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!


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!


The Sweet Smell of Garlic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been a fan ever since.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Cheers,

Roasted Garlic

Super easy. Mega-delicious.


Pumpkin Spiced Coffee

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. The commercials are everywhere in the fall. Pumpkin this and pumpkin that. Starbucks is famous for their pumpkin spiced latte. But get this. A tall (which most know is their smallest size) comes in at 40 whopping grams of carbohydrates. That’s disgraceful and disgusting! Double that for a venti and you’ve now hit the carb jackpot and hit a number of carbs that is higher than most folks can handle for an entire day without gaining weight. People don’t often count the calories or the carbs in their coffee. They’ve destroyed their carb intake for the day with a pumpkin spiced latte and they haven’t even eaten food yet!

So we came up with this reasonable facsimile. We hope you enjoy! Dieter Carolyn who is a pumpkin latte mega-fan enjoyed this and is now converted! And she’s saving money too!

Servings: Serves up to 12 (cups of coffee)

Ingredients:

  • coffee for a full pot
  • 1 – 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice mix
  • Truvia to taste
  • 1 Tbl of cream per cup of coffee

Instructions:

Fill your coffee filter basket with your normal amount of coffee to make a full pot. Now sprinkle on 1 – 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice over the coffee grounds. Fill with water and brew as usual. You’ll have pumpkin spice-flavored coffee.

If you want sweetened coffee put Truvia in your cup of brewed coffee. A half teaspoon will do it for most folks. Then add a Tbl of cream if you want it creamier (latte style). If you’re not trying to lose weight you can add more cream. Remember it’s not the cream that will make you fat. It’s the sugar – the carbs.

Variations:

Want cinnamon coffee? Sprinkle the same amount of cinnamon over the coffee grounds

Want vanilla coffee? Sprinkle 2 tsp of vanilla over the grounds and proceed as usual.

There are all kinds of spices hanging around in your spice drawer that could make an exotic cup of coffee if you want to experiment. I think of things like cardamon. That would make an interesting kick. Apple pie spice might be a go-to for me. Nutmeg sounds nice and homey. If you are using stevia drops you can put any of those flavors either directly into your brewed coffee or sprinkle them over the grounds to make a whole pot at once. I used to use the toffee flavored stevia drops in my coffee. Since then, I’ve gone back to plain but I did my experimenting. I’m not a caffeine drinker so I’m not an expert. Maybe you have more ideas you share with me!

Enjoy!

Cheers


How to Cheat on Your Diet at Thanksgiving

Whether you’re on Plan Z (or any other diet), the holidays can be difficult. Even if you have solid discipline, your relatives and friends can try to sabotage you. Most of us don’t have great discipline, so a combination of both can be fatal to dieting success.

I’m going to get right to the list of options that I have found successful in straying from a diet for a day. This won’t be successful if you try to do it a whole long weekend but if a day will help you feel more like part of the celebration, then these are strategies you can employ and usually “get away with it” without much damage when you step on the scale the next morning.

First, let’s talk alcohol. For most, feeling out of the celebration comes from not drinking an alcoholic drink. Or your friends and family push it on you. I have had many dieters who insist on their glass of wine when they get home from work. Let me tell you flat out, that if you do this daily, you’ll lose about 60% less weight than you would have if you didn’t; and that’s if you do it in moderation. Drinking alcohol regularly while you try to diet just doesn’t work. Another complication is that those who start to drink often can’t stop at one. If that’s you, skip to the next part of this article because if you start and don’t stop, it usually leads to a large piece of dessert. Enough said.

If you feel you can be disciplined in your consumption of alcohol, there are a few things that will work. Under the category of “neat” drinks (no mixer included), you can consider cleaner liquors; things like gin, vodka, tequila, bourbon or whiskey. Forget sweeter things like rum and brandy. You can have one drink on ice and usually get away with no weight gain the next day. There are no carbs in clean liquors but there are plenty of calories.

If you want to risk having two drinks, you can use small amounts of the same liquor and top it off in a tall (and I mean TALL) glass with club soda/sparkling water. You can’t have mixed drinks like bourbon and Coke and get away with it. The mixers are where all the carbs/calories and artificial sweeteners come in that will mess you up.

Wine/champagne. Depending on your size and metabolism you can get away with one glass of white or red. They just need to be dry. That means pick a dry wine; not a sherry or something like that. No dessert wines. If you don’t know dry wines like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon or Malbec, ask your liquor store manager and they can help. If you are a larger person, you might get away with two; just this once, but I would not push it. Err on the side of one glass and then switch to sparkling water.

Next big priority. Bring a side dish that is approved on the diet and pile it on! This means eat your veggies. I’m supplying you with three to choose from for this article. There are more, but these are popular.

For an appetizer or snack before dinner, stick to things approved for the diet, or have a ¼ cup of nuts. 2 options for appetizers are included here.

If you’re having turkey, stick to white meat. If you’re having beef, eat the leanest cut you can get. This is time to splurge on a beef tenderloin steak. If the host isn’t serving beef tenderloin or prime rib, consider bringing your own and just heat it. They won’t mind. Lasagna is not going to cut it. Sorry.

Just about every Thanksgiving table includes potatoes of some kind. My husband loves mashed potatoes so much that if we were invited to someone else’s house for the holiday, he’d insist we bring mashed potatoes “just in case they don’t make any.” Eat two tablespoons. That’s right. Just a teeny bit. Get your thrill and back away. If I eat a cup of mashed potatoes I can count on 2 pounds pasted to my butt the next morning. You don’t want that. Might take you a week to get it back off! Don’t even think about the sweet potatoes with the brown sugar and marshmallows. No. Ouch!

Speaking of back off, back down on the gravy, too. 2 tablespoons are your limit there.

If you want two tablespoons of the stuffing and that’s your priority, you definitely have to choose between the potatoes and the stuffing. Both won’t work.

No bread. Period. No bread.

For dessert, might I suggest you make one of the ZReboot desserts from the Plan Z site. You can choose any one. I have given three popular options with this article. Now here’s the trick. Cut your piece so it’s 1” wide at the back. That piece might be so narrow it doesn’t even hold together well. But look at it this way, it’s dessert. You can have just “one bite.” Take it off by yourself. Slink away. Eat it in teeny bites like you’re some kind of squirrel. Savor it. Roll it around in your mouth. Lick the plate if you have to. Enjoy the moment. Your time for bigger dessert portions will come.

There are several cheats on this list. If you want to wake up the next day with any chance at a sensible gain of 1 pound, then pick three off the list. If you do them all you could get away with “holiday mayhem” and not gain, or it could be three pounds you’re looking at; and that’s without tasting Grandma’s pecan pie.

Be reasonable. And be happy when you step on the scale. Be safe AND happy this holiday season. Follow these simple rules.

Remember, the average American gains at least 7 pounds over the holidays. You don’t have to follow the crowd.

Enjoy!
Cheers,


Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe. This is a quick cake that can be served at a party. You don’t need large pieces when something has as much flavor as this does. Pumpkin treats are a big hit in the fall and over the holidays.

Servings: Serves 12

Ingredients:

The Cake

  • 2 Tbl of melted butter
  • 1 cup of pureed pumpkin (from the can)
  • ½ cup of ZSweet or Swerve sugar substitute
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • ½ tsp of grated sea salt
  • 1-1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 tsp of nutmeg
  • ¼ cup of coconut flour or Carbalose flour
  • ¾ cup of Super Fine Ground almond flour

The Frosting

  • 8 oz of softened cream cheese
  • ½ stick of softened butter
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 3 – 4 drops of liquid stevia
  • ½ cup of POWDERED ZSweet or Swerve*

*I buy powdered ZSweet online but if you only have the granulated version you can put it in your food processor and turn it on to make your own powdered sugar. 

Instructions:

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray your pan with butter spray or baking spray. I used my 8" loaf pan. You can also use a 9”x 9” square pan or a 9” round springform pan. The final result will look like a single layer cake.

In your mixing bowl, put in the eggs, butter, pumpkin, sugar sub, and vanilla. Begin beating on medium to mix the ingredients. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides so everything is incorporated. Now let the mixer run for 2 minutes on high. I actually use a timer because I want to make sure the eggs get good and whipped.

Turn off mixer. Now, most cake recipes will tell you to mix all of the dry ingredients in another bowl and then incorporate them. I’m too lazy for that or in a hurry. I put all of the dry ingredients in the bowl on top of the wet ones but I make sure that as I add them I sprinkle them on so nothing is in one blob. Dust your spices over the top. Sprinkle the baking soda and even spread out the flour. Then do the same thing to mix. Run the mixer on medium for about 10 seconds to blend. Then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Next, let it run for another 2 minutes to make sure the batter is all incorporated well and you’ve stirred everything really thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into your prepped 9” pan and make sure it’s spread evenly. Then bake for 30-35 minutes. You can test for doneness with a toothpick. If it comes out clean you’re all set.

Cool the cake before you frost it.

For the Frosting

Put all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until creamy. You can taste test your frosting to see if you want to add any more liquid stevia. I think it’s plenty sweet with just a few drops. A little of that stuff goes a LONG way so be careful when adding it.

I frosted this cake in a simple manner. If you want to decorate it you can make the recipe for the frosting again so you’d have enough to pipe a border on top and bottom.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator. I try to take the cake out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving it, but truthfully, the cold cake tastes really lovely, too.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Want Potatoes on Turkey Day? Here's What to Do

My childhood Monday dinner went like this:

Mom would set my plate of food in front of me. Every Monday we had the same meal…baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and a veggie. Usually, the veggie was peas.

Once mom gave me my Monday meal, my first move was to dig a hole in my mashed potatoes and push in a pat of butter. I was raised in Wisconsin during a time when we were not afraid of butter, so that was a nice extra touch. I remember the butter was always cold. I’d cover it up with some of the warm mashed potatoes so it would melt.

I then proceeded to eat my chicken, followed by my peas. I’d save the mashed potatoes until the end. The potatoes were my favorite. I’d break open the encased butter which, by the end of the meal, was melted and gooey. Then I’d dig in with my spoon and savor those potatoes. I’d roll them over my tongue to get every last bit of flavor from them. If there were any mashed potatoes left over I’d ask my mom for a second helping.

Of course, at that age, I didn’t realize our bodies processed mashed potatoes and sweet desserts in almost the same way. I just knew I loved mashed potatoes and I wanted to eat them every chance I got. Knowing what I do now, I find it telling that even as a child I saved my mashed potatoes until the end of my meal so I could eat them like a dessert.

