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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!)

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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!

Winter fruit salad with lemon poppyseed dressing

winter-fruit-salad

This is one of my favorite salads, and it always gets rave reviews. I don’t make it as much now that we’re eating low carb, but you could certainly swap out your sweetener of choice for the sugar. And you could reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener needed by substituting orange juice for the lemon juice. The first time I made this recipe, I was almost out of lemon juice so I used half lemon, half OJ, and it was quite tasty.

Of course, you can swap out pecans or sliced almonds for the cashews, but I think the saltiness adds a nice contrast to the sweetness of the other ingredients. I also like to use smoked Swiss — or smoked Gouda, if I have it — for the plain Swiss. It’s a subtle addition, but I think it adds to the winteriness of the dish.

Make-ahead tip: Mix up the dressing, then chop the apples and pears and toss them with a little dressing. The citric acid in the dressing will keep the apples from turning brown. You can also prep the cheese, craisins and cashews and put them together in a container or baggie. Then when it’s time to serve, just dump the dressing, fruit and topping mixture over your greens and toss. If you dump dressing or anything with salt and sugar in it on the lettuce ahead of time, it will begin to wilt immediately, as these chemicals break down the cell walls of plants.