Posts Tagged low-carb

Pork & Beans in Pumpkin Sauce

    Rita is a full-time student this semester and Mom is in the background supporting her efforts as best I can. It is most important these days to keep up the nutrition and avoid the gluten. Many of the new gluten-free products becoming available are still in the fast-food, empty-calorie, snack-food category that we try to avoid. And so we cook.

    This started out as a hearty chili recipe tailored to eliminate some of the elements that Rita is trying to avoid in addition to the gluten. One of those is all nightshade foods, especially tomatoes. The initial recipe caught my eye because the tomato in the recipe was replaced by pumpkin. We are both fans of all things pumpkin so we were very enthusiastic about the possibilities. The lean white pork also met with our approval although it can be substituted with a vegan option or eliminated entirely.

    I printed out a starter recipe and carefully noted every little change as I went along. The seasoning changes strayed so far from the original recipe that it had me quite anxious about the final result. Toward the end I emailed Rita what I had done so far and asked for her input on the choice of beans to be added. She chose navy beans but any favorite bean can be substituted.

    The result is something that I think is very tasty. Rita admitted to me that she liked it so well that she was having a bowl for breakfast as well as for dinner. So I am hoping that this is useful for all the nightshade-challenged individuals trying to stay healthy!

Pork & Beans in Pumpkin Sauce
1/2 pound navy beans, soaked overnight, and cooked until tender
1 pound lean white pork, bite-size diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
14 oz. water
1 15 oz. can pumpkin

1/3-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Fresh cilantro (optional)

    Put the beans on to soak a day ahead of time so they can be cooking while you prepare the sauce. Drain, rinse and add enough water to cover and cook the beans in a 2-quart saucepan. Do not add salt as this can cause the beans to be tough. Cook gently on the lowest heat necessary to keep the water bubbling. When they are tender remove the lid and leave on low heat. Reduce the liquid to retain the nutrients without excess liquid when you add the beans to the remainder of the recipe.

    Use a 4-quart, heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven to prepare the sauce. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the pork (or substitute) over medium high heat until it is lightly browned. Stir in the onion and celery. Cook and stir for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

    Stir in the cumin, coriander, garlic powder, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, savory, and marjoram. Also add the water and pumpkin. Bring the heat up slowly and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the pork is tender.

    When you taste the sauce it will seem very flat. This is where the cider vinegar comes in. It adds the sweetness and tang that you are looking for in a chili. Start with 1/3 cup and taste to see if you want a bit more. The difference is quite amazing. Add the beans. Simmer for another few minutes. Top with the fresh cilantro if you are using it.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

PS – There were no pictures. I was too anxious to remember while in process and it went directly into the freezer until I was able to get it to Rita.

    However, here is a picture of my breakfast this morning. Ricki Heller at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs  is writing a new cookbook centered on gluten-free breakfast dishes for those battling Candida infections. This was SO yummy – flavor, texture, and nutrition all wrapped up in one bowl of hot cereal!

Blended Cereal with a Boost

Blended Cereal with a Boost


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SO Cultured Coconut Milk

    Rita first became interested in the probiotic qualities of fermented foods during her studies in Virginia. And when Chef Alain Braux, Austin-based nutritherapist, spoke about how fermented foods can promote intestinal healing in people with damage from gluten intolerance I determined it was time to give them a try. For the past two months I have used some of the recommended products.

    We were on my first shopping trip to Natural Grocers when Rita introduced me to this tangy, creamy SO Cultured Coconut Milk product (also known as SO Coconut Milk Kefir). And how strong could it be after appreciating the very strong taste of fermented daikon radishes? So I came home with a bottle.

SO Cultured Coconut Milk Beverage

SO Cultured Coconut Milk Beverage

    Several bottles later, it reminds me of the cultured buttermilk that I used to mix with pineapple juice and no-cal sweetener to create a beverage that tastes like pineapple sherbet. And I plan to try that mixture again especially after discovering that this beverage is so very thick. In the meantime I mix it half & half with water, add a few drops of stevia and enjoy a tangy, refreshing drink that feels really good in the tummy. I am definitely hooked on this.

