Cheesy Tuna and Cauliflower Rice Casserole

I wanted something comfort-food like that would also be Lent allowed.

Most people I know have cauliflower in their freezer and tuna in their pantries, so this could really be an easy, pantry meal that takes about 10 minutes from start to finish.

  • I normally would put the notes at the bottom, but because it’s not always obvious:
  • Dairy: I use mostly regular dairy but most of my recipes would work with unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk; cashew cheese, vegan options, etc – use what works for you. That being said: some alternatives might not thicken up as well, so use some xanthan gum or arrowroot if needed.
  • I include my cheese preference in the recipe, but if you don’t like Parmesan or Cheddar, or whatever, use what YOU like.

Cheesy Tuna and Cauliflower Rice Casserole 

  • This recipe makes 2-3 serving, the info at the bottom is for the entire recipe -divide into the number of servings you get.
    • 12 ounce, Frozen Cauliflower thawed and riced
    • 2 cans Wild Caught Chunk Light Tuna in Water, drained (2 of the 4-5oz cans, or 1 12oz can)
    • 0.50 cup chopped, Celery, raw
    • 2 tbsp chopped, Shallots, raw (or 2 green onions, sliced)
    • 4 Tbsp.  Heavy Whipping Cream
    • 2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated or chopped into small pieces (1oz cheddar and 1oz gouda work well, too)
    • 2 tbsp avocado oil

Saute the celery and shallots in avocado oil until they start to soften. Add the cauliflower and stir until it starts to lightly turn color, then add the tuna and seasonings of your choice*. Stir until tuna is heated through, then add the cream, stir and add in the cheese. Stir well and remove from heat to allow the cheese to finish melting.

*I keep the seasoning simple with just a little salt and pepper, but dill, tarragon, whatever you like -go for it 🙂

Nutrition Facts
Servings 1.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 1029
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 68 g 105 %
Saturated Fat 27 g 136 %
Monounsaturated Fat 26 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 210 mg 70 %
Sodium 1222 mg 51 %
Potassium 246 mg 7 %
Total Carbohydrate 22 g 7 %
Dietary Fiber 5 g 22 %
Sugars 10 g
Protein 71 g 142 %
Vitamin A 17 %
Vitamin C 144 %
Calcium 83 %
Iron 14 %

 

Sugar Free Cinnamon Whisky

Ok, just because I am doing low-carb doesn’t mean I don’t like an occasional drink lol.

Fireball whisky over ice is one of my favorites, but it is loaded with sugar, so I decided to give it a go in the kitchen and see if I could make a passable substitute. This isn’t the exact same thing, but it’s not bad and it does “hit the spot” :).

Sugar Free Cinnamon Whisky (or vodka, rum – whatever you like)

For a fifth of alcohol:

In a saucepan, place 1/2 cup of water and 4 packets Splenda Naturals (or your favorite sweetener), 4 cinnamon sticks broken up and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Simmer on low for 5 minutes until the water has evaporated to about 1/2.

Let cool completely and steep, then strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth or coffee filter to get a clear, rich, cinnamon syrup (Note here: if this is not cinnamon-y enough for you, add a few drops of cinnamon oil or extract).

Mix with the alcohol, shake well and enjoy!

Keto Ranch Dip/Dressing

If you’ve ever had Buffalo Wild Wings ranch dressing, you know it’s super rich, creamy and just decadent tasting.

I set out to make an acceptable version, and it turned out really good! The secret, as it happens, is in the mayonnaise. Now, I love my Dukes mayo -it’s fantastic! But it never really gave that richness and smooth creaminess. So I tried “Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayonnaise” and it worked really well.

It’s Keto, so it’s really high fat:

Keto Ranch Dip/Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup full fat sour cream (I used Kroger natural)
  • 1/3 cup half and half (may need a little more to thin it)
  • 1/2 packet Hidden Valley Ranch BUTTERMILK dressing mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (don’t omit this)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the mayo and sour cream until smooth, then add everything else and mix well.

