Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Low-Carb Potstickers

Can we take a moment for the Potsticker?  I don't think I have ever met someone who disliked them and many times they are just as good, if not better when made at home rather than in a restaurant.  They are so savory with that great umami flavor that Asian food is so wonderful at achieving.  The problems start to arise when one is trying to maintain a low-carb lifestyle.  Because of this, I had to find an alternative to the wanton wrapper, which I was able to do with cabbage leaves.  They have a very low-key flavor profile and the texture works really well with the Asian flavors in this recipe.  I use ground pork seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, and fresh herbs and form it into little patties for the inside of the potstiker, but ground turkey or quinoa would be fantastic too.  Once the patties are formed, I pan fry them and then wrap them in the boiled cabbage leaves, like a little burrito and dip them in soy sauce or my Sweet and Spicy dipping sauce.  They are the perfect little finger food for an appetizer or work perfectly as a fun low-carb dinner.  There is very little prep and even though there several steps to this recipe, everything is incredibly easy with minimal ingredients.  Once you make this dish, you will want to make it over and over.

This is what you need:

1 lb Ground Pork (turkey or quinoa would be great too)
1 head of Cabbage
3 Green Onions - chopped
2 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Fresh Ginger - minced or grated
2 cloves Garlic - minced
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
Cilantro for Garnish (optional)

Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce (optional)
2 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Chili Garlic Sauce or Siracha

This is what you do:
Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core.  Cut each half in half again.  Remove 15-20 leaves and place in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Remove and place on paper towels to drain and set aside.  Then, put the pork, green onions, ginger, garlic, 2 tsp Sesame Oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl and use your hands to mix well.  Form into little oval patties, about 2 inches long.  Cook in a frying pan over medium high heat 4-5 minutes a side.  Take a few leaves of cilantro and place on a cabbage leaf, then the cooked pork.  Roll into a little package and dip in the Sweet and Spicy Sauce or another sauce of your choice.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Makes 15-20 Potsickers

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Queso Verde

When one thinks of Austin Texas, they might envision barbeque, music, beer and food trucks.  However when I think of Austin, I think of one thing; the queso from Guero's Taco Bar.  Good Lord, it is delicious.  In my three day trip, I ate there twice and consumed enough of it to feed a small army.  When I returned home, I began to have queso withdrawals and immediately went to work on creating my own version.  I wanted to stay away from Velveeta cheese for this recipe and decided to use the ever delicious and reliable cream cheese.  I mix that with salsa verde, more cheese and some extra fire roasted chilis, because why not?  The end result is a fantastically creamy, cheesy, spicy dip that is seriously addicting and so simple to prepare.  Which is a very good thing, because one bowl of this dip goes extremely fast, so be prepared to make it over and over again!

This is what you need:

1 block of Cream Cheese
1 tbsp Olive Oil
12 oz of Salsa Verde (any kind you like)
4 oz can of Fire Roasted Chilies
1 cup Shredded Cheese
Green Onion for garnish

This is what you:
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil, cream cheese, salsa and chilies until smooth and the cream cheese is melted.  Add the shredded cheese and stir until melted through.  Pour into a bowl, top with the green onions and serve!
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8 for an appetizer

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pan Fried Shishito Peppers

This is not going to come as a surprise to any of you; I consume a lot of different peppers.  From Bells, to Anaheim, to Jalapenos, I love to eat and cook with them.  Which is why I am sharing my ridiculously easy Pan Fried Shishito Peppers recipe.  These little Japanese peppers are absolutely adorable and have a sweet taste to them.  However, about one in ten will be spicy!  Which is why these make a super fun side dish or appetizer.  Who is going to get the hot one?  They literally could not be easier to prepare and you do not even need utensils to eat them.  You just pick them up by the stem and eat the pepper.  I love to serve these as a quick appetizer at a party or dinner and have also  made these for myself for lunch.  You can pick these peppers up at almost any supermarket, farmers market or specialty store.  Give these peppers a shot next time you need a fast and healthy appetizer or side dish!

