Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving preview!

Two recipes I'm working on this week: Classic Pumpkin Pie (of course), and an apple-spice layer cake which as yet remains Unnamed. The spice cake is an augmentation of a traditional flourless Spanish almond torte, which I've been enjoying in many incarnations lately (including a gingerbread one that I will be sharing the week after Thanksgiving, most likely). Layered with apples and whipped cream-cheese frosting, this is a treat-- a moderate-carb dessert suitable for maintenance phases of low-carb diets. You could, of course, substitute real apples for Lauren's brilliant Faux-Apples (made with chayote squash, and fantastic!) for an even lower effective carb count.

Thanksgiving is at my house this week, though, so I might be delayed! :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lauren's Ooey Gooey Brownies

Tag-back Thursday- I'm going to attempt to make a recipe from another blog at least once a week and post the results on Thursdays.

This week, my favorite brownies EVER- low-carb, gluten-free, and totally friggin' amazing!

I made them in 'au bain marie' as she suggested, but left out the nuts. I have been making these to my family's delight since she posted the recipe, and they turn out wonderful. We've done a couple different variants; once we added quite a bit of cocoa powder, freshly grated cinnamon, and some ground chili pepper! Woo hoo! Right now I'm working on a version with a cheesecake layer for the holidays-- with her permission, I'll post the recipe if I get it to work out the way I want it.

Lauren's Brownies, with Blackberry-Vanilla Sauce, à la mode

Blackberry-Vanilla Sauce
  • 1 1/2 c. blackberries (we picked ours at Graysmarsh Farm)
  • 2 T. erythritol
  • 6 dr. stevia extract (or use 2 pkts of Splenda instead of stevia/erythritol)
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground cinnamon
Set blackberries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Mush. Add sweeteners and simmer till thickened, about 5 minutes. (Depending on your blackberries, you may need to adjust the sweetener, more or less.) Stir in vanilla and cinnamon; simmer about 1 minute more. Allow to cool slightly, and serve over ice cream, brownies, whipped cream, or just about anything you like!

Keeps well in the fridge in an airtight container. I've never figured out how long it would last because its always gone within two days around here. I'd figure it would keep as well as any sugar-free jam might; at very least a week.

Zuppa Toscana

Nothing beats cold weather like a steaming bowl of soup. There is a pot boiling on our stove of some soup or another at least once or twice a week during the grey months of the Pacific Northwest. A perennial favorite soup (before we started excluding starchy foods) was Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden. We've attempted to replicate it over the years, and came up with this version, which in our opinion captures all our favorite aspects of the original. With cauliflower standing in for potatoes in this version, the carbohydrates are low enough to be appropriate even for people in the earlier phases of carb-restrictive diets.

A comfort food during cold winter months, this soup is hearty and heart-warming. Italian sausage and bacon (or pancetta even, if you want to get fancy!) in a creamy spicy broth, this soup is a delicious way to introduce your family (or even yourself) to the nutritional powerhouse that is kale. Kale is a seasonal vegetable that I've wasn't introduced to until about two years ago, and since then I've been making an effort to include it in my family's diet. This is a 'gateway' recipe, for people who want to start cooking with kale but haven't enjoyed it in the past. This soup manages to tempt even the steadfast kale-protester! My veggie-suspicious son has named this his "Favorite Meal." I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Gwuinifer's LC "Zuppa Toscana"
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped (or 1/2 c. pancetta, chopped)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (or four sausages, casings removed)
  • 1 head cauliflower, sliced 1/4" thick and broken into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped or diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. Chicken bullion paste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, for serving
In a large skillet, fry bacon pieces till chewy/crisped but not crunchy. Remove from drippings with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Add chopped onions and garlic to the bacon drippings, and cook over medium-high till onions are beginning to soften. Add sausage to pan and brown, breaking up sausage into kidney bean-sized crumbles.

While sausage is browning, bring 8 c. water to a boil in a large pot. Dissolve bullion into pot.

Add cauliflower to skillet with onions/garlic/sausage and cook for about 5 minutes over medium-high to mingle flavors. Add cauliflower mixture to pot, deglazing skillet with a bit of the boiling chicken broth if necessary.

Add kale to pot; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste; add red pepper flakes if using (we like it a bit spicy, so we use about 1/2 t. plus hot Italian sausage).

Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until cauliflower is very tender and kale is bright green and tender. Add cream; stir well and remove from heat.

Top each portion with bacon and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Serves 8.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Spinach-Artichoke Dip, hot from the oven, on a sliver of sweet red bell pepper. Yummy!

