Use that leftover pork loin. Sticky Pork Stir Fry!

I’m a household of ONE. So leftovers from weekend dinners with my family are a constant challenge. The leftover pork loin we enjoyed Sunday usually becomes a gamey reminder by Tuesday daring me to try to mask its flavor. I admit, often I’ll just end up tossing it in the trash. How wasteful. I would estimate I throw away probably 15% of my food budget. I compost and I recycle, so tossing leftovers just doesn’t sit right with me.

The Tasty Leftover Pork Loin Recycle Challenge.

Sunday pork loin leftover and fresh from the refrigerator

I have a 8 oz piece of leftover pork loin in the fridge. I have vegetables, so some kind of stir fry is my leftover savior this week. The objective is to create a new fabulous dish from a previous meal with leftovers and pantry ingredients. Anyone else feel they’ve been watching too many episodes of the Food Network’s Chopped while staying at home during Covid-19?

I admit this sticky, spicy, garlic makeover won’t be the most adventurous dish, but I can report that it turned out to be tasty and the pork loin is gone. That’s a leftover success story!

Sticky Pork Stir Fry

8 ounces of leftover pork loin (yes, already cooked)
1/2 cup of cauliflower rice
1/2 cup of broccoli florets
Canola oil spray

The Sauce
3 medium cloves of garlic (minced chop or processed on a microplane)
1 inch of ginger grated on a microplane (don’t use powdered here)
1/4 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of sweet and spicy chili sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar (I used a seasoned brand but it doesn’t matter)
1 scallion
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Let’s get Saucy!

If you don’t own a microplane grater, buy one! This grater from Amazon is good for Parmesan cheese, zesting, nutmeg, and even dusting desserts or coffees with chocolate. It’s only $11 and it adds so much to your cooking and baking.

The sauce is the key to this leftover makeover. It is sweet and salty, and just a little bit spicy from the addition of garlic and ginger. The pork definitely can handle the extra flavor, and the texture of the pan-fried pork is complimented by the sticky honey-based sauce.

Ginger, honey, soy boiled until it thickens

In a small bowl let’s make the ginger and garlic sauce. Whisk together the honey, chili sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

I always have some ginger peeled and frozen in the freezer. I used a basic microplane (nothing fancy) to grate the garlic and the ginger into this mixture.

It’s going to be a little thick and gummy until it hits the warm pan. Then you’ll think it’s too runny, but have a little faith. For now, just set that aside and let those flavors start to marry.

Prep the main dish.

Steam your broccoli to tender (not mushy). Pull it off the heat and set it aside.

Next, spray your skillet with the canola spray. I have an oil misting bottle. They are inexpensive and can spray different oils or vinegar. I love these because I can refill them every week after a simple clean up. If you like to BBQ they are so much easier than rubbing oily paper towels on the grates before cooking. I’m not fond of the commercial canned oil sprays as they often add a strange aerosol taste.

Let the skillet and oil coating heat on medium-high while you slice up the pork loin. You want to create 1/4-inch strips of pork loin. You are only going to crust them slightly and warm them through. So be careful not to overcook them and make them tough. Toss the pork loin strips in the pan, stirring constantly and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. This pork loin was BBQ Mesquite, but it doesn’t matter whether it’s plain or flavored. Use whatever you have on hand.

Add the sauce mixture to the pork and let it come to a bubble. Baste the pork to completely coat and then turn the heat down to medium low and let it sit for 5 to 8 minutes until the sauce, which has now melted, thickens slightly to a glaze. Next toss in the broccoli.

Plating makes the presentation.

You can obviously serve this over steamed rice or next to fried rice. However, since I’ve been eating low-carb, I served this over the cauliflower rice that’s been heated and cooked with a little salt seasoning.

If you already own a food processor, creating cauliflower rice is a breeze. Just remove the florets from the stalk and pulse them in the food processor until they resemble rice kernels. I do own a 9-cup food processor, but cleaning it is such a chore, so for Christmas last year I got this KitchenAid 3.5 cup mini chopper and I use it practically every day. It goes straight into the dishwasher after I’m done and is as easy to clean as possible.

If you want to get fancy, add some sliced scallions to the top of this dish or sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Yummmm!

This post includes links to Amazon products that I bought and reviewed. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.

Posted in Dinner, Leftover Makeover | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Keto Tomato Jam is a Flavor Bomb from the Past

Tomato Jam begins with simple ingredients

Valeria Bertinelli made a Tomato Jam on her Food Network program earlier this summer and served it with crackers. Summer is the best time to use fresh tomatoes. I remember as a young girl my Mom would feed me a plate of tomatoes with sugar as treat. I never considered cooking tomato into a jam or preserve until I stumbled across an old 1800s recipe. As I started to craft this keto tomato jam recipe, my head and my taste naturally took me to the savory-side of tomato. I kept thinking of all the ways I could use it to help keep myself on the diet.

