Tag Archives: quick

Recipe review: Super-thin pizza crust

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Pizza crust made from scratch doesn’t happen around here unless my carb-lovin’ daughter is home. She’s tried several different recipes, and this one from food.com is her favorite. It’s easy, pretty foolproof, and has a nice crispy crunch to it. Also, it only calls for eight minutes of resting time, so there’s not a long wait for the dough to rise.

She says, “Kneading is key to both the chew and the crunch. Use the windowpane test to see if the dough has been kneaded long enough.”

And for low-carbers, here’s my favorite low-carb quick fix for a pizza craving.

(Note: the above photo is by Wildflour, a food.com user.)

Seven-layer dip as salad

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I love seven-layer dip — sometimes called taco dip — and the dip itself is a pretty low carb treat. Plus, it’s got some decidedly healthy ingredients: avocado (15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat, plus potassium and vitamins C and K); tomatoes (lycopene, vitamins A and C); and the beans are a good source of iron and fiber — though they’re often made with trans fats. But the chips for dipping are not healthy in any way!

So I thought this would be another great dish to make into a salad on a romaine spear. (Which I’ve done before. More than once.)

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a guideline. The base is a heart-of-romaine leaf, and you’ll probably want two to four for each person. This makes a great “assemble yourself” meal, letting everyone customize their own.

Just lay the leaf on the serving plate and smear it with your choice of one or more items from this list:
– refried beans (or just used canned beans for a later layer)
– ready-made guacamole
– sour cream or Greek yogurt, plain or mixed with taco seasoning

Then top that with your choices of:
– canned beans, rinsed and drained; pinto and/or black
– shredded cheese: monterrey jack, cheddar, queso fresca, or a mix
– chopped tomatoes
– diced bell pepper
– sliced green onion or diced red onion
– sliced black olives
– minced cilantro

As you can see, this can end up being more than seven layers — or less — depending on your taste and/or what you have on hand.

Here’s mine:

Seven-layer dip as a hand-held salad

You might also like:
Make-ahead Tex-Mex salad
Chicken club salad with creamy balsamic vinaigrette
Ginger-peanut salad dressing for Asian salad

Chicken club salad with creamy balsamic vinaigrette

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Working from home has its perks and its challenges.

One of the perks is making yourself lunch every day.

One of the challenges is making yourself lunch every day.

For me, answering “What’s for lunch?” usually starts with a peek in the fridge to see what protein options I have on hand. With the weather warming up, I feel like a salad pretty much every day, but it’s got to have some protein.

On this particular day, I had a bit of roasted chicken, but just a small portion; not enough to make even one serving of orange-cranberry chicken salad.

So what else was in there for protein? Some fully-cooked bacon. I’m okay with using bacon as a flavor accent, but it’s not really healthy enough to be the main protein in a meal, IMHO. Hard boiled egg would round things out nicely. Now we’ve got a chicken club salad!

So I grabbed a few eggs and boiled them. It just takes a few minutes, and ever since I got this handy little egg timer, my hard boiled eggs come out perfect every time. The product description says it best:

 Simply add the egg timer in with your eggs and boil… There’s an easy-to-read scale within the timer. During the course of boiling, the timer changes colors, from red to purple, starting from the outside edge and moving to the center. When the color change reaches your desired spot on the scale, the eggs are cooked accordingly.”

So although I just wanted one egg for my salad, I make a couple extra for deviled eggs, tomorrow’s lunch, or who knows what. While the eggs were boiling, I fried up some of the bacon. Since it’s fully cooked, that’s not really necessary, but I like it crispy.

I chopped up some romaine, and sliced a little red onion very thin. Then, to whip up the dressing.

This is based on a super-simple dressing recipe I learned from a friend…

Dressing option 1:

1-2-3 Dressing

1 part sugar (or maple syrup or honey)
2 parts balsamic vinegar
3 parts olive oil

You just combine those in a jar and shake them up. Easy-peasy, right?

But there are two things I don’t like about that. First of all, it’s got sugar. And although you can sub another sweetener, I’ve found that sweetener-based dressings don’t cling to the greens like the sugar-based version does.

Also, it tends to separate easily. So here’s my solution:

Dressing option 2:

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 packets Splenda or 4 t. natural sweetener of your choice; I like maple syrup.
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. mayo
2 T. olive oil

Put the sweetener and the vinegar in a small jar. Swirl it around until the sweetener is mostly dissolved.

Then add in the mayo and shake it up well, until no more white flecks can be seen on the inside of the jar. Then add the olive oil and shake again.

This makes enough for the generous dressing of one good-sized salad, or two smaller ones.

The addition of the mayo helps both with making the dressing cling to the salad, and keeping it from separating.