Once I was an adult and started having dinner parties, I specialized in making fancy kinds of mashed potatoes. Some of my most popular dishes were the ones where I added parmesan and coarsely ground black pepper or, (even better) the ones in which I’d add shallots that were roasted in olive oil until they became a caramelized goodness.  I recall those as being an extra-special favorite of my good friend, Jill.

We all thought the little gourmet things added to the mashed potatoes made them more decadent. Now I realize adding those things actually made the mashed potatoes more…healthy.

I should probably clarify that statement – mashed potatoes will never be “healthy.”  However, by adding fatty things like butter and Parmesan cheese into the potatoes, I was setting up a digestive situation that actually made things easier on our livers. The added fat caused our livers to not convert as much of the potatoes into sugar (and potentially into fat).

Let me explain: the measurement of the increase in your insulin level when you eat something is called the glycemic uptake.  Most foods will increase your blood sugar level, at least a little bit. Obviously, eating something sweet will increase the amount of sugar in your blood a lot. What most people don’t realize is that really starchy foods increase our blood sugar just as much as really sweet foods!

If you add a bit of fat whenever you eat high carb foods, the combination ends up slowing down the glycemic uptake so your blood sugar won’t shoot up as much or as fast. And it will come down faster too!

As we head into the holidays, we are heading into a potato frenzy period. Everyone wants potatoes with their holiday meals. Even if you are going to skip eating the potatoes this year, your family will likely pressure you to make them or they might even be so bold as to make a potato dish and bring it along if you won’t make it. So, I wanted to give you some options in case you are hosting the holiday dinner this year. Truth be told, I may eat a whole portion of potatoes on Thanksgiving but I am pickier about what potato dish I choose now. Since I only eat a full portion of potatoes about 4 times a year, it’s a big deal to me. I am still careful, however, in what potato preparation I choose to eat. What accompanies that potato is factored in highly too.

So, here’s a short list that lays out the Glycemic Index of different kinds of potatoes. Considering that sugar scores in at 100, you’ll see how the different potatoes rank. You’ll see why they are so sugary to your system that I refer to them as another dessert. If you focus on that when you are in the buffet line or ordering in a restaurant you’ll be likely to keep your potato portion under control.

How you cook the potatoes matters too. Raw potatoes score lower than cooked, but who wants to eat a raw potato?

For a select few of the potatoes, I added another column to show you how many grams of carbohydrates are in that type of potato and under the specific cooking method. The number of grams of carbohydrates each person can handle in a day without gaining weight will depend on how large that person is (height and weight) as well as the efficiency of their digestive system. But let me stereotype for a minute and speculate that most folks cannot handle more than 80-90 grams of carbs per day without starting to balloon up.  So why would you want to sink 37, 41 or even 63 grams of carbohydrates into your system from just one cup of potatoes! Remember that even fruit has carbs.

Everything you eat has to fit in that 80-90 gram number.

Keeping your carbohydrate percentage to less than 20% of your daily food intake is your secret to staying thin and healthy. That will keep your liver happy, your pancreas happy and even your circulatory system flowing smoothly with no clogs.

So memorize this:

The potatoes are the splurge. They are a splurge as much as any dessert.

Cheers,


What’s the Secret to a Happy Family Gathering?

I was reading my latest issue of Real Simple magazine the other day and came across an article on family gatherings that I thought was interesting.

They had done a survey of readers to find out what their secrets were to a happy family gathering. I thought I’d share a few of them with you and run a little commentary. After that, I might add one of my own and then my favorite part will be to ask you for YOUR feedback on your secrets to successful gatherings. You can add your family secrets below at the bottom of the article.

 

The one that made me laugh was right up front:

"An empty dishwasher and trash before the gathering begins."

I have to say that this is important to me no matter what the occasion. The least stressful dinner party for me is one where I am so prepared that the dishwasher is empty and so is the trash. My husband is an ace at making this happen.

 

Next up:

"We have a cell phone bucket at the front door."

I wish I had the guts to do this at every dinner party; just to make the point. Truthfully, folks at my dinner parties and other gatherings are not spending time on their cell phones. I don’t have that hosting issue but if I had a house full of my relatives, I can see how it might become a “thing.”

 

Two more that go together in my mind: 

"I always send an invitation not an expectation." And…

"A start time and an end time with an open-house policy. Come by anytime between 3PM and 8PM. Stay as long or as briefly as you like. No pressure."

I love both of these.

My family gave up a long time ago in the effort to get everyone together for a family event. It’s not that we don’t try once in a blue moon, but we have no heavy expectations on how many will come.

I think at last count if every one of my siblings show up with their kids (and their kids' kids) we’d have over 40 people. We are pretty spread out, too. It’s nuts to think any date you pick would work for everyone.

And having an open-house is a great way to take the pressure off of the hosts and guests. Hey, both turkey and roast beef taste good cold anyway. Can you say buffet?

 

My last feature from the article is:

"Creating space for people to have alone time."

Some folks just need a break from the maddening crowd. My husband’s family is very small. Ours is large. So, he likes to get some separation. He used to go into the den and let all the grand-kids climb all over him like he was some kind of jungle gym. That’s not alone time for sure, but it gave him a break from the crowd of adults all talking at once. The article talks about time for a walk in the woods to digest or even a brief nap.

 

One I will add of my own:

"Let people help. And team them up."

I have been very successful with this concept. Think about it. It might free some of your time up if you give a couple of folks a recipe and let them make something. I get the ingredients out and set them on the counter. Then I enlist two people to make whatever it is. Salads are super easy. So are side dishes. I suggest you combine generations. Maybe Aunt Ruthie hardly knows her teenage niece. Let them work on the salad together. Or get a nephew. You might find out how talented a cook he is. You’re around working on other things in case someone has a question. First thing they will do is laugh and apologize for their cooking expertise (or lack of it). Then they get down to business. At the end people remark about all they learned about that other person that they never knew before. Of course, everyone enjoys the dish too.

Enjoy a fun-filled season of holiday events.

Cheers,

Tipsy Plums with Sweet Cream

So what are your secrets to family gathering success?

Chime in below and let us know.

We can all share these ideas like one big happy Zola family.


Turkey Tips

Most people think the Thanksgiving turkey dinner is the most intimidating meal to make. I never understood that.

For Thanksgiving there was always a crowd at my childhood home. At least a dozen people, often more. My mother would get the biggest turkey she could buy, probably 25# or so. It would barely fit in the oven, (and of course there was only one oven).

Sides would be baked acorn squash and boiled green beans. Baked potatoes would be wedged in the oven around the turkey. There’d be a fruit plate and pies purchased at the local baker. Nothing fancy but the day still felt like a celebration.

My mother taught me, by example, not to be intimidated by such a big dinner. I just saw it as normal.

So, I’m always entertained when I see and hear all the ruckus about the Thanksgiving meal - everyone debating how to cook their turkey, what gourmet sides to offer along with the venerable green bean casserole and what ever happened to Grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe!

Today I’m going to focus on a few Turkey Tips I found that might shed some light on elements of the controversy. My goal is to lessen the hassle and the worry.

Let’s start with even before the turkey hits the oven.

Don’t Rinse It.

That’s right. The USDA now says more people get food poisoning from splashing the rinse water around the kitchen and getting turkey bacteria on your hands and apron and then transferring them around your kitchen. Cook your turkey to 165 degrees and all chance of food poisoning from the turkey itself will be gone. If something looks gross and you feel you have to rinse it, be VERY careful. I just dry mine off with a paper towel these days. During the week, I dry my chicken this way, too.

Opening the Oven to Peek is Okay. 

I’ve seen people yelling at each other in the kitchen to keep the oven door closed. No peeking. It was assumed that every time you open the oven door the temperature goes down considerably and affects how juicy your turkey finishes. Truth is the temperature does go down a smidge but not enough to really worry about. All it does is add a little time to the cooking of the turkey. 15 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey is the normal gauge and if you use a thermometer the reason to peek toward the end of the cooking time is to see if the turkey has hit 165 degrees. Then it’s done. Let it rest 30 minutes while you finish up the sides. That’s what encourages your turkey to be juicy.

No Basting Necessary

Holy bird! No basting? We thought that’s how a turkey got moist and tender. Fact is, the turkey will do that all by itself. If you want your turkey skin to taste crispy orange, baste it with orange juice. You want your gravy to have an extra buttery taste? You can baste your bird, but it’s not necessary. If you’d rather spend that time watching the big football game, go for it. And then you won’t be opening the oven as much either.

If you want more, there’s a book I’d recommend. The Perfect Turkey by Chef Keith Sarasin. You can find it at World Market, Barnes and Noble or online. His book has all the ins and outs of turkey cooking methodologies and it’s got over 100 recipes for sides and things in case you want a fancier dinner than my mother made, or you want to venture beyond the green bean casserole.

Enjoy Your Holiday!

Cheers,

 

Green Bean Casserole

Just like grandma used to make...but healthier!


Green Bean Casserole

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3 (ZReboot) recipe. Everyone loves the green bean casserole with the mushroom soup and the crispy onions on top. Trouble is it’s so bad for you. Mushroom soup from a can. Can we say “processed food?" Danger! So I have come up with one that doesn’t take much longer to make, it’s real food; not processed food and you’ll still be getting that wonderful green bean casserole taste. Instead of using those really unhealthy onion crisps we will be making deep fried shallots. They taste so good!

Servings: Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Crispy Shallot Topping:

  • ½ cup of coconut oil (find this in the health food section in most stores)
  • ½ cup of shallots cut into little rings (use more if you want more topping)

For the Green Beans and Sauce:

  • 2 pounds of fresh green beans, trimmed. You can use them whole or cut them into 1” pieces.
  • 2 Tbl of butter or ghee
  • 2 Tbl of gravy flour (this is a lighter flour but you can use regular flour, too)
  • 2 cups of whipping cream
  • 2 Tbl of Bragg's Aminos
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • wisp of cayenne (this is optional; I just like mine to have a teeny bit of zip)

For the Mushrooms:

  • 2 Tbl of butter
  • 1 lb of sliced mushrooms

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat the coconut oil in a small fry pan or sauce pan. When it’s hot add the onion strings a few at time til the whole ½ cup is loaded in. Fry until they are golden brown and take them out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Be careful. You’ll be tempted to eat them all before the casserole goes into the oven. They are so good!

Heat water in a large sauce pan. Put in the beans. Cook them on a low boil for five minutes. Then immediately transfer them into a bowl and pour cold water over them so they quit cooking.

In a sauce pan add the butter and flour. When the butter melts carefully stir the flour around. You are making a thickener for your sauce. Then slowly add the whipping cream. Keep stirring while you add it. Doing this will keep your sauce from getting lumpy. Add the Bragg's Aminos and a bit of sea salt and grated pepper. Cook the sauce, stirring fairly frequently on medium high. You want the sauce to bubble and begin to thicken. While the sauce is cooking you can cook the mushrooms.

