January 30, 2006

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Hey Gang!

Here's this week's opus! Time to cook dinner.


Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:17 PM

The Sad Death of Ketatoes, and How To Cope With It

As long-time readers are aware, I was never a huge fan of low carb specialty products. I spent a lot of time urging folks to base their diet on meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds - real, unprocessed food - and to use the low carb specialty products cautiously, as a treat, or to deal with cravings.

Still, there were a few products that made their way into my kitchen regularly, and one of them was Ketatoes. For those of you who never encountered them, Ketatoes were the low carb equivalent of instant mashed potatoes, and came in several flavors - sour cream and chive, bacon and cheddar, that sort of thing.

The regular, plain Ketatoes were the ones I used, but I never used them according to package directions - which were basically, "Mix with hot water, add butter, salt and pepper," very much like regular instant potatoes. Prepared this way, I found Ketatoes had an odd, slimy, gummy texture, probably due to the high oat fiber content.

What I used Ketatoes mix for instead was to add a potato-y flavor to that old low carb standby "Fauxtatoes," aka Pureed Cauliflower. Adding f Ketatoes mix to pureed cauliflower yielded a dish that was remarkably like mashed potatoes in both texture and flavor, but still with far fewer carbs. I called this The Ultimate Fauxtatoes, and came up with many variations.

From there, I branched out to using Ketatoes mix to add a potato flavor to things like Irish Stew and UnPotato Soup. These recipes were very successful. As a result, several recipes using Ketatoes mix wound up in 500 More Low-Carb Recipes and in 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes.

So imagine my dismay when, between the time those books went to the printer and when they hit the bookstores, I learned that Ketatoes mix had gone off the market. Argh. Argh squared. I have rarely been so frustrated.

In the intervening year I've spent a little time trying to come up with an alternative. One, of course, is to simply make traditional Fauxtatoes, as we have for years - they're tasty in their own right, and absolutely dirt low in carbs. And Cream of Cauliflower Soup, like the one in 500 Low-Carb Recipes, is awfully good too. But my Irish Stew recipe just isn't the same without a potato flavor in it. And my mashed-potato-loving husband had come to really love having his Fauxtatoes have a genuinely potato-y flavor.

Thus arose Faux-Po. Faux-Po is very simple: Using my microwave (as I always do to steam vegetables) I cook half a big head of cauliflower with about 6 ounces of actual potato - that's about half a medium-sized potato. When they're both tender, I use my hand blender to puree them together. (If you don't have a hand blender, you could use a regular blender or your food processor's S-blade.) To this I add butter, salt and pepper for basic Faux-Po. Assuming that this is 4 servings, each will have about 8 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 7 grams. This is actually a lower carb count than The Ultimate Fauxtatoes recipe as it appears in 500 More Low-Carb Recipes.

You can of course vary Faux-Po just as you could The Ultimate Fauxatoes - add a little sour cream or buttermilk, plus minced green onions, or blend in a chipotle pepper and some shredded cheddar. With a steak, Balsamic Faux-Po is nice - along with the butter and salt, add a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, and give the whole thing a little extra shot of pepper.

This ratio - a half a big head of cauliflower to 6 ounces of potato - works well for Cream of Cauliflower and Potato Soup, too. Heat a little butter, oil, or bacon grease in a big saucepan, and saute a diced onion, and maybe some celery, until it's soft. Then add the cauliflower and potato, cubed, along with chicken broth. Simmer until the cauliflower and potato are soft. Scoop out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and puree in your blender or food processor (or just puree everything in the pot if you have a hand-blender.) Add browned ham cubes or sliced smoked sausage, simmer for another twenty minutes or so, salt and pepper to taste, and you've got pure ambrosia for a cold, nasty night.

My original decarbed Irish Stew called for layering chopped cauliflower, diced turnips, a sprinkle of Ketatoes mix, cubed lamb, and salt and pepper, repeating the layers till you had a Dutch oven-full. Then you added water to barely cover, and simmered it very slowly for several hours. Eventually a little more Ketatoes mix was added to the gravy while thickening it with our usual guar or xanthan gum.

Now instead I grate one baking potato, and put a thin layer of grated potato over the more substantial layers of cauliflower and turnip. In the long, slow simmering, the potato mostly dissolves, imparting a potato-y flavor to the whole stew. (This is why you need a baking potato rather than a boiling potato, like red potatoes - the mealier baking potatoes are more likely to break down, which is what you want. A russet or an Idaho baker is about right.)

I haven't reworked every recipe that formerly used Ketatoes, but I expect that this sort of adaptation will work with all of them. The important figure to keep in mind is that each 6 ounces of potato will add 31 grams of total carb with 3 grams of fiber to the total recipe. That's 28 grams of usable carb - that's the number you want to divide by the number of servings to figure out how many extra grams of carb you'll be getting.

Now let's hope they don't stop making low carb tortillas. I have a hunch that would be a much harder problem to solve.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:15 PM

Another fabulous cookbook from Dana

Reader Review of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes

I have all of Dana's cookbooks. I like all of them and recommend them without reservation. That said, this one is my favorite (so far). I have been low-carbing for about 4 years now. Dana's books keep me sane and interested in low-carbing. Some of my favorite recipes from this book include: Cheesy Chipotle Soup (p.417). It is great on a blustery day or if you have a congested nose. General Pam's Cheesecake is super easy and using different extract flavors makes it a new experience every time (p. 500). Brussel sprouts in browned butter (p. 176). I have always like them but this twist makes them really wonderful; even my hubby commented on them. Island pork chops (p. 345) and Jill's coleslaw (p. 201) are also outstanding.

