Kumquat Margaritas

Kumquat-Margaritas

We have a Kumquat tree in our backyard and I honestly never know what to do with them!  Now I do.  As they say about lemons, when life gives them to you, make lemonade…well, apparently kumquats and tequila are a thing too!  Who knew?

Kumquat Margaritas

  • 1 Pint Kumquats (About 40)
  • 2 Medium Limes
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Silver Tequila
  • 1/4 Cup Grand Marnier
  • 3 Cups Crushed Ice
  • 3 TBLS Kosher Salt
  • 4 wedges of lime (for serving)

Pressing down, roll the limes on your counter, or a cutting board, to release the juice.  Cut your limes in half, remove the seeds, and put 3 of the halves in your blender container.  Cut the remaining half in half again, then use the wedges to wet the rims of your margarita or old fashioned glasses, dip the rims in the salt, and set aside.  Drop the lime wedges into the blender container.  Slice the kumquats in half, remove the seeds, and add them to the blender container.  Add water to the blender and puree until mostly smooth.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard skins and pulp.  Add sugar and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, 20-25 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes, then refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Mix tequila and Grand Marnier with 1/3 Cup of the kumquat reduction.  Serve over crushed ice in the salt rimmed glasses with a wedge of lime.  Makes 3 Drinks (about 2/3 Cup each)  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Highland Springs Ranch Lavender Cheesecake

lavenderbannerEvery year, for about 5 weeks, at the Highland Springs Ranch in Cherry Valley, California, one of the best smelling, and best tasting, festivals takes place on the largest organic lavender farm in Southern California.

During the Annual Lavender Celebration, guests can tour 20 acres of the grounds in hay filled, horse drawn wagons sipping on lavender lemonade or licking creamy lavender ice cream cones.  There’s an organic marketplace to buy lavender infused honey, balsamic vinegar, essential oils, fresh lavender bouquets, plants and even lavender-stuffed toys.  There’s an oil distilling demonstration and plenty of fun activities for the kids, but, more than anything, it’s the food people come to sample.

Although The Ranch Restaurant closed in 2018, my favorite festival treat is still their Lavender Cheesecake with a crust made from homemade graham crackers.  It’s #ToDieFor but it takes some time to prepare (much of which is chilling time), so don’t plan to make this as a last minute treat.  Thanks to Betsy Andrews at Eating Well Magazine, I can make this treat at home anytime I want to!

Highland Springs Ranch Lavender Cheesecake

  • 6 TBLS Unsalted Butter, softenedHSRanchLavenderCheesecake
  • 2 TBLS Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 TBLS Granulated Sugar
  • 2 TBLS Honey
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1+1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1+1/2 TBLS Light Olive Oil or Canola Oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Combine butter, brown sugar and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add honey and ¼ teaspoon vanilla; mix until combined. Add flour and ¼ teaspoon salt; mix until combined. Form the dough into quarter-size chunks, about ½-inch thick, on the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and firm around the edges, about 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer the crust pieces on the parchment to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes. Pulse in a food processor until finely ground
  4. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Mix the crust crumbs with oil in a medium bowl; press into the bottom and about 1½ inches up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until set, about 8 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

For the filling:

  • 3 – 8 ounce packages reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 TBLS Ground Lavender
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 4 Large Eggs, room temperature
  • 1 TBLS Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  1. To prepare filling: Put a tea kettle of water on to boil for the water bath. Combine cream cheese, sugar, lavender and salt in the stand mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add lemon juice and vanilla; mix until combined.
  2. Tightly wrap the outside of the pan, bottom and sides, with heavy-duty foil. Pour the filling into the crust. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch up the side of the springform pan to create a hot water bath. Carefully transfer the roasting pan to the center of the oven. Bake until the cheesecake is set around the edges but the center still jiggles slightly, 1 to 1¼ hours.
  3. Let the cheesecake cool in the water bath on a wire rack until the water is room temperature, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the water and remove the foil. Refrigerate, uncovered, until very cold, at least 4 hours.

This cheesecake can be made ahead and kept very cold for 3 days.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Quick Keto Crab Cakes

crabcake1After accomplishing my goal of losing the 33 pounds that 3 foot surgeries and 5 breast surgeries (for a total of 8 in a 5 year span) piled on me, in just 12 weeks, it’s become second nature to convert my regular recipes into #KetoFriendly versions.

See how this quick & easy version of crab cakes compares versus other preparations in terms of net carbs per serving of 1 crab cake:

  • Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs – 15 g carbs
  • Panko – 11 g carbs
  • Almond Meal (or Almond Flour but not super-finely ground) – 1.5 g of carbs

Quick Keto Crab Cakes

  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 TBLS Mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Pepper
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Scallions
  • 12 oz Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, drained and picked over
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Meal (or Regular Grind Almond Flour)
  • 2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lime Wedges

Whisk egg, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.  Squeeze in the juice from one wedge of lime and whisk until well combined.  Stir in scallions and almond meal.  Fold in the crab.  Form the mixture into four patties.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the crab cakes and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Serve with lime wedges and cilantro lime aioli (if desired).

