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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vegan Mashed Cauliflower with Marinated Mushrooms or Mushroom Spinach Marsala- How I Learned To Live Without Take-Out, Part 3

When I began to convert the take-out recipes I loved to low carb, my initial attempt was Mushroom and Spinach Marsala. I was weaning myself off of the take-out, but was still relying on the few low carb options available in Berkeley, CA. One of these was a grilled chicken breast topped with mushroom and spinach marsala. While I couldn't be certain, I suspected the restaurant had prepared this dish using corn starch and/or white flour as thickeners. I didn't even want to guess what other ingredients might be involved so I started researching marsala recipes on the internet. It was easy enough to convert the recipe substituting xanthan gum as the thickening agent. A small amount yields the same results as the other thickeners, with fewer calories and net carbs.

When I stopped eating meat, I kept the veggies and the sauce because the taste is really great - in fact, it can stand alone as a side dish, but I wanted to pair it with a side dish to turn it into a main dish. It has a distinctive and rich flavor so you'll want to pair it with some thing relatively bland. You can pair it with cauliflower rice, but I decided I wanted to focus on perfecting a vegan cauliflower mash recipe. After trying just cauliflower, a mixture of cauliflower and celery root (which was pretty good), I came up with the idea to add nutritional yeast with mashed cauliflower. Lo and behold, the recipe achieved the desired texture and tastes wonderful. I use it as the base for the marsala and it also works well with a simple marinated mushroom recipe, which I'm including in this post.

Mashed Cauliflower with Nutritional Yeast (LC/Vegan/Gluten Free)


200 g cauliflower florets (or you can also use 150 g cauliflower)
10 g nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, forced through press
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


*Steam cauliflower florets for about 6 - 9 minutes. Remove from steamer and using paper towels, gently squeeze out the excess water. Put cauliflower in a medium-sized bowl and using an emersion blender, pulse the vegetables until smooth. Stir in garlic and nutritional yeast until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 1-2 serving and has 126.5, 5.5 net carbs, .5 g fat, 8 g fiber and 8 g protein.

Mushroom & Spinach Marsala (LC/Vegan/Gluten Free)


1 clove garlic, forced through press
3 oz sliced mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1/4 C mushroom broth ( can substitute water for broth)
1/4 C dry Marsala wine
2 oz raw spinach
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp xanthum gum


*Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.

*Add wine and mushroom broth to the skillet and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for another 2 -3 minutes. Add the xanthum gum and stir well. Add spinach and and stir until just wilted. Remove from heat and eat immediately. Can be served over cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower.

Makes 1 serving and has 216.33 cal, 6.7 net carbs, 13.6 g fat, 1.33 g fiber and 3.83 g protein.

Marinated Mushrooms (LC/Vegan/Gluten Free)

The great thing about this dish is that you either grill or saute´ the mushrooms, or keep them raw.


3 oz white or crimini mushrooms, sliced (you can also use sliced portobello mushrooms)
1 T cold pressed olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar


1 clove garlic forced through press


*Mix together olive oil and balsamic vinegar (and garlic, if you're using it).

*Place mushroom slices in a bowl and pour the oil and vinegar mixture over them, stirring making sure they're well-coated. Allow to sit for an hour. If you're doing the cooked version, heat a grill pan (or any skillet) and saute´ for about 4 - 5 minutes. Serve over cauliflower mash.

Makes 1 serving and has 155 cal, 7 net carbs, 13.5 g fat, .1 g fiber and 2.5 g protein.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Roasted vs Raw

So, I've been educating myself about the raw food diet (some people refer to it as "live food"). I'll get into what I've learned and its relevance to my health and well-being later, but I feel it's time for a general health update.

 As of today, I've been gluten-free for about 16 months and dairy-free for almost 3 months. Let's start with  gluten-free: before I began this particular experiment, I knew that it could take 6 months to a year for the benefits of a gluten-free diet to kick in. I must say that it's incredibly difficult to embark on a journey involving a great deal of sacrifices, without any certainty that you will reach the desired outcome. But I stuck with it.  I was 10 months in when I noticed I was feeling more achy and sore than ususal, which lasted for about 2 months. And while I can't back it up with facts or data, in retrospect it felt like my body was going through the final stages of gluten detox.Then, as if by magic, I started feeling better. My mood and energy improved and my chronic pain went from severe to moderate. As a result, I was able to start exercising regularly; I have these wonderful exercise DVDs from the Oregon Fibromyalgia Foundation ( which are designed specifically for people living with chronic pain. They offer 4 DVDs: gentle aerobics, upper/lower/core strength and balance training, stretching and relaxation, and their newest addition, a yoga/pilates routine. I've also begun to use a "Pilates for Inflexible People" DVD from

