May 2008 archive

Homemade Low(er) Carb Wendy’s Chili

Wendy’s has always had a special place in my heart. It was my preferred stop after soccer practice, with the same request every time: “Chicken nuggets with sweet and sour and chili aaand-an-a small frosty!!” I’ve conquered the nuggets and frosty (to be addressed in the near future), but the chili has always been on my proverbial back burner. It’s just not something I missed while low carbing initially, because you can have all the ground beef and tomatoes you want, not to mention sour cream and cheese and all those indulgent scene-stealers. The humble chili never called my name… until yesterday morning at oh-ninehundred hours. I sifted through recipes that were inherently low carb, i.e. Texas and Skyline chili, but those didn’t look like they would satisfy my nostalgic craving. I needed something simple. And something tried-and-true so I wouldn’t waste my expensive grass-fed beef. Gotta be pragmatic here. So I turned to AllRecipes.com, a virtual treasure trove of culinary inspiration (with user ratings!). With my tweaks to knock down the carbs and punch up the flavor, you have no reason to let me catch you shoveling it down from the yellow cup.

Waaaaay better than fast food, it’s homemade chili! You can leave out the beans for a lower carb count, but they’re worth it for a more “authentic” taste. I would make this every night if it didn’t take so dang long to cook! This dish is seriously nutrient rich. It’s chock full of lycophene from the tomatoes, which is absorbed better with the addition of the healthful fat from the grass-fed beef.

Check out this excerpt from a study on lycophene absorption:
“Tomato products consumed in oil, such as pizza (7.5 g fat per serving), spaghetti/tomato sauce (14.6 g), and lasagna (23.8 g), are particularly bioavailable lycopene sources, due to greater intestinal absorption in association with fat.”

Grass-fed beef also brings high levels of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids to the game. The capsaicin in chili is purported to have myriad healing properties. Did I mention it’s super easy? Insanely easy. All you need is a knife, a big pot, and opposable thumbs.

Easy Better-Than-Wendy’s Chili

Makes 8 small servings

Ingredients:
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 tablespoon oil (olive or coconut)
2-14.5 oz cans organic tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire-roasted)
1-8 oz can organic tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup chopped organic celery
3/4 cup chopped organic green bell pepper
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (optional, for flavor)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pinto beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
hot sauce, to taste

Preparation:
Chop vegetables and set aside. In a large kettle with a lid, brown ground beef in a little coconut oil over medium heat, stirring around and breaking up the chunks. DO NOT DRAIN THE FAT. I repeat, do NOT drain off the beef fat. S’good for you, and for your flavor-hungry chili! Add vegetables and sweat for a few minutes until softened. Stir in canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, and spices. Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Do not touch until the end of that period. You want the veggies to be tender and the flavors to meld.

Top with sour cream, Frank’s RedHot, cheese, whatever chili topping you like since it’s probably low carb. Except fritos. No corn chips should ever touch this bowl of manna!

~11g net carbs (with the beans)

Homemade Low Carb Ice Cream Bars– Worth screaming for

There is only one treat that my new health-concious palate still craves. You know how biting your nails isn’t nearly as satisfying after you’ve given up the habit for Lent? Foods are the same way with me. My former undercover lover, the pop-tart, tastes sickly sweet and cardboard-y to me now. So for you who are still struggling with sugar addiction: There is a light at the end of the tunnel! Your tastebuds change and things like bell peppers become candy-sweet. Well, this phenomenon did not happen with one demonic sugar-laden substance–ice cream! It tastes just as good as I remember, and seriously does things to my brain so I just can’t get enough. This poses a problem since my favorite vice consists of a wholesome blend of the following:

Milkfat and Nonfat Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Whey, Mono and Diglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Guar Gum, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan, and Vitamin A Palmitate.

There’s some calcium in there with the nonfat milk, but that’s about it in terms of nourishment. None of those other ingredients look too promising. Wonder what 19 years worth of this stuff does to you…

Fortunately, I have found a way to satisfy my ice-cream tooth (teeth?). The best part is that it takes minutes to whip up, with no strange ingredients or tools. Minimal effort for the pay-off, baby! With my low-carb ice cream bars, you have no excuse for caving to cravings and blowing $4.00 on toxic sludge for your body. You get the calcium from the cream and cream cheese (go organic if you can, at least on the cream!), the antioxidants from the chocolate, and the medium chain triglycerides from the coconut oil. Consume the Dilly bar‘s healthy cousin with gusto!

