Don’t sweat it, it’s cucumber soup!

After that long, brutal winter here on the East coast, summer is almost, almost, upon us, friends. As much as I hate the cold, I love winter foods. There’s simply nothing as soothing as stewed meats, and soups. Heck, I’d have a big bowl of beef noodle soup in the middle of August in DC, with or without air conditioning. But. There’s really no need to sweat it. (Sorry,)

Several years ago I discovered cold cucumber soups. There’s several varieties with more or less the same ingredients of cucumber, herbs and plain Greek yogurt. It’s one of the few things I make that takes almost no time at all, and tastes like I’ve spent hours preparing. The flavors are refreshing yet complex, especially if you add a few pepper flakes.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

Ingredients:

4 cups of diced cucumbers, seed removed

1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt. (For the keto-conscious I recommend Fage’s 5%)

⅓ cup fresh dill

⅓ cup parsley or cilantro

A pinch of thyme

3-4 cloves of garlic

A few red pepper flakes (optional)

⅓ cup olive oil

Enough truffle oil to drizzle on later

Salt and pepper

Equipment:

1 large mixing bowl

1 immersion blender

Instructions:

Take all your ingredients, except truffle oil, salt and pepper. Blend in large mixing bowl until smooth. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a tiny drizzle of truffle oil on top. Use whatever leftover herbs as a garnish.

That’s it. Promise.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin pie this Fall

When a good friend asked me to bake a few desserts for her bridal shower, I had in mind something pretty but also delicious.  Luckily, she made it easy by selecting gold and white as her colors.  Pumpkin pie, apple rose pastries, and homemade marshmallows immediately jumped into my mind.  (Had she selected silver and white, I would have torn my hair out one strand at a time.)

That’s what I ended up making.  I left the homemade whipped cream on the side, but visually it would have been better had I spooned a dollop on each pie.
Let’s talk about pumpkin pie.

I did a taste test a few years ago. I tried evaporated milk, coconut milk, and heavy cream.  Hands down, the heavy cream pie tasted far better to me.

Ingredients:

2 cups of pumpkin pulp purée from a sugar pumpkin*

1 1/2 cup heavy cream


1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar.


1/3 cup white sugar


2 eggs plus the yolk of a third egg


2 teaspoons of cinnamon


1 teaspoon ground ginger


1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon


1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest


1 good crust (I’ll post a pie crust recipe soon)

* To make pumpkin purée from a sugar pumpkin: start with a small-medium sugar pumpkin, cut out the stem and scrape out the insides, discard (save the seeds, of course). Cut the pumpkin in half and lay cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet lined with Silpat or aluminum foil. Bake at 350°F until fork tender, about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove from oven, let cool, scoop out the pulp. I’ll immersion blend the pulp to make it as smooth as possible.If you plan to make whipped cream, then put a large stainless steel bowl, and whisk or whisk attachments in the freezer. Trust me, you want to do that.

Preheat oven to 425°F.2 Mix sugars, salt, and spices, and lemon zest in a large bowl. 

Beat the eggs and add to the bowl. Stir in the pumpkin purée. Stir in cream. Whisk all together until well incorporated.  

Pour into pie shell and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 350°F. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  If you’re making mini pies, then 30 minutes at 350 degrees would work.  Cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours.

Now pour 1 cup of heavy cream in the stainless steel bowl left in the freezer. Whip it with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Don’t overbeat. Serve on the pie.

    Enjoy!

    Love the dinner party

    I had quite a weekend, in terms of cooking, last weekend.  I made a few treats for a dear friend’s bridal shower, and then hosted a dinner party for some old friends.

    Let’s tackle the dinner party first.  You have to love dinner parties.  Either throwing one or attending one.  What’s more ubiquitous across cultures than sharing a meal in the home?

    My typical dinner party starts with an appetizer, main entree of some sort of meaty dish, with a few sides and then dessert.  This time around, I broke my own rule.  One friend happened to love my stewed oxtail, another friend loves duck.  Also, I still had some of the lovely tuna Dave caught vacuum sealed and frozen, I decided to do an air, land and sea themed dinner.

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    Air, land and sea.

    Both the tuna poke and oxtail are keto friendly.  The duck, eaten without the pancake as Dave did, can also be part of your diet.

     

     

     

    Eat more oxtail

    I’m truly delighted that nowadays when you mention oxtail, not everyone will cringe or shrink back in revulsion.  How about you?   What do you picture when you hear oxtail?  Does it look like this:

    I happen to love the oxtail as a stewed meat.  It’s bone, cartilage, and bits of fat releases an amazing flavor slow cooked.

    Recently I decided to steal a page from the classic French boeuf bourguignon and use oxtail instead of lean beef.  Instead of using flour to thicken the sauce, I let the lid of my dutch oven open slightly, lowered the heat and increased the cooking time.  Thus, it too can be part of the keto diet.  No flour.  No sugar.  Still pretty delicious.

