Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Adventures

My first low-carb pastry crust burnt to a crisp, but as you can see, its pumpkin pie filling was delicious.

I could have kept experimenting with low-carb crust recipes, foil covers, and cooking times, but I decided it wasn't even necessary. Pie #2 just came out of the oven, and this one is crustless!

See how the filling just goes all the way to the bottom? Who needs crust, anyway?

And since I fully expect Katie to comment on it either way, here is a close-up of that weird navel-like dimple/crack that appeared on the pie during baking:

Who wants the piece with THIS on it?

The recipe I used is a quick, low-carb adaptation from the classic "back of the can" directions on Libby's canned pumpkin. All it took was swapping out the sugar with Splenda and the carb-filled evaporated milk with a little cream and unsweetened almond milk. I also added nutmeg. Because yum.

I was also delighted to find that the Libby folks (a.k.a. Nestle) have cooking temperatures and times for the crustless version posted on their website. I used a 9-inch glass pie plate for my pie, so those are the instructions I'm posting here, but visit the link for details if you're using another material or differently-sized cookware.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
  • Butter or nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup granulated Splenda or other measures-like-sugar non-sugar sweetener (The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup, but I added more to make up for the sweetness lost by omitting the evaporated milk. You be the judge, here.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) 100% Pure Pumpkin (NOT canned pumpkin pie mix or filling)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream & 3/4 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almond milk (Or just use all cream or all almond milk.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and grease a 9-inch glass pie plate with butter or nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix Splenda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, & nutmeg. In a larger bowl, beat 2 eggs. Stir the Splenda mixture into the larger bowl with the eggs. Gradually stir in cream and/or almond milk.

Pour filling directly into greased pie plate and bake on middle rack for 55-60 minutes. (Again, for cook time variations, see here.)

Let pie cool for two hours on a wire rack. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

That's it! So good! My only frustration is that canned pumpkin isn't available all year, since it's a delicious and nutritious low-carb food. I'm totally planning on stocking up while it's still around. The best part about it is that nutrition experts seem to agree that it's every bit as good for you as the fresh version, and some have even found that a few of the nutrients (like Vitamin A) are actually higher in canned pumpkin than in fresh, making the convenient route a no-guilt choice.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Joy of Smoothies

When Katie posted a couple of weeks ago about protein powder, it reminded me that I've never shared the recipe for the protein smoothie I use as my go-to low-carb breakfast. I've tried tons of different ingredient combinations and flavors, but to me, this one wins by far. The texture is a perfect marriage of creamy and icy, it's richer and more chocolaty than most desserts, and the antioxidants in the cocoa and berries plus the nutrient-filled eggs and protein powder come together to make this the most non-health-food-seeming health food I've ever tasted. Eating this thing makes me feel like I've made some sort of deal with the devil in order for it to actually be under 20 net carbs.

The recipe all rests on a basic formula of 8 ounces of liquid ingredients to 1 scoop of protein powder, so you could swap out any combination of water, low-carb milk, cream, yogurt, etc. for the liquid, and you could throw in pretty much anything else you want to make whatever flavor you desire. I've enjoyed peanut butter, canned pumpkin, flaxseed, instant coffee, flavor extracts, and sugar-free syrups in my smoothies, but this particular combination of chocolate and berries is my clear favorite.

Tracey's Dark Chocolate Mixed Berry Protein Smoothie
2 eggs (optional)
3-4 oz. water (give or take, use more if not using eggs)
2 oz. (1/4 cup) heavy whipping cream (2g carb)
1 scoop chocolate Max Protein (3g carb, 1g sugar)
2 TBSP granular Splenda (6g carb, 0g sugar)
2 TBSP Hershey Special Dark Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (6g carb - 4g fiber = 2 net carbs, 0g sugar)
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (8.5g carb - 3g fiber = 5.5 net carbs, 5.5g sugar)
ice cubes

(Total of 18.5 net carbs, 6.5 of which are sugar)

Since large appliances feel clunky to me, and since I hate washing extra dishes, I make my smoothie in an inexpensive single-serve blender and eat it right out of the travel-friendly blender cup.

