Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Night Pasta - How to Make Non-Watery Zoodles

Today was a busy day. Hubby worked outside in the yard and finally got up all the leaves while I worked inside continuing on our "project de-clutter"...LOL. I've been having some problems with my computer's touchpad not working all day long and then suddenly, out of the blue, this evening it began working weird. We had such a nice Thanksgiving and have eaten leftovers for the last couple of nights. I had planned to make another "leftover turkey dish" for dinner tonight but just couldn't bring myself to eating turkey AGAIN tonight. So, I decided to make something completely non-turkey...I made pasta (zoodles) instead. Only one of my sons came for dinner this evening since we've all been eating together now for days in a row. I'm sure he appreciated a break from turkey, too!

While most all of you have had zoodles before, you know the one drawback about them is that they tend to be watery when serving them, especially once you put the sauce on top. In the early days of low carb eating, mine were watery too, and I decided that was going to have to change! I wanted pasta, not pasta soup. There are 2 main of them is the sauce. It should be nice and thick and not loose and watery. If you use one of the acceptable jarred sauces (as in no sugar, or other additives), you can easily conquer that simply by simmering it uncovered for about 20 to 30 minutes until the excess liquid cooks off and the sauce reduces and thickens. But, if your zoodles aren't prepped right, you will still end up with watery pasta when you serve it.

I'm going to share how I keep my zoodles from being watery. I usually prefer to eat my pasta in a pasta bowl, but this evening I intentionally ate it on a plate so you could see there was NO wateriness whatsoever. I used Del Grosso's Fireworks sauce tonight and added it to browned ground round, diced bell pepper and onion, quartered fresh mushrooms and baby spinach that I browned and cooked before adding the sauce. I simmered it uncovered about 30 minutes until thickened. I also added about 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan about 5 to 10 minutes before it was done simmering, but it's not necessary. It just adds flavor and thickens the sauce a bit more.

About an hour before starting the sauce, I used my Paderno Spiralizer to make a bunch of zoodles with zucchini and yellow summer squash; it only takes a couple minutes to make a big pile of them. To pull out the excess liquid from the zoodles, I like to spread them out in a single layer on top of a layer of paper towels (placed on top of a dish towel). I lightly salt them (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for a large batch of zoodles) and then place another layer of paper towels on top. I gently press them down with my hands and then walk away. Within 5 to 10 minutes you will notice the moisture being drawn out of the zoodles by the salt and wicking into the paper towels. After about 20 minutes, I like to roll them up in the paper towels to help press more moisture out. If the paper towels get really wet, I'll change the top layer of paper towels before rolling up. Try and let them wick excess moisture out for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 hour if you have the time. You will find it makes a huge difference in your finished cooked zoodles. I know some folks like to boil their zoodles and that makes me cringe because you are adding water to them instead of removing it. They shouldn't be cooked like regular wheat noodles that are supposed to absorb liquid. To cook, all that needs to be done is heat up a nonstick skillet with a tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat and then stir-fry the zoodles, tossing frequently until al dente. This only takes a few minutes...about 3 to 5 minutes or to your desired tenderness. Don't overfill the skillet. If necessary, cook a larger portion in a couple of batches. This method yields perfectly cooked non-watery zoodles. I snapped a few photos below. Enjoy!

It took less than 2 minutes to make this big pile of zoodles with the Paderno Spiralizer
Spread on paper towels and salt lightly
Top with another layer of paper towels
Look at the moisture that has been drawn out after about 10-15 minutes
Before rolling them up, I changed the top layer of paper towels to draw out more liquid
After sauteing for a few minutes in a skillet, I have perfect non-watery al dente zoodles

Friday, November 28, 2014

My 3rd Low Carb Thanksgiving

We had a great day today. We ate too much, laughed too much and just really enjoyed the day. This was my 3rd wheat, grain and gluten-free Thanksgiving. I remember how daunting my first one felt. The 2nd one was much better and by the time today's, my 3rd one rolled was just 2nd nature and seemed normal. Even though the others in my family aren't grain free, I find that I have gotten so much better at creating and duplicating old favorites that most of what they are eating for holidays is grain free, too. 

