atkins

Meat Lovers: Jerky Snob

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In my pursuit of really cool monthly subscription services (and low-carb snacks) I stumbled upon Jerky Snob. A monthly service that sends you, or someone you really love, a box of amazing, artisanal jerky. This month’s box had 2 flavors from each: Lawless Jerky out of Phoenix and Mikey’s Jerky from Chicago.

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I thought it’d be fun to sample the different flavors on fancy plates, because I’m classy. I believe that the hands down winner was the Honey Chipotle by Lawless, but all 4 flavors really were winners in my book. Lawless prides itself on 100% grass-fed, dry-aged beef and the ingredients read like a sonnet to those of us who avoid corn syrup and Frankenstein-esque chemicals like the plague. (You’ll be be pleased to know that all of the brands that Jerky Snob partners up with pride themselves on having no MSG, no nitrates, and no HFCS.)
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I’m also now a huge fan of Mikey’s Original flavored jerky, and its perfect amount of kick. In fact, I’ve been working my way through the bag all morning. (I can’t put that one down!) If you’re low-carb, Paleo-ish, health-minded, or just want a surprise bag of amazing snacks at work: get this box. Get 20% off your first box with the code: AMBER

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Low-Carb Pizza Crust

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I know being low-carb isn’t always easy, and there are some vices, such as pizza, that people really miss. Sometimes I sauté a bunch of vegetables and cheese in a pan, then pretend it’s pizza without the bread. It does the job for me, but I got really curious when I heard that you could make a crust out of straight up cauliflower (one of my favorite veggies).

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With my new food processor, I decided to embark on this cauliflower pizza crust journey, and I would definitely say that the results are pretty great, though not necessarily something I would say is ‘exactly like pizza crust!!!’ but still pretty dang tasty.

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To make it: grate half a head of cauliflower using a food processor, or a hand grater (if you’re a masochist!). Using a paper towel, try to get as much moisture out of the cauliflower as possible. Otherwise, you’re going to get mush. Add 1 egg, a handful of shredded parmesan cheese, and mix together. Spread this on a lightly oiled pizza pan, and bake at 425 for about 10 minutes. Once it begins to look a bit golden, pull it out and add the toppings you desire. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, and you should have a delicious low-carb pizza! I used pesto, tomato, jalapeño, olives, mushrooms, and even the kitchen sink in mine. 😉

Low-Carb Breakfast: Bell Pepper Eggs

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There are some dishes that look prettier than they taste. For example: eggs baked in avocado. I don’t care what food blogger told you that it was ‘amazing,’ they are are filthy liars and shouldn’t be trusted. (Also, sorry about that time I Instagram’ed that exact dish and pretended it was amazing.) Bell pepper eggs are not like that. They actually taste as good as they look! Promise.

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I’ve tried it twice, and found the best method to be cutting the bell pepper in half, and using both halves as egg-holders. It does take some de-seeding, but it’s nothing major. Even a novice can tackle this dish.

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Pre-heat the oven to 350, and drop your eggs in those bell pepper cups. You’ll want to add salt and pepper, or even herbs! I added a handful of mozzarella to mine, but to make it Paleo, you can omit this.

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The baking time is closer to ~40 minutes (depending on how ‘done’ you want your eggs), but it’s worth it for the char you will eventually get on the pepper. This dish is absolutely delicious, and a fantastic way to get your veggies and protein in. I threw in some de-seeded jalapeños with cheese on my last bake, and everything came out cooked to perfection. Wait for the egg to look done, and the cheese to begin to brown, and you’ll know it’s ready.

My Most Requested Recipe: The Best Pho You Ever Had, That Also Happens To Be Low-Carb & Vegan

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Believe it or not, there’s been a recipe that those-in-the-know have requested from me since long before I became a food blogger. The recipe came about due to my (at the time) obsession with low-calorie items, and veganism (also, at the time), which doesn’t matter. I had straight-up friends that were first generation Americans that loved the recipe (shout out to Mellie!), and I have yet to make a ‘bad batch,’ despite the fact that I kinda/sorta wing it every time. (You’ve been warned: My instructions are, as per usual, not 100% clear on measurements.) Know this: My pho is good, and you can tweak it to your meat-loving heart’s desire. If you’re vegan? You’re welcome!

