Liam’s Mancave Chili

Well, that was certainly a long hiatus! Believe me, a lot longer than I expected. I am just getting over an unbelievable bout of bacterial bronchitis (say that 5 times fast). The good news is that I have a back-log of recipes to post. I also have a lovely new header (see?) thanks to the fabulously talented Miss Andrea Q., whose kindness I hope to repay in cookies. ‘Cause, you know, you can’t mail chili…

On to the good stuff…

I named this chili after two Liams: my brother Liam, and my faithful taste-tester, house-sitter and overall wacky guy, our good friend Liam. My brother had chatted with me recently about wanting to make a chili that was elevated to new heights of meaty-deliciousness. And had bacon. While I didn’t have bacon on hand while I was concocting this chili, I did have leftover pulled pork. I think it gives another layer of meaty yumminess to the chili. Plus it was a great way to use the last of the pulled pork. Our friend Liam was lovely enough to pop by our house and take home some of what turned out to be a massive pot of chili. He declared it “Mantastic”.

Please be warned: this is no veggie lover’s delight. I did not follow the “I need to use up X vegetables – let’s make chili!” train of thought. Veggie chili is good, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t right for the Liams in my life.

One more thing, may I suggest finding a butcher who makes sausages? In my experience, buying directly from a butcher means amazing flavour with very little or no fillers/additives. This means no wheat, excessive fat, etc.. just meaty goodness.

Liam’s Mancave Chili

Serves 6 to 8

1 lb ground Beef

1 lb hot Italian Sausage, removed from casings

1 large red onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1.5 cups leftover pulled pork (optional) or

5 thick slices bacon, cooked until lightly crisped, drained and chopped (optional)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tsp salt (optional)

1 packet stevia or 1 tsp sugar (or sweetener of your choice – brings out the flavour of the tomatoes)

3 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp garlic powder (or granulated garlic)

1 tbsp cumin

1 to 2 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like heat)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef and sausage (removed from casing) over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain off all but 1 tsp of fat and set aside.

Add your chopped red onions and cook over medium-low heat until onions begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. This step will add some sweetness to your chili.

Once onions have begin to caramelize, add your minced garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes until garlic is very fragrant.

I recommend roasted red peppers that have been packed in water, NOT vinegar.

Add your drained and chopped red peppers to your chili pot.

Add your can of crushed tomatoes and your black beans. At this point, you can also return the ground beef/sausage mixture to the pot along with any leftover pulled pork you may have (or bacon if you’re really feeling crazy).

Add your lime juice and spices. Allow to simmer one hour and then taste. Adjust seasonings if it’s not how you like it. More lime juice will temper your chili if it’s too hot. You may need to add salt but I prefer to use little to none, if possible. A couple of drops of liquid smoke might be good at this point, too. After your adjust the seasonings, you can serve the chili if pressed for time or continue to simmer for another hour (my preference).

Served topped with your favorite add-ons. JD’s is shown here with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese and a side of baked tortilla chips I made in the oven. I prefer mine plain with some chopped green onions on top and maybe a little sour cream.

Enjoy!

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Chicken Soup with Chicken-Chickpea Dumplings

Sometimes you want to be comforted by your meals. In winter, this often means reaching for another serving of a cheesy casserole or curling up on a stormy day with a big plate of nachos – and there is nothing wrong with that, on occasion.

Making this recipe only further convinced me that there are gratifying, stomach-filling recipes that fit the comfort bill without necessarily bogging you down under thousands of calories.

I came across this recipe purely by accident and found it to be both delicious and very filling – not to mention being egg free, dairy free, low carb and just good for what ails you! It was so filling, in fact, that I could not finished the bowl above. I fed this soup to quite a few friends who dropped by for a visit and 4 dumplings were an average sized portion, 6 for a very hungry person.

Try not to skip the fresh herbs, they really elevate the soup to another level.

Oh, and my recipe is loosely based on this one. I actually found the dumplings to be a bit too dense for my taste. The recipe below will have my adjustments so they are a little more tender.

To make the dumplings, you will need chickpea flour. Before you groan about hunting down an unusual ingredient, let me tell you: chickpea flour is super easy to make. You simply whizz dried chickpeas in your food processor/blender/coffee grinder/whatever. I used a magic bullet and it worked a treat, my only complaint being that it was so loud!  Dried chickpeas can be found at your local grocery store, health food store or bulk store.

