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

Companion blog to the e-book
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Friday, December 30, 2011

Among Friends Thursday- Maria's "Corndogs"

I have ambitions to try out some of the recipes from our Among Friends Cookbook every Thursday. Today we were already testing some low carb fryer recipes, so we tried out Maria's "Corn" dog recipe. Granted, Maria's are much healthier because she uses grass fed, organic hot dogs and fries in coconut oil. I read on my coconut oil jar not to use it in a deep fryer, so we tried these in a little regular oil. Definitely not something to do often. They did puff up really well and fried up beautifully. They do taste a little coconutty, but it is nothing a squirt of mustard won't cover.

A couple of her followers had a little trouble getting the batter to stick on the hot dog, so I decided to make a shorter dog. Since I was using 1/3 sections of dogs and/ or some little sausages, I had less trouble there. I scooped up the batter in my spoon, placed the dog on it, then topped it with a little more of the coconut mixture. Once it hit the oil, it all stayed together really well.

I seldom drag out the fryer, but we were testing a new fryer/steamer that Pearson got for Christmas. It works great and is multi-purpose! I will tell more in the Diner News for January. Everything worked great, and we had a fun time making and eating these. In the new year, I promise it will be the healthier version.

Having been really busy working on the Diner News, I see that I did not make my midnight deadline for Thursday, C'est la vie. At least we consumed them on Thursday!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Revisiting the Cheese Puppies

One of my favorite treats ever invented is fried cheese sticks. Lots of trouble to make, but delish. A couple of years ago, I invented a way to make Cheese Puppies with my pancake puff pan. Those were good, but took a little time and patience in turning them to get the perfect round ball. Then my pan became a little lot less non stick and I abandoned making them. Never forgot them though.

While rummaging around the after Christmas sales yesterday, I found a cake ball machine for $7.88 at Walmart. In the basket it went, along with some holiday cookie pans and some really nice standard air bake cookie sheets that were half price too. We even found a Ninja drink maker (just like mine, but only the large pitcher) SCORE! It took a great deal of inner strength not to buy a brownie maker and donut machine too.

Since my original recipe used Carbquick, but I never use wheat products in my current recipe development, I decided to use coconut flour. It worked fine. Now understand, these are not perfect spheres. They are more like half circles. Slightly taller than that, but not totally round. Still really cute on the appetizer table for New Year's Eve parties. Even better, you can turn the flat side up. With it's little crater, you have a perfect place for a dollop of marinara or salsa. Yum oh yum.  I guess you could stick two halves together to make a perfect ball, but they are rich enough without adding more cheese to stick them together.

If you aren't crazy into kitchen gadgets like I am, you might try these baked in a mini muffin pan. I am thinking they would work, just lose that star quality that sets them apart from the crowd of ordinary appetizers!

Easy Cheese Puppies

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I chose Jack)
1 egg
1 heaping tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vinegar

 Heat a cake pop machine. In a medium bowl, stir together cheese, egg, coconut flour and baking soda. When well combined, add the vinegar. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture into each cavity. If using a cake ball machine, close the lid and bake for 5 minutes. Open lid and remove with a bamboo skewer, Let cheese puppies drain on a paper towel. Serve with marinara, salsa, or the dip of your choice.

These may work in a standard oven as well. I would probably use a hot oven, 400 or 425 degrees, and bake 10 minutes or more until browned on top. If you try it this way, let me know what works. I will be using my cake ball appliance for sure. It is so easy!

