Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Best Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake - Low Carb, Sugar Free, Grain & Gluten Free

Tonight I'm excited to share another dessert recipe I've created. Recently, I've been working on a chocolate cake recipe and I finally have it the way I like it. It's funny, just this past weekend someone asked me if I had one! I have also got an awesome frosting recipe to go with it. Tonight I'm just posting the recipe for the cake. I'll write up the frosting recipe and post it tomorrow. It's good! I like to use my hubby as a gauge for my recipes because he is not grain and sugar free like I am...so when HE says its good, I know it is good enough to serve everyone. That's important to me because I know that many of us are in the same situation that I am where all of our family members and friends don't necessarily eat the same way we do. 

As a tip, to check your cake batter for sweetness, you might want to do what I did. I almost always sweeten my sweet baked goods and desserts with Swerve granular or confectioners sweetener (both because I like it and because it also adds the bulk/volume that sugar typically does in most cake and baked sweets). I like to use liquid stevia to adjust the sweetness because I can more easily fine tune it without changing the consistency of the batter. I added 2 teaspoons of NOW Organic Liquid Better Stevia to my cake batter, but 1-1/2 teaspoons would probably have worked nicely, too, particularly if you plan to frost your cake as I did. To do a little sweetness taste test, after mixing the batter together, I placed about 1/3 cup or so of the batter in a coffee mug and baked it for a little over a minute in the microwave and tested the finished "baked cake" product. You could also taste the batter, too, if you are okay with testing raw batter. The recipe makes about 5-1/4 cups of cake batter (or slightly more). I used my USA mini cake pan to make 6 mini cakes and had enough batter left to make 6 regular sized cupcakes too. I slice the mini cake in half crosswise to make 2 separate layers and frost them like a regular sized cake. Since this is a "sweeter treat" with the frosting, I would venture to say that a nice dessert portion would be 1/4 to 1/2 of one of the small cakes...or at least it is plenty enough for me. If you just wanted to make cupcakes, the recipe would make about 20-22 cupcakes. I snapped a few photos of one of the finished and frosted mini cakes and one of the cupcakes below. I'll post my frosting recipe tomorrow. Enjoy!








Cupcake
Top of cupcake (with shaved dark chocolate)
Mini Cake

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pan Seared Asian Style Salmon - Easy Low Carb

Happy Labor Day and Happy 1st day of September! Today was a bright and sunny day and extremely humid; oppressive actually. There were clouds on and off throughout the day and the weather forecast called for storms to come through Atlanta later in the day. Because of the forecast, it made it hard to count on grilling for dinner. So, we kind of played it by ear to see what the weather did. We got up early and got out of the house to run a few errands. I've debated buying a Vitamix blender for a few years now...so today I finally bit the bullet and bought one. One of the things that has kept me from getting one sooner is that most of the models are so tall that you can't fit them under your kitchen cabinets on the counter. I ended up getting the model that would fit under the counter. I look forward to experimenting with it. The truth is that I needed another kitchen appliance/gadget like a hole in the head! LOL

As luck would have it, this afternoon the really dark clouds started rolling in around dinner time. Both boys came for dinner. Since the weather was so unpredictable today, I didn't make traditional cookout food (burgers, dogs, etc.). Hubby ran out before the sky opened up and grilled the last 2 steaks for he and one of my sons while I pan seared some wild Alaskan salmon inside the house for my other son's and my dinner. I lightly seasoned both sides of the salmon with some sea salt and sesame seeds and then pan seared it in a skillet on both sides in a bit of coconut oil. While the salmon was cooking, I mixed together a little light sauce to pour over the fish near the end of cooking. I squeezed the juice of a tangerine (about 2 tablespoons) and mixed it with about 1/4 teaspoon of chili-garlic sauce (spicy), 1 tablespoon of Tamari sauce and mixed everything together. I poured it over the salmon, topped it with a few snips of green onion and covered the pan for the last couple minutes. Hubby and oldest son had baked potatoes and steamed broccoli with their steaks and youngest son and I had steamed broccoli and a cheddar biscuit with our salmon. It was an easy meal to put together. I snapped a quick photo for you to see below. Enjoy!


This was our "low carb snack for 2" for hubby and I this afternoon since we skipped lunch and ate an early breakfast...fresh berries, almonds and jarlsberg cheese cubes
My new toy! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Grilled Steak & Salad - Simple, Quick and Low Carb

This evening we made a quick and easy dinner. We grilled a couple of the steaks we picked up at Costco yesterday. Since it was so humid and hot outside, we didn't want to heat the kitchen up so I just sauteed some mushrooms in a little Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter and put a baked potato into the microwave to cook for hubby. While the steaks were cooking, I made a big salad with just artisan romaine and grape tomatoes. It was quick, fresh and delicious. Our big brunch held us all day long until we had dinner around 7:30 p.m. I had a little cup of Fudgsicle Frozen Yogurt for dessert. I am so glad we can sleep in again tomorrow morning! I snapped a quick photo of our easy dinner below. Enjoy!


