Thursday, May 31, 2012

About that kidney thing....

For years, people have believed that an Atkins-style diet may cause kidney damage because of the high protein levels. Despite a statement made in 2003 by the head of the British Kidney Patient Association that "If you have healthy kidneys, you can't eat enough protein to damage your kidney", the belief persisted. Like the myth that going outside with wet hair gives you a cold (also bull-shit by the way), everyone just KNEW that if you ate low carb, your kidneys would "asplode".

Fortunately a new study reiterates the fact that eating low carb is safe for your kidneys.
"High protein, Atkins-type diets don't cause noticeable harm to the kidneys in healthy patients without kidney disease, a new study indicates.

"There has been concern for decades about possible damaging effects of high-protein diets on the kidney," said Dr. Allon Friedman, an associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. It was thought that excess protein "can rev up the filtering mechanism in the kidney, causing damage over time," he explained." (more)

Turns out the kidney function tests of those following a low carb diet were perfectly fine. Just how long it will take the general public to stop repeating the exploding kidney myth is anyone's guess. Personally I look forward to the time when Kidney Asploding Bunny has to get a new job.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

RECIPE: Pico de Gallo

If you tried the guacamole recipe I posted yesterday, you might want to whip up this easy, fresh salsa recipe to go with it. After all, the only thing better than a fresh batch of guacamole is a batch of pico de gallo to plop on top of it. Besides, it will give you something to do with the other half of that red roasted pepper you made the night before.

Wifezilla's Pico de Gallo
6 medium vine ripened tomatoes - seeded and chopped
2 roasted jalapenos - chopped
1/2 large roasted sweet pepper - chopped
1/2 medium Vadalia (or other mild, sweet variety) onion - chopped
1/4 cup garlic chives - minced (or clove of garlic)
2 tbps (or more) fresh cilantro - minced
Juice of 2 limes
Celtic sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate  for 20 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

Fresh jicama slices topped with guacamole and pico de gallo

If you are a bit of a wuss about hot foods, you can use less jalapeno pepper, but consider just not including the seeds and pulpy veins. The seeds and the pulp they are attached to is where most of the heat from a hot pepper comes from. If you leaves those parts out you reduce the heat but still retain the jalapeno flavor. If that is still too hot for you, only use 1/2 a jalapeno and use a whole roasted sweet red pepper.

You may notice this recipe and the guacamole recipe both recommend garlic chives instead of a garlic clove. There are two reasons for this. 1) I have a garden with several rather prolific garlic chive plants and 2) as I have gotten older, garlic has turned on me. While I love the flavor, garlic gives me heartburn. Garlic chives are a great way to get a garlic flavor without the garlic side effects.

About the onion... I recommend Vadalia variety because it is mild and it is very easy for the onion flavor to overpower the flavor of the tomatoes. If you can't find Vadalias, try Maui Sweet or Texas 1015s. If you use a red onion or other stronger variety, reduce the amount of onion to about 1/4.

One more thing. Cilantro. You either love it or hate it. There is a reason why and it has to do with genetics.

"Lots of people love the herb. Just as many, it seems, hate it. There appears to be no middle
ground, and the reason for that just might come down to genetics. Scientists have yet to isolate the cilantro-hating gene, but a Philadelphia researcher who put twins up to sniffing the herb is hot on the trail.
"The twin study we've done implicates genetics to be involved," said Charles J. Wysocki, a behavioral neuroscientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center who, for what it's worth, is not a cilantro-hater.
"I love cilantro, but I also like the smell of skunk," he said.
If human DNA really does account for why some people think the herb has a fresh, citrusy flavor and others think it tastes like soap, that could also explain the existence of and its ability to attract 2,809 members..." (more)
If you happen to be one of those poor genetic mutants who, through no fault of your own, can't appreciate the fresh flavor of cilantro, use regular parsley instead. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

RECIPE: Spicy Guacamole with Roasted Peppers

Avocados are a great source of vitamins, minerals and natural fats. This time of year they are abundant at grocery stores and are usually on sale. Since I am not using dairy products any longer, the smooth, creamy texture of blended avocados takes the place of sour cream in many dishes. Last night I whipped up a batch of guacamole and used a large dollop on top of a bowl of low carb meaty chili. The recipe turned out rather well so I thought I should write it down and share.

Wifezilla's Spicy Guacamole with Roasted Peppers

4 ripe Haas avocados
1/2 Vadallia (or other sweet variety) onion - chopped
1 roasted jalapeno pepper - chopped
1/2 large roasted sweet red pepper - chopped (see roasting instructions in jalapeno link)
1/2 seeded tomato - chopped
1/4 cup garlic chives - chopped (or a few small cloves of garlic - chopped)
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
sea salt to taste

Food processor directions: Slice and scoop out avocado. Place in food processor bowl with the S blade. Add lime juice, spices, chives and cilantro then pulse until avocado mix is smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until you reach your desired level of smoothness. Pulse less for chunky guacamole and more for smooth. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour to firm up the mix and allow flavors to blend.

Hand mixer directions: Use your mixer with a high sided bowl to cream the avocado together with your spices. Chop all your vegetables to the desired size and blend in to the avocado.

Use as a dip with sliced jicama and other vegetables, or as a topper for your favorite chili or Mexican food dish.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Picking the perfect melon - Cantaloupe

When you low carb, fruit is a once in a while treat. Not an every day thing. You don't want to waste one of your fruit indulgences on a something tasteless with the texture of an old kitchen sponge. With fruit being trucked in to grocery stores from all corners of the world it is hard to know what is really "in season". Tricks by growers and supermarkets try to fool you in to thinking something that has been bouncing around the globe in a box is fresh off the vine. To ensure you aren't fooled and can really enjoy a little bit of delicious fruit as part of your low carb or paleo plan, here are some helpful tips for picking the perfect cantaloupe.

  • COLOR: Cantaloupe rind has raised bumpy sections called netting. Under that is the base of the rind. You need to look past the netting to that under-layer. Both the netting and the under-layer should be tan or yellowish. There should be NO GREEN on the melon. Most melons, including cantaloupe, will not ripen anymore once removed from the vine. They will get softer with time but they will not develop any more flavor. 
  • SMELL: If you look at a melon there are 2 small round parts on opposite ends of the melon. One side is where the melon was attached to the vine and will look slightly indented. The other end is where the flower was when the plant was in bloom. This part is called the blossom end. You want to hold the blossom end of the melon right up to your nose and take a big sniff. If you can't smell anything, your cantaloupe isn't ripe. What you should get is a good strong melon scent. Melons tend to taste like they smell. No smell = no flavor. 
  • WEIGHT: You don't necessarily want the biggest, heaviest cantaloupe, but you do want one that is heavy for its size. Given the option of two melons of equal size, pick the one that weighs more. It usually means it is juicier. 
  • SOURCE: Where did your melon come from? Do you know the farmer? Was it shipped half-way around the planet? What are the odds of you getting a perfectly ripened cantaloupe if it had to spend days or weeks in transit? In Colorado was are fortunate to have access to Rocky Ford cantaloupe. They are grown primarily on Colorado's western slope. Their transit time to major markets is mere hours. Get to know local farmer's market vendors and growers with on-farm stands. If you are at a grocery store, look for the GROWN IN COLORADO label. Still check for color and smell to make sure you are getting a good one. If you are not in Colorado, check with to see if someone near you is growing cantaloupes for sale. 
After last year's listeria outbreak blamed on cantaloupe, be sure to take the extra precaution to wash the outside of the melon before slicing. Since fruit isn't on the daily menu, you don't want your cantaloupe indulgence to be disappointing or lethal.

Friday, May 4, 2012

RECIPE: Wifezilla's Jacked-up Cauliflower

I was planning to make twiced-baked cauliflower the other night. Low carb kitchen guru Linda Sue has several recipes with cauliflower as a potato replacement that have gotten rave reviews. I had been looking forward to giving one of them a try.
I bought cheese, cauliflower and bacon a few days ahead of time. Naturally, when I was ready to actually make the dish, all the bacon was gone. 4 packages in 3 days. My husband and sons tried to blame it on the cats. Since they lack opposable thumbs and I am suspicious of my husband's story that his new aftershave is bacon scented, I am willing to believe the cats might be innocent.
My choices once I realized the bacon was gone were to change out of my jammies and go to Walmart (shudder) or get creative. Since my jammies were comfy and I was on my 2nd glass of white wine, creativity won out. Here is what I came up with...
Wifezilla's Jacked-up Low Carb Cauliflower Bake
1 large head of fresh cauliflower
8oz cream cheese
1 cup Monterey jack cheese - shredded
1 2oz stick pepperoni - chopped
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
Chop and steam cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl with a little water in the bottom (about 20 minutes on high power). While cauliflower is steaming, gently heat pepperoni in a small frying pan. Cook until lightly browned on the edges of the pieces. After cauliflower is steamed, drain off water and either mash or shred with a hand mixer. (If you like, you can put in a food processor to make it really smooth. I just hit it with the blender and didn't care that there were some small chunks.) Add cooked pepperoni pieces, 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, and spices and mix well. Place in a loaf pan or casserole dish. Top with shredded pepper jack cheese. Bake until cheese on the top is melted and slightly browned. 
This recipe should work equally well with frozen cauliflower and that may even make your mashing job easier. If your family hasn't snatched all the bacon, go ahead and use that instead of the pepperoni. This is a great side dish for beef or poultry. Since my guys liked it so much, maybe the promise of future batches of Jacked Up Cauliflower might get them to leave the bacon alone.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Who needs noodles when you can have 'cabboodles'?

As any mom on a budget can tell you, rice, potatoes and noodles can really help stretch the grocery dollars. Unfortunately, when you adopt a low carb way of eating, these inexpensive ingredients are no longer on the menu. Easily digestible starches like pasta and pilaf will undermine your weight loss efforts by spiking your blood sugar, raising your insulin levels, and putting your body in to fat storage mode. 
Fortunately there is a low cost, low carb option that will perform the same function as the fattening starches - stretch the food budget, extend flavor and soak up tasty sauces. Cabbage noodles, or as I like to call them, "cabboodles", provide that handy backdrop to your dishes just like noodles, but without the unnecessary dose of carbs. Not only are these a good way for low carbers to get their daily dose of veggies, they are a good option for people with wheat or egg allergies. 
Shredded cabbage makes an excellent noodle substitute.
You can simply cut fresh cabbage in to noodle-shaped ribbons or even buy the prepacked, pre-cut bags of cabbage from the grocery store if you need to save some time. The raw cabbage can then be steamed or fried in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper before topping them with your favorite meats and sauces. The cabbage cooks down quite a bit, so plan on using an entire medium head of cabbage or 2 packages of pre-shredded to feed 4 adults. 
Some of my favorites cabboodle toppers include chicken alfredo, shrimp and mushrooms with red pepper sauce, or beef medallions and cauliflower with sour cream and white wine sauce. The shrimp dish shown above took less than 10 minutes to throw together with thawed frozen shrimp, some fresh sliced mushrooms in butter, a can of red pepper alfredo sauce, and fried pre-shredded angel hair cabbage.