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

Companion blog to the e-book
Available at http://www.247lowcarbdiner.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Roasted Purple Kale and Kabocha Salad


Thanksgiving is not too far away. You making plans for something new, or planning on the old favorites? Admittedly, this is an American holiday, so those of you from other parts of the world are a little left out--but hey, why not take advantage of our frenzy to make the most delicious meal of the year? What could that hurt? My Diner news this month is the annual Thanksgiving issue--mostly specializing on extra special side dishes. This is one that will be featured.

Not only is it beautiful--it is really healthy too. It is loaded with things I love. The super sweet roasted Kabocha squash...gorgeous purple (officially red) kale, bacon, pecans and a touch of cheese. Oh yeah! And the textures-- if you never tried kabocha, its creaminess may surprise you. Contrast that with the crisped kale and salty bacon. This one is topped with a bacon vinaigrette and a touch of Parmesan. It would be a perfect salad for the Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Purple Kale and Kabocha Salad

1/2 Kabocha squash (reserve other half for another recipe)
2 tbsp olive oil
5 strips bacon
1 bunch purple kale
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 drops stevia or sweetener equal to 4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp toasted, chopped pecans
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash kabocha squash, but do not peel it. Cut it into wedges about 1 inch at the thickest part. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat. Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and browned on the edges. Set aside half of the slices. When cool, cut the slices into bite sized chunks.

In a large skillet, fry bacon slices until crisp. Set the bacon aside, reserving the fat in the skillet. Wash kale and remove tough stems. Dip each leaf into the bacon fat and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes. Remove and cool.

Make a simple vinaigrette from the remaining bacon grease in the skillet. Stir in the vinegar, and stevia.

To assemble salad, use kitchen shears to cut kale leaves into bite size pieces. Place the kale on a serving platter. Top with kabocha chunks. Spoon the bacon vinaigrette over the salad. Top with pecans, Parmesan, salt and pepper.




The thing I love about kale salads is their durability. This salad is not going to wilt even with the dressing. The caramelized squash tastes great at any temperature and the combination of flavors is delightful. Don't think you have to save this for the holiday, though. Just add a little protein, and you have a great dinner. It can be served as a warm salad also.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Coconut Fudge and Home Made Coconut Butter


I have always wanted to make a fudge type treat for my school lunches. I love coconut oil candies, but they are a little unreliable in a lunch box. A little heat and you have a mess on your hands. I know a lot of you use coconut butter to add some stability, but I was too cheap to experiment. Then I started noticing lots of recipes for making your own coconut butter. Still, I wasn't sure if my Ninja could handle the time it takes to get that job done. Yes, you do have to run your machine quite a while to turn unsweetened coconut flakes into coconut butter. Except those of you who can brag about your Vitamix. I don't have one of those and so far Santa has not left one under the tree for me. I might try again this year.

In the meantime, I was out shopping at Big Lots last weekend, armed with my 20% off coupon. I saw a factory reconditioned food processor all alone on one bottom shelf. I left without it. Afterall, I need a kitchen remodel to hold all my appliances, despite the fact that I have a tiny kitchen with almost no storage. This Black and Decker model is hefty. I told my guys about it and they both agreed that I should use my coupon and a gift card to go get it. Yes, Pearson was willing to let the coffee area become even more crowded. What a sweet guy. I began to have visions of more mayo, nut butters and coleslaw. Yes, I recently killed yet another immersion blender--my standby for home made mayo.

My first project was to make the coconut butter. I figured if it burned out the food processor, I still had the chance to take it back to the store. It took awhile, but it did magically turn my dry coconut shreds into a fine coconut butter. At least I think it is fine--I have never actually tasted commercial varieties.I think home made might be a touch more gritty than the store bought variety. The photo below was taken  before it completely cooled. It was still a little liquidy. After a few hours at room temperature, it became solid. In fact, in a cool kitchen after a week, it needs to be heated just a bit to be spoonable. A few minutes in a bowl of hot water ought to do the trick--or a quick trip to the microwave oven.

The recipe is too easy, it is hardly a recipe at all. I simple processed 8 ounces of unsweetened shredded coconut with 1 tbsp coconut oil and a pinch of salt. I processed mine for about 20 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides about 4 times. I honestly don't think mine changed much the last 5 minutes. This is going to be one of those processes that has some wiggle room. I think the moisture content of the coconut you use will make a difference in the amount of time needed to process. Just be sure not to use fresh coconut, and not the type that says desiccated. I think that would be too dry. Either shredded or flaked should work, and of course, no sugar.Mine made about a cup of butter. Maybe a bit more. I honestly didn't measure, I just poured it into a jar.

With that made, I set to work on a wonderful fall themed fudge. Fudge may be a misnomer, because there is no chocolate here. I have wanted to make something like this for several years. I tasted one once with sweetened condensed milk and vanilla chips. Both of those are tricky to substitute. This fudge is not quite the same, with the unmistakable flavor of the coconut, but it is delicious. It is rich, and held up just fine in my lunch bag.


