reading a book called WHEAT BELLY, recently and finally decided to try some of the simple recipes it contains.  The doctor who wrote the book is a big fan of ground flax seed, and lately so am I. I have been eating it cooked as well as raw and find that it often makes a good substitute for flour.

    Since I have given up gluten, I haven't had much bread at all... a few slices when visiting my sister-in-law and her family last month... and a few days ago we stumbled upon a line of gluten-free Silver Hills breads in a new local market.  And at a reasonable price, too.

    But I haven't had any wraps or tortillas so this recipe from WHEAT BELLY really intrigued me, and I decided to try in on Sunday at noon.  It has a few simple ingredients, and after making it I can see lots of possibilities for varying the flavor so will be doing more  experimenting with it.  I will give it to you as I made it up.

    The recipe calls for coconut oil and I did use that... but the finished product has a bit of a coconut taste so next time I am going to use either olive oil or an olive oil-canola blend, instead of the coconut oil.  I don't dislike the taste of coconut oil, but I think it just doesn't suit this finished product.

    And even though the outcome is a good sized 'wrap' it is a bit brittle so I opted to just fold it over instead of actually trying to roll it.  The texture is pleasing and overall, I would give it a thumbs up.  It is good enough to keep working with, certainly.


    Grain/Gluten-Free Wrap
    Makes 1 serving.

    • 3 Tbs ground flax seeds
    • 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • Dash of salt
    • 1 Tbs coconut oil, melted
    • 1 Tbs water
    • 1 large fresh egg
    1. In a smallish bowl, mix together the ground flax seeds, baking powder, garlic powder, and salt.
    2. Stir in the coconut oil and blend well.
    3. Add the egg and water and mix till combined.
    4. Coat a flat microwave-safe plate with non-stick spray, or a spritz of a cooking oil
    5. Pour the flaxseed mixture onto the plate and spread thin.  It will be about 9 or 10 inches in diameter.
    6. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes then remove and allow to rest at least 5 minutes. It will firm up a bit as it cools.
    7. Gently remove from the plate and flip over to fill with desired ingredients.
    Per serving.
    Weight Watchers P+= 9.
    Calories 312; Protein 12g; Carbohydrate 7g; Fat 28g; Fibre 6g.

    That seems like a very high calorie count for a lunchtime wrap... I filled mine with a couple of red lettuce leaves and 2 thin slices of lean ham.  It was really satisfying, and I think that next time I could easily use only half and save the other half in the refrigerator for lunch the next day. 

    If I were to have it at dinner time, I would load it up with more protein and veggies.

    I am going to try making it with 2 Tbs of egg white, instead of a whole egg.   That will lower the calorie and fat count significantly, and the P+ to 7.  When I do that, I will publish another post to share the results.

    This raw mixture probably could have been spread out a bit thinner.

    Cooked and resting.  No color change of course, because the mike doesn't brown things.

    Filled and folded and ready to enjoy!


    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Sizzling Turkey Chili Con Carne

    Is the weather too hot for chili?

    No matter!  I wanted to make some anyway. I like to have a few meals in the freezer so I can come home and put together something quickly after a day on the boat, or running errands.  And chili can be used in so many different ways.

    I made this batch with a lovely extra lean ground turkey and it turned out really nicely.  We had some for dinner tonight on top of a mound of brown rice, and some steamed green beans.  Sometimes we like it as a topping on a baked potato.  Of course it is great on its own too, or on pasta, or even with quinoa.  It is a very thick chili, which is the way we like it.

    I think chili tastes better after leaving the flavors to meld for at least a day... and because The Captain doesn't like it too spicy hot, I only added 1 Tbs of chili powder to the mixture.  When we eat it, I add a bit of hot sauce to my own serving.


