Monday, December 15, 2014

Cinnamon Pinwheel Bites {The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap}


So, let's talk cinnamon. I love it. It's probably my favorite spice. I totally associate it with all the comfort foods of my childhood. There are so many memories like Mom's coffeecake that she made when company was coming over as well as her pineapple upside cake, and there was te de canela (cinnamon tea made from Mexican cinnamon), cinnamon-sugar crispy tortillas (known as bunuelos), cinnamon-sugar topped hot buttered toast, Mexican hot chocolate, horchata during the hot summer months, and Mexican sweet rice. There was also Dad's french toast, his pan de pan (a Mexican bread pudding made with days old bread, sugar, raisins and pineapple) and of course all of the treats of the holidays including apple pie and pumpkin pie.

There's also this cookie recipe that I used to make often during high school for cookie exchanges around the holidays. It's been so long now since I first made it that I don't remember where the original recipe came from. Probably from a copy of my mother's Ladies Home Journal. I haven't made this cookie in years and when I was trying to come up with a special cookie to make for this year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, it was the recipe I kept coming back to. 

I love how these little guys hit all my favorite notes of a cinnamon bun but in cookie form so they're quicker with no waiting for a yeasty dough to rise yet are nonetheless satisfying. This was the first time topping them with the icing. I was encouraged to add the icing after receiving a really cool new thank you gift from OXO for participating in the swap: a cookie decorating kit. I love how the addition of the icing really completes the mini cinnamon bun look and taste. 

These little bites are totally satisfying. Easy to make. Look impressive and are always a hit. I hope you consider making them for your next cookie exchange. 



CINNAMON PINWHEEL BITES
YEILD: 5 ½ to 6 dozen depending on size

INGREDIENTS
_________________________

½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cup unsalted European style butter such as Kerrygold, room temperature
4 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, nearly room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest from one large orange (about 1 tablespoon)
5 cups cake flour (or 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour), plus ½ cup for rolling
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon regular table salt)

For eggless royal icing
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons cold whole milk, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons corn syrup
¼ teaspoon orange or almond extract

DIRECTIONS
_________________________

1. Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl are cup; set aside.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat again for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Crack one egg into a cup, then add and beat until fully incorporated. Repeat with second egg. Add the vanilla and zest and beat on medium until fully incorporated, 1-2 minutes; set aside.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking sugar and salt into a medium bowl. Add a third of the flour to the butter mixture and mix with the electric mixer. Add the next third also mixing with the electric mixer. Finally, add the last third, this time using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. 

4. Dust a dry work surface with flour and turn out the dough onto the work surface. Flour hands as needed and need the dough until it holds together and is no longer overly sticky, adding additional flour as needed. Pat into a large disc and divide the dough into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a flat disc and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

5. Place a large sheet of cooking parchment or waxed paper on work surface. Dust parchment and rolling pin with flour. Working with one disc at a time (leaving other discs in refrigerator until ready), roll out the disk into approximately an 9-inch x 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the surface evenly with ¼ of the cinnamon sugar. From the long side, carefully pull the parchment away from you, rolling the dough onto itself. Continue rolling and coaxing the dough into a jelly roll when you reach the other side, pull the paper back and check that the dough is tightly rolled. Coax the roll towards you and roll it back up in the parchment, burrito style, pinching the ends closed. Return t the refrigerator and repeat with remaining discs. Allow dough to chill for at least two hours or overnight. 

6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two rimmed baking sheets with kitchen parchment. Remove one roll of dough from refrigerator and slice dough into about ⅜ -inch thick rounds. Place cookies one inch apart on baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes then remove cookies from oven and allow to rest in pan for 2 minutes before removing to cooling racks. Repeat with remaining rolls until all cookies are baked. Allow cookies to cool completely before icing. 

7. For icing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl, adding more milk as needed to thin out to desired consistency. I thinned mine out to the consistency of pancake syrup. There are a couple of ways to decorate your cookies: a) simple drizzle the cookies using a teaspoon, b) pour the icing into a ziplock or disposable pastry bag, snip the end and pipe the icing on the cake, or c) fill a cake decorating bottle fitted with a small round tip and decorate the cookies. This icing will harden enough to stack the cookies without them sticking to each other. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to four days at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator. 


