Chinese Take-Out

My parents brought me to the States when I was 13. We came here for a better life and the opportunities we wouldn’t have had if we stayed in Moldova. The three of us were poor but happy; after all, we were the fortunate ones with a shot of a better life, here in the United States of America.

The week after our arrival, my family celebrated our coming to America at a local Chinese Restaurant. It was our first Chinese food, and it was special. Celebrations over Sweet & Sour Chicken and Moo Goo Gai Pan continued regularly until I moved out.

Sad to say, but I have not had Chinese food in years. First, my son was born with all sorts of allergies; Asian restaurants were banned for us. Too much risk. Then he outgrew his allergies, but I developed a couple of severe intolerances. It has been rough!

No more. I am celebrating with you today, over my version of Moo Goo Gai Pan, excited to finally be able to eat Chinese food at home, with my family. I developed this recipe out of longing, for the past and the future. Now “My Future” often asks me to make Moo Goo Gai Pan. To enjoy and to celebrate!

Chicken Take-Out

Chinese Take-Out: Moo Goo Gai Pan over Ginger Cauliflower Rice

The original Moo Goo Gai Pan is prepared with sliced mushrooms. But since mushrooms aren’t great for my health, I have removed them and simplified the recipe without sacrificing any of the flavors.

Moo Goo Gai Pan

Ingredients  

Directions

  1. To marinate the chicken, add chicken, coconut flour, chicken stock, liquid aminos, vinegar, kaffir lime leave flakes, salt and pepper in a bowl, mix well and let sit for 10 Minutes or longer
  2. In a wok, heat the avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 more minute
  3. Add the chicken and cook for 5 Minutes or until cooked through
  4. Serve over cauliflower rice (see recipe below)

Chinese Take-Out

Ginger Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a wok, heat the Avocado Oil over medium-high heat. Add the chili flakes, ginger, bell pepper,  onions and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the cauliflower rice and cook for 2-3 minutes or longer, depending on how much you want it browned
  2. Season with salt and pepper

Chicken Take-Out

Wine Pairing

When dinner is on the table, pour yourself a flute of Silvano Follador Prosecco. The crispness and bubbles of Brut Nature complements the umami of Moo Goo Gai Pan in a surprisingly delightful way

Chinese Take-Out

{ 0 comments }

Hearts of Palm Soup with Pepper Croutons

I just recently figured out why I love Latin food so much! It is because I come from a Latin country! Well, Moldova was actually one of those unfortunate European republics that got conquered against their will by the Russian Empire and then de-latinized, but this is a culinary and not a political blog, so let’s not get into the politics right now.

Anyways, if you don’t believe how much I love Latin food, just scan the recipe section of my blog! Vegetable Tortilla Soup, Mexican Bean Torta, Jalapeño-Corn Chowder, Creamy Poblano Chile Soup With Corn and Chanterelle Mushrooms, Quinoa, Avocado, and Sweet Potato Timbale With Roasted Tomatillo Dressing, and, of course, Salsa. Have I proven my point yet?

cucee mexican recipes

And given my healthy obsession with Latin cuisine, I really thought that I’ve tried my hand at pretty much every latin recipes known to men (or women.) Well, I realized I was wrong after stumbling upon this Hearts of Palm soup recipe in Mexican Today.

Having made this soup a few times now, let me tell you – it is a keeper! Not only is it kinda cool sounding (I mean, how often do you hear of Hearts of Palm soups), but it is also super tasty AND low-carb. Are you already on your way out to a grocery store with an ingredients list?

Hearts of Palm Soup with Pepper Croutons

Loosely based on a recipe from the Mexican Today: New & Rediscovered Recipes for Contemporary Kitchens

Ingredients

Directions

 

Bell Pepper Croutons

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Place peppers in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat
  3. Spread peppers in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes and then stir. Roast for another 10 minutes and check for doneness. If peppers are very brown in spots and fragrant, remove from oven. If not, stir and roast for 5 to 10 minutes more and then check again

Soup

  1. In a large heavy pot, heat the remaining ¼ cup oil over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely softened, 12 to 14 minutes
  2. Raise the heat to medium, add the hearts of palm, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, until heated through. Add the broth and ½ teaspoon salt, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes
  3. Pour the soup into a blender and puree until completely smooth
  4. Pour the soup back into the pot, stir, taste, and adjust the seasonings
  5. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, spoon about ¼ cup roasted peppers into the middle of each bowl, and sprinkle the chives

Drink Pairing

What am I pairing my food with nowadays? Bubbly! It does not upset my stomach the way wine does, and it fits well into my low-carb gut-healing diet.

