Highly Recommended Stuff for Low Carbers
Books & Software
Condiments and Canned Goods
Books and software
Dana Carpender's 500 Low-Carb Recipes and How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds. If I could have only one low-carb cookbook, 500 Low-Carb Recipes would definitely be it. It's certainly the best collection I've found. How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds is not, as you might think from the title, particularly about Dana's own dieting experience, although there are plenty of anecdotes and tips from her own experience, but more a very well- written and inclusive overview of low-carb dieting - a sort of low-carb dieting roadmap that I found extremely helpful. It just now came out in a new, expanded edition, which I've ordered but haven't read yet. Dana has another cookbook that I gather she's just turned in to the publisher - I know it'll be a winner too. Her books are available through http://www.amazon.com and many other large bookstores.
MasterCook. This is the recipe software I recommend to everyone and use myself. It only costs about $20 now that Sierra quit carrying it and it's now carried by a company called ValuSoft. It comes with a huge quantity of recipes, much of which is useless to the low-carber, but the program is versatile, comprehensive and easy to use. It has an excellent nutritional calculator; however, occasionally I find that when I check the USDA nutritional database, I come up with a different number than MasterCook does. It does NOT compute net carbs for you, but does list the fiber grams, which makes it fairly simple to do it yourself. Also, sugar alcohols of any type are not in its ingredient database, and there is no separate sugar alcohol category in the nutritional breakdown, so if you input any sugar alcohol as an ingredient, you'll have to make your own decision on whether or not to count the carbs. Otherwise, however, I can't find much fault with this program, especially at the new price. It's available at Best Buy, or online at http://www.valusoft.com.
Silpat/Exopat - Silpats and Exopats are silicone nonstick baking mats. I find them indispensable. Absolutely nothing will stick to them (including melted/burnt cheese), and they can go right in the dishwasher to be used again and again. Bed, Bath & Beyond and Linens 'N Things carry them, but they're cheaper ordered online - just do a Yahoo shopping search and compare prices. 11x16 Silpats or Exopats are $15-$20. Silpats come in other sizes now, too, including an 8 1/4 x 11 1/2 and an octagonal "round" that will go in the microwave or fit nicely on a pizza pan - warning, however, do NOT cut anything ON the sheet! It does cut, and you can ruin it that way. If you don't have one of these sheets, get one. It'll save you a fortune in aluminum foil and baking parchment.
Silicone oven mitts and potholders - These are worth their weight in gold. They'll protect your hands from heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit - you can even pick up hot coals in your barbecue and move them, move hot oven racks, etc. Obviously you can also set hot pans on them. Just as nice, you can wash them of any nasty mess easily under the faucet, or just throw them in the dishwasher. A nice bonus, too - the potholders make a truly excellent garlic peeler. Just put the unpeeled clove in a folded-over potholder and roll it around under the palm of your hand and the peel comes right off. Other handy uses - placed under a cutting board, the potholder will keep it from scooting. And if that's not enough, the clean, dry potholder gives you an unbeatable grip when trying to twist off stubborn jar lids. The mitts are $20 APIECE at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and the potholders about $13.
Nut flours/meals - these are indispensable. My husband and I love them for a crispy coating for fried meat or fish, zucchini slices or what have you. Also used in baking, pancakes, you name it. Everyone knows about almond flour, but in fact at 3.35 grams of net carbs per ounce, it isn't the lowest in carbs of the nut flours. In net carbs per ounce, coconut flour is 2.37, pecan flour is 3.01, hazelnut flour is 2.66, and macadamia flour is 1.52. All these flours are available at http://www.nuts4u.com, which also has the lowest prices on nut flours that I've found.
ThickenThin notStarch Thickener - made by Expert Foods (http://www.expertfoods.com). This powder is used to thicken gravies and sauces like cornstarch. It's made up of xanthan and guar gum and has zero net carbs. I use this every day. I actually find it superior to flour or cornstarch for thickening because (a) it doesn't lump and clump, and (b) the liquid doesn't have to boil for the powder to do its thickening. Also, unlike flour or cornstarch, it adds no flavor of its own and therefore doesn't have to be cooked to get rid of the "raw" taste. It has two to three times the thickening power of cornstarch, so add small amounts cautiously lest you over thicken!! I can't recommend this stuff highly enough. Expert Foods makes several other products which I have ordered but haven't tried yet. Unfortunately, notStarch is hard to find other than online. The best price I've found for it ($15.95 for an 8-oz bag that will last you a LONG time), are at either Netrition (http://www.netrition.com) or a la Carb (http://www.alacarb.com).
