Zucchini Pasta in Creamy Italian Sauce – and Gizmo Review

Gizmo with bit of zucchini left over. Bloody finger not shown.

I bought this thigamijig a few weeks ago while picking up pasta for the kids. I don’t remember what the darn thing is called as someone tossed the blister pack it came in, but it allows you to take a zucchini, twist it in this contraption and make zucchini noodles. This is one of those types of things you see advertised on infomercials where, if you act now, they send you Ginsu knives or something else you really don’t need but sounds cool.

It looked like a piece of crap. I bought it anyway.

The ‘why’ seems reasonable: I already have a mandoline, a kitchen device which allows you to create zucchini noodles, but mandolines is large, come in a box with multiple pieces, feels like work, and has caused blood loss as mandolines are designed so that the user slides their fingers towards razor-sharp knife surfaces.

This thing is small and can be tossed in a drawer. It just seemed like so much less of a commitment to use it.

Today I finally opened the package and tried it with the following impromptu recipe:

  • 1 medium zucchini, twisted into the gizmo to make noodley strips.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch or two of oregano

This took all of 5 minutes to make:

In a frying pan, I melted butter until it was close to burning, then turned down the heat. Next, I twisted the zucchini into noodles over the pan. Then I added the cream cheese and the pasta sauce and smushed the cream cheese until it melted. Next, I added parmesan cheese, oregano, and cayenne pepper. A few minutes of cooking – and more blood spilled by tempting fate and twisting the zucchini too far – and it was complete.

More sauce than noodles, the small amount of pasta sauce with the cream cheese made it look like a vodka sauce.

I went to eat it and my daughter wanted a taste. She loved it – so much to the point that I gave it to her and she finished it herself. She told me that it wasn’t good – it was excellent. I made a second batch – double the amount this time. While the twisting of the zucchini in the machine is simple, my hand started to get tired after the third zucchini, so while good for whipping up a quick dish for one, the mandoline still has its usefulness for larger volumes (and potential for greater blood loss).

My older daughter had some of the next batch, and while not effusive in her praise, did finish the bowl that she took.

the recipe is a keeper – and the gizmo isn’t such a piece of crap – though let’s see how long it lasts before it breaks.

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The Un-Diet and the Full-Immersion Fat Bast

On October 8th I wrote an introduction to what I felt would be a reset of my diet. On that day I was 234 pounds.

The odd thing is that this weight gain has been accompanied by a sudden and severe bout of not giving a shit. It’s hard to find the motivation when you don’t give a shit – self-loathing, fear, embarrassment, anger – even despair, though to a lesser extent – can be a motivator.

Indifference is *not* a motivator.

In fact, after I wrote my October 8th missive it appeared as if I was trying to win some competition for how many fast food meals I could tuck in. If there was an actual competition, the judges would have been impressed. Every mealtime a voice inside of me said: ‘screw this diet shit – maybe next time.’

It was the truth. Like a tiger in India that acquired a taste for human blood, I had flim-flammed myself into thinking that I could ‘moderate’ my carb intake. Instead, I had artfully bullshitted myself again. I fell for my own bullshit and had abandoned low carb like I never had before. The villagers would have to kill the carb-loving tiger before *any* semblance of order would return.

I tried being less obsessive about my diet. For the first time in a decade I gave myself the latitude to not think about dieting in an intense, personal fashion. I banished this extra housemate, this dietary burden on myself and my family – and it did nobody good. Thinner and obsessive, I was annoying and eccentric. Now I’m fatter, crankier, and still annoying and eccentric.

It wasn’t a good tradeoff.

Perhaps my lot in life is to be an obsessive, compulsive dieter. Perhaps I can never be ‘normal’. I think I’ll keep more of it to myself, however: no one wants to hear about ‘your diet’ – excepting perhaps present company, of course.

Every single freakin’ day since then I tried to start my diet only to have it crumple like a cheap suit from the smallest of excuses. What IS hunger?!? I asked myself. Intellectually, you know you’ve taken in adequate nutrition, then hunger appears, you tell it to go pound sand, feel good about yourself – and find yourself moments later midway through a McDonald’s Double-Cheeseburger wondering: what the hell happened in between the onset of hunger and a gullet being filled with McCrap? Surely some higher-level cognitive functions were operating to navigate the car to the drive thru, place the order, pay, and start eating – but what some psychologists call the ‘Executive Function’ – that force within us that causes smart people not to do dumb things – had checked out completely.

Hunger won out and I was up to 236.6.

