Sunday, 4 August 2013

Quick Mexican Salad with Guacamole.

I'm fairly certain the food we know as Mexican here in Australia is probably nothing like the real deal. That said, it's still pretty damn tasty and has always been a favourite of mine.

Guzman Y Gomez is an ever popular meeting place among my friends, as we can all get exactly what we want. Gluten free, vegetarian, low carb, and most importantly, beer or frozen margaritas. Since trying their food, my idea of home cooked Mexican has never been the same.

I've gone Chipotle sauce crazy, I'm in love with Cholula, I dream about guacamole!

As a result, I end up making this salad about once a week.

For two people, you will need:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tblsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 a large red onion
  • Sour cream to taste
  • Fresh coriander
  • Your favourite salsa (I used Mission Black Bean and Chipotle, available in Coles near the rest of the Mexican food, but regular old taco sauce would probably do).

Extras to consider:
Grated cheese (mine had gone mouldy, which was why I didn't include it)
Sliced black olives
Fresh or pickled jalapenos
Fresh red capsicum
Grated carrot
Lettuce/other salad greens
Red or black beans (if you're not too concerned about carbs)
Cucumber (if you're a disgusting sicko with no tastebuds)

Make it:

Halve and peel the avocados, discard the seeds, place in a bowl and roughly mash with a fork. Leave some chunky bits. Add the lemon or lime juice.

Dice up the red onion and add it to your guacamole. I sometimes add diced red capsicum or diced fresh jalapenos to this too. Mix well.

Dice your tomatoes and lay them on a plate. Top with the guacamole, sour cream, and a generous helping of your salsa. Take a pair of scissors and snip up a handful of fresh coriander over the top.

Top with hot sauce of your choosing, and commence shoveling!

But hang on, where's the meat?!

There isn't any. Tough tacos.

BUT, if you're a keen meat-eater, I'd recommend putting whatever meat you prefer down with the tomato and layering everything else on top of it. Tinned tuna or leftover cold roast chicken would go well for a quick, low-prep meal. If you're after something a little more fancy, this tastes excellent with slow-cooked pulled pork, or even mince with Mexican seasoning.

Carb Count:

This will of course vary based on the size and type of vegetables you use, and the sugar content of your salsa. This particular rendition works out at about 25 carbs and 440 calories per generous serving.

It's fresh, it's crunchy, and you'll be tasting red onion for the rest of the day. So eat up!

Friday, 19 July 2013

A quick, ugly breakfast: Linseed porridge

Don't want to sacrifice half an hour of precious sleep to stand at the stove cooking bacon and eggs, but still want a hot breakfast?

This is your solution:

I'd heard talk of making porridge from flax meal before, but thought it sounded revolting. When I finally got around to trying it, I was pleasantly surprised, and annoyed with myself for not trying it sooner! It's now a staple breakfast in my house.

It's not pretty, but it's hearty, quick, and tastes surprisingly nice.

 You'll need:

  • 3/4 cup of linseed/flax meal
  • 1 tsp (or more) of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tblsp Natvia, or sweetener of your choice
  • A good chunk of butter (or coconut oil and a pinch of salt if you're avoiding dairy)
  • Boiling water

Get breakfasty:

Put the kettle on. Put your dry ingredients into a bowl and mix them together well. Plop your butter on top.

When the kettle boils, pour over as much hot water as you want and mix the water and (now melted) butter through.

I like mine to have a thinner consistency, so I don't feel like I'm eating a rissole made of bird seed and Clag Paste, so I add about as much water as flax meal. The texture is slightly slimy, very similar to mashed banana.

Top it with a handful of nuts, seeds, or berries if desired. A bit of yoghurt might be nice with it too, or even the trusty old Queen sugar free maple syrup.

If you're super organised, you might like to put all the dry ingredients together in little sandwich bags for the week, that way all you have to do is add in your butter and hot water.

Carb count:

While flax is pretty calorie-dense due to natural fats, there's hardly any soluble carbohydrates in it. I think you'd be lucky to get maybe 2-3 grams of effective carbohydrate per cup. The rest is fibre, which your digestive tract will enjoy. Count another 2-3g for all the other ingredients to be safe, and you've got a hot breaky at around 6g net carbs, in less time than it takes to make toast!

