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Slightly spicy slaw: for pork or fish tacos

spicy-slaw-plate
Slightly spicy slaw

I made these Chipotle Pork Tacos for dinner last night. I love that I can prep everything ahead, throw the pork in the marinade, and chill it while I go do other stuff. Then when it’s time to actually cook dinner, all I have to do is cook up the onions and pork — which just takes a few minutes — warm up the tortillas, and we’re good to go!

I wanted to get some vegetables on the plate, though, and I thought slaw sounded like a nice go-with. I surfed the net looking for a southwestern-y slaw recipe, but didn’t find anything that just fit the bill. So I improvised this, and it was a hit! Because I used half mayo, half sour cream, the mayo flavor doesn’t overwhelm. The spicy-sweet flavor and crispy-creamy texture of this slaw is the perfect complement to the tacos, in my opinion. I think it would also be great on fish tacos, with barbecue, or straight-up on its own. (Which is how I had it for lunch today.)

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce comes in a little can, but it still takes me forever to use one up. (Spice wimp.) So after I’ve opened a can and used what I need for that recipe, I put the rest in a labeled glass jar and keep it in the fridge.

If you’ve never used chipotles in adobo sauce, here’s what you need to know: the sauce is fairly mild; the flesh of the peppers is quite a bit hotter, and the seeds are ridiculously hot. (To me, anyway. Consider the source.) So adjust what parts you use and the amount you use to your own tolerance for spiciness. Of course, it’s best to start mild, taste it, then add more if you so desire.

A little tip about slicing green onions: I’ve found that slicing them on the diagonal not only looks fancier, it also keeps the little buggers from rolling off the cutting board.

Slightly Spicy Slaw

1/4 cup mayo
1 teasp. chipotle chiles and/or adobo sauce (more if you like things spicy)
1 green onion
2 t. red wine vinegar or lime juice
1 pkt. Splenda or 2 teasp. sugar or 1.5 teasp. honey
1/8 teasp. salt – or just a few shakes
3 cup slaw-cut cabbage

Dice the chipotle pepper small, and remove any seeds. Slice the green onion thinly, discarding the roots and any wilty parts of the green.

Put everything except for the cabbage in a medium bowl, and stir till well blended. Then add the slaw and stir till all is well combined. Chill for 1-2 hours.

Use to top pork or fish tacos. A topping of cilantro highly recommended.

Serves 4.

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You might also like:
Almost-Panera’s Asian Chicken Salad
Make your own taco seasoning
Pulled Pork Pasta with Ancho Cream Sauce

Roasted Garlic “Mashed Potatoes” – low carb!

not-mashed-potatoes-w-text

If you’ve done the South Beach Diet or otherwise gone low carb for a while, you’re probably familiar with the “Surprise” Mashed Potatoes that are really pureed cauliflower. We make this dish frequently, and we’ve had our share of hits and misses. Here are a few tips for making them more like the real thing.

Steam, don’t boil. Since cauliflower have many tiny crevices, they tend to act like a sponge when they’re immersed in water. And too much water will make your faux-tatoes runny. Steaming them avoids this problem.

Don’t add milk or cream. You want to keep them as thick as possible; adding any liquid whatsoever will undermine that goal.

Do add some dairy fat. Sorry, South Beach, this is where we part ways! I think that some butter and/or cream cheese is necessary to give this concoction that creamy feel in the mouth that real mashed potatoes have.

Use a stick blender. This isn’t so much for taste as for efficiency. Forget pouring everything out of the pot into a food processor or traditional blender, and then having to wash all the parts. Use a stick blender. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it! It’s one of those things I wonder how I lived without.

And one secret weapon. Roasted garlic adds an element of earthiness that above-ground plants lack. It also adds a color depth and textural element that mimics potatoes with a little bit of skin included in the mashing. We’re lucky enough to have a nearby grocery that offers roasted garlic among the deli offerings, but if you’re not so lucky, you could always make your own.

Here are the proportions I used for the depicted bowl of “not mashed potatoes.” (With apologies to Monsieur Magritte.)

Roasted Garlic “Mashed Potatoes”

1 head of cauliflower
3 – 6 T. butter,
   and/or
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. roasted garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the cauliflower head into florets, and the narrower parts of the stem into about 1/8″ slices. Steam it all until very soft; you should be able to cut through a floret with a blunt mixing spoon.

