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Fast Lunch! Spinach Patty with Sauteed Greens… Happy Spring! (even with all this Michigan snow)

Spinach Patty and Sauteed Greens

Spinach Patty and Sauteed Greens

What says **Spring** more than fresh greens? Well, green grass might be nice, but since all we have in Michigan is snow, this green-based lunch will have to do for now πŸ˜‰

Swiss chard and baby bok choy

Swiss chard and baby bok choy

 

I LOVE growing greens in my garden, though I admit I am still learning what they like best to thrive. These greens are from the supermarket (I was lucky enough to find organic on sale, less expensive than regular produce prices… be sure to look at the organic section, don’t assume it’s *always* pricier!)

 

 

Spinach patties cooling

Spinach patties cooling

So this lunch is not only pretty, it was super-quick! Yesterday I made a batch of the spinach balls that I posted on St. Patrick’s Day (omitted the bacon and reduced butter by half this time) and I made some of them into patties. (Patties were my husband’s idea! We thought they might make nice buns, but even though sturdy, they were a bitΒ  heavy for that.) So today, I was looking at some of the pretty greens in my fridge, and thought that a quick saute of baby bok choy and a couple leaves of swiss chard (in coconut oil and a splash of vinegar) would be a perfect complement to the patty with a little melted cheese, tomato and gomasio!

It was delicious! I’m thinking that I’ll make this for dinner soon, keeping it light with a few shrimp or a bit of fish.

Spinach Patty and Greens!

Spinach Patty and Greens!

 

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Spinach Balls for St. Patty’s Day {Gluten-free, Low-carb}

Spinach Balls for St. Patty’s Day {Gluten-free, Low-carb}
Gluten-free Spinach Balls

Gluten-free Spinach Balls, a great appetizer for St. Patrick’s Day or any time!

I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary of being totally wheat-free, but it was last year at a dear friend’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party that I first heard a story from a mutual friend about how how her health and life had been transformed by getting rid of “gluten.”

Gluten??? I didn’t even know what it was… except that I had seen it sold in the baking sections of grocery stores, and I knew it was sometimes added into flours to make better bread. Hmmmm.

She told me how her headaches were gone, her general wellness had improved, she dropped weight, had less hunger, and basically just felt fantastic! I was intrigued to say the least. I had been fighting chronic headaches since my teens, so if there was ANY chance that getting rid of this mysterious GLUTEN could make me feel better, I was 100% open to it. This year, I was able to give her a big hug and tell her that our conversation last year had changed my LIFE, the lives of my guys, and that I had even started a food and health blog which was helping to spread the word to even MORE people! She was touched and happy to have made a real difference. I know just how she feels because I have that warm feeling with every comment I get from readers who let me know that they appreciate this blog!

At last year’s shindig, she browsed the fantastic spread of food, looking for options that were gluten-free. I had brought my traditional spinach balls (made with stuffing mix), and she obviously couldn’t eat those. She settled on some cheese, veggies and dip, and some of the corned beef and vegetables, but the vast majority of foods that people had brought to share were off-limits.

This year I was deciding what to take, and decided to MODIFY my spinach balls to make them gluten-free and low-carb! (I adapted this base recipe.) I replaced the stuffing mix with some extra cheese, smashed pork rinds and a little coconut flour… Success!! They disappeared just as quickly as the original version, and satisfied the growing number of people who were gluten-free! Last year there were a couple people who did not eat gluten… this year there were probably 6 of us, and on top of that, our friends who still eat wheat had taken our needs into consideration and had made some things that were safe as well. What progress!! In addition to the corned beef and cabbage provided by our most fabulous hosts and dear friends, there were the spinach balls, a chocolate cake mint trifle (that I will be posting next πŸ™‚ ), peanut butter cookies, bacon-wrapped BBQ water chestnuts, a variety of cheeses including an amazing Irish goat cheese with herbs, spinach artichoke dip, shrimp cocktail, and a variety of crackers. While not everything was low-carb, it was still fair game for a party in my opinion, and I enjoyed a bit of everything!