Tomato jelly and preserves dates back to the 1850s. Canning and preserving are back in vogue, along with pickling, in this age of Covid-19 and Stay-at-Home orders. Maybe we can also recapture these long lost recipes from our Grandmothers generation.

My first attempt at a savory Tomato Jam tasted so good that I could eat it with a spoon straight from the jar. It’s great on burgers in place of ketchup. It finishes grilled lamb or salmon perfectly. It also pairs well with cheeses and cured meats.

Most tomato jam leans savory naturally, but most include at least some brown sugar. You can use brown sugar stevia if you want that sweet taste, but I didn’t need the sugar to produce my basic savory tomato jam recipe. Tomatoes naturally have a lot of pectins and do not require sugar to achieve that thick, gooey jam texture.

Basic Tomato Jam

  • 2 pounds plum or Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white or red wine (whatever you’ve got in the fridge)
  • 1 large Vidalia onion
  • 1 smoked chipotle pepper cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime zest
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium, non-reactive saucepan carmelize the onion. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, and lemon juice, and cook stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and wine and cook down for about 30 minutes until the liquid evaporates and you are left with a syrup-based consistency.

Let’s speak for a minute about non-reactive pans and utensils. You are looking for a stainless steel sauce pan. The acid of tomatoes will react with the contents and leave a metallic taste in your jam. Copper, stainless steel and cast iron pans are non-reactive. I personally chose the Viking 3-quart sauce pan. It most closely resembles my Grandmother’s pan that lasted her entire lifetime.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the jam to cool and then store it in a glass canning jar like these traditional Ball Mason Jars. It will keep in the refrigerator easily for two weeks. You could store jam jars for up to a year using a traditional canning method. Fill the jars and leave 1/2-inch at the top of the jar, then submerge them in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

A versatile condiment

Savory tomato jam can be spiced up with red pepper flakes or made even more luscious with the addition of bacon. This tomato jam is a wonderful appetizer served with crusty bread and mozzarella cheese or added as a condiment to chicken, beef, pork, or over eggs.

Tomato jam is a great substitute for ketchup and can be used on hotdogs, hamburgers, meat, fish, or chicken. I top frittatas and eggs with it. I used it as a sauce layer on flatbread pizza and topped it with mozzarella and olives as an appetizer.

Savory tomato jam spread on bread will complement hearty hoagies, tea sandwiches, and tartines. Thie jam adds an elegant twist to grilled cheese sandwiches or ham and cheese grilled sandwiches. Mix it with mayonnaise, buttermilk, and bacon to make a dynamite BLT salad dressing.

A review of some of my favorite canning websites proved that tomato preserves were at their most popular in the 1930s and 40s when American’s had Victory Gardens. The recipes vary from the south to the north with different types of vinegar and more or less sugar. Some of our grandmothers used green tomatoes and others did a full mix of colors. Grandma basically used whatever was in the garden and her pantry.

Tomato jam saved my life when friends dropped by one night. Just whipping together cream cheese and feta cheese, spreading it on toast, and top with tomato jam. The tomato jam toast appetizer is perfect with wine, fruit, and cheese. It makes a quick pizza-style sauce for any pizza toppings on flatbread or English Muffins. If you are following a low carb diet, pour an entire pint jar over one block of cream cheese and serve with vegetables and almond flour crackers as a starter.

The Sweeter Side of Tomato

It is easy to talk about tomato jam as a savory side dish or a spicy topping. In this basic recipe you can add chilies to spice it up. But tomatoes are actually a fruit and you can also sweeten this recipe.

Sweet Tomato Jam with Vanilla and Honey

  • 3 pounds of ripe tomatoes, cored and diced
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons real lemon juice
  • 2 vanilla beans split
  • pinch kosher salt

Combine all the above ingredients except the tomato in a non-reactive pan. Bring to a simmer on low heat until the sugar dissolves. Gently fold in the tomatoes. Let the whole thing simmer for an hour to an hour and a half stirring every 20 minutes. It will become thick and the tomato will break down. Remove the vanilla bean pods and then fill the prepared mason jars.

This sweet jam is perfect just spread on toast or a buttermilk muffin with tea. It’s an unexpected delight with peanut butter sandwiches.

A basic history of Jam, Preserves and Jelly

The basic tomato jam first appeared in 1840 in the American Farmer that involved straining stewed tomato and adding sugar.

I started canning and pickling a decade ago. I pick up old canning jars in antique shops and online at The Ball Mason Jar company began operations in 1858. The lids for Ball jars that you purchase on Amazon fit ALL the exiting jars. They never changed their jar lids, just the fill capacity.