Always a holiday favorite, and one of those foods that counts high on the list of Too Good to be Allowed, hot spinach dip is a classic. I always say that this many calories should not be allowed in so small a space at the same time-- especially how I make it, with lots of extra ooey, gooey, cheese. I compensate for this caloric density by adding a LOT of spinach, to soothe my conscience at least a little bit. I also like mine spicy, so I use a lot of fresh garlic, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pow!

There are about as many ways to make this dip as there are cooks who lovingly prepare it. Because I was first introduced to the vast category that is spinach dips by my dear friend Irene, and hers featured artichokes, I prefer marinated artichoke hearts in mine. I have also been known to add generous dollops of coarsely chopped capers, olive tapenades, or even (heavens) chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Use what you have on hand, and have fun with it! The cheeses can be varied to glorious effect-- I love to use pecorino romano when I have some, and I've even put feta in this! Zow, tangy. If you use a sharp goat's cheese, I recommend you leave out the sour cream. Most often, I double this recipe and save half in the freezer for impromptu visitors or last-minute potlucks. Bon appetit!

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper, finely ground
  • 2 T. quality mayonnaise
  • 2 T. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. ricotta cheese

  • 3 whole artichoke hearts, marinated in oil (or 12 quarters, or 3/4 c. chopped)
  • 1 1/2 c. wilted fresh spinach (about 10 oz. of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained)
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, plus a little for garnish if desired.
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat oven to 400F.

Soften cream cheese in microwave if necessary, 30 sec. or so. Beat till smooth and fluffy in a large bowl. Set aside.

Wilt spinach in large skillet over medium-high heat with a tiny drizzle of olive oil; measure after cooking until you have one-and-a-half cups' worth. (This is a LOT of fresh spinach! The easiest way to measure is to take note of the weight of your raw spinach and go by that instead.)

Next, in your food processor, puree garlic cloves with salt, pepper, mayo, and sour cream till smooth. Add this mixture and the ricotta cheese to the cream cheese; beat well till smooth and well-combined.

Now, in your recently vacated food processor (no need to wash between uses since its all ending up in the same pot in a few minutes), process the wilted spinach, in batches if necessary. (If using frozen pre-chopped spinach, skip this step, but make sure its thawed and drained before adding it to the cheese mixture.) Add spinach to cream cheese mixture, and mix well.

At this point, its a good idea to sample it and adjust for seasoning. You may find you need more or less salt to taste, but keep in mind what hits you very hard here in the form of raw, sharp garlic will be mellowed considerably by its journey through the hot oven. (If you are freezing some for later, it becomes even more mild, and I have been known to bolster a preserved batch with an extra helping of garlic just before baking.) Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary, and add your red pepper flakes at this point if you're using them.

Finally, stir in your shredded cheeses. Now pour the whole mess into a glass baking dish (I prefer glass, but metal is fine-- just watch it more closely for scorching towards the end of the cooking time).
You can garnish this with more Parmesan for a pretty crust if you like, but I usually end up stirring mine once its out of the oven. Your results may vary, and the burned cheese crust remains the portion that my tasters fight over! Bake for 20-30 minutes at 400F, till bubbly, hot throughout, and golden around the edges.

Fresh out of the oven, bubbly and golden.

You really don't want to know the nutrition information on this one, so I'll put it this way: As far as carbohydrates go, this is moderate, as the dairy does add up. You won't be able to stop at 1/4 c. of this stuff if you're anything like me. There's lots of protein here, and tons of beneficial nutrients from the spinach. I won't bother giving you a calorie count either. We normally serve this with raw vegetable crudites (celery, red bell pepper, cucumbers, etc.) and... I'm so ashamed to admit it... pork rinds. If company is sharing or I'm taking this to a party, I'll bring a crusty artisanal sourdough baguette and slice it very thin, served hot with the dip. My family is perfectly happy to finish a full recipe of this stuff with veggies for dipping as a stand-alone meal. Ah, the holidays. Just make sure you don't make it when you're alone in the house-- it didnt' get the title "Infamous" for nothing.

When I freeze mine, I put it straight into the container I'll be baking it in and double bag it, because, as much as I love it, I don't want the entire contents of my freezer to be contaminated by its extremely potent garlicky goodness. Be careful what you set it on, too! Frozen meat or veggies, sure! Ice cream or butter? Not so much! (Just a word of caution born from regretful experience!)



I've been experimenting wildly with cookie recipes for a while now, and I've been unhappy with most of the results I've gotten over the past year. The majority of my cookies turn out very... pancake-y? Puffed, flat, a little elastic... Not sure how quite to describe them. They are tasty enough; but Wrong, and definitely not what I have in mind when I want a cookie. I've been sticking to half-batches, so the experiments are not a huge waste, and I've found that no matter how Wrong as a cookie, most of the dough does very well in alternate forms. One of my favorite ways to use it up? I spread 2T. into a small dish and microwave for about a minute, and voila! Instant crusts for whatever berries I have on hand with a dollop of cream, or a scoop of homemade ice cream. Tasty, too! But still, I'd like to make honest-to-goodness cookies, especially with the holidays approaching.

So, here is one version that I thought turned out very nicely! If you eat these while they are still hot, they taste great--- BUT give them 20 minutes to cool completely and they get beautifully crispy and crunchy around the edges, while staying soft and chewy in the center. This is an effect I had been yet totally unable to achieve without sugar/flour, so I'm excited!

Chocolate Chunk Macaroons, low-carb, gluten-free.

I made these with chocolate chunks (I've been loving Frey Supreme Noir Authentique 78% from Target-- $2/bar and only 4gr. net carbs for nearly half the bar and very tasty without the dustiness of Lindt 85%), but you can leave them out if you like. I'm interested in trying these with anise, or dipped in chocolate. Yay, macaroons; and just in time for the Festival of Lights!

  • 1 T. coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. erythritol, powdered (I use my coffee grinder)
  • 1/2 t. blackstrap molasses
  • 16 dr. stevia extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. almond extract

  • 2/3 c. almond flour
  • 1/3 c. whey protein concentrate
  • 1/2 t. xanthan gum
  • 2 T. coconut flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut (I use the small/medium shred)
  • 1/3 c. chocolate chunks (about half of a 3.5oz bar, broken up), optional
Cream butter, coconut oil, and powdered erythritol together till light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, stevia, vanilla and almond extracts, and egg till very thoroughly combined.

In a seperate bowl, combine almond flour, whey protein, xanthan gum, coconut flour, salt, and baking soda. Add incrementally to the butter/sugar mixture, combining well after each addition. Stir in shredded coconut. Stir in chocolate chunks, if using.

Transfer dough to a airtight container or wrap well in plastic/waxed paper and chill for at least 30 min. Form the stiff dough into rough 1" rounds, flattening slightly (so they look like tiny hockey pucks!). Bake on parchment paper for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven, slide parchment/cookies together onto countertop and allow to cool.

Makes 36 cookies at less than 1 gr. net carb per cookie. (Entire recipe is 24 gr. net, after fiber and sugar alcohols are subtracted. Knock 4 gr. from that total if you leave out the chocolate chunks.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Omelettes are wonderful, quiche is divine, but sometimes on a cold winter morning, nothing will do but a pile of steaming golden flapjacks.

These pancakes (pancakers, as my husband affectionately calls them) are made chiefly from nuts and seeds, and pack a heavy wallop of protein to keep you satiated for hours. However, they have a light, nutty texture and are wonderful with a variety of toppings. We've served ours with apples (or chayote squash cooked to impersonate apples! Thank you, Lauren!), hot rhubarb-cranberry sauce, mixed blueberries into the batter, and even topped them with whipped cream and sliced strawberries macerated in a little bit of lemon juice. I hope you find these to be as comforting as we have. Enjoy!

Buttermilk Pancakers
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 2 T. oil
  • 8 drops stevia extract
  • 2 T. erythritol (Or, substitute 2 pkts. Splenda)

  • 1/4 c. nut flour (I use almond flour, but any type of nuts ground finely will do)
  • 1/4 c. flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 c. whey protein concentrate (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
In a small bowl, combine sweeteners, eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Mix well, and set aside. (This gives the erythritol a little while to dissolve.)

In a second bowl, combine nut flour, flax, protein powder, spices, and leaveners. Whisk to combine. Then add wet mixture to dry mixture, and combine thoroughly.

Leave the batter out at room temperature for about 10 minutes, to give the flaxseed a chance to work its magic. Otherwise, the pancakes will turn out woefully thin and flat.

Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet over medium heat. When a drop of water dances on the surface, melt butter in the pan (I find a combination of a little oil with the butter works nicely) and coat evenly. Now, working quickly, drop three or four heaping tablespoons of batter into the pan, leaving plenty of room between them. These spread a lot, and are nowhere near as elastic as flour pancakes, so leave yourself room to maneuver between them. I can fit three flapjack sized pancakes in my 12" skillet.

Here comes the tricky part. Unlike flour pancakes, these cook very quickly and don't give all the telltale signs of being ready to flip (bubbles popping on the surface, etc.). If the edges get dry, most likely the bottom is already scorched, as protein powder scorches very easily. Any darker than light golden brown will taste unpleasantly burnt, like browned scrambled eggs. Ick.

So, watch them carefully, adjusting your heat if necessary, and as SOON as you can get your spatula underneath them, flip them over! They will need just a moment on the second side. If your heat is too high, they will scorch, but if it is too low, they won't get puffy. Practice makes perfect! Everyone's stove/pan scenario is a little bit different. :) Serve immediately with your toppings of choice.

I can make anywhere from 8-12 flapjack sized pancakes out of this recipe. They are very filling-- plan on an adult eating three or four 4"-5" diameter pancakes, unless they are VERY hungry. I count 8-10gr. net carbs in the entire recipe, depending on what variety of nut you are using (add about 1gr if using Splenda, too), so counts per pancake will vary.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sugar Alcohols

Okay, so I know there is a lot of heat in the natural foods community over the proper place of sugar alcohols in a natural-foods diet. One camp says they are pure poison and should be categorized with aspartame as diabolical monsters of modern science; the other camp says they are healthy and natural, safe for diabetics, and as close as folks avoiding sugars can get to the real thing.

Now, in my personal experience, I've experienced far more intestinal distress with products off the shelf containing maltitol than I have with baked goods I make at home with a mixture of xylitol and stevia (depending on my mood, I often add Splenda, and this is a vice of mine I admit only reluctantly. I want to kick the habit, and I'm working toward it! But I digress.). Most (if not all) of the commercially available "No Sugar Added" or "Low-Carb" goods contain quantities of maltitol and/or isomalt, and whether its directly those two things, or those combined with the other conditioners/texturizers they add (inulin, maltodextrin, glycerin, etc) that hurts me, hurt me it does! Yikes.

Based on some reading I've done recently (here are a couple of the highlights: a broad overview on erythritol and an interesting side-by-side comparison of erythritol vs. xylitol in particular, and their digestive side effects), I've concluded that I'd like to give erythritol a chance, and hopefully replace xylitol completely. I'm awfully confused about it though. Its obvious to me that I should avoid aspartame and saccharin, and cut down on sucralose. But I know that I can't totally give up sweets, and stevia, although it is wonderful, does not fill the bill by itself. It is too bitter, too herbal, and lacks the mellow roundness and mouthfeel I seek in my baked goods and treats. By itself, it is great in liquids (such as salad dressings, teas and other drinks, etc), but I am not satisfied with stevia as a baking product without augmentation.

My concerns about xylitol are mainly the production process; even the most committed-to-natural manufacturers cannot deny the many steps it takes to process xylitol from the natural source, and several of these steps make me wince. Xylitol has a long history of use, starting in Finland nearly a century ago, and holds a great reputation among dentists (as my daughter found out when she was chatting with her dentist last week about the brownies we made at home the night before), but these facts alone are not enough to make me trust it fully. Erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream differently than other sugar alcohols, and only about 10% of it makes it to the lower intestine (which I surmise is why it has a better track record for digestive symptoms than the other sugar alcohols). There's a rather thick lab report on erythritol's safety here. Just the fact that erythritol is produced by fermenting sugar and merely dehydrated, rather than subjected to a bath in hydrochloric acid (among other unsavory processes) like xylitol makes me feel more comfortable with it. I use guar and xanthan gums pretty regularly, which are similarly produced. Yes, I know they are made from sugar. Yes, I know they are artificial. And perhaps, if I wasn't already sick, I would be using sugars in their unadulterated, naturally-occurring forms, like raw honey, evaporated cane juice, and etc. I use these natural sugars in cooking for family and my kids, who are not trying to manage diabetes through diet. Maybe someday I'll be willing to make the step and give up artificial sweeteners altogether, but for now I'm not, and it seems like erythritol could be a better choice of the lesser evils for me.

