Monday, December 31, 2012

Triple-Protein Huevos Rancheros Quesadilla

Sometimes you just need a really hearty brunch. Maybe you had a rough night out drinking and need a big filling, flavorful, kick in the pants to get you going. Or maybe you are over all that, and just recovering from a standard night of baby-feedings, looking forward to a day of chores, like me!

Either way, if you can muster the energy to chef up this protein-heavy vegetarian brunch dish, you'll have even more energy to get stuff done later. AND you'll have some pretty versatile leftovers to use the next day.

Huevos Rancheros (a bean-laden egg breakfast dish) was the inspiration for this breakfast quesadilla. Ground veggie protein, fried egg and jack cheese are folded neatly into a crispy tortilla. The whole thing is topped with warm seasoned black beans, crisp tomatoes, sour cream and hot sauce. Make it even healthier by using egg-whites only and topping with sliced avocado drenched in lime juice. Leftover protein grounds and beans can be used over chips for nachos, on rice or a baked potato for a dinner, or mixed up with tomato sauce for a chili.

If you don't have a little guy depending on your milk factory, like I do, then go ahead and pair this rich breakfast with a brew-driver beer cocktail: 1/2 OJ, 1/2 Wheat Ale (such as Blue Moon or any Hefeweizen / Weiss beer).

Wishing you a happy healthy new year! Cheers!

Triple-Protein Huevos Rancheros Quesadilla

Flour Tortillas

1 T olive oil
1 package Lightlife Smart Ground® Mexican (or other ground veggie protein)
1 packet Sazón Goya with Coriander and Annatto (or your favorite taco seasoning)
chili powder
Adobo spice mix

1 T olive oil
1 14 oz can black beans, drained
1/2 small onion, diced
dried oregano
salt, pepper

2 eggs (or 1 egg per quesadilla), slightly beaten (if using whites use about 1-1/2 eggs per quesadilla)
salt, pepper

1 C tomatoes, diced
Shredded jack cheese, or sharp cheddar
Sour Cream
Hot Sauce

1. Prepare filling by sautéing grounds with oil and seasoning a little at a time to taste. Cook about 5-8 minutes and set aside. (If you put it directly in a storage container, it makes clean-up quicker).

2. In a small saucepan, cook onions over low heat in oil until tender. Add black beans and season to taste. Cook 5-10 minutes and set aside.

3. Coat a 6-8" frying pan with non-stick spray and heat over medium heat. Add 2 eggs and stir just a little as it starts to cook and then let it set into an omelet. When cooked completely, slide the omelet onto a plate. Repeat for remaining eggs, as 2 eggs will make 2 quesadillas.

4. For each quesadilla, heat a frying pan coated with non-stick spray over medium heat. Working quickly, place a tortilla in the pan and press it down flat. Sprinkle a little cheese over the whole thing. On one half, place half the omelet and 2-3 tablespoons of veggie grounds. Cook about 2 minutes and fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, just as it starts to brown but before it becomes stiff. Cook another minute or two and slide onto a plate. Repeat for remaining quesadillas.

5. Serve each quesadilla with a few spoonfuls of beans, tomatoes, sour cream and hot sauce.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Leek Bisque and a Baby

Last weekend I made this delicious soup. It started out as a plan for potato-leek soup with some goods I picked up at the Borough Hall greenmarket.  I decided to add sweet potatoes to give it a happy orange, sweet, and healthy-ish twist. Most importantly, the soup was fresh, quick and provided easily reheated leftovers. Time out shopping and in the kitchen are quite the commodities lately.

You see, 2 months ago I gave birth to my son. The last few weeks of pregnancy I got a little slow, but really had quite a healthy, easy time. But, no more long walks! And then Ian came right on schedule, but with complications and a c-section. He came out beautiful and healthy - and I not so much. Long story short: we were hurried home from the hospital for hurricane Sandy, I struggled to recover and battled extremely high blood-pressure and dizziness, and we were back in the hospital a few days later for pre-eclampsia. At 2 weeks post-partum, most moms would be starting to walk around, picking up their baby and enjoying the thrill of learning to change poopy diapers - and I was able to do none of these things.

So it took me a little longer than most to recover both physically and mentally from the experience of birth. It took us longer to be ready for visitors. It felt horrible to need help making instant oatmeal, or just to get off of a bed. But I was determined to get back in the kitchen, and out walking my dog, as soon as possible. I took a few trial runs while we still had moms here helping, and was out and about on my own by 4 weeks.

Needless to say, I'm not diving into any experiments in cooking, nor am I walking brisk miles with the dog. But I have found a bit of time to cook fresh food on some days, and to teach Misty to walk with the stroller. The greenmarket is the one place where all these things can co-exist - with a little patience and upper body strength!

So, with a stroller in one hand, a dog leash in the other, and a sack of yams in the other, I've found at least some inspiration to cook. And by the way, in case you didn't catch it, I've completely lost the ability to count, or do basic math. The simplest calculations elude me now! So maybe it's best I DO keep it simple in the kitchen, for now. 