Pour off the water you used for steaming. Make sure the pan is completely dry. Return the pan to the burner over medium-low, and add the butter and/or cream cheese. Stir until it’s mostly melted.

Add the cauliflower and the garlic to the pan, and using a stick blender, puree until the texture is to your liking.

Taste, and add salt, pepper, and/or more butter or cheese to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Ten ways to sneak healthier choices into your snacks

apple sandwiches - healthier snacks

Snacks happen.

Don’t pretend like you’re not gonna have ’em! Plan for them. Stock your pantry, your desk, or your vehicle with some handy but satisfying alternatives.

When you’re craving something unhealthy, think about healthy alternatives that have a similar flavor and texture profile: almonds

1. Want something crunchy and salty? Replace crackers and chips with nuts. Keep a variety of your favorites on hand. Yes, they have fat, but it’s mostly the good kind (especially walnuts and almonds), and fat satisfies sooner than carbs, so you may eat less.

2. Want something salty and sweet? Try an apple and sugar-free nut butter, or apple with cheese. I especially like smoked Swiss.

3. Want something creamy and sweet? Stir together some frozen berries, Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt, vanilla and sweetener of your choice. (Find out which ones are lower in fructose.)

4. Replace sugar- or sweetener-laden soda with soda water. Flavor it with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Add sweetener if you must, but you get to control what kind of sweetener and how much goes in.

5. Dip raw carrot or jicama chips in Caesar, ranch or blue cheese dressing. Watch out for sugar and corn syrup in store-bought dressings, though. Better to make your own. (Search this blog for some great salad dressing recipes. Also, try this 5-minute magic green sauce!)

6. Serving dip at a party? Take hearts of romaine: tear or cut away everything but the strong central rib. Save the leafy part for salads, and use the ribs for dippers, instead of chips or crackers. (Here’s my herbed cream cheese dip. For a dairy-free dip, try Dump Ranch.)

7. Got the munchies? It might just be thirst and/or boredom. Have a glass of ice water and go do something interesting or relaxing for 10 minutes.

8. Mix cottage cheese, salsa and guacamole; dip it with celery stalks or romaine ribs. (Dairy free? Sub coconut yogurt for the cottage cheese.)

9. When you would normally go to potato or corn chips, go with 100% whole-grain, non-hydrogentated-fat crackers (such as Triscuits) or gluten-free crackers, and spread them with something that brings some protein and/or fat to the mix: cheese, ricotta, sugar-free nut butter, or hummus.

10. Do a little research and find out what healthy options are available where you tend to stop for snacks. At QuikTrip, walk right past the chip aisle and look for the healthy options, including fresh fruit and cheese sticks.

Get more tips like this in my ebook, “Small Steps to Big Change: 10 easy diet hacks anyone can do.” Find it and others on my books page.

ebook; Small Steps to Big Change

Roasted vegetables

rstd-vggs-on-plate

The first time I had roasted vegetables was in one of our favorite restaurants on The Plaza in Kansas City. I was blown away by the flavor! This was nothing like any boiled, steamed, pan-fried or grilled vegetable I had ever had. The carrots, onions and peppers tasted like they’d been drenched in a just-sweet-enough sauce. The potatoes were perfectly salted and savory. I asked the waiter what they did to make the vegetables so sweet. “They’re just roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper,” he replied.

“There’s no sugar?” I asked, incredulous. He assured me there was not.

When we returned home, I hunted down some recipes for roasted vegetables. None of them called for sugar. I tried one. And just as the waiter had sworn, roasting them brought out their hidden sweetness.

After a few experiments, this is the recipe we’ve settled on. It’s become a standard on the Thanksgiving table, and a family favorite. In fact, my daughter’s request for dinner tonight, before she heads back to the land of dorm food, was chicken with mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables.

Roasted vegetables
Ready in about 1.25 hours    Servings: 3

2 T. olive oil, divided
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into generous chunks, to taste
1 red bell pepper
1/4 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (or left whole, if you like)
rosemary or thyme to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Note: to double the recipe, use two pans. Vegetables should not be crowded in the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Place the carrots and potatoes onto the pan, and toss to coat with oil. Give them plenty of room. If the pan is too crowded, the veggies will steam, not roast, and you won’t get that lovely caramelization.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn each piece over. Don’t be afraid if the carrots are looking really dark, even almost black. Just taste one!

