A Shift in Thinking – No More Counting Calories

pic_evolution_food_pyramidOver the past two months I’ve been working with my doctors to find out why losing weight and getting my blood sugars under control has been a losing battle. Two of the docs came to the same conclusion without any prompting from me — in other words I did not tell them what the other had said. They both told me I was ‘carbohydrate intolerant’. I had never heard it put quite that way before so the researcher in me struck out to do the due diligence on the subject. From this point on I will be writing about the changes and some recipes along the way. I cut out as many carbs from my diet as possible and thus far I’m 15 pounds lighter and for the first time in a year my blood sugars are in normal ranges. Just a few months ago I thought this was it, time to to on insulin for sure. This was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. I knew that once I went on insulin the weight would be nearly impossible to get rid of. Insulin is what tells the body to store some of those carbs as fat.

Let’s say you normally eat 2000 calories a day and you also burn 2000 calories a day, so your weight will remain the same. If you inject extra insulin after eating, then out of those 2000 calories a day you will have stored 500. Now your body says, wait a minute. I need 2000 but only got 1500 so I’m still hungry. So now you eat another 500 calories but are injected with more insulin and therefore your body holds onto 100 of those extra 500 calories — of course you body says it’s still short 100 calories and you remain hungry. Meanwhile you are 600 calories heavier. Over time this will put weight on you.

Try this on for size: In the mid 80’s without any real science we were told we should be on a low fat diet. Well, if we are eating less fat then we need to eat more of something else which for the majority of America it was carb heavy foods. The number of diabetics in 1985 was 30 million. The projection for 2030 is 438 million. That’s almost half a billion people with diabetes. Check out this video — it has some great info.

I will continue to change my diet to the LCHF, or Low Carb High Fat diet and monitor what goes on. Thus far I’ve lost weight, have controlled blood sugars and have brought my cholesterol down. We shall see if that trend continues. I know it’s been a long time since posting here, but stay tuned and let us all see how things go.

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Ratatouille – the dish, not the movie

ratatoulliThe other day I was trying to think of something that would be reminiscent of eating some pasta with a nice sauce and yet a bit healthier than a big plate of pasta.  Ratatouille came to mind — easy, simple ingredients and it warms from the inside out.

I also wanted something that looked really nice when it came out of the oven.  There are times when you want your dish to be a banquet for the eyes as well as your tummy.  I found just what I wanted on “Smittenkitchen.com” and if you see their photo and mine I think you will agree I hit it on the head.  I was tempted to add more flavors or seasoning, but I reminded myself to just make it as it for the first time and adjust the next time.

Let me say now, no adjustments will be needed the next time with one exception.  I might add a bit more sauce as it was a tad dry in some parts of the pan.  The trick is to find that perfect space of moistness and delicious caramelization.  A tough spot to find.

Once it was done, I served it over a bed of brown rice & quinoa.  We like to mix the two.  Oh and a quick word on quinoa.  Even if you’re buying the ‘pre-washed’ kind — remember to rinse it well to ensure that there is no bitterness left.  Quinoa has a coating on the outside that can be bitter so it’s best to be sure it is indeed washed off.  We often add some minced garlic to the rice cooker if we are serving quinoa too, really adds something to the stuff.

This dish can be vegan or if you wish you can add that dollop of soft goat cheese on top of the serving — as a lover of cheese I can tell you it heats and melts down giving your plate an amazing kick up in texture and flavor.  Keep in mind that if you decide to skip the cheese the flavor is still lovely and very satisfying. While I’m eating about 95 percent less cheese I’m still eating a bit here and there – I’ll get there, but for now the journey continues.

I should also point out that there will be leftover veggies.  You can either make two of this dish or use the sliced veggies for something else.  As for me, I put them all together with some tomato sauce and baked them till soft and served over brown rice the next night.  At this point I’m still struggling to come up with quick new recipes so I tend to repeat things, but here it was not a problem as it was so tasty.

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Whole Foods, Plant Based Eating

Healthy Whole FoodUndoubtedly one of the easiest whole foods might just be the apple.  Easy to carry with you and easy to eat.  It satisfies hunger and thirst — amazing food indeed.

I’m doing my best to transition to a whole foods, plant based diet.  When I am able to maintain it I feel amazing.  My energy level is up and my joints don’t hurt as much.  I have some bursitis in my hip and some sort of inflammation in my shoulder.  Both feel much better when eating this way.  I just have one problem — my addiction to unhealthy food.

Another hurdle is that at the moment, all the menus in my head are for all the things we should not be eating.  It is more difficult to manage a menu when it’s all new to you and you have to really think about the food you are going to make.  The pantry is also often void of the food you need to cook this way.  Once you get used to it, then it becomes as easy as it was before, but I must admit the transition is a tough one for me.

Things are a bit crazy at the moment, but I will try and journal my experience here of the battle that will be changing our diet.  We all want to live a longer, healthier life so why is it so hard to do what needs to be done?  Who knows?  We all have so many variables in our lives that make it hard or easy, we are all very different people when it comes to change.

So, stay tuned and let’s see what happens!

