A site for sore tastebuds and a woeful wallet

Posts tagged “life

What! Low Carb Pancakes?

The hubby and I are on a diet because well, we got fat.  I have a sedentary job…admin type; and working in a church, the heavily carb  fat laden pot-lucks are endless.   Hubby is a cop and yes, donuts happen too (worst food ever).

It wasn’t until I went to give blood at a drive that I discovered my blood pressure to be quite high. High enough to be turned away.  The shame was unbearable.

I was agitated with my daughter’s tween angst about something when I left the house and had a huge flight of stairs to climb just before turning left into the blood drive place.  That may have made things worse but still, I had never had a blood pressure problem before.   I decided that day to do something about it.  Not in favor of being advised to go on medication, I turned to diet and exercise

I kept checking on my pressure as I made huge changes in my diet.  A very low carb plan got me results quickly without much sacrifice.  Turns out, fat in the diet is good!  Bread and sugar not so much.  It took a few days to detox the sugar/starch out of my body but once that happened, I lost the cravings for sweets, bread, starchy food like potatoes etc.

I have been able to eat bacon and eggs with butter, steak and many other natural meats, cream, lots of greens, mushrooms, olives, pickles, nuts and seeds and have lost 43 pounds since October. My pressure is currently back to my usual 110/70.

It was a fun affair with cheesecake, chips and chocolate but I wish to last long enough to see my youngest one graduate, marry and have kids.

I did find a way to enjoy a pancake breakfast with zero guilt and when ever I do get a sweet tooth this is what I do:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packet non-sugar sweetener (Equal works for me)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream

Combine the ingredients except the cream in a small bowl and mix until smooth.  A mini processor works great, but a fork and a bit of elbow grease can also get the job done.

Heat a griddle or cast iron pan and coat it with the oil. Pour the batter into the desired sized pancake and  wait for the edges to lose their glossiness, about a minute.  Take a peek with a spatula if you need.  When golden brown give them a flip, shut off the flame and let the griddle’s built-up heat brown the other side.

They don’t respond like traditional pancakes but if your spatula is wide enough they will turn without tearing.

When they are done, plate them up and splash a bit of heavy cream over them.  There is a traditional Mexican cake called “Tres Leches”  that really reminds me of how these pancakes taste…so decadent with only 4 grams of carbs per serving and this makes several 3″ diameter pancakes which could feed two.

Flour based pancakes net a whopping 30 grams of carbs per serving!  My sister diva Eva Gabor  might say, “Goodbye high carb  life, low carb pancakes are here!”  Bah da  ba dum  bum…bum bum!

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Streamlined Yogurt Making

All you need is a microwave oven, a Mason jar and a thermometer that goes to 200°F (93.3C), a quart of whole milk (better if it is antibiotic, hormone and GMO free), and about 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or the same size sample from a batch of previously home made yogurt.  Using the microwave saves you the extra step and clean-up of a pan on the stove. This method is so easy you may never need to purchase the expensive stuff from the store ever again!

Step one: Have your 1/4 cup sample of yogurt ready to “seed” the quart of milk in your pre-sanitized Mason jar (boil half a quart of water in it prior, then cool it by slowly add the milk).  The milk in the mason jar goes into the microwave for approximately 5 minutes or until the thermometer reaches 180° (82.2C).  Stir occasionally to ensure even temperature top to bottom and skim light skin when it appears.

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Just needs another minute…

Step two: Cool the scalded milk back to a temperature you would be comfortable bathing in; about 110°F (43.3C). Add the culture; about a quarter cup of plain yogurt from an earlier batch, or you could use a sample of store-bought plain Greek yogurt; the more organic the better.  Not all commercial yogurts are created equal but FAGE is a brand highly recommended for taste and quality ingredients if you need to go that route for your culture. About half of a single serving tub is sufficient. Stir it in, mix well and screw on the lid.  As long as you make the next quart of yogurt from your own stock you will never have to purchase yogurt from the store again!  The taste and quality of home made is superior to anything mass produced.