Serving size: 1 Crab Cake  Calories 265 / Fat 15 g / Carbs 1.5 g / Protein 22 g

crabcake2

Cilantro Lime Aioli

  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Cilantro
  • Juice and Zest of 1 medium Lime
  • A drop or 3 😉 Franks Red Hot (or your favorite) Hot Sauce
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 3/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Large Clove Garlic

Combine all ingredients in your blender container and process until well combined.

Serving size: 1 TBLS  Calories 100 / Fat 11 g / Carbs 0 g / Protein 0 g

Quick Cream of Mushroom Soup

Every once in a while you just need a hearty, comforting bowl of soup, especially one that can be put on the table in under 30 minutes!  The great thing about this soup is that it’s #LactoVegetarian and #KetoFriendly so you can keep it as a #GoToRecipe for when you are hosting friends or family who may be making those lifestyle choices.

Once you’ve seen how quick and easy this soup is to make, and how great it tastes,  you’ll never stress about hosting Keto or Vegetarian friends for lunch or dinner again!

creamofmushroomsoup

Keto Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 24 oz Sliced Cremini Mushrooms (681 g)
  • 4 TBLS Butter (1/4 Cup)
  • 4 TBLS Olive Oil (1/4 Cup)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 3 Green Onions (Scallions) Chopped – Reserve 2 TBLS for garnish
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Brandy
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 4 Pieces Thick Cut Bacon (Cooked), Chopped – Leave out for Vegetarian
  • Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche (optional)

In a 5 qt Dutch oven, or large saucepan, heat the oil and butter until melted.  Add the garlic and  all but 2 TBLS of the chopped green part of the scallions to the pan.  Sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add all of the mushrooms and stir to make sure they are well coated with the oil/butter.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until mushrooms have released their moisture and are softened.  Add the vegetable stock and cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until soup reaches a boil.

Remove soup from heat and, using an immersion blender, process the soup until it reaches your desired consistency.  I like mine to have pretty good texture, so I leave it kind of chunky.  If you like it really smooth, you can process the mushroom/broth mixture in batches, in your Vitamix or blender and return the blended mixture to the pan.  Make sure that you don’t over fill your blender container and watch your steam build up.

Once you’ve processed your soup, stir in your whipping cream and chopped, cooked bacon (if you’re not keeping it Vegetarian) and heat soup over low heat, but do not let it reach a boil.  Stir in the brandy for the last minute of heating and then turn off heat.  Keep covered until ready to serve.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Serving suggestions:

  • Top with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche
  • Top with chopped chives or scallions
  • Top with additional chopped bacon

Italian Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

Italian-Sausage Burgers with Garlicky SpinachI love a big, juicy cheeseburger but they can get boring after a while.  This recipe is one that will definitely take away the boredom and might even be one that I can whip out at a tailgate this football season to change it up a bit!

This can easily be #KetoFriendly by eliminating the ciabatta roll and eating with a knife & fork on top of the spinach.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat but this girl loves her skinny jeans too!

Italian Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach

  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • Salt
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages (or a combination of both), casings removed
  • 4 slices of provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried-tomato pesto
  • 4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted  (If you’re Keto, skip the rolls)

In a large skillet, bring 1/4 inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 1 minute; drain and press out as much water as possible. Wipe out the skillet.

In the same skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook over high heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the spinach, season with salt and stir just until coated, about 10 seconds.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Using slightly moistened hands, form the sausage meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Brush the burgers with oil and grill over moderate heat until browned and crusty on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the burgers. Top with the cheese and grill until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer. Spread the pesto on the rolls. Top with the burgers and spinach and serve.

These burgers would be great paired with a fruit forward zinfandel like a 2015 Sextant Zinfandel Holystone out of Paso Robles, CA or an Artezin 2016 Old Vine Family Farmed Sustainable Zinfandel out of Mendocino County, CA.   #GirlsGoneWine

Dreamy Creamy Mustard Chicken

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Anyone who thinks living a #KetoLifestyle or following a #KetoDiet to lose weight has to be boring and consists only of mass quantities of cheese, bacon, and butter, couldn’t possibly be more wrong!

