Saturday, May 28, 2011

Low-Carb Blueberry Muffins

One of the things I miss most about eating low carb is not baking anymore.  There's something almost therapeutic about mixing all of the ingredients together, waiting for it to finish baking, the house being filled with delicious smells and then devouring mass quantities of the glorious result.  I decided that I would find low carb options so that I can still have the experience without the guilt of indulging too much.  I wouldn't say that this recipe was as good as your usual gluten filled option, but it's a good alternative.  Since it's mostly eggs, they come out very moist.  I didn't have fresh blueberries, so I used fresh raspberries, which I enjoyed.  I think I'll toy with the recipe to see if adding more coconut flour or baking powder would make these more "cake-like".  This recipe is good for anyone on a gluten free diet or a low carb diet.  The coconut flour has minimal amounts of carbs, but most of the carbs are fiber, so the net carbs are next to nothing.  The honey obviously has carbs in it, but it's a way better option than refined sugar.

3 eggs, room temperature
2 T coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, defrost them and dry them in paper towels)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line muffin tin with paper or oil. Whisk together eggs, oil, and honey. Add salt, vanilla, nutmeg, coconut flour and baking powder. Whisk until smooth. Gently fold in blueberries. Try not to mix too much or your batter will be blue. Spoon into 6 muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Primal-Friendly Muffins

I was looking for a recipe for biscuits that I could eat and still stick to my new diet. I've had a craving for biscuits and sausage gravy for the longest time. I like fluffy biscuits, not hockey pucks, with my gravy, and it's been tough to find a recipe that looked like it would work. This recipe looked best out of the many recipes I went through.

I decided to try them out and was surprised at how fluffy they turned out. These "biscuits" have a texture more like muffins than biscuits. They are fairly delicate too, so I don't think they'll work for biscuits and gravy. They would, however, make really good cupcakes with some mini chocolate chips and a bit of sugar or breakfast muffins with some blueberries or currants.

So this recipe won't be the one I go to when I want biscuits, but I will keep it on hand for those times when muffins or cupcakes would hit the spot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cauliflower "Mac and Cheese"

With this new "low carb" initiative, I've been trying to find ways to make my normal food into more appropriate meals.  The thought of not eating mac and cheese anymore was almost unbearable!  I've been subbing cauliflower for starchy foods like mashed potatoes, so I thought it might work as a substitute for pasta as well.  AND IT DID!  I didn't use a recipe, I just threw stuff together, so here's my rough guesses of what I did.  Please let me know if you try it and if I should make adjustments:

Steam 1 head of cauliflower (cut into bite size pieces) until it's fork tender (don't over cook, or it won't hold it's shape when you toss with the cheese sauce, and then you'll just have cheesy cauliflower mush!...that would still taste good, just not what we're going for here)  Drain the cauliflower and make sure all excess water is gone, or your sauce will be runny.

Cheese Sauce:
2 T butter
2 T flour (I know it's not primal, but I guess I'll live!)
2 C milk
1/4 t ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 C shredded cheese (I just used what I had on hand, some smoked mozzarella, colby jack and provolone)  You may need more cheese, just add as needed until your sauce is the right consistency.
Extra cheese to sprinkle on top

In saucepan melt butter.  Once butter stops bubbling, add flour.  Whisk together and let cook for 1 minute.  Add milk and stir to combine.  Let cook until mixture begins to thicken.  Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Once incorporated, add shredded cheese and cook until melted and smooth.  Mix steamed cauliflower in with cheese sauce and coat liberally (no skimping on cheese sauce!).  Pour into baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake in 350 oven for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted.  Then set oven on broiler and bake until cheese is golden brown.  

Next time I make this, I'm going to experiment with adding other ingredients like bacon or ham.  I felt like I was missing some protein, but I guess I could make this a side dish instead of main dish!  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Amazing Primal Beef Stew

I took a Test Kitchen recipe and tweaked it a bit for dinner tonight. It was amazing. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a handful of parsley. The original recipe called for some, but I forgot to pick some up when I did the shopping. I'll be adding it for leftovers tomorrow.

