Thursday, January 31, 2013

Low-Carb Superbowl Goodies

Cheeseball Log for Low-Carb Crackers
Making a Cheeseball Log is Super Easy for the Superbowl

Okay, I’m not really a Superbowl fan, and neither is my husband. I’m actually addicted to the television series, NCIS, but foodies can never pass up an opportunity to talk about great party food! Plus, NCIS marathons are a regular activity at our house.

To cover my own back, I have a few low-carb munchies that I like to keep the fixings for always on hand. Otherwise, I might be tempted to dive face down into my husband’s gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. I don’t actually know how many carbs are in those cookies. I’ve been too afraid to figure it out. The homemade gluten-free hamburger buns were scary enough.

Homemade Low-Carb Dips, Salsa, and Cheese Balls

If you’ve ever checked out the ingredient label on a box of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, it reads like a corn-infested chemical soup. For years, I’ve been making my own dips and cheese balls because they are super easy and taste better than anything you’ll get out of a dip-mix package. Just start with the basic recipe, then add whatever you have a hankering for. Let the dip sit for a day or two to give the flavors time to develop, and you’ll end up with a great party dip or spread.

Basic Dip Recipe: Combine 1-cup sour cream, 8-ounces of softened cream cheese, and blend until nice and smooth. That’s it. Nothing could be simpler. If you’re doing high fat, you can also add a cup of mayonnaise.

Basic Cheese Ball Recipe: Combine 16-ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/2-cup softened butter, and blend until nice and smooth. Add any of the following variation goodies you like, and then roll it into one or two balls. Roll the ball into a plateful of crushed pecans, and refrigerate to chill.

Dip and Cheese Ball Variations:  It’s the variations where dips and cheese balls take upon themselves a character of their own. While dried minced onion and beef bouillon powder is traditional, bouillon is as scary as onion dip mix is. So go for less traditional, but tasty additions such as:
  • minced jalapeno, or other hot or sweet pickled peppers
  • bacon bits, ham bits, canned crab, or baby shrimp
  • chopped or minced red or green onions
  • black or green olives, sliced or chopped
  • minced pimentos or fresh red peppers
  • minced sweet peppers in assorted colors
  • chopped pecans or walnuts
  • grated or crumbled cheeses
  • hot and spicy mustards
  • minced celery, cucumbers, mushrooms, or radishes
  • chopped artichoke hearts or water chestnuts
  • spinach, parsley, or cilantro
  • assorted herbs and spices
  • lemon or lime juices

Serve with a nice raw veggie platter, pork rinds, cheese chips, or almond-thin crackers. My sons are particularly fond of taking a package of softened cream cheese, sitting it on a plate, and then pouring a little bit of homemade salsa over the top. That’s what they call dip – quick and easy. Salsa is also quite good with pork rinds or homemade cheese chips.

Low-Carb Chicken Wings

Barbecued Chicken Wings
How to Make Low-Carb Chicken Wings for the Superbowl Game

Superbowl isn’t Superbowl without chicken wings. In fact, they’ve been whining on the news lately in our area because the rumor is that there might not be enough chicken wings in the stores to go around. Since you only get 2 wings per whole chicken, the news has been proclaiming that this Superbowl tradition has made things rough for manufacturers. They have to figure out what to do with all of the other chicken parts. Sounded nuts to me, since chicken is so much cheaper than other meats, but that was the claim.

Hot Wings: My favorite way to cook chicken wings is to bake them in the oven and then pour a nice hot wing sauce over the top of them. That sauce is particularly easy to make. You just combine about a cup of Louisiana Hot Sauce, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, and 1 tsp cayenne pepper together. But my husband doesn’t do "hot," so I don’t make them very often.

Teriyaki Sesame Wings: Teriyaki is one of my husband’s favorite marinades, so I created this recipe back when I was doing a Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) type of diet. When I went into my recipe archives to retrieve the link, however, I discovered it was missing! So I went after it for you, because it’s a very good recipe. You can get that recipe here. I use this marinade for chicken breast, pork chops, and occasionally steak.

Heroine Wings: These wings originally came from Dana Carpenter’s book, 500 Low-Carb Recipes, that was published back in 2002. Although they’re dipped in Parmesan Cheese, they come out of the oven looking like authentic oven-fried chicken made with a flour coating. You can find the original recipe and the way I make them here. This recipe also works with chicken legs, if those are easier and cheaper for you. I'm guessing that this coating would also work for chicken nuggets or chicken strips.

BBQ Wings: Although there are low-carb BBQ sauces you can order online, it’s easy to simply make your own. Hunt’s Low-Sugar catsup is available in almost any grocery store. It used to be called low-carb, but when interest in low-carb products dropped off, Hunt’s simply renamed their low-carb catsup to low-sugar.

For a great tasting BBQ sauce, place 1 cup low-sugar catsup in a saucepan, and then add:

1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons spicy mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of Worcesterhire sauce or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spices
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon molasses
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Splenda or other sugar substitute
2 tablespoons of sugar-free honey or maple syrup

Let the whole thing simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring often. This will also work with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, but you might want it a bit sweeter and will need to add a sprinkle of xanthan gum or guar gum to thicken it.

Additional Low-Carb Superbowl Ideas

The trick is to always look for great ideas that won’t make you feel deprived. If you attempt to replace some of your favorite party foods with things you don’t like, or that are just okay, it won’t work very well. Especially if you’re around others who are chowing down on take-out pepperoni pizza, quarter-pound hot dogs in soft fluffy buns, corn chips, and sweets. You need to create a memorable menu or snack plan that will allow you to look forward to the holidays and special events. How about making:
  • Low-Carb Pizza or pizza made with a ground-meat crust
  • Super Nachos using pork rinds instead of chips
  • BBQ ribs or strips of pork shoulder
  • Hot dogs or Bratwurst without the bun
  • Cheese, meat, pickle, and olive tray
  • Deviled eggs made with any of the above dip variations
  • Cold cooked shrimp dipped in faux Honey-Mustard Sauce
  • Mushrooms stuffed with sausage, onions, cream cheese, and pork rinds
  • Chicken Quesadillas made with low-carb tortillas, sour cream, and salsa
  • Taco Bar: make up taco-seasoned ground beef and serve with all of the fixings
  • Jalapeno Hot Poppers: stuff jalapenos with cream cheese, wrap in bacon, and bake
  • Meat balls with Alfredo sauce, BBQ sauce, or hot-wing sauce
  • Chicken Nuggets with BBQ sauce or faux honey-mustard
  • Guacamole with lemon or lime juice, and a little salsa for added flavor

Parties and special occasions won’t be boring if you plan ahead and keep a running list throughout the year of tasty-sounding recipes and ideas that can spice up your everyday low-carb foods. While low-carb products shouldn’t become a habit, as they have a tendency to stall a lot of people (probably due to the wheat and corn), they can give your holidays and once-a-year events an extra-special kick.   

So…How do YOU spice up your holidays, parties, and special occasions?