Antipasto Platter – Beat the Heat

When it is just plain too hot to cook, go cold! What could be nicer than a beautiful plate of dried Italian meats, luscious cheeses, pickled veggies, olives, some dressed fresh greens, and a bunch of grapes washed down with a refreshing glass of chilled pinot grigio or Prosecco? Perfection on a plate! The perfect way to keep your cool.

Here’s an easy and quick recipe:

Antipasti Roll Ups
Makes about 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 30 slices dry Italian salami (or enough to cover)
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, sliced, drained
  • 1 can sliced green olives, drained
  • 1 jar pepperoncini rings, mild or hot, drained

DIRECTIONS

  1. Put the cream cheese between two pieces of plastic wrap (about 1 foot by 1 foot) and roll it into a large square/rectangle leaving a rim of plastic wrap all around.
  2. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap and lay the salami slices on the cheese, overlapping to cover completely.
  3. Replace the plastic wrap, pressing down all over, and turn the whole assembly over, cheese side up.
  4. Remove the plastic wrap from the cream cheese side.
  5. Scatter the red peppers, olives, and pepperoncini over the cheese.
  6. Starting from the long edge closest to you, begin to roll, jellyroll style, pulling away the plastic as you go, until the whole assembly is rolled up with the salami on the outside.
  7.  Slice into rounds and serve.

The world’s best guacamole

What better way to enjoy a summer barbecue than with some really good fat?? Maybe some baby back ribs or brisket or pork belly sliders? And some slaw? But whatever your pleasure, there’s always room for the piquant fave — guacamole! Here’s our long-time family recipe.

Holy Guacamole!
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 limes, for juice
  • 4 ripe medium avocados
  • 1 Serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Put the onion into a bowl with water and the juice of one of the limes. Set aside for 10 or 15 minutes to take any bite out of the onions.
2. Halve the avocados, seed, and dice the flesh. Put the avocado into a large bowl and squeeze the juice of the remaining lime over it to prevent browning.
3. Mash the avocado with the pepper and the garlic.
4. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, turning over to combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve with slices of jicama or pork skins.

BLT Salad

One of the things I’ve missed most in giving up gluten and keeping low carbs is the joy of a good BLT in the summer when the Vidalia onions come on and the tomatoes are at their peak. But I can have all the tastes of those, well at least almost all of them, with this:

BLT SaladBLT Salad
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
For the dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise (or your preferred mayo)

For the salad assembly

  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce, washed, torn, and dried well
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, seeded and diced
  • 6 strips thick bacon, cooked crisp and chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together all dressing ingredients, except the mayo, in a salad bowl and let stand a few minutes. Whisk in the mayo.
  2. Add the lettuce and onions and toss to coat evenly.
  3. Finally, add the tomatoes and bacon and toss gently to mix.
  4. Divide between two serving bowls and enjoy!

Homemade Mayonnaise

Ever look at the ingredients in store-bought mayo? Almost all of them are some version of this ingredient list, taken from a major brand:

water, soybean (and/or cottonseed or canola) oil, modified food starch (corn, potato), eggs, sugar, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, sorbic acid, and calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality), natural flavor, vitamin E, beta carotene (for color)

Even if you go high-end ‘organic’, it doesn’t look a whole lot different on the whole. Take this ingredient list from a national organic brand:

organic expeller pressed soy and/or canola oil, organic cage free eggs, organic cage free egg yolks, organic extra virgin olive oil, filtered water, organic honey
organic distilled vinegar, sea salt, organic mustard
organic lemon juice

Granted, this product uses all organic ingredients — hey, that’s better, right? — and cage free eggs, which to me are an important point, but the major oil–the main ingredient–is still one of poor quality for human consumption.

And that’s what’s most important, really, the healthful or harmful quality of the oil it’s made from, a point on which neither the standard brands nor the organic alternative makes the grade.

Honestly it takes but a few minutes to make your own mayonnaise, without the additives, without the bad oils, without the sugar or honey. You can choose the quality of the ingredients, whether the eggs are cage free and humanely raised (and pasteurized if you’re concerned about bacterial contamination), whether the lemon is organic (or in my case off the tree in my backyard), the type of vinegar you use for flavor and acidity, and what kind of decent oil you want to use. I’ve used good olive oil, avocado oil, and macadamia nut oil. It’s up to you what floats your boat. Here’s how easy it is:

Homemade MayoHomemade Mayo
Makes about 1 cup

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon, for juice* 
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2.5 ml) sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2.5 ml) dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vinegar of choice
  • 3/4 to 1 cup (180 to 240 ml) oil of choice

DIRECTIONS

  1.  Put the egg yolk, lemon juice, salt and vinegar into a blender and blend on medium speed. (Alternatively you can mix it in a bowl with a whisk manually).
  2. In a slow, steady stream add the oil with the motor running (or while whisking like a demon) until the emulsification comes nicely together and makes what looks for all the world like mayonnaise!
  3. Store in a very clean, dry, air-tight jar and use up within a week.

*(Harvest the zest, too, and stir in at the end if you want a lemon aioli, which is yummy on fish or vegetables.)

Low Carb Mint Julep for Kentucky Derby

Derby Day Mint Julep photo 2014Just watched the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, in California, sadly, and not at Churchill Downs. But I had my low carb mint julep–in a perfectly sweating silver julep cup–in hand.  With a garden exploding in fresh mint (and, appropriately, red roses) it was hard to quit with just one… so we had another!

Congratulations to California Chrome and the DAP winners!  It was a thrill to watch from wire to wire.

Low Carb Mint Julep
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 ounces (120 ml) sugar free simple syrup (Torani, Davinci or other)
  • 40 fresh mint leaves (plus 4 nice mint ‘tops’ for garnishing)
  • 8 ounces (240 ml) quality bourbon
  • 4 cups (.9 liters) cracked ice

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a pan on the stove, bring about 12 of the mint leaves and the simple syrup to a boil and turn off the heat. Let the mint infuse into the syrup for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and cool.
  2. In each of 4 rocks glasses (or better silver julep cups) make the cocktails as follows:
    1. Put 7 mint leaves (a lucky number!)
    2. Add 1 ounce (30 ml) of the mint-infused sugar free simple syrup and 2 ounces (60 ml) of the bourbon and muddle well.
    3. Fill the glass with cracked ice and slowly stir to bring the sweet bourbon up to the top and let the ice begin to melt.
    4. Garnish with a mint ‘top’ and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Food for Humans: Nom Nom Paleo

Readers of this blog will know that I love cookbooks and that my overflowing collection of them has long hence exceeded the linear feet of shelves I have in my kitchen, which, while not inconsiderable, were finite. No matter — there’s always floor space! And thus, this Christmas brought a new one that I already absolutely love! Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans, its on time arrival delayed by the winter storms, appeared instead as a Boxing Day/Feast of Stephen gift.

Nom_Nom_Paleo with borderWhen it arrived, I spent most of the evening sitting by the fire, thumbing through it, reading the delightful narratives of the sort that have made Michelle Tam’s Nom Nom Paleo blog such a hit and perusing the collection of mouthwatering paleo recipes inside. With clear and concise instructions and gorgeous food porn shots, it makes you hungry just reading. The book is an enjoyable and approachable primer that proves it’s possible for a mom (and/or dad) to cook healthful, whole food paleo meals the whole family (even the pickiest kids) will love, while juggling the responsibilities of a full time professional career, writing a blog, and raising a family. Having met Michelle at the first Ancestral Health Symposium, I can attest that she is a ball of happy energy and that comes through loud and clear in this book.

Although a seemingly endless array of paleo cookbooks have come out in the last year–and many are quite good–this one is a real standout IMHO, because of its ‘real-world-ness’. Every funny anecdote screams: OK, this is a real mom cooking for a real family and she absolutely loves doing it! Best of all, you can see yourself doing it, and I think that was Michelle’s main goal; make cooking and eating real food a pleasure for the family. And, foodie that she is, her recipes are stand outs, too. Although it’s sometimes a mistake to conflate paleo or gluten free with low carb, these philosophies have much in common and I was very happy to see that but for a very few, none of the recipes in Food for Humans would cause metabolic havoc to any but the most seriously carb sensitive.

Among my favorites in this book are those using eggs. There’s a great one for a simple Salade Lyonnaise and this one, very reminiscent of a way my late sister did eggs for brunch, combining three of my favorite foods–eggs, mushrooms, and sausage–that I’ll share to give you an idea of the tasty offerings.
Uova_in_Purgatorio Nom Nom Paleo borderUova in Purgatorio
From Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans (Tam+Fong/Andrews McMeel, 2013)
Serves 4

1 tablespoon ghee (or fat of choice)
1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 pound Cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound loose Italian pork sausage
2 cups marinara sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 400F, with the rack in the upper middle position.
2. Melt the fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Toss in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until moisture released by the mushrooms evaporates.
3. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook until it’s no longer pink. Pour the sauce onto the meat and add the red pepper flakes. Stir to combine the ingredients and cook until the sauce simmers.
4. Divide the saucy mixture into four 8-ounce ovenproof ramekins or mini cocottes. Make a small well in the center of each and crack an egg in it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs. Place the ramekins on a tray in the oven and bake until the eggs are done to your desired consistency, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Whether it’s making Paleo Mayo, your own Sriracha, a big batch of Zoodles (zucchini noodles) or some of the most interesting deviled eggs I’ve ever seen, it’s all simple, fresh, flavorful food and definitely fit for humans, young or old.

Gluten-free, Somewhat Lower Carb Mincemeat Pie

One of Mike’s very favorite Christmas treats is a mincemeat pie. I like them, too, but having completely given up gluten, wheat, and most other grains about 18 months ago, I figured it was a holiday pleasure I would no longer get to enjoy. Not only from just the gluten avoidance standpoint, but the stone ton of sugary carbs in traditional mincemeat pie.

Mincemeat_pie

I decided to surprise him with a gluten-free, somewhat lower carb version of which we could both enjoy a sliver. Take careful note of the lower carb moniker. Granted this recipe is lower in carb than the traditional, but it is definitely NOT LOW carb pie. What with all the hazmat reconstruction going on at Casa Eades, I didn’t have the time to make a homemade gluten free, low carb crust. The crust of this pie was a commercially-prepared, refrigerated, pre-formed, gluten free–but not low carb–product and there are about 24 grams in just the crust of one slice! Consequently, I wound up tasting the filling and not eating the crust. First, here’s is the recipe as pictured. And after, I’ll riff a bit about how it could become lower!

Gluten Free, Somewhat Lower Carb Mincemeat Pie
Serves 8

Ingredients
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
8 ounces raisins
4 ounced dried figs, coarsely chopped
2 ounces dried cranberries, sugar-free
2 ounces beef suet, coarsely chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup Swerve granular
1/3 cup xylitol
2 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
½ cup brandy
1 orange, for juice and zest
1 lemon, for juice and zest
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground clove
2 gluten-free pie crusts (store-bought or homemade)

Directions
1. Put all ingredients (except the crust) into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse about 10 to 12 times to chop coarsely (or more if you’d like less chunky.)
2. Put the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 days before using. (There isn’t much sugar in this one to preserve it like there is in traditional mincemeat filling.)
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F
4. If using store-bought crust:
a. slightly warm one crust to make it malleable enough to roll out
b. line the pie pan with the other crust
c. fill with the prepared mincemeat mixture
d. top with the second rolled-out crust, flute edges, trim and use trimmings to make holiday holly decoration
5. If making your own crust, you might consider my Simple Nut Crust or take a look here at a great recipe on a very helpful website called All Day I Dream About Food that if you don’t know about already, I think you’ll find a great resource for recipes both low carb and gluten free. It’s filled with yumminess!

