Sunday, February 22, 2015

Banana & Cranberry Nut Muffins - no flour, no added sugar.

These muffins are really good - naturally with no flour, they are a little more dense than regular muffins, but very filling.

I use frozen bananas because, once defrosted, they are already the correct consistency and require no mashing. I keep bananas in my freezer all the time - once defrosted, cut one end with a sharp knife and you can squeeze the flesh out like a tube of toothpaste. If you don't have frozen bananas then by all means use fresh but they will take a lot of mashing - a blender would probably be the best solution.


4 frozen bananas, defrosted at room temperature
4 eggs
1/2 cup of almond butter (or substitute peanut butter)
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup of coconut flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 teaspoons of cinnamon power
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of crushed pecans (walnuts or almonds will work also)
1 cup of loosely chopped dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (for a handy conversion chart click here)

Line a muffin tin with paper cups

Thoroughly mix the bananas with the almond butter
add the melted (cooled) coconut oil and vanilla essence and stir in
beat the eggs add and blend well

In a separate bowl:

Sift the coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking power, baking soda and salt
(I sift these not because they need aerating, but they frequently have lumps that do not mix well)
stir to combine

Add these dry ingredients to your banana, egg, almond butter mixture and fold in

finally, add the crushed nuts and cranberries and mix in

fill the muffin cups evenly and top each muffin with half a pecan or other nut - bake for 30 minutes.

These muffins freeze well, and are best served warm - defrost and warm in a microwave for 15 seconds.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Roasted Whole Cauliflower


1 whole cauliflower
1 cup of heavy whipping cream (or natural yogurt)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 lime (zest and juice)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
2 whole cloves crushed
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
small bunch of parsley chopped to garnish

optional: panko crumbs and grated parmesan cheese


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F

clean the cauliflower
remove the leaves and the stalk but keep whole

whip the cream until stiff
add the other ingredients except for the parsley
mix well

place the cauliflower upside down in the cream mixture
using hands (I use disposable rubber gloves) and /or a brush cover the head evenly with the cream mixture

Place the coated cauliflower upright in an oven proof dish
if using panko and /or grated cheese, sprinkle over the top of the cauliflower

bake in the oven for 40 minutes

sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Serve by itself, or as a side with just about anything you can think of.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Larry's Bean Soup

This recipe can be adjusted to fit individual tastes.

Any single bean or legume can be used, such as Pinto, Kidney, Lima, Mung, Split Pea. Or make your own mixture.

For the purposes of this recipe I used a 15-16 dried bean medley available in the “Bean” aisle of HEB, our local grocery store. It is a combination of various beans. Feeds 8-12 and ready in 8 hours by crock pot (high) or 6 hours stove top.

Measurements are not precise and should be adjusted to taste. Start with smaller quantities as you can always add more.

You will need a 4-8 quart pot to prepare this in. I used a 4 quart crock pot which was almost to small.

Main Ingredients
1lb bag of dried beans
½ to 1 cup chopped onions
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
¼  teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 cloves of garlic (crushed) or garlic powder to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can of Rotel  tomatoes

If you do not want pure vegetarian add
1 lb of cubed beef steak, ham, ham hocks (bacon will work as well)

Adjust ingredients you fit your taste. I have intentionally left out salt and we prefer to add this ourselves

Ingredients (optional and definitely to taste)

1 small can of tomato paste
½ to 1 cup diced green or red bell pepper (use both if you like bell peppers)
½ to ¾ cup ketchup or BBQ sauce (to taste, start with a little)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 bottle of beer
7 Jalapenos to taste (fresh or canned)
1 teaspoon lime, lemon or apple cider vinegar if you want to cut back the sweet.


Wash beans with cold water and cover with 2-3 inches of water. They need to soak overnight (8-12 hours). I do this in the container I am cooking them in. I use the water they soaked in but some prefer to discard that and replace with fresh water.

If using meat, brown in a skillet. The size of the meat cubes depends upon taste. I like smaller pieces others may prefer larger pieces. You do not need to fully cook the beef, just get the outside brown to seal. You can substitute any meat or leave it out altogether. One of our favorites is to use cooked brisket from Smoky BBQ house in Leander. It saves the time and mess of browning. The same goes for cooked ham, smoked ham hocks etc..

