companion blog to the e-book the 24/7 Low Carb Diner

Companion blog to the e-book
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crack Slaw Fusion

Mexican Minute Beef tonight. So versatile when plans go awry. I was planning to make ours a scramble tonight. That is the Minute Beef with salsa and scrambled eggs. That is really tasty too. Add in those chips and you have a nice dish called Migas. Unfortunately, the eggs often cause me some stomach distress, and I was already not feeling all that well. Therefore, this dish was born. Funny how the salsa and extra habanero sauce I added doesn't bother the tummy at all!

I fed my boys some nachos because they are not great friends with cabbage. With Dad not home tonight, they won. But that doesn't mean I am eating tortilla chips. The Minute Beef in the freezer pals up with the cole slaw mix in the fridge. Once they meet in the skillet, we have a fusion of east meets southwest. Crack slaw usually has beef with coleslaw mix and Asian flavors. Mexican is good too.

The coleslaw mix cooks down nicely with the flavored Minute Beef. Too easy. When it is all hot, transfer it to a plate and top it off with some shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa. Ole.

Tomorrow night is a New Year's Eve party at our house. Two extra families--that is about all my little living room can hold. It will be fun, and I will be busy tomorrow getting snacks and games together. Happy New Year, all. I will be sending out the newsletter tomorrow too. It is time to get in shape from all this partying!(at least for me)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby

Today is the big day for my guy. It is hard having a birthday around the holidays...especially when you are snowbound and can't get out to collect gifts! We did brave the ice today to let John eat some Chinese food. His favorite, though definitely not low carb. He did forgo the rice, and just stuck to meats and veggies. I am sure there were lots of sugars in those sauces, though.

For dessert, he gets a home made birthday cake. That is one way to tell him I still love him after all these years. His favorite flavor combination for his birthday cake was always chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. I have done my best to accommodate him this year. (Last year we had a big 50th surprise party, but this year is much lower key. That can be good too.)

I made the black bean chocolate cake from Low Carb Friends, Carolyn's version. If you wanna give it a go, the recipe is here. I have always had good luck with this recipe. It is very much like chocolate cake we all remember from our high carb days.

Vanilla frosting is a bigger challenge. But thanks to my e-friend Jennifer, I had a "go to" recipe. Thanks to her, the trial and error was all done for me. Find her great recipe for Betty Crocker-Like Frosting here. I used Truvia rather than the plain erythritol, and it tastes perfect. Thanks, Jennifer!

To pretty the cake up, I drizzled it with some sugar free chocolate syrup. Actually, I put a little bit on the cake itself. That was a mistake, because then the frosting was harder to spread. Some of it got a little smeared, but still it tastes great. All the white frostings I have made before used cream cheese. That flavor comes through, and is not my hubby's favorite. This uses dry milk powder instead. Worth the purchase!

So there is my labor of love. Happy Birthday Baby!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Pasta

When blizzards don't get in the way, my family spends Christmas day at my mom's home with my sister and all her kids. We are even into the next generation now too. My mom's instructions this year--instead of trying to get anyone to adhere to a theme--was bring your favorite. In the past we had enjoyed a bed and breakfast style buffet. But low carbing means lots of breakfast casseroles and that was not so special anymore. We then tried Italian food, but found it a little harder to make ahead and travel with. So potluck it is. We are likely to have all sorts of international favorites, and who cares? It is fun to see what others consider their signature dish, or which foods they can only have on special occasions.

Our Christmas pasta is in the second category. Can't really say it is my signature dish, as I kind of make it up as I go. It is something we indulge in rarely. Even though I use Dreamfield's pasta, my dear one's blood sugars are still likely to rise. Dreamfield's is so good, however, that no one can tell the difference between it and standard high carb varieties. I have to say, this year's choices were phenomenally good. I own a double crockpot. Each side is large enough to hold a pound of pasta. So, I made a different recipe for each side. They were both based on the same alfredo sauce, but the flavoring ingredients were very different. Everyone in my family liked both. Wish the snow wouldn't have prevented us from sharing it with the non low carbers in my family. They really flip when they get a taste of full fat ingredients. That is a true indulgence for them.

