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My Top 5 Recipe Cheats

I love to cook, but I’m not always going to have all the fresh and most desirable of ingredients on hand, so I rely on a few cheats you might find worthwhile. These are heresy to the Culinary Institute grads, but I’m not one. Home cooking is still best, so we might as well find ways to make it good and easy.

#1- I rarely use fresh garlic. I can’t stand the smell on my hands or the mess of chopping it; and I may not have any on hand. I usually only buy fresh garlic for making roasted garlic appetizers or soup. My cheat is to keep jars of minced garlic on hand. I find there is very little difference in flavor, and a lot less effort. I also use garlic powder in lots of soups, and stews, just because I like the milder flavor.

#2- I keep dried/dehydrated minced onion on hand for quick use when I don’t feel like chopping up an onion. or don’t have one in the pantry. Very good in soups, stews, casseroles. Sometimes I use dried with fresh, just for the flavor depth.

#3- Canned tomatoes are best in most cooked dishes in my opinion. Fresh is nice, but a lot of work to get to the same point.

#4-Egg whites in a carton. I buy local pastured eggs, but for a few things where you need a lot of egg white, I just buy a carton of them. They keep a long time in the refrigerator.

#5-Dried herbs are good to have on hand. I grow herbs in the summer, but half the year I don’t tend to have fresh herbs at the ready. Some things, like dill and cilantro are good only when fresh, but most herbs are fine dried, and a little rehydration works wonders.

I’ll add to the list as I think of others. If you have any good cheats, let us know.

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Moussaka My Way

I hadn’t made moussaka for years, but a pound of ground lamb and a cold snowy day was enough to make it happen.

You can find many versions of this classic Greek dish, and mine borrowed from several. You can make it spicy or not, and a bit more of one spice or another makes the dish have greater or lesser depth of flavor. So don’t hesitate to make your own tweeks to this recipe. The photo is of Bobby Flay’s version. Mine looked just like it!

Serves 6

1 pound of ground lamb ( or beef, turkey, pork)

1 small onion

2 Tbs coconut oil &/or bacon fat

salt & pepper

1-2 cloves garlic (or 1-2 tsp minced)

1/2 tsp dried chili pepper flakes

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice or nutmeg or mace

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp oregano

4 Tbs tomato paste

15 oz can chopped tomatoes

Optional: 1 T raisins or dried currants (they add a lot of flavor)

1 medium eggplant, sliced or diced. I soaked the 1/4 inch slices in salt water for a couple hours. Then dried and oiled the slices and roasted at 375F for 25 minutes.)You could just toss the eggplant in with the meat mixture for a quicker version.

Saute the meat in the oil/fat, add diced onions and after they have softened, add the remaining ingredients. Layer eggplant and meat in a 9×9 inch or similar casserole dish.

Make the Béchamel Sauce: (This makes a nice 1/2 inch thick topping on the meat that is both attractive, and delicious.)

4 T butter (I used salted)

1 cup of 1/2 &1/2, or my choice: half cream, half coconut milk (or use water with cream)

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup goat cheese (crumbled feta works well)

1/2 cup grated parmesan chees

Opt: 1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp Thickener of choice like guar gum or glucomannan or Thickitup

Melt the butter and add the cream mixture (medium high heat), then add in the beaten egg yolk, whisking well; add in the remaining ingredients, and continue to whisk well until begins to thicken a bit. Allow the mixture to cool a few minutes, remove bay leaf, then pour over the meat-eggplant mixture. Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.  Cool a bit before serving.

Just writing this recipe makes me want to go to the kitchen and make it again!

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Nut Butter Cookies

I had a jar of peanut butter in the back of my pantry for a long time, and decided to use it, though I generally avoid peanuts. My spouse raved about them, so worth the lectins for a rare treat.

1 cup Organic Peanut Butter or almond butter, Crunchy
1 large egg
10 drops liquid stevia
2 level tablespoon Psyllium Husk Powder

Soften the nut butter, add egg, stevia, and psyllium powder. Use a cookie scoop, or drop by the teaspoon, onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet to make about 14 cookies. Press down with a fork. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes–watch to not over cook. Move to a rack, and allow to cool completely.

Calories per cookie 113
Calories from Fat 80.4
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8.93g
Sodium 38.93mg
Total Carbohydrate 4.79g, net carbs 3.7
Dietary Fiber 2.1g
Protein 5g

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Scallop and Shrimp Chowder

Winter is soup and stew weather. This scallop & shrimp chowder is delicious and warming, plus studies indicate that scallops help reduce weight, probably due to the extra taurine.

1 tbsp Bacon Grease drippings
3 tbsp Butter
1 cup Heavy Cream
1-2 cups water or chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Pepper, White
8 oz Bay Scallops-raw
6 oz shrimp
1 slices Uncured Bacon
1 stalk scallion(s)
1/2 tbsp Parsley, fresh or dried

Fry bacon until crisp in a stew pot; remove bacon; add butter. Sauté celery for a minute or two in the fat, then add scallops and shrimp (I use frozen tails on shrimp), pepper, salt, (plus 1 tsp of Old Bay seasoning if you can get it), and add broth. Reduce heat to simmer, then add cream. Heat through, then add parsley. Top serving with chopped scallions and crumbled bacon.

