I always shy away from the chicken dish at a restaurant, because chicken just tastes like chicken – rather bland and not all that interesting. Part of the problem is that restaurants tend to serve chicken breast, which I’ve always found to be dry and seriously lacking in any flavor. Well, this recipe was amazing – a huge burst of flavor. I found it on food.com, and I’ve so far only made it with drumsticks and wings, but I can’t wait to try it with chicken breasts to see if they can spice them up too! It’s a slow-cooker recipe, which means it’s super easy – but it does require a lot of spices (although you can probably make it with just salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, and onion powder). It’s also a very very cheap dish!
Ingredients (makes 5 drumsticks and 5 wings)
Need some mash to go with those bangers? I found this great recipe for mashed cauliflower on foodnetwork.com and then modified it a touch to make it more buttery.
Ingredients (makes 4 medium portions)
Sausages are a low-carber’s dear old friends. They’re loyal, simple, down-to-earth and always ready to provide you with a delicious and healthy meal. My favorite sausages are these Apple Gouda ones from Niman Ranch. I know all Americans think that apple goes best with cinnamon, but really it’s apple and gouda that should win the best combo prize! And not only are they tasty, but they’re also healthy (no antibiotics, hormones and your pigs aren’t getting fed other pigs!). There’s a bit of sugar (probably from the apples), but unless you’re having 20 of these sausages a day, you’ll be well within the carb limit for most low carb diets.
“I pick up 3 or 4 packs of these every time I go to Wholefoods”
Wholefoods sells these sausages and various other Niman Ranch sausages for around $6.99 per pack. This may seem pricey, but honestly, I can’t eat more than 2 sausages per meal (and my boyfriend has trouble eating more than 3 per meal). So, one pack of these sausages with some vegetables would make a meal for 2 (which is seriously cheap for New York City). I pick up 3 or 4 packs of these every time I go to Wholefoods, which is about once a week, because Wholefoods sometimes runs out of this flavor. Although Wholefoods sells the sausages in the refrigerated section, I actually put them into my freezer as soon as I get home. They keep for a long time and are easy to thaw out (although you do end up having to cook all 4 sausages in the pack since you can’t thaw them out individually).
The cooking instructions on the back of the pack suggest heating in a frying pan, but there are other options obviously. If you have a grill, then that method is great. If you’re lazy, then try just putting it in the microwave (I’ve definitely done that before, and since the sausages are pre-cooked, you don’t have to worry about making sure you don’t get food poisoning from under-cooking them). Unfortunately, I don’t have a grill (a distinct disadvantage of living in NYC), but I still like that charred taste to my sausages, which microwave cooking doesn’t provide. Solution – the broiler (it’s part of most ovens).
“you can have them with some cauliflower mash to create your own version of the British bangers and mash!”
So, after I take the frozen sausages out of the packaging, I put them on a plate and defrost them in the microwave for three and a half minutes so that they’re not frozen rock solid anymore but are still cool to the touch. I then put them onto a sheet of aluminum (I spelled it the American way!) foil on the top rack of the oven and switch on the broiler. If your broiler has a high/low setting, then put it on high. Broil them for 8 minutes but flip them over after every 2 minutes. It takes a bit of effort having to flip them over four times, but the results are worth it. Total cooking time with defrosting is still only 12 minutes (since there’s no preparation required), which makes this a speedy meal to prepare. You can pair the sausages with some sauerkraut, which Wholefoods also sells, for a German meal, or you can have them with some cauliflower mash (faux mashed potatoes) to create your own version of the British bangers and mash!
I was very skeptical when I first read about faux fried rice on nomnompaleo, which is a really interesting paleo blog, but it actually tastes amazing and very close to rice. The basis of the recipe is cauliflower chopped up in a food processor to simulate a fake rice look and texture. Personally, I think a more accurate description would be faux cous cous because the cauliflower bits you’re left with are very small. You can add pretty much anything (or nothing) to the chopped cauliflower for your dish (so it can be as simple or as complicated as you want). Below are some recipes I’ve come up with (modifying the basic idea that I got from Nomnompaleo). The first recipe is just a basic faux white rice, and the second is a Chinese fried rice (there’s a Thai version too). Countless other variations are possible!