    Turkey Chili Con Carne
    Makes 15 cups
    • 1 tsp canola-olive oil blend
    • 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
    • 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
    • 3 medium carrots, diced
    • 1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
    • 1 can mushrooms, drained
    • 2 15-oz. cans (540 ml each) dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 28-oz. can (796 ml) diced tomatoes
    • 1 28-oz. can (796 ml) crushed tomatoes
    • dash of red pepper flakes
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1 - 2 Tbs chili powder, to taste
    1. Place oil in a large saucepan over MEDIUM heat.
    2. Add the turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.
    3. Add the garlic, onion and carrots and cook about 10 minutes till soft.
    4. Add the mushrooms, beans, canned tomatoes and seasonings and stir well.
    5. Turn up heat till mixture comes to a soft boil and then lower heat and allow to simmer for about an hour and a half.
    6. Cool and then refrigerate/freeze in batches.
    Per serving of 1 cup.
    Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
    Calories 140; Protein 12g; Carbohydrate 17g; Fat 3g; Fibre 5g.


    Printable Recipe

    Are you a chili fan?

    What is your favorite way to eat chili?

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Eggplant? Here is a Great Idea For a Pasta Topping

    Have you ever picked up a piece of fruit or a vegetable in your local market and brought it home and then wondered what you are going to do with it?

    That happened to me this past week... my favorite little produce market had eggplants on sale for 99 cents each so I chose one without really thinking.  When I arrived home, I set it in a bowl on the table along with some tomatoes and an avocado... and sorta forgot about it.

    Then on Saturday, I decided I wanted to have pasta for dinner and thought I should use that eggplant in my sauce.  I remembered that the Weight Watchers web site has a RECIPE FINDER feature in the e-tools section so I had a look.  I don't often think to use it but we had just been discussing it at a meeting during the week so I thought I would give it a try.

    You can enter up to 3 items that you would like your dish to contain so I typed  eggplant, tomatoes, and then pasta in the 3 search fields... and the first recipe returned looked so good to me that I didn't pay any attention to any others.

    I didn't follow the recipe as it was written so I will share what I did actually make.  It was wonderful!  And The Captain specifically requested we have it again so that is win for sure.

    I find it easier, when preparing a recipe that has a few steps, to make sure all my ingredients are ready to use so I begin by slicing, chopping, measuring.... before I start cooking...  particularly now when we are eating 2 different kinds of pasta.  For this dish I cooked linguini for The Captain and gluten-free brown rice rotini for me.

    Of course, if you ARE a Weight Watcher, you can change up the amount of cheese if you want to alter the number of P+ involved.  The Laughing Cow wedges I use are 1 P+ each.

    And one more thing... I think this would freeze very nicely.  So make extra to have on hand for a quick meal.  It's that good!


    Eggplant and Tomatoes For Pasta
    Makes 2 servings
    • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/3 to 1/2 inch-thick rounds
    • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 8 strips
    • 1 spritz olive oil  
    • 1/2 tsp table salt, divided
    • 1 clove garlic peeled, smashed and minced
    • 2 medium fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
    • 1 sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes
    • dash black pepper
    • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
    • 4 Laughing Cow cheese wedges, each cut into 5 or 6 pieces
    • 2 Tbs freshly shredded parmesan cheese
    • 4 ounces dry pasta of your choice (or measure the amount that you would like to have - we normally eat 2 ounces each)
    1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
    2. Place the eggplant slices and yellow pepper strips on a baking sheet that has been coated with a non-stick spray.  Spritz them very lightly with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt. 
    3. Roast the veggies for 20 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the veggies cool to room temperature.
    4. Cook the pasta to al dente while you are making the vegetable sauce.
    5. Lightly coat a medium-large skillet with non-stick spray and set over MEDIUM heat.
    6. Saute the minced garlic for about 2 minutes.
    7. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft, about 5 minutes.
    8. While the tomatoes are cooking, cut the roasted eggplant and peppers into bite-size pieces.  Add them to the skillet when tomatoes are cooked.
    9. Add the red pepper flakes, dash of black pepper, chopped basil and chopped chives, and stir well.
    10. Allow to cook till all veggies are heated through.
    11. Drain and plate the pasta, then top each plate with half of the veggie mixture.
    12. Dot the pieces of Laughing Cow cheese over the vegetables and then sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.
    13. Serve while hot.
    Per serving, without the pasta.
    Weight Watchers P+ = 6.
    Calories 210; Protein 10g; Carbohydrate 29g; Fat 9g; Fibre 9g.

