Thursday, September 6, 2007

Dana Carpenter: Use your noodle: Go low-carb

Wow! I was really happy to see this column by HoldTheToast Press' Dana Carpenter. It talks about a low-carb pasta alternative that I'm going to try for sure! Click here for the link to the original column.

"Pasta and I parted ways a long time ago. The traditional white-flour pasta is nearly devoid of vitamins and minerals, low in protein and way too carb-heavy for me. Whole-wheat pasta is modestly better, with a little more fiber and a few more nutrients, but it’s still awfully rough on my blood sugar. The low-carb soy “pastas” that showed up a few years back are expensive and nasty.

But there is one truly low-carb pasta that has won a regular place on my table. It’s a Japanese noodle called shirataki. Made of fiber from the konjac plant (also called glucomannan and often erroneously referred to as “yams”), these noodles can be found in the refrigerator case at Asian markets and some health-food stores. They can also be ordered online.

There are two types of shirataki: the traditional variety, made of only konjac fiber, and tofu shirataki, which combines konjac with tofu. Both varieties are very low in carbs and calories. Better yet, the soluble konjac fiber appears to have health benefits, lowering cholesterol and dampening blood-sugar swings. Capsules of konjac fiber have long been sold as a diet aid.

A few things to know about shirataki:

Both traditional and tofu shirataki come in liquid-filled pouches. The liquid smells fishy, but don’t be put off by this. Dump your shirataki into a strainer and rinse well. Now soak for a few minutes, either in water or — my preference — in broth. I have not detected any fish flavor in my finished shirataki dishes.

Shirataki noodles are long. Really long. Snip them a few times with your kitchen shears to make them more manageable.

As an imported specialty product, shirataki is not cheap. I’ve been paying $1.50 for an 8-ounce pouch. That’s a lot more expensive than generic elbow noodles. Shirataki will not work as cheap “filler” food. Instead, they’re a nutritionally superior option. Unopened and refrigerated, shirataki will keep up to a year, so if you find a good buy, stock up.

Both varieties of shirataki are very bland on their own. They need a flavorful sauce or soup to make them really tasty.

Traditional shirataki have 2 grams of carbohydrate per serving, and both of those grams are fiber — no usable carbs — and 0 calories. I call them “nothing noodles.” Skinny like spaghetti (but a lot longer), traditional shirataki are otherwise different from Italian pasta. They’re clear, with a gelatinous texture. They are excellent in Asian dishes, such as a ramen-style soup, sesame noodles or a cold-noodle salad. However, they don’t go well with Italian tomato sauce or Alfredo sauce.

Tofu shirataki have a big 20 calories and 3 grams of carb per serving, with 2 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 1. They have a look and texture much more similar to the pasta we all know and love. Tofu shirataki come both long-skinny and in a wider “fettuccine” version. I find the fettuccine width more versatile, but I have both in my fridge. I’ve tried tofu shirataki with cheese sauce, Alfredo sauce, tomato-based spaghetti sauce and as a bed of noodles with other dishes. I think I’ll try tuna casserole next. They’d be good in chicken noodle soup, too.

Here’s my favorite shirataki dish.

Blue Cheese-Walnut-Pesto Chicken with Noodles

16 ounces fettuccine-style tofu shirataki

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon butter, divided

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/4 cup diced onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons pesto sauce

51/2 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Open shirataki, put into a strainer, and rinse. Put in a small saucepan and stir in the chicken broth. Let this sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat, and stir the walnuts into it until they smell toasty. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut chicken into 1/2-inch chunks, dice onions and crush garlic. Melt the rest of the butter in a big, heavy skillet over medium heat, and start the chicken and onions sauteing in it.

Put the saucepan of shirataki over medium-low heat, to warm.

When all the pink is gone from the chicken and the onion is translucent, stir in the garlic, half-and-half and pesto. Now add all but a couple of tablespoons of the blue cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thick.

Using a tongs or slotted spoon, lift the noodles out of their broth and pile on three plates or in two bowls. Divide the chicken mixture and sauce between them. Top each with a third of the reserved blue cheese and walnuts, and serve.

Reach Dana Carpender online at"

Looks like I'm going shopping! :)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Low-carb treat how-to video

Another great low carb comfort food recipe from Linda's Low Carb:

2 TBS butter
1/4 cup natural chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup Splenda
1 cup chocolate whey protein powder
1/4 cup Da Vinci SF vanilla syrup
1/4 cup salted nuts (optional)

* Melt the butter, and mix with Splenda
* Add the peanut butter to the mix until smooth
* Mix protein powder until crumbly
* Add syrup and the mix should turn glossy and much easier to form into two mini loaf pans
* Freeze mixture for 1 hour, and it should be able to be eaten.

Thanks to Bowulf (Kent) for the video.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Week #11: A 4-lb loss for a total of 43 lb gone

Had a great week at the scales with another 4 lb gone for a total of -43 lb in 11 weeks. Very pleased about that!

FYI, I also compared the sodium content of Aquafina flavoured water vs Diet Pepsi. Surprisingly, there is TWICE as much sodium in the water than there is in the soda. So from now on, I'll drink Aquafina as an occasional treat but stick to regular or Silhouette brand water, which has no sodium.