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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Burger Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

Burger Salad with Sweet Potato Fries is a great warm weather indulgence!

It’s been one of those weeks, where finding time to sit at the computer has been a challenge, and even more so because we’ve been having broadband issues, which I THINK (after 3 service calls) are finally cleared up! With Spring being here in full swing, it’s been a lot more tempting to work in the yard and garden than do housework, or even cook… so the meals this past week have been incredibly simple and focused mainly on veggies. I didn’t want to bore everyone with images of all the steamed baby broccoli, zucchini, bok choy and sliced oranges I’ve been eating, so I waited until I had something a little more interesting or useful to post. So here it is….

Burger Salad and Sweet Potato Fries

Being beautiful outside leads to grilling, and grilling can lead to burgers, MMMM! As someone who doesn’t eat gluten, when preparing something like a burger, you have two main choices: bake or buy gluten free buns, or skip the bun entirely and rely on other things to make dinner delicious. Since we are striving for lower-carb, I skipped the buns this time and opted for a “burger salad”, and indulged in sweet potato fries as a side instead.YUM!

Why Sweet Potatoes? Some people only think of sweet potatoes at the holidays, but they are truly a nutritional gold mine and can be incorporated more often. The glycemic load is 17 (lower is better), while a red potato is 26. Sweet potatoes are also known to be strongly anti-inflammatory, and choosing anti-inflammatory foods helps ease or prevent joint and muscle pain as well as ease digestive issues caused by internal inflammation. While it is definitely a carbohydrate, it is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, B6, Vitamin A&C, and manganese.

The Fries: If you haven’t made sweet potato fries before, I can assure you, it’s very easy and tasty too. They are versatile as well. You can choose to cut them thick or thin, in rounds or sticks, and peeled or unpeeled. I choose unpeeled, medium thin sticks.You basically just bake them at 425 degrees for around 15 minutes, loosening them from the pan and turning them every 5 minutes or so. Be sure to coat them in olive oil, and I used garlic salt, onion powder, fresh ground pepper, and a dash of cinnamon to season these. Of course you can spice it up even more if you like, using cumin, cayenne or even chili powder, depending on your tastes. Super simple! If you want them ever crispier, you may choose to coat them with corn starch before baking, but I didn’t do that for carb reasons.

The Burger salad: Is essentially a burger laid on a bed of salad that is made up of things that usually top the burger. In this case, after grilling (or baking, or pan searing) the super lean burgers were topped with a little blue cheese, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and covered with a slice of Swiss which I melted under the broiler for a couple minutes. The “salad” was shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced avocados, and typical burger dressing of light mayo and mustard. The guys loved it and never even complained about not having a bun! This was a heavier meal than what we’ve been eating most of the week, but every once in awhile, a little indulgence is good.

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Crunchy Hot Wings and Blue Cheese

OK, first things first… if you are a chicken purist, and think that parboiling is akin to software pirating, please discontinue reading and forget you were ever here!

On the other hand, if you don’t mind some kitchen short-cuts to yummy, crunchy wings, that aren’t deep fried, you are in luck! This is the wings method I have been using for several years, though I don’t recall quite where the idea came from. I vary the sauce depending on what we are craving, and what’s in the fridge, but this is a pretty basic mild hot-wings style I have going here. It’s reassuring that one of our faves does NOT have to be altered to be gluten-free! I am watching the carbs though, so I stayed away from the sweet sauce this time around.

First, the Blue Cheese Dressing: Again, I admit that I really don’t measure things that I make frequently. To make a small batch of dressing, I would use about 4oz softened cream cheese, 1/4C mayo (regular or light), a few tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola, freshly ground black pepper, and maybe a pinch of rice wine vinegar. Combine well, and refrigerate for an hour or so to let the flavors come together. Simple! If it is too thick when you remove it from the fridge, just add a little milk.

To make the Wings: Thaw chicken wing sections (if frozen) and cover with water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Next, line a cookie sheet with foil to make clean-up easier, and arrange wings. Broil on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turn over and finish broiling another 8-10 minutes until wings are crispy and cooked through.

