Creamed Asparagus and Scallion Soup

UPDATE: I’ve been eating this the past couple of days and have a few tweaks to add

I love my immersion blender. 12 bucks or so at most large grocery stores, these things can take the place of a regular blender or food processor with minimal cleanup.

I was searching the Internet for something low carb I might be able to make with some ingredients I have lying about and came up with this idea based off another recipe I found.


  • 2 bunches of fresh asparagus
  • 10 scallions
  • 1 box (32 oz) chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/3 pint heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 20 turns of the pepper mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using a soup pot I melted the butter on high heat while washing and cleaning the asparagus and scallions. I chopped it in 1/4″ lengths. Thrown into the pot with the butter, I stirred on high flame intermittently for about 10 minutes while looking for the rest of the ingredients and the immersion blender.

Be careful with asparagus. While I cut off more than an inch of the bottom stems, it was still more fibrous than I would have liked and might be off-putting to some. My solution: cut the asparagus – especially at the stem end very, very closely together to be sure any fibers will be as short as possible. The immersion blender won’t fix this.

I do this with kale when I make kale soup and use the stems and it works splendidly.

After that, in went the chicken broth. I brought to a boil, then added the garlic and onion powder, turned down the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Once the simmering was done, I turned off the heat and blended until smooth. Then I slowly poured in the cream with the immersion blender on.

Now it was time for a taste – and I came up with a trick to have a good-sized taste with the extremely hot soup not burning my mouth.

We have some small metal ingredient cups about the size of the business end of a soup ladle. The keyword here is ‘metal’. Using a soup ladle I put a few tablespoons into the cup. It became almost too hot to touch – good. All that heat was being conducted out of the soup into the metal cup. To make something hot, you got to make something else cold. In less than 30 seconds I had a mouthful of the stuff at a temperature that would let me taste it.

It was very good – creamy and flavorful. I did think it needed a little salt and put in a teaspoon at that point and mixed it again with the immersion blender.

Oops – maybe just a teensy-weensy too much salt – the broth and butter brought their own salt and it was *almost* enough. My advice if you try this: be careful with the salt.

The final product was delicious. It’s a one-pot meal using only a few utensils and in a half-hour you have a great soup for a cold, possibly snowy day. It’s also suitable for vegetarians who use dairy – not usual for my recipes.

I did find after repeated lunches of the stuff that it was missing ‘something’. I added more salt and pepper at work and it was better, but it could have used some other ‘something’ – but what?

Any ideas out there?

Fat, Dumb & Happy Day 9

March 18, 2014 – 223.2

Feel much better today. Still in ketosis. I’m thinking perhaps the ‘healthy veggies’ in my soup were perhaps not so healthy. I’ve come to distrust almost all general health and nutrition advice  – and the more emphatic the announcements the more I distrust them – and feel very on-my-own to sort things out.

On my way to work I picked up more roast beef and Kerry Gold swiss cheese. The woman at the deli counter said about the cheese: “Good, isn’t it? I can only order it around St. Patrick’s Day.” How did she know I liked it? Perhaps my walking up and asking for that particular brand without hesitation showed her that I had it before and knew what I was buying.

“You mean you can’t order it after?”

“No – but I can still order it now – maybe I’ll buy another case before it’s unavailable – you’re not the only one who likes it.”

“If you buy it, I’ll keep coming back to get more.” I smiled.

As this is my new favorite cheese – I mean it.


All I ate today was the Kerry Gold Irish Swiss cheese and roast beef – and I feel a hell of a lot better than yesterday. I might have been able to eat more after the 2 servings I had, but I wasn’t obsessed with eating like the past two days – it’s a world of a difference.

Can I really have a food allergy? I’ve always thought of myself as someone who didn’t have allergies to *anything*.

(Well, maybe you can say I’m ‘allergic’ to carbs.)

If I keep experimenting and find this reaction to these vegetables consistently happens…well, that sucks. I love tomatoes and tomato products. I love the spice of peppers. I like artichokes but they aren’t a ‘core food’ – if you told me I could never have one again, I could deal with it.

Tomatoes and peppers, however, leave me somewhat mortified – though as I once heard from a toxicologist: ‘the toxin is in the dose’.

Perhaps I can still have these in limited quantities and not have problems – and not make myself ‘Solanine Soup’ again. Another experiment.


Dinner was more of the roast beef and Kerry Gold Cheese – this time with mayonnaise. I also had a Fage yogurt with some sucralose, and some wine and dark chocolate. I have been blaming wine for carb-fests for years – was it really the culprit? Or something else in my diet? I had the wine, the carbs all around me were left untouched, and I went to bed the regular hour without any noticeable hunger.

