Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

A dish that begins and ends with the same word is fun to say and has to be good!!! Remember to say the name three times fast to the people you are serving it to just to see the confused looks they give you.

Don't get hung up on the fact that spaghetti squash does not compare to spaghetti noodles, because this dish is great.  Spaghetti squash adds a tasty flavor and texture to this low-carb version of spaghetti.

1 large spaghetti squash
that's it, nothing else.

First cut the spaghetti squash in half.  Spoon out the seeds and place the halves cut side down in a dish.  Add 1 Tbsp of water and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes @ 350F. Once they start to soften, take a fork and scrape the squash "noodles" out of each half.

I would highly recommend to cook your squash in advance and give yourself time for them to cool before forking.  I however was really hungry so I chose to heed my own advice and start forking right out of the oven.  Let's just say I had a few choice words for those d*#& hot squash.

The squash should still be slightly firm and a bit crispy at this point.  I have found that it is best to fork the meat out of the squash before it gets too soft.  If you prefer your spaghetti noodles without a crispy finish, then cover the dish with saran wrap and put the squash noodles in the microwave for 10 to 15 minutes or until desired tenderness.  Don't go too long or they might get a bit mushy and loose their noodle shape and texture.

For the sauce you can prepare any traditional spaghetti sauce or grab a jar of sauce in a pinch.  I included a quick recipe I like to make.  Note:  This is a very meaty recipe since we need more calories to come from protein.

1 lb ground turkey
1 lb Italian sausage
1 bell pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 12oz can diced tomatoes
Italian herbs
chopped garlic

Saute onions and bell pepper to desired tenderness.  Add garlic and cook for 1 min.  Add meat and brown.  Drain off any excess oil/fat.  Add sauces and herbs and cook over medium-low heat or until the noodles are ready.

Maybe tomorrow I will make Chicken Soup Chicken or Hamburger Steak Hamburgers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scottish Eggs Benedict (Bugger Off With Those Bloody English Muffins)

I decided to make traditional Eggs Benedict, but in order to make it fit into the low carb diet, I just left out the English Muffins.  I figured that since the Scottish wouldn't want anything english in their recipe, that would be a fitting name for this variation, as the pun in the title indicates.

Hollandaise Sauce
4 egg yolks
12 Tbsp butter (I cut the butter back a bit from the traditional recipe and it still turned out amazing.)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper

Beat the yolks and lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Add the seasoning and mix. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the mixture.  Place pan over medium heat and whisk until sauce reaches desired consistency.  If it gets too thick add a little water and whisk.

8 Eggs
4 Slices Ham (low carb)
1 tsp white vinegar

Fill a large pot with 2" of water.  Bring to a boil, then back the heat down until you get a very gentle simmer.  Add the vinegar.  Add the eggs one at a time to the water.  I recommend cracking each egg into a bowl, then carefully sliding the egg into the water.  The goal is to try to keep the egg together as it goes into the water.  Boil for 2 to 2.5 minutes or until the egg white is firm.  Remove and dry on a paper towel.  Pan fry the ham till crispy.  Top each egg with 1/2 a slice of  ham and some sauce.

Approx. 2 to 3 carbs per serving.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pan Seared NY Strip w/Garlic Herb Butter

The local Kroger had bone-in strip steaks on sale really cheap. The problem with a great sale on steaks is that they usually aren't the top grade perfectly marbled steaks that you would prefer. I however found an interesting technique online that is intended to turn lesser quality steaks into juicy, tender, flavorful steaks. I have to say that I was extremely skeptical about the crazy marinading process, but it really works.

To paraphrase the article, you basically cover the entire steak generously in kosher salt and let it sit for an hour. What happens is the salt draws the moisture (water) out of the steak to the surface. You would think, (as I did), that this is a terrible idea. However, what happens is that some of the salt is dissolved and drawn back into the steak through osmosis. Now that the salt is inside the steak, it relaxes the proteins in the steak allowing them to trap liquefied fat and meat juice during cooking. Additionally the salt inside the steak will allow your steak to be perfectly seasoned all the way through, not just on the outside. After salting the steaks for an hour you wash the steaks, pat them completely dry and cook them. The additional water that you discard after salting does not help the steak because it is just water. Water does not add any flavor to the steak, it is the liquefied fat and meat juices that make it amazing.

To get the in depth explanation and instructions check out the recipe on this website:

I followed the salting process exactly. Since it is December and too cold and dark to fire up the grill, I decided to pan sear/broil the steaks as this is supposed to be the best way to trap all the juices in the steak. Here is the cooking method:

Place a cast iron skillet inside the oven and set it to 500 degF. WAITTTTTT, STOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!! Don't do that yet because that is what I did and I ended up with this:

If you can't tell, that is actually a FIRE on the bottom of the oven that began to fill our house with smoke, which set off the fire alarms, which sent the dogs into a barking frenzy, ect... Not fun. So learn from my mistake and make sure your oven is very clean because 500 deg will easily ignite something that boiled over to the bottom of the oven that you did not know about.

Now that your oven is clean, place your cast iron skillet back into the oven and preheat it to 500. Once it is preheated, pull your skillet out and place it over a burner on high heat. Put a TBSP of peanut oil in the skillet and drop in your steaks that have been salted, washed, patted dry, and seasoned. Sear on each side for 30 seconds. Then transfer skillet back to the oven for 1.5 minutes. Flip and return to the oven for 1.5 minutes. Remove and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. This should result in a medium rare steak for a cut of meat that is about 1" thick. Change cooking time based on the thickness of the cut and based on the desired doneness.