    The pasta we use is 4P+ for 2 ounces dry, but yours might be different so I haven't included that in the N.I. here.. of course you will add that number to this sauce to get the total for the meal. 

    And I do understand that there is always a bit of controversy about including the zero point vegetables in the overall P+ count.  The only things that really count here are the spritz of olive oil and the cheeses.  Those items add up to 3 P+ in each serving.  Use your own discretion.

    Roast the eggplant and pepper in the oven for 20 minutes.

    I just happen to have chives and basil growing on my balcony.

    Let the roasted eggplant and pepper cool while you start the pasta and sauce.

    Roughly chopped tomatoes.

    Cut the eggplant and pepper into bite-size chunks.

    Add them to the skillet with the seasonings and herbs.

    Drain and plate the pasta.

    Put the veggie mixture and cheeses on top to serve while still hot.

    Allow each diner to mix in the cheeses to at the table... they will melt and get gooey in the hot pasta and veggies... Mmmm!


    Thursday, August 09, 2012

    Summery Avocado Boats

    Sometimes I just crave avocado... they are one of my very favorite foods.  Rarely do I ever manage to purchase one that is ready to eat, and often I have to wait several days.

    All week long I have been coaxing an avocado along into the perfect state of ripeness... checking it every day.  Finally today was the day it was just right to eat.  I spent quite a lot of time this morning trying to decide how best to enjoy it.

    I came up with this simple, but pretty, salad to have at lunch.  I call it Summery Avocado Boats.  I am sailor after all....


    SummeryAvocado Boats
    Makes 2 servings
    • 1 ripe avocado
    • 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, diced
    • 1 green onion, chopped
    • 4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

    For the Dressing
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • juice of 1 lemon or 1 Tbs lemon juice
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
    • 1 Tbs ciliantro, chopped
    • Dashes of salt and dried oregano

    1. Put all of the dressing ingredients into a small bowl, combine well and set aside to let the garlic work!
    2. Put the yellow pepper, green onion and tomatoes into a medium bowl.
    3. Wash the avocado and cut it in half end to end.
    4. Gently scoop the flesh away from the avocado shell.
    5. Cut the flesh into smallish chunks and fold them into the other salad ingredients in the medium bowl.
    6. Add the dressing to the salad and stir gently.
    7. Spoon half othe mixture into each of the two avocado shells and serve with a dash of salt and a sprig of cilantro for garnish.

    Per serving.
    Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
    Calories 152; Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 9g; Fat 13g; Fibre 4g.

    Prepared dressing and set aside to give the garlic a bit of time to work.

    Put peppers, onion, and tomatoes into a medium bowl.

    Wash, cut and scoop avocado.  I do this just before I am going to use it so it doesn't turn brown from oxidization.

    Add avocado chunks to salad, then dressing and fold altogether gently.

    Scoop half of the mixture into each shell to make boats!

    I served with whole wheat bagels and Laughing Cow cheese wedges.

    Monday, August 06, 2012

    Baking Eggs - a Nice Alternative to Hard-Boiled

    I like to take my own food with me just about wherever I go.  If we are heading out for a walk, or going shopping I will put a piece of fruit, or a bar of some kind, or a baggie full of home made trail mix, in my pocket or bag.  The longer I anticipate we will be away from home, the more substantial the snack becomes.  No one likes me when I get hangry!