I have dozens of family favorites from each of her books. I'm never at a loss for something to cook.

Can't wait to receive her new slow cooker book.

S. Clark, Sacramento, CA

Thanks, S. Clark! Now you've got me wondering if I've got the ingredients for Cheesy Chipotle Soup in the house...

To see this and other reviews of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes, go to Amazon

Much as we love Amazon, (and we do love Amazon!,) it's good to know that 500 More Low-Carb Recipes is available at brick-and-mortar bookstores around the country.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:01 PM

Low Carb Cold Care

Low Carb For Life Reprint - Low Carb Cold Care

As you can see from the first paragraph, this column originally appeared in the autumn of 2004. It may be late winter now, but I still know plenty of people with colds! I've altered this column a bit to bring it up to date with the state of the low carb market.

Summer's gone, autumn's here, the leaves are changing. You know what that means. Right, the cold and flu season is upon us. Indeed, as I write this I have a scratchy throat, a snorky nose, and a tight chest. Ugh.

So I thought it would be timely to fill you in on low carb cold care. Low carb cold care? Yep. There actually are a few potential pitfalls, let me help you skirt them.

Please don't decide, "I'm sick. I deserve pampering. I may as well go off my diet." Nutritionists from Dr. Atkins to Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS have long insisted that eating sugar will weaken your immune system, and indeed a little research turned up a 1995 study showing that the activity of immune system cells called leukocytes decreases significantly when blood sugar levels rise. If there's any chance that eating a lot of carbs will keep you sick longer, you don't want to do it!

Just as important, if you've been low carb for even a few weeks, you've probably noticed a dramatic increase in energy. Do you really want to give yourself one of those energy-sapping blood sugar crashes that come after the blood sugar rush? Talk about feeling wretched.

Here are some ideas for low carb cold care:

* Juice is not your friend - it's a great way to take in tons of sugar, without any of the fiber that would buffer its absorption if you were to eat the fruit.

* Sadly, Hood's Carb Countdown Juices are no more. But Minute Maid has a line of reduced-sugar juice drinks with 1-2 grams of usable carb per serving, and added vitamin C. If you really crave juice, they're an option. Still, they're a highly processed food, and some of them do include the extremely evil high fructose corn syrup, if only in small quantities. (Some also contain something called "GLYCEROL ESTER OF WOOD ROSIN," which sounds bizarrely like shellac, to me...)

* You could always take vitamin C in pills, you know.

* Hot beverages are soothing to a scratchy throat, and loosen chest congestion. Tea is the obvious choice (she said with a big pot of tea sitting close to hand.) If you're used to honey in your tea while sick, be aware that just one teaspoon has 5.7 grams of carbohydrate, all sugar. There are a couple of brands of sugar free imitation honey on the market - Steele's and HoneyTree. These are remarkably good, and available through online retailers and low carb specialty stores.

* We've been drinking Sipper Sweets brand sugar free raspberry lemonade mix, made hot. This is very good, very easy to make (nuke a cup of water, stir in a little mix,) and has just 1 gram of carb per serving. The lemonade and apple cider mixes by Sipper Sweets would be good hot, too. (NOTE: Since I wrote this, the market has changed. I'm still finding these products advertised on line, but some stores are saying they're on clearance, which makes me wonder if they've been discontinued. )

* Beware of cold medicines! Cough syrups and liquids like NyQuil have a lot of sugar. Buy NyQuil, DayQuil, and the like in soft gels, instead. Pharmacies carry sugar free cough syrups, often labeled "diabetic formula."

Again, your best bet for these is a pharmacy, not the grocery store or a discount store.

* Chicken soup is standard for colds, but most packaged chicken soups have noodles or rice in them. If nothing else will do, it's good to know that Campbell's Chicken Noodle has 8 grams of carb per serving - not great, but not terrible. Chicken Rice has 7 grams of carb.

* If there's a local Chinese restaurant that delivers, consider sending out for egg drop or hot-and-sour soup. Though recipes vary, both tend to be lower carb and higher protein than canned chicken noodle. Hot-and-sour soup - my cold-care favorite - has the added advantage of hot peppers to help clear out your nose.

Can't get delivery? With boxed or canned broth in the pantry, this egg drop soup is quick and easy enough to make in your weakened condition.

Eggdrop Soup

1 quart chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon guar or xanthan (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 scallion, sliced
2 eggs, beaten

If you're using the guar or xanthan, first put a cup or so of the broth in your blender, turn it on low, and add the guar. Let it blend for a second, then put it in a large saucepan with the rest of the broth. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and scallions. Heat over medium high burner, and let it simmer for five minutes or so, to let the flavors blend. Have your eggs beaten in a glass measuring cup or small pitcher - something with a pouring lip. Take a fork, and start stirring the surface of the soup in a slow circle. Pour in about a quarter of the eggs, and stir as they cook and turn into shreds, which will happen almost instantaneously. Repeat three more times, using up all the egg, then serve. 3 biggish servings, or 4-5 small ones; easy to double! Assuming 4 servings, each will have 2 grams of carbohydrate, a trace of fiber, and 8 grams of protein.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:51 PM

Addenda to Last Week's Article (on S.A.D.)

