Tag Archives: Low Carb

10 Things I learned about you, Low-Carb cooking

When I tell most people we are on a low carb diet- i.e. less than 50g per DAY, they first ask me if I’m crazy. Yes. Yes I am. Second, they say that they could never do it, they love bread, fruit, -insert carby thing here- too much. I also love bread (see Oh Hello Sour Dough, parts one and deux) and carby things (see all of the other recipes on here). With our recent experiments in low carb cooking, I’ve learned some very valuable cooking lessons.

Low carb cooking is not for the faint of heart. It requires integrating new techniques and ingredients into your repertoire that you may not have expected.

1. The more spices or seasonings you add, the better
In regular cooking, you can rely on the regular ingredients to contribute to the dish. Pasta, rice, bread, etc all add a certain subtle flavor that you’ll miss if you don’t crank up the flavor dial. For instance, if you are making a lasagna: use vertically sliced zucchini layered with grated smoked mozzarella and pungent pecorinos and some asiago, home-made tomato sauce with lots of basil and balsamic. Using the best dried spices you can find also helps, use your schnoz. If you can barely smell it, the flavor won’t be so bright either. Visit a Penzy’s, ethnic market, or bulk foods store so you can pick them out. Think about the ingredients you use before you use them and what they could add to the dish if they were slightly different.

2. If you are adapting recipes, lower your expectations
Don’t expect artificial sweeteners to act like sugar, nothing else acts exactly like potatoes do, don’t expect Shiraki noodles to have the same consistency as pasta. You’re just setting yourself up for failure. Aim low. They’ll be close, and will probably satisfy your craving, but as Marvin and Tammi say “Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby”. If you’re really jonesin’, indulge, don’t beat yourself up about it, and get back on track asap.

Oh and if you are using Shiraki noodles, rinse the crap out of them, microwave them, then rinse them again i.e. follow the directions on the pack. It’ll get rid of the feet smell the noodles normally have.

3. Bob and his Red Mill are your new best friends
Bob’s Red Mill will make just about everything you need for baking. Here’s what I like to keep around: Almond meal, Coconut flour, Flax meal, Vital wheat gluten- unless you are gluten free, xanthan gum or powdered arrowroot, and soy flour. Maybe throw in a chia seed if you’re feeling adventurous, I sure am. The wheat gluten helps make things chewy rather than sandy, if you’re going for sandy cookies or crumbly muffins, great. Have a blast. If not, add the wheat gluten, xanthan gum, or arrowroot. Oh, and Xanthan gum is something that comes from evil corn, not something Martian children chew. Just thought I’d clear that up.

4. Think about textures
Using breadcrumbs is required for many recipes from coating fish to pan-fry to mixing into a casserole to add bulk and texture. Last time I checked, bread crumbs are made from bread, so they are off limits. Almond meal and flax seed meal crisp up almost as well, plus they add fiber and nutrients to an otherwise unhealthy coating. Flax meal will thicken up just as well as any breadcrumb within the casserole, and a mix of almond meal and finely grated Parmesan, toast up for a crunchy topping. Almost anything you can think of will have a low-carb equivalent or close match. I make a creamed spinach/kale/chard casserole and you could probably never tell the difference in mine and my mom’s. Except mine is better..tasting and nutritionally. If you are going for a custard-type feel, get to know unflavored gelatin.

5. Extracts give the best-acts– boooo.
In the place of fruits, their extracts will give you the closest thing to their flavor that you’ll get. If you plan on keeping some kind of sweet things in your diet, keep the flavor but nix the carbs by using extracts or edible essential oils in their place. When making low carb pancakes for instance, melt together a half tbsp of butter, 3 tbsp granulated splenda or artificial sweetener of your choice, a splash or two of almond milk, and 1/4 tsp maple extract as your syrup. If you like a stronger maple flavor, add more extract.

6. Use Soy flour SPARINGLY
Pretty straightforward. If you get a little overzealous the whole thing will taste like a wet cardboard box. Always cut soy flour with something else. Or better yet, don’t use it at all, go for a flavorless protein powder.

7. Manipulate vegetables to use as substitutes
Turnips or rutabaga make a pretty close substitute for mashed potatoes, chayote squash makes a pretty decent apple sub- with added spices, summer squashes make decent pasta subs- grated into noodles or sliced thin, cauliflower can be grated into rice, Spaghetti squash- pretty obvious,use seedless cuke slices or celery sticks with your dips

8. Cheeses and Dairy are your friends– sorry vegans.
You should keep with you some Ricotta, ground parm, mascarpone, cream cheese, and other shredded cheeses that are aged- your faves. Ricotta, mascarpone, and cream cheese can go savory or sweet. Keep these to a minimum, though, there are hidden carbs in cow’s milk, and less fermented or aged cheeses. Try alternative milks like goat or sheep products. Just about all of the barnyard animals make things that you can and should use.

9. Don’t be afraid to experiment and/or fail.
How will you know how the flavors will interact or the textures will act in different situations if you don’t give it a go? Give peas a chance. Try different produce to get the same effect. If it doesn’t work out? Take mental or real notes, analyze what you could do different, adjust for next time. If it does? Yep, you totally meant that to happen the whole time. You’re a genius.

10. Have the right tools to make it happen
This is a basic idea that can apply to all cooking, but having a few items help make this diet easier. A mandoline, a grater that can do strips or strings, a hand masher, an immersion blender, and a food processor can make your life alot easier.

Since Mardi Gras and Valentines Day are both coming close, and sweets are encouraged- I leave you with a low carb truffle recipe so you can have your valentine’s and eat it too.

Flavored truffles
4 oz unsweetened chocolate- Dagoba
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 c coconut milk- unsweetened
1 tbsp coconut oil or butter
1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
3-4 tbsp splenda or other granulated sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract

for decoration and flavor: Chopped nuts or unsweetened, toasted coconut flakes, unsweetened cocoa powder and a pinch or cinnamon- mixed

Add the unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, coconut milk, coconut oil, and coffee granules in a small saucepan. Heat over low fire, and stir until it becomes a smooth. Remove from heat and add the spenda and vanilla. Transfer to a deep plate or a shallow bowl. Refridgerate until slightly firm. Scoop by the teaspoon and roll between palms to form a ball. Roll in desired decoration like nuts, coconut, or cocoa mixture. Place in individual cups in a pretty container and give it to someone special.

Alternate flavor options:
Berry truffle- Raspberry or Strawberry extract, add after mixture is removed from the heat- 3/4 tsp, roll in crushed freeze dried strawberries or chopped almonds
Tropical orange- Orange extract- add with vanilla-1/2 tsp- roll in coconut
Pecan pie- Rum extract- 1/2 tsp add with vanilla in recipe, roll in chopped pecans
Peanut butter banana- banana extract, 1/2 tsp added with vanilla- roll in chopped peanuts
Maple bacon truffle- add 1/2 tsp maple extract and roll in salted bacon bits

Enjoy!
-Stine

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Galumpkis, Low Carb – High flavor

Tomorrow starts round two of my hubz and my diet which means no carbs. i.e. no sugar, no fruit, no pasta, no potatoes, no rice, breads, doughnuts, etc. So while today I eat all of the carbs as a sort of last hurrah (seriously, I made yeast doughnuts-glazed-and chocolate), I remembered this recipe I made a while back.

the mixin’s for galumpkis–not the cheese or wine, that was another thing.

Sometimes I get these urges to eat comfort food from other cultures. I love Korean or Vietnamese noodle dishes, Chinese hot pot, Samosas, just about anything caribbean or wrapped in a tortilla,  poatoe-y british and irish food, italian pasta-heavy dishes. Who doesn’t love anything warm and soothing? Its like not thinking puppies or kittens are cute.  Anyway, I have this plan to spend a day each weekend (when we have children and they are old enough to remember) to learn about and prepare a meal from a different culture. Just about every culture  has a comfort food, and I want to try each one. The challenge arises when you try to make those comforting foods healthy.

There happens to be a very amazing eastern european restaurant a block from my house and I have to keep myself from going once a week to get pierogis and german potato salad. A few months ago, I went for dinner and strayed from my normal choice to get cabbage rolls- or galumpkis (spelling changes depending on who you talk to). They blew my mind. I almost could not keep the conversation going they were so warm and delicious-  and even in the middle of August, they were a welcome warm treat. A few weeks ago I was salivating over the memory of them and decided I can make my own, but healthier and without all of the carbs, so the hubz can eat it. This switches out the heavier ground pork or beef for ground turkey, white rice switches out for riced cauliflower, and breadcrumbs are switched for a mix of soy flour and almond meal. They were almost as good and definitely as satisfying. You can only eat about 2 of these for a meal. 3 if you are starving. 4 and I think your belly explodes- Monty Python style.

The making of these is a little time consuming, so make sure sure you have a few hours to devote to this. However, you will have lunch/ dinner for the week or its good for a dinner party/pot luck. You will need: head of cauliflower, a head of cabbage (mine was the size of a baby), ground turkey, unsweetened evaporated milk-low fat or light if possible or you can sub milk I guess, a 32 oz can of tomato sauce, and the rest you should probably have in your pantry or fridge.

Lets get to it!

First, put on a large stock pot filled about 2/3 the way with water to boil. Core your cabbage, remove the outer leaves if they are damaged or icky. While you are waiting for the water to boil, rice the cauliflower by chopping it fine or grating it in your food processor. Pour half of the can of evaporated milk along with salt and pepper to taste over about 2 cups of the riced cauliflower, then chicken stock to just cover the cauliflower. Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes, until the cauliflower is just cooked.

By now the water in your stock pot should be boiling or just about as hot as you need to work on some cabbage leaves. Carefully, dunk the cabbage into the water and after about a minute, the outer two leaves can be carefully peeled off and soft enough to fold without cracking. The leaves should become slightly translucent when they are done. Once you have about 15-18 leaves, you can save the rest of the cabbage for another project, and then begin to mix the filling.

Saute about half an onion chopped with 2-3 minced cloves of garlic. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, mix one pound of lean ground turkey with the sauteed onion and garlic, one egg, a tablespoon of parsley. Drain the liquid from the cauliflower and add it to the mix with about a tsp of salt and pepper to taste. Then add 1/2 c of soy flour or almond meal (or a mix of both), until it forms a tacky mixture.

Lay out one cabbage leaf, put in about 1/2 cup of the mixture in the center and roll up like a burrito. Repeat until all of the mixture is used.

1. Put filling on the cabbage leaf

2. Fold over the top

3. fold in sides and begin to roll

4. Roll tightly to meet the edge of the leaf. Trim excess as needed

Line a roasting pan with cabbage leaves and spread about 1/2 c of tomato sauce in the bottom.

Nestle rolls in cabbage lined pan

Lay the cabbage rolls in the pan until they are snug as a bug in a rug. Cover with the remaining tomato sauce and bake for 45 min to an hour at 350 degrees or until the filling has firmed and the outer cabbage is tender. Serve warm while you are wrapped in a blanket.

Presentation was not everything, sorry, I actually added the left over stock and evaporated milk mixture used to steam the cauliflower into the tomato sauce in an attempt to make something creamy and tomato-ey but obviously, that didn’t work out. so don’t do that. let the tomatoes do the saucing. I learned that the hard way. It still tasted awesome!

These rolls are so filling and delicious the carbs are not even necessary here. Try it. love it. I bet you will.
I’ll be posting more low-carb recipes as the diet progresses, but I promise that I wont post anything that the average carb-eater wouldn’t like. Pinkie swear.

-Stine

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Chicken Curry

Forgive me blog, for I have sinned. Its been three weeks since my last post, and I made many delicious things that I should have written about. But when it is really cold outside, I long for exotic and spicy foods like Indian. I had an amazing experience at this restaurant in Saratoga Springs last winter where it was snowy and freezing outside, but I was inside with probably the most delicious Chai Tea (though Kayla’s recipe might give that a run for its money). So I have been jones’n  for something reminiscent.

The hubz and I have gone around Albany and Troy searching out the ethnic food markets that have those special ingredients that Chopper just doesn’t or if they do, they are CRAZY EXPENSIVE. Highlights of the trip: DNIPRO – eastern european foods, deli items, and frozen foods, The Asian Supermarket- you really can’t miss this one, India Bazaar- fresh fruits and veggies (many of which you have never seen before) and a super friendly owner. There’s also a small Mexican market on central that is just behind a bus stop that is adorable and has very nice owners. SERIOUSLY- GO THERE FIRST. If you need spices or special ingredients or some slightly odd additive it is probably available at one of these markets. They rule. Go there. Don’t be scared, they don’t bite.

For Chicken Curry I went to India Bazaar on Central and got all of the ingredients I didn’t have for less than $15 (qt of yogurt- $2.99 8oz bag curry powder- $1.49) WHAAAT? And the yogurt was made in NY state. For realsies.
This recipe I had to tweak because I had a ton of chicken to cook but here is the rough recipe for a normal dinner size:

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced–I added more like 5
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root-
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar- LEAVE IT OUT- no carbs
  • salt to taste
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until lightly browned. Stir in garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika, bay leaf, ginger, sugar and salt. Continue stirring for 2 minutes. Add chicken pieces, tomato paste, yogurt, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
    2. Remove bay leaf, and stir in lemon juice (and Zest) and cayenne pepper. Simmer 5 more minutes.

I also made Raita with 1c yogurt, 1/2 c seeded chopped cucumber, cumin, ground black pepper, salt, and some cayenne.
Serve with a dollop of Raita on top, and rice OR riced cauliflower for carb-o-phobes. Here’s how mine came out:

NOM

Now, I know there are multiple recipes for chicken curry out there, and this is probably a red-headed step kid American version of curry, but it was good, and it was spicy, and I loved it. Hope you try one of those recipes too!

– Stine

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