A roasted eggplant caponata that is simple to make and always a crowd pleaser.
I always buy eggplant this time a year as there are so many varieties available especially at local farm stands and markets. Be sure to pick fresh ones that are heavy and solid to the tap. This roasted eggplant caponata recipe really delivers a great flavor that goes well as side dish or an app. You can serve it with cucumbers to keep it really low carb or you can splurge with some lower carb pita chips shown below.
- 1 large eggplant - 3/4 inch diced, skin on
- 1 cup red onion - halved then sliced thin
- 1/2 cup green olives - pitted, sliced in quarters length-wise
- 1 cup fresh fennel bulb - coarse diced
- 1/3 cup capers - rinsed
- 1 cup tomato sauce - good quality jared or substitute with 4 ripe tomatoes - chopped coarse
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley - chopped coarse
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1.5 tsp sugar
- Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
- 1.5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Toss eggplant in 4 tbsp of olive oil in a large bowl.
- Arrange eggplant single layer on a baking sheet and roast until browned, flipping halfway through, about 25 minutes. Let cool down.
- Cook fennel in bowling water for 4 minutes, drain and let cool - set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over med-high heat.
- Add onion and cook till just golden about 5 min.
- Add the olives, capers, reserved fennel, tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Gently stir in the eggplant, being careful not break up the eggplant.
- Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl or platter and cool.
- Garnish with parsley and serve cold or at room temperature.
- Can be made ahead a few days and gets better with age.
I often have trouble figuring out what to do with all the eggplants I buy. I mean how many eggplant parm-like dishes can one eat? This roasted eggplant caponata appetizer has become a welcome addition to the happy hours at my house and should at yours as well.
Shrimp and Cauliflower Grits with Eggs that’ll bring you back down south.
If you have ever been down south at all, and were lucky, Shrimp and Grits must of crossed your path and your tastebuds, and were never to be forgotten.
At a minimum you have watched My Cousin Vinnie a dozen times and wondered what all the fuss is about.
A few years ago my wife Lisa took me to New Orleans for my birthday and we ate our way through downtown. We visited the usually places and some off-the-beaten-path hot spots for some of the best food on earth. At one spot across from our hotel in the French Quarter we had the most amazing breakfast of Shrimp and Grits that has been indelibly imprinted on my culinary mind.
There is a great regional spice mixture found in many creole dishes that we had to seek out and procure before heading back North. We have used it to make the famous Brennan’s Barbeque Shrimp and wowed our guests with transporting flavors as well as the 4 sticks of butter the recipe calls for. All keto-friendly until you add the loaf of french bread to sop up the life-changing butter sauce. Sorry – I don’t think there is ever gonna be a replacement for the crusty bread in this equation.
The other morning I had some leftover Cauliflower Mash and was inspired by its grit-like potential. This low-carb alternative to grits will become a new staple at our breakfast table and this southern dish, a welcomed guest at our home and soon to be yours.
Y’all come back now, ya hear!
- 2.5 cups raw cauliflower
- 2 tbsp fresh chives - chopped
- 3 large mushrooms - sliced thick
- 4 eggs
- 8 large raw shrimp - peeled
- 1 tbsp extra vigin olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 clove a garlic - minced
- 1/2 cup light cream
- Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
- 4 slices of Prosciutto di Parm - seared and crumbled
- 2 tsp creole seasoning
- In a mini-prep, process the raw cauliflower until riced.
- In a saute pan cook riced cauliflower over low heat for 5 min to evaporate some moisture.
- Add half the chives and the light cream - cook on low for 10 minutes, stir until creamy.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring pot of water to a boil covered.
- Spin water.
- Add eggs to center vortex.
- Cover and turn off heat.
- Set timer for 4 minutes.
- In a large saute pan on medium - high heat, add 1/2 tbs olive oil and half the butter.
- Brown the mushrooms - 5 minutes.
- When the eggs are dropped - add raw peeled shrimp to the pan with mushrooms.
- Add chives to shrimp.
- Add creole seasoning to the shrimp.
- Add other half of butter.
- Add 1/2 tbs olive oil.
- Toss shrimp to cook the other side and mushrooms until cooked through - 3-4 minutes.
- In a bowl add cauliflower.
- Top with shrimp and mushroom mixture. Be sure to scrape the buttery goodness onto the grits.
- Crumble Prosciutto on top.
- Top with 2 poached eggs.
- Add ground salt and pepper to taste.
- Dust with some creole seasoning to taste.
