Turkey Day Prep: Keto Friendly Appetizers That’ll Please the Whole Crowd

Spinach-Stuffed-MushroomsTo serve appetizers or not on Thanksgiving is always one of my biggest questions.  I don’t want to have people be so stuffed they don’t eat the main meal, but I don’t want to have people complaining if things get delayed, as always seems to happen.

The problem with appetizers is twofold: if someone else brings them they bring way too many, and if I do them it’s something else I have to do while also cooking the meal.  Then there is the dietary debate…who eats how, etc.  The beauty of these Keto appetizers is that they will appeal to everyone (give or take) in the crowd when a couple of them are paired with a simple cheese and/or veggie tray and that should be just enough to keep the troops happy until the main event.

These could also be great side dish options.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20 – 30 white mushrooms or baby bellas

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and mix well. Stir in spinach.  Spoon filling into the mushrooms and place in a buttered baking dish.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft.

Parmesan Crusted Crushed TurnipsParmesan-Crusted-Smashed-Turnips

  • 12 small to medium turnips, peeled
  • 3 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1+1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
  • finely chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place peeled turnips in pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and cool slightly.

Place the turnips on a clean, lint-free, dish towel on your work surface.  Using a spatula or other large utensil, press down on each turnip until they are all about 1/2″ thick.  Let them drain for 10-15 minutes then flip over to a dry part of the towel and let the other side dry.

Combine olive oil, garlic, and salt & pepper in a small bowl.  Brush both sides of each turnip with the oil mixture, press each side of each turnip into the Parmesan cheese, and place each turnip on a baking sheet.

Bake 20 minutes then flip each turnip over and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes until they’re nice and golden brown.  Garnish with fresh chives.  Serve with sour cream if desired. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Vegan Friendly Sides

scallopedpotatoesTo go with a sports description, we’re in the fourth quarter and approaching the two-minute warning on Thanksgiving.  Guest lists are likely set and it’s time to lock down the menu.  We all have the relative who is perpetually dieting, the relative who drinks too much before dinner even starts, the picky eater, the vegetarian, but there’s the one that always stump’s me: the new girlfriend or boyfriend who’s vegan.

The nice thing about these sides, from Eating Well Magazine, is that they will also appeal to your non-vegan guests.  Remember that undressed salads & vegetables, as long as they are prepared without any animal products (no dairy, no beef or chicken broth, no eggs), are vegan friendly too.

Vegan Scalloped Potatoes

  • 1½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes cut into 1/4″ slices (I use my OXO Good Grips Complete Grate & Slice Set – it’s fast, makes uniform slices, & easy cleanup)
  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes peeled & cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 4 TBLS extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • ½ tsp white or black pepper, divided
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 3 TBLS all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups unsweetened plain almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 425°.  Toss potatoes and sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and garlic powder in a large bowl until well coated. Divide between 2 large baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast, rotating the pans from top to bottom about halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring for 1 minute more. Add almond milk; cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and bubbles, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven. Preheat the broiler. Transfer half the potatoes to a 2-quart broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the potatoes. Add the remaining potatoes and top with the remaining sauce, paprika and almonds. Broil, watching carefully, until the sauce is bubbling and the almonds are beginning to brown, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve topped with thyme.

  • To make ahead: Roast potatoes (Step 2) up to 30 minutes ahead. Prepare sauce (Step 3), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day; gently reheat until steaming before combining with the potatoes.
  • Serving size: ½ cup  Per serving: 199 calories; 8 g fat(1 g sat); 4 g fiber; 30 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 23 mcg folate; 0 cholesterol; 5 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 13,266 IU vitamin A; 18 mg vitamin C; 157 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 303 mg sodium; 651 mg potassium  Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (265% daily value), Vitamin C (30% dv)  Carbohydrate Servings: 2 Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 fat

Vegan Sourdough StuffingSourdoughStuffing

  • 3 TBLS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups halved and sliced leeks
  • 2 large stalks celery, halved and sliced
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 16 ounces sourdough bread stuffing cubes
  • 2¼ cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle poultry seasoning, pepper and salt over the vegetables and stir to combine. Transfer to a large bowl. Add bread and broth; stir until all the bread is moistened. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Coat a large piece of foil with cooking spray. Cover the baking dish with the foil, spray-side down.

Bake until hot and steaming, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake until lightly crisped on top, 18 to 20 minutes more.

Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

I love baked beans but hate all of the preservatives and calories from the sugar that come with the store bought canned varieties.  This 4th of July I decided to try my hand at making my own.

I learned a few things by doing so:

  • Even though you can put the dried beans right into the pressure cooker and shorten the prep time, DON’T SKIP SOAKING THE BEANS.
  • Soaking the beans removes most of the indigestible sugars (which can cause gas) and re-hydrates the beans evenly so they are as plump and beautiful as they were when they were fresh.  Pre-soaking the beans also allows the skins to be receptive to absorbing the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Use as many unprocessed ingredients as possible

Pressure Cooker Baked Beans

  • 1 pound dried Navy (White Northern) beans
  • 1/2 pound thick cut (from the butcher if you can) uncured smoked bacon (no nitrates or nitrites) – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped (or 1+1/2 tsp jarred chopped garlic)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBLS Bourbon (I use Maker’s 46)
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 TBLS corn starch
  • 2 TBLS cold water

Rinse dry beans in cold water in a colander, removing any debris.  Soak beans using either 1) the Overnight Soak Method (8-12 hours in a bowl or pot of cold water covered with a lid) or 2) following the Pressure Cooker Quick Soak Method:

  • Put the beans in the pressure cooker. For each cup of rinsed beans, add four cups of Degas-Cook-Soak-Beans-Coverwater
  • Add a teaspoon of olive oil (this keeps the foam down)
  • Bring the contents to a boil with the lid open using the BROWN setting
  • Quickly close and lock the pressure cooker lid and pressure cook for 15 minutes at high pressure
  • Open the pressure cooker using a Slow Normal release – open the valve very slowly
  • Drain and rinse the beans under cold running water

Prepare the sauce base:

  1. Using BROWN setting – cook onions until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add garlic and bacon and cook until bacon is almost crispy
  3. Stir in brown sugar, and then the bourbon, scraping up all the brown, crispy bits from the bottom
  4. Add the chicken broth, mustard, molasses, maple syrup, ketchup, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined
  5. Return beans to the pressure cooker and close lid
  6. Set to High pressure and cook for 90 minutes
  7. Once cooking is complete, allow 10 minutes for the pressure to return to normal naturally, then release the remaining pressure and open the lid
  8. Turn pressure cooker to Brown setting.
  9. In a small dish combine the water and cornstarch.
  10. Stir the mixture into the beans and cook until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency.
  11. Remove from the pressure cooker to a serving dish and enjoy!  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

*** Vegetarian Option:  If you want to make these vegetarian, don’t add the bacon.

Artichokes With Roasted Garlic Wine Dip

home-artichokeI love living in Southern California where there is the availability of local fruits and vegetables in the stores, as well as what is trucked and flown in from around the country and from other parts of the world, pretty much year-round.  It really makes cooking and eating fun! #ThisGirlLovesToEat 

One of the few things that I do have to be patient for are artichokes.  Nowhere grows them as big and meaty as we do in California.  In fact, 99.99% of all commercially grown artichokes are grown in California. 

CAF_fest_logo-2017Since I happen to love them, it’s a pretty good thing that Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom named artichokes the Official State Vegetable of California on April 10, 2013.  Artichokes from California are so fabulous that they’ve had their own festival for the past 56 years: Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival.

Some people dip their leaves in mayonnaise (which makes me want to gag), others in various aiolis, dips or other concoctions, but I’ve been a ridiculous creature of habit for as long as I can remember, eating my artichokes one way and one way only: dipping each succulent leaf into a bowl of melted butter.  Occasionally I may deviate in the preparation of the steam that surrounds my artichoke, adding some white wine, maybe some garlic or some lemon to the water, but I never deviate on my buttery leaf bath.  Until now.

This long forgotten recipe I’d clipped from the May 2007 edition of Cooking Light Magazine convinced me to change my ways (at least temporarily).

artichokes-dip-ck-1622453-x

Artichokes With Roasted Garlic Wine Dip

  • 2 whole garlic heads
  • 4 medium artichokes (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat Oven to 400° F.
  2. Remove white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake at 400° F for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.
  3. Cut off stems of artichokes, and remove bottom leaves. Trim about 1/2 inch from tops of artichokes. Place artichokes, stem ends down, in a large Dutch oven filled two-thirds with water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a leaf near the center of each artichoke pulls out easily. Remove artichokes from pan.
  4. Combine half of garlic pulp and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add broth; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter and salt. Pour mixture into a blender; add remaining half of garlic pulp. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Sprinkle dip with parsley, if desired. Serve dip with warm artichokes.

