Sunday, February 26, 2012

Low Carb Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert that features cream as its main ingredient. It's mild taste and rich texture make it great for pairing with many flavors including berries, spices, chocolate or nuts.

While the original recipe calls for sugar or honey as a sweetener, you should have no problem using erythritol, Splenda or your favorite low carb sweetener instead.

Basic Panna Cotta
• 1 qt heavy whipping cream
• 1/4 cup erythritol
• 1/4 cup raw honey (or other low carb sweetener)
• 3 tsp real vanilla extract
• 6 Tbsp of cold water
• 2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin

Heat the cream, erythritol and honey together. Get it very warm but do not boil. While cream is heating sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let it set for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla to warm cream. Slowly add warm cream to gelatin and stir well to dissolve.

Place in ramkins, mugs or lightly greased muffin tins and let set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Top with crushed fresh berries or 85% cocoa chocolate shavings.

Here are a couple of variations to try.

Lemon Panna Cotta
• 1 qt heavy whipping cream
• 1/4 cup Splenda
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
• 1/2 tsp pure lemon extract
• 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 1/2 large lemons squeezed)
• 2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin
Top with strawberry chia jelly

Spice panna cotta
• 1 qt heavy whipping cream
• 1/4 cup Splenda
• 2 tsp cinnamon
• 2 tsp ginger
• 3 tsp vanilla extract
• 6 Tbsp of cold water
• 2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin
Top with pecans or slivered almonds cooked in a little butter with a touch of sweetener.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fructose study finds fructose isn't a problem

At a time when research is beginning to show long term damage from a diet high in fructose, there is now a study that claims fructose isn't really a problem after all.

"After reviewing more than 40 published studies on the matter, researchers from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto found that fructose — a sweetener liberally added to soft drinks and processed foods — had no effect on weight compared with diets that provided the same calories from other carbohydrates."

Oh really? It isn't the fructose? I could post the study showing fructose is uniquely fattening or that ingesting high levels of fructose causes all kinds of damage aside from weight gain, but I think this line at the end of the article says more about the real story.

"The Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded the study. The researchers have received unrestricted grants from the Coca-Cola Company to fund other research."

Huh. An agency that receives funding from Coca-Cola found that the main ingredient in Coca-Cola isn't harmful? Wow. Color me surprised!

Being from Colorado, I am making a Southpark-style official declaration of Shenanigans. Now where did I leave my broom....

Strawberry Chia Jelly

Chia seeds are a healthy and nutritious little seed that, for some reason, American have turned in to a rather ridiculous toy.

The chia seed was once used by Aztec Warriors and was even valued as a currency. Oh how the mighty have fallen!

"In ancient times, seeds of the chia plant were a staple food of the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans. These seeds were eaten by Aztec messengers who carried them in a small pouch as they ran great distances between villages.

This seed was so valuable to the Aztecs that they used it as a medium of exchange. The Aztec priests and nobility were often paid in chia seed.

According to Jesuit priests, chia was the third most important Aztec food crop after maize (corn) and beans. Chia bread was used in some of their religious ceremonies.

When the Aztec civilization fell during the Spanish conquest, the Spanish banned chia and certain other native crops due to their use in religious ceremonies, and replaced them with crops such as wheat and carrots." (More)

And now Americans use chia seeds to make weird toys that most often end up as gag gifts at office Christmas parties. :: facepalm ::

You can help return chia to its former glory as a wonder food and give yourself a tasty treat at the same time by making a batch of fresh chia jelly.

Strawberry Chia Jelly
12 large frozen strawberries or the equivalent in other frozen berries
3 tablespoons chia seeds
Splash of lime or lemon juice
Sweetener to taste (2 packets of splenda +1 packet of equal or Truvia equivalent)

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. After a few hours, add more seeds if the topping appears to be a bit runny. If it looks too thick, add a few more strawberries.

*NOTE: While the chia seeds will form a gel around the outside, the seeds in the middle will retain their crunch. This has never bothered me since the seed centers are small and it feels like you are simply eating a strawberry seed. If this sounds like something that might annoy you, use a spice grinder to turn the chia seeds in to more of a flour.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wheat Politics & George Burns

Dr. Davis alerts us to an upcoming political push by a wheat growers association on his Wheat Belly Blog. The continuing stream of information showing the harm caused by ingesting grains must be making a dent in their profits, prompting action on their part. Apparently the Grains Food Foundation is moving to Washington DC for better lobbying access, but they are also going to target what they call the "influencers". Nutritionist, medical professionals, diet and nutrition journalists and even bloggers.

