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Category Archives: Snacks

Basilicious! Fresh Pesto and Sundried-Tomato, Olive Tapenade… Now and Later!

Basil from my garden in early September

Basil from my garden in early September!

Pesto cubes.

Pesto cubes.

One of my favorite herbs to grow each year is BASIL! I just love it… the scent and flavor is so distinctive and comforting. When I have a good crop ready in early September, I look forward to making a nice big batch of pesto! The wonderful thing about pesto, is that it stores fresh in the fridge for a decent amount of time (perhaps a week or two with a film of olive oil over the top), but that it’s also very convenient to make extra and freeze it for the off-season. I use spare ice cube trays, as I think that it’s very easy to store this way, and grabbing a cube or two is a perfect serving size to add to marinara or even to cream cheese to make a spread. I use it to make a simple dressing or marinade for pork or chicken by adding balsamic vinegar.

If you search, you will find many recipes for pesto, with the ingredients remaining more or less constant, and the proportions of each changing slightly for different tastes and preferences. This is how I make mine, but by all means, feel free to adjust to your liking! I changed it up just a little this year… I usually use only pine nuts, but this time I also added some walnuts to make up for not having as many pine nuts as I would have liked. Different olive oils will result in stronger or milder flavors, and it will depend, as well, on the strength of your garlic! While I used Parmesan cheese, you could also use some asiago, romano or a hard Swiss for variety.

Tapenade with cream cheese on Rosemary Focaccia bread.

Tapenade with cream cheese on Rosemary Focaccia bread.

 

This year I also made a tapenade with one batch of the pesto. I had some lovely sun-dried tomatoes to add, and then my creativity kicked in and I added a few more ingredients that resulted in a delicious concoction! If you don’t make your pesto from scratch, you can still buy pesto at the store and then “enhance” it with the remaining ingredients to have something really special. We enjoyed it with some cream cheese and Rosemary Focaccia bread by Dr. Davis, author of Wheat Belly. It was an amazing treat!

Just starting my next batch of pesto! You can see the previous batch as well as a bowl of grated Parmesan.

Just starting my next batch of pesto! You can see the previous batch (upper left) as well as a bowl of grated Parmesan.

Basil Pesto

  • 4C fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic (or to taste)
  • !/4C pine nuts
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 1C good olive oil
  • 2/3C finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Either finely dice the garlic by hand, or pulse in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Add basil a bit at a time, and process until finely chopped.
  3. Add nuts and process.
  4. Add oil a little at a time, allowing the basil mixture to incorporate the oil before adding more.
  5. Add grates cheese and process to combine.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pesto in an ice cube tray for freezing.

Pesto in an ice cube tray for freezing.

 

When storing pesto in the refrigerator, I prefer a glass jar, and will pour a thin film of olive oil over the surface of the pesto to prevent air from getting in and oxidizing it, causing it darken in color. It can also be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in ziploc bags to use in the off-season.

 

Sun-dried Tomato, Olive Tapenade with Capers

  • Tapenade

    Tapenade

    1 batch of Basil Pesto (above recipe)

  • 1 can black olives, drained and chopped medium-fine
  • 1/4C diced green olives
  • 1/2 C sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 4 Tb capers
  • olive oil as needed to make a spread
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine first four ingredients.
  2. Add olive oil by the tablespoon to get the tapenade to a spreading consistency.
  3. Season as desired.

Serve as is, or combine with cream cheese to make a savory cheese spread. Tapenade can also be stored the same way as pesto, both in the refrigerator and the freezer. 

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HFLC Fat Bombs! Zesty Lemon Cream and Chocolate Almond Butter {Grain-free, Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Fat Bombs

Fat Bombs… Although they look and taste as decadent as something from a forbidden confectionery boutique, they play a crucial role in the HFLC diet, providing an important source of energy in the form of healthy fats. YAY!!

 

HFLC: translation, High Fat Low Carb Diet!

I never thought I would use the words “fat bomb” in a sentence that had to do with my daily food intake, but there it is! If you are an experienced low-carber, you may familiar with the concept… and if you have been hanging around the Wheat Belly Facebook page lately, you may have already seen amazing versions of these two recipes.

