Food for Thought: Deen, Lawson and Reichl

As January slips away, here’s some parting thoughts from some food celebs with January birthdays:

Paula Deen: Cooking has always brought me a happiness that I didn’t think was available. I just fire up the stove, and things start to fade away.

Nigella Lawson: I don’t believe you can ever really cook unless you love eating.

Ruth Reichl: Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.

By clicking on each person’s name above, you will open a new window at Goodreads listing all their books–recipe, food, bipgraphy, you name it.

‘Later, Tater: Alternatives to White Potatoes and Other Starches

The American dinner. If it’s from Mom, Nana, or your local sit-down restaurant, it’s just unthinkable to have a main course without side dishes. That would be like a rock band with no drums and bass.

And the sides you most often see on an American plate? Potatoes, corn, rice, beans, pasta, maybe steamed vegetables.

If you’re cutting back, though, most likely starches are out of the question–no potatoes, no rice, no pasta, no corn; this makes eating out a little more choosy and thought-provoking experience.

Don’t be surprised if by cutting back on white or starchy foods, though, that the pounds start easing right off.

What can you eat in place of those starches at home?

Here are some things I’ve learned from Paleo cookbooks:

Root vegetables, sweet potatoes, and squashes are excellent ‘tater replacements’ Any of these can be diced, boiled or roasted, pureed, and who would know it wasn’t mashed potatoes until they tasted it?

  • Butter and unique spice blends of your choice can make all the difference in an otherwise mushy, bland, or earthy taste.
  • A little white or blush wine near the end of the cooking process can accent the flavor nicely without altering the color of food.
  • If you are not vegetarian, adding a meat broth to the cooking process can help flavor as well. If you are a vegetarian, there is always vegetarian vegetable soup, V8, or salsa to help with flavor.
  • For tropical flair, use coconut oil, non-sugary dried flakes, or coconut milk in the cooking process. **if you experience palpitations after eating coconut, don’t use it. I’m no doctor, but that’s not a good sign.**

To substitute for rice, take a head of cauliflower, break off each node, and break it up into chunks into a food processor. When the head is broken down, run the processor until you have a watery white powder. This is your rice. It has the slight sour taste of raw cauliflower, so squirting in some citrus, some wine and herbs can help conceal that flavor. Or pour the cauliflower rice into a bowl and use some sauce from the rest of the prepared meal and let it soak in for a few minutes, pour it on top and let it soak in for a few minutes.

To substitute for spaghetti, microwave a spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, in about 1″ water on a microwave safe plate or bowl with a 1 TB. of water for 10 minutes. When it is done take it out and let it cool a little because the rind and interior are scalding hot. Flip each side over, use a fork to gently pull all the threads out onto another plate. Voila, noodles. If you wish to season them in a marinade, or saute them for a few minutes in a herb sauce, that is doable. They will have a slightly sweet taste to them that ordinary egg noodles do not have.

When eating out, always ask for alternatives. While I haven’t located mashed turnips or spaghetti squash risotto just yet, I have seen menus offering baked sweet potatoes, steamed seasonal vegetables, steamed asparagus, and the good old substitute garden/caesar salad for an extra dollar or two.

Key Lime Kookys

The Key Lime may be the most recipe-inspiring citrus fruit native to the USA. Much like Key West itself, it is a tropical treasure that requires no passport for enjoyment!

A great way to sample that Key Lime flavor at home is Key Lime Cookies. In the Lowcountry, a Key Lime cookie is a 1″ round, crunchy cookie covered in powdered sugar, and taste like a buttery shortbread accented with key lime juice or key lime flavored extract. They are available from Olde Colony Bakery, Charleston’s Own, and Byrd Cookie Company.

If you go to the home of the Key Lime, Key West, FL, you will find several kinds of Key Lime Cookies. Key Lime Coolers are the crunchy ones covered in powdered sugar, but there are also Key Lime shortbreads.