Chicken and Chickpea Dumplings (Gundi) in Chicken Soup

Adapted from Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks

Dumplings:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1.5 cups chickpea flour 
  • 2 medium yellow onions, grated
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • About 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • About 2 tablespoons water

Soup:

  •  2 quarts/boxes chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Assorted chopped fresh herbs: any combination of basil, parsley and cilantro

1. In a medium bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients, adding enough water to form a mixture that is smooth but not sticky. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours. Using moistened hands, shape into smooth 1-inch balls, about the size of golf balls.

2. In a large pot, add the olivie oil, sliced onions and celerey and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth to  lemon juice, turmeric, and salt and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the gundi, cover, and simmer until the gundi are tender, about 40 minutes.

3. Add some chopped fresh herbs to your soup bowl. Spoon dumplings and broth over herbs and serve.

Add chickpea flour (easy to make at home!) and  grated onions

Spices and fresh herbs flavour the dumplings and the soup

Add your ground chicken and blend thoroughly with your impeccably clean hands

Make sure your mixture is well blended – it will be dense

Form your chilled mixture into balls – ready for a long simmer in hot broth

Add your fresh herbs and serve

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is causing lips to smack all over town these days and with good reason. It’s easy to prepare, relatively inexpensive and just plain good. I have been using the same recipe for years now and was relieved in a big way when I realized it is super low-carb and candida diet friendly. Yay!

I should confess right now that my recipe for pulled pork is of the spiced, intensely flavorful variety also called carnitas (aka Mexican pulled pork). It is not the BBQ sauce coated sweet variety (also good, just too sugary for me).

I first made pulled pork for one of JD’s birthday parties a few years ago. I wanted something that would feed lots of bellies but that wouldn’t be too fussy. Pulled Pork Taco Party (or PPTP) became a hit with our friends. I set up the crock pot full of pulled pork and as many toppings as I can think of buffet-style and it’s always a hit. I have been asked for this recipe more times than I care to count….so why not share with everyone?

One word of advice: start early. The recipe yields best results when you cook it on low for 8-10 hours. The low/slow method of cooking allows the collagen to melt down and the pork to become super tender whereupon you can shred it with two forks or pull it apart with your hands.

I often put this recipe in the crock pot on a weekend day when I know I’ll be close to home. I have even done it overnight, which is also nice since you wake up with perfectly cooked pork roast and you can shred and refrigerate until needed.

Pulled Pork aka Carnitas

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1-1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano

1-1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tbsp chili powder

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast

2 bay leaves

2 cups chicken broth (or other broth)

1 can green chilis (optional – I occasionally add these just to shake things up)

1 packet stevia (or  1 tbsp brown sugar, or honey – optional)

1. If there is a rind of skin and fat on your pork roast, remove as much of it as you can with a sharp knife and discard.

2. Mix your spices together in a bowl.

3. Rub spices into your pork roast, taking care to rub them into any nooks and crannies.

4. Place your bay leaves in the bottom of your slow cooker. Carefully lay pork roast on top.

5. Carefully pour your broth alongside the pork roast, taking care not to wash off the spices.

6. Set your slow cooker to its low setting and allow pork to cook for 8-10 hours, turning it over halfway. Check after 8 hours to see if it is sufficiently tender.

7. Remove pork from slow cooker, shred with two forks or your impeccably clean hands.

8. Skim fat off your braising liquid and discard bay leaves. Stir in one can of green chilies (optional) and stevia. At this point you can either boil this mixture down so it is a thicker sauce and season pork with it or you can add it to pork, as-is, and roast in a 350 degree oven so the pork gets little crispy bits and the sauce keeps the meat juicy (as pictured above).

9. Eat! In tacos, taco bowls (low carb), pulled pork omelets, sandwiches…

Get all your spices together – this may indeed be the most difficult part of this recipe

Pork shoulder yields the best pulled pork and it’s very budget-friendly, too!

After the rub-down

Into the slow cooker with some lovely broth

Meltingly tender…mmmm

A little crisping in the oven…

Pulled pork taco for JD

Pulled pork taco bowl for me – on a bed of shredded cabbage with lime juice

I actually made JD a pulled pork omelet for Sunday brunch today – served with a nice cold beer. He devoured in less time than it took me to whisk the eggs!

Enjoy.

Julia

Cabbage Rolls

I am a cabbage roll making novice. As such, I found these cabbage rolls to be good but not great. Maybe because I used cauliflower in place of rice for the filling. Yes, you did read that right and no I am not as crazy as I sound.

