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I Use Too Much Junk?
I got an unsubscribe request from the blog digest today, accompanied by this pithy critique: You use way too much commercial junk in your recipes. Yuk!
I'm only human; I toyed briefly with the idea of sending back an email saying "Sorry you don't find the blog worth what you pay for it." But then I thought, "Hmmm. Do I use too much commercial junk?"
So I looked back through the recipes I've posted in the past few weeks. Most recent was the Creamy Chicken-and-Noodles in a Bowl; it included whipped cream cheese with chives, tofu shirataki, and pre-cooked chicken breast strips. Frankly, I don't normally use the pre-cooked chicken breast strips, but in the context of 15 minute recipes, they make sense. The rest didn't seem all that exceptional to me; maybe I should have used organic raw milk cream cheese and fresh chives?
Previous to that, I published the recipe for Cocoa-Peanut Porkies. They have just three ingredients: Pork rinds, sugar-free semi-sweet chocolate, and natural peanut butter. The pork rinds contain nothing but pork skins. The peanut butter contains nothing but peanuts. The sugar-free chocolate does, indeed, include some inulin and artificial sweeteners, but then if I'd use expensive organic semi-sweet chocolate it would have included sugar, which doesn't strike me as an improvement.
Before that came the recipe for pumpkin pudding. That one contains canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin has nothing in it but pumpkin, and since raw pumpkin is only available for a couple of months in the fall it was the choice that allowed readers the most latitude. Also, I was trying to make it a 15 minute recipe, and cutting up, stewing, and pureeing pumpkin pretty much precludes that sort of thing.
Other than that, the pumpkin pudding does include vanilla whey protein, an ingredient I consider beneficial. And, of course, it has sugar-free sweeteners, both erythritol and Splenda. Again, I ain't using sugar, so it's use an alternative sweetener or scratch desserts entirely. Stevia is only good in some things; I find it problematic to use, to say the least. No way am I using agave nectar, a "natural" sweetener that appears to be worse than high fructose corn syrup. I offer no apologies for my sweeteners.
Before that? Flax pancakes. The ingredient list reads thusly:
1 cup flax seed meal
1 cup vanilla whey protein powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon Splenda granular
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup plain yogurt
Again, yeah, vanilla whey and Splenda. But flax meal? Plain yogurt? Eggs? Cinnamon? Heck, I even used mined ancient seabed sea salt, though I didn't specify that in the recipe.
I figured out a long time ago -- like, back before the turn of the millennium -- that most of my readers aren't hard-core foodies. Most of my readers range from good home cooks who like to try a new recipe now and then, to folks who, up until they realized that what they were eating was killing them, were living on Kraft mac-and-cheese and frozen pizza, just like the rest of America. I always keep in mind the woman who came to one of my very early book signings and asked plaintively "What can a low carber eat who, up until she went low carb, lived on Lean Cuisine?"
I have a rule about ingredients: If I have to go to more than two stores in Bloomington, Indiana to find an ingredient, I don't use it. The only exception is specialty low carb stuff that often only is available on online, but will make a real difference for a lot of people, and then I cite online resources to find it. Heck, I frequently mention to look for an ingredient at a health food store, or in the international aisle at a big grocery store, or wherever, because I know that a fair number of readers won't know where to find it.
But when I had a recipe I wanted to adapt that called for kirsch? I went to two local liquor stores, and when they didn't have it, I scratched the recipe. Because while some of you will go on an ingredient hunt, many will simply look at that unfamiliar ingredient, that thing that they're not sure where to find it, and walk right on by that recipe, never to return. I try to walk a middle line, truly, between expanding tastes and scaring people off.
Too, I keep budgets in mind. I could write recipes for exquisite small-farm, raw milk cheeses and grass-fed meats, but while many of you aspire to that stuff, many of you can't afford it, at least not all the time -- and neither can I. But a shift from mac-and-cheese and frozen pizza to basic low carb grocery store commodities like block cheese, meats and poultry, eggs and vegetables, will go a long way to improving your health, and the health of your family, too.
People also need recipes for a variety of occasions, from "I just need to get something on the table quick!" to "My boyfriend just ditched me, and I need something to keep me out of the Ben and Jerry's," to "What can I serve for Thanksgiving that won't torpedo me?"
I know every recipe isn't going to appeal to every reader. Heck, I've sold somewhere in the neighborhood of a million cookbooks now, and thank you all very much! Even assuming, as I do, that a lot of those are multiple sales to the same buyers, this figure argues in favor of somewhere around a half-million people buying at least one. No way can I please all those people all the time.
I can't even please me all the time. I regularly write recipes for ingredients I don't particularly like, because I know others enjoy them; I just test those recipes on people who like that food. (That Nice Boy I Married comes in very handy here; he likes a number of things I don't, and I like things he doesn't.) I've been known to have dinner parties for this very purpose.
So yeah, I write some pretty plebeian recipes. I use some pretty plebeian ingredients, along with a fair number of more exalted ones. If what you want are recipes you'd find in Gourmet or Bon Appetit, you can certainly subscribe to those magazines. I get Bon Appetit myself. But you're on your own when it comes to carb count.
If what you want is some new ideas for ways to rearrange the low carb stuff available at your local grocery (and health food) store, I'm your girl.