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

Companion blog to the e-book
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Monday, December 31, 2012

Home Made Pastrami

Cheater's Pastrami would be a good word for it. Probably not like a New York Deli variety, but delish none the less.

This month, I am featuring deli style recipes in the Diner News. I tried my hand at making real cold cuts-- smoked turkey, pepperoni and this beautiful Pastrami. I say it is a cheater version because it relies on starting with corned beef. That way you get to skip the brining step. Woohoo. The other cheat is the smoke flavoring. If I had a smoker, it would be great, but I don't. I do have 5 hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon to let this bake. Lots of time, not much labor for this recipe.

I can't claim it is my own invention. I owe this recipe to Chef John at He has a video that explains how he does it. I deviated a bit, though not much. Watch his video to get the idea. I cooked mine a little longer at a slightly higher temperature. I cut back on the pepper a bit too. I was out of smoked paprika, so I used regular and added some smoked salt, but I had to be careful not to make it too salty--gotta be careful with cured meats. It will be completely worth it to get the smoked paprika. Hubby was not willing to go to more than one supermarket to find that one little bottle of dark red powder. Maybe I will add a little liquid smoke to the mustard when serving this. That will do it. I love making flavored mustards anyway.

Here is my version, a feature in this month's  Diner News.

"Tastes Like the Deli" Homestyle Pastrami

3 to 5 pound corned beef brisket (ready-to-cook variety)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp smoked paprika (OR plain paprika and a sprinkle of Wright's Liquid Smoke)
1 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Rinse the corned beef and pat dry. Rub olive oil into the surfaces of the meat and place on foil. Mix all of the spices in a small bowl and rub evenly on all sides of the corned beef. Fold up the foil, wrapping tightly. Flip over, fold side down, on another piece of foil and wrap the meat tightly again. Wrap a third time to assure a tight casing of foil. Place on low in a crockpot or oven at 250 degrees for 5 hours. Remove from the pot or oven and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate overnight still wrapped. The next day thinly slice the cold meat across the grain.

Trace carb per serving

I was going to have company tonight, and planned on serving bites of this as a build your own appetizer with small bowls of sauerkraut, mustard and pickles.  Now my guests can't come, so I am sad. Guess it is movies for our entertainment tonight. Good enough. I guess I can share it at our family get together tomorrow. We will eat then all head out to see Les Miserables. (except the poor radio Dad who works all  holidays) Happy New Year everyone!

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Peppermint Bark (Not)

So I wanted to make  a peppermint bark with coconut oil like I did last year. (Dec 11 Diner News) This year I had a mishap with my pan. I set my foil lined toaster oven pan into the freezer to chill the chocolate layer, but it somehow got tilted after the door closed. So much for  my plans. Luckily, the coconut oil peeled off and remelted easily. But by that time, I decided to pour it into these small silicon ice cube trays I  picked up at Goodwill. Now I have perfect little squares of minty goodness--no barking about it.

I made just half a  recipe today. I also used Swerve instead of erythritol and stevia. If you want to do that, just measure the Swerve the same as the erythritol in the recipe and leave out the stevia. For those of you who don't like the cooling effect of erythritol, this is the perfect recipe. With all the mint in there anyway, you expect that coolness. Believe me these are cool!--and yummy.

Tropical Santa Coconut Bark

Chocolate Layer:
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tbsp powdered erythritol
1 packet stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract
Peppermint Layer:
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp powdered erythritol
1 packet stevia
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed sugarfree peppermints or candy canes

Prepare chocolate layer by melting coconut oil in a small bowl. Stir in cocoa powder, sweeteners
and vanilla until smooth. Pour this mixture into a foil lined 8” x 8” or larger dish. Chill until firm.

Prepare peppermint layer by melting the coconut oil. Stir in sweeteners and peppermint
extract until smooth. Pour this mixture over the chocolate layer. Sprinkle with crushed candies and chill until firm. If using a smaller dish with a thicker candy, cut into squares, if using a larger dish, break into chunks by hand as with traditional bark.

Super rich, minty and delicious. I used a refined coconut oil, so these don't taste like coconut, just mint! If you live in a warm climate, be sure to chill them well before serving, as coconut oil does become liquid again  around 76-77 degrees.  For a party, I would simply serve them on a chilled platter.

Recipes like this are one reason you might want to consider ordering the back issues of the Diner News. So  much good stuff that isn't here on the blog! order here.

