Monday, January 24, 2011

Souvlaki platter

I've been addicted to Greek salad lately. All it needs is some MEAT! So I decided to try my hand at souvlaki. Boneless pork sirloin was on sale, so that's what I used. Pork tenderloin is leaner and more tender, but I'm not sure that it would stand up well to an acidic marinade. Also, I was in a hurry so I used my George Foreman grill; it definitely would have been tastier grilled over charcoal! I'm not much of a griller myself but I recently discovered the website Girls at the Grill which has inspired me to learn.

Serves 4

For the pork:
  • 1.5 lbs boneless pork, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs ground coriander
  • 1.5 tsp paprika
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs fresh oregano leaves, minced (or 2 tsp ground dried Greek oregano)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
For the salad: (pretty much everything in the salad is optional, make your own substitutions as you'd like)
  • About a pound of salad greens. I used a bag of organic spinach salad blend (baby spinach, arugula, and radicchio) and a bag of "Italian salad mix" (romaine hearts and radicchio)
  • Grape tomatoes, cut in half (probably stick to about 4 per salad if you're strictly watching carbs)
  • Shaved red onion (about 1/4-1/2 onion)
  • 1 green pepper, cut into chunks
  • Roasted red pepper, sliced
  • Sliced pepperoncini peppers
  • Pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I used reduced-fat tomato basil feta)
  • Oil and vinegar for serving (I used 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil and lots of red wine vinegar on each salad)
 For the tzatziki sauce:
  • 1 7oz container of plain Greek yogurt, such as Fage or Chobani
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, or a pinch of garlic powder
  • Minced fresh dill to taste (I probably used about 2 Tbs)
  • Plenty of salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Whisk together all the ingredients for the pork marinade. Pour it into a gallon ziploc bag along with the pork chunks. Marinate at least 4 hours but preferably overnight or up to 24 hours.
  2. Stir together the tzatziki ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Thread the pork chunks onto skewers, shaking off excess marinade. Grill until nicely charred and cooked through.
  4. While pork is cooking, assemble the salads.
  5. To serve, dress the salads with oil and vinegar. Top with souvlaki skewers and a blob of tzatziki for dipping.
Make-ahead directions: Combine the pork and marinade. Freeze in a single large zipper bag (if you will thaw and cook the whole thing at once) or in individual portions in zipper sandwich bags (to thaw individual portions). Salad cannot be frozen; make it before serving, or a couple of days beforehand.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pho sho'

Via Wikipedia:

Phở (Vietnamese pronunciation: [fə̃ː]  ( listen)) is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà).[1] The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with basil, lime, bean sprouts, and peppers that are added to the soup by the consumer.

I love Pho. I can't do the noodles. What's a girl to do?? Enter shirataki noodles. These babies are made from a root called konjac, and the result has almost no carbs or calories. Unfortunately, I've found few instances where they are an acceptable substitute for pasta. They have a distinct aroma and a slippery texture. However, they are perfect in pho. Being in a soup disguises the texture, and the strong flavors like fish sauce and star anise cover any shirataki funkiness. 

I took some shortcuts for this soup. Rather than making my own broth, I simmered pre-made broth with seasonings and then strained it. I also stuck to sliced beef rather than scavenging the more exotic but authentic add-ins such as tendon and tripe. That being said, my husband (who is extraordinarily picky about Vietnamese food) said that if he was served this in a restaurant, he'd be perfectly happy. Case closed.

Serves 2-4

  • 1 8oz package shirataki noodles
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth
  • 2.5 cups beef broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2" piece of ginger, peeled, sliced, and slices smashed with a knife
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 3 Tbs fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
  • 1 Tbs palm sugar or a packet of Splenda (optional; I did not add this but it would be more authentic)
  • 1 lb steak (I used petite sirloin), sliced across the grain as thinly as possible
  • Mung bean sprouts (I used 2 handfuls, I guess about 2 cups?)
  • One fourth of a red onion, sliced very thin
  • Thai basil (also known as cinnamon basil), loosely torn into pieces
  • Mint leaves, loosely torn into pieces
  • Cilantro leaves, lightly chopped
  • Lime wedges, hoisin sauce, thin-sliced jalapeno peppers or bird chiles, and Sriracha sauce for serving
  1. Rinse the noodles, pat dry, and set aside.
  2. Bring broths, garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, anise, and fish sauce to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, saute the beef in a little bit of oil over medium-high until brown.
  4. Divide the noodles and sprouts among your bowls. Add the beef, then ladle in the broth (you might want to strain it first, otherwise just try to avoid ladling in the solid items). Cover with lots of herbs and pass lime wedges, hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, and sliced chiles at the table. Serve in huge soup bowls with chopsticks and spoons.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Buffalo chicken pizza

I love pretty much anything with buffalo sauce. Unfortunately, those items are usually breaded and fried. I decided to make a cauliflower pizza crust topped with buffalo-sauced chunks of skinless chicken breast.

