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Seasonal Recipe: Homemade Salsa

20 Jul

Snack of champions: chips and homemade salsa.

Grace’s hippie sister, Emily, here, surfacing for the first time in months to share a recipe that should come in handy for anybody who has a vegetable garden (or a neighbor with a garden).

That’s right, kids: It’s salsa time.

Use an entire head of garlic. Seriously.

Start by throwing a big handful of cilantro (one bunch from the grocery store or whatever you have in your garden will do) into a food processor and pulsing it until it’s nice and fine and feathery. Next, take a head of garlic, separate and peel the cloves, cut off the ends, and throw ’em into the food processor. Give ’em a good whirl to mince them, then add hot peppers to taste. Four serranos will give you a nice medium-hot salsa; adjust the quantity to suit your taste, and feel free to substitute whatever peppers you prefer (or need to use up).

I like red onions, but red or yellow will work as well.

Next, add three cored, quartered bell peppers in any color and a peeled, quartered onion, processing after each addition. Add the juice of two or three small limes — proportions aren’t critical, but you want to get a little extra acid in there for canning purposes — and process to mix.

Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes with husks.

If you can put your hands on some tomatillos, peel and core about five of them and add them to the mix at this point. If you can’t, don’t worry about it; they aren’t absolutely necessary, but they do add a nice flavor if you happen to have them. Process, then dump the mixture into a large bowl to make room in the food processor for your tomatoes.

Core and quarter about three pounds of tomatoes (Romas are ideal, but any kind will do; just be aware that the juicier varieties will make a finished product that’s more like picante sauce than salsa) and chop them in the food processor.

Now, here is a neat trick: If you have extra cucumbers that you need to use up, you can add a couple to your salsa at this point, and nobody will be any the wiser. Just chop them finely and stir them in. You’ll never notice them by the time they’ve absorbed the other flavors. You could probably do this with zucchini, too, although I wouldn’t use too much, lest it compromise the texture.

Unless your food processor is huge, you'll have to do half the tomatoes at a time.

Stir everything together in a huge bowl. At this stage, the salsa will probably look kind of bubbly and unappealing. Remedy this by stirring in ground cumin until the froth goes away, then stirring in chili powder until the color looks nice and red.

Salsa cans well in a boiling-water bath.

You can either eat the salsa now or pack it into clean pint jars with an inch of headspace and process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes. Serve nice and cold with plenty of tortilla chips or fresh vegetables for dipping. Makes about three quarts.

I like to bring this salsa to office parties. It always impresses people, and it’s safe for vegetarians, diabetics, and various other dieters, especially if you bring celery sticks and cucumber slices for low-carb dipping.

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Quick Recipe: Cajun Shrimp with Cheese Grits

14 Jan
 
Spicy shrimp and cheese grits: the perfect winter warmup.

Red Fork Hippie here, dishing up a warm, hearty way to begin or end a chilly January day: thick, buttery cheese grits spiked with bacon and topped with sauteed shrimp in a spicy roux.

Be forewarned: This ain’t diet food.

The recipe is a riff on an idea I swiped from my favorite Cajun restaurant, Chicory and Chives, which is an awesomely awesome place to have brunch on Saturday mornings, but which also happens to be several miles (and two or three construction zones) away from Red Fork, making it a less-than-ideal choice for weeknight dining. Continue reading

Low-Carb Recipe: Slow-Cooker Olive Turkey

13 Jan

For a text-only version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Plain turkey drumsticks get a saucy makeover in this easy dish.

Note: I see James Ramsden also has a poultry-and-olive combo on his own blog this week, albeit Morrocan-style in his case. I guess great minds think alike!

Turkey drumsticks are a great sale find at our local grocery store, and I love thinking up new ways to present them. I also love using my Crock Pot as much as possible when I’m restricting carbs. It keeps meal preparation fun and gives me something to look forward to all day, instead of staring at yet another bunless hamburger when I get home. 🙂

The combination of dark meat and slow-cooking keeps this version moist and tender, and the Mexican ingredients are a perfect match for stronger-flavored game poultry. Continue reading

Vegetarian Recipe: Linguine Pesto

11 Jan

Like dining out, only cheaper. And faster.

Grace’s hippie sister, reporting in from Oklahoma with a knockoff of a recipe from her favorite upscale Italian restaurant.

I knew I’d spent way too much time hanging out with Italians when I caught myself adding red wine and olive oil to a batch of Hamburger Helper.

Grace and I grew up surrounded by Italians: Alegnanis, Berras, Calcaterras, Camaratos, Cerniglias, Colombos, Dell’Eras, DeTomasis, Ferraris, Garavalias, Garegnanis, Garnatis, Gualdonis, Marlows, Pisonis, Quaglias, Ranchinos, Sollamis, Spezias, Trapanis, Venegonis … you get the idea.

Somehow, I managed to land in Tulsa — where the Mexican and Lebanese influences tend to dominate the culinary landscape — but while you can take the girl out of Herrin, apparently you can’t take Herrin out of the girl: A cursory glance at the cabinets on a recent Friday afternoon revealed that while I was out of milk, bread, and most other staples, I had plenty of garlic, two kinds of olive oil, and at least seven different types of pasta on hand.

I heard the basil plant on my windowsill calling my name, so I pinched off some leaves and broke out the food processor. It was pesto time. Continue reading

Simple Recipe: Quick & Easy Salmon Teriyaki

1 Dec

For a text-only version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This is a great recipe for when the pantry and crisper drawers are looking low. It’s also a dead ringer for the Carribean salmon platter from Red Lobster. You can keep frozen salmon (or other fish) at the ready for these kind of evenings because fish filets really don’t take very long to thaw even when you haven’t planned ahead.

Plus, it just tastes delicious. It kills me that I sometimes will spend an hour or more in the kitchen whipping up something my family eats without comment, when this little baby is ready in under 30 minutes, requires few ingredients and always draws compliments. That’s life, I suppose. 🙂 Continue reading

Healthy Recipe: Chicken Fiesta Salad

25 Oct
Note: Gracie is up to her eyeballs in work, so Emily is sharing her own family’s version of Fast Salsa-Ranch Chicken Salad below.

This colorful salad is as tasty as it is pretty.

Gracie’s hippie sister strikes again.

My husband likes taco salad. I’m not usually a big fan, but this particular version is so protein-packed and easy to make that it’s hard to go wrong with it. Continue reading

Low-Carb Recipe: Spicy Southwestern Ceviche

8 Jul

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This is a great make-ahead seafood recipe for party dishes or long weekends around the house. If you’ve never tried ceviche before, think of it as a sort of “fish salsa.”

Chef’s Note: Because you’re using time+acid to “cook” your seafood (rather than heat), you’ll want to be sure to use nonreactive dishware and utensils during the marinating process.

Begin with about 1 lb. of boneless, raw fish or seafood.

(I used red snapper, but anything will work, including shrimp, scallops, calamari, or other items on sale at your local grocery.

I’ll warn you; thawed frozen fish will have a mushier final texture than fresh, so if you’re using frozen, be aware of that caveat up front.

Also, you may want to rinse thawed filets in cool water before beginning, depending on what sort of liquid they may have been frozen in, to help the flavor. Basically: the fresher, the better.

Cut the filets into small (3/4″) chunks and place in the bottom of a large glass or ceramic bowl.

Chop one seeded cucumber, one seeded poblano pepper (or other variety) and several green onions into small tidbits and add to the fish.

Sprinkle mixture with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 2 teaspoons salt.

Splash mixture with 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce and add 1 (15-ounce) drained can of diced tomatoes. (You can always use fresh, seeded tomato chunks but I just use canned to save time.)

If desired, canned black or pinto beans are a festive addition to this dish, and also help your seafood budget stretch further!

Squeeze the juice of 4 limes and 3 lemons over the raw fish mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly coated.

Cover mixture with plastic wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight, stirring at least once sometime after the first hour has passed.

Serve chilled in a large dip bowl with vegetables or chips for dipping, or spooned over a lettuce and cheese salad base. Garnish with chopped flat parsley if desired.

Low-Carb Recipe: Lime-Chicken Paprikash

6 Jul

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Lime juice and a splash of Tobasco transform this Hungarian dish into something really special.

Today’s post was a particularly big hit at the dinner table. Hubby’s already asked when we’re having it again, and the 3-year-old cleaned his plate, which never happens unless Grimace and Mayor McCheese are involved.

Traditional Chicken Paprikash is one of the easiest suppers on the planet to make. It’s sort of like a chicken version of Stroganoff, but heavier on the onions and (obviously) paprika.

I decided to up the ante on this low-carb dish by adding a couple of new ingredients (lime juice and Tobasco sauce), and let me just say: Yee. Haw. And of course, it’s still super-easy to make.

Generously coat a large, deep-sided skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over MEDIUM-HIGH burner heat.

Arrange 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about six pieces) in a large bowl. Stab each chicken thigh with a fork in a few places to help it absorb seasoning quickly.

Microwave about 2 tablespoons butter/margarine and pour over chicken. Immediately sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon paprika.

(This is where I am supposed to be a snob and say to use only authentic Hungarian paprika, but the truth is that I used plain old fifty-cents-a-bottle paprika from Dollar General and it was quite wonderful.)

Next, squeeze about 2-3 tablespoons lime juice (fresh or bottled, as long as it’s not concentrate) over the chicken and throw on a splash (or four) of your favorite red hot sauce (to taste–I used about 1-1/2 tsp).

Pour a small amount of water (like 1/4 cup or so) over the chicken and swish it all around with that fork you just stabbed the chicken with.

When skillet is hot, transfer the chicken one-piece-at-a-time to the skillet and then pour the marinade over the top.

While the first sides of the chicken brown, slice a large onion into very thin rings. Make lots and lots of skinny little onion rings. After chicken has browned for 4 or 5 minutes, flip pieces and add the onions to the bottom of the pan.

Continue to skillet-fry for several minutes. When onion rings become limp, you can begin piling them on top of the chicken pieces. Flip chicken in skillet as often as necessary until cooked through (15 minutes or so).

When chicken looks done, reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW and scoop about 1/3 cup sour cream into the sauce. Scrape sauce and sour cream together until you’ve got an even, light-orange-colored gravy.

Remove from heat and serve chicken topped with the onion “strings” and sauce. Sprinkle with chives if you like. I served this to the carb-eaters in the family over veggie-colored fettucini noodles, but it’s just as yummy by itself.

Low-Carb Recipe: Spaghetti Squash & Marinara al fresca

24 May

 For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This is a good one for nights when you don’t think you can stand doing without pasta any longer. Granted, it’s NOT pasta, but with enough parmesan cheese, it will get you safely through another evening at home. 🙂

Begin by cutting a large spaghetti squash in half and scooping out any seeds or extraneously stringy or wet bits.

Place both cleaned halves face down in a glass or ceramic baking dish, if they’ll fit. (If not, and you’re like me, you’ll have to soften them one at a time.)

Add water to the face-down squash until about 1/2″ deep in the bottom of the dish. Cover with plastic wrap if desired (not entirely necessary if you ask me).

Clean that yucky stuff out of the hollow middle.

Nuke it until tender; about 8-10 minutes in my microwave, but everyone’s microwave is different so begin checking early if you’re not certain.

Cook squash halves rind-side-up in a shallow layer of water.

(You can alternatively cook the halves rind-side-up at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes in the oven, but still put a little bit of water in the pan bottom.)

MEANWHILE, warm a small amount of butter in a skillet over MEDIUM burner heat.

Sliver half an onion and add to skillet. Chop 2 zucchinis and throw in the skillet; sprinkle heavily with garlic powder and oregano (about 2 teaspoons each).

Stir often to judge texture. (You don't want it to turn into mush!)

Saute vegetables in butter just until zucchini barely begins to soften, then add 2 drained cans diced tomatoes to the mixture.

Add cocoa powder to marinara mixture.

To marry flavors, add about 2 teaspoons cocoa powder and stir mixture often until simmer is reached; then reduce heat to LOW or WARM settings until ready to serve. Salt to taste.

Chef’s Note: You’ll need less salt for this dish if you add it to the sauce rather than the cooked squash. Trust me.

Remove squash from oven or microwave; flip halves over to reveal the steamed inside flesh.

Using a fork, begin scraping the cooked squash away from the rind in quick motions. It should separate into small, firm strands about the size and texture of al dente-cooked vermicelli pasta (thin spaghetti).

Toss squash with oil, garlic and lots of parmesan.

Scrape squash strands into a large bowl. Once both rinds have been emptied, toss “spaghetti” with a couple of tablespoons oil, another teaspoon or more of garlic powder, and about 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

The perfect disguise.

(You need a lot of parmesan to overcome the “squashy” flavor and fool your mouth that it’s pasta, so make sure if you’re low-carbing it that there isn’t any starchy filler in your grated parmesan cheese.)

Spoon coated squash strands into bowl, top with the skillet vegetable mixture, and cross one more evening of diet-induction madness off your calendar! 🙂

Low-Carb Recipe: Inside-Out Egg Rolls!

19 May

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Asian-flavored cabbage rolls

This ain't your grandmama's homemade cabbage roll. Unless she was a low-carb dieter back in the old school, of course. And also possibly Chinese.

