Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Low Carb of Convenience

Quick Skillet Meals and Organization Make Low Carbing Easy and Convenient

How do you balance the convenience of takeout foods with the nutrition and goodness of eating a low carb, whole foods diet? Easy weeknight dinners can represent daunting feats of strength for many of us working-class dogs. And finding the right balance of time management and good stewardship of your body and those of your mate and children – is hard even for seasoned home cooks.

You work your keester off at the office, the warehouse, the hospital, the outdoors, the factory, the “insert-your-job-here” and you’re pooped by the end of the day. You want convenience. You want to go home and eat a meal set on the table by Mom. How do you balance a low carb lifestyle and healthy whole food nutrition when you barely have the energy to stand up long enough to fix a meal?

We’ve become so ingrained to give-in to convenience when we’re too tired to cook. It’s just easier to eat out or zoom through a drive-thru and order off the value menu, or pick something pre-made and pre-packaged off the grocery store shelf or frozen food isle. And those restaurants know that too! They are strategically placed along well-travelled driving and foot traffic routes!

I know, I am so guilty of doing this and it stinks. I don’t even have the budget for it, nor do I need to be exposing myself to all the harmful soy and chemicals in the foods prepared by restaurants and fast food places. And yet, the need for energy-sparing convenience is my nemesis. Drat you, Lex Luther!

So what’s a girl to do??? In the old days, I would cruise down the isle of the MegaloMart and pick-up my favorite comfort food du jour: Salsbury Steak (Yep. Guilty.) and Stouffer’s Mac n’ Cheese (Yep. Double Guilty.) No wonder I was fat, right?

It’s kinda like hearing thousands of you screaming in the background, “Use the Texas defense! Get a rope! She needed killin’! Stupid biotch!! Whadidshethinkwasgonnahappeneatingthatcrap???!!! Kill her!!!”

Or maybe I would give in to my super-dark-double-top-secret-side of me and bury a few boxes of hamburger helper in the bottom of my cart underneath a head of iceberg lettuce, a bottle of Ranch and bags of frozen corn and peas…I was sneaky. I knew what I was eating wasn’t right. I looked both ways before crossing the isle to the evil side. And so great was my “addiction” to pasta and lovely, processed, comfort crap – that I ate myself into oblivion, well past caring, and well past 314lbs. (My documented highest weight was 314lbs, but truthfully, I only stepped on the scale AFTER being on the Atkins Diet for 3 weeks…so guess what? I can assume I was a minimum of 7-9lbs heavier. At minimum! Zoikers!)

Now – sure. I also had metabolic issues too and a few meds and other chronic diseases that I dealt with and so I could claim that I didn’t get fluffy by my own wing. But, I’m thinking that if I’m bein’ honest here, my food choices contributed to the expression of certain genes and certainly contributed to an escalation in the metabolic diseases I face today – from PCOS to T2 to Breast Cancer. I don’t think I “gave myself breast cancer”, but I sure as shootin’ wasn’t doing my body any favors. I was tying one hand behind my back and giving the other a fork, while ordering my body to defend itself against cancer.

In the inimitable words of 41, “Nah, gah, happen, Bar!”

Ok, I’ve digressed yet again…so convenience food. Where’s the convenience in low carb cooking? You probably think I make elaborate and complicated meals every day, doncha? Well, you’re wrong. I make maybe one or two of those kinds of meals a week – usually on the weekend when I have time and energy to play in the kitchen.

Weeknights are very abbreviated meals. If it can’t be done in 30minutes or less. Fooey! I say, Fooey! In fact, some nights I’m at the level of fatigue that says, “If it can’t be done in 5 minutes, you’re screwed Denny and Company, cuz you’re not eatin’ tonight!”

But there are ways. And means. And ways and means! Where low carb food becomes delicious, nutritious, and more importantly - convenient! And it happens right there at home! Well, it really happens when you don’t drink - and drive your cart responsibly down the right neighborhoods in the grocery isle.

I’m talking to you, Gomer Pyle. Stay out of Isle 12 for Pete’s sake – it’s loaded for bear!

Drive the perimeter. Make it a lap and do it quickly! Count that lap as exercise and aggression management – dodge and weave! Get in, get out, get on with your life. (Sorry Ace Hardware, I’m stealin’ your tagline. It’s too good!)

No need to spend more time in the grocery store than you can manage. That's why a grocery list and a food plan along with any coupons for condiments and personal or household goods are imperitive tools for shopping success.

Or better yet, make hunter-gathering a fun activity! Try out your local farm stand or Farmers Markets. You will often find better prices, fresher produce, and have a greater shot at finding organic produce you can afford at your local grocery alternative.

And if your budget permits and you have the freezer space, the greatest convenience that supercedes all others is to buy a 1/4 or 1/2 animal from a local farmer and pay to have it butchered and wrapped so you can avoid the grocery for about 95% of your shopping. The meat will be much better for you and will be conveniently located in your freezer.

