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Friday, 20 March 2015
Skillet Pizza Casserole -low carb!
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

Country Skillet Pizza Casserole

(did I mention it's very low carb?)


I am infatuated with my cast iron skillet.

It's not one of those over-priced imported culinary instruments from afar.

Mine is the “best” size--10.5 inches--and is “Made in the USA.”

Definitely old school.

I think I purchased it at Walmart for under $20 and it will last me forever.

A cast iron skillet is the perfect skillet to sear meats, then finish in the oven to correct internal heat, while still retaining the “pink” insides and “seared” outsides. Miraculous! If you need a gift idea for those cooks in your life, then buy them a cast iron skillet.

Using a cast iron skillet is also the cool way to make those Skillet Meals. You know what I'm talking about. The “Skillet Breakfasts” you see on the menus in restaurants are very popular. We know it's no longer recommended to eat uncooked yolks in restaurants or even at home--unless you know the eggs have been pasteurized. Making a skillet of assorted vegetables, cooked sausage, and scrambled eggs is a savory way to eat scrambled eggs in a new form.

But most skillet food recipes still have too many carbs. If you think about it, though, you can reduce those carbs while retaining all the savory goodness.

Here's a savory skillet meal to inspire your own creativity. It's one that incorporates our favorite food flavors of all time—PIZZA! Doesn't this sound good for a Saturday night spread with a great movie?

Pizza Casserole in a Cast Iron Skillet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a 10 ½ inch CAST IRON skillet, brown 2 lb ground beef thoroughly (grassfed is ALWAYS preferred).

Drain excess grease off.

Now build yourself a “pizza.”

Using a heat resistant large spoon, press the beef against the botttom and side like a shallow bowl.

Add- 1 cup of spicy pasta sauce (read the labels for a low carb version or make your own from 1 cup tomato sauce and plenty of seasoning).

Spead sauce over entire base of beef.

Add 6 oz shredded Italian cheese.

Add your favorite toppings. In this picture, I used finely chopped Portabello mushrooms, onion, and chopped kale. (But next time, I plan to use cooked and thoroughly drained chopped spinach and mushrooms. All pizza toppings are fair game!)

Add a little extra fresh herbs and grated hard cheese, to taste.

Now transfer the skillet to the oven for 30-40 minutes until completely baked.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest about 5-10 minutes. Slice into 4 servings and use a large spatula to lift into personal bowls. Accompany with additional cooked vegetables or a salad!


 

 


Posted by Karen at 18:45 CDT
Updated: Friday, 20 March 2015 18:57 CDT
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Friday, 13 March 2015
Sophisticated Low Carb
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

Sophisticated Low Carbohydrate


It will come as no surprise that we all put on a few extra pounds during the Winter months. And, for me, there is only one way to lose weight—that is, to severely carbohydrate restrict my eating habits.

It's hard to do, no question. I was recently at the grocery store, reading labels on everything before the item went into my cart. Unfortunately, the carbohydrate counts have started drifting upwards again. The cereals, even “hearty whole grains,” are ridiculously high in total carbohydrates. And for weight loss, there is no differentiation between sugars and starches. The only subtraction from total carbohydrates you can make is grams of FIBER. Otherwise, every gram of carbohydrate is fair game for counting.

And it makes sense when you think about it. Starches break down into simple sugars. Sugars are utilized as energy, but if you're not burning them then they are stored as fats. And excess circulating sugars can also link onto free amino acids of tissue proteins. Diabetics are familiar with this phenomenon as it is reflected in their hemoglobin A1C. This protein glycosylation—involving sugars of all types, not just glucose—is interesting in multiple disease formation and especially the end-organ complications of diabetes.

So- excessive carbs are bad for us. Yet they are very satisfying to eat and we often refer to foods containing them as “comfort foods.” We need to re-educate ourselves and think about making our low carb foods more savory so we will enjoy them with as much zeal.

Doesn't that brunch/lunch plate look terrific? We have a baked salmon patty and wilted kale with a generous drizzle of lemon-garlic-dill aioli and a lovely easy over egg with freshly ground black pepper. You can choose other sauces for your intense savory addition—how about a very quickly made mayonnaise to which you can add some lemon juice, dillweed, finely chopped onion, salt and pepper? If no time, then open a bottle of quality Cesear's salad dressing (read the label for low carb)

The key is to intensify the flavors of otherwise somewhat bland foods—like fish and kale leaves.

Here's how I made the Seriously low carb Salmon Patties.

Combine in a bowl:

One 14.75 oz can Red Salmon, drained

1 large egg

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

  2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

Divide the mixture in the bowl, into 4 patty-equivalents.