The dry ingredients will blend in best if you begin with the wet ingredients. I start by cracking two eggs into the blender cup. (I totally understand that not everyone is comfortable ingesting raw eggs. Since I've never been able to resist cookie dough and brownie batter, I've had more than a normal person's fair share of raw eggs in my lifetime with no problem, so I'm willing to keep taking the risk. The eggs make the smoothie super creamy and extra filling, but it's also delicious without them.) Then, I add enough filtered water to bring the blender's contents to 6 oz. (If not using eggs, just start with 6 oz. water). Next, I add about 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.

Then, the dry ingredients. Add the protein powder, cocoa, and Splenda, and cover and blend quickly until just mixed. This will keep the dry ingredients from sticking to the sides of the blender. Add the frozen berries and blend again to thoroughly mix them in. Add ice cubes a few at a time, blending each time you add them, until the smoothie reaches your desired thickness. A drinkable smoothie only needs few ice cubes in addition to the berries, but I usually add a couple of handfuls of ice and enjoy it with a spoon.

Do you drink shakes or smoothies as a part of your low-carb way of eating? I'd love to know how you make them and what your favorite "mix-ins" are!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recipe Roundup

So many delicious recipes showed up in our Google Readers this week! Check these out:

Marissa's Kitchen Talk: Low-Carb Fried Eggplant

Grace2882: Portabella Pepperoni Pizza, Chicken Enchiladas, and Cream Cheese Brownies

Low Carb Confidential: Low Carb Zucchini Lasagna (To get zucchini "noodles" without a mandoline, you can use a vegetable peeler. They won't end up perfectly uniform, but they should work just fine.)

trulypat: Cream of Pumpkin Soup (This gluten-free recipe uses evaporated milk to avoid both lactose and nut allergens, but in the interest of keeping it low-carb, I'd swap that stuff out with unsweetened almond milk, heavy cream, or a combination of the two.)

The World According to Eggface: Shelly's Ham it Up Bites

Lucy: Breakfast Nachos (As an added bonus, reading this post includes a link to a delicious looking brownie recipe!)

Ginny's Low Carb Kitchen: Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

Kalyn's Kitchen: Black Bean Salad with Jicama, Tomatoes, Cilantro, and Lime

Dana Carpender: Low Carb Sesame Noodles

Maria Emmerich: Creme Brulee

Got a recipe you've recently featured on your own blog or saw one somewhere else that caught your eye? As always, leave a link in the comments!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Magic Behind Magic Shell

What do you do when it's the night before your refrigerator is being replaced and you have to finish off that container of low-carb ice cream in your freezer, but you realize that it's vanilla ice cream and therefore requires some sort of topping in order to make it delicious?

You make homemade Magic Shell!

Katie introduced me to Magic Shell when we were in high school, and if you're unfortunate enough to have never had it, you've pretty much been missing out on everything that's good in the world. It's a luscious liquid chocolate sauce that hardens into pure candy when it hits cold ice cream, and I'm ecstatic to report that this EASY low-carb version is every bit as good as the 16-grams-of-sugar-per-serving kind you buy in the store.

Here's how you do it:

Spoon some coconut oil (between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon) into a microwave-safe bowl. Add a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate and some non-sugar sweetener to taste. (I added about a half-packet of Truvia to mine.) Microwave on high power in 15 second intervals, stopping to stir, until the chocolate is melted. Pour it over ice cream and enjoy!

See how it solidified where it hit the ice cream? Magic!
You can experiment with the amounts and types of chocolate, sweetener, and coconut oil to find what works best for you. You can also add chopped nuts, shredded unsweetened coconut, or other goodies to make it your own. Whip some up for your family and friends, and they're sure to think you're a low-carb genius.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Recipe Roundup

It's Monday, and you know what that means. More exciting low-carb recipes from around the web. Leave us a comment with a link or dish of your own, and enjoy!

