Saturday, November 3, 2007

Recipe: Kim's low-carb flax meal cinnamon muffins

Despite the huge amounts of cinnamon and vanilla in this recipe, I couldn't taste either one. I guess they're needed to tone down the strong taste of the flax meal. These look and taste like bran muffins, if you ask me. I sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top of mine for some extra crunch before putting them in the oven. I also put about 1 tsp in the batter. I'll probably add more next time. I bought the sesame seeds at the sushi counter of the grocery store. (Click on the photo for a larger version.)

- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp oil (I used canola oil)
- 1/4 cup sugar-free syrup, such as DaVinci or Torani (I had ordered some DaVinci syrup online. See the post immediately preceding this one for more on sugar-free syrups. Plain sugar-free syrup is also known as "liquid Splenda." It's important that the syrup be sweetened with sucralose (Splenda), not aspartame.)
- 2 tbsp water (I forgot to add this! Didn't seem to matter, though. They came out fine.)
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1 cup flax meal
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp cinnamon (the amount is correct)

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. (I used a whisk.) With a fork or spoon, beat in oil, syrup, water and vanilla. In small bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients, then stir into egg mixture. Let stand 5 minutes. (Holy macaroni. I forgot to do this, too! Maybe they would have risen higher in the oven had I done this. I found them to be quite small, despite tasting fine.) Spoon into 12 well-greased muffin cups (without papers). Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes (I left mine in for 15), or until they are lightly browned and seem set to the touch. Remove from tin at once to cooling rack. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 12 muffins Can be frozen.

Per serving: 85 calories; 7g fat; 4g protein; 4g carbohydrate; 3g dietary fibre; 1g net carbs. (The carbs added by the sesame seeds would have been nil, since the net carb count on the seeds is zero anyway.)

I thought I'd read this recipe carefully when I was making it. Sheesh! I forgot the water and letting it stand for five minutes. I'll do that next time, for sure. They still tasted fine, though! Enjoy!

Courtesy of Linda's Low Carb Menus & Recipes.

Buying sugar-free syrups for baking in Canada

Once you get more adventurous in your low-carb recipe experiments, you'll likely want to start baking again. Frankly, I miss eating baked products from time to time, i.e. cookies, muffins, breads, etc. Usually, the flour in low-carb baking is replaced by ground nuts (i.e. almond flour) and ground seeds (flax meal).

You'll find, however, that many recipes call for sugar-free syrups. Most times, you'll see DaVinci brand sugar-free syrups called for because they are sweetened with Splenda. Plain DaVinci sugar-free syrup is often referred to as "liquid Splenda." The benefit of cooking with these syrups is that they are 100% calorie and carb-free. Granular Splenda does have minimal carbs. Baking with liquid Splenda, therefore, is beneficial in that you reduce the carb count even more in whatever you're putting together.

Now, depending on where you live, this could be a good or bad thing. I don't think DaVinci syrups are widely available at retail, but you can definitely buy them online. I bought liquid Splenda online for $12.99/bottle plus shipping. Now that the Canadian dollar is surging, I'm hoping that prices will drop by at least 25%. If you want to know where I bought mine, simply click on the ad at the top of this blog. That's who I used... and they were great!

The dilemma, however, is that needing to buy stuff online to cook with is a real pain in the you-know-what. It's inconvenient and can be expensive.

So today, right here in li'l ol' Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, I went on a quest for sugar-free syrup. First, I checked out some specialty retailers at a couple of farmers' markets. Nothing. Then, I tried a couple of high-end specialty food stores. Again... nothing.

Then a light went off. Who uses syrups to flavour things? Coffee shops!

So I went to the mall and checked out Second Cup. They did indeed have syrups, but for some weird reason I didn't ask if they were for sale or if they were sweetened with sucralose as opposed to aspartame. Sucralose (Splenda) is preferred, of course!

Then I went to Timothy's. They, too, had sugar-free syrups. This time, I asked if they sold them separately and they said yes - $11.99/bottle if I remember correctly. I then asked if they had sugar-free. Yup! Vanilla and hazelnut, I think. I checked the bottle... aspartame. Crap! Well, at least I knew I could buy a bottle not far from home if I was stuck, despite the aspartame.

Out this way, finding a Starbucks is like finding a moose dancing ballet on top of a moving train. Tim Hortons is by far the dominant coffee chain, but they don't have syrups there. Luckily, there was a Starbucks located in the Chapters Indigo bookstore next to the mall I was in, so I went over to see what kind of syrups they had.

