Low-Carb, Paleo Hummus

img_2608by Karen Frazier

I love hummus and when I went paleo, it was one of the most difficult things to give up. Fortunately, I came up with a fabulous replacement that tastes just like the real stuff, but is paleo friendly, low-carb, and Whole30 compliant when you serve it with chopped veggies.

  • 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon tahini

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Drizzle with EVOO.

 

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Low-Carb Nachos

IMG_1462by Karen Frazier

I’m a big believer in the 90/10 principle of a paleo diet. Stick with paleo foods 90 percent of the time, and about 5 to 10 percent of the time you can sneak in a little something extra. For me, that something extra is often dairy. While I have a dairy allergy, it isn’t debilitating, although I will be stuffed up and inflamed for a day or two after eating it. Still, occasionally I sneak it in – just not very often.

However, even during that 10 percent of the time, I try to stay low-carb. I always avoid sugar, grains, gluten, starchy foods, and most processed foods. In fact, for me, dairy (and occasional sweetener like stevia/erythritol combos, or peanuts/peanut butter are my non-paleo foods I enjoy.

And every once in a while, I get a powerful hankering for nachos. That’s when I pull out these low-carb bad boys that have all the stuff that tastes marvelous with fewer carbs than traditional nachos. The dish is pictured here with a low-carb vodka, soda, lime cocktail.

This recipe serves 3 to 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated grass-fed Colby Jack cheese
  • 4 ounces grass-fed Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup guacamole (or more)
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Chopped green onions (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. In a large saute pan, cook the ground beef on medium-high, crumbling as you cook, until browned, about five minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to low. Add the water, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for four minutes. Set aside.
  3. Line your microwave with a piece of parchment.
  4. Working a quarter cup at a time, mound the Colby-Jack (or cheddar) cheese on the parchment, and then spread it into a thin layer in a rough circle.
  5. Microwave for two minutes on high, or until the cheese is browned and crisp.
  6. Peel the cheese from the parchment and place it on a cold ceramic plate to cool. Continue working with the Colby-Jack cheese until you’ve used it all.
  7. Break the large pieces of cheese into smaller bite sized pieces, putting them on a plate.
  8. Sprinkle the cheese chips with the grated Pepper Jack cheese. Microwave for one minute, or until cheese melts.
  9. Top with the ground beef, guacamole, sour cream salsa, and sprinkle with the green onions.

Quick Pickles

picklesMy family would probably tell you I’m obsessed with pickles. I. Love. Them. Every year I wait for cucumber season and watch for pickling cucumbers at the farmers’ market so I can enjoy homemade pickles. I like them garlicky with a touch of heat. These refrigerator pickles are great because they are quick and require no canning. We go through pickles pretty quickly in our house, so I do them in 2 pound batches in a crock.

Zesty Refrigerator Dill Pickles

  • 3 cups white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 pounds pickling cucumbers, cut into spears
  • 4 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Small bunch fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes (or to taste)
  1. Boil vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan to dissolve salt.
  2. Layer cucumbers, onion, garlic, dill and peppercorns in a large crock.
  3. Pour hot brine over cucumbers. Add pepper flakes.
  4. Allow to sit, uncovered, on the counter until pickles are room temperature.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for three days before eating.

I also like to do a quick pickle to red onions. It removes some of the bite from onions, and the result is delicious on burgers or salads. Tonight, I’m making a quick pickled onion to put on top of Mediterranean spiced lamb burgers.

Red Onion Quick Pickle

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 thinly sliced red onion
  1. Combine sugar, salt, and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk until sugar and salt dissolves.
  2. Arrange red onions in a small bowl.
  3. Pour brine over onions.
  4. Sit at room temperature for one hour.
  5. Cover and refrigerate.

Crab Artichoke Dip

artichokeThis is great on crostini, bagel chips, or even on a baguette. You can also make it and bake it in rolls for a crab artichoke sandwich.

To make, use equal parts:

  • Cooked crab meat
  • Artichoke hearts

Add:

  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1-2 bulbs of garlic, roasted
  • 1 cup regular mayonnaise per 2 cups crab/artichoke
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or asiago cheese, grated per 2 cups crab/artichoke
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Bake in an oven-safe dish at 400 degrees until warmed through and bubbly – about 15-20 minutes.

