Chicken Broccolli Casserole with Cheese

I whipped this up last night with ingredients I found in the house.

  • 5-6 IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) chicken breasts
  • Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 3 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In my convection oven, I cooked the chicken for about 20 minutes while defrosting the broccoli for about 8 minutes in the microwave. I then cut up the chicken with kitchen scissors, gave it a healthy coating of the seasoning mix. After a few minutes, in went the broccoli while I shredded the cheese with a cheese grater.

After mixing and cooking a few more minutes, the mixture went into the casserole dish and I then covered the entire top with a lot of cheese. When done I sprinkled the top with paprika more for color than anything and put it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

I had some for dinner – it was pretty good. The cheese was more hard than gooey, and maybe the cayenne pepper was a bit too much, but I ate it and enjoyed. Trader Joe’s @1 Salute seasoning is a handy blend of seasonings for those of us clueless at the sight of a spice rack.

What surprised me was the family also enjoyed it. “It’s actually pretty good.” was one comment – which shows both the typical expectations of my low carb cooking as well as the review of this particular dish in comparison.

I’d say it’s a keeper and I’ll be making it again.

PF Chang’s Menu Sorted by Net Carb Count for 2016

IMPORTANT – PF Chang’s has updated their menu -and I’ve updated my post. Check out the updated menu at https://lowcarbconfidential.com/2018/05/20/pf-changs-menu-sorted-by-net-carb-count-for-may-2018/

In 2007 I put up a post – Low Carb Dining at PF Chang’s – that is now way out of date as they have reformulated their menu since then. As we have one nearby, we frequent it often. We love their stuff.

I haven’t been watching my carb count much in maybe the 6 months prior to Christmas. I need a little refresher on what is an acceptable meal for me at the place – and what isn’t (psst! – avoid the gluten free fried rice combo!).

I hope PF Chang’s doesn’t mind me lifting their nutrition info web page and reformatting it fo us low carb folks- I wouldn’t think so because I’m making it easier for low carb dieters to enjoy a meal with friends at their restaurant.

Yeah – all this info is on their site but I included net carbs and sorted it to make finding the low carb items on their 100+ item menu easier. As I mess with data In Real Life every day, this stuff is probably more easy for me than for a lot of folks, so I thought I’d share.

 