The major difference between tomato jam in the Yankee states versus the Confederacy appears to be the use of brown sugar and added chilies. Northern recipes typically call for white sugar and additional acid while southern versions point toward brown sugar, which gives you the added flavor of molasses. The creole tastes add a little extra spice by adding a little jalapeno Serrano pepper.

This post includes links to Amazon Products that I bought and reviewed. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.

Posted in Canning, Gourmet from Leftovers, Organics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Rosti Potatoes My Irish Mom Would Love!

What the heck is a rösti? I’m always a little angry, and a little excited, when I hear new potato recipes on cooking shows. I am 100 percent Irish, but raised American, and Americans think they invented fried potatoes.

My Irish Mom taught us to bake, broil, roast and pan fry these starchy gems. I’ve deep fried, air fried, mashed, whipped and shredded potatoes throughout my life. We even made dough out of it. How can it be that I lived 5-decades and never heard of a “rösti” potato?

Rosti Potatoes are easy, inexpensive and delicious
Not fancy or pretentious. The Rösti is just delicious.

I spent my covid-19 quarantine reading, gardening and watching cooking television shows. So, I spent the 90-days of quarantine doing what I’ve always done. So it happened that one Sunday morning I was watching Canadian Chef Spencer Watts Big 30, and I heard about this potato dish with origins that are not Irish, American or Canadian. The rösti is a Swiss concoction.

The rösti is part potato pancake, part hash brown, and part latkes. It began, like most great dishes, as peasant food. It’s cheap, requires no recipe, and can be adapted to regional taste by adding whatever is in the fridge or pantry.

The rösti is the perfect accompaniment to eggs at breakfast or an excellent side at supper. To service simply cut into wedges.

A little potato history.

The potato was first farmed in Peru — that’s right, the new world brought us the spud – between 5000 and 8000 BC. Sir Walter Raleigh brought the potato to Cork, Ireland in 1589 where it becomes a staple of the Irish diet because it is easy to grow and can be stored and eaten far into the winter. It takes another 40 years before it takes hold throughout Europe. Ireland becomes indisputably linked to the potato during the famine from 1845-1852 when a fungus destroys more than half the crop and more than a million Irish peasants flee the country to find food.

The potato comes to America in the 1600s and during the succeeding 200 years it basically is grown as feed for agriculture. American Horticulturist Luther Burbank develops a disease resistant potato in 1872. The Russert-Burbank Potato was introduced to Ireland to help combat the effects from the famine and the Idaho potato industry began.

The Perfect Rösti.

The key to the perfect Rösti is a crispy outer shell and a creamy center. Too much potato in the pan and the end product is too mushy, too little potato and the luxurious mouth feel is lost. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity. You don’t need a special pan and all of the ingredients and most of the toppings are already in your pantry or fridge.

The basic Rösti recipe.

  •  lb. potatoes (Yukon Golds or russets are best)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • Generous 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil for frying; more as needed
Perfect rosti potatoes must be uniformly grated and dried of starch

Peel and grate the potatoes into a bowl of cold, salted water.

Let them sit for at least 5 minutes, and up to 30 minutes. This will help remove some of the starches and keep them from browning. Removing the excess starch will also let them crisp during pan frying.

Drain the water away from the shredded potatoes and pat on a paper towel to absorb the remaining water.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic or onion powder (both is overpowering)

Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a non-stick pan over medium heat.

Once the oil begins to shimmer, place all the potato in the pan and press it down firmly. You want approximately 1/2-inch thickness.

Let it sizzle over medium heat — be careful it doesn’t brown to quickly — for 12-16 minutes. Then turn the rösti over.

If you are not comfortable flipping the potato disk you might at this point flip it out on a plate. Grab a second plate to rotate it onto its cooked side and then return it to the pan. Or you can simply put it under a high broiler for a few minutes until the top browns. Keep an eye on it!

Awesome Additions and Toppings.

You can’t go wrong with standard baked potato toppings like cheddar cheese, chives, sour cream, or bacon.

  • Mayonnaise and horseradish
  • Olive tapenade and feta cheese
  • Sundried tomato and caramelized onion
  • bacon and grated Gruyere cheese
  • Basil, fresh tomato and mozzarella (Rösti pizza)
  • Poached eggs, green onion and swiss cheese

For A Healthier Take

You can replace 1/2 the potato with the sweet potato or even a rutabaga. There will be less starch and carbohydrate.