Makes one pizza, serves 1-2

  • 1 cauliflower pizza crust, made with sharp cheddar instead of mozzarella (2% cheese is fine)
  • 2 Tbs crumbled blue cheese (reduced fat is fine)
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise (homemade or Spectrum light)
  • 4 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  • Buffalo wing sauce, such as Frank's or Hooters
  • Minced red onion
  • Diced tomato or halved grape tomatoes
  1. Make cauliflower pizza crust according to recipe
  2. Meanwhile, saute chicken in a little oil with salt and pepper in a skillet. When chicken is cooked, turn up the heat to high, pour wing sauce over the meat, let boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Set aside.
  3. Combine the mayonnaise and blue cheese crumbles. Spread the mixture over the crust (you may have to use your hands). Add the chicken cubes, then sprinkle with red onion and tomato. Bake for about 5 minutes at 450 (the oven should already be preheated from baking the pizza crust). Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Melted banana split shake

Everyone knows that a banana split is at its tastiest when everything is a partially-melted swirled-together banana split soup. I figured that this makes it a perfect candidate for a smoothie. Plus, I need an excuse to use more of my bananas-N-cream protein powder.

Makes one big shake

  • 1 scoop banana cream protein powder. I used True Protein milk protein isolate in natural premium bananas-N-cream (discount code EAC008 if you order this). I think that BSN Lean Dessert in banana cream pudding or Xtreme Formulations Ultra Peptide in banana cream would also work well, albeit the True Protein option is cheaper and is sweetened with stevia only. Whey protein would probably produce too watery a shake.
  • 4-5 unsweetened frozen strawberries
  • 1.5 cups milk or milk substitute (I used unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk. Next time I think I will use the unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze!)
  • 1/2 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional, for a creamier shake)
  • Sugar free chocolate syrup (preferably in a squeeze bottle)
  • 1 Tbs crushed pineapple in juice (NOT syrup)
  • Sugar free whipped cream (or whipped lite cream...whatever you want)
  • Chopped walnuts or peanuts (I used walnuts)

Blend the milk or milk substitute, protein powder, strawberries, and xanthan gum (if using) until smooth. If you're not using chocolate almond milk, you might also add a squirt of chocolate syrup. Swirl the inside of a large drinking cup with chocolate syrup (this way, it will come off in chunks as you drink it, rather than being completely blended in). Top with the crushed pineapple, then squirt on a bit of whipped cream and sprinkle with walnuts. Garnish with a strawberry or cherry, if desired. Drink immediately.

Monday, January 10, 2011


There are very few foods that I miss from my former high-carb life. Generally, the starch is my least favorite part of a given dish. I'm happy to eat a burger with no bun, French onion soup with no croutons, fajitas without tortillas, eggs Benedict over grilled tomato slices instead of an English muffin, whitefish salad with celery sticks instead of bagel chips, and so on. I usually have a cheat meal once per week which gets any cravings out of the way (and leaves me moaning, clutching my stomach, and vowing I will never do this again, but I digress). Oddly enough, it's the "healthy" items that I have trouble avoiding. For example, I miss gorging on unlimited amounts of sugary fruits; I do eat fruit, but I stick to unsweetened low-sugar low-glycemic choices like berries, or I keep my portions very small (i.e. a spoonful of mango salsa atop a piece of grilled fish). Another item I miss is oatmeal, although I've learned to do without. However, April posted an alternative that will fool just about anyone. I wouldn't make it every day, as it contains some soy and I generally prefer eggs for breakfast anyway, but when it's cold outside and the craving hits, this is just the thing. 

This contains a half-scoop of protein powder. I use the Natural Premium line from True Protein, as it is sweetened with stevia only and contains only natural extracts and colorings. Bananas N Cream is my favorite flavor for this recipe. You can use discount code EAC008 for a 5% discount at True Protein.

Serves 1

  • 1/4 cup flax meal, preferably golden flax meal
  • 1/4 cup TVP 
  • 1 raw egg white or 2 Tbs liquid egg white or egg substitute
  • 1/2 scoop (I used a level 25cc scoop) of protein powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1/2 cup water
  • Seasonings of choice (I used lots of pumpkin pie spice and a drop of vanilla extract)
  • Stevia if you are using unsweetened protein powder
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Serve immediately. I topped mine with Greek yogurt, blueberries, and almonds.

331 calories, 11g fat (about 7 grams of which is omega-3s), 5g net carbs (18g carbs + 13g fiber), 35g protein

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sherpherd's pie with cheese-crusted leeks

After discovering cauliflower "mashed potatoes", it seemed only natural to make a low-carb shepherd's pie. This is adapted from a recipe at, a great low-carb recipe site. I've made it several times and it's always a hit. I love the textural contrast from the cheese-crusted leeks on top. Plus, it's great to make a big casserole on a Sunday and then reheat portions for lunch during the week.

