Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp

Gluten free, Atkins, South Beach, Paleo…

Even if you haven’t personally been on a low carb diet, you’ve almost certainly had to deal with someone who has.

I’m not hatin’: the evidence still backs up these diets as effective.  If you want to lose weight, lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure, then you could do worse than this route.

Then walked in the beast of them all: the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).

It’s not only the most restrictive, but it’s intention is unlike all the others: people follow the SCD in an attempt to manage symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.

A member of the SCD camp, and one of my most favorite people in the entire world, came to spend a week with me. This eliminated the possibility of dining out (imagine no restaurants while on vacation? in NYC of all places??), but it did result in some creative ‘problem solving’ dinner experiences.

The SCD limits nearly all carbs. Specifically, disaccharides and polysaccharides (chains of simple sugars) are avoided in preference to monosaccharides. The idea is that an excess of carbs in the intestines, and the resulting overgrowth of microbes that feast on these carbs, contributes to GI symptoms. Through limiting the quantity of carbs and the energy the body spends on breaking them down and absorbing them, intestinal balance is hopefully restored.

Specific Carbohydrate Diet
BANNED ALLOWED
all grains meats
most dairy eggs
starchy veggies non-starchy veggies
beans & legumes low sugar fruit
anything with added sugar
(why does everything have sugar added??)
honey

Monosaccharides: the most basic units of carbohydrates (molecules of carbon, hydrogen, & oxygen)
•     Glucose, Fructose, and Galactose

Disaccharides: two linked monosaccharides
•     Sucrose = Glucose + Fructose (table sugar)
•     Lactose = Glucose + Galactose (milk)
•     Maltose = Glucose + Glucose (product of digestion)

Polysaccharides: chains of 3+ monosaccharides
•     starch (corn, potatoes, rice)
•     cellulose (dietary fiber: wheat bran, apple skin, spinach, etc.)
•     glycogen (the storage molecule of carbohydrates in the body)

Pan to my new favorite thing: Sage Rosemary Walnut Spread. Imagine something between pesto and nut butter. And fortunately for my houseguest, it’s SCD legal.

Crazy Go Nuts makes the spread, a part of a whole line of flavored walnuts and walnut butters. Their savory flavors are particularly interesting (Garlic Parmesan, Buffalo, and Sage Rosemary, of course), but the sweet ones are also fantastic. I just straight ate a jar of the Orange with a spoon. Don’t judge.

I tried the Sage Rosemary spread as a pesto-like sauce paired with spaghetti squash. The result was intensely rich and creamy, and absolutely delicious. Surprisingly, it was much closer to an Alfredo sauce than pesto in both mouth feel and flavor. I’ll definitely make this recipe again, even without the confines of the SCD.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb shrimp (peeled, deveined, & tails removed)
  • 1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 lb)
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 oz butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup Crazy Go Nuts Sage & Rosemary Walnut Spread
  • 1/3 cup water
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Microwave the squash 5-10 minutes to soften slightly. Cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds. Place in a baking pan cut side up and roast till tender (about 40 minutes).
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and salt and pepper; sauté until softened. Add the walnut spread, shrimp, and water, stirring continuously to mix and prevent burning. Cook until shrimp is cooked through.
  4. Serve sauce mixture inside halved squash. Or serve squash, scooped out with a fork to “shred” into noodles, topped with the shrimp mixture. Or mix squash flesh into the sauce in the skillet before serving.
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Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Let me see you say no to these perfect bites of spicy, melty, bacony heaven…

jalapeno popper

 

This quick and easy appetizer/hors d’oeuvre is perfect for holiday entertaining.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 12 jalapeños, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
  • 12 slices bacon

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Mix cream cheese and cheddar cheese together in a bowl. Fill each jalapeño half with the cheese mixture. Put halves back together and wrap each stuffed pepper with a slice of bacon. Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is crispy (about 15 minutes).

Recovery Hummus

Because I need some post-Thanksgiving recovery:

capture0008-9

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 oz dried chickpeas (soaked overnight and boiled until tender – or use a 15oz can)
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ c broth or water
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place all the ingredients (except oil and paprika) in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Add paprika and olive oil and serve.

Dominican Flavor

Pastelon

When I asked a friend to teach me how to make empanadas, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Four hours in, I had done so much eating, dancing, and laughing that my sides ached the next day, but we hadn’t even started the empanadas.

The real star was the pastelón de yuca, Liyibel’s favorite dish, beloved enough to have it served it at her wedding this past winter.

I think of pastelón as Dominican shepherd’s pie: a hearty comfort food made of layers of meat and a mashed starch, in this case yuca (cassava). Topped with melty cheese, it’ll give you the energy to dance Bachata all night!

Dominican-Reb

Yuca

Pastelon-c.gif

 

Pastelón de Yuca y Pollo

Yuca Puree:

morir

Morir Soñando

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups evaporated milk
  • 2½ cups ice

Refrigerate the orange juice and milk until very cold. Add the ice to the milk and stir. Add sugar to taste. Slowly pour the orange juice in the milk, stirring constantly. Serve immediately.

