Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cheeseburger stuffed mushrooms recipe {low carb}

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When I started eating a low-carb diet, my family's diet changed too.

My (healthy) husband and two (healthy) teenage boys do not and should not have to eat as carefully as I do. They don't have the health problems that prompted me to make these changes.

But I am my family's primary grocery shopper, meal preparer, refrigerator stocker and lunchbox packer.

I also have a full-time job and a side business to run (my Not Ketchup sauces).

All of which means I am not very interested in making two sets of meals - one for me and one for the rest of the family.

My protein-loving family loves most of the low-carb foods I have been enjoying. These Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms disappeared quickly. I glazed some of them with my new *No Sugar Added* Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup, and that was also a big hit.

I love these Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms because they're easy, fast, low-carb, and FUN. Dinner tastes so much better when you can eat it with your fingers, don't you think? These would also be a great low-carb appetizer for a cocktail party.

Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms


  • 12 large mushrooms (I used crimini mushrooms)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded or finely chopped cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup *No Sugar Added* Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup sauce


  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Wash the mushrooms and carefully pop out the stems. Brush each mushroom with olive oil and lay it on the baking sheet.
  3. Put the mushrooms in the oven for about 10 minutes. The idea is to cook them partially before stuffing them to concentrate the mushroom flavor a bit and get out some of the liquid.
  4. While the mushrooms are cooking, mix together the ground beef, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese in a bowl. Roll the beef mixture gently into 12 balls.
  5. Remove the mushrooms from the oven, then put one beef ball inside each mushroom. Press down gently and smooth the beef mixture so it fills the entire hole and extends all the way to the edges of the mushrooms. If using the Not Ketchup, brush about a teaspoon on top of each stuffed mushroom. 
  6. Return the now-stuffed mushrooms to the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the beef is cooked through. Serve immediately with more Not Ketchup for dipping.

Preparation time: 45 minutes | 6 servings

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How to change your life: Talking to myself

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One of the tools I have used as I made some long-overdue lifestyle changes over the past year has been talking to myself, or what I like to call "the script in my head." Sort of like Stuart Smalley and his "Daily Affirmations" from Saturday Night Live.

When you're trying to break bad habits, every day is a series of decision points. And at every point, you have a choice: You can make a good decision that moves you closer to your goals, or a worse decision that doesn't.

During the first few months of trying to break my bad habits, I found it helpful to have a prepared "script" in my head as I met each decision point. 

Actors have scripts that (mostly) have beginnings, middles and ends. They know where the story is going. They know how they're supposed to react when other actors say their lines or do something. They rehearse their lines so that when they speak them on camera it sounds natural. 

So I figured if I had lines, a script, that I could go back to and practice, eventually that script would feel natural. The words, but more important the feelings and actions, would start to come naturally.

Here some of my internal conversations:

When I look in the mirror and get frustrated with my size and shape

  • It took a long time for your body to get this way. It's changing because you're making good decisions and taking care of yourself. It won't be perfect overnight, or maybe ever, That's okay.
  • If your health is getting better, it doesn't matter what your stomach looks like.
  • Grandma Rose always had a belly, and she was the most beautiful woman in the world. (A fact.)
My Grandma Rose and me, c. 1989. Isn't she gorgeous?

When someone offers me food that doesn't fit my current eating preferences

  • Just because they're asking doesn't mean you need to say yes.
  • Is that food going to make you healthier or sicker?
  • Are you actually hungry? Physically hungry?
  • You don't have to eat that to know what it tastes like.
  • You don't have to eat that just because everyone else is eating it.

When I have a craving for food that doesn't fit my current eating preferences

  • Don't think about how it looks or smells. Think about how it will make you feel.
  • You think you want it, but is it going to make you healthier or sicker?
  • Will taking one bite make you want more or will it be enough to satisfy you? Be honest now.
  • What can you eat that will hit the same flavor notes but fits within your current preferences? (That's how I created my low-carb eggplant parmesan casserole - I was craving pizza.)

When I don't feel like exercising

  • Would you rather get on the elliptical / go for a walk / ride your bike or take another pill?
  • You'll feel better five minutes after you start.
  • Exercise is a non-negotiable part of your day.
  • Put on your exercise clothes and sneakers, then decide. (Once I'm dressed, I figure I might as well.)
  • Exercising will lower your blood pressure and blood sugar instantly. Skipping it is stupid.

Notice that none of these scripts is about losing weight. Not one. For me, this journey toward better health has not been about losing weight. It's about getting healthy, and that's it. After a few months I realized that I wasn't hearing these voices in my head as often because I needed them less. 

Have you ever tried to change your habits by talking to yourself? How did it work for you?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Roasted Hatch chile mayonnaise

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It's Hatch chile season again, and food lovers in my neighborhood are going nuts. The long, tapered green chiles from New Mexico have a cult following here in southern California. I can get both the hot and mild varieties at just about every grocery store within a 10-mile radius.

Many stores have chile-roasting events in their parking lots so you can take home bags of freshly roasted chiles instead of having to roast them at home. Personally, I don't mind roasting them at home.

I wash the Hatch chiles, turn the burners on my gas stove to high, and lay the peppers directly on the iron grates of my stove. I turn them until they're blackened on all sides, then pop them into a zip-top bag to steam. The charred skin slips off easily and I'm left with strips of fragrant roasted chiles to use in sandwiches, quesadillas, casseroles, and condiments like this Hatch Chile Mayonnaise.

