Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Southern-Style" Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise (mayo) is one of THE greatest condiments in the world to me. Mayo is simply an emulsion of egg yolk, oil and an acid, typically lemon juice or vinegar. It's used as a basic sandwich spread, the binder in numerous "salads" such as potato saladegg saladtuna salad or pimento cheese, or dressed up with herbs and spices to form aiolis and remoulades. Mayonnaise also serves as the basis for most Ranch dressing recipes as well as tartar sauce. I absolutely LOVE it on fries, especially Chick-Fil-A's waffle fries

Sidebar: Chick-Fil-A has THE best mayonnaise I have EVER tasted. I always go inside to place my order, simply so I can grab a ridiculous handful of the mayonnaise on my way out. I can't imagine a world without big handfuls of "excra mernaise". 

Rick Bragg totally gets it. He knows that same love and articulates it beautifully in this piece for Gourmet. Maybe it's a regional thing, after all, we DID grow up in the same county.

"I love that condiment, love it the way Odysseus loved Penelope, Samson loved Delilah, Lancelot loved Guinevere. I know, as they all must have known, that this will not end well, but I am not ashamed." 

Homemade mayonnaise seems difficult, especially if using a whisk, but, if you have a blender or  food processor, it's actually quite easy. But, it can be EVEN EASIER. The Reluctant Gourmet has a great post about the different tools used to make mayonnaise here if you want to learn more. 

Regardless of what method you choose, the key is to add the oil SLOWLY, as in, drop by drop, to avoid breaking your emulsion. Pro tip: plastic squeeze bottles are indispensable for making homemade mayonnaise if you want to go the blender/food processor/hand whisking route. That being said, I simply don't have the patience (or arm strength) to old-school it and use a whisk. I love my food processor, but it's a beast to drag out just to make mayonnaise, and, once assembled, is too tall for my 5-foot frame to use without a step stool.

The gamechanger? The immersion (stick) blender. It's the PERFECT tool for homemade mayonnaise. Instead of having to slowly drip-drip-drip the oil into a whirring blender, or whisking until your arm seizes up, you simply layer your ingredients in the blender cup, plunge the blender in, turn it on, then slowly pull it up. EASY. Bonus: immersion blenders are relatively inexpensive and don't take up a lot of space. Plus, you can also use it to make shakes, smoothies and salad dressings.

Need more proof that the immersion blender is the way to go? Check out my recent post on mayonnaise HERE

Here in the US, most people are familiar with the standard mayonnaise brands like Hellmann's, which celebrates its 100-year anniversary this year. Here in the South, we also enjoy brands like Duke's and Bama, which differ from Hellman's in that they include a touch of dry mustard, and the acid is typically a cider vinegar instead of regular white vinegar. I also LOVE Japanese mayonnaise, specifically Kewpie mayonnaise, which uses a blend of malt and apple cider vinegar as the acid, egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and also includes a pinch of sugar. Mexican mayonnaise, or, mayonesa, is pretty hard to beat. Especially this kind, which is a perfect base for a fish taco sauce.

Note: Miracle Whip is NOT mayonnaise. I don't even try to hide my disdain for this abomination.

As a Southerner, I'm partial to our slightly sweet, slighty tangy mayonnaise. And, as a Birmnghamian (Birminghamster?), I especially love this recipe from our own Frank Stitt.

After 2 posts on mayonnaise, you should have no reason at all not to make your own! Well, unless you don't eat eggs, I guess... 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Flax Pancakes

I really, REALLY wanted to be witty and call these FlaxJacks or Flapflax or something, but I decided against it. YOU ARE WELCOME.

When following a low-carb lifestyle, you eventually start to miss certain foods. Like baked goods/breads. Luckily, thanks to ingredients like almond flour and coconut flour, you can usually make some decent low-carb substitutes. I've even posted about them before with my Vanilla Bean Cheesecake and Pumpkin Pie

One thing I miss? Pancakes. The odd thing is that I've never been a big pancake eater (waffles FTW, though). There are tons of keto pancake recipes out there that use almond or coconut flour, and I've got a few that I need to try. However, my go-to current pancake recipe doesn't use either almond OR coconut flour - just flax. Flax is considered a superfood (read more here) and is now available pretty much everywhere. Case in point - I bought my giant bag of ground flax meal at WAL-MART (Wild Oats brand). 