Let's move onto the return of the plant-based diet. When I tried to do this before, I made the mistake of including 3 servings of psyllium husks a day, which ended up being way too much fiber and caused way too much gastric distress. This time around I omitted the psyllium husks and that made a big difference. But I was still dealing with constipation and I'd been hearing about probiotics for a while, so I decided to give it a go. Fortunately, you can purchase probiotics in powder and capsule form without having to resort to eating a certain yogurt product (which I will not name here) 3 times a day. Almost immediately I attained regularity (it's wonderful and I highly recommend it) and I've been taking it regularly for about a month.

As a result, I've been able to reach my goal weight of 150 LBs (I started out at 265 LBs) and have moved on to the third stage of the low carb regimen made popular by Dr. Atkins - pre-maintenance. According to Atkins, pre-maintenance involves increasing your carbohydrate intake gradually until you get to the point where you stop losing weight. How many net carbs (and calories) it takes per day to maintain your healthy weight varies from person to person, so there's no magic number out there - you need to figure what works for you, personally. I used this opportunity to delve into the world of raw food and began to substitute various raw food staples for certain low carb standards, particularly in the area of fruits and sweeteners.

During my research I've discovered that the law governing the specifics of  a raw food diet are not universal. According to Wikipedia:

 "Raw foodism can include any diet of primarily unheated food, or food cooked to a temperature less than 104º F (40º C) to 115º F )46º C). The most popular raw food diet  is a vegan diet, but forms may include animal products and/or meat. Raw foodists can be divided between those that advocate raw veagansim  or vegetarianism,  those that advocate a raw omnivorous diet, and those that advocate a 100% raw carnivorous diet." (source)

Since I'm already vegan, I think you can figure out which group I belong to, but not all vegan raw food diets are alike. There are variations between what kinds of food - such as oils, vinegar and other condiments - are acceptable. When it comes to using a dehydrator for cooking, there are some raw foodists who believe that it's OK to increase the temperature to 140º F. According to the really wonderful raw food website Rawmazing, the food throws off water and stays cool during at the beginning of the dehydration process so that temperature of the food temperature itself doesn't actually go above 115º. I'm not certain that this is true, but dehydrating like this saves time and may prevent fermentation.

So why go raw? Well, according to Ani Phyo, author of Ani's Raw Food Kitchen, unheated fresh foods  (AKA living foods) are are full of enzyme activity. According to Phyo:
"Enzymes help you digest food and are the catalyst for for every metabolic reaction in your body. Without these enzymes, there can be no cell division, energy production, or brain activity.
[...]Only uncooked and unprocessed foods can provide us with the full range of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, oxygen, fiber, and other  nutrients our bodies require to run like a well-oiled machine."
In spite of the differences between the ideologies of the various raw food factions, they all seem to agree on one thing: that a raw food diet will help you reach a state of optimal health. Which is, quite frankly, the only reason why I  even considered yet another set of dietary restrictions. I have read many personal accounts of patients whose Fibromyalgia symptoms have vastly improved after changing to a  raw food diet and I needed to be abe to say that I tried every possible angle in my attempt to optimize my health - both physically and mentally. Now that I had the energy, I owed it to myself to try it at the very least.

In an attempt to make the transition, I took three recipes that I love and prepared each of them in  a regular oven and in a dehydrator, to get an idea of how they compared. As far as my palate is concerned, the three vegetables, asparagus, zucchini, and kale, taste great when cooked, but are pretty much inedible when raw. I discovered that dehydrating them didn't do much to improve their flavor. In addition, it takes several hours to make most raw food dehydrator recipes which probably isn't very energy efficient. So, while I may use the dehydrator for certain recipes, like raw crackers and cookies, I don't see myself using it for preparing vegetables. I'm including the dehydrator temperatures and times in the recipes below, if you want to give it a try, but for my own personal consumption, the raw veggies I'm sticking to are things like carrots, spinach and celery. I'm not going to be able to maintain a full-on raw diet, either because I can't stomach the taste or because many raw food staples (like agave syrup, medjul dates, and bananas) aren't compatible with my low carb diet. I found several recipes for raw bread and crackers I wanted to try, but they rely on flax meal, which I had to eliminate from my diet - flax contains phytoestrogens which wreak havoc with my menstrual cycles. But as a whole, I've decided to include more raw food in my daily diet, such as raw nut butter and homemade nut milk, and to  a few things I've come to depend on, such as canned products like coconut milk and  tomatoes. I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make, but I believe I'm doing what I can to improve my health without turning my meals into miseries.

