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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Philadelphia Cucumber Bites

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A delicious bite-size snack perfect for your New Year’s Eve party or any other event.  These disappear quickly!  It’s an appetizer that won’t leave you feeling bad about yourself, which is quite important for bringing in the new year!  The contrast of crunchy and creamy and spicy and fresh will entertain the taste buds and make avoiding those deep-fried nibbles a little easier.

I’ve been working on snack foods.  I’m not the average girl – I have no sweet tooth, really. My weakness would be chips and cheese and crackers. Coming up with snacks that I’m happy to eat and leave me feeling satisfied rather than deprived is super important to me on my journey to sculpting the body that I want.

Two of the key aspects to my diet are low carbohydrate and low sugar. So when I choose my ingredients, I’m always looking at the labels for those two things. Of course eating whole foods would be better, but sometimes you need the convenience of prepared foods. In these situations, it’s particularly important to pay attention to whether or not there is sugar added, and if so, in what quantities.

I debated on using a sweet chili sauce – I thought it would be delicious with the cream cheese and cucumber. However the sugar content is quite high:

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I thought I’d check out some sriracha sauce.  It’s not perfect, but it’s much better.  Especially given that the first ingredient isn’t a sugar syrup…

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If you took the same amount of each product, you’d have 3 grams of sugar for the sriracha vs 8 for the sweet chili. And we will have 3 grams of carbs vs 10 for the sweet chili. Not bad.

The cream cheese is also not perfect – but it’s not bad. Per tablespoon, there is 1/2 a gram of carbs and negligible sugar. So not bad.

So here we go with our simple, yet delicious appetizer:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 container of whipped cream cheese with chives
  • 2 tsp sriracha sauce
  • chili flakes and green onion for garnish (and added flavour)

How to:

1. Slice up your cukes:

IMG_04922. Mix the cream cheese and the sriracha.

IMG_04913. Add cream cheese mixture to a plastic bag (for piping). Snip off a corner and pipe onto the cucumber.  I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who could make it look nicer than I can…but I still think they look good enough to eat!

IMG_04934. sprinkle chopped green onion and hot pepper flakes for garnish and for taste – it adds a bit of spice.

IMG_0498-001In the future, I might make these again and add smoked salmon for extra protein, omega-3s and to make it even more like a Philadelphia roll.  In any case, they’re good the way they are. I served them at a small dinner party and they disappeared!  I made some more for my own personal snake and they definitely satisfied my cravings for savoury and crunchy. Hope you enjoy!

P.S. If you keep track of this sort of thing, per cucumber bite:

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And if you want to go crazy and eat 1/4 of the recipe (which is exactly what I did) :

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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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Zucchini Pasta with Kale Pesto

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Trying to maintain a low-carb diet, but craving something Italian?  Well you’re in luck.  Here is an alternative to pasta that’s delicious and packed full of good stuff.

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This pesto would be really good on practically anything.  I made two batches of it, so I’m thinking that sometime this week, I’ll grill some white fish and top it with this delicious pesto.

For the Pesto:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 bunch of kale
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 glove of garlic (or 2 if they’re small)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

How-to:

1. Wash and take the ribs out of 1/3 of a bunch of kale.

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2. Pack as much kale as you can into the food processor.

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3. Process Kale until it it’s in little tiny pieces.

4. Toast almonds on high heat.  This doesn’t take long.  Just do it until you can smell the nuttiness and you can start to see a little colour.

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5. Peel the glove of garlic and toss it in the processor.  Add in the almonds, oil and a good amount of salt.  Blend.

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This makes a delicious, thick, flavourful pesto.

For the Pasta:

Ingredients:

  • Zucchini (4 small)
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp corriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • pesto (1 full recipe)
  • roasted red peppers (optional)
  • green onion (optional)

How-to:

1. Cut ends off zucchini.

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2. Thinly slice zucchini lengthwise.  I used a mandolin for this step.

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3.  Take the thick slices, stack them and slice them into noodles.

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4. Put raw chicken on a cutting board, cover with parchment or wax paper and pound it with your fists or whatever instrument you wish until it comes out nice and uniform in thickness.  This makes it cook faster and more evenly and makes it more tender and juicy.

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5. Season the breast with the spice.  It seems like a lot, but it makes a nice coating which becomes crispy on the grill.