Come back Wednesday and I'll have a more diabetic-friendly version to share with you. It has a slightly different texture, to be sure, but still quite tasty and satisfying. If you have no issues with sugar or white flour, than this recipe is perfect just as it is. 
(Update: Yeah, no recipe today, 12/17, because I decided I need to tweak the recipe just one more time. Coming soon, though. --ani)

Also, if you're interested in participating in the cookie swap next year, you can go here to sign up for the email alert. The exchange this year raised money for Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit committed to funding new therapies and cures for cancer affecting children. So it's more than just a cookie exchange, it's an opportunity to help a great cause. Please note, you must have an active food blog to participate. 


Until next time ... Happy baking, friends!
xo, Ani


Thursday, December 11, 2014

{Everyday Eats} Almond Crusted Baked Chicken

Yogurt keeps chicken cutlets juicy and tender while crushed almonds stand in for traditional breading in this low carb, gluten-free entrée sponsored by Straus Family Creamery.


One of my fondest culinary memories from childhood is my mother’s fried chicken. I was mesmerized by her dipping, dredging, and frying. It was a choreographed mystery to me and how was it that it always came out so tender, juicy and flavorful? I’ve come close but I’ve yet to replicate it.

Besides mom’s fried chicken, there were plenty of weekends of picking up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pioneer Chicken (remember Pioneer Chicken?) and heading to the San Diego River or Mission Bay for some fishing or an impromptu family picnic. Also, there were many nights Dad would come home from working second shift and quietly sweep into our bedrooms, waking us up by waving a bucket of fried chicken under our noses. Happily, all of us girls would rise, sleepy-eyed from slumber, trot out to the kitchen and take a seat at the table to have a snack while Dad ate his dinner. As a teenager entering the workforce, I’ll share here — I think for the first time — that my first job was at KFC. When I got the job, I was ecstatic. Fried chicken all the time. I even got to bring home leftovers on nights I closed, much to my family’s joy. Of course, a few months in, I was so very over having my hair, my clothes and everything I owned smelling like fried chicken and for the longest time after the job, I no longer had the taste for it.

But like with most things in life, after enough distance from my teen years at KFC, my tastebuds once again craved good fried chicken. Due to it’s high caloric nature, eating it was often followed by guilt for indulging my craving.

This low carb lifestyle of mine means coming up with alternatives for some of my favorite foods, like fried chicken, and this almond crusted chicken recipe fits the bill nicely. Tender cutlets of organic, non-GMO chicken are slathered in tangy Greek yogurt to keep them tender and juicy, then they are topped with an herbaceous almond crust. I’ve opted for baking in place of frying, upping the nutritional value while still satisfying my craving for “fried chicken."


This dish is quick and easy enough for a midweek meal when time is especially short after a long day at work. In fact, I came up with this meal on a Monday night after stopping at the market for a chicken breast. It’s a good meal to stretch as well since the often oversized chicken breast is divided into three good-sized cutlets. Use raw, unsalted almonds and good quality olive oil. Also, I highly recommend Straus Family Creamery Greek Yogurt. I’ve waxed on before about Straus even before getting my hands on promotional product as I discovered them a few years ago and have become a big fan of their cream-top milk and European butter. Recently, I stopped in at my local grocer only to discover that they were out of the brand of Greek yogurt I’d been buying. The only full fat yogurt they had on hand was Straus. I didn’t, at the time, know such a product existed. I brought it home and have been buying it ever since.


Do you know about Straus? Have you seen it at your local market? I love their story which you can read more about on their website. But to summarize, the Northern California based Straus Family farm was the first certified organic dairy farm in the country back in 1994. Because there really weren’t many options for processing the milk their GMO free, pasture grazing cows were producing, they started their own creamery. Straus Family Creamery has grown from just milk to producing butter, yogurt, even ice cream and most recently, a low glycemic frozen dessert — all organic and GMO-free (in 2010, the Creamery was the first in the nation to be Non-GMO Project Certified)! They now have seven additional organic family farms supplying them with milk, helping to meet the demand for humanely farmed, organic dairy products. Also, all of their milk products come in environmentally friendly recyclable glass bottles which are super cute and harken back to the days before plastic and waxed cartons. 


Straus Greek yogurt is thick, creamy and totally delicious. It’s the base for one of my favorite quick breakfasts (a cup of yogurt with berries, and rolled oats or slivered almonds) and I use it as a marinade, in salad dressings, and in my reduced sugar, low carb baking. So it was only natural that I would use it in this recipe to help tenderize the chicken. If you are great at planning ahead, cutting up the chicken the night before and bathing it in the greek yogurt to marinate overnight will produce an even more succulent piece of chicken when properly cooked. If you are more like me and don’t necessarily know what you’re going to want for dinner until it’s time to make dinner, then simply prepping the chicken first so that the yogurt has some time to work it’s magic while you gather and prep the rest of your ingredients and heat up the oven will still produce a really tasty bite of tender chicken. 

If you already know how to butterfly chicken, scroll past this quick step-by-step for the recipe.

Until next time friends, be well.
xo, Ani

How to butterfly and paillard a breast of skinless, boneless chicken

Butterflying chicken breast is a useful way of speeding up the cooking process by creating a more uniform piece of meat. Traditionally, the knife is kept parallel to the board, then you slice through the chicken, leaving the last ¼ of the chicken in tact. Then you "open up" the chicken to reveal a butterfly shape. The average whole chicken breast can weigh one pound – that's a hefty portion! Here,  first remove the tender, then we slice all the way through to create cutlets that we will then paillard (pound) the chicken with the flat side of a meat tenderizer to create an thinner (bout ¼-inch thick) piece of meat that will cook in a flash.


First, remove the tender from the backside of the chicken by carefully slicing it away to create the first cutlet from the breast.


Place your non-dominant hand on the chicken, then keeping the knife parallel to the chopping board, start at the thickest end of the chicken and slide the knife in a smooth downward motion towards the bottom tip of the breast. Remove the knife, slide it back to the top between the freshly made cuts and slice again slowly towards the bottom, each time guiding the knife inwards.


Pull back the top flap and carefully run the knife down between the middle in one smooth stroke from top to bottom and …


repeat the process until you've sliced all the way through, splitting the breast into two cutlets


Place plastic film loosely over a cutlet and use the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to pound out the chicken to an even thickness. Repeat with remaining cutlets.



ALMOND CRUSTED BAKED CHICKEN
My favorite kitchen helper these days is my Misto. You’ll need it — or whatever cooking spray you have on hand — for this dish. I fill my Misto with good quality olive oil in place of using Pam which leaves pans with a gummy residue (makes one wonder what it does to the human body … just sayin').

Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
_____________________________

2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds), preferably organic and non-GMO
2 tablespoons Straus Greek Yogurt (I don’t do low carb AND low fat so I always use the full fat variety but feel free to go fat-free)
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 large garlic clove
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
⅓ cup parsley leaves, packed
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
olive oil cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
_____________________________

1. If the breasts have a tender partially attached to the chicken from where the breast bone was removed, carefully slice it off being generous with the slice and set aside. We’ll pound this out and it will become a cutlet as well. Place your non-dominant hand on the chicken, beginning at the thickest part of the breast with the knife parallel to the the chopping board, carefully slice through the chicken breast lengthwise to create a butterfly effect. Continue slicing all the way through to create two cutlets rather than one big butterflied piece of chicken (the smaller cutlets are a healthier sized serving). Repeat with second chicken breast. You should have six cutlets. Place a cutlet on the chopping board and cover with plastic film. Pound the cutlet out with the flat side of a meat tenderizer (or rolling pin) until the chicken is of even thickness. Repeat with remaining cutlets, pounding out each one to about 3/8 to 1/2-inch thickness to insure quick and even cooking.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously spray a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange the six cutlets on the pan. Place 1 teaspoon of yogurt on the center of each cutlet. Using the back of the spoon, spread and massage the yogurt across the surface of each cutlet; set aside.

3. Toss the almonds, garlic, cheese, parsley, and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Drizzle in one tablespoon of olive oil and pulse until the almonds are a coarse meal (like coarse coffee grounds), stopping to scrape down the sides bowl as needed. Be careful not to over-process or you’ll wind up with almond butter. Divide the mixture between the cutlets and using slightly oiled hands, spread and pack down the almond crust evenly across the tops of the cutlets. Sprinkle additional kosher salt and black pepper over the chicken then generously spray the cutlets with olive oil and place the pan on middle rack of the oven. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time. Turn off the oven and turn the broiler on to high. Broil the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and just beginning to caramelize. Remove from oven and allow to rest in the pan for five minutes before serving. 

Disclosure: Straus Family Creamery provided me with coupons for free products in order to develop this recipe. No other compensation was given. As always, recipe and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I accepted this assignment because Straus products are actual products I have been using in my own kitchen for years and highly recommend. 




Other recipes calling for Straus Family Creamery:
(click on photo to go to post)



Monday, December 8, 2014

Enjoy stress-free entertaining with Ina Garten's 'Make It Ahead' {cookbook review + giveaway}

Goodreads voted Ina Garten's ninth cookbook, "Make It Ahead," the Best Cookbook of 2014. Preview the book with this easy Parmesan Kale Chips recipe (a healthy low carb snack!) and get an inside look at this beautiful cookbook. Read to the end to enter to win your very own copy courtesy of Crown Publishing.


A friend posted on Facebook not too long ago that she felt that the "dinner party" was dead. To be sure, since I changed my living arrangements, I’ve not been in a position to host friends for dinner which, considering how often I used to entertain, has definitely been an adjustment. But when I read my friend’s post, it did make me stop and try to remember the last time I was invited to a dinner party and I can honestly say that it’s been so long that I can’t remember when. Maybe it’s the economy? Maybe it’s a lack of time? Maybe it’s just the fear of entertaining and coming up with a doable menu that won’t keep you in the kitchen while your guests are left to fend for themselves in the living room? If it’s any of these things that are stopping you, then Ina Garten’s newest, "Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" will be a welcomed companion in the kitchen.

____________________________________________________________________________

“The task of making a three-course dinner over several days 
seems so much less daunting and anxious-making 
than cooking everything on the actual day of the party. …
If I’m making everything in advance, I’m relaxed because 
I have time to fix a problem or even change the menu."
Ina Garten, from "Make It Ahead"

____________________________________________________________________________

I watch Barefoot Contessa whenever I’m home and find it on the Food Network. I like Ina’s food and enjoy her easy way of teaching and sharing her knowledge and techniques. “Make It Ahead” is her ninth cookbook and the first in my library. Granted, there weren’t many recipes here that I could make for my everyday meals but there are plenty I can see making for Sunday supper or special gatherings. Indeed, there is a lot to love about this book. From Ina’s “10 make-ahead tips for parties” and “10 tips for safely storing food” to her “make-ahead menus” that include suggestions for a summer breakfast, birthday brunch, labor day lunch, ladies who lunch, fireside dinner, holiday dinner, July 4th celebration, and even a menu for an anniversary dinner, help to earn this volume a space in any aspiring home cook’s library.


One of the first things to jump out at me when I first opened this book was the gorgeous photography. Every recipe is accompanied by at least one full page photo of naturally lit food that made me hungry just looking at them. Once I started reading (and yes, I’m one of those people that will read a cookbook like a novel), I found her voice coming through loud and clear with every paragraph, as if she were there with me, cheering me on and teaching me her style of cooking. The recipes are written like little action movies, filled with verbs and director’s notes in the form of parenthesis, helpful headnotes, and sidebar notes clarifying a technique making these full proof and easy to tackle. The recipes were written to enjoy the dishes on the day they’re prepared but also include a “Make it Ahead” suggestion in the sidebar. While some suggestions were obvious like chopping and slicing vegetables the night before, several dishes could be nearly fully assembled then refrigerated or even frozen until needed.


The overall look of the book is fresh and modern with fonts that are beautiful, giving the recipes an orderly hierarchy making it easy to follow along in the kitchen. (As a side note: Always, no matter what the source, read a recipe in it’s entirety at least twice before cooking to ensure you understand all the steps, can gather and prep your ingredients and get your cookware and utensils at the ready.) My only “huh?” moment comes when considering the colored type — and there’s a lot of it, too. If you, like me, are a designer and affected by color, you might find it a bit jarring to have the recipe and accent type change as often as it does. I could understand the colored type if it were used as a navigational tool, changing from chapter to chapter as a visual marker to inform the reader which section the recipe is in rather than randomly changing color several times within any given chapter. Again, a minor detail that probably only a designer would be bothered by.

Speaking of chapters, each begins with a story or tips relevant to the section. The chapters are:
  • Cocktails (drinks and hors d’oeuvres)
  • To start
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Vegetables
  • Dessert
  • Breakfast
Because I’ve been wanting a healthy low carbohydrate snack, I choose the Parmesan Kale Chips (pg. 28) to test and I couldn’t be happier that I did. It is going to become one of my go-to recipes when I’m craving a slightly salty nosh.

Salty Oatmeal Chunk Cookies. Photo by Quentin Bacon for Clarkson Potter.
On my radar to make in the near future for myself or for food gifts (love giving food gifts!):
  • Cranberry Martinis, pg 27 (festively red!)
  • Spanish Tapas, pg. 49 (I can easily see converting this to a more blood sugar friendly version, substituting whole grain bread crumbs for the baguette bread crumbs)
  • Wild Mushroom and Farro Soup, pg. 52
  • Homemade Chicken Stock, pg. 62
  • Quina Tabbouleh with Feta, pg. 74
  • Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork, pg. 106 (one of those meals that can keep on giving with leftovers easily made into other dishes)
  • Braised Red Cabbage with Pancetta, pg.162 (I love red cabbage and this dish is gorgeous)
  • Roasted Cauliflower Snowflakes, pg. 170 (another yummy snack idea)
  • Coffee Granita, pg. 191 (once it warms up again, of course)
  • Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies, pg. 192
  • Decadent (Gluten-Free) Chocolate Cake, pg. 212 (already fairly healthier by not using white flour plus easily converted to reduced sugar)
  • Sour Cream Corn Bread, pg. 239 (this will be an indulgent weekend breakfast very soon)
  • Overnight Belgian Waffles, pg. 248 (made with yeast!)
Sour Cream Corn Bread. Photo by Quentin Bacon for Clarkson Potter.
With the holiday season upon us, many folks will be hosting out-of-town friends and family which means coming up with at least breakfast and dinner for several people. One of Ina's suggestions for breakfast, which I absolutely love guests or no guests, is to make muffin batter before bed, pop it in the refrigerator, then in the morning, you just have to scoop it into muffin pans, bake them and everyone gets to enjoy a breakfast of freshly baked muffins (such as Ina’s Blueberry Bran Muffins, pg. 256 which I’m hoping to make for a mid-week breakfast!). What better way to say good morning to friends and family than with a warm, healthy muffin? Mmmm. I can taste them now.

Read on for Ina's recipe for Parmesan Kale Chips PLUS a chance to win your very own copy of "Make It Ahead!"

Until next time … ¡Buen Provecho!
xo, Ani



"Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” 
Author: Ina Garten 
Publisher: Clarkson Potter 
Details: 272 pages, 150 color photographs, 87+ recipes, hardcover and e-book 
List price: $35.00 
Current Amazon price: $21.00 



Parmesan Kale Chips 
Serves 6 
Kale is a delicious vegetable that seems to be everywhere now. If you can find flat kale—sometimes labeled cavalo nero, Dinosaur kale, or lacinato—it can be roasted for the perfect light bite to serve with drinks. It’s simply kale, olive oil, and salt, and it roasts in 15 minutes. Of course, freshly grated Parmesan cheese makes everything taste better. 

1 large bunch flat-leaf kale 
Good olive oil 
Kosher salt 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. 

With a sharp knife, remove and discard the hard rib from the center of each leaf, leaving the leaves as intact as possible. Place them on the sheet pans, drizzle or brush them with olive oil, and toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle generously with salt and bake for 10 minutes, until crispy. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool and serve. 

MAKE IT AHEAD: Prepare and cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 4 days. 

Reprinted with permission from "Make it Ahead." Copyright © 2014 by Ina Garten. Non-watermarked photographs by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. 


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book directly from the publisher for editorial consideration. All opinions are my own. Publisher has offered an extra book for the reader giveaway and will be handling prize fulfillment. If you enjoy this website, please consider using the affiliate link to purchase your copy of Ina's newest cookbook as a small percentage of the sale goes towards keeping this website going. Thank you!


ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

The good folks at Clarkson Potter have offered up a copy of Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead” to one lucky Confessions of a Foodie reader. To enter the giveaway, you must use the Rafflecopter widget below. Winner will be randomly chosen by Rafflecopter within 24 hours of the contest closing and contacted by email. Winner will then have 48 hours to respond to the notification email with their mailing address to claim their prize. If no response is made, a new winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter until someone responds and claims their prize. Contest runs from Monday, December 8 through Friday, December 12 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Prize fulfillment will be made by Clarkson Potter. No purchase necessary. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Everyday Eats: Baked Zucchini & Parsnip Patties


People love labels. Period. They like things defined. Catalogued. Orderly. Being somewhat of a Type-A personality myself, I can understand this. There is plenty I prefer to have clearly defined and catalogued so I can better understand. But the creative in me is also OK with a little ambiguity. Personal interpretation. Creative license. It puzzles me just as much as it puzzles others that these things can all live inside me, co-existing often times quite friendly-like. They want me to explain. Which of course, I can't. It just is. 


The other day, I had forgotten to take something in for lunch so I went to the cafeteria at work to see what they were serving. Normally, on days like this, I buy the made to serve daily salad but this day, I didn't like the daily offering. It had beets. And bleu cheese. I don't do either. The hot meal was a grilled chicken torta (a Mexican sandwich, with thick, baguette-like rolls called bolillos for those who don't know what a torta is).

"Can I have a torta without the bread, please?" I asked the lunchroom chef who happened to be manning the line.

"Excuse me?" She looked at me confused. So I repeated myself.

"You want a torta without the bread? I don't understand."

"I don't eat white flour products. I especially don't eat thick bread these days even if it was made out of whole wheat. So a torta, please, without the bread will be perfect."

A very confused face stared back at me. "I don't understand."

"Take a plate, smear a little beans directly on the plate instead of on the roll. Place the meat on top of the beans. Add the shredded lettuce. Place the sliced tomatoes on top of that then add an extra dollop of guacamole please since I'm not having the bread." I couldn't believe I was having to spell out how to basically make the sandwich she's been making all day minus the bread.

"Well, Ok, it's your sandwich."

Yes, yes it is. Thankyouverymuch. And yes, I realize I'm paying the same for it as if I were getting the bread.

She hands me the "sandwich" and says, "So what? You're doing Paleo?"

Ugh.

Here we go.

But I was not in the mood to try to explain that, too, so I simply answered, "Something like that."


There is no one discipline I'm following in my quest to get healthy. Since my Type-2 diabetes diagnosis in late June, my subsequent research has lead me to many opposing schools of thought on how to manage, live with, or reverse the disease. As I shared before when I "came out" with my diagnosis, all I knew was that I had no intention of managing or living with this disease. I was bound and determined to reverse it and in the process, get control of my health again.


My weight loss has slowed but I'm still losing. Currently I'm down 50 pounds since my June 20 wake-up call. My clothes are still getting looser. Even the ones I bragged here about buying back at the end of September. So I get asked a lot about how I am doing this. Am I Paleo? Am I Atkins? WeightWatchers? Nutri-System? Whole30? Taking weight loss supplements/herbs/potions that Dr. Oz talks about on his shows?


I'm not exercising more than I did before. I'm actually eating more often. Maybe even the same amount of calories as before. I don't know for sure because I'm not counting them. I don't walk around all day with a calculator or iPhone app tracking every carb I put into my mouth. All I know is that quality of the calories and carbs I'm eating are much more nutrient dense and do not spike my blood sugar.


What I am doing is eating mindfully. Choosing this over that. I eat whole foods, made from scratch when ever possible. I eat healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, cheese, yogurt, nuts, and seeds. I eat lots of low starch, high fiber or nutrient dense veggies, mostly dark green ones. I am eating animal protein like eggs, chicken (both thigh and breast), occasional steak, lean ground lamb, beef, turkey, or pork. Even whole grains like faro, barley, quinoa, short grain brown rice, rolled oats make an appearance on occasion as do slow glycemic loading flours like organic sprouted whole wheat, oat, quinoa, coconut, almond, cashew, walnut for those times I want a little sweet treat or want something "breaded". The key is unprocessed whenever possible. Jarred or canned goods must have no more than five ingredients (recognizable ingredients, not chemicals). Generally, the foods I eat fall below 9 on the glycemic load chart (most below 5) with a few here and there in the 10-12 range and even less frequent, 13-16 range. I eat smaller meals and more often (about every 2-3 hours). Some meals (or snacks) might seem counterintuitive because they are high in fat from butter, olive oil, cheese or nuts but I eat them to just shy of satiation and stay satisfied until it's time for my next meal.

And it's working.


On October 30 I returned to my doctor who was pleased with my 45 pound loss at the time. She had blood drawn. On November 3 she called to congratulate me. In four months, I had reversed my diabetes moving my A1C from 6.6 to 5.5. All my numbers (except for my thyroid and vitamin D still in need of improvement) where now well within normal range.

This doesn't mean I can go back to "normal." No, indeed. This is my new normal. Meals like this Baked Zucchini and Parsnip Patties recipe is my new normal.

I have 75 more pounds I would like to lose.

Seeing food now as a way to heal my body, I have every confidence in the world that I will get there.

Until next time … Be well.
xo, Ani


BAKED ZUCCHINI AND PARSNIP PATTIES
This dish was inspired by local food writer and recipe developer, Caron Golden. Caron writes for the newspaper I work at. Being the art director of the paper's Food section, I often get tasked with cooking, styling and art directing shoots for our food covers. Caron did a series this year on Eating with Type 2 Diabetes and one of the first dishes we highlighted was a zucchini pancake. I made the recipe for the newspaper and was hooked. I've added parsnip to the recipe for some added fiber and nutrients. Parsnips are a higher glycemic food (52), however, they rate a very reasonable 4 on the glycemic load chart (a serving of russet potato, for comparison, rates 111 on the glycemic index and 33 on the glycemic load chart!). I also added parmesan for a salty richness. While Caron's recipe calls for frying the pancakes, I opted to bake mine. Although the fried version was totally delicious,  I didn't enjoy standing at the stove babysitting them (took forever as I didn't want to fry more than two at a time to keep the oil from cooling down). My version is easier since it bypasses the frying making it more healthy. Before you get started, place the onion in the freezer for 10 minutes. This will help slow down the onion's emission of the tear-inducing enzyme while working with it. 

Yield: 10 (4-inch patties)

INGREDIENTS
________________________________

1 pound zucchini (1 large or two small)
1 parsnip (about ⅓ - ½ pound)
1 large onion (½ pound), cold, quartered
cooking spray
⅓ cup finely grated parmesan
½ cup whole wheat panko (or whole wheat breadcrumbs)
1 large clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, (plus more for garnish, optional)
2 eggs, room temp preferred
sour cream or Greek yogurt, to serve (optional)

DIRECTIONS
________________________________

1. Prep veggies: Slice zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut both slices in half. Put zucchini through a food processor with the cheese grater blade. Alternately, leave zucchini whole and grate on the largest holes of a box grater. Place a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with a thin dishtowel or cheese cloth; add the grated zucchini. Cut parsnip into thirds and grate in the food processor (or leave whole and box grate); add grated parsnip to strainer with zucchini. Grate the quartered onion in the food processor or the box grater; add to the strainer with the other vegetables. Gather up the towel and twist, squeezing out as much water from the vegetables as you can. Toss vegetables into a large bowl; set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit placing oven racks on top and bottom third of oven. Generously spray two sheet pans with cooking spray; set aside.

3. Finish batter: Add the cheese, panko, garlic, salt, baking powder, pepper, and minced herbs to the zucchini bowl, tossing well to combine. Crack one egg into a small bowl and beat lightly; add to zucchini bowl. Repeat with second egg. Stir well until all the ingredients are incorporated. 

4. Bake: Using a ⅓ cup measuring cup or a 2 ½ ounce food scoop, scoop out some of the batter onto a prepared baking sheet, flatten into a round disk about 4 inches wide using the back of the measuring cup or food scoop. Repeat with remaining batter getting six patties on one sheet and four on the second. Spray patties with cooking spray. Place baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until egg is cooked and edges are golden. Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt. Garnish with whole thyme leaves (optional). A side salad of arugula dressed with just a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil completes this meal.

Per 2 patties serving (before the sour cream garnish):
CAL 103       CARBS 13g       FIBER 4g       FAT 3g       PROTEIN 6g       SODIUM 348mg       SUGAR 3g


More veggie meals to consider (click on photo to go to recipe):

EASY EGGPLANT PARMESAN


Black Bean & Queso Fresco Enchiladas Verde