If you are new to sparkling beverages, know that some are very low in sugar while others are not! The cleanest of all is Brut Nature with less than 2 grams of sugar per 750 ml bottle. Extra Brut is at 0-6 grams. And Brut is at less than 9 grams. You can also go the Extra Dry rout with about 11 grams of residual sugar.

Brut Sweetness Scale

Finding Brut Nature can be a bit tricky (I buy mine at B&L Wines.) But this N.V. Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee des Moines Extra Brut Champagne, that you can get on Amazon, is of great quality and under 3 grams of sugar per bottle.

{ 1 comment }

Cuceebabs

cuceebabs

What does one do when it is below zero and they are under the weather? They shoot the next Cucee recipe of course!

As my asthma and her hangover both turned into a nasty cold, we needed something to distract us from our cough. I grabbed ground lamb; she went for the mini-tripod. I lined up my spices; she duct-taped the flashlight to the ladder. 2 hours later, we had a recipe created, dinner on the table and a time-lapse that you are watching right now!

 

Cuceebabs

Ingredients

cuceebabs

Directions

Shaping

  1. Soak 10 wooden skewers in water for at least an hour
  2. Line 2 large chopping boards with plastic wrap
  3. In a large bowl, gently mix lamb and next 11 ingredients
  4. Divide lamb mixture in half. Move half to the chopping board and press it down evenly with your hands into a flat rectangle about ⅓ – ½ inch thick. Repeat the process with the second half of the lamb

Assembling

  1. Take the pre-soaked skewers and layer them over one of the lamb rectangles, spacing them evenly, about ⅔ – 1 inch apart. Make sure you leave about half the skewer peaking out
  2. Cover them with another lamb rectangle. Gently press to seal the two rectangles together.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and move to fridge for 30 minutes or more

Grilling

  1. Lightly oil the grates of a gas grill and preheat it to medium high for about 20 minutes
  2. Remove the lamb from the fridge. With a large kitchen knife or a pizza cutter, cut evenly between the sticks. You will end up with about 7-8 cuceebabs
  3. Place the cuceebabs on the lightly oiled, heated gas grill. Grill on medium-high heat for 4 minutes on one side, turn over and grill for another 3-4 minutes
  4. Serve immediately while they are still warm

Wine pairing

 

I can finally drink wine again!!! But not just any wine – only clean sugar-free dry farmed wine that I have discovered at Dry Farm Wines

cuceebabs cuceebabs

{ 4 comments }

Salsa Love ❤

Two types of salsas

Let’s talk Salsas. Some salsas are red. Some salsas are green. Some are black. All salsas are great!

I came back from Punta De Mita, Mexico totally excited about my new addiction. The following day, I took all my cookbooks out, pulled out my laptop and started research. That day was a busy one for me – I was making dinner for 17 people in celebration of my 12-year-old’s birthday. Yet I was way too excited not to also try my hand at salsa making.

Here are the two that I made that day. These are the two I’ve been making regularly now. They are spicy, flavorful and, have I already said, spicy? Make at your own risk (or reduce the amount of chiles by half.)

Salsa Verde

Two types of salsas

Smoky Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Loosely based and highly altered recipe from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless

Ingredients

  • 3 medium fresh tomatillos, husked and washed (about 4 ½ ounces total)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, un-plealed
  • 2 chipotles peppers in adobo
  • ½ small white onion
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Roast the tomatillos and the garlic on a rimmed baking sheet about 4 inches below a very hot broiler until soft and blackened in spots, about 5 minutes per side. Cool, then scrape into a food processor.
  2. Drain the chiles. Place the chiles, tomatillos, un-peeled garlic, salt and 3/4 cup water in a food processor. Blend until nearly smooth.
  3. Chop the onion and add to the blended salsa. Stir in enough additional water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.
  4. Season with more salt if needed. If a smokier flavor is desired, stir in a teaspoon or two of the sauce from the chiles chipotles.

Avocado Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked and washed (about 9 ounces total)
  • 2 Serrano chiles
  • 1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine the tomatillos, garlic, chile, cilantro, lime juice, salt and ½ cup water. Process to a coarse puree.
  2. Add the avocado and pulse until nearly smooth.
  3. Season with more salt if needed.

