Product Review – Almond Milk vs. Soy Milk

Today’s product comparison is between two products that are both great for a low-carb diet, as well as a low GI, vegan, or lactose-intolerant diet. There are lots of milk alternatives out there today, and like anything, it’s hard to know where to start – too many choices! Hopefully, this will help.

 

The products: The comparison here is between unsweetened versions of soy milk and almond milk – because the sweetened versions have too much sugar for a low-carb diet, almost as much as regular milk. I’ve chosen Blue Diamond Almond Breeze unsweetened original flavor, and although the picture shows Silk Organic no sugar added soy milk, which is easier to find, Trader Joe’s is actually better (lower carb, higher protein).

Nutrition: Almond milk weighs in at a tiny 40 calories, 3 gm fat, 1 gm carb, and 1 gm protein per cup. Yep, that’s an entire cup. Soy milk more typically has around 75 calories, 4 gm fat, 2-3 gm carbs, and 7-9 gm protein. So, if you’re looking for low-fat, low-carb, low-everything, almond milk clearly fits the bill. Soy milk is higher in protein, so if part of your goal is to add protein to your meal or your drink, soy milk will do a better job.

It’s worth noting that even flavored (unsweetened) almond milk has very similar nutritional profiles to these. Even the chocolate still only has 2 gm carb, 2 gm protein, and 45 calories. Another factor in favor of almond milk is that I’m concerned about getting too much soy, something that can happen if you’re a vegetarian or following a low-dairy diet.

Taste: Here is where I think almond milk wins hands down. Of all the milk substitutes, it tastes the most like milk, whereas soy milk… just doesn’t. I can put almond milk in my cereal or in my latte, and it’s close enough to milk that it doesn’t taste weird. The vanilla flavored version is nice for lattes, too.

Cooking: Neither one of these is really going to act like a dairy product in terms of cooking, and almond milk seems to have a somewhat lower heat tolerance than soy milk. Either one would work fine in situations like shakes or smoothies. If thinning or adding creaminess to a sauce, I would do it after the sauce has cooled a bit and make sure not to boil it. Soy milk can be frothed and steamed for a latte, almond milk can be heated but does not have the same texture as regular milk or soy milk – soy milk is much heavier and almond milk is lighter than regular milk.

My preference: I have gone almost entirely to almond milk, except in situations where I need the added protein of the soy milk. I much prefer the flavor of the almond milk and its lower carb and calorie/fat content.

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Posted in Dairy and Eggs, Product Reviews | 2 Comments

Buffalo burgers with mushroom cream sauce

Buffalo meat is becoming a popular alternative to ground beef, primarily because it’s healthier. Buffalo are generally raised free-range and grass-fed. Their meat is lower-fat and higher in omega-3. Another positive benefit is that they are treated much more humanely than cattle, not least because they won’t put up with that kind of treatment, and they have a much lighter impact on the environment.

And never mind all that – the “beefalo,” as it’s known, just tastes good (as would grass-fed beef)! Locally, we can buy it at Tatanka – a little restaurant in Tacoma that serves bison ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks, and doubles as a beefalo distributor. Whole Foods and other grocers have also started carrying it. And with that – a yummy beefalo recipe that I made last night, which of course you can make with any ground meat you prefer. :)

Buffalo burgers with mushroom cream sauce

1 lb ground beefalo
garlic salt and pepper to taste
2 C sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 thinly sliced medium yellow onion
1 t or 1 cube beef boullion
1/4 C cream (or sour cream)
2 oz Fontina or other easy melting cheese

Add garlic salt and pepper to the beefalo, mix, and shape it into 3 thick patties (or 4, if you prefer). Add to a frying pan, brown quickly on both sides on medium-high heat, then turn heat down to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes, flipping burgers halfway through.

Meanwhile, saute onions and mushrooms in butter until onions are nearly translucent. Add beef boullion, cream, and a little salt, and cook, mixing thoroughly. Add cheese and melt into the sauce. Drain juices from the burgers, and transfer the sauce to the burger pan.  Continue cooking until burgers reach desired doneness (ideally a bit pink in the center).

Nutrition: Each 5-oz burger with sauce has 23 gm protein and 3 gm carbs.

Posted in Dinner, Meat | 2 Comments

Coffee jello with cream

Did I mention I love coffee? Once upon a time, at a Japanese restaurant, I was introduced to coffee jello with cream. It’s a very popular dessert in Asia (even Starbucks has a coffee jello frappuccino), and is gaining popularity here. It turns out to be a lovely low-carb dessert, with a good protein/fat/carb profile, so I thought I’d highlight it here, along with some variations. For vegetarians, note that you can make it with seaweed agar, as Japanese frequently do, rather than regular gelatin.