Basic Faux White Rice (serves 2 adults)
Chinese Faux Fried Rice (for Thai Fried Rice, switch the green onions and cilantro for basil)
“there’s even a tapeworm diet?”
Everyone is searching for the best diet whether to lose weight or to be healthier, and the crackpots (and the doctors) cater to our desires by coming up with the “best,” “easiest,” and “quickest” diets. I often hear of people doing various crazy diets whereby they starve themselves for some specified period of time in the absurd hope that the pain and suffering derived from the starvation will miraculously shave 20lbs of fat from their body permanently. Ok, so I was one of those people once upon a time. I used to religiously check the nutritional information on the back of every product in the supermarket to ensure I was consuming the fewest calories possible. My friends would shake their heads and look at me as if I was crazy, and now I do the same when I hear of someone on the raw food diet or the grapefruit diet (there’s even a tapeworm diet?)!
“I hate being hungry – it’s like waking up on the wrong side of bed for me.”
Although I laugh at “those” people, I would totally also buy into the crazy diets if they had any modicum of success and didn’t involve so much starvation. I hate being hungry – it’s like waking up on the wrong side of bed for me. I often think about doing a fast for a day, but I just know I couldn’t do it – I estimate that I’d last until lunchtime. So basically I pick my diets on how hungry I will be on the diet because there’s a much much higher chance that I will keep with the diet if I’m not continuously starving! The other main advantage of the low carb diet is saying goodbye to that afternoon slump when you just wish you could hid under your desk and take a nap. There’s no sugar high and therefore no sugar crash. You can throw away those 5 hour energy drinks, that triple espresso shot and those cans of diet coke!
“fewer carbs does correspond to more misery (but also more weight loss)”
There are many varietals of the low carb diet (Atkins, South Beach, Eco-Atkins, Bernstein’s Diabetes diet, Protein Power, Primal diet, and way more). The first step is choosing one to follow. In many ways, all low carb diets are very similar – they all just restrict your carb intake. However, after that, they diverge dramatically – some allow diary, some allow fruits, some allow cheat days, and some disallow meat. Many of these restrictions has to do with cutting down carb intake further – both fruits and diary products contain higher amounts of carbohydrates than we realize. But remember, fewer carbs does correspond to more misery (but also more weight loss).
Stick to the Atkins Diet for Weight Loss: I think the Atkins diet is great if you’re looking to lose weight. There’s a definite plan so you’re not flailing around figuring things out – they tell you what to do and what results to expect, and you get results within 2 weeks! The downside is of course that it is a very strict diet, especially initially. In the first 2 weeks, you have to stick with less than 20g of net carbs a day (basically, you’re eating veggies and meat/eggs all day). After the first 2 weeks, you can gradually increase your carb intake, although not by that much! You can read the Aktins’ diet book for more information about the diet. If you really follow it, you will find the lbs just dropping off. You don’t really get hungry on the diet either because you can pretty much eat as much as you want (just not anything with too much carbs)! In fact, the main problem most people encounter on the diet is not intaking enough protein and therefore starting to lose too much weight! But only do this diet if you’re serious as it’s a difficult diet to stick to in the long run.
“if you’re just looking to lose weight – then Atkins is the way to go”
My Low Carb Diet: Personally, I’m not a big fan of strict diets – it’s too painful! It’s especially painful if you give up carbs completely when you normally consume a huge ton of them daily. I first tried the Atkins diet several years ago during finals – huge mistake! I felt dizzy and unfocused. It was as if my brain had stopped functioning. Eating carbs is basically an addiction, and I suffered withdrawal symptoms when I stopped intaking them even for a day! My advice is to try to cut out carbs gradually – don’t get that mashed potato side with your steak and choose a cheese plate for your dessert instead. Maybe do the 1 cookie a day challenge, where you cut out carbs from all your meals but reward yourself with a cookie during the afternoon each day. However, if you’re just looking to lose weight – then Atkins is the way to go!
What Foods Not to Eat? The main things to avoid on the diet are any kind of bread or pasta (even gluten free ones), anything with sugar (even some sugar-free desserts are off limits) and potatoes. I’ll write a more detailed post about what foods you can and cannot eat on low carb diets soon.
“DBGB is a loud bustling conconction of youth and movement”
DBGB Kitchen and Bar is another one of Daniel Boulud’s many New York creations. But whereas many of his other restaurants in new york bear that quiet undisturbed air of upscale sophistication usually enjoyed by the older generation, DBGB is a loud bustling conconction of youth and movement. The common restaurant-speak description of DBGB is gastropub, and if you’re unclear exactly what that term means, you need only visit DBGB to find out: great food at affordable (non-Daniel) prices paired with a large selection of beers rather than wines.
“A whole page of the menu is dedicated to sausages.”
Last night wasn’t my first time at DBGB, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. The menu looks like it was plucked from a diner and then revamped with high-end goodies traversing the breadth of Europe. In fact, you could do a nice food tour from the comfort of your DBGB chair. A whole page of the menu is dedicated to sausages, the deliciously low-carb food enjoyed by Germans and Brits. But if bangers and wurst aren’t your thing, a variety of other sausages with flavors from Thailand, Italy, Tunisia, and Spain are also offered. The appetizer section is stuffed with other low carb delicacies (e.g., salads, steak tartare, tuna crudo). More adventurous appetizers are also listed: veal tongue, beef bone marrow, tripe, pigs feet, and a variety of cold cuts ranging from ham hock to pigs head terrine (unfortunately, low carb dieters will have to bear the anguish of abstaining from the breads that come with these dishes).
I started with the extremely safe, but clean and fulfilling asparagus and fried egg. The only non-low carb part of the dish was the breading around the egg, which is very easily removed and does not constitute much of the dish. The egg-mustard sits at the bottom of the dish and adds a light smattering of flavor to the egg and asparagus. It’s not overpowering, and it’s not too heavy.
If you’re more daring, the beef bone marrow appetizer is a great teaser to start your meal. It’s not a large dish if you’re avoiding the little toasts that accompany the bone marrow, but it’s a great place to try this plentiful and nutritious but yet uncommon dish.
There is also a large selection of main dishes that you can eat on a low carb diet. The mussels, cod, salmon, steak, chicken, and lamb dishes would all satisfy your hunger. Moreover, you can have sausages as a main course as well. I chose the House-made Papardelle “Bourguignon,” which may strike you as an odd choice for a low carb meal, but it actually comes with a large helping of slow-cooked brisket on top of the pasta. Although it is highly tempting to eat the brisket and sauce with the pasta, you can definitely make a meal of just the meat (the portion size is sufficiently large, but if you’re really hungry, the steak might be a better choice). I have to admit, I definitely had some of the soft folds of egg-rich pasta – it was simply too irresistable! (This diet is difficult for me!)
“take off the bun and enjoy your low carb burger/meat pattie”
The last part of the menu deals with the burgers, and as you peruse down the list, they simply become more and more extravagant. The menu starts with the normal “plain” burger. Then there’s the Piggie (which has a healthy helping of Daisy May’s bbq pulled pork – I know there’s some sugar in that bbq sauce). Then comes the Frenchie (which has a confit of pork belly). And lastly, there’s the Menage a Trois (all 3 burgers). I’m sure I don’t need to tell the experienced low carb dieters how to eat a burger, but for those of you that are wondering, you just take off the bun and enjoy your low carb burger/meat pattie! It’s not an ideal situation, but there are plenty of other low carb options at DBGB. You won’t go away hungry, and for a New York restaurant by a top notch chef with a 3 Michelin star restaurant (4 New York Times stars), the prices are really quite reasonable!
It’s probably a bit dramatic to say I pray everyday for my low carb desserts to taste like real desserts with real sugar, but that’s the general gist of how I feel. I’m filled with hope every time I smell those sweet aromas drifting out of my oven, and yet every time, I find that hope replaced with disappointment when I taste the dessert. I should really have realized long ago that artificial sugar will never taste like real sugar. Just try Coke Zero – no matter how much Coke advertises to the contrary, I can still taste that it’s just not real Coke! It’s as if mother nature made sure we would be punished for our gluttony. Is there any trace of hope then? Are low carb dieters doomed to consume only the first two courses of any prix fixe menu?
