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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moroccan Red Pepper Salad

This is a salad I made last year, especially pretty for Valentine's Day. Last February's Diner News was devoted to special Valentine dishes, and this beauty fit the bill. All those gorgeous red bell peppers offer a wonderful sweet taste too. The spices are so different from the usual fare--they make this a really unique salad. It is definitely a star attraction on a menu, able to stand out with a steak or grilled breast of chicken.

Cumin lovers will be really attracted to this salad, too. It is so flavorful; it needs very little dressing. Being featured in wintertime, I used jarred roasted bell peppers, but you can roast your own from fresh if desired. If you are serving it for a special Valentine dinner, go ahead and peel the cucumber, and the salad will be mostly red. I was serving this for our family friends who came over for dinner and a game night. I wasn't trying to make a pretty table, since we had to clear everything off to play games anyway. It is just as delicious with the green left on the cucumber, so all was good. I am not even a huge cucumber fan, but I like this. Of course, it helps that I love red bell peppers.

So if you don't have last February's Diner News, here is the recipe. We are working on the bundles for past years Diner News, so be watching for them to be available to download soon

Moroccan Red Bell Pepper Salad

12 ounce jar roasted red bell peppers
1 cucumber
1 roma tomato, diced
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons feta cheese
Salt and pepper

Chop bell peppers into bite sized pieces. Add all remaining ingredients to a bowl. Toss to blend flavors. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6 100 calories 7 carbs 6 g fat 3 g protein

If you are eating dairy free, this is almost as good without the feta cheese. You can also add just a sprinkle of powdered ginger if you don't have fresh. When I had the problem finding kale, the stores also seemed to have a problem stocking ginger. I got just about a pinky toe worth, and all that went in a stir fry. Yes, the cashier did laugh when I bought 14 cents worth of ginger. But then, my assortment of groceries has been know to bewilder cashiers before. Do you ever get odd comments? I do on occasion. Maybe that is the best way to spread the word about healthier choices. I do know I sometimes want to cry when I see what people load into their carts. One time I even held a nutritional intervention with the dairy guy at the grocery store. Let's just keep eating healthy and spread the word.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Among Friends Thursday - Spicy Sausage and Kale Soup

Kale is everywhere these days. Except the grocery store it seems. From the press it is getting, one would think God just invented it. It is so much the buzz, I am wondering if kale has its own PR agent. I have been using it in my spoon salad for years, and have made soups with it too. But when I had it on my grocery list to make this recipe of Carolyn's from the Among Friends cookbook, I ran into problems. First grocery store I hit, I was met with sticker shock. What was 99 cents a bunch before Christmas was suddenly $2.69 a bunch. Ouch. I started to get it anyway, the dug under the mustard greens around to find they were out. Went to check the organic section. The organic farmers have always pushed fresh kale, and somehow it was priced even lower than the non organic.  But, the store was out there too. Either way, I left empty handed.

Store number two does not carry kale. Granted, that was Aldi, and you never know what they will stock. Store number three had a place for it, a great price of 99 cents, but alas, no greens. Not wanting to go home kaleless, I decided to track down the Target produce guy. With my best smile and a cheerful whine (yes you can do both) I convinced him to run in the store room to check. He found some. Three bunches. We took two and left the last remaining bunch of kale to whatever shopper was as desperate as I. Who could take all three knowing the shortage? I only wish my friend NeeCee had been with me because the next day she was lamenting that there was no kale to be found in Tulsa! I wonder if it was that way all over the country? Suddenly, Americans care about their health? Is kale the new superstar veggie? Must be that it is January, with all those fresh resolutions and such.

So soup was back on the menu. Carolyn's recipe says to use spicy Italian sausage, My choice said hot or mild, so I went with the hot. Gotta say, hot it was. I had a little trouble getting the casings off my brand. I have a thing about over handling raw meat. I am just a bit squeamish there, but I finally figured out that I could twist a whole link in the center (think balloon animal) and squeeze the sausage out the ends. That was better.

The soup is really easy to prepare after that. It is so good for you, with all those veggies--especially that elusive kale. Carolyn calls for red pepper flakes. Knowing my guy's feelings about that, I halved the amount. Even with that reduction, the soup was plenty spicy.  I am assuming my sausage was extra hot, because I know Carolyn's recipes are always spot on. Once I tasted it, I knew I would have to do something for the hubby. To tone his down a bit, I stirred in some cream cheese. Wow was that good! I had mine plain, true to Carolyn's recipe. If you enjoy the spice, it is really all you need. I even skipped the Parmesan cheese. Next time to make it more hubby friendly, I will choose a sweet Italian sausage instead. Either way, this soup is nutritious whole food and very satisfying.

