Category Archives: Low Carb

Fish Tacos with Strawberry Salsa

At farmer’s market this week I was shocked to still see strawberries. In October? Yep. There might be something to this climate change thing after all. In any case, as long as they are here I’ll keep eating them. The other thing that is plentiful, huge and super cheap right now is cabbage. Let me tell you I have become very creative with using cabbage. It’s just so hard to pass up such a good deal.

These tropical tacos are easy to make, and simple to modify with different fruits based on whatever you have available. This was a particularly tasty combo and the first time I’ve paired strawberries and fish, but it really worked well!  Plus they are so colorful they practically jump off the plate and into your mouth. If you can’t find mahi mahi, substitute any firm, mild white fish and it will work just fine.

One of the best ways I’ve found to get my kids to eat fish is to put it in a taco. Smothering it with fruit is just taking it up an extra notch in their book.

This recipe made more fruit salsa than we needed for the tacos, but don’t worry! The stuff is delicious on its own, or on top of a green salad, mixed into yogurt, or served over ice cream!

Fish Tacos with Strawberry Salsa

Fish Tacos with Strawberry Salsa

Mahi Mahi Tacos with Strawberry Salsa

Fish:
1 pound mahi mahi or other firm white fish
Lemon pepper
Ground chile powder (I like the plain ground ancho chile powder but if you have regular chili powder blend that will work fine as well)
Salt

Strawberry Salsa:
1 pint strawberries, chopped
1-2 cups pineapple, chopped
1 red or green chile or jalapeno, minced
2-3 tbsp. cilantro, minced
1/3 cup red onion, diced
Juice of half a lime
Ground chile powder
Dash of salt

Cabbage:
2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp. sour cream (or you can sub mayo or greek yogurt)
Juice of half a lime

Corn or flour tortillas

In a mixing bowl mix all ingredients for the salsa. I do this first so it can kind of marinate together while everything else is cooking.

Strawberry Pineapple Salsa

Strawberry Pineapple Salsa

In another bowl, mix cabbage, sour cream and lime juice. Set aside.

Cabbage mixture  to top off your taco!

Cabbage mixture to top off your taco!

Wrap tortillas in foil and stick in the oven to warm while you cook the fish.

Cut fish into strips or squares. Sprinkle fish with salt, lemon pepper and chile powder on both sides.

I don't measure the spices, just sprinkle to your heart's content.

I don’t measure the spices, just sprinkle to your heart’s content.

Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet. Place fish in the skillet, making sure not to crowd the pan. Do it in 2 batches if needed. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through and lightly browned.

Build your taco with a tortilla, a couple of chunks of fish, top with strawberry salsa and cabbage!

Yeah, it's a total mess when you eat it, especially if you go crazy overfilling it like this. But it's worth it! For less mess, go a little lighter with the fillings.

Yeah, it’s a total mess when you eat it, especially if you go crazy overfilling it like this. But it’s worth it! For less mess, go a little lighter with the fillings.

My son Luke prefers his taco deconstructed so he can eat it with a fork:

Don't like wrestling with messy tacos? Make a taco plate instead!

Don’t like wrestling with messy tacos? Make a taco plate instead!

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Summer Eating, Lazy Cooks, and Tomatillo-Corn Sauté

Someone asked me today if this was the end of the Hungry Monkeys. Definitely not! I’m still here. Admittedly I’ve been excessively lazy this summer when it comes to writing my blog, or cooking, or well, lots of things. It’s summer, and it’s hot. The kids are out of school, we have been out and about (mostly trying to stay cool since our house has no air conditioning) and cooking has just not taken a high priority lately.

I’ve been doing about 75% of my grocery shopping at farmers markets. Most of my shopping trips look something like this:

Summer shopping.

Summer shopping.

And most of the meals I make at home look something like this:

Veggies, fruit, sauteed peppers and poached eggs. Breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions!

Veggies, fruit, sautéed padron peppers and poached eggs. Breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions!

Or this:

Tomatillo-corn sauté, three bean salad and sliced tomatoes with goat cheese.

Tomatillo-corn sauté (recipe below), three bean salad and sliced tomatoes with goat cheese.

