April 26, 2006

More Product Stuff

Long-time subscriber Marilyn Olshansky writes:

Hi, Dana,

It's a little late for Passover, but for those who like matzo ball soup...

Aviv makes a wheat bran matzo that has a lower net carb count than ordinary matzo. The total carb count is 21 grams per sheet, including 6 grams of fiber. With the net count down to 15 grams, I used two sheets to make matzo balls for my husband, son and me (a regular batch for my Seder guests) and the recipe (from an Atkins cookbook) yielded enough for us to have it three times - small portions, of course. Actually, they came out so good that I might just make them this way for everyone next year and just not say anything.

Aviv is an Israeli company. I bought the matzo at Mrs. Green's - you know them as you did a book signing there. I don't know who else carries it, but it's worth looking for. We used them at the Seder, as well.

Great info, Marilyn! Thanks!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:10 PM

A Useful Link For You

Several issues back I mentioned that I have a program called Nutricounter (since changed to Health Fit Counter) in my PDA that I use to keep track of what I eat. Well, a few readers wrote in and said that the Fit Day website lets you do the same thing for free! And it's quite true. It also will track exercise.

I still like my Nutricounter - I can take it with me, and I find it easier to use than FitDay - but it's darned hard to beat free.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:08 PM

April 18, 2006

Reader Review of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes

You need Dana's books

How do I love Dana Carpender in a completely platonic low carb life saver kind of way? Let me count the ways. Her new cookbook is fabulous. If you don't have it, you simply must get it. So many great looking recipes. As soon as my copy arrived, I read it cover to cover and am about to read it again. We are trying a different recipe every night. We have tried several already and they are very good. We're gonna have another one tonight. I have all of her cookbooks and this one is fab. Her books offer a lot of variety of flavors, which is essential to keeping any way of eating interesting. I'm trying to broaden my taste horizens, and her books give me lots of options. I use her cookbooks everyday. I recommend them all the time, but I don't loan them out. I would be lost if I did! She makes low carb low effort, which makes my life significantly easier. Thanks Dana!

April Grow, Atlanta, GA

Thanks, April! The thing I really love about 500 More Low-Carb Recipes is that fully half the recipes in it come from Lowcarbezine! readers. It truly represents the collected wisdom and creativity of the low-carb community. If you'd like to know what other low carbers are cooking and eating, this is your book!

See this and other reviews of 500 More Low-Carb Recipes at Amazon

You can also check out 500 More Low-Carb Recipes in bookstores coast-to-coast (assuming you're in the US or Canada!)

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:00 PM

February 06, 2006

Nutricounter: An Unpaid Plug For A Useful Tool

Did you wonder how I knew how many calories and carbs, how many protein and fat grams I was eating on average? I have a very useful tool. It’s called Nutricounter, and it’s nutritional software that I downloaded into my PDA. You can also get a hand-held model if you don’t have a PDA to download the software into.

My Nutricounter software keeps track of calories, carbs, fiber, protein, plus stuff I’m not really worried about, like sodium and cholesterol. It came with about 2000 foods in its database, and lets me add new foods – something I’ve done quite a lot of. It lets me average over several days or even months, to get an overall picture.

Hmm. Looking at their website, it seems they now call Nutricounter “HealthFit,” and it can also record your exercise. This seems like a great idea to me.

Even with the software, you need to have at least rudimentary math skills. For instance, if I choose “Peanuts Roasted 1 cup,” the chances are excellent I haven’t eaten that many. It’s important that I know that 1/4 cup peanuts equals 0.25 of a serving, and that 1/3 cup of peanuts equals 0.33 of a serving. Conversely, a serving of steak is listed in the database as 3 ounces. If I’ve had 6 ounces, I have to know to record that as “2,” not as “6" – which would be 18 ounces, a truly huge portion.

I find that if I use my Nutricounter software consistently, it has a subtle effect for the better on my eating habits, just because of the mindfulness.

I’m glad I bought it. http://nutricounter.com

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:44 PM

April 22, 2005

Product News from Specialty Cheese!

I've written in the past about Just The Cheese Chips, by Specialty Cheese Company of Lowell, WI. If you haven't tried them, these are exactly what the name says - chips made from crumbled cheese, seasoned in various ways, and baked until they are gloriously crunchy. They are, unsurprisingly, loaded with protein and calcium. They're also very filling; I find that a half-a-dozen of the disc-shaped chips are enough to satisfy my hunger for hours.

However, some of you have found Just The Cheese Chips to be too salty for your tastes. So I'm pleased to let you know (a bit belatedly) that in the past year Specialty Cheese has reduced the sodium in their Just The Cheese chips by 25%. These really are one of the best possible low carb snack foods - no weird Frankenfood ingredients here, just real cheese plus some seasonings. They're easy to carry in a purse or attache case, too, and they make ideal emergency food to carry while travelling. If you can't get them locally - my grocery store carries them! - you can order them online.

But there's more news from Specialty Cheese! At Expo West, the huge natural foods/health foods trade show I went to in March, the Specialty Cheese Company booth was my favorite! Why? Because they were passing out samples of their latest product: Frying cheese!

What's frying cheese? It's cheese that's formulated just for pan-frying (not deep-frying); it gets brown and tasty on the outside, and soft and melty on the inside, without melting down into a puddle in your frying pan. Unbelieveable. It's like eating a grilled cheese sandwich without the bread. I think I must have eaten a dozen pieces, hot off the griddle.

