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

Companion blog to the e-book
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Monday, August 31, 2009

Quick Lasagna Stack

When I made lasagna a month or two back, I had two lasagna noodles left over. Since they are the hard to come by Dreamfield's variety, I saved them. Tonight's menu called for a meal made from my Turkey Red Sauce. I usually serve that over sauteed vegetables, but tonight I decided to add those lonely noodles. After all, Christian was finishing up some spaghetti noodles too, so the hot water was already waiting.

First, I boiled the noodles while sauteing the veggies. I love lots of green peppers with this sauce, but I also threw in a couple handfuls of coleslaw mix. No need to chop and dice the day away. When those were done, I simply pulled them from the boiling water and set them aside. In went those evil carby noodles. (Have not yet convinced this boy that cabbage is a good substitute for spaghetti) While they were boiling away, I made these awesome little lasagna stacks. I just plopped about a third of a noodle in the base of a dish. Then I added a slice of cheese to hold it steady while cutting. Then on with a layer of Turkey Red Sauce. Added to that, a spoonful or two of vegetables. Then I just repeated layers until the noodle was gone, and made the next lasagna stack the same way. They are very good, and take no oven time!

I had sauce left over, so I made a stack without the noodle too. That is closer to the way we would generally be eating, since Dreamfields is more for special occasions for us. The layers are the same, minus the pasta. Cheese, sauce and veggies. It is pretty rich, but very tasty. Just add a green salad and you are set to go. Because the Turkey Red Sauce is slow cooked before going in the freezer, this meal doesn't taste quick at all! It has the savory goodness of an Italian grandmother! Because I don't happen to have one of those, this is a fantastic substitute.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Green Chile Sausage Puff

With a wonderful day off from cooking for my anniversary, I am ready to jump back into cooking for my prep day. We had a delicious meal last night after church to celebrate 23 years, but I did forget my camera. I still do think I will try to duplicate that Mexican Grill sometime soon.

I played around a bit today with my breakfast casserole for the week. I was hoping to find something with a little less egg since they have been bothering my stomach more lately. This is pretty good, especially if you like green chiles. I do. I doubled the recipe and made one to freeze for later.

Green Chile Sausage Puff

4 eggs
8 ounces cream cheese
1 pound sausage
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Carbquick or any low carb flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounce can of green chiles
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup shredded Jack cheese

Brown sausage and drain. Save a bit of the drippings to grease the casserole dish. In a medium bowl, mix eggs,cream cheese, and cream until well blended. Add the salt, baking powder and Carbquick and mix until smooth. Stir in the sausage, cheese and chiles by hand. Pour this mixture into a greased casserole dish and bake about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until the center is puffed and set and the top is golden brown.

Just took the Cheesecake Muffins out of the oven. These are flavored with the Capella drops strawberries and cream flavor. I haven't tried them yet, but the batter tasted good. Happy to have those done. I still need to make a Steakhouse Special Dump, assemble our salad, and grill the Chinese Chicken that is our Triple Play recipe this week. I'll wait until later tonight to grill that so the chicken can marinate all day. Oh yeah, I also need to work on the newsletter for September. Brown baggers will love the featured recipes and cool ideas for low carb meals on the go. If you have a favorite lunchbox idea, send it to me and I'll share it in the newsletter.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Beef Medallions to the Rescue

Today was my toughest day at school, so I planned an E.Z. Fix dinner of grilled burgers. Little did I know that the dear hubby grilled up ALL the burger patties last weekend. I had thought he just made a few extra for his snack purposes. Tonight, I found out that I had no easy dinner as planned. But I am never completely caught off guard, because...well, this stuff seems to happen to us more times than I care to admit. So, the moral of this story is that scheduling is great, but add some flexibility and it is even better.

I had a couple packages of cooked beef medallions out in the freezer for emergencies. These are easy enough for a teenage boy to cook up for himself, which is really what I intended. Tonight, they made a quick supper for the family. I simply heated them up in my cast iron skillet, until they had gone from frozen to warm. Being precooked, they don't give off much fat for gravy, so I improvised. I didn't have the barbecue sauce I usually serve. Here's the recipe for what I did:

Quicky Beef Glaze

1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum or another thickener

I added the water to deglaze the pan. Use this water to dissolve the bouillon cubes. Add the cream and sherry. Heat to boiling and sprinkle the xanthan gum over while stirring. When mixture is thick, stir in beef to coat.

While that was heating, I steamed some fresh cauliflower and some frozen broccoli from Sam's Club. I love Sam's frozen broccoli. Generally, I dislike frozen blends because they contain too many stems which just never get to a good texture. Fresh is better, but these are so close and much more convenient.

Somehow, these tired old bones made a really good impromptu dinner. It is odd to think that I used to cook like that all the time--making up dinner while staring into the fridge. That would make me a nut case these days!

Probably won't be blogging tomorrow. It is our 23rd anniversary, and we plan to dine out. Nothing too fancy, just a local Mexican food place that really knows how to use a grill. It is easy to pass up the tortillas when your plate is full of steak, sausages and veggies cooked up until they caramelize on the grill. Mmm. Can't wait. Maybe I'll take a photo to show you and try to duplicate that grill at home.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mini Minute Microwave Omelet

I have a really busy day today, complete with an orientation meeting for one of my classes tonight. It is definitely a Multiply Meals casserole for dinner. I'll just leave it in the oven for the hubby. Since I will be running, I am taking a bit of time to show you my equally quick breakfast from this morning. This omelet whips up in almost no time.

This morning's flavor was cream cheese and chive. I simply mixed three chive leaves into about 4 ounces of cream cheese. That is enough for two omelets. John got a two egg omelet that I made in the skillet, but I have to limit my eggs, so I just wanted one. If you want to make a mini omelet like this one, one egg is great and the microwave cooking makes it easier to make in a small size.

