Lo-Co Thanksgiving Pecan Pie

Maybe you’re one of those people who love pie. Or maybe you’re like me and your dessert vice is chocolate but it’s Thanksgiving and you have to make/bring a pecan pie.

You could buy one. But it’ll be high in fat and cholesterol.

Instead, why not make one from a Cooking Light recipe? Big plus of this plan: you get to have some fun by not telling anyone it’s a lo-co pecan pie! Let ’em scoop on some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, and listen to them rave about how delicious it is.

Then tell them it’s a Cooking Light recipe. That’s my plan. Works every time. And it is FUN.

OK, I’ve not ever made a pecan pie – so I’ve not yet tried my bait-and-switch plan with pie. But I have done this before with Cooking Light recipes and it always works. So I’m giving it a whirl.

Especially because I found not 1 but 2 great looking Pecan Pie recipes from Cooking Light. They look easy to make and the recipe pictures are beautiful (as IF mine would look this good…but a girl can dream). Best of all, they have HALF the calories, fat & cholesterol than a full-fat pecan pie. HALF, people!

In fact, both recipes look so good – and have similar nutritional info – that I can’t decide which to make. Should I go with Oatmeal Pecan Pie or Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie?

The Maple-Bourbon pie is pictured above: that it has bourbon and a pretty ‘traditional Thanksgiving’ presentation certainly land it some votes. But then there’s the interesting duo of cholesterol-lowering oatmeal mixed with pecan. Doesn’t this more informal pie look delicious, too?

Both look so appealing I simply can’t choose. To decide, I launched a poll on my Goin Lo-Co Facebook page. Please vote: I’ll make the winning recipe.

Still not convinced you should give one of these 2 lower fat, lo-co recipes a try this Thanksgiving? Check out the nutritional stats of these 2 pies compared with the “Irrestible Pecan Pie” featured on allrecipes.com:

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Convinced? Not yet? Maybe you’re worried it’s Thanksgiving and you don’t want to risk things. I understand, I have in-laws too.

So here’s an idea. Instead of the plan I just suggested where you bake 1 of these pies and tell your family AFTER they love it that it’s low-fat/low cholesterol, try this instead. Bring 2 pies (1 of these lo-co recipes and 1 pie you buy) and have a taste-off. Same plan as above in that you don’t say a word up front about fat or calories – just have everyone choose their favorite.

Then after the voting is tallied, tell everyone that 1 pie is half the fat and calories. And as they say on Bravo, ‘watch what happens.’

My guess – you’ll really get the Thanksgiving table conversation flowing. Maybe some will even be thankful. Just don’t tell them that not mentioning 1 pie was low-fat was my idea. What with the pie bait & switch AND the low-fat crackers I’m also bringing to our family Thanksgiving, I’ll be in enough trouble with my in-laws already.


Do you know your non-HDL cholesterol?

Reviewing my latest cholesterol test results with my doctor last week, she bandied about a term I’d never before heard: non-HDL cholesterol.

Here is how Discovery Fit & Health describes non-HDL cholesterol (which is VITAL to understand if you have diabetes or other cardiovascular disease risk factors). Unless you’re a doctor, don’t get too fussed about the jargon – I kept it here for those who like all the details.  If that’s not you, just skim over the jargon and keep reading and it should all make sense:

“Non-HDL cholesterol is the total of VLDL and LDL cholesterol, both of which contain atherogenic apolipoprotein B (apo B) particles. Because it approximates the amount of apo B particles, non-HDL cholesterol is a better predictor of the risk of coronary heart disease than a simple measure of LDL cholesterol.

It’s a useful measurement in people with triglyceride levels between 200 mg/dL and 500 mg/dL who likely have substantially more apo B particles.

To calculate non-HDL cholesterol, subtract HDL cholesterol from the total cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol is at goal, non-HDL cholesterol should be lowered to 30 mg/dL greater than the LDL-cholesterol goal.”

Why do I care about this? Why should you? Well, if you have high triglycerides or diabetes or other cardiovascular disease risks, it appears that non-HDL cholesterol is a better predictor of heart disease than total cholesterol or LDL or HDL levels.

Said differently, non-HDL cholesterol appears to be a good way to decide if you need more tests or more aggressive treatment. I’ve been worried I need more tests (and I might) but for now, I felt better after understanding my non-HDL cholesterol level.

It’s easy to calculate. You don’t need a new lab test – just your latest fasting cholesterol test results and a pad/paper…ok, calculator. Here’s what you do:

  1. Calculate your own non-HDL cholesterol by subtracting HDL from your total cholesterol number. Mine was 168: my total cholesterol of 224 minus my 56 HDL.
  2. To calcualte your GOAL for non-HDL cholesterol, just add 30 to your LDL goal. (Your doctor should give you a goal – or you can see it on your lab report.  OR you can figure it out on the Mayo Clinic or American Heart Association sites.) My LDL goal is <130 so my non-HDL cholesterol goal is 160.
  3. Compare — and discuss with your doctor. My non-HDL cholesterol is 168 vs 160 goal (though my doctor calculated my goal as 190 – she started with an LDL goal of 160 not 130 – I need to call her about that.) So I’m either well below 190 goal or slightly above 160 goal.