Cut half of the mushrooms into small dice. The other half you can leave as slices. Saute the mushroom mixture in the butter until it begins to brown the mushrooms on the edges.

Assembly:

Put the green beans in a 9" x 13" ovenproof pan.

Add the mushroom mixture on top and stir them up.

When the sauce has thickened, taste it to see if you want to add the cayenne or even a little more salt and pepper. Sprinkle any extra seasonings over the top of the bean/mushroom mixture.  Stir to mix it up.

Bake in your oven for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with the crispy shallots before you serve.

If you are making this for a holiday dinner you can bake it a day ahead of time and just reheat it or you can put the assembled casserole in the refrigerator covered. Then take it out and bake it the day of but keep in mind it will be very cold so it might take a bit longer to heat up. Add 10 minutes to cooking time. Keep the shallots in an airtight baggie or container.

The casserole heats up very well as a leftover option, too.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


The Art of the Antipasti Tray

The definition of Antipasti: An appetizer usually consisting of an assortment of foods, such as smoked meats, cheese, fish, and vegetables.

Sounds like a low-carb platter of perfection, doesn’t it?

Here are some basic but tasty ideas of what you could include in an antipasti tray:

Smoked meats – visit a smokehouse to get cool options like venison or boar
Marinate brocconcini (small balls of Mozzarella cheese) in olive oil, red pepper and Italian herbs
Roasted or grilled eggplant either marinated or turned into baba ganoush
Strawberries sprinkled with some really good balsamic
Roasted peppers with roasted garlic
Tuna seared with black pepper served sashimi style
Bacon wrapped scallops or shrimp
Roasted veggies chunked with any sort of dipping or drizzling sauce

I love to build antipasti platters for parties. It makes a perfect appetizer course or just something to munch on while watching a big sporting event. There’s no perfect combination. My plan here is to give you some options for how you might go about picking antipasti items for your party platter.

Meats: One traditional choice is prosciutto (a version of Italian ham). You can find this in the deli meat section. Salami is popular. There are tons of salami options. You can choose other meats, too. The one thing I ask is that you go to the deli section where humans wait on you. Ask them for the meat selections they either roast in house or are roasted nearby and made with no preservatives. It’s usually pretty easy to tell by looking in the case. Choose those meats. Stay out of the section of the store where the sliced meats are in shrink-wrapped heavy plastic. That’s a sure bet they are filled with preservatives.

Fish: If you like smoked trout or salmon you can have those on your antipasti tray. You can cook scallops and have a dish of those or you can even put picked herring on your tray. Just make sure what you are buying is fresh.

Cheeses: You can go crazy with the cheeses. Your platter might have a theme with Italian cheeses, French cheeses or even American. You can also do an assortment. Just put large blocks of cheese on the platter and let people cut off hunks, or cube the cheese so they can pick up cubes with a little tong.

Vegetables: You have three choices here. You can choose your favorite vegetables and serve them raw. Or you can make antipasti veggies. For instance, I marinate my own mushrooms. I just get mushrooms, clean them and then put oil, vinegar and spices in the bowl and let them sit in the refrigerator til party time. They get better with a few hours of marinating. You can get as involved in this as you want. You can also go the easy route and head to the olive bar in the grocery store. Most grocery stores have them now. There you’ll find marinated artichoke hearts, marinated peppers, olives and more. They have these little teeny red peppers at my deli that are stuffed with a sweetish cheese. These things taste like dessert to me. Love them. Look for the little marinated onions. Go wild.

Fruit: I often put berries in little bowls. I also use big strawberries with the green heads still on them for color.

Condiments: You can have little ramekins of mustard or even a chutney. I’ve even done little pots of pate.

Breads: I stay away from the baguettes or slices of bread but I do toss on a few Melba rounds. People not on the Plan Z diet love them and those of us who have done a ZReduction just wink at each other. You can also do a little crock of cheese spread (make your own or get a good one) and you can stick breadsticks in it. Cut them in half and stick them in, too if you want. Looks like a porcupine that way.

Display: The art of antipasti makes it special. You can go wild with this or be very simple. Don’t get worked up about it. I have two options for trays. One is to use a large platter. The size of the turkey platter is a good gauge. Then I put small dishes of the liquid items on there so the juices don’t mingle.

Another option is to use a large cutting board. This works well because when they cut the cheese they are cutting on a board. This looks very country-French or country-Italian.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


How to get Plan Z covered by your insurance

Our newest improvement will be welcome news! 

Plan Z is now covered by some insurance plans!

Let me outline four options:

HSA/FSA Coverage

Two easy ones are FSA (Flexible Spending Account) and HSA (Health Savings account) cards. If you have either one of those, all you have to do is order Plan Z using your card!

If you saved the money in your HSA account or your employer provided you with an FSA card, by all means take advantage of it. Making FSA and HSA payments are as easy as using the card like a credit card. When you place your order, use your FSA or HSA card at checkout.

Health Insurance

If you have health insurance, but no flex spending card, you can still work to get the diet approved if your BMI is above 25. Depending on your coverage, your insurance company might pay for all of your diet, or a portion of it. All you have to do is take these special forms to your doctor to complete:

Medical Necessity Form

Sample Letter of Medical Necessity

They’ll decide which one they prefer to use. Then ask your doctor to submit the form to your insurance company for approval (it has to come from your doctor's office or your insurance company might not accept it). Obesity is a disease that leads to other diseases that are also covered by insurance. So if you have Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or even things like sleep apnea, it all adds up to get your diet paid for by your insurance. Your doctor might prefer the general form or the letter format so take them both with you.

Tax Deduction

And lastly, you can get help from Uncle Sam. A quality diet, like Plan Z, is now deductible from your taxes. In this case, you pay for the diet up front, and save your receipt just like you do for other tax deductible items. When you file your taxes, you’ll deduct the cost of the diet along with your other deductible expenses. You can check with your tax advisor if you use one. For those who don’t get a refund, getting to deduct the full amount from taxes is like money in the bank. It’s money you didn’t have to pay in taxes; instead you invested it in yourself by paying for Plan Z.

I hope this helps you make an easy decision to do another round of Plan Z.

Feel free to call us with questions. My goal here was to make you aware and to help answer some of the basics.

Cheers,

P.S.  Remember many FSA/HSA dollars expire at the end of the calendar year. It’s a “use it or lose it” system. So take advantage of it NOW. Your eligible dollars might expire December 31, 2019.


Spooky Times

Halloween is hands down my favorite holiday. I used to celebrate big. We’d invite about 70-80 people to dinner and dancing (we had a big house then and we hired a DJ).

I’d make 13 courses. Starting off we’d have five or six appetizers in the bar area. Can you say blue cheese stuffed olives floating in vodka? We’d call those eyeballs.

Then I’d serve a buffet that went along a theme. The theme would match our costumes. So the year my husband and I went as Rhett and Scarlett from Gone with the Wind we served southern food.

The dessert buffet might have a cake covered in an icing spiderweb with candy spiders. One year I did a cake that was a red velvet cake and it had a hand coming out of the top of the cake.

You get the idea.

This year will be a calmer Halloween celebrated with all things pumpkin, so I thought you might enjoy this recipe for pumpkin pancakes. If you decide to drizzle them with syrup, take it easy on the sugar level.

Here, also is my Halloween greeting for you. Share this with your children and if they are older they can share it with their little goblins, too.

Cheers,
Happy Halloween!

 

Pumpkin Pancakes

A delicious and healthy treat!


Happy Halloween!

Here’s a Halloween song reminiscent of “Baby Shark.” Enjoy!

And share with your little ones or grand-kids.

Happy Halloween!

 

Pumpkin Pancakes with Pumpkin Spiced Whipped Cream

A healthy pancake recipe! Delish!


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,


Halloween Treats

My husband and I have always enjoyed Halloween. Years ago I declared it my favorite holiday. I like Halloween more than Christmas.

Early in our relationship my husband and I decided to celebrate the Trick-or-Treaters. Instead of seeing them as an interruption we decided to make adult fun out of the process.

First thing we do each year is set up a small table by the door with two chairs. Usually I grab a hall table. That way we can sit in the entryway of the house. We have our basket of treats all set to go. We make a cocktail and set up a snack for us too. Maybe some nuts.

Then we get out a game we want to play. Usually it’s a card game that is not spoiled by the ringing of the doorbell. Each time the bell rings one of us gets up to greet the kiddies and we let them pick out what they want for a treat. Because we are both sitting by the door we both get to see the costumes and enjoy the ceremony of the little ones chirping out “Trick-or-Treat.” We get to greet the moms and dads that are accompanying the kids too. It’s really a treat for us, truth be told.

For dinner we order a pizza. Don’t freak. Even I eat pizza. I just only eat one piece of crust. For the rest I just pick off the toppings with a fork. My husband is an expert at piling even three sets of toppings onto one piece of crust and eating that. But I digress.

Since starting Plan Z I no longer give out candy. I used to pride myself on having the best candy bar selection in the neighborhood. I’d get the good stuff.

Now I get even better stuff. I have taken to giving out toys!

I have found the perfect place to buy Halloween treats is at the craft store. This year I bought Halloween themed pencils, whistles, kazoos, crazy glasses, flying frog toys, spider rings and stretchy skeletons. How fun is that!

Last year I bought wind up plastic monsters and Halloween tub toys.

At first the kids get a startled look on their faces when they go to grab into the basket and there’s no candy. We tell them they can pick a toy or two and then they turn to their parents and say, “Look Mom! They are giving out toys! YAY!”

The only trick is sometimes they have a hard time choosing. I don’t mind. That gives us more time to enjoy the costumes and the fun.

Now for the economics of it. I checked the pricing. Those little Snicker Bars are 17 cents each. I got 137 toys for under $20. That’s about 15 cents each. So I get the satisfaction of giving them something that lasts more than the two seconds it takes to rip open a piece of candy and jam it in their mouth. Not to mention the sugar high and even maybe a tummy ache that comes along later.

I have given them hours (or at least minutes) of fun. They can flip their flying frog across the table over and over again. They can tease the family cat with it. Or they can use their Halloween pencil for weeks. They can blow on their kazoo or their Halloween whistle til they drive their parents nuts.

And when I close the door after each little child leaves, I feel good. And that makes for a Happy Halloween.

 

Monster Mouths

A ghoulish (and healthy) Halloween snack idea.


Caramel Sauce

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

I never thought I’d be able to come up with a caramel sauce. It’s tricky to make, and my favorite caramel sauce recipe has sweetened condensed milk in it. That’s not something I eat anymore.

