Thursday, August 29, 2013

Buffalo chicken shepherd's pie

This recipe sprang from a chain of inspirations. I found the idea on Once a Month Mom, who was inspired by My Kitchen Addiction, who started with Rachel Ray's buffalo chicken chili recipe. I made my own tweaks: most notably, I removed the dairy and subbed ranch-seasoned mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. I also got a trick from The Clothes Make The Girl and used egg whites to keep the meat mixture cohesive. This way I was able to cut it into neat little slices instead of having ground chicken spill out everywhere.

Usually I use a steamer for mashed cauliflower to keep it thick and fluffy, but as a topping for shepherd's pie it doesn't matter as much. I just nuked cauliflower florets in the microwave and dumped them in the food processor. Frozen would work fine for this, too. I found a recipe for sugar-free dairy-free ranch seasoning mix at Low Carb One Day which I used in the cauliflower mash. At first I was worried that I overdid the seasoning, but it ended up being a perfect foil for the spicy chicken.

All in all, it was a delicious entree, the leftovers still tasted great, and it bypasses the need for a separate veggie side. I'll definitely be making this one again.

BUFFALO CHICKEN SHEPHERD'S PIE
Makes 8 hearty portions

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup each diced celery, diced onion, and diced carrot (I just used a 14.5 oz container of mirepoix from Trader Joe's instead)
  • 5 tsp ghee, bacon fat, or butter (divided use)
  • 2 lbs ground chicken (or ground turkey)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (preferably fire-roasted), drained
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup liquid egg whites or 3 raw fresh egg whites
  • 1.5-2 lbs cauliflower florets (frozen is fine)
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 recipe dry ranch seasoning (recipe follows)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp fat, then add the celery, onion, and carrot. Saute until softened but not brown. Add the ground chicken or turkey, crumbling it with your hands. Cook, continuing to crumble with a wooden spoon, until it is fully cooked and no longer pink. If desired, take the pan off heat and drain the accumulated fat (I use a turkey baster), then put back on the stove on medium-high. Season with garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix in the tomato paste, then add the chicken broth and wing sauce. Stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered.
  3. While the meat is simmering, make your cauliflower mash. If using frozen, cook according to package directions and drain. For fresh, put in a covered container and microwave for 4 minutes on high. Taste a piece and continue microwaving for 1 minute intervals if necessary until completely soft and just slightly overcooked. Set it in a food processor with the lemon juice, 1 Tbs ghee (or other fat), and salt to taste (I like a lot of salt in these, I probably used about a tablespoon). Add the ranch seasoning and pulse it in until just combined.
  4. Take the meat mixture off heat and quickly stir in the egg whites. Transfer it to a 13"x9" pan and spread it out evenly. Dollop the cauliflower mash over the top, then spread it out evenly (I used dampened hands for this). Run the tines of a fork along the top to create ridges and spread it out a bit more. Melt the remaining teaspoon of fat and drizzle it over the top.
  5. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. If desired, run it under the broiler to brown the top. Let cool before serving.

RANCH SEASONING MIX
Closely adapted from Low Carb One Day
  • 1 Tbs dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (I think next time, instead of adding this directly to the cauliflower I will just sprinkle paprika over the top)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Slow cooker pollo sin arroz


Here's a spin on arroz con pollo. It has the feel and the flavor of the traditional dish, but with cauliflower "rice" substituted for the usual grains. So I'm calling it "pollo sin arroz". It lends itself readily to the crock pot, which I pretty much always choose over the stove or oven if I can get the convenience without sacrificing flavor and texture. Bonus: it's a one-pot meal with meat and veggies.

I used my normal trick of microwaving the aromatics with a bit of fat to deepen the flavor before slow cooking without having to saute. I also used tomato paste instead of puree since the juice released by the chicken does not evaporate in the crock pot. Finally, I stuck with boneless skinless thighs for the meat. I think that skin and bones get gross when stewed, and thighs don't dry out in the slow cooker like white meat.

