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Taco Tuesday…

Taco Tuesday has become sort of a tradition at our place. We have our little Tuesday night gang and the super casual, tasty, fun night is something we look forward to after a busy work day. I try to mix it up a bit every week. Some fun taco filling options I’ve recently made include tuna dredged in black pepper and simply sautéed in a little EVOO (cooked rare, you want to see red!) Blackened shrimp is a homerun every time. And of course there’s the blackened chicken. The toppings that are our go to’s are: sour cream, avocado, onion, jalapeño, tomato, shredded cheese, and tons of hot sauce! For a side dish I made some stuffed jalapeño poppers (slit the pepper in the middle, stuff with cream cheese, wrap with a piece of bacon and bake for 20 minutes at 350).

Pro-tip: If you’re following a keto or low carb diet, skip the tortilla and make a protein bowl! All the yummies with none of the carbs!

Going out to eat…

I know I cook, a lot, but I do enjoy going out to eat as well. We’re lucky to have a great Greek community not so far away. Our favorite place in Tarpon Springs is a restaurant called Mykonos. (See reviews here.) It’s a simple place that gets loud and frenetic during lunch and dinner (constant yells of “Opa!” fill the dining area when the flaming Haloumi is being brought from the open kitchen).

We basically get the same items every time we go to Mykonos. Here are our go-to’s: a trio of dips which are: 1) Skordalia (mashed potatoes flavored with garlic, crushed almonds, lemon juice, EVOO and a shit ton of garlic – NOT A FIRST DATE DISH!!), 2) Melitzanosalata (eggplant dip, much like babaganoush) and 3) my (personal favorite) Taramasalata (roe/caviar, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, onion garlic and olive oil).

We also get grilled calamari – which is amazing. No need to bread and fry truly fresh fish, throw it on the grill, splash with fresh lemon and enjoy, like they do in Greece. For a main course my hubby got grilled shrimp in a fresh tomato sauce, it was very simple and delicious. I always get a peasant salad (tomato, red onion, cucumber, feta cheese and pepperoncini-no lettuce) with a side of gyro meat. It’s ALWAYS too much, but so simple, fresh and delicious.

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend this place. Oh, and don’t let the turkey vultures in the back parking lot scare you (they terrify me).

Low carb shrimp parmigiana…

I came across this picture in my food file and remembered how delicious it was. Check it out:

To make this beauty cut a spaghetti squash in half, seed it, brush the cut side with a little EVOO, season it with salt & pepper and bake it, cut side down, for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. While that magic is happening, quickly sauté some fresh shrimp, garlic, onion, spinach and season well (I like to add some red pepper flakes or diced up jalapeño just to spice it up). Next step, when the squash has cooked and is cool enough to handle scrape it out into the wok with the shrimp sauté. Mix the squash and shrimp well so it’s all incorporated. Then turn the mixture into a baking pan that is lightly brushed with EVOO (to prevent sticking). Top this with mozzarella and bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 oven (until cheese is melted and a little brown).

This shrimp parmigiana will not knock you off keto and was delicious! Let me know if you have any questions.

Keto Clam Sauce…

Yes, it is possible to make delicious low carb linguini & clam sauce.
I’d have fought you on this if I had not done the research and trial &error to prove it.

The key is to find a low carb noodle that doesn’t taste like wet paper. These low carb freaks of nature are out there – you just need to try, try and try again. I found one yesterday at our local Publix that actually had both a good taste and a bit of bite (think al dente). You can read more about the nutritional info here. Note that you don’t cook these noodles, plop them in a strainer, rinse them well, drain them and then add them to whatever sauce it is that you are making.

The clam sauce that I made is my go-to. I sauté some fresh, coarsely chopped onion and garlic (tons of garlic) and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I put the cleaned clams (I soak the clams when I get them home so the sand they might be holding is released) into the pan and let them steam up for about 2 minutes. Then I add a cup of white wine, a bottle of clam juice, a chicken bullion cube (for extra flavor) and, if you need more liquid, some water. I season again with the same seasonings as above and wait for the clams to open (discard any that do not). When clams all open and the sauce is heated through, I put the pasta in the pot and mix it all in.

