My Favorite Discovery!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before but I can’t help grinning everytime we have fried fish or chicken and do it without flour and still get a great ‘crisp’ on it and a very satisfying crunch. AND, what we use is low carb and good for you, too, fewer calories. It is Whey Protein Isolate! Just scoop out what you need, season it like flour and there is your future crispy coating. You just dip your fish or chicken into some  beaten egg, coat with the seasoned whey stuff, and fry. It works well for onion rings, too.

My Facts of Life . . .

Every person has their list of things that they do or need in their lives, sort of a personal facts of life list. The list can have anything on it and if you stop to jot down your thoughts, you might find an interesting mix of do’s, don’t’s and, possibly, don’t cares!

Mine list is relatively simple. But I’m always willing to try new ideas and the list is open to change and additions.

1. I have learned to only save coupons for things I always use and stop wasting money because I could get some condiment or item for a dollar off and couldn’t resist. I’ve discovered a few of these buys in the back of my cupboards way, WAY past their expiration date.

2. Always wash melons with mild soap (diluted dish soap works fine) BEFORE you cut into them. When I told a friend about this, she said that as long as the knife was clean, what was the problem? I mentioned that the outside of the melon has rested on dirt, been harvested by dirty hands, been manhandled once it reached the store and finally placed on display. THEN, who knows how many people ended up touching and hefting the melon you end up purchasing. You don’t even want to know what traces of disgusting stuff has been found on grocery carts and you can’t wait in line with a watermelon without a grocery cart. Just saying!

3. I’ve finally discovered the way to insure a good crust on fried chicken and fish – whey protein isolate! Who would have thought it but it works well as in great. Just season what you need with your salt, pepper, and favorite spices, dip the meat/fish in an egg wash, then in the whey protein isolate mixtures and fry. Yeah, people think I’m super healthy when they see me lugging out with a five-pound container of the stuff and would probably be shocked to know it was going for fried chicken.

4. I’ve heard about the Keto diet for years but swerved away from it because it sounded weird. It also takes wheat products off the dinner table and that includes bread, pasta, etc. It doesn’t recommend rice, either. Well, we have been gluten-free for over five years so that was one step up on the Keto diet. I picked up a cookbook at Costco and was hooked. They advocate meat, fats, cheeses, low-carb vegetables and carefully counting the carbs on your fruit intake. I noticed that on other bouts of watching my diet, I would get hungry and then figure a couple of apples, or a big peach was keeping me in line with my needs versus my wants. Nope. We have been eating Keto for almost a month now and we eat well, we don’t miss the potatoes and get full on the meat/protein portion and a nice salad and/or vegetable. Don’t even WANT to eat between meals which is a nice place to be!

5. At Thanksgiving, everyone should bathe and be presentable for the day . . . except for the turkey! Do NOT wash the turkey before cooking. You can pat it down with a paper towel but do not put that bird into your kitchen sink and run water over it. You may not notice but droplets from the turkey bath do get around your kitchen and, maybe into an open dish. Washing that bird won’t do much good and all the bacteria and germs will die a well-earned death while the bird roasts in the oven.
6. Someone pointed out to me that there are some items you can buy that don’t have to be organic if you lean that way. Bananas, for instance, as they have a thick skin you peel off so nothing has gotten into the covered fruit. In fact, after you do NOT wash you turkey, you CAN wash your banana before eating . . . in fact, I recommend it!

7. My favorite way to make a pasta dinner more filling (back when I indulged in pasta!) was to make my own sauce pureeing steamed vegetables into the tomato base like carrots, onions, garlic, spinach, squash, etc. My final addition was draining a can of pinto beans, pureeing them into a thick sauce and stirring it into the pasta sauce. It makes the sauce nice and thick and very tasty and you just sneaked in a good dose of iron and protein. It is more filling, too.