SLOW COOKER POLLO SIN ARROZ
Serves about 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 head cauliflower, made into "rice" (I use the blender method)
  • 8-10 boneless skinless chicken thighs (2.5-3 lbs)
  • 1 onion, diced (about a cup)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 3 oz tomato paste (I bought a 6 oz can and eyeballed half of it)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, divided use
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar, divided use
  • 1 Tbs capers
  • 1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, halved (about a 4 oz jar)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves only, minced (about 2 Tbs)
  • 1.5 tsp salt (divided use)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper (divided use)
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the onion, garlic, oregano, and 1 Tbs olive oil. Nuke on high for 2.5 minutes, stir, then nuke for another 2.5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste (it's easiest to combine while it's still hot), green bell pepper, red pepper flakes, and capers. Set aside.
  2. Put the chicken thighs in your slow cooker. Toss with 1 Tbs vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Scrape in the onion mixture and stir to combine, nestling the chicken thighs in the sauce.
  3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours (preferably closer to 4).
  4. Turn the crock pot up to high. Put the cauliflower "rice" in a large microwave-safe bowl. Nuke on high for 2 minutes, stir, then nuke an additional 2 minutes. Stir the cauliflower and olives into the slow cooker and let it cook for a few minutes until fully softened. You can skip the microwaving step if you'd like but it'll take 30-45 minutes to cook.
  5. While the cauliflower "rice" simmers, combine the remaining oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl with cilantro. Before serving, stir the cilantro mixture into the crock pot.
  6. Serve; I like mine drenched with Cholula hot sauce, but if you want to get fancy, dollops of homemade chimichurri sauce (recipe) would be awesome.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Low-carb Southern cornbread

Note that I didn't call this "'corn' bread" or "mock corn bread". There IS corn in here, but it's not the form in which you'd expect. Not cornmeal or corn kernels. The trick to adding corn flavor while keeping it low-carb? Baby corn.

Of course baby corn is still a grain, but it's more cob than corn, and most of its carbohydrates come in the form of fiber. I eat it by the same logic that folks who avoid legumes will still eat green beans because it's more pod than bean. While there are generally better vegetable choice, sustainably-produced corn isn't too bad from time to time (Chowstalker has a nice write-up about it here).


Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about this recipe. I married a guy from Tennessee to whom cornbread is dense, savory, and somewhat crumbly. This is NOT the makings of Jiffy corn muffins, it's not like the yellow-cake-disguised-as-cornbread that you get at Boston Market. This is my attempt to replicate real Southern-style cornbread.

It took me a few tries to get this right. Almond flour gives it the right crumb, but was too moist and light on its own. The addition of some coconut flour gave it the right amount of density, and you get some characteristic grittiness from the baby corn. I substituted hazelnut flour for some of the almond, because the papery skins were reminiscent of the germ you get in stone-ground cornmeal. I also added a bit of cider vinegar for a buttermilk-like tang.

LOW-CARB SOUTHERN CORNBREAD
Makes 15 pieces

INGREDIENTS
  • Half a drained ~15 oz can of baby corn (you can eyeball it)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 6 Tbs almond flour
  • 2 Tbs 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)
  • 2 Tbs coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp softened ghee, bacon fat, or butter
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.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Buffalo chicken salad stuffed tomatoes

People sometimes ask what a typical day of eating is like for me. I can never answer that because I don't have a typical day. Instead, my life is riddled with a steady stream of intense, acute food obsessions. Frequently I have two or three ingredients upon which I'm completely fixated and want to just consume on repeat. Right now one of those ingredients is tomatoes. I'm completely apesh*t over them. A pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes is like a box of Oreos for me, I can barely control myself from polishing them off. By "barely" I mean I totally don't control myself at all. Whatever. Anyway, that's why I decided to stuff them with fat and protein. Also, because it's yummy and fun to eat. I don't really miss the taste of sandwiches, but I do appreciate how neat and compact they are, so stuffing chicken salad into little tomatoes gives me that experience.

This buffalo chicken salad? It's stupid good. If you eat dairy, I definitely recommend making little chicken salad melts by broiling a slice of cheese on top. I avoid dairy most of the time, but I decided to try it with a bit of raw milk cheddar. You know, for science.

I topped both of those tomatoes with an extra splash of wing sauce, topped one with a slab of cheese, and ran both under the broiler setting in the toaster oven. Both were awesome.

Alternatively, you can top it with a piece of crispy bacon, like I did above. Sorry for the color, nitrate-free bacon isn't the prettiest. Or, if you leave them alone, they're still fantastic. You can even try stuffing other veggies, like baby bell peppers or celery sticks, or roll it up in a coconut Pure Wrap. I also think it'd be great with shrimp or tuna instead of chicken!