This caramel sauce recipe is fairly easy to make. You just need to keep an eye on it and use a large sauce pan even though the ingredients won’t be very deep in the pan. That’s the only way to get the butter and sweetener to caramelize. The first time I made it I used what I thought was a large enough pan, but it took too long to cook and eventually separated before it was finished. I had to start over. The inspiration recipe I used is from a woman named Maya Krampf. Her website is WholesomeYum.com. I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you check that out. My recipe is almost the same as hers; just a slight variation or two.

A couple of hints: You’ll want to serve this caramel sauce the day you make it. I served it about 30 minutes after I made it. It was still warm. As it cools it will thicken a bit more and that’s perfectly fine. I did refrigerate the leftovers and that’s not good. It turns back into a block of sweetened butter-ish stuff and it doesn’t reheat well. It separates when you bring it back up to a warm temperature. So you can make this early in the day and just let it sit at room temperature until you are ready to serve it. If you reheat it very gently in the pan I think it will warm up again without separating.

And as Maya pointed out, you don’t want to double or triple the recipe because it takes forever to cook and might separate like mine did the first time around. If you need more, I suggest you make two separate batches. I added some grated sea salt to mine and came up with salted caramel sauce. That’s an option. I served mine with sliced apples. Dipping the apple slices in the caramel sauce was fun and makes you feel like a kid again. I’ve listed some more options at the bottom of the recipe too.

Servings: This recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 3 Tbl of sweetener. I used Swerve. You can also use ZSweet. If you use Truvia it might have a tinny taste. Truvia doesn’t heat well. You can buy both of the recommended sweeteners online. You could also use a brown sugar substitute. Maya recommends Sukrin Gold. I found that online, too. Be sure to use granular sweetener. I don’t think a liquid sweetener will work for this recipe.
  • 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp of organic vanilla

Instructions:

Put the butter in a medium-large sauce pan. Mine is about 8” across. Add the sweetener of choice and melt on medium. Stir regularly and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until it’s golden brown. Watch this carefully so you don’t burn it.

Add the cream. Bring to a gentle boil; just bubbling and reduce to a gentle simmer. I put mine on low. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes; stirring regularly until the sauce is a nice caramel color and will coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Variations and serving ideas:

I added a nice grate of sea salt to make salted caramel.

You can serve this over ice cream. There are ice cream recipes on Plan Z. I also sometimes buy a small carton of organic coconut milk ice cream or Haagen Daz now makes little cartons. Just keep your portion to 15 grams of carbs or less and make sure you’re in ZReboot and fully stabilized before you venture in this direction.

Serve with sliced apples for a nice treat like I did.

You could also chop up some peanuts and sprinkle those on or dip your slices in chopped peanuts for a caramel apple treat. This way you get the experience of the treat without eating a whole large caramel apple.

You could serve it with grapes that have tooth picks in them. I just don’t recommend eating a lot of grapes.

For the fancy dinner party you might consider making almond pound cake and serve it with a nice drizzle of caramel sauce on top.

Instead of the fruit and cream, for a dinner party I’m going to fry wedges of the pound cake and drizzle with caramel sauce and maybe a squirt of truvia-sweetened whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Bread = Sugar = Dessert

I have to tell you I am reluctant to have this discussion. In the four years I’ve worked to develop Plan Z, I have never brought up the subject of bread and baked goods. I felt like if I ignored the subject it would not come up. Instead, I spent a lot of time laying down the framework for the fact that you don’t need bread, donuts or cupcakes in your life. Or any of the rest of it. And it’s true. You can get used to not eating it.

But I know the subject of bread comes up in your home and your offices. It’s like the elephant in the room that will make you feel like an elephant if you eat too much of it.

So before we embark on the subject of bread (and the good versus the evil things about it) I want to define what bread is.

If I hammer home anything today this is all I want you to know. Bread is dessert and it has to be treated like a treat.
It’s dessert.

Let’s look at the chemistry.

Your liver processes what you eat. It filters out the toxins, converts food into energy and sends the nutrients out to your body for it to use. If there is excess sugar in your diet, that sugar is converted for your body to store as fat. Simple.

By the time your stomach juices break down what you’ve eaten with your fork all your liver sees is the pulpy liquid that’s left. The REAL contents of your food. In that state, your liver can’t tell the difference between a piece of white bread and a Snicker’s bar.

So depending on how much sugar you eat (and I mean CARBOHYDRATES – bread, pasta, potatoes…they’re all sugar), your liver has to deal with it. Your liver cannot allow all that sugar to pass into your bloodstream; that would be toxic to your body. So when your liver detects excess sugar, it gets its friend the pancreas involved. The pancreas has to tone down the sugar.

How does it do that?
By pumping out insulin into our bloodstream.

All of us are so aware of diabetes we know the pancreas sends out insulin. Insulin stimulates the cells in your body to absorb that sugar and get it out of your blood. That’s its first job.

When there is more sugar than your body needs, that insulin has no choice but to tell your body to turn the excess into fat. That’s it’s second job.

It isn’t just table sugar that makes you fat. All the carbohydrates you eat have the potential to make you fat because your body breaks all of them down into sugar.

So let’s get back to bread. And the politics and marketing of our food supply.

All of the food marketers, doctors, nutritionists and even the government will tell you that you need carbohydrates to live. Maybe so, but you can get all the carbohydrates you need from the veggies and the fruits you eat.

Plus, your body can make carbohydrates. You don’t need bread or pasta or potatoes to accomplish the job. You don’t need bread to live. It’s just a bad habit we picked up a very long time ago. And we convinced ourselves we needed it.

We don’t.

 

Whole Wheat vs. White

All the commercials nowadays use phrases like, whole grain, whole wheat…implying that all of that will make you healthy.
I keep telling people there is little difference between whole wheat and white bread. They are both still wheat. They are both still bread. We don’t need either to survive, and the carbohydrates are killers.

So here’s the difference between whole wheat and white bread:
Whole Wheat Bread (standard whole wheat you find in the grocery store)
Serving size: 1 piece

  • 12 grams of carbs per piece
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • Glycemic index 70

White Bread (standard white bread in the bread aisle)
Serving size: 1 piece

  • 13 grams of carbs per piece
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • Glycemic index 73

See how little difference there is?
See how we get sucked in?

BTW, the Glycemic Index of a Snicker’s Bar is 68.

The caloric content of the Snicker’s Bar is much higher, but the rate of the spike in blood sugar is actually slightly lower. The faster it shoots up the more insulin is produced to process it.

There are low-carb breads like Paleo Bread which is made from either almond or coconut flour. If you HAVE to have bread you can order this. I tried the almond variety right from the bag. I found it gooey. I enjoyed spreading peanut butter on it but not really the bread. I decided my sliced apple was a better vehicle for eating peanut butter. Then I tried the Paleo bread toasted. It worked fine but all I got for satisfaction was some crunch.

There are also recipes out there if you want to make your own low-carb breads.
Truth is, we can eat a meal with a knife and fork. We don’t have to carry it around in a tortilla or eat with our hands in between two pieces of bread. So we don’t need those carbs.

Now that we’ve had this discussion I’ll leave it up to you.

Cheers,

 

Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip

Talk about comfort food. This is the pure definition.


Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

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

A nice, summery meal that can also be eaten in cooler months. You can make this in a grill pan or on an outdoor grill.  This is much lighter and lower carb than the breaded and fried version.

Serves: 4 as light meal or 2 as a large one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 – 4 ripe plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped mushrooms (or olives- optional)
  • ½ tsp of chili flakes (or to taste. I used a very light dusting and left it to the heat lovers to add more)
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil
  • 6 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • Thinly sliced crusty bread, for serving. Limit yourself to one regular sized piece (Z3.5) or eat with no bread (Z3). To make the bread lower carb, brush it with olive oil and grill or broil. Or use butter. That works, too.
  • 1/4 cup of shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450° and heat a grill pan or your backyard grill. Spray the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil and season lightly with salt. Grill the eggplant over moderately high heat, turning once, until softened and lightly browned or lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until lightly charred but still intact, about 2 minutes per side. Keep an eye on them. They go from lightly browned to overdone very easily; especially on the grill.

In a bowl, combine the mushrooms (or olives), chili flakes and shredded basil. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In the center, arrange half of the eggplant in a 9-inch square, overlapping the slices slightly. Top with half of the grilled tomatoes, mushroom mixture and Fontina. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes. Slice with a pizza cutter. Garnish with basil shreds and Parmesan cheese. Serve with optional crusty bread.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Chicken Piccata

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe submitted by Plan Z dieter Karen. Thanks Karen!

Servings: Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken cutlets or thinly sliced chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp capers drained
  • parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Instructions:

Season cutlets with sea salt and pepper. Spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray and saute cutlets, flipping once until cooked through.  Remove the cutlets from the pan and cover them to keep them warm.

Deglaze pan (dilute the remaining fat) with the chicken broth. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add lemon juice and capers. Add cooked chicken and any accumulated juices.

To serve, plate chicken and pour sauce over.

Garnish with parsley. Add lemon juice and serve.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Small Town 4th of July

Flashback, if you can, to 1965.

John Glenn had circled the Earth in Friendship 7 but we had not yet made it to the moon.
The Beatles were in full swing and had appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the year before.
Vietnam was being mentioned in the newspaper but we were not yet subjected to a daily listing of the casualties from the carnage in the jungles.

I’m living in small-town America, Appleton, Wisconsin, and I am 8 years old.
My brother, Paul, 15 months younger than me is 7.
My mother is taking us to the fireworks on the 4th of July.

My older sister Marie is probably in charge of taking care of my baby brother Billy who’s likely fast asleep in his crib. My older brother Bob is a budding teenager, so he’s probably off with his friends lighting snakes on the sidewalk, chasing around with sparklers or maybe he’s with a neighbor family going to the same fireworks. The rest of our family kids are older and off doing, whatever.

I can distinctly remember a couple of years when my mom took me and Paul to the fireworks; just us.

My mom must have really loved fireworks. Taking us to see them was an inconvenient ordeal of sorts and she could have easily just stayed home and relaxed.

Thanks, Mom, for helping us celebrate.

The fireworks took place at Pierce Park across town, so we had to drive to get there. We packed into a big, used Cadillac. We would find parking maybe a few blocks from the park, but it was getting dark, so maneuvering around all the traffic and the hordes of people who were heading to the fireworks must have been maddening for my mom. Hold hands, everybody.

She carried one of those lightweight folding chairs with the plastic webbed, interwoven seats, a blanket, and her purse. No picnic. We came after dinner. We traveled light.

