Lowcarbezine! 26 August 2002

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Hey, Gang -

Wow, is this one ever late! It's the first article that did it. Took forever. But I think it will be useful for a lot of you, so it was worth it!

Hard to believe it's almost Labor Day Weekend, isn't it? Seems like summer's barely begun, and bam! It's autumn. Next issue I should probably do my annual sermon on healthy school lunches for the kids, huh?

Speaking of the next issue: since this one is so late, the next one won't be for two weeks. I had promised myself a couple of weeks off to deep clean, purge, and organize my house when I finished writing 500 Low Carb Recipes, and instead I dove right back into writing Lowcarbezine! As a result, the junk kept piling up, and the clutter kept getting more oppressive, to the point where I'm writing this on my front porch, because I can't find my desk under the piles of printouts and books. I have a remarkably high tolerance for untidiness - alright, I admit it, I'm a slob, plain and simple - but enough is enough. I'm taking two weeks off to clean my darned house!

I'll see you then. In the meanwhile, read on!


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Fast Food For Us!

After my rant about the Fast Food Lawsuits last issue, it occurred to me that perhaps it might be useful to talk about where fast food fits into a healthy, low carb diet. I'm afraid that fast food isn't one of those things I think about a whole lot, because I work at home, and I have no kids. I never need to run out from the office for a quick lunch, I never need to stop and grab a bite between appointments, and I have nobody nagging me to help them complete their collection of small plastic toys tied to the latest hot movie. Every now and then I grab a fast lunch while running errands, or while on the road, or drive through and get an iced tea, and that's about it.

I am, however, aware that in this, as in so many other things, I am - ahem! - out of step with American culture. And as I have noted before, I don't write this ezine for me, I write it for you. So I spent most of an afternoon going to fast food websites, reading menus and nutritional information, which, as I noted in my rant, almost all fast food joints supply, and compiling a list of fast food menu picks that are compatible with a low carb diet. Here they are!


Far and away the most popular and widest-spread fast food chain in the world, McDonald's has a small but reliable selection of foods that work for a low carber. (They also have designed their restrooms so that travelers can enter the restaurant and use them without going by the order counter - they actually encourage you to use their restaurant for potty breaks, even if you're not planning to buy anything. For this they have my undying gratitude, and about a third of the time I decide to buy an iced tea while I'm there!)

Our best bets at Mickey D's are the salads. The website says that these are "available at participating McDonald's", but most McDonald's appear to be participating; I can't remember finding one where a salad wasn't available. The salads include:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Chef's Salad 150 5 Not listed 17
Garden Salad 100 4 n/l 7
Grilled Chicken Caesar 100 3 n/l 17

These figures are for the salad without dressing. The choices of dressing are:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Caesar 150 5 Not listed 1
Fat Free Vinaigrette 35 8 n/l 0
Ranch 170 3 n/l 0

There are also Honey Mustard, Red French Reduced Fat, and Thousand Island, but all of them are quite high in carbohydrate; I'd choose from the other three. Me, I like Caesar and Ranch anyway, so they'd be my choices.

If you'd rather, you could have a burger without the bun. McDonald's has recently gone to a new system where all burgers are cooked to order, rather than being ready under heat lamps. There's some question as to whether this was a good idea, since it now takes far longer to get your food, but it does present an advantage for us - we no longer have to peel the bun off of our burger. This was always annoying with cheeseburgers, since most of the cheese went with the bun! Figure about 21 grams of protein for a Quarter Pounder, with an extra five grams or so if you have it with cheese. A Quarter Pounder on top of a Garden Salad is a nice lunch, and I find the salad makes a big difference in making it feel like a meal.

McDonald's burgers are - and I have this direct from McD's Corporate, I'll have you know - 100% beef, no fillers, no soy, no bread crumbs, nada, so they're all 0 carbs without a bun or trimmings. Feel free to order any of them. You could also get a Chicken McGrill without the bun. I'd avoid the Filet-o-Fish and the Crispy Chicken, because they're breaded. I'd also stay away from McNuggets - 4 have 12 grams of carb and only 10 grams of protein.

