Low Carb Lechón Cuban-Style Pork

By now you may have guessed that I am of Spanish decent, dad’s Cuban and mom’s Dominican. Which simply means that although I was born in the United States, I have retained my Spanish roots. This isn’t difficult to accomplish if you grew up in Miami like I did. There is a large Hispanic presence here and frankly, I never grew up feeling like a minority.

Low Carb Cuban Style Pork Slow Cooker

One of the things I really enjoy about living in this city is the melting pot of flavors available to us. Similar to New York city, you can find just about any type of cuisine here. Cuban food is very popular around these parts, and the locals know exactly what you are referring to when you say “lechón”.  It’s easily found on the menu of many restaurants.

Lechón is a Cuban-style pork made with a marinade that uses bitter oranges, better known as the Seville orange. This orange is quite sour and not at all sweet like most others. The marinade gets its distinctive flavor from the use of lots of garlic, cumin, oregano.

During the holidays this dish is especially popular. In fact, it’s not rare for some households to swap out the typical Thanksgiving turkey for lechón. This is where my family draws the line, not wanting to mess with tradition. No one is swapping out the big bird, even if the lechón is a lot tastier.

There are as many variations to this recipe as there are cooks. Of course the best way to experience Cuban cuisine, is to be invited to a party where they are cooking the whole hog (pork roast) in a caja china. It’s basically a wood box lined in metal that is then topped with a charcoal tray. Cooking in caja china is an all-day event, that builds the anticipation of the lechón finally being ready to eat. If ever invited don’t turn down the opportunity to experience the excitement behind this meal.

Nothing beats a lechón that has been lovingly cooked for hours in a caja china. But let’s face it who has time to cook this way on a regular basis? Which is why I use a slow cooker. After the lechón is cooked I then place the shredded meat under the broiler for a few minutes to allow the meat to crisp.

This recipe is a nod to my Dad’s homeland and reminds me of the importance of a good meal shared among family and friends. So how does a low-carber accompany her lechón with? Easy, a side of cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and a green salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds of pork shoulder
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper flakes
  • 2 onions coarsely chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • ½ cup of sour orange juice (or substitute ¼ cup of lemon juice, ¼ cup of unsweetened orange juice not from concentrate if not available).
  • ½ cup of white wine or ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves

Instructions:

  • In a medium bowl, mix together the sour orange juice, white wine vinegar, salt, oregano, cumin powder, garlic and pepper flakes.
  • Pour the marinade over the pork.
  • Place the pork inside the slow cooker along with the onions and bay leaf.
  • Cover and allow to cook on low for at least 8 hours.
  • Once the pork is fork-tender, drain the meat and place it on a cookie sheet under a broiler until the meat crisps up.

Enjoy in good health!

How To Become A Runner One Step At A Time

 

how randy became a runner

When Randy embarked on his journey to get healthy, it came with a few surprises. As his weight began to drop a runner started to emerge. With his rising health came a new found confidence. As his wife I had a front-row seat to his amazing transformation. May this interview inspire you to take the necessary steps to get healthy.

Questions and Answers

  1. Question: Randy can you tell us exactly when you started running and how often you run?

Answer: I started running in August of 2014 after I lost 50 pounds eating a low carb diet. I run anywhere from 4-6 days a week.

  1. Question: We often hear how people are encouraged to exercise in order to lose weight, was this your motivation to exercise?

Answer: I knew that exercise was important but my excess weight did not make it easy to do so. Which is why I waited until I lost some weight before I began to exercise regularly.

  1. Question: That’s interesting, why do you think waiting till you lost some initial weight made sense for you?

Answer: I firmly believe that before you can get your body in shape you need to get your mind in shape. I needed to work on my mindset before I could tackle exercise. Because I lost some weight before I began running it was less stressful on my body and prevented unnecessary injuries.

  1. Question: What did you do to get mentally ready to lose the weight you needed to start running?

Answer: I began to meditate on the word of God, and used scriptures like Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  I focused on what the word of God said about me not what my body looked or felt like.

  1. Question: Did you ever think you would take up running in this season of your life? What motivates you to keep going?

Answer: No, I didn’t think I would be a runner at this age but once I started and began to feel so much better, my body began to crave the exercise. What motivates me the most is that today I have much more energy and stamina than I did when I was much younger.

  1. Question: What do you love most about running?

Answer: I think what I love about running is that you can do it anywhere at any time. You don’t need any special equipment other than a good pair of running shoes and your able to take off.

  1. Question: We know that many people choose to run to clear their mind and destress, has this been your experience?

Answer: When I run I use this time to pray. It’s a good way for me to release any stress and tension from the day, and hand my cares over to God.