Eat up and enjoy!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Sammiches! Easy Linseed Bread.

As much as I'd love to take credit for this, it's not a new idea. There's a bunch of linseed (or flax, same deal) bread recipes out there on the interwebs, but not many of them are particularly nice.

While this one isn't perfect, its taste and texture is worlds better than any other recipe I've tried before, and I'm sure adding some almond or soy flour could improve this further still. I just didn't have any in the house.

Also, fairly certain this is gluten and yeast free.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups of linseed (flax) meal (you can get this in 500g bags in the health food aisle at Coles)
  • One tblsp of sweetener
  • One tsp salt
  • One tblsp baking powder
  • 4 big free range eggs
  • 5 tblsp olive or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Bready, set, go!

Mix dry ingredients together first. Now is the time to add other types of flour if you want to (sub out equivalent amount of the linseed meal), or maybe even other extras like parmesan cheese, garlic powder, chia seeds, or herbs.

Add eggs, oil, and water, and mix thoroughly. A whisk is useful here. I didn't include process photos, because quite frankly, it looks disgusting. If you've got something that looks like brown slop with bird seed, you're doing it right.

Spoon the mix into a loaf tin, and bake at 180°C for 40 minutes. Of course this will vary depending on your oven, so keep an eye on it towards the end.

Once out, let it cool for a little, then tip it out onto a wire rack and chop it into slices. I'd recommend thin slices, because it's quite a rich and heavy bread. A big, fat slice can be a little too much.

Carb Count

Because linseed is full of indigestible fibre, this entire loaf clocks in at 11g effective carbs, and 1,882 calories. I managed to get 16 slices out of my loaf, so that evens out to less than 1 carb per slice.

Vegemite, tomato, and cheese sanga.

Unfortunately, as low carb as this may be, bread is still a "sometimes food" for me. Too much makes me unreasonably hungry, bloated, and stalls my weightloss. So I'm going to freeze this in bags of four slices and defrost in the microwave or toaster as needed.

Cheers, bread. It's nice to have you back in my kitchen!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Low carb for the time poor.

I apologise for the longer-than-usual absence of recipes, and I also apologise for the fact that this post won't contain a recipe either.

Life likes to get ridiculously busy from time to time. Or all the time, if you're unlucky. For a student household, that's assignment season.

My life right now.

There's a huge range of convenient heat-and-eat options for those counting calories or fat, but what about those of us counting carbs?

The obvious answer is to cook ahead of time and freeze individual portions, but who is that organised?

While junk food is quick, convenient, and tasty, I've found it can seriously hamper my brain power. It's hard to concentrate when something's sitting in your stomach like a big old rock. I'm currently nursing a food-over from a wild weekend of poor nutritional choices, and it sucks.

Here's a few of the low-carb, no-prep meals we've tried over the past few weeks:

Barbecue chicken and salad
The old staple of chicken and bread rolls - without the bread rolls. There's an ever-improving pre-packaged salad section in most supermarkets, just keep an eye on the sugar content in the dressings, and leave out any crispy noodles or croutons. This is a great, quick meal for around $15 for the two of us, and we get leftover chicken to munch on later.

Kebab plate
Most kebab shops are quite happy to put kebab contents on a paper plate for you, without the bread. They're usually pretty generous with the ingredients, so it can be a really big feed. Good option for when you need to source lunch in a food court, and don't feel like mortgaging your home to afford a piddly little container of Sumo Salad.

Weight Watcher's frozen Beef Burgundy
I thought I'd give this a go, and I didn't think much of it. In my books, it's barely food. It's processed out the wazoo, and left a suss plasticy taste in my mouth. It is, however, just about the only frozen "diet" meal you can get that isn't full of potato, rice, noodles, or pasta. It's just meat (I use the term loosely) and veggies in a red wine sauce. It's a small-but-adequate serving, with only 13.5g of carbohydrate.