Gluten-free Spinach Balls

  • Ready to steam in mircowave

    Ready to steam in microwave

    20oz frozen spinach

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2Tb coconut flour, sifted
  • 1C Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1C mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2C plain pork rinds, well-chopped
  • 3/4C butter, melted
  • 1/4C fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Draining excess water

    Draining excess water

    1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb Cooked crumbled bacon

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place spinach, onion and garlic in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cook at full power for about 6 minutes or until the spinach is cooked and onions and garlic is steamed. (Carefully remove plastic wrap to prevent steam burns.)

Spinach mixture

Spinach mixture

Remove excess water from spinach by pressing through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon or with your hands if cool enough. Alternately, you could wrap spinach mixture in good quality paper towels and “wring out”Β  the excess juice. After spinach is drained, combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl, making sure to thoroughly mix together. Make balls 3/4″ to 1″ in size, placing on cookie sheet to bake. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes or until firm and lightly browned at bottom edges.

Ready to cook

Ready to cook on silicone cooking mat

All done!

All done! My son is already asking for me to make these again, when I WON’T be taking them to a party πŸ™‚

 

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All-In-One Buns! {Grain-free, Nut-free}

Burger Bun, Pizza Crust & Breakfast Muffin?

All-In-One Buns

All-In-One Buns

This is a savory bun-style base recipe that is grain-free and also nut-free, which is a benefit for those who have a difficult time tolerating the nut flours. It started out as a recipe for pizza crust, but has evolved into one of the most versatile recipes I’ve been using as of late. Top as mini pizzas… ham and cheese melt… use as small sandwich buns, open-faced or sliced in half… burger buns… top with bruscetta mixture…Β  breakfast muffins with either ham or bacon added in… what about a little onion and broccoli? feta cheese? chili peppers? sausage?

I’ve had an ongoing health evolution since I changed to a grain-free, lower-carb diet in March of 2012, and I am still tweaking and figuring out which foods make my body feel the best, and which are causing some discomfort. I find that I can have nut flours in small amounts, but that I feel best when exposure is limited, so I love that this is based on eggs and cheese instead. Low-carb, Wheat Belly friendly.

All-In-One buns!

All-In-One buns… Cooling on a wire rack, these will be baby pizzas pretty soon!

These are sturdy, delicious and filling. This recipe makes 24 at a time (to keep on hand for a hungry teen),Β  but it can easily be halved or even cut to 1/3 if you don’t need as many. I will apologize in advance for not having pictures of everything we’ve made with this recipe so far, but they disappeared too quickly! I’ll try to add some in the future πŸ˜‰

All-In-One Buns

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 6 eggs
  • 3C mozzarella cheese, grated (I process it in my ninja to get a small crumble texture)
  • 3/4 C Parmesan cheese, also grated
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or preferred seasonings)
  • 1 TB oregano

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350′.
  • Blend cream cheese until smooth, either by hand or in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  • Blend in eggs, one at a time and mix until fairly smooth.
  • Mix in cheeses and seasonings, combine well.
  • If using add-ins such as ham, bacon, veggies etc, stir in last.
  • Spoon mixture into 2 muffin-top of bun pans (or bake one pan at a time, as I did!) making sure that the pans are oiled/sprayed well.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through bake time.
  • Cool slightly and remove from pans.
  • Store in bags or containers in fridge for up to a week, if they last that long!

IMG-20121226-03305

 

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Easy! Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon {Grain-free, Low-carb}

Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon

Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon

My previous post was about how to make Cauliflower Cream for a soup base. Even if you aren’t a low-carber, getting more veggies into your lifestyle is likely a positive move, so I hope you give this a try!