So here are Fluffy Chix Cook Top 5 Convenience Tips for Low Carb Living

These are the top strategies and methods Fluffy Chix employ to make weekday meals convenient and to keep Hamburger Helper out of the shopping cart. (Oh by the way, Dana Carpender wrote a great article about just this very subject the other day! Check it out, here! )

1. Plan for leftovers 

a. Make enough servings of a casserole to freeze at least 2 portions for some time down the road. Linda Sue has great recipes for this as does Jamie at Your Lighter Side.

b. Make “Meat Bases” – (i.e. Ground beef with onion and garlic, ground turkey with onion and garlic, ground pork or lamb with onion and garlic, mealoafs, meatballs of all flavors, meat muffins, croquettes, fish/crab/shrimp cakes, pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef rags, fajita meat slices.)

c. Cook roasts and whole chickens on Sundays (and save the carcasses and bones for broths, freeze them if you need to until you have time to make bone broth)

d. Make at least 2 extra portions of plain meat per meal and use them as a basis for another meal or meal ingredient. (i.e. Grilled chicken boobs or thighs, Pan fried cutlets or pork chops, sautéed fish filets or boiled shrimp, burgers, etc.)

e. Make at least 4 extra portions of base sauces and store in the freezer for use down the road (i.e. Chili red, chili verde, tomatillo sauce, enchilada sauce, sloppy joe sauce, alfredo sauce, pesto sauce, oven-roasted marinara sauce, queso, barbeque sauce)

f. Make at least 4c extra of soup stocks and store in the freezer for use down the road (Chicken stock, beef stock, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, pork or lamb stock, veggie stock)

g. Shred more cheese than ya need! (i.e. Haul out the food processor and shred that cheese, then vacuum seal it in bags. Store in the fridge or toss into the deep freeze.)

h. Chop up the whole dang onion, pepper, or head of celery. (i.e. Chop and save! Freeze them, do the same for herbs. Finished with the cilantro? Pop it into the freezer next to that bunch of parsley.)

i. Make an extra batch of low carb bread (i.e. Revolutionary Rolls and Buns, focaccia bread, wraps, tortillas, pizza skins and freeze them. They all freeze great! 

j. Make at least 2 extra cups of low carb breading mix (i.e. Grind the pork rind crumbs, mix up the coconut flour/oat or corn fiber/pork rinds/parm cheese and store it away.)

k. Never make only1 batch of quiche or muffins. Double them and freeze the leftovers. Better yet, cook them in muffin tins for individual meals-on-the-go!

l. Freeze extra dessert portions for those times when you are thinking of diving off the couch into high carb mania a full tummy is a much more stable tummy.

m. Make an extra low carb pizza and freeze it on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, package it for use down the road when you need a pizza fix and are in danger of ordering out.

2. KISS – during the week. Keep it simple sweetie!

a. Protein and a veg – salad optional (I MUST have my salad. I need that bulk to feel satisfied!)

b. Create new quick dishes utilizing some of your planned leftovers. If I’m really struggling with energy and motivation, it isn’t unusual for me to use the same meat for 3 or 4 meals during the week. Each one looks and feels different!  (i.e. Ground beef or ground turkey with onion and garlic:

Meal 1 – Tacos

Meal 2 – Beef Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles

Meal 3 – Marinara with Meat Sauce and 
       mushrooms over zuccguini or shiritaki noodles

Meal 4 – Taco Salad – cuz I heart it sooo much!)

3. Prep your Salads and Veggies in Advance

I just recently found out about how well washed, dried and torn lettuce stores in a bag when all the air is evacuated. Yeah, I’m late to the party…

I still wash my lettuce in advance, lay the leaves out on a clean dish towel or paper towels and loosely wrap it up and store it in a produce bag.

It keeps it crisp and it can stay good for up to 2 weeks. That way I always have fresh lettuce ready for a salad. I wash my radishes, cucumbers, celery and bell peppers and have them ready too.

Salad dressings and dips are always made in bulk and stored in the fridge.

I wash cabbage and wrap in a dish towel as well. I do that for broccoli and cauliflower too. It's so convenient to grab and go!

4. Have Handy Snacks for 4 o’clock Emergency Mean-Hungry-Warfare

I always available and ready to go at a moment’s notice to combat that dicey time between lunch and dinner when my tummy reminds me it still has the mind of a six year old and wants its after school snack!

5. Make an extra serving or two of some veggies that store well and use them for soups and lunches.
(i.e. Blanched broccoli, sautéed zucchini and yellow squash, roasted or steamed cauliflower, sautéed cabbage and onions, zucchini hash, sautéed mushrooms, roasted grape tomatoes – the best!, roasted brussel sprouts, green beans in garlic, roasted garlic cloves)


So…there ya have it. My top 5 Fluffy Chix Cook Convenience Methods to intercept weeknight cooking crises of willpower, motivation, cravings and energy origin! Hope you will begin practicing a few of them. They are game-changers. Swearsies!