Refrigerate 30 minutes, then decide if you need it thinner or not.

That’s it- fantastically rich tasting, creamy, smooth and just a really nice way to enjoy ranch.

Low-Carb, Low-Calorie OR Keto Snickerdoodle Warm Drink

This is an easy to make warm drink that won’t bust your diet.

You could drink it cold, chilling gives it a bit of an eggnog flavor 🙂

  • 1 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almond or coconut milk beverage*
  • 1/8 tsp (about 3 drops) each: vanilla, almond (or pecan if you can find it) and butter extract – adjust these to your tastes but start small because extracts can pack a punch!
  • ground cinnamon to taste
  • pinch of sea salt
  • nutmeg if desired
  • sweetener to taste (I find 1 packet of splenda naturals enough
  • No one will stop you from adding a “glug” of rum, brandy or other lol

Warm the milk first until just below a simmer, then stir or froth everything in until incorporated.

*The “milk” of your choice of course. For keto you can use 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 regular full fat coconut milk (I would not recommend all coconut milk because it would take it to over 400 calories); you can also add 2-3T heavy cream (reduce the milk by that amount).

These are extracts that I use often, store in the refrigerator if you have larger bottles.

  • The vanilla and butter together make a richer vanilla, like a French vanilla, flavor.
  • Almond and pecan flavors are excellent in baking to give that extra nutty kick (especially cookies based on almond or coconut flours).
  • Cinnamon extract is nice, but I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t have a chemical like aftertaste.
  • There are loads of variety packs on Amazon, I suggest picking one up to try different combinations before investing in larger bottles of ones you may not like:)

Enjoy and may you have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019!

 

 

A Slightly Healthier Twist On Ranch CRACK-ers

If you’ve never had CRACK-ers, they’re a very simple recipe:

saltines, lots of canola oil and ranch powder dressing mix (red pepper flakes are optional as well). You basically saturate the saltines in the oil, sprinkle on the powder and flakes and turn the container every 10-15 minutes to distribute the coating. After about 3 hours, the oil is completely soaked in and the are ready to eat.

Now, that being said, they are definitely an addiction and not healthy -at all.

I set out to try a variety of options and, IMO, the best, snack-worthy while being semi-better for you option is this:

You’ll need:

  • 8oz Special K Multigrain crackers (1 box)
  • 1/4 cup lighter tasting olive oil*
  • 2T avocado oil
  • 1 packet Ranch or Italian dressing mix**
  • red pepper flakes to taste (I use about a heaping teaspoon)

In a gallon size ziplock bag, or in a large container with a snap on lid, add the oil and shake the container gently to distribute it a bit, then sprinkle on the powder and flakes and shake gently again. Every 10-15 minutes for 1 hour shake or rotate the container gently to keep the oil from settling to the bottom.

That’s it -all done! Keep in an airtight container and do not refrigerate. I don’t have any idea how long they last, they’re gone within 2-3 days here.

*You can use extra virgin olive oil, but the fruity/bitter taste can be a problem, depending on how strong it is.

**I use the Simply Organic brand of dressing mixes since they’re a little cleaner than some other brands. I am sure you could use a variety of dried herbs and seasonings to come up  with your own flavor twist.

The Special K crackers are smaller crackers, so you can feel like you’re getting a little more bang for your snack buck!

If you use a spray oil mister, you can get a better distribution since you’re not using copious amount of oil to soak the crackers.

Instant Pot Southern Style Green Beans

I grew up eating green beans cooked with loads of bacon, onions and lard. It was an hours long process, but using an Instant Pot makes it a quick and tasty method.

I know: why use a pressure cooker to cook canned green beans? Well it helps infuse the flavors into the beans, like a long cooking time does.

This recipe is a larger one, you can half  or double it, depending on your needs, nothing changes with the size change-  just 1/2 or double the ingredients.

