January 10, 2004

Click here to subscribe to Lowcarbezine!

Order The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook from Amazon.Com
Order 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes from Amazon.Com
Order 500 More Low-Carb Recipes from Amazon.Com

Order The Low-Carb Barbecue Book from Amazon.Com

Order 15-Minute Low-Carb Recipes from Amazon.Com

Order How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet -- And Lost Forty Pounds! from Amazon.Com

Order 500 Low-Carb Recipes from Amazon.Com

Hey, Gang -

Finally! Here it is! The first Lowcarbezine! of 2004. Hope you enjoy it!

Id like to say Hi! to the

over 800 new subscribers weve gotten in the past week! Nothing like national television exposure, you know? To all of you who have just started your low carb journey with a New Years Resolution, welcome to the club! We have a lot more fun here than you may suspect.
And to answer a question Ive gotten repeatedly this week: Yes, Wayne Brady really is just as nice and just as good-looking as you think he is. Yowza.

Read on!

Dana

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:05 PM

Low Carb On a Budget

I've written about this before, but it's been quite a while, and we've gained a whole slew of new readers since then, so I thought it was about time to address it again - especially since everyone's still trying to pay off the holiday credit card balance!

Many people are convinced that low carbing is terribly expensive. There is some truth to this, but less than many people think. I, by way of example, have been low carbing for over 8 years, and for many of those years we were fair-to-middlin' broke - I wasn't a best-selling author yet, and my husband was a grad student. I learned a few things about the economics of low carbing, and I hereby pass them on to you.

* First of all, the most common "budget stretcher foods" - white flour pasta, white rice, white bread, white sugar, hydrogenated shortening - are so nutritionally empty and damaging to the body that they wouldn't be cheap if they were given away. Potatoes are somewhat more nutritious, but still have a sky-high blood sugar impact. What could possibly be cheap about "food" that makes you tired, makes you gain weight, ruins your health, makes you cranky and depressed, rots your teeth, and just plain makes you hungrier? You must get over the notion that your old diet was cheap. You were just paying for it in other places, that's all.

* The staples of a low carb diet are animal protein - meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and cheese - and low carb vegetables. These come in more and less expensive versions. Your body does not care whether your protein comes from $12 per pound lobster, or $1.99 per pound catfish, from $7.99 per pound rib eyes, or from 59c per pound chicken leg-and-thigh quarters. Both asparagus and cabbage are very low carb vegetables, but only one of them is cheap year round.

* Don't forget about eggs; they're not just for breakfast. Even if you're paying $1.25 per dozen for eggs, a two-egg portion comes to just over 20c. That's cheap for a lunch or dinner, even when you throw in enough cheese or other ingredients to turn those eggs into an omelet.

* Do your own prep work. Lettuce is cheaper than bagged salad, whole chickens are cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You pay for everything that is done to your food before you buy it, so buy it unprepared.

* A deep freeze is a wonderful thing to have. If you're on a tight budget, you may think you can't afford one, but it's important to look at the long-term savings involved in buying sale meats in bulk, and in being able to keep leftovers for future use. I bought my freezer used, six or seven years back. It cost me $225, including delivery and a 3 day warranty, from a reputable local used appliance dealer. It's a Sears Coldspot, a good brand, and it hasn't given me a second's trouble. It's absolutely huge, too! One word of warning: Don't buy really old used appliances. Energy efficiency has improved tremendously over the past decade or so, and you don't want to be spending money on electricity that you could spend on food.

* Stop eating out! Even cheap fast food is cheaper at home, and you won't be tempted to sneak a few fries from someone else's bag.

* Which means taking lunch, of course. I'll cover bag lunches in the next Lowcarbezine!

* Don't get into the low carb specialty food habit. Low carb bread, bagels, chips, ice cream, pasta, etc, etc, etc, are flooding onto the market. Some of this stuff is pretty good, some of it is wretched, but almost all of it is very expensive, and exactly none of it is essential to a low carb diet. An occasional treat of sugar free chocolate or a low carb tortilla is all well and good, but if you start eating low carb bread and pasta and such as often as you ate the high carb variety, you'll go broke in no time. Furthermore, you're less likely to lose weight, because almost all of this stuff has more carbs than, say, a leftover chicken leg. Base your diet on inexpensive protein foods and vegetables, not highly processed specialty stuff.

