Browsing Category: real food recipes

Ginger-peanut dressing

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Ginger-peanut dressing on Asian chicken salad

Here’s a simple ginger-peanut dressing that rivals any restaurant Asian salad! My favorite salad combo to serve it with — and the one shown above — is, for each serving:

– one heart-of-romaine head, chopped (I save the bottom 4″ to use as dippers with hummus, etc.)
– one regular or two small green onions, sliced thin
– one or two handfuls of slaw mix with carrots
– chopped bell pepper to taste
– chopped nuts of your choice and to taste: peanuts, cashews or almonds
– chopped cilantro to your taste
– optional: 1/2 to 1 whole cooked chicken breast

Just toss all this together and serve immediately, or cover and chill till you’re ready to serve.

Just before serving, drizzle on the dressing. This recipe makes enough for about four servings.

Recipe: Ginger-peanut salad dressing

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tblsp. minced fresh ginger root
2 Tblsp. sugar-free peanut butter or other nut or seed butter
1 – 2 Tblsp. honey
1 small garlic clove
1/2 teasp. sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except for canola in a blender and process till smooth. With the blender running, drizzle in the canola oil.

Best if chilled for a couple hours before serving.

Orange-cranberry chicken salad

curry-chicken-salad-be2-500

I came up with this recipe one day when I was craving curry chicken salad for lunch, but couldn’t find any recipes that didn’t call for chutney. How could I do a quick fake for chutney? I tried onions sauteed till soft, then combined them with orange marmalade. Pretty good!

An alternate and easier approach is to just use green onions, and skip the sauteing step. I’ve tried both, and it’s good both ways.

You can use the nuts of your choice. I prefer the contrast of salty cashews, but since they just disappear in the salad, I decided to use pecans for the photos. Again, both are tasty, and you can use your choice. Sliced or slivered almonds would work nicely, too.

To keep the carbs down, I use a sugar-free marmalade and make sure my mayo has a minimum of sugar and no corn syrup. (Homemade is so easy, and needs no sugar! Here’s my mayo recipe.)

 

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Recipe: Orange-cranberry chicken salad

2 c. cooked, cubed, cold chicken
1/3 c. yellow onion, diced fine (or 5-6 green onions, sliced thin)
1/3 c. mayonnaise (more if your chicken is dry)
2.5 T. sugar-free orange marmalade
1/2 t. hot curry powder
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
dried cranberries & nuts to taste (note: substitute dried currants to avoid added sugar)
hearts of romaine or whole grain crackers, optional

If using yellow onion, saute till translucent. If using green onion, reserve a bit of the green tops for garnish, if you like.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the onion (using the white parts of the green onion), mayo, marmalade and spices; stir till well combined. Add an extra tablespoon or two of mayo if your chicken is on the dry side. Stir in the chicken, and green onions, if using. Add dried cranberries to suit your taste. Don’t add the nuts until just before serving.

You may eat it right away, but the flavor improves if chilled it for an hour at least. It’s also a great dish to make a day ahead.

Just before serving, stir in the nuts. Garnish with green onion and extra cranberries, if desired. Serve with hearts of romaine or whole-grain crackers.

NOTE: To make this Paleo, replace the orange marmalade with 1 clementine or tangerine, cut into bite-size pieces. Use homemade mayo. If you like, replace the dried cranberries (which usually contain sugar) with dried currants or raisins.

Serves 2.

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30-second Caesar salad

Lower carb chili

lower carb chili; Paleo notes, too.
 On a cold, grey winter day in Kansas, sitting down to a bowl of chili for dinner just feels right. But now that we’re trying to lower our carb intake, I needed to rework our favorite chili recipe.

My approach to low carb would more accurately be called “balanced carb.” I try (try!) to make sure every meal and every snack has a balance between carbs and proteins. (Did you know that going super-low carb or no carb for too long can mess up your serotonin? Not a good thing, if you have issues with insomnia, depression, etc.)

Most chili recipes have more carbs than protein: some by a small margin, some by a lot. The most popular chili recipe on AllRecipes has almost twice as much carbs as protein — 55g and 31g, respectively. So I set out to see where I could cut out carbs and maybe even sneak in some more protein.