Combine all of your ingredients into the pot and cover with water. I usually start with water and add beer as it cooks. The more water you use the soupier it will be. ½ to 1 inch covered cooking is my preference. If you put too much water you can boil it off.

Bring to a rapid boil if on the stove top and then high simmer (very low boil) till beans are soft (4-6 hours on stove top). 1-2 hours into the cooking remove any floating grease from the pot with a spoon). Stir frequently. If using a crock pot put on high for 8 hours.

Serve with a side of chopped raw sweet onions and fresh or pickled jalapenos for a crunch and extra kick.

This recipe is absolutely the best the next day, in fact I recommend making it the day before and let stand overnight in the refrigerator. It refrigerates and freezes well.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Christmas Menu

For some time now my son has been asking me to document my Christmas dinner, so this year I decided to do that. My Christmas dinner evolved, starting with dinner at Granny's house. ( See Chapter 1 of Peeling The Onion for a full description of what that was like). I never knew how the food was cooked as my grandmother hired a cook for that and besides I was too young to care, but later on, when Christmas at Granny's stopped and my mother took over, I learnt a lot helping her. Over the years I have put my own slant on how I prepare and cook, and even what I prepare and cook.

I do always have the traditional Irish boiling bacon and roast, stuffed turkey. Now that I am living in Texas I order my bacon well in advance from Food Ireland and it arrives frozen, there is a lot of ham here, but that is not the same. I also order Irish rashers for breakfast on Christmas morning. We have a traditional 'fry up' on Christmas morning, less traditional is the fact that we use paper plates and plastic knives and forks for breakfast - anything to minimize the cleanup is a good idea.

A very important part of the preparation is to soak the bacon in cold water for about 2 days before Christmas, this water is changed at least once every 24 hours, more is better. This minimizes the salt content.

The menu is:

Turkey broth

  • Roast Stuffed Turkey & boiled Bacon
  • Brussels Sprouts (cooked in the water with the bacon)
  • Carrots sauteed with onion & parsley ( I like to add a couple of shallots but that is optional)
  • Belgian Endive (I grew up knowing this as Chicory) sauteed
  • Roasted potatoes
Traditionally in Ireland we had plum pudding & brandy sauce for dessert, but I no longer do that because almost no one I currently feed likes it and it is a huge amount of time to prepare and cook. This year we have a choice of either apple pie or berry pie with ice cream and / or whipped cream.
I like to finish off with an Irish coffee.

So, how do I prepare and cook all of this? Well, a tradition my mother started was to prepare as much as possible on Christmas Eve, minimizing the work to be done on Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve:

What can we do the day before? Remember at least two days before we started soaking the bacon and changing the water regularly. Everything can be cooked on Christmas Day, but the more you can prepare the day before, the more time you have to play those boardgames Santa brought the kids, or table tennis, or trains.. or Super Flight Deck and Barbie Dolls and Stretch Armstrong.


Also known as Belgian Endive, is not easy to get in Texas so I keep an eye out for it coming up to Christmas and as soon as I see some I buy it and cook and freeze it. Naturally it is better if it is freshly cooked, but it does OK being frozen and that is better than none at all. Chicory is an acquired taste - it is the dandelion family along with Radicchio, so I am sure you can imagine, it is bitter. Braising it in butter reduces much of the bitterness however.

To prepare it, cut the end of the stalk off, remove any damaged outer leaves, slice from stalk to tip into quarters and wash. Then melt butter over a gentle heat, more is better - but how much depends on how much Chicory you managed to get and how much you like butter. Toss the chicory in the melted butter over the heat add a pinch of salt and a small amount of water, cover and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally. If you were lucky enough to get this just before Christmas, then cook it on Christmas Eve and it will heat up nicely the next day in the microwave. Otherwise freeze it and heat up in the microwave from frozen.


I used a little over half a pound of carrots - I always buy organic when I can get them - half an onion, three shallots (optional) and half a bunch of parsley.
  • top and tail, peel and thinly slice the carrots
  • peel and chop the onion into small chunks
  • peel and slice the shallots
  • remove the stalks from the parsley
  • melt butter over a slow heat - I used about 2 ounces of butter for 10 ounces of chopped carrots
  • toss the sliced carrots in the butter and then add the onion, shallots and parsley and a pinch of salt
  • stir and allow to saute for a few minutes
  • add half a cup of water and cover 
  • reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 15 minutes
  • place in a microwave safe serving dish and when cool store in the refrigerator
  • this will microwave in a few minutes before dinner next day


turkey giblets, neck and wing tips
chicken broth
carrots (I used six medium sized)
large onion
chopped parsley
chopped baby spinach leaves - optional but I love spinach and if chopped well, non spinach lovers don't even notice
salt and pepper

When my kids were growing up I used to make my own chicken broth. We normally had a roast chicken on Sunday, so coming up to Christmas I would boil the carcass in a little water and strain and freeze the broth. Nowadays I just use packaged broth.

