Thursday, January 31, 2008

RECIPE: Low Carb Strawberry Cheese Cake

I love this no bake recipe because it's easy AND my non-low carb friends can't tell it is made without sugar. The topping is a Wifezilla original and uses a very unique ingredient....CHIA SEEDS (yes, the stuff used on chia heads)! They are available at most hippy-infested health food stores and its gelling properties are very cool. It doesn't hurt that it is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and taste much better than fish oil!

Low Carb Strawberry Cheese Cake

2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 packets of Splenda

Mix ingredients together and press in to the bottom of a large pie or cake pan coated with non-stick spray. Bake at 350 degrees until crust turns light brown. Allow to cool before adding cheese cake filling.

12 large frozen strawberries
3 tablespoons chia seeds
2 packets of splenda
1 packet of equal

Place in a bowl and allow frozen strawberries to partially thaw. Slice strawberries and add sweetener. Add chia seeds and stir. Allow strawberries to completely thaw. The chia seeds will absorb the strawberry juice and turn into a gel. Add more seeds if the topping appears to be a bit runny. If it looks too thick, add a few more strawberries.

2 8oz packets of cream cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Da Vinci Sugar-Free Simple Syrup or other low carb sweetener to taste
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon juice

Using a mixer, whip the cream cheese, vanilla and lemon juice together. In a seperate CHILLED bowl, whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream and cream cheese together and spread over the crust.

Cover the cheese cake with the strawberry/chia topping and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve to sugar junkies but don't tell then it is sugar free. As they take their last bite, THEN tell them. It is hilarious watching them trying to shout "NO WAY" with a mouth full of cheese cake. As they are coughing tell them there are chia seeds in the topping. "Like the stuff on the CHIA HEADS?" ::cough::sputter:::

Low Carb Energy Magazine

Monday, January 28, 2008

Birth of a Sugar Junkie

Now that I understand the actual mechanism involved in weight gain (elevated insulin levels due to excess carbohydrate consumption), it is no surprise to me that there is an obesity epidemic. All I have to do is take a little trip in the "wayback machine" and think about the things I used to eat as a kid.

When I was around 5 or 6, this was typical fare in my home. To the right is the approximate carb count.

Kellogs Corn Flakes (2 cups) - 48.43g
Milk (1 cup) - 11.71g
Orange Juice (1 cup) - 25.79g

Peanut Butter Sandwich - 41.64g
Apple Juice (1 cup) - 28.97g

Banana - 27.65g

Chicken Pot Pie - 41.5g
Milk (1 cup) - 11.71g

Ice Cream (1 cup) - 31.97g

Total - 269.37

This is what would be a "healthy" day with mom keeping a tight lid on the sugar bowl. The times when mom & dad were working a lot, we had a babysitter in the afternoons, and just dad watching us at night while mom worked. It was more typical during that time to add in a couple of sodas at 41g of carbs each, swap sugar smacks for the plain corn flakes (64g of carbs), and add in a Hostess Ho Ho or three (54g of carbs). That would push the approximate carb level from 269 up to over 420.

Now remember, carbs = sugar. It doesn't matter if it starts out as toast, a soda, a banana or a chocolate donut. 50 grams of carbohydrates = 1/4 cup of pure sugar once that food is digested. Even without added sugar in my example above, I was still getting over 1 1/4 cups of sugar a day. When the parents weren't paying attention, I was getting over 2 cups.

My teen years were even worse. I had a serious Mountain Dew habit, had Snickers Bars and Little Debbie Snack Cakes several times a week, and ate burritos and grilled cheese sandwiches from the school cafeteria. Then I discovered beer.

Later I made a foray in to vegetarianism. This was supposed to be a way for me to be healthier and stop the weight creep. Instead it got worse since an even larger portion of my diet was composed of carbohydrates. By this time I was a full blown sugar junkie and didn't even know it. I thought I was eating healthy by choosing oatmeal instead of sugary breakfast cereals, whole wheat bread instead of white, and eating pretzels instead of potato chips. But I had actually swapped one form of sugar for another.

By finally avoiding sugar in all its forms, I am regaining my health. I still get angry thinking about how I used to eat, and the foods my mom thought were good for me. That poor woman read a lot about diet, went to Weight Watchers for her own problems, but never knew the real facts. By not knowing carbs = sugar, she inadvertently turned me in to a full-fledged sugar abuser. Now I know that sugar can be disguised as pasta, rice, bread, corn, potatoes and more. I also learned that it is an unhealthy addictive substance that ruins your health. Kind of like the food equivalent of crack.

As long as the medical community and government officials ignore the fact that carbs = sugar, parents will continue to turn their kids in to spastic little addicts. At first they will wonder why their kid is so hyper. Then when they get older, they will wonder why their kid is fat and how they ended up with type 2 diabetes. It's kind of like wondering how someone grows up to became an alcoholic when you have been giving them daily shots of Jack Daniel's since birth.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Attack of the Killer Potato

The Idaho Potato board is once again bombarding the airwaves with ads touting the health benefits of the potato (see below for actual ad). I am of Irish/German descent and originally from the Midwest. So you can just imagine the number of potatoes I ingested in the form of potato salad, mashed potatoes, au gratin potatoes, german potato salad, potato pancakes, spatzel, tater tots, potato dumplings, potato chips and french fries. That fact that I know how to make everything I just listed from scratch, with the exception of the tater tots, is a bit of an indicator (and given some time and a grater, I think I could make a passable approximation of the tater tot). So if the potato is so healthy, why would I, an avid potato lover, gain so much weight while eating them?

According to my mom, the potato was perfectly healthy. It was all the stuff we added to it that made it in to a dietary disaster. It was the sour cream, butter, cheese, and cooking oils that were to blame. That's what was reported in all the magazines mom read and in the weekly food section of the local paper. That is also what she learned at her Weight Watchers meetings. That's what EVERYBODY "just knew". Once again, everybody was dead wrong.

According to Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, "Potatoes are a great way to survive a famine. My grandparents survived the Depression on potatoes. But in a contemporary, sedentary society, potatoes are unhealthy, with a very big glycemic load. We've seen in our studies that higher potato consumption is related to a risk of diabetes. They are very rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream-more than eating pure sugar: sugar is only half glucose when it's broken down, potatoes are 100 percent glucose. There's not very much in terms of redeemable nutritional value that you get for the calories. Unless you are extremely lean and extremely active, you can't tolerate them. If you really like potatoes, you can have them in moderation now and then, but the trouble is that a big mountain of potatoes on your plate twice a day is how many people eat."

"Actually, careful studies have shown, demonstrated that you get a bigger rise in blood sugar after eating potatoes, a baked potato, say, than you do from eating pure table sugar."

The typical large restaurant-sized baked potato, with approximately 50g of carbohydrates, is nothing more than 1/4 cup of sugar in disguise. Sure it contains vitamins and minerals, but so does a strawberry danish. The difference is the danish isn't pretending to be a health food. It is amazing to think that I was taught that potatoes were good, sour cream and butter were bad, and if I got fat, it was my fault for being weak and lazy. All the while the very basis of my diet was messing up my blood sugar, causing intense food cravings, and helping me on the way to all time highest weight. Had I just thrown out the potato and eaten the butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and bacon bits out of a bowl with a spoon, I would have been perfectly fine.

Instead, I, just like mom, bought the great potato lie hook, line and sinker. I ate them plain, I ate them with low fat yogurt instead of sour cream, I used margarine instead of butter. Then word got out that potatoes were good with fat-free salsa and I tried that too. My weight continued to climb and I felt worse all the time. It wasn't until very recently that I understood that the potato was the real problem all along.

I do understand that potato farmers need to make a living, and there are quite a few people who can scarf starchy foods with little health consequence. I am just not one of them. I can, however, find a way to continue to help the potato farmers. I will just make myself a potato canon. Then I can actually use the potatoes in a healthy ammo to shoot at people who try to tell me potatoes are good to eat!

Make your own potato canon!