Instant Pot Southern Style Green Beans

  • 4 cans of green beans*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 4 sliced bacon, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pour the oil in the Instant pot and press the “saute” button. Saute the bacon until it starts to render the fat (3-4 minutes) stirring often.

Add the onion and garlic in and saute for 3 minutes until they are fragrant (the IP sautes very hot so this doesn’t take long).

Drain 3 cans of green beans and pour all 4 cans, the liquid from 1 can and the chicken broth into the Instant Pot with the bacon, onions and garlic.

Place the lid on in the “sealing” position and change the IP to “manual” and set it for high pressure for 5 minutes.

Once it beeps that it has finished, let it release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully open the steam vent and allow any more steam to escape before carefully opening the lid.

Stir well and serve.

*If you use frozen green beans, use 2 bags or 2 pounds for this recipe and increase the cooking time by 2 minutes and increase the broth to 1 cup.

*If you use fresh beans, clean them well and cook exactly the same way as the original recipe, increasing the broth to 1 cup.

Spaghetti Squash with Eggs and Gouda

If you like potatoes with eggs, try this one out:

1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large eggs
1 ounce gouda or your favorite cheese, shredded or very thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste as well as optional sriracha

Heat olive oil in a 6″ skillet over medium heat (if you use a bigger skillet, try to form it in about a 6″ circle, it’s for thickness not aesthetics lol).

If you spaghetti squash is wet, squeeze it as dry as you can, then make a pancake of it in the oil. Cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes or until it browns lightly on the bottom.

Stir, flip or whatever to get the top side on the bottom, then form back into the pancake shape and cook another 5-6 minutes.

Beat the eggs with salt and pepper and pour over the squash, nudging it around so the egg gets mixed in. Cover and continue to cook for 2 minutes until the egg sets, then sprinkle the cheese over the top and fold (or not- up to you) and plate.

Serve with sriracha if desired.

This is a hearty breakfast and a nice brunch or lunch option. Serve with some sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and some olives on the side for a Mediterranean lunch 🙂

Grocery Pick Up Comparisons

I’ve spent the last few months using 3 local grocery pick up (curbside, clicklist, etc) services to compare them on cost, savings, accuracy and simplicity of use.

I’ll be comparing HEB (a Texas chain); Kroger and Wal-Mart.

HEB:

Cost for the service is $4.95 but it’s free right now on Wed, Thurs and Fri but that’s ending on Dec 14th; Deli meats and cheeses, as well as some spices, can be weighed in small increments, so you don’t have to buy in pounds only;                                                        Produce is usually pretty good, though you need to be really specific if you want something “ripe” or “green” or else you may get avocados that won’t be ripe for a year;      HEB does carry some more unusual things, like chicken necks and feet(for bone broth), oxtails, a wide variety of their own brand, a big selection of natural and organic foods as well as a really good seafood and grass fed protein section.                                                Cost: most things are slightly less expensive than Kroger, but the variety of products from other countries, especially Mexico, are much better. In all honestly, their beef tends to taste better as well.                                                                                                                            While HEB does have some online coupons you can apply, a lot of their specials are “in-store” coupons and they do NOT apply to curbside orders, so you can’t take advantage of them.                                                                                                                                                          Where HEB coupons and specials do have an advantage over the others: you can see the savings in your cart immediately, not after the sale like Kroger does.                                        This can be a benefit if you are budgeting or if you need to spend a certain amount to get things like fuel points(Kroger) or other store related perks.                                                        Cocinaware kitchen goods. This is a really good, but inexpensive line of bakeware, kitchen gadgets, etc. The 3 different HEB stores I’ve been to all have a nice selection, so if you run out of measuring spoons or you need a ladle or a mixing bowl, check this label out.

Added bonus: HEB also offers grocery delivery in my area.                                                 I’ve used it a few times and it’s great!                                                                                          The items you purchase have a small markup to cover the cost, and you have to pay for the service AND tip the delivery person, so it can add to your overall grocery cost quite a bit (say 5-6% overall) if you buy a lot.                                                                                            As an occasional option when you may be under the weather, or just have a small list, or when you know it’s going to be crazy at the store because of holidays or something, it’s nice to know it’s available.

