LCHF Pizza!

WordPress has reminded me that it’s Roxy’s Kitchen’s first birthday today, which means that we have been on LCHF for a grand total of 54 weeks. I don’t make a habit of stepping on the scales, but this morning’s figure shows a 21% weight reduction. This is pretty cool considering I haven’t gone hungry at all over the last year, and I’ve pretty much been eating all of the butter, cream, cheese, eggs and bacon I can manage (oh and I’ve done about the same amount of exercise as before, i.e. next to none). More importantly, I have had a migraine-free year and I can count the number of headaches I’ve had on one hand (most of which have been alcohol-related). Pre-LCHF I would have had a migraine once per month at least, and headaches most days. Thanks LCHF!

Now onto the food part of today’s post… I was having a bit of a clear out of my hoarded delicious. magazines (not sure why I still subscribe, I think I just like looking at pictures of food), and I found a recipe for a cauliflower-crust pizza in their gluten free section (I say section, in this particular issue I think it was just one or two recipes). We used to have a pretty serious Dominos Pizza habit pre-LCHF, so we have just avoided pizza for a year (I mean, it can’t really get better than Dominos can it?? *sarcasm*), and the idea of a cauliflower-based pizza just didn’t seem right. However, I decided to give it a go (the picture in the magazine certainly made it look tasty), and I’m glad I did. Pizza is back on the menu, woo!

The magazine states that it makes 4 pizzas. We got two large and one small pizza out of the mixture (so they aren’t as greedy as us, clearly).

Ingredients:

For the crust:
450 g cauliflower (about a whole medium-sized one)
2 eggs
150 g ground almonds
50 g grated parmesan
1 tsp xanthan gum or arrowroot (optional)
Salt & pepper

For the toppings:
Whatever you like! We went for:
150 g mozarella cheese
150 g cheddar cheese, grated
6 rashers of smoked bacon
1 small tin of anchovies
2 tbsp spicy red pesto (or you could just use tomato puree, we just happened to have a jar of pesto kicking about)
Freshly ground pepper
A sprinkling of dried mixed herbs

Pre-heat the oven (and two baking sheets) to 180°C.

Whizz up the cauliflower in a food processor, and mix with the eggs, almonds, parmesan, xanthan gum (if using) and seasoning. It should form a fairly sticky dough-like mixture.

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Place a dollop of the mixture onto some baking parchment, and form it into a fairly thin (about 5 mm) pizza base. You could place another sheet of parchment on top and roll it with a rolling pin, but I just flattened it with my hands (hence the irregular shape). Repeat for the second pizza, place the bases onto the preheated baking trays, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bases are golden brown and fairly firm to the touch. I rotated the trays halfway through cooking.

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Spread the pesto/puree evenly over the bases, top with the cheeses then the bacon and anchovies, and sprinkle the mixed herbs and ground pepper all over the pizzas. Return the pizzas to the oven for a further 5 – 10 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked and the cheese is all melty. Scoff the whole lot down and feel significantly less bloated (and less guilty), and a lot more satisfied, than you would have had you eaten a Dominos instead.

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You can use any leftover mixture to make yourself a breakfast treat the next day:
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6 months of LCHF and a week of LCHF breakfasts

Today marks the beginning of my 7th month on LCHF, and I must say I’m feeling pretty great. What started off as a gesture of support for my husband’s latest obsession has turned into a new way of eating for the foreseeable future. I was never that bothered about losing weight, but I now weigh the same as I did when I was 18 (I’ve just worked out how long ago that was and I think I’ll keep it to myself), and having to buy new clothes is never a bad thing. Ignoring the weight-loss, there are a number of other benefits to LCHF that I’ve discovered:

1. The food is awesome. Fat = tasty.
2. No more headaches. I’ve had chronic headaches since I was small, and having a pain in my head was pretty much the norm. Now I can’t remember the last time I had a headache.
3. You know when you’re feeling hungry and it just won’t go away until you’ve had that packet of crisps or a chocolate bar (usually around 11 am, or 3 pm)? I haven’t felt like that since December 2013.
4. My skin has improved. Break-outs are few and far between, and my skin is definitely not as dry anymore.
5. No more crippling stomach cramps at that time of the month.
6. The afternoon slump is no more! (Although that may be a double-edged sword as now I can do more work in the afternoon).
7. I’ve never eaten so many eggs in my life but I’m still not tired of them. It turns out that eggs are very good for you – forget about that cholesterol bollocks.
8. I don’t have to feel guilty about cooking with butter or cream.
9. Everything tastes sweeter – even broccoli. No longer do I need to add a bit of sugar to my tomato sauce. The tomatoes are sweet enough.
10. I never used to eat breakfast, but now it’s my favourite meal of the day.

…which leads me nicely onto the food part of this post: what I eat for breakfast! Here I have compiled a selection of my typical breakfasts for a week:

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Day 1: Almond pancake with bacon and goat’s cheese

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Day 2: 2-egg omelette filled with bacon and cheese

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Day 3: Creamy scrambled eggs with bacon and tomatoes

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Day 4: Burger topped with a fried egg and cheese

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Day 5: Cream & yoghurt with blueberries and some crushed, cinnamon-roasted nuts

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Day 6: Egg & gherkin mayo with cheese and salami

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Day 7: The fry-up! Bacon,egg, tomatoes and sour cream (all fried in butter & bacon fat, of course!).

I know what you’re thinking…how can that much saturated fat be in any way healthy?? Well, I can’t think of a better advertisement for LCHF than my husband James. He eats a hell of a lot more than me, and even goes so far as to have butter in his morning coffee. Yet, even with all that fat and so few carbs he managed to run 115 miles in under 24 hours at endure24 at the weekend, coming in 2nd place. He is so brilliantly fat-adapted that instead of fuelling this crazy challenge with umpteen energy gels and bars, and a massive bowl of pasta the night before, he managed it with a few mini-babybels, a mouthful of biltong, a couple of rashers of bacon, 1.75 bananas and a mouthful of buttery mashed potato (which sent him on a bit of a sugar-rush). Afterwards, he worked out that he consumed a measly 750 kcal, of which 265 kcal were from carbs, for the entire race! Amazing!

7 headache-free LCHF weeks!

I will be posting some more recipes…but first I just had to share something that happened yesterday.

I had a long (well, for me, anyway) day of driving, writing, testing and interviewing at work yesterday and when I got home I felt as I normally would – drained, stressed and a teensy bit grouchy. All I wanted to do was sit and relax…which I proceeded to do.

Something wasn’t quite right though. It took me a few moments to realise what it was. I didn’t have a blinding headache.

Not even a little one? Nope. No headache.

Now, I have had chronic headaches and migraines ever since I can remember. I haven’t had a migraine since I started LCHF, and, even more surprisingly, I haven’t had a long-day-at-work-tired-and-stressed headache (I wouldn’t have thought that would have anything to do with my diet?).

Thank you LCHF! (and bye bye pills!)

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LCHF Survival guide

A few days ago a friend of mine, who is trying out LCHF, sent me a message asking for some ideas to help her with her first steps. I gave her a few bits of advice, so I thought I would share them with you in case you are, like my friend, “…just struggling with ideas and a bit scared of all the fat!”

Don’t fear the fat

So, for whatever reason (to lose weight, to prevent type II diabetes, to be rebellious), you’ve decided to kick that carb habit. There’s no question, you have to replace them with something, otherwise you will be chewing off your own arm before the first week is done. The answer: fat is your new best friend.

“Hang on,” you say, “isn’t fat bad for my heart?”

Well, apparently not so much. According to a 2010 research review, the link between saturated fat and cardio-vascular disease is tenuous at best, and the benefits of replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates (as a traditional low-fat diet is wont to do) are pretty much unsupported. But don’t just take my word for it, have a look for yourself, although be wary of any research that is funded by sugar/grain companies (=carbs are good), or by dairy/meat companies (=fat is good).