    When we are going to be gone for a few hours in the car, I like to pack a healthy lunch, and take it along in a small cooler. It is often a salad with protein,  or sliced fresh veggies and hummus, some fresh fruit,  and I usually pack a few hard-boiled eggs, too.

    But, I am getting a wee bit tired of them and thought I would like a different approach, so instead of hard-boiling my eggs, I decided to bake them. 

    I used my silicone muffin cups, setting them inside aluminum cups for a bit of stability and then placed them on a rack on a baking tray... I wanted the heat to be about to surround them and thought this might be the best way.

    Then I cracked a fresh egg into each one.

    I placed them in the oven for 15 minutes and then removed the pan to a cooling rack and let them rest for 5 minutes...

    where they cooled a bit, before turning them out onto a plate.

    I was really very happily surprised that they popped out of the silicone cups so easily.  When they cooled completely, I put them in a storage container and placed it in the refrigerator.  Now I will have eggs to enjoy for several outings this week... and I won't have to deal with the shells.

    Each baked egg counts as 2P+ on the Weight Watchers plan.  Not much for such a powerhouse of nutrition and long-lasting satisfaction.

    If I had a regular muffin tin, I would have placed the silicone muffin cups inside that... so if you have one, be sure to use it.  I think you could coat the insides with a bit on non-stick spray and break the eggs directly into it, if you like... just a bit more cleanup that way, I would think.

    And, if you know how you will be using the eggs, you could sprinkle them with salt and pepper, or herbs before you bake them... but I did mine plain.

    So, to review my Baked Egg Method:

    1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
    2. Break an egg into each muffin cup.
    3. Place pan in oven and bake eggs for 15 minutes.
    4. Remove pan to cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
    5. Slide eggs out of muffin cups onto a plate.
    6. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating.
    Do you like eggs?

    Do you have any suggestions as to what makes a good take-along lunch for busy days?

    Thursday, August 02, 2012

    Grain-Free Gluten-Free and Paleo Almond Butter Pancakes

    Since I have been trying to eat fewer grain products, I am broadening my horizons and using new ingredients.  I have not gone so far as to label all my eats 'Paleo' but I am leaning in that direction, except for the occasional dish of yogurt.

    A few weeks ago I tried using almond flour/meal to make a Grain-Free Gluten-Free Almond Flour Banana Loaf and it turned out quite nicely.

    I have been trying to come up with a way to use almond flour in a pancake recipe and was going to begin doing some experimenting when I ran across this blog post from Peanut Butter Fingers, on Monday evening. 

    I was a bit taken aback when I calculated the N.I. for the pancakes, but quickly realized I could revamp the ingredient list somewhat, and still come up with a tasty result, and lower the Weight Watchers Points Plus Values considerably.

    I used the same method that Julie used for her cakes, but my ingredients are a little different. 


    Almond Butter Pancakes
    Makes 5 pancakes
    • 1 cup almond flour/meal
    • 1 whole fresh egg
    • 1/2 cup egg whites
    • 2 Tbs almond butter, at room temperature
    Check Julie's post to get the directions for making these pancakes... super easy!

    After cooking the pancakes, I topped them with banana slices, strawberries, and a bit of syrup.  They are quite dense, so a bit dry, and would be really nice with some yogurt, too.

    And, because we didn't eat them all, I wrapped the leftovers and put them in the refrigerator overnight and  I had them for breakfast, reheated in the mike, the next morning.  Just as good!

    Per serving of 1 pancake without toppings.
    Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
    Calories 191 ; Protein 10g; Carbohydrate 6g; Fat 15g; Fibre 3g.

    Mix the almond flour with the eggs and then add in the almond butter and combine well.

    Cook over moderate heat about 3 minutes per side.

    Flip, and cook the other side.  Then pile them up on a plate and cover to keep warm till ready to serve. 

    Top and garnish as desired.

    Have you baked or cooked with almond flour/meal?

    Any links you would like to share?