Kroger:

Cost for the service is $4.95                                                                                                                  Note system for specifying exactly what you want is very good.                                                Produce is mostly organic and usually top quality.                                                                      Very large digital coupon system that works for the curbside pickup.                                    They are usually ready as soon as you get there, whereas HEB and Wal-mart can be a 15-20 minute wait.                                                                                                                                        Many items have a Private Selection or Kroger brand equivalent that are very good, though not always much of a cost point difference. If I can get a name brand for $3, and the Kroger alternative is $2.99, I’m probably going with the name brand. SOME products have a big difference though and it’s well worth checking out if you usually buy a certain major brand.                                                                                                                                            Locally they carry Nolan Ryan beef that is natural, antibiotic and hormone free.                  The Private Selection kettle cooked potato chips are better than Lays and other brands lol.                                                                                                                                                              Toilet tissue: their brand Home Sense mega rolls toilet tissue are better than Charmin. I am not kidding. And the rolls are bigger, over an inch taller than Charmin, so aside from being less expensive ($1-$4 per pack) you’re also getting an extra roll out of every 6 rolls because of the size difference. (HEB also has a very good store brand of mega rolls).                         The local Kroger is a big flagship store, so it has a HUGE selection of everything from kitchen small appliances to seasonal decorations, to clothing!, everyday things for grilling and cooking, etc.                                                                                                                      The deli is great. Big selection, although they only work in full pounds, you can note that you want less. It’s hit and miss on if they will do it, but I’ve had 2 out of 3 orders that were correct (1/3 pound of provolone sliced on #1 no paper between slices is my go-to to see if they can do it).                                                                                                                              Their ground beef is hit-and-miss on flavor. I’ve bought some great and some that didn’t have a beefy taste at all.                                                                                                                        They have been pretty good about substituting. Not as good as HEB, but good. Example: frozen shrimp was on sale, 1 pound bags buy 1-get 1 free. They were out of the 1 pound that were on sale and substituted a 2 pound bag for the same price, but when salmon was on sale for $4.99  a pound(frozen Atlantic not farm raised), they did not substitute the fresh salmon from the seafood counter, they just said they were out of stock.                The pick-up area here is clearly marked and it’s in front, not around the side or back like HEB and wal-mart are.                                                                                                                          The fuel point bonus is worth it, to me. With $0.10 off per gallon for every $100 you spend (not rolled over, re-starts every month) you can really save quite a bit filling up there if you buy a lot of groceries.

Wal-Mart: least favorite

Ok this is probably JUST my local store, so take that into consideration lol.                            The pick up area is around the back side of the store and, even though it’s clearly marked, people still park in the few slots they have available for pick-up. That isn’t wal-mart’s fault, but they need to maybe ask people not to park there or something.                  When you call in to let them know you’re there (use the phone app instead, trust me), you may need to call back 2-3x to actually get them to bring your stuff out.                            Produce: not awful, but I seem to get stuff that is bruised, sometimes actually split(like tomatoes) or moldy, overripe and should have been tossed out not sold, or so under-ripe you could build a foundation with it.                                                                                                Substitutions: “we’re out”, “can’t locate”, “no longer carry”, “ran out”, and my favorite was ordering gluten free crackers and they substituted regular ones. I was not told of the substitution, but it was noted on the receipt.                                                                                  I told them no to a bread substitution, it was removed from my cart but not my bill, so I had to call twice to have that remedied, which was a little annoying.                                        Overall, this service is pretty new (only a few months) so I may give them until after the Holidays to work out the kinks and try them again.

Summary:

If you’re an “ooh that looks good!” shopper, you may not like not seeing/feeling the products first.

You can save money and budget pretty well using this kind of service.

