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

Companion blog to the e-book
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Salsa Beef Bento Lunch

I had a lesson planning session today for the American History class I am teaching next fall. Because we were devoted to making some real progress, we started early and worked through lunch. This is the bento I packed for me. The Salsa Beef is not so pretty, but it sure is tasty. I took it for lunch and left some for the boys I left at home. My middle boy at his like a dip with tortilla chips.

I used frozen Minute Beef. Just heat that up in a skillet. Add cream cheese--about 8 ounces per pound and a half of beef crumbles. Then stir in salsa to taste. I think I use almost a cup. Ours was mild, so I may have added more. That is it.

I ate mine like a spread--putting it on zucchini slices. Also in my bento are green onions, blueberries and cherub tomatoes. All that produce balances out the richness of the cream cheese and beef. This is a meal that is really speedy to put together.

I made the cute little napkin ring from a freebie I found here. I have been into my crafting lately. I need a break from academics! I printed these and mod podged both sides so they will be durable. LOVE the colors.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Florentine Skillet

I've been working on the newsletter today, and wanted a quick dinner. I had ground beef which needed to be used, so I made a good summertime skillet. No oven allowed, though it definitely gives the oven baked flavor.

Florentine Skillet

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
12 ounce package frozen spinach
1/2 onion, diced
6-8 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces Swiss/American cheese slices
2 teaspoons MrCormick Roasted Garlic seasoning blend
salt and pepper to taste

Brown and drain the beef. Add the spinach and onion and cook until tender, about ten minutes. Stir in cream cheese and cheese slices. I set them on top, turn off the burner, and let the cheeses melt in. Stir everything well and add seasoning.

This can be formed to resemble squares from a casserole. It is a little prettier that way. If you prefer it thinner, just add a little half and half. I served ours with a side salad. For the carby boys, I made some white cheese macaroni with more of the roasted garlic seasoning stirred in. Look at Big Lots for those blends--they are tasty. Even though I have an avowed spinach hater, he eats this. Good thing he likes cheese, and I finally got a dark green leafy veggie in him!

I am pretty sure this would freeze well. It might go into rotation. I would love some extra individually wrapped portions for lunches.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tilapia Bites Bento

My half price Laptop Lunch set arrived last week. I broke it in today. I have been experimenting with new no oven needed recipes for the upcoming newsletter. I made this yummy fish and decided it would work great on food picks in my new bento set. Isn't it cool? Of course, you don't need a special bento set to enjoy this treat. It is seriously yummy and embarrassingly easy!

I went ahead and tried out a low carb version of a Japanese bento staple--onigiri. It is traditionally made with rice--sticky, starchy rice that is, so low carbing this recipe is a challenge. I had never tried it, but found a great tutorial over here at Alecto's blog, Low Carb Foodie. The addition of a low carb staple--cream cheese--adds the stickiness needed for cauliflower to hold together into a ball, or in this case, a triangle. Alecto stuffs ongiri with bacon, but I left mine plain today. Cute idea, huh? I added a little garlic hot sauce in the little sauce container. Yum.

The other cups in my bento box hold a green onion and a mix of fresh strawberries and blueberries. So much color. Gotta love it. I can do without the seaweed faces; this is pretty enough!

Tilapia Bites

1 Tilapia fillet, partially frozen
Old Bay Seasoning
Coconut Oil

Cut a partially frozen fish fillet into bite sized chunks at the thickest part. The thinner sections can be cut into a long strip. Then roll the fish and secure with a toothpick. This way, all chunks will cook in the same amount of time. Sprinkle both sides of the fish with Old Bay seasoning. Allow spices to flavor the fish for 10-20 minutes. Heat a tablespoon or two of coconut oil in a skillet. Place fish into skillet and pan fry until done, turning only once. When done, drain on a paper towel. If desired, thread the fish chunks on a food pick, alternating with fresh veggies.

I let the Tilapia come to room temperature before loading it on the food picks. It held up very well although I expected it to fall apart. I think I like it best at room temperature when the texture has firmed a bit. Who needs a hot meal this time of year anyway? That makes this perfect for a lunch on the go. This was a nice treat, full of various flavors and textures. That is what I love about Bento. The variety I load into the compartments makes for a much better dining experience.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chalkboard in the Kitchen

I have been giving my kitchen a super cheap makeover the last week or so. One thing I did was find these chalkboard stickers at the Dollar Tree. For $2, I now have several ways to personalize what is going on in my kitchen.

