Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Low Carbing in a Household Crisis

I’m utterly disgusted to admit that I got caught totally flat footed.  I am laid low by the Respiratory Crud From Hell.  I’m coughing up phlegm from past lives.  And in my refrigerator is several servings of yummy ham slow-cooked in hard cider in the crockpot, leftover rib roast, some raspberry fluff, half a leftover cheesecake from Sunday’s Easter dinner with the inlaws . . .

And that’s it.

You have no idea how out of character for me this is.  I am a strong believer in keeping a well-stocked refrigerator.  You can’t have too many leftovers, snacks, and quick eats, and this is never more true than when the inevitable crisis comes up.

My last crisis was in December and January, when my elderly mother was in and out of the hospital for the entire two months, and seriously ill in between hospital stays.  When I wasn’t at the hospital, I was helping my dad cope with stuff like groceries and laundry.  When I wasn’t doing either of those, I was trying to fit my work in.  Sleep was in short supply, never mind time to shop and cook.  Thankfully, I had a number of tried and true strategies to get me through situations like this.

A crisis can be anything from a badly sprained ankle to a bad cold to a suddenly overwhelming amount of overtime work.  What it means, however, is that there’s little time to shop and cook, and the temptation is strong to stray for convenience’s sake, or to “spoil yourself” with carby foods because you’re stressed or feel bad and you “deserve a treat.”  This is toxic thinking.  You deserve delicious, healthy low-carb food.  Adding yo-yo blood sugar and “carb bloat” to an already unhappy body is only going to make matters worse.  Trust me, I’ve been there, done that.  Learn from my mistakes.  Don’t wait till it happens to you.  Plan ahead.

A well-stocked fridge and freezer.  Cook with versatile leftovers in mind.  Leftover ham, chicken or beef can be used in all kinds of different ways.  I like to make sure I’ve always got the fixings for a near-instant meal in the fridge, as well as several low-carb snacks like cheese, deviled or just hard-cooked eggs, leftover wings or drumsticks or whatever.

The slow cooker is your friend.  I’m one of these wierd paranoid people who won’t leave the house if the oven is on, but my paranoia doesn’t extend to the slow cooker.  My husband works unpredictable hours, so my dinner choices are limited to:  1) Dishes that can be cooked in the approximate hour between when he calls to tell me he’s leaving work and his arrival home; or 2) Long-cooked foods that can be kept warm and waiting.  The slow cooker is perfect for this, and slow-cooked ham, chicken, stew, curry, chili, etc. can be ready and waiting for you with very little effort.  Dana Carpender, bless her, wrote an entire slow cooker cookbook:  300 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes.  Read it.  Learn it.  Live it.

Breakfast for dinner.  This is one of my husband’s and my favorites.  We love a big breakfast spread, but we prefer to have it later in the day.  Bacon, eggs, sausage and even Muffin in a Minute pancakes are quick and easy to fix, and we usually have all the ingredients on hand.  Omelets, frittatas or crustless quiches are an easy way to turn small quantities of leftover protein, cheese and vegetables into a quick and easy meal.

Soup is good food.  A batch of cauliflower cheese soup or broccoli cheese soup is almost effortless and can nurse you through several sick days, and you can hearty it up with chopped chicken or ham for some variety.  A picked rotisserie chicken, Meijer’s lovely boxed chicken stock, lots of garlic and some shirataki noodles make garlic chicken noodle soup.  Even miso soup packets (read the labels!) are a quick hot meal.  I can usually eat soup even when I can’t look at solid food.

Okay, all right, I’m desperate.  As a desperation measure, or just when I’m missing the forbidden delight of fast food, I’ll stop at Five Guys right around the corner and get a bunless burger, which I’ll either eat as is or put on a Muffin in a Minute bun.  We try to keep Boar’s Head cold cuts in the house (read nutrition info on deli meats, some are pumped full of dextrose!) to slap on an MIM bun.  If I’m really feeling bad and just can’t stand to eat, I may drink an Atkins shake or eat an Atkins bar on the Ensure principle that some nutrients in my stomach are better than nothing at all.

Lean on someone you can trust.  I cannot praise my wonderful husband Paul enough.  When I underwent a year of Interferon therapy after cancer surgery, Paul cooked for me (sometimes cooking me one meal, then another, then another because the Interferon screwed with my sense of taste and so many foods tasted spoiled), and coaxed, bullied and bribed me into eating when I had absolutely no appetite and was so exhausted that chewing sounded like too much work.  He still has to bully me into eating when I’m sick, because when I’m under the weather my appetite is the first thing to go.  And when I do feel like eating, instinctively I crave the old “high” of carby foods.  So I lean on Paul to make me eat, and to make me eat right.  Tonight he drove to one of our favorite restaurants and brought me back some of their incredible cabbage soup to tempt my appetite – and then nagged me till I ate what I could.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a wonderful, supportive spouse, find a relative or friend you can lean on.  Set up an online low carbing buddy.  Get on one of the low carb lists and ask for suggestions, support, sympathy and virtual chicken soup.  When you’re sick or stressed out, it’s easy to feel like you’re going it alone.  You don’t have to go it alone.  It’s okay to ask for help and support.  Every low carber out there understands sick/stressed/don’t have time/desperate.  Learning from each other is one of the greatest things about the low-carb community.

And speaking of sick low carbers.  It’s hard to find cold medicines that don’t contain sugar.  Here’s the one cough syrup you should have on your shelves:  Buckley’s Cough Mixture.  The tag line on the box reads:  “It tastes awful.  And it works.”  Trust me, both statements are equally true.  Here’s the web site:  Buckley’s Cough Mixture may well be the foulest-tasting stuff in the universe, but it is magic.  Disgusting, phlegmy-looking liquid magic.  If you can’t find it locally, you may have to order it from or (yes, it’s perfectly legal to order it from Canada) or just search Google.

Tea, glorious tea.  You won’t believe how much better hot tea can make you feel.  Hot ginger tea or mint tea can de-crud your throat and open up your sinuses.  Hot rosehip tea packs a Vitamin C punch and will get that slimy feeling off your tongue.

And that’s the lot.  What do you expect from a woman with bronchitis?<G>  I’ve eaten about half a cup of the wonderful cabbage soup Paul brought home for me.  I’ve drunk so much hot tea that there’s steam coming out my ears.  I can’t even bring myself to nibble some cheese (yes, that’s right, me, the Cheese Lady, and I can’t even look at cheese!).  I’m going to go upstairs, hold my nose and swallow a spoonful of Buckley’s, go sleep in the recliner with a cat or two piled on top of me, and try to catch a few winks of sleep between coughs.  Just remember . . . it could be you next.

What’s in your fridge?

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