Frying Cheese comes in plain, garlic, jalapeno, and pineapple-mango. I'm torn between whether garlic or jalapeno is my favorite! I'm going to nag my pals at Bloomington's Sahara Mart to start carrying this stuff; it could become a staple around here. I suggest you ask your local stores to carry Frying Cheese, too. Barring that, you can order Frying Cheese (and Just The Cheese Chips) directly from Specialty Cheese Company. http://www.specialcheese.com/

These are the sort of low-carb products I really love - real food, not bad imitations of what was junk food to begin with. Get your hands on some!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 02:08 PM

What About Whey Low?

Quite a few of you have asked me about a new "low carb" sweetener called Whey Low. I have not tried it. There's a good reason for this: I read the list of ingredients. It says:




You know what that is? It's sugar. It's all sugar. Nothing but sugar. There is NOTHING low carb about this product. This is one of the most egregious misuses I have yet seen of the "net carbs" concept.

Sucrose is just plain table sugar, the same stuff you used to keep in your sugar bowl before you got smart, the same stuff you've been cooking and baking with all your life, to the detriment of your health. It's a carb, a high impact carb, and it's a nutritionally empty high impact carb. Are we clear on table sugar being bad for us?

Fructose is fruit sugar, but don't let the "fruit" part fool you into thinking it's healthy. Unlike actual fruit, in which the fructose is diluted with fiber and water, and brings vitamins along with it, the crystalline fructose in Whey Low is a refined sugar. It has no vitamins. It has no fiber. And because it's concentrated, it's easy to consume in excess. You've heard, no doubt, about the dangers of giving your children lots of fruit juice, because once you remove the fiber, it's really easy to get way too much sugar? Same problem here, only worse.

Fructose does have a much lower glycemic index than sucrose, but that does not mean that you don't digest or absorb it. You do, every gram. There may be some (notice the emphasis on the word "some") validity to discounting at least a fraction of the carbohydrates in the sugar alcohol sweeteners, because they are only incompletely digested and absorbed - I think it's unrealistic to completely discount sugar alcohols, but you don't absorb every gram of them that you eat. (And yes, I know I've left sugar alcohol counts out of the carb counts in my recipes - this is largely because different sugar alcohols are digested and absorbed at differing rates; you absorb somewhat over half of maltitol, but almost none of erythritol. I have no way of knowing which sweetener you'll be using.) But fructose? Saying that you don't have to count fructose as a carb just because it has a fairly modest glycemic index is, in my opinion, dishonest. You absorb it all - how is that not a carbohydrate?

The news about fructose is not good. A 2004 article in the journal Obesity Research states:

...the glycemic index does not address other metabolic issues related to excess sugar consumption. Prominent among these issues is the use of low glycemic index sweeteners, particularly fructose, which is increasingly present in processed food. Fructose is associated with increased adiposity, which may result from its effects on hormones associated with satiety. (Emphasis mine.)

For the record, "adiposity" means "fatness." Sounds great, huh?

A rat study reported just this month in the journal Hypertension showed that fructose induced fatty liver disease; it also increased the rats' blood pressure and triglycerides.

A study reported in Nutrition and Metabolism in February of this year said: A high flux of fructose to the liver, the main organ capable of metabolizing this simple carbohydrate, perturbs glucose metabolism and glucose uptake pathways, and leads to a significantly enhanced rate of de novo lipogenesis (fat creation) and triglyceride synthesis... These metabolic disturbances appear to underlie the induction of insulin resistance commonly observed with high fructose feeding in both humans and animal models.

Oh, goody - fructose may cause insulin resistance, the root cause of type II diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome. How... healthy. Yet the producers of Whey Low are recommending it for diabetics.

Then there's that part about triglyceride synthesis. That the makers of Whey Low insist it won't raise triglycerides doesn't change the fact that multiple studies have demonstrated that fructose does, indeed, increase triglyceride levels, and does so more effectively than most anything else.

So much for fructose being benign.

Lactose is the final sugar in Whey Low. Lactose is, of course, milk sugar. It has a fairly low glycemic index as well, but again, you do, indeed, digest and absorb it - unless you're lactose intolerant, at which point you don't - you just get gut cramps and gas instead.

Folks, need I point out that if you're going to decide that fructose and lactose, both manifestly digestible, absorbable carbs, somehow don't "count", you should be eating fruit and drinking milk, not baking cookies and cakes? And do you really believe you would be able to eat enough apples and drink enough milk to get the sugars you'd get in a dessert made from Whey Low?

The makers of Whey Low also claim it has 75% fewer calories than sugar. Since it is sugar, I haven't the faintest clue why I should believe this. Sounds like some very creative math to me - the same sort of creative math that lead them to call a product that is made of nothing but sugar "low carbohydrate."

Pay attention here: The "net carbs" concept (aka 'impact carbs', 'effective carbs', 'usable carbs', etc) never was meant to extend to subtracting low glycemic index carbs. It originated with subtracting only fiber, a type of carbohydrate which the human gut can neither digest nor absorb, and which actually slows the digestion and absorption of the usable carbs consumed with it. Just because a carbohydrate has a relatively low glycemic index does not mean it's not a carb, does not mean you don't digest and absorb it, does not mean it can't kick you out of ketosis, does not mean it can't refill your glycogen stores and make you retain water, and does not mean it can't screw up your insulin sensitivity and your triglycerides.

