Column Reprint: Memorial Day
Boy, you gotta love Memorial Day Weekend! Not only is it the official beginning of summer, not only will Miss Manners grant you permission to wear white shoes after this weekend, not only do most of us have a long weekend off, but it's a holiday that isn't centered around junk food. YIPPEE!!
Indeed, what with all that cooking out, Memorial Day Weekend is just made for low carbers. Add to that the fact that many of us have outdoor activities planned -- camping, biking, boating, hiking, volleyball, or just tossing a Frisbee around -- and you come up with a fun celebration where you might even drop a pound or two! Hard to beat that.
So let's talk cookout menus. Of course, you know that you can have all the grilled steak, burgers, and chicken you want, and ain't that an improvement over a low fat diet! But don't forget about the other grilling possibilities -- how about a whole salmon stuffed with shredded scallions and herbs and paper-thin slices of lemon? Tuna steaks? A boned, rolled leg of lamb, or how about pork chops? I’ve even been known to smoke a whole brined turkey on my propane grill. Heaven! And serves a crowd inexpensively.
Hot dogs, brats, and smoked sausage all are popular grilling foods, but approach these processed meats with caution. Any time meat has been chopped up and re-formed, odd are that some sort of sugar has been added. Doesn't mean you can't have dogs, brats, or smoked sausage, but it does mean that you want to read the labels and choose the ones with the least added carb. Hot dogs run from 1 g of carb per link all the way up to 6 g. That's a 600% difference! For that extra five grams, you could have another light beer. Brats and smoked sausage tend to run between 1/2 and 1 gram of carb per ounce and you know you're eating more than an ounce or two! Choose the lowest carb sausages you can find, and eat them in moderation – have a half a brat, perhaps, and then a burger or some steak or chicken, too.
You could smoke a rack or two of ribs, which gives you an excuse to spend five or six hours lazing around the patio, cold beverage in hand, occasionally adding wood chips to the fire and splashing your ribs with mopping sauce. Ribs are carb-free, but sadly, the same cannot be said of barbecue sauces, most of which are simply loaded with sugar. We're talking 12 grams of carb or more in a fluid ounce -- 2 tablespoons! That's a lot of sugar from a little bit of a condiment. You can order low carb barbecue sauce from Carb Smart, of course. I’ve also found that Stubbs brand, available in grocery stores, is considerably lower carb than most commercial sauces, and it’s very good. Or you could go with dry-rub ribs. For a great mop, mix two tablespoons of your dry rub with a half-cup of light beer, broth or water, and 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Slow smoked ribs, seasoned only with a good rub and mop, are jaw-droppingly wonderful without any sugary sauce at all.
Remember that ketchup is also loaded with sugar -- most have 4-5 g in one tablespoon! Around here you can get Heinz One Carb, which is quite good. You can also order sugar free ketchup, or I’ve included a recipe for making your own no-sugar ketchup at the end of this article.
Mustard is low carb, unless you buy honey-mustard or something of the sort. (Don't!) Good old yellow mustard is fine, but don't forget spicy brown, Dijon, even horseradish mustard! Mayonnaise is low carb, of course, but it does have cheap soy oil in it. (Yes, even the "made with olive oil" mayonnaise has soy oil. See that "with?" That's marketing legalese for "There's other stuff in here, too.")
Your basic hamburger dill pickle is just fine. Relish, on the other hand, is sweetened, with 3-4 g of carb per tablespoon. I'd stick with mustard on that hot dog! Or have your dog with kraut – most sauerkraut has 1 g of carb or less in 2 tablespoons, and most of that is fiber.
What are you going to eat with your meat? Cut up veggies with dip make great picnic food, of course, and if you can get good tomatoes this early in the year, a platter of simple sliced tomatoes with a little salt and fresh or dried basil wouldn't go amiss. And I am pleased to tell you that I have now tried more than a dozen potato salad recipes using diced cauliflower, microwave-steamed till tender but not mushy, in place of the potatoes, and all of them have been fantastic.
I know it's darned tempting to have an ear of sweet corn, but remember it's got about 30 g in a 5" ear, almost none of which is fiber. You could have half an ear, slathered with butter, and call it a modest Indulgence, if you like, but remember, sweet corn isn’t a vegetable, it’s a grain.