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Stuff It!

Poblanos are often refered to as the Mexican Bell Pepper. “Poblano” is also the word for an inhabitant of Puebla, Mexico, so be sure not to mix up the definition with this recipe.  The outcome will be very different indeed!

Poblanos are not as sweet as bell peppers, but do carry a bit more spice to them which is in the range of mild to medium heat.  It should be noted here that you may encounter a poblano pepper with significant heat and the peppers from the same plant can vary as well.  The heat level is not exact.

They are usually dark green and 4 to 5 inches long and about 2 to 3 inches across.  If you let them ripen more to a reddish-brown color they will be even sweeter than the bell pepper and their heat will have kicked up as well.  The great thing about this recipe is that it is very open to your imagination.  Remember when you cut out the little opening to stuff the pepper, be sure to either save the bit you cut out or chop it up and put it in the stuffing.  If you save it, I suggest chopping it up and freezing it.  Then when you want to add some flavor to your morning eggs or  another dish, you have them handy and they don’t go to waste. 

Speaking of waste.  I found that made a bit too much of the stuffing.  I had gone to my favorite sasuage maker and gotten four rather large sasuages.  Two named “Diablo” and two that were bacon and cheese flavor.  Both home made sausages and very tasty!  So what to do with the extra?  My partner said or joked…not sure which, but he said very enthusiastically, “empanadas!”  Now I love those little pockets of goodness myself – but I did not want the hassle of making the dough.  So what’s a boy to do?  I thought of Pillsbury and those little wonders in that familiar pop and fresh can.  Here in Canada they sell hot dog wraps to make what we used to call, “Covered Wagons” in grade school.  So I bought some of those and will wrap some stuffing in those – bake and Ta Da! A nice, easy empanada type food.  I’m making them tonight, so I’ll let ya know how they worked.  Well, on to the recipe.  I doubled up on it when I made it since we found a nice basket of peppers at the market.  Too tasty to pass up!  As a side, I sauteed some mini squash from the market with a slightly spicy seasoning.

This recipe was inspired by the one I found here.   I made only a few slight changes.

Ingredients:

4 small/medium sized poblano peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 links chicken sausage (I used a spicy hand made pork sausage from a local market – two types)
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup corn
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1 oz. manchego cheese, shredded (I thought a nice smoked cheese would do well here – I used a smoked Gouda; however I would suggest a stronger flavored cheese that is smoked)

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat, and saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. Crumble in the chicken sausage, and cook until the sausage starts to brown. Add the salsa, corn, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer over low for a few minutes.

3. Lay the poblanos flat, and cut a T-shaped slit into the top of the poblano. Pry the slit apart, and remove all of the seeds.

4. Stuff the sausage mixture into the peppers. Top each pepper with  some of the manchego cheese.

5. Bake until the poblano is tender and browned around the edges, about 25 minutes.  I did 25, then turned the oven off and let them sit another 10 minutes as the lager peppers needed a little more time.

Posted in Cheese, heat, pepper, poblano, stuffed peppers, TexMex | 2 Comments

Mussel Bound

To me, there is nary a better flavor in food than the ingenious blend of Thai flavors.  The blend of sweet, salty and spicy is something I never tire of – so when we found these great mussels (2 pounds for $4.50 CDN) at a store called “Poissonerie Shamrock” near the Jean-Talon Market here in Montreal, I knew the flavors I wanted to blend them with.  The sauce was so lovely, that I know it will inspire a soup down the line somewhere in my kitchen.  By the way – Poissonerie Shamrock has the best when it comes to price and quality that I’ve found thus far here in Montreal.

I also had some cabbage that I needed to use – it wasn’t much, but it was enough for a side dish.  I just braised it with some nice balsamic vinegar, garlic, onion, butter and a pinch of sea salt.  I served the cabbage over rice with a bit of hot sauce drizzled over it.  The flavor worked well with the mussel dish.

A reminder – Be sure to wash your mussels well, scrub the little fellas down and be sure to inspect them.  If the shell is broken or open give it a toss.  If the shell is open just a bit give it a firm knock on the counter and if it closes, your good to go.  If it does not, toss it and continue scrubbing the survivors.  Also, after they have cooked and you find some that have not opened, toss those as well.

Now once you put the mussels in the pan to cook they will only take about 5 minutes or so; therefore you should have your other side dishes done and ready or just about ready.  Again, I used rice with this particular recipe.  If you were doing a sauce with more of an Italian flair, then pasta would be the perfect choice. Some prefer fries with their mussels. But no matter what you have as a side, you must and I say must have some great crusty bread so you can sop up the sauce.  We are so very lucky to be here in Montreal – in particular we live in a borough of Montreal called Pierrefonds and there are some amazing bakeries here with fresh bread daily.  Well, enough of this.  Let’s get on to the recipe!

