Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Low Carb Diet -- Reasons and Results

As mentioned in my post about Thai curry, I have been shifting my eating habits to follow a low carbohydrate diet.  Now, before you start thinking this might be another fad diet (and believe me, I thought it could be too), I'm doing this because my doctor told me to do it.  It's that simple.  I might question every time my dentist wants to drill my teeth, but I don't object to my doctor telling me to cut out sugar (and wheat and peanuts...).

The low carb prescription was unexpected.  I had gone into the doctor on a purely superficial desire to clear up my skin.  See, Scott and I are getting married next summer, and I want to wear a strapless dress without feeling self-conscious about the acne on my back ("bacne" is a gross word).  I've struggled with acne my whole life, but it was never bad enough to really seek help from a dermatologist.  The upcoming wedding sealed it -- bring out the big guns.

I went into the doctor's office fully expecting to request Accutane or some other harsh, strong, nausea-inducing, hardcore acne medication.  This was it -- I was all in.  And then the doctor handed me a diet recommendation: low carb, high fat.  She spent the next hour with me, discussing the particulars about each category (daily, moderately, never) and the recommended doses of carbohydrates (<10% or <40g.  The lower the better).  The diet change wasn't the expected outcome, but I respect my doctor even more for it.  It's refreshing and reassuring that just changing what I'm eating can give me the outcome I want.  She said that she would prescribe this diet for most inflammatory ailments -- every organ in the body belongs to the same body,  And this way, I'm not developing a tolerance for antibiotics.  If for some reason I need them in the future, my body will respond to them.

This appointment happened on December 4th. I was thrown for a loop -- Christmas was coming and I had already started planning the chocolate peppermint deliciousness that I would be making and having over the holiday season.  December was tough, but my friends and family were pretty supportive of the new diet -- making sure to provide menu options for me during the big meals and asking me questions about it otherwise.

Two months later, I feel like I have a good handle on it and want to share the recipes and the reasons.

Low carb frittata.

The Reasons I've Started Eating Low Carb High Fat (LCHF):

1. To clear up my skin.  Yep.  That's it.  Sure, it's a bit superficial.  And yes, it's mostly because I want to wear a strapless dress at my wedding.  Not much would have stopped me from wearing a strapless dress anyway, but I don't want to be thinking about the acne on my back and feel self-conscious about my skin on our big day.  Of all the things to worry about for the wedding, I didn't want my skin to be on the list.

Trying on a top from Stitchfix and feeling pretty good about my body

The Results I've Had From Eating Low Carb High Fat:

1. My skin is clearer.  I've struggled with acne and sensitive skin my whole life, and the diet has changed the skin.  People are commenting on it now, and Scott says it feels better.  And I feel good in it.

2. I've lost 25 pounds.  I knew that weightloss would be a side-effect (my doctor told me to expect 6lbs in the first week), but I was not expecting to lose so much.  I lost 12lbs in the first 12 days, and the weight continued to keep falling off.  In fact, I hit my wedding goal weight in the first month, and I now weigh less than I did in all of college.

3. I eat more vegetables.  Also, I cook more.  Because of the restrictions of the diet, just picking up enchiladas on the way home isn't an option.  And my go-to toaster oven quesadillas aren't allowed.  Additionally, rice and beans are very carb-heavy, so I can't use them to bulk up meals.  As a results, I've been eating vegetables with every meal.

Prepping zucchini and yellow squash for the week.

It's only been two months, but I'm planning on continuing this indefinitely.  Welcome to the ride!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Spicy Taco Soup with Homemade Broth

Spicy Taco Soup | Importance Sampling

This meal was days in the making.  I don't normally premake meal components, and I usually save most of my cooking for the weekends, but I've been thinking about this soup for days.  It all started with seeing a post about easy recipes you can make in a dutch oven.  Roasted chicken and broth?  Sounds great!  I've never roasted a whole bird before, and I've never made broth from scratch.  And I had a few free hours this weekend.  

Roasted Chicken | Importance Sampling

In my unexperienced foolishness, I thought I buttered the bird enough.  I did not.  Needs more butter!  More butter!  I know better know.  Learn from my mistakes.  Butter the bird!

Homemade Chicken Broth | Importance Sampling

The best part of making broth after roasting?  I didn't have to clean the dutch oven. Throw some more veggies in with the drippings, remove the lemons from the chicken carcass, some seasoning, some water, and hours of simmering.   So easy, so flavorful.  It made nearly 11 cups of broth.  

