Following recipes is all very good when you have time to go shopping for ingredients and essential cooking equipment. What about when you’re hungry and just want something to eat without the hassle of going to the grocery store? Or what about when you’re moving apartments (like I did last week) and want to use up all the random foods in the fridge and cupboards? That’s when Creative Cooking comes into play!
First, look for the main ingredients (some type of meat and/or vegetable).
First, look for the main ingredients (some type of meat and/or vegetable). I found 3 frozen salmon filets in my freezer and a can of bamboo shoots in water (which is fairly low in carbs) in my cupboard.
Second, see what kind of spices and oils (or herbs) you have to flavor the food.
Second, see what kind of spices and oils (or herbs) you have to flavor the food. I luckily hadn’t packed most of my spices and some cooking oils.
Third, determine what cooking equipment you have
Third, determine what cooking equipment you have e.g., pots, pans, oven, grill, etc. I had the oven and microwave (since they were part of the apartment) and some pots and pans.
Fourth, pick a recipe that you have most of the ingredients for – think of how to substitute for the missing ingredients if they are important
Fourth, pick a recipe that you have most of the ingredients for – think of how to substitute for the missing ingredients if they are important (i.e., ingredients that really flavor the dish). I wanted to make my salmon bake recipe, but I had no olive oil, no lemon juice, and no fresh parsley, which are 3 ingredients that really flavor the salmon. So I had to figure out some substitutes for them. I realized after a quick glance through my collection of oils that I had bought from Amazon a bottle of lemon infused macadamia oil (pictured below) a while back and never used it. This was a perfect replacement for both the olive oil and the lemon juice! And then I replaced the fresh parsley with some dried rosemary and thyme. I felt fairly confident that this would turn out ok since the recipe was pretty simple and the substitutions weren’t too crazy.
Then, I had to decide what to do with the bamboo shoots. I had never cooked bamboo shoots before and had bought the 14.8 oz can of bamboo on a whim, but I remembered eating them in Chinese restaurants with chili oil (usually as a cold appetizer). So I figured that chili and bamboo shoots went well together. I therefore decided to stir fry the bamboo shoots with some red chili flakes and hot sauce (since I had no chili sauce) and then added some minced garlic, , salt, and a touch of soy sauce for extra flavor. I was a bit apprehensive about how it would turn out, but it was delicious.
I was lucky that both dishes I made up turned out well; sometimes, it ends up being a disgusting mess. But, it’s fun to be creative, especially when it turns out well! Let me know if you’ve created any good or bad dishes recently by leaving a comment below.
The legal standard for false advertising seems to be very low. It seems that you can give completely misleading impressions about a product without facing any liability. Gone are the days when consumers can just pick up what they want from the supermarket shelf without worrying about studying the ingredients list (or maybe those days never existed). Now, we all have to be savvy consumers, especially if you are health conscious!
Artificial sweeteners have received a hoard of controversy over the years. Unsubstantiated scandals of cancer and side-effects of headaches and nausea have plagued their existence. However, Stevia, which is a zero-calorie, super sweet compound derived from plants, has gotten a lot of press in recent years for being “natural” and “safe.” It’s difficult to say exactly how “safe” anything is, but people seem to equate “natural” as being the same thing as “safe” (I’m not sure how great this illogical reasoning is, but that’s another matter).
Stevia has gotten so popular that several soft drink manufacturers have produced supposedly Stevia-sweetened sodas, such as Blue Sky Free and Zevia. However, if you drink these drinks or use Truvia (a popular brand of sweetener that contains Stevia), then you may have been duped….most of those drinks and sweeteners contain much higher quantities of sugar alcohol than Stevia!
Let’s talk briefly about each of 3 popular brands, either of Stevia itself or of a soft drink supposedly sweetened with Stevia:
I personally think that sucralose is the best artificial sweetener out there both in terms of the slim chance of health problems and in terms of taste. But if you’re determined to use Stevia, then you ought to realize that very few things are currently flavored with just Stevia. SweetLeaf, which you can buy at Wholefoods or on Amazon, is a pure Stevia sweetener as opposed to Truvia. But it does taste more bitter, which is why Truvia, Blue Sky Free, and Zevia have chosen to put erythritol into the mix.
It’s hard to know who to trust when it comes to information about artificial sweeteners, but you should try not to be fooled by all the claims of “naturalness” from the advertisers! “Natural” does not always equate with “health,” and advertisers have zero interest in your health!
