The Story of Potatoes Brabant

Potatoes Brabant are a New Orleans favorite. They call them New Orleans fries.

I have seen them seasoned several ways. I think each restaurant has their own signature version. The first time I came across them was in reading a Southern cookbook and looking for menu items for a dinner party. That was about 30 years ago. The ones I made the first time were dusted with Parmesan, sea salt and pepper. Those have been my favorite ever since. The trouble with traditional potatoes Brabant is they are a pain to make. I’ll lay out the traditional recipe that I followed here and then I’ll offer up my simple version made in the air fryer.

I use small, golden yellow potatoes, washed and unpeeled. You cut them into small cubes. Maybe a 1/2” across. A fistful will serve one person so, that might be two potatoes. Then you lightly boil them in water. You want to get them almost cooked, it takes less than 10 minutes, then drain them. Then heat peanut oil in a tall sauce pan and fry them in batches. Drain them on paper towels. Dust them with grated Parmesan cheese and add your sea salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

If you are making these and trying to coordinate a whole dinner party this can get pretty tricky. They are best served as soon as they come out of the fryer, so you have to move fast and everything else has to be ready.

I didn’t serve these very often at parties. And now you see why.

 

Potatoes Brabant- Air Fryer

 

Cheers,


My New Appliance

Well, I went and did it.

I broke down and bought an air fryer.

In the old days I bought every appliance known to man as soon as they hit the retail shelves. I wanted to be the first to break out my new “toys”. I quit that when I downsized from a huge kitchen with tons of cabinets and a massive pantry to a regular-sized apartment kitchen. You may not know this about me, but I have an aversion to covering my counter top with appliances. I prefer the coffee pot be the only appliance. That leaves room for my rack of knives, a produce bowl, a roll of paper towels and maybe a piece of art. I got the air fryer, but I still don’t have an InstaPot, a sous vide, or even a donut fryer. Truth be told, I’m afraid of pressure cookers. I still have nightmares from when I was a child.

So why did I get an air fryer?

A few reasons. I miss my convection oven. In the big house I had gas burners and two convection ovens. In this place I have a regular electric stove/oven that takes forever to heat up. I liked being able to get dinner on the table faster with a convection oven and I liked its crisper performance. Some days it seems wasteful turning on a big oven to just put in a meal for two.

The air fryer I got is Emeril Legasse’s Air Fryer 360. I am not here to endorse his air fryer/oven. I’m not even sure I am friends with it yet. So, stand by on that. I bought up which one I got because this one is bigger than most air fryers I have seen. You can cook a 4 lb chicken in this one on a rotisserie or even a small turkey. It’s a rectangle. Looks like a large toaster oven rather than an upright model like most air fryers. It’s not huge on my counter. I am getting used to it sitting there. I like to be able to bake in a smaller oven. Reminds me of an Easy Bake Oven from childhood. The first thing I baked were my Banana Peanut Butter Bars. They came out perfect.

What I hate so far about the oven is the noise. I know it’s convection so it has to circulate air and that will make noise. I just didn’t expect to have to turn up the TV to drown it out. That might end up being a deal breaker for me. I am trying to pretend that I live in Europe in a small apartment and this might very well be the only oven. I am working to figure out how to cook whole meals in this thing using more than one rack at a time. Truth be told I really don’t ever intend to fry chicken in this thing. I looked at Emeril’s recipe. It has six cups of corn flakes in it! YIKES. I might break down and make some chicken tenders some day as a treat. If I figure out a recipe I’ll let you know.

One other secret, I caved and made little fried potato cubes in it. They were fantastic.

Cheers,

P.S. It’s also easy to clean.


Mexican Food In Summer

What is it with summer and Mexican food? Seems like every cooking website has several Mexican recipes featured during summer. I checked out a few recently and every one of them featured a grilled taco of some kind. Most folks love tacos so I guess that makes sense.

My real theory is it has more to do with the climate in Mexico. It is always summer in Mexico. Even when it’s winter it feels like summer. The temps across the whole country range from 50 -90 degrees with an average humidity of 70%. That smacks of tropical across the board.

I think most folks have been to Mexico at least once. Once you’ve been there you can almost conjure up the Mexican atmosphere in your brain. The smells, the palm trees and beaches, drinks like margaritas and cold beer, and of course the food. The best taco I ever ate was a grilled fish taco in Cancun. I don’t really like Cancun that much, but the taco was amazing.

My favorite city in Mexico is San Miguel de Allende. I’m not a big fan of heat and humidity. San Miguel is up in the mountains at 5000 feet. It’s cool in the mornings, gets up to maybe 80-85 degrees during the day and by early evening it has cooled down again so if you’re dancing at some rooftop club, you’re not all sweaty. There are plenty of trees but no beach. No sand. The architecture is amazing though. Check out a few pics here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m featuring three Mexican dishes I have come up with recently. They are all really easy to make; all part of a low carb lifestyle. They taste as good in the winter as they do in summer. They don’t all photograph well but much of the food served in Mexico is not all that pretty. It’s simple food with a pleasant, down-home feel. A pile of pinto beans will never look pretty but they taste great.

Try these:

 

Low Carb Foldover Quesadillas
Low Carb Foldover Quesadillas

 

Upside Down Tamale Pie

 

Chicken Enchilada Suizas Casserole

And enjoy Summer.

Cheers,


The Munchies

Someone asked me the other day how I feel about late night snacking.

When I think about late night snacking that raises the question, “When is the best time to eat?”

Everyone wants to know if they should eat early.  My first experience with that was back in the early 80’s when I used to jump around in front of my TV following the Jane Fonda exercise tapes.  What a waste of time that was. I did that routine just about every day but it never helped me lose weight.  Maybe it toned me a bit but I never peeled off the pounds. And Jane Fonda is the one that said never to eat after 6PM, or maybe it was 7PM.  I forget.  I never followed that advice anyway. By the time I got home from work, got done jumping around in front of the TV and got some time to make something for dinner it was way past 7PM anyway.

Her contention (and that of other so-called experts at the time) was that if you ate later you’d get fatter.

Other experts will tell you that eating breakfast is the most important because then you have more hours to burn off those calories.  I always hated eating breakfast. Even as a kid, I’d rather run out the door and catch the bus to go to school without eating. My mother had to nail me to the chair and force Rice Krispies in me before I left.  I wasn’t hungry in the morning so I never got any satisfaction out of that. As soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions I went back to not eating breakfast.

About a decade ago I started to force myself to eat something in the morning. I wanted to be thin so if they were right about eating in the morning, maybe I better buy into it. I had no trouble with it during the weekend.  It was during the week when I hated eating in the morning.  I just wanted to get to work.  I’d eat a banana and a glass of skim milk.  So there. That was breakfast.  Didn’t seem to help and now I know that the banana was too high carb and the skim milk wasn’t doing me any favors either.  And the Rice Krispies were a huge mistake.

It really doesn’t matter when you eat.  Today’s science clearly shows that.  Your body will burn calories even while you are sleeping. What matters is WHAT you eat, how large you are, how much activity you produce, your natural metabolic rate, and how much muscle mass you have.

The more muscle mass you have the more calories you will burn.  But if you are larger you’ll burn more calories than a skinny person too. It just takes more energy for the larger person to even move around.  If your activity level is low or your metabolism is slow you’ll burn fewer calories.  If you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs your body will turn the excess into fat.  So what you eat is important.  Protein and vegetables are your best bets for what to eat.

It’s true that larger people who suffer from things like acid reflux are better off eating earlier so their digestion has a chance to empty the stomach before the person tries to lie down. And older people often find that if they eat earlier they sleep better.

Calories will burn while you are asleep. No doubt about that. And the more sleep the better.  If you sleep less than six hours a night your body will be running at an energy deficit and that has been proven to affect how your body burns calories. So get a good night’s rest.

So to get back to the question about snacking at night.  It really doesn’t matter when you eat.  It’s what you eat and how much you eat during the entire day that matters.  Instead of eating late at night you’re probably better off going to bed and getting a good night of rest; that is unless you are in a position to sleep later.  In that case if you get the right amount of sleep it doesn’t matter if you eat late at night.  So how’s that for giving you the run around?  Does any of this make any sense?

Here’s the bottom line: Eat the right stuff and in the right quantity and quit worrying about what time you eat it.

When you're eating the right foods, your body know what to do with them, regardless of the time.

Cheers,


Tattoo's Blindness

Our kitty Tattoo turned 20 years old a month ago. That’s the equivalent of 96 in human years. Way to GO Tattoo!

About 10 days after she turned 20, she woke up blind. I took her to the emergency room vet. He thinks her blood pressure spiked in the night for some reason. He checked and found one retina totally detached and the other one is about 15% connected. He doesn’t think she can see a thing. Good thing we downsized from the huge house to a 1300 sq ft apartment. She has the place pretty well memorized and is adapting to her blindness pretty well. I am hopeful.

The vet and I had a heart-to-heart conversation though. I want to make sure Tattoo’s quality of life stays up as high as possible. I don’t believe in keeping her alive with science. She has lived a long, and healthy life. So, we decided to take her off of all of her meds except those that pertain to her eyes. She’s pretty terrified these days of taking meds because she can’t see what’s coming at her. As much as I try to keep her calm, it’s not working. She has even taken to eating a bit of dinner and then running as fast as a blind kitty can to hide behind the bed to avoid getting her medicine. It breaks my heart. We will be able to take Tattoo to the kitty eye doctor in July to see if she has any chance of regaining any of her eye sight.

Tattoo was a birthday gift for my husband 20 years ago. He picked her out of a box at 4 weeks old and we waited for her until she was old enough to come live with us. We are both filled with Tattoo stories. She did have one litter of kittens and has outlived them all so she’s definitely beaten the odds.

We are going to cherish our time left with Tattoo and just keep packing on the stories and the memories.

 

Wish us luck as we try to give her the best of her remaining time with us.

Cheers,


World-famous Virus Expert gets the Virus. Read his story.

Years ago, my niece packed up her hopes, her dreams and a suitcase full of clothes and flew from Wisconsin to London, England. She had been accepted at a prestigious college with a strange name. People in the medical field are familiar with this place but I was not. It’s called The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Her dream was to get an advanced degree from the school and help find a cure for malaria. Even at a younger age I can remember her doing fund raisers to raise money to buy mosquito netting so the children in far-off lands would not suffer from malaria. She was a determined young woman.

While attending the school my niece not only gained her advanced degree, she also gained a husband. They now live in the Boston area with two young girls. They are both scientists working in the medical field. Lots of specialized labs are located in and round Boston so they have made that area their home. We are proud.

Fast forward to present day. A couple of weeks ago I was watching TV and they mentioned a famous virologist who had contracted COVID-19. They said he is the Director of The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Of course, my ears perked up. I emailed my niece and asked if she had heard about this man getting the virus. She said she had, and she attached the article that I am sharing with you today.

This is the most riveting story of what it’s like to get the COVID-19 virus, how scary it is, what it does to ravage a person’s body and how if you survive a bad bout of it, how it will change your life forever.

If I could have my wish and everyone on the planet would read this, I don’t think we’d have any trouble getting people to wear their mask when out in public.

Please read and pass this along to others.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/finally-virus-got-me-scientist-who-fought-ebola-and-hiv-reflects-facing-death-covid-19

 


Coronavirus Has Brought Back Carbs!

This, straight from Food Network Magazine. I was reading my copy the other day and I came across this little article and was not surprised. Not ONE bit.

The coronavirus outbreak has proven what we’ve suspected for a while. We turn to carbs in a crisis. Sales of yeast were more than 300 percent higher in March 2020 compared to March 2019 (according to Nielsen) and foodnetwork.com saw the biggest boost in recipe searches for homemade bread, banana bread, and pizza dough. Companies have also seen spikes in demand for childhood favorites like Entenmann’s doughnuts, Pop Tarts, Ritz and Triscuits. Goldfish sales have jumped 23%.

This is no shock. Some of those who are furloughed have little to do besides binge on Netflix. They want to do something besides sit around watching TV, so they are heading to the kitchen. And it makes sense. Many people eat to relieve stress or to get that "comfort" feeling. Unfortunately, when you are driven to eat based on emotions, you're not always picky about what goes in your mouth. Some people are eating junk. Other people are just opening the refrigerator and going after the leftovers. Still others are trying to get creative and make something from scratch. Some have children to occupy so why not start letting them help in the kitchen?

I’ll admit it. I love comfort food. And I got sucked into the banana bread craze, too. I spent three weeks working to perfect a low carb banana bread recipe. Why I craved banana bread is anyone’s guess. Probably has to do with a childhood memory and stress relief.

Since Plan Z is a big supporter of making your own food, I’m happy people are back in the kitchen doing something besides baking a frozen pizza. They might not be making great choices by baking bread, but I bet their kitchen smells divine. Now if we could only get more people to realize that comfort food doesn't have to contain sugar and starch. Plan Z recipes are proof that there are a lot of delicious meals you can make that will help you lose weight and get healthy.

