Monday, November 18, 2013

Planning a Party that Will Dazzle Your Friends and Keep You on Plan!

Have you been elected the host or hostess of a Thanksgiving celebration this year?  Maybe you’re planning a special themed party for your friends and neighbors or hosting those family members you see but only twice a year.  Whatever your plans this year, it’s another one of those darn events that require a great deal of planning and the potential to send you over the edge into a carb coma only to find yourself hiding in your closet with a batch of homemade cookies making yet another New Year Resolution of dietary diligence.
You might have big plans this year to host a “low carb Thanksgiving”.  What substitutions will you use for this typically high carb celebratory meal?  Will you confess to your guests that the dressing was made of pork rinds?  Aunt Edith, whom after 20 years has mastered her “fat-free gravy”, might just have a coronary after the first bite with the news of pork skin as a bread substitute!  

I have a few memories about Thanksgiving and they’re not all good.  As a child, my Thanksgivings were spent with a stoic German Grandmother.  We had the same exact meal each and every year and we ate at 2:00PM sharp.   I enjoyed the food that my Grandmother prepared and craved it every year.  This was one of the only times I was able to indulge in real butter.  My Mother was on a perpetual diet and our only fat sources were shortening and margarine. 

As a chubby child with major food cravings, my allotment of one after dinner mint gave me a great deal of anxiety.   I guess this is what we call “family traditions” and I would eventually break them but not before a few disastrous holidays of my own doing.  Let’s go back to the once a year butter allotment.  Maybe that will explain my wild cravings for fat!

My first low carb Thanksgiving was undoubtedly horrible.  For the stress I put myself under, the food was just not worth the work.  Using soy flour, loads of Splenda™, and aspartame sweetened gelatin, I finally ditched the idea of re-creating low carb favorites of traditions that were actually quite new to us and promoted by food manufacturers.  

Traditionally, Thanksgiving was celebrated with the bounty of the Harvest but with the industrial revolution which brought us low quality man made concoctions of shortenings, artificially flavored gelatin's and canned pumpkin, we “canned” the idea of fresh foods.  
My fondest memories of a relaxed and lovely Thanksgiving are with a dear friend who was ahead of her time or should I say a “traditional soul with great taste”?  This Thanksgiving was particularly delightful.  Was it because I didn’t have to cook and clean?  Possibly, but truly, it was a seasonal soiree of Turkey, pumpkin, pomegranate, nuts vegetables and butter.  Yes, this resembled a bountiful harvest and it was the most unique and delicious holiday meal I had ever experienced.    There were higher carb options like bread and potatoes for those who metabolized more efficiently than me but all in all, there were plenty of choices that I could enjoy and leave well satiated without the feeling of deprivation.  My friend was the consumer I aspired to be.   I always remember the endearing phrase as she served our salad, “Lettuce is your intestinal washcloth”.

I have since rejected the post-industrial holiday fare and both prepare and encourage a “real food” holiday revolution.  Not only does this form of preparation require and resemble real food but by default, it is a lower carbohydrate way of eating.    

Maybe you’ve decided that this is the one day you will indulge, wipe your lips, pull up your boot straps and move on.  If you are a “just one bite and we’re on the slippery spiral slope to carb kingdom”, abstinence and substitutes are your best option.  

Whatever your personal choice, take it with stride and be sure to enjoy this special time with friends and loved ones.   

Imagine your holiday table as a showcase for your turkey or ham and trimmings.  Embrace the fall harvest and decorate your table with the beautiful turning leaves, colorful corn cobs, mini pumpkins and gourds.   

Let us begin with the table display.  If you are hosting a party with buffet style fare, a multi-level presentation is one of my favorites.  Use an extra- large table covering and use bowls, cake pans, buckets, blocks of wood or anything that is solid enough to slip under the table cloth and hold a food or centerpiece presentation. 