It occurred to me that maybe substituting brown rice for cauliflower make make the cabbage rolls more tender. That or maybe just a longer baking time in the oven will do the trick. I should say, in defense of cauliflower, that you can hardly detect that it’s cauliflower you’re eating and they are very low carb. Not to mention a great way to sneak vegetables into your diet. Still, I wonder if, made with brown rice, they would come out just a little bit more satisfying. Either way, JD ate two servings with great enthusiasm so I must be, at the very least, heading in the right direction.

As for the cauliflower, you can make ‘faux rice’ by grating a head of cauliflower with a cheese grater. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s actually very quick and easy. I have made cauliflower fried rice this way and it was delicious. Something to try if you want to up your vegetable quotient.

After reading many unappealing recipes for cabbage rolls involving tomato soup, I took the basic elements and made up my own version to suit our tastes. Voila.

Cabbage Rolls

Service 4-6

For the filling:

  • 1 small green cabbage or 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small head cauliflower, grated with a cheese grater

For the Sauce:

  • 1 28oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • 1 packet stevia or 1 tsp sugar or 1 tsp honey (no chemical sweeteners, please!)

1. Cut the core from the cabbage or do what I did and make deep cuts around the core so the leaves detach easily.

2. Submerge the cabbage in a pot of boiling water. Boil 5 minutes until outer leaves are tender, remove leaves and continue boiling and collecting leaves until you have a fair amount (this should not take the whole cabbage).

3. Using a sharp knife, remove the tough vein at the back of each cabbage leaf – this will make the rolling process a lot easier. Set leaves aside while you prepare your filling.

4.  Cook ground beef in a large pot, breaking up as you go, until no longer pink. Drain off fat and set aside.

5. If needed, add a small amount of olive oil to your pan. Add onion and stir until onion begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and continue stirring until garlic is fragrant and soft, another 3 minutes.

6. Add grated cauliflower and continue cooking, stirring every so often, about 4 minutes more.

7. Add your seasonings and return ground beef to the pot, stir every to incorporate and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Set aside to cool.

8. For the sauce, add your can of tomatoes, oregano, garlic, pepper, cinnamon and stevia to a large saucepan. Stir together and let simmer 15 minutes.

9. Assemble your cabbage rolls by spooning 2-3 tbsp of filling into each leaf (more if larger), folding sided in and rolling towards you (like a burrito!). Lay rolls seem side down in a large casserole dish.

10. Spoon sauce over cabbage rolls and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour (you may want to cover with tin foil for the first 30 minutes).

Phew.. a 10 step recipe. I admit, it is fussier than your average dish but it’s certainly tasty. Cabbage rolls, I will revisit you. You will bend to my will next time!

Oh and I have a really, really yummy dinner in the works right now. Until tomorrow,

Julia

Crispy Fish Tacos

I have had tacos on my mind for a while now. Specifically fish tacos. Over the past week I have read no shortage of fish taco recipes  – grilled, blackened, baja style (battered) and so on, ad naseum.

Don't you want me, baby? Don't you want me nowwwwww?

Making fish tacos also seemed like a good way for me to adapt a meal to the low-carb/candida diet methods…JD had his in tortillas as depicted above, I ate mine as a ‘taco bowl’ on top of shredded red and green cabbage. When JD saw this meal he said “I know this might be mean to say but I am kind of glad you are on this Candida diet thing. Everything is so fresh and awesome and delicious!” I guess you can’t argue with that logic, especially after you watch someone consume four tacos like it’s the first time they’ve seen food in a week.

To add to the spicy fish, I made home made pico de gallo (aka fresh salsa), home made guacamole and opted for pre-washed shredded red and green cabbage to top it off. I wanted spicy, fresh and something creamy to make up for the lack of cheese. You could always add cheese or sour cream if you like but in my opinion the cheese becomes unnecessary and may be too heavy for the lightness of the fish.

I used fresh cod, which was on sale, lucky for me. Any white fish will work here – haddock, cod, tilapia, etc.

Ah, but let’s do this in the right order – the pico de gallo:

Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa)

– 5-6 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used roma, please use the ripest tomatoes you can get your hands on)

– 1/2 a medium red onion, diced

– 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (leave the seeds if you like things really hot)

– 3-4 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

– 1.5 tbsp lime juice

– 0.5 tsp salt

1. Cut your tomatoes into quarters, remove and discard seeds (aka guts) with your hands. Chop tomatoes finely.

2. Chop onion and cilantro. Remove seeds from jalapeno and chop finely.

3. Add all veggies to a bowl and toss with lime juice and salt.

4. Allow salsa to sit for one hour as the salt will bring out the juice of the tomatoes and everything will mingle together happily.

