Low Carb Spanakopita

Spanakopita filling - just add the cheese "crust" on top and into the oven it goes!

Spanakopita filling - just add the cheese "crust" on top and into the oven it goes!

When I started eating low carb nearly 2 years ago, there were a few thing I imagined I'd never eat again. As both my cooking skills and knowledge levels have evolved, I'm happy to say that nearly everything can be made using low carb ingredients. The other things I don't want anyway. 

Sometimes it takes some experimentation. Sometimes low carb recipes are not low enough for my preference, or they just don't work out quite as promised. This one, I am thrilled to report, is easy and unbelievably delicious. 

I've used a recipe that's been floating around some of the low carb groups and made it my own with a few simple additions. I'm happy to say this recipe is on weekly rotation in my house. It's that good. 

 

Spanakopita, the delicious greek dish, is traditionally wrapped in a thin, flaky phyllo dough. Cooked to a golden brown, the phyllo creates a crisp envelope around a creamy spinach filling. 

This recipe uses a great alternative to the phyllo -- a low carb jack-of-all-trades-- cheese. Muenster cheese specifically. This is not a low fat recipe, but it's not intended to be. Those of us eating low carb need the protein and fat not only for satiety, but for energy. If you are looking for low fat, please exit this site now. You will not find that here. :) 

This Spanakopita can be a meal alone, or pair it with a greek salad, a few eggs cooked to your preference, or a piece of grilled chicken, fish or meat. 

On to the recipe: 


LOW CARB SPANAKOPITA

Serves approx 10-12 as a side dish (when using 30 oz of spinach and a 9x13"pan

  • 20-30 oz / 567-850 g. chopped, frozen spinach (2-3 packs, depending on size)
  • 1-1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp  Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute*
  • 2 tsp dried onion 
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 8 oz / 226 g.  package cream cheese
  • 2 oz / 56 g.  feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 eggs
  • 16 oz / 450 g. Muenster cheese slices 
  • Non-stick olive oil spray, oil or butter of your choice (for the baking dish)

*Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute is HIGHLY recommended and contains onion, black pepper, celery seed, cayenne, parsley, basil, marjoram, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary, cumin, mustard, coriander, garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato granules, lemon juice powder, oil of lemon and citric acid. I love the complexity of flavor this adds. It's available at trader Joes for under $3.00 USD (per 2.2 oz/62 gram jar) as of this posting date.

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In a medium-sized non-stick saucepan or frying pan, add spinach and onion.

Cook over medium heat, without lid and stirring frequently until completely thawed and heated through. Watch so it does not burn. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celcius). 

While the spinach is cooking, prepare a rectangular baking dish (either one 9"x 13" or two 8"x 8" dishes. Metal, glass or ceramic baking dishes will all work, but I've had better results with glass and ceramic.  Spray the baking dish(es) lightly with non-stick spray (or grease lightly with butter or oil of choice). Place cheese slices in greased baking dish(es), lining the sides and bottom of the baking dish. Set aside. 

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When spinach mixture is cooked, cool slightly and press out any remaining liquid (there will not be much liquid remaining if you cook without a lid).  I use a medium sieve with a towel inside to press out the spinach, but this can also be done in the pan. 

Add cream cheese, eggs, feta, salt pepper and spices to drained spinach and stir thoroughly to combine. 

Gently add spinach mixture on top of cheese slices in prepared baking pan, spread spinach to create an even layer and fill the corners of the baking dish(es). 

Layer additional muenster slices on top of spinach mixture, overlapping very slightly or just laid next to one another. They will melt to form an even "crust" upon cooking. You can fold down the sides, or leave them up. When cooking, they will melt to fill in the edges. 

Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes. It's done when cheese on top is melted and slightly golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and slice into large squares approx 3"x 3". 


Please tell us! Have you tried this? What were your results? Leave a comment telling us all about it below. 

Low Carb Thanksgiving Stuffing

The holidays for many of us bring comfort foods. Flavors are so much a part of the day, that it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Haunnakah without them. 

