Sushi Bowl Party!!

Sushi Bowl Party!!

For my second annual Sushi Bowl party, I decided to put a little more thought into the whole presentation and try to match the theme. Two teams, rolled up in some rice and seaweed, dipped in fermented bean sauce, scoring touchdowns of subtle flavor and texture–that’s how American football works, right? I don’t know, I just cook the food. The teams this year were the San Francisco Red Gold Diggers and the Baltimore Purple Blackbirds–both things that conjure up images of a great battle on the turf, racing to be the first to the 50-yard line, avoiding head injury, and trying to peg each other with an oblong ball–I know, I know, I won’t bore you with the subtleties of the game. Anyway, I figured I would match the sushi with colors of the teams. For the 49ers, it wasn’t that hard, there were many traditional ingredients that were gold (or yellowish) and red (or reddish, I’m including orange here): pickled daikon radish, tuna, pickled ginger, quail egg, various fish roe, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), raw salmon, carrot, shrimp, crab, etc. My problem became finding things that are purple and/or blackout to match the other team, the Ravens. After about a week of thinking, I ruled out simply dying the rice purple with food coloring (that’s cheating), and was unable to track down purple sushi grade fish (and my local sea urchin guy was…I don’t know, let’s say on vacation). I could have given up and just decorated the plate with something purple: eggplant skin, grapes, lavender, but I felt like that was cheating, too. While venturing around Chinatown I found some dried red-leaved shiso (which are actually a nice purple color) labeled “rice seasoning” and was curious, so I bought it. Black was a little easier, black sesame seeds, nori could be dark enough to look black, and something I had heard of, but never cooked with or eaten, black rice (or “forbidden rice” as it was considered a very fine rice reserved for the Emperor only). I researched it a little bit and found out that, when cooked, the black rice turns a deep purple (that’s a bingo!) and had a bit of a nutty taste like brown rice (which isn’t ideal for sushi, because of the subtle flavors, but I could work with it). I also played around with the shiso and realized that when cooked it turned greenish-brown (ew) but when put in cold water turned a nice royal purple. I also noticed that the water used to cook the black rice was a nice deep purple. So I took some sesame seeds and put them in the bowl with the purple water overnight and toasted them in a dry pan–the result was a nice purple sesame seed that kept the color of rice water and the shiso without imposing too strong of a flavor. So that was it, I had my purples, my reds, my blacks and my golds.

I already posted by recipe for sushi rice (as part of a dish that is more apt for a Sushi ‘bowl’ party, but I didn’t think of that until now)

So here are some of the pictures of the prepared sushi rolls, mostly the main dish, which includes the red/gold v. purple/black motif I was embracing. We were having a little too much fun watching Beyonce to take too many pictures.

Red and Gold v. Black and Purple

Red and Gold v. Black and Purple

(far left) tuna, carrot and bamboo wrapped with tobiko roe (flying fish eggs)
(inner left) tamagoyaki, daikon, and carrot topped with salmon
(middle-red/yellow) ikura (salmon roe) with raw quail egg
(middle-purple/white) black rice nigiri with raw bay scallop
(inner right) crab, cucumber, avocado, asparagus and black rice in shiso rice with black sesame seeds
(far right) Philadelphia roll with asparagus wrapped in black rice and shiso dyed sesame seeds


Black Philidelphia Roll

Green plate to represent turf! Why do I think of these ideas too late!!

Green plate to represent turf! Why do I think of these ideas too late!?!



(from left to right) Ebi (shrimp) nigiri, toro (fatty tuna) nigiri, sake (salmon) nigiri, tamagoyaki (japanese omelette), hotate (scallop) nigiri


Someone couldn’t wait for the picture

DSC_0044 cucumber rolls, tuna rolls, California rolls, avocado rolls, and my failed attempt at a yin-yang roll (half black/half white rice) DSC_0016Just a pile of shrimp rolls, cucumber rolls, veggie rolls, and California rolls

To be honest – I don’t think I will be making black sushi again. I like the rice, don’t get me wrong, but it really overpowered the fish and the other ingredients. I am a big fan of having maybe 2 other flavors in sushi besides the sweet-vinegar of the rice, the salty-umami of the nori, and the sting of the wasabi. The earthy, nutty black rice would probably be better suited in a coconut milk dessert.