Your choice of low carb beverages will be fairly small: Diet Coke, iced or hot tea, coffee, or water. Still, that list has something that should appeal to most everyone.

Burger King

Burger King lists salads in their nutrition info on their website, again saying that they're available only at participating restaurants. Trouble is, I haven't found a single participating restaurant in the past few years. As a result, I tend to avoid Burger King. Still, there's low carb food to be had at BK if that's the fast food joint you're facing.

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
BK 1/4 lb. Burger, no bun 330 1 1 25
Whopper, no bun 450 6 0 25
Whopper w/ Cheese, no bun 535 6 0 30
Bacon Double Cheeseburger 430 5 0 30
King Supreme, no bun 465 8 0 27
BK Smokehouse Griller, no bun 525 3 0 28

Indeed, any of the burgers without the bun should be just fine. All experienced low carbers know to go easy on the ketchup! If you're at one of the few Burger Kings that carry salads, you could have that bunless burger on a...

Garden Salad, add Parmesan and Ranch dressing 290 7 2 5

But there are other possible selections at Burger King. You could have a:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Chicken Whopper, no bun 270 4 0 28
Chicken Caesar *, w/ Caesar dressing, parmesan, no croutons 345 9 3 30
(* If you're lucky enough to find a BK that carries this!)

Items to avoid on the Burger King Menu include the Specialty Chicken Sandwich, the BK Big Fish Sandwich, and the Chicken Tenders, all of which have high carb breading. Too, you'll want to avoid the Veggie Burger, which even without the bun has 18 grams of carb.

(Parenthetically, it is interesting to note the following: Burger King Corporation makes no claim that the BK VEGGIE™ Burger or any other or its products meets the requirements of a vegan or vegetarian diet. Hmmmmm...)

Once again, your beverage choices will be diet soda, iced tea, coffee or hot tea, and water. In fact, can we just take that as read for the rest of the restaurants in this article?


Surely it comes as no surprise to anyone that Wendy's has salads. This is a good thing. Although some of the salads have stuff in them we won't want to eat - mandarin oranges, for instance - there's still plenty here to make up a good low carb lunch. Here are some choices:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Chicken BLT Salad 310 10 4 33
Mandarin Chicken Salad 150 17 3 20

Note: This nutritional breakdown does not include the crispy rice noodles, which are packaged separately, and contain another 10 grams of carbohydrate - simply leave them off. You could use the almonds Wendy's makes available instead; they have only 4 grams of carb, of which 2 are fiber. The biggest problem, though, is the Oriental Dressing, at 21 grams a packet. If the basic salad - lettuce, chicken, mandarin oranges - doesn't appeal to you without the dressing, you may as well skip it.

I'd avoid the Taco Supremo salad entirely. Even leaving off the tortilla chips won't help much - the chili on the salad is loaded with carbs.

If you'd rather, you could, of course, get a burger without the bun - like Mac's and BK, the burgers at Wendy's are 100% ground beef, no fillers. Each 1/4 pound Wendy's hamburger patty has 200 calories and 19 grams of protein - no carbohydrate, of course. The grilled chicken fillet, by itself, has 110 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate - I'm assuming they marinate or season it - and 19 grams of protein. Either will fill your protein requirements nicely. With that slab of flesh, you could have one of three side salads:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Side Salad * 35 7 3 2
Spring Mix Salad * 180 12 5 11

(* Interestingly, the only difference between the ingredients in these salads is the addition of shredded cheese in the Spring Mix Salad, plus optional honey roasted pecans.)

Caesar Side Salad 70 2 1 7

Wendy's lists the croutons as an "extra' for their Caesar side salad, which is nice - means they're not automatically added for you. Dressing choices include:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Blue Cheese 290 3 0 2
Creamy Ranch 250 5 0 1
Reduced Fat Ranch 110 7 1 1

One assumes they also have Caesar dressing for the Caesar salad; Caesar dressing is almost always low carb. The fat free dressings, French and Honey Mustard, are not for us - just as sugary as can be, with 21 and 23 grams of carb, respectively. Steer clear.

That pretty much does it for Wendy's - avoid the chili, chicken nuggets, and, of course, the potatoes.