Don't forget a bag of pork rinds or a can of mixed nuts, or both, for munching. It might be nice to have a dish of olives, or pepperoncini (mildly hot pickled salad peppers) or both; they’re both very low carb. How about big, crunchy kosher dill pickles, or garlic dills? These are both quite low carb, about 1 g in a whole pickle. If you’re a fan of sweet bread and butter pickles, look for sugar-free brands; I can get them in all my local big grocery stores.
How about dessert? Watermelon seems fairly harmless, but don't you believe it. A 1 inch slice from a watermelon 10 inches in diameter has 32 g of usable carbohydrate! You could have a quarter of a cantaloupe for 10 g, instead. Or a half a cup of cherries for about 10 g. A peach will cost you about 10 g, a plum about 9 g. Or you could have strawberries, my favorite! Strawberries and blueberries, mixed, with whipped cream, make a red, white and blue dessert everyone will love. A half a cup of strawberries only about 3.5 g of usable carb, while a half a cup of blueberries is a bit higher -- about 8 g.
Longing for a frozen treat? Sugar-free Popsicles have just 4 grams of carb apiece. Me, I’d rather have a no-sugar-added Fudgsicle – 10 grams, with 2 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 8 grams. And they taste just like the Fudgsicles I remember from my childhood!
What are you going to drink with all this? Well, there's diet soda, of course, and Crystal Light or sugar-free Wyler’s. You could make lemonade with fresh lemons, water, and Splenda or other sweetener to taste. Now that I think of it, that sounds mighty good! There's iced tea, too, my constant summer beverage. I also adore La Croix sparkling water, especially the grapefruit flavor.
Then there's beer. The lowest carb beer I’ve found is Michelob Ultra, but I find it insipid. I prefer Miller Lite or Milwaukee's Best Light. This latter is very cheap __ has about the same count as Miller Lite, 3.8 g per can, and tastes the same to me. It's made by Miller, and I’ve long suspected it’s the same thing in a cheaper can. Coors Light, Rock Green Light, and Corona Light are all in the 5-grams-and-under club. For my money, Amstel Light is the best tasting light beer; it has 5 g per bottle. Whichever beer you choose, do read the labels – many light beers are considerably higher in carbs than this, some with as much as 11 grams of carb per bottle.
(Parenthetically, I should note that since originally wrote this column, I have pretty much stopped drinking beer at all. I just don't trust grain. Not saying I'll never have a light beer again, I've always liked beer a lot. But for the very most part, I stick to dry red wine -- and the occasional shot of tequila. I do like tequila.)
If you'd like a tall, cool, refreshing beverage with just a bit of alcohol in it, try this: Pour 2_3 ounces of cheap jug ice in big glass. (Cheap jug burgundy will do.) Pour unsweetened berry, lemon, or lime flavored sparkling water over it, for a wine spritzer. This is my drink of choice when I want something to sip on for quite a while, without getting swacked. Remember that wine coolers are loaded with sugar; try wine mixed with diet lemon-lime or berry soda instead. Hard lemonade is super-carby, too – have sugar-free lemonade with a shot of vodka, instead.
And remember the Baja Bob's Margarita and Strawberry Daiquiri mixes!
So have fun! Get some sunshine! Grill something! And have a great holiday weekend!
Dana's No-Sugar Ketchup Redux
My most-published recipe has been my ketchup, appearing in most of my cookbooks. But since the last time I published it, I discovered I like it better made with tomato sauce than with tomato paste – it’s less likely to separate. So here you go! Feel free to double this if you’re going to use it as an ingredient in a barbecue sauce or meat loaf or something.
15 ounces tomato sauce (my grocery store carries cans just this size)
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup Splenda
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
Throw everything in the blender, but leave out the salt for now. Run till the onion and garlic disappear. Now pour into a non-reactive saucepan -- stainless steel, glass, enamel lined, or something like that. (NOT aluminum or cast iron.) Put it over low heat and let it simmer till it's thickened to the texture of commercial ketchup. Salt to taste when it's thickened. (Don't do it before you simmer it. Cooking it down increases saltiness.) Store in a snap-top container in the fridge.
I didn't measure my yield, but assuming you get 12 servings, each will have 17 Calories; trace Fat; 1g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber, 3 g usable carb.