8. I learned something from my mother about keeping the kitchen cleared of clutter while preparing dinner. She didn’t do so which is why I learned that I couldn’t work in discarded pots and pans and cook properly! I discovered that when baking cookies, they take on the average about ten minutes so when I take out one pan and put in another one, I have ten minutes . . . to wash the first pan and put it away! It just came to me one day that if I bake six baking sheets of cookies, I’m looking at 60 minutes of time to get other things done including cleaning up the kitchen.

9. Potato chips are often my downfall but my budget-minded personality mostly keeps me from buying them. HOWEVER, I discovered that when the yearning for potato chips get overwhelming, a solution of a better sort is at hand. If you have a microwave, parchment paper, vegetable oil spray, and a big potato, you could soon be munching on less salty, non-greasy potato chips with a lot less guilt. If you have a food processor, you probably have a slicing disk for cutting things pretty thin. If not, a sharp knife and patience works, too. You take your thin, very thin potato slices and place them close together on your sheet of parchment paper. Make sure you measure what size sheet of paper you need so it fits in the microwave. Now, give them a good spray of vegetable oil and salt them to taste and put them in the microwave. Now, you are on your own for timing so start it at two minutes and check. Depending on the slices, it can take up to eight minutes for them to get brown around the edges and potato chip like. They shouldn’t have any soft spots. Remove them to your waiting dish and repeat until the chips are all done. You will be surprised to find that you actually get the equivalent of a bag of chips from one, large potato. If you like spicy chips, you can dust them with Ranch dry seasoning or some chili powder. Me, I’m a salt only person. This way I can have what I want when I want it and pay a tenth of what it would cost for a bag of chips.

10. One think I really learned from my mother was to be inventive and curious with my cooking/baking efforts and not be afraid of a new recipe or new ingredient. Fortunately, my husband and children are all pretty adventurous so no complaints from them even if an experiment doesn’t go exactly right. There is no such thing as a person who can’t cook if they want to do so. My mother was raised to go to college so didn’t learn to cook until she got married. She purchased one of those fat, includes everything cookbooks and started in at page one. If you can read, you can cook. And remember, that fancy pots and pans don’t make the food good. It’s the person behind the ladle! I had a person ask me once about buying a cast iron skillet. I asked why she wanted one of those as she was an awful cook and didn’t put much effort into it. She said that she heard that cast iron skillets make really good fried chicken. Uh, no such things as an automatic skillet. You still need to know what to put into the pan.

Finally, a Diet That MIGHT Work!

Now, I’ve found the perfect dietary recipe and am so happy to share it with you! Simple ingredients and little to no calories. 🙂

Over the years my husband and I have been married, our eating habits have almost drastically changed on a number of occasions to work with his current likes/dislikes, various allergies, and food sensitivities!

Our latest change is only a week old but not as drastic as some of our other ones, mainly because we were already gluten- and sugar-free. Now, we just have to cut our carbs down to a small percentage a meal. The good thing is that protein and fat are finally on the ‘good’ list. The downside? Potato chips and fries don’t seem to fit into any of the possible categories.

We started arranging our meals in line the the Keto plan and have to say that it has been one of the easier transitions.  One week later and no one has made a secret trip to the store for pretzels or started a chocolate stash. Our newly-opened coffee shop down the street has already lost our patronage but no one has (yet!) been harmed in the change of diet.

When I saw this video, I immediately decided that we are NEVER going to cook with air, catsup, and the stray tomato.

Gluten-Free/Lactose-Free Crackers

Besides being gluten-intolerant, my husband is sensitive to lactose, too. He can have cheese and butter but needs to take pills to totally enjoy them. He also likes to have some snacks on hand when he braves the Los Angeles traffic coming home as his hunger pangs tell him that traffic is putting his evening meal way off schedule AGAIN!

Most cracker recipes have butter or wheat in them. It took me awhile to come up with something that would stay the onset of starvation on the long drive home but wouldn’t incite digestive problems. I finally came up with the following recipe which has protein, fiber, vitamins, no baking powder, and the right kinds of fat.