“artificial sugar will never taste like real sugar”
Well, not every dessert was an utter disaster. I think we have to live with the fact that it’s never going to be quite as good, but it can be close! I’ve been trying out pure liquid sucralose, which I bought from a very legit and US-based seller on Ebay, and I think it works ok in some desserts. So, the trick I’ve found is to make sure there’s something with a strong taste in your dessert that will cover up the fake sugar taste of the artificial sweetener. For example, I recently made a low-carb cheese cake. This turned out surprisingly well (especially considering I hardly ever bake and had never made cheesecake prior to that occasion!). The cheesecake recipe called for some lemon and vanilla, which covered up the sucralose taste quite well. I could still detect that it wasn’t real sugar – but if you don’t try to think too much, you could be mistaken… Cinnamon is another good masking agent. I made some sweet cinnamon crackers with liquid sucralose and flaxseed meal, which also turned out well.
“make sure there’s something with a strong taste in your dessert that will cover up the fake sugar taste of the artificial sweetener”
So what were the disasters? Chocolate. Chocolate and artificial sweeteners simply do not mix well together. Dark chocolate is naturally bitter, and you want the sweetener to balance out that bitterness, but all you end up tasting is a bitter taste with a sickly sweet twinge that makes you crumple your face in disgust. I even tried to make bacon truffles in the hope that the salty bacon taste would cover up some of that bitterness and drown out the fake sugar taste. I was wrong – even the coconut milk i tried adding to the concoction to mellow out the taste couldn’t save it. It was a treat fit only for the trash. I guess chocolate companies must have carried out those same cooking experiments, made the same crumpled faces, and thrown out the same batches of delicious looking but disgusting tasting chocolate. They then turned to alcohol sugars and made decent tasting chocolates, which aren’t good for you! What to do? I don’t have an amazing solution for this one, but I will keep wasting bars of perfectly good chocolate in my search! Here are a few options if you’re a chocolate-craving low carb dieter: 1) get used to eating really dark 85% chocolate, 2) treat yourself to a little bit of 75% or even 70% once in a while, or 3) try mixing a bit of alcohol, e.g. whiskey, and a tiny bit of sucralose into the melted chocolate to make alcoholic truffles (alcohol is the only thing I’ve found so far to cover up the sucralose taste sufficiently, but you have to really like the taste of alcohol!).
Next step: trying to see if adding a small amount of honey with liquid sucralose will create better tasting desserts.
What better way to celebrate Fourth of July, US Independence Day, than to have a low carb dinner! I know a BBQ is the traditional feast for the celebration, but I plead ignorance (I’m from the country Americans are celebrating independence from, and to top it all, I have no balcony to grill on!). So, how to make a low carb dinner for 12? Simple – you just need a Costco card and a 3 day weekend to cook everything. The menu is just below, and recipes for all of the dishes are either already posted or will be posted in the near future. Pictures of the food are scarce because I was too busy stuffing myself (I’m just following the American tradition!).
Appetizers: 1) bacon-wrapped blue cheese-stuffed dates, 2) cauliflower and leek soup, 3) apple and gouda sausages, and 4) assorted nuts.
Main course: 1) roast beef (slow cooker style), 2) pork belly (pan seared and then cooked in slower cooker), and 3) faux white rice and faux fried rice.
Sides: 1) green beans (stewed and drained), 2) white radishes (stewed and drained), and 3) sauteed spinach.
Dessert: 1) New York cheesecake, 2) strawberries and sugar-free whipped cream, 3) assorted cookies, 4) whiskey chocolate truffles, and 5) assorted cheese with flaxseed crackers.
The cheesecake was definitely my favorite, but everyone seemed to really enjoy the faux rice! Recipes to follow shortly (especially for all the delicious desserts)… In the meantime, enjoy the fireworks.