This year I enjoyed turkey, dressing, creamy cauliflower mash, green bean casserole, squash casserole, sweet potato casserole, fresh cranberry sauce and buttermilk biscuits. For dessert I enjoyed a pumpkin custard cup topped with toasted pecans and whipped cream. This year one of my sons joined me in a totally grain free Thanksgiving dinner. The only thing he had different than me was he had mashed red skin potatoes like the others instead of the cauliflower mash. I snapped a quick photo of my plate. I'm posting it now well after midnight before going to bed. We actually enjoyed a "be here now" gadget free Facebook, texting, or cell phones. It was actually nice to spend an entire evening with just each other and without everyone staring at their phones communicating with everyone other than who they are actually with. We told stories, laughed, played games, watched a movie without the continuous distraction of everyone playing with their phones. It was a refreshing change that I'd like to see happen more often. I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Happy Thanksgiving! Just stopped to take a break and wish everyone a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving today. May all of you be blessed with good health, friends, family and good food this Thanksgiving. 

My 15-lb turkey comes out of the oven in about 45 minutes. My 8-pound turkey breast is cooked to perfection after slow cooking overnight for about 11 hours. I baked a batch of my Buttermilk Biscuits first thing this morning before putting the turkey in the oven and will soon begin the annual juggle of trying to bake all the various casseroles and side dishes to have them all hot and ready at the same time. I hope whatever you are making today turns out wonderful and that you enjoy this day with those that you love. As the Publix Thanksgiving commercial says..."here's to the day that may not always be flawless...but it's always perfect." If you've never seen one of their holiday commercials...I've linked it above. I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes every time I watch one. Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Preparing For Thanksgiving...

Happy day before Thanksgiving! I worked most of the day today continuing my Thanksgiving dinner preparation. I made a double batch of my Cream of Mushroom Soup today and put my Green Bean Casserole together. I make it much the same way I used to (you know the kind that uses the red and white cans of soup). My cream of mushroom soup is excellent and unbelievably good. I made it even thicker and creamier today by adding in a few ounces of cream cheese and about 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese while it was simmering. It is so very easy to make. For my green bean casserole, in addition to 2 pounds of cooked French green beans, I added almost all of the Cream of Mushroom Soup except for about 1 cup that I reserved to use to make gravy with. I also added about 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to my green bean casserole. 

I debated how to handle the "French fried onion" part of that casserole. Last year I added caramelized (soft) cooked onions to mine and had planned to do that again this year and maybe make some of my Oven Fried Onion Rings to put on top for crunch. I scrapped that idea and decided to go a different direction with the onions. I thinly sliced a large sweet onion and separated into rings. I lightly drizzled them with olive oil and tossed around just to very lightly coat. I seasoned them well with sea salt and placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet to roast at 375 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes and kept checking on them and tossing them occasionally. I will admit, I burned my first batch because I didn't watch them closely enough. The 2nd batch turned out AMAZING! As they began to brown, I turned the oven down to 275 degrees for another 10 minutes or so and then turned the oven off and allowed them to continue drying out and crisping in the oven. They are golden and crisp as the canned kind only these don't have any breading on them. Nothing but onions, salt and a bit of oil and their flavor is amazing. I stirred some into the casserole and have reserved a bunch to scatter on top about 5 minutes before the green casserole finishes baking (just like you do with the store bought version). 

I also made my Sweet Potato Casserole without using sugar this time. I added some Swerve, eggs, cream, butter and cinnamon and whipped it until velvety smooth. I'll top it with toasted pecans near the end of baking tomorrow. I'll make mashed red skin potatoes for the rest of the family and creamy mashed cauliflower for me. I'll finish putting together my squash casserole tomorrow. It's pre-prepped and can be put together quickly now. I purchased a carton of turkey bone broth to use to make the gravy with after reducing a bit and seasoning it and will add my cream of mushroom soup to give it richness and body. I'll make the stuffing/dressing tomorrow since I've already got the croutons made for it. I'm tired tonight but will get a few more odds and ends done before calling it a day. My turkey breast goes into the crock pot before I go to bed this evening to cook overnight and I'll put the whole turkey in the oven tomorrow morning. I love Thanksgiving and will be glad when I can finally sit down and enjoy it all tomorrow. I snapped a few photos of today's accomplishments below. Enjoy!

