Three Months In

I’ve lived in Chattanooga, TN for three months now. I thought I’d chronicle some of my observations.

Friendly

I always thought Chicago was a friendly town, but it pales in comparison to this place. The best part is it’s not an ooey-gooey fake friendly. The folks here are genuinely happy to talk and share their experiences.

Our restaurant strategy when we first got here was to sit at the bar and eat rather than get a table. That way we could pick the brain of the bartender. A bonus has been that when people sitting at the bar hear that we don’t have a southern accent they jump into the conversation. They ask why we moved, how long we’ve been here and what can they do for us. I have more business cards, emails and phone numbers in 3 months than I thought I’d get in a year. Some folks are even becoming friends but those who are not recognize us when they see us again and the conversations just take off from where we left off. This is so refreshing! Life in a new place can be lonely. Not in Chattanooga.

Trees

People warned us about heat and humidity before moving here. It’s not as bad as I was predicting. Our office is smack in the middle of downtown. The city fathers had this brilliant idea about 100 years ago and planted tons of very large shade trees. The canopy covers the whole wide sidewalk. So, when you go out for lunch for example, you can stay in the shade as you walk to a restaurant. The temperature under the canopy is about 10 or 15 degrees cooler. You don’t have to walk in the sun except to cross the street. Another bonus is the birds. I have never heard so many chirping birds in the middle of a city as I do here.

My new favorite tree is the crepe myrtle. These trees are planted all over town! You can hardly look in any direction and not see one huge one or a cluster of smaller ones.  If you check out this link you’ll see they come in whole host of colors; some of them are my favorite colors. They bloom from Spring to Fall. I thought with the first rainstorm they’d lose their blossoms and they’d be all over the pavement. Not true. They are hearty and handle even thunderstorms. I can’t believe they bloom in full glory all summer long. I’m used to crab apple trees or lilacs that bloom only a short time. Crepe myrtles make my drive down the road a pleasant one with a reason to smile every day. And now I read that they are just as beautiful in the Fall. Fall is my favorite season so I can’t wait. Big crepe myrtles have a shady canopy, too!

Weather

Back to the weather. Yes, it’s been around 90 degrees for weeks. That would normally make me miserable. I’m grateful I work in an office. I don’t think I’d do well working outside in this temperature, but those trees I mentioned make it more bearable. And there’s always at least a light breeze that travels over the Cumberland Plateau, so the air is not stagnant. It’s really not bad!

Then there’s winter. I’ll be ready for plenty of rainy days, but I don’t have to shovel it. And there won’t be huge black and gray piles of dirty snow that don’t melt til June.

This last winter was the first time in 36 years of running a company that I had our employees stay home from work for 3 consecutive days. The temperature in Chicago had dropped to -57 degrees. I’m done with that.

Cost of Living

Almost everything down here is about 30% cheaper than Chicago. Rent. Gas. Even a glass of wine. The sales tax is about the same as Chicago but there’s no state income tax. There’s no tax on retirement income withdrawals either; or Social Security. We had planned to retire somewhere mid-south, but I had no idea until now how economical this all is.

The only things I have found to be as expensive as Chicago are the cost of getting my hair cut and colored, getting my nails done and dry cleaning. There’s not much competition around here for dry cleaners so they can charge more. In Chicago you could toss a tennis ball from one dry cleaner to the next. Not here.

Mountains

It’s amazing to be surrounded by mountains. I am not much for beaches and palm trees. I’d much rather see lakes and greenery around me. The mountains around Chattanooga are not high. Maybe 2000’ at the most but we are just a couple hours from 5000’ feet if we really want to be immersed.

I come out of the grocery store most days and look up at Lookout Mountain. The novelty has not worn off. That’s another thing that makes me smile just about every day.

This place is called The Scenic City. Easy to see why. The architecture (new and old) are well kept. The city is clean, and the surrounding beauty is not to be missed. This place was dubbed the dirtiest city in America a couple of decades ago. They sure have cleaned up their act; literally!

Sports

I have not done much besides get the apartment in order but if I want to indulge in sports, we are in sporting heaven. We have everything from rock climbing and hang gliding to biking, paddle boarding, kayaking and even whitewater rafting. It’s all right here. There’s a race or an event pretty much every weekend. Sporting enthusiasts move here for the variety and low cost. So far, we have taken a bit of time to watch things like a paddle board race and a shell racing event that is the second biggest in the world. Over one weekend there were 9000 rowers here with 2300 shells. That’s a sight!

Internet

Chattanooga has the fastest internet in North America. They built a huge company and took everything fiber optic. Zoom! Lots of entrepreneurs are moving here to take advantage of the technology. That means the city is getting younger instead of older. Welcome Millennials!

Driving

Driving is so easy around here. I marvel at how it only takes me about 10 minutes to get from one side of the city to the other and to just about anything I want. I drove on Sunday to Whole Foods at 8:30 in the morning and I was greeted by every guy in the produce department. I practically had the place to myself. You can’t get that in Chicago where the Whole Foods has five restaurants, a wine bar and patrons galore. The jam in the Whole Foods parking lot in Chicago is crazy. Here I get to park right out front and enjoy my shopping time. They even store the carts outside under an overhang. Compared to up north that makes me laugh. Works here though.

Granted, this place has some traffic problems. There are a couple of commuter routes I would not care for at all. There’s also a highway that runs up Missionary Ridge. That highway connects to Hwy 75 to Atlanta. You can just imagine the car traffic, but the truck traffic makes it even worse. The trucks are trying to climb up the ridge, so they end up going into a lower gear, slow down and have their flashers on. I can see this spectacle from my patio. I just laugh and tell myself to stay away from that; far, far away.

The downtown traffic is super-manageable. I am starting to recognize hardly anyone beeps. That must be why I can hear the birds so easily.

Target and Walmart

I have to admit, I’m a Target gal. There are two Target’s in Chattanooga but they are both 20 minutes away. The Walmart is less than 15. I do go to Walmart on occasion but mostly I save the “Target Run” and bite the bullet.

GPS

I thank my lucky stars for my GPS every day. I am still lost here. I do fine on the main streets but most of them are not straight. This town is not laid out in a normal grid pattern. Because of the mountains and the ridge, the streets wind around. Sometimes they cut through a tunnel. Other times they wind up and down the ridges or hills. I remember having to use my GPS in Chicago too; when I first moved there, so I’m not really complaining. Every new place takes getting used to.

Respect

I am getting used to being called “ma’am.” Men and women hold open the door. People say good morning on the street; total strangers smile at you.

The clerks at stores say nice things. I was at the County Clerk’s Office recently and the young woman who waited on me called me Miss Sarah. Even the bureaucrats are nice here and show their respect to all those around them.

Stress

My stress level has gone down some. I sleep pretty well. I think I am smiling more. I know for sure I am appreciating my new environment and soaking up all it has to offer.

As the months go by maybe I’ll check in again and let you know of a new set of observations. I just hope they are all filled with the positivity I am feeling so far. Chattanooga has been welcoming for sure.

Cheers,

Caramelized Onion Pie

Caramelizing onions makes the natural sugars in the onion come to the forefront. No more bold onion taste. Just dreamy flavor.


Caramelized Onion Pie

This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe. The key to the dreaminess of this onion pie is to caramelize the onions. The key to caramelizing onions is to take your time. Caramelizing onions makes the natural sugars in the onion come to the forefront. No more bold onion taste. Just dreamy flavor. Serve this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We love it as a tasty entrée item. You can serve it with a salad just like a quiche. It can also be served warm or room temperature. Makes a great buffet item.

Serves: Serves 4 as entrée. More as a side or a buffet item.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced onions. You can use white, or regular yellow. I used white onion, red onion and added some chives at the end. Don’t use sweet onions (Vidallia). It sounds counter-intuitive, but they don’t caramelize as well. Red onions caramelize well but take it easy on those or you will be serving purple pie.
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • grated sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of grated gruyere cheese, divided
  • one 9-inch pie crust, prebaked in a pie pan

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and sauté, stirring periodically, until caramelized (approximately 45 minutes). If you’re using chives, don’t add those yet or they’ll burn. I start off by setting the burner on medium. I stir the onions every 5 – 8 minutes. If the onions start to stick at all, just add a bit more olive oil and stir them around. You don’t want the onions to brown too fast. Just take your time. Mine don’t start to even brown a bit until after 15 minutes. After they just start to brown, I turn the burner down lower. Remove the onions from the heat when they are medium brown and have shrunken down. If you’re using chives, quickly saute them for 1 minute in a splash of olive oil.

Whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. You can do with a whisk or just run your mixer for a minute. Add the onions, chives and 1.5 cups of the cheese and stir to combine. Make sure they are not all stuck together. You might have to pull at them with a fork or tong to break up the cheese and make sure the onions get distributed. Pour the mixture evenly into the baked pie crust. You might need to use a fork again to make sure the mixture is spread across the whole crust. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the pie.

Bake in the preheated oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. If the crust starts to get too brown, cover it with foil. Remove the pie from the oven to cool. Let the pie cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Eat Your Veggies

My mom never had trouble getting me to eat my vegetables; except those times when she served lima beans. I hated lima beans. I thought they were so disgusting to chew, that I’d swallow them like pills. I flushed them down with milk.

My family believed in the “Clean Plate Club.” You didn’t leave the table without eating everything on your plate, whether you wanted to or not.

In the summer, after dinner, we’d go back out to play and that play might include a rousing game of football. We’d play on the grass by the school around the corner. If I got tackled, my brothers often mushed my face in the grass; sort of a final motion conducted at the end of a tackle. I hated the smell of getting my face planted in the grass so I worked hard not to get tackled. I got faster.

When I got to college, sprouts became popular. I tried them. They were all the rage. They smelled like the grass my faced had been mashed into. I gagged and sprouts came off the list of vegetable options for me.

I never got into kale, either. It had that same kind of earthy smell and tasted, to me, reminiscent of dirt. Arugula, too.