BUFFALO CHICKEN SALAD STUFFED TOMATOES
Makes enough to stuff 2 lbs of tomatoes

INGREDIENTS 
  • 2 lbs small tomatoes (bigger than cherry tomatoes, but small enough that you can eat them in two bites)
  • 1 lb cooked chicken meat, chopped or shredded (I chopped mine because I like chunky chicken salad, but shredded would be easier to stuff into tomatoes)
  • 2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs minced red onion
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 4 Tbs buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank's). If you only have regular hot sauce and not wing sauce, use 2 Tbs hot sauce + 2 Tbs mayo (milder) or 3 Tbs hot sauce + 1 Tbs mayo (hotter)
  • 4 Tbs ranch dip (recipe follows, or use storebought ranch dressing such as Tessemae's)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Mix the wing sauce and ranch dip in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients other than the tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut a thin slice off the stem end of each tomato. Scoop out the insides (you can use your fingers but I used one of these scoops). Fill the tomatoes with chicken salad, pressing down with the back of a spoon. Serve with extra wing sauce for drizzling.
DAIRY-FREE RANCH DIP
Makes a generous 1/4 cup

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 Tbs mayo
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs fresh minced parsley
  • 1 Tbs french minced chives or scallion greens
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until serving.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer squash and pesto gratin

I wanted a way of using some of the farmer's market bounty. There's all kinds of different summer squashes right now, and I was itching to do SOMETHING with all that prettiness, so if you can relate, you'll love this recipe. You can use basically any summer squash. I bought some ronde de nice (they look like fat round zucchinis) and yellow pattypans. I also added some sliced tomato, since tomatoes are just freaking awesome right now. I baked them in a gratin with some of my dairy-free spinach-walnut pesto. As a bonus, this can easily be frozen for an emergency veggie side.

SUMMER SQUASH & PESTO GRATIN
Serves 4-6 as a side

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 lb green summer squash such as zucchini
  • 1/2 lb yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 lb tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup spinach-walnut pesto (you'll have plenty left over, just freeze whatever you don't use) or storebought pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • Slice the squashes and tomato about 1/4" thick.
  • Line an 8x8 casserole dish with nonstick foil. Brush the bottom with a bit of pesto. Layer half the squash slices and tomato, slightly overlapping. Cover with half of the pesto (I used my hands). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat; make another layer with the remaining squash and tomatoes, then cover with the remaining pesto.
  • Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares before serving.

FREEZING DIRECTIONS: Cover and freeze. You may want to use a disposable aluminum pan that you won't miss if you stick it in the freezer. To serve, thaw overnight. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thick & chewy Nutella protein cookies

I made a guest post over at Protein Pow with a recipe for thick & chewy Nutella protein cookies. Click here to get the recipe, along with some weird food science and a surprise ingredient (hint: it's not vegetarian).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Salvadoran-style tacos with crock pot pork filling


Have you ever heard of pupusas? No? Well, that's why I called them Salvadoran-style tacos. Because everyone likes tacos! But I'll explain now what pupusas are and why they are awesome. If you have heard of them, then you probably know that these are far from authentic. I can't fool you guys :-P I made some changes so that they are healthier and super easy to prepare, so hopefully you'll forgive me.

OKAY. So, pupusas. I was introduced to these when I was in high school and working at Starbucks. Here, enjoy an embarrassing nostalgia pic:
At some point a small Salvadoran restaurant opened up across the street. They sold pupusas con curtido for some ridiculously low price, either 25 cents or 50 cents each, I forget which but it was one of those. So if we got hungry we could rummage through the tip jar for enough dimes, quarters, and nickels to buy a filling dinner. If we had a little extra money we could get a side of fried ripe plantains with thick crema for dipping, which OH MY GOD are you KIDDING me, but I digress. Pupusas are a thick tortilla, kind of like a cross between a flatbread and a tortilla, generally filled with pork and cotija cheese. They're kind of like gorditas (which more people have heard of, thanks to Taco Bell) but with less filling. Traditionally they are served with a tangy marinated slaw called curtido.

YES I KNOW the numerous inconsistencies between my recipe and authentic pupusas. First off, mine are folded like a taco rather than stuffed like a pita pocket. But it's easier that way. I totally aped this idea from Nom Nom Paleo's savory pancakes. They're hand-holdable and so easy to make. I love that they are mostly eggs and aren't fussy to make like most grain-free doughs. For the pork filling, most recipes I saw just call for a simple braise of tomatoes, onion, and jalapenos. Since it's basically the same ingredients as salsa I just dumped the meat in my crock pot with a jar of salsa plus a some oregano. Finally, for the curtido I based it on bagged cole slaw mix. All of this adds up to a super simple weeknight supper. These are usually made with cheese but I kept it dairy-free and instead added a slice of avocado for a creamy contrast to the slaw.

PUPUSAS CON CURTIDO
Serves about 6

INGREDIENTS
For the pork:
  • 2 lbs cubed pork (I used unspecified "pork stew meat", Boston butt or pork shoulder would be ideal, leaner cuts will be drier but will still work)
  • 1 16 oz jar red salsa
  • 1 cup chopped onion (optional, feel free to leave it out if your salsa contains onion)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
For the curtido:
  • 1 16 oz bag cole slaw veggies (mix of shredded green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots)
  • Half a red onion, thinly sliced
  • Half a red bell pepper, halved crosswise and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup (optional but nice)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
For the pupusas:
  •  6 eggs, beaten (or substitute 1.5 cups liquid egg white for a white corn look)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • Coconut oil or ghee for cooking
(NOTE: This makes six pupusas. Feel free to scale how you'd like. Each one gets 1 egg or 1/4 cup liquid egg white, 2 tsp coconut flour, and a pinch each of baking powder and garlic powder.)