Pizza Hut

I'm afraid Pizza Hut is almost hopeless for the low carber. They have no salads, no veggie sides, and of course the pizzas and the calzones are problematic for us. The best I can suggest - other than avoiding the place entirely - is to order a thin crust pizza, with extra cheese, plus veggie and meat toppings. Then peel off the cheese and toppings and eat them, leaving the crust behind. It's hardly ideal, but if you're with people who absolutely insist on going to Pizza Hut, it'll do in a pinch.

By the way, Pizza Hut also gets a black mark from me for being the only fast food place I found whose website had no nutrition information. Also for losing their salad bars, an amenity they used to offer.


Arby's has some great salads - or they don't, depending on which restaurant you hit. Do the fast food corporate headquarters realize how annoying this is? I mean, if I'm on the road and in a hurry, I'll pass over Arby's - whose salads I prefer to McDonald's - for a Mickey D's, just because I can be reasonably sure that the McD's will actually have a salad. Still, Arby's is worth checking out just for these salads, which are, in my experience, fresh and crisp, with generous proportions:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Roast Chicken Salad 160 15 6 not listed
Grilled Chicken Salad 210 14 6 n/l
Turkey Club Salad 350 9 3 n/l
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad 230 9 3 n/l
Dressings that will work for our Arby's salads are:
Caesar 310 1 0 n/l
Reduced Cal Italian 25 3 <1 n/l
Italian Parmesan 240 4 0 n/l

Avoid the Honey French at 18 g. of carb, and the Thousand Island with 9 g. You'll also want to avoid the Chicken Finger Salad. Due to the breading on the chicken fingers, it has 39 g. of carb, only 3 of which are fiber.

I didn't analyze the sandwiches at Arby's for two reasons: One, I find the idea of eating a big pile of thin-sliced roast beef without a bun sort of daunting. And numero two-o, Arby's "roast beef" is ground up, seasoned, and then pressed back together. I'm just not sure I trust it.


I can't really recommend Hardee's for the low carber. Although it's not quite as hopeless as Pizza Hut - you can get a burger without the bread - there's little else for us here. None of the side dishes are low carb, there are no salads, and while they do have chicken, it's heavily caked with fried breading. Still, if a Hardee's is what presents itself, and you're starving, you could have:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Frisco Burger, no bun 464 0 0 not listed
Six Dollar Burger, no bun 703 10 n/l n/l
Famous Star, no bun 365 6 n/l n/l

Carl's Junior

Apparently Carl's Junior and Hardee's are owned by the same parent company - the logo and several menu items are the same. However, Carl's Junior - only found in the western part of the US - has a much broader menu, with a whole lot more to offer the low carb dieter. I'm thinking it must be the California influence that accounts for the salads and the unbreaded, broiled chicken sandwiches at this chain.

You can get the menu picks listed for Hardee's at any Carl's Junior. But you can also get:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Charbroiled Chicken Club, no bun 315 5 1 27
Charbroiled Chicken Salad to Go 200 12 4 25
Charbroiled Sirloin Steak Sandwich, no bun (with the onion rings) 351 14 1


Charbroiled Sirloin Steak Sandwich, no bun, no onion rings 273 4 1 23
Garden Salad to Go 50 4 1 3
Blue Cheese Dressing 320 1 0 2
House Dressing 220 3 0 1
Fat Free Italian 15 4 0 0

Avoid the Fat Free French Dressing, with 16 grams of carbohydrate! (Why do I doubt the French had anything to do with this?)

In N Out Burger

This is strictly a West Coast chain, but they are legendary. Virtually everyone I know who has had an In N Out Burger swears they're the best fast food burgers ever. In N Out has a very small menu - just burgers, fries and drinks - but all their burgers are available "Protein Style", which means with lettuce in place of the bun. Bless them. Here's the stats:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
In N Out Burger Protein Style 240 10 2 12
Cheeseburger Protein Style 330 11 2 18
Double-Double Burger Protein Style 550 11 2 33

Taco Bell

When I was eating low fat/high carb, Taco Bell was my favorite fast food joint. I'd get two burritos, one with beans, one with chicken, both with no sour cream or cheese, and have a cheap-n-tasty meal. (Of course, I'd also end up with messy clothes. Roughly one out of every four Taco Bell burritos is the dreaded Stealth Burrito, designed to explode down your front.)