Christmas Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

1 pound Dreamfield's Rotini
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
4 ounces cream cheese
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup Italian blend shredded cheese
1/2 cup diced sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced black olives
2 links Italian Sausage (or any variety)
1 package precooked crumbled bacon

Cook noodles according to package directions. Precook sausage and slice it. In a saucepan, add jarred Alfredo sauce, cream cheese, butter and garlic. Heat and blend well. Stir in tomatoes, olives, bacon and sausage. Stir the sauce in with the drained pasta and add salt to taste. Sprinkle with Italian cheese blend. You can stir this in, or leave it one the top to melt. Serve immediately or place into a crockpot to stay warm for serving.

Pretty, rich and easy. What a perfect holiday recipe! The next one was devoured before I got the camera out, so it must have been even better.

Christmas Pasta with Chicken and Pesto

1 pound Dreamfield's Penne Rigate Pasta
1 jar alfredo sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons pesto sauce (more if you really like it)
1 cup Italian Blend shredded cheese
1 1/2 pound chicken tenders
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic.

Boil pasta according to package directions. Pan fry chicken in olive oil and minced garlic. Cut into bite sizes and set aside. In a saucepan, add jarred Alfredo sauce, cream cheese, butter and pesto sauce. Heat and blend well. Stir the sauce in with the drained pasta and add salt to taste. Stir in the chicken and top with the shredded cheese. Serve immediately or transfer to a crockpot to keep warm.

These looked very nice in my black dual crock. One side was flecked with green, the other side, with red. I was never able to make it to the family celebration. Our car could not get over the ridge left in our driveway from a giant snow drift. My poor boys shoveled for an hour. My oldest son, Andrew, was able to get his truck out, so he took one brother and attended the Christmas festivities at my mom's. The cousins made it--barely--and hiked in through her hills wearing garbage bags on their feet. Too funny. We shared a secret Santa exchange over the phone. Later in the day, my sons drove Nana back to our house for presents. She was nice enough to share some of the food from the lunch. Don't tell, but I still think my pasta was the best!

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas
and outside my door
was the biggest blizzard,
like ne'er seen before.

The dinner was cooked,
most low carb to boot,
but the roads were unpassable
regardless of route.

One guest dared to venture,
but got stranded afar,
Triple A to the rescue
had to dig out his car.

So the family alone
shared the great Christmas feast.
Thanks to the blizzard,
there was a seat for our beast.

Yes, that about sums up our Christmas Eve. Odd one for us. I am so glad we went to a church service on Wednesday evening. Knowing the storm was approaching, I think everyone had the same idea. It was packed. Beautiful service though, and a great reminder that Christmas is not about the presents and the food. The gift of Jesus is what we should be thinking of.

Not knowing what the weather was going to really do, I continued all my plans for our Christmas Eve candlelight dinner. All day, instead of getting snow, we kept getting plummeted strong winds and tiny ice pellets. Little drummer boys busy on the windows all day long. About 4 p.m. it turned to a beautiful snow. Beautiful except that I was worried about my loved ones driving in blizzard level winds. My boys were told to leave work early, so my mama's heart didn't have to fret about their safety. My hubby made it home despite our bald front tires. But our guests were not so fortunate. My mom, who lives in a hilly area, didn't try. Our family friend, who happens to be a former demolition derby racer, got run off the road by a stupid driver. We don't get too much snow here, and we all tend to be either too confident or too scared. Dangerous combination. Poor John, he had to wait for a tow truck.

So we set the table without the leaves, and made a more intimate dinner. I had made a turkey breast, squash casserole, spinach strawberry salad, steamed veggies in ginger butter, and cranberry sauce. We toasted with diet gingerale, complete with a frozen strawberry. Beautiful, and a great sub for wine or champagne. Those were the low carb dinner items. I also added some rolls and gravy. For dessert, we had lots of choices. I made chocolate pots de creme in dessert shots, and chocolate dipped strawberries. For the carby guests, I made an ice cream pie and a brownie truffle. The truffle was low sugar...I knew my hubby would insist on having some of that too. I made it with sugarfree pudding and a sugarfree cream cheese sauce. The brownies, however were from a box, so I can't really claim that it is low carb by any means, just better than it could have been. I really thought the chocolate pots de creme were wonderful, and all I needed. Several recipes are on Linda's site. I used this one, and used a blend of sweeteners to avoid the bitterness problems. If you like dark chocolate this is good. It tastes like truffles in a glass. Sorry no photo, I got busy.