* Shop around. In the same week, I have seen cauliflower at $1.89 per pound and $3.29 per pound, at different stores - that's a big difference. In particular, if you have one of those "all house brand" stores near you, these are terrific places to buy basic commodities like eggs, block cheese, butter, oil, bacon, canned tomatoes, tuna, vinegar, mayonnaise, etc, etc, etc, at low prices. I visit my local Save-a-Lot on a semi-regular basis to stock up on this stuff.

* Buy in bulk. If you can possibly find the freezer or pantry room for extras, buying stuff when it's offered as a loss-leader sale can save you a lot of money. Think of it as investing. So long as it's stuff you know for sure you'll consume, buying at, say 20% off the regular price is the same thing as making 20% on an investment - tax free.

* Cut corners wherever else you can, if that's what it takes to feed yourself and your family decent, nutritious food. Drive a used car, shop at yard sales and thrift stores, cancel your cable television and watch videos from the public library - whatever it takes. Food is the very stuff of life, and the quality of your life and your family's lives are directly dependent upon it. Once you have a roof over your head, no matter how humble, nothing else you can buy is more important.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:04 PM

Signs of the Times

The Low Carb Invasion is now complete. People no longer look at you funny when you tell them you're not eating carbs - instead, they say something like, "Oh, yeah, my dad (mom, sister, cousin, best friend, whatever) lost a ton of weight on that diet." Not only have we made The Food Network, as announced in my special notice Saturday, but suddenly people are catering to us everywhere you look!

* Both Ruby Tuesday's and TGI Friday's have new low carb menus.

* Subway is now offering their sandwiches as low carb lettuce wraps. (They've long offered an extensive line of salads.)

* McDonald's has a few great salads, with the choice of crispy (breaded) or grilled (low carb!) chicken.

* Hardee's and Carl's Jr. (owned by the same parent company) are now offering their burgers wrapped in lettuce, as an alternative to a bun. You also get a little cardboard envelope thingie, to make them neater to eat.

* My local grocery stores are nearly bursting with low carb specialty products - breads, bagels, Atkins mixes, sugar free chocolate,etc, etc, etc. The best selection is still found at stores like my beloved Sahara Mart, who really specialize in this stuff, but the proliferation of low carb products in grocery stores demonstrates the impact we're having!

* Furthermore, WalMart, America's biggest retail chain, is now carrying a fair selection of low carb specialty stuff, including a line of their own.

* Trader Joe's, a chain of health food/gourmet/international stores with remarkably good prices, now has a line of low carb and sugar-free products, although as of December 23rd, they still had not made it as far as the stores in the midwest. I deeply envy all of you who live near a Trader Joe's!

* Dedicated low carb specialty stores are popping up. Carb Smart, with whom we here at Hold the Toast Press have a long and felicitous relationship, was one of the first, and they've been growing by leaps and bounds. But I know that Greenwood, Indiana, just south of Indianapolis, now has a low carb specialty store, and reports are coming in from all over. One friend in Arizona even spotted a Low Carb Mall!

* And last but not least, my very own cookbook, 500 Low-Carb Recipes, was the #3 best-selling cookbook of 2003, not just among other low carb cookbooks, but among all cookbooks. That's a whole lot of people going low carb!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:01 PM

A Letter For My Canadian Readers

Regarding the Food Network show Low Carb Revolution I announced in the Special Notice, Chris in Toronto writes:

Hi Dana,

You may wish to pass on to your Canadian followers that Low Carb Revolution will appear on Food Network Canada as per the following email I got from them:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for contacting Food Network Canada. We appreciate your interest in The Low Carb Revolution. This program will air on January 25 at 10pm ET as part of our No More Excuses Marathon. The No More Excuses Marathon airs on Sunday, January 25 from 8 p.m. to midnight ET/PT. Other exciting programming includes:

Cooking Light: Making A Difference (Canadian Premiere) at 8 p.m. ET
Spa Chef Diet Challenge at 9 p.m. ET (Canadian Premiere)
Oliver's Twist: Health Kick (Canadian Premiere) at 11 p.m. ET
Cooking Thin: Elementary Eating (Canadian Premiere) at 11:30 p.m. ET

Thank you for taking the time to write to Food Network Canada. We hope you continue to enjoy our programming.

Sincerely,

Viewer Relations
Food Network Canada
Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting Inc.

Thanks for letting me know, Chris! Consider the message passed on. Having watched Low Carb Revolution tonight, I can tell you it's terrific, and George Stella is gonna be a star.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:59 PM

Product Review: Chocolate!