Crush 4 Water crackers, finely, and place on a saucer. That will give you all of 3 carbs per patty.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Now heat your cast iron skillet with a little olive oil on a medium high heat.

Using your clean hands, take ¼ of the salmon mixture , form a patty and lightly pat it into your cracker dust. Place patty into the heated skillet. With no binders except egg, this is a delicate patty so keep coaxing it into shape with a heat resistant spatula. Repeat until all four patties are in the skillet. Sear the bottoms of the patties until they are somewhat browned, then flip and do the same on the other side.

 

Then, put the cast iron skillet into the oven and bake about 30 minutes. The patties will firm up and cook through . Note: Make sure you are wearing oven mitts or using a heavy pot holder when you are touching the handle of the cast iron skillet.

 

 

Don't forget to plate with some greens and an egg or two-- like you see in the picture above. And be sure to add a very savory sauce to the salmon patties and side veggies and pepper up that egg. 

 

Refrigerate covered, leftover patties promptly and they will microwave for a similar meal if used within the next four days!

 

 


Posted by Karen at 17:45 CDT
Updated: Friday, 13 March 2015 17:54 CDT
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Friday, 6 March 2015
Split Pea Soup
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

It's March , but the weather still says Winter—and that usually inspires soup.

If you haven't made that pot of split pea soup you saved the leftover ham for, this could be one of your weekends to do so. (Not being food-wasters, I know you put aside some slices of holiday ham into the freezer!)

So here's a recipe for Split Pea Soup, which I've changed a little to incorporate the multi-colored fingerling potatoes I had available. You likely have everything in the house, and that ham is in the freezer! I've also included some food safety points in the instructions.

Split Pea Soup

2 cups diced pre-cooked ham

4-6 fingerling potatoes, diced

4 carrots, cut up

1 stalk celery, chopped

½ small onion, chopped

1 lb.dried split peas

1 tsp dried soup blend herbs (basil, parsley, thyme)

1 tsp. salt

freshly ground pepper

8-10 cups of water

 

Take the diced ham directly from the freezer and “defrost” while cooking over medium heat in the heavy soup pot, in a bit of olive oil. If slices of ham were frozen, then cut first into smaller pieces from the frozen state with a heavy knife. Either way, the point is to bring previously cooked foods to HOT as quickly as possible- technically to 165 degrees F.

Next, you can add the vegetables and additional olive oil, toss and heat through.

Rinse and sort the dried split peas (the point here is to make sure there are no errant stones or physical contamination of the peas).

Add the peas and water and seasonings to the pot.

Bring to boil, then back the heat down to simmer and cover. Simmer for about an hour, stirring periodically to prevent vegetables and ham from sticking to the bottom. After an hour remove the cover and simmer additional hour, until the peas are very soft . Use a heat stable spoon and break-up the softened peas against the side of the pot, while stirring. Alternatively you can run the immersion blender for a couple of pulses. If you desire completely pureed soup, then continue with the immersion blender. Add more water if too thick for your tastes. Adjust seasonings as desired.


 

 


 

 


Posted by Karen at 14:04 CST
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Sunday, 22 February 2015
Apocolyptic Winter?
Topic: Recipes

Apocolyptic Winter

Well, if not actually apocolyptic, at least it has been momentous for most of the country. Rarely have we seen a Winter where people couldn't escape South or West to find some relief. Yet this year, every part of the country seems to have been affected by miserably cold, and often dangerous, weather.

It strikes me that maybe people in some areas of the country, who would never think of making a hardcore beef stew, just might, this year!

So, I am facing subzero weather tonight (again) and here's what's cooking: Beer Beef Stew. Caution-this is rich and intense!

Beer Beef Stew

Saute 4 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/2” strips, in a Dutch Oven, until cooked through.

Add 4 carrots, cut up, 2 stalks of celery diced, 4 small red potatoes, cut up.

Add additional olive oil to saute these vegetables with the bacon, if needed.

Add 1 packet of Lipton's (or equivalent) Beefy Onion or Onion Soup.

Thoroughly mix, heat through, then remove all ingredients to a large bowl.

Next: Toss ¼ cup flour, salt and freshly ground black pepper, with 2 lbs. beef stew meat.(grassfed beef is always preferred!)

Add the stew meat to the Dutch Oven with extra olive oil, if needed and brown the beef cubes on all sides.

Season with 1 tsp. dried Italian Herb blend.

Stir in 1 bottle of beer (your choice, dark or light—I had a bottle of Blue Moon in the refrigerator so that's what went into mine)

Add 1 can (14.5-16 oz) Petite diced tomatoes with the juice.