This is what you need:

1/2 lb of Shishito Peppers (you could use Padron peppers too, but they are spicy!)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Salt

This is what you do:
Heat a large frying or cast iron pan over high heat with the 1 tbsp Olive Oil and 1 tbsp Sesame Oil.  When the pan is very hot, add the peppers and lower the heat to medium-high.  Stir every couple of minutes to prevent burning, but you want them blackened on some parts and cooked through  Cook like this for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the 1/2 tsp salt.  Serve and enjoy!
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2 as a side dish and 4-6 as an appetizer

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

20 Minute Pasta Puttanesca

I started making Pasta Puttanesca many years ago because it is a fast dish with very little prep work yet still super flavorful.  I could come home from a long day at work and have a healthy yet comforting meal on the table in 20 minutes.  I was not the only one who took advantage of this quick and delicious recipe.  The legend of Pasta Puttanesca goes like this; hundreds of years ago, Italian "ladies of the night" would make this dish in between their "customers" to eat quickly and use the incredible aroma to lure new clients their way.  So this pasta dish has some interesting roots, but the most important thing here is that it's a fantastic recipe that has obviously stood the test of time!  What makes this dish so fast and flavorful is the ingredients, which you probably have in your pantry right now.  Each one packs a punch on their own, from the olives to the capers to anchovy paste (don't be scared of this one!).  Using fresh herbs and lemon cut through the saltiness and add a brightness to the whole dish.  To up the health factor, I use whole grain pasta and my favorite one for this meal is angel hair.  It cooks fast and the delicate strands offer a nice balance to the tangy and briney sauce.  This recipe is gorgeous to look at it and absolutely delicious to eat.  While the dish is traditionally vegetarian, I have added shrimp and chicken to it which was also fantastic.  You have to give this one a try, it hasn't been around for hundreds of years for nothing!

This is what you need:

1 lb of Whole Grain Pasta (angel hair or spaghetti)
1 can of Diced Tomatoes (2 cans if you like a saucier sauce)
1 can of Artichoke Hearts (frozen would work fine too)
1/2 cup Olives (I use Kalamata, but any you prefer or have on hand will work)
1/4 cup Capers
1 tbsp Anchovy Paste (optional)
1/2 Onion - chopped
4 cloves of Garlic - minced
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Bepper
1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/4 cup Flat Leaf Parsley - chopped
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

This is what you do:
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While the water is boiling heat a large pan over medium-high with 2 tbsp oil and chop the 1/2 onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Add the onions and seasonings and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and 1 tbsp anchovy paste and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the can of tomatoes and artichoke hearts and let simmer for a couple of minutes.  When the water is boiling, add salt and a few dashes of oil to it and drop your pasta.  While the pasta is cooking, add the 1/2 cup olives and 1/4 cup capers.  Mix all around and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked al dente per package directions.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water before draining.  after drained, put the pasta right into the sauce pan.  Add the 1/4 cup parsley and juice of half a lemon.  Coat the pasta and let sit for a minute or 2.  Serve and sprinkle with cheese and a bit more parsley.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4-6

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Quick and Easy Guacamole

Everyone has their own way of making guacamole and I will happily eat any version, any time.  Chips and guacamole is its own food group in my house, we eat it so much.  I love to buy fresh avocados and make it myself whenever I have the chance.  While some store bought guac is pretty good, nothing compares to homemade, in my opinion.  I tend to like most of my food fairly straight-forward without a lot of bells and whistles, and guacamole is no different.  I play up the natural flavors of the avocado with a good amount of salt, pepper and garlic powder.  I love the citrus bite of fresh lime juice and just a touch of cilantro to brighten the whole thing.  And that is it.  Super simple without chunks of onions or tomatoes to distract me from the avocado.  This is how I prefer it, but like I mentioned, I will never turn it down, no matter how it is prepared. 

This is what you need for my version:

5 Ripe Hass Avocados
Juice of Half a Lime
1/4 cup Chopped Cilantro (optional)
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder (NOT Garlic Salt)

This is what do:
Mash the avocado until it is smooth and creamy, then add the lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cilantro.  Mix well, taste and adjust seasonings and serve with chips or red bell pepper strips!