Furthermore, not only are the carbs in Whey Low digestible and absorbable, they're nutritionally vacant. Refined. Stripped of all nutrition value. Not a vitamin or a mineral in sight. And of course they're concentrated, so it's really easy to get a whopping big dose.

Whey Low also comes in a formula called "Whey Low D," apparently being marketed as their "diabetic formula." Whey Low D omits the sucrose, which is a bit of an improvement, but it's still nothing but refined, nutritionless sugars. It's still carbohydrate that you will digest and absorb, it can still cause "increased adiposity," jack up your triglycerides, etc.

I will continue to use Splenda in most applications. I know that some of you are unhappy about Splenda because it's not "natural." I will persist in pointing out that many of the most toxic substances on Earth are completely natural, so "natural" is no guarantee of safety - just ask anyone who is currently dying from using tobacco, a natural product.

If you just can't bear to use an artificial sweetener, stevia/FOS blend is available at most health food stores; I find it works better in some applications than others, but it does blend will with acid flavors, like fruit or yogurt, in particular. I usually use stevia/FOS blend to sweeten yogurt, especially since the FOS helps the body use the good bacteria in the yogurt. In recipes which need the textures of sugar, I like erythritol, which has both the lowest digestion/absorption rate and the least gastric effect of any of the sugar alcohols; I usually combine a small amount of erythritol and some Splenda. If you can find a source (I can't,) inulin, aka fructooligosaccharides (FOS) is pretty much unabsorbable, and considered a fiber. It improves your intestinal health as well - though since it's only half as sweet as sugar, you'll need to add something else to bring things up to the desired degree of sweetness. I consider all of these to be vastly better choices than Whey Low.

All of this being said, I think I've had my bag of Splenda down off the shelf twice in the past week, both times to use a teaspoon or two in a marinade, not to put a cup and a half in a dessert or a drink. I've used maybe two-three teaspoons total of the stevia/FOS blend to sweeten yogurt. I haven't made a single dessert. I haven't drunk a single sweetened beverage.

Please, please, stop looking for a way to have lots of sweets without consequences. Stop trying to make your low carb diet look like your old diet. There's nothing "normal" or "natural" about eating a lot of sweet stuff; the typical American intake of sweets, especially sweetened beverages, is nothing short of pathological, and changing sweeteners doesn't make it any more normal, historically speaking.

We need to back to the notion of a "treat" being something that we have on special occasions, not something we have every day.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 01:56 PM

April 01, 2005

Reader Product Review: Blue Bunny

Hi Dana-

I live down in Bedford and enjoy your column in the Herald Times. After church today I ran by the supermarket for some low carb ice cream novelties. To my surprise there were two new flavors from Blue Bunny. The first was called "Candy Bar" and tastes surprisingly like a Snickers Ice Cream bar. The other one I still cannot believe is low carb. It is dark chocolate black

raspberry. If it hadn't been written on the outside of the box I would have never dreamed this was a low carb product. Oh my gosh is it great! I think their brand is called Carb Freedom. I found it at the Jay C Plus store incase you cannot find it in Bloomington. It is a division of Kroger's so I would assume they would have it too. I'm sure you'll love these two new ones too.

Julie Brassfield

Kroger's is the biggest grocery chain in the country, so I expect that many of you can find these. I particularly like low carb ice cream bars because they're portion-controlled. I've learned the hard way that sugar-free ice cream in a half-gallon carton pushes my old food addiction buttons. Thanks, Julie!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 01:29 PM

February 13, 2005

Unpaid Plugs

Neither of these companies paid me, nor even asked me to put them in the 'zine, but they were nice to me, and provide products you may well find useful, so I thought I'd mention them:

Totally Low Carb (TLC) in North Dallas, Texas is run by Debbie Haas. She sent me photos of the store, and it looks great - has a lot of stuff, and some yummy looking samples. Could be a great resource! So if you're in Dallas, stop by, and tell her Dana sent you. I don't have an address, but the phone number is 214-739-6200.

A number of low carb writers and other nutritionally-minded types are paying more and more attention to the balance of fats in our diet, especially the balance of what are called "omega-6 fats," like those found in most vegetables oils, to "omega-3 fats", like those found in fish and flax seed. Having too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is very bad for your health, contributing to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, maybe even Alzheimers.

Some writers even point out, correctly, that game and grass-fed meat, which our ancestors ate, has much more of the healthy omega-3s than grain-fed meat, which is what you'll find in your grocery store. Yet often grocery stores brag about it - "Grain-Fed Beef!" Grain isn't the natural diet of a cow anymore than it's the natural diet of a human being, and the fatty acid balance of grain-fed meat is not what the human body is used to.

But grass-fed meat can be very hard to find. It's just a whole lot cheaper to fatten cattle quickly on grain than to grow them the slow way, by grazing, so grain-fed meat is what's in the stores. I know I have never seen grass-fed meat in any of my local grocery stores.

