Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Parmesan Crisps

Being on a grain-free diet, the one thing I miss is having my “cheese and crackers” in the afternoons when I get home from work. Or I like to have it to munch on with a glass of wine, as I’m making dinner on weekends. I can still have the cheese, but the cracker part is certainly out.

I was pining away at my lack of crackers, feeling sorry for myself,  when I recently read about Parmesan Crisps. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made them sooner. They are ridiculously easy to make and if you’re a fiend for Parmesan cheese, as I am, you will absolutely LOVE these.

Although crackers are “out”, I find that these little Parmesan Crisps have actually taken the place of the cracker! Brilliant. Problem solved. Eat them as is, or pile something on top of them. More on that later. Let’s make these things.

Parmesan Crisps

Parmesan cheese, grated

That’s it!

Ok, so you could add some more things to it, if you wanted to. Like dried basil, black pepper, or red chili flakes for those of you who like things a little spicy.

And then here’s what you do:
Take a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. No need to grease anything. There’s enough fat in the cheese, after all. Get a teaspoon and pile a small mound of grated Parmesan cheese on the paper, as if they were little mounds of cookie dough. No need to flatten them - they will melt into a nice little round on their own.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 10-12 minutes. At the 8 minute mark, start looking in on them every minute or so. Your oven may run cold or it may run hot so we don’t want them to undercook or burn. In my oven, I find 10-11 minutes works best. Allow them to cool on the tray.

I like to eat them with a slice of roasted red pepper on top, or with a little piece of tomato.

You can also, as they are melting and before they get too stiff (so maybe at minute 8-9), take them out of the oven and drape them over a handle of some kitchen utensil to make a pretty Parmesan Roll. These would look nice in a salad or alongside a wintry soup.

If you make them large enough, you can can drape them over the bottom end of a mug or a Mason jar to shape them into a bowl as they are cooling. They make a delicate little basket in which you can serve a small salad or something.

I have yet to make these fancy shapes. For now, I am content to eat them as “crackers”. I do have a tendency to eat a few too many at one time. They are just so darn good. Hope you enjoy them as well.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pizza by any other name...

When you first start any kind of elimination diet, the first thing you think about is all the foods you have to give up. You’re disappointed and think you’re going to have to eat the same 5 things over and over again. Fortunately, once you get over that initial bump, you realize that all you need to do is be a little creative. And there’s always the Internet!

When I started SCD, I was excited to learn there was a pizza crust alternative to conventional dough. Cauliflower crusts were all the rage, and all over Pinterest, as many people were embracing a gluten-free diet or were Low Carb. While it is a good option (I just shared a blog post about it!), making a cauliflower crust is pretty labor-intensive. It’s really critical to squeeze as much moisture out of your dough as possible, or it won’t crisp up. Soggy pizza crust is no fun! (Actually, one way around this problem is to reduce the amount of cauliflower a bit and add some coconut flour, which is a great moisture absorber).

However, to make life even easier and more flavorful, I’ve moved past cauliflower and have embraced THE MEATZA. Yes, meat as the base. Think of it as a true Meat Lovers Pizza. It’s so much easier to prepare, provides enough filling protein for the dish, and can just get piled on with vegetables and cheese. Voila. You’re done in less than 30 minutes.


1 (1 lb) package ground chicken, turkey or beef
Olive oil
1 tsp each of your favorite Italian seasonings: oregano, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper, garlic and onion powders, for instance
Pizza sauce
Assorted fresh vegetables and typical pizza toppings you like
Cheese of your choice


Mix meat and herbs well, with your hands, to incorporate the seasonings. Grab a 9x12 lasagne pan or sheet pan, and grease with a very thin layer of oil. Press the meat down to a thickness of about 1/2”.

Bake in a 350 F. oven for 10-15 minutes. Drain the liquid from the pan and perhaps dab a little with a paper towel to get more liquid off the top. Spread on your pizza sauce and add some cheese. Add whatever vegetables your heart desires and the rest of the cheese and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. For the last few minutes you could place it under the broiler if you like.

I pile on a mountain of fresh spinach, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms and olives and maybe some red bell pepper rings that I sauté a little ahead of time because I don’t like mine raw on the pizza. I actually do the same thing with the mushrooms. I use a sugar-free pizza sauce and Jack cheese.


Monday, May 15, 2017

What is “real” Chili, anyway?

There has been much debate over what constitutes real chili for about as long as there’s been chili. Officially, it’s called “Chili con Carne” which refers to the peppers, and “carne” (which is Español for meat) so it’s probably safe to assume that’s how the dish started, as simply chilis and meat.

But chili aficionados continue to debate if it should it be all beef, or if it's okay that it contains beans? What about vegetarian chili - can we really even call that chili? And what about all those other versions out there? While beans have been associated with chili as far back as the early 20th Century, they have been a matter of contention among chili cooks for a long time. While it is generally accepted that the earliest chilis did NOT include beans, proponents of their inclusion contend that chili with beans has a long enough history so as to not be considered “inauthentic”.  Tomatoes are another ingredient on which opinions differ. Some would even argue that no vegetable belongs in chili at all. Frankly I think tomatoes are essential.

So where did this thing called chili come from? There’s this cuisine in the American Southwest called TexMex and many people think “Chili con Carne" has some connection to Mexico, probably because of the Spanish-sounding name. But according to this website, there is nothing Mexican about chili. If there is any doubt about what the Mexicans think about it, the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili (roughly translated) as: “detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the United States from Texas to New York.” Wow!

Chili con carne actually hails from Texas and seems to have first appeared in a recipe dating back to the 1850’s. This version was made into a dried brick that could be reconstituted in pots out on the trail. The San Antonio Chili Stand, in operation at the 1893 Expo in Chicago, helped popularize chili by allowing a greater number of people to appreciate its taste. San Antonio (Texas) was a tourist destination and helped Texas-style chili con carne spread throughout the South and West. In fact, chili con carne became the official dish of the State of Texas in 1977.

Before WWII, hundreds of small, family-run chili parlors could be found throughout Texas and other states, with each establishment claiming to some kind of secret recipe. And there are countless recipes for this stew containing a broad range of ingredients: ground turkey or chicken, of course beef stew meat, vegetarian soy crumbles, Italian sausage, kidney beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, red or green bell peppers, spices like chili powder, and of course then there’s the chilis themselves: hatch, jalapeños, habaneros or serranos, depending on the level of heat you prefer.

Like most people, I’ve had it lots of different ways. But lately, I’ve been interested in eating it more authentically Texan, using beef stew meat, adding some spices to flavor it, and a mild degree of heat so I can still breathe! Beans don’t really agree with me anymore, so I’ve had to adjust my chili.

Here’s a beef chili I’ve made a few times that we really like. It’s adapted from Danielle Walker’s “Against all Grain” cookbook. She adds chocolate to hers (as in unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 oz) but I didn’t find it added much to the stew and have since decided to leave it out. If you want, give it a try, but don’t add it until the very end.

The slow cooker is essential for this one, but to add flavor to the dish, you should brown the meat beforehand. The rest happens while you’re at work. You need the slow cooker for stewing beef, or beef chuck, because the longer cooking time really helps break down the muscle fibers and tenderizes the meat, making it fall-apart tender when you eat it.

Slow-Cooker Beef Chili

2 tsp coconut oil
2-1/2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion
1 28-oz box or jar of chopped organic tomatoes
1-1/2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2-1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
3 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, red or green onion

Place the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the meat and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes. The meat doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through - it will get cooked in the slow cooker. For now, all you want to focus on is getting a little color on the meat, to add flavor.

Drain half the fat off, the pour the remaining fat and meat into the slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and cook 6 hours on low. At the end adjust the salt to taste (here’s where you’d add the chocolate, too).

Serve garnished with cilantro and finely chopped red onion, or green onion if you better tolerate that.

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