Gracias

Whitefish Salad

Whitefish Salad

Whitefish

Show up as early as you can get yourself to drag out of bed.

Wander around the industrial section of Greenpoint at dawn.

Sneak into the unmarked, graffiti-ed door, looking behind you as if you were trying to throw the mobster trailing you off your scent.

Buy pastrami lox and whitefish from the no-nonsense, lab-coat clad fishmonger – after much sampling, of course.

Rendezvous with the friend responsible for the bagels + cream cheese.

Plot your next Acme Smoked Fish heist between ravenous bites.

Whitefish Salad Ingredients

Salad Building

Whitefish Salad

Whitefish Salad

The following recipe is a variation of this recipe by Bobby Flay.

Whitefish Salad

  • 3/4 cup good-quality mayonnaise (I used olive oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 pounds smoked whitefish, skinned, boned and flaked
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Bagels, for serving (I used baked spaghetti squash)
  • Pickled Red Onions, for serving, recipe below

Pickled Red Onions:

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

Whisk together the mayonnaise (or olive oil), lemon zest and juice until combined. Add the whitefish, celery and onions, and gently mix until combined; season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Pickled Red Onions:
Combine the vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and peppercorns in a small saucepan over high heat. Cook until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Put the onions in a medium bowl, pour the vinegar mixture over and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours before serving.

Veggie Overload

CSA recipes

I’ll be damned if I do anything half way: I went for the full share.

In hindsight, perhaps 20 pounds of vegetables is more than any one person can eat in a week.

Here chronicles this week’s brave attempt to defy the odds.

This week’s Turtle Bay CSA share:

1 bulb fresh garlic
1 red cabbage
1 white onion
1 red onion
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch green basil
1 head romaine lettuce
1 bunch carrots
2 Italian eggplants
2 green zucchini
6 pasture raised eggs

Sautéed Swiss Chard

To a sliced onion in some olive oil in a skillet, I added minced garlic, the chopped chard and salt & pepper. The final incarnation of this dish was damn good quesadilla filling.

Roasted Red Cabbage

I put the quartered cabbage, drizzled with some olive oil and salt & pepper,  in a 400° oven until it started to brown on the edges.

Baba Ghanoush

I charred eggplant on my gas range, then puréed  the flesh with tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. This dish was nearly a complete fail: it is spreadable burnt. Next time I’ll roast the eggplant in the oven.

Zucchini Frittata

I’ve been relying on frittatas nearly every week to use up my eggs; this week I incorporated the zucchini, basil, some of the garlic and onion. Michael Chiarello’s recipe is very close to this version.

Carrot & Chickpea Salad with Carrot Green Chimichurri

I used this carrot green chimichurri by Love & Lemons as a dressing on a grated carrot and chickpea salad.

Baking Science

Eggnog Cupcake

Cocoa Anatomy

Cocoa beans naturally start out at about 50% fat.  After fermenting, drying, roasting, and de-husking, the beans are ground to a paste; at this point it’s essentially baking chocolate. When put through a hydraulic plate press, squeezing out about half of the cocoa butter, a hard disk of concentrated cocoa remains. This block is then ground into cocoa powder.    

Vocab

Cocoa Butter: fat squeezed from cocoa beans

Cocoa Solids: the substance remaining after the cocoa butter has been removed from cocoa beans

Cocoa Nibs: roasted, de-husked cacao beans broken into pieces

Natural Cocoa Powder: cocoa beans that have been roasted and ground into a fine powder. Baking soda, which is alkaline, is generally paired with natural cocoa in recipes to neutralize its acidity.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder: dark, milder tasting cocoa powder treated with an alkali (potassium solution) to neutralize its natural acidity. Baking powder, also near-neutral in pH, is paired with Dutched cocoa in recipes.

jill_cocoa powder

Black cocoa: cocoa powder that has been heavily-Dutched  Ex: Oreo cookies

Unsweetened/Baking Chocolate: pure, ground, roasted chocolate beans (cocoa butter + cocoa solids)

Dark Chocolate: cocoa butter + cocoa solids + sugar

Milk Chocolate: cocoa butter + cocoa solids + sugar + milk powder or condensed milk

White Chocolate: cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder or condensed milk (no cocoa solids)

Notes & Tips

  1. Cocoa powder can be used instead of flour to dust pans
    (especially if concerned with gluten free cooking)
  2. Because of the differences in chemistry, Dutched cocoa powder and natural cocoa are not reliably interchangeable in baked goods. The easiest substitution advice I found is:
    • To replace natural cocoa and baking soda with Dutch-process cocoa, substitute an equal amount of Dutch-process cocoa but replace the soda with twice the amount of baking powder.
    • For Dutch-process cocoa powder and baking powder, substitute the same amount of natural cocoa but replace the baking powder with half the amount of baking soda.
      (The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion)

cocoa

Seafood Curry

Seafood Curry

This fantastic bowl of food was made using this Nigella Lawson recipe as inspiration. It’s from the “TV Dinners” episode of her show, and although it is overall a fairly simple dish to prepare, any dish that involves shelling and deveining shrimp isn’t in on my list of quick & easy. I’ll try pumpkin instead of butternut squash next time for a more carb heavy, filling wintry main.

Ingredients

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 1/2 cups fish stock (I used broth from boiling the shrimp shells for about an hour)
3 tbsps fish sauce
2 tbsps sugar (I left this out)
3 lemongrass stalks, each cut into 1/3’s and bruised with the flat of a knife (I used a tsp of ground lemongrass)
3 lime leaves, stalked and cut into strips (I couldn’t find this in my grocery store)
1/2 tsp turmeric (I forgot this)
2 1/4 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into large, bite-sized chunks
1 lb salmon fillet, skinned and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb peeled raw shrimp
bok choy or any other green vegetables of your choice (I used peas)
juice of 1 lime
cilantro

I added:
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
4 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 medium white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, julienned

Skim the thick creamy top off the can of coconut milk and put it into a large saucepan with the curry paste, over medium heat. Beat the cream and paste together until combined. (Here I added the onion, then the garlic and ginger). Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and then add the squash (and red pepper). Cook on a fast simmer until the squash is tender, anywhere from  5-15 minutes.

You can cook the curry up until this part in advance, maybe leaving the squash with a tiny bit of bite to it (it will soften and cook as the pan cools). Either way, when you’re about 5 minutes from wanting to eat, get ready to cook the seafood.

So, to the robustly simmering pan, add the salmon and shrimp (if you’re using frozen shrimp they’ll need to go in before the salmon). When the salmon and shrimp have cooked through, which shouldn’t take more than 3 to 4 minutes, stir in any green vegetable you’re using – sliced, chopped or shredded as suits – and tamp down with a wood spoon. When the bok choy is wilted, or other green vegetable is cooked, squeeze in the juice of half a lime, stir and taste and add the juice of the remaining half if you feel it needs it. Take the pan off the heat and pour the curry into a large bowl, and sprinkle over the cilantro; the point is that the cilantro goes in just before serving. Serve with more chopped cilantro for people to add their own bowls as they eat, and some plain Thai or basmati rice (I used brown rice).

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

Flourless Chocolate

I prefer my brownies baked just enough to remove the fear of eating raw eggs from the experience, gooey enough to require a spoon. Rumor has it that Suri Cruise sides with me in the fudgy vs. cakey debate

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks + 2 tablespoons butter, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 300°.  Melt chocolate (carefully!- do not overheat) and put into mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Add softened butter in small chunks to melted chocolate on low-speed. Mix and heat water, sugar and salt until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add warm (again, not hot!) water mixture to chocolate mixture once butter is incorporated. Add eggs and egg whites slowly on slow speed.  Mix, scrape down sides of bowl, then mix again to make sure batter is combined. Fill cups a 1/4 inch from the top and bake mini size for 30 minutes, standard size for 60 minutes.

An Unorthodox Christmas Eve: Split Pea & Sweet Potato Soup

My sister has never been one to follow any directions closely. Including Bisquik pancakes and Betty Crocker brownies, she estimates accurately following recipes perhaps a dozen times . . . in her entire life.

Despite all that, she fearlessly took charge of Christmas Eve Dinner.  And in so doing, she illustrated what I love most about my family: unconventional, unpretentious, and bucking any but the bits of tradition that truly hold value.

Her inspiration was this recipe, given to her by a coworker (a dietitian). The original garnishes the soup with pumpkin seeds, but true to form, she took a vegan recipe and topped it with ham. The seeds would have added texture and crunch, but the spicy sausage was undeniably awesome.

Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas

The original recipe says to saute the onion in water. Heresy!
The original recipe says to saute the onion in water. Heresy!
Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas
Vanna White after discovering the difference between mircoplane and box graters

Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas

Split Pea & Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 lb spicy sausage
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Bring 1/2 cup chicken broth to a simmer in a large saucepot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook about 5 minutes or until translucent, adding more broth, butter, or olive oil as needed to keep from sticking to the pan. Stir in ginger and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add remaining broth and water, peas and sweet potato cubes, and additional seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Uncover and purée soup with a hand held immersion blender or in batches in a food processor until smooth. Taste for sea and garnish with pan-fried sausage cubes.

Garlic Butter

  • 3 cloves garlic, or to taste (oh, go ahead and do the entire head, you will find a use for the extra)
  • 1/2 stick butter, warmed to room temperature

Wrap cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and roast at ~350° for ~20 minutes. Unwrap, peal, and mash garlic cloves. Mix with softened butter.

Bread with garlic butter
Bread with garlic butter

Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas

Christmas morning
Christmas morning

Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas

Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas

Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup Christmas