Low Carb and Still Delicious Food

As you know by now, the Hubby is on a low carb, low sugar live-it (see what I did there?).  As such, it’s hard to whip up low-carb/sugar food and have it be tasty.  Traditionally, I am a from scratch cook, and it’s been helpful with this new transition that I have that experience.  Hubby loves pizza and bread and cake, so for him it’s been a big change.  50 lbs and a little more than a year later, he has adapted pretty well.  Initially to sub for all the bread and pizza, we went the cauliflour route, until he started to have a bad reaction to it.  Yes, there is such thing as too much cauliflour!  After that period (cauliflour pizza crust, tater tots, tortillas, fried rice and on and on) I looked into non-traditional flours.  I recently landed upon a lovely cake that we always have at our favorite tapas place in Detroit, La Feria.

Have you ever heard of the Camino del Santiago?  It’s a pilgrimage walk that people have been making in Spain for hundreds of years.  It’s about 500 miles long, and you do it all on foot.  There is a great movie about it, starring Martin Sheen called “The Way”.  At the end of the journey, people would be treated to a cake called Torte del Santiago.  It’s a lovely flourless cake, made with almond meal, orange and lemon zest.  So good, it keeps moist for a while thanks to the almond meal.  It’s very easy to make too, so try it and let me know how it goes!

I will begin by saying, while you can do this entirely by hand, using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer will make this a doddle for you.  If you decide to use a whisk, you’ll be earning your reward!

Torta del Santiago

  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground almond meal
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar (if you can find superfine, it’s a help)
  • zest of 2 oranges and one lemon
  • teaspoon of good almond or vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, separated (at room temperature if possible)

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Lightly butter an 11 inch springform pan and line it in the bottom with parchment, and butter that too.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar.  I usually use the paddle attachment for this, and I start low and slow to dissolve the sugar in the yolks.  After the sugar is dissolved, turn the mixer up to high and let it run for a while.  You’re looking for a very light yellow color and a very creamy and stiff texture.  I usually just turn it on and let it go while I clean up and get everything else ready.  Once the proper texture is reached, slowly incorporate the almond flour, zest and almond extract, you can use the same mixer.  The final mixture should be quite thick and stiff.  That’s exactly where you want it.

In another clean bowl*, beat the egg whites to very stiff peaks.  It will likely take 7 – 8 minutes at high.  Again, it’s helpful to just break them up initially, then put the mixer on high and walk off for a while.

Using a large wooden or metal spoon (think salad tongs size), take 1/3 the egg whites and add to the yolk and almond mixture.  Use the spoon to firmly beat them into the mixture, it’s ok if the eggs lose most of their air.  This is called slackening, and it lightens up the heavy mixture enough so you can fold in the remaining egg whites with ease. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful not to deflate them too much.  The eggs give the cake it’s lightness and rise.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the lined and buttered springform pan, use the back of a spoon to smooth the top.  Bake in the 350° oven for 45 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when it is solid in the middle and is srating to pull away from the sides.  Cool the cake completely before you serve it.  Sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar, the traditional cake has the fleur del lis in the sugar, as the photo above illustrates.

*  Note: A clean bowl is essential to whip egg whites.  I usually clean with soap and hot water, then dry well.  Before I add the egg whites, I use a half a lemon and wipe the inside of the bowl.  This adds a bit of flavor, but more importantly it removes any residual fat that might still be in the bowl.  Any fat will ruin your whip, and although you do get some rise, you won’t get a fully stiff peak stage.

Happy new year everyone!

Yes, I am wishing you a Happy New Year on January 14th… a bit late, and such a long time since my last post, but the wishes are just as sincere now as they were on the day!  Many things have gone on since my last post, chiefly, work, work work… and some pretty awesome cooking too.  It’s flurrying outside today, and I have been so guilty about not posting… I hope you enjoy what I came up with!
We had a truly lovely Thanksgiving at our house this year, as has become the tradition for the Curtis/Suliman/Neal/McLenon/Hennessey house!  We have basically kept all the traditions going that Tim’s mom and aunts started many years ago, including pretty much all of the menu.  I have cut back considerably on all the sugar that they used to use, and I have added a few twists from my life and Tim’s favorites. (A quick side note here, have you ever spatch cooked your turkey??  I have now for 2 years running and I will never go back!  More on that in the next post!)  For Christmas we were off to New York for the Hennessey celebration.  I have to say, I didn’t cook much at all for Christmas, but I did make a genuine Irish fruit cake two months before hand, dutifully doused it with brandy every week or so, and brought it with us.  That also was part of the New Years Day chocolate fondue I made.  My brother Mark, sister in law Carie and their children John and Elsa came for a quick visit to my parents to see us, which was, as always, an utter delight!  Family is so great to have around, and nothing beats it!  The gift I was the most excited about was a Le Creuset oval dutch oven!  I will admit, I asked Santa for it, but it was such a delight to actually unwrap it and take it home!  I have already made a version of vegetarian chili topped with cornbread in it, and was so happy with it, I can’t even describe it!
As for most people, January is usually a busy month for us, not just because it’s the new year and we want to start everything fresh, but also because my father, sister and oldest niece all have birthday’s a few days apart from each other.  Today is my Dad’s turn, and as I was talking to him this morning, he mentioned that, although it’s not really possible, it would be so great to have us living nearer the kids.  I have to admit, I agree with him.  I would love to be able to have the kids drop by, and cook with them, or just sit and talk.  As they (and we) get older, it’s harder to have real ties and relationships to them, they’re discovering who they are, and Aunt Bep (or Libet, or Elizabeth, depending upon the kids) may not be the hip happening person they want to be around all the time.  So, my NYR (new years resolution) is to make the extra effort to be more there for the kiddies, all 8 of them!
How does that work it’s way into this blog?  Here’s how!  I was thinking today about what I would make if I had all the kids to myself and had to occupy them for a while?  The kids range from almost 13 to almost 4 months… quite a spread!  Most of the answers I came up with were either too simplistic for them (or at least for the older ones) or too complicated to do with masses of kids all at the same time.  But, I did prevail.  What do you think most kids would never pass up?  I think brownies fits that bill to a tee!  Now, I know some kids have dietary issues so please understand I am not allowing for that completely in this post.  I will say that the recipe below will do fabulously well with the non-gluten flours on the market, and you can always use soy yogurt or apple sauce or pureed banana’s to substitute for the sour cream or yogurt that I suggest… you get the picture though, it’s fairly easy and as always, you can tweak this a million ways to suit your kids and their needs.  My one and only insistence is that  you NOT use carob.  It’s awful tasting and doesn’t melt the way a decent chocolate does…. if that’s the only option you have, leave the chocolate out or substitute a dried fruit or a nut that the kids like.  Come to think of it, dried pineapple would be SO good in this!  Hmmm… off to the kitchen!

