Low Carb Lunch – Egg Avocado Salad

Egg Avocado Salad - Low Carb Lunch

Egg Avocado Salad – Low Carb Lunch

 

Low Carb Lunch Quandary

Lunch on a low carb or ketogenic diet is always tricky.  People are busy and it’s often a huge chore to make it out the door in the morning with a decent breakfast, let alone a pre-planned portable lunch.  It is getting easier to find low carb options in restaurants now (thankfully), but it is still questionable as to what is in the sauce, soup base or the salad dressing.

However, if your refrigerator is full of low carb or ketogenic ingredients, it really is not that hard to throw a bunch of them in a lunch bag and put them in the refrigerator when you get to work.  Easier still is to make this salad the night before or on the weekend and put it into portable containers to grab on your way out the door.  If you work at home, so much the better!  Busy stay-at-home parent?  This type of salad doubled and mixed up in a big bowl will cover you for days.

If you make your own hard boiled eggs on the weekend the taste is better, but I’ve been so busy lately that I just pick up peeled hard boiled eggs at the grocery store.  I know, kind of lazy, and they don’t taste as good, but I tend to get overly frustrated dealing with all those finicky eggshells.  Seems like one out of three eggs actually peels with anything close to ease.  I do have a method for hard boiling eggs that is considered “fool proof” and you can find it here.  If the eggs aren’t extremely fresh it works most of the time.

At any rate, I bought the peeled hard-boiled eggs from the grocery store and if you grab a couple of eggs, an avocado, a small container of sour cream and some paprika or hot spice, you can quickly make a great and filling salad for lunch.  Here’s the recipe, such as it is:

Egg & Avocado Salad Recipe for a Low Carb or Ketogenic Lunch:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 hard-boiled peeled eggs
  • 1 avocado, chopped or mashed
  • 2-4 Tbsp sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika or hot chile pepper spice

Directions:

  1.  Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss delicately until well combined.

There are a ton of additions you can make to this simple salad to enhance it or change it up.  Here are a few suggestions:

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Pepperonata & Heirloom Squash with Romesco Sauce

Heirloom squash with Romesco Sauce

Pepperonata & Heirloom squash with Romesco Sauce

What is Pepperonata?

Peperonata (peh-peh-roh-NAH-tah) is an Italian vegetable dish of slow-cooked, or stewed bell peppers with onion and garlic.  Of course there are variations and some Italian cooks will add tomatoes, eggplant, or other Italian vegetables.

We had the luxury of an extra long growing season in Minnesota this year, and I was able to harvest a boatload of different sweet and hot peppers, along with a bountiful harvest of heirloom squash.  It is always easiest to design a dinner around what is in your fridge (or in this case your garden), and the bright orange bell peppers and squash prompted me to think of an Italian fall dinner.  A little Italian Romesco sauce to spice it up a bit and you have a gorgeous feast rich with the beta carotene from the orange vegetables, and comfort food to the max.

The Basics of a Pepperonata

The simplest way to make Pepperonata is to cook 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 sliced onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 5 bell peppers that are quartered and of different colors and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the bell peppers are soft.

For my dinner I added some ground pork, some capers and a bit of anchovy paste.  I selected my favorite tasting heirloom squash, one called Buen Gusto De Horno.  Conveniently it played well with the Italian theme.  The Romesco Sauce is something that we sell online and it is a blend of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, almonds and spices.  It pairs perfectly with squash, as well as many other veggies and meats.

Recipe for Pepperonata & Heirloom Squash

Pepperonata Saute

Pepperonata Saute

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups assorted peppers, chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork (or ground hamburger)
  • 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovies, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • squash of choice, quartered

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet or saute pan over high heat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Add the peppers and onions to the skillet and saute, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft (about another 10 minutes).  While the peppers are cooking place the squash on a baking sheet in the oven.  Add the garlic and saute quickly being careful not to burn the garlic (only needs about 30 seconds).
  4. Add the ground pork and cook over medium heat until no longer pink. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the anchovies.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Check to see if squash is done by poking flesh with a fork and if it gives easily it is done.
  7. Serve topped with Romesco Sauce.

HeathGlen has included the spice mixes used in this recipe, along with a jam, a beverage syrup, and a Romesco sauce in our 2016 holiday gift box.

I will post the list of products, prices and options in the 2016 Holiday Gift Boxes by November 15th, 2016.   Please visit our website for details on the Holiday Boxes or sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay apprised of recipes, specials and upcoming events.

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Chile Mocha Mexican Coffee – Low Carb Style

Chile Mocha Mexican Coffee

Chile Mocha Mexican Coffee

Coffee drinks are my beverage of choice whether it be a classic Irish coffee at the restaurant, a fresh brewed light roast coffee in the morning, a Pumpkin Spice coffee during the fall, or an Affogato dessert drowned in great espresso.  I love them all, and am something of a fanatic.  So, as I was putting together the holiday gift boxes for winter I wanted to make a special coffee drink that included the smoked chile peppers from our farm.

