Low-Carb Scooter's Spaghetti-14Scooter’s Spaghetti appears to be one of the rockstars of this blog. Please forgive me for bragging that it has had over 450,000 pins according to Pinterest. Just when I was feeling kinda proud about that statistic, my 7 yr. old grandson tells me this past week that he likes spaghetti and meat sauce but he doesn’t care for Scooter’s Spaghetti because of the “white cream stuff in it.” Way to slam the oven door on my souffle! I’m convinced that God uses children to gently keep us humble.

As you can imagine, especially if you are a food blogger yourself, I’ve had a lot of comments and questions over the years about what to substitute for this or that ingredient people don’t care for. One of the most popular substitutions in this recipe is zucchini noodles, sometimes called zoodles, for the spaghetti. Reports back were positive so I couldn’t wait to try it.

My first attempts were disappointing. The noodles were watery. Solution? Two things. The first was to remove as much water as possible from the zoodles themselves. In a nutshell, I cut the noodles in advance. (By the way, I cut up the little cylinders you end up with after making zoodles and add them to the mix, also.) Salt well and roll them in a large fluffy towel lined with paper towels. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Then I put the rolled-up-in-a-towel noodles on a tile floor and step on them to squeeze out as much water as possible. Think Lucy and Ethel stomping on grapes. The towel should be pretty well soaked. Unroll and use the zoodles as is. No need to pre-cook. Don’t worry, this can be done ahead of time.

Squeezed out zoodles2

The second thing that cuts the watery-ness is ensuring your sauce is very thick. You could cook it down for 30 minutes or so, but I think it’s faster to strain it. I use an industrial size coffee filter inside a cheap colander. This is the first thing I do when I start to make this recipe so it will be thick by the time I get ready to assemble the casserole.

Assembling Low-Carb Scooter's Spaghetti

Let’s talk about the French-fried onion rings that go on top. Between the cream cheese layer and the onion rings, they are what make this recipe memorable. There are only 3 carbs in 2 tablespoons of the onion rings so I use them. Without them, this dish just isn’t the same. However, if you are needing a gluten-free entree, you could easily substitute pan-fried shallots for the onion rings. (See picture below). You will need at least 4-5 shallots for this recipe. I tried doing the same thing with regular onions, but they wouldn’t get crispy like the shallots did.

Low-Carb Scooter's Spaghetti-11

Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Added-Sugar-Free but Super-Flavorful Scooter’s Spaghetti

Low-Carb Scooter's Spaghetti-13

My favorite marinara for this spaghetti is the Victoria White Linen brand which I buy at Costco. It claims only 6 grams of carbs for a 1/2 cup serving, and sugar is not found on the ingredient list. The label also claims no water has been added–a good thing whenever you are cooking with lots of vegetables.

Scooter's Spaghetti with Zucchini Noodles
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 10 servings
 
Popular spaghetti casserole gets a remake with zoodles instead of traditional spaghetti
Ingredients
  • 40 ounce jar marinara
  • 6 zucchini
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 2.8 ounce can French-fried onions
Instructions
  1. Pour marinara into coffee filter or paper towel-lined colander to strain off excess liquid.
  2. Spiralize 6 zucchini. Spiralizers vary but I use the larger spaghetti noodle shape. The most narrow noodle on my machine also works well. Salt heavily (approximately 1 tablespoon of salt). Wrap salted noodles in paper towels, then in a large bath towel. Set aside for 20-30 minutes minimum. Apply pressure on top of rolled-up towel to squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
  3. Brown ground beef. Drain excess grease. Add onions and fry until softened. Add drained marinara to beef and onions. If still watery, cook until sauce is very thick. Set aside.
  4. Add butter and bell peppers to a microwave-safe glass bowl. Cover. Cook on HIGH for 2-3 minutes until peppers are softened. Add cream cheese to bowl and microwave for another minute or until cheese is soft enough to combine with veggies.
Assembly:
  1. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 -inch casserole dish or pan with approximately ½ cup of meat sauce. Layer zoodles on top. Spread cream cheese mixture over zucchini. Carefully pour meat sauce over cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Can be made ahead of time up to this point and refrigerated.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot throughout. Add more time if dish has been in the refrigerator. 5 minutes before completion, sprinkle french-fried onions over the top of casserole and put back into the oven to brown. Watch closely as the onions will burn easily.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/10 Calories: 312 Fat: 21.1 g Saturated fat: 10.2 g Unsaturated fat: 1.2 g Carbohydrates: 16.8 g Sugar: 7.4 Sodium: 591 mg Fiber: 2.7 g Protein: 13.5 g Cholesterol: 46 mg

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Green Chili Stew w Green Beans-2

Have you ever said this about vegetables? “I need to eat more veggies but ….

  1. My family won’t eat them.
  2. My kids/husband will only eat corn and green beans.
  3. Fresh veggies go bad pretty quickly and then I have to throw them out and I can’t stand to waste money.
  4. I need more good veggie recipes.
  5. They take too long to prepare.”

This recipe is my answer to all those complaints. It came about as one of those fortunate accidents that happen occasionally in the kitchen when the cook is hungry and staring at the fridge with the door open wondering what to throw together for dinner in a hurry.Green Chili Stew w Green Beans

I had this Green Chili Stew leftover a few months ago and some leftover green beans from a different meal. In a moment of veggie craving, I combined them and Voila! –a new favorite comfort food. I have not made the original Green Chili Stew since that day because I love this so much.

About the green beans… I prefer fresh green beans cut into small pieces with kitchen shears, but cheap canned cut green beans will also work. Drain them well and then rinse the salt and “canned flavor” off with additional water. Add the canned green beans at the last minute since they don’t need to be cooked, just warmed.

I mentioned the original recipe, but like everything else I cook these days, I modified it and left out the flour to decrease the carbs. Instead, I added 1/4 teaspoon of powdered xanthan gum during the last five minutes of cooking to thicken the stew slightly, but it will still be totally delicious if you don’t use it. Total carbs = 11.4g if you can get five servings out of this recipe.

Green Chili Stew with Green Beans
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soups and Stews
Serves: 5 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground pork (not sausage)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilies
  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (optional to thicken)
  • 1 pound fresh green beans or 2 14.5 ounce cans cut green beans
Instructions
  1. Brown pork in Dutch oven along with onions, garlic and cumin. Drain any excess grease. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add tomatoes and chilies to meat. If using fresh green beans, add to meat now. Stir in water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until green beans are well-cooked and tender. If using, sprinkle xanthan gum over soup and whisk to combine. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened.
  3. If using canned green beans, add them about 10 minutes before you want to serve stew.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 5 Calories: 324 Fat: 19 g Saturated fat: 7 g Unsaturated fat: 10.2 g Carbohydrates: 11.4 Sugar: 2.1 Fiber: 4.3 g Protein: 25.9 g Cholesterol: 85 mg

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Caramelized Onion Gravy-2

If you think cutting carbs is the end of your gravy train, then I have good news for you.

In my last post, I talked about eating mashed cauliflower and suggested using gravy to make it more appealing. Because of the carbs in traditional gravy, I avoid using flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot to thicken. I tried coconut flour, but the texture felt gritty on my tongue. Same with chickpea flour. Most gluten-free flours are actually quite high in carbs, so that wasn’t an option either. Then I thought about my recipe for Roasted Rosemary Chicken with “Instant” Gravy. Baked onions are the only thickening agent. It occurred to me that caramelized onions should work the same way, and sure enough, they make a tasty gravy. The good news is that this recipe boasts only 5 grams of carbs for a generous half-cup serving.

Caramelizing onions is not hard, but the process takes some time. Fortunately, they can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.  I nearly always have a few packages of frozen caramelized onions in the freezer for a quick meal.

If you are a mushroom lover like I am, try browning about eight ounces of mushrooms in same skillet you used for the onions. Add half of the mushrooms to the blender, or just leave them in pieces and add to your finished gravy for visual interest and added flavor.

