Tuesday, November 26, 2013

10 Tips to Doing Your Holiday Baking Without Gaining Any Weight

This time of year can pose a real challenge to those of us who do Christmas or Holiday Baking!

We are often surrounded by tasty, tempting ingredients and recipes that we don’t normally face during the rest of the year… we are looking to make salted caramels, shortbread, molasses cookies, butter tarts, pecan and mincemeat pies…. and on and on.  Every year it seems there are more and more calorie and sugar laden goodies to try… more recipes in our favorite magazines and blogs and it can all become quite overwhelming… and let’s be honest… fattening!

It would be easier to just refuse to do it… and for a brave few, that is often the solution.

But for those of us who want to make special things for beloved family members and friends, how do we go about producing these fabulous food gifts without piling on the pounds?

Some people would advise you to only make things that you don’t like to eat yourself.  Others would say to bake when you are not hungry, or to put the baked goodies in the freezer right away so they are out of sight.  Good tips, but not very realistic.  Who hasn’t discovered that peanut butter cookies taste wonderful when they are frozen?

So what do you do when faced with raw cookie dough or chocolate cake batter?  How do you keep from tasting or nibbling or licking the spoons or egg beaters while you are doing the actual baking?  We all know that these little BLTs (bites, licks, tastes) can add up to hundreds of extra calories over a few hours… and if you do several baking sessions, you might be facing thousands of calories full of sugar and fat!

I think we should reward ourselves for all of this creative and love-driven work we are doing, by enjoying some of the goodies we are making.  I think it is extremely unrealistic to expect that we won’t do a bit of sampling… but I would suggest that we decide, before we even get started, that we are going to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee, or even a glass of wine, AFTER it is all done and enjoy ONE piece of our favorite confection…. one cookie, one piece of brownie, one thin sliver of pie.

Keep your eye on that prize, and keep the tasting to a minimum.

I have come up with a few ways to avoid the BLTs and have been given some tips by some of my friends over the years as well… I would love to share them with you.


  1. Brush your teeth before you get started.  A fresh, clean mouth feels so good and you are less likely to start popping nuts or chocolate chips into your mouth when you have fresh sparkly clean teeth.
  2. Chew gum.  It is very difficult to pop bits of cookie dough into your mouth while you are chewing gum.  Let’s face it.  We don’t need to taste the cookie dough because we are often using recipes that we have made over and over and over again… we already know that dough tastes good!   I am not normally a gum chewer but I do find this tip really works for me.
  3. It does make sense to do your baking when you are not hungry.  But you might want to have an appropriate snack at the ready, right out in front of you where it is easily accessible.  Apple slices covered with peanut butter, or some cubes of cheddar cheese will help keep you going.  Make it something a bit special that you really like, and something that can easily be popped into your mouth instead of a piece of cookie dough.
  4. Have lunch already prepared so you don’t nibble instead of eating a real meal. If your baking session will last for hours, especially over lunchtime, or involves a friend, it might be a good idea to have something ready in the fridge, that you can take to a table to sit down and eat while taking a break from the baking.
  5. If you do bake with a friend, challenge each other not to taste as you go along.  Make a little game of it and charge each other a penalty for catching each other tasting, or have a non-food reward pre-determined for the one who does it the least. 
  6. Wear your workout clothes and shoes while you bake.   This is a really good idea for so many different reasons.  It will remind you about why you don’t want to be nibbling while you are baking.  And if you do get time for a quick break, you could get out for a little walk, or you can do some squats or pushups in the living room while the cookies are in the oven.  Or you can crank up some holiday music and do a bit of dancing.
  7. Make up rules before you begin baking.  I have a rule that I don’t eat while I am standing up. If I want to put something in my mouth I have to take it to the table to sit down first.  It has happened where I have taken a brownie batter spoon to the table to sit down and lick it, but by the time I got there, I realized how silly it was and avoided the deed! 
  8. Put the used bowls, mixer blades, spoons, spatulas, and other utensils into a sinkful of hot soapy water as soon as you are done with them, or at least rinse the batter off them so you won’t be tempted to lick if off.
  9. Imagine that someone is watching you in the kitchen.  Behave the way you would if you were being recorded or if the neighbor or your husband was spying on you!  Better yet, set up your video camera and make a vlog about it all. You will never lick your fingers. 
  10. Focus on the end goal… to make something lovely for your family and friends to enjoy.  The more you nibble now, the lessfinished product there will be when you are done!  If you  cannot control yourself while the cookies are cooling, get out of the kitchen.  Have someone else put the finished and cooled baking into containers and then get them out of sight as soon as you can.
I hope that some of these tips might help you to get through your holiday baking without adding on some holiday pounds!