Want to relieve stress? Stabillizing your blood pressure, lowering your A1C and staying out of the emergency room are great for stress relief, too.

Cheers,


The History of Memorial Day

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWn2RPr-GhE

I love a little learning about the history of holidays. Here are some interesting tidbits about Memorial Day.

Enjoy your long weekend and remember those important to you who served our country.

Stay safe.


Patriotic Cherries

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

Important: Be sure to buy the cherries that are packed in water and not the ones packed in syrup. You are looking for pie cherries. They are called Montmorency cherries. Bing cherries and Queen Anne Cherries are much more sugary and much higher carb. To make this dish “patriotic’ all you need to do is add blueberries and you have a red and blue dessert. You don’t need to feel left out of the holiday celebration just because you’re on a diet. Yours will be just as colorful and tasty as anything else being served.

Servings: Serving size 1/2 cup, cooked

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of TART (Montmorency) cherries packed in WATER only (you can also use fresh or frozen Montmorency cherries)
  • ½ cup of fresh blueberries
  • 2 Tbl of cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup of water
  • 2 tsp of organic vanilla
  • 4 tsp Truvia
  • ½ – 1 tsp of almond flavoring

Instructions:

Put the ingredients in a pan and bring to a low boil, stirring often. If you use fresh cherries you’ll need to add a cup of water to make up for the liquid in the can. Boil at a slow bubble until the cornstarch kicks in and you get a thick sauce. Stir often. Just like pie filling in a can. Tastes just like the pie filling. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. The color will be paler because you will not be pouring in a bunch of red dye. You don’t need those chemicals in your system.

Enjoy!
Cheers,


Clean Grillin'

I’ve never been that fond of the grill. I think I can trace it back to when I was about 20 years old. I bought a charcoal grill that came in a box. I had to put it together. Even with perfectly clear directions, it still took me five hours to get that thing ready to cook a hotdog. It wasn’t the most expensive grill so it didn’t last more than one summer, either. I was so disappointed.

I'm also slightly afraid of propane. Now that we have a gas grill I’m never the one to change the tank. I leave that to my husband.

Ever since I was a little kid I remember the day the grill got cleaned was a big, dirty deal. Now I realize you really shouldn’t wait for a big day to clean the grill. It should be done much more often than that. But as a kid, I can remember my mom getting out the bucket, the big rubber gloves, a hose, and cleaner. I think she even used oven cleaner on the grates. I can still conjure up that smell and see the grit and grease and goo. There was lots of grunting involved in cleaning the grill. It was all a big YUK.

Nowadays we don't use things like smelly chemicals on the grill. So I did a little research on grill cleaning. I found a couple of YouTube clips that had some neat grill cleaning advice.

One of these has hints when you’re the chosen one to do the grilling at a party but you’re not at your own house. Or maybe you’re using a public grill in a park.

Another one is done by our Chicago buddy Lou Manfredini. He’s pretty famous in the do-it-yourselfer world. He owns an Ace Hardware store in the Chicago suburbs and is their spokesperson. He does a Saturday morning “Mr. Fix It” show that I used to listen to as I drove around doing my errands when we lived in Chicago. I learned a lot from Lou.

Now that grilling season is here I hope these things give you the incentive to take good care of your grill. I know I’m going to do a better job with mine.

Cheers,


How I Construct a Pandemic Menu

I used to shop like I’m French. So what does that mean?

Well, the French shop daily not weekly like us Americans. That way they get the freshest food. Oftentimes they go to more than one shop, too.  They might go to a meat market, a vegetable shop and then the bakery.

My way of shopping like the French used to be like this: I decide by about 2:30 in the afternoon what I am hungry for and then I take a break from my day and run to the grocery store to buy the fixin’s for the meal I'm going to make that night. Because I'm only buying for one meal my list is short and it doesn't take me very long. Now, because of the risk of exposure, I am going to the store a lot less often. I am shopping about every 7 – 10 days.

I thought you might be interested in how I put together my menu and my grocery list. I am still buying fresh food but because some of it might not be eaten for even a week, I have had to resort to freezing some items. The items I freeze are things like ground beef. That sort of thing freezes and thaws without much deterioration. The delicate items like fresh fish I make early in my week so they don’t have to be frozen. So what I eat when does matter.

The first thing I do is choose my menu. I might search the Plan Z diet site for inspiration. I might clip things out of magazines, or I might go through my collection of cookbooks looking for ideas. For each night I try to choose a different ethnicity and I choose recipes that are easy to make. I am very busy with work (unlike some folks who are furloughed and have more spare time). So, on one day I might decide it will be Italian, the next American, the third Mexican and so on. I try to choose recipes that are a mix of proteins: beef, chicken, fish/seafood etc. I like to mix things up. For meals on weekends I can choose some of the more complicated dishes. This past weekend I made a St. Louis rib recipe that cooked for almost six hours. I accompanied that with a caramelized onion tart. Those onions take about 45 minutes to make. Those are not simple and quick recipes.

I actually write down what I am going to make for the entire week. I tear those pages out of my notebook and keep them in the corner of my kitchen. As the week progresses, I cross them off the list so I can easily see what’s left to make. Once I have my menu, I make my grocery list. I pull out each recipe and I write the ingredients I need to buy on a notebook page. I never go to the grocery store without a list.  I find that to be a recipe for weight gain disaster. If the list is long, I write the items in a notebook and take that along rather than just a piece of paper. I find it a lot easier to check things off the list with something stiff holding the list on the shelf cart.

If you look at my grocery list, you’ll see some items marked “W”.

That means I will be buying those items from Whole Foods. They are specialty items I am not likely to find in the cheaper grocery store where I buy the rest of the food. Going to two stores in Chattanooga is fairly easy. The city is pretty small, and the stores are less than 10 minutes apart. I check each item off the list as I go through the aisles. This keeps me focused. I come home. I unpack the groceries. I make the food each night after work.

For the lunch meal it’s usually leftovers from some other night or maybe just a cheese platter to snack on. Breakfast is usually a protein smoothie made with homemade yogurt (I bought a yogurt maker by Lavele...really awesome) or an apple with peanut butter. Simple meals during a time of pandemic.

I am finding it rewarding to put in the homework time up front on my menu and then execute. I hope this gives you some ideas you can use to make the grocery experience more satisfying during this tough time.

Cheers,


Underlying Conditions

We are all susceptible to getting COVID-19, but some of us are more vulnerable than others. Here’s the list from the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised (many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications)
  • People with severe obesity (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease

As you read the list do you or any of your loved ones come to mind? These are what are called underlying conditions. These are things that increase the chance that you might not live through a case of COVID-19.

I was lucky, I lived through my battle with COVID-19. Maybe my case was not all that severe. That might be true. I do know I coughed so hard that I almost fell off the couch I was laying on at the time. I just could not quit coughing to the point I’d start choking and gasping for air. My nephew, a United Airlines pilot, had COVID-19 and coughed so hard he bulged a disc in his back. This disease is no joke. It’s not just a flu.

So how many of the conditions on the list apply to you? That’s what we all have to think about. I look at that list and see nothing that applies to me. 10 years ago that would not have been the case. I had a BMI over 40 (Quickly calculate your BMI here.). I was on blood pressure meds, too. That can’t help (although, I don’t see it on the list).

Some of the things on this list are conditions that you can't do anything to avoid. Others are preventable. Some, like obesity, are reversible. If you are suffering from obesity, it is in your best interest to get down to a healthy weight and stay there. Knowing what we do about COVID-19, losing weight and getting healthier might just save your life.

We're not talking about becoming model-thin, but getting to a weight where you're no longer high risk. I’m the first person to admit I still have weight to lose. But getting off 70 pounds with Plan Z got me in a position where I am a lot healthier and I don’t take any meds. I thank my lucky stars I got health back. I eat better now. I used to eat very little and I still gained weight. I’d max out at just 750 calories a day. Doctors thought it was crazy that I was gaining weight. But I figured it out. All I was eating was carbs. I was counting calories instead of grams of carbs. I had it all wrong.

Now, I eat three meals a day. I probably consume over 2000 calories a day but I don’t eat a lot of carbs. I eat mostly protein, healthy fats and vegetables. Do I ever eat a potato? Sure. I’m not that militant about what I eat. I eat an occasional piece of bread. I don’t think I could eat a whole cupcake at this point though. The sugar makes me too dizzy.

I saw a meme the other day that went like this:


At first, that’s funny. It’s clever. But it’s not funny at all.

 

What action will you decide to take?


Five Last Minute Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

These are things you can put together in a jiffy to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. By the way if you don’t speak Spanish… Cinco de Mayo just means May 5th. It’s a day to celebrate when the Mexicans beat Napoleon’s army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

1. Are you a beer drinker? Pick up a Mexican beer. Corona Premier beer has just 2.6 grams of carbs. That’s delightful!
2. Make my husband’s favorite. Frito Chili Pie. Whip up a batch of my latest Lockdown Chili. Chili comes together really fast. Then when you serve it put a layer of Fritos in the bottom of the bowl and voila. Frito Chili Pie.
3. Shop a Mexican grocery store. If you have one in your town step inside and pick up some great fixins. Mexican grocery stores are usually small businesses. They could really use the support. This is also where you can count on finding ripe avocados.
4. Make guacamole with those fresh avocados.
5. Fire up the mariachi music. If you have little kids at home and they are getting squirrely from being cooped up, make a dance party out of it!

Enjoy the holiday.
Salud!


It Started with A Cough

My symptoms started March 6th. The coughing. I coughed almost constantly for the first three days. First thing I did was check my supply of cold pills and started taking them. I also downed Robitussen DM with great enthusiasm. The cough medicine soothed my throat temporarily, but nothing stopped the coughing. The hacking. My lungs did not burn. They just felt full. My breathing was pretty shallow. I sequestered myself in the den. I wanted my husband to get some sleep. I didn’t get more than a wink.

By the second night I thought about going to the ER. I thought about it really hard but decided to tough it out. This was so early on in the pandemic that COVID-19 didn’t really hit my radar.

I just kept thinking about the fact that if I had a cold why wasn’t my nose running? I had no snot at all. I had no fever but the shivering was relentless. For two days I stayed under quilts and just shook; wondering when it would stop. Instead of a fever, I did have waves of warmth that went up and down my neck. Those felt more like hot flashes then a constant temperature.

I was exhausted and not just because I got no sleep. I was just dragging. I’d shuffle around my apartment with my bed pillow under my arm. I did manage to watch a movie one day, but I’m surprised my husband could hear it over my coughing.

Sunday, I started investigating urgent care clinics. By Monday I went to a walk-in clinic. It took less than five seconds of listening to my lungs for the nurse practitioner to declare that I had an acute respiratory infection. He prescribed steroids and antibiotics. (We have to remember there was no coronavirus advancing curve at that point. The discussion was still about what was happening in China, Italy and maybe a little about Washington state). I dutifully took the antibiotics and the steroids, but they basically did nothing. I had a false sense that I was getting better because I didn’t cough quite as much. I started sleeping in the bedroom again. The most scary part was waking up in the middle of the night choking. I was choking and gasping for air. I had to sit up in bed to get control of my breathing but then it would calm down.

I asked the clinic for more steroids and antibiotics when mine ran out. They told me, “No more drugs. Just hydrate a lot, sleep a lot, and ride this out."

I tried to go to work a few times. I stayed away from everyone, but it didn’t last long. Thank goodness for Jessica. She held the fort down and carried on without me. For the first five or six days I had no sense of appetite or smell. The thought of eating anything warm made me nauseous. I survived on a few little peanut butter sandwiches made with one piece of low carb bread. And ice water. Lots of ice water. Then the weird headaches started. With the first one I thought I was having a stroke. I was really scared. It started behind my left ear with a pulsating throb. It felt like my carotid artery had a clog. I could feel this painful cluster trying to work its way up my head. I had to lay down. That’s when I REALLY considered an ambulance. I was chicken though. Enough days had passed that the news was starting to build, and I was afraid to go to the ER. After about an hour the really scary pain passed. The cluster of pain had moved above my left eyebrow. I had suffered for years from migraines and I knew this was not that kind of pain. This was different. It happened again on Saturday and the next Sunday.

Monday, I called my doctor in Chicago and got an emergency appointment for telemedicine (I have not found a doctor in Chattanooga yet and my Chicago doctor knows me well). He spent 30 minutes asking me questions and going over my symptoms. I ended up telling the story to him much the same way I am telling you. My doctor has been treating lots of people who have COVID-19 in Chicago. Most of those cases he is treating with telemedicine too. At the end of our conversations he said, “I am more than 95% sure you had COVID-19."