This post includes links to Amazon products that I bought and reviewed. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner, Snacks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Basic Pot Roast – A cold winter night favorite

Pot Roast Braise

A basic pot roast should be part of every home cook’s repertoire. Pot roast is made from inexpensive cuts of beef, and is cooked for a long period until it becomes tender and falls apart. There is no real timing to it because it is not roasted to taste like medium or rare, so it is almost foolproof. A good pot roast isn’t really about the recipe — it’s about the cooking method.

Basic pot roast is a “braise” that cooks in the oven or a slow cooker for a long, long time to achieve the right tenderness. Where most cooks make a mistake is not seasoning and then searing the beef on all sides before adding it to the pot for a long cook.

Choosing the right cut of beef

Chuck Roast

The butcher counter at the grocery store can be really intimidating if you don’t know which beef cut to choose. I would always gravitate to the most expensive cut or the cut with absolutely not fat on display. That is a costly mistake because taking a lean cut and braising it can make it dry and tough. In this case the tougher cuts of beef are best suited to braising and lucky for you, these are usually cheaper as well. You want cuts of meat that are NOT marbled with fat, but ones that show high dense connective fat tissues like chuck roasts and brisket. You can also make pot roasts with an inexpensive rump roast or round roast, but in my opinion, the chuck is king. These are the working cuts of the cow.

Basic Braising

I like to use my slow cooker for pot roast, but before the crock pot women used a roasting pan and cooked this 2 to 3 pound roast for several hours. The perfect braise brings a liquid up almost half way on the beef roast. You can braise in water, stocks, wine, basically any liquid, but be creative. The more flavor that is in your braising liquid, the more flavor will be infused into your pot roast.

Grandma’s Basic Pot Roast

  • Use a 2 to 3 pound chuck roast — whatever fits into your pan. Be sure the pan you choose is large enough to hold the roast and at least 2 cups of additional liquid. (I did once cook this roast in a pan that barely accommodated the roast and all the liquids overflowed in my oven.) In this case, larger is better.
  • Sprinkle liberally with a basic seasoning. My Grandma mixed 2 tablespoons of kosher salt with 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper. Sear all sides of the roast in a heavy pan.
  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lay the seared beef into the pan.
  • In a sauce pan melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour to make a rue. Cook for 1 minute or until it forms a paste. Add 1 cup of beef stock and 1/2 cup of red wine and mix until the flour mix is fully dissolved. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon drived oregano. Simmer for 3 minutes before adding 1 cup of mushrooms and 1/4 cup of raisins (yup raisins add a little hidden sweetness to the final sauce blend).
  • To your roasting pan add 2 medium chopped onions, 4 medium carrots chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 stalks of celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces, and 2 large potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces. (I’ve been eating Keto for a year so I would swap the potato with rutabaga or parsnip.) All vegetables scattered around the roast evenly.
  • Poor the liquids over the roast and vegetables. Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and place it in the oven to braise/cook for 5 hours at 250 degrees.

You can buy pot roast seasoning mixes, but why would you? It just isn’t that hard to do. If you want to add a little kick to your blend (more spiciness) you can add a 1/4 teaspoon of a smoked pepper like chipolte or an ancho pepper. Cayanne tends to be just a little too much heat for my taste.

At the 4 hour mark test the temperature of the roast at it’s thickest point. Pot roast should reach 145 degrees. You can also test it with a skewer or fork and see if the meat is tender.

Remove the pot roast to a slicing board and cover with foil for 15 minutes to let the meat relax. Use a serrated knife to slice against the grain into pieces. Spoon the now cooked vegetables around the roast or into a vegetable bowl. Use an immersion blender to mix the gravy (garlic, beef and wine) into a velvet sauce to serve on the side. Reduce the sauce to your preferred thickness.

Leftovers? Grandma’s pot roast makes exceptional open faced roast beef sandwiches later in the week if there is any left over.

Posted in Dinner, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Coronavirus Kitchen: What to stock for a quarantine.

Stocking your pantry during Covid-19 weeks.

I’ve watched in amazement, and a little horror, as stores report a lack of supplies this week. Amazon’s Prime Pantry temporarily closed, and other store delivery services are being overwhelmed by online shoppers. People are racing to the stores (and the produce stand) trying to squirrel away a stash of supplies on short notice out of fear that they will be in lock down for 14 days or more under self-quarantine.

The Good News is that we will all get through this crazy time. Many of us will have rediscovered our farmers markets or local produce stands. The one thing I hope most people learn is how to stock a decent pantry.

The Florida Hurricane Pantry.

Every year I build and restock my storm pantry with tuna fish, pasta sauces (I can grill and toss a marinara sauce on all kinds of protein), spices, water bottles and anything I might need during a storm and power outage.