I have my last holiday party tonight, and my oldest son is coming in from  Arkansas. It will be good to have the whole bunch together again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mini Almond Joy Pies

It is the time of year for special desserts and fancy dinners. Today I hit upon an easy and really pretty tasting party sized dessert. I love the flavors of Almond Joy candy bars. These are close, but full of good for you ingredients. They are pretty too, but the chocolate and coconut combo is just so good.

I baked mine in a specialty pan--one where the bases are separate pieces allowing you to poke the desserts out with your fingers from the base of the pan.  This doesn't work for wet recipes, but is great when sticking might be  a problem.  The crust does have a tendency to stick, so silicone would be your best bet if you don't have a specialty pan like mine.

Mini Almond Joy Pies

1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
2 tbsp powdered sugar substitute (or sweetener to taste)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond flour

14 ounce can of full fat coconut milk, chilled and not shaken
 10 drops of liquid stevia or sweetener to taste

1/4 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut
1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp powdered sugar substitute
1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
1 tbsp heavy cream (optional)

Prepare the crust first. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and coconut oil. Stir in the powdered sweetener and salt. Combine with the almond flour. Press this mixture into 12 cupcake bases or a mini tart pan which has been oiled. Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Toast the shredded coconut in the residual heat of the oven, keeping a close eye on it to prevent burning. Set aside.

Remove the solid portion of the coconut milk from the can. Discard the remaining liquid or use for another recipe. Whip the coconut with sweetener for 2 minutes or more until the mixture is thick and fluffy. (Some brands are nearly ready immediately.) Spoon this mixture into the cooled crusts. Divide the toasted coconut among  the pies.

Melt the remaining chocolate square and coconut oil in the microwave oven until liquified. Add powdered sweetener to taste. For a less dark flavor, stir in a tablespoon of heavy cream. Pour this mixture into a  plastic sandwich bag. Snip the end and pipe the chocolate over the tops of the pies.

Place the pies into the freezer to firm up very well before removing from the pan. This will help them retain their shape. They are best eaten chilled, however, not frozen. Once out of the pan, the pies will hold their shape in normal temperatures.

Trying to multi-task this morning, I did  let my crust bake a little too long. Be careful with those, since the dark brown color prevents the eye from detecting browned edges. The crust will still feel a little springy to the touch when warm. (Good thing we like our cookies a little on the well done side.)

I have been busy with my few days off this week getting some work done for the January Diner News. It is the kind of work my guys appreciate though. This week, I have prepped a 10 pound pork tenderloin and 10 pounds of hamburger too. The Diner News is going to have a Deli theme, and I am trying out some ways to keep us supplied with deli meats and salads. Yummy experimenting for certain. In just a day or two, I will be busy with our Christmas menus. I host Christmas Eve at my house. It is a fancy sit down. This year we are having turkey and ham. On Christmas day,  I think I am bringing Alfredo Sauce with Dreamfields pasta and cheesecake. What are your big plans?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Frozen Dinners When You Can't Make Your Own

If you know the Diner system, you know that I prefer to feed my freezer--then my family-- with home cooked meals. Although I have done my best to make a system that leaves no excuses for advance food prep, there are times when that is impossible--say like when a tornado rips your roof off. Or for the rest of you who might just get too busy fir your prep days this time of year--I introduce the Atkins line of frozen dinners.

You will probably be seeing lots of reviews for these new products if you travel anywhere around the low carb blogosphere. The Atkins crew has been very generous feeding many of several meals for our evaluation. My review will be one of many, but here goes.

I was happy to receive this. Always a penny pincher, I love a good sample or trial version of anything! These arrived at our door at school packed in dry ice. The students played with that and had a fabulous time, btw. Definite fringe benefit and they did not try the dry ice bomb although it was suggested.  Now on the to food.

The first meal I tried turned out to be my favorite. The Beef Marsala. The sauce was flavorful and the hint of wine did come through. Most assuredly my favorite part. The broccoli had a nice texture too. The beef was tender, although I have to admit that is probably because of the processing. It was more shredded than it looks in the photo on the box, but commercial food photography always does seem to be a lie. The Atkins makers say there are no fillers, but the meat has a different texture than what I make and freeze from fresh. That is my least favorite part of the whole commercial  frozen meal concept. The additives and enhancers. Our promotional materials say no fillers and no added sugars or preservatives. True, but additives like potato and modified food starches, soy and maltodextrin are listed. They are low on the ingredient list and therefore minimal, but they are there. I suppose it is a necessary thing. Since I try to not the be dietary police, I enjoyed it anyway. This is certainly a better option than most of the frozen dinners on the market. Those are certainly Frankenfood. These meals have the benefit of being high protein with low net carbs. In the 4-7 net carb range with the carbs coming mainly from the veggies, I think. If you need to be an additive purist, like I was when feeding my boy the SCD diet,  plan to stay in the kitchen to make your own from scratch.