The latest "lievertisement" from the potato council...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Low Carb Cats Update

I am long overdue for an update on my furry little friends Cookie and Xena. For those of you just joining my blog, once I learned how grains, sugars and other carbohydrates lead to weight gain, I decided to also put my cats on a low carb diet. Chubby fuzzbucket Xena went from 22lbs down to 14 in a short period of time. My older cat was not overweight, but did lose a pound or so and stopped barfing all over my bedroom floor. Here we are months later and the cats are thriving on a grain-free low carb diet.

Xena at 14 pounds and holding

Xena is still 14 pounds. Like me, her weight has stalled but her build and body composition are still changing. She looks less and less like a furry bowling ball and more like a CAT every day. This has been an exceptionally cold winter here in Colorado, so she isn't going out side like she normally does. I know her activity level is way down, yet she still is maintaining her weight loss.

Chasing bugs in the garden has been put on hold until the weather improves.

Cookie is still chugging along. At 18+ years old it is amazing that she can still jump up on to tall tables, counters, and other places she has no business being. The grain-free wet food is something she looks forward to every morning. Along with their favorite flavor of Fancy Feast (Turkey & Giblets), she has been a sport about occasional substitutions of different grain-free store brands. Albertson's, Safeway and Super Walmart all have a couple of grain-free flavors of their generic "house" brand. She wasn't too fond of the Special Kitty Walmart wet food, but the Safeway & Albertson's brands were fine by her.

Cookie the cranky senior citizen

Their dry food is either Innova EVO or Blue Buffalo Wilderness. It all depends on whether or not I remember to place an internet order of the EVO before they run out. Blue Buffalo Wilderness I can just get at PetsMart. While neither one is what I would consider a perfect cat food (both contain potatoes), they are way better than the standard garbage most pets end up eating.

I will continue low carb for the cats just as I keep low carb for myself. All three of us are eagerly awaiting Spring so we can spend time in the back yard. Before it hits, I might have to do some more research on Xena's food intake. How many carbs are in bugs anyhow?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

If I Never Lose Another Pound...

My weight loss has stalled over the Winter, but I am not discouraged. I usually GAIN weight during the colder months, and despite not losing pounds, I am still losing inches. I know it is easy to get discouraged about a diet if you aren't seeing movement on the scale, but eating low carb isn't just about weight loss. It is about my health.

I was talking about this very topic on the Low Carb Friends forum, and started to list reasons I would still eat low carb even if I never lost another pound. I think it is important to list and expand on them here, not just as a reminder for my forgetful self, but to show others who may be stalled (or miserable on a restricted calorie diet) that the scale number is NOT the most important part about being healthy and fit.

If I Never Lost Another Pound, I Would Still Eat Low Carb Because...

• Eating low carb reduces my chance of developing type 2 diabetes*.
• Eating low carb does not cause inflammation and blood vessel damage like eating carbohydrates and sugars does*.
• Eating low carb means I am eating less processed foods, and I think Monsanto and ConAgra have enough money already.
• Eating low carb also means I am supporting small local farmers because I shop at farmer's markets instead of the super market whenever possible.
• My eating low carb makes militant vegetarians seriously pissed off and I find that amusing.
• That goes double for PETA members.
• Did I mention I like meat?
• I never turn down an excuse to use my bbq grill.
• Eating low carb reduces my chances of developing heart disease*.
• I am no longer plagued by constant hunger pains.
• Since I stopped eat grains, I fart a lot less (seriously).
• I no longer get the shakes and break out in a cold sweat from a blood sugar crash even though I have just eaten about an hour earlier.
• I'll take any excuse I can get to keep eating cheese.
• I can easily eat this way for the rest of my life without being miserable.
• By eating low carb I have less monthly bloating.
• Eating low carb does not deplete my body of vitamins like high carbohydrate food does*.
• Heavy cream ... droooooollllll
• Eating low carb reduces the ability of cancer cells to develop and spread in my body (more).
• Eating low carb is healthier for my skin and reduces collagen damage (more) - I have enough wrinkles already!
• Because I really love putting melted butter on stuff.
• Bacon!

Are these enough reasons for you to continue with low carb eating? Enough reasons for you to look beyond the scale? Enough reasons for you to consider starting? If nothing else, it will give you something to think about.

*Sources - "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, "Natural Health & Weight Loss" by Barry Groves, "Protein Power" by Drs. Mike & Mary Eades and more.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Low Carb is for the Birds!

I have always tried to be kind to little woodland creatures (well, except squirrels, they are evil and often trash my garden). I thought I was doing a good thing by putting out bread for all the little birds that live outside my office. Turns out I was doing them the same disservice I was doing myself by turning to carbohydrates.

Several wildlife sites warn of the dangers of feeding bread to wild birds.

"Bread and other processed foods are not part of a bird's natural diet and may lead to malnutrition from eating foods with little or no nutritional value. The balance of fiber, fats, micronutrients, carbohydrates and protein in a bird's natural diet is radically different from a scavenged diet consisting mostly of human food."

"DO NOT FEED BREAD - bread is often the first kind of food humans give to birds but, especially in the winter when there is little other food available, birds receive very little nutrition from bread and may die from a diet high on bread as this can cause malnutrition."

So just like I have taken myself off of the unhealthy carbohydrates, I have taken the birds off as well. Instead, I have replaced the bread, muffins, and bagel pieces with suet.

Suet is actually beef fat. Why would a bird eat beef fat? Because this fat replaces the energy birds usually get from insects.

"fat plays a very important role in both human and avian diets. Along with protein and carbohydrates, fat is one of the three dietary sources of calories - or energy. Fats are concentrated forms of energy and, per unit weight, provide more than twice the caloric energy as protein or carbohydrates of equivalent weight. This is very important for birds because their metabolisms are extremely accelerated. Fat energy helps them sustain activity levels longer between meals." (more)

Suet feeder just outside my office window and one of the "regulars".

Mixed with seeds, nuts and berries, a suet cake is just what those little birds need to thrive though a Colorado winter. You do your neighborhood feathered friends a great favor by getting them off of sugar and carbs. Save the unhealthy bread and donuts for the evil squirrels.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wifezilla's Low Carb Golden Clam Chowder

I'm on a roll with all the cooking (sorry if I am making you hungry)! Here is what I made this morning and left cooking in the slow cooker while I went to the office. Based on a traditional clam chowder recipe, it has a few low carb adaptations. The golden color comes from the rutabaga.

Wifezilla's Low Carb Golden Clam Chowder
(Slow cooker directions)

6 slices of thick cut bacon (or hog jowl slices)
1 large rutabaga
2 cans of minced clams
1 Tbsp dried minced onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 cloves
2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
dried or fresh chopped chives for garnish

Peel and chop rutabaga in to small pieces. Cook bacon in a large frying pan. Remove when well done and drain on paper towels. Put rutabaga pieces in the bacon grease and cook until a bit soft (don't worry about cooking them completely at this point...remember...this is all going in to the slow cooker). Add in all the spices except for the cloves. Add in both cans of minced clams including liquid and stir well. Once everything is warmed up, transfer contents to your slow cooker. Crumble the bacon and add that in as well. Pour in 2 cups of water and stir well. Place the 2 clove pieces on top of the mix, or wrap the 2 cloves in a piece of cheese cloth or put in a tea ball. You want to be able to remove the cloves before serving.

Put your slow cooker on low and let this mix cook while you work or run errands. When you get home, fish the cloves out and stir in the cream. It will take a few minutes for the chowder to warm back up to temperature, so pour yourself a martini, or have a few slices of cheese as an appetizer. Relax. (Or you could just say "To Hell With Waiting!" and nuke each his own.)

Once the chowder has warmed up, help yourself to a bowl and sprinkle with some of the chives. No, you should NOT serve this with oyster crackers like a traditional chowder. That would blow the whole point of me adapting this to low carb. You could make yourself some cheese crisps or flax crackers, but I think another martini might be more fun.

UPDATE: lisabinil from Low Carb Friends was kind enough to run the numbers on this. Thanks Lisa!

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 413 Calories; 31g Fat (67.3% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 88mg Cholesterol; 357mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 5 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Low Carb Energy Magazine

Wifezilla's Instant Blueberry Ice Cream

Who doesn't love ice cream? With all the sugar in regular ice cream, I have had to avoid it. I did try some no-sugar-added ice creams, but they contain sugar alcohols. Not only did they not taste good, I got a stomach ache for my troubles. I tried making ice cream in my ice cream maker, but it was a mess, took forever, and cost me more in ice and rock salt than the resulting goo was worth.

Luckily, I did some experimenting with my food processor the other day. The result is a recipe so fast and easy, I could kick myself for not coming up with it sooner. It literally takes less than 1 minute to put everything together and have creamy, tasty low carb ice cream read to eat. In fact, I have an electric ice cream maker if anyone wants it. I wont be needing it anymore!!!

Wifezilla's Instant Blueberry Ice Cream
(Makes 2 servings)


1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Da Vinci sugar-free simple syrup

Substitution options: You can use packets of Splenda or Equal if you don't have any Da Vinci syrup. Try 2 of each (mixing sweeteners tends to lower aftertaste). You can also use frozen strawberries, but they must be cut in to smaller pieces. Whole frozen strawberries are too big and hard to mix/cut properly. You can partially thaw them and slice, but they must be mostly frozen for this method to work. You can also dice fresh fruit and freeze it. Just keep the chunks about blueberry-sized and it will work great.

Directions: Place ingredients in a food processor with a chopping blade (mine is an old Black & Decker ShortCut). Pulse for a few seconds until heavy cream & blueberries turn in to nice, creamy, soft serve looking mix (you can also use a blender, but you have to mix & pulse repeatedly to get it evenly whipped). You can set it a bit more by placing in the freezer, but honestly, it seldom makes it that far. Hubby and I just take the food processor container and grab a couple of spoons (fewer dishes to wash!).

Yummmmmm....Low Carby Blueberry Goodness! Drooollll!

I am not sure what the texture would be like if you froze it overnight, but I do have some in the freezer right now. I will check it after work and see if it is still edible or if it turns in to a rock.

Here are the approximate carb and calorie counts. I list this recipe as making two servings, since hubby and I share a batch and it is very satisfying. This is not something you want to eat if you are on Atkins induction unless it keeps you from diving in to a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Other phases of Atkins, Barry Groves plan, or maintenance phases should have no trouble with this if you keep track of your total carbs for the day.

Per Serving...
Calories: 243
Fat: 23g
Total Carbs: 12
Fiber: 2
Net Carbs: 10

Enjoy everyone!

UPDATE: I froze some for about 6 hours and it did get kind of hard, but it also seemed to get "dusty" and crumbly. Yuck.  I recommend only making what you immediately need.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

PRODUCT REVIEW: Hood Calorie Countdown Chocolate Milk

When it comes to cravings, I have learned that trying to ignore them can make you a bit nutty and even trigger a binge. It is often a better idea to find a way to calm the craving than to try and pretend it doesn't exist. One of my occasional cravings is for chocolate milk. With the high sugar content of regular chocolate milk, this is one of the things I had taken off the menu. I had tried to ignore the times I had cravings for chocolate milk and made myself some coco mocha instead. While it did help a bit, there is something about a super cold glass of chocolate milk that still made me want a glass every time I walked by the dairy section at the grocery store.

Imagine my surprise (and relief) when I saw this at my local Walmart! Did I now have a way to drive the chocolate milk craving out of my head without derailing my weight loss? Plus I had to wonder if the 60% fewer calories, 90% less sugar and 84% fewer carbohydrates than regular chocolate milk would mean it was an undrinkable mess. Since it was only $2.98 for a half gallon, I figured it was worth a try.

I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and creamy the texture was. The flavor was nice and chocolaty. It calmed my chocolate milk craving in no time flat. It is sweetened with Splenda and did have a bit of an artificial sweetener aftertaste. Someone new to Splenda may not like it, but as an artificial sweetener veteran, it wasn't too bothersome. I did notice that the aftertaste was less noticeable the colder the drink is (I am one of those weirdos who puts ice cubes in their milk...once I put the ice in and tasted the Hood chocolate drink again, the Splenda taste was less apparent).

The price isn't too bad for a specialty product and the texture is awesome. Other than the little Splenda twinge, this is a really good product. Next time you get a chocolate milk craving, you may want to give it a try.

Rating (out of 5 stars)
Product ****
Value ****