Monday, November 3, 2014

Spaghetti Squash and Greens Gratin

I have tried to like spaghetti squash for a long time. A squash with the texture of pasta? I already have a love for hiding pumpkin in recipes, so this should be the next logical step. 

I've tried several perfectly respectable looking recipes for spaghetti squash paired with a tomato sauce. The flavor combination of bright tomato sauce and mild, slightly sweet squash just never tasted right to me. 

But when I saw a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Kayln's Kitchen for spaghetti squash and chard gratin, I thought it was different enough that I just might like it. Zucchini and Parmesan cheese is one of my favorite combinations, so a parm-based gratin just might work for me. I simplified Kaylin's recipe and used frozen spinach instead of chard. It was delicious. Kind of like a carbonara spaghetti squash. 

Spaghetti Squash and Greens Gratin
1 large spaghetti squash, halved, seeds and membranes removed
dash of olive oil
1 egg, beaten (this is optional; it creates a firmer texture)
1 1/2 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t garlic powder
salt and black pepper to taste. I use 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper
1 cup low fat cottage cheese (this might sound like a weird ingredient, but the curds melt, creating a background of cheesy goodness)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 oz. dark leafy greens like chard or spinach (I usually use frozen cut leaf spinach)

Preheat over to 425 degrees. Rub or spray a bit of olive oil on the inside and sprinkle with salt. Place the squash face down in a pan and roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until squash can be shredded with a fork. 

If using fresh greens, saute them for a few minutes until they are wilted. You could even microwave them to accomplish this. Drain excess liquid. If you are using frozen greens, just allow them to thaw.

Mix together "spaghetti" and remaining ingredients, except for 2 T parm. Either place mixture into the hollowed out squash shells, or into a medium to large casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining parm on top. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until mixture is bubbling and slightly browned on top. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thank you, readers!

My blog just hit 50,000 views! I hope you all are enjoying my recipes! Readers, please leave comments if you've tried something. I love getting feedback!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Marinated Kale and White Bean Salad

As I've written in my Cooking Philosophy, I love recipes that I can make in bulk and enjoy for several days. I actually LOVE leftovers. Probably because I usually LOVE what I cooked. Maybe that's why I don't eat a lot of salad. Or maybe that's because it's salad. Well, I've been trying to expand my repertoire of salads that stay tasty for a few days because its summer and a) gorgeous veggies are in season, b) it's bathing suit season, and c) it's too hot to cook.

Hence my love for bean or grain-based salads. Sturdy veggies like bell peppers and carrots hold up well in these types of dishes. But, until now, I haven't been able to figure out how to get leafy greens in there. Enter kale, the superfood du jour. Did you know that you don't have to cook kale before you eat it? I mean, if you just chomp down on a raw leaf, you'll be sorry. It's pretty tough. But if you chop it up and marinate it in a dressing of vinegar and salt, it will magically become the same texture as if you had sauteed it!

The balsamic, garlic, and herb marinade make this one of the most flavorful salads you've ever tasted. The recipe is, of course, really flexible. When they are in season, I put in cherry tomatoes, other times, I put raw mushrooms in the marinade instead, and they get wonderfully pickled. Try tossing some bell peppers in! This is a great salad to pack for lunch when you won't have access to a microwave.

Marinated Kale and White Bean Salad
1 smallish bunch kale, stems removed, sliced into bite-sized pieces. This will seem like a lot of kale before you start to marinate it. Don't worry, it will wilt down.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved OR sliced button mushrooms
1 t salt
lots of black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 t Italian seasoning
1 15 can cannellini beans
2 1/2 t minced garlic
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil

Combine the kale, tomatoes or mushrooms and salt in a colander. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so any excess liquid will drain out. Combine remaining ingredients and let marinate in fridge for at least an hour or two. 5-6 main dish servings. Keeps in the fridge for a week.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Two-Ingredient Macaroons

I was inspired by something totally delicious-sounding that Marcela Valladolid made last weekend on Food Network's The Kitchen. They were cocadas, a Latin version of the macaroon, and hers required only two ingredients: shredded coconut and condensed milk. Now, as you may have noticed, I am a huge fan of simple recipes that only require a few ingredients. Just check out my list of recipes that use five ingredients or less. I was also intrigued by the health benefits of coconut milk (which are probably only partially cancelled out by the addition of condensed milk).