Diver Scallops with Avocado Kiwi Salsa

Diver Scallops with Avocado Kiwi Salsa

We took a trip to the inauguration last weekend, and boy do I feel American!  So American, in fact, that I’m willing to forgive our country for its little idiosyncracies:  I forgive that cholo sophomore year who stole my 48-star flag, I forgive the parents who name their children “Makayleb,” and I forgive all those people who loudly pride on about living in that scary part of the country that the radio waves of NPR can’t quite reach.  I forgive the people that call the country a “melting-pot,” loudmouth facebook pundits who opine in platitudes, and food writers that take an unfortunate turn for the snarky and arrogant.  I feel so patriotic I might whip up a batch of Senate bean soup and freedom fries.  But I will not forgive this weather.

It’s not enough degrees in New York these days.  “Feels like 2°F” is not a thing I have experienced since I lived in Colorado (you know, real America).  As my friend, Charlie, would say “It’s not Argentina, but it’s Chile” (I’ll forgive him for that, too).  Solution:  free heat and hot water in my building means I crank that heater, I blast that shower, and we make it summer time–and if it’s summer time, we eat summer meals.  I mean, if winter isn’t even going to give us the courtesy to snow, I’m not going to give it the courtesy to make chili–sorry winter, because I make a mean chili (and it has beans in it).  My summer meal in winter: pan seared diver scallops on a kiwi avocado salsa.



Serves 3

10 diver scallops
2 kiwifruit
2 small avocados
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
salt & pepper
black sesame seeds for garnish

(this recipe also works really well with seared tuna instead of scallops and a bit of wasabi in the salsa)

You can make the salsa before you cook the scallops (which don’t take very long at all).  Put everything in a food processor (except the scallops and the sesame seeds) and pulse until smooth.  If it’s too chunky add a little olive oil or coconut oil, but the kiwi and lime juice should add enough liquid.  If you don’t (like me) have a food processor, just mash everything in a bowl with a fork while thinking about Paula Deen’s face.  Cover and set aside. Sear the scallops over medium-high heat in some olive oil.  Two minutes on the first side, flip, and a little less on the other–don’t overcook them, cook just until they are not translucent anymore.  Spoon some of the salsa on to a plate, top with scallops and garnish with black sesame seeds and sliced kiwi (and a cucumber salad).  Try way too hard on the plating.  Cry.  Eat.


Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon)

Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne (Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon)

Everyone loves the rich flavor of beef (everyone. The vegetarians are lying), and while there will always be porterhouse, sirloin, hanger steak, and whatever other grilled cut that really lets you appreciate the taste of beef, there will always be classic old-world preparations of beef (usually using the tougher cuts) that bring ingredients together to compliment the flavor of beef using tenderizing techniques, heavy seasoning (sometimes to mask the fact that they were near spoiling), and present them in a way that was appetizing yet affordable, usually using what was on hand.  I think this is one of them–the steak of the 47%–Beef Bourguignon, or beef Burgundy is a traditional French peasant’s dish that is essentially beef and vegetables braised in red wine and beef broth.  It’s got that stick-to-your-ribs quality that is perfect for a winter stew.  I took and modified the recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, a cookbook I don’t open nearly enough and (being completely honest here) last used as a weight on top of a shooter sandwich (recipe to come).    But I have to warn you, this recipe takes some time…like hours.  And because this recipe is somewhat wordy (most in Mastering the Art are), I leave you without they typical snark–and there’s not much to say.  I took the recipe and modified it a bit, I stirred in some small potatoes at the last minute and served over a bed a green beans.

Jack: "Cook him a nice meal at home." 
Liz: "'Nice.' You mean like... stew?" 
Jack: "I certainly do not mean stew."