You do miss out on some coupon savings, though it reads that all 3 that I mentioned are trying to incorporate more into their services.

You miss out on mark downs, which can = big savings, so if it’s a week you usually stock up on meats for the month (or whatever), you’re better off going in to the store.

Both HEB and Kroger offer a waved fee if you buy certain things or spend a certain amount, or there’s another special going on.

Not having to deal with shelf stockers being in the way, busy parking lots, crowded stores with long line, can make these services worth it for your mental health.

You can usually set a pick up time up to 3 days in advance, and Kroger allows you to adjust your order until midnight the night before your scheduled pickup, so it’s a nice option if you forgot something.

Exogenous ketone supplements: Do they work?

I tried Pruvit a while back and ended up with such a Pavlovian response to the taste that I could not continue.

In the “diet” world, especially low-carb and it’s “keto” offspring, there are always questions about ketone producing supplements.

I ran across this current article and wanted to share it:

Diet Doctor: Exogenous ketone supplements: Do they work?

Interestingly, the verdict on their un-official, very small test group was a big “NO”.

Personally, I found adding a teaspoon each of Kerrygold butter and MCT oil to my coffee or tea (dubbed “bulletproof coffee”)yielded similar results, and I didn’t gag at the thought of drinking it.

Even on lower calories and moderate carbohydrates, since I don’t typically eat breakfast, I found the “bulletproof” coffee, in the teaspoons added, did not seem to effect my weight loss.

I Decided I NEEDED A New Kitchen Gadget

Ok. I admit it: I am a kitchen gadget junkie.

There are 2 stores that cater to my particular addiction: Amazon and Best Buy.

Best Buy has a “deal of the day” email where you can get 50% or more off of items they sell, and many times those are kitchen small appliances.

My new toy: a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

Now, before I complain about the cost, I will say that I have purchased many stand mixers over the last 7-10 years, ranging from $35 to $70 and, without fail, each HAS failed, usually due to internal plastic parts. So if I look at it logically, I’d have spent less in total if I’d just bought the Kitchen Aid first(and yes, this reasoning works on my husband lol).

Another benefit: He can get me attachments for Christmas! See: win-win!

Now the reason I’m writing this blurb isn’t about the mixer itself, but a specific attachment: the Vegetable Sheet Cutter . Revolutionary if you’re wanting to add more veggies to your meals in a sneaky fashion.

I’ve only used it to sheet cucumbers (and rolled tuna salad in them as a wrap -worked fantastic!); and zucchini, of course. The recipe below is a pasta fake-out using zucchini sheets instead of pasta.

Never fear, if you don’t have the sheet cutter, just use a vegetable peeler and make as wide of slices as you can, then make a lattice pattern to form sheets.

Rolled Ricotta Florentine Manicotti-ish (makes 4 servings)

  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese – softened
  • 2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (the green can is fine)
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained until it’s very dry then finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2T (about 4 leaves) chopped fresh basil -optional
  • 2 zucchini sheeted or 4 zucchini using a vegetable peeler as described above
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce

Make the zucchini “pasta” first and places on paper towels to drain just a bit.

You want enough to make 8 rolls about 5-6″ long each.

In a mixer or by hand: mix the cheeses, eggs, basil if using, and salt and pepper well. Mix in the spinach until it’s well distributed. *While this recipe does not call for bread crumbs, you may need a little more Parmesan if it’s too wet.

Preheat oven to 350f. Spread 1/4 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan and spread it around in a thin layer, it will barely coat the bottom but that’s all you want.

I find it easiest to divide the filling into 8 servings to start with, then fill and roll each sheet and place, seam side down, in the pan. Repeat until you’ve made 8 rolls.

Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the top and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly (5-10 minutes) for the filling to firm up before serving.

*If you make your own sauce, or a meat sauce, make sure it’s very thick because the zucchini will give off some moisture when it bakes.

**If you like, sprinkle some shredded mozzarella on top 5 minutes before removing from the oven.