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.

Treat Week: Truffle Tuesday

redwinetruffles

Due to the death of a close friend, this week’s postings got delayed, so, as you can see, Truffle Tuesday turned into Truffle Sunday

Day 2 of #TreatWeek is one of my favorites: #TruffleTuesday.  Or, as my family (& hairdresser) calls it, the day I start making make #BoozeBalls!

The first, and quickest to prepare are my soft centered Red Wine Truffles.  These truffles are only as good as the wine you use to make them, so I always use the last glass of whatever great blend I have open.  This year that meant that the truffles were made with #2013MountVeederReserve.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  This blend worked beautifully with the dark chocolate and made for a decadent treat!  A few important words of advice about these truffles:

  • Make sure you chill your truffle filling for AT LEAST 3 hours so it’s easy to scoop.
  • Freeze your scooped portions for at least 30 minutes & try to make them as close to balls as possible.  These can’t really be rolled.  Mine never look #CandyShopPretty, but they taste good. 😉
  • If your truffle filling is not holding it’s shape; i.e. it’s too thin, don’t worry, HERE IS THE FIX: Return your truffle filling to your pan. Warm it over low heat so that it is easy to stir but not completely liquified. Turn off burner and stir in unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 TBLS at a time, until your filling reaches desired consistency.  You don’t want it too thick, remember it will thicken when it chills in the refrigerator.
  • Melt your coating chocolate while your scoops are in the freezer so your coating has time to cool a bit.
  • If you intend to use the candy melts to decorate the outer/hard layer get it prepared in advance.
  • If you are sprinkling any type of decoration that will stick to the outer coating do it as soon as you coat the individual truffle.  The coating hardens very quickly on the cold truffles.
  • Because of their soft centers, these truffles must be kept refrigerated for best presentation and taste.

Red Wine Truffles

  • 2 – 12 oz bag dark chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 Cup heavy cream
  • 5 TBLS Good Red Wine – Anything with Malbec, Cab Franc, or that’s BIG and BOLD
  • 2 tsp solid Crisco shortening

Heat heavy cream in a saucepan to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from stove and add 1 bag of the chocolate chips and red wine. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir until everything is fully incorporated and smooth. Remove to a smaller bowl, cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Once the truffle filling has chilled, using a cookie scoop or small spoon, scoop out chocolate and form into truffle balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes

While truffles are in the freezer, in a medium saucepan, combine chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

Take 6 truffles out of the freezer at a time and pinch them slightly to make sure they form a “truffle like dome” for the top side.  If, when you start working with the chilled truffles, they aren’t holding their shape, or seem to be getting runny really fast, STOP! and see the note in RED above.  If all is well, continue to the next step.

Working quickly, coat bottom of truffles first and place on a plate lined with waxed paper, then, using a spoon, coat the top of each truffle and decorate with red & gold sprinkles if desired.

They dry/harden on top quickly.  Move on to the next 6 and then move the plate to the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Peanut Buttery Fudge

PBFudgeChunkStackI love Sees® Butterscotch suckers but they do a number on my teeth.  I had an extra bag of butterscotch chips and knew that I couldn’t make straight fudge.  It would be far too sweet.  I played around melting a few chips, threw in some spices & natural peanut butter….and came up with something that almost satisfied my desire for the teeth cracking hard sucker.

A few important things:

  1. Cooking with natural peanut butter (no sugar added) is tricky when you’re making candy.  I didn’t take into consideration the additional oil, and had problems with getting it to set up properly.  After waiting 4 hours for the fudge to set between, I had to re-melt it 3 times before I got the consistency right so it would set up hard enough to not be sticky and cut into squares that would hold their shape.  The peanut butter you use really mattersDo NOT use a natural peanut butter that has to be stirred!
  2. If your marshmallows are not real fresh, add a tablespoon or two of butter to the bottom of your pan to help get the melting process started so they don’t scorch.  Although, I did scorch some of mine and it didn’t hurt the final product.  Just added a little extra nuttiness to the end result.
  3. If you want to save some time, you can substitute a jar of marshmallow cream.  I prefer to use marshmallows when I make fudge, but it’s entirely up to the individual cook.

Peanut Buttery Fudge

  • 2 – 5oz cans evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 TBLS no sugar added natural peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural Creamy)
  • 1- 11 oz bag butterscotch chips
  • 1 Bag Jet Puffed large marshmallows or 1 jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Line an 8 x 8 pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, warm the evaporated milk but do not boil.  Add the peanut butter and continue stirring until peanut butter is melted and completely incorporated.  Stir in the pumpkin pie spice.

Add the butterscotch chips and stir until melted.  Don’t worry if you end up with a few unmelted chunks. You have 3 options at this point.  You can either:

  1. In a separate pan, melt your marshmallows with a tablespoon or two of butter (if desired) until almost all the way melted, then add the marshmallows to the peanut butter mixture and stir in the vanilla; or
  2. Turn the heat down to low and stir the marshmallows and vanilla into the peanut butter mixture.  Be patient while incorporating the marshmallows.  You want to make sure you stir continuously so you don’t scorch your fudge.  I use both a silicone whisk and the back of a heat proof rubber spatula to press them against the sides and bottom of the pan as they melt down; or, finally (and quickest)
  3. Turn the heat down to low and stir a jar of marshmallow cream into the peanut butter mixture, until fully incorporated, then add the vanilla.