How have the mighty fallen! Now that I'm low carb, there's just not a lot for me at Taco Bell. Still, there are one or two choices that can fit into a low carb diet, if you really try:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Taco Salad without the shell 400 31 15 24

Most of the carbohydrate - and the fiber - in the Taco Salad without the shell comes from the refried beans. If you ask them to hold the beans and double the meat or chicken - I prefer the chicken - you'll drop the carb count substantially, and raise the protein count a smidge. This - the Taco Salad, hold the shell (or just eat around it), hold the beans, double the meat or chicken, is the only really low carb, high protein choice on the Taco Bell menu. However, depending on your own personal "carb budget", you might be able to get away with:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Tostada 250 27 11 10
Pintos and Cheese 180 18 10 9
Taco 210 18 3 9

Other than that, the Taco Bell menu is a festival of heavy duty carbs. Personally, I'd generally rather go elsewhere, but my husband is a fan.

Boston Market

This is a fantastic place for the low carber! If you have a Boston Market in your area, you'd do well to check it out. Obviously, the rotisseried chicken is fine for us, light meat or dark meat, take your pick, and it's moist and tasty. Boston Market also offers rotisseried turkey breast, if you prefer, and that's also fine. I'd steer clear of the Honey Glazed Ham - just 5 ounces contain 10 grams of carb; that's a lot for what's supposed to be a protein food.

What makes Boston Market really great for us, though, is the variety of other foods that we can eat. Here are some good picks:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
Chunky Chicken Salad 480 4 not listed 25
Creamed Spinach 260 11 2 9
Green Beans 80 5 3 1
Green Bean Casserole 80 9 2 1
Steamed Veggies 35 7 3 2
Caesar Side Salad 200 7 1 7
Cucumber Salad 120 9 2 2

Odd as it sounds, I'd avoid the Chicken Caesar Salad at Boston Market - it contains 25 grams of carbohydrate, only 3 of which are fiber. That seems like a lot, even assuming they've added croutons (which, of course, you would pick out.) I'd go with the rotisseried chicken or turkey breast.


What with all those big hero rolls, you'd think Subway was no place for the low carb dieter, but I'm pleased to say that's not the case. Subway offers plenty of salads, too. Here are your choices:

Menu Item Calories Carbs Fiber Protein
BMT Salad 275 11 3 16
Cold Cut Trio Salad 234 11 3 14
Meatball Salad 320 17 4 17
Seafood and Crab Salad 197 17 4 9
Steak and Cheese Salad 181 12 4 17


KFC used to be my favorite fast food place. Then they dropped their Tender Roast Rotisserie Chicken from the menu, and I stopped going there, unless I'm on a long car trip, I'm starving, and there's nothing else at the exit. The only stuff that works for us at all at KFC is chicken - light or dark meat, whichever you prefer - with the breaded skin peeled off, and green beans. Not a brilliant meal, but it will work in a pinch. It's obvious that the potatoes and biscuits are not low carb, but avoid the cole slaw, too. Like most commercial cole slaw, it's very sugary. (Why do they do that?!)

That's as many fast food places as I could think of off the top of my head; hope I've included the ones near you. If I haven't, you could email me, and I could do an update later on. Or, far quicker, you could find the website for your favorite fast food joint. It's easy - every single one of the companies in this article has their company name as their domain - mcdonalds.com, burgerking.com, etc - so I'd bet the same is true of your favorite, as well. Just try "www.fastfoodplace.com", and the chances are good you'll come up with what you're looking for.

Too, fast food menus change frequently; it's good to know where to look up the carb count of the newest salads or bunless sandwiches or whatever. Company websites are the easiest place to find this information - virtually all fast food places publish nutrition brochures or flyers, but they may not get updated as quickly as websites do.

If nothing else, I hope this article has killed one of the lamest excuses for not eating healthy - "I'm always on the go, and I have to eat fast food all the time. It's impossible for me to diet!" No, it's not. Now eat your salad!

