Pepperoni Chips

I picked up a keto cookbook recently and found a recipe for pepperoni chips. This is inspired by that find.

I made these on a Saturday afternoon so that I would have them for my late-night Twilight Zone binge on Hulu.

I loved them after they were first cooked, but I REALLY loved them after storing them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours - which seemed to crisp them up further. The pepperoni chips have a texture much like a light-thin potato chip and feature a bacon-like crunch with all the great seasonings of pepperoni.

They are a great replacement for carb-loaded potato chips and I highly recommend these as a snack for anyone counting carbs or trying to stick to a keto diet.

I didn’t go crazy on these like I would Cool Ranch Doritos and wipe out an entire bag in one sitting. Just a couple handfuls of these chips and I had my snack fix. The seasoning, saltiness and heft from fat content go a long way, so it would be hard to eat copious amounts of these in one sitting even though they are delicious.

I made three pans of these and now have a few days supply in the fridge. These can be eaten alone but they also make for a great replacement for crumbled bacon as a topping.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 2 to 3, 15 minutes

40 pepperoni slices

Place, cook
Place pepperoni slices 1/2 an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 425° for 5 to 6 minutes, remove and flip pepperoni. Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp.

Drain, cool and serve
Place pepperoni on a paper towel-lined plate and drain excess fat, let cool to room temperature, then serve.

FIRST RUN: Cauliflower Pizza Crust

The purpose of this post is not to share an incredible recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust but as a guide to start with to create your own. I will be perfecting this in the future so a more definitive recipe will come later.

Hot out of the oven.
A friend was talking about pizza recently and I mentioned I had only eaten it once in the last three months because of my new "avoid carbs if possible" eating habits. I realized then that my lack of pizza was creating a dark culinary cloud in my kitchen. The wheels started turning, and later that night I did some research.

Cauliflower pizza crust stood out to me as the low-carb alternative for me to try because I had been working with cauliflower quite frequently over the last three months. I knew that it's mild flavor would be a nice canvass for the sauce and cheese of a basic pizza at the very least.

When it was all said and done, I really enjoyed the taste. The crust wasn't as stiff as I would have liked but it really was like eating pizza, and I enjoyed the process of making it. It's a bit more work than anything I would want to make three or four nights a week, but it was perfect for a Saturday afternoon when time was not of the essence.

Delicious cold leftovers.
The basic ingredient guidelines I used:
3 C of riced cauliflower,
(Use 1/2 to 3/4 of a head; remove as much stem as possible, then blitz into a grainy texture in a food processor)
1 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg

The key
Cook the processed cauliflower through, let cool and squeeze out as much moisture as possible before mixing everything together.

The crust
Mix cooked and drained cauliflower with other ingredients until well incorporated, then spread into the shape of a pizza crust (12 to 14 inches round, 1/4 inch thick) on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 400° to solidify and turn edges golden brown.

The Pizza
Top the baked crust with pizza toppings and bake 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly, slice and serve.

The Takeaway
There are many options to play with here. Not just toppings, but the crust also.

I cooked the cauliflower with sauteed onion for added flavor and I used a lot, which made it very prominent in the overall finished pizza. Next time, I am going to leave out the onion and add a fresh herb instead, either rosemary or thyme, just to perfume the crust with a traditional Italian flavor.

I cooked the cauliflower in a skillet on the stove. In the future, I want to try and spread it out in a pan and roast it to see if I can evaporate more of the liquid through the roasting process rather than trying to squeeze as much as I can out after it's cooked.

I think this would work as a tortilla for tacos or even a wrap. What I made was very pliable and had to cool completely before it was stiff enough to hold like a normal slice of pizza. That may have to do with the moisture in the cauliflower, I don't know though. I will find out more when I make it again - In the very-near future!

Eat well, cook often ...

Microwave Spaghetti Squash

This is a visual guide to making spaghetti squash in the microwave.

Spaghetti squash can be used as a delicious replacement to spaghetti pasta and is a low-carb, gluten-free and keto-friendly ingredient! It has a mild taste and acts as as a great canvass to any flavors that are added to it.

This recipe image is designed for a tablet or phone screen and is meant to serve as a guide while it is being prepared. If you know someone who might need a guide like this, or someone you want to turn onto the magic of spaghetti squash, alert them - share the love!