The photo above is a recycled jug. It once held Arnold Palmer's Half and Half drink. Now it holds a low carb version of the same mix. Half tea, half sugar free lemonade. This is really refreshing. You ought to try it too--if you have a gallon pitcher. Mine came with a movie night guest. Super thrifty, don't ya think? Just make one envelope of Koolaid lemonade and one family size tea of your choice. Sweeten to taste. This is a lot like the bottled green teas in flavor. It is my new favorite for the summer.

I also put a chalkboard sticker on another recycled drink container. My boys don't care for tea, so Koolaid is pretty popular too. Now everyone knows what flavor I made. I like the screw on lids for beverage containers because I can shake and not have to stir. Using liquid sweetener really helps too.

Last but not least is my poor decrepit crock pot. It refuses to die despite its hard life. The glaze is disappearing from inside the crock. The outside is rusted and stained. One handle is missing and broken. It is the Timex of the slow cooker world. Even though I have a dual crockpot and a mini crock pot, this is still my favorite. I refuse to toss it until it dies naturally. So,I slapped a chalkboard sticker on it. But then, the rest looked even more awful, so I painted it with black craft paint. Even though I did a hurried job and the light was terrible...(it was about midnight when the painting urge struck) it still looks better than it did. A magnet clip holds a piece of white chalk. The fun thing is that I can write on the chalkboard what is cooking inside, and the time when it should be ready. A la tonight's Sloppy Toms. That will be especially handy on days when the family arrives home before the mom, and worries that they may never be fed. It could even hold the directions on how to serve oneself. Hmm. I will have to work on that concept.

I have two more of the black scroll stickers stuck on my fridge now. One is for the dinner menu. I get asked a lot--even though my weekly menu is almost always on the fridge. This is bigger--maybe they will read before they ask. Maybe. The other is for general announcements of things to do or fun things happening. I STILL had more chalkboard stickers, so some got cut up and used as labels. This is fun because I can change what is in a cannister without making a new label. Coo-el.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Breakfast Sticks

One of the standards around here is breakfast casserole. I make one every week. They make such easy breakfasts--quick to reheat in a flash. All my recipes are rich with eggs, cheese and meats. This one happens to be Three Little Pigs, with bacon, ham and sausage. What we can't forget, however, is how versatile these casseroles can be. We can bake full casseroles--easy, or of course, we can bake them in muffin cups for individual servings on the go. One way to compromise between these two is to cut a casserole into sticks after it is baked.

When cut in stick form, these casseroles become finger food. They are great for lunch boxes (especially Bento), snacking in front of the TV, even for party fare. These are even easier than muffins to eat in the car on the way to work!

Casserole sticks can be flash frozen, then sealed in a ziploc bag so a few can be removed for a quick snack or breakfast. If you freeze them this way, be sure to get as much air out as possible to avoid freezer burn. It is easy to pack them into snack bags to freeze so they are easy to grab and go.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pizza in a crust no kidding

The kids are getting together tonight to watch a bunch of Dr. Who episodes. My son's a big fan--a "Whovian" so to speak. We fed them popcorn and cheese crackers and pizza. Oooh, but none of that for us. We can still have our pizza fix though. I made the Pizza in a Bowl. It is way too hot to bother with making a low carb pizza crust in the oven. All that yummy goodness is in the toppings anyway, so this is much easier!

Tonight, I just added some precooked ground beef, cheese, onions and pizza sauce in a small ovenproof dish. Everyone can add favorite toppings. I would love green peppers, but they are so expensive this year, I opted not. These are really good with pepperoni and sausage as well, but we had sausage for breakfast this morning, and we ran out of pepperoni. Probably good for my sodium levels to leave that one out. Anyway, just layer the ingredients in and pop them in the toaster oven until everything is melty and hot. Tonight I borrowed some crushed red pepper flakes from the pizzeria. My salad is pre-made and waiting in my Tupperware container, so everything was easy as pizza pie. Now back to the next episode...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bento at Home

Love to pack my bento lunches. In fact, I have a new bento system on the way after I found a great online sale last week. I can't wait til it gets here. In the mean time, the Carby Boy and I were out junking today. He needed some new shorts, so he was my captive in the Goodwill Store. I found the most awesome set of divided baking dishes. This is kinda like a small TV dinner tray, only better. Granted, there is not room for a lot of food, but then, I always use a small plate anyway to trick my brain into thinking I am eating more. Bento meals always pack in more than you'd think--just because they use space so efficiently. This dish is great, because not being plastic, it can go in the oven or microwave. I took advantage of that feature for tonight's meal.