- Crisp bacon is another crumble option that will work well. Reserve some of the rendered bacon fat to cook the shrimp in along with the butter. In this case go lighter on the olive oil.
- If you like spicy, you can go a little heavier handed on the creole seasoning.
- There is some timing to pull this recipe off. The Grits can be made and kept warm on very low heat while you start the shrimp. Once the shrimp are in the pan the eggs need to be ready to come out just a few minutes later so they don't over cook.
- 1/2 cup sweet paprika
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and store the mixture in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to three months.
Everyone loves a grilled portobello!
Every once in a while you come across a grilled portobello mushroom appetizer that blows you away and you wonder why you can not make one of those at home. There is something special about the texture of a grilled portobello that you just can’t get in any other grilled veggie.
I have been experimenting for years to come up with a simple, summer, week-night side that smacks you upside the head with flavor, to accompany that perfect grilled steak. You could experiment endlessly as a grilled portobello is very forgiving and can take whatever you throw at it. I hope you like my version and try it the next time you are grilling out. Your family and friends will be impressed for sure. Mine always are!
- 2 large portobello mushroom caps
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup of gorgonzola or blue cheese
- 1/8 cup fresh chives chopped.
- Fresh ground salt and pepper
- On a plate cap side down, drizzle olive oil over both mushroom caps.
- Drizzle balsamic vinegar.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Fill mushroom cavity with blue cheese.
- Sprinkle with chopped chives.
- Place mushrooms on a medium hot grill cap side down.
- Grill for 10 - 12 minutes until all the cheese is melted and shrooms are tender and browned.
- Serve 1/2 a mushroom cap per person.
- Use good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar for best results.
- Other crumbly cheeses can be used if you prefer.
Some Jerky’s I have come to love…
Convenience foods and snack foods are some of the bigger challenges when adopting a keto lifestyle. I am always on the lookout for shortcut foods that have the right ratios of macros for when I am on the go.
For a while I was excited about bacon jerky but in reality it’s kinda like eating a cold piece of last Sundays fatty bacon. I like bacon and all but it should be eaten crisp and at least warm.
Recently, I stumbled upon a “Slim Jim” type meat stick jerky that had a label to impress even the most picky of clean eaters and it tasted great too. The price was right at Ocean State Job Lot – $1 a stick so I went back and stocked up only to run out again a month later.
Doing some research online I found the source and just received my 1st order from the 40 year old, well-run, Tillamook Country Smoker out of Oregon. With the free shipping offer it was a great deal. After extensive digging there are only a few products in their line that I recommend as keto friendly – The Simply Crafted – Meat Sticks. I choose the Hunters Sausage and the Uncured Pepperoni both claiming – No Nitrates, Gluten Free, No Added MSG, Minimally Processed, No artificial ingredients, Zero Trans Fats, No preservatives added. Most of their other products contain more questionable ingredients and too many carbs as most jerky is cured with sugar.
Now please be clear – I am not suggesting that you can sustain a healthy life or even lose weight eating beef jerky all the time but as a once-in-awhile snack… These puppies are on point with only 1 – 2 carbs per stick and near perfect macro ratios that will keep you in ketosis. Eating “real food” is always the best choice but some times you need a quick on the go option that will support your low carb busy life!
Who said eating low-carb can’t be fun? BBQ Pulled Pork anyone!
One of the biggest challenges for me, keeping low-carb in the summer, is BBQ sauce. I love ribs, BBQ pulled pork and anything else you can slather that yummy, spicy, sticky sauce on. I have made my own low carb version and may perfect that recipe in the future and share it with you but for now, as my 12 year old daughter says, “Ain’t-nobody-got-time-for-that!”
There are plenty of bottled BBQ sauces on the market but most have way too many carbs to even be considered low-carb some over 20 grams per serving so read those labels carefully. I have recently found an exceptional brand – JB’s Best, that is infused with beer and has the lowest carbs of all bottled BBQ sauces – around *4-6 grams. I use several spicy and not so spicy varieties in the BBQ pulled pork recipe below.
This is not a complicated meal to prepare and it feeds around 10-12 people affordably and heavenly.
The secret is in the spices! I use the southern-style, Penzeys – 33rd and Galena, Chicken and Pork Rub which is mixture of black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, sage, cayenne, red pepper and basil.
Be sure to have all the ingredients on hand to make our coleslaw recipe to go with. This meal would not be the same without it. My wife Lisa claims she wants this to be her “last meal on earth” – no kidding.. she said that – It’s that good!