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Vitamins 101

Vitamin B1, aka Thiamine

The discovery of thiamine is one of the classic stories of nutritional science. The vitamin was first identified by European colonial missionaries in Africa. The story goes that they stocked two kinds of rice at the mission - white rice for the missionaries, and brown rice for their African servants and their livestock. The missionaries suffered a high rate of a disease called beriberi, or polyneuritis - weakness, tingling, nerve pains, and other such nastiness - which the locals never contracted. It was assumed that the problem was that the climate was unsuitable for people of European stock, or that there was some infectious disease to which the natives had an acquired immunity that the white folks lacked.

Then the white rice ran out, and the "delicate and refined" missionaries were forced for several weeks to eat the same brown rice that their servants and livestock were eating. Miraculously, their beriberi vanished. When the shipment of white rice came in, the illness returned. Lights went on, and finally they figured out it wasn't a germ or the climate, or their "refined" European sensibilities - it was just plain malnutrition. The polishing that turned brown rice white also removed all the vitamins. Further research identified thiamine, then simply called "Vitamin B" - none of the other B vitamins had yet been discovered. Eventually it was discovered that thiamine generally hung around with some pals - riboflavin, niacin, and a few others - and the B Complex was born.

Some facts about thiamine, or B1:

* Thiamine promotes growth in those who are still growing, improves digestion, is important for proper functioning of the nervous system, may reduce motion sickness, and is important for morale.

* Thiamine, like all the Bs, is a water soluble vitamin. This means that any excess will be excreted, but also means that you need to get it daily.

* It's also good to remember that anything that has a diuretic effect will increase your need for water soluble vitamins, including thiamine, since you'll lose them in your urine.

* You'll also lose a lot of thiamine if you drink heavily - thiamine deficiency causes delirium tremens, or "the D.T.s". If you've partied too hard, it's not a bad idea to swallow a B complex tablet or multivitamin with a big glass of water before falling over and sleeping it off.

* Thiamine is always best taken with all the other B vitamins, either in a B complex, or a multiple vitamin. The B complex is synergistic - meaning that each enhances your body's ability to use the others. Indeed, they do mostly appear together in food sources.

* This synergy, however, means that you should not take big supplements of thiamine - or any B vitamin - without supplementing the other B vitamins as well.

* The RDA for thiamine is 1.0 - 1.5 mgs, or a little more if you're pregnant. However, taking extra - as much as 50 - 100 mgs. a day - is harmless so long as it's taken with the other B vitamins.

* Thiamine is sensitive to heat, so cooking can reduce the concentrations in your food. It is also destroyed by contact with air, a good reason to keep foods well-wrapped.

* Estrogen - both HRT and birth control pills -- antacids, and sulfa drugs can also destroy thiamine, increasing your body's need for it.

* Stress increases your need for thiamine, and for all of the B complex, which is why B complex tablets are often labeled "stress formula."

* Perhaps the best low carb source of thiamine is pork, although all meat, fish, and poultry has thiamine. Liver is also a good source, if you're willing to eat it. Nuts and seeds have some as well, as do vegetables.

* Another good source of thiamine is nutritional yeast - there's a bit of carb here, but not enough to mess you up, considering the amounts you use it in, and it's a great source of B vitamins and several minerals. Nutritional yeast is not exactly yummy by itself, but its flavor blends very well with soups, stews, gravies, meat loaves, and the like. I keep it on hand to spike things with - a couple of tablespoons in a meat loaf, a teaspoon in a bowl of soup -- and find it actually enhances the flavor of many savory dishes. Nutritional yeasts vary quite a bit in flavor, so if you don't like one, you may like another. Don't wrinkle your nose! You've probably had nutritional yeast - among other things, it's part of the flavoring on "smoked" almonds.

* Whole grains are a good source of thiamine as well, but since carbohydrates increase your body's need for the vitamin, they're not quite the bargain they appear at first glance. Low carbers can take advantage of some of this thiamine if they like by using the lower carb, higher vitamin fractions of the grains - the bran and germ.