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The Cool-down and the Culture

Step three: Set the jar somewhere it won’t be disturbed but will stay warm the whole day; about 10 to 12 hours.  Because it’s summer the temperature outside is perfect for culturing yogurt; about 90°F (32.2C) average.  As long as the temperature stays between 80° and 100° it will be fine. This temperature range is the perfect temperature for the lactic acid producing bacteria to thrive and multiply causing the milk  to thicken but not curdle. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are the common strains of bacteria which produce a creamy, thick, gut-health boosting yogurt.  If you start this process at 7:00 a.m., by 7:00 p.m. the bacteria will have done its job. Watch the temperature outside carefully that it stays within the range I mentioned earlier.  In this case the temperature outside was 80°F by 8:00 a.m. when the cooking and cooling was done and that was perfect.  It got to the mid 90°s and by 7:00 p.m. it was 85°;  again, perfect.

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Set it out in the Hot Summer Breeze

Step four: Now put the jar in the refrigerator overnight and by 5:00 a.m. or so the next day you will have a delicious creamy, tangy, treat to eat for breakfast.  If your end product is too thin you can strain the whole jar of its whey in a strainer with cheesecloth or a large coffee filter until it is the consistency you desire.

Bonus: Don’t throw out the whey!  It can be used in soups, mashed potatoes, smoothies, etc…anything you usually add milk and water to will get a boost of protein and added flavor, plus the probiotic benefit.

The Greek yogurt business is in the 1.7 billion range today.  I really get a kick out of taking away at least one customer.  At the store at nearly $2.00 per serving you get 7 oz of a product in a plastic tub with an aluminum lid glued to it and who knows what else added. Give this pure and simple method a try!  You too will keep that money in your own pockets and be so much more satisfied with the taste, and the knowledge of exactly what you are eating from a sterilized glass jar.  Take charge!  I’m having mine with chunks of home-grown tomatoes. YUMMO!100_1718


Go with Your Gut

These days there is a much concern about healthy gut bacteria.  It’s great when you can defend yourself  against certain food born bacteria and a good defense is eating fermented food to help balance the good and bad bacteria floating around in you.

Even if it’s not bugs of the holidays, with all the over processed food conveniently available our guts don’t stand a chance taking on a chemical warfare of flavor enhancers, anti caking agents, and colorants as well.  Time to hit the reset button!  We need to turn to the things Grandma and Grandpa used to do; that is to say, get back to the basics in our everyday food preparation.100_1493

There are a lot of products available at the supermarket and the drug store to help bolster that healthy gut bacteria; things like yogurt, kefir, kombucha and probiotic pills.  These things are expensive!  Except for the pills, 100_1506these things can be cultured at home but all one really needs to feed their gut the good stuff is a head of cabbage and some salt.

It is  a week long process to culture these healthy bacteria already living on your head of cabbage: Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus brevis, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus bavaricus.  All of this can be had for about forty cents.  You just have to like sour kraut.  Even if you don’t, you might like the fresh stuff because the taste and texture is far superior to anything store bought.

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First, you’ll need a good knife, a small mouthed quart Mason jar and a standard pickle jar that has been thoroughly cleaned. Next, chop a head of cabbage into thin strips, cutting lengthwise then cutting one half at a time into 1/8th inch shreds.  In a gallon size freezer bag sprinkle two teaspoons non-iodized salt over the shredded cabbage, seal it with as little air as possible and pound it with your fist or a can of soup or a heavy sauce pan..what ever you like to use.  Take out a measure of frustration on this cabbage until you notice it rendering some juice.

100_1515It will take a bit of time to stuff as much cabbage as possible into the mason jar from the bag but do so until you see the level of juice rise.  After releasing your frustration you will have the patience to persevere. Keep stuffing until the juice rises all the way to the top of the cabbage. 100_1518Stuff, stuff, stuff! Take a rest if the juice isn’t there yet.  After a few minutes the salt will help render enough to cover the cabbage.  If it’s not happening after ten minutes or so, a splash of non chlorinated water is all it should take to cover the cabbage.  Almost an entire average head of cabbage will fit in the jar.

Invert the clean pickle jar over the mason jar and you will have created the perfect fermenting vessel.  It will keep out dust and other unwanted air born stuff yet let carbon dioxide gas escape without blowing up on your counter.  That’s it!  All you have to do now is wait about a week, maybe more if you like a mushier product.  You can taste it along the way to check your progress.

100_1523From day two to about day four, if you keep your jar at around 72 °F, you will notice bubbles increasing on the surface each day then diminishing the rest of the week.  Those first four days the fermentation is in high gear.  It continues but the kraut becomes more mellow and a bit softer in the last four days.  You don’t want it to go so far as to get it too mushy or the good bacteria will have languished, thus, the product is less beneficial.

It is important for the cabbage to be covered in liquid and press out all air bubbles.  If air gets to the cabbage it may oxidize and turn brown.  Having a little brown does not mean a total fail.  Just remove the oxidized pieces, place a tight lid on and refrigerate after the 8 days.  It will still be perfectly edible.

Our grandparents and ancestors from all countries did these things to preserve food to survive harsh winters.  Want to be tough like them?  It takes guts!  So take care of yours with your own special recipe for sauerkraut.100_1531

 

 

 

 


Glam the Leftovers

There are usually some leftovers when I cook.  Not the meal very often but its components.  For example, today I have about 4 cups of cubed and cooked potatoes in a tub in the refrigerator left from last week. They are running out of time. This seems like a place to start so I look around for other additions that will turn into a pot of something good.

I always keep carrots, olive oil and spices around.  In my dehydrated stores, mushrooms are a wonderful umami booster to any dish. There has been a leek in the crisper for a while the tops looking a little shabby.   In the fridge also is some milk I must use up and a tub of sour cream with a couple of nice dollops that need to go away before it’s too late.  Not sounding very glamorous is it?

Well, here’s how we’ll put the glam to the pan:

100_1486Clean, slice and sauté  a leek (an onion will also do) in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until soft and slightly golden on some pieces.  Add the cooked potato cubes and go over them with a potato masher until coarsely but evenly mashed.  Stir in about 5 cups milk (I had whole milk),  add 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Also add spices you like.  I used parsley flakes for a hint of greenery and coriander for a hot and lemony hit. A pinch of red pepper flakes adds 100_1490nice heat if you like that.  I do!  

This needs to be simmered until it bubbles a bit and while we wait for that use a carrot peeler and slice a medium carrot with it to make ultra thin slices.  It whiles away the time it takes for the soup to bubble and adds beautiful color to the pot. Those dehydrated mushrooms I mentioned come into play here.  I grab a few slices and crush them in my hand and add the flakes to the pot.  You can’t see them much but you sure will taste the mellow earthy goodness they impart.

100_1482Once everything has a chance to simmer and blend flavors it’s time to add a bit more creaminess. It’s time to close off the flame so the dairy components won’t break and look grainy. Those dollops of sour cream are just the touch.  If you happen to have some regular cream, a shot of that will add more richness.  Just stir it and let it melt right in. As a final touch that adds that Je’ ne sais quoi (that’s how a diva says “I don’t know what”) a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese gives everything a sharper taste.  Don’t add too much or the secret will be revealed.  You want just enough to have people try to guess what that great (or grated) taste is.  Another ingredient that does that in tiny amounts is nutmeg.  Grate some fresh or go to your spice rack an add just a wee pinch.

In the end our leftovers have never looked and tasted better.  The refrigerator is slightly cleaner and the company at the dining room table are enjoying themselves better after raking leaves, working on the car and cleaning and cooking.  I think after all this work we’ll have to dress up for a date night tonight.  And that’s how we glam the leftovers.100_1483


Oven Fried Catfish with Homemade Tartar Sauce

I dread frying anything for two reasons.  One, the calories; even though back in my restaurant employment days the executive chef told me over and over, “Fat equals flavor.”  He wasn’t lying but I found a way around that conundrum in this recipe.

The second reason for my disinclination is the greasy mess to clean up in the end.  Why not contain the mess in a pan rather than wipe down a multitude of surfaces including the range hood.  I can do without all the acrobatics this late in the evening.

100_1468A while ago I found a super deal on catfish nuggets at the store.  It was locally caught and freshly frozen…I could tell, so I jumped on a five pound bag of those babies.  About one and a half pounds were gently thawed in the microwave then placed in a container of milk to soak.  In the food processor I pulsed about a cup of corn bread stuffing mix with a tablespoon of butter and a glug or two of olive oil.  I added another 2/3 cup of crispy panko 100_1469breadcrumbs into a large enough plastic bag where I combined all the crumbs.  The fish was dropped into the bag in batches and shook until well coated then laid out skin-side-down in a baking pan (and a pie plate because there was more than I thought).

With an oven preheated to 450°F, I let the fish bake for about 25 minutes.  Without the fuss of turning and possibly getting burned from popping grease, I removed the fish from the oven and let them cool down slightly.