Bringing you up to date... My coughing has mostly subsided. I have a short burst of cough probably 20-30 times a day. I sound sort of like a little barking dog. My heart flutters some days. The doc said that was pretty common too. He also said most folks are taking 6 or more weeks to get over this. I’m six weeks in. I found out this morning that they are doing testing here now. I called the Hamilton County Health Department. I’d like to get an antibody test to know for sure that I’ve had it. They don’t have those yet.

So, I am acting like I didn’t have it; just out of an abundance of caution. I wear my mask faithfully and I am still working from home in no hurry to get back to my offices. Since they don’t really know if you build up antibodies to stay disease-free for any period, I’m okay with this. I’m locked down and adapting. I just thought you might like to read a story from someone who’s had the experience I had. Assuming I did have it, I feel lucky to have had what could be considered a pretty mild case.

Cheers,

P. S. People ask me how I got it. I really have no clue but for now I’m blaming the handle on the grocery cart.


Animal Instinct

Our cats have this all figured out.

At first it was pretty clear that by being around all the time we had interrupted our cats’ usual routines. They were accustomed to us checking on their whereabouts, turning off the lights and heading off to work each morning. You never know what your cats do while you’re gone but evidence showed they took naps. Long naps.

They still take naps but some of their behavior has changed in light of our being locked down and staying home. Tattoo (the itty bitty kitty) has become super cuddly. She’s always been affectionate, but she’s ramped it up to a whole new level.

Here’s one example: Every time I get in bed, she hops right up with me. Several times during the night she will come up next to me and wants to get curled up in my armpit. If I’m not lying in a position where she can do that easily she will paw at my shoulder until I comply.

Then she takes it up a notch. She insists on putting both of her front paws at the bottom of my neck. After that she pokes her nose into the bottom of my jaw. She turns on the purring and settles in. She will stay like that for almost an hour. At that point I guess she feels like she has tucked me in, and she will wander off the bed and settle back in her fuzzy bed.

Titan (the big Bengal) has decided he wants to help and stand guard. Most every minute he’s stationed somewhere he can see me. Sometimes he even insists on sitting on the stool next to me. If I get up to do anything he hops right on my stool. I wish he could type. I could find projects for him. The other thing he does now is every time I walk past him he rolls over on his back to get a belly rub. It’s not like he’s never done that before. It’s just a consistent thing now. People talk about dogs who roll over to get their bellies rubbed. It’s not quite as common in cats. Mine is loving this frequent attention.

We did the big downsize so when we moved to Chattanooga a year ago we got a 1300 sq ft place. I no longer have a home office. These days my office is the kitchen counter. Thankfully my kitchen stools are pretty comfortable and so far my back is not barking at me.

I’ll look forward to going back to the office when the “all clear” is called, but I will miss my cats.

Cheers,

Exotic Egg Salad

This is great as a light lunch time meal and a great holiday recipe. The juxtaposition of the sweeter apricots with the curry has the exotic taste I was looking for.


Blueberry Lemon Tart (Three ways with other flavors)

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe.

This is a lovely, light tart. Makes and elegant dessert for a party. You can also make this with other flavors, but lemon goes particularly well with blueberry.

Change up the fruits and the flavorings and this can be several desserts. Think strawberry with almond, or orange with raspberries.

Ingredients:

  • A pie crust. You can cheat and use a processed pie crust and sometimes that’s just necessary to save time. Just follow the directions for baking on the back of the box. 9 minutes and you’ll have a nice crust to fill. Or use this healthier nut crust recipe
  • 2 blocks of full fat cream cheese, softened (you can soften on the counter or zap it in your microwave for 20 seconds on high for each block). Be sure they are unwrapped and in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • ¾ cup of granular sweetener. I use Swerve or ZSweet or Surkin brands (order online)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbl of grated lemon peel --or if you don’t want to do fresh you can use the jar, dried peel. (if making another flavor you’ll use vanilla with almond or orange peel with orange option)
  • 4 Tbl of fresh lemon juice (use OJ with the orange flavor and water with the almond option)
  • 3 Tbl of spreadable fruit. This is like jelly, but you get less sugar using this. You can choose any flavor. I used blackberry on top of my blueberry option, but the most versatile flavor is to use apricot spreadable fruit.
  • 3 Tbl of water

Instructions:

While your crust is baking you can make the filling.

With a mixer, blend the cream cheese and the sweetener until smooth. This will take about a minute. If your cream cheese is not soft, it will clog the mixer, but you can work to get that out and begin blending again.

Add the egg, lemon peel, and juice. Blend until fully fluffy. A minute more or so.

Go over to your crust and mound the filling to the middle. Then take a spatula and spread it toward the edges. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees until set.

Remove from the oven and let it cool about 30 minutes. You’ll then want to put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. You’ll be adding the fruit right before serving.

Arrange your fruit on top of the tart. You might have to press it down a bit to get it to adhere. Careful. Heat the spreadable fruit and water, stir to incorporate until the fruit dissolves. With a pastry brush, dab the fruit mixture onto the berries. Cover the whole top and it will be nice and shiny. The topping will also help “glue” the berries together but expect when you cut this that it might not stay perfectly neat. Some berries might roll off. No issue.

Chill another few minutes to chill the topping or you can then keep it in the fridge until you serve it later.

If you have any leftovers, they taste great the next day. After 2 or 3 days the crust will start to get soggy. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Exotic Egg Salad

This is a Z3 (ZReboot)and a Happy Healthy Holidays recipe.

Servings: Yields 2-3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs, hardboiled and peeled
  • ¾ cup of mayonnaise
  • ½ cup of diced English cucumber. I peel mine before dicing. English cucumbers are seedless and very convenient.
  • ½ cup of diced dried apricots
  • ½ tsp of curry powder (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp of grated sea salt
  • ¼ tsp of black pepper

Optional:

  • fresh herbs for garnish

Instructions:

Put the eggs in a bowl. Cut them up. I just use two knives and keep going after them to chop them up. I like my egg salad to have lumps. My mother used a pastry blender to chop up her egg salad. She liked it mushier than I do. You can use whatever method works best for your taste. Add the other ingredients and stir. If you like the taste of curry you can always add more. If you want just a hint of curry, you can use less. The juxtaposition of the sweeter apricots with the curry has the exotic taste I was looking for.

Garnish with fresh herbs.

Serving Suggestions:

You can make fancy little egg salad boats by serving this on endive leaves. You can make rolls of it with romaine lettuce. You can scoop it with Melba toasts or even toast up a piece of Naan and serve it on top. It’s just a matter how many carbohydrates your body can tolerate best.

Garnish with a bit of tomato like I did or even green onions, chive bits or parsley.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Corked

The other evening, my husband opened a bottle of red wine. He decanted it and then poured himself a glass.

Then he promptly announced that he was going to pour it down the drain.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It smells bad. Like rotten.”

So down it went. Glug. Glug.

Winefolly.com says about 2-3% of wine has cork taint (that's about one bottle in every 2 cases) and that a typical wine enthusiast can expect to encounter about 100 bottles of corked wine in their lifetime. Yikes! I'm not a heavy wine drinker, but I've been lucky. I have been ordering wine for about 4 decades now, and it’s only been a few times that I have sent one back in a restaurant or poured one down the drain at home.

If your first wine encounter is with a corked bottle, it can turn you off of wine forever. The good news is the chances of that happening are low. Below I'm going to tell you how to spot a corked wine, even if you are a wine “rookie.” I actually find this stuff quite interesting and hope you find some benefit from it, too.

What is corked wine? 

Well, let's start with what it isn't:

  • It’s not the pieces of cork floating around your wine.
  • It's not a wine cork covered in little white crystals. These crystals (tartrate) are a natural by-product of some types of wine and are totally harmless, btw.
  • You can’t tell if a wine is corked from smelling the cork itself.

Corked wine is wine that is tainted with a compound called TCA (a molecule known as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole). It's formed when natural fungi (which reside in cork) come in contact with certain compounds found in bleaches and other winery sanitation products. If a winery uses infected corks, the wine becomes tainted.

How do I know if my wine is corked?

Jeremy Allen, a top sommelier in Hollywood, give some pointers:

"Does it smell like a wet dog? Or does it smell like a wet forest? A wet sponge? Does it smell like rotten poop, or precious world’s best poop? Does it smell like the Village Voice underneath that bus stop bench? Does it taste like a rusty old penny? Does it smell like a CORK? If it doesn’t offend you, no problem, drink it up. But if you have to question it, go ahead and question it. If you think it’s corked, it’s usually corked. The more bottles you pop, the more likely it is that you’re gonna get a bad one. By the way: If the cork breaks upon opening, or falls into the wine, it has no effect on whether or not the wine is “corked.” A dry cork that crumbles could be a clue that an older wine may have been exposed to air, and may possibly be less than prime, but that is a different matter.

"One reason “corked” is such a touchy area, is that people encounter things they don’t love in wines all the time, but have been intimidated into fearing that the flaws in a wine aren't really flaws at all. And in delicate social situations, questioning a wine or sending it back could make you feel pushy, picky, or twerpy.

"Say, the boss ordered it, and appears to love it—would you speak up and question her WINE EXPERTISE? Tough situation. There is no secret hand signal to the server for “My boss is drinking bad wine and I can’t take it, but I don’t want to not drink it—fix this please.” There is a lot of pressure on choosing, tasting, and sharing wine. Maybe it’s business, maybe it’s meeting the parents, maybe it’s just impressing a date with your sense of adventure (natural wine instinct), or comfort (fruit-forward guzzle). You don’t yet know who’s paying the bill, or what Emily’s mom and dad drink, or whether they have a cellar stocked with Harlan Estate or a fridge full of Barefoot Bubbly. But if it’s you that ordered it, and you that’s paying for it, PLEASE don’t hesitate to send it back, or at least ask one of us service staff to confirm. You are paying to enjoy yourself, and we are paid to make that easy for you, no matter what."

Is corked wine dangerous to your health?

Don't worry, drinking corked wine is not harmful to your health. Unfortunately, it does ruin the experience...and some wines are very expensive. Most important, if you think a wine is corked, don't try to suffer through and drink it. Drinking wine should be an enjoyable experience, so if it is not enjoyable, take a pass on that glass -- corked or not.

TIP: It’s harder to sniff out a corked red wine than a corked white wine.

If you want to avoid the possibility of running into a corked wine, you can stick to wines with screw tops. If your wine bottle used a screw cap or synthetic cork to form the seal, it can’t be corked. More and more fabulous wines are coming out with easy-to-open tops.

Corked wine is rare, but it happens. Now that you know about it, you'll be more aware if you happen to come across a corked bottle. Makes good cocktail party conversation, too. Or wine tasting conversation!

When in doubt, ask your wine sommelier for help. They're there to make sure you have a good experience. As I’ve gotten older, I’m much less intimidated by a sommelier. Now, I quite happily tell them what kind of wines I have come to like and I tell them the price range I want them to stick to. It’s amazing how creative they can be. Sometimes they even suggest something that doesn’t appear on their wine list, and I have been introduced to new wines this way. It expands my wine horizons.

Enjoy! May your next bottle of wine be the best bottle you've ever had!

Cheers,

Chicken Piccata

Simple. Elegant. Delicious.


Beef Stew in a Dutch Oven

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe.

I’m Irish, so beef stew was a staple in our family. Trouble is there are so many carbs in most beef stew recipes. Beyond the meat, all the other additions in most recipes are high carbohydrate. So with this recipe I have adjusted it to keep the carbs lower and introduce some other veggies that are lower carb to the mix. I did include carrots but I cut way back on the amount; leaving in just enough for color. I cut back the amount of potato and changed the type of potato. A small, C-size potato is lower carb than a fully grown russet. So follow these proportions and you can be happy eating beef stew and still maintain your weight at a stable level.

Servings: Serves 4, can be doubled easily.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds of stew meat
  • 2 Tbl of peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup of celery chunks
  • 1/2 cup of carrot cut into coin shapes
  • 1-1/2 cups of organic beef broth
  • 1-1/2 Tbl of tomato paste
  • 2 Tbl of peanut oil
  • 1/2 Tbl of dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of grated sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-7 C-sized potatoes (about 1" in diameter). Red or white will work fine. Cut in half.
  • 1 cup of frozen pearl onions
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, if they are large ones cut in half or quarter them
  • 2 Tbl of gravy flour mixed with 3 Tbl of water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In batches, brown the stew meat in the peanut oil in your Dutch oven. I just brown two sides of the meat and take it out. Then add the second batch. This won’t take long on medium high. When you have all of the beef browned, add the carrots and all of the beef back into the pot.

Add the beef broth and the tomato paste. Stir it around to break up the tomato paste and get it distributed. Then add the seasonings and the bay leaf. Stir. Cover the pot and put it in your oven to roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. (Use oven gloves). Open the top. Take out the bay leaf and toss it. Add the rest of the vegetables and the flour/water mixture. Stir to combine. Put the top back on and roast another 30 minutes until all of the veggies are done. Check to make sure the potatoes are cooked by poking one with a sharp knife. The potatoes will be tender and your gravy will be slightly thickened.