That’s it! Plate, serve and enjoy!

Killing Keto…

We’re getting very creative with Keto. Last night we prepared an appetizer of Italian wedding soup, which strangely I’ve never made before. Honestly, this could have been a main course. It was hearty and flavorful and very satisfying.

I started this by making little baby meatballs. For my mixture I used diced onion, garlic powder, fresh chopped parsley, a beaten egg and…wait for it…crushed pork rind chips…which replaced breadcrumbs. The pork rinds that I’ve found locally that I like are these:

I simply put some pork rind chips in a Ziploc bag and crush them up using a mallet (or you can use a baking pin or wine bottle).

I roll these cuties into petite meatballs and put them on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and bake them for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the meatballs were cooking I sautéed some fresh chopped onion, celery and fresh parsley seasoned with salt, pepper and some red pepper flakes. I then added eight cups of water and 3 chicken broth cubes and let this come to a boil. When it was really rolling I tossed in the meatballs and lowered heat a bit. After five minutes, I added a full head of well cleaned and coarsely chopped escarole. I let this boil for another 5-7 minutes (or until the escarole is wilted but not mushy).

Voila! Low carb/keto Italian wedding soup! I plated this with a dash more of red pepper and a ton of grated cheese. It was excellent!

Chicken Cutlets Keto Style…

Who doesn’t love chicken cutlets? There are a million different ways you can prepare them (bruschetta, lemon, marsala…)

This is what happened last night: First I seasoned (salt & pepper) the thin cutlets, then I dredged them in almond flour (shaking off any excess) and pan fried them in my wok (I used less than 1/2 inch of oil – I don’t deep fry) or you can cook them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (timing will depend on the thickness). When cooked I place them on a serving dish lined with paper towels to rest while I prepare the rest of dinner.

Drain the oil from the wok, but don’t clean it (whatever little tidbits are left in the pan will help to thicken up the sauce. I used 3/4 cup of white wine, a tablespoon of butter, juice from 4 freshly squeezed lemons, and salt & pepper. Whisk, whisk, whisk. After it’s all incorporated throw in some capers and Voila! Lemon sauce.

So now you need mashed potatoes, but #keto…

To make this magic happen I used two bags of cauliflower rice (you can easily make this at home in your food processor, I was just being lazy). I put cauliflower rice in a pot with about 1/2 cup of water over medium heat. Season generously with whatever spices you like. I used salt, pepper, a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 cup of cream and two tablespoons of mascarpone. I use my immersion blender for a few minutes to make this creamy like “real” mashed potatoes. If you don’t know what this handy dandy tool is, you can read all about it on Amazon (not that Amazon needs my help selling things). After it all comes together, I put the mashed in a baking dish and toss in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes so it get nice and hot. I think cheese in this dish would be amazing (but the hubby).

I also served this with our go to veggie, broccoli rabe. So yummy and easy. Just roughly chop the broccoli rabe. In a pot (or same wok) bring about 4 inches of water with a chicken broth cube to a boil. Toss in the broccoli rabe and cook for seven minutes. Strain and refresh with cold water (this will bring that beautiful green color back). In the same pot/wok add a tablespoon of EVOO and coarsely chopped garlic (for me, the more the better) put the broccoli rabe in the pan and just quickly sauté for a few minutes and you’re done!

I plated the mashed first, topped with the chicken cutlet, topped with lemon sauce and broccoli rabe on the side. My husband plated his differently LOL.

Yankee in Florida…

So this Northern girl switched it up and made a Southern dish. I will admit I’ve never had, or even knew what, a boiled peanut was until recently. I’ve seen the trucks on the side of the road but thought “yuck” and kept driving. My husband brought some home the other day from a local place and they were very surprisingly yummy.

So, after some research, this is what I did. I bought a 2 pound bag of raw peanuts, which I tossed into the crockpot with 10 cups of water and bunch (like 1/4 of a cup) of this newly discovered spicy seasoning, “Slap Ya Mama” (sorry Mom!)

Now here’s the kicker, I read that you need to cook the heck out of these bad boys. Recommended time in the crockpot was 24 hours on low! My crockpot maximum time is 20 hours, so I had to reset it for an additional 4 hours (adding a little more water…and seasoning) while doing so.