Thick, creamy and healthy! Soup made with Cauliflower Cream

Thick, creamy and healthy! Soup made with Cauliflower Cream

The recipe below is just ONE of probably hundreds of possible combinations of ingredients for using the Cauliflower Cream soup base. I used the shredded veggies because they were on sale and free of preservatives, and saving time whenever possible has its own value! Feel free to modify, swap out, invent or otherwise make this recipe work for you! Clam or seafood chowder will be coming soon in my kitchen πŸ™‚

 

 

Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon and Ham

  • 1 recipe of Cauliflower Cream soup base (4-6C depending on size of cauliflower)
  • 1C diced bacon
  • one onion, diced
  • 1- 12oz bag mixed shredded veggies (broccoli hearts, cabbage and carrot)
  • 32oz container of chicken broth, or make your own stock to use
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 oz shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • crispy ham to garnish (optional)
  1. Prepare one recipe of Cauliflower Cream soup base and set aside.
  2. In a stock pot or dutch oven, Saute bacon until nearly crisp and fat is rendered.
  3. Add onions to bacon, cook and stir 3-5 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add shredded vegetable mix and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  5. Add broth to pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.
  6. Carefully add Cauliflower Cream to pot and gently mix together, bringing the soup back up to temp.
  7. If using cheese, add it a little at a time, stirring after each addition to melt the cheese.
  8. Serve in bowls, topped with crispy ham if desired.
Adding onion to the cooked bacon and fat.

Adding onion to the cooked bacon and fat.Β 

Adding shredded veggies to pot.

Adding shredded veggies to pot.Β 

Adding Cauliflower Cream to pot after simmering.

Adding Cauliflower Cream to pot after simmering the veggies and broth.

After the Cauliflower Cream is mixed in, it becomes a rich cream soup!

After the Cauliflower Cream is mixed in, it becomes a rich cream soup!

 

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Cream Soup Base… (you won’t believe it’s made from cauliflower!)

Cauliflower Cream for soup or sauce

Cauliflower Cream for soup or sauce in the pitcher of my Ninja. Hopefully you can see the very SMOOTH texture in this pic!

I never thought I would see a day that I counted CAULIFLOWER among my favorite vegetables.. and yet here I am! It’s actually one of my staple grocery items now, and I don’t want to be without it any more than I want to be without nut butter (egads… )

The problem turns out not to be that cauliflower was “icky”, but rather I’d never had the occasion to really get to KNOW Cauli. Before going on Wheat Belly, giving up grains and also going low-carb, I had only my trusty (high-carb) root vegetables and starches to rely on to thicken or act as a base for other toppings. The healthy head of off-white, cruciferous abundance was something I usually avoided at the store! I knew it was good for me, but if I was going that route, I’d grab broccoli or cabbage way before I’d reach for Cauli. If I had only known…

So here is one of the methods that will show you why I hold it with such high regard in my kitchen, and hopefully it’s something that you will try as well.

In my house we LOVE soup! Broths, chowders, stews… especially as cold weather becomes the norm, warming up with a bowl of homemade goodness is a cherished tradition! Well, most cream-based soups rely on a rue of flour or an addition of cornstarch to make them thick and creamy. Not this one!

To make this cream soup base, you will need:

  • A high-powered blender or food processor 
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cleaned, center stalk removed
  • 1/2C heavy cream
  • 1/2C cream cheese, softened 
  • Add-ins are optional and include shredded cheese,
    roasted garlic or other seasonings
  1. The first step is to steam the cauliflower on the stove top in a few inches of water. I use a covered stockpot because it’s easiest for me. I usually let it steam for 20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is VERY soft. When it’s done cooking, strain it and let as much water drain out as possible. (Getting the cauliflower soft enough is essential to this method working.)
  2. Transfer cooked cauliflower to a high speed blender (I use my Ninja) or food processor. If your cauliflower is large or your bowl is small, you may have to do this in more than one batch. (This works with freshly steamed cauli, as well as with some that has been refrigerated for a few days.)
  3. Blend cauliflower until SMOOTH, adding 1/2C heavy cream as you go. (When I say smooth, I mean almost as smooth as pudding… like you can’t believe it’s actually cauliflower, “smooth”)
  4. When you’ve blended it to the right consistency, add the softened cream cheese and continue processing until all the small pieces are blended in as well.Β  Makes about 6C

That’s IT! Really.
Now that you have this incredible, thick, smooth Cauliflower Cream, you can use it in conjunction with a wide variety of soup recipes such as the (Easy) Creamy Veggie Soup with Bacon that I will be posting next. If you have a very small head of cauli, you may need to halve the other ingredients. I’ve had a giant farm-market head the last few times I’ve made this, and the quantities above were ideal.