If you don't own a copy of Low Carbing Among Friends, you really need to get a book. (see the link to the right of the page) With so many recipes, it will keep you happy in the kitchen for a long time. I know my Among Friends Thursdays will not run out for a long, long time! If any of you Diners make a recipe you recommend from the book, take a photo and I will be happy to publish your version here on the Diner blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rotel Red

Obviously I like chili. It is one of those foods I could eat almost every day. Summer or winter, chili always sounds good. I even tried to make chili when I was trying to eat vegetarian. This is better.

Chili is one of those foods I can change up with my mood, the ingredients in the cupboard, the time I have, etc. My absolute favorite is my 24 Hour Chili, because the extended cooking time does so much for the flavor. That is one of those recipes I like to keep handy in individual servings in the freezer. Great when I don't wanna cook. Sadly for me, I don't always have that in the freezer. Like today, when the cold rainy weather made me crave a good bowl of red.

Checking my cupboard, I discover that I MIGHT have all the ingredients for a quick pot. Forget the long slow simmer today. I am hungry. I put the lunch items I packed for hubby back in the fridge. I will eat those another day. That is what happens when chili calls. Fortunately, since he is happily dining on my orginal planned meal, I can sneak in some ingredients he won't eat. Ha! I go digging for the can of Rotel tomatoes with chilies. I always buy that, despite knowing my husband threatens to call the fire department when I add it to a recipe. Even when I dilute it with lots of other ingredients, he breaks out in a sweat. He won't be eating today, so I reach for the can opener.

This chili is thick. Really thick, because I have half a can of pumpkin leftover from a Rumple I made for dinner last night. (Remember Rumple from the November Diner News? It is nice and spicy too.) I must be on a roll with the spiciness, poor hubby. Maybe it is hormones? I love adding pumpkin to my chili because it adds a touch of sweetness and makes it look more like those cans of Wolf brand I remember from my single days. Sad to admit but yes, I would eat chili straight from the can back in college and my early working days. Who would have thought that girl would ever write  a cookbook?

This is easy to throw together, and easy to change ingredients around to suit your tastes. Almost everything here is a cupboard staple. It is hard to go wrong with chili. .Never made a bad one. Never won a chili cook-off either, though. Oh well, suits me.

Rotel Red

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 chopped onion
10 oz. can Rotel type tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 oz. can of tomato paste
2 cups water or beef broth
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder ( mine was guajillo, but you can choose milder)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cocoa powder 
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp powdered Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp salt or to taste

Chop onion. Brown onion and beef in a dutch oven. Drain fat if not using a lean grind of beef. Stir in tomatoes, pumpkin and tomato paste. Slowly add the can of water while stirring. Add spices and cocoa. Simmer at least 30 minutes.  Check salt and serve.

The leftovers are going into the freezer so the next day I am on my own for lunch, this will be a no brainer meal that will make me happy. For more ideas on what to do with lots of chili, check this post. Come to think of it, maybe a chili stuffed omelet would be good tomorrow morning.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coconut Curry Chicken Nuggets

I hate hearing the talk about what goes into chicken nuggets. And believe me, I don't want to know about it. I love the concept of chicken nuggets, so what is a girl to do? As usual, make her own. These are not breaded and fried, and they don't need the breading to impart flavor. These have a fantastic flavor all their own. Leave the ketchup and honey to the sugarvores. We have Coconut Curry Nuggets. Kinda a take off of the Naked Nuggets I told you about in the October Diner News, but these are better.

Nuggets are fun. Fun color with the curry. Fun to pick up with your fingers. Fun to surprise your friends with the secret ingredients. All so good for you too! Great for dinner and lunch boxes too. Make a big batch and freeze them up for later. You will be so glad you did! They might even be a go to late night snack.

You can buy pre-ground chicken and mix it all in, but I prefer to grind my own in my Ninja. It really is easy.

