Wednesday, May 21, 2008

RECIPE: Mozzarella Salad

Summer is salad least for me. Fresh vegetables are less expensive in Summer and, since they are truely in season, they taste much better this time of year. I actually start to crave salads, and when the temperature hit 80ยบ here in Colorado yesterday, it felt like Summer and I found myself thinking a salad would be perfect for lunch. One of my favorites is a Mozzarella Salad. Not only does it taste good, it can be made in minutes and easily be adjusted to use whatever different ingredients you have on hand.

Wifezilla's Mozzarella Salad

1 Large Diced Cucumber
Cubed Mozzarella Cheese
Grape Tomatoes
Italian Seasoning
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Splenda to taste

You may have noticed the lack of measurements on all the items except the cucumber. That's because I never measure. I very seldom have the same amount of any of these ingredients available from one day to the next. Hubby is a tomato thief and my youngest son thinks the olive oil is his very own personal property. Plus my oldest stops by to help his father with projects and raids the refrigerator for cheesy goodness. Basically the only ingredient I can really count on having is the cucumber. So here is what I do....

Dice the cucumber and place in a large salad bowl. Rummage through the refrigerator and see if you can find any fresh tomato. I know you just bought a 5 lb container at Costco yesterday, but it has been 24 hours and your husband has been home. If so, great, if not, try using bits of the sun dried tomatoes you have hidden in a bag behind the box of baking soda.

Next, see if you have any cheese left. Are there signs your oldest son, who has his OWN APARTMENT and his OWN REFRIGERATOR last time you checked stopped by? Is the front door wide open? All your soda gone and the empty cans on the coffee table? Nevermind... just plan on buying cheese on your way home from work. While mozzarella works best, Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack are also good substitutes.

Then drizzle with olive oil IF your youngest hasn't take all the olive oil and used it to fry something. You will have no idea WHAT he fried, but look and see if there is a pot full of dirty oil and various pieces of goop stuck to the outside of the pot. If you see that, then look for the almond oil or sesame oil you hid behind the cookbooks because the olive oil is gone.

Next add the vinegar. If you are worried about the carbs in the balsamic vinegar, use red wine vinegar just may need a touch more Splenda if you go with the red wine. Then add the Italian seasoning. If you can get fresh herbs, those work great too. Mix well. Add salt, pepper and a little bit from one Splenda packet and mix again. Give it a taste. Add any extra spices as you feel you need. I sometimes add minced garlic or chives right from the garden. You can also add things like leftover grilled chicken, sunflower seeds, unsweetened dried cherries, or whatever tiny bits of food you find stuck on mostly empty tinfoil covered plates the ravaging horde left for you.

This salad is best eaten fresh. This in not one you want to make ahead of time. If it is destined for your lunch bag, keep the oil, vinegar and spices separate and mix with the cucumber and other items right before eating.

Summer is a time for fun, so have fun with this. See what local fresh produce you have available, what morsels of food you can hide from the family, and be creative.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quote of the Week: Mike Huckabee

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used to be fat. Not only was he fat, he had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. By using an expensive University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences liquid diet program he was able to get the weight off and avoid having to take diabetes drugs. He is keeping that weight off by avoiding processed foods, eating lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables. 

While I think a $500 liquid diet plan that also required $60 a week just for supplements is unnecessary with a low carb diet, and I take issue with his focus on only lean meats, there is something I agree with him on 100%. Processed foods are bad news.

His profound statement on a recent installment of  the Fox & Friends Morning Show is what makes him our source for the quote of the week....

"If it wasn't food 100 years ago, it probably isn't food today."

Think about that next time someone offers you a Twinkie. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Review: Trader Joe's

While on a weekend get-a-way with friends, I had the opportunity to visit the Santa Fe, NM Trader Joe's. Similar to Vitamin Cottage or a mini Whole Foods, Trader Joe's offers a variety of healthy foods at much lower prices than even a Super Walmart. Since I went on a Saturday night, the place was packed. Even with the large crowd, the staff was very helpful and pleasant. The isles were a bit crowded with stockers trying to keep up with the demand, but they were helpful and courteous as well.

Here is short list of some of the great buys we found...
Ground Almond Meal - $3.69/lb
White Balsamic Vinegar (17oz) - $1.99
Sumatran Coffee (small can) - Less than $5? (A friend bought this so I didn't see the actual price. The taste was AWESOME!)
Coconut Milk - $1.04 (same sized can is now $1.12 at Super Walmart)
Vitamin C Lotion (16oz) - $2.50 (high end lotions with similar ingredients are closer to $20 for a much smaller container)

One of the best bargains at Trader Joe's is their wine. The Charles Shaw brand wine is affectionately known as "Three Buck Chuck" since they sell at only $2.99 a bottle. Despite its low price, this is AWARD WINNING wine! I picked up a bottle of White Zin and one of my girlfriends picked up an assorted case.

While there is no Trader Joe's in Colorado, and due to our insanely stupid liquor laws, there may never be one, a yearly trip to Trader Joe's may be something I have to schedule. Even with the high gas prices, the money I saved on the 6 bags of almond meal I bought pays for the trip since it retails for over $14/lb at my local King Soopers...IF you can find it. Besides, the drive from Colorado to New Mexico is beautiful. Having cheap, drinkable wine and affordable heath food at the end of the trip is just a bonus.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Low Carb Cats: Meet Amira

My girlfriend Abi has a very cute little Siamese mix kitty named Amira. Amira is a very active to the point of being a bit on the spastic side. She climbs book cases, chases anything that isn't nailed down, talks continually, climbs on people, demands attention, and grooms herself constantly. 

Amira in her favorite spot...on top of a 7' tall bookcase.

She had been grooming herself so much that there is practically no fur on her tail and back legs. Since she is such a spazz kitty, Abi just assumed her cat was on the mentally interesting side and really did not worry too much about. She always got good marks on her vet checks, did not seem to have any infections or disease, and other than the missing fur, was quite healthy. 

Recently Abi moved and Amira now has a new vet. The vet took one look at the cat and basically said "She has allergies. Most likely from grains. She grooms herself so much because she itches all the time." Abi immediately switched the organic grain-based food she had been feeding her cat to Wellness brand low carb cat food. The change was immediate. Amira stop the excessive grooming and now she even has fur coming in on her legs, stomach and tail. 

It is interesting that 2 very different cats like Amira and my cat Xena can have very different problems caused by the same thing. Xena got fat and Amira got allergies so bad she made herself half-bald...all from ingesting grains. This is also something you see in people. Some, like me, get fat, and others, while they may stay skinny, can get high blood pressure, allergies and heart disease. Neither humans or felines evolved to eat easily digestible carbohydrates and sugars like corn, wheat, barley, oats and rice. Unfortunately these items are the basis for the average human and feline diet. Whether it comes in a big bag from the pet store or in a cereal box from the grocery store, they can cause health problems and they need to be avoided.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Recipe: Low-Carb Refrigerator Pickles

Every Summer, my mom would make batch after batch of "refrigerator pickles" from all the cukes growing in our garden. Unlike regular canned pickles, these aren't shelf stable and must be kept cold. Allegedly they can still last from 2-3 months preserved this way, but neither mom nor I have had a batch last more than a week, so we can't say for sure.

Refrigerator pickles are so easy to make and are a great way to use up cukes you grow yourself or bulk purchases from the farmer's market. You don't even have to limit yourself to cucumbers. Many recipes call for using bell peppers and I even added some jicama to my last batch. All the pickled veggies tasted fantastic. This basic recipe, besides tasting good, allows you to save money by not having to trash produce you don't use fast enough...just give it the "fridge pickle" treatment and enjoy!

Wifezilla's Low-Carb Refrigerator Pickles
6 large cucumbers - skinned and sliced
1 large sliced red onion
1 bell pepper (red or orange) cut in strips
1 cup of jicama cut in strips
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup erythritol (or more depending on taste)
1/4 cup Da Vinci's Simple Syrup (or powdered Splenda equivalent)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp minced garlic or dried powdered garlic
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp powdered cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat the vinegar (either on the stove or in the microwave in a medium-sized bowl) and then stir in the erythritol to dissolve. Add spices and allow to cool. Place sliced veggies in to a large jar or ceramic dish that has a tight fitting lid. Pour the cooled brine over the sliced cucumber mix and stir. Allow to set overnight in the refrigerator.

Any regular refrigerator pickle recipe can be adapted to low carb by using erythritol and splenda instead of regular sugar. Just use the same amount of erythritol as sugar called for in the recipe, and then add splenda to taste. Here are a few interesting recipes you may want to give a try....

This refrigerator pickle recipe uses carrots and daikon radishes. Interesting combination!
How about a green tomato version?
This recipe uses cauliflower and beets which gives you "Purple Pickled Cauliflower". (Scroll down past the pickled egg recipe)

Be sure to post your versions in the comment section!