Trying the Slow-Carb Diet

My goal with Max was to not gain a bunch of weight after I weaned him like I did with Harper. So of course that’s what happened. I swore off diets and was trying to focus on small changes. But those were basically just producing small results. I felt totally disconnected with the good eating habits I developed before I had kids, and I just felt like I had to do something

A friend had mentioned that she lost a huge amount of baby weight on a Paleo-esque diet that included some cheat days and another friend had mentioned adopting a slow-carb philosophy (and listening to Tim Ferriss for some self-help type stuff). Then one day I was driving and listening to the Outside podcast and who comes on but Tim Ferriss. He talked some about how his diet plan works. So after all that I just felt like the universe was trying to tell me something and I started googling the slow-carb diet


Salmon salad with grilled veggies.

If you read his book, the 4-Hour Body, you understand the diet as a way to maximize results in minimal time (hell yes) by shifting your body into fat-burning mode. It has elements of Paleo and keto diets. You eliminate basically all carbs except for beans and legumes. Except for one glorious day a week, which you declare a cheat day and have whatever you want. It does serve an actual physical purpose, to keep your body from thinking it’s starving. But it’s also helpful mentally, since we are all likely to cheat anyway. 

So about 2 months ago I started the diet. This required a major shift in my cooking. But one of the main reasons I thought it would be okay is that because of my retail work schedule, I often eat something different than my family anyway. You’re also encouraged to eat the same meals over and over so you don’t have to think about it (another plus). 


Buttered cod and green beans with bacon. So easy and good.

I lost somewhere in the 5-6 pound range each month. Not fantastic, but definitely an improvement. My clothes fit much better and I feel motivated to keep going. I think the limited weight loss is because the cheat day inevitably undoes some of the progress you make during the week. So, I’m going to keep some aspects of the diet and change other ones going forward. 

Here’s what I like about it:

• It forces you to eat more vegetables. I’ve never been good about eating enough vegetables, even though I like a lot of them. I love fruit, so before this I was regularly eating 2 pieces of fruit a day and hardly any veggies. Well, that changed on this diet. I snacked on carrots. I ate more salads. I sauteed veggies with dinner all the time. I sliced avocadoes on all sorts of things. And that leads me to my next favorite part, breakfast. 

• I came up with this kind of odd breakfast that I have eaten religiously for weeks, so I thought I would share it. It keeps me full until about 2 p.m.!

Curry Chicken Breakfast

1 chicken breast (I cook these in some water in the slow cooker on Sundays so they’re ready to go)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 Tablespoon ghee (olive oil works too)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 eggs
Salt/pepper/hot sauce 

Saute the chicken and peas in the ghee until they are warmed through. Stir in the curry powder and garam masala. Pour mixture into a bowl while you cook the eggs. I like my eggs over medium, but you can make them however you want. Put them on top of the chicken and peas and season how you like. It makes this kind of ugly but good-tasting breakfast where your only carbs come from peas and you get the anti-inflammatory benefits of spices like cinnamon and turmeric. 

Just add eggs. I swear it’s really good.

• The cheat day keeps you in check during the week – you can always say no to something because you know you can have it later. 

• Cauliflower rice! Especially the stuff that comes already crumbled in steam bags. I found that I really didn’t mind either skipping rice or replacing it with this. Same with most crackers, cereal and bread. The carbs I missed are all sweet things – cookies, cupcakes, muffins, etc. 

• Zoodles – Another fun way to get your veggies in. I bought a mini spiralizer and used it on some zucchini. 

• I found some new recipes that are great replacements for weeknight dinners that my family also likes. Here are some of them:
Shrimp & Sausage Skillet
Easy Cashew Chicken
Slow Carb Beef and Broccoli
Slow Carb Bean Salad
Buttered Cod in Skillet
Chili is also a great staple

What I didn’t like:

• The cheat day ends up messing with your mind in a different way. Basically you hit your lowest weight and then have to purposely mess it up by cheating. Then it takes a few days to get back to where you were before (presumably you gain some water weight with the cheat foods). It just feels like a little roller coaster a lot of the time. 