Coconut Curry Chicken Nuggets

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or ground chicken
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 egg
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp red curry paste

Grind your own:
Trim fat from chicken breasts. Place them into the food processor and blend until coarsely chopped. Add the coconut, roughly chopped cilantro, egg, curry, garlic, curry paste and salt. Process again until ingredients are well mixed in and the chicken is smoothly ground. Proceed to cooking instructions (below)

Pre-ground: Place chicken in a large bowl. Add coconut, finely chopped cilantro, egg, curry, garlic and salt. Stir or mash by hand to incorporate all ingredients into the chicken. Proceed to cooking instructions below.

Pan Fried: Melt a tablespoon of coconut oil in a skillet over a medium heat. When hot, drop large spoonfuls of the chicken mixture into the skillet. Use the back of a spoon dipped in the coconut oil to smooth the tops and shape the nuggets in the pan. Cook a few minutes until the bottom is browned. Turn with a spatula and brown the other side. This will take just a couple of minutes.

Oven Baked: This method allows you to bake more at a time than the skillet method, sacrificing only a little bit of browning. Spritz a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil or brush with melted coconut oil. Drop by large spoonfuls onto the sheet. Use an oiled spoon back to shape and smooth the nuggets. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

6 servings:   159 calories   1 g net carb     1 g fiber      6 g fat      23 g protein

These nuggets will be yellow tinted from the curry powder. I think my guys secretly did not want to like them, as they tend to shy away from Indian restaurants and always look concerned when I say curry. It always amazes me when they announce they like a new curry recipe everytime I serve one. Never fails, like it is always a surprise to them! Oh well, at least it is a good surprise! One of these days they might admit to liking curry.

The flavor combos are great in this dish. None of the spices are overpowering, and the coconut is not too strong. They have enough flavor though, that they will hold up to be eaten at room temperature in lunch boxes or for picnics. They would be great sliced and added to a spinach salad. They could be made into meatballs too; similar to the recipe from which I adapted my version, a Mark Sisson recipe in Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals. They would also be made into full sized patties for a yummy sandwich.

This is one of the arsenal of Paleo friendly recipes I am featuring in February's Diner News. Included are several ways to flavor ground meats for make ahead Paleo fare. Even if you are not following a Paleo eating plan, this recipes serves all low carbers with a great change of pace. Delish!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunbuttery Salad

Can you say "healthy?" I thought so. Sometimes saying that with "yummy" in the same sentence is not so easy. Easy here though! Yesterday I busied myself making some more home made nut butters. Sunflower seed butter, commercially known by its brand, Sunbutter. I put the recipe I use in the January Diner News under the blender feature. My Ninja does right by nut butters. It made a way too delicious tahini yesterday. I have to hold myself back on that stuff! (more on that one in another post, as I am still playing around with it)

There are two camps when it comes to nut butters. Raw or Roasted. Here, I am on the fence. Raw is more nutritious, especially soaked. I admit I seldom take that time. Roasted, however has a huge flavor appeal for me. So I vote to compromise. I use half and half. My version of Sunbutter is not quite as good as peanut butter, but then it is not a legume either, with more of those objectionable qualities. I like to ignore those because I doubt I will abandon my love of the peanut forever. Still, a step in the right direction is a good thing. First step, moderation. Second step, healthier substitutes.

Part of the moderation step is not to eat this stuff by the spoonful out of the jar. I tried making some coconut oil candies with it, but it just wasn't all least not in comparison to my peanut butter variety. Trying to lessen sweet treats, after all, except for my daily coconut oil treats. Who needs to feed a sweet tooth to be healthy?

I switched my brain to salad, yah, that's healthy, I tell myself. Turns out I am right. This salad is terrific. Not only that, but it does not require lettuce. Do you ever get tired of lettuce like I do? Even when I have a fresh salad in jar looking down at me from the top shelf of my fridge, sometimes I just can't face another piece of lettuce. That is why this salad (and its delicious dressing) is so great. It doesn't taste like all the rest. The dressing is so good I could eat it by the spoonful and be happy, but I am also pleased with how it flavors cucumber, a veggie never known to be my favorite. That is an understatement of my feelings about cucumber, but the creaminess of the avocado makes up for it. I threw in some of my favorite leaf in the world--cilantro, so it has almost a Thai flavor here. You decide what it tastes like. I just know this fusion is good, and I will definitely make it again the next time a cucumber finds its way into the crisper drawer.

First the salad--you decide what goes in, but I added bite sized chunks of these--cucumber, roma tomato, and avocado. Onion lovers might appreciate a little red onion. Then a handful of chopped cilantro. I added some crumbled bacon, but it was kinda lost, so I would not bother the next time. Make enough for 4 large servings. Now that dressing...oh yeah.