Roasted Zucchini Fries

Zucchini is a an incredibly versatile vegetable and shows up in a variety of low carb recipes. I've seen it used as a substitute for potatoes, pasta and even chickpeas in a raw hummus recipe. It's a good source of fiber, antioxidant vitamins C and A, and, in addition to calcium and magnesium, it contains a trace mineral called manganese which helps the body metabolize protein and carbohydrates.

Nutritional yeast is called the "vegetarian's proteins." It is considered a complete protein , with 18 amino acids, and the reported health benefits include: maintaing an ideal intestinal ecology, improving blood production, helping to maintain optimum cholesterol levels and improving the health and functioning of the liver. In addition, it's a rich source of  vitamin B-complex, which helps in managing stress levels, maintaining a healthy metabolic rate, and promoting healthy skin. Nutritional yeast also contains chromium, which is useful in managing diabetes, low blood pressure and  fluctuating blood sugar levels. It also contains such trace minerals as manganese, copper, vanadium, molybdenum and lithium (source.)

It's great for sprinkling on salads, adding to soups, and in the case of Zucchini Fries, serves as a coating in the place of breadcrumbs. I love the taste and it really makes this recipe stand out as one of my favorites.


1 small/medium zucchini/ 150 g
1 T cold pressed olive oil
1 clove garlic, forced through press
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
1/2 T/5 g nutritional yeast (optional)


*Preheat oven to 425º.

*Cut zucchini into pieces ( about 1/2 x 1/2 by 4 inches)

*Combine garlic, olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl.Toss the zucchini until it is evenly coated. Place in a baking pan and roast for 15 - 20 minutes.


*Put prepared zucchini pieces on Teflex sheets and dehydrate for 30 minutes at 140º, then an additional 4-5 hours at 115º.

Makes 2 servings and each has 77.48 cal, 2.37 net carbs, 6.88 g fat, 1.27 g fiber and 1.77 g protein.

Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus is a member of the lily family and can be steamed, roasted or eaten raw. It's rich in potassium, vitamins A and K, and is a good source of fiber. I prefer to use thinner stalks - they're more tender and take less time to cook.


90 g trimmed asparagus (just break off the ends of the tough stalks)
1/2 T cold pressed olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

*Preheat oven to 450º.

*Place asparagus spears in a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season and roast for 10 - 15 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.


*Place asparagus spears on Teflex sheets and warm in the dehydrator for 30 minutes at 140º.  Drizzle with olive oil and season and warm for another 2 - 4 hours at 105º.

Makes 1 serving and has 79.5 cal, 2 net carbs, 6.75 g fat, 2 g fiber and 2 g protein.

Baked Kale Chips

Kale belongs to the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, which includes cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It is a green, leafy vegetable that comes in three varieties: curly, ornamental, and dinosaur ( I don't know why it's called dinosaur, but it's my favorite, mainly because the leaves are flatter, making it easier to coat evenly with oil and seasonings.) In addition to being a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, kale is rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K.


1/4 bunch/75 g kale, washed and dried
1/2 T cold pressed olive oil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp sea salt


*Preheat oven to 275º.
*Remove stems from kale, either cutting them out with a knife or tearing the leaves from the stem. Tear the leaves into pieces and toss with olive oil and seasoning. Arrange in a baking pan so no pieces overlap. Bake for 10 minutes, turn leaves and bake for another 10 minutes.


*Place kale pieces on screen trays and dehydrate for 4 -5 hours at 115º.