Primal Beef Stew
4 slices bacon, chopped small
3 lbs beef spare ribs, cut in bite-size pieces
Salt & Pepper
2 medium onions, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c red wine (I used a 2009 McWilliams Shiraz)
3 1/2 c chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp thyme
3/4 lb carrots, 1/4" slices
4 ribs celery 1/4 - 1/2" slices
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/4 c arrowroot powder 
1/4 c water
1/4-1/2 c parsley (to taste)

In a heavy, oven-proof dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon, leaving fat in the pan, and drain on paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
Toss beef with salt and pepper in a large bowl. Increase heat to med-high and cook 1/2 beef at a time until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the beef. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Add chopped onions to pot and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add wine. Bring to a simmer and scrape browned bits off of the bottom of the pan. Allow wine to reduce slightly, by 1/4 or so. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, carrots and celery. Return beef and bacon to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover with lid and put in oven. Cook undisturbed for 1 1/2 hours.
After 1 1/2 hours, add pearl onions and mushrooms. Return to oven and continue to cook 30 minutes longer, or until pearl onions are slightly soft and beef is tender.
Remove pan from oven and heat over medium heat on the stove top. Bring to a simmer. Whisk arrowroot powder and water together in a small bowl. Drizzle into stew while stirring. Continue to stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add parsley and serve.

We had ours with a side of pureed cauliflower, mixed greens salad and a glass of the leftover wine. It was wonderful after a long day and would be perfect for a rainy day dinner.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Zucchini Alfredo with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli

Last week, I made some pretty amazing alfredo sauce and put it over tri-colored pasta with some broccoli and chicken-garlic-spinach sausage. It was so good. But, we are changing our diet and cutting out all grains. That means no more pasta at all. That is one thing that I am really going to miss, or at least I thought I would.

Tonight I decided to try making the alfredo sauce with the chicken sausage and broccoli again. This time, I used my oh-so-handy mandolin to cut zucchini into "noodles." Now these little, slippery buggers were so thin that I was concerned that if I tried to cook them they'd turn into mush. So, I made the sauce and stirred in the zucchini "noodles" in the sauce raw. The heat from the sauce cooked them just enough to soften them up a bit without turning them to mush. And let me tell you, I didn't miss pasta at all. It was so good! We were having spinach salad with it and Eric ripped up some of his and put it in his bowl to add a little more body. That was really good too. I think, next time, I'll chop some spinach and put it in at the same time as the zucchini. Super tasty stuff.

Sorry the picture is fuzzy. I took it with my phone.

Paleo Alfredo - super simple and super yummy

1 1/2 c heavy cream (I used organic)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 c Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 fully-cooked Chicken sausage links, halved lengthwise and then in 1/4" slices
1/2 pound broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 pound zucchini, shredded with a grater or mandolin

Bring 1 cup of cream and butter to a boil in heavy sauce pan. Simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced to 2/3 cup. After 5 minutes, start steaming the broccoli and add the sausage to the cream.
When cream is reduced, add the remaining 1/2 cup of cream, Parmesan cheese, pepper and broccoli. Add salt and nutmeg to taste. Stir in the zucchini and allow to warm through.
Serve while still warm. If sauce thickens too much, thin down with a little water.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chicken with Champagne Cream Sauce

Let me start off by admitting that I really wasn't excited about this recipe. I didn't want to make it at all. And I apologize for not having pictures, it disappeared pretty quickly.

Eric made me a mimosa with my Mother's Day breakfast and we had most of a bottle of prosecco that needed to get used. And although it was a day to celebrate, there really is no excuse to drink a whole bottle of champagne for breakfast, especially by one's self. So, since by the end of the day it was flat, we decided that the next best thing to drinking it would be to cook with it.

I scoured the internet for recipes and none of them sounded very good to me. But out of them all, this one looked the best, even if it only called for 1/2 cup of champagne.

I am SO glad that I found this recipe and made it rather than letting the champagne go bad in the fridge and then dump it down the sink. It was so amazingly good! There are a few changes that I made to the recipe to conform to our new diet and there are a couple more that I'll make when I make it again. (Notice I said when not if.) For one thing, by the time my chicken was fully cooked on the inside, the outside was bordering on burnt and all the brown bits sticking to the pan were charred.