"G.F.F. will proactively track grain-focused initiatives (studies, books, broadcasts, articles) with the goal of preempting or countermanding misinformation regarding grain foods on an ongoing basis. The G.F.F. Scientific Advisory Board members will lead efforts to provide rapid response to false communications and claims against grain foods, including fad diets."

"To effectively guard against potential extreme attacks against grain foods, G.F.F. will develop a crisis communications plan to continue to develop appropriate reserves to enable prompt industry response to neutralize such attacks."

Maybe this explains the recent rash of "you don't have to give up grains FOREVER - just until your gut heals!" type blog posts and articles popping up on the net. I don't know about you all, but if I sliced my arm open and nearly severed a thumb juggling knives, I am not just going to give up knife juggling until my wounds heal. I am going to find a new hobby.

Lets put it another way. Comedian George Burns smoked cigars and drank whiskey almost every day of his adult life and he didn't die until shortly after his 100th birthday. Not only that, he was active and working until just before his death. In fact, it wasn't his smoking and drinking that did him in, it was a fall resulting in a head injury. He was never able to fully recover. Reports are that Mr. Burns smoked between 10 and 15 cigars a day for well over 70 years.

Is this an example that cigar smoking is healthy? That whiskey is a revitalizing tonic? No. It means that George Burns had the unique ability to recover from damage caused by smoking and drinking. It does not change the fact that smoking and drinking are inherently damaging. It is the same with modern wheat. Modern forms of wheat are inherently damaging to everyone who eats them. Some of us just have a genetic advantage and can easily recover from that damage. Others can not. Can you mitigate some of that damage by using ancient grains or using traditional preparation methods? Possibly. But for me, it isn't a chance I am willing to take.

So next time you read a blog saying how happy someone is to be going back to wheat, keep in mind two things. 1) There may be a powerful lobbying group involved and 2) a person truly returning to wheat and grains may have been born with a body much more able to repair itself than you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lower Carb, Gluten-Free Carrot Cake

This recipe is a modification of an Elana's Pantry gluten-free carrot cake recipe.
While it is NOT Atkins induction friendly, it can be modified to make it as carby or as carbless as you like by playing with the carrot/zucchini ratio.

3 cups blanched almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
2 teaspoons celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
6 duck eggs (or XL chicken eggs)
½ cup erythritol ( ¼ cup honey if you can handle some carbs)
6 packets of splenda or truvia
¼ cup grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil (1/4 cup coconut oil also works)
3 cups carrots, grated or 1½ cups shredded carrots plus 1½ cups shredded zucchini
1 cup raisins, sugar-free dried cherries or sugar-free dried cranberries (optional)
1 cup walnuts or slivered almonds

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir.
In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, and sweetener of choice.
Stir carrots, raisins and nuts into wet ingredients.
Stir wet ingredients into dry.
Place batter into 2 well greased, round 9-Inch cake pans or make in to muffins by using a muffin tin.
Bake at 300° for 35 minutes. Reduce cooking time if using muffin tins.

Elana has a frosting recipe that goes with this carrot cake, but I left it off. If you can have dairy, a sugar-free cream cheese frosting would work great. Since I am off milk, cheese and cream cheese for now, I just buttered mine. For some reason butter doesn't bother me the way other dairy items do. If you only require the recipe to be gluten-free, pick whatever frosting you like that doesn't have gluten in it and enjoy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dairy-free sour cream

Sour cream is delicious and works so well in many recipes. Not being able to use it due to lactose issues or a dairy protein allergy can really cramp your cooking style. Fortunately you can make your own dairy-free sour cream replacement and carry on. Even though this is very easy to make, it does take time to ferment, so plan ahead.

Dairy-Free Sour Cream

• 2 cans of sugar-free coconut milk

Pour the 2 cans of coconut milk in to a large mason jar. Stir well. Sprinkle the dehydrated kefir grains over the coconut milk and stir again. Allow to sit on the counter in a warm spot for 12-24 hours. Coconut milk will thicken and separate a bit as it ferments. Taste after 12 hours. It should be slightly sour and creamy. If it isn't sour or you want a stronger flavor, allow it to sit out another 12 hours or so.

Scoop the thick sour coconut kefir out of the jar leaving the "whey" behind. Use as you would regular sour cream in any of your recipes.

NOTE: The warmer your room temperature, the quicker it will ferment.


Super Quick Dairy-Free Sour Cream
No time to wait for kefir to ferment? Paleo Food gives this alternative...
"Sour cream - chilled coconut milk combined with a few drops of lemon juice"
They don't give details, but coconut milk does separate when chilled, so pour off the liquid and use the thick coconut cream remaining to make your sour cream substitute.

While making sour cream this way is a lot quicker, you will miss out on all the great probotics you get with the kefir version. Try to use the kefir version whenever possible.

Reluctantly going dairy-free

When you are fighting years of damage to your body done by processed foods and the ravages of time, things you used to enjoy eating can turn on you. Along with eliminating grains, most starches and refined sugar, I now find myself betrayed by my old friend dairy. Coming from Wisconsin, dairy has always been a part of my life. If you have ever had cheese curds fresh out of the vat or a cold glass of fresh raw milk, you know I feel about my moo juice.

After clearing up a lot of my health issues from pre-diabetes to high blood pressure by going low-carb and ditching grains, I still had one remaining problem. Chronic constipation. Now before you start saying "That's what you get for not getting enough fiber you meat munching weirdo! Eat a whole-grain cracker!", keep in mind I had constipation issues years before I went low carb. In fact, I can trace my issues to formerly following a very high fiber diet, which contrary to popular thinking, actually causes damage to your insides.

I tried supplements, vitamins, cleanses, etc.. in an effort to get things moving and nothing seemed to help. Once I discovered kefir and began eating it daily, I did get some relief, but the plumbing was still far from top notch.

It wasn't until I got a stomach virus that I figured out what my underlying problem was. After 4 days of hardly any food at all, my constipation issues were gone. When I felt better I started reintroducing foods like bone broth, soups and stews. Things were still fine in the gut region. Cool. Then, feeling much better and back to my old self, I ate a piece of cheese. Ouch!

I could feel that piece of cheese moving through every inch of my system. Then the constipation returned. A light bulb went off in my head and I dropped dairy again. A week later I wanted to see if I would have the same problem with some good raw dairy. Through a series of covert operations including secret handshakes and a decoder ring, I was able to score a gallon of raw milk. I tried dairy again. Again the constipation returned.

Well crap! Seriously. If I want to be able to go to the bathroom without pain, I have to give up cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir..... AAARRRGGGHHHH! After feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes, I got down to business and started revamping my recipes and making them dairy-free. While I may possibly be able to reintroduce dairy at some point once I have had time to heal, I am not going to stand by and deny myself yummy low-carb food in the mean time. I will be posting new dairy-free recipes, recommended substitutions, and revised old recipes. There will still be general low carb recipes I get from friends, and dairy-free alternatives if I can swing it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lower Carb Dark Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

While these muffins are based on low carb ingredients, the carbs can still add up. I wouldn't make these if you are on Atkins induction phase or have issues maintaining weight loss when eating nuts. As an occasional treat or a snack for kids who can tolerate a higher carb level, these are tasty and mix up rather quickly.

Lower Carb Dark Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

2 ½ cups blanched almond flour

1 Tbsp coconut flour
2 duck eggs (or 2 jumbo chicken eggs plus 1 yolk)
1/4 teaspoon celtic sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 Tbsps butter, melted
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup erythritol (or 1/4 cup honey if you can handle more carbs)
3 packets of Truvia or Splenda
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.
Mix wet ingredients into dry.
Spoon in to a mini muffin pan. Divide batter equally among the 24 spots.
Bake at 300° for 10-15 minutes. Edges of the muffins should be lightly browned. Cool and serve.

NOTE: To keep the carb count as low as possible, use the darkest chocolate chips with the highest cocoa content you can find. You can also replace up to half of the chips with organic cocoa nibs to get the carbs down even further.