When restricting oneself to a very low carb diet for the purpose of burning body fat, it’s important to replace those carbs with fat as the primary energy source. Intellectually, I “know” this, but I have been struggling with getting enough fat in my diet. While the methods I started a couple of weeks ago to break my weight loss stall did work and I lost 2 new pounds, I still feel that I am too low in my intake of healthy fats.

Enter the FAT BOMB! They are concoctions of healthy fats (coconut oil, butter, cream cheese, nut butters) that taste great and help us to get enough fat in a day. These are just 2 variations on a theme, and I do not take credit for originating them at all… I merely tweaked them, photographed my outcome, and am passing on information to others who are likely going through the same learning process that I am. I already have other variations in my mind (maple extract and toasted pecans instead of lemon juice? cashew butter instead of almond? we’ll see!) Feel free to tinker with these yourself, but be aware, they are addictive!

Do you have any favorite combination of ingredients for Fat Bombs?

 

Lemon Fat Bomb with Walnuts and Lemon Zest

Lemon Fat Bomb with Walnuts and Lemon Zest

Lemon Bombs

  • 4oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4Tb butter, softened
  • 4Tb coconut oil (I used unrefined, virgin)
  • 2Tb sour cream
  • 1/2 lemon (@4tsp juice)
  • 4tsp Truvia or sweetener of choice to desired sweetness
  • nuts or zest, or any other mix-ins (optional)

Start by creaming together the cream cheese and butter, then add other ingredients one at a time and mix well in between. I like mine sweet/sour, so you may have to adjust your flavors to your taste. I have made them using the wells of a small muffin-top pan (pictured) but also have used mini muffin cups. Freeze until firm, pop out and refrigerate.
Note: The first time I made them plain but topped with almonds; this last time I added in some chopped walnuts into the mix and a little dried lemon zest on top. I really liked the crunch from the walnuts. I got 8 from this, and I figure it’s less than 1g carb per bomb!! (I think 5g for the batch.)

 

Nut Butter Bomb with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

Nut Butter Bomb with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

Nut Butter Bombs

  • 4Tb butter
  • 1/2C plain almond butter
  • 1/2C coconut oil (I used unrefined, virgin)
  • 3 tsp Truvia
  • couple pinches of kosher salt
  • Dark choclate melted if desired
  • Nuts or other toppings, mix-ins (optional)

I warmed it in the microwave for maybe 30 seconds and then whisked together. I used a muffin top pan and got 8 out of this recipe. (Plain, about 2.5g net carbs per… with a little melted dark chocolate, it was 4.25g)

 

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My Favorite Guacamole!

My Favorite Guacamole

My Favorite Guacamole! Avocados are an abundant source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, potassium, and folate, along with vitamins A, C, E, K and B6. The many different anti-oxidants found in avocados help prevent inflammation.

Guacamole burgers with Muenster cheese and Low-carb buns

Baby Guacamole burgers with Muenster cheese and Low-carb buns

This is a guacamole recipe that I tweaked years ago, and I am often asked for the recipe when I take it to parties to share with friends. It’s naturally grain-free, gluten-free, Wheat Belly and primal friendly.

Tonight I’ve made a 1/2 batch to serve on grilled burgers with melted muenster cheese and grain-free, low-carb buns. Mmmmmm! It’s also great as a dip for veggies, low-carb cheese crackers and even pork rinds 😉 Low-Carb and lovin’ it!

The Low-carb bun recipe isn’t mine; it was posted by a fellow WB cook on the Wheat Belly Recipe Central page if you’d like to have a look! Check the “posts by others.”

My Favorite Guacamole

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 medium vidalia or white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 vine-ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 canned roasted chipotle pepper, seeded and diced (or use fresh hot pepper to taste)
  • 1 big handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Halve and pit the avocados; scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon into a mixing bowl. Mash the avocados with a fork, leaving them still a bit chunky. Add the remaining ingredients, and fold everything together to gently mix.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn’t brown and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

 

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Cauliflower “Rice” Sushi {Low Carb, Primal, Grain-free, Gluten-free}

Cauliflower Sushi rolls with seared yellowfin, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese and sriracha

Cauliflower “Rice” Sushi rolls with seared yellowfin, avocado, cucumber, green onion, cream cheese and sriracha. Served with sriracha mayo, tamari and wasabi. This is our first attempt using cauliflower rice, and it was rather unplanned, the colors aren’t as vibrant as I usually prefer (so I added some black sesame to jazz it up), but the taste was wonderful!

