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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.