August 23, 2012

Sugar-Free Maple Syrup

A lot of people are shocked to hear that you can make maple syrup at home. I guess it’s not as bad as being shocked to hear that cookie dough doesn't have to come from a tube. Anyway, making syrup is actually really easy, and sugarless is just as easy to do as sugar loaded. The homemade sugar-free version doesn’t have the weird sugar alcohol taste like the store bought versions. I've found that Splenda is the best-tasting artificial sweetener (stevia is too bitter; erythritol has an aftertaste and will re-crystallize in the refrigerator), so it's technically not calorie-free. One cup of Splenda granular actually has 96 calories, but it's still a lot better than 770 calories for a cup of sugar.

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups Splenda granular
  • 2 tablespoons maple flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the Splenda and water in a medium-large saucepan. 

Stir it up. It will be oddly foamy.

Boil over medium-high heat for about a minute and make sure the sweetener gets completely dissolved.

Remove from heat and add the maple and vanilla. This picture forces me to admit that I rarely bother with actual measuring implements for flavorings and spices. Clearly, precision is not required for this recipe.

Pour it on something delicious and low-calorie, like waffles or stuffed french toast!

A Note on Thickening
The recipe as written will taste amazing but won’t be thick like IHOP syrup. If that bothers you, add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch before you boil it. Another option is to put the finished product in a blender with ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum. Leave extra room in the blender - it’s going to go nuts and get extremely bubbly. Let it settle for a couple of hours to a day, and you’ll end up with nice thick maple syrup.

August 13, 2012

I'm not dead!

Where have I been? Good question. Life happens, for one. Engineering majors are hard. I also found out that a lot of things I believed to be fundamentally true about nutrition (some of which I wrote about on this blog) perhaps aren’t so fundamentally true, so I’ve been spending some time to dig into scientific evidence from the original sources in order to re-educate myself. Does that mean I’ve been lying to you all this time? Not exactly. Nothing I said before would hurt you, but it might make your life unnecessarily hard. It certainly did mine. Regardless, I am deeply sorry for misleading anyone and I hope you will forgive the error of my ways. 

So what’s changed? Most importantly, I’ve come to see that nutrition timing matters much much less than I had originally believed. What you eat is orders of magnitude above when you eat it. So most rules about meal frequency, no carbs at night, no carbs with fats, immediate post-workout nutrition, etc. can be safely ignored. I’m also much less concerned with good carbs versus bad carbs. For my own life, I’ve adopted the strategy of “if it fits your macros” or “if you track your intakes.” I keep track of my calorie, protein, carbohydrate, and fat intakes, and I can eat anything I want as long as the numbers end up where they need to be at the end of the day. I’ll be posting more detailed information on these topics, in addition to other fun and exciting content, very soon. I’ve humbly taken down all of the offending old content. All of the recipes are still valid. Thanks for sticking with me!

March 5, 2012

Holy Molé Tenderloin (featuring Elliott's Pork Paste)

A scene from my kitchen. I said, "Elliott, can you make something to put on this hunk of meat? I want one of those concoctions with chili powder and cocoa and cinnamon that sounds weird at first but then tastes like seven different kinds of awesome." My big brother proceeded to do my bidding. He produced a magical paste-like substance that we slathered all over our pork tenderloin, and Elliott's Pork Paste was born. His one mistake was not adding any Frank's hot sauce, but I made a mental note and fixed the recipe the next time around. 

Elliott's Pork Paste is the love child of a rub and a marinade. You can put it on any kind of meat, but I've found that it works particularly well on pork or turkey tenderloins. I would probably eat a car tire if you drowned it in this stuff, though. And before any nitpickers call me out, I admit that this isn't exactly a legitimate molé sauce. However, the flavors are similar (chili, cocoa, cinnamon, cumin, lime, etc.) and I couldn't think of anything else to call it. It's molé-esque, so leave me alone.

Unrelated side note: If you leave a comment for me on the contact form, I will be delighted to respond to you personally, but I need some form of contact information. (So will the person who asked me to get back to them please leave me another note with an email address? Thanks!) 

2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp white pepper (if you happen to have it. Substitute black if you don't.)
1 tsp coarse ground sea salt
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp erythritol, Splenda, or not-sugar of your choice
juice of whole lime
1.5 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Frank's RedHot (That's the bare minimum. Bonus points if you add more)
2-3 Tbsp warm water
1 package pork or turkey tenderloins

Directions   (Printable PDF)
Mix all ingredients except for the warm water and raw meat in a small bowl. Add water slowly until you achieve the consistency of a saucy paste. 

Pierce the meat with a fork in several places, then coat thoroughly with the paste-sauce (read: drown those suckers). Cover and refrigerate for several hours (if you have time/want it to be really good. You can go straight to the cooking, though).

I give you two options for the cooking method: roast or grill. For the oven folks, roast it uncovered at 350 until the meat thermometer reaches the acceptable temperature. If you're a griller, the best method is to put the meat over indirect heat and turn it occasionally. With a three-burner grill, I put the meat in the center with the center burner on fairly low and the left and right burners on medium-high.

My dad kept saying that our little tenderloins looked like Graboids from Tremors (if you haven't seen them, the four films are paragons of high-quality cinema). They really kind of did, but that didn't stop anyone from packing it in at dinner.

Need a side dish? Try some jicama hash browns.

February 4, 2012

Almonds make cheese? (review)

This is pretty random, but I thought I would share. Recently, I encountered almond cheese. It was almost fat free, high in protein, low in carbs, and even offered a gram of fiber. I love cheese, and I love almond milk, so how could I not like this? I decided to try the cheddar and buy pepper jack on return trip if it was good. Sadly, I did not go back for jack.

Taste: You can tell it’s trying to taste like cheese, but it really just tastes like what society has come to accept as “cheese flavor.” It’s the same flavor encountered in Easy Mac powder and other excuses for cheese, but much more subtle and with less salt. The taste is about as similar to real cheddar cheese as the taste of a grape Popsicle is to a real grape.

Texture and appearance: They came pretty close, but something still isn’t right. For one thing, if you look closely, there are tiny brown specks and larger white spots mingled in with the orangey-yellow you expect from cheddar cheese. It’s a little soft, but nowhere near as squishy as Velveeta. It holds up to grating… kind of.

Nutritional value: Compared to regular cheddar cheese, this is a lot better for you. It only has 1 gram of fat and 50 calories per ounce, compared to 9 grams of fat and 110 calories per ounce for the real stuff. But wait, don’t they make fat-free cheese that’s actually cheese? Yeah, and it tastes better and doesn’t have any carbs. This product has three grams of carbs per ounce (one of them is fiber, which I’m okay with, but it loses points for the other two).

Overall: A passable substitute for cheese if you can’t/won’t eat dairy products. Otherwise, you’re better off with Kraft’s fat-free shredded cheddar and mozzarella, or something from Cabot’s line of 50-75% reduced fat cheeses. 

January 20, 2012

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

Everyone who is anyone in the business of healthy food has his/her variation on poultry meatloaf. Turkey meatloaf muffins. Miniature chicken loaves. Turkey and chicken combo-loaf. You can’t consider yourself established in the world of healthy recipes until you have one to your name, so this probably should have been one of my first posts. The problem is that I rarely make it the same way twice – it’s a pretty forgiving recipe, so I just use whatever I can find. It's super easy, and it usually ends well. Last time I went home, I made it for my family. My dad is among my hardest critics, but he ate four of the little things and admitted to liking them quite a bit. I quickly wrote down what I had done, because a positive review from that man is gold.

I should also note that this is also the first one of my recipes in which Frank's RedHot makes an appearance. I have no idea why it hasn't come up before. Their slogan is "I put that on everything," but really, I do. I buy Costco quantities. Someone asked me my opinion on cayenne pepper pills, and I suggested just pouring Frank's on everything instead. You get whatever metabolism-boosting benefits cayenne pepper allegedly has, plus the heat makes you eat more slowly and drink more water, and it tastes awesome. Win win win win. 

Per 2-muffin serving (1/6 recipe)
1.25 lbs extra lean ground turkey
1 egg
half of a bell pepper
half of an onion
1/3 cup chunky salsa
¼ cup cilantro
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
Frank’s RedHot (as much as you dare)
Salt and pepper to taste


First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then put the bell pepper, onion, salsa, and cilantro into a food processor and pulse until it all looks kind of like salsa.

Dump everything from the food processor into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients. Combine thoroughly. 

Spray a muffin pan or line it with foil cupcake liners for easy clean-up (the paper ones don't work - I tried). Evenly distribute your meat mixture into the 12 muffin holes.

Bake in the preheated oven until a meat thermometer registers a safe internal temperature of 170 degrees (about 45 minutes). Try to eat a couple before your father scarfs them all himself.