Beef Base

Serves – 4 lb Bags, cooked
Prep Time – 15 minutes
Cook Time – 30-45 minutes
Difficulty – Simple Simon

5 lbs Ground Beef, 80/20 or 90/10 (YOI)
1c Onion, chopped
1c Red Bell Pepper, chopped
8 cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 c. Tap Water
1/4c Parsley, dried

In two large skillets combine all ingredients except water. Cook over medium-high heat. Brown meat and cook until veggies are tender and translucent. Add water, cover and simmer until water evaporates and meat becomes tender.

If you desire, you may drain off the juice in the bottom of the pan prior to adding water in order to reduce the fat content. If you choose this route, refrigerate liquid and allow the fat to rise. Skim off fat and replace the juice back with the meat mixture.

(Note: when you are low carb, fat is your friend. I personally adore the pan juices and use them as part of the dish to increase satisfaction and improve satiety. But I understand not all of us are alike. I actually have needed to slightly reduce my fat level in order to get my weight loss to resume, but this is not a dish where I worry about that! If I want to lower fat, I simply choose a leaner cut of ground meat for this recipe and do not strain it.)

Let meat cool and split into 4 batches. Each batch will go to make up a new dish. Can be frozen. Store up to 3 months in the deep freeze in vacuum sealed bags.

Suggested Uses for Beef Base:
Tacos and Taco Salad
Beef Enchiladas or Beef Chile Rellenos
Beef Stroganoff
Beefy Cabbage Casserole
Crack Slaw
Hamburger Hash
Sloppy Joes
Casseroles of all sorts
Chili Red and Chili Verde
Beefy Skillets of all sorts
Lettuce Cups
Stir Fry
Low Carb Pasta dishes of all sorts using Cabbage Noodles, Zoodles, Zuccguini, and Shiritaki Noodles
Meatsauce and Marinara
Quiches and Fritattas

Easy Beef and Cabbage Skillet

Serves – 4
Prep Time – 10 Minutes
Cook Time – 10 Minutes
Difficulty – Most of the time I do it in my sleep.

1 lb Meat Base, cooked weight
1/2c Onion, chopped
1/2c Red Bell Pepper, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, sliced
½ large medium Cabbage, coarse chopped
1c Mushrooms, sliced
1Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
¼ tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp Kosher Salt
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Pickled Hot Pepper Vinegar – Optional
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Chop all veggies and slice garlic.

Don't forget to chop the cabbage into a coarse dice.

Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil along with garlic to a large skillet and sauté over medium high heat for a minute. Add onions and peppers.

Add Meat Base to Onions and Peppers and cook until heated through and veggies are tender.
Remove meat and onion mixture from pan and cook cabbage.

Add cabbage to the meat pan and stir frequently to prevent burning. If the cabbage starts to stick, use about 2 Tbsp of water tossed into the bottom of the pan to keep it moving and sautéing. You want it to pan-fry, not steam. So don’t add too much water at once.

Stir and toss until hot throughout. Serve piping hot with hot pepper vinegar sauce and a side salad. Sliced tomatoes and avocado with a drizzle of vinaigrette taste great and is so quick!

Nutritional Information

Meat Base - Full Recipe

Meat Base - Per Serving

Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet - Full Recipe

Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet - Single Serving

SusieT’s Notes –
I honestly don’t miss hamburger helper as long as cabbage has a home in my fridge. I receive an equal amount of comfort from eating this dish as I did in the old HH days. Now, I grew up with a mama and grandmother and sissies who cooked like nobody’s business! It was only in my independent days when I adopted the secret HH fetish and cravings.

But this Quick Skillet rates high on the Fluffy Chix Cook hit parade and I hope you will try it. Some people might call this Crack Slaw, cuz it’s so addictive. But my Crack Slaw is made with broccoli slaw and has extra cabbage throw in for bulk and is a different dish for a different day.
Enjoy and remember to KISS often!


  1. I love the way you write - you keep my attention and I'm smiling the whole way through. Thanks for all the great ideas - I do a lot of this already and I can't imagine eating this way without planning ahead and cooking ahead! I am definitely goin to have to look through your site for Meal 2 – Beef Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles. Thank you for sharing your talent and your time.

    1. Hi there! So happy you like the posts. :) So, no stroganoff recipe I don't think...but it's on the schedule. Does that count? LOL. I think I have all the pics but need to do the write-up. Dang! It's one of my favorite recipes. Never fails to make me feel comforted. And yeah, yeah, I know, food is not a pair of arms and doesn't give comfort... :)

  2. Definitely will be making the meat base. Great idea!


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