For me, that flavor is a savory mixture of rosemary, sage, and thyme. The standard spice mix for Thanksgiving. The salty, buttery, warm, (and nearly creamy) flavor of stuffing. Depending on where you're from, you might call it dressing but ... it's one in the same

I made up a unique mixture of sausage, liver, vegetables and spices to re-create all the earthy, salty, savory flavors of Thanksgiving stuffing. While the texture was not quite the same (more like a dry, crumbly version of the original), the flavors were spot on. And you can eat leftovers in more ways than original high-carb bread stuffing. I'm all for that. 

 

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Low Carb Stuffing/Dressing

 

Ingredients: 

1-1.5 lbs (0.45-0.75 kilo) ground pork (or bulk pork sausage)

3.5 oz/100g beef liver

7 oz / 200g yellow or red onion finely chopped (approx 1/4 large onion)

1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g button mushrooms, washed and finely chopped

1/2 cup / 7 oz / 200g celery, finely chopped

1/4 cup / 1.5 oz / 40g carrot, sliced into thin rounds

1 cup cauliflower, finely chopped or riced

1 cup zucchini, finely chopped

3 tsp dried sage

2 tsp dried rosemary 

2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp garlic, granulated or fresh

1/4 cup vegetable broth (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste 

1-2 Tbsp Butter for the pan

 

Instructions: 

Pre-heat a large pan over medium heat. Melt butter in the pan and add the liver. Cook uncovered and undisturbed for 3-5 minutes or until cooked and browned on one side. Turn and cook the other side. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, without cleaning, add ground pork , celery and onion. Cook, stirring frequently until sausage is crumbled and browned, and onion is soft. You might have to physically break up the pork, depending on what type you have. 

Add spices, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrot and zucchini. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. If there is too much moisture, you might need to drain. If there is not enough moisture, add a little vegetable broth.  

While the vegetable/sausage mixture is cooking, chop the beef liver into small chinks and add them back into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. 

Check salt level and add more salt and/or pepper to taste. 


Leftovers can be enjoyed with a few eggs for a tasty meal, or used as a topping on a beautiful squash bisque soup. 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pancakes

Pancakes in bamboo- plated/staged by my 7-year old. 

Pancakes in bamboo- plated/staged by my 7-year old. 

This time of year, with the holidays looming ahead of us and cold weather for many, pumpkin just seems like a natural. It's easy to cook a whole pumpkin and have plenty of gorgeous pumpkin purée to use for treats like this. 

Certainly pumpkin pancakes don't have to be reserved for the holidays, I'm a year-round pumpkin fan. Keep some pre-cooked pumpkin purée in the freezer in small containers (1/2 to 1 cup size) so you can enjoy these delicious pancakes year round, with no more work than opening a can would be. You could definitely use canned purée as well, as the recipe states below. Whatever works for you!

My kids grab these cold and eat them like cookies, with no toppings needed. I guess they're good. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pancakes

Makes approx 12-16 pancakes (4 servings). Each serving is approximately 395 calories, 13g total carbs (5g net carbs), 14g protein, 8g of fiber. 

 

INGREDIENTS: 

1/2 cup Almond Flour

1 Tbsp Coconut Flour (or equal amount of whole chia seeds would do in a pinch)

1/2 cup Coconut Chia "Oatmeal" mix

1/2 cup Cream Cheese

Pinch  of Salt

1 Tbsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (or use 1/4 tsp each of ginger, allspice, nutmeg & cloves)

3/4 cup Pumpkin Purée (approx half of one 15 ounce can of pumpkin purée) 

4 eggs

1 tsp Liquid Stevia Extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

coconut oil or butter for the pan

 

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Melt butter or coconut oil in a griddle or large frying pan over medium heat.  

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add all wet ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine.

 Pour batter into pan using a 1/4 cup measure per pancake. 

Cook pancakes for 3-5 minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for anpother 2-3 minutes on the second side. 

* Please note: Using butter in the pan will produce a darker pancake, as shown above. If you prefer a lighter golden brown, I suggest using coconut oil, either refined coconut oil for a neutral (non-coconut) taste, or unrefined coconut oil, for a stronger coconut taste. It's personal preference. Both would work with this recipe.

 

Coconut Chia "Oatmeal"

I've said that I don't like eating "replacement carbs" because they just seems to trick my brain into wanting REAL carbs. I know, I know...