Then add the onion and bell pepper, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil; toss all to coat; bake for 10 more minutes. (We were short on onion tonight, so there will be more of them in your pan. Assuming you plan ahead better than I do.)

To remove the woody end of the asparagus, just bend the stalk gently until it snaps in two. It will naturally break where the woody part becomes tender.

After the onion and bell pepper have had their 10 minutes, add the asparagus. Sprinkle all with herbs, if using. Continue baking until all of the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Once tender, remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes in the pan.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm. Learn how to deal with your new popularity.

Pumpkin pecan muffins – low carb, gluten-free, sugar-free!

pumpkin-muffin

Crumbly muffins, hot out of the oven, fragrant with cinnamon… These pumpkin pecan muffins are so good, my kids gobbled them up, even when they were at their pickiest stage. Probably because I never mentioned to the munchkins that these muffins are low carb and sugar-free!

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Eating Stella Style — Low Carb Recipes for Healthy Living.
(Note/update 2016: I’m working on a Splenda-free, real-food version, but I still think these would be okay as an occasional treat, unless you have known issues with Splenda.)

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
3 cups almond flour
1 can canned pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
2 T. wheat bran (or ground flaxseed, or omit, to make it gluten free)
1 T. pumpkin pie spice*
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
6 large eggs (corrected 5/17/13; previously listed as 3)
1 1/2 c. cup-for-cup Splenda (or sweetener of your choice)
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners, and spray the inside of the liners with no-stick spray.
Stir all the ingredients until well blended. Fill the prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out pretty much clean.
Let muffins cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp. (Warm with butter – YUM!) Refrigerate any leftovers.

If there are any. Which there won’t be!  🙂

* If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice mix on hand, you can use this recipe. But you’ll need to make a little more than the recipe calls for.

Nutrition info, from myfitnesspal.com; great carb-to-protein ratio!…

Nutrition Facts
Servings 12.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 295
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 24 g 36 %
Saturated Fat 2 g 12 %
Monounsaturated Fat 5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 123 mg 41 %
Sodium 375 mg 16 %
Potassium 80 mg 2 %
Total Carbohydrate 14 g 5 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g 23 %
Sugars 3 g
Protein 11 g 22 %
Vitamin A 90 %
Vitamin C 1 %
Calcium 15 %
Iron 12 %

Recipe review: Twice-baked cauliflower (low carb!)

twicebakedcauliflower2_kalynskitchen
Kalyn's twice-baked cauliflower
photo by Kalyn’s Kitchen

Twice-baked cauliflower? — Yes, this is every bit as delicious as a twice-baked potato!

Whether you’re trying to cut down on carbs, or trying to sneak more healthy veggies into your kids’ meals, or just want to play a trick on someone who says they hate cauliflower (perhaps your own taste buds?), this is your ticket.

In Kalyn’s updated version of this dish, she uses reduced fat cream cheese and sour cream, but me, I use the real stuff. Do as your own conscience allows, though.

Kalyn’s recipe calls for completely mashing the cauliflower — which I think would peg the comfort food scale! — but I wanted a chunkier texture than the mixer would get me, so I used a pastry blender. Worked great!

If you try this dish and fool someone into thinking it’s really potatoes, let me know. I bet you can pull it off!

(Note: this recipe is not Paleo, unless you are “primal” and allow dairy.)

You might also like:
Roasted Garlic “Mashed Potatoes”
Garlic Herb Cream Cheese Dip
Peanut Butter Pie (low carb)

Salsa Verde Chicken

Mmm… Made this for dinner tonight! The original recipe from simplyrecipes.com is super simple, but I wanted to get some vegetables and fiber in the meal without making a second dish, so I put one 10-oz. can of Rotel with Lime and Cilantro and part of a can of black beans in the pan before putting the chicken breasts in. It worked great! I placed the hot, cheesy chicken on the dinner plate first, then scooped out some of the saucy beans and tomatoes as a side dish. And all from one pan!

Oh, and I only used one 7 oz. can of salsa verde. Yeah, I’m a spice wimp!