Easy Low Carb Pancakes

These pancakes are made with eggs and almond flour, and have exactly 13 net carbs for the whole stack. Compare this to 100 carbs+ for a same size stack of wheat flour pancakes. I’ve eaten these many times with minimal rise in blood sugar- usually 10 mg/dL or less for 4ish pancakes.

Almond flour may seem prohibitively expensive but costco sells a 3 pound (=12 cups) bag for $13. This is the cheapest I’ve found almond flour anywhere, including online. Here’s the recipe!

1 cup almond flour
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
‘about’ 1/3 cup water

Put all the ingredients, except the water, in a bowl.

Whisk everything together until the eggs are well blended. It will look gloppy.

Now add ‘about’ 1/3 cup water and blend until it is the consistency of pancake batter. If you like thinner pancakes, use more water. If you like thicker pancakes, use less, but the batter should be easily pourable. Remember you can always add water, but not take it out!

Fire up your pancake griddle to 375F (this is higher than regular pancakes are cooked). Griddles work much better than a frying pan on the stovetop. I long ago abandoned trying to make pancakes in a frying pan and recommend you do too. Spray the griddle with cooking spray and pour about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Wait for them to have bubbles that set…

… then flip them! Cook a minute or two more and they should be done.

These pancakes were cooked about 4 minutes total. As you can see one got a little too browned but it was still delicious. I eat these with cream cheese or butter. Remember the toppings can add carbs, so if you are diabetic or low carbing, proceed with caution.

 

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Vegan Chicken Cutlets

Admit it carnivores, they look tasty! No I’m not vegan, though I used to be. My 19 year old daughter turned vegan six months ago and is showing no signs of wavering. I spent ten years myself as a strict vegan, not for ethical reasons. I just thought it was gross eating dead animals (I still kind of do). So I have a lot of experience with vegan cooking, and it’s been fun dipping back into my vegan cookbooks.

Full disclaimer: this recipe is based on the famous chickpea cutlet recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. However I believe I’ve tweaked it enough to claim it as my own variation. My picky non vegan kids love this, my gluten free (although recently I’ve seen him sneak pieces of bread) vegetarian husband loves this, and if I could eat carbohydrates I would love it too.  We affectionately call it Quote Unquote Chicken.

Vegan Chicken
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 cups chickpeas/ garbanzo beans (if canned, drain them)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
‘about’ 1/2 cup water
vegan italian dressing, preferably one with sugar in the ingredients (I use Wishbone)- the sugar helps caramelize during cooking

preheat oven to 500F

In a food processor combine all the ingredients except the water and salad dressing. Once it’s blended, gradually add water until the dough has the consistency of play-doh. This may be a half cup, or less, or more. It depends on how much moisture was in your chickpeas and what kind of bread crumbs you use. Remember you can always add water but not take it out, so add a little at a time and check the texture after blending.

Turn the mixture out onto the counter and knead it a few times. It should resemble a pale yellow brain (lol) at this point. Divide it into 6 pieces and press them out slightly by hand. Then, with a rolling pin roll them out into chicken cutlet looking pieces, about 1/4 inch thick.

Place them on a baking sheet and pour a little salad dressing on each cutlet- about 2 tablespoons apiece- and spread it out with the back of a spoon. You could also use a pastry brush for this, but a spoon works just fine.

Ovens all differ but the first cook before flipping will be about 10 minutes, but check the bottoms of the cutlets at 5 minutes- it’s ok for them to turn dark brown but don’t let them burn!

Once the bottoms are nicely browned, flip them, pour a little salad dressing on that side and spread out with a spoon or brush. This time they probably only need about 5 minutes, but again all ovens are different. Don’t be afraid to let them get nicely browned as this is when the salad dressing caramelizes and brings out flavor. When you take them out of the oven flip them one more time and let them sit at room temperature. You should hear a brief, nice sizzle when you do this.

These can be eaten warm but taste more chicken-y after chilling in the fridge. My kids eat them plain, in hamburger rolls, with lettuce, the options are endless. They could even be used as an inexpensive chicken substitute in non-vegan dishes, since the cost of each batch is about $1.50 [assuming homemade bread crumbs and chick peas cooked from dried]. I buy Anthony’s vital wheat gluten from amazon. If you can find cheaper wheat gluten, let me know!

Parable

Yesterday morning one of the feral cats that frequent my yard showed up half dead. Were it not for the white spot on her nose I wouldn’t have recognized her; she looked like the zombie version of her former self. My first instinct was to reach down and grab her but I hesitated. I’ve learned the hard way it’s a bad idea to try physical contact with a feral cat. Even the tolerant ones hate being picked up. But she was one of the two somewhat tame ones- she never ran like a cockroach and occasionally enjoyed head scratches- so I scooped her up. She didn’t even try to resist.

I was astonished how light she felt in my hands. Even though a year old she remained kitten like and was half the size of her two brothers. Her mother is also strangely small so maybe she inherited the trait. In retrospect her lack of fight was a bad sign.

I brought her into my bathroom and looked her over for any sign of injury. She was emaciated, severely dehydrated, covered in debris. Her golden eyes so sunken they looked gray, and she was struggling to breathe.

Just last week she’d been a sleek, perfectly healthy, well fed cat. What happened? I tried to remember the last time I saw her. Ferals spend a lot of time hiding so it’s not unusual to miss seeing them. Maybe last weekend? Last week? My 13 year old daughter and I put food and water out every day, so she either got trapped somewhere or stopped eating for other reasons.

She was clearly at death’s door but with cats you never know. I got food and water, she weakly drank and drank but didn’t eat. Then she collapsed and stopped drinking.

I found an oral syringe and gave her small amounts of water every hour. She curled up weakly in my lap and still no fight. She swallowed the water almost politely. I cleaned her up as best I could, wrapped her in towels.

The kids marveled at the sick cat once home from school. I warned them repeatedly she was in very bad shape and may not survive.

Toward evening she seemed to perk up but was breathing heavily. She sounded like a human in deep sleep, deep, long, strangely peaceful breaths. My seven year old asked to help give her water, I told her to wait upstairs while I got everything ready.

Downstairs, the bathroom was silent. With unexpected dread I opened the glass doors of the shower: there was the little cat laid out on her side, perfectly still. I touched and shook her lightly. She was dead.

I was shocked by how emotional I was. I don’t cry easily but tears were streaming down my face. They’re streaming as I type this! She was just a cat, and not even a pet cat. She was wild. One of the things I hate about our culture is how we value animals seemingly more than we value human beings. Yet here I was totally distraught over a cat that didn’t even belong to me.

I didn’t want the young kids to see her. What to do with her? I couldn’t bear the thought of putting her in the trash. I decided to dig a hole in the yard and get her in there as quickly as possible. I did this as best I could in the cold and dark. Her three siblings watched me keenly as I dug the hole; one had been sitting at my back door all day long as though to inquire as to her condition. I wrapped her in a small blanket, put her in the hole, packed dirt on top and placed heavy stone blocks there so scavengers wouldn’t dig her up.

Back in the house I explained the situation to my 13 year old and asked if she could place a second layer of rocks on the hole so- and here I started sobbing- so nothing eats her. My 17 year old later remarked she couldn’t remember the last time she saw me cry.

So why the fount of emotion?

Perhaps I’m upset about other things that somehow got focused on this event, like light is focused and scattered by a prism.

Perhaps I assigned a false connection to the cat. Sometimes I think human behavior toward animals is similar to how humans connect to androids in sci fi movies. We assign reciprocal emotion and designate a human style relationship where none exists. To these cats- as cute and funny as they can appear- we are little more than food dispensers.

Anyway the next day, in morning light and under a brief snowfall, I saw the 13 year old’s handiwork. She made a rather respectable grave for ‘our’ little cat. I would be happy to have a grave as peaceful as this when I die.

Why the title parable? Back when she appeared as a totally feral kitten, my ten year old named her Parable, and her identical looking sibling Stanley, after the video game The Stanley Parable.

The Final Table

I spent the past week binge watching Netflix’s The Final Table– a cooking competition  where 24 chefs (working in pairs) must concoct international dishes that are judged by food enthusiasts and chefs from the respective cuisine’s country. I thought this series would be tacky- and it definitely has garish elements, like its Satan Incarnate host and overly dramatic lighting- but the chefs themselves are fascinating and the cooking top notch. If you combined the wonderful foodie series Chef’s Table with The Price is Right, you might get something like The Final Table.

Two episodes in I began to wonder if the elimination process was staged. Ie, did producers determine beforehand who would win each round. But once they got rid of the women and most of the minorities I realized no way was this planned- and to my sheer astonishment white men ruled the day (but I won’t tell you which white guy). How was this allowed to be filmed much less broadcast? lol. I didn’t realize how inured I’ve become to the media sidelining of white men until I found myself scratching my head over how all white men were ‘allowed’ into the finale. Lest you think I’m imagining things, if you read reviews for Final Table they unanimously decry  the ‘lack of diversity’ among the winnowed contestant pool as their foremost complaint.

My favorite chefs were the ever somber Shin Takagi and the ebullient Esdras Ochoa. Ochoa, in my opinion, was the most talented chef on stage despite his lack of formal training. One of the highlights of the entire series is when he tells legendary french chef Anne Sophie-Pic he’s just happy she wants more of his salsa. I also loved the Shane Osborne/ Mark Best team. Their camaraderie is infectious and fun to watch.

The show plays subtly  on the tension between deconstructionist cuisine (‘food as art’ or ‘food as entertainment’) versus just having something delicious on the plate. The Rafael-Esdras team hit this balance better than other teams, IMO, repeatedly concocting dishes that were not just beautiful and creative but also delicious.

If you enjoy cooking shows, but like me have not enjoyed cooking competition shows, I highly recommend The Final Table as binge fodder.

Mexican Street Food With Mark Wiens

I’ve spent the past month binge watching and re-bringe watching The Last Kingdom, the excellent BBC series based on The Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cromwell. However I reached a 9th century saturation point and began browsing for something else to numb the brain cells. My screen fallback is usually cooking shows, which is how I stumbled across Mexican Street Food With Mark Wiens.

Ladies and gentlemen if you enjoyed Somebody Feed Phil you will LOVE Mark. Mark is like a… whatever race he is (at one point he mentions he’s half chinese, not sure about the other half) version of Phil Rosenthal. A little dorky, exceedingly friendly, strangely skinny and boy does he love food. Just like with Phil, it’s addictive watching Mark relish the various offerings of chefs the world over.

While Phil veers toward upper crust dining with some street food mixed in, Mark prefers street food. At times it’s unnerving watching him joyously stroll through neighborhoods that look like a set from City of God, happily greeting everyone he meets with an hola. Even more unnerving he sometimes drags his wife and infant child along. But no harm comes to them and they emerge each episode unscathed and well fed

I watched all of his Mexican Street Food episodes and while I highly recommend the season to food enthusiasts, the meals do get repetitive. All mexican food seems to consist of the following in various permutations: shredded meat, lots of lard, some kind of bread/ starch platform and oodles of condiments. Many vendors have dozens of salsas, spices, chiles and diced veggies available as garnish. My favorite episode was probably the lamb pit which features a sprawling outdoor restaurant where bags of meat are purchased fresh from pit masters by the kilo. I had no idea mexicans are as takeout crazy as americans; virtually every restaurant Mark visits is packed with locals. I also had no idea Mexico is cold! In many episodes everyone is bundled up in hats, winter coats, and sometimes their breath hangs in the air just like chilly New York.

My only complaint is the show doesn’t translate any of the spanish, so unless you speak spanish you’ll miss out on what the chefs are saying about their ingredients and cooking techniques.

If only Phil and Mark would do a series together, that would be brilliant!

Mexican Street Food is available on amazon prime as of this posting. Mark also has a voluminous youtube channel with hundreds of videos and millions of subscribers.

Operation Mouse Rescue

This past weekend I had a migraine. If you’ve never had a migraine before, imagine the worst headache you’ve had and multiply the pain several fold. Then imagine shimmering lights and distorted vision, nausea and sometimes a rancid smell that doesn’t exist. I have a long history of migraines, though strangely I usually get the auras (the visual disturbances) without the headache. While not painful these can be annoying, because if they’re bad enough I can’t drive, read, or type. As I’ve gotten older the headaches began to accompany the auras. I was told by a neurologist this is unusual; migraine issues usually improve with age instead of worsening.

Anyway, due to my less than perfect insurance situation (catastrophic coverage) I didn’t have any sumaptriptan on hand so had to wait it out the old fashioned way. High doses of advil can put a dent in it; tylenol doesn’t touch it. I shuffled around the house, watched netflix in a crumpled heap, took warm showers and spent a lot of time in bed. Sometimes lying perfectly still with my eyes closed helps a little. Translation, I was a useless human being! I had to plead with my cantankerous adult son to pick up the housekeeping slack.