If I’m eating like a rabbit, why am I not jumping up and down at having reached my fitness and weight goals this summer, you might ask?  Because…in between my very healthy and wonderful farmer’s market meals I’ve been eating out waaaaay too much, and the other 25% of my grocery shopping is mostly made up of Trader Joe’s buckets of cookies and other goodies.

So. Kids go back to school next week, a regular routine will once again be established to some degree, weather will be getting cooler and my oven will once again be in constant use. And I am looking forward to all of that!

In the meantime, as I look through the photos on my camera that I’ve accumulated over the few times I have cooked something this summer (ahem, 124 photos, yikes!) I will endeavor to remember how I made the delicious food pictured therein and post a few blogs.

For now, I’ll give you the very simple but delicious recipe for the tomatillo-corn sauté pictured above. This is a recipe invented by my Aunt Debi which she made for us when we went to visit her and paint on her wall a few weeks ago. It was so delicious I just had to make it two or three more times when I came home. I add a little red onion to my version. The three bean salad was something that Trader Joe’s was sampling the other day that I was all too happy to copy at home. Simply a can of garbanzo beans (drain and rinse), a can of kidney beans (drain and rinse), and raw green beans chopped up. Combine all three kinds of beans and add a generous splash of rice vinegar and some salt and pepper.

Tomatillo-Corn Sauté

Tomatillo-Corn Sauté

Tomatillo-Corn Sauté
(slightly modified from the original recipe by Debi Hiltenbrand)

6-8 ears of sweet corn
1 cup chopped tomatillos (about a half pound)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt & pepper
1 heaping spoonful of coconut oil

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and tomatillo to pan. Using a sharp knife, slice kernels off of corn cobs. Add corn to the pan. Add paprika and salt & pepper to taste. Sauté over medium heat for at least 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally, until tomatillos and onions are very soft.

And there you have it! Am I the only lazy cook out there this summer? What have you guys been making on hot days?

 

 

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Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

When you eat a lot of vegetables, which we do at my house, you get sick of the traditional salad. Sometimes I just don’t want to see another leaf of lettuce, even though I really like salad. But never fear, when salad boredom happens, I tend to just start combining random ingredients in the hopes of inventing something new that everyone will actually eat. It usually works.

I would describe this as a Mediterranean-ish veggie extravaganza. Filling and flavorful, it stands well on its own, or is the perfect side dish for just about anything. As an added bonus, it works well at room temperature which makes it terrific for potlucks and picnics.

No Lettuce Veggie Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

Forget the Lettuce Veggie Salad

1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can olives, cut in half
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 zucchini, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1 small can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered or coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 tbsp. vinegar
Salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients. Eat.

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Roasted Pepper Black Bean Chili

I know, I know. It’s 80 degrees and I’m making chili. You might think I’m odd, but for me, chili is not just a winter food. One reason is I like it too much to confine it to just one season. The other is that I planted ten pepper plants and I have to find ways to use them, assuming I don’t kill them off before they produce anything. Besides, this is a recipe for the crock pot, which means no heating up the house with the oven!

The basic recipe for this is actually quite similar to my regular chili, but this time I used dried beans and roasted peppers and wow! it tastes completely different. Deeper, smokier, wonderful! You can use whatever combination of peppers you like or happen to have. I’ll list the combo I used, which resulted in a fairly mild but flavorful batch. Feel free to toss in some hotter ones if you are a five-alarm sort of person.

Plan ahead and soak your beans the night before to ensure they get done in the slow cooker. Or you can use canned beans in a pinch. This works well as a vegetarian recipe too, just leave out the ground beef.

Roasted Pepper Chili

Roasted Pepper Chili

Roasted Pepper Chili

2 cups dried black beans
4 cups water
2 poblano peppers
3 anaheim chiles
1 red bell pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 pound ground beef
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2-3 tbsp. chili powder
2-3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper

The night before, rinse dried beans. Place in a bowl with at least six cups of water. Let soak overnight. In the morning, drain beans and put in crock pot. In a skillet, brown ground beef and add to crock pot.