DIRECTIONS 
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the curtido. Cover and set aside in the fridge. It is best to do this the night before so that it can sit and marinate for a little while; stir it occasionally.
  2. Season the pork with salt and pepper and dump it in the crock pot with all the other pork ingredients. Let cook for about 6 hours on low.
  3. When ready to eat, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. I like to use a small one where the batter takes up the whole pan and just cook them one at a time. Grease the pan, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter, cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat with the other side. Continue until done with the batter.
  4. Serve with the pork, curtido, and either cotija cheese or a slice of avocado.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sugar detox sesame-ginger dressing (or marinade)

Sesame-ginger slaw made from shredded bok choy, red cabbage, and scallions all tossed with this dressing.
A long, long time ago when I was doing conventional low-fat processed foods type dieting, a staple condiment for me was that gloppy, sweet Newman's Own lite sesame ginger dressing. Times have changed, my habits have changed, but I still kind of dig that flavor with leafy greens. So I set out to make my own.

I debated on whether or not to bring this up because I don't typically discuss my personal eating habits on this blog (too much of an invitation for judgement). Buuuut I recently completed the 21-day sugar detox (not affiliated). I feel that it was a positive experiment, the biggest breakthrough being that I no longer am sweetening my coffee. The term "detox" makes me cringe unless it refers to say, getting bit by a pit viper or chelation therapy ;-) But name aside I think it's an effective way of hitting a sort of reset button if sugar cravings are getting out of control (which they were for me). I'm not really sure what else to say about it but feel free to ask me questions in the comments if you have any.

ANYWAY. The reason I bring this up is that I wanted a yummy salad dressing while doing this thang. Basically all sweeteners are verboten, but coconut water gets the green light and sweet-tasting vinegars like balsamic are cool too, so I used both to get a subtle, natural sweetness. I really liked the mild flavor from the coconut water and I will definitely continue to make this dressing as a staple. It is tart and it's NOT like the Newman's Own stuff, so if you must have a sugary-sweet dressing you can sub a liquid sweetener like maple or coconut syrup for some or all of the coconut water. Post 21DSD I might try it with pineapple flavored coconut water.

This is incredible versatile. I intended it as a salad dressing, but I've also drizzled it on steamed broccoli, used it as a marinade, and also cooked salmon in it (set a still-frozen filet in a rimmed pan, covered with 2 Tbs dressing and baked at 425 F for 25 minutes). I love making a big batch of this stuff at the beginning of the week so that I have it to dress up protein, cooked veggies, and salads.

Some notes on the ingredients:
  • I've found that the cheap brands of balsamic and sherry vinegar usually have caramel coloring, added sugar, and a relatively high sugar content. Higher quality brands don't have additives and are usually 0-1g sugar for a tablespoon. So read your labels!
  • Read your labels on the coconut water, too; the brand I used has no added sugar.
  • Regarding oil of choice: I do not recommend an oil which is primarily saturated fat such as coconut oil because it stays solid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are liquid at room temperature, work well in both drizzling and cooking, but they solidify in the fridge. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) stay liquid at room temp AND in the fridge, but are not a good choice for cooking since the fat turns rancid when heated. So if you plan to use it as a marinade, I'd use a high MUFA oil such as olive, avocado, or macadamia nut oil. Let it come to room temperature before using. If this is strictly for drizzling and you want to keep it in the fridge, walnut oil is a great choice. Mark's Daily Apple has a nice guide to oils.
  • You want to add something that has a soy sauce type flavor. Soy sauce has both soy and wheat, so if you're cool with that, go ahead and use it. Tamari is fermented soy only without wheat, and coconut aminos contains neither wheat nor soy. Pick your poison. I use organic non-GMO tamari.
  • Chili garlic paste usually has some sugar so if you're super strict about avoiding it and you can't find a sugar-free brand, just substitute crushed red pepper flakes.
INGREDIENTS
Makes about 1.5 cups; feel free to halve or double.
  • 1/2 cup balsamic or sherry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coconut water
  • 1/3 cup oil of choice
  • 1 Tbs tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic paste
  • 4 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs sesame seeds, preferably toasted
  • 2 Tbs finely grated fresh ginger 
DIRECTIONS
  1. Combine the ingredients
  2. Shake everything up.
  3. There is no step 3. Enjoy!

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