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.

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