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Best Way To Cook Cauliflower Rice

how-to-make-cauliflower-rice-graterAnyone who has tried to diet, lose a few pounds, or who just wants to cut down on the many, many carbohydrates in the average American diet has likely heard of substituting white rice with cauliflower grated down into a low-calorie, gluten-free rice substitute that is also a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C, K, and B6.

I have yet to master “cauliflower rice.”  The methods I have used so far have left me with either a pile of mush (something close to Cream of Wheat) or rock hard mini chunks that in no way resemble rice…UG!

Thankfully the test kitchen at epicurious.com did the hard work of trying out the many methods we’ve all seen on pinterest and gave us the method that they found to be the best tasting and closest in consistency to rice so that home cooks like me can stop screwing it up so badly.  The one thing that they did note, for consistency, was that they added olive oil to all preparations (except raw).

cookingcaulirice

The following is taken directly from the article found at http://www.epicurious.com:  The Best Way to Make Cauliflower Rice; by   04.22.16

COOKING METHOD 1: NONE

They tasted the grated cauliflower in its natural state, as it is sometimes added to couscous-like salads raw and simply tossed with a rich, acidic dressing that helps break down some of its tough structure. But although the raw form is the easiest—no cooking required—it had a crunch that was too vegetable-like to approximate rice.

Epinion: Raw cauliflower rice is crunchy, and works to add texture to a salad, but it doesn’t mimic cooked rice.


COOKING METHOD 2: STEAMED IN CHEESECLOTH

Steaming the grated cauliflower is the most minimal cooking process. But since the cauliflower granules are so small, they had to use several layers of cheesecloth to hold the cauliflower in the steamer basket. The texture here was great, and the flavor was clean and fresh, very similar to the blank canvas of white rice. But removing the tiny cauliflower pieces from the cheesecloth was a pain, and some cauliflower rice was lost in the process.

Epinion: This process yields great results, but it’s too fussy.


COOKING METHOD 3: STEAMED IN WATER, THEN GRATED

They then tried steaming the whole cauliflower florets first, using a traditional steamer basket set into a medium-sized pot. Once cooled, the cooked cauliflower was grated. Although this greatly simplified the process, the cauliflower rice tasted waterlogged and was mushy.

Epinion: Steaming whole cauliflower florets doesn’t work.


COOKING METHOD 4: COOKED IN WATER

Next they tried cooking the grated cauliflower as if it were traditional rice: they added the grated cauliflower to a small amount of simmering water, covered the pan, and let the cauliflower cook until the water evaporated. Again, this yielded watery mush.

Epinion: Cauliflower rice shouldn’t be cooked the same way as rice.


COOKING METHOD 5: BOILED

Not wanting to give up on the ease of water-cooking, they tried dunking some of the grated cauliflower in a pot of boiling water and then in ice water to try out quick-blanching. But yet again, the cauliflower rice was wet and squishy.

Epinion: Water + tiny granules of cauliflower rice = soggy cauliflower.


COOKING METHOD 6: MICROWAVED

They placed the grated cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl, stirred in the tablespoon of oil, covered the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and cooked for about 3 minutes. And viola! Super easy, delicious texture with distinct rice kernels, and clean flavor, very similar to the steamed version, minus the mess of the cheesecloth.

Epinion: For the easiest and cleanest white-rice—esque cauliflower, use the microwave.


COOKING METHOD 7: SAUTÉED

Finally, they tested high-heat methods of cooking the cauliflower, heating up the olive oil in a pan and sautéing the grated cauliflower until lightly cooked. The taste was much richer than the microwaved cauliflower (or any of the boiled/steamed versions), but the cruciferous flavor was much stronger.

Epinion: For a sweeter, more cauliflower-forward rice, sautéing is a great option.


COOKING METHOD 8: ROASTED

For the final test, they tossed the grated cauliflower with the oil, then roasted it on a baking sheet at 400°F for about 12 minutes. This version had the sweetest flavor, thanks to the caramelization of the cauliflower. But again, that earthy, cauliflower funk was much more apparent than in other cooking methods. Cauliflower rice made this way makes a great side dish on its own, seasoned simply with butter, salt, pepper, and perhaps some cheese, but for a white rice alternative, the microwaved rice was the clear winner.

