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

Companion blog to the e-book
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cookie Time!!!

I plan on making Christmas cookies this year. Cookies are tough to perfect when using regular ingredients, not to mention using low carb substitutes. I have made cookies in the past, and they were fine. Just fine. Not call your mama good. Hello Mom? These are good for a low carb cookie.

My mom thinks so too. I made a lot of test batches, and dare think I will never need to experiment again for a great low carb cookie. People all have such different preferences and this one recipe seems to fulfill so many cookie wish lists. I like crispy cookies. My friends would call it burned. But that is fine--I just call theirs dough. These cookies are versatile. With just one base recipe, you can make enough to please everyone. Really. This simple dough can make thin, fairly crispy cookies or perfect thick balls that are soft and tender on the inside. They don't spread out on the cookie sheet causing oven disasters. (at least none of the test batches had that problem with me...) They don't crumble when you take them off the sheet. So, you can mix up one batch and make 4 different kinds of cookies--or even more in one batch. My batch makes about 26 cookies. In the photo above I made these combos, all from one batch.
1. chocolate disks
2. chocolate balls
3. chocolate disks dipped in melted chocolate and crushed sugar free peppermints
4. vanilla disks
5. vanilla disks with chocolate on top
6. vanilla disks with chocolate and crushed peppermint
7. coconut disks  chocolate and vanilla
8. ginger spice disks
9. ginger spice balls
10. vanilla balls rolled in cinnamon "sugar"
11. strawberry jam thumbprints
12. vanilla disks with a pecan top
13. Chocolate disks topped with chocolate and crushed coffee flavored sugar free candies
14. vanilla disks topped with chocolate and crushed coffee flavored sugar free candies

Just think of all the other great cookies you could make--I mean, I don't even have sugarfree chocolate chips in the house, but I'm thinking....

I will post some individual cookie close up shots later, but I have to run now. By the way,  if I have sold you on this recipe, be sure your subscription to the Diner News is up to date. The recipe will be in the December issue going out tonight. Don't have it? Go here and fix that! Happy Baking!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Smoked Cheese Spread with Sunflower Sesame Seed Crackers

 So Thanksgiving is around the corner. This is not another post for pumpkin pie or some marvelous side dish. In fact, this has nothing to do with the holiday at all. UNLESS, you have a family like mine. We skip breakfast on Thanksgiving day so we can partake of all the yumminess. Then we arrive at Nana's starving, with a table of appetizers spread before us. Among those goodies--a party in and of themselves--lie many dangers to the low carber. Sure the dips are legal, but the crackers and chips? And my guys never avail themselves to the crudites instead. So this year we are contributing to the appetizer spread with these two great go togethers.

Somewhere on Pinterest, I found a link to really old recipes, among them an all natural, additive free cheese spread. I wrote the main ingredients down on a recipe card, along with my intended changes, but I forgot to actually pin the site. Now I can't find it sorry, no credits. Since I can remember that it was really old, the recipe creator has most assuredly passed on by now. Sorry. I made so many changes, it is alike in theory and kitchen chemistry only, I think. In trying to find the source, I did learn some things about why the processed cheeses melt easily rather than releasing oils. Like I said, chemistry.

This spread is thinner than Velveeta when cold, though  very similar when both are melty hot. I wasn't really going for a sauce though, I wanted a spread that would hold its shape in lunch box travels. That I got. I used to add those Laughing Cow wedges. Kinda like that. My SCD boy can't have those...but he can have these! Woohoo! Why did my brain never tell me to use eggs to make this consistency? I certainly knew that eggs can be used as a thickener in sauces, but for some reason I never tried this before with cheese. Nowadays, companies just add chemical stabilizers and who knows what to our "processed" cheese. I am thinking this is better. I KNOW it is better. Even more, I was able to add some natural liquid smoke to make a great smokey flavor. You would think you were eating from a chemical and starch laden Hickory Farms basket.

This spread goes together really easily. All you have to do is be careful with the temperature. I think the original directions called for a double boiler. I was too lazy, and just stayed with the cheese and whisked a lot. Like continually. You can do it. It is worth it, I promise.

Smoked Cheese Spread

6 ounces Colby/Monterey Jack marbled cheese, shredded
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp prepared mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
1/2-1 tsp Wright's Liquid Smoke
2 beaten eggs

In a small saucepan, combine shredded cheese, water, mustard, salt, butter and liquid smoke. Over very low flame, stir constantly until the mixture is melted and free of lumps. Keep warm. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Remove sauce pan from heat and remove a few tablespoons of hot cheese to temper the eggs. After the cheese is incorporated, slowly add the egg mixture into the saucepan with cheese, stirring well after each addition. When all the egg is stirred in, place the sauce back on the stove and heat gently, stirring continuously, until mixture is thick...about 5 minutes.  Pour into a crock, cover and chill.