Steggles Frozen Wing Things
Easy as. A big bag of frozen chicken wings. They're pre-cooked, so all you have to do is thaw a few in the microwave, and you've got an easy lunch. They're $9 a bag in Aldi, and we usually get 3-4 lunches out of them. A little bit too salty I think, but not enough to really put me off.

Coles Italian eggplant and zucchini bake
A little pricey, but because they're fresh, you'll see them reduced to clear a lot. They should be in the fridge section near the lasagnes and garlic breads. It's a cheesy, hearty, flavoursome, and vegetarian friendly meal, at around 25g of carbohydrate per container. I've been known to buy a few at a time and freeze some for later.

And my all-time, absolute favourite...

Pre-packaged vegetarian curries
I cannot rave enough about these babies. They don't require refrigeration, and you probably don't even need to heat them up if you don't have a microwave handy. When heated, they're almost like a thick, hearty soup. Great winter food, and excellent for work lunches.

There's quite a few brands to choose from: Pattu, MTR, Maharajah's Choice, and Tasty Bite. Pattu has been my favourite so far, as it's usually really cheap (around $2 a box), tastes pretty authentic, and comes in a plastic pouch you can put straight in the microwave. Tasty Bite, as nice as it is, would have to be the one I like least. It's about $4 a box and isn't spicy enough for me. I end up drowning it in Cholulua Hot Sauce.

My precious stash.

I would recommend buying these from an Indian grocer (either Raj's Grocer or Indian Rice 'n Spice in Newcastle). Not only is it usually cheaper, but you're supporting small business, and there'll be a bigger variety to choose from. If you live in a regional area and that's not an option, you can get a small variety of Tastybite and Maharajah's Choice in the Asian food aisle in most supermarkets, usually up high above the Indian curry pastes.

What about dessert?

Easy. Diet jelly. It's right there in the supermarket with the normal jelly, and it's not overly expensive. Mango passionfruit and peach apricot have been the best I've tried so far. Yes it does require a little preparation and forethought, but it's simple enough to make up when you boil the kettle for your morning coffee.

And that, along with many handfuls of nuts and breakfasts of protein shakes, is what we eat when we have no time for anything.

I'm sure there's plenty more options out there, especially in terms of frozen fish and seafood if that's your thing. Please feel free to comment with your convenient-yet-still-healthy finds!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Easy Low Carb Ice Creams - Vanilla Berry flavour.

I know, I know. Posting an ice cream recipe in Autumn. Real clever. Maybe my friends in the Northern Hemisphere will get some use out of this one?

These are portion-controlled, ridiculously quick, cheap, and easy to make, and a wonderful "grab-and-eat" food to have on hand. I have a ton of uni assignments at the moment, so time is really at a premium.

I impulse-purchased some paddle pop moulds quite cheaply from that overwhelming trolley of random reduced-to-clear crap every supermarket has. I'm sure places like Hot Dollar or The Reject Shop would stock these all year round. If you want to be a little more upmarket, try kitchen shops.

This is another highly customisable recipe, and you can go nuts experimenting with whatever flavours you like. I had great success with mint choc chip on my first attempt.

This time, I tried vanilla berry.

You will need:

  • 1 cup of frozen berries
  • 1 cup of cream (you could also use plain unsweetened yoghurt, or a nut or soy milk substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons of Natvia
  • A teaspoon of vanilla essence

Make some mess:

Give the berries a quick zap in the microwave so they're not too hard on your blender. Chuck them into the jug with the cream, vanilla, and Natvia. Process until you're happy with the consistency. It shouldn't take long at all.

You won't need much unless you're making several batches. The moulds hold less than you think.

I poured the mixture back into a bowl so I wouldn't have to deal with the blender blades while trying to spoon it into the moulds.

Spoon it in, give the moulds a few good taps on the bench top to dislodge any air bubbles, and put the handles in.

I'll be seeing you later!

Leave them in the freezer for at least four hours. Overnight is best.

To get them out in one piece, soak them for a moment in a container of hot water. If you don't want to remove all four at once, just hang the other two outside the container. Be gentle. You don't want to rip the handle out.

The texture isn't exactly like store-bought ice cream, but I think that inconvenience is worth knowing exactly what goes into your food. You could experiment with adding gelatin or egg yolks, but I certainly couldn't be bothered. Not unless I was getting the ice cream machine out to make a proper, big batch.