Easy Ice Cream Bars

Makes 4 bars

Ingredients:

Filling:
2 oz heavy cream (Organic Valley is deliciously thick!)
2 oz cream cheese
3 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter
2-4 tablespoons of sweetener
For ALL NATURAL sugar-free sweetening, use both of the following:
-1-2 tablespoons erythritol or xylitol
-1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract

Chocolate Coating (for two bars):
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
2 squares Lindt extra dark 85% chocolate bar
Pinch of good-tasting pure stevia extract
chopped nuts (optional)

Peanut Butter Coating:
4 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons coconut oil
sweetener, to taste

Preparation:
Beat heavy cream with a mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Do not over-beat or it will get clumpy and turn to butter! Set whipped cream aside. Beat cream cheese, sweetener, and peanut butter until the mixture is smooth and clump free. Test for sweetness. It should be a bit sweeter than you want the finished product. Using a spatula, fold cream cheese into the whipped cream until there are only a few white streaks. Shape ice cream rounds on a pan lined with parchment or waxed paper. Freeze for 1/2 hour.

Melt coating ingredients in the microwave in 10 second intervals, until liquified. Stir until smooth and add sweetener, to taste. Remove rounds from freezer and dip into coatings. You may need to set the round on the paper and spoon the coating over bare spots. Sprinkle bars with nuts immediately after dipping in the coating, if desired. Chill for another few minutes until the coating hardens.

~3g net carbs per treat!

Mall Food Court Bourbon Chicken, Made Healthy

I always felt sorry for those ladies in the mall food court, standing around heckling innocent mall goers to try their chicken on a toothpick. Every time I walk through the entrance by Panda Express I take a sample nodding and smiling, guilted into heading over to the counter to ask about the $4.99 special. Although it tastes exactly the same everywhere I tried it, this Chinese restaurant staple of questionable cultural authenticity is totally addictive, and it’s not just the MSG. It’s sweet with hint of caramel flavor from the bourbon.

I googled many combinations of “mall bourbon chicken” to find an ingredients list for the commercial dish, to no avail. A few recipes purporting to taste like the food court fare popped up, so I took the plunge and pieced together a test recipe. After tasting the results, I proceeded to eat way too much chicken and toyed with the idea of keeping this magical formula for chicken nirvana to myself. Good thing for you, I never was good at keeping secrets. This recipe really does taste like the stuff you get in the mall. Just keep it on the dl, please. Those ladies with the samples have to make a living, too!

This meal is pretty budget friendly considering a lot of the ingredients are components of a well stocked pantry. Target has the best deal for organic chicken in my area (Coleman brand), which you definitely want to spring for. Macadamia nut oil is a wonderful investment because of its health benefits and delicious nutty flavoring that’s not overpowering in most applications. It has a high smoke point for high heat cooking, and beats olive oil in the amount of monounsaturated fats. Coconut oil would also work nicely. Peanut oil would taste fine, but is not the healthiest option since it’s highly polyunsaturated. Extra light virgin olive oil would be a last resort, as it wouldn’t complement the other flavor components. If you don’t have a lot of the key items, you can stock up with this recipe and make fake Chinese take out to your heart’s content.

The recipe makes three large servings, but you’d best divide it up in advance because it’s hard to stop with this stuff. You don’t have to feel guilty if you overindulge a bit, though. No sugar, no gluten, no transfats or polyunsaturated oils, nothing artificial. The best part is you would never know that if I hadn’t told you.

Made-over Mall Food Court Bourbon Chicken

Makes 3 large servings

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of organic chicken thigh meat, cubed
2 tablespoons of oil (see note above)
1/4 cup soy or wheat-free tamari sauce
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
2-4 tablespoons sweetener
1/4 cup Truvia OR erythritol OR xylitol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia powder
 (if not using Truvia)
1/2 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1T diced yellow onion, or 1 green onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ginger
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
sea salt, to taste

Preparation:
Combine all of the marinade ingredients and whisk together. Taste and add more sea salt or sweetener if necessary. Toss chicken thigh chunks in marinade, then place chicken and marinade into a zip top bag and leave in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or overnight, turning occasionally to expose all of the chicken evenly.

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and pour chicken and marinade into a baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, turning pieces over and moving them around in the marinade during the baking process. Serve hot from the oven and refrigerate leftovers immediately.

~2g net carbs per serving!