Pumpkin Coconut Fudge

1/2 cup coconut butter
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp liquid stevia, or any sweetener equal to 1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp toasted chopped pecans, optional

Warm coconut butter if not spoonable. In a medium bowl, combine coconut butter, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, spice, vanilla, stevia and salt. Spoon mixture into a sprayed or plastic wrap lined loaf pan. Smooth the mixture on top. If using pecans, press them into the top of the fudge. Chill for 30 minutes to firm up. Slice into 15 squares.


This stuff is so yummy. Add a little more of the pumpkin pie spice if you want. The toasted pecans pressing into the top are very nice too. They add to the texture. I made some with and some without because my Pearson is a nut hater. I know. He is weird like that. Not allergic, just not a fan. He loves his pumpkin pie, though, so this works for him. I am not sure on the carb count of the coconut butter. If I go by the brand that I used these would have 3 1/2 carbsper serving for the coconut  butter alone. But nutrition info is all over the place--for other brands, Bob's Red Mill lists 2 net carbs for the same amount by weight. Commercial brands of coconut butter seem to list more fiber, so the net also ends up at 2 g for a 2 tbsp serving, I would think that is closer, but feel free to do your own math. I still don't have a nutrition program since my computer was stolen. Since we don't count daily, it is not our priority. Sorry for those of you who are more strict about that. Only so many hours in a day.

So now back to prep day for me. Today I am doing some Green Chile Chicken Shreds, a Breakfast Bonanza casserole and  Hazelnut Pumpkin Custard. Some day I will get tired of the pumpkin flavored goodies, but today is not that day!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pumpkin Nut Blondies


Yum.Oh Yum. Oh Yummo. I am still on a pumpkin kick. I wanted a bar that featured those fabulous fall flavors but was so easy. This is it. I started with my amazingly simple Maple Nut Blondies. Those are fabulous, mind you, (recipe in Low Carbing Among Friends I) but these are too. I bet when you see the ingredients list, you will think no way--peanut butter? That does not end up as the predominant flavor, I promise. These have a delightful blend of nuts, pumpkin and spice. If you are unsure, sub almond butter. More pumpkin flavor perhaps, but also more expensive to make. If you aren't anti-legume, go ahead and give these a try. Maybe Sunbutter? Another day...

Pumpkin Nut Blondies

1 1/4 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp liquid stevia or any sweetener equal to 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp powdered erythritol

In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, pumpkin, egg, vanilla, stevia, spices and soda. Stir well. Spread into an 8x8 inch dish brushed with coconut oil. Spread the mixture smooth with the back of a spoon. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered erythritol. Makes 9 servings.

The photo is not lying. The powdered erythritol absorbed the pumpkin coloring and turned yellow. I kind of like it though. Adds a fall touch. The texture of these is a little bit "sandy" as you often get in peanut butter cookies. I happen to love that texture. True, with all that cinnamon, they aren't really blonde, but there is no chocolate in these babies--so blonde it is. These are so easy to put together, no mixers needed, and only one bowl. No flour, only one egg. This is one of those recipes with nut butter that sometimes confuse even experienced bakers. Seems like it would need flour, but no. Go with it and soon you will be rewarded with deliciousness!

I used EZ Sweetz liquid stevia to sweeten these blondies. The company was nice enough to send me a sample box of several of their sweeteners. This one is pure stevia, but they also have blends available. I have been using bottles of stevia and monkfruit for months now. If you use any other brand, be careful to be sure of your measuring equivalents. The strengths can vary among brands.

Now if I can keep us from eating these all up tonight, they are going to make great lunch box treats this week.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chipotle Lime Roasted Delicata


Sounds like an oxymoron. Delicate and Chipotle. There is nothing delicate about this delicious dish. The zing of the lime and the heat of the chipotle guarantee some power eating. Sure, you could go lighter on the powder, but why? This is fantastic.

I love Delicata. You don't have to peel them, and they are so creamy. When roasted, they have that creamy inside which puts potatoes to shame. Sure, you have to watch portion size and count those carbs, but the nutrition is worth it. These are really healthy in moderation.

This month's Diner News is all about Squash. I learned a lot putting the News together. You practically need a field guide to figure out what is what among gourds. I know you certainly cannot trust the labels or the produce guys. Kabocha, Buttercup? Too hard to tell for me. It seems every squash at my store broke one of the identification rules. So we just ate them up anyway. Whatever the name...I can easily ID the Delicata, even though my label called it a Delicate. I prefer the A.

Chipotle Lime Roasted Delicata

2 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp scooped out
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 – 2 tsp chipotle powder, depending on how spicy you like it
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp lime juice, divided
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash halves crosswise into roughly half inch chunks.
In a plastic bag, toss squash with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, chipotle powder and salt. In a large baking dish, arrange squash in a single layer. Roast until fork tender and crispy, flipping halfway through, for about 25 minutes.
Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil with the remaining tablespoon lime juice. When squash is done, drizzle dressing over top and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.


 Want lots of other fantastic squash recipes? They are in the October Diner News. Order here.