Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Low Carb and Dairy Free Challenge?! Accepted! (with recipe ideas)

God help me! I'm swearing off carbs. I should state that by carbs I mean starchy grains like bread, cereal, rice, noodles, potatoes and all things delicious. Now, this is an INCREDIBLY difficult challenge for me because the above mentioned carbs are basically my one true love in the food world. I eat carbs at every meal. EVERY MEAL. I love them.

This is why I decided to try this diet for only one week and see how I do. I am making an exception for gluten free carbs in extremely low quantities because if we are being honest a completely carb free diet is not good for you. I will add a few healthy carbs back in after the first week or two, but my goal is to reduce the amount of carbs that I do eat... forever! ::gasp::


America is a carb loving country and I fit right in, but I know that as a nurse we, as a country, eat too many carbs. That contributes to a multitude of ailments like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even cancer. But I also know that our body does need carbs. After all, glucose is a by product of carbs and it is the main fuel for our brain. The recommended minimum intake of carbs is 50 grams a day. If you're like me, that doesn't mean very much. I need examples! So I found you some...

One cup of lettuce is 5g, while a single bagel is 70g, 1 cup of whole milk is 11g, an egg is 1g, 2 tbsp peanut butter is 7g, 1 cup of all purpose flour is 88g, an apple is 20g, 1 ear of corn is 30g, 1/2 cup of broccoli is 2.3g, brownie sundae is 50g....  you can see the wide difference between different food items. And what's scary is that some of those are more than the minimum requirement in just one meal.

I am not a scientist or I dietician, but based on research I believe that we should aim above 50g, but below the recommendation that 50% of your caloric intake that should come from carbs. Personally, I'm aiming for 30% during my fast and then I'll maintain myself at 40%.

It's simple to find out how many grams of carbs would come from 50% of your diet consisting of carbohydrates. Simply use your ideal calorie intake (ex: 2000) divide it by 2 (2000/2= 1000) and then divide that by 4 (1000/4 = 250g of carbohydrates).

Also, remember that carbs will convert to glucose and glucose is sugar and unused sugar (energy) will turn to fat. So it makes sense to that if you limit your carbs you could lose weight. It's just important to not be extreme about it so you stay healthy.

I believe that we will be healthier if we pick our carbs from produce like fruits and vegetables or complex carbs/whole grains (quinoa, oats, barley) rather than from simple carbs like white breads, bagels, or desserts. Those simple carbs will spike our blood sugar quickly and drop us just as fast which is not a good thing for anyone. It can cause damage to our bodies and make us more susceptible to diseases like type 2 diabetes.

From a medical standpoint, we aren't helping ourselves if we lower our starchy carbs, but increase the amount of meat (aka fat). A small amount of protein should be in every meal and it can come from beans, eggs, cheeses, nuts, seeds, or meats, but in a healthy portion size. If you look closely at weight watchers or any of the popular weight loss programs you'll see that they are actually based on eating small amounts starchy carbs and a normal portion of meat.


I did a little research and gluten isn't just in breads. It's in a lot of things! You can read these websites if you want a little more information about what could be hiding in your pantry.

List of foods containing Gluten

Newman's Own Allergy List


About a year ago, I decided to do a dairy free fast for 6 weeks. 6 looonnnnnnngggg weeks, but it was worth it! The redness on my cheeks improve, my sinuses cleared up, I lost 5 lbs, I didn't feel bloated at all, and I had a lot less gas. Since then I've fallen off the wagon and I've hated how I felt so I went dairy free again, but I will say that this time I have experimented with adding things back into my diet in small amounts one at a time so I can find out what I really have a problem with. Let me tell you that butter, cream and cow based cheeses do not like me. I can have a very, very small amount of cow based cheese with no problems, but within minutes I can feel a difference if I eat just a little bit of butter or cream. I found out that I tolerate goat and sheep's milk cheeses much better. It's been a big adjustment, but there are a lot of good substitutes out there.

Some people even tolerate hard cheeses better than soft cheeses-- so if you're just starting to think about going dairy free, you can even just try to cut down on the soft cheeses and see if that helps you feel better.


My goal is to up my intake of fruits and veggies, while lowering my carb intake and keeping my dairy intake within the boundaries I find that I can tolerate. I will try to use non-cow dairy items and use other dairy products (sheep and goat) very minimally.

If you don't care about going dairy free, then by all means smack that delicious gooey cheese on. Also, if I use any substitutes for items like butter or milk, then feel free to use the real stuff.