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 4 servings, 30 minutes
1. Poke holes, soften
With a sharp knife poke several holes into squash lengthwise. (Creates a line the will be the mark for cutting in half.) Microwave on High 5 minutes to soften squash.

2. Cut in half, scoop out seeds
Handle with caution, squash may by hot. Along line of holes, cut squash completely in half. With a spoon, scoop out seeds. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cut-side down, microwave
Place squash half (or halves) in a microwave-safe dish cut-side down. Pour half inch of water in dish. Microwave 15 on high, or until flesh is soft. (Cook times may vary with different microwaves.)

4. Let cool slightly, remove squash
Once squash is cooked through, remove from dish and let cool a little. Carefully scrape strands of squash out of shell with fork and serve.

Low-carb Munchies

Diced ham, cheese and almonds will tame the strongest snack cravings.

I stayed true to my "avoid-carbs-if-possible-diet" and purchased what amounts to a protein snack Saturday night.

Meat, cheese and nuts.

The almonds were "smokehouse" flavored and the ham was processed which made this high in sodium but it still helped keep the carb count down for the day, so I'll take what I can get. To wash it down I went with diet tea — 0 carbs.

I wolfed down my protein snack while watching an episode of Law & Order, and it occurred to me that this tasty treat would be a hit at any big-game party or movie watching gathering.

Among the millions of pounds of unhealthy food that lines miles and miles of grocery store shelves there are some alternatives – even for a guy like me that craves man-cave food. These snacks may not be as healthy as celery and carrots, but at least it's not something my body will turn into a mound of sugar that will eventually be stored on my belly, under my chin or across my ass.

Eat well, cook often ...

Smoked ham, cubed
Smokehouse almonds
Munster cheese with jalapeno, cubed

Dump and eat!

Low-carb Chips and Dip

Two sliced cucumbers and your favorite dip! That's all for this recipe!

Ok. They're not really potato chips. They're sliced cucumbers. Once you dip them in this sauce though, the chip won't matter!

I went to a friend's house for a dinner party a couple days ago and decided to take a tray of sliced cucumber and some Sweet Pickle Ranch sauce to dip them in. It was my low-carb chips and dip contribution to a carb-heavy spread of delicious party food.

In truth, I was worried that none of it would get eaten, but the tray went over well and there were just a hand full of cucumber chips left by the end of the night. The best reviews came mostly from the female population at the party, who seemed to like having a healthier option for after-meal grazing as part of the spread. The tray disappeared primarily from people grabbing a slice of cucumber and dredging it in the sauce as they passed by the snack table.

The chips and dip, along with a tray of ham pickle roll-ups (like these) that I made seemed to generate lots of good food conversation throughout the night. I couldn't be happier with how the health-concious snack approach was received.

I'm really starting to enjoy the unique challenge of healthier food in the quest for delicious bites!

Eat well, cook often ...

The Double Turkey Burger Eggplant Stack!

This low-carb mountain consists of sliced eggplant and ground turkey patties  - grilled, stacked and drizzled with my favorite homemade sauce - which for me, in this case, is Sweet Pickle Ranch sauce.

After preparing this breadless-manwhich I realized this could be a featured item at a low-carb Carl's Jr. The only thing missing was a beautiful vixen luring men ages 17 to 34 to buy it.

This is my first attempt at using eggplant in my own kitchen. I have eaten it several times and enjoyed it, but never sought to make it part of a my own recipe collection. I am really pleased with how the eggplant turned out and I am looking forward to experimenting more with it.

I started out thinking the eggplant would work like bread slices and allow me to handle the stack, but cooking it correctly left it too soft to handle and it needed to be eaten with a fork and knife, which was the only thing that slowed this mound of savory yum from entering my belly in record time.

I'm going to refine this for sure - I just thought it was worth sharing.

If you have any great grilled eggplant recipes please send them my way!

Eat well, cook often ...