Carb Count:

There's about 8g of carbohydrate in a cup of cream, and 10g in a cup of berries. I don't think there's enough carbs to bother counting in the small amount of Natvia I used.
Split four ways, that's 4.5 carbs per ice cream. Not too bad, when a normal Rainbow Paddle Pop has 17g.

Also useful for appeasing dangerous wild men who may wander into your kitchen.

There's so many things you can try with this. Pick whatever base (yoghurt, cream, soy milk) you like the best, and hit up the baking needs aisle to scope out the different flavourings available. Add crushed peanuts, shredded coconut, cardamom, cinnamon, whatever you like!

You could add a scoop of protein powder to the mix if you like that type of thing.

Maybe even make a ganache out of very dark chocolate and coat the outside of your ice cream if you're missing Magnums?

Get creative! I'd love to see what you come up with.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Pizza Bake: bloke-friendly mega melted cheese attack.

Pizza is a very subjective thing, but whether you ask for extra anchovies or no olives, this recipe is great for you if you're not interested in the bready base, but still love the flavours on top.

This is a bit of a hodge-podge of a few different low carb pizza bake recipes I've seen around, so it's definitely not an original idea. I imagine though, much like bolognese, everyone makes it differently. It's also great for those who can't cook, as all you really have to do is chop things and wait for them in the oven.

I've been making this recipe for about two years now. It's a winter favourite, and I'm honestly not sure if I've ever made it the same twice. It's hard to specify an ingredient list, but this is what went into the most recent one I made.

This particular one is a vegetarian version, made with gluten free ingredients. No reason you can't add meat if you'd prefer.

You'll need:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 8 small mushrooms
  • About 1/3 of a jar chargrilled capsicum strips
  • 1 small block of Australian style feta cheese
  • A few generous handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1x 500g bag of shredded mozzarella cheese (you could also try this with a shredded pizza cheese blend if you like a little more flavour).

Options: Olives, anchovies, chargrilled eggplant, pre-cooked bacon, pre-cooked chicken, cooked prawns, sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh capsicum, pepperoni, fresh herbs,'re only limited by your imagination and what's in the fridge. I would shy away from adding things like barbecue sauce or pineapple, but only because they're a little too sugary for the purposes of low carb.

How to pizza:

Preheat your oven to 170°C, and grab your favourite oven dish. A lasagne dish works well, as would a cake tin.

Chop the onion, garlic, feta and mushrooms. Put them in your dish along with the capsicum strips.

Mix them all around, and start mixing through mozzarella until you've got something that looks more or less like this:
The cheese forms the sauce that holds this dish together.

From here, I added four little squares of plastic cheese, spread with my Mum's home made pesto. Again, you don't have to do this bit.

That brings my total to three different cheeses. I encourage you to beat this number.

On top of this, I layered baby spinach and fresh tomato:

And then the final layer of mozzarella.

Slide it into the oven for 20-30 minutes, it'll come out all deliciously melty:

Now here's the hard part: Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. It'll be hotter than the depths of heck, and it'll fall apart and turn to pizza slush if you try and serve it straight out of the oven.

An neater option may be to cook this in ramekins.

This is NOT a good looking meal, so serve it with a little salad to pretty it up a bit.

It also reheats well, and even tastes okay as cold pizza the next day.

Carb Count:

I cut this bad boy into four pieces, and it works out at 8g of carbohydrate per serve, with a total of 32 carbs in the whole batch. Of course, it'll vary based on what veggies you choose to put in.

For calorie counters, this is about 512 calories a serve. Probably equal to a few slices of store-bought pizza. Again, of course, dependent on your choice of ingredients.

I find this is a great way to smash any cravings for pizza. It's really easy to ignore them when I know nothing I can get delivered in some farty-smelling cardboard box will be as flavoursome as what I can make in my kitchen.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Flourless/Sugarless Coconut Pancakes

In my mind, pancakes are inextricably linked with the weekend.

I've been doing some late night cooking experiments with the ingredients I have on hand, and I think I may have come up with a pancake recipe that'll earn you some brownie points with your humanoid companion drone next weekend. Especially if they're avoiding sugar and flour.