I just pulled these out of the oven. They are so delicious, with a nice contrast of textures going on: a crispy toasted coconut top, and a moist and chewy center, reminiscent of a Mounds bar.

I want to give Marcela Valladolid credit for her awesome recipe, so I'll direct you to the original recipe here. Because I'm me, I made some changes. I used unsweetened coconut, not sweetened, and my intuition was correct, because they turned out plenty sweet! I used the whole 12 oz can of condensed milk because I didn't want to have an awkward amount left over, and I love condensed milk. I stand by my decision, but I think a little bit less would also be fine if you want to save some condensed milk for your coffee. I would have used fat-free condensed milk, but the store I went to didn't carry it. I am skeptical that the paltry 1/2 cup that she called for would be enough if you use unsweetened coconut. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla, which, combined with the coconut, made the house smell like coconut cake. One thing that I was particularly excited about was that the whole batch fit into my small toaster oven pan, which meant I didn't have to heat up my whole house. I cooked it for 30 minutes, a bit longer than she directed, probably because of the added moisture.

My favorite part are the crunchy, caramelized edges, so next time I might roll these into balls like classic macaroons to maximize surface area crunchage. Other potential variations include mixing in several tablespoons of cocoa powder or adding chocolate chips for chocolate macaroons, or simple drizzling with melted chocolate to finish.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Infused Booze

Lavender-infused gin
I've been thinking a lot about lazy booze lately. A few weeks ago, I posted a bunch of three-ingredient cocktails. In the weeks that followed, I've gotten obsessed with infusing liquor. If you're interested in craft booze, but are intimidated by homebrewing beer, this it a great way to start creating! Or, in our case, we do homebrew, but sometimes this is a nice vacation from it.

Basically, you need two ingredients: your booze of choice and your flavoring of choice. Combine the two (or more) in a glass vessel, and let sit for a day or two. Taste each day, and once the booze has the right intensity of flavor, remove your flavoring. Alcohol is a very efficient flavor extractor. You can use pretty mediocre liquors for this. The flavors you add will overpower any subtlety or odd flavors in the booze. It's a good way to use up crappy liquors leftover from a party. There are lots of great blogs about infusing liquor, such as boozedandinfused.com, and www.nwedible.com/2013/10/infuse-your-booze-a-complete-guide-to-diy-flavored-liquors.html. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel and go into detail about all the possibilities, because they are really limitless. Here are the ones I've done so far.

Chipotle Tequila
My personal favorite. The smokiness of the chipotle gives the impression of a fine, smoky mescal. Use in a margarita or Tequila Fresca.
1 dried chipotle, pierced with a knife
2 cups tequila
Infuse 1 day

Jalapeno Tequila
Use in a margarita or Tequila Fresca.
1 jalapeno, halved
2 cups tequila
Infuse 1 day

Sweet Tea Vodka
My husband's favorite, this is a low-carb knockoff of Firefly Vodka. Serve 1 shot sweet tea vodka with 1/2 shot lemon juice and 2 shots water over ice.
2 black tea bags
2 cups vodka
1/3 cup Splenda
Infuse 2 days

Cucumber Gin
Makes a fab gin and tonic, Gin Gin, or Lime Rickey
1/4 english cucumber, sliced
2 cups gin
Infuse 2 days

Lavender Gin
Makes a fab gin and tonic, Gin Gin, or Lime Rickey
1/2 t dried lavender flowers or a few sprigs of fresh leaves and flowers
Infuse 2 days

Notes: You'll want to taste as you go to suit your own preferences--I recommend doing 1 or 2 days. I've been using pint-sized preserving jars. I saved the booze-infused jalapeno and chipotle in the freezer for the next time I make chili. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Three ingredient "cocktails"

Who loves super easy cocktails? Cocktails so simple it seems wrong to call them cocktails? Cocktails that only entail opening a can of soda, pouring a shot, and adding a spritz of lemon or lime? That kind of lazy booze is my specialty!

My husband and I are hardcore beer snobs. We even brew our own. But when he's on low carb, he needs another option. Sometimes I'll have one of these instead of dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth. I know, so healthy and wholesome, right?

