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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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Spicy Mussels with Cilantro, Fennel, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Chilis {Grain-free, Low-carb, Primal}

Healthy, low-carb and flavorful!

Spicy Mussels

Spicy Mussels in broth.

Some dishes are naturally grain-free and low-carb. Mussles is one of those, though in the old days, I would have sopped this up with crusty bread. For the most part, we aren’t big on eating breads anymore (even the grain-free ones) but if you are, by all means, enjoy it with this broth!!

This is one of those thrown-together recipes that just sort of happens and is dependent on what I have on hand. We had a bag of mussels to use, so I decided to saute some diced vegetables in coconut oil, add some chicken broth and chopped cilantro, and use the broth to steam mussels.

Again, not so much of a recipe as a list of ingredients that can change depending on what you like and what you have on hand. This had a nice spiciness to it without being too hot, and the ginger, garlic and cilantro add balance. The sun-dried tomatoes are slightly tangy and sweet, softened in the broth, and the fennel adds a slight hint of sweetness as well.

Spicy Mussels

  • coconut oil
  • a few cloves of garlic, diced
  • tablespoon or so of chopped fresh ginger
  • several sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4- 1/2C fennel, chopped
  • 1 hot salsa pepper, chopped

Saute all above ingredients together until they begin to soften.

Sauteing chopped vegetables to soften.

Sauteing chopped vegetables to soften.

  • 4C chicken broth
  • 1/2C fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt, pepper and spices to taste

Add broth, cilantro and seasonings and bring to a boil.

With broth, cilantro ans spices added in, brought to a boil.

With broth, cilantro ans spices added in, brought to a boil.

 

Add mussels, toss, and steam, covered for several minutes or until mussels open. (Discard any mussels that do not open.)

Mussels steaming in broth.

Mussels steaming in broth.

 

Delicious bowl of mussels in spicy broth!

Delicious bowl of mussels in spicy broth!

 

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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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How to SHOP When Going Grain-Free and Sugar-Free

Fresh Produce at a Farm Market 

Going only gluten free will definitely have some health benefits, but if you want to lose weight and feel even healthier, I strongly suggest going grain-free and sugar free, not just gluten-free. (We follow The “Wheat Belly” plan by Dr. William Davis, though this is also essentially a primal diet which Mark Sisson promotes)

The reason for suggesting grain-free and sugar-free, is that the GF (gluten-free) processed foods are made of alternative grains and they are every bit as high carb and bad for you as wheat products. We avoid GF packaged foods like the plague! They are the reason that going GF gets a bad rap in the press, and why some claim that going GF causes you to miss out on key nutrients. If you replace processed wheat foods with processed wheat-free foods, the improvement to your diet is minimal. However, if you fill that gap in the diet with more healthy food (which is naturally gluten-free), the payoff is incredible. You will not lose out on nutrients from bread (which are ADDED in the first place), if you eat in a smart way. How anyone can doubt that ditching processed foods (with all of their sugars, chemicals, colorants and toxins) is a GREAT idea for anyone, is completely beyond me!

Friends often ask what we eat, and what to shop for, to get started. Remember, the best way to eat right, is to keep ONLY compliant foods in your fridge and pantry. That way, even if you are tempted to indulge, it will be with good foods. Shopping at Farmer’s Markets and Meat Markets is part of my weekly routine.

We (husband and I) eat very few beans/legumes because they are high in carbohydrates, and often cause intestinal distress. Rice is a rarity that I save for sushi maybe once a month, but it is also high in carbs and we don’t purchase it for the pantry. We have stopped eating corn (partly because it’s a high-carb grain, but also because corn now contains its own pesticide within its DNA structure!) We don’t eat sugar either. The whole point of eating this way is to avoid BSS, which are blood sugar spikes that release insulin. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. The idea is very similar to Atkins or South Beach Diets, but grains are never added back into the lifestyle. You want to get to the point where your body begins burning fats as fuel, instead of carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s important to get enough fat in your diet, and eat plenty of food, just not high-carb foods.  The goal is to keep NET carbs (carbohydrate grams minus fiber grams) between 20-50g a day during the weight loss stage.

Within the first few days you will probably notice immediate relief from bloating and may lose a few pounds of water weight right off the bat. (My brother lost 17 lbs the first WEEK! Unheard of, but it happened.) Some people experience withdrawals from wheat, because it is actually addictive. I didn’t go through that, but my husband did for about 2 weeks. Even if you do experience a tough week, stick with it, it’s worth it!

