Pumpkin Pie

Traditional Pumpkin Pie
Serve 8

2 eggs
3/4 cup Splenda (or the same volume of granulated sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 can (15oz/425g) of 100% pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (12 fl oz/360ml) evaporated skim milk
1 unbaked deep dish pie crust

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare your crust.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together Splenda and spices.
  4. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light, yellow and frothy.
  5. Stir pumpkin into eggs, mix until incorporated.
  6. Add sugar/spice mix, mixing until incorporated.
  7. Gradually stir in milk, until well mixed.
  8. Pour into pie crust.
  9. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F. Bake another 40-50 minutes. The pie is finished when a knife tip inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.
  10. Serve immediately, or refrigerate.
  11. Do not freeze this pie. (The filling will separate from the crust and lose much presentation appearance–but not flavor.)
Nutritional data:
Calories:         183
Fat:                8.4g
Sat fat:              3g
Chol:         59.8mg
Sodium:      213mg
Carbs:             23g
Fiber:             0.7g
Protein:          6.1g

How To Survive Thanksgiving (And Other Feasts) And Still Enjoy Everything!

I LOVE the Thanksgiving Feast. I always have, and always will. It features all my favorite foods in one meal. It is one very large, very delicious, seemingly never ending meal.
In the past, I would be busy all morning, with my breakfast and lunch consisting of coffee. Then I would serve our feast, which in our family is traditionally around 2pm. (That allows the hunters in the family to spend 6-7 hours in the woods and make it back in time to eat.) Then I would clean up, watch some football (American style, not soccer for you Europeans) and eat some more. I would loosen my belt, take a nap, wake up and eat some more. Then, later in the evening, I would just snack on a little more.
But why am I hungry? I clearly ate a day’s worth of calories in that first meal. In total, I probably ate 5000 calories or more (I never logged a Thanksgiving feast before I started LoseIt so I am not sure. I might have to test that theory—not actually eat it, but log the food as if I ate it.)
A lot of the reason I ate that much was the old enemy: habit. I always ate like that, as did everyone around me. It’s easy to get sucked into a mindless morass of endless eating, when you are acting and reacting mindlessly. When you live with your eyes open—living mindfully—you can break those habits.
Another problem was what I was eating, and how it works in the body. At my traditional feast, I have turkey, dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable like Brussels sprouts, gravy, cranberry relish, homemade bread, wine and beer, pumpkin and pecan pies, and homemade whipped cream. In other words, the meal is protein, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs/fat, carbs, carbs, carbs/fat, and fat.
Do you see the problem? Carbs—starches—metabolize quickly, usually within 2 hours of eating. Eat a coffee, donut and OJ for breakfast and see how you feel 2 hours later. You crash and are hungry again. The same happens with this feast. Sure, I eat some protein, but most of the feast is variations of carbs. When you eat carbs, your body will pump out insulin to help move the sugars out of the blood and into your cells. (This assumes you have a healthy insulin response. I am simplifying the process a lot. I don’t want this to be a metabolic physiology lecture.) And those are burned off quickly. So about the time I have everything cleaned up and maybe watch a bit of the game, I am hungry again. Not because my body needs calories, but because the available sugar in your blood is low, and your brain only runs on glucose as its fuel. (Your body can make glucose from non-starch foods, so eating a diet high in protein and fat will still give your brain it required glucose. That is called “gluconeogenesis”.)
After you eat, you get hungry again. You will go to the leftover food, and eat more of it. But since most of it is carbs, the cycle continues. Eat, wait, and get hungry again.
How can you fight that? With proteins and fats! Make the turkey the center of your meal. Eat a larger portion of turkey, and then reduce the portion sizes of the carbs. If you make sweet potatoes don’t put marshmallows on them (ugh) but instead top them with real butter, or high quality coconut oil. When you make your mashed potatoes, add butter, or sour cream or heavy cream, or buttermilk. Adding those ingredients will make for creamy mashed potatoes, but also hide some extra fat to help mitigate the starches. (But let’s be real. If you make a mound of potatoes like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” you are still getting too many carbs at once.)
If you are going to serve bread, choose whole grain bread with a lot of fiber. Pies? I’m not sure how to work with the pies. Just eat a smaller slice.
Yes, I know. These tips to hide fats in foods fly in the face of calorie reduction concepts, but I am not teaching calorie reduction here. I am teaching you how to control your eating for this type of meal. You will be challenged to eat within your budget, and as long as you log it, I believe that it’s okay to exceed your budget. But you need to do it with your eyes wide open and with an understanding of eating over budget is not the same as a feeding frenzy. These tips are designed to help prevent that out-of-control binge feeding.
Here are other hacks to help with this meal and the aftermath:
  1.   Use a measuring cup or scale to accurately portion your food. Eat controlled quantities of the foods you love, even if the total calories are more than normal.
  2. Use a plate smaller than usual (instead of the common 10-11” plate, use 7-8” plates.)
  3. Fill it with your favorite foods, but only once. You really do not need a second portion, even with the smaller plate.
  4. Wait 20 minutes before serving the pie. A simple way is to announce that dessert will be served when the coffee is ready. Start making the coffee only after everyone is finished eating. While it is brewing, you can either whip the cream (ideally) or thaw some whipped topping (it works, but isn’t as good). This will take about 15-20 minutes if you time it correctly, and that is how long it takes our minds to realize that our stomachs are full. If you wait the 20 minutes, you and your guests will be less likely to want a lot of dessert.
  5. Do not serve alcohol before the meal. Alcohol will stimulate our appetite.
  6.  Do not skip breakfast. Eat a modest breakfast, but one that is high in fats and proteins. You certainly won’t need toast or cereal grains at breakfast prior to this feast. But getting enough slow-digesting proteins and fats will help prevent uncontrollable hunger, which is common when you decide to “not eat breakfast and lunch so I have room for dinner.”  That practice will frequently lead to that accidental binge, because by the time you eat, you are so hungry that self-control is lost.
  7. Log the entire meal and any other eating. The number will probably be large, but not logging the food won’t make it not affect your body. Your body logs everything you eat, whether you acknowledge it or not.
  8. Don’t serve any alcohol. The meal is caloric enough, and these are truly empty calories.
  9. After eating pack the food it in take home containers for your guests, or put it in your freezer for future meals. If it is not easily accessible in the fridge, you are less likely to graze on it.
The last thing is how to handle family issues.  When a large family gathers together, conflict is inevitable. When compared to eating habits, this is a real challenge. Following my suggestion #8 (above) is a start. Try to find a universal focus. Discussion the merits of the Affordable Care Act, or who may run for President in 2016 would not be suggested topics of discussion. In our house, the focal point will be the Green Bay Packers/Detroit Lions football game. In other homes, maybe you can go “old school” and break out a deck of cards or a board game. Seriously, sometimes lighthearted family fun goes a long way in maintaining happiness. Maybe you want to take advantage of all the hands available and decorate for seasons that you celebrate. If you are crafty (I’m not) you can use the afternoon to create holiday greeting cards as a family.
Or maybe take a nap. I will be up late tonight preparing the meal. I have a detailed timeline if what goes in the over, at what temperature and for how long. I lay out the food on our kitchen island so I know how much room I need. And I will make the inevitable last-minute grocery store run, sometime tonight before I go to bed. I NEVER go to a grocery store on Thanksgiving morning. Insanity! By the time I am done cooking and cleaning, packaging, labeling and freezing food (and sending more home with our son who is living on his own) I will be tired. And when I get tired, I get the “munchies.”

Do I have all the answers? No. But I think these ideas will help. But in the end, you need to enjoy life. And regardless of how large the meal is, it is only one meal out of the year.  That is 1/100th of 1 percent of the total main meals you eat in a year (assuming three meals a day.) One large meal will not wreck your weight plans. In fact, learning how to live with this situation will give you a greater chance to succeed in the long term, because we will always be confronted with feasts. If we panic and act improperly, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
What tips would you recommend, for this and other feasts? What worked for you this year? Let us know below!

The Big Feast Is Three Weeks Away!

Thanksgiving. (The US version, for any Canadian friends who are reading this.)

My absolute, number one, most favorite meal of the year. (Okay, maybe it comes in second to any meal with my wife.) But I love cooking and eating my Thanksgiving feast.

And while I have a calorie budget and log everything I eat, this is one meal where I really don’t care. Oh, I don’t eat to the point where I am physically ill (like I used to) but I also do not avoid really good food. I log it all, and then move on.

What do I mean by good food?