Easy and Delicious Brownies

  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (Hershey’s will do fine, or go for the good stuff)
  • 1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt, or plain soy or coconut milk yogurt)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts of your choice or dried fruit or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper so that 2 inches hang over two opposite sides.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a nonreactive pan or in the microwave. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool slightly. Beat in cocoa powder and sugar until well blended. Add in sour cream and vanilla extract, then add each egg and beat to incorporate fully, then add the next egg. Combine flour and salt well, then slowly add to the chocolate mixture.  Once fully combined, add in the nuts, fruit or chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Makes 16 brownies.

The most awesomest tofu burgers!

As I have mentioned many times before, DH is a vegetarian.  Not being a vegetarian myself, it’s hard to make meals we both can enjoy together.  Eating together isn’t the issue, it’s the enjoy part.  Plus, since I am pretty much the only one cooking, I need to make sure we are both getting the nutrition we need.  So, I have made huge strides in making everything tasty as well as healthy.  I subscribe to countless blogs, read web sites all the time, and have more cook books than I can decently list here.  One of my old standby websites is Heidi Swanson’s “101 Cookbooks”.  She has a great approach to food, that just happens to be vegetarian.  Go local and go fresh, and although she lives in the San Francisco area, it applies all over the country.  (Please note, not vegan, just vegetarian).  She had a tofu burger recipe that I tried a few times and we loved each time we did it.  I do give Heidi credit here, but honestly I have made changes to her basics and made it mine.  I also find that the ingredients here can easily change, making this awfully versatile.  Similar to the Portobello burgers I posted recently, the condiments here can be just about anything you like, you can swing to the more Asian style, French mustard, barbecue, anything and they will still be completely wonderful.  A word to those of you that just want a burger to LOOK like a burger… give up.  These are definitely not going to look meaty, but they taste heavenly!

Tofu Burger’s

1 pound / 16 oz / 450 g extra-firm tofu
2 large eggs
1 cup  bread crumbs
1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, whatever you like)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (preferably unsalted)
1/2 cup mushrooms (slice finely and whir first in your processor)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or dehydrated garlic or onion)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (do not use table salt here, kosher or sea is best)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Place the mushrooms and nuts into a food processor and pulse until they start to look finely chopped.  Add in the remaining ingredients except 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and the olive oil and process until a smooth paste forms.  Scrape down the sides of the food processor once or twice if needed. If it seems a bit thin to you, add the remaining bread crumbs a small handful at a time until everything comes together.  This should resemble a thick and pasty mixture, so the burgers retain their shape when formed. 

Divide the mixture into eight equal portions and use your hands to press and form into round but flat-ish patties. (It helps to lightly oil your hands.)  I usually freeze half of them for future use.

Pour the olive oil into your largest skillet over medium-high heat, and arrange as many patties as you can without crowding. Cover, and cook turning once, until deeply browned on both sides. Roughly ten minutes. You want to make sure the middle of the patties cook through. If your pan is too hot you’ll burn the outsides before the middle cooks up, so be mindful of that.  The cooked texture should be firm when you press in the middle of the patty, similar to the fleshy pad near the thumb of your hand.  Don’t worry if they crack a bit, that’s fairly normal.

Dress these as you would any burger.  I always love cheese and really sour pickles with them.  Remember that if you use a more flavorful nut, like walnut or pecan, they will taste strongly of that.  You can mix types, I find cashew and walnut or almond work well together.  Also – the cayenne can be replaced by anything if you don’t like a little mild heat.  You will truly barely notice the heat if you do use it.  I have tried dried basil, half the amount of thyme, and a mixture of whatever I had on hand and it always works.

Enjoy!  And let me know how you flavor your burgers!!