Floating

A few days ago, hubby brought home some odd soda. It’s sweetened with stevia, 0 calories, and he chose ginger root beer flavor. On my first sip, my initial thought was, “this needs vanilla ice cream,” so I resolved to make a root beer float. What I ended up with is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus gluten, minus troublesome fiber, and minus high smartpoints, but very plus gourmet. This recipe makes one float. I actually made two, one for hubby and one for me, and that’s when I found out that he doesn’t actually like root beer floats, so he just ate the Halo Top plain.

Low-Calorie Gourmet Root Beer Float

1 can Zevia Ginger Root Beer

1/2 cup Halo Top Dairy-Free Vanilla Maple

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Put the Halo Top in a tall glass. Carefully pour in the Zevia. It will bubble up, so you may not fit the whole can in initially, so keep it nearby to top off your glass as you drink. Stir if desired, or just sip with a straw.

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This is 3 smartpoints, and totally satisfies that root beer float craving, even though the ginger and maple give it a bit of gourmet intrigue.

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High Holey Days

In honor of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my thoughts turned to bagels, the classic (NY) Jewish food. Luckily, my sister-in-law had told me about a low point bagel recipe on Skinny Taste, so after making the trip to Trader Joe’s to get everything bagel seasoning, I decided to give it a try. This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus lactose, minus meat, and minus troublesome fiber.

Easy Everything Bagels

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus a little more for dusting

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt (the original recipe calls for 3/4 tsp kosher salt “use less if using table salt,” but I didn’t have any kosher salt, and I couldn’t find a good conversion–everything I found was a version of this table, which isn’t that helpful, since 3/4 tsp kosher salt isn’t listed)

1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt (I think it would be cool to try this with a flavored greek yogurt, and just not put the seasoning on–can you imagine strawberry or blueberry bagels?)

egg white (the original recipe calls for one egg white, beaten, or a whole egg, beaten; I just poured a little egg white from the carton into a little bowl)

everything bagel seasoning

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Preheat the oven to 375F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spray the foil with cooking spray (the original recipe calls for using a silpat or parchment paper, and spraying the parchment paper). In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk together well. Add the yogurt and mix well with the spatula you used to get the yogurt out of the measuring cup (or go ahead and dirty a fork and mix with that, it’s up to you). Mix until it’s all mixed together and getting all clumpy. The original recipe says it will be in small crumbles, but I had big globs. Lightly dust your work area (like countertop or cutting board) with flour, and dump the dough out. Knead the dough about 15 times until it’s not sticking to your hands. Divide into four balls. Roll each ball into a snake about 3/4 inch thick (this is harder than it sounds, due to the texture of the dough–it’s weirdly fluffy), then make it into a ring, pinching the ends together. The original recipe says you could alternatively poke a hole in the ball and stretch it out to make a bagel shape. Put the bagels on your prepared cookie sheet, brush with the egg white, and sprinkle with the everything seasoning, and you’ll get something looking like this:

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Of course, your bagels may be more evenly sized.

Bake for 25 minutes. Pull them out of the oven, put on a cooling rack, and don’t cut them right away (the original recipe says to wait 15 minutes, but it also doesn’t mention a cooling rack, so who knows).

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The bagels have a very typical bagely texture and flavor (helped, of course, by the everything bagel seasoning).

El día del trabajo

Happy Labor Day! Hubby and I decided to invite a few people over for a Labor Day meal. Traditionally, it should be a cook out, but since our grill is still in Richmond, at the house we’re renting out to three dingbat med students, we had to come up with another idea. Hubby decided he wanted to make paella (his paella is excellent, by the way, but not really good fodder for this blog, as it’s only minus mammals, lactose, troublesome fiber, shellfish, and gluten, but chock full of smartpoints, fowl, fin fish, and a bunch of other things). We had talked about having some sort of refreshing vegetable side dish along with it, and originally I had landed on the idea of a slaw, so I had been perusing slaw recipes.

Then Saturday, for our 11th wedding anniversary, we went out to a new restaurant here in DC called Gravitas, which was, by the way, awesome. You order a bunch of small courses, but before you start getting those, they bring out some bread, fancy butter, and small glasses of gazpacho. I’m generally a gazpacho nut–I tend to order it everywhere I go all summer, but hubby isn’t a huge fan. We both really enjoyed Gravitas’s gazpacho, though–it was a tomato-watermelon gazpacho, more of a beverage than a chunky soup, and delicious. That inspired me to say, wait, gazpacho would be a refreshing vegetable side dish that would complement paella really well, since they’re both from the same country. So when we got home from dinner, I hunted for gazpacho recipes, and found a lot that turned into chunky soups, and one that claimed to be authentically Sevillian (is that the proper adjectival form for Seville?), being very thin and sippable. And the picture accompanying the recipe looked like what we had at Gravitas, so even though there was no watermelon involved, I decided to make that one. This recipe is minus high smartpoints, minus animal products, minus lactose, minus troublesome fiber, and minus gluten.

