Tag Archives: Secret Recipe Club

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John #secretrecipeclub

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

I want to thank my regular readers for their patience the past few weeks as I haven’t been posting as many recipes as I’d normally would. It’s been a time when the personal gets in the way of the professional due to selling our home in February, moving to temporary quarters in Boulder in March, and traveling to Athens, Georgia to house hunt. (I was also on a trip to Honolulu to do some food writing for the folks at Sea Cuisine – more on that soon!)

While I was in Athens, I indulged in local Southern cuisine from barbecue to grits (smothered and chopped – thank you very much!) While I was there I discovered pickled and fried okra, pickled watermelon rinds, and a dish called Hoppin’ John. It’s a combination of two staples of Southern food – black eyed peas and collard greens.

Both foods are packed with nutrition. According to Self Nutrition Data, black eyed peas are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and a good source of fiber, protein, folate, thiamin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. (The one drawback is that they’re very high in calories.) Collard greens are low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol, and a good source of fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals.

Healthing up Southern cooking

I’m looking forward to our move to Georgia and sharing healthy versions of Southern recipes with my readers. That’s why I was so excited to find a recipe for Hoppin John Vegetarian Black Eyed Peas done in a slow cooker at Kristi Arnold’s blog Veggie Converter, my assigned blog for this month’s Secret Recipe Club post.

Kristi’s recipe is very healthy already, but since I’m not a vegetarian, I decided to add smoked turkey sausage to her recipe after consulting Kristi’s original sources. (Traditionally, smoked ham hocks are used.) I kept the sausage whole instead of chopping them up, so you can decide how much sausage you want to eat and can keep a better eye on portion size. Also, I used canned black eyed peas instead of dried to make the recipe even more convenient for busy folks. I served it on quinoa, but feel free to use rice – brown, of course – which is more traditional.

And the Bacon Salt that Kristi recommends? Awesome stuff! I love how it added bacon flavor – and no calories and saturated fat – to the recipe.

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

Healthy Crockpot Hoppin' John

Note: you can health up this recipe even more by using vegetable broth, cutting back on the sea salt, and adding more tomatoes, onions and collard greens. While I loved the addition of quinoa, it can be eliminated, too, if you're watching your calorie count. And the sausage? Feed it to your skinny friends or the dog!

Ingredients

  • 4 (15.5 ounce) cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) package smoked turkey sausage, keep whole
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced petite tomatoes and diced green chilies
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 bunch collard greens, rinsed chopped and ribbed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bacon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

Directions

  1. Empty the cans of black eyed peas into a colander place in the sink. Drain and rinse until the water runs clear.
  2. Place black eyed peas, chicken broth and turkey sausage in the six quart slow cooker.
  3. Stir in tomatoes with chilies, chopped onion, and collard greens.
  4. Add sea salt, Bacon salt and black pepper. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours until sausage is cooked through.
  6. Serve over quinoa.
Servings: 10
  • Calories: 646
  • Calories from Fat: 56
  • Total Fat: 6.2g
  • Saturated fat: 1.3g
  • Unsaturated fat: 4.9g
  • Sodium: 1115mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 136.6g
  • Sugar: 8.4g
  • Fiber: 51.2g
  • Protein: 56.4g
  • Cholesterol: 27mg

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Healthy Slow Cooker Pumpkin and Bean Chili

slow cooker pumpkin and bean chiliFor this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment, I was partnered with Alison of Sweet Flours. As you can guess by her blog’s name, Alison blogs about sweet treats and baked goods. Luckily, for this healthy, gluten free blogger, she also makes savory dishes like chili. I was so enticed by her recent post, slow cooker easy pesto meatballs, that I wondered if she had any other slow cooker recipes. Luckily for me she did – slow cooker pumpkin and bean chili.

Want to join the Secret Recipe Club? You can sign up here.