I heard from several of you about Seasonal Affective Disorder; it's clear I have plenty of fellow-sufferers. I wanted to clarify one thing, though: If you decide to take vitamin D supplements, discontinue taking 2000-3000 IUs per day as soon as you start getting some sun in the spring. 400-1000 IUs is far more reasonable in the summer, assuming you spend some time outside, and don't bath in SPF 4,683 every time you set foot out the door. Vitamin D overdose isn't common, but it's not unknown.

A couple of readers added their experience with SAD. A reader named Karen says:

I just wanted to add one thing to your SAD article. My brother, who lived in Pittsburgh., where the sun doesn't shine much in winter, found that if he started going to a tanning salon in late November, he didn't get depressed or crave carbs.

Something to think about.

I've heard of this too, but didn't mention it because I couldn't find anything in the Pubmed Database. Most medical websites recommend not using tanning beds for phototherapy, and insist that the light must shine in the eyes (which is dangerous in a tanning booth) to be effective.

However, if Karen's brother was using a bed that provided both UVA and UVB light, it might be that the improvement is due to increased vitamin D levels.

(Too, I find sun phobia to be a lot like fat phobia - everyone is just sure that sun is bad for you, but the research doesn't back it up. There's growing evidence that sun exposure without burning actually has many benefits, and cancer rates are lower in the southern part of the USA than they are in the north.)

Another reader wrote regarding the use of a light box:

Spare yourself the trouble and the money.. I spent well over $200 and it did not work at ALL with sitting closely in front of it for 30 minutes a day.. it was a waste of money..! Good luck to you. I live in Berlin, Germany and believe me, I can relate to the gray dark days.. it is TOUGH!

All I can say is thank goodness January is almost over, February is a short month, and by March it's usually spring here in Southern Indiana!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:49 PM

Vegetable Beef Soup

Cooking Low Carb!

Because it's cold and rainy here, I'm thinking longingly of soup (if the soup references earlier in the 'zine hadn't already tipped you off to that!) So on the hunch that at least some of you feel the same way, here's a recipe from The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook, due out this spring. Usually Vegetable Beef Soup has potatoes or noodles in it - but simmered with everything else, you'd never know the turnips weren't potatoes.

Vegetable Beef Soup

A true classic. Eat it at the kitchen table, and you'll feel like mom is patting you on the back.

2 quarts beef stock
1 medium turnip, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced thin
1 large rib celery, sliced thin
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, juice and all
2 cups frozen green beans, cross-cut style
3/4 pound boneless beef chuck, in 1/2" cubes
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf

Put your stock in a big soup kettle, and put it over medium high heat. While it's warming, do all your peeling and chopping and opening. Just throw everything into the pot as you get it cut up. Bring to a simmer, cover, turn the burner down to low, and let it cook for at least an hour, and two is better. That's it!

6 Servings: 215 Calories; 9g Fat; 12g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Fiber; 15g usable carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:47 PM

January 23, 2006

Click here to subscribe to Lowcarbezine!

Order The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook from Amazon.Com
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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!

Here’s your Lowcarbezine! And it’s grown a bit again. With that lightening-fast comprehension that marks my every move, I realized that I could add an archived Low Carb For Life column to each issue, and it would be new to all of those whose local papers don’t carry my column. So that’s what I’ve done.

Read on!


Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:16 AM

Surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sick and tired of winter yet? I am. And when I say “sick and tired” I mean sick and tired! I, like many other folks, suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder – fatigue and depression caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter months.

It’s been particularly fierce for me this year, because we’ve had a warm but gray winter here in Southern Indiana. I like the warm, but the gray part has me ready to weep. I’m sure that winter used to involve frigid but brilliantly clear days, the sun sparkling off the snow with near-blinding intensity. Instead we’ve had a long run of days in the 40s and 50s, damp, with heavily overcast skies. Okay, so I like not shoveling snow. But I’d trade the warmth for some sun!

Why am I bringing up Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Because one of the common symptoms is serious carb cravings, and that’s of special concern to us.

Let’s look at all the symptoms of SAD. They include:

  • regularly occurring symptoms of depression (excessive eating and sleeping, weight gain) during the fall or winter months.
  • full remission from depression occur in the spring and summer months.
  • symptoms have occurred in the past two years, with no nonseasonal depression episodes.
  • seasonal episodes substantially outnumber nonseasonal depression episodes.
  • a craving for sugary and/or starchy foods.
  • Fatigue, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.
You begin to wonder if bears have the right idea – just sleep all winter.

Oddly enough, I have all of these except the craving for sugary and/or starchy foods. I attribute this to having been low carb for so long that my brain just doesn’t run on that track anymore. But the reason for carb cravings during Seasonal Affective Disorder is simple, and it’s the same reason you may get carb cravings in any stressful or depressing situation – carbs cause a rush of serotonin in the brain, and serotonin makes you feel more cheerful. (As many of you no doubt are aware, antidepressant drugs like Prozac and Paxil work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.)

So here you are, full of good intentions after the New Year – and faced with biochemically driven carbohydrate cravings. What can you do?

The standard treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is light therapy, also called phototherapy, using a full-spectrum light box that gives off 10,000 lux. Please don’t ask me to define a “lux.” I looked it up, and the explanation went into “lumens per meter squared.” Which would be useful if I knew how much a lumen is, but I don’t. Just know that this is a considerably more intense light than you’ll get from your average light bulb.