The dinner was more intimate, but still nice. My family appreciated my efforts. Since we had an empty seat, a funny thing happened. Our pitty, Tinker, decided that he really needed to partake of the festivities. At first, he just begged from the floor. See the paw on Dad's chair?

Couldn't put him out in a blizzard, now could I? He went on to stare at the food from the empty area. Before we knew it, he was climbing into the seat. He is well behaved, so we just let him stay. So cute. He probably did get a few bites here and there, but so did the girl dogs on the floor. He didn't get enough to suit him, however. By the end of the meal, he just laid his big old head on the plate and pouted. That will be a funny memory for us all.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pesto "Bread" Sticks

If you like pesto, you will love these!I needed a quick side dish for some Turkey Red Sauce for John's lunch today. This is what I came up with rather than a more boring bun. I turned our regular buns into Italian bread sticks. This would work with either the soy or coconut buns. This recipe happens to use the double thick buns I baked last week, and I think the extra thickness is good, but they would work either way.

Pesto "Bread" Sticks

2 soy or coconut flour buns
2 slices cheese
1 teaspoon pesto sauce

Place two buns on a baking sheet. Cut them into strips, but do not separate. Top each bun with a slice of cheese--your choice. Bake them or use the toast option on a toaster oven. When cheese is melted, remove the buns and separate the strips. Top each stick with a bit of pesto sauce. Serve warm.

This will be excellent with the thick, tomato and turkey Italian sauce. Mmmm. Now on to Christmas preparations. I host a family dinner on Christmas Eve, and I have much prep work to do.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Breakfast Kabobs

Yummy Breakfast. It seems with all the parties and holiday foods, my hubby has been left out of so many fun things to eat. I tried to make it up to him with today's breakfast. I think it is fun--at least as fun as link sausages go.

I just pan fried some Sizzlers. I cut them up like teeny tiny meatballs. Then, I cut some cheese chunks. I loaded both on cute plastic skewers--a Dollar Tree find. To make it more special, I added a mini mufin cup of sugarfree pancake syrup for dipping. That was tasty, but a cup of sugarfree honey and spicy mustard stirred together was even better. Mmmm.

To fill him up, I added a square silicon cup with an egg. He likes his eggs scrambled, so I broke the yolk and stirred it up a bit. I microwaved the egg for 45 seconds, stirring once during cooking. Just a touch of pepper and breakfast was ready to go. Got lots of wrapping to get done today. Hope your holidays are fun!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Catch-up with Festive Garlic Cream Chicken

Party season is on! Amazing how quickly the time goes by. We had three parties just yesterday. Hubby and I took advantage of a window of time to grab a little Christmas shopping. We stopped off at Carl's Jr. for dinner; not a bad deal on a Friday night. They have a burger special. I ordered two burgers, saved the buns for my dogs, and ate the burger and toppings with a side salad. Three and a half dollars is not a bad deal at all. That way, we can save the cash for the gifts.

All three boys are home. The older guys had a very good finals week. My oldest performed fantastically in his business class. Remember the business idea he used which included my e-book for a diabetic service business? He received very good reviews and will be heading for the Governor's Cup competition this spring. Thanks to those of you who helped out with that survey. His results were quite interesting. I would love to see the idea really launch some day. My other son received 103/100 on his art history final. Great news since I wrote a curriculum and was his teacher for his high school course in that subject. They sure know how to make a mom proud.

I have been out shopping today, but wanted to fix the boys one of their favorite dinners to relieve them from the school cafeteria food--that and the bachelor cooking specials. Tonight we are having Garlic Cream Chicken with a little twist. That is basically a recipe from the E.Z. Fix chicken line up. To make things more festive, I added some sun dried tomatoes to the cream sauce.

Festive Garlic Cream Chicken

2 pounds chicken tenders
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup cream
3 Tablespoons sun dried tomatoes

Brown the chicken tenders in oil for five minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until no longer pink. Add the cream cheese and sun dried tomatoes, cover the skillet, and set aside for a 5-10 minutes. When cream cheese is very soft, stir it into the chicken pieces. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste.

We are eating ours with steamed green beans. They boys also have some egg noodles with the chicken. Tastes gourmet. So very happy to have the whole family together! Blessings on yours too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meringue Kisses..No Promises

So these are still a work in progress. I am a newbie to meringue cookies. The only batch I ever tried came out like a gooey mess. These have the opposite problem. They got a little too dry and crackly. Is that a word? Not sure, but accurate none the less.