Sauce: Meanwhile, whip up a sauce of your choosing to coat the wings. I used about 1/4 cup of Frank’s RedHot sauce, a few tablespoons of butter and a dash of Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing, heated in the microwave about 90 seconds, until the butter melts. (I have also used Asian marinades, BBQ sauce, minced garlic, fresh ginger, dried ginger, sesame oil, soy, hot pepper flakes, pretty much anything you enjoy.) Place the wings in a large bowl and pour the sauce over the top; toss to coat.

Kitchen Tip: I usually serve with celery and sometimes carrot sticks. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I get just as excited about celery leaves as I do about the celery stalks! I always save the leaves and dry them so that I can add them to soups. I just put the leaves on a paper plate and rearrange them every so often to help them dry over the course of a couple days. I think I may be one of the only people who choose their celery by how many leaves they have!

 

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2-Egg Spinach Omelet with Tomato

Simple and pretty, adding spinach to the eggs in an omelet makes for a visual treat and extra nutrition as well. I can't wait until I have garden-fresh tomatoes to add in this summer!


To begin with, I heated a 10" non-stock skillet with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, and added a nice handful of fresh organic spinach leaves. Continue to saute until they are wilted nicely.

I love Omelets!

Next, arrange the spinach so that it is spread around the pan, add a teaspoon of butter (allowing it to melt), and pour in the 2 eggs which have been lightly beaten with about a tablespoon of water.

After the eggs have been cooking (covered to steam) for a few minutes over medium-low heat, and the egg is appearing to be firmed with small bubbles, layer the cheese and tomato on one half of the omelet.

They bring to mind crispy hash-browns and good coffee at diners we’ve visited throughout our travels. The variety and possibilities for fillings are endless and I’ve enjoyed so many different combinations. Greek style with lamb, tomato, feta… Philly Steak with mushrooms, onions, peppers and Swiss… Potatoes in, potatoes out… you get the idea!

At our house we enjoy making omelets as well, and they range from something packed with leftovers, to simple and a little elegant. THAT is where the spinach comes in; spinach and eggs are a heavenly combination that should not be reserved only for quiche!

I think the keys to a successful omelet are to use a non-stick pan large enough for the egg to spread out thinly, and to have the patience to cook it slowly over a lower heat so that the bottom doesn’t cook too fast, which leaves the middle gooey. I add water to my omelets instead of milk or cream, I just find that I like the results better, but you can use whatever works for you.

2-Egg Spinach Omelet with Tomato

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • handful off fresh organic spinach leaves
  • 1-2 tsp butter
  • 2 eggs beaten with 1Tb water
  • 1/2 Roma tomato, diced
  • 3Tb finely shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)
  • Salt, pepper and herbs to taste
  1. To begin with, heat a 10″ non-stock skillet with a couple teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat, and add a nice handful of fresh organic spinach leaves. Saute these until they are wilted nicely.
  2. Next, change the heat to medium-low, arrange the spinach so that it is spread around the pan, add a teaspoon of butter (allowing it to melt), and pour in the 2 eggs which have been lightly beaten with about a tablespoon of water.Cover and allow to cook slowly for several minutes or until the egg appears semi-firm and may have small bubbles on the surface.
  3. Layer the cheese and tomatoes along with seasonings on one half of the omelet
  4. Replace the lid after adding the fillings, to allow the cheese to melt and the omelet to finish cooking, just another minute or so. Carefully slide a flexible spatula under the edge that doesn’t have fillings, and flip it on top of the tomatoes and cheese. Slide onto a plate and garnish with berries!
 

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Cheesecake and Energy Bars, Salvaged from Bitter Brownies

Serendipity?

So most cheesecakes probably start with a yummy craving or perhaps a special occasion in mind…  this one started because of a flopped batch of brownies! I am admittedly new to gluten-free (wheat-free) baking, and I have to readjust what I have learned about how ingredients work together, because the dynamics are different. Several days ago I made a batch of brownies that turned out, well… let’s say much more bitter than sweet! I am a major fan of dark chocolate, but this recipe had WAY too much unsweetened chocolate and not enough of everything else to counter-balance it. I almost think the recipe may have been printed incorrectly. They looked great and smelled great, but even with a dollop of whipped cream, we could not enjoy them. Grrrrrr!

