Various Notes on My Recent Low Carb Life

I don't have a brilliant article idea, so here are some random notes:

* That Nice Boy I Married and I bought a side of grass-fed beef from our friend Scott Merritt, who raises it in Texas. Scott's main business -- selling tee shirts to gaming and science fiction fans -- was bringing him to Indianapolis anyway, so he grabbed some big coolers and brought us a metric buttload of beef. So far we've eaten two sirloins, two rib eyes, and some ground beef, and it's all wonderful -- tender and full-flavored. I'm looking forward to a winter of short ribs and pot roast!

For those who are wondering, our beef cost us under $5/pound -- high for ground chuck, but quite cheap for rib eyes and roasts. We also paid for the $80 super-huge cooler Scott bought to haul the meat in, and kicked in some gas money. One assumes that next time we can find a way to reuse Giganto Cooler.

* Since we had one of those sirloins for supper last night -- along with a salad and fauxtatoes -- we had leftover steak this morning. So we had grass-fed sirloin steak and fried free-range eggs from the back yard for brunch today. Hard to beat that.

People often ask "But don't you miss carbs?" What, I'm supposed to wish I'd had oatmeal?

* I made an unspeakable error. I purchased Valor brand sugar free chocolate mousse bars without reading the label. Turns out that they're way, way higher carb than I realized. I will not be buying those again. Let my embarrassment be your lesson: READ THE LABELS.

* Saturday I went to Sahara Mart (my local gourmet/international/health food grocery) to buy some lower carb sugar free chocolate. I wound up buying regular super-dark chocolate instead -- it has sugar, but so little that, in the quantities I eat it, it shouldn't screw me up. I got Divine brand 85% dark, and Endangered Species brand 88% dark.

The label on the Divine 85% says that it has 7 grams of carb, 6 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of sugar, but of course that doesn't add up under American labeling law. Sure enough, it's from Germany, where they don't include grams of fiber in the total grams of carb, so I can't subtract out the fiber. That means it really does have 7 grams of carb per serving. A serving is 10 little squares, and I generally eat four, so I'm getting maybe 3 grams of usable carb. I can live with that.

The Endangered Species brand 88% dark has an American label: 17 grams total carb, 6 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar -- I'm not sure what the other carbs are, since I don't think of chocolate as starchy. Still, that's 11 grams in a serving; the label says a serving is half a bar. Again, I eat less than that -- a little less than 1/4 bar, so maybe 5 grams of usable carb. Again, I can live with that.

Both of these are delicious, but then I do love very dark chocolate. I've eaten so little sugar for so long that these taste plenty sweet to me. If you're into lighter stuff these might not be for you.

* I tried this recipe yesterday. Jeff Nimoy, of Cooking Caveman, called it the "Closest Paleo Bread Recipe So Far!" It's simple, it's grain free, and it really is quite good. So far we've only had it with a little low-sugar jelly, very nice. I'm not sure, yet, if I'll like it in savory applications like grilled cheese or garlic bread, but I'll give it a shot and report back.

Jeff has also posted what is billed as an improved version. I'm impressed enough with the first recipe that I will try the second.

I have to disagree with Jeff on two points: First, he left the sea salt out of his bread because he believes it to be unhealthful. I consider good, mined ancient seabed salt to be a health food, and paleo. Hunter-gatherers who lived near salt water would have had salt, and there are salt deposits around the world. Since animals flock to salt licks, hunters would have known where those salt deposits were.

Phinney and Volek, in their excellent book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, state that, because lowering insulin levels restores the kidneys' ability to properly eliminate sodium, it is common for low carbers to become deficient in salt. Both my husband and I have to be careful to get enough salt -- I was badly hyponatremic (salt deficient) this spring, to the point of being dizzy and severely fatigued, with swelling in my legs, and nasty headaches every time I lay down. Those headaches? Those are from my brain swelling, and it's how being salt deficient eventually kills. TNBIM has merely passed out from hyponatremia. I don't know that Jeff Nimoy eats low carb, but as a paleo guy he is doubtless eating lower carb than the average person. A little salt in his bread would do him good.

And secondly, he subs lemon juice for vinegar, to avoid "wheat-based yeast products." I know of no reason why wheat needs to be involved in fermenting apples into vinegar. Yeasts are ubiquitous, and fruit will happily ferment all on its own. Our old house had an apple tree in the back yard, and it was not uncommon for there to be the scent of vinegar wafting from the apples under the tree. Depending on the region one lives in, ACV might well be more paleo than lemons.

But that's nitpicking. It's a good recipe, worth your time and money for ingredients, and I'm going to try some variations. In particular, I think I'll swap out coconut butter for the almond butter, and see if I can get a fat-fast-friendly bread.

* I've been buying local butter from Amish farms. I had read that French butter, from cream that had been allowed to culture a bit, had a cheesy flavor. I couldn't imagine that, until I bought the Amish butter. Sure enough, there's a cheese overtone to the flavor. I rather like it.

However, I have also learned that Amish butter, unlike the stuff I get at the grocery store, will eventually go moldy. Indeed, it grows veins of mold that look remarkably like those in blue cheese. I'm a big enough food-and-science geek to find this fascinating. It also makes me wonder what they've been doing to the butter at the grocery store, that it appears to be immortal.

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I've been making almond break

I've been making almond break using almost that identical recipe (the first one) for a year or two. LOL, I thought the recipe was my own original invention. :-)

Mine comes out great, has a super texture, doesn't crumble or fall apart. Is easily sliced and stays together even if the slices are really thin. Is great for toast or french toast. I also used the freshly ground almond butter from Whole Foods as that's the only almond butter I eat. I love it a lot. It's just about perfect. I've also made it with tahini and it's pretty darn good also.

coconut palm sugar

This relatively new product is advertised to have very little effect on blood sugar. Would it be appropriate for low carbing?

That bread recipe was so insane I had to try it

And wow, that worked so much better than I expected - thanks for calling attention to it!

My big mistake in making it was using the Whole Foods fresh-ground almond butter - they don't blanch the almonds before they grind them, so the almond butter is unpleasantly "mealy" - and baking doesn't improve that, it accentuates it.

But still, an impressive (if not tasty) proof of concept - encouraging enough that I'm going to give it another shot with super-creamy almond butter.

(Have you found it to be really dry? Or might that, again, be the fault of the almond skins?)

Thanks again,
Bob Geary

Almond butter

Hmm. I used fresh-ground almond butter from the local food coop, myself, and it wasn't super-creamy. My bread was nice and moist. Maybe you need to give it a little less baking time? Your pan could be a different size from mine, and oven temps vary a little, too.