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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Almond Crackers

In general, I pay attention to eating healthy.  My daily meals are balanced and I try not to eat too much junk.  There is no food group I omit - I have no allergies nor ethical quandaries - I love it all - vegetable, animal, and mineral.  Unfortunately, I also love to eat out and have a snack at night.  I may pass up the ice cream social at work, but that's only so I can have a glass of red wine with dinner and a cookie with my tea.  I probably love pasta a bit too much.  Who doesn't love a good piece of fried chicken?  Or ribs? Also, I tend to go off the rails at parties.  I admit I may need some help.

So when a nutritionist at my CrossFit gym put a 21 day sugar detox on the table between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I thought "what a great way to stop myself from eating all that leftover candy for three weeks!"  I signed on the dotted line and was handed my list of "yes" and "no" foods and proceeded to panic.  I thought I was giving up candy and ice cream, not fruit and potatoes!  We are actually talking about a pretty low carb diet.  I tried to do Atkins once about 15 years ago and I ended up breaking down in tears on Day 6 after seeing a Domino's commercial.

Well it's Day 6, and I must say it's waaaaaay easier than I thought it would be.  There has been no crying or mood swings.  I haven't gotten mad at my husband when he munches on that leftover candy as we watched tv on the couch.  I haven't even had so much as a headache.  This way of eating is preventing me from eating all the sugary food (including all the carbs) that I tend to overindulge in.  I get to eat all the other foods I love in plenty.  Am I the girl who brought a bagged lunch of turkey, avocado, and lettuce leaves to a catered conference?  Yes.  Did I make a peanut butter pie for my husband's birthday dinner and not eat any? Yes.  Did I watch my friend drink wine and not partake in a glass?  Yes.  And all those moments felt surprisingly wonderful.  Who knew I had willpower?!

I think the reason that I have been emotionally okay is that I have been finding fantastic ways to keep myself satisfied.  For example...these almond crackers.  I couldn't make it three weeks on this plan without having cheese and crackers.  It's one of my favorite things.  So here is a sugar-free recipe for crackers - made from three ingredients - almonds, salt, and an egg.  I was wary, but they are delicious.  I have already made these twice, and will continue to make these to have with my cheese plate forever, long after the 21 day sugar detox is done.

Wish me luck on the rest of the journey...I am pretty sure I will have more recipes to share, but it's been really difficult to find the time to do it right, lately.  In fact, even as I am writing this entry, I sit at the table as two six year olds eat mac n' cheese, argue over who knows how to count higher, and ask me if I know how to spell a variety of different words.  Do you know how to spell detox, kids?

Almond Crackers
recipe from Wholesome Yum
makes about 24 1 in x 2 in crackers

2 cups fine almond meal/flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While the oven is preheating, in a medium bowl, combine the almond meal an sea salt.  Then add the egg and mix until everything starts coming together.  Lay out a large piece of wax paper (or parchment paper) and reserve another piece that is a similar in size.  Dump the mixture onto the paper and continue to knead with your hands until it is one piece of dough.  Then place the other piece of wax paper on top and roll out until it is very thin - about 1/16 to 1/8 an inch - whatever you prefer.  It will not be a perfect rectangle.  You can easily tear pieces away and replace elsewhere to make the shape more rectangular as you go.  Then, using a knife, cut the dough into equal size and shape crackers.  Lay these crackers on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake from 10 to 12 minutes until a nice light golden brown.

I stored mine in a plastic bag in the fridge for a week and they kept perfectly.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Broiled Salmon with Scallions and Sesame

We aren't big on salmon in this house.  I have made salmon dishes before, but they haven't done much to make us like salmon.  However, I have learned that if I want Jim to eat something he typically does not care for, I pretty much just need to add hot peppers or scallions or preferably both.  So when I found this recipe, I knew it had potential.  Worked like a charm. This is actually the second time I'm making it.  It's really easy, fast, and healthy.  I followed the recipe exactly except for the fact that I thought it could use more peppers, so I use a jalapeno pepper in addition to the Fresno.  I have made it with just jalapenos and it was just as delicious.  If you want a little less heat, use jalapenos.  Also, it could be my oven, but I find that the cooking times they suggest aren't enough to cook the fish through.  I don't want it overcooked, but I don't want it raw either.  Not that I don't love me some sushi.  Start with what the recipe suggests, check it, and adjust as necessary.

Broiled Salmon with Scallions and Sesame
recipe from Bon Appetit

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (I always use reduced sodium)
    • 2 tsp honey
    • 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
    • ½ tsp sesame seeds, plus more for serving
    • 3 8-ounce skin-on center-cut salmon fillets
    • salt to taste
    • 1 bunch scallions
    • 2 Fresno chiles, thinly sliced

    • Mix the garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, honey, 1 Tbsp of the oil, and sesame seeds in a bowl and combine.  Place the salmon in a seal-able bag and add the marinade.  Toss to coat and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.  Preheat your broiler on high.  On a lightly oiled, rimmed baking sheet, place the scallions and coat in 2 tsp of the canola oil.  Broil for about 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and put the salmon on top of the scallions.  Spoon a little bit of the marinade over the fish and broil for 6 minutes.  Remove from the broiler, spoon more marinade on top, and add the chiles.  Return to the oven for another 2 minutes until charred on the outside at the edges and cooked medium-rare on the inside.  (As you can see my fish did not want to char much and I left the salmon in for 4 additional minutes.  Start with the 2 if the fish isn't burning and check on it incrementally until it is cooked to your liking.  Every oven is different and everyone likes their salmon differently - we learn by doing, right?)  Sprinkle with some sesame seeds before serving.