Gazpacho for Sipping

about 2 lbs. ripe red tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used 2 lbs., 2.7 oz. ripe red and purple heirloom tomatoes, but I would say that you could replace about 1/8 – 1/6 of the tomatoes by volume with the same volume (not weight) of watermelon to help sweeten the gazpacho and make it closer to what we experienced at Gravitas)

1 long, light green pepper, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (the original recipe called for cubanelle or Anaheim, but Whole Foods only had “long” and “Fresno,” so I went with Fresno, which looked the most like a cubanelle to me)

1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small-to-medium sweet onion, roughly chopped (the original recipe called for a small mild white or red onion, I chose what Whole Foods labeled as “sweet,” and a much smaller one than hubby put in the paella, but still probably technically medium in the whole spectrum of onions, and also yellow, not red or white. I think next time I would go with the small onion, as I found the end result a little oniony, though no one else complained.)

1 clove garlic

2 tsp sherry vinegar (or more to taste)

2 tsp salt (or more to taste)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or more to taste–olive oil quality probably makes a big difference here. I just used regular grocery store brand, but if you went high-end, it would probably lead to a tastier result)

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I used my Vitamix, putting all the veggies in in a Vitamix-approved order (wettest at the bottom, driest at the top, so tomatoes, then cucumbers, then peppers, then onion and garlic) but it got too full, so I had to blend the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers a bit first, then add the onions and garlic. Whatever works for your blending machine, get those veggies in there and start blending them up! Stop as needed to scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula. Once it has been blending a while, open the little cap at the top, and add the salt while it’s still blending. Then add the vinegar. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The olive oil will start making the color change. In my case, it changed to a nacho-cheese orange (the original recipe suggested it would become bright orange or dark pink).

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Once it’s as blended as it’s going to get, pull out your favorite sieve (I only have this one, which I got a million years ago at the dollar store), and pour through the sieve, using your spatula to push the liquid through, but discard the solids that accumulate. The result will look something like this:

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Cover, and chill. The original recipe suggests 6 hours to overnight. I think I chilled mine for close to 6 hours by the time we actually got around to sipping it.

Before serving, taste to see if you need to add more salt, sherry vinegar, or olive oil (or ice water to thin it). Mine was fine as is, no need for changes. This recipe was well-loved by our día del trabajo guests, because it’s creamy and delicious and perfect on a hot summer day (it’s also really good the next day, served over crushed ice). Based on the original recipe’s stated results of making 1 quart, I determined that this is 6 smartpoints per 4 oz. serving (when you drink your veggies, they suddenly don’t have 0 smartpoints anymore).

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Now Spear This!

In an effort to try to get back on the Weight Watchers wagon after allowing myself to eat too many chocolate chip cookies during my surgery recovery, I made a WW recipe (from their website) last night. It’s minus animal products, minus troublesome fiber, minus lactose, minus gluten, and minus high smartpoints.

Tofu-Vegetable Kebabs with Peanut-Sriracha Sauce

8 medium fresh radishes, trimmed and halved

16 broccoli florets (the original recipe calls for 10 oz. or 4 cups of broccoli florets, but I weighed out my broccoli and ended up with too many florets, so I would advise counting them out)

28 oz firm tofu, drained and patted dry

6 Tbsp powdered peanut butter (if you’re using the packets like I did, that’s 3 packets)

4 1/2 Tbsp water (not pictured)

3 Tbsp ketchup

3 Tbsp white miso (the original recipe specifies low-sodium, but I had a hard enough time just finding white miso, so I didn’t worry about the sodium content)

1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice (the original recipe specifies fresh, but I find it easier to squeeze a bottle than a lime)

1 1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce (use tamari to be gluten-free)

1 packet sriracha (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp, but I have packets, so I figured 1 would give a little heat without being too crazy)

1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/2 tsp salt

cooking spray

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If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak eight of them in water while you prep other stuff. If you’re using metal skewers, make sure you have eight of them ready to go.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the salt and the radishes and cook for five minutes. Add the broccoli and cook for one minute more. Drain into a colander, then run the veggies under cold water until they’re cool to the touch. Drain and blot with paper towels.

Cut the tofu into 24 equal pieces (the original recipe tells you to cut “each block” into 12 equal cubes. Luckily, I bought my tofu in two 14 oz blocks, so that made sense to me, except for the equal cubes part–it’s very hard to cut a block of tofu into 12 cubes, but 12 pieces isn’t that hard).

Toast the sesame seeds by putting them in a dry, small frying pan over low heat, shaking or stirring frequently until they’re brown and toasty.

Sauce: Stir the powdered peanut butter and water together in a bowl to make a smooth, loose paste. Add the ketchup, miso, lime juice, soy sauce, sriracha, and oil. Stir well to combine (you may want to use a whisk–I didn’t, and my sauce was lumpy for a long time).

Place a cooling rack on a cookie sheet and preheat your oven to 450F (the original recipe has you grill these, but hubby and I decided to bake them, since we don’t currently have a grill).

Kebabs: On each skewer, slide ingredients on in this order: radish, tofu, broccoli, tofu, broccoli, tofu, radish (this was the best way I could find to fulfill the original recipe’s directions to “thread 2 radish halves, 2 broccoli florets and 3 tofu cubes on each skewer.”). As you finish each one, put it on the cooling rack that’s on the cookie sheet. Brush the side that’s up with sauce. Once all eight kebabs are on the cooling rack, spray the whole bunch with cooking spray. Bake for 5 minutes, take them out of the oven, flip the kebabs (do your best, the tofu may not really want to flip along with the skewer), brush sauce on the new side that’s up, and put back in the oven for 5 more minutes. When they come out, brush sauce on the two naked sides of each kebab and sprinkle them all with sesame seeds.

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Serve with any remaining sauce for dipping. For two kebabs plus sauce, it’s 3 smartpoints.

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Vegan Jello

As some of you who know me in real life know, I’m home right now, recuperating from major surgery. So I decided to take advantage of my homebodiness and experiment with some stuff. Hubby has been making chia seed pudding with chocolate soy milk, so I hit upon the idea of making chia jello with juice. He encouraged me to google whether it was even possible, which I did, and I found a few recipes, including some that added gelatin to make it more jello-like. I based my experiment on this recipe. What I ended up with is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus troublesome fiber, minus gluten, and minus high smartpoints.

Vegan Grape Chia “Jello”

2 cups grape juice

6 Tbsp chia seeds (the original recipe calls for 8, but I only had 6)

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Put the juice and the chia seeds in a bowl and whisk well. Keep whisking at 2-3 minute intervals for about 20 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for about an hour. Then, take it out and divide it into individual servings, cover those and put those in the refrigerator. I made 9 individual servings, each slightly more than 1/4 cup, and each one ended up being 3 smartpoints (the whole recipe is 27 smartpoints, so you can do your own math depending on the number of servings you create).

I let my individual servings sit in the fridge overnight, and the result is something thicker than juice and thinner than jello, kind of about the consistency of an aloe beverage. They taste very grapey, just like the juice.

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Here, Chicky, Chicky

We were invited to a barbecue today, and the hosts were open to everyone bringing some sort of appetizer or side dish, so I decided it was a great chance to try this unusual recipe that I found in, of all things, the Costco magazine. When I showed the recipe to hubby, his reaction was, “Why would you make something that people won’t like?” But I figured that was because he doesn’t like coconut, and he can’t each chickpeas, so he’s a bit biased. As it turned out, it went over quite well with with the folks at the barbecue, so I feel vindicated, and I wanted to share this unusual recipe with you. The coconut doesn’t end up being a strong flavor in this, and adds texture more than anything. This recipe is minus animal products, minus lactose, minus high smartpoints, and minus gluten. Due to the the chickpeas, it’s really not recommended for people with fiber issues.

Chickpea Coconut Pesto Salad

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)

3 cups canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans (about 2 American cans), drained and rinsed

2 tsp ground cumin (the original recipe says roasted ground cumin, I have no idea if mine was roasted or not)

1 cup dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut (the original recipe calls for fresh, frozen, or dried flaked coconut, but try finding flaked coconut–I’ve never even seen it fresh or frozen, I think I’ve found it once dried)

2 cups fresh basil leaves (I used ones from my Aerogarden) IMG_3219

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 small, or half large, spicy chile (the original calls for a small serrano chile, but somehow that stayed in my grocery cart, and didn’t make it into my grocery bag, so I had to compensate with the 1/2 fresno chile–I think it was–that I had in the refrigerator)

1 tsp cumin seeds (the original recipe says you can also substitute ground cumin)

salt and pepper to taste

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Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add chickpeas and ground cumin. Saute for about 2 minutes. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until it’s the texture of coarse crumbs. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt/pepper if needed. Combine cooked chickpeas and pesto mixture in a bowl and mix well. Let sit at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Can be served warm, cold, or room temperature. The original recipe says it makes 4 servings, but we got a lot more servings out of it as a side dish. It’s 5 smartpoints for 1/4 cup (57 smartpoints for the whole dish).