These onions are cracker-crisp and oven roasting brought out their natural sweetness
The beginnings of gravy
Pffffft...who said that grain-free stuffing/dressing couldn't include BREAD?
Awaiting buttery sweetened cinnamon toasted pecan topping to be added tomorrow!

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles - Sweetness & Spice & Everything Nice

Today was a busy day here. I worked most of the day on Thanksgiving dinner prep. I made my stuffing bread to make grain free stuffing and chopped lots of celery and onions for my stuffing and other various casseroles. I sliced up and cooked the squash for my squash casserole; cooked the green beans for my green bean casserole; roasted sweet potatoes to mash; made pumpkin custard cups and also managed to create a new recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles! I wanted something else "pumpkiny" to have for Thanksgiving. I still have lots to do tomorrow but feel like I made a significant dent in my meal preparation today. 

These cookies are soft and have a wonderful texture. A snickerdoodle is a type of cinnamon cookie. Cream of tartar adds a very slight tang to them that separates them from basic sugar cookies. Traditional snickerdoodles are soft cookies with an ever so slight chewiness but not as much as a gingersnap. These snickerdoodles also have a bit of pumpkin added which complements all the spices. To help create a different texture and enhance the pumpkin and spice flavors, I added 1 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses (optional) which yields a similar flavor that brown sugar would add if it were used. The amount I added is so small that it doesn't increase carbs or sugar much at all with only 1 teaspoon distributed between the entire batch of cookies (it can be omitted if desired). I also added a bit of xanthum gum for texture. If you prefer not to use it, you can omit it as well. I chose not to make the cookies overly sweet but if you prefer them a little sweeter, taste your dough and adjust the sweetness accordingly. These cookies taste best when completely cooled...and the texture is also best when cooled. Otherwise when warm, they are simply a soft cookie. I kept them uncovered for a couple of hours and they actually were better after sitting for a while. I snapped a few photos and included the recipe below. Enjoy!

Dough is scooped onto the cookie sheet
Dough has been rolled between palms until smooth and in "cinnamon sugar"
Fresh out of the oven

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Makes about 2 dozen cookies


1-1/2 cups blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup confectioners style Swerve sweetener (or powdered sweetener equivalent)
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses, optional
1 egg
1/4 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granular Swerve sweetener (or other granular sweetener equivalent)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, xanthum gum, cream of tartar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger until combined. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioners sweetener together with a hand mixer on low speed until combined. Add molasses, egg, pumpkin puree, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add dry ingredients, one third at a time, beating until combined after each addition. If dough is too thick for hand mixer, finish combining by hand with a wooden spoon. Cover dough and refrigerate; chill 1 to 2 hours or until firm. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While oven is preheating, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons granular sweetener and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together. Using a 1 tablespoon retractable cookie scoop, scoop small balls of dough, approximately 1-inch in diameter, onto prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Roll each ball of dough between palms to smooth out, then roll in cinnamon sweetener mixture and place back on baking sheet. Bake 14-15 minutes (do not overcook). Cookies will be soft when done. After removing from oven, pat down slightly with back of spoon. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Magical Cookie Bars - The REAL Deal

I made a batch of my Magical Cookie Bars to have on hand for dessert this week. These are the "real deal" beginning with a buttery crust and topped with ooey gooey Sweetened Condensed Milk, coconut, chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips. What they don't have is the boatload of sugar, carbs and wheat found in the traditional recipe for these delicious classic bar cookies. 

I went ahead and cut them up this morning and had one as my "lunch" this afternoon. I baked them in a 9" x 9" pan and cut them into small squares. I actually made about 25 small bars. Believe it or not, without the massive sugar surge that accompanies consuming the regular version, a small bar is plenty enough for me to enjoy. If you absolutely must, 2 small bars are more than enough to satisfy. I snapped a few photos below as well as included my easy peasy recipe. These bars feature my Sweetened Condensed Milk (recipe below) made with full fat canned coconut milk and confectioners style Swerve. I always make a double batch using 2 cans of coconut milk because it doesn't take you any longer to make, and trust me, you are going to WANT to have extra leftover to make another treat or two with. Check out the photos to see all the yumminess below. Enjoy!