Homemade Crackers

3 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour blend (I like Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Blend)
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast (My favorite is Bragg – in imparts a mild cheesy flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Hemp Hearts*
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee*
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (or 2 water/2 lemon juice)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Combine the coconut oil (or ghee) with the juice and the eggs and mix well.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and gently mix until a workable dough forms. The weather seems to play a huge part so, if necessary, add bits of water or juice along with teaspoons of ghee or coconut oil until the right consistency is reached.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To save time and mess, divide the dough into fourths. Roll out one fourth between two sheets of parchment paper until about an 1/8th inch thick. Using a small round cookie cutter, cut out the crackers and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about a quarter of an inch apart. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to a cooling rack, wait a few minutes, and try one!

Store in a tightly lidded container. I usually divide the cooled crackers into three or four containers: One for easy snacking and the other ones in the freezer to keep fresh.

*Ghee is merely the solids removed from butter. I make mine my putting two sticks of butter in a large, glass measuring cup and gently melting them in the microwave. Once the butter is completely melted, let set until it separates and then carefully pour off the clear part into a small container being careful to avoid getting any of the cloudy residue into it.

*Hemp Hearts are at Costco and they have the best price I have found. They have a mild, nutty flavor.

Treat Yourself to a Piece of History

The sweet tooth of the world can be traced back around 4,000 years, however, the most popular delicacy of all time did not appear until the time of the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures.
600 A.D. the Mayans migrated into the northern regions of South America. The earliest known cocoa plantations were established in the Yucatan. Both Mayans and Aztecs used the beans from the cacao tree and made a drink they called xocoatl. Aztec legends say the cacao seeds had come from Paradise and people who partook of the seeds gained wisdom.

Ancient Mexicans worshiped Tonacetecutli, the goddess of food, and Calchiuhtlucue, the goddess of water. The believed the two goddesses were the guardians of cocoa. With that in mind, each year, human sacrifices were performed to the goddesses. Part of the victim’s last meal?? Cocoa!
In the 1700’s, Swedish naturalist, Carolus Linnaeus, renamed ‘cocoa’ to ‘theobroma’ which is Greek for ‘food of the gods’.

It is purported that cacao beans were brought back to the court of King Ferdinand by Christopher Columbus from his fourth visit to the New World. Given the sparse information to this possible fact, the cacao beans were probably overlooked midst the many other treasures found that trip.

In 1519, Hernando Cortez visited the court of Montezuma. According to historian William Hickling’s History of the Conquest of Mexico (1838), Montezuma drank no other beverage but chocolatl. The general ‘recipe’ for chocolatl was a paste of the cacao bean, flavored with spices and vanilla which was reduced to a thick froth which gradually dissolved in the mouth. The drink was served cold.
Cortez brought chocolate back to the royal court of Kind Charles V in 1529. The cacao beans were secretly processed in the monasteries and chocolate was kept a secret for almost one hundred years. Italian traveler, Antonio Carletti, discovered chocolate in 1606 and it began its journey into other parts of Europe.

The first chocolate house is said to have opened in London around 1657 by a Frenchman. Being expensive, it was considered a drink for the elite. A quote from sixteenth-century Spanish historian, Oviedo, stated, “None but the rich and noble could afford to drink chocolatl as it was literally drinking money.”
Chocolate was also considered of medicinal value. Cardinal Richelieu dosed his various illnesses with it.

By 1730, the price of chocolate had dropped from approximately three dollars a pound to a cost that made it accessible to classes other than the extremely wealthy. In 1828, the invention of the cocoa press cut prices further and improved the quality of the end product. The Industrial Revolution furthered the popularity of chocolate.

