Friday, February 29, 2008

Adventures in Family Cooking

Most of our meals are prepared from scratch and I am always looking for ways to make tasty healthy food at the lowest possible cost. Someone suggested recently that I give pork neck bones a try. This is a dish often served "down South". Being from "up North", I had never tried them, but many people had described very flavorful meals that you can make from this particular cut. When I found a package in my local Safeway for $1.49/lb. I decided to give them a try. Sure it was a package of bones, but there was an awful lot of meat on them. This allowed me to quiet my Tightwad side ("$1.49 for a pack of stupid bones? Are you crazy!") long enough to get them out of the store.

Cooking them in the crock pot seemed like a good idea. I wasn't sure what the final product would be, but slow cooked tender pork always leaves many different opportunities for a tasty dinner. I spiced the meat covered bones and put them in the slow cooker in late afternoon. I checked on them a few hours later and noticed they did not produce a lot of liquid like some pork chop cuts do, so I added water, some more spices and just left it on low to cook overnight. Before bed I checked on it one more time, and it appeared to have cooked down quite a bit. That was disappointing and my Tightwad side started up again. ("SEE! I told you that was way too much to pay for a stupid bag of bones!")

As I was thinking of nasty retorts to Tightwad voice, my husband walked up behind me and said "That meat is really tasty, but it sure does have a lot of bones!".

After mentally flipping off my Tightwad side I turned to my husband and lovingly said, "Hey stupid! Those are neck bones! Of COURSE there are a lot of bones in it. I am cooking them up to use for a soup or stew or something. Now stay the hell out of the crock pot!"

What remained of the neck bones was left to cook overnight, and in the morning, eyes still bleary, I pulled the meat out of the liquid and put it in a large bowl to cool off so I could start the deboning process. Since I wanted to take care of that before going to work, I placed the bowl in the refrigerator and went to take a shower. After getting myself ready, getting my son off to school, and listening to my husband describe the day's early financial news in excruciating detail, I went to the kitchen to take care of those pork bones.

Something was wrong when I pulled out the bowl. It still being morning (which is NOT my best time of the day) and my brain being numbed by listening to interest rates, foreign markets, and something about a nerdy looking guy named Bernanke, it took a minute to register. Apparently there was shrinkage. The pile looked so much smaller. Tightwad voice quickly emerged from the economics induced stupor and was about to start mouthing off again when the rest of the brain woke up. A quick glance in the trash showed 3 large pork bones, almost half of what should have been in the bowl sitting on top of the pile.

He did it again! Husband had gotten in to the crockpot! I started yelling as he flew out the front door claiming he had a meeting and didn't have time to talk. The truth was he did have a meeting but didn't have time to go to the emergency room first if I ever got a hold of him.

I deboned what little was left of the pile and added it back to the liquid. I had found an opened jar of diced green chilis in the fridge and thought that might go well with the pork. I added cilantro, red peppers and anything else I could think of to the mix and tasted it. It WAS good. A little THIN, but good. I figured that despite my husbands interference, I could really make something out of it. I still had a 1lb package of pork sausage in the freezer (bought with Tightwad's assistance...99¢/lb managers special thankyouverymuch!) and if I added that, it would be a nice, thick tasty Southwest pork stew. I pulled out the pork sausage to thaw, and planned on browning that up at lunch and adding it to what was left of the pork meat.

Life messed up my schedule (as usual) and I didn't get home until late. By the time I made it home, husband had been there with my son for a couple of hours, and when I walked in the door, I had totally forgotten about my ealier cooking attemp. I was tired and weak with hunger and dreading having to make something. I walked through the living room and into the kitchen and then saw the bowl I had placed the frozen pork sausage in to thaw. It was empty. Memories returned as I rushed to the crock pot. It was almost empty. All that was left was a tiny bit of brown liquid on the bottom and a few green chili fragments stuck to the sides. Just then husband yelled from the living room "I saved you some soup!"

The fact that I hadn't eaten anything for most of the day probably saved my husband's life. I still don't know if I would consider neck bones to be a good bargain. I guess if you are a man married to a woman who cooks, they are a fantastic deal. If you are a woman trying to cook a descent meal for yourself as well as your family, you may have to pick up a side of steak to keep you nourished through the cooking process. Or maybe you just need a new accessory for your crock pot - like a lock...or possibly even an ill-tempered Doberman. Now if you can just convince Tightwad to turn over the check book...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Great Low Carb Recipe Site

Adopting a low carb way of eating always seems to bring up the question "What do I eat NOW?" After all, there are only so many ways to cook eggs and even steak gets tiring after a while. Good thing there are people like Linda Sue wandering around out in cyberspace.