Absolutely Magical Cookie Bars


For the Crust:
1/4 cup ground golden flax meal
1/4 cup Swerve Sweetener (or equivalent sweetener to 1/4 cup sugar)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, diced
1 egg

For the Topping:
1 cup Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (recipe below)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (the longer shreds)
1 (3.5 ounce) bar of 70% cacao chocolate, chopped or 1/2 cup 70% chocolate chips (or Lily's sugar free chocolate chips)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, flax, Swerve, cinnamon, diced butter and 1 egg. Using a pastry/dough cutter, cut butter and egg into flour mixture until a thick, dense dough forms. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, press dough evenly into an 8x8" or 9x9" nonstick baking pan. Bake crust at 325 degrees for 12 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove crust and let cool for 10-15 minutes.  

Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Layer walnuts, coconut, and chocolate chips on top of crust. Drizzle evenly with 1 cup of sweetened condensed coconut milk. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes or until lightly golden on top.  Let cool completely and cut into bars.  

Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (makes 2-1/2 cups):

2 (14-ounce) cans unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup Swerve granular or confectioners sweetener (or equivalent sweetener to 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Liquid stevia to taste, optional

To make the Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk, add coconut milk to a small heavy saucepan and stir in Swerve or sweetener of choice, butter and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. After milk comes to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer, stirring and whisking frequently for about 45 minutes until reduced by almost half. 

If a thicker condensed milk is desired, whisk in 3 to 4 pinches of xanthum gum (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon), at the end of reduction; heating and whisking in a little at a time until thickened (I add 3 pinches to mine). Taste for sweetness. If additional sweetness is desired, add liquid stevia until desired sweetness is achieved (I add 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid NOW Better Stevia after reduction). 

Makes approximately 2-1/2 cups of sweetened condensed coconut milk. Cool before using in recipes. Refrigerate any unused portion. 

*Note: The Magical Cookie Bar recipe only uses 1 cup of the sweetened condensed milk; refrigerate any leftover condensed milk).


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cranberry Walnut Power Bagels - The Perfect Rainy Day Breakfast

This morning we had planned to go out for breakfast to Einstein's Bagels. I was going to pack one of my own grain-free Cranberry Walnut Power Bagels or Cranberry Walnut Mini Loaves to take along with me...but the weather is just so awful here today (cold, windy, monsoon rains, thunder and lightning) that we decided to just stay in and enjoy them in the warmth and comfort of our own home instead. I enjoyed mine spread with cream cheese and topped with fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce "jam." Guess I have no choice left now but to get an early start on making some of our Thanksgiving dishes. It's just way too ugly to go out. I snapped a quick photo of what I had planned to take with me this morning. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Deep Dish Pizza - Low Carb & Grain Free

This evening I made my Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza for dinner. I added Del Grosso pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, Fiorucci nitrite free pepperoni on the entire pizza and then put Kalamata olives on hubby's half and roasted red peppers and onions on my half. Because the crust is so thick (about 1-inch thick), it's very filling and hubby and I only ate 1 slice each (we cut each of our halves into 3 slices) so we each have a couple slices left for tomorrow. It was delicious and the perfect Saturday night meal.

This afternoon I made the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving; I made a huge batch so I would have enough to enjoy beforehand, too. I used 2 pounds of fresh cranberries (about 8 cups) which makes a quadruple batch of my Cranberry Orange Sauce. If you plan to make it this year, I recommend you either use confectioners style Swerve sweetener or powder whatever granular type sweetener you use. Most granular sweeteners can be a bit crunchy or gritty when used in a dish that is chilled/refrigerated. Powdering the sweetener eliminates that problem. I always add some unsweetened coconut to my cranberry sauce as it's simmering. It gives a nice coconutty texture and crunch to the sauce that I love. I've even stirred in toasted walnuts or pecans before, which make it really tasty and very much like a cranberry relish/salad that is excellent dolloped on top of either Greek yogurt or as the berry topping for a cheesecake. I snapped a few photos of our deep dish pizza below. You can find the recipe here: Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. Enjoy!