But, I'm happy to say I have come up with a blog-worthy recipe. And found time to write it down, take a picture, and gander a few paragraphs of life-stuff in a post. Granted, the process was spread over about 5 days. So for my first post-baby-hiatus recipe, I give you a recipe that is easy, has few ingredients, and makes very yummy leftovers to reheat when time is scarce:

Sweet Potato Leek Bisque
4-6 servings

3 T butter
2 C leeks, trimmed and light green/white parts sliced
2 C Sweet potato or yams, peeled and ½” diced
2 C Russet potato, peeled and ½” diced
4 C vegetable stock
½ C heavy cream
sea salt and black pepper

1. In a stock pot melt butter over low-medium heat. Add leeks and cook 8-10 minutes. They should sizzle gently, and not become crispy and brown.

2. Add potatoes and stock. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and partially blend the soup, either using an immersion mixer or stand blender. Blend about half the soup, leaving chunks of potato.

4. Return soup to low heat. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Start with 1 teaspoon of salt and add up to 2 more depending on taste.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roasted Delicata Squash and Ginger Soup

I don't know how I managed to catch a cold last week, but I did. And it sucked. This is the first time I've come down with anything since at least 1st trimester of pregnancy. That was nothing! Now, a fat head feeling AND a fat (stretching) belly feeling don't go well together. I can handle the one without the other, but feeling like both my sinuses and my belly are going to explode from all the pressure did not left me as functional as I'd like to be. Luckily, it passed in the classic 9 days style.

In our house, if you are sick, there is a rule that you must immediately begin to ingest as much fresh ginger as possible. Tea is the easiest, made by slicing ginger and boiling it in water, but it gets boring fast. Curry and soup also work well to incorporate the ginger with other vitamin-rich foods.

Once I felt up to the task of making soup, I decided to use the delicata squash I found at Fairway last weekend. It is a pretty variety of squash that tastes as good as it looks, and it's hard to find most of the year, except in early fall. I don't think it's widely recognized, as even at the best market, it was lumped with acorn squash without any price signage. The cashier didn't know what it was either, but low and behold it was on her list of codes.

Delicata Squash

Sliced Delicata Squash
If you see these oblong, ridged, pale yellow delicata squash with green stripes, pick one up. Compared to butternut or acorn squash, the cooked flesh is sweeter, smoother, and easier to separate from the skin. Whether you are sick or not, delicata squash is worth a try

Roasted Delicata Squash and Ginger Soup 
4-6 servings

2T olive oil

1 ½ C onion, roughly chopped (1/2 large onion)

2 T ginger (with skin), roughly chopped into small 1/8” pieces

1-1/2 or 2 C baby carrots or peeled/sliced carrots

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (tart apples like Grannysmith or MacIntosh work best to balance the sweet squash and spicy ginger)

1-1/2 to 2 C flesh from roasted delicata squash

3 C water

Kosher salt (or sea salt) and pepper to taste

Roasted Delicata Squash: 

Roast the squash 1 hour or up to 1 day ahead of making the soup and reserve the flesh until ready to use.

Heat oven to 375F. Trim ends of squash and slice into 1” thick rings. Remove seeds and place rings on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil or cooking spray. Drizzle squash lightly with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, flipping them halfway through. When fork-tender, remove squash and cool to room temperature. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh away from the skin and discard the skin.


1. In a stock pot, heat oil and cook onions over medium heat about 5 minutes until softened. Add ginger and cook 3 more minutes.

2. Add carrots, apples and water. Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.

3. Add cooked squash and simmer another 10 minutes.

4. With an immersion blender, or working with a regular blender in batches, puree the soup until smooth.

5. Season with salt and pepper. I am generous with the salt when using water instead of stock – toss in around 1-1/2 T or 2 T of kosher salt.

6. Warm the soup over low heat if needed and serve with bread or pita.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Almond Flour: Low-Carb Pizza "Crust"

I miss pizza so much. Having gestational diabetes is only short-term, and luckily I only have a few weeks to go. Last week, I thought maybe I could get away with a couple slices of pizza since my numbers have been nice and low. This week, week 35, my glucose numbers seem to be jumping up.

Earlier this week I was playing around with almond flour as a low-carb alternative to wheat flour, and tried making this yummy-looking pizza crust recipe from Comfy Belly (a cooking/recipe blog with lots of gluten-free ideas).

Misty, on "her" memory foam kitchen mat, added a challenging element for this clumsy pregnant chef to work around.
I have been hesitant to invest in almond flour, since it's quite expensive. But I found 1lb bags for $4 each at Trader Joe's - always a great resource for affordable nuts! For $4, I figured it was worth a shot to see if I liked almond flour.

The verdict: I'm still on the fence. I'm glad this diet is just temporary. Although this pizza crust was pretty tasty, it definitely didn't fill the pizza-dough void. As I found with the coconut-almond crisps I made, the crust was soooo much work to chew. When I see an 8" pizza, I want to eat the 8" pizza - especially since this one (1/2 the dough recipe) was only 20g of carbs. But after eating half, my jaw was exhausted, and I admit I was getting a little full. Maybe I should have pressed the dough thinner. Or maybe I should have left it thicker and less crispy. Who knows.

Pita Pizza - tried and true
For now, I will stick to using my trusty-rusty Damascus 10 net carb whole wheat pitas for my low-carb pizza fix. At least you get a little bready-ness - since luckily I'm not worried about the gluten, just the carbs. 

Almond Flour: Low-Carb Coconut Almond Crisps

It's pretty hard to find a crunchy sweet cookie with few enough carbs to enjoy at the end of a meal. I bought some almond flour to try out some low-carb recipes and set to experimenting. I decided to try out this recipe I found for coconut crisps on Linda's Low Carb Menus site, considering I had all the ingredients. I pictured a lacy, crispy, crunchy, sweet cookie.