ButteryFudgeinPan

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and put into the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until fudge is completely set up.  Cut into 1″ chunks.

It’s really rich, so one piece satisfies this girl’s sweet tooth.  The pieces look pretty in a WesterlyChardpaper candy cup and go nicely in hostess gifts, or those you make for friends during the holiday season too!  Make sure that you keep the fudge in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  Unlike chocolate “fantasy fudge” that can be kept in a cool place, the oily content of the peanut butter requires that it be refrigerated.  Not that it’s likely to last very long. 😉

I love to have a piece with a nice cold glass of #WesterlyWines Bentrock Chardonnay.  The fudge brings out the butterscotch notes in the wine beautifully and makes for a really nice pre or post dinner treat.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Turkey Day Prep: Zinful Cranberries

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This is a recipe I shared yesterday to my wine lifestyle blog #GirlsGoneWine that I love pulling out for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s one that I have been making for a few years. It’s fast, easy, and tastes so good!  If you’re serving a #KetoCrowd, there’s an adaptation at the bottom of the recipe.

Growing up, my family never ate any cranberry sauce that was homemade.  In the preparations for cannedcranberriesThanksgiving, someone was always assigned the task of bringing two cans of jellied and one of whole berry cranberry sauce.  You couldn’t try and pull a fast one by buying store brand.  It had to be Ocean Spray on Grandma’s Thanksgiving table!

When I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my own family I automatically followed the same routine until I became obsessed with the Food Network a few years back and made my first foray into making cranberry sauce from scratch.

For the first few years, I stuck with the basic “back of the package” recipe:

  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz bag of whole fresh cranberries

Boil sugar and water, add cranberries and cook 10 minutes over a slow boil until berries have popped, refrigerate until time to serve.  *If you wanted it jellied you strained out the berry solids and skins using a mesh strainer before refrigerating.  BORING!

This year I put some time and creativity into the preparation and came up with a winner:

Zinful Cran-Blueberry Sauce

  • 1 & 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Zinfandel Wine (Best Quality you can afford – if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • 1 – 12 oz Package Ocean Spray Fresh Whole Cranberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
  • 1 Whole Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • Orange or Tangerine Zest

Bring sugar, wine and cinnamon stick to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.  You may want to use a splatter shield to avoid splashing when cranberries pop. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Cool slightly then move sauce to serving dish.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours and serve cold.  Sauce will thicken up as it cools.  Garnish with a few cranberries, blueberries and curls of zest.

Keto Conversion:  Substitute 1/2 Cup+1 TBLS Granulated Swerve (Stevia) for the Sugar

Don’t worry, for the holdouts who just can’t stand not seeing the canned Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, I still have the obligatory dish with the slices in the shape of the can. 😉  #CAGirlsGoneWine

Pairing Dessert with Wine

dessertwines

It’s no secret that I love food and wine, but even I have to admit that sometimes the wine you drink with dinner may not be the same wine that you want to keep drinking when it comes time for dessert.

Generally, it’s not a bad idea to follow the rule: the darker the dessert the darker the wine.  If you don’t feel secure with a rule that is so non-specific, there are a few other taste guidelines according to the different dessert types:

  • Custard and Vanilla
  • Fruit and Spice
  • Caramels and Chocolate

Custard and Vanillacremebrulee

When your dessert is based around the light, mild, buttery flavors found in most custard based desserts you want your wines to have the same basic flavor profiles.  So, if you are serving a vanilla custard, pudding, flan, crème brûlée, tart or pie, you’ll want to serve a white wine like a late-harvest Riesling, or a sparkling wine like an Asti Spumanti or demi-sec Champagne.  This Vanilla Crème Brûlée from The New York Times is #FastAndEasy and needs only 5 ingredients!

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy or light cream, or half-and-half
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar, more for topping

Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, combine cream, vanilla bean and salt and cook over low heat just until hot. Let sit for a few minutes, then discard vanilla bean. (If using vanilla extract, add it now.)

In a bowl, beat yolks and sugar together until light. Stir about a quarter of the cream into this mixture, then pour sugar-egg mixture into cream and stir. Pour into four 6-ounce ramekins and place ramekins in a baking dish; fill dish with boiling water halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until centers are barely set. Cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours and up to a couple of days.

When ready to serve, top each custard with about a teaspoon of sugar in a thin layer. Place ramekins in a broiler 2 to 3 inches from heat source. Turn on broiler. Cook until sugar melts and browns or even blackens a bit, about 5 minutes. Serve within two hours.

Most crème brûlée recipes need a torch, but this one is simpler & safer: it uses your oven’s broiler to get the crackly top.

**TIP: Make sure the custard sets for several hours in the refrigerator before brûléeing the top so you don’t end up with soupy custard.

vanillaspicedpoachedpearFruit and Spice

When your dessert is fruit based with a spicy profile, like those with apple, pear, pumpkin or cinnamon in them, you’ll want to lean toward white wines that have more character to them.   In this case you’ll want to consider Pink or Rosé Champagne, Sauternes, or late-harvest Gewirtztraminer.

Caramels and Chocolates

When your dessert is rich and full of any of the flavors across the chocolate spectrum turtlebrownies1(except white chocolate) or has the gooey richness of caramel’s toffee goodness, then the wines you’re looking for will be Red.  Late-harvest Pinot Noir, Banyuls, Grenache, Australian Shiraz, Port (the classic chocolate pairing), and Grappa all are excellent pairings for these rich dessert choices.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat