Mango and Black Bean Salsa

This has long been one of my favorite compliments to grilled fish.  It’s easy to pull together, adds nice color to your plate, and has a great fresh flavor.  It would also be an excellent addition to a pork loin or chop.  You might think it an odd combination but it works!

Ingredients:

1 mango diced

1/2 cup or red onion diced

1 can of black beans rinsed and drained

1/2 cup of fresh cilantro

3 T olive oil

3 T fresh squeezed lime juice

salt to taste

Peel and dice the mango.  That’s probably the most challenging part of making this dish.  Add the mango to a medium size serving dish.

Rinse and drain the can of black beans and add to the mango.

Add the diced red onion.

Add the cilantro.  More than 1/2 cup if you love cilantro.

Juice a fresh lime.

Add the lime juice and olive oil and stir to combine.  Season with salt to taste.  Enjoy over a piece of grilled fish.

NOTE:  Like I mentioned, this would be a great compliment to a pork chop or pork loin.  I ate the left over salsa with cottage cheese.  You may have seen mango salsa in the grocery.   Of course homemade is always best and freshest.  But you might also like it with some tortilla chips, perhaps with a little minced jalapeño to kick it up a bit.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

For quite some time I’ve wanted to experiment with a cauliflower pizza crust.  I was intrigued.  My favorite pizzas have a thin crust.  I’ve never liked a lot of “bread” with my pizza so this is perfect.  And no carbs.  At home I usually make my own flour and yeast crust and I must admit, this took a little more effort.  Perhaps mostly because I’d never made it before.  But I think it was worth the effort and I will definitely make it again in the future.  The flavor was great.  The crust browned nicely on the bottom.  And between my husband and I, we ate the entire pizza!!  So I say that is a positive endorsement.

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (not from a can)

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

Remove the core and stems from the cauliflower and cut into medium size pieces.  Process the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like rice.

Bring a couple inches of water to a boil in a good size pot.  Put the riced cauliflower in a steamer, cover the pot, and steam for 15 minutes.  While the cauliflower is steaming preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Whisk your eggs and measure out the cheeses and seasonings.

Once your cauliflower has steamed, dump it on a clean dish towel to cool.  Once it has cooled use the towel to wring as much moisture as possible from the cauliflower.

Once the cauliflower has cooled and you’ve wrung as much liquid out as possible add it to a mixing bowl along with the egg, cheeses, and seasonings.  Mix thoroughly.

Line a pizza pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Spread the crust ingredients out with your hands in a circle or square, whatever you prefer.  Spread it pretty thin.  I was worried it was too thin but it was not.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the crust from the oven and add whatever toppings you choose.

I used leftover homemade marinara sauce with additional pizza spices added, sausage that I browned, peppers, tomato, and onion.  Increase the oven temperature to 425.

Bake the dressed pizza crust until the cheese is brown and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

Seriously,  Isn’t that a beautiful pizza!!  I make a round pizza and cut it into squares.  Anyway you cut it, enjoy.  With a little less guilt than flour crust.

NOTE:  I have no idea how leftovers would keep as we didn’t have any.  If you have a cauliflower hater in your circle or even a vegetable hater in general, don’t tell them what it is.  They’ll never know.

Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti Squash with Marinara – Keto Friendly

Keto Friendly.   The Keto Diet is a very low carb, high fat diet reminiscent of the Atkins diet.  It’s a diet that was first used primarily to treat difficult to control epilepsy in children.  There are also documented benefits for heart health, diabetes, and brain functioning.  It is intuitively obvious that significantly reducing the amount of processed foods, sugar, and carbs we eat will have health benefits.  In an effort to eat healthier and reduce sugar and carbs I’m experimenting with Keto conscious recipes.  Often keto will only require minor modifications to dishes I cook all the time.  This “modification” was very tasty and very satisfying.

Ingredients for Marinara:

1 pint diced tomatoes

1 pint tomato sauce

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic sliced

salt to taste

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until tender; about 3-4 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and allow to simmer until thickened.  Use an immersion blender if you prefer no pieces of tomato in the sauce.  Add salt to taste.

While your sauce is simmering, prepare your spaghetti squash.  Preheat your oven to 375.  I came across this hack for preparing spaghetti squash a few years ago in one of my food magazines.  It is easier to remove the seeds, cooks more evenly and makes longer strands of spaghetti.  Use a mister to coat a foil lined baking dish with olive oil.  Cut the squash into 1to 1 1/2 inch thick slices.  Use a paring knife to go around the inside edges and remove the seeds.  Put the squash in the baking dish, spritz the top with olive oil, and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Once the squash is done allow it to cool so it’s easy to handle.  Push the squash out using your hands and separate the spaghetti stands.

