Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Pie-sicles w/ Cinnamon Pecan Crust

This evening I'm sharing one of the easy dessert recipes that I've made in the last couple weeks. Overall, it's been an unusually warm autumn here thus far, so I decided to makeover one of my Fall favorites into a treat that could be enjoyed year round...Pumpkin Pie-sicles with Cinnamon Pecan Crust. I had initially planned to just make pumpkin pie pops but thought...what's pumpkin pie without the crust? So, I added a simple buttery cinnamon pecan crust layer to these pumpkin pops. The first time I made them, I used a full 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin but decided it was just a little too pumpkiny (if there is such a thing). I made them again and reduced the pumpkin a bit and liked them better. If you aren't sure how pumpkiny you want them, I would suggest starting with 1 cup of pumpkin and tasting as you go, increasing it until it's "just right" for you.

One of my favorite things about these pops is the pecan crust! These pops remind me of a frozen ice cream bar version of the the pumpkin pie ice cream squares my mother used to make when I was growing up. She would soften vanilla ice cream and add pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices and then pour it into a 9 x 13 pan lined with graham cracker crust and freeze it and then cut it into squares to serve. It was like frozen pumpkin pie. I snapped a few photos and included the easy peasy recipe below. Enjoy!





Pumpkin Pie-sicles w/ Cinnamon Pecan Crust

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups full fat Greek yogurt (like Fage or Greek Gods)
1-1/2 cups 100% pure pumpkin
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Dash ground nutmeg
1 cup Swerve confectioners style sweetener
2 teaspoons liquid stevia, or to taste
1/4 tsp xanthum gum

For the pecan crust layer:
1/2 cup ground pecans
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Swerve granular sweetener

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix first 10 ingredients together. Whisk xanthum gum in, a little at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition until evenly blended and thickened. Taste for sweetness and adjust as necessary (freezing blunts sweetness, so it's okay to slightly over sweeten pumpkin mixture).

In a small bowl, combine ground pecans, melted butter, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons granular Swerve.

Fill 6 pop molds up about half way with pumpkin mixture. Divide crust mixture evenly between the pop molds and spoon in an even layer. Fill to the top with remaining pumpkin mixture. Any excess pumpkin mixture can be frozen in small disposable cups to enjoy as little frozen pumpkin cups. Freeze for 4 to 6 hours or until set. 

*Note: If confectioners sweetener is not available, simply grind granular sweetener in a small Magic Bullet type blender or grinder.



               

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cranberry Walnut Power Bagels - Grain Free & Low Carb


Yesterday I did a lot of cranberry baking. One of the items I made was a fresh cranberry and walnut version of "power bagels" that I used to love eating at Einstein's Bros Bagels before I created my own grain free recipe for them. I usually add dried fruit to them with seeds (an antioxidant blend I find at Costco). I wanted to see how they would work using fresh cranberries in place of the dried fruits since I love their tart tangy flavor and we're at the beginning of cranberry season. I really liked the tart fresh cranberry flavor of this version. Their a little more tart than the dried fruit version even after I bumped up the sweetener a bit, but I like them that way. If you prefer yours a little sweeter, you can add a bit of stevia to the batter to your liking. I enjoyed one for breakfast this morning spread with cream cheese and topped with my fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce that I used as the "jam." It was complete cranberry heaven. 

I've also been working on a couple of other projects as well this weekend. I absolutely loved the one I created today and will share it with you later this week. I snapped a few photos of my Cranberry Walnut Power Bagels below as well as posted the recipe. Enjoy!



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chicken Fajita Salad - Easy, Quick & Low Carb

Today was a beautiful day here. It was bright, sunny and warm, around 71 degrees and breezy. Before I ate breakfast or lunch, I began making "cranberry items."  I made a batch of my Cranberry Orange Coconut Sauce, (one of my favorites); 4 dozen of my Cranberry Lemon Macaroon Mini Muffins; and a batch of Cranberry Walnut Bagels (a new recipe that I will taste test for breakfast tomorrow morning). As you can tell...I'm in full swing Cranberry mode today! LOL