This one is also gluten free.

You'll need:

  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Dash of vanilla
  • 1/4 cup Natvia
  • pinch of salt
This will make about 10 large pancakes.

Option: Add a tablespoon of cocoa, ginger, or cinnamon to the mix to flavour your pancakes.
This is especially helpful if you're sensitive to the flavour of egg that may come through in this recipe. I've found it's not so much of a problem if you use good, fresh free range eggs.

How to earn love through food:

I was starting at a real disadvantage here. I haven't made pancakes in a very, very long time, and I don't recall not making a complete hash of them then, either.

Mix all the dry ingredients (coconut, almond meal, baking powder, Natvia, optional cocoa or cinnamon) and then add the liquidy ones (eggs, cream, vanilla). Combine with a whisk.

I would recommend putting this mixture into something with a pouring spout. It's way easier.

Over a medium heat, grease your pan with spray-on oil. If you're feeling decadent, you could use butter.

Pour batter into the pan according to the size of pancakes you want. Don't expect your pancake to be perfectly round like the "normal" kind. I think it's the coconut that slightly distorts the edges.

You'll know you can flip it when those telltale small bubbles appear, and the edges hold together when you try and coax the spatula underneath. It helps if you lightly grease the top of your spatula, too.

I think my stove was installed on a slight lean...

When you flip it, the underside should be nice and browned. I think perhaps a bit browner than your regular pancake. I'm not sure why. It could just be my stove, but it could also be the lack of flour.

Now add it to the stack, and repeat until you've used all the batter.

Carb Count:

An entire batch will have approximately 30g carbohydrate. Divide that by the amount of people you're sharing with.

Much better than the near 250g you'll find in supermarket instant pancake mixes!

As for calories, the entire batch has 1620. The supermarket stuff has about 1200. Make of that what you will. I don't know an awful lot about calorie counting.

Serve with whatever low carb goodies you like. We like a dash of lemon juice and a sprinkle of Natvia on ours. A handful of berries might be nice too.

You can get Queen sugar-free maple flavoured syrup in Coles, with the other maple syrups. It's a bit hard to spot the sugar free claim on the label, so just look for the round bottle with the red plastic nozzle.

Happy breakfasting!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Australian interpretation of Indian barfi/burfee: Chai and Coconut flavour

Finally, a sweet recipe! Please pardon my predominant savoury tooth.

I have some very fond memories of the four weeks I spent in Punjab, India this time last year. We attended some friends' weddings and I ate everything. I mean everything. I thought I knew what Indian food was - boy was I wrong!

I developed a particular appreciation for masala chai and coconut barfi while over there. Unfortunately neither of these things did much for my waistline, as sugary sweetness is a very important feature of the flavour. I put on about a kilo for every week I was there (worth it!).

Once back in Australia, I visited my local Indian grocer and started asking questions about how I could emulate the flavours I'd fallen in love with. He sent me off with a few ingredients - the most prized of which has been this amazing chai powder:

All you do is make a normal cup of tea with your average teabag, add milk, half a teaspoon of T-Plus, and a teaspoon of sugar or sweetener of your choice.

As far as I can tell, "masala" means mixed, and this powder is a mixture of aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and clove. Don't let the aniseed part put you off - my husband is a liquorice nazi and still adores a nice cup of chai.

The closest Western thing I can compare barfi to is a no-bake slice. I can tell you, if you like sweet chai and coconut, you will like this slice.

I make no claims as to its authenticity! I'm sure it's not even close to the traditional recipe or ingredients. This is just me playing with the flavours I loved so much.

You will need:

  • 3 tblsp ghee
  • 3 tblsp Copha
  • 1/4 cup Natvia (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups of dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup thickened cream
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of T-Plus Masala chai powder (ask your local Indian grocer)
  • Optional: 40g of shelled, unsalted pistachios, blitzed up in a food processor.

Masala Funtimes:

Using your favourite non-stick saucepan, melt the Copha, ghee, and Natvia over a medium heat. Both fats are quite heat stable, so they will take a bit to go to liquid.