The entrees are low calorie too, which I think will be an added benefit when it comes to the inevitable calorie counting I do in January after too many red velvet brownies during the holidays. The portion sizes are a little too small for me. I was left with a little edge of hunger. The kind where you could use a little more, but not the kind where you find yourself licking the bowl. Yes, in my Nutrisystem days I would remain so hungry that I threw manners out the door and literally put those tiny little cups up to my face trying to get the last morsel of nutrition. I hated that diet with a passion. While I could use a little more food, this is not that experience by any means. Plus, the food tasted so much better as well.

The next favorite was the Chicken Broccoli Alfredo. It was not nearly as rich as my home made, but far better than most frozen meals. The flavor of the chicken was nice, while again, the texture seemed a little processed. Once more, I could have used a little more--maybe I could add a fresh side salad to go with the entree. That keeps it in the easy zone.

The Roast Turkey Tenders with Herb Pan Gravy--the name was so promising. I thought this one needed a little more flavor. I found myself wishing for a salt shaker while I ate at my desk. (In all fairness, the Atkins box does describe it as a "delicate rosemary and thyme herb pan gravy" though I am trying to visualize how big that pan must be) Now understand,  I come from Southern stock, those who advocate overcooked, salt pork green beans. I have never been a fan of the lightly steamed french cut green bean. For those of you who prefer crunch, you will love these. I liked the touch of red bell pepper--a gourmet touch that actually did add to the flavor. It is just the texture that got me, and that is just a personal thing. And note--I did still eat them all.

Overall, if you don't mind a few processed ingredients, these frozen entrees could save you from many dietary mishaps. For those new to the low carb way of eating, they are great to model of how to do it. You can always cook more on your own later and lose the added starches and flavor enhancers. For those surrounded by carbivores, these will still be satisfying for you while others are eating pasta and Chinese take out. They don't taste like diet food at all. But at 310-390 calories each, they will help you lose weight, I am sure. I am fortunate to have a little freezer space at school. I think I will keep one for days when life happens and I don't get my lunch packed.

These frozen entrees are hitting select Wal Mart stores now, and should be in many retailers by January 2nd. If you give them a try, let me know what you think. My fellow Low Carbing Among Friends author, Kent, didn't care for the Beef Merlot, while that was my favorite. We are all different, but overall in the world of frozen food, you should find something to like here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reuben Dip

It is party time around here---how about you?

This is one of the dip recipes I included in the December Diner News. We made enough for two parties.  Very yummy. Even though it says it is akin to the Reuben Sandwich, it really doesn't have a strong sauerkraut flavor at all. If you like that, don't rinse the kraut before adding it in--or even up the amount you use.

Mix it, bake it and enjoy the compliments. And it really is good cold the next day too.

Reuben Dip

8 oz finely chopped deli style corned beef
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chunky mild salsa
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup sauerkraut, drained and chopped
1 tsp garlic powder

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and salsa in a
bowl. Blend well, using a hand mixer if necessary.
Add corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and
garlic. Pour mixture into an ovenproof baking dish
and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Serve with low carb crackers and veggies.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Newsy News

I have been doing this a long time. I do remember sitting in the parking lot at the medical center after my hubby got his diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. I knew things were gonna change. Boy, did they! I altered my cooking, but kept my plan. Prepping food on the weekends really makes a world of difference. It has kept my guy off medication and healthier than he was that fateful day.

When I compiled my system, it was mostly just for me. Then I decided to format it to share. Before long, I was inspired to sell it online.That decision went pretty well. I never planned to be a culinary celebrity, but a little extra spending money is a good thing. I started doing newsletters and a blog to categorize what I was adding to my system. Along the way, a few of you have asked about back issues of the Diner News.

I never had a way to get those downloadable until  now. My techie guy has bundled 12 issues for each year. These, you can now download at the 24/7 Low Carb Diner web site. I didn't go all the way back, since the early issues are not as long. I have bundled 2010, 2011 and this year, 2012. It is still just 50 cents an issue, delivered as a PDF download.  You can buy one, two or all three years in one purchase. Just add them to the cart. At least I hope it works, we haven't sold any yet!

Each month has a theme, filled with recipes and tips that match. The download front page serves as a table of contents where you can click and go right to the month of your choice, Easy Peasy.  You don't have to print them out, just save them and use those recipes whenever you want. Or print them out and store them in a notebook like I do. There are just a few repeats from what is on the blog, but mostly new recipes and information. 6-8 pages each, all in various forms of my retro diner theme.