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I never said this recipe was authentic, but it more than does that job. To start, you’ll want to procure:

  • 1-2 lemongrass stalks
  • 2-3 star anise
  • 1″ of ginger (peeled, sliced)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or dash of cinnamon, sometimes I omit it and just use the star anise by itself)
  • 5-10 mushrooms (your preference, and these are what gives the super-meaty taste to the broth)
  • protein of choice (chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu)
  • soy sauce
  • green onion
  • cooking oil (I do a blend of chili, toasted sesame, and vegetable, but that’s not super important)
  • noodles (I use the 0 calorie shirataki, you can use regular – depends on your carb preference)
  • vegetable (or beef or chicken) stock
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 an onion
  • jalapenos/thai chilis
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • lime
  • sriracha and/or garlic-chili sauce
  • and the super optional Chinese 5 spice powder

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Let’s start by sautéing the star anise, ginger, garlic, and onion. You kind of want to burn it, honestly. Don’t char it until it’s unrecognizable or anything, but definitely put a black edge on those ingredients. Once you have that done, in your delicious chili oil blend (or regular oil!), you can add water to the pot and a bouillon cube or 2 of the stock of your choosing. Turn the heat up on a separate burner, and sautee your chosen protein in oil (again, I like to use chili/toasted sesame). Add the mushrooms and remaining ingredients (sans noodles and toppings such as: green onions, herbs, peppers) to the pot of broth. Let it all cook together for as long as possible; I’d say 20 minutes at a minimum, but I can vouch for making this, saving the leftover (half a pot) broth for the next day, then adding more water and having excellent results.

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If you’re using shirataki noodles, just follow the instructions on the pack, and add them to the broth when ready. The same goes for any other type of noodles, really. Shake some soy sauce into the broth, and don’t be shy. I know most would say you should have drained the ingredients out of the broth, but I prefer to enjoy the sliced ginger, and pieces of garlic in my soup; use a slotted spoon to remove the inedibles (star anise, lemongrass) before serving. Add copious amounts of sriracha, basil, lime (go easy), cilantro, and peppers. Voila!

Sensational Side: Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

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I know what you’re thinking: What’s the easiest possible side dish to bring to Thanksgiving? One that makes it looks like I put in a lot effort, when I really just slapped 2 ingredients together, and made them look and taste phenomenal without breaking a sweat? 

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At least that’s what I was thinking.

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This dish makes a great low-carb side, and it’s excellent as a party snack. Simply take a bunch of asparagus, and a few thinly sliced pieces of bacon (I sliced mine vertically in half), and wrap the bacon around each stalk. Spread a bit of olive oil on a baking pan, and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until you see that the bacon is done. If you’re using thinner stalks, you may want to cook for a shorter amount of time. That’s it!

Broccoli Bacon Cauliflower Cheese Soup

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I’ve been doing the low-carb thing for almost 8 months now, and the results are great. Sure, there are days when I have a little way too much wine, and my weight goes up a bit, but all in all I am consistently shrinking my waist. One of the biggest downsides of the diet has been that I find myself eating eggs constantly, and I do mean constantly.

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 I was recently craving something that didn’t come from a shell, and recalled the pureed soups I used to make back in my vegan days. I was always amazed at how something could come out so silky and creamy without the use of milk (dairy or otherwise) or cream. I decided to take the idea of a decadent ‘baked potato soup,’ and combine it with the low-carb, veggie-packed elements of those blended soups.

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One of the greatest things about this recipe is its versatility. You can make it vegan/dairy-free if you want, or load it up with cheese and bacon if that’s more your style. It’s very low in carbohydrates either way, and a decadent tasting treat that you can add spinach, and other nutrient packed items to.

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You can even eliminate the greens, and go straight for the cauliflower for something that more closely resembles a baked potato in a bowl. Essentially: you do you on this soup. 😉

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Ingredients:

Fistful size floret of caulilfower

Large broccoli Crown

Enough vegetable/chicken stock to barely cover vegetables

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 white onion

3 slices bacon

Salt and pepper to taste (I add cayenne)

Cheese (I mix 2 different kinds: cheddar and a white cheese made for enchiladas, but anything goes)

Optional: spinach, parsley, jalapeño

Instructions:

Cook the bacon over low/medium-low heat. Boil the stock, and add one of the pieces of bacon to the stock when it looks about 3/4 of the way done. Add the vegetables (chopped) and cook until soft. Remove bacon when it is finished and drain on paper towel before cutting into bite sized pieces. Once the vegetables are soft, remove pot from heat and use immersion blender to puree until smooth. If this mixture is too ‘liquidy,’ add more cauliflower/broccoli and cook until soft, then puree again. Ladel into bowls, garnish with a sickening amount of cheese and bacon in each. I’d recommend a good dose of salt (after tasting) and pepper. Pasley also works well, if you have it.

Happier Hour: Soto Japanese Restaurant

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I’m probably one of this city’s biggest sushi fans, and make a point to try and sample every single sushi bar within driving distance. Soto may be a little on the north side of things, but after hearing numerous rave reviews, I thought it might be worth a 20 minute “road trip.”

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We knew that it would be all night happy hour on Monday, so that’s the night we went. The space was intimate and dark, but quickly went from nearly empty to brimming with diners in a matter of minutes.

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The happy hour menu included rolls, as well as some cooked items. We ordered the salmon collar, which was delicious, but a bit bony, which is to be expected with certain parts of the fish.

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My seafood-weary partner got adventurous and tried exotic-to-him pieces of nigiri, and several sashimi orders. He loved every bit of it.

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Despite service being a bit slow (they were a little understaffed on that particular night), we decided to stick around for dessert. I couldn’t sample anything sweet because of my (insert curse words here) diet, and so I watched in agony as my dining companion licked the bowl clean from his green tea tiramisu dessert. Next time you’re looking for high-end, well-presented sushi, look no further than Soto. A lot of people are calling them the “Uchi of the north,” but I think that creatively, they have their own thing going for them, and they really are in a league of their own.

East Side Find: Jalapeno’s Taco Bar

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I went to Jalapenos Taco Bar expecting not to like it, and boy was I wrong.

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The place was small, but not cramped, and the salsa was delicious.

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I mixed it into everything.

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The ceviche tostada was overloaded with fish, and my boyfriend’s bacon breakfast tacos more than filled him up.

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Their prices were already low, but we had a Restaurant.com coupon, and the check was unbelievably cheap. We essentially had a Mexican Thanksgiving feast for what came out to be around $13. I highly recommend stopping by this place for good, cheap tacos.

Inside the Box: Mantry

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I recently threw a fantastic Thai dinner party, and I owe it all to a hip, new monthly subscription service called Mantry.

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Each month they send high-end, artisanal food products matching a theme such as coffee, bacon, or in our case –  Thai.

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Once I surveyed the box, which included  products such as Dried & True Sriracha Beef Jerky, and drinking vinegar from the world-famous Pok Pok restaurant, I knew that a get-together was in order. The stuff was just too nice not to share!

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We carefully read their enclosed product guide, gathering ideas for what to make.

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Then we rounded up a few extra ingredients, and set off to our friend’s house to do the cooking. (His house is much, much nicer than ours – plus he has a fully stocked bar.)

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We snacked on a few the items as we cooked, including the Dallas-based Lord Nut Levington’s Thai-Dyed Peanuts.

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I took full advantage of our host’s prior bar-tending experience, and had him make delicious summer cocktails from the drinking vinegar.

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I essentially had a house full of men all doing the dirty work (cooking) for me.

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We made shrimp and used Apinya for the dipping sauce. It was fantastic – I think I may prefer it to sriracha now, and normally nothing tops that condiment for me.

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I sampled a few of the other enclosed ingredients, and secretly wished that we had thought to make Thai nachos.

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We meandered through all of the enclosed delicacies until at last we arrived at the coconut chips, which alongside raspberries helped to elevate our simple vanilla ice cream dessert.

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If you’re looking for a creative, delicious, and unexpected Father’s Day gift, be sure to check out Mantry. The items they will send you are normally hard-to-find, and make eating an exciting adventure, as opposed to an everyday chore.

Disclosure: I received this box free of charge for reviewing purposes, but opinions expressed are my own.

Food Find: Salata

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Healthy lunch options can be few and far between in North Austin, especially if you’re adhering to phase 1 of the Atkin’s diet. (It’s working great! I can fit into things I thought I’d never be able to wear again!) It was just my luck, rambling about my diet at a fancy party near downtown, that I ran into the owner of Salata, a fresh, healthy restaurant that lets customers completely customize their salads just minutes from where I work.  (more…)