The Covid-19 virus pantry is a little different. The items that flew off the shelves nationwide were toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers — all good to have on hand during a pandemic and all products with a longer than average shelf life. But unlike during my hurricanes, this quarantine is not a weather emergency where we won’t have refrigeration or electricity. We don’t have to view this as a lock down, we can celebrate cooking and family. Since we won’t be rushing off to school or work, we can make fabulous breakfasts, home cooked dinners and bake cookies with our kids.

The Covid-19 virus quarantine can serve as a return to the family table!

Here’s my Corona Virus Pantry Suggestions if you’re shopping local or on line.

Family Meat CutsPastas & SauceFruits/Veggies
Powdered Drink MixFrozen bread doughcheese
eggs, bacon or sausageCold Cuts, Tunasalad works
cookie additions
chocolate chips
dried fruits
Hot Cocoa or CoffeesQuick desserts
whipped cream

Buy a family cut of meat like a pot roast or pulled pork that can roast in the slow cooker and be used for dinner one night and tacos or open-faced sandwiches on a second night.

Plan family favorites like spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta is budget friendly and feeds a lot of people in a pinch.

Soup. Most of the country is still experiencing winter temperatures and homemade soups can be made from all the left over vegetables in the fridge and a couple of quarts of stock. Add pasta or rice if you need to make a heartier dish. Pair your soup with a big french bread sandwich or a salad.

Hearty Breakfasts casseroles can be put together the night before like Baked French Toast or an Egg Strata.

Bake cookies. If you have flour, egg, sugar, baking powder in the cabinet start planning a cookie event. You can literally add almost any other treat and create a memory with the kids. I still, decades later, remember baking pies with my mother during a holiday storm.

Plan some food events this week and you will create some pleasant memories for the family.

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner, Snacks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Keto Triple Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Let them eat cake or more precisely let them eat Keto Triple Chocolate Zucchini Cake! I am embarking on a chocolate for breakfast quest. CHOCOLATE should be a food group unto itself! Sometimes I try to see how many meals and snacks where I can incorporate chocolate. But today is all about cravings that make you stray from a healthy lifestyle. I’m trying to eat healthy in 2020, but the cravings are working against me.

Why Zucchini?

Zucchini isn’t a very exciting vegetable. It looks a lot like a cucumber but has less flavor. (I bet you can’t even describe the taste without using the word wet or bland). But this is zucchini’s true charm. That this vegetable is a completely blank canvas for adding other flavors. Need a filler in your omelet? Need texture added to soup? Zucchini is a good, healthy choice. If I’m craving carbonara I can use zoodles (zucchini noodles) as the understudy for spaghetti and save a ton of calories. Zucchini even does a pretty good french fry impersonation when coated in heavily seasoned breadcrumbs (or pork rind crumbs for the keto dieters). So it was fate that made me build a keto chocolate zucchini bread.

Zucchini’s Healthy Profile.

The lowly zucchini checks many boxes on the “good nutrition” page. One large zucchini is only about 55 calories. If you leave it unpeeled (which we will for this recipe) it has over 3 grams of fiber and feeds your body calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Zucchini is cheap nutrition. It’s available virtually year-round and often for less than a dollar per pound. It stores in the fridge for several days uncut. It freezes well so you could cut up your bounty right away and seal it in plastic bags for future use.

Mixing Methods for Keto Bread

Unlike typical quick bread, when you are cooking without traditional flour and gluten, you have to pay more attention to the cooking methods — you know that traditional wet into dry or dry into the wet process. The answer when baking whether keto or conventional is to mix all the dry ingredients together and add them to the wet ingredients in thirds.

Dry into Wet?

Dry ingredients are traditionally lighter and less dense than the wet mixtures in baking. That simply means that dry ingredients will have a tendency to float on top of the wet. If you mix wet into dry ingredients the first third of the mixture will form a skin on top and make it difficult to get the remaining moisture ingredients evenly mixed without over mixing. With traditional flour blends, you risk creating too much gluten in overmixing and creating a tough biscuit or cookie. With keto flours — almond, rice, coconut — overmixing will release too much of the leavening carbon dioxide and result in a flat, denser final product.

A finer product.

My big recommendation with these low carb recipes is to add one additional step. Beat the eggs and all the wet ingredients with an electric mixer or hand mixer for 5 minutes so they get thick and well-combined before you start adding the dry ingredients. This will help the eggs mix well first, and allow the dry ingredients to incorporate with minimal mixing. You’ll get a lighter, finer bread texture.

The right pan.

I bought a silicone loaf pan for my keto baking, and I love it. Everything pops out of the pan and even an egg-white angel food cake base for a strawberry shortcake came out flawlessly. This recipe makes one average loaf size bread or 12 standard muffins. If you are using a traditional metal or glass pan, butter or spray the pan well and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, then butter the parchment. This will assure a simple release and a beautiful end product.