I have some interesting ideas for these. My further experiments will be on my party table for the New Year and they will be in the January edition of the Diner News as well. This month will be dedicated to the small appliance department of our Low Carb Kitchen. I will have great ideas for some of those gifts you may have received for Christmas. In the works are dehydrator ideas, fryer recipes, cake pops, waffle sticks and more. If you don't have some of these items now, I promise you will want some! (I will try to offer some conventional methods as much as possible as well)

I am so loving having my middle son home. He has helped me with the makeover on my blog. As an honor student in graphic arts, he helped me put together the retro look I have always wanted for the Diner. Cool, huh? And he didn't charge me a dime--he did it all in exchange for cheese puppies!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Waffle Sticks

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful holiday season--wherever you are. Mine is wonderful this year. Christmas was spent with the whole family and some special friends as well. But the holiday week does not stop there for us. Today is my hubby's birthday. We celebrated at Red Robin last night so our oldest son could join us before he had to return to his job today. I still wanted the day to feel special for John, so we made him a fabulous breakfast this morning before he headed off to the station. Pearson handled the meat, as only a fan of Epic Mealtime could. (lots of it, that is) He made his dad sausage links, ham and eggs. I used the waffle maker I got for Christmas to make these super fun waffle sticks.After all that meat, he couldn't even finish them. I handled that for him.

I used the recipe for the Mr. Peanut Bread, which is a part of the Low Carbing Among Friends Cookbook, but is also one of the recipes I still feature here. It is just so versatile. I have a comment today saying the bread did not rise for some reason. I have never had that problem here. In fact, the batter was rising out of the waffle iron before I even got the batter spread over the entire iron base. The only advice I know is not to use too large a pan, or spread the doughy batter too thin. Perhaps adding the vinegar last might help. The reaction it makes with the soda fluffs the batter, so don't stir too much after that is added.  I have used this in muffin cups, and even as artisan bread plopped directly on a cookie sheet. A follower of the Diner showed me a photo of how she used Mr. Peanut Bread in a waffle iron, so that is what I tried today. Thanks, Jillian for sharing the idea and the photo. Love when readers do that! I simply baked mine until most of the steaming had stopped. They are not super crispy, like some white flour waffles, but they are tasty and satisfying.

For toppings, we added some sugarfree blackberry Smucker's Jam. Oh, and of course the whipped cream we had left over from the trifle I made for Christmas Eve. The flavor combination will definitely bring out the kid in you. The sticks are even more fun to eat than regular waffles. You can pick the whole waffle stick up and eat it with your fingers. Yum. I have some other ideas I will be featuring in the January newsletter. Think inside out sandwiches, waffles stick chili dunkers and more. It will be fun, I promise.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Three Pepper Jelly Appetizer

I have always had a thing for Jalapeno Pepper Jelly. I used to make some at Christmas time because I adore the flavor of the sweet hot jelly warmed and poured over a block of cream cheese. Then I stopped. The sugar content in my old recipe was huge. Not knowing much about making sugarfree jams and jellies, but knowing enough kitchen chemistry to bet that was a tricky process, I just gave it up. Sugarfree cranberry sauce took the place of the beloved jalapeno jelly.

Yesterday, my middle son Pearson, asked if we could have some again this year. I have such a hard time saying no to my guys, so I decided to take the challenge. We happened to be headed for Walmart anyway, so I picked up a jar of the Ball brand no sugar pectin. Then a new recipe search was on. Really didn't find much, considering I wanted to use canned pickled jalapenos I had  languishing on a back shelf of the pantry. My old recipe had used canned jalapenos, and I wanted to duplicate that flavor. The recipes I found using Truvia called for fresh peppers. Others called for bell peppers. No again. Armed with some jam making generalizations jumping around in my brain, I headed for the kitchen with no recipe at all. What I ended up with is not quite what I used to make, but it is a better jam texture and it does taste like peppers. If anything, it is a little more gourmet than my old recipe, so I guess I took it up a notch. This one calls for three different forms of chili peppers. In addition to the pickled jalapenos, it has some green chilies and some chili powder. That son who asked for it, is now eating it for breakfast. I guess it passed his test.

The green chiles, which are in abundance in my freezer since I buy the giant cans, make it more jam like than many of the versions I have tried in the past. I like that, as some seem a little more like syrup at times. ( I had one sugared version that never really set up) The chili powder adds a depth of flavor missing from conventional recipes. The only thing I would do differently next time, is to lower the amount of lemon juice. The lemon flavor was a little too pronounced for me.  I am going to adjust that in the recipe I am publishing here--pretty sure it will work the same. Still in? Here ya go!