I like that each one has only about 1 gram of carbs each, but was surprised to find that they are only about 2" round. They were actually more like a cracker than a cookie. However, my jaw got very tired chewing them, as they are very densely packed with coarse almond flour and coconut.

I felt like these cookie-crackers needed something extra. Luckily, they are so low in carbs I had some leeway to play around. I experimented with different combinations of peanut butter and jelly: natural chunky peanut butter with strawberry-raspberry preserves, and natural chocolate peanut butter with both the strawberry-raspberry and mixed berry preserves.

They were still a little thick to chew - 3 sandwiches was my jaw's limit, as well as about 16g carbs. Four made a decently filling snack (along with a couple dried apricots), although pretty messy to eat and took some skill.

These little coconut crisps could make for an interesting tea or party snack, but for me they don't really fit the cookie-dessert slot I was hoping to fill. I'll stick to having my occasional Tate's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie for that - they are amazing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Making Low-Carb Fun: Crepes!

Before I left my job, it seemed like I had a huge list of fun things I wanted to do. In those days before baby thoughts took over my brain, I was still very food-obsessed.
Here are some examples of my ambitions:
- Learn HTML and make a website (um, who was I kidding here?)
- Work on a cookbook (I ordered a lot of how-to books that I still haven't read, but they look pretty on the shelf)
-Learn how to make bagels at home (I don't know who I thought would eat all these bagels, since I'm alone most of the time, and now I am not allowed to eat them anyways!)
-Learn to can my own fruits and vegetables in the summer, especially tomatoes (yeah, maybe someday when I have someplace to store all that stuff, because there's no space left here!)

These things quickly ceased to matter.

However, there was one thing on my "learn-to-cook-it" list that has resurfaced: crepes. In my recent search for low-carb foods to keep things interesting, I notice crepes, or variations thereof, keep popping up. So I grabbed Bittman's (Vegetarian) How to Cook Everything book, and sure enough there's a section on crepes and their cousin, blintz (blintz being similar and more eggy).

I'm sure there are ways to make them even more low-carb than I did, maybe by adding extra egg, or thinning with milk. I saw one variation using ricotta cheese. But I started with the basics, and followed the recipe, since I didn't want to experiment my first couple of tries.

I'm not going to go into detail about how to make crepes. You'll get better instruction looking to other blogs, videos and articles. I am still no expert - probably not very good at it at all! But I kept an open mind and low expectations and was pleasantly surprised with my novice results. No one in this house is a crepe connoisseur, so "not bad" was totally acceptable. It will take practice.

After making a stack of basic crepes using half unbleached flour and half whole wheat flour (about 12g of carbs each), I filled them with cooked vegetables and goat cheese for a savory dinner. They turned out pretty good, and just two made a decent serving with a salad on the side.

Eggplant Portobello Crepes with Goat Cheese (recipe below)
For breakfast the next morning, I warmed the crepes and filled them with fresh fruit, topped with Greek yogurt for protein, and a little cinnamon to make things interesting. Bonus: cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar!

Cool fruit crepes filled with fresh pineapple and strawberries, topped with cinnamon and a side of Greek yogurt.

And yet the next morning, I took 5 minutes extra to simmer some peaches and blueberries (with a couple teaspoons of water) for hot filled crepes. No need to add sugar, the fruit is sweet enough on it's own. 

Warm crepes filled with fresh, cooked, peaches and blueberries
So you see, once you figure out the crepe part (and a real crepe pan helps - I borrowed one), the options for fillings are endless. Once you have the basics down, you can experiment with different flours, ratios of egg-to-flour and batter stir-ins like sugar or vanilla for sweet crepes, or herbs for savory.

Eggplant Portobello Crepes with Goat Cheese
Fills 6 crepes
Begin 1-1/2 to 24 hours ahead of time

Crepes (makes 10):
2 T melted butter, cooled
1-1/4  C 2% milk
2 large eggs
½ C all-purpose flour
½ C whole wheat flour
pinch of salt

1-2 T butter for cooking

1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 small portobello mushroom caps, sliced
1 small/medium eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/4” thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
white pepper (or black)
red pepper flakes

4 oz chevre goat cheese

For Crepes:
 (begin well ahead, at least 1-1/2 hours before serving)
1. Blend all ingredients until smooth in a blender. Refrigerate for 1-24 hours. I brought mine to room temperature (about 10-15 minutes) before cooking.

2. Make a work station near the cooktop by setting out batter, ladle or measuring cup, butter, a large plate to hold cooked crepes, and 10 squares of wax paper to separate them.

3. Heat nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat and coat the bottom with butter. 

4. Pour 1/8 C batter in the center of the pan and swirl it to evenly coat the bottom. After 15-30 seconds, when the top of the crepe is dry, and bottom is just starting to brown, flip using a spatula and your fingers. Cook another 10-15 seconds until slightly browned and remove. 

5. Place on a plate with waxed paper between each crepe.

For Filling:
1. Salt the eggplant on paper towels and let it set about 10 minutes. Rinse before cooking.

2. In one skillet, heat 2T oil and add onions. Cook over medium/med-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden. Season with a pinch of salt.