KetoChocolate Zucchini Bread

Dry Ingredients

Melt Together

Wet Ingredients

1/4 cup of Lily’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips (this is what makes this bread triple chocolate and it adds just one more layer of chocolate — so don’t omit it! Mix the chips in with the batter during the last step and hand stirring.)

Executing the Quick Bread Recipe

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Pro Tip: Preheating your oven for a keto bread is important because once the baking powder, baking soda, or eggs are mixed according to directions the leavening chemical reactions and carbon dioxide bubbles that make this recipe rise begin escaping the batter.
  2. Prepare the pan. If you are using a traditional glass or metal baking loaf pan (for muffin tins I recommend using cupcake liners) butter and spray liberally and add a parchment paper at the bottom.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a sifter or sieve and gently mix together into a medium bowl.
  4. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat on medium for approximately 5 minutes until they turn a light yellow color and thicken slightly. Next, add the remaining wet ingredients and mix to combine well.
  5. Reduce the mixing speed to low if you are using a mixer or hand mixer and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. When the flour is mostly mixed (it doesn’t have to be perfect) add the next 1/3 and repeat until the flour is mixed in.
  6. Turn off the mixer and gently stir with a spatula to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  7. Fill the prepared baking pan and immediately place it into the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes rotate the pan 180 degrees and set the time this time for 20 minutes. Total baking time should be 45-60 minutes depending on your oven and humidity in your area. I start checking at 45 minutes just to be sure I don’t overbake it. The bread is finished when a toothpick inserted at the very center comes out clean.
  8. Cool the finished bread 10 minutes before you remove it and set it on a rack to cool completely.

Optional ingredients.

As if triple chocolate wasn’t enough! Sometimes I want some additional texture in this bread. Add one of these ingredients during the final stirring of the batter with the chocolate chips. The total addition should not exceed 1/4 cup so if you decide to add two or three items, measure the entire addition into 1/4 cup.

  • pistachios chopped
  • coconut (unsweetened flaked)
  • peanuts chopped

Posted in Breakfast, Snacks | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cooking Sous Vide – immersion water bath cooking

Sous vide, French for under vacuum, is cooking in a water bath or steam environment.

Until recently water bath cooking appliances were only available for commercial use. But new appliances have made sous vide affordable for the serious home chef.

My first introduction to sous vide cooking was while watching the Food Network’s Chopped.  The chef infused watermelon with lavender and pomegranate flavors.  The color of the watermelon became vibrant and served with cucumber and feta salad it seemed to light up the plate.  The judges raved about the concentrated flavors.

One of my favorite weekend snacks in summer now is a watermelon with tarragon and vodka from the sous vide.

Adding sous vide to your kitchen arsenal will definitely impress your friends.  But don’t expect every meal to become boil-in-a-bag fantastic.  I find I am adding the sous vide to a dinner dish to add more flavors or to free my time to make a complicated dessert or side dish.  It doesn’t replace other cooking tools or skills.

My preferred sous vide appliance is the Slaiya Sous Vide Accurate Digital Pro Edition.  This unit has a higher wattage and built-in timer.  It is top customer-rated and offers a 2-year warranty.  It comes with vacuum bags and the pump for sealing foods.  The higher wattage helps keep higher temperatures consistent and it heats up the water bath in about 5 minutes.

Sous vide cooking is now all the buzz in 2018, but don’t think this appliance will give you endless hours out of the kitchen because not everything is done in the sous vide and nothing happens in 15-minutes — fast cooking this isn’t.

  • Cooking in the vacuum-sealed plastic pouch sous vide assures even cooking without overcooking.
  • Sous vide immersion circulators hold the temperature at a constant level and foods cook slowly, sometimes up to 2 days, to perfection.
  • Sous vide also creates a positive environment for infusing more flavor into foods.

You can sous vide eggs, fish, meat, vegetables and even fruits.

Sous Vide can be a budget blessing for many cooks.

Tenderize the toughest cuts of meat.

You will gain time-flexibility with cheaper and often tougher cuts of meat which automatically require longer cooking times and are more forgiving to long, slow processing. The sous vide appliance keeps the water bath circulating at a precise temperature all day slowly tenderizing that tough cut and gently allowing spices to penetrate the fibers. A steak can be held almost indefinitely at medium-rare until you are ready to finish and serve.

A sous vide immersion heater used to cost thousands of dollars.  The Sous Vide Supreme “kit” can be picked up for under $400.   A good sous vide heater can be purchased online now for under $100 making it an affordable purchase for home cooks in line with the cost of a good pan.

Perfect edge-to-edge results

Food doesn’t dry out at the edges and cuts are perfectly cooked all the way through.

