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Thick Chops Roasted with Pesto Balsamic Marinade and Tomatoes

Pesto Balsamic Chops

Pesto Balsamic Chops

I just posted about making my annual pesto for the freezer, so that I can carry a bit of late summer with me in the kitchen all year long! Here is a recipe that I made with the pesto, just to show you how versatile it is as a seasoning. This is a very simple marinade because most of the work is already done by using the pesto, which contains basil, garlic, olive oil, nuts and Parmesan cheese. It’s also great on chicken or as a marinade for grilled meats and seafood (awesome on grilled shrimp!)

Thick Chops Roasted with
Pesto Balsamic Marinade and Tomatoes

  • Chops and tomatoes, ready for the oven.

    Chops and tomatoes, ready for the oven.

    3 large boneless pork loin chops
    (these were about 1 1/4″ thick or slightly more)

  • 1/2C fresh pesto (or frozen, thawed or jarred)
  • 1/4C balsamic vinegar
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, roughly diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spread the tomatoes in a casserole dish and set aside.
  3. Combine pesto and balsamic vinegar; spread evenly over both sides of chops as well as the sides.
  4. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until meat reaches 165-170 using a meat thermometer (or to desired doneness.) Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving. (Also great on the grill.) Serve topped with the roasted tomatoes.

I served this with a side of sauteed veggies including broccoli, purple cabbage and brussel sprouts. I’m sorry for not getting a better photo of this all plated up, but it was eaten too quickly! Very juicy and tender, and incredibly easy. Great for a busy weeknight when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on preparation!

Tender and delicious, Pesto Balsamic Roasted Chops

Tender and delicious, Pesto Balsamic Roasted Chops

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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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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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“Candy Onion” French Onion Soup and {Grain Free} Flaxseed Meal Croutons

One of the things that we’ve always done, but that we enjoy even more now that we are low carb, is our Saturday morning trip to the Farmer’s Market in our small rural Michigan town. There are always such wonderful choices and sometimes there will be unexpected things to try among the fresh red tomatoes, green cukes, purple cabbages and farm fresh eggs. This week I bought a giant “Candy” onion. These things are just HUGE!! Seriously, it was *bigger* than a softball (unfortunately I forgot to take a pic first, but I did find one online at Jungseed.com just to show you the size. You can order seeds if you would like to grow your own!) It was so beautiful that paying $1.50 for one didn’t seem outrageous. From the second I hefted it into a bag, I knew that it was destined to become French onion soup, mmmm!

Since you all know that we are grain free, you may be wondering how I’ll pull off a REAL and indulgent French onion soup without including toasted French bread or croutons to hold up all that gooey cheese. Well, I wondered too! So, I decided to make a bread from ground flax seeds. It’s sort of foccacia style, more flat than a regular loaf of bread. After baking it up, I cubed some of it, spread it out onto a baking sheet with a little olive oil and garlic salt and toasted it up some into faux-croutons. I knew that it would make a bowl of soup even more filling than usual, but the flax meal (and coconut oil) in the bread are such healthy alternatives that I was excited to give it a try.

I am including the recipe for the soup I made as well as the flax bread. There are so many varieties of onion soup out there, and I have tried a lot of them… that I now just go with what I have on hand to determine the types of onion and whether I use red wine (I used Chuck’s Hard Cider instead today.) I usually include at least one variety of sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, and also sometimes use red onions or even jarred cocktail onions to mix things up a bit. This time I used just the Candy onion along with a hefty dose of garlic for flavor and all the wonderful health benefits. I hope that you are able to find a Candy Onion so you can try this version, but I think that most of the French Onion Soup recipes out there are naturally grain-free except for a few that might include some flour, which can easily be omitted. The choice of cheese is up to you, but we have used provolone as well as Swiss…. however, this time it was yogurt cheese that we purchase at the local bulk food store, which was very mild.

“Candy Onion” French Onion Soup

  • 4 Tb butter
  • 1 giant candy onion sliced into 1/4″ rings (or 4 medium onions)
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 Tb Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 Tb Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 C Chuck’s Hard Cider (or red wine)
  • 1 Tb dried parsley
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme, tied
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Croutons and cheese if desired

In a stock pan over medium/low heat, melt the butter and slowly cook the onions, garlic and salt until tender and almost gooey. This is best done slowly, stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes.

Add the broth, worchestershire, cider and herbs and simmer another 20 minutes or so. Add the vinegar and remove thyme and bay leaves. Serve in bowls with croutons and top with sliced cheese, melted under the broiler.

Candy Onion Soup

Flax Seed Bread (For Croutons)

  • 2 C ground flax seed
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tb erythritol (or sweetener of choice)
  • 5 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1/3 C coconut oil
  • 1 Tb dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ground pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and combine well using a whisk. Add eggs, water and oil, combining completely. Stir in seasonings. Let sit for a couple minutes to thicken slightly. Grease a baking pan with butter (I used a 9″ by 9″ stone baking dish.) Spread batter evenly and bake for about 20 minutes.

To make croutons: Cut bread into 1/2″ cubes and spread on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil spray and add seasoning if desired (I used garlic salt.) Bake at 275 for another 20 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally to dry them more evenly. Because the egg content is so high, these will not be the dried out and hard croutons that you might be used to, but they will work well for holding up the cheese on the French Onion soup.

 

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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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Buffalo Chicken Salad {Low Carb, Grain Free}

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Last night we were looking for something to do with our leftover baked (GF) chicken from the previous evening, and we were in the mood for a salad. I also had some blue cheese on hand, so decided to make my easy blue cheese dressing, which led to this Buffalo Chicken Salad…

  • chopped greens (we used romaine and iceberg lettuce)
  • sliced fresh tomato
  • chopped cooked chicken tossed in a sauce made from 2Tb melted butter and 1/4C GF hotsauce
  • homemade blue cheese dressing
  • chopped celery

That’s it, super easy and delicious, as well as low carb!

 

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