Garli Garni - this is a garlicky seasoning mix. I use it every day. It adds an incredible garlic punch to foods. I buy it in the large canisters from Garlic Festival Foods (http://store.yahoo.com/garlicfestival/index.html).
FiberFit - for those who begrudge the few carbs in Splenda packets. This is sucralose in a liquid base, no maltodextrin added so no carbs. It's made by a company called Nutragenics. I've never seen it anywhere except online. The best price I've found for it was at AK Online (http://www.akonline.com/fiberfit.html) at $7.50 for a 4-ounce bottle, plus $3.85 flat shipping for up to 8 bottles.
Condiments and canned goods
Bella Terra Organic tomato sauces - I found this at a Target superstore, but have seen it at various other groceries. An excellent carb bargain at net 3 carbs per 1/2 cup. The Roasted Garlic is absolutely fantastic. At about $2.59 per 25-oz jar, it's not the cheapest tomato sauce in the world, but it's much cheaper than most specialty brands.
Hunt's All Natural Tomato Sauce - be sure you get the one that announces "No added sweetener". This is my second pick and much cheaper, but also thinner in consistency and twice the net carbs - 3 grams for 1/4 cup. Still, it's lower than most other commercial tomato sauces and has the bonus that it comes in little 8-oz cans.
Walden Farms Barbecue Sauces (Original, Honey, Thick 'N Spicy, Hickory Smoked) - these are excellent. I like the Thick 'N Spicy. Marvelous blend of sweetness, tang and spice. Be aware that these are sweetened with sugar alcohols. Walden Farms products are widely available online and in stores that stock low-carb products. Zero carbs.
Walden Farms Ketchup - this is the best low-carb catsup we've found, and we're picky. My husband spit the Atkins brand out. Walden Farms now offers a seafood sauce, but Paul and I made an excellent cocktail sauce with WF ketchup, horseradish, a touch of lemon juice and a bit of Tabasco. Absolutely yummy. Zero carbs.
Trader Joe's Pitted Moroccan Oil Cured Olives - if you like olives, you'll love these. If you don't like olives, you haven't tried these. I hated olives until I tasted these. No nasty briny taste, no bitterness, just wonderful rich olive flavor. They net out at 2 grams of carbs per about 4 olives, so they're not the lowest carb olives in the world, but with that much flavor, you won't need many. I've only found this kind of olive at Trader Joe's, unfortunately.
Trader Giotto's (Trader Joe's) Artichoke Antipasto - a wonderful artichoke spread. I mix this with TJ's olive oil packed tuna, mayonnaise and some chopped celery for an unforgettable tuna salad. 2 grams carbs per 2 tablespoons.
Trader Joe's Mayonnaise - the only kind I think tastes better than Hellman's. No sugar whatsoever, great flavor.
Maple Grove Farms Cozy Cottage Sugar Free Pancake Syrup - This is definitely the best sugar free maple syrup we've found. It's thinner than regular maple syrup, a bit, but the taste is everything we could wish for. It's sweetened with Splenda and some sugar alcohols. We found ours at O'Malia's, a chain grocery store.
Sugar Free Syrups - As far as I know, there are four brands of these - an Atkins brand, Nature's Flavors, Torani and Da Vinci. I've tried the Nature's Flavors, and while they have an excellent flavor, I was a little disappointed that they were very dilute - it seemed to take a lot to flavor anything. The Atkins brand just tasted plain BAD to me - some raspberry syrup added to iced tea had me pitching the glass. Most people swear by the Da Vinci syrups. Unlike the other brands, Torani also has glycerine in it, which I gather can cause problems for some people. I haven't yet tasted the Da Vinci or Torani sugar free syrups, but will post my comments when I do. The problem with these syrups is the horrendous cost of shipping if ordered online. Supposedly TJ Maxx's carries some Da Vinci syrups at a good price. I say "supposedly" because after spending half an hour digging through the horribly disorganized gourmet section of my local TJ Maxx's (think garage sale gone mad), I found two, count them, two bottles of Da Vinci sugar free syrup, vanilla and white chocolate, not flavors I really wanted. I'm given to understand that www.vitalady.com is the online place to buy Da Vinci syrups.