The Spice Mix for the Chili Mocha Mexican Coffee

We had a bumper crop of chile peppers this year and spent all fall harvesting drying and smoking them.  The smoked peppers are the most intriguing to me and this year they included Chipotles (smoked Jalapenos), Anchos (smoked Poblanos) and Pasilla (smoked Pasilla).

When I heard that Starbucks was offering a Chile Mocha Coffee, I rushed down to try one out, only to be sorely disappointed.  No heat!  I was anticipating a spicy, chocolaty rich coffee topped with a spicy whipped cream.  I asked the barista what was going on and they said really there was just a little spice on the top, but mostly it was a coffee mocha.  Harrumph!

So, as I was putting together the spice mixes for the boxes, I used the mocha coffee as a test for how hot and how smoky to make the “hot and smoky” mix.  I thought if it could stand up to the strong flavors of chocolate and coffee and still provide a spicy depth, it would work with just about anything that needed that kind of complexity.

Ingredients of the Spice Mix

Our “hot and smoky” spice mix includes dried and smoked Chipotles, smoked Ancho, smoked Pasilla peppers, dried Sweet Banana peppers, toasted Cumin, and Cinnamon.  The mix of these smoky hot peppers make a spice mix that is adaptable to adding to stews, sauces, chile, salsas, and…to coffee drinks!

How to Make a Chile Mocha Mexican Coffee

This recipe makes a coffee drink that is what I would consider “medium” hot.  If you prefer a drink with more intense heat, just add more of the spice mix.

Directions:

  1. Mix together 1-2 tsp of the Hot & Smoky Spice Mix with 1-2 tsp powdered cocoa, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2-3 tsp sugar (use Truvia if making a low carb drink) and a pinch of salt.
  2. Add 1 tsp of the pepper/cocoa mix to a cup of hot coffee, stir and top with whipped cream.  Garnish with cinnamon or more of the spice mix.

For a “spirited” Chile Mocha Mexican Coffee, add a shot of brandy or a shot of Irish Whiskey.  Perfect!

The spice mix (along with several other spice mixes and HeathGlen products) will be available in the Holiday Gift boxes, which should be available at our website by November 15th.

You can also pick up some spice mixes individually at several of the winter farmers’ markets.  The best way to keep in touch on the farmers markets and event locations and times is to sign up for our weekly newsletter either on the sidebar of this blog or at our website.

Cheers!

 

 

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Hoppin John for a Low Carb (and lucky) New Years Day

Hoppin John - Slow Carb for New Years

Hoppin John – Slow Carb for New Years

Hoppin John is a classic southern dish traditionally served on New Years Day to encourage good fortune and wealth throughout the upcoming year.  Well, good fortune is certainly yours during dinner as you savor this delicious stew!

Thought to have originated in the Carolinas, most historians agree that Hoppin John is an American dish with African/French/Caribbean roots.  But just what is Hoppin John anyway, and why the crazy name?  Read on….

What goes in a dish of Hoppin John?

Southern cooks have come up with many variations of this traditional dish, but they all share three main ingredients: black-eyed peas, smokey pork (often bacon), and some kind of heat.   Rice is often added to Hoppin John, but I have excluded it in my recipe for two reasons:

  1. Most of the recipes I post (since 2014 anyway) are low carb or slow carb.  Rice is not part of a low carb diet (and you won’t miss it in this dish).
  2. From a flavor/texture standpoint, the addition of rice to Hoppin John often makes for a mushy mound of rice and black-eyed peas that is not at all appealing.

Collard greens (and corn bread) are usually part of this traditional New Years meal.  Some cooks serve the collard greens as a side and some add them right to the pot.  For ease and quickness, my version adds the collard greens to the pot.  I’m a big fan of one-pot meals, both for the blending of flavors and for the easy clean up.

How did Hoppin John Get its Name?

Theories abound regarding how this dish got its quirky name.  The most popular theories include:

  • It was the custom for children to gather in the dining room as the dish was brought forth and hop around the table before sitting down to eat.
  • A man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife took the dish from the stove.
  • An obscure South Carolina custom was inviting a guest to eat by saying, “Hop in, John”
  • It was hawked in the streets of Charleston, South Carolina by a crippled black man who was known as Hoppin’ John,
  • And the most boring theory is that Hoppin’ John is a corruption of the French phrase pois à pigeon, meaning “pigeon peas.”

I’m going with the greeting of a guest saying “Hop in, John”.

Superstitions about the “Good Luck” part of Hoppin’ John

Then there is the symbolism of the ingredients.  It is said that financial good luck is represented by the collard greens, as they are the “greenbacks”.  The black-eyed peas are supposed to represent coins,  and if you add tomatoes to the dish then you have added the additional good luck of health in the New Year.

One custom that I liked is to bury a shiny dime among the black-eyed peas before serving.  Whoever gets the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the whole year.

Another tradition in some parts of the South is that you count the number of peas in your serving to predict the amount of wealth you will have for the coming year.

And finally, if you leave three (3) peas on your plate when you are finished eating, then your New Year will be filled with luck, wealth, AND romance.

I love trying out classic dishes with a background of tradition, especially if they taste good.  And this one does.  No mushy mound of rice and peas here!

Recipe for Hoppin John – Slow Carb Style

I used both ham hocks and bacon in my recipe, a recipe which was inspired by Emeril, the king of southern cooking in my mind.  The ham hocks were simmered in the stew to add flavor and fat, and the bacon was added at the end for some crispness on top of the stew.  In my version, the paprika spice mix and the smoked chipotle spice mix from HeathGlen’s Kitchen brought the heat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 ham hocks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup bell peppers, chopped (orange or red if available)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 tsp each of dried thyme, cumin, smoked paprika or smoked chipotle spice, and cayenne
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch collard greens, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 cans (14 oz) of black-eyed peas
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • bacon (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 min.
  2. Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic, cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Add the stock and seasonings, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 30 min or longer
  4. Add collard greens, peas and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  5. Fry up bacon and add as a garnish to the stew.  I also added more bacon the next day because we ate the ham hocks but there was still stew left.

The Heat:

HeathGlen has included the spice mixes used in this recipe, along with a jam, a beverage syrup, and a Romesco sauce in our 2016 holiday gift box.  I will post the list of products, prices and options in the 2016 Holiday Gift Boxes by November 13th, 2016.   Please visit our website for details on the Holiday Boxes or sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay apprised of recipes, specials and upcoming events.

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Chicken Paprikash – Keto & Low Carb Friendly

chicken-paprikash keto friendly

chicken-paprikash; a keto friendly dish

Chicken Paprikash is one of those comfort foods that is uncomplicated and unpretentious, yet is full of the legendary flavor that has made it a classic.  In other words, it’s easy to make and outstanding in taste!

What is Paprika anyway?

The distinguishing ingredient of Chicken Paprikash is, of course, paprika, most typically sweet Hungarian Paprika.  I did an extensive search trying to figure out if there was a particular pepper variety that was the essence of paprika and found that the definition was very nuanced and a “true” paprika was not going to be readily defined.  Partly because of this wide-ranging definition I decided to test out a few different blends with our own homegrown peppers.

Paprika, even more so than other spices, loses its flavor quickly over time and deteriorates into a bitter ground spice.  If you don’t want to dry, smoke or grind fresh peppers that you get at the farmers market or grocery store, get the freshest sweet Hungarian paprika you can find.  (*note:  we will be sending out some dried and smoked peppers in our Christmas boxes if you want to make your own.)

Blending Peppers for a Homegrown Paprika

Since I had a bumper crop of peppers this year, I had the luxury of experimenting with making different kinds of paprika.  We dried and smoked most of our pepper crop,  ground the dried peppers in a coffee grinder, and then began mixing different pepper varieties into some unique and remarkable paprikas.

First up was a sweet paprika made with sweet banana peppers and the ruby red Lipstick sweet pepper variety.  Next we tried  a semi-hot paprika made with sweet bell peppers and medium hot Anaheim-type of peppers.  The third test was a very hot paprika made with a Thai type of chile pepper called Gong Bao and a bit of Habanero.  The final paprika we tried was a smoked variety made with Pasilla peppers and smoked Anaheims (Joe Parker to be specific).

In Hungary, where paprika is the national spice, it is divided into eight grades, each one with its own unique characteristics. The one that’s most commonly found in the US is a full-bodied, fruity paprika, and I therefore opted for a sweeter blend in this recipe, trying to stay as loyal to the classic dish as possible.  I do like a bit of spice so I used the semi-hot sweet blend that we made from the bell peppers and the Anaheims.  It had a touch of heat, but nothing that would turn away those with sensitive palates.

Cooking Notes for Chicken Paprikash

You can be quite generous with the paprika, depending on your taste, but make sure and saute it to release its full bouquet of aromas.

Be a little careful if you add cold sour cream to a hot liquid or it will curdle.  Either bring the sour cream to room temperature or add it to the hot liquid slowly.

 

Chicken Paprikash with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (can use legs also)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Hungarian paprika (or paprika of your choice)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (can use heavy cream as alternative)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat.  Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 min per side; remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter in the skillet.  Add garlic and paprika and cook quickly until fragrant, stirring constantly.  Stir in chicken broth, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Turn heat to medium low and stir in sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan, thyme, oregano and sour cream or heavy cream.  (add sour cream slowly)
  5. Bring everything to a simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring to combine.  Return chicken to the skillet and nestle into the sauce.
  6. Place into oven and roast until completely cooked through reaching an internal temperature of 175 degrees F, about 25-30 min.

Garnish with strips of fresh basil if you want to be fancy.

This dish is traditionally served with dumplings, egg noodles or potatoes, but if you are on a low carb diet, it is a great dish just served up in a bowl sans carbs!

HeathGlen has included the sun dried tomatoes used in this recipe, along with a jam, a beverage syrup, and a Romesco sauce in our 2016 holiday gift box.

I will post the list of products, prices and options in the 2016 Holiday Gift Boxes by November 15th, 2016.   Please visit our website for details on the Holiday Boxes or sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay apprised of recipes, specials and upcoming events.

 

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