• You can’t have fruit or cheese. Or Greek yogurt. Or any whole grains. At some point it seems kind of crazy to eschew so many healthy foods. 

• I felt low-energy enough for it to bother me. And I need every bit of energy I can muster for life with 2 small kids. I remember when I did the cleanses I felt such an energy surge. So I know a diet doesn’t have to mean feeling tired all the time. 

 So yeah, it was a mixed bag for me. (Here’s another great post from someone else who had a lot of the same feelings). But I did learn a lot in the process. I remembered that daily journaling helps me a lot.  I started reading labels and I was reminded of just how much sugar is in everything. And I think it was a wake-up call that for me, certain foods are a slippery slope towards bad habits. I just have to always be vigilant and have some kind of plan. We’re all different, but that is my deal. 

On the exercise front I am just trying to walk or run Max to daycare whenever I can. I think a FitBit would be helpful to keep reminding me to get in more steps. And I also really want to get a kettlebell. 

Halloween peanut butter cookies

I had to share this cookie idea I found on Pinterest. There it says to use a cookie mix, but I tried it with my peanut blossom cookie dough recipe and I think it was well worth the extra time.

All you need to do is add about a cup of peanut butter chips and a cup of Reese’s Pieces candy to the dough. Then you press it into a 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees until it’s just starting to brown on top. Maybe 20 minutes?

When the pan comes out, press in a few candy eyeballs (which you can find at craft stores like JoAnn and Michaels). Let the pan cool, then cut the cookies into rectangles. They are SO GOOD, especially when they are still a little warm.

Grandma’s potato salad

I finally did it. I took a stab at making my grandma’s famous potato salad, and I think I nailed it. Her recipe is legendary in our family. And while I could never make it as well as she did, I couldn’t imagine not having it anymore. So I dug out her handwritten recipe and tried it.

I’m going to share it here because I love the way she wrote it with such detailed and funny notes. It cracks me up that she referred to the cost of the celery seed, because her thriftiness is one of the things I loved most about her.


I remember watching Grandma cut ingredients into the tiniest pieces without even looking. She was a pro!

Really the only thing I changed was to use real mayonnaise instead of Miracle Whip. I wasn’t sure if she used regular mustard or mustard powder, but I used powder and I think regular mustard would work just fine.

I always thought it was the pickle juice that was the secret ingredient. But now I think it’s the egg-to-potato ratio, which makes her recipe like a combination of egg salad and potato salad. When I took the bowl out of the fridge after mixing it up, the smell made me tear up. It was just like hers. I love how a recipe can do that for you.

Here’s another kind of unusual thing — have you ever boiled whole russet potatoes with the skins on? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the potatoes cooked without being too mushy, but it worked just fine. I tested them with a fork a few times until they seemed soft. Actually one potato completely fell apart, so I just tossed it and used one less egg.

I like that you can adjust the recipe for how many people you’re feeding. Grandma always had a HUGE bowl of potato salad in her fridge, but we didn’t need quite that much. I’m excited to make it again for our next potluck or family gathering!

Grandma's potato salad
Serves 12
Our family recipe is like a combination of egg salad and potato salad. Perfect for picnics and family gatherings!
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Ingredients
  1. 8-10 medium-sized russet potatoes
  2. 8-10 hard boiled eggs
  3. 1/4 cup green onions, or 1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
  4. 2-3 tablespoons sweet gherkins, chopped (about 1 or 2 pickles)
  5. 2 tablespoons pickle juice
  6. 1.5-2 cups mayonnaise
  7. 2 teaspoons dried mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon celery seed
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. 1 teaspoon sugar
Instructions
  1. Boil potatoes with the skin on until they are soft when you poke them with a fork. Make sure you season your water with a little salt.
  2. When your potatoes are cool, chop them into small pieces. Peel and chop your hard boiled eggs into small pieces, too.
  3. Add onions, pickles, and pickle juice. Then mix in your mayonnaise. Add enough so it's moist but not soupy.
  4. Add seasonings and stir to combine. Taste the potato salad, and if it needs a little more of anything, now's the time to add it!
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours before serving.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Easy enchiladas

Now that we have two kids, it’s even harder to find time to cook weeknight dinners, so we’ve had to find recipes that come together really quickly. And we’re finding that the secret is tacos! Actually, any kind of variation on a meat that you can put on corn tortillas, so we’ve had a lot of enchiladas, too.