If you have any tips, I would love to have you share them with me.

And I would really like to know what you are cooking up for the holidays, too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Home Made Chips Make Great Nachos

I worked the Weight Watchers booth for a few hours one afternoon in September at a local Women’s Health Fair.  Before my shift started, I wandered around and looked at the other exhibits… quite an interesting mix of diets, supplements, makeup and beauty products, jewellery and accessories, teas, fitness gear and even a guest celebrity speaker.  It wasn’t a huge show by any stretch of the imagination but pretty well attended by our smallish-city standards.

I picked up this chip maker at at an Epicure Selections booth. I was a bit sceptical but the friendly woman selling the products assured me it really worked.  She says she makes apple chips on hers, a lot…  so I handed over $18 and off I went to attend to my own work duties.  I should add it was an enjoyable experience working the show. I had never done anything like this before and it was really fun.

So…to the chip maker.  We have tried it out a few times now, and I am so enthralled with it that I just had to share it with you.

It is made of some kind of silicone.  And apparently it makes chips out of many different kinds of fruit and vegetables in the microwave oven.  But I am pretty much only interested in potato chips at the moment so that is what we have been making on it.

Oct 12 Potato chips 001
The Chipster packaging

Oct 12 Potato chips 002
White potatoes release a lot of watery starch after they are sliced so I patted them dry with a paper towel before salting them and putting the tray in the mike.  It takes 4 minutes on HIGH for each tray of chips to cook..

Oct 12 Potato chips 003
This was the first batch we made and they were so much better than any baked chip you can purchase.  Just potatoes with a bit of salt.

Oct 12 Potato chips 004
And truly crispy!

Nov 17 nachos 001
We made some again on Sunday to have with our dinner.  These are orange sweet potato chips.  Sweet potato is much drier than white potato and there was no need to pat them… just slice and salt and mike.

Nov 17 nachos 003
We made chips from an orange sweet potato, and a lighter yellow sweet potato and then used them as ‘nacho’s and enjoyed them with some guacamole, ground beef, and some salsa.  This was truly delicious…. and even if you use a different method to make your sweet potato chips, I would urge you to try them as ‘nachos’.

Okay, maybe I will give the apple chips a try… all you need is a mandolin or a very sharp knife to make sure the slices are very thin!

Have you ever used a vegetable chip as nachos?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Tasty Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake

It has been a few weeks since I have had any almond meal in my pantry so when I finally purchased some a few days ago I started thinking about something new to make with it  I have several cans of pumpkin on hand (thanks to The Captain who brought home 2 dozen of them a few weeks ago when he found them on sale!) and decided to come up with a treat for our Saturday morning breakfast… a treat being anything different from our usual breakfast of some kind of eggs!

If you want to lower the fat count in my cake, leave out the coconut oil, and of course you could use a sweetener or maple syrup instead of the honey.  It isn’t a very sweet cake at all, so add more if you like sweeter!

I am eating Greek yogurt again these days, so I chose some fat free plain for our toppings, and added vanilla to mine, and vanilla and a bit of sweetener to The Captain’s.  It was really good… and really filling!
It powered me through my run a few hours later, that’s for sure.

I think nut butters or a slurry of protein powder and almond milk or fresh berries would be really good on this cake, too.  Or, how about some ice cream?  For breakfast... why not?

Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake

Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake
Makes 2 servings
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 2 tsp liquid honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or healthy dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Melt the coconut oil and add to pumpkin in a medium bowl. Mix well.
  2. Add the almond meal and combine well.
  3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Spoon batter into a microwave safe cooking bowl and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from microwave oven and allow to rest 5 minutes.
  6. Divide in half and serve with topping of choice.

Per serving, no topping.
Weight Watchers P+ = 7.
Calories 255; Protein 11g; Carbohydrate 18g; Fat 17g; Fibre 7g.

Nov 16 Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake 001
Mixing the ingredients together

Nov 16 Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake 003
The batter will be wet, but should not be runny.  If it is, add another tablespoon of almond meal

Nov 16 Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake 004
It will change color as it cooks and should be firm to the touch, but still moist

Nov 16 Pumpkin Microwave Breakfast Cake 006
My serving with Greek yogurt and a dash of cinnamon... Mmmmm...

How about you?  Still eating pumpkin or have you had your fill?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Easy Peasy Curried Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Stew

I have come to really love the combination of coconut milk and curry.  This dish was thrown together yesterday.  It was a full day and I wanted to make use of my slow cooker in order to free up my afternoon… and it is delicious.  I know the name is long... Curried Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Stew... quite a mouthful.... but hey, it matches the dish!

It is only a mild curry so if you are not a voracious fan, like I have become, it would suit you nicely.  If you like a hotter curry, add more powder to the mix.