Coffee jello

1/2 oz plain powdered gelatin
1/2 C ice-cold coffee or espresso
3 C hot coffee or espresso
1/4 C Splenda
pinch salt
real whipping cream or heavy cream

Mix gelatin and cold coffee in a large bowl. Allow to set for 10 minutes. Add hot coffee, Splenda, and salt, and stir until Splenda is completely dissolved.

Either pour into 4 individual dessert cups or glasses, or pour into a large flat pan if you want to cube it before serving. Allow to set for 3-4 hours in the fridge.

I like to cube it and pour the whipping cream around it in a sundae glass, which is how I originally had it. But many people pour it all in one batch and then top it with whipped cream. Either way, putting it in a pretty tall or round dessert glass will add to the presentation. You can top it with a mint leaf, orange peel, chocolate-covered coffee bean, cocoa powder, cinnamon, or whatever your heart desires. Be sure to use real cream, whether you pour it or whip it for the topping (canned whipping cream has extra carbs in it). If you really want to get fancy, you can make layers of clear coffee jello and latte jello with some cream mixed in, and you can also add a bit of coffee or orange liqueur to the cream.

Many variations are possible if coffee isn’t your thing. A chai version shown at right is popular in Vietnam, and green tea jello would go wonderfully with Chinese food. If you love English tea, perhaps a black tea version with cream would suit you.

Nutrition: Plain gelatin is surprisingly high in protein, so this dessert is very carb- and protein-friendly, with 3 gm protein and 1.5 gm carbs per 1 C serving.

Posted in Dessert | 1 Comment

Breakfast scramble

Sometimes it’s hard to get up and make another plate of scrambled eggs or omelet. It’s one of the few good ways to get enough protein in the morning, but it’s easy to get tired of eggs every day, especially if you’re not used to them. One thing I’ve gotten to like lately is something more like a scramble, where instead of 3 eggs, with some meat, cheese or veggies inside, the ratio is reversed. There might be one egg, or at most two, with mostly other ingredients.

The key is that you need about 4 ounces of protein total. Each egg counts as one, a healthy slice of cheese counts as one, and 1 ounce of meat counts as one. Some veggies like mushrooms will add a bit too. So, you might decide to have 2 oz ham, 1 oz cheese, 1 C mushrooms, green onions, and 1 egg. A vegetarian version might be 1 egg, cheese, veggies, and tofu. Every day it can be different – adding to the variety and helping to use up things in the fridge that are ready to be eaten. The more creativity, the better!

Making a scramble is very easy. Start by adding some butter to the pan along with your chosen veggies. If your meat needs cooking (like bacon) add that too. Saute everything together to nearly the doneness you want it, then add an egg or two and any ingredients that don’t require cooking (like green onions or ham) and scramble, coating all the ingredients with the eggs. Add any spices or herbs at this step. When the eggs are almost done, add cheese and cover to melt. If you like, you can wrap it up in a low-carb tortilla with some salsa for something a little different. This recipe works well for lunch too. Here are some substitutions you can use if you run out of ideas:

Veggies: Mushrooms, spinach, chard, kale, garlic, shallots, leeks, green onions, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, avocado

Protein: Ham, turkey, chicken, bacon, sausage, ground beef or other ground meats, shrimp, crab, oysters, cheese of all varieties, sunflower or sesame seeds, tofu

Spices and sauces: Basil, thyme, tarragon, dill, oregano, cilantro, parsley, salt, black pepper, red pepper, chipotle pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric, curry powder, salsa, worcestershire sauce, tabasco or other hot sauce, ketchup, hollandaise, beurre blanc, seafood sauce, sour cream

What’s your favorite combination?

Posted in Breakfast, Dairy and Eggs, Lunch | Leave a comment

Almond butter goodness

What is almond butter? It’s just like peanut butter, only better. It tastes better, and has a great nutritional profile. I find myself a bit addicted to it – but eating it out of the jar is just fine, since a 2 T serving has 8 gm protein and only 3 gm carbs. It’s very filling and helpful when you just need a quick protein boost.

Of course, there are lots of other things you can do with it. Almond butter is great on any kind of crunchy veggies – my favorite is bell peppers, but you can experiment. If you like celery, it’s a good substitute for traditional peanut butter. It’s also good spread on thin apple slices – any of these makes a good balance of protein and carbs.

And nobody said you couldn’t have ANY baked goods – your typical thin cracker will have about 2 gm carbs each. So you could have a few T of almond butter spread on several crackers (or a carbquick muffin) for a good, healthy snack.

There are also some meal options – you might try almond butter for a chicken or beef satay or a swimming rama recipe.