3. In a second skillet, heat 2-3T oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook 3 minutes, and then add eggplant. Cook a few minutes and season with a pinch of white pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook over low heat about 7-10 minutes and everything is tender.
Place filling across lower 1/3 of crepe before rolling

Assemble the crepes:
Lay each crepe flat on a plate and place the filling near one edge,  covering about 1/3 of it. Spoon a few onions, then a spoonful of eggplant and mushrooms, and a few crumbles of goat cheese. Roll the crepe up starting from the filling and set aside. Repeat.
Serve warm, or microwave the crepes about 15 seconds to reheat, if needed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Diabetic Mothers Can Have A Healthy Pregnancy

This is a special guest post by a fellow blogger, prompted by a new health concern in my life: diabetes. It's always been lurking in my family history, but I did not expect to be forced to deal with it so early in life, and especially in pregnancy. Right now, I only have gestational diabetes - which means it should go away when I give birth. At first, the diagnosis seems tragic, but it's really just an inconvenience. However, the condition prompted more tests, which revealed that I will more than likely experience Type 1 diabetes in the next 6 months to 15 years.

Naturally, I have a lot of questions and concerns about how this will affect my current and future pregnancies. Hopefully the following article will give you an overview of what to expect as you experience or consider pregnancy with any type of diabetes.

Diabetic Mothers Can Have A Healthy Pregnancy 
by Katie Moore

For a woman with diabetes, the thought of pregnancy may seem worrisome. With a great doctor and a healthy management plan, however you can still enjoy pregnancy and have a healthy baby. Managing your condition carefully is the key to a positive outcome for both mother and baby.

As a result of your diabetes, your pregnancy may be considered high-risk. This does not mean that you are doomed to months of worry that your baby will not be healthy. It simply means that, as an expectant, diabetic mother, you will need close monitoring throughout the course of your pregnancy. Studies show that diabetic women who keep close watches on their sugar levels have equal chances of delivering a normal, healthy baby as non-diabetic women.

Before getting pregnant, you may want to set a personal goal of keeping your sugar level in the target area for several weeks. Not only will this allow you to conceive when you are experiencing optimal health, but it will also give you a head start on managing your diabetes during pregnancy. By giving yourself a "practice period," you will be used to the dietary and lifestyle changes that pregnancy will bring before you become pregnant.

If you keep your blood glucose at normal levels at conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, you will increase your chances of delivering a child that is free from birth defects. Testing your sugar levels four or five times a day with a blood glucose meter will help you to maintain proper glucose levels all day long. Your doctor can give you a list of specific times of day when you should be testing.

Although getting off of a strict diabetic diet can be tempting when pregnancy cravings hit, you should remember that your blood glucose level has a great impact on your developing baby. Having optimal levels in the first trimester will lead to the proper development of your baby's lungs, heart and kidneys. Watching your diet and exercising will help you manage your glucose levels properly.

Diabetic mothers, especially, need the care of a doctor throughout pregnancy. As soon as you know you are pregnant, make an appointment with your obstetrician. Be sure you tell the receptionist you are diabetic, since the doctor may want to see you sooner than the typical first pregnancy visit at eight to ten weeks gestation. As you begin to plan for delivery, ask your doctor about your options and how they’ll affect your condition. Options like pain management medicine and cord blood banking may bring up many questions that your doctor is best qualified to answer.

If you experience morning sickness during the first trimester, you should consult your doctor for advice on managing your blood glucose levels when you cannot eat much. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to reduce nausea, so that you can regulate your sugar properly. After delivery, you will probably not need as much insulin as you did before pregnancy, at least for a few weeks. However, you should watch your sugar levels carefully as your body adjusts to its non-pregnant state. Having snacks handy at all times can be a good cautionary measure in the first few transitional weeks.

The most important thing is to be confident in the fact that diabetic women have successful pregnancies all of the time. By listening to your doctor and being proactive in your own healthcare, you too can have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.

“This is a guest post written by Katie Moore. Katie is an active writer within the Mom-o-sphere of the blogging world. Just after becoming a Mom herself, Katie took to blogging to share her knowledge and passion for motherhood, pregnancy, children, fitness and overall health. She enjoys spending time with her family, writing and researching, and connecting with others! If you have any questions or would like to connect with Katie please contact by visiting her blog “Moore From Katie,” or her twitter @moorekm26."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Low-Carb Grilled Zucchini Lasagna and Pesto Roasted Cauliflower

I've been staring at my basil plants in their window box, watering them every day, watching them grow. My favorite Italian foods are denied in my low-carb diet... and I've been craving my summertime staple of pesto pasta. Sure, I put a few fresh basil leaves on a pita pizza or in a caprese salad. But the plants are itching to be preened and plucked and utilized to their potential.

I had an abundance of housework stamina on Saturday, and decided I'd cook a meal for a couple of friends. I ended up using fresh basil in all three dishes. I have to wonder if I'd had more time, if I might have come up with a dessert, as well!

For the main course, I made a big shallow lasagna. Mainly, I needed to use up a giant tub of ricotta cheese from last week, which I had accidentally ordered instead of a small one. And I had this big, fat, perfect zucchini from the farmer's market that I secretly wished I could make zucchini bread out of. I grilled the slices to pre-cook them, and figured a fire-roasted tomato sauce would further enhance the char-grilled flavors.