I serve beef stew in bowls.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Collagen Fruit Smoothie

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

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.

Ingredients:

    • 1/3-1/2 cup of unsweetened pea milk. Ripple is a new one I buy. (Pea milk is the greatest! I love the flavor and texture in a smoothie. Really smooth. If I don’t have pea milk, I use unsweetened coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk. Those both work too).
    • 1 scoop (2 Tbl) of the collagen protein powder. There will be a scoop in the jar. They say 2 scoops. I go with one)
    • 1/3 cup of berries. I use frozen strawberries, or raspberries and blackberries work too. You can really use any berries, or they make chunks of frozen mango now too for a tropical version. Assorted berry options work too. And if you want your smoothie a little thicker and fruitier, just add more fruit.
    • ½ cup of cold water
    • Truvia to taste

Instructions:

Put this all in your blender and whiz until it’s smooth. I use my Bullet blender for this job. No need to take out the bigger model.

Pour in a glass and sip or load it into your travel mug for a meal on-the-go.

My husband even opts for a smoothie for lunch sometimes.

Enjoy!


Pass Me an Orange

A full two-thirds of Americans start off their day with a glass of orange juice. They think that’s healthy behavior.

I rarely ate breakfast, so I used to get my orange juice a different way. If I was in a restaurant, I’d order a drink that was half orange juice and half soda water. I was counting my calories so I thought this way I got my healthy orange juice and kept down the calorie count.

Interestingly I was only half right. I had the other half wrong. I thought the orange juice was healthy. Turns out I would have been better off having a full glass of soda water.

It’s not the orange that’s unhealthy. Eating an orange is good for you, but drinking large amounts of juice will cause you trouble. The average glass of orange juice contains the juice of several oranges. That’s a lot of fructose and your body can’t handle all that sugar without turning it straight into fat.

I won’t bore you with the scientific details, but 60 Minutes had a segment where it was explained in detail that when you take out the fructose from orange juice that it will convert very efficiently to fat. (You can Google that if you’re interested in the detail.)

What I am offering up here is an explanation of why you want to eat an orange rather than drink a glass of orange juice.

Now that you’ve watched that informal, little movie, I am going to progress to the even more sinister part of the subject of orange juice. Now we get to the stuff in the carton in the refrigerated section of our grocery store.

When "big food" runs commercials for orange juice they make it look really enticing. They bombard us with beautiful packaging. They give us images of an orange with a straw sticking out so we think what we are drinking is coming right off the tree and into the carton. Oh contraire. That’s not how it’s done. Watch this to get a mouthful on how processed our the orange juice in the grocery store really is.

So do I want to drink a large glass of something that my body will process efficiently into fat? Do I want to drink something from a carton that’s had the life sucked out of it and then put back in a new chemical format? Or do I just want to eat an orange?

I think I’ll quit my old complaining about how long it takes to peel an orange, and the fact that I like to take even more time to peel off all the pith. Please, pass me an orange.

You should also check out today's recipe for Cinnamon Tangerines.

These are a juicy, fun dessert. I highly recommend serving these after a Mexican-themed meal. The cinnamon goes great after hot food. But you can eat them anytime! I bet these would be great slightly frozen on a hot day too!

Cheers,


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!

Brought to you by singing frogs.  They wear green every day!

Cheers,


Who Invented St. Patrick’s Day?

I always knew I was of Irish descent, but I never really knew HOW Irish I was until I got my 23 n Me results back.

Right there in the early results it tells me I’m 92.6% Irish.

That’s a lot of Irish if you ask me. I’ve always been proud of being Irish. That report made me extra-proud.

One of the interesting things I learned beyond being 92.6% Irish is that I’m about 3% Scandinavian. That got me thinking. In old Irish history there are many reports of Vikings raiding Ireland starting in the 700’s. At first, they raided the coastal monasteries but as time went on, they moved inland. I figure there must have been a “union” or two that came about as part of the Viking influence that now pops up in that 3% of my heritage. I certainly didn’t inherit blonde hair or blue eyes. Both of mine are Irish brown.

Ever since I was a kid my mother used to buy me a new green outfit for St. Patrick’s Day. I’d proudly wear my colors on the big day. If it was a school day my uniform was also a green plaid, so I had it covered either way, but I’d dress up my uniform with green ribbons in my hair and wear my Kelly green socks. To this day, I still try to find something Kelly green to wear on St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m always in search of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. A parade is my first choice, but I’ll settle for a little Irish dancing movie on TV if I have to.

To keep track of what’s going on in Ireland I subscribe to an electronic newsletter called Irish Central. This was recommended to me by my favorite Irish waitress (Marie) from O’Shaughnessey’s in Chicago.

This issue features the history of St. Patrick’s Day and how it’s really an American invention. I hope you’ll find it interesting.

Enjoy!

Cheers and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Just in case you’re having a little celebration for St. Patrick’s Day I thought I’d offer up a green vegetable appetizer.

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip


"I never felt like I was deprived or hungry at all.”

Dieter Mary Anne had tried every diet imaginable. She considers herself someone who eats healthy and leads an active lifestyle but at 46 years old, she still struggled with her weight. Mary Anne found Plan Z from a friend's recommendation. “I had a friend who shared Zola [Plan Z] with me and it was life changing.”

In 50 days, she lost 30 lbs and continued to lose weight living ZLife in the year that followed. Using the education she received on Plan Z, Mary Anne got down to 148 lbs (from 192 lbs) and she kept the weight off for 9 years! Now, she tells us, “I [feel] SO MUCH better... And I never felt like I was deprived or hungry at all.”

Before Plan Z, Mary Anne struggled with plantar fasciitis, and regular pain in her knees. But losing the first 30 lbs alleviated these physical ailments for her almost right away.

“I slept better, I looked better, I felt better, and it was very noticeable. I got comments and compliments from so many people.”

Listen to her interview here:


Chow Down On Chili

Chile is the pepper. Chili is the concoction.

And now that we’ve got that straight, let’s talk chili. It’s chilly outside these days so now’s a perfect time.

The history of chili is long and varied. Even the International Chili Society debates the origins of chili. (Yes, there IS an International Chili Society). Chili has been around in one form or another since cooking began.

The origins of Texas chili seem to have come from a range cook who was working along the cattle trail, feeding the hungry men at the end of a long day of rustling steer. Here’s his original recipe:

CHILI CON CARNE

Cut up as much meat as you think you will need (any kind will do, but beef is probably best) in pieces about the size of a pecan. Put it in a pot, along with some suet (enough so as the meat won’t stick to the sides of the pot), and cook it with about the same amount of wild onions, garlic, oregano, and chiles as you have got meat. Put in some salt. Stir it from time to time and cook it until the meat is as tender as you think it’s going to get.

I love that last part about cooking it as long as it takes to get it tender. My theory is chili was developed as a full-flavored dish to mask the flavor of what was probably pretty bad meat.

I have another Texas chili story:

Years ago, we invited a couple over to our house for a Sunday meal. The gentleman decided he’d like to make his favorite chili. He was from Texas and said Texans make the best chili. He would bring the ingredients and make it in our kitchen. Oh, and by the way, he needed to start by 11 AM or the chili would not be done in time for dinner.

Yep. They just sort of invited themselves over for the entire day!

We had just met this couple a couple of months prior so we didn’t know them very well. We weren’t sure what we were going to do with them for an entire day. Turns out we didn’t really need to think too hard. They had plans.

In addition to all the ingredients they needed to make the chili, they brought fixings for Bloody Mary’s and for martinis. Their plan was to play board games and drink all day.

They put the meat on the stove and started to tenderize it. Their methodology involved continuing to add things to the meat as the day progressed and continually cook it over low heat so it would become melt-in-your-mouth tender.

My husband and I are not adept at drinking all afternoon, but they were. Many a martini went down easy. We did enjoy playing the board games. Trivial Pursuit was in vogue then. We laughed and played a few rounds of that. In-between we watched football. The chili-man kept at his chili and around 7 PM we actually ate dinner. The chili was excellent but I never asked for the recipe. I’m not good at 8-hour recipes. I don’t have many of them in my recipe file.

No beans. No macaroni. No discernable vegetables. Nothing but meat. We made cornbread to round out the meal.

At chili contests, you’ll see all manner of chili recipes now. White chili made with chicken and white beans. Chili made with hamburger or chili made with stewing meat. Veggie chili too. Chili is all over the place now.

I recommend chili as a tailgate item. Instead of firing up the grill behind your vehicle, I suggest you bring along a crock pot full of chili. It’s easy to eat; conveniently held in one hand. The chili will even keep your hand warm as you eat it. The chilies in the chili will keep your tummy warm during the game too. You can serve it in those cardboard bowls and clean up in a jiffy.

Chili is a traveler for sure. I’ve heard of truckers who brown up their meat at home, toss everything else for the chili along with the browned meat in a crockpot, plug it into the lighter socket and head off down the road. Chili’s done a few hours later, the cab of the truck smells fantastic and a crock pot full of chili makes several meals.

Chili travels to the office too and makes a fine and dandy meal heated in the microwave. A bowl of chili can even make a quick after-school snack.

I opened my cupboard the other day and found a jar of roasted red pepper strips. That inspired me to make a new chili. Plan Z Diet has a bunch of great chili recipes. Everything from simple Chili Con Carne to fiery Caribbean Chicken Chili. Comfort food that’s diet food. That’s a BIG YUM.

Cheers,

 

Chili Con Carne

This is a meaty chili with some veggies tossed in for crunch factor. Makes a satisfying lunch. You can take chili to the office and heat in the microwave for a perfect Zola To GO! meal. You can also freeze individual portions for later retrieval and then heat them.


Hero Mommy

It was late afternoon. I was at the grocery store picking up a few items to make dinner.

I passed two women greeting each other. One of them had a young daughter in tow. The girl was maybe 7 years old. The moms were maybe in their late 30’s.

We were all in the dairy section; the area with the big refrigerators full of milk and cream. The ladies were separating when the little girl blurted out to her mom, “Can I have one of these bologna, cheese and cracker combos? PLEASE!” She was jumping up and down for emphasis. Her mom told her “no” and kept walking. Then she stopped suddenly, right near me, and said out loud to herself, “Wait a minute. This is one of those life experience moments.” She turned to her daughter and said, “Come back over here,” and she walked to the refrigerated case that held the bologna, cheese and cracker combo packs.

“I’ll let you get one of these, but here’s the deal. We will read the ingredients list on the back and if there’s anything on the list we can’t pronounce, you’ll promise me you’ll put it back.” The young lady nodded in agreement. She took the package from her mom and started reading the list out loud. As I was getting my cream from the refrigerated case I heard her say, “bologna, cheese…”

As I was walking away I heard her continue the list and then I noticed silence. I could not help myself. I stopped and looked back.

The young lady had her arm outstretched and she was letting go of the bologna, cheese and cracker package. She was letting it drop into the refrigerated case. Then she skipped away. Her mom retrieved her cart and off they went.

Off I went too, toward the check-out, but as I walked, I mentally pumped my fist and I smiled.

I thought to myself, That mom is my hero today, and that young girl has a healthy life in her future.

Cheers,

 

Sweet and Spicy Acorn Squash

I love my acorn squash roasted with just butter in the center and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, but I know tons of people want brown sugar in the middle and more. So this version can satisfy the sweet tooth and add an optional spice/heat factor.


Fat Tuesday in the Old French Quarter

Fat Tuesday is here folks. The end of Mardi Gras, and for many, the beginning of periodic fasting or giving up something special for Lent. The party’s over for those who follow these traditions; at least until Easter.

People go all out on Fat Tuesday. New Orleans is the city most famous for their celebration.

I’ve been to New Orleans a few times; just not for the parade and the party atmosphere that dazzles the crowds on Fat Tuesday. Remember, this is the feast of necklaces with beads, traded for favors. This is the parade riddled with huge crowds of scantily clad women and men who hide their identities behind elaborate costumes. The French Quarter goes through days of cleaning after Fat Tuesday is over. It’s one heck of a party. I guess I’ve matured and I’m too old for those kinds of shenanigans. I used to think I wanted to go to New Orleans for Fat Tuesday; at least once. Now, I think I’m over it.

Last time I was in New Orleans, I decided I liked the city better at night; especially the area around Bourbon Street. During the day you see the aftermath of the party atmosphere the night before. The party is every day on Bourbon Street; not just Fat Tuesday. There’s a smell of stale beer and spilled liquor that hangs in the air. If you’re there in July, (like I was the last time), the humidity can be stifling. I much prefer the evenings when it cools down (at least a little), the music is playing and people are out for a good time. It sort of covers up the nasty parts.

What I thought I’d do today is give you a little food tour of my favorite places in New Orleans. It’s Fat Tuesday. Seems totally appropriate.

I’m going to include links so you can check these places out further.

First stop - NOLA.

