Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Low Carb Lasagna

I have always liked lasagna, but I never realized how much until I started making a low carb version of this classic dish!  It is so simple, and there's no dealing with those wacky lasagna noodles, either cooked or uncooked.  I've made this a handful of times now and felt it's finally time to share my new favorite recipe!

The inspiration from this recipe once again came from my favorite low carb website, Linda's Low Carb Menus & Recipes.  Her lasagna recipe uses an 8x8 baking dish and makes 6 servings.  Today I wanted to make a bigger version.  I love the leftovers just as much as eating it for dinner!  I used a 2.75 qt casserole dish, however one slightly larger would work as well as this comes out as a pretty thick lasagna.  Mine also made 8 servings although I think it could easily do 9 or 10 servings especially if you use a larger baking dish.

I think the ingredient that makes this lasagna taste so darn good is the Italian sausage.  I used a mild version but it still just gives the flavor a special kick that other regular lasagnas are lacking.  The most unique ingredient is what puts this lasagna in low carb status.  Instead of using pasta between the layers of the lasagna, I use thinly sliced oven-roasted deli turkey breast.  When I first saw Linda's recipe using the turkey breast I was intrigued.  I was also really unsure about how that was going to work out, but it's fantastic.  The turkey really works well with all the other flavors in the lasagna, and it also does it's job of providing a separation between the layers.

Low Carb Lasagna

  • 1 lb ground beef (I use ground chuck)
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 cup tomato sauce*
  • 1 15 oz container of Ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of wilted spinach leaves (about 3 cups fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 9 thin slices of deli turkey breast
  • 8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
*I use Hunts Garlic and Herb tomato sauce.  It comes in a large can and is only 5 net carbs a serving (1/2 cup).  It's the most affordable low carb tomato sauce I have been able to find at the store, and it's also quite tasty!  You could make your own sauce or use any sauce your prefer, but note that you will have to adjust the carb count accordingly!

Directions:  Brown ground beef and Italian sausage together in a large skillet until done.  Drain grease and return to pan.  Stir in tomato sauce.  In a separate pan with lid wilt spinach leaves in 1/4 cup of water.  Drain any excess water and allow to cool slightly.  Mix Ricotta cheese and eggs in a bowl until blended.  Stir in pepper, garlic powder, and spinach.

Layer the lasagna in at least a 2.75 qt casserole dish in this order, from the bottom:
  • 3 slices turkey breast
  • 1/2 meat mixture
  • 1/2 Ricotta mixture
  • 1/2 shredded Mozzarella
  • 3 slices turkey breast
  • remaining meat mixture
  • remaining Ricotta mixture
  • 3 slices turkey breast
  • remaining shredded Mozzarella
  • grated Parmesan on top
Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.  Let stand for at least 5-10 minutes before slicing to serve.  

 Left:  Lasagna before going into the oven      Right: Lasagna resting after baked

The lasagna can be baked immediately or covered and stored in the fridge or freezer.  I prepared it early in the day and put it in the fridge until ready to bake for dinner.  I have also prepared this before and left in the freezer for several days until I wanted an easy dinner!  However, if you do freeze it, move it to the fridge the day you are going to bake it to allow ample time to thaw.  Also leave it on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking it to allow the casserole dish time to adjust to a warmer temperature.  Also, as hard as it might be, don't skimp on the resting time once the lasagna is done baking.  Not only does it allow the lasagna to cool slightly so it's easier to eat, but it helps the lasagna to hold its shape better once it's cut into servings.

For 8 servings, this lasagna is 8 net carbs a serving.  If you made it into 9 servings it would 7 net carbs, and if you wanted to even make it 10 smaller servings, it would only be 6 net carbs a serving!  This dish would be perfect for having friends over for dinner and paired with a great salad it's a fantastically filling and delicious low carb meal.  I would bet even non-low carbers would like this spin on lasagna!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another week down

I just finished some leftover Florentine chicken Alfredo and roasted tomato leftover from dinner last night, and I'm sitting here killing some time before I dive into today's workouts.  Mondays are one of my favorite days of the week now unlike most people.  I look forward to weighing in for a ladies-only weight loss group on Facebook as well as a mommy weight loss challenge on MyFitnessPal.  There are such amazing and dedicated women in both of these groups that it's easy to stay motivated all week long in order to share my positive results with them.  Today was no exception.  I lost 2 pounds this week!