This chicken thigh recipe, adapted from one featured on The Food Network by Ina Garten, has every component of Keto covered (High Protein, Moderate/High Fat, Low Carb) with flavor to spare!  Served alongside a pile of arugula & spinach tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, cracked black pepper & shaved Parmesan and a mound of creamy ricotta mashed cauliflower, it’s certainly far from boring! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Chicken Thighs in Creamy Mustard Sauce

  • 6 Medium – Large Chicken Thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • Freshly Ground Himalayan Pink Sea Salt & Black Pepper
  • Garlic Infused Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, cut in half & sliced thin
  • 1/4 Cup + 2 TBLS Dry White Wine (I used an open bottle of Chardonnay)
  • 8 Ounces Crème Fraîche
  • 1 TBLS Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tsp Whole-Grain Mustard
  • 1 TBLS Chopped Fresh Parsley

Liberally season both sides of the chicken with the sea salt and pepper.

Heat 2 TBLS garlic olive oil over medium heat, in either a 10-12″ cast-iron pan or stove top dutch oven.  I used a 5.75 qt Le Creuset dutch oven.  When the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pan in one layer, skin side down. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes without moving, until the skin is golden brown.  If skin gets too brown before the cooking time is up, lower the heat slightly.

Turn the chicken, add the onions to the pan, it’s ok to add some under the chicken, and cook over medium heat for another 15 minutes, stirring the onions occasionally, until the thighs are cooked to 155 to 160 degrees and the onions are browned. Transfer the chicken (not the onions) to a plate and allow to rest uncovered while you make the sauce. If the onions aren’t browned, cook them for another minute.  TIP:  I took the chicken and moved it to a smaller dutch oven so that I could make this before the sides and keep it warm with the lid until it was time to serve.

In a 2 Cup bowl/mixing cup, stir together the mustards, Crème Fraîche, and 2 TBLS of the wine.  Set aside.

If you have an excess of chicken skin and/or onions that burned or stuck to the pan during the browning stage, deglaze the pan with the 1/4 Cup of white wine.  Scrape up only any burned bits and scoop them, with the tainted wine, out of the pan and discard.  Add the sauce ingredients to the pan, making sure to use a rubber spatula to get all of the flavor into the pan.

Cook and stir about 2 minutes, over medium heat, then immediately pour over the chicken you’ve moved to your smaller dutch oven OR return the chicken and the juices that settled back into the pan.  Cover until ready to serve.  Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with chopped parsley when plating, if desired.

plated

The Wonders of Keto Cocktails

Woman (and) man cannot live on low carb food alone!  This woman needs, what my daddy used to call, a 5 O’Clocker when the stressful day is through.  Be it a lovely glass of red wine, a bubbly glass of Champagne, or a down and dirty cocktail, there is just something comforting about that time when I finally get to sit and pet my labs while I throw off the stresses and worries of the day.

vanillaoldfashioned

Thankfully, there’s no reason I have to ruin my diet while doing so.  There are no carbs in a 1+1/2 ounce pour of straight spirits like whiskey, rum, and vodka; a 5 ounce glass of red wine has 2.5 grams of carbs, and the drinks below, adapted from Lowcarb-ology, have 0-3 grams of carbs, so those of us who actively participate in the #KetoLifestyle can imbibe guiltlessly, as long as we also remember that frequent consumption of alcohol while dieting can stall weight loss (if that is our goal).

Vanilla Old Fashioned

  • 1″ piece of orange peel
  • 1″ vanilla bean, split in half
  • 2 ounces good quality bourbon (I prefer Maker’s Mark/Maker’s 46)
  • 1 tsp sugar free vanilla syrup (I use Torani)
  • Club Soda or Zevia sparkling water mandarin orange (I get it at Whole Foods) – optional

Rub the inner part of the orange peel around the inside and rim of the glass, then muddle the peel and vanilla bean at the bottom of the glass.

Add the bourbon and vanilla syrup.  Stir, add a single globe or block cube of ice (for slow melting) & top with an ounce of club soda (give a quick stir) if desired.  130 Calories / 0 Carbs

Arctic Mulearcticmule

  • 1 ounce Pineapple Vodka (I like Skyy Infusions Pineapple)
  • 2 ounces Vodka (Grey Goose is my preference)
  • 1 drop peppermint oil (it needs to be for ingestion) or 1 ounce sugar free Torani peppermint syrup (optional but for the minty taste, you need one or the other)
  • 1-2 drops blue food color or, if you have it, you can use blue zero calorie water enhancing drops like Zio blue
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 6 ounces sugar free ginger beer (I like 0 carb/0 calorie Zevia – I found it on Amazon)

Add all ingredients, except the ginger beer) to a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled.  Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, top with ginger beer and garnish with a wedge of lime & sprig of peppermint.  194 Calories / 0 Carbs

And, as always, my #MomReminder, anyone who drinks alcoholic beverages please do so responsibly.  Always designate a sober driver, pre-schedule the very inexpensive option of Uber or take a taxi. #DontDrinkAndDrive.