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Some sources of fat

So, if you find that you’re feeling hungry all of the time after having drastically cut your carb intake, you’re not eating enough fat. You need to welcome it into your life with open arms. Only small amounts will fill you up and help you with those carb cravings.

My favourite way of upping the fat is by cooking with butter…and using the butter as a sauce (none of this skimming off the fat rubbish). I challenge you to name a single vegetable that is not enlivened by good knob of butter.

If, like me, you are a bit of a carnivore, choose the fattier bits of meat. They will not only be tastier but they will fill you up (and they tend to be cheaper too). Go for streaky bacon instead of back bacon, skin-on chicken instead of breast fillets (and eat the skin!!), pork belly instead of pork loin, lamb shoulder instead of lamb shank, rib-eye instead of sirloin steak. If you’re cooking a roast dinner at the weekend, use the rendered fat from your meat joint for stir-frying your vegetables. Go on, be brave!

Vegetables are great

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Serving size suggestions

If you’re struggling with what to have with your steak instead of mashed potato or chips, you need to reintroduce yourself to vegetables. Think about why you want those potatoes. Do they actually taste of anything?

There is a lot out there that isn’t a potato. Be adventurous, try things you haven’t tried before – you might like them! If in doubt, don’t over-cook it and have it with lots of butter and bacon. We were brave and had sprouts (or as my father-in-law calls them, “Belgian fart bombs”) the other day, purely because they were in season over here and they were really cheap. I pretty much poached them in butter with a load of bacon. Success. If it works with sprouts, it will work with anything. The blue table above gives the serving size for 16g carbs (if you’re going for about 50g of carbs per day spread over three meals). 20g of rice is not going to get you anywhere, but try eating 444g spinach (especially if it is cooked in butter and covered with cream). You only need to count the carbs if you’re having something from the carby half of the table.

It’s not just about the taste either, it’s about texture. You need to think about texture when you’re putting a meal together. Turning a cauliflower into “rice” (yes this is possible, just whizz up a raw cauliflower and steam it for a few minutes) is all well and good, but having it with a really saucy mince-based stir-fry will not rock your world. Slush + slush = vomit induction. You have to mix it up a bit and have a variety of textures on your plate. Crunchy stir-fried green beans or the like would be a much better option in this case.

Sugar cold-turkey

I suppose the first thing you might do when cutting sugar out of your diet would be to replace it with artificial sweeteners. I really don’t think this will help you. You need to give this diet a proper go for the first couple of weeks. If you avoid anything sweet your palate will change. Eventually you will find that everything will seem to taste a little bit sweeter (things like broccoli).

fruit

Fruit serving size

Just two weeks. It won’t kill you. Man the f**k up.

So what about fruit? If you’re being really strict with carbs, then fruit is technically a no-no. However, the sugar in fruit is a mixture of glucose and fructose, so it shouldn’t give you too much of an insulin spike as fructose is almost solely metabolised by the liver (although this has other problems, but Dr. Robert Lustig has a lot more to say on that topic, if you’re interested). Plus, if you eat the whole fruit (and nothing but the fruit, sorry couldn’t help it), instead of just the juice, you are getting the benefits of the fibre content. Personally, I never really ate fruit so it was easy for me to cut it out completely for the first two weeks. As always, however, not all fruit is equal, so here is another colourful table with some fruit serving size suggestions. Try berries instead of bananas and apples.

Plan ahead

You’re going to be eating more real food on this diet, which means you’re going to have to do quite a bit of cooking from scratch.

You need to plan ahead.

If you’re up and out of the house early in the morning, have your breakfast ready the night before. Eggs take no time at all to scramble or fry, but having a pan ready, along with having your ingredients together, will save you time in the morning (my husband goes to the extent of cracking the eggs into a cup the night before). Or, have a lovely creamy breakfast smoothie ready to eat straight out of the fridge!

If you don’t really get much time to cook during the week, make a couple of big meals at the weekend and freeze them in single portions for dinners or lunches. (As if by magic, this post by a fellow blogger popped up on my reader as I was writing this section – he gets the idea).

When you buy salad leaves, wash it all in one go and then it is ready to use whenever you want and you won’t have to bother washing it when you’re pressed for time. A green salad with lots of parmesan cheese, a creamy dressing and some bits of leftover bacon from your breakfast at the weekend will take minutes to throw together for a quick lunch on the go.

Snacking

If you’re eating enough fat at mealtimes you shouldn’t need to snack – I rarely need to eat lunch because I’m loving the fried breakfasts at the moment. However, for those of you who don’t just sit around in an office all day, you may need some LCHF-friendly snacks:

  • Two words: mini babybel. They’re not just for children.
  • Even better, mini babybel wrapped in a slice of chorizo. Nom.
  • Mixed nuts (although not too many).
  • Celery/cucumber sticks and a creamy/cheesy dip.
  • Luncheon meats.
  • Lots of double cream in your coffee.
  • A hard-boiled egg (although perhaps save this for when you’re walking around outside to avoid making a smell in your office – my colleagues learnt this the hard way, sorry guys).

ENJOY IT!!!

If you’re not enjoying this diet then you’re either doing something wrong, or it’s just not for you. But before you give up…are you completely sure you’re embracing the fat?

Fat=flavour. Chefs know this. So should you.

I used to think of cooking dinner as a bit of a chore, but now I look forward it. You will too, just give it a chance.

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LCHF vs Pie

I’ve had a busy week working towards a deadline that, as it turned out, didn’t really exist. Great. Incidentally, if any of you is contemplating doing a PhD (in psychology, certainly)…RUN AWAY NOW!!

Anyway…back to the blog, Roxy.

Midweek there was a BBC Horizon programme on TV about sugar vs. fat. Now, usually I steer clear of any BBC science programme as they always end up frustrating me because they tend to be presented not for a lay-audience, but for a herd of farmyard animals. I thought I would give this one a go in the hope of a balanced argument on the sugar vs. fat debate. How wrong I was.

As a brief synopsis, a pair of identical twins were put on diets lasting 30 days – one on LCHF and the other on a low-fat high-sugar diet. They were given various tests before, during and after the diet period. So far so good. Except that whilst they showed the “fat” twin shoveling down a load of meats during the programme, they didn’t really explain what his diet actually was. From the little information that was given, it seemed to be mainly protein and no vegetables (so, extreme low-carb high protein…perhaps they equated protein with fat?). The “sugar” twin was given even less air-time so who knows what he was eating? Also, they didn’t seem to record what the twins ate or drank during the period…or the average daily calories…or anything really (well, they probably did, but us normo TV-viewing audiences are too stupid to recognise good scientific practice, so they just didn’t tell us).

What’s worse for us: sugar or fat? (picture courtesy of the BBC)

They first test of their diets was a cognitive skills test about two weeks in. However, this was no executive function test I’ve ever come across. It was to do with stock market trading, something that a lot of us (including me) would probably be terrible at, at the best of times. Low and behold the fat twin did badly and the sugar twin did well. Yay glucose, boo ketones. Bad ketones.

Next came an exercise test. Not just any exercise test, mind you, but a race up Box Hill (you know, the one from the London Olympics road race) on bikes. Now, I don’t mean to be rude, but it was pretty clear that the fat twin was the more portly twin, and probably not as well suited to this type of test as his more athletic brother. Sure enough, he tanked on the way up and lost unequivocally. Clearly, you can’t do hard-core exercise without carbs. This is probably true for those of us who don’t really train for anything, as our bodies would be screaming “WTF are you doing?? Stop this right now!! For F***’s sake SIT DOWN!” at the first hint of an increased heart rate. However, people like my crazy ultra-running husband seem to do OK running 30 miles on a fat-shake breakfast (yes, it is as disgusting as it sounds) and a couple of bottles of water.

Well, I think you get the picture, I don’t want to rant too much. There was some other stuff on insulin resistance and diabetes (strangely leading to the conclusion that reducing sugar intake increases risk of type 2 diabetes? Huh?), but it wasn’t really clear how they reached this conclusion (well, they quoted some numbers for the fat twin that were slightly higher than those for the sugar twin. At the end of the diet. Not the change, or average change calculated from regular testing to account for daily fluctuations…*frustration rising*). Watch the programme, it is still available on BBC iPlayer (and probably on YouTube for those of you not in the UK), and see what you think of it.