First of all, the beans. Beans are carbs, but most experts consider them healthy carbs. So I kept them in, but cut them back to half a can. A little label-reading taught me that the kind of beans I use can help, too. Look at these labels for red kidney beans — the traditional chili bean — and black beans; check out the ingredient list…

Yep, that’s right: the red beans contain sugar and dextrose (a sneaky way for the manufacturer to avoid listing sugar higher in the list of ingredients), the black beans don’t. Plus, the black beans have about 50% more iron than the red ones. So there’s an easy switch.

Here’s another one: instead of just using tomato sauce and/or diced tomatoes for the liquid, I used a small can of tomato paste (checking to make sure there’s no sugar hiding in there), and used beef stock for the rest of the liquid. The stock brings a bit of protein to the party, plus I like the flavor it adds.

Other healthy-choice change-ups: I added a bit of red bell pepper to bring some fiber and vitamin C, and used turkey sausage instead of hamburger. Mostly for the flavor. And I actually prefer turkey sausage to pork. I just like the leaner flavor. If you don’t, feel free to sub your favorite pork sausage.

I added up all the carbs and protein in my revised dish, using the label info and this handy resource, and guess what! This chili actually has more protein than carbs. 22g of carbs, 25.5 g of protein.

Paleo notes:

You can just leave out the beans to make this Paleo. Diced avocado, added just before serving, makes a nice substitute for beans, texture-wise, and adds some healthy fat. If you love cornbread with your chili like I do, here’s a recipe for gluten-free flourless cornbread and here’s one for Paleo cornbread – with no corn!

Lower Carb Chili (Paleo possible)

3-4 servings (can easily be doubled)

spices:
1 t. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
3/4 t. ground ancho chili pepper
1/4 t. salt  or 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

1 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion
1/2 red bell pepper
2-3 cloves garlic
1 lb. turkey Italian sausage
1.5 c. beef stock
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste, no sugar added
1/2  can beans, no sugar added: kidney, black, pinto, or a mix; rinsed and drained
optional: sour cream, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, green onion for garnish

Mix the spices together and set aside.

Heat oil over medium heat in 4-quart pot. (Larger, if you’re doubling the recipe.) Chop the onion into about 1/2″ pieces and add it to the pot. Chop the bell pepper into about 1/4″ pieces; I cut it into long pieces one way then turn the cutting board 90 degrees and chop them the other way. Add the peppers to the pot, then mince garlic and add it.

Once the onions are translucent and the peppers are fairly tender, push them aside and put the sausage in the center.

I like to let the first side sit there till it’s nicely browned, then turn the whole thing over. Then as the second side cooks, stir and chop it to break it up. Cook, stirring occasionally, till no more pink shows. Once the sausage is browned, drain most of the fat from the pan.

Return the pan to the heat and add all of the spices. Stir until sausage is well coated with spices; simmer one minute more. Add in the broth and tomato paste and stir till well combined. Turn heat to med-high. Once it comes to a boil, add the beans and turn it down to a simmer.

Cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes to 2 hours. If it gets too thick, add broth. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with sour cream (or Greek yogurt), shredded cheese, and green onions, if desired.

Pioneer Woman’s hot crash potatoes

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So, you’ve heard of Pioneer Woman, right? Apart from having an entertaining writing style, fabulous photography, and thorough, encouraging instructions, her food is really, really good. Or, as my husband said after tasting this, “The girl can cook!”

I think this is the recipe that was my portal into PW’s blog. Red potatoes are boiled till tender, then coarsely smashed on a cookie sheet, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with rosemary, salt and pepper, then baked briefly at high heat so they come out golden brown and crunchy around the edges.

Hungry yet?

Crash Hot Potatoes

The thing that makes or breaks this dish is getting the salt right. I was a little too shy with the salt the first time; a mistake I won’t make again.

By the way… Did you know that new (aka, red) potatoes are lower on the glycemic index than baking potatoes? And that boiling them keeps them lower than baking? Boiled new potatoes rank in the mid-50’s; baked potatoes, 85.

Also, cooking certain starches — potatoes among them — then chilling them lowers their glycemic index even more, and converts the starch to resistant starch, which is digested differently and may have health benefits for insulin sensitivity and other markers. (More info here.) I bet you could boil these ahead of time, chill them, then prep and roast just before serving.

Image by Pioneer Woman

Zoodles with peanut sauce (Paleo-friendly options)

zucchini noodles with peanut sauce
The great thing about this Asian-inspired peanut sauce is that everything you need to make it is stuff you usually have in the pantry. And you can, of course, use it on your favorite pasta — either traditional wheat, or your favorite gluten-free brand.