    Sunday, May 22, 2016

    Lobster with Ginger and Scallion

    Ever had lobster with ginger and scallion at a Chinese restaurant?  If not, you are so missing out.  It's one of our favorites, but unfortunately it's also pretty expensive for reasons you can guess.  We go for it when they have a special and we freakin' love it.  So Thursday night has come and dinner is over and of course, I immediately need to know what we will do for dinner the next night.  Anyone else?  Or just me?  Unfortunately, Jim is the total opposite.  Drives me crazy.  So I end up offering suggestions and he gives either "eh" sounds or silence.  Not a whole lot to work with when determining what I will be consuming in a short 24 hours.  I threw out the idea that we could make lobster with ginger and scallions ourselves.  I thought it was brilliant, but he did not match my enthusiasm.  The next day, however, the idea must have had a chance to marinate and I got a text with a request to pick up some steamed lobsters after work.  That's right, STEAMED lobsters.  I will not be killing anything with my own two hands.  Someone else can do the actual killing.  I don't have the stomach for killing - just eating.  Jim was in charge of chopping the pre-steamed bodies into chunks.  I'd recommend about 4 to 6 pieces per body part, and we didn't throw in the legs - we enjoyed them while we were cooking.  We did only two things different from the restaurant's version - we didn't coat the lobster pieces in cornstarch first so that it would get a crispy coating (I didn't miss that, but Jim did a little bit,) and I threw some baby bok choy in there for some veggies (this is highly recommended, but optional.)  Enjoy with some white (or fried) rice!

    Lobster with Ginger and Scallion

    2 1-1/4 lb lobsters, steamed and chopped into pieces of your size preference
    2 Tbsp peanut oil
    1 big knob of ginger, peeled and minced
    2 cloves of garlic, chopped
    1 bunch of scallions, chopped into medium sized pieces
    3 or 4 heads of baby bok choy, ends trimmed, and leaves separated.
    1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
    1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
    1 Tbsp cooking sherry
    1 Tbsp cornstarch

    Heat a large pot with the oil over medium-high heat.  While the oil is heating, mix the soy sauce, broth, sherry, and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.  Add the bok choy and cook for another minute or two until just tender.  Now add the sauce mixture and bring to a boil.  Cook for a minute or two until it has thickened slightly, and then add the lobster pieces.  Mix until coated evenly in the sauce.  Serve immediately.

    Monday, January 18, 2016

    Butternut Squash Ravioli

    It's been a very long time since I've posted, but I've been finding it very difficult this winter to balance the every day happenings of life.  I haven't been cooking adventurously, instead making a lot of good old standbys or just throwing things together quickly.  Of course, the fast fading daylight of the winter is definitely the most difficult hurdle for me to successfully take pretty pictures.

    I made this dish for my friends over the weekend and it was pertinent that I blog.  It was too good not to share.  We decided on a squash night, and as usual, we killed it.  All of the dishes were amazing. I want to make them all to have again.  When I do, I promise to share them.  For now, here's what I made.  I got the filling recipe from Emeril (although I added the smallest touch of brown sugar to add some sweetness - feel free to omit it if you don't want that), but the pasta dough is Jim's grandmother's recipe.  I topped them with some browned butter, sage, walnuts, and cranberries, but if I ever make these again, I think I'll go bigger - maybe a light cream sauce perhaps?  If you ever have the time to invest in making your own ravioli, I highly recommend it.  It's fun, and so much better than the frozen stuff.  Get to it.

    Butternut Squash Ravioli
    makes about 30 ravioli

    For the pasta dough:
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    6 eggs
    1 tsp salt
    2 Tbsp of water (if needed)

    For the filling:
    1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1-inch chunks
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 large shallot, minced
    6 Tbsp heavy cream
    1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
    6 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Roast on a lined baking sheet for 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through the cooking time.  Remove to a bowl and mash or puree in a food processor.  You definitely want the puree to be smooth regardless of how you get there.  In a large pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and sautee until translucent, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the squash puree and cook about 2 or 3 minutes longer until it is dry.  Then add the heavy cream, brown sugar (if using) and parmesan and cook for another minute until everything incorporated.  Now taste your filling...isn't it amazing???  Remove it to a bowl and place it in the refrigerator to cool before you eat it all.

    Now prepare your dough...

    Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to incorporate.  Add the eggs and run the processor until the dough begins to form and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Add a tablespoon of water at a time only if it looks dry or gritty.  Dump out onto a floured work surface and form into a thick circle.  Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.  You can also cover it in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Once well rested, cut strips of dough a little at a time.  Feel free to use a pasta maker, but I roll the dough out into strips by hand.  Make sure you get it very thin.  Make sure the filling has cooled, and place about 2 teaspoons worth of the filling about 2 inches apart on the dough for each raviloi.  Fold the dough over and press down around the filling.  Cut the ravioli apart and seal by pinching the dough together all the way around.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Place completed ravioli aside on a towel lined baking sheet.

    Now boil some water...

    Cook ravioli in boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Top with butter melted with sage, walnuts, and dried cranberries, and of course, more grated parmesan.