Healthy, Low Carb Fried Rice– Not an Oxymoron

At the risk of being culturally insensitive, I’m posting a faux-fried rice recipe to suit those of us who have a love-hate relationship with this highly processed grain.

Yeah yeah, asians are skinny and all they eat is rice, right? A chinese friend of mine voiced that opinion when I mentioned coming up with a substitute for his beloved white rice. ;)

My answer: I know what makes me feel well, and rice does not! Its high glycemic starchy goodness jacks up my appetite, making me a threat to anything carby with a one mile radius. Shortly thereafter, it’s nap time, to sleep away the carb-induced lethargy. The seratonin high that hits you after the first few forkfuls is pretty intense (do I sound like a junkie?), but leaves me listless when it’s time to get back to studying? Not so much. My exam weeks were probably a lot more stressful then they should have been with all the Dragon Gate meals I would pack away under pressure.

Savor the salty goodness of a beloved Americanized asian staple and your mental acuity with this low carb adaptation. This is not an original recipe, by the way. A brilliant low carb chef who came before me cooked up this crazy idea. The rice component is replaced by–get this–grated cauliflower, prepared with the same familiar flavorings. It’ll smell funky in the pan for a moment, but then your kitchen will fill with the mouthwatering aroma of a Panda Express kitchen. Bonuses: It takes a lot less time, packs a nutritional punch (courtesy of the brassicas), and won’t leave you with a carb hangover.

This recipe is totally flexible. Use whatever veggies you like. Make it yours! I happened to have peas on hand, and was out of green onions. Carrots are pretty “traditional” in this, too. Be warned: this is just as tasty as the original, and possibly more flavorful because you’re not deeling with the heaviness of the rice gunking it all up. Seriously, you might want to make this with a hungry friend to solve any portion control issues.

The shrimp got decapitated by my vigorous wok action.
low-carb-cauliflower-fried-rice-grated-caulirice-atkins-substitute-diet-healthy-south-beach-low-glycemic

Shrimp Fried “Rice”

Makes 3 servings

Ingredients:

2 heapings cups of grated fresh cauliflower
2 tablespoons coconut oil (any cooking oil is fine)
1/2 cup sugar snap pea pods
1/3 cup onion, chopped
4 tablespoons wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
dash of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup of green peas
2 eggs, beaten
Protein of choice (I used 1-4 oz can of baby shrimp)
Green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Preparation:

Grate cauliflower using a fine cheese grater. Heat up pan with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Mix together sesame oil, tamari, and seasonings in a bowl. Sautee onions for 3 minutes over medium heat, or until translucent. Remove from pan and set aside. Sautee sugar snap peas until tender. Add more oil if necessary and all of the cauliflower, stir frying for a couple of minutes. Pour in 1/2 of the soy sauce mixture and stir fry to coat the cauliflower evenly. When the cauliflower is tender, add cooked vegetables, shrimp, and peas along with the rest of the soy sauce mixture. Push “rice” to the side of the pan and scramble eggs on the other side, moving spatula quickly to incorporate eggs with the “rice” mixture. Serve in cute bowls with chopsticks and pig out with no regrets!

Excuse me now…

Riced Cauliflower in a Stir Fry (Grain-Free, Low Glycemic)

~7g net carbs

P.S.- Now accepting donations of pretty plates and bowls!

Rutabagas = Low Carb Mashed Potatoes, Waiting to Happen

Yes, when life gives you rutabagas, make guilt-free low-carb mashed potatoes! How does this magical transformation take place, you might ask? A little buttah and cream cheese can fix anything, y’all. This is a popular recipe with quite a few variations out there, but I like the richness that cream cheese imparts. Rutabaga is easier than cauliflower to work with, and the color and mouthfeel of it is more potato-ey. To address the obvious question: What do I have against potatoes? Their awfully high glycemic load, for one thing. Additionally, the phytonutrients found in cruciferous vegetables like the rutabaga have been shown to fight cancer. Besides, it’s a fun word to say when your roommate asks what you’re doing with that big waxy lump on the counter. Roo-tah-bag-ah!

Creamy Mashed Faux-tatoes

Makes 1 big serving or two small portions

1/4 of a rutabaga, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
boullion cube (I like Rapunzel organic– no scary MSG or modified cornstarch)
2 cups of water
1 roasted garlic clove or a dash of garlic powder
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Microwave rutabaga chunks, covered, with water and a boullion cube for 12 minutes on high. Test for doneness with a fork. Strain and squeeze out all the water you can with a dish towel (very important)!