Your spaghetti is done.  Now it’s time to prepare your eggplant.

Ingredients:

1 medium/large eggplant

2 eggs

2 T heavy cream

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup almond flour

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 tsp salt

3-4 T olive oil for frying

1 cup Mozzarella cheese

Slice your eggplant.  Peel or not.  Your choice.  If I buy organic eggplant I do not peel them.  Grate your Parmesan cheese.

Whisk together the eggs and heavy cream.

Combine almond flour, spices and salt.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Dip the eggplant rounds in the egg/cream mixture, then the cheese, then the seasoned flour.  It’s not the usual order of things but it works in this recipe.  Add the eggplant to the skillet and cook until browned on one side, flip to brown the other side, and remove to a platter.

Wipe out the skillet or use another casserole dish.  Return the rounds to the skillet and top with sauce and cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Put the spaghetti squash in the oven for the last 5 minutes to warm.

Plate the squash and eggplant and ladle sauce on the squash and also on the eggplant if you choose.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  This dish definitely was lighter than my usual eggplant with pasta but very satisfying.  We both had seconds.  If you’d like you can prepare the squash the day before as well as the sauce.  The eggplant is best served immediately.

For the sauce I used home canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  You can use bottled marinara but you want to look for organic sauce with low sugar content and other additives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla

Good quality, pure vanilla extract is crucial to good baked goods.  And it is not inexpensive.  A good friend winters in Texas and she brings me awesome vanilla from Mexico.  I use her Mexican vanilla all the time.   When people try to replicate some of my recipes they notice subtle taste differences between what I baked and what they baked.  I’m convinced it is the vanilla.  I recently came across instructions for making your own vanilla on the King Arthur blog.  And decided I would try it.  It’s not complicated at all.

Homemade vanilla consists of vanilla beans and liquor.  You want to make sure your vanilla beans are fresh.  They should be pliable and soft to the touch.  According to King Arthur there are three kinds of vanilla beans that are readily available.  Sharing his descriptions.

“TAHITIAN:  Contains floral notes as well as subtle cherry and almond overtones; pairs well with fruity desserts and has a strong vanilla aroma.

MEXICAN:  Described as woodsy with hints of spice.  This vanilla is exciting, a perfect choice to bring something new to your baking.

MADAGASCAR:  A classic vanilla flavor that’s described as creamy and sweet.  Often used to make vanilla extract; it’s familiar and comforting.”

The vanilla bean descriptions reminded me of the labels on wine bottles!  I chose the “familiar and comforting” beans from Madagascar.

You also choose the kind of liquor you want to use for your base.  Something that has a neutral flavor like vodka or brandy or rum. You want to steer away from spices or smoky flavors that may overpower the vanilla.  No cucumber vodka or Captain Morgan.

Ingredients:

Vanilla beans

Liquor

You want to make sure you have clean bottles/jars with tight fitting lids.  The bottles I used hold 8 ounces.  I used 2 1/2 beans in each jar.  You want to slit your beans to expose the seeds.  If you don’t want to have “flecks” in your vanilla you can scrape out the seeds.  I choose to leave the seeds in for a richer vanilla flavor.  Once you’ve slit the beans put them in the bottles.

Add your liquor of choice to the jars.  I used a funnel because it’s sinful to spill and waste liquor!  I used rum in one jar, vodka in the other.  Make sure your beans are totally submerged.  If they are not, cut the beans into shorter pieces and return to the bottle.

Now you wait.  For at least 3 months.  Store your bottles in a cool, dark place.  King Arthur says the refrigerator is too cold (and it’s light in there when you open the door) so consider the basement or another area of your house that is relatively cool and dark.  Don’t store them in the kitchen which is typically the warmest room in the house.  If you left the seeds in the pods like I did, shake the bottles gently every week or so.  This will help deepen the flavor,

NOTE:  You don’t have to use top shelf liquor.  I used liquor that I serve at home.  You do want to make sure that you have good quality, fresh beans.  Finally, you don’t want to leave this somewhere where someone might pour themselves a shot!

I’m excited for the end result.  Last year a lot of people got homemade laundry soap for Christmas.  This year it may be homemade vanilla.  Worst case scenario, I’ll have to come up with some great vanilla cocktail recipes!