Chicken Satay

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken
1/3 C soy sauce
2 T lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1 t grated ginger
3/4 t red pepper flakes
2 T water

Cut chicken into 3/4-in strips and combine with the remaining ingredients. Marinade in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight. Prepare the grill or broiler. Thread onto skewers, brush lightly with oil, and cook for a few minutes until done. Serve with satay sauce.

Satay sauce
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 T oil
1/2 C almond butter
2/3 C coconut milk
1 T soy sauce
1 packet Splenda
1 T lime juice

Saute onions and garlic, then place all in a blender and combine.

Almond-chocolate chip cookies

Then there’s dessert :)  No recipe list for almond butter would be complete without almond cookies. The version below very yummy and tailored to low-carb diets by using almond butter, Splenda, and carbquick. I did use semi-sweet chocolate chips, because that’s all I had in the house – you could keep the chocolate and lower the carbs by using sugarless chocolate chips.

1 C almond butter
1/2 C Splenda
1/3 C Carbquik
1 egg
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix almond butter and egg thoroughly, then add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add chocolate chips last. Spoon out into 12 equal balls, and press down to make cookie-sized rounds on a greased cookie sheet. Cook for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool as they will be crumbly at first and softer after cooling.

Nutrition: Without chocolate chips, each cookie has 6 gm protein and 3 gm carbs. With chocolate chips, each cookie has 7 gm protein and 6 gm carbs.

Posted in Baking, Dessert, Dinner, Snacks | 1 Comment

The fabulous Italian dinner party

I really love to cook, and so I started a Meetup group for adventurous cooks. We get together once a month and have potluck from a country randomly selected from around the world. I look forward to this every month, and January was no exception. Except this month we were doing Italy, and the dinner was called “Break Your New Year’s Resolutions Feast”! Two of our folks were making fresh pasta for the occasion, shown in the dish above. Somehow I was going to have to navigate this meal full of delectable pasta, garlic bread, flourless chocolate cake, etc.

My boyfriend and I started by making sure it wouldn’t all be pasta, and brought some things we could be sure to eat and enjoy. His Italian pork roast is pictured at right (the man knows how to cook a roast), and I dreamed up antipasto in the middle of the night – prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, mozzarella balls rolled in olive oil and herbs, stuffed mushrooms, and olive and artichoke heart mix, and various tapenades (red pepper, artichoke, and eggplant). Carb-friendly dishes brought by others included chicken marsala, green salad, and caprese salad (below).

I did skip the bread, because really, it’s just bread :) but the pasta could not be denied. I had to see how my friends did with their fresh pasta with garlic and clams, the putannesca, and the manicotti. I allowed myself a very small portion of each, perhaps amounting to a half-cup total – just enough to enjoy the flavors and judge the dishes. On top of that, I had a respectable glass of Sangiovese wine and a few bites of (fortunately flourless) chocolate cake with orange sauce.

And in the end, I had lost half a pound by the next day, and a good time was had by all (I’m second from the left). Salute!

Posted in Dining Out, Dinner | Leave a comment

Product review – Seafood finishing sauces

I bought a couple of these just before I started on this low-carb diet, and boy, was I glad I did. They are so good that if you’re ever sitting around thinking how you should prepare seafood, you really don’t have to do anything. Just grab one of these out of the fridge, cook the fish or shellfish in a very basic way, and use this sauce at the end – the results will be very tasty.

I have the two on the left above – the Cajun Remoulade and the Wasabi finishing sauces. All are part of Safeway’s Waterfront Bistro line of fish and sauces. I haven’t tried the Citrus Mustard yet, but it sounds good. Both of my sauces have 2 gm carbs per 2 T serving. Because they are so full of flavor, I have found that I never need more than 2 T, and sometimes only one.

The Cajun Remoulade is spicy and creamy at the same time, and just right in its degree of heat. It’s great not only with seafood but with chicken as well, and I’ve even put it on vegetables (like cauliflower) or in egg salad. It’s my favorite one and I’ve used a lot of it.

The Wasabi sauce is bright green, creamy, and quite hot, in a wasabi sort of way – but less so than wasabi paste. You’ll seldom use more than 1T of this sauce – but it is really good with crab, scallops, or sashimi. The other day we bought fresh Dungeness crab from the local seafood market, came home and just started eating it with our fingers – dipping the claw meat into the wasabi… mmm.

When you’re cooking a lot more meat or seafood than usual, it is really nice to have products that make it easier and produce a great result, good enough for guests. These sauces fill the bill. I give them an A – my only caution would be to check the labels of the sweeter sauces before buying to determine their carb content – it might be higher than the two reviewed here.

Posted in Product Reviews, Seafood | 1 Comment