If you decide that you want to go completely dairy free then you can remove the dairy items I use (mainly goats and sheeps milk cheeses). I will be using dairy free substitutes for items like butter, sour cream and milk.  I will also tell you how these products stack up to the real stuff.

I didn't want to go into too much detail about the recipes, but if you want exact measurements on ingredients on any of them just let me know and I'll send you the information.


Baked Eggs in an Avocado

It was simple and pretty easy to make. I cut the avocado in half and scooped out a bit of the insides to make a "bowl" for the egg. I put the avocado in a muffin tin so it wouldn't roll around and put the egg in the "bowl". I sprinkled it with some salt, pepper, smoked paprika and some cilantro. Baked it in the oven at 450F for about 10 minutes. 

Review: C+

It was good, but I didn't care much for the warm avocado. I think it would have been better to bake/fry the egg and put it on top of a chopped avocado. 
Substitutes: None-- it's already dairy-free, gluten free, and vegetarian. 

Eggs in Purgatory

I had to make this just because of the name.

Eggs in Purgatory.

I know that it sounds demented, but I have a sick sense of humor. It made me giggle.

Anyways-- back to the food! It was as easy as opening a can of diced tomatoes (I used about 1/4 of a can per serving), adding garlic, paprika, italian seasonings, and cooked chopped chorizo.

Please, do not skipped the chorizo. Yum! It's what really brought this dish together and made it more than just eggs and sauce.

I cracked an egg on top and put it in the over at 400F for 15 minutes and then broiled it for 30 seconds.

It's yummy! Very Italian! But the problem was that it was crying out for bread. I really wanted something to soak up the juices and add a little crunch. It would have been PERFECT with toasty bread. So... for that reason alone I give it a....

Rating: B- because it made me really, really, really want bread. I mean, like, really.

Chorizo Sausage Omelet

Seriously Yum! I made this one day when I was home alone and I can't wait to make it for the man! He will LOVE it. It's got this great balance of smokey, creamy, and spicy. I will make this again and again! One of my favorites!

It's an omelete with spinach, chorizo, and goat cheese. After it's baked I added chopped avocado and a spicy salsa!


Review A+. It was easy to make, yummy, and filling. What more can you ask for?!

Substitutes: Goat cheese for cheddar cheese

Portabello Eggs

Mixed Berry Fruit Smoothie with Almond Milk and Orange Juice

This was really yummy! I bought a bag of frozen organic mixed berries, added some frozen mango, and about a 1:1 ratio of vanilla almond milk and orange juice. Blended it in the mixer and done! It was yummy! It tasted a lot like a smoothie that I paid a lot more money for.

These would make a great snack, too, if you made a smaller portion size.

You could also add different fruit that you have on hand like bananas! Yum! I love bananas! I had a peanut butter and banana smoothie once (delicious!) and I bet you could recreate it with almond milk...

I might do that tomorrow!

So many options!

Rating: A

Substitutions: Almond milk for regular milk.

Baked Egg "Muffins"

Egg "muffins" are really frittatas in muffin form. I really like them when I'm doing something early in
the morning and I want a quick, protein filled breakfast. I'll just make them the night before and put them in a ziplock in the fridge.

All I do is pick any toppings that I like-- usually 1 meat and 1 veggie. I prepare them however I like, then I spoon them into a muffin tin.

I then put eggs (8 eggs usually will make 12 muffins) into a bowl with a splash of olive oil, a healthy pour of dairy free milk, a pinch of baking powder and a good amount of salt and pepper and whisk it until it can't be whisked any more!

All you have to do is pour the egg mixture into the muffin tins over the meat/veggie mixture until the tins are almost full.

Bake in the oven at 375F for about 15-20 minutes.

Review: B They are great for on the go, but if I had the time I would eat something like the egg and spinach bake instead.

Spinach and Egg Bake

Okay, I know this isn't the best picture. The egg white looks a little like rubber, but I promise you that
this is a very simple breakfast to make and it is sooooooo good!

You simply sauté the spinach leaves until they begin to wilt (I like to add some garlic right at the end). Place them into a small ramekin, you can add meat of your choosing (optional)-- cooked bacon, sausage, ham, diced chicken--- and then top with one or two eggs. Salt and pepper (and optional) just a pinch of feta, goat or non-dairy cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until whites are cooked and yolks are how you like them (12-16 minutes). This depends a lot on the size of the ramekin and how many eggs you use, so keep an eye on it the first time you bake it! 

Example: This took 13 minutes to get to firm whites and slightly gooey yolk. 

Review: A

It was really, really yummy considering it was so simple and easy to make. And I actually DID feel healthy eating it and I still loved it. You have to enjoy the taste of spinach, but if you do, then definitely make this!