I have to admit, I did mess up the original recipe a bit, and had to tweak it to cover my mistake. But then, I was substituting anyway, so who knows. I will try to duplicate this effort to make sure it works and bake it a much shorter time. I know meringues can vary with the weather too, and are known to be temperamental, so I hesitate to assure you of my technique. I do think the shortened baking time will fix my problem. Various recipes online have very different cooking and drying times, so I need to experiment to see what works with my oven and the weather on a particular day. I know the additions I added make these light little treats tastier! Added to that, they aren't difficult or expensive to play around with the recipe. Some shaved unsweetened chocolate and chopped nuts just might be my next effort.

Meringue Kisses

6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
2/3 cup Splenda
1 individual serving Stevia (whatever measurement is equivalent for your favorite form, as it varies greatly)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons PB2 powdered peanut butter (may be optional)
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter
2 Tablespoons sugarfree chocolate syrup

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Blend in vanilla and Splenda and stevia 2 Tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form. Remove about a cup of meringue and set aside. To the remaining, use a spatula to gently stir in cocoa powder and powdered peanut butter. When mixed, add back the plain meringue being careful not to over stir.

Drop by spoonful onto parchment paper, making a kiss shape on the top. Bake at 300 for about 20 minutes. If meringue seems firm to the touch, remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool thoroughly on the parchment paper.

After cooling the kisses, prepare the topping. Stir together the peanut butter and the chocolate syrup in a very small container. Dip the points of the kisses into the topping. If the topping is too thick, warm it a bit in the microwave.

I will keep working on the meringue recipe, but first my hubby needs to eat these up!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Party Foods

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the appetizers we served at last night's party. No, they are not all low carb, but several are, and other can be made so with just a simple change of one ingredient.

Starting at the bottom are some toothpicks speared with Tuna squares, pickle, cheese and grape tomato. 100% carb legal. Now going clockwise, we have a dish of Little Smokies with a flavored mustard, another low carb choice. Above that, a dish of Raspberry Chipotle salsa, not too bad a choice if you have the right dipper. We also had two dips, both low carb. One is a garlic cream cheese, and the other is a bacon, sour cream and jalapeno dip. Yum. Either would be good with pork rinds, or a veggie plate such as we had in the center of the table. The punch was not sugar free, but easily could have been. Tropical punch flavored kool-aid made with the sweetener of choice, then mixed with diet Sprite, 7-up or ginger ale, would be a great thirst quenching punch. (I have never been a fan of ice cream or sherbet punches, but to each his own)

You can't really see them, but I made some mini quiches. These would be just a good crustless. We also used that infamous kool aid pickle recipe to make some tropical punch flavored sweet pickles. We made ours with Splenda sweetened pickles, so they are legal and too much fun. Ever eaten a bright red pickle? Great conversation piece. My niece is taking those leftovers for her 1950s themed party. We also set out a bowl of peanuts for the nut lovers.

On the tiered plate, I made some cream cheese pinwheels shaped like Christmas trees. These are tougher to low carb. I have never seen low carb tortillas that were green. I am wondering if you could use a green food color glaze on a Lavash bread? The trees are cute, with a little pretzel stick as the trunk. The center was cream cheese and chunks of red bell pepper. Very high in the cute factor.

Maybe we had a cream cheese overkill, but I also had some of my cranberry jalapeno relish poured over a block of cheese. It is divine that way. Low carbers would probably appreciate it on some Lavash bread crackers or almond thins.

Maybe this gets you in the festive mood. If you have any great party treats, please share your recipe with me. I host a New Year's Eve party, and we would love some new tastes.

Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders

I really like to use chicken tenders. They are more uniform in size, and make for less prep work, and moister meat. Tonight I was in the mood to try something new, so I abandoned my menu plan, and made these instead. Super simple if you already have some honey mustard dressing made up. The recipe is in the e-book, but it is a simple blend of mayo, mustard and sweetener. I tried a little of a sugarfree honey I found at Walmart. While it tastes great out of the bottle, I really didn't taste the honey flavor coming through in this recipe, so my old standard recipe is fine. Who wants to risk the sugar alcohols if the flavor is not there?