THIS IS WHAT I BUY:

~All kinds of meat, chicken, beef, pork (bacon is fine), fish, seafood. Grass-fed, free-range, organic and wild-caught are the best choices if you can afford them, but not necessary.
 
~Eggs… we eat them almost daily and try to buy free-range, organic

~Real cultured cheeses, Swiss, cheddar, blue, Parmesan, etc (just meaning real cheese, not Velveeta or processed types)

~Full fat dairy, such as sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, mayo, heavy whipping cream. We eat these in moderation. Avoid skim and low fat milk as well, as it’s loaded with sugar and carbs.

~Above ground (non-starchy) veggies, LOTS. We eat plenty of green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cukes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, pea pods, etc… So everything except potatoes, corn (grain!), carrots, etc

~Greens like lettuces, cabbages, kale etc, fall in love with salads!

~Avocados, important source of fat and omega 3

~Nuts and nut butters, especially almonds and walnuts, but others are good too. Just not too many peanuts.

~Dark chocolate 70-85% is fine in moderation; I have a couple squares most days and use it in recipes.

~Healthy fats and oils. We rely most on coconut oil and butter. Refined coconut oil is less expensive and doesn’t taste like coconut; Virgin unrefined coconut oil costs more and tastes coconutty (I love it.) Olive oil is good, walnut oil too. Avoid canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil and other vegetable oils, hydrogenation is VERY bad.

~Flax seed, ground. It’s good for adding omega 3’s. I use it sometimes in crackers or smoothies. It’s kind of nutty, and I think it’s an acquired taste.

~Almond flour and perhaps coconut flour if you want to bake something. I have several recipes on the blog. Avoid rice flour, sorghum, tapioca, potato… all very high carb and starchy.

~For sweeteners, I mainly use Truvia, but also some Stevia and Erythritol (which I order online, it’s a sugar alcohol) as they don’t cause BSS. Honestly, I don’t crave sweets as much as I used to, so it’s mainly Truvia in my coffee or a smoothie, but also a little in desserts sometimes.

~Fruit in moderation. All types of berries are the best choices. We eat strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. Avoid the high-sugar tropical fruits like banana, mango, pineapple, papaya, or just have very rarely.

Tuscan Shrimp and VeggiesSo, that’s a basic run-down, but I am sure I have forgotten something. A typical meal for us is some type of meat with one or two veggies on the side, prepared in different ways, often with butter and cheese of some kind. We love creative salads. If you want sandwiches, we often use lettuce to wrap meat and cheese in with fixings. Stir-fries are great choices! (Try my Tuscan Shrimp.). Grilling meat and veggies is good, as is baking. You can pan fry fish, chicken breast and pork chops using coconut oil (only), and coating the meat in eggs/mayo and pressing into a mix of grated Parmesan and almond flour with seasonings. (Or try the baked Parmesan Perch as a basis for other meats.) Super easy, very low carb.
The hardest thing is just not over-thinking it, and getting used to eating REAL food, and knowing which things will spike blood sugar. Focus on what you can eat, instead of thinking about what you can’t. Let me know if you have any questions 🙂 or join many like me over on the Wheat Belly Facebook page! Seriously, it’s amazing that a best-selling author and cardiologist like Dr. William Davis has such an active FB page where he actually comments on posts from his followers. THAT is commitment!

My husband and I have been following this plan for 5 months this week… and I have lost 27 lbs; Mitch has lost 31. Most of that happened in the first 2.5-3 months. I know I would lose more if I was perfect with it, but I still enjoy  wine/cocktails which will stall weight loss 😉 Just remember that while weight loss is GREAT, the health benefits from following this plan are almost too numerous to mention!!!

I hope that this helps for those that want to get started and need to SHOP!!

 

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Pretty in Purple! {Grain Free Bacony Breakfast}

Vegetables are so beautiful… Purple cabbage is quite stunning even when whole, but when sliced open, it looks like a party! Rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, cabbage is also low in carbs, with about 2g per shredded cup.