You're probably thinking Jack and Coke, right? There are some great lesser-known mixer options in the soda aisle of your grocery store that you're not taking advantage of. My favorite lazy mixers are Fresca, ginger ale, and club soda/seltzer.

Tequila Fresca (dubbed the Dirty Margarita by my BFF Glutenless Goddess)
Fresca is the number 1 most underrated mixer in your grocery store. Mixed with tequila and lime, it tastes like a perfect margarita with a splash of grapefruit. It's basically a diet paloma.
1 shot tequila (Sauza Gold, baby!)
1/2 can Fresca
splash lime

Gin Fresca
1 shot gin (New Amsterdam is my favorite mid-priced option)
1/2 can Fresca
splash lime

The Gin Gin
My current fave; a little spicy, a little fragrant, a little sweet
1 shot gin
1/2 can ginger ale (diet or not, your choice)
splash lemon

The Whiskey Ginger
1 shot whiskey (I like a local Oregon one, 4 Spirits)
1/2 can ginger ale
splash lemon

Lime Rickey
This one is really refreshing on a hot day
1 shot gin or vodka
1/2 can club soda or seltzer
splash lime


What are your favorite lazy cocktails?

No-Cook Granola Fudge

Probably the first recipe I ever made when I was a kid was edible peanut butter play dough. It was just equal parts peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk. Mash it together, and you had sticky clay! I was much more interested in eating it though, and to do so, I would shape it into little balls and roll it in crushed cereal or oats.

Fast forward almost 30 years to the first recipe I ever made from Pinterest: energy balls. They were oh so appealing because they were essentially peanut butter playdough gussied up with some granola fixin's. The recipe is super flexible and forgiving. My version (with my preferred add-ins and ratios) is below. I'm usually too lazy to bother to roll the mixture into balls like most people, I just press it into the bottom of a square container with damp fingers and cut it into squares, hence the name, "granola fudge." These are so easy, I would have loved making these as a kid (parents, take note)! They are no-cook--just dump and stir. They're a great, filling, healthy snack for traveling, hiking, and gorging in front of the TV.

Granola Fudge
120 g/1 1/2 cups uncooked old fashioned oats
70 g/1/3 cup ground flaxseed (can substitute chia seeds, shredded coconut, or just extra oats)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or your nut or seed of choice; optional
1/4 cup dried cranberries or your dried fruit of choice; could even do chocolate chips!
130 g/1/2 cup peanut butter or nut butter of choice
100 g/1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

I love to use my kitchen scale for this recipe. Just dump in the ingredients and tare it for each new measurement. That way I don't have to get my measuring cups all goopy from peanut butter and honey. You can just eyeball this recipe if you're not a kitchen nerd like me. 

Mix everything together. The mixture may seem too dry at first, but I promise it will combine! Sometimes it helps to use a mashing motion with your spoon and a couple of minutes of patience to get everything coated. Once everything's mixed, dampen your hands, and either press the mixture into the bottom of a 8 x 8 or so pan, or roll into bite-sized balls. Refrigerate for a couple of hours until firm and chewy.

I like to cut this into 8 bars. 1/8 of the batch equals 215 calories, 13 grams fat, 19 carbs, 4 grams fiber, 7 grams protein.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Mom's healthier gumbo

I grew up in Louisiana, and gumbo is another one of those meals, like jambalaya and red beans and rice, that I took for granted until I moved away. Every good gumbo must have a nice dark roux. Typically, rouxs are made by toasting a paste of 1 part flour and 1 part fat together until it browns. I've taken to making a dry roux because it's easier: I just toast the dry flour in a pan until it browns. Plus, it reduces the amount of fat that would end up in your gumbo by more than 1/2 cup!

Everyone from Louisiana thinks their mother makes the best gumbo, and I am no exception. Below is my mom's recipe, tweaked a bit to work with a dry roux. There are tons of varieties of gumbo. The two most commons are chicken and sausage and crab and shrimp gumbo. The recipe below happens to be for chicken and sausage, but you could do any mixture of meat and/or seafood as well, just keep the proportions intact. For example, a fabulous seafood gumbo would be 1 lb sausage, 1 lb crabmeat, and 2 lbs shrimp. Add the seafood during the last 10 minutes of cooking, so it doesn't overcook.