Crust fresh out of the oven; ready to be topped

This is a beautiful thing...
The beginning of my cranberry sauce...
10 minutes later, fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce


Mini Cranberry Walnut Loaves - Grain Free

It's a bright and beautiful Saturday morning here today. We've been busy the last few evenings trying to run errands and do our Thanksgiving dinner shopping a little at a time throughout the week. I'll finish up the odds and ends food shopping this weekend. We already have our turkey and turkey breast (I always do both). Last night I went straight to Costco after work in order to avoid the deluge of shoppers this weekend. It was great because not many folks head to Costco on a Friday night so I was able to breeze through without the traffic jam of people waiting for free samples and blocking the aisles. 

When I got home last night I decided to make a batch of my Power Bagels and also tweaked my recipe a little and added some fresh chopped cranberries along with the dried fruit and seed mix. I also made a batch of mini Cranberry Walnut Loaves. They turned out great and are so cute. The individual loaves can be sliced in half, toasted and buttered or spread with cream cheese or can simply be sliced and eaten as is. These are not sweet loaves or like traditional cake-like "cranberry bread"...these are more like lightly sweetened hearty/rustic bread with dried fruit, walnuts and chopped fresh cranberries. I was inspired by the round loaves of rustic looking Cranberry Walnut bread I saw at Costco last night. If you liked my regular Power Bagels, I think you will enjoy these little mini loaves, too. I'm looking forward to enjoying them for breakfast throughout this coming week. 

I'm beginning my Thanksgiving dinner prep this weekend. I'm going to bake my "stuffing bread cubes" and toast the cubes/croutons to get them ready to make my Stuffing (dressing) later in the week. I will also pre-chop onions, celery, etc. so everything is as pre-prepped as can be. I'm also getting ready to make a big batch of fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce here shortly so that is done and out of the way and I'm making enough so I have plenty to enjoy daily up to Thanksgiving too! LOL I snapped a few photos and the easy peasy recipe for my Mini Cranberry Walnut Loaves below. Enjoy!

This morning's breakfast!

Mini Cranberry Walnut Loaves
Makes 12 to 14 mini loaves


1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted

2-1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1 cup ground chia seeds
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup no sugar added dried fruit and seed mixture
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
3/4 cup granular Swerve Sweetener
8 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup chopped cranberries
6 tablespoons melted coconut oil 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

In a medium sized bowl, mix first 10 ingredients together with a whisk to help break up any lumps.

In a small bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and vinegar together. Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients and mix well; stir in cranberries and coconut oil and combine until a dough is formed. Dough will be thick and slightly sticky. 

Lightly grease an 8-well mini loaf pan with coconut oil. Using a 3-tablespoon size retractable scoop, place 2 scoops of dough into each mini loaf well of pan. Using slightly moistened finger tips, gently pat down and smooth the 2 scoops of dough out into a loaf shape. Bake for about 23-25 minutes, or until light golden brown and done. Remove from pan after sitting for 5 minutes and cool on wire rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing. Slice with sharp serrated knife.

*Note: These can also be baked on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (shaped and smoothed with moistened fingertips) or in a 6-well mini cake pan or muffin top pan.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mini Cheddar Scones - Low Carb, Grain & Gluten Free

Today I did another guest post for Honeyville. I shared my recipe for Mini Cheddar Scones. These aren't you typical scones...they are SUPER cheesy. I was looking to create something to enjoy with soup, chili, etc. that was more than a cracker but not quite a biscuit. These scones are thicker than a cracker and thinner than a biscuit and shaped like a cookie...a/k/a they can be made and shaped with your bare little hands (no special pans required). If you can roll a ball of dough with your hands and press it until somewhat've got it made!

Both of my sons, hubby and I really enjoyed these cheesy little scones alongside the "Chili Beef Stew Soup" I made this weekend. I baked them until crisp but you can also reduce the baking time by a minute or two to produce something a little more chewy. I added a bit of chipotle pepper to give them a little kick (similar to cheese straws if you've ever had them before). But, if you are making them for children to enjoy or you simply aren't crazy about a little spice...just omit the chipotle pepper. They'll be delicious either way. I've been enjoying them throughout the week with soup for lunch. If you'd like to check out the recipe, this link will take you to it here: Mini Cheddar Scones. Enjoy!

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