And here’s one more.

I was wondering what it would be like to merge the idea of a stained glass cookie with a key lime shortbread so that it would look like a citrus slice.

  • I found lime candies (diabetic-friendly to boot!) online via Amazon.
  • I found a small triangle fondant cutter for cutting the wedge holes (thanks Michaels and Duff at Charm City Cakes).
  • I already had round cutters for biscuits to use for cookies themselves.
  • I used Ideal granulated sugar substitute for a sweet but still light cookie.
  • I used organic Persian limes to include Lime zest in the cookies. I wish we could get real key limes at chain groceries where I am, but alas.

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  • I used a basic vanilla cookie dough recipe, swapping out 1 tsp vanilla extract with zest of 2 limes, and the juice of those two limes; and substituting regular flour for almond flour. I added about 2 more tablespoons of flour to get the dough to be dry enough to roll out.
  • I used coconut flour on the dough while rolling it out so that it wouldn’t stick to the rolling pin or cutters.
  • I used a basic 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter to cut the rounds, then a small 1/2′ triangle to cut five holes in a circular pattern–the idea was to look like a citrus fruit slice. I used a small spatula to lift these fragile raw cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.

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  • I pulverized sugar free lime candies in the food processor (WARNING: you might want ear plugs for cutting those candies in a food processor. They were so tough that the put them in a bag and beat them with a rolling pin wasn’t working. The food processor worked nicely. BUT IT WAS LOUD.)

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  • I sprinkled the candy chips into the triangle holes of each cookie slice. Once all the raw cookies had candy chips in their cutouts, I baked the cookies for 15 minutes. ( I derived this time from baking paleo chocolate chips that contain almond flour. Regular wheat flour cookies would only take 10-12 minutes.)
  • When the time was up I removed the cookies. Uh-oh, the candy chips had melted through, so the cookies looked a little green and oily in their cutout holes. ‘What to do? I had a lot of dough, candy chips, and I didnt want to do another batch with the same results.

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  • So I balled up the dough and pinched off a 2″ piece. I rolled it in my palm and placed it on the parchment lined cookie sheet. I squished it flat with my palm, then put a 2 crossing thumbprints in the middle of the cookie. I put a solid candy in the middle. I repeated this 2″ squished ball process, and sprinkled in some candy chips. I made two more cookie balls and used a solid candy and candy chips. Then I baked these for 15 minutes to see what happened.

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  • The same thing happened whether the candy was solid or chipped. I can only conclude that the only way to avoid the candy totally melted through is to bake almond flour cookies for their whole time, but don’t put in sugar free candies until 7 min. through the cooking process. I will have to try that.

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  • But how do I rectify what I’ve baked, especially the cute slice looking ones? I sprayed the slice cookies with cooking spray (you can also use a faux butter spray or actual melted butter or shortening), then sprinkled the finer bits of candy dust onto the OUTSIDE of a couple cookies. I tried one. It was delicious, like a sugared gumdrop just less artificial and bad for you.

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  • I still have half a batch of dough left of these cookies, so the experimentation will continue, most likely adding the candy halfway through baking instead.

UPDATE: I baked my final portion of dough creating 5 thumbprint cookies and the rest as slices with cutouts. At 7 minutes in, I removed the slices from baking, and sprinkled in crushed candy, then returned the cookies to baking. When time was up, I still had slices with no lime candy in the holes–it still had totally melted through. In order to use the remaining crushed candy, I sprinkled each slice with it.

For the thumbprinted cookies, I pulled the cookies out, placed a solid candy in each indentation, then put them back in the oven. After 5 min, the candy was glossy but still hard. I gave the cookies 2 minutes more, and that was the trick. I took candies out of the oven with liquified centers.

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When I try citrus slice look cookies again, I will try either larger cookies, or putting candy chips in at the 2 minute mark. I guess since they are touching a hot pan, they don’t need long at all to melt.