Mom's Gumbo

1.5-2 lbs andouille sausage, sliced (or whatever flavorful pork-based smoked sausage you can get your hands on. Linguica is a good substitute.)
2.5-3 lbs chicken thighs (I like to use bone-in, and then remove the bones at the end of cooking to impart more flavor, but you could do boneless as well.)
2 medium onions, chopped
6 ribs celery, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup dry roux (see directions below)
1 quart chicken stock
15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 t dried thyme leaves
2 t Worchestershire sauce
2-3 t Tony Chacherie's seasoning (a Cajun cooking staple. Fortunately, most major grocery stores in the US seem to carry it. Buy some. Put it on everything.)
2 t paprika
1 t smoked paprika (optional)
1 lb sliced okra, roasted at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or 2 cans sliced okra, drained (optional)
approximately 2 cups water, to thin to desired consistency if needed

Garnish
Tabasco sauce to taste
chopped green onions
rice (I do brown)

Method
Brown sausage in a skillet over med-high. Don't be afraid to blacken it a little. Remove and set aside. Brown chicken, then remove and set aside. Brown onion, garlic, celery, and bell peppers.

Turn pan to medium, return meat to pan, add dry roux, and stir. Add liquid, slowly at first, stirring so the roux forms a paste. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for one hour, remove  from heat and add okra. Serve with a scoop of brown rice, fresh green onions, and a dash of Tabasco sauce.

Making Dry Roux
To make this recipe, you'll need 1 1/2 cups flour. But I like to double the batch so I will have some for later. It lasts for a year in the freezer, and you can just grab a couple of tablespoons to thicken a gravy with it.

Basically, you're just toasting flour in a large pan until it gets quite brown. You can either do this on the stovetop on medium, stirring frequently, or in the oven at 375, with less stirring required. This can take from 15-30 minutes. Be careful--dry flour is deceptive. It holds a lot of heat and can burn you. When it is ready, it will start to smell funny, like glue that's about to burn, but is not actually burned. It will be the color of a brown paper bag.

NOTE: To make a lower carb version, I have been reducing the amount of dry roux to 1/2 or 3/4 cup and adding a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree to thicken instead. No one will know the difference, I promise! And you're getting extra veggies!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Two Ingredient Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

Speaking of two-ingredient desserts, I make the easiest and most pumpkin-y pumpkin breads with just two ingredients. The thing that bothers me about most recipes for pumpkin bread is that they use less than a can of pumpkin puree. That's not pumpkin-y enough! Plus, you have an awkward amount of pumpkin puree left over. (I just freeze it in a baggie in those situations, but most people don't have the same freezer obsession that I do.) I got the idea for this pumpkin bread from my Three-Ingredient Whoopie Pies, which are made by adding a whole can of pumpkin puree to cake mix as a substitute for butter and oil.

I've made this many times with various brands of pumpkin and cake mix, and it's always turned out perfectly. It never ceases to amaze me how whatever spice cake mix I use results in a perfectly spiced pumpkin bread.

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Bread
1 box spice cake mix (I've used Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines successfully)
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water if mixture is extremely thick

Preheat oven according to package directions. Stir together ingredients either by hand or with a mixer. The mixture should be extremely thick, like biscuit dough, but if it is dry, add a bit of water. Bake according to package directions. I like to use a bundt pan, but any pan will do. You could even make cupcakes, cookies, or whoopie pies! Tastes even better the next day and freezes well.

Greek Yogurt Cheesecake (Two ingredients, Low Carb, No-Bake)

As you may know from my cooking philosophy, I try not to allow myself to learn how to bake desserts, because I don't want to enable myself to do so whenever I have a craving! I also believe in having a few simple, healthy, 5-ingredient or less recipes up my sleeve in case I get a craving I just can't shake. Enter this Low Carb Greek Yogurt Cheesecake. It has two ingredients: Greek yogurt and jello pudding. Mix them together, and the tang from the yogurt blends with the sweetness of the pudding in a way that really tastes like cheesecake.

