Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Recipe: Broccoli-Tofu Casserole

This is a dish I came up with by modifying a recipe from the back my frozen broccoli package to make it lower in carbs and by adding tofu to make it more substantial. (I started using tofu in casseroles because of Karen Barnaby's Tofu-roni and Cheese recipe from her book The Low Carb Gourmet.) I had a helping of this casserole today as a side-dish to a couple of grilled pork fillets. It was a delicious lunch!

Broccoli-Tofu Casserole

1 package frozen broccoli
1/2 block extra firm tofu, cut into tiny cubes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 stick of butter (4 Tbsp.)
1/4 cup soy flour
3/4 cup Calorie Countdown (or other milk substitute)
garlic powder (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
french fried onions for topping (I use French's cheddar-flavored fried onions.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare broccoli according to package directions. Drain broccoli and spread into a greased casserole dish with tofu cubes, distributing the broccoli and tofu evenly in the bottom of the dish. In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium-low heat and mix in the soy flour, stirring constantly as a paste forms. Add the Calorie Countdown and cheese and stir until cheese melts. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Pour over broccoli and tofu in casserole dish, and top with a layer of french fried onions. Bake for twenty minutes. Allow to cool a bit before serving.

This is a totally customizable recipe. It can be made with or without the tofu, with or without the broccoli, with vegetables other than broccoli (cauliflower or green beans come to mind), or with different cheeses, and you can experiment with different low-carb toppings. I like the strong taste of the french-fried onions, but crushed pork rinds could be used to save some carbs. Enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Low-Carb Desserts Taste Good. No, really!

First off, I have to admit that it has taken me -- and is still taking me -- a LONG time to get used to artificial sweeteners. Just a year ago, that little Splenda logo on sugar-free stuff at the grocery store caused me to sigh with defeat and put it back on the shelf. Even worse was when I would get some exciting new sugar-free product home only to try it, find it disgusting, and then notice a tiny Splenda symbol hidden somewhere on the back of the packaging. I just hated the aftertaste. Items made with sugar alcohols (like malitol, xylitol, etc.) tasted so much more normal to me, but eating them in more than teeny tiny amounts can cause some really interesting digestion problems, from strange stomach gurgles to frequent trips to the bathroom.

I don't know if I'm just finally warming up to it or if I'm slowly learning which foods I can handle it in, but I don't have such an aversion to Splenda anymore. The turning point for me was trying Breyer's Carb Smart ice cream. I don't say this very often about low-carb products, but this amazing stuff is every bit as good as regular, sugar-filled ice cream. From there, I started to overcome my fear of low-carb dessert recipes that use Splenda, and life has been much better ever since.

Anyway, the whole point of this post was to share that I just made low-carb guru Dana Carpender's Espresso Chocolate Chip Brownies, for which she shares the recipe in this post on her blog. I'm so glad she posted it there, since I apparently hadn't looked closely enough through her book 500 More Low-Carb Recipes to notice it on my own. I'm inspired now to look through all of her books and try more of her desserts.


The texture is somewhere in between being cakey and fudgey, which I love. And instead of being chewey like typical brownies, they almost melt in your mouth. Dad and I were totally in love with these brownies right out of the oven and plain, but Mom thought they needed something to tone down the rich, dark chocolately taste, so she topped hers with a little whipped cream and she was good to go.

For this first attempt, I did everything exactly by the recipe, except I added walnuts to the batter instead of sugar-free chocolate pieces. I have a much higher tolerance for sugar alcohols than my Dad does, and since I knew he was going to be sharing these with me, I decided against using the Hershey's Sugar-Free dark chocolate bars I had on hand. When I make them just for me, I'll definitely cut up the chocolate bars and throw them in, too.

I'm also interested in trying them without the tablespoon of instant coffee. I wonder if the coffee helps the recipe by masking the flavor of the protein powder and the almond meal, or if it's just to make them interesting. I'm excited to experiment with substituting or combining it with other flavors like coconut extract or DaVinci's sugar free syrups.

I challenge anyone to actually cut this batch into 25 tiny squares like Dana recommends and still only enjoy one at a time, but the carb count is still pretty low even if you eat two or three little ones or cut them bigger. And having a low-carb dessert this delicious to look forward to makes mealtime way more exciting.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What's for Dinner? Sausage and Cheese "Biscuits"

Who says you can't enjoy delicious breakfast sandwiches for dinner? These took me a little more time than a trip through a McDonald's drive-thru, but they were WAY more delicious, nearly ZERO carbs, and since I'm rarely up early enough to make the fast food breakfast cut-off time anyway, I've got nothing to complain about.

First, I took a little time this afternoon to whip up a batch of blogger Jamie Van Eaton's now-famous Revol-Oopsie Rolls. (Long story short: a mistake she made in the recipe for Atkins' Revolution Rolls ended up producing these durable and delicious "buns" which have answered the prayers of sandwich-yearning low-carbers everywhere.)

While the Oopsies were baking, I fried up a couple of Bob Evans sausage patties (the sandwich-sized patties are the perfect size for Oopsies, by the way), and after giving the Oopsies some time to "rest", I assembled a couple of sandwiches, each complete with a slice of cheddar cheese. (I considered adding egg to the sandwiches, but since the Oopsies are mostly made of eggs in the first place and that's never been my favorite breakfast sandwich ingredient, I decided not to go to the trouble.) Each sandwich went into a ziplock bag and into my lunch box for dinner, and all I had to do was pop them in the microwave for about twenty seconds for overall warmth and delightfully melted cheese.

As I suspected, these things were so FILLING that one was plenty for one sitting, but I like to always be prepared with extra food in case I need it, especially during the first few days of being back on my low-carb plan, when hunger and cravings are more likely to strike. And part of the beauty of this diet (compared with reduced-calorie/reduced-portion diets) is the freedom to always eat when hungry and to eat until full.

Back At It

The vacation's over, and today (admittedly a couple of days after I had originally planned), I'm diving head-first back into low-carb eating. After some consideration, I decided not to start at square one with Induction, this time, because I've found that I can be much more successful with the freedom to eat certain foods (like berries, unsweetened cocoa powder, nuts, seeds, and low-carb breads and tortillas) in limited amounts. I'll probably keep the carb count to induction levels, but the variety keeps me interested in what I'm eating. Plus, it was too hard to get excited about this way of eating when I was faced with sacrificing my beloved chocolate raspberry breakfast smoothies. And -- no lie! -- I really am excited about getting back to this way of eating. It felt good to stock up on fresh, healthy foods at the grocery store yesterday, and it felt good to be back in the kitchen this afternoon preparing a super low-carb dinner to take with me to work.

I was away from low-carbing for almost three weeks, which is longer than I hoped to let myself languish in my old eating habits, but I'm optimistic that my return will not be too painful. I'm expecting to feel some dulled senses and maybe some headaches as I detox from sugar and caffeine (often known among Atkinsers as the "induction flu"), but there's been no sign of those feelings yet today. Instead I just feel like I have more energy, which could be either due to my extra water consumption, the coconut oil in my breakfast shake, or it's totally in my head.

Maybe I'll finally feel like giving this little blog some attention now that I'm back on the bandwagon. Expect posts about the foods I'm eating -- both old favorites and experiments with new recipes.