Substitutes: Sheep's Milk Feta instead of cow's milk cheese (You can use mozzarella-- which is also very yummy!) 


Ever Roast Chicken House Salad

This is my super simple go to salad.

Lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes, red onion, dairy-free cheese, and the best part is the Ever Roast chicken from BoarsHead. It's also really good with cucumbers and/or avocado, but I didn't have any on hand. Yum!

I make sure that the deli slices the chicken thickly so that I can cube it. It adds so much flavor to this really simple salad.

I've made my own dressings or used different store bought versions. My favorites are poppy seed dressing, poppy seed dressing mixed with balsamic, honey mustard, raspberry balsamic, and cilantro lime vinaigrette. I really haven't found anything that doesn't go with it!

Just a warning if you are wanting to go gluten free: You'll be shocked at how many dressings have gluten in the ingredients to thicken it up. Make sure that you pick a gluten free dressing. I use Maple Grove, Annie's Naturals, and Newman's because they have a wide variety of gluten free dressings.

With this meal I drank BoatHouse Farms Mango Coconut Splash. It's seriously my favorite drink and you get some fruit in while you enjoy yourself. One bottle is 120 calories and if you drink the whole thing it will provide you with 1 coconut, 1 3/4 of an apple, and a wedge of a lemon.

I think that's a win.

Review: B+

Substitutes: Dairy Free Cheese, Gluten Free Dressing 

Salami Salad

This salad I've made before and the Man LOVES it. Probably because it's filled with Salami. He says if there was such a thing as a man's side salad this would be it.

When at the Deli make sure they slice the Salami thick enough so you can cube it.

It's really simple to make (which I love). I add lettuce, tomatoes, onion, salami cubes, some black pepper and in the past I used provolone cubed as well. Since I am trying to cut down on dairy I used 2 small cubes of feta cheese (sheep's milk).

For the dressing I used Red Wine Vinegar. Yum!

Rating: B+ it's got a lot of flavor for being so simple. It definitely has an Italian taste to it and I think that it would be great with a baked chicken parmesan and maybe some zucchini noodles. Mmmm.... I think I'm getting an idea!

Substitutes: sheep's milk feta for provolone

Crab Stuffed Portobello Mushroom.

OMG. Easy, creamy and delicious. I goobled it up!

All you do is sauté some yellow onions and once they are soft then add a small amount of gluten free bread crumbs, cajun seasonings, diary free sour cream, and a pinch of paprika. Give it a good stir, then add the crab meat, salt and pepper. I let it cook for about a minute and then you put it into the cleaned out mushroom cap

Put the crab stuffed mushroom in the oven at 400F for 15 minutes. Delicious!

Rating: A+

Scallop Salad

This is a great salad with a good amount if kick!

It's a little more complex to make, but well worth it.

First I make the mango salsa-- 1 mango diced, 1 jalapeño diced, red onion diced, and squeeze a half a lime over the mix.

After I put that in the fridge I start making the dressing. It's really good, but very different-- it's one of my favorites! 1 cup of arugula, juice of 3 limes, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tbsp of honey, a pinch of cayenne, salt and pepper. Blend it up in a food processor while adding olive oil until you get the consistency you want. Now you're almost done!

The scallops are the BEST part. I crush up some pistachios and put them on a small plate. In a small bowl I mix 8 part Mayo to 1 part wasabi paste-- you can alter this depending on how spicy you like it. I spoon some of the mayo-wasabi mixture onto a scallop and then dip it into the nuts and then repeat on the other side. I then pan sear it on med-high heat for two minutes or so on each side (the actually side-- not the part that has the mayo/wasabi/nut mixture).

When I serve it I will lay down some arugula, add some avocado, lay the mango salsa over top the avocado, place the scallops on top and then drizzle the dressing over top. The dressing is strong-- you don't need a lot of it, but it's soooo good!

Rating: A

I would give it an A+ if it was a little easier to make, but it's really good. Definitely recommended.


The Carpaccio was really easy to make and it was good. I think the man enjoyed it more than I did, but is is completely covered in roast beef.

The salad was sooooo easy! I put down some lettuce, added some roast beef, capers, and shaved parmesan cheese.

In a small bowl, I mixed olive oil with the juice of a lemon. After I stirred it, I poured it on top of the salad and then added a bit of pepper.

We ate it all and the man wanted more!

Review: For me C, but for him he said he would get it an A

Taco Salad:

I used the left overs from the chicken tacos (dinner) to make a Taco Salad for lunch. It was good: creamy and spicy. After I already had eaten half I thought it would have been nice to take a corn tortilla (gluten free) and bake it in the over so I could have cut it up and used it as crunchy tortilla strips.

This is a simple salad: lettuce, avocado, onions, tomatoes, chicken mixture (see dinner recipe), and non-dairy sour cream. I squeeze some lime juice over the lettuce before I added the toppings.

Review: B+. I like using the left overs in this way-- just slightly different than how I used them for dinner, but I probably wouldn't make this by itself without having made the tacos the night before.

Substitutions: Non-dairy creamer


Memorial Day: Beef Brisket, Crockpot Lime Feta Corn, Deviled eggs, and Baked Beans
Dessert: Tequila Lime Watermelon

I am a firm believer that for summer holidays you should have a BBQ themed dinner. It's just how I was raised. However, our grill died and we don't have the money to buy a new one. I decided that I would try to make brisket in the over this year.

I slow cooked it in a dutch over-- it took about 4 hours, but it was simple and allowed me time to focus on my side dishes and watch Black Hawk Down.

The corn I wrapped in foil with some non-dairy butter and put in the crockpot on high for 2 and a half hours. It actually tasted more like boiled corn to me, but it was better when I rolled it in lime juice, feta cheese and red pepper flakes.

The Baked Beans were really easy too. I sautéd a diced onion and a bell pepper and added it to a can of baked beans which I had spread into a casserole dish. I added a spoon full of dijon mustard and a healthy pour of BBQ sauce and mixed it all together. I then tore up some of the bacon and laid it across the top of the dish. I cooked it at 300F with the brisket for about 2 hours.

The deviled eggs are sooooo simple. I boiled eggs, put the yokes in a dish. I added mayo, yellow mustard, salt and pepper and mixed it together. After I put them back into the whites I added a sprinkle of paprika.

The tequila lime watermelon was almost like a margarita. I had boiled 1/4 c water, 1/4 c tequila, 1/8 c triple sec with a spoon full of sugar until the sugar dissolved. I let it cool, then poured it over the watermelon (which I placed in a baking dish) and let them soak for an hour. I squeezed a lime over top of them right before I served them. Delicious!

Salmon Cakes Salad

Yum! I really, really, really liked this dish! It was healthy, but it was filling and it tasted great! I didn't even feel like it was healthy. The salmon cakes reminded me a lot of crab cakes, but more fishy. It had a really nice flavor!

I sauteed half a yellow onion and two mini bell pepper then added it to the canned salmon in a bowl. I also added minced roasted garlic, cayenne pepper, an egg, gluten free bread crumbs, salt and pepper. I sauteed them in a medium pan for approximately 3-4 minutes each side. I placed them on top a bed of lettuce and added some veggies-- you can use whatever you really want-- and some feta cheese. I think that next time I'll add some avocado-- it'll really add to the texture of the dish. I topped it off with a little bit of lite honey mustard dressing which paired really nicely with the salmon cake.

Rating: A

Substitutes: Sheep's Feta instead of Cow based cheese, and a small amount of gluten free bread crumbs instead of ritz crackers or traditional bread crumbs. I completely removed the flour from the recipe.

Smokey Mexican Chicken Salad 

This salad is just layers of flavors and textures. It's got a smokey dressing, sweet mango, creamy cheese, delicious avocado, crispy gluten free tortilla chips, and juicy chicken. What more could you ask for!?

In the above picture you can clearly see that I made a His-and-Her version of the salad. More meat for the man!! He really enjoyed it and actually ate a second bowl of salad! He asked me to save the dressing because he wants to make chicken and just dip it into the bowl. Haha! WIN!!! I feel like I should be standing around like Captain Morgan as some sort of display of victory.

It takes a little over a half an hour to make (including time for the chicken to cook) and the only thing that's time consuming is the dressing, but it's really worth it.

I break up some gluten free tortilla chips in a plastic bag. I then spray the chicken tenders with olive oil and add them to the bag-- do a little shake to coat them in the chips and put them on a roasting pan. I cook them at 425F for 20-25 minutes.

For the dressing: chipotle peppers, smoked paprika, cumin, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, honey, water, garlic and cilantro. Yum! I use this to coat the lettuce, but the real secret ingredient is adding half an avocado to what's left over. It makes it so thick and rich! I use that to just drizzle over the chicken.

For the Salad: I coat the lettuce in the dressing and toss it. I chop up 1 mango, 1 avocado, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and some goat cheese and place that on top of the lettuce. Add the chicken and drizzle the avocado dressing on top. All done and delicious!