I used to be a huge fan of Chef Emeril Lagasse when he first got famous in the early 80’s. NOLA is one of his restaurants in New Orleans. He now has four. I started out my eating adventures in New Orleans at his first restaurant called Emeril’s. I like NOLA’s modernity and casual atmosphere. Many of the top restaurants in New Orleans are more upscale. NOLA’s is more boisterous and serves food with twists and turns you don’t expect from Cajun or Creole food.

Emeril was not born in New Orleans, but he certainly is partial to that city. At one point, he was the Head Chef at Commander’s Palace –after the famous New Orleans Chef Paul Prudhomme left. (When blackened catfish was popular in the 80’s, I always used Paul Prudhomme’s recipe. BIG YUM.) Commander’s Palace is probably the most famous New Orleans restaurant.

I preferred the venerable Arnaud’s.

Stepping into Arnaud’s, you know you’re in the deep south, bathed in tradition. The décor has a southern charm with a French flair. The waiters are all dressed in formal attire and live jazz is playing.

I can only remember one thing I ate at Arnaud’s. Don’t get me wrong. It was all fantastic, but it was the crème brulee that stole my heart.

Our waiter saw me taking my time reading the dessert menu. He seemed to lose his patience with me. He took the dessert menu out of my hands and told me he’d take care of selecting my dessert. He strolled off.

I was pretty miffed. I fancied myself a foodie and didn’t like the idea of some guy deciding my dessert for the evening.

What he brought back was foreign to me. I was young. I didn’t have the culinary experience I do now. He set in front of me what I thought looked like a yellow puddle of pudding with some crust on it. I had to break into it to eat it. I have to admit, my eyes rolled back in my head when I took my first bite. I moaned.

The crust on the top was hot and sugary. It broke like glass when I tapped on it with my spoon. The custard was cold and tasted dreamy; like nothing I had ever had.

When the waiter returned to our table, I made some comment about if they had a mixing bowl of the stuff back in the kitchen I’d like to lick it clean.

He smiled. He was quite proud of himself.

I was quite happy with my dessert.

Even though I prefer New Orleans in the evening, I will bring up one other New Orleans specialty that I’d recommend is worth the carbs.

The beignets.

Café DuMonde is the most famous coffee place in New Orleans and of course, they serve beignets as a breakfast treat.

They also serve chicory coffee. A Cajun tradition. Be careful with that stuff. Chicory coffee has a kick.
The last time I ate a beignet it was “baby-sized” and I tapped off all of the powdered sugar, but just one little one as a treat is something you’ll remember forever. Besides, Fat Tuesday is right around the corner.

Cheers,

White Chocolate Creme Brulee (Custard) with Strawberry Coulis (Sauce)

Only 10 grams of carbohydrates per serving!


A Babe is Born

Flint Roman Chaney arrived a little early on 1/18/2020. He was scheduled to arrive on 1/20/2020. That would have been a cool birth date to have.  Such a clever set of numbers but, alas, he had other things in mind. He wanted to start partying early.

Speaking of parties, we had one in honor of his parents Jen (our Operations Manager), and her husband Flint (the handsome professional photographer). It was a baby shower with a gift emphasis of diapers. Now, there’s a theme. Can’t get enough.

It was an afternoon couple’s shower on a Sunday. Brunch. We held it in the complex party room.

I thought I’d share the menu and mention why I made each item.

First up:

Italian Sausage, Mushroom and Cheese Brunch Casserole

This is low carb all the way. It’s easy to make. I mean EASY. It serves about 12 on a brunch buffet. I made two of these because I was serving 35 for brunch. I am including the recipe for this dish with the column.

Cheesy Hash Browns

Now, I would not normally serve potatoes. The good news about these is they are made with tons of sour cream and butter and covered in cheese. Not really low carb but the cheese, sour cream and butter all work to keep the glycemic uptake down. That way your blood sugar doesn’t surge because of the potatoes.

Alaskan Smoked Salmon with Horseradish Sauce and Mini Bagels

My husband recently gave a speech in Alaska. As a speaker thank you gift, they gave him a whole smoked salmon. We’d been saving it for a special occasion. I thought this was a perfect way to serve such a special brunch item. I served it with teeny bagels to keep the tradition of bagels and salmon but keep down the carbs. Worked perfectly. I had lost of bagels left over.

Fireside Shrimp Dip

This is always a big hit. Easy to make. Low carb and it even tastes better after it sits for a few hours or overnight (store in refrigerator). I am including this recipe too (link). Serve with celery sticks for the ultimate low carb experience or splurge and have a few crackers.

Cream Cheese and Chutney Dip

This is not exactly low carb, but it’s super easy to make and it gives a bit of exotic flair to a regular buffet. We don’t even have to have a link to this recipe. All you need is a block of cream cheese on a serving platter. Cover it with a blob of mango chutney (From the jar. Find it in the Indian section) and then top it with cocktail peanuts. I serve it with small Wheat Thins because the cracker can actually act as the dipper. My secret to this is to make it an hour or two ahead so the cream cheese loosens up and gets closer to room temperature.

Sweet and Spicy Mustard Meatballs

This recipe came to me from my husband’s nephew. He’s making fancy mustards in his kitchen and selling them on-line! Price’s Macho Mustard it’s called. We were given two big jars of mustard for a Christmas gift. I thought… How can I use this? And voila… he provided a recipe. I made them in a cast iron Dutch oven. They stayed hot on the buffet and looked cool because of the pan they were in.

Nuts and Caramel Corn

Everyone loves caramel corn, but that stuff is designed (inadvertently) to make you ill. Too much sugar. My secret is to take twice as many mixed nuts than caramel corn and put them in a trifle bowl on the brunch buffet. They look beautiful in the bowl but with each handful you take, you get lots of nuts and very little caramel corn. Satisfy the sweet tooth and keep your waistline intact.

Lemon Bars

This was a new recipe. I found a Keto Lemon Bar recipe on -ine and played with it a bit to make a yummy lemon dessert. Display secret is I made them in a parchment lined tart pan instead of a 9 X 13” baking pan. That way I could slice them into little wedges, and they look prettier than squares.

Big YUM and only 4 grams of carbs per bar.

The party took some work but what Jen did took a lot more work! I am forever telling her what a great job she did at work. Flint Roman might be her biggest achievement yet. Way to Go Jen and Flint!

Cheers,

Enjoy

 

 

ITALIAN SAUSAGE, MUSHROOM AND CHEESE BRUNCH CASSEROLE

As far as brunch casseroles go, this one is very easy to make and pleases the crowd. It can be made ahead and heated the day of the party.

 

 


How to Zolafy a Dessert Recipe

I’m one of those lucky people who can read a recipe and taste it in my head. I hope you are one too, but if you’re not, with a few guiding steps you can learn how to do it.

When you look on the internet (the world’s largest cookbook) these days, you’ll figure out there are duplications of recipes everywhere. Some of them are exact duplications and some have little tweaks to vary them to the taste or creativity of the cook.

What I do with recipes in my work with Plan Z is make them healthier by reducing the sugar and other carbs, while at the same time, maintaining the flavor boost. That means you CAN have dessert and still maintain your weight and keep your blood sugar in line.

Today I’m going to outline the process of how I Zolafy a dessert recipe in the hopes that I inspire you. For Plan Z there are almost 1000 recipes now! People tell us all the time that Plan Z doesn’t taste like a diet. They love that.

So let’s get started.

The first thing I do is review a selection of what I call “inspiration recipes.” That means I get an idea of what I have a hankering for and then I go look at recipes from various sources. I find it’s really a good idea to review at least six recipes before I begin designing my own. It’s important to see what other cooks/bakers are doing. There are enough differences in the recipes and cooking methods that I get enthusiastic about designing a recipe that becomes my own. I don’t just want to copy someone else’s work.

I got a hankering for lemon bars and set about thinking about how I can make them low carb, eliminate the sugar and still keep that zippy flavor that a classic lemon bar has.

Lemon bars start off with a crust on the bottom. So the first thing you have to replace is the flour. Flour = fat body. I need to remove the “white stuff.” Good news is there is a new almond meal/flour out that works so much like regular flour you’ll hardly notice regular flour is missing. I love Bob’s Mill Super Fine Ground Almond Meal. The other almond meal they offer is decent but the Super Fine one is superior, for sure, for baking.

Next step is to tackle the sugar content. Lemon bars are a sugar bonanza! In my mind, even if I adjust from sugar to a sugar substitute of some kind, the final result is probably going to be too sweet for me. Those of us who cut sugar out of our diet to any great degree have morphed our taste buds. After years of little to no sugar, our tastes are calibrated differently. It’s a natural occurrence in cutting down the amount of sugar we eat. If I have anything from a bakery that’s made from a “regular” recipe it makes my face cringe and I get woozy after I eat it. Waaaaay too sweet. So I cut back the sweet in my recipes. I do, however, keep in mind that I’m not the only one likely to eat the result. I’d never eat a whole plate of lemon bars, so I have to account for others’ sweet tastes too. That means I cut at least 1/3 or more (usually more) of the sweetness factor. When I taste that recipe in my head I can usually tell how much I can get away with cutting.

As sugar substitutes go I have my go-to favorites. They are Swerve and ZSweet. Those two brands are starting to hit stores, but if they are not in your area you can order them online. Swerve even makes a powdered sugar. It makes a delicious frosting. And in this case, a perfect little dusting on the top of the lemon bars. Truth be told, I’d even skip the dusting on the top just to save the money and the extra sweet factor.

Speaking of money, almond flour and sugar substitutes are not cheap. Almond flour is made from almonds…and nuts are expensive. Sugar substitutes that are natural are more expensive to make than the fake stuff so they run a bit more, too. My attitude these days is a dessert like this is something special and not intended to be an everyday treat. Our society just went nuts in the last few decades deciding dessert was a “right” instead of a treat to be treasured. We all got out of control. So maybe the money factor can play in to keep us all a little bit healthier.

Lemon is my husband’s favorite dessert flavor. He absolutely loves this.
I hope you do, too.

Cheers!

 

 

Creamy Dreamy Lemon Bars

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.


Happy Valentine's Day!

https://youtu.be/CT2_RzX6A5M

If you haven’t seen these Top 10 Valentine’s Day commercials, today’s your day.  Enjoy! My favorite is #10!

Too bad Valentine’s Day is such a sugar holiday.  There are other things you can give for Valentine’s Day.

Take my gift for an example.

I gave my husband a new toilet seat for Valentine’s Day this year.

(I never thought I’d tell anyone that… but I did)

Give me some credit:

  • I put a bow on it.
  • He asked me to buy a new toilet seat a couple of weeks ago… and I thought
  • Perfect timing!  What a surprise this will be!
  • I had it installed so he didn’t have to do any work.  Bonus.

There are tons of things you can give for Valentine’s Day besides chocolate. But if you do give chocolate, make it DARK chocolate. That’s actually healthy!

Enjoy your holiday your way,

Cheers and love to you all.


Chocolate Dipped Pears

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

Servings: Serves 6.

I can see serving this at a dinner party, or as a special treat for a special someone.

You need a little forward planning with this, so your pears can be ripe on the day you want to make this. Usually two or three days ahead will yield you a juicy dessert. Good news is in about 10 minutes you have dessert completed.

Ingredients:

6 ripe pears, medium size. I used Bartlett green/yellow but you could use red or most other pears. The only one I would not recommend is Bosc but just because I would not think it would be very pretty when finished.

 

 

8 oz. dark chocolate (70-78% cacao), melted. You’ll have chocolate left over when this is complete, but you need to have a deep enough pool of chocolate to cover the pears. Just make a chocolate sauce/ganache out of the rest and you can serve that over almond pound cake. (insert links to pound cake and ganache)

 

4-5 oz. salted nuts, chopped. I recommend peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts or pecans. Chop them pretty finely or the pears won’t pick them up and they will topple. (I know, it happened to me)

 

 

Instructions:

To melt chocolate, I use a double boiler. I still think that works best without scorching the chocolate. Some people are aces at melting it in a microwave.

Place melted chocolate in one bowl and the chopped nuts in a second bowl.

These bowls should be fairly small and on the deep side.

Dip room temperature pears in chocolate then in nuts. Place dipped pears on a cooling rack to set or you can place them on a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper.

I’d store them at room temperature until you serve them on day 1. The chocolate will firm back up and form a coating on the pears.

Pears and chocolate go great together. Who needs a candy apple! I served with a steak knife for cutting top to bottom, and a fork.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Good For You Chocolate

Can chocolate possibly be good for you?
YES. A resounding yes.

Here’s what you have to remember, though:

  • You need to eat GOOD Chocolate. That means DARK chocolate that is 72% cacao or higher. Good news is the number is front and center now on many packaged chocolate bars.
  • You need to eat it in moderation. You don’t buy one of those big bars and chow it down. You must limit yourself to 3 oz or less per day. That might be as little as 3 of those little squares. So eat it slowly and enjoy it.

Here are a host of medically-backed reasons to enjoy chocolate:

  1. It’s good for your heart and your circulation. The latest research suggests that eating chocolate helps keep your arteries flexible. That helps you keep from clogging your arteries.
  2. Eating chocolate helps your brain function. Eating chocolate in moderation is shown to help you keep your brain functioning at a higher level all the way into old age.
  3. Cocoa can help you reduce your cholesterol. It helps reduce “BAD” cholesterol (LDL) and can help raise levels of “GOOD” cholesterol (HDL).
  4. Did you know chocolate can help protect your skin against sun damage? Yep. That doesn’t mean skip the sunscreen and just eat chocolate. You’ll still need the sunscreen but every little bit helps when you want to keep the wrinkles at bay.
  5. Neuroscientist Will Clower says if you melt a small square of chocolate on your tongue 20 minutes before you eat, it triggers your “I’m full” hormone and you’re less likely then to overeat. If you’re on a diet I would not count on that but it’s a nice theory.
  6. A study from Finland suggests that expectant mothers experience less stress if they eat a little chocolate and that their babies smiled more. How cute.
  7. Chocolate contains phenylethlamine (PEA) which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. See, chocolate really can be an aphrodisiac!

Buy only the best chocolate. Eat it in moderation and enjoy the benefits.

Cheers,

Chocolate Dipped Pears

Who needs candy apples?


Dinner for Your Honey

Let’s just assume for the moment that you’re not the greatest cook. In fact, let’s assume you don’t make any of the meals in your house, but just this once, you want to surprise your honey by making dinner for Valentine’s Day.

Here are my 7 top tips to make that dinner a success.

1. Buy fresh food. Nothing from a box. You’re going to make a real meal with food you didn’t order in and didn’t pick up in the freezer section.

2. Pick something easy. I’m going to help you with that. If your honey is on the foodie side I’d go French. The Chicken with a French Pan Sauce is easy to make and will make you feel like you’re in the French countryside. If your honey leans toward basic comfort food, I’d make meatloaf. This one will surprise you. It tastes just like a Burger King Whopper, only this is healthy.

3. Make it colorful. This is where I tell you to eat your veggies. Pick one or two that you think will go well with your dish. I’m giving you a straightforward pepper recipe because bell peppers can be found in yellow, red, orange, green and purple.

4. Use a sharp knife. There’s nothing more dangerous in the kitchen than a dull knife. My father taught me that, and when I worked in restaurants our knives were sharpened weekly. A sharp knife makes meal prep faster, easier and even prettier because you’re slicing cleanly through your food and not hacking away at it. One nasty slip and dinner is ruined by a trip to the emergency room.

5. Match a beverage. You might be a club soda or filtered water person. You can fancy it up with a slice of cucumber, a slice of ginger, lemon, lime or even an orange slice. Make it pretty. All it takes is one slice. If you indulge in wine, a chardonnay or white burgundy will go well with the chicken and a pinot noir or malbec will do well for your meatloaf. Beer drinker? My friends tell me a Stella Artois makes a great beer to go with chicken and choose a British bitter, a brown ale or even a porter for your meatloaf.

6. Wash up. Even if your honey doesn’t volunteer to clean up with you, do it by yourself. The recipes I’m giving you don’t require a lot of pots and pans, so even if you don’t have a dishwasher, this will go fast. Any honey will appreciate the effort and reward you kindly.

7. Have a simple dessert. I’m going to make this one super easy for you. Choose fruit and chocolate. I’d pick a package of raspberries or blackberries. Then choose a chocolate bar that is 72% cacao or higher. You can’t miss the numbers. They are shown really large on the packages now. Choose a good brand. Scharfenberger, Ghirardelli, Green and Black and more. You can Google “top 10 chocolate bars” and you’ll find all kinds of exotic brands. To keep it healthy, choose one with the high cacao point (even 85% is perfect) and suck on bits of it together as you finish up your beverage. The lower the number the more sugar. That’s not good. Don’t go to 100% though; that one will taste like pavement.

Plan on about an hour of prep time (not including your time in the grocery store). For an experienced cook it won’t take that long but I'd recommend you leave yourself enough time to pore over the recipes.

Remember, if your veggies are done before the meatloaf (for example), you can just turn them off and let them sit. You can reheat them when the entrée is done.

I want you to enjoy the gesture you’re expressing by making dinner. And have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Make your honey a romantic Valentine's day dinner with this luxurious yet healthy--Tarragon Mustard Shrimp.

 

Tarragon Mustard Shirmp

This is a delicious recipe that anyone can make well. Try it as an appetizer or an entrée; it can be served, hot, room temp or cold.


Chicken Breasts with Zola’s French Pan Sauce

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. This is my favorite new creation. I think I have made this three times in the last two weeks and that’s pretty much a record for me. This dish is easy and it tastes fancy!

Servings: Serves 2. Can be doubled easily.

Ingredients:

  • 2 skinless chicken breast halves
  • ¼ tsp of grated sea salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp of grated black pepper (or to taste)
  • ½ cup of organic chicken broth or stock
  • 4 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp of dry tarragon (you can add more tarragon for a stronger flavor but tarragon is  pretty strong in small quantities so factor that in)
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray your chicken breasts lightly with olive oil spray and then grate on salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan and put them in top down. Saute on medium for 3 minutes or until you get a light brown crust forming.

Now you are going to put them in the oven to roast. Make SURE YOU HAVE THEM IN A HEAT PROOF PAN. I use cast iron so I can go right from the stove top to the oven. If you don’t have the old-fashioned cast iron make sure you transfer them from your stove top pan to Pyrex or some other heatproof pan. By finishing the cooking in the oven you end up with a much juicier piece of chicken. This is the way fine restaurants do it.  Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until no pink remains in the chicken. Cut it open to check if you are not sure.

While the chicken is cooking, you can get out that sauté pan. Add the chicken stock and begin to boil it. Turn down to medium so it just continues to bubble and reduce. Add the Dijon and the tarragon. Cook for 3 minutes for the flavors to blend.  If the stock starts to run down too low just add a bit more. About 10 minutes before the chicken is done, add the cream. Continue to bubble the sauce. Don’t over-boil it but if you keep it bubbling the cream will thicken the sauce naturally. This won’t be a gloppy cream sauce because you’re on Plan Z and are limited in your cream amount but it will thicken enough that you’ll swear you’re eating in France. If the sauce looks done early just turn it off and wait for the chicken.

When the chicken is done, plate it and pour cream sauce over the top. This will eat up ½ of your cream allotment per day so keep that in mind.

Serve with roasted asparagus. You can put the asparagus in the oven with the chicken and roast them. Top with grated sea salt and you’ll be amazed at how special this can taste. You can do the same thing with green beans instead if you prefer.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Why Resolutions Fail

The football game is over. The score is in the record books. The bets are paid off.

Interesting fact: over $6 billion is bet on the Super Bowl worldwide. Most of that is illegal betting; the kind that happens in the office pool, the corner bar, or even a house party.

I can make a bet too, and have pretty good odds.
I bet whatever resolution you set on January 1 is in the books, too. You’ve quit.

Over 50% of Americans make some kind of resolution and for many, the promise made is to lose weight, and for most, it’s a failed attempt before Super Bowl Sunday hits in early February.

Here are three of the biggest reasons people quit a diet:

Hunger: Most people, when starting a diet, will go for the gusto. They think the more they cut calories the faster they will lose. If it’s all about calories in/calories out that might be true, but it’s not. It’s about what you put in your mouth and how your body decides to process it. In the old days, I used to cut calories big time. I’d go down to about 700 calories a day. The bad thing is my body just adapted to the new low. I had no energy but I could live on next to nothing. I’d have half a banana for breakfast. Maybe SlimFast for lunch and then a frozen, diet macaroni meal for dinner. Do you know how unhealthy that is? Here’s a list of the ingredients in SlimFast.

INGREDIENTS: Fat-Free Milk, Sugar, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Canola Oil, Fructose, Calcium Caseinate, Gum Arabic, Cellulose Gel, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Mono and Diglycerides, Potassium Phosphate, Soybean Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Isolated Soy Protein, Artificial Flavor, Maltodextrin, Sucralose and…

You tell me. Who’s kidding who? Sugar is the second ingredient, fructose is another sugar, and even Sucralose is added. That’s an artificial sweetener. No wonder I was hungry 15 minutes after I drank that stuff.

Now I know the two things to eat to curb hunger are protein and fat. Those things stick with you. So if you’re dieting cut the fat, but don’t cut the protein. Eat plenty of veggies along with your protein and you’ll stay full longer.

Cravings: Cravings are hard-wired into our brains. You quit sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavorings and start eating real, unprocessed foods and your body will eventually be happier and your energy will soar. But not right away. First, you have to get through the cravings.

What do cravings look like? Well, it’s not just “look at a food and want it.” Folks go through all kinds of detoxing. Most get some level of a headache, some get achy, others get increased anxiety or the jitters. Pretty much everyone gets crabby. The physical ramifications can be debilitating. Some get brain fog and can’t think straight. It’s a nightmare.

So if you can’t lock yourself in a padded room until the symptoms pass, you’re going to need help. Thankfully, Plan Z comes with the ZR50 Crave Control spray I invented. These folks are lucky because all of those symptoms are tamped down and all but eliminated, so they can diet comfortably.

Without that, there really isn’t a lot you can do. For those not on Plan Z, here’s what I recommend. These are some of the things I used to do before I started Plan Z.

First of all, I’d start a diet on a weekend. That way I could go curl up in bed and nap my way through some of the side effects. I didn’t have to eat on a schedule so I could come out of my room have a few bites and go back to bed.

You can also try reading, going to movies (without the popcorn), volunteer in your community (it always makes you feel better to help others), and just plain keep your hands busy. Go ice skating if you enjoy that. Make a list of things you like to do besides eat junk food, and keep that list handy. I know these aren’t all the greatest ideas, but I don’t know any psychologist or MD who has better ideas.

Detoxing should be all but relieved by somewhere between day 7 and 10. The physical part should be over. Now comes the mental part.

Pressure from Friends and Family: No getting around it. Sometimes they are well-meaning, sometimes they are just mean. They tell you they are tired of you being crabby while you’re on that diet so why not just quit. They say you can have a “little piece” of whatever and you’ll be fine.

No, you won’t. You’ll start the sugar hangover all over again.

So cut the social calendar back for a while if you can. You can’t get rid of the relatives who live with you, but you can avoid tempting situations to an extent; at least until you get yourself under control. If your diet is working you’ll be continually motivated by seeing the number go down on the scale. If it’s a slow slog, it’s going to be harder.

For party situations, I suggest you arrive early and leave early, or arrive late and stay a short time. Whichever you choose, grab a beverage fast. Take a big rocks glass and fill it with ice and sparkling water or club soda. Put a lime in it and fool everyone into thinking you’re having a cocktail when you’re not. If you want to be more public about it, volunteer to be the designated driver. Your friends and family will think you’re the hero for that and won’t bug you because you’re not drinking alcohol.

If this list seems a bit on the futile side, you’ll see why most people quit a diet before the Super Bowl. If they made it from January 1 until then, they’ve made it about a month. 4 weeks. Maybe 5 tops. If you’re on one of the standard, popular American diets you’ve lost maybe 5 – 8 pounds by then. Most people can gain that back the week after they quit.

Bummer.

So if you’re looking for a new plan, you’re looking for Plan Z.
Here are my top 7 reasons you want Plan Z instead of any other diet.

1. The ZR50 Crave Control Spray.

That’s exclusive to Plan Z. You don’t have to suffer while you detox and diet. I can help with that. ZR50 Crave Control Spray is patented. It’s all natural. No chemicals. No hormones and it works.

2. Plan Z is guaranteed to work.

Cut your risk. Go with Plan Z. We have TWO guarantees. You can review the diet and even take it to your doctor. If you decide it’s not for you, pack it all up and send it back to get 100% of your money back. Or with guarantee number two you actually get to try the diet for 9 days with little risk. We call it the Skeptic’s Guarantee. Ask for that and we’ll work closely with you to make sure you get on solid ground as you get started. You can prove to yourself this diet is the best one you’ve ever done.

3. No exercise.

Most dieters are thrilled to hear they don’t need to exercise while they are on Plan Z. When you get to the maintenance mode of Plan Z you can exercise all you want and tighten up so you feel great in your new clothes.

4. You lose a lot and you lose it FAST.

The average Plan Z dieter loses 31 pounds in just under 50 days. That’s FAST.

5. The food.

You eat REAL food with Plan Z. No magic shakes. No frozen boxes showing up on your doorstep. There are over 900 recipes to choose from. You decide what you’re hungry for and you make a quick meal. Your family can eat the same things as you do. I am a food writer. I promise this to be the best-tasting diet on the planet. Hands down.

6. The Education.

There’s a big problem in the dieting industry. They don’t educate you about how you really got fat in the first place. It’s got nothing to do with calories in/calories out. It has everything to do with what you eat and how your body decides to process it. And they don’t teach you anything about how to keep it off. We do. We go to great effort to get you the information vital to your thinner future.

7. Dessert twice a day!

Need I say more? Come on over to Plan Z.

It’s an easy decision.

Chicken Breasts with Zola's French Pan Sauce

This dish is easy and it tastes fancy!


7 Reasons to Diet with a Buddy

When you’re on a diet, having a strong support system can mean the difference between success and failure. We have a major league support team at Plan Z, but if you can add a personal support network to that and buddy up, the benefits are even greater.

A buddy can be a spouse or significant other, or a friend that lives nearby. Sometimes buddies are coworkers who support each other at work. In other cases, they live across the country from each other! What’s better with a buddy? Everything! I’ve listed seven of my favorite reasons below.

1. Picking Recipes Together

If you and your buddy live together, you can each be in charge of dinner 3 nights a week. Then, one day a week, go out together and have dinner in a restaurant, Plan Z style.

Plan Z has over 900 recipes now for everything from comfort food to gourmet dining so it’s fun deciding where you’re going to eat. Get adventurous. There’s no reason you can’t try new meals and diet at the same time. And you don’t have to eat bland or boring food. Just make a meal plan. Having a plan will keep you keep you from buzzing through the drive-thru at the last minute.

2. Shopping Together

We don’t require buddies to shop together, but when you live together, it happens. The great news is, our buddies tell us it’s a fun experience. I get notes from buddy-husbands who tell me before Plan Z they hadn’t been in a grocery store in years. Now, when they shop with their buddy-wives they are amazed. They have learned to read labels and are astonished at how many things in a grocery store have sugar or HFCS in them — it’s now more than 80%! They are even trying new foods!

 

3. Cooking Together

In my house, my husband is my buddy, and when we cook together, my husband is the sous chef while I am the master chef. In our case, that means my husband does the chopping. He’s become quite adept with a chef’s knife and has his dicing down pat. Dinner comes together faster that way.

One buddy-husband in Colorado told me that before Plan Z he had never even set foot in the kitchen until dinner was done. His wife did all the cooking. After being on Plan Z he got so into cooking that he proudly became the house chef. His kids surprised him at Christmas with a beautiful set of knives that he uses almost every day. Now, they can give him culinary gifts for birthdays, too.

Another way to split up kitchen duties is to have one buddy cook and have the other buddy clean up. My husband makes me sit and watch TV while he cleans up. Then he makes dessert. Most often he whips up a bowl of Plan Z raspberry ice cream. He loves that stuff. And I love him for loading the dishwasher.

4. Weigh-Ins

Buddy weigh-ins are a great way to hold each other accountable. Weigh yourself and report out to your buddy. I have heard of many a man doing the happy dance in his bathroom after a morning weigh-in. Just the vision of that makes me smile.

Buddies motivate each other, too. Everyone has bad days. You probably won’t lose the same amount of weight every day, so be there for each other and support each other.

 

5. Compare Water Intake

We did an informal study and found that those who drink 100 oz of water consistently lost 30% more weight than those who drank less than 70 ounces a day. That’s a big difference! For most, that level of water-guzzling takes some getting used to, so it’s a good idea to check in with each other in the middle of the day to see how it’s going. Your body gets used to the water, but the first week or so you’re in the potty a lot during the night. I try to finish drinking my 100 oz before dinner so I don’t have to drink too much too close to bedtime.

6. Cook Food in Batches

Many buddies take time a Sunday to cook up a couple of recipes that can be made in big batches. Things like chili or soup. Or fire up the grill and make enough for leftovers.That way you have a go-to lunch all ready to go. You want to mix things up, though. Don’t let your body get bored eating the same things over and over again. If you do, you risk losing less weight. It’s weird, but it can happen. Take advantage of your freezer too. Many a recipe freezes well in small containers that can fit in your lunch box.

 

7. Rate the Food

You can both go online and rate the recipes for Plan Z. Or you can just compare tasting notes. Buddies who live across the country from one another do this all the time. Two buddies in Canada chatted every day by email or text about what they were eating and the recipes they enjoyed.

No cheating, though. Cheating on a diet doesn’t hurt anyone except you. This is your time to make yourself a priority.

Be Public About It! Your buddy might be someone who cares about you but doesn’t live with you, so you can be pen pals of some sort. Or even consider posting about your progress in the Plan Z Facebook Group. Or Tweet your progress.

Share the love.
Share the success.
Share your delicious results.

Wanna do Plan Z with a Buddy?
Give us a call in the office at 800-255-9853.
Buddies get special pricing, so they share the savings, too!

Cheers,

 

Cheesy Scallop Bake

This dish is similar to the fancy French dish called Coquilles 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.


Enjoy the Super Bowl without Gaining Weight

One of my favorite Super Bowl parties was one I called the Chili Championship.

Here’s how it works:

You set up a chili buffet with all the fixins. This works really well because people can get up from the TV viewing area and do self-service on the chili. At my previous Super Bowl parties I served appetizers during the first half of the the game and then served an entrée during half-time, with dessert at the end. That had me in a time crunch during the game. I didn’t get to watch football and I missed the Super Bowl commercials. With a chili buffet, I have a lot less work to do. Plus, everyone loves chili.

Chili tastes better the day after you make it, so you can prepare it ahead of time and reheat on game day. When you set up the buffet, the chili can be kept warm in crock pots, on the stove on a low simmer or even in pans kept on warm in the oven. They'll all work.

Now, for the real bonus: Get others to bring chili.

If it’s a small party, I'll go with just two chili choices, and I would make both of them. But, if it’s a big party; let’s say 20 – 40 people, you can have six chili options. I never do more than six; even if the party is bigger. It's just too much to coordinate.

Choose up to six friends and have each person make a batch of chili. A batch that serves 10 is enough because people will sample more than one kind during the game. You can assign chili types so your guests don't all show up with the same kind, or you can leave it to chance and let them bring whatever they want.

Think about it -- there are SO many different kinds of chili. The chili base can be made from beef brisket, or ground beef. Pork chili is popular in the south. Chicken chili is popular at my house. There are ‘white’ chilies made with chicken broth and cream.

Many folks add beans to their chili. Some add macaroni, and others add corn. I don’t add these things anymore because they make the chili have higher carbohydrate counts, but if someone brought it to a party, I'd have a bite or two. There are veggie chilies and of course, there are more levels of heat than you can count! That being said, not all chili has to be spicy. My favorite chili is really mild, and tastes like comfort food.

I have a collection of small, pretty bowls that only hold about a cup. These are great for chili sampling. If you don’t have pottery bowls you can go to the party store and pick up some paper bowls. They have small and large ones that work perfectly. You can then recycle them and have less clean up. Super Bowl parties don’t have to be fancy affairs.

On the side, have bowls of chopped white, yellow or green onions, chopped tomato, sour cream, jalapenos, grated cheeses, fritos, minced cilantro...you get the idea. You can even have bacon bits for those who think everything is better with bacon. Garnishes make the chili a custom affair for each individual.

Another fun thing is to have an assortment of hot sauces by the fixins. My husband has a really funny story of the first time he tried Scorned Woman Hot Sauce. He hiccuped for about 30 minutes after he dipped into that one.  Fried his taste buds. Not really so funny but when he tells the story, it is.  He boasts about how he loves hot sauce and spicy food but he’s never eaten that particular hot sauce a second time.

Of course you can always have your guests vote for their favorite chili. Give out prizes. Have a grand prize ribbon. Let your chili imagination have as much fun as your guests.

To get you started with your Chili Championship inspirations I’m giving you two chili recipes. The poblano chili is very popular with Plan Z Dieters. This chili is flavorful, but not spicy. On the other hand, the Caribbean Chicken Chili is a SPICY one. You can adjust the recipe for a milder palate if you need to. That's a Plan Z chili, too.

Who says a diet has to taste bad?

For This Week's Featured Recipe try your hand at one of my favorite chili recipes for the big gameday, Beefy Chili with Roasted Poblanos. It is sure to be a crowd-pleasing touchdown!

Enjoy the game. Enjoy the commercials.

Cheers,

 

Beefy Chili with Roasted Poblanos

Just in time for all the big football games coming up. My newest chili. LOVE this stuff! Big YUM.


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.

Prosciutto 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 crock-pot 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

These are delightfully decadent treats. CAUTION: Treat them like candy!


My 7 Reasons To Resolve To Eat Low Carb in 2020

This is why I recommend you resolve to low carb it in 2020:

  1. It lowers your cholesterol. Since 2002 over 20 human studies have been done that prove low carb eaters lose more weight and that it actually leads to improved cholesterol results. Has your doctor been barking at you to get your cholesterol down? This can help – a lot.
  2. You’ll lose weight. Low carb diets are more effective in losing abdominal fat. You want to get that belly gone. Right?
  3. A low carb lifestyle lowers your blood sugar level. When you eat carbs they are broken down into simple sugars. That causes an insulin response. But when you eat too many carbs, insulin’s response is to turn the excess carbs into fat. Insulin is the fat hormone. It has no choice. Your choice is...to not eat the carbs.
  4. It makes weight maintenance easier. If you don’t want to have to count calories, points or anything else, you want low carb foods.
  5. Type 2 diabetics stand to benefit the most from a low carb diet because living a low carb lifestyle allows you to get your A1C back in line. The association folks say you can’t cure diabetes; you can only control it, but I’ve talked with plenty of people who have it under such great control they no longer need meds, like Jay from Wisconsin. Can we call that a “cure"?
  6. Low carb eating tastes great! Instead of living on low fat carbs you get to eat things like butter and cheese without being afraid.
  7. By eating a low carb diet you get full faster. Protein and fat fill you up. Carbs take a lot longer. That’s why people can go to the movies and eat that whole tub of popcorn and still go out to lunch after the movie. The popcorn never filled them up!

Every year there are new fads hyped about how to lose weight. It’s never ending. I saw a health segment this morning that contends that if you wear yoga pants or sweat pants you’ll eat more than if you wear pants that button. Good grief. Eliminating your comfortable clothes is not a solution for weight loss.

How about this: If you’re eating low carb and really sticking to it, you won’t bloat like you do when you eat carbs. Keep the cozy pants.

Resolve to eat smart. Low carb eating is not a trend. It is a smart solution to weight loss and weight management. Want to learn more about Plan Z? Click HERE.

Cheers,

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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!


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,


Why NOT to Renew Your Gym Membership This Year

1. Exercise really doesn’t help you lose weight; unless you do a LOT of it.
You almost have to be a professional loser. One study showed that women over 40 years old who do moderate exercise 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week, will maintain their weight but they won’t lose weight.

2. Exercise makes you hungry.
An hour of cycling on an exercise bike for a 190 lb person will burn off 689 calories. Get off that bike and hit the nut bowl and you’re doomed. One cup of cocktail peanuts will set you back 828 calories. People have a tendency to munch when they are done exercising. Even one of those little teeny chocolate covered peanut butter power bars will have over 200 calories and after a tough workout, most people don’t grab that as their reward treat. And don’t get me started on quenching your post-exercise thirst with a beer.

3. You can get just as much benefit from doing short sprints in your driveway.
The PACE Program written by Dr. Sears suggests that short sprints that work your heart are much better for you than running at a moderate speed all over the neighborhood.

4. Your dog needs the exercise just as much as you.
Brand new news announced that over 50% of American pets are overweight. Fido could use the exercise. Walk him and you’ll both get some fresh air.

5. Your body breaks down over time.
High impact exercise taxes your joints until they begin to break down. You run on concrete for 20 years and you’re bound to start having troubles. Surgery is in your future.

6. The average orthopedic surgeon’s salary is $519,000.
Can you say profit?

7. If you live in North America you don’t get enough Vitamin D.
Get your Vitamin D naturally by getting out in the sun. Walk outside on your lunch hour or go ice skating. Have some fun.

All of these ideas are free. They don’t require a gym membership.
There are plenty of good reasons to exercise:

  • Yoga will help keep you flexible as you age and tighten your core.
  • Weightlifting will help build and maintain muscle mass. You need that as you age.
  • Your heart needs to stay strong so you need to do something that involves challenging your heart rate a bit. That can be done by walking the stairs in your house. Up and down. Up and down. Don’t have stairs? How about a brisk walk around the company parking lot or on a bad day, hit the mall and walk.

All of these ideas are free too, and most importantly they are all low impact exercise ideas. It’s a perfectly fine idea to set a New Year’s Resolution to exercise more. You just don’t need to go to the health club to do it. Save that membership money. Put it in a savings or retirement account of some kind. We are all living longer – thanks to modern medicine – and it’s not cheap to get old.

Exercise for muscle mass and bone density, flexibility, and mental acuity. Not for weight loss.

Cheers,

 

My Best Ever Stuffed Mushrooms

Just in time for football season or any other partying event. These won’t last long on your platter.