Makes 1 large serving and has 77 cal, 2.8 net carbs, 6.75 g fat, .7 g fiber and 1.05 g protein.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Soup from Scratch - It's Easier than it Looks

Making soup from scratch can be a daunting experience for most people. As a result, preparing soup often means using only a can opener and a microwave oven. I must admit - canned soup is easy to make and it can be difficult to give up such a convenience. But even the most cursory look at the label of most canned soups demonstrates that the convenience comes with a price: additives (MSG in particular,) preservatives, corn starch, and way too much sodium. While making your own soup is fairly simple, there is quite a bit of prep work (which means quite a bit of cleaning up afterwards,) but I think it's worth it. Once the prep work is done, the rest of the work is fairly simple - sauté certain vegetables in oil, add broth, spices and other vegetables, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. And I find that the prep work is easier if I do a little bit at a time. Usually, I've done all the prep work the day before I actually make the soup and I've spaced it out over the whole day. I clean up as I go, so as not to be left with a huge stack of dishes, but you can also let everything pile up and then wash a bit at a time afterwards to make the whole experience seem less labor-intensive.

The only issue I had with these recipes was the fact that they both used canned tomatos. The Winter Vegetable Soup uses half of a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes and the Mushroom & Leek Soup uses 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. You can, of course, double the Winter Veggie soup to 8 servings, but only if you have a soup pot large enough to handle the increased volume. Big soup pots are expensive and not everyone has the money or the room to keep one sitting around the kitchen. The Mushroom & Leek Soup uses only 1 T of tomato paste from a can that has 8 tablespoons, which means that if I'm storing the rest in the refrigerator, 7 of those tablespoons get moldy before I have a chance to use the rest. The solution? Put the excess servings in the freezer. You can divide the diced tomatos into two equal portions and store the one you're not currently using in a freezer-safe container, and using an ice-cube tray, you can separate the tomato paste into individual 1 tablespoon portions and freeze them until you're ready to use them.

It may not look pretty, but it does prevent waste and it saves money. You can put the whole tray in a zip-lock freezer bag or scoop the frozen paste out and store it in a freezer-safe container.

One of the great things about soup is that you can boil down a large quantity of vegetables, particularly  greens like kale and spinach, making a meal that is nutrient rich. For a base, I use mushroom broth. I'm fortunate enough to be able to find an organic mushroom broth by Pacific at my grocery store, but it may not be available to everyone. The following recipe is for mushroom broth from scratch, if no pre-made broth is available or you simply prefer making it yourself. Most of the recipes for broth that I've come across use 4 cups of water to yield 4 cups of broth, but I've found that simmering the soup reduces the volume, so I start out with more water. You can also add water to the finished broth to increase the volume needed for the soup recipe. I use dried porcini mushrooms, but you can use fresh mushrooms instead. Keep in mind that all the vegetables are strained and discarded, as the nutrients have been boiled out in the broth, and that you need 8 oz of fresh mushrooms (white or crimini) and only 4 dried porcini mushrooms to yield 4 cups of broth. 

Mushroom Broth (Low Carb/Gluten Free/Vegan)


7-8 C water
3 oz leeks, trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4-6 pieces dried porcini mushroom
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme
freshly ground black pepper


*Combine everything in a stock pot and bring to a boil on high heat.

*Cover, turning heat to medium low, to simmer for one hour.

*Strain vegetables through a sieve (you can line it with cheesecloth) and discard.

You can save the broth in the refrigerator for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to six months.

Winter  Vegetable Soup (Low Carb/Gluten Free/Vegetarian)

This is a hearty soup that relies on a secret trick - using parmesan rinds to add flavor. This recipe is based on one found in "The Low Carb Gourmet" by Karen Barnaby. It's a fantastic cookbook with gorgeous photographs (food porn alert!). It's out of print and never made it to paperback, but if you can find a used hardback copy, it's worth it.


1 T olive oil
50 g/ 1/2 C diced celery
2 g/1/2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 oz leeks, trimmed and sliced
4 C mushroom broth
1/2 - 14.5 oz can of diced tomatos, no added salt
100 g daikon radish, diced
89 g/3 oz - 1 C finely chopped green cabbage
67 g/1 C finely chopped green kale leaves (remove stems)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 parmesan rind  (a small portion will do, around 2 square inches)
20 g/4 T freshly grated parmesan


*Heat oil in a medium-sized soup pot over a medium-high heat. Add the celery, leeks and parsley and sauté until lightly browned. Add the mushroom broth and tomatos and bring to a boil.

*Add the daikon radish, cabbage, kale, bay leaf and parmesan rind. Add 1 tsp salt. Simmer for about 1 hour (vegetables should be tender and soup should be thick.) Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove parmesan and bay leaf. Sprinkle each serving with 1 T/ 7 g parmesan before eating.

Makes 4 servings and each has 93.11 cal, 6.63 net carbs, 4.38 g fat, 1.5 g fiber and 3.13 g protein.