What I Crave: Spaghetti Squash (A great first-time or refresher course on preparing this low-carb staple. Helpful for anyone who hasn't given in to the joy of the amazing spiral slicer.)

Mark's Daily Apple: "Perfect Steak" (A detailed tutorial on types, cuts, and cooking methods.)

smitten kitchen: Skirt Steak Salad with Blue Cheese (There's a smidgen of honey in the dressing, but I know you folks are wise enough to use your sweetener of choice.)

Cheeseslave: Croque-Madame (An open-faced French breakfast sandwich for our readers who still allow themselves a little bread.)

Grace2882: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Jennifer Eloff: Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Maria Emmerich: Cheesy Dehydrated "Popcorn" (This one was too weird not to share. It's dehydrated cauliflower!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Meatspiration

Yeah, yeah. So Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat to last weekend's MTV Video Music Awards, prompting Jimmy Kimmel to claim, "This Atkins Diet is getting out of control!"

But despite all the attention she got for it, Lady Gaga is certainly not the first one to think of turning raw meat into fashion.

Remember Cycle 10 of America'a Next Top Model?

That's right, Gaga. Tyra beat you to it. Meatwear is soooo 2008.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vitamins and Protein Powder

Once upon a time, Tracey’s mom consulted her local GNC employees about a low-carb protein powder and came up with SEI Pharmaceuticals’ Max Protein. It has a bit of a clumping problem that makes it very annoying to clean out of shaker bottles, but it’s delicious and very low-carb at 3g carbs and 1g sugar for a 30g scoop.

However, it’s $50 for 2 lbs., which didn’t bother me before when protein shakes weren’t a habit of mine, but now that I’m sometimes having multiple shakes in one day, it seems pretty excessive.

A muscle-building friend of mine talked me into buying the protein powder he uses, which is Dymatize Elite Gourmet. It has 5g carbs and 0g sugar for a 32g scoop because it’s made with sucralose, no clumping, and a different but still great taste. And it’s only $29 for 5 pounds, so it’s a major savings.

The problem is that the Dymatize contains almost no vitamins, whereas the SEI is loaded with them. I read a blog where a woman was breaking a multivitamin into her protein shakes to make them more nutritious, and I wondered if anyone had any thoughts on that.

Does it matter if my vitamins are part of the original powder or something I add myself? Does it matter if I have the vitamins in the shake or alongside it?

I kind of assume that taking a multivitamin right before or after I drink my shake is the same as breaking it up into the shake itself, but I’m no doctor of vitamin-absorption.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Post: No Carb Digestion, or Why My Farts Don't Stink

Tracey and I like to think that we're leading our friends toward the low-carb light every day, but it turns out that some of them find their own way. One such friend is Ryan Cordle, who's lost an incredible amount of weight eating Paleo-style. I invited him to guest post for us whenever he liked, and I'm so pleased that he chose a topic Tracey and I often talk about but have not-surprisingly never gone public with. Thanks, Ryan!

Marriage is a very romantic, intimate, and beautiful thing. Part of that intimacy is deciding, consciously or not, how to deal with situations in private that may be slightly taboo in public. For example: farting. All couples decide whether or not they will freely fart in front of one another. My parents do not fart in front of one another. Perhaps they are a bit Victorian, but in my house growing up, farting was not something you did in the presence of a lady (later I learned that ladies fart, too). Therefore, if you must fart, you excuse yourself to the bathroom and let it rip.

Other families are much more free with their farting habits. The parents encourage their children with games like Pull My Finger. I always saw this family on TV and realized that for others, farting is not a shame to hide but an event at which the whole family laughs. I imagined mothers, fathers, and their 2-3 children sitting around the table after dinner, pulling one another's fingers and having a merry time.

My wife and I are somewhere in the middle. We will fart in each other's presence if it hits us. It's not something we brag about, and I never had the confidence to ask her to pull my digit. However, we do have a rule to regulate our has habits: on long car trips, the guilty farter is responsible for rolling down the windows. But my wife could tell you that the window rule no longer applies to me.