So, by this time, your eggs should be done. Rinse them with cold water for a minute or so, then shake the pan so the eggs smack against each other, to crack the shells. Then remove the shells, and slice up as many as you want for your salad.

Assembly time: romaine, chicken, egg slices, bacon, sliced onion. I wasn’t in a cheese mood on this particular day, but you could certainly add feta, bleu, Swiss, or shredded cheddar to this. Then drizzle dressing over the top and toss lightly.

Chicken club salad, with bacon and hard-boiled eggs

There you have it: a fresh, healthy, delicious salad, in less time than it would take you to drive to a bistro and read the menu!

I call that a perk.

You might also like:
30-second Caesar salad
Ginger-peanut salad dressing
Make-ahead Tex-Mex salad

Sugar-free poppy seed dressing

Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema

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This dish is delish — I mean, truly restaurant-worthy — but it’s also super easy and totally healthy.

I have to give the hubs partial credit for this one.

I had made this spice-rubbed salmon for dinner one night, but hadn’t really figured out a vegetable to go with it, and Eric was doing Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (which is NO carbs), so I served the salmon with some romaine spears alongside and some ready-made guacamole to dip them in.

But instead of using the guacamole as dip, he put it on top of his salmon — and loved the combination!

Since then, I’ve evolved the recipe a bit. I started out with a recipe called “Broiled BBQ-spiced Rubbed Salmon,” from The Sonoma Diet Cookbook, but I’ve tweaked the spice combo each time I’ve made it, and I was really happy with the way it came out this last time I made it.

For the guacamole, I use Wholly Guacamole brand, and it comes in these boxes that contain individual-use packets. Which is just brilliant! If you just need a bit for a recipe, or you just want a quick easy snack, these are the perfect size, without the risk of the rest of batch turning brown before you can use it. I use the “Classic,” but they also make a “Spicy” version.

Recipe: Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema

2 8-oz. salmon fillets, about 1″ thick
1/2 T. ancho chili powder
1/2 T. paprika or smoked paprika
1/2 t. kosher salt (or 1/4 t. table salt)
1/2 t. granulated garlic
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil
1 2-oz. packet of guacamole (that’s one two-ounce packet, not a 12-ounce packet)
2 oz. Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or dairy-free yogurt)
optional, for garnish: diced red onion

You will preheat the broiler later in the recipe.

If the salmon still has its skin, remove it. (Here’s a short video that shows how. Here’s a more detailed one. The directions for the filet start at about 3:00 in this video.)

Measure the thickness of the salmon at its thickest point. You want to be accurate to within 1/4″. To do this, I push a toothpick into the thickest point of the salmon, then pinch the toothpick so my thumb and finger just touch the top of the fish. Then, keeping my fingers in the same place on the toothpick, I remove it from the fish and move it to a measuring stick. Make a mental note of the measurement. (Or a written note, if you have a short memory.)

Drizzle the olive oil in the pan, then spread it around. This recipe is for two servings, and for that I use a 6 x 8″ baking pan, but for more servings, you’ll need a larger pan. This photo is post-drizzled, but pre-spread:

Mix together all of the spices in a small dish. Before you begin to season the salmon, fold any super-thin edges under (or over) so that the thin part is doubled, and the fillet is a fairly uniform thickness across, like this.

Just press it down a little with your fingers; the fish is a bit sticky, so it will sort of adhere to itself.

Next, sprinkle half of the seasoning mix over the top side of both fillets. Pat the spices gently onto the fish.

Then turn them over and season the other side, using the rest of the spice mix.

Move your top oven rack to 4 to 6″ below the broiler, and preheat broiler. Let the spiced salmon sit at room temp while the broiler heats up. Then place them in the oiled pan, folded side down, and put the pan in the oven.

Remember your fish thickness in inches? Now’s when it matters! Cook your salmon for 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. So if your salmon is 3/4″ thick, cook it for 7.5 minutes. 1″ thick: 10 minutes. 1.25″ thick, 12.5 minutes. And, turn it over once, half way through baking.

While the salmon is cooking, mix together the guacamole and the yogurt. I don’t bother to measure the yogurt; I put the guac in first, then just “eyeball” the yogurt so that it looks like about the same amount.

