April 2017 Low-Carb Challenge–Cauliflower Pizza

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Last month, I did a challenge where I used a lot of pantry ingredients and kept the budget low.  I was very pleased with the March 2017 results.  I used up a lot of items that really needed to be used.  I saved 1/2 of the $200 I had set aside, and saved more than that, since I usually spend more than that in a month on groceries.

I went shopping at Costco, Fred Meyers, Grocery Outlet, Natural Grocers, and a couple of other stores.  I bought sale items, such as 99c/ 1/2 gallon milk, bulk items such as 5 dozen eggs and a 4-pack of butter, non food items like kitchen garbage bags, big black garbage bags, vitamins, Tumeric, lots of produce, and more.  I worked hard to get the best deals possible from many sources.  Now, I’m stocked back up on both food items and other supplies.

This month, I decided to work on my health.  As readers of this blog know, I’ve had diabetes for a long time.  I was counting up the years, and realized that it’s been 15 years now since I was diagnosed.  So,  in honor of that anniversary, I decided to focus on finding a few more low-carb recipes this month to encourage myself to keep eating in a way that is interesting and healthy for me.  All those potatoes were great for the budget, but I need to eat only a few of them.  I’m well-stocked for groceries for the month after my shopping trips, and will just buy produce, things I run out of, etc. for the rest of April.  I will also keep eating from my freezers, shelves, etc.

I read several recipes for cauliflower crust pizza.  I combined them and came up with something that I liked.  Here’s what I did:

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I thawed 1 quart-sized ziplock bag of home-frozen cauliflower and pulsed it in the food processor until it was in small pieces.  It would probably be about 4 cups of frozen cauliflower if you purchased it.

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Following the instructions from a couple of sources, I put the pulsed pieces onto a clean, thin towel and squeezed the water out of it.  It was pretty dry.

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I mixed:  Squeezed cauliflower pulp

2 eggs

salt and pepper (a little of each)

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

I put foil on a small cookie sheet, sprayed it with non-stick spray and spread the mixture on it.  I baked in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Then, I turned it over and cooked for another 10 minutes.  I had trouble getting it off the foil so I could flip it, but finally did.  Every source recommended parchment paper, but I did not have any.  So, I might get some and try that another time.

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One source said put cheese on first to keep it from getting soggy, so I did, then spooned sauce sparingly on top.   I want more sauce next time.  Hopefully, it won’t make it soggy. Then, I put pepperoni, olives, mushrooms and a little more cheese on top, and baked for another 10 minutes.

I really liked it. I could pick it up with my hands and eat it.  It was really tasty and good.  It was very low carb.  In fact, there were not enough carbs in it to hold me over to dinner.  That’s a good thing.  I love snacks.  In fact, I went so low (blood sugars), I got to eat chocolate chips.  Double good.  I’m pleased.  Next time, I’ll just eat a few more carbs with it and it will be a good choice for me.  The kids love those $5 pizzas from Little Caesar’s and this will be a good choice for me on the days they want one of those and can talk their daddy into getting them one:)

I’m going to try it again.  I will use less salt than I did this time (I used about 1/2-1 teaspoon).  It was pretty salty.  I may also try it with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese instead of the parmesan, or only use 1/2 cup of parmesan.  The crust tasted strongly of parmesan, which I enjoyed.  If I wanted a milder flavor, though, I might enjoy mozzarella and Canadian bacon and pineapple.  I have quite a few baggies of frozen cauliflower left from when I froze so much last year.  I am looking forward to using some of it this way.

 

Gluten-Free Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

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A reader asked me to post a good muffin recipe. Of the muffins we have made lately, we liked this one the best.  I started with a recipe I used to use frequently before I needed to go gluten-free.  Ja’Ana made it as it was, substituting gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour.  It was quite dry.  Today, we tweaked that recipe quite a bit, and are much happier with the results.  Here’s what we did:

Dry ingredients (mix together in a large bowl):

1-3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 gluten-free flour blend

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

grated lemon peel from 1 lemon

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients (mix together in a small bowl):

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup oil

1 container (6 oz) lemon yogurt (about 2/3 cup)

2 eggs

Stir the dry ingredients together until mixed.  Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Beat the wet ingredients together and then pour them into the well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Mix together.  Put into 12 muffin cups that have been lined with cupcake wrappers or sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 16-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove muffins from pans and place on a cooling wrack.  Make lemon glaze and drizzle on top of warm muffins if desired.  We have eaten them many times without glaze. Let them continue to cool until completely cooled.  Freeze any muffins you are not going to use immediately, then remove from freezer, thaw on counter or in microwave,  and enjoy.  Makes 12 muffins.