Have I mentioned lately that I love seafood? Like almost ALL of it? I enjoy most fish and shellfish, and have consumed it grilled, sauteed, baked, broiled, steamed, poached, raw… you get the idea. In fact, one of my biggest culinary revelations was when my husband and I first tried sushi about 10 years ago in Ann Arbor. It was a sushi restaurant, but what we ordered turned out to be a LARGE sashimi platter just loaded with every type of raw sea delicacy I could imagine, and some I hadn’t!

Traditional sushi that we made at home using rice and a large variety of ingredients.

Traditional style homemade sushi that we created using rice and a large variety of ingredients.

If you aren’t familiar with sushi, the sushi rolls are a combination of rice, usually in a seaweed wrap, with seafood, vegetables and sauces. They are beautiful and (I think), quite delicious. (A basic California roll is an example of a sushi roll that doesn’t contain fish.) Sashimi are the artfully cut pieces of raw fish, sometimes laid over shaped portions of rice, or laid on shredded vegetables in a serving dish made of ice. Served with soy sauce and wasabi, it is an explosion of taste and texture that is visually stunning. At first it was intimidating, but it didn’t take long sampling the raw tuna, yellowfin, salmon, scallops, squid, and bbq eel before I knew that I had been missing out on an entire realm of flavors.

Well, now that I am no longer eating grains, I will admit to you that sushi rolls are the one exception that I have occasionally been making the past few months. White rice is still a carby food, but I do not have any adverse reactions from consuming it, so once in awhile I will. However, I began to get curious about whether the “cauliflower rice” technique that so many people use as a substitute for grains, would work for sushi! As it turns out, I am not the only one to wonder this, and I found a few examples on the net of people trying this technique. Now, I have been making rolls at home for several years now, so the process itself is not new to me (though I do not claim to have the talent or artistry of true sushi chefs!) If you have never made it before, it might be more challenging. The sticky rice in traditional rolls definitely helps to hold the shape better and glue the roll together, but with a little patience, I was able to come up with rolls that looked pretty good, and tasted great! If you would like a simple step by step for making rolls, take a look at this; I thought it was pretty straight-forward. The only real difference was that I chose to use sriracha mayonnaise (just mayo with a tsp or so of sriracha hot sauce mixed in) to help to glue the cauliflower to the nori (sheet of toasted seaweed.)

Cauliflower florets in the food processor.

Cauliflower florets in the food processor.

Cauliflower "rice" after processing for a few minutes.

Cauliflower “rice” after processing for a few minutes.

 

Cooling cauliflower "rice" on a plate after gently sauteing for a few minutes in coconut oil and adding rice vinegar

Cooling cauliflower “rice” on a plate after gently sauteing for a few minutes in coconut oil and adding rice vinegar

 

Yellowfin tuna briefly seared after being dipped in egg and sesame seeds

Yellowfin tuna briefly seared after being dipped in egg and sesame seeds. (Use caution when eating raw or under-cooked seafood. I have never had a problem consuming it rare or raw, but everyone is different.) We have also used salmon, scallops, shrimp, roast beef and anything else we have on hand! Not a bad way to make use of leftovers.

 

Plate of sliced veggies to fill the rolls

Plate of sliced veggies to fill the rolls; cucumber, avocado, green onions and cream cheese. You can use just about any ingredients that you enjoy! Our selection is usually more colorful than this, but I didn’t use carrots due to carbs and didn’t have sashimi salmon or roe on hand to brighten things up.

 

Sheet of nori (seaweed) laid out on a rolling mat.

Sheet of nori (seaweed) laid out on a rolling mat. Sometimes it is helpful to place a sheet of plastic wrap between the nori and the mat to prevent sticking when using rice, but it didn’t seem necessary with the cauliflower rice.