For a bulky side dish, I made roasted cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables are very important in pregnancy, and I don't seem to eat enough. I find them boring. Roasting does make them more interesting. And then I realized that this bland white vegetable with lots of nooks and crannies would be a great canvas for my pesto fix. It turned out really well. See, getting your roughage can be fun. Go ahead and have seconds and thirds!

If you know my dinner habits, you'd know I am a stickler for the 3-item plate. Without variety I don't feel satiated. So without much energy left to concoct a third dish or an elaborate green salad, I tossed some heirloom tomatoes with basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Not terribly original, but it's easy. And heirlooms come in green, so that counts as a green vegetable, right? Just kidding.

Grilled Zucchini Lasagna with Fire Roasted Sauce
9 servings = 12g carbs each
6 larger servings = 16-17g carbs each
Begin 1-1/2 to 2 hours ahead of serving time

1 large zucchini (12" long x 2-1/2" wide) or 2 medium, cut lengthwise into 1/4" slices
olive oil, salt, pepper

6 "oven-ready" lasagna noodles

1-3/4 C lowfat ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 C fresh basil, chopped
1/4 C parmesan, grated
1 C + 1/2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded

Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce (approx. 5C)
1 T olive oil
1/2 C onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 14.5oz cans of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes
2 8oz cans of no-salt added tomato sauce
salt & pepper

1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 13x9x2" baking pan (preferably glass/pyrex) with non-stick spray or olive oil. 

2. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and drizzle with olive oil. Season zucchini slices with salt and pepper and grill about 4 minutes per side, until the slices become floppy and less opaque. Set aside as they become cooked.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté onion 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauce. Cover and simmer 30-45 minutes, until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Prepare cheese filling. In a medium mixing bowl, slightly beat eggs with a fork. Stir in ricotta to combine. Mix in parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella, basil and season with salt and pepper. 

5. To assemble the lasagna in the pan, first cover the bottom with a layer of sauce. Just enough to coat the bottom with no gaps. Place a layer of noodles (3 oven-ready noodles) spaced apart. Layer ricotta cheese to completely cover the noodles. Add a layer of zucchini slices and cover completely with sauce (make sure you have enough sauce left for a 3rd portion). Layer 3 more noodles directly on top of the others, then ricotta, then zucchini, and one more layer of sauce. Top with 1/2 cup mozzarella.

6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Remove foil and raise heat to 450F. Bake another 15 minutes until cheese bubbles and browns. 

7. Divide into 6 or 9 slices and serve. 

Pesto Roasted Cauliflower
6-9 servings

1 head of cauliflower, divided into florets
1 C pesto


2 C (packed) basil leaves
1 large clove of garlic, or 2 small
½ C – ¾ C good-quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ C toasted pine nuts
¼ C grated parmesan cheese
sea salt & black pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 425F, or whatever you need it for other dishes you are cooking. 

2. Drop florets into a large pot of boiling water for about 4 minutes to blanch. Remove or drain, and place in a large baking dish.

3. Use store-bought pesto, or make your own by blending the above listed pesto ingredients. Adjust the ingredient proportions to your liking. Pour about 2/3 of the pesto over the cauliflower - you want to just lightly coat it, not drown it. Toss together. 

4. Bake at 425-450F for about 20 minutes. Higher temps cook quicker, lower take longer, obviously. 

5. Remove from oven when tender and browned. Toss with a few more tablespoons of pesto and serve.

To cook the cauliflower alongside the lasagna, add it to the oven when you remove the lasagna foil. When you remove the lasagna after 15 minutes, leave the cauliflower in another 5 minutes and let the lasagna rest for that time. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Breakfasts with Under 30 Grams of Carbs

I am almost 3 weeks into my gestational diabetes diet. I am fortunate enough to have a very mild case, and have been able to keep my blood glucose within range almost all the time. I still have not gained much weight, only 12 pounds total, but no worries as long as I can keep it instead of losing it like I did the first week of the diet.

The baby is being monitored more closely now as well, to make sure he isn't getting too big. I must say, the images show he has a perfect little oval skull and a rotund little pot belly - but measures and weighs in right at the 52nd percentile. Absolutely normal as normal can be!

Food decisions have not been easy, since there are carbs in EVERYTHING. My diet started out as 6 meals spaced at least 2 hours: 15-30g, 15g, 30g, 30g, 30g, 15g. My blood sugar was dipping too low - probably due to the fact that I walk soooo much all the time. So I'm now allowed 6 30 gram meals or snacks throughout the day which is much much easier. But when searching for low-carb meals on the vast internets, a lot of people consider a low-carb meal 45 grams-ish. And complain about it! If only! That would mean a whole other world of breads, pastas, and beans that don't fit into a 30 gram limit!

I want to share what I've come up with for meals lately, since it's been quite challenging to keep every meal under 30 grams of carbs. Like many in the same situation, I find myself bound to preparing all my food at home so that I know what is in it. The dietitian told me that breakfast is always the hardest, but I disagree. Her point was to just "eat meat and vegetables at the other meals". Um, but I don't eat red meat, and I eat mostly vegetarian.... which severely limits the more filling options.

So breakfast being the easiest for me, since I do eat eggs, that is what I will share with you first.
Here's what I've been eating, some days more creative than others. Some more filling than others. Hopefully if you find yourself in the same situation, or just trying to diet, this list might spark some inspiration to start your day off right.