After a frustrating week, I looked forward to Friday night, which promised a trip up to town (London town, aka “Laaahndan taaaahn”) for a night out with the husband and a few friends. The pub of choice (not mine) was The Old Bank of England. Specialising in pies. And beer. Not a good start.

Photos of The Old Bank of England, London

This photo of The Old Bank of England is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There was other food, but this was typical pub grub: i.e. everything was served with chips, or mash, or bread, or in breadcrumbs, or covered with mushrooms (OK, mushrooms are allowed but they are cultivated from Satan’s nether regions so I’m staying well clear of them). They did, however, have “sharing platters” comprising various meats (served with chips, obviously), so James went for one of those. I went for a cheese and bacon burger and swapped the chips for a salad (the place was noisy so I don’t think any of the other punters heard me, thankfully). The chips from the platter and my burger’s bun were gratefully received by our non-LCHF friends.

The remainder of the night was a success…although Saturday was pretty much a write-off after two bottles of wine and a couple of shots between us (it seemed like a good idea at the time).

On Sunday, my family came over for lunch. I decided to make it a LCHF lunch so I served up a spiced slow-roast lamb shoulder  with spinach, broccoli (both cooked in the lamb fat), and a salad loaded with creme fraiche. I did buy a couple of naan breads, secretly hoping I wouldn’t need them, but alas they felt they needed some carbage with the meal (sniff). They also wanted biscuits with their tea, but luckily they brought those with them. Although, I can’t tell you how difficult it was to not have a biscuit…so I settled for a piece of cold lamb instead. Yum.

On the plus side, I managed to get into a pair of jeans that are one size smaller than normal, whoop! Things are looking up, LCHF!

Eating out and eating in, LCHF style

The weekend arrived with promises of date-night and visiting friends, both of which involved eating out. We thought we would jump straight in at the deep-end and try our local curry house. It turns out you don’t need pilau rice and a garlic naan to complete an Indian feast (who knew?) – instead we went for two vegetable sides and an extra vegetarian main (did I mention my husband is a runner/locust??).

The hardest part was not eating the complimentary After Eight mints at the end of the meal. It is difficult to avoid chocolate at the best of times…but FREE chocolate?? Almost impossible.

The second meal out was at a French restaurant so it was pretty easy to avoid carbs. Cheese for dessert rocks (although spreading cheese on a grape is harder than spreading it on a cracker).

Sunday was a cooking day, and my husband decided he would have a go (under my supervision) at some flour-free tortillas (you can find the recipe here: http://realmealrevolution.com/recipes/carb-free-tortillas-or-cauli-wraps).

Basically, they are made from cauliflower and psyllium husks.

Psyllium husks are weird. They look like dead fly wings, and they go all gloopy when mixed with water (a bit like wallpaper paste). I’m really selling them aren’t I?? On the plus side, they don’t really taste of much, so you can add them to sauces as thickeners…or try these tortillas.

The recipe recommends rolling the mixture, with the help of a liberal dusting of coconut flour, into thin tortillas. Unfortunately we didn’t have any coconut flour (despite my cupboard being full of now contraband white, brown, wholemeal, strong, strong wholemeal and corn flours). We tried rolling them out in between two sheets of parchment paper, but using a heavy rolling pin was a no no. The bottom of a saucepan proved to be the most effective tool in flattening the mixture, but removing the gloopy thin tortilla from the paper to get it into a frying pan was almost impossible.

I would not recommend taking the easy way out and attempting to fry a thick tortilla. Not very palatable.

The solution: roll it out nice and thin between two sheets of parchment paper, remove the top layer of paper and put the tortilla, along with its convenient built-in paper baking tray, into a hot oven for about 15 minutes, flipping over halfway though baking.

The result:
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Perfect as a wrap for some fajita-style chicken with peppers, onions, spinach and a tomato-sour-cream sauce (recipe to follow)!

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