Mini Minute Microwave Omelet

1 egg
2 ounces cream cheese
chives to taste
dash of salt

Blend the chives in with room temperature cream cheese, or use purchased cream cheese and chive spread. Beat the egg in a cup. Spray a microwave safe bowl or plate with non stick spray. Add the egg and cook in the microwave for about one minute. Microwaves vary, so take it out when no liquid remains. Spread the cream cheese onto the egg. Sprinkle with salt. Flip the egg into a half circle and serve.

I just added a small serving of cantaloupe cubes and blueberries on the side. (I smeared a bit of cream cheese on the top too, but that is just to be frugal and eat the last little bit in the bowl. It is not necessary by any means.) So easy and fast.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cranberry Roast--kinda

It is so quiet around here. Now my two big guys are all moved in back to college, and it is just the three of us left here at home. We had big portions tonight at dinner, and I have more leftovers than I am used to. I will adjust soon enough, but it is kinda sad ...

Tonight we had a Cranberry Roast that mimicked an old crock pot recipe I used to make with a can of cranberry sauce. Since that is loaded with sugar, I tried to replace a few ingredients. My experiment wasn't a complete success, but I will keep working on it. I won't post a recipe just yet. I will wait until everyone is happy. I liked it but John thought the sauce was too sweet. I know what to do differently next time. This time, I baked the roast with some cranberry beverage from Aldi. When the roast was done, I couldn't taste the flavor at all, so I added some dried cranberry drink to make a gravy. I think I got it a little too strong, and it was definitely too red. So look for another attempt as soon as roasts go on sale again.

For sides, I made crock pot green beans and a mashed rutabaga with parmesan cheese. I love rutabaga. This time I just peeled, boiled, mashed and added cream, butter and a couple of tablespoons of cheese. Very yummy. I can't believe the teenager prefers instant potatoes to that. Maybe it is just the name.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Emerald Cocoa Roast Almonds

One of the treats we grabbed for our road trips to college were these chocolate powdered almonds. I love them--especially when the urge for something sweet hits. These almonds are not overly sweet, just a dusting of cocoa. But they are crunchy and satisfying. These are the best thing in the world when everyone around you is eating a candy bar! The thing I love most is that they come in an individual serving pouch. That is SO necessary for me to control portions. Nuts are a real problem for me in that area.

Even though I had to fight from opening a second package after my lunch on the road yesterday, in reality, the 100 calorie serving size is just right. These pouches are better than anything we can pick up in vending machines, and at least as good as a stop at the quicky mart. I am going to keep a couple tucked away in my purse or the glove box for impromptu snacking.

I adore the cocoa flavor, but the food demonstrator at WalMart, where I got these, had them available in dry roasted and natural too. I think I'd only pay the premium price for the cocoa flavor, and for the travel packs. If I had more will power, I would portion out bulk nuts into snack bags. But somehow, I always end up going back to that bulk container and eating more than I should.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cucumber Heaven

When it is hot hot hot, what is better than a cool cool cucumber? My sweet mom brought me the only cucumber her garden produced so far this year, which just happened to be hiding behind another vine. Neither one of us seems to be getting a bumper crop this year. I really wanted to honor this cuke since it is the only one to offer itself up this year. Normally, I am not a huge cucumber fan. I try, I really do. I know how low calorie they are and all. I should love them. Instead I generally just tolerate cucumbers. Unless, that is, they get to play around with other ingredients I am more passionate over. That is what I tried to do today. I made these recipes in between mourning the absence of my eldest son, and being all glum about the all too soon departure of my number two boy. Well, that and doing some prep cooking too.

I have a Triple Play meal of pork roast in the crockpot, so I played around with this cucumber while it was still at the peak of freshness. I have to admit, I like these recipes better than a plain cucumber added to salad.

The first dish I made was a low carb take on Tabouli. My family once owned a barbecue restaurant, and we made gallons of this stuff. I grew to love it, and still demand it on major holidays. None of my men will eat it however, so I chose to make just a teeny tiny batch. Of course, I have had to modify that old recipe quite a bit to make it low carb. I used cauliflower as the base ingredient rather than bulgar wheat. Not quite as good, but still a tangy taste sensation. This is one of those recipes that you can add or subtract ingredients to your liking. I would like some green bell pepper in this too, but didn't add any today. The tomatoes and parsley were homegrown. Yum.

Cauliflower Tabouli

1/2 head fresh cauliflower
1 cup of fresh parsley, loosely packed
1/3 cucumber
3 green onions
4 cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
lemon pepper to taste (my brand also has salt in it)

Use a food processor to grate the fresh cauliflower. When it is nearly done, throw in the parsley for a quick chop. I used my old manual salsa maker. Chop the remaining vegetables by hand into bite sized chunks. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over chopped vegetables. Add a sprinkle of lemon pepper and let the salad chill for several hours. Taste before serving and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

The next side dish I tried was Sweet and Sour Cucumbers. I read about that on one of the low carb boards a while back. Sorry, I didn't use an exact recipe. Just mix sweetener and vinegar on a one to one ratio. Pour that over the thinly sliced cucumbers and let them marinate for an hour or more. These make a very tangy yet cool side dish for spicier foods. I really like cucumbers this way. They might even find their way into my lunch box now. Today I used Truvia sweetener. I have never tried it before, but had a coupon from the paper. I like it well enough, but it is probably too costly for me to use all the time. I often use liquid sucralose, but it is very concentrated. Today, I wanted to sprinkle a bit of the sweetener over the cucumbers slices. I was able to do that with the Truvia because it is bulky. I then mixed the rest with the vinegar to pour over the slices. It worked well, but I have decided the sprinkling step is not necessary. This will work with whichever sweetener you choose. Just remember the 1:1 means the sweetener's equivalent to sugar, not an actual measurement.

Lastly, on my mom's request, I tried some Cucumber Water. My niece recently served this at a shower she was hosting. It is a pretty, refreshing spa type drink. It does perk up the water a bit. Not being a cucumber devotee, it will probably never be a favorite for me. Although I prefer my Lemon Balm Tea, this is easier! Just slice some cucumber and add it to some filtered water. Some add fresh lemon as well, but I don't have any lemon trees here in Oklahoma. I just made about three servings in the antique glass pitcher that was my great grandmothers. It is very pretty, but not typical Diner food. The guys in the house gave me funny looks and kept walking. Kool-aid is definitely more their style, sorry to say. Being the only female, I think it is nice. Some say it gets better when it sits overnight.