Apartment cooking for three

I was incredibly grateful that this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment would be an easy-to-make slow cooker chili recipe. You see, I sold my home last month and the kids and I are living in a furnished apartment in Boulder, Colorado to see out the school year. Then we move to Athens, Georgia where my husband will start work next month. It’s been stressful and I needed to make some comfort food!

Also, while I did pack a few pans, knives and kitchen gadgets to take with me, our apartment kitchen is small and stocked with only the basics. Knowing this, one of the things I made sure to take with us was my  red, four quart Crock-Pot. Unfortunately, I dropped it when I was unloading the truck and it now bears a huge dent. It’s no longer pretty, but it still works, thank goodness.

SONY DSC

Chili substitutions

I also chose this recipe because it used canned pumpkin puree. I love the idea of using pumpkin year round as it’s so healthy – full of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, carotenoids, potassium and zinc. Add it to a chili with a lean meat, high fiber beans, chopped tomatoes, and you have a super healthy dish. I also healthed up Alison’s recipe by substituting ground beef for ground venison. You can also use ground turkey or chicken. If you want to use ground beef, choose the leanest kind you can find.

Other changes included using a red bell pepper instead of a green one as I find them kind of bitter. I used vegetable instead of chicken broth as it’s much lower in fat and calories, and ground chipotle chile instead of cayenne pepper since that’s what I had on hand. Finally, instead of plain chili powder, I used Chugwater Chili Gourmet Chili Blend. If you’re ever in Chugwater, Wyoming, stop at the gas station off the freeway (there’s only one, if I remember right) and pick up a jar of it!

Chili additions

You can also add some extra veggies when making chili. I had hoped to add a bag of okra I had the freezer. However, there was no more room in the slow cooker! Instead, I added it after we ate a few bowls. Adding extra veggies is a great way to sneak some healthy greens into your family’s diet, plus it creates more chili without much added calories or cost.

Finally, I added a tablespoon of pumpkin oil. My husband brought a small bottle of this home from a trip to Germany and swears it makes pumpkin soup super delicious. So I thought I’d try it in pumpkin chili! Don’t worry about tracking a bottle down – using pumpkin oil is totally optional. I’ve also figured out the nutritional information without the oil.

slow cooker pumpkin and bean chili

Healthy Slow Cooker Pumpkin and Bean Chili

Adapted from Sweet Flours who adapted it from Lynn's Kitchen Adventure>

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pound ground venison, turkey, chicken or lean beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder or your favorite gourmet chili blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or ground chipotle chile (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook onion, bell pepper and ground meat over medium high heat until meat is cooked through.
  2. Add salt and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add spices (chili powder through cumin) and mix thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Place onion, pepper, meat, garlic and spice mixture into a slow cooker.
  5. Add remaining ingredients.
  6. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  7. Dish chili into bowls and top with a small dollop of no fat sour cream or a large pinch of shredded cheese.
Prep Time: 15 - 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 5 - 6 Hours
Total Time: 5:15 - 6 Hours 20 Minutes
Servings: 12
  • Calories: 471
  • Calories from Fat: 48
  • Total Fat: 5.3g
  • Saturated fat: 2.0g
  • Unsaturated fat: 3.3g
  • Sodium: 311mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 72.9g
  • Sugar: 5.4g
  • Fiber: 18.5g
  • Protein: 35.5g
  • Cholesterol: 37mg

Gluten Free Mango Quinoa Halwa

Mango Quinoa Halwa

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment, I was partnered with Jayasri of Samayalarai – Cooking is Divine. Jayasri's Indian and lives in the UK, and likes to cook up traditional dishes as well as try out Western ones. I had a tough time choosing a recipe because I wanted to cook up an Indian dish but didn’t want to use ingredients that would be hard for my readers to find. I also wanted to make something that was healthy and her recipe for Mango - Quinoa Halwa in Microwave seemed to be a good choice on both counts.

Halwa is a sweet Indian dish. It’s usually made with lots of ghee (clarified butter) and can be made with carrots, banana, or semolina boiled with milk, almonds, sugar, and cardamom. Jayasri’s recipe used quinoa, which is full of healthy, vegetarian protein and is naturally gluten free.