I was much better by day 3 (monday) though I’ve still felt it surge up occasionally. Most migraines will go away on their own within five days. I only once had a migraine persist more than a week.

Very early sunday morning I was in a haze of partial sleep after a miserable night when I heard the door alarm chirp. We have two alarms on the house, one makes a chirping sound when any door or window is moved. Ba-deep, ba-deep. The other alarm makes a world war three blast if any window or door is moved while the house is armed. Since it was only the chirpy alarm I knew someone capable of disarming the house (ie one of the older kids) must have somewhere to go.

Once I was up my oldest daughter, the vegan animal rights activist, came in from outside looking sheepish. Where were you? I inquired. Nowhere! she said quickly.

My seven year old was within earshot and said: mommy– she saved a mouse!

Shut up! snapped my daughter. Don’t be a snitch.

What? I pressed my oldest daughter for answers but she was reticent. Eventually I got the story out of her: she discovered a mouse on a glue trap in the kitchen (we recently had a resurgence of mouse activity). Having already armed herself with internet knowledge on how to free mice from glue traps she slathered the trap with oil, marched the mouse outside and somehow unstuck it. At which point the mouse promptly died.

My daughter was clearly distraught over the ill fated rescue and I tried explaining as tactfully as possible that once the mouse is stuck it’s more humane just to kill it. We put ours in the freezer but I’ve known people who either drown them or stomp on them (I did consider running them over with the car).  She sighed wistfully but seemed to agree.

The more I thought about it the more it bothered me. Maybe she has been sabotaging the traps all along? And who’s to say she won’t keep trying to rescue them?

After much deliberation I ordered a set of live traps off amazon. If she loves mice so much maybe she can keep one as a pet, otherwise we’ll have to drive them to some distant park (supposedly mice are territorial and will return). I did warn her if we reach infestation levels again I reserve the right of deadly force, but for now we’ve declared armistice.

A Very Small Force

Unfortunately my 15 year old daughter began to show the same signs of mental deterioration that her older sister exhibited at the same age (circa age 14). I actually had some moments of concern towards the end of 8th grade (age 13). She had an unfortunate incident at school- on the scale of unfortunate school incidents it was probably a 3.5 on a 1-10 scale, but my normally mellow daughter reacted as though it were a 10+ on the richter scale. I thought that was odd but whatever, she was an adolescent girl.

Then there was a day she was outside in the backyard pacing back and forth. That alone isn’t cause for concern, but she was talking to herself. With my oldest daughter, by the time we finally sought her help, she was pacing and talking to herself 24/7- not an exaggeration, I know she must have slept at some point- but there was never a point where I didn’t find her pacing and talking to herself. I even jokingly referred to her as the night watchman as she followed her route up and down the stairs, back and forth through the hallways. But again, who doesn’t occasionally think out loud? I let it slide, but she began talking to herself more and more.

Then she began high school. We had such high hopes! Sending her to a pleasant private school where all she had to do was put in a modicum of effort and enjoy the next four years before having to face the real world, or at least the semi-real world of college. But she began acting strangely. Some mornings she would look at me with real fear in her eyes. ‘I’m allergic to my body’ was a common complaint. Once I heard her have an animated conversation with (I thought) her sister, but when I walked into the room there was no one else there. That was probably the official heart through the floor moment for me; I think every parent with a seriously mentally ill child has an official heart through the floor moment.

Then she was convinced her teachers were part of an organized plot against her and that the grandmotherly vice principal was stalking her. More than once she vanished from campus and once hid in a stairwell sending me frantic messages about how the VP was stalking her. It wasn’t long before she was in the psych ward and not long after that we were forced to withdraw her from the school. Not wanting her to spend as much time in the psych unit as did my older daughter, I went through the board of ed and asked that she be put in a day treatment program (basically the psychiatric version of Fame). It took a while to get the evaluation together but the stars aligned and she began her sophomore year on time at the facility. The bus picks her up every morning and drops her off every afternoon. It’s a locked facility so at least between the hours of 7:15am and 3:15pm I know she’s ok. Because we caught this early she has not yet got as bad as her sister, but I’m still shell shocked from that ordeal only to be facing it again.

I am ill equipped for this. You go into parenthood with such lofty aspirations, how you will do things right in the way your own parents failed to do, how you’ll bend over backwards to give the child every feasible advantage. But then you get hit with zinger after zinger and before you know it you feel like a very small force up against a rising tide.