I have, however, recently gotten email from Ted Slanker of Slanker's Grass Fed Meats. He and I talked back and forth a little, and I can tell you that the man is passionate about what he does, and cares very much about low carbohydrate diets and nutrition. His meat is not inexpensive, but then, it's a boutique product - and anyway, while I like inexpensive food, I worry about cheap food, if you catch the difference. I'm planning to put in an order with Slanker's, and thought some of you might want to check it out, too. You can find him at http://slankersgrassfedmeats.com/index.htm .

Check out his website, regardless of whether you plan to order - there's a whole lot of good information there!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 12:35 PM

January 18, 2005

Product Review: The NEW Foreman Grill

I'm afraid I have bad news for you: All of you who own a George Foreman grill or one of the myriad knock-offs need to shell out the money to replace it. I got the new "Next Grilleration" Foreman grill for Christmas, and it's a big step up. I've gone from using my electric grill every now and then to using it several times a week.

Why? Easy. The grill plates snap out and go in the dishwasher.

Do you get how cool that is? I mean, I've had two previous tabletop grills, one a gen-yew-ine Foreman and one a knock-off. Both of them worked as advertised, but they were both a pain to clean. Truly. It rapidly got to the point where I would only use it now and then, for things I knew it indisputably did better than any other tool in my kitchen - like grilling a chicken breast to go on a main dish salad. But other than that, it sat, unused, on my countertop, taking up valuable workspace, because cleaning the sucker was just a big pain - at the very least, a ten minute chore.

Furthermore, I found that the degree of scraping needed to really get the sucker clean wore off some of the non-stick coating, only making the problem worse.

But with the removable grill plates, clean up is a snap. Even without using the dishwasher, the ability simply to get the dirty surface under a running faucet or in a sink full of suds makes all the difference.

Because of the ease of cleaning this new grill, I'm using it far, far more than I did the previous two models. Pork chops, burgers, boneless chicken, now go into the grill as a matter of course.

The grill does a better job with some things than with others - while I like it very much for grilling chicken breasts for salads, for burgers, and for pork chops, as mentioned, I'm unimpressed with the job it does on steaks - I'd rather broil them. However, the Foreman grill is also great for sausage patties, and even does a creditable job with bacon. I've done good wings in it. And it's actually terrific for grilling vegetables.

All of which makes the "Next Grilleration" George Foreman grill a handy addition to the low carb kitchen. And a whole lot easier to clean than its predecessors.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:23 PM

October 06, 2004

"Low Carb" Doesn't Always Mean "Good For You"

I am the Label Reading Police. I regularly nag my readers to read the labels on every food they put in their bodies (or, for that matter, give to their families.) So it's embarrassing to admit that I recently picked up some of the new Progresso Carb Monitor soups without reading the labels. Heck, I even popped the top, poured the Chicken Enchilada Cheese soup into a bowl, nuked it, and scarfed it down before reading the label.

Imagine my chagrin when I looked at that label, and found the words "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil." Trans fats. Junk of the lowest order. About the only thing in the food processing world that could arguably be called worse than high fructose corn syrup. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil has no carbs, but that doesn't mean we should be eating it.

You can bet I won't be buying the Chicken Enchilada Cheese soup again, and I certainly can't recommend that you buy the stuff. But that's not the point.

The point is that we mustn't become complacent. Just because something says "carb reduced" or "for a carb controlled lifestyle" or any one of the umpteen-odd other phrases that the food processors have come up with to suggest to us - hint, hint! - that their products are just great for us, doesn't mean it's so.

Be aware that there is NO regulation at all of label claims regarding net carb count and appropriateness for a low carbohydrate diet. It's the Wild West out there. You are very definitely on your own, and if you don't read the labels - not just the carb count, but the ingredient list, and the serving size - you may very well be torpedoing your weight loss and your health, and paying a hefty premium to do it.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:52 PM

Product Review: Dreamfield’s Pasta

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Dreamfield’s pasta. If you haven’t seen this, it has pretty much the same ingredients and carb count as regular pasta, but the Dreamfield’s folks claim a proprietary process renders most of the carbohydrates in the pasta indigestible.

Does it work? Jury’s out. I’ve been hearing all sorts of reports, from, “It works great” to “It spikes my blood sugar just like regular pasta.” So I’m doing blood sugar tests on it myself – more holes in my poor abused pinkies! I’ll report on my results next issue.

In the meanwhile, if you’ve tried Dreamfield’s pasta, I’d love to hear about your experience, especially if you test your blood sugar or for ketosis. Does your blood sugar spike, or stay low? Do you stay “purple” or drop out of ketosis? Do you get rebound hunger, or no? The plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” but we can all use all the information we can get.

So send your Dreamfield’s stories to feedback@holdthetoast.com !

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:25 PM

March 26, 2004

Product Review: Walk Away The Pounds

Long-time readers know that along with "Low Carb Cookie God," another of my titles is "Used Exercise Equipment Girl" - I've written more than once about taking advantage of the huge after-market in exercise equipment, constantly fed by the abandoned good intentions of the folks who bought the equipment new. Accordingly, when I was at the Goodwill last weekend, I checked out the exercise equipment. I found nothing interesting, but hit the jackpot when I checked the videos: I found 8-count-'em-8 exercise videos that interested me, and each was only $2. Such a deal! I couldn't turn it down.