Epinion: For a quick-cooking, caramelized cauliflower side dish, roasting is the way to go.

I can see now that my mistakes were:

  • I wasn’t adding any olive oil when cooking
  • I was adding too much water
  • I was overcooking the riced cauliflower in the microwave

Knowing where I failed, plus taking the expert advice of the Epicurious test kitchen, convince me that my next attempt at cauliflower rice is going to be much better!

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Healthier Potato Chips

potato-chipsIt’s debate night and a few girlfriends and I are throwing together a spread so we can drink wine and yell at the combatants on the television screen.  All was fine until I realized my son ate all of the chips and Amazon Prime Now had already made their second trip to my house of the day.  UG!

I remembered I had a 5 pound bag of potatoes in the cabinet so bravely I took on baking homemade potato chips.  How hard could it be?  Truth be told, the whole first batch ended up in the trash…I baked them WAY too long and they were black.  Oops!

This is the recipe that finally worked:

  • 3 Large Russet Potatoes
  • 1/4 Cup Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 -2 TBLS Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Cajun Spice Blend, Ranch Dressing Mix, Mrs. Dash, or any other seasoning blend you’d prefer
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°
  2. Wash the potatoes thoroughly
  3. Using a mandolin type slicer, slice the potatoes into thin slices, rinse in cold water and pat dry
  4. Pour the olive oil into a medium sized mixing bowl, add the potato slices and the spice(s) you prefer
  5. Using tongs to separate, toss the potato slices making sure that they are thoroughly coated on both sides
  6. Place slices on baking sheets and put into preheated oven.
  7. Cook 12-15 minutes or until chips are brown (but not too dark)
  8. Remove from pans to paper towel lined drying racks so excess oil can be soaked up.
  9. Store in sealed container lined with paper towel between layers.

Serve with sour cream, any dip you choose or ketchup!

donaldripspageAfter drinking enough wine for a much larger party than just the 4 of us, emptying the bowl of chips, downing a pizza, tweeting until our nails were breaking, and screaming obscenities at the screen for 90 minutes, we were treated to this scene at the end of the debate when a television camera caught an angry Donald Trump angrily ripping a page out of his notebook while grinding his teeth. 😉

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Hula Mac

la%20coliseum-uscThe college football season is 6 weeks old and finally, this past Saturday, I got to go to a game.  I love college football season and missing six games sucked, so I was really anxious to get back into full tailgate mode.  I was warned by my fellow tail gaiters, not to overdo it, which I did, but it was SO worth it!

Because the LA Rams are sharing the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the USC ramscoliseumdayTrojans for the next 3 years, while their new stadium is being built in Inglewood, there are a few game weekends when both teams will be hosting home games.  This weekend happened to be one of those weekends which meant USC would be kicking off at 1:00 PM in order to give the Coliseum crew time to the complete stadium changeover that meant an early (and shorter) tailgate.  That’s always a challenge, but additionally, Southern California was in the middle of another hot and dry spell which makes bringing and keeping food fresh during the hours on the hot asphalt the hardest task.

Our friend Greg was making a Hawaiian sandwich/burrito/wrap filled with Portugese sausage and fried rice so I wanted to make something that would compliment that but would be easy to prepare, easy to transport and easy to eat while standing around with other football fans.

Hula Macaroni Salad

  • 16 Oz Spiral Pasta
  • 1 – 20oz Can Pineapple Chunks Drained (Reserve Liquid)
  • 3 Cups Cubed Ham
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrot
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Green Onion (About 3 Onions)
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise
  • Reserved Pineapple Juice from Canned Fruit
  • 1 – 6oz Container Vanilla Greek Yogurt (Non-Fat)
  • 2 TBLS Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBLS Sugar
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Remove from heat, drain and rinse in cool water.
  2. In large bowl combine the pasta, drained pineapple, ham, carrots and sliced green onion.
  3. In a 4 Cup measuring cup (or bowl) combine the reserved pineapple juice, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and sugar.  Whisk until well combined and sugar is dissolved.
  4. Pour dressing over the salad and use a rubber spatula to distribute throughout.
  5. Refrigerate at least an hour to allow dressing to thicken and flavors to combine.

To make this a truly portable side dish, I combined the pasta, ham, carrot, green onion and pineapple in a gallon-sized Zip Bag and them poured the dressing over the contents, sealed and refrigerated.  Made it really easy to put into the cooler until time to serve.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood