Hey, lookit me! I'm bloggin'!

Hey, Gang --

Okay, I admit it. I've been gone a reeeeeaaaally long time. It's been a rough couple of years. If personal details bore you, please skip ahead past the bullet-pointed list. In the past year-and-a-half:

* My siblings and I had to force our mother into residential care for advanced Alzheimer's. She was sure she was fine. She wasn't. This is the single hardest thing I've been through in my life. I'm just grateful that the facility she's in is a miracle of both kindness and competence. If you have a family member with Alzheimer's in the San Diego area, email me, and I'll give you details.

* My father died, just this past August, after a couple of years of progressively failing health. I miss him every day.

* My Boston Terrier, Molly, died in my arms.

* We invested much of the cookbook money in rental properties which have needed, er, more than a little attention.

*I've been working on another book, The Glycemic Load Cookbook, in collaboration with Dr. Rob Thompson, author of The Glycemic Load Diet. I'm almost done with it; it's due out next fall.

* I've been writing a weekly column, which took up most of the time and energy which had been devoted to Lowcarbezine!.

As of this evening, however, I have written my last column for United Media. I have enjoyed my association with them very much, and was grateful for the bully pulpit. But ever since the column shifted focus from carbohydrate restriction in particular, to nutrition in general, I've chafed to come back to what I really know, love, and believe in: Carbohydrate restricted nutrition, everything from people who just give up white flour and sugar, to Atkins intervention, and everything in between.

The last you heard from me, I asked you all for input regarding your experience with low carbohydrate diets because I was writing a book proposal. I spent nearly two months writing that proposal, but sadly, as of now, no publisher has picked it up. However, I got terrific information from a few hundred readers. I'll be drawing on that information to share the collected wisdom of the low carb community with you.

But for the next three weeks, I have to get this book written! So I'll be publishing back columns and new recipes, just to keep my hand in. (Heck, to get my hand back in.)

Since we're all experiencing post-holiday budget shock, here's a column from a few Januarys back:

Now that the holidays are over, while our VISA cards are still smoking in our wallets, it seems an opportune moment to tackle a common complaint regarding a low carb diet: “It’’s so expensive!”

At first glance, this seems true. If you’ve been basing your meals on potatoes, rice, pasta, and generic white bread, you’ve been getting away with a lower cost-per-serving than, say, steak. I have several thoughts on this matter.

First, and most important: Any food that makes you fat, tired, sick, and hungry would not be cheap if they were giving it away. If you are carbohydrate intolerant, if you have the illnesses that have been identified as being related to high insulin levels –– diabetes, hypertension, high triglycerides, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and the like –– “cheap” carbs are a luxury you can’t afford. You’ll pay for them in the form of doctor visits, medicines, sick days, dental bills, and new clothes in bigger sizes.

Second, remember that many carb-y foods are not even cheap to buy. I’ve long suspected that cold cereal is a conspiracy to get us to pay three and a half bucks for fifteen cents worth of grain. Bulk potatoes may be cheap, but Pringles are expensive. Frozen dinners, canned biscuits, boxed potatoes, and other prepared foods are not budget items, and most of them are loaded with junk carbs and bad fats. Cut all of this rubbish out of your food budget, and you’’ll find a bit more room for protein and vegetables.

That being said, real, good, nutritious food does cost more per pound than the cheapest carb-y junk. How to deal with this?

* Not one of those expensive low carb specialty foods is essential to your success. When I went low carb they didn’’t exist. Going low carb meant eating unprocessed real foods, and I suspect that some of the health benefits stemmed from this simple fact. You’’ll save big money eating real food instead of low carb macaroni-and-cheese mix.

* Your body does not care if you get your protein from lobster, steak, and boneless, skinless chicken breast, or from hamburger, tilapia fillets, and chicken leg-and-thigh quarters. Hereabouts those boneless, skinless breasts often run $4.99 a pound, while leg-and-thigh quarters often go on sale for 69c a pound or less. Big difference.

* Buy in bulk When hamburger, tuna, butter, canned broth, natural peanut butter, or the like goes on sale, stock up. A freezer lets you take advantage of meat specials. I bought mine used for $225 and it has paid for itself many times over.

* We love rib eye steaks, which run $8.99 a pound. So I wait till whole rib eyes go on sale for $4.99 a pound, and have the nice meat guys slice one into steaks for me. No charge for this service, and I get steaks for several months for the price of one dinner at Outback. I also buy leg of lamb on deep discount, and have it cut into steaks –– much cheaper than lamb chops.

* Eat what’s in season. Asparagus, lettuce, berries, and melon, all great low carb foods, are sky-high this time of year. Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are all in season, and are cheaper –– I just bought cabbage for 29c/pound. This makes coleslaw, steamed broccoli, and cauliflower “fauxtatoes” and "cauli-rice" better choices than salad. Turnips and rutabaga (I adore rutabaga!), spaghetti squash, and celery are other winter vegetables that work well for us. Grapefruit is abundant, wonderful and cheap in the winter, and has only about 10 grams of usable carb per half.

* Bagged salad, pre-cut veggies, skinless chicken, pre-made hamburgers are all expensive. The more food preparation you do yourself, the more money you will save. Spend an hour on the weekend prepping stuff yourself, and stash it in the fridge for busy days.

* Nuts are low carb, but so are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and they’’re far cheaper. More minerals, too!

* Drink homemade iced tea instead of diet soda.

* One of the lowest carb-and-calorie desserts is also one of the cheapest –– store brand sugar-free gelatin.

* Cut way back on eating out. The same food is always far cheaper at home.

* Bag lunches are a great way to use up leftovers –– who wants to pay for food to turn green in the fridge?

Here’s a family-pleasing supper that cooks while you’’re out of the house. Buy leg-and-thigh quarters, spend five minutes cutting the drumsticks off for another meal, and pulling off the skin –– you’’ll save 30c a pound or more.

Southwestern Barbecue

1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Splenda
1 1/2 tablespoons jalapeno pepper, canned, sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/8 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 pounds skinless chicken thighs

Combine everything but the chicken in your slow cooker, and stir well.

Place the chicken in the sauce, meaty side down.

Cover, set on low, and cook for 6 hours. Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over it.

6 Servings, each with: 215 Calories; 7g Fat; 34g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 2g usable Carbs.

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