Add the coconut and make sure it's all evenly mixed through. Add the T-Plus powder, and it should look a little like mushed-up Weet Bix:

Take it off the heat at this point and mix the cream through. You won't need the hotplate again.

Pistachio option: give your pistachios a good run in the food processor. No need to make the meal too fine. I left a few chunks for interest. It looked like this:

Go ahead and mix the pistachios through. It'll add a bit of a green tinge to the mix.

Line a slice tin with baking paper, dump the mixture in, and press it out with the back of a spoon. Go for a minimum depth of 1cm.

It's ready to cut up into little squares after 20 minutes in the freezer. You can eat it now, or leave it overnight to settle in the fridge. The finished texture should be similar to a soft Anzac biscuit. If it's overly fatty or solid, you've put too much copha or ghee in.

Carb Count:

The entire batch works out at about 19g of carbohydrate. I chopped mine up into 16 pieces, meaning that each piece worked out at slightly more than 1 carb each. Great news for people like me who really don't count anything else.

Unfortunately, if you're counting calories as well, this dessert isn't such good news, with the entire batch worth 2,110 calories, and each piece (if cut into 16) coming in around 132 calories.

Makes a lovely morning tea with a cup of whatever hot drink you like.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Creamy Pesto Veg Stuffed Capsicums

Please excuse the low lighting in my kitchen at night!

This is going to sound awfully first-world of me, but I walked into the supermarket after finishing up my tutoring work for the evening, looked at the meat section, and decided there was absolutely nothing to eat.

A quick browse of the "fresh" produce sorted me right out. I knew I wanted to sink my teeth into the innocent flesh of an unsuspecting vegetable.

Well no. I really just wanted beer, crackers, and dip for dinner, but I figured I better do the right thing by my body. Plus a bottle of cheap bubbly from Liquorland on the way back to the car. Real healthy.

You will need:

  • 2-4 red or yellow capsicums (1 capsicum per person)
  • 200g of mushrooms, chopped
  • 2x medium zucchinis, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese
  • Shredded parmesan cheese to garnish.

Of course, there's absolutely no reason these need to be vegetarian unless that's your preference. Add chicken or bacon (or both) at will. Even tuna or smoked salmon might go okay. I'm not sure, as I 'm not a big fish-eater.

Stuff Dem Peppers:


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Chop up all the veggies and the garlic. Satuee them in your favourite saucepan on the stove top, in a little bit of olive oil.

Add the pesto and make sure it's nicely mixed through. Let the veggies cook a little more and add the cream cheese.

While the cheese melts, ready an oven tray/pan/dish and prepare the capsicums. Cut carefully in a circle about an inch from the stem to make a lid. Chop the seed-bulb off the bottom of the "lid" and clean out the body of the capsicum to get rid of any stray seeds.

When the veggies are nearly done, turn off the hotplate, make sure the cheese and pesto are evenly mixed through, and spoon the mixture into the capsicums. Of course, if you added meat, make sure the meat's pretty much done first.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top of the mixture and replace the little lid on the capsicum.

I had a little left over, so I halved a capsicum longways and stuffed that too.

Give the outside of your capsicums a light spray with cooking oil and pop them in the oven for 30 mins.

They should come out loose-skinned with a few golden brown spots.

Carb Count:

Not the lowest of the low, at about 22g of carbohydrate per whole, stuffed capsicum. I've also decided to start keeping track of calories as well, so for those interested, this is 302 calories per serve.

Of course this varies a tad with the size and quality of your veggies, and if you're into the whole good carbs vs bad carbs thing, this isn't exactly a slice of white bread or a Freddo Frog. It's actual food with ingredients that were alive and growing once.

Would be great served with a few greens and cherry tomatoes. Which I chose not to buy, because I watched a lady in the supermarket toss aside the tongs provided and rifle through the loose salad greens with her bare hands, touching every last leaf. All the packaged stuff was sold out at 8.30pm.

This dish didn't really pass the husband-test in terms of meat content, but it may have been a different story if I'd put in bacon.

Eat on up!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Pork Crackle Crumbing Mix: Chicken strips for the hungover person.