The water bath sous vide exposes the entire piece of meat to the same exact temperature.  Unlike oven and stovetops, that cook with direct heat to the bottom or direct heat from top and bottom, sous vide envelopes the food at a lower temperature and brings the outside and inside temperature to the same point.  Juices aren’t seared away at the edge of the meat and flavor doesn’t escape.


Essential Tools:

  • An Immersion Circulator with the vacuum sealing bags.  If you already have a vacuum sealing system, it will work fine with sous vide.  Even just zip-top bags can be used here although the results are better if more air is removed.
  • A plastic water bath container. (This is also a great brine container later.)
  • A Cast Iron Skillet.  It’s all about the sauce the finishing.

Other items:

  • Vacuum Sealing System.  I use the FoodSaver, but honestly any vacuum bag system will work here.
  • Binder Clips.  The same large clips you use in your office will secure that bag to the water bath container.
  • Pot top organizer (a nice feature for separating several pouches — prepping steaks for six).  Separating each pouch in a pot organizer keeps each package separate for even cooking.

Four Steps of sous vide

  • Preparation – Cleaning, portioning and drying food before vacuum sealing.  (I would also say season and spice in this step as the vacuum sealing pulls the flavor through your food.)
  • Packaging – Vacuum sealing or bagging foods for immersion.  You can use a vacuum sealer (I use the Food Saver V-4440 2-in-1 sealer) but you can get spectacular results with a hand pump sealer or even zip lock bags when you carefully remove all the air.
  • Cooking – Choosing the right temperature and the proper time for processing.
  • Finishing – Searing, saucing and presentation.  It still needs to be finished.



Posted in Tools | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Tarragon and Vodka infused Watermelon

This recipe requires gently cooking watermelon sous vide for best flavor.

Tarragon and Vodka infused Watermelon
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 1 watermelon (individual slices about 4 x 1 inches (or 12 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tsp fresh tarragon
  • dusting of powdered sugar
  1. Pre-heat the water bath to 140 degrees F
  2. Remove the rind and skin from watermelon and dice into 1-inch cubes or slices 4×1 inches
  3. Dust the watermelon with powdered sugar (lightly)
  4. Place the watermelon in a vacuum bag and seal out the air (You can use a standard resealable bag. Be sure to press out as much air as possible.)
  5. Submerge the pouch into the water bath for 2 hours.
  6. Remove the bag and place in ice water until cool.
  7. Serve immediately in a salad or alone, or you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

New to sous vide cooking?  Check out our in-depth review of the best sous vide appliance for hope chefs in 2018.

Posted in Snacks | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Salsa: Canning or Fresh

Mama's SalsaThe farmers market deal on tomatoes this week was my excuse to make salsa and get back to preserving.

This recipe is good fresh (uncooked) or canned. If you preserve your salsa — or any vegetables — they can sit in the pantry for up to a year! That is good taste and good financial sense. Cost per jar of salsa — about 90 cents.

Spring and summer crops are already starting to arrive at the market so it’s time to get your Mason Jars and canning equipment out!  I buy canning jars in packs of 12 for value.

Mama’s Not Too Spicy Salsa
Cuisine: Latin
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-5 pints
Good fresh (just prepped and tossed) or canned (cooked)
  • 6 pounds of tomatoes (about 15 regular sized tomatoes)
  • 4 green bell peppers (chopped)
  • 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, Persian, Strawberry Field)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (remove the seeds based on your heat tolerance)
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar per pint jar
  1. Blanche the tomatoes for 30-40 seconds in hot water. Remove them from the boiling pot and plunge into a sink filled with ice water to stop the cooking. Remove their skins and chop into smaller pieces. (about 1 inch).
  2. Chop onion and peppers into 1/2 inch pieces
  3. Addl all ingredients except the sugar in a large pan and stir gently to combine. (If you want to serve your salsa “fresh” stop processing here and put this version into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro and store in a Mason jar for up to a week.)
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce until thickened and about 1/2 the quantity in the pan.
  5. Before filling your canning jars make sure the lids and jars are sterilized. Run them through your dishwasher or sterilize them in hot water and allow them to cool to the touch.
  6. Put a teaspoon of sugar into the bottom of every pint-sized jar.
  7. Pour the hot salsa into the jars leaving 1/2″ space at the top (you’ll need this for the canning seal)
  8. Put the lids on the jars and seal to finger tight then turn back 3/4″
  9. Place the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Remove and let them cool on the counter. You will hear the seals set as the salsa cools. Test every seal to make sure it has completely sealed by pressing gently on the top lid.
  10. Store in the pantry for up to a year.
  11. When you go to serve these beauties add a tablespoon or fresh cilantro and/or a squeeze of lime or lemon to add a freshly made taste.