Check it out now!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

My favorite color is red. Vibrant! Especially powerful when it comes to food.

Red Velvet desserts were introduced to me back in college, when our cafeteria served "Sooner Cake" on home football game days. I think what I loved most was the cream cheese frosting. I never could pick out the exact flavors of the red cake, but I liked it. So what are the signature flavors of red velvet? I guess it would be the addition of cocoa and buttermilk.

I didn't mess with all that because I found a bottle of LorAnn Red Velvet Baking Emulsion at my Ross store. Just $2.99--that is a better deal that the whole bottle of red food coloring we typically seem to need to get that brilliant hue. This emulsion, and yes it is really thick, has the flavoring in there too. No need for buttermilk.

Having had a Red Velvet Cheesecake on my list of desserts to try out since last Christmas, I purchased a bottle about a month ago. The hectic pace of my life kept me from getting a sample made for Thanksgiving. Red Velvet is my oldest son's favorite. I did manage to get a couple of recipes done for the Diner News, however. One I will share. The other? (Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes) You will have to order the newsletter for yourself! Hey, my devoted Diner News fans need some special perks too. Order here:

Now on to the Brownies. I had a problem with these. Although many brownie recipes that use flour rely on the red coloring to be obvious in the brownie portion, in my almond flour based recipe, the chocolate overpowers the color. So instead of having a red brownie with white cream cheese, I opted to also color half of the cream cheese mix that goes on top. It worked wonderfully! These are gorgeous and so delicious too.

I don't like adding too many artificial flavorings and colorings to our diet, but this is an obvious special treat dessert. That and the Mini Cheesecakes in the Diner News are just for holiday celebrations around here. Of course, that might include Valentine's Day, Birthdays, Independence Day, Bowl Game day for my Oklahoma get the picture.

Red Velvet
Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup oil (of your choice or butter)
1 cup sweetener of choice
3 eggs
1 tbsp Red Velvet Emulsion
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sweetener (powdered would give the best texture over granular here)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Red Velvet Emulsion

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a heatproof bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave. Stir in oil and sweetener until well blended. Add in eggs, one at a time, stirring well until mixture looks glossy. Stir in the emulsion and vanilla. Combine the wet ingredients and dry ingredients in the large bowl. Line an 8x8 dish with parchment. Pour batter into the dish.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese. Stir in sweetener, egg and vanilla. Use a large spoon to dollup mounds of cheesecake over the brownie batter. Use only half of the cheesecake mixture. To the remaining half, stir in 1 tsp emulsion. Dollup the rest over the brownie batter, alternating with the white mixture. Use a butter knife to swirl the two cheesecake colors together. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting.

If you cut the brownies into 9 servings, you have 3 carbs each, with about 325 calories if using a no carb, no calorie sweetener.

These are moist, easy to cut and the contrast in texture is wonderful. They are easy to put together too. Use whatever sweetener you prefer. The measurements are the equivalent for sugar. I tested with a sucralose sweetener, but erythritol blends and xylitol would be fine too--probably even stevia. So many choices there. Just do make them. They are perfect for holiday parties and will keep you on plan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Low Carbing Among Friends --Another new book!

You probably all know by now, that the Low Carbing Among Friends is a series of cookbooks. I have been featured in volumes I and II. Now Volume III is on the way! I am not in this book, but I am sure it will be great. There is so much talent out there. With our team around, there is no reason to ever get bored living the low carb lifestyle!

If you want to place a pre-order, you can take advantage of a special sale right now. It won't last long, though. so head on over and order your copy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cranberry Sparklers

I am betting you are all busy with last minute Thanksgiving prep. I am too, but I have one little jewel to share. A pretty pink soda to celebrate in style! I love a little bubbly. This recipe is not loaded with aspartame like some cranberry sodas. This is made with a cranberry simple syrup you can make in your own kitchen, using the sweetener you prefer.

I have two versions, but there are more. I made one with sparkling water alone. That one had a stronger cranberry flavor. I really like citrus with cranberries, though. My favorite drink featured about half a packet of True Lemon. Lime would be the bomb also! I have easy access to sparkling soda because I have a Soda Stream machine. That makes easy work out of drink experiments. Forget the pricey Zevia--I like making my own creations. You can purchase some club soda, or even lemon lime soda if you find a sweetener that you can live with.