    Right now it makes a nice bedtime treat but come summertime I am already thinking of tall, frosty, fruity drinks.

Gretchen (Mom)

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Italian Orange and Almond Cake

    Sometimes it’s just destiny – a recipe appears on your radar from several directions in a very short time. It was a very unusual recipe. Simple ingredients, all of them already in the house, a very traditional recipe it seems, there was no flour in it, never had been, and first, you boil oranges – intriguing! It immediately went on the make-it-soon list.
    Fresh fruit is about to overwhelm me. When a season hits here, it hits hard enough to overwhelm. You can’t just pass up those bargains at the grocery – blueberries for 88 cents a carton? Between the strawberries, blueberries, and figs I was already making and freezing fruit puree so why not oranges? Except that I would use those oranges to bake this cake.
    Just to make sure I wasn’t heading up a blind alley I did an internet search on the ingredients and came up with several variations on the same basic recipe. Here is the way it worked out and even as I write about it my taste testers are confirming that it is a winner.
    One very curious note though. Does anyone remember a couple of years ago when Starbuck’s introduced their gluten-free orange cupcake nationwide? And then within months it disappeared never to be mentioned again? This cake tastes something like that, cake with a definite orange tang, only WAY better.

Italian Orange and Almond Cake
2 oranges (about 12 ounces – oranges vary greatly in size)
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar (I used Lakanto, sugarless & no-cal, no-carb)
3 cups ground almonds (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp baking powder

Oil, spray and/or parchment to keep things from sticking

Prepare the oranges:
   This process takes several hours so I ended up doing it two days before putting together the cake. Wash the oranges really well. Place them in a pot and add enough water to cover them (but they will then float). Bring the water to a boil, turn it down to a gentle simmer, put a lid on the pot, and set the timer for two hours. One of my oranges split but the other one did not.
   After two hours drain the water off the oranges and set the pot with the oranges aside to cool. When they are cool enough to handle cut the peeling off across the top and bottom. Cut the oranges into about eight sections and remove any seeds. Also remove the white string down the center. The oranges are really mushy. Toss all of the orange pieces into the jar of your blender. Process briefly on ‘puree’ – it becomes smooth very quickly. The puree is now complete so either begin the cake or store the puree, covered, in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Prepare the cake:
   Set the eggs (and puree) on the counter to lose the refrigerator chill. If the almond meal has been frozen to keep it fresh (a really good idea) then set it out as well – it is horribly clumpy when frozen but un-clumps very nicely when defrosted. Choose your sweetener. You need the equivalent sweetness of one cup of sugar.
   Measure the almond meal into a prep bowl, whisk in the baking powder, and set aside. Separate the eggs and place the yolks in the larger bowl where you will mix the batter while the whites go into a smaller bowl.
   Prepare your pan(s). This recipe fits an 8” or 9” springform pan. I used the batter to fill a variety of smaller pans and silicone cupcake forms. Even with non-stick pans and oil spray some cake parts stuck. Next time I will also use parchment paper. The cupcake forms actually did the best. However, wait until the cake(s) have completely cooled before trying to pull them out. This is not a quick, in-a-hurry recipe. Set your oven to 350*F.
   Beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until the yolks turn a slightly lighter shade of yellow. I added 6 drops of liquid stevia just to be sure that by using the no-cal stuff the cake would still come across sweet enough. Add the orange puree and continue beating. Add in the almond meal mixture and beat until completely incorporated. You may need a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
   Rinse off the beaters and use the mixer to whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the whites to the almond batter and combine gently but completely – no stray bits of egg white!
   I used a large (50 ml) ice cream scoop to measure batter into the cupcake forms. A ripple-edged tart pan received about 1 1/2 inches of batter. And a 5 inch springform pan held the remainder.
The cupcakes and tart pan were both done in 30 minutes. The spring form pan held a thicker layer of batter so it baked for 45 minutes total. The cakes should be toasty brown on top.
   This cake is very moist and tasty. It does not require embellishment. However, these were several nice serving suggestions from various sources.
1) Sprinkle with powdered sugar
2) Brush with honey or syrup and garnish with toasted, sliced almonds
3) Top with plain whipped cream and garnish with dark chocolate shavings
4) Add poppy seeds to the batter; then serve with sour cream

Only a Few Cupcakes Remain

Only a Few Cupcakes Remain

    You would think that with Don being such an avid fan of Italian food that I would have come across this recipe long ago. Now I’m wondering how it would translate for my egg-allergic friends.