Perfect for a cold winter weekend


6 ounces of chunk bacon
3 cups Burgundy (or similar young and full-bodied red wine)
3 pounds rump pot roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 cups brown beef stock
20 small white onions
1 pound quartered white mushrooms
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 carrots, cut into one inch pieces
3 cloves mashed garlic
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf, split
1/2 teaspoon thyme
bouquet garni of 4 sprigs of parsley, 1/2 a bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut bacon into lardons and simmer in 4 cups of water, then drain and dry.  In a dutch oven, if you have it, (or a large thick pot with a heavy lid) sauté the lardons for three minutes on medium heat in one tablespoon of the olive oil and remove the bacon to a small bowl, leaving the oil and fat.  In order to ensure browning, dry beef on some paper towels.  Heat the fat until it is nearly smoking and add the beef (slowly, because adding three pounds of cold beef at once can really drop the temperature of the pan and the oil, and cold oil doesn’t brown beef, it boils it, ew). Do it in two batches if you have to, but make sure the pieces are nicely browned on each side and set aside.  In the same fat, at moderate heat, brown all of the vegetables and set them aside. Add the salt and pepper to the browned beef pieces and lightly toss with flour to coat.  To get a nice crust on the beef, move the pot to the oven for 4-5 minutes at 450, carefully stir, and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Return the dutch oven to the stove top and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.  Return the brown vegetables to the beef and stir in the red wine over medium-high heat. Add the beef stock until the beef and vegetables are just barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs while bringing the liquid to a simmer.  Cover and return to the oven (adjusting the temperature to maintain a simmer) for 3 to 4 hours.  After about 2 hours you can start making the rest of the recipe. Sauté the onions over moderate heat in half the oil and half the butter until brown (8-10 minutes).  Add a half cup beef stock and the bouquet garni.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, checking periodically that the onions do not break apart and until the beef stock has evaporated.  Remove the bouquet garni and set aside the onions.  Lightly brown the mushrooms (4-5 minutes) over high heat using the other half of the oil and butter, then set aside.  Returning your attention to the casserole in the oven, the beef should be done when it is tender.  Remove from the oven and sieve into a saucepan, separating the liquid from the meat and vegetables.  Return the beef, vegetables, onions, and mushrooms to the dutch oven.  In the saucepan, simmer the sauce for 2-3 minutes while skimming off the fat.  At this point you should have about half as much liquid as you first put into the recipe, less than three cups.  Using heat to reduce (thicken) or beef stock to thin out, and always tasting for seasoning, you want to get the sauce to a consistency where it will lightly coat a spoon.  When you are happy with the taste and the consistency, pour the sauce over the beef and vegetables and simmer for 3-5 minutes, spooning the sauce over the top periodically.  Serve with small potatoes, noodles, or green vegetables.

There are some green beans under there. I promise.



My modern sweet and creamy take on the classic croque-madame.

The croque-madame is probably the king queen of all sandwiches (excluding, of course, hamburgers, Texas pulled pork sandwiches, Smørrebrød, Philly cheesesteak from that deli I stumble into after trivia night at the Brooklyn Tavern, any version of the hotdog, taco, or burrito, or Po’ boys).  Ok, so, it’s not the king queen per say, but it’s up there — like, the thing has egg and cheese on the outside — those qualities do not go unnoticed in my rankings.  (wait!! Bánh mì!  How did I forget Bánh mì!?  Can I go back and change my answer?)  Nevertheless, I always think a classic can be improved upon.  My inspiration for this “twist” on a classic comes from one of my favorite things to bring to or serve at a party.  Baked Brie with fig preserves and slivered almonds.  There isn’t a soul on this earth who doesn’t absolutely love to dig a cracker into the buttery crust of a chunk of molten cheese (except maybe vegans and the lactose-intolerant, who can just stop reading now, you aren’t, and I say this with all due respect, my “audience”).  So I took the Gruyère out of the inside of the traditional croque-madame recipe and replaced it with a creamy brie, spread on some fig preserves, and spent some otherwise productive time thinking of a name for it.

Brie and Fig Croque-Madam (Croque-Mademoiselle):