Just make some syrup--cranberries are cheap this time of year. You can use this syrup in sodas, as a dessert glaze or stirred into yogurt or drizzled over cottage cheese. I used about 2 tbsp for a full glass. You may prefer more or less. I did add a little extra stevia to each glass. Just do that to taste.

 Sugarfree Cranberry Syrup

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sweetener

Combine the cranberries, water and sweetener in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until cranberries pop and thicken, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl and let the strainer sit over the bowl until the syrup has cooled to room temperature, about 1 hour. Discard the solids and refrigerate the syrup for up to 2 weeks. 

This syrup makes the sodas so pretty. Perfect for the holidays! A little added to hot tea would be wonderful. I'm pondering cranberry cocoa? I may have to give that a try too. Have a happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all of you!

More big news is coming after Thanksgiving, so check back soon!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bacon Weave Brunch

I promise someone must have turned up the speed of the earth's rotation!  My life is a whirlwind of activity these days. Yours too? Yesterday I made a little time to play around with some new breakfast casseroles. I had seen an idea for a bacon crusted quiche in a really old low carb book. Can't remember which one, sorry. Being a lover of crispy bacon, (that seems nicer than saying that limp bacon grosses me out) I thought that might be interesting, but I wondered how to keep the bacon from getting too soft.

Obviously, pre-baking is necessary. I used my less than amazing weaving skills to cover the base of a quiche dish. OK, so I messed up the weave, but hey, who would know except all of you looking at my photos? I baked that for 20 minutes at 400. Great-- except that the weave shrunk much more than I had anticipated. What was I thinking? Of course it would shrink. I may have to go search for that original recipe again and see if that recipe addressed that issue.  So rather than have a crust which didn't actually cover the base, I opted to make the bacon weave the top crust. If that is good enough for cherry pie, it is good enough for this. That inspiration worked and I didn't have to worry about soggy bacon. Don't fret, if you weave it, the bacon will lift out easily in one piece.

This made a really tasty brunch dish. It is prettier than most breakfast casseroles, so it would be great for a buffet dish during the holidays. Add a few green bell peppers to make it even more festive.

Bacon Weave Brunch

12 slices bacon
8 oz cream cheese
6 eggs
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the bacon in a quiche dish or 8" x 8" square dish. Weave the bacon. Bake for 10 minutes, then drain off the collected fat. Return to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, drain most of the fat and cool. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Warm the cream cheese if it is not at room temperature. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and eggs. Drain the liquid from the tomatoes, and add to the egg mixture. Stir in the salt, liquid smoke, pepper and onion powder.  Carefully remove the bacon weave from the dish and set it aside. Pour the egg mixture into the baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove it from the oven. Place the bacon weave on top and sprinkle the shredded cheese around the edges. Return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

This past week I did a little promotion for our cookbook series, Low Carbing Among Friends. I was interviewed by Dr. Robert Su of Carbohydrates can kill. The podcast will be available this Wednesday, so head on over to listen. .   Dr. Su is a very nice man and a true scientist. I am never good at explaining all the biochemistry of our eating plan, but I do know it works. As I told the doctor, I am glad his is there to inform people on diet and health, while I am busy in the kitchen making recipes that keep us on plan!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ginger Cakes

These are delicious. Perfect for holiday gift giving to the low carber in your life. I am bringing them to a little get together tonight. Not low carbers, but they will like them anyway. I love the flavors of ginger and spice and these little cakes fit the bill. Old world holiday flavor. The base is almond flour, so they are rich. I love the way almond flour gives a little crusty edge.  That is why I like these cakes in small baking dishes rather than a full loaf.  I love the edges the most. You can use a regular loaf, but it is not nearly as fun.

Ginger Cakes

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
3/4 cup sweetener equivalent to sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp powdered sweetener
2 tsp cream

In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, sweetener if using a dry variety, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder and cloves. In a small bowl, beat eggs.  Add the eggs to the dry ingredients, then add the coconut oil and vanilla. If the batter becomes too thick, heat it in the microwave for 45 seconds.  This will remelt the coconut oil which may solidify if the eggs were cold. Spoon batter into mini loaf pans or muffin tins.Smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40  minutes, depending on the size of the bakeware. Let the cakes cool in the pan.

Prepare the glaze by combining powdered sweetener and cream. Stir until dissolved and drizzle over the cooled cakes.

Makes 2 mini loaves.  Serves 8:  368 calories  6 net g carb

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Minestra di Pollo

Soup weather. Love it. There are so many combinations--it seems I hardly ever do the same thing twice. Soups are great for using up odds and ends from the veggie drawer too. Today I made a really big pot as a Multiply Meal. That way, we can eat it for lunch this week too, and I can add a few single servings to the freezer too.