I had already prepared Chipotle Chicken Shreds for our dinner tonight. Filling this new dish was a snap. In one section, I simply microwaved an egg with a cube of defrosted green chilies. A sprinkle of Jalapeno Seasoning and a pinch of cheddar is all I needed to finish that up. It filled the space perfectly and baked in a little over a minute. That was easy. Next I made some cheese crisps in the microwave--my replacement for tortilla chips and extra yummy. I sliced some grape tomatoes and sprinkled them with some Jalapeno Seasoning too. Then, out of the crockpot came the shredded chicken. A sprinkle of cheese and some salsa, and my meal was ready to go!

It is almost like eating chicken enchiladas--just no tortilla. All the same great flavor, though. Even if you never find a wonderful little dish like this, a ramekin would work just as well for the egg and green chili bake. This is a great meal when you don't want to fire up the stove or the oven.

I'm thinking this dish would also come in handy on Burger Buffet Night. The divided sections would be excellent for extra condiments to choose from. Can't you see pickles, onion, ketchup and mayo in there? My guys can put away the burgers, that's for sure!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tac-ole Cups X-tra Festive

There is a party on my plate tonight. I made one of our family favorites--Tac-ole Cups. I used to make them in my silicon muffin pan, but now I have so many individual cups, I use those. I found these flower shaped cups on half price sale at Hobby Lobby. They are too cute!

Today, I chose to use the Minute Beef version rather than the Multiply Meals recipe. I am busy reorganizing my kitchen, and paint is more fun than cooking at the moment. This meal was easy to throw together with precooked ground beef. Just add the salad--already mixed in the fridge. Now that I am full, I wish I had made a Multiply Meal--then I would have more waiting in the freezer for lunches and easy dinners. But, it is all good.

Lime Water

It is summer and time to drink up. I know drinking water is healthy, but I have a hard time getting all mine in. Sometimes, something fun makes it easier. I was at the Dollar Tree yesterday, admittedly one of my favorite places. I have tons of water bottles, but this little drink cozy caught my eye. Love the fabric. It is trendy looking and stretchy too. It fits lots of different sized bottles. It even helps absorb all that condensation we get in this humidity.

There are two to a pack, so my mom took one home too. I used a Sharpie to add my name. Because it is stretchy, it is easy to pack a little package of True Lime tucked in the side. That way, I am ready for a refill on the road. Now, maybe I will get my water down!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lisa's Sweet Sauce and Spinach

You have several options for Red Sauce when you work the Diner System. It can be a Triple Play Meal, with a generous helping of Turkey Red Sauce. Or it can be a Freezer Favorite, as with Lisa's Sweet Sauce made with Italian Minute Beef. Just as easy, it can be put together with Minute Sausage and some jarred marinara. If you are feeling a bit Italian, the choice is yours.

We had my sweet sauce for dinner tonight. My boys love the touch of sweetness in this sauce. I have seen other recipes which use brown sugar, as I did when I was a newlywed. Now just a touch of any diet sweetener will work. Rather than use zucchini as a veggie base, I sautéed up some fresh spinach in garlic and olive oil. That truly only takes a minute! Just toss the leaves around until they just wilt--no more. If my carby boy hadn't needed some noodles, I would have been out of the kitchen in record time! I am taking some time this summer to do a small overhaul on my tiny kitchen. With it in flux, our meals need to be simple. This certainly qualifies there!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Swiss Beefkey Request

I had planned a Build It Buffet Night for tacos and fajitas, but my biggest boy requested one of his old favorites. Because I had purchased both lean ground beef and turkey this week in planning to make some Minute Beef packages, I had plenty on hand. You saw this meat combo in my Oklahoma Barnyard Burgers a couple of nights ago, but this is my original combo. Beefkey. Part beef part turkey. It has a great texture and flavor too.

It is pretty similar to loose beef sandwiches. Those always made the think of the old Rosanne shows. Never liked that show much, but remember the food that they featured when they owned their own restaurant sounded interesting. To me, this tastes like Arby's roast beef. The texture is nothing alike but the flavor is.

When my friend and fellow Diner, NeeCee, told me she liked 'em, but the juice ran down her arm, I knew I needed to remind everyone to use a really lean beef for these unless you want to drain the fat from the crock. I like the juice, but not running down my arm! Take note and then give this a try.