There are so many vegetable options offered up by Mother Nature that I thought I could go my whole life skipping the ones I didn’t like.

Now, I’m reconsidering some of them.

This article by Dr. Mercola gives me pause. I am considering eating more spouts and eating those microgreens that come on the plate at some fancy restaurants. I always thought they were just there to lend a delicate decoration.

One study shows that eating an extra helping of leafy greens can lower your chances of Type 2 diabetes by 14%! That’s major.

Have a look at this article. It’s packed full of veggie data that will have you choosing your veggies from a different perspective.

You don’t have to get wrapped up in all the vitamin micro-data included in here. Just pick through for the juicy bits that apply to your tastes and interests.  Then on the backside I’ll make some other comments and suggestions; including a fun recipe.

https://youtu.be/C-uSfnpkOLc

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/06/13/top-low-carb-vegetables.aspx?utm_source=wnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art3&utm_campaign=20160623Z1_NB&et_cid=DM111189&et_rid=1541261837

There are so many, many reasons to eat your veggies!  And there are so many delightful ways to cook them, or they can be added as an extra to many of your favorite recipes.

For example, I add a bunch of spinach to almost every soup recipe I make.

Based on the advice in Dr. Mercola’s column, I’m going to start adding watercress to more of my salads.

I’m going to start eating sunflower seeds. I had no idea they were so good for me. Add those to salads or just munch on them.

I’m also going to get back in the habit of taking my turmeric supplement. It’s easy because it’s just like a vitamin pill. Quick.

Notice there is no mention in here of potatoes, peas, or corn. All high carb vegetables; as are things like parsnips and carrots. They maybe taste so good they borderline addictive, but not your best vegetable bets. Branch out.

Here’s a recipe for chips! Next time you want a potato chip, make these kale or Swiss chard chips. My favorite is to make them with Swiss chard. I even serve them as an appetizer before a dinner party. People gather round as I take them off the hot cookie sheet and they dive right in.

Cheers,

 

Baked Kale Chips

If you have a hankering for potato chips, try these instead!


Stuck No More

“I was stuck at 300 pounds,” says Kris Allen. He’s our radio spokesperson in Bellefontaine, OH. He watched as one of his co-workers lost 250 pounds on Plan Z, but still couldn’t imagine it would work for him. You can see that it did. Listen to his story about how fast he dropped 74 pounds and how much better he feels.

Kris umpires women’s softball. His knees would ache after a game or two. Not anymore.  He’s sleeping better. And the GERD is gone. No more drinking two bottles of Milk of Magnesia per week. He hesitated starting on Plan Z, but now he has no hesitation telling his listeners and friends to get on it.

This interview took place when Kris was down 49 pounds:

Take care of yourself. We only get one shot. Our bodies get used to what we feed them. There's an old computer programming lingo phrase that says, garbage in, garbage out. If you don't take care of your body and feed it stuff that it's not supposed to have, then sooner or later it's going to start breaking down. I look at it like this, I was given a second chance. I've lost the weight and I'll do what I can to help people see that they don't have to live this way.

I thought I was stuck. I was 52 years old, 300 pounds, I was a heart attack waiting to happen...[but] you're never too far gone to come back.


The Hidden "Danger" of Losing 40 Pounds on Plan Z

Some Plan Z dieters send us before and after pictures.

Some send us emails telling their story.

But Plan Z Dieter Margaret sent us this picture of the inside of her closet.

She wrote:

"THIS is what happens when you lose 40 pounds and go from a size 18 to a size 10. The folks at Goodwill thanked me for my donation. I’m on ZReboot, loving it and maintaining my weight loss nicely."

Listen to her motivating interview:


I Scream, You Scream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Remember that jingle?

When the cravings get tough, I think some people DO scream!

The good news is there is a way to have your ice cream, eat it too, and not gain weight.

Food companies are getting a clue that we want to have it all, but we know we can’t eat it all. So, they are making smaller portions. Ice cream bar mini’s are multiplying in the grocery freezer section. Many of the manufacturers are using higher quality ingredients, too, and leaving out all the artificial stuff.

You can in fact have a dessert every day if you keep your total carbohydrate count for the day under 20% of your total intake. Follow this rule of thumb: 20 grams of carbs (or less) in your dessert. 15 grams or less is better, but I do make a couple of exceptions.

So read the back of the box. If the carb count is under 20 grams, eat one. One per day should be safe. Just keep an eye on the scale...and scale back if you start to go overboard.

I went to the grocery store recently and found all kinds of new options. I even taste-tested a few so I could report out.

 

Klondike Mini’s

These come in 3 flavors: original, Reese’s mint and double chocolate. I tried the Reese's, of course I did - peanut butter!

They have a mild peanut butter flavor and melt quickly. Next time I'd put it in a little bowl and eat it with a spoon so I can savor it better.

Carbs:
Original =13 g
Reese's mint = 14 g
Double chocolate = 13g

 

Mayfield’s Brow Cow Junior

Dean Foods makes Mayfield. I had never seen this ice cream brand until I moved to Chattanooga. If you live up north, you might find these under a Dean Foods label. The ice cream bar is just enough and reminded me of a Dilly Bar from when I was a kid.

Carbs: 8 g. You could almost have 2 per day!

 

Carb Smart Almond Bars

This Breyer’s product comes in a mini size. Don’t buy the big ones. Stick to the bite-sized version. The almond gives it a nice extra crunch if you are into that sort of thing.

Carbs: 13 g

 

Dole Dippers

These come in the cutest little packs. You get 4 per pack which is plenty to give you mighty satisfaction after dinner. They come in pineapple, banana and strawberry. Banana was the big hit in our family and the dark chocolate version is our favorite. We don’t eat a lot of bananas so we found this one to be special.

Carbs:
Pineapple = 8 g
Banana = 13 g
Strawberry = 6 g

 

Magnum Minis

This is high level chocolate eating. Belgian. They come in classic, almond and double caramel. I made an exception to my normal 15 gram limit for the double caramel. It’s downright sinful.

Carbs:
Classic = 13 g
Almond = 15 g
Double caramel = 18 g

 

Outshine Bars

If you have someone on your home team who is not a big fan of ice cream but wants a mini-bar these are fruit bars of the right size. There is a variety pack with three flavors including a lime one. Be sure to read the ingredients on these. They have several variety packs, and some have the artificial sweetener sorbitol in them. You don’t want that. Believe it or not, regular sugar is better than that artificial stuff, and these come in at a very reasonable carb rate so the small amount of sugar in these is ok.

Carbs: 8 g

 

You can have your ice cream and live a healthy life. No need to scream.

Enjoy!

Cheers,

Tipsy Plums with Sweet Cream

A simple, tasty seasonal desert.


Tipsy Plums with Sweet Cream

Plan Z Phase: This a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe.

Servings: Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the Plums

  • 3 ripe plums sliced thinly (no need to peel them)
  • 1/3 cup of vodka. I use orange or vanilla-flavored vodka. If you do not cook with alcohol, use sparkling water.
  • 1 tsp of Truvia

For the Sweet Cream

  • 1/3 cup of crème fraiche (find this in tubs in the cheese section or near the cream cheese)
  • 1 tsp of organic vanilla
  • ½ tsp of Truvia

Instructions:

Heat plums vodka and 1 tsp ot Truvia on medium and cook until the plum slices are softened. Remove from heat and set aside so you can make your sweet cream topping.

In a small bowl, mix the creme fraiche, vanilla and 1/2 tsp of Truvia well with a spoon. Serve over the warm plums.

BIG YUM!

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Barbecue Burgers - Zola Style

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe. There’s no way to use a commercial sauce for barbecued meats. They ALL have copious amounts of sugar in them. I know. I checked every bottle in the store, so I set about to come up with a rub and a sugarless barbecue sauce for Plan Z.

There are three stages to making burgers this way. The Rub. The Burger. The Sauce. If you are not a major cook don’t worry. This looks harder than it is. Stick with this and you’ll love your burgers.

Servings: 3 burger patties (1/3 pound each) -- In ZReboot the portions are a bit bigger than during ZReduction.

Ingredients:

For The Rub:

  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp of chili powder
  • 1 tsp of Truvia
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of celery salt
  • 1 tsp of dry mustard

For the Barbecue Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion minced
  • 1 clove of garlic minced (you can use jar garlic)
  • 1 tsp of liquid smoke
  • 6 oz of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of white wine or low carb beer (or water if you are on Z2)
  • ¼ cup of tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbl cider vinegar (or a bit more of you like your sauce to have a vinegar bite)
  • 3 Tbl of dry mustard
  • 2 pinches of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of Truvia (stevia)
  • hot sauce to taste

For the Burgers:

  • 1 pound of ground sirloin
  • olive oil spray

Instructions for The Rub:

Mix all of these together in a bowl. If you want you can make double and it will keep in your cupboard in a sealed container.

Instructions for the Barbecue Sauce:

Put the onions in a sauce pan. Heat on medium until the onions wilt. Then add the garlic. Stir to heat.  Add the other ingredients and cook on medium for 15 – 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

Instructions to prepare the Burgers:

Get your charcoals going so they're nice and hot. If you use a gas grill, you'll want to get your grill heated up a bit before cooking up your burger patties. If you're using a grill pan indoors, spray it with a little bit of olive oil spray and heat the pan on medium high.

Spread the rub on both sides of your patties.  You can let the rub soak into the patties or grill them right away.

Grill your patties for about six to eight minutes per side, depending on how well you like your burger cooked. You want to get a nice crust on each side to seal in the juices (the rub will help form this crust better on a charcoal or gas grill).

Brush a couple of tablespoons of the Barbecue sauce on the burgers just a few (two to three) minutes before you're ready to pull them off of the grill.

Check the flavor and make personal adjustments as you please. Some people like spicier burgers so you can add a dash of Tabasco sauce to spice it up a bit.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Mexican Chicken Stew

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe.

Serving Size: Serves 4 – 6. Each serving is 1-1/2 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tsp of chopped garlic (jar garlic will work)
  • 1 Tbl of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • ½ of a poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 medium banana pepper, diced
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 6 large dashes (blurps, I call them) of Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups of organic chicken stock or broth
  • 1 lime or 2 Tbl of lime juice
  • olive oil spray

Instructions:

In a medium sauté pan add the chicken breasts and enough water to cover them almost to the top. Heat to a low boil and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until no pink remains in the middle. Turn them at the halfway point. Remove from the water bath and let drain. Then shred the chicken. I just pull it apart with two forks. Go with the grain for longer shreds.

In a medium soup pot add some of the olive oil spray and then add the onion. Cook until the onion loosens. Add the garlic, oregano, and cumin. Stir and heat until the spices are aromatic (the smell will come up to your nose and you can whiff it in). Then add the pepper bits, the tomato paste, Worcestershire and the broth. Stir to break up the tomato paste so you have a light red broth. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes on medium so it bubbles along and begins to thicken. The pepper bits will cook and you’ll have your finished product.

Just before serving add the lime juice and stir. Serving size is 1-1/2 cups. You can have an additional ½ cup of veggies and salad greens if you wish.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Pumpkin Pancakes with Pumpkin Spiced Whipped Cream

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe. Hot off the Griddle. “Zolafied” pancakes. Dieter Joan sent me her family recipe for pumpkin pancakes. They are a favorite with her family. She asked me if I could do a “healthy version” of pumpkin pancakes that she can serve at the holidays and keep her family full and satisfied as well as healthy. So here it is!

Servings: This makes 12, 4” pancakes. The carbohydrate count will be very low on these cakes. They fill you up too. If you want your kids “full and focused” before school give them these instead of cereal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Super Fine Ground almond flour (Bob's Redmill is the most popular brand)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup of water
  • ¼ tsp of grated sea salt
  • 3 tsp of Truvia (stevia)
  • 3 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 cup of pumpkin pie puree (the stuff from the can works great)
  • coconut oil or butter for cooking

Instructions:

Put all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with your electric mixer on medium high for a full 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl and mix a bit again.

Many pancake experts recommend you let the pancake mix sit for 15 minutes before you make the pancakes. This allows the active ingredients to do their job. I let this batter sit too.

Then just before grilling the pancakes I gave it one more 5 second swirl with my electric mixer.

You have a couple of options for grilling. I used my electric fry pan. That’s my favorite or you can do them on your stove. Electric fry pan temp should be 400 degrees. On the stove medium-medium high.

For oils. First batch I did with coconut oil. Works great. Second batch I did with butter. Works equally as well.  Your choice.

The batter with be a bit thicker than regular pancake batter. When I put the batter on the surface I had to nudge it around a little to help it spread. You could add a bit more water if you want your batter thinner.

The pancakes will not bubble like normal ones so just watch for them to be golden brown on the bottom and then gently flip them. They do puff up like regular pancakes.

Leftovers can keep in zipper bags in the refrigerator and re-heated.

Serve with Pumpkin Spiced Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of whipping cream
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

Mix with your mixer until still peaks form; just like regular whipped cream. Serve this on your pancakes instead of syrup. Or if you want some syrup just do a teeny bit; like a capful.  And use REAL maple syrup. No diet syrup. A bit of the real stuff is better for you. I served mine with the whipped cream and a very teeny drizzle of syrup. It was WAY YUMMY!

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Happy Birthday Tattoo

Happy Birthday Tattoo!

Our kitty Tattoo turned 19 this month.

This is a picture of her birthday kitty pate. Of course, we blew out the candle for her and sang a little ditty.

Tattoo had a lot of upheaval this month.

Mid-way through the month we put her in a cage and made her endure two, five-hour long car rides with an overnight stay in a strange hotel. She did great.

Then we holed up at a VRBO in a bungalow until our apartment was ready for occupancy. She lived there for two weeks. I think she thought that was her new home but it’s not very sunny inside and she’s an Abyssinian. She loves to sleep in the sun more than any other cat I’ve lived with.

Next, we put her back in her cage and dragged her up four flights of stairs to our new apartment. The building is so new the elevator was not working yet. She got jostled a lot. We did our best.

Good news is she is living in a brightly lit apartment up at tree height. She can see the birds flying by and get all the sun Chattanooga has to offer -- and that’s been a lot.

Bad news is this month came with another birthday “gift” that is not so fun.

She’s been diagnosed with kidney disease. It’s a fairly common occurrence among older kitties but it’s still not fun. Her new vet is a really smart woman. I am really impressed. There’s not much you can do for a kitty with kidney disease from a conventional veterinary medicine approach. Her doctor has now recommended a couple of supplements that she’s taking twice a day to calm down the kidney numbers and stabilize her. She had been asking to drink water like a mad woman and I thought she might be getting diabetes but turns out it was her kidneys.

The natural supplement does not taste good, so we’ve been experimenting with hiding it in various liquid-based drinks and food. We’ve been successful with goat milk. Just a little. A couple of tablespoons. Stir it in and serve. Goat milk has more protein and easier for her to digest. She dug right in the first day but has been on and off on the idea since. We’ve also tried a new broth-based cat morsel packet that she has been devouring. I’ll do anything to get the medicine in her so she can get better.

Tattoo has been with us a long time. She was originally a birthday gift to my husband. He turns 69 today. I’m taking him out to dinner. Thankfully I don’t have to try to hide meds in his food. He’s super healthy.

For your recipe today I am diverting from pate. The idea was to give you a pate recipe but I save that work for the pros. It’s not that it’s difficult to make but I hear it stinks up your kitchen while you cook the livers...and I’m the only person in the family who eats it!

Instead, strawberry season is starting so I’m offering up a yummy cool, dessert idea.

Cheers!

Strawberry Milkshake

A beautiful, refreshing dessert...Yum!


Strawberry Milkshake

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe.

I think this makes a beautiful, refreshing dessert. If you can’t get fresh strawberries go ahead and use frozen. Slices are best so they don’t get caught in the blender. For a special occasion top it with whipped cream!

Servings: Serves 3. Can be doubled easily.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large, ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • 3 large strawberries, washed (for garnish)
  • 1 Tbl of stevia (ZSweet or Swerve)
  • ¼ cup of whipping cream
  • 1 cup of full fat plain yogurt
  • Ice

Instructions:

Blend the strawberries and sweetener in your blender until mush. Add the cream and blend for about 20 seconds. Then add the yogurt and blend for a minute on medium high. This will fluff it up more. Put a big cube of ice in the bottom of the glass for more chill. If you are using frozen strawberries, you won’t need the ice.

Serve in a tall glass to be fancy.

Serve with a straw (preferably bio-degradable) to be a little more fancy.

Garnish with a full strawberry poked over the side to be really fancy.

Serve with sweetened whip cream on top to be super fancy!

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Italian Green Bean Salad

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. This is a fun, colorful side dish to a plain piece of meat. This goes together so fast! You can even make it in the morning and finish assembly just before dinner.

Servings: Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of green beans
  • 6 small tomatoes or 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can of hearts of palm (rinse thoroughly) I use the pieces. Or you can cut up the longer ones.
  • 1/2 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cup of celery pieces
  • baby spinach
  • 3 Tbl of dressing. Use Italian or an Italian vinaigrette

Instructions:

Put a medium pot of water on to boil. Put in your cut up green beans. Heat them in the water. When it begins to boil, take them out after one minute and immediately run them under cool water until they are cold. This will stop them cooking an you want them to remain crisp.

In a large bowl add the cool beans all of the other ingredients EXCEPT the spinach. The spinach goes in at the last minute.

Now toss thoroughly. You want your salad to remain in the bowl and let the flavors mix for an hour. Read the paper, watch the news. . . whatever. Or you can make this in the morning and let it sit in the refrigerator.

Grate on sea salt and pepper to taste. Now toss in a bunch of baby spinach. How much you put in of this unlimited green is up to you. Toss again and serve.

A nice, cool side dish.

Enjoy!

Cheers,

 


Vindaloo

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe.

This is probably the spiciest offering for Plan Z. This, and the Caribbean chicken chili. So if you like Indian food and you like it spicy, this is your ticket. If you like it flavorful but not all that spicy you always have the option to cut back on the jalapeno. I am going to lay out how to make this 3 ways, with chicken, pork or leftover turkey.

Indian food is often not all that pretty to photograph. The satisfaction comes in the flavor. So don’t let that sway you away. It’s sort of like Irish stew. That doesn’t photograph well, either.

Vindaloo has a lot of ingredients but it’s super easy to make.

Servings: Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of chicken tenders, or
  • 1 pork tenderloin, or
  • 4 cups of leftover turkey bits

If you choose the chicken:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the chicken tenders in an oven proof pan and bake it them at 375 for about 15 – 17 minutes until done. (Done is no more pink the middle. Cut one open to be sure). Then cut them into bite-sized pieces.

If you choose the pork:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray the pork tenderloin with olive oil and put in an ovenproof pan. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes or until the pork reaches 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Let it rest for a few minutes to cool down and cut into bite-sized pieces.

If you choose leftover turkey:

  • Pull your cooked turkey apart and cut into bite-sized pieces. They can be shreds or solid chunks. Your choice.
  • While your meat is roasting you can make your sauce.

For the vindaloo sauce:

  • ½ of a large onion, chopped (or a whole, medium one). It should yield about 1 – 2 cups. This does not have to be scientific. It’s just an estimate based on how much you like onions.
  • 1 tsp of minced garlic (jar garlic will work)
  • 1 fresh chili (I used jalapeno), minced. You can use half of the chili or go all the way up to HOT and use the whole thing.
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • ½ tsp of curry powder
  • ½ tsp of turmeric
  • ½ tsp of ground ginger (if you don’t have it you can use fresh or jar ginger, too)
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp of dried mustard powder
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ tsp of Truvia
  • 2 – 4 Tbl of tomato sauce (you can decide if you like your sauce more tomato-based or not)
  • ½ - 1 cup of water. Start with ½ cup and as it cooks down you can decide if you want to add more.
  • 1 Tbl of apple cider vinegar
  • baby spinach (one handful per person)

Instructions:

Spray a medium sauce pan with olive oil spray. Add your onion and cook on medium, stirring often, until it wilts. Turn off heat. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the pan up through apple cider vinegar. (You can add half of the jalapeno and then taste later and decide if you want to add more). The spinach is for later. Turn your heat down to medium-low. Stir. Simmer 10 minutes to get the flavors to meld, stirring often. You want to get it bubbling but just for a moment and then turn it down. Add your meat and continue simmering on low for up to 20 minutes more to get the flavors to penetrate the meat. Keep an eye on it and see if you want to add more tomato sauce and/or water. This is totally based on how loose you want your sauce. Some people prefer it to just coat the meat. Others like their vindaloo saucy. Taste and make your final judgement on whether you want to add the rest of the jalapeno.

When it’s heated completely through and the meat has had time to absorb some of the flavors, you can serve.

Traditionally, this would be served over rice. In our house, we serve it over baby spinach. The heat from the meat and sauce will wilt the spinach. You can just stir it around to make your “stew” with the spinach included. Or, if you don't like raw spinach, you can add the spinach to the pan before you serve.

This makes a great leftover dish the next day and travels to the office to heat in a microwave.

Serving size: Up to 1-1/2 cups or 8 ounces of meat max. One cup will be satisfying for most.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


The Miracle of Collagen

I went to my naturopathic doctor a couple of months back. I have been dealing with an infection in my digestive tract that I contracted after a series of antibiotic prescriptions. It’s been a nightmare. She had some new test results for me.

One of the first things she told me was I am not getting enough protein. I squealed at her, “I eat protein and vegetables every day. They are the mainstay of my diet. How could I not be getting enough protein?!”

She’s just shrugged and said I needed to get more protein. My body was not absorbing the protein I was eating, or I was not eating enough. It was probably both because my digestive issues were making me lose my appetite.

I told her I even put protein powder in my morning smoothie. “Have you tried Collagen Protein?" she asked. I had not even heard of it.

So off I went to the grocery store looking for collagen protein. The pharmacist helped me find it. I found one that is vanilla flavor but has no sugar. (You have to be careful when buying protein powders. Many of them are chock-full of sugar).

I made my first smoothie with it. I was in heaven. I don’t know exactly what it is about it but it gives your smoothie a really nice mouth feel. And the benefits are GREAT.

The rest of this article is about what collagen protein is and how it benefits you. The benefits are SO many it’s easy now to pass by any other kind of protein powder and pick up this kind. I’ve included two links to collagen protein powders. The first one is the one I currently use and the second one is one offered by Dr. Axe. Much of the rest of this article is taken from Dr. Axe’s website so I have to give credit where credit is due.

 

WHAT IS COLLAGEN?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and is vital for the health of our bones, joints and connective tissues, muscles, gut, nails, hair and skin.

From Dr. Axe:

Why collagen could be the most transformational substance in the world

Up to 30% of all the protein in your body is collagen protein. Up to 70% of skin, hair, nails and nearly 100% of connective tissues are collagen. It literally holds you together: from the hairs on your head, to every inch of your skin, to your joint comfort and mobility. It even impacts the overall health of your gut, including gut integrity.

There’s a reason that collagen supplementation, in addition to an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, is being dubbed as the new essential in the wellness and beauty community. Many people’s collagen is breaking down at an accelerated rate… and it’s not being replaced in the standard modern diet.

Is collagen what’s missing in your diet more than Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Omega-3s and Probiotics? Did you even know you probably need to replenish it regularly?

Once you hit 25 Years of Age, Your Body Could Start Losing Collagen

As we age, our bodies’ natural production of collagen slows dramatically. Over 25? Your body is probably not replenishing collagen as quickly as you are losing it, since replenishment slows with age.

As your body slows its collagen production, you’ll typically end up with skin that “looks older” with less skin elasticity, vibrancy and hydration, creaky joints, or even gut disturbances. It could even mean thinner hair and brittle nails.

And none of us are exempt from this natural aging process.

Collagen is going to diminish with age. Period.

The typical woman can expect to lose about 1 to 2 percent of her body’s collagen every year starting in her mid-30s, and this rate generally only increases as she makes her way through her 40s, 50s and beyond.

There’s evidence that collagen production in sun-protected and well-maintained skin of older adults (over the age of 80) is up to 75 percent less than the production in the skin of young adults (under the age of 30).

Yes! You read that right. There’s up to 75% less collagen in elderly adults as compared to those in young adulthood. That’s a staggering number.

Have you ever met someone who was in their 20s, but you could have sworn she was 45? Or seen that rare 70-year old woman with the skin of someone in her 30s? It’s true, something like perceived age is partially due to genetics. But it’s not totally up to fate. It’s also up to a person’s diet, lifestyle and collagen stores.

And age is not the only thing that can slow down production and deplete collagen from your body. If you’re worried about the breakdown of your own collagen, take a look at the list below of 10 lifestyle factors that are considered “collagen killers.”

10 Surprising Collagen Killers

Poor sleep

Too much sugar in the diet

Injuries and joint degeneration

High cortisol from emotional stress

Sun overexposure

Diet low in antioxidants

Sitting all day and lack of activity

Bad gut health

Nutrient shortfalls of vitamin C and zinc

If you were blown away by this information, join the club. I needed to learn this.

I’m at an age where I’m obsessed with my skin but don’t really know how to keep it lively. Turns out you can keep it youthful from within rather than trying to figure out which of the myriad of creams to buy. I’m always stumped by all those commercials pushing hydro-boost this, retinol that. And of course, drink plenty of water.

My gut is starting to feel better too. It’s slow progress but between a new drug I am on that is supposed to be straightening me out and my new smoothies I’m on my way.

I’m giving you my latest, super-simple smoothie recipe so if you decide to try collagen powder you’ll have a recipe ready to go. Just toss this stuff in your blender. The shake/smoothie keeps me full and focused until sometimes after 11AM. Then I’m raring to eat lunch at noon.

Cheers,

Collagen Fruit Smoothie

One of my favorite breakfasts these days. So easy and quick. Refreshing and filling. Collagen protein powder is not cheap but the health benefits are HUGE.


Moving South

Whenever I have been asked, my answer goes something like this: “We think Florida smells funny and Arizona is too dry, so we think we will likely retire mid-south.”

We are by no means ready to retire. Let’s get that straight right away.

But we are moving south.

I have done tons of research on where to go. I originally concentrated on the Carolinas. I thought one of those two states would afford us pleasant weather most of the year; with the exception of when the Northeasters blast through.

Move a little further west and Bingo!

We fell in love with Chattanooga, TN.

And Chattanooga gets less than 2” of snow per year. Sure beats Chicago and the Polar Vortex!

Chattanooga, these days, is referred to as Scenic City. And it’s gorgeous. 15 years ago, it was dubbed the dirtiest city in the US. What a transformation!

So why else would we move to Chattanooga besides the fact that it’s gorgeous?

It’s a great size. Big enough to keep us interested, but small enough that it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to drive across town. Compare that to the last time I drove back into Chicago and it took me an hour to cross five miles on a clogged expressway.

The culture level means there is a symphony. Broadway comes through town. It just lasts two days instead of two months. Better motivation for me to get my tickets.

It’s a foodie town. No doubt about it. That’s important to me and my husband. We have visited several times and have not covered all of the restaurants we want to visit. We’ve had so many great meals for a smaller-sized city it's silly. And Tasty!

The people of Chattanooga are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. As soon as they hear you don’t have their accent, they ask why you are there and how they can help. I have taken several informal surveys with people who have moved to Chattanooga. I ask them if they made the right decision to move there, and I kid you not, 100% of them say it’s the best decision they have ever made.

Sports are huge in Chattanooga. Because it’s situated on the Tennessee river, they get paddle boarding conventions, kayaking, rowing and more. Marathons and other running races are frequent. Surrounded by mountains they have hang gliding, rock climbing, repelling and hiking. I think I’ll just start with some easy hiking.

Now, let’s get to some of the business reasons. Yes, we are moving the company down there, too.

It’s a lot cheaper. We are going to save so much on overhead we will be able to offer innovative programs to help our clients save money. We just launched ZClub. If you are not yet aware of it, call us or check it out HERE.

The internet speed is amazing. MUCH faster than anywhere else in the US! Seems odd, but they took it over as a public utility and put in all optic cabling that runs internet at lightening speeds.

That means the youth are moving. Young people who are entrepreneurs and starting off fresh new businesses are flocking to Chattanooga. We want to retire among the young. The median age of Chattanooga is currently 39.

I know I sound like the “Chatt” or “Nooga” (both nicknames for the city) Chamber right now but I know so many of you were going to be curious about why we chose Chattanooga.

In many listings it’s coming up as one of the top 10 places to retire in the US. But like I said, we are not ready to retire, but we were ready to get in on the fun early.

Here we come to Chattanooga!

Please pardon any awkwardness during our transition. We will be making the move over the last half of April. We will always be available by phone. Our phone system will transfer calls to our cell phones automatically. We will still be able to take orders; we just might have a slight delay in shipping depending on which day you call. The moving truck shows up April 24 and we hope to be open in our new offices before May 1.

Thank you so much for your support. We hope you’ll be excited for us! And if you’re ever near by we’d love to invite you to visit us at our new offices.

Cheers,

P.S. I’ll keep the recipes coming too!

 

Chicken Verde

If you have Mexican food fans in your family this is a hit!


How to Eat French Fries

A low carb instruction manual.

When you go low carb, the first thing they tell you is to cut out all the white stuff. The pasta, the bread and the potatoes are the first to go.

I agree with all that.

A few years ago, I dubbed myself The Queen of Four Fries.

And I have perfected that talent without it hitting my waistline.

This is all supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, (in other words, entertaining) but buried in here too are pieces of advice that when applied to eating French fries can come in handy.

First, we need a definition of one French fry. I call it a classic cut fry, fresh cut or frozen, 4 – 5 inches long. That’s 15 – 20 inches of French fries if you lay them end to end. That sounds like plenty doesn’t it? Compare that to the huge pile they usually deliver on your plate when you order in a restaurant.

This isn’t shoestring fries, or waffle fries or even steak fries. You’ll have to adapt the visual and the math to convert to those shapes.

So now that we have established portion size, let’s talk about how to eat them.

There’s actually technique involved.

I have been observing people eating fries for some time now.

There are those who reach into the container with their fingers acting like pincher tools who grab a cluster of fries and jam the whole thing in their mouth. This is most often observed at fast food locations or places that sell skinny fries, but not always.

Then there are those who take one long fry, bite part of it and then immediately push the too long fry into their mouth. Sometimes the mass is so hot and so much that they have to take a gulp of their drink. You don’t really get a lot of enjoyment from a fry when you approach eating them like they are going out of style. Believe me. They are not going out of style.

I’ll admit, in my old days I fell victim to the bad habit of eating fries both of those ways. I’ve changed.

So how to do I eat four fries and get satisfaction without waistline creep?

Here’s how I do it.

I select one fry from the pile. In order to do this, I might even rearrange the fries on my plate looking for one that looks particularly tasty and is done to my liking. (I like my fries a little more on the done side – browner).

I pick up my fry between two fingers and a take a bite about one inch long. Then I actually put that fry down on the pile and chew what’s in my mouth. Maybe I drink something or have a bite of whatever else I’m eating. Then I take another bite about the same size. See what’s going on here? I’m tasting my delicious fries and getting the full experience. I’m not inhaling them!

I never eat all four fries in succession. Nope. The protein and veggies take center stage. The fries are a little bonus.

If you’re temped to want to keep going back in and eat more just pick through the pile looking for the ones that are shorter. Much shorter. Those are the little crispy bits. You can have four crispy bits and that equals one fry.

Now for the ketchup. That stuff is a sugar laden nightmare. Dip. Don’t dunk. Just put a bit of ketchup on the tip of the fry for the ketchup experience. I never clean out the ketchup ramekin. It always looks like I never even used it when I’m done.

Better yet, dip your fries in 1000 island dressing. It has half the carbs of ketchup. I just order some on the side. They always give it to me. No charge.

An order of fries according to Fat Secret’s diet site is 10 fries. The classic cut ones will set you back 16 grams of carbs. If you eat four you are under 8. My husband allows himself five fries. That’s his rule for himself. He’s taller than me.

Just in summary I’ll tell you another quick story.

I used to try to order four fries. It’s only worked once. One fry cook actually counted out four fries and they arrived on my plate just as I asked. Never again. Every other cook always piles them on and leaves the discipline to me.

When I am finished eating and I have that massive pile of fries still sitting on my plate I have had to learn to let go of the guilt. I usually put my paper napkin on top of the fries to let the waitperson know I am finished. I might even push my plate away from me a bit or set it to the side. That’s my signal to myself that I’m not going back in there for more. I’m done and satisfied.

Balsamic Chicken

This is a super easy meal to make; made even easier by doing it in your slow cooker. Simple Italian.


Big Guy, Big Change

Josh Ellinger has always been “the big guy.”

Towering at 6’-3” and 640 pounds at his heaviest Josh sometimes had his first name replaced simply with “Big E” in high school. When a slightly svelter, but still large 525 pound “Big E” found his way onto the Rock 92 morning show in Greensboro, NC the radio station riffed off his teenage nickname, and “Biggie” was born.

Lately, though this “big guy” has been dropping some big numbers in unexpected ways.

Biggie lost over 276 pounds on Plan Z…and is still losing. Biggie’s drastic transformation ranks him as one of the top losers (or should we say winners) on the Plan Z Diet.

“I was shocked myself,” said Biggie. “Being a guy who has tried literally every other diet out there I’ve never lost as much weight as I did on Plan Z.”

Biggie lost weight daily — sometimes up to three pounds. “It’s a motivational factor to see that each day,” said Biggie. “I got more and more excited about how much I was losing.”

Biggie wasn’t the only one jazzed about his falling numbers on the scale. Dave Aiken, a long-time friend, and coworker noticed a lot of changes in Biggie while on Plan Z. “I’m happy for Biggie mainly for his own well-being and health. He breathes better and moves better. Both physically and I believe mentally he is a happier person. His attitude to many things in life has changed and he seems more outgoing and willing to do things he wouldn’t previously do,” said Aiken.

The extreme weight loss has affected Biggie in every aspect of his life from his physical appearance to his improved blood pressure; he’s even been able to buy a new car.

“I always joke if I keep losing weight I’m scared to see what my legs look like because my leg muscles are so big. They’ve been carrying around all that weight for years.”

A self-proclaimed “truck guy” previous to Plan Z, Biggie solely drove trucks because they were the only vehicles that comfortably fit him. He simply couldn’t squeeze into a standard car. Now the proud owner of a new Dodge Challenger, Biggie’s most recent purchase has been the first car he’s bought in 14 years.

“[Buying a new car] really was a thrilling experience for me because losing the weight has opened up a whole new world for me that I’d forgotten about,” said Biggie.

It’s a world that has included not only a new car but also a new wardrobe. Biggie dropped twelve pants sizes while on Plan Z. Because Biggie always gained the weight back on other diets he never threw out any of his clothes. For the first time ever Biggie donated six pairs of pants from his closet, explaining, “I’m never going back.”

CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON ABOVE TO HEAR BIGGIE TALK ABOUT HOW PLAN Z IMPROVED HIS HEALTH (RECORDED WHEN BIGGIE LOST 55 POUNDS ON PLAN Z):

Now at 249 pounds, Biggie’s gained confidence not only from his incredible weight loss but from his ability to keep the heftiness off.

After his amazing 276 pound reformation, Biggie hasn’t gained back one single pound.

Previously, a serial dieter, Biggie said that Plan Z has succeeded him where other diets failed—by helping him maintain.

Aiken can attest to Plan Z’s effectiveness. He has seen Biggie yo-yo through many other diets. The difference with Plan Z has been huge. “He doesn’t moan and groan about being on a plan with Plan Z,” said Aiken. “He shows promise and is excited that it is working. He has now lost enough that he has even more drive to get to his goal and maintain.”

Even though Biggie lost weight on other plans such as Atkins, Weight Watchers, South Beach, and Slim Fast he always ballooned back up. Plan Z helped him preserve the pounds lost by actually teaching him what foods to eat and which to avoid. “Plan Z helps teach you how to eat after the diet, too, to help maintain the weight loss,” said Biggie.

THE KNOWLEDGE OF NUTRITION

Education plays a fundamental role in the Plan Z program. From daily coaching emails filled with healthy tips and tools to access to diet coaches at Plan Z headquarters, the program focuses on teaching dieters proper nutrition—a key component other diets routinely miss.

Chris, VP of Anger Management at Plan Z explains, “We say that Plan Z works on your body and your brain. As VP of Anger Management, my job is to get you to really think and shift the way you think about food.”

“Get ready to un-learn everything you’ve been told by other diets. Be ready to learn the correct way to eat.”

Biggie explains that he used to eat foods he thought were healthy. A big consumer of low-fat products, Biggie never realized how dangerous those self-proclaimed “healthy” items were to his weight loss.

“[You think] low-fat and you think healthy, but what you don’t know is all the additives and preservatives that are there…to try and make [the product] taste better,” said Biggie.

Now, when Biggie visits the grocery store he reads the ingredients label of the products he buys and avoids certain aisles entirely. And surprisingly, Biggie hasn’t missed the foods he’s given up. Replacing processed items with lean proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables—staple foods of the Plan Z pantry—has proven nutritious and delicious.

DELICIOUS RESULTS

Biggie hasn’t only been impressed with the knowledge he’s gained from Plan Z, but he has been amazed at the delicious food he has been able to eat while dieting. “I never felt like I was truly dieting because everything I would eat tasted great…I never got frustrated where I would with other diets because I was consistently losing weight and I was consistently eating good food.”

With access to hundreds of recipes on the Plan Z website, Biggie said there wasn’t one recipe he tried that he didn’t make again. His favorites included Zola’s Creole Meatloaf (which became a favorite for his mom as well), and Zola’s Ranch Chicken. This particular chicken dish proved so tasty that Biggie would make the recipe for dinner and use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Meticulously mapping out all of his meals, Biggie used this key strategy that many successful Plan Z dieters use.

“When you start taking control, cooking your own food and developing your own favorite recipes you’re describing a strategy that our most successful dieters use, which is having the next meal planned,” said Chris, “It’s a very important strategy for people because it is so easy to forget and then grab something not allowed and then get frustrated because your weight loss stalls.”

BIGGIE'S BIG GOALS

Biggie didn’t allow his weight loss to stall during his first successful round of Plan Z, and he has no intentions of slowing down as he begins his second round. With an original goal weight of 350 pounds, Biggie now sees no number as too small. He has set his sights on dropping into the 200-pound range. “I’m not going to stop. I’m going to go as low as I can. Now that I’ve been losing the weight I’m so confident that the sky’s the limit for me.”


Beefy Chili with Roasted Poblanos

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. My newest chili. LOVE this stuff! Big YUM.

Servings: Serves 6 – 8. Each serving is 1.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb of ground sirloin
  • 2 large poblano peppers, seeded and cut into narrow strips
  • 1 cup of red onions, diced
  • 1 cup of Vidalia onions, diced
  • 2 Tbl of minced garlic (jar garlic will work)
  • ½ tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbl of chili powder (you choose your favorite from mild to monster)
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • ½ tsp of celery salt
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups or more of organic beef broth
  • Garnishes*

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place the poblano pepper strips on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Roast in your oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until they just barely start to char along the edges. They will sort of curl on the sides. They don’t all have to curl. Just a few. Then take them out and set them aside.

While they are roasting you can make the rest of your dish.

In a medium soup pot add a whisper of olive oil spray and then add your ground sirloin. Begin sautéing on medium and break it up with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cook until about half done. Add the two types of onion. Cook a minute and then add garlic, chili powder, cumin, celery salt. Stir. Make sure the beef is cooked all the way through and then add the tomatoes (both cans) and the beef broth.

How much beef broth you add in the end depends on how soupy you want your chili. In this version, I like it soupier and less tomato taste.  You’ll need the full three cups to achieve that.

Cook until the liquid reduces slightly and flavors meld. This takes about 10 minutes. Then add the poblanos, heat and you’re ready to serve.

Garnishes:

You can garnish your chili with lots of options. For Z2, stick to: diced onion, diced red pepper, minced cilantro, bits of green chilies (from a can is fine) or bits of tomato. Take it easy on hot sauce but you can add a bit if you want the chili hotter. This is not a SPICY chili. This is a flavor-filled chili.  You can always add more heat but you can’t get it back out very easily!

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Counting Calories

We were all taught the same thing. Calories in. Calories out. It’s all about the calories.

When I was a young teenager, I bought one of those pocket-sized calorie counting books they sold at the grocery store. They were prominently displayed by the check out. I took it home and it didn’t take me long to memorize it. I was obsessed with wanting to lose weight and look like a waif. Twiggy was the “model of the moment” in those days. She was the most famous waif on the planet. I wasn’t really fat. I just thought I was. And the way to lose weight was to cut back on calories consumed. Everyone knew that.

Well, what everyone knew to be true was wrong.

You will be shocked at how flawed counting calories really is when you watch this video clip put out by Adam Ruins Everything. Absorb this and your whole view of calorie counting will change.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv6J5jxi84o&feature=youtu.be

So there you have it.

Counting calories is a useless exercise.

 

Tarragon-Mustard Shrimp

This dish made a wonderful lunch salad entrée in our Plan Z kitchen. I think it would be GREAT as an appetizer at a cocktail party, too.


Tarragon-Mustard Shrimp

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) and Zola To Go! recipe. This dish made a wonderful lunch salad entrée in our Plan Z kitchen. I think it would be GREAT as an appetizer at a cocktail party, too. If you are on ZReduction you can take this with you and you’ll have what you need to eat. As an appetizer it can be served, hot, room temp or cold. The other guests at the cocktail party will NEVER know you are eating diet food. They will love it, too.

Servings: Serves 6. Can easily be doubled for a party.

Ingredients:

For the Shrimp:

  • 1/3 cup of Dijon mustard
  • 1 large shallot or 3 green onions, minced
  • 2 tsp of minced garlic, jar garlic can work
  • 3 Tbl of minced, fresh tarragon. (You need the fresh stuff for this dish)
  • 2-1/4 pounds of medium-large shrimp, (3” long) thawed, shelled and deveined.
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • a sprinkle of cayenne

For the optional salad:

  • 3 small heads of leaf lettuce cut up into bite-sized pieces. Remember, salad greens are unlimited so have at it.
  • 1 large red pepper cut into strips
  • 1 large yellow pepper cut into strips
  • 1 large orange pepper cut into strips
  • 2 cups of celery bits
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes cut in half

Instructions:

In a large bowl add the mustard, shallot bits, garlic and tarragon. Rinse and drain your shrimp. Add them to the big bowl with the other ingredients and stir. Add a grating of salt and either cayenne or black pepper. This is not a spicy dish. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or up to 3 hours. Don’t go longer than that without cooking them or the vinegar in the mustard will start to cook the shrimp like ceviche.

Preheat your broiler.

Spray a large cookie sheet with sides. You’ll use olive oil spray. Then add the marinated shrimp. Spread them around so they are in one layer. Spray the top of them with a bit more olive oil spray. Place on the rack below your broiler about 4” below the element. Broil for 2 minutes. Take them out of the oven and turn them over; just sort of stir them up. Put back in the broiler and broil for another two minutes.

Remove from oven and serve. Be sure to get the ‘sauce’ from the bottom of the cookie sheet.

If you are serving this on top of salad, your sauce becomes your dressing. It’s amazing how buttery this dish tastes with no butter added. Just don’t overcook the shrimp and the natural oils of the shrimp will come out and make the sauce taste buttery.

For a cocktail party you can just put these in a bowl and pass out toothpicks to grab them. Don’t ever leave shrimp on a cocktail party table for more than an hour; even if they are cooked. Encourage your guests to eat them and they will be gone in a flash.

For the salad:

Throw all the veggies in a bowl and mix. Take a handful or two, watch your veggie portion so you keep it to one cup with the lettuce as extra and toss it on the plate. Then arrange your shrimp however you wish, I centered mine.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Creamy Dreamy Lemon Bars

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe.

My husband’s favorite dessert flavor is lemon. These hit his tart meter for sure! They taste divine and have no sugar and no gluten. Your friends and family won’t need to know these aren’t “bad” for you!

This is the kind of dessert I serve at fancy dinner parties; even holidays. Rather than a large dessert, folks seem to enjoy something small and decadent.

You can buy Swerve sugar substitute in some stores or order it online. The Super Fine ground almond flour and the coconut flour are in most grocery stores. Check out the organic section and look for the brand Bob’s Mill. Be SURE to get Superfine almond flour. It works best in baked goods.

For the crust:

  • ¾ cup of softened butter
  • 1/3 cup of Swerve granular sugar substitute
  • 2 cups of Superfine ground almond flour

For the filling:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of Swerve granular
  • ¼ cup of coconut flour
  • ½-3/4 cup of lemon juice. 2 lemons should net you the right amount depending on size. The more tart you want these the more lemon juice.
  • ¼ cup of whipping cream

Optional:

  • Swerve powdered sugar for a dusting on top of the bars

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, add the softened butter in chunks, the almond flour and the Swerve. Use a pastry cutter or a fork to blend. Just keep cutting the butter into the almond flour until it’s all mixed to a dough consistency. Turn the dough out into a 9" x 13" baking pan. You are going to want to spread the dough across the bottom of the pan. In order to keep my hands clean, I use a piece of plastic wrap. I spread that over the dough and then I can manipulate the dough across the bottom of the pan without getting dough in my fingernails. Toss the plastic when finished.

Put the crust in the oven and bake 15 – 20 minutes or until it’s golden on the edges and about set. It might be a little loose in the middle but try to bake it until it firms up and is light beige. Keep an eye on it because it can brown very quickly toward the end of the baking time. Cool the crust on the counter for 10 minutes and then cool it in your refrigerator for 10 more minutes so it sets up nicely.

While the crust is cooling in the refrigerator you can make your filling.

In your blender, add the eggs, Swerve, coconut flour, the lemon juice and the cream. Blend until fully mixed. This will only take about 10 seconds. The cream is a nice addition because it mellows out the tartness of the lemon juice. These will still be plenty tart. They won’t be the electric-yellow color of many lemon bars but they are still pretty.

Take the crust out of the refrigerator and pour the filling over the top. Carefully transfer to your oven and bake this mixture for 20-25 minutes or until it’s almost set. They might be a little jiggly in the middle but you’ll know it’s set enough when you see little bubble marks across the top.

Leave them on the counter to cool to room temperature. They will firm up more as they cool. Then transfer to the refrigerator and let them chill for at least two hours. This makes them easier to cut evenly.

You can cut the whole pan into bars or just cut off as many as you want to serve and keep the leftovers in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap.

If you want to dust them with a bit of powdered sugar, leave that process until just before you want to serve them. That will ensure the powdered Swerve tastes fresh and doesn’t soak into the bar surface.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Cheesy Scallop Bake

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe. This dish is similar to the fancy French dish called Coquille St. Jacques but it’s much easier to make. Simple ingredients, a little sautéing and then pop it under the broiler. With a salad and side veggie this is fancy enough to serve to company.

Servings: Serves 3 – 4 (depending on serving size). Can be doubled and served from a 9" x 13" casserole dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of bay scallops
  • ½ pound of sliced mushrooms (you can use fancy or plain)
  • ½ cup of minced shallots or sweet onion
  • 1/3 cup of Panko breadcrumbs. Panko crumbs will give you a crunchier topping than regular bread crumbs.
  • 5 Tbl of melted butter
  • 1 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/3 cup of mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces of softened cream cheese
  • ¼ cup of dry, white wine
  • ¼ tsp of garlic powder
  • 3 Tbl of minced, fresh Italian parsley

Instructions:

In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with 1 Tbl of the melted butter. Set aside.

In another small bowl combine the cheese, mayo, cream cheese, white wine and garlic powder. Just mush it around until it’s mixed up. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, saute the scallops in 2 Tbl of the melted butter just until they are cooked. This will only take a few minutes on medium high. Scallops are done when they are no longer opaque. You can decide how well done you like your scallops. My husband likes his cooked a bit more but you don’t want little rubber blobs either.

The scallops are going to give off a lot of liquid. When they are done tilt the pan over your sink and try to get a bit of the liquid to drain out. Then set the scallops on a platter covered with paper towels. The paper towel will absorb the rest of the liquid.

Using the same saute pan put in two more Tbl of melted butter and saute your mushrooms and shallots. You just want to get them cooked but you don’t need to go so far as to brown them. This will also take just about 3 minutes on medium high.

Preheat your broiler.

Now you’re going to assemble. The saute pan already has the mushrooms and shallots in it. Add the cheese mixture and the scallops. Heat on medium until the mixture is hot and gooey. Transfer it to an 8” x 11” (or 9 x 9”) oven-proof dish. Gently spread on the bread crumb mixture. Place on the oven shelf about 6” below the broiling element and broil until the coating begins to brown. Keep an eye on it. This won’t take long.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


P Is for Party

I was reading a design magazine recently and saw a party planning feature.  The woman was talking about how you don’t need to know how to cook (even a lick), but you can still have a cocktail party.

She said all you need are the 3 Ps.

Parmesan, potato chips and prosecco.

That’s it.

Her idea was that you go out and buy a really fine piece of Parmesan Reggiano.

Put it on a nice platter.  Cut some bits off of it with a cheese cutter.  And leave the cheese cutter next to it so people can serve themselves.

Get out some pretty, small bowls and stack them with potato chips. Her idea was to prop the potato chips upright. Then sprinkle something on them. One idea might be a grating of pepper. Another idea could be Italian herbs or even a rub mixture.

Then serve prosecco in some pretty flutes and there you have it. Cocktail party.

I “borrowed” that idea and expanded on it.

At my party, I served the parmesan. Truth be told I’ve done that before. I love to nibble on bits of parmesan and drink wine. It’s a perfectly simple opener to a dinner party. You just have to make sure you buy the good parmesan.

I served the potato chips, too. I sprinkled a meat rub on them that is one of my favorites.

I also served prosecco but I turned it into party punch. All I did was make up some cranberry apple iced tea and served half iced tea and half prosecco in some pretty flutes.

Then I kept going. I did a marinated party salad of veggies soaked overnight in Italian dressing. I had a vegan in attendance at my party and wanted to make sure there were a few things that fit her diet. This was one.

Proscuitto on a platter with olives and nuts provided a nice antipasti platter. The accompaniments also provided more vegan options.

I served pork sliders with bread and butter pickles. I bought pulled pork at the grocer and found a fairly healthy barbecue sauce. All I had to do was mix them together and put it in a crockpot to heat. Tiny buns on the side.

For dessert, I served my peanut clusters. Dark chocolate wonders.

And I broke all out and served gourmet caramel corn, but I took it up a notch and served it with mixed nuts scattered throughout. The caramel corn is a carbohydrate nightmare but if you put in the mixed nuts and people just eat a handful, the nuts make it less carby and take down the glycemic uptake.

Did you notice everything on my menu started with a P? I’ve never done a theme like that before. It was really fun designing the menu and it all worked out great. I hardly had to do any cooking either. This made for a super-easy weekday cocktail party for 15.

Cheers,

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Clusters

 


Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe.

We all want our comfort foods. For many that’s mac and cheese, but we all know it’s not really good for us. We used to think the bad part was the cheese. Now we know it was the macaroni.

This dish is pretty easy to make. I was amazed at how authentic it tastes! You know how you can eat mac and cheese and not even use your teeth? This had the same result. BIG YUM!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower. Take off the stems and cut the rest into bite-size pieces.
  • 2 Tbl of butter
  • 1 Tbl potato starch (Find this in the organic Bob’s Mill section. You can use this to thicken all of your sauces. It’s totally low carb!)
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 2 cups of whipping cream
  • 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (use the good stuff)
  • 2 egg yolks, broken (discard whites or use for something else)
  • A whisp of cayenne or to taste
  • Grated sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a pot of water to boil and get out your steamer insert. Add the cauliflower bits to the steamer and steam over simmering water about 5 minutes or until just tender.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the potato starch. Add the cream and the garlic powder. Stir until it starts to thicken. Maybe 5 minutes. Add the grated cheddar and remove from heat. Add the cayenne, and egg yolks. Stir until the whole thing is melty. Fold in the cauliflower.

Spray your 9” x 13” ovenproof pan. Pour in the cauliflower mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until casserole is hot and bubbly.

Let cool for a few minutes so you don’t fry your mouth.

Enjoy!

Optional: For my less-low carb friends I took half of the casserole and covered it with French’s onion strings and a bit more cayenne sprinkled on top. They were in heaven with the crunch. Mine tasted perfectly good with no onion strings.

Cheers,


My Best-Ever Stuffed Mushrooms

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe. Just in time for football season or any other partying event. These won’t last long on your platter. Might consider a double batch. They are that good. BIG YUM!

Servings: One batch will make 12 – 18 mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 6 strips of bacon. I use uncured bacon without nitrates.
  • 1 lb of button mushrooms. You can use the large ones for this dish.
  • 1 Tbl of butter
  • ¼ cup of minced shallots or onion
  • 8 oz of cream cheese, room temp and cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp of garlic powder
  • ½ tsp of Italian seasoning
  • grated sea salt and pepper to taste
  • a whisper of cayenne or to taste (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While your oven preheats, cook your bacon until it is nice and crisp. Then chop or crumble it into little pieces and set it aside.

Take the mushrooms out of the package. Remove all black material on the mushroom caps or the stems. Don’t wash your mushrooms or you make them mushy but you want to get the black bits off. Use a damp paper towel to remove that stuff. Then twist and remove each stem. Cut off the dry ends of the stems and finely dice the stems. You’re going to use them in your mushroom filling. Don’t dice the mushroom heads; set them aside.

Melt butter in a medium saute pan and add the shallots and mushrooms stems. Cook on medium until they are soft. Stir often. Add the cream cheese and keep temperature on low to melt the cream cheese. Stir often so it doesn’t stick. When it’s hot and melty, add the cheddar cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and cayenne. Then add the bacon and stir. Let the mixture cool a bit so you don’t burn yourself while you stuff your mushrooms.

If you have mini muffin pans they will come in handy. If you don’t, you can use a cookie sheet.

Spray the insides of the muffin containers or the surface of the cookie sheet with olive oil spray.

Fill your mushrooms with mounded portions of the filling. Set them in the muffin tin depressions* or put them on the cookie sheet. You might have some filling leftover; depending on the size of your mushrooms. (I suggest you make an omelet with that on another day).

Sprinkle the tops with parmesan cheese. Press the cheese lightly with your fingers so it sticks.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of your mushrooms. With a variety of medium and large shrooms 20 minutes was enough for me.

Carefully remove your mushrooms from the pan to cool. I use a fork on one side and my finger on the other to take them out. Be careful. They will be pretty hot and you don’t want a steam burn!

I served my mushrooms warm but they would be just as good as they cool on a buffet.

*The reason I suggest the mini muffin tins is because mushrooms give off a fair amount of liquid while they cook. This way the liquid stays in the bottom of the depressions.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Potluck with Purpose

I held a potluck dinner party recently. It was my first potluck in decades.

Years ago, I got turned off by potlucks. The last ones I attended didn’t work very well. No one did anything to organize what people brought so when you went through the line, got your food and sat down to eat, nothing coordinated. The food didn’t taste as good as it could because so many things were competing for your taste buds’ attention. It made me sad. People worked so hard on their dishes.

The other thing that happened was there was no balance. One time there’d be way too many desserts, only one or two sides and maybe even no entrée. Or there’d be three vegetable trays with dip that clearly all came from the same deli counter. So much food got wasted that way.

This year I decided that I was going to need some help in putting on a dinner party, so I asked people to bring a dish. I asked them to bring a dish that had a family history. It should be something their family made at the holidays that had a story to go with it.

I asked them to let me know what they were bringing so I could make sure we had a balanced buffet and see if I needed to make anything to round out the offerings.

This turned out to be a great idea for a few reasons.

Under the balance category, I had no fewer than three people tell me they wanted to bring mac and cheese. Well, if I had not asked that I would have had a buffet FULL of mac and cheese and not much else. So the first person to offer it up was given that deed and the others were asked to come up with Plan B. That was easy.

A couple of people brought desserts. A couple brought appetizers and the others brought side dishes. I was able to make just a couple of things to make sure the vegetarians and vegans in the crowd had enough to eat. I also provided shaved rare roast beef and turkey from the deli so everyone got a protein option. They could go low carb with it or I provided little buns and toppings so they could make sliders. That turned out to be the entrée. We had plenty of food but not massive amounts of anything that had to go to waste.

Before I served dinner, I gathered everyone around the buffet. This was my favorite part. I asked each person in turn to tell the story of what they brought. This got everyone to speak up and participate but it was the stories that were so grand. Each person had a funny or touching story to tell. Everyone in the room got to know a little bit about the family histories of those gathered and it kicked off dinner with a delightful opening.

I thought the hints in here might give you some direction for your next potluck. It might be a winter holiday party, Valentine’s Day party or even the 4th of July.

This plan is going to work great any time of the year. Try it!

Cheers,

Thai Basil Chicken

This dish will be ready in about 20 minutes. All you have to do is a little chopping.


Greetings of the Season!

My 23andMe results confirmed I am 92.6% Irish so of course I found this to be uproariously funny.

Hope you do, too.

https://youtu.be/has9EXm3Gp0

Enjoy time with friends and family.  Make the best of precious moments.

Cheers,

and the ZTeam


The Promise of Pecan Pie

I’ll admit it.

I never thought I’d be able to come up with a healthy version of a pecan pie.

The thought of trying to substitute out Karo Syrup danced in my head and made me dizzy.

Did you know that there are 262 grams of carbohydrates in one cup of Karo (corn) syrup. Let’s not pick on Karo. They are just one brand but happen to be the most popular.

That’s more grams of carbs than I’d eat in total over 3 days!

Do you know how much Karo Syrup is in pecan pie? You guessed it. One full cup.

The pecans aren’t the main ingredient. It’s the corn syrup.

You divide that pie into 8 slices and it’s 33 grams of carbs per piece. That makes my teeth hurt.

Let’s admit it though. Pecan pie is tasty.

I hadn’t had pecan pie for about 10 years. It wasn’t my favorite pie on the buffet in the first place, but it did rank up there.

I was in the grocery store about a month ago and they were passing out little samples of their pecan pie. I decided to jump in. What harm could one little bite do?

I popped that morsel into my mouth and my tongue sang a song I had not heard in a long time. I was transported back to North Street, Appleton, Wisconsin where I was raised in the 60’s. That morsel tasted darn good.

So I decided to do research. I was not the first low carb eater to try to come up with a pecan pie recipe. I had plenty of recipes for inspiration.

My first attempt failed dismally. I nicknamed it pavement pie. I thought the more pecans the better. Turns out that just makes it tough.

The secret to a successful pecan pie is the goo. Not the pecans. It actually has relatively few pecans in it.

Back to the drawing board.

It didn’t take me too many tries to get it close enough to the original that I think you could fool friends and family into thinking they are eating the Karo Syrup-laced original.

The Karo Syrup is replaced by butter and Swerve Brown. We all know butter is delightful. Swerve Brown is a new sugar substitute you can order online. I have not yet seen it in a store. If you see it, let me know the chain and I’ll get the word out.

I put more vanilla in my pecan pie than most. Heck I put more vanilla in my cookies and bars than most folks do. I must love vanilla. The bit of grated sea salt in the recipe takes down the cloying element that can pop up in the sweetness. And 3 eggs help make it creamy and hold together.

For the lowest carb version, bake it in an almond flour crust. If, you’re in a pinch, you can use a refrigerated pie crust, but just know if you do that, you’re eating wheat.  More carbs.

So, enjoy this rendition of pecan pie. Tweak it for your tastes and feel free to let me know how you do.

Happy Holidays,

 

Pecan Pie

This pie comes together easily, and your family will never know they aren’t eating the usual pecan pie pile of sugar.


My Thanksgiving Wish for You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWe4GpTaO8I

When this time of year rolls around my thoughts turn to you.

Our dieters.

I am grateful for each and every one of you, so I just wanted to say Thank You for supporting Plan Z.

I also wanted to give you a little ditty I found pretty entertaining. Finally a song about our favorite -- butter. Little did we know that all the guilt we had about butter was misinformation. My hero, Julia Child had it right all along when she said, "With enough butter, anything is good!"

Cheers,


Zola-fied Berghoff Spinach

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. The Berghoff is a famous Chicago restaurant. It's been here for several decades. Their creamed spinach is an institution in itself. I figured out how to make a version that will work on ZReduction. Try it with my Baked Salmon.

Serving Size: Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2, 10 ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated pepper

Instructions:

I thaw my spinach on the cupboard in the box. When thawed, cut open the package and spread the spinach on a double layer of paper towels. Fold the towels over and press. You are working to squeeze some of the moisture out of the spinach. I do this twice with fresh paper towels each time.

In a medium saute pan, spray a bit of olive oil spray. Add the onion and sweat the onion until it loosens. This means cooking it on low and moving it around so it doesn't brown and stick.

Add the cream, broth, spices and the spinach. Cook on medium until the cream begins to thicken the sauce. It won't be as dreamy, creamy as regular creamed spinach but it doesn't have the butter and cheese that are in many recipes either.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Sugar Cookie Wedges

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe.

Servings: Makes approximately 16 wedges

Ingredients:

For the Sugar Cookie Wedges 

  • 3 cups SUPER FINE GROUND almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill is easy to find in most grocery stores)
  • 1 cup of carbalose (low carb flour)
  • ¼ cup gluten-free oat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill. You can find this in most grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated erythritol, like ZSweet
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (use REAL vanilla, not artificial)

For the Frosting

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered erythritol
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tsp REAL vanilla extract
  • food coloring and sprinkles, etc optional

Instructions:

For the Sugar Cookie Wedges 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Just lock the sheet in and cut the excess away.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, carbalose, oat flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and erythritol until creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, and then beat in almond flour mixture until dough comes together. (If you’re like me, your mixer will clog up trying to do this but just UNPLUG your mixer and use your finger to loosen the dough and finish up using a wooden spoon).

Press dough firmly into prepared pan and smooth top with a flat-bottomed glass. Bake 30 minutes, until just golden brown around the edges and slightly more firm to the touch. Remove and let cool in pan.

For the Icing

Beat together butter and powdered erythritol.

Add cream, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved (I used three tablespoons). Stir in vanilla and optional food coloring.

Spread or pipe onto the large cookie. Then cut into wedges when you serve. One nice thing about this is you can set out the big cookie and a knife. People can then cut off a fresh slice so it will be nice and moist. You can give them an example of a 1” wedge cut so they see they don’t need a big piece. At a dinner party you can cut the wedges in the kitchen and put them on little dessert plates and serve. You’d be surprised how many people comment on how GREAT it is to be given a small dessert instead of the traditional, large one.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Ellen's Thanksgiving Seating Strategy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peQ43ezWt2E

Wondering where to seat your Thanksgiving dinner guests? Ellen has the solution. In this funny video Ellen is giving her audience plenty to be thankful for with her tips for a less stressful seating arrangement.

Enjoy!


Brussels Sprouts with a Balsamic Drizzle

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe.

Servings: Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and outer leaves removed
  • olive oil spray
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup of balsamic vinegar
  • whisper of cayenne (optional)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the Brussels sprouts lengthwise into halves or quarters (depending on how large they are). I always do mine quartered because I want more browned edges.

Spray a cookie sheet with the olive oil spray. Put on the Brussels sprouts and lightly spray them. Grate on sea salt, pepper and if you want, the cayenne.

Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 25 minutes. I stir them at the half way point so more browning takes place. Cook until they are a color you find appealing. Like I said, I like mine almost crispy.

In a small sauce pan pour in the vinegar. Reduce it on medium-high (low bubble) until it reduces by half. Balsamic vinegar becomes thick and sweeter as it boils down. Keep an eye on it or you can boil it down to nothing in an instant.

Let that liquid sit until the Brussels sprouts come out of the oven. When they do, drizzle on the balsamic reduction. Toss and serve.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingerbread crust

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe. This will be my contribution to dessert at our family dinner party this year. Most often a cheesecake like this has a crust made out of gingersnaps. I’m making mine this way and you’ll swear you’re eating a gingerbread crust without all the sugar. This cheesecake is sort of a production because you also have to make the Zola double cream eggnog. It doesn’t take much time and the decadence is well worth it. Besides, you’ll have leftovers to drink on another night.  (You can make the eggnog with our without the booze).

Ingredients: 

For the crust

  • coconut oil or butter for greasing the springform pan
  • 4 tablespoons  butter (or coconut oil), melted
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tsp of Truvia
  • 2 cups super fine ground almond flour/meal
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of chopped walnuts (optional)
  • pinch of salt

For the Cheesecake

  • 3, 8 oz packages of full fat cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
  • 1 cup of ZSweet sugar substitute
  • 2 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup of Zola’s double cream eggnog
  • 2 Tbl of flour

Instructions:

Oil or butter the inside of your 9” springform pan. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In your food processor whiz all of the crust ingredients to combine. Press the mixture across the bottom of the pan and slightly up the sides.

In your mixer bowl add the cream cheese, ZSweet, nutmeg, and vanilla for about a minute, until smooth. On low speed mix in the other ingredients.

Pour the batter over the crust. Smooth it out.

Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Turn off oven. Crack the door and let it cool for another hour as the oven cools. Then cool on rack until it’s completely room temperature. This helps to reduce the likelihood of your cheesecake cracking the in the middle.

Cover and chill overnight. Cheesecake always tastes better on day 2.

You can spread sweetened whipped cream over the top of the cheesecake to serve or alternately spread Truwhip over the top. (Truwhip is like Cool whip without all the chemicals and sugar). Or you can serve your cheese cake with no topping.  It will be good any of these ways.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Bittersweet Chocolate Torte

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe. The cake I’m offering up today will be on the menu come Christmas Day, as we have dinner with my family. I think I pretty well perfected it for a dinner last night. I hope you will like it as much as we did. Look at the bottom of the recipe for ideas of things you can serve with it.  The variables are pretty endless.

Servings: Serves up to 12

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate. Try to get 70% cacao.
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tsp of organic vanilla
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature (very important)
  • 10 tsp of Truvia or ZSweet/Swerve

Frosting – Ganache

  • 4 oz of bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 oz of whipping cream

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This cake is best baked in a 9-inch springform pan so you can take it out and decorate it. If you don’t have one you can use a regular cake pan and just cut it into squares or wedges

Take out your mixer bowl. Crack the eggs into the bowl. If they are not already room temperature just let them sit in the bowl for about 30 minutes to come to room temperature. THIS IS CRITICAL. The eggs are the leavening agent in this cake so if they are not room temperature they won’t whip up in volume properly.  So be sure they are room temperature.

Spray your pan with oil.

In a small sauce pan put in the butter. Melt it on medium. In the meantime finely dice the chocolate. When the butter is mostly melted add the chocolate pieces. Take off heat, let set for a minute and then stir until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir again.

In the bowl with the eggs, add the sweetener. Turn on the mixer at a high speed. Let it run for six minutes to whip the eggs. They will turn a lemony-yellow color and fluff up.

When the six minutes is up, turn the mixer off and slowly add the chocolate mixture into the fluffy egg mixture. Take a spatula and fold the eggs and the chocolate together until you have a dark brown batter. Don’t beat up the eggs. Take your time folding in the chocolate so the batter stays as fluffy as possible.

Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. The cake will come out fairly risen and might fall a bit after you take it out. In final form the cake will be about an inch thick and have the consistency of a light brownie/cake.

Cool before frosting. You can remove the cake from the springform pan or just remove the sides. Up to you.

To make the ganache just heat the cream until it begins to bubble. Put in the chocolate bits and stir until the frosting becomes a glossy dark brown. Pour the frosting over the cake and let it run down the sides. The frosting will firm up over time.

You can serve the cake while the chocolate is very warm and just plain. A small wedge is plenty.

You can also….

Add berries of any kind

Add cream whipped simply with Truvia and vanilla

You can flavor the ganache with liqueur. Add peppermint, raspberry or even orange liqueur. Kahlua is an option too. If you don’t cook with liquor you can use flavorings from a bottle. A little goes a long way.

You can make a sweetened dessert sauce. Take a small carton of crème fraiche (find in the cheese section). Put it in a bowl. Add 2 tsp of vanilla and 2 tsp of Truvia. Stir and you have your sauce.

You can take berries and heat them with a little water to make a hot berry sauce.

The options are wide open.

Enjoy!

Cheers,