I'll let you know how it works out in baked goods; I have never been overly satisfied with xylitol's performance. To get things sweet enough, they turn out almost chemically harsh; a similar effect, in my opinion, to saccharin. Erythritol is supposed to be only 70% as sweet as sugar, so we'll see how that works out. When you are eating only natural foods, even plain oatmeal starts to taste sweet! I ordered some today, so all recipes for sweet baked goods are on hold till I've had a chance to try out this new ingredient. Awesome pricing on both erythritol and xylitol at Emerald Forest (and no, I'm not being paid to endorse them.) and free shipping on orders over $30. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Savory Tomato-Basil Muffins

Adapted from Rose Elliot's Sun-Dried Tomato Cottage Cheese Muffins, found in the wonderful cookbook, Vegetarian Supercook. These muffins had very little flour to begin with, and are largely based on almond flour. I use Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal (which you can get through the manufacturer, but I found it much more affordable on Amazon -- between the Subscribe & Save discount, and the free shipping, it was a very good deal) in this recipe, and for any recipes calling for almond flour, unless I specify otherwise. I have found it nearly impossible to get a fine fluffy flour out of my tiny food processor, without ending up with almond butter, so buying the flour pre-ground is a good thing for me.

I have been craving crusty breads with fancy toppings lately (and we'll revisit this topic when I cover Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip, coming up soon), and one of my favorites is sun-dried tomato and pesto torte, with cream cheese. I enjoyed it for the first time in the car on the way home from Trader Joe's when I was 14 or so, and I have loved it ever since. Its pricey to make, so its a rare treat. These muffins are a fun celebration of that flavor combination, especially when spread with a little cream cheese! Makes my kitchen smell like a pizzeria while they're baking.

Removing the flour changed the texture on these muffins considerably. The new texture is heavy, almost quiche-like, but with a denser, more satisfying texture. And who doesn't love portable quiche? They are very filling, chock-full of calcium and protein; one muffin makes a decent breakfast (or second breakfast!) alongside a good cappuccino. They can be frozen and reheated in the microwave on one's way out the door for a quick breakfast, too. Bellissimo!

Savory Tomato-Basil Quiche Muffins
(adapted from Vegetarian Supercook )
  • 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 1/4 c. whey protein isolate (I recommend Bob's Red Mill, as there is nothing else added, just protein)
  • 1 T. coconut flour
  • 1 c. finely ground almond flour
  • 1 t. baking powder (aluminum-free)
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper (fine grind; I use a mortar and pestle)
  • 1 c. plain cottage cheese
  • 1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, pureed in a food processor
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped finely (I threw mine in the processor for a quick whirl)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400F. Combine the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl. In a seperate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Add wet to dry; mix well to combine. Grease 12-muffin tin; non-stick spray will work in a pinch, preferably olive oil. Fill cups nearly full, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the center. These will brown quickly, because of the whey protein, so watch them carefully toward the end of cooking time.

Makes 12 mini-quiche muffins.

Garlic Ranch Dressing

I dunno about you, but this summer I've been making myself crazy trying to find a ranch dressing that has neither high fructose corn syrup nor partially hydrogenated oils in it. I like my ranch light and California-style, thin-ish (not thick/gloopy like a tartar sauce), with a good buttermilk tang to it. Its okay if I can detect the flavor of mayonnaise, but if its going to be a greasy GLOP of nothing much more than mayonnaise on my salad, it shouldn't be labeled ranch dressing! That texture is okay for dips, but I want something entirely more... fresh on my salads! The only commercially available stuff I've been at all happy with has topped $5/bottle, and still has sweeteners in it, which are entirely unnecessary in my opinion. I simply can't afford to pay that much money when we are going through so much dressing: between the four of us in the summer, we're using a bottle a week!

Well, a revolutionary idea struck me, and I was flabbergasted that I hadn't considered it before in all the years I've been cooking-- why not make one myself? I don't have a clue why this had never occurred to me! I make many other kinds of salad dressings from scratch, but somehow ranch always seemed like something you purchase prepared, like mustard or something. Odd, I know. So, I set out to look for recipes, and I found many. I fiddled with a few, achieving varying degrees of success; this is the one I've liked best. I'm making this every week now, and the whole family likes it. My favorite way to eat this so far has been with steak salad and fresh, sweet tomatoes. Yum!

The secret to this recipe is the freshness of the ingredients; I would not advise making it with dried herbs or dried garlic. It is at its best when used within a day or two, and the garlic flavor seems strongest the day after it is made. It keeps about five days in the fridge before the herbs get icky and the flavor profile changes.