 Begin with your centerpiece and work around the table from there displaying multi levels of enticing seasonal foods.  Your best decorations can be found in your yard, garden or on your favorite walking path!  Large maple leaves, twigs, gourds, squash and pumpkins make beautiful decorations along with holiday scented candles.   If you would like to label your choices, use construction or colored parchment paper with a list of ingredients for the picky eater or your food allergy friends. 
Avoid the post clean up drudgery by incorporating some paper into your party.  There are many great choices today in disposable dinner and flatware.  Much of the celebratory dinnerware is almost more attractive than your best china! 

 If you’re a “green” consumer, your guests might not be surprised that you are throwing a “bring your own dinnerware” party.  Times they are changing and the days of mass consumerism are fading along with pretentious parties in favor of green, simple and more casual events.  This could be considered trendy to some yet more natural for others.   

No matter your choice, holiday evening celebration, brunch or luncheon, from swanky to shabby chic, traditional sit down or buffet, your event is about friendship, fellowship and good food that will nourish the body with the ability to feed the soul. 
Think about the season as you make your list and work your recipes into simple, healthful foods.  If you’re throwing that buffet, remember to include the following must haves:

  • Cheese Platter-include your favorite high fat choices like Brie and Camembert.  For that “wow factor” add Stilton with cranberry and apricot pieces.  This adds so much beauty to the cheese platter
  •  Olive plate-have fun at an olive bar at a local grocer.  Olives stuffed with pimentos, garlic, blue cheese and jalapeno or stuff your own with cream cheese
  •  Bacon wrapped asparagus spears 
  •  Bacon wrapped stuffed jalapeno peppers
  • Bacon wrapped apricots
  • Figs topped with a dollop of mascarpone cheese
  • Meatballs in a soy or tamari sauce
  • Smoked salmon sprinkled with capers-include cream cheese for additional fat and have available bread or crackers for guests not practicing a low carb lifestyle 
  •  Grilled endive filled with cream or mascarpone cheese mixed with roasted garlic
  • Brussels Sprouts with bacon and pine nuts
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  •  Shrimp and cocktail sauce
  •  Mixed Nuts  
  • Dried Fruit
  • Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Soup-have disposable hot cups available for ease of consumption and don’t forget the fresh parmesan for sprinkling on top

·         Beautiful mixed spring salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
When planning your Thanksgiving Day dinner, you have several decisions you can make.   This will depend on who you have invited to dinner.  Does your Mother in law turn her nose up to your “silly” artery clogging (tongue in cheek) diet?  Will you get away with transitioning away from what has been your norm for so many years?  

In California, November marks the opening of crab season so if you are a whole food/low carb/Paleo/Primal follower and you have access to Dungeness Crab, maybe this is will put a little flare in your holiday plans!  Fresh cracked crab and butter is a divine, legal choice. 

Some decisions for you to mull over:

  •  Prepare your typical feast and indulge for just one day with the intention of jumping back on your plan the very next day 
  •  Prepare your typical feast that you have indulged the family in for years and make your own sides to keep you on track.  Cauli-tators anyone?
  • Prepare a feast that is lower carb and/or Paleo-Primal  friendly with an emphasis on seasonal whole foods that you know everyone will love

No one can dictate your plans until they’ve sat at your dinner table or have the experience of consuming a recipe handed down for generations that you indulge in once a year.   There is no correct answer there is only your choice.  

I will say though that I have seen many whole food/Paleo/low carb followers spiral out of control over the holiday season only to gain a significant amount of weight back, reverse positive health markers and suffer depression making their journey almost insurmountable back to that place of comfort in the waist band.   If this is a pattern you know too well, self-talk is imperative for you.   

Take the time to think about your triggers, your weaknesses and your individual biochemical reactions to carbohydrate.   How will this year be different?

Honestly, with the endless options of butter laden goodness, there really is no reason for you to spiral out of control.  Remember, the old favorite can be had anytime.  You might even cut a deal with yourself that once you hit goal, you are then ready to partake. 