  1. Question: Do you have any rituals that make your running more meaningful, if so what are they?

Answer: I enjoying listening to Christian music as I run and pray. The music helps me feel more connected to God and makes running more meaningful.

  1. Question: What’s your favorite running story or memory?

Answer: I have several memorable moments, but if I had to pick one it would be my first race at The Run for Joy 5K. As a huge fan of Christian music to be able to do my first race with some of my favorite artists was unforgettable.  It was also very encouraging to see my family cheering for me from the sidelines as I crossed the finished line. After this race I became determined to improve my running time and signed up for others.

10. Question: How many races have you participated since taking up running?

Answer: I have been part of ten races so far.

11. Question: Who is your running inspiration?

Answer: That has to be my running cousins and uncles from Guatemala. As long as I can remember they have been runners. Their dedication has always inspired me. It’s great to finally say I am one of them.

12. Question: I understand that recently you achieved a milestone you have been working towards, can you share your experience with us?

Answer: I reached a 1000-mile marker on July 18th it took me 23 months; it was great to see that number come and go.

13. Question: What’s your ultimate running goal (i.e any running event you wish to participate in)?

Answer: It’s a goal of mine to be able to run with my family in Guatemala. I know that the elevation will be a challenge but it’s something I look forward to doing.

14. Question: What would you tell someone who wants to start making running their exercise of choice? Any advice on how to start?

Answer: The best advice I can give someone who wants to start running is to begin slowly. Don’t start running the entire distance immediately, but instead do a combination of walking and running. It’s what I did to build up my stamina and it’s the easiest way to eventually become a runner.

 

how to become a runner

It’s our hope that Randy’s interview will serve as inspiration on your journey to wellness. His determination encourages us all to keep working towards our goals and that it’s never too late to become who you want to be.

 

 

Low Carb Dairy Free Very Berry Ice Cream

Apparently, we need a national day to celebrate ice cream. Not sure when food items first started having their own holidays, but as long as I can convert them into low carb friendly options, I say let the celebrations begin!

low carb dairy free ice cream

National Ice Cream Day was declared a holiday by President Ronald Reagan back in 1984. Since then several big chains across the country have been offering free ice cream the third Sunday of July to pay homage to ice cream.

I decided to share my low carb recipe to our readers to avoid caving into a large scoop of sugar laden ice cream.

Recently, I acquired a lovely ice cream maker just in time to join in on the celebrations. Can I tell you how much fun it’s been to experiment making low carb ice cream in my new machine? How I survived without a proper ice cream maker for so many years, is beyond me.  Summer is open season for ice cream, who am I kidding we eat ice cream around these parts all year round. And we don’t even need a national day dedicated to ice cream to do so.

You should know that not having an ice cream maker did not deter me in making low carb ice cream in the past. In fact, I have already shared a few of them here. However, for a while now I wanted an authentic ice cream texture that only a machine can produce. So when this ice cream maker arrived I was excited to get in my kitchen and start creating.

I wanted to make a dairy free option since I have been trying to reduce my dairy intake to see if it further assists me on my journey to wellness. Can I say that going dairy free has proved more challenging than I thought? Thankfully, this dairy free low carb ice cream didn’t disappoint.

Do you have an ice cream maker that has not seen the day of light in a while? Give this simple recipe a try and enjoy the process of making your own healthy ice cream.

 Low Carb Dairy Free Very Berry Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1 can of full fat coconut milk

1 cup of sliced berries (I used a combination of strawberries, blue berries and cranberries)

½ an ounce of 85% cocoa chocolate bar cut into tiny pieces

½ cup of Swerve or your favorite sugar-free sweetener

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Directions:

Slice your one cup of mixed berries into small pieces. I added cranberries to my mix since I always freeze a few bags in the fall to be able to enjoy in the summer. Toss your berries with lemon juice and sugar substitute. Add the one can of full-fat coconut milk and chocolate pieces and mix well.

Add your low carb ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and use according to your machine’s manufacture instructions. Note that this ice cream will not remain creamy if leftovers are frozen.

Enjoy in good health!

Low Carb Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Bars

low carb soft baked chocolate chip bars

As far as the youth were concerned the chewier the cookie, the closer to heaven they were. Calling them “Jesus” cookies was meant to be a huge compliment. As if Jesus himself had endorsed my cookies. Ahhh the life of a youth pastor, never a dull moment!

Do you know what was my secret for super chewy cookies? Marshmallows and corn syrup! Ugh, I know. Today, I cringe when I think of how often I made these. Looking back, it’s no surprise that the youth found these addicting. What’s more I am pretty certain that Jesus wasn’t smiling on my cookie offerings. No, He was probably shaking his head thinking oh Hilda, Hilda you have so much to learn.