I've already made several quarts of this roasted Hatch Chile Mayonnaise since Hatch chiles showed up in local stores a few weeks ago. My husband and sons love it on a roast beef sandwich. Or you could:
  • Spread it on a sandwich with roast turkey, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, shaved red onions and watercress
  • Spoon it on a burger (put some diced roasted Hatch chiles in the burger itself, too)
  • Serve it with broccoli fritters, zucchini fritters or spinach pancakes
  • Use it as a sauce for oven-roasted salmon fillets or chicken
  • Mix it with chopped hard-boiled eggs for the best egg salad of your life

print recipe

Hatch Chile Mayonnaise
A simple condiment made with roasted fresh Hatch chiles from New Mexico
  • 6 Hatch chiles (hot or mild)
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
Wash the Hatch chiles. Roast them over an open flame on a gas stove (I lay mine directly on the burner grate), turning frequently, until the skin is black and charred on all sides. (If you don't have a gas stove, broil the peppers in the oven, turning frequently.)Put the charred Hatch chiles in a zip-top bag for 30 minutes. They will steam as they cool.Slip the charred black skin off the chiles. If you want your Hatch Chile Mayonnaise very mild, remove the seeds and ribs from inside the peppers. Put the roasted Hatch chiles, mayonnaise and lime juice into a food processor. Process until smooth.Store in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hatch chile chicken salad

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When Hatch chiles are in season, I turn into a crazy girl who stalks her local produce guy and pounces on every case he sets out. Thank goodness Melissa's Produce keeps Bob's Market, the family-owned market in my neighborhood, fully stocked with both mild and hot Hatch chiles when they're available.

Every year I roast dozens of Hatch chiles over an open flame right on my stove, slip off the charred skins, and freeze them in zip-top bags. (See How to Roast Hatch Chiles on Shockingly Delicious for detailed instructions.)

Hatch chiles have a unique flavor and meaty texture that's long been prized in New Mexico where they're grown. They can be hot or mild, but even the mild ones have a little kick. In fact, I love Hatch chiles so much that I created a new flavor of Not Ketchup around them - and now Tangerine Hatch Chile Not Ketchup is my best-selling sauce!

When I puree roasted Hatch chiles with mayonnaise and make chicken salad, my family weeps with joy. Okay, maybe they weep because it's spicy, but whatever. They really like it. And you will too.

print recipe

Hatch chile chicken salad
Roasted Hatch chiles add a welcome zing to this spicy chicken salad.
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 mild or hot Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Puree the mayonnaise, Hatch chiles, lime juice, and garlic in a blender or food processor until smooth.Pull the chicken meat off the bones, shredding it with your fingers. Discard the bones and skin (or save them to make chicken stock). Put the chicken meat in a large bowl with the green onions. Spoon the Hatch chile mayonnaise into the bowl and stir to combine. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.Serve chilled. If you have time to let the chicken salad sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving, great - the flavors will mingle and intensify.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings

Monday, August 8, 2016

How to change your life: This is not about losing weight

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Erika Kerekes hiking in the Santa Monica mountains - not to lose weight, but because exercise makes me healthier
I go hiking because I love it and it's making me healthier - not to lose weight

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I have spent the past year changing my life to improve my health.

I've changed the way I eat. I've made a commitment to daily exercise.

But most important, I've changed the way I think about food, exercise and my health.

When I decided last year to make these changes, I set a goal.

Unlike all the health-related goals I had set in the past, this goal was not about losing weight. This one had nothing to do with a number on a scale.

What do I really want?

That day in August 2015 when my doctor called with the bad news, I thought about what I really wanted for the rest of my life, however long that is.

I realized I want two things.

I want to be healthy. And I want to be happy.

Everything else matters less.

I hate dieting. And dieting doesn't work for me.

I know I'm not the only one who hates the word "diet."

Here's what goes through my brain when I think about dieting:

Deprivation. Longing. Missing out. Spartan. Measuring. Boring. Strict. Rigid. Proscribed. Negative. Irritable. Temporary.


If I want to stay healthy for the rest of my life, my new way of eating can't be temporary. It has to be permanent.

No wonder dieting never worked for me in the past.

Pan-seared wild salmon with pesto and blistered cherry tomatoes
I don't use the word "diet" anymore. Food can make me sick, or it can make me healthy.

Retraining my brain

Every change I have made this year has been about getting healthier, not about losing weight.

A year ago, when I was trying to figure out what and how to eat, I decided I would look at food and ask one question:

Is this going to make me healthier, or is this going to make me sicker?

Making the right decisions instantly got easier.

But not only easier. Happier. Choosing foods that would make me healthier felt good. Being in control felt good. And knowing that I was doing something to change my life for the better made me happy.

Being happy made it easier for me to continue to make the right choices for my health.

This journey is not about losing weight.

Three months after my doctor's fateful call, I went in to see him again.

In three months, the changes I had made dropped all the worrisome numbers back into safe territory. I was no longer sick.

As it happened, I had also lost weight. But that wasn't what put the smile on my face. That wasn't what was making me happy that day.

I love my doctor very much. He's supportive, gentle and eminently reasonable. But I had to change the way he thought about my health, too.

"What's your goal?" he asked me at that three-month checkup.

"My goal is not to be sick," I answered.

"No," he responded, "I meant, what's your weight loss goal?"

"My weight loss goal is not to be sick," I said. "If I never lose another pound in my entire life, and my blood tests and other exams tell us that I'm healthy, then I will have reached my goal."

Few changes truly happen overnight.

Next time I see him, my doctor will probably ask me again about my weight loss goal. And I will probably have to remind him that, for me, this is not about losing weight.

My brain is still in transition mode, too. Sometimes I catch myself looking at my body sideways in the mirror, thinking "Why is my stomach still so huge? If I'm doing all the right things every single day, why haven't I lost more weight? Why aren't I smaller yet?"

And then I think about what I want. What I really, really want.

And I realize that I'm getting there.

And I step away from the mirror.