Now I am off to make some muffins. They will be good to take on the road as we head back to college tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tac-ole Lunch Style

Ever try to pack a taco for lunch? They get pretty soggy. And now that we eat low carb, taco shells are out of the picture anyway. My recipe for Tac-ole Cups is a great alternative. They are a Multiply Meal recipe, so I make a bunch at once and freeze the individual cups. Since these taco flavored muffins use some low carb flour, they don't taste like a quiche. They are sturdy, and just as tasty at room temperature.These little jewels went into everyone's lunch containers today. The big boys left at home didn't see the menu, so they fixed something else. Great news--now I will have more made for another easy day of lunch prep.

The top photo is my Bento lunch. I served my two Tac-ole Cups with some nice veggie choices that go with the Mexican flavor. The top left is a cup of olives. In the small container is some of the Green Chile Salad Dressing I made a couple of days ago. The nice tight lid keeps it from spilling and getting all over everything else. In the middle is a simple iceberg lettuce salad. I did add some green pepper after the picture was taken. It is served in one of those toddler snack cups from the dollar store. Beside that is a container of salsa, also with a lid to keep it from spilling. Between the muffin is a silicon cup filled with some sugar snap pea pods. I love those. I buy the frozen ones and just place them in the cup and they thaw out by lunchtime. Those were so good dipped in the salad dressing. In the lid of the Bento box is a skewer filled with fresh blueberries. That is a fun way to eat berries for dessert.

John's lunch container was a bit more generous than mine. He got two Taco-ole muffins, a bigger salad, some diced green peppers and a cup of In-a-Flash Chili. He also had blueberries, but just had his from a mini-muffin cup. Since the chili was in a separate cup, he was able to remove it and nuke it in the microwave a bit--not too much to melt the cup, though. That way, he didn't have to settle for cold chili or hot salad.

My carby boy had his lunch with some tortilla chips and cheese, grapes and some cookies. After a really long school day, I was glad to just pop a frozen Hen in a Tree Casserole in the microwave for dinner. Tomorrow, one boy moves to his first apartment near campus, so we will be busy traveling to Arkansas and back for a couple of days. We will most probably be eating quite a few salads on the road, and celebrating my middle son's birthday. He will not be home for our traditional festivities. I'm still not used to my boys being away from home on holidays. I'll be posting around our very hectic schedule. I have some snacks and breakfast muffins for the road, so we are ready to go--all except the kid's furniture. Let's just say the snacks are ready to go. The rest is still a huge mess in my living room and garage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lemon Pepper Grilled Pork Chops

No real recipe tonight, just some good grilling. My guys treated me to some "man food" from the grill. My middle son Pearson added the spices. He made several varieties--some with Rotisserie seasoning, some with onion powder and other spices, and some with lemon pepper. That is the one I chose. It was so yummy and smokey good. John is really getting a relationship going with our grill. For years, everything was burned, but not anymore. I guess it helps not having little guys who are so impatient for food. Now he has learned the art of slow grilling. These were tender and had just the right amount of seasoning.

I paired it with some sauteed snap peas, and made the carby boys a quick side of taters. This meal was a real bargain too; the chops were on sale for 99 cents a pound. Good dinner, thanks to my grill master!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Green Chile Salad Dressing

Tonight is our last peaceful dinner together before my older boys go back to college at JBU. I chose Andrew's favorite dish. Southwest Shredded Beef. I can't believe they ate it all! I usually have enough leftovers to make it a Triple Play Meal. I guess they overindulged knowing it is back to college food soon. One son is back in the dorms; the other in his first apartment. They will be missing mama's cooking for sure! So, I will make some adjustments to the menu for the rest of the week. I almost always write it in pencil just in case.

Tonight, I made an interesting salad dressing to top our Southwest Shredded Beef soft tacos and salads. John and I limit ourselves to one low carb tortilla, and eat the rest of our portion as a salad. The boys like both soft and crispy tacos. That can of green chiles I blogged about the other day is so big, that I am still freezing it in batches. I yet have some not frozen, so I made a batch of Green Chile Mayo and Green Chile Salad Dressing. Gotta say I like them both. They are mild, but flavorful.

Green Chile Mayo

1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 canned cup green chiles (for a milder flavor, one 4 ounce can would do)
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Chill for at least one our to let flavors blend.

This would be very good in a chicken salad or on Deli roll-ups. This mayo would make a good burger or chicken breast also, for a simple E.Z. Fix meal.

Green Chile Salad Dressing

1/2 cup Green Chile Mayo
1 Knorr Cilantro Cube
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup water

Blend all ingredients in a blender and chill before serving

This was really good drizzled over our salads and soft tacos. It wasn't too hot for the hubby. I think I would like it even better with a dash of chipotle pepper powder, but it is good just as it is for most people. The dressing would be nice as a sauce for steamed vegetables or for dipping raw veggies.

Now, since all my guys are home, (a rarity around here) I am leaving the computer for some quality time. I am so gonna miss my big boys.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Supreme Pizza Skillet

When you are craving the flavors of pizza, why even bother with crust? Is that really what sounds good when we have pizza? I know I love a Supreme style pizza--especially when it is a thin crust. I love the blend of olives and peppers, the onions and mushrooms, and of course, the meat toppings too. The thin crust lets the other flavors shine through. So why eat a crust at all when it is the toppings that make it great.

Tonight, I made a simple skillet pizza entree with no base at all. No oven to heat up, and no overdose on cheese. It was all the good things I love in Supreme pizza.

Supreme Pizza Skillet

1 small green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 small onion
4 ounces fresh mushrooms
1 sliced zucchini
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 1/2 cups Chicken Cubes or Minute sausage (or a combo of both)
2 ounces pepperoni
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese to taste
red pepper flakes to taste

Coat a non-stick skillet with olive oil. Chop vegetables and add them to the skillet in the order listed. Once vegetables are tender, add remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper flakes to taste.

This is so good for pizza cravings. It is a little high in carbs with all those veggies, but I'd rather get my carbs there than with a real starch. Serves 3 at about 11 carbs, 2 at 15 carbs. My carbavore boys had theirs stirred into some ziti and cheese. Gotta admit, that looked good, but once I started eating, the pasta craving subsided.

Make this an all Italian night, and add a lemon Italian Ice for dessert. I use my Pampered Chef Ice shaver for those. Loads of flavor and almost no carb at all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Green Chile Gravy

My guys have this beef and queso dip that they just adore at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Even though it is supposed to be an appetizer, they often order it for a main course. This recipe is inspired by that dip. My carby boys ate it with tortilla chips, but John had his poured over eggs. Even though he usually fusses about the heat of chiles, these canned green chiles are actually very mild. He declared that the Green Chile Gravy was outstanding.

Green Chiles. I do love them, but I have such a hard time paying the prices for those tiny little cans. I can't believe I see them for a dollar these days. I am not willing to give up on that flavor though. Here's what I do. I shop around until I find a big can. I mean a really big can. This one is 99 ounces--over six pounds of peppers. I paid $8.69 for it. That is the same as nearly 25 four ounce cans at a dollar a piece. Yikes. After I open it up, I just spoon the chiles into old ice cube trays and freeze them. After they are firm, I pop them out and put them all in a ziploc bag. That makes it really quick to grab a couple of cubes when I am making Chiles in the Hand or any other dish with green chiles. Such a savings. The brand I got this time is Casa Fiesta. I found it in the aisle with Institutional foods at a local grocery. Haven't found big cans at Walmart yet.

Sorry about that photo. My camera always makes hamburger gravy look purple. I promise it is a nice golden color. If I played around with the hue, the eggs turned green. So trust me on this one, Green Chili Gravy is good, but not on green eggs.

Green Chili Gravy

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground sausage
8 ounces green chiles
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 slices American cheese (mine is the white variety from Sam's Club)

Brown meat and drain. Add cream cheese, chiles and half and half. Stir until cheese melts. Add water and sprinkle xanthan gum over. After the mixture is thickened, add cheese slices and melt into gravy. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste. Serve over scrambled eggs or low carb bread. This could also be made even quicker using Minute Beef and Minute Sausage.

Today was our first full day of school. I won't have as much time in the kitchen, but as always, we still will have the Diner open 24/7. They gotta eat!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buffalo Gal Cheeseballs

Sing it now..."Oh Buffalo Gal won't you come out tonight... and make me a cheeseball moon"...Can you tell one of my favorite old movies is Its a Wonderful Life? This really has nothing to do with the film, just the flavor of Buffalo Chicken. I make a wonderful Buffalo Chicken Dip for the holidays. This is a cousin. Not quite as rich in calories, and much more proportion friendly. The other day, I was in the mood for a cheese ball. Using the ingredients from that recipe, I threw this together. Not wanting to eat the entire thing, and knowing my hubby's disdain for hot sauce, I thought I would see if this would freeze. So I popped the creamy goo into my handy dandy brownie pop pan. I really need to have my kitchen gadgets be multi-purpose. I can happily say that my cheeseball freezes great, comes out of the brownie pop pan shaped like a little cheeseball bullet, and tastes wonderful with some chicken chunks and pepper slices.

Buffalo Gal Cheeseballs

This is one of the recipes included in my new cookbook project, Low Carbing Among Friends.
This recipe is available in the book, along with over 60 additional 24/7 Low Carb Diner recipes. By ordering the book, you get more than 300 favorite gluten free recipes from four other well known low carb cooking experts…Jennifer Eloff of Splendid Low Carbing cookbook fame, Kent Altena, the Atkins Diet Geek and You Tube star, nutritionist and author Maria Emmerich of Maria’s Nutritious and Delicious Journal, and popular blogger and food stylist, Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food. Unlike any other cookbook you may own, this one is a compilation of mini cookbooks featuring the talents of these well known low carbers. Think of it as a “best of” project.
Low Carbing Among Friends also features recipes from numerous other talented low carbing friends and recommendations from the medical community who recognize the health benefits of low carb, gluten free living. To preorder your copy, visit The official release date is 11/11/11, so pre-order now for a discount.

On prep days, I often make up five pounds of chicken breasts on my Foreman Grill. These chunks of breast meat are marvelous served with this cheeseball. If they are already grilled, all you have to do is heat them up in the microwave. The pepper slices are nice too. If you like a bit more heat, you can always slice up some fresh jalapeno peppers. This was a nice, light dinner for me, but it would be an awesome appetizer too. Tonight was a clean out the fridge night for my guys because the grocery did not have the roast I wanted to buy for my Triple Play meal. I will postpone that for later this week. Until then the fridge had leftovers for them, and the freezer always contains good things.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tuscany Pizza for Lunch

Tuscany Pizza you say--sounds gourmet. True. But the photo isn't quite my real recipe. This is John's lunch. He doesn't like all the good things that come on top of the true Tuscany Pizza that I will have later today. This one is still good too, though.

What is topping those little pizzas? His has the crust as outlined in the Triple Play recipe, one baked with cheese and egg in my muffin top pans. He has the sauce mixed with Caesar dressing. He has the veggies HE likes--red onion, mushroom and grape tomatoes. He leaves off the true Italian delights--the artichoke hearts, black olives and pepperoncini. That's okay though, because what really makes the pizza is the Italian Chicken. This is the third meal we are having from the recipe I baked up on prep day.

