Wednesday, January 9

The Divine Chicken Salad

Most chicken salad is a mayo-mix kind of thing, like potato or egg salad. My chicken salad is a salad, with chicken.

It has too many ingredients. If you count carbs religiously and at induction level, let alone gross vs. ecc (minus fiber), it's a little bit carby. But damn it's good.

It actually requires three things be made. I know this sounds like a major pain in the butt. But the dressing I usually keep made all the time. The chicken I can semi-stir-fry easily while I'm chopping veggies. So really it's mostly just the time to cut up the salad stuff.

Dressing: First, so it has some time for ingredients to sit together (the longer the better):


The original, which is probably better, by the fabulous chef Karen Barnaby, is HERE. My version has less mayo.

  • 4 oz. blue or gorganzola cheese, crumbled. This is usually how much is in the containers you buy at the store, fortunately.

  • 1 cup sour cream. You can buy 8oz sour cream containers too, conveniently.

  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise. I've left this out entirely before without much loss in my opinion.

  • 2 cloves minced garlic or 1 teaspoon jar'd pre-minced garlic. (I use more if it's fresh.)

  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar. I've used apple cider vinegar too and it was ok.

  • A little sea salt, and a bunch of fresh-cracked black pepper.

Mix it up. Stick it in the fridge. If you decide you want it thinner, just add a little water, and then beat it with a whisk to beat the water in, works fine.

This dressing is simply fabulous on everything. A couple tablespoons I often have on round steak, burger patties, pork cutlets, any kind of veggie, any kind of side dish... it's really good. Once you've made it, especially if you buy stuff in the size of the ingredients noted above, it's super quick to make -- we're talking about 3 minutes -- no big deal at all.


You can do these however you like of course. This is how I do them. I make sure my soy sauce is gluten-free, by the way. Tamari, Bragg, and La Choy are.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or type of your choice). I use about four of them but again, quantity of your choice. Use kitchen scissors (or very clean scissors :-)) and cut them into chunks, about 1-2 bites per chunk.

  • A little garlic, a little ginger, some peanut oil, and a little soy sauce. Sautee or stir-fry your chicken chunks until done, and then remove them from the oil and let them drain. You can change the oil/seasonings here to your taste.

  • When you're done, dump out any remaining oil and fry 4-6 slices of bacon in the pan till crispy. Let cool, then crumble.


This is more a concept than a specific recipe. The concept goes like this: take everything you have that you can imagine in a salad, and put it there. So, everything here is 'optional'. You can trade out types, or entire ingredients, for other things, or leave stuff out.

  • Romaine Lettuce

  • Red-Leaf Lettuce

  • Spinach (fresh leaves)

  • Bell peppers of every color

  • Anaheim chilis (if you can stand mild chilis)

  • Black Olives

  • Unsalted sunflower seeds

  • Jack cheese, cut into small fingernail-sized chunks

  • Avocado, also cut into small chunks

  • Radish or Cucumber or whatever else you like

  • Broken up pecans or walnuts

  • Tear up the leaves. Slice up the peppers (fine). Cut the olives in half. Dice-chunk your cheese and avocado. Slice up any other veggie. Add nuts and seeds. Mix it all up. In a perfect world, let it sit for awhile after you do that.

When all this stuff is in place, toss it together... portions of your liking. Mix the salad stuff, with chicken chunks. When you're done, mix in blue cheese dressing. You don't want to drown in it, but you don't want too little. I recommend thinning it quite a bit so you have the taste everywhere but it's not overwhelming.

You can't not like this, if you use everything you already like the taste of. :-) And here you get protein (chicken), fat (avocado, cheese, a little oil, seeds and nuts), and a few carbs (but not many and most are actually fiber, aside from the dressing), and LOTS of veggies in your day!


Friday, January 4

Designing Your Appetite

Some days when I am crankier than usual, there is something that really bugs me about, in general, "the low carb world" that I see online. (Meaning, the overall 'social result' of community.) Do you ever notice this?

It's this: so many people just want to eat crap.

If you tell them they can't have crappy carbs, they instantly start doing everything they can to reproduce the crap in a lowcarb fashion.

Surely this must be what inspired all those horrible frankenfood pseudo-lowcarb abominations that bombed in the grocery world (and gave the erroneous impression to marketers that "low-carb is dead" as a result).

I found that when I quit eating things breaded, for example, I quit needing to find semi-lowcarb grain-based specialty-foods for breading stuff. This matters because, even though you can do it, most the time it means you use the majority of your daily carb on lowcarb bread crumbs or carbquik instead of on something actually good for you like veggies. (Or at least almonds or seeds or cheese or something.)

If it were just a little in a muffin batch or meatloaf it'd be one thing, but foods with major elements that are based on crappy food have more than one problem.

