LIVING A LOW CARB LIFE by Chef Linda Lee Murtha

     I'm a big advocate of the low carb lifestyle. It's a lifestyle, not a diet and doesn't mean eating bacon fat and meat all day. It's a realization that starches like flour, rice, corn, potatoes, etc. will raise your blood sugar levels like a sugary dessert. It's training your body to burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Choosing low carb foods will keep your blood sugar levels from spiking, which is important because continuous spiking of sugar levels damages the heart.

As a general rule, try to avoid foods made with starchy flour and sugar. I know this seems difficult, almost impossible for many people, but once you change your way of thinking, it gets much simpler. After a few days of eating protein rich and low carb foods, you will slowly lose your craving for bread and sugary desserts and most people feel less lethargic and have more energy.

As a baker, I am often asked what to use as a substitute for flour and sugar when baking desserts or even cooking dinner. In my bakery, I only use almond flour, which is made from finely ground almonds. I bake with almond flour because it is delicious, has a rich buttery flavor and gives a moist texture. It is also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E and magnesium.

Almond flour is very versatile. It could be made into a pancake mix or used as a breadcrumb replacement. In fact, other nut flours work well as a breadcrumb/stuffing replacement such as walnut and pecan meal. Only a pastry quality almond flour is fine enough to be used in muffins and cakes, but the grainier nut meals are great for baking breads. Macadamia nut flour is also fantastic for baking desserts and is exceptionally low in carbs, but is hard to find and is very expensive.

As for sugar substitutes, well there are many nowadays. I am not a fan of aspartame or saccharine, besides the negative health issues, they leave a terrible aftertaste. Many of the sugar alcohols have unpleasant side effects due to a lack of absorption in the small intestine. Other natural substitutes like agave syrup or stevia just don't bake well and products baked with them just don't seem sweet enough or have a slightly bitter taste. Although, they do work well in liquids, or non-bake items like frostings and home made ice cream. Sucralose, marketed under the Splenda brand, really works best in baking. In my experience, I have found that the trick to using it properly is to substitute 1 cup sugar with 1/3 cup of Splenda and not cup for cup like the product recommends. You can always add a little extra to a batter if you don't find it sweet enough.

So instead of your typical pasta tonight for dinner, why not try spaghetti squash or one of my favorite low carb pastas, tofu-based Shirataki Noodles (see recipe below)? For those people who often serve starchy side dishes like mashed potato, corn, peas and carrots, (yes, peas and carrots are starchy!) why not try something different? A cheesy cauliflower puree, or creamy celery root puree instead of mashed potatoes. Roast some cut up turnips with garlic instead of roasting potatoes and try parsnips instead of carrots.

Start with making a protein dish tonight for dinner, such as fish, chicken, etc. and serve it with a few different vegetable dishes, especially the green leafy ones! Serve it with a beautiful salad made from a variety of lettuce, herbs, bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, celery, etc. And of course, enjoy a delicious low carb dessert! If you can't bake one yourself, no worries, just come by my bakery! We really make the best ever low carb cakes!

Shirataki Noodle Primavera
Chef Linda Lee's favorite low carb pasta! This dish is easy, fast, healthy and delicious!
1 bag Shirataki Noodles* per person
1 Tbl Olive oil
Broccolini
3 or 4 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
4 Sundried tomatoes, chopped
Large handful pine nuts, toasted
Salt and pepper

*Only 40 calories per bag and 2 g of carb, these noodles are gluten free and take on the flavor of whatever you cook. In a large pan over a medium flame, sauté all the ingredients till soft. In a separate pot boil water and salt it. Strain well first, then add the Shirataki noodles to the boiling water. Noodles are done in about 3 minutes. Strain water and toss with sautéed vegetable mixture. Serve with grated cheese.

See these dishes prepared and other cooking instructional videos at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/anunnaki07

The Best Ever Low Carb Cakes! is located at 5497 Merrick Road, Massapequa, NY 11758, just two blocks east of Marjorie Post Park. Our phone number is 516-541-3640. We are only open Thursday-Saturday from 11:00-6:00 and Sunday from 11:00-5:00. For more info, call or visit us online at www.besteverlowcarb.com.