For dinner this evening, I wanted to grill something because it was such a beautiful afternoon. I decided to make us gigantic Chicken Fajita Salads. I spritzed boneless chicken breasts with olive oil spray and seasoned both sides with Penzeys Fajita Seasoning that I picked up at Penzeys last weekend. It's good and doesn't have any junk or starches added...just spices. We grilled the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes per side. While the chicken was grilling, I cut up 2 small heads of artisan romaine lettuce (from Costco), thinly sliced a small carrot, halved some grape tomatoes, shredded up some sharp white cheddar cheese, and sliced an avocado. I sauteed yellow bell peppers and onions and then filled our bowls up with the salad mixture and topped it with the cooked peppers and onions and grilled fajita chicken breasts. It was an awesome meal. I snapped a few photos of our gorgeous salads below. Enjoy!






Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicken Noodle Soup - Low Carb & Grain Free

This evening I made grain-free Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner. We actually had a cold front move in after the torrential rain and storms we had yesterday. It was chilly today for a change (well, chilly for Atlanta weather...LOL). I used homemade chicken stock for my soup that I made in the crock pot a couple days ago using a couple chicken carcasses from the chicken we had for dinner Sunday night. I filled my 6-quart crock pot almost to the top and slow cooked the leftover chicken and carcasses for about 24 hours (overnight and all day long) and then strained and refrigerated it.

When I got home from work this evening, I placed the pot of chicken stock on the stove and brought it to a boil and cooked it down a bit to concentrate it while I sliced and diced my celery and carrots. I added them to the pot and cooked until tender. While my soup was simmering, I made 4 grain-free tortillas to cut up and make noodles with. I usually like to cut them into thin noodles, but this evening I made wide noodles instead. They are so quick and easy to make and only take about 5 minutes or so to actually cook. The soup was delicious and perfect for our chilly evening. Hubby and I really enjoyed it. I look forward to having some for lunch tomorrow. I love using my grain-free tortillas as noodles in this soup. I snapped a few photos as well as included the easy peasy recipe below. If you miss homemade chicken noodle soup, you will love this recipe. Enjoy!





Chicken Noodle Soup - Grain Free

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken stock
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, optional
2 to 3 cups diced cooked chicken
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
4 grain-free tortillas, sliced into 1/4" - 1/2" noodle strips

For the "tortillas/noodles"
1/2 cup egg whites or Egg Beaters
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup blanched almond flour
4 teaspoons ground golden flax
4 teaspoons finely grated Parmesan (powdery style)
Pinch sea salt

Directions:

To make the tortilla/noodles, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl to form a smooth, thin batter (makes approximately 3/4 cup batter). Lightly spray a 10-inch non-stick skillet with olive oil spray and heat over medium-high heat. Pour a few tablespoons batter into hot skillet, tilting the pan and using a circular motion to evenly distribute the batter in the bottom to make an approximate 8-inch tortilla/noodle. Cook approximately 1 to 2 minutes, until very lightly browned and cooked around edges. Carefully loosen and flip using a rubber spatula; cook for about another minute. Transfer to a plate and repeat for remaining noodle/tortillas (lightly re-spraying pan for each). Makes approximately four 8-inch tortillas. Cut into desired noodle sized strips.

In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock, celery and carrots to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add parsley and chicken; season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Add noodles and heat about 5 minutes. 



                 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Beef Paprikash Stew - Slow Cooker Style

This evening we had Slow Cooker Beef Paprikash Stew for dinner. It was so easy to make and such a nice hearty, meaty stew that contained all the flavors of beef paprikash. I didn't brown my beef ahead of time, I just mixed everything together (except for the sour cream) in the crock pot and cooked it for about 12 hours. I stirred the sour cream in shortly before serving and then tasted the stew to adjust the seasoning. I served the stew with my Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits. I popped the biscuits back into a low heat oven (about 300 degrees) and turned off the heat and let them sit in the oven for about 10 minutes to get hot and toasty. They were awesome with the stew. I always love coming home to a meal cooked in my crock pot. I snapped a few photos for you to see below. The recipe for the stew is below and to get to my biscuit recipe, click on the biscuit link above. Enjoy!