For the rest of the meal, he gets a salad that fits the theme. I just used the salad mix as usual, and topped it with Caesar dressing and mozzerella cheese. For dessert, he gets a leftover Vanilla Butter Nut Flax Muffin. It is only because so much of the preparation is done ahead, that he gets to have an interesting lunch like this. I do remember the days, before he had diabetes, when I would send him with a can of bean and bacon soup and a line of crackers. Was it easier? Yep. Was it good for his health? Hmm. His boss, who used to low carb, but got bored with it, has lately been coming in to check to see what John is having for lunch each day. I promise my hubby's lunches are not boring at all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hen in a Tree Casserole

Multiply Meals are so great to have waiting in the freezer on busy nights. Then there are the times I spend a bit of extra time to prepare three entrees. Tonight is one of those times. Hen in a Tree is a delicious, creamy chicken casserole that is simple to throw together. The only time consuming part is dicing five pounds of baked chicken. Once you have your chicken cubes, the rest goes together so quickly.

One question you may ask, especially on hot summer evenings, is do I cook all three, or assemble, then freeze to cook later? The answer is either--do whichever you prefer. Tonight, I only had this one recipe going, so I chose to bake all three at the same time. That way, after they are frozen, they will be super quick to reheat for another dinner. I will have the option of rewarming in the microwave, the oven, or even cutting the casserole into serving pieces and heating individually. That is the best choice if you ever want to use a Multiply Meals casserole for lunches.

On the other hand, if I have other projects going on in the kitchen--especially on a prep day--I may bake only the casserole we intend to eat that day. The other two can be assembled, then frozen to bake completely on the day they will be served. This is a good choice when the ingredients may dry out with too much baking. It also saves time on the prep day. It will take a little longer to get food on the table when you do serve it, but it will be just as simple. Any of the casseroles in the book that don't contain an egg base are good choices to assemble and freeze to complete the baking. Quiche type recipes should be pre-baked. Hen in a Tree, with its cream cheese sauce, is good either way.

Now that dinner is over and boys have happy bellies, it is time for me to get back in the kitchen and wrap the extra two casseroles for the freezer. I left the blueberries on the counter when I made the fruit skewers. Even though I have a tough time getting cantaloupe into my guys, these fresh blueberries are disappearing fast. Better go!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to Use Xanthan Gum

Fellow Diner, Linda, asked me to do a post on using xanthan gum. Great idea. There are a few tricks of the trade so to speak, as this substance is quite a bit different when used as a low carb thickener. Forget everything you knew about thickening with flour or cornstarch. Xanthan gum is a whole new game. There are several different ways I use it. Not claiming to be an expert here, so if you have any more pointers, feel free to leave a comment.

First, lots of gluten free bakers use xanthan gum in recipes using alternative flours. Since we are low carbing, I don't use many recipes using those ingredients. I do use a dash of xanthan gum when I make Cleochatra's Oopsie rolls. Xanthan gum is said to help stiffen the fragile batter and help to keep it from breaking down before it is baked. By the way, the tiny measuring spoon in the photo is a dash--an eighth of a teaspoon. I just toss in the xanthan gum with the egg yolk mixture and beat it well with my hand mixer. You can find the recipe here.

Speaking of beating well, that is one secret to successfully using xanthan gum. It really needs some help getting mixed into liquids. It clumps like crazy upon impact with moisture. Way faster than my little wrist can stir. I like to use an immersion blender when possible. I always add a dash of xanthan to help thicken my protein shakes. It creates that marvelous mouth feel of a thick, creamy shake. The blender takes care of the clumping problem there, no problem. Using a bullet blender or regular blender will do the trick too for any sauce or soup. BUT...

What about stir fry sauces and gravies that are hot, and not practical to put in the blender? I like to thicken sauces right in the pan without blending my food to mush. There is a trick. Some say to sprinkle the xanthan gum on lightly with a salt shaker. I still found little clumps when I tried that. But I did find a great little kitchen tool that is foolproof. It is my tea strainer/infuser. Mine is an individual "spoon" style that uses a fine mesh to keep tea leaves out of the hot water. I seldom use it for that, though because it tends to float in the cup. Instead, I simply add the desired amount of xanthan gum into the infuser and snap the lid tightly closed. Then, just shake the xanthan powder over the liquid to be thickened. All you have to do is stir gently with one hand while shaking or "sifting" the infuser. The xanthan gum falls in such a fine powder that it doesn't clump at all. It also makes it very easy to adjust the amount you need, since you can add more or less as it thickens in the pan. If any is left over in the infuser, I can just dump it back in the jar.

I looked online to see if they still made my tea strainer, but I couldn't find anything just like it. My advice would be to check out the finest strainers or sieves you can find. Most tea balls seem to have holes that are just too large. This strainer I found online might work, even though it wouldn't close on top like mine. Then again, maybe you could find a shaker of some sort with abnormally small holes. I promise I have a pepper shaker that hardly lets anything escape!

I will look forward to reading what any other Diners have found works for them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Italian Chicken Skillet and Stuffed Peppers

For my Triple Play meal this week, I made some Italian Chicken. If you don't have the e-book, that is just baked chicken with Italian dressing. Today's lunch was the chicken made into a simple skillet filled with all those wonderful fresh veggies of summer. It is easy to change out veggies for whatever is available any time of year. Today I used zucchini, eggplant, red onion, grape tomatoes, bell pepper and spinach. It is also yummy with green beans, cauliflower or just about any low carb vegetable.

Since the meat is precooked, this mainly only takes the dicing time to cook. This idea would work with regular frozen chicken cubes as well, just add Italian dressing to everything in the skillet. I start with the veggies that need the longest time on the fire, and add them to a hot skillet with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. By the time the last zucchini slice goes in, I add my chicken with a little of the Italian dressing it has been marinating in. I added a bit more garlic and a touch more Italian herbs as well. Today, once everything was hot, I threw in some spinach leaves just long enough to let them wilt. I am no fan of overcooked spinach.

This is really easy to throw together and is full of so many of the good things God has provided for us to eat. John has access to a microwave to heat it at work, but I just ate mine at room temperature and it was still quite good. What grown up wouldn't rather see this skillet dish in a lunch bag rather than a soggy sandwich and chips?