I can remember one of the years we got there earlier, so she let us walk around the carnival midway. We even got to ride The Scrambler. I will never forget the forces put on my body as I spun around. I felt like I knew what John Glenn experienced. The distorted face as my lips flapped in the wind. How hard I held onto the safety gate. My hair, although cut short, flipping all over the place. And the looks on my brother’s face. Priceless.

We didn’t buy cotton candy. We didn’t get any sodas or hot dogs. We had plenty and I think my mom didn’t want to risk having to clean us up. We were well fed. At that time, I didn’t even know the concept of a funnel cake and to this day I’ve never tasted one.

The next thing to do was to scout out where we were going to view the fireworks. Pierce Park is a huge place; especially to a little kid. It covers probably four-square blocks and cascades down a steep incline to where it meets the Fox River. The Fox River is where they staged the barge from which to launch the fireworks. Safety first.

Up in the park, there are hundred-year-old oak trees that shade much of the park during the day. At night, on the 4th of July, you are looking for a patch of grass, where when you look up you see plenty of open sky so you can see the fireworks in all their glory.

We settle on a spot, spread out the blanket, my mom opens her chair to set and then she pulls the bug spray out of her purse. We spray ourselves liberally with OFF. The mosquitoes are in their glory on any warm, summer evening in Appleton. On the 4th of July, it’s Mosquito Feast Day.

We settle on the blanket, and lay on our backs, waiting for the fireworks to begin. I’m probably humming something John Phillip Sousa wrote in my head. And then the salutes begin. They are trying to tell the crowd to settle in for the fireworks but I’m just annoyed by the noise. BANG, bang.

Next, we are treated to about 30 minutes of constant fireworks. We ooh and ahh as they blast above us. The crowd oohs and ahhs in unison too. I’m actually most fascinated with the patterns displayed by the fireworks that don’t explode right above us but by the ones off to the right and left that are filtered to my vision by the leaves of the trees. I like seeing partial fireworks for some reason.

All the fireworks in those days were round blasts punctuated by a few more salutes here and there. They are not timed to go along with the symphony; in fact, there is no music playing unless some guy a few blankets over has something playing on his transistor radio. It’s just the crowd and the fireworks.

The big finale blasts off. No mistaking it. This 4th of July display is over.

We pack up and make our way slowly back to the car. The crowd seems like millions of people to me, although the population of Appleton at the time was only about 50,000. It seems everyone in town, and maybe from a few towns over, was at the fireworks. When we get to the street there are headlights everywhere; all at eye level to us kids, so we are a bit blinded. The traffic cops in their uniforms and with wands are controlling the car chaos. We keep tight to each other and find our car. Pile back in. And lights out. I say that because I can’t remember the drive home. I probably, immediately fell asleep from all the excitement overload.

Another 4th of July in the history books.

Cheers,

 

Fluffy No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake

The perfect low-carb summer treat.


Italian Lemon Chicken

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

This tastes almost like chicken scaloppini. You’ll notice the breading is missing. The capers are missing. But the taste is still there.

Servings: Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 Tbl of ghee (For ZReduction substitute with olive oil spray)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 4, 6-8 oz. chicken breast halves, skinless (Buy thin-sliced chicken breasts to make this fast and easy. Otherwise you’ll need to flatten regular breasts so they cook faster)
  • 8 tsp of lemon juice, divided
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¾ - 1 cup of organic chicken broth

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil and ghee (substitute with olive oil spray for ZReduction) in your sauté pan. Put in the chicken breasts and season with sea salt, pepper, and drizzle half of the lemon juice over the chicken breasts. Cook them on medium 3 minutes or so per side. (How long you cook them will depend on how thick they are). They will brown up a little on each side. Just make sure they are cooked through and no pink remains. Then remove them from the pan and cover to keep them warm.

Don’t wash the pan. Just add the garlic and shallots and cook about a minute, stirring often, to loosen them up. Add the chicken broth and the Italian seasoning. Cook on medium-high 2 minutes to reduce a bit and to meld the flavors. Add the rest of lemon juice to the sauce. Stir and you are ready to serve.

Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve with your side.

I served this dish over zucchini noodles mixed with a few carrot bits for color. Those are both Z3 items.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


I'm melting! I'm melting!

Well, maybe that’s what the Wicked Witch of the West said, and she was not happy, but in my case, I like what I’m seeing.

It has taken me decades to get the guts to start a diet company and begin the discussion of losing weight successfully. That's because until now, I've been a diet failure my whole life. I started dieting at 12 years old and have been working at it (in one form or another) ever since. I went to ridiculous measures to lose weight or stay thin. My definition of thin. Laugh, cringe or recollect your own stories as you cruise through my list of strange or extreme dieting.

Here goes:

At 12 years old I noticed I was the “fattest cheerleader.” I wasn’t fat, but I thought I was. I began switching my dessert from something sugary to a single hard-boiled egg. Dieting had begun. I was low-carb before they coined the phrase. I always was a pioneer.

At 15, I was so fed up with being fatter than other girls (but not yet obese), that I decided that eating every third day was a good idea. How I pulled that off, without my mother figuring out, was a feat to behold. I can remember that I even passed out on my bed twice after walking home from school on particularly hot days. I was starving. I had no energy. Who was I kidding? I lost 30 pounds in a month. I took my babysitting money and bought contact lenses and boys came out of the woodwork. My first “successful” diet.

Approaching age 16, I wanted to stay thin and feel thin, so I worked at a job that required me to ride my bicycle across town all summer long. I worked two shifts so I had to do it twice every day. In-between shifts I came home and had one single, solitary, fried egg and a glass of milk. I didn’t eat anything else all day, but when my mother asked me if I’d eaten (she was worried about me missing dinner while I rode my bike back to work), I could say yes.  Boys continued calling and I made the Drill Team at school. When I got the flu and laid on my bed, I was happy because I was losing weight. I rolled over on my stomach, and if I could balance on my hip bones and my stomach didn’t touch the mattress, I decided I was skinny enough. My waist was 19 inches. I was skinnier than the cheerleaders. I measured that as success. I watched with horror as they carted off one of my classmates to a special hospital for girls who didn’t eat (we didn’t call it anorexia back then). I deluded myself into thinking I was not “like her.”

One school year all I ate was a hot dog with no ketchup and a diet Coke every day.

Any of this sound familiar to you?

At 18, I went to my doctor for my college physical. I told him that I thought I was fat. I was 5’-6” and weighed 112 pounds. He blew me off. He told me to stay at that weight and I’d be fine for life. I guess that he missed the day when they taught doctors how to spot the warning signs of the dieting “insane.” Or maybe they didn’t teach that class. I wonder.

My early adulthood consisted of fasting, or eating nearly nothing, so I could fit the image of a Playboy bunny. Funny that, because I was living in Chicago at the time and Playboy continually tried to recruit me for a photo shoot. They assigned one VP to pester me regularly at my job. I was working in a restaurant, so I could not keep him from coming in and sitting at the bar. He campaigned like a champ but I never gave in. My measurements were 38-19-33. This was before breast implants. No wonder he followed me around. I looked like I’d topple over frontwards at any moment!

At my next job I had a candy jar on my desk. I ate Tootsie Rolls and nothing else for two weeks once. Lots of men visited my candy jar on their way back to their desk. Most of the time I was yawning. I wonder why? Another time I ate popcorn after work every night for two weeks. No butter. I was trying to fit into a dress for a special dinner date. That dress would fit crumpled, in the palm of your hand. I think they call it a handkerchief dress now. I got into the dress, but half way through dinner I was in the ladies room as my intestinal tract went into overdrive. No way was my stomach in any shape to hold actual FOOD. I came back to the table looking gaunt. I found room for dessert though. And back to the bathroom.

One year, at another job, my assistant went every day to a take-out joint downstairs from our offices and she bought me a Chef Salad and a large diet Coke. That was my calorie consumption per day. Hey! I was moving up to a salad from candy or popcorn!

On weekends I ate a half of a peanut butter sandwich per day and 3 diet orange sodas. That sure saves on the food budget.

Then, as I became more successful I started paying for diets.

I did the “shakes only” plus 10 raspberries or a half a banana a day diet that was prescribed by diet doctors. Dieteen. It’s the same diet that Oprah Winfrey did. She lost 40 pounds and dragged fat around in her wagon to show her point. I lost 52 pounds. Although I don’t know Oprah, she and I have yo-yoed in an almost identical concert ever since. She lost weight. I lost weight. She gained it back. So did I. The reasons I gained it back varied. The lack of long term success stayed the same.

I did Atkins.

I did Weight Watchers.  Both miserable disasters.

I’ve gone to the Obesity Clinic at the University of Wisconsin. They studied me and declared my metabolism a disaster. Shot. Kaput. Nothing left. They put me on experimental meds. Then the head of the department left and the program disbanded. I was left hanging.

I even went to an eating-disorder psychiatrist for 3 months. They couldn’t find anything wrong. They even hypnotized me to MAKE SURE nothing was wrong. I told them I was not eating bags of Oreos in a closet. I guess they had to satisfy their own theories, their own way. I went along with it. I was doubting myself enough to think maybe I HAD been sleepwalking and stuffing myself.

I went to a dietitian who reluctantly put me on a 750 calorie a day diet. After one month and a one-pound loss he resigned. He was afraid I’d keel over. He, at least, was honest with me.

I hired a trainer and worked with her 3 days a week for 7 years. No weight loss, but I sure got strong. And I walked, and walked and walked. Nothing as far as weight loss.

I took Fen-Phen before it had that nickname and before they found out it could kill you. Took it for 18 months. They came and found me two years later to get my heart tested. I was fine, but it was not a success for me. I had only lost 8 pounds in all that time.

I did another shake diet a few years ago. I ate one small meal a day. I lost 38 pounds in one month. Didn’t take long before it was all back.

I’m a smart woman. You’d think I’d get a clue. When I look back on this part of my life I was my own dysfunctional enemy.

Until now.

Cheers,

Italian Lemon Chicken

This tastes almost like chicken scaloppini. You’ll notice the breading is missing. The capers are missing. But the taste is still there.


A Sharp Knife Can Save a Finger

My father was an engineer; a smart and precise man who had his weekend rituals. About once a month, I’d find my father at the kitchen table on a weekend afternoon sharpening the kitchen knives.

He’d have a sharpening stone in front of him set on a spread of newspaper print. He had a little can of oil that looked like a miniature version of the oil can used to loosen up the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, and he’d have an assortment of knives. From paring knife to carving knife, he’d sharpen them all. It took him probably an hour to do six knives.

He’d squirt a strip of oil across the stone. He’d spread that oil out in a thin layer and begin methodically sweeping the blade of the knife along the stone. Back and forth. Back and forth. Top tip to bottom edge where the blade meets the handle. That motion would sharpen both sides of the blade. The idea was to keep the knife at the perfect angle so the edge got sharpened without scraping away too much of the blade. My father was a whiz at it. A regular wizard of knives.