Book Review

If you're tired of the self-righteousness of born-again vegetarians, here's an ebook that will cheer you up! I don't know about you, but I live in a university town where moral vegetarians are downright aggressive. "Meat is Murder" bumper stickers abound, and dozens of stop signs bear stickers with the extra two words, "Eating Meat". We've even had a firebombing at a local poultry processing plant. The perpetrators insisted that it wasn't really arson, because it was a political protest. It all grows wearisome, to say the least.

Eating Meat: No More Guilt is part rant, part reference, part history lesson. Clearly and entertainingly written by Victoria Palmer, it's a great remedy if you've had it up to here with people who ask you "Did your food have a face?" Palmer examines the political and philosophical issues involved, along with telling her own low carb story. She also gives interesting information about some of the nutritional problems inherent in a strict vegetarian diet.

There are two bonus items with Eating Meat - Palmer gives each purchaser a simple outline of an effective, low carb, meat based diet, complete with several recipes, and also a nifty, if simple, utility script which will figure out macronutrient percentages for each meal. That is to say, you tell it how many calories you want to eat in a day, how many meals you want to divide those calories between, and what balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate you want to have in your diet. The script then tells you how much of each macronutrient you should get at each meal.

But it's the rant that's really appealing. It's really more editorial than educational (although there are certainly interesting facts included), but then, I've been known to editorialize a time or two myself, and I do enjoy a good rant. Especially when I agree with the ranter!

I especially recommend Eating Meat: No More Guilt for those who have a great deal of contact with proselytizing moral vegetarians. It will provide just the ammo you need to fight back for your low carb lifestyle.

Find it at http://www.eatingmeat.com .

Lessons Learned. And Relearned. And Relearned...

I figured out a long time ago that most of us don't learn a lot of lessons in our lives - instead, we learn the same lessons over, and over, and over again. If we learn them thoroughly before we die, we're ahead of the curve.

I relearned a lesson just recently, and it's a good one to pass on yet again. The lesson is that a low fat diet is not great for my own personal body. How'd I learn this again? I was experimenting with Vietnamese cooking. Vietnamese food tends to be quite low in fat, and of course, I was keeping it low in carbs, too. You'd think that the combination would have caused me to lose weight, right?

Wrong. After several days of living almost exclusively on lean protein and vegetables, with almost no added fat, all my clothes were too tight. I realized where I must have gone wrong, added some fat back to my diet (my Vietnamese leftovers were all gone, anyway), and was back to my right size in a day or two.

My body just doesn't like low fat. If you've been eating both low carb and low fat in an attempt to lose even more weight, and it's not working, you might keep my experience in mind. If you want to control calories, don't do it by cutting way back on your fat. Better you should eat no more than your daily protein requirement, your small allotment of carbs, and get the rest of your calories from fat, even if it makes for smaller portions.

All of that being said, I have a wonderful Vietnamese recipe for you below! Just don't live on it for a week at a time, 'kay?

Reader Review of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet - and Lost Forty Pounds

This book is by far the best of all the lowcarb books I've read! It's written in comfortable, everyday language that actually made it FUN to read--I couldn't put it down! Dana Carpender doesn't preach or lecture; she provides a wealth of nutrition, science and medical information but she manages to do it with heart and with a sense of humor--something that's definitely missing from the other lowcarb books I've read. And this book is interactive! There are no questionnaires or forms to fill out but at times you'll actually feel like you're having a conversation with the author, rather than reading a book.

By all means, I recommend this book highly. Five stars are not enough!

Order from Amazon.Com

Canadian Customers! Order from Amazon.Ca

Product Review

Having given a lukewarm review to the new Atkins Cornbread Mix a few issues back, I'm pleased to be able to give a more enthusiastic review to another new Atkins product - Atkins Fudge Brownie Mix. I mixed this up one night when a newly dumped friend came over to drown her sorrows in dinner and a video - chocolate seemed essential, you know?

These aren't cheap; I paid $4.99. Like all mixes, Atkins Fudge Brownies went together easily. They call for 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, and 1/4 cup water, pretty basic. Bake 'em for about a half an hour in an 8x8 pan, taking care not to overbake.