Your Thanksgiving dinner might include:

  • Turkey and/or Ham-(skip the glaze or only glaze part of the ham)
  • Dressing-reduce the carbs with my favorite *Apple Walnut or a Wild Rice dressing.  These can also be stuffed and baked in mini pumpkins for a lovely seasonal presentation 
  •  Sweet potatoes with pecans and butter(recipe attached)
  • Brussels Sprouts roasted with garlic, bacon and pine nuts
  • Green salad with mixed baby greens, pomegranate seeds, figs, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.  A fig dressing can be a lovely addition rather than the balsamic if you can handle the carbs.
  • Green Beans tossed with slivered almonds, bacon and butter or bacon drippings
  • Gravy using xanthan or guar gum as the thickening agent or while the turkey is roasting, 2 hours prior to finish, toss in some chopped carrot, garlic, onion and butternut squash.  When the turkey is finished, remove the veggies and put them in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add slowly to your roux and thicken your gravy.   Likely, you will have leftover vegetable thickener that you can add to your turkey soup the following day.  There really is no better gravy in my opinion.   If you have known intestinal permeability, you might favor the xanthan or veggie puree over the guar gum. 
  • Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Casserole-This dish is usually loved by everyone.  If you don’t mention cauliflower, most can’t tell the difference.  You can serve mashed potatoes too but I’m willing to bet your guests will favor your casserole.  (recipe below)
  •  Roasted vegetables
  • Butternut squash mash or soup
  • Pumpkin soup topped with Parmesan cheese
  • Cranberry relish using fresh cranberries.  This recipe is very easy and substituting your preferred sweetener is a cinch!  You can even gel it with a nice grass fed gelatin for those die hard canned cranberry sauce lovers.  Just prepare the bag of cranberries per the directions, add to a food processor, process until smooth, sprinkle in 3 tablespoons grass fed gelatin, place in mold and refrigerate until solid. 

Our next subject is that of beverages and dessert.  This is easiest for the whole food/paleo/low carber in my opinion.  With so many blogs out there dedicated to recipes, I would say that dessert recipes are some of the most popular searches therefore, the bloggers are accommodating and hey, who doesn’t enjoy a little cocktail here and there!  

Of course you will likely serve wine with dinner and supply your guests with spirits if you’re hosting a party and you consume alcohol.  Wine spritzers, Mimosa’s using fresh squeezed oranges and clear spirits with sugar free additions are your safest choices.   

If you’ve been practicing a low carb diet for a period of time, you know and understand that you are now more likely to “feel” the alcohol a bit sooner and possibly with greater vengeance.   To top it off, alcohol will burn as a primary fuel leaving fat and carbohydrate at a distant second.  Alcohol can also affect your judgment and test your will power.   
Imagine maintaining control all day only to be faced with leftovers and half a buzz eying the pumpkin pie like a hot date.  Yes, I’ve been there and I’ve been disappointed in myself.
For those who don’t consume alcohol, essence flavored waters are a delight!  I love citrus flavored waters.   

Fill a pitcher and add some sliced rounds of lemon, lime and orange with a few sprigs of mint and refrigerate overnight.   Spiced cider is a great option for your guests and can fill the house with a lovely aroma. 

Fruit spritzers using carbonated water and real fruit or 100% fruit juice with your sweetener of choice will be less of a sugar bomb for your guests and their children.  I like pomegranate and cranberry with a squeeze of lime, ice and a few drops of Stevia. 

How about dessert for these special events?  Low carb truffles, nut crust or crustless pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate mousse, baked pears or apples with cinnamon are all viable options and just a quick internet search away.  You will be overwhelmed at the amount of options you have.  This tight knit community is resourceful and giving. 

A pumpkin cheesecake can be enjoyed the following morning for breakfast and my chocolate mousse is always a hit with anyone who digs chocolate. 

Whatever your plans might be, remember that you have worked so hard to lose, maintain and understand the relationship between carbohydrates, insulin and fat deposition.  Don’t allow one day to turn into a whole season of deleterious food behavior that can and may result in months of clean up. 