Caramelized Onion Gravy with Mushrooms

The flavor of your gravy will depend at least 99% on the quality and richness of your broth.  If you use bouillon or canned stock, check the taste before adding salt. If you have juices left from a roast or baked chicken, use that. No broth in sight? Use water you have used to deglaze the pan in which you caramelized the onions. All those browned bits will add flavor and color to your gravy. Depending on your tastes and dietary limitations, try adding a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, or Kitchen Bouquet. (Check labels. These will likely add sugar and grains.) If you are strict about no extra sugar or grains, try adding herbs such as thyme or parsley, unflavored Greek yogurt, or sour cream.

Caramelized Onion Gravy

Disclaimer:  If cooked onions affect you adversely, this probably isn’t the recipe for you.

Caramelized Onion Gravy
 
Author:
Recipe type: side dish
Serves: 4½ cup servings
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free gravy packed full of veggies
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced thinly (8-10 ounces)
  • 1½ cups water or broth (chicken, beef, or veggie--see notes)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat a medium to large size skillet over medium heat on stove. The heavier the skillet, the better. Add oil, then onions, stirring frequently, especially during the beginning and the end, until they caramelize and turn brown. This may take between 30-45 minutes and can be done ahead of time. The onions should have cooked down to approximately ½ cup. Place onions into a blender.
  2. Add water or broth of your choice to same skillet you used for onions. Boil until all brown bits have dissolved into the water or broth. Add water or broth to blender containing onions saving back about a fourth cup.
  3. Starting at a slow speed and progressing to high, blend until smooth. Open blender and clean sides with a spatula. Add butter for smoothness. Keep blending. Add more liquid if gravy is too thick for your tastes. If you decide to add herbs, sour cream, or yogurt, do it last and blend just until smooth.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Sorry I can't give you an exact measurement. It depends on the broth you are using. My husband requires lots of pepper so there's that, too.
Notes
*I prefer to use homemade broth or stock so I can know exactly what's in it.

*If adding sour cream and yogurt, start with a couple tablespoons.

*Regarding nutritional analysis: Sodium analysis is not included because individual tastes for saltiness will vary. Optional mushrooms and any fat or seasonings in broth are also not considered. Analysis is done with water as the liquid.)
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ½ cup Calories: 77 Fat: 6 g Saturated fat: 2.2 g Unsaturated fat: 3.7 Carbohydrates: 5.2 g Sugar: 2.4 g Fiber: 1.0 g Protein: .6 g Cholesterol: 7.8 mg

 

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How I Got My Husband to Eat Mashed Cauliflower-7

I hope you had a good weekend and were able to celebrate the New Year with family and/or friends. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to getting back to reasonable and healthy eating which for me, includes LOTS of cauliflower.

When I first started making and eating mashed cauliflower, I wondered how Kourtney Kardashian could eat what she calls “Magic Mash-up” every day. I tried several methods and lots of recipes but they were all too watery for my tastes. My husband was not impressed. For awhile I had to fix him mashed potatoes whenever I ate cauliflower until I figured out a few tricks. He still doesn’t eat it as often as I do, but then, I eat it almost every day.

How I Got My Husband to Eat Mashed Cauliflower-6

SEVEN WAYS TO MAKE YOUR MASHED CAULIFLOWER MORE TEMPTING:

  1. I always cook my cauliflower in a microwave–UNCOVERED, so it will be as dry as possible. Minimal moisture is key to imitating the texture of mashed potatoes.
  2. A food processor works best and fastest when mashing cauliflower. I’ve tried a blender and was completely frustrated.How I Got My Husband to Eat Mashed Cauliflower-8
  3. Use good butter (I like Kerrygold) or another fat you enjoy. (Bacon grease is fabulous but my conscience won’t allow it too often.)
  4. Instead of butter, an intensely flavored cheese such as aged Cheddar or Parmesan will help cover the strong-ish cauliflower flavor. I’ve tried adding sour cream but it thins the cauliflower a bit too much for my taste. I want it to be really thick!!
  5. This one is important for people who aren’t crazy about the taste of cauliflower. Serve it with gravy. If it has enough flavor, you won’t taste the cauliflower. In case you’re thinking gravy would defeat the whole purpose if you are trying to eat more healthfully, come back for my next post when I plan to share how I make gravy without any flour or cornstarch and only a small amount of fat.
  6. When eating spicy soups with a thick consistency (e.g. gumbo and chili) I will often place a big scoop of mashed cauliflower into the bowl before I pour the soup on top. I promise you won’t taste the cauliflower but you will fill up faster and get your veggies at the same time.
  7. This last idea is just my opinion. I never try to fool adults or kids into thinking mashed cauliflower is actually mashed potatoes. Give them a heads-up and encourage them to try it alongside something else they really like. (See number 5.)
Microwaved Mashed Cauliflower
 
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or strongly-flavored cheese, unflavored Greek yogurt or cream cheese
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Remove cauliflower florets from tough core. Place in microwave-safe glass dish. I always use my two-qt Pyrex glass measuring bowl. Do not add water. Do not cover.
  2. Microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes. Stir and continue on HIGH for 8-10 more minutes until cauliflower is soft throughout. Microwave ovens and cauliflower size vary hugely and will affect cooking times. If you have an older oven it may take several minutes more. A larger than average cauliflower will also take longer. Check often if you are new to this method. A few scorched spots on the cauliflower is not a big deal.
  3. Pour steaming cauliflower pieces into a food processor and allow it to sit until the steaming stops. Puree until smooth. Add butter, salt and lots of pepper.

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Candy Cane Cookies--A tradition in our family

My grandchildren just finished helping me make these cookies. They are a family tradition that started with my own two sons when they were in grade school. Such traditions are the makings of Christmas, aren’t they? These cookies are rather plain, almond-flavored butter cookies, actually, but so full of memories. Nearly always the last half of the cookie dough turns into blobs of pink and white dough, rolled then smashed with grubby little hands and bearing no resemblance to candy canes. Perhaps it is the kids’ way of insuring no adult will eat their free-form creations.

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book that is at least as old as my adult sons. I have never tried dusting them with crushed peppermint candy as shown in the book, but it looks pretty in the book picture.

Candy Cane Cookies
 
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
 
Almond-flavored butter cookies shaped like candy canes
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon red food coloring
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Add room-temperature butter, shortening, and confectioners sugar to a large mixing bowl. Mix until fluffy.
  3. Add egg and extracts to butter mixture. Mix until smooth.
  4. Add flour and salt to bowl. Turn mixer on Low and mix until flour disappears. Remove half of the dough to a smaller bowl.
  5. Add food coloring to dough remaining in the mixer bowl and mix well. Add more food coloring drop by drop to get the red color you want.
  6. To form cookies, make two 4-inch cylinders, one from the white dough and one from the red dough. I use a scant tablespoon (I just eyeball it) of dough for each cylinder, then roll them back and forth on a floured surface to form smooth and uniform strips. Lay white cylinder and red cylinder together and twist to form swirly pattern. Curve one end to look like a candy cane. Move onto prepared cookie sheet that you previously greased or covered with parchment paper. Repeat until you run out of dough (or patience).
  7. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 10 minutes. I hesitate to give you an exact time as it depends on the thickness of your cookies. If they are not all the same size (and they most certainly won't be if kids are helping you) remove the smaller cookies from the tray as they brown and return the larger cookies to the oven to finish baking. Remove cookies from tray while they are still warm.

On a personal note….
My husband and I are celebrating our 40th anniversary tonight. Can you believe I got married this close to Christmas? My sister also got married on this day 52 years ago. Congrats to E and K. My brother got married December 18th 53 years ago. My parents started this whole craziness when they married on Christmas Day back in 1940.

I’m looking forward to 2017. For starters, we have a  new grandbaby on the way. I also have some new recipes to share with you so I plan to show up here a little more often.

Xmas 2016 Grands

Merry Christmas to all of you from me and my grands as we honor Jesus, God’s Son.

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