Posted in Canning, Organics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

2018 Top 5 Best Panini Sandwich Makers

Read our review of the top 5 panini sandwich maker appliances. My Grandmother, who was a professional cook, knew in the 1940s that you didn’t need expensive kitchen tools to make great food.  The secret to a grilled sandwich is good ingredients and a heavy grill press that can evenly toast the bread and melt the cheese.

The Best Panini Sandwich Maker of 2018

See the best Panini Sandwich Maker of 2018.

The 2018 list Top 5 Panini Sandwich Makers and Grills.

  • Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press
  • Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
  • Breville BSG520XL Panini Duo 1500-Watt Nonstick Panini Press
  • Oster CKSTPM21WC-ECO DuraCeramic 2-in-1 Panini Maker
  • Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker

[table id=6 /]

#5 – Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press and Gourmet Sandwich Maker

Hamilton Beach Panini Press

Hamilton Beach Gourmet Sandwich Maker

The least expensive Panini Maker in our list, the Hamilton Beach Gourmet Sandwich maker still gets high marks among reviewers.  The Hamilton Beach 25460A features a cafe-style floating lid that presses sandwiches of all sizes evenly.  This sandwich maker is easy to use!  Power and preheat lights let you know when it is ready and the large 10×8 cooking surface is plenty of space for cooking two or three sandwiches simultaneously.  The Hamilton Beach 25460A stows away in the upright position making it a friendly choice for small kitchens.

#4 – Oster CKSTPM21WC Panini Sandwich Maker and Grill

Oster CKSTPM21 Panini Sandwich Maker

Oster-CKSTPM21 DuraCeramic Grill

The Oster CKSTPM21WC Panini Makes features a new DuraCeramic non-stick cooking surface that is 4x stronger than traditional non-stick and will not flake or peel after years of use.  The safe and natural coating is PFOA and PTFE free, so you can grill at high temperatures without worry.  The DuraCeramic finish is uniquely white and cooks up to 20% faster than traditional grill plates.  Like some of our other favorites, the Oster Grill opens flat on the counter to function as a standard grill for meats and vegetables but also has an adjustable hinged top to accommodate thicker sandwiches.  The Oster CKSTPM21WC has adjustable feet at the front so the grill can be angled down like a competitor to drain off excess fat.  The grill plates are not removable, but they can be easily wiped clean.

#3 – Breville BSG520XL Panini Duo

Breville Panini Maker

Breville BSG520XL 1500 watt sandwich makerThe Breville BSG520XL has a unique design with a flat bottom plate that helps with clean-up, and a ridged top plate to create perfect grill marks on sandwiches.  Breville is an Australian manufacturer founded in 1932 that is now making in-roads in the US market.   This model doesn’t have fancy temperature settings and it is a basic sandwich maker, but it does this service well.  A floating hinge on the lid will easily accommodate different sandwich thicknesses and the on/ready indicator lights on the lid make operation virtually mistake-proof.  The Breville BSG520XL can easily be used for grilling chicken, hamburgers, pork chops and other meats.  The grill top also makes it a good choice for grilling vegetables.

#2 – Cuisinart GR-4N Griddle

Cuisinart GR4N opens to a flat grill or griddle





Cuisinart GR-4N might be the most versatile of all the panini sandwich makers featured on our list.  Designed for the cook who wants an indoor grill and sandwich maker, the Cuisinart GR-4N opens flat so that the top and bottom can be used as a griddle or countertop grill.   The Cuisinart GR-4N has reversible grill plates — a flat side that is best for eggs and pancakes and a ridged side for grilling meats and/or sandwiches.  Unlike some less expensive models, the Cuisinart GR-4N has a temperature dial so cooks can select grill and griddle functions and desired temperatures.  There is an indicator light to alert cooks when the unit has reached the correct temperature.  The GR-4N grill plates are removable for easy cleaning and they are dishwasher safe.

#1 – Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press

Cuisinart Expert Grilled Panini Sandwich PressThe best panini press and sandwich grill today.  Although this is an older model, it is the best from a quality, operations and cost perspective.  The Cuisinart GR-1 does a great job making a pressed sandwich and produces restaurant-quality grilled panini sandwiches that will surprise users.  The Cuisinart GR-1 is versatile to be used to grill vegetables, burgers, pork chops.  Available in a shiny stainless steel finish, the Cuisinart GR-1 resembles professional panini makers in appearance.  This counter-top grill accommodates sandwiches and meats of different thicknesses and features a floating hinge that automatically adjusts to sandwich bread or crusty sandwich buns. The Cuisinart GR-1 Panini and Sandwich Press is easy to use.  The grill has an indicator light to alert the cook when the appliance is hot enough for food to be placed on it and an indicator light to show when foods are fully cooked.


Posted in Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment