The Truth About Dried Strawberries – A Pinterest Experiment

The Truth About Dried Strawberries – A Pinterest Experiment

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I’m sure you’ve seen this around Pinterest, dried strawberries. It was a trend a few years ago and suddenly has had a resurgence, I’m guessing due to it being summer and strawberries being on sale everywhere. Who can blame us? Strawberries are delicious.  One quick type of, “dried strawberries” yields a ton of results.  

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Most promise that it tastes like candy, but healthier. I’ve always been hesitant, because I’ve noticed a trend on Pinterest for some bloggers to post an article they blogged to gain blog traffic, without actually trying the recipe out that they’ve written about. This results in some ideas on Pinterest that aren’t that… great. After picking up three containers on sale at the grocery store (they were just too good a deal to pass up), I decided to give this Pinterest favorite a test. After all, the hubs and I love strawberries, we love candy, we love dried fruit, and we love trying new foods- plus I had three containers of strawberries to use- so, what was to lose? 

The concept is simple, slice strawberries, spread them on a baking sheet, and bake them on a low temperature for several hours to dry them out. In the process the sugars come to the surface, resulting in a tangy treat. I researched a ton of recipes, and those who seemed to have tried the actual recipe recommend cooking the strawberries at 200°F, rather than 215°F for 3 hours. They also recommend slicing the strawberries thinner or into quarters to promote faster drying. So, I grabbed a package of strawberries and cut them into quarters. 

Dried Strawberries-1

I let the oven preheat while I hulled (removed the stems) and cut my strawberries into quarters. Some where thicker than others, but in general they were the same size. I put them in the oven at 200°F and let them stay there for three hours. They smelled pretty good for a while, and then smelled kind of weird. Finally, I couldn’t smell them much at all as they neared completion.

After three hours, I pulled out the baking sheet. Frankly, I wasn’t certain what to expect. This Beautiful Day is the blog that came closest to the actual results (see photos above) that I achieved, and that’s because she actually tested the recipe herself. They don’t come out of the oven looking the greatest, be warned. In fact, it looks like some tragic accident happened on my baking sheet. 

Dried Strawberries-2

Just a heads up, I soaked the baking sheet in water for about 10 minutes and it cleaned up just fine. 

I pulled/peeled the strawberries off the sheet and placed them on a piece of parchment paper to absorb any excess moisture left while they cooled (turns out, there wasn’t any extra moisture). They come out very dark in color, and almost look burnt, but they’re not. 

Dried Strawberries-3

Now for the big moment, sampling these dried out fruits. 

Dried Strawberries-4 

Results: not too shabby. Definitely not a Pinterest fail!

The flavor: They were way too tart/sour for me, but I just can’t do tart flavors like I could when I was younger (the tartness of these was more than that with sour gummy treats, for example, which I can eat just fine). My husband absolutely loved them, but he adores a sour/tart taste (in fact, I sent the bag with him the next day). I think children would go crazy for these, because they love that tart/sour flavor. 

The texture: Some were dried out fully, and had a chewy texture. Others (the thicker ones) had some softness to their inside and reminded me of a raisin. I highly suggest slicing them thin for a chewier texture. 

The look: Not appetizing to the hubs or me. 

Level of difficulty: Easy peasy. The hardest part is hulling and slicing all the strawberries. 

Would I make these again: Probably not, while these were good a container of strawberries yielded enough to fill a little over half of a snack baggie. The cost of the strawberries + the electricity used for my oven = it’s easier and about the same cost to go buy an organic bag if I really needed them or wanted them. 

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Southern “Fried” Chicken

Southern “Fried” Chicken

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Who doesn’t love some good ‘ole Southern style fried chicken? Even my Northern relatives flip for it. Now you’ll have to excuse me, because my southern born roots are going to show in this post.

Served warm and crispy, with some mashed potatoes and a side of corn or greens. Maybe some sliced tomatoes on the side? And of course, some very delicious Southern Sweet Tea (3 teabags &  2 cups of boiling water. Let it steep in a pitcher. Remove tea bags, add the juice of half a lemon & one cup of sugar. Stir and fill the remainder of the pitcher with cold water. Serve over ice). 

I have been very surprised at the amount of people who do not know how to fry chicken. Sometimes it’s out of fear, sometimes it’s just because that’s not typical in the part of the world they live in and they’re unfamiliar with it. Well, allow me to introduce you all y’all. Don’t be scared, it’s not hard to make. 

Fried Chicken-1-4
Our oven baked Southern “Fried” Chicken, fresh from the oven with a crispy, crunchy coating.

However, instead of frying it we are going to make it in the oven. It’s healthier that way, but the taste is still there. Excellent healthy-alternative side options for this include: Bacon Cauliflower Smash, broccoli, greens or a salad, seasoned-sliced tomatoes (slice them and season them with parsley, paprika, pepper and salt), raw veggies, or fresh fruit. 

This is not made to be low-carb or keto, this is made to be delicious and put a taste of the South in your mouth. (Just do what I do, eat very low carb all day and enjoy this meal as a semi-cheat with low carb sides). 

This recipe doesn’t call for a lot of ingredients, although it will seem like you’re using a lot of seasoning. I always recommend using fresh herbs when you can, but if not you can use dried herbs just fine. You will, however, need three separate containers in order to prepare your chicken. One for your flour, one for your Frosted Flakes, and one for your egg. I know some of you re-read that last sentence and said, “wait- Frosted Flakes?”. Yes, that’s correct. Cornflakes will work, but the sugar on the outside of the Frosted Flakes caramelizes to really enhance the flavor and color of the fried chicken. 

Ingredients for our oven baked Southern "Fried" Chicken.

Using a fork, mix your flour, thyme, rosemary, basil, pepper, garlic powder, chopped green onion, and cornstarch in your first container. Mix your Frosted flakes, cornstarch, garlic powder, and rosemary in the second container. Last, whisk your eggs with paprika and thyme. Sometimes it can take a minute for the seasoning to really blend with the egg, but just keep whisking it. You want your egg mixture nice and blended (**Hint! You can use 3 Tablespoons of mayonnaise if you do not have eggs).

You’ll notice we added spices to all three containers, as this ensures flavor throughout the chicken. The cornstarch is added to help keep the chicken nice and moist as it cooks.

After your containers are ready, you roll the chicken in the seasoned flour. Next, you dip it in egg (making sure it’s well coated). Last, you roll it in the Frosted Flake mixture. Place your coated chicken pieces on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, drizzle the chicken with olive oil, and bake it at 350 degrees for one hour. Check your chicken after 30 minutes. If any places still look “floured” at this time, drizzle a little olive oil over the spot. 

Fried Chicken-3
Coated and drizzled with olive oil. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees, checking after 30 minutes.

It’s very important not to coat your chicken until you are ready to bake it. If you coat your chicken and let it sit, the chicken will dry out and your coating will fall apart and not adhere to the chicken. 

Once your chicken is baked, place the pieces on a paper towel to absorb any excess olive oil, and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. 

Now, pour yourself some sweet tea and tell everyone, “Bless your heart” with a slight head tilt and small smile, while you enjoy your “fried” chicken.

Southern "Fried" Chicken
Serves 4
A crispy, southern style fried chicken that is baked in the oven
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts- thawed
  2. 1 Cup all purpose flour
  3. 2 Cups crushed Frosted Flakes
  4. 2 Eggs
  5. 1 & 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  6. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  7. 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  8. 1/2 & 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 & 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
  10. 1 teaspoon basil
  11. 1 teaspoon green onion, chopped
  12. 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  13. Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil.
  3. Whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon chopped green onion, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, & 1 Tablespoon cornstarch.
  4. In a separate container, whisk together the crushed Frosted Flakes, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary, and 1 Tablespoon cornstarch.
  5. In a separate container, whisk two eggs with 1/4 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon thyme.
  6. Coat chicken in flour mixture, then egg mixture, then frosted flakes mixture. Place coated chicken on baking dish.
  7. Drizzle coated chicken with olive oil.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check chicken after 30 minutes and drizzle oil over any spots that look like dry flour.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt.
  10. Place baked chicken on paper towel to absorb extra olive oil.
Notes
  1. Cornflakes may be substituted.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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The Eggplant Chicken Dinner

The Eggplant Chicken Dinner

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I think eggplants, like many vegetables, have a beautiful color quality to them with that gorgeous purple color and shiny outside. They’re kind of dark and mysterious compared to other vegetables though. They’re intriguing, but many people are afraid to work with them because they aren’t sure how.   

Eggplant
Eggplant – Courtesy of http://www.foodnouveau.com

Eggplants can be fairly versatile though. They have this great creamy texture when cooked (they are very sneakable into smashed potatoes, if you remove the skins prior to cooking them). Taste wise, it’s very mild. Almost like a squash/cucumber mix. They’re a great addition to a meal. 

However, eggplant can be a little boring on its own as a dinner. This is why it’s most often fried or smothered with something. It’s mild taste makes it a great additive to a meal, but it can get lost on its own. Thus the reason for adding other textures to this dish. 

Eggplant Chicken-6

The Eggplant Chicken dinner features eggplant and chicken, obviously, but also has garbanzo beans, mushroom stems, onion, and celery. It has all the right textures and flavors to balance this dish out nicely. (It can be made vegetarian by substituting the chicken with another protein such as tofu, tempeh, or artichokes).

This dinner is not as complicated as it looks, I promise. At the bottom of this post, I have separated out the individual recipes for each part. To assemble this dish, you simply layer it from the bottom up. 

You create the sauce as the garbanzo beans, eggplant, and chicken are cooking. By the time the other elements of the dish are ready, the sauce is finished. This dish is made in stages so that everything is cooked, fresh off the stove, and ready to assemble about the same time.

The most important part of this dish, is letting the eggplant sit and drain. If you skip this step, your eggplant will be soggy, your breading will not hold, and your entire dish will turn out as some kind of semi-edible mess. Letting the eggplant drain is essential to this dish turning out correctly. You’ll need to let your eggplant drain about 40 minutes before you’re ready to actually start cooking. To drain the eggplant, you cut the top off and slice the plant into long, thick slices. Lay each slice down on a paper towel and lightly salt the slices. Turn them over after 20 minutes and lightly salt the other side. The salt helps to draw the moisture out of the eggplant. 

Let your eggplant slices rest on a paper towel for 15 minutes on each side.
Let your eggplant slices rest on a paper towel, lightly salted,  for 15 minutes on each side.

Once your eggplant is drained, you can begin preparing the dinner. 

First, you need to preheat your oven to 375 degrees and drain a can of garbanzo beans. Spread them across a baking sheet (ungreased), season them with salt (lightly) and paprika, and bake them for 20 minutes.

While your garbanzo beans are baking, work on your sauce. Remove the stems from 6 mushrooms and dice them, along with some yellow onion, a clove of garlic, and some celery (including the leaves). Combine the ingredients in a frying pan drizzled with some olive oil,  add half a can of tomato paste, and give it a quick stir.

Eggplant Chicken-2
The base ingredients for your sauce. This will cook until it’s time to plate your food. 

Cook this on medium-high heat, stirring the ingredients around quickly, until you being to smell the garlic. At this point reduce the heat to low, add your chicken stock, stir it a bit, cover it with a lid and let it simmer. 

Eggplant Chicken-3
Cook until you can smell the garlic, then add the stock. Cover and simmer until it’s time to plate.

Now your sauce is started and your garbanzo beans are baking. It’s time to prep your ingredients for the eggplant. You will need three containers of some sort, one for your seasoned flour, one for your unseasoned flour, and one for your eggs (vegetarians, use an egg replacer here). Just make sure the containers can fit your eggplant slices. 

In one container mix 3/4 of the flour with some oregano, paprika, and thyme. The other container is where you will put the remaining 1/4 of the flour without seasoning. The last container is where your eggs will go, but make sure to whisk them. 

You’ll coat the eggplant slices in plain flour, then egg, then the seasoned flour. After they are coated, place them on an ungreased baking sheet. When all the eggplant slices are coated, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, then drizzle them with olive oil. 

At this point your garbanzo beans should be done or near done. As soon as they’re done, pull them out, leave them on the baking sheet, and set them aside to cool.

Eggplant Chicken-4

Now bake your eggplant at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, checking them after 30 minutes. If you notice that part of the eggplant isn’t crisping up (it will still have a flour look while it looks crispy around it), add a little more olive oil over that part. Give your sauce a quick stir when you check your eggplant, then put the lid back on and let it continue to simmer. You’ll see that it’s thickening up. 

While your eggplant is cooking, cook the chicken to your liking, using paprika and oregano for seasoning. Your chicken should be done a few minutes before your eggplant. Remove it from the hot pan and set it on a cutting board to rest for about five minutes. Turn the heat off for your sauce, but leave the pan on the hot burner. When your eggplant is finished, place the slices on a paper towel to absorb any extra olive oil. Finally, dice your rested chicken. 

Now, it’s time to layer up the goodness. Start with a layer of fresh baby spinach, and top it with a handful (or two!) of the cooled garbanzo beans. Add a piece of delicious eggplant, and spoon on your sauce. Spread your sauce across the eggplant, and top with your diced chicken. 

Eggplant Chicken-6

And that, is how you make The Eggplant Chicken Dinner. Enjoy, and try to get a layer of everything in a bite, it’s amazing! 

The Eggplant Chicken Dinner
Serves 4
A savory dish featuring eggplant and chicken.
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Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
Prep Time
40 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Medium eggplant
  2. 3 Boneless skinless chicken thighs (or 4 tenders, or 2 large boneless, skinless breasts)
  3. 1 Can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
  4. Fresh baby spinach
  5. 1/2 of a 6 oz can of tomato paste
  6. 1/2 Cup Chicken stock
  7. 6 Mushroom stems
  8. 1 Clove garlic, chopped
  9. 1/2 Cup yellow onion, chopped
  10. 1/2 Cup chopped celery (mostly leaves and upper stalk)
  11. 2 Eggs, whisked
  12. 3/4 Cup flour
  13. 1/4 Cup flour
  14. Paprika
  15. Thyme
  16. Oregano
  17. Salt
  18. Pepper
  19. Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Cut the top off eggplant. Cut eggplant into thick slices.
  3. Place each slice on a paper towel and lightly salt the slices.
  4. Turn slices over after 20 minutes and lightly salt the other side.
  5. Let sit for an additional 20 minutes to draw out moisture.
Garbanzo Beans
  1. Spread on a baking sheet.
  2. Sprinkle lightly with salt and paprika.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, set aside and let cool.
For Sauce
  1. Combine mushroom stems, celery, onion, garlic, and tomato paste in a frying pan drizzled with olive oil.
  2. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring the ingredients around quickly, until the garlic can be smelled.
  3. Reduce heat to low, add chicken stock.
  4. Stir, cover with a lid, and let simmer until almost time to serve. Stir when eggplant is checked at 30 minutes and ensure sauce is thickening up. At this point, if it is not, simmer without lid for ten minutes.
  5. When eggplant is finished, turn heat off and let sauce sit on warm stovetop burner without lid.
Eggplant
  1. In one container mix 3/4 of the flour with a tablespoon of oregano, paprika, and thyme.
  2. In another container put 1/4 of the flour, without seasoning.
  3. Whisk eggs and place them in a third container.
  4. Coat the eggplant slices in plain flour, then egg, then the seasoned flour.
  5. Place coated eggplant on an ungreased baking sheet.
  6. Sprinkle coated eggplant slices with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil.
  7. Bake eggplant for 40 minutes, checking them after 30 minutes. (If you notice that part of the eggplant isn’t crisping up (it will still have a flour look while it looks crispy around it), add a little more olive oil over that part).
  8. When eggplant is finished, place cooked slices on paper towels to absorb any extra oil.
Chicken
  1. Cook chicken while eggplant is baking.
  2. Cook chicken to preference, using paprika and oregano for seasoning.
  3. Chicken should be done a few minutes before eggplant. Remove it from hot pan and set it on a cutting board to rest for about five minutes.
  4. Dice rested chicken.
Assembling the Dish
  1. Layer fresh baby spinach on the plate.
  2. Top spinach with a handful (or two) of cooled garbanzo beans.
  3. Add a slice of eggplant.
  4. Spoon on sauce across eggplant.
  5. Top with diced chicken.
Notes
  1. About 11 net carbs/serving.
Vegetarian option
  1. Replace protein with another protein such as tofu, tempeh, or artichokes, and use a binding replacement for egg.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/
(For those wondering about carbs, as is (because you don’t use every bit of the flour), this serves about 4 and has about 11 net carbs per serving).

 

 

 

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Crispy Salad Topping Greens

Crispy Salad Topping Greens

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Low fat. Low Calorie. Low Carb. Great crispy texture. Perfect flavor to add to a salad. 

Winner. 

The entire pan has 5 net carbs, 40 calories, and half a gram of fat. 

Crispy Topping-3

The hubs and I love these crunchy little toppings. They add just the perfect amount of flavor and crunch to our salads without adding a bunch of calories, fat, and carbs. These are actually made using fresh brussel sprouts.

Using a knife, you gently cut the stem away and separate the leaves away. Toss the stems (or use them to make an Organic Stock). Next, spray a small cast iron skillet (or baking pan) with a butter based nonstick spray. Spread your leaves around the pan, and coat them lightly with the spray. Sprinkle them lightly kosher sea salt.

Cook your leaves at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel and allow them to sit for a minute before adding to your salad. 

That’s it! It’s that easy! Enjoy. 

Crispy Salad Topping Greens
A healthy, crispy salad topping.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 brussel sprouts
  2. Kosher sea salt
  3. Butter based nonstick spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Using a knife, cut away the stems of the sprouts. Set the leaves aside.
  3. Spray a cast iron skillet or baking pan with a butter based nonstick spray.
  4. Spread the leaves across the pan, and spray them lightly with the spray.
  5. Sprinkle with kosher sea salt.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Transfer leaves to a paper towel, and allow to cool for one minute.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Cream Cheese & Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

Cream Cheese & Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

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Oh, these are so yummy! They also make an excellent side dish with about anything. Bonus, they’re super easy to make. They’re also friendly if you’re looking to avoid a lot of carbs (1 net carb each, and you can make them even lower with the right kind of cream cheese). 

Stuffed Mushrooms

This dish only takes four ingredients and two spices, and is ready in ten minutes. The mushrooms are not cooked to a soggy point, but you can leave them in the oven for an additional five minutes if you like them a bit softer. 

You start this wonderful side dish by removing the stems of six to eight large, whole white mushrooms. Arrange the mushrooms in a shallow baking dish (ungreased). Next, you’ll need to cook some bacon (you can use regular or turkey bacon, they both work very well). When the bacon is cooked, place it on a paper towel and let the grease absorb off. It’s okay if the bacon isn’t super crispy. While the grease is absorbing, chop up one green onion stalk and one clove of garlic. Then, chop the bacon up finely.

Mushrooms, de-stemmed and ready to be stuffed.

Lastly, in a bowl, combine your chopped ingredients with a dash of black pepper and four ounces of softened cream cheese. Use a fork to combine the ingredients. It can take a small bit of work to get the ingredients to really mix, but it doesn’t take long to mix them. 

Once the cream cheese is mixed well, use a butter knife to gently fill the mushrooms. 

Mushrooms, stuffed with bacon, the filling & sprinkled with paprika.

Sprinkle the top of the mushrooms with paprika, and bake for ten minutes at 325 degrees. As soon as they’re removed from the oven, they are ready to serve. 

Cream cheese & bacon stuffed mushrooms, cooked & ready to eat.
Cream Cheese Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms
Yields 6
A simple and tasty side dish.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 slices of bacon, cooked and degreased
  2. 1 green onion stalk, chopped
  3. 1 clove garlic, chopped
  4. 4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  5. 6-8 whole white mushrooms, stems removed
  6. Pepper
  7. Paprika
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Chop bacon.
  3. Using a fork, combine bacon, onion, garlic, and cream cheese with a dash of pepper.
  4. With a butter knife, gently stuff mushrooms with cream cheese filling.
  5. Sprinkle paprika across stuffed mushrooms.
  6. Bake mushrooms for 15 minutes in an ungreased, shallow baking dish.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Cuban Seafood Soup

Cuban Seafood Soup

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Awhile back, I had the opportunity to try Cuban food for the first time in a place just outside of Sarasota, Florida. It was a summer night, with warm breezes blowing in off the coast. The restaurant was a lively, open-air place that was bustling with music and people, enveloping me in bright colors while surrounded by beautiful tile mosaics, and the food! The food was simply amazing. While we all sampled off each persons plates, a bite of empanada here and a taste of potato there, the particular dish I had ordered was full of scallops, shrimp, crab, mussels, peppers, and onions. It was seasoned perfectly and served over linguine noodles. The flavors were complex, but not overwhelming. Everything about the dish complimented itself.

Fast forward to this year, when I found myself staring out across the snow-covered ground and thinking about that warm summer night. Inspired, I set out to create a dish that was similar to what I had eaten.

Cuban food is a blend of Native American, Taino, Spanish, African, and Caribbean foods, which most often uses fruit and root vegetables in the dishes. Spices are abundant, and sauces are light. This particular dish uses sofrito, which can be easily done and is common in Cuban cooking. Sofrito refers to the way ingredients are cooked that form the base of the dish. In the most basic sense, it means to cook rapidly on high heat for a few moments, then quickly bring the dish down in temperature.

While this is not a replica of the dish I had on that pleasant summer night, but rather it is inspired by it. It’s relatively easy to make, too. The first step to making this dish is to prepare your ingredients. Get everything cleaned, chopped, diced, sliced, and measured so it’s ready to go in as soon as you’re ready for it. 

Cuban Inspired. Can be served as is, or over linguine noodles.

Next, you need two pans: a skillet and a large cooking pot (a saucepan will not work here, it’s time to break out the big one for this). 

Place the pan on the stove (no heat) and add the milk, water, paprika, bay leaves, and one teaspoon of oregano. Now, let it sit. In the meantime, using the skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high heat, until the oil is nice and hot. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, and two teaspoons of oregano. Keep the ingredients moving around in the pan (this is the sofrito part) until you can smell the garlic. Immediately empty the contents of the pan into the pot with the milk and spices, turn the stove to medium heat and allow the ingredients to start to come to a boil. 

Sofrito the onion, peppers & garlic.

Add the jalapeno to the pot while it’s starting to come to a boil. Place your skillet back on medium-high heat and let it come up to temperature while the pot continues to come to a boil. Once the skillet is at temperature, add your scallops, tomato, and pepper to it but do not add oil. Cook for approximately two minutes, moving the ingredients around in the skillet the whole time, then add it all to the large pot. 

Keep your scallops, spices, and tomato moving the whole time.

At this point, you’re finished with the skillet. To your large pot, add your king crab, limes, and wine. Turn to high heat, cover, and let it cook for five minutes. 

Next, you add your mussels and shrimp. Cover and cook for ten minutes, keeping the lid on to let it steam. After ten minutes check and see if your mussels have opened. If they have not, replace the lid and check every two minutes until they are opened.

Your mussels should open in about ten minutes. If they don’t, check every two minutes until they do. 

When the mussels open, the soup is finished. Top it with freshly cracked black pepper and maybe a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, and serve (I highly suggest having napkins handy, as this soup gets hands on at points if you don’t have the proper utensils to crack and spear). 

Cuban Seafood Soup
Serves 6
Inspired by a warm summer night, surrounded by tropical breezes and festive music.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika
  2. 2 Tablespoons & 1 teaspoon oregano
  3. 4 Bay leaves
  4. 1 bunch of celery (including the leaves), root cut off and chopped
  5. 1/2 Cup white onion, diced
  6. 1 large Tomato, diced
  7. 1 Lime, halved
  8. 1 Jalapeno, diced (remove capsaicin (the white part inside) for less spice)
  9. 4 Cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  10. 2 Green, 2 yellow, & 2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
  11. 1/2 Cup white wine
  12. 1 can coconut milk, light
  13. 1 Cups water
  14. Olive oil, drizzle
  15. 1 lb Bay scallops (fresh)
  16. 1 package (12-14 ounces) fresh shrimp (peeled, tail off, de-veined)
  17. 1 lb mussels -or- 1 package mussels in white wine sauce (if you use the package, omit the white wine from the ingredients)
  18. 1 King crab, pre-cut (can be bought frozen or fresh)
Instructions
  1. Add milk, water, paprika, bay leaves, and one teaspoon of oregano to a large pot.
  2. In a skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat, until oil is hot. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, and two teaspoons of oregano. Keep the ingredients moving around in the pan (sofrito) until you can smell the garlic. Immediately empty the contents of the pan into the pot with the milk and spices.
  3. Start to bring to pot to a boil on medium-high heat.
  4. Add the jalapeno to the pot while it continues to come to a boil.
  5. Place skillet back on medium-high heat. Add scallops, tomato, and pepper. Do not add oil. Cook for approximately two minutes, moving the ingredients around in the pan the entire time.
  6. Add all ingredients from skillet to pot.
  7. Add king crab, limes, and wine to pot. Turn to high heat, cover, and let it cook for five minutes.
  8. Add mussels and shrimp. Cover and cook for ten minutes, keeping the lid on to let it steam. After ten minutes check and see if the mussels have opened. If they have not, replace the lid and check every two minutes until they are opened.
  9. Top with freshly cracked black pepper, and serve. Remember to remove the bay leaves.
Notes
  1. **Clean, prep, and measure all ingredients before starting to cook**
  2. If using the mussels in white wine sauce, omit the wine from the ingredients.
  3. The king crab is easily found in the freezer section of your grocer, as are the mussels.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/
Here are the ingredients I purchased that were precooked, in case you are looking for them. I found them in the freezer aisle.

 

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Organic Vegetable Stock

Organic Vegetable Stock

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Do you love using stocks/broths in your cooking? I certainly do. I use about a container of stock a week in my kitchen. I can’t think of a better way to add a boost of flavor to rice, sauces, or soups. However, have you ever thought about making your own? It’s very, very simple. 

I make my vegetable stock using “leftovers” of veggies. What this means is that the pieces that might normally be thrown away (the tops of carrots, bottoms of broccoli, cauliflower leaves and stems, leftover pepper parts, carrot scrapings, brussels sprout stems, celery roots) I save in a lidded bowl that I keep in my refrigerator. 

Veggie Broth-1
My veggie leftovers bowl, sans lid, full and ready to be made into an organic vegetable stock.

When this bowl gets full, I use it to make a stock, which ends up being about once every one to two weeks. The nice part about making your own stock, is that you know what goes in it.  I use only organic vegetables and I make sure to wash them before use. The only thing added to this stock is kosher sea salt and water. 

Like I said, this stock is super simple to make. You need a saucepan, a colander, a bowl (that is larger than the colander), and a jar with a good clean lid to store your stock in. 

First, you place your veggie leftovers into a saucepan, and fill the pan with water until the veggies are just covered. Next, bring your water to a boil and let it boil for ten minutes. Then, let it simmer for fifteen minutes. After that, you strain your stock away from your veggies. I do this by placing my colander into a mixing bowl that it just fits inside of. 

Strain your stock by placing a colander into a larger bowl. Give it a moment to allow all the yummy juices to drain into the bowl.

I usually let my stock spend about a minute sitting in the colander, so that all those delicious juices have time to drain away from the veggies. After that, remove the strainer and pour the stock into your jar. Add one teaspoon of kosher sea salt, then screw the lid on tight.

You’ll notice some veggie particles floating in your stock, and that is okay. 

Homemade Organic Vegetable Stock

Your stock will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, but if the jar seals you will have a longer shelf life. You can also boil it or use a canning system to ensure a seal. If you haven’t used your stock and don’t want it to go bad, pour your stock into an ice cube tray and freeze it for later use (this will yield you about two Tablespoons of stock per ice cube).

Gardening tip: if you do not want to use it as stock for your food, let it completely cool. It makes a wonderful, nutrient-rich drink to use on your vegetable plants. 

Organic Vegetable Stock
An easy, organic stock made using veggie "leftovers".
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Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. Leftover organic vegetable parts, cleaned
  2. 1 teaspoon Kosher Sea Salt
  3. Water
Instructions
  1. Place veggies into saucepan.
  2. Fill saucepan with water until veggies are barely covered.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Strain stock away from veggies using a colander and large bowl. Allow stock to drain for 1 minute.
  7. Removed colander from bowl. Pour stock into a large jar.
  8. Add salt and seal jar with a clean lid.
Notes
  1. The stock will keep up to two weeks in the fridge, but if the jar seals you will have a longer shelf life. You can also boil it or use a canning system to ensure a seal. If you haven't used the stock and don't want it to go bad, pour the stock into an ice cube tray and freeze it for later use (this will yield about two Tablespoons/ice cube).
  2. Gardening tip: If you do not want to use it as stock for your food, let it cool and it makes a wonderful nutrient-rich drink for your plants.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/
Organic Vegetable Stock

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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(Oven Style) Pretzel Fried Chicken

(Oven Style) Pretzel Fried Chicken

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I am a southern girl by birth, although I have lived up north now for nearly two years. While there are things about the south I do not miss (100 degree summers with 100% humidity, for example), there are certain things about the south that I do miss. Sweet tea (no offense to my northern neighbors, you just don’t make it sweet enough for me), BBQ, and fried chicken are just a few of those things that I miss. 

Now, granted, I can make fried chicken and I can make it quite well (a distinct advantage of being a southern girl, I can fry anything). There are many things you can use to coat chicken when you fry it: corn meal, cornflakes, flour, potato chips, and breadcrumbs are just a few popular ones. Basically, if you can crunch it up, you can use it to fry with. However, I wanted to change up my usual fried chicken recipe. I didn’t want to fry it. I didn’t want to coat it and dip it in this and that. I wanted a savory taste, and I wanted to “upscale” my chicken a bit. Fresh herbs are the way to go with this dish, if you have them on hand. 

Pretzel Fried Chicken

This turned out to be a pretty simple recipe, but was incredibly tasty. It nails that savory taste without being overwhelming. It paired very well with some similarly seasoned brown rice and broccoli. Since it’s cooked in the oven, it makes it even more simple. I actually cleaned my kitchen while everything was cooking (rice in the rice cooker, broccoli steamed for the final 15 minutes), and I have to admit that it was nice to sit down to eat with the kitchen already clean! 

What’s nice about this recipe is that it uses no eggs or anything to coat the chicken in. It’s a lot less mess that way, which I can appreciate because fried chicken is normally a pretty messy process. I used a tenderizing hammer (use the flat side, not the pointed side!!), and put my pretzels in a large freezer bag to crush them. I used Snyder’s large pretzels, but any brand will work. There are a few tricks to making this dish come out nice. 

First of all, you’ll need chicken that isn’t too thick. Tenders work well for this. I used thighs that I spread out. If you’re using breasts you may want to halve them or flatten them out a bit, so they do not take as long to cook. If it takes longer to cook, your coating will burn. Your chicken needs to be fully de-thawed, but do not drain any liquids off of it. The wet outside of the chicken is what the seasoning will stick to. 

After you crush your pretzels and season them, you’ll need a nice size plate or container to spread your seasoned crumbs out in. Then, it’s time to coat the chicken. I use a two hand method to reduce cross-contamination in my kitchen. What this means is that my left hand touches the raw chicken, which I lay out across the crumbs. I then use my right hand to scoop the coating up to the sides and over the chicken (this helps get it really nice and coated). Next, I use my left hand to turn the chicken over, spreading it back out across the coating. Last, I use my right hand to press down lightly on the coated chicken (this helps some of the bigger pieces really stick into the chicken). 

PFC1

After that (using the right hand), pick the chicken up and give it a gentle shake. This will allow the excess coating to fall off. Place the chicken in your dish that has been drizzled with olive oil. Repeat the process until all pieces are coated and in the pan. 

PFC

It’s even easier from here on out. Bake your chicken, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Then turn each piece of chicken over, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the pieces, and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Then serve and enjoy!

PFC

Oven Style Pretzel Fried Chicken
A savory "fried" chicken, using crushed pretzels for the coating.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 large pretzels, crushed
  2. 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  3. 1 Tablespoon parsley
  4. 1/2 Tablespoon thyme
  5. Olive oil
  6. Chicken, boneless, fully thawed
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Using a glass baking dish, drizzle olive oil lightly across it (do not coat it). Shake pan around to distribute olive oil.
  3. Combine pretzels and seasoning lightly with a fork to form coating.
  4. Spread coating across plate or another flat dish.
  5. Coat chicken evenly by laying meat with one side down, then turning it over to coat the other side. Use hand to scoop coating up and over chicken to fully coat it. Press against chicken light to help coating adhere.
  6. Lift chicken up and gently shake it to remove excess coating. Place in glass dish.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, uncovered.
  8. Turn chicken over gently, using tongs.
  9. Drizzle the chicken lightly with olive oil.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.
Notes
  1. Chicken tenders or thighs work best. This recipe works with 8-10 pieces of medium sized thighs.
  2. If using breasts, cut in half or flatten out for accurate cooking.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/
PFC

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Peanut Butter Mini Cakes

Peanut Butter Mini Cakes

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I enjoy eating a mostly keto diet (I say mostly because I do veer off course from time to time, and I always make certain exceptions like, birthdays, for example). However, there is a downside to keto/low carb. 

Desserts. Sweet, yummy, desserts. 

Sure, there are a lot of desserts out there, but many of them require ingredients that I can’t pick up at my local grocery store or some that I’ve never even heard of. The other downside is that I keep certain staples on hand (eggs, butter, sugar substitutes, vanilla, etc), and do not typically shop to make a specific recipe that requires special ingredients.  This is because I don’t have a huge sweet tooth and tend to only make desserts when I’m craving something specific, for instance, cake. Oh, how I miss cake. 

After hours of searching for a low carb/keto friendly cake recipe that didn’t call for “weird” or “special” ingredients, I finally decided to get into the kitchen and experiment with what I had on hand (which wasn’t much at the time. It’s near time for a grocery store run). 

Peanut Butter Mini Cakes
Low Carb and Keto Friendly Peanut Butter Mini Cakes.

That my friends, is how Peanut Butter Mini Cakes came to be (side note: these are made even more fantastic with the addition of some Breyer’s Low Carb ice cream). They are 1.6 net carb and 4.6 grams of protein per cake. I used PB2 for the peanut butter flavor and protein boost, as well as a sugar substitute and almond flour to keep the carbs down. I know I’ve made something good when the husband (the admitted dessert/sweets junkie) eats four and asks if I’m going to make anymore soon. The husband is not on a strict lc/keto diet, and therefore eats honey, and loved drizzling honey over his. 

Beating is a key step in making this, as it keeps air in the mixture, resulting in a lighter and more cake-like texture. These would also be great topped with some oats, almonds, or with some nuts mixed in.

Peanut Butter Mini Cakes
Yields 12
A low carb and keto friendly mini cake.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Cup butter
  2. 3/4 Cup Splenda (or another sugar substitute)
  3. 2 Eggs
  4. 3 Tablespoons PB2 Powder
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  8. 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  9. 1 1/2 Cup almond flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Spray a muffin pan with a nonstick spray (a coconut oil based spray works great)
  3. Cream peanut butter and butter together using a mixer.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg.
  5. Add sugar substitute. Beat for 30 seconds.
  6. Add baking soda. Beat for 30 seconds.
  7. Add cinnamon and vanilla. Beat for 30 seconds.
  8. Add salt, beat for 10 seconds.
  9. Add almond flour, beat for for 30 seconds.
  10. Spoon into muffin tin, making sure to fill each one evenly and almost halfway full.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/
Low Carb and Keto PB Mini Cakes

 

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Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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Brussel Sprouts 

Brussel Sprouts 

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I surely cannot be the only person who likes brussel sprouts? 

Right? 

Right?

…hello?

Okay, so a few of you are like me and do like them! My parents are divided on brussel sprouts, one loves them and the other hates them. My husband is divided on the way he likes them cooked. Boiled with some butter, salt, and pepper? No thanks, he will pass. I have found that fixing them like this though, is a way he really enjoys them. Serve these as a side to some grilled meat and brown rice, and you have a healthy and easy meal. 

Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts- a great side dish. 

These make a pretty little side dish and they’re quite easy to prepare, you’ll just want some fresh brussel sprouts (not frozen). I find these very easily at my local grocery store in the produce department. You start by spraying a baking sheet with a nonstick spray coconut or butter spray. Next, half the sprouts with a knife. I leave the stem connected to keep them from falling apart (you’ll want to slice it off before eating it).

After you’ve halved the sprouts, lay them with the sliced side down on the baking sheet, spray the tops with your coconut or butter spray, season, and bake. 

An alternative way to make these without using a spray is to toss them in olive oil, lay them on the baking sheet, season, and then bake them. 

Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Seasoned, sprayed & ready to bake!  I love the green color.

I particularly love the bright green of these, and using a paprika or chili powder really adds a dash of contrasting and fun colors. They look amazing when served, and really fancy up your basic, boring brussel sprouts. You can use any seasoning you want, but I put what we love to use in the recipe below. 

Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
A colorful and tasty way to add greens to your plate.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. Fresh brussel sprouts, halved
  2. Garlic powder
  3. Onion powder
  4. Paprika
  5. Pepper
  6. Salt
  7. Nonstick coconut or butter based spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  3. Place sprouts with cut side against pan.
  4. Spray tops of sprouts with nonstick spray.
  5. Season lightly with all seasonings.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
http://www.realkitchencreations.com/

Jenni

Happy stay at home wife. Mother of an (older) fur-baby who travels with us. Low carb/Keto enthusiast, most days. Avid enjoyer of life. Follow me on Instagram at jenni_shep or on Twitter @jenni_shep for more.

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