I haven't gotten around to trying them all yet - I've hardly had time - but I started right in using a two of them: A couple of tapes from Leslie Sansone's Walk Away The Pounds collection. I had purchased a couple of these tapes for my mother a while back, and had tried them while staying at her house, so I had an idea of what they were about.

For those of you who are truly out of shape, and looking for a place to start, let me recommend any and all of the Walk Away The Pounds series. These are home exercise at its most basic: If you can walk in place, you can do these tapes. There are only four moves - marching in place, stepping from side to side, kicking gently, and knee lifts. No dance steps, no complicated choreography - just walking.

Yet these tapes actually get your heart rate up. I am a long-time power walker; for 20 years I have walked with hand weights as my preferred exercise. I didn't expect walking in place in front of my television to be much of a workout. Yet I find that I feel muscles in my legs and butt doing these tapes that I don't feel when I'm out walking around the neighborhood, except when I'm going up a good hill.

Sansone incorporates some arm movements with light weights or power bands into her walking routines; beginners can simply do the arm movements without the weights or bands. Since I am a long-time Heavyhands walker, ( http://www.heavyhands.org/ ) I use a 3 pound weight in each hand during just about the whole "walk," to bring it up to the sort of intensity my body is used to. This is very easy to do; I encourage you to use some light weights with these tapes as soon as you're fit enough. While Leslie Sansone uses spherical "Walk Away Weights," they're not essential; I use the same dumbbells I use for walking outdoors.

The advantages of the Walk Away The Pounds tapes are obvious - it's an extremely accessible form of exercise, approachable by anyone who can walk, yet it's a pretty effective aerobic workout, and if you use weights, it gives you some toning as well. If you have concerns about the weather or the safety of your neighborhood, if you have small children at home, or - like my sister - much of the year you can't get home early enough to walk before dark - no problem; you can get an effective walk in front of your television. You don't need a lot of room to do these tapes, either, unlike many aerobics tapes I've tried that require you to push the furniture back to the walls. Perhaps best of all, you can get in a good, brisk walk indoors without spending huge sums (not to mention lots of space) on a treadmill. I've seen these tapes as cheap as $6.99 a pop at Target.

Disadvantages? I can only think of two: If you're a serious exerciser, who likes more complex routines, and wants a very strenuous workout, these tapes are probably not for you. And I warn you, Leslie Sansone is relentlessly perky. Because the exercise itself is quite simple, it doesn't need complex calling, so instead she keeps up a steady stream of exceedingly chipper chatter that can grate after a bit. Or not; I've read reviews from people who like the perkiness factor.

The Walk Away The Pounds series has a lot of tapes/DVDs in it, ranging from "1 mile" (fifteen minute) walks to "3 mile" (45 minute) walks. There's even Walk Away Abs, though I haven't tried it. I've taken to doing my 1 mile tape as soon as I've finished my first pot of tea in the morning, and following it with 6-8 minutes of strenuous ab work. I do try to get in a "real" walk (with my weights!) later in the day, weather permitting, or do my Latin dance aerobics if it's nasty out, but if I get caught up in work and don't get around to it, at least I've had some exercise. It definitely helps to energize me for the rest of the day.

In short, the Walk Away The Pounds series is a great place to get started with exercise, and is surprisingly useful even for those of us who have had the exercise habit for a while. Check 'em out.

Here's a link to the three tape set complete with weights: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00005T33K/lowcarbohysoluti

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:23 PM

It's Mastercook!

I am SO excited! Mastercook is back on the market!

"What the heck is Mastercook?" I hear you cry. Mastercook is the cooking program that I use to analyze my recipes! Many people have written me, asking what program I used to calculate the carb counts for 500 Low-Carb Recipes and 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes - but for a while there, I had to tell them that Mastercook was off the market. But it's back!

The folks who created it apparently sold it to another software company, you see, and it took the new company a little while to get it back on the market in an updated form. But Amazon is now carrying it again. Yippee!

I simply could not write my cookbooks without Mastercook. Before I had this program, I looked up every ingredient in every recipe by hand. If the quantity in the food count book was different than the amount in the recipe, I did the conversion for quantity. Then I added it all up, and divided by the number of servings. It was tedious, to say the least.

With Mastercook, I enter the quantity of each ingredient, tell it how many servings it is, click a button, and presto! I have a complete nutritional analysis, including not only protein, fat, carbs and fiber, but vitamins and minerals, too. If I'm adapting an existing recipe to lower the carb count, I can enter the recipe as I conceive of it, and see whether it comes out low carb enough. If it doesn't, I can make changes right then, easily, till I get numbers I can live with - and then I can try the recipe out.

But Mastercook does more than that. If you have a recipe that makes, say, 8 servings, and you want to make it for 12 (or for that matter, 6,) with a click of a button Mastercook will scale the recipe for you, and tell you how much you need of each ingredient.

Mastercook comes with a humongous data base of foods already in it, but also allows you to add new foods to it. This is quite easy to do - you just copy the information from the listing on the label. I've customized my Mastercook with Splenda, vanilla whey protein powder, Ketatoes, Atkins Bake Mix, and a number of other ingredients that are only common to the low carb cook. Makes my life much easier; I only have to enter the data once.

Add to this that Mastercook comes with 5000 recipes in it (not guaranteed to be low carb, of course) and you can see that this is a tool that every aspiring low carb chef needs.