Energy Bites: As anyone of you that bakes with the gluten-free flours (almond and coconut) knows, these and other ingredients are relatively expensive, and I was just not willing to toss the whole of it into the garbage, so I set about finding creative uses for the brownies as a base for other things. The first thing I did was use about half of the brownies to make energy bites. I zipped the brownies in the food processor (one of my new best friends these days) along with dates, shredded coconut, dried cherries, walnut butter, and a drizzle of  honey to help bind it together. I pressed it into a pan lined with parchment and froze it for a little while and then cut it into chunks. My son has been eating these energy bites all week! I realize that this really isn’t a recipe, but maybe it can serve as inspiration to others who find themselves with a batch of something-or-other that just didn’t turn out as well as you hoped, to transform it into something else that is edible 🙂 This concoction is not as low-carb as most I post, but my son can definitely handle more healthy carbs in his diet.

Cheesecake: As I was wandering through food blog postings yesterday, I saw Nicole’s post at La Petite Baker. She made a pretty simple and delicious-looking cheesecake, covered in hot fudge, and that sprouted an idea in my head! I decided to use the other half of my failed brownies as a crust by adding a little more sweetener (I use erythritol) and a little butter, blending it in the food processor again, and then pressing it into my springform pan. I altered her filling recipe only slightly, by replacing the sugar with erythritol and using 1 1/2 cups of sour cream, and 1/2 cup plain yogurt, and replaced the sugar in the topping with sweetener as well. Since the crust was chocolate, I decided to use fresh strawberries as a topping instead of the fudge. It turned out lovely! I admit that we should have waited overnight to dig into the cheesecake as recommended, but the guys would have none of that, so it was definitely softer than intended. It has set up very firmly by this morning though.

I had my reservations about altering a baking recipe because baking is much more of a chemistry project than cooking is, and I am also new and hesitant with sweeteners. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, and is not as sweet as sugar, but it is “natural” and doesn’t spike blood sugars the way the real thing does, so it is ideal for low-carb and diabetic diets. I don’t know if I will ever get used to using sweeteners in place of sugar, so it means that sweetened treats will simply be fewer and further between. The cost is also a factor, as erythritol is quite pricey, no matter how you justify it.

Now I am wondering, since I de-glutenized and un-sugared the cheesecake recipe, can I have it for breakfast?? 😉  Muahahaha…..

 

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Low-Carb, Cheesy-Crackery Goodness (GF, WF)

Yay! If you read my earlier post about purging the wheat from my cupboards, you might recall that Cheezits were a treat that would be missed at our house. This healthy recipe isn’t an exact match, but the tangy crunch definitely helps satisfy the urge to snack in a way that isn’t going to trash your low-carb diet! I originally found the recipe here, at Food.com, and I altered it slightly to suit our tastes. The almond and coconut flours are low-glycemic and have minimal effect on blood sugar. The original recipe called for forming balls and then flattening them into disks on the cookie sheet, and baking at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. We found that we enjoyed a thinner cracker, and that the bake time even for the thicker version needed to be reduced to 7-8 minutes at a slightly lower temperature. This is a snack that my teenage son can take in his lunch that doesn’t appear to be “different”. It can be especially challenging to feed a young person a gluten-free diet when social pressures are a major fact of life. I am learning as I go, but I do try to make lunch look as “normal” as possible for him. I am always open to suggestions from anyone else who is feeding a (picky) gluten-free teen!

Low-Carb Cheese Crackers

  • 1/2 C Coconut flour
  • 1/2 C Blanched almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C Melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 C Finely shredded sharp cheddar or other tangy cheese
  • 1/4 tsp Onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic powder
  • dash of Cayenne pepper

Blend almond flour, eggs, butter, salt, cheese and seasonings. Add coconut flour and knead well for 2-3 minutes until dough forms. Divide dough in half and flatten into 2, 1″ thick squarish disks, wrap in cellophane and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Preheat oven to 380 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut thin layers off the block, about 1/8″ inch thick (like slicing a mini bread loaf). Cut strips into approximately 1″ squares, and arrange on cookie sheet. Using parchment will help prevent sticking. Bake for about 5-6minutes, or until edges just start to brown. Remove from sheet and serve immediately, or store in air-tight container.

