Apple cider. And fresh cranberries. And fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juices. And spices. And honey. All together, hot and steaming and delicious, on my stove. This is one of my favorite wintertime drinks, and as soon as I start to see cranberries arrive in my grocery store I begin to think about it. “Yay!” I say to myself. “It’s Swizzle time of year!”
I have made this drink for many different groups of people over the years (because it’s a great sort of “special company” drink), and I have never yet encountered anyone who didn’t like it. People who say they don’t like hot cider like it. People who say they don’t like cranberries like it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s some sort of magical combination of ingredients that makes it universally loved. So odds are that you’ll love it too!
I don’t like tomatoes. Raw, I mean. I never really have – though I’m able to tolerate them much more now than I did when I was younger.
So WHY do I love this so much?! I don’t know. Maybe there’s some sort of magical process that happens when balsamic vinegar and garlic meet raw tomatoes. Some sort of voodoo alchemy that turns something I otherwise can’t stand into something I can’t get enough of!
This, really, is all the endorsement you need about how amazing this recipe is. If even tomato-hating melikes it you know it’s good!! It’s good on top of buttery toast (like I’m about to show you.) It’s good on top of chicken for Bruschetta Chicken. It’s good with chunks of fresh mozzarella mixed in as a salad. You can take this as a starting point and use your imagination about it!
This is what you do.
Take some olive oil and drizzle it around a pan. Like 3 Tbsp or so.
And add in about 5 minced garlic cloves and cook them until they just start to turn golden.
Now pour the garlic together with EVERY SINGLE DROP of that garlicky olive oil in a bowl.
Chop up some red onion and tomatoes. This can be cherry tomatoes cut in half, or larger tomatoes cut into chunks. I found these gorgeous yellow and red babies at the farmer’s market, so that’s what I used. Dump them in the bowl and stir around.
Chop up plenty of fresh basil and stick it in. Mmmmm! Fresh basil is the bomb.
Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and then drizzle in some balsamic vinegar.
Now you taste. Does it need more vinegar? More basil, salt, or pepper? Add it in!
As I said above, you can use this in lots of different ways, not just traditional bruschetta. Use your imagination! But if you’re wanting bruschetta, this is what you do to make it miraculous.
Get a loaf of bakery bread. For this diet it will have to be a whole grain bread. I haven’t had luck with finding 100% whole wheat breads at the bakery that I like, so I usually compromise and buy one that has whole wheat as the first ingredient, but also has white flour. This seems to work fine for me as long as I don’t overdo it. You have to be the judge of what works for your body!
Slice it up. Then melt several Tbsp of butter in a pan. Preferably the same pan you used to cook up the garlic so that you can take advantage of all that garlic goodness!
Then stick the bread in the pan and cook until nice and golden brown. Flip it over and toast the other side too. (Though the second side won’t be as golden since most of the butter was soaked up by the first side.)
Spoon the tomatoes on top and devour. It’s messy. I’d advise you not do this in front of people you’re trying to impress.
Okay. Cornmeal. Is it inflammatory, or isn’t it? It’s listed on some lists as a grain to stay away from, and is on other lists as safe since it’s a whole grain. So what’s the story?
I have no idea. It’s kind of confusing, so I decided to go with my trusty old “how do I feel when I eat it?” test. All I can say is that, for me, it doesn’t seem to be any problem at all. So I’m putting it back on my safe list!
Which is a really good thing, because we love cornbread in our house. There’s nothing better than a bowl of my favorite chili or a dish of my BBQ baked beans, cooking all day long in the crock pot, and then accompanied with a hot batch of cornbread fresh from the oven. Mmmmm!
The cornbread I make now is a little different from what I used to make, of course. Instead of white flour, I use whole grain spelt. Instead of sugar, I use honey. And it works great! Since we always liked honey on top of cornbread anyway, the flavor of the honey as the sweetener works really well. If you don’t like or don’t want a sweet cornbread, you can always just leave the honey out!
