Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back to Work! Planning meals, promoting snack foods, feeling like a foodie.

Live is slowly returning to normal.  I started back at work yesterday, after having taken about 5-6 weeks off to be with my daughter for her surgery and recovery.  And I have to say... things are starting to feel like normal again.  It is a good thing!
Last night, I made a huge amount of food to bring for lunch this week.  I made five sizeable meals.  I took the meat/eggplant stuffing from the stuffed mediterranean eggplant recipe on this blog, and made a ton of it (4 pounds maybe).  I added a lot more veggies to it - mostly yellow squash and vidalia onions.  No stuffing occurred, so its more like a meaty/veggie goulashie thing, and it is very yummy.
I also bought pints of blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, and have started bringing them with me in the morning to add some vitality to my breakfast food (I also chewed on some leftover porkchop before I left the house).  Although berries are not allowed on strict low carb induction, I am limiting myself to 1/2 cup of berries with about 2 ounces of cream, so the carb count for this item is around 4 grams.  It is manageable, and as long as my weight loss continues, I am not going to sweat it.  I am going to enjoy the bounty of this season's harvest, and I'll be careful about it. 
So, I am planning my meals to improve my chances of success this week.  It also helps that it keeps costs down (because a meat/salad at my office cafeteria runs about $8, and my 4 pounds of goulashie stuff cost about $12 because I loaded on the veggies).  If you try this, too, make sure it is something you really love, and could see yourself eating every day for the whole week.  I did something similar last week, as well.  Last Sunday, I brined and then grilled a ton of chicken - boneless thighs and chicken tenders.  We had a lot of leftovers, and I at them all last week, sometimes for breakfast with a piece of cheese, sometimes for lunch on a salad.  Very yummy, and it really helped me avoid cheating. 
I have taken to making a new brine - it is not actually sugar-free, but so little of the brine actually gets absorbed into the meat (its really osmosed into the meat on a molecular level), that I don't think you ingest all that much.  It is a quick brine - and my trick is that I use salty and sweet liquids, instead of trying to dissolve granulated salty and sweet things into a heated liquid.  I do a can of diet soda (ginger ale or orange works well), a packet of barbeque seasoning from McCormicks, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and about 1/2 cup your juice of choice (orange and apple work well). Add the meat (chicken or pork works really well) in a big bowl, and pour on extra soda or juice until the meat is just covered.  Brine 8-24 hours.  (I brine bony or thicker pieces longer than I do boneless/skinless pieces).  Don't remove the meat from the brine until just ready to grill.  Discard the brine, and grill your meat!
I also found a new product, which I love: Emerald Brand Cinnamon Roast Almonds.  OMG, they are so good.  If you think that you like Cocoa Roast Almonds... give these bad boys a try.  They are really killer, and at 3 net carbs per 1 oz serving  (11 tasty nuts) they are a good carb bargain.  However, I am going to write the people at Emerald and find out whether each serving is 3 net carbs, or actually 2 net carbs.... because the nutrition facts indicate that the carbs contain 1 g of sugar, however, there is no sugar in the coating mix.  Instead, they use sucralose, which must be noted as sugar carbs on the nutrition label, by law, but which is not digestible to the human body and thus does not truly add to the carb count (although there is disagreement about the effect artificial sweeteners have on insulin).
Plus, there is a lot of evidence out there that cinnamon promotes weight loss, which is one of the reasons I decided to try these, and one of the reasons that I've been adding cinnamon to my savory dishes (and it tastes incredible - very North African).  I made the best sauteed yellow squash and onions with butter, salt, and a little bit of cinnamon.  It was out of this world.  Leftovers would make a very good pizza topping, or pasta toss in (for my family - not me) with garlic oil, some goat cheese and crumbled bacon.  Ooof.  That sounds good.
I have been experimenting with low-carb flax wraps and lavashes. Typically at around 5 grams per wrap or 1/2 lavash, they help you eat your summer cheeseburger with your hands, the way God intended.  Plus, once you wrap your meat (ha ha), you can throw the thing in the frying pan or on the grill and crisp the whole thing up.  I did this last week with a cheeseburger, loaded with mayo, avocado, bacon and tomato.  Yummity freaking yum. 
Seeing a pattern?  I am trying to work out 5 g carb "treats" that I can have once a day to make life a little easier in the summer, but will help me keep under 30 g carbs per day.
One caution: I have heard bad news about those low carb pastas - evidence I've seen shows that they promote insulin response just as high as regular pasta.  So "low carb" though they might be, your body does not recognize them that way.  If you are insulin resistant like me, you're trying to avoid those insulin spikes, so this type of food is probably not your friend!!
Another caution: I love Friendly's no sugar added ("NSA") happy ending sundae, but there is so much artificial sweetener in it that I get a serious case of the intestinal grumbles.  They can truly be heard across the room by my husband, who is probably a little deaf.  If you are sensitive to the effects of splenda (and I never have been before), you may want to stay away, or try just a little scoop with the salted, slivered almonds, sans the NSA fudge topping, for your first time.  It is good, but only a once in a very long while treat for me.

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