But this is so tasty and it's not sweet (okay, just a little) and it's warm and comforting and I love, love, LOVE hot cereal. It's like a hug from the inside on cool winter mornings. 

(**Hey, we all know that cold winter mornings are right around the corner for some of us again. Seasons work that way, they're cyclical. ) 

While I don't eat this cereal every day, it's a great on-the-go alternative that can be prepped ahead of time and brought with you to "JUST ADD WATER" once you get to work, after the gym. Whenever. 

It's warm and comfy and reminds me of eating Cream of Wheat as a kid. 

And you can make it just the way YOU like it. 

 

 

*Please note that flax can affect estrogen and estrogen metabolism, both positively and negatively. I've halved the flax quantity in this recipe, but if you wish to remove it completely, the cereal will be just as good without it. (You might try almond meal, walnut meal or psyllium husk instead of flax, but I haven't tested those substitutions and any modifications will affect the nutritional information).  

As written, this recipe contains approx 2 tsp of flax per 1/2 cup serving. 


Coconut Chia "Oatmeal" 

Per 1/4 cup serving: 138 calories, 12g fat, 4g protein, 9g carbs (7g fiber), plus any add-ins like heavy cream or nuts.  Makes 4 cups cereal mix (qty 16 servings at 1/4 cup each) 

 

INGREDIENTS: 

2 cups Shredded Coconut 

1 cup Ground Chia Seed

1/2 cup Whole Chia Seed

1/2 cup Ground Flax Seed (golden flax will have a lighter taste and color, but both golden and standard flax will work)

2-3 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon (love Penzey's Cinnamon Blend, but any good quality cinnamon will work)

 

To Serve: 

Boiling water

Stevia drops to taste

Optional Add Ins: flavored stevia drops, vanilla extract, heavy cream, butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, unsweetened flavored syrup, walnuts, almonds, protein powder or whatever you prefer.

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INSTRUCTIONS:


To Prep:

Add coconut, chia (both ground and whole seed), flax, and cinnamon to a medium sized container with a tight fitting lid. Stir to combine. Store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. 

To Serve: 

Measure 1 part dry cereal mix to 2 parts boiling water in a medium size bowl (For example: 1/4 cup dry cereal mix to 1/2 cup boiling water.) 

Pour the hot water carefully to avoid splashing.

Stir and let stand for a few minutes to thicken. Add more water if needed.

Add Stevia drops and/or any other preferred add-ins (I like crushed walnuts, vanilla and heavy cream) and stir to combine. 

Enjoy!!

Shown: 1/4 cup cereal, 1 Tbsp whole chia seed (because I was out of whole chia when I made this batch of cereal) and 1 Tbsp heavy cream. 

Shown: 1/4 cup cereal, 1 Tbsp whole chia seed (because I was out of whole chia when I made this batch of cereal) and 1 Tbsp heavy cream. 




Let us know what you think of this recipe. What did you add in to make it perfect for you? 

Beef Shank Bone Broth

I'd tried (what seemed to be) a million different cuts of beef before I found beef shanks. Now I'm convinced they're the absolute best for bone broth.

Beef shanks, which consist of leg bone and muscle, are one of the cheapest cuts of meat I can get (they made it to our Low-Carb on a Budget post), they contain meat, lots of connective tissue and round leg bones filled with incredible bone marrow. They're my go-to slow cooker meat to use for making Bone Broth. 

One batch of bone broth from this recipe, cooked in a small crock pot/slow cooker will produce: 

  • 1-2 liters of bone broth to use in other recipes or drink plain (I add water to dilute slightly when drinking it straight). 
  • 1 lb (.5 kilo) meat to eat 
  • Beef bones to re-use several times for more broth. Freeze bones in between uses and discard when rubbery. 

This stuff is like nectar of the gods. It is so delicious and I can use it as an afternoon snack or even a meal replacement when fasting. It's salty, savory, fatty and delicious. 

The directions seem long and tedious, but it's really quite simple because the steps are over 36 hours or more. Slow cookers are incredibly forgiving, so no worries if you don't follow the recipe to a T. Make it to suit your taste. 