Now many hard-core BBQ enthusiasts would argue that using a crock pot is not serious BBQ but hey… don’t knock it till you try it! This is one of those quick prep time, set-it-and-forget-it deals so you can go about your day and have an amazing dinner ready 8 hrs later for a small crowd. Either that or you will just have to enjoy the left-overs for days.. and you will as it is just as good the second day. Can I get a Yeeehaa!?
- 5-6 lbs Pork Butt - fat trimmed
- 3 tbsp Pensey's - 33rd and Galena, Chicken and Pork Rub
- Salt and Pepper - fresh ground
- 1.5 tbsp Olive oil
- 3/4 cup JB's Best, Ghost Pepper BBQ Sauce - to cook in
- 3/4 cup JB's Best, Ancho Peach BBQ Sauce - to cook in (alternate - Stubbs Original)
- Extra JB's Best, Blazin Bacon BBQ Sauce - to serve over cooked pork
- 1 cup of water
- Trim fat from pork butt.
- Cut into 4 inch cubes.
- Salt and pepper all sides.
- Dust with Pensey's spice rub on all sides.
- In batches, brown each side of pork in a large dutch oven or similar pot.
- Transfer browned pork to crock pot.
- Add BBQ sauces.
- Add Water.
- Cover and set crock pot on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours depending on what you have to do that day.
- Once done, use several paper towel strips to remove oil that has collected at the top of the pot.
- With 2 forks pull the pork apart and mix in with the juices in the crock pot.
- Serve topped with JB's Best, Blazin Bacon BBQ Sauce
- If you prefer less heat top with JB's Best, Ancho Peach or one of their other less hot varieties.
- Warning - Go easy on the BBQ sauce on top - 2 tbsp have 4-6 grams of carbs. Hopefully you planned ahead and saved your daily carb intake for this meal!
- 1/2 medium cabbage - sliced thin
- 1 large red bell pepper - sliced thin
- 1/2 bulb fresh fennel - sliced thin
- 1 medium onion - sliced thin
- 2 green onions - chopped
- 1 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 large lemon - juiced
- 1 1/4 tbsp of fresh ground pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large bowl add all the veggies sliced very thin - use a mandoline slicer if needed.
- In a smaller bowl wisk together the mayo, lemon juice, and pepper.
- Toss the veggies with the dressing.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
On a side note – Jonathan and crew have hit it out of the park with their Vino De Milo, line of wine-infused salad dressings that have only 1-2 grams of carbs per serving. I have yet to try these but look forward to it as they do look amazing.
As an alternate brand I have found Stubb’s, Original Recipe to have only 5 net grams of carbs per serving and they make some great BBQ sauces as well.
As a suggestion you may want to wait until you have hit a weight loss goal before trying this recipe. It’s hard to eat just 1 serving and the chances that you are gonna get kicked out of ketosis are pretty high. Hopefully you have a short cut in place to get you back on track come Monday morning!
Eggplant Spinach Pizza is so easy, low carb and the variations are endless.
I have always made a simple breaded fried eggplant and topped it with a favorite jarred sauce as a side dish. Very simple and so delicious but loaded with the no-no combination of carbs and fat. I have tried almond flour to cut the carbs a bit but the results are not quite the same. Yet, I still find myself buying that purple veg whenever it looks good then wondering what to do with it that is more keto-friendly.
The perfect storm of ingredients in my fridge prompted this Eggplant Spinach Pizza that will now be a go to edible solution for my purple friend.
There are many possibilities and variations that you can have fun with depending on your favorite pizza toppings. This is a knife and fork situation so don’t worry about picking it up. Load on your creativity and see what you can come up with.
- 1 Large Eggplant - 3/4 inch sliced rounds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup mozzerella cheese - I like the fresh Ciliegine balls
- 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano - grated
- 1.5 cups fresh baby spinach - chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic - finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves - chiffonade
- 3/4 cup fresh cherry tomatoes - sliced
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce - favorite jarred or make your own
- fresh ground salt and pepper
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Salt both sides of eggplant and let rest on paper towels for 25 minutes.
- Wipe off salt.
- Olive oil a 9 x 11 baking pan and place eggplant rounds single layer.
- Bake for 25 minutes until slightly browned.
- In a bowl, toss spinach with garlic and a little olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Top each eggplant with a teaspoon of sauce.
- Add tomatoes.
- Add spinach mixture.
- Top with both cheeses.
- Top with fresh basil.
- Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes or until cheese turns slightly brown
- Jarred sauce is optional - you can make your own with crushed canned tomatoes or just let the fresh tomatoes be your sauce.
Everyday is a hollandaise when you are in ketosis!
One of my favorite breakfasts is any kind of eggs benedict. I search far and wide for the most creative variations in my area and love finding new spots that can pull this off with precision and not disappoint. There is a lot of timing and attention to detail when making a good eggs bene – so much can go wrong. The recipe below you may want to file under “weekend breakfasts” as it is a bit involved, will make a mess of the kitchen but be sooooo worth it in the end.
Locally, there are a few hot spots that have their act together on this front. My absolute favorite is in Granby CT, a place called Dave’s Restaurant that makes their own corned-beef hash bene – “Renee’s Choice”, that will satisfy you until diner time. If I am visiting Dave’s I am clearly planning to go off the Keto-rails for the day as the home fries are crisp and I’m not gonna pass up this once in a while treat and make any edits to Dave’s breakfast masterpiece.
This is one of the challenges with my new keto-lifestyle as my only option for eggs benedict when eating breakfast out is to lay low on the potatoes and don’t eat the english muffin that most all eggs benedicts consist of. I have done it but it’s not usually the best way to go.
I had always thought is it was the decadent hollandaise on my breakfast of choice that was keeping me fat all those years.
Come to find out it was the muffin and potatoes keeping my waist at max density all along!
Every once in a while you can find an amazing crab-cake eggs benedict that needs no muffin as the base. Problem solved! This breakfast will rival any you find out and about – will impress your crew any weekend morning at home and you won’t need a nap afterwards. Be sure to plan some activities afterwards as this is a hearty meal that you will want to work off with all that extra energy you will have.
- 1 pound lump crab meat - I like North Coast Seafoods - Culinary Reserve
- 3 green onions or 1 shallot - finely chopped
- 1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper - finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup Almond flour for dusting
- 1 tbsp Avocado oil
- 6 large eggs for poaching
- 1 stick of grass fed butter
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 shot of tabasco
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, except for the flour and oil.
- Shape into patties and dust with almond flour.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Carefully place crab cakes, in batches in pan and fry until browned about 5 minutes each side.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Stir water to create a vortex.
- Add eggs one at a time to circulating water.
- Cover and turn off the heat.
- Set timer for 4 minutes.
- Melt butter and set aside - keep warm.
- In a small pan combine all other ingredients and wisk together over med heat.
- Slowly drizzle in melted butter while wisking until thickened.
- Top each crab cake with a poached egg.
- Drizzle hollandaise over eggs.
- Serve hot.
- Timing is key for success - keep the crab cakes plated and warm in the oven as you make the eggs and hollandaise at the same time.
My first Zucchini Carbonara was a huge hit.
One of the great surprises for me of this ketogenic lifestyle is the complete reversal of things, that in the past were clearly bad for you, now with a few tweaks becoming health foods. Zucchini Carbonara is one of those happy surprises.
In the past Carbonara was a decadent dish you could only order a few times a year and only at special locations that perfected the dish and only if you had a strong heart.
Carbone’s in Bloomfield is our favorite spot for to-die-for Carbonara – my daughter Brynn’s favorite dish. She’s 12 and weighs in at about 75 lbs. soaking wet so there is always extra bites of Carbonara that my wife and I sample until we are both off the keto rails. See exibit A!
As a stocking stuffer I received my first veggie-spiral-slicer for making zucchini noodles and other veggie / pasta like substitutions. After blowing out of ketosis on our last visit to Carbone’s I decided to give the spiral slicer a go – I mean everything else in the dish is keto-friendly so why not add this to our weekly possibility of menu items. Pair this with a glass of Tuscan red wine and you will be transported to another land.
- 3 large zucchini - spiral sliced as noodles - use the larger size spiral
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta - sliced 1/4 inch thick then 1/4 inch diced
- 1 large shallot - finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove - finely chopped
- 1 large portobello mushroom top - sliced 1/8 inch and halved
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano - grated
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano - grated
- 3 large egg yolks
- Fresh ground salt and pepper
- 2 tbs coarsely chopped parsley
- Put a large pot of salted water on and bring to a boil.
- In a large skillet heat the oil. Add the pancetta and cook over med heat until most of the fat is rendered, 7 minutes or so.
- Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Cook the zucchini noodles in the boiling water for 4 minutes.
- Add the cream and simmer over med heat until thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the hot noodles to the skillet and stir to coat. Remove from heat.
- Stir in the cheeses - reserve some for later.
- Stir in the egg yolks.
- Sprinkle with parsley and fresh ground pepper.
- Serve with reserved cheese for the table.
- If you need more liquid in the sauce you can add a little of the pasta (zucchini) water.
- You can also add 1 sweet italian sausage patty when you are rendering the pancetta if you want to kick this up a notch!
I have been making this pork chop recipe all of my life.
Some of the best recipes we always seem to come back to become standard choices for a quick weeknight, crank-it-out dinner solution. This easy pork chop recipe I learned from a family friend when I was 10 years old. Been making pork chops this way ever since. Pork chops are generally pretty cheap which make this a really affordable option that is low in carbs but big on taste.
Every once in a while we splurge and go for a better quality locally raised pork chop that is a completely different breed all together. The pasture-raised, Berkshire Pork from Green Valley Farm in Eastford, CT is worth the extra dollars – you have not tasted good pork unless you have tried some from here. And… they ship anywhere!
Back to my youth! The cut of pork chop does not really matter so much as this recipe will elevate any variety. The key to grilling pork so that it does not dry out is to make sure of a few things.
- Be sure the pork chops are at room temp before you grill.
- Make sure the grill is very hot when you place the chops – makes for great grill marks.
- Immediately turn down the heat to low-med so the chops cook slow.
Pork chops that cook too fast will dry out easily and no one likes a dry pork chop. As a kid growing up in NY I was fortunate to have a gas oven with a salamander broiler so the results broiling these pork chops under a flame was impressive. It’s just a few ingredients so I hope you will try this soon and report back.
- 4 Pork Chops - bone in - any cut (aprox. 1 inch thick or better)
- 3 tbs. French's yellow mustard
- 3 tbs. soy sauce or tamari sauce for those gluten free folks.
- Fresh ground salt and pepper.
- Take out pork chops ahead so they are at room temperature.
- Pre-heat grill on high.
- Grind fresh pepper on both sides of pork chops - lightly salt as well.
- Spread mustard over both sides of pork chops.
- Shake soy sauce over pork chops.
- Using a fork, mop one pork chop on another until yellow mustard and soy sauce turns a little brown and are well coated.
- Place pork chops on hot grill - drizzle with any extra sauce from the plate.
- Turn down grill to med-low.
- Turn chops a quarter turn after 4 minutes.
- Turn chops over after another 4 minutes.
- Cook until done another 6-8 minutes.
- Serve hot off the grill.
As a kid you probably called it Kitchen Cacciatore too.
One of my absolute favorite dishes my mom would make when I was a kid was Chicken Cacciatore. I used to call it “Kitchen Cacciatore” and the name just stuck. Her recipe was a simple one that she got from Weight Watchers way back in the day.
Every time I have this dish the distinct flavor brings me back to earlier days.
What I remember most is that this combination of chicken, tomato and spices served with white rice was my kryptonite – I would eat the entire batch at dinner until there was none left.
Last night I made a higher end version of this amazing dish and as predicted, there where NO leftovers! Served with cauliflower mash in leu of the traditional white rice and some broccoli rabe and there where clean plates all around.
- 10 chicken thighs - skins removed and fat trimmed. Substitute in some breasts if you like white meat.
- 1 tablespoon each fresh ground salt and pepper. More to taste.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped (I used a mix of red and orange peppers)
- 1 onion, chopped (I used leeks as an option - about a 1.5 cups)
- 1/2 cup fresh fennel, chopped.
- 1 cup fresh baby bella mushrooms - quartered.
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped.
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups fresh cherry or marzano cherry tomatoes - chopped with juices
- 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 2.5 tablespoons drained capers
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves - chopped
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper.
- In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Add the bell pepper, onion, fennel and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes with their juice, chicken broth, capers, oregano, basil and mushrooms.
- Place the chicken single layer in a 8x10 baking dish.
- Cover chicken with veggies, herbs and liquid from the pan.
- Place in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
- Serve the chicken over mashed cauliflower spooning the juices and veggies over the top.
- You can braise the chicken on the stove top on med high heat for 30 minutes if you start with a large dutch oven when making this recipe.
- 1 - 28oz can of whole san marzano tomatoes can also be used in place of fresh.
- This recipe assumes 2 pieces each but as I mentioned you may need to add more chicken or less people as this is soooo good.