(Did you know cooking wheat pasta ahead of time, cooling it in the fridge, then reheating it lowers the glycemic effect on your blood sugar?)

But for a more nutrient-dense and grain-free option, consider zucchini noodles.

I use zucchini and summer squash as a low-carb, real-food alternative to pasta any time I’m craving spaghetti, or want something noodle-y in my soup. (And as an alternative to pizza crust.)

Like most Americans, I’m accustomed to and usually prefer pasta that’s been cooked till it’s uniformly soft. But al dente means “to the tooth,” and requires pulling the pasta out when the outside is soft but the inside still has a bit of resistance when you bite into it. And if you throw the zucchini noodles in the pasta sauce to heat through for just the last two or three minutes, you get a texture very much like al dente pasta.

You can also make this sauce Paleo-friendly by using almond butter, sunflower seed butter, or another nut or seed butter in place of the peanut butter.

The original recipe is from Kitchen Confidante. Here’s my variation:

Asian-inspired peanut sauce

1 serving; scale up as necessary

 

a drizzle of coconut oil

1 T. finely diced onion

1/2 cup peanut butter OR other nut or seed butter

1 Tblsp soy sauce OR tamari sauce OR coconut aminos

3 Tblsp rice vinegar OR lime juice

2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp minced garlic (or more)

1/2 tsp honey

pinch of ground ginger

At least 1/4 cup chicken stock, add 1-2 more Tablespoons depending on texture

optional: Sriracha or red pepper flakes to taste

optional: 2 – 4 oz. cooked meat of your choice; chicken, pork, or shrimp

 

Heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan or frying pan. Saute the onions till translucent. Add all the other ingredients except for meat, using just the first 1/4 cup of stock. Stir till well combined and heated through. Add stock a tablespoon at a time till you get the desired consistency. Add the meat and cook till heated through.

Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in the noodles till heated through.

(This dish could easily be made vegetarian by using tofu or some type of pea or bean for the protein, and using vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.)

Try this soon: it’s quick, easy and delish!

Image by Kitchen Confidante

“Get Well Soon” with this simple soup

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Simple Soup

This soup is so simple, it’s really just a dressed-up broth, but that’s the beauty of it. Even when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, it’s easy to make for yourself. Or to ask a cooking newbie in the house to make for you!

Of course, if you like, you can add any number of things to it and come up with a more substantial soup: cooked noodles or rice, diced carrots, peas, celery… But when I’m not feeling quite up to par, I like the simplicity of the broth and just one or two additions.

“Get Well Soon” – a Simple Soup

2 c. good quality chicken broth (such as this one)
1 white mushroom
1 green onion
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth just to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Thinly slice the mushroom and add it to the broth. Thinly slice the mushroom and green onion; set a few slices of the greenest part of the onion for garnish, if you like. Add the rest to the broth.

Continue to simmer until the mushrooms are done to your liking. If you like them just barely cooked, pull it off the heat then. Or you can leave it on the heat till the ‘shrooms have reduced in size by about a third. They may also turn a little darker; that’s okay.

Once the mushrooms are done to your liking, taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your taste. (Pepper is optional.)

Serves 2

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DIY taco seasoning (sugar-free, gluten-free)

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Did you know that the packaged taco seasoning you buy may contain milk solids, sugar, maltodextrin, corn starch or potato starch? The labels pictured here are from a name-brand seasoning mix and the store brand of a major grocery chain. The latter has more salt in it than it does chili powder!


Whether you’re trying to avoid salt, sugar, or allergens, the great thing about making your own seasoning mixes is that you can control exactly what goes in it.

Here’s a taco seasoning mix I make and keep on hand. It works great in ground beef tacos and shredded chicken tacos. I also use it mixed in with the sour cream layer in my seven layer dip.

It does contain salt, but if that’s an issue in your house, you can leave it out or sub a lower-sodium alternative.

I’ve included two versions: The first will generously season 1 lb. of hamburger; the second gives you plenty to keep on hand.

Taco seasoning mix, single use

1 T. chili powder
1-1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. kosher salt    (if using table salt, use half this amount)
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
1/4 t. dried oregano

Taco seasoning mix, big batch

1/4 c. chili powder
2 Tb. ground cumin
4 t.  black pepper
2 t.  kosher salt    (if using table salt, use half this amount)
2 t.  paprika
1 t.  garlic powder
1 t.  onion powder
1 t.  crushed red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
1 t.  dried oregano

Slightly spicy slaw: for pork or fish tacos

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