20 minutes, serves 2
1 Eggplant, medium size, sliced into 1/2 inch-thick discs
1 lb Ground Turkey, pattied
4 slices munster cheese
Favorite burger sauce

Heat grill to medium high. Brush eggplant with olive oil and season to taste. Grill 3 to 4 minutes per side or until cooked through and soft, remove let rest. Grill turkey patties 8 minutes or until cooked through, turning once during cooking. After turn, add cheese to patties and let melt. Remove and rest, 5 minutes. On a plate stack eggplant and burgers, drizzle with favorite burger sauce or dressing, then serve.

Grilled Chicken Salad

I love leftover grilled chicken, the smoky grill flavor stays as long as it’s edible and provides an extra layer of flavor to whatever it’s used in.

This recipe features chicken grilled over charcoal the night before as well as pickled banana peppers in a spread for sandwiches or wraps.

I was in a hurry to work one afternoon when I lived outside of Chicago. I stopped at a gas station that had a pizza counter for a quick meal. Under a heat lamp I noticed a couple of burgers wrapped in foil with a yellow starburst sticker that said “Pizza”. I took a chance, grabbed two and was on my way.

The burgers featured a marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and a kicker - banana peppers! The tart and spicy peppers had a great flavor of their own and really gave this burger it’s “pizza or Italian” mojo. This tasty treat became a guilty-pleasure for an occasional lunch until I left the area and moved to Austin — and I have kept a jar banana peppers in my kitchen ever since.

In this recipe the peppers impart a tangy and spicy kick and make for a nice compliment to the smoky-grill flavor of the chicken. The chives provide a hint of onion and there is just enough mayo to bind everything together. As a whole, it's a great filler for a sandwich or could hold up as the star of a bite-size appetizer.

To cut carbs I served the chicken salad on cucumber, which provided a garden-fresh vehicle to deliver the goods and made for a nice replacement to carb-loaded bread slices or a wrap.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 4 to 6 sandwiches or a party appetizer; 10 minutes
3 C grilled or fully-cooked Chicken, diced or shredded
1/2 C hot Banana Peppers, diced
3 Tbs Mayonnaise
2 Tbs Chives, diced
4 Cucumbers, peeled, seeded, cut

In a large bowl mix together the chicken, banana peppers, chives and mayo until well incorporated, let rest 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Scoop salad into cucumber boats or serve in a wrap or sandwich.

Fish Tacos (Tilapia)

I inhaled six of these like a wale feeding on plankton.

They were the small "street taco" size corn tortillas from Mission. Which helped them go down fast! Dinner on Friday is an event if I'm not going out on the town - and that is just what these are. There are three special elements to make for these and to add to the drama, I fried the tortillas in a 1/4 inch of oil just to take the meal completely over the top.

This is the first time I have used almond flour. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad. Instead of a light crispy breading like AP flour would create, the almond flour created more of a "blackened" style crust when mixed with the other spices. The gluten-flour-to-fat reaction just isn't the same as the ground-nut-to-fat reaction and the result was different and unexpected — And totally delicious.

Eat well, cook often ...

Jalepeño tarter sauce
1/4 Mayo
2 Tbs Pickled jalapeño, diced
1 Tbs Chipotle in adobo, minced

Mix ingredients in a bowl, refrigerate until assembling tacos

Jalapeño slaw
1 C Cabbage, shredded
1 Jalepeño, thin sliced
2 Tbs Apple cider vinegar

Toss cabbage and jalapeño in cider vinegar, set aside until assembling tacos

4 Tilapia fillets
1/4 C Almond flour
2Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

Mix together almond flour and spices, spread on a plate. Dredge fillets in mixture, coating both side thoroughly. In a skillet over medium heat shallow fry fillets in enough oil to completely coat bottom of pan. 3 to 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Gently turn half way through. Let rest a few minutes before assembling tacos.

12 tortillas
Jalapeño tarter sauce
Jalapeño slaw
Cilantro for garnish

Light fry tortillas in a 1/4 inch of oil at 350°. Drain on paper towels. Flake fish apart into bite-size chunks. On a tortilla, stack fish, slaw and sauce then garnish with cilantro. Serve.

Creamy Spaghetti Squash Bake

This was a treat. I loved it — and it was an experiment! I will be refining this for sure, but it's worthy of a post.

I made this recipe low-carb by using spaghetti squash where I would have used regular spaghetti. The squash worked with the onion and red pepper to form a nice vegetable base and the turkey gave it extra heft in the belly. The star here is the cheese though, specifically - the cream cheese. It's a decadent and rich addition that really binds all the flavors together. Next time I will mix in the cream cheese a little more thoroughly — I used dollops of it in this recipe!

If you like spaghetti squash you have to try this, or a variation of it.

Eat well, cook often ...

1 2 to 3 lb. spaghetti squash
2 red bell peppers, seeded, diced
1 onion, diced
1 lb. of ground turkey (97/3)
2 C Mexican blend cheese, shredded
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp

Cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 400° oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a large skillet over medium heat cook onion and red pepper in a little olive oil until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add ground turkey, breaking up and stirring occasionally until cooked through. 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool.

Scrape spaghetti squash out of shell with a fork and into Turkey mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in 3/4 of the shredded cheese. Scoop mixture into baking dish. Top with dollups of cream cheese and remaining shredded cheese. Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Eat well, cook often ...

Get Rid of It Frittata

The only thing in this dish not leftover or standing on the edge of spoiled are the eggs and chipotle ranch sauce made a couple days ago. I think the Gods of fresh food smiled on my effort to not waste anything because I really enjoyed this. The onion and red pepper are really the star here with a moderate amount of chicken to add a little heft. Bound with eggs and topped with gooey cheddar cheese, this was a winner winner low-card dinner.

Here's a rundown:
3 chicken tenders, diced: Leftover From Chicken Tenders with Peppers and Onions
1 red pepper, diced: Extra from Chicken Tenders with Peppers and Onions
3/4 of an onion, diced: Extra from Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Ranch Sauce

Chipotle Ranch sauce: Leftover from Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Ranch Sauce
Cilantro: Extra from Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Ranch Sauce
4 oz (1 C) shredded cheddar cheese: Leftover from a low carb snack

The binder
4 eggs (would have been six, but that's all I had.)

Turn on broiler

In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, saute the onion and peppers in a little olive oil until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Half way through toss in the chicken.

In a bowl, beat eggs until white and yolk are incorporated together. Once peppers and onion are cooked through, pour eggs into pan, shaking and jiggling to allow egg to get into space between onion, pepper and chicken. Let cook on stove top for 3 to 4 minutes or until egg at bottom is set. Top with cheese and place under broiler. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly and egg on top is set and entire frittata is cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from under broiler. Garnish with chipotle ranch sauce and cilantro before serving.

Eat well, cook often ...

Shrimp Tacos with Chipolte Ranch Sauce

I'm not the biggest seafood fan in the world. In general, I like it best when the "fish" flavor is mild and it's breaded and fried.

Shrimp is a different story. As long as it's ultra fresh, I like it prepared almost any way.

For these tacos, I sauted the shrimp in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. That's it. The key was cooking them so they were firm but tender and burst in your mouth when bit into - that is the perfect texture for tacos!

The real flavor and seasoning for this dish is the chipolte ranch sauce that I made from scratch. I was heavy with the chipotle for it because I wanted it extra smoky with some good kick. The creamy base can really tame the kick, so more chipotle in adobo is required for extra zing.

I used corn tortillas which is not low carb, but I'm not really on a low-carb diet  — I'm just paying attention to my carb intake and trying to keep it as low as possible without being miserable. I'm not ready to throw away my corn tortillas. I'll limit my french-fry intake, but corn tortillas are off limits for now!

Honestly - I destroyed these tacos.

The bursting shrimp with the chipotle ranch sauce was mouth-watering. The onion and cilantro garnish added a real freshness to the bite. All of this wrapped in a lightly-fried corn tortilla made for some of the best homemade tacos I've had in a long time.

Try this if you are a shrimp taco fan.

Eat well, cook often ...

Chipotle Ranch Sauce
1 clove garlic
3/4 C sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
1 C buttermilk
1 pkg Ranch seasoning mix
1/4 C chipolte in adobo, minced

— With blade of a blender running, drop garlic clove in to mince. Add all other ingredients and blend 3 or 4 minutes. Stop blender and scrap down sides if needed during process. Pour into container and refrigerate 1 hour berfore serving.

Sauted Shrimp
1 lb of large raw shrimp, deveined, shell and tail removed

— In a little olive oil over medium high heat saute shrimp 1 min. to 1 min, 30 sec. per side or until just cooked through and translucent. Salt and pepper to taste.