Monday, October 13, 2014

Grilled Turkish Style Lamb Chops & Parmesan Cauliflower Mash w/ Oven Roasted Tomatoes

This evening I made Turkish Style Lamb Chops for dinner. This weekend I picked up some beautiful loin lamb chops from Costco. They are so tender and delicious. If you've never had a loin style lamb chop before, they are like a miniature porterhouse steaks. They are so easy to prepare. I simply mixed the freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons and about 1/4 cup of olive oil together along with a teaspoonful of Turkish Seasoning I picked up at Penzeys Spices over the weekend. I usually like to give them a Greek flavor with lemon, garlic and rosemary...but this particular Turkish spice blend was amazing and I actually preferred this flavor over the Greek style. After whisking together the lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning, I seasoned both sides of the lamb chops with additional Turkish Seasoning and then placed them in a shallow glass casserole dish and poured the marinade over the chops. I kept them out at room temperature since I only marinated them for about 30 minutes or so. I turned them over after 15 minutes to allow the other side to sit in the marinade. Since these lamb chops are so tender, they don't need to marinate long at all. We grilled them for about 5 minutes per side.

To go with our lamb chops, I made my Parmesan Cauliflower Mash but decided to give it a different twist. I added a couple rounded tablespoonfuls of oven roasted tomatoes packed in oil (that I buy at Costco) to the cooked cauliflower along with cream, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and butter before pureeing it with my stick blender. I absolutely love my stick blender for making cauliflower mash. You can puree it in the same pan you cooked it in without having to transfer it to a blender or food processor and then returning to the pan. Less mess and clean up and it makes it easy to cover the pan and keep warm or reheat slightly before serving. This cauliflower mash is absolutely smooth and luscious; you will never miss mashed potatoes after trying it! I snapped a few photos for you to see below. Here's the link to my recipe for: "Rich & Thick Parmesan Cauliflower Mash". The only modification I made to it this evening was the addition of the roasted tomatoes before pureeing. Enjoy!




Oven roasted tomatoes added to the cooked cauliflower before pureeing
Luscious cauliflower mash cooked in chicken broth and pureed with cream, butter, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and oven roasted tomatoes -- better than mashed potatoes!



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cinnamon Vanilla Yogurt Topped with Low Carb "Granola & Fruit"

This morning I was anxious to try one of the new items I picked up at Whole Foods yesterday afternoon. I found a bag of something called "noGRAINola" which is both low carb and "no sugar added." It contains very few ingredients; just organic coconut, prunes, almonds, carrots, stevia, and Himalayan sea salt. It's nice chunky clusters of crispiness and not overly sweet. When I tasted it last night, I knew it would be something I'd like to top my yogurt with.

I mixed my little container of Fage Greek Yogurt with Ceylon cinnamon, a couple drops of vanilla extract and stevia. I scooped it into a little mini-trifle bowl (because after all, this is not plain weekday yogurt...it's special weekend yogurt...LOL). I topped my cinnamon vanilla yogurt with my "granola" and a little bit of the no sugar added dried fruit by "Made in Nature" (their Antioxidant Fusion blend I get from Costco to use in my Power Bagel recipe). It was a great combination and a nice "autumn topping blend" to enjoy on this cool October morning. I would definitely buy this no-grain granola product again. I enjoyed it alongside a big mug of my new favorite coffee, Classico by Lavazza (Italy's favorite coffee, they claim). I can't speak for Italy...but I can say it is definitely one of my favorites. I snapped a few photos of easy breakfast below. Enjoy!






        


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jack-Fried Eggs, Sausage, and Power Bagel Toast

This morning we slept in a bit. I thought about making omelets for breakfast but decided instead to make fried eggs. The main reason I had wanted an omelet was so I could fill it with my Cabot pepper jack cheese that I love. As I was cracking my eggs into the pan to fry, I decided that I could still enjoy my pepper jack cheese with fried eggs...I would just make "Jack-Fried Eggs." I diced up the pepper jack cheese and when my eggs were close to being done, I sprinkled the diced cheese on top and covered the pan for a minute or so just until the cheese melted and then pulled it off the heat and let it sit just so the cheese could set up a little bit and not run off when I slid the eggs off onto my plate. It worked wonderfully! 

While the eggs were set aside, I split and toasted one of my Power Bagels and buttered it with Kerrygold butter. It was like having fruited cinnamon toast...it was SO good! I heated up a couple Applegate chicken maple sausages and "Voila"...I had a super yummy breakfast with almost no effort. I snapped a quick photo for you to see below. Enjoy!

