Friday, December 27, 2013

Creamless cauliflower clam chowder with bacon and leeks

When it's cold out, I can't get enough soup. It's pretty much all I want to eat. New England clam chowder is tasty and filling with a nice hit of protein from the clams. However, I wanted to do one better and make it without all the cream and potatoes. I recently made a pureed cauliflower soup and wondered if it could be used as the base of a cream soup instead of dairy. It worked splendidly and required no additional starch thickeners. I also added some leeks and crispy bacon for a flavor boost (I found sugar-free bacon at the farmer's market!). I served it with some nori crisps in lieu of oyster crackers, and it made for a totally satisfying meal.

CREAMLESS CAULIFLOWER CLAM CHOWDER WITH BACON AND LEEKS
Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS
  • Four 6.5 oz cans of chopped or baby clams packed in clam juice (not packed in water)
  • 16 oz bottled clam juice
  • 1.5 cups chopped leeks
  • 1 head cauliflower (about 1.25 lbs), cut into florets
  • Four slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into 1/4" pieces
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbs fresh minced parsley leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain all but a teaspoon of grease.
  2. Increase heat to medium and add the leeks. Saute for a couple of minutes or until soft. Remove about 2/3 of the leeks and reserve for later, leaving the remaining third in the pot.
  3. Stir in the cauliflower, then add the clam juice, juice from the canned clams (but not the clams themselves), water, and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is quite soft, about 30 minutes. The cauliflower should be soft enough to mash with a fork.
  4. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. You can alternately transfer everything to a blender in batches but an immersion blender is much easier!
  5. Stir in the clams, leeks, bacon, and parsley. Simmer for a couple minutes to let flavors meld. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I like LOTS of pepper but very little salt since the clams, clam juice, and bacon are quite salty). Serve!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sugar-free low-carb peppermint bark

I really wanted to create some kind of Christmas cookie or candy recipe. This time of year, there are temptations everywhere with folks giving away sweets seemingly everywhere you go. So, it's nice to be able to bring an option that is more in line with your own way of eating.

I am CRAZY about peppermint bark, which is pretty much just dark chocolate, white chocolate, plus crushed peppermint candies. The white chocolate layer is the most challenging. Since I previously developed a recipe for sugar-free dairy-free white chocolate, I knew that I had a solution here. For the regular chocolate layer, you can either use very dark storebought chocolate such as Lindt 90% or add stevia to unsweetened 100% chocolate. Now we just have the peppermint candy. You have a few options here:
  • My top choice would probably be xylitol peppermints such as these. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sugar zero-calorie sugar alcohol; more info here.
  • If you just want to reduce carbs and calories, you can easily find sugar-free mints such as these at most drugstores or supermarkets.
  • If you would rather use real sugar but avoid additives like high-fructose corn syrup, you can get organic mints such as these or these. You could also try health food stores such as Whole Foods.
  • Finally, I used two layers of peppermint candies with six crushed candies sprinkled on each chocolate layer. You could just reduce the overall quantity and use six instead on the top layer only with none on the dark chocolate.
SUGAR-FREE LOW-CARB PEPPERMINT BARK
Makes about 1/2 pound

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate + stevia equivalent of 1/4 cup sugar (note: many chocolate bars are sold as 3.5 oz; that's fine, just use 3.5 oz instead of 4 if that's easier.)
  • 2 oz (weight) food-grade cocoa butter (I use this stuff)
  • 1 packet (about 1.75 ounces) coconut milk powder (I buy Roxy brand from the local Asian market, which is unsweetened)
  • Stevia equivalent of 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 6-12 peppermint candies (see note above)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil or ghee
DIRECTIONS
  1. Chop the dark chocolate and crush the peppermint candies.
  2. Put the dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl with the coconut oil. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and then microwave at 10-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. If using unsweetened chocolate + stevia, stir in the stevia now. Scrape the melted chocolate into a loaf pan or tupperware container (I used a Gladware entree container). Shake lightly to distribute. If using twelve candies for two layers of peppermint, sprinkle half of the crushed peppermints evenly over the chocolate. Put the container in the freezer and set aside.
  3. Next, make the white chocolate layer. Put the cocoa butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for a minute, stir, and then microwave again for 30-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Vigorously whisk in the coconut milk powder, stevia, and pinch of salt until smooth.
  4. Remove the container holding the chocolate from the freezer. Scrape the white chocolate over the dark chocolate layer, shaking lightly to distribute. Sprinkle six crushed peppermint candies over the white chocolate layer and place into the freezer to solidify.
  5. When completely solid, cut into squares or break into pieces and serve. Keep it cold until serving, preferably in the freezer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cornbread stuffing with caramelized onion & sage (low-carb, gluten free!)

Back in August, I posted a recipe for low-carb cornbread made with pureed baby corn along with ground nuts and coconut flour. You can read more about it (and my rationale for giving the nod to baby corn) at the original post here. In short, baby corn is more cob than grain and mostly fiber, so it's a way of adding corn flavor without the nutritional pitfalls of cornmeal. I knew when I made it that I would ultimately make it into stuffing. I've previously made herbed coconut flour stuffing with pancetta and leeks, which I still love, but I think this tastes even more like traditional cornbread dressing.

Stuffing recipes are often dressed up with meat such as sausage or bacon, or fruit, or nuts, but this is actually my favorite kind of stuffing: just some basic veggies and herbs. I added some chopped mushrooms for the textural contrast as well as caramelized onion and sage. Of course caramelized onions take forever to cook, so if you're short on time feel free to just do a conventional saute. I would be confident serving this to company, even those who subsist off a standard American diet. It's that good!

LOW-CARB CORNBREAD STUFFING WITH CARAMELIZED ONION & SAGE
Makes 16 squares

INGREDIENTS

For the cornbread:
  • One 15 oz can baby corn, drained
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 Tbs cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut flour (it's pretty expensive to buy a whole bag so I bought a small bag of chopped hazelnuts in the baking section and ground them myself in a blender)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Softened ghee, butter, or bacon fat for greasing the pan
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Put the baby corn, egg, and vinegar in a food processor. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the almond flour, hazelnut flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture to the food processor and pulse just enough to combine, scraping down the sides as needed.
  4. Grease a 9"x5" loaf pan with the teaspoon of fat. Scrape in the cornbread dough; it will be thick like cookie dough, not a pourable batter. Press down on the top to form an even layer. It is easiest to do this with a rubber spatula, or you can cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, press it out with your hands, then discard the plastic wrap.
  5. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
For the stuffing:
  • 1 recipe low-carb cornbread (see above)
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced (I used the food processor fitted with a slicing disk)
  • 6 oz (weight) button or crimini mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced (my celery was pretty scrawny so I used 6 ribs)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs fresh minced sage
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbs + extra fat of choice for cooking (I used duck fat, olive oil or ghee would also work)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Cut the cornbread into 1/2" cubes. Spread them out evenly in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, including the crumbs. Bake at 250 degrees for an hour to dry out.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Melt the tablespoon of fat or oil in large Dutch oven over medium head. Add the sliced onion and toss to coat evenly with oil. Cook for a bit on medium until just starting to soften, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sticky and caramelized and greatly reduced in volume. You may need to add a bit more fat as you cook if the onions start to stick.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat a bit of fat for sauteeing. Add the mushrooms and cook until they just start to give up a bit of liquid. Add the celery and saute until all of the vegetables are softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds or until fragrant and straw-colored. Season with salt and pepper and set aside on a plate to cool.
  5. Grease a 13"x9" pan. Add the dry muffin cubes and the celery-mushroom mixture, including all of the butter and pan juices. You can add the onion too if it's done cooking, but it takes so long that I let it cook while the bread cubes were soaking and added the onion at the end.
  6. Beat the eggs + yolk, combine them with chicken broth, and pour over the bread mixture. Also add the sage and additional salt and pepper to taste. Combine everything with your hands, squeezing and crumbling the bread cubes to ensure that they soak up plenty of liquid. Let soak for an hour. If you hadn't previously added the onion, stir it into the stuffing mixture.
  7. Bake, uncovered, at 400 for about an hour or until the top is browned and crisp.
QUICKER VARIATION: Instead of caramelizing onion, you can just use a cup of chopped onion instead and add it with the mushrooms. You won't use as much raw onion because it doesn't shrink as much if you don't fully caramelize it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Autumn ambrosia


Ambrosia salad is typically a mix of canned fruit cocktail, miniature marshmallows, canned orange segments, sweetened coconut, and nuts swimming in whipped topping and sometimes even mayonnaise. As you may imagine, this doesn’t sound terribly appetizing to me. However, the concept of fruit and cream with coconut and chopped nuts is pretty close to heaven, so I set out to give this dish a makeover. While we never had it growing up, apparently it’s somewhat traditional on Thanksgiving, so I thought it would be a nice holiday post. You can serve this as a side dish, or put it out with dessert for an option with natural sweetness but no added sugar.

I wanted to leverage fresh, seasonal fruit rather than opening a bunch of cans. I settled on persimmons, pomegrante, and citrus, all of which are in abundance right now. In fact, I gathered the fruit for this dish by biking around, picking fruit, and stowing it in my front basket. For a dairy-free option which doesn’t involve Cool Whip (yes, it’s dairy-free...creepy) or mayonniase I whipped up some chilled coconut cream. This is a nice step-by-step photo tutorial so that you can visualize how it’s done. Finally, I folded in fresh grated coconut and toasted walnuts. Desiccating a whole coconut was a major pain, but it definitely made a difference. You can certainly substitute bagged coconut flakes if you’d like to save on time and effort. I used walnuts since I always see these guys at the farmer’s market, but pecans would be a fantastic alternative.

You can choose pretty much any citrus you’d like, but I recommend selecting something on the sweet side since we’re not adding any sugar or marshmallows. I love the flavor of grapefruit but the sweetness can range quite a bit, so only use grapefruit if you’re sure that your fruit is sweet rather than bitter. Alternately, use orange or tangerines. Pomelo, blood orange, or cara cara orange would also be some exotic seasonal choices.

AUTUMN AMBROSIA
Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 can coconut milk, chilled for several hours or preferably overnight (I have personally gotten this to work with Thai Kitchen and Savoy brands, and I have seen it done with Native Forest, but I cannot vouch for any others)
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils (about 2 small pomegranates or 1 large)
  • 1 cup very ripe fuyu persimmion, peeled and cut into chunks (about 5 persimmions)
  • 1 cup orange or grapefruit segments, halved crosswise (I used 1.5 grapefruits; see recipe description for more information on choosing citrus)
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 1 cup freshly-grated coconut or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Ensure that the can of coconut milk is very cold. Prep all of your fruit and have it ready to go. Take the mixing bowl and beaters that you will be using for the coconut cream and put them in the freezer.
  2. Toast the walnuts or pecans in a large, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant but not burnt. Spread out on a plate and set in the refrigerator to cool.
  3. Flip the can of coconut milk upside-down and open the bottom of the can. Pour off the liquid. Plop the coconut milk solids in the chilled mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk attachment until the consistency of whipped cream. Add the spices and beat for a few seconds to combine.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the fruit, coconut, and toasted nuts.
  5. Chill for several hours or overnight. Serve cold

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tart & spicy cranberry-apple sauce

Cranberry sauce with no added sugar or sweetener is a challenge. Those berries are so incredibly tart that you generally need to add lots of extra sweetness to compensate. The only other option really is to combine them with another naturally-sweeter fruit and reduce the overall proportion of cranberries. Hence, cranberry apple sauce was born. I've been making applesauce in my crock pot fairly regularly, and it's so easy to do. Adding cranberries to the mix worked beautifully, and I also added some warm spices at the end for a bit of extra flavor depth.
I happen to be a fan of the weird jellied cranberry sauces that comes from a can, and I wondered if perhaps I could also use this as a base to make my own. I added gelatin along with cran-apple juice and poured it into mini-bundt molds, although a loaf pan would also work for serving it in slices. As a bonus, this was sweeter due to the added juice. The fresh cranberry-apple sauce is still a bit tart, but that's just the reality of cranberries. Make it either way you like!


TART & SPICY CRANBERRY APPLE SAUCE
Makes about a quart

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lbs apples (I'd use a sweet variety)
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries, rinsed and bruised ones removed
  • 1&1/4 cups cranberry-apple juice (read your labels, I used a brand that was 100% juice)
  • 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice (optional)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Peel, core, and slice your apples. I peel them with a vegetable peeler, scoop out the stem and bottom ends with a tomato huller, cut them in half lengthwise, and use a melon baller to scoop out the core. Then I cut each half again so I have quarters and either slice thinly by hand or run them through a food processor fit with a slicing disk.
  2. Combine the apples, cran-apple juice, and cranberries in a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours, stirring once halfway through.
  3. Add the spices, if desired, and mash with a potato masher until as smooth as you can get it.
VARIATION: JELLIED CRANBERRY-APPLE SAUCE: While the sauce is still hot from the crock pot, measure out 3 cups  and combine it with 5 tsp gelatin (preferably grass-fed such as this brand). If using packets such as Knox, use 5 tsp = 2 packets. Whisk it together thoroughly. Add 3 cups cold cranberry-apple juice and whisk until combined. Pour into a 9x5 loaf pan lined with plastic wrap or a ring mold or a bundt pan. Let chill overnight or until set.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thanksgiving recipe round-up!

I've posted a lot of Thanksgiving recipes in years past. I'm working on a couple new recipes which will be posted next week! But in the meantime, I thought I'd showcase my existing Thanksgiving recipes for anyone starting their menu planning.

Turkey with gravy


I've never roasted a whole turkey on the blog. However, once I made a turkey breast roast so that I could try out my porcini-herb compound butter. Meat with a compound butter instead of gravy is traditional and fancy in a delightfully old-fashioned sort of way. If you avoid lactose and casein, you can substitute ghee, which is pure butterfat with the milk solids clarified out. I served this at Thanksgiving a few years back and everybody loved it.
Stuffing

I've made two low-carb/grain-free stuffing recipes on this blog. The first is herbed "cornbread" stuffing with pancetta and leeks. I made muffins resembling cornbread using coconut flour, and then turned that into stuffing. I did serve this at Thanksgiving and nobody could tell the difference. Maybe if I just served the muffins you'd know it wasn't cornbread, but in stuffing everything is all soaked and mashed up anyway.
The other stuffing recipe that I made is more of a whole foods option that doesn't use alternative flours and doesn't attempt to mimic bread. In fact, this one is Whole30 approved and was featured on Whole9. Cauliflower "wild rice" and sausage stuffing also adds pecans and veggies and results in a yummy but still traditional-tasting side.



Orange veggie

Some kind of orange vegetable always hits Thanksgiving tables. Usually it's sweet potato, but sometimes it's squash or carrots; there are plenty of nice sweet potato recipes out there and I wanted to devise some lower carb options. One of my favorites is sour cream and onion spaghetti squash gratin, which uses coconut milk solids and lemon juice to create a dairy-free sour cream effect. If you eat dairy, spaghetti squash with ricotta, sage, pignoli, and parmesan is a great option. For something a bit sweeter, try my coconut carrot souffle, baked in a large souffle dish instead of individual ramekins. Or savory carrot halwa, using the smaller amount of cardamom suggested in the range. In fact, when I made the carrot halwa my husband's first reaction was that it tasted like a Thanksgiving side. Or, go super-simple with roasted delicata squash wedges with rosemary. Delicata squash is so yummy that it doesn't need any gussying up. Best part is, you can eat the skin so no peeling required!
Spaghetti squash with ricotta, sage, pignoli, and parmesan
Coconut carrot souffle
Savory carrot halwa
Cranberry sauce


This one's a toughie. Unsweetened cranberries are almost unbearably tart and bitter, so it's difficult to devise something without lots of sweetener. Cranberry, apple, and onion chutney is a preparation where you expect it to be savory rather than sweet. It has lots of sauteed onions and spices like mustard seed, curry powder, and red pepper flakes. This makes it a perfect relish to complement turkey or ham. I also made sugar-free cranberry-grapefruit relish with mint, though I used quite a bit of artificial sweetener for that.


Veggie sides

There's a lot, so let's just blitz through these:
Rosemary mashed "potatoes", without a steamer 
Spicy parmesan green beans with kale
Broccoli rabe with garlic and pepper flakes
Balsamic-glazed rainbow chard
Cauliflower puree with roasted garlic, chevre, and asiago 
Oven-roasted mustard greens with bacon

Dessert

Finally, dessert. Everyone went wild over pumpkin tiramisu. I've also made pumpkin pave, kind of a cross between crustless pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake. Other fall-appropriate desserts include dairy-free mini cheesecakes with bacon-apple topping and beet-chocolate cupcakes with goat cheese frosting.
Pumpkin pave 
Dairy-free mini cheesecakes with bacon-apple topping 
Beet-chocolate cupcakes with goat cheese frosting

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Herbed pork tenderloin with roasted pumpkin applesauce

This is a bit of a twist on pork chops with applesauce. In fact, I've also made this with bone-in pork chops, but for this particular meal I had a nice pork tenderloin that I wanted to use. I got the idea for pumpkin applesauce from this recipe. She used ready-made applesauce and canned pumpkin puree, which you can certainly do. However, my apple tree continues to produce unrelentingly, and the farmer's market has those nice little sugar pie pumpkins, so I made mine from scratch. I'm crazy about fresh pumpkin these days, especially if I roast it first and get a nice caramelization.

Homemade applesauce also made a big difference, partially because the apples were so flavorful and partially because I liked that it was on the chunky side. I used my crock pot which made it particularly easy. Just combine 1 cup of water with the juice of 1 lemon in your slow cooker. Take 4 lbs of apples and peel, core, quarter, and slice thinly. Throw them into the slow cooker in the lemon-water mixture as you cut them up. Then cover and cook on low for about 4 hours. I used a potato masher at the end to smooth it out, but if you want it completely pureed you can use an immersion blender or food processor.

I seasoned the pork simply with salt, pepper, rosemary, and sage. You could use dried herbs or fresh ones. I still have lots of rosemary in my herb garden but I only had dried sage, so I used a combination.

HERBED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH ROASTED PUMPKIN APPLESAUCE
Serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pork tenderloin, about a pound (can substitute 4 pork chops instead)
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh sage or 1 tsp dried
  • Fat of choice for cooking
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (can substitute water in a pinch)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (see description for recipe for homemade applesauce, or buy it pre-made)
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin puree (I used this recipe and then mashed it with a potato masher; alternately just buy canned pumpkin puree)
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I used Spicehound)
  • Salt and pepper
DIRECTIONS
  1. Combine the applesauce, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  2. Cut the pork tenderloin crosswise into four pieces. For each piece, set it on one of the cut sides on a piece of plastic wrap, cover it with another piece of plastic wrap, and pound it flat with a meat mallet. It should end up 1/4"-1/2" thick. Season both sides of each pork medallion with salt, pepper, sage, and rosemary.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add a bit of oil to coat the pan. Sear the pork on each side until nicely browned, then check for doneness. The meat should have a slightly pink color but should be cooked through with clear juices. If it needs to cook longer, cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Cook until done. Remove the pork and set them on a plate, tented with foil to keep warm.
  4. Pour off any excess grease from the pan, if present. Turn the heat on the pan back to medium-high, then add the chicken broth or water and boil, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. Once it has reduced to about a tablespoon of liquid, stir it into the pumpkin applesauce.
  5. Serve the pork with the pumpkin applesauce and some green vegetables or a salad.

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