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6.  I used my George Foreman grill on medium low heat to grill this.  You could also pan sear it in what ever fat you like or do it on a barbeque.

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7.  When the chicken has char marks, it’s done.  Take it off the heat and let it rest for a while.

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8.  Toss the zucchini noodles with whatever low-carb veggies you like (I think roasted red peppers would be amazing) and the pesto. I don’t bother cooking the zucchini.  I think it’s pretty good as is.

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9.  Cut up the chicken and toss into the pasta.  Then eat up!  I’m looking forward to having this for my lunch, probably for most of the week.

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Caramelized Onion and Kale Frittata

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This recipe turned out so well!  I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed eating kale so much.  And there is a large quantity of kale in this dish.

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FYI – My personal trainer tells me I should be eating as many cruciferous veggies as I can.  Definitely 3 meals a day.  So this recipe helps me do this!

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 sweet onions
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup 35% cream (if you want to go easy on the fat, you could substitute milk or cream of any fat percentage)
  • salt and pepper to taste

How-to:

1. Fry bacon on the stove top.  Make sure you leave the fat in the pan!  We’re gonna use that.  You should be sure to use a pan that will be the right size for your frittata because the entire process will be done in this pan.

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2. Once cooked to your liking (I like mine crispy), let the bacon chill out on some paper towel.

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3. Chop onions and add to bacon fat in pan.  Fry onions on medium heat.

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4. Stir the onions occasionally, but the idea here is to caramelize them.  It will probably take 10 minutes for the onions to get nice and brown and soft.

5. Meanwhile, take the ribs out of the kale and chop it all up.  Once onions are where we want them, add in the kale.  It will seem like an enormous amount of veggies in the pan.  This is a good thing!  And it will reduce as the kale wilts.

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6. Stir kale with onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until kale wilts and there’s enough room in the pan to add in the eggs.

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7. Run your fingers along each sprig of thyme to get the leaves off the stem.  Add to the veggie mixture.  Thyme really adds a lot to this dish and it smells so good while you’re cooking with it.  Add some salt and pepper at this point.

8.  Beat 8 eggs and 1/3 cup 35% cream in a bowl.  Add to your pan and quickly stir it around so that the eggs get mixed evenly with the veggies.  Once mixed, crumble the bacon and sprinkle evenly over the frittata.

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9. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  You’ll know it’s ready for the next step when the frittata starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to high (500 degrees).

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10. Put the pan and its contents under the broiler (top rack in the oven).  If you are unsure about how well your pan will do under the broiler, usually wrapping the handle in tin foil will do the trick.  I keep the oven door open during this step so that I can watch because it cooks quickly!  For me, I had it under the broiler for about 3 minutes – until it started to look nice and golden and set on top.

11.  Now this is the moment of truth: time to flip over the frittata.  If you can, it’s nice to use a spatula to loosen the frittata from the pan and slide it onto the plate.  If this isn’t working out so well, you can place a serving plate on top of the pan and flip.  And hope that it’s not going to stick.  Then you can flip it onto another plate so the up-side is up.  You want to see all that bacony goodness that’s on the top of this delicious dish.

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I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

P.S. I’ve been using eggs a lot this week.  They are definitely easy and quick, which is very useful when doing this kind of diet.  Nonetheless, I intend to switch it up for next time.  Stay tuned!

Mushroom and Kale Omelette

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So I took that same mushroom ragout from my low-carb toad in the hole and I made a delicious omelette! I might like it even better this way.  It’s a tough call.

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Start with a tsp of butter in a hot pan:

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In a bowl, beat 2 eggs with a tbsp 35% whipping cream.  Whipping cream is the dairy product with the least amount of sugar.  For a low-sugar diet, it is better than any other form of dairy.

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Pour it over the melted butter in the pan and let cook.

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I only cook my omelettes on one side.  I spend a bit of time in France and while there, I really began to enjoy eggs that are soft and gooey.  That is what I’m going for with this omelette.  If you like yours hard-cooked, then perhaps reduce the temperature and cook it for longer or put it under the broiler to finish it off.

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When it reaches the above colour/texture, that’s when I layer on that flavourful ragout from my previous recipe (warmed, of course).  Then I plate it, folding over one side of the egg.  Served with some greens with lemon and olive oil, it makes a delicious breakfast.  Enjoy!

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