I have been eating a very low-carb "paleo diet" for 75 days and have lost 47 lbs. Obviously, there are a lot of benefits to eating low-carb, like losing weight, looking like gold, and forgetting what it feels like to be hungry. Yet, I submit to you there is an even more glorious product to this way of eating: my farts don't stink.

From a scientific perspective, it makes perfect sense. The innumerable bacteria that call our intestines home love starch and sugar. Those substances allow the bacteria to thrive and make baby bacteria at a significant rate. All of that bacteria eating and reproducing leads to an excess of gas in our digestive tract that must come out. This is why the bean is the magical fruit that makes us toot. Bacteria seem to love beans and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

So when I cut out nearly all starch and sugar from my diet, the bacteria went hungry. And when those bacteria go hungry, they don't produce much gas. Which makes road trips much more pleasant for my wife.

I still fart occasionally. I usually have to let one go in the morning when I go the gym, or sometimes after work, but that is it. Why don't they stink? I have no clue, but clearly it has something to do with what my gut flora is eating, and to me, it is a sign of good health that I do not have a stench leaving my butt on a regular basis.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recipe Roundup

Once again, enjoy these recipes that caught our attention this past week. Leave your own concoctions and finds in the comments!

Marisa's Kitchen Talk: Blue Cheese Stuffed Endive

Jennifer Eloff: Eggplant Lasagna

Kimberly Bouldin: Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry

Kalyn's Kitchen: Baked Pesto Chicken

Fit Food Coach: Chicken with “I’m Not Afraid of Butter” Dressing

Maria Emmerich: Chicken "Noodle" Soup (featuring the lovable daikon)!

Lucy: P.B. & Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Healing Power of Gelatin?

Gelatin has always seemed like one of the most nutritionally-neutral foods in the world to me. I've never really thought about it being healthy or unhealthy in itself, instead just making sure to check whether or not it's sugar-free. (It also never really hit me that gelatin without artificial flavorings could even be considered paleo.)

But low-carb guru Dana Carpender has been researching and exploring the health benefits of consuming gelatin -- both in its baking-aisle form and in its more natural, animal-bone-and-skin form -- and it sounds like she may be onto something here:
"Here's the main thing I gathered from it: You know how, over the past century or so, we've skewed our fatty acid intake by eating less animal fat and more vegetable oils, so that we're getting way too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s, too many unsaturates and not enough saturates? In exactly the same way, we have been skewing our balance of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Gelatin-rich foods, from bone broths to head cheese to foods like pig's feet and ox tails, were a large part of a traditional diet. Our ancestors relished every part of the animal, and just as they ate organ meats that most modern Americans now spurn, they also ate all the gelatin-rich bony and cartilaginous bits of the animal. In this modern era of muscle meat and little but muscle meat -- think boneless skinless chicken breast -- much of this gelatin has vanished from the diet, but our bodies' need for it has not.
After naming joint health and energy boosts as positive side effects of gelatin, she goes on to list some other health benefits of the stuff:
Gelatin... with its glycine and proline, apparently does everything from reducing susceptibility to stress, to fighting tumors, to soothing the intestinal tract, to improving thyroid function. Dr. Peat also says it stimulates natural sleep,exciting stuff for this lifetime insomniac. It should be generally relaxing. And it should do very good things for skin. You've heard of collagen cream, right? I've known for years that the molecules were actually too big to penetrate the skin when applied topically, so these creams did nothing to strengthen our own collagen. On the other hand, taking it internally should be helpful. If I suddenly start getting mistaken for a 35 year old I'll let you know.
So weird, right? Bone-in meats have sort of always turned me off a little, and when I do tolerate them, I rarely get anywhere near the bone before I give up and push away my plate, but I can certainly start eating more Jell-O** or using plain gelatin as a thickening agent in my cooking. To read more about the many ways Dana is supplementing her diet with gelatin (including taking the plain powder by the teaspoonful with water), check out her whole post.