2 servings

Calories 481
Calories from Fat 322.9
Total Fat 35.88g
Sodium 463.19mg
Total Carbohydrate 7.74g
Dietary Fiber 0.62g
Protein 36.38g

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Green Chicken Chili

This chili is my new favorite:

1 lb Ground Chicken/turkey/pork
1/2 cup Green Chili Enchilada Sauce
3 tbs Diced Green Chilis
1/2 cup chopped red and/or green Bell Pepper
1 tsp Ground Coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp Dried Onion Flakes or 1/4 cup chopped fresh onion
4 tbsp Cream Cheese
2 tbsp Grated Cheese, Parmesan
1 tbsp Coconut Oil &/or 1 tbsp Bacon Grease drippings

Sauté the ground meat in the coconut oil-dripping fat, add remaining ingredients, plus chicken broth or water to desired consistency. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or more.

Opt: Top with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh cilantro.

4 servings
Calories per serving: 276
8 g fat
3 g net carb

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Wrap Recipe

Sometimes you want a wrap but to avoid gluten, starches, and sugars, you have to make them yourself or pay far too much for acceptable versions. Here is one I found that is easy, and does the job. Credit goes to: http://sherigraham.com/trim-healthy-mama-homemade-gluten-free-low-carb-wrap


2.5 tablespoons golden flax meal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of onion powder
pinch of garlic salt
3 tablespoons egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon butter

Mix all ingredients well. Pour into a greased glass pie plate and microwave for 3 minutes on High OR bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 13 minutes.

Remove from pan onto paper towel to cool.


Nutritional Information:

Calories: 100

Fat: 6.6 grams

Protein: 6.75 grams

Carbs: 5 grams

Dietary Fiber: 5 grams

That means 0 net carbs!

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G-Coffee for Extra Protein

I was finding that many days I was not getting enough protein, in part due to having to keep my over-all calories in check, but I also do weight training to gain more muscle mass, so it is important to get enough protein to maintain or gain more muscle. To make sure I was meeting the general guidelines of .7-1g of protein per pound of lean mass (1.5-2.2g per kg). I found a simple way to get that protein: my morning coffee which is my breakfast.

I already make my own version of the famous Bulletproof coffee, which I call protein coffee, using coconut milk, a little mct oil, and protein powder well blended with hot coffee. To that I now add a tablespoon of plain gelatin powder (I like the Now brand beef gelatin), to the 10-14oz of hot coffee and blend well. The gelatin has no taste so your coffee will taste no different. You really do need to use the blender, since the gelatin wants to settle, so you can get a mass of undissolved gelatin at the bottom of the cup by only stirring. It makes a little bit of a foamy top when used only with the coconut milk or cream, a bit like a cappuccino.

Some days this is also my lunch or dinner, if I’m busy.

Protein is very satiating, and often when people go on sugar-free and/or low carbohydrate eating plans, they may not get enough protein, and feel hungry; then some people over eat meat get way too much. The word is “adequate”; we need enough protein to feed our bodies, so how much we get matters. In general, women need at least 45g per day, and men 55g; but if you lead a busy, active life, and also do exercise, you may need more. Another reason why it is good to log food intake occasionally, or regularly for those trying to lose weight who don’t lose easily.

Here’s a useful link for more information of protein needs: http://www.acaloriecounter.com/diet/how-much-protein-per-day/

Nutrition Information:
Beef Gelatin Powder (Now Foods)
1 tablespoon (10 g)
35g calories
0g fat
0g carb
9g protein
0g fiber

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Cream of Tomato Soup

You don’t get easier than tomato soup, and as the weather cools, I like lots of soup. You can make this with a variety of herbs for added flavor, or keep it plain for those super-tasters.

4 cups – chicken broth
2 tomatoes- chopped
1 tsp onion or garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream

Optional: 1 tablespoon of basil or tarragon or cilantro–any green herb you like.
2 tablespoons sour cream

Bring all the ingredients to the boil, then pour into a blender, or use a stick blender, to puree. Return to the pan, or crockpot, and let simmer for as long as you like. Add cream before serving. Top with a dollop of sour cream.

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Apple or Pear and Spinach Salad

Some flavors just belong together, and the apple/pear with spinach and bacon is exceptionally tasty. I got the basics for this recipe somewhere long forgotten, but as it stands it exists with my tweeks. While I eat only small amounts of fruit, this salad is one place where I live dangerously.

Apple/Pear Spinach Bacon Salad

(serves 2)

For the Salad:
4 cups organic baby Spinach
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella, sliced or diced (feta is good too)
1 apple or pear thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans– toasted
4 slices bacon crisp then crumbled

1/4 cup bacon dripping
1/4 cup olive oil (walnut or macadamia nut oils are also good)
4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or any light vinegar                                                                                                                                 5 drops stevia                                                                                                                                                                       1 tsp dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine spinach leaves and red onion slices in large bowl.
Blend oil,vinegar,mustard, salt & pepper together–then add bacon drippings and oil and whisk until blended.
Toss the ingredients in the bowl with some dressing to lightly cover. Salt and pepper to taste.
Plate each serving and arrange apple/pear slices on top.
Add mozzarella, bacon and pine nuts to each serving.
Drizzle with additional dressing.

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Stuffed Pork Chops Milanese

Giada, of Italian cooking fame, makes a version of this recipe using veal chops, but I don’t use veal; so followed the basic part of the recipe using thick pork chops. Chicken breast will work as well. Instead of traditional bread crumbs, I used finely ground pork rinds.

First, cut a pocket in the side of the meat about 2×3 inches.  Place the meat between sheets of plastic wrap and pound out thinner and relatively even. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the pocket with fontina or gruyere cheese. .

Dip the meat in beaten egg, then coat with finely ground pork rinds.

Fry in an inch of fat, like bacon dripping and/or coconut oil.

Serve with pickled onions, and a green salad; or try marinara sauce, zucchini or Napa cabbage “noodles” topped with shredded parmesan cheese.

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