This is a great way to trick yourself into getting your protein and probiotics. Hell, you could even eat this for breakfast!

Low Carb Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
Jello sugar-free pudding mix (the small 1 oz box). Any flavor you want. My favorites are vanilla and lemon.
16 oz container fat-free Greek yogurt

Mix the two ingredients together however is easiest for you: mixer, blender, food processor. Unless you have a super-buff arm, you probably won't be able to do this by hand because it's really thick. Distribute into individual serving containers or a large bowl. Delicious on its own or with fruit. If you're not concerned about carbs, you could serve it in a Graham cracker crust or simply crumble Graham crackers on top.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Indian Crockpot or Instant Pot Coconut Chicken Curry

Piggy-backing on my latest Indian food in a Crockpot success story, Beef Vindaloo, I decided to try a chicken curry cooked with coconut milk. This was my husband's response upon tasting it: "it really is amazing that you can make up recipes that taste like restaurant-quality Indian food." This is probably the easiest Indian recipe I've ever made. If you want to make your first curry, this is a great beginner's recipe.

Indian Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry
1 onion, roughly diced
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 t minced ginger
3.5 pounds skinless chicken thighs (bone-in or out)
3 T Sun curry powder (you can use another curry powder brand, but I can't promise the flavor balance will be as good, or you could make your own using this recipe, which is what I usually do: 2 T cumin, 1 t salt, 1 1/2 t coriander, 1 t turmeric, 3/4 t cayenne pepper (I like it spicy), 3/4 t cinnamon, 3/4 t cardamom, 1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper, 1 bay leaf, 1 t fenugreek (optional))
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 14 oz can coconut milk
2 jalapenos, roughly diced (optional)
I bunch cilantro (optional) (stems and leaves separated and chopped. Cook chopped stems in the slow cooker to flavor the dish; reserve chopped leaves for garnish.)
1 cup pumpkin puree (optional--to thicken)

Dump all ingredients except garnish in Crockpot in the order listed. Cook on low 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves if using.

UPDATE: I recently bought an Instant Pot, and have been having fun converting my recipes to work in it. Here's how to do it:
Using the Saute function, saute the onions, garlic, and ginger with the spices. Add remaining ingredients except pumpkin and stir together. Cover and close vent, then set to Poultry for 20 minutes. When finished, quick release and stir in pumpkin.

Serve with cauliflower "rice" or basmati.

Slow Cooked Cinnamon Apples

Make your house smell like hot apple pie ALL DAY. (And torture yourself because it won't be ready for hours.)

I'm getting increasingly slow cooker-obsessed lately. I especially love finding surprising things to use my Crockpot for. So today, I give you my first slow cooker dessert recipe: slow cooked cinnamon apples.

I have to admit, this was inspired by my recent trip to my hometown in Louisiana for Christmas, and a taste of the fried apples at Cracker Barrel. Contrary to what you might expect at a Cracker Barrel in Louisiana, these apples were not deep-fried; they were like apple pie filling. The real inspiration was that they used Golden Delicious apples and left the skins on! Turns out that apple variety has very tender skin. I HATE peeling things. See my cooking philosophy re: hatred for fussy recipes and my love for healthy cooking (most of an apple's fiber is in the skin).

When I got returned from Christmas, I whipped up this healthy Crockpot apple recipe that tastes like apple pie filling. It's so simple and versatile. It would make a lovely holiday side dish, healthy fruit snack, dessert, or breakfast. Serve warm or cold, plain, or with whipped cream, ice cream, or yogurt. You could even make a shortcut crumble by topping with granola!


I am such a fan of this simple recipe that I went out and bought this apple corer/slicer to make it even easier. That is really saying something, because I usually hate kitchen uni-taskers, but since I've been making this all the time, it's worth it! This brought the prep time down to five minutes.

Slow Cooked Cinnamon Apples
3 lbs (6-7) apples, cored and sliced (I like Golden Delicious because the skins are so tender you can leave them on. You can peel them if you must.)
1/4 cup Splenda or sweetener of choice
2 t cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla (optional)
shot of bourbon or brandy (optional; if you're feeling fancy)

Dump all ingredients in slow cooker; toss to distribute. Cook on high for 2 hours, or low for 6 hours, until apples are tender.