Remove seeds and stems from peppers and lay skin-side up on a large cookie sheet. Place under broiler 4-5 minutes, until skin turns black. Remove and put in a paper or plastic bag to cool.

Add onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, oregano and cumin to crock pot.

Remove peppers from their bag, chop and add to the crock pot. Cover with about 4 cups of water, give it a stir. Cook on high for 6-8 hours until beans are soft. Add salt & pepper to taste.

This was even better the next day!

So good.

So good.

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Spaghetti Squash Gratin

I’m not a squash fan. Or at least, I didn’t use to be. I’ve been gradually teaching myself to like it. The main trick I have learned in teaching myself to like new foods is to start by cooking it in a similar recipe as foods I do like.

I like spaghetti. With red sauce and cheese.  Now I’m not going to tell you that spaghetti squash tastes exactly like spaghetti. It doesn’t really. In fact, it doesn’t really taste like much at all. When you cook it with cheese and spaghetti sauce, mostly what you taste is cheese and spaghetti sauce. But the spaghetti squash has a nice texture (a little firmer than an actual noodle but not that different) and it’s a great conveyance for your favorite flavors.

The star of this dish – for me – was the ricotta topping. It’s hard to feel like you are missing out when you are eating something so rich and creamy. And here’s the kicker. My daughter ate SQUASH and it was all because she loved the ricotta stuff so much. I gave her a tiny spoonful of this dish (I have a rule that you have to at least try everything once) and told her if she hated it she could make herself a sandwich. Normally she hates squash, so this is how I was expecting it to go down. But instead she went back, loaded up her bowl and ate it all. It was some sort of squashy miracle.

One note on cooking the squash: some people cook it whole, some cut it in half. It will cook faster if you cut it in half (in about 45 minutes or so), but wrestling these things into submission when they are raw is not always easy. I found it much easier to break this sucker down when it was cooked and tender, so I left mine whole.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
(from Recipe Sweet)

1 spaghetti squash

Sauce:
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained and smooshed with your fingers or coarsely chopped (or you can use diced ones)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn

Gratin Topping:
1 (15 oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400˚. Poke your squash with a fork or knife a few times and place in the oven whole (I put mine on a pan just in case it leaked some juices). Roast for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until tender. Let it cool just a bit so you can handle it. (You can do this the day before or earlier in the day if time is an issue).

Slice it in half, scoop out the seeds in the middle (discard the seeds), and then using a fork, comb through the squash, creating “spaghetti” strands. Place these in the bottom of your baking dish. Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Toss a bit with your fingers to combine.

Looks like spaghetti!

Looks like spaghetti!

In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook and stir for a minute. Add tomatoes, salt & pepper, Italian seasoning and wine. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 15 minutes. Pour over the top of the squash and spread out so all of the squash is covered.

Smother anything in this sauce and it will be good.

Smother anything in this sauce and it will be good.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan and seasonings.  Carefully spread ricotta mixture over the top of the red sauce.

Ready to cook!

Ready to cook!

Bake at 400˚ for 40-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Dig in!

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Chili Roasted Pineapple Fries

Some recipes are barely recipes.  They are more about me needing something to go with something, and well, I have this pineapple…

This dish defies any predetermined meal placement.  I served this with a side of BBQ chicken, but it would be just as good with a scoop of ice cream for dessert, or alongside a couple of scrambled eggs for breakfast.

One of my favorite Mexican restaurants is this little place in my home town, run by a Mexican lady who is always singing.  Last time I ate there, she gave me a couple of little tins of spices that she’s planning to start selling. I scored ground cinnamon and this wonderful ground chipotle pepper.  I’ve been putting it on everything!  You may think peppers and pineapples don’t go together, but you’d be wrong!  The kick from the peppers and the sticky sweet touch of honey is the perfect combo.

Chili Roasted Pineapple

Chili Roasted Pineapple

Chili Roasted Pineapple Fries

Fresh Pineapple
Honey
Ground chipotle pepper (or any ground chili/red pepper powder)

Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice pineapple up into whatever shapes you like.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lightly brush tops of pineapple with honey and sprinkle with ground chili pepper.

