Category Archives: Low(er) Carb

Italian Sausage and Peppers

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My husband comes from New York City. I’m from below the Mason-Dixon line (albeit just barely) and he’s a chap from Queens. Needless to say, we shared very little in common food-wise when we met over 15 years ago!  He eats a lot more seafood now, and I eat more charcuterie. Not a bad tradeoff!!

Some of his favorite food memories revolve around the Italian cooking of his friends’ very Italian moms. Sausage and peppers are a particular favorite. I have severe and substantial reflux issues and the thought of tomatoes, spicy Italian sausages, peppers, garlic and onions gives me agida. I can actually feel my esophagus burning just typing the words. It’s a low carb, easily made dish and should totally be “in the rotation”. It’s a very traditional Italian American dish, right up my “traditional and simple” alley. Stupid reflux. So, we haven’t eaten sausage and peppers often, if really at all.

However, one of my very lovely neighbors dropped off 3 pounds of Italian sausages from a  famous Italian shop around these parts. Spicy Italian sausages, of course! Awesome, right?  I am very lucky to have such great neighbors!   Knowing these are far superior than anything you can get in the grocery store, I wavered. So, I am putting my pantoprozole (my reflux medicine) to the test and seeing how I do with what has to be the biggest challenge known to the heartburn afflicted: Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers.  I chased the peppers with some antacid pills.  No problems.  Yay!  Dodged a bullet there!

The dish is so easy. It’s made in one cooking vessel. Serve with a salad and you have an amazingly good, easy and quick weeknight meal.  If you love bread, pile this on some crusty French bread, top with mozzarella cheese, broil until the cheese is melted and have an awesome sausage and pepper sub!!

Sausage and Peppers
Serves 4-5
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Spicy Italian Sausage (mild works too!)
3 bell peppers (I used 2 green and one orange)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Heat oil in a sauté pan (I used a 4 quart). Place sausages in the pan and cook until slightly browned on both sides. Juices should run from the sausages, if not, prick a few so they do. Remove sausages from pan and add the peppers, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano. Cook until the vegetables are soft or your desired firmness. Return sausages to the pan and just before they are cooked through, add the tomato paste and combine. Simmer for a few minutes until the sausages are done.

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Kebabs

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It’s 6 o’clock on a weekday evening.  Little ones are looking up at you like they haven’t eaten in days.  You have a couple of random vegetables (not enough for an entire side dish, of course!), an onion, and a meat.  What do you do?  What do you do?!?!

Kabab ’em.   Dinner is ready in a snap and there’s hardly any clean up.  Plus, who doesn’t like food on a spear?  Deadly weapon and food conduit?  Awesome.  Kebabs are super easy and fun. Extremely kid friendly. Except for the whole they could poke their eye out part. Take the food off the spear for children who are unable to handle sharp weapons, of course.

I could give you a huge marinade and tell you to boil it together and cool it off, then place your meat in it.  I could.  But I won’t.  I used a bottle of organic Italian dressing on my beef.  Any sirloin steak or “London Broil” will do.  The beef need not be fancy or expensive.  You could also do boneless chicken meat, or shrimp as well.

For the veg, just cut into rather substantial pieces, so that they stay on your kabob spear.

For grilling, the key is to heat the grill up before you start.  I have a propane grill (in addition to my charcoal smokers) that I use all summer.  Love it.  The lack of dishes to clean and the fact that the heat is located outside and not in the house is just so convenient.

To this simple dish, I’ve added a sauce.  The sauce is also simple, but really strong to pair with the beef, so it is purely a “dip” and not a pouring sauce, if that makes sense. In another life, the sauce could totally replace a certain steak sauce that begins with an “A” and ends with a “1”. The sauce was inspired by a recipe on the food network that looked way to vinegary to me: (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/porterhouse-with-balsamic-steak-sauce-recipe/index.html) You might ask why I used port. I’m part of a wine club and every Christmas I get a bottle of port. I have no idea what to do with the port, so I cook with it. If I think I can get away with it in a recipe, in it goes. It totally works here.

 

Beef and Vegetable Kebabs
Serves 4
Prep time: about 20 minutes
Cook time: about 20 minutes for sauce and kebabs

1 pound beef sirloin or “London Broil”, 1 inch cubes
1 cup Italian Dressing
1 zucchini, halved and thick sliced
1 red pepper, large dice (any color, really)
1 onion, large cut
4 ounces of mushrooms, halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Kebab Sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup port
2/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon allspice
salt, pepper and sugar, to taste

Marinate the beef in the Italian dressing for at least 8 hours.

Preheat Grill

Skewer the beef, zucchini, mushrooms and onions in an alternating pattern on a skewer. Combine the olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush on skewers.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the balsamic vinegar, port, ketchup, honey, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and allspice. Stir until well combine. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust to your liking with salt, pepper and sugar.

Place the skewers on the grill for about 4 minutes. Turn over. Cook until the meat is at a food safe temperature, approximately 4-6 more minutes. This depends on the size of the steak cube and the temperature of the grill. Remove from grill and serve with sauce.

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Italian Sausage “Parmesan”

Italian Sausage Stuffed Pepper

I am constantly on a quest to fulfill my husband desire for low nutrient density carby foods.  Baked Ziti, sandwiches of every kind, Chinese Food with rice, etc.  So, I asked him what food he missed most of all.  His answer:  Italian Sausage Parm.

What now?

I’m from Maryland, not exactly know as a bastion of Italian cooking. However, I’ve heard of eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan, and even veal parmesan. I also lived in New Orleans, which has a pretty extensive repertoire of putting fried things on sandwiches. I’ve eaten virtually every kind of po’ boy known to man. But this request stumped me. I really didn’t want to think of Italian sausage breaded and fried, slathered with cheese on a big Italian sub roll, so I didn’t ask. I just tried to think of something, well anything, that would be healthier, but still give him a sense of what he was missing.

So, I needed a vehicle. I vehicle to replace the bread. It’s a tad early for summer squash and the poblano peppers at the store looked a little small. An eggplant boat seemed wrong. But, the green peppers were enormous. So, by default, the dish would be a form of stuffed pepper!!

With the pepper part of the dish covered, I wanted to add sautéed mushrooms and onions, tomato sauce, melted cheese and Italian sausage. Combined, they should give a pretty good approximation of the Italian Sausage parm sandwich. And, to quote the hubs, it was.

I don’t really think of this as a “recipe”. You don’t like onions? Don’t add them. Want to make your own marinara or tomato sauce? Go ahead. Want spicy sausage vs. mild. Fine by me. Pretty much cook your “stuffing”, hollow out the pepper, stuff it and top with cheese. Whether that qualifies as a “recipe”, I’m sort of torn.

Italian Sausage “Parm”
Serves 5-6
Prep time: 20-25 minutes
Cooking time: 45-60 minutes

5-6 Large Green Bell Peppers
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, sliced
4 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds Italian Sausage
1/2 of a 25 ounce jar (approximately) of tomato sauce
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (or Italian Shred mix)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the tops off of the green peppers, and remove the seed core and any soft white parts. Place in an oven safe baking dish and set aside.

In a pan suitable for sautéing onions and mushrooms, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium heat. Once heated, add the onions, mushrooms and salt and pepper. Cook until the onions and mushrooms are very soft, about 10-15 minutes. Stirring occasionally. You may need to turn the heat down, as you do not want the onions to “brown” excessively.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Slice the Italian sausage into rounds about an inch thick. Place into pan and sauté until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Layer the ingredients into the bell pepper as follows: onion and mushroom mixture, few tablespoons of tomato sauce, sausage rounds, and tomato sauce again. Top the pepper with cheese.

Place the stuffed peppers into the oven and bake until the peppers are soft about 45-60 minutes.

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Cuban Black Beans and “Rice”

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The three things I miss the most on a low carb diet are bread, pasta and rice. And sugar. And ice cream. Ok, I miss a lot. But when serving the Ropa Vieja, I knew I had to come up with a “rice” like dish. Ropa Vieja with a side of asparagus just, well, sounded so unappealing. So, I researched “rice” dishes.

Cauliflower seems the go to vegetable for starch substitutes. And why not? It’s white, low glycemic, low carb and high fiber. It’s fairly neutral tasting, has some texture, and takes well to other flavors. But when I saw recipes with directions that began with “grate the cauliflower”, I’m out.

Just no.

I’ll grate nutmeg and that’s about it. I have better things to do with my time than to grate a head of cauliflower. But the interesting part to me was that these recipes steamed the bits of cauliflower. Why is that interesting? Well, there were lots of tips included in these recipes to dry the cauliflower bits out. So, the steaming made the vegetable to wet. Go figure.

So, I roasted it. Why? Because if moisture is a problem, that’s a problem oven heat can fix. Two, there’s something very appealing about the slightly charred, nutty, roasted taste of vegetables. Three. You stick it in the oven, jostle the pan a bit during the cooking time, and the veggies are cooked. Just chop finely and you have “rice”. I’m all about simple and easy cooking methods.

My daughter came home from school one day with a recipe for pinto beans. She copied it down from her workbook over the course of a few days to “sneak” it home because she thought it sounded good. How cute is that?!? I told her I was making this dish and she ran and brought me her purloined recipe. So, I used parts of that recipe to make the dish. She was so thrilled she actually ate it! As an extra bonus, I told my husband I was making a black bean and rice dish and asked if he would sample it. He grabbed the offered spoon, ate it and said it was great! I replied, “Really? You were tricked by the cauliflower?” His eyes flew open and he went to the dish and shrugged and said, “I guess so!”

Put this dish in the rotation!!

So, here you go. A lower carb version of Cuban Black Beans and Rice.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Serves 4-5

“Rice”
1 head of cauliflower
1/4 olive oil (or any neutral oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

Black Beans

1/4 cup of olive oil
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 medium onion, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (as needed)
Salt and Pepper

“Rice”

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Separate the florets from the stalk of the cauliflower. Place florets on a baking sheet and coat with oil, salt and pepper. Place sheet in oven. During roasting, flip florets occasionally to prevent over browning. Roast until florets are tender and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and when you can handle them, chop finely until the pieces are about the size of rice. Set aside.

Black beans

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When heated, add the peppers and onion. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic. As the garlic softens, add the cumin and the paprika, stir well. Add the black beans and the “rice”. Mix thoroughly. Taste the mixture, if the mixture is too dry, add the olive oil until the texture is appropriate. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

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