Menu Item Calories Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Sodium (mg) Carbs (g) Dietary Fiber (g) Net Carbs (g) Protein (g)
Crispy Green Bean Sauce 2 oz 310 33 4.5 590 3 0 3 0
Spinach with Garlic — Small 120 8 1 400 8 4 4 6
GF Spinach with Garlic — Small 120 8 1 400 8 4 4 6
Shanghai Cucumbers — Small 70 3 0 1270 7 3 4 4
GF Shanghai Cucumbers — Small 70 3 0 1460 7 3 4 6
Spinach with Garlic — Large 160 9 1.5 790 15 9 6 12
GF Spinach with Garlic — Large 160 9 1.5 790 15 9 6 12
GF Shanghai Cucumbers — Large 140 6 1 2920 13 7 6 12
Chicken Satay 250 10 4 240 7 1 6 30
Baby Buddha’s Feast Steamed 60 0 0 50 12 5 7 4
GF Baby Buddha’s Feast Steamed 60 0 0 50 12 5 7 4
Rice Wine Shrimp 430 11 1.5 1420 9 2 7 66
Jicama Lobster Tacos 400 35 11 750 9 2 7 12
Mixed Green Salad with Lime Vinaigrette 90 6 1 55 9 2 7 1
Wonton Soup — cup 60 1 0 730 8 1 7 4
Shanghai Cucumbers — Large 130 6 1 2540 14 6 8 9
Egg Drop Soup — cup 50 2 0 600 8 0 8 1
GF Egg Drop Soup — cup 60 2.5 0 590 8 0 8 1
Sichuan-Style Asparagus — Small 90 4 0.5 1200 11 2 9 3
Asian Grilled Salmon* 610 35 5 1460 17 7 10 56
Hot & Sour Soup — cup 80 2.5 0.5 1750 11 1 10 5
Oolong Chilean Sea Bass* 560 38 9 2240 10 0 10 43
House-Made Egg Roll Sauce 2 oz 70 1.5 0 95 13 1 12 1
Salt & Pepper Prawns Sauce 2oz 70 1.5 0 680 13 1 12 2
Edamame 400 17 2.5 1960 25 12 13 37
Shishito Peppers 150 8 1.5 1760 18 5 13 2
Jicama Kung Pao Chicken Tacos 370 24 3.5 760 17 4 13 21
GF Buddha’s Feast (Steamed) 110 0.5 0 80 22 8 14 8
Kalbi Steak 590 36 9 830 19 5 14 49
Spicy Green Beans — Small 150 8 1 1300 19 5 14 4
Hong Kong Style Sea Bass* 520 38 8 1820 18 4 14 27
Ahi Tartare with Avocado* 320 14 2 530 17 3 14 29
Shrimp with Lobster Sauce* 360 18 3.5 2700 19 3 16 29
Ahi Tartare with Avocado * 450 26 3.5 630 26 9 17 28
Baby Buddha’s Feast Stir Fried 180 8 1 1610 22 5 17 6
Orange Ginger Edamame 440 19 3 4260 31 13 18 37
Dynamite Shrimp 370 30 4 710 19 1 18 5
GF Shrimp with Lobster Sauce* 480 26 5 3010 23 4 19 40
Banana Leaf Rockfish 460 20 9 1560 24 4 20 43
Shrimp Dumplings Pan Fried (4) with sauce 190 6 1 1250 22 2 20 12
Sake Salmon* 780 53 8 1510 27 6 21 47
Jicama Pork Tacos 320 19 4 980 24 3 21 16
Buddha’s Feast — Steamed 260 4 0 300 32 10 22 26
Pork Dumplings Pan Fried (4) with sauce 270 12 3.5 720 25 3 22 15
Sichuan-Style Asparagus — Large 220 8 1.5 2400 30 7 23 9
Pepper Steak 660 37 8 3210 26 3 23 57
GF Pepper Steak 660 38 8 3270 27 3 24 52
Shrimp Dumplings Steamed (4) with sauce 180 3 0 600 24 0 24 12
Seared Ahi Salad* 700 55 8 1490 30 5 25 24
Vegetable Spring Rolls Sauce 2 oz 100 0 0 670 26 1 25 0
Pork Dumplings Steamed (4) with sauce 250 10 1.5 620 25 0 25 11
Kaleidoscope Roll * 280 10 1.5 730 31 5 26 14
Spicy Green Beans — Large 240 8 1.5 2600 38 10 28 9
Crab Wontons (4) with sauce 470 37 8 630 28 0 28 5
Chang’s Kung Pao Shrimp 780 51 8 2790 45 16 29 37
Beef with Broccoli 670 35 8 3260 33 4 29 56
Ginger Chicken with Broccoli 460 10 2 2320 38 8 30 53
Salt & Pepper Prawns 590 30 3.5 2630 34 4 30 48
Mongolian Beef 720 39 9 2700 31 1 30 61
Handmade Dumplings Shrimp — Pan-Fried with sauce 300 11 2 2000 34 3 31 17
GF Ginger Chicken with Broccoli 510 14 2.5 2510 40 8 32 60
Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps 610 36 4.5 2300 39 7 32 25
Wonton Soup — bowl 250 3.5 2 3360 37 5 32 19
GF Mongolian Beef 780 44 10 2900 33 1 32 62
Kid’s Sweet & Sour Chicken 300 11 1.5 400 32 0 32 17
GF Beef with Broccoli 690 36 8 3430 40 7 33 55
GF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps 530 26 6 3030 39 6 33 34
Korean Steak Bulgogi* 800 30 9 1780 38 5 33 91
Chang’s Kung Pao Combo 830 49 7 2750 46 12 34 50
Handmade Dumplings Pork — Pan-Fried with sauce 420 20 5 1200 39 5 34 23
House-Made Egg Rolls (2) 280 10 2 1210 37 3 34 9
Vegetable Spring Rolls (2) 210 5 1 860 37 2 35 3
Coconut Curry Vegetables 1050 77 24 1220 47 11 36 43
GF Coconut Curry Vegetables 1050 77 24 1220 47 11 36 43
Chang’s Kung Pao Scallops 830 48 7 2600 44 8 36 56
Shaking Beef 800 49 18 2940 42 5 37 47
GF Shaking Beef 800 49 18 2930 42 5 37 47
Handmade Dumplings Shrimp — Steamed with sauce 290 6 0.5 1030 37 0 37 18
Lobster Avocado Roll * 410 19 2.5 740 46 8 38 14
Ma Po Tofu 1030 70 13 3780 44 6 38 60
Hunan-Style Hot Fish* 650 32 4.5 2910 42 4 38 50
Handmade Dumplings Pork — Steamed with sauce 390 17 2.5 1050 39 1 38 17
Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps 530 24 6 2090 47 8 39 32
Almond & Cashew Chicken 640 25 4 3780 46 7 39 61
Northern-Style Spare Ribs 1120 63 18 3070 41 2 39 97
Egg Drop Soup — bowl 260 9 1.5 2900 39 0 39 5
GF Egg Drop Soup — bowl 290 12 2.5 2880 39 0 39 6
Stir-Fried Eggplant 1010 88 13 3790 50 9 41 7
Saigon Summer Rolls 370 15 2.5 790 45 4 41 12
Spicy Tuna Roll * 280 3 0 930 45 4 41 17
Buddha’s Feast — Stir-Fried 420 12 1 3440 52 10 42 29
Kid’s Chicken Lo Mein 340 11 1.5 1590 45 2 43 16
Hand-Folded Crab Wontons 700 55 12 930 44 1 43 8
Hot & Sour Soup — bowl 380 11 3 7980 48 4 44 22
Sichuan Chili-Garlic Chicken 1290 88 15 2180 51 6 45 66
Citrus Chicken Teriyaki 710 25 6 2320 50 5 45 67
Handmade Dumplings Vegetable — Pan-Fried with sauce 320 8 1.5 1050 50 5 45 11
Rainbow Quinoa — Small 300 5 0.5 700 52 6 46 11
Cantonese-Style Lemon Chicken 750 37 7 1140 47 1 46 53
GF Cantonese-Style Lemon Chicken 750 37 7 1140 47 1 46 53
Steamed Korean BBQ Chicken 580 24 4 1400 53 6 47 50
Dynamite Scallop Roll * 400 12 1.5 1190 52 5 47 20
Vegetable Spring Rolls (4) 330 11 1.5 1090 50 3 47 6
Chang’s Kung Pao Chicken 1070 64 10 2410 56 8 48 70
California Roll 340 9 1 1140 54 5 49 13
Lemongrass Prawn & Papaya Salad* 640 26 3.5 2980 60 10 50 35
Beef à la Sichuan 680 32 7 2820 54 4 50 47
GF Beef à la Sichuan 720 34 7 2980 56 4 52 48
Handmade Dumplings Vegetable — Steamed with sauce 310 6 0.5 990 54 1 53 9
Chang’s Chinese Chicken Salad 620 27 4 2270 66 11 55 30
Crispy Green Beans (no sauce) 760 55 8 520 63 7 56 7
Kid’s Honey Chicken 410 11 1.5 650 56 0 56 17
Pepper Crusted Steak Frites* 1860 128 52 2880 77 17 60 100
Walnut Shrimp with Melon* 1380 104 16 1830 74 14 60 39
Thai Steak & Noodle Salad 790 43 10 1990 70 10 60 38
GF Flourless Chocolate Dome 570 33 23 280 66 5 61 6
Brown Rice 6 oz 310 2 0 5 66 4 62 6
Orange Peel Shrimp 660 28 4.5 1950 79 16 63 27
Chang’s BBQ Spare Ribs 1230 64 18 3750 67 3 64 98
Korean BBQ Chicken Stir-Fry 870 44 7 1400 70 5 65 60
Salt & Pepper Calamari 710 37 4 1860 68 2 66 26
White Rice 6 oz 300 1 0 5 68 1 67 7
Kale & Quinoa Yogurt Dip served with Sesame Salt Wonton Chips 650 27 4 1570 77 9 68 19
House-Made Egg Rolls (4) 560 20 4 2420 75 7 68 18
Handmade Butternut Squash Dumplings 1110 86 53 2980 72 4 68 12
Chang’s Chicken Noodle Soup — bowl 620 22 3.5 2720 74 4 70 33
Rainbow Quinoa — Large 470 8 1 1190 82 9 73 17
Chang’s Spicy Chicken 820 34 6 1810 73 0 73 59
GF Chang’s Fried Rice (6 oz without Protein) 460 11 2.5 820 76 2 74 16
Sesame Chicken 890 35 6 2250 82 6 76 66
Orange Peel Chicken 980 42 7 1560 87 8 79 67
Crispy Caramel Chicken Wings 1530 115 23 1930 82 3 79 41
Sweet & Sour Chicken 770 32 4.5 760 85 2 83 40
Vegetable Lo Mein 490 6 0.5 2870 94 6 88 19
Vegetable Lo Mein 490 6 0.5 2870 94 6 88 19
Lo Mein Vegetable 490 6 0.5 2870 94 6 88 19
Lo Mein Shrimp 610 13 2 3150 96 6 90 29
Lo Mein Chicken 710 18 2.5 3040 98 7 91 42
Lo Mein Beef 720 22 4 3180 97 6 91 40
Sweet & Sour Pork 710 25 6 1460 94 3 91 30
Chang’s Lobster Rice 1010 48 14 2120 98 5 93 43
Orange Peel Beef 1130 60 12 1960 108 14 94 44
Lo Mein Pork 760 25 5 3130 100 6 94 37
Lo Mein Combo 880 31 6 3400 101 6 95 55
Kid’s Chicken Fried Rice 610 15 3 1020 98 2 96 25
GF Singapore Street Noodles 710 13 2 1720 105 8 97 21
GF Chang’s Spicy Chicken 710 13 2 1720 105 8 97 21
GF Kid’s Chicken Fried Rice 580 10 2 1120 99 2 97 26
Apple Chai Cobbler 620 22 16 320 101 2 99 7
Crispy Honey Shrimp 760 28 4 1320 108 2 106 13
Crispy Honey Chicken 1140 49 7 1270 114 1 113 57
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Shrimp* 940 27 4.5 3090 130 15 115 47
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Beef* 1050 36 7 3120 129 14 115 56
Singapore Street Noodles 920 21 3.5 2750 127 11 116 29
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Chicken* 1040 32 5 2980 132 15 117 60
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Combo 1230 45 9 3200 134 15 119 73
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Pork* 1080 38 8 3060 133 14 119 55
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Vegetables 990 31 5 2820 144 19 125 38
Garlic Noodles 720 11 1 2990 136 5 131 23
Pad Thai Chicken* 1160 30 5 3720 153 11 142 45
Pad Thai Shrimp* 1070 26 4.5 3840 152 10 142 33
Pad Thai Combo* 1110 28 5 3780 153 10 143 39
Chang’s Fried Rice Combo* 1210 36 8 2440 157 4 153 62
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Vegetable* 980 21 4 2070 168 9 159 28
Chang’s Fried Rice Vegetable 980 22 4 2150 169 9 160 26
Chang’s Fried Rice Shrimp* 1140 21 3.5 2160 204 6 198 44
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Beef* 1220 26 5 2380 204 6 198 51
Chang’s Fried Rice Beef* 1240 28 6 2180 203 5 198 53
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Chicken* 1210 22 4 2240 206 7 199 54
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Shrimp* 1120 18 3 2350 205 6 199 41
Chang’s Fried Rice Chicken* 1240 25 4.5 2050 206 6 200 57
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Pork* 1260 29 6 2330 208 6 202 49
Chang’s Fried Rice Pork* 1370 41 8 2130 207 5 202 51
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Combo* 1360 33 7 2580 209 6 203 62