It is a true fix and forget kind of dish. Just add in a mixture of ground beef and ground turkey. The ratio is up to you, the amount is too. The recipe is in the e-book, but I can tell you, I just add beef bouillon cubes or crystals and onion powder or dried minced onion to taste. When the meat is all tender, just stir it all together and mash with a potato masher or a nifty little Pampered Chef tool for blending ground meats. I use mine all the time. Today, I loaded the crock pot late, and I had thawed meats, so I just cooked on high for 3 1/2 hours. Often, I put bricks of frozen meat in and cook them on low all day. Either way works fine. Very forgiving.

We low carbers eat ours plain with the cheese melted on top and a side serving of veggies. Carby types will appreciate a toasted bun--garlic bread is the ultimate, but we just won't got there, now will we? Sorry the photo tonight is not great. My camera batteries died on me with only one shot and no flash. So you get what you get. I was not about to wait to eat until I could charge batteries.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Steakhouse Special Dump Chicken

That's a lot of chicken! But that is only half of what I prepared tonight. Remember how I played games on Sunday rather than do my prep cooking? It is alright to do that from time to time, because if you follow the Diner system most weeks, you will still have a stock of freezer food waiting. It is a good idea to make up some of what you missed. Tonight, I made a Freezer Favorite--Steakhouse Special Dump Chicken. But rather than marinate then freeze as usual, I made this recipe into a Triple Play Meal. With the five pounds of chicken tenders, we will have three meals. Tonight we had them plain with loaded broccoli on the side. Tomorrow the meal is chicken salad. Later this weekend, I will offer these up as kabobs skewered with cherry tomatoes, red onion and bell pepper.

The Steakhouse Special marinade is delicious, but not too strong. It goes with anything, so it is easy to dress up. Rich with soy sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke and olive oil, the flavors are hard to define. It is a favorite with my guys. Just a little oven time and you have a tasty dinner---and lunch! The choice is yours here. Put the marinade together with raw chicken and pack them away in the freezer, or bake them all at once and dine for several meals. Sometimes I choose this, because I appreciate not having to heat the oven up twice. Once baked, these tenders easily warm in the microwave or toaster oven. My guys even like chicken cold.

The recipe is in the e-book, so if you want it, look there in the Freezer Favorites section.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oklahoma Barnyard Burgers

Another burger. Yes ma'am! This one raids the whole barnyard! It will have you mooing, oinking, gobbling and even clucking. The patty is a blend of ground chuck and lean ground turkey. Add in crumbled bacon and an egg to hold it all together, and you have a pretty amazing burger.

This one is smokey and tender and very flavorful. It is a shame to put any toppings on at all. And of course a bun is just an insult.

Oklahoma Barnyard Burgers

1 pound ground turkey
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 2.8 ounce package of real bacon crumbles
1 onion, very finely diced
3 teaspoons liquid smoke
3 Tablespoons low sugar barbecue sauce, plus more for basting
1 Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Blend all ingredients together. The meat mixture will be rather wet. Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to scoop meat into a Foreman grill or skillet. Form into patty shapes on the cooking surface. Cook until done through. If using a skillet, let the meat set up until firm before flipping. After the last flip, or just before removing the patties from the grill, brush with additional barbecue sauce. Makes 12-13 patties.

The chia seeds help bind the meat mixture together and add some nutrition, but the burgers will work without them. I served ours tonight with some Nana's Coleslaw with a Kick. For toppings, some smoked cheese would be awesome-- just used regular slices that I had on hand.

I just had to name this burger in honor of my home state, with all of our heritage of ranchers. I was in Big Lots today. I almost always check out the cheap recipe books while I am there. Today, I picked up one from the Food Network that had recipes from regional restaurants. Always interested to see if they group Oklahoma in the South, the Southwest or the Plains states, I looked us up. Yep. The table of contents had 50 entries all right, but no Oklahoma. The District of Columbia had a section, but not my state. What the heck? Even Martha Stewart eats here in my home town. If the book wasn't already so dated, I would stage a protest. But--I guess since this book was on clearance at Big Lots, that speaks for itself. Yes, I am sneering now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kristen's New Mexico Cheeseburger

The taste of this is great for lovers of green chilies. Around here, that's me. Check. I also like all the work already done for me. Check. This is spicy and creamy and meaty. Who could ask for more? Oh yah, me. Make that speedy too.

You know when you are cooking out and you get those coals just right? It's usually when your meat is done cooking. You are left with nice hot charcoal just begging for more. That's when I like to bring the hubby another plate of burger patties. Not that we can eat that many--but why not grill up more while the coals are ready? Burger patties will reheat nicely for quick lunches or midnight snack attacks.