Sunbuttery Dressing

4 tbsp sunflower nut butter (home made or the Sunbutter brand)
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove of minced garlic
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp red curry paste
salt to taste if your butter is unsalted

Blend all ingredients by hand or in a bullet blender. Pour over salad greens or use as a dipping sauce.
1/8 recipe  84 calories   2 g net carbs

Up the curry paste if you like. I feed a lightweight when it comes to spiciness, so just a tad is all he will eat without sweat beads popping out on his forehead. I however, once won a pepper eating contest. Just how did we get together? I digress...This is a good side for some simple grilled meat. Nothing fussy needed.

If you like the jar the dressing is in, I got mine at Hobby Lobby. These jars are perfect for small amounts of home made condiments. The tight seal keeps everything fresh. Sometimes, I use my chalk marker to write what dressing is inside and the day I made it, so I don't forget. The chalk just washes off when it is empty.

My oldest son and his girlfriend are coming for the weekend, so I had better get to my dinner preparations. I am thinking Kristen might like this salad--too bad I ate it all up for lunch!

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Among Friends Thursday - A "Girly" Day with Friends

Another Among Friends feature starring my hometown friends and Jennifer's Chicken Mushroom Casserole (pg. 39), that is. My friend NeeCee and two of her sweet daughters understand that having all boys, I don't get many frilly things in my life. They shipped their guys off, and invited me over last Saturday for a girly day, complete with a pretty luncheon, tea party, and a fun time doing our designer nails. What a treat! She even photographed the dishes for me.

NeeCee had told me how tasty Jennifer's casserole was. My men don't care for many mushrooms, so I had not made this recipe, refusing to allow all the mushrooms to go to waste. NeeCee made it for me though, and it was delicious. Even better on her gorgeous china. Knowing Jennifer prefers beautiful place settings, I am betting she appreciates seeing her recipe done up with style. The curry and mustard flavor the dish wonderfully; just the right amount. The almonds, which were slivers here rather than sliced, added the perfect crunch. I think either style is a great addition to the casserole. We had a nice salad on the side, and some of my Snow Capped Chocolate Muffins topped with whipped cream for dessert.

After doing our nails with flowers and butterflies, we went back for more. The girls served a delicious cinnamon tea. I will have to pass the brand along to you when I track some more down. I want a can of my own. It was great with the chocolate muffins/cupcakes that I brought. What a fun day we had--so much so that we are planning another one at my house so I can break out some fancy tableware too.

I am thinking I might try Carolyn's Eggplant Rollatini with Bechamel Sauce when the next girly day is at my house. What would you choose out of our cookbook? If you don't have it yet, just click on the photo of it to the right and it will take you where you need to go. I promise there is something for every occasion in there. Girly menus and man pleasing meals too. So gather some of your close friends and practice hospitality. It feels so good to be among friends.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Real Chocolate Almond Cake Balls

For those of you who, upon my suggestions, did go get yourself a cake pop maker, I present another recipe with grand results. This weekend, I had a special tea party to attend. More on that on Thursday, since it featured a Low Carbing Among Friends recipe made by my friend NeeCee.  I started by baking my Snow Capped Chocolate Muffins to take along, this time to be topped with luxurious whipped cream. While I had the batter ready, I decided to try out the recipe to see how it worked as a cake ball. They were great! Perfect little spheres, with a great consistency. I cannot believe how easy this is.

Just fill the cavities a little over the top and bake 5-7 minutes. Perfection first try. On my way out the door to the party, I threw the cake balls into a baggie and put them in the freezer. Gotta say that was a great idea. To make a good for you, super easy glaze, just grab your coconut oil. I use equal portions of coconut oil and cocoa powder melted together and sweetened. Sorry, I did not measure the sweetener, but since everyone's tastes are different, just adjust to you preference. I used liquid stevia, but powdered sweeteners would work well too. Granular erythritol has a little bit of a tough time dissolving, and may stay a little gritty. You probably know your sweetener pretty well by now, so do your own thing there.

Be sure to have the coconut oil melted. With the frozen cake balls, it will easily harden on the ball, forming a wonderful glaze with a slight crunch when you bite. Think chocolate dipped ice cream cones type crunch. As long as the cake balls are cool, these will not make a mess in your hands. I dipped mine twice, then rolled in crushed sliced almonds. The flavors go so well together.  Real chocolate, plus almonds. Yum.

The recipe is here in the archives, but I will post it with changes for cake balls for ya. Loving that these are best served cold. Why? It is not necessary, but keeping them in the freezer will help me with portion control. These are a perfect dessert size for those of us who only want a small indulgence. Just give me the strength to just eat one...or two...

Real Chocolate Almond Cake Balls

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup Swerve or other erythritol blend
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 stick butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate


3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 cup slivered almonds

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 into the cavities of a cake pop baker, filling over the top. Bake 5-7 minutes. Remove and let cool. If using a coconut oil glaze, freeze cake balls before dipping.

12 servings plain:   212 calories     2 g fiber    3 g net carbs      20 g fat    6 g protein

With Glaze:  249 calories     3 g fiber      3 g net carbs   24 g fat      7 g protein

I am seeing these as a fun Valentine treat too. Any ideas on how to make a pink glaze? Maybe pink sprinkles will do. That I can do.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

St. Louis Crusted Fish Fillets

We have been enjoying this crusted fish for a while now, but I had never blogged about it before. After it got rave reviews from a guest, I decided it was worth sharing. Last summer, I posted the recipe for the topping, called "Cheese Pourri" which I adapted from the St. Louis Herb Society cookbook--a Goodwill find. No one ever commented on that, so I assume my sprinkle over vegetables and chicken was just not appreciated as it should have been. Maybe this entree will do the trick. This really is good stuff, and just may change the minds of those who generally turn their noses up at the idea of fish. If they still don't like fish, try the same method with chicken breast pounded thin.

St. Louis Crusted Fish Fillets

4 fish fillets of choice, Tilapia, Swai, Salmon, etc.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Cheese Pourri (recipe below)

Place fish in a casserole dish. Spread one tablespoon (15 mL) mayonnaise over the top of each fillet. Sprinkle each with two tablespoons of the cheese topping. Bake at 325°F (160°C), uncovered, for 20 minutes if from frozen, 10 minutes if fresh. Fish is done when the filet flakes with a fork in the thickest part.


This flavorful topping is inspired from a recipe I found in a cookbook on the back shelf of a thrift store. The St. Louis Herbal Society Cookbook has kept this little secret far too long. A few minutes assembling the ingredients in you own shaker will be the start of some amazing dishes. Try the Pourri on vegetables too.

1 cup canned Parmesan cheese 
3 tbsp sesame seeds 
1 tbsp poppy seeds 
1 tbsp dried parsley 
1 tbsp dried chopped onion 
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried chopped garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder 
1/4 tsp garlic powder 
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 

Stir all ingredients together and store in an old spice jar with a shaker top.

I choose Tilapia because it is mild. The flavors of the crust really stand out and make the dish special. To add some good fat, I first smear the filets with about a tablespoon of mayonnaise. This week, I just happened to have some home made olive oil and coconut oil lacto fermented mayonnaise. All the healthier!  I roasted some olive oil coated fine green beans in the oven at the same time. Still, pretty darn simple, and oh, oh, oh so yummy.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Among Friends Thursday - Coconut Flour Doughnut Holes

Today, I am featuring one of my own recipes from the book, Low Carbing Among Friends. I used my recipe for Coconut Flour Doughnuts to make Doughnut Holes. We had our first snow of the season, so I decided these snowballs were perfect to celebrate. It also gave me a chance to use my new cakeball machine. These came out perfectly after baking just five minutes. Today I used caramel syrup and added a half teaspoon of vanilla butter nut flavoring. They taste like little balls of pound cake. Rolling them in powdered ZSweet makes them just sweet enough.

Being that it is wintertime brings me to an unusual experience with this recipe. When I first made it last spring, it was in a nice warm kitchen. I tried lots of variations, so it was a well tested recipe. One of our cookbook fans on the Low Carb Friends Board had a problem with the batter becoming too thick. It only took me one batch to figure out why. At first we thought it might be a difference in coconut flours, but that was not it. It was a colder kitchen! In a cooler environment, the eggs may cool the melted coconut oil too much, making the batter too thick to easily work with. It had never done that to me before, but it did in December. Brr.  It is a really quick fix, though. Either let the eggs come to room temperature before adding to the batter, or heat the thickened batter 20 seconds in the microwave oven to remelt the coconut oil. Working with new ingredients certainly does have its own learning curve in a low carb kitchen! I am adding a note to this recipe in the next edition of Low Carbing Among Friends, but now you know, so make a note of the information in your book please. And if you don't own the book yet, please order it. We are getting great feedback from the public, and have a five star rating at Amazon. Click on the link at the right to order it directly, or look it up at Amazon.

In fact, I have another recipe from the book which is on my menu for tonight. It is such a great collection of recipes, that it is hard for me to choose which to highlight each week. One meal a week from this book is certainly not enough!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Browned Butter Whip

Oh my heavens this is good! It is a recipe from the November Diner News. I try very hard to include recipes in the newsletter that are not published here on the blog, so you know you get your money's worth. I made this again last night, because I am thinking it will be in the next volume of Low Carbing Among Friends, and I needed a good photograph. With all the holiday indulgences, I had forgotten how spectacular this side dish is. The browned butter is incredible. At least to me. My otherwise cauliflower loving son still did not like it. But then, he hates when I maked mashed cauliflower of any type, so what kind of judge is he?

This a mixture of cauliflower and rutabaga. I chose this time to mash it just with a hand masher, so the chunky texture would be there. It is fine to puree it in a processor too though. My hubby was always a fan of country style mashed potatoes, with small, firm pieces of potato and even skin left in. I think he might have eaten too many instant potatoes in his bachelor know it is really food, peeled buy someone's hands. This is like that, except for that butter, Browned butter has a nutty, salty taste all its own. I could drown myself in the stuff. Actually, if I ever had to choose my last meal, I think this would be on the plate.That is how much I like it!

Why show you a delicious side dish without the recipe, you say? We are checking in to bundling the Diner News from the 2011 and 2010, and selling them as a download document like we do the e-book. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in. Each year bundle would cost $6 just like the yearly subscription I deliver to your email. If you are not already a Diner News subscriber, this is a great way to get caught up. It also keeps me from reusing ideas from those years in upcoming issues, so it keeps me on my toes. I could get lazy and start running repeats, if not for the loyal Diners who have been with me from the start. If  we were not really living this lifestyle, I doubt I could come up with enough information and recipes to fill a 6-8 page newsletter each month.

So if you think you might order the back issue bundles, please leave me a comment so we can see how much interest there may be. In the meantime, I am eating this delicious Brown Butter Whip. Aren't you jealous?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sesame Chicken

Everyone loved this one. Even my "no Chinese food" guy liked it. That is saying something. It is not sicky sweet like the version we get in restaurants around here. If you want that over the top sweetness, be sure to add more apricot jam--like half the jar? Also, it is not fried and breaded, so that is easier.

We had this for dinner last night, but with the terrible light conditions, the photo was just not good enough. I shorted everyone's plate a little bit, and kept enough for a small serving for my lunch today. I would have let them have seconds, but tried not to advertise too much. How evil is that for a mom? I had to keep that a little secret or they would have eaten it all up, I think. That photo above really is the leftovers I had for lunch! Glad to say it held up really well reheated, so I am sure this chicken would be good for a Multiply Meal. The inspiration for the recipe came from a grilling recipe I have used before. In fact, it is in the June '11 newsletter. Those Sesame Chicken Kabobs are delish, but the sauce is meant to be a marinade and grilling sauce. Last night, we were not grilling out, so I wanted to change it to an oven dish. It worked out quite well. I just lowered the amount of soy sauce so it would not be so salty. After everything was baked, I added xanthan gum to thicken the sauce.

Last night we ate this with steamed broccoli. I topped that with some melted butter mixed in with a few drops of sesame oil, and sprinkled some sesame seeds on top. That was easy. Today, I used roasted cauliflower and peppers which I made on Sunday. On prep day, I chose to make a large pan of oven roasted veggies rather than my weekly salad. ( I didn't get the salad greens on my trip to the grocery and had to run get some yesterday) That is always an option. For my veggies today, I just grabbed out the cauliflower and some roasted onion. I poured some Asian dressing over the top and heated them. Easy peasy. I will be able to do that with the entire selection of roasted veggies for more meals this week. They are good with any kind of flavored butter, Italian dressing, a sprinkle of cheese, whatever floats your boat (or matches the entree you are serving)

Now back to that chicken...