These low carb soft-baked cookies in no way are as chewy as my marshmallow loaded ones. The absence of that much sugar makes that level of chewiness impossible. However, they are melt in your mouth cookies and yes they are delicious! They are something I would be proud to serve without cringing. I like to think that Jesus would give these low carb bars a thumbs up. As far as calling them “Jesus” cookies? That kind of talk can only belong inside a youth group.

Enjoy in good health! 

Ingredients:

8 ounce package of cream cheese

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cups of sugar substitute I use Swerve or 2 cups of erythritol and 4 tsps. of liquid stevia

5 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup of coconut flour

1 cup almond flour

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp xanthan gum (optional but this is what makes this cookie bar a little chewy)

1 cup of sugar-free chocolate chips (I use stevia sweetend)

1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand up mixer beat together the butter, cream cheese and sugar substitute. Add the five eggs one at a time, mix well making sure the eggs are well incorporated into the batter. Add the dry ingredients and stir gently.  Lastly, fold in the sugar-free chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spread the batter evenly unto a 12X16 inch cookie sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 35 generous bars at 3.5 carbs each.

If you want to achieve your goals, you gotta have a plan! 

It’s funny how most people have no problem planning vacations, career moves, and even for a rainy day, yet when it comes to their health it takes a backseat. Honestly, what’s the value in planning our lives if we then don’t have the health to enjoy it?

Perhaps the hesitation is not knowing where to begin. Or maybe it’s simply difficult to break old eating habits. All the more reason why planning needs to play a large role for greater health.

mid-year goal planning

We are now halfway through the year so it’s a good time to evaluate your health goals. Let’s not focus on possible New Year resolutions that never made it past the post-its stage. Why not take the necessary steps to get back on track by creating a stellar plan?

I personally am a big believer in goal-setting. When I take the time to write down detailed goals I am more likely to succeed, when I don’t I rarely see lasting results. Apparently, this must be one of the reasons God encourages us to write our vision down and make it plain. Habakkuk 2:2-3.

Our vision may be in the future, but when we keep it before our eyes it puts it in the present, it reminds us to keep working towards it. When we are prompted by a clear vision of what we want to accomplish, it propels us into success.

I use a combination of things to remind me of my goals. I create a vision wall and S.M.A.R.T goals, to help keep the vision plainly before my eyes. I find that some tweaking needs to take place to keep the vision fresh at the midway point of the year.  I freshen up my vision wall with new pictures because I can become so accustomed to what’s posted on a wall that it no longer catches my attention. Adding Bible verses to my vision/goals also ensures that I keep God in the picture. Nothing like the word of God to encourage me to stay committed.

Not sure where to begin in evaluating your health goals or setting new ones? The following questions can help you review the first half of the year and start the process of creating new goals for the reminder.

  1. Accomplishments What are some health goals that I have been able to succeed in during the past six months? What goals did I achieve? Which of my goals did I come close to meeting?
  2. Setbacks What mistakes did I make? Where there mistakes I could have avoided?
  3. Learning What mistakes provided me with learning opportunities? Of the goals I came close to meeting, what can I do differently to ensure I achieve them? How can I learn more about getting healthy? Are there certain resources I need to take advantage of to assist me on my journey to wellness? What were the things I learned most about myself?

 Moving Forward  

  1. What are my top three health goals for the remainder of the year?

Goal 1:______________________________________________

Goal 2:______________________________________________

Goal 3:______________________________________________

  1. Why are these three health goals important to me? Who can help keep me accountable to achieving them?
  1. What strategies am I going to put in place the 2nd half of the year to ensure I finish strong?

What about you? Are you happy with your health goals so far this year? Is it time to take inventory and revisit them? I invite you to plan for your success by setting goals for the reminder of the year.

Looking for a support group? If you live in the South Florida area we invite you to our free community group. Contact me for more information.

Low Carb Frittata Made Easily!

Growing up my family always enjoyed a good frittata. I remember my parents making all sorts of variations of this staple. My dad didn’t cook often, but anything that involved eggs was his specialty. When dad announced that he was going to make a Spanish omelet, it always brought cheers from us kids. My Mom is a fantastic cook, so I think the excitement we had was more about seeing him in the kitchen and the banter between my parents.

Looking back mom wasn’t too thrilled of dad’s cooking ventures, I suspect because he inevitably always made a bit of mess. It did however, serve for some wonderful memories. My parents would make their frittatas on the stove top and would flip them to cook both sides. I just remember what a challenge that was, so I have made mine in the oven for years.