A note on the guacamole: I prefer my guacamole smooth but JD likes his chunky. To compromise I devised this method which still gives the guacamole an addictive quality you can’t quite put your finger on.

Guacamole for 2

– 1 ripe avocado

– 1 clove garlic, peeled

– 3 tbsp chopped red onion

– 1/4 cup chopped tomato

– 1 tsp lime juice.

1. In a blender or food processed, blitz garlic clove, avocado and lime juice. If mixture is too stiff to blend, add a teaspoon or two of water.

2. Add avocado to your bowl and stir in the onion and tomato.

3. Tip: to prevent your guacamole from going brown in the fridge, add the avocado pit to the bowl. It will stay green and fresh :)

The crispy fish were actually no trouble to adapt to a candida diet (or low carb/gluten free, either). For the coating, instead of cow’s milk I used almond milk, which was so mild as to be undetectable. For the flour I used, brown rice flour. Bob’s Red Mill makes a stone ground brown rice flour that is sold at most major grocery stores (usually in the ‘health food’ section). Brown rice flour gives the coating a great crispiness but you could use any flour you have on hand (almond, spelt, wheat, etc.).

Crispy Fish for Tacos – Serves Two

– 3/4 lb firm white fish fillet (Cod, Haddock, Tilapia, etc)

– 1 cup brown rice flour

– 1 cup almond or rice milk

– 1 tsp chili powder

– 1 tsp cumin

– 1 tsp garlic powder

– 0.5 tsp freshly ground pepper

– 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

– 1/4 cup olive oil for frying (approximate)

1. In a shallow bowl, mix flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, pepper and cayenne together, set aside.

2. Pour almond milk into a second shallow bowl, set aside.

3. Cut fish into one inch pieces (bite size). Dip fish pieces one by one into almond milk and then into flour mixture, to coat.

4. Add olive oil to your skillet and preheat for 2-3 minutes. Add fish (you may need to do this in batches) and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. For thicker pieces it may take 3 minutes per side. Remove fish to a plate lined with paper towels and place in a warm oven while you do the other batches.

5. To assemble tacos (as if you need to know this): place a tablespoon of guacamole on a tortilla, followed by two tablespoons of salsa, top with 3-4 pieces of fish and shredded cabbage. If skipping the tortillas, arrange shredded cabbage in a large bowl, add several heaping tablespoons of salsa, a heaping spoonful of guacamole and arrange fish around the perimeter.

Voila, crispy fish tacos. JD was certainly enamoured with his!

The Julia version….

I have to say this dinner came together really quickly. It was fresh and delicious and very satisfying. I made the salsa and guac in advance but you really don’t need to. Other than the initial chopping of the vegetables, it’s a breeze. If you try it, let me know what you think.

xo Julia

Garlic, Garlic, Garlic

There are some major changes happening in my life so the blog format will be changing, too. However, the explanation can wait…recipes first, chitter chatter later.

This post may result in an incredulous e-mail from my mother but…I have discovered a new way to roast a chicken. I realize that’s kind of like saying “I discovered a new way to roll a wheel” but, hey, try it.

This chicken is very loosely based on the Judy Rodgers’ version (of Zuni Café fame). Basically, you wash, pat dry and salt a chicken as soon as you know you want to have it for dinner. The original recipe states 24 hours but I usually only figure out dinner the day of.

You salt and pepper the whole chicken (be liberal, it’s ok), put the chicken back on a platter and stick it in the fridge. The cold, dry air of your refrigerator will help yield a crispy chicken skin and extremely juicy meat.

Take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before you intend to cook it so that it can come to room temperature. A cold chicken won’t cook evenly. Preheat your oven to 400F (see note below as you may need to heat your oven to 425 or even 450).

Here’s another secret… separate the cloves from a bulb of garlic. Leave them unpeeled. Stick them into the chicken cavity and seal the cavity with a toothpick. Super garlicky chicken + amazing roasted garlic = love.

Roast the chicken breast side up for 20 minutes, flip and roast breast side down for another 20 minutes (for even cooking), and finally turn again and roast breast-side up for the final 20 minutes. That’s it. One hour in a hot oven + resting and you will be amazed at how juicy and delicious your chicken is.

Crispy Garlicky Roasted Chicken

**UPDATE: You may want to roast your chicken for another 10 minutes or so if you cut into it and the thigh is still pink near the bone. Or you can raise the temperature of your oven by 25 or 50 degrees. This depends on your oven and your personal preferences. Just be careful not to over-cook. My oven is very small so it is very hot and 60 minutes  at 400 degrees does the trick. As with many recipes, your mileage may vary! Enjoy.

