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10 Things I learned about you, Low-Carb cooking

When I tell most people we are on a low carb diet- i.e. less than 50g per DAY, they first ask me if I’m crazy. Yes. Yes I am. Second, they say that they could never do it, they love bread, fruit, -insert carby thing here- too much. I also love bread (see Oh Hello Sour Dough, parts one and deux) and carby things (see all of the other recipes on here). With our recent experiments in low carb cooking, I’ve learned some very valuable cooking lessons.

Low carb cooking is not for the faint of heart. It requires integrating new techniques and ingredients into your repertoire that you may not have expected.

1. The more spices or seasonings you add, the better
In regular cooking, you can rely on the regular ingredients to contribute to the dish. Pasta, rice, bread, etc all add a certain subtle flavor that you’ll miss if you don’t crank up the flavor dial. For instance, if you are making a lasagna: use vertically sliced zucchini layered with grated smoked mozzarella and pungent pecorinos and some asiago, home-made tomato sauce with lots of basil and balsamic. Using the best dried spices you can find also helps, use your schnoz. If you can barely smell it, the flavor won’t be so bright either. Visit a Penzy’s, ethnic market, or bulk foods store so you can pick them out. Think about the ingredients you use before you use them and what they could add to the dish if they were slightly different.

2. If you are adapting recipes, lower your expectations
Don’t expect artificial sweeteners to act like sugar, nothing else acts exactly like potatoes do, don’t expect Shiraki noodles to have the same consistency as pasta. You’re just setting yourself up for failure. Aim low. They’ll be close, and will probably satisfy your craving, but as Marvin and Tammi say “Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby”. If you’re really jonesin’, indulge, don’t beat yourself up about it, and get back on track asap.

Oh and if you are using Shiraki noodles, rinse the crap out of them, microwave them, then rinse them again i.e. follow the directions on the pack. It’ll get rid of the feet smell the noodles normally have.

3. Bob and his Red Mill are your new best friends
Bob’s Red Mill will make just about everything you need for baking. Here’s what I like to keep around: Almond meal, Coconut flour, Flax meal, Vital wheat gluten- unless you are gluten free, xanthan gum or powdered arrowroot, and soy flour. Maybe throw in a chia seed if you’re feeling adventurous, I sure am. The wheat gluten helps make things chewy rather than sandy, if you’re going for sandy cookies or crumbly muffins, great. Have a blast. If not, add the wheat gluten, xanthan gum, or arrowroot. Oh, and Xanthan gum is something that comes from evil corn, not something Martian children chew. Just thought I’d clear that up.

4. Think about textures
Using breadcrumbs is required for many recipes from coating fish to pan-fry to mixing into a casserole to add bulk and texture. Last time I checked, bread crumbs are made from bread, so they are off limits. Almond meal and flax seed meal crisp up almost as well, plus they add fiber and nutrients to an otherwise unhealthy coating. Flax meal will thicken up just as well as any breadcrumb within the casserole, and a mix of almond meal and finely grated Parmesan, toast up for a crunchy topping. Almost anything you can think of will have a low-carb equivalent or close match. I make a creamed spinach/kale/chard casserole and you could probably never tell the difference in mine and my mom’s. Except mine is better..tasting and nutritionally. If you are going for a custard-type feel, get to know unflavored gelatin.

5. Extracts give the best-acts– boooo.
In the place of fruits, their extracts will give you the closest thing to their flavor that you’ll get. If you plan on keeping some kind of sweet things in your diet, keep the flavor but nix the carbs by using extracts or edible essential oils in their place. When making low carb pancakes for instance, melt together a half tbsp of butter, 3 tbsp granulated splenda or artificial sweetener of your choice, a splash or two of almond milk, and 1/4 tsp maple extract as your syrup. If you like a stronger maple flavor, add more extract.

6. Use Soy flour SPARINGLY
Pretty straightforward. If you get a little overzealous the whole thing will taste like a wet cardboard box. Always cut soy flour with something else. Or better yet, don’t use it at all, go for a flavorless protein powder.

7. Manipulate vegetables to use as substitutes
Turnips or rutabaga make a pretty close substitute for mashed potatoes, chayote squash makes a pretty decent apple sub- with added spices, summer squashes make decent pasta subs- grated into noodles or sliced thin, cauliflower can be grated into rice, Spaghetti squash- pretty obvious,use seedless cuke slices or celery sticks with your dips

8. Cheeses and Dairy are your friends– sorry vegans.
You should keep with you some Ricotta, ground parm, mascarpone, cream cheese, and other shredded cheeses that are aged- your faves. Ricotta, mascarpone, and cream cheese can go savory or sweet. Keep these to a minimum, though, there are hidden carbs in cow’s milk, and less fermented or aged cheeses. Try alternative milks like goat or sheep products. Just about all of the barnyard animals make things that you can and should use.

9. Don’t be afraid to experiment and/or fail.
How will you know how the flavors will interact or the textures will act in different situations if you don’t give it a go? Give peas a chance. Try different produce to get the same effect. If it doesn’t work out? Take mental or real notes, analyze what you could do different, adjust for next time. If it does? Yep, you totally meant that to happen the whole time. You’re a genius.

10. Have the right tools to make it happen
This is a basic idea that can apply to all cooking, but having a few items help make this diet easier. A mandoline, a grater that can do strips or strings, a hand masher, an immersion blender, and a food processor can make your life alot easier.

Since Mardi Gras and Valentines Day are both coming close, and sweets are encouraged- I leave you with a low carb truffle recipe so you can have your valentine’s and eat it too.

Flavored truffles
4 oz unsweetened chocolate- Dagoba
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 c coconut milk- unsweetened
1 tbsp coconut oil or butter
1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
3-4 tbsp splenda or other granulated sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract

for decoration and flavor: Chopped nuts or unsweetened, toasted coconut flakes, unsweetened cocoa powder and a pinch or cinnamon- mixed

Add the unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, coconut milk, coconut oil, and coffee granules in a small saucepan. Heat over low fire, and stir until it becomes a smooth. Remove from heat and add the spenda and vanilla. Transfer to a deep plate or a shallow bowl. Refridgerate until slightly firm. Scoop by the teaspoon and roll between palms to form a ball. Roll in desired decoration like nuts, coconut, or cocoa mixture. Place in individual cups in a pretty container and give it to someone special.

Alternate flavor options:
Berry truffle- Raspberry or Strawberry extract, add after mixture is removed from the heat- 3/4 tsp, roll in crushed freeze dried strawberries or chopped almonds
Tropical orange- Orange extract- add with vanilla-1/2 tsp- roll in coconut
Pecan pie- Rum extract- 1/2 tsp add with vanilla in recipe, roll in chopped pecans
Peanut butter banana- banana extract, 1/2 tsp added with vanilla- roll in chopped peanuts
Maple bacon truffle- add 1/2 tsp maple extract and roll in salted bacon bits

Enjoy!
-Stine

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A bad mother…shut your ‘booch!

Batch 2

My second batch of Kombucha- mid first fermentation

Kombucha. A mysterious, tangy, bubbly beverage that seems like a secret world of experimental curative beverage culture (get it? cuz kombucha is a culture? lulz). Actually, its totally not that big of a deal until you get to the fizzy parts and the whole obtaining a “mother”. Yeesh. I’m going to go ahead and pre-apologize to the squeamish or icky-averse. You should probably skip this post. Read on at your own risk.

It seems like there has been somewhat of a kombucha craze in the past few years, reaching all corners of the US and their grocery stores. Honestly the whole thing kind of gave me the heebie-jeebs until I gathered myself and finally tried it. Before that it seemed to be secluded to fancy schmancy food co-ops only in Brooklyn or San Francisco where there is a special room, a certain knock, and an equally obscure password to even access it…”artisan”. Now its on the shelves of grocery stores next to the smoothies and pomegranate juice. Buying a bottle, at roughly $3.50 each, becomes an expensive habit. From what

I can tell the draw mainly seems to come from the flavor (like a mix of apple cider vinegar, black tea and carbonation- plus whatever else they add to the batch)  it is refreshing, acidic, and slightly sweet. But many also seek it out for its list of “curative” powers which include, but are not limited to:
– Getting rid of gray hair
– Growing in dark hair
– Cures cancer
– Reverses the symptoms of AIDS
– Cures Dia-beet-us
– Filling one with bologna

So I may have added one of those. I like it for its flavor, and its something I find rewarding, especially when babies are made. You heard me. Babies. It multiplies.
The whole idea is pretty age-old, fermenting a sweet beverage until it becomes bubbly and not as sweet anymore and maybe a little alcoholic (only 0.5%). What’s different is the mother.

MAMA!!!