It would be wrong of me to go on about these delicious low carb muffins (gluten-free and grain-free) without giving you the recipe for them! So, it’s below… The muffins are 2g net carbs each and are really moist and full of flavors because of the spices and apple chunks in them. I keep them in the fridge and microwave one for 10 seconds on high to warm it up. They’re really convenient to take with you as breakfast or as a quick snack. You can try making them with other flavors, but I’ve generally found that apple and cinnamon go really well with artificial sweeteners (i.e. you can’t tell that it’s not real sugar!), whereas chocolate is really bad at hiding artificial sweeteners.
These muffins are flaxseed meal and almond meal based. You can either buy bags of flaxseed meal and almond meal (Wholefoods and a lot of larger grocery stores and health stores generally carry Bob’s Red Mill brand pictured below or you can buy it online at Amazon.com) or you can make your own by placing flaxseeds/almonds into a food processor or blender (the almonds can wear down the blade in your blender/food processor quickly). I generally make my own as it’s much cheaper to buy flaxseed and almonds unprocessed, but if you’re just starting to try low carb baking, then you might want to start with a small bag of flaxseed meal and of almond meal and see how you like the muffins before buying them in bulk. The other essential ingredient in low carb baking is coconut flour, and my next muffins post will on that!
Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)
Equipment: muffin/cupcake pan
I’ve noticed that the muffins do shrink a bit once they cool, and they don’t look as fluffy as regular muffins, but they are deliciously moist even on reheating and much much healthier. In fact, I think these are better than many regular full carb muffins! Let me know what you think of the recipe and what variations you’ve tried.
When I shop, I like to look to see how many calories and how many carbs are in my foods. But, most of the numbers I’m used to seeing are under 10g of carbs per serving as I usually look at low carb foods. Even seeing something with 10g of carbs per serving might make me think twice before buying it! I had therefore completely forgotten just how many carbs were in non-low-carb foods!
I recently made some delicious apple cinnamon muffins, and I was interested in knowing how their nutritional values compared with Starbucks muffins. Starbucks has very helpfully provided all the information on their website.
That’s a 53g difference! It’s no wonder you feel so sluggish after your Starbucks break.
2012 is going to the year when I unleash my cooking potential! Already this year, I have made 3 new dishes (2 low carb desserts) and bought enough food that my refrigerator is staring to groan. However, I’ve made enough resolutions to know that 2 weeks is the average amount of time before the resolution crumbles and then collapses into a distant memory of yet another failure.
So this year, I’m going to help my lack of perseverance along a bit. Instead of just saying I’ll “cook more,” I’m going to be a bit more definite – I am going to cook at least twice a week. I’m also going to make more simple dishes, so that cooking doesn’t eat into my evenings too much. To kick start this new resolution, I made a really simple dish tonight. It took me all of 15 minutes and was delicious. The recipe for the so-simple-even-you-can-make-it eggs and Chinese chives stir-fry is below, but first, let me explain what Chinese chives are and why they are so amazing!
Chinese chives look a bit like tall grass (see the photo on the right), but they have a very distinct fragrant smell and taste. Although they are similar to normal chives, they have a much stronger taste. It’s hard to describe the taste since it’s quite unique, but it’s probably something close to that of a leek with the sweetness of green onions and a touch of garlic. Doesn’t that sound delicious already?? Unfortunately, you can only find Chinese chives in Asian supermarkets, but you can substitute leeks or regular chives for the Chinese chives.
It’s a great dish to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And it’s easy and super quick to make! I wish all recipes were so simple!
|Low Carb Pizza||
I always thought low carb pizza was some sort of myth (closely akin to unicorns and the Yeti) until I saw this recipe on Linda’s genaw.com. This recipe (which is below) makes individual 8-inch pizzas and is simple to make. The crust is made from a mixture of flax meal and parmesan cheese, which you cook in the microwave in just 2 minutes! Then for the sauce, you can go really easy and just use store-bought pizza sauce or make your own homemade pizza sauce using the recipe below (which just involves mixing some ingredients together and no cooking). I really like the sauce and recommend making it (it has very few carbs and tastes great). The recipe for the sauce makes a fair amount of sauce – enough for 8-10 pizzas (I found the recipe on allrecipes.com – it looked so simple to make and got great reviews from nearly 300 reviewers).
Ingredients to make 1 crust :
Ingredients to Make Pizza Sauce (good for 8-10 pizzas):
The photos below show me about to mix all the ingredients and after it’s mixed.
I put a few slices of mozzarella and pepperoni on top, but you’re welcome to pick your own toppings. Here’s one last photo, which shows the pizza about to go into the oven.
