Thinking Outside The Box

The Low Carb Cook’s Corner

Last week I got a note from a fellow listmember of the AtkinsDiet_LoCarb support list


“Dear Rani:

Couple of weeks ago you posted a recipe for an Apple Crisp Dessert. I thought the idea of disguising zucchini as apples quite clever! I just wanted to thank you for posting that recipe and giving me a new of thinking about zucchini. We were duly impressed.

Any other “neutral” foods you like to dress up? Would love to hear about them.”

I love it when people take a recipe and run with it, with their own shifts and interpretations. James Beard once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that baking is science, but cooking is art.

I am a fan of thinking outside the box as far as cooking is concerned. Think of every food as having traits. What is its texture? What is its taste? What is its appearance? What changes does it undergo from cooking or freezing? Once you know it’s low carb and you can eat it, look for adaptability above all else.

You are looking for a food with a neutral color, minimal taste, and adaptable traits. That’s why pork rinds are so amazing. That’s why jicama and coconut and eggs and cauliflower are so versatile.

When I saw the apple crisp recipe, I was intrigued and had to make it. I was surprised at how good it was. A year or so later, I was experimenting with jicama to see if it would make French fries, and I thought, hmmmmmmm, I wonder if you cooked it in that apple cider mix, you could get an apple pie filling? So I combined the two concepts and ended up with an apple pie. It took 24 hours in the crockpot to soften the jicama to the correct texture, but, man, was it like fresh apples!

I make an exceptional stuffing from pork rinds. It’s great in turkey, chicken, and stuffed mushrooms. Four years ago, I spent several weeks, making Thanksgiving dinner over and over again, using my poor family as guinea pigs. Luckily, my nephew was staying with us and it’s amazing what 3 teenagers will eat! I made a different stuffing each time… from mushrooms, from sausage, from tofu, from cauliflower – a whole slew of variations. Many of them were, well, not very good. Some were tasty but didn’t fit my notion of Thanksgiving dinner, such as one I tried based on sauerkraut. When I hit on the pork rind one though, The Fussy Family said, “Hey, Mom, you made some REAL stuffing!”


Rani’s Pork Rind Stuffing

This will stuff a small roaster. Double or triple the recipe if you want more.

  • 1 3-4 ounce bag plain pork rinds, lightly crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 can of chicken broth
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, diced
  • Herbs to taste (I use thyme and sage.)
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter

Cook the onions and celery in the butter. Toss them with the pork rinds. Pour the beaten egg over the rind and vegetable mixture and toss lightly to combine.

Add up to 1/2 can of chicken broth until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.

Bake as for regular stuffing, in a casserole or in the bird.

This tastes and looks like “real” stuffing!

Bread pudding is my favorite “comfort food,” bar none. I developed this recipe after I developed pork rind stuffing recipe. It occurred to me that actually, bread pudding is really just sweet stuffing, so I tried using pork rinds as a sweet dessert. Amazingly, this worked, too. Don’t let the ingredients scare you off!!


Rani’s Low Carb “Bread” Pudding

  • 1 3-ounce bad of plain pork rinds, lightly crushed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 TO 1/3 cup granulated Splenda or other artificial sweetener (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)

Mix together the cream, eggs, water, artificial sweetener, vanilla and cinnamon.

Butter a 1 or 1 1/2-quart casserole. Put the lightly crushed pork rinds in the dish and pour the liquid over it.

Turn on the oven and let the casserole sit while the oven preheats to give the pork rinds a chance to absorb the liquid.

Sprinkle the top of the casserole with additional cinnamon and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

Tastes best warm.


  • For a fruity flavor, replace some of the sweetener with sugar free gelatin powder.
  • For mocha bread pudding, substitute brewed coffee for the water and add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to the liquid.
  • For almond bread pudding, mix 3 tablespoons ground of chopped almonds to the mixture and use almond extract instead of vanilla.
  • Sugar free syrups such as DaVinci can be added to the bread pudding as well. For chocolate, add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and perhaps some sugar free DaVinci chocolate syrup. You could drizzle the baked chocolate bread pudding with sugar free chocolate syrup or a sugar free fudge sauce.
  • For a dairy-free version of bread pudding, used canned coconut milk for the liquid.

Then I realized that French toast is actually pretty close in taste to bread pudding, and so the French unToast recipe came into being.


Rani’s Low Carb French unToast

Beat together two eggs, a good solid dash of cream, an equal dash of water, a packet of Sweet’N’Low or equivalent in a non-aspartame sweetener, and a dash of cinnamon.

Crumble up about half of a 3-ounce bag of pork rinds and let them soak in the egg mixture until it’s a very thick, gloopy batter.

Fry pancake-style in butter, until browned on both sides.

Serve with sugar-free DaVinci or Howard’s maple syrup or maple butter (cream together some softened butter with some maple extract and a packet of artificial sweetener).

I swear… this does taste like French toast!

And then there’s cauliflower. You probably already know how to make mashed fauxtatoes from cauliflower, but I’ve used it for rice and dumplings and… oh, goodness, I even tried it for grits once and was not really happy with the results, but it probably makes me the only person in the world who has put butter and sugar free maple syrup on cauliflower!!


Faux Rice 

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • butter (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)

Wash, clean, and trim the cauliflower, discarding any green leaves.(Save the leaves for soup, if desired.)

Shred the cauliflower by hand using the largest holes of your grater to produce rice-like little nubbins, or process it on “pulse” in your food processor.

Place the cauliflower nubbins in a microwave container with a lid or a bowl tightly covered with microwave-safe plastic wrap and steam in the cauliflower nubbins in the microwave until the are just tender. (No additional water is needed.)

The amount of time will depend upon your microwave’s power, so you will need to experiment. 6 to 7 minutes does it in a 650-watt microwave.

Add the butter, salt, and pepper according to your individual taste and serve hot.

***Note: If you are using the Faux Rice with a flavorful sauce or as a base for a flavorful stew, you may not need to add the butter or pepper, but will probably still need to use salt.


Rice – real rice – is nearly tasteless. So let’s get creative:

Cinco de Mayo Spanish “Rice”

  • 1 head of cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1/2 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • hot sauce (to taste)

Steam the cauliflower until almost tender – “al dente.”

While it’s steaming, cook the onions, garlic, and peppers in the olive oil until the onions are golden. Add the stewed tomatoes (with liquid) and salsa. Mix in the chopped cauliflower, salt, and hot sauce to taste.

See the thought process here? Think of each food’s traits, think outside of the box!!!

I have a legacy.My dear daughter came over the other night to make dinner for us. I’ve taught her well as a cook, and as a low carb cook in particular. She was making fajitas, and on a whim, threw some chocolate into the marinade, figuring it works well in chicken molé. It was just marvelous!

Check Also

Low-Carb & Keto Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Low-Carb & Keto Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Cover the Keto Stuffed Peppers with plastic wrap and microwave on high for ten minutes, or bake them, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven until the peppers are softened.

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