Lemon Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2-3 teaspoons lemon juice (I just squeezed juice out of the lemon I used for the lemon peeling until a nice consistency was reached)

Stir powdered sugar and lemon juice together until the glaze is able to be drizzled on to the muffins.  Start with a small amount of juice and add more until desired consistency is reached.  If you put in too much juice and it is so runny and just slides off the muffins, add a little more powdered sugar until it thickens up slightly.  If you have to spread it like frosting, it is too thick and you need to add more juice.

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Homemade Corn Tortillas

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A lot of people are doing a no-spend January.  I think it’s a great idea, but am not participating at this time.  I had several low-spend months this year, and am re-stocking  on some things this month.  I plan to have a lower income during the summer, so that’s when I’m planning my low-spend time.

However, today, we ran out of tortillas.  One daughter assured me there were some in the fridge when I tried to buy them, and another assured me they were gone.  They are a)buried deeply in the fridge, or b)indeed gone.  I wanted to make enchilada bake for dinner.  So, I dug out a bag on masa flour from the stockpile and gave it a try.  I love finding ways to use up things I bought for one reason or another, but don’t use regularly.

I looked up several recipes on the internet.  They were pretty much all the same, with extremely minor variations.  I mixed 2 cups masa (corn) flour with 1-1/2 cup very hot water and a 1/4 teaspoon salt.  I kneaded it until it was a ball, then pinched off balls to shape into tortillas.

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Then, I cut a gallon-sized ziplock bag up the sides and made my own “press.”

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I squished the balls with a big pot and some elbow grease.

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Then I fried them in a pan for about 2 minutes on each side.  I used a little oil in the pan.

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Then, I just layered the tortillas with home-canned chile verde, refried beans, and some leftover beef pieces I chopped finely.  After 3 layers, I covered the casserole with cheese and some olive slices.  Now, dinner’s in the freezer for Rob to warm up while I am at work! He has a headache today, and I did not want him to have to cook when he gets home.

These tortillas are thicker than the ones from the store, and have a slightly different flavor.  Still, I ate one for lunch, and they are certainly edible.  I’m pretty happy with how my experiment turned out.

Saving Money–Dec. 5, 2016

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The weather turned colder, and so Rob picked the iris.  It opened right up overnight.  It’s so pretty and unusual to have an iris blooming in December!

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I also picked a tremendous amount of lettuce from the garden.  I think it’s the last hurrah, but who knows?  I was able to serve taco salad to our family and the friends who visited and still have lots left.

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We put the tree up in the garage/family room.  It is sitting on top of a table I keep out there.  Rob got a bargain tree for $20 that he cut down on Saturday and chopped it off to fit the small area we have.  We used the branches from the part he chopped off to decorate the railing in front of our house.  He put up a small string of lights as well, outside.

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I dug through the bins of fabric in the shop and found a Christmas piece.  I used it for a tablecloth to make the kitchen more festive.  I bought a kit for a gingerbread house, plus a little more candy from the bulk section of Winco, and Patsy enjoyed decorating it for quite a while on Saturday.

While shopping, I found chicken drumsticks for 68c/lb.  I bought 3 packages, cooked 1 and froze 2.  We have had spaghetti several times this week, from the batch of sauce I made last Tuesday.  We will finish it today.  It was a large batch and was made from home-canned tomato products, 1 pound of ground beef and various odds and ends of parmesan cheese that were in the fridge, over gluten-free noodles I had on hand.  We also had make-your-own tacos/taco salad with our friends.  There are still quite a few leftovers in the fridge to keep the family eating for the first part of the week.