How were they? Well, not identical to Duncan Hines, but the chocolate flavor was strong and good, and they were moist and very fudgy. Indeed, they were fudgy enough that I wondered if maybe I should have baked them just a couple more minutes, but by then Erica and my husband were devouring them, so what was the point? They were just a little sweet for my tastes, but I've come to expect that from commercially sweetened products. Next time, I might add a little extra cocoa powder, or 1/4 teaspoon of instant coffee crystals to cut the sweetness a bit. I also think that some chopped walnuts or pecans wouldn't come amiss, but then, I love nuts in any baked goods.

One dopey complaint: The package specifies an 8x8 inch pan, but then says that it makes "about 15 servings." In what universe? The logical way to cut these is into 16 pieces, each 2x2 - who on earth is going to cut them into 15 pieces? Geez. This silliness means that you can actually mentally subtract a fraction from the labeled quantities of 17 grams of carb per brownie, with 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 8 grams of maltitol. If you do the math, you'll see that subtracting the fiber and the maltitol leaves 5 grams of usable carbohydrate per brownie, or maybe 4.5 grams when cut into 16, not 15, pieces.

Atkins Fudge Brownies shouldn't be mistaken for health food, you understand. The biggest ingredient is maltitol, one of the polyols (and keep in mind that this means they can cause gas!) and after that, the list includes malto dextrin and "low glycemic" cornstarch. I can't recommend that you eat these brownies every day, or even every week. However, as an occasional treat, or to keep you out of the truly evil brownies at a potluck or barbecue, these are invaluable. We also learned, through rigorous experimentation, that Atkins Brownies combine nicely with Edy's No Sugar Added Ice Cream - this could be a good solution to the birthday cake problem. They also freeze well.

Plus they at least temporarily soothe a broken heart. Just ask Erica.

Cooking Low Carb!

This Vietnamese stir fry is for folks who like their food hot:

Singing Chicken

2 - 3 tablespoons vegetable oil - peanut is best

2 inch chunk fresh ginger root, sliced thin, then cut into thin strips

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut crosswise into thin slices (this is easiest if the meat is half frozen.)

2 tablespoons Splenda

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce (nuoc mam)

3/4 cup dry white wine

1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon guar or xanthan gum (optional)

1 fresh jalapeno, or 2-3 little red chilies, minced fine

1 teaspoon pepper

Have everything ready to go before starting to cook - have your ginger cut in tiny matchsticks, your garlic crushed, your chicken sliced. If you're using the guar or xanthan - it just makes the sauce a little thicker - it's also good to put the soy sauce, fish sauce, wine, and guar or xanthan in a blender, and run it for a few seconds; this avoids lumps of thickener in the finished stir fry.

Put a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add the oil, let it heat for a minute or so, then add the ginger and garlic. Stir for 1 minute to flavor the oil. Add the chicken, and stir fry for 1 - 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, and cook, stirring often, for about 7 - 8 minutes, or until chicken is done through. Serves 3 - 4. If you serve four, each will get 4 grams of carb, 39 grams of protein. Good with broccoli.

This is wonderful, but not for those who don't like breathing fire! We were sweating as we ate it. I used the jalapeno because I happened to have one in my garden. The little red chilies, called "bird peppers", are more authentic - and if anything, they're hotter. If you'd like to cut the fire just a tad, you can remove the seeds; they're the hottest part of a hot pepper. And please, please remember not to touch your eyes or any mucous membranes when you've been handling hot peppers, and to wash your hands well, with plenty of soap, when you're done. Hot pepper in your eyes is no joke.

Haven't used fish sauce? It's a typically southeast Asian condiment, and if you like Thai and Vietnamese food, it's good to have on hand. Like soy sauce, it keeps forever. Look for it at Oriental markets, or grocery stores that have a particularly complete ethnic foods section. Do not confuse it with Chinese "oyster sauce". However, the amount in this recipe is small enough that if you leave it out, the results should still be just fine.

About that guar or xanthan gum: Another good way to use these fiber based thickeners is to put them in a salt shaker, and sprinkle lightly over whatever you're thickening, stirring all the while. Go very easy; these are powerful thickeners, and it's easy to end up with food that's unappealingly gummy.

That's it for this issue! See you next issue!


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