Friday, May 28, 2010

CHEAP'n'EASY #Lowcarb Picnic Ideas!

Lots of picnic food is already low-carb - think grilled meats - but when you're with a large group of family and friends it just don't seem right not to have a table groaning with food! And since this blog is about "Cheap'n'Easy" lowcarbing, I have some suggestions for that crowd-pleasing, groaning table that people can be enjoyed by ALL - lowcarbers or not!

First, the meats. Grill several different kinds. You can get chicken drumsticks for <$1/lb any day of the week just about, hamburgers made from scratch or already-formed patties for about 25¢ each, brats for about 50¢ each, and hot dogs for as little as a dime each! (Note that the cheapest hot dogs have all kinds of fillers, even HFCS, so read that packaging carefully! Ditto your brats!) Once you put out a few platters of different grilled meats, you've got a great start on your groaning table!

Next, vegetables. Even vegetables haters can enjoy sliced eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash, or halved bell peppers, tomatoes, or onions once they've been grilled! Brush with olive oil and season liberally (try garlic and onion powders, chili powder, sea salt, your spice cupboard and use your imagination!) before grilling. All of the colors on the platters, with the lovely grill marks criss-crossing your veggies, some fresh herbs tucked in, and this creates quite an impressive showing!

And a grilled "salad" is an impressive and EXCELLENT offering! Halve a head of romaine, leaving the bottom intact to hold it together. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill the cut side first, just until it has grill marks and is starting to get limp. Turn it over and sprinkle the hot cut side with some chopped cooked bacon and a little shredded cheese to melt it all on as the other side grills, and serve your grilled salads across a platter with a variety of salad dressings, and little dishes of add-ons for your guests to top 'em off. Suggestions: more bacon pieces and shredded cheeses, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced 'shrooms, roasted/salted sunflower seeds, chopped hard-boiled eggs...even tuna, ham, or chicken! Guests will love these I promise!

For other side dish ideas, try slices of cucumbers with spoonfuls of chicken, tuna, or egg salad on top, garnished with smoky paprika and parsley. Or a standard faux-tato salad, using blanched cauli bites instead of potatoes...and you can add other veggies as well! Devilled eggs are an expected offering, and are already low carb! A fruit salad of berries and melons with unsweetened coconut is always lovely, and cheese chips and veggies with dips are great too! Nobody will even miss the potato chips but if you have the time, daikons sliced thinly on a mandoline, deep-fried until curly and brown, then immediately seasoned with garlic salt and parmesan cheese (from the green can) make a very reasonable substitute. These are best served warm, so bring them to the picnic in a big covered foil baking dish that you can toss on the grill for a few minutes before serving with your meal.

Since desserts are expected, meringue cookies, SF jello salads with REAL whipped cream, lowcarb no-bake cookies and/or fudge, or any of the many cake, muffin, or cupcake recipes made with almond and/or coconut flours and SF sweeteners that abound will definitely work, with dishes of nuts set among them.

There is no reason that we lowcarbers can't have just as great and plentiful of a family picnic as non-lowcarbers can, and do it just as simply and inexpensively!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Planning or Winging It? #lowcarb

I follow blogs about people who plan their meals in advance and shop accordingly. I guess I've never explicitly mentioned that that's not how I do - although it's probably obvious.

It's like anything else: whatever works for you! For me, I want to eat whatever I'm in the mood for that day. If I plan a taco salad on Thursday but wake up craving a steak, I won't be happy with a taco salad. So I stock up my house with all kinds of lowcarb foods and ingredients to keep my options open.

On the other hand, I can see another point in planning: less emphasis on food. Less giving in to our food desires/craving. Learning control over "living to eat" and rather concentrating on "eating to live" - providing what we need to survive, rather than spending our days craving and drooling and obsessing over that night's fare.

Because, the way I do it, that's what I do. As the day wears on that night's supper is always on my mind. I may be thinking of a lot of other things, but that supper is always there. I think about what time to make it, how to season it, what side dishes I'll have, and how great it will taste. I give it WAY too much power over my thoughts, all day every day. It becomes the focus.

Food is a fuel. An enjoyable fuel to be sure, but when it becomes more than simply a way to keep going and to keep healthy, then it becomes a god. Waaaaaaayy wrong.

I'm not a planner, in any area of my life, and won't become one, but food does have more power over my life than it should. I need to consider this, and decide what to do about. Those who plan are onto something.