Guacamole

guacEver since I was a kid, I have loved avocados. My favorite way to eat them is naked in all their glory, sliced. They are creamy, sweet, and a little grassy with a soft, smooth texture. This past weekend, I mixed up a batch of my second favorite way to eat avocados for a Super Bowl party.

Learning to make great guacamole is not difficult. Many people have turned to premade seasoning packets, but to quote my son, “Those are no good.”

While it seems like opening a spice packet and mixing it in to a bunch of smooshed avocados is, indeed, easier than making it homemade, it really isn’t so much less time consuming that it makes up for the vast difference in flavor between what Tanner calls, “the homemade stuff and the fake stuff.”

Before I give you my guacamole recipe, here are some tips:

  • Hass avocados make the best guacamole. Those are the ones with the dark green, pebbly skin.
  • Avocados should be heavy, but when you place a gentle pressure with the thumb, the flesh underneath should yield but not sink.
  • The skin should be dark green – almost black, but not wrinkled or shrunken. This chart shows you the differences between unripe, perfect, and overripe.
  • I include jalapenos or Anaheim peppers in my guacamole. Anaheim are slightly milder than jalapeno, and both can be made milder by carefully removing the inner ribs and seeds.
  • I like to roast my peppers before putting them in the guacamole, which makes them milder and adds complexity. Roasting is easy. Brush the outside of the peppers with a little olive oil and place under a broiler. As skin browns, turn the peppers a quarter turn and then another and another until the entire pepper is browned. Cool, and then peel the skin and remove seeds and ribs.
  • For a smokier guacamole, replace your peppers with minced chipotle chile.
  • Carefully clean and dry the cilantro. Wet cilantro can make your finished product watery. Remove as many of the stems as possible before chopping.
  • Mix up the guacamole a few hours ahead and let rest in the refrigerator to allow flavors to blend. To keep the guacamole bright green, place plastic wrap directly on its surface, and then cover the entire bowl with plastic.
  • I like to leave my guacamole a little chunky. It makes it far more interesting with chunks of veggies and avocado. I semi-mash about half to 3/4 of the avocados, leaving a few lumps, and then I cube the rest and toss them in at the end.
  • Many people like tomatoes in their guacamole. I don’t add them. I think it makes the guacamole too watery, and I only like tomatoes when they are in season. If you want to add them, go for it, but remove the inner juice and seeds before adding to avoid watering down your finished product.

Here’s the recipe.

Guacamole

  • 2 Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 of a bunch of cilantro, washed with stems removed, and finely chopped
  • 1-2 peppers (jalapeno or Anaheim), seeds removed and finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Place avocados, onion, cilantro, peppers and garlic in a bowl and mix to combine, lightly mashing with a fork to the desired consistency.
  2. Squeeze lime juice over the top and mix in thoroughly.
  3. Add a little salt and taste for seasoning. Continue to add salt a little at a time, tasting after each addition until you reach the desired level.

Steamer Clams

clamsEven though school has started, summer is not quite over. Here in the Pacific Northwest, late summer and early fall offer up gorgeous weather that entices you outdoors before the rainy season begins again.

One of my favorite seasonal dishes for this time of year is steamer clams. While many people head to the beach at low tide to dig for these local delicacies, I typically buy mine at the farmers’ market where someone has already done the majority of the work for me. You might also be able to find small manila clams at the grocery store in the seafood section.

You can purchase steamer clams several hours ahead of cooking and keep them refrigerated or on ice until you use them. Always use steamer clams the same day, and make sure your source is providing the freshest clams possible.

I live in a household that loves clams. Resultantly, I buy them in bulk when I plan to cook them for the main meal. Jim and Tanner by themselves can put down about five pounds of the bivalves and still look around for something else to eat. As an appetizer, however, you can cook fewer.

I prefer making the clams in a simple wine and butter broth redolent with herbs. It not only provides tremendous flavor to the clams, but it also serves as a delicious base for dipping crusty bread to supplement the meal. To round out our traditional late summer supper of clams and bread, I include sweet corn on the cob, a simple green salad with whatever seasonal veggies I have around and a crisp white wine or beer.

Cooking steamer clams isn’t so much a recipe as a series of steps I follow. I don’t really measure – I just toss in ingredients.

How to Cook Steamer Clams

Ingredients

  • Grass-fed butter
  • Chopped shallots or sweet onions
  • Chopped fennel bulb
  • Clams
  • Dry white wine
  • Fresh lemon juice and zest
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh tarragon

Method

  1. On the stovetop, melt butter in a large pot.
  2. Saute shallots or onions and fennel in butter until soft.
  3. Add clams, white wine, juice of one lemon, zest from half the lemon, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. Cover the pot and allow to steam, stirring occasionally, until all of the clams have opened. Discard unopened clams.
  5. Taste for seasoning and stir in tarragon.

Variation
Replace fennel with chopped garlic and tarragon with chopped fresh basil. Stir in fresh chopped tomatoes with the basil.

Delicious Things to Do with Shrimp

shrimpShrimp is a great protein to work with. It’s naturally low in fat, easy to handle, and has a sweetness that even people who aren’t fish fanatics enjoy. While it can be a bit expensive, there are ways to allay the cost. For example, purchasing it unpeeled and peeling it yourself is cheaper than purchasing it peeled and deveined.

Most of the shrimp you find in the grocery store is pre-frozen. It holds up well to flash freezing, and I’ve found that often the difference between the bags in the freezer section and the shrimp at the fish counter is they’ve thawed it for you. Once thawed, you need to use it pretty quickly. That’s why I buy the bags and thaw them myself when I’m ready.

Preparing to cook shrimp is easy. Take the bag out of the freezer, leave it sealed, and place it in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the shrimp is thawed. Next, pull the shrimp out of the bag and give it a quick rinse to remove any remaining ice crystals. Let it drain in a colander for a few minutes, and then peel and devein it. There is a small vein that runs along the back of each shrimp. Just slit the membrane above the vein with a sharp knife, pull it out, and rinse it away.

Shrimp has an affinity for garlic. The bite of the garlic blends beautifully with the sweet, salty flesh of the shrimp. For a quick meal, heat a little olive oil in a pan, toss in the shrimp for a few minutes until they pink, and then toss in garlic for about 30 seconds. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if necessary.

I have several favorite ways to prepare shrimp.

First, I really like grilling it on sugarcane skewers. You can purchase sugar cane swizzle sticks online at Melissa’s Produce and cut them into small skewers. Grilling the shrimp on the sugarcane enhances the sweetness, and only takes a few moments over a hot, oiled grill. As soon as the shrimp turns pink, I glaze them with a rum based glaze containing equal parts rum and sugar, a little dijon mustard, some cinnamon, a dash of vinegar, and turn or two of fresh cracked pepper. I simmer those ingredients together until syrupy and taste for seasoning. Once brushed on the shrimp, I allow it contact with the heat for just about a minute a side.

Baked scampi makes an amazing blend of flavors between shrimp, garlic, and citrus. I marinate my shrimp for a few minutes at room temperature in a mixture of white wine and olive oil at a 2:3 ratio with a little black pepper. While the shrimp marinates, I combine softened butter; bread crumbs (I prefer panko); minced garlic, shallot,  parsley and rosemary; lemon zest, and an egg yolk into a crumbly topping. I spread the topping on the shrimp in a baking dish and bake it at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes until the shrimp pinks. Then, I blast it under the broiler for a minute or two to make the topping crunchy. This is delicious served on angel hair pasta.

If you like Mexican flavors, I make shrimp mojo de ajo with mushrooms. To create the mojo de ajo, place a saucepan with 1 to 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil on the stove top on the lowest temperature you can get it. I actually make the heat even less direct by placing a ring of rolled foil between the bottom of the pan and the burner. Add several cloves of chopped garlic (about one head per cup of oil), and allow it to simmer (but never boil) on the stovetop for an hour or longer. This gently cooks the garlic, making it extremely sweet and flavors the oil. Add a pinch of chipotle for a hit of spice. Saute quartered button mushrooms on the stovetop until they begin to brown and then add the shrimp. Once shrimp begins to pink, add the garlic and olive oil mix to finish cooking. Add a squeeze of lime juice. I serve this with tortillas, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream so people can build their own burritos.  Making homemade guacamole is easy. Chop two soft avocados and add one minced jalapeno (no seeds), 1/2 minced red onion, a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of salt, and a minced clove of garlic (or put through the garlic press). Stir, keeping some avocado chunks in the mix, and taste for seasoning.

Wines for shrimp: Shrimp has an affinity for crisp, mineral whites. I really like a good German Riesling with all of these recipes, because the acidity holds up well to the spices and sweetness of the shrimp. Try a Kabinett Riesling, or for something a little sweeter, try a Spatlese.