Roast the garlic quick n’ dirty in the microwave by peeling off the skin, pricking the clove, and microwaving for 30-40 seconds, or until soft. Heat butter and cream cheese in microwave until butter is melted. Stir together. Add garlic and butter mixture to rutabaga and dump it all into a blender. Puree. This may require violent shaking if you are using a magic bullet like I have. Get the mixture as smooth as possible to eliminate all traces of rutabaga-ey orange chunkiness. Reheat for 30 seconds to keep it piping hot if you need to. It helps the blending process. Stir in parmesan cheese. Taste and add sea salt if necessary. Serve topped with more butter, chives, bacon bits… fortunately, potato toppers are usually low carb!

~6g net carbs

“If you’re afraid of butter, just use cream.”
-Julia Child

I’m lovin’ it– The Healthy Egg McMuffin

I really like breakfast food, and in my previous unhealthy life, didn’t always make time for a delicious and healthful breakfast. Me and Mickey D’s, we go way back. During my crazy mornings senior year of high school, a quick stop at McDick’s took 5 minutes on a good day. You could chow down in your crappy space in the parking lot until the first bell rang, or just sneak the McMuffin in between your books if you had the cool teacher. They are unbelievably sturdy little buggers, and you ever notice how they don’t even mold… but I digress. Ah, fond memories… until the GERD set in before 2nd period.

Fast forward to now, where I still get a hankering for a fast food-style breakfast sandwich every once in awhile. With my gluten-free low carb english muffin recipe, you can enjoy the McMuffin and the period after consumption! The only hard part of this operation is the bun. Make up a batch and keep ‘em in the fridge for food emergencies. I like organic or imported cheddar (no rBGH!), free-range organic eggs, and uncured pork sausage. I cheated this time and bought the round little patties from a box (they photograph better, nyah nyah!), but you could snag a tube of organic pork and make ‘em yourself! Finances permitting, I ususally go that route and cook up a giant batch at once. They keep in the freezer and reheat just the pre-cooked kind for breakfast in a pinch.

Now don’t give me that look. Quit making excuses for running out the door with a donut clutched in your teeth. Instead of hitting the snooze button, get out of bed 10 minutes earlier to assemble this made over breakfast classic that will satisfy the convenience food junkie inside you.

Made-over Breakfast Sandwich

English Muffins
adapted from a recipe by Bruce Fife, N.D.

Makes five muffins

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill preferred)
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2-3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat together eggs, butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add coconut flour and baking powder, whisking into the batter until there are no lumps. Stir in the cheese. Spoon batter into 5 buttered ramekins. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Let cool completely before cutting into. For best results, make these the night before you plan on eating them. Store in the fridge.

~4g net carbs per muffin

Sandwich Assembly Instructions:

Slice muffin in half and toast until heated through. Top one half with slice of cheddar cheese. Reheat sausage per package directions and place on top of cheese. Cook egg in a buttered ramekin or other circular muffin-sized microwaveable dish, covered in plastic wrap, on 50% power for 1 minutes 15 seconds, or until yolk is firm (remember to poke a hole in the yolk before cooking!). Slide egg out carefully. Sprinkle on sea salt and pepper to taste. Place the egg on top of the sausage and top with other muffin half. Consume immediately, or wrap in a napkin and get going!

~5g net carbs

Don’t have the time or the will to press buttons and get multiple items out of the fridge? Make a sweet variation of the muffins for spreads that don’t play well with garlic!

Sweet Variation of Breakfast Muffins:

1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup coconut flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2-3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, finely grated

Throw some peanut butter on your sweet buns, or better yet, bust out PB’s healthier twin sister– almond butter! AB is packed full of monounsaturated fats and flavor, with a distinct natural sweetness. For these reasons, no jar of almond butter lasts long enough to actually put it on something in my house.

Triple Chocolate Yogurt Parfait

Okay, let’s start simple. No cooking required with this one!

Being a chick, chocolate makes everything better. No really, it does. This is why I try to incorporate it into as many meals as possible, and was perfectly content, in the throes of my sugar addiction, replacing real food with vending machine fare. There is something about chocolate that goes straight your head and makes problems magically disappear while you’re licking the melty stuff off the Snickers wrapper. Problem is, the after effects of processed candy can kill the mood. The good news is, dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants exceeding the levels found in red wine (<– not a good breakfast option). The nibs are raw, unprocessed cacao with. Additionally, the saturated fat in cocoa is found to boost good cholesterol levels. Scientific debate aside, it just tastes so darn good!