When I asked him why he sharpened the knives so often he came back with an answer. He told me, “A sharp knife is a safe knife.”

That seemed counter-intuitive. Sharp knives cut more easily than dull knives. Right? Sharp knives seem dangerous.

Not really.

A sharp knife is much safer. Most kitchen accidents happen in restaurants (where knife-wielding is a constant activity) with a dull knife. The extra exertion it takes to cut through a piece of food with a dull blade is what causes accidents. The force might cause the food to move and the blade comes down harder than expected, jumping off course. If your finger is in the way… OUCH. Blood’s next.

You see it in the cooking shows. Some guy is nervous. He has an accident with his knife and ends up with a medic patching him up and then he has to wear an awkward kitchen glove that slows him down in his prep. That usually means disqualification.

In the home kitchen, it might mean a trip to the emergency room.

How do I decide when it’s time to sharpen my knives? It’s when my knife doesn’t immediately flow through the skin of a tomato.

That seems counter-intuitive too. A tomato? The tomato skin is quite thin. A piece of meat is much denser. So why would you not decide to sharpen a knife when it gets more difficult to cut the meat?

The answer lies in the tomato. Tomatoes are round. When you are slicing a tomato it’s easy to have the blade slide off the side if it doesn’t smoothly move through the skin with ease. It’s easier to cut yourself slicing a tomato than just about anything else. And when you dice tomatoes, if the little bits are not being cut cleanly as you go, the tendency is to hack at them. More opportunity for an accident.

My father taught me how to sharpen knives on his stone when I was old enough to take the care needed and the dexterity to get the angle right on the blade. He was a good instructor.

As I grew older and started working in restaurants, I was taught how to sharpen knives with what they call a steel. That’s a long cylinder that you hold in one hand while you stroke the knife across it with your other hand. Chefs who are good at it make it look like knife ballet. Most restaurants with line cooks don’t leave the knife sharpening to the cooks. They use a knife exchange program. Newly sharpened knives are delivered to the restaurant once a week and the dull ones are shipped off to be sharpened and exchanged again the next week. I’ve worked in places like that too. It’s a pretty sharp idea.

In my kitchen as a young adult, I was more interested in cooking for dinner parties than taking the time to sharpen knives, so I bought an electric knife sharpener. That thing never quite did the job.

Now I take my knives to a professional knife sharpening shop. The task is so inexpensive to have done that in under 30 minutes every knife in my drawer is back to sharpened perfection. And I have quite a few knives.

When my father passed away I inherited his favorite knife. It’s big enough for big carving jobs; more than a paring knife. I don’t use it often. I keep it more for the sentimental reasons than for action in my kitchen. I’ve had it sharpened a couple of times, but not many. When you look at the knife you can see it’s been sharpened hundreds, if not thousands, of times. The blade has worn down as a result of all of the sharpening. (I tried to illustrate in the picture how the blade might have looked when it was new).

I never asked my father how he came to be in possession of that knife. For all, I know it had been my grandparents’ knife or even their parents. That knife has seen a lot of time in a kitchen and a lot of time sweeping across the sharpening stone. Now, it’s in knife retirement.

Mexican Chicken Stew

Comfort food for the soul.


6 Wonderful Sweeteners Better For You Than Sugar

Even if you never touch dessert it’s still easy to have too much sugar in your diet. We all know now that sugar is virtually everywhere in our food system. Plan Z dieters know to stay away from things like bread, pasta, pancakes, baked goods, sodas, fruit drinks, and virtually every processed food. When you include HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) it seems like sugar is everywhere.

Good news is you can still enjoy sweets and not totally blow a low carb existence. You don’t have to feel deprived either.

One trick is to concentrate on NATURAL sugar sources. Obviously, you’ll have to keep them in check and not go crazy with these but here are some ideas on how you can use them. Leave all the chemistry involved in processed table sugar and artificial sweeteners by the wayside. That means diet soda is not your friend. Research has proven that it never really made you skinnier, and some new research even links it to overeating.

Here are the top 6 sweeteners to use when you're living a low carb life:

 

Stevia

This product is not perfect, but it’s natural, it has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and ZERO calories. You can use it to sweeten anything that does not need heat. That's when it tastes the best, like with plain, unsweetened yogurt with a little stevia and vanilla stirred in. Add berries and nuts on top and you’ve got a healthy breakfast that will keep you full until lunch.

Stevia comes in a granular form and in liquid drops, too. You can use the flavored drops to make your own diet soda. Pick up plain sparkling water and then add stevia drops. They even have cola flavored drops now. You can make grape soda, orange, strawberry, cherry, lemon-lime...even cream soda. And there are flavored stevia drops that will make a delightful cup of flavored coffee. Save the money on those fancy coffee drinks you stand in line for at a coffee shop and make your own in about 2 extra seconds.  You can find flavored stevia drops in the baking supply section of your grocery store, usually on the bottom shelf.

 

Raw Honey

I always recommend you get your food from the closest source possible. So, if you're in ZReboot 3.5 or later and are at the point where you can enjoy honey, the beekeeper at your local farmer’s market is a prime guy/gal to get to know. Raw honey has vitamins and minerals in it, too. The glycemic index is reasonable at 35. Any food with a glycemic index under 50 is pretty good, but you still have to watch your intake. You can't go overboard. A little drizzle goes a long way.

 

Erythritol

This is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Erythritol has some real bonuses. Zero on the glycemic index. Zero calories. This one is a sugar alcohol. And the best news is it caramelizes. That means if you bake cookies with it, they will get the lovely crunch around the edges you’re striving for. My favorite brands are ZSweet and Swerve. I have never seen either of these in a store so you’ll likely have to order online. There are other brands you can look into, too. You can make frosting with the powdered version.  A cream cheese frosting made with this is about as close to dessert-healthy as you can get. Make a low carb cake and you have the makings of a healthy version of a birthday party! Erythritol is slightly less sweet than sugar but in truth, I cut the amount necessary for a recipe by about 1/3 to half and I’m satisfied that the end product is sweet enough. You’ll find your own sweet spot.

 

Coconut Sugar

The good news about coconut sugar is it contains potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B1 and vitamin C.  Table sugar has no redeeming value at all. You’ve never heard of coconut sugar? Let’s fix that. Coconut sugar is also called coconut palm sugar. It comes from coconut blossoms; before they form coconuts. Coconut sugar is half the glycemic index of table sugar which is a huge plus. That means it won’t jack up your insulin as much as regular sugar will.

Coconut sugar is a light brown color. Some people put a little in coffee (ZReboot 3.5 or later, obviously) if they have to have sugar. That’s the only reason I keep it around. If I have a guest who has to have sugar in coffee, this is a better alternative. If you like making baked goods you can find plenty of low carb recipes that use coconut sugar. Again, cut it back from what the recipe says if you dare to stay even more low carb.

 

Pure Maple Syrup

In a dressing or a sauce that needs a sweet taste sometimes, I’ll use a little drizzle of maple syrup. Don't worry, it doesn’t make a sauce taste like syrup! Be sure to get the real stuff though; not that sugar water flavored with maple. When I make pancakes now I’m more likely to top them with chopped up fruit flavored with stevia or even whipped cream flavored with stevia but a little drizzle (and I’m talking 2 tsp or less) of real syrup can go a long way too. Here’s my low carb pumpkin pancake recipe. Try these pancakes that are low carb and much healthier and choose your own topping. I’d even give a nod to a little of the whipped cream with a drizzle of the maple syrup on top. Wink, wink. And don’t forget the butter!

 

Blackstrap Molasses

My last offering is also a sugar option that has plenty of vitamins and minerals. The folks living on the prairie in the olden days knew about this and used it as a sweetener. This was a cheap sweetener when the refined stuff we are familiar with today was very expensive. Regular people ate blackstrap molasses. Try to find unsulphured. That’s the healthiest version. Use a drizzle in a dressing. Or make a poultry glaze with it in place of other sugar. Barbecue sauce is another option. But like I said before, cut it back. Use mostly stevia in a barbecue sauce and just put in a tidbit of this for extra flavor.

No sugar is good for you in major quantities. The average American now consumes over 150 pounds of sugar a year. No wonder there’s an obesity crisis. At the turn of 1900, that number was 7.5 pounds of sugar a year. We have come a long way… and it’s not a good way to be.

So do yourself a favor and try to stay off the sugar. When in “need” consider incorporating these.

For this week's featured recipe indulge your sweet tooth without overdoing the carbs. My pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin spiced whipped cream are a delightful way to start your day.

Cheers,

 

Pumpkin Pancakes with Pumpkin Spiced Whipped Cream

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.


How I Read a Label

When I was a young girl of 12, I became obsessed with weight. Twiggy was the super model at the time and she was rail thin. I thought I needed to be like that. I wasn’t obese by any means. Turns out I was a normal 12 year old, but I was worried I was too fat to be in my sister’s wedding so I started trying to diet.

The first thing I did was go buy a tiny book that listed the number of calories in various foods. They sold these little pocket versions by the checkout at the grocery store. I bought one of those books and rather than carry it around with me, I set out to memorize it.

I did memorize it.

I did such a good job that as I grew older I could still recite what was in that little manual. I knew the calorie count for all my favorite things.

I knew a hard boiled egg was 75 calories.
I knew an 8 oz glass of whole milk was 140.
I knew a tablespoon of peanut butter was 90.

I memorized pages of items that I wanted to be able to eat. I was told it was all about counting calories. I was good at math.

Trouble is, that wasn’t really what I needed to learn. That was the conventional wisdom at the time, but even though I counted calories like a maven, I gained weight.

What I know now is different. Reality and new science prove it wasn’t about calories in/calories out. It was really about what you eat and how your body decides to process it.

The biggest culprit is the sugar we eat, and the quantity. We all know Americans eat more sugar than ever, and it comes in so many different forms. We know now that the “white stuff” is bad. It’s full of carbohydrates (sugars). So pasta, potatoes, rice, bread and all the rest are eaten in quantities our bodies can’t handle. Then there are the sugars in drinks and more. I could go on and on.

The point is, my focus has changed. I don’t look at a label on a can or a box the same way now. I used to just focus on how many calories that new cracker had. Or that new chip. Because if it all revolved around calories that’s all I needed to know.

Now, I barely glance at the calories and that is not my first priority or even my second. It’s only a curiosity now.

My first target is the line that says Carbohydrate. I check how many grams of carbs are in that particular item. Let’s pick out a cracker. I don’t eat many crackers these days but I might have three if I am serving a dip as an appetizer.