– One 3-4lb chicken

– 1.5 tsp sea salt

– 1 tsp pepper

– 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated but left unpeeled

1. Salt and pepper chicken as soon as you think of roasting on – sometime between 2 and 24 hours before. Return salted chicken to the refrigerator.

2. Remove chicken 1 hour before ready to cook and allow to come to room temperature, more or less.

3. Preheat oven to 400F and fill cavity with garlic cloves and seal cavity closed using a toothpick.

4. Using a small* roasting pan or dish, add a little olive oil to the pan and then add the chicken breast side up. Roast 20 minutes.

5. Turn chicken breast side down and continue to roast another 20 minutes.

6. Flip chicken once more and roast breast side up for the final 20 minutes.

7. Allow chicken to rest for 20 minutes so that juices can redistribute. Remove roasted garlic from cavity and serve alongside chicken.

*It is essential to use a roasting pan or dish or even pie plate approximately the same size of your chicken. This will ensure that the juices and fat that come from the chicken don’t burn.

JD and I were actually thinking that roasted chicken should be our new Sunday thing. You can’t beat the smell of a bird in the oven, now can you? Plus when I brought JD a sample of chicken to taste his response was something like “Ohhh yeahh!!!” (think of the Kool-Aid man here, folks).

Another brainwave that I had last night was to use pesto as salad dressing. For reasons I will elaborate on later, I can’t have any vinegar so life is a bit dull where salads are concerned. Anyway I don’t have a name for this salad, it just floated into my mind. Maybe I’ll call it Pesto Salad…

I forgot to buy pine nuts….almonds it is!

The ubiquitous magic bullet

Pesto Salad (serves 2 generously)

– 3-4 cups mixed greens (I love love love pre-washed greens)

– 2 roma tomatoes, sliced (or the best tomatoes you can find in winter)

– 2 oz of soft goat’s cheese, crumbled

For the Pesto

– 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds

– 2 cloves garlic, peeled

– 2 cups basil, loosely packed

– 1/4 cup olive oil (be geneous, this is a salad dressing after all)

– 1-2 tsbp of lemon juice, to taste

1. In a large bowl, arrange the tomatoes and the mixed greens, set aside.

2. For the pesto, toast the nuts in a hot, dry pan until they start to brown, about 3-4 minutes (watch closely).

3. To a food processor, blender or magic bullet, add the basil, garlic, lemon juice, nuts and olive oil. Blend until smooth. If pesto is too thick, add more olive oil.

4. Spoon desired amount of dressing over salad, toss. Top with crumbled goat’s cheese.

I recently had some allergy testing done – 6 vials of blood later, quite a lot of foods and environmental elements are tested in a lab and the results returned to my doctor. It seems I am allergic to eggs and yeast. Who knew?! We were certainly shocked. Not only that, many of the symptoms and weird ailments I have been experiencing can be tied in to a yeast overgrowth. Everyone has both good bacteria and yeast in their gut. However, if yeast grows unchecked, it can release toxins into your body causing all manner of ridiculous symptoms: fatigue, mood swings, inability to lose weight, ear, nose and eye issues, gastrointestinal issues….I could go on.

Having learned all of this, my doctor recommended that I follow what is known as the Candida Diet. It is essentially a way of eating that does not include any foods that feed yeast – think sugary, starchy foods along with fruits, vinegars, mushrooms, alcohol, etc. Sounds hard, right? Well, it is and it isn’t. It is very similar to a diet low in carbohydrates but is at the same time more restrictive and less restrictive than a low-carb diet. By which I mean, no vinegar means no condiments such as mustard, bbq sauce, hot sauce, soya sauce, etc. Vinegar feeds yeast. On the other hand, there is room for whole grains, nuts and legumes in moderation.

So all this to say my blog will take on something of a healthier spin. I will still be baking, I just may not be the one eating my creations. I should also point out that the Candida Diet is challenging even for experienced cooks. By blogging about it, hopefully the recipes and meals I come up with can help others. I know there is a LOT of contradictory information on the internet about the Candida Diet so my approach has been to go by what my doctor recommends and take it slow. I tried some whole wheat noodles at sushi the other day – that was a huge no. I tried some unsweetened coconut milk (now packaged like rice, soy or almond milk) and that was a huge YES.

So stay tuned for a mixture of low-carb, candida-killing, super tasty and healthy posts.