24 servings  at 39 calories   less than 1 carb

I poured some of ours into individual silicon cups so I could have lunch box servings. It stays spreadable and does not separate even if it comes to room temperature. Awesome stuff! (If you leave it sitting on the table, it will behave almost like a liquid and settle back to an even surface, but it is so slow, you can't see it happen. Does this make sense to you? I sounds like an experiment in plastics, huh?)

So now I have this delicious cheese spread, just waiting for something to spread it on. I thought about making almond thins, then remembered how low I am on almonds. I had purchased some raw sunflower nuts to try some variations on Mr. Peanut Bread. So I went a searching for cracker recipes, and found this jewel by Girl Gone Primal.  In this recipe, you use raw unsalted sunflower seeds, grind them up, add sesame seeds and some water. Then you press and roll them out and bake. They taste great and hold up really well. John loved them and even took some crackers and cheese to work to feed the nutrition expert who is visiting the station today. We will see what Dr. Asa thinks! We think they are gonna be great on the appetizer table.

P.S. Dr. Asa loved the cheese and crackers, btw.

Note: I have been playing around with different cheese blends for this. I have discovered not to take short cuts. I tried a pre-shredded Jack cheese, and it just sticks together in a big clump in the sauce pan. I had to take the immersion blender to it, and it still resulted in a grainier spread. I think the potato starches, though minimal, interfere with the melting texture. Hand shredded from a block melts beautifully. I tried a sharp cheddar, and it worked well. It required a little more stirring than the colby/jack blend, but tasted great. I added some Bacon Salt too. Wowzers is that tasty!

Update 3/26/14: I made this again with a half teaspoon of jalapeno seasoning. Love! While warm it is just like a Mexican Queso. Cool, it is spreadable and so flavorful!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cranberry Stuffed Turkey Meatballs-Thanksgiving in One Bite!

I saw the idea for these special Thanksgiving themed meatballs on Pinterest via the Family Feedbag blog. I loved the idea, but ummm, not the carbs. So I took out the bread, and made a sugarfree cranberry sauce. These are fun, and they were a hit with my guys. I made a big enough batch to have some for the appetizer course for the Thanksgiving potluck we are hosting tomorrow for our Lifegroup from church. John is charcoal roasting two turkey breasts. Mmm. I will have these heated and ready for munching while we all gather. It sounds like we will have lots of goodies for tomorrow. It should be fun.

Cranberry Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

2 pounds ground turkey
12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup finely ground Walnuts
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 egg
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup erythritol or alternative sweetener
1 cup water

Grind walnuts in a bullet blender. Melt butter in a skillet. Add diced onion and saute until translucent. Stir the walnuts into the butter and onions. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, sage, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir in the nut and onion mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Form the meat into one inch balls using hands or a scoop. Push one fresh cranberry into the center of the meat and roll the meat around the berry. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat forming meatballs until all the mixture is used. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

While meatballs are baking, make the cranberry sauce. Combine water and erythritol until boiling. Add remaining cranberries. Cook over medium heat until berries pop. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool.

When meatballs are cooked through, remove to a serving place and spoon cranberry sauce lightly over the tops.

The ground walnuts add to the tender texture of these meatballs, and also add the stuffing flavor. Well, maybe the herbs do that too, but hey, it is the whole package. If you are not a fan of cranberry sauce, don't think this recipe will win you over. The cranberry flavor is in there! The unsweetened berry pops with a tart blast, only to be all mixed in with the sweetness of the prepared sauce. I happen to be one that loves the blend of sweet and savory, so this dish does it for me. If you have avowed cranberry haters, make a few meatballs without the cranberry center. They are still very tasty with just the herb mix. That should please everyone! You might have some cranberry sauce left over, so take advantage of the ideas I have in the Low Carbing Among Friends Book. My recipes in there transform plain cranberry sauce into entirely new sauces flavored with balsamic vinegar or jalapenos. Who wouldn't love that?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bacon Avocado Grilled Cheese Sliders on Coconut 2 Minute Bread

Wow are these good! Of course, it would be difficult for anything made with bacon, cheese and avocado to taste bad, now wouldn't it?

Now, my baby boy does not partake of the green stuff in this case, so all the worse for him. The avocado gives this slider a sensational creaminess to counter the crispy bread. Really, the bread does crisp! And it does not taste like coconut--at least with all the bacon and cheese!

