Sunday, April 10, 2016

Low Carb Cinnamon Muffins

WARNING: This post contains a recipe that is probably only going to be utilized by a very, very small niche of readers. If you don't feel like buying special low carb/sugar baking ingredients, move along.


Every now and then I jump back onto the low carb wagon. I could go on and on about the reasons why and the specifics behind such a diet, but that's a blog post for another day. Right now, all you need to concern yourself with are these Low Carb Cinnamon Muffins.

Lightly sweetened with Swerve and spiced up with some cinnamon, ginger and clove, these little muffins were my first successful recipe with Carbquik.

Yes, that's right- for this recipe you will need to have two specialty ingredients on hand: sugar substitute (I like Swerve, but Splenda could work) and Carbquik. I'll admit that I held out for a long, long time when it came to buying these items, but now that I have them I'm so happy I bit the bullet.

If you really, really don't care about carbs or sugar I suppose you could just use regular sugar and Bisquik- but don't quote me on that.

Carbquik Low Carb Cinnamon Muffins

  • 2 cups Carbquik
  • 1/3 cup Swerve
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 2-4 TB water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 TB vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 TB cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground clove
Preheat an oven to 400 and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.

Measure out the Carbquik by gently fluffing the mixture, then gently spooning it into your measuring cup. Don't pack it down- just fill to the top and then level off.

Give the Carbquik, Swerve, baking powder and dry spices a quick whisk, then add in the remaining wet ingredients. Gently fold together until everything is just combined and moistened- add more water if the mix seems overly dry or stiff. It should resemble a slightly soft drop biscuit dough.

Divide the dough between the muffin cups and bake for 13-18 minutes, until nicely browned on top. 

Enjoy with some good butter!

*Nutritional Information for 2 Muffins (made with heavy cream): 238 Calories, 22 g Fat, 8 g Protein, 3 g Carbs 

Kitchen Cleaner of Insane Greatness

I'm going to admit something to you, and you have to promise not to judge me- okay?



So. We've lived in our house for about a year and a half, and in that whole time- despite much use and abuse....I've never cleaned the oven.

I know! I know!

I don't know why it took me so long. Maybe it was because I had never been truly schooled in the art of oven cleaning, or perhaps it was because I had reservations about using a bunch of chemicals in my hot box, or maybe it was just easy to forget about the grease and gunk because the oven door was closed. Whatever the reason, I finally caved this weekend and decided to remedy the situation.

Meet the only kitchen cleaner you'll ever need:

This stuff is amazing. I saw the method on Pinterest and I didn't want to believe it could 'really be that easy', but hey! Sometimes you're pleasantly surprised. That bottle holds magic. I used it to clean my oven, my microwave, my electric griddle and my stainless steel pan- all degunked and sparkling new in a matter of minutes.

Ultimate Kitchen Cleaner

  • 2 ounces dish soap (Obviously, I used the blue kind.)
  • 4 ounces lemon juice (from a bottle is fine- no need to freshly squeeze)
  • 8 ounces white vinegar (the vinegar smell doesn't linger after using)
  • 10 ounces warm water
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray on desired cleaning areas- allow to sit for a minute or two if the area has a particularly tough amount of build-up. Use a coarse scrubber, sponge, rag or paper towel to remove grime. Rinse with water until cleaner is gone and dry area. 

Revel in your clean kitchen. 

The Cheesiest Mac Ever

You want to know the secret to amazing- and I mean ooey-gooey amazing- mac and cheese? There are a few rules that must be followed in order to achieve a delightful bowl of cheese-tastic goodness, and none of them require two packets of powdered cheese dust.

Rule One: The Cheese Trifecta

I'm a big believer that you need three distinct cheeses in order to really get a full-flavored sauce. Generally, you want a soft/semi-soft for gooey melting, a semi-hard for flavor and body, and a hard for even more flavor and saltiness. Of course, depending on the cheese you pick, those properties (especially flavor) may shift around. Because of this, I recommend you make sure to have at least 2 of your 3 cheese be bold flavors, if not pungent.  That's right- I'm encouraging a stinky cheese. Why? Because the flavor mellows to create a wonderfully tangy cheese sauce. Stinky cheeses also tend to fall into our soft and therefore melty category, so you'll have a luscious and flavorful cheese sauce.

Rule Two: Grated Cheese is Great

If you plan on making your own cheese sauce for anything, step away from the pre-shredded cheese bags. Please, I beg of you. Do you know why grated cheese stays unclumped? Because it's tossed in a cornstarch solution, and while that may result in a thicken up sauce, it also results in a grainy sauce. Gross. So- grate your own cheese just before using and rejoice in your silky smooth sauce!

Rule Three: Find Your Sauce to Noodle Ratio

I am in the camp that likes my mac and cheese to be overly-sauced....almost a mac and cheese soup, if you will. However, there are some that prefer only a light coating of cheese on their mac, resulting in a tight mac that you could almost slice out of a pan. In my opinion, those people are wrong and don't deserve mac and cheese....but to each his own, I suppose. So, regardless of which end of the spectrum you find yourself on, be sure to prepare your mac and cheese recipe ratio intelligently: more mac= less saucy, less mac= more saucy. If you prepare the recipe I'm going to share with you today and complain that it was "too saucy", I'm going to assume you're an idiot and couldn't figure out that you could just add more pasta to achieve your desired ratio. Sorry for the tough love.

So there you have it. Pretty easy stuff, and I think these rules are applicable not only to mac and cheese, but any time you prepare a cheese sauce.

Now on to the recipe! The following sauce recipe makes for an absolutely divine mac and cheese, though the flavor may be a bit strong for young palates. You could also use this sauce to dress up vegetables, or even transform it into the base for a good broccoli cheese soup!

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese (inspired by Gimme Some Oven recipe)

  • 2 pounds gnocchi, store bought or homemade*
  • 3 TB cornstarch
  • 1 cup chicken stock, room temperature 
  • 2 TB butter
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh grated, good quality soft ("cook's") fontina
  • 1 cup fresh grated, good quality sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan 
  • 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp - 1/2 tsp each cayenne, dry mustard, nutmeg 
  • Fresh basil
Cook gnocchi according to package or recipe directions. Be sure to salt the cooking water in order to add a bit more flavor to the gnocchi. Drain and set aside. 

In a large sauce pot or dutch oven, saute garlic with butter until softened. Whisk together cornstarch and room temperature stock, then add to pot. Whisk in warmed milk and bring the mixture to a low boil, whisking frequently. 

Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in freshly grated cheeses, a handful at a time. Add seasonings and taste, adjusting to personal preference. Stir in a bit of chopped fresh basil if desired. 

Add gnocchi to cheese sauce and stir gently to evenly coat. Serve immediately. 

*If you make your own gnocchi, be sure to cook the potatoes "dry"- i.e. in the oven or microwave like a baked potato. Overly moist potatoes (those boiled in water) will yield dense, gummy gnocchi.