Cut into whatever shapes you like.  I prefer little stick shapes.  When I cook these on the grill, I do big sticks, the height of the whole pineapple.  Or you can do skewers of chunks if you prefer.

Cut into whatever shapes you like. I prefer little stick (french fry) shapes. 

Roast for 10-15 minutes, until just starting to turn brown. If you prefer grilling to roasting, these are perfect on the grill!

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Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti

In recent years, I have started a new tradition of buying myself a Christmas present or two and wrapping it up to put under the tree.  As it turns out, Santa always seems to bring me something I really want!  As you might imagine, kitchen gadgets tend to make my wish list here and there.  This year I really wanted a spiral slicer!  I love the idea of making “noodles” out of whatever veggie happens to be handy, but I do not love the idea of sitting there painstakingly peeling or slicing away at it to get my uniform, healthy, yummy veggie-noodles.  But now!  I have the perfect little tool and let me tell you this baby is fun to play with!  At the risk of sounding like an informercial, let me just say it worked like a charm and I had a pile of lovely curly strands of zucchini in mere moments.

What else can I slice up?  Quick!  Get me a carrot!

What else can I slice up? Quick! Get me a carrot!

A quick sauté with a bit of garlic and they were perfect alongside my delicious veal parmesan.  My daughter, who is not usually a big zucchini fan, actually ate the entire serving.  As for the veal, you’ve got to try these delicious burgers.  With a simple marinara topping and a sprinkle of cheese, they were a huge hit!  Not a veal fan?  No problem.  Feel free to substitute ground beef or turkey, or even slices of eggplant!

Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti.  So delicious!

Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti. So delicious!

Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti

Sauce:

Olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of crushed red peppers
Salt & pepper
1 tsp. capers

Blend up or crush tomatoes (with juice).  Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add garlic and stir about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, crushed red peppers and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer.  Toss in capers.  Let sauce simmer while you prepare the burgers.

Mmmm.  Simple and good.  When I have a bit of fresh basil I throw that in as well.

Mmmm. Simple and good. When I have a bit of fresh basil I throw that in as well.

Burgers:

1 pound ground veal (or ground beef or turkey)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
3-4 mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
3/4 cup panko (or other bread crumbs)
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded

Heat oven to broil.  Mix veal, garlic, egg, mushrooms, onion and seasonings until well blended.  Form into patties.  Dredge both sides in panko and shake off excess.  Heat a drizzle of oil in a large skillet.  Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes on each side until brown on the outside and done in the middle.

Cooking up the burgers.

Cooking up the burgers.

Remove to a baking sheet.  Top each burger with a generous spoonful of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan.  Place under the broiler 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.

All sliced up and ready to cook.  The strips are so thin it only takes a couple of minutes to cook!

All sliced up and ready to cook. The strips are so thin it only takes a couple of minutes to cook!

Zpaghetti:

3 zucchini, cut into thin strips either with a spiral slicer or using a vegetable peeler
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper

While burgers are broiling, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet and toss in the zucchini, along with minced garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper if desired.  Sauté 2-3 minutes until zucchini is tender.  Serve hot, topped with extra marinara sauce.

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Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Well here we are in the first week of January.  Resolutions abound and I admire all of the chubby joggers and people eating up their veggies like troopers, working hard to meet their goals.  I hope they stick with it.  Some years I join in with the efforts.  Admittedly, I make and pursue my own throughout the year.  But this year, I’m not so much doing it by the calendar.  And for me, it’s all about moderation.  I’ll happily eat my fruits and veggies, but sometimes they taste even better with a pork chop!

These are one of my favorite fall/winter pork recipes.  Sweet, savory, but healthy too!  It was perfect with a generous serving of roasted root vegetables and salad.

Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Pork chops
Sliced apples
Cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp. per chop)
Brown sugar (about 1/2 tsp. per chop)
Fresh sage, minced (or you can use dried if you prefer)
Salt & pepper
Butter

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Place pork chops on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and some minced sage.

I don't usually measure the spices, just sprinkle to your heart's content.

I don’t usually measure the spices, just sprinkle to your heart’s content.