Sesame Chicken

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken
1 bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup white cooking wine
1/4 cup Tamari or soy sauce
4 tbsp sugar free apricot preserves
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
3 tsp sesame seeds (divided use)
1 tsp xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut chicken and bell pepper into 1 inch chunks and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the wine, Tamari, apricot preserves, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, pepper sauce and 1 1/2 tsp sesame seeds. Place the chicken and pepper into a large casserole dish. Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove the dish from the oven. Using a slotted spoon, push all the chicken and peppers to one side of the dish. Tilt the casserole dish by placing a folded towel under under the end with the chicken. This will collect the juices at the other end. Use a salt shaker to lightly sprinkle the xanthan gum into the hot sauce slowly, while whisking continually. When sauce is thick, remove the towel and stir the sauce and chicken together.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tsp sesame seeds and serve with steamed vegetables or riced cauliflower.

Serves 6

per serving:     161 calories     23 g protein    5 g fat     5 g net carbs 

This is really good on the grill too as kabobs, but it is great to have a winter recipe too. If you want even more flavor, let the chicken marinate in the sauce for a few hours before cooking.

My middle son went back to college today, so I am missing him already. I sent quite a bit of food with him to make in his townhouse. He tries to balance carbs there, but it is tougher when eating in school cafeterias and fast food places. Cooking healthy at home requires a time commitment, no matter what the diet. Hopefully he is learning some of my tricks to save time in the kitchen. I at least know he has a few meals in the freezer now.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

A "Classical" Brunch Casserole

This egg casserole is a step beyond the average breakfast, yet it is simple enough for an everyday meal. I named it for the Classics, since it borrows flavors from Greece and Italy. Feta cheese is the star attraction, but it is accompanied by delicious Italian sausage, basil, oregano, garlic and spinach. It all blends so well. Not too much spinach, so it doesn't taste too much like my Philosopher's Quiche. My guys all loved it, and it is a classic beauty too.

This would be a perfect recipe to triple for a Multiply Meal. I promise that I will be doing that. Just buy the large canister of feta cheese at the warehouse club, and grab lots of eggs while you are there.

Classical Brunch Casserole

1 pound Italian sausage
1/2 diced onion
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 cups fresh spinach
12 eggs
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder 
1/2 tsp salt
6-8 ounces feta cheese
1 Roma tomato

Slice onion and mushrooms. In a skillet, brown the Italian sausage with the onion and mushroom. Drain most of the fat and place this mixture into the base of a casserole dish. Layer the spinach leaves over the meat. Sprinkle the feta cheese over the spinach leaves. 

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the Italian seasoning, garlic and salt. Pour the eggs over the casserole. Push down any spinach stems that stick out above the eggs. Slice the tomato very thinly. Place the tomato slices on top of the casserole. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

12 servings,  each   251 calories     14 g protein      20 g fat      2 g net carbs

The feta cheese is really wonderful, but if you are dairy free, I think it would still be good without the cheese. We only had one slice leftover, so I am testing to be absolutely sure this casserole freezes well. Then I will be making this one in triplicate. Another idea would be to bake it in silicone muffin cups for easy reheating in the microwave for busy breakfasts or lunches. Yum. That is one of my favorite ways to keep this crew fed. I think I will make another small one to send back to college with my number two son. He never bothers to go to the cafeteria for breakfast, and tends to rely simply on coffee. Now if he can just figure out a way to hide these from his room mates, all will be good.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Inside Out Wafflewich Sandwich

I wrote about these in the Diner News for January. Just another fun idea if you have a waffle stick machine, like I do. You could also cut standard waffles into sticks for this unique finger food. I sent these to work with hubby. He has an extra long day at work today, running the bowl game tonight. These should sustain him! The flavor combo I came up with today is really, really good.

First, start off with a batch of savory waffles. My recipe in the ebook or Among Friends uses coconut flour, yogurt and cheese in the waffle, or you could use the garlic bread waffle sticks made with almond flour too.

