Monday, March 31, 2008

Recipe: Low Carb Very Berry Coconutty Smoothie

Smoothies are a quick, easy way to make a tasty low carb drink. Depending on my schedule, I sometimes use them as a quick meal replacer. With the weather finally starting to warm up, I find myself making them more often. One of my recent favorites uses a coconut milk base. Along with the great taste, coconut milk contains Lauric Acid, which is a proven antiviral and antibacterial agent. The great berry flavor comes from frozen strawberries and some raspberry sugar-free syrup.

Very Berry Coconutty Smoothie
1 can coconut milk
6 large frozen strawberries
6 ice cubes
2 Tbsp Da Vinci Raspberry Syrup*
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Optional: Scoop of whey protein

Place all ingredients in to a blender and liquify. Pour in to an insulated mug and enjoy.

The entire pitcher contains approximately 16 grams of carbs...closer to 19 if you add the protein powder. While this recipe is not for those on Atkins induction, it is just fine for maintenance or Barry Groves fans. (His plan allows up to 60g of carbs per day.)

* If not available, use whatever sugar replacer you prefer. 2 packets of Splenda and 2 packets of Equal works well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Low Carb: A Great Zit Zapper!

When I was a teenager, back in the stone age when dinosaurs roamed free, I had my share of pimples. Nothing was more devastating than to have some big red painful bumps on my face since they seemed to like to show up right before school photo day or a big dance. My mom used to blame those zits on junk food. Particularly the greasy kind.

"All that grease you eat ends right up on your face ya know!" was a common mom-ism.

Her "remedies" for my break outs usually included some kind of caustic cleaning agent that left me with dried out, cracked, bleeding skin still covered in pimples. I remember having tubes of Clearasil, containers of rubbing alcohol, lots of concealer and big tubs of Noxema at the ready. None of them really seemed to help, but at least my face wasn't as bad as my neighbor's. That poor kid was put on some prescription that made him look like and extra from the movie "The Mummy". He honestly looked better with the zits.

As my mom continued to blame grease and oils for our break outs, news was released that 2 studies proved that junk food had nothing to do with zit outbreaks. It was a hormonal thing. You either got zits or you didn't. Apparently I was just one of those unlucky people who was destined to have hideous red marks on her face at a time when appearance was very important, self esteem was at rock bottom, and I was already too tall for most guys to ask out anyway.

Like a lot of what I learned as a kid, it turns out those studies were complete crap.
"One compares real chocolate bars with fake ones and was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine with funding from the Chocolate Manufacturers Association. But that's comparing sugar with sugar, as Treloar says, and the fake chocolate bars were also loaded with trans fats known to trigger inflammation. The other study examines sugar in the diet of a small group, but, Treloar says, does not take into account what we know now about how glycemic loads from other foods such as white flour and potatoes affect insulin levels."

Despite the shoddy science, dermotologist dogma and "popular wisdom" became "diet does not effect acne". In the 30 years since I was was a pimply-faced kid, millions upon millions were spent on creams, washes, ointments and pills as embarrassed teens tried to get rid of the horrible zits. All the while the real culprit got a free pass. That culprit is carbohydrates.

"Associate Professor Mann and PhD researcher Robyn Smith, in conjunction with staff from the Department of Dermatology at Royal Melbourne Hospital, recruited 50 boys and divided them into two groups.

One group consumed a typical teen diet of sugary snacks and processed foods, while the other followed a more natural diet higher in protein and with low-GI foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and legumes replacing the normal high-GI foods such as potatoes, rice, white bread, cakes, biscuits, soft-drinks and sugary snacks that elevate blood glucose levels and insulin levels so dramatically..."The acne of the boys on the higher protein-low GI diet improved dramatically, by more than 50 per cent, which is more than what you see with topical acne solutions," said Associate Professor Mann.

“A diet high in processed foods pushes glucose and insulin levels higher, exacerbating the problem, but low-GI foods do the opposite. The mechanism and the results are as clear as day.”

While this study does give insight in to the pimple problem, it only gets it half right. By concentrating on low Glycemic Index foods, it ignores foods that do not raise blood sugar, but do raise insulin because they directly effect the liver. Glycemic Index does give clues, but it is a confusing and incomplete measure of what is going on. It appears to me that limiting carbohydrates of ALL KINDS may very well bump the 50% helped number up to 80% and beyond. 

Can reducing carbohydrate consumption end THIS?

Instead of relying on harsh prescriptions and mostly useless creams or lotions, your key to clear skin is to eliminate sugars, starches, and grains from your diet. While many of us use a low carbohydrate diet to lose weight, eating protein, healthy fats, leafy greens, and low carbohydrate fruits can also clear up your skin. Not only will teens have a good chance at avoiding the soul-crushing "pizza face" moniker, it will set them up for continuing health throughout their entire lives. 

Signs of the Apocalypse: Part 1 - Cap'n Crunch Shake

We all see things that make us question the ability of the human race to continue to thrive. From politicians to wars to the latest debutard being promoted as a "role model", is it any wonder that more people aren't ready to go over the edge? The world of food also has it's share of "what the hell were they thinking" moments. I had one of those moments yesterday when I drove past a Carl's Junior.

Carl's Junior is already a place I avoid just because of their commercials. Watching people try to cram a huge, oozing burger in to their mouths while making as much noise as possible as stuff slops all over their clothes isn't something I find appealing. Their slogan, as far as I'm concerned, may as well be "Carl's Junior, the restaurant for disgusting slobs." Knowing my feelings about this place, it would not surprise you that I generally ignore them as I drive by. But yesterday I happened to accidentally glance at their billboard, and what I saw was so shocking that I almost ran in to the curb as I read it.

"Now Serving Cap'n Crunch Shakes!"


What sick, twisted weirdo decided to combine one of the most sugar ladened cereals on the planet with a frozen blob of sugar ladened over-processed milk? Was there a public outcry for such a product? Is this really something that should be served to children without a doctors note and a parental release form?

A check online for the ingredients and "nutrition" information showed the Cap'n Crunch shake to be even more toxic than I thought it could possibly be...

Shakes: Lady Kemp Vanilla Slow Melt Ice Cream: Milkfat and nonfat milk, sugar, corn syrup, mono and diglycerides, natural flavors, locust bean gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, annatto (vegetable color).
Syrup, Vanilla
Corn sweeteners (high fructose and corn syrups), water, propylene glycol, potassium sorbate as a preservative, caramel color, and artificial flavor.
Foster Farm's 1% Milk
Land O Lakes Whipped Topping
Water, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sugar, contains less than 2% of each of the following: sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), polysorbate 60, mono and diglycerides, soy protein isolate, artificial flavor, sorbitan monostearate, disodium phosphate, hexaglyceryl distearate, carrageenan, beta carotene (color), propellant: nitrous oxide.
Captain Crunch
Corn Flour, Sugar, Oat Flour, Brown Sugar, Coconut Oil, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Nonfat Dry Milk, Whey, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil Adds a Dietarily Insignificant Amount of Trans Fat, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Strawberry Juice Concentrate, Malic Acid, Niacinamide One of the B Vitamins, Reduced Iron, Zinc Oxide, Yellow 5, Red 40, Mono and Diglycerides, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Thiamin Mononitrate One of the B Vitamins, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride One of the B Vitamins, BHT a Preservative, Riboflavin One of the B Vitamins, Folic Acid One of the B Vitamins

These items combined give you a shake with 740 calories, 35 grams of fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 100 mg of cholesterol, 320mg sodium, 94 grams of carbs, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 79 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.

94 grams of carbs is the equivalent of eating almost 1/2 cup of pure sugar with a spoon. The ironic thing is that the OREO COOKIE shake also offered by Carl's Jr. has FEWER carbohydrates. Yes people, the shake based on COOKIES has less sugar than the shake based on a BREAKFAST CEREAL.

Why is it so hot and what am I doing in this hand basket?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Recipe: Wifezilla's Low Carb Whiting and Artichoke Stew

Whiting is a pretty inexpensive fish. Not very fancy and very mild in taste, it was once considered food for peasants. A few choice ingredients gives the lowly whiting an upgrade to an high class dish suitable for any occasion.

Wifezilla's Low Carb Whiting and Artichoke Stew

9 whiting fillets (I buy them frozen and in bulk. Very inexpensive this way.)
16oz bag of frozen California vegetables (or 16oz of steamed fresh broccoli, cauliflower and chopped carrots)
1 stick of REAL butter
6.5 oz jar of artichoke hearts (drained)
13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1 Tbsp dry diced onions
1-1/2 Tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp fish sauce
Olive oil (for frying fish)


You will need 2 pans for this one. In one, fry the whiting fillets in olive oil on medium heat until meat is flaky. While fish is cooking, in a larger separate pan, cook vegetables in butter then add spices, coconut milk, and artichokes. Flake fish meat in to bite sized pieces and add to the vegetable mix.

You will end up with a very thick, tasty stew. In the future, I think will try this with some fresh fennel bulb. I had a carb-junkie girlfriend drop by while I was making it and had her give it a try. She liked it and she is picky, so that is a good sign.

(photo coming soon)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blame Canada

Low carb diets have always been the "ugly red-headed stepchild" of the dieting world. Despite over 100 years of evidence that reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, and reverse type 2 diabetes, low carbing is still called a "fad". Not only that people who promote the diet are called quacks, zealots, and accused of endangering people's health. As long as a few random doctors (like Atkins and Eades), or a lone science reporter (like Gary Taubes) sang the praises of a low carb lifestyle, it was easy to dismiss them as a wacko minority who just didn't understand the truth.

The "truth" according to the mainstream is that saturated fat causes heart disease, all calories are created equal, and you should eat lots of whole grains (carbohydrates). If you weigh too much, you need to cut calories and exercise more. This "diet" advise has resulted in ever-growing obesity numbers and has a miserable 95% failure rate. For the longest time, people were told their obesity was their own damn fault and evidence that sugar, carbohydrates, and things like high-fructose corn syrups are to blame was ignored.

But now a group of people in Canada are proving, once again, that refined carbohydrates and sugars are the primary cause of obesity and disease. In 2007, the Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay, Canada gave up refined foods and sugar and returned to a more native diet. Their rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes were up to five times the national average. Dr. Jay Wortman, Senior Medical Advisor - First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada, believes that the introduction of western carbohydrate-rich foods which replaced the traditional diet is the primary cause. By returning to native food sources of wild salmon and oolichan grease (a fish oil) but still allowing grocery store foods like vegetables, beef, pork, bacon and eggs (basically foods with protein and fat but no starch or sugar), they were able to make an approximation of their traditional diet without requiring people to go out and kill a moose with their bare hands. It was, in a way, the Northern Exposure version of the Atkins Diet.

From the CBC website article about the diet: "Permitted foods include; beef, pork, chicken, fish or seafood, cauliflower, broccoli, all the salad greens, eggs, cream, but not milk. Milk contains lactose, which is sugar.

Not permitted are starches like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and sugar. Dr. Jay Wortman believes that it was the introduction of these by Europeans over a hundred and fifty years ago that caused the rise of diabetes and obesity.

And so the key to this diet is the avoidance of starch and sugar because those were not common components of a traditional diet.

An interesting component is oolichan grease. It's a very healthy fat and in the fact it was a big part of the diet in the past, was one of the reasons it was such a healthy diet."

While the final data is still being evaluated, this diet study sponsored by Health Canada and the University of British Columbia has produced profound results. A reduction in study participant weight, lower blood pressure, diabetics able to reduce or eliminate medication, lower bad cholesterol numbers, etc... Study participants are now encouraging other First Nations to return to their native diet to reap the health benefits enjoyed by their ancestors.

The documentary about this study entitled "My Big Fat Diet" is currently being aired in Canada. Until it is available on DVD, there are some YouTube video clips available (below) as well as a radio interview with Dr. Wortman that can get started on your own quest to "go native". Remember, you don't have to be a member of the First Nation to start a low carb diet to lose weight and improve your health. Anyone can do it! If, however, you want to bury your head in the sand about how healthy a low carb lifestyle is and you still want to believe fat people are stupid, lazy gluttons, things are going to get much harder for you. Don't blame me, blame Canada.

Video Clips
Challenge from the Cheif
Intoduction to "My Big Fat Diet"
More from "My Big Fat Diet"

Radio Interview
The Current

Monday, March 10, 2008

Magic Pants

To guys, pants are a piece of clothing that keeps delicate things warm and protected while providing convenient pockets to hold wallets, scraps of random paper and loose change. To a woman, what starts as a simple piece of cloth and some thread goes through a transformation that turns them in to something powerful and unique. Something magical.

A woman can try on hundreds of pairs of pants trying to find just the right one. It's more than just finding the right waist size and length. It's finding that pair that makes your butt look good, makes your calves look shapely and hides that mommy roll right below your belly button. A pair of pants like that can lift your mood, put a smile on your face and make you feel like a million dollars. The magical perfect pair can boost your confidence and put a spring in your step and, if a woman doesn't have a pair, she actively searches for one every time she gets anywhere near a mall.

My pair of magic pants comes in the form of a cute pair a denim capris. I got them at a thrift store 2 years ago. I bought them because they were the right size, but I did not try them on. At $3.75 I wasn't too worried if they didn't fit. Turns out they didn't at the time. I could barely pull them up and there was no way in hell I could button them or pull up the zipper without doing serious damage to myself. Since they were cute and I was hopeful that someday I would lose weight, I put them in the back of a dresser drawer and there they sat until last Summer. 

During a clothing clean-out (I had lost weight after starting low carb), I found them again. I tried them on and this time I could get them up AND button them. They were still tight, but compared to last year, I could see improvement. I even braved wearing them for one day in August, though they did make me a bit uncomfortable. As it got cooler, I tucked them away again and didn't find them again until today.

I am tired of the cold weather and decided that even though it was going to be cool today, I was also tired of wearing long pants. I wanted to wear my cute capris. I cautiously slid them on and was totally surprised that, not only could I button them, but I could zip them up and they were a little loose in the waist. There was even room in the seat! I instantly felt euphoria and began dancing around the bedroom. I even braved the scale and I was down 2 lbs over the past 2 weeks. More dancing ensued. My husband gave me "the look" as I tried to explain to him the wonders of a woman's pair of magical pants. Then he pulled on his boring, non-magical guy jeans and immediately stuffed the pockets with loose change and random bits of note paper.

The magic of the pants has stayed with my throughout the day. I have checked myself in the mirror several times....which is something I normally don't do. I have stayed cheerful despite the fact that it is gloomy outside AGAIN and the size of the stack of work on my desk has doubled. There is also a pile of laundry and a small mountain of dishes waiting for me at home. But who cares? My butt looks good today. It is amazing what some fabric, arranged in the proper configuration, can do for a woman.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

Recipe: Low Carb Tropical Seafood Chowder

I really wasn't sure if I should label this a "recipe", because it was more like happy accident than anything. I was in a hurry and wanted to throw something in the crock pot before heading out the door. I had just recently bought 2 large cans of baby clams, so chowder popped to mind. Of course, a good clam chowder required some bacon, which I was out of, and cream, which was ALSO gone. At that point I could have just tried something else, but I hadn't done the week's shopping yet and pickings were slim. Besides, it was cold and crappy out and there was a fresh covering of snow on the ground. I wanted chowder dammit!

I rummaged through the cabinets and freezer and was pleasantly surprised at the results. This chowder version does call for coconut milk instead of cream, but the coconut flavor is subtle once all the flavors blend and it really compliments the shrimp and clams. And while I did not use bacon for flavoring, I see no reason why you should pass up the opportunity to use it if you were (unlike me) smart enough to stock up ahead of time.

Low Carb Tropical Seafood Chowder
2 large cans of baby clams (including liquid)
2 cans of coconut milk
2 cups of frozen cooked tail-off shrimp
1 lb of frozen mixed vegetables (like a broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mix)
2 whole cloves
1 Tbsp of minced garlic (I use the stuff in a jar)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp dried minced onions
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme (lemon thyme if you can get it)
salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything in a crock pot and let it cook on low while you are at work. Running around like and idiot while you try to find ingredients is completely optional. Try not to look too surprised when it actually tastes good.

The measurements given are an APPROXIMATION! I honestly didn't even pick up a spoon or any other kind of measuring device when I made this. Don't be afraid to make your own adaptations or adjustments. Cooking is more art than science, so don't be afraid to be creative!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

God Hates Carbs

As the debate rages over whether we should eat low carb with plenty of fat or low fat with plenty of carbs, people look to different experts and authorities to help them decide. There are plenty of doctors, nutritionists and other diet gurus to choose from, but who do you trust the most? Who is the highest authority? Well, how about God?

From Genesis... Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

So there you have it people. From the ultimate authority. Carbohydrates are not deserving of respect.

Of course, we all know what happened next. Cain, no doubt in a carbohydrate-fueled frenzy, lured his brother away to the fields and killed him. So, apparently, not only are carbohydrates considered undesirable by the Lord, they turn you in to a sneaky murderer. Next time a vegetarian offers to show you his very careful!