Rating: A+ Even though the dressing has a lot of ingredients and you have to pull out the food processor (that alone usually makes me decrease the grade) it's so good that I don't really care about anything else.

Substitutions: gluten free tortilla chips for crust of chicken, avocado in dressing to make it creamy instead of milk. Goat cheese instead of cow cheese.

Here is The Recipe that inspired this meal!

Lime and Avocado Chicken with Coconut Lime Creamed Corn and a House Salad

The chicken is amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

I seasoned the chicken breast with salt, pepper and a mix of spices that I threw together (cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning) and seared it on the stove top. I then put it on a backing rack and put it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400F. Perfect, juicy, delicious.

It paired really well with the avocado lime salsa. It is 1 avocado, minced jalepeno, a little bit of red onion, and the juice of half a lime.

The corn was from 3 cobs which I removed, half a cup of coconut milk cooked on the oven until thickened-- about half an hour. When it was about ready to be served I added a squeeze of lime juice, cilantro, and some red pepper flakes! Yum!

The house salad is the same as the one I made for lunch in a previous post. Still just as good!

Chicken Review: A++

Substitutions: None.

Corn Review: B+. The corn was good, but not nearly as good as the chicken which is probably why it
got a B+. It was a healthy creamed corn with a kick-- I probably should have let it cook longer to make it more creamy and less corn like. It was still really good. I actually ate the rest for a snack. :)

Substitutions: Coconut milk for cream, removal of butter

Deconstructed California Roll with Quinoa

I've made this before with white rice, but since I'm trying to cut down on carbs (especially gluten and simple starches) I removed the rice and added a small amount of quinoa. Quinoa is a usually thought of a grain, but it is actually a seed which is gluten free. It's a wonderful substitute for grains, but it does have a bit of an unusual texture that some people do not like. Personally, I enjoy it. Quinoa has a slight nutty flavor, but you need to make sure you wash it before you cook it or it may be bitter.

This recipe was simple. You cook the quinoa per package directions and then spread it onto a baking sheet to cool. While it's cooling you put rice vinegar and honey in a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir it to make sure the honey is mixed in with the vinegar and then sprinkle it over the rice.

A small amount goes a long way.

For the vegetables I use grated carrots, quartered cucumbers, avocado, and diced green onions. The crab meat is just mixed with a little bit of mayo and then I sprinkled sesame seeds on top.

Review: A

Substitutions: Quinoa (seeds) in place of white rice, dairy free. Honey instead of white sugar. 

Spicy Chicken Tacos Crockpot Style:

These are easy to make! You just throw some boneless chicken into the crockpot, add taco seasonings, and salsa. You can also add some non-dairy sour cream if you want to make it a little bit creamier. I wanted mine to be a bit spicy so I threw in a can of the spiciest salsa I could find! Yum!

You can put on whatever toppings you like. I used avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, goat cheese, and non-dairy sour cream. I squeeze some lime juice on top!

I used corn tortillas because they are gluten free and they have less carbs. To be honest, they don't compare to the flour tortillas, but it was mainly because they broke a lot. I think I'll have to try crispy tortillas next time.

Review: B+. I like how easy they are and how you can pretty much do whatever you want with them (toppings, or adding sour cream to the crockpot), but I really wasn't impressed with the corn tortillas.

Substitutions: Non-dairy sour cream, goat cheese instead of cheddar cheese, corn tortillas instead of flour.

Scallops with White Beans and Spinach

This was actually really good! First, cook some bacon (I used Turkey) until it crisps up, then you remove it from the heat. Add a diced red onion to the pan and cook until soft, then add some minced garlic. Cook for about a minute more, then add the spinach, white beans, salt and pepper. Cook until beans are warm and spinach is wilted. Add bacon back into the pan. 

Cook the scallops over medium-high heat in another pan for about 2-3 minutes each side.  

Squeeze half a lemon over the dish before you serve. Yum! I love how easy it was too! 

Review: A

Substitutes:  None needed 

  • Apples 
    • almond butter optional
  • Nuts
  • Almond Milk
  • Smoothie
  • Tea
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Left over coconut corn
  • Banana 
    • Peanut butter optional

Hint for Weight Loss: Hunger pains can often be the body's way of telling you that it's thirsty. If you drink a glass of water each time you feel like you want a snack, you might be able to avoid those food calories and lose some weight! Bonus!

My weight loss in ONE WEEK: 1.5 lbs
Sherri Griffin
Sherri Griffin

Thanks for checking out my blog. I get serious about a few things in life: animals, chemicals, and food. For the rest I can't promise anything so keep the bar low. For more about me check out my "About Me" page! Happy DIYing!


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