Winter has most definitely set in again (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case, I truly envy you right now!). This weekend has been literally freezing in New York, so I decided to keep warm with some butternut squash soup, which is both delicious and easy to make!
Those 3 ingredients you see pictured on the left are pretty much all you need! (In addition, a blender, a food processor, or an immersion blender – which is the best one to use – is also crucial to create that smooth soup texture.)
Ingredients (4 servings)
Added Bonus: When you were cutting up the butternut squash, you probably noticed all those seeds inside of the squash. If you scoop these out (I use my hands) and wash them clean, you can then cook them for 30min in the oven at 350F on a piece of aluminum foil and eat them whole as a crispy snack.
If you don’t like butternut squash, you can substitute sweet potatoes (or Japanese yams) or pumpkin, or you can mix it up. I’ve made the soup before with a butternut squash, 2 Japanese yams and a can of pumpkin puree (in which case I needed 64oz of chicken broth).
Note: butternut squash is one of the more starchy squashes (1 cup = 18g net carbs), and it isn’t permitted on the Atkins diet until the later stages. It is however permitted on primal and paleo diets, and many low-carbers are ok with eating butternut squash, yams, and pumpkins as long as you don’t go overboard!
When I first heard about Walden Farm’s calorie-free salad dressings, my reaction was immediately…is that possible?? Previously, I had thought the only possible low-carb low-calorie options were salt and red wine vinegar (balsamic vinegar has sugar in it). However, after trying their calorie-free syrup (pretty decent) with my coconut flour pancakes and their BBQ sauce with my pulled pork, I thought it’d give it a go with their range of salad dressings.
Walden Farm’s website lists a healthy selection of 20 different flavors, ranging from your common Caesar dressing to you more exotic Chipotle Ranch. However, my local Food Emporium (you can search their website for where their sauces are sold or buy it online at stores like Amazon) only carried 4 different flavors (at $4.19 each).
Review 1 – Walden Farm Ranch Flavor
If white paint were a salad dressing, then this is how it would look when poured out of the bottle:
Unfortunately, the smell also resembled paint, with a tinge of ranch and a heck of a lot of vinegar. It honestly made my stomach turn, and I wasn’t sure if I could eat it at all. But I had a salad all lined up, which had come with a 220 calorie packet of Newman’s ranch dressing that was already in the trash. I had to brave the smell – maybe the taste would be better? I dipped a few leaves into the white liquid, held my breath, and placed the “food” into my mouth. My first thought was “EWWWW” followed by it tastes like paint, followed by paint thinned with vinegar. But, by the time I had finished chewing the mouthful, it did taste a bit like ranch and was almost edible. I guess if you’re expecting a creamy ranch dressing, think again! A better description would probably be ranch-flavored vinaigrette (if you’re trying to be nice). I personally would never eat this again (and I hope you all appreciate what I went through to review this!), but perhaps the point that many Amazon reviewers make is worth bearing in mind here – it is zero calories….you obviously can’t expect it to taste like actual ranch salad dressing. With that thought in mind, I moved onto the Honey Dijon flavor.
Review 2 – Walden Farm Honey Dijon Flavor
Whereas the ranch dressing was thin and liquidy, this one was actually pretty thick. It was a promising start – at least it looked like honey mustard dressing! Then I smelled it. Oh dear. I felt my stomach churn. It smelled like honey mustard flavored rubber. The rubber smell was quite overwhelming, and again, I didn’t want to put the food into my mouth. The taste was just as bad. I know that I taste food pretty strongly (I can often detect flavors and smells that other people miss), but this has to be obvious to everyone, right? Reading the Amazon reviews of all the people who simply “love” this product shocks me! I think I have to agree with the person who titled their review “Yuck.”
An hour later, I wanted to give the salad dressing a second chance, and I mixed a tiny amount in with some salad. I thought that maybe if a small amount of the dressing was well dispersed throughout the salad, then it would taste a bit better. Just the smell almost stopped me from ever getting close to that thing again! But, I for the sake of this blog, I held my breath and put it into my mouth. I am happy to admit that I was able to swallow the 2 pieces of leaves. The dressing still tasted like rubber to me, but the taste wasn’t so strong due to the mixing. But, at this point, I think I might just have the salad without any dressing.
Review 3 – Walden Farm Blue Cheese Flavor
As if I wasn’t already worried about trying my third bottle of Walden Farm’s salad dressing after my awful (almost-puking) experiences with the first two bottles, I then read a review of the Blue Cheese flavor, described in one review as tasting and smelling like “white glue.” After trying the dressing, I can understand the “white glue” description. It definitely looked like white glue, and I have to admit it did smell a bit like glue too! However, this one seemed to taste more like the advertised flavor than the others. I definitely tasted blue cheese flavor, the texture was nice and thick (if you can get rid of the white glue imagery), and it wasn’t as vinegary as the previous two. The downside of course is that it still doesn’t taste like real dressing. There’s some odd taste to all their dressings (petroleum?) that sadly just disgusts me.