Sunday Brunch - Scrambled Pepper Jack Eggs, Sausage & Easy Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits

Happy Sunday! This morning we slept in late. We awoke to a bright and sunny morning, although there are clouds that float by on and off. Unfortunately, it is oppressively humid...almost sauna-like. I made a big Sunday brunch late this morning and we ate around lunch time. It has been a while since I've made my biscuits. I have several biscuit recipes and I was torn between making my Easy Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits and my Buttermilk Biscuits. I decided on the cheddar-black pepper version. They are SO easy to make. I usually make the dough and then roll scoops of dough in my hands to place on the baking sheet. I decided there must be a less messy way than getting dough on my hands so I rummaged through my gadget drawer and grabbed my 3-tablespoon size scoop. It worked like a dream. I proceeded to scoop out 12 beautiful balls of biscuit dough. The dough balls get baked without any flattening. They stay thicker that way. These are some of my absolute favorite biscuits...and that includes the regular kind as well as the grain free kind. They are buttery, cheesy, and I love the little burst of black pepper flavor. If you don't like black pepper, you can easily omit it. 

While the biscuits were baking, I diced some Cabot pepper jack cheese to make scrambled pepper-jack eggs for brunch. It is some of the best pepper jack cheese I have ever eaten. I buy it in large blocks at Costco, but you can find it in smaller sizes at many regular grocery stores. I cracked the eggs and rinsed some fresh strawberries and blueberries. I started browning some Applegate chicken sausage links. I've used both their chicken apple and chicken maple flavor. They are nitrate and nitrite free and I really like them. As soon as the biscuits came out of the oven I scrambled the eggs and "Voila"...we were having a beautiful and delicious brunch in no time. When I went low carb and grain free over 2 years ago, I never ever thought that I would be eating a breakfast or brunch like this again...surely not one that included BISCUITS! Even my hubby, who is not grain free, enjoyed our brunch. He actually ate 2 biscuits with his meal. I snapped some photos below as well as included the recipe for my biscuits and some step-by-step photos of what the dough looks like at various stages. Enjoy!


Flour, butter, egg, half of the cheese (salt, pepper & baking powder) cut in making a crumbly dough
Cream and remaining cheese added; ready to stir in
Final dough is ready to be scooped onto the baking sheet
Scooped into dough balls and ready to bake
Fresh out of the oven...cooling a bit on the rack




Easy Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits

Ingredients:


2 cups blanched almond flour
3 tablespoons "cold" butter, diced
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup Egg Beaters)
1 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a baking pan or line with non-stick foil or parchment paper.  

In a medium bowl, add almond flour, butter, egg, 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, salt, black pepper, and baking powder. Cut in with a pastry cutter/dough blender until crumbly and all flour is slightly moistened and cheese is pulverized into the mixture. 


Stir in cream and remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese; mix in lightly until dough forms.  Use a 3-tablespoon retractable scoop to make 12 even sized biscuits or divide and roll dough into 10 to 12 balls and place on prepared baking pan. Do not flatten dough balls (this will result in a thicker biscuit).  

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown; careful not to overcook. Remove from oven; brush tops with melted butter, if desired. Cool about 5 minutes or so (they are fragile when hot out of the oven).



         

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fudgsicles & Frozen Fudgsicle Yogurt w/ Roasted Hazelnuts

When I got home last night, I wanted to kick off the long holiday weekend by making some special treats to enjoy. I've also been anxious to try out the new pop molds I picked up on clearance at Kohl's (for $5.00) not long ago. These molds are a little smaller than my other set and they are smooth and rounded instead of grooved like the other pop molds I have. I decided that the new molds looked like the perfect shape for making fudgsicles! So, I decided to go ahead and make them.

I made a big batch of beautiful chocolate Frozen Fudgsicle Yogurt...and you are about to find out how to make "Greek Fudgsicles." I made the large batch because I had a "two ideas" for using it. I used two 17-ounce containers of full fat Fage Greek yogurt and mixed it with heavy cream, Swerve confectioners sweetener, unsweetened deep dark Valrhona cocoa powder, vanilla extract as well as pure chocolate extract. I added the pure chocolate extract to intensify the chocolate flavor without adding more dry cocoa powder to the mixture so it would stay nice and creamy. If you don't have any, you don't have to use it. I added 1/4 teaspoon of xanthum gum because it helps reduce ice crystals as well as gives frozen yogurt and ice cream a creamier texture; it's optional and you don't have to add it if you don't want to. This recipe can easily be halved if you like.

