Hello fellow foodies!
One of my favorite things in life is: food. A significant portion of my day is spent dreaming about, researching, planning, shopping for, making, sharing, and eating food. I love everything about this process (except for cleaning up the dishes, which is where my lovely husband comes in the picture; our deal is: whoever cooks, does not have to clean. He gets yummy food all the time, I get a clean kitchen – we all win).
Food nourishes us, it makes us happy, it brings us together and it rewards us on special occasions – but it can also make us unhealthy and unhappy with our figure, if we don’t take time to know, choose, and make the food that is good for us.
The enemy in the mirror
My whole life I have struggled with body issues, although for most of it, I didn’t need to. When I look back at myself at 21 years old, I think: “how could I have thought that I was fat? I was so skinny!” As many other young women I grew up surrounded by beauty magazines, TV-ads, as well as men and women suggesting to me that I was worth only as much as my resemblance to perfect-looking models and stars, with legs as thin as arms and bellies with no gram of fat on them, and because I was always less perfect than the pictures of these flawless women I saw in the media, I felt inadequate. I restricted my calorie intake at times, then went overboard and indulged in unhealthy foods and amounts of food at other times, as if to have to eat as much as I can or as badly as I can now, because soon enough I would have to starve myself again and eat things that didn’t taste as well.
Breaking the cycle
My unhealthy body image created an unhealthy relationship with food: one of hyper-restriction and overindulgence, of guilt and craving, of control and obsession. For that, I don’t blame myself anymore. I have stopped thinking that I am too weak to be thin. I have understood that the perfect images of women I was told to aspire to were fake, there to suppress women’s self-love, get them to buy more beauty magazines, unhealthy diet- and beauty products and clothing that supposedly would make them look less fat and imperfect. I also understood: some foods make me crave more food than I need, make me gain weight faster, and make me feel less happy mentally. So instead of hating myself for being imperfect, I started to love myself for the parts of me that I actually like. And instead of restricting and indulging in food that is bad for me, I changed my lifestyle and started eating amazingly delicious, wholesome, real food, and stopped dieting forever. In one simple, life-changing expression, I started eating: low-carb.
The science of sugar and fat
As many of you know by now, low-carb is based on hundreds of scientific studies underlining that the food pyramid of the 1980s was a scam sold to us by the sugar industry. Eating low-fat, high-sugared foods was introduced to us as the way to go to lose weight and be healthy, but really what it did was open the pathways to processed foods full of sugar and artificial ingredients that are overwhelmingly linked to yoyo-dieting, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, and cancer. Instead, if we want to lose weight, be healthy, prevent or reverse diabetes and heart disease, what we simply need to do is to eat beautiful, healthy fats, get enough protein – either through animal or through non-animal sources – and eat fresh veggies and real foods made from unprocessed, real ingredients. Nuts, avocados, olive oil, sesame oil and other yummy forms of liquid bliss, butter, green leafy foods, and quality meats, poultry, fish and seafood. Carbohydrates are turned into sugar in our bodies and it doesn’t matter if we eat it in form of fruit, pudding, or pasta: sugar is sugar. And sugar is not a food group. Once I realized that significantly reducing this addictive, unhealthy thing from my diet helps me loose weight, gets me out of the cycle of control and overindulgence, makes me healthy, and allows me to eat incredibly delicious food, I stopped feeling like a failure and started enjoying food again. This was, without exaggeration, one of the most revolutionary points of my life.
That doesn’t mean that after I first started I didn’t struggle with how to incorporate this new lifestyle into my life. Although mainstream food culture and the industry are catching up with the news, and people are getting more and more conscious about nutrition science, most of the Western mainstream world is still a high carb world. It took time to convince my friends that I really was happy not eating bread with my bacon & eggs, or that eating butter was really okay with my diet. It took time learning how to deal with dining out and holiday feasts. It took a lot of research, trial and error to recreate some of my favorite high-carb recipes into healthy low-carb versions, and to understand what foods, meals, and eating habits worked for me and made me happy. It took relapses and experimentation to find a good way of incorporating liberal exceptions for when I am traveling, for example, into my otherwise consistent every-day life of low-carb living. And I am nowhere near being done making mistakes, learning, and improving. But I am on a journey of self-love and love of food and I would love to share that with you!
So with no further ado, here is the first low-carb recipe that I would like to share with you on my blog: Parmesan Fried Chicken with Pesto Zoodles!
My husband is Italian-American and my origins lie in Turkey, another Mediterranean culture that circles life around food. So naturally, I love cooking with Mediterranean ingredients, spices, and incorporating beautiful fats from pine nuts, walnuts, olives, and other natural beauties. One of my guiltiest pleasures in my life pre-low carb was fried chicken – I am known amongst my friends for all sorts of undignified efforts just to get me some fried chicken, believe me… So one of the most glorious revelations on my low-carb journey was to find out that I could have my fried chicken and stay on track with low carb – for me the equivalent of having my cake and eating it. There’s lots of different variations of ‘breading’ your chicken – almond flour, coconut flakes, pork rinds, to name a few – but this is my favorite. The secret? Parmesan. Garlic Powder. Bliss.
Another super-hero is self-made Pesto. It’s so healthy. It’s so easy to make. And it’s absolutely freaking delicious.
In case you want to learn how to recreate this yummy, creamy, green Avocado-and-Basil Pesto, just click on the name – by the time you get to read this, I will have created a page with the recipe for you! 🙂
The last magic ingredient to help create this Italian-inspired meal is, of course, the faux-pasta: zucchini noodles, or as coined in the low-carb universe: zoodles. They are super delicious, have a pasta-like texture, are low on the carb front, healthy as hell, and with a hand-held spiralizer for around 15 Euros or so, extremely easy and quick to prepare. The best thing about them: they make it possible to have all those favorite pasta dishes of yours without having to compromise your health and belly.
This dish is easy to make, is relatively low on the ingredient list, super healthy and tastes like a guilty-pleasure-treat. My husband went nuts over it and it sure has entered the list of staple dishes in our home. I hope you enjoy it, too, and let me know what you think!
LOW-CARB PARMESAN FRIED CHICKEN WITH PESTO ZOODLES
Serves 2 (including a very hungry husband), Time: 45 min.
For the Fried Chicken:
- 500g chicken breast
- 230g grated Parmesan/ Grana Padano
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 2 eggs
- Oil for frying
For the Pesto Zoodles:
- 2 medium-sized zucchinis, spiralized
- 4 Tbsp self-made Avocado-Basil-Pesto
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
- 6 cocktail tomatoes, halved
- Oil for frying
- Pre-heat your oven to 100 degrees celsius.
- Place chicken breast between two layers of plastic wrap. Beat it thin.
- Beat eggs and place in casserole dish or something similar.
- Mix parmesan and garlic powder and place it on a plate.
- Heat oil in a pan at a little over medium temperature. Soak chicken in egg, than toss it in the parmesan-garlic mixture, then repeat, so the chicken has two yummy layers of egg and ‘breading’ on it.
- One by one, add coated chicken in the hot oil. It should sizzle when you add it. Even if your pan is big enough, consider making them one after another, as the pan gets colder with more in it. Fry for about 4 minutes, then turn. Remove and keep hot in the oven.
- Just before starting your last piece of chicken, at medium temperature start heating oil in another frying pan and add the diced onions when oil is hot.
- When onions look glassy, add spiralized zucchinis and stir well.
- Add tomatoes and mozzarella, stir well.
- Add pesto, stir and serve immediately with the chicken, placing a few basil leaves on the chicken for decoration.
Enjoy your creamy, yummy, healthy, crispy meal & do share with me what you think in the comments below!