Egg Breakfasts:
Eggs only have about 1g carbs each, leaving you a carb allowance for the grains you need to get enough fiber. They are fast and easy to prepare, and the protein makes them filling. Despite not really liking them all that much, I find myself relying on eggs to keep me satisfied in the morning, especially if I have a busy day ahead. Personally, since I'm eating so many eggs now, I make sure I buy the most organic, free-range, eggs available.

1. Omelet with cheddar, tomatoes, onion, spinach and chives. Toast on the side.
Carbs: 13g counting vegetables / 2g with free veg.

Pros: Filling, and low carb enough for some toast on the side. Also, uses basic ingredients most people keep on hand.
Cons: Chopping vegetables and cooking the onions takes a little time.

2. Omelet - Mediterranean Inspired, with (pasteurized) Feta cheese, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Baked potato wedges on the side.
Carbs: 28g counting vegetables / 15-20g with free veg (count a small potato at 15g)

Pros: Feta puts a twist on the everyday eggs, mushrooms add protein, and many diabetics can process potatoes better than grains - and they are satisfying.
Cons: Baking a small amount of potato is difficult for one person, or with short time. I made them for dinner the night before and ate one potato at dinner, and saved another for breakfast.

3. Open-face Egg Sandwich with Veggie Bacon. Toast one slice of high-fiber bread (20g+ carbs), Scramble 2-3 eggs and add cheese, or herbs like chives or cilantro, or anything else you want. Add a couple strips of veggie bacon to keep it interesting.
Carbs: approx 30g, depending on the bread.

Pros: Quick and easy
Cons: High fiber bread can be bland and dry, or difficult to find.

4. Fried Eggs on Toast with a side of Fruit.
Carbs vary. With a 30g allowance: light whole wheat bread will give you 2 slices with a total 18g carbs. High-fiber or regular wheat bread can be over 20g. Fill up your 30g allowance with fruit. 1/2 an apple or peach is around 7g, 1 cup of strawberries or 1/2 cup pineapple is about 10g.
For 15g allowance: Use one slice of light whole wheat bread, 2 eggs, and 1/3 cup strawberries.

Pros: Quick and easy
Cons: If you like your yolks intact, and they break, you might start your day cursing in the kitchen.

5. "Sausage" and Egg Sandwich, or Scramble. Smart Dogs, or veggie hot dogs, make eggs a little more interesting for me. I don't eat sausage, for various reasons, but usually have veggie hot dogs in the fridge. For a sandwich, I split one down the middle and fry it for a few minutes. For a scramble, I cut it into chunks and pre-cook them before adding eggs. Use whole wheat buns (about 25g carbs) or toast to make a sandwich.
Carbs: 27g using a small whole wheat hamburger bun.

Pros: Healthier than real sausage, but still makes you feel like you're eating like you used to when you could just stop at the deli.
Cons: packages of buns are just too big to figure out enough low-carb uses before they grow moldy. Freezing them works, but is never as good!

Non-Egg Breakfasts (or snacks):
Many women have an aversion to eggs during pregnancy. Some are egg-free vegetarian. This makes a filling breakfast (that doesn't throw off the glucose numbers) much harder to come by.

1. Amy's Tofu Scramble with Hash Browns.
Carbs: 19g. But you'll need to use the rest of your allowance for ketchup, as this is a bland meal.

Pros: Fast from a box.... immediate sustainence.... and mmmmm hash browns.
Cons: Bland bland bland. Not a fan of tofu scramble.

2. Half of a Whole Wheat Bagel with cream cheese and cucumber (or tomato).
Carbs: 30-32g

Pros: I can have a bagel!
Cons: I really wanted the whole thing! I'm still hungry... and the other half went stale because I forgot about it.

3. Two Kashi 7-Grain Waffles with (Natural) Peanut or Almond Butter. Alternative topping: butter and toasted pecans or almonds.
Carbs: 25g + nut butter.
Eat only 1 for a 15g snack.
Pros: Yes, you can have waffles. And they have lots of fiber, protein and good stuff.
Cons: Say good-bye to syrup. Some people think the Kashi waffles taste funny.

4. Good Old Cereal and Milk. I look for cereals with a serving size of at least 3/4 Cup and 20-24g carbs per serving, in order to have leeway for 1/2 C of milk (6g). Cheerios/Honey Nut Cheerios have 20-22g, Fiber One 80 calorie Honey Squares have 25g. Generally oat and corn-heavy ingredient lists have less carbs, rice or wheat-intensive have too many.
Carbs: approx. 30g.

Pros: Fast and refreshing.
Cons: Not filling.

Dairy Breakfasts (or snacks):
I can not live without high-protein Greek yogurt. If you can adjust to the sour taste of plain, unsweetened, Greek yogurt, then always keep it on hand. Chobani is acceptable, but Fage is better. Fage has removed more of the liquid content (whey) of the yogurt, leaving a thicker protein rich and lower carb product. It's more expensive, but worth it. Low-fat cottage cheese is also an excellent high-protein, very low carb, choice if you have a taste for it.

1. Greek Yogurt and Fruit. 
Carbs in yogurt: 6oz Chobani - 9g carbs + 13g protein. 6oz Fage - 7g carbs + 18g protein (making it more filling and leaving more allowance to fill up on fruit).
Use fresh fruit to add fiber and sweetness:
For a 15g allowance, strawberries are the best choice. You can have about 3/4 Cup of strawberries in the yogurt, adding only 7g carbs. Pineapple or blueberries are also good choices.
For a 30g allowance, add more fruit or supplement with raw almonds or a big spoonful of granola or crunchy cereal. 