Recipe – The Cream Spinach Fat Bomb

Quick and easy to make – and quite good.

I’d better be right about fat being harmless though or I might be in a body bag after this one.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 box of cream cheese
  • parm cheese (the stuff in the cardboard can)

Directions

Thaw the spinach in the microwave for 10 minutes. It will leak so place the boxes on a plate to catch the leakage.

Once thawed, let stand for 15 minutes at least – it will be too hot to handle the next step.

Now that it’s cooled, use a strainer to squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as possible – but don’t kill yourself over this – good enough is good enough

In a microwave-safe bowl, toss in the spinach, along with a stick of butter and the cream cheese. After about 4 minutes the butter and cream cheese should easily mix into the spinach without fuss and to my surprise got absorbed into the spinach. There were no puddles of butter as I feared.

The taste was good but a little lacking. A healthy sprinkle of the canned parm cheese made it perfect.

It *looked* like ordinary creamed spinach – but we know better. This innocent-looking creamed spinach was a Cheesecake Factory-style Fat Bomb made to look ‘lite’ and ‘healthy’. It was one of those menu items where you’d go: “Oh – I don’t know *how* they can make creamed spinach so tasty!”

Just for the heck of it I ran the numbers for the whole thing in my LoseIt! iPhone App:

  • Calories: 1,408 (1,200 of these calories come from fat)
  • Fat: 135g (81%)
  • Carbs: 37g (10%)
  • Protein: 33g (9%)

I would say that realistically this serves 4 – which means I ate 4 servings in one sitting.

Me and my body need to have a little ‘sit down’ to talk about ‘portion control’ – ya think?

This would be a splendid recipe for a pot luck – and you can look ’em in the eye and say it’s ‘diet’ – though change the subject if they start asking questions about the recipe. Based on the crowd at the New Year’s party I went to, this would have been gone in a flash.