While they cooled I quickly whipped up a tasty tartar sauce to accompany this crispy delight with the following:

  • 100_14784 round tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp tarragon, freshly chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely minced red onion
  • 1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • salt and pepper to taste

As I plated up dishes for the family the fish was very delicate and flaky, not over greasy.  Because of the butter and oil I added to the crumbs, they toasted up nicely and tasted like grandma’s deep south recipe; all the flavor of fried fish.  As a bonus this diva doesn’t have to worry about an extra 120 or so calories.  It’s been a good day.

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I’ll Subscribe to that Paper!

100_1310Cooking “en papillote” has been a fancy way to steam vegetables and light meats and fish for decades.  Even back thousands of years folks were wrapping their fish and veggies in banana leaves and steaming them over hot coals.  It’s great fun to open the paper or leaves for that big reveal. There is such a waft of good food smells when you crack open the package and everything inside is so sumptuous and tender from this gentle yet efficient means of steam heating.  I had never tried this before but found this to be way more fun than regular steaming.
In this version of cooking I used:

  • 1 tbsp butter per package
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion per package
  • 1/2 a small squash or zucchini cut in thin  strips per package
  • 2 small frozen salmon fillets per package
  • Seasonings per package (a pinch of paprika, 1 smashed garlic clove, salt and pepper to taste)
  • 2 10″x 10″ parchment paper sheets.

100_1311To assemble, put the onions all around the bottom of one half of parchment, then place the squash strips on top of them making little support beams for the fish.  Place the two fillets of salmon on the squash, place the butter on top of everything, season well then seal the parchment sheets together by twist folding every half inch of the perimeter of the parchment until it is completely sealed all around.

100_1313You could cook this in the oven but I  put mine on the grill on foil with offset heat sources at either end but not directly under the parchment packs.  after 20 minutes I did move the packets under more direct flame for about 6 minutes until I started to smell the onions cooking.  I shut off the fire once the packs appeared to be inflated by the steam inside.  They stayed that way until I served them at the table.  I wouldn’t want to serve them until the risk of super-heated steam was gone.  About a ten minute rest period took care of that
Opening your own ballooned pack of fish and vegetables is like opening a birthday present!  That puff of steam really enhances the experience when it all comes out at once to your nose.   The onions on the bottom made a caramelized base for every thing else to rest upon,  The squash was still slightly crispy but glazed in the melted onion.  The salmon was tender and flaky, spiced just right and done to perfection throughout.    All of the flavors really infused well with one another and the juices that precipitated from the steam were like a condiment to soak up with the fish.    All of it was nicely spiced and so delicious, we ate our packets up in minutes.  My friends and I really enjoyed experimenting with this method.  It was great how this dinner of intrigue actually turned out…not the prettiest but absolutely delicious!  Bonus; clean-up was mostly throw away and a bit of rinsing.  Now if only my family would try this.  How can you not love salmon?100_1315


Creamy Corn Chowder Has Everything

We got a bit of a cold snap today with temps around the 50’s.  Jackets were called for to block the chilly winds.  A warm bowl of soup was the next order of the day so I conjured up something warm and creamy and comforting; creamy corn chowder.

To make this rich and tasty soup I started with these ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp bacon grease/ butter
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 1 large rib of celery finely diced
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen, or freshly cut corn
  • 1/2 red pepper finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 medium baked russet potatoes peeled and finely diced
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp parsley flakes
  • a pinch of ground thyme
  • a pinch of ground sage
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 and 1/2 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or a bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
  • 1 cup chopped greens.(I used red and green lettuce mix from the garden)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

This looks like a lot of ingredients, but half are seared vegetables and half are the liquids and spices (I combined the spices and cornstarch into a bowl to add it all at once).  You add them in that way, preparing the vegetables in the pot with the oil on high heat, just searing the edges about three minutes.  Add the potatoes along with the seasoning mixture, stir it all in for a few seconds to let the herbs bloom a bit and the corn starch stick to the vegetables.  Right away add the water and stir until the bottom of the pan cleans up a bit from the seared vegetables and spice mixture.  Let those caramelized flavors brew into the water, add the other liquids, and let everything simmer together for about 30 minutes.  All the individual ingredients add their own special pizzaz.

Let the pot of soup cool for about ten minutes before serving and get ready for a mouthful!  With everything cut in tiny pieces in the beginning, everything in the end is sufficiently intermingled with everything else.   The result is so much flavor throughout each bite and each bowl you won’t believe it!  Warm, rich, savory, sweet, bright, satisfying and delicious; this soup’s got it all.100_1307