I’ve been making this recipe for green chile enchiladas with the leftovers from a roast chicken — something we also have a lot because it’s easy.

You take all the meat that’s left on the chicken and shred it. I would say it’s about 2 cups.

Then saute some sliced onions and mix it with the chicken. Then you add about half a jar of roasted salsa verde (I really like the Archer Farms version from Target).

That’s your filling. Roll it up inside corn tortillas, adding a little shredded Monterrey Jack cheese to each one.

Spread some salsa verde in the bottom of your baking dish, then add the enchiladas. Pour a little more salsa verde on top and sprinkle with a little more cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and you’re done!

You can also make a sort of free-form enchilada casserole by layering tortillas with salsa verde and whatever other toppings you like. I made this one with black beans, sweet potatoes, and then some crema and feta cheese on top.

On the taco front, we’ve made a lot of crock pot shredded pork, which is great with pickled red onions.

Or, you can saute some pork tenderloin slices and then cut them up into chunks to put on tacos (hat tip to Real Simple for this one). I made some with pineapple, and they were so good! Super easy because the thin pork slices only take a few minutes to cook.

When all else fails, we just hit up the neighborhood taco trucks. Their al pastor is so good!

Biscuit donuts

Um, why did no one tell me about the wonderfulness that is a biscuit donut?

I learned about them on the Say Yes blog and couldn’t believe I’d never tried them before. Basically all you do is crack open a can of biscuit dough, stamp out the middles, fry the donuts in oil and roll them in cinnamon sugar.

They come out remarkably similar to donuts you would buy in a store. They remind me a lot of the cider donuts you get when you go apple picking.

It does take a pretty large amount of oil for frying, but you can actually save it an reuse it another time. Because you will be making these again.

I am a lazy cook, so I did not use a thermometer to figure out how hot the oil was. When it seemed like the donuts were cooking too fast, I turned down the burner a little bit. That seemed to work fine. They got brown and crispy really quickly, so it didn’t take long to make a batch of 8 plus the donut holes. Harper ate most of those and we ate the whole ones. Perfect!

This was sort of the opposite of the breakfast baking I did the weekend before. I have been determined for a long time to find a yeast cinnamon roll recipe that was worth all the effort. I’ve tried 3 times, I think, and they were never good enough. I mean, how can a cinnamon roll that takes 3 hours to make be just OK?

But I finally found THE recipe. I think it came up on Pinterest and it just looked too good not to try. One morning I actually had energy so I got to work. I had to be at the store later that morning so I ended up taking some shortcuts and the recipe still turned out fine. For the first rise, I probably gave it 40 minutes instead of an hour. Then I think I shortened the second rise a little too. The dough was very sticky, but it rolled out just fine.

I made some other changes too. I used all butter instead of margarine because I am a butter girl. My yeast was expired but that didn’t seem to matter either. And then I probably used 1 tablespoon of cinnamon instead of 3. That seemed like plenty to me.

The cream cheese icing seemed like it was too sugary and not cream cheesy enough. But then later it seemed fine, so maybe it just needed to meld a little more.

I couldn’t make this recipe everyday (and definitely shouldn’t!) but I will keep it on file for special occasions. It is everything you want from a cinnamon roll — soft, crumbly bread with a gooey center and melty frosting on top. And at least when you make these at home you know what’s in them.

My first pickles

I promised I would report back on pickles and I’m finally getting to it!

Our cucumber plant produced a TON of cukes so we had to figure out pickling. I wanted to keep them as simple as possible, so I followed Deb’s instructions for the easiest fridge dill pickles.