You can get Mastercook through Amazon.com - that's where I got my copy of the old version. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000ALX5X/lowcarbohysoluti

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:17 PM

February 02, 2004

Product Review: Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages

I've been meaning to review Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages, by Hood, but some readers beat me to it!

Nancy Zarr writes:

In response to your request of favorite new products, hands down I think the Carb Countdown Dairy Beverage by Hood is one of the best things I have tried yet. At first they just carried it at Wal-Mart but now all the stores carry it. I particularly like the chocolate milk and think it makes a great high protein breakfast if blended with a scoop of protein powder which tastes like and has the texture of a malt. On its own it is high in protein, low in carb, and great in taste and texture. I don't care for the regular milk as well, but imagine in the summer months I will use it more with ice and frozen berries for smoothies. I have never been a milk drinker so it wasn't something that I missed when I started a low carb lifestyle 2 years ago. However this product is good enough I buy it on a consistent basis. I haven't tried cooking with it so if you ever review this product I would be interested in knowing if it is good for cooking. Many thanks for your great newsletters!

And Lynn Frazier-Hines writes:

Hey Dana~

Just wanted to tell people about something that I came across. I was little worried at first about how it would taste, but it is REALLY good!

It is called "Carb Countdown" dairy beverage and it is made by Hood. As someone who never liked the taste of skim milk and always opted for whole milk, I expected this to taste like watered down milk. Especially at 3 grams of carbs per 1 cup serving. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was thick and creamy, kinda tasted like half and half. But you have to remember to shake it first, or the taste is less that delicious. They have a chocolate version too. I live in New England, and was surprised to find it in the dairy section at a grocery store in Texas when I was visiting for the holidays. So for those of you who miss a good glass of cold milk, look for this stuff! You won't be sorry! Oh, and Dana, you can cook with it too!

I am in 100% agreement: Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages are terrific; they became instant staples in my kitchen. My husband and I are both crazy about the chocolate "milk" - indeed, I had to get up and pour myself a glass while I was writing this! It's rich and thick, and very chocolatey. I'm thinking it would make great cocoa, too - just pour some in a mug and zap it in the microwave. The plain "milk" really does taste like milk. I eat it pretty regularly on low carb cereal, and I can't tell the difference between the Carb Countdown and regular milk. No weird, "off" texture or flavor at all. A real winner. And yes, you can cook with it!

Carb Countdown is made from milk and cream, with some - well, "milk components" is the term that comes to mind - added: calcium casienate, whey protein concentrate, buttermilk. Also some less appealing stuff - disodium phosphate and mono and diglycerides; I confess I don't know what these do. Carrageenan and locust bean gum are both natural thickeners. It also has some sucralose and ace-K (a lesser-known artificial sweetener) no doubt to replace the sweetness from the lactose. Oh, and the usual vitamin D, to help your bones use the calcium.

It's good to note here that lactose is a relatively low impact carb; if you're on a diet that's only moderately carb restricted, or you're on maintenance, I don't see why you couldn't have a glass of the real thing now and then, unless you're lactose intolerant. But this fills a real need for folks who have to keep their carbs to a bare minimum, and, come to think of it, for the lactose-intolerant, as well. Just three grams of carbohydrate in an eight-ounce glass.

I found Carb Countdown Dairy Beverages in the dairy case of the local Marsh grocery store, so look in your grocer's dairy case - and if they're not carrying it yet, go to customer service and ask why not?

Posted by HoldTheToast at 07:41 PM

January 10, 2004

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

October 08, 2003

Rick Crawford's Bread

A few weeks back, I had an interview with Debbie Knox, a well-respected reporter at WISH, the Indianapolis CBS affiliate. Debbie conducted the interview in, of all places, a bakery. Odd choice?

On the surface, you bet. And there's no question that Crawford's Bakery and Deli, at 1609 North Capitol, just north of Downtown Indianapolis, can sell you all the sugary and floury stuff you could possibly want. So why hold a low carb interview there?

Because Rick Crawford, the gentleman who owns and runs the joint, is a low carber himself, having lost well over 50 pounds. (He looks wonderful, by the way.) And like so many of us whose lives have been changed by going low carb, Rick Crawford has decided to help spread the word in his own special way.

In Rick's case, his own special way is by baking. (I can understand. I'm a compulsive cook myself.)

So what has Rick Crawford come up with? Only the best low carb bread I've tried so far, and it's only 3 grams of effective carb per slice - Crawford's slices their low carb bread quite thin, so you can "afford" to have two slices, and make a sandwich.

Like all the low carb bread I've had, Crawford's low carb bread has a slightly elastic quality that comes from the low starch/high protein content, but it's far less noticeable than with, say, the low carb bread I've made from purchased bread machine mixes, and once the bread is toasted, it's indistinguishable from "regular" bread, except that - being made freeform, rather than in a loaf pan - the slices are sort of an interesting shape, kind of like an artist's palette. The taste and texture are very good.

Crawford's makes their low carb bread in three varieties, whole grain, whole grain with caraway (for those of you who'd like to be reminded of rye bread), and nut and seed. They're all great.

Rick Crawford and I had some discussion about the difficulties of making low carb bread. As long-time readers know, some folks have had trouble getting the bread recipes in 500 Low-Carb Recipes to rise. Rick explained that as a professional baker he has access to ingredients that are not yet available for the home market, most notably wheat protein isolate.