Review 4 – Walden Farm Caesar Flavor
I feel like I’ve pretty much run out of things to say about these salad dressings. They all taste slightly different, but they all seem pretty inedible to me. The Caesar flavored one smells kind of like actual Caesar dressing and looks like it, but doesn’t taste like it. It has a salty glue taste (different to blue cheese flavor).
Review 5 – Walden Farm Raspberry Vinaigrette Flavor
I found this at a different Food Emporium, and so I thought I’d add it to the list. This seemed to have received the most positive reviews on Amazon, and so I was almost eager to try it despite everything else! It smelled and looked like a raspberry vinaigrette (as opposed to paint or glue) – so kudos for that! The taste was ok – I could still taste something slightly weird (again resembling petroleum or greasy oil) that they must put into all their dressings to make them calorie free, but the raspberry and vinegar tastes were also strong, which made it much better than the others. So, overall, I would say that this was the best one, although the claim of being edible is barely anything to celebrate about considering that most vinaigrette dressings are very low in calories (often under 50 calories for 2 tablespoons and with very low carbs and fat).
If you’ve read what I’ve written above, then you’re probably not all that tempted. However, I have to say that although I have been severely disappointed by these 5 salad dressings from Walden Farms, I do enjoy several of their other products (their pancake syrup and their BBQ sauce) and am very amazed by how they’re able to suck calories out of everything!
Following up on my low carb pasta post a few months ago, here’s a recipe for a nice low carb meal of spaghetti and meatballs (using shirataki or zucchini noodles). I’d start by making the meatballs (you can make these in advance and then heat them up later). Everything is freshly made except for the shirataki spaghetti, which you easily purchase at Wholefoods or at various supermarkets (most Korean supermarkets sell a variety of them).
Meatballs: Ingredients (makes 16-20 meatballs)
Tomato Sauce: Ingredients (makes 2 servings)
Tomato Sauce: Directions
Putting It All Together:
If you’re making zucchini noodles, then you should use a julienne peeler to create the noodles (see low carb pasta post for directions) and then cook the zucchini noodles for 30 seconds on high in the microwave. If you’re planning to use Shirataki (miracle) noodles, then rinse them in cold water and then place them in the microwave for 30 seconds on high to get rid of any excess water. Since both types of pasta are pretty much carb-less and calorie-less, you can pretty much use as much as you want (I recommend 1 zucchini per serving or 1 packet of Shirataki noodles per serving just so you don’t run out of sauce).
Place the pasta on the bottom of a bowl, place 3 meatballs on top, and then pour the sauce onto it.
I calculated each meatball at around 90 calories (for 1.5inch diameter pork meatballs) and 130 calories for each serving of sauce. So for a bowl of 3 meatballs plus the sauce and pasta, it’s around 400 calories. The meatballs have negligible carbs and each serving of sauce has around 4g net carbs (mostly from the garlic and tomatoes). All-Paleo for those of you who care.
I used to hate tuna fish, and even now I still don’t eat much tuna fish, despite the fact that I generally love seafood. I find tuna fish dry and odd tasting, so the only way I’ll eat tuna fish is in the tuna salad pictured to the left. It’s based on a recipe that I found on allrecipes.com (Barbie’s Tuna Salad), but I’ve modified it slightly to lower the calories and make it taste even better. I use light mayo (Smart Balance, which is low fat and low calorie), less sweet pickle relish and no parmesan cheese (I couldn’t taste it at all!) to cut down on the calories. I also put in less dill and more curry powder than the original recipe calls for (my version is below, of course). All in all, it’s a delicious tuna salad that’s full of protein, is low in carbs, and is relatively low in calories. I make it by the bucket load, so that I have enough to eat for at least a week – Costco sells tuna in 5lb tins, and each tin makes a huge mixing bowl-full that takes me around a week to finish eating.
Here’s my recipe:
This is the simple part – just put everything in a large bowl and mix well (make sure all the tuna is well flaked so that the flavors can mix in with it).
This takes around 20 minutes to prepare. I would say it makes around ten 8-oz servings, and each serving contains around 250 calories.
You can obviously scale the recipe down if you don’t want to make so much tuna in one go, but just be careful to do the calculations correctly.