And it smelled wonderful while it cooked away all afternoon.  At dinnertime, all I had to do was put a couple of small white potatoes in the mike for The Captain… he chose them over rice for a change.  And for me, half a baked spaghetti squash… lately I have been baking a couple of squashes in the oven at the same time so I will have some ready to reheat on the fly when I am in a hurry to get dinner on the table.

Sound good?  Here is my recipe… hope you will give it a try.  Of course you can use a lower fat version of coconut milk here, and if you don’t use baby carrots, just cut up some large ones into 1/2-inch chunks.  A yellow or orange pepper would be nice as well.

Curred Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Stew

Curried Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Stew
Makes 6 servings
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • approximately 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 3 cups sliced white onions
  • 1 red pepper, cut in large slivers
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger root
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken 
  • 200 ml (1/2 can) coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • dash of salt
  • drizzle of lemon juice
  • fresh cilantro to garnish
  1. Melt coconut oil in large skillet over MEDIUM-HIGH heat.  Add the chicken pieces and cook till browned, about 5 or 6 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile layer carrots, onions, red pepper, garlic and ginger in the slow cooker.
  3. Mix the broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and dash of salt together in a medium bowl and then pour over the contents of the slow cooker.
  4. Cover slow cooker and set to LOW for 5 to 6 hours.
  5. Serve with a drizzle of lemon juice and fresh cilantro to garnish.

Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ =  5.
Calories 226; Protein 29g;  Carbohydrate 14g; Fat 6g; Fibre 3g.

Nov 13 chicken 001
Everything in slow cooker and ready to cover and cook

Nov 13 chicken 2 001
All cooked and ready 

Nov 13 chicken 2 002
Stir a bit to combine the ingredients and then serve

Nov 13 chicken 2 003
Over baked spaghetti squash for me... and baked potato for The Captain

If you like it, would appreciate the PIN.. thanks so much.

Are you a curry fan?  Do you use your slow cooker much?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala

I am always intrigued by exotic Indian dishes and the aromatic spices that go into them. I have very little experience with this cuisine so when I saw a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala in local food market’s weekly flyer, I decided to give it a try. I was happily surprised that I had most of the ingredients on the list but found I did have to purchase a couple of the spices I didn’t have… garam masala and ground cardamom.

I was appalled at the price of the little jar of ground cardamom… $9.19 … but I went ahead and bought it anyway.  I am sure it MADE the dish…. hah!  But I digress. Please don't tell me I could have left it out.

Apparently the fondness for Indian food has become so widespread  in Great Britain, that a creation rooted in that cuisine called Chicken Tikka Masala has become a national dish.  It is so popular that it surpassed fish and chips as the favorite take-away. (That would be take-out to us North Americans.)

Anyway, the dish blends Indian flavors with a British food preference, and how it was created is hotly debated.  One popular story behind Chicken Tikka Masala says that many years ago a customer in a Glasgow curry house demanded gravy with his Indian-style chicken. The chef made a nicely spiced sauce and a new dish was born.

Nicely spiced it certainly is, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it… I hope you will too.  It smells absolutely divine as it cooks.  I tweaked the ingredients for the recipe a wee bit  so I will share it and the N.I. as I prepared it.  Enjoy!  I just may use crushed tomatoes instead of diced next time to make the sauce even thicker.

And by the way, I have done some Googling, and learned that TIKKA means ‘bits or pieces’ and that MASALA means’ a mixture of spices’.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala
Makes 6 servings
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder (or turmeric)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1/2 large can diced tomatoes (14 ounces)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs fat free plain Green yogurt (leave out for Paleo)
  • fresh cilantro for garnish
  • salt to taste
  1.  Combine the first  8 ingredients (garam masala to cinnamon) in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the coconut oil in a large skillet over MEDIUM heat.
  3. Add the onions and cook until translucent and tender, about 5 or 6 minutes.
  4. Add the spice mixture, tomato paste, ginger, and garlic to the skillet and stir to combine.  Allow to cook about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth.  Bring to a light boil and cook 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and allow to simmer 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced a bit and thickened.
  7. Stir in yogurt and allow to heat for a couple of minutes.
  8. Serve with fresh cilantro sprigs as garnish and season with salt to taste.
Per serving including the yogurt.
Weight Watchers P+ = 5.
Calories 224; Protein 37g; Carbohydrate 7g; Fat 4g; Fibre 1g.

And now I am off to find a local Indian food market. I am sure I can find these lovely aromatic spices at a much better price…  I intend to be using them a lot, very soon.

Nov 9 Chicken Tikka Masala 001
Assembling the ingredients before starting to cook. This dish comes together pretty quickly once you start cooking so preparing ahead of cooking is a good step with this dish especially.

Nov 9 Chicken Tikka Masala 002
Adding the spices, grated ginger, minced garlic, and tomato paste to the cooked onions.

Nov 9 Chicken Tikka Masala 003
After the tomatoes and chicken broth are added, the sauce needs to simmer for several minutes.

Nov 9 Chicken Tikka Masala 004
And the chicken will get really tender as it cooks in this sauce.

Nov 9 Chicken Tikka Masala 005
The night I made it The Captain had his on rice… mine topped cauliflower rice.

Nov 10 Chicken Tikka Masala 001
To change things up a bit I served my lefotvers on baked kabocha squash with some string beans…

Nov 10 Chicken Tikka Masala 002
But The Captain chose rice again, so I gave him some veggies on the side, too.

Are you an Indian Cuisine fan?  Have any favorite dishes I should try next?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Cooking Up Some Old Favorites This Week

With the abundance of local produce at such great prices, lately, I have been taking advantage of having a wide variety of squashes, colorful bell peppers, and curly kale at my fingertips, to make up some old favorites this past week.

Just to highlight a few...  Click on the picture to go to the original post and recipe.

Jan 11 Butternut Squash Soup 003copy

This soup is really versatile and the ingredients can be easily swapped out... for instance, use olive oil instead of coconut oil, turkey instead of chicken, and any kind of squash or even sweet potato for the butternut squash. It's all good.  I made a huge batch today and froze it in individual servings for lunches down the road.

Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

I made a small batch of this at the beginning of the week and ate it 4 days in a row for lunch.... I still claim it is the tastiest soup I have made for a looooong time... and this batch I used some roasted red peppers.  Yes, it is an extra step but completely and absolutely worth it!

I didn't want to serve the dish over spinach or kale this time around, so added some baby carrots while it cooked and then served over rice for The Captain, and amber cup squash for me (that is the bright orange one that looks like a small pumpkin with very sweet flesh) ... and we didn't eat all of the sauce either, so I saved it and had it over cauliflower rice one day for lunch.

Asian Beef Slaw

I love  love  LOVE  this dish!  I made enough for two meals so the first night we had it as the filling for lettuce wraps, and then we had the leftovers served with rice for the Captain and a Low-Carb Tortilla for me.  It can easily be changed up with the addition of some canned pineapple or mandarins, too.

Guess I will have to come up with something new this week!  

Do you reprise and change up old favorites, too?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

So What is Goop?

I have been asked this question several times since I posted about making Goop last weekend during my batch cooking marathon!   What is Goop?

I first hear the term GOOP when I met The Captain many years ago… at that time he made a one-skillet dish, based on ground beef, onions, and other veggies… and called it Goop.  Sometimes we used it as the filling in in a baking powder biscuit pie crust with cheddar cheese lattices, and sometimes he enjoyed it with macaroni noodles.  The vegetables varied, depending on what we had on hand, and we used a bit of tomato sauce to hold it all together.

We basically gave it up when we moved aboard our sailboat in 2002 and I completely forgot about it.  Till about a week ago.  We have been eating extra lean ground beef more often this past year and I am always trying to come up with new ways to serve it.  I was going to make up a Meat Sauce to serve with pasta and spaghetti squash, and I remembered Goop.

The main difference between Goop and a Meat Sauce, is that Goop is not seasoned or spicy, and it has only a bit of tomato sauce… much thicker than Meat Sauce.

Here is how it went the last time I made it… and you can see The Captain enjoyed a serving of barley alongside.  You can keep your meal gluten-free or Paleo quite easily.


Makes 4 servings
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly slices (about 7.5 ounces)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium red pepper cut into small chunks
  • 8 green beans, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  1. Melt coconut oil in large skillet over MEDIUM heat.
  2. Add ground beef, onions and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is fully browned and the onions are soft and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. 
  3. Add the carrots, peppers and beans. Cook another 5 or 6 minutes till somewhat soft.
  4. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. 
  5. Cover and allow to simmer for half an hour. You may need to reduce heat to LOW.
  6. Divide into 4 and serve.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 8.
Calories 310; Protein 25g; Carbohydrate 17g; Fat 15g; Fibre 5g.

Please note that in Canada our extra lean ground beef may be up to 15% fat. In the U.S. it may be a low as 4% so this will affect the N.I.  And you could certainly get more, but smaller, servings from  these ingredients.

3 Goop 1
Steaming away on the stove.. almost ready to add the tomato sauce and then cover.

4 Goop 2
And ready to serve. You can see how thick it is.

7 Good and Squash
I like mine with some kind of squash… or even a cauliflower tortilla to scoop it up.

What d’ya think?  Could you be a Goop fan, too?