Pros: Fast and refreshing.
Cons: Some people don't like the sour taste of unsweetened yogurt.

2. Thick Smoothie. 
Carbs: 15g smoothie - 6 oz greek yogurt (7g) + fruit (7g). This could be 1/2 peach, 3/4 C strawberries, 1/3 C blueberries.
30g smoothie - use 6oz yogurt + fruit to amount to 15g carbs (2 fruits or 1/2 banana), and thin with a few tablespoons of milk.

Pros: Filling, refreshing, no spoon required, and usually a pretty color.
Cons: Washing the blender - I suggest an immersion blender like Bamix and just keeping it out all the time.

3. Low-fat Cottage Cheese with Fruit Preserves.
1/2 Cup of cottage cheese packs 16g protein and only 4g carbs. This leaves the possibilities for stir-ins endless! For a quick treat, I like to have a small bowl of cottage cheese with a tablespoon of natural fruit preserves, like Sarabeth's - about 10g carbs. 

Pros: Super low-carb. A bit of cottage cheese on the side of any breakfast will help you stay full longer.
Cons: Many people dislike cottage cheese.

-Variety of Fruits: Strawberries or Blueberries, Peaches, Apples or Plums, Pineapple, or Cherries.

-Versatile quick-cook vegetables: Tomato, Zucchini, Onion, Baby Spinach, Mushrooms

-Potatoes (choose small potatoes, the size of your fist, to make measuring 15g servings easier to visualize)

-Fresh Herb - Chives or Cilantro go well with eggs, or even Dill

-Raw almonds or pecans, sliced or whole

-Natural Peanut Butter - Skippy 

-Natural fruit preserves - Sarabeth's

-Fiber One or other 20-25g carb cereal - Original or 80 Calorie

-Whole Grain Double Fiber Bread - Pepperidge Farm
     or lower carb Light Style Bread - Pepperidge Farm

-Organic Cage-Free Eggs - Nature's Yoke

-Lowfat Cottage cheese - Friendship 1% Cottage Cheese

-Greek Yogurt - Fage Total 0%

-Packaged Cheese - shredded cheddar or a tub of pasteurized Feta

-1% or 2% Organic, hormone-free Milk (or Vanilla Almond Milk)

-Frozen 7-grain Waffles - Kashi

-Frozen Tofu Scramble - Amy's

What do you like to eat for your low-carb breakfast? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whole Grain Waffles with Yogurt and Strawberries

Kashi 7-grain waffles with greek yogurt, candied pecans and strawberries

This WAS my new favorite breakfast. I came up with it while trying to add whole grains and calcium to my diet, and find an alternative to syrup, after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Trader Joe's has the best nuts!
Unfortunately, now that I've seen the dietician, I learned that this combo has too many carbs. I may be allowed to eat half this amount. I had thought it was healthy! ... I still think it is, just not ideal for carb counting I guess. I've made such an effort to add the whole grains and brown starches that I don't care for. I have learned to like some of them, like these nutrient-rich Kashi waffles.

The good news is I can still eat them, since 2 waffles only have 25g of carbs, but I can't top them with all these other carbs any more! Now, I put a little butter and some berries, or a bit of natural peanut butter. Oh well!

A New Diet Challenge: Gestational Diabetes

Forgive me for not posting much lately. Over the last 3 weeks I've been busy with sooo many doctor appointments and adjusting to new dietary restrictions. I had a few posts lined up about things I made/ate, and meanwhile I was trying to figure out a whole new eating plan. I felt somehow hypocritical, or un-genuine, posting meals which I can no longer eat.

It all started when I went for my 28 weeks check-up and 4 hour pregnancy "3rd Trimester" class with a glucose screening test. As I reeled from the 50g glucose drink, gave up some blood, and sat through nurse-grandma advice and stories, I had little worry about passing the test. They had told us to eat breakfast as normal, which for me was yogurt, berries and granola. The next day I got a call saying I had "abnormal" results on the test. "How abnormal, like how high exactly was my sugar?" was my immediate Type-A, I think I'm in control of everything, response. I had failed by 7 points. To me, this sounds not so bad. To me, this sounds like I had too many sweets for breakfast, and should have opted for eggs.

Okay, so I might have a little problem. A couple days later I fasted and had my 3-hour glucose tolerance test with the 100g glucose syrup and 4 blood drawings. I felt dizzy and nauseous for all 3 hours. I couldn't even focus on my book, the words swam on the pages, as I sat in the hot un-airconditioned closet that is the blood lab. Figures, 10 minutes before I was done, the tech was like "oh, is it hot in here? let me turn on the AC." after I had complained from the beginning. Are you kidding me?

Alas, the next day I got another call saying I had abnormal results. I would have to follow up with an endocrinologist for my now diagnosed gestational diabetes. My glucose had gone up, not too too high, but never came back down. That explains why the baby flipped 72 times in my belly while I felt like crap for hours. Clearly there's something wrong with me.

My Type-A, I think I'm in control of everything, plan was to start eating healthier immediately. Or at least keep track of what I am eating, so I could show that dietician right from the get-go that I am sticking to everything they tell you to eat in pregnancy: high-protein dairy, plenty of fruits and vegetables, proteins like beans and salmon, and lots of whole grains.

