Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trying Jicama

In my quest to find a suitable substitute for potatoes I've tried using several different veggies as replacements in my favorite potato dishes.  Most turned out acceptable, delicious even, but none of them truly tasted like their real potato counterparts and therefore were always lacking a little.  And then I stumbled across the jicama!

What an amazing vegetable it turned out to be.  I had to Google it to find out what it even looked like so that I would know what to look for at the grocery store.  My best description of a jicama is that it is the love child of a potato and a turnip!  I had never paid attention to this vegetable before.  I imagine I always walked right past it to grab a sack of potatoes or carrots before.  However, this will from now on be a veggie I pick up whenever I find them at the store.

I've seen many recipes calling for jicama, most of them were salads using it raw which never sparked my interest.  However when I found a recipe on Food Network's website for jicama matchstick fries, I finally had a reason to give this veggie a try.

The first thing I did was peel and slice the jicama.  I recommend a very sharp knife and being super careful!  I was a little worried I might lose a finger or hand because this baby was pretty darn tough to peel!  The peel is much tougher than that of a potato and seemed thicker too than the peel of a turnip.  Slice off the root end to give yourself a flat base to rest on your cutting board.  That makes it very easy to slice the rest of the jicama.

When I finished slicing it up into thin wafers, I stacked a few of the wafers at a time and sliced them into thin matchstick like pieces.  I was prepared for this to take quite awhile as I have made sweet potato matchsticks many times in the past and those suckers are hard to cut through!  However once you get through that tough peel off the jicama, this is actually a pretty soft juicy vegetable.  Raw it tastes sweet, almost like an apple or a pear which is no wonder I saw it listed in so many yummy salad recipes.

I used a paper towel to pat dry all the matchsticks once they were cut.  Then it was time to preheat the oil and  prepare the seasoning.  If you have a deep fryer, I'm sure that would work great for these, but since I don't I just used a big thick skillet.  I used the same seasoning that I used to put on my sweet potato matchsticks which simply consists of ground black pepper, seasoned salt, and nutmeg.  You could also add a little cayenne if you like a kick to your fries.

I fried them in batches.  I think mine took at least 4 batches for 1 full jicama.  Be careful when placing these in the hot oil because there seems to be a good amount of moisture in this veggie.  I like to put a handful on a big slotted spatula (or a spider if you have one) and lower it down gently into the oil.  This is also the best way for removing them too.

Pictured here on the left is the first batch done and draining on paper towels (minus all the ones I taste tested).  On the right is a picture of all of the matchsticks once they were done.  I toss the seasoning on each batch as they come out of the oil, and I kept them warm in a 200 degree oven while I finished frying the rest.

I really enjoyed these jicama fries.  They don't seem to get as crispy as typical potato fries, but they were quite yummy.  The kids both ate them, and Gray has refused on more than one occasion the turnip fries I've made.  They remind more more of "onion straws" that I've seen several restaurants serve as a garnish on steaks or burgers than fries but were still very much what I was looking for to pair with a nice bacon cheeseburger for dinner.

I will definitely be trying out some more recipes with this awesome veggie.  And for anyone interested, a half cup of raw jicama is only 2.5 net carbs!  I already have ideas for how to turn this into cinnamon apples or even apple pie and to try a few more variations on fries or hash browns.  I believe jicama is truly a more versatile food than a potato and am so glad I finally gave it a try!  I hope you all will give it a try to if you've never had it before, and if you have please share your favorite jicama recipes!

Low Carb Journey Update #3

Two weeks ago I was on cloud 9 with the progress I have made so far.  Today, not only is my head not in the clouds, I feel like I'm digging a hole to China!  The last 2 weeks have been challenging sticking to my goals and maintaining focus.  Several events opened up the opportunity to cheat, and I took more than one of those opportunities without even batting an eyelash!

It all started the night before my birthday.  That morning I had my best weigh in yet!  I was super excited about what I had achieved so I'm not sure what I was thinking when I allowed myself to indulge in chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant!  Perhaps I was thinking of it as a reward for getting to where I was.  More likely I just wasn't thinking at all, because a reward is not something that sabotages your hard work!  On my birthday, I completely let loose for lunch and broke the cardinal rule of low carbing:  I ate french fries!!  I also had a burger and a beer to go with them.  I enjoyed every bit of it, even the chocolate cake I ordered for dessert!  After all it was my birthday right?

That's what I kept telling myself.  Why not celebrate?  It's just one day.  Well it wasn't just one day.  It was the night before, the entire day of, and another meal or two over the next couple days.  Give in to the carbs once, and then cravings come back.  Full force!  And the price just wasn't worth it.  So much for my best weigh in yet.  I undid the last 3 weeks worth of work!  And I'm still fighting cravings again! At last Monday's weigh in, I still hadn't taken off all the weight I'd gained with the cheats, but at least the scale was moving in the right direction again.

Thursday I came down with a cold and yesterday was absolutely horrible.  I forced myself to eat a good breakfast, but for lunch I had absolutely not desire to cook (that required standing up and my head did not want my body to be in that position!) and therefore we opted for a fast food lunch.  It was a terrible cheat.  Not only was the food bad for me, but because of my cold I couldn't even taste the food.  I didn't even get to enjoy that part of it!  I didn't want to fix dinner last night either, but I think the chicken broth I opted for was better than most other things I could have chosen.  And I'm certain it's helped me to feel better today.

Now, I still have the cold, but I also feel I have more focus.  I had a great breakfast and lunch today.  I'm looking forward to a great dinner of chicken and fresh veggies tonight.  In two days I will have another weigh in, and I'm hoping that I've mitigated some of the damage!  Also, we pushed back Alia's first birthday party because of everyone being sick so now I have even more time to plan the best party fare for all.  I'm looking forward to a great week next week, more progress, and more determination than ever to stick to the plan!

PS:  Only 47 days till the wedding!! =)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Low Carb Journey Update #2

It's been a little over 2 weeks since my last weight loss update, and I'm happy to announce that I'm down a little over 2 pounds since then!  There is no doubt about it.  This is definitely working!  Today I am exactly 8 pounds away from my goal weight, and actually only 3 pounds away from the weight I was initially aiming for!  I'm getting excited about how clothes fit now, and I'm also fitting into things that have been buried in the closet for years!  I bought 2 new bikinis, something I haven't worn since just after I graduated high school!  I'm still working on feeling comfortable and confident while wearing them, but I do think I'll get there!

In less than a year I have gone from wearing a size 12 to a size 4.  In all the time I was struggling to diet and lose weight after I had Alia last July, I only dropped one size from then until April.  The rest has all been since I went low carb!  It's a really great feeling to finally be able to pull something off the rack in a store, try it on and actually like how you look!  With the wedding and cruise now just 9 weeks away, I getting more excited by the minute and staying motivated too!

I have many challenges coming up in the next several weeks however, but I'm determined to stay the course.  My (and my twin sister's) birthday is next week.  I need to get on the ball and make my own low carb cheesecake!  Next weekend I'll be attending a rally with a "free lunch" provided, and I have no idea what it will be!  Although now that I'm thinking about it, since it's a function for Juvenile Diabetes I don't think they'd serve us anything too bad!  Then the following week will be the true challenge of my willpower:  the county fair!  Last year, I thought I was doing pretty good by eating the roasted corn on the cob.  Now that I know how high in carbs a single ear of corn is I definitely won't be doing that this year!  I also won't be able to partake in my favorite fair treat, the Farm Bureau chocolate milkshakes!  I know I'll be able to find a burger or a porkchop there somewhere, but it's going to be difficult passing up those old favorites!

After all that is Alia's first birthday!  For Gray's first I made a homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting!  I want to make Alia a homemade cake as well, but I also want to be able to enjoy a piece myself!  I think I will make a regular cake and then some sugar free cupcakes or something similar so I can still partake in the birthday festivities but stay on track!  I'm already making a list of party foods besides the sweets that will work such as meat and veggie trays and Linda's broccoli crunch salad.

With so much to do this month, July is going to be gone before I know it.  Along with it, I'm hoping a few more pounds and inches too!  Hopefully I will have some new recipes to post soon.  Keep checking back!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Flax Seed Waffles

I am all about making nice big breakfasts for the family on weekends.  Before we went low carb, those breakfasts usually included bacon, eggs, and toast or biscuits and gravy.  Now we typically have bacon (or sausage) and eggs, without the toast of course, for breakfasts during the week.  I needed something different for a special weekend breakfast and someone on the Atkins page mentioned flax seed waffles.  I absolutely love waffles, and they sounded like the perfect treat.

The only problem turned out to be finding a recipe!  Most of the recipes I came across only had a small amount of flax seed in them and consisted of primarily white or wheat flour, not exactly low carb!  It took about a half hour of Google searches before I finally came across one that used a combination of flax seed and soy flour.  Finally something I could work with!  The recipe, found here, is called "flax seed soy Belgian waffles".  I only have a regular old fashioned waffle maker, but I think they turned out just fine.  And when I say "old", I'm not using that term lightly.  This thing was given to me by my mother who bought it in 1971!  Despite being so old, it was still new when she gave it to me.  She hadn't used it once in 40 years!  I've used it a handful of times, but I think now that I've discovered low carb waffles this thing will be getting more of a workout.

The recipe for the waffles was quite easy.  Just be sure to make the batter before you preheat your waffle maker.  This gives the batter enough time to thicken up, although this particular batter is pretty thick to begin with.  I'm not going to post the original recipe here because it's not my recipe, but I did make one big change. The original called for one cup of buttermilk or suggested making a sour milk out of vinegar and low fat milk.  Trying to stay carb conscience I substituted the milk for heavy whipping cream and used a teaspoon of lime juice to create a sour milk, letting the mixture curdle before using it in the recipe.  This creates a reaction with the baking soda called for in the recipe helping to create that light fluffy interior of the waffles.  I only used lime juice because that's all I had on hand this morning.  Lemon juice or vinegar would work, but don't think I'd use vinegar because I wouldn't want that flavor to come out in the waffles.

The original author of the recipe mentioned that the waffles had to cook longer after the timer went off (of light went out) on the waffle maker in order to get crisp enough.  I didn't have that problem, mine were done when the light went out.  These waffles came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just like they're meant to be.  They actually had a surprisingly light mouth-feel and were a bit crumbly.  Most of the waffles I have made in the past didn't crisp up enough in this waffle maker, and I ended up putting them in the toaster to get them crisp.  I didn't have to do that with these though!  

With two pieces per person I had five servings of waffles.  Each serving comes out to 5.6 net carbs.  I count the heavy whipping cream as 1 net carb a tablespoon even though the package says it has 0.  I'm a little skeptical of some hidden carbs the particular kind I buy has because the calories and the fat content just don't add up right.  If you find one that's truly 0 carbs, then these would be only 2 net carbs a serving!  For those of you following Atkins, this really should be an OWL and beyond recipe only because of the flax seed and soy flour, however some would argue that it's safe for extended induction (without the blueberries of course).  The waffles pictured here are topped with a quarter cup of blueberries and a sugar free maple syrup making the grand total for this breakfast 10 net carbs.  That's about 9 more than I'd normally have for breakfast, but they were so worth it.  And since I'm just a few pounds shy of moving to the pre-maintenance phase of Atkins I can afford these carbs (especially when they're this delicious).

I'm anxious to play around with this recipe and try some different flavors like cinnamon, chocolate, and even strawberry.  I will probably also try this with whole milk instead of heavy cream next time as well.  The batter was very, very thick with the heavy cream and counting 1 carb per tablespoon actually came out to more carbs than there are in a cup of whole milk.