Bacon Wrapped Blue Cheese-Stuffed Dates of course!! I couldn’t stop thinking about these after having them at Traif last weekend. And they are so easy to make as I discovered from an allrecipes.com recipe. They are great as an appetizer or as a quick snack (or even as a dessert I think!). So here’s the recipe:
Ingredients (makes 14):
Preheat oven to 350F. Slice each date along one side so that it opens up as shown in photo 1. Fill the date with blue cheese and close it up (photo 2). Wrap one of the half slices of bacon around the date and place in a baking tray with sides (as the fat from the bacon tends to run) (photo 3). Then place the tray in the oven for 20min before flipping the bacon-wrapped dates over (I found tongs useful for this). Cook for another 10min (i.e. for a total of 30min) in the oven.
End Result: Deliciousness!
It was my first foray into Brooklyn, and although the purpose was to attend a friend’s birthday party, I just couldn’t resist trying one of their restaurants while I was there! Looking up restaurants that serve low carb foods is very hit and miss. It’s practically impossible to tell if something will come with a sweet sauce or include some forbidden ingredient. But one has to eat, and so we decided to try Traif.
Traif is a restaurant located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (229 S. 4th St.). It’s fairly small, but they utilize the space well with the kitchen right behind the bar. I was seated at the bar looking at the cooking station and spent the entire meal ogling all the delicious treats that I couldn’t eat (most notably bacon donuts!). The menu was tapas style, so we went for 5 plates that seemed reasonably low carb between 2 of us.
To kick start our appetite for all things pork, we were served with these bacon broth drinks. Absolutely delicious and not greasy at all! This came standard with every meal.
For our next dish, we broke with the pork tradition and went for the butterfish carpaccio with mango, pickled blackberries, yuzu-truffle, sesame, and lime. The sauce was rather vinegary, which contrasted well with the sweet mangos. However, the sauce overpowered the mild fish. Also, it didn’t seem to be all that popular of a dish as only one other person ordered it during the whole time I was there spying on the chef’s creations.
Next up, crispy pork belly with cantaloupe, feta, marconas (a type of almond), mint, and blood orange. Delicious – the pork belly was deep fried with a crispy, crackly outside. The sauce on the dish was salty, which combined well with the refreshing cantaloupes.
On to the ribs. I was rather apprehensive about ordering baby back pork ribs with a strawberry-cinnamon glaze as the glaze just sounded way too sugary and possibly sickly sweet. After being reassured by the waiter that the dish did not come smothered with sweet sauce, I reluctantly ordered it. It was indeed not a sickly sweet or thick sauce. The meat came pretty easily off the bone, and the sauce added a light compliment to the delicious pork flavor! What made it even better was the fact that we got 5 meaty ribs for $9.
My favorite dish was the bacon-wrapped blue cheese-stuffed dates sat atop a bed of sauteed spinach. The sauce that they drizzle on top is unfortunately a bit sweet, but I tried to deal with the situation by wiping the sauce off on the spinach. It was an amazing dish – the burst of flavors was fantastic. I’m not always a blue cheese fan, but the sweetness of the dates, along with that blue cheese taste and the saltiness of the bacon made just the right combination! The photo sadly does not do it justice – in fact they give you 4 pieces, but it looked so delicious that we forgot to take a photo before we tucked in!
The last dish was sauteed sweetbreads with a braised leeks, spinach, bacon, and mushrooms sauce. Sweetbreads sound quite appetizing and full of carbs, but it is actually certain glands (like the thymus or pancreas) of a calf or lamb. Still sound appetizing? It definitely isn’t my top choice of foods, although it is very popular in many parts of the world. The sweetbread is fried with a light batter (more a dusting of flour), which unfortunately ruins the low carb aspect of the dish. However, it is quite tasty, especially when eaten with the mushroom sauce. Unlike the other dishes that we ordered, this one was a lot less flavorful. I don’t mean that the dish itself was bland, though – just that all the previous dishes involved a much stronger injection of flavor.
All in all, a delicious meal with probably a few too many carbs unfortunately! But it was light on the budget – around $75 including tax and tip! (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but that’s way cheaper than a meal in Manhattan!) Below are photos of the short rib sliders and the pozole (a type of stew).