I decided I needed to pull out a weapon against hunger I only use sparingly because it comes off as so bat-shit crazy that even I take pause before I reach for it: the full-immersion fat blast.

In a nutshell the thinking goes like this: for me, a day or two of overeating as much fat as possible is the fastest way to get into ketosis and get the appetite-supressing properties of ketones in my bloodstream. I’m overeating *anyway* but this type of overeating at least leads to appetite suppression after a while. So on October 21 I ate:

  1. Coffee with cream
  2. Coffee with a dash of Atkins shake as a creamer substitute
  3. A tiny bit of roast beef wrapped around what ended up being near a half-stick of butter
  4. a cup of fatty pork belly with 2 eggs, fried, with a huge dollop of sour cream
  5. Pork rinds with a tuna salad with a big dollop of mayonnaise as well as more sour cream
  6. A dessert of a few tablespoons of sour cream with some Mio flavoring

While I didn’t track calories, I’m sure my intake was well over 2,000 calories, with lots of fat, moderate protein, and probably under 10 grams of carbs.

The next day I was down 3.2 pounds to 233.4 – nothing shocking, actually, as you shed water as you deplete the carbs in your body and I am capable of holding onto perhaps up to 8 pounds of water weight by my estimate. While I don’t miss the extra weight, it wasn’t the point – ketosis and the appetite killer that travels shotgun with it is what I’m aiming for.

I ate nothing until mid afternoon – the coffee, cream and Atkins shake as creamer kept me going until then, when I had half a package of cream cheese on two small pieces of roast beef.

Not too long after that I felt the heaviness, the tiredness without sleepiness, that signals the onset of ketone production for me.

At home I checked for ketones – yep – I was starting ketosis.

I had 2 burgers with cheese along with a bit of regular ketchup (no low carb in the house) as well as a few ounces of vodka. There was also the leftover tuna from the day before with lettuce.

There was some longing for more food, but not the kind of hunger where I find a plate of pasta half-eaten before I know what the hell was going on.

The nature of my hunger had already changed. It’s what I was looking for: when hunger comes now it is merely present – not omnipresent – that’s the biggest benefit of a ketogenic low carb diet to me.

Again, the point here is to just get into ketosis – not losing weight – but when I woke up on Saturday, October 25th, I was 229.8 – down almost 7 pounds.

Of course, its times like these where I post an impressive 2-day weight loss, and then completely screw things up moments after I hit the ‘post button’.

Frankly, the odds are against me. With Halloween around the corner with piles of leftover candy strewn in so many places as to be seen in every glance, then Thanksgiving, the official US binge-eating holiday, through a food-filled Christmas season, and coming to a Bacchanalian climax with the world-wide celebration of alcohol abuse called ‘New Years’, this is a perilous time for any dieter.

Stay tuned to see if I can beat the odds.

 

 

 

Cancer, Warburg, Seyfried, and EXTREME Low Carb Diets

I’ve made mention of a peculiar use for low carb diets other than for weight loss. You might have heard that low carb is successfully used in children for epilepsy (check out The Charlie Foundation for more info on that), but you might not have known that nascent research is being done independently and somewhat outside the normal protocols to determine if a very – and I mean VERY – low carb diet *might* work as a treatment for cancer.

Now let’s stop here for an important warning: if you have cancer, this most likely *isn’t* something for you. First off, for many cancers, traditional treatments do, in fact, work if treated early. It also isn’t a treatment that you can try on your own along with a standard course of treatment. Many of them are incompatible with a low carb diet. It also has only been tested in mouse models – and for only certain types of cancers. You’d need professional guidance if you wanted to see if this was right for you.

There’s also this: the theory as to why it might work contradicts decades of research.

Hear a quacking sound? Cancer has been called the ‘Emperor of all maladies‘ and had attracted charlatans willing to turn a profit on other people’s tragedy, peddling false hope and leaving their families penniless. This one is somewhat different, however, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but first you must meet Otto Warburg, but to meet Mr. Warburg we need to go back 90 years and also revisit out high school biology class for a little refresher. I promise I won’t get too ‘sciencey’ and I apologize beforehand to those readers who know this stuff way better than I ever will. Forgive me my simplistic explanations – but please call me out if I state something patently incorrect. I don’t want to misinform.

Most of the cells that make up this container we call you and I contain mitochondria. There’s a hundred fascinating things about these parts of the cell – you can only get them from your mother, for instance, and they have their very own DNA that is completely different from yours – but lets focus on the what they do for you. Mitochondria are considered the ‘powerplants’ of your cells and create the energy the cell needs to survive. They do a bunch of other things, but one of the important parts for our discussion is the energy production.