 Mushroom & Leek Soup (Low Carb/Gluten Free/Vegan)

This is also based on a recipe from Karen Barnaby.


1 T olive oil
4 oz leeks (about 1 leek, minus the green leaves), trimmed and chopped
1 clove garlic, forced through a press
8 oz white mushrooms (I use crimini mushrooms, and peel them), diced
4 C mushroom broth
1 tsp dried savory
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1 T cooking sherry
1 T tomato paste
1 bay leaf
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 oz raw spinach, finely chopped


*In a medium-sized soup pot, sauté the olive oil, leeks and garlic for a few minutes. Add broth, mushrooms, spices, sherry, tomato paste, and the bay leaf. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and simmer over a low heat for around 30 minutes.

*Remove from heat and strain out the vegetables. Remove the bay leaf and pulse vegetables in a blender or food processor until coarsely ground (I used to be afraid of my food processor, but we became friends, even though using it means more to wash up afterwards.)

*Stir the spinach into broth and add pulsed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 servings and each has 68.96 cal, 6.36 net carbs, 3.38 g fat, .33 g fiber and .58 g protein.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vegetarian "Fried Rice" and Broccoli & Bok Choy: How I Learned to Live Without Take-Out, Part 3

I remember a time when Chinese food and pizza was pretty much all that was available for food delivery service and take-away. Now, if you live in a fairly metropolitan area, you can find a wide variety of restaurants representing food cultures from all around the globe, and many of them have take-away and/or delivery service. Thanks to the internet, ordering food online has become de rigueur and restaurants that normally wouldn't provide delivery can now use the option of a food courier service.  And with all the variety available, the majority of restaurants available for take-out with delivery seem to be Chinese.

When I first began to experience the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia (namely, chronic pain and exhaustion), I relied heavily on food delivery. I didn't have the energy to cook or wash dishes, so I ate of lot of prepared food. I used to get most of my groceries delivered and many of my meals from restaurants that provided delivery service.

One of the staples of my pre-low-carb-whole-food diet was Chinese take-out.  My favorites were vegetable fried rice, garlic eggplant, dry-cooked string beans, and spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce. Once I started doing low carb, my days of overdosing on cornstarch, grease, and MSG were over. I was able to find a few low carb recipes that satisfied my desire for that particular taste. As a general rule I don't eat soy (or flaxseed) products, as they contain phytoestrogens, but fermented products like soy sauce are supposed to be ok. And fortunately, with the currant awareness about gluten-sensitivity and celiac disease, it's fairly easy to find gluten-free soy sauce these days.

Aa I mentioned in my previous post about Indian food, one of the many things I used to dislike about Chinese take-out was the rice. Don't get me wrong - I love rice. It just doesn't love me. Every time I ate rice, I felt bloated, with a thick lump of starch like a stone in my digestive tract. I had no trouble giving it up when I began low carb and I much prefer cauliflower rice. It's considerably lighter fare, and my stomach has a much better time digesting it. By using gluten free soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions and fresh garlic, I was able to create a "fried rice" dish. While it may not taste exactly like traditional fried rice, it does satisfy my desire for that particular taste. If you're going to use sesame oil,  it's important to know that it needs to be refrigerated - it goes rancid pretty easily and is often packaged in smaller bottles to keep spoilage to a minimum.

Vegetable "Fried Rice"


1/2 T sesame oil
1 clove garlic, forced through press
2 oz bell peper, diced
10 g green onion (about 2 shoots), thinly sliced (about 2 T)
1 stalk celery (about 62g/3 oz), washed, trimmed, and using a vegetable peeler, strip the outside of the stalk.
100 g raw cauliflower, grated (use the one with the large holes)
1/2 T gluten-free soy sauce
sea salt, to taste


1 egg, well-beaten


*Heat the oil in a medium-sized non-stick skillet over a medium-high heat.  Add the bell pepper, celery, and half of the green onions and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes.

*Add the garlic and cauliflower and blend and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes until cauliflower is tender. Turn off the burner and add the soy sauce and salt to taste, and stir mixture until well blended. Garnish with the remaining green onion.

Makes 1 serving and has 127.7 cal, 6.33 net carbs, 7.02 g fat, 5.55 g fiber and 2.83 g protein.