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I borrowed the slider bread idea from my friend Ginny, who posted it on her blog, Ginny's Low Carb Kitchen. Ginny is a great cook, and just happens to be a contributor to the Among Friends Cookbook. Be watching for more from her in the future. (The dessert she posted this week looks incredibly yummy, for instance) Go try her version too. But since I did have to make a couple of changes for my family, I will add my version used to make these sliders. They really are super fast and easy to put together. Ginny uses Parmesan cheese, but I ran out. In one batch, I used Asiago. In the other, I simple grated some cheddar. Both turned out fine, but the texture of the Asiago was a little better. The "wetter" cheddar left some rather English muffin sized holes in the bread. Not bad, just a little different. I also left out the xanthan gum because it is off limits for my SCD boy. Ginny says that adds to the texture, but is optional. I don't have any granular Splenda, so I added a drop of stevia. Good that this recipe is so forgiving. That is why I am thankful that Ginny did so many experiments--and is willing to share.

Ginny's 2 Minute Coconut Flour Bread with Diner Adaptations

1  Tablespoon coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
2 Tablespoons coconut milk
1 tsp olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the egg, coconut milk and oil. Stir well with a fork. Let rest for a couple of minutes to allow the coconut flour to absorb the liquid. Spray the inside of a straight sided mug with cooking spray. Spoon half the batter into the mug. Tap it on the counter to remove air bubbles. Cook in the microwave for 65 seconds. If the center is steaming, but firm to the touch,  run a knife around the edge and remove the bread, allowing it to cool on the counter. To make a slider bun, slice the bread in half. Repeat all these steps with the remaining batter.

I think the bread is best when crisped in the toaster. I placed our slider halves in the toaster oven set on medium brown. They would be great eaten as is....but I wanted to make grilled cheese sliders tonight. Here is how I did that.

While the breads were baking, I had the bacon frying. While the breads were toasting, I sliced the cheese and melted butter in the skillet. I added 4 slider halves at a time to the skillet. These turned out beautifully. The combination of toasting and buttery grilling gave them a fantastic crispy texture. The only problem was with my toaster oven. Because I toasted in back to back cycles, the second batch got a little darker than I expected. Not wanting to burn them, I had to give them less time in the skillet. The cheese did not get quite as melted, but still, they tasted great.

Once the cheese was melting on the slider breads, I added the hot bacon. Then the avocado slices. I transferred these to the plate and assembled the slider halves there. My dog Tinker was really hoping I would lose a few pieces of bacon in the transfer, but he only got a little crumble, poor thing.

That is it. Pretty darn easy. It would be a little time consuming for a large crowd, since you have to make one batch of bread at a time, but for the two of us who are home tonight, it was perfect! Thanks, Ginny!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cinnamon Mocha Coffee Among Friends

It has been a little cloudy and chilly today, so it is perfect for a hot drink this evening. Having more stress with the mortgage holder this morning, I never even got to my cup of coffee, so I figure tonight I am due. How is that for justification? I also have another motive. My SCD son cannot do lactose, so cream is out for him, although he loves coffee. About the only creamer he can use is coconut milk, and he is not entirely crazy about that combo. Being the good mom, I decided that some nice fall spices might mask that obvious coconut flavor. I think I hit on the right combo. This is a nice strong, spicy cup of fall delightfulness. It will be waiting for him when he gets home from his college class tonight. Okay, I will have to warm it up again, but still it is waiting.

For serving, I grabbed my Goodwill set of small mugs. These hold about 4 ounces, and are just right for this coffee, because it is rather strong. A slow sipper, and wonderful to be shared between two. It might make enough for three cups, but I have to admit to sipping quite a bit adjusting the sweetness. In my kitchen re-do, I stored away my big coffee pot and replaced it with a small 4 cup model. I loved the way the bright red appliance looked on my counter. I will bring out the big one when my coffee drinking number two son returns. Until then, this small one is great. Unfortunately, my coffee press got broken in the storm, so that option is out for me, but I think this recipe would work well with the coffee and spices in the press.

Cinnamon Mocha Coffee for Two

2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup ground coffee
2 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Sweetener to taste (I used stevia) 

Place the coffee grounds, cinnamon and nutmeg into the coffee maker. Brew the coffee with the water. While that is brewing, combine the coconut milk, cocoa, vanilla. Heat gently. When coffee is brewed, combine it with the coconut milk mixture. Sweeten to taste and serve. 