I've nothing against creative food. It's one of my personal focii in fact. And I've nothing against reproducing highcarb food in lowcarb ways really, that's natural. Except that some things, you really cannot produce in a lowcarb way without either getting into highly processed stuff or ...

Or without keeping your taste for it. If despite being lowcarb, I continued to eat tacos instead of taco salad, burgers instead of pattymelts, and breaded chicken instead of baked, roasted, crocked, parm'd, grilled chicken, then I would still WANT those things.

A great deal of going-off-lowcarb seems to hinge on the person feeling like there is something that is high-carb that they just aren't getting. Over time, I've come to feel that in fact, the problem is not that there is something they aren't getting. The problem is that they have not adapted to "wanting what they have."

Think of it like an appetite for sex -- food being related. ;-) A man might not have the buxom blonde coworker he thinks is sexy, but that is only an issue if he really wants her. If he is happy with his woman, he won't CARE that he doesn't/can't have the other one; it may be eye-candy just like some high-carb foods are, sure, but it's just no big deal and there is no real desire that would make him give up what he has.

Well I think it's kinda similar with food. If a person keeps eating "crap-LIKE" foods, they continue their appetite for crap food. Then when someone goes, "Hey, here's some crap food!" they eventually think, "Wow, that looks great, and it's even more familiar-tasting than the crap-LIKE food I've been faking on lowcarb!"

But if you adapt people to eating real food in a way that is healthy, and they learn to like real food made healthily, then they have far less reason to "go off" lowcarb. They don't feel like they're "missing or faking" a burger bun with lettuce. They don't feel like they're missing a tortilla when they eat the ingredients as a hot plate. They don't feel like they're missing breading when they eating roasted chicken.

And eventually, they will breed an appetite, and a FAMILIARITY, with good food, and reduce both appetite and familiarity with the crap. Familiarity is one of the big issues too.

So, some days it just irks me to see so many trying to stuff highcarb into lowcarb. Crap is crap. I don't care if Wheat Protein Isolate and Sweetzfree and ThickNThin made it possible to just barely squeeze that food through the digestive system as "a mostly low-carb ECC" value. That only means that
(a) all those carbs someone could have eaten in life-giving food, they didn't, and
(b) they continue their familiarity with that food, and
(c) they continue their appetite for food that tastes like that, and
(d) they continue their dependence on specialty foods the local grocery likely doesn't have or that cost more.

I'm not saying we can't use high-carb or specialty-stuff. I do. I'm just saying that sometimes I see people who so overwhelm their food with it, either so often, or so overwhelmingly in a given dish, that the reality is, they are NOT "adapting to eating lowcarb as a lifestyle," they are instead, "attempting to temporarily adapt lowcarb eating to be just like the crappy highcarb eating they always did, except the carbs, and a sense of 'fake/not as good'."

Until people learn to LIKE lowcarb well enough that they have NO REASON to be "so tempted by that buxom blonde breaded-fried chicken that they "fall off the wagon" and have some, lowcarb is going to BE a wagon that they can fall off.

Because that is really the point: men don't sleep with the secretary because they want her, they sleep with her because they have lost interest or concern for their wife. So the reality is that the reason for the wandering-into-badlands is about his relationship with his wife and how he feels about that. If you see what I mean. Well if your relationship with your lowcarb food is great, you have no reason to feel you "need" high-carb food. Because it isn't about what you don't have, it's about how well you like and are comfortable with what you DO have.

When you can eat a piece of roasted chicken, a plain hamburger patty, some stir fried broccoli, and be genuinely happy for it -- love it, have it be your most familiar food, have it be something your body learns to have an appetite for -- lowcarb is no longer HARD. It's easy and constant and familiar.

Anything that's hard, is usually temporary. So it matters.

That is my soapbox for the night!


Thursday, January 3

The Kid and Low-Carb

In mid-2005 I had a long talk with my Ex. It had been 5 years since I'd made him move out, which means all the way back to Canada, for a long list of unusually good reasons. We hadn't been more than roommates since Jan 1997 anyway. He wanted to come back (as a roommate-only) and this time 'for real' apply for citizenship (finally). No matter that I had no desire to put up with him again, I knew that my kid having her dad locally vs. in another country had to be the priority.

Suddenly inspired, as he likes to cook and garden, I told him that one of the requirements of our agreement, would be that he would cook. Lowcarb, so that I could be healthier without taking all the time myself since I worked, and semi-lowcarb (at the least, "real food") for the kid, who was beginning to get just a little chubby. Given my weight, of course, I was worried for her, and wanted to stop that in its tracks. She was about 4'9-4'10 then, and about 110 lbs.

Like most things that you know are bad ideas, those wrong things that you are doing for the right reasons, it didn't work out anything like I planned.