So my next steps based on all this? Besides following up on that pesky 160 vs 190:

  • Continue going lo-co lifestyle. My doctor asked what I’m doing other than blogging (ha ha) as it IS slowly bringing my cholesterol numbers down. Thus, we agreed that I should continue my (mostly) low-fat/low cholesterol diet, ramped up exercise, and daily doses of both fish oil and Metamucil.
  • Sadly, she wants me to add 2 things to lower my triglycerides: cut starches and impose a limit of 1 glass of wine per night.  UGH. We’ll see about that.
  • Regarding more testing – since all my cousins are on cholesterol meds, she wants me to poll them – find out about their coronary calcium scores, if they had them done. If they are high, she’ll want to send me for more testing. If not, no need.

One last thought – if you have prior test results, it’d be good to do your own non-HDL cholesterol calculation before you meet with your doctor.  It’s a lot of numbers and my doc whipped through this so quickly I didn’t have time to notice – much less ask about – the fact that she listed my LDL goal as 160 but the lab results chart said it was 130. If I’d known about this calculation ahead of time, I’d like to think I’d have caught it and asked.

Hope this is helpful – it was total news to me. Drop me an email or post a comment if you want any further info on non-HDL cholesterol.


Shortcut Moussaka Lo-Co Style

On a cold day, nothing beats moussaka. There is something so satisfying about this eggplant and spiced lamb casserole topped with creamy béchamel mashed potatoes. The best I’ve ever had is at NYC’s Molyvos, where you are presented with your own private copper tureen of cinnamon-spiced heaven. It’s so delicious I won’t even share mine. Seriously, we order a second for the table.

As moussaka is decidedly NOT low cholesterol, it’s a good thing that Molyvos is 50+ miles from where I live.

That said, I miss moussaka.

So I was thrilled to see Melissa Clark’s Shortcut Moussaka recipe in the Dining Section of the 10/26/11 New York Times. I’ve never before even considered making moussaka. To me, the idea of making moussaka from scratch feels lasagna-level-daunting: too many ingredients and layering is involved.

But this recipe’s title totally drew me in — I love me a good shortcut.

And if Melissa Clark* wrote the recipe, I knew it’d be good. That even though making this dish would take some serious time (2+ hours!) it would be worth it. *James Beard Award-Winning Author Melissa Clark has created many recipes I love, including the one I blogged about in my I Hate Salad post.

Andrew Scrivani, NYT

So I was ready to get cooking, assuming this recipe was even vaguely lo-co. With no nutritional info to guide me, I was stumped. And much as I was now jonesing for moussaka, there was no way was I spending 2 hours on this recipe if it was not lo-co.  Or at least lo-co-ish.

So I tweeted that I was ‘dying to try #Shortcut-Moussaka if it is even vaguely low fat,’ and Melissa Clark replied in minutes.

I love the internet.

Not only did she tweet back, Ms. Clark even took the time to reply to questions I emailed. She basically created – on the fly – a lower fat version of her Shortcut Moussaka Recipe. Here’s what she emailed:

“Hi Karen- Lamb is pretty lean so I think you’re okay there but if you want to use turkey it would work. You can use skim milk and cut the butter and oil, no problem! I’d just cut them in half. Also you can cut the parm to 1/4 cup, add a pinch more salt to make up the flavor. And let me know how it comes out! best, Melissa.”

Have I mentioned how much I love the internet?

And Melissa Clark.  Who totally rocks.

OK, sorry there – small diversion.  I made Shortcut Moussaka Lo-Co Style last weekend and it was GREAT. I loved it. No, it was not Molyvos-Amazing, but then I didn’t expect it to be (to see why mere mortals can’t replicate certain dishes at home, just google Molyvos Moussaka and read their complex recipe).

But this Melissa Clark recipe was exactly what I hoped for: a relatively easy (if time consuming) way to get Moussaka back into my mostly lo-co life.

Even my 16 year old liked it. I hadn’t served him a piece assuming he wouldn’t be interested – naturally he was offended. Then he ate the Moussaka and liked it. Liked it, I tell you. My husband liked it too, but that doesn’t count as he likes most anything.

If you are going to try Shortcut Moussaka – either the original recipe in the NYT or with the modifications Melissa Clark suggested to make it more lo-co, here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • Follow her eggplant directions! Mine wasn’t eggplant-y enough because: a) I used less than 2 lbs of eggplant, b) I used regular and Asian eggplant b/c that’s what I had, and c) I lamely cut the pieces into cubes that were way too small.
  • Don’t peel the eggplant – not sure if you are supposed to or not.  I think not.
  • Try lamb if you can find it. I used turkey because I could not find lamb.  Turkey was good, but lamb would be give a more authentic, more flavorful taste.
  • I failed at clove. I did not have ground cloves, only whole cloves (that were probably 20 years old). I tried to microplane the teeny tiny ancient cloves. It did NOT work. You can stop laughing now.
  • This dish is supposed to make your kitchen fragrant with cloves and cinnamon. Clove disaster above explains lack of clove aroma. Somehow, though, even though I did use 2 cinnamon sticks, I did not get much cinnamon flavor or aroma (and no, the sticks were not 20 years old). Next time I’ll probably use cinnamon sticks plus a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.
  • The bread crumb topping did not work for me at all.  Probably it’d be good if you used freshly made bread crumbs. Not ever going to happen in my house – so in my view, either use fresh or omit.  I’ll be omitting.

It does indeed take at least 2 hours to make this dish – but oh, so worth it. Give either the original or the lo-co version a try, and please post here or on the golowcholesterol facebook page what you think.  Melissa asked for feedback so let’s get her some (look at me, acting like I’m all buds with her. Lame, I know.  Sorry).

Seriously, though, let me know how it works for you. I think you’ll like it too.