If you want to use this as a cheese sauce over veggies or meat, you can add grated cheddar (or whichever cheese you prefer) to the smooth mixture while it’s still hot, and process until creamy again.

Mixing the Cauliflower Cream into a broth with veggies and bacon

Mixing the Cauliflower Cream into a broth made with veggies and bacon.

The method for making this into a creamy soup is to saute any other ingredients you may be using for your soup (such as bacon or other meat and veggies); add about 32oz of broth; simmer until all ingredients are cooked; stir in the cauli-cream and grated cheese if you will be using any. Voila! Creamy, thick, low-carb soup that can hide an entire head of cauliflower πŸ˜€Β  I plan to use this base to make clam chowder in the very near future (alas not today as my son is not a fan of foods that come from water.) I’ve used a variety of add-ins and may post updates using this base in the future. Flexibility in the grain-free kitchen is key!
Oh, did I say “hide”?….. Well, yes, cauliflower is one of MY favorites, but it is NOT a fave of my son… so this is an excellent means of kitchen camouflage! I think just about anyone would be hard-pressed to identify this as being made from veggies, even those who turn up their noses at the mere thought! If this describes you, and you give this a try… I’d love to hear what you think! Who am I kidding, I always love to hear your feedback πŸ™‚

 

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Oopsie Daisy! Low-carb bread made of eggs and cream cheese…

Tuna Salad on an Oopsie roll!

Tuna Salad on an Oopsie roll!

Most people who consider going grain-free and low-carb shudder first at the thought of giving up sandwiches. Personally, I was never a big bread eater (wheat snuck into my food in other ways!) but there is no denying the convenience of being able to pick up a juicy burger layered with toppings! There are recipes out there that use almond flour, which are good… but some people don’t have easy access to specialty flours. Enter… the Oopsie Roll!

I will say straight away that this was NOT my invention. However, it’s such a great basic substitute for bread that I wanted to share it with you, just to make life easier for you! I was introduced to these by an online friend, and once I started googling, I found many recipes for them. The basics ingredients are eggs, cream cheese, cream of tartar, a little sweetener, pinch of salt, and some seasoning like garlic powder if you’d like them to be savory. The eggs need to separated and the whites beaten with cream of tartar until stiff… then beat the egg yolks, cream cheese, sweetener, salt and any seasoning you’re using… then fold whites into yolk mixture…

Large rectangluar Oopsie on parchment.

Large rectangular Oopsie on parchment. We’ll be cutting this into square burger buns for dinner tonight!

One of the best things about oopsies, is that you can shape them virtually any way that suits your needs. I have used bun pans for individual small buns; spread them into circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet for larger buns; spread a solid rectangle onto a parchment covered sheet and then cut them into square buns (my son uses them for peanut butter sandwiches) or larger pieces to use as wraps; baked them in large circles using a springform pan lined with parchment.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that you make them thick enough (about 1/’2″ or so) so that they are durable … and be careful of how long you cook them to preserve the flexibility. Many of the recipes I’ve found call for baking them about 30 minutes, mine usually come out after 20. I do have a convection oven, so that is likely a factor as well… so you will have to judge for yourself.

 

 

Enjoy your Oopsies!

 

Here are some Oopsie recipe links for you:

Large round Oopsie...

Large round Oopsie… why? I don’t know yet!Β 

From Your Lighter Side
On Food.com

I think this might be the original recipe link by Cleochatra… but I’m not quite sure! Apologies, as I like to give credit where credit is due πŸ™‚

 

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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.Β 

 

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