About 20 hours into cooking

The result was super flavorful, soft but not mushy boiled peanuts. They’re low carb and I’m told can be frozen (without the liquid) if you can’t finish the bounty.

I’d definitely make these for tailgate or BBQ!

A little Poke…

Salmon & Tuna Poke for me

We’ve been trying to stay keto, and taco Tuesday wasn’t cutting it. We were going to make protein bowls (all the taco sans the shell) but came up with something fancier – Poke bowls!

You really need a fish monger you can trust when buying sushi grade fish (in today’s case it was tun and salmon). This dish was so easy and quick. First I prepared a salad of arugula, spinach, avocado and very thinly sliced jalapeño, dressed with a little EVOO balsamic, salt & pepper. Then I cubed up my tuna & salmon. I dressed the fish up with a little low sodium soy and black & white sesame seeds. I plated this with the salad on one side of the dish and the fish on the other topped with a little more sliced jalapeño and a side of both pickled ginger and wasabi.

This is definitely a game changer. It was so fresh, filled with good protein and low carb. We loved it!

Shrimp & Tuna Poke for the Hubby

Annie had a little lamb…

So, as you’ve figured out it’s full-on BBQ season.

A great appetizer that my hubby has been making lately is baby lambchops. I have to admit that I was spoiled by the lambchops at the Palm on West Street in NYC, they were just amazing. However, looks like the bald guy has nailed this recipe. And of course I had to add my two cents to make it pretty!

The marinade he created is the following: EVOO, Sazon con Azafran (by Goya – see pic below), chopped onions (small chop), garlic and dill. Just toss it all in a covered container and shake, shake, shake. Let chops sit for about 30 minutes before cooking on grill (you can keep them out while you prepare the BBQ. Never put cold food, straight from fridge onto a hot grill, it messes with the grill temperature. There’s a good explanation for this bad practice (and I get it, we’re all in a rush) here. Note that lambchops should be cooked medium rare (about 120 degrees if you’re using a thermometer).

My addition to this great dish was a beautiful mint pesto (I really dislike mint jelly, which I know is the traditional accompaniment for lamb). I have mint growing on the patio so I harvested some leaves, tossed into my food processor with some EVOO, garlic (to your taste) pine nuts (aka pignoli – which you can toast for a few minutes before incorporating to enhance the nutty flavor) and salt & pepper. I would not add cheese to this pesto as I think the richness of the mint and the lamb is just enough. Process until all ingredients are incorporated and plate!

The outcome was amazing, really. Such rich, earthy flavors cooked al fresco on a grill – I mean how much better does it get?

Seafood BBQ…

Living on the West Coast of Florida has really let us enjoy outdoors much more than we did living in the Northeast. We love fresh seafood, fresh air and the amazing sunsets. While I can’t take credit for the BBQ expertise, that’s all on hubby – I can make a great menu and prepare everything so it’s good to go.

We are lucky to have a great fish monger nearby. For this BBQ, I butterflied colossal shrimps and blackened them. I just sprinkled blackening seasoning over them after butterflying and that’s it! I like the Old Bay Blackening Seasoning.

For the clams, I soak them for a while in just fresh water (no need to add flour, as I’ve read). Soaking them helps them to release any sand that they may be holding onto. When you’re ready to cook them lift them from the bowl (rather than dumping the bowl) leaving the sandy water behind. Rinse and then put in fresh bowl while escorting them to the BBQ. Hubby makes a concoction of butter, a whole (not chopped) clove of garlic, juice from 1 lemon and chopped cilantro) that he melts in a small heat resistant dish on the BBQ. Great dipping for either clams or mussels or even shrimp!

The veggies are fresh sliced zucchini with EVOO and a little ranch (powder) dressing sprinkled all over. The scallions were just trimmed (roots and tippy tops cut off) with a little drizzle of EVOO.

Of course we needed a little steak too…I like mine rare with just a little salt & pepper. Obligatory baked potato (which, to speed things up I microwaved for 3 minutes before oiling up and seasoning) wrapped in foil and tossed on the grill with the other goodies.

Simple, and yummy!