Just a couple of quickies:

* The Sorbee brand of sugar-free products has been around for years, often appearing in the "diabetic" section of mainstream grocery stores. They now have "Fine European Chocolate" bars, in both dark and milk. I have the dark chocolate bar in front of me, and I'm pleased to say that both the flavor and the texture are excellent. This is nice because Sorbee products are often found (at least in my experience) in stores that don't do much to cater to low carbers. They also tend to run a little cheaper than some of the chocolate bars aimed specifically at the low carb market. They're in a shiny gold wrapper; look for them!

* Venerable candy company Russell Stover has long had a line of sugar-free chocolate candies, which they've recently re-positioned as specifically low carb. I've tried a couple of these - the peanut butter cups are fine, the chocolate truffle cups struck me as overly sweet. But I've had reports from readers that the price on these products jumped quite a lot when they were re-labeled "low carb." A big raspberry to Russell Stover for profiteering off of us. After all, the cost of making the candies hasn't gone up just because they changed the label. Phooey.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:56 PM

Mad Cow: Should You Be Worried?

The predictable and predicted event has finally occurred: A case of mad cow disease has been identified in the United States. Since the vast majority of low carbers are regular carnivores, it's an issue that concerns us perhaps even more than it does the general population. Just how worried should you be?

There's no question that mad cow, aka Bovine Spongiform Encephelopathy, is a horrendous disease, and not only is there no cure, there is none currently on the horizon. You get it and you die, and die horribly.

On the other hand, only one sick cow has been identified so far in the USA. This doesn't rule out the possibility that there are others, but there is not, so far as anyone can tell, anything even resembling an epidemic of mad cow disease in the United States.

More encouraging is the fact that even if a cow is infected, and that cow is slaughtered for food, most of the meat from that animal will be unaffected. The prion that causes mad cow disease infects neural (nerve) tissue, not muscle tissue. You have to actually consume neural tissue to become infected. Chucks, rib eyes, and sirloins are not likely to be a problem.

So where does the risk lie?

Obviously, if you eat the old delicacy of poached calves' brains with scrambled eggs, you're playing fast and loose. But I suspect it's a rare Lowcarbezine! reader who is eating brains deliberately.

A more realistic source of bovine neural tissue in the American diet is cheap ground beef. When a cow is slaughtered and butchered, the mostly stripped skeleton is put through machinery designed to "recover" every last scrap of meat, and those scraps are generally used for cheap hamburgers. The problem? The recovery machinery can sometimes break the spinal cord open, contaminating the hamburger with neural tissue. Assuming a healthy cow, this is no big deal. Assuming, however, a cow that carries the mad cow prion, we now have a serious problem.

If you're worried about mad cow, it therefore makes sense to quit eating cheap hamburger. This would include both most fast food burgers (although MacDonald's claims to only buy beef from cattle that have been tested) and cheap, pre-packaged grocery store hamburger. For good measure, you might also avoid cheap pre-formed frozen hamburger patties, and those sold in your really scary eateries, like, say, public school cafeterias.

This doesn't mean you have to quit eating ground beef altogether, of course. Ground chuck, ground round, or ground sirloin that have actually been ground in your grocery store should be safe, since they contain only the cuts of meat specified on the label. You could even buy a chuck or round roast and have the nice meat guys grind it to order. People don't make nearly enough use of the nice meat guys, who are generally helpful and knowledgeable (at least hereabouts) and have never once charged me for service, though I'm not promising it couldn't happen.

For that matter, grinding meat in a standard-size food processor is a snap - cut the meat in chunks, removing any gristle or sinew. Throw it in the processor with the S-blade in place, and pulse the thing until your meat is the texture you'd like. You can even grind in a little onion, garlic, or other seasoning in the process.

If you can afford it, another possibility is to buy only grass-fed, organically raised meat. The mad cow problem has only arisen because of the meat industry practice of feeding ground up animals, animal blood, and even animal waste, to cattle - who are, of course, herbivores by nature. Therefore, cattle that is raised outside the Big Meat Industry, and fed only on grass and the like, should be perfectly safe.

It's also a good idea to be careful about beef-based luncheon meats and sausages. Read the labels carefully, to avoid anything that might be tainted with neural tissue. In particular, be wary of "mechanically separated" meat. "You get what you pay for" is a pretty good rule of thumb - anything really cheap made of bits that are ground up and stuck back together probably contains things you don't want to think about, even if you're not working on avoiding mad cow disease.

Avoiding mad cow is the name of the game, by the way. Unlike germs that cause food poisoning, like salmonella and e. coli, the mad cow prion is not destroyed even by prolonged cooking.

Of course, there's nothing about a low carb diet that requires you to eat beef at all. You can low carb quite nicely on pork and lamb, poultry and fish, eggs, and cheese. You could even throw in the occasional rabbit or duck, both available through most large grocery stores. Still, most of us really like a good steak. It's good to know that most steaks are safe, although T-bones, being cut from right along the spine, often contain a little bit of spinal cord in the bone. Don't eat it! Personally, I'd rather have a rib-eye anyway. But if you're really leery of the whole thing, no one could fault you for skipping beef altogether.

Still, risk analysis is an important part of life, and it's good to know that fewer than 150 cases of mad cow in humans have been identified world wide. Your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and the other diseases of carbohydrate intolerance are infinitely greater than your risk of mad cow disease. Furthermore, your chances of dying of some other sort of food contamination, like the previously mentioned e. coli or salmonella, are far greater than your risk of mad cow. A deep breath and some level-headed looks at the options are a good idea. Panic is uncalled for.

One more thing: I have generally kept politics out of this journal, and indeed, out of all of my work, with the exception of food politics. This is one of those exceptions. It is important that Lowcarbezine! readers be aware of the truly scandalous state of US meat inspections, and the fact that the USDA is, at the moment, no more than a toothless paper tiger. The cattle ranching industry has fought USDA oversight with every weapon they could bring to bear, resulting in a "regulatory body" that has virtually no power to regulate, and "inspectors" who do almost no inspecting. A perfect example is the fact that only since the discovery of a case of mad cow in the United States has the USDA finally banned the sale of "downer cattle" - cattle who are ill or injured enough to be unable to stand - for meat. Obviously, a steer with a broken leg is an okay source of meat, but one that is sick enough to be unable to rise? It makes my skin crawl just to think about it.

Personally, I would be willing to pay a bit more for my beef (and for that matter, for all of my meat) to ensure that it was safe. If you feel the same, write, call or email your Senators and Representatives, and tell them that you want tough new regulations of the meat industry, and you want them now.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:53 PM

Zucchini Bread

Many low carbers tell me they miss having "a little something" with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast, and express a profound weariness with eggs. Here's something for you! This Zucchini Bread is moist, sweet, cinnamon-y, and delicious - not to mention being low carb, and having as much protein per slice as a couple of eggs!

Zucchini Bread

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sugar-free imitation honey
2 eggs
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 cup ground pumpkin seeds
1 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup Splenda granular
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about one 6-inch zucchini)

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a good-sized mixing bowl, combine the oil, imitation honey, eggs, and yogurt. Whisk these together. Now, in a second bowl, measure the dry ingredients: the ground pumpkin seeds, vanilla whey protein powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and Splenda. Stir them together, making sure any little lumps of baking soda get broken up. Now whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir just until everything is well-combined; no need for prolonged beating. Finally, stir in the walnuts and the shredded zucchini, mixing well.

Pour into a loaf pan you've sprayed well with non-stick cooking spray - my loaf pan is large, 5" x 9". Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack for cooling.


About 16 slices, and quite delicious! Per Serving (not including the polyols from the imitation honey): 194 Calories; 14g Fat, 14g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber - for a usable carb count of just 3 grams a slice.

Notes:

* Sugar free imitation honey is becoming more and more available, and a useful little product it is - in this recipe it adds some extra moisture. I can get sugar-free imitation honey here in Bloomington at my local Marsh grocery store, and I've heard that WalMart now carries a brand. For that matter, many of the low carb etailers carry Steele's brand of imitation honey. In short, it shouldn't be too hard to get your hands on some. However, if you can't, just use 1/4 cup more Splenda, and be careful not to over-bake your bread.

* Speaking of Splenda, it's important to know that Splenda granular - the stuff that comes in bulk, in a box or the new "baker's bag" - is different than the stuff that comes in the little packets. The stuff in the packets is considerably sweeter, apparently. All my Splenda measurements are for granular Splenda. I'm afraid I don't have the packets on hand (I've never purchased them) so I can't work a conversion for you. Take a look at the box, and see how many teaspoons of sugar each packet equals, and work from there, remembering that there are 48 teaspoons in a cup.

* Just about every health food store on the planet carries shelled, raw pumpkin seeds. I've been using them a lot in place of the ground almonds or hazelnuts I've often used in the past, partly because they're cheaper and more nutritious than nuts, and partly because a lot of people write me regarding nut allergies, wanting to know what they can substitute. The pumpkin seed meal has worked beautifully in every recipe I've tried so far! Just grind them in your food processor, using the S-blade, until they're about the consistency of cornmeal.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:49 PM