Chef's Tricks to Make Your Low-Carb Diet a Treat

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Ward Alper is a type 2 diabetic and chef who lives and eats decadently in Portland, Maine. Since his diagnosis more than four years ago, he has refocused his recipes and eating to support his diabetic health. In this article, Ward shares some of his tricks for making a low-carb diet enjoyable.

OK, let's get the elephant out of the room. I use that granulated sugar substitute that comes in the yellow bag. (The manufacturer would, for some weird reason, prefer that I not mention the brand name. Cool with me.) I know, I know, all those chemicals. While I am at it, let me also admit to using Sweet'N Low in my coffee.

Could I use the stevia plant products? Perhaps I could, but at this time I find it too expensive and hard to work with equivalents. So I take the possible risks to create desserts that still taste like the original. I just remember that many years ago we ate that shoe-leather textured liver that was supposed to be SO good for you. Turns out, not so much.

Tips from a Diabetic Chef

  1. What I do when baking is reduce the amount of flour in a recipe by 1/4 to 1/3 and substitute it with toasted ground nuts. I find that almonds work best for a dryer texture, while walnuts and pecans work better for a wetter texture. Each nut adds its own flavor. The new way here is better than the old way both for flavor and carbohydrates.

    Toasting nuts is super easy. You can either toast them in a dry pan or in the oven, or (as I do at home) in a toaster oven. The one caveat is to watch them like a hawk. Because of the oil content, nuts can go from toasted to charred in the blink of an eye. This is no time for multitasking!

  2. To replace things like maple syrup in a recipe, I use butter and fruits.
  3. In the “old” days, I used a lot of chicken bouillon in my cooking. Even I had to stop and consider the sodium content. What I do now is make “stock” ice cubes. I do this by adding a clove of garlic and 4-5 pepper corns to a pot of low-sodium chicken or beef stock and reduce that down by at least half. After cooling, I pour that liquid into ice cube trays and freeze them. I keep them in an air-tight container in the freezer for whenever I need a flavor boost in a recipe. I do the same thing with the liquid that remains after I reconstitute dry mushrooms. Added to the juices from a steak or chop turns it from ordinary to DECADENT with very little effort on my (or your) part.
  4. Simple sauces that can be used in a gazillion ways is another one of my tricks. I use my remoulade sauce in dishes from simple sandwiches to chicken and pork. The royal caper sauce is another one of those recipes. Another very simple trick is to combine fresh lemon juice and low-sodium soy sauce with one herb. Brush your protein with that liquid for more variations than you can ever imagine. Use the herbs you like, and you will always love the DECADENT dish you have created.
  5. Compound butters are another nice little trick. Combining butter with herbs and spices, or shallots and garlic, and then adding them at the very last minute makes a huge flavor difference.
  6. Re-inventing “old” recipes that give me a sense of comfort, like the Cran-Apple Upside Down Cake below, reminds me of old times and gives me warmth in my food soul. Do you remember your last upside down cake?

Enjoy! Be healthy! Be DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Cran-Apple Upside Down Cake recipe!

Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.