My Kombucha mother with baby attached

The Mother. The Manchurian Mushroom. The Blob. The Kvas. The Tea Sponge. The ‘Boocha Baby-Maker. Boochie-Mama.
Whatever you call it, its the disc-shaped blob that turns your regular ol’ sweet tea into a batch of ‘booch. You can get it in co-ops, online, or from a marvelous friend who happens to have what would equal a fungus version of “Sister Wives”. Let’s just say it’s all in the family and they produce like rabbits. A large mother looks like one of those Pillsbury Grands buscuits, only larger and wet.

I’m really sorry I just ruined these for you

When you touch it, which you will probably have to,  it feels like like a jello “jiggler” that was left in the fridge too long. Springy, firm but slippery- not slimy. What is it made of you ask? it is a “community of bacteria and yeasts that have a symbiotic relationship”- a community? does that mean microscopic block parties?

Basic Kombucha

Before you begin your batch, I recommend reading this article to be aware of all of the risks associated with fermentation. Its similar to the risk of canning, but as long as you stay sanitary and sterilize with vinegar, you should be fine. If it looks of smells odd- don’t drink it. DUH. OK post warnings- To make a batch of the booch, you’ll need:

A mother culture in starter tea
A large jar, or a few for multiple batches
Cheesecloth, a papertowel, or thin fabric
A rubber band or canning ring
Sweet Tea , Strong black tea ans sugar mixture, cooled to room temp sweetened with at least 10% sugar content (for a half gallon, I used about 1 cup of sugar to 2 quarts water)
White vinegar

So here’s what you do:
1. Get a mother, it should come in some starter liquid called starter tea that will help it acclimate to the new tea surroundings.
2. Prepare a jar, at least a half-gallon if not larger, and preferably wider than it is tall. (I have no idea where to find such a jar so I just used a half-gallon Ball canning jar) Wash the jar with soap and water, and rinse thoroughly. Once it doesn’t smell like soap anymore, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the jar and swish around to coat.
3. Coat your hands with vinegar, or just the one that will be handling the mother, and pick up the mother (try not to heave)
4. Place the mother in the prepared jar, and pour the liquid it came in over it.
5. Pour in the sweetened tea mixure
6. Cover the top with a paper towel, layers of cheesecloth, thin fabric, etc and secure with a rubber band or screw the lid on. *Be careful not to let the booch or mother touch the metal.
7. Let sit in a warm slightly dark place for 7-10 days. After this time, look at it, smell it, taste it. Once it becomes slightly vinegary smelling and tastes slightly tart but not like drinking vinegar, your first batch is done.
– Remove the mother and repeat the process for the next batch, saving some of the liquid to go with it. (Oh it probably had a baby, once it is 1/4″ thick, it can begin to make its own batch of booch and have its own babies)]

Batch 1

First Batch without Second Ferment

Thus far, I have stopped here. I enjoy the slightly tart sweet tea that comes from the process but I will soon go for a second fermentation to make it bubbly. To do that, you add more sugar like a 1/4 c sugar or a handful of sugary raisins. Cap the tea tightly so that it is air-tight (transfer into a plastic bottle as glass might shatter if too much pressure builds up), maybe using an airlock if you can find it in a homebrew store. Set in a warm spot or place the bottles in a cardboard box or cooler equipped with an electric blanket to keep it warm and start the second fermentation. After 2 days, check to see if it is bubbly, if all goes well it should be.

I’ll try this with my next batch and post how it goes!
Boochin it up.
– Stine

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Pita! Pita!

So, guess who decided to be a vegetarian?!?! That’s right, transitioning vegetarian here. I haven’t had meat (besides fish) in over two weeks. Don’t worry, I won’t get out my soap box and explain the many reasons I decided after meat. Suffice it to say it’s something I’ve been considering for a very long time and I finally decided, that although I find meat to be delicious, I can’t justify eating it anymore.

Deciding to change your diet dramatically can be a bit daunting. Meat has been the centerpiece of my meals for basically my entire life. It’s definitely a huge transition. I decided to cut out red meat almost entirely a probably six months ago.  Since then I have been, unintentionally at first, cutting out other meat slowly. I was down to just poultry and fish for about a month. My final decision to cut out poultry came when I learned some things about meat processing (If you want to keep eating meat don’t read Eric Schlosser or watch Food, Inc.) that were very off-putting to me. I’ve decided to keep fish on the diet temporarily. I only eat fish once a week because of mercury. I think having fish left on the plate once a week will help this transition. Eventually I’ll drop fish as well. I considered going vegan, but I’m not sure about that yet. I think it would be best to get my footing with vegetarianism before I go full vegan.