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Serves: 4-10, depending on the crowd

Your turn!  How do you prepare it?!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Italian Stir-Fry

Ever since I began eating a more low-carb diet, I have tried to turn all the comfort food I love into a recipe that fits my lifestyle.  Case in point; pasta.  I love it almost more than anything, but when I really started thinking about it, what I enjoy the most is the sauce or toppings part, the noodles are just filler, (if I just keep telling myself that, eventually I'll believe it).  So I decided to use some of my favorite veggies that I usually pair with pasta and chicken and make what I like to call my Italian Stir-Fry.  It has common Italian flavors from the fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan Cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  I use the the ever versatile and healthy chicken breast, but beef or shrimp would be fabulous too.  For the veggies, I love to use broccolini, which is actually more closely related to kale and bok choy than broccoli.  It is a bit sweet and you can eat the whole vegetable, it is super delicious. I also use  mushrooms and leeks, which are really just a milder, sweeter version of an onion.  Honestly though, any vegetables you like and have on hand will work here.  I use a dry white wine to make a little sauce and give the whole dish flavor and moisture.  Everything is cooked over high heat to keep the veggies tender-crisp and lock in the taste, which is where the Stir-Fry portion of this recipe comes in.  This dish is so healthy, flavorful and beautiful to look at and is also easy and fast to prepare.  You could certainly serve this to guests as is, or serve over pasta, rice or quinoa.  The possibilities are endless. 

This is what you need:

1-1.5 lbs of Chicken Breast -cubed (Chicken thighs, beef or shrimp would be delicious too)
2 cups Broccolini  - chopped (Broccoli or asparagus would be great too)
2 cups Mushrooms -sliced
2 Leeks - sliced (Onions would work perfectly too)
1/2 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes packed in Oil
3 cloves of Garlic -minced
1/2 cup dry White Wine (Chicken Stock is a good substitute here)
2 tbsp of the Sun-Dried Tomato Oil
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt -divided
1 tsp Black Pepper -divided
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

This is what you do:
Cube and season the chicken.  Pour the sun-dried tomato and olive oil in a big pan or wok and heat over medium-high  heat.  Add the chicken and cook through  Remove the chicken and leave all the oil in the pan.  Add the broccolini and cook through, remove that as well.  Next add the leeks, onions, garlic and wine and cook through, making sure to reduce the wine.  Then add the sun-dried tomatoes, chicken and broccolini.  Heat through and add the basil.  Taste and season as needed.  Serve and top with Parmesan.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cheesy Spinach Gratin

Up until a few years ago, when I saw the words Gratin or Roux (Rue) in a recipe, I gave up on it.  I thought there was no way I could do something that sounded so fancy and French.  But my quest for a creamy, cheesy spinach side dish ended up taking me to the inevitable.  I knew I had to bite the bullet and give the roux a try, and guess what?  It was so simple, barely took any extra time and was basically fool proof.  All a Gratin is is a dish that has a browned crust of breadcrumbs and/or cheese,  (a dish worth making and eating in my book).  And a Roux is simply cooking flour into butter to make a thickening agent for certain sauces and dishes.  After some trial and error on coming up with a low-carb ratio of cheese, spinach and creamy goodness, I am fairly positive I have nailed this Spinach Gratin.  It is a delicious mix of tender spinach and gooey cheese with a salty bite all topped with crispy crust.  This dish pairs perfectly with chicken, salmon and obviously, steak.  In fact, this dish is so fantastic, it can easily stand up to any creamed spinach or gratin you would find in a steakhouse.  So, the next time you need a side dish for a nice, juicy steak, give this one a try.  I hear there is a certain holiday coming up where one may want to cook a romantic dinner for their loved one?  This would recipe would be a sure thing.

This is what you need:

9 cups of Fresh Spinach (10 oz) or 3 boxes of Frozen Spinach
1 Onion - chopped
2 cloves of Garlic - minced
1 1/2 cup of Milk (whole is best)
3 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan (divided)
1/4 cup shredded Cheese (mozzarella blend works well but any would work)
2 tbsp Flour
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt the butter and cook the onions over medium heat until translucent and slightly browned on edges, about 15 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes, then add 2 tbsp of flour and 1/8 tsp of nutmeg and cook for 2 minutes.  Then add the milk and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella and melt.  Add the fresh or frozen spinach and cook until wilted or cooked through if using frozen.  If you are using a heat safe pan, top with 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 Panko breadcrumbs.  If not, transfer to a baking dish and do the same.  Cook for 15 minutes or until top is browned and crispy.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes  Serve and enjoy!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-6