Variation with egg:

I'm not crazy about fried rice with egg, but if you want to use egg, follow the above instructions up until the part where you add the soy sauce and salt. After turing off the burner, use a spatula to move the vegetable mixture to one side of the pan, creating a space. Pour the beaten egg into that space and allow to cook for about 30 seconds. Then blend the egg and the vegetable mixture together until the egg is cooked to your desired consistency. Add the soy sauce and salt to taste and garnish with the remaining green onions.

Makes 1 serving and has 197.7 cal, 6.33 net carbs, 11.52 g fat, 5.55 g fiber and 8.83 g protein.

Broccoli & Bok Choy

Broccoli and bok choy is a fairly common pairing in Asian cuisine. Bok Choy (sometimes referred to as pak choi or just plain Chinese cabbage) is a pretty amazing vegetable. It's a cruciferous vegetable, being a member of the cabbage family and it's relatively low in calories, carbs, and has no fat. Bok Choy is an excellent source of the anti-oxidant vitamins C, A, and K. It aslo contains the following minerals: calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, magnesium and phosphorous. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, nutritionally  dense with folates, fiber, calcium and ascorbic acid. To give it a more  authentic flavor, I use sesame oil, fresh ginger, and gluten-free soy sauce.


1/4 C mushroom broth
1 T sesame oil
2.5 oz baby bok choy
3 oz broccoli florets
1 clove garlic, force through press
1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 T gluten-free soy sauce
sea salt, to taste


*Trim bok choy, separating the leaves from the stalks. Bring the mushroom broth to a  gentle boil in a medium sized non-stick skillet over a medium-high heat and add the broccoli florets and the bok choy stalks.

*Cover and simmer for about 4 minutes over a medium-low heat. Uncover and cook until liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and add the bok choy leaves, garlic and sesame oil. Return to the burner and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Turn off heat and add the ginger and soy sauce, tossing thoroughly. Serve over cauliflower rice.

Serves 1 and has 172.01 cal, 6.13 net carbs, 14 g fat, 3.96 g fiber and 4.05 g protein.

Cauliflower Rice


100 g raw cauliflower
1/2 tsp  sesame oil


*Grate the cauliflower using the largest holes on your cheese grater.

*Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring constantly until cauliflower is soft and starting to get a little toasty, approximately 3 - 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Makes 1 serving and has 85 cal, 2 net carbs, 7 g fat, 3 g fiber and 2 g protein.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vegetarian Coconut Curry & Cauliflower Rice: How I Learned To Live Without Take-Out, Part 2

One of the things I miss about getting take-out is the fabulous array of "ethnic" food - Indian, Thai, Japanese and Chinese being my favorites - available in Berkeley. We have quite a lot to choose from and it isn't too difficult to reproduce many of the recipes at home. Unfortunately, most of my favorites require ingredients I no longer use. Soy sauce and oyster sauce (because I'm avoiding soy due to phytoestrogen - you can get gluten-free soy sauce nowadays), fish sauce and curry paste for thai curry (because I'm avoiding prepared food products). However, I also love Indian-style curries, which are fairly easy to revise so that they meet the standards of low carb, vegetarian, whole food and gluten-free. The spices found in pre-mixed curry powders vary somewhat, so it's important to read the label and see what they're made of.

According to Wikipedia (which I realize is not a completely reliable source for accurate information, but I can't help using it as a starting point for research), "Curry is a generic description used throughout Western culture to describe a variety of dishes from Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisines. The chief spices found in most South Asian curry powders are tumeric, corriander, and cumin..."
Tumeric gives curry powder the yellow color and corriander and cumin are the main flavors, but the curry powder I use is salt-free and also contains lemon peel, black pepper, freeze dried whole lemon powder, cardamon, cinnamon, garlic and cayenne. When I first began to tinker with what was to become my signature curry dish, I tried the curry powder by itself. It wasn't quite right, so I looked at other curry recipes that used coconut milk as a base and I came up with the addition of dried ginger and chili powder, as well as adding extra cumin and corriander. It works for me and I encourage you to experiment in order to find your own mix.

I use zucchini and mushrooms, but there are a variety of vegetables you can use to make your unique version. I'd suggest trying eggplant and bell peppers and the like. I aslo recommend adding 2 oz of fresh spinach to the pan for the last 30 seconds of cooking. It's a great way to get in a serving of green leafy vegetables.