P.S. -- For those of you that are Costco members, they have Kerrygold butter on sale this month for $1.50 off per box ($5.49 on sale for a box of 3 bricks). Even though I didn't need any right now, I picked up a couple extra boxes. You can never have too much Kerrygold!  


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Easy Garden Fresh Salad Topped w/ Chicken Cranberry Meatballs

This evening I wasn't hungry for a big dinner since I had leftover Greek Style Meatloaf for lunch. As I rummaged around in the fridge, I spotted the big container of spring mix salad I had in there...and considered just having a big salad for dinner. Right beside the spring mix was a package of "Kickin Cranberry Chicken Meatballs" I picked up at Costco this past weekend to try. They have both cranberry and chipotle in them (2 of my favorite flavors) and it sounded like an interesting combination. I figured I could probably make something similar myself, but wanted to give these a try to see how I might want to season and flavor them when I give my own recipe for them a try soon. I decided to heat a batch of them in the oven (they take 15-20 minutes to heat in the oven or you can heat them in the microwave...I chose the oven). 

While the meatballs heated, I piled our plates with fresh spring mix and then placed the meatballs in the center. I had leftover ranch dressing that we used. I can honestly say that I've never had salad topped with meatballs before...but it was actually good! It was a quick and easy meal that I put together in about 15-20 minutes and was perfect for a light dinner. I'll be making my own version of these little meatballs soon. I snapped a couple quick photos for you to see my silly little meatball salad below. Enjoy!




        

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Greek Style Meatloaf - Flavorful & Low Carb

This evening I decided to put together a Greek Style Meatloaf. I had several packages of organic ground beef that I picked up at Costco. It comes in 3 individual packs each containing about 1-1/3 pounds of beef. Since it's just hubby and I, I only used one package. It made plenty for dinner tonight and enough for leftovers for another meal for us or a couple of lunches. I served it with steamed fresh buttered broccoli and carrots. It was such a simple comfort meal to put together.

This meatloaf was unbelievably flavorful and moist. It once again proves that you don't need to add eggs or breadcrumbs to meatloaf to bind it or make it moist (just like my Mexican Style Meatloaf). Adding simple, real whole foods that are flavorful works so much better than empty bland fillers. I did a quick saute of fresh baby spinach and then chopped and drained it (about 3/4 cup cooked spinach). I added a 4-ounce package of crumbled feta cheese and a few tablespoons of the organic oven roasted tomatoes packed in oil that I get at Costco. They add loads of flavor. Instead of adding individual herbs and salt, I just added one teaspoon of Greek Seasoning that I buy at Penzeys (it's a hand mixed blend of coarse salt, garlic, lemon, black pepper, Turkish oregano and marjoram). I love that spice blend; it makes a great Greek salad dressing, too. 

Using those few ingredients packed this meatloaf with loads of flavor and moistness. With every bite I kept saying out loud how really good this meatloaf was. LOL Honestly, it was one of my favorite meatloaves and I can't wait to have it for lunch tomorrow! It took almost no time to put together and I was able to get some things done around the house while it baked. The fresh veggies took only 4 or 5 minutes to steam lightly in the microwave. It was an effortless meal that was absolutely delicious. I snapped a few photos below as well as included my easy peasy recipe. Enjoy!







My favorite Greek seasoning!
My favorite oven roasted tomatoes packed in oil!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Easy Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops w/ Roasted Baby Brussels Sprouts

This evening I prepared the lamb shoulder chops I purchased from Sprouts this weekend. They're a different cut than the loin lamb chops I usually buy. They actually were very flavorful. I had intended to marinate them during the day but forgot to so when I got home I whisked together a quick little marinade to add some flavor and tenderize them a bit. I marinated my chops for about 45 minutes until hubby got home to grill them. They took 10 minutes or less to grill.

