Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rich & Sinful Food (yet low carb).... Just what I like!

Keeping with my low carb meal plan gives me plenty of chances to have rich cream based sauces (my favorites!) and other dishes which most people consider too rich and for only "special occasions". I'm lucky that my guys really love my sauces so I can get everyone on the diet without their knowing they're on a diet.... makes it easier for me, I don't have to cook two kids of foods and it simplifies mealtimes since we're eating most the same things (of course, they have additional items I don't have but that's not a temptation for me...)

There are so many rich and sinful sauces out there that you could fill up a book. Lots of these sauces are perfect over pasta of course (a no no right now), but these can also be used over fish, chicken or even meat; plus, don't forget that they can top off steamed or roasted vegetables taking them from an ordinary state up to an extraordinary level of goodness that doesn't even hint that you're on a diet. No feeling of being deprived here so it's easier to stay on it..... which is a good thing for everyone.

If you think of rich foods you naturally think of heavy cream, butter, silky smooth textures, a hint of wine maybe but always superb taste! Mmmm.... this is why one of my specialties are sauces, nothing quite finishes off a dish like having a wonderful sauce putting the whole meal together! Plus if you're also watching your portion sizes, making your meal "extraordinary" will make it more satisfying by making a smaller serving richer which in turn won't make you feel like you're sacrificing anything (because you're not!).

Here are some rich and sinful recipes you can have when you need a "little something" and if you're on a low-carb regimen, they will fit right in step with it. Maybe you've got a special meal planned and want something wonderful to perk you up or how about treating yourself! In any case, you'll find these easy to make and worth every drop.....

Beurre Blanc (White Wine Sauce).- Is one of THE basics everyone should master. Easy to make and fabulous to serve!

1 shallot, finely chopped (onion can be used as well)
2 cups white wine, good enough to drink
1 tbl heavy cream
2 lbs butter (2 boxes), cut in cubes, slightly softened but cool
1-2 tsp lemon juice, optional
salt and white pepper
Drops of Tabasco (optional)
Worcestershire Sauce to taste (optional)
Dried dill (optional)

In a pan, put a small cube of butter and melt. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft and beginning to release their sugars. Add a pinch for salt to help them along. Once you see a slight glaze on the bottom of the pan (don't let them get dark or burn), deglaze the pan with the wine, making sure to scrape off all the dark bits on the bottom (they're full of flavor).

Keep stirring and whisking as the liquid reduces, but stop when you've got about 1/4 cup of liquid left. Do not let the pan go dry.

Here's where the magic happens: Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and begin adding the butter cubes, one at a time. Don't add another cube until the previous one has been incorporated, whisking all the while. This process is what gives a smooth and rich sauce so stay on it and don't go answer the phone or do anything but work the sauce.

Once the butter is all in, you can add salt and white pepper to taste and some drops of lemon juice. If you want to, add Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce, depends on you.

Finish of the sauce with the heavy cream. Serve at once.

NOTE: This sauce can be make "the quick way" anytime you pan fry fish, pork, chicken, etc. and since it's not thickened with flour or any other starch is low carb. Just watch the wine.

Once the protein is done and you take it out of the pan, you will notice the dark bits at the bottom of the pan (always look for those little bits of goodness). Toss in some onions and make then tender, then add some wine, any color, or even stock and then deglaze and scrape the bits off really well. Reduce a little, then finish off with some cream and right before serving top off with a little butter. This is also what's called a "pan sauce" and can be made in a million different ways for all kinds of foods.

Vodka Cream Sauce.- Another rich tasting sauce you can have on chicken or any other protein you like that will be everyone's favorite! (Created for pasta but for now it works perfectly on chicken or fish too)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup minced sweet onion
1 tbs minced garlic cloves
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped fine
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar or Splenda (or you can omit)
1/4 tsp salt

Heat your pan over med heat, then add the oil, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are sweating and tender, but not browned, about 8 - 10 min.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes and vodka. Stir to combine. Slowly stir in the half-and-half or cream, then stir in the lemon juice, Parmesan, dried basil and oregano, sugar and salt. Stir until well combined, cover, lower heat to low and cook for at least 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Chicken with Mushrooms and Marsala.- A wonderful addition to anyone's meal plan. Easy to make and with lots of flavor.