makes four sandwiches

8 slices of bread
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/12 cups milk
4 tablespoons fig preserves
12 oz. Brie, sliced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 slices baked ham
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a saucepan, heat the butter and whisk in the flour to create a roux.  Add the milk and turn up the heat (do not boil) while whisking in the Parmesan cheese until you have a thick sauce (add more milk or flour to adjust the thickness, it should be the consistency of school glue, yummm).  Butter one side of each slice of bread and heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high.  On four of the slices (work on parchment or wax paper or this can get messy) spread the Dijon mustard and some cheese sauce on the non-buttered side of the bread (you’ll want to use a little more than half of the cheese sauce).  On the remaining four slices, spread a tablespoon of the fig preserves (again, on the non-buttered side).  Assemble the sandwiches with a cheese-bread slice, a fig-bread slice, ham and Brie.  Grill the sandwiches in a tablespoon of oil (or butter) in the cast iron skillet until each side is golden brown and crunchy.  Set aside the grilled sandwiches on a baking sheet and turn on your oven to the high broiler setting.  Gently cook four sunny side up eggs, which can be underdone, if you like a runny yolk.  Place a dollop of the cheese sauce on the top of the sandwiches, and gently slide the egg on top.  Brush any remaining cheese sauce on the top of the eggs.  Broil the sandwiches for 1-2 minutes.  Serve with a fork and knife.  I served mine accompanied by a broccoli-pea bisque.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Thyme Butter

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Thyme Butter

Are you as unabashedly twitterpated by Autumn as I am?  The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and the list of things that happens gives me a chance to emphasize my love for the oxford comma!  Actually, I’m just happy I can walk from Rockefeller Center to my office without visibly sweating through my work shirts.  Oh, and the layers–love me some layers–scarves, vests, cardigans, and knitted oxford commas.  You’ll notice just about every seasonal menu item is going to have some sort of pumpkin, some sort of spice, or if you’re lucky…both!  So I’m just going to ride this cliché train right into advanced metaphor station–with a curried butternut squash stuffed homemade ravioli, finished in a browned thyme butter and pine nuts. It’s going to taste like Autumn!  Squash stuffed ravioli recipes usually use a sage butter, but I think it’s a little overpowering so I went with thyme–and instead of getting the sharpness of an aged cheese, I decided to use curry spices in the squash.

Like a hike through upstate New York in October


Homemade Ravioli:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Curried Butternut Squash:

2 cups butternut squash
3 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon each of:
Chili powder
A dash each of:
Ground clove

Browned Thyme Butter:

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons small diced butternut squash
splash of lemon juice

Homemade pasta is not that hard–and fresh pasta beats out dried pasta every time.  You can even make it without a fancy pasta maker, or a stand mixer with a dough hook.  On a large clean surface, shape the flour into a well. In a separate dish, mix the salt, oil, water, and two of the eggs–then pour this mixture into the well.  Using your fingers, gently incorporate the flour into the well until you start getting what looks like dough (that’s what you’re making here, isn’t it).  If all of the flour doesn’t incorporate, it’s fine, just spread it around on the counter so your ball of dough doesn’t stick.  Knead the dough for about ten minutes until it’s nice a shiny.  Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for one hour.

For the filling, cut the squash into medium sized chunks and add it with the stock into a medium pot. Heat to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a colander and mash it, adding the spices (I swear, a dash is a unit of measure!).

Once the pasta has been in the fridge for an hour, take it out and use a rolling pin on a floured surface to roll it out until it is about an 1/8 of an inch thick.  This will take some working, the dough is elastic because of the gluten.  It also helps if you can roll it symmetrically, because the next step is to cut and gently set aside one half of the dough (for the top of the raviolis).  On the remaining half, use a teaspoon to spoon a dollop of the filling about an inch and half apart.  Brush the egg wash in-between the dollops (if you were smart, you made it like a grid, so you can have square ravioli) and place the other half of the dough on top.  Pressing down around the mounds of filling, work out the air bubbles ever so gently.  Cut around the mounds to free up the individual raviolis and press the edges together with a fork.  Depending on how thin you rolled the dough, how big a dollop you used of the filling, and a your spacing, you’ll end up with 25-40 ravioli, enough for 3-4 people.  If you want to make these beforehand, they can be stored between plastic in the fridge, but if you plan on cooking them right away, you should start boiling a large pot of a gallon of water.

