Monday, November 9, 2009

Potato Substitutes for the Holidays

So, if you're like me, your favorite parts of the holiday meal are the side dishes. For the holidays, that usually means starches...stuffing, potatoes, sweet potato casserole, what's a low-carber to do? Well we've covered the mashed potato dilemma with my fantastic Caulimash recipe given in a my very first entry, try adding your favorite flavor profile to the mix for your holiday meal...I like sauteed garlic, green onion (just the white parts), black pepper and some grated makes a tasty base for gravy on top! But you can add bacon and cheddar, poultry seasoning, sour cream and chives...whatever you like that will pair best for your meal.

Now let's discuss sweet potatoes and yams. Although they may have slightly more nutritional value than white potatoes, they are still waaaaay to carby for most. I have found some beautiful squashes that have a very similar taste and mouthfeel, but only a fraction of the carbs. It's a shame that most 'expert' sources lump winter squashes into the same forbidden group, because there are some lesser known, but almost widely available, varietals that are delish and lend themselves well to traditional holiday fare. (I've found some of these at my local grocery, but also try your gourmet specialty market...Sunflower, Whole Foods, etc.)

My particular favorite is Buttercup...not Butternut...big difference. Here's a picture of it...take a look, and note that it is VERY similar looking to the Kabocha squash, which is also low in carb count, and can be substituted for buttercup in any recipe. It's a member of the turban squash family, so I always look for the slightly more developed ones that have a bit of the gray "hat" starting to stick out, as opposed to the only rounded younger ones that are very easy to confuse with Kabocha. Check out a Buttercup squash: . This squash is relatively dry in texture, so steaming it works best (I found baking makes it too dry), just remove seeds, cut into chunks and steam covered in the microwave for 10-15 minutes (depending on how much you're steaming at a time). Let it cool, scrape the meat from the skin (it should be very fork tender) and you have a fabulous treat that tastes like, and has a similar mouthfeel to sweet potatoes or yams. I think Buttercup, Kabocha and Hubbard are the best subs for sweet potatoes.

I like them mashed or pureed with just a little butter or cream cheese and salt/pepper, but for a real treat, add a little sugar free maple syrup or LC sweetener and maple extract and you get something that tastes fabulous. Yes, you could even make a traditional casserole by topping with some La Nouba sugar free marshmallows (watch the maltitol, I can't have it due to tummy sensitivity, they're available at or baking the puree with the SF maple syrup topped with whole or chopped pecans. Use these lower carb subs in soups, casseroles, stews...anywhere you would traditionally see sweet potatoes, butternut or acorn squash. I like it with an Indian or Moroccan flavor profile too, and often use it cubed in curries.

Here's the lowdown on some lower carb winter squashes. All are based on 1/2 cup servings (before mashing or pureeing!) and are terrific substitutes in any recipe calling for higher carb winter squashes, or as a yummy substitute for sweet potatoes:

Buttercup squash, carbs 3g, fiber 1g, protein 3g, 70% RDA vitamin A, 15% RDA vitamin C

Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), carbs 3.5, fiber .5, protein 0 g, RDA 70% vitamin A, RDA 15% vitamin C

Golden Nugget squash, carbs 5g, fiber 1g, protein 1g, 15% RDA vitamin A, 10% vitamin C

Hubbard squash, carbs 5g, fiber 2g, protein 1g, 15% RDA vitamin A, 10% vitamin C (can be white, gray, green, can be very large, look for pre-sliced sections in the produce dept.)

Pumpkin (smaller “pie” ones), carbs 4, fiber 0g, protein 1g, 90% RDA vitamin A, 8% vitamin C
Spaghetti squash, carbs 3g, fiber 1 g (yum, great for more than it in a puree with curry and coconut milk)

Turban squash, carbs 5g, fiber 1g, protein 1g, 45% RDA vitamin A, 10% vitamin C

And don't forget one of our favorites...spaghetti squash! It's also lovely baked with some butter, salt, pepper and LC maple syrup or maple extract. I find that kids actually love it and find it fun to eat...I just never really mention that it's 'squash' before serving!

Hope this helps, I find that you can give your family a completely low carb and delicious holiday meal, and not even miss the other stuff! Next we tackle desserts!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Holidaze

So, the holidays are approaching, traditionally one of the hardest times of the year to stick to my commitments to my low carb lifestyle. Oh weakness...all those holiday treats and goodies...these couple of months seem absolutely wrapped around food! I try to remember what it's really about, though, family and friends...the warmth and appreciation of the holiday spirit. To make it through, I make sure I have plenty of things that I CAN eat around, things that I like and consider special. I often bring my own treats to parties and get make sure that there's something around that I can treat myself to, and to share with others (nothing like a really great tasting low carb treat to bring my friends and family around to my side of the nutrition table!)

So first we face thanksgiving. Traditionally not too bad, but then you come to the mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, breads, rolls, stuffing and pumpkin pie! Well, I've got some tricks up my sleeves to get us all through it, and I'm sharing a couple of my secret weapons!

Turkey, a perfectly fine no-carb protein, but my favorite recipe was a basting sauce that included apricot or peach preserves and Kahlua. Yes, the sugary liqueur. Trust me, this was so delicious, and it made the gravy unbelievable. Okay, so not so hard to replicate...try this basted on your turkey this year and you'll never go back! (If you're not sure you want to commit to experimenting for the 'big dinner', try it basting a roasted chicken and cutting the recipe in half or a quarter)

Bridget's Favorite Poultry Baste
Whip up in the blender:
1 cup (4 sticks) melted butter
1/2 cup sugar free apricot or peach preserves (preferably no maltitol, I like the new Polaner Sugar Free with Fiber, or Walden Farms)
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1/4 cup DaVinci's Kahlua flavored syrup* (available at and CarbSmart)
*Alternatively you can use 1/4 cup chocolate syrup, like Hershey's or Walden Farms and and extra tablespoon of instant coffee

That said, another one of my favorites at Tgiving is stuffing...carby stuff for sure, but I've done it a couple of years in a row for clients the low carb way. The key is to make a stuffing that starts with some low carb bread crumbs (toast your favorite low carb slices, then tear or cut it up into cubes, (I like King Sooper's Carb Helper or Orowheat Light 100% Whole Wheat), chicken broth, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper...and then add a 'kitchen sink' full of good low carb stuff to fill it out. If you use some bastings from your turkey instead of standard chicken broth it'll be even better. Here are some of my favorite things to 'fill out' the stuffing: Sauteed mushrooms (the wilder, the better), artichoke hearts, sliced/chopped olives, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, diced chayote, onions, get the could even do some diced zucchini or chopped cauliflower in there. This is really too good to save just for thanksgiving...bake some up and freeze it for whenever!

Next post: solving the potato dilemma.