Otto Warburg was a researcher who, in 1924, noticed that the mitochondria in cancer cells didn’t properly respire – as in ‘breathe’. Yes – cells breathe, which is why *we* breathe – to get the oxygen the cells need to properly respire.

But cancer cells didn’t respire properly – instead, it appeared that they took a different approach that only allowed them to feed only on glucose.

Now, just because a cancer cell’s eating habits are different doesn’t quite explain why they’re cancer cells (at least that I know), but it does point out a cancer cell’s Achille’s heel: they’re sugar addicts.

As sometimes happens in science, some guys in lab coats scratched their beards, mumbled something about this being ‘interesting’ – and then it was mostly forgotten except perhaps as trivia while science marched forward with cancer treatments using surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Cancer treatments did get better, but now we’ve reached a point where new treatments might only add months to a patient’s life.

Then along comes Thomas Seyfried who writes a textbook named Cancer as a Metabolic Disease which challenges many of the standard notions about the treatment of cancer and recommends an extremely low carb diet instead of chemo – and gets himself into a mess of trouble – at least from a career standpoint.

Dr. Seyfried is a legitimate researcher who comes out with a book that overturns 50 years of thinking on cancer. This is going to attract two things: crackpots and the label of ‘quack’ from his peers.

I simply do not have the skill-set to judge his work as I am not an oncologist, but he had laid out a legitimate attempt to create a new way of thinking about and treating cancer and no one can deny that a low carb diet might be a heckuva lot better treatment for cancer – if it works – than chemo and radiation. Simply put: normal brain cells can live on ketones – cancer cells can’t, so a super-duper low carb ketogenic diet starves the cancer cells while normal cells survive.

Here’s Thomas Seyfried discussing his theory. Pretty sciency, though it allows you to gauge the man:

He doesn’t come off as a quack – more frustrated than anything.

His last answer in the Q&A is his most damning: if the standard of care raises blood glucose, then it leads to the ‘demise of the patient’.

“Oh.” Says the oncology community. “We’ve been doing this all wrong for 50 years? My bad – let’s fix that right away.”

You can see how his theory is a ‘turd in a punchbowl’ for anyone in the medical community invested in the current standard of care.

Here’s an example from one of his naysayers. It’s a well-reasoned criticism and well worth slogging through to help to begin to understand the point of view of the medical community.

How *I* got exposed to this was because a friend’s relative was diagnosed with a glioblastoma – a type of brain cancer that is pretty much a death sentence. I was reminded of the article I had read about a woman who was treating her brain tumor with a ketogenic diet and was even keeping a blog about it. I provided the link and my friend and their family, after a lot of research, decided on a doctor-supervised ketogenic diet.

It’s too soon to tell at this point if this was the right approach, but given what I’ve read about glioblastomas, there’s not much to lose.

Doing my own research I came across a website that offered a complete diet book for cancer patients trying a ketogenic diet, bought a copy and read it from cover to cover.

book-cover-med

I’ve read plenty of other books on ketogenic diets, but this one comes not from the weight loss community but out of the childhood epilepsy community where the stakes are higher. We’re not talking about fitting in that cute little dress but preventing debilitating seizures in small children – or not dying from cancer.

This is the most extreme low carb diet I’ve ever seen – because most diets try to make it comfortable for the patient. While this book bends over backwards to do the same, its primary goal is to manage a threatening disease.

I thought it would be interesting to try this approach – what the heck – and did it for a few weeks over the summer.

Even though I am an old hand at ketosis, this was hard. I felt like passing out one hot summer day walking a nearby downtown, which I summed up to dehydration: you don’t store *any* water weight on this diet so it probably made dehydration a huge possibility. I felt much better after a bottle of water and a salad.

I didn’t keep up with it but I consider the book an excellent reference for anyone interested in what an ‘extreme’ low carb diet looks like. I have to admit that my own diet is in tatters as I write this but if/when I get up the gumption to start again I am going to use this book as a guide – perhaps not going as ‘full-on’ as a cancer patient might, but rather as a target I can afford to miss, given that even coming near to this protocol will still be a very adequate ketogenic diet.

An Introduction – Day 1

Joseph Merrick 'aka' The elephant Man
Joseph Merrick ‘aka’ The Elephant Man

Let’s start slow here, OK?

Once upon a time a guy went on a low carb diet and lost 80 pounds, bringing his decidedly pudgy exterior down to a perfectly fine 185. Of course, weight never stays off unless you are a total maniac about your diet – and this guy wasn’t – he was pretty awful at low carb, though some points should be given for some amusing hare-brained experiments along the way.