These are pretty much as easy as your standard Bisquick pancakes; just whip up a quick batter, cook on a hot griddle (I own an electric griddle solely for pancake-makin'), and that's it!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

Christmas will be here before we know it (two weeks!), which means holiday parties, office parties, and suddenly being accosted with unexpected gifts. NOTHING feels worse than receiving an unexpected gift and having nothing to give in return! Luckily, people still love and appreciate homemade gifts, ESPECIALLY a gift of sweets. I like to make an array of sweets, and have them boxed up in little tins or colorful Chinese-takeout-style containers so I never am caught without a gift. 

In years past I've made fudge. Or balls. Or an assortment of cookies, truffles, cheesecake bars, and PLENTY of my chocolate pretzel turtles & Saltine toffee!

This year though? I'm doing bark. AGAIN. So, if you didn't get enough bark last time with my Oreo bark, Gingersnap bark, Rocky Road bark or Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark, here's yet another bark...with a twist!

This is a more sophisticated bark, made with bitter, dark chocolate. Look for a chocolate with at least 55% cacao content - I went with a mix of chocolates, all at 85% cacao or above. Natural almonds lend a nice crunch, and a sprinkling of coarse or flake salts offsets the sweetness perfectly. Basically, this is fancypants bark, but it's still incredibly easy, and, even better, low-carb/keto-friendly!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Smothered Cabbage with Bell Peppers and Smoked Sausage

I've posted plenty of recipes using smoked sausage (or andouille), and plenty of recipes using cabbage. Even some recipes using both sausage AND cabbage! Why? Probably because the flavors of smoked sausage go so incredibly well with cabbage. Not to mention that both cabbage and smoked sausage are readily available and quite affordable, making for delicious, easy meals perfect for any budget. 

This recipe is cheap, easy, and extremely quick - about 20 minutes from start to finish, maybe 25 if you factor in your prep time. There's only one pan to dirty up, two if you decide to make some noodles or rice. Leftovers reheat well, and there's plenty of flavor in this dish as well. It may be an ugly dish, but it sure is tasty!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Shrimp "Ceviche" Salsa

First and foremost, this isn't technically ceviche - the shrimp are already cooked! So, if you're weirded out by 'raw' shrimp or shrimp 'cooked' via acidity, you don't have to worry! You don't even have to cook the shrimp yourself - most markets carry shrimp already boiled or steamed!

Second, the BF, being shrimp-allergic, would have been all sad-faced about a shrimp 'ceviche', so I made this and ate it all in private. Unfortunately, since his allergy developed as an adult, he still remembers just how great shrimp tastes, and he misses it terribly. Though he doesn't MIND if I prepare shrimp around him (his allergy isn't so severe that he can't be around it), I still feel that it's kind of mean, so shrimp and I have a down-low sort of thing going on. 

This can be served as a salsa/dip with crackers or chips, or eaten as a ceviche on its own or even as a taco filling. The shrimp have a TON of protein, without a bunch of calories or carbs, so this is a perfect and easy dish for me! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Slow-Cooker Sugared Pecans

Every year, before Christmas but after Thanksgiving, I like to prepare little holiday goodies. Nothing over the top or ornate, but little nibbles for snacking on. Stuff that you can bring to work, or package in pretty jars or boxes and give as gifts. Two years ago, I went over the top and made TONS of holiday bark. I've also spent Christmas seasons making balls (peanut butter balls, chocolate coconut cherry balls, bourbon balls, etc). 

One thing I've never posted? Sugared pecans, also known as candied pecans. Usually, you just toss the pecans in egg white, then coat them in spices and sugar. Bake in the oven, stirring every so often. The good? This fills your house with an AMAZING aroma. The bad? Stirring a single layer on a baking sheet without making a mess or ending up with burnt nuts. Luckily, you can make these without the oven at all - by using a slow cooker! Yes, you'll still have to stir every so often, but it's a lot easier than dealing with the oven. 

I like to add a tiny pinch of cayenne to my pecans - you can't taste any spiciness at all, but it really helps cut the sweetness of these and add a little 'something' to the nuts.