In preparation for your big celebrations, keep a few points in mind to help you stay on track:

  • Be sure to eat a higher fat breakfast on the day of your big event-too frequently we “save up” our calories and this is a dangerous decision
  • Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach-grab a nice chunk of brie and enjoy them together to slow the alcohol response
  • Don’t snack while making high carb foods-ask a family member to taste test
  • Be generous and send your leftovers home with guests-you might purchase some take out containers or ask your guests to bring their own!   If the food is no longer in the home, the temptation isn’t looming. 
  • When choosing your plate, begin with your approved foods and if you still crave the old favorites, take a second sweep around the food table.  Ask yourself if you really need the food in question.  I’m willing to bet that your hormonal response will kick in and the cravings will be different than the first round. 
  • Get up and ask if anyone is interested in taking a nice stroll to get some fresh air and “make room for dessert”.  Likely, you will do everyone a favor assisting in insulin sensitivity.  You might consider a quick session in weights in the morning to prepare your cells for the coming glucose. 

No matter your decisions and choices, I wish you a holiday season filled with love, laughter and lard! 

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Casserole
  • 1 Head Cauliflower-Steamed and Drained
  • 8 Slices Bacon Fried and Crumbled
  • 3 Green Scallions Chopped
  • 4 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (I use raw from Trader Joes)
  • 6 Cloves Roasted Garlic
  • Sea Salt & Pepper to Taste
In large bowl mash steamed cauliflower. To this, add remaining ingredients except 1/2 cup of the cheese. Mix well and place in a rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes or until browned on top. In our house, we like "crispy cheese" so we bake until crisp on top.

Sugar Free Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • 4-8oz. Packages Cream Cheese (room temperature)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 Tbs. Vanilla
  • 1 Cup Erythritol, Xylitol (or ½ cup maple syrup)
  • 1/2 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 cans pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or more to taste)
  • 1 Cup Ground Macadamia Nuts
  • 3 Tbs. Melted Butter
Combine ingredients for crust, and press into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 375 until slightly browned.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 and mix cheesecake ingredients. Pour onto nut crust and bake for 60-90 minutes. Every oven is different so watch your cake closely. The internal temperature of a completely baked cheesecake is generally 155 degrees F.
This is best refrigerated for 24 hours before serving.

Sweet Potatoes tossed with Pecans
·         5 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 8 medium or 6 large)
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         Sprinkle of sea salt
·         3 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
·         ½ cup pecan pieces
·         1 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning
·         1 tablespoon grade b maple syrup (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°.  Peel potatoes, cut length wise down center and chop crosswise, ½ “ thick.  Toss with olive oil and sea salt, bake for 25-35 minutes tossing occasionally until potatoes are tender.
Toss into a bowl and toss with butter, maple syrup, pecan pieces, and pumpkin pie seasoning. Bake approximately 10 minutes.  Gently toss; serve immediately.

Misty's Chocolate Raspberry Mousse
  • 1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1-8 oz. Tub of Whipped Cream Cheese or (block whipped well)
  • 3 Tbs. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ½ -¾ cup Xylitol or Erythritol
  • ½ Cup Raspberries (if frozen defrost for a few minutes)
Whip heavy cream and set aside
Mix remaining ingredients with blender and fold whipping cream in. Depending upon your taste, you may want to modify sweetener, berries or cocoa to your personal taste.
Some find that additional cream cheese (twice the amount) can add texture and taste more like a cheese cake.
For best results, the Xylitol or Erythritol can be slightly gritty so mixing it into the cream cheese 24 hours prior to soften OR put sweetener in a coffee grinder.
Dish into dessert glass or bowl, garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, a few raspberries and a sprig of spearmint.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Preparing our Children for a Healthier Holiday Season and end of First Quarter Success

As a child who was chubby, had major food cravings, ADD, OCD and PCOS, I know too well the connection between food, behavior and poor health.  

