Tag Archives: low calorie

Cookbook Challenge #2 – Quinoa Pilaf


I brought Isa Chandra’s Appetite for Reduction cookbook to work with me and read through it as I had my morning cup of coffee. I ended up looking at her recipe for cranberry-cashew biryani and knew I needed to make it.


However, as much as I love her recipes and love that in this cookbook everything is 400 calories or less per serving, I wanted to change the recipe to fit my taste buds better.


My sister and I were emailing each other all day talking about recipes, our mom’s recipes, cooking and planning my visit to Chicago in March (hooray!). I told her about this recipe and how I wanted to change it to fit my dietary needs. She reminded me that “biryani” is actually all spice. It does not usually have dried fruit in it, and I wanted to use some kind of dried fruit. So we both realized what I wanted to make, was really a pulao or pilaf.

The biggest changes I made were the cooking process in general, using quinoa over Basmati rice to help keep it low-carb for me, and using dried apricots instead of cranberries.


garam masala made fresh

If you didn’t know, apricots and cumin are two of the most yummy flavors when combined. Next time you make a curry dish with cumin, add a little dried apricot in there – your world will change completely.

This dish turned out amazing. How do I know that? When REB got home from class and had it for dinner, he said, and I quote, “Whole Foods should have this in their hot bar.”


This is how I know this recipe is a keeper. And how I know he’s a keeper too ;)

Quinoa Pilaf
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A low-carb twist on classic Vegetable Pulao that uses Indian spices, mixed vegetables and dried fruit. Adapted from Isa Chandra (and my mom)!
Recipe type: vegan, vegetarian, main dish
Cuisine: Indian, vegetarian, vegan
Serves: 4
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1½ cups frozen mixed vegetable blend (my blend has carrots, peas, green beans and corn kernels)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (I make mine fresh, but you can use store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup unsalted whole cashews, toasted
  • Cilantro (optional garnish)
  1. In a rice cooker or medium pot, cook quinoa according to packaging instructions. I used ¾ cup quinoa, with 1½ cups water in my rice cooker.
  2. Add the chopped dried apricots directly to the quinoa so they cook together — the quinoa took about 20-25 minutes to cook in the cooker. May take longer on stovetop.
  3. When the quinoa is cooked, pour into a bowl and set aside
  4. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.
  5. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover the pot with a lid and let the seeds start to pop.
  6. Next add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for one minute.
  7. Add the frozen mixed vegetables, garam masala, turmeric, salt, red pepper flakes and stir well for one minute.
  8. Add the tomato paste and water and stir.
  9. Cover the dish and let it come to a boil and reduce so the curry is slightly thickened and most of the water is gone- about 3-5 minutes.
  10. While the curry is boiling away, toast the cashews in a small, dry pan until golden
  11. When the curry has reduced, add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir well to combine all the flavors. Give it a taste and adjust your spices if needed.
  12. Toss in the toasted cashews.
  13. Serve immediately with pickle, chutney or additional curry dish.
  14. Optional garnish: chopped cilantro


After doing the math, I found that this recipe was only 229 calories per serving, almost 5g of fiber and almost 8g of protein. I think next time I might add some garbanzo beans or mushrooms to up the ante on the protein.

What are some of your favorite cookbook recipes?

Healthy Italian


Hi everyone! I hope you all are doing well!

So the title isn’t a mistake. There is such a thing as healthy Italian food. Ever since I started my new low-calorie/low-carb diet, I’ve missed pasta a lot. I’m also really nervous to eat a lot of pasta because I’m afraid of portion control. While I think I’ve, for the most part, learned how to eat the right amount, and also not eat things like cream sauce and stuff, I’m afraid I’ll still eat too much. It’s a terrible, horrible feeling that I’m hoping one day passes, but still. It is a bit of a struggle and it’s more mental than anything, but I’ll get better about it. I’m sure of it.

In light of thinking healthy Italian, REB and I made tofu parmesan on Saturday night. I never was a big fan of chicken parmesan when I ate meat, but I wasn’t a fan of deep fried things. I’m still not big on eggplant parmesan either. However, I found this recipe on Eating Well for tofu parm and decided we should give it a shot! I’m glad we did!

Pin It

It was not only delicious, but it was under 300 calories per serving. Perfection. I wish there was more protein in it, but you can always add some extra sides to make that happen. We did change a few things for our tastes, but it worked great.

Recipe adapted from Eating Well

Tofu Parmesan

•1 14-oz. block firm tofu, cut lengthwise into four “steaks”
•1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
•1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
•2 teaspoon olive oil
•1/2 pound (one 8oz.-carton) baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
•1/2 cup onion (half a large onion), chopped
•1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
•1/2 cup total low-sodium marinara sauce
•1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (can also use vegan cheese if you prefer)
•5 basil leaves, chiffonade


On a plate, combine the Panko and Italian seasoning. Cut the tofu lengthwise into four “steaks” or pieces. Lightly season each side with garlic powder and salt (we didn’t use the full 1/4 teaspoon for each) and then dredge each side in the breadcrumb/Italian seasoning mix.

In a large deep skillet heat the olive oil and then add the onions and let them get translucent and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Next add the mushrooms and let them sweat their liquid out and turn slightly brown, about 5-10 minutes.

Transfer the onions and mushrooms to a bowl. In the same skillet, which you may need to add another teaspoon of olive oil, add the tofu steaks and cook until it’s golden brown (about 3 minutes per side).

Turn the tofu, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, spoon the mushroom/onion mixture on each steak, top with a tablespoon or so of marinara sauce, then the mozzarella cheese. Cover the skillet and let the tofu continue to cook until the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.

The last bit is just sprinkling some basil on top of each and serving it up! I’m glad we decided to use Panko instead of breadcrumbs. It made the tofu a little crispier. Note to self: find more recipes to use Panko! Like I said, this recipe is under 300 calories per serving and all delicious! Enjoy!

Have you had struggles with weight?
What are things you miss eating and have you found alternatives?