The first item I made with the Frozen Fudgsicle Yogurt, was a batch of fudgsicles using my pop molds. It used about 1-1/2 cups of the fudgsicle mixture. With the remaining 3 cups of fudgsicle mixture, I made Frozen Fudgsicle Yogurt w/ Roasted Hazelnuts by stirring in about 1/4 cup of chopped roasted hazelnuts (if you don't like or have hazelnuts, you can omit them OR substitute your favorite nut or chocolate chips, etc....I'm thinking chopped salted almonds would be great). This mixture is like the most decadent thick custard you can imagine before freezing. It would actually be great to simply eat it "as is" unfrozen. This recipe does not require an ice cream maker. I simply place it in a bowl in my freezer and stir it around several times at regular intervals and then stir in the nuts and let it complete freezing (I froze it overnight). To serve, I remove it from the freezer and let soften a bit for 15-20 minutes on the counter or a couple of minutes on 50% power in the microwave...then just scoop into a bowl. 

One little bit of advice to pass along after testing out my new pop molds. While these molds are cute and inexpensive, I quickly appreciated the difference between them and my other pop molds. These are all attached which makes it more challenging (also known as difficult) to remove one at a time. So, in the future, when purchasing pop molds, I will make sure they are separate to make removing them one at a time less challenging (also known as easy). I enjoyed one of my fudgsicles this afternoon as a snack instead of lunch and it was so good. I tried a couple spoonfuls of the Fudgsicle Hazelnut frozen yogurt, too. It is VERY good -- I look forward to have a little for dessert tonight. Since it was frozen solid this morning after freezing it overnight, I popped the container into the microwave on low for a minute or 2 (I actually have a "soften ice cream" button on my new microwave)...just enough to very slightly soften, but not melt. It made it easy to scoop out with my retractable scooper. Using the full fat yogurt as well as the heavy cream and a tiny bit of xanthum gum helped keep this frozen concoction super creamy and rich. I snapped a few photos below as well as the recipe. Enjoy! 







Stirring in roasted hazelnuts to partially frozen yogurt


Today's Costco Finds and a Sneak Peek at My NEW Dessert(s)

We awoke to a beautiful bright and sunny morning. We are supposed to get some rain this weekend...but for now, I'll just enjoy the sun being out. Last night, I baked a batch of my Power Bagels knowing that we would want to go to Einsteins for breakfast this weekend as we ran our errands. I got up early this morning and sliced one to place in a baggie to take along with us. 

Last night, I created a new dessert...actually two by "killing 2 desserts with one spoon." Then, I did what every "normal" person does early in the morning before breakfast...ran outside and took a few photographs of my "new dessert" early this morning in the beautiful morning light. I'll post the recipe for it this evening after I get it written up...but it's GOOD...and did I mention it has chocolate? 

After breakfast at Einsteins, we went to Costco, then came home and dumped our loot (well, refrigerated it). We're getting ready to run out now and do some other shopping...I don't want Sprouts to feel jilted so I'm heading there next. Before going, I'm going to post a few of my Costco finds as well as the sneak peek for my dessert! I must confess that I've already had a little of my dessert. I mean, I had to make sure it was good before sharing...LOL. Check out my photos below. Enjoy!  


Look at that little pepita seed peeking out!

The morning sun is streaming down on my Power Bagel





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Cookies - A Decadent Little Cookie Loaded w/ Hazelnuts & Drenched in Dark Chocolate


As promised, today I'm sharing my new dessert recipe with you. Honeyville has graciously invited me back to do a guest post for them...and I enthusiastically said YES! I love their blanched almond flour and have been using it for over 2 years now. Now, I'm happy to share that there is a new love in my life...their hazelnut flour! I love hazelnuts and am looking forward to using them more in my fall baking this year. When I roasted a batch recently, as part of this recipe, I roasted some extra hazelnuts to use in some other things, too. I just used them a couple of nights ago when I made chicken salad...they were awesome in chicken salad.

As many of you that follow me know, most of the recipes I post are "regular meal" recipes. Part of the reason for that is after going low carb over 2 years ago (wheat and grain free with no added sugar), my sweet tooth became seriously blunted. However, it is definitely not dead! LOL The nice thing about it being blunted is that it doesn't take an endless stream of "treats" to satisfy it any more and when I do enjoy sweets and treats, they don't need to be sickening sweet like before. I can eat a cookie or two (okay, sometimes 3...LOL) and just naturally stop. Not because I'm trying to force myself not to eat the entire batch, but because I genuinely have had enough.