 

 

Quick-Cooking Tapioca

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I’m always looking for appetizing ways to use the food that I have stockpiled.  There’s no point in having lots of food, just so it can get old on the shelves, and  end up cooking with stale, outdated ingredients.  Sometimes, when food is bought in bulk packages, it is much cheaper, but the purchaser ends up with more than they can use.  Last spring, this happened to my mother.  She bought a large package of quick-cooking tapioca and gave me a baggie of the excess.  I did not end up using it all up over the summer, so when I found it again recently, I decided to target it in my meals.

The first thing I did with it was use a couple of Tablespoons to thicken a beef stew.  This was a stew that was made from beef, broth, canned tomatoes, onions, carrots, potatoes, beans and some herbs and spices, plus salt and pepper.  When I finished, it was pretty runny.  I just put in a little tapioca and it thickened up nicely.  I am gluten-intolerant, so this made a nice substitute for wheat flour.

The second thing I made was tapioca pudding.  I got a recipe from the Kraft website.

2-3/4 cups milk (I used 2%)

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. Minute Tapioca (I have no idea of the brand my mother gave me, but it worked)

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

I added:  1/4 teaspoon salt and a teaspoon butter

Mix milk, sugar, tapioca, salt and the beaten egg in a saucepan.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Cook on medium (I did med-high and watched it very carefully), stirring the entire time, until mixture comes to a full boil.  Remove from heat.  Add vanilla and butter.  Cool 20 minutes; stir.  Serve warm or cold.  Makes 6 servings.  Store leftovers in fridge.

When I got done cooking the mixture, it was so runny I though I had made a mistake and had tapioca soup.  The recipe says it thickens as it cools, but I thought there was no way this would become pudding.  But, it really did.  In fact, it turned out to be very thick once it was cold.  So, I might actually use 3 cups milk next time.

 

 

 

Basil Pesto

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The other day, I made pesto from the last bits of basil in the garden.  I do it a little differently than some others do.  This recipe started from Taste of Home’s Basil Salmon Recipe, but I’ve changed it up quite a bit.  For one thing, we don’t use pine nuts.   We like more parmesan cheese.  I’ve even tried cutting down the amount of oil used, but that one did not work.  It takes it all.

Here’s what I do:

4-1/2 cups basil leaves

10 Tablespoons olive oil

5 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients in food processor.  Pulse until it is all incorporated together.  Taste.  Add more salt, pepper, cheese, etc. that you want, to taste.  Freeze in an ice cube tray.  Once frozen, pop the frozen cubes into a zip-top bag and keep in freezer until ready to use.  Makes 1 ice cube tray full.

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We use it on fish and chicken, in salad dressings and dips, and pasta the most.  Ja’Ana and I love it!

 

Enchiladas

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The camper fridge gets full extremely fast.  Even so, I lose leftovers in there sometimes!  I don’t want to waste food, though, so today I searched out several bits and pieces and made enchiladas.  I usually use a tomato base with my enchiladas, but today I was focused on using some things up.

Here’s what I did:

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I made a filling:

–1 cup (approximate) lite sour cream mixed with 1 small can of green chilies (I used 1/2 in the filling and 1/2 on top)

–Pork leftover from a few days ago, cooked in crockpot with salsa verde

–pinto beans I cooked yesterday with jalepenos and onions in the crockpot

I put a little bit of each of these things into 10 warmed corn tortillas, rolled them up, and placed into a pan sprayed with non-stick spray.

I made sure to finish off the pork, but have lots of beans left for another day.

On top I put:

–the rest of the sour cream/chile mixture

–the last of 2 small bags of cheese–1 cheddar and 1 Mexican blend

–5 green onions, chopped up with kitchen scissors

I covered with foil and baked in 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes-1 hour, until warmed through.

Makes 10 enchiladas.

It would be so easy to use chicken, hamburger, or whatever meat you have left over.  Any cooked beans would work.  There could be more cheese, or less cheese.  Olives could be added on top, too.  It is a great way to use lots of little bits of meat that are leftover.  Everyone will feel as if they got a whole new meal.  I’m sure looking forward to dinner tonight!