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Let Us Eat Cake!

This past weekend, we had a friend over for a late lunch. Hubby made steak for the two of them, and I thought this was a perfect time to try out a recipe that I found fascinating, but that I was worried might turn out really weird. I’ll eat just about anything I make, no matter how bad it is, but hubby can be a bit more picky, so I wanted to make it when he had something else to eat, just in case. Turns out, as odd of a concept as this is, this savory cake is delicious (all three of us loved it). The recipe comes from Rose Eliot’s Vegetarian Cookery, which is a book I’ve had for probably decades. It’s British, so sometimes things take a little bit of interpretation and tweaking, as you’ll see below. The recipe says it serves 4, but the three of us had generous servings, and then there were leftovers for the next day, so I’d say it serves 4-5 as a main meal or more as a side dish. This recipe is minus meat, minus troublesome fiber, and minus lactose.

Savory Olive Mushroom Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour (the original recipe calls for “300g/10 oz self-raising 85% wholewheat flour,” but I don’t even know what 85% wholewheat flour is, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen wholewheat self-rising flour in an American supermarket, and I don’t tend to keep self-rising flour on hand, thus the next 3 ingredients to convert regular flour into self-rising)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt (this is in the original recipe, so I kept it in)

4 eggs

5 fluid oz. (150 ml) white wine (I used chardonnay)

4 Tbsp olive oil

8 oz garlic stuffed green olives, sliced (the original recipe calls for just pitted green olives, sliced, but we had a couple jars of garlic stuffed in the fridge–I think the garlic adds a nice touch)

6 oz mixed mushrooms, sliced (the original recipe doesn’t specify the type of mushroom, I used the pre-sliced mixed mushrooms from the grocery store)

6 slices Trader Joe’s yogurt cheese, cut into thin strips (this comes pre-sliced, and it’s lactose free, but still real cheese, so a great option for hubby; the original recipe calls for 6 oz grated cheese, not specifying the type of cheese)

(the original recipe also calls for butter for greasing the pan, but I used cooking spray, and for chicory [Belgian endive] and watercress for garnish, but my local grocery store had neither of those, so I didn’t garnish, and I don’t think it’s necessary.)

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Ignore all the other stuff behind the ingredients–the house we now live in has very little counter space. Also, the picture was an afterthought–I was just gathering the ingredients to make the dish.

Preheat the oven. The recipe says to do it to 250C/500F, but when I did the conversion from 250C, I got 482F, and my oven has digital controls, so I preheated to 482F. Grease your pan. The recipe calls for a 20 cm/8 inch cake tin or a 900 g/2 lb loaf tin. But once I mixed up all the ingredients, I realized that British cake pans must be deeper than American ones, because there is no way the 8″ cake pan (typical 8″ diameter circle about 1″ deep) would fit all that. Also, Americans don’t tend to measure their loaf pans in pounds, but rather in inches. I ended up using a 9 1/4″ x 5 1/4″ loaf pan, and that worked well. I think also an 8″ brownie pan would work well (I don’t have one at the moment, but I think it would be better than the loaf pan, because you would end up with more crust, and the crust is really awesome).

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and oil and mix until smooth. Stir in the olives, mushrooms, and cheese, and mix until everything is incorporated. Put it in your greased baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Then turn down the oven. The recipe says to turn it down to 190C/375F (that conversion is just about right), and bake for 40-50 minutes. My lovely digital oven, however, does not have a functioning number 3, so I turned it down to 400F, and baked it for 35 minutes (I checked after 30). You’re looking for it to be firm, golden brown, and pulling away from the edges of the pan.

The recipe stops there, telling you to garnish, so I took it upon myself to use my previous cake baking experience, and assume I shouldn’t let it cool in the pan, but rather turn it onto a rack to cool. In order to do this, I had to use a knife to loosen the sides from the edges of the pan in some places, as the cheese was making it stick. It also made it stick a bit on the bottom, so maybe it needs parchment paper.

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You can serve it warm or room temperature, and it stores well wrapped in the refrigerator, and is good cold, as well. The whole cake came to 73 Freestyle smartpoints, so points per piece depend on how many pieces you cut it into. This really is a cake–it has the texture of a cake, rather than a bread, but it’s just totally not sweet.

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