Surviving The Holidays - Part I
By April S. Fields
The telltale signs are everywhere, autumn isn't even trying to sneak in the back door; it's breaking it down.
We might as well bid farewell to warm weather and welcome the cooler mornings and softened sunlight. Shorter days, flurries of leaves snatched off limbs and stirred by sudden brisk winds remind us it's time for us to let go as well.
Farewell summer delights, we must brace ourselves for winter. Thoughts stray to expectations of the first whiff of pungent wood smoke hanging low in chilled air, football games, bright blue skies a backdrop to bursts of radiant trees, and all the abundant intrinsic joys of the changing season.
I hate to mention this but it's also time to figure out how to survive the holidays and stay on our low-carb diets. It's my job. Every season has its own special foods and no doubt the temptations of the three months of summer are difficult enough to navigate, but no one can argue that the last quarter of the year looms like a field dotted with culinary land-minds.
How do you plot a course through October and step around Popcorn Balls, Hot Spiced Tea and Caramel Apples? How do you get through November without Cranberry Relish or Bread Stuffing? And what about December? Parties? Candies? Relatives to feed? Who can say no to Eggnog, Fudge and Decorated Cookies?
Well, I can't, so instead I say let's find a way to embrace the season, with all it has to offer, and just relax and enjoy ourselves…with prudence, of course, and a bit of clever alteration to our favorite foods.
Take heart, because it can be done. I know how and for the next three months we'll look at ways to stay low-carb and on target throughout the coming tough weeks when all those sugar-filled, carb-laden goodies are relentlessly shoved in front of us.
I'm writing this on the last day of September 2003. Here in Atlanta, the weather can only be described as delicious. Perfectly fresh temperate air is wafting in my opened office window and tugging my memory to recall other crisp fall afternoons. Oh those hectic days of meetings and committee work when the kids were little and I was a dedicated school volunteer. I'm now what one might call a recycled volunteer, still keeping my hand in PTA by helping out at my grandkids' elementary school. I do it for the kids, certainly, and the teachers who care about the kids, but I'm wondering if I also do it because some of the best food I have ever eaten was brought to those potluck luncheon meetings.
After all these years, I still use some of those great recipes that were passed around. Those of you who had grade school kids in the seventies might remember a popular concoction making the rounds called Hot Spiced Tea Mix. So good on a chilly afternoon, and especially when it's raining. Well, now you can make it low-carb and sugarfree and no one will know but you!
All I had to do was take the original recipe and tweak it a bit. The Keto powdered OJ Drink does exactly what Tang did in the old formula but without the sugar. The downside is that you won't make the same huge quantity as the original because it was the sugar that made up the bulk, but nevertheless, it's great to have it in the cupboard to pull out for an afternoon mug of fragrant, spicy warm-me-up.
When I was nearing the completion of my book, 101 Low-Carb and Sugarfree Dessert Recipes, I was digging through my old recipe cards that are now tattered and discolored from use. Among them I found index cards that we ladies had passed out to share our recipes with each other. For a few minutes, as I shuffled through those reminiscences, I was transported back twenty-five years, each name signed to those 3X5 cards brought clearly to mind a smiling face. Old recipes are like old friends, you know. They never stop giving.
For some reason, when I think of PTA potluck luncheons, Lemon Squares come instantly to mind. Perhaps it's because we could always count on someone bringing a batch of these gooey little confections. When the Lemon Squares recipe surfaced, I was overcome with joy. It was one of my favorites and as I quickly scanned the ingredients, I was sure I could reproduce a low carb version. And I did. I'm hoping my Sugarfree Lemon Squares will become a new old friend for the Low-Carb generation.
Another memory floating in on the cool pre-autumn air is actually a collage of memorable Halloweens that happened during a five-year period in the mid-seventies. On the morning of, I could not wait for the kids to get out the door and off to school so that I could convert our home and garage into a fun house. I strung up every sheet I owned with rope and clothespins to make a maze of tunnels and then I thumb tacked fishing line from the ceiling to suspend menacing paper bats over these. I spent the whole morning in a frenzy of decorating and for the balance of the afternoon I made dozens of popcorn balls, finishing up just as the kids came bursting in the door squealing with delight.
Autumn and popcorn balls. These two go together like summer and ice cream don't they? The interesting thing to note is that popcorn is not all that weighty in carbs. It's really the sugar that makes this treat off limits to Low-Carbers and until the advent of Maltitol, there was no way to satisfactorily reproduce the sticky candy coating without the sugar.
Once again, I simply took my traditional recipe and made the adjustments to eliminate the sugar and came up with a new tradition - Sugarfree Popcorn Balls. Not a minor triumph! You are so going to love these!
There's another traditional autumn treat that is not exactly low-carb, but then it does fall well within the limits of those on maintenance. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, imagine how much better it would be to coat that apple in sugarfree caramel and pecans. Yeah! You won't find the sugarfree version at your local county fair, of course, but you can make my Guilt-free Caramel Apples at home and everyone will love them.
For Low-Carbers, I don't recommend eating one a day, however, but I'm one of those "whole food" nuts who truly believes fruit and other natural foods should not be eliminated from our diets entirely. It's the combinations and amount that matter more than any particular food. In other words, an apple will not make you fat.
It's not rocket science, converting old favorite recipes into low-carb, especially now that we have improved low-carb sweeteners, and we'll talk about this in detail in another article, but while I was taking my trip down memory lane I recalled a holiday candy that my family just loved and I am still working on recreating it to low-carb. Hopefully, I'll have that one to share with you before this holiday series of articles concludes.
I just love experimenting with recipes and I especially love the happy mistakes I often make. While trying to perfect the aforementioned recipe, and tossing some ingredients together to see what they would do, I serendipitously ended up with a terrific new candy. For want of a better name, I call it Orange Candy Balls. (If anyone can think of a better name, I'm open for suggestions. Click to email me.) Regardless, I can definitely see these atop paper lace doilies around a tiered plate on a holiday dessert buffet for sure. If you love tangy/sweet candy, you have to try these.
Until next month, from one new friend to another, take time to volunteer, make a lasting memory or two and try these new "old" recipes. I'd love to hear from anyone who shares one of these at a PTA potluck luncheon!