Stir till well combined, and set aside.
Have you turned the salmon over halfway through the baking time? Don’t forget!
If you’re using diced onion for garnish, now would be a good time to dice it.
A minute or two before the recommended time, check your fish. Just poke a fork gently into the side at a thick place, and pull it up a bit to see if it flakes easily. You can also pull up just enough to see the interior of the fish, and see if it’s done to your liking. Some people like their salmon a bit rare, so that it’s orangier on the inside. Not me: I like it just done all the way through, but just so — not overdone and dry. (If you or someone in your house doesn’t like salmon, it’s possible they’ve only had it when it was overcooked, dry and mealy. Yuck! Who wouldn’t hate that?!)
So when the salmon is done to your liking, pull it from the oven, put it on serving plates, and top with the guacamole mixture. Sprinkle diced onion on top, add your side dish, and serve.
Ancho-crusted salmon with avocado crema
This time, I did plan for my side dish: French-cut green beans (from frozen), steamed, and topped with sauteed onions and crispy bacon. The smokey note in the spice crust of the salmon played nicely with the slightly-smokey bacon. There’s a dish dressed to impress!

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Make-ahead salad: Tex-Mex or taco salad

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On days when I know I’m going to be busy the last few hours before dinner — or on days when I’m not sure exactly when the hubs will get home, but I want to have dinner ready to go at a moment’s notice — I have several recipes that I can get all prepped earlier in the day, then throw together in a matter of minutes. A make-ahead salad is a great option.

This is one of them: call it taco salad, or Tex-Mex salad, or easy ensalada… it’s yummy in any language!

The first step is to chop the romaine. I use about 3/4 to one whole heart-of-romaine head for each person. And since I’m just prepping for two people, I go ahead and put the chopped romaine right into the bowls we’ll be eating out of. (I’m just showing one bowl here, but I make two. Cross your eyes if you want to see two.)

Next I whip up the salad dressing. This is easy-peasy!

I put a big plop of sour cream or Greek yogurt in a small mixing bowl, then add an approximately equal amount of salsa. I don’t measure it, I just eyeball it, but I’m guessing I probably use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of each. Then I add in a teaspoon or two of taco seasoning. (Try my recipe for sugar-free, gluten-free taco seasoning.) Stir it all together; you’re done!

Then all that’s left is to rinse and drain a can of black beans, slice some red onion nice and thin, and set out a small bowl of pepitas (de-hulled pumpkin seeds that have been roasted and salted). If you’re not watching carbs, you could use some tortilla chips, but I think the pepitas give a nice little crunch and saltiness while being a little healthier option.

I also take a couple of cooked chicken breasts and slice them up. Some days (if I’ve planned ahead), I’ll use chicken that I’ve roasted or grilled. Some days (if I don’t feel like so much cooking), I’ll pick up a couple roasted chicken breasts at the deli counter at the grocery store.

Then I cover the perishables with cling wrap and stick them in the fridge.

And when it’s time for dinner, pull everything out, pour some shredded cheddar-jack cheese in a bowl — or if you’re lazy like me, just set the package out — and each person can assemble their salad as they like.

Make-ahead salad: Tex-Mex fixin's

(The chicken was not present for picture day.)

Since this dressing is so thick, I like to put it on the greens first then turn it over a few times to coat all the leaves, just like you would a Caesar dressing.

Sorry; no pic of the finished salad. We were too hungry! Mmm-mm!

Nut tarts, the sequel

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I previously shared a recipe for one of our family’s favorite sweet treats, which we call nut tarts.

In the past, I’ve always made them as large wedges cut out of a 12″ pie. But I wanted to experiment with making smaller pieces. You can’t just cut the wedges thinner, because they’d get too fragile near the point. And all the points would break off. And then someone would have to eat those.

So this is a brief instruction in assembling and slicing them a different way. The original recipe is here, and up to the point where you begin rolling out the crust, nothing changes.

Instead of rolling the crust into a 12″ circle, I aimed for more of a rectangle shape, which was roughly 12″ in the longer direction. Then I marked the bottom crust lightly with a spatula to show where I was going to trim it. Then I spread the nuts to about 3/4 to 1″ away from that mark, in two rows, leaving about 2″ between the rows.

Then I lightly moistened the perimeter and center, and laid the second crust over this and pressed it gently down all over. Is it just me, or does this look sort of creepy?

Then I trimmed the excess crust away, leaving a rectangle-y  shape. I rolled out the excess dough for a bonus treat, but that’s completely optional. I sprinkled the nut tarts lightly and the extra dough generously with cinnamon sugar. Oh, and the photo doesn’t show this, but I pricked the top crust down the middle with a fork.

Then into the oven to bake for 18 – 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious!

I cut one piece into wedges and the other into bars. The holes I made with the fork ended up making the top crusts crack apart there and some of the pieces break in two, so I would do that differently next time.

I may or may not have eaten the broken piece.

I think next time, I’ll do wedges, but make the fork pokes closer to the wide end, like this:

Aren’t you glad you can learn from my failures instead of making your own?

The way I cut these, I didn’t end up with too many more pieces than in the original method, but they are sturdier. And cuter! And every bit as tasty!

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.