I am now just a hair over 5 pounds away from what was my initial goal weight (I know want to lost 5 more pounds than that, so 10 more pounds total).  I'm losing inches too.  I love looking at the spreadsheet I track all my numbers in and seeing the totals drop each week!  I have more energy, clothes fit better, and I have been making some really good food too!  Its hard to believe it's "diet" food!  Also this week, I decided to try on the dress I bought for my wedding back in April.  I'm so glad I did, because I was literally swimming in it.  I couldn't believe how big it was.  I've ordered a smaller size now and can't wait till it gets here!  With just over 2 months before the wedding though, I'm honestly afraid if I keep this up I may be exchanging it for a smaller size again!  Well, I guess not afraid...that's a good thing right?!

I started Jillian Michael's 30 day shred this weekend.  After just one workout I was dripping with as much sweat as if I had just done an hour long P90x workout.  After two workouts, I was having a hard time walking up and down the stairs!  My legs are so sore!  In a little while I'll be doing it again for day 3.  I think it's definitely working, and I'm glad I took the suggestions of so many other to try it.  Two things I don't like about the DVD however are that there is so much you have to listen to at the beginning of the DVD before the workout even begins.  I find it annoying you can't just jump to the menu to begin the workout.  I also don't like that there's not a timer on it at all.  I know it's only 20 minutes of actual workout, but I want to see that clock and it helps keep me going knowing how many minutes are left.  I guess I'm just so used to that with the P90x DVDs.

Another encouraging part of the week for me was being approached by several people about a low carb diet.  To me that means people are definitely noticing the results, whether its the numbers I'm posting online or actually seeing me in person.  I'm excited about showing other people the opportunity to feel better about themselves and get healthier as well.  I hope for success for all of them!

I'm not posting a recipe here today, but I did want to leave you a picture of the wonderful dinner we had last night and what I just finished off for lunch today.  The recipes for the Florentine chicken Alfredo and roasted (she calls them grilled) tomatoes are on Linda's Low Carb webiste.  Alright, I think my food may be digested enough for Jillian Michaels to kick my butt again!  Happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Low Carb Journey Update

I've been doing low-carb for about two months now.  I do a weekly weigh-in and check my measurements every Monday morning and track them in a spreadsheet.  It is incredible to watch the changes in such a short period of time.  I feel better and feel like I look better than I have in nearly 8 years (minus the stretch marks of course, but I'm learning to deal with those).  I have more energy.  I crave activity and sunlight, instead of sugar and starch!

Everyday I'm finding new ways to make my old favorites into new healthier favorites!  And the results are tasting so much better than I ever thought!  Last night I made a recipe called enchilada chicken paillard.  I've been making green chili and chicken enchiladas lately with low carb tortillas but find that we don't even want the tortillas now, low carb or not.  I found this recipe on Linda's Low Carb website, my new favorite place to check out before I go to the grocery store and when I'm not sure what to make for dinner.

I didn't cook the chicken the same way her recipes suggests.  I instead put some chicken breasts in the crock pot with a little salsa and let them cook for several hours.  I then let them rest for about 5 minutes before shredding them.  I love shredded chicken and to me that's what enchiladas are all about!  I also didn't have any red peppers, but I think I'm the only one around here that would eat them anyway.  Instead of the peppers, I served the paillard over a bed of shredded lettuce and topped with some fresh chives to make sure  I still got all my veggies in!  By the way, paillard is a French culinary term for quick cooking or pounded piece of meat.  I had never heard of it before so I hit up Google for the definition.  My method for this recipe definitely negates the "paillard" so I'm just going to call them faux enchiladas, or something like that.  I'm open to good suggestions!

Regardless of what you call it the result was delicious!  I think I will always make enchiladas this way from now on!  And in case your counting, it's 6-7 net carbs depending on how big your serving is.  I think we had about 5 servings in the whole recipe.  I can't wait for lunchtime today to eat the leftovers!

Back to my journey (lets divert our minds from that yummy picture for just a second).  I am so grateful for finally jumping on this bandwagon.  I honestly feel like it's the best thing I could do for my health and my family!  My kids, who are both still so young, are going to grow up knowing how to make healthy food choices!  I am doing my best to put a stop to the diabetes that passes down from generation to generation in my family.  It won't make it to me!

I want to thank everyone that encourages me through these changes.  I want to remind everyone however that this is not a diet; this is not something I will be doing for a couple months to lose a few more pounds and then give up.  This is a new lifestyle.  As I learn more about how my body handles certain foods, I will be able to eat more and more carbs each day.  I may even have a cheat every now and then.  But this is my life from here on out.  And it's only going to get better!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Flax Meal Cookies

I know I've said this before but I have to say it again.  I have a serious problem with making a recipe as-is!  I always feel like there is something I have to add, take away, or change in a recipe.  Sometimes these little experiments can go horribly wrong, and sometimes (this being one of them) they go beautifully!  There is nothing more exciting than getting creative in the kitchen, except maybe indulging in the yummy results!