He still "couldn't get around to" applying for citizenship, turned my entire house into such an ebay warehouse there was no room for a kitchen table or even more than a sideways-path through the living room, all while not providing a dime of his income for rent, food, bills, the kid, etc. After previously having ruined me with an IRS situation I will probably never afford to resolve as long as I live, he promptly settled into the same routine again. But...

Worse, in the end, was the food issue. He had no actual interest in making LC food, so most the time I didn't eat. When he would make something, it was only if it was easy enough to involve LC bread, but since I'm gluten intolerant, then I'd have asthma/allergies, worse apnea problems, lower oxygen level, etc. (Not that he cared, of course!) When I got inspired to do it myself in frustration, he'd promptly make garlic bread or something he knew was my biggest weakness, or the kitchen (now 'his') would be so gross I'd just walk away again with no appetite. So I gradually gained weight, from 414 to 467 over 12 months, which I had to lose (fortunately I lost all that and more from Sep-Dec 06).

When it came to the kid, he had even less concern than I had previously, I guess. She ate dominantly fast food and mac&cheese and spaghetti and so on. After 18 months, the kid had gained well over 50 lbs (weighing 165 at 4'11), serious cellulite, the inability to get into anything sold in walmart that is wearable without fashion suicide, could barely get in the biggest karate gi, and now had a nightmare of taunting and humiliation at school. Since the other problems with him were just as present as ever, that was it, and I gave up and made him leave before he ruined my life twice.

That left the kid's eating habits back in my court.


So then I wanted to put her on lowcarb, but nearly everybody made it clear to me that my eating plan was 'extreme' and that this would be totally inappropriate for a child. Sure, I could avoid McDonald's, but "whole grains!" were "necessary", and apples and bananas and plums and corn and so on, "How could fruit and veggies be unhealthy?"

The leading critic was my stepmother, who thinks the ADA advice is the law. (Her family, under this advice, has died off eyes by feet by heart attacks by cancer for the last 20 years, but this has not changed her views.) We had actual arguments about pasta.

The consensus seemed to be that my denying my kid mac&cheese was some kind of child abuse, because "all things in moderation" was the answer to life, and "pasta is not harmful, and kids love it!". The fact that I didn't want her eating potatoes was treated with an attitude as if I'd said that I was sacrificing her to an alien god. I mean it was crazy how simply avoiding high-carbs, not eating a potato, was seen as such a major thing.

Then age 10, she was a carb addict already, begging constantly for bread-pasta-sugar products, to the degree that she didn't WANT to eat anything else, and would NOT eat anything else if anything with carbs/sugar was an option. It was hard even for me to stay on lowcarb when my house was filled with carby crap I love too of course, and she was constantly begging for fast food or sweets etc.

So about 8 months later, which is around October of '07, she was 5'0 and 160. She'd grown at least an inch in the previous 8 months and yet was around the same on the scale, so at least she wasn't gaining MORE weight. But she had reached the point where her karate gi just wouldn't work, and left the one exercise I was overpaying for her to have, and she had almost no clothes for school since finding stuff to fit her was so difficult in our small town.

She would sometimes spend a couple hours at night just pouring out her grief and misery about being fat, and not being able to wear cute clothes, and how people at school treated her, and more. I wasn't fat in school (though I felt I was), so I didn't have the peer results of that, but her obvious suffering just made me grieve inside for my baby that obviously I was not "protecting" the way I felt a mom should.

Around November 2006, I finally snapped. That was when she could no longer go to karate for lack of fitting a gi. I felt like somehow that was the last straw, "Her certain doom".

And I put her on MY lowcarb plan. I decided everybody else could stuff their opinions. She was 11, 5'0, and weighed 164, that was about 6 weeks ago.

I did make a couple exceptions for her: once or twice a week I give her a little corn & peas nuked with some butter as a treat (those are more carby than I can eat, but I let her). I let her have as much fibrous veggies (the ones I make for both of us, broccoli, asparagus, cauli, peppers, onion, and more for her than me, baby carrots) and berries as she wants. I don't worry about counting her carbs or calories -- I simply make a point that nothing she eats is anything but lowcarb.

This meant that I started cooking a LOT more -- 2-4x a day -- so that she would always have "real food" and not be eating stuff from a can or frozen box or fast food, because mom was busy. This was a really big shift in my own time allotment to be honest, and if I hadn't been on lowcarb, I wouldn't have been healthy enough to have the energy/strength to do it. It has meant a substantial shift in my "available time" in a day. But since I started having her help me, it also meant that she and I spent a little more time together.

She used to tell me that she was constantly hungry. That even after she ate she was hungry. That she seemed to have "no off button" and that she would eat until she was sick if she had her way. She certainly did want to nosh 24/7 it seemed. So the rule I had was that I didn't want her to be hungry on lowcarb, EVER, and I would try to make sure there was always something she could eat.

To my surprise, she started quickly asking for more meat. I mean, the girl ate meat like it was going out of style, and hasn't stopped. I thought she would beg for more of whatever had the most carbs, but no. She became a protein fiend. I was a little nervous about this for awhile. I wondered if maybe she was overeating and I should put limits on it. But as I had recently read the Gary Taubes book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and noted all the research with animals (and some humans), I decided if she was craving protein, it was probably that her body actually NEEDED protein.

In the end, I adopted this strategy: I make her wait 30 minutes after our meal. If she still wants more food, I will make her more. That's just to make sure she isn't inhaling dinner and it hasn't yet hit the tummy. She still continues to eat a lot of protein. Not too much for her size, just vastly more than she ever had. She used to only want carbs. The shift has been astounding.

And in just over a month, she went from not fitting in a size 17 jeans, to fitting easily in size 15, and I don't think it'll be that long before she's in a 14.

She has noticed repeatedly and with great delight how much her stomach is smaller, her upper arms are thinner, the extra fat around her neck/chin has disappeared, her thighs, butt and calves are smaller -- even her feet are smaller and no longer "puff out on top" in slipper-style flats.

For the first time in a long time, she now has at least enough clothing to not feel mortified at school. She now can put on clothes and look in the mirror and not cry. She actually "feels cool" and proud of how she looks.

Here's the interesting thing: She weighed 162 the other day -- only 2 lbs less than when we began. And yet, she's lost 2-3 pants sizes, and obvious fat everywhere!

Now my sneaking suspicion is that her body was chronically protein deprived, and used all this meat she's been eating like crazy to build up her lean body mass again, so all the fat she has lost, balanced against muscle rebuilt, comes out to about equal.

Her energy level is much higher. Her attitude and affection are 200% better. Thank god -- the whiny lazy angry girl seems to have greatly changed. Getting her to do chores is vastly easier. Those are side-effects I didn't expect! They rock!

And here's the real kicker: she no longer begs for carbs and sugar. She no longer pleads for Taco Bell because she's so hungry and it's fast and cooking would take awhile. She is so EXCITED by the idea that eating this way has helped her lose bodyfat, that with rare exceptions, she doesn't WANT to eat carbs. There have been times when I was willing to slide on something, and she said, "No!"

She has become a huge supporter in my lowcarb journey -- instead of a problem. She is the one now that encourages me to go to the walking park with her. And given the amount of meat she eats, and how much she loves veggies, it's been super helpful in improving even the way I do lowcarb eating, re-focusing me on those elements.

She's so beautiful. And now, she is so much happier. As well as healthier. And she looks better, honestly, though there is still more extra fat to lose, I trust now that it will come off. She is going back to karate and will be more easily able to do it as well, I am sure. Her legs look longer, and she is just so much happier across the board, that it is clear that her misery at school and with herself because of her weight was affecting her a good deal.

I just wanted to report that. I know that I've had a lot of insecurity as a mother about "what is proper to feed the kid". Isn't it weird that most of our culture will not blink about living at McDonald's and Pizza Hut, and people will argue a kid's "need" to have pasta, yet if you tell them you're making the kid eat mostly meat, dairy, fibrous veggies and berries, they act like it's some bizarre diet-cult that you're inflicting on them?!


As for me, I am down to 370 now. No big deal really, since health is now my priority before fat loss -- low carb is about health-sanity for me, not a diet -- but everything helps as far as my energy level and comfort goes. Since I began at over 500# (and a size 8x on the bottom--tip: they don't make clothes for that size...), that's fairly significant.

My 6x pants, one brand is falling off me, the other brand fits ok but loosely. Today I splurged and ordered 6x and 5x 'cargo pants' from Junonia -- which will be the first 'real' pants (not stretchy soft things) that I've worn since... since... 1991 or so. (And of course, I could wear nothing but homemade skirts for years and years.) I can wear the 5x shirts my parents have bought me for the last few years at Christmas, so that was nice, that I instantly have several new things to wear.

I can do walking I couldn't before, I can fit in seats at the city theatre now, where musicals and ballet and stuff happen (finally, I can take my kid to those!), and on the whole I just feel a lot better.

I have shifted every meal to either protein powder + cream + flax seeds (for me only, and sometimes frozen berries in there), or to MEAT primarily, usually with veggies. We eat a whole lot of simple hamburger patties, pork cutlets, or chicken breasts, with and without sauces or cheeses or dressings, and usually with stir-fried veggies.

We were still able to make super yummy holiday treats (peanut butter cookies, almond joys), and now and then when we want something sweet, I'll make some kind of bowl muffin (egg, cream cheese, flax seed, flavor extracts, sweetzfree, and sometimes cocoa)... or LC cheesecake. Not often, but on occasion when she is feeling like she wants something sweet.

She's happy, I'm happy, we're both losing fat and gaining energy, and life is going well. 2008 will be great! I feel sure of it. :-)