Before you drop the ravioli in the water, start your browned thyme butter. Each portion is enough for 10-15 ravioli, so adjust the recipe to your needs.  Add all the ingredients to the pan and heat on medium low, until a drop of butter on a white surface (like a plate) is more golden brown than clear.  To stop the browning and keep it from burning remove from the heat and add the splash of lemon juice.  Add the ravioli to the boiling water and gently stir to make sure they don’t stick to each other.  After about a minute or two (or three, depending on how thick your dough is and how large you made each ravioli), the ravioli will start to float to the surface.  With a strainer, remove the ravioli and let the water drain off. Heat the thyme butter until it just starts to bubble, and add 10-15 ravioli.  Toss until coated and plate.  Garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

You can really taste the greens, the oranges, the yellows

Chirashizushi aka “Scattered Sushi”

Chirashizushi aka “Scattered Sushi”

I hosted a dinner party this last weekend and, among other things generally grilled and cheese, I made sushi.  I love making sushi, particularly sashimi (without rice) and makizushi (rolled) because you can do so much with the presentation.  I also enjoy having the leftovers to make chirashizushi, seared tuna, baked salmon, etc. On the day of the party, I headed down the street at, as my mother would call it, “the buttcrack of dawn,” to visit Blue Moon Fish at the Ft. Greene Park Green Market and ended up picking out some fresh Boston mackerel (not pictured…too delicious, ate ALL the mackerel).  Later, I visited my favorite local fish monger Fish Tales and at their suggestion picked up salmon, yellow fin tuna, and large sea scallops (not pictured).  My best bit of advice, find a fish monger you like, ask him what’s fresh, or sushi grade, and always tell him how good the last suggestion he made was.  My second bit of advice, learn to make good sushi rice.

That’s tuna and salmon and love

Sushi Rice:

3 cups short-grain white rice
3 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt

Rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear and not foggy.  Let the rice drain for 45 minutes to an hour then transfer to a large heavy pot. Add cold water to the rice and turn on high.  Once the rice is boiling–watch the pot, it will boil–give it one last good gentle stir, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Wait 25 minutes.  In a separate small saucepan warm the vinegar and mix in the sugar and salt.  When the rice is done, scoop it on to a flat nonreactive surface and slowly pour on the vinegar mixture while fanning the rice.  Cut through the rice to mix with a wooden spatula, be gentle because you don’t want mushy rice, you want each grain to be it’s own little grain, don’t you?  You don’t want the grain growing up to think it has to smush in with all the other grains, that grain might decide it’s time to have pink hair, a nose ring, and baggy pants!  Nobody will eat pink-haired rebellious grains of rice! Get a job rice!!  Finally, top with leftover fish from your sushi party, hardboiled egg, avocado, fish roe, pickled vegetables, seaweed…whatever, I’m not telling you how to make it, I’m creating a framework, top it with cooked fish if you want (don’t).  Drizzle with some soy sauce and enjoy.  If it turns pink, reevaluate your life choices.

Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce

Steak au Poivre with Cognac Pan Sauce

I had some friends in from Boston this weekend and although that usually means drunk brunch, street festivals, and walking the Brooklyn Bridge, it also means a night in, cooking, and catching up over a few bottles of wine.  I really had my heart set on lamb, but Brooklyn Fare was fresh out.  No worries–we picked up some vegetables and I headed over to the local butcher where I picked up some grass-fed beef filets.  I only eat red meat once in a blue moon, so when I do, I like to “do it up” right.  The French–gourmonds, chemists, builders of towers Eifel–know how to “do it up” right.  A filet crusted with peppercorns, cooked medium-rare topped with a sweet and creamy cognac pan sauce; a side of asparagus with prosciutto, and some greens wilted in garlic and onion.  I tried to go a little too fancy with some crispy fried fennel fronds on top, but ended up burning most of them and setting off the smoke detector.

Dinner with a view of Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene/New York Harbor

Steak au Poivre:

1 1/2 inch thick beef filet
handful of lightly crushed peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 ounce of cognac
6 ounces of heavy cream
Let the filet sit outside of the fridge for about 15 minutes before starting.  While letting your cast iron skillet screaming hot (we need a little Milliard action going), press the filet on each side into the crushed peppercorns.  Add the butter and oil to the pan and let them get to temperature.  Cook the filet 3-4 minutes on one side, flip, and an additional 3-4 minutes on the other, until medium rare.  Set the filet aside to rest and while the pan is still hot, turn off the burner and quickly pour the cognac into the pan and ignite the steam (YES, there will be a fireball.  YES, you should stand back a little bit.  It’s called flambé, which is French for fireball).  This should thouroughly deglaze the pan and now it’s time to start scraping vigorously to loosen up all the fond at the bottom of the pan.  Let the cognac reduce a bit, then slowly stir in the cream, whisking until thick.  Add salt to taste.  Pour pan sauce over filet and serve with a side of tinged eyebrows.  Or a side of asparagus with prosciutto, and some wilted greens – those aren’t hard.  Caramelize some red onions over low heat for 20 minutes, toss in some garlic and turn up to medium.  In about 5 minutes, toss in the greens and wilt.