(I've had a couple of readers write recently, asking what I think of wheat protein isolate. I can tell you that it makes a great loaf of low carb bread, and lets Crawford's avoid using soy products. As for the effect on blood sugar, I'll do some testing on myself before the next issue, and report back. Which means sticking holes in my pinkies again. The things I do for you people...)

You don't have to live in Indianapolis to get Crawford's bread; they'll ship it. However, you do have to buy a dozen loaves at a time, so you'll want to have freezer space, or split an order with some friends. You can mix varieties in an order, by the way. Crawford's low carb bread runs $5.30 for a 1 pound loaf, with 21 slices per loaf.

Crawford's also makes a crustless, Splenda sweetened, very low carb cheesecake; I've tried these, too. They're a New York Style cheesecake, with dense, rich texture, and not very sweet - very good with a little low carb fruit, like some berries mashed with Splenda. The cheesecakes are $9.95. I think it's easier for the home baker to make a good low carb cheesecake than a good loaf of low carb bread (and my email backs me up on this,) but I know that there are plenty of folks who would welcome a good low carb dessert they didn't have to make themselves.

All told, I'm quite impressed with Rick Crawford's low carb baked goods, not to mention his commitment to supplying products for his fellow low carbers. There really is something about the life-changing nature of a low carbohydrate diet that inspires a certain messianic fervor! For more information, visit www.crawfordsbakery.com, or email them at LoCarb@crawfordsbakery.com

Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:46 PM

Keto tortilla chips

Remember the product review in the last issue? The one for Keto Keeters, an alleged corn-chip-like product, where I used the word "suck," and variations thereof, approximately 583 times?

Well, I stand behind that review. But a funny thing happened the next day. I got an email from Arne Bey, boss-man at Keto products, the gist of which was, "Thanks for the cold shower. We'll be discontinuing the Keeters." Gave me rather a heady sense of power, I can tell you!

Mr. Bey went on to point out that many Keto products are very popular, and well thought of, and I assured him I was aware of this, and mentioned that my sister, when I'd told her my, er, low opinion of Keeters, had registered surprise, because she really liked the Keto tortilla chips.

Well, the next thing I knew, Arne Bey had sent me some Keto tortilla chips. Actually, he sent me two cases of Keto tortilla chips. (Free food, one of the best things about my job!) I got a case of Keto Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips, and a case of Keto Cool Ranch Tortilla Chips. That's a lot of tortilla chips!

So my husband and I tried the tortilla chips, solely in the name of research, of course! Indeed, to make sure that we can give a truly accurate assessment, we've been trying the tortilla chips off and on for two weeks now.

I can categorically state that the Keto company has made up for the whole Keeters thing, and then some. Keto tortilla chips are great. They're terrific. They're hands-down, no contest, the best low carb chip I've tried. Indeed, they're the only low carb chip I've tried that has the actual taste and texture of - well, of a high quality tortilla chip. If I didn't know that these were low carb tortilla chips, I doubt very much whether I'd have figured it out. They're that good.

(Reading this to my husband, he said, "They're better!" Asked for an explanation, he elaborated, "They're lighter, crispier, flakier. They're not as pasty as regular chips. I actually think I prefer them." There you have it. He then went to the kitchen, and when he returned to his office, I could hear a suspicious crunching.)

The Keto tortilla chips are also better than regular tortilla chips in that they're considerably more filling; a couple of times I had a handful or two in the late afternoon, and discovered that a few hours later I had little appetite for dinner. Since a serving of Keto tortilla chips - a quarter of a bag (yeah, right!) - contains 12 grams of protein, this filling quality is not surprising. That quarter of a bag will also give you 8 grams of carbohydrate, of which four grams are fiber, for a usable carb count of 4 grams. Just be aware that stopping at a quarter of a bag takes a conscious effort!

Keto tortilla chips do contain a lot of soy, and long-time readers know I'm not a huge fan of soy products. (If you want to know why, here's a link to a back issue with an article on the subject: http://www.holdthetoast.com/archive/010411.html ) That being said, I've never been convinced I had to completely shun soy products, I just use other alternatives when I can. These tortilla chips are good enough that I'd be willing to eat them now and again, soy or no soy. I wouldn't eat them daily, but then, I've long said that low carb specialty products should be pleasant adjuncts to our diet, not staples. I stand by that - but these tortilla chips could easily become one of my preferred treats.

Along with Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch, Keto Tortilla Chips come in Classic Corn. I haven't tried these, but the Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch are so good, I can only guess that the Classic Corn are equally good. Certainly there is a noticeable corn flavor that shines through the Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch flavorings. Those flavorings, by the way, are indistinguishable from those used on standard chips. It's been a lot of years since I ate a Nacho Cheese Dorito, it's true, but even from that remove, I'm pretty certain that Keto Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips taste just the way nacho cheese tortilla chips are supposed to taste.