I also make sure to buy only stone ground, organic cornmeal, because of the problem with the majority of cornmeal being GMO. The best sources around me for this are my health food store, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. (they don’t have organic cornmeal at my regular grocery store.) So you might have to look around.
This cornbread is slightly sweet, and crunchy on the edges but moist and tender on the inside. Just the way I like it! Perfect.
In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, spelt flour, baking powder, and salt. (It’s best to use aluminum-free baking powder since there’s a lot of it in this recipe; beyond it being healthier anyway, it will avoid the strange metallic aftertaste that often comes with baking powder.)
Melt the butter, and then mix in the honey. You can use more or less honey as you like – whatever you like as far as sweetness in your cornbread.
Pour the butter/honey in with the dry ingredients, along with 2 beaten eggs and milk, and mix until combined.
Grease an 8×8 pan with butter or coconut oil, and pour in the batter. If you double the recipe I suggest using two 8×8 pans rather than a larger 9×13 pan, because the crunchy edge pieces are the best part!
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the center bounces back when you press it with your finger.
Serve it up!
Preferably with plenty of sweet grass-fed butter! Yum……
Zucchini. Tons and tons of zucchini. I like it and all, especially in Creamy Shrimp Linguine, but really…how much zucchini can one person eat? And yet I keep getting it in my CSA share.
So last night I went on a search for things to do with my abundance of zucchini, and as soon as I saw the idea for this recipe I knew I wanted to try it. As in, immediately.
So immediately, in fact, that when I discovered I was short on cocoa powder (gasp! horror!) I sent my 12 year old daughter out to the neighbors in her pajamas in search of some. At 9:00 at night. And when those neighbors weren’t home I sent her back out to the other neighbors to ask them. That’s how desperate I was to do this thing.
Ah, children. God’s little way of helping us do all the unpleasant, embarrassing things we don’t want to do ourselves.
Fortunately that neighbor was home, and awake, and in possession of cocoa, and willing to give me some. (Thanks, Tracy!) So I plopped in all the ingredients – changing up some things according to my whim at the moment – baked it, let it cool for about 20 minutes, and….
Oh. My goodness.
So good! It’s not necessarily like my old Baker’s Chocolate recipe that had 2 cups of sugar in it – but it is hands down the best attempt at better-for-you brownies I’ve ever tried. (And, believe me, folks, I’ve been TRYING.)
Before now, none of my attempts were at all worthy of sharing with you guys. But this one totally is.
What makes it special is that it’s really fluffy – spongy and springy – and yet at the same time is really, really moist. It just kind of dissolves in your mouth. And so chocolatey! Really, really chocolatey. There’s no hint of the zucchini in it at all, except for the fact that it’s so wonderfully moist and tender.
Also, this recipe has no flour. At all. Of any kind. It just has almond butter as the main ingredient!
I’ve been able to have foods like this, made with whole food sweeteners, just fine recently. (Well, I had to go through a detox after vacation, but after that I was fine.) Not everyone will be able to, though – in the beginning I wasn’t. So if you’re still sensitive to any kind of sweetener be sure to tread carefully with this! But if you’re able to have whole-food sweeteners in moderation, then this is definitely a recipe to try out!
What else are we supposed to do with all those zucchinis this time of year?
I was in Whole Foods the other day to bulk up on my spelt supply (since flour from their bulk bins are lots fresher than the packaged stuff on the shelves) and on my way in I was stopped by someone giving free samples in the entryway.
I didn’t really want to stop, because we all know that the real price of those “free samples” is being guilted into buying the thing afterwards. There’s this unspoken, “Hey, I just gave you free food and you’re NOT going to buy my product?! What kind of rude ingrate are you, anyway?” thing that happens. But he was very persistent about his invitation to sample his wares, in a way that made me feel rude to just sweep by.
“You have to try some of this salad dressing!” he said. “It’s personally made and bottled by my family with all natural ingredients. What kind do you want to taste?”
He had little cups with a few pieces of spinach in each one, and different dressings on top.
“Well,” I said, “it depends on what’s in it.” I thought I was being clever, here, because I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be able to eat what was in the dressing. Sure out.
“Just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, dry mustard, and salt!” He answered. Drat!
So I tasted it, and it was good!
I told him so. “Mmm, good!”
He grinned, sensing a sale. “I have a goal to beat the world record for most salad dressing sales in one day, and I just know you’re going to help me out!”
“There’s a record for the most salad dressing sales in one day?”
“There’s a record for everything.”
“So, what kind do you want? They’re only $6.50 each! All natural, and supporting a family business!”
“Ah, em…” I hedged. “I’ll, ah, think about it and come back.”
His face fell and every trace of affable humor disappeared. He looked pretty ticked off, honestly. Granted, his assumption that I wasn’t actually going to return was right, but still. You need to retain your salesman mask, man. Come on, now.
I felt bad. (Because I have this whole problem where I want people around me to feel good about everything, which is basically an impossible thing to do.) But there was NO WAY I was going to pay $6.50 for that dressing! I mean, oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard, and salt? Do you know how CHEAP that is?
His sales pitch of “see how simple this is” actually is only proof for how simple it is to make it yourself.
What’s that? You don’t think it’s easy to make dressing? Let me tell you a little story.
Last spring I chaperoned a field trip with my son’s class to Snipes, the farm near us. After they took a tour, the kids picked lettuce and then stuck a bunch of stuff in a blender to make dressing.
Did you catch that? A crowd of 9 year olds stuck a bunch of stuff in a blender and made dressing. See?! So, you now have no excuses.
And, they all loved it. I heard kids left and right saying, “Can I have more?” and “This is the best salad ever!” So I took a picture of the recipe that was hanging on the wall.
Anyone can do this. You literally take all that stuff, stick it in a blender, and blend away until it’s nice and creamy. That’s it.
I pretty much stick to the recipe. For the herbs, I just put in whatever sounds good that I have on hand fresh. Sometimes I don’t put any in at all. Sometimes I add lemon juice. You pretty much just start with the basic ingredients, taste, and go from there. I’ll also add a little water to thin it out a little, and that seems to help it not get so solid (and makes it more pourable) after being in the fridge.
But, it’s seriously simple, and seriously yummy. If you’ve been looking for a basic salad dressing that doesn’t have all the sugars and non-food ingredients of store bought, this is it!
Note: I usually double or triple this recipe so that I have it for a while. A single recipe will serve 4-6 people, but not leave any left over.
½ Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (the kind from the deli section, not the stuff on the shelf!)
1 garlic clove, minced
⅛ tsp salt
⅛ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp water (omit if using lemon juice)
Optional: 1 tsp fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand)
Optional: 1 Tbsp maple syrup
Optional: Juice of a lemon (if you have it on hand)
Take all the ingredients, put them in a blender, and blend until they're nice and creamy. Unless you have a super-high-powered blender, mince the garlic first or it won't chop up right. That's it. You can experiment with different vinegars (red wine, apple cider, etc.), different kinds of herbs, things like mustard, or whatever else sounds interesting to you.
When I was younger (as in, like, 5 years ago) I thought fondue was this strange, slightly embarrassing thing people did in the 70s. Like disco. And colorful polyester suits.
I imagined it involved using retro equipment that looked like this:
And people who looked like this:
Or maybe this:
(By the way, I totally got sidetracked searching for funky 70’s pictures. Like – hours. I’m back now.)
I don’t know why I had this impression of fondue. Maybe something I saw on TV? I have no idea. But I definitely thought of it as some quaint, odd thing that was done in the hazy 70s and that normal people didn’t do anymore.
And then I went to The Melting Pot with my husband. The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant (in case you hadn’t figured that out) and I discovered that – hey! – fondue is good! In fact, it’s more than good, it’s fabulous! And fun! Even without polyester and a disco ball.