Paired all of that goodness with yogurt, which provides 15% of your RDA of calcium along with 14g of protein, not to mention the probiotic boost courtesy of the friendly bacterial strains that give yogurt its delectable tang. You wanna get sick less and possibly live longer? You wanna burn fat and keep your hip bones intact when you’re 80? Eat up! It’s kinda crazy how many health benefits are associated with this stuff. With only 11g net carbs, you won’t feel a bit of remorse indulging in what looks (and tastes… promise!) like dessert for breakfast.


from left: flavorganics sugar-free vanilla extract, scharffenberger unsweetened cocoa powder, hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, lindt 85% cacao extra dark chocolate bar, raw cacao nibs

Triple Chocolate Yogurt Parfait

1 7 oz container strained greek-style yogurt (I love FAGE total!)
1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 squares of 85% cacao extra dark chocolate (I like Lindt or Ghirardelli)
sweeteners, to taste
-stevia
-erythritol

splash of pure vanilla extract
cacao nibs
sugar-free whipped cream (optional)
grated chocolate (optional)

Stir cocoa powder into yogurt until thoroughly combined. Melt squares of dark chocolate until liquified in microwave, watching carefully to avoid burning. I like to do this in 10 seconds increments, stirring every time. When chocolate is melted, stir it quickly into a couple of spoonfuls of the yogurt. Add it back into the rest of the yogurt and combine until streaks of chocolate are no longer visibile. Add sweeteners and vanilla extract, tasting and adjusting accordingly. Layer with cacao nibs so you get some crunch with every bite, or just sprinkle the nibs over the top. Garnish with whipped cream and more grated chocolate (use a cheese grater or zester).

Note the spoon standing up in the yogurt. It really is that luxuriously thick!

~11g net carbs per massive sundae

A long time ago we used to be friends…


I have always had a love affair with what will be known from this day forward as “S,” in the spirit of my current trashy-good tv obsession. Sugar and me, we go way back. This relationship turned sour my freshman year of college, and downright abusive when I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia. Don’t believe me? See for yourself how S can break your heart, among other things.

My anemia diagnosis and subsequent withdrawal from college marks the start of my quest to rebuild my iron stores and get my health on the right track through dietary modification and positive lifestyle changes. Sounds hard and boring, doesn’t it? I mean, S and I had some good times. He was always there when I was stressed, lonely, bored, happy… okay, so I’d use any excuse to turn to him. But I’d had enough of his games and wanted to end things once and for all. And so I picked up a copy of my mother’s old Protein Power book, out of desperation for finding the magical secret to breaking off with S. Lo and behold, I had an epiphany, courtesy of the Doctors Eades. I was not in control of my diet – it was controlling me! After much googling and message board trolling, I found others who had also been treated poorly at the hands of S. He is destroying the self-esteem of millions of americans and even more heinous, contributing to the vanity sizing trend of my favorite retailers. I have five different pants sizes because he is sneaking his way into our diets with every lid peeled off a yogurt container and box top for education clipped. At first I despaired. How could I just quit my dependence on him cold turkey, and turn my back on the foods that had sustained me for my first 19 years of life? S had been with me through thick and thin. And yet it needed to be done. I needed to start liking real food, real fast, or risk not having my own teeth by the age of 50.

Fast forward to now, at the end of what would have been my fourth semester of college circumstances permitting, and I am enjoying spicy sesame chicken with broccoli that did not come from .1# WOK. As annoying as it is sometimes to make everything from scratch with real ingredients, it has had a profound impact on everything from my energy levels to my skin to my comfort level in a bikini. If a junk food junkie like me can completely eliminate sugar and gluten from her diet without going nuts and burning down a bakery, so can you. You just have to be armed with the tools and the will to fail… a lot. And try again. And screw up, then get back on plan. And cave into the temptation of a cookie dough blizzard, then… what I’m trying to say is it isn’t easy to totally cut things off with S, but it can be done. Don’t shoot for perfection–shoot for positive choices, one baby step at a time. So what are you waiting for? Start healing with your next meal. It make take more effort than swiping your student ID card, but it will taste and feel a lot better than that pop-tart from the vending machine.

Come on now honey, bring it on bring it on yeah!
~The Dandy Worhols