This was my season!  As we prepared for the holiday, I dreamt of being the child whose Mother had mastered fudge, cookies and pies.  I would fantasize that as I entered the house after school during the holiday season that my Mother would have fresh baked goods cooling and ready for us to devour.
This was never the case because like myself, my Mother is also a food addict.  If she made it, we all ate it and we ate it all.  One holiday season in particular, Mom decided to freeze the cookies that we made to avoid temptation.  We soon discovered that cookies were just as good frozen as fresh baked.  Well, maybe not just as good but for a food addict, a close second!

I later realized when beginning to study nutrition that my cravings were driven by beneficial bacteria, essential fatty acid and amino acid deficiencies.  Not only were my cravings driven by these deficiencies but my behavior and subsequent health ailments as well. 

This is an important correlation to make and with the end of the 1st quarter nearing, we don’t want our children on that downward spiral of food associated behavior meltdowns and sliding grade point averages.

Whether you are the parent of babies, toddlers, in betweens and teens, this information applies to all.  Without controlling to the point of creating a sneaky child, how do we monitor and control food choices?  School parties, breaks and “loving grandparents” can throw a wrench into these plans. 
Start with nourishing meals that will prevent your child from turning into that craving meltdown monster.  A hearty breakfast for example of bacon or sausage and eggs with plenty of butter will satiate and positively energize children.  If your child is not hitting the autumn celebrations at school and other events with low blood sugar, likely he/she will not over eat the over processed sugar laden foods.   You know it has worked for you so be sure to honor your child with the same practice.
If special time together during the holiday season is baking, look for the healthiest recipes possible.  Our Low Carb/Paleo community is full of blogging parents who are facing some of the same decisions that you are.  There is no lack of healthful, moderately sweetened recipes out there.  Choosing sweeteners that contain minerals like Grade B Maple Syrup are healthier than the devitalized white sugar and there are plenty of sweetener combinations that even the most advanced palate can’t tell the difference.    

Children have a greater need for carbohydrate than adults so you don’t have to be quite as diligent as long as the child is not suffering metabolic disturbances.  

Small children much prefer crafts over the sometimes long process of baking.  Sure, they’re excited to begin, they might put on their miniature aprons, begin with the pouring of ingredients only to melt down by the time the first batch of baked goods is in the oven.  This leaves you frustrated, the child tired and a mess that you will be responsible for. 
Are you hosting the Thanksgiving Dinner this year?  It’s always fun to have a special “kids table”.  This allows children their independence and frees the parent from worry of manners, spills and distractions.  Line your floor with a sheet or disposable table cloth to prevent carpet or flooring damage, set up your small table and chairs and put your child to work decorating. 

Large pieces of construction paper or butcher paper can line the table which can provide the children a place to express their thanks in picture or words.  

Your child can create name place cards and napkin rings for both the adult and child table.  Plain index cards, construction paper, festive stickers and markers are all that is needed for this easy, personal project.  I have childhood memories of “being in charge” of name place cards and I took my job very seriously. 
Put your child in charge of the table decorations.  Send them out to the yard for maple leaves and set your leaf standards high!  This will keep them busy for a few additional moments and teach them the importance of standards and patience for your presentation.

Talk about the reason for your celebration with your children.  I’m a big fan of eating seasonally and our Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration.    This can be a great game during grocery shopping and during the celebration.  You can discuss the seasonal foods with your child and others in attendance and make it a game during dinner with your left over index cards.
While educating with the reason for the season, be sure to discuss the nutrients in the foods as well.  This is important and lost with this generation.   This lesson can encompass your beliefs through the miraculous Vitamin/Season connection.  Is it a coincidence that our squash family is high in Vitamin C during the onset of the fall/winter season?  Those of you home schooling have a unique advantage as this can be incorporated into your day.  You have more control so take advantage of this time. 

Perhaps you can put together a celebratory feast of seasonal fare and invite others from your group or friends who also home school.  

These ideas are also fun for those who are working in, or own daycare and after school programs. 
If we begin at a young age, we can instill solid dietary habits in our children that can carry them through life free of obesity, disordered eating patterns and degenerative disease.