Even though events of the day have been rather irritating for me, I need to keep some bigger ideas in mind. There are always things to celebrate and be thankful for. Our cookbook, Low Carbing Among Friends, got printed more quickly than expected. Orders are being shipped and soon (within 10-21 days) we will have our hands on this impressive collection of low carb recipes. I can't wait to get mine. Yes, even as an author, I can't get my copy before it is printed. Some copies are on their way to Amazon too. Hard to believe my work is going to be sold on Amazon. Wow. I have sold curriculum before, but nothing ever on a huge scale like that. Super exciting. You can check out the cookbook from When the books arrive at Amazon, you can order there.

As I was thinking about making a recipe for Christian, with his special diet requirements, I got to thinking about how many ways of eating this book supports. Of course, there is the general low carb community and diabetics like my hubby. But also, there are those who are gluten free. I know my son has to avoid gluten, so this book works for him. He also has to avoid starches, and regular gluten free cookbooks are usually full of starches that are forbidden on his plan. I often look through Paleo resources, since the ways of eating are very similar.  That makes our Among Friends book a good buy for the Paleo/Primal community as well.

If you want to hear more about the book, listen to the podcast interview with Jimmy Moore. Jennifer and Ian Eloff, our inspiring leaders, are the second interview at the 37 minute mark. Isn't technology great? We can listen whenever we want, and we can listen over and over. Cool.  This has been such a tremendous project, we are planning another volume to come out later this year. I am trying desperately to get back into the recipe development mode. Just a few more days of putting things away, and even my gameroom will be organized and ready for company. I still owe my contractor some money and he phoned me today. Unfortunately, the bank still has not released our funds. Nice man, he just laughed at my ongoing saga, and reminded me to set aside his copy of my cookbook when it arrived. After spending so much time in my house over the last three months, he is practically a member of the family. Being diabetic, he needs our book too. Among Friends is perfect for diabetics.  I am thinking one book is a good trade for his patience!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Asiago Coconut Flour Pizza Crust

So it is all about personal choices. Sometime dinners we eat lobster, other days, we are happy with a can of tuna. I'll just tell ya up front that I am on the fence with this pizza crust. It just may be a tuna day. No, it is not a fish pizza, that is only my metaphor. Inspired by several recipes I found online, but true to none, this crust is easy, healthy, and a great conduit for those flavorful pizza toppings we love. On the other hand, the flavor and texture does not leave me saying "Wow!" It is still a little grainy and has that slight coconut flavor. Despite trying to mask that with herbs and garlic, it is still there--at least on the edges of the crust. The good news? Once you pile on the sauce, meats, veggies and cheese, it all tastes great. So the middle is better than the edges. My boys always refused to eat the crusts of standard pizzas anyway. They called them "pizza bones" and brought them home to feed our dogs. They may have something there.

I really like the taste and texture of my soy flour based crust better, but lots of folk, my baby son included, cannot eat soy. This is an alternative that doesn't involve massive amounts of cheese, or require laborious steps in prepping veggie bases for a crust. It bakes up in less than 20 minutes, making it an easy 30 minute dinner prep. That speed figures in for most of us. I did not have to deal with trying to spread out sticky dough, and didn't have any trouble flipping the crusts. Can you tell I have had some "trials" making low carb crusts before? Yep,  I have torn a few in the flip, had several stick to the pan, burned edges while the centers were goo, and had some that required a wrestling match to get them spread to the edges of the pan. Sorry if this list of difficulties sounds a bit like an infomercial. You know the ones that always make you feel the old way of doing whatever their product does is pure drudgery, but the new gadget makes it fun--and probably helps you lose weight too? Sad, but true. So, while this might not have the best flavor, it is easy. Easy is good. Have I sold it yet?

Asiago Coconut Flour Pizza Crust
4 eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese
2 tsp Italian herbs
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp salt

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt and oil. Stir in the coconut flour, making sure to blend in all the lumps until smooth. Stir in the cheese, herbs and salt. Let the mixture thicken while you prepare the cookie sheet.
    Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan. Secure it to the pan with a shot of an oil based pan spray. Pour about half of the batter onto one side of the sheet. Use the back of a spoon to spread the batter into the desired shape, a circle or space efficient rectangle. Repeat with the remaining batter.
    Bake the crusts for 12 minutes. Use that baking time to chop vegetables and prepare toppings. Remove the partially baked crusts and use a large spatula to flip them over on the parchment. Return them to the oven for an additional 5 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove the crusts and add the toppings of choice. Place the loaded pizzas back into the oven until the toppings melt, about 5 minutes.