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Beef Shank Bone Broth

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs/1 kilo beef shanks (I choose bones about 2"- 2-1/2" diameter).

**The meat in this recipe is completely optional, but I find it a nice benefit. If you prefer to cook bones only, use about 1 lb of bones or whatever you have on hand.

1-2 liters cold, filtered water

4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2 bay leaves

2 Tbsp sea salt, divided (or 3 Tbsp Magic Mushroom Powder)

2 Tbsp Tamari, fish sauce, coconut aminos OR worcestershire sauce (always opt for gluten free)

1 tsp garlic, granulated

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp dried thyme

1 cup onions (white or yellow), sliced

1 cup carrot, sliced in rounds

1/2 cup celery, sliced

1 Tbsp butter, ghee or coconut oil (for the seering pan)

Optional: 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (button or shitake)

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat butter, ghee or coconut oil in a large frying pan or griddle over med-high heat. Add the beef shanks to the pre-heated pan, along with 1 Tbsp sea salt and the dried spices (garlic, oregano, parsley and thyme) and cook for 4-5 minutes per side or until a nice brown crust starts to form on the meat. Turn the meat and cook the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes. 

**If you are using raw bones with no meat, cook the bones in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes prior to adding to crock pot. If the bones have been previously cooked, you can skip this step. 

While the meat is searing, add the onions, carrots, celery (and optional mushrooms) to the unheated crock pot. 

When the meat is done searing on both sides, add it to the crock pot, layering on top of the vegetables. 

Add the bay leaves, remaining salt, tamari, apple cider vinegar and cold water and let sit, unheated in the crock pot for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, plug in the crock pot and set it to low, and cook for 12 hours. Add more water during cooking if needed, always keeping the crock pot full and the meat submerged, if possible. 

Stir between 6-8 hours cooking time to place the top pieces of meat (which may have been above the water line) deeper into the pot. This is usually what I do first thing in the morning when it looks like this ---> 

Test the salt level at 6-8 hours and add more salt to taste.

After approximately 12 hours of cooking, unplug the crock pot and let cool slightly for 1-2 hours.

Once cooled slightly, remove the meat from the bones, reserving the meat in a separate container for later meals, and returning any bones and marrow to the slow cooker filled with broth. 

Also remove the vegetables from the broth at this time with a slotted spoon, and discard the vegetables. 

Re-start the slow cooker on low, add additional filtered water if needed and cook the bones and marrow in the broth for an additional 12-24 hours. ------>

After 24-36 hours of total cooking time, unplug the slow cooker once again and let cool for 3-4 hours. Remove the bones with a slotted spoon and set aside. 

Allow the bones to air dry to reuse at a later date (Once dried, store the bones in the freezer). 

Using a fine wire strainer/sieve/or cheesecloth secured over a bowl or pitcher, slowly spoon the broth into the strainer to separate the liquid from the vegetable/meat/fat particles. You will occasionally need to remove and discard the particles that collect in the strainer in order to continue straining. 

When you are finished straining, refrigerate the broth for a few hours or overnight, then spoon off any solidified fat that has collected on the top. You can save this solidified fat (tallow) in the freezer indefinitely to use as a cooking oil, or you can choose to discard it.

Return the broth to the refrigerator and use within 3-4 days or freeze in small portion sizes (I usually freeze in 1/2 cup or  1 cup containers).

Use in place of water/bouillon cubes in recipes, to cook meats and vegetables, to make gravy, or to drink plain. 

Homemade bone broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and amino acids proline and glycine make it great for bone and tooth health. Bone broth also supports joints, hair, skin, and nails due to its high collagen content. 

Eggs in Purgatory

Just in time for Halloween, this is a new version of a pre-low-carb favorite of mine. I love the slightly sweet, spicy tomato sauce and the warm, comforting eggy-goodness. 

It's a great savory dish, and with a name like Eggs in Purgatory, it's a spooky-appropriate dinner for the end of October. 

Tomatoes are technically a fruit, and they become even sweeter when cooked, so I've used a splash of tomatoes, along with several other vegetables such as mushrooms and zucchini to make a rich, lower carb stew. 

If your blood glucose levels are sensitive to tomatoes, please eat a minimum of the sauce, or skip this recipe completely. I won't be offended. We're all in this for our health and we're all unique in our specific needs. 