8 corn tortillas, street taco size
Sauted shirmp
Chipotle sauce
Finely diced onion and cilantro for garnish

— Cook tortillas through (microwave, griddle or lightly fry at 350°)

— Assemble tacos - layer shrimp, sauce, onion and cilantro — then devour!

Makes 8 street tacos, Serves 2

Note: The corn tortillas here are 19g of carbs for a serving of three.
(They are the small "Street Taco" tortillas made by Mission, that come made with either flour or corn)

Low Carb Burger and Fries

Ok. Its not actual fries - but one can dream. It's asparagus spears  — and they were still pretty tasty.

Using lettuce to wrap the double-cheese turkey burger — that's the real low carb thing about this meal.

No bun!

I really like throwing away the bread. The burger is what it's all about for me, so this gets rid of the gluten-loaded pillow that keeps your hands from getting messy and replaces it with a paper thin crunchy leaf. Not a bad trade-off in my book.

Here's what I cooked:
— 4 turkey burgers with a slice of munster cheese for each
— 1/2 bundle of asparagus, split length-wise and tossed in a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce

The burgers were cooked over medium high heat in a little olive oil with salt and pepper to taste, about 5 minutes per side. The asparagus followed in the same pan for 3 to 4 minutes, tossed a couple of times and seasoned with salt and pepper — burgers rested while asparagus cooked.

I ate 2 of the burgers wrapped in big lettuce leaves with chipotle mayo as garnish and all of the asparagus for the meal. I have to admit — it was tasty. A nicely seasoned turkey patty with creamy cheese and smoky chipotle mayo really hit the spot. Although I would love to have had real french fries, the al dente asparagus tossed with Worcestershire had a crunchy, salty and slightly sweet taste that I really liked — but I have always liked asparagus when it's fresh from the produce isle and perfectly cooked.

I'm doing this again for sure.

The experiments continue! I'm not on a strict no-carb diet, I'm just watching them as part of an effort to adjust my diet and life-style to live more healthy.

Eat well, cook often ...

Chicken Tenders with Peppers and Onions

This plate is a perfect example of how I have been preparing diners with less carbs in mind. In the past, I would have served this — sauted onions, peppers and chicken — over a heaping mound of white rice. Afterword, I would have needed a nap and then a wheelchair to get around in until I had digested some of it.

I prepared:
 6 chicken tenders
1/2 of a sliced medium onion
1 sliced red bell pepper
All cooked over medium heat in a little olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. (I ate half for the meal, and saved the other half for leftovers.) I also ate a whole avocado as an added bonus.

I don't know the exact carb count but it's pretty low. I think around 20 grams. I'm still pretty new at the carb counting game but that is my best estimate.
Low carb or not, sauteed onions and red peppers are a favorite of mine. The sweetness that comes out during a 6 to 10 minutes saute in a little olive oil with salt and pepper really hits the spot. They were the star here, the chicken was just filler, especially now that the ultimate filler — rice — had been left out.

Eat well, cook often ...

Sauteed Radishes

I have had roasted radishes many times and really enjoyed them. They are a close substitute for a roasted potato. This is the first time I tried to saute radishes. I did it simple — with olive oil, salt and pepper in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. 10 to 15 min., Tossing occasionally.

They turned out ok. Edible, but nothing special.

They were a little inconsistent as far as doneness. Some were softer than others, and there was a peculiar taste to them - almost earthy in a way. Not sure if it was the radishes or the well-seasoned pan I cooked them in. It wasn't a bad taste, just something a little unexpected. This will need some work before I sing the praises of a radish-potato substitute recipe, but it was fun to try something new.

I wanted to post this because it's my first attempt at intentionally creating a low-carb side dish. As a way of trying to eat more healthy, I have cut back on the bread, potato, rice and pasta. (And sugary stuff in general). Not fully eliminating them, but have become conscience of carbs and want to limit my intake.

According to a quick (but credible) web search:

A 2 oz. serving of red potatoes has 10 grams of carbs.

The same amount of radishes contains 1 gram.

That's 10 times less on the Carb-o-belly scale!

Eat well, cook often