Of course, since Keto Tortilla Chips are made with more expensive ingredients (and in far smaller batches) than standard tortilla chips, they're more expensive than standard tortilla chips - suggested retail is $3.99 for a 4-serving bag. My pal Andrew at Carb Smart is currently selling them for $3.59 a bag; he sells everything at a discount (and is a swell human being to boot.) And for any of you locals, I've told my friends at Bloomington, Indiana's Sahara Mart that I'm giving this product a rave, and they'd better stock up. Tell Jahvad and Sarah I sent you. :-)

Keto Keeters did, indeed, suck, but they are now merely an unhappy memory. With their Tortilla Chips, the Keto company has knocked one out of the park. This is the low carb chip I've been waiting for.

Just keep reminding me that a serving is only a quarter of a bag.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:47 PM

September 18, 2003

Keto Keeters

So I recently tried Keto Keeters, a low carb soy-corn chip, in the original corn flavor. They look a lot like Fritos, and the bag reads, "Yes, now you CAN enjoy incredibly delicious corn chips without all the carbs!" And indeed, Keto Keeters have 8 grams of carbohydrate per serving (1 ounce), with 5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 3 grams, plus they have 10 grams of protein. So these would be fine if they were, indeed, "incredibly delicious." If they were a tiny bit delicious. If they were 4% delicious.

But Keto Keeters suck. No, they don't just suck, they really suck. Indeed, they reach truly transcendent levels of suck-itude rarely approached, much less rivaled, in the realms of low carb specialty products. Keeters border upon the utterly inedible. I tried one chip, was incredulous at how bad it was, and tried another, just to see if it really was that bad. It was; in fact, it was even worse than I originally thought.

I took the bag home, and foisted one chip upon my unsuspecting, long-suffering husband. He dutifully chewed it up, his face registering his growing disbelief that I could feed him something so - well, sucky. He did not ask for another Keeter. I suspect if I had tried to get him to eat another, he might have called a divorce lawyer. The only reason I didn't immediately throw the rest of the bag of Keeters in the trash is that I wanted the label information for this article. Having used it, I will now dispose of the rest of the Keeters. I'm tempted to take them to the hazardous waste facility, but will probably just dump them in the trash. I could feed them to my dogs, I suppose, but I like my dogs.

How, specifically, do Keeters suck? Let me count the ways. They're cardboardy. They're soggy-stale-ish. They're un-crisp, and stick in your teeth unbecomingly. They have a really weird, un-cornchip-y flavor, with a bitter overtone of rancidity. And to top it off, they ran me $2.99 for a 2 ounce bag. Don't get me wrong; I'm willing to pay tall tickets for good low carb specialty products; I know that they use expensive ingredients. However, I resent spending this kind of money on something that - what was that word? - oh, yeah, something that sucks.

Keeters come in two other flavors: barbecue, and hot and spicy. I suppose it's just barely possible that these flavors don't suck quite so bad as the Original Corn, but I certainly won't be finding out. I mean, I'm willing to do a lot for you guys, but there are limits. I draw the line at putting even one more Keto Keeter in my mouth. I don't get paid enough for that.

There are other protein chips on the market, all of which (that I have tried) are better than Keeters, but I don't think any of the protein chips are outstanding. If you want something crunchy, I recommend that you try Just the Cheese chips, or smoke-flavored roasted almonds, or a fiber cracker, or pumpkin seeds.

Or a nice pork rind. Which brings me to an ancillary matter: I've been asked which were the pork rinds I'd given rave reviews to. There are two brands, and I love them both (and this, when I really don't care much for your average grocery store pork rind) - Gram's Gourmet, which makes Cheddar Crunchies (aka Cheetos for low carbers) and Sweet Cinnamon and Butter Crunchies, and Katiedid's Pork Rinds, who fry their rinds fresh daily, make rafts of great flavors (I adore sour cream and salsa - you'll never miss Doritos again), and ship 'em straight to your door. Gram's Gourmet's pork rinds (and their other great products) are available at retail stores that carry low carb stuff, and through all your favorite low carb etailers. Katiedid's Pork Rinds are only available through her website: http://www.geocities.com/lcporkrinds/

Just don't buy Keto Keeters. Please. I beg you. I hate losing readers.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 04:17 PM

August 02, 2003

Fruit 2 O

Tired of diet soda and iced tea? Need a new summer beverage? Have you run into Fruit 2 O yet?

No, that's not "Fruit Twenty" - say "Fruit Two-Oh" and you'll get the idea. We're talking water with a touch of natural fruit flavor and Splenda added - just enough to give a light but full-bodied fruit flavor and sweetness, with no calories and no carbs. Fruit 2 O comes in a bunch of terrific flavors, of which I've tried most! Lemon, orange, grape, raspberry, cherry, and peach. Oh, boy, peach! Wonderful. Fabulous. Really tastes like a fresh peach!

Fruit 2 O isn't soda - it's not carbonated, and it's not fake tasting and overly sweet like soda. I really dislike soda; I quite honestly haven't drunk more than a sip of soda in over a decade (I did taste the Diet Rite Splenda-sweetened sodas when they came out, to review them.) It's just too sweet for me. But I've been chugging down a couple of Fruit 2 O's a day, and really enjoying them.

I've also tried using them in cooking, and intend to do so even more. The other day I used the Peach Fruit 2 O to make a peach-orange brine for some pork chops, and they were wonderful! It's so nice to have something carb-free to replace some of the flavors that fruit juices can bring to recipes, without all the sugar.

All told, Fruit 2 O is my favorite new find of the summer. Look for it in the water aisle of your local grocery store!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 10:12 PM