My standard serving is 2 eggs with 1/2 cup sauce, along with a small salad. If I need more protein, I'll add some pan fried sausage, beef or chicken (usually trying to stick with 20-30 grams of protein for each lunch and dinner).

1 eggs = 6 grams protein

60 grams of beef = 12 grams protein

60 grams chicken breast = 16 grams protein

This recipe involves some chopping/prep ahead of time. I try to keep chopped onion in my freezer, ready to use. You can also substitute a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh (check the label for added ingredients!) The good thing is, with one skillet, this recipe comes together quickly. 

In my house, we fight over the eggs, so only sauce is left. Leftovers re-heat well and extra sauce makes a great topping for meat or more eggs. Perfect for breakfast!


Eggs in Purgatory 

Makes 4 servings. Serving Size: 2 eggs with 1/2 cup sauce. 259 calories, 19g fat, 9g carbs, 14g protein.

 

2 Tbsp / 26g Coconut Oil (For those who do not care for coconut, refined coconut oil has a neutral, non-coconut taste)

7 oz / 200g Button Mushrooms, sliced

14 oz / 400g Tomatoes, diced

26 oz / 670g Zucchini (I prefer half grated and half cubed for the best final texture)

4.25 oz / 120g Yellow Onion, chopped

3 Tbsp / 60g Tomato Paste

1 Tbsp / 15g Southwest Seasoning (If you don't like spicy, please cut this back to 1/2 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp / 8g Provenzal (3 tsp dried parsley flakes w/ 1 tsp dried garlic)

8 Medium Eggs

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Preheat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms, and cook until onions are translucent, approx. 5 minutes. 

Add zucchini, tomatoes, tomato paste, Southwest Seasoning and Provenzal. Stir to combine.  

Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

With a spoon, smooth the surface of the sauce and then make small indentations for the eggs.

Crack each egg into it's own indentation within the sauce, and cook WITHOUT STIRRING for another 10 minutes  or until the eggs are done to your preference. The eggs are poached within the sauce. 

One egg, 1/2 cup sauce and 70g beef Tenderloin

One egg, 1/2 cup sauce and 70g beef Tenderloin


Let us know what you think in the comments below. If you like it, tell us!

Creamy Asparagus Soup

For those of us in the southern hemisphere, it's spring. Spring means one of my favorite vegetables: asparagus. 

It's available for such a short time that I always feel the obligation to eat and freeze as much asparagus as I can. 

This soup is so simple and fresh, it's like springtime in a bowl.  

The lemon, parsley and just a little garlic really brighten the taste and keeps it from feeling too heavy. I pair it with slices of sausage, or grilled chicken or even a little parmesan cheese grated on top. 


Creamy Asparagus Soup

Makes approx 8 servings at 1.5 cups each. I serving = 149 calories, 12 g fat, 8.5g carbs, 4g protein. Any toppings are additional. 

INGREDIENTS:

2 lb/1 kilo fresh, untrimmed Asparagus stalks (1 lb/.5 kilo if frozen) If using fresh asparagus, bend and break off the green stems where they naturally snap. Do not use thick, woody stems. 

5 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth. 

3 Tbsp Butter (divided)

1 tsp Sea Salt

2 tsp fresh Parsley (or 1 tsp dried Parsley)

1 tsp Granulated Garlic

1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped

3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

2 Tbsp Lemon Juice (or 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest)

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INSTRUCTIONS:
 

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. And onion and cook for 5 minutes or until translucent, stirring occasionally. 

While onion is cooking, prep, rinse and drain the asparagus. Add asparagus, salt parsley and garlic to the stockpot with the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

When asparagus is softened, add 5 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until asparagus is soft.

Turn off heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender, pure the soup until completely uniform in texture (this can also be blended in batches using a countertop blender, but an immersion blender is a quicker method). Add cream, remaining 1 Tbsp butter and lemon. Stir to combine. 

Add more broth if the soup is too thick. 

Serve topped with shredded parmesan, fresh herbs such as thyme or chives, with sausage slices, strips of grilled chicken or beef. 