Sugar Free chocolates - I don't eat many of these, but so far the best I've found by far are the Pure De-lite chocolate bars and truffles. They taste wonderful, the texture is perfect, and the carb count is low - it varies with the bar (some have nuts), but my favorite, the mint milk chocolate, nets out to one gram if you don't count the sugar alcohol carbs.
Russell Stover is now making a huge line of sugar-free chocolates, some of which they're advertising as specifically low carb. I don't know why, the carb count is the same as the regular sugar free chocolates. *g* These are sweetened with sugar alcohols, so beware if you're avoiding those. The Butter Nut Toffee Sticks are totally yummy.
ChocoPerfection Dark European Chocolate - For those who love
the dark, intense taste of really dark chocolate, and/or those who have a
problem with sugar alcohols, these are definitely for you. They're
sweetened with erythritol and oligofructose, no maltitol, etc. and no sugar
alcohol aftereffects! These bars have a very strong, intense "dark
flavor and will appeal to people like me who like very powerful, rich chocolate flavor and find most candy, sugar free or not, disappointingly too-sweet and otherwise low on flavor. Check out the site for ordering or more information: http://www.lowcarbspecialties.com/index.html.
Gram's Gourmet Sweet Cinnamon & Butter Crunchers - These are pork rinds flavored with butter, cinnamon and Splenda. They use industrial sucralose, so no maltodextrin carbs! Excellent flavor, puts me in mind of the Cinnamon Crispas I used to get at Taco Bell. I got mine at our local LoCarb USA store, but they have a web site: www.gramsgourmet.com.
Just The Cheese - These are little round discs or bars of cheese baked until crispy. They have a nice crackerlike texture, great cheesy flavor, and come in several flavors: Cool Ranch, White Cheddar, Lower Salt Cheddar, Herb 'n Garlic (my favorite), Sour Cream 'n Onion, Jalapeno, Nacho, Pizza, Honey Dijon, White Cheddar With Soy, and Bacon. Flavors vary in carb count, but most are only one or two carbs for the whole little bag. The cheapest option I've found for these is to buy them at the company web site (http://www.specialcheese.com) by the case of 12, although you can sometimes catch a nice sale price at some of the online low carb stores. They're horribly expensive at the Atkins Center, $3.99 per package usually, versus $2.60 per package if you buy a case of 12 at the company site, so they're not cheap regardless.
Diet pop sweetened with Splenda - I've only tried two kinds, the Diet Hansen's and Diet Rite in various flavors. Both are excellent, although the Hansen's is a lot more expensive and less widely available. I'm given to understand, however, that the Save-A-Lot grocery store brand of diet pop will now be sweetened with Splenda, so there is another option coming available.
Kombu noodles -- it's a noodle! It's a vegetable! It's both!
And it's low-carb, too. Kombu noodles are made from seaweed. They're
decidedly green. They're the size and shape of spaghetti. The
texture is very much like that of ramen noodles -- softer than conventional
spaghetti, but definitely a noodle texture. The flavor is neutral, not at
all "seaweedy". I've tried them tossed in simple garlic butter.
Delish!!! They might be too soft to stand up to very thick sauces, but I
haven't tried this out. The noodles come in 6-oz packs, packed in water.
Each pack is three grams of carbohydrate and makes a very ample serving for one.
They are loaded with nutrients with nutrients, especially calcium. Caution: These
noodles are already fully cooked and MUST NOT be cooked, they'll disintegrate!
So add them just in time to heat up a bit, and be sure to drain them THOROUGHLY
before using, or they'll "sweat" liquid into your sauce. I
recommend these wholeheartedly. Here's where you get 'em: