Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Veggie lasagna. With meat.

This was somewhat of an experiment; that is, an attempt to see how much veggies I could pack into a meat lasagna. First and foremost, instead of noodles, I used zucchini cut lengthwise into thin slices. This is my standard way of low-carbifying lasagna. I also added chopped broccoli to the ricotta layer, and chopped spinach into the meat sauce. I liked the spinach but thought that the broccoli was a bit much, and my husband felt the opposite. His reasoning was that the broccoli actually adds texture while the spinach does not contribute anything, I liked the spinach because it blended in well. So add one or the other or both! It was still delicious and an easy way of packing a full meal's worth of veggies into a single casserole.


  • About 1 lb zucchini, sliced lengthwise into very thin slices (I used a mandoline to cut it about 1/8" thick, you could also use a cheap V-slicer)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (low-fat is fine)
For the meat sauce:
  • 1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herb blend
For the ricotta layer:
  • 1 lb ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
  • 1 10-oz package frozen chopped broccoli
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook the spinach and broccoli according to package directions. Squeeze all the moisture out of the spinach. Set both aside to cool.
  3. Brown the meat in a skillet, drain the fat, and set aside. Saute the onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil. Add the meat back to the pan with the onion and garlic along with all the remaining ingredients except for the spinach. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and set aside.
  4. Combine all of the ingredients for the ricotta layer, liberally adding salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Lay a layer of zucchini slices, slightly overlapping, in the bottom of a 13"x9" lasagna pan. Using your hands (hands are the only way to do this), add half the ricotta and spread it more or less evenly atop the zucchini. Add half of the meat sauce. Repeat the process with another layer of zucchini, the rest of the ricotta, and the rest of the meat sauce. Cover the top with mozzarella.
  6. Bake, covered in foil, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown. Cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crock Pot Massaman Curry

Massaman curry is a bit different from other Thai curries. It isn't a stir-fry of sliced meat with crisp-tender veggies. Rather, it's more like a Thai beef stew. It has chunks of meat (usually beef) slow-simmered with potatoes. This makes it a perfect candidate for crock-pot-ization.

Instead of potatoes, I used daikon and baby carrots. Turnips would work well too in place of one or both of those veggies. I used full-fat coconut milk but I think the lite version would work too for those who are counting calories. However, lite coconut milk might be a bit watery so I would recommend either thickening the gravy somehow (reducing it in a pan or adding xanthan gum), or sticking with the full-fat stuff and just using less sauce on their plate.

Traditionally, palm sugar is added. However, there was already some in my curry paste so I did not use any. You could substitute date sugar, maple sugar, sucanat, brown sugar, Splenda, or use nothing at all and have a less-sweet dish.

I served it over cauliflower rice.

Serves 2-4

  • 2 lbs beef stew meat (or lamb, or pork. If you want a leaner cut of beef, use top round or eye of round.)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3-6 Tbs Massaman curry paste, or to taste (I used about 5 Tbs. Mae Ploy brand is Whole30-compliant)
  • 1 Tbs tamarind paste (or 1/3 cup lime juice)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs palm sugar (optional; see description above. Leave this out for Whole30)
  • 4 star anise
  • About a dozen cardamom pods, crushed with the side of a knife
  • 8 oz daikon or turnip, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 oz lb baby carrots (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped or crushed cashews or peanuts (optional; I forgot to add this. Use cashews for Whole30)
  • Thai basil and/or cilantro for serving (I used Thai basil)
  1. In a small bowl, combine the curry paste, tamarind paste (if using), and palm sugar (if using) with some of the coconut milk until thoroughly combined.
  2. Add the coconut milk mixture along with the rest of the coconut milk to the slow cooker. Add all the remaining ingredients except for nuts and fresh herbs.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours, stirring once halfway through if possible.
  4. Serve over cauliflower rice with the chopped nuts and herbs.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rutabaga "faux-tato" salad

A rutabaga looks like a giant yellow-fleshed turnip and began as a hybrid between a turnip and cabbage. I was looking for a lower-carb alternative for a "fauxtato" salad. Potato has 24 net carbs per cup, while rutabaga has only 9 grams, making it the clear winner here. I previously tried chopped cauliflower, but the texture wasn't right, and I thought that an actual root vegetable would be a better choice. It has a much firmer texture and a bit of a radishy taste (which I enjoyed), but it is close enough that you could certainly share it with people eating an otherwise standard American diet.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 large rutabaga (about 2 lbs)
  • 2 Tbs cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle (optional)
  • 2 Tbs thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (Spectrum light or full-fat)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (light or full-fat)
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp celery salt
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh dill
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced or chopped
  • Pepper, to taste
  1. Peel the rutabaga and cut it into cubes. Boil in generously-salted water until tender. Drain and cool.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients. Add the rutabaga, toss, and chill for at least an hour.

Slow-cooked BBQ brisket

There are two groups of people who are serious about brisket: Jews, and Texans. Well, I'm a Jew, and here's my attempt at a Texas-style brisket! Okay, it's not really Texas-style. It's not smoked; rather, it's braised more in the style of my people, but with smoky flavors. I served it with some extra jus and leftover mustard barbecue sauce. I've also made it before and served it with horseradish. I do use liquid smoke in the cooking liquid. It is a natural product made from capturing smoke, condensing it, and passing it through water, filtering the carcinogens in the process, thus I do not find its use problematic. If you'd prefer, you could experiment with using smoked paprika as a substitute. Also in the picture is a "faux-tato" salad, which I will be posting the recipe for shortly.

Serves 4-6

  • 2 lb brisket (flat cut/first cut is lean, point cut/second cut is fatty)
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice or 2 Tbs cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 can reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 Tbs liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  1. Combine all the ingredients except for the brisket in your slow cooker.
  2. Add the brisket, fat side up. Spoon some of the liquid over the top.
  3. Cook on low for 8-11 hours or until very tender.
  4. Trim off the top fat layer (or leave it on if you prefer) and slice the brisket. Serve with extra jus and horseradish and/or BBQ sauce.

Chicken molé, in the crock pot

I've been getting a lot of use out of my slow cooker lately. In the colder months when the days are shorter, there's something so nice about coming home to a wonderful-smelling kitchen and a hot dinner waiting for me. So expect to see quite a few crock pot recipes.

I love Mexican molé sauce. However, it is typically quite complicated to make. It involved toasting and grinding several different types of dried chiles, grinding an array of different nuts and seeds, and adding lots of other complicated ingredients. This is not an authentic molé, but it has very similar flavors and is much easier to make. Instead of an array of different ground seeds, I add a couple spoonfuls of nut or seed butter. I've successfully used peanut butter, sunflower butter, and tahini in the past, and I enjoyed all of them equally. I use chili powder instead of toasting and grinding my own chiles, and I also add cocoa powder and a few different spices. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts because they were on sale but you could certainly use whole breasts. I don't like thighs as much because they don't shred as well, but you could give them a shot.

In the photo, it's pictured on a low-carb tortilla, which is far from paleo but I'll eat one every once in a blue moon as a little treat. A delicious alternative would be to serve it atop shredded cabbage (packaged cole slaw mix would work fine) mixed with pico de gallo and maybe some avocado wedges.

Serves 2-4

-1 package (about 1.5 lbs) boneless skinless chicken breasts
-1 15oz can tomato puree
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
-1/2 tsp aniseed
-3 tbs chili powder
-1/2 tbs maple syrup (optional; it's just a tiny bit in a lot of sauce so I don't worry too much about the sugar)
-1 cinnamon stick
-1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
-2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
-3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
-2 tbs tahini, creamy peanut butter, or other nut or seed butter
-1 canned chipotle pepper, minced
-Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Add all ingredients other than the chicken to the slow cooker.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken to the slow cooker and spoon some of the sauce over the top.
  3. Cook for 6 hours on low.
  4. To serve, remove the chicken from the crock pot, shred with a fork, and put back into the sauce. Serve with sour cream and scallions.

Pumpkin Pavé

When I posted the pumpkin tiramisu recipe, I promised that I would be posting a lighter pumpkin dessert as well. That was originally going to be a pumpkin panna cotta. However, I was unhappy with how that recipe turned out; no matter what, the dessert invariably separated into a thick layer and a watery layer. In fact, this is a problem I've had with pumpkin desserts in general. They end up kind of sludge-like, not solid enough with an unappealing watery layer. I experimented with a few different things, and ended up discovering the key ingredient for a perfect texture: cream cheese. I didn't add enough for it to taste like a cheesecake; in fact, you probably won't know it's there. But it results in a smooth, dense, and velvety pumpkin dessert that is nicely emulsified.

Even low-carb pie crusts are generally very high-calorie. Usually, they are made of ground nuts held together with butter or coconut oil. As my goal here is a lighter dessert, I wanted to skip the crust. While the crust is generally the least interesting part of a pie, crustless pumpkin pie still feels like a bit of a gyp. This is baked in dish and cut into squares. They're too thick to call them bars so I'm going with the label of "pavé". Pavé basically refers to a dessert that is flat and square, like tiles or paving stones. Plus it sounds all fancy.

Serves 9

  • 8 oz low-fat (or full-fat) cream cheese, softened (use Philadelphia brand if you use low-fat, as it is lower carb than others)
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup stevia (I used Stevia In The Raw), Splenda, or date sugar
  • 1.5 cups egg white or egg substitute (or 6 whole eggs)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until thoroughly combined.
  3. Scrape the mixture into a greased 8x8 pan.
  4. Bake for 40-60 minutes (check after 40 minutes), or until the center is firm. A toothpick will not come out clean.
  5. Chill thoroughly and cut into 9 squares.
  6. Serve with a blob of Greek yogurt and some extra cinnamon.
Nutrition: 106 calories, 6g fat, 5g carbs, 1g fiber (4 net carbs), 9g protein

Monday, November 15, 2010

French Toast

There are very few high-carb foods that I miss. I truly am happy to eat meat, eggs, and veggies; in fact, eggs are pretty much my favorite food on the planet. I have very little interest in pasta or even cookies. However, there is one carb-bomb for which I possess an undying love: French toast. Especially challah French toast. Crispy outside, soft inside, eggy throughout, and a perfect vehicle for butter and maple syrup. But alas, it has been relegated to occasional cheat meal status.

Until now.

I made Jamie's oopsie rolls and they reminded me of challah or brioche. Unlike most low carb breads which are dense and mealy, these are light, fluffy, sweet, and airy.

I don't see myself using these as rolls -- I'm content to eat my burgers bunless atop a big plate of salad greens. However, they make a perfect French toast.

Serves 2

  • 1 recipe oopsie rolls (picture tutorial, tips and tricks), cooled completely. I used Philadelphia brand low-fat cream cheese because it's still pretty much carb-free with fewer calories. ETA: You can alternately bake the oopsie roll batter in a parchment-lined 13"x9" lasagna pan, then cut it into squares
  • 2/3 cup Eggbeaters (or an egg beaten with some half-and-half or almond milk)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray and heat over medium.
  2. Combine the Eggbeaters, cinnamon, and vanilla in a bowl. Beat with a fork.
  3. When pan is hot, dip each roll in the egg mixture and then cook, turning once and re-spraying the pan before flipping. Cook each side until golden brown. Serve with butter (or butter spray) and Walden Farms breakfast syrup or homemade sugar-free syrup.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tom Kha Gai

I was sick this past week. My go-to comfort-food has always been matzah ball soup. If I really, really want it, I'll have it, but I wanted to find a low-carb alternative that still has magical healing powers. Enter tom kha gai, an aromatic Thai soup with a coconut broth. Years ago I discovered this recipe in the pages of Fine Cooking magazine and loved it. However, I would make a few changes. First, there are lots of aromatics in the broth (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass chunks, slices of galangal or ginger) which are not intended to be eaten. My husband found this to be very annoying. However, I like leaving them in the broth so that the flavors can continue to permeate as it sits. So in the future, if this bothers you, I recommend tying up the aromatics in a piece of cheesecloth. Additionally, this soup just uses chicken and mushrooms, but you can certainly add more vegetables. Bamboo shoots, broccoli florets, bok choy, baby corn, sliced carrots, and/or snow peas would all be welcome additions. Finally, I used lite coconut milk instead of full-fat, and I do not think that it negatively affected the final product at all. Many of the ingredients are rather esoteric, though you can find them in any Asian market. However, if you do not have access to these items I suggest some alternatives within the recipe.

My mise-en-place: galangal slices, Thai bird chiles, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass; small cup containing fish sauce, scallions, lime juice, and more lime leaves; plate with minced cilantro.

Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a light meal
Adapted from Fine Cooking

  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass (or strips of zest from one lemon)
  • 2 Tbs fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce, preferably Three Crabs brand (or soy sauce)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 6 fresh or frozen wild lime leaves, torn or cut into quarters (or strips of zest from one lime)
  • 10 to 12 thin slices galangal, fresh, frozen, or dried (or 10 to 12 thin slices fresh unpeeled ginger)
  • 8 to 10 fresh hot red and green Thai chiles, stemmed and lightly pressed with the side of a knife (or 3 or 4 serranos, thinly sliced) for garnish (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 boneless chicken breast half (about 6 ounces), cut into bite-size chunks or sliced across the grain into strips
  • 4 oz mushrooms (I used criminis, you can use any kind), sliced
  • Can of unsweetened lite coconut milk
  • Can of low-sodium chicken broth
  • Optional: more veggies such as bamboo shoots, broccoli florets, bok choy, baby corn, sliced carrots, and/or snow peas
  1. Trim away and discard the root end and the top 3 inches of each stalk of lemongrass, along with any brittle leaves. Pound each stalk lightly with the side of a knife or an unopened can. Cut each stalk crosswise into 2-inch lengths and set aside.
  2. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, and half of the wild lime leaves. Set aside.
  3. Tie up the lemongrass, lime leaves, and galangal slices in a piece of cheesecloth.
  4. In a medium saucepan, commbine the coconut milk and broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add the cheesecloth bag containing the galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. Add the chicken, mushrooms, and optional veggies. Return to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors and cook the chicken. Note: you can make the soup up to this step in advance. I find that the longer it sits, the better it tastes, because the aromatics permeate the soup more. I usually cover the pot off-heat at this point and let it sit for a little while.
  5. Divide the fish sauce mixture among your serving bowls. Ladle the hot soup over it and stir well. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve hot. Pass around the chiles for those who want them. I also serve with sriracha sauce at the table.
NUTRITION INFO (based on 4 servings): 146 calories, 8g fat, 4g carbs, 0.5g fiber (3.5 net carbs), 13g protein, 1031mg sodium

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

South Carolina style BBQ pulled chicken with green beans

I love making pulled chicken in the crock pot. Throw chicken parts in there for 6-8 hours, pull them out, shred the meat, and toss with BBQ sauce. Easy-peasy. Low carbing has turned me on to the South Carolina style of barbecue sauce, which uses a mustard base rather than sugary ketchup. I use chicken breasts as I like the texture more; they practically shred themselves.

Green beans are one of the few non-starchy veggies that I enjoy in the crock pot. I've done this before on the blog, but I changed it up a tiny bit this time. I realized that all the stewed tomatoes I could find listed corn syrup or sugar as an ingredient, so I switched to regular diced tomatoes. Additionally, I added some diced ham. When I do the beans alone I add smoked ham hocks, but it's difficult to fit ham hocks plus chicken parts. Using skin-on chicken parts will make the beans fattier and more delicious.

The other item on the plate is a "fauxtato" salad made with cauliflower. I'm not 100% happy with how it turned out, so I will continue tweaking that recipe and I will post it when it's fabulous.

Serves 2-4

  • 12-16 oz green beans, ends snapped
  • Half a can of diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
  • Half an onion, cut into thick wedges
  • 2-3 oz diced ham (preferably smoked), bacon, or Canadian bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts, preferably bone-in skin-on (but cutlets will work too)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Barbecue sauce (recipe follows)
  1. Spread out the green beans in the bottom of your slow cooker. Toss with the tomatoes, onion, ham, and salt to taste. Set the chicken on top, season with salt and pepper, and cover.
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Pull the chicken out, remove the skin and bones, and shred it with two forks. Toss with barbecue sauce and serve alongside the beans.
Makes 2 cups

  • 1 cup yellow mustard (it HAS to be yellow mustard like French's or it won't taste right! Normally I am a mustard snob but this is the exception!)
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated Splenda or sweetener of choice (stevia, maple syrup, sucanat, or date sugar would all work. I don't think that honey would taste right, though.)
  • 1/2 tsp dark molasses
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbs hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients. You can optionally mix it with 1/2 cup cooking juices from the meat.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Cauliflower Pizza

ETA: Since this recipe, I have attempted virtually every low-carb pizza recipe. See them all at The Great Pizza Experiment.

Several years ago, a recipe for low-carb pizza crust made out of cauliflower hit the internet. Naturally, this recipe spread like wildfire, and I've seen numerous posts about it on low-carb cooking forums. The general consensus is that, while tasty, it is impossible to eat like a regular pizza. It's soggy, it falls apart, it sticks to the pan, and it's just messy. I feel that the original recipe is a great idea, but incomplete. After numerous iterations with various tweaks and improvements, I can proudly and authoritatively proclaim that I have perfected the cauliflower pizza crust. I am now sharing my secrets with you.

First, I use a bag of Birds Eye Steamfresh garlic cauliflower. You could certainly use fresh and add your own seasonings, but this is so easy and it steams in its own bag. Microwave according to package directions, then dump it out onto a clean dishcloth that has been lined with lots and lots of paper towels.

Next, lay some more paper towels on top, fold the dish towel over itself, and press hard to squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the florets. Really squish them with all your might.

Next, feed the cauliflower through the shredding disk of your food processor.

Now repeat the squeezing step with fresh paper towels. Get lots of moisture out until you have something resembling dough.

Next, combine the shreds with 4 oz grated mozzarella (I use low-fat; do not use fat-free) and 1/4 cup egg whites or egg substitute (using egg white only with no yolk seems to give a crispier crust). I used Eggbeaters, which is why the mixture looks a bit yellow. Line a baking sheet or broiler pan with parchment paper -- you MUST use parchment paper, do NOT use foil or it will stick!! Mound the cauliflower mixture in the center.

Using damp hands (shake off the excess water), work radially around the cauliflower, pressing from the center outward to create a thin crust. Be careful that holes don't form, but don't worry if it seems loose, as when the cheese melts it will help everything hold together. Gently blot excess moisture off the top with a paper towel.

Make sure to spread it as thin as you possibly can. It should resemble the thinnest of the thin-crust pizzas. If it is too thick it will be very soggy and you'll be stuck eating it with a fork.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The crust should be browned and perhaps slightly burnt in some spots around the edges. Do NOT underbake.

Now it's starting to look like a pizza! Spread this with some pizza sauce and whatever toppings you like, just don't use anything too wet or too heavy. Your toppings should all be chopped fine or sliced thin. I used some sliced olives and sauteed garlic spinach (squeezed dry) since that's what I had around. I also add a dusting of Parmesan; the crust itself already has plenty of mozzarella so I go easy on the cheese.

Pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes or so.

Voila! There you have it, cauliflower pizza! Crispy, sliceable, and you eat eat it with your hands -- no fork required.

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