Did they sell syrups separately? Yup! $9.95/bottle (great price!). I asked to see a bottle and the guy working behind the counter handed one over. I thought for sure it would say they were sweetened with aspartame. BUT NO!! Sucralose! Holy macaroni. Boy, was I happy.

They had four kinds: vanilla, caramel, hazelnut and cinnamon dolce. Unfortunately, they don't sell tons of the stuff to customers so their stock was limited. Apparently, they need to keep a reserve of four bottles for themselves. With that said, they were able to sell me a bottle of vanilla and one of caramel (the most popular flavours for baking - yay! - click on the photo above for a larger version)... and I'll return for hazelnut (my favourite!!) and cinnamon dolce.

So... if you're looking for sugar-free syrups sweetened with sucralose (Splenda), head to a Starbucks near you! I'm going to call Second Cup tomorrow and check what brand of syrup they carry (I'm 99% sure it's Torani - another sucralose-sweetened syrup), so hopefully they sell to the public, as well! That would be exciting. I'll post an update tomorrow. (UPDATE - Nov. 4/07: Yup! Second Cup carries Torani and they sell it to customers. Torani is sweetened with sucralose, so it's A-OK!! Cost is $11.95 for 750 ml, quite a bit pricier than $9.95 for 1 litre at Starbucks. But they sold me some right away with no hesitation, unlike Starbucks, who had to check their supplies first. They would also order me any Torani syrup available. Yay! I bought a bottle of sugar-free hazelnut. The other flavour they had was vanilla, but I'd already bought some at Starbucks.)

It's best, however, if you're serious about experimenting with your recipes and keeping the carb count as low as possible, to stock up on a half-dozen bottles or so of the DaVinci sugar-free plain syrup ("liquid Splenda") through Low Carb Grocery or another online retailer if you're outside of Canada. The unflavoured stuff is called for in quite a few recipes. I've got one bottle and will purchase more before Christmas just to stock up.

Tonight, I'm a happy low-carber who's looking forward to getting back into doing some baking, which I really love! With so many people I know who are diabetics, I'll be able to bake some treats for them now.

For more on purchasing liquid Splenda, click here.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Livin' La Vida Low-Carb On YouTube (Episode 11)

Here's another video by Jimmy Moore and his wife Christine. Today's episode is all about what is eaten on a low-carb diet. Don't forget to check out Jimmy's amazing blog: Livin' La Vida Low-Carb.

If there's one thing I hate when buying salad...

... is finding rotten lettuce leaves. It's a stupid and careless move on the restaurant's part. The leaf showed here was in a salad I got from Quizno's (downtown on Main Street, Moncton) today. (Click on the photo to see this huge honkin' leaf in all of its rotten glory.) First of all, the leaf is HUGE - at least 6-8" inches long. Who the heck puts a tree like that in their lettuce? In fact, half the romaine lettuce in the salad was rotten. By the time I noticed, I was already back at the office, so I picked through it to at least be able to eat the chicken - some of which was still half-frozen, despite having gone through their oven. I was absolutely starving and had to eat something. What a sorry excuse for a meal. Major quality problems at this store. I'll go to the one on Champlain Street in Dieppe from now on. The one downtown is just not up to snuff. There's no excuse for this! And it's too bad for all the low-carbers out there to have to avoid a restaurant that serves a relatively low-carb menu item. But who wants to eat rotten food?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Not a great start to my promise to make Halloween at my house health! Maybe next year. Ha! This is from my weekly column that appeared in yesterday's Moncton Times & Transcript.

Hump Day
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Appeared on page D8, Moncton Times & Transcript

"Have you seen the ghost of John? Long white bones and the rest all gone! Ooh! Ooh! Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on?"

When I was in elementary school, this song would echo through the doors of Sister Lorette Gallant's music class and down the creaky, wood-lined hallways of Aberdeen School. Halloween was a good time for getting kids excited with some fun music that would have us looking forward to her class all day!

Of course, we didn't need much prodding for getting excited about the one night of the year when we were allowed to stuff our faces with sugar. Although I've now sworn off the stuff, I remember looking forward to that sugar rush and rifling through our pillow-cased loot so that I could get to all the good candy first.

I always felt sorry for those poor yellow suckers, though. They always seemed so lonely since they were usually the last things eaten sometime in early November.

It's a little-known fact that this is also National Dentists Buy Expensive Cars Week across North America. Wherever children go door to door, dentists will be cackling with glee and their receptionists getting to work extra early tomorrow in order to deal with all those calls from moms and dads (probably mostly dads).