    Ingredients

    One 6-ounce slices of bacon (apple prefer apple wood smoked)
    3 pounds oxtail
    1 carrot, sliced
    1 onion, diced
    Salt and pepper
    3 cups red wine. I use whatever I have on hand
    1/4 cup cognac
    2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (Can be made yourself ahead of time)
    4 cloves mashed garlic
    2-3 sprigs of thyme
    2-3 sprigs of rosemary
    2-3 sprigs of flat parsley
    1 bay leaf
    half a stalk of celery
    18 to 24 pearl onions
    3 1/2 tablespoons butter

    I highly recommend dicing all the veggies before hand. Tie the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley and celery with kitchen twine in a bouquet garni.  Set aside.

    Sizzle and brown bacon in a dutch oven. Let the fat render out. Take the bacon out and set aside. Brown each piece of oxtail, sprinkled with salt and pepper
    until all the pieces of oxtail are brown. Put it aside with the bacon.

    Toss in diced onions and garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Fry until soft and aromatic. 

    Add cognac. Let it boil off, scraping the side and bottom of the pot.
    Slowly add in wine and beef stock. Toss in bouquet garni. I left a bit of string on one end to tie around the handle. It makes for easier removal later.

    Now add in oxtail and bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, covered for 2 + hours. I leave a bit of the lid ajar to let out steam and ensure
    the sauce thickens. When the beef is tender and falling off the bone it’s ready.

    30-45 minutes before serving, heat butter in a large skillet, then toss in the mushrooms, onions, and carrots. Cook until there’s a bit of brown to the carrots.  Pour everything into the dutch oven and cook till ready to serve.

    Enjoy!

    Almond Butter

    Yesterday I posted about Phat Fudge!  One of the key ingredients in my version is almond butter.  The fat nuts contain is an essential part of the ketogenic diet, but I don’t think I need to explain the health benefits of nuts.

    Now buying almond butter is quick and easy, and no doubt having a jar of almond butter that lasts a while feels less wasteful.  Still, what sort of additives do those jars contain to increase shelf life?  And will those additives countermand all the goodness of just almonds?  Just how much harder would it be to make your own?

    Almond butter is surprisingly easy to make.  Buy a bag of raw almonds, toast it in the oven and blend it in a food processor until creamy.  Add a tiny bit of oil, if you must, to make the almond butter smoother quicker.

    Ingredients:

    2 cups of whole raw almonds

    1 clean jar for storage

    (Optional:  1/2 teaspoon sea salt. 1 tablespoon MCT Oil)

    Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Pour the toasted almonds into your food processor and let it blend.  Occasionally stop the machine and scrape down the sides.

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    Eventually, the almonds will release its own oil turning the crumbles into dough, then into a paste, and finally to butter.  It’ll take somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

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    If you lack patience and want to cut the process time, when the almonds start to clump together pour in a tablespoon of MCT oil or something equally flavorless and healthy.

    That’s it!  Enjoy!

    For further reading on the benefits of almond butter, I’ve included the links below:

    Almond Butter versus Peanut Butter

    Should YOU Eat It

    Phat Fudge!

    As I mentioned in my previous post, Peking Duck (Beijing Roast Duck), I am preparing a duck dinner, and I really make it rest in the fridge for five days.

    So what am I doing in the meantime?  Well, to help my husband Dave maintain his weight loss, I make Phat Fudge!  This a snack idea Dave came across as he decided to journey into the ketogenic diet.  To satisfy his mid-afternoon munchies, Dave’s relies on a handful of nuts or phat fudge to stave off hunger and give his energy a boost.

    The credit for the original idea goes to The Paleo Chef, Mary Shenouda.  I tweaked the recipe to fit Dave’s palate.  This is truly key to Dave’s weight loss.

    Ingredients:

    1 cup Almond butter

    1 cup grass fed butter (I recommend Kerrygold unsalted butter)
    1/4 cup Raw Cacao Paste

    1 tbsp turmeric
    1/2 tbsp cinnamon (ground is fine)
    honey (depending on how sweet you want it, anywhere from 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp)
    1 tsp vanilla (not pictured, but necessary)
    *Optional:  Handful of cacao nibs, slices of toasted almonds, walnuts, flax seed or whatever you want to add to your fudge.

    1.  Since I make my own almond butter, I find two cups of raw almonds make slightly more than 1 cup almond butter.  So I use about as much as I believe is a cup, scrapped from the food processor into a sauce pan .  Throw in 8oz  or 1 cup of butter and whisk the two together on low heat until it’s melted and combined.
    2. Add honey, then raw cacao.  Whisk well until cacao paste has completely melted.
    3. Add in the rest of the ingredients.
    4. Pour the mixture into a silicon ice cube tray.  I usually add some cacao nibs and walnuts to the bottom of the tray before pouring in the hot mixture and then top it with some more nibs and walnuts for a nice crunch.  Pop into the freezer to set.

    That’s it!  Enjoy!  #phatfudge  #eatplaycrush