Add 1 tsp. Gravy Master.

Bring to a boil, stirring everything together, making sure to stir up any crusting on the bottom of your Dutch oven, then reduce heat to simmer. You should be seeing a nice rich gravy.

Add back your bowl of seasoned vegetables and bacon, toss in a couple of fresh Rosemary sprigs, or fresh parsley, if available--cover and simmer about 90 minutes until beef is thoroughly tender. Stir periodically to prevent sticking and make sure that you are cooking on lowest setting with the cover on.

In the last 20 minutes of cooking, add additional green vegetables—I've used ½ cup chopped frozen spinach and 10 oz. frozen green beans, but green peas or other greens are also good ideas.

This is a very rich beef stew so be prepared for a lot of flavors—it might be the one time you think a fresh baguette to accompany dinner sounds like a good idea—and you are burning those carbs and calories with all the snow shoveling, aren't you?


Posted by Karen at 13:49 CST
Updated: Sunday, 22 February 2015 13:56 CST
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Saturday, 14 February 2015
More Heart Healthy Food
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

In keeping with February's Heart Month, I am posting another recipe that is a family-pleaser yet is very low in saturated fat: Ground Turkey Meatloaf!

You know that we raise grassfed beef cattle and that ground beef is also lower in saturated fats and  higher in "heart-healthy" fats, but it's not readily available in all markets. This week, ground turkey seems to be on sale everywhere! Look for the 95% Lean ground Turkey and organic if possible.

I've also tried to make this recipe lower in sodium by omitting worchestershire sauce and adding herbs for flavor enhancement, lower in carbohydrates by using plain tomato sauce instead of a traditional processed catsup or BBQ sauce addition, higher in natural sources of vitamins by sneaking in finely chopped vegetables. All of these things may seem small but if you are on any restriction, they add up in the course of a day. I encourage you to look at your traditional recipes and you'll find there are often ways to improve the "healthiness", without sacrificing the convenience in preps. 

Ground Turkey Meatloaf

1 pkg. (20 0z.) lean ground turkey (95% lean, if possible)

1/4 cup bread crumbs

4 oz. plain tomato sauce 

1 large egg

1/2 red, yellow or green pepper, diced (smart you- you keep frozen strips already in the freezer, saved from last Summer!)

1/2 cup finely chopped spinach or kale leaves

1/2 small onion, finely chopped 

finely chopped fresh parsley, dried or fresh thyme leaves, freshly ground black pepper, salt

Here's a photo of the deconstructed meatloaf before mixing together. Mix these ingredients and form into a meatloaf.

Then ready to go in the oven--note: I decided to drizzle a little more tomato here, it's really a small amount of catsup when "drizzled"! And you can omit it too, but don't put any on the table when you serve--that's where people tend to overuse.  Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

And finally, plated for serving. This will make 4 servings of 5 oz ground turkey each, perfect for any diet. 

Lots more colorful veggies included--a small serving of scalloped potatoes, large serving of steamed Kale with cooked carrots and cannellini beans. I put about 4-6 oz water and about 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in a large skillet, brought to simmer, then added a 1/2 bag of triple washed kale greens, cooking down until wilted (add more lemon water, if needed). Toss in some chopped garlic with the cooked greens. I cooked the carrots separately, then added them to the kale after greens were wilted and tender, and finally stirred in one can of rinsed and drained cannellini beans. Extra lemon juice and ground pepper to taste.

 

 

 


Posted by Karen at 08:40 CST
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2015 18:27 CST
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Saturday, 7 February 2015
The "Heart Healthy" Label
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

A Quick Recipe can be made healthier by taking a closer look at the labels of the foods you buy.

Today I would like you to focus on a new label placed on some processed foods—this one is from the American Heart Association, is called "Heart Healthy" and is intended to point out foods that promote their healthy diets.

“Risky foods” for people include high sodium (high salt) processed foods and those containing high cholesterol, any trans fats and high saturated fats. So, a new label you may see is the “Heart Healthy” label to promote those foods lower in sodium and saturated fat.

The Crockpot Chicken Stew I am making has this label on the skinless chicken thighs, pointing out it is a food low in saturated fats and has no trans fats.

And the American Heart Association Heart Healthy label is also on the can of lower sodium Cream of Chicken soup that I am using.This time it's because of lower sodium content.

The regular Cream of Chicken soup by the same company has twice the sodium of the can shown. People with hypertension and heart failure certainly need to be aware of the sodium content in their diet. But it's important to note that most processed foods still contain higher sodium than what people without blood pressure or heart problems need, too!

Salt is often added for flavor, but we can easily improve the flavor of our homemade foods with the addition of herbs, not more salt! So, if you are making a crockpot stew using a processed soup, consider looking for low sodium options, never add more salt, instead making sure you add dried or fresh herbs. In this chicken stew—the addition of thyme and/or rosemary would be a great choice, along with ground pepper.

 


 

Quick Crockpot Chicken Stew

4 servings

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs- cut up into 1” pieces

2 large carrots, cut into 1” chunks

2 large stalks of celery, diced

1 potato, diced 

½ small onion, diced

Place above into a lightly oiled crockpot.

Add 1 can of undiluted “Heart Healthy” Cream of Chicken Soup and stir in.

Add 1/2 cup of frozen chopped spinach or kale.

Add freshly ground pepper and extra dried or fresh thyme leaves or chopped fresh rosemary leaves.

Cook on “low” setting for 8 hours.

Last hour, stir in 3/4 cup of frozen peas and –if you want, and carb counting allows—place 4 small frozen potato dumplings on top. Cover, put on “high” setting until the dumplings are cooked. 


 

 


Posted by Karen at 08:28 CST
Updated: Saturday, 7 February 2015 09:48 CST
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Sunday, 1 February 2015
Quiche !
Topic: Recipes

Busy, busy, busy...right?

It's time to do an annual review of a classic dish, with a spin. I am reminding you about both the simplicity and elegance of a quiche. This versatile dish can be served as breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or appetizer.

It can be as complicated as making a homemade crust in a specialized quiche pan, with imported cheses and multi-prep of additional fillings. 

Or--you can use a premade, frozen 9" deep dish pie crust and scrounge the refrigerator and freezer and find great additions with minimal prep time.

My quiche today is the latter. I wanted a quiche available in the refrigerator, from which I could take slices and microwave as a substantive breakfast/brunch in between shoveling snow! And, all the ingredients were right in my refrigerator and freezer!

Spinach- Spicy Sausage-Cheddar Quiche 

Defrost a 9" deep dish piecrust. Crimp up the pastry lip around the edge of the pan. (see photo). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, crack 4 eggs and measure milk to make 1 and 1/2 cup total volume. Put this into a mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. ( you'll remember that this is basic quiche and you can now add any additions you'd like to)

Put the picresut on a baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil underneath, just in case it cooks over (it shouldn't, but "just in case") 

 Add 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach to the egg mixture. 

Cook 3 Spicy sausage patties in the microwave as directed. Cool and dice them up  Add to the mixture.

Add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese to the egg mixture.

Add 1 Tbsp. minced onion.

Add freshly ground pepper or dash of nutmeg to taste. 

Pour this mixture into the piecrust.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until eggs are fully set.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Karen at 10:01 CST
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2015 10:03 CST
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Wednesday, 31 December 2014
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015
Topic: Entertaining/Party
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015 !!!
I had to go into the recipe collection for this re-post from January 2013-- because I want to make Hoppin'John for tomorrow's Brunch.
 
It just isn't New Year's Day without blackeyed peas and ham somewhere on the menu. For years, I'd make a crockpot-full for the Emergency Department while we worked the day shift on New Year's Day. But then I was introduced to blackeyed peas and ham in the wonderful recipe for Hoppin' John and I was a convert.
 
And Joe Spake's recipe for Hoppin' John is the best one to repeat!
 
Of course, eating blackeyed peas-and-ham is a southern tradition...and I've seen recipes for this without ham for vegetarians...same seasonings but add liquid smoke. And I've done this recipe with lentils and basmati rice and Indian seasonings, so traditions can be bent! Seasonings can be adjusted, new traditions made--after all, it's a New Year! 
 
Here's the re-post from January 2013: 

My good buddy, Joe Spake “the finest realtor in Memphis”-- has always been very liberal about sharing his wonderful recipes. I am including his very Southern recipe for “Hoppin' John” below. This is a “must do” for January—start the new year off right!Joe will tell you to serve over rice with cornbread!

Joe’s Hoppin’ John

Ingredients-
1 pound dry black eyed peas
1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 can minced tomatoes and peppers (like Rotel®)
2 tsp Dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbs minced Garlic
2 tsp (or more) powdered Cajun seasoning (I like Konriko)
Tabasco Sauce to taste
4-6 cups cooked rice.

Wash and sort peas and soak in 8 cups of water for 8 hours, and pour off soaking water. Boil hamhock for 20 minutes. In a stock pot add all ingredients, except rice; stir, and add enough water to cover the mixture. Bring to a slow boil and cook 45 minutes, then simmer for another 30 minutes. [Note: I was taught as a child to cook until the peas literally fell apart- if you like the texture of refried beans, cook it longer than instructed.] When peas are tender, check seasons for your taste. Serve over rice, or mix in rice just before serving.

 

Now,of course I had to make Hoppin' John after reading his recipe and reading the accolades on his blog and FB page.

 

But—as usually happens—I had to modify to accommodate what I had in my pantry—and adapt a tad to my taste profile. So, here's what I ACTUALLY used.

Karen' s Hoppin' John

½ lb. Black-eyed peas, soaked overnight—Rinse, drain and then simmer in 1 quart of chicken broth with 1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilis and the juice. Simmer with the lid on for a total of 2 hours. Add the ingredients below as you get them prepped.

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning blend, 1/4 (or more!) tsp cayenne pepper

½ onion, chopped, 4 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 bell green pepper, chopped, 3 stalks of celery and the leaves, chopped fine: Cook together in olive oil until soft Add to the pot.

Chop about 1 lb of precooked or leftover ham, add to pot.

When all this has simmered together, then serve over cooked, brown rice.

 

 

 


Posted by Karen at 10:34 CST
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Salute! To your Health!
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

This is what we're looking at this Holiday Season:

 Widespread Influenza Activity 

throughout most of the US. 

It's up to you to protect yourself and your family.Likely everyone has gotten their flu shot, but it doesn't appear to be completely protective this year. So, don't let your guard down. Continue to practice good health habits and keep your immunity at peak performance. Simple things help!

There are other commonsense things to keep you healthy:

I am stressing eating a balanced diet because we often neglect home food preparation when we are rushing around with holiday-related activities and shopping. We cheat ourselves by making easy choices for dinner, over-eating carbohydrates usually and missing balanced nutrtion.

Here's a couple of good ideas to stay on track between the holidays.

Some photos of “quick” dinners. These require no prep time, just heat, bake or microwave--or open the deli container:

Your Hot dog dinner has 3 different salads:

Your Veggie Burger (find in frozen food section)--add deli salads  or frozen mixed vegetables and baked beans:

 

 

Your Ham slices and quick sides:

Your Baked chicken, stuffed mushrooms and salad from the deli:


 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Karen at 12:42 CST
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2014 12:43 CST
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Friday, 21 November 2014
Perfect Soup for a Wintry Day
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Once upon a wintery Autumn... 

Unseasonably early, bitter, winter-style weather has hit most of the country. Jo Daviess County is no exception. Many autumnal plans and expectations have gone undone. We're feeding hay to the sheep, cattle and horses since the grass is frozen and under a snow cover. We might get a reprieve in the next week or two but, for the most part, Autumn is gone for the year.

The kale froze, I hoped for fresh kale from the garden for Thanksgiving, as well as other greens—that would have been a plan in the usual year. Thankfully, all the winter squash and pumpkins were pulled in before the deep freezing began. And I potted up a couple of Rosemary plants to keep going indoors for fresh cuttings, one of the few herbs that don't work as well when dried.

I'm happy that I chose to prep and freeze so many peppers when they were abundant. And that my sister decided one Summer afternoon to pick and prep, bread and fry, then freeze, some of our eggplant to make a future “eggplant parmesan,” with our homemade canned marinara sauce, along with some dried herbs from the garden.

We have two types of “refrigerator pickles” in the refrigerator from a couple of Summer afternoon quick and fun projects. Apple filling was made from our apples and frozen during one of those late Summer afternoons, too! Thinking about all of the food projects we accomplished during the Summer, you might think we anticipated this weather!

Now, this dismal, chilling weather calls for cooking. And a homey, humble --but protein- and vitamin-packed-- soup should be on the stove.

Why not plan a pot of Beef and Vegetable Soup that's quick and hearty?

 

 

 

Beef and Vegetable Soup


1 lb. Chuck, cut into bite sized pieces

(I had a 3 lb chuck pot roast, used 1 lb for the soup and rest as a pot roast)

Saute in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil with ½ tsp chopped garlic until browned.

Add: 1 large stalk celery, diced

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup deveined and chopped kale leaves

28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes and the juice

(you can also substitute a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes and 16 oz. beef broth, if you prefer)

1 quart of water

Season with;

1 tsp. each: salt, onion powder, dried basil (or Italian blend herbs), dried parsley, dried thyme

Several grinds of black pepper

Add: 1 bay leaf, but remember to remove from soup before serving.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to low simmer and cover. Simmer at least an hour until meat and vegetables are tender. Add additional water as needed. Adjust seasonings as desired. 


 

 


Posted by Karen at 13:26 CST
Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014 13:30 CST
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