Yesterday I couldn’t stand the cravings I had all day for a Chinese egg roll–a real, honest-to-blog, greasy, salty, chewy, “carby,” restaurant-style, deep-fried, now-I-can-meet-Jesus egg roll dinner.

But alas! I’m low-carbing it right now and eating such a sinful goodie;was a complete non-option.

Nonetheless, by the time I picked up the family and pulled into the driveway last night, I knew I had to try–one way or another.

An hour later, I was sure glad I did.

Cabbage leaves.

Cabbage leaves.

I’ve never been much on the standard Italian-seasoned, soup-covered, vintage beef & rice cabbage roll. But these…these were something else entirely. Not to brag or anything, but DANG was this a great idea!

Shredded core.

Shred the remaining cabbage core.

Not only was the filling in these cabbage rolls a dead ringer for regular egg roll centers, it was easy to make, low-carb, lowfat, low-cal, and even vegetarian! And cooking them uncovered at half-time meant in addition to being speedier than their traditional counterparts, the rolls’ outer “shells” kept a wonderful firmness that separated them from your average, soggy, run-of-the-mill stuffed cabbage.

Toss the filling veggies.

Toss cabbage, carrots, celery and green onions.

Chef’s Note: It is infinitely easier and produces infinitely prettier results if you freeze a head of cabbage overnight and then fridge-thaw & core it before peeling the giant leaves off for roll wrappers. Plus, you don’t have to waste time boiling the cabbage then, either.

Stir-fry filling mixture.

Add eggs to filling and keep stir-frying until less wet.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and warm 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet over MEDIUM heat. While stove heats up, core a thawed, previously-frozen head of cabbage and remove stem.

Place spoonfuls of filling into each cabbage leaf.

Spoon filling mixture into each cabbage leaf.

Slowly peel away 8 to 10 large cabbage leaves, keeping them as much intact as possible but cutting away any stiff parts that were near the stem. (You want the leaves to be kind of floppy all around.)

Take the remaining portion of cabbage left on the head and shred it with a large knife. (You’ll get about 2 or 2-1/2 cups left on a medium-sized cabbage after stripping the best leaves.) Throw shredded cabbage in a large bowl.

To shredded cabbage, add about 1/3 cup shredded carrots (♥see note!), 1 petite-diced celery rib and 4 petite-diced green onions (scallions). Toss all of the chopped vegetables together.

Stuffed cabbage leaf.

Roll leaf around filling mixture.

Note: While carrots are generally discouraged during the induction phase of many low-carb diets (Atkins, South Beach, etc.), the small amount (1/3 cup or about 1-2 small handfuls) I used in this recipe is fairly benign, particularly when you look at a bag of shredded carrots and notice how much empty space is actually in that bag.

Meanwhile, if you feel uncomfortable having them in there during induction phase, just leave ’em out. It’s no biggie. They just add a little bit of extra texture and some welcome color to the filling, but they’re still expendable. Throw the veggies into your warm, oiled skillet. If you’re making this vegetarian (I did), add 1 cup dehydrated texturized vegetable protein (TVP)♥ (What’s TVP, you ask?) to the skillet, along with 1 cup of water.♥Chef’s Note: If TVP isn’t available at your discount store, you can easily make this recipe using a pound of ground turkey or other (ground) meat instead; just add it to the skillet first and throw in veggies once meat begins to brown.

Sprinkle stir-fry mixture with: 2 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon Oriental 5-Spice Blend (or your own choice of cinnamon/nutmeg/anise/whatever), and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Shake in about 2 tablespoons soy sauce and crack 2 eggs into skillet. Break yolks immediately with spoon and continue to stir-fry until vegetables are tender but firm and TVP or meat has fully browned. (No pieces of egg should be discernible.) Remove skillet from heat.

Mix oil & soy sauce for basting.

Place 2-3 spoonfuls stir-fry mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf, stopping to roll each one before moving onto the next. To wrap, first roll leaf like a tube around the filling and then tuck each cabbage end underneath the “tube” you just made. Place rolls side by side, tucked side-down, in a greased baking dish.

Raw, basted cabbage rolls.

Baste the tops of the uncooked wraps with a mixture of 1 tablespoon oil & 1 teaspoon soy sauce before placing UNCOVERED into hot oven.

Browned & ready to eat!

Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until cabbage glows bright green and filling mixture can be seen through the now-translucent leaves.

Remove from oven; use tongs to distribute rolls onto plates. Allow to cool about 2 minutes before eating. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers.

Inside-out egg rolls.

Inside-out is very delicous!

Make a pouch.