Southwest Seasoning

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Spice blends are so easy to make and you know exactly what goes into them. After posting Magic Mushroom Powder, it was natural that my favorite Tex-Mex seasoning had to follow soon after.  I add this stuff to everything, but it's PERFECT for fajita vegetables, chicken breasts and eggs. 

These two spice blends are the foundations for many, many other recipes, so we have to start with these before we can give you rest of our cook book. Keep these handy, we'll be referring to them often!

I'm happy to add that this one is a cinch, with no grinding of ingredients; just measure and mix. Aaaaah, my kind of spice mix!!  

Plus, this one is much prettier than our MMP with it's rich red color and varied texture. Enjoy!


diaVerge Southwest Seasoning

Our variation on a recipe by Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients: 

2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper

2 Tbsp Ground Cumin

1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika

1 Tbsp Garlic powder

3 Tbsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

4 Tbsp Dried Oregano

1 Tbsp Black Pepper

1 tsp Dried Mustard

1/2 cup Sea Salt

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl until fully combined. Place in a lidded jar, in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. Recipe makes approximately 1-1/2 cup.

Use as a dry rub on meats and chicken, add to fajita vegetables or even sprinkle on our Cheese Crisp "Crackers" for an extra kick. 

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*This recipe can also be made without salt (or with a smaller quantity of salt if you prefer). The spice level will be more concentrated without salt. Please use sparingly. 

** This mix is spicy. Please test a small amount before you use it to season an entire recipe. 

Eggplant Caviar

This is not a pretty dish.

What's pretty about a brown, lumpy, gelatinous mixture with some bits of red and green in it to dress it up? Like putting lipstick on a pig, right? 

Well, this stuff is the bomb (if you can get past how it looks). 

I've made this many times, using different recipes for inspiration. I like adding some roasted zucchini to the eggplant as a variation, but if you're a purist, stick to just eggplant. It's really a simple recipe and you can put it on everything. 

Eggplant Caviar is lovely as a topping for our Cheese Crisp "Crackers" or on a beautiful piece of roast beef. I also love it on a bed of lettuce with chicken breast, roasted red pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh ground pepper. 

I've even eaten it with a spoon, directly out of the refrigerator.

It's that good. 

This time, I'm convinced that this recipe is extra (EXTRA) good. I made it during the full blood-moon lunar eclipse. It's absolutely infused with lunar energy. Or would that be solar? Or both? Well, whatever.

Just try it. 

4 small eggplant, before and after roasting on the grill. 

4 small eggplant, before and after roasting on the grill. 


Eggplant Caviar

INGREDIENTS: 

2 Medium or 3-4 small Eggplant (Aubergine) weighing approx 2 lbs (or 1 kilo)

1/3 cup Fresh Parsley, finely chopped (or 1/2 Tbsp dried) 

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

1-1/2 tsp Magic Mushroom Powder

1/2 tsp Dried Garlic

1-1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

 

Instructions: 

Preheat oven (or grill) to 350°F (175°C)

Wash the eggplants and pierce them carefully in several places each, using a fork or sharp knife. 

Place the prepared eggplants in a shallow baking dish (or directly onto rack on grill) and roast for approximately 30-40 minutes, turning once during that time. Remove when the eggplants are soft to the touch and slightly deflated. Let cool thoroughly. 

Once cooled, cut the eggplants lengthwise and scoop the entire insides into a large mixing bowl. Discard the eggplant skin and stem. 

Using two forks, shred and mash the eggplant flesh until it reaches an even, yet lumpy consistency. Add the remaining ingredients to the eggplant and stir to combine. 

Refrigerate for an hour to blend the flavors before serving. 

Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups, depending on the size/quantity of eggplant. 

Low Carb Ricotta Pancakes

Low-Carb Ricotta Pancakes on our favorite stovetop toasting pan.

Low-Carb Ricotta Pancakes on our favorite stovetop toasting pan.

I don't usually try to re-create carbs because I don't want to be tempted by them. Some people can eat a low carb biscuit or a piece of LC cheesecake without problems. Not me.

I have to be very careful what I cook because even replacement carbs (that are made with low-carb ingredients) can bring back those evil carb cravings, and with cravings, a person can end up eating too much of a very calorie-dense meal.  I would devour all of the (dessert, roll, bread, cookie, etc) and then look for more. 