I dipped the chicken into the honey mustard, then I dredged it in a combination of my soy baking mix and a new Weber grill seasoning blend I just found. The seasoning blend was okay--a little strong on some herb--maybe oregano. I ran out of coating mix before I ran out of chicken, however. So, the final ones were coated with McCormick Rotisserie seasoning. I think I might have liked it a bit better. Not as strong an herb flavor.

Either way, we ate them all up. Just some green beans and salad on the side. We used peppercorn ranch dressing, so it was a flavorful meal all around!

We held our annual cookie exchange last night. I simply can't give that one up. But I am busily giving away all those carby treats. I have four cookie gifts already given, so we will be sure to stay out of them. After baking twelve dozen cookies for the party, I can't believe I am about to bake more. These are some low carb cookies for my hubby so he won't feel neglected. Tonight I am trying a meringue type. Some say it can be low carbed, others say yuck. I will give it a try and leave them in the oven overnight. At least he knows I am trying!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Smokey Burgers and Party Desserts

My youngest son was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday and this morning, so we stayed home from church and watched the online worship service. Isn't technology great? We didn't have to miss the awesome message, and we didn't spread any germs. If you would like to check out my cool church, just click this link.

Usually, we dine out after church, most often at the all you can eat salad bar at Mazzio's. But, since Christian is not 100%, John offered to grill hamburgers outside. Love it--especially in December. With a brisk south wind, our house now smells a little smokey, but lunch was good. In fact, one time Christian emerged from his room to make sure we weren't burning the house down! After all, the cable company did catch our yard on fire last December.

I made a quick batch of hamburger buns to complete the lunch. This batch uses the soy master mix. Today, I added minced onion to make an onion bun. Pretty darn good. Because hubby was moving so fast on those burgers, I opted to make larger than average buns, taking the chance that I could split them in half with my bread knife. Before, I had always baked 12 individual buns, using one each for the top and the bottom. This time I only baked 6 in my muffin top pan. They were easy to split. The only problem is that the top part is bigger around than the bottom section. Not too big a deal, though. I thought they would take longer to bake, and almost burned them, so if you plan on doing that, watch them closely. They do bake up quickly, and light and fluffy too.

John still had some wood chips left over from smoking our turkey at Thanksgiving, so he threw a few wood chips on the grill. You definitely can taste the difference, and they look a little black even though they are not really burned.

I loaded up all the fixins--sliced onion, low cab ketchup, mustard, lettuce and a pickle spear. You can add whatever suits your fancy. I love barbecue burgers when I can find the KC Masterpiece Classic blend. Right now, I am out. This definitely ended up a two handed burger. While we often eat the burger patties without buns, sometimes it is just better to have finger food!

Speaking of finger food, we were fairly well behaved at the party last night. There were sausages and meatballs, cheeses, dips and veggie trays. My dessert of cheesecake puddings served in shots was well received. I used the small bathroom plastic cups, and added a Christmas sticker to make them pretty. I made one batch of Toffee Cheesecake Pudding and one batch of Chocolate Kahlua Cream. Yum. I am pretty sure that kept us out of the chocolate cake and brownies. Have to confess to a few tortilla chips though. Never saw hubby cheat, although I am betting the barbecue sauce had some carbs. Shouldn't hurt him too much, but he hasn't checked his blood sugar today to let me know.
Chocolate Kahlua Cream in Espresso cups

Now I am off to do my prep cooking for the day. Hope you are enjoying the season as much as I am!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore and Roasted Garlic Green Beans

The house smells like a good Italian restaurant. Lots of garlic and basil wafting in the air. Nothing like sauerkraut.

My Humanities class had a special luncheon today. The students did a role playing exercise where they played the part of a Protestant Reformer or a Renaissance era Catholic. We had a meal which highlighted the differences between the religious and political persuasions of the era. The Catholics dined on Italian food, drank sparkling juice from Venetian glass goblets, and surrounded themselves with great art.