So How Much Lower Is This Pie?
The carb content, even in this somewhat reduced version, is a splurge of mammoth proportions for a person truly cutting carbs. Each slice (8 slices of a 9 inch pie) tips the carb scale slightly north of 50 grams. And that’s far far too much for someone who is struggling at keeping control of blood sugar (diabetics and pre-diabetics) and will absolutely cause a metabolic stir in anyone with Syndrome X. Why, you can almost feel the insulin output, the fluid retention, the fuzzy thinking, the heart racing, the whoosh of calories flying into fat cells under insulin’s influence!

Not for me, thanks! So portion control is the still name of the game for this lower carb pie; even a sliver (about 1/3 of a slice) has 17 grams as prepared here. But at least they are 17 grams free of wheat flour and gluten. And refined sugars — this recipe eliminates the slug of sugar (about 100 more effective carb grams) found in the 6 ounces of dark brown sugar in the traditional recipe, which works out to a savings of about 12 grams per slice.

So it is decidedly NOT low carb.

How could you make it lower in carb and still seem like a mincemeat pie?

You could by flip the quantities of sugar-free cranberries and raisins — using 8 ounces of cranberries and only 2 ounces of raisins. The latter being the major remaining budget breaker, after eliminating the sugar, in this version — contributing 171 grams of effective carb to the total all by their lonesome. Recognize that this will no doubt make it a somewhat tarter pie and you may want to oonch up to amount of xylitol or Swerve you use to your own preference. The bottom line, though, is if you were to swap the proportions of the raisins and cranberries, you could save another 96 grams in the total pie, which would be another 12 g saved per slice. And with a low carb crust, such as the Simple Nut Crust or the almond flour pastry one on All Day I Dream About Food, you could save at least another 18 to 20. That would turn it into just 18 or 20 grams per slice, not over 50. Still a splurge, but a more manageable one for most folks.

However you low carb you wish to make it, here’s hoping you enjoy this (and all) holiday treats…as the beer commercials say…responsibly! And have a very happy and healthy New Year!

Simple Nut Crust for Tarts and Pies

Simple Nut Crust
Serves 8 (or an 8-inch pie or cheesecake crust)

Ingredients
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup walnut pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granular Swerve or xylitol
pinch fine salt (or to taste)

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse to a coarse meal.
3. Turn the mixture out into a pie pan or divide among individual tart dishes or custard cups.
4. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the container to form a bottom crust
5. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, just to set the crust.
6. Remove and cool slightly before filling.

Picnic Cauli Salad

Summer picnics of burgers, dogs, pulled pork, barbecued chicken or tri-tip just don’t seem complete without a little slaw and potato salad. The slaw’s no problem, but for a dedicated low-carber, the potato salad is a no-go.

Here’s a tasty version based on our low-carb buddy, cauliflower, that will fill that spot on the divided picnic plate just fine! It’s almost a meal in itself!
#proteinpower Picnic_Cauli_Salad
Picnic Cauli Salad
Serves 8

2 heads cauliflower
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 jar (12-ounce) roasted red peppers, drained, seeded, patted dry, and chopped
1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
8 pieces bacon, cooked very crisp and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For the dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup low-carb barbecue sauce (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

1. Wash and trim the cauliflower. Slice each head in half and then slice each half in half, and then into 1/2-inch x 1-inch pieces.
2. Put the cauliflower and 2 tablespoons of water into a large microwave-safe dish, cover, and cook on high power for 6 minutes. Remove (carefully, the dish will be hot) and stir, cover, and return to the microwave to cook on high for 3 minutes more, until the pieces are nicely tender.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all the dressing ingredients and set aside.
4. When the cauliflower has cooked, drain off any accumulated liquid and pour the cauliflower into the dressing. Add the red pepper, cheese, and bacon and toss to coat everything.

Low Carb Barbecue Sauce

1 can (14 ounces) no-sugar added tomato sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 or 3 dashes Tabasco (optional or more to taste)
2 packets sweetener (Splenda or Stevia or your choice, equivalent to 4 teaspoons sugar in sweetness)

1. Whisk together all ingredients in a saucepan.
2. Warm over medium heat for a few minutes.
3. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking, adding more vinegar, sweetener, Tabasco, or salt