 Three Pepper Jelly

8-10 canned pickled jalapeno peppers OR about 3/4 cup if dicing sliced peppers
1 tbsp butter 
8 ounces canned diced green chilies
1 cup ZSweet OR 1 1/4 cup erythritol
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water 
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp liquid stevia
1 1/2 tbsp Ball No Sugar Pectin

Finely chop the pickled jalapeno peppers in a food processor.  Heat the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the chopped jalapenos and the green chilies. Coat well and saute 2-3 minutes. Add the erythritol, vinegar, water, lemon juice, chili powder and liquid stevia. Stir over medium heat to dissolve sweetener. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the powdered pectin. Return pan to heat to resume boil. When the mixture boils, remove from heat and pour into three clean jelly jars. Seal and cool.

Obviously, I did not process these in a canner for long term storage. These would keep more like a freezer jam, for several weeks. I am not sure if erythritol acts as a preservative like cane sugar does. There is enough vinegar in there to do a good job in that area though. We will see. Not sure if three small jars will last through New Year's Eve around here anyway!

If you want to make some, especially here at the holidays, it would be very pretty with some red bell pepper thrown into the mix too.  Now what to do? Well, the obvious, and my personal favorite, is to put some over a block of cream cheese and serve with veggie dippers and crackers. You can also spoon the jelly over ham, meatballs or chicken breast. I hear some even use pepper jelly on a sandwich. I don't know about you, but I am too busy with last minute details to be making low carb bread right now. Ours will be appetizer fare! In the photo, I warmed some leftover cheeseball and spread it into a Christmas tree dish. That is too festive! Merry Christmas, Diners.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kent's Stuffed Mushrooms

Well, I made it the first week. It is Among Friends Thursday. This week I tried the Stuffed Mushroom recipe from Kent Altena. Delicious. Lucky me, I get to eat them all, I think. Ever since I made my boys dissect a mushroom in biology class, they refuse to eat fungi. At least not whole ones. We do sneak a few onto pizza and into casseroles still. Obviously, mushrooms are not the prettiest, but these little bites are really tasty.

Kent's recipe uses baby portabellas, which I found at Aldi  for a great price. I had already dug into mine for another recipe, so I may have over stuffed mine a little tonight, being short three shrooms. All the better for some extra flavor. I also forgot a couple of spoonfuls of the diced mushroom (yes, I was distracted) which were supposed to be mixed in. I added those to the top, and I think that makes them prettier. These would be excellent for Christmas and New Years Eve parties. Look for the in Low-Carbing Among Friends page 273. Click on the photo of the book to go to the order page and to see some incredible photos of the recipes in the book.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Greek Inspired Stuffed Peppers

It seems like I have been posting all sweet treats lately. We really are still eating dinners, I promise. Relying on the old standards makes the busy holiday season easier, but they aren't so interesting for blogging. Tonight, I made these stuffed peppers for my youngest son, who loves bell peppers, and is feeling a little under the weather. Then at the last minute, he ended up ring shopping with his girlfriend. Hmm. Certain girls have a way of making sick boys feel better like moms just can't.

So, his portion went into the fridge for lunch tomorrow. One of these days, she will be cooking for him instead of me. I had best feed him while I can! My sweet middle son is finishing up finals tomorrow, so I am really looking forward to hugging his neck and cooking for him. After college food, they always appreciate Mom's Diner.

Tonight, I ran short in the pepper department and long on zucchini squash. Rather than make a zucchini boat, something that does not offer too much appeal for my men, I made little squatty stuffed zucchini. I liked them, and you might too. Silly boys.

Many, I say MANY recipes call for rice as a filler. I subbed cauliflower, and no one would be the wiser. I added some coconut flour so it would all stick together. It did great there. Some feta cheese gave outstanding flavor, as did the oregano and lemon pepper. These had to be the most flavorful stuffed peppers I have had. For me,  I may have thrown in some cinnamon, but my guys don't rave about that either. Do what you want.