**I should note here that Jell-O brand's sugar-free gelatin is sweetened with aspartame, which many health-minded folks try their best to avoid these days due to its reputation as a neurotoxin. Katie and I have explained in the comments discussion following this post how we still enjoy it in moderation, but I would hate for this post to encourage anyone to start loading up on large quantities of aspartame-sweetened Jell-O. I've read that there are a few ways to make your own flavored gelatin with your sweetener of choice, such as mixing unflavored gelatin with Kool-Aid packets and sweetener or DaVinci's sugar-free syrups, but I can't vouch for exact amounts of each since I've never tried it. Perhaps I'll give it a go and share what I find out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Meatspiration

I'm no trekkie, but this sausage/pepperoni/salami Starship Enterprise makes me want to live long and prosper.

(Via Foodbeast)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vintage Ad: "It's all energy!"

Another one from the "Sugar Makes You Skinny" files, this vintage ad claims that sugar gives you enough energy to "undereat". Ummm.

Copy reads:
Enjoy an ice cream before lunch.

Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat.

When you're hungry, it usually means your energy's down. By eating something with sugar in it, you can get your energy up fast. In fact, sugar is the fastest energy food around. And when your energy's up, there's a good chance you'll have the willpower to undereat at mealtime. How's that for a sweet idea?

Sugar... only 18 calories per teaspoon, and it's all energy.

Empty calories plus blood sugar spikes plus undereating? SO nutritious!

I wonder if an all-sugar diet will make my eyelashes spike out like that.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Easiest Low-Carb Dessert Recipe Ever

Since I spend most of my time in my boyfriend's tiny apartment in Manhattan with no freezer and no oven, dessert recipes that are actually doable for me are entirely too scarce. So when I saw this suggestion in the comments section of one of the other low-carb blogs Tracey and I read, I was intrigued and added the ingredients to my shopping list.

Here's the entire recipe:

Mix sugar-free pudding powder into full-fat Greek yogurt.

I bought the 17.6 oz. Fage Total Plain and mixed about a quarter of a packet of Jell-o butterscotch pudding into it.

The tang of the yogurt was still present, but the pudding powder made it plenty sweet. I can imagine using chocolate protein powder, a little natural peanut butter, or some calorie-free Walden Farms strawberry syrup in future mixes.

And the best part is that the Greek yogurt is only 7g carbs for 1 cup. It does have 7g sugar for 1 cup, but yogurt is great for my gut, and I'm never going to eat a whole cup of the stuff at a time, anyway.

Thank you, unknown commenter, for you have changed my life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daikon Hashbrowns

For me, the biggest challenge of eating better and lowering my carb intake is not giving up sugary desserts or bread. It's keeping myself away from potatoes. I. Love. Potatoes. In all their forms. My dream life involves spooning mounds of loaded mashed potatoes onto deep fried potato skins, topping them off with a sprinkling of crispy shredded hash browns, and eating them EVERY NIGHT for dinner. With a double side of fries.

Sadly, I'm picky about "fauxtato" recipes. I despise the taste of cauliflower once it's cooked, which means that the zillions of delicious-looking low carb recipes in which cauliflower masquerades as potatoes are completely wasted on me.

Recently, however, I finally got to taste a potato-imposter I had only read about in low carb cookbooks. Meet the daikon:

I was stunned when I spotted a few hunks of the Japanese radishes sitting there among the other veggies at my local grocery store. My heart skipped a beat when I remembered that they were fabled to create a mean hash brown substitute, so I snatched one up, took it home, and went to work.

First, I removed the skin with a vegetable peeler and grated it up using a box grater:

I found the shreds only slightly more watery than the ones you would get from a potato, and since I like my hash browns as crispy as possible, I squeezed them dry between some paper towels:

I melted some butter (olive oil would do just fine, too) in a skillet and threw in the shreds, spreading them out into a thin layer:

I let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they were browned to my liking, and I served them up next to my cheese omelet:

The verdict? These things were surprisingly good. The texture was spot on, and the taste was somewhat potato-ish, but with a little extra bite. I'll bet if I added some onions, or even some cheese and bacon crumbles, they might even fool someone. And for only 5g of carbs -- 2.3 of which are fiber -- in an entire cup of daikon, I'd say this recipe's a keeper.

The only downside was the smell that lingered in the kitchen for a few hours after cooking. You know how some vegetables just create a unique stink when heated, even if they taste delicious (I'm talking to you, cabbage)? This was one of them. Next time, I'll just have to remember to use the kitchen fan and light a candle.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Recipe Roundup

Once again, some recipes from around the blogosphere. Leave a recipe or link of your own in the comments!

What I Crave: Savory Herb Crackers

Elana's Pantry: Squash Fries

Grace2882: Beefy Tostada Pie

The Rogue Cookie: Low-Carb New York Style Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce (Also see Heather's tips and techniques for cheesecake baking.)

24/7 Low Carb Diner: Tinkerbelle's Avocado Pudding

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Meatspiration

Haute hot dogs with unusual toppings have been trendy here in NYC for a couple of years now, and I've approved of every last concoction.

A schmear of cream cheese and everything bagel seeds? Totally. Pineapple? Okay, sure. Avocado? If you say so.

But Bachelor Girl sent us a link last week to this hot dog balloon featured on Craft Gossip, and it's really testing the limits of what I consider appropriate hot dog condiment:

At first, I thought it was a heart-shaped hot dog with a ketchup kite string and a mustard middle. Even though I've never seen the sugar-free ketchup that the rest of the U.S. is apparently enjoying here in NYC, I figured a packet of regular ketchup here and there is no problem.

But then I realized that the yellow filling is egg. Am I being a baby, or is that objectively weird?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Worth the Hassle to Be Healthy

Kim of the wonderfully elitist Good Hair, Kim Luck commented the other day on Tracey's post about people naysaying low-carb dieting as "not real weightloss" and said:

I couldn't be paid to care if the way someone chooses to drop pounds includes drinking heavy cream through a straw.

And I was obviously like, "BFFs!" It also reminded me of a recent trip to Starbucks.

I'm not a big fan of Starbucks' coffee, but I'm a big, big fan of the fact that they'll sell me a cup of heavy cream for the price of a glass of milk. If I find myself with absolutely no desire to think about what to have for lunch, I just pop down to the Starbucks in my office building, buy a cup of heavy cream, and mix up a protein shake. No one has ever questioned me or even looked at me funny there.

I was on my way home from work the other day, though, and decided to stop in the Starbucks I pass by anyway rather than:

• go out of my way to the grocery store, or
• stop at the bank to get cash, since corner bodegas are known for only taking cash.

"May I have a grande cup of heavy cream, please?" I asked the barista.

"A cup of what?" he asked.

"Heavy whipping cream," I said.

"Do you . . . want ice in it?" he asked.

"No, thanks," I replied. "Just the cream."

He poured the cup halfway full and then said, "You don't want anything else in here?"

I said, "Nope, all cream."

He said, "Let me fill it up for you."

I said, "Uh, yeah, thanks."

"Are you gonna drink this?" he asked, looking so weirded out.

"Sure," I said. "I'm going to mix it into smoothies and cook with it and stuff."

He handed it to me, saying, "You are the first and last person who will ever ask for this."

I laughed, but this sort of thing happens way too often for comfort, especially since I eat practically every meal out. Whether it's a McDonald's cashier telling me "we don't do that" when I ask for a bunless burger or a deli including the rice with my grilled chicken when I ask them not to, low-carbing takes a little bit of gumption.

Sometimes I don't want to deal with the strange looks and just take the bun off later myself, but usually I remind myself that any amount of hassle is worth my health.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sinkhole Swallows Sonic!

And thus, God smote the sinful, carb-filled fast food chain by BANISHING IT TO HELL!