In my last post, I outlined my plan for breaking my weight loss plateau. Number 4 is to increase my fat intake (while reducing fruit intake) to be sure I am in ketosis. While some people on the Wheat Belly plan eat bacon, and some do not, I have joyously decided to be in the camp of bacon-eaters 😉 It’s a great source of saturated animal fat, it’s tasty and filling! Sure it has nitrates, but we get a lot more nitrates from veggies than bacon. So this morning I knew I wanted to make some bacon, but instead of pairing it with eggs and fresh tomato as I did yesterday, I decided to get a little PURPLE! This is my breakfast, but it would be great for lunch or a side dish for dinner as well.

I cook my bacon in the oven and have been doing it that way for years. I like that it’s less messy, and the pieces also lay flat (if that happens to be a concern for your recipe.) Plus, it frees up the top of my stove for other pans and prep area as well. I didn’t take pictures of the bacon process, but I basically just use a baking sheet with sides of course, and lay the bacon out, leaving a little space between each piece. I find that with thin bacon I can get about half the package on one sheet (8-9 slices.) I set the temp at 400, and probably cook it between 10-15 minutes, though to be honest, I just keep an eye on it and pull it when it’s done.

The cabbage was easy as well. I heated a few tablespoons of bacon grease in a heavy pan, and slowly cooked the cabbage over medium/low heat for 20-30 minutes. I did add some gomasio (sesame salt) and a little kosher salt and fresh pepper to enhance the flavor.

Served it up with bacon pieces, feta cheese, tomato quarters and gomasio!

 

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A New Gadget and Grain Free, Low Carb Zucchini Au Gratin

I am sure you know what time it is… ZUCCHINI TIME!

Whether you have a garden, have a friend with a garden, or merely have your eyes open at the Farmer’s Market, there is no avoiding zucchini! And to be fair, who would want to?! It’s plentiful, healthy, tasty and pairs very well with many other foods. Heck, it even mimics other foods at times, as anyone who has had a Mock Apple Pie can attest. This recipe though, is just zucchini being, well, zucchini! I wanted a different way to prepare one of our favorite summertime veggies, and I also wanted to try out my new kitchen gadget.

Gefu Spirelli Slicer

As my fellow WB’ers have been ranting about the Gefu Spirelli, I figured it was time to cave in and give it a whirl. I am not as easily converted to gadgetry as many home chefs I know, but I will acknowledge that some are useful or simply fun. This one is a bit of both. At $29.99 (with free shipping) it wasn’t overly cheap, but it also didn’t break the bank. The purpose of the Spirelli is to transform your vegetables into ribbony strands suitable for replacing pasta, making salads, or just garnishing platters of yummy foods. My main objective was to turn zucchini into a replacement for spaghetti squash, which in itself was a replacement of a carb-frantic staple (ahem, pasta) that I no longer keep in my kitchen! Overall, I am pleased with my new purchase, though I do wish there was a way to feed that last couple inches of remaining veggie into the gizmo, as I didn’t like having to set it aside or finish it by hand with a knife. I do like it though, and look forward to more concoctions that make use of it.

After I had turned a few of my garden gems into a pile of stringed zucchini, I realized I had better figure out what to make of it 😉 I already had baked chicken in the works, so I didn’t have a need for faux pasta. Since I always have an abundance of cheese on hand, I figured that an au gratin would be a good side dish. I will admit, I didn’t tweak this recipe, make it 5 times, or do anything else so lofty, I just threw some ingredients together and it came out delicious. In fact, with a pan that was big enough that we should have had leftovers… we didn’t.

The hard part is recalling exactly what I did… ooops! Well, this is the recipe as closely as I can recall. But please don’t shoot me if you try it and it’s imperfect, though I suspect there is reasonable room for error. The coconut flour I added with the thought that zucchini usually releases quite a bit of liquid… and most of us know that coconut flour is the most liquid-absorbing ingredient in our grain-free pantries! It worked very well.

Zucchini Au Gratin- Grain Free, Low Carb

  • 3-4 C shredded or julienned zucchini
  • 1 C milk (or almond milk)
  • 1/4 C Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 1/2 C shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
  • 1/4 C shredded cheese (for top)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 Tb coconut flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

My oven was already heated to 400 degrees from roasting chicken, so that is what I used.
Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk and cream. Stir in garlic and cheese (saving the 1/4 C for the top.) Stir in the coconut flour, being sure it breaks up completely. Stir in the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and pour into the prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown and it appears to be done.

 

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