 

Cauliflower rice spread out on the nori with sriracha mayonnaise holding it in place.

Cauliflower rice spread out on the nori with sriracha mayonnaise holding it in place.

Sushi fillings laid out and ready to roll.

Sushi fillings laid out and ready to roll.

Cauliflower sushi with tamari, wasabi and sriracha mayonnaise.

Cauliflower sushi with tamari, wasabi and sriracha mayonnaise.

 

 

 

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Kale Crisps… A Great Snack That’s Low-Carb, Grain-free, Sugar-free and Dairy-free!

If you are following the Wheat Belly plan, eating Paleo, Primal, going low-carb, or just trying to boost your daily dose of nutrient-rich veggies, this recipe is for you!

Baked Kale Crisps

Kale is an incredibly nutritious green that has enjoyed a surge of popularity in the world of healthy eating. Some people love it raw in salads, while others are digging it in juice or smoothies. I will admit that I am SOOO not one of those people!

I have *wanted* to enjoy kale, because I just love knowing that the food I am eating is fueling my body and giving me nutrients that support increased health. However, I was never able to fall in love with the slightly bitter flavor or tough texture. Now that I have FINALLY tried making kale chips, all that has changed! They are crispy, flavorful and nearly as addictive as eating potato chips without the carbs and hydrogenated oils… YAY! Even better, my teenage son loved them, and they are easy to make. I think I have finally found a substitute for popcorn while watching movies!

 

If you need a little more convincing to take a stab at making these, here are some facts that might persuade you:

RICH IN VITAMIN K~ Kale belongs to the Brassica family, which also includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, and all are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants. However, kale has even more of the cancer-fighting vitamin K, weighing in at more than 1000% of recommended daily allowance of K per cup! In addition to reducing cancer risk, K also is known for supporting bone health and regulating the clotting abilities in blood.

LOADED WITH VITAMIN A~ Another vitamin that maintains bone health is vitamin A. It also aids in vision, red blood cell production and tissue repair. One cup will provide 180% of daily requirements of A.

GREAT SOURCE OF VITAMIN C~ With about twice as much vitamin C as an average orange, a cup of kale is giving you 200% RDA of this important nutrient. If you’re on a low-carb diet, kale can get you the C you need without spiking your blood sugar!

PACKED WITH ANTI-OXIDANTS~ Carotenoids and Flavonoids are powerful anti-oxidants that protect the body against various cancers. These are also great for promoting the health of your eyes!

HIGH IN IRON, CALCIUM & B6~ Containing more iron per calorie than steak, and more calcium per calorie than milk, kale is a nutritional powerhouse that just keeps on giving! With the added bonus of plenty of B6 for supporting immune system health and nervous system function, it’s a veggie not to be overlooked.

Trimming kale for oven-baked crisps.

Trimming kale for oven-baked crisps. I used sharp kitchen shears to make the job easy. At the left are the discarded center ribs that are too tough to enjoy.

There are numerous recipes all over the internet, with various oven temps and bake times, and using different oils and seasonings, and the following is my own adaptation. I felt that by keeping the temp on the low side, I would avoid scorching them, and would retain a few more nutrients than if they were cooked more quickly at a higher heat.

Baked Kale Crisps

  • Kale, with tough center stems removed and cut into pieces. Dried thoroughly.
  • Oil for coating. (I used coconut oil for added health benefits.)
  • Seasonings of your choice. (I used kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic powder.)

Directions: Heat oven to 275 degrees. Spread kale pieces on a baking sheet and toss in a tablespoon or so of oil to coat. Season as you wish and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir/flip kale, return to oven for another 8-10 minutes. My kale crisps were slightly darker when they were done than when they went in, very light and very crispy!

Collander full of washed and dried kale that has been trimmed of the tough center rib.

Colander full of washed and dried kale that has been trimmed of the tough center rib.