1 3 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 stick butter, room temperature
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups button mushrooms, halved
2 shallots, diced
4-5 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
1 cups Marsala wine
1 cup chicken stock

Rinse the chicken pieces with cool water, then pat dry with paper towels. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown about 10 minutes, until golden all over, turning pieces occasionally to brown on all sides. Remove chicken from the skillet and set aside, cover with aluminum foil.

Add garlic, thyme, mushrooms, carrots, and shallots to the hot pan. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the mushrooms are brown and the shallots are slightly caramelized. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala and chicken broth, scraping the brown bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon.

Nestle the chicken back in the skillet, making sure each piece has good contact with the bottom of the pan. Top each chicken piece with butter. Cover the skillet, leaving the lid slightly open. Cook over med-low heat for 30 min or more, until chicken is cooked through, basting the chicken with the pan juices periodically.

Sauce Aioli.- Another of the basic sauces used in French Cooking, this is like a Garlic Mayonnaise and it's great on everything..... Use for snacks, dips, veggies, fish, etc.

1 clove garlic (or more...)
2 pinches salt (I like French sea salt in this)
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil (use the 1/2 & 1/2 recipe if you don't like a strong olive oil taste, otherwise use 1 cup olive oil)

The classic way to make this sauce is to hand whisk, but I've been using my blender for the longest time and now I'm too lazy to do it the long way....

Put the garlic in the blender with some salt. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice and cayenne. Blend for 1 minute and then leave the blender running, take the small top off the cover of the blender and while the blender is running, add the oil in a very slender stream, a little at a time. You will notice how the sauce begins to get thicker right away, once it gets fluffy check it and taste it. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

NOTE: This is so good that I usually make a double batch since everyone loves it. You can also use other flavorings and create a whole new taste.

Mushroom Sauce.- Another sauce that will work with most dishes that's easy to make, quick and very tasty!

1 lb mushrooms, your choice, chopped or cut in half
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbl butter
1/4 cup half & half or heavy cream or stock

Either after frying meat or chicken, add butter and onion and fry until soft. Add the mushrooms and fry until almost tender, add cream or stock and allow to bubble, then lower heat to low and watch for it to begin to thicken. Add salt and pepper, taste and serve.

Rich Red Wine Sauce.- Although this is on the line as far as low carb goes it's more than worth including in any conversation about rich sauces. Make it and you will amaze and delight yourself and everyone around you.......... This is such an amazingly flavorful sauce you only need to use a little so it's a good thing.

5 tbl butter
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, skinned and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped or crushed
2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
1 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp dried sage leaves, crushed
1 whole bay leaf
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional and not low carb)
1 (750 ml bottle or 3 cups) dry red wine - see note
2 cups or a 14 ounce can beef stock
1 pinch of salt

NOTE: Look for a wine that is not high in tannin. That's the component of young reds, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, that makes your tongue feel as though you've been licking a dusty window sill. Also, try for a wine that is low in acid. Thats the component that makes the wine very tart, typical of Pinot Noir and Beaujolais. Steer away from the cheap jug wines that often have preservatives and rubbery flavors. Merlot is a good choice, as is Australian Syrah. You can even use a ruby port, but if you do, the wine is sweet. I've even had good luck with wine from the closeout bin. You don't need to spend more than $10 per 750 ml bottle.

In a large frying pan melt 3 of the 5 tablespoons of the butter and add the onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Cook over a high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the onions begin to brown.

Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes until it begins to darken. Add the wine and the beef stock. Boil for 30 minutes. Pour everything through a strainer into a saucepan, and squeeze the juices through the strainer with a ladle or whatever you used to stir the veggies.

Boil over high heat until it is reduced to about 1 cup and keep an eye on things so it doesn't burn. Turn off the heat, taste and add salt if necessary. You can also add some sugar if you think some sweetness is needed unless you used port. If you are not planning on using the sauce immediately or don't plan to use it all, you can store it in the fridge or freezer.

When you need the sauce, warm it and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and when it is thoroughly melted, swirl it around with a spoon and serve immediately. Do not whisk in the butter, just swirl it. This is called "mounting it" with butter (yes, that's the correct technical term). If you feel decadent, add another tablespoon.

Dill Sauce for Fish Fillets.- Creamy and with a lovely Dill flavor. Perfect for fish or any white meat. I also like it over eggs, omelets and vegetables.....