Minestra is the Italian word for a clear soup. Pollo is as most of us know, chicken. I happened to have some pre-baked chicken on hand. That made this even easier. Having baked chicken cubes already prepped makes soups and casseroles go together so easily. I make chicken cubes two different ways. The original way is simply to bake or poach chicken in bag batches. Let it cool, then dice it. I have also found that I like to grind chicken with some seasonings. Some of this mixture I make into patties, and some into small loaves. (think muffin size) These are great for lunch boxes and go well with lots of sauces for quick meals. My favorites are barbecue or honey mustard dipping sauces. Today, these little loaves got diced and put into this soup. Yum.

It is very Italian, filled with the flavor of fennel. I used the Hunts Tomatoes with Fennel and Red Pepper. I also added about a half teaspoon of fennel seeds. I will be the soup will be even better tomorrow.

Minestra di Pollo

2 tbsp olive oil 
3 ribs celery
1/4 large onion
1 yellow bell pepper
1 lb pre-baked chicken cubes
1 quart chicken broth
1 lb frozen cauliflower
2 - 14 oz cans diced tomatoes with fennel and red pepper, or plain plus 1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
2 oz Asiago cheese, shredded

Add olive oil to a soup pot or Dutch oven. Saute the celery, bell pepper and onion until soft. Add in the chicken, cubed, broth, cauliflower, and tomatoes. Stir in the spices: basil, garlic powder, onion powder, and fennel seeds. (add 1/2 tsp fennel seeds if using the Hunts specialty tomatoes, or add 1 1/2 tsp if using plain tomatoes). Simmer for an hour or more.

When vegetables are tender, add the spinach leaves. Stir them in as they wilt. Simmer an additional 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings and add pepper flakes if using. Ladle soup into bowls and top with freshly shredded Asiago cheese.

I mashed of few of the cauliflower flowerets against the side of the pot.  This thickened the soup a little bit and gave it the illusion of having some rice or orzo pasta. This recipe would allow for most any vegetable you like--zucchini or green beans would be nice additions.

We all ate it up. John doesn't like the crushed red pepper flakes, so I added those into individual bowls. Now I will go put it into glass jars for storage. Those can even be frozen if you make sure to leave plenty of expansion space for the liquid. I like wide mouth canning jars. When I take those for lunch, I can reheat them in the microwave and eat straight from the jar, Fewer dishes to wash is always a good thing. Soup is a good thing too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maple Glazed Delicata Rings

Woohoo. It is almost November. I can't help it. I love fall. I love October, but Halloween is not my favorite. Instead of making cute freaky food, my mind races ahead to Thanksgiving. Oh, yes. The number one food holiday of them all. I start planning early. Sure, we have all the standards that the boys require, but I always like to throw some new things in there too. This month for the Diner News, I did way too much experimenting. That may be why I didn't have too many blog posts. It takes a lot of time to come up with new recipes for the newsletter. I promise there are some jewels in there this time.

I will share one of the recipes from the Diner News today. You know I was experimenting with Delicata squash once I finally found my source. Who woulda thunk it would be at Walmart? Fries are great, but these sweet maple flavored rings are winners on all fronts. They are beautiful. The shape makes for an amazing presentation. They are tasty too. I love maple. My mom, who is not a huge fan of squash, tasted these and couldn't stop raving. They are easy to prepare, and stand up well to being made ahead and rewarmed. Win--Win! Here is a sampling from the November Diner News.

Maple Glazed Delicata Rings
You may choose to peel this squash, but the skin is soft enough, that it is not necessary.

1 Delicata squash
1/4 cup erythritol blend
1/4 tsp maple flavoring
3 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Cut the squash into rings, discarding the seeds and pulp. In a small bowl, combine the erythritol and maple flavoring. Stir well to blend the flavors.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put butter into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Place the squash rings in the pan and toss with the butter. Sprinkle half the sweetener mixture over the squash rings. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn each ring over and coat with the remaining sweetener, salt and pepper.

Bake for 35 minutes, turning once at the 20 minute mark.
Each 3/4 cup serving of squash has about 6 net g carb

Delicious, simple and pretty. One of the things that makes me greet November with a smile.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Delicata Squash Fries

I finally found some. Delicata squash that is. Today is my day off from school, so I had time to make some oven baked goodies. I tried a couple of options on these, and one stood out as the winner. The are scrumptious. I love the contrast in textures--so much more interesting than a potato.