Well show her I did, and she showed me right back - this is not how you can eat if you have gestational diabetes. In fact, my high-fiber cereal with berries and milk, or greek yogurt with fruit and granola, was just carb + carb + carb, day after day. My frequent fruits, abundant whole grains, and vegetarian friendly beans were all high in carbs and I would have to replace some of them with meat, eggs and cheese. "But I eat mostly vegetarian," I told her, "I can't eat meat every day!" She scowled, because it's tough to stick to the low-carb 30g meal / 15g snack diet eating vegetarian. I was left to figure it out on my own, or starve.

**Here's a nice little chart I found for carb counting**

So I headed home with a list of foods and their carb contents, with one whole column on my personal list crossed out - off limits. No burritos, no tacos, no enchiladas, no pizza, no bean chili, no cake, no cookies, no brownies, no granola bars, no ice cream, no lowfat yogurt with fruit. I've lived many years without a craving for real sweets, but take away all my vegetarian-friendly meals, emergency granola bars I keep in my purse, and yogurt and ice cream? Oh and by the way, you can hardly eat a 1/3 cup of rice, beans, potato, pasta or grains of any kind. You wanna snack? Well you only get 15g, so that's just 1/2 a banana. Good luck being full and functional for the next two hours until you can eat again.

Oh this is going to be hard.

My first week, I spent the first couple days just staring into the pantry and fridge trying to find something that had less than 30g of carbs. I really was starving the first couple days, I couldn't even sleep because I would wake up starving. My glucose even dropped to 50 after a walk to the vet and Petsmart in 85 degree weather (it should be at least 60). So I was allowed 30g snacks instead of 15g, and felt a whole lot better. 15g is nothing.

**Here's the site I used to search each food and count carbs**

I ended up figuring out a bunch of things to eat, and all my numbers stayed in check. Timing all my foods, pre-planning, tracking carbs, researching, actually making the food, and doing properly timed finger prick tests was super annoying. Another week I didn't spend getting ready for baby - who is now much more likely to come early due to my condition. Nor did I have time (or the mental energy) to blog about any of this until now. I couldn't have every hour revolve completely around food.

Here's a look at my (incredibly Type-A) early low-carb diet Excel chart I made (carb allowance, including vegetables: 15-30g, 15g, 30g, 30g, 30g, 15g):

Next post, I'll share a whole bunch of the foods I came up with. I might not have it perfect yet, but I think I managed some good ideas to keep things interesting, and healthy, for my new low-carb life. I confess, I caved and ate fish and chicken, because otherwise I felt starving. Over time, with research and shopping, I came up with more interesting vegetarian options.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cheddar Black Bean Cakes with Avocado Salad and Sweet Red Corn

Good old (low-sodium) black beans are one of my favorite pantry staples. One should never be without a can of at least some kind of beans. The possibilities are just endless.

In search of a new, hearty, healthy vegetarian recipe, I consulted Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. I knew that I should be well-stocked for most items in the beans and legumes pages. How this cookbook works is that you start with a recipe, like I did with "Baked White Bean Cakes", which presents a recipe and method. Variations are suggested at the end, and sometimes possible sauces are listed. The idea is that you get the technique and then let your imagination run wild with possibilities, and end up coming up with your own original take in the end. That's why I love this book, it teaches you how to create ideas from surefire techniques.

My Cheddar Black Bean Cakes ended up quite far from the original recipe. I changed the ingredients to be a little more Mexican, to go with the type of beans. But honestly, the real difference is that I completely misread the amount of beans to be used. So my cakes are more "cake" and less "bean" than Bittman's recipe. But I'm ok with that.

On the side, I served a cool and refreshing avocado salad with lime. The cakey-beans needed a moist partner, definitely. I also found this really interesting red sweet corn. It tastes similar to regular corn but just looks more colorful and rustic. It was a nice light summer dinner, and didn't take too long to prepare - it could probably be done in 45 minutes to an hour.

Leftover bean cakes make a great breakfast, too. Serve them with huevos rancheros, or topped with poached eggs on an english muffin for a mexican benedict. I made a simple sandwich with a cheddar-chive omelet, since I didn't have many other ingredients on hand.

Cheddar Black Bean Cakes

4 servings (8 cakes)

2 T olive oil
1/2 C onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 14oz can of black beans, rinsed & drained
2 eggs
1/4 C + 2 T sharp cheddar, shredded (for vegan, use dairy-free cheese)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Condiments: Sour cream, hot sauce or salsa, cilantro

Preheat oven to 375F.

1.  Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil 3-4 minutes and set aside.

2. Mash beans, leaving them semi-chunky. I use a potato masher. Mix in eggs and cheese. Add garlic and onions, oregano, salt, pepper, flour and baking powder. 

3. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Drop heaping tablespoons of bean mix onto the sheet into 8 separate cakes. Slightly press them down to resemble a 1" thick patty. 

4. Bake cakes for 25 minutes. Top each cake with a little cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.

5. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with fat-free sour cream and hot sauce or salsa.

Avocado Salad with Cucumber, Carrot and Lime
4 servings

1-1/2 C cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 C baby carrots, halved lengthwise
2 avocados, cubed
1/4 C lime juice (1-2 limes)
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 C cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.

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