One of the many things I used to dislike about Indian take-out was the rice. Don't get me wrong - I love rice. It just doesn't love me. Every time I used to eat rice, I felt bloated, with a thick lump of starch like a stone in my digestive tract. I had no trouble giving it up when I began low carb and I much prefer cauliflower rice. It's considerably lighter fare, and my stomach has a much better time digesting it. I never cease being amazed at how versatile cauliflower is. I promise I'll be posting more fabulous cauliflower recipes in the near future.

I use coconut oil for both the "rice" and the curry. Cooking with coconut oil has many benefits. From what I've been able to glean from the internet, coconut oil aids weight loss (because it naturally increases your metabolism.) It aids digestion (because it contains microbial properties, which can help eliminate parasites, bacteria and other causes of indigestion.) It helps the body absorb nutrients, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and strengthens your immune system (because it contains anti-microbial lipids, lauric acid, and capric acid which help to prevent viruses and bacteria that can lead to all kinds of illnesses.) It can also help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels and increase the secretion of insulin. (Source)

Cauliflower Rice


50 - 100 g raw cauliflower
1/2 tsp coconut oil


*Grate the cauliflower using the largest holes on your cheese grater.

*Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently until cauliflower is soft and starting to get a little toasty, approximately 3 - 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Makes 1 serving (based on 100 g cauliflower) and has 85 cal, 2 net carbs, 7 g fat, 3 g fiber and 2 g protein.

Vegetarian Coconut  Curry 

1/2 tsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, forced through press
2 oz zucchini, trimmed and cut into small pieces
2 oz mushrooms
1/4 C unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 tsp mild sweet curry powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp chili powder

cilantro for garnish, optional


*Heat oil in a small skillet over a medium-high heat. Sauté garlic for 30 seconds and add zucchini and mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes.

*Pour coconut milk in skillet and blend in spice mixture. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for about a minute. Serve over cauliflower rice and garnish with  cilantro, if desired.

Makes 1 serving and has 190.5 cal, 6.8 net carbs, 17.3 g fat, .65 g fiber and 1.45 g protein.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Braised Cabbage: How I Learned To Live Without Take-Out, Part 1

When I first began to develop the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, I was in pretty bad shape. I had so little energy that I came to rely on prepared food - mostly frozen dinners, deli meat, highly processed breads, cookies and cakes (for my relentless sweet-tooth)  and a lot of take-out (or in my case, delivery.) Aside from being prohibitively expensive, in general, take-out food is staggeringly unhealthy - it tends to be high carb, high fat and contains things like cornstarch and MSG. When I began to  feel better, I wanted to eat better, which meant ditching take-out altogether. And that meant finding alternatives to my favorite take-out meals. And one of my favorites was pasta.

I've said it before - imposing any dietary restrictions in your life means you needs must give up certain things. When doing low carb, the major losses tend to be in the "grains-you-can-no-longer-eat" category: bread, rice and perhaps the most devastating one of all, pasta. Pasta is a big part of the diet of the western world. From Ramen Noodles to whole grain organic, Americans consume a lot of pasta. It's no big mystery as to why - it's easy, it's cheap, it's versatile and it's filling. Too filling in some cases, such as the one I like to refer to as "carbohydrate-challenged." This refers mainly to Type II Diabetes and people on low-carb diets. There are some low carb pastas on the market, but they aren't gluten free.

Braised cabbage turned out to be a great substitute for pasta. It's filling, has a lot of fiber and protein, and if prepared properly, can taste amazing. Whenever I crave pasta, I make braised cabbage and I'm never disappointed.

Braised Cabbage


4 oz green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 oz leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 T butter (You can use olive oil if you're vegan, but it won't brown or taste like butter)
1/2 C water
sea salt &
freshly ground pepper, to taste


1 T heavy cream


*In a medium-sized  sauce pan, melt butter over a medium high heat. Add leeks and cabbage and sauté for a few minutes. Add water, salt and pepper, cover and braise over a medium-low heat for 6-8 minutes. Keep a close eye on it - it can burn easily. You can use a lower heat, but it will take longer to cook. If necessary, you can add more water - you just need to check on it.  If you're using the cream, add to saucepan when all the water has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl. Eat immediately (or, rather, eat when it cools down to the point where it won't scorch your esophagus and give your tongue third-degree burns).

Makes 1 serving and has 95.5 cal, 5.5 net carbs, 5.5 g fat, 4 g fiber and 4 g protein.

Variation with heavy cream:

Makes 1 serving and has 150.5 cal, 5.5 net carbs, 11.5 g fat, 4 g fiber and 4 g protein.