Need I say it? This is safe for a ketogenic diet. In fact, it is *so* safe you might want to dial it back a notch – though this is ideal for people doing a ‘fat fast’ (though you don’t eat as much as I did). It is also vegetarian as long as they are the type that do dairy – there’s so many variants it’s hard to keep track.

A List of Low Carb Ketogenic Foods I’ve Eaten – Day 8

If you’ve been following along so far you’ll have noticed that for the most part I don’t eat ‘meals’ the way normal humans do. I eat when I’m hungry, and, more times than not, improvise. The following are the foods I ate in this past week – not including the foods that are not part of the plan. Part of my point in doing this is to start a list of acceptable foods as well as expand on it. For example: there’s no fish here.

I should update this periodically as a reference for myself when my mind goes blank and I ask myself: what am I going to eat?

The Foods

Meat

  1. Eggs (Eggs are NOT dairy – they are embryonic meat – got it?)
  2. Hot Italian Sausages – from the supermarket. This is in ‘mystery meat’ category – God Know what’s in it
  3. Liverwurst – a nitrate free version
  4. Rib roast – my wife made this. I need to learn to make this myself
  5. Thumann’s hot dogs – I LUV that nitrate flavor.
  6. Roast duck – uncommon. I won’t be eating much of this
  7. Deli roast beef
  8. Pork rinds – a very strange sort of meat – but meat regardless

Dairy

  1. Heavy cream – usually high-quality grass-fed stuff I pay an arm and a leg for
  2. Butter – Same deal as the heavy cream – I try to buy the best
  3. Sour cream
  4. Cream cheese
  5. American cheese – I bought actual real cheese – Andrew & Everett – with a website this bad, their cheese must be good
  6. Cream Fraise – think of a yogurt except it’s 100% fat and 800 calories per container. Pure cultured cream
  7. Parm cheese – the dry stuff in the can

Vegetables 

  1. Onions
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Garlic
  4. Brussels sprouts
  5. Romaine lettuce
  6. Cauliflower

Other Food

  1. Extra virgin olive oil (I hope – there is a lot of counterfeit olive oil out there)
  2. Mayonnaise – The Whole Foods brand is the only one made with cold-pressed canola oil. I’d rather make my own out of olive oil but I’ve had mixed results – sometimes it comes out good, sometimes not. Cold-pressed Canola probably sucks less than any other seed oil, so I use it.
  3. Salt – I use sea salt. No iodine added. I’m waiting for my goiter
  4. Lea & Perrins Steak Sauce
  5. Mustard
  6. Coffee
  7. EZ-Sweetz – pure liquid sucralose. Those packets actually have about 0.6 grams of carbs in them
  8. Lemon juice
  9. Rock Star energy drink

Non-Food Items I stuck in my mouth

  1. Lotrel – blood pressure medication
  2. Metformin – controls blood glucose. Recommended by the ADA for the treatment of pre-diabetes – and I don’t have diabetes though both my siblings had it way before my age and both my parents had it
  3. Align – a probiotic magic potion that I am experimenting with. Does it do anything except line the pockets of the hucksters that created it? Ya got me
  4. Psyllium – a seed husk you mix with water and drink real quick before it turns to slime. It’s a fiber supplement and also a prebiotic – supposedly it’s probiotic food. I used it daily in my first go at low carb so I’m using it again. I buy the organic, coarse flakes at Whole Foods. So if you want to bitch about my diet, don’t bitch about the lack of fiber.
  5. Tums – as needed. I needed a lot when gobbling carbs. The need for them is subsiding

I Started Ketosis in Less Than Two Days With This One Weird Trick

I’m sorry – I couldn’t help myself with that ‘one weird trick’ phrase that’s used as clickbait all over the Internet – but it really *was* one little thing that helped me get into ketosis.

I’ve been doing low carb to varying degrees for a dozen years now and the one thing I noticed in myself is eating enormous amounts of butter always got me into ketosis in record time. Once I’m in ketosis I can throttle back the butter – and the ketosis itself helps with carb cravings.

It’s also motivating to see the keto sticks turn a dark red. Doing this when I come home in the evening is a great motivator to keep me away from the carb-laden ‘kid chow’ that my daughters like.

The problem is *eating* enormous amounts of butter. Don’t get me wrong – I love butter, but the amounts needed to make this trick work was kinda ‘yuck’.

I used to wrap it in roast beef but I’ve grown sick of this trick.

This past week I stumbled across a way to get the amount of butter I need to do the trick – one stick per day – that I actually look forward to having. It’s also simple and takes 5 minutes.

Here’s the trick:

Ingredients:

  • The best butter I can afford. Kerry Gold Irish butter is great, but any ‘pastured’ butter will do. If you were stupid enough to try this you could probably do this with the cheapest stuff that you can find but there’s beneficial substances in the pastured butter – and since you’re going to be getting a massive blast of calories from this, shouldn’t you go upmarket if you can?
  • Chicken broth or chicken stock with sodium. Unless you are salt-sensitive (and I question if such people should go on a ketogenic diet), a ketogenic diet will deplete you of salt. I personally see nothing wrong with salt, but I’m a little nuts and you probably shouldn’t be taking my advice anyway
  • Tamari Soy Sauce. More salt. Tamari soy sauce is gluten-free and I’m experimenting with minimizing my gluten intake just for fun.

So what I do is get a large coffee mug – 16 oz. – and put a half stick of butter in it, then cover with the chicken broth and place in the microwave on high for about 3 minutes. The stick of butter won’t be completely melted, but with a bit of stirring and a minute or two and it will.

I then add the Tamari soy sauce to taste. I like salt so for me that’s at least a teaspoon if not more.

This – to me – tastes pretty darn good. It tastes like a creamy, buttery, chicken soup where the butter does not overpower the chicken and soy sauce flavor.

On day one of my upteenth time tried to restart my low carb diet I had this twice daily. I typically skip breakfast and just have coffee and cream, then have this at lunch time and right before leaving work to help me get past the dozen or so fast food places I pass on my way home that have been my downfall as of late.

To say this is ‘filling’ is an understatement.