Peel and slice apples and cover the surface of each chop with apples.  Top with a pinch of cinnamon and brown sugar and a small pat of butter.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until apples are tender and browned and chops are done in the middle.  Slice into one to check or use a meat thermometer – internal temp should be at least 145˚.

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Savory Beef Stew

Few things are more satisfying on a cold winter evening than a warm, comfy bowl of beef stew.  I love the way the aroma permeates the house, and even wafts outside to invite you in (and make all the neighbors jealous!).  I usually save this one for weekends or days when I’m free in the afternoons since I like to let it cook an hour or two so the beef can get really tender and wonderful.

I’m always amazed that people buy beef stew in a can.  It really tastes nasty compared to the real thing.  It might be different if beef stew was hard to make, but seriously folks, you dump things in a pot and let it cook for an hour or two.  You can do it!  It’s soooo worth the tiny bit of effort.

I never measure anything when I make this so it does tend to vary a bit from time to time, but I’ve made it so many times that this has become the standard version in my house.

A bowl full of love.

A bowl full of love.

Beef Stew

1-2 pounds stew meat or sirloin, cut into bite sized pieces
3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tbsp. butter
4 plum tomatoes
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth
1 onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
4 red potatoes, 1/2″ dice
4-5 carrots, sliced

Combine flour, pepper, salt, paprika, rosemary and Italian seasoning in a large ziplock bag.  Add beef to bag and shake up to coat all the pieces.  In a Dutch oven, melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat.  Add beef in batches (you want to leave a little space in between the pieces so they can brown instead of just steaming.  Brown on both sides and remove from pan, then add another tablespoon of butter and more beef until it is all done.

Brown the beef first for extra tenderness!

Brown the beef first for extra tenderness!

Add onions and tomatoes to pan.  Cook and stir one or two minutes.  Add broth, wine and beef back to pan.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the little meat bits off.  It adds color and flavor to the soup, plus the bits of flour will help to thicken the broth as it cooks.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook on low for 45 minutes.

Starts out soupy but as it simmers, the flour from the beef and the veggies will thicken the broth as you go.

Starts out soupy but as it simmers, the flour from the beef and the veggies will thicken the broth.

Add potatoes, mushrooms and carrots.  Cook another 45 minutes or more, until veggies are tender.  Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.  At this point you can eat or let it simmer until dinnertime.

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Spinach-Feta Omelet with Pine Nuts

I’ve given up buying cereal.  Whenever I do, we each have a bowl and then watch it sit on the shelf thereafter, slowing going stale.  Suffice it to say none of us are big fans of the stuff, in spite of the occasional craving.  I feel better and less hungry throughout the day when I have a bit of protein in the morning instead.

This delicious omelet makes a perfect breakfast or lunch.  The pine nuts add a nutty touch that works beautifully with the spinach.  Add them near the end of sauteing the veggies, since they burn easily.

Spinach-Feta Omelet with Pine Nuts

Spinach-Feta Omelet with Pine Nuts

Spinach-Feta Omelet with Pine Nuts

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 tsp pine nuts
2-3 tbsp. feta cheese
2-3 eggs
Salt & pepper

Beat eggs with a pinch of salt & pepper and set aside.

Heat a medium skillet (I prefer a 10″ skillet for omelets) over medium heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and rub around skillet to coat entirely.  Add onion and sauté 2-3 minutes, until tender.  Add spinach and pine nuts.  Cook, stirring frequently another minute or two, until spinach is slightly wilted.  Remove veggies to a plate.

Cooking the veggies.  I only cook until the spinach is just barely cooked.

Keep an eye on the veggies so your pine nuts don’t burn!

Add eggs to the skillet.  Swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan.  Using a spatula, push or lift the edges of the egg, tilting the pan so the runny egg fills the empty spot.  Keep doing this until there is no runny egg.  You will end up with a bumpy, moon crater surface of an omelet, with the egg mostly cooked but still glossy on top.

Scatter cheese all over the surface, and then put the veggies just on one half.

Yum!

Yum!

Cook a minute until cheese starts to melt, fold omelet over, slide out of the pan and serve immediately.

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