Which brings us to tonight.  With 11 cups of broth and an entire roasted chicken, I set out to make my favorite dish: soup.  Taco soup.  Spicy taco soup!

Taco Spice Mix | Importance Sampling

Lots of colorful and flavorful spices. 

Spicy Taco Soup | Importance Sampling

Dutch ovens are great for soup making!  And chicken roasting...and broth many things!

Spicy Taco Soup | Importance Sampling

Spicy Taco Soup with Homemade Broth

2 T grapeseed oil
1 large yellow onion
2 green bell peppers
3 jalapenos
1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded chicken
1 T chili powder
1 t salt (more to taste)
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t cayenne (more to taste)
1/4 t white pepper
handful of cilantro, for garnish

1. Premake chicken and broth, if you're ambitious enough.  Store-bought is perfectly fine!

2. Heat oil in pan over medium high heat. Slice onions and throw into pot.  Enjoy the sizzle and let it cook for several minutes until onions are soft and starting to caramelize.

3. Mix together spices and throw in with onion.  Stir to coat and let the flavors infuse. 

4. Dice up bell peppers and jalapenos.  Throw in pot.  Cook until starting to soften.

5. Pour in the chicken broth slowly, stirring to loosen up the flavors off the bottom of the pan.

6.  Add chicken and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and then turn the heat on low and let simmer.  Serve with cilantro.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Yellow Thai Curry

My favorite Thai food restaurant has a noodle dish on their menu: Golden Noodles.  It's like drunken noodles, but instead of a soy-sauce base sauce, the veggies, egg, and meat (or tofu) are stirfried in a yellow curry sauce and then mixed with noodles.  The entire creation -- noodles, chicken, veggies, sauce -- is crave-worthy comfort food.  It's delicious hot, but it's best when it's had a chance to sit for 15 minutes.  The flavors deepen, the spices kick in, and the sauce gets a chance to really saturate the noodles.

I have tried on many occasions to recreate this deliciousness at home, but until tonight, have not managed to find a really good curry base.  I've used simmering sauces.  I've made curry soups (in the Crockpot and on the stove).  I've used store-bought curry paste (Thai and Indian).  I've just about thrown in the towel on creating Thai takeout at home.  That is, until now.

This all started a couple days ago, when I ran across Pinch of Yum and her list of Magical Ways to Use a Food Processor.  Yellow curry paste was on the list, and it looked delicious.  Three pages later (one about the paste, one about how she used the paste, and a YouTube video of her using the paste), I was excited to give this homemade curry one more chance.  

The paste takes a little time to make, but it makes 2 cups, which should last me a while.  And any recipe that starts with roasting ginger, shallots, and garlic is good by me.

Homemade Yellow Thai Curry Paste |

Plus, anytime I get to use my fancy kitchen gadgets makes for a fun time cooking.

Homemade Yellow Thai Curry Paste |
This recipe made two cups of paste, which freezes well.  I put the whole thing in a mason jar.  

Once the paste was made, I threw together a curry.  And I didn't follow a recipe!  This turned out SO. GOOD.  I just mixed together some veggies and garlic, sauteed everything in coconut oil and curry paste, then mixed in coconut milk and slow-cooked shredded chicken.  A drizzle of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce pulled it together.  

 Homemade Yellow Thai Curry

2T coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3-4 garlic cloves, minced 
1/3c yellow curry paste
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
1-2 chicken breasts, cooked (I used shredded slow-cooked chicken)
1-2 T rice vingar, to taste
1-2 T soy sauce, to taste

1. Make curry paste.  This took me about an hour, between prepping the ingredients, roasting, and then mixing all together in the food processor. 

2. Melt coconut oil in pan (or Dutch oven).  Dice onion and cook in oil until it start to soften.  Mince garlic and saute with onion until fragrant (1 minute).  Chop peppers into large pieces, slice zucchini and yellow squash, and throw into pot with onions.  Cook until they start to soften.

3. Add curry paste and stir to coat all the veggies.  Cook for 1-2 minutes to let the flavor deepen. Pour in coconut milk and stir to combine.  Add chicken.  Cook until simmering.  

4. Drizzle with rice vinegar and soy sauce, to taste. 

Serve over rice, mixed with rice noodles, or just by itself.  Since I'm no longer eating carbs (another story for another post), I ate it just by itself.  Spicy and satisfying.  And I made yellow curry at home!
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