Spicy Ham and Mushrooms

My husband and I are in a celebratory mood!

I’m thrilled to announce the birth of our fifth grandchild (third granddaughter) just last week. God is good. New babies are such a miracle and always point me straight back to the Creator.

I’m also excited to commemorate Easter this Sunday. Billy and I are both doing the study of John in Bible Study Fellowship, and this week we are examining the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Perfect timing!

Speaking of Easter, we are hosting Easter dinner at our house. The whole family will be here  along with some long-time church friends who also happen to be the in-laws of my youngest son. We share the aforementioned grandbaby.

Although I don’t plan to serve ham this Easter, I know many of you do. (My menu will probably include these Beefy Sausage-Filled Pinwheels.) Whenever ham is on the menu, we seem to have plenty of leftovers. This recipe is a perfect way to recycle some of that ham. It’s simple and quick to pull together. I like to serve it over mashed cauliflower but it would be delicious served over grits, mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta. Don’t hesitate to play with the seasoning to suit your taste. You could also sub canned mushrooms for fresh if you are looking to pull dinner out of your pantry.

Spicy Ham and Mushrooms
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4 servings
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A great way to use leftover ham to make a new and delicious meal
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounce package white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup coarsely chopped ham
  • 1-1/2 cup marinara or spaghetti sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning (I like Tony Chacheres)
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in medium skillet. Add scallions and mushrooms and saute until soft, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add ham and marinara along with seasoning. Simmer until sauce is thickened to your preference. For me, that's about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Serve over mashed cauliflower, mashed potatoes, pasta, grits, or rice.

Tip of the Day:  If you don’t have time or like a fresher taste, strain your marinara instead of cooking it down on the stove. Pour sauce into a coffee filter-lined colander and let it sit on the counter until it is the thickness you prefer. It doesn’t take long.

Just for fun and because I know some of these old posts may be new to some of you, I’m including some other ideas for leftover ham and other Easter-related foods.

Ham Salad Sandwiches
Ham Salad Sandwich Spread with a Basil TwistPost-Easter Ham and Veggie Fried Rice
Post-Easter Ham and Veggie Fried RiceDeviled Eggs the Whole Family Will Eat
Sweet and Sour Deviled EggsChallah from the Bread Machine
Challah from Your Bread MachineSlow Cooker Pulled Ham
Slow Cooker Pulled Ham and Honey Mustard Barbecue Sauce

 

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Favorite Low-Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m not sure I should share this recipe. Many will say it has too many calories. Many more will complain it’s not sweet enough to deserve the name “cookie.” Others may think it has too much fat. Consider yourself warned. These aren’t the gigantic-chewy-and-crispy-on-the outside-soft-on-the-inside chocolate chip cookies you might see at a New York City bakery.

But for me, it’s the perfect treat as I battle my sugar monster. It’s a dessert that doesn’t spike my blood sugar, yet one cake-like cookie satisfies my craving for something sweet after lunch.

The only sweetness comes from the “natural” applesauce, the 85% chocolate bar, and the inherent sweetness of almond flour.

Thanks to Gourmet Girl Cooks for introducing me to these cookies. I have significantly revised her recipe, but hers are very good, too, and taste much sweeter due to the use of artificial sweetener. If you are a sugar-holic who wants to cut back, I recommend you start with 1/2 cup of sweetener such as granulated Swerve and gradually decrease the amount.

I store these cookies in the freezer. My husband prefers to eat them frozen, but I like to microwave them just until the chocolate gets soft–30 seconds or less. Tastes fantastic when enjoyed alongside a latte made with half Hazelnut Decaf coffee and half cashew milk.

Grain-Free, Reduced-Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 16 cookies
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Chocolate chip cookies made with almond flour. unsweetened applesauce, and 85% chocolate make a not-so-sweet treat that won't cause your sugar monster to go out of control.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups extra fine grind almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup unflavored Greek yogurt (should be extra thick)
  • ½ cup unflavored, unsweetened applesauce
  • Sweetener of your choice, (optional--see notes)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • ¾ cup 85% chocolate bar, roughly chopped (I like The Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar from Trader Joe's)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper, a non-stick baking mat, or lightly grease.
  2. Stir together almond flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In separate bowl, combine butter, Greek yogurt, egg, and vanilla extract. Add to dry ingredients and stir until blended.
  4. Fold in toasted pecans and chopped chocolate. If dough seems a little soft, chill it in the freezer for 30 minutes or the refrigerator for an hour to make the cookies hold their shape better. You don't want them to spread much.
  5. Drop dough with two spoons or a spring-loaded ice cream dipper onto prepared cookie sheet. Dip fingers in water and slightly press down on each ball to make a flat, round shape. Don't press too hard--you don't want to flatten the cookies.
  6. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the cookies are nicely browned all over.
  7. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before removing from cookie sheet because cookies are crumbly when warm. When cool, they will hold together and have the texture of little cakes.
Notes
I have weaned myself from needing any added sweetener in this recipe. The applesauce, chocolate and the inherent sweetness of almond flour are enough. If you need more sweetness, ½ cup of Swerve is a good place to start. If you prefer another kind of sweetener, you may need to experiment with the amount.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 181 Fat: 16 g Saturated fat: 4.4 g Unsaturated fat: 9.9 g Trans fat: 0 g Carbohydrates: 7 g Sugar: 2 g Sodium: 93 mg Fiber: 2 g Protein: 5 g Cholesterol: 21 g

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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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