However, I was puzzled by her microwave directions. Obviously, UK and US microwaves are very different! I decided to make my version on the stove top. I also wanted to health things up by using coconut oil for ghee and coconut milk for cow’s milk, which turned the recipe into a vegan dish. I eliminated calories by using stevia instead of sugar, and didn’t include almonds because of my daughter, Lucie’s nut allergies.

When I was researching halwa dishes, I noticed that Mythreyee of Paajaka Recipes used saffron in her Microwave Mango Halwa. Since I had a little bottle in the cupboard, I decided to use that, too.

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Mango Quinoa Halwa

Gluten Free Mango Quinoa Halwa

Based on a recipe from Samayalarai – Cooking is Divine

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mango pulp (2 mangoes), pureed
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 4 tablespoons light coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup Stevia in the Raw
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3-4 saffron threads (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Cut and peel the mangos and remove the pulp. Puree in a small food processor or blender.
  3. Place pureed mango, cooked quinoa, coconut milk, stevia, cardamom and saffron (if using) in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Stir to blend.
  4. Cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until mixture starts to bubble.
  5. Add the coconut oil. Stir to combine.
  6. Continue to cook over medium heat until mixture starts to thicken. This should take 10 to 12 minutes. The halwa should be thick like oatmeal and glossy from the coconut oil.
  7. Add raisins and stir until evenly distributed and heated through.
  8. Dish warm halwa into small bowls and serve immediately.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 4
  • Calories: 354
  • Calories from Fat: 178
  • Total Fat: 19.8g
  • Saturated fat: 15.3g
  • Unsaturated fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 6mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 40.8g
  • Sugar: 12.0g
  • Fiber: 4.2g
  • Protein: 6.5g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

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Secret Recipe Club: Crockpot Pulled Goat #secretrecipeclub #goaterie

Slow Cooker Pulled Goat Yes, you read that right – I’m slow cooking mountain goat meat. As I found out when I made carne asada, mountain goat is so tough it’s practically inedible unless made into sausages or cooked in a Crockpot.

So for this month’s Secret Recipe Club recipe I went to Jen from Bean Town Baker’s blog for a little crockpot inspiration. I found her slow cooker recipe for Crockpot Pulled Chicken that looked perfect, as mountain goat (as opposed to domestic goat) tastes just as mild as chicken. Not only that, I had all the ingredients on hand except for the tomato paste, which I omitted and didn’t miss.

If you’re using chicken, slow cook this recipe for five to six hours. However, if you’re slow cooking mountain goat, plan to cook it up to a full day. (I cooked up my batch for 20 hours, believe it or not.) You could try this with beef or pork, too. (Slow cook those meat around six to eight hours.)

This slow cooker recipe gives a nice, smoky taste to your meat of choice. Serve your shredded goat, chicken beef or pork on rice or make it into a burrito, tostado or taco.

Slow Cooker Pulled Goat

Crockpot Pulled Goat

Based on Bean Town Baker’s recipe for Crockpot Pulled Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 pounds mountain goat meat – chops, steaks, roast, etc.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, agave nectar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili powder and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker to combine.
  2. Add mountain goat, onion and garlic and stir to cover meat thoroughly.
  3. Put the lid on and cook on low until the mountain can be pulled apart – at least over night if not nearly a full 24 hours. Check often to make sure it’s not getting dried out. If the liquid levels are getting low add some water, broth or more tomato sauce.
  4. When done, shred mountain goat with a fork right in the crock. Stir well then serve.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Hours
Total Time: 18:15 - 20 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings:
  • Serving size: 6
  • Calories: 344
  • Calories from Fat: 31
  • Total Fat: 3.4g
  • Saturated fat: 0g
  • Unsaturated fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 816mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 21.7g
  • Sugar: 15.9g
  • Fiber: 3.7g
  • Protein: 52.4g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

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Gluten Free Shepherd’s Pie

Gluten Free Shepherds Pie at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com This month’s Secret Recipe Club recipe is shepherd’s pie from Shelby at The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch. Shepherd's pie is classic British pub food that’s usually made with ground lamb. However, you can make it with other ground meats (Shelby and I used venison) or even make a vegetarian version, called a Shepherdess’ Pie, with soy crumbles.

Shelby’s version of shepherd's pie uses instant gravy mix. However, since I’m gluten free, I chose to make the gravy using the method found in The Joy of Cooking. However, instead of flour, I used rice starch to thicken the gravy.

Also, feel free to use fresh, frozen or canned vegetables in your shepherd's pie. I used canned since that’s what I had on hand (and what I'm trying to get rid of before we move to Boston). I also eliminated any added salt as there was plenty of sodium in the beef broth and the steak and Worcestershire sauces.

Gluten Free Shepherds Pie at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Gluten Free Shepherds Pie at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Gluten Free Shepherd’s Pie

Based on recipes from The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch blog and The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons buttery spread, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat (lamb, venison, turkey or beef)
  • 3 tablespoons rice or corn starch
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can sliced carrots
  • 1 (15 ounce) can peas
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can beef stock, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons steak sauce

Directions

  1. Wash potatoes and cut into large chunks. (If you’re not using red potatoes, you’ll need to peel them, too.) Place in a pot of water, bring to a boil and cook until tender.
  2. Drain potatoes reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Mash potatoes with liquid and butter until fluffy. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Brown ground meat with onions. Set aside.
  5. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons rice starch with 3 tablespoons of beef broth until thoroughly mixed.
  6. In a skillet on medium high heat add garlic, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce and vegetables. Bring to a simmer and add the rice starch and broth mixture. Stir until the broth thickens.
  7. Add the browned ground meat and onion mixture to the pan. Mix and keep at a simmer. Add any beef broth you have leftover and cook until thickened. Remove from heat.
  8. Pour vegetable and meat mixture into a baking dish. Carefully spoon mashed potato over mixture. Using the tines of a fork, score the mashed potatoes, if you like.
  9. Place small chunks of the buttery spread on the mashed potatoes. Then place baking dish on a cookie sheet as the gravy may bubble over.
  10. Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees until mashed potatoes are golden.
  11. Remove shepherd's pie from oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Servings: 8 servings
  • Calories: 349
  • Calories from Fat: 85
  • Total Fat: 9.5g
  • Saturated fat: 4.1g
  • Unsaturated fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 362mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 37.0g
  • Sugar: 7.6g
  • Fiber: 6.2g
  • Protein: 28.7g
  • Cholesterol: 83mg

Gluten Free Shepherds Pie

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Gluten Free Zucchini Pancakes

Gluten Free Zucchini Pancakes at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comThis month’s Secret Recipe Club recipe comes courtesy of Tea and Scones and not a minute to soon. The late summer harvest from our garden is coming in. I had several very large zucchinis and was stuck on what I wanted to do with them. Should I made ratatouille? Stuff them? Try making some gluten free zucchini bread?

I searched Tea and Scones, and found her take on Ina Garten’s Zucchini Pancakes. Perfect!

Gluten Free Zucchini Pancakes at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

I made a few tweaks to the recipe to make it gluten free and to use up some of the sage in the garden. The whole family enjoyed them, though my husband thought they'd be a bit better served with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

I thought they were delicious on their own, and were just as good the second day cold as a lunch time snack.

Gluten Free Zucchini Pancakes at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Gluten Free Zucchini Pancakes

From Tea and Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds zucchini, grated (no need to peel)
  • 1/4 cup onion, grated
  • 2 shallots, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Grate the zucchini, onion and shallots in a food processor.
  3. In a bowl, mix rest of ingredients, except the canola oil.
  4. Immediately stir in the zucchini, onion and shallots and mix well.
  5. Heat oil in a large sauté pan or pancake skillet over medium heat.
  6. Drop 1/4 cup of batter on to the pan or skillet. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
  7. Place the pancakes on a oven safe plate or sheet pan and keep warm in the oven.
  8. Continue to make pancakes until all the batter is used.
  9. The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour
Servings: 14 pancakes
  • Serving size: 1 pancake
  • Calories: 76
  • Calories from Fat: 17
  • Total Fat: 1.9g
  • Saturated fat: 0g
  • Unsaturated fat: 1.9g
  • Sodium: 141
  • Total Carbohydrates: 12.4g
  • Sugar: 1.2g
  • Fiber: 1.3g
  • Protein: 2.9g
  • Cholesterol: 23mg

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Flat Belly Diet Chicken Piccata

Flat Belly Diet Chicken Picatta at This Mama Cooks! - thismamacooks.com This month’s Secret Recipe Club comes from The Pretend Chef. In her post about her Chicken Piccata recipe, she shares a sweet story about when her son, “Itty Bitty” was little and she and her husband, “Mr. Sideline Chef” were living at a motel in Washington where he worked. After discovering the recipe in the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook by Cynthia Sass and Liz Vaccariello, she started making it at home. It’s a very easy dish to make and takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

The Flat Belly Diet

The Flat Belly Diet is an eating plan based incorporating monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) into every meal to target belly fat. The Pretend Chef features 32 Flat Belly Diet recipes. You can also check out eight Flat Belly Diet recipes here at This Mama Cooks!

In my opinion, Cynthia and Liz use way too much olive oil in their recipes, so I’ve reduced it by half in this dish. Yes, you want to “fry up” the chicken breasts, but there was so much olive oil in the pan (1/4 cup originally) that it splattered everywhere. Using a bit less would be just as effective – and less messy I would hope. (I probably spent 10 minutes cleaning up the oil off the stovetop, counters and microwave hood.) Using less olive oil also reduces the calorie and fat gram count.

Also, I used two huge chicken breasts instead of chicken tenders, since that’s what I had in the freezer. This increased the amount of chicken used. (The Pretend Chef used 12 ounces of chicken tenders.) While you’ll be tempted to eat it all, a proper portion size would be half of the half chicken breast – about 4 ounces of chicken.

Since I’m gluten free, I dredged the chicken in brown rice flour. You can use whatever flour you like – white, whole wheat, oatmeal, rice, etc. I also doubled the lemon juice, parsley and capers. They’re really the best part of the dish!

Finally, serve this with a side dish. Some ideas would be whole wheat pasta, steamed or roasted veggies, brown rice, couscous or quinoa.

Flat Belly Diet Chicken Picatta at This Mama Cooks! - thismamacooks.com

Flat Belly Diet Chicken Piccata

Based on a recipe from the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (approximately 16 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose gluten free flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Lay the chicken breasts on a cutting board.
  2. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and use a meat tenderizer mallet to flatten to 1/4" thickness.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of the flour on each side of the chicken breast halves. Make sure to coast the chicken as evenly as possible.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil to the skillet and heat until sizzling.
  5. Place the chicken in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cooked through.
  6. Remove chicken breasts from skillet and place on an oven safe plate. Keep warm in the oven until you’re ready to serve.
  7. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  8. Season to taste with the black pepper.
  9. Serve the chicken with the pan juices and a side dish.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Makes 4 servings
  • Serving size: 1/2 chicken breast
  • Calories: 291
  • Calories from Fat: 103
  • Total Fat: 11.4g
  • Saturated fat: 2.2g
  • Unsaturated fat: 9.2g
  • Sodium: 350mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 4.8g
  • Protein: 40.3g
  • Cholesterol: 108mg

Weight Watchers POINTS = 7

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Gluten free chocolate cake in a mug #secretrecipeclub

gluten free chocolate cake

This month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment was Judee’s Gluten Free A-Z Blog. I was intrigued with her recipe for Chocolate Cake in a Mug that used gluten free coconut flour, which is high in protein and fiber. However, since she used bananas and sugar – two things I can’t eat due to my food sensitivities – I knew I’d have to make adjustments.

The first time I used a combination of her gluten free recipe and the original recipe that she modified since I don’t have to avoid eggs. Here’s what I came up with:

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake in a Mug (Version 1)

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Add dry ingredients to microwavable mug and  mix well with fork.
  2. Add egg and mix well.
  3. Pour in coconut milk, oil, and vanilla and chips.
  4. Mix well and put mug in microwave for 3 minutes.
  5. Remove , allow to cool a little, and tip onto plate .

gluten free chocolate cake in a mug Baking gluten free at a mile high

I’m going to be honest with you and say that the first three gluten free chocolate cake in a mug cakes I made (I made seven chocolate mug cakes in all) didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. First, it was challenging to get the cake out of the mugs in one piece even after I released the sides with an offset spatula. The cakes usually split in half (see below).

Second, the cakes were dry, which maybe meant I needed to add more oil or milk or microwave the cake for less time.

Third, the cakes were, as my son put it, “Too chocolaty and not sweet enough,” probably due to using too much dark chocolate and not enough sweetener. (I’ve added more sweetener to the recipe above.)

Fourth, I loved the shredded coconut, but the kids weren’t too crazy about it.

Frankly, since I moved to Colorado over 20 years ago, I’ve been baking challenged. When I use a premade mix from the store, it’s usually fine. But when I bake from scratch, it never turns out as planned. So, maybe it was me and not Judee’s recipe. (After all, it turned out well for her.)

Needless to say I was determined to try a few more versions, this time adding more sweetener, more coconut milk, and trying applesauce instead of banana.

gluten free chocolate cake in a mug

More variations on Gluten Free Chocolate Cake in a Mug

Note: directions for Versions 2 through 5 are the same as in the first version.

Version 2 (My favorite)

Ingredients:

Version 3 (My daughter Lucie’s favorite)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic High Fiber Coconut Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Stevia Extract in the Raw
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Dagoba Organic Chocolate Unsweetened Drinking Chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3.9 ounces of Mott's Healthy Harvest Sauce Country Berry (one single serving cup)
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon gluten free, pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

Version 4 (My son Nathan’s favorite and Lucie says it tastes like brownies to her)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic High Fiber Coconut Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Stevia Extract in the Raw
  • 1 tablespoon Sweet Tree Coconut Palm Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 + 1 tablespoon cup light coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon gluten free, pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

Version 5 (Lucie likes this one, too)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic High Fiber Coconut Flour
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon gluten free, pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

Not quite there yet, but still a delicious gluten free chocolate treat

The kids and I really liked the gluten free chocolate cake in a mug made with the Mott’s applesauce. However, the cake was so moist that it wouldn’t come out of the coffee mug. I’d suggest scooping out half of the cooked cake, putting it in another mug, then adding a scoop of ice cream (or your favorite soy or coconut ice cream if you’re dairy free) or whipped cream to top it off. Note: a half to a third of the mug cake is usually enough for one person.

Also, in versions 2 through 5, I used smaller mugs instead of the large mugs I’ve purchased from Starbucks when I travel. (So far I have Starbuck’s mugs from Minneapolis, Denver, New York, San Diego and Chicago.) I suggest using a large mug if you have it since it seems easier to get the cake out of the larger ones.

Finally, adding more sweetener, whether coconut sugar, agave or stevia powder, adding more coconut milk, and using semi-sweet instead of bittersweet chocolate chips worked much better. The chocolate flavor was less bitter this time around.

All in all, I had almost as fun a time experimenting as my kids did in trying out the various gluten free chocolate cake in a mug treats. If I hadn’t run out of coconut flour and time, I would have made a few more variations and tried to perfect the recipe even more.

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Disclosure: Scharffen Berger and Dagoba provided me with samples of their products to use in my chocolate dessert recipe development.

A gluten free Ethiopian feast #secretrecipeclub

Ethiopian wot with egg and injera For this month’s Secret Recipe Club post, I was assigned Healthy Green Kitchen. (Want to join the Secret Recipe Club? Sign up here!) Since Winnie and I have a similar food philosophy – healthy, simple, gluten free and “eco-groovy” (love that term) – I thought this would be an easy assignment. Well, that’s not exactly how things turned out.

First, I had to pick a recipe. Charcuterie, pho or latkes? French or Thai? This was too hard! Then her food category, Ethiopian and recipes for injera and wot, caught my eye.

I love going out for Ethiopian food. My favorite is the Queen of Sheba restaurant in Denver. I first dined there at a blogger meet up organized by my friend, Lucretia. Since then I’ve taken my family there several times. We all love it and wish it was closer. So when I saw Winnie’s post, injera and wot (a traditional Ethiopian meal) I was excited. Finally some Ethiopian food I could make at home!

Making injera

The first challenge was to make injera, the Ethiopian pancake-like bread that is used to scoop up food at meals. (Traditionally, you eat Ethiopian food with your fingers.) It’s made from teff flour, which is gluten-free since teff is a seed not a grain. You can purchase Bob’s Red Mill Teff Flour at your local health food store or online.

I planned ahead and used the sourdough method outlined in Winnie’s post over six days. Where I had problems was cooking up the injera. At first my batter was too thin, so I added more teff flour. Then I used too much batter and it wouldn’t cook through. Then it kept breaking when I flipped it. After going through the entire batter, I had about three intact (but delicate) pieces of injera.

Then I tasted one. Blech! This was not the light and spongy injera I get at Ethiopian restaurants. The injera I made was gritty, crunchy, dry and nasty – like an overcooked buckwheat pancake with no sweetener added to it. Also, the color of the injera was much different than the ones I get out. This leads me to think that restaurants could be using wheat flour in their injera instead of teff.

Making wot

I was glad to see that Winnie featured a vegetarian wot with eggs. I love the wot and eggs dish we order at Queen of Sheba, so I hoped her recipe would be similar.

Her wot recipe involved several spices I didn’t have in my cupboard, like cardamom and caraway seeds. Even so, it was hard to find everything I needed at my local grocery store. This dish was very easy to cook up, but did involve 30 minutes of prep time to cut up all the vegetables. I took a few short cuts like using frozen, cut up green beans and potatoes that I didn’t have to peel, which helped somewhat.

I reduced the amount of oil and doubled several of the vegetables so I’d have enough for a main course instead of a side dish. Doing so required cooking it in my  biggest saute pan. You could also use a wok.

The kids loved the wot and it got high marks from my husband. Even so, something was off. While I thought this dish was tasty (and boy did it smell great) it wasn’t exactly like the wot I’ve had in restaurants. Something was missing or maybe there was too much cinnamon - I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Even so, I will be making this again, especially when we have a surplus of squash from the garden.

vegetables

Vegetarian wot with hard boiled eggs

Based on the recipe for vegetarian wot at Healthy Green Kitchen

Serves 6 as a main dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 large carrot or two handfuls of baby carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup plus another 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups diced summer squash
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cored and sliced
  • 8 very small red potatoes with skin on, cubed
  • 1 small green chiles (I used a red jalapeno)
  • 12 ounce bag of frozen, cut green beans
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons course sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and pierced 1/2 inch deep all over with a toothpick.

Directions:

  1. Over low-medium heat, cook the onions and shallots in a large dry saucepan. Stir frequently until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium, and add the canola oil. Add the garlic, ginger, paprika, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, caraway seeds and coriander and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the carrots and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and 1 cup of the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid has thickened, 5-8 minutes.
  5. Add the squash, cabbage, potatoes, chiles, green beans, turmeric, and the other 1/2 cup of water.
  6. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  7. Add the eggs to the stew and stir gently so that everything is combined. Serve warm.

Serve with warmed brown rice or whole wheat tortillas or Flatout Flatbread wraps if you don’t have a local source of Ethiopian injera takeout. Also, Ethiopian restaurants serve beer or honey wine. I had my wot with hard cider – delish!

Nutritional information

  • Calories 438
  • Calories from Fat 156
  • Total Fat 17.3g
  • Saturated Fat 2.4g
  • Trans Fat 0.1g
  • Cholesterol 186mg
  • Sodium 1175mg
  • Total Carbohydrates 61.9g
  • Dietary Fiber 12.3g
  • Sugars 12.7g
  • Protein 14.5g
  • Vitamin A 87%
  • Vitamin C 171%
  • Calcium 16%
  • Iron 27%

Nutrition Grade A from CalorieCount 

Weight Watchers POINTS = 9

Venison Chorizo Picadillo

Venison Chorizo Picadillo at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com Each month, Secret Recipe Club participants are assigned a participating food blog from which we’re to make a recipe. It's a secret, so you can’t tell them you are making something from their blog! I was assigned Recipe Taster and chose Alessio’s recipe for Cuban Picadillo. I was intrigued that a Sicilian man living in Bonn, Germany would cook up a Cuban dish. Then that’s Alessio for you! He’s a scientist, an artist, a food blogger, and calls himself a Renaissance man – a perfect description for someone with his range of talents and interests.

Picadillo

But back to the food. I love picadillo, a traditional dish in Cuba, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I usually make my picadillo in the slow cooker with onions, apples, raisins and spices. However, I wanted to make a different version and Alessio’s picadillo recipe looked perfect. I loved that he used raisins, olives and potatoes in his dish. However, I had a problem - I didn’t have any green peppers or olives in the house.

Venison Chorizo Picadillo at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

So I improvised and replaced the peppers with celery, but thought the whole thing would fall apart without the olives. Instead, I decided to give the picadillo a Mexican flare by using chorizo, which I just happened to have defrosting in the refrigerator for our weekend breakfasts.

I used ground venison and chorizo made from venison, both of which are very lean. (Our game processor doesn’t add fat to the chorizo.) You can make this with lean ground beef or even ground turkey. If you don’t have a Hispanic grocery store in your area, spicy breakfast sausage is an OK substitution for the chorizo. Just remember to cook and drain the fat from whatever meat you use to cut back on the fat and calories.

My picadillo also features Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted Adobo Seasoned Petite Diced Tomatoes, which gave the dish a terrific smoky flavor. Unfortunately, Muir Glen doesn’t make it anymore. (I either got it at my “dented can” store or possibly through their Reserved Kit program.) A good substitute would be Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies.

Venison Chorizo Picadillo at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Venison Chorizo Picadillo

Based on Recipe Taster’s recipe for Cuban Picadillo and this Chorizo-beef Picadillo Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup onions, chopped into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon green chili sauce
  • 8 ounces chorizo (venison)
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground venison or very lean ground beef
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) Muir Glen’s Fire Roasted Adobo Seasoned Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, potatoes and garlic and cook until onions start to brown and caramelize. Stir often and turn down heat if vegetables begin to burn. About 10 minutes.
  2. Add salt, cumin, oregano and green chili sauce. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add chorizo, breaking it up and stirring it into vegetables.
  4. When chorizo has browned, add the ground meat. Break up meat and stir into other ingredients.
  5. When meat has browned, add in the seasoned tomatoes. Stir to combine with other ingredients.
  6. Add raisins and stir to combine.
  7. Cover skillet and turn down heat to low.
  8. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  9. Serve on top of rice.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: Makes approximately 6 cups - 8 servings
  • Serving size: 3/4 cup
  • Calories: 343
  • Calories from Fat: 183
  • Total Fat: 20.3g
  • Saturated fat: 7.4g
  • Unsaturated fat: 12.9g
  • Sodium: 532mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 13.1g
  • Sugar: 7.3g
  • Fiber: 1.5g
  • Protein: 26.7g
  • Cholesterol: 94mg

Weight Watchers POINTS = 7

Weight Watchers POINTS = 5 for 1/2 cup of picadillo

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