Anyway, a couple of hours exposure to a light box – for instance, putting one on your desk first thing in the day as you work – is the most commonly recommended treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am seriously considering investing in a light box. However, after some shopping around on the internet, the least expensive one I can find, called the HappyLite, runs $170. This is considerably cheaper than the $350 the local medical supply store wanted.

Still, I just bought a new house, and the budget’s stretched pretty thin right now. So I did a little poking around for cheaper measures that would still be effective.

Cheapest, and good for us in numerous ways, is to take a walk outside on any day that’s not utterly frigid or stormy. As I mentioned, here in Southern Indiana our winter’s been quite mild, but depressingly gray – not really inviting weather for a hike to the end of the road and back. I keep reminding myself that even on the grayest day I’ll get more full-spectrum light during a 45 minute walk than I would from any electronic device, and walking in itself is an antidepressant.
Not to mention an aid to weight control and general health. Score!

Of course, I work at home, on my own time, which gives me the freedom to walk out the door in the middle of the day. But if you’re having serious mid-winter blues, I urge you to get outside for at least a little while any day the weather’s not ridiculously harsh, even if you just go walk around the parking lot at work for 15 minutes during your lunch break.

A search on the PubMed database turned up a very interesting study of the effects of vitamin D supplementation on SAD. Vitamin D is, of course, the vitamin/hormone that is created in your skin during exposure to sunlight. It makes all kinds of sense that SAD would be caused, at least in part, by low vitamin D levels.

Sure enough, in this clinical study, subjects who had Seasonal Affective Disorder and were given a single whopping dose of vitamin D – 100,000 IUs – were found to have improved significantly on all “outcome measures” – all the tests that the researchers were using to quantify their depression and fatigue. Excitingly, the subjects given vitamin D improved far more than those who were given the standard phototherapy.

I read this study when my SAD was really at a low point – getting out of bed was an exercise in will, and focusing on writing was near-impossible. As soon as I read about the vitamin D study, I ran to my health food store and bought a bottle of 1000 IU vitamin D capsules. I swallowed five of them as soon as I got home, and another three that evening. I felt noticeably better by the end of the day, and with continued doses of 3000 to 4000 IUs of vitamin D per day, I have been improving ever since. Okay, so I’m still longing for spring. But at least I can get up in the morning, and get some work done during the day. That’s a big improvement, and I’m grateful for it.

(Worried about overdose? Don’t be. It’s estimated that a scantily-clad (ie, bathing suit-wearing) white person spending five to ten minutes in the summer sun will create at least 4000 or so units of vitamin D. Taking a few thousand IUs of fish oil D per day during the winter will not create an overdose.

Speaking of which: Black folks create far less vitamin D in their skin than white folks do, which is why the rates of rickets – weak bones from vitamin D deficiency – have long been higher in black folks in northern regions than they are in white folks in the same regions. I urge my black readers to take vitamin D supplements year ‘round, and to give them to their children.

Too, there is growing evidence that our national obsession with sun screen is causing more health problems than it prevents, because of reduced vitamin D formation. Some researchers are now claiming that for every case of skin cancer we prevent we are causing ten cases of breast, prostate, and colon cancer.)

Interestingly, there are very few food sources of vitamin D, which is why I referred to it as a hormone earlier. It appears that we were not meant, for the very most part, to get our vitamin D from food, but rather by creating it in our bodies from regular exposure to the sun.

Milk and other dairy products contain vitamin D, but only because synthetic D has been added to them; these are not sources of vitamin D in their natural state. Oily fish like sardines, mackerel, tuna, and salmon have some D, as do egg yolks, mushrooms, and liver. You’ll notice something interesting about these few food sources of vitamin D: They’re all low carb. If you’re fond of chicken livers – I love them – sauteing some mushrooms and onions with some chicken livers, then pouring in beaten eggs and scrambling the whole thing together would be about as high-D a meal as I can think of. (Now I’m making myself hungry!)

The very best source of vitamin D is fish liver oil, which is why people from far northern climes have taken cod liver oil for centuries – what with getting so little sun half the year, they learned that they were healthier, and their children grew better, if they took that magical fish liver oil every day. This is a very smart idea, and I take cod liver oil all year ‘round, both for its vitamin content, and for its healthy EPAs. The 1000 IU capsules I’ve been adding to my cod liver oil are also from fish liver oil, but they’re more concentrated.

Some doctors prescribe antidepressant drugs for SAD, to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Most antidepressants fall into the class of SSRIs – Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors. What this means is that they slow the removal of serotonin from the teeny gaps between brain cells (known as synapses) so that the effects of the serotonin are felt more.

Instead, I’ve been taking 5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP. Extracted from an African seed, this supplement is the immediate chemical precursor to serotonin, so taking it actually increases levels of serotonin available in the brain. Be aware that 5-HTP is still being studied and is controversial; it’s up to you whether you want to try it. However, do not try 5-HTP if you are already taking antidepressants. It’s a potentially bad combination.

You can increase your serotonin levels to a lesser degree by eating plenty of foods that are high in the amino acid tryptophan. High tryptophan, low carb foods include poultry, fish, cheese, avocados and nuts. Milk is also a good source; it’s not low carb – 12 grams of lactose per cup – but it is a low impact carb, so many of you should be able to tolerate it. Plain yogurt is another good high tryptophan food (flavored yogurt has tryptophan, but is loaded with sugar.) Add your favorite flavoring extracts and the sweetener of your choice.

