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

Companion blog to the e-book
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Opo Squash Curry

The Diner News for October is all about the mighty, often misunderstood squash. Yesterday at Sprouts, I found this squash that I had never seen before. The Opo. Funny name. Always up for something new, I looked them over, found most had a couple of softer spots, so I asked the produce guy about them. Yah, he read me the name on the sign. Like I couldn't figure that one out for myself. Other than that, he was no help. Knowing that one can Google anything these days, I picked the firmest one of the bunch and put it in the cart. It was the same price as the zucchini, and I was betting they were similar.

My research found that they are similar. But this cutie is far more popular in Southeast Asia,. India and Africa. Just listen to some of the names for it: Tasmania Bean, Peh Poh, Bottle Squash, Yugao, Cucuzza, and Snake Gourd. Any of those appeal? Opo suits me.

I opted to use some flavors from the regions of the world that love this gourd. A simple coconut milk curry. Even though I am the only one in the house who appreciates a good curry. Where did I find these people? This is delish. It has the perfect blend of creaminess and tartness. Cilantro, garlic, a little heat. Oh my. This dish tastes like so many things---just not squash. That is the beauty of it. This squash is so mild that it really does take on the flavors you add to it. But the texture stays a little more solid that zucchini, so the chunks hold up and don't get lost or slimy. Also a bit like eggplant, but not at all bitter.

Opo Squash Curry

1/2 large Opo Squash (about 2 cups diced)
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced lemon balm (or lemon grass)
1 tsp red curry paste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut milk*
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp hot sauce, optional
2 tbsp diced chives for garnish, optional

Dice the squash into 1/2 inch slices. Quarter the slices. In a large skillet, combine the squash, onion and coconut oil. Saute the squash, stirring occasionally, until it browns on both sides and onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic, lemon balm, curry paste, ginger and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the coconut milk and simmer the vegetables until the coconut milk reduces to a thick sauce. Stir in the cilantro, lime juice, and hot sauce if using. Transfer the curry to a bowl. Top with fresh chives and serve. This will serve 2-3 as a side dish, 1 as a vegetarian dinner.

* I used the Sprouts Premium Coconut Milk. It is thick compared to some other brands I have used. My coconut milk reduced in about 5 minutes on the stove, but yours may take longer if it is thinner to start with.

I saved half of my opo to do some more experiments with. That will be in the Diner News come the first of the month. If you have any special squash dishes, please feel free to share. My markets are still holding out on the variety squashes we see this time of year. I don't know about you, but this year, I am planning to buy big and freeze some prepped squash for casseroles later in the year.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sliced Beef for the Best Lunches!

I love roast beef from the deli, but I could never get one  baked at home that sliced well. Turns out I was just buying the wrong cut. Thanks to some comparison shopping deals, I scored a small Bottom Round Rump Roast for a bargain price not too long ago. I plopped in the the crock pot with some (2 tbsp) tamari, a tiny bit (1 tsp) of Worcestershire and half a cup of water. Serious recipe. I was just going to use it as a Triple Play meal. When it came out of the crock, it was still in one chunk. My roasts tend to fall apart. Great eating, but not much like the deli variety. This was different.

I share in case you are as ignorant as I was. See, I am such a bargain shopper, I tend not to try more expensive cuts. This is really a cost savings though if you pay deli prices for sliced beef. Plus, this is so much better. No preservatives and so much real beef flavor. I used a cheap Aldi mandoline to slice the beef, and chilled it before I began slicing. I did some thicker slices and some shaved. It was tender enough to do that, having baked 5 hours in the slow cooker. But not so tender that it shredded itself. Love.

These make the perfect finger food lunch with some cheese slices and pickles. I also made a bunch of small sandwiches for the freezer. I make mine with just meat, cheese and bread. Pictured is Maria's Pannini Bread. Pack a frozen sandwich and it thaws out by lunchtime. Then I add my lettuce and mustard, pickles, tomatoe...whatever.

 I have done a little research, and the Eye of Round would be a fine choice too. Now there is certainly no excuse for not having great lunches!

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hummus Cruciferous

I ate a lot of chickpeas/ garbanzos in my vegetarian days. I like them, but have to admit it was more often the flavors added to them that I liked rather than the legume itself. Alone, I always thought they tasted kind of musty. Who needs that? I did like the lemon and pepper flavors I used to bake them up into little crunchy snacks. No, I don't have a substitute for those I have always like hummus, but not the bland, pre-made variety. I like lots and lots of lemon. And tahini. Love tahini! And garlic. I mean what kind of husband does not like all that? So if it was not the humble pea/bean that I liked, why not try an alternative substance? Why not consider every low carber's favorite go-to substitute?

The story:

Here I am in the middle of my prep day, three crockpots going,  my second tray of roasted veggies in the oven, salad still to be made, and I stop to play with dip? Blame it on the cauliflower. Friday night I steamed a whole head. We ate half. The other half was just sitting in the fridge begging not to end up in leftover hell (my trash). Granted, I was so tired Friday night, I hadn't even properly wrapped the leftovers. Unless the serving bowl with a plate resting on top counts. Did I say I was tired?

So while trying not to munch all the roasted cabbage while I was in the kitchen, I grabbed the cauliflower. I had been thinking about this for a while, having seen this post  from The Cavewoman Cafe--with a very a while back. It had lurked on my Pinterest list of things to try someday. Today turned out to be the day. Besides, I was looking for a really flavorful way to make my school lunches tastier. This will last me all week.I changed up a few things, but the whole idea is inspired.

I have been Intermittent Fasting recently, so that means skipping breakfast. That saves me a little time on prep day. No breakfast casserole to prepare. (Hubby is on his own since I leave earlier) So rather than prepare my lesson plans, I do this while I still have light to photograph it if the recipe works. Woohoo. I love it. Unfortunately, my dear hubby does not appreciate cumin and lemon as much as I do. He can have his peanut butter, I will take this! Some times I just do not get that man. What is not to love here?

So this is my amazing cauliflower based hummus like dip. I gave it a funny Latin sounding name that is just too much fun to say. You do "get it" right? Still more fun to eat it though. At least for some of us. The hubby will have to settle for the awesome name...and a happy wife.

Hummus Cruciferous

2 cups steamed cauliflower
1 tbsp tahini (I used my home made version, Low Carbing Among Friends II page 263. )
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (I like 2, but I really like lemon)
2 tsp garlic puree
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp cumin 
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Chill. To serve, garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Serve with vegetable dippers.

Serves 12 at 16 calories  1.4 carbs per serving

This is lighter, less pasty than traditional hummus. The flavor is really close, though. It is great with celery sticks, but red bell pepper would take it up another notch. My lunches are going to be so delicious this week.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Maple and Mustard Glazed Chicken

I may have said it more than once, but I love maple. It is so hard to stay away from real maple syrup low carbing. I do have a nice bottle of maple flavoring that gets me by.  Sorry Vermont purists. What's more, the combination of sweet maple and salty meat makes me happy--hence my ever popular Maple's Meatballs in the Diner e-book. Yes, I am the girl who always dipped her bacon into the pancake syrup. Maple is for me...even if mine no longer comes from a real tree.

I have this son, who is a little different. He loves mustard. Really loves mustard. In fact, he has been known to take a dare to eat mustard on most anything. His last dare was coffee with mustard. He claims it would have been more tolerable if he liked coffee. He would like this dish. Plus, he counts chickens for a living, so this is a double win for him. He gets cheaper chicken than I do. Too bad he is in the next state or I would invite him over.

There are lots of maple and mustard combos out there. Not too many sweet mustards for low carbers, though. That is why I have my own versions of honey mustard dressing for Pooh Bear Salad, and my own Honey Roasted Barbecue Sauce. For this sauce, I used stevia to sweeten the topping for the chicken. You may use erythritol, sucralose, xylitol--whatever floats your boat. You can also use chicken breast. My crew likes the juiciness of dark meat though.

Maple and Mustard Glazed Chicken

4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 cup mustard (I used Annie's Organic Yellow, but any kind will do)
3/4 tsp maple flavoring
liquid stevia or other sweetener equal to 1/4 cup sugar

Place thighs in a baking dish. In a small bowl, combine onion powder, paprika, garlic and salt. Sprinkle spice mixture on both sides of the chicken. Place the mustard, maple flavoring and stevia into the empty spice bowl. Spoon the mustard mixture over each thigh. Bake, uncovered on the lower rack of a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste with the juices from the pan. Return chicken to the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until juices run clear.

These thighs are great for lunchboxes. The sweet mustard sauce is similar to barbecue sauce. Not too messy, but you can eat them with your fingers if  you don't mind licking a finger now and then. The mark of a good meal, I say. Yum. Mine has cooled and is now ready to pack away for this week's lunches. I really must go now or my Pittyboy dog is going to cry himself silly. While I am here at the computer he is in the kitchen whining while he points to the baking dish on the counter. The smell is just too divine! It brought #2 son out of his man cave for a bite too.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ode to Maria Muffaletta

I love, love, love my co-author Maria Emmerich's Toasted Sub and Panini Bread. It is amazing. So much like yeasty, gluten filled bread. If you haven't tried it, you really should. I make it all the time. Maria updated the recipe this summer, and it is brilliant.

This sandwich is my new favorite way to eat it. Not exactly a classic New Orleans Muffaletta, because I like some peppers in my olive salad mix. Pretty and tasty. Add those flavorful ingredients to the best cheeses and deli meats, and you have a very special sandwich. Pretty unheard of among low carbers.

The classic sandwich uses a hollowed out round loaf. I simply baked a recipe of Maria's bread and formed it into a 1 inch thick disk. That in turn bakes into a nice rounded loaf. I doubled the recipe as I usually do--so I think one recipe makes a pretty large loaf. I also made sandwich buns and slider buns. I think you can safely feed 4 with this one loaf, though. Or do as I do, since my hubby turns his nose up to olives--freeze individually wrapped sandwiches. Yes this bread freezes well, as do sandwiches if you assemble them correctly. (That info was in the Sept. Diner News) This photo of the sandwich shows it before it is wrapped and pressed. Pressing and chilling saturates the bread with the wonderful flavors of the olives and peppers. Delish.

I have never had a problem with Maria's recipe It rises well, tastes great and is really easy to make. I have only made the coconut flour version, but Maria has an almond flour recipe too. Some have had problems with certain brands of psyllium husks turning the bread purple. I use the Sprouts brand, and have never had that problem. Maria now suggests weighing the ingredients for accuracy. Have to admit, I just scoop. Never had a problem. Even played around a little bit with the ratio of whole egg to egg whites. Stick by her guidelines, however, because it can be tricky I guess.

This photo is after pressing.

Ode to Maria Muffaletta

1. Make the dough as specified in Maria’s recipe. The sandwich pictured  is using the coconut flour version. Mound the dough into a circle on parchment paper and pat it down to about one inch thick. It will rise in the oven. Bake the dough for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.
2. While the bread is baking, make the olive salad. Combine in a bullet blender or chop by hand:
1/4 cup green olives
1/4 cup black olives
1/4 cup roasted red bell peppers
2 tbsp pepperoncini
2 tbsp pepperoncini liquid from the jar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 tsp dried oregano
3. Use a serrated bread  knife to cut the bread in half   horizontally. Spread the olive mixture on both sides.
4. Layer 8 ounces of deli meats and cheeses of your choosing. I used salami, pepperoni, turkey, smoked gouda and a smoked beef sausage. The choice is yours.
5. Wrap the sandwich tightly in foil and press it with a book, pan, or whatever fits in the fridge. (I used a  casserole dish and set my other fridge items inside it.) Chill at least 8 hours, up to three days. Cut into fourths to serve.

If you try this sandwich and like it, be sure to go over to thank Maria too!