Long story short, I’m learning about a lot of new foods. I’m learning how to pair new flavors and textures. I’m learning that it’s easy to get sick of tofu quickly.  One vegetarian friendly familiar food is falafel! NOM! I decided to get a box of falafel mix and make my own pita bread. I will make my own falafel next time too,  I want more control over the spices.  NEXT TIME I WON’T FORGET TO GET SOY YOGURT FOR THE DILL SAUCE. >_<

Make us into DELICIOUS bread, PLZ!

The pita bread recipe comes from my “little big black book.”  To be honest I don’t know where the pita recipe came from originally. Every time I find a recipe I like I write it down in this book…

I have everything in this book-- from breads to sauces and everything in between.

 The recipe goes as follows:

Pita Bread

3 c. Flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs Sugar or Honey (I use honey)

1 packet yeast

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 c. room temperature water

2 Tbs Olive Oil

Mix all ingredients, knead for 10 minutes.

Pita dough!

Place dough in an oiled bowl, let rise 90 minutes or until doubled.

Dough balls!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make eight balls and rest for 20 minutes.

Roll those suckers VERY thin.

Roll very thin.

The pita should puff up while in the oven.

Bake for 3-6 minutes.

Ta da!!!!!!

If you’re lucky maybe someone will make you a delicious martini while you’re making pita!

Thanks, baby!

Pita bread is simple and delicious. This particular batch ended up being filled with veggie burgers or dipped in hummus. Turns out the store-bought falafel mix is kind of gross. I’ll let y’all know when I figure out how to make them from scratch!

Until next time!

xoxo

Kayla

Nurse, I thsick.

Ginger is supposed to help boost your immune system right?

Ugh. I have a cold. I’m miserable.  It is not pretty. I look like I could be an extra on “The Walking Dead.” Seriously. It’s a good thing you can’t see me. I contracted this evil cold from, of course, my significant other. Last week Dan was all sniffles and sneezes and SUPRISE! this weekend I found myself experiencing similar symptoms. Last week I made a batch of chai that was SERIOUSLY spicy. Too spicy for me. Dan came home from work wanting some tea. I offered up the chai and a disclaimer. He couldn’t really taste but he said it seemed to sooth his symptoms. So this afternoon I decided to make some for myself since I’ve braving this cold sans drugs.

My recipe is adapted from epicurious.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/drink/views/Homemade-Chai-201226

Ingredients

  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns*
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 6 bags of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
* If you like your chai SUPER spicy use 2 teaspoons of peppercorns. I use considerably less than that. Probably not even a teaspoon, more like 10-12 peppercorns.

First step is to bruise/crush all the cinnamon, pepper, cloves, and cardamom. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it. If not, put them in a pot and find something with a flat bottom that won’t break. Before I had the mortar and pestle I used the wooden handle of my knife sharpener.

Bruised spices.

Once everyone is crushed throw them in a pot with the ginger and cover with 6 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil.

Turn on the heat!

One it starts to boil, reduce head and simmer for 10 minutes.

We’re cookin’ now!

After 10 minutes remove from heat and add 6 bags of black tea. The recipe calls for Darjeeling, but all I have is Pekoe.

This is where you would add the sugar.  I don’t add the sugar because I prefer to sweeten and add milk/rice milk on a cup to cup basis. But feel free to add your sugar (I use honey) whenever you please.

Steepin'

Allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes, remove tea bags. This is where you would add the milk. Since I’m off dairy, I use rice milk and I add it to each cup rather than the whole batch. Personal preference. After you remove the bags strain the tea into a container. I usually use a Ball jar or a pitcher.

Final product.

It is delicious, and the only thing that makes me happy besides taking millions of pictures of my adorable cat while I lay in bed.

xoxo (don’t worry I’ll hold my breath),

Kayla

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I want to eat you….explained!

So, over the summer, my dad was reading the racing form and realized that he really wanted to eat the steak shown in the picture above. So badly that he had to write on the picture. My dad is quite the character….to say the least.

Anyway, how frequently do you see something and say to yourself, “I WANT TO EAT THAT.” For us, this is quite often. This is a blog where we discuss things we want to eat (and make them), or have eaten (and will share!). Delicious things to come!