    When I stopped by The Caring Place and shared some of the cupcakes we had a discussion about how much the Lakanto costs. It certainly is a superior no-cal sweetener for baking but it works out to somewhere around $20 a pound including shipping charges.  And although it is a staple at our house I rationalize the expense by using it sparingly throughout the year. Treats are treats and not our daily bread. Instead I feed my notorious sweet tooth with a variety of densely nutritious carbohydrate foods to keep it under control.

Gretchen (Mom)

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House Foods Tofu Shirataki

    Browsing at the Sprouts Gluten-Free Jubilee there was a package of these noodles, House Foods Tofu Shirataki,  in the refrigerated, non-dairy case with the soy and almond products. Sometimes you read about a new product on the internet but it never makes it to a store near you; and you don’t want to spend > $10 just to see if you might like it. This would be in the interesting-but-not-essential category. But here they were and on sale at 8 ounces for $1.11. So in spite of the reviews I had read about the ‘fishy odor’ I dropped a package of them into my shopping cart.

House Foods Tofu Shirataki

House Foods Tofu Shirataki

    Preparation directions specified to drain and rinse the noodles. They did smell a bit like a fish tank but a very clean well-kept fish tank. Then par-boil the noodles, drain them again and then dry them before use to eliminate any trace of odor. I then treated the noodles like any other product that I use with Don’s excellent pasta sauce. I love the classic garlic-butter-Parmesan combo, heavy on the garlic so that is what I did to the noodles before covering them with sauce. These do not have the flat, gummy bite of regular noodles. Did you ever hang around in the kitchen while your mother peeled potatoes – begging for a piece of raw potato? These noodles are quite firm and require definite chewing kind of like a very thin sliver of that raw potato or maybe apple. It might bring back an entirely different memory for you. Or maybe you have never experienced this texture before. Whatever you decide about the texture, the sauce and seasonings cling to the noodles without sliding away so each bite had all of the combined flavors and it was actually quite good.
    Additionally this product is endorsed by the food blogger Hungry Girl who has made a career out of reporting really-tasty, very-low-calorie, satisfying food to maximize the pleasure of eating. Her philosophy is that if you are smart about it you can eat a lot without gaining weight or sacrificing your appearance and/or health.
    These fetticcine shaped noodles, made from tofu and yam flour, are a relatively healthy choice. I might buy them again but then maybe not. I have years of loving this sauce on top of all kinds of squash, summer or winter varieties, French-cut green beans, or even a stack of yummy sautéed mushrooms; veggies rock my world.
    But you may want to give them a try – you never know when you might find your next most-favorite thing!


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Tarragon Pickled Beets

   This month’s Diet, Dessert and Dogs SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient is beets. My entry is really a two-fer; my adapted recipe plus the original one that inspired it. I never make the inspiration recipe anymore but I just wanted to share it as a hot vegetable option.
   The Tarragon Pickled Beets recipe is so simple it hardly qualifies as a recipe. It was adapted from a Harvard-style beet recipe to make one of my ‘Mason jar specials’ that were brown-bag lunch staples while I was working in the corporate world. There were 4-5 different ones that I made up for lunch treats. You don’t have to have a genuine Mason-type jar but you do need a jar with a tightly sealing lid. Fresh cooked beets, tender and sweet, are ideal if you have them. A 16-ounce can of sliced, diced or cut beets from your pantry will get you there also.