Maybe it’s more complicated than I thought.

Fat, Dumb, & Happy: Day 8 – Solanine

Monday, March 17, 2014 – 225.8


Nice jump in the scale. I attribute it to a lot of bulk and water from yesterday’s meal, as well as less fat overall. I’m not concerned. I think I’ve shown my actual weight, minus the water I am retaining, is maybe 219. If the scale does not follow a smooth path downward I won’t be worried – you need to give your body time to adapt to the new regime. The scale is a handy tool when it doesn’t become an emotional rollercoaster that dictates your mood for the day.

What jazzes me is the ketones. Both yesterday and today they are running dark – great. Every day in ketosis means another day of my body adapting to it – and another day where I did not given in to carbs. You can’t fake this test, and while imprecise, it does tell you you’re in the zone.

While I might have been better off to switch to roast beef and butter, I want to finish off that great soup I made yesterday. It’s not bad to add some variety of quality vegetables into the mix also – even if the number on the scale doesn’t show what you’d like it to show.

This isn’t entirely about the scale. If it was, I could go on the ‘Walter White Blue Meth’ diet and be slim and trim in no time – but *how you get thin* is important.

8pm – 223.0

Today was the worst I’ve felt so far. Extremely tired, sore knees, achy legs, couldn’t wake up no matter how much coffee I drank, head not clear. It was a struggle to get through the day. And I was way more hungry than last week. I had more of the soup for lunch and *again* it did not satisfy but left me hungry. For the first time since I started this I was fantasizing about going out and getting a sandwich.

Instead I hit the bag of macadamia nuts hard. I even found my last Atkins bar left over from a business trip in November hidden in my bag and ate that.

Let’s pull back a moment and try to analyze the situation.

First, I’m going to assume for analysis that psychology is irrelevant. I’m not saying it isn’t – I’m assuming it isn’t and see where it takes me.

The crock pot of beef and veggies was very tasty – but more so than any meal I’ve had so far, I was hungry after it – 3 bowls worth in fact.

What’s with that?

A few things come to mind.

– it was the least fatty meal I’ve e had in a week. While low carb for the vast majority of humanity, it probably had, per bowl, maybe 10 grams net carbs. It was also the most fiber I had in a week. Sounds great – right? Low carb, high fiber – where’s the problem? The hunger afterward was the problem.

So what was it about the soup? I had 2 ingredients in large quantity: artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Of lesser quantity were the sweet peppers and 1/2 onion at most for the entire pot.

Was it the high fiber, the overall higher carb count or one of the ingredients that got me?

I’m going to give the stuff I ate and drank afterward a free pass at present. I’m also going to remove the onion because of the small quantity.

I’m going to focus on the artichokes, peppers and tomatoes.

I did a little research as I lay in bed, ready to hit the sack right after I came home. Before that, still ravenously hungry and talking myself out of stopping at one of the half-dozen fast-food joints on my way home by reminding myself I’d ruin the ketosis, I made 4 eggs with a lot of butter and cheese and ate that for dinner. This was after eating lunch, the Atkins bar and a half bag of macadamias so it wasn’t like I needed to eat more.

This meal – nothing but fat and protein – satisfied.

The research came up with this: solanine. It’s a toxic compound found in some plants that supposedly exist to prevent insects and animals from eating them. They are found in nightshade plants as well as a few other plant types.

Here’s some examples of plants containing solanine: tomatoes, peppers and artichokes.

What are some of the symptoms?

From one website:

An enzyme present in the body called Cholinesterase originates in the brain where its responsible for flexibility of muscle movement. Solanine, present in nightshades, is a powerful inhibitor of cholinesterase. In other words, its presence can interfere with muscle function – the cause of stiffness experienced after consuming nightshades. All people are not sensitive to nightshades in the same degree. Research has proved that when an inflammatory condition exists, consuming nightshades is like adding “fuel to the fire”. That said, there is no scientific evidence that for those not afflicted with inflammation that nightshades will cause it.

I also found some evidence, though much less, that solanine might cause hunger in sensitive individuals, but so little it seems tenuous at best. I’ll be the first to say that it’s a bit of a reach to say there’s a cause and effect here without lots of testing – but it’s a worthy hypothesis to pursue. What if I avoid plants with solanine and notice this doesn’t happen again? Outside of a slightly more restrictive approach – what do I have to lose?

From the same link above, here’s a list of the offending foods:

Nightshades – Avoid in order to decrease inflammation:

  • Potatoes, all varieties (sweet potatoes and yams are NOT nightshades. Beware of potato starch used in many seasonings and as a thickening agent)

  • Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, cayenne, pimento)

  • Tomatoes, all varieties (including Tomatillos)

  • Paprika

  • Eggplant

  Foods that contain solanine although not directly in the nightshade family:

  • Blueberries & Huckleberries

  • Okra

  • Artichokes

  Other Substances to Avoid:

  • Homeopathic remedies containing Belladonna (known as deadly nightshade)

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications containing potato starch as a filler (especially prevalent in sleeping and muscle relaxing medications)

  • Edible flowers: petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil’s trumpets.

  • Atropine and Scopolamine, used in sleeping pills

  • Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum (in cayenne pepper)

What’s relevant to me from that list is three of the items from my crockpot meal, as well as eggplant, blueberries and paprika. I’ve had okra and liked it, but I don’t eat it. I don’t take homeopathic remedies, nor do I eat flowers. I *have* used capsicum, but maybe once every few years, so I can avoid that.

So I’ll proceed from here under the assumption that I am sensitive to these compounds and see what happens – at least for a while. This sucks, of course, because I like these foods – and they are low carb.

But if I *do* find a stronger cause and effect link by experimenting along these lines, avoiding these foods might be worth it

Fat, Dumb, & Happy Day 7

Sunday, March 16, 2014  – 221.4


Earlier in the year I had intended to begin exercising and tried running. I liked it – even though when I was doing it the temperature was near zero. I was running for about 10 minutes tops each day, which isn’t much, but since I haven’t run since I was in primary school it was a big improvement. I liked running outside as opposed to the treadmill, which I think is somewhat soul-deadening compared to running outside in the real world.

But then my knees began to hurt. A lot.

I’ve seen the T-Shirts that say ‘pain is the weakness leaving your body’ – very macho – but I also know a number of my contemporaries who have had hip and knee replacements. No matter how cool titanium joints sound, I would prefer NOT to have one, thank-you-very-much.

My plan ‘B’ for this is to try again after losing 30 pounds so there’s less weight pounding on my knees I’ll try again.

In the meantime, I’ve been given the opportunity to get my exercise in another way – one that is low-impact and much more gentle for fat folks trying to get a little exercise: swimming.

It was nothing I pursued – it sort of found me.

A local drama that made the papers, good intentions, and mismanagement led to the construction of a beautiful building intended to be a Jewish Community College. It was funded by a huge donation by a generous benefactor, but cost overruns and overoptimism led to the whole project collapsing and the generous benefactor left with a huge, unfinished, empty building.

The generous benefactor, now a reluctant landlord with a white elephant on his hands needed to do *something* with this facility, and leased it to a local family who decided to open a ‘family-friendly’ athletic club.

I like that. It’s not a muscle-head gym, but a place where families can come with their kids and feel welcome and comfortable.

My wife came home one day and announced she signed the family up for a membership. The place hadn’t even opened.

I figure it’s water under the bridge *now* – I might as well see if I can get some return on the investment.

I got to test it out for the first time this morning. It is an olympic-size salt-water pool – I never knew salt-water pools existed. I did 20 laps.

I must be honest and state that I can’t swim – I only know how to propel myself through the water and avoid drowning. It’s not flailing, but a rather graceless yet workable facsimile of ‘swimming’.

I have no fear of the deep water because my ample adipose tissue causes me to bob like a cork.

With my poor form, swimming side by side with people who actually know how to swim, I shamelessly made a fool of myself if there was anyone there watching and judging me – but being of an age and disposition where I don’t much care what people think of me most of the time, I was unselfconscious and quite enjoyed the experience.

It was also a bit of a timing test. Much of my life, with kids and school and schedules and work and meetings sometimes requires down-to-the minute timing to make sure I can get done what needs to be done. From the time I left the house, got there, got undressed, got in the pool, did the 20 laps, got out, dried, dressed, left and got home and threw the bathing suit and towel in the dryer was 55 minutes total – I might be able to make that work.

I can get there at 5am on weekdays when they open, be back a little before 6am, have 20 minutes to chill with some coffee, then wake the kids and go through the morning routine of having my younger daughter to before-school daycare by 7:30, then head off to work and be there between 8:30 and 9am.

Could not only be workable, but enjoyable – oh – and good for me as well.

It bears repeating because it’s so important: I’m not exercising because it will help me lose weight! That doesn’t work except for the most dedicated gym rat with plenty of spare time. Exercising to lose weight is a myth perpetuated by people who sell gym equipment, athletic club memberships and sports accessories.

You can sit on your fat ass, diet, and end up with a much less fat ass without a lick of exercise. I did.