Place the giblets, neck, wing tips, peeled and chopped carrots and onions in a pot with chicken broth and chopped parsley and spinach if using. Add salt and pepper and bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for about an hour. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.


I use french bread for this, and how much depends on how big your turkey is.  For a 10 pound turkey I used a full loaf. Normally I buy the bread about 3 days before Christmas and leave it out to slightly harden. Then I chop it into chunks and put it in my food processor, in no time I have breadcrumbs. It may look like a whole lot, but they will shrink down.

So, Ingredients for the stuffing:

  • Breadcrumbs - these have got to be fresh not those awful things sold in packages for deep frying!
  • Half a large onion finely chopped
  • One shallot finely chopped (optional - notice a trend here?)
  • bunch of parsley finely chopped
  • two teaspoons of mixed herbs
  • 1 teaspoons of paprika
  • half teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper


mix the garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper with the breadcrumbs, add the onion, shallot and parsley and mix well then.... and here I have to mention that a critical piece of equipment in my kitchen has always been surgical gloves. I use them for any task that is messy and in particular for handling foul... so then don your surgical gloves (these you will throw away after each use) add 4 beaten eggs and using your surgically gloved hands mix well.

Sit your turkey in a pan because you are going to stuff the neck. don't stuff the body of the turkey, there are a number of schools of thought on this, some say it is dangerous to stuff the body. The juices from the uncooked turkey.. OK the blood ... drips into the stuffing in the body of the turkey and may or may not get fully cooked. Also, I like to be able to slice the stuffing rather than spoon it out of the body cavity. So, sit your turkey comfortably in a pan. You may need to trim some fat from inside the neck but be careful not to pierce the skin.

I found the easiest way to stuff the turkey is to make balls of the stuffing and wad them down into the neck cavity. When it is finally completely full, use wooden tooth picks to hold the skin in place while cooking. My mother  used to use a large darning needle and thread, but it was so hard to find the thread to remove it after cooking that I found toothpicks to be a much easier way to do this.

Place the cleaned, stuffed turkey in a turkey bag and put it in the refrigerator. By now the refrigerator is getting pretty well stuffed.

Both the potatoes and the sprouts can be cleaned and prepared the day before, but should not be cooked in advance. If preparing them the day before, then place in a covered container in cold water overnight. It isn't necessary to put them in the already stuffed refrigerator, though it is preferable. They can stand on the stove overnight in cold water - covered of course.


Peel, wash and par boil them - for about 15 minutes, until almost done, strain and they are ready to place in the oven about 30 minutes before dinner. Make that 40 minutes if you like them crispy, which my husband does.

Back in the days before oven bags for cooking a turkey, we placed the potatoes around the turkey to cook, however they will get crispier if they are in a tray on their own, so I usually add a mixture of butter and oil to a baking tray and place the par boiled potatoes in this to cook.

A 10 pound turkey takes about 4 hours to cook at 325 degrees, roasting potatoes really requires a much hotter over, more like 425 degrees, so I normally add the potatoes about 10 minutes before the turkey is ready, 10 minutes later I take the turkey out and turn the oven up to 450 degrees. The potatoes will cook while the turkey rests.

Bacon & Sprouts:

Prepare the sprouts by removing any damaged outer leaves, trip the stalk and cut an X into the stalk - this ensures a more even cooking of leaves and stalk.

Change the water one more time on the bacon and bring to the boil. Ideally you want to boil the bacon for 30 minutes per pound, adding the sprouts to the water approximately 30 minutes before cooking finishes. My piece of bacon is almost 4 pounds so it will take two hours to cook.

I used to bake pies from scratch, now I buy them frozen - they are perfectly fine and there is really no need to show off after the dinner I just prepared.