The reformers, on the other hand, had a sparsely decorated table, no art, as reformers saw that as idolatry, and dined on German specialties such as sausages, bierrocks and sauerkraut. My friend NeeCee actually made home made kraut for the occasion. Very tasty. Fun was had by all and it was a great way to end class on a festive note before Christmas break. Since my son was a reformer, he didn't get to eat the spaghetti, lasagna and alfredo noodles the other students ate. That is him as John Wycliffe (minus the beard and hat he took off for eating. He is sitting with Martin Luther) I decided to make Italian food for tonight so he wouldn't feel deprived. He kept reminding me that he was English, not German, but I doubt that food selection would have been much better. The Italians have great food figured out, and this meal did the trick! Maybe someday soon I can get NeeCee to do a guest blog and explain how to prepare home made kraut. I hear you have to have a strong arm, but it was much better than the canned type.

Chicken Cacciatore is simple to put together if you have made the Triple Play meal of Ultra Chicken, or if you have frozen Chicken Cubes. The recipe is in the e-book. To go with the chicken, I took advantage of the cold weather to turn that oven on. In the winter, I like to prepare oven roasted vegetables. Tonight, I made green beans. It is simple to do with frozen beans. I just tossed a 14 ounce package with a bit of olive oil and a generous teaspoon of minced garlic. I let that roast in the oven for about thirty minutes. The time will depend on the thickness of the beans you are using. That roasting does something extra delicious with the natural flavors.

Tomorrow we have a Christmas Party to attend. I am making some dessert shots to share. I'll let you know how well we do staying low carbers!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

South of the Border Taco Soup

Nothing warms you up like a spicy soup. For tonight's dinner, I took advantage of some Mexican Minute Beef in the freezer to whip up this south of the border treat. Instead of carby crackers, I made some cheese crisps to add the crunch.

South of the Border Taco Soup

1 pound Mexican flavored Minute Beef (or freshly browned ground beef)
8 ounces tomato sauce

3 cups water

4 ounces green chiles

3 cups cole slaw mix
1/2 onion

1/2 bell pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

6 ounces cream cheese

Dice onion and green pepper. Add all ingredients except cream cheese in a large sauce pan. Simmer for 30 minutes. When vegetables are tender, stir in cream cheese until melted.

Minute Beef is great. It saves all that browning time, and the extra skillet to wash. I always have some in the freezer for quick meals. If yours is plain rather than already Mexican spiced, you may want to add a bit to the chili powder and cumin. With soups like this one, you can easily change the veggie mixture to fit what you have in the fridge as well. This would be good with diced zucchini in place of the cole slaw mix. If you don't have cream cheese, stir in some sour cream. It is flexible. Just another day with an easy dinner.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Comfort Casseroles

Brrrr! We are in the deep freeze here. Fortunate not to have any snow, but still bone chillin' cold. I noticed so many people complaining today. Not me. I would rather be cold than hot. I had planned some comfort food on the menu for tonight. Because chicken was not on sale, but ground beef and broccoli were, I adapted a Multiply Meals recipe from poultry to beef. The result is really delicious. I may have to make this more often. If you have the e-book, make a note now that the Hen in a Tree casserole is great made with ground beef in place of the chicken. Guess I will have to call it Cow in a Tree casserole. Sounds odd--strangely reminiscent of the "We've got Cows!" line from the movie Twister. Somehow that is not as appetizing. Still, I am glad to have more casseroles to go into the freezer for a more hectic day. Lots of those will be coming up!

Funny story about tonight's dinner. My dog Tinker was my constant companion in the kitchen tonight, following every move I made. Well, understand that he is almost 90 pounds, and my kitchen is tiny! Somehow, the oven got bumped up to 475 degrees! I blame him, of course. After I put the last casserole in, I came back to the computer. Then I heard this sizzling sound. Hmm. I asked myself if these casseroles should be making that particular noise. Good thing I checked. The first casserole in the oven did get a bit brown around the edges. You can see brown bits in the photo. Actually, those were the best parts to me. The other casseroles are a bit prettier-- the broccoli is brighter and no brown rim. Maybe when I reheat these in the future, I will leave them in a bit longer than necessary to get those yummy browned bits again. I know, gourmet foodies would hate me for that.

Before we settle in under our blankets, I plan on making some hot cider for us tonight. That recipe is in the December newsletter. With the Great Value brand of apple drink mix, it really tastes very close to the real thing. Stay warm!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coconut Bark Chocolates

I used the standard recipes for Coconut Bark to make some delicious little chocolates. They set up nicely in a silicon baking mold. Unlike candy molds, this can be used for baking as well. That makes it a better deal. My mold is from Wilton, and we picked it up at Walmart in the after Christmas sale last year. So far, I am delighted!

I made two different recipes. The darker ones, the mittens and the gingerbread men, are made with dark cocoa powder. I used raspberry DaVinci syrup for flavoring too. The have a light fruit flavor with the more intense dark chocolate flavor. The lighter color, the trees, are chocolate peanut butter. They use regular cocoa and powdered peanut butter. Both are really yummy.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Candies
1/2 cup coconut oil

2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup raspberry DaVinci sugarfree syrup

stevia to taste

Melt coconut oil in microwave. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add powdered stevia to taste. (I used 3 of the tiny scoops that came with my stevia powder) Pour into molds and freeze. Remove from mold and store in the freezer. Must be eaten cold.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Candies

1/2 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter

sweetener equivalent to 1/4 cup Splenda
a touch of stevia to taste

Melt coconut oil. Add remaining ingredients, adjusting stevia or other sweetener to taste. Pour into a candy mold and freeze. Remove from forms and store in the the freezer. Must be eaten cold.

These are both really flavorful. They will keep you from feeling deprived when everyone else is diving into the cookies and candies. Play with the flavorings to give you some variety. If you don't have candy molds, you can always make regular chocolate bark by pouring the mixture into a foil lined pan. Freeze that, then remove foil and break the candy into chunks.

My only complaint, besides the difficulty of practicing portion control, is that these have to be kept cold to keep from getting too messy. I would love to be able to pack them in a lunch box or take them to a party. Oh well, I guess I can't ask for everything!

When Dinner is the Last Thing You Want to Think About...

I love Christmas time, but I tend to overdo things. This past week, I feel like I have been running so far behind on everything. Trying to get the decorating done, attending an ornament exchange, complete with a dozen hand painted ornaments, planning for classes, shopping, etc. I admit, I have neglected the blog a bit, and relied on Thanksgiving leftovers much more than usual. Once those leftovers were gone, I used up more than the usual store of Multiply Meals and Freezer Favorites. It has been so good to have those ready to go.

Alas, I have also been hanging out in Sugar Land. My mom and I have hosted a Cookie Exchange for years. I simply cannot imagine Christmas without it. And since I am certainly not expecting everyone's contributions to be sugar free and low carb, I have been testing standard sugar and flour laden recipes. I am keeping them away from the hubby. I only bake them at my mother's house and leave them there. This past weekend, guilt overcame me, however, and I tested a recipe which could easily be converted to a truly low carb cookie for him. It was a German cookie--Zimtsterne. This recipe used ground nuts, cinnamon, eggs and sugar. I decided to try it with regular sugar before I splurged on the expensive erythritol. This is an odd recipe that mixes the sugar with egg whites. The meringue ended up looking more like marshmallow cream. Not sure if I did it right or not. After working with the world's softest dough, as it was actually closer to batter, I managed to make star cut outs. They were to dry for 24 hours before baking. Did that. But when we baked them, they puffed up. Each cookie seemed to have a mind of its own. Some puffed way more than others. Some looked like a roundish cookie with a star on top. They were definitely the Charlie Brown tree of the cookie world. Ugly is not the word, sad is much closer. They taste wonderful, however. But after all that work, I am on the fence. I don't know if erythritol would perform any differently, and I am hesitant to try.

So, I confess all that to explain why I certainly don't want to be thinking about dinner plans. But we have to eat, and I was naughty and did not follow my prep day plans, choosing to postpone that cooking a couple of days this week. This is last night's dinner that I threw together while I was still trying to get warm from putting up the outside decorations. Brrr. This was really yummy. It is almost the Italian soup recipe from the e-book, but I was running short on ingredients, so I can't say it is actually that recipe. Soups are so forgiving. Into the pot went the last of those cherry tomatoes that were somehow still clinging to my frozen plant. I even threw in a couple of green ones, deciding that they were never going to ripen. Those were a bit tart, but the soup didn't suffer a bit! This dinner left us much warmer and happier. Everyone had seconds. That is always a good indicator.

Quick Italian Soup

1 pound Italian sausage (or 1 package Minute Sausage)
3 green onions
14 ounce chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 head cauliflower
6 or more cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 ounce can of tomato sauce
4 ounces American cheese
2 ounces cream cheese

Brown sausage with chopped green onion. When browned, transfer to a pot. Add broth, water, cauliflower, Italian seasoning, garlic, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add cheese slices and cream cheese. Stir to incorporate.

