Low-Carb Chilli Con Carne

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This is classic comfort food that warms you up on a cold winter day. This week is particularly cold (less than -20 with the wind chill), so this flavourful, spicy chilli is perfect. With the colourful garnish, it’s also delicious for the eyes.  This particular version of the classic chilli con carne is low in carbs, as I have eliminated the beans.

I know the jury is out on whether or not mushrooms are a desired ingredient in chilli, however, I love them.  I think they’re delicious.  And they happen to be one of those veggies that, when cooked, have a certain umami…if I’m using this word correctly.  They add richness and meatiness.

Now beans are often seen as a great healthy option.  I have decided to avoid legumes as part of my diet because, although they do have protein, there are many ways to get higher amounts of protein for less calories.  And they come with a lot of carbs – which is something I’m trying to avoid.  If you have your heart set on some kind of beans, by all means, add it in when you add the passada.

I went to the states a while ago and picked up some fun Mexican ingredients that I have difficulty finding in Canada.  If anyone knows where to get stuff like dried ancho chiles in Southern Ontario, please let me know!  Anyway, I took my inspiration from Jamie Oliver here – soaking and blending up a dried ancho chile to add flavour and perceived sweetness to the recipe. Here’s what this beautiful thing looks like:

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Nutrition Information :

This is based on dividing this recipe into 4 servings.

  • Calories:324
  • Carbs: 19g
  • Fat: 14g
  • Protein: 25g
  • Sugar: 12g

*Note: pretty much all the sugar here comes from the passada. This isn’t added sugar – it’s sugar found naturally in the tomatoes. Natural sugar is still something I try to keep to a minimum – but really you can’t make chilli without this ingredient!

Calculations are made without the addition of the optional garnish but with the ancho chile included.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small Spanish onion
  • 250 grams sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 350 grams extra lean ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 jar passada
  • 1 dried ancho pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • goats cheese (optional)
  • 1 red chile (optional)
  • green onion (optional)

How to:

  1. Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the olive oil.
  2. Roughly chop the onion, mushrooms and pepper and add to pan.  Add 1 chopped clove of garlic. Cook til onion is translucent and mushrooms change colour/texture – about 6 minutes.
  3. Remove veggies from pan.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a kettle to a boil and pour enough water over the pepper to cover.
  5. Crank up the heat and add the meat and the spices and second garlic clove. You do not need more oil in this step because fat/liquid is rendered from the meat.
  6. Stir regularly and cook until meat is browned and cooked through.
  7. Blend the pepper and water in a blender and add to meat.
  8. Add passada and veggies to the pan and stir well.
  9. Bring down heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  10. Add coriander and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  11. Divide amongst 6 plates or bowls and garnish with the other optional items.

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Spicy Minced Pork Stir-fry with Flat Beans

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P1030806If you want a delicious, satisfying meal in ten minutes, then look no further!  When I made this, I expected it to be good.  But this still surprised me.  I enjoyed every bite.  This would be great for a busy week night.

Just a little note about fish sauce : it’s really moving up on my list of favourite ingredients.  Health-wise it’s not a superstar – but I use it as a replacement for salt in a lot of the Asian-style dishes I make.  It just adds a little something extra.  It smells really strong…and maybe not that great out of the bottle.  But give it a chance – it’s really tasty!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb flat green (or Italian) beans
  • salt
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 350 grams lean minced pork
  • 2 cloves garlic squeezed through a press
  • 1 inch of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 scallions sliced
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • the juice of 1 lime

How to:

Beans: Put 1 inch of water into a pan that’s big enough for the beans to lie flat in.  Bring water to a boil on high heat, then add salt.  Then add beans. Cook beans on high for 2-3 minutes and then drain.

Pork: Heat a sauté pan or a wok on high heat. Add the sesame oil to the pan along with the garlic and ginger. Sauté for a few seconds – until you can smell it. Then add the pork and sriracha. Stir until well mixed and cook on high until browned.  Turn heat down to medium and add all other ingredients. Cook for another 3 minutes.

Plate it up and if you like, garnish with pieces of red chiles, green onion and/or cilantro.  Yum!

The following information is based on 1/3 of the recipe.  When I made this, I divided it all into 3 servings.  You can certainly eat more of it though if you’re really hungry!

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Thai Green Curry Chicken Skewers with Ginger “Quinoa”

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Sometimes, especially when I’m busy, I lack creativity and ideas.  This is when I pull out my favourite cook books.  I have many favourite authors, but my go-to recipes are always by Donna Hay, Jamie Oliver and Giada DiLaurentiis.  When I flip through the pages of these cookbooks, I salivate because the food looks so fresh, flavourful and satisfying.  Although these particular chefs have healthy ideas, their recipes aren’t particularly low-carb.  So this is where I work my magic.  So today, I’m taking liberties with Donna Hay’s recipe of the same name from her latest cook book, Fresh and Light.

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My biggest change?  I didn’t use quinoa.  I used cauliflower.  This recipe is super filling because you really can eat as much cauliflower as you want with good conscience.  You’re also getting a nice big dose of protein because each serving is a whole chicken breast.

Why you should eat this :

1. Protein.  You need protein to build those nice, lean, sexy muscles and to recover quickly from your workouts. It also is satisfying, so you won’t need a midnight snack if this is your dinner.

2. Cauliflower.  A.k.a. cruciferous vegetables.  These should be a part of every diet where fat-loss and an increase in muscle are the goals. Just ask Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper. They both encourage eating these every day. Aside from all the nutrients cruciferous veggies provide, they may also increase testosterone.  This might sound scary for the ladies, however, this is a good thing for burning fat, increaseing muscle, and generally having an elevated motivation for physical activity. So eat up!

What you need :

  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • 4 chicken breasts sliced as evenly as possible into strips
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • a head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • lime cheeks and extra coriander to serve

How to make it :

1.  Soak your skewers!  If you’re using wooden rather than metal skewers, you must soak them for a long time.  I soaked them for 30 minutes and this wasn’t even close to being enough time.  At least an hour should help to prevent the skewers from burning.

2.  Start with your washed head of cauliflower.  Put it in the food processor on the grater setting.  I don’t have one of these nifty kitchen appliances, so I went to my mom’s house and used hers. This will save you so much time.  Honestly if I tried to grate it all by hand it would probably take me at least 15 minutes.  With the processor it was about 2.  The entire head yielded about 4-5 cups of shredded cauliflower “quinoa.”

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3. Make sure your chicken breasts are evenly sliced.  Mine weren’t, which lead to a bit of a hassle when it came to grilling them.  I made 4 slices per breast, but feel free to make more.  With the topping for the chicken, the meat stays nice and moist even if you cook them well and have small pieces.  IMG_0132

4. With that out of the way, mix up the coconut cream and the curry paste.  I used these brands and they worked well and tasted amazing:

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The creamed coconut has almost the consistency of lard, so it’s a bit finicky to mix it, but it’s definitely worth it in the end because it tastes so good.

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5. Now it’s time to smear it all over those breasts.  You’ve really got to work it in so that every square millimetre of surface area is covered to maximize the flavour.

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I know it looks a bit nasty, but it smells delicious!

6.  Now time to skewer the meat.  Make sure you do it well so that the meat stays on the skewer throughout the grilling and eating process. I sort of weaved mine onto the skewers.

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7.  Onto the grill!  I preheated my grill for about 10 minutes on high and then reduced the head to medium high.  The pieces are small enough that they cook through fairly quickly so a hot grill is ok.

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Grill for 5-7 minutes and then flip and cook for another 5.

8. Meanwhile, we can get going on the “quinoa” which isn’t really quinoa.  Now I know that quinoa is a super trendy health food with a very high protein content considering that it’s a grain.  My thing about quinoa is that it’s quite calorie dense and I don’t really care about it as a source of protein because I eat meat.  Not to mention the fact that it only has about 5 grams of protein per serving, when I’m looking a whole lot more than that for my meal.  So anyway, enough about that.  In a pre-heated pan on medium heat, heat some olive oil (or grape-seed or whatever you want).  Then add in your cauliflower and sauté.  Then add in your tablespoon of ginger, green onions and sesame oil.  Once some of the cauliflower gets a bit golden, add in your cilantro and then remove it from the heat.  This doesn’t need a ton of cooking time, really the purpose of the sauté is to add flavour and to mix all of these beautiful ingredients together.

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9.  Plate it up and enjoy!  This made 4 meals for me, each serving with a mountain of cauliflower “quinoa.”

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Cilantro lime chicken salad

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This delicious salad is inspired by Mexican flavours.  I needed something to remind me of somewhere hot while I’m being tortured by this long Canadian winter.  After going for nearly two weeks with very little carbs, these sweet potatos are a welcome treat.  Only to be eaten after 4:00PM, this salad is a great dinner option.

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You’ll have to excuse the quality of the image.  I’m brand spanking new to food photography.  I’m new to any kind of photography for that matter.  But the dish itself was delicious, satisfying and helped to lift my mood because it has some feel-good carbs.  So here we go:

Ingredients and instructions:

Makes 4 servings.

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Mayo (see recipe below)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

To make: mix all ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste.

Mayo:

***I don’t use store-bought mayonnaise because there’s sugar in it.  No matter which one.  I’ve looked at all the labels.  The key here, is to avoid sugar.  So here is one way to avoid sugar.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup oil (I used extra-virgin olive)
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • juice of 1 lemon

To make: blend egg, mustard and lemon in a food processor.  Keep the processor whizzing away until it’s frothy. Starting a few drops at a time, blend in oil.  Drizzle oil into the food processor very slowly!!!  Once all oil is incorporated, it should come together and look like a thick, yellow mayonnaise.  Keep the rest to make deviled eggs or to make a dip for veggies.

Chicken:

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

To make: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a pan on the stove-top, melt 1 tbsp coconut oil. Season breasts with the remaining ingredients. Sear breasts in a very hot pan.  Once the outside is brown on both sides, put the pan into the oven (if oven proof) or transfer chicken to a pan and put in the oven until cooked through (10 minutes??).  Once completed, let rest for a bit and then slice.

Sweet Potato:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped to 2cm cubes (roughly – doesn’t have to be perfect)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

To make: preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss potatoes with the remaining ingredients. Put on a baking sheet and put into the oven for approximately 20 minutes.  When done, they should be starting to brown and they should be nice and soft in the middle.

Salad

  • 1 cup chopped coriander
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1 avocado, chopped with juice of lime squeezed over it to prevent it from turning brown

To make:  Combine all ingredients in same bowl that dressing was made in.  Coat with dressing.

Feel free to double up on all of the salad items (except avocado) if you want to have a little more bulk to the meal.

Assembly:

Plate the salad, then add in chicken and potatoes.  Squeeze a generous amount of lime juice over everything.  Yummy!