Two types of salsas

Drink Pairing

I have one word – Clase Azul Tequila!

Taquila

SAlsa Verde

{ 2 comments }

Low-Carb Meatballs Mole

Mole

Lets just all admit that Mexican food rocks! All those impossibly fresh ingredients, bold flavors and textures… and, of course, tequila! Feed me Mexican for lunch and dinner every day, and I’m your best friend for life. Guac, fajitas, carne asada – I don’t discriminate, as long as it is fresh and low in carbs.

And since we are on the subject, I want to share with you one of my favorite Oaxacan recipes  that will literally blow your mind. Yes, it is made with a scoop of chocolate, a sprinkle of chile, and a dash of creativity.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to your newest obsession – a low-carb, totally cuceelicious Mole. Just so you know THE SAUCE is the center of attention here. So go ahead, make the sauce and smother meatballs in it. If you make extra mole, save some for tomorrow’s grilled chicken or baked tofu – I promise you will want to try it with every protein on the planet.

Making meatballs

Making meatballs

Meatball prep for Mole

Mole

Low-Carb Meatballs Mole

Adapted from Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less

Ingredients 

 

Mole Sauce

 

Meatballs

 

Directions

 

Mole Sauce (can be made in advance)

 

  1. Warm the oil in a nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat, 2 min
  2. Add the onion to the pan and saute until soft, 5-7 min
  3. When the onion is soft, add the garlic, chili powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and pepper to the pan and stir for 30 seconds
  4. Add the tomato sauce, water and almond butter; stir to combine
  5. Simmer over low heat while you prep the meatballs, about 10 mins

Meatballs

 

  1. Mix meat, chili, salt and pepper with your hands
  2. Roll the mixture into small balls
  3. Add the meatballs in the pot
  4. Add the sauce
  5. Cover the pan and cook for 10 mins
  6. Stir gently to coat the meatballs in sauce
  7. Cook 5 mins more, remove the lid and cook for 5 more mins

Mole

Mole

Drink Pairing

Did I say tequila earlier in this post? My favorite tequilas are Clase Azul Reposado and Fortaleza Anejo

Mole

{ 2 comments }

Eggnog Smoothie

Eggnog Smoothie

Eating new foods is always an experience; sometimes it goes really well, and other times – not so much. For example, after my friend from Columbia made me taste a couple of Chocolate Covered Ants (a delicacy in his country,) I had to excuse myself for a few minutes. But when I tried PB&J sandwich a few years back, I surprised myself at how much I liked that combo.

So I decided to challenge myself again with a never-before-tried Eggnog. I was born in a country that has never heard of a sweet-tasting cocktail of whipped raw eggs and so I stayed away from the Holiday Drink for about 25 years.

Actually, it was exactly 24 years and 9 months after first stepping my foot in America, that I received a new cookbook. On page 208, there was a recipe of an Eggnog Smoothie. Okay, I thought. Even though this isn’t a real Eggnog, the author claims that it tastes like one, uses kefir as a base and contains NO raw eggs  – I can do that. Finally, my chance to know what this cocktail tastes like.

I liked it. It tasted creamy and rich. Like custard, but thinner and smoother. Not overly sweet. And it smelled like holidays, family and joy.

Eggnog Smoothie

Eggnog Smoothie

Adopted from Little Bites

A perfect recipe for this Holiday Season, the smoothie is fresh, light, totally addicting and completely guilt free.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients together in a powerful blender
  2. Pour into 2 glasses and enjoy

Eggnog Smoothie

It is always 5 pm somewhere

To add a bit of a special touch to the smoothie, add a little Hennessy to the mix. A shot or two will do the trick :)

Eggnog Smoothie

{ 1 comment }

Eggplant Sandwich Tacos (GF, LC, P variations)

1

Do you ever come up with an incredible recipe idea that you just HAVE to share with the rest of the world, so you create it and you photograph it and everything is perfect, but right before you post you realize that the photos of the delicious dish are all terrible? And no matter how many times you make this dish, the photos still do not turn out?

Well, this is that recipe.

So I was faced with a decision to make. Do I post a great recipe with bad pictures to my trusting epicurean readers or let my fear of judgement get the best of me and keep the recipe all to myself?

I, clearly, decided to go with the first option.

This recipe is pretty simple. Bake the eggplants in coconut oil, sandwich them together with a filling of cheeses and egg, add the toppings and serve on tortillas as tacos or on their own. Not much to it. Simplicity is key sometimes!

Eggplant Sandwich Tacos

Eggplant Sandwich Tacos

Eggplant Sandwich Tacos

I am calling for soft-boiled eggs here. You know, the ones with the fully cooked egg white and the runny and custardy yolk? When you crack into a beautifully soft-boiled egg, the yolk oozes out of the eggplant sandwich, mixes with the cheese and the pesto, turning into a perfect sauce for the dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 regular eggplant or 3 Indian eggplants
  • Corn tortillas (skip if going low-carb)
  • Filling (see below)
  • Toppings (see below)

Filling

  • ½ cup ricotta or farmer’s cheese
  • ½ cup of cheese of your choice, grated by hand  (i like Jack here)
  • 3-4 soft-boiled eggs, cooled and peeled (number of eggs depends on the number of eggplant slices)
  • Coconut oil

Toppings (pick one more)

  • Grated cheese of your choice
  • Sauteed bell peppers
  • Pesto sauce (dairy-free for paleo)
  • Homemade mild salsa

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Cut the eggplant into 1/3 inch thick slices
  3. Place the eggplant onto the baking sheet. Generously brush each piece with melted coconut oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper
  4. Bake until golden brown for about 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Cool for 10 minutes
  5. While the eggplants are cooling, make the filling (if using) by mixing the two cheeses together
  6. To assemble the Loaded Variation (see below), start with a tortilla, add one slice of eggplant, a tablespoon of pesto, a tablespoon of the cheese mixture, an egg, ¼ cup sauteed peppers, another tablespoon of the cheese mixture, another slice of eggplant, a tablespoon of pesto and a tablespoon of grated cheese
  7. You can broil these to get the cheese to melt or serve them as is. Broiling will cook the egg a little more

Suggested variations

  1. Loaded Variation: Tortilla: Eggplant > Cheese Mixture > Pesto > Egg > Sauteed Peppers > Cheese Mixture > Eggplant > Pesto > Grated Cheese
  2. Paleo, Low-carb and Ketogenic Variations: Eggplant > Dairy-free pesto > Sauteed Peppers > Egg > Eggplant

 

Eggplant Sandwich Tacos

Drink Pairing

When anyone mentions tacos, I imminently think of Clase Azul Reposado Tequila. Maybe it is because the first time I ever laid my hand on the gourmet tacos at Tacolicious, they were nicely paired with a double shot of this exquisite tequila. No going back for me!

{ 2 comments }

cookie

I love Sundays! No gym in the morning, no after-school activities to schlep my kids to. Zero commitments… On Sundays, it is ME time from the moment I wake up!

I spend most of my ME time either in the kitchen or the art room… Concocting extravagant breakfasts, making cards and jewelry, painting, sketching, photographing my favorite peeps, coming up with new recipes, writing Cucee posts…

This past Sunday, I woke up with nothing but cookies on my mind.  Which is a problem, because all the common baking ingredients, such as flour, sugar and dairy, are strictly prohibited on my gut-healing diet. So, if I really wanted those darn cookies, I had to get uber creative and think outside the high-carb cookie jar.

Which I did.

I crept into the kitchen, trying to stay quiet so as not to wake anyone up, and started experimenting. An hour later, the family (including the dogs) was neatly assembled in the kitchen, drawn by the scent of sweet vanilla. They all waited hungrily and impatiently for me to finish assembling the fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies.

The cookies did not have the longest lifespan. Most of them were snatched off the cooling rack before they even had a chance to get comfortable (or photographed.) Everyone got a bite of them, even the dogs; the crumbs, dropped on the floor, had their names written on them in bold letters.

cookie

cookie

Lemon Curd Almond Sandwich Cookies (vegan & gluten-free)

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp Stevia Original Liquid Extract (or more, depending on how sweet you like your cookies. If you feel adventurous, add ½ cup of sugar instead)
  • 1 tsp almond liqueur or ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1.5 cups sliced almonds
  • Lemon Curd (see recipe below – you will have some leftover)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, stevia and almond liqueur/extract until foamy
  3. Fold in the almonds and mix until well coated
  4. Spoon 1 tbsp of batter onto prepared baking sheet and, with a spatula, spread into a 2 to 3-inch circle. Spoon the rest of the batter on baking sheet with each cookie at least 1-inch apart
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until pale gold in color. Cool on a cooling rack
  6. To make sandwich cookies, place a teaspoon (or more) of the lemon curd between 2 cookies and serve

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Fill a medium saucepan with 1 – 2 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and keep the water at a low simmer
  2. Place egg yolks, lemon juice, zest and stevia in a large heatproof bowl and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water and whisk continuously until the yolks thicken and the mixture forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, about 5 to 10 minutes
  3. Remove the bowl from the simmering water; whisk in the butter one piece at a time, until each piece is completely melted before adding the next
  4. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour

cookie

Drink Pairing

Kefir and freshly baked cookies go hand in hand. The tangy fermented drink really balances out the vigor of the sweet cookie flavor.

cookie

{ 0 comments }

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

My daughter spent 3 weeks at a sleep-away camp and came back home with lots of beautiful memories and one major stomach upset! After weeks of listening to her camp stories and trying to get her stomach issues under control, it was time for a more aggressive medical intervention. So, in a blink of an eye, out went all inflammatory foods such as gluten, grains, legumes, prebiotics, caffeine, chocolate, sugar and dairy.

Needless to say, my girl was no longer a happy camper! A cheese lover, a chocolate addict, she was miserable on a new uber-restrictive diet. And on top of all that, the school has already started and my High-Schooler’s lunches were so pathetic and embarrassing that she would intentionally forget them at home.

So I had to come to the rescue and research the heck out of my Paleo books and Facebook groups. I collected a dozen or so unique lunch ideas that a kid her age would not mind being seen with. Her favorite one was a bread recipe that made my daughter go from :( to a big wide :) in a matter of a bite.

This IS that bread recipe and it is so flexible and forgiving that you can make a new unique loaf of bread each time you bake it, by mixing in the nuts, olives, even roasted garlic! You can also turn it into a sweet delicacy without affecting the carb count by adding a bit of stevia, freeze-dried strawberries or bananas. See more fun ideas, following the recipe.

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

If you don’t finish the whole loaf in one seating (I dare you), slice and freeze it. It is even better toasted.

Ingredients for the basic recipe

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Grind chia seeds in a coffee grinder or a Magic Bullet Blender (or purchase them already ground)
  3. Pulse almond flour, coconut flour, ground chia seeds, sesame seeds, salt, and baking soda in a food processor
  4. Pulse in eggs and vinegar, until combined
  5. Transfer batter to a lined 7.5 x 3.5 loaf pan (you can use a regular loaf pan but your bread might not rise as much)
  6. Sprinkle with poppy seeds
  7. Bake for 30-40 min
  8. Cool on a cooling rack for 30 min

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

Variations

Breakfast Bread

Rosemary Olive Bread

Garlic Bread

  • Basic recipe 
  • 10 cloves of  Roasted Garlic, halved

Italian Bread

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

Low-Carb Paleo Bread

 

{ 5 comments }

Cultured Cream Feta

Sour-cream Feta

I love getting out of my bubble, traveling the world: learning new cultures, enjoying different experiences, feeling alive.

My favorite part about traveling, though, is trying new cuisines and then bringing home ideas for future recipes.

An idea for this post came out of the airport in Romania. My first time in the business class lounge, I picked up a small plastic container of crema de branza cu smantana. A mixture of salty feta and tangy cultured cream had a flavor that instantly brought me back to my favorite childhood dish: pasta with lightly salted farmer’s cheese and sour cream. After finishing it in less than 5 minutes, I instantly knew that I have to recreate it in my kitchen and share a recipe with you.

This dish is wholesome and healthy – low in carbs, high in protein and good fats. But if you haven’t jumped the high-fat, low-carb bandwagon with me yet, you can replace the sour cream (smetana) with greek yogurt. For a kick, add some chopped onion to this dish.

Sour-cream Feta

Crema de Branza cu Smantana

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Place feta in a small bowl; mash with a fork
  2. Mix in sour cream
  3. Add green onion (optional) and give it one last mix
  4. Spoon into a small soup plate and season with salt and pepper
  5. Serve on its own or with cheese crackers or vegetable slices

Sour-cream Feta

Food Pairing

Serve on its own, with veggie slices or these Chia Cheese Crackers. The Sour Cream Feta is also great as a dressing, thinned out with some water

Sour-cream Feta

{ 1 comment }