The weight loss stayed for about three years but the onset of middle age – and perhaps a well-honed laziness crafted into a fine art- caused the weight to creep back on. It was manageable for many years and a diligent return to a hard-core low carb diet each time things got out of hand always got it back down, though later years the weight tended to stay in the low 200s.

Then a decade passed. a WHOLE FREAKIN’ DECADE on a low carb diet. That’s a lot of time on a diet that makes one a bit of an oddball. Despite a lot of evidence that a low carb diet is helpful and safe for a lot of folks – and personal experience showed that it worked for this particular schmuck, he kinda drifted away from it.

There were some valid reasons for this drifting away. Some less so. Regardless, this guy went from someone who struggled with following a low carb diet pretty much every day – even if he failed miserably – to someone who wasn’t even trying anymore – and that gradual drift happened oh-so unconsciously, until the man awoke to find that perhaps he didn’t know how exactly to do a low carb diet anymore. Perhaps they didn’t work for him anymore and what once worked no longer would. perhaps the person he was 10 years ago when he lost the weight was gone and the person he was now couldn’t do what he had done then.

Perhaps he just didn’t want to be on a diet forever anymore.

This was all well and good, but a very real problem existed: he was getting fat again. He was outgrowing the fat clothes he bought.

Breathing in his clothes might become a problem. Buttons might begin to pop.

It was fun to eat Italian deli sandwiches. Bread is an awesome thing. So was pasta. But it seemed there was no way to dance on the knife-edge of having some without having too much. His appetite went out of control and a taste always became more than a taste.

Joseph Merrick, known as ‘The Elephant Man’ was a normal human stuck inside a deformed body. The story that I had heard was, because of his deformity, he had always slept upright.

But one time he wanted to sleep like a regular human being – lying down. His simple desire to be like other humans is supposedly what did him in: due to his deformities, lying down choked him to death in his sleep.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there the man needed to accept.

So with only that thought as a start, the man, with little of that wide-eyed optimism most dieters have when starting a sparkly new diet, just said: “Here we go again.”

Choosing the Right Mobility Scooter is HARD

I can’t believe just how hard it is to pick a good mobility scooter.

Do I get 3-wheel or 4-wheel? Folding or non-folding? Do I assume that I will make it to 400 pounds and opt for one that I can use long-term?

God – there’s even a *turning radius* I need to concern myself with. Maneuverability in a crowded store on a Saturday is a must.

Then there’s seat height. If the seat is too high I might not be able to reach the lower shelves in the grocery store – but too low and I won’t be able to reach the high ones! I’ve never made a detailed analysis of my shopping patterns to determine if I tend to buy more foods from the higher shelves than the lower. Perhaps I should start gathering statistics on this.

There also seems to be a point at which a lift for your vehicle is a must as these scooters can get heavy. That means I have to decide if I want to trick out my ride – a 10-year-old minivan – with a custom lift. I haven’t even priced those yet.

Let’s not forget about the importance of style. You don’t want to do your electrified cruising through the aisles in something that doesn’t reflect a level of discernment on your part. Some of these scooters are downright stodgy – I’d like to reflect a more modern and polished image.

Beige and blue with an office wastebasket tacked to the front? You can't be serious.
Beige and blue with an office wastebasket tacked to the front? You can’t be serious.

Some try to effect a ‘Harley’ look so you can feel like you’re riding a hog, Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ playing in the background with your biker chick riding behind, her hair blowing back in the wind – instead of just you whirring about on a mobility scooter with a max speed of 4 miles per hour.

23179
“Get out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure…”

Others are decidedly futuristic, taking a page from the Japanese motorcycle esthetic.

If Darth Vader had a mobility scooter...
If Darth Vader had a mobility scooter…

I don’t know if I’m more a Harley guy or a rice-burner type, not having been a motorcyclist.

People into these things are quite religious about their choices. This choice would put me firmly in one camp and make me a pariah in another so I must choose carefully. Making the wrong esthetic choice could hamper my social life.

Some have names like ‘Prowler’, ‘Maxima’, and my favorite: ‘Avenger’. The definition of the word ‘avenger’ is: one who inflicts punishment for injury or offense. Will I be able to fight crime and make America a better place while buzzing through the candy aisle on an Avenger?

Is anyone really going to fight crime on one of these?
The Avenger. Is anyone really going to fight crime on one of these?

You know what I think?

I think I’d better get the hell back on my diet so I don’t need one of these things!