There are also two camps on the baking procedure. Some people pre-brown the meat. This certainly shortens the baking time. It does, in my opinion, make the dish messier. Packing in raw meat leaves it more like a mini meatloaf inside the pepper and less like a sloppy joe. If you are running out of time, go ahead and brown the meat first, but leave out the coconut flour. Maybe an egg as a  binder? Not sure, but maybe. I know the hour and a half oven time is well worth it.

Greek Inspired Stuffed Peppers (and zucchini if you want)

 4 bell peppers OR a combination of bell pepper and zucchini
1/2 large head cauliflower OR about 2 1/2 cups finely diced
1 pound ground meat (I used sausage tonight, but I suppose lamb would be more authentic)
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 ounces feta cheese
1/2 cup low sugar spaghetti sauce

 Cut the tops off bell peppers and remove the seeds. If using zucchini, remove stem and base, and cut into 4-5 chunks. Use a melon baller to hollow out a cavity from the zucchini. Reserve the squash cuttings to add to the cauliflower.

Use a food processor to finely dice the raw cauliflower and zucchini. In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower  with the ground meat, coconut flour and all the spices. Stir in the feta cheese. Fill the peppers with the meat mixture. If making zucchini, fill those, rounding the tops with a spoon. Place the filled vegetables in a baking dish and spoon spaghetti sauce over the top. Cove the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. Remove the foil from the dish and bake another 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to make certain the middle of the peppers register 165 degrees.

 Add a little more sauce if you want. This is yummy stuff!

P.S. The boy came home from shopping and ate his portion anyway. Good, because that is the one I need to get some weight on!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Mint Ribbon Cookies

A few years ago I made a Neapolitan cookie, complete with the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry stripes. We liked it. Then I went all out for my competitive cookie exchange party, and made Martha Stewart's Checkerboard cookies. True, you need a ruler to make Martha's cookies. Being a bit of a pain, you really have to A. Want to impress someone,  or B. Love someone passionately to want to make those! These are not so hard--even if you do make them for someone you love. This cookie will leave you time to play a game or catch a movie with them too. Leave Martha's ruler behind, and make these. The chocolate shortbread flavor is there. I made them even more fun than checkerboards with a minty green layer. I love chocolate and mint.

Just because these cookies are easy, that is not to say that these are not cute. Especially cute for a low carb treat. Those often suffer in the pretty department. Not so these. My only fault with them is that I prefer a more well done confection. But then, I also know that I am not the norm, and that most of you will find these barely done cookies absolutely perfect. Watch closely when baking; if you cut any thicker or thinner, the baking time will vary a minute here or there. I guess you could still use Martha's ruler, but I refused to go there again!

If you aren't a fan of mint, choose any flavor or color that you like. Cherry flavoring with pink food coloring would be nice. Who knows?

Chocolate Mint Ribbon Cookies

1 1/4 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup granulated ZSweet (use 1/3 cup straight erythritol if you don't have this blend)
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10 drops stevia
2 1/2 tsp melted unsweetened chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint flavoring
6 drops green food coloring

In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, erythritol, coconut flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.
In a small bowl, combine melted butter, egg, vanilla and stevia. Add the wet ingredients to the larger bowl, stirring by hand to combine.

Divide the dough into equal thirds. In a small bowl, add melted chocolate to 1/3 of the cookie dough. Use the back of a large spoon or your hands to blend thoroughly. In another small bowl, add the peppermint flavoring and green food coloring to another 1/3 of the dough. Use a spoon or hands to blend it well.

When all the doughs are blended, place the vanilla dough onto a sheet of waxed paper. With your fingers, shape the dough into a rectangle approximately 1/2 inch thick. Each layer will be about 6 inches long, 2 inches wide. Wrap the dough in the waxed paper to create smooth, straight edges. Repeat the formation of the rectangular logs with the mint and the chocolate dough.