By the evening of the second day the keto strips showed I was in full-blown ketosis – and there’s certainly a number of other physical symptoms of starting ketosis that I was feeling that backed up the strips.

My plan at the moment is to stay on a ketogenic diet for as long as I can. I’d like to do 3 months and go back to my doctor and get my bloodwork done. I might mix in intermittent fasting as well. Once your body is used to burning ketones for fuel – and this ‘keto-adaptation’ can take weeks if not months to fully adapt, fasting is way easier because you are not going to be dealing with hypoglycemia like you might coming off a high-carb diet. Your body knows how to mobilize fat as fuel and it just won’t be as much of a struggle.

I *do* feel compelled to state that this is awfully extreme and I don’t recommend ANYONE be as daredevil as I am. I think I’ve become quite the kook and super-duper low carb, high fat diets are not for everyone and have their hazards. Perhaps each post from now on should have a variation of the disclaimer you see on car commercials when you see them do high-speed maneuvers to convince guys in mid-life crisis to buy overpriced sports cars:

Professional stunt dieter – do not attempt this at home. 

The Physical

“I don’t have time for this. I have other patients to see.” Said my doctor, clearly indicating that I had used up all my allocated time for my yearly physical – or had finally pushed enough of his buttons. One or the other. It was awfully late and I thought I was his last patient. Perhaps it was true that he had other patients to see, or maybe it would have been more truthful for him to say: “I’ve had enough of arguing with you. I’m hungry and tired and want to go home and see my wife and kids.”

Either way I wasn’t offended. I am an exasperating patient. I am exasperating human in general, always questioning the obvious, asking questions that generate cow-stares or mild shock from those within earshot, or saying what I believe to be the unvarnished truth when it might be more prudent to just shut the fuck up.

In this particular instance of exasperating another human being, it was because my doctor, assessing my spectacular weight gain of 40 pounds since my last visit and a crappy total cholesterol count in the 260s, wanted to put me on statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs.

He showed me a worksheet from the American Heart Association that, when my crappy blood work numbers were plugged in, said I had a 14% chance of a heart attack in the next 5 years. He had done his homework probably because he knew I was a hard sell. We had the ‘statin talk’ last year when I was about 207 pounds and my total cholesterol was only a little elevated. I told him ‘no’ then.

And 40 pounds heavier and with really shitty blood work – the worst ever, I told him ‘no’ again.

I told him: “I have to be honest with you: I’m not a big fan of statins. They have not been shown to reduce all-cause mortality in patients like me and they also have a curious side effect, little discussed, of increasing the risk of violent death and suicide.”

My doc is a chill guy. I like him, though we don’t agree on a lot of things. I’ve mentioned this to people and they say: “Why don’t you change doctors?”

“Why? I’m not looking for somebody to always agree with me.” He’s smart and has a good 15 years of experience as a clinician. I also think he cares. He took the time to prep for me coming in by running that American Heart Association risk assessment. I think that counts as ‘going the extra mile’. He genuinely thought that he had the evidence to convince me – a seemingly rational and  medically knowledgeable layperson – to comply with his recommendation.

And I exasperated him by still saying ‘no’.

So I suppose I like him because, with nearly every relationship I have, there is a certain aspect to it where the other person has to put up with me.

People in their professional roles sometime turn into caricatures – and I suppose doctors are probably more guilty of this than most professions. In a line of business where on any given day your job might be to tell a seemingly young and healthy parent who came in with what they thought to be some minor ill that they need to ‘get their affairs in order’ because they are going to die soon, I can’t judge them harshly for perhaps putting up a wall of sorts between their patients and themselves.

But I am fascinated with these walls we put up as part of our daily interactions – and I love to break through them. Being exasperating frequently causes people’s walls to unexpectedly crumble – and what’s behind them is usually interesting.

So when I mentioned the statin research showing no benefit in all-cause mortality for patients without active cardiac vascular disease – and the crack about the increased risk of suicide and violent death, my doc’s usual chill turned less chill. He seemed slightly taken aback by the all-cause mortality, violent death and suicide bit and said with reserved force: “I challenge you to produce the evidence on these.”

I could easily find these mentioned in respected journals like the Oxford University Press, Pubmed, and the Lancet sitting in my car on my smart phone before leaving the parking lot of his office. I’ll be printing out whatever isn’t paywalled before my next visit.

Here’s one link: http://www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-without-prior-heart-disease/

It says – and backs it up with a boatload of legitimate citations – that after 5 years of statin use in patients without known cardiac vascular disease:

  • None were helped (life saved)
  • 1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)
  • 1 in 154 were helped (preventing stroke)
  • 1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes)
  • 1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

Here’s another: http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/97/4/229 – you might have heard of Oxford, it is the world’s second oldest university, having been around since 1167. 16 Nobel prizes in medicine were awarded to alumni. It’s not a citation from some jackass with a blog and an axe to grind.

The study was small and warrants further investigation, surely, but a few people put on statins got really grumpy afterward. The link notes:

Manifestations of severe irritability included homicidal impulses, threats to others, road rage, generation of fear in family members, and damage to property.

Now – don’t get me wrong – statins have their place. In people with CVD it is a lifesaver (http://www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-with-known-heart-disease/). However, I come from a family with no predisposition toward heart disease even though my father’s side of my family ate and drank with abandon and all had potbellies and ruddy faces from all the beer they drank. A good part of my heredity ate whatever the hell they wanted and lived well past 80 – with 80 being the point where the dodginess from the family predisposition toward Alzheimer’s began to take full effect.

I don’t have known heart disease, nor do I have diabetes though my brother, sister, father, and mother all had it – with my siblings getting it way before the age I currently am. I don’t have a family history of CVD. I see nothing in my medical history nor my heredity that makes me a good candidate for statins and have to put up with the potential to develop diabetes, the potential for muscle damage, or the potential for negative psychological effects.

Before the ‘statin talk’ I had already parried with him on diet. As I sat in my underwear, an unpleasant sight except perhaps to a clinician who has trained themselves to be detached and doesn’t really give a shit as a protection mechanism from going insane, he mentioned in what in retrospect was carefully chosen language that “I was a much larger patient” than when he last saw me – and he hoped I had a plan.

“Yeah. My plan is to go on a low carb diet.” I said.

“Do you mean below 100 grams of carbs or below 50 grams?” He asked.

“Oh, I want to do a ketogenic diet. I’ve been on one on and off for a decade and I find it works quite well for me. It even seems to make me calmer.”

“What is recommended is a calorie-restricted diets with legumes, whole grains, and lean meat, along with vigorous exercise most days of the week.”

“Well, a ketogenic diet has worked for me in the past.”

His tone changed. He was going into his ‘learned clinician schtick’. It became more patronizing. “Well you know, a ketogenic diet puts your body into a mode similar to starving. You body can’t live without glucose. What is most important is that a diet be sustainable – and a low carb diet isn’t sustainable.”

OK – a decade of sustained weight loss shows it isn’t ‘sustainable’ – he’s right – I gained weight after a decade. Got it.

I did counter on the glucose thing, though: “Um…but your body can create the glucose it needs from a moderate protein diet and converts the protein into glucose through gluconeogenesis – right?”

He didn’t say anything for a bit – frankly, I don’t recall a direct response at all. Perhaps he had busied himself with the next part of the examination – the part that included the snap of a latex glove and ‘bend over’.

Given the asymmetry of the situation – he fully clothed and I in my skivvies – I wasn’t about to tell him that my lack of exercise is almost a badge of honor for me. I follow the advice of a quote I once read: ‘Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes.’ I have a sneaking suspicion that the relentless advocation of ‘exercise for everyone’ is not so much for the health of individuals but rather the health of the economy: every gym membership, every Thighmaster, every pair of running shoes raises the GDP – and so do the attendant sports injuries: muscle pulls and torn ligaments provide physical therapists gainful employment; injections of steroids provide income to doctors as well as relief to the patients who have exercised their way to worn out joints, and finally the people who thrive on a steady stream of former exercise enthusiasts who, instead of choosing the next pair of running shoes to buy, now have a choice between a hip replacement or a walker and constant pain.

I also feel that above a given weight, it is smart to start losing weight without the exercise (it can be done – I did it) – and with an increasingly lighter body comes more energy and the freedom of movement that can make you *want* to exercise.

And I haven’t even begun with my feelings about what constitutes ‘healthy eating’. If my differences with the standard accepted notions on exercise were a flaming match head, my differences on nutrition from most people were a nuclear bomb.

As I left I mentioned he should check out the book ‘The Big Fat Suprise‘ – a masterfully written work that clearly explains just how we ended up vilifying fat as a nutrient because of bad science, big egos, and politics. He just snorted. It was only a:

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • Named one of The Economist’s Books of the Year 2014
  • Named one of The Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
  • Forbes’s Most Memorable Healthcare Book of 2014
  • Named a Best Food Book of 2014 by Mother Jones
  • Named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014

Kinda what I expected. 

For those of you unfamiliar with my backstory, in 2003 I lost 80 pounds on a low carb diet. Unlike most people who would have reveled in their success, bought new clothes and left it at that, I needed to know why. How could I eat like I did and lose weight? I had only read the Atkins book, and learned about ketosis: a chemical transformation to your body that allows you to run your body on ketones – the product of burning fat – instead of glucose – which comes from sugars and starches and is what the vast majority of human beings run on these days. In fact, running your body on ketones is so rare that one way of measuring your ketones to track your progress – urine strips – are actually manufactured for people with severe diabetes to manage a severe side effect called ‘ketoacidosis’.

Being slightly obsessive – or maybe a tad more than ‘slight’ – I spent the next 10 years reading books, research, blogs, and articles and all aspects of diet nutrition, the history of diets and dieting, how diet has changed over the centuries, the psychology and sociology of food and eating, as well as a myriad of odd little detours into admittedly wacky material produced by people with dubious credibility as well as my own hare-brained ideas.

All that obsession spilled out into a blog on low carb which I started on a whim and then wrote and published over 500 articles over 7 years. I sort of abandoned writing on low carb and shuttered the blog at the end of 2014 for reasons not entirely clear to me. Perhaps I had grown tired of it all. Perhaps I had said all that I had to say on the subject.

Perhaps I was just paying lip-service to my low carb lifestyle and writing about it – as I gained weight – seemed disingenuous.

Perhaps I needed to regain enough weight to give a shit again.

REPOST: Low Carb Crockpot Beef and Daikon Radish

Daikon Radish, for those of you unfamiliar with this vegetable
Daikon Radish, for those of you unfamiliar with this vegetable

04/16/15 Update – I just made this again except simpler: just the meat, fire-roasted tomatoes, daikon, an onion and Worcestershire sauce. It came out great and I thought I’d unearth it from the 2013 archives for those of you who haven’t seen this one. 

This kitchen experiment was prompted by a recipe my wife made with short ribs and daikon radish. You often find this mild radish in Japanese cuisine, julienned into fine threads and served raw with sushi. I had never considered cooking radishes, but I thought I I was eating potatoes when I tried my wife’s dish.

This gave me the idea of a beef ‘stew’ of some sort so it was time to perform an experiment and potentially waste $20 worth of food. Of course, being a hot an muggy day, I was inspired to make it a crockpot recipe (I wonder about me.)

Using just the daikon and the stew meat as the main ingredients and a large can of fire-roasted tomatoes in a supporting role, I threw in whatever else I found lying about the fridge, low carb, and reaching it’s golden years in terms of edible lifespan.

  • 2 pound stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 shakes tabasco sauce
  • 1 large can fire-roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 10 shakes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 daikon radishes, each as long as a forearm, diced into chunks about the size of a thumb
  • salt
  • pepper
  • oregano

I used the fire-roasted tomatoes in particular to save a step: browning the meat beforehand. I think this step is to introduce the flavor notes from the browning and does not change anything else about the result. I spared myself the extra time spent but getting those flavor notes from the tomatoes.

I placed the beef at the bottom, then added can of tomatoes then the cut veggies.

You will note that I did NOT use beef stock nor add water. The hope was that the liquid from the tomatoes and the juices from the meat and veggies would be enough. Crock pots are tricky in that they need enough liquid to transfer the heat to the solid pieces of food – and crock pots are s-l-o-w so you don’t know for 8 hours if you’ve created a delight or a disaster when experimenting.

I crossed my fingers and set the crock pot on low for 8 hours.

After 6 hours I had a small bowl.

The stuff was great. 6 hours proved to be enough.

The combination of vegetables made for a flavorful broth, the meat was tender, the fire-roasted tomatoes added nice flavor notes and the Worcestershire sauce and tabasco added some complexity that didn’t overwhelm the dish or make it too spicy. The chunks of daikon reminiscent of potato in texture and played their part nicely. Imagine a vegetable soup with meat and potatoes.

I didn’t know what I was going to get when I started this, but these are all fine ingredients that tasted great together.

The feedback I got was it might have used a little more salt, and in retrospect I would dice the daikon a little smaller next time – I found myself breaking the daikon into smaller pieces.

Given the temperature, eating hot soup was somewhat bone-headed as it put me in a sweat, but regardless, I think I have another interesting crockpot recipe to add to my repertoire for the colder months when this would fit the bill after coming in from the cold on a winter day.

I have one of those large oval crockpots. I’m guesstimating that we have 8 servings here. If that’s the case, here’s the nutrition info:

Calories: 333
Net Carbs: 8 grams
Total fat: 20 grams
Protein: 26.5

Can You Be Allergic to Red Meat?

There’s an old saying in journalism: if a headline is stated as a question, the answer is ‘no’.

This might be an exception.

I stumbled across this article in the New Yorker – Can Ticks Make You Allergic to Red Meat? – and figured that while the New Yorker is a perfectly cromulent publication, it isn’t where I would go for science news. So while intrigued, at first I dismissed it as bad science. There’s a lot of it (you’ll find plenty on my own blog).

The gist of the story was that when these ticks bite you, they excrete a substance found in red meat into your bloodstream that your body can develop an immune response to. This results in getting hives and even a tightening throat similar to anaphylactic shock symptoms some unfortunate people get from peanuts or bee stings.

Hoping the editors were asleep at the switch, I began to Google this. I had never heard of this and figured this must be some urban legend.

I wish.

WebMD is certainly a better place to find health information and I found it mentioned there.

I also found it mentioned on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amblyomma_americanum#Meat_allergy

Don’t trust either of them? You can also find it here: http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/meat-allergy

Being in New Jersey, I selfishly thought this might be confined to Texas – the poor bastards – being it’s called the ‘Lone Star Tick’.

I was wrong – here’s a map of where the ‘Lone Star’ tick can be found.

Lone-star-tick-map-cdcSeems to me to be a very misnamed creature.

I happened to tell this to my 8-year-old daughter and her response was: “Aauugh! That would mean I couldn’t eat bacon!”

I did mention to her that it was an allergy from ‘mammalian non-primate meat’ only, so monkey-meat bacon would be just fine.

She didn’t even grace my nonsense with an answer.

The good news is this particular tick isn’t likely to carry Lyme Disease – just a bushel-basket full of other diseases to fuck you up.

Yet another reason for us to stay inside our hermitically-sealed, climate-controlled houses as far away from nature as possible.

Want ‘nature’? Find a documentary on Netflix!

 

Seasons52 Restaurant Review

We decided to go to a new restaurant, Seasons52. It’s a new concept to me: a place where the menu proudly states that no entrée is more than 475 calories. There are no ‘endless bread sticks’ or huge portions dripping in butter. The portions are small compared to most chain restaurants, the food carefully prepared to bring out the natural flavors, and the ingredients seem high quality. It is minimalist, portion-controlled, and a much healthier choice than the majority of the restaurants in the area.

Maybe that’s why it was a 2-hour wait to get a table. The place was packed. While the ‘value proposition’ of the place goes against the grain of competing restaurants offering huge portions, perhaps there’s a niche for a place that serves artfully prepared but unpretentious food in adequate portions. It’s an European sensibility applied to food that I would call ‘American’.

The menu makes little attempt to define their food as derived from any ethnic cuisine. Some restaurants have entrees that seem as if they are representing the United Nations, with Italian entries next to Asian entrees next to Mexican entrees – all bearing little resemblance to the authentic cuisines they steal from. At Seasons52, the food is uniquely theirs. I give them credit: it’s a bold move to become the anti-Cheesecake Factory – and I’m sure that – with one not far down the road – many people – having tried this place, never come back because for the same price you get way more food at The Cheesecake Factory.

But for people who don’t need to equate the quality of the dining experience with the volume of food nor the number of ingredients, Seasons52 might be worth a try.

The first thing you notice is that there is no free bread at the table. Instead, they sell different varieties of flatbreads as appetizers, baked with a selection of toppings. We ordered a lobster and mozzarella flatbread and a long, thin bread, topped with not only lobster and mozzarella, but basil and diced peppers and squirted with a bit of lemon arrived on a long, flat board designed just for this dish. The long rectangle was cut into 8 triangular pieces and we each got two. They were delicious, with none of the flavors overpowering the others.

When we were done we wanted more – but isn’t that the long-forgotten point of an appetizer? Americans have become accustomed to going to a restaurant, filling up on bread, sharing a big appetizer, then forcing down what many times ends up being a mediocre entree.

The entrees were consistent in philosophy and execution as the appetizer. We each had ordered different ones: I had a cut of roast salmon on a cedar plank with a creamy mustard sauce and the root vegetables potatoes and carrots – not a lot in terms of portion-size, but all the ingredients clearly were high quality and did not need to be tarted up with sauces and unnecessary spices. I very much enjoyed my salmon dish and was satisfied without being stuffed.

My wife had the carmelized scallops which came on a bed of roasted crushed potatoes with some small amount of vegetable mixed in. I had a bite of the scallop and they did a wonderful job of adding just the right touch of sweetness without overpowering the taste or ruining the texture of the scallop – a delicate balancing act done successfully.

My older daughter had a pork chop with some sweet potato mash. Again the same sensibility. I did not try this, but both my daughter and wife remarked how tender and flavorful the meat was.

My youngest daughter had the pasta. Again – the same sensibility. Instead of piling on the cheap pasta and throwing shrimp in top then drowning it in sauce, the pasta complemented the shrimp in roughly equal proportions, with fresh spinach added and a light sauce that didn’t steal from any cuisine but came straight from the restaurant’s own esthetic.

My older daughter, who is long and lean as well as a lacrosse player, can tuck away quite a volume of food, yet at the end of the meal announced she was stuffed. I imagined that very few ‘doggie bags’ were carried out of this place. To me, a ‘more-is-better’ type of person (the reason I’m fat), they executed the ‘less-is-more’ approach to food flawlessly.

But we weren’t done yet.

Their execution of the ‘dessert menu’ is again sensible – and shrewd.

We were stuffed – remember? They do not ask you if you want to see a dessert menu – instead they bring over a tray of desserts – each in a small glass – dessert flights as they are called. Each is a tiny taste of decadence that won’t make anyone feel guilty about having dessert. The shrewd part is that: the dessert is *there*. They bring it to you without you asking for it, entice you with the actual dessert and not a picture, and if you want one they take it off the tray and give it to you. Immediate gratification after putting the damn thing right under your nose.

Our reservation was after 9pm it was late by then and the kids were fading fast, but were roused by the dessert. While I skipped it, the three of them took one. I had a taste of two of them. Again, well done, with flavors that complemented rather than competed. My wife got one with a tiny squeeze tube of amaretto so you could apply just a few drops to heighten the experience.

Seasons52 is food crafted with the precision of a Mars mission. It is novel approach for an American chain restaurant. When ‘healthy’ food is served at restaurants it usually flops – or is done as a sneaky psychological ruse. In fact, many chains put healthy items on the menu knowing full well that it lures customers in – who then order the high-calorie decadent stuff next to it. Others put faux healthy items on their menu – usually salads – then pack so many calories into the thing that your perceived sense of restraint was instead a sneaky con job by the restaurant.

Here the food is honest, minimalist, and fulfilling. It’s a fine dining experience in a relaxed atmosphere with beautiful woodwork throughout the space – yet it avoids pretension. As I stated before, this is the anti-Cheesecake Factory down to the decor – The Cheesecake Factory having the most overwrought, overstated, and garish decor and architecture that screams everything but good taste.

Seasons52 only has about 42 locations so far in the US, but if you have the opportunity to try it out – and don’t feel like you are somehow being cheated by not getting ‘endless breadsticks’ or huge portions, it’s worth a try.

Kitchen Experiment: Low Carb Pork Belly Chili

It didn’t start out as ‘pork belly chili’. In fact, I had no idea what I was making. There was a nearly 2 pound chunk of pork belly aging in the freezer and I needed to make something low carb for the coming week. The pork belly would be the star – but who would be the supporting characters?

I put the still frozen pork belly in the oven at 300 degrees and shook some of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute – a mix of spices that seems to work for anything – on top. I tented the thing with foil and went to Trader Joe’s to figure out what was going to be the supporting characters for our porky star – and hoping the house wouldn’t explode while I was away.

The place was crowded and my first choice – cauliflower – was nowhere to be found. Trader Joe’s is a great store, but produce is not one of their strong suits. Instead I rounded up the following:

  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 container of organic white button mushrooms

These are all good low carb ingredients, though one might quibble over minor flaws in each of them if you really tried. Eggplant is part of the ‘deadly nightshade’ family, for example.  I didn’t want to play that game of going so extreme to analyze each one to that level of detail. They might have their flaws, but they were ‘good enough’.

At home I added some things from the cupboard and some castaways:

  • 3 onions
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 box of cherry tomatoes that had not aged well after being abandoned in the vegetable drawer. I cut away the bad parts and tossed them in.
  • 1 large can of fire-roasted tomatoes

I had let the pork belly cook for 2 hours, then had taken it out to cool. Once I could cut it without getting burns I chopped it into bite-sized pieces and tossed it in to the veggies I cut while it was cooling. The beauty of pork belly is it comes with its own oil, so the vegetables cooked in delicious pork fat.

I peeled the eggplant and diced it into small chunks – going for roughly the size of the pork belly chunks – about the size of a pinky tip.

I had no idea what i was creating until it was done. When I tasted it, it had too much of an eggplant taste. Blech. I then decided to turn it into a chili by adding:

  • chili powder
  • cinnamon
  • cumin

No measuring, just eyeballing. I *do* tend to be heavy-handed on the spices, if that’s any help. Lots of chili powder, half as much cumin, and half of that in cinnamon is the best guidance I can give.

When my carnivore daughter came home her nose caught a whiff of meat, chili powder and cumin. Her eyes widened: “What smells so good?”

“Chili.” I said.

What I haven’t told you is that she is not too fond of pork belly. Bacon she’s good with – in fact, any part of any animal – if prepared well – had better watch out. THIS 16-year-old girl will not be turning Vegan any time soon.

“Is it ready?” She asked.

“Yep”.

She took a bowl and tried some. She gave me the thumbs up sign as she ate. While she has a sophisticated palate for a teenager, she has been exposed to Dad’s low carb cooking for over a decade. While she would rather starve than eat anything sub par – I wish I were the same – she liked this.

I personally find that the eggplant, if diced into small pieces, can bulk up the chili – and eggplant has the wonderful ability to soak up oils which works well with pork belly. The strong flavors of the spices minimized the eggplant flavor notes – which just did not go with pork belly in my estimation – and made the texture more complex.

I’ve done similar recipes – I’ve played with the definition of ‘chili’ enough to create what some people would label ‘abominations’ – but this one got readily eaten by the members of the family who could care less about diets and low carb, so for me – it’s a keeper.