Last Sunday night, I used the chicken to fill baked bell peppers. I pre-baked the peppers in the microwave, added the hot chicken, and topped them with cheese. Back into the microwave, and we had a nice light supper. This is just as simple to do for lunch as well. Bella!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crockpot Country Pork Ribs

Today I tried ribs in the crockpot with a seasoning rub. If you have a couple of minutes in the morning, dinner doesn't get much better than this! This is the recipe that worked so well for us.

Lisa's Rib Rub

This is one of the recipes included in my new cookbook project, Low Carbing Among Friends.
This recipe is available in the book, along with over 60 additional 24/7 Low Carb Diner recipes. By ordering the book, you get more than 300 favorite gluten free recipes from four other well known low carb cooking experts…Jennifer Eloff of Splendid Low Carbing cookbook fame, Kent Altena, the Atkins Diet Geek and You Tube star, nutritionist and author Maria Emmerich of Maria’s Nutritious and Delicious Journal, and popular blogger and food stylist, Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food. Unlike any other cookbook you may own, this one is a compilation of mini cookbooks featuring the talents of these well known low carbers. Think of it as a “best of” project.
Low Carbing Among Friends also features recipes from numerous other talented low carbing friends and recommendations from the medical community who recognize the health benefits of low carb, gluten free living. To preorder your copy, visit The official release date is 11/11/11, so pre-order now for a discount.

I baked mine all day in the crock pot. They were tasty without additional sauce, or still good with a touch of KC Masterpiece Classic sauce.

For sides, I made a marinated grape tomato salad, using some parsley my friend NeeCee sent over from her garden. It was sweet and tart and wonderful even though I am not a huge tomato fan. Thanks, NeeCee. I also made some zucchini latkes using various recipes on the Low Carb Friends board. I used soy flour since I am out of coconut flour right now. That is why they appear so dark in the photo. They really aren't burned, I promise. Those are extra good hot, but cold...well let's just say I didn't get rave reviews on those. John had called home tonight with a last minute errand. Unfortunately, the latkes were already in the frying pan when the phone rang. They got eaten anyway, helped along with a smidgen of low sugar ketchup, and we got some money in the bank.

For a snacky dessert tonight, we will have some homemade yogurt flavored with the McCormick vanilla, butter and nut flavoring. The taste is marvelous, especially with a sliced strawberry. Mmmm. Just another day of meals trying to keep my hubby healthy and not feeling deprived on his diabetic low carb plan. He is a happy camper tonight.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Salad for a Week

How many times have you purchased those prepackaged salad mixes--you know, the ones with iceberg lettuce, really dried out carrot strips and a bit of red cabbage for color--only to have them become a slimy sludgy mess in the veggie crisper? For me, it is far more times than I care to admit. What a waste of money. They are a fine helper for a quick meal, but not the best choice. They are expensive. They go bad so quickly, and they are not great for nutrients. If you eat a lot of salad, there is a better way I have found. It works for a family like mine, or a single person too. Just vary the size of your container.

I make one big salad that often lasts my family all week. If I am having salad as a dinner meal, I will need more, but this works for sides and lunches for John and me. I use my weekly prep day to put the salad together. Today, my sons and I went out shopping for school clothes since it is tax free weekend here. Don't ever wait until Sunday, everything was picked over. While this means I am postponing some of my prep day chores, the salad is made and ready for the week. Having that ready is such a blessing in the hurry to get lunches packed for my working men!

I have a Tupperware container that I bought several years ago. The model is no longer available, but now they have some with even better features, so go out and look. Mine features a grate that elevates the greens off the bottom of the container. It allows air to flow under the food. I use the grate when I am drying my rinsed lettuce too.

Before I place the grate in the container, I line it with two paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Then, I begin adding my selection of greens. This time, I added some green leaf lettuce first. We had used a few leaves for garnish already, and it was a small head to begin with.

Next I added some iceberg lettuce. Can't beat the price on that one, and it lasts pretty well. Just remember to tear with your fingers not cut with a knife or the edges will be gross by the end of the week.

Next, I added about half a package of prewashed spinach. I love spinach, but I refuse to take the time to soak it clean. This is always ready to go at a great price at Aldi.

Finally, I toss and add those finishing touches you can't get in a pre-bagged salad. We like onion. I add some in big chunks so I can dig around it for my kids. They don't like it like we do. I throw in some grape tomatoes too. A cut tomato would get slimy, but these small ones are fine all week. Besides, hiding them in the salad is the only way to limit how many my diabetic hubby eats. He has a tough time controlling these. If the garden provides, I'll add some cherry tomatoes later this week too.

Now, when I am packing and preparing lunches this week, all I have to do is add a handful of my pre-made salad for a side, or add some meat and cheese for an salad meal. With dinner, it is a side dish I don't even have to think about.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Braised Beef with Smoked Paprika

It is amazing how groceries can change into mystery food an hour after going into the freezer. Always remember to label your Freezer Favorites before they go in! This time, the story was a little different, but it still left my menu plan with a big road block sign. You see, we purchase meat from a local meat packing plant once a month at their dock sale. We missed last month, so my freezer was pretty empty. This morning, John went and purchased ground beef for $1.25 a pound, some fully cooked chicken chunks for $2.50 a pound, and some beef medallions for $1.50 a pound. Great deals, no doubt. I was busy working on a curriculum project when he got home. Stupid me, I didn't oversee what went where in which freezer.

Tonight's menu called for beef fajitas, so I pulled out a package of fajita meat to thaw. Come dinner time, I grabbed that, only to find that I had been thawing beef medallions instead. Not exactly interchangeable. What to do? I placed the beef, still in some larger frozen chunks, into my chicken fryer skillet. I put in a cup of water, turned it on low, put on the lid and went to watch a movie on Netflix with my guys. John did stir the meat a bit when he passed through the kitchen a couple of times. I appreciated being able to stay reclined with my feet up for a while...