There ya go, simple. The pizzas ended up very similar to those made with lavash bread, which is really convenient, but these are gluten free. I had anticipated guests for tonight's pizza buffet. Unexpectedly, I had only myself and the kiddo. That turned out to be kinda nice anyway. But no, we did not share the "bones" with the dogs. Although it may not have been a 5 star recipe, we ate it all up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smoked Paprika Chicken and Paleo Grits

I am still in the process of getting my house back together, and still fighting with the powers that be. One of these days, this all will be over. Between insurance agents who never phone back and mortgage bankers who hold your money hostage, life is nuts! We are all moved back in, just taking some time to get everything put away and organized. The Pod leaves tomorrow, and we will look good as new again! Hopefully, that means I will have more time again for some recipe development.

The hubby was out of the home broadcasting a basketball game this evening, so I decided to try an experiment I know would draw protests from him. My youngest, who is now doing the SCD diet for his tummy issues, was missing grits. He loves them with cheese. Dad hates them. Won't even try something that dares to be called by such an unappetizing name. But when Dad is away...

When I found this interesting take on the old Southern favorite over at Paleo Comfort Foods I hoped my baby son would like them. Paleo grits--not hominy or corn grits at all, but riced cauliflower and almond meal. I tried the recipe almost exactly as written. I did add a bit of olive oil to my pan, and I used the chicken broth from the crockpot Smoked Paprika Chicken. Since that had several lovely spices, the "grits" may have been a tad bit more flavorful than the original recipe. I thought they were nice--very satisfying and the mouthfeel was that of carbs, not cauliflower. The boy, on the other hand, thought they were just "OK" for his tastes. Since he is accustomed to cheesey grits, I tried adding cheese to his portion. That was really good, but still, he did not finish his. The final verdict from the boy is that they were good enough as a side dish, but in no way his beloved grits. Ah, to each his own.

I hesitated to share the recipe and Paleo Grits attempt, since the outcome was rather lackluster. But it might be exactly what would appeal to you. If memory serves, I think the recipe originators favored these with shrimp. That sounds interesting, I still might try a version of our Cheesy Grits Casserole, a favorite at Thanksgiving among our clan. John never eats that either! Let me know if you like this if you give it a try--or if you have made them before, let me know how you liked them.

The Smoked Paprika Chicken really doesn't need a formal recipe. I just sprinkled chicken thighs with smoked paprika, cumin, lemon pepper and salt. Yum. I let it cook all night, served some up for hubby's work lunch, then chilled the rest for dinner.

I have some really interesting recipes I want to try soon. Maybe after the last closet is cleaned out and the last picture is re-hung, I will have time to get to the grocery store for the goodies!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Diner News Giveaway and Thanksgiving Planning

Are you making your Thanksgiving plans? It is that time. Although a lot of folk look at this holiday as a time to splurge on higher carb treats, the meal does not have to be your undoing. This November, the Diner News features some wonderful side dishes that might add some new interest to a festive table. I had a request for some squash recipes, so there are several, both sweet and savory. There are also recipes which make other vegetables the stars--broccoli, brussels, and rutabagas. Maybe you want to replace the standard mashed potatoes? I have a couple of recipes to choose from. There are even  super simple desserts that offer an alternative to pie. The Pumpkin Mousse and Almost Rice Pudding are gluten, dairy and nut free for those who have allergies. It is important to be able to feed everyone for this family gathering, and the fall flavors are there! I love this time of year--especially the foods.

There is so much to be excited about! In addition to the holiday, the cookbook, Low Carbing Among Friends, will be coming out 11/11/11. I wanted to share a very special offer just until that launch date. I want to get all my friends as excited about the project as I am, so I am offering a free one year subscription to the Diner News to everyone who pre-orders the book by the 11th. If you are already a subscriber, I will renew your current subscription to run through November 2012.

If you have already ordered Among Friends, that's OK too. Just leave me a comment--I will have to trust you here, but I am faithful that I can. (I don't have access to who has purchased already) If you haven't ordered this unique cookbook yet, go here and pre-order your copy now, that way you will be assured of quick delivery in the first printing. Once you have completed that transaction, leave me a comment telling me so, and I will send you this month's Thanksgiving side dish edition of the Diner News. Be sure that I have access to your email in your comment so I can add you to the Diner News list.

This is such an amazing collection of authors. Favorite recipes from so many talents is going to be an incredible value. Even a bigger value with a free monthly issue of Diner News. Every month features recipes and ideas to make the low carb lifestyle manageable and fun. You will definitely have enough new recipes to keep you busy for quite a while!

P.S. I just checked with the publisher, and they have set aside more copies from the first printing to go to current pre-orders. Chances are that if you order within the next few days, you will get delivery in November. The Low Carbing Among Friends friends site will have an announcement when those additional books are sold out. If you want it soon, order soon!

Also: If you don't want to leave your email public on the comment section, go to my profile from here and use my email at the contact link.