Turkey. Stuffing/dressing. Mashed spuds. Sweet potatoes, but only dressed with some butter, no ridiculous marshmallows in mine, thank you very much. (Yes, I serve both tubers in one meal.) Gravy. Cranberry relish (probably the healthiest part of my meal.) Crusty bread with butter. More gravy. Maybe a vegetable, but something simple like steamed green beans.

And pies. Always the pumpkin pie, but lately I’ve added a fantastic bourbon pecan pie. And the crusts are made from scratch, using lard as the fat. The pies are served with real whipped cream or a high quality vanilla ice cream. Or both.

For beverages, I have sweet and hard ciders available, both of which go well with the meals. And coffee, hot, black and rich. I make my coffee in a stainless steel percolator (vintage early 1960s), and believe it or not, that is some of the best coffee you will taste.

But I have a dilemma. Do I roasted my turkey in the oven, like I did last year (delicious and juicy) or do I buy a smoked turkey and reheat it?

Roasting is traditional and delicious, but takes hours. The smoked turkey is equally tasty, and only needs to be warmed through.

What would YOU choose? Let me know in the comment section below.

These Are Sandwiches?

Today is a brief departure from the usual form of my recipes. Usually I give a specific ingredient list, detailed instructions and nutritional data. Today, I am just going to give you an idea.Where you take it will be solely up to you. The possible ingredients are infinite. I will let you create your own versions.

So many people seem to be careful about their carbohydrate consumption. Others are also trying to eliminate gluten from their diet. Sandwiches, in their traditional form, are not on option on their menu.

Well, these are also not traditional sandwiches, but they are fun, easy, healthy and fit the low-carb, gluten-free needs for those diets.

Yes. Cucumber sandwiches. The first step for each is to cut them in half the long way and seed them. Then you fill them with the ingredients of your preference.

I made three different versions, just to see how they turn out. And the results are pretty good!

On the right is the smoked turkey version. It also had a small wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, some jalapeno and tomato wedges.

In the middle is the more traditional tuna salad. I make my tuna salad with a small can of tuna, two tablespoons (28g) of light mayonnaise, and about a tablespoon of minced onion. I also used some mixed greens for the lettuce.

The left is….odd. It was a challenge from a facebook reader. This is a breakfast sandwich: peanut butter and honey with bacon.

The first two sandwiches are excellent! The peanut butter one needs some work. It’s not bad, but maybe some sliced strawberries instead of the honey and bacon would make it better. I will see if modifications improve it. (Trial and error is one of the foundations of creative cooking!)

Other options:
any type of sandwich meat, or shredded meat from a roast or chicken
smoked salmon or lox
any cheese, spreadable or shredded
refried beans
egg salad

Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and Yogurt Bites

Smoked Salmon Cucumber and Yogurt Bites
Makes approximately 30-40

1 loaf cocktail rye bread (2″ square slices)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (non-fat, if you want, which is what I had on hand)
1 -2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced into thin wheels
Smoked salmon thinly sliced (you can also use Swedish gravadlax)
Dill weed

  1. Lay out the bread slices.
  2. Top with one cucumber wheel.
  3. Top with 1 teaspoon yogurt.
  4. Add small slice salmon (1/4 ounce).
  5. Lightly sprinkle dried dill.
Nutritional data (per piece):
Calories:       45
Fat:            1.1g
Sat fat:       0.1g
Chol:          5mg
Sodium: 66.7mg
Carbs:        4.1g
Fiber:            1g
Protein:      3.5g

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip

Roasted Eggplant and Feta Dip
Serves: 24 (2 tablespoon serving)

Eggplants (enough to equal about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
1 jalapeno chili, seeded, finely minced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely minced
1/4 cup feta cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F (or preheat the grill on high)
  2. Roast the eggplant (either method) turning every 5 minutes or so, until the skin begins to char the the fruit is soft.
  3. Remove and set aside to cool.
  4. When cool, slice and scrape into a bowl. Add oil and lemon juice.
  5. Mash with a fork until mixed but still lumpy.
  6. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix to combine.
Nutritional data:
Calories:        34
Fat:              2.5g
Sat fat:         0.7g
Chol:         2.7mg
Sodium:   35.3mg
Carbs:          2.7g
Fiber:           1.4g
Protein:        0.9g