4 fish fillets, about 6 oz. each
2 tbl butter
1 lemon: 1/2 zested and juiced, the other half cut into wedges
1/2 cup cream
2 tbl chopped fresh dill, or 2 tsp dried

Salt and pepper the fillets. Heat butter in a skillet large enough to hold fish in a single layer. When pan is hot, add fillets and cook about 5 minutes, turn and cook until done.

Remove fillets to a warm platter or individual serving plates. Add wine, zest and lemon juice to skillet, raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Add cream and dill and boil until sauce begins to thicken, 1 - 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and spoon sauce over fish. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges on the side.

You don't think I'd let you go without mentioning some great desserts right? Even on a low carb diet you can have some sinful desserts and here's how.....

Rich and Fluffy Chocolate Mousse.- Have a sugar craving and are almost willing to cheat? This tastes like cheating but isn't- it'll keep you "in line" and satisfy your sweet tooth!

1 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbl cocoa powder
Splenda or liquid Sucralose (about 2 packets but more if you like it sweeter)

Put a stainless steel bowl (or glass bowl) in the fridge for an 1 hour or so before making this, it will help. You will also need either a hand or a stand mixer. Of course, you can whisk it by hand, but this way it's done in a moment without the work.

Put all ingredients in the bowl and begin whipping at low speed so you don't get a cocoa cloud. Yes, I know it sounds divine but trust me, it's not. Whip for about 1 min, and then bring the speed up to max and continue whipping until the cream gets thick and fluffy. Serve.

NOTE: Want variety? Add 1 tbl peanut butter at the beginning for a chocolate-peanut butter treat. Vanilla? Add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Orange? Add some orange zest, or how about a cheesecake flavor? Add a little vanilla extract and 1 tbl of cream cheese at the start. You can also leave some plain whipped cream to use as a topping for your dessert. Put the mousse on fancy wine or martini glasses, top with the whipped cream and add some shavings (use a grater) of low carb or sugar free candy bars (you could use flavored here too, like chocolate mint, Oooh!) and a a couple of leaves of fresh mint and your presentation could be good enough for a gourmet restaurant and you'll never feel deprived....

Key Lime Cheesecake.- Another dessert that will beat the blues.... plus give you ideas for other flavors and variations.

3 tbl butter
1/2 cup ground almonds (or walnuts, or pecans)
2 tsp Splenda (but more if you like, about 1-2 packets)
1 cup boiling water
1 small box (3 oz) sugarfree lime gelatin (Cottee's Brand for Splenda sweetened version)
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 8oz package Cream Cheese
3 tbl Lime Juice (or key lime juice)
1-2 tbl Splenda (judge according to your taste, we like it tart and use even less)

For Crust: Grind nuts in blender, food processor or coffee mill until fine. Melt butter . Add Splenda to nut mixture and add melted butter. Mix well. Press into pie plate. Let chill in refrigerator.

Meanwhile, make filling: Mix water with lime gelatin. Put in refrigerator to partially set up. In a bowl, whip heavy cream. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, key lime juice, and Splenda until smooth. Very lightly fold in partially set lime gelatin then fold in whipping cream. Be careful to not deflate the cream, you want it fluffy. Pour into pie shell. Chill 2 to 3 hours.

Top with additional whipped cream if desired. Serve.

NOTE: I also use unflavored gelatin (like Knox brand) and add my own flavorings. This way I can control that "sugarfree" taste which we don't like and add any other flavor I want, same as the mousse.

I can also tell you that all of these recipes can be used for Diabetics since it's the carbs that cause most blood sugar spikes, so if you're watching those numbers low carb is the way to go....

There you go, some great sauce recipes that can make any meal a special occasion. Plus these are sauces that have stood the test of time and will be around forever so they're good to incorporate into your recipe collection, even if you're not on a diet.

Don't wait for a holiday or birthday to create a special occasion. Any day can be turned into something wonderful with a few additions. Most sauces reheat wonderfully so make them in advance, save and reheat when you need them and you won't need a lot of time to create just the perfect "mood" to turn any old weekday into a memorable evening. Surprise your family and delight your senses, it's always a good thing! Switch the seasonings around and customize a recipe to your family's taste, be bold and never forget "no rules"..... Enjoy! Talk soon............

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