Why We Go On A Diet

We survey Plan Z dieters on occasion and ask them all kinds of questions. In a recent survey, we asked them the biggest reason they decided to go on a diet and chose Plan Z. You know what the most popular answer was?

I, for one, was surprised by the answer.

The most popular answer was, “I could not stand the pain any longer.”

  • My hips hurt.
  • My knees hurt.
  • My feet hurt.
  • My ankles were always swollen and sore.

They just hated the pain. They didn’t like the way they looked either, but it was the pain that was the final straw. Good news is we asked them why they did Plan Z AFTER they had completed it, and it was remarkable how many people said, “After Plan Z, my pain is gone or almost gone.”

So let’s set that aside for a minute and examine the situation.
I did a little bit of research.

We all know the advancing age of Baby Boomers is upon us. In the 80’s we learned that low fat was the way to eat and that we had to exercise. 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week was the recommendation. So, many of us started jogging after work. You never saw people in running shoes jogging down the road in the 1960’s. Now you see them every day. Some spring along the streets and others laboriously lope along. Some have a dog in tow and even others are jogging behind baby carriages outfitted with a suspension made to take the bumps along the way.

Some of us jogged for over 20 years before things started breaking down. Our joints could not take it any longer. And that goes for skinny runners as well as overweight ones. Joints wear out if you repeatedly beat them up by over-doing things like running. We didn’t evolve to jog five miles a day. We evolved to run away when a big animal was chasing us, but not to day-after-day go run a route around our neighborhood. Gain too much weight and the situation gets even worse. The cost of joints wearing out is huge.

The orthopedic device industry is now topping at $43.1 billion a year. Yep, that’s a B for billion. And that’s only the parts! That doesn’t include hospitalization, the surgery, the aftercare or anything else.

  • There are 2.9 million joint replacements done per year.
  • 1.4 million of those are hips.
  • 1.2 million are knees being replaced.
  • 100,000 are shoulder replacements.

If you just count the hip surgeries, that’s over 3,800 being done per day and that even counts weekends!

Someone has to perform those surgeries. There are now over 25,000 orthopedic surgeons practicing in the US. The average orthopedic surgeon performs 29 surgeries/procedures per month. We are keeping those guys and gals pretty busy these days.

About a decade ago, I had back surgery. I bring that up because some surgeries are just plain structural in nature. Or even hereditary. Maybe something didn’t grow right in the first place. Or maybe my being overweight DID have something to do with it. All I know is the pain became unbearable. I could not function. I didn’t have a part replaced in my back but I had to have things adjusted so I could get past the pain. My disc had slipped so far I could hardly walk.

But hardly being able to walk applies to others too. When you are carrying around extra weight you are putting a stress on your joints that will eventually wear them out. Your hips will start to hurt. Your knees are more susceptible to injury. Your legs are just plain tired on a regular basis.

If you want to feel what it’s like to carry around an extra 50 pounds go to one of those big stores. Pick up a 50-pound bag of dog food and carry it around on your shoulder. See how long you last before you just want to go dump it back on the shelf. Lose 50 pounds and your body will thank you in a multitude of ways. Just ask these folks.

Now you just have to figure out what you’re going to do to lose it. And jogging probably isn’t an option. Am I close?

Chocolate Ganache

Sinfully delicious...and only three ingredients!


Mexican Avocado Soup with Chicken or Turkey

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe. I love this soup. This and a salad or a piece of low carb bread can make a meal. It’s also colorful, so I am including it in my Happy Healthy Holiday menu options. You can make this with leftover turkey and have a colorful way to use your extras.

Servings: Serves 3-4  as an entrée (each serving is 1-1/2 cups). Serves 4-6 as a smaller appetizer portion.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • ¾ cup of heavy cream
  • ½ cup of chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 cups of chicken stock (organic if you can get it)
  • ¼ – ½ tsp of hot pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts or 4 cups of leftover turkey, shredded

Optional:

  • garnish with roasted pistachio kernels, quartered cherry tomatoes, and cilantro

Instructions:

The first thing to do is poach the chicken breasts if you are using chicken. In a sauté pan put the chicken breasts in with enough water to cover them. Bring to a low boil and poach them for approximately 15 minutes or until when you cut into them there’s no pink visible. Let them cool a bit and then take two forks and pull at the meat to shred it.

While the chicken is poaching you can prepare the rest of your soup. This is so easy!

Get out your blender. Into the blender jar, add the following:

Cut your avocados in half and take out the pit. Then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Work around any brown bits if there are any bruises. Put the avocado flesh in the blender. Add the lime juice, cilantro, onion, cream, chicken stock and chili flakes along with a good grind of sea salt and pepper. Whiz until smooth.

When you are ready to finish your soup, put the blended ingredients in a large saucepan and begin to heat on medium. Add the meat (either the shredded chicken or leftover turkey shreds). Heat until the soup is hot. Taste it. You can always add more chili flakes if you want it spicier. You can add a bit more lime juice or even add more salt. When you taste it you can decide.

When I served it I tossed on a few pistachio kernels, the chopped tomato, and the cilantro. I served it with one slice of low carb toast slathered in butter. Or you can serve with a few low carb taco chips. My husband also added some liquid hot sauce to his soup. The guy can never get enough zip.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Pinecone Cheese Ball

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

I have to admit that this is not an original idea of mine. I saw a video another guy did and I changed it up to make my own recipe. The pinecone idea was his and I thought it was unique and festive. This can be done several ways. I am going to lay out a simple version and then give you suggestions for variations.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tub of Alouette garlic and herb cheese spread
  • ½ tsp of onion powder
  • a whisper of cayenne or to your taste. I sprinkle fairly liberally because I like the extra zip.
  • 1 can of almonds. I use the Planters Smokehouse almonds. You choose your favorite.
  • a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • a few raspberries (optional)

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, put in your cheese spread, onion powder and cayenne (if you choose to make variations, add those to the bowl, too). Stir to mix. Take out your chosen serving platter. Mound the cheese in the middle. Take a knife or spatula and form it into the shape of a pinecone. It’s really easy. Just round it at one end and bring it to a point at the other.

Then begin inserting your almonds. Take the first one, pointy tip out and poke it into the end of the pinecone. Then begin layering the almonds in rows (see picture). This part takes the longest. It might take you about 10 minutes to cover the whole pinecone.

 

Then just poke in the rosemary to look like pine branches and strategically position your berries for color.

Serve with crackers and celery sticks. The celery sticks help you cut down on cracker consumption.

More ideas:

  • Use other flavors of Alouette cheese. They make a great Tomato Basil version as well as others.
  • Add minced jalapeno and some chili powder to go Mexican
  • Add red and green pepper bits
  • Add diced onion
  • Add some grated cheddar to get a new flavor twist
  • Add bacon bits. The boys love bacon!
  • Add Sriracha sauce for a whole different kind of zip!

 

Your own variation will turn out great!

Enjoy!

Cheers!


Coffee-Crusted Steaks with Tomato Salad & Caramelized Onion "Jam"

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

Don’t let the coffee turn you away! I’m allergic to caffeine and I love this dish! It does not taste like coffee when it’s done and it won’t keep you up at night. You can use decaf grind if you want to. The rub just gives it an interesting flavor sort of a glazed feeling. Go easy the first time to see how much you like it. You’ll have extra rub left over for the next time you want to make it again.

Servings: Serves 2

Ingredients:

(Put these items in your coffee grinder and give it a good whiz.)

  • ¼ cup of fine ground, dry coffee
  • 12 turns of freshly grated pepper
  • 12 turns of freshly grated sea salt
  • 1 packet of Stevia

PLUS

  • 2 steak pieces, 5 oz each. You can use whatever cut suits your fancy.
  • Olive oil spray

For the Onion Jam:

  • 2 large Vidalia onions, sliced on level 1 of your mandolin or very thin if you are doing them by hand
  • 1 packet of Stevia

Instructions:

On a work surface, sprinkle on the coffee rub. One side of the meat is okay for the first time. Subsequent events you can cover the whole piece of meat it you want. Rub it into the meat and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes.

Lightly spray a cast iron sauté pan (or other oven proof pan) with olive oil. A little bit is enough.

Put the steak in, on medium high, with the spice side down. Sear the steak for 2 minutes to get a good crust on that side, then turn over.

Put in the oven to roast for 6 – 8 minutes more. I take them out when my insta-read thermometer registers 120 – 125 for medium rare. The meat will continue to cook after you take it out. How long it needs to be in the oven will depend on how thick the piece of meat is that you chose.

For the Onion Jam:

While the meat is cooking, you can place the onions in a large sauté pan. Sauté on high for 5 minutes; stirring often. Add the Stevia and turn to low. Cook another 10 minutes on low, also stirring often. This caramelizes the onions.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with chopped tomatoes set on a leaf of lettuce.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

  


Happy St. Nicholas Day

When I was little, I attended a Catholic grade school. I learned about St. Nicholas Day from the nuns. I brought my new-found knowledge home to my mom and she went right along with it.

I was really into gifts (still am), so when the nuns told me you were supposed to put your shoes by the front door and gifts would appear the next morning, I was hooked.

St. Nicholas Day is the 6th of December and is celebrated all over the world. It’s really big in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe. They even have parades and light fireworks.

So back to the gifts.

The idea is to put your shoes by the door the night before. Traditionally, your shoes would be filled with oranges the next morning, maybe a little chocolate and/or a teeny gift of some kind. I guess how many gifts you get depends on the family budget.

My brother and I put our shoes out and went to bed.

Magically, the next morning our shoes had an orange and some chocolates. St. Nicholas had arrived during the night! Wow!

I kept up this tradition. Even to this day, I put a little gift of a clementine or an orange on the desk of our employees, along with a little dark chocolate treat. I wish them all a Happy St. Nicholas Day. And now, I wish the same for you, too.

It’s fun to add holiday traditions in your life.
And share the joy.

Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes are courtesy of Plan Z dieter Ashley, a professional pastry chef.


Potatoes and the Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index is all the rage right now. I am a big fan, but I have a few hints that might vary from what you read in most places.

The Glycemic Index is a measure of a food’s ability to spike your blood sugar. The index goes from 0 – 100+. (Yes, a food can actually score higher than 100. And white sugar is 100 so you know that’s sweet).

I consider any food that scores a GI of 50 or less as healthy (for diet purposes).

The Glycemic Index is more popular in New Zealand and Australia than in the US. They even mention a food’s GI score in TV commercials or on the boxes of things like cereal.

As with most things in America, we cut Big Food too much slack in my opinion. Instead of deeming things that score 50 or less as healthy, in America most listings will score foods as low, medium and high. 50 – 70 is considered medium. 70+ is high and not recommended or at least eat very little of it and keep it for special occasions.

So, let’s talk potatoes and the Glycemic Index.

Rule of thumb is the smaller (or younger) a potato is the lower the GI (Glycemic Index). Potatoes like fingerlings or small red potatoes (also called C-size) will have a lower GI. So just look for the smallest potatoes offered at your local store.

Larger potatoes have a higher starch content and therefore a higher GI. They all score high. And how you cook them matters. Believe it or not, a microwaved russet potato scores a whopping GI of 124! In the old days I used to come home from work and microwave a small russet and put diet margarine on it. I did that because they were low calorie. I was eating a 150 calorie dinner and thought I was doing myself a favor. No wonder I kept getting fatter! I had no clue.

The only large potato exception is a sweet potato but how you cook potatoes matters. A boiled sweet potato will score a GI of 44. That’s good. A baked sweet potato launches to 94. Not good. You now have something that resembles candy.

Mashing your potatoes and making them fluffy can skyrocket the Glycemic Index by as much as 25%. Boiled, baked or mashed white potatoes will always score high.

Adding oil helps. That’s why French fries and potato chips have a lower GI than, let’s say, a baked potato. French fries score 75. That doesn’t make them “good for you.” Don’t fool yourself. But if you’re like me and you cut yourself off at 4 or 5 fries rather than eating the whole pile, they can be part of your diet; just not every day.

Adding fat helps. Real butter not diet margarine. Cheese helps, too -- even sour cream and bacon bits. Anything with fat slows down the Glycemic Load. Glycemic Load or GL is the rate at which the spiking of blood sugar ensues.

The way to have the lowest score in the GI or GL categories is to make the potatoes ahead and chill them until they are completely cold. Then you can heat them back up and have a low(er) GI/GL experience.

What happens is some of the starches in the potatoes become what is called resistant carbs. Basically, this process causes the potatoes to digest slower, so they digest slower in your system and don’t cause the same blood sugar spike.

So, as often as possible plan your potatoes a day ahead. This is perfect for cooking for dinner parties or holiday celebrations. One less thing to have to deal with on the day of. All you have to do is re-heat. Potato casseroles often taste even better on day 2 so, this is a bonus.

Enjoy potatoes in moderation and use these hints to make healthier choices.

Cheers,

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Don’t let the name intimidate you. This is a wonderful potato casserole!