So let’s say the carbohydrate count is 21 grams. If I see anything that says 21 grams, I am suspicious that it might be something I’d skip. But next stop is serving size. If that serving size says 3 crackers that means there are 7 in each cracker. Too much for me. I only eat maybe 80 grams of carbs per day and even veggies have carbs in them (and fruit too) so I’m not going to waste 1/3 of my carbs on 3 crackers. But if the serving size says 13 like it does with Mary’s Gone Crackers, I’ll happily eat 3. I don’t want more than 4 – 6 grams of carbs that come from wheat per meal. That would be my limit. So I’m not paying attention to calories. I’m setting my limit on the quantity I’ll eat based on carb total and the serving size.

For a dessert, my goal is less than 15 grams of carbs. So let’s say I want ice cream from the freezer section. If I find one that has a one cup serving is 23 grams of carbs, I’ll eat a ½ cup or even 1/3 will satisfy me. I just wanted a treat. The math is not difficult. You just need to get used to it.

What else do I look at?

I look at the ingredients list. I want to keep my sugar down as far as possible and sugar comes in many forms; including sucrose (table sugar) which will be listed on the label as sugar.

So before I even buy the product, I check to see where sugar is listed on the ingredients list. You’d be surprised how many products have sugar in them. Even spaghetti sauce usually has sugar in it. Luckily, there are a few brands that don’t, so if I can’t make my own spaghetti sauce, I buy those. Or I employ this simple trick.

Read the ingredients list. See how far down sugar is on the list. If it’s WAY down….way toward the end of the list, I can assume there is very little in it. The first ingredient is what is in there in the largest quantity and then it counts down. So if wheat is the first ingredient in the cracker, then it’s likely to have a higher carb count. If sugar or high fructose corn syrup or any of the other, many, names for sugar are toward the top that means that item has a lot of sugar in it. Steer away.

A couple of other quick notes. On boxes and cans you can also look for ingredients that are not natural. If they have a lot of things you can’t pronounce that means this product has a lot of preservatives or artificial flavorings. Steer away from those too. They just mess up your digestive process and are not part of nature.

Two pretty harmless ingredients that are listed in things are guar gum and xantham gum. Don’t worry about those. They are natural thickeners and emulsifiers. Guar gum helps the dressing stay looking like dressing in the bottle; rather than separating out. Xantham gum and guar gum are often used in low carb baking to help “glue” together your batter so if forms a fluffy cake.

What I did here was try to boil down the mystery of the label and let you in on what I focus on. Of course, there’s lots more chemistry to it all, but when you’re in the store and you have to set your priorities and get out of the store before nightfall, this is a quick tutorial to set you on your way.

Cheers,

 

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies are SOOOO good. And no flour!


3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

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

These cookies are SOOOO good. And no flour! Just be careful what peanut butter you buy and be sure to order the sweetener ahead so you are prepared to bake and eat.

Servings: Serves 15-18

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of unsweetened peanut butter*
  • 1/2 cup of sweetener**
  • 1 large egg

*There’s a trick here. You CANNOT use an oily peanut butter with this. You want unsweetened and emulsified (that means it’s whizzed so it stays together). FIRST option is to go to (or order from) Whole Foods. They make their house brand called 365. You want the UNSWEETENED PEANUT BUTTER SPREAD. If you cannot order or don’t have a store near you, my fall back is Skippy Natural but that definitely has sugar so you’ll have to control the number of cookies with more discipline.

**This is an easy trick too, but you have to order one of these brands. I have only once seen them in a store. They are called ZSweet or Swerve. They can be ordered from Amazon. They are not cheap but worth it. Get the granulated version. You can also order the powdered sugar if you want to make frosting for a cake or cupcakes. These both bake just like sugar. Truvia is not a good option and Splenda is not good for you.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper if you can, or lightly spray with oil.

Mix the peanut butter, sweetener, and egg until smooth. I do this with a wooden spoon. Get it all thoroughly mixed.

Drop spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. I roll them in my hands a bit to a size a little smaller than golf balls. I gently put them on the cookie sheet. This way they are perfectly round. Then I do the cross-hatch thing with a fork so they get the grid. Don’t push hard. They will sink down as they bake.

Bake for 6 – 8 minutes. Do not over bake! These taste best when they still have some give to them. Barely browning. I call them “medium rare.” You can bake them to your taste as you choose.

For some people, there will be an aftertaste of a “coolness.” It’s the sweetener. Doesn’t bother me but some folks to notice it.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Brain Gunk

As a youngster, I attended a Catholic grade school.  In those days we gathered for morning Mass every day.  When I was in second grade I was allowed to receive Communion, but that meant I had to fast for 3 hours in advance.  So no breakfast at home for me before I hopped on the bus.  Instead I took my breakfast to school with me.

Just like other children take their lunch to school, I had my little paper bag with my breakfast in it. But unlike other children, I was the lucky child of a mother who put extra time and attention into my breakfast.  Most kids took one of those little boxes of cereal out of their bag for breakfast.  They munched on Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms.  I ate a poached egg.

Remember those little tins that pot pies came in?  My mom saved them.  She’d make me a poached egg and a wedge of buttered toast. She’d put both inside the little tin and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.  It might be an hour or more before Mass was over and I could eat my breakfast but amazingly it was still warm.  I loved it.

I was consistently one of the smartest kids in the class.  I have my parents to thank for wonderful genes, but I also have my mom to thank for feeding me brain food.

A poached egg is 2% carbs, 63% fat and 35% protein.  Your brain runs on fat.  She was feeding me fat and protein that would keep me full and focused until lunch in the school cafeteria. Your brain does not run on Fruit Loops.  Fruit Loops just gunk up your brain in the long run.

Now, let’s fast forward to adulthood and look at this connection of brain function as it relates to weight gain.

New studies have been published to show that obesity harms most organs in your body and your brain is no exception.  The researchers have also found that getting rid of excess fat actually improves brain function.  As reported in Time Magazine, here’s why this matters to us as we age:

Obese men and women are estimated to be about 35% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to people of a normal weight. Some research suggests that body fat ups the number of proteins in the brain that trigger a cascade of events that predispose someone to the disease, and other research in mice has suggested that fat cells release a substance called interleukin 1, which can cause severe inflammation and, in turn, gunk up the brain.

The tests were done on women who had received bariatric surgery but any kind of weight loss will show improvement.  These women went through a battery of tests.  Interestingly, they performed better on their cognitive function tests—especially in the area of executive function, which is used during planning and organization. The findings suggest that the fat loss reverses the bad effects on the brain.

I find this especially fascinating because I get regular reports from Plan Z dieters that mirror this result of better brain function.  They tell me at first that they ‘feel better’. Then they let me know how they are blown away by the fact that they think better, they are more organized and get more done in their day.  They not only have more energy as a result of the weight loss but that they think more clearly now. It’s all a result of getting the gunk out of their brains.

Now, let’s go back to school.  In a study of 1 million students in New York, results showed that students who ate lunches that did not include artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes did 14% better on IQ tests than students who ate lunches with these additives.

So what are you and the kids having for breakfast, lunch and dinner today…and tomorrow… and forever?  It matters.

For this week's featured recipe try the Italian Green Bean Salad. Packed with veggies and zesty taste this easy side dish or quick snack will keep your brain fueled and focused.

Cheers,


Pork Chops with Thyme and Mustard

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z2 (ZReduction) recipe. This is an easy and tasty meal that comes together in a jiffy. Big Yum!

Serving Size: Serves 2. Can easily be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork loin chops (6 oz each)
  • 2 Tbl of fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp of garlic powder
  • 2 Tbl of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional

  • a few garlic cloves (to roast in the pan...I love roasted garlic)

Instructions:

In a small bowl mix the juice, mustard and the spices. Stir.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a cast iron pan, lightly spray surface with olive oil spray. Spray the top of your chops and the brush the sprayed side with the seasoning mixture. Put the chop in the pan, flavored side down. Sear on medium high for 2 minutes. Then brush the rest of the seasoning on the top non seasoned side and turn it over. Throw in the garlic cloves so they will cook with the pork chops (optional). Transfer to your oven and roast until the chops are done to your liking. I check mine by using and instant read thermometer. When the chops reach 160 degrees they are fully cooked and no pink will remain but they will still be nice and juicy. This will take about 15 minutes depending on your oven and the chop size.

You can alternatively grill the chops to your liking, too.

You can serve with sautéed onions and a simple chopped tomato salad or with another ZReduction side of your liking.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


Intermittent Fasting

There’s a new buzz phrase in the dieting community that is getting lots of coverage. It’s called intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is the concept of going 12 – 18 hours without food.
Some research is showing it’s a great idea.

When I first developed Plan Z, I designed it as two full meals, or two meals with up to 4 snacks per day. I reasoned (correctly it turns out), that most overweight people aren’t hungry in the morning and don’t feel like eating. I knew I didn’t feel like eating in the morning, and as I asked more and more overweight people, I found a trend brewing. I was not alone in my disinterest in food in the morning.

Whether thin or thick in body mass, it turns out in both camps there are people who are just not naturally wired to eat in the morning. Food actually turns them off.

We all learned that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Turns out for some it’s not true. Depending on how you’re wired, if you’re one of the people who doesn’t want to eat in the morning, your body won’t process the food as efficiently. If you go ahead and eat, it’s more likely to turn that extra food into fat. Yikes!

It’s also been proven that if people who don’t want to eat in the morning skip breakfast, they are not likely to make up the difference later. Many people thought if you didn’t eat breakfast early in the morning that somewhere around 10 or 11 AM you’d be prone to face planting in the donuts in the break room. Again, not true.

So for those who don’t want to eat in the morning, it’s okay. You can stop paying attention to those breakfast cereal ads.

What about those who eat in morning now? Can they benefit from intermittent fasting?
The answer is yes.

Turns out what happens when you go at least 12 hours without eating (and even up to 18), that it causes your hormones to reboot. That cleaning out of your system actually helps your body function more efficiently.

In America (in particular), we have adapted to eating throughout the day. Meals, snacks, drinks for up to 19 hours out of 24 in a lot of cases. That’s actually not good for you. We evolved to have to go periods without food. During the foraging days, maybe it took us a whole extra day to catch up with, and kill, the food we were going to eat. During those times we fasted. That was a good thing as long as it didn’t go on too long.

So if you don’t want to eat breakfast in the morning, don’t. You’ve been made to feel guilty for too long. Let it go, knowing your intermittent fasting is supported by better health.

BONUS MATERIAL

One other question that comes up pretty often is: What if I eat late at night? Is that bad?
The answer to that is yes and no.