Delicata does not have to be peeled. Woohoo. It is a little easier to cut than Butternut or Acorn. Oh yeah. is lower in carbs too. Win.Win.Win. A 3/4 cup serving of Delicata has 7 carbs and 1 gram of fiber.

The winning method today involves cheese. Life is hardly worth living without cheese. A little touch of Parmesan is all we need to make these oven fries crispy and so delicious. I used an egg wash to make the cheese stick and it worked great.

Delicata Squash Fries

1 Delicata Squash
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 egg
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the ends off the squash. Cut it into fourths, with one horizontal cut a then two lengthwise cuts on those halves. That will give the steak fry size. Don't peel, the peel will soften in baking. Beat the egg and pour it over the squash. Stir to coat well. On a plate, add Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of salt. Dredge each fry lightly in Parmesan cheese and place onto a baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes or until browned and crisped.

The other version had good flavor, but the texture stayed too soft to be considered a fry. That one was sprinkled with Cajun spices after the egg wash. I think it really needed the cheese for the crispiness. I am betting you could add some Cajun spice to the Parmesan cheese and have the best of both. All good. I will let you know next time...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Roasted Butternut and Cauliflower Casserole

This dish--or should I say these dishes--are totally autumn. I am in the midst of researching some fantabulous sides for Thanksgiving. The Diner News for November is traditionally all about the biggest food holiday of the year--at least for those of us in America. The rest of you, just adopt our holiday if you want. I don't get to use butternut squash too often.  It is a little on the carby side. When I do use it, I generally add in another vegetable to stretch out the servings. This one is using cauliflower, a great low carb choice with good flavor of its own.

Oven roasting makes all the difference with these veggies. The butternut squash gets creamy and sweet. Despite the extra arm workout, I chose to cube the squash. Baking halves is easier, but then you get mashed squash, and that would never do for this culinary adventure. The roasted cauliflower offers a good texture and the little browned bits are wonderful. Roasting is definitely worth the time. Even though it is a steamy 85 degrees at our Oklahoma home today, I fired up the oven. After cranking up the air conditioner, I helped myself to a  nice sized helping here. Delish! You can choose it as a side, like I will at Thanksgiving, or as a main dish with the addition of some pre-cooked brats.What's more Octoberfest-esque than that?

The little bit of cream and cheese just takes this dish over the top. You can leave them out, and it will still be great, but oh my goodness, add that cheese and it is really special. Special enough for the grand holiday, I think. Simple, but wonderful.

Roasted Butternut and Cauliflower Casserole

6 cups of Butternut squash cubes
1 fresh cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese (or any easy melting variety)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Peel squash. Cut it into bite sized cubes. Break cauliflower into bite sized flowerets. Place vegetables into a casserole dish. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes or until tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and pour the cream over. Let his sit for 5 minutes. When cheese has melted, gently stir the vegetables to coat them with cheese and cream.
To make this into a main dish, stir in sliced, fully cooked bratwurst sausages.

The stats for this one ( no brats) if you can stretch it to 12 servings: 9 net carbs, 108 calories, 7 grams fat

When looking at the ingredient list, I want to say this is too simple and too easy. Truth is, cutting that squash is a bit of a workout. I hear you can buy it in some produce sections already cubes, For the big day, it might be worth the investment. Until then, I will cut and peel for myself and count it as exercise. The flavors are simple and natural. This stuff is really too good to mess with. It should serve 12--but I doubt it will here. Too yummy and not enough other goodies to compete with it today! I would love to try this with Delicata squash, but two grocery stores and none to be found in my parts. Soon, I hope. That would lower the carb count.

If you have a favorite Thanksgiving side dish, please consider sharing it for the Diner News. I have covered all of our old favorites and I am on the hunt for some new things to try. I would love to include some Diner Fan recipes. Just go here to link to my email. If you aren't already a subscriber to the Diner News, and you send your recipe, I will send the November edition to you for free!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Cinnamon is everywhere this time of  year. I love it. Today, I made some amazingly yummy muffins using golden flax and coconut flour as the base.  The texture is great. The flavors are amazing. I wanted something really bursting with cinnamon taste. I had cinnamon oil from making those old fashioned cinnamon toothpicks. Remember those? Good to ward off snack attacks. I also use it to flavor tea. But here I am highjacking my original post, so now back to the muffins.

I decided to boost the flavor in the cinnamon butter mixture I was planning to ribbon through the vanilla batter. Knowing my grocery store cinnamon just wasn't going to get me to absolute cinnamon nirvana, I added a few drops--OK, like seven drops to the butter and sweetener. Oh yeah! that is the kind of cinnamon I am talking about to rival all the fall candles I have around the house. Have I mentioned I love fall?