That is the birth of this yummy concoction. When we had our pool party last week, we had leftovers. Today, I am enjoying the fruit of that labor for this burger named for the home state of one of our guests of honor at that party. Here's to my son's adorable girlfriend Kristen, a lover of the green chili!

Kristen's New Mexico Burger

1 precooked, fire grilled beef burger patty
1 ounce cream cheese
2 Tablespoons green chilies
sprinkle of jalapeno salt

If the burger patty is frozen, thaw first. Spread the cream cheese on the burger and sprinkle with jalapeno salt. Add the chilies over the cream cheese. Heat in the microwave oven or in a toaster oven.

That's Kristen in the center of the photo.

Here is the brand of jalapeno seasoning I use. Back in the old days, I used this with rice. Now, it flavors other things!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Crack Slaw Going Thai.

This is an even quicker version of my Crack Slaw in 5 minutes recipe. It uses Minute Beef (pre-browned ground beef) and prepackaged cole slaw mix. No frying, no cutting vegetables. It's as fast as the microwave and doesn't require an oven. What could be better than that?

This one is more of a method than a recipe, so feel free to add or take away to your heart's desire---and be sure to taste along the way.

Place about 2 to 3 cups of shredded cole slaw mix per person into a skillet. Add a few Tablespoons of coconut oil. Stir fry a bit until it begins to soften. Add a package of thawed Minute Beef. Once that is warm, season this mixture with Bragg's Liquid Aminos, which is similar to soy sauce in flavor, but much better for you. Sprinkle with powdered ginger, garlic powder, a squirt of lime juice, onion powder and a bit of powdered stevia. You can leave it like this, or do what I do. I like a spoonful of red curry paste. Just the right level of heat for me. My brand has red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, thai ginger, salt, shallot and kaffir lime. I only used a third of the serving size, so I only added one carb.

My regular crack slaw is highly flavored with sesame oil and jalapeno. This has a different flavor. Quick, filling and really flavorful!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vietnamese Coriander Meets Chicken

This is not your Grandma's Chicken soup. This is interesting. Much more interesting. When I picked this up at the herb festival earlier this spring, I was not sure what to do with it. Now I know. Vietnamese Coriander is spicy, a bit like cilantro, but with more lemony undertones. Great with chicken and lime.

Here is a great idea for chicken soup for all of you who are working the Diner system. Freezer Favorite chicken soup. Here is how.

1. Make a big batch of chicken soup. However much you like, or whatever will fit into your stock pot. Use just a little salt and pepper to flavor the broth. Let the broth condense a bit more than usual if freezer space is at a premium. If not, flavor is best at regular strength, I think. Make sure you have freezer containers for individual servings of soup.

2. You now have a choice to make. A. You can divide the soup and freeze it as is, adding the flavorings later. B. You can divide the containers into flavor batches to prepare now.

3. If dividing into flavor batches is the way you prefer, transfer the chicken and stock into several pots. Add fresh herbs and spices and allow the soup to simmer. The flavors will become a part of the essence of the soup and give you a wonderful taste sensation.

4. Place soup into individual servings, label and freeze. If you chose not to flavor now, you will add the herbs and spices when you reheat. You will just need to simmer the soup a bit longer before serving.

This weekend, I made use of my herb gardens for our chicken soup. Wonderful stuff.
John, who is not nearly as adventurous as I am, chose a basil based chicken soup. Garlic and basil--who can argue with that? Add a twist of lemon and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese...maybe a tomato or two from the garden, and you have a great light meal.

I love the unusual, so this was for me. I will be making it again. Good thing the Vietnamese Coriander and Lemon Balm are my best producers right now. This is the recipe for a small batch, so you can see if you like it before making the big batch for the freezer.

Vietnamese Chicken Soup

1 chicken breast
1 quart water
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 clove garlic
2 packets True Lime or 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
10-15 Vietnamese Coriander leaves
6 Lemon Balm leaves

Boil chicken breast in water until cooked through. Dice or shred the cooked meat and return it to the pot. Add salt, pepper, onion and garlic. Let simmer while chopping the herbs. Add herbs to the pot and simmer for ten minutes or more.

If you want to make this a little heartier, you could add chopped veggies. I would imagine cauliflower would be good. Just choose something that doesn't overpower the herbs.I am also going to try the Vietnamese Coriander in a fresh green salad for some extra flavor.

I just got the June newsletter out. It is a low carb shopping guide with lots of ideas for low carb items at really good prices. You can order a newsletter subscription at the Diner website.