So here is the recipe I stumbled across on Linda's Low carb website:  Cocoa Flax Cookies.  I had actually been looking at all her cheesecake recipes because I picked up some cream cheese at the store today and really wanted to try one.  Many of them call for the sugar-free Da Vinci syrups just like this cookie recipe, however I have not gotten around to buying any of these yet.  I wish I could go buy every flavor complete with pumps and setup a syrup bar on my counter.  I'd spend all day making new and fabulous concoctions!  Alas, I haven't done this (yet!) so I had to get creative.  I remembered I did have some Hershey's sugar-free chocolate syrup in the fridge.  I've only ever used it to make chocolate milk for my son or on top of some Breyer's Carb Smart ice cream.  I didn't even know if you could bake with it!  But I gave it the ol' college try!

As I was stirring the chocolate syrup into the mix, I started thinking about one of my favorite cookies I haven't had since I started a low carb diet, no-bake cookies!  In fact I haven't had anything with oatmeal in it.  Anyway, I thought maybe I could make these taste like no-bake cookies so I ran to the pantry for my peanut butter (all natural, low sugar).  I added only a tablespoon to the batter, however I may try adding a little more next time.  After they were in the oven, I also thought about adding vanilla extract.  That's another ingredient in no-bake cookies and I think it would enhance the flavor even more.  It was too late to add it to this batch, but I'll definitely be making these again so I will do that next time.

This recipe is so fast and easy.  Almost too easy!  I think it will definitely be one of my go to snacks.  Flax meal is so filling and each cookie is only 1 net carb!  I can have two or even three and still be good!  I think grabbing one of these between meals would be enough to last until it was time to eat again or these would even be a quick fix for that late night need-to-snack-before-bed craving!

Each cookie is 50 calories, 3g of fat, 4g of carbs, 3g of fiber, and 3g of protein.  They come out really dark, mostly because of the chocolate syrup, but they are incredibly light.  They actually taste more like a bite of brownie than a cookie.  My son has been calling them "donut cookies" and keeps asking for more!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Flax Meal Cookies

  • 1 cup golden flax meal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons sugar-free chocolate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add flax meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda to a medium bowl.  Whisk thoroughly.  Add eggs, syrup, and peanut butter.  Stir well with a spoon.  Drop batter by teaspoon fulls onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Makes 16 cookies.
*Recipe adapted from Linda's Low Carb

Update:  Adding an extra tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 tsp of vanilla really increases the flavor of these cookies!  I didn't recalculate the nutritional information, but a couple extra carbs between 16 (or even more if you make them a tad smaller) cookies, doesn't change it much!

Low Carb Buffalo Chicken Tenders

Oh the joys of finding new ways to make things!  One of the house favorites around here is buffalo chicken strips.  Breading the chicken for me meant double dredging the chicken in seasoned flour and dipping in a mixture of egg and milk.  Then I would fry the chicken, brush it with buffalo sauce, and then bake it in the oven.  So juicy and delicious!  However flour, at least the all purpose kind, and milk is sort of off limits on a low carb diet so I needed to get creative.

My new favorite website gave me some inspiration.  Linda's Low Carb has a recipe for tuna patties that I've made before.  I thought they were pretty good, but I'm not a fan of fish so I decided to make them with canned chicken instead.  Definitely the preferred method for me!  Then I thought why not turn these into buffalo chicken patties?  I added some hot sauce and other spices to the mix before frying and also served with a little splash of hot sauce on top and ranch dressing for dipping.  They were okay, but definitely not satisfying the need for my homemade buffalo chicken.  I really missed that breaded chicken texture and these patties really have too much of an egg texture.

I went back to Linda's website and started looking at all the chicken recipes again.  Finally I came across one I thought could work.  She has a recipe for breaded chicken cutlets that stood out.  The picture of the chicken looked wonderful with a nice crispy crust perfect for brushing on a little buffalo sauce!  I thought about just trying the recipe as-is for dinner tonight, but I'm out of Parmesan cheese and I really just wanted to have buffalo chicken anyway.  I want to give her all the credit here because I would have never considered what she used for breading until I saw this recipe!  Please check out her site and other recipes for more great low carb dishes!  Again I took inspiration from her recipe but made several modifications.