Tarragon Pickled Beets
Sweetener of choice, equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar or more to taste (I use stevia)
2 T. apple cider vinegar (lemon juice for Candida diet)
1/2 t. dried tarragon
1 3/4 – 2 cups beets
Reserved beet juice

Put an ounce or two of beet juice in the jar. Stir in the sweetener, vinegar, and tarragon and then carefully spoon in the beets (so that red juice doesn’t splash and stain). Add enough reserved beet juice to cover your beets. Screw on the lid to make sure it is sealed and won’t leak. Shake to distribute the juice and seasonings evenly. Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to use them.

Filling the Jar
Filling the Jar

Harvard Beets
(even then I was choosing gluten-free)
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 T lemon juice
1/3 cup juice from beets
1 16-oz can sliced beets, drained
Mix the sugar, salt, paprika, cornstarch, lemon juice and beet juice in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Add the beets and continue until beets are heated through.

Even though officially retired I still make the Tarragon Pickled Beets to jazz up lunch or garnish a salad every now and again.


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Mt. Olive Sugar-Free Pickles

   We always had bread & butter pickle chips in the fridge when I was growing up. On special occasions we had the tiny little sweet gherkins as part of a relish tray. The pickle used in potato salad and in tuna sandwiches was a sweet pickle relish. Even then the sweet tooth was in full force. Come to think of it, Mother was the one who bought all of the groceries so maybe that was her sweet tooth I inherited! I could never relate when my school friends had their heated discussions about the relative merits of dill versus sour pickles.

Mt. Olive Sugar-Free Pickles

Mt. Olive Sugar-Free Pickles

   When I came across this sugar-free, nearly calorie-free version of those beloved pickles I immediately became a fan. The spears are usually the only ones available and I keep a reserve jar in the pantry as well as the open jar in the fridge. If I am having a ‘sweet-tooth attack’ usually one or two of these will kill the craving . . . like dead! The juice never goes to waste – pickle juice can stand in for the vinegar in a salad dressing. And, seriously, when the pickles are all gone I drink the juice. It may sit in the fridge for a while but it never goes down the drain.

   Pickles will never replace chocolate but when you are trying sooo hard to avoid sugar you may want to have something like this handy. Given that artificial anything is not good for you I like to pretend that these are my version of a nicotine patch for sugar fiends. I wonder sometimes what other people do in similar circumstances and how they rationalize it.

   You can find the Mt. Olive website here  (maybe a little too much cute).
   And the product page here.


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Deb El Just Whites

   ‘Mad as a wet hen’ . . . if you have ever seen the expression on a wet hen after her nest of hidden eggs has been discovered and taken away from her then you forevermore treat each and every egg with respect. My paternal grandmother raised chickens and while she took very good care of them she did not allow them to hatch baby chicks during the hot Texas summer. If a hen went missing and egg production was down the search was on. When the nest was found and the eggs confiscated the hen was soaked in a bucket of water to ‘cool her off’. A cold wet hen cannot incubate eggs. Scientists may claim that animals have no ‘facial expressions’ but any person, who has observed a cat, dog, hen, or any animal will beg to differ. That steely-eyed, obviously ticked-off hen made a lasting impression.
   If a recipe calls for only the white of an egg and I have no use for the egg yolk then I reach in the pantry for my container of Deb El Just Whites dried egg whites. These are made from the eggs that are too small to sell fresh at the grocery store. They are dried, pasteurized, and are negative for salmonella bacteria.
   One technique is to simply add the powder to the dry ingredients in the recipe and add the required amount of water in with the other liquid ingredients. My approach is to dissolve the egg white powder in the water until it has the consistency associated with fresh egg white and proceed from there. I simply prefer the results having tried both techniques.

Deb El Just Whites

Deb El Just Whites

   Deb El needs no refrigeration and stores on a pantry shelf until you need it. If you are low on fresh eggs and have no time to run to the store the prepared amount for two whites will substitute nicely for a whole egg. You can usually find Deb El on a shelf in the baking isle at your local grocery store.
   I am still enjoying the results of my recent batch of Hamburger Buns that made use of Deb El reconstituted egg whites in the amount required for the three egg whites in the recipe.


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