Her website features an extensive collection of recipes, menus, and low carb links that can keep you from dietary boredom. Some of the recipes are her original creations and there are creative adaptations of traditional recipes. There are also recipes created by others that she reviews and rates. 

One of the recipes I recently gave a try was Beefy-Mushroom soup. It is one she adapted from a pumpkin and sausage soup recipe. Yes, I said pumpkin. The pumpkin thickens the soup, but does not overpower the other delicious flavors. She gave this recipe 5 stars and so do I. 

My version of Linda Sue's Beefy-Mushroom soup

Whenever you are in need for some new recipe ideas, be sure to stop by Linda's place. Your taste buds will thank you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prostate Cancer: The Low Carb Option

An article on prostate cancer in today's New York Times leaves the impression that patients are equally screwed no matter what treatment option they choose. Whether the treatment was surgical removal, radiation, hormone therapy, or "watchful waiting", no one method stood out as being superior.

The Times article provided this quote, which illustrates doctor's frustrations at a lack of helpful data.

“Having been involved in this area for a long time, it was not shocking, but it is disappointing,” said Dr. Timothy J. Wilt, lead researcher on the report, from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research. “Information is really lacking to determine whether over all one treatment is more effective and preferred.” - Feb. 26th, 2008

Considering traditional treatments can leave a man impotent, incontinent, or hoping wondering if something else will kill them before the cancer turns deadly, I am a bit surprised there was no mention of a very promising treatment readily available to all men...a low carb diet.

"A diet low in carbohydrates may help stunt the growth of prostate tumors, according to a new study led by Duke Prostate Center researchers. The study, in mice, suggests that a reduction in insulin production possibly caused by fewer carbohydrates may stall tumor growth." - Science Daily, Nov. 14, 2007

A week later, Science Daily reported that diet HIGH in carbohydrates was related to prostate tumor GROWTH.

"Having too much insulin in the blood, a condition called hyperinsulinemia, is associated with poorer outcomes in patients with prostate cancer. Vasundara Venkateswaran, Ph.D., of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and colleagues investigated whether high insulin levels caused by eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates would lead to more rapid growth of prostate tumors in mice."

As doctors scratch their heads trying to figure out which potentially dangerous treatment plan to use on their prostate cancer patients, the dietary aspect of cancer appear to be ignored. When an easily implementable option like eliminating carbohydrates holds the possibility of shrinking tumors, it should be obvious that impotence and incontinence are no longer acceptable risks.

Since prostate tumors grow so slowly and "wait and see" is already a position many doctors take, why not try "wait and see while low carbing"? If the tumor does not shrink with a low carb diet, there is still plenty of time to try surgery or radiation therapy. If eliminating carbohydrates DOES shrink the tumor, there is no need to risk having to spend the rest of your life wearing adult diapers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Loafing Around: Low Carb Meatloaf in a Bundt Pan

My husband went to a network group meeting last night and somehow came home with a Pampered Chef bundt pan. No, he didn't sneak off to a clandestine cookware party, it just happened to be one of the door prizes that was given out and he was a lucky winner.

Before low-carb, I would be using something like this to create zucchini cakes and other sugary goodies. Even the pan came with directions on how to make about a dozen desserts, all including not only sugar, but brown sugar AND powdered sugar as well (don't EVEN get me started on the white flour!). I considered giving the pan away, but I figured it would just be used to perpetuate the evils of carbohydrate consumption and that just didn't seem right. Neither did it seem right for this outstanding piece of finely-crafted stoneware to sit in a cupboard collecting dust. The only thing that could do it justice was to bake something in it...something low carb...something healthy...something made of MEAT!

Wifezilla's Low Carb "Loafing Around" Bundt Pan Meat Loaf

3lb ground beef, ground turkey, or any combination of the two
1/8 cup flax meal
1/8 cup chia seeds (or just use more flax if you don't have these on hand)
1/4 cup powdered parmesan cheese
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup Heinz One Carb ketchup (plus extra for a glaze)
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp dried onion
4oz cream cheese (softened)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Mrs Dash
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp sea salt (or regular table salt)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)

Thoroughly mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Lightly press mixture into a well greased bundt pan. Bake at 350º for approximately 1 hour or until a meat thermometer reads 170º (can be 160º if you are using only beef). Remove from oven and carefully overturn bundt pan on to a cookie sheet. Slowly lift bundt pan off of cooked meatloaf. Glaze with Heinz 1 Carb Ketcup. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes to allow glaze to bake in to the top. Slice and serve.

The meatloaf mix

Ready to bake

Just before returning to the oven to finish the glaze. (Ok, it's more of a "blobbing" than a glazing, but what can I say? I really like Heinz 1 Carb Ketchup!)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Deal or No Deal? Is Prescription Pet Food Worth it?

As I began my research in to low carb cat foods, I came across a type of Purina cat food (Purina DM) that appeared be something that might benefit my overweight cat. With 50% protein, 37% fat, and only 13% carbs, it was much closer to a cat's natural diet than regular commercial cat foods. The only problem was that Purina DM requires a prescription. So does Hill Science M/D brand with 43% protein, 44% fat and 13% carbs. These two formulations are designed specifically for cats with diabetes, so I thought that maybe there was some kind of medication added to the food. If there was, that would explain why you need a note from your doctor in order to get them.

A check of the ingredients set me straight...

Purina dry DM:

Poultry by-product meal, soy protein isolate, corn gluten meal, soy flakes, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), corn starch, phosphoric acid, calcium carbonate, brewers dried yeast, potassium chloride, fish oil, animal digest, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, DL-Methionine, taurine, choline chloride, powdered cellulose, salt, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, niacin, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

Hill's Science Diet dry m/d:

Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Pork Protein Isolate, Powdered Cellulose, Brewers Rice, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Liver Flavor, L-Lysine, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Iodized Salt, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Carnitine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Beta Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

Do you see any medications in that list? Any antibiotics? Any insulin? Anything that might make you believe it requires a trained medical professional in order for you to purchase that food for your pet? Anything to justify the huge price tag? Me neither. Instead there are just the same ingredients, including unhealthy cereals and fillers (but in different proportions), found in the cheapest dry cat food at Walmart priced about 50¢ a ton.

Why would leaving out or reducing the level of these fillers bump the food in to prescription territory? Walmart and PetsMart already feature several types of non-prescription pet foods designed for a specific condition (hair ball control, digestive care, weight loss, senior, kitten, etc...), so why are some formulations by prescription only?

A British website provides the answer...

"Some pet foods are sold only through veterinary surgeons. This is not because they are POM [prescription only] medicines. In fact they are not medicines at all. Their use is restricted not by law but by a marketing decision by the manufacturer to restrict the supply of their products. They argue that this is because pets suffering from disease should be under the care of health care professionals and that the diets should only be used in the light of an accurate diagnosis."

As long as pet food manufacturers base their "prescription" food, even the low carb varieties, on grains and cereals, I can't take seriously their claim that they need to come from a vet. Any vet who has done their home work would never suggest CORN, SOY and WHEAT for a carnivore like my cat, or even an omnivore like the typical family dog. These prescription foods are no more than an easy profit center for vets and a steady income stream for the pet food manufacturers.

Fortunately, small pet food producers like Innova, Nature's Instinct, Core, Blue Buffalo and others have recognized the need for a pet food that is closer to a natural diet and offer low carb options. These foods also come at a premium, but at least they aren't pretending to be a "prescription" item. They are also much healthier in the case of the low carb varieties because they do not contain wheat and corn. So, without a prescription, you can get the high fat, high protein low carbohydrate food your cat needs, yet a prescription is required to get corn, wheat, soy and other garbage that should never pass the lips of your furry little carnivorous friend. Having a prescription for a low carb cat food makes as much sense as me having to go to the doctor to get a prescription for a mixed greens salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing and a piece of grilled fish while having cheap over the counter access to donuts and sugar coated breakfast cereal.

If your vet ever prescribes one of these foods, ask them specifically how this will benefit your pet and if there are other alternatives. Any recipes for homemade food? Would a raw diet be more beneficial? Different non-prescription brands than the ones they offer? An honest vet will give you the options and point out the pluses and minuses to each feeding method. A greedy quack will act insulted that you even asked these questions and didn't just blindly purchase their over-priced garbage. In that case, before shopping for unnecessarily expensive prescription pet food, you can just start shopping for a new vet.

Free Meter for Diabetics on Medicare

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

RECIPE: Low Carb Sugar-Free Almond Cookies

On a diet or not, sometimes you just need a freakin' cookie!! By using almond flour and Splenda, a cookie goes from a sugar-ladened no-no to a tasty low carb treat. These whip up in minutes and taste a lot like those cookies you get at the Chinese restaurant...only better!

Between my son and my husband, this batch of cookies only lasted about 15 minutes

2 cups almond meal flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
1/4 cup Da Vinci sugar-free simple syrup with Splenda
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
12 whole roasted almonds

Mix coconut, vanilla extract, almond extract, cream and Da Vinci simple syrup together and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix almond meal with baking powder, then add the eggs and stir. Add to the coconut mixture and mix well. Drop the resulting dough on to a cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. The cookies don't spread out much, but they do puff up a bit so make sure that aren't piled high. Place a whole almond in the middle of each cookie.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes in a 350º oven or until the edges on the bottom begin to turn golden brown.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pop Medical Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Over the weekend, I read some interesting stuff in the newspaper and online. One thing gave me hope that the medical community might actually be getting a clue about obesity and illness in general. The other stories....YIKES! Check below to see for yourself.

Parade magazine, available online as well as in many Sunday papers, printed an excellent article by Dr. Mark Liponis. It lists 5 important medical tests most doctors would not think to run, but may help keep you well. By knowing your C-reactive protein levels, vitamin d levels, checking for h.pylori (the bacteria that causes ulcers among other things), doing an aspirin check and testing your insulin levels, you can prevent a number of debilitating diseases.

The part of his article of most interest to people following a low carb life style comes under the insulin test category. Insulin levels, type 2 diabetes and obesity are all tied together, with insulin driving obesity and insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes. The article clearly stated the importance of knowing your insulin levels and what you can do with that information.

"If the results indicate that you’re at a higher risk for diabetes, the good news is that you also have time to take action. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by adopting a lifestyle that includes daily exercise, weight control and a low-glycemic diet that reduces the intake of sugar, refined grains and starches."

Full article
More about Dr. Loponis

If I had only stopped at that article, I would have been left with a warm, fuzzy feeling towards major news organizations and medical pros. Instead, stupid me had to turn the pages in my copy of Parade and read this...

Dr. Karen Halligan wrote an article called "When your pet is overweight". Her recommendations include decreased calories and enforced controlled feeding. These are typical recommendations also given to obese humans to control their weight. The success rate for people who count every calorie and closely monitor portions is somewhere around 3%. Based on the continuous stream of fat pets I see going in to the vet's lobby next door to my office, I would guess the success rate of calorie restriction for pets is pretty similar.

Pet obesity is caused by the same thing that causes human obesity - easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars in the pets' food. By eliminating corn, wheat, rice, oats, barely and other carbs from your pets' diet, they will quickly and easily lose weight. No need to closely measure each food morsel, no need to make your pet a food obsessed neurotic mess. All you need to do is feed them the diet that they evolved to with plenty of protein and fat and without corn gluten, wheat gluten or other cereals.

By restricting calories without paying attention to nutrient content, you may make your pet a little skinner, but, unlike Dr. Halligan claims, it wont "
extend your pet’s lifespan and improve its quality of life." What it will do is damage their muscles as the body robs them needed protein, increase behavior problems as your pet tries to deal with constant hunger and make you both miserable. Too bad she isn't familiar with her fellow Parade contributor Dr. Liponis. I think they should have coffee and talk.
Full article

This was brought to my attention by Jeff from the Magic Bus forum. WebMD, the popular medical website, apparently doesn't know the difference between ketosis (a benign state where your body burns fat) and ketoacidosis (a dangerous condition that can lead to coma and death).

From the site ...."Unhealthy metabolic state (ketosis). Low carb diets can cause your body to go into a dangerous metabolic state called ketosis since your body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. During ketosis, the body forms substances known as ketones, which can cause organs to fail and result in gout, kidney stones, or kidney failure. Ketones can also dull a person's appetite, cause nausea and bad breath. Ketosis can be prevented by eating at least 100 grams of carbohydrates a day." Full Article

Considering the amount of people who stop by this website and rely on it for medical information, it scares me that this kind of drivel is being published as fact. There is plenty of medical evidence that low carb eating is very healthy, can reduce the risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer cell growth, as well as cure obesity. I get angry thinking about all those people still struggling with diseases that could easily be prevented by adopting a low carb diet. I get even angrier when the professionals who are supposed to know better get it so wrong.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Cholesterol & Saturated Fat Were Framed

It is "common knowledge" that cholesterol and saturated fat cause heart disease. This "knowledge" comes from the same people who believe that obesity is caused by over eating and a lack of exercise. Both of these theories may SOUND good, but, like the belief in big foot, ghosts and the Loch Ness monster, it just doesn't hold up to scientific scrutiny.

This series of short videos show Dr. Malcolm Kendrick speaking at a British Medical Association meeting in Leeds. He examines the "common knowledge" and seriously makes you wonder how people came to believe it in the first place.
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3
Video 4
Video 5

Thursday, February 7, 2008

RECIPE: Crock Pot Pork Chops

My mom used to go to work at 3:00 in the afternoon. My brother and sister and I got home from school at 4:00pm and dad would finally roll in around 6:00pm. Though my dad could cook, making food for 3 cranky kids at the end of a 12 hour day just wasn't on his agenda. Though mom worked, her job didn't require as many hours as dad's, but she wasn't there when the food needed to be ready.

Fortunately, there was the crock pot. It cooked the food while mom was at work and ensured there was hot, tasty food ready for the kids and a grumpy hard-working husband at the end of the day. One of our favorite things to find simmering in the crock pot was pork chops. Mom would brown them up and toss them in along with Campbell's Golden Mushroom Soup. When I got my home it was my job to make Minute Rice and cook up a veggie while my siblings set the table.

We always made quick work out of those pork chops, and even occasionally remembered to save one for mom to eat when she came home at midnight. It was one of those recipes that I liked so much I introduced it to my husband when we got married. He loves those pork chops as much as I do. It is something we fed to our kids growing up, and when my oldest moved out, I gave him a crock pot so he could make his own.

With a few small changes, it is something I can still make now that I am eating low carb. I no longer serve it with Minute Rice, and I have had to change the sauce a little, but they are still tasty and easy...and now LOW CARB! Seriously, what could be nicer than walking in to the house at the end of the day to the smell of delicious, tender pork chops all ready to eat?

Wifezilla's Crock Pot Pork Chops


Pork Loin Chops (enough to fill crock pot)
2 cans Campbell's Chicken Mushroom Soup* (lower carb than the original Golden Mushroom Soup mom used to pick)
2 cups sliced Portabella Mushrooms
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper powder, and garlic to taste (Mrs. Dash seasoning also works great for these.)

INSTRUCTIONSSpice pork chops. In a large frying pan, brown in olive oil or bacon grease over medium heat. Transfer to the crock pot. Pour both cans of soup over the top of the pork chops but DO NOT add any water. Saute mushrooms in butter then add to the crock pot. Cover and cook on low while you work (or at least 4 hours). When you get home the pork chops will be tender and ready to eat.

You may need to remove the pork chops from the crock pot so you can stir up the sauce if it does not blend well on its own. Serve with a salad and a side of fauxtatoes (mashed cauliflower). The sauce tastes awesome poured over the top of the cauliflower and don't forget to drizzle a little on the chops.


*Sauce alternative
If you want the carb count even lower, you can make your own sauce from scratch. Follow the recipe as above, just leave out the soup. When the pork chops are done, pour out the liquid in to a sauce pan. Add 3 egg yolks, heavy cream and powdered parmesan cheese and cook over low heat while stirring. Spice to taste. When the sauce is thickened, pour over the pork chops and fauxtatoes.

The Everyday Low-Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook: Over 120 Delicious Low-Carb Recipies That Cook Themselves
The Everyday Low-Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook: Over 120 Delicious Low-Carb Recipies That Cook Themselves

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Breakfast on the Quick

I only had 15 minutes to throw together breakfast the other day. Being crunched for time, I had to rule out bacon, and the sausage I had was frozen solid in 1 lb tubes. One thing I did have that was quick and handy to make were frozen hamburger patties. Since it was 7:30am, I wasn't really in the mood for a burger and really wanted eggs. Just eggs would have been boring though, and I was starting to grumble when inspiration struck.

Why not put the eggs ON the burgers? This would satisfy my egg craving while taking advantage of the easy to cook burger patties. I cooked the eggs in one pan and the burgers on the griddle. Once everything was done I placed the over-easy eggs on the hamburger patties and topped with grated cheese. It didn't take long and tasted great. If you are ever pressed for time, you might want to give it a try.

Wifezilla's Bunless Breakfast Burger

Super Omega 3 EPA/DHA - Life Extension