But... on occasion.... I just want what my kids call a "bready-thing". That's where Ricotta Pancakes come in. 

I've always loved a nutty pancake, something that's not just air. These ricotta pancakes are light and fluffy, yet just nutty enough that they have a really nice mouth-feel, especially when right out of the pan. I've tried other pancake recipes with cream cheese and while ricotta has a slightly higher carb count, it gives much more texture to the pancakes than cream cheese. Plus, ricotta has a high percentage of protein and calcium, as well as Vitamin A, riboflavin, selenium, zinc and phosphorus. (source)

While you could put a low-carb topping on these pancakes, I prefer them fresh off the stove, with some melted butter or low-carb whipped cream on top. Delicious!!


Low-Carb Ricotta Pancakes

INGREDIENTS (for a family batch of approx 24 pancakes):

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cup (500g) full fat ricotta

  • ½ c. flax seed meal (I use standard brown flax. Using golden flax instead will create a pancake lighter in color, with a more subtle taste). 

  • 1/4 c. coconut flour

  • 1/4 cup walnut or almond flour

  • 4 tsp baking powder

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • Sweetener to taste (8-12 dashes of Stevia Extract)

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp allspice

  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract (to taste)

  • 1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil (to melt in the pan)

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Instructions: 

Add ingredients to bowl in order listed.

Blend with a whisk or egg beater until well mixed (*If you prefer a uniform texture, you may prefer to use an immersion blender or standard countertop blender instead.)

Warm skillet or griddle over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp butter to melt in the pan. 

Scoop just slightly less than 1/4 c. batter per pancake.

Cook until the pancakes are firm enough to flip with a thin spatula. Turn and cook opposite side.

Serve with butter, whipping cream sweetened with stevia or Swerve, or favorite LC topping. 

 

Our Low-Carb ricotta pancakes re-heat well, but will be a little more dense upon cooling. To reheat, pop them in the toaster, the microwave, or on a stove-top toasting pan like the one shown in your first photo. 

 

Enjoy!!

 

Cheese Crisp "Crackers"

One thing I really miss sometimes is a crunchy cracker.  With 5 types of cheese in the refrigerator, it was the perfect time to try a cheese crisp comparison.

From semi-hard to hard, shredded, thin deli slices and block cheeses, these 5 options ran the gamut of factors. The results were as different as the cheeses themselves.

The Cheese Varieties: 

  • Reggianito, block (similar to Parmesan)
  • Tybo, thin deli slices folded in quarters (similar to Provolone)
  • Fynbo, block (similar to Muenster or Monterrey Jack)
  • Sardo, block (similar to Romano) 
  • 4-Cheese Blend, shredded (a blend of Parmesan, Mozzarella, Cheddar & Fontina) 

All of the 5 cheeses cooked differently and had a distinctive final taste and appearance.

Reggianito (a hard variety) cheese in the pan. 

Reggianito (a hard variety) cheese in the pan. 

Directions: 

Preheat a small non-stick or seasoned cast iron pan over low-medium heat.

Add cheese in thin slices (less than 1/4" of 1.5 cm thick) and measuring approximately  1-1/2"- 2" (4-5 cm) square.  

(You could also add: crushed rosemary, fresh cracked pepper or red pepper flakes to enhance the taste of your cheese crisps. I do not recommend adding extra salt, as most variety of cheese is generally high in salt already.)

Flip cheese when it's starting to brown and bubble. The soft cheeses are more difficult to flip than the hard cheeses.

Once both sides of the cheese are consistently browned, remove from the pan and let cool on a plate or cooling rack lined paper towel.  The crisps become more crunchy when fully cooled. 

Serve With:

Cool cucumber slices, a low-carb vegetable chutney, a slice of avocado, or eggplant caviar ....and of course, a good red wine.  

From left to right: Reggianito, Tybo, Sardo, Fynbo & Shredded blend. 

From left to right: Reggianito, Tybo, Sardo, Fynbo & Shredded blend. 

Taste Test Results:

The shredded cheese was the most difficult to flip and created the most inconsistent shape BUT it had great medium golden color, a light, crisp, easy to eat texture, and tasted like a Cheese-It crackers. They were lovely. 

The second favorite was a tie between the two harder cheeses: Reggianito and Sardo. These were easy to cook and flip because they didn't melt as much. These two were also the lightest in color, and the cheese taste came through more. I recommend keeping the slices very thin so they get consistently crispy. Thicker pieces are chewy, but the overall taste of the cheese was great, with a distinctive flavor.

The softer cheeses were quite bland and more difficult to cook/flip, and ended up getting darker in the pan because of their soft consistency. 

The Recommendations: 

  • Try various cheeses that are available in your area.
  • Stick with small cheese pieces to cook. A 2"x 2" (5 cm x 5 cm) cracker size is preferable. The softer cheeses will expand more when cooked than hard cheese.
  • Be aware that pre-bagged, shredded cheese may contain an anti-coagulant that could raise blood glucose more than block cheese. Please read all labels.  

Have fun cooking!  

Please let us know in the comments below, what variety of cheese did you use for your Cheese Crisps? What did you think? 

Magic Mushroom Powder

Did you know that "Maltodextrin" and/or "Modified Food Starch" are in some spice blends? Yep. And gelatins, sauces, sometimes beer (not that you're drinking beer) and many, many other packaged, processed foods. 

Both maltodextrin and modified food starch are starch-derived food additives. Maltodextrin is a type of modified food starch and is usually made from corn in the USA and wheat in Europe. Modified food starch can be made of any starch, including  corn, potato, tapioca, and wheat (although wheat is required to be labeled in the USA due to gluten allergens). Both are commonly used as  thickening or filling agents in a range of commercial foods and beverages. They're even added to low-carb foods and because of the small quantity, it may or many not be listed on the carb count, despite the fact that they're very high on the glycemic index (85-105).

To read more about the uses of modified food starch and the prevalence within the food industry, see this journal-- although this article sees it as a positive addition to the food industry. We do not. Read more information here on how food starches are modified. 

Maltodextrin in particular, is one of those sneaky ingredients that will spike your blood glucose, so it's important to be extra vigilant, read every label and avoid it at all costs. 

Ingredients prepped for Magic Mushroom Powder

Ingredients prepped for Magic Mushroom Powder

I choose to make my own spice and seasoning blends for this reason. I know exactly what goes into them and (bonus) I can control the ingredients to get the taste I want. It takes just a few minutes, you can put the finished seasoning in decorative jars and keep one to sit on the counter and another jar or two can become gifts to to friends or family. 

I've adjusted the ingredients and added a few of my own to make this a perfect savory seasoning for meat, fish, chicken and vegetables (okay, I also use it on eggs, and just about everything I cook). 

Magic Mushroom Powder is also a great alternative to bouillon cubes/granules in cooking, although I usually just substitute homemade bone broth.


diaVerge Magic Mushroom Powder  

(based on a recipe from NomNomPaleo)

Ingredients: 

3 oz. Dried mushrooms (I use a mix of dried shitake & dried porcini mushrooms)

1 cup Sea salt

1 Tbsp. Dried onion

2 Tbsp Dried red pepper flakes (divided)

2 Tbsp Thyme (divided)

2 Tbsp Oregano (divided)

1-1/2 tsp Fresh ground black pepper

-------------------------

Directions: 

Process the mushrooms in a coffee grinder (in batches), high-powered blender or food processor until it becomes a fine powder. Be careful to let the dust settle after grinding before opening the machine!

Pick out any large pieces of dried mushroom that may not have been ground and set aside, then re-grind with the next batch or with the spices to follow). 

Place the ground mushroom powder (you will have approx. 2 cups of ground mushrooms) in a medium sized bowl and mix in the salt.

Place 1 Tbsp each of the crushed red pepper, thyme, oregano and dried onion in the grinder and process for just a few seconds, until it is a uniform powder. 

Add the ground spices to the salt/mushroom powder mix.  

Then add the remaining 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper, oregano, thyme and black pepper directly to the bowl with the other ingredients and stir gently to blend.  

Using a funnel, gently spoon or pour the blended mushroom powder into a decorative jar (or jars) and sprinkle liberally on your favorite foods before cooking. Yum!