After the movie was over, the beef was nice and tender. I drained off most of the broth and sprinkled the beef with garlic powder, onion powder, regular paprika and about half a teaspoon of the pricier smoked paprika. I let that simmer a bit while I stir fried some garlic green beans with onion and red pepper. Yum. Not bad considering my taster was ready for fajitas. The lesson? Don't be a slave to the menu, and learn to think through kitchen disasters creatively. That and don't have a picky family.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Try, Try Again Flax n Bran Crackers

I have tried for quite some time to like flax. It just doesn't do it for me. I use it; I just have to get the perfect recipe to hide the flaxy taste. I'm fine with the texture, and too cheap to buy the golden flaxmeal, which is pricier. Anyway, I have tried for a year an a half to find a flax cracker that I would eat. Lots of famous low carbers are enamored with this crispy treat, but not me. Cleochatra loves them, David on the Stella Style board has a recipe that everyone likes. I just went euww. Every recipe I tried. But it is hard to get me to give up. Tonight's casserole, Chicken Blanco, is already made, so I had some time to play around with the recipe.

The ease of a microwave cracker allured me. Just pondering the idea of a crunchy treat that is in no way related to pork rinds, not using up my precious almond meal...the idea would not go away. Today, while perusing the Bernstein forums, I came across yet another thread for flax crackers. I decided to give it a go. A few weeks ago, I had purchased some popcorn seasoning to flavor Almond Thins. They were just average. I decided it was not a great taste, and not worthy of the expense of the almond meal. Dashed were the dreams of the perfect replacement for chips. Even the new stone baking pan did not do the trick.

So what did I have to lose? This recipe only had flax meal and wheat bran plus some seasonings and water. I have had the same bag of wheat bran for well over a year, so what could it hurt? After the first batch was out of the microwave, I was disappointed. Still, that flavor that just has no appeal. But the texture was nice, so I decided to try another idea from the Bernstein board--a sweet version. For the first batch, I simply followed the forum idea and added in DaVinci syrup. I had English Toffee out from John's breakfast portein shake, so I tried that. Not bad. Not bad at all. I decided these little crackers could be it--especially with a little more flavoring. So, I tried a chocolate batch. Amazingly like chocolate graham crackers. At least from what I can remember; it has been a while since I tasted those. After a couple of batches of those, I had the technique down. Two different ways of baking, either on parchment paper or my new baking stone. These are sturdy, and would be awesome with some sweetened cream cheese dip, but they are good alone too.

The last ditch effort for a savory cracker is a winner. I added the popcorn flavoring and some chili seasonings to the batter. I like my little mock Doritos. Not exactly like the real thing, but incredibly easy to make. No heating of the oven or dragging out mixing bowls. These little treats will be awesome in lunch sacks and bento lunches this year. They would hold up to dip or spreads. I am even trying to figure out how to make a party mix for my hubby. He used to go through buckets of that stuff! I'll keep ya posted, or send me ideas for that.

Sweet Flax n Bran Crackers

1 Tablespoon flax meal
1 Tablespoon wheat bran
1 Tablespoon DaVinci sugarfree syrup, any flavor

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Choose one of the baking methods.
A. Place dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the paper over and smooth the dough flat with your fingers. Open the paper and even up the edges. The dough should be about the size of graham cracker square, maybe a bit smaller. OR
B. Place the dough onto a baking stone. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough and smooth it out with your fingers.
Place the raw dough into the microwave oven and cook on high for one minute. Remove the crackers and score the dough with a pizza cutter or knife. Return to the oven and bake for another minute to one minute twenty seconds. Let cool and gently break apart the crackers. Makes 12-16 mini crackers. The whole recipe is about 1 net carb.

Chocolate Graham Flax n Bran Crackers

Follow directions above, using Vanilla syrup, and adding 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon water to the batter.

Almost Doritos Flax n Bran Crackers

1 Tablespoon flax meal
1 Tablespoon wheat bran
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon nacho cheese flavored popcorn seasoning
pinch of chili powder
pinch of cumin

Combine ingredients as cook as instructed above for the sweet crackers.

Play around with your favorite flavor combinations. You never know what will be the perfect one for your tastebuds. Since this makes one big cracker at a time, you don't waste many ingredients with the ones that are less than perfect. Once you find the perfect combo, you can always multiply the recipe to make a larger batch. Just don't overeat, of all that fiber might play a nasty trick on you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cantonese Dinner and Sesame Green Beans

My youngest son hates Chinese food. When we used to go to Chinese Buffets, we would try to leave him somewhere else, because he never ate enough to pay that buffet price! He will eat this, though. It is a very mild sweet and sour crock pot recipe that I have had for years. The original is in the Rival Slow Cooker instruction book. My version is in the e-book.

This week, it was pork ribs that were affordable rather than pork steak, so I substituted. That worked out fine, I just put them in whole, then used my kitchen shears to dice the meat right in the crock pot, removing the bones as I went. That is actually easier than slicing the raw pork steak. Either way will work, though.

The "recipe" for the green beans is flavorful and so simple it really doesn't qualify as a recipe. Just steam or boil frozen green beans to your preference. Drain any cooking fluids. Then add a touch of sesame oil. I used about a half teaspoon for enough beans to serve six. True sesame lovers will want more, but I have that anti-Chinese food boy I have to think about. I absolutely refuse to fix more than one main meal just because we eat different levels of carbs. For this meal, I made a pot of rice to serve the Cantonese Dinner over. Ours, we just ate plain. My crockpot always gets a workout in August. What better way to keep the kitchen cool?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Steak Finger Salad and Lemon Balm Tea for a Hot Summer Day

Toooo, too hot outside. Who wants to eat anything but a salad? (I know the answer to that--teenage boys, remember?) This is the best of both--man food, as in the country fried steak, and summer food, as in the salad. Thankfully, I did not have to fry these up for our lunch today. I did that on my prep day. All I had to do was pop them in the toaster oven to recrisp them a bit. Then just grab some salad greens from the salad keeper, toss in a handful of shredded cheese and lunch is served. I'm feeling really handy today, because dinner is in the crockpot too. Sausage Pizza Soup.

No slaving away in a dreadfully hot kitchen tonight. Good thing, because the hubby had car trouble on the way to work, and we have to take fix-it supplies to him. Hopefully he can get our old truck working well enough to get it home. Then we will need a mechanic (and some money) to get it rolling in time to move my college boys back into school in a couple of weeks. As my pastor's mama said, "It's always something..."

While I was tending the garden this morning, I harvested some Lemon Balm to make a refreshing tea. This is something I have never tried before. I have cooked with herbs for years, but had never made a fresh herb "tea" (can't technically call it tea, but who cares). The herbal infusion is terrific and so very refreshing. I adore lemon flavoring, but thought this might taste grassy. I was so wrong. It is light and lemony with lingering whisper of flavor. Very tough to describe. It makes getting that water in a pleasure--even better knowing I grew it myself. Mint would work the same. Both are just the thing for summer afternoons.

Lemon Balm Tea

1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves
1 quart water

Rinse off the leaves before brewing. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Pour the water over the leaves in a lidded tea pot or large jar. After ten minutes, use a long spoon to bruise the leaves against the sides of the pot. Let the tea brew for an additional 20 minutes. Strain the tea. Sweeten if desired. Good hot or cold. I found that mine is delicious at this strength even when diluted with ice, so you can drink it right away. Store the leftovers in the fridge up to 5 days.

Even if you normally prefer sweetened drinks, try this without the sweetener first. It is very crisp and refreshing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Tale of Three Squashes

I made a beautiful squash medley tonight. I even took this photo of it to share with you. My first bites were oh so scrumptious. You see, my sweet mother had given me her only squash that her acorn squash plant produced this year. She knows how I love winter squash...but gee, it is August here, and 100 degrees outside. Somehow, the roasting with bacon and syrup idea just didn't seem to fit.

So, I sliced it and removed the tough skin. I hated loosing that pretty scalloped shape, but it had to be done if this was going in a skillet. I put the still attractive half circles into the skillet with some olive oil. While they were tenderizing, I sliced the yellow crookneck squash and the remains of a leftover zucchini. After checking to see that the acorn squash was fairly tender, I added the summer squashes and a little red bell pepper for color. My aim was to really be able to let the taste of the vegetables come through--no garlic or onion. Just a bit of salt. I was careful not to over brown, as I am prone to doing that while I am prepping other dishes. The medley looked perfect. I sample while cooking, and the acorn squash was fantastic!

I plated our food; tonight's Multiply Meals Tuna Alfredo was a rich and creamy no fuss entree. My first few bites of the squash medley were delightful. The crookneck squash was still slightly crisp and very mild. The acorn squash had a totally different texture--grainier and earthy. I loved it. Then I got a bite with the zucchini. Aaargh. Bitter.

A little internet research led me to find an enormous amount of information on poisonous bitter squash. It seems some plants can get crossed with wilder cousins and produce substances called "cucurbitacins". Now from my understanding, these should be so bad that we would have spewed the squash across the room upon tasting. It wasn't that bad, so I assume we need not call the poison control center. Just in case, I picked out all the offending zucchini. The rest is still quite yummy.

From my research, I learn that some squash may just be slightly bitter naturally. Some may get that way after growing too big. Some may be bitter if they are too old. I suspect that may be my problem. This was a leftover zucchini, and we had not noticed any odd flavor when I used some last week. From now on, I think I will be more careful to use up an entire squash in one setting. I will buy smaller ones if possible, and I will taste a bite before I cook.

But in the mean time, I certainly wish my mom still had some more acorn squash. Even cooked with a light saute, they are delicious. Thanks, mom. My two squash plants in my container garden are big beautiful plants, but are failing to produce any fruit. My summer bounty is not materializing. I have a multitude of male blossoms, but very few female blossoms. And yes, I have resorted to early morning squash hanky panky trying to help them along. Still no production. My plant seemed insulted, and now is producing only male blossoms. I have taken to calling it my monastery squash. Any advice?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Country Fried Steak Fingers

Cube steak was on sale this week at the nearest grocery store to my home. All my men love country fried steak, and always order that when we dine out at home-style restaurants. The low carb version my not be quite the same, but the fingers are tasty. This week, I made enough to make a "Triple Play" recipe.

Tonight, we are having steak fingers with gravy. Later in the week, the fingers will show up in a lunch salad, then in wraps made with lavash bread. They gravy I tried was not all that wonderful, so I will spare you those details.

The breading I used today was soy flour, flax meal and wheat bran mix. I dipped the fingers in egg, then dredged them in the flour mixture. Remember that when you fry with soy flour, the breading darkens more than with wheat flour...especially after the first batch. If you are avoiding soy, you could easily substitute another flour. I even saw recipes using all flax meal, but I haven't personally tried that.

Well, the Chicken Blanco casseroles are wrapped and ready to go into the freezer, and the extra chicken is cubed for this week's chicken salad. We had some guests today, so I am postponing making my muffins and Minute Sausage until tomorrow morning. It is good to be flexible--just as long as I still get it done in a reasonable time. Then I know I will always have some home-made food ready on the quick. That is good to know.

Just Say No to Boring Burgers

You probably know I love my burger buffets. Sometimes, though, I am just in the mood for some heat! Today, while I am starting my prep day in the kitchen, my sweet hubby offered to grill out some burgers for me and the guys. That's fine with me!

I was in the mood for some spice, so I seasoned my burgers with a couple of my gourmet mustards. It sure is a change from the mayo, ketchup and pickles routine. One patty is topped with Cajun mustard, onion and hot wing sauce. The other is topped with Jack cheese, Southwestern mustard and onion. Just have a tall glass of lime water, and the meal is served.

I often wrap the lettuce leaf around the burger patty and eat it with my fingers, but that is a little hard to photograph. A knife and fork is less messy, and just as tasty.

Now on to more prep day cooking. If you want even more burger ideas, check the Burger Bonanza ideas in the E.Z. Fix section of the e-book.