For each Inside out Sandwich, you will need:

mayonnaise, mustard or creamy salad dressing (nothing that will soak in and make it soggy)
a slice of cheese (room temperature is best if it is not a processed cheese slice)
4-5 very thin slices of lunch meat
1 small lettuce leaf (optional)
1 sandwich stuffer/stacker pickle slice

Begin by adding a small dollup of mayo or mustard in each cavity of the waffle stick. It is really helpful to have squirt condiments here. Begin by wrapping a cheese slice around the waffle. Warm cheese works best. Over that, add two slices of lunch meat to secure the cheese into place. Next add the lettuce leaf and the pickle slice. Alternate where the layers end so the sandwich stays closed more securely. Finish it off with 2-3 more slices of lunch meat. Secure with a food pick if needed. Mine stayed secure just fine, but I added a pick with a feta stuffed olive for fun. The ones that were packed in the lunch box did not need picks, as hubby would never eat an olive, silly boy.
The combination of flavors I used today are incredible together. I used mayo, smoked Swiss cheese, salami and a bread and butter pickle slice. I buy the Mount Olive No Sugar Bread and Butter Sandwich Stuffers, but Vlasic has a dill version of the same pickle cut. That one is a Sandwich Stacker by name. I forgot to wash and dry  the lettuce this morning and had to get this lunch out under deadline, so the picture doesn't show that today.

If you try these, let me know what your favorite flavor combinations are. With so many cheeses and deli meats, these could be different every day of the week.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Among Friends Thursday -African Chicken Peanut Soup

Today we tried another recipe from the Low Carbing Among Friends Cookbook. This one is from Jennifer Eloff. Although she is best known for her baking and sweet treats, this soup is wonderful! Jennifer calls for diced chicken. I used shredded because that is what I had on hand. I doubt that makes a flavor difference, although Jennifer's version may be prettier. She has a talent for making all her recipes beautiful. I try, but mostly, I am happy to get them to the table. I hoped for a better photo. It was well after dark before I got dinner on the table, so low light photography is the best I can do today. Real world strikes again.

A few years ago, my friend NeeCee made an African Chicken crock pot meal which also had chicken and peanut butter. I remember really loving that when our kids were learning about Africa. This is much the same. The flavors are unique and very interesting--curry, tomato, peanuts. It all equals yum. NeeCee's family tried this recipe too, and reported to me that they all loved it. Much better than the canned goat milk we tried during our Africa studies! I added some extra cayenne to mine, because I had to go easy with the red pepper flakes called for in the recipe. My hubby...he is just not addicted to spicy like I am! Upping the heat is easy to do with just a sprinkle after everyone has their own bowl.

The cookbook is going into the 3rd printing. If you still want to order, just click on the photo of the book on the side bar. Or you can go through Amazon. It has all been so exciting as the book launched. Trying the new recipes is great too. So many experts contributing their favorites. Just knowing that this recipe comes all the way from Africa makes it all the better. I was hoping to see how well it freezes for some lunch box ideas, but we licked the pot clean tonight. Next time, I will certainly make a double batch. Thanks for  great recipe, Jennifer!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Garlic Waffle Sticks

Who ever said waffles had to be for breakfast? I had all these possibilities swimming in my head and just not enough time to get them all into the newsletter. These delicious and crisp bites of garlic goodness are among them. We enjoyed them with an Italian themed dinner last night, which included my yummy Turkey Red Sauce. These were great on the side.

They taste quite a bit like focaccia bread, but they are crunchy. We like a little less rosemary than some, so I added in Italian herb blend instead. The waffle stick maker creates these wonderful little sticks which are very much like garlic bread sticks. Even better if I dare say. One problem I have with many low carb breads is the texture. I like a little crispness. I wanted this little machine, because I was hoping the extra surface area allowed by the waffle shape would be the answer to that. I was brilliant. Indeed, the sticks are crunchy outside and tender in. They are delish and so easy to put together and to bake. If you don't have a waffle stick maker, try a regular one and cut the waffle into sticks by hand, or spread the batter out in lines on the iron. That would actually be like waffle art.

Garlic Waffle Sticks

1 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian herbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup cottage cheese
2 tsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, Parmesan cheese, herbs and spices and soda. In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in the cottage cheese and olive oil. Add this to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Spoon the thick batter into a preheated and sprayed waffle maker. Bake until crispy brown and steaming has stopped.

Serves 8:   130 calories  3 net g carb

We had a few leftover, which will reheat nicely in the toaster oven. I am thinking they would make an excellent inside out wrap with some salami and an olive slice in each well of the waffle. A dunk in marinara or Italian dressing would be phenomenal. I need to run to the grocery for the salami. I will try to get a photo when I put this all together, so watch for the update.

These are so going into my prep day rotation. Making a double or triple batch would be great for stocking the freezer with some quick to heat up breadsticks to go with dinners and lunches!

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