I  made these muffins in my Babycakes Cupcake maker. Mine took only 7 minutes to bake. I haven't tried them in a standard oven, so use your mad cooking skills to know when yours are perfectly baked.

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

1/2 cup golden flax seed meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup granular erythritol (or equivalent sweetener)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp mild oil (grapeseed is good)
1 tsp vanilla or vanilla butter nut flavoring
 Cinnamon Topping:
1/4 cup granulated erythritol  (or equivalent sweetener) 
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
7 drops cinnamon oil
1/4 cup powdered sweetener
2 tsp butter melted
2 tbsp water, or less

In a medium bowl, mix the flax meal, coconut flour, sweetener, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate small bowl, bet the eggs. Stir in the water, oil and vanilla. Add more water to thin the batter if necessary, as coconut flour can vary.  The mixture should be thick, but spoonable, not pourable.

In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients: granulated sweetener, melted butter, cinnamon and cinnamon oil.

Line mini muffin cups with papers. Spoon the batter into the cups. Pour about 1/2 a teaspoon of the cinnamon topping over each muffins. Use the spoon to make X shaped "cuts" into the batter to allow the topping to settle inside. Bake the muffins in a cupcake appliance or at 325 degrees until the tops are lightly browned and the middles are set. Remove and cool while preparing the glaze.

Fill a very small bowl with powdered sweetener. Stir in melted butter. Thin with water to the stage where the glaze will pour from a spoon. Drizzle the glaze over the muffins. Makes 12 small muffins (my Babycakes machine makes muffins which are larger than traditional mini- muffins, so you may get more.)

You can add nuts to these if you like. Also, I used a favorite flavor--Vanilla Butter Nut flavoring. I think it makes my baked goods taste like pound cake. Not all natural though, so you may prefer straight vanilla. Use whatever sweeteners you like best. I am pretty sure most any low carb sweetener, even liquids will do in the batter.  I happened to have Swerve for the granulated. For the topping and glaze, it is probably more important for texture to use the bulkier sweeteners called for.

These are a bit more trouble than most of my muffins, but they are so worth it!

12 servings   92 calories   3 g protein   8 g fat    1.1 g net carb

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bacon Jam-- Diner Style

I am so over the bacon in unusual things craze. Exceptions apply. Bacon cookies just didn't do it for me. I do still love bacon though. Somehow, in a rather twisted way, I think bacon ought to belong just to us low carbers. Let the world demonize it. Let Jay Leno make fun of us every night . Just leave the bacon and all its glorious flavor to those of us who don't do Krispy Kreme or Snickers Bars. Just keep my bacon out of your cookies and your ice cream sundaes.

This is the exception. I don't know how I never tried Bacon Jam, given my interest in things sweet and salty. Somehow I missed the craze. Until today. This is delish. Salty and smokey, sweet and tart. It is a condiment now, so don't stand over the jar with a spoon.

This is great over scrambled eggs, how we had it this a.m. Also with cream cheese as an appetizer. Put it on burgers, chicken, sandwiches. All sorts of things could use a little sweet bacon side. My original inspiration came from Allrecipes. I have seen recipes that included coffee, booze, peppers, chili powder, maple syrup, allspice...Obviously, there are many many ways to make this stuff. I went with a simple recipe with a tang of vinegar. It just sounded good. It is.

Bacon Jam Diner Style

1/2 lb bacon, fried or oven baked
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2-2/3 cup sugar substitute
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Wright's Liquid Smoke
1/2 tsp black pepper

Fry or oven bake the bacon. Let cool and crumble. Keep or add a few tablespoons bacon fat in a skillet, Over a low flame, saute the onion until just soft. Stir in the bacon, tomatoes, sugar substitute, vinegar, liquid smoke, salt and pepper. Let the skillet simmer until the mixture is thickened. Spoon into a jar and keep refrigerated. May be frozen.

This is really easy. Mine cooked for about 20 minutes, though it may take longer. So all you carbivores, stay away from my bacon!

Update:  I am pretty sure I had a glitch in my nutritional analysis program. The stats I got when I was formatting this recipe for Low Carbing Among Friends had the carbohydrates way too high. I ran it again and again, only to get the same results. Using a different program, now in 2014, the stats seem for more in line. So much for computers! If using eryhtritol and not a sweetener with calories and carbs, this works out to 50 calories per serving and 1 carb. That is assuming you can get 24 servings in the jar.  If you own the cookbooks, you may wish to write in the correct stats. If you are counting varbs, that is definitely the way to go!

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