Working on waxed paper, place the chocolate layer on the bottom, the vanilla in the center and the mint dough on top. Wrap well in waxed paper and use your fingers to smooth the edges and blend the layers together. Chill this log for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

To bake, slice 1/4 inch slices and place on a silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Watch closely and remove cookies before the edges brown. Cool 2 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a flat surface to cool completely.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Per cookie:  57 calories  2 g protein   5 g fat   1 g net carb

Once the cookies are cool, they are not too fragile, and the layers stay together very well. It is fun to try to eat the layers one at a time to taste the different flavors. Of course, it is just as wonderful to get that great chocolate mint flavor too. One big bite will do that! I think these are perfect for a low carb cookie plate for the holidays.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Maple Walnut Bundt Cake from Carolyn

I am hoping you are excited about trying out all the news recipes from the Low Carbing Among Friends Cookbook. I am going to try to highlight recipes from the book once a week. I would say that I would call it Among Friends Thursdays, but my schedule might make that difficult, so no promises.

I can promise that Carolyn from All Day I Dream About Food is a talented baker. She is also fighting diabetes through a low carb diet, and it is working for her too. As an avid baker, she has transformed so many sugary, gluteny recipes into incredible low carb confections. I happened to have an unopened bag of walnut meal I just retrieved from the deep freeze and thought this would be fabulous. I was right! My house smells like my favorite maple doughnuts, only this is good for us too. Wowzers. Carolyn's recipe in the book is for a bundt cake. I have this silcone bakeware which makes mini bundt cakes, so I pulled it out.  The recipe, being made to fill a standard sized pan, filled those and also a small cake pan and a mini loaf pan. I had a little trouble getting my mini bundt cakes to release. Now, isn't that what is supposed to be great about this flexible type of bakeware? I have always had trouble with this particular one it seems. I know it wasn't the recipe that was the problem, because the cake came out with no problem as did the mini loaf. So the smooth surface area that is on the flat cake seems a little mottled in the mini bundt. But still, the basic shape is what I was going for, and my family gobbled up the loaf while I was still waiting for the bundts to cool.

I couldn't resist adding a tiny few non pareils to the top of the icing. It is Christmas afterall. While I can make low carb colored sugar, I have not come up with a way to make these myself. If you would like to make this cake for yourself, the recipe is on page 201 of Low Carbing Among Friends. Carolyn does not have this one on her site, so you have to buy the book. Do that here. I love pictures of recipes I am going to make. Unfortunately, if we had included photos of the hundreds of recipes in the cookbook, it would have cost hundreds of dollars! The next best thing is to view examples of the recipes on the book site, or come here to see our photos of our own creations. I left the photos up for most of the recipes that are included in the book in my section. Just type the name in the search engine and see if it comes up.

This cake is perfect for lovers of walnut--or those of us who always have adored Maple flavoring. You would never know it is low carb. Thanks, Carolyn.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Calabaza Chili for a Long Weekend

Long weekend. My baby boy's stomach issues returned after church last night. We spent a few hours in the E.R., until almost sunrise, but with little benefit. The doctor basically told me that they do not consider IBS issues too important. I guess the way it goes is that he has to have multiple bouts before his condition is considered serious. As a mama, I surely don't want to let it get that far. He had been experimenting with his SCD diet a bit since Thanksgiving and was trying simplifying to just gluten free. I am guessing that was not good enough for his system. As soon as his insurance kicks in at his job, I think we may try to get some allergy testing to know the specifics. These flare up are so painful, and the medical community ignores the  problem as long as they can. I suppose they will be concerned once Ulcerative Colitis sets in. No doctor has ever even suggested dietary treatments. Of course, they don't seem to understand that John's diabetes is treated with diet either.

I sent my boy upstairs because he is not allowed anything but clear fluids today.  I made us a quick skillet chili. It turned out amazingly good for something so simple, so I thought I would share this nice autumn recipe with you. Yes, I served it in a Christmas bowl, and that still seems appropriate. We are trying to get the lights put up today, and baby, it is cold outside. This chili has just enough heat to warm Santa's bones too. The unique recipe has volume due to the unusual ingredients--three kids of squash. Calabaza is the Spanish word for winter squash. This has pumpkin, Delicata and zucchini. Any small diced squash would work and add a nice texture and sweetness to the chili.