Here’s the backstory:

Turns out your body digests at the same rate 24 hours a day. So it’s not necessary to eat early to get your food to digest.
The only issue is whether you go to sleep right after you eat.
Think this through with me...

When you eat late you’re likely tired from your day. It’s bedtime to your brain. So your brain wants to go to sleep.

Eat late at night and your intestines are busy digesting so they want to you to stay awake.
Those things don’t go together very well. You’re confusing your system.

So if you eat late, the idea is to stay up for a while. 3 hours is good. Your body has processed your food by then so your intestines are ready to wind down for the night.

This indicates that it’s perfectly okay for night owls to eat late. Or people who work crazy shifts. It’s alright to do what comes naturally to you.

The only other thing that factors into this is your stomach. If you are prone to heartburn, it’s not a good idea to lie down too soon after eating. That behavior contributes to acid reflux. That’s uncomfortable and can be downright painful.

Good news is when you lose weight you’re less likely to be prone to things like heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD. Another fabulous reason to get your weight under control.

Cheers,

Pork Chops with Thyme and Mustard

An easy and tasty meal that comes together in a jiffy. Big Yum!


How your waistline can expose your health risk

It’s that time of year. You go to your doctor for the annual physical. The nurse has weighed you on the way in. Now you’re sitting on the exam table in the horrible paper gown waiting for the doctor to appear.

The doc walks in the door and declares that you officially obese. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) has been calculated and it’s over 30. You hang your head in shame and your doctor tells you that it’s time you lose some weight. You need to get your BMI under 30 at the very least. If you don’t, you’re at risk for diseases that are associated with obesity. Things like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems are lurking in your future. Your heart sinks.

The rest of the physical is completed. You get dressed and you walk out the door.

Now what?

You don’t even know how they calculated your BMI so how are you supposed to know when you have gotten it under 30?

But I have news.

You don’t have to know how to calculate your BMI. That’s complicated and not particularly accurate; especially if you are very tall or very short. There is a better way.

New studies show there's a simple way to calculate if you are at risk for the diseases associated with obesity. It’s the waist to height ratio.

We all know how tall we are. We can all measure our waistline. All the tools we need are right at hand.

Here’s how it works:

Measure your waistline one inch above your belly button. If you are feeling like cheating, you can even try to suck in your belly a bit. It’s really the stuff you can’t suck in that counts the most in this measurement.

Jot that number down.

If that number is one half of your height in inches or less, then you are at a much lower risk for serious health issues that severely overweight people succumb to.

So here’s an example. If you are a 5’6” woman your height in inches is 66. Right?

Divide that by two. You want your waistline to be 33 inches or smaller.

If you are a 6’3” guy your height in inches is 75. Divide that by two and strive to hit a goal of a waistline that is 37.5” or less.

Simple math, but very important information.

Here’s some scary information. If your waist to height ratio shows your waistline equals 80% of your height, studies show you will live (on average) 17 years less than someone whose waist to height ratio falls at the 50% number. That’s a big deal and a big incentive to keep an eye on your waistline and work to get your waist to height ratio on target.

Cheers,

Vindaloo

This is probably the spiciest offering for Plan Z. So if you like Indian food and you like it spicy, this is your ticket.


Chive Butter Biscuits

Plan Z Phase: This is a Z3.5 (ZReboot 3.5) recipe. This is a combination of a few recipes I found. Love the fact that these are low carb and tasty! Limit yourself to just one and you’ll be fine. Share the rest. You could also make mini-biscuits and just bake them a shorter time. 8 – 10 minutes depending on what size you make them.

Serving Size: Makes four sizable biscuits. Can be easily doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 1 - 1/2 Tbl of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus two Tbl of super fine ground almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ - 1 tsp of minced, fresh chives
  • ¼ cup of shredded cheddar (optional)
  • Melted butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

The technique for these biscuits is simple. All you need is a fork and couple of bowls. Follow these easy steps to biscuit perfection!

Cut cold fat (butter) into dry ingredients with the tines of your fork, rotating the bowl around with your other hand until the mixture has pea-sized chunks throughout.

Chill mixture in the fridge for 5-10 minutes minimum. The longer the better. The more the fat can get cold and hard, the puffier your biscuits will be.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Reserve yolks for another use. Whisk egg whites with a fork or whisk in a bowl for 20 seconds, until no longer stringy and gloppy. You just want them a little foamy.

Remove mixture from fridge and whisk in the egg whites for a couple of seconds, breaking up any massive chunks in the dough with your whisk or fork. It'll be extremely runny dough with chunks of the almond mixture. Stir in your chive bits. Pour batter into greased foil-lined ramekins or nonstick muffin cups. Sprinkle on the cheddar if you are using it. Get the pan into the hot oven before the fat can even THINK about softening!

Bake for 15 minutes. The edges of these biscuits stick really badly, so be sure to grease liberally whatever vessel you're using to bake these. Some sort of non-stick pan works best here! Silicone muffin cups are great, too. Foil-lined ramekins are alright, but you have to gently tease the muffins out of the foil. While they are still hot you can brush on some melted butter and serve. Otherwise serve with butter to put in the insides.

Enjoy!

Cheers,


How Fast Can You Lose Weight and Stay Healthy?

The question is: How fast can you lose weight and stay healthy?
I’m not sure anyone knows the answer for sure. In my experience with dieting, I’ve heard everything.

Those who say you can only lose 1 – 2 pounds a week and diet safely are using methodologies that generally can only produce 1 – 2 pounds of weight loss per week. That doesn’t mean that’s the only healthy pace at which you can lose weight.

Years ago I worked on two occasions with diet doctors that I often refer to as diet gurus. These gentlemen were MDs and tops in their field. They put me on extreme diets that were designed to help me lose weight quickly and safely. They put me on those diets with a goal of hitting a number on the scale. There was no regard for keeping my losing efforts down to a slow pace like 1 – 2 pounds a week.

One of these diets I did in the late 80’s. It was the same liquid diet that Oprah did. We happened to be on it at the same time. She lost 67 pounds. Remember the famous wagon of fat she brought on stage? On the same diet, I lost 52 pounds. I was on that diet for almost three months. The methodology for that diet was almost totally liquid. I drank shakes that came in a powdered form and I added water. I ate a half of a banana or a handful of raspberries once a day. And I took fiber 3 times a day. That was it. No other food. Only water to drink.

I visited the doctor each week and they weighed me and took my blood pressure. Once every month they gave me a blood test. I stayed healthy (according to them) the whole time and the weight just poured off. Many would say that was crazy. I spent about $5000 in that effort.

When the diet was over I went back to counting calories and eating what I thought was a healthy diet. I, of course, gained it all back and more.

On the other diet, I took two drugs and cut my portions. I followed a food list they gave me and stuck to it like glue. I checked in at the clinic each week. The doctors there decided my metabolism was shot. They could not figure out why I only ate 700 calories a day and had such a horrible time losing weight. I took those drugs for 18 months and lost a total of 13 pounds. They decided I was one of their failures. Two years later they came looking for me to do tests on my heart because one of the drugs was causing heart failure in some patients. That was scary. These guys were the tops in their field and still didn’t have a perfect answer.

In both of these cases, I was “cut loose” after the diet. No education beyond calories in/calories out and of course exercise. We all know that. It’s just that it’s not a correct answer either.

In case number one I learned that extreme liquid dieting isn’t a long-term answer. In case number two I learned that cutting calories down to starvation level isn’t an answer either. During both diets, I exercised with a trainer so that wasn’t the secret.

Today I want to introduce you to one of Plan Z’s dieting success stories. This guy’s real name is Josh but everyone calls him Biggie.

Biggie has been dieting the Plan Z way for 2 years. He’s lost over 276 pounds and the interesting thing is he’s lost the weight in almost exactly 275 days of dieting. He goes into reduction mode for 50 days at a time. Then, in-between, he applies the knowledge we taught him on how to maintain his weight. He goes into the maintenance phase of the diet for six weeks or longer and then decides when he wants to go back into losing mode.

Biggie’s not finished losing weight. He started with us at over 500 pounds. He’s made super progress and he’s proud. We are proud of him, too.

Biggie was facing bariatric surgery. His doctors had told him that he was actually too big for the surgery. He had to lose over 100 pounds before he could even qualify for the surgery. He was only 25 years old and was facing an early death if he didn’t find a solution. That’s when we met him. No other diet he ever tried worked for him but he was going to give it one last try. He tried Plan Z.

Now Biggie won’t be getting bariatric surgery. He’s found a way to lose weight and keep it off so he can keep losing and continuing to get healthier. He can ride roller coasters now. He can walk long distances without having to stop and rest. He eats things he loves and gets all the satisfaction he needs from his food. His blood pressure is normal now. He sleeps like a baby. His doctor is amazed.

So Biggie loses weight at a pace of about a pound a day. Some days less, some days more. This has proven to be a safe pace for him. Most of our dieters aren’t as big as Biggie. The average Plan Z dieter loses 31 pounds in 50 days.

If you want to read more about Biggie and hear it from his perspective click here. My hope is that if you or someone you know has a weight issue, they can be inspired by Biggie’s story. Biggie inspires me, for sure.

 

 


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!


WPKO's Sam Tyler: The Best Decision I Ever Made

Sam Tyler, a former radio DJ in Bellefontaine, Ohio, is now living a whole new life after losing over 206 lbs on Plan Z. His manager encouraged him to try Plan Z, and although he was skeptical at first, he followed the program and lost 62 pounds in his first 50 days on ZReduction. After such astounding results, he was so motivated he continued with the diet and has lost 206 pounds to date.

"It sounds a little cliche, but I feel like a totally different person...I feel great, and not only physically I feel better but I'm emotionally more confident...it's like I'm a whole new man....

"I was up over 500 pounds and you get used to [thoughts like] Oh, I can't sit in that type of chair because the armrests are too narrow, or My knees hurt every day...I didn't have diabetes or anything like that but I felt just, kind of sluggish all the time. Now that I'm eating healthier, I'm lighter and my body is able to take care of itself a little bit better I just don't feel so slogged down....

"I think for me, the biggest thing was the diet doesn't focus on what you can't eat. You know, you do a lot of diets and it's like, You can't eat this, you can't eat that, where with Plan Z it's like, hey here are the things you're allowed to eat. Let's give you some recipes. Teach you to cook. Learning what I'm able to eat and learning how to prepare food for myself instead of just getting things, that's the biggest thing because now I'm able to take those ideas and take those recipes with me to be able to maintain my weight now...Education is a huge part of this."

And with the education provided by Plan Z, he's sticking to that new life with ease.

Hear him in his own words below:

I feel flattered a lot of the time. Everybody in my family and my friends have been so supportive of me...it's humbling - a very big deal.