The steak was perfectly salted all the way through, very juicy and tender, and more flavorful than any steak that I have ever had, that I did not pay an arm and a leg for. I served it with creamed spinach, steamed zucchini, and topped with garlic herb butter (the butter recipe is at the same link as the steak salting process).

(PS. That wierd log thing is the garlic herb butter. It looks wierd, but it tasted amazing on the steak and zucchini)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chicken Cordon Bleu w/Parmasean Sauce

Well, we have gotten really tired of the same old grilled chicken breast, so I tried to do something more exciting with chicken today.  This recipe is actually pretty simple and tastes amazing.  I served it up with some cheesy cauliflower and some sugar snap peas.

4 large chicken breasts
4 slices of low carb ham (no sugar)
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, fajita seasoning
12 toothpicks

Parmasean Sauce (for topping)
1 Tbsp full fat low carb yogurt
1 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp grated parmasean cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degF. Place chicken in a ziplock bag and seal.  Flatten to 1/4" thick with a kitchen hammer or just a large can of food. Remove from bag and season both sides.  Place slice of ham and some cheese covering half of each breast.  Fold chicken over and pin together with three toothpicks.  Top with a spoonful of the parmasean sauce and spread over top of chicken.  Place on greased baking sheet and bake for 30 to 45 min or until chicken is cooked completely.  Time will vary based on chicken size.

Approx. 2 to 3 Carbs per chicken breast.

Low Carb Pizza

My wife and I have a Sunday night tradition of Movie & Pizza night to help us relax and prepare for the work week.  We both look forward to pizza every week and I have been able to perfect my pizza recipe.  However, I was sure we would have to give up pizza for the diet.  We tried mushroom pizzas and eggplant pizzas but it just tastes like mushroom/eggplant with pizza toppings on it.  I tried and egg batter crust but it didn't taste all that great and didn't resemble pizza crust.  I found some interesting new recipes and some new low carb baking ingredients and experimented with two low carb pizza crust recipes.  I think I actually saved Movie & Pizza night from doom at the hands of the dreaded Low Carb diet. 

Thin Crispy Crust Pizza
2 Cups Shredded Cheese (I prefer Mexican Blend)
2 Large Eggs
2 Tbsp Low Carb Baking Mix (Bob's Red Mill Brand)
2 Tbsp Coconut Flour (Bob's Red Mill Brand)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Italian Herbs
Total Pizza Crust Carbohydrates = 12 Grams (4 Servings @ 3 Grams of Carbs per person)

Preheat oven to 350 degF. Mix flour, baking mix, herbs, and baking powder in medium bowl.  Beat eggs.  Add cheese into eggs and mix.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until you have a batter.  You will need a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (must have parchment paper as it sticks bad without it).  Pour the batter in the center.  Flatten the batter out to the desired thickness.  Wet your fingers a little bit to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers.  I got it to about 1/16" thick which made a nice crispy crust.  Remove the top sheet and bake crust 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip the crust over.  I was able to do with a spatula, but you could try to use another baking sheet to flip.  Return to oven and continue baking for another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven then add your sauce, cheese, and toppings.  Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.  This pizza pictured below was only half of the recipe which was perfect for 2 people.
Makes Large Pizza That Serves 3 to 4.

Soft Crust Pizza
3 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour (Bob's Red Mill Brand)
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Italian Herbs
1 tsp Garlic
Total Pizza Crust Carbohydrates = 16 Grams (4 Servings @ 4 Grams of Carbs per person)

Preheat oven to 350 degF. Mix flour, salt, herbs, garlic, and baking powder in medium bowl.  Beat eggs, then mix in coconut milk.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until you have a batter.  Batter should be slightly thicker than a pancake batter.  You will need a baking sheet with one piece of parchment paper (must have parchment paper as it sticks bad without it).  Place parchment paper onto baking sheet, then pour batter in the center.  Flatten the batter out with a spatula to around 1/4" to 3/8".  Bake crust 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip the crust over.  I was able to do with a spatula, but you could try to use another baking sheet to flip.  Return to oven and continue baking for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven then add your sauce, cheese, and toppings.  Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.
Makes Large Pizza That Serves 4

Both pizza's tasted great.  There is a slight coconut flavor to the crusts that is surprisingly good.  Both crusts were very similar to regular pizza crust and did not seem like a weird baked egg substitution like some of the other recipes we tried.  I highly recommend trying them. can find Bob's Red Mill specialty flours at Whole Foods, Central Market, Cupbord, Online, or other health/organic food market.

Low Carb Cooking

Well, it is finally the holidays which means it is the time when there is always great food and holiday sweets around.  This makes it the best time to go on a diet.  We are going on a low carb diet to try to avoid gaining weight and perhaps loosing a few pounds in the process.  Therefore, the following posts will include the experiments and creations that I will be working on to try to engineer some good food on a low carb diet.

Engineering Eats - What the heck is that?

I enjoy cooking almost as much as I enjoy eating.  I am a mechanical engineer by profession which means I am analytical, but I also like to be creative and design new things.  I'm definitely no Alton Brown and I'm not a molecular gastronomist, just an engineer who likes to cook, has created some great meals, and wants to share with anyone looking for some cooking ideas.  If you find recipes or meal ideas then try to improve them, modify them, or figure out how to make it your own, then I hope I can help provide some good ideas or tips for you.