Tequila is a harsh mistress. I'm hungover and I'm craving grease.

In my freezer, I've got a buttload of chicken fillets, and a bag of leftover pork crackle crumbing mix.

Pork crackles tend to get a bit of a bad rap. People seem to think it's like just eating lumps of fat out of a bag. However, from what I understand, the reason they're crispy is that the cooking process melts all the fat out of them. The crunchy part you're eating is mostly the protein structure that's left behind.

When ground up, they make an excellent crumbing mix. Just don't sniff the open packet. They do smell quite rank.

You'll need:

  • 2x small packets of plain pork crackles. The kind you get from the vending machine in the pub.
  • 100g of almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of paprika/any other herbs or spices you want to add. Basil or oregano might be nice.
  • Whatever meat you'd like to crumb. Today I'm going with chicken thigh fillet cut into strips.

How to food:

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

You might be able to fudge it with a blender, but you're probably going to need a food processor for this.

Process the two packets of crackles. They should go to nothing very quickly. Don't panic if there's a few little hard bits that just won't disintegrate. They probably won't stick to what you're crumbing anyway.

Tip the porkdust into a good-sized bowl, add the almond meal, garlic powder and paprika. give it a good mix around with a fork and it should look like this:

I didn't bother with coating my chicken strips in egg first before crumbing them. I've found in the past that it doesn't really help the crumb to stick. If anything, it helps the crumb to stick to itself and fall off in great big pieces. Just put a few bits of meat at a time into the bowl of crumb and make sure they're nicely coated.

If you've got crumb mix left over, just bag it up and put it in the freezer to use later. Yes it's already had raw meat touching it, but it's pretty likely that you're only going to use it on raw meat again anyway. It only needs <5 minutes to defrost at room temperature.

From here, you can either shallow fry what you've made, or if you're too wretchedly hungover to stand at the stove and deal with the possibility of oil spitting at you, pop your crumbed goodies on an oiled tray in the oven. Even give the top of your strips a light spray with oil. 40 minutes should be enough to well and truly cook chicken strips through.

I went the oven route. I'm so glad I did, as they turned out lovely and crispy and golden brown, like this:

Carb Count:

Your entire batch of crumb will have about 8g of carbohydrate. And that's a generous estimate.

You can serve this with whatever dipping sauce you want. Just keep in mind sugar's a pretty central ingredient in most commercially available sauces. You can get a low-joule sweet chilli sauce in the Asian section at some supermarkets, or make your own tomato sauce fairly easily.

I served mine with whole egg mayo with finely diced red onion and a dash of lemon juice mixed through.

These get the husband tick of approval. He said they're like chicken nuggets, only better.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Missing Fried Noodle Salad?

I love low carb food, but seriously, sometimes there's only so much meat and cheese I can handle.

That said, I have a long history of absolutely hating salad.

I remember being quite impressed the first time my Mum made the salad from the recipe on the back of the Chang's Fried Noodle packet. It was crunchy and oniony, sweet and tangy all at once. I loved it. Salad was now something I could enjoy, not a bitter, green nightmare where the tomatoes were the only decent bits.

Unfortunately, as far as salads go, Fried Noodle Salad's probably not the best in terms of sugar and carbohydrate content. The dressing alone requires 1/4 of a cup of castor sugar, and the carbs in the noodles only add to that.

The solution is simple, easy, detracts nothing from the overall taste, and I'm kicking myself for not having thought of this years ago. Leave the noodles out and replace the sugar in the dressing with sweetener. Doy. Sure it's not quite as crunchy as the original, but I really don't miss that, due to the natural crispness of the cabbage, onion, and nuts.

I'm also fairly certain this recipe is vegan, and could very easily be made gluten free too.

You'll need:

  • As much Chinese cabbage as you want. Perhaps about 1.5 cups per person.
  • Onion of your choice. Shallots are used in the original. I went with 1/2 a red onion because it's what I had on hand. No reason you couldn't use both, really.
  • Nuts or seeds. Pine nuts or slivered almonds work well. I used Lucky seed mix with pine nuts.
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tblsp soy sauce. Go the gluten free option here if you need to.
  • 2 tsps sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup peanut or olive oil. Peanut is a much milder flavour, so use that where possible.
  • Desired amount of sweetener of your choice. I used about a tablespoon of Natvia.

I don't want to dictate a set amount of sweetener here. Your sensitivity to sweetness will change depending on how long you've been going without sugar. It also depends on how concentrated your sweetener is.

Make it:

Chop the cabbage into shreds. Chop your onions and/or shallots as fine as you like. Dump it into a bowl big enough for mixing. Sprinkle nuts/seeds over until you're happy with the amount. Give it all a good toss around with some tongs and a good shake.

Find a jar to mix the dressing in, that way you can just screw the lid on and shake it to combine. If you don't use it all in one go, it will keep for ages in the fridge. I found some I'd pushed up the back and forgotten about for about three months and it was fine. It might separate a bit once refrigerated, so just give it a quick zap in the microwave and shake it up.

Serve as a side, or give yourself a generous helping for a nice, light lunch.

Carb count:

 The only carbs in the dressing really come from the soy sauce. So the whole batch of dressing is about 2g carbs, if you make it the way I did with Natvia.

The combined carb count of all the salad ingredients, for a serve like the one in the picture is around 12g. Add an extra 1g for the dressing.

If only I'd known earlier just how tasty salads could be!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Simple Low-Carb Jalapeno Poppers

Can't cook?

Don't worry. You don't need to be able to for these. All you need to do is chop, scoop, stuff, fold, stab, and place in the oven.

This variation on the bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper is husband-approved and definitely suitable boy-food.

I must admit, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with bacon. Sometimes, it's great. Other times, I can't even stand to look at it in the supermarket. The fact that it's raw has always freaked me out a little, and for that reason, I chose to substitute salami in its place for this recipe. I didn't want to have to balance cooking times for the peppers and the meat and blah blah blah.

As for the plain old cream cheese? Well, I'm sure it's fine, but the first time I tried this recipe, I happened to have a wheel of delicious South Cape herb and garlic cheese hanging around in my fridge. If you're on a budget, I imagine that the flavoured Mexican or Herb Danish cream cheeses you can buy in Aldi would go just as well in this recipe.

You'll need:

  • As many fresh jalapenos as you desire (you get two poppers per chilli)
  • Cream cheese to stuff - preferably a herb-infused one
  • Salami of your choosing - I used Spanish hot salami from the supermarket deli
  • Toothpicks
And, for the love of all that is sacred, gloves to wear while chopping the chillies. I learned the hard way that just because I can quite happily eat hot chillies, it doesn't mean they won't burn my skin.

How maek fuds?

1. Preheat your oven to 170-180°C. Also, put the frigging gloves on. Just do it.

2. Cut jalapenos longways, from stem to pointy-bit. You can leave the stem on if you want. I chose not to.

3. Scoop out the seeds from the insides and discard. I'm not too thorough about this bit, as I don't mind a bit of heat. Use your (gloved) fingers, use a spoon, whatever.

4. Cut chunks of the cream cheese with a knife and stuff them into the chilli-halves. Don't worry, even if you cut the stem off, the cheese won't melt and leak out the end.

5. Wrap your salami over the open, cheesy top of the pepper and skewer sideways with a toothpick to hold it in place. My salami slices were so big I decided to fold them in half.

6. Put your poppers on a tray and slide them into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

That's it. They're done. Eat them while they're warm!

Depending on the salami you used, these can be a little salty. Might be an idea to have your favourite low carb beer on hand!

If you wanted to make these vegetarian, you could probably substitute the salami for grated parmesan and/or almond meal. Just press it into the top of the cream cheese and bake away. In fact, that might be a little more similar to original battered/crumbed/fried poppers.

Carb count:

Because this recipe is so flexible in the size of the batch you can prepare, your best bet is to work it out based on the nutrition panel on the ingredients you used.

Eg: I made a batch of 10 poppers. That was about one cup of jalapeno flesh (5.5g carbs). I used just under half of the South Cape cheese (3g carbs), and probably <100g salami (2g carbs). My entire batch worked out at 10.5g, or just over 1 carb per popper.

Happy munching!