Now with the house all decorated, and many of my gifts already purchased, I promise to have more time to devote to some really good low carb Christmas goodies. In fact, I have something chocolatey to try this afternoon. We will see how it works.

Christmas Bento

So, these may not exactly be Christmas foods, but I did get a really cute Christmas napkin set for my pencil box bento lunch. Aren't the smiling Christmas lights fun? Besides being washable and reusable, homemade fabric napkins make me smile. I picked out this fabric, but my mom sewed it up for me. Thanks, mom. Yes, I am still spoiled... even in my forties!

The lunch was simple, but tasty. I used Joseph's Lavash bread to make ham and cheese spiral sandwiches. I added some green onions and purple cauliflower as sides. Purple cauliflower tastes just like the white, but it is so much more fun. I added a cup of blue cheese dressing as a dip. A small skewer of olives, and lunch was ready. Fast and fun like a good holiday lunch should be.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cozy Cup of Cheer part 2- Mexican Hot Chocolate

Yummy. This is my breakfast today. Warm, sweet and chocolatey. This is another recipe from the newsletter this month. Today, I only made a half batch, and I cut back on the cream to save a few calories. Still definitely a keeper!

This is an older recipe that I used to make with milk and real sugar. I noticed this morning, that I forgot to convert milk in the directions to the water and cream mixture. I fixed that here on the blog, but if you decide to make enough for friends, and use the recipe in the newsletter, please remember that you just substitute where it says milk. For those who dislike coffee, the flavor is not that strong, so go ahead and give this a try!

Mexican Hot Chocolate for 2

1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup coffee
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream ( original recipe uses 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup equivalent sweetener
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt

Place chocolate in saucepan, cook over low heat until chocolate melts. Combine the sweetener, salt, and cinnamon and add to the chocolate. Add coffee and stir until smooth. Add water, cream and vanilla to the the chocolate mixture. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes to blend flavors. Whip to a froth and serve.

I didn't froth today because my immersion blender is broken. I hear from the hubby that I will be getting a new one as a late birthday present. That will be great for this recipe, as the new blender will have a drink frothing attachment. Can't wait to try it. If you don't have the means to froth either, just keep a spoon with the cup, and stir the drink every once in a while to keep the cinnamon mixed in. This makes two large mugs or three smaller cups.

Christian is drinking a cup now and says this is better than the American version he is used to. But then, he often just gets a packet of instant cocoa mixed with water. How could this not beat that?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Cozy Cup of Christmas Cheer- Eggnog for One

The holidays are in full swing around here. The week of Thanksgiving is a wild ride. My birthday fell right after Thanksgiving this year. Combine that with my boys being home, shopping specials and an ornament exchange party, and I am pooped. Yesterday, I got the newsletter sent out, and was in a mad rush to finish up several of those recipes. No time to decorate yet, and not much blogging. We did still eat, but nothing photo worthy--leftovers and lots of Multiply Meals from the freezer. Thankful to have those, but now I need to get back on schedule as the freezer is looking rather bare.

Since I have been absent, I am going to tell you today about another holiday drink I made up to feature in the newsletter. I love specialty drinks this time of year. They easily take the place of more fattening desserts or snacks. We even have light snow in the forecast for today. It already sounds good to make a hot drink and curl up under a blanket. I hope it does snow, maybe I will be inspired to get the house all decorated for Christmas. At the very least, I will get all our Christmas mugs down from the tops of the cabinet so we can enjoy one of the Cozy Cups of Cheer.

The first recipe is for an individual egg nog flavored drink. Even though I do have a recipe for a real eggnog--cooked variety--this is a mock version, just enough for one. That is fine if you happen to be the only one in the family who likes eggnog.

Egg Nog for One

3/4 cup water
1/4 cup cream
2 teaspoons Instant Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding mix
1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring
A generous sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice
Sweetener to taste
Whipped cream for topping

Stir cream and water into a mug. Add in pudding mix and stir well. Let thicken a bit for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients, sweetening to taste with sugar substitute. Heat in microwave until hot, or chill to serve cold.

Hot, this is similar to a hot buttered rum. Cold, it is a more traditional nog. It is cold and wet here today, so I am opting for hot!