Low carb frittata crustless quiche

Mom preferred a ripe plantain frittata instead of dad’s more traditional Spanish one. Ripe plantains taste a little like bananas and as child I just didn’t enjoy the taste of bananas with eggs. Today, I would gladly have my Mami’s ripe plantain frittata, if it wasn’t so high in carbs. Isn’t it interesting how our taste buds develop as we age?

I enjoy making frittatas for my family and friends. I do however, leave out the traditional potatoes that most call for. Potatoes are just too high in carbs and all that starch causes sugar spikes that we frankly don’t need. A frittata or crust-less quiche is an easy customizable dish, that can be made low carb effortlessly. Honestly, the sky’s the limit when creating a low carb frittata. The only non-negotiable item is the eggs.

I love how a frittata makes for an easy and satisfying dinner with a side salad. I personally feel that it makes the perfect brunch item, since it can be eaten hot or at room temperature. Any leftovers are saved for breakfast the next morning. In fact, I like making a large frittata for a week’s worth of breakfasts. Making a frittata ahead of time is convenient for busy mornings.

Next time you need to get food to the table quickly and inexpensively, why not make a low carb frittata!

Ingredients

1 pound ground sausage

10 eggs

1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese shredded

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups of raw spinach

1 small yellow onion finely chopped

2 minced cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon of sea salt

¼ teaspoon of black pepper

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon of dried basil

½ teaspoon of dried oregano

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a cast iron skillet or other oven proof dish.

Cook ground sausage until fully cooked. Cook the onion and garlic in the sausage drippings. Add the spinach and cook till wilted. Remove from heat and set aside. Combine the eggs, cheeses, seasonings until fully incorporated. Place the sausage, spinach, onion, and garlic, into the egg mixture.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until lightly browned and the middle is set.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy in good health!

Low Carb 4th of July Poke Cake

Summer should be the perfect time to relax and enjoy each other’s company, but our fast-paced schedules can sometimes hinder what should come naturally. Thankfully, we get to push the pause button in the middle of the summer to celebrate our nations birthday. The 4th of July brings a much needed break for most.

low carb 4th of July cake

From barbecues to fireworks the 4th of July is filled with opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Nothing brings people together like sharing a meal. Beautiful things happen when we slow down enough to engage in meaningful conversations around food.  So many of my greatest memories can be traced back to the holiday table.

While holidays can be filled with fun opportunities, they can spell disaster if you are trying to lose weight or simply eat healthier. Thankfully, on a low carb diet it’s easier to stay on course by simply doing a little planning ahead of time.

On Sunday our church will be having a BBQ after the service to celebrate Independence Day. We always look forward to the great fellowship these events afford. It’s always interesting to see the response we get as people witness firsthand what we eat on a low carb plan. Mostly people are surprised to see that we don’t feel deprived.

The best way for us to demonstrate our lifestyle is to bring a couple of low carb dishes for our friends and family to enjoy. I plan on sharing my low carb poke cake and my broccoli and cauliflower salad. Do you live in the South Florida area? We invite you to our 10 a.m. service and BBQ afterwards. You’ll even have a chance to taste some of FITTOSERVE’S dishes.

Wondering what to make this 4th of July? Let them know you’re proud to be an American by sharing our Low Carb Poke Cake. This festive dessert is sure to please!

Low Carb Poke Cake

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups almond flour (use sesame seed flour for a nut free option)

2 cups of swerve or other sugar substitute

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp of sea salt

8 eggs

8 ounces cream cheese

2 sticks softened butter

1 tsp of vanilla

Gelatin:

1 package sugar free strawberry gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1 cup ice water

Whipped Topping:  

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

¼ cup of softened cream cheese (optional but will help stabilize the whipped cream)

4 teaspoons swerve or other sugar substitute

2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat all of the ingredients until light and fluffy.

Strawberry & Blueberry Topping:

1 pint of fresh blueberries

2 pints of fresh thinly sliced strawberries

Instructions:

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a mixing bowl mix with an electric mixer on high the butter with the sugar substitute until well mixed then add the softened cream cheese. Next add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each egg addition. Add the vanilla. Lastly, add all the dry ingredients until well combined.

In a well- greased cake pan bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow cake to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the gelatin according to the directions on the box using ice water. Allow the gelatin to set in the fridge lightly, about for 30-45 minutes.  Poke the entire surface of the cake every 1/2 inch with a skewer or  fork. Slowly and pour the liquid gelatin over the entire cake. Allow the cake to chill for at least 2 hours to set.

Add the whipped topping evenly over the entire cake once it has chilled for at least two hours.

Decorate the low carb poke cake with sliced strawberries and blue berries in a flag pattern.

Nutrition Info: (per Serving) 300 Calories, 22.5g Fat, 5.1g Total Carbs (2.5 g Fiber), 6.2g Protein