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almond Flour {Grain free and Low Carb!}

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Even those of us enjoying a grain-free and low-carb lifestyle have a hankering for a classic treat from time to time! The trick is to minimize the damaging ingredients (such as grains and sugar) and maximize the flavors. Almond flour is a natural fit for this recipe, as the nuttiness matches well to the dark chocolate. To keep the carbs low, be sure to get chips with as high of a cocoa content as possible, aiming for 85% (you may even want to buy a dark chocolate bar and break into small pieces.)  As many of us also have children and teens in the house (not to mention husbands!) it’s helpful to be able to provide “sweets” that make them feel a little more normal, while knowing that we are supporting good health at the same time!

I adapted this from a recipe from the extremely talented Elana, and you can find it here on her blog. The changes I made were to switch away from grapeseed oil, as it’s not compliant with the Wheat Belly eating plan, and to switch out the agave syrup as well, for the same reason. Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Baked on ParchmentAlmond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/2 C blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C healthy oil (I used half butter and half virgin coconut oil)
  • 1 Tb vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C powdered erythritol
  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together wet ingredients. If you are using butter and/or coconut oil, be sure they are melted into liquid form.
  3. Mix the wet into the dry, combine completely. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts (if using.)
  4. Place in flattened circles on a parchment-lined sheet, using about 1 Tb per cookie.
  5. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the edges are browned. The original recipe suggests 7-10 min, but they get dark very quickly, so do keep an eye on them.
  6. Remove whole sheet of parchment to a wire rack to cool, or set the entire pan in a safe place to cool. If the cookies are moved before they cool 10-15 minutes, they will crumble and fall apart. They firm up as they cool though. Makes 18 cookies.

Note: Made with 60% cocoa Ghirardelli chocolate chips, there are about 4.4 net carbs per cookie. If you use a higher cocoa chocolate chip, you can get that number even lower.
***Adding an egg is optional, if you would like. It does help the cookie hold together a little easier, but I think it makes it a little softer. Great either way!

Gooey Goodness

 

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Spicy Crab Cakes (Low carb, Gluten free)

When avoiding wheat flours that contain gluten, there are many other types of flours that one can use in its place, such as rice, sorghum, or tapioca flours which are still high in carbs. Since we are also on a low carb diet to promote weight loss, we choose to use the alternatives of almond or coconut flours.

This is a crab cake recipe that I came up with for our Friday night treat, and I chose to use coconut flour because I felt that the slightly sweet taste would work well with the sweetness of the crab meat and the heat of the chipotle pepper, while acting as a glue to hold the delicate patties in shape. Crab cakes often have fillers such as potato, which increases the carbs and can also disguise the flavor of the crab… I skipped this, since we like our crab cakes to be ALL about the crab.The Parmesan cheese takes the place of breadcrumbs as a coating, and browns up nicely in the oven. This is similar to the method used in Parmesan Perch.

Crab cakes should be refrigerated for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to baking, to help them hold their shape.

Spicy Gluten Free Crab Cakes

  • 1/4C celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium leek, washed well and finely diced
  • coconut oil for sauteing
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2T mayonnaise
  • 2T heavy cream
  • 6 oz crab meat (I used refrigerated in a packet)
  • 1/2 chipotle pepper, canned, finely diced (seeded if you prefer milder)
  • 2tsp capers, diced
  • 2Tb fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tb coconut flour
  • kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 C Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Saute the celery and leek in coconut oil until tender, 2-3 minutes, and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together egg, mayonnaise and cream. Gently fold in the crab meat. Add the leeks, celery, chipotle pepper, capers and parsley, mixing gently. Add coconut flour, 1 Tb at a time, mixing well. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture will be soft, but should be manageable. If it is too delicate, add a small amount of additional coconut flour. Divide mixture into about 6 medium patties, dredging each one in the grated Parmesan cheese before setting on a plate. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to chill cakes and make them a little easier to handle. When they are chilled, bake at 450 degrees on a silicone baking mat or parchment-lined sheet for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately with tartar or roumelade sauce.

Sauce: The sauce I used was a base of 1/2C mayo and 2Tb cream seasoned with a finely diced gerkin pickle, dash of hot sauce, 1/2 diced chipotle and 1tsp dijon mustard with a squeeze of lemon.

 

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