Garlic Ranch Dressing

(adapted most notably from this recipe ~
  • 4 sm. cloves fresh garlic (or about 1 1/2 T. minced)
  • 1/4 c. packed celery leaves
  • 1 stalk green onion (1/4 c. chopped)
  • 1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • juice from one small lemon (abt. 2 T.)
  • 3/4 t. fine freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 c. quality mayonnaise (no HFCS, I use Trader Joe's when I can get it)
  • 1/2 c. cultured buttermilk

Put the first seven ingredients into the food processor and blend till pulverized and minced finely. Add mayo and buttermilk, scrape sides, and pulse again to combine. Store in a glass container (unless you plan on only ever using your plastic container of choice for this purpose, because it will smell of garlic for all eternity afterwards) in the fridge with a tight-fitting lid for up to a week. Makes about 12oz or so.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Looking ahead...

I'm working on pulling out some of my favorite recipes from over the past year, remaking them, and photographing the results. I'm compiling a list right now of the ones I'd like to post, and here's a partial list of what you can look forward to seeing here over the next few weeks:
Watch this space for updates! There are also several things I'll be working on for the upcoming holidays, recrafting to fit my special list of needs (tasty, nourishing, fresh, low-carbohydrate) as well as please the palates of guests who many not share my enthusiasm for healthy cooking: I'd like your input as I work towards a More-Perfect Pie Crust!


We're all looking for ways to tighten our purse strings on some level or another, and for those of us who have already been living on a budget, with minimal-to-no 'extraneous' costs and services to cut in lean times (Anyone else feel a little frustrated when the how-to columns tell you to cut out your daily latte or cancel your premium cable subscription to save some money when you've only been drinking what you brew at home and getting movies from your local library for years now? *sigh*), the place we look to cut is almost always the most flexible one: Our grocery budget.

I don't know about you, but my bills aren't going to shrink a whole lot more. I don't use my heater unless it falls below 50F in my house, I don't even HAVE long distance phone service so I can't cut back, I don't go out to eat often (less than once a month, for the most part), I don't buy new clothes. I already buy the cheapest brands of paper goods (and use coupons when I can!) and economize on the toiletries, stretching the better brands (Tom's of Maine and similar green products) as long as I can and only purchasing when on sale from the lowest bidder.

So what's a girl to do? I want to know what you are doing, too! Maybe between us, if we put our heads together, we can come up with ways the other hasn't thought of yet to ease the strain a little more and not give up on eating whole, fresh foods in favor of their much cheaper, undead counterparts.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting not only recipes, but also a record of things I'm doing in our house to cut down on grocery costs while still eating healthfully and tastefully. I invite you to share your own links, blog posts, and ideas in the comments!

Italian for 'salad.' ;)

What do you serve, when dinner is ready, and you find, at the last minute, that you do not have the romaine you thought you had? When the salad was a large percentage of the meal you thought you were about to serve, and the crisper is bare? You scrounge, and you slice, and you chiffonade some basil-- and voila. My husband said of this salad: "It eats like a man." And so it did.

Insalata Caprese, Impromptu

  • Two fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly.
    (The ones pictured were local peak-season heirlooms, and they were luscious!)
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly.
  • 8 large basil leaves, rolled and sliced into narrow ribbons.
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling.
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling.
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Arrange tomatoes on serving plate. Slip sliced mozzarella between tomato slices. Drizzle generously with oil and vinegar; garnish with basil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Hobbiton Hankerings.

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold [as hobbits do], it would be a merrier world."

"Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated then a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skillful with tools... They are quick of hearing and sharp-eyed, and though they are inclined to be fat and do not hurry unnecessarily, they are nonetheless nimble and deft in their movements... In the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk... they had long and skillful fingers and could make many other useful and comely things. Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted."

Excerpt from "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien

With a fine and merry heart, I face my kitchen each day, bent on crafting ever-improving tasties to tempt the palate, delight the senses, and comfort the soul. I love cooking, and eating, and sharing, but with one caveat: I've learned in recent years that leaving out as much of the simple starches as I can allows me to more freely enjoy these pursuits, that I might more ably stay "inclined to be fat" rather than decidedly portly. Therefore, you'll find as you read over these recipes that as I lean toward hearty, pleasing, and rich, I lean away from foods that are processed or have a large impact on blood sugar, such as grains and simple sugars. I strive to maintain a balance of healthy and minimally processed, with a firm belief that the closer a thing on my plate is to the way it sprung out of the ground, the better! There are so many joys and secrets of cooking well that my great-grandparents and their forebears knew, that have been lost to fire and sword. One of my chief aims is to find them out again, pass them on to others, and to my children. I hope you enjoy your stay-- won't you join me for a cup of tea and some nut-bread?

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

~The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
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