The dessert recipe I'm sharing today is for my Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Cookies. These little cookies are packed full of hazelnuts. I used Honeyville's Hazelnut Flour as the base for the cookies and then added roasted hazelnuts to the cookie batter. After baking and cooling them, I dunked those little devils into glossy smooth melted dark chocolate and then hit them with another "bam" of chopped roasted hazelnuts. Those little hazelnut pieces clung to the melted chocolate like glue. I love these cookies. You definitely know you are eating hazelnut cookies. So, if you are a hazelnut "nut" like I am, you will definitely enjoy these delicious cookies. They aren't just good, they look fancy, too, and with only minimal effort to make them look that way. I used granular Swerve as the sweetener for my cookie dough to help keep the carb and sugar count low. The only sugar you will find in these is from the type of dark chocolate you use to dip them in. I try and stick to somewhere between 70% and 90% cacao chocolate (most of the time I eat 88% dark chocolate). I used 70% chocolate for these. You can also find and use no sugar added chocolate bars (sweetened with stevia or erythritol) if you choose to.

These cookies turned out beautiful. I love looking at beautiful, elaborate desserts just like anyone else...you know the kind that are on magazine covers or the ones that look like they should be? Yeah...I like looking at them...I just don't care much for making them. If I'm going to dedicate hours of my life to a cause, it isn't going to be making a pretty dessert that takes hours of pampering and decorating. Not when I can make a delicious dessert that looks pretty and tastes good and not have it shave hours off of my life to make it look that way. If it looks like a magazine cover...that's where it will most likely stay at my house. It will never make it to my kitchen...and not because I "can't" do it, but because I "choose" not to. Trust me, I've been foolish enough to make PLENTY of those time wasting elaborate desserts in my lifetime. So, rather than ramble on and on about my philosophy on life....I'm going to point you to the recipe, which is why you came here in the first place! The recipe can be found here: Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Cookies.

P.S. -- Because I know you are going to ask, and even if you don't ask you will certainly wonder...each cookie has slightly less than 1 net carb before dipping in chocolate. You will need to calculate and add on the carbs based on the type of chocolate you use. Just divide your chocolate carbs by the number of cookies you make (I made 35 with this recipe) and add on the "1 net carb" per cookie...and BOOM...you've got your total carb count. If you melt and use a non-sugar chocolate bar (one sweetened with either erythritol or stevia), you can reduce the "per cookie carb" even further. I hope you like this low carb treat as much as I do. Enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Cookies
Roasted to perfection (skins rubbed off in a dishtowel after roasting)
Honeyville's Hazelnut Flour
The dough is mixed and ready to be chilled
Baked, cooled and ready to be dipped into beautiful melted dark chocolate
Who needs Pepperidge Farm anyway?  ;-)
Stacked and ready to be devoured!
BOOM!
        

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Easy Grilled Chipotle Chicken & New Dessert Alert Coming Tomorrow!

This evening I had planned to make a different kind of burger recipe for dinner. I had all my seasonings out and was ready to go...that is, until I opened my package of ground beef. I have 2 things to say about it. P...U!!! As in ewwww, stinky-poo. LOL Even though the date on the package said "okay"...the smell screamed no, no, noooooo. So, my ground beef got tossed and I switched to "plan B."

Fortunately, I had a couple packages of chicken in the fridge...I had boneless chicken breasts and boneless thighs. I decided to make something quick using the thighs. I just spritzed them with olive oil and seasoned them with McCormick's new Chipotle Seasoning w/ Roasted Garlic and tossed them onto the grill for about 10 to 12 minutes. While they were cooking, I steamed some fresh broccoli and placed a skillet on the grill with fresh sliced mushrooms along with some Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter to cook them in. I had hoped to pile those sliced mushrooms onto the burger I planned to make, but instead just served them alongside my grilled chicken and broccoli. I only snapped one photo this evening because I was finishing up my new dessert project that will be posted tomorrow.

So...stay tuned for tomorrow's dessert alert. It's a good one...trust me on this (there's chocolate involved). I actually impressed myself with this one, which I don't do too often...LOL. Be sure to check back tomorrow for my new dessert recipe. Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Simple Chicken Salad w/ Roasted Hazelnuts

This evening we had a quick and simple dinner. I made chicken salad. I love lots of crunchy things in my chicken salad but hubby isn't wild about crunchy things (well, not in the form of crunchy vegetables like celery and onion). He typically just likes chicken, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. So, tonight we compromised a little. Yesterday I roasted and skinned some hazelnuts...so I decided to make chicken salad with roasted hazelnuts. I love them...they have such a deep and distinct flavor unlike any other nut. They were absolutely delicious added to the chicken salad. It simply consisted of diced chicken breast, mayonnaise, pink Himalayan sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chopped roasted hazelnuts. I piled it into little artisan romaine lettuce leaves. It was simple and different because of the hazelnuts. I snapped a couple photos below. Enjoy!