So here's the original recipe. And here's how I think it should be done:

6 chicken cutlets*
2/3 c almond flour (gluten-free and adds a great flavor)
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
4 sliced prosciutto, diced small
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 c dry champagne or leftover white wine
1/2 c heavy cream
1 tsp dry tarragon

Line a baking sheet with foil.
Pour almond flour into a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in almond flour.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet, not non-stick, over medium heat. When shimmering, add half the chicken to the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken. Once it is all browned, place in oven at 350 degrees to finish cooking through if it is not fully cooked. If it is cooked through, turn oven to 200 degrees and place in oven to keep warm while you make the sauce.
Heat 2 Tbsp butter in the now empty pan. Once it is melted, add shallots and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add prosciutto and cook for 1 more minute.
Pour champagne or white wine into pan, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Once it is reduced by 1/2 add the cream and tarragon. Return to a simmer, cook 2 minutes, stirring to combine. Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp butter.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chicken with champagne sauce over the top.

*You can make your own by slicing 3 chicken breasts in half. Place your hand on the top, press down firmly and gently slice through horizontally with a very sharp knife.

We really enjoyed ours alongside a simple salad and steamed broccoli. If you don't have diet restrictions, this would be really tasty with some mashed or baked potatoes.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cooking Day

Every now and then, my friend Debe and I get together and spend the whole day cooking. This last Saturday, we had a bit of a theme. We made Chipotle and Qdoba copycat recipes.
We made guacamole

 fresh salsa,

The recipes from all turned out wonderfully. The barbacoa beef was a bit lacking in flavor despite the marinade smelling so potent that it made me cough and my eyes water. Kind of disappointing.We used a Cook's Illustrated recipe for the salsa, which was pretty simple and straightforward.

The beans were a chore, let me tell you. I've tried cooking dried beans many times and it's always a crap shoot whether they'll turn out well or not. Most of the time, half of the beans are still rock hard while the other half of them are mush. The only way I've found to cook them with fairly good results is in the crock pot, but that takes all day and the results still vary. I decided that I'd start the beans the night before our cooking day and hope for the best. I started by doing a quick soak: covering the beans with water, bringing them to a boil and letting them sit for an hour. I let them sit overnight instead of just an hour. Saturday morning, I started them boiling on the stove again, simmered them for a couple hours, then put them in the crock pot when I got to Debe's. They cooked in the crock pot on medium for another 6-7 hours. They turned out really well. I guess the secret to cooking dried beans at high-altitude is just cooking the crap out of them. I'm not really sure that it was worth all the work though. I think next time I'll just open some canned beans and add some extra flavor or just cook them in the crock pot for 24 hours and be done.

Dessert was my favorite part. I made angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream. It was my first attempt at making angel food cake. (It called for 10-13 egg whites, enough to measure 1 1/2 cups. No problem there, but what do I do with all the yolks?) It was delicious, so much better than the styrofoam angel food cake you buy at the store. It had kind of a marshmallow-y flavor and a spongy texture. So yummy. Debe made Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies even better by adding coconut! These were seriously the BEST cookies I've ever had! She substituted coconut extract for the vanilla and added about 1/2 cup toasted coconut in with the flour. They were amazing and didn't last long. I mean, can you get any better than browned butter chocolate chip cookies with coconut? I'm thinking, no.

It was a fabulous day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Amazing Pasta e Fagioli

I found a copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli soup years ago and have made it several times since then. I got a bit of a hankering for it and decided it was time to make it again. I doubled the recipe for the most part, but didn't have everything that I needed. So, I kind of tweaked it this time. I'm so glad I did. It turned out to be the best I had ever made.

Pasta e Fagioli (doubled, exactly how I made it this time)
This makes a HUGE pot of soup, you'll need at least a 5 quart pot to make the full recipe.

2 lbs ground beef
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and julienned
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 bay leaf
2 (14oz) cans tomato sauce
1 (5.5oz) can V8 juice
2 (15oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
2 (15oz) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans with liquid
2 cans great northern beans with liquid
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp pepper
salt to taste
1 lb ditalini pasta

Brown the ground beef. Drain fat.
Add carrots and onions and saute for 10 minutes.
Add rest of ingredients except pasta and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
In a separate pot, boil pasta for 10 minutes and drain.
To serve, place pasta in bowl and ladle soup over pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese.

It's really best the next day. I know it's tempting to put the pasta into the soup before serving, but the pasta will soak up all the moisture from the soup and get mushy and unappetizing that way. Store them separately.