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake With a Twist

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake With a Twist

What’s the twist?  It’s a low carb, high protein, nearly sugar free, ketogenic friendly, gluten free, low(er) fat cheesecake.  Wow, takes all the fun out of cheesecake, amiright?  Wrong, you’re all wrong!  This cheesecake was delicious!  What was even more delicious was the nutritional breakdown.  Per 275 kcal slice, this tasty treat had 6 g net carb, 22 g fat, 14 g protein, 2.8 g sugar (we’re talking the macro nutrient breakdown equivalent to eating an avocado, plus some extra protein).  Compare that to a slice of regular cheesecake at 500 kcal, 47 g carbs, 32 g fat, and 36 g of sugar (with the macro nutrient breakdown equivalent of a punch to the feelings). Plus, this thing tastes goooood.  Can a recipe that essentially starts, “make a chocolate cake, then crumble it into the crust of your cheesecake,” be anything but delicious?  The answer is yes, it can also be rich, moist, and low in carbs, sugar, and gluten.

I can’t believe it’s not gluttony

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake:

The Crust:

The crust of this cheesecake is essentially a modified version of the flourless chocolate cake (hey, I ain’t no recipe thief! Credit where credit is due).  I replaced the sugar with a sugar free sweetener and added the almond meal to fill in for the missing bulk of the sugar.  If you’re staying strictly keto, I would recommend a liquid sweetener over a powder (like Splenda) because the filler used often contains carbs that aren’t listed on the nutritional facts.

4 ounces baker’s chocolate
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup-equivalent sugar free sweetener
1/4 cup almond meal
3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 375.  In a double boiler (or a pyrex bowl over a small pot of boiling water, because you don’t have a double boiler) melt the chocolate and the margarine until smooth.  Remove from the heat and in a separate bowl beat the eggs.  It’s very important that you let the chocolate cool a little bit before you mix in the eggs, otherwise you will actually cook the eggs in the chocolate and it will lump.  Once you’ve done that, mix in the almond meal, sweetener and cocoa powder.  It should be a little thicker than traditional cake batter, so glop it into a baking dish and bake it for 25 minutes.  After 25 minutes, turn the heat down to 200 and bake for another 10-15, to dry it out.  Now you have a chocolate cake.  But you don’t want a chocolate cake, you want a cheesecake crust.  When it’s dry and cool, go against your better instinct and crumble it all up and press that crumble into a pie dish–press it up the sides, and if it’s too crumbly just add some water.  You may not use all of the cake (I only used about 2/3, so you may want to start with just half for two reasons: 1) you can keep track of the amount of cake you use if you are strictly watching your macros, and 2) the leftover cake can actually be served as cake…instead of a pile of chocolate crumbs you have to eat with a spoon over the sink, I’m speaking from experience here.

The Cheesecake:

15 g chocolate whey protein powder
5 oz reduced fat cream cheese
8 oz fat free Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp almond butter (mine had ground flaxseed, it’s ok, don’t freak out)
3/4 cup-equivalent sugar free sweetener
2 egg whites

Whip the egg whites and the sweetener.  Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until fluffy.  Add this to the inside of the crust you’ve already prepared, and put the whole thing in the oven.  You did set the oven back to 300, right?  Don’t you just hate recipes that forget to tell you to do that until the end?  Bake at 300 for 15 minutes, then cool and refrigerate.  You can eat it warm–I did–but if you let it cool through, it sets really nicely.  Makes 8 avocados slices.  For some extra bang, when you serve it, don’t rattle off all those healthy adjectives above until they are stuffing their faces with it – and that one friend who declined because they “never eat that kind of thing, too heavy!”  Well that person gets to watch you all enjoy it guilt-free.

Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Cauliflower

Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Cauliflower

Want to come over tonight?  I'm thinking diet food! :-)

Receiving that text is probably not your idea of an invitation to an exciting weeknight dinner.  But this isn’t a celery sticks and water kind of diet (sorry celery apologetics) this is a tasty diet!  I have friends that will humor me, but I wasn’t about to serve bacon and eggs to my dinner guest, I have a reputation to maintain here, and had hard-boiled all my eggs.  Here’s a great meal idea I came up with that is not only within the parameters of my ketogenic diet (no carbohydrates), but also within everyone’s parameters for cheese-love (plus I promised cheesecake, but that’s for another day).  Chicken breast stuffed with bacon, cheddar, and spinach (pigs in a blanket, a blanket of chicken) and a side of roasted cauliflower.

Careful dear, your bacon is showing

Stuffed Chicken Breast:

2 slices of bacon
2 large chicken breasts
3 cups of spinach
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
tsp olive oil
butcher’s twine

Cook your bacon crispy and keep the rendered fat.  In the baconed skillet (it’s a culinary term), wilt the spinach–if you used a leaner bacon like turkey, feel free to add some olive oil to the skillet.  Crumble the bacon into the wilted spinach and stir in the grated cheddar cheese–set this aside, it will be the stuffing.  Heat the oven to 350.  Butterfly the chicken breasts and brown them in the aforementioned baconed cast iron skillet in a bit of olive oil, then remove from the heat.  Using your better judgement, or your calloused bear hands, stuff the breasts with the spinach mixture and use some butcher’s twine to keep everything snug.  Put the breasts back in the skillet, cover with foil, mark it with a “B” and put it in the oven for baby and me.  15 minutes should do the trick–but baby doesn’t get stuffed chicken, baby gets smushed peas.

Roasted Cauliflower:

1 head of cauliflower
1/2 cup of olive oil

Set oven to 350.  Break the cauliflower into small florets, coat in olive oil and place in a single layer in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with spices and bake while debating the differences between roast and bake.  Upset the houseguests, apologize, remind them that you were right all along (like always)–should take about 15 minutes.

Keto pizza and mock n’ cheese

Keto pizza and mock n’ cheese

Every once in a while I will go on a ketogenic diet for a few weeks.  This, is one of those weeks.  It’s interesting to read up on, can be a bit complicated, but is essentially a diet high in protein and fat, and very low in carbohydrates.  It’s always been fun for me to challenge myself to come up with “keto” versions of meals that I enjoy while on a more traditional diet (I have an a strange idea of fun, yes).  Because it was Friday night, and because I usually have greasy takeout on Fridays, I wanted something that could compare with my usual (pu pu platter for two, for one…and an orange chicken…and a scallion pancake…and a bucket for all this gluttonous shame…and a diet coke).  Pizza and mac n’ cheese – two things that would otherwise be forbidden on this diet due to the crust and the pasta.  My solution, replace the crust and pasta with a very “keto” friendly vegetable, cauliflower.  I present to you, a 12g net carb Friday night treat.

So cheesy


1cup of riced cauliflower
3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese
1 egg
finely chopped garlic
oregano and crushed red peppers

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Rice the cauliflower with a cheese grater, mix in a little less than the 3/4 cup of the cheese, the beaten egg, spices, and garlic (as a general rule of cooking, put garlic in everything).  Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet (I used parchment paper and put it on a baking stone in the oven) so that it looks like a pizza crust, obviously.  Bake that sucker for 15 minutes, and feel free to give it a brush of olive oil to help it brown.  Pull it out, throw on the rest of the cheese and the pepperonis and bake for another 3-5 minutes.  Easy a’cheesy a’pizza pie (say it in a thick Italian accent or your pizza will burn).

Mock n’ cheese (as cheesy as the name, yum):

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup of cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of cream cheese
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grate the cheese.  Break the cauliflower into small florets and boil for 5 minutes.  In a separate saucepan heat the milk and stir in the cheeses, the mustard, and the pepper, but put aside a bit of the cheddar.  Eat some of the cheese before putting it back in the fridge.  Drain and pat dry the cauliflower, put it in a baking dish, and top with the rest of the cheddar cheese.  Pull a chair up to the oven window and sit watching the cheese bubble, drooling, for 5-10 minutes.