Low Carb Buffalo Chicken Tenders
  • 2-3 Boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally and sliced in tenders (or save yourself the time and use already cut chicken tenders)
  • 2 1/2 ounces pork rinds (I used a plain, but I think hot and spicy would be good for this too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more or less depending on how spicy you like your food)
  • 1 egg
  • oil for frying (I use canola oil and enough to cover the pan about 1/4 inch)
Buffalo sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Makes 4-5 servings

To make the breading, combine the pork rinds and spices in a food processor and pulse until all of the rinds are broken up into small coarse pieces.  Transfer to a plate or shallow dish.  In a separate shallow dish whisk the egg till frothy.  Linda's recipe only uses the egg white for this.  I personally hate wasting a perfectly good egg yolk, plus I needed the extra liquid it gives so I used a whole egg.  Heat oil in a large skillet.  When oil is ready, dip chicken tenders one a time into the egg and then coat with the breading.  Fry in skillet 4-5 at a time (depending on the size of your skillet) for a few minutes on each side.  Do not overcrowd the skillet as this reduces the temperature of the oil and the chicken will take longer to cook.  When tenders are done transfer to a plate lined with several layers of paper towel.  Repeat until all of the tenders have been cooked.  I had about 14 tenders from cutting up 3 chicken breasts.

Before starting to fry your last batch of tenders, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer buffalo sauce on low while finishing cooking the chicken tenders.  Normally I would have added corn starch to this sauce to thicken it up, but since that's high in carbs I simply omitted it.  It doesn't change the flavor, just the consistency of the sauce.

When all the tenders are done, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet (can also line with foil for easier cleanup).  Brush each tender with the buffalo sauce.  Transfer sheet to oven for 5-10 minutes.  I use this time to prepare or finish preparing whatever sides I am serving with the buffalo chicken, in tonight's case we had a side salad and Brussels sprouts.  I also used to serve my buffalo chicken tenders with a nice big dipping cup of ranch dressing, however I chose to eat them plain tonight and had 1 tablespoon of ranch dressing on my side salad instead.  I got the same affect for a lot less carbs!

Buffalo chicken tenders just out of the oven

I was pleasantly surprised at how good these turned out.  They are definitely not as thick as the high carb version I used to make, but I actually think this breading held up a little better than the flour breading when the buffalo sauce is added.  I was also really surprised that they didn't taste like pork rinds, especially because I used half a bag of them!  In fact, unless someone saw you add the pork rinds to the food processor, I don't think they'd ever be able to guess that's what these were made with.  

It's difficult to estimate the calories per serving in this recipe, but the great thing about low carb is that we don't need to worry about those anyway!  It really depends on how many tenders you make out of it and of course how many of them you eat.  Regardless, count about 1 gram of carbs per serving (approximately 3 tenders).  And as always, enjoy!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bum Week

I knew this was to be expected, but I still didn't want it to happen.  I have been super excited at the success of the last few weeks and also reaching a major milestone on the scale.  However, it appears as if my scale is now stuck.  Discouraged, I fell off the low-carb bandwagon last night too.  Although it was a super special occasion.  We went to a wedding last night.  It the first evening I have been dressed up and kid-free at the same time.  All the more reason to celebrate!

Normally, I would wait until Monday to kick start a diet, however I don't see the significance of waiting till the weekend is over now.  What makes Monday so special for beginning again?  I'm at stay-at-home-mom so my schedule doesn't really change much just because it's the weekend.  The kids still wake up at the same time even though it's Saturday, although Daddy might sleep a couple extra hours.  Besides, this low-carb diet isn't really a diet, but a lifestyle.  I fall off the bandwagon; I jump right back on.

Breakfast and lunch were great.  I'm at 5 net carbs so far today, so I have plenty of room for a great dinner and even a snack.  I've even got a new recipe to try for dinner from Linda's Low Carb Recipes.  I haven't worked out yet today, but I keep thinking about it.  Surely that burns a few calories right?  I'm determined to get one in, or at the very least get outside and run around in the sprinkler with my son.  As much as he loves to pretend to workout with me, I think he'd enjoy playing in the water more!

I'm still not looking forward to the number on the scale this week.  Although I know I'll still see a number that only a few months ago and for the last several years, I didn't think I'd see again!  I'm an only 10 pounds away from my initial goal weight, however I want to knock 5 more pounds off that now.  I'm aiming for the number on my driver's license!  I know for sure that when my license was renewed 5 years ago, it wasn't accurate!  But who really wants to admit to the BMV how much weight they've gained?  My new goal will be for that the only thing to stay the same on my license when I go to get a new one later this year.  After all I'll finally be updating my address and my last name!!

Anyway, so even though this week has been a tough plateau, I'm going to keep on this journey.  I have found some wonderful avenues of support recently that are so encouraging!  Keep checking back for new recipes, as I hope to have some new and delicious things to share!