 

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Orange Stir Fry Veggies and Quinoa (keen-wa)… no msg or gluten in sight

Use any mixture of veggies and meat that you prefer!

Tonight was one of those nights that I didn’t really feel like cooking (yes, it happens), but wanted more than just a salad. I decided to gather up a bunch of veggies and do a GF version of my typical stir fry. The changes that I’ve made are mostly to use gluten-free Tamari instead of soy sauce, and to substitute for the higher carb rice with healthy quinoa.

I will admit that quinoa is a grain that I knew virtually nothing about until deleting the wheat from my diet a few weeks ago. I knew it existed (although in my head I was pronouncing it wrong!), but that was about the extent of it. It was a sacred seed in the ancient Inca civilization, and it turns out that quinoa is a gem in any diet, not just for those going without gluten. It is a complete protein, and a good source of Magnesium, Manganese and Phosphorus. It has a glycemic load of only 18, and is not inflammatory. Low in cholesterol, it is an important source of plant-derived calcium, and it has a pleasing nutty flavor to boot!

Kept in the freezer, fresh ginger root is easy to grate as needed for recipes.

Kitchen Tip: In this recipe, I also use fresh grated ginger. I have a trick for ginger that I learned from my Mom; I keep the whole root in the freezer in a ziploc, and just pull it out and grate it when I want to add it to a dish. If you are like me, even though you use ginger, you may not get through the whole root before it molds, and keeping it in the freezer is a great way to store it, and it is even easier to grate when it’s frozen.

Here you see my handy zesting tool, but you can also use a sharp knife.

 

The orange zest adds a little extra flavor boost as well, and I use a zesting tool that I picked up in a kitchen shop to do this task. In general I am not a gadgety person, mostly preferring sharp knives, but this is a nice inexpensive tool that I bought back when I was doing lots of zesting for holiday biscottis and baked goods. I will definitely be changing my holiday routine this season, and exploring new treats!

 

Orange Stir Fry Veggies and Quinoa:

  •  2 C cooked Quinoa 
  • 1.5 lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into 1″ chunks (beef, pork or shrimp works too)
  • 2-3 Tb Olive oil

Veggies: (feel free to use my mix, or whatever you happen to have on hand)Veggies for stir fry

  • 3 Tb Olive oil
  • 1 C chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1 C chopped Broccoli rabe (or regular broccoli)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, slivered
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 C Crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 of an orange Bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 C slivered Almonds
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 1/4 C frozen or fresh peas, thawed

Sauce:

  • 3 Tb Olive oil
  • Juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 C Tamari GF Soy sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • dash of Cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tb fresh grated ginger
  • dash of Red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tb Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C coconut milk mixed with 1 Tb arrowroot powder (for thickening)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, except coconut milk and arrowroot. Set aside. Using a large heavy skillet (or wok if you prefer), heat 2-3 Tb olive oil and stir fry the chicken until just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Heat remaining olive oil and add all “Veggies” except peas. Stir fry about 5-8 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add cooked chicken, peas and sauce ingredients, heat through. Add the coconut milk and arrowroot, stir to thicken. Dish over warm quinoa and serve.  Makes about 4 servings.

 

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Paleosity! Gluten-free quick bread

It happens to all of us sooner or later, I think… despite our best intentions to go without bread, we end up searching for a gluten-free recipe that will give us a little of what we’ve been missing. I have been playing with the low-glycemic flours (almond and coconut) with varying results. I have found that some recipes are definitely better than others when it comes to breaking new baking territory.

I stumbled on Elana’s blog and her recipe for Paleo Bread. I followed her recipe except that I had regular flax meal instead of golden flax, and I used a normal-sized silicone bread pan instead of the one that she recommends. My loaf was a little squattier, but just as yummy! My son adored it, and I even baked a loaf for Easter to take to my parents’ so that they could have a sample of gluten-free baked goods.

If you are new to baking with nut flour, you will find that the batter-type consistency of the dough takes some getting used to. The first time you make it, you might even fret that you are doing something wrong, so I have included a pic here of what the mixture looks like in my food processor. It is much more familiar if you think of it in terms of a quick-bread such as banana bread, instead of the elastic type of dough that you knead. I look forward to playing with this recipe to add different flavors and spices.

There IS hope for a tasty gluten-free bread!

 

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