I have found it helps to set out a timetable of when to do what, particularly on Christmas Day, in order to 1. Not forget anything and 2. Have it all ready at the same time.

Time table:

Christmas Day:

5 hours before dinner:
Heat the over

4.5 hours before dinner
Place turkey in the over
set the table

2 hours before dinner
bring bacon to a boil then simmer

1 hour before dinner
bring soup to a boil and allow to simmer
place potatoes in the over

10 minutes later remove turkey
add the sprouts to the bacon water
heat the carrots and chicory in the microwave
turn the potatoes
make gravy if required (I don't like it so I use Bisto - instant gravy)

30 minutes later
remove the potatoes and add the pies to the oven

ready to serve:
strain the sprouts
remove the giblets, neck and wing tips from the soup (grosses a lot of people out)
taste the soup and season if required
carve the bacon and turkey and serve

The Christmas Crackers are also from Food Ireland.

Merry Christmas!!!

After that, if you have room, whip the cream and serve pie and cream and or ice cream

Finally! an Irish coffee for the chef (and anyone else) with the remainder of the cream.

Friday, November 14, 2014


When I discover a strange and unfamiliar fruit or vegetable in the produce section of our local supermarket, I absolutely have to buy it and try it.

beside a box of mandarin oranges

This week it was a Pomelo. I like grapefruit but I can take them or leave them, and I am somewhat nervous of the fact that they don't always play nice with certain medications. This thing looked like a grapefruit, albeit a very large one, and it did smell like one too, though not so strong.

I found this very interesting snippet on a forum recently:

...the offending compound is called bergamottin, and is concentrated mostly in the skin of the grapefruit, but some is contained in the juice as well (higher levels are found in commercially "pressed" juices than in home squeezed juice). The drug interaction occurs because the bergamottin inhibits an enzyme in the intestines that metabolizes CERTAIN drugs and more drug can enter the body in a person that consumes grapefruit juice. This can result in higher than expected levels of medication in the body. The enzyme inhibition can last a while, so the interaction persists even if the medication is taken several hours after the grapefruit juice. 

Anyway.. knowing my penchant for strange and unusual produce you won't be surprised to hear that the second I saw this pomelo I absolutely had to have it. It it priced per pound and this little one weighed about a pound and a half - it cost $4.50 and took me quite a while to peel. The outer peel was very thick and tough, the inside pith is a beautiful shade of pink and spongy, almost like marshmallow but tougher.

The membrane is like leather and has to be removed, but the flesh is made up of large solid 'droplets' removing the membrane is almost like peeling shrimp.

According to wikipedia, this fruit originated in South East Asia, and the grapefruit is a hybrid of the pomelo.

When I finally got it peeled, removed the membrane and piled up the flesh into a bowl, I believe I got my money's worth! Plus it tasted amazing. Not a very strong flavor, not bitter but really good and refreshing.

My research suggested that it could be crumbled on a salad, and I believe it would be great - almost like a tomato.

To find out more about the drug interaction, check on webmd here - and click on the 'side effects' tab. I admit I got bored about three quarters of the way through this, but I guess if you are on blood thinners, cholesterol or blood pressure medication, it is important to know what you are dealing with. I am lucky that I have not yet had to indulge in any of these medication.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lone Star Grille & Bubba's Backyard - Cedar Park

We were not too disappointed when the Reunion Grill closed, in fact we were not very surprised either. We had eaten there a few times and had given up on it ever getting it's act together. The premises stood empty for a while, then for a couple of months there was feverish activity and it emerged as Lone Star Grill & Bubba's Back Yard.

We had waited with anticipation for this restaurant to open. Then we gave it a couple of weeks to iron out any kinks and finally we gave it a try. We were not very optimistic having read a number of not so good reviews online, but felt it only fair to test it out ourselves. The premises are very big, and it has a sizable outdoor eating area with a playground for kids. While that is wonderful for families, it also means that the doors to the outdoor area are constantly open. As soon as we were seated, in the almost empty dining area, we were aware of a large number of flies, at one point there were four flies dive bombing us.

The manager noticed we had been seated for a while without drinks and so he took our drinks order, and returned with our server. After that the service could not be faulted and I will always try to say something good about a restaurant if I possibly can. At last! a restaurant that doesn't serve one person enough food for the entire table. It was still more than I could eat, but it wasn't huge.

We started with San Jacinto Jalitos - strips of breaded jalapeno peppers, deep fried and served with a ranch dip. At $7.49, they were expensive. A small plate of small strips of breaded fried jalapenos - they were also a little greasy, but they were good.

I ordered Pesto Chicken: The description was: Chicken over rigatoni pasta with mushroom, spinach and sun dried tomatoes smothered in a pesto cream sauce with a side of veggies and a piece of toasted garlic bread. The veggies were enormous medallions of carrots and were exceptionally good, actually they were the best part of the meal, the garlic toast was also very good.

Unfortunately the Chicken Pesto got a fail, not for flavor which was very good, but because it was about 95% pasta, and was most definitely NOT smothered. The pesto cream sauce was delicious, but there was very little of it. I ate the few small pieces of chicken, mushrooms and spinach and most of the carrots. At $13.99 it was extremely expensive.

Larry ordered the Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and fried okra and although he doesn't much like okra he said it tasted pretty good, the meatloaf was passable and the mashed potatoes were what my mother in law calls 'dirty mash', that is they are mashed with the skins on, and they got a thumbs down from both Mildred and Larry. This was the cheapest meal at $9.99 but not worth it.

Mildred ordered Hill Country Catfish with mash and beans for $12.99. The fish she liked but as mentioned she didn't much like the mash and said the beans tasted like canned beans. We all agreed that it was no big feat to cook a decent pot of beans, so serving what tasted and looked like canned beans was just not impressive.

We won't be giving Lone Star Grill a second chance, for the same price we know we can get a decent meal at Blue Corn Harvest, and the flies were absolutely a big turn off.

Friday, October 17, 2014

North by Northwest - Austin

This restaurant is a little further a field than we usually go for dinner - about 16 miles from us, but we were meeting my stepson Travis, and this is about halfway between where we live, not that we need an excuse to eat here.

Although it is a little expensive, it is well worth every penny. The service is first class and the food is good, and for beer lovers they have a variety of very good beers. What is interesting is that I first ate here in 1997 and it is every bit as good today as it was back then.

It is probably unfortunate that the day I chose to write my review, the dish I chose was not as good as I have previously enjoyed, having said that, it wasn't bad.

We had bought two gift cards valued at $50 each from Costco at a discounted price of $79.99, so, in theory, the tip was covered. The bill for four of us for appetizer, four entrees, one beer and two sodas (yes we were being very restrained) was $80 and some change.

The girl who greeted us as we entered showed some determination in trying to divert us to the 'Happy Hour' section. She seemed disappointed when we insisted on avoiding that area and asked for a booth in the dining room, which was almost empty as we were quite early. She led us to the only booth in the room where every seat was in the direct sunlight streaming through the window. We asked to sit in a more shaded booth and she looked confused and waved at the almost empty room and told us to pick our own seating.

We started with the NXNW Sampler Platter - 'fried calamari, buffalo wings, fried artichoke hearts and sausage stuffed mushrooms with three delectable sauces: grain mustard, marinara, and jalapeño buttermilk'. This was very good and there was more than enough for everyone.

For the main course my husband and his mother both had the Beef Tri-Tip Pizza with jalapeños, red bell peppers, mozzarella and marinara, the jalapeños were fresh, not pickled. My stepson chose Pork Chop Porterhouse with roasted red potatoes and balsamic glaze and seasonal vegetables. They were all very happy with their choices, in fact Travis repeated a number of time how great his meal was.

I ordered the Cedar Plank Salmon which was served over sautéed spinach, blue cheese scalloped potatoes in a port wine demi-glas, and my main complaint was that the spinach was extremely oily. It was sautéed in garlic and oil and tasted like the garlic had not been cooked at all and the oil had not been heated sufficiently before the spinach was added, then the whole lot was poured on top of the potatoes, which were great. Unfortunately there really was too much oil and it seeped into the potatoes and the demi-glas. The salmon was slightly overcooked, or perhaps had just been kept warm too long as it was dry and the surface was a little leathery.

While I was disappointed with my meal, it was not bad enough that I wouldn't go back again but I probably would avoid ordering the same dish. The menu is so good and I have had so such great food there before, I don't think that is a problem. I am sure that NXNW would have responded positively had I complained and I probably should have.

Unfortunately none of my photos came out, OK I forgot to put the SD card in my camera ~blush~. Maybe next time I will get photos.