The reason to exercise is because it’s good for you – if you can manage not to hurt yourself doing it. There is ALSO a booming industry in repairing the injuries of exercisers who hurt themselves. A friend who was about as physically fit as one could imagine and looks way younger than his age (mid 50s) just got a hip replacement. Why? All that damn exercise – that’s why!

Exercise because you like it, because it is good for your health, and because it can make you feel better psychologically. Don’t EVER think it will help you lose weight – the chances of this are thin (pun intended).


The feeling of being on the clock never ends. The moment I came home from the athletic club, my daughter needed to go to her lacrosse practice. I have no idea what lacrosse *is* – something involving a ball and long sticks with tiny fishing nets at the end – but my daughter seems to be interested so – whatever.

Coming home I had to help my younger daughter practice piano. Before that, however, I decided to make something with the crockpot. In another experiment I threw in a can of tomatoes, a pound of grass-fed gound beef, 2 bags of frozen artichoke hearts, some lelftover sliced onions, some aging mini sweet peppers and the remainder of the taco mix that was masquerading as smoked paprika (and threw away the container). lastly – 20 shakes of Tabasco sauce. I left that to cook, did the piano practice with my daughter, then needed to take her to ballet, then take her to her piano lesson, then come home and do dishes and clean the house.

Along the way I found two abandoned hard-boiled eggs. I had these with a few splashes of low carb ketchup. I’m not much for hard-boiled eggs but I’m a big fan of ketchup. they went well together. I should remember to do this more. Eggs are a perfect food – relatively cheap for even the highest-quality eggs, easy to cook, and packed with top-notch nutrients, protein and fat –  and hard-boiled eggs are convenient.

I also had a tiny brie, packed in a small plastic container.

I’ve been in ketosis continuously since day 2 and I still feel the ‘water in the gas line’ feeling where waves of energy appear, then falter, then appear again. Occasionally a slight headache appears, then disappears as well. Again, nothing unexpected – and certainly beats how I felt when eating a lot of carbs – perhaps I was more miserable than I realized.

9 pm

I ate a lot in the evening, though all of it low carb – if not as low carb as I would have liked.

I avoided the pasta, the cake and the pie that was about had my crockpot dish of ground beef, tomatoes, & artichokes. In fact, I had three bowls. The fact that I didn’t put in too much seasoning brought out the natural flavors of the meat and vegetables.

But I was still hungry.

I ended up having a half-bottle of wine while eating pork rinds with cream cheese. I had a lot of cream cheese – perhaps half the package. Again, right now the focus is on sticking to the right foods and not necessarily portion control.

The wine as concerning. It doesn’t make me fat in itself and is low carb, but it stalls me at least until it gets out of my system. The worse part is it’s potential to get me into carb-gobbling mischief. I thought this was it – the screw up I’d been waiting for. But it didn’t happen.

Before bed I finished up 2 cups of the drinkable yogurt and went straight off to sleep.

Italian Style Chunky Soup with Eggplants, Peppers, Olives, and Artichokes


Forgive me as I don’t know what to call this. Is it a pasta sauce? A stew? A soup?

It beats me. All I know is my wife called me to tell me it was good – and not to ruin it by putting in more seasonings or cooking it further.

That doesn’t happen much. The fear I’ll ruin something? All the time, but phone calls on how good my recipe turned out? Never.

Here it is – you tell me what it should be called. I was an opportunistic recipe – most of the ingredients were on hand – I had inventoried what we had in stock and only bought the ground beef, Romano cheese, and fire-roasted tomatoes.

  • 2 pounds organic grass-fed ground beef.
  • Two medium-size eggplant.
  • 12 dried sun-dried tomatoes cut up with scissors.
  • One can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes.
  • One can pitted black olives.
  • One can artichoke hearts.
  • One third jar of four cheese pasta sauce.
  • 10 turns of the salt mill
  • Pepper.
  • Cayenne pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon oregano.
  • One green pepper.
  • One red pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Three onions.
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Fresh grated Romano cheese.

I browned the meat in olive oil, salt and the garlic while chopping the veggies and putting them in one by one, stirring as each batch went in. Then I poured the fire-roasted tomatoes and the 1/3rd jar of pasta sauce in. I brought this to a boil, added the remaining ingredients and let it simmer for 2 hours.

I ate covered in fresh grated Romano cheese. It *was* excellent.

It would work fine as a pasta sauce for people who eat pasta – low carbers can just eat it by itself, so feeding the family with disparate diets is doable with this recipe.

The 2014 Diet: The First Few Days

On January 1, at 225, a set a somewhat simple goal – at least for me: just stick to what *I* consider ‘acceptable foods’ and that’s about it – not portion control, calorie-counting, exercise,  nor worrying about net carbs, fat percentage or protein. This point of this being only to work on one ‘willpower challenge’ at a time – the first being my food choices – and once I had a handle on this, then move on to other challenges.

The last few months were ones where I let myself reacquire a number of bad food habits – mostly too many carbs. I love the things, really – I just can’t eat them and feel good, nor keep off weight.

So, instead of plunging headlong into some strict, self-punishing diet, I wanted to start slow and ease myself in to a change of eating habits that focuses on the pleasure of the foods I can eat rather than the feelings of deprivation from the ones I can’t.

So how have my first few days gone?

Well, following the above approach I am 220 lbs. as of this morning. I don’t see this as any amazing feat as this is most likely water weight,. nor was the number on the scale my focus so far (though it’s nice seeing it move in the right direction): my focus was on food choices.

Despite a few bumps in the road, I think I did OK.

  1. Coffee, either black, with cream, or coconut oil was part of my daily routine already and little changed here. By any measure I drink too much of the stuff, but a reduction here is a challenge for another day.
  2. For New Year’s I cooked a (slightly modified) recipe from a Jamie Oliver cookbook: leg of lamb covered in rosemary with roasted eggplant and red onions which were then put into a from-scratch pasta sauce with parsley, oregano, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and some chili powder. This was a winner of a recipe and the sauce might become a staple – I’ll have to play with this one more.
  3. Eggs, either fried or nuked: with a few minutes before a conference call I nuked an egg with some cheese in the microwave for a minute, gave it a stir, then nuked again for a minute, then put on salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. That was not bad at all – I’ll have to remember that trick.
  4. I made a batch of eggplant pasta sauce with strained tomatoes, leftover eggplant, parsley flakes, oregano, onion, minced garlic, chili powder, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil for my daughters to have with pasta. It was so good I took some the next day, put maybe 2 ounces of cheese on top, microwaved for 2 minutes and stirred in the melted cheese and used it as a dip with pork rinds, then had another bowl I ate like a thick soup. Another trick to remember.
  5. My wife had made a stir fry from some of the lamb along with celery and tofu and I had maybe 2 cups of that.
  6. Last night was sashimi night and I had raw tuna and scallops, as well as shrimp and two stir-fried dishes with chicken: one with zucchini and one with lotus root. There was also a miso soup with chicken, tofu and Chinese cabbage
  7. Along the way I have been drinking unsweetened almond milk with a few drops of EZ-Sweetz (pure sucralose) as a means to eliminate my milk-drinking habit and it has done the trick – I love the stuff. It also works to satisfy the sweet tooth and I find the stuff surprisingly filling – I might try a habit of having a cup before eating and seeing if it helps with portion control in the future..
  8. There was also some Greek yogurt, dark chocolate, macadamia nuts, and breakfast sausage along the way.

The above did not feel like deprivation and all the ingredients were acceptable, though I tend to steer clear of tofu and the soy sauce might have had some gluten in it, neither indulgence is the end of the world.

My failures both happened at night, fatigued and stressed.

  1. As I was putting away the pasta I made for the kids, I had a bowl. It was late, I was cleaning up, and it happened before I knew it. Not much thinking was going on at this point: my prefrontal cortex had already gone to bed.
  2. A similar situation on another evening caused the disappearance of some Lindt Chocolate balls and a Xmas cookie from a batch sent by a friend that arrived in the mail that day.

I’d say on the whole I did OK. The only thing to do about the failures is to keep practicing to stick to the acceptable food list and when the habit becomes ingrained I won’t need my prefrontal cortex to navigate around these hazards.

As to the mental techniques of ‘surfing the urge’ and ‘in 10 minutes’, I used the first a lot and the second a few times as well. Perhaps because I had a long list of forbidden items I was avoiding and the New Year’s started with the stress of a broken washing machine, a 9-day wait to fix, and frenzied attempts by my wife and I to diagnose the problem and fix it ourselves to avoid a rapacious bill and have clean clothes, my primary cravings were for wine and, oddly, cigarettes – since I have not smoked in more than 6 months (I took it up briefly after quitting for 14 years). It’s as if the cravings for the recently prohibited goodies brought to the surface other prohibited goodies that I’ve been abstaining from. I found myself planning the route to the store with the cigarettes, then to Trader Joe’s for the wine, but the craving passed and I went on with my life without ciggies and wine.

It’s only been 4 days so I think I’ll continue with the current approach a bit longer before I move on to the next challenge.