Never mind the sugar headaches, tummy aches and hyperactive episodes that many kids will have tonight, the sounds of parents' teeth breaking on candy and crowns coming off due to those super-sticky candy kisses will be like a symphony of rocks being thrown against a large picture window. "Bang! Crack!"

To a dentist, Halloween is the sweet sound of a credit or debit card being swiped in their office. Cha-ching!

To cut down on the tooth-rotting amount of sugar that will be handed out throughout the area tonight, I decided that I was going to hand out healthy treats this year. I proudly and sanctimoniously announced that fact on my two blogs, to friends, and to pretty much anyone else who would listen. I was hearing rumours that Al Gore was having his Nobel Peace Prize revoked in favour of me.

I was going to personally put the "healthy" into Halloween.

So I trotted off to one of the local warehouse stores. I knew that I'd probably be able to find a 50-pack of organic seaweed surprise bars or something or other. I imagined the teary-eyed children at home, happily eating the pure, healthy goodness that I'd lovingly tossed in their little plastic pumpkins the night before. It would be something you'd see on the front of a Christmas card -- if it were Christmas, that is.

I decided to bite the bullet and shell out the cash for some bars I'd never heard of before. You know they're good when you've never heard of them, right? Unfortunately, by now, I was even starting to annoy myself.

If I thought for one bloody minute that every kid who came to my house was going to write me a letter of thanks after opening up their Uncle Brian's Organic Clump'o'Goodness bar, then I was surely kidding myself.

What was I going to do? Change the entire branding of Halloween with a few over-priced boxes of bars that I'd never try myself?

If I were lucky, I wouldn't find my house covered from head to toe with bathroom tissue the next day along with warnings scratched on my driveway with chalk: "Don't mess around with Halloween, dude. You've been warned, mister."

Ooh. "Dude" and "mister." These guys mean business.

Of course, the astronomical price of those likely yucky bars didn't do much for my desire to change the world. And let's face it, I didn't have the $2.6 billion in my bank account to pay for the 48 organic watchamacallits in my cart.

So, I reluctantly talked myself out of them and picked up a box of 48 full-sized "regular" bars, certainly enough for the 35 or so kids who will show up at my door tonight.

I do feel guilty. I mean, as a member of society, I shouldn't have caved in to the pressure of cheaper junk food. I should have sprung for the more expensive organic stuff.

But you know what? Having a bunch of ghouls and goblins showing up at your door all happy, then arriving back home later only to mock your personal choice in Halloween candy is something that I would never subject myself to.

As a kid, I remember that there was always a house in the neighbourhood that would give out the worst stuff. It was like they read books on what kids hated, then ran out and bought a truck full of it like some evil Halloween haters extraordinaire. I didn't want to be the subject of an Oprah show about bad neighbours who ruined Halloween for small children in cute costumes.

So yeah . . . like I said, I returned the good stuff back to the shelf and grabbed the bad and threw it in the cart.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I'm pretty much on the record for despising Halloween. I think it's barbaric and simply an excuse for brats to cause trouble. But there are the cute ones, though, like the sweet little kids dressed up as Winnie the Pooh who don't have a clue what they're doing. "Say thank you, Megan." "Tenku!" little Megan manages to drool out.

So tonight, if you're one of the lucky kids to come by my house, enjoy your treat and be thankful that I decided not to save the world this year.

Otherwise, you'd be throwing some organic clump of something in the garbage tomorrow morning while your father's on the phone with his dentist trying to pronounce "candy kiss" with no teeth.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Recipe: Low-carb Italian chicken casserole

This is so easy that it's a joke, especially when you use one of those roasted chickens from your supermarket. I made this for the second time tonight. There's nothing to cook! You just need to take apart the chicken, put it together and throw it in the oven for a bit in order to melt everything.

If you're in the mood for a cheesy, gooey Italian meal, give this a try!! Courtesy of the excellent Linda's Low Carb Menus & Recipes website.

- 1 roasted chicken (from the grocery store, or roast your own)
medium tub of ricotta cheese (I used ricotta the first time and didn't like it. Not a fan. I used 2% cottage cheese this time. I prefer the texture of cottage cheese.)
shredded mozzarella cheese (I just used "handfuls")
grated parmesan cheese (I just used "handfuls")
1 jar of low-carb tomato sauce (I used a bottle of organic marinara sauce with no sugar added)
1 teaspoon of dried basil (I just sprinkled some on each layer without measuring)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano (I just sprinkled some on each layer without measuring)

Spread 5 tbsp of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Shred the roasted chicken, and spread half in the dish. Layer cheeses on top, and then cover with sauce. Put the rest of the chicken on top of that, and make another cheese layer. (I actually made three layers, not two.) Cover with tomato sauce, and TONS of mozzarella cheese on top. Sprinkle with dried basil and oregano. Bake until cheese is melted and golden brown! (There was no baking time or temperature for this recipe. I used 350F for 45 minutes, but it could have probably a good hour and five minutes after that with cover of the casserole dish off.)

(I sprinkled dried basil, oregano, parsley flakes and pepper after each layer of cheeses (i.e. three times total). I also sprinkled minced garlic on the top cheese layer and threw on a few thin slices of a small tomato for looks.)

For added flavours, and fibre, add cooked veggies, or spinach!

This is a delicious and fast casserole. It's versatile, so you can pretty much add what you want. If you're craving lasagna, this is a good substitute. I think this would also be good with sausage meat or meatballs, too.

The photo above is from the one I made tonight. I probably could have let it brown a bit more on top, but you get the idea. I just put the tomatoes there for "looks," but they taste good, too! This is a very large casserole. The photo is taken on top of my stove and you can see that the large casserole dish takes up two full burners! (And yes, I need to clean under my burner grates. Ugh!) Click on the photo for a larger version.

After 62 lb...

My watch doesn't fit anymore. I'm going to have to get a few links taken out of the strap.

Just goes to show that excess weight affects everything you wear, even a watch!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recipe: Low-carb rhubarb flummery in the slow cooker

Again, here's another excellent recipe from Dana Carpender.

I'd never heard the word "flummery" before, so I looked it up online:

"Flummery" (from the Welsh llymru) is a sweet soft pudding that is made from stewed fruit and thickened with cornstarch

Sometimes things don't have to be complicated in order to be delicious. This takes a few hours to make, but it's very simple. (You can probably make something similar right on the stovetop, but I liked the aroma of rhubarb wafting through the house. Do NOT use cornstarch, as well. It is NOT an ingredient low-carbers use.)

- 1 lb of rhubarb (I bought a bag of frozen, cut rhubarb and weighed out 1 lb on a food scale)
- 1/2 cup of Splenda
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/8 tsp of orange extract (I will probably double that the next time I make this)
- Guar or xanthan gum (I used 1 tsp of xanthan gum and will probably double it next time)

Place the rhubarb in your slow cooker and stir in the Splenda, water and orange extract. Cover the slow cooker, set it to low, and let it cook for 5 to 6 hours. (I left it in for 5.5 hours and it came out perfect. I'm sure that 5 hours would have sufficed, though. I mean, it's rhubarb. It cooks very fast.)

When the time's up, the rhubarb will be very soft. Mash it with a fork to a rough pulp. (I mashed it with a potato masher right in the slow cooker. The next time, I'm going to throw it in the mixer and whip it.) Thicken the sauce to a soft pudding consistency with guar or xanthan gum and serve hot or cold. (I ate it both hot and cold. It was thicker and more like a pudding when it was cold because the xanthan gum kicked in.)

This dessert is great with a little heavy cream or whipped cream.

Yield: 6 servings, each with 16 calories, trace fat, trace protein, 4 g carbs, 1 g dietary fibre, 3 g net carbs.

I really liked this. I think having it cold with some whipped cream on top would be awesome. I just ate it "straight up," so to speak. I'll definitely add some whipped cream next time. I personally think the number of servings is really out of whack here, though. Six servings? I dunno. They'd be quite tiny. Four would be more realistic. Perhaps a good palate cleanser after a big meal, though - the smaller you go.

Click the above photo for a larger version. This is from the batch I made, and that bowl is a small dessert bowl... and that was HALF of what was made, so divide that into three even smaller portions and you'll see that six portions out of that batch would be quite small. I think four is much more reasonable.


Week #19: Down by another 2 lb for a total of -62 lb

I had another great week at the scale! I lost 2 lb for a grand total of 62 lb lost in 19 weeks. Pretty ordinary seven days. I drank all my water and was pretty good on everything else. So far, I'm averaging more than 3 lb per week, so I certainly can't complain!

People seem to be enjoying the recipes, so I'll keep posting those as I try things out. Do you have a favourite low-carb recipe? E-mail me! I'd love to check it out.

Thank you to everyone who's been sending in all those wonderful comments via e-mail, Facebook and on this blog. They're all very much appreciated.

If I can somehow inspire you to lose weight, too, that's something that I'm truly happy about! You can do it! And so can I!

No excuses!