low-carb

Weeknight Meal: Walnut-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Broccoli & Fennel

I’m thinking of high-protein/low-carb dinners that my husband will love after he gets home from work.

This night I decided on a walnut crusted salmon with roasted fennel and broccoli.

I used my Vitamix to crush the handful of walnuts and cayenne that I had with a cup of olive olive oil. I whisked two eggs together in another small dish and dipped the salmon in the “egg bath” before I covered them in the pan with all of the copped walnuts.

After your salmon is coated you’ll transfer it to a skillet and cook it for about 4 minutes on one side and 3 minutes on the other side.

While the salmon is cooking you’ll get your veggies ready: Fire up your oven to 450. Chop your fennel and broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

While the oven is heating you’ll toss your vegetables in a big bowl with olive oil, salt and your favorite seasonings.
I used thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Most likely your salmon will finish cooking before your roasted vegetables. While you’re waiting you’ll spoon fat-free cottage cheese onto a plate and top it with fresh berries. The sweetness of the berries will perfectly compliment the citrus notes of the salmon and the sweetness of the roasted vegetables.


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The Secret to Hard Boiled Eggs

Eggs.

The other meat.

My husband makes fun of me because any time we have something with eggs I say something like “I would rather have eggs than (insert choice protein here) any day!”.

I think I like the fact that it’s nutritious, delicious, versatile and I don’t have to worry about weird pieces of cartilage, veins and fat like I do with poultry or beef.

I was just out in LA with the Filipino side of my family and I had Chicken Adobo with hard boiled eggs in the broth over rice.

Oh my, it was incredible!

I can’t eat anything off of the bone so I appreciated that I had some good quality protein to eat with such an amazing sauce.

Prior to my trip out to LA, I had decided that I wanted to make some protein-packed snacks to take to work during the week.

Somewhere along the line I learned the secret to hard boiled eggs…

An ICE BATH!

 

Before I learned this, my idea of a hard boiled egg was probably bright pink on Easter with a day-old gray-blue center. Gross.

Since then I’ve learned how to get a creamy, golden yellow yolk for the perfect high-protein snack!

 

You’ll start with at least 6 eggs. Leave them at room temperature for around 30 minutes. Boil a pot of water.

Once the water is boiling you’ll gently ladle them into the water with a collapsable silicon measuring cup or whatever is available. Just be careful to gently lay the egg at the bottom of the pan during this process and to not crack it.

The magic number is 10.

10 minutes.

While the eggs are cooking you’re prepare an ice bath: giant bowl filled with ice and water.

When the eggs are done you’ll strain them and quickly transfer them into their ice bath. This stops the cooking process and allows for the eggs to be peeled easier.

 

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Once you’re ready you’ll pull your eggs out of the ice bath, peel them, slice them and scoop out the yolk with a spoon into a different bowl.

Mix the yolk together with a large scoop of greek yogurt, tabasco sauce, celery seed and crushed black pepper.

Transfer all of the yolks into a zip-loc bag, snip the tiniest bit off of the corner of the bag and pipe the yolk mixture into the whites of the eggs.

You’ve just made the healthiest deviled eggs (should we call them “heavenly eggs”?).

They’re perfect to pack for your lunch at work with 6g of protein and hardly any carbs.


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Alternative Cooking: Penne Rosa

There is a Noodles & Co. right next to my store. After about nine months, I gave in and tried the Penne Rosa, highly recommended by my friends at Noodles. I’m not really a pasta person so up until then I was only ordering their Tomato Basil Bisque or their Caesar Salad, but I have to say, it was incredibly delicious!

I liked it so much that I made my own alternative version a couple days later. This one has less pasta, more veggies and more heat. All around, I’d say that’s better!


 

I sauteed a little bit of garlic and onions in a little EVOO and – get this – a splash of red wine. After the garlic starts to brown and the onions start to caramelize, I added a jar of spicy marinara sauce (easy!). You have to simmer this sauce on low or it gets a little…lava-like; bubbling and reminding you of the importance of a backsplash. I added lots of crushed red pepper to kick up the heat and then just a little bit of heavy whipping cream.

Usually greek yogurt is my go-to for adding creaminess to dishes but I wasn’t sure how the consistency would hold up with the acidity of the tomatoes. I’ll have to try it the next time I make this.

While the sauce was cooking I sauteed some shrimp in a little (very little!) bit of butter and garlic. Shrimp is my new favorite thing to incorporate into making quick dinners. It’s easy to just have a bag of frozen, peeled, tail-off, already-cooked shrimp. You saute for a couple minutes and you’re done!

I had 100% whole grain penne pasta cooking while I was making the sauce. Two handfuls of penne: 10 minutes to al dente. Drain, rinse and incorporate into the sauce. Finish by stirring in tons of chopped spinach and mushrooms. Top with (my favorite!) french feta cheese.

When my best friend’s sister, Steph and her husband, Adam, lived with my family, I learned that the secret to “fresh pasta” was to add raw veggies (like spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.) at the very end. It really enhances the slow-cooked sauce’s flavors and is a great alternative to pasta. More veggies and less pasta is always the way to go!

The sauce was so delicious, I think next time I’ll kick out the penne and serve it just on a bed of raw spinach and mushrooms!

 

Alternative Cooking – Basic Recipe Format for Simmered Chicken

I think I made White Chicken Chili almost every week since we’ve been home from Hawaii. It’s such an easy meal to make, it’s cheap, fast, healthy and easy to leave on the stove until Eric comes home from work.

But this can’t go on forever.

 Instead, I tried to be resourceful with what I had in the kitchen and ended up with a new cheap, fast and healthy recipe!

I started off with sauteing a little garlic in a little EVOO and a 1:1 ratio of chicken broth and almond milk heating up in the bottom of a skillet. I added sliced chicken breasts and slowly simmered. Then I added a little freshly ground pepper, sea salt, cayenne, and a spoonful of flour to thicken the broth/milk mixture into a sauce.

The great thing about this dish is that you can incorporate any kind of vegetable you might have on-hand. I added a bag of frozen broccoli florets, covered and left to slowly simmer.

I’m rekindling my love and appreciation for lentils as a cheap and easy carb alternative. Red lentils are especially easy to cook like you would cook pasta; big pot of boiling water, ten minutes, strain, the end. Easy.

This dish is just a basic format to the start of any kind of simmering chicken and veggies. You could kick up the heat with (my go-to ingredient) Sriracha, turn it into a curry by substituting the almond milk for coconut milk and adding curry powder, or you could get a little more gourmet and saute onions with the garlic and finish the dish with some freshly chopped thyme.

The key to “inventing” recipes is to get a hold of a basic format for the execution and then to get creative with the different flavors and elements you’ll be incorporating. It’s like alternative cooking – take a traditional recipe, choose alternative healthy ingredients and then a complementary flavor profile. 


 

 

 

 

 

Moving Day: Healthy Taco Dip

I don’t know what the deal is but I’ve been craving nachos lately. Really FRESH nachos.

You know, the kind with crisp shredded lettuce, cool sour cream, spicy jalapenos, sweet tomatoes and loaded with sliced black olives. I think the cheese and veggies are my favorite part of any “Tex-Mex” dish.

Today is Moving Day! We’re blending everything inside the house (which includes LOTS of fashionable menswear/shoes!) since Eric will stay here for the next couple of weeks before the wedding while I stay with one of my best friends in suburbia.

It’s going to be a sweet month! I’m trying to just cherish these moments of tearing down, building up, incorporating, compromising, etc.

Today I created a healthy taco dip that the guys could snack on in between trips…(even though they left on their second trip three hours ago?) and I have beef slow cooking in the crock pot for “Machos” later tonight.

 

 

 

In a blender (yes, a blender) combine 8 oz. of greek yogurt, 8 oz. of low-fat cream cheese, a packet of spicy taco seasoning, a can of rotel and 8 oz. of refried beans. Blend on high for a little bit – just enough time to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly mixed together. If you blend too long it will heat up the ingredients and cause the texture to be thinner than you want.

Pour your dip from you blender into a glass baking dish. Top with a handful of shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sliced olives, jalapenos, chopped cilantro and roma tomatoes. 

I lined the edges of the dish with Fritos Scoops and then put it in the fridge to set.

The “Machos” and organizing all of these books (by COLOR!…until he changes it) is what I have to look forward to tonight.

 

Happy Moving Day!

Brussels Sprout Gratin

After making the Brussels Sprout Salad I’m left with almost a whole pound of sprouts to find another use for.

I took my discarded sprouts, cut the stems off each one & sliced them in quarters.

You can maximize your time in this recipe by sautéing a couple cloves of garlic, a quarter of a white onion, and EVOO while you’re picking apart your sprouts.

After your root vegetables are done caramelizing, you’ll add them on top of your chopped sprouts in a pie pan.

Your oven should be heating up to 400 while you make a Sriracha cream sauce. It’s simple: 1/2 c. of half&half and Sriracha to taste.

I did about 1 T. which ended up just being a hint of spice that didn’t overpower the rest of the dish. You can adjust the amount depending on how spicy you’d like it. You can always add more later! Yum!

 

 

You’ll drizzle your cream sauce over your vegetables in the pie pan, top with a handful of shredded white cheddar cheese, and (my favorite part!) crushed sweet potato chips.

Most gratin recipes will call for some sort of breadcrumbs but I decided to go with a gluten-free option of crushing a handful of sweet potato chips in a zip-loc bag and using that instead.

Finish off your gratin with a drizzle of EVOO and bake for 10 minutes or until the top starts to bubble and brown.

It’s hard to believe that 1) you’re eating brussels sprouts and you LIKE IT! and 2) this is a low-carb, gluten-free vegetable side dish.

 

 

I think I just might make it again this afternoon!

Enjoy!

Brussels Sprout Salad

 

 

I’m sick of the traditional spinach salads. I switched over to chopped salads (which I love!) in the last year. Lots of romaine, red onion, corn, etc. But now I’m feeling the need to mix up my salad routine. Here’s a great nutrient-rich alternative: BRUSSELS SPROUTS!

 

Take a pound of brussels sprouts, cut off the stem and peel off the outer green leaves for your salad. You’ll discard the rest of the sprout for another delicious use.

Have a pot of water heating up and boiling while you’re peeling your sprouts. You’ll boil the leaves for 90 seconds just to soften their texture and bring out the brilliant green color. Make sure you have a big bowl of ice water ready. After you drain the sprouts you’ll transfer them to this ice bath to stop the cooking process and keep them fresh and cool.

 

While your leaves are cooling you’ll start to toast your sliced almonds. Set your oven to 400 degrees and cook for about 8 minutes. Almonds tend to burn easily. You’ll want to peek in on them through the toasting process to make sure they don’t get too brown & lose their sweet toasty flavor.

 

 

While my almonds are toasting I combine 1/4 cup of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and 1/4 cup of lemon juice in a large bowl with freshly cracked sea salt & pepper. I add a handful of shaved parmesan and my drained brussels sprout leaves with some baby arugula and some chopped grilled chicken. Mix it all up for a perfect summer salad that rivals all of your traditional salad options!

 

Roasted Mashed Cauliflower

 

 

 

 

My midwestern Mom is a “meat & potatoes” kinda lady. Her idea of a delicious dinner is pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy. My older brother would have to agree since he’s infamous for finishing off a gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes at these “delicious dinners”. I, on the other hand, am not convinced. In fact, for every Thanksgiving dinner I can remember, I am hardly interested in the mashed potatoes OR the turkey. Hit me with the fresh cranberries & stuffing!

But for whatever reason this week I was craving garlic & chive mashed potatoes. I think I was more interested in the garlic and chive? I heard about substituting mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes several years ago when The South Beach Diet was popular. I decided I would try to “invent” my own low-carb version of this popular American comfort food.

I started off with a head of yellow cauliflower. You can use white cauliflower, of course, I think I just felt like it was a better option to use yellow. You know, the whole “eat by color” deal.

Cut the stem and green leaves off of the cauliflower and separate the vegetable into the smallest pieces that you can. Think “little trees”! This will make it easier to “mash” them later. The most efficient way is to have a pot of water boiling while you’re tearing apart your cauliflower.

 

 

You’ll want to boil your cauliflower for about 8-10 minutes. While this is happening you’ll start prepping your spices. Take two cloves of garlic and “roast” them over high heat on a frying pan. (I live/cook by the saying “the more garlic the better” but this does NOT apply with this recipe. Our mashed “potatoes” were SO garlic-y they were SPICY. I guess the roasting brought out more flavor than I expected…) Then chop a couple inches of a green onion, crack some salt and pepper over the root vegetables and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil

 

Once your cauliflower is done cooking you’ll drain it and then throw it into the blender with one 8 oz. container of greek yogurt. The BEST way to “mash” the cauliflower is by using an immersion blender but that wasn’t an option at the guy’s house so I had to improvise. In a blender you’ll have to blend on high for a few seconds and then use a spatula to move the vegetables around to make sure they get pureed.

After your cauliflower is “mashed” you’ll add it to your bowl of spices by gently folding it in. Then you’ll add a handful of shaved parmesan cheese. Be sure to taste as you fold to see if you need to add more salt.

 

 

At the very end I topped my “mashed potatoes” with a little more parmesan cheese.

Cauliflower works with the body’s detox system, it’s antioxidant system, and it’s anti-inflammatory system. It’s a great vegetable for cancer prevention, rich in vitamin C and vitamin K. Unfortunately, I’m sure a lot of the nutrients are cooked out through the boiling process but it’s still a better alternative to the traditional mashed potatoes.

Try this recipe out – I think you’ll agree!

My Best Attempt at a Manly Dinner

I went over to the guy’s house last night to make them dinner. I was trying to think of something low-carb & “manly” (which I’ve learned translates into “meat”). What I came up with was super fun and easy to make! It tasted good too!

For the bacon-wrapped chicken I started off by slicing (lengthwise) two little red chili peppers. Next I chopped up a handful of Italian parsley and long thin slices of a Spanish goat cheese called Cana de Cabra. Any kind of goat cheese will work, I just had some from the cheese shop down the street that needed to make it’s way into one of my next recipes.

Now that you’ve prepped your “stuffing”, you’ll take a few boneless, skinless, chicken breasts and cut in half (lengthwise) to make them thinner cuts of chicken. Lay all of your chicken breasts on a cutting board and sprinkle with some salt, pepper, and a little bit of cayenne.

On each seasoned chicken breast you’ll add a pinch of your chopped parsley, a slice of chevre, and a slice of chili pepper.

Now you’ll roll up your chicken breast and wrap it in two slices of bacon. I normally would’ve used turkey bacon but since I was going for a “manly” entree I decided to use center cut bacon. At least that cut has 35% less fat?

Over medium-high heat brown each side of the bacon-wrapped chicken for just a few minutes. This will give you that crispy bacon texture but still allow you to slow-cook your chicken without it drying out.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to fully cook your bacon/chicken, that will come later. Once you have some nice brown coloring on your bacon, transfer your wrapped chicken to a baking dish.

Bake your chicken, covered, at 350 for about 10-minutes. I get a little nervous about undercooked poultry/pork so I think I did mine closer to 15-20 minutes.

With the temperature at 350 and a cover keeping all of the moisture in, you don’t have to worry that your chicken will burn or dry out. Unfortunately I had to use aluminum foil but maybe some day someone will give me a Le Creuset French Oven! Then I won’t have to worry about my food losing moisture during baking or my body being full of toxins from the aluminum used in the cooking process!

For the red pepper side dish, I THOUGHT that I was just going to do vegetable with similar flavors to the chicken but I was surprised by the outcome.

While the chicken was cooking I chopped up the rest of the bacon into little pieces and sauteed them with half of a chopped red onion until it caramelized in a little bit of honey, cayenne and a splash of red wine vinegar. Then I chopped up a red bell pepper and mixed it up in the pan, just heating it for about 90 seconds – I wanted to preserve as much of the freshness, color, and nutrients as possible while still incorporating it in the rest of the dish.

It ended up being much sweeter than I expected but the chicken ended up being a lot spicier than I anticipated so it was a perfect pairing!

I sprinkled a little bit of parsley and goat cheese on the vegetables, topped it with the chicken and “manly dinner” was served!

Yum!