Serves 4-6

  • 2 lbs ground beef (or 1 lb lean ground beef + 1 lb ground turkey)
  • 1 10 oz bag frozen mirepoix (Publix sells this as "frozen seasoning blend", it's a mix of diced onion, celery, bell peppers, garlic, and parsley) OR 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 heaping cup frozen cut string beans
  • 4 oz sliced crimini or button mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 Tbs low-carb ketchup (I use Westbrae unsweetened ketchup)
  • Worcestershire sauce (original recipe calls for only 1/2 tsp, I used way more but didn't measure. Add it to taste, unless you are eating VERY low carb such as Atkin's induction, in which case stick with the 1/2 tsp)
  • Herbs and spices of your choice (I used Adobo seasoning)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 oz cream cheese (full-fat or Philadelphia brand low-fat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 leek, sliced and sauteed in butter until tender
  • 2 oz cheddar cheese (I used Cabot 75% reduced-fat), shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Steam the cauliflower until very tender and drain well. Puree with the cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add salt to taste and set aside.
  3. Saute the onion or mirepoix, carrot, and mushrooms in a bit of oil. Add the green beans and cook until just thawed. Set the veggies aside. In the same skillet, brown the meat and drain off the grease. Add the vegetables back to the skillet and stir to thoroughly combine the meat and veggies.
  4. Sprinkle xanthan gum over the mixture in the skillet and stir to combine. Add the broth; bring to a boil. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and herbs and cook to heat through. Adjust the seasonings to taste with spices, herbs, salt and pepper. Put in a large casserole dish.
  5. Carefully spread the mashed cauliflower over the meat mixture; top with the leeks and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ultimate crab cakes

I grew up in Maryland and I looooove crab cakes. However, they are usually bound with breadcrumbs and floured before frying. Of course, one could always use the usual low-carb substitutes: almond meal, coconut flour, and so forth. However, I found a recipe that has an even better solution. The crab cakes are bound with a scallop mousse and pan-seared with no outer breading. This isn't even explicitly designed to be a low-carb or paleo recipe, it just happens to be so. 

When they are cooked, these crab cakes are a bit firmer than usual. I think it would make a terrific filling for stuffed mushrooms. I ended up making six cakes and I had the leftovers the next day as crab cake sandwiches on oopsie rolls.

ULTIMATE CRAB CAKES (Adapted from Sunset Magazine recipe)
Makes 6 cakes

  • 4  ounces  sea scallops
  • 2  tablespoons  lightly beaten egg or liquid egg whites or egg substitute
  • 3  tablespoons  heavy whipping cream (I'm sure you could substitute Greek yogurt if you prefer, or coconut milk for a dairy-free recipe)
  • 1  pound  (3 cups) shelled cooked crab, picked over to remove bits of shell (I used 8 oz lump crab and 8 oz crab claw meat to save money)
  • 4  tablespoons  finely diced sweet peppers (I used these, a mix of red and yellow bell peppers would work great as well)
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped cilantro
  • 2  tablespoons  thinly sliced scallions
  • 2  teaspoons  green hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1.5  teaspoons  Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
  • Olive oil or other fat of choice
  1. In a food processor, pulse scallops and egg just until scallops are chopped. With motor running, pour in cream and whirl until smooth.
  2. Scrape scallop mixture into a bowl. Stir in crab, bell peppers, cilantro, scallions, hot sauce, and Old Bay, breaking up most large chunks of crab.
  3. Lay an 18-in. sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Scoop 6 equal mounds of crab mixture onto parchment. Shape each into an even cake about 1 1/4 in. thick, using your fingers or, for neater sides, a 2 1/2-in.-diameter ring mold.
  4. Refrigerate the cakes for at least an hour or up to 24 hours (the original recipe did not specify this, but I have found that it is necessary for crab cakes to hold together)
  5. Pour olive oil into a 12-in. nonstick frying pan and heat over medium-low heat. Using a thin, flexible spatula, carefully transfer cakes to pan. Cook, turning once, until nicely browned and no longer wet in center, about 10 minutes total. Divide crabcakes among 6 warm plates, sprinkle with extra Old Bay, and serve with Devil Sauce.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Three-ingredient appetizer: smoked salmon spirals on cucumber rounds

It doesn't get much easier than this. I wanted to bring some hors d'oeuvres to a party so that I (along with the other guests!) would have a low-carb treat to snack on. It's a neat little finger food with only three ingredients (plus garnishes), not to mention it's low carb with relatively high protein and omega-3s.

Makes about 30 pieces

  • Smoked salmon or gravlax (I used 8 oz of gravlax)
  • Tub of Rondele light garlic-herb cheese
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced about 1/4" thick
  • Garnish[es] of choice, such as capers, red onion, chives, scallions, dill, grated hard-cooked egg, salmon roe...

Arrange slices of salmon slightly overlapping on a piece of plastic wrap. Spread with Rondele, roll up like sushi, and slice. Serve on cucumber rounds. Garnish as desired.

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