For those of you who have no idea what fondue is, it’s basically dipping things in stuff. And then eating it. Bread and veggies into melted cheese, meats and seafood into hot broth or oil (to cook it), fruits and cakes into melted chocolate. You get the idea. There are endless varieties of what you can do with it. The Melting Pot has a whole menu full of choices.
The Melting Pot has a lot going for it. It has great atmosphere, and gives you four whole courses of dinner. But it’s also really expensive. On our second visit there, somewhere in the middle of the cheese course, the thought came to me, “How hard can it be to make this? I’m sure I could do this at home.”
This isn’t exactly ground-breaking food blogging here. There is absolutely nothing revolutionary about this at all.
But, like with other no-brainer posts I have on here (iced tea, popcorn, etc.), it’s just something else that’s “something I can eat,” and is something that’s especially helpful for a sugar-free diet. I thought I’d put it here simply because I’d like this blog to be a resource of ideas for eating on this diet, even the obvious ones.
Once you go off sugar, you find yourself really enjoying fruit more than you did before, and something about combining the right ones together in a bowl makes them even better. I find myself craving this a lot anymore, and it always hits the spot! If you’re having cravings for sweet things, give this a try. Don’t psyche yourself out and pretend it’s a brownie. It’s just something really yummy that will fill you up and taste great and satisfy those sweet taste buds.
I know everyone has their own take on fruit salads and everyone thinks they’re right. I, of course, am no exception, so I think that the way I make it is really the only right way. You can obviously do whatever you want, but this is what I expect from a fruit salad:
Fruits to use
Fruits I ALWAYS use: pineapple, red grapes (cut in half), red grapefruit, mandarin oranges, and at least one variety of berry for color.
Fruits I use when they look good and are affordable: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, cherries (pitted and cut in half)
Fruits I never use: hard, crunchy fruits like apples (the texture is all wrong); melon (melon is good by itself, or in a melon salad, but I don’t think they go with the other fruits in a fruit salad); pears, peaches, and plums (I just don’t like their textures compared to the other fruits. Also, they get mushy and tend to get discolored quickly); bananas, unless it’s being eaten immediately with no leftovers (they get gross and slimy pretty quickly in a fruit salad).
Other things that add to it
A couple sprigs of mint, shredded or chopped, adds a really nice, cool surprise of a flavor.
Juice of a lime or lemon brightens up the flavor and helps to preserve the fruits.
Juice from the jar of mandarin oranges (make sure it’s 100% juice and not sugar syrup) and from the grapefruit after the segments have been cut out gives the juicy base for the salad.
Heavy cream, whipped up with an electric mixer, can be nice on top (though I prefer mine plain, with just the flavors of the fruits shining through.) If you use it, either have it unsweetened, or sweetened with only a bit of real maple syrup or stevia.
Use fresh fruit and only if it looks good. If the strawberries don’t smell like anything, then they won’t taste like anything and you should just skip them. It will only be as good as the fruit that’s in it!
The only canned fruit I use is mandarin oranges. I use it for the juice. Make sure it’s oranges packed in juice only and not a sugar syrup.
Try to cut everything into roughly equal size. It helps to get a nice variety of fruit in every bite if everything’s the same size.
In the winter, your fruit salad will be sparser because there aren’t as many fruits in season. I generally just get one variety of berry – whatever looks the best and is the best price – to add in for color in the winter. It gets too pricey otherwise.
If you’re making this ahead of time, don’t add the juice until just before serving. The juice can make certain fruits (mostly the strawberries) mushy after a while.
For the above reason, it’s also good to drain the juice before storing leftovers. You can keep it in a jar and pour some on as you need it, if you want.
Try to get as many colors in it as you can. Use red grapes instead of green. Put some blueberries in, even if it’s just a few. We eat with our eyes, so color matters!
Serve in a glass bowl, if you have one, because it’s pretty!