Some people find that St. John’s Wort, which appears to have a similar action to the SSRI drugs, is helpful for SAD. If you try St. John’s Wort – and again, don’t combine it with pharmaceutical antidepressants – be aware that it increases your sensitivity to sunlight, making sunburn much more likely. Not a problem for most of us right now, but if you use a tanning bed or are going on a winter vacation, be careful.

(By the way, any of these approaches can be helpful in dealing with emotional carb craving in general.)

Of course, the ultimate treatment would be a two-week vacation in the Caribbean, but I can’t afford either the money or the time, can you? I have vowed, however, that if I have another best-seller, I’m buying myself a winter place in Mexico.

I hope this info helps my fellow SAD sufferers to shake their winter blues without a major carb binge. And here’s a cheerful thought: Groundhog Day (February 2) is just around the corner – and that’s halfway to spring!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:03 AM

Dana is my Heroine!

I recently bought this cookbook, and already own her Carb Counter, 500 Low Carb Recipes, and 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes. I love her writing style, and she's "been there, done that", as far as low-carbing goes. I have never made something that I didn't like from her books, and the recipes are easy to follow ~ I am no fancy cook. The Teriyaki Ribs were so good my DH wants me to do this instead of grilling them! I made her coleslaw recipe from the 500 Low Carb Recipes to go with it, and my family was in love, and I am the only low-carber in the bunch! I think the best testament to Dana I can give is, I ordered the other three cookbooks of hers I didn't have, today. I have gotten rid of any other author's LC cookbooks I have, as well. You ROCK, Dana!!!

S. Martin (FL, USA), April 11, 2005

See this and other reviews of 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes at Amazon.com

Much as we love Amazon – and we do love Amazon! – I’d be remiss not to let you know that 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes is available at bookstores across America.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:58 AM

Low Carb on a Budget

(This is a reprint from my column, "Low Carb for Life".)

Now that the holidays are over, while our VISA cards are still smoking in our wallets, it seems an opportune moment to tackle a common complaint regarding a low carb diet: “It’s so expensive!”

At first glance, this seems true. If you’ve been basing your meals on potatoes, rice, pasta, and generic white bread, you’ve been getting away with a lower cost-per-serving than, say, steak. However, I have several thoughts on this matter.

First, and most important, is this: Any food that makes you fat, tired, sick, and hungry would not be cheap even if they were giving it away. If you are carbohydrate intolerant, if you have the illnesses that have been identified as being related to high insulin levels – diabetes, hypertension, high triglycerides, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and the like – “cheap” carbs are a luxury you can’t afford. You’ll pay for them in the form of doctor visits, medicines, sick days, dental bills, and new clothes in bigger sizes.

Second, remember that many carb-y foods are not even cheap to buy. I’ve long suspected that cold cereal is a conspiracy to get us to pay three and a half bucks for fifteen cents worth of grain. Bulk potatoes may be cheap, but Pringles are expensive. Frozen dinners, canned biscuits, boxed potatoes, and other prepared foods are not budget items, and most of them are loaded with junk carbs and bad fats. Cut all of this rubbish out of your food budget, and you’ll find a bit more room for protein and vegetables.

That being said, real, good, nutritious food does cost more per pound than the cheapest carb-y junk. How to deal with this?

* Not one of those expensive low carb specialty foods is essential to your success. When I went low carb they didn’t exist. Going low carb meant eating unprocessed real foods, and I suspect that some of the health benefits stemmed from this simple fact. You’ll save big money eating real food instead of low carb macaroni-and-cheese mix.

* Your body does not care if you get your protein from lobster, steak, and boneless, skinless chicken breast, or from hamburger, tilapia fillets, and chicken leg-and-thigh quarters. Hereabouts those boneless, skinless breasts often run $4.99 a pound, while leg-and-thigh quarters often go on sale for 69c a pound or less. Big difference.

* Buy in bulk When hamburger, tuna, butter, canned broth, natural peanut butter, or the like goes on sale, stock up. A freezer lets you take advantage of meat specials. I bought my deep freezed used for $225 and it has paid for itself many times over.

* We love rib eye steaks, which run $8.99 a pound. So I wait till whole rib eyes go on sale for $4.99 a pound, and have the nice meat guys slice one into steaks for me. No charge for this service, and I get steaks for several months for the price of one dinner at Outback. I also buy leg of lamb on deep discount, and have it cut into steaks – much cheaper than lamb chops.

* Eat what’s in season. Asparagus, lettuce, berries, and melon, all great low carb foods, are sky-high this time of year. Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are all in season, and are cheaper – I just bought cabbage for 39c/pound. This makes coleslaw, steamed broccoli, and cauliflower “fauxtatoes” better choices than salad. Turnips and rutabaga (I adore rutabaga!), spaghetti squash, and celery are other winter vegetables that work well for us. Grapefruit is abundant, wonderful and cheap in the winter, and has only about 10 grams of usable carb per half.

* Bagged salad, pre-cut veggies, skinless chicken, pre-made hamburgers are all expensive. The more food preparation you do yourself, the more money you will save. Spend an hour on the weekend prepping stuff yourself, and stash it in the fridge for busy days.

* Nuts are low carb, but so are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and they’re far cheaper. More minerals, too!

* Drink homemade iced tea instead of diet soda.

* One of the lowest carb-and-calorie desserts is also one of the cheapest – store brand sugar-free gelatin.

* Cut way back on eating out. The same food is always far cheaper at home.

* Bag lunches are a great way to use up leftovers – who wants to pay for food to turn green in the fridge?

Here is a family-pleasing supper that cooks while you’re out of the house. Buy leg-and-thigh quarters, and spend five minutes cutting the drumsticks off for another meal, and pulling off the skin – you’ll save 30c a pound or more.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:54 AM

Southwestern Barbecue

Here’s a family-pleasing supper that cooks while you’re out of the house. Buy leg-and-thigh quarters, and spend five minutes cutting the drumsticks off for another meal, and pulling off the skin – you’ll save 30c a pound or more.

Southwestern Barbecue

1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Splenda
1 1/2 tablespoons jalapeno pepper, canned, sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/8 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 pounds skinless chicken thighs

Combine everything but the chicken in your slow cooker, and stir well.

Place the chicken in the sauce, meaty side down.

Cover, set on low, and cook for 6 hours. Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over it.

6 Servings, each with: 215 Calories; 7g Fat; 34g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 2g Usable Carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:50 AM

Peachey 'Rice'

Here’s a killer side dish from my new book, The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook, that’ll perk up roasted chicken, or simple pan-broiled chops. This time of year you’ll want to use frozen unsweetened peach slices in this.

Peachy "Rice"

I love the peaches with the curry flavor!

1/2 head cauliflower
2/3 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup scallions, sliced, including the crisp part of the green
1 cup diced peaches, fresh, or frozen without sugar, thawed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon butter

Run the cauliflower through the shredding blade of your food processor. Put the resulting cauli-rice in a microwaveable casserole with a lid, add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover, and nuke on high for 6 minutes.

While that's happening, dice your celery, slice your scallions, and dice your peaches. Chop your parsley, too.

Put your big, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and melt your butter. Add the celery and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the curry, and saute for another minute or two, stirring.

When the microwave beeps, remove the cover from the cauliflower immediately to prevent overcooking. Drain, and add to the skillet, along with the wild rice. Stir everything together. Add the scallions and the peaches, plus the salt and ginger, and once again stir to combine everything well. Let it cook just another couple of minutes. Stir in the parsley, and serve.

6 Servings: 66 Calories; 2g Fat; 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Fiber; 8g usable carbs.

What about that wild rice? It has fewer carbs and more flavor than any of the true rices, (Wild rice is a whole different species,) and that full-bodied flavor means that wild rice adds a lot of grainy flavor without a lot of carbs when combined with shredded cauliflower – “cauli-rice.” Wild rice does take quite a while to cook, so I like to cook up a whole package at a time, then stash any extra in my freezer, ready for the next time I need it. Here’s how to cook it:

Wild Rice

1 cup raw wild rice
3 cups water

Combine the wild rice and water in a saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Bring it to a boil, then turn the burner to low, and let the wild rice cook for 50-60 minutes, or until the kernels split open a bit. Drain any excess water. Store in a tightly lidded container in the fridge, and use it up within a week or so. Or freeze in 1/2 cup portions in zipper-lock bags, to thaw and use as you need it.

7 Servings: 82 Calories; trace Fat; 3g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Fiber; 16g usable carbs.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:48 AM

January 15, 2006

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Can You Low Carb Now That the Hoopla Has Died Down?

Last week I welcomed the low carb newbies, and tried to give them a good start with their new way of eating. Now I’d like to talk to some of you who have fallen off the wagon, but still subscribe to this ezine. (Let’s hear it for procrastination!)

My email tells me that some folks are faltering in their low carbing because it’s not the rage anymore. The media has been telling them that “low carb is dead.” Most of the highly processed low carb specialty products tanked in the marketplace, and are long gone. Worst of all, my latest cookbook, due out this spring, doesn’t have “low carb” in the title! (It’s The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook – and mostly I’ve cut calories by cutting out the junk carbs.) I’ve been accused of “abandoning low carbers.” I’ve been told I have a responsibility to “keep the movement alive.” A fair number of folks are afraid they can’t persist with their low carb plan if the mainstream isn’t with them.

Um, folks? I was eating a low carb diet for a good seven or eight years before the low carb explosion of 2003. When I started in 1995, not only were there no low carb specialty products, the vast majority of the world thought I was stone out of my mind. Fast food workers stared at me bewildered when I asked for “a Whopper, hold the bun.” Living in a college town, as I do, with a huge vegetarian population, many of them misheard my request as “a Whopper, hold the meat,” while others simply looked at me as if I’d ordered Roasted Puppy on a Stick and said, “What do you mean, hold the bun?” (What word didn’t you get?) Waiters in nice restaurants were polite, but puzzled.

Some friends expressed concern that I was ruining my health, while other simply didn’t get it, persistently mishearing “low carb” as “low fat.” (“Here, I brought you this sorbet. It’s low fat, so you can have it, right?”)

Public support was nowhere.

It never occurred to me to quit. You know why? Because it worked. Because the weight was coming off. Far, far more important, because I felt so good – better than I had in years and years. Because, miraculously, I wasn’t hungry all the time anymore. Because my energy and my moods were both at all-time highs.

So for those of you who have drifted back to eating carbs but are still reading Lowcarbezine!, I have a few questions you might ask yourself:

* Did low carb help me lose weight?
* Was my energy level better on my low carb diet?
* Did a low carb diet help with hunger and cravings?
* Did my health improve or deteriorate on my low carb diet?

If, upon reflection, you realize that low carb was working for you, I urge you to ignore the media, of which, I admit, I am one. I can tell you right now, that of the big reasons for all the “low carb is dead” stories, none have to do with low carb not being effective:

1) The people who look at a diet as something you go on for six weeks before your high school reunion, only to go off it again, are gone. The people who try every new diet that comes along for 3 weeks are gone. The people who are looking for something that will miraculously let them lose weight with no need to change their habits are gone. Those folks were never going to stick, anyway.

2) Since many, if not most, of you were wary of the low carb specialty products, and wisely did not make them a big part of your diet, there is very little advertising money out there encouraging the media to write pro-low-carb stories. Never underestimate the power of the advertising dollar.

3) Most importantly, the media, as a whole, have all the attention span of a hyperactive six year old who’s drunk a pitcher of Kool Aid. Low carb has to be dead, you see, because it’s not new and exciting and hot. No one is stunned and dazzled any more by the idea that you can actually lose weight eating steak. So of course it’s time for something else. That low carb is still healthy and effective has exactly zip to do with it.

Please, I urge you: Do not make your nutritional decisions based on what is currently fashionable or trendy. Ask yourself what works for you. Remember that all the evidence points to a low carb diet based on animal foods, vegetables, low sugar fruits, and nuts and seeds being the hereditary diet of human kind – what my nutritionist and radio host pal Martie Whittekin calls the “factory specified diet.” That’s about as far from a “fad diet” as you can get.

If low carb makes you well, if it’s good for your own personal body, that’s all that matters.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:05 PM

Tuscan Soup

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Southern Indiana it’s gray and chilly, and often rainy – perfect soup weather. This recipe from 500 More Low-Carb Recipes just may be my favorite.

Tuscan Soup

This Italian-style soup somehow manages to be delicate and substantial at the same time. Really addictive.

16 ounces hot Italian sausage in links
2 quarts chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 head cauliflower, sliced 1/4" thick
6 cups chopped kale
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed

First saute the sausage until done. Remove from your skillet, and let it cool a little while you...

Start heating the chicken broth and cream in a big, heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium heat.

While that's heating, cut your cauliflower into 1/4" chunks. Chop the kale, too. Add both the vegetables to the soup.

Okay, your sausage is cool enough to handle! Slice it on the diagonal, about 1/2" thick. I like to cut each slice in half, too, to make more bites of sausage, but that's not essential. Put the sliced sausage in the soup, too.

Stir in the red pepper flakes and the garlic. Turn the burner to lowest heat, and let the whole thing simmer for an hour, stirring now and then.

6 servings, each with 487 Calories; 41g Fat; 20g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 8 grams usable carb.

If you prefer, you can use half-and-half instead of the cream. Your soup will then have 402 calories per serving, with 11 grams of carb, 2 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of usable carb.

Note: Please, please, please use good quality chicken broth. Most of the canned stuff in the grocery store is full of chemicals, and often also has corn syrup or sugar added. Yuck. Kitchen Basics brand is good stuff. Or go to the health food store and buy Health Valley, Shelton’s, Pacific, or Hain brand broth – no junk. Some health food store broth will be salt-free – that’s fine, just add salt to taste when your soup is done.

Me, I save up all my chicken bones in a plastic grocery sack in the freezer, and when I’ve got a sackful I boil them up for broth – something for nothing, and far, far better, both nutritionally and in flavor, than any packaged broth!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:01 PM

January 07, 2006

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Hey Gang!

Happy New Year! Welcome to the new Lowcarbezine! How’s it different from the old Lowcarbezine!? Simple: I’m going to one main article per issue, plus a recipe. If there’s also some cool stuff from readers, or a brief news clip, or something else that seems appropriate, I’ll throw it in. But in general, it’ll be one article per issue. I figure that way, I can actually get it out in a timely manner!

For those of you who are interested, I’ve been in my new house for about two months now, and yes, I’m still living with boxes. Several of you asked for a photo of the house, so here you go:

Now on to this issue’s article! Read on.


Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:47 PM

Getting Started: Ten Tips For Success

This week, I’m talking mainly to the folks who just went low carb, probably as their New Year’s Resolution:

Hey, there, new low carbers! Welcome to the Wonderful World of Low Carb. We have considerably more fun here than you may have thought.

I’m guessing that many of you got started just under a week ago, as the result of a New Year’s Resolution. I’d like to offer 10 tips for success:

1) Accept that there is no finish line. If you’ve “gone on a diet” with the idea that you will lose your weight and then go off the diet, you’re already doomed to failure. Whatever you do to lose weight, you must continue to do forever to keep it off.

2) Therefore, do not decide that if low carb is good, no carb is better. It’s not. Do not start eating nothing but meat, eggs, and cheese. Eat your vegetables! Eat low sugar fruits. Eat nuts and seeds. Read some low carb cookbooks (my 500 Low-Carb Recipes is a best-seller, but there are plenty of good low carb cookbooks out there.) If your budget is tapped out – we all feel broke this time of year – borrow a few low carb cookbooks from your local library. Try new recipes and new foods! Make this way of eating as varied, interesting, and fun as it can be. That’s what it takes to succeed long-term.

3) If you’re just a few days in, and you feel pretty wretched, take heart. You’re in withdrawal. More accurately, your body is increasing its production of the enzymes needed to burn fat for fuel. Once it does – rarely takes more than a week – your energy level should skyrocket. Meanwhile, try taking L-glutamine supplements to increase energy and reduce cravings. L-glutamine is widely available at health food stores and GNC.

4) Eat a high protein breakfast every single day. Eggs, meat, cheese, whatever. If you’re in a tearing hurry, grab two or three individually wrapped string cheeses or other wrapped cheese bites on the way out the door. Eat them on the way to work. Hard boiled eggs are good for a grab-and-go breakfast, too. Don’t drink juice – have a half a grapefruit, a wedge of melon, or some berries if you want fruit. Don’t eat cereal, not even oatmeal. One slice of toast made from low carb bread, if you must. (The best low carb bread I’ve tried? Comes from http://www.naturalovens.com ) The point? Eating a breakfast of protein and natural fat, but with a very low blood sugar impact, has been clinically demonstrated to dramatically reduce appetite – and cravings -- all day long. You can’t afford to miss a trick like that.

5) Make a list of all the truly fabulous low carb foods you’ve been avoiding because they’re high in fat: macadamia nuts, avocados, brie, rib eye steaks, whatever. Buy them. Eat them. Goes a long way toward keeping you from feeling sorry for yourself!

6) Many people are in the habit of using sweets or other carb-y junk food as a reward. Brainstorm a list of rewards that don’t involve junk food – a pedicure, a massage, an hour in the bathtub with a good book and a glass of wine, a phone call to an old friend, a new shade of lipstick, the latest issue of your favorite magazine, watching your favorite “guilty pleasure” video again (Embarassing Confession: I love Killer Klowns From Outer Space.). You deserve rewards that don’t make you feel awful later!

7) Now that so much of the low carb processed food has gone off the market, this one is less urgent, but still worth saying: Eat real food, not a bunch of shakes and protein bars and such. Oh, they’re okay now and then. But the heart and soul of your diet should be meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds, vegetables, low sugar fruit, and minimally processed fats, like butter, olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, and the like. You know – food. Try to strictly limit your consumption of anything with a bar code on it.

8) Don’t try to eat low carb and low fat, both. It’s unhealthy to eat nothing but protein. That being said, don’t assume that so long as you’re eating low carb you can eat 5,000 calories a day and lose weight. Chances are, you can’t. Clinical studies show that most people on low carb diets lose weight at between 1800 and 2200 calories per day. That’s enough to feel comfortable, but so much that you can stuff yourself constantly for entertainment. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re comfortably full, don’t eat again till you’re hungry again! So simple, but junk food advertising has trained us to eat for entertainment.

9) Read the label on every darned thing you stick in your mouth. You’ll be astonished and appalled at the places sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, and hydrogenated oil creep in. I’ve actually seen canned clams with sugar in them. No, I am not kidding! You wouldn’t buy a new car or a plasma television without reading up on which models were worth buying. Do a little research on what you’re making your body out of!

10) I’m not big on sugar free desserts – I make them for special occasions, and that’s about it. But sugar free chocolate is your friend. Pure De-Lite, Guylian’s, and Sorbee are the brands that I buy most often. A half-ounce to an ounce of sugar free chocolate per day (NOT five bars!) will keep you happy. And dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants – it’s actually good for your heart!

That’s the Top Ten List. Hope it helps!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:44 PM

Unpaid Plug For Another Blog

If you haven’t been reading Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog, you need to start!

Jimmy is great. Read his stuff. Tell him Dana sent you.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:41 PM

Curried Chicken with Coconut Milk

As I write this, my house smells incredible! Why? Earlier today, I plugged in my slow cooker. What’s in it? This! Easy, and so good.

Curried Chicken with Coconut Milk

3 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup coconut milk (regular or lite, as you prefer – but regular tastes better, and coconut oil is good for you.)
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon concentrate (granules, paste, whatever you’ve got.)

Plunk your chicken in your slow cooker. Strew the onion and garlic over it. Mix together the curry powder, coconut milk, and bouillon concentrate, and pour it over everything. Cover the pot, set to low, and cook for 6 hours.

When time's done, fish out the chicken and put it on a platter. Thicken up the sauce to a gravy consistency with your guar or xanthan shaker. You'll want to serve this with cauli-rice (see below) to soak up the extra curry sauce -- it's too good to miss!

5 Servings, each with: 310 Calories; 18g Fat; 32g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 4g usable carb.

(Recipe reprinted from 200 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes by Dana Carpender, by permission of Fair Winds Press.)

For you newbies, here’s how to make “cauli-rice”:


Take a half a head of cauliflower, and trim off the leaves and the very bottom of the stem. Now run the rest, still raw, through the shredding blade of your food processor. Take the shredded cauliflower and put it in a microwaveable casserole with a lid. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover, and nuke it on high for 6-7 minutes. Uncover immediately, or your cauliflower will mush, and lose its rice-like texture!

3 servings, each with: 24 Calories; trace Fat; 2g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 3 grams usable carbohydrate.

I use this in a vast array of dishes. Really, really good and useful stuff. And of course, feel free to do a whole head at a time if you like!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:38 PM