Americans were introduced to chocolate at Prince Albert’s Exposition in 1851. John Hanan brought cacao beans to Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1765. The first chocolate factory was established there. For many centuries, chocolate was considered only a beverage. Actually eating chocolate began in 1674 in the from of cakes and pastries. With the use of a steam engine for grinding cacao beans in 1795, Joseph Fry of Bristol, English, was able to manufacture chocolate on a large scale. In 1847, Fry & Sons sold “Chocolat Delicieux a Manger” which is believed to be the first chocolate bar for eating. Nestle states that from 1800 to the present, four factors contributed to chocolate’s coming of age as a food product:

1. Introduction of cocoa powder in 1828
2. Reduction of excise duties
3. Improvements in transportation facilities, from plantation to factory.
4. The invention of eating chocolate.

Naturally from the 1800’s on, chocolate has continued to change and grow. The quick candy bar you grab for a snack today is a lot different from what was available one hundred years ago. The next time you let a delicious piece of chocolate melt in your mouth, don’t feel guilty about the calories because you are experiencing history! With that fact firmly in place, take advantage of the availability of chocolate today and try the following hot chocolate recipe and think ahead about gifts for your friends the next holiday season.

Hot Chocolate Mix in a Jar

11 cups of powdered dry milk
2 cups of powdered sugar
11 oz. powdered non-dairy creamer
2 lbs of instant chocolate drink mix
4 heaping tbsp. of unsweetened cocoa
1 small box of instant chocolate pudding mix
2 bags Mini marshmallows
6 qt. size mason jars

Blend the powdered milk in a food processor until finely ground. (Better for dissolving in the mug.) Mix all ingredients except marshmallows. Layer 6 tbsp of mix followed by a good handful of marshmallows until the jar is full, ending with the mix. Makes 6 one quart jars of hot chocolate mix. To make a cup of delicious hot chocolate, add 3-4 tablespoons of mix to six ounces of hot water.

Strawberry Fluff

Strawberries have made their annual appearance in the stores and in our gardens. Time to made use of the bounty and surprise our family with a cool yet tasty dessert.

Strawberry Fluff

1 package (10 ounces) frozen sliced strawberries, thawed
1 cup boiling water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Drain strawberries, reserving syrup. Pour boiling water over gelatin in a bowl. Stir gelatin until it is dissolved. Add enough cold water to reserved syrup to measure one cup. Stir into dissolved gelatin. Chill until almost set.

In chilled bowl, beat cream, sour cream, and vanilla until stiff. Beat gelatin until it is foamy. Fold gelatin and strawberries into whipped cream. Pour into a one-quart mold or into individual molds. Chill until firm Garnish, if desired, with sweetened whipped cream.

*Sour cream is a great stabilizer for homemade whipped cream. It helps keep the whipped cream from breaking down and lasts in the refrigerator a couple of days. It also add a nice flavor to the whole dessert.

A Few of My Favorite Things . . .

Providing a gluten-free diet for my husband keeps me busying trying to find really good substitutes for basic things . . . like pasta. For soups, I make my own egg noodles and use either Better Batter ‘flour’ blend or Authentic Foods Steve’s Bread Flour to make them. There are those moments, however, when I long for the times that using packaged pasta required only as much extra effort as it took to walk to the pantry.

Two of our favorite comfort foods around here are Pad Thai and spaghetti with extra meaty sauce. We’ve tried a variety of gluten-free options for the spaghetti and the results were just okay. Recently, however, I noticed that my favorite pasta brand from the pre-gluten-free days also had a gluten-free pasta. I was game for another go in my explorations into the gluten-free world and finally discovered one that is pretty good. It tastes like regular pasta, had a nice ‘chew’ and doesn’t get soggy if you save a serving for the next day. My current gluten-free option of choice is Barilla!

We also love homemade Pad Thai which uses Asian Rice noodles. There is a world of difference between the various brands so we have been trying and hoping to find the perfect one for us. The one we are using now is a product of Thailand, labeled ‘Rice Stick’, made by Sun Voi and comes in three or four different widths for whatever recipes you might want them. Our market of choice for purchasing these for a very reasonable price is the 99 Ranch Market which is a huge Asian market with just about every obscure ingredient you might want or need for a recipe. They also have a great bakery, too, as well as a large fresh produce section.