To go with our lamb chops, I trimmed the bag of fresh baby brussels sprouts I picked up at Sprouts (LOL on sprouts from Sprouts). Since they were so small and cute, I kept them whole rather than halving them. I steamed them for about 4 minutes in a couple tablespoons of water in the microwave on high and then spread them on a baking sheet and tossed them with some olive oil and seasoned them with a bit of sea salt (the Pink Himalayan sea salt also bought at Sprouts). I roasted them for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees and then stirred in a few heaping tablespoons of oven roasted tomatoes packed in oil (that I find at Costco) and continued roasting the sprouts along with the tomatoes for another 5 to 10 minutes. The tomatoes added a nice deep flavor to the sprouts and it was a perfect side dish to go with our grilled lamb chops. I snapped a few photos for you to see below as well as included the easy little marinade I put together. Enjoy!






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spicy Chicken Stir-Fry - Low Carb

This evening I made Spicy Chicken Stir-Fry for dinner since it was just my youngest son that came to eat with us (he loves chicken and is not a beef eater at all). It was very similar to the stir-fry I made last Sunday but tonight's stir-fry was exceptionally good. Besides adding red bell peppers to the broccoli and carrots that were in last Sunday's meal, what made tonight's unusually good was that I marinated the chicken for several hours beforehand. Before I went low carb and grain free a couple of years ago, I used to marinate my stir-fry chicken in soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic, and a little hoisin sauce. It would make the chicken as tender as butter after stir-frying and extremely flavorful.

Today, I tried to recreate that tenderness and it came so close that I can't tell the difference between this and my old version. I sliced about 1-1/4 pounds of chicken cutlets into 1/4-inch wide strips. I added it to a bowl along with 1 very large minced clove of garlic (it was the equivalent of 2 regular cloves), 2 to 3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, and a couple teaspoons of chili garlic sauce and mixed it all together. Chili garlic sauce can be found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores. The marinade is barely enough to coat the meat, and not liquidy like traditional marinade that surrounds the meat. You do NOT want your chicken to be wet when adding it to your hot wok with oil. I covered and refrigerated the chicken and marinated it about 3 hours. The flavors permeated the meat and the acidity from the chili garlic sauce and bit of vinegar tenderized the meat. It did not make the chicken overly spicy at all. As a matter of fact, I stirred a bit more chili garlic sauce into the chicken after stir-frying it and tasting it for heat. If you have the time to marinate your chicken before stir-frying, it makes a big difference in the flavor and tenderness. Everything else was the same as last Sunday's stir-fry which can be found here: Chicken Broccoli Stir-Fry. I snapped a few photos for you to see below. Enjoy!






        

This Weekend's Sprouts Farmers Market & Costco Finds

This weekend we ran our errands that included a stop at Costco and Sprouts Farmers Market (two of my favorite places). I snapped some photos of a few of my finds. I baked a batch of my grain free Power Bagels yesterday so we are headed out now for breakfast - have bagel, will travel! We awoke to temps yesterday and this morning in the low 40s...yes, it's actually colder than normal. The air is crisp and fresh and gorgeous. I had some internet and cable issues last night when I was getting ready to post these finds so I'm getting them out this morning before I head out for breakfast.

I found some Nutiva ground chia seeds at Sprouts this past week at half price (normally $12.99 per bag); I got them for $6.49 each. It's still probably cheaper to grind them yourself, but I like having them available for convenience. If you like lamb, they had lamb shoulder chops...really nice ones, for $2.99/lb (which is $4.00 off per pound). I found bulk pre-bagged Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (one of my favorite sea salts). I also found new cooking sprays that don't cause any build-up. They have no propellant in them (by Pompeian). I bought their coconut oil and avocado oil versions.

I picked up some Aidells Habanero Smoked Chicken Sausages, Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese and a beautiful brisket at Costco. The BIGGEST news at Costco is that they now have fresh cranberries in...YAY!!! I bought two 2-pound bags. 

Lastly, I've spent the last few evenings running around all over the place trying to find a case for my new phone that just came a few days ago. I had an iPhone 5 and switched to an iPhone 6 Plus (the bigger version of new iPhone). One of my sons tried to discourage me from getting the larger version, but I carry it in my purse, I'm not putting it in my pocket like him. He said I would look like a "clown" with that big phone...so, in honor of all clowns, I bought the only appropriate case I could find...one that I'm sure only a clown would carry! Hahaha! I snapped a photo of it so you can say you've seen a clown phone!  ;-)  Enjoy!









Clown Phone on the left -- old phone one the right!
I'm officially a clown!  ;-)