Ingredients:

1  can (13.5-ounce) coconut milk
1/2 cup white wine
2  tablespoons Thai ginger marinade, (Such as Lawry’s)
1  tablespoons brown sugar
1  tablespoon curry paste (red or green), (Such as Thai Kitchen)
1  tablespoon bottled minced garlic
3  tablespoons butter
1  pound fresh or thawed frozen mussels* (rinsed, de-bearded, and drained)
2  tablespoons chopped green onion, for garnish

Directions:

1. For sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, wine, marinade, brown sugar, curry paste, and half me garlic.  Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until sauce thickens and is reduced by half. Remove sauce from heat; set aside.

2. In a large skillet: over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add mussels and the remaining garlic. Add 1/2 cup of sauce to mussels. Let simmer until mussels start to open, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl and spoon remaining sauce over top. Garnish with green onion.

Note: If mussels ore not available, substitute one 12-ounce bag of uncooked large-count shrimp

Posted in coconut milk, curry, mussels, thai | 1 Comment

Triple Threat – Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and Chocolate, Oh My!

Think of a home made cookie.  Picture it in your mind.  Chances are that you are thinking of either a peanut butter, oatmeal or chocolate chip cookie.  These seem to be some of the most popular and most often made cookies – with some variation of course.  The basics are there though.  This cookie may become a new favorite – I call it the “Triple Threat” cookie.  It combines the best of the best and then some.

Your first bite tells you something familiar has come home.  You taste the chocolate and oatmeal, then the peanut butter and a surprise of coconut come into play.  Delectable indeed are these petite treats!

This is not only a delight of flavor, but of texture.  The creamy chocolate, the lovely coconut, oatmeal and chunks of peanuts crumble across your tongue as well.  These are a simple joy. 

Have you ever noticed that when one bakes a cookie there is a feeling of warmth? (And I don’t mean from the oven) A feeling unlike any other feeling.  Especially when you are making these for those you cherish or just that very special – singular person.  Even to sit and write about the process brings feelings of love, friendship and home.

Well, enough talk of the deed. Let’s move on to the how.

Ingredients:

2 Cups Rolled Oats
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Chunky Peanut Butter
1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Unsalted Butter (Softened)
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Chocolate Chips (Semi-Sweet)
1 1/2 Cups Shredded Coconut (Unsweetened)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, with a mixer at medium speed, beat together peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Next add the vanilla.  Then gradually beat in oats mixture.  Now step away from the mixer and add the chips and coconut by hand, mixing with an adequately sized spoon.

Drop the dough by the tablespoon, spaced about an inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

Lastly – share the love.

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May I Pretty Peas?

As a child, many years ago I must say, the only thing I liked about peas had been the smell of pea soup simmering on the stove and at times – the nursery rhyme:

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold  
Peas porridge in the pot 9 days old  
Some like it hot, some like it cold  
Some like it in the pot 9 days old.
 
I absolutely abhorred canned peas.  Mushy almost bitter little things.  Can’t blame them really, I’d be a tad bitter myself if I were them. 
 
When first rescued from the can, they looked slightly pale and sickly.  At the time we did not use frozen veggies, as a family could stock up on canned veggies that had a shelf life of nearly a millennia.  I found any way possible to leave the table without consuming them.  Wrapped in a napkin or fed to the dog.  Any possible avenue of escape would be found and used.
 
Today, all these years later I find myself in an entirely different opinion.  Let me clarify – I do not hate peas all together; however I still detest canned peas and just about any other “canned” vegetable.  If one cannot find fresh, then frozen is the way to go and please remember to not over cook them.  When I was a child it was the norm to boil the life and taste out of all veggies for at least 20 minutes if not longer.  Let me interject here that canned asparagus is quite possibly the most hideous food on the planet.  Fresh is divine. 
 
An important thought about peas – they start to lose their sweetness and lovely taste within hours of being picked and once removed from the pod, this process moves along even faster.  Fresh uncooked peas are a delight by the handful or in a salad.
 
This little rant brings us to soup – pea soup to be exact.  I have come to enjoy this dish very much and it is not a singular dish, it has variety and can have many layers of flavor. The recipe I will share here today is a basic one and I do this with purpose.  You can take this simple blueprint of the soup and launch yourself into the creative ether.   First, you can decide if it should be smooth or more robust with chunks of potato, carrot, onion and other surprises.  Meat or no meat, sausage or smoked ham?  You decide – maybe a dash of hot sauce or extra black pepper. A dollop of sour cream.  Any way you can think of begins here.
 
Ingredients

    * 1/2 pound sliced bacon, diced
    * 1 large onion, chopped
    * 2 celery ribs, sliced
    * 1 pound dried green split peas
    * 2 quarts water
    * 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
    * 2 cups diced fully cooked ham
    * 2 teaspoons salt
    * 1 bay leaf
    * 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    * 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

   1. In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels; drain, reserving drippings. Add onion and celery to drippings. Saute until vegetables are tender; drain. Add the peas, water, potatoes, ham, salt, bay leaf and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until peas are very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf.

   2. Cool slightly. Process in small batches in a blender until smooth. Return to Dutch oven; stir in cream. Heat through (do not boil). Garnish with reserved bacon. 

 
Create and enjoy a dish that had its beginnings during the Bronze Age settlements in Switzerland, c.3000 B.C.
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