First, I had to use a vegetable peeler to scrape off all the little spiky bits on the cucumbers. Some of them were really sharp. Then I decided to slice mine into spears.

I didn’t have fresh dill so I used dried and I think it worked just fine. One thing I had to adjust, though, was to add water to fill the jars to the top. Maybe because I had spears instead of slices, my cucumbers didn’t let out enough water and they were super vinegar-y. Once I added the water they were just about perfect.

I thought they might go bad quickly in the fridge, but they have lasted weeks and weeks. In fact I think they get better over time.

Easy strawberry jam

I feel like jam is one of those things that seems intimidating, but is actually really easy to make. I think it’s the canning aspect that’s scary, but you can make a quick fridge jam that will disappear too quickly to bother with the canning anyway.

We were only getting a handful of strawberries from our garden every day, so I decided to save them in a bag in the freezer until I had enough to make jam. I found this recipe in Real Simple and it worked perfectly.

Basically all you do is combine the fruit with sugar and lemon juice and simmer it until the fruit has broken down into a soft, chunky mixture. Let it cool and pour the jam into a jar.

You can make a decadent toast with cream cheese and berry jam – yum!

Butter shrimp

I never knew the magic of butter chicken until we moved to a place that has a Nepalese restaurant on every corner. I’m not sure the connection, but we have a LOT of Indian/Nepalese restaurants in our area, and they are wonderful. Have you had momos, those little meat or veggie-filled dumplings? Sooo good. Anyway, I tried the butter chicken at Taste of the Himalayas (my fave) and was totally hooked. So when I saw Posie had posted a recipe for butter shrimp, I wanted to try making that at home. 

I didn’t have tandoori paste, so I tried making it myself and it was super easy. I was thinking you could put that in a lot of things to add major flavor. 

The brilliant colors of all those spices remind me that I need to cook with them more often. 

I think I only used 1 pound of shrimp instead of two. It was frozen in a bag so I thawed it in some water first. 

Anything with this much butter has to be good!

I skipped the sliced almond garnish but I definitely added peas. Overall, I was happy with how quickly this dish came together. I think the sauce is even better than the chicken tikka masala recipe I had been making before, so I might just go with this one from now on. 

Sweet potato hash

There is this really great breakfast place near us called Sam’s Log Cabin that serves the most delicious vegan hash with sweet potatoes, carrots and greens. I tried it on a whim one time and was pleasantly surprised by how rich and filling it was. So, I really wanted to try making it at home. The other day I saw someone making sweet potato hash on a cooking show and I was like, OK, I’m doin’ it!

I, of course, thought it would be better with bacon. Similar to Smitten Kitchen’s bacon corn hash, I thought the bacon fat could be used instead of butter to cook the vegetables. So here is what I came up with:

Sweet potato hash
Serves 4
Top with an egg for the perfect breakfast or brunch meal.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  2. 2 large yams, peeled and chopped
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  5. 2 handfuls arugula or other fresh greens
  6. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  7. 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until it is starting to get crispy but not completely done.
  2. Add the yams, carrots, and onions and cover the pan with a lid. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the vegetables aren't sticking to the pan.
  3. Season with paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. When the sweet potatoes and carrots are nice and soft, add the arugula and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
  4. If you like, top with a fried egg and serve.
Notes
  1. *To make the hash vegetarian or vegan, substitute 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil for the bacon.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
I like to put a runny fried egg (or eggs) on top of my hash. I just think it’s the perfect combination. I’ve also seen a recipe where you spread the hash out in a 9×13 pan, crack a few eggs on top and then bake them. That sounds pretty great, too.

The best summer dessert

I couldn’t let June go by without mentioning my favorite summer dessert. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here many times, but oh man do I love a strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

It’s sweet, tart, crunchy, and even better warm with vanilla ice cream melting on top.

You can vary the strawberry to rhubarb ratio as much as you want. You can change up the nuts or leave them out. You could do fresh whipped cream instead of ice cream. Just … yum.