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,


Does Wine Make You Fat?

We’ve talked about beer.

Today we are going to give wine its day.

People ask, “Does wine make you fat?”

“How can I drink my wine and not gain?”

Those are two big questions, followed regularly by, “Can I drink wine and still lose weight?”

Let’s explore.

First, I’ll tell you a story. I had several Plan Z dieters around the country who were very successful in their first round of Plan Z. Happy-Happy with their results. They went through the ZReduction phase of Plan Z and lost the weight. We taught them how to keep it off during the ZReboot phase; including consuming liquor, beer and wine. They were happy campers. They now knew how to maintain their weight and eat happily forever.

But they wanted to lose more weight.

The next time they did Plan Z they had a little too much bravado. They decided to try the diet and still drink their wine after work. They followed the rest of the diet protocol closely. Never cheated. Well, they did cheat because you’re supposed to give up wine while on ZReduction but besides that, they were free of diet mistakes.

They reported back.

They lost about 60% less weight when they did a round of Plan Z while they drank wine.

Hmmm...

They thought they could get away with it. One glass on day one and it was smooth sailing. They lost weight.

But I have to tell you, it catches up with you.

I’m going to quote an interesting excerpt I found online. There is a lot of debate on how or why consuming alcohol makes you gain weight (or lose it slower). It’s mind-boggling. It goes everywhere from the fact that you lose your inhibitions and just pig out, to calorie counting. Well, truth be told, dry wine (which most enthusiasts drink) is not high in calories. Only about 100 calories a glass.

This guy I’m quoting is not a scientist. He’s a recovering alcoholic who now blogs about the subject and counsels addicts. Usually I can corroborate what I post with the study links that go with it. I can’t do that this time but I have a tendency to believe this guy. It makes sense. So put this through whatever filter you have and see how it impacts your thinking.

When alcohol is consumed, it’s broken down into acetate—which is similar to vinegar. The body burns acetate before any other stored energy in the body. In other words, it thrives on the alcohol instead of any excess fat you might be working towards reducing. The body prefers acetate to sugar and fat. In other words, your body will cling to the treats you had earlier in the day or week and thrive on the alcohol. That’s why plateaus are so common for those who drink and are working towards fat loss.

To make matters worse, alcohol has a knack for temporarily stopping the body’s lipid oxidation. This makes it even tougher for your body to burn existing fat. If you’re looking to gain weight, scientifically the best approach is to drink a lot and eat a lot of fat.

I might argue those last three words because we don’t believe fat makes you fat. Carbohydrates do and there is tons of science now to back that up.

So can you drink wine and not gain? I’d say yes. In ZReboot we prove it with folks all the time. The old adage of “everything in moderation” comes in to play but the studies out of countries like France prove the point, too. I have been in France for an extended period and I can tell you they love their wine and the incidence of obesity is observationally almost non-existent.

Here are some numbers to make my point.

So if you stick to dry wines you should be able to drink a glass or two with your meal. Or relax with a glass after work.

So how much is too much? That depends on your liver and how your body reacts. Most studies say stick to a glass or two, yet how does that compare to other things you buy in the grocery store?

Here’s an interesting tidbit -- how many grams of carbs in a medium apple?

Answer:  25

And who eats a medium apple anymore? They are getting bigger and bigger.

I was listening to a radio talk show the other day and they had a guest on who was there to promote new apple hybrids coming into the United States. Much of the conversation swirled around how the farmers are figuring out how to breed sweeter and sweeter apple hybrids and they may have started off in places like New Zealand, but they are making it to the United States over the next couple of years.

Start watching for signs in the produce department for apples with names like: SweeTang, Juici, Opal and Snapdragon.

I’ll never forget the first time I bit into a Honeycrisp apple. No apple had ever tasted so good or so sweet. And those things are huge. They run more like 30 grams of carbohydrates. Thankfully they also provide a lot of fiber.

So swirl that glass of wine if you choose and savor it. Enjoy it - if you drink it in moderation you shouldn't gain weight. But don't expect to lose weight while you're doing it. Wine is not a diet food.

Cheers,

Bistro Chicken with Port Wine Mushroom Sauce

I served mine with a warm pear salad. YUM.


Cheesy Green Bean Casserole

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

Servings: Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:

  • 10 slices of bacon
  • 2 lbs of green beans. Trim off ends. Cut into 1" or 1-1/2” sections.
  • 1 lb of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup of onion, chopped
  • ¾ tsp of grated black pepper (or to taste)
  • grated sea salt to taste
  • 1-1/2 Tbl of flour
  • 3 Tbl of butter
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 8 oz of shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil. Put in the beans and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat and immediately rinse them in cold water to stop them from cooking anymore so they don't get mushy.

Cook the bacon until crisp in a large sauté pan. When the bacon is done take it out of the pan. Pour most of the grease out of the pan but leave in a tablespoon or so in it. Then add the mushrooms and onion to the pan. You're going to cook the mushrooms and onions in the oil from the bacon. Cook on medium until the mushrooms begin to brown on the edges. Season with salt and pepper.

While that mixture is cooking you can make your sauce.

In a medium sauce pan add the butter and flour. Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Then slowly add the cream, stirring so the flour mixture (also called a roux) doesn’t become lumpy. Get the cream totally incorporated and then add the cheddar cheese. Cook on medium low until the cheese melts; stirring regularly. You’ll have a beautiful deep yellow-orange sauce.

Assembly:

In a 9" x 13" ovenproof pan add the beans. Then pour on the mushroom mixture. Spread it around. On top of that pour on the cheese sauce. Finally crumble the bacon and add that on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until its warm and bubbly. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Bistro Chicken with Port Wine-Mushroom Sauce

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot) recipe.

Servings: Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:

  • 1/3 cup cracker or crouton crumbs (pick your favorite flavor)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon

For the Port Wine-Mushroom Sauce:

  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 8 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1/2 cup port wine
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

For Chicken:

You'll want to make cracker crumbs. If you've had a bad day, just take crackers and put them in a baggie and smash them. I use a full can of soup or broth if I don't have a handy rolling pin. Croutons make good crumbs for this dish, too. Take out your aggression on the crackers. What flavor of crumbs you choose will make a slight difference in the dish.

Mix the cracker crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper on a large plate. Put the first half cup of melted butter on a smaller plate. You are setting up an assembly line.

One at a time, place each chicken breast in a plastic bag. Use the same soup can or a meat mallet to flatten the chicken breast to less than one-half inch in thickness. Just squish down the fattest parts so it will cook faster and spread it out. Try to keep the extra piece (the tenderloin) that sticks off still attached, but don't worry if it falls off. When one breast is squished, take it out of the bag, roll it in the butter and then put it in the crumb mixture and turn it over. You want to coat both sides. Press it down so you get crumbs and cheese mixture all over. Then do the next breast, and then do it again until you get all 4 ready to go.

Now heat the olive oil in your large saute pan. Put in all 4 breasts. Cook on medium high just 3 to 5 minutes until you get the first side nicely browned. Turn over. Brown the second side. When all 4 breasts are browned on both sides, you're ready for the oven. If your sauté pan is okay to put in the oven, you can just pop them in. If the handle is not oven proof you'd better put them in another pan. A 9" by 13" oven-proof pan will do just fine. Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and pop the pan in the oven. The chicken will only take 15 to 20 minutes at 425 degrees to cook because you've already partially cooked it in the sauté pan and because you flattened it to make it cook faster.

For the Port Wine-Mushroom Sauce:

Heat your butter and olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add shallots. Cook over medium heat until the shallots just begin to cook. Add mushrooms. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add flour and port. Cook quickly to boil off half of the port, and then add the half and half. This sauce will thicken up fast, so turn down the heat and add the nutmeg. The only trick to this is to try to time the sauce thickening to when your chicken is about done. But don't worry. If the sauce seems too thick before your chicken is done, just turn it off. When the chicken is coming out of the oven, let it sit on the counter and add a little more half and half to your sauce, then turn the sauce back on medium low and reheat the sauce until it's at a consistency you like. Then serve.

Final pointers:

After the 15 minutes of baking time, check one piece of the chicken by cutting into it at the fattest point. If you don't see any pink, you are ready to eat and you can put on the sauce. I serve the sauce UNDER the chicken because I want my chicken to remain crispy on the outside.

I also served mine with a warm pear salad.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Italian Shrimp Cocktail

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe. This is what I call cheating when I’m in a hurry. I use my favorite bottled Italian dressing as the marinade and everyone thinks I put so much effort into this really pretty dish. One of the other secrets to this dish is to serve it in a pretty bowl. Dieter Rachel served hers in a glass trifle bowl so the orange of the shrimp sparkled attractively from across a crowded room. Brilliant idea.

Servings: Serves 40 as part of a large cocktail party or fewer as a single appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds large cooked shrimp, thawed and rinsed
  • 1 large red bell pepper diced
  • 1 bunch green onions trimmed and diced, include some of the green part
  • a few slices of red onion (optional)
  • your favorite Italian dressing
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Pile all of these items in a large zip lock bag. Pour half of the jar of Italian dressing in the bag about 6 hours before the party. Zip the bag tightly so there’s no leaking (if you worry about leaking, put the bag inside a bowl). Now, refrigerate. Whenever you open the refrigerator door to get something out just flip the bag over so all the shrimp get coated.

When party time comes put the shrimp in your display/serving bowl. If you think it needs a little more dressing, drizzle it on. It’s a lot easier to add more than it is to get it back off!

Serve well chilled.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Monster Mouths

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

Ingredients:

For the Lips:

  • Granny Smith apples (these will make ghoulish green lips) or
  • Red Delicious apples (these will make red lips)
  • a lemon

For the Gums:

  • peanut butter

For the Teeth:

  • white chocolate covered raisins
  • a few dark chocolate covered raisins for black teeth (optional)
  • peanuts

Instructions:

Remove the core from the apples and slice them. Squeeze fresh lemon on the slices to keep them from turning brown. Then, to make your mouths, smear a nice helping of peanut butter on one side of an apple slice. Nestle four or five peanuts (or chocolate covered raisins) into the peanut butter. Finish the mouth by adding another smear of peanut butter to another apple slice and softly press them together. Don't press too hard or your mouth will explode!

A fun and delicious snack for Halloween!

Enjoy!

Cheers,


The Sweet Smell of Garlic

The first time I tasted roasted, whole garlic was in a restaurant called Bistro 110. This was about 1983. My best friend had ordered it for us to share.

I sat stunned, staring at it, when it arrived at the table.

The waiter set down a plate that had a whole bulb of garlic on it. The top was cut off and there was olive oil drizzled over it. Bread pieces came with it. The smell was divine, but it looked like a sloppy mess to eat and I didn’t have a clue where to start.

My friend Michele realized, that even as a foodie, I had no clue what to do.

“You just eat it like this,” she said as she demonstrated taking her fork and using a prong to pull out one clove of the warm, soft garlic and spread it across a piece of French bread.

I caught on, but I still wrinkled up my nose.

My only experience with garlic was in things like lasagna. I knew how pungent garlic could be if you used too much. I made that mistake once.

I had visions of putting a bite of that in my mouth and getting a fiery garlic flavor that would be overwhelming. Almost hot even.

I bucked up and dug in because Michele was way ahead of me already and she wasn’t even reaching for her water glass, so I thought it must be okay.

My first bite was quite the surprise. The squishy garlic was no longer pungent. It had taken on a smooth texture and aroma. Almost sweet. I didn’t even feel like I was going to get bad breath from it. It had a whole new flavor profile after being roasted in oil.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

With this offering I’m going to relate an assortment of things I have learned about garlic over the years.

Elephant Garlic: This is easy and says it all in the name. In your store you’ll usually find two kinds of garlic. The regular size and then near it you might find elephant garlic. Elephant is much bigger. It’s also milder (even raw) than regular garlic. If I am going to caramelize garlic I usually buy elephant garlic (more on caramelizing it later).

Scapes: Scapes are the blossoms that form above ground when you grow garlic. You might find those in fancy, gourmet stores. They taste more like scallions and fancy restaurants will use them to garnish soups and salads. They are really pretty. When grown longer they can even be put on display in a vase.

When to use fresh garlic: My purist friends will say it’s important to use fresh garlic at all times. I just don’t have time to peel fresh garlic every time and anytime I do it makes my fingernails smell like garlic for a few days. I’m not giving up on my manicures so sometimes I don’t peel garlic. Last night I got my husband to do it. If the dish you are going to cook involves really bright, fresh ingredients, use fresh garlic for sure. You’ll notice the difference.

When to use jar garlic: In grocery stores you’ll find minced garlic and chopped garlic in jars. I use that pretty often. You choose your preference based on whether you want to see chunks for if you want it to blend into the sauce smoothly. If I am making something heavier like a lasagna I see no reason not to use garlic from a jar. One teaspoon of jar garlic will mimic one large clove.

When to use powdered garlic: My opinion on this has changed. I used to save powdered garlic only for things like a quick garlic bread. Then I watched my friend James cook. James is a chef. He lived in Italy for 12 years and specializes in Italian cooking at his restaurant, Pisolino in Chicago. James gets out his big jar of powdered garlic and pours it into just about anything on his stove. I was shocked. I thought he’d fall into the purist category. Nope. So now I’ve taken up using powdered garlic in things like soups. It’s so easy.

Roasted Garlic: I’m going to give you the recipe for roasted garlic but I will also describe it here, too. It’s that simple. Just cut off the fuzzy top of the garlic down far enough that you’ll be able to see the cut side of most of the cloves nestled in the wrapper. I cut down about an inch from the top. Use a sharp knife or if you slip you might slice yourself.

Get out a square of aluminum foil and place the garlic flatter side down on the foil. Drizzle 1 or 2 Tbl of extra virgin olive oil over the top and wrap the garlic in the foil like a pouch.  I place it in another dish in case any oil oozes out. I don’t want that on the bottom of my oven, burning.

Then roast the garlic about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. And voila. You can check to make sure it’s done by poking it with a sharp paring knife. If the knife slides in easily the garlic will be soft to eat. It’s ready. Let it cool a bit so you don’t burn your mouth. If you want to keep the carbs down, serve it with seed crackers instead of bread.

Caramelized Garlic: When I caramelize garlic I try to use elephant garlic. All I do is peel it and cut the large cloves into one-inch chunks. I put it in a small oven-proof pan and drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil over the top and roast that in my oven, uncovered, for about 30 – 40 minutes. With this one I am leaving it in there until it begins to brown on the edges. That makes it even milder. You can serve this just like you do with the regular garlic or if I am going decadent I might pop the whole amount into a large batch of mashed potatoes. The caramelized garlic with break up and spread through out the potatoes. The olive oil is the substitute for butter and all you need is salt and if you like it, pepper. I have served this to rave reviews at big dinner parties. Caramelized garlic is so smooth in taste it almost adds a sweetness to the dish. Your garlic-loving friends and family will love it.

Garlic is also easy to grow in your garden. I’ve never done it. I don’t go through that much garlic but here’s a link about it that I found really easy to follow.  https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/a18057/growing-garlic-460709/

Enjoy!

Cheers,

Roasted Garlic

Super easy. Mega-delicious.


Glug, Glug

According to familydoctor.org, half of your body weight is water. Some other organizations say it’s as much as two thirds water.

Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate your joints. Water is needed for overall good health.

There are questions about how much water to drink, when to drink it, and does it really have to be water.

I’m going to clear up some misconceptions and give you some new hints. There are the old school things we learned over the years, and then there’s the newest information. Let me relate both.

Old School: Drink 6 – 8, 12 oz glasses of water per day. That’s plenty.

New Perspective: The latest theory is we really need more. If you divide your weight by 2, that tells you ideally how much water YOU should be drinking each day. Obviously, since weight is factored in, this varies by individual.

One way I look at it is to set a goal to drink 100-125 oz per day. For most overweight people that’s pretty much on target. We found out here at Plan Z that if you do drink 100-125 oz per day, you lose 30% more weight than those who drink 70 oz or less in a day. That’s a significant difference!

Be sure to drink all day. Don’t flood your system with a lot of water at once. Keep a bottle of water handy or a pitcher of water on your desk and keep filling it and sipping throughout the day.

Old School: If you’re on a diet, drink water. It will keep you full.

My Perspective: I personally found that to be hogwash. I’d starve myself and when I felt hungry I’d down a bunch of water in an effort to fill up my stomach. That did the trick, but it only lasts about 15 minutes and then the hunger is back. That is true when it’s true hunger. Studies show many folks mistake being thirsty for being hungry. If you go right for food to satisfy this craving, you’ll just eat too much and gain weight. Try water first.

One study showed that if you wake at night hungry, that glass of water you drink just might satisfy you long enough to get back to sleep. That’s the only case where I can see water being a way to squelch hunger. But that’s not likely to last long either if you are actually hungry. You’re likely to wake up again.

How can you tell if you’re drinking enough water? Look in the toilet. If your urine is clear or pale yellow you are hydrated. If it’s golden or amber, you are either not getting enough water or something else is going on. Be aware.

What if you don’t like water? I suggest you work on this effort. You can add flavorings to your water like lemon, lime, cucumber; even a few mashed strawberries. Once you start to drink enough water, often enough, you begin to crave water. Over time you’ll prefer water. Some like it cold, some on ice and some room temperature. If you drink it cold or on ice your body has to heat it and that burns a few more calories each day.

I suggest you get at least 70 ounces of water like I describe above. Then you can incorporate things like sparkling water. You can buy flavors of sparkling water that have no calories, no carbohydrates and no artificial sweeteners or artificial flavorings -- or buy plain sparkling water and flavor it with stevia drops. Those taste just like soda. They even make cola, cherry, and vanilla. Imagine a cherry coke or vanilla makes cream soda. You don’t need to drink soda; ever again. That stuff is nasty. Other things to skip include: fruit juices (fructose is sugar), energy drinks (those can be dangerous) and sports drinks. Sports drinks should only be a resource for heavy (and I mean heavy) exercisers – like people who run marathons or are professional athletes who are working out in very hot weather. They are the only ones who will burn off the calories consumed without gaining weight. They also have nasty ingredients your body does not want.

Things like organic tea and sparkling water count toward your 100 oz.

If you drink coffee, factor in that regular coffee is a dehydrator so you need to drink even more to make up for it.

For weight loss: water is magic. Water helps eliminate waste. When you burn fat it’s got to come out somehow. It comes out in your waste; mostly your urine.

And one more thing: As you get older your body is more at risk of dehydration. Your brain doesn’t recognize the thirst signal as well as you age. So if you are older (or know someone who is), pour a glass of water. And drink up.

Cheers,

Orange Vanilla Water

When you miss soda but know in your heart it’s bad for you, try this.


Orange – Vanilla Water

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. Flavored water provides a refreshing change to your water drinking routine. Just use your creativity - you can add whatever delicious flavorings you want to make it special. Today I was feeling like oranges and vanilla, so I decided to give this a whirl - and it's delicious!

If you miss soda but know in your heart that it’s bad for you, try a recipe like this one.

Ingredients:

  • 60 ounces of water
  • 1 sliced orange (don’t even have to peel it)
  • ½ tsp of organic vanilla extract

Instructions:

Pour the water into your pitcher. Add the sliced orange and the vanilla. Stir. Leave this in your refrigerator for at least an hour to infuse the flavors and then sip throughout the day.

A tasty treat.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


After losing 37 pounds I feel 100% better

After David saw a long time friend of his have great success on Plan Z, he decided to try it for himself.

"I had handicapped plates on my car, and I was walking with a cane because I was in a lot of pain. And I spend an enormous amount of money on just my medication every month and my insulin (because I'm a diabetic). And I thought, you know, either I'm going to have to just lay down and die, or I'm going to have to do something about it."

Although he was skeptical because of a negative experience with the Atkins diet, he ordered Plan Z and committed to the program. He stayed true to the program and followed it consistently. After 50 days, Dave lost 37 pounds. He was amazed, and his doctor was very impressed. Not only did Dave lose a lot of weight, but he no longer needed the high levels of diabetes medication that he was taking before.

"I don't park in the handicap parking anymore, I leave that for somebody else who really needs it. I park further away but that's ok because I don't need a cane anymore. I feel 100% better...I just can't believe how much 37 pounds made a difference in my life. It's incredible."

Listen to his inspirational interview.

"I've been really educated. Very educated. The videos and the stuff that you send us - I never miss one, I watch everything....I've learned how to eat. You wouldn't think that's something I would have to learn, but I learned what to eat and not to eat....

"If you're going to commit to this, commit to it 100%. It's not nearly as bad as you think as far as diets go. Nobody likes the word diet, but -- wow. Once you start losing weight, and you will, you'll be encouraged. Every time you look down at the scale it's going to give you that much encouragement...This is a commitment, it's a lifetime change, it's a change for the better, you'll feel better, you'll look better, and your doctor will like you better. I guarantee it."

-- Dieter Dave


Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) and Happy Healthy Holidays recipe. Talk about comfort food. This is the pure definition. Thankfully fat doesn’t make you fat so you can eat this at parties and not feel the guilt.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz package of frozen, chopped spinach – thawed
  • 18 oz of artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup of pepper jack cheese
  • 6 oz of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne to taste

Instructions:

Remove the thawed spinach from the box. Spread it across a few paper towels and put another layer of paper towels on top. Squeeze out the excess liquid. Then transfer the spinach to a bowl.

In a food processor, chop up the artichoke hearts.  You can leave them as chunky or as smooth as you like. I cut mine to the size of large dice.  I like a few chunks.

Add the artichoke hearts to the spinach. Now add the mayo, sour cream, Parmesan and stir.  Season with salt and pepper and stir again.  I like some extra zip so I put a light dusting of cayenne in too.

Pour this mixture into a 9" x 13" oven proof pan. Put the pepper jack cheese on top. If you don’t like pepper jack you can use mozzarella or even cheddar. Again, I like the zip.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbling hot. I keep mine in there until the cheese starts to brown. I like that extra crispy bit.

Serve on plates with a spoon or you can use a low carb dipper like Melba toast. If you decide to use pita bread, cut it into triangles. Brush the pita bread with butter or ghee and then sprinkle on some Italian herbs. Bake for 7 minutes or until the pitas are crispy on the bottom. Butter will slow down the glycemic intake, and your blood sugar won’t spike as much. Also when I eat pita chips like these (or any cracker) I mound my dip on the chip and then only take a bite of 1/3 of it. That way I can “recycle” the chip. I don’t dip it back in the bowl. Instead I remove the dip from the bowl with a spoon and put it on my plate. Then I use the spoon to mound more on my chip or I can scoop now since the dip is on my plate. It keeps the carbs down. I get three dips of dip from each chip. Works the same with guacamole or other dips.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


The best arthritis pain killer that I've ever had

"I finally get it. I finally had someone tell me the truth about what I should put in my body and what I shouldn't put in my body....The education that you and Zola have given me is just second to none...I know without a doubt that I'm going to eat healthy for the rest of my life." -- Dieter Jim

Dieter Jim is a sixty-two-year-old truck driver who has it figured out. Obviously he’s figured out how to lose weight. He lost 46 pounds in his very first 50-day round of ZReduction.

He’s also learned how to fuel his body.
Even when he eats lunch in his truck.

He works the loading dock in the morning. He’s in and out of that truck twelve hours a day, five days a week. At 248 pounds, he used to come home exhausted. And very sore.

No more.

Listen to his story. He’ll tell you about the good news he got from his doctor at his last checkup. Plus, he had some great news for his doctor.

Find out why going to the supermarket has become a new adventure.
And hear why he sometimes yells at the radio as he’s driving.

It’s all good:
His weight.
His health.

And his dedication maintaining both of them.