Calabaza Chili

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 onion
1 large zucchini squash
1 Delicata squash 
1 cup pumpkin puree
8 ounce tomato sauce
1 tbsp sun dried tomato strips
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp beef bouillon crystals
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp- 1/4 cup water, optional

Dice onion, squash and zucchini. In a large skillet, break up ground beef. Add the diced vegetables while the meat is browning. Drain fat after vegetables are fork tender beef is browned. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to incorporate spices. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add a little water if chili become too thick, or if a thinner souplike chili is desired.

Serves 6: 313 calories  10 net g carb 

This has a great thick texture, and does not taste at all like vegetables. I started out planning to make a chili-mac type skillet dinner, but chose to add the pumpkin to make it more like a chili. It was good both ways. I added a little jalapeno pepper salt and some Tabasco sauce to mine; the others did not. It is all gone now, so I have no more room to experiment. I made some Pepper Jack cheese crisps to sub for crackers, and all was good. Wonderful way to recover from a rough weekend. Now onto some prep cooking for the week.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Snow Capped Chocolate Muffins

I was so happy to get to have my oldest son and his girlfriend come into town last night and stay over for breakfast this morning. (separate rooms, of course) They drove the 100 miles to see the spectacular Christmas lights at the nearby Rhema Bible College. We go several times a year, the lights are so spectacular. I was busy with Christmas all day yesterday, decorating the house and attending an ornament exchange last night. Too amusing that the ornament I made was a cupcake, being the low carber I am. This one was the ultimate sugarfree treat, being made with cupcake wrappers, a plastic ball ornament and topped with caulk and beads. That will keep you on the diet! Can you tell which is which?

Although the muffins I made this morning are not quite as cute, I promise they were way more delicious. My future daughter in law usually won't try my low carb creations. But since we were low on breakfast supplies, she let my boy have the last of the bacon, and she tried my muffins. I guess she approved, since she returned for more. Yeah. In fact, she told me I should sell the recipe to a coffeeshop so they could make them for customers. So look at what a deal you are getting today. I am publishing this for free! Who knows, though, they just might make it into a future cookbook. Among Friends is working on a second edition for 2012. I checked. Although there are many wonderful sounding muffins, we did not include a simple almond flour chocolate muffin in that edition. To check out what we did put in there, visit the Among Friends home page. There are some fabulous bakers in there, with their best recipes, a talent to which I could only aspire.

These are good for a simple Saturday morning breakfast, or for the muffins to last you the week when baking on prep day. I am going to give the recipe for a dozen, so be sure to double that if you want muffins for a family for a week.  To get ready for holiday baking, I ordered almond flour from a new distributor. I ordered from California Gold Almonds. The service was good, despite a small address mishap somewhere along the way. I haven't baked with the flour yet, but by appearance it looks very similar to what I used to get at Nutty Guys or Bob's Red Mill. The price is certainly right. I paid $23 plus shipping for 5 pounds. Still worked out cheaper than other places I have found, even with higher shipping. It looks like the Christmas sale for sliced almonds has a nice price also. I will let you know more after I bake some more goodies with it. I am always so stingy with my almond flour since it is so pricy. Somehow when you have a 5 pound bag, it is easier to use.

Snow Capped Chocolate Muffins

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup ZSweet or  plain erythritol plus 2-3 packets of stevia
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 stick butter
 1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp powdered ZSweet or erythritol

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, erythritol, baking powder and salt. In  a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate. To the hot mixture, add eggs, one at a time. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Spoon batter 2/3's full into cupcake liners or oiled muffin tins. Bake 15-20 minutes at 325 degrees. Let muffins cool at least 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Sprinkle powdered erythritol on the tops for the snow cap effect. (an old salt shaker is good for this) For best texture, thoroughly cool the muffins before eating. Makes 12.

Using real chocolate in these muffins really lets the flavor shine through. Of course, they would be good with other additions--coconut, walnuts, etc. But I just wanted a pure chocolate taste. Yum. After making all those ornaments, I just couldn't help dressing up these plain chocolate muffins in a little holiday attire.' Tis the season.

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.