February 15, 2011

Mmmmmmm…Good!

Posted in Cooking at 11:37 AM by Robin

Andrew likes to make fun of me, but I find that my eating preferences are very much season oriented. Despite the fact that ice cream is my favorite dessert of all (well, up there with creme brulee, anyway), I really have very little inclination to eat it in the middle of winter, unless it is accompanied by a nice warm pie or a brownie and hot fudge. I also tend to avoid salads in the winter. I really have to talk myself into chomping down on cold crispy vegetables when there’s six inches of snow outside my window. Doesn’t that image just make you shiver a little? Brrrr!

So, my problem this time of year is finding a way to get all my veggies in each day. I buy produce and it will often go bad before I can convince myself to chop it up and toss it with ranch dressing. Remember, those of you still holding onto an anti-low-carb bias, a good low-carb diet does not just consist of steak and bacon and eggs every day. You gotta get those veggies in! They fill you up, they give you fiber and vitamins, and most importantly, they give your meal the flavor and texture that satisfies your tastebuds. So, if you fall into the same sort of winter-time produce avoidance trap, my suggestion is simple: soup.

If your only acquaintance with soup is the stuff that comes out of a can, you have not yet lived, my friend. I love me some soup in the winter! In fact, my family complains sometimes because there have been times when I will make soup three or four nights a week! And then we end up with a bunch of soup leftovers, which nobody but me ever eats, and then we have to have a soup smorgasborg (sp?) night to get rid of it all. Once you have made soup from scratch, you will never go back.

Here is the recipe I just stumbled upon yesterday from Allrecipes.com. It is AWESOME! Andrew said that it tasted just like the kind you get at Olive Garden. Flavorful, hearty, nutritious, and even three out of four kids ate most or all of their serving! (That last one, it doesn’t matter what you give her, she won’t eat it)

Italian Sausage Soup

  • 1 pound Italian sausage (Italian sausage comes in sweet or hot varieties. I used the sweet, which really isn’t sweet, but it’s still got a good spicy flavor to it without being overbearingly hot.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 (14 ounce) cans beef broth (or one big carton)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cubed carrots
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can great Northern beans, undrained (about 1 1/2 cups if you cook them out of the bag)
  • 2 small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat, then add sausage and garlic. You can usually find ground italian sausage in the meat area near the ground beef, but if not, look over by the hot dogs. If you find it in rolled sausage form, that’s fine. Just cut the sausages in half and squeeze the insides out of the casings into your pan. I used Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausages last night. Stir occasionally until sausage is browned.
  2. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Don’t add too much salt at first because the sausage and the broth are both already pretty salty. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer  for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in beans with liquid, if canned, and zucchini. Cover, and simmer another 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
  4. Run frozen spaghetti under warm water to thaw it out. You could just add it frozen, but it would cool the whole pot down and take longer to heat it all back up. Add the spinach to the pot and simmer an additional five minutes. You can also use fresh chopped spinach, just wash it thoroughly and toss it into the hot pot with the heat off for five minutes. I also added a handful of fresh chopped parsley just because I had it on hand. Serve in large bowls!

This soup is so warm and cozy and filling, you might even be able to convince yourself to serve a salad on the side! Good eating!


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February 3, 2011

Low Carb “Cheats”

Posted in Cooking at 1:49 PM by Robin

I’m pretty sure there is a scripture somewhere that says “Man shall not live on meat and veggies alone.” If not, there should be. While completely going off of sweets and other carbs is great for the first two weeks, eventually your craving for something dessert-like is going to kick in, and you will need some alternatives that you can eat and still stick to your diet plan. So, today you get two recipes for the price of one!

Muffin in a Minute

I think the thing I miss more than anything else on this diet is bread. This recipe, which is straight off the Atkin’s site, is great for filling that bread craving. It uses ground flax meal instead of flour, which is supposed to be super duper good for you, and is very low in carbs. Plus, you can mix it up and cook it in the microwave in a minute and a half, so it’s almost instant gratification! You can find flax meal either in the cooking aisle or the health food section.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup flax meal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 packet (about 2 tsp.) Splenda, or your favorite no-calorie sweetener
  • 1/2  teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon sour cream

Stir the dry ingredients together in a large mug (you can use a small bowl, but the mug gives it the most muffin-like appearance). Stir in the wet ingredients. Your mixture will look gloppy and extremely unappealing. Cook in the microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (mine takes 1:30). Make sure you put a plate underneath the mug because it almost always spills over the top (my mugs are kind of small, I guess). When you take it out of the microwave, it will look disgusting. Try not to judge it just yet. Turn the mug over and carefully tip the muffin out onto a plate and let some of the steam escape. Don’t worry, it still won’t look very appetizing. Now, cut it into three slices, and all of a sudden, it actually does look kind of like a sliced muffin.

This is great just with some butter spread on it. It kind of tastes like a bran muffin to me. Plus, it has a good amount of protein in it, so it’s pretty filling. I’ve heard of other people using different flavorings in it, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

Creme Brulee

OK, first off, I LOVE creme brulee. I think it has to be my favorite dessert of all time. So simple, and yet so amazing. (By the way, my birthday is coming up, and I would really love one of those kitchen torches….). The great thing about this dessert is that it is basically just eggs and cream, which are both Atkins-friendly (in moderation, cream does have a few carbs in it). All you have to do is substitute a low-carb sweetener for the sugar. This recipe makes 5-6 servings, depending on how big your dishes are.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Splenda, depending on taste

Preheat oven to 350*. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, cook cream in the microwave for two minutes, just long enough to warm it up. There should be a few little bubbles, but don’t boil it. Separate your eggs and keep the egg whites for an omelette or something if you want. Beat the egg yolks in a good-sized bowl with a whisk or hand mixer until well blended. Add the vanilla and Splenda and beat until fluffly and lemon colored. Gradually pour in the cream while still beating, just a little bit at first so that the hot cream won’t curdle the eggs. This is called tempering the eggs. When all the cream is added, beat for just another minute to make sure it is thoroughly combined.

Pour egg mixture into six ramekins (the cute little dessert dishes in the picture above) or small oven-proof bowls. Put the bowls in a large pan, like a 13X9″ casserole dish. Put the whole pan in the oven, leaving the oven rack partially extended for a minute. Pour about two cups of hot water in the bottom of the pan, being careful not to get any water in the bowls. The water should come a third of the way up the sides of the bowls, about an inch. Carefully slide the rack into place without spilling the water and cook for thirty minutes. The custard will still be a little jiggly looking but if you stick a knife in the middle it should come out clean. Take the custard out of the oven and let cool just until you can stand to touch, then eat it while it’s still warm! YUM!

Or, if you want the full creme brulee experience, you can make the caramelized sugar topping. This works best if the custard is refrigerated first. Preheat your ovens broiler. Sprinkle a layer of real sugar (white is great, but try brown too for a more caramel-y taste) on top of the cooled custard (Yeah, I know. But there is no substitute for real sugar in this case. Besides, it’s just a teeny little bit, and if you’re being good with everything else, you can still get away with it). Place the custard cups back on their tray (no water this time) and broil for like three to five minutes. Keep a close eye on it because it will burn quickly. You want the sugar to melt into a golden-brown hard candy topping. As soon as it turns brown, take it out.  (If you’re lucky enough to have one of those nifty torches, you just melt the sugar with that). There is nothing like breaking through that sweet crisp topping and taking that first bite of creamy vanilla custard. Heaven!

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