Low carb suggestions for novice cook

I’ve been following roughly Atkins-type diet for about a year. I tend to make the same 5 or 6 simple meals over and over again, so I’m concerned that I’ll get so bored of it that I’ll be unable to continue so I need to look into diverisfying my diet. I’m past the early stages where carbs need to be severely restricted but I’d like to keep it under 40 or 50 grams a day.

I’m not interested in hearing your negative opinions of low carbing or anything like that, don’t thread shit.

My cooking experience is negligible. I haven’t done anything more complicated than frying up basic meats (chicken breasts, sirloin patties or slices, ground beef) and vegetables in a skillet, making scrambled eggs, etc.

I don’t have much in the way of cooking tools. Non-stick skillet, spatula, hand blender, baking sheets. Of course I can buy more. I’m probably going to buy a slow cooker soon to make shredded or pulled chicken and pork. Any recommendations as far as that goes?

I know very little about meat. I keep getting tempted to try new meats at the grocery store, but I really don’t know anything about the 50 different cuts of beef and pork at the butcher.

I tend to like softer, boneless types of meat - sirloin patties that you can easily break up while cooking for example, or even steak 'um type sliced sirloin is probably my most used meat. What else is like that?

I wish I could cook with ground beef more because it’s simple and cheap, and you can make good stuff like low carb taco salads, but I have a hard time handling the smell of it cooking. Also, are there good taco seasoning recipes that don’t involve a lot of sugar? Most of the prepackaged ones do.

As far as vegetables, I like cooking with various types of peppers, a crazy amount of onions, spinach and brocolli are okay. I’d be willing to try other stuff if they worked well in context.

I don’t really know where to start. Are there good cooking shows that basically show a novice the way around the kitchen? Or specifically low carb cooking shows that show you step by step what you’re doing? Is there good stuff out there on youtube?

What about cookbooks? Any particular recommendations?

I prefer to keep things simple. Something I can make every day without too much fuss. Maybe once a week I could try doing something a little more involved, but I’d like to focus on easy stuff. But it’d also be good to learn how to make a few luxury items like low carb cheesecake to help keep things diverse.

I’m willing to use specialty food products, I already have regular orders from netrition, and stuff like carbquik can really diversify what you’re doing.

So yeah, please, anything that comes to mind feel free to post it. I’m pretty much a blank slate. What cuts of meat, what type of kitchen utensils to get, what shows to watch, what cookbooks to use, what to experiment on, what specialty forums might be a good place to look, I pretty much need to know everything. So post anything that comes to mind that you think would be useful.


I usually have some poached chicken about, it is very easy and can be used in lots of ways and doesn’t need a slow cooker. Buy some skinless chicken breasts, boil a pot of water, I throw in a stockcube, herbs and garlic. When the pot boils add the chicken, put on a lid, when the water reaches boiling again turn off the stove, leave the lid on. Go do something else, when the pot cools down the chicken is ready to be drained and fridged or frozen. This can then become whatever you want. It can be shredded for soups or salads, eaten as chunks, turned into quick stews with some gravy powder and frozen veggies - it is just there.

I make spaghetti sauce and pour that on a pint of green beans. Or regular beans. Or anything that’s otherwise flat, really. I can eat voluminous amounts of cheap green beans which cut my hunger with few calories without getting bored of it.

Spaghetti sauce has ground beef, vegetables, is cheap, easy to make, can be made in large quantities and can easily be customized to your tastes. The one I make is the best one I know of and it’s not because I’m a good cook. It does have sugar, but, depending on how you make it, it can be rather low. It’s probable that most tomato sauces have added sugar to them.

Making small batches allows you to experiment to find just what you prefer.

Check out the various spice blends at Penzey’s - there may be a store near you, or it’s relatively cheap to order from them. Their “taco seasoning” has dextrose and corn flour in it, so not low-carb, but their Southwest Seasoning doesn’t have anything carby, will work as taco seasoning, and is delicious. Put it this way: I am not at all a fan of spice blends, preferring to mix my own, but I keep this around all the time.

They also have a lot of other blends, and that will really jazz up almost anything. Veggies, meat, etc. Check them out.

I’d get a crock pot and learn to make meat and vegetable stews, depending on exactly how low carb you’re talking about. Two that come to mind right away are chili and white chili. I just dump in meat, vegetables, and spices, and turn the crock pot on. You can put in whole chicken breasts or pieces of stew meat cut into 1" slices, and if they go long enough (six hours on high, eight hours on low) they should shred at the touch of a fork when you’re ready to eat.

Taco seasoning is easy-peasy: it’s just a mix of ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and a little oregano. I haven’t bought packets in years.

And it’s a good way to start learning to play with spices. Don’t be afraid, spices are your friend! :slight_smile:

Find a local store (health food or gourmet shops are your best bet IME) that sells spices in small quantities. It’s cheaper than buying it at the grocery store, you can try lots of different spices, you can get advice on using them, you won’t end up with a ton of something you don’t like, and you don’t end up with old, dried-out spices.

Chop onions and brown them with the hamburger. It seasons the meat and smells better while cooking. Garlic is good, too. Even bell peppers, if you like those.

Easy taco meat:
Brown 1 lb ground meat plus on med-high. Drain well and return to pan.
Sprinkle in seasonings generously: garlic powder, ground cumin, chili powder, ground black pepper. Add a good pinch of oregano and a little salt.
Add a jar of salsa - homemade, commercial, cheap or gourmet - whatever you’ve got.
Add a cup or so of water and stir everything up good.
It should be soupy with lots of liquid, so you can get everything mixed up really well.
Lower heat to medium or med-low and simmer until the liquid is gone and you have taco meat. Probably 20-30 minutes.
If you aren’t fanatical about draining the meat, you can end up with what looks like liquid but is actually grease. So just cook it until you like the look/texture/feel.
Taste it a few times during the simmer and adjust the spices to your liking.

Pork tenderloin is pretty awesome. I usually get a garlic & herb Smithfield one because that’s what my grocery store sells. They also sell un-seasoned ones, which are fine they just take a little more work as you’ll want to make and apply your own marinade.

Your meat thermometer guide might say “Pork: 160 degrees” but that’s rubbish. That is seriously over-cooked pork. The FDA recently said that it approves of 145 degrees for pork. I think 350 degrees for 20 minutes per pound of pork (so like, 40 mins for a 2-pound tenderloin) is what the package says for Smithfield.

Line a cookie sheet or a 13x9 pan with foil, put in the tenderloin, let it cook for the recommended time for its weight, start checking with the meat thermometer, and when the thermometer hits 145 degrees in the thickest part of the tenderloin, it’s done. Remove it and cover the tenderloin tightly with the foil for about 15 minutes before you slice and eat.

A single person can get 2-3 meals from a small tenderloin. The meat is fine cold, too, so you can chop it into cubes and put it on a salad the next day.

You can also grill a pork tenderloin.

Oh, and buy a meat thermometer.

Chuck roast is the best. Here is a list of other names it goes by, as well as similar cuts.

Perfect for slow cookers. Make chili, soup, stew, pot roast, etc.

One of my faves: green chili stew.

Cut a pot roast into largish chunks (1-2" square). Rough chop a couple of onions to about the same size. Toss into a slow cooker and add green chilis*. Add some chopped garlic** and a fair bit of ground black pepper.

Cover with liquid plus an inch or so. You can use water or stock. A little coffee is good. Some beer wouldn’t hurt.

Add some bouillon or soy sauce. Or salt, if that’s all you’ve got.

Turn it on low for 10 hours or so.
If you like pork green chili stew, use a pork butt roast instead of the beef chuck roast.

If you like potatoes in your GCS, by all means go for it. Dice them up to about 1/2 to 1 inch cubes.

I like to toss in a couple handfuls of frozen corn kernels right at the end for some crunch.
*green chilis:
Roasted Hatch chilis are the best, you should be able to get those. They freeze just fine.
You can use Anaheim chilis from the store and roast them yourself.
Or go buy canned, diced from the store. You’ll want a BIG can if you like the green chili flavor. I put a lot of chili in my stew.

OK, it’s always best to mince your own garlic. But really, that stuff in the jar? It’ll work fine for a beginner for most things. Or for folks in a hurry. You may need to add extra, I don’t think it has as much flavor as really fresh.

If I were you, I would get a crock pot. They are not very expensive, and provide a ton of additional options. You can experiment with other types of meat and cheaper cuts that require slow cooking. There are a ton of good crock pot recipe books out there that basically boil down to: chunk of meat, vegetables, spices, set and leave the house. Chili, roasts, vegetable medleys, etc. are all good low-carb options that can be made simply with a slow cooker.

Here are some easy favorites:

Crustless quiche:

Large carton of egg beaters (or you could just whisk up real eggs)
add any ingredients you like: I usually add onions, peppers, tomatos, and some meat–bacon or smoked turkey, cut up.

Pour it all into a baking pan and bake at 350 until set (about 40 minutes)

Delish and easy.

If you get a crockpot, here’s an easy pulled pork recipe:

cut up a bunch of onions and put them in the slow cooker
add a pork shoulder roast (sometimes called pork shoulder butt!)
pour on top 1/2 bottle of BBQ sauce (not sure if this is high in carbs–if so, you can use taco seasoning and a cup of water)

Let it cook for about 6 hours or until it easily falls apart with a fork, then drain. Put the pork back in the slow cooker and add the rest of the BBQ bottle.

Let it cook for another hour. Awesome pulled pork :slight_smile:

I prefer the laziest recipes possible. Three of my low-carb favorites:

Poached salmon (and other fish). Buy a whole fish. Boil it. Eat it for a week.

Consider baked tofu as a nice meat interlude too. You just press it, marinate it in whatever you want, and bake it. Keeps forever. Makes a good snack. Nice for days when you want more protein but not more fat.

We eat a lot of vegetable soup that is just cooked and blended broccoli or spinach or kale or whatever is in the fridge combined with some olive oil and spices.

Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything has good recipes for all of those, but is also just a fantastic resource for the fundamentals of cooking, such as how to use all those crazy cuts of cow and pig. Lots of useful info on technique, ingredients, etc. that you don’t get in that many cookbooks. Good tips on buying fresh vegetables too (like how to tell a good eggplant from a bad one). The iPad app is the best app I’ve ever seen.

You might check out the sciency cookbooks too. If you’re like me, once you understand the chemistry and physics involved in stuff like browning meat, it is much easier to improvise. The Science of Good Cooking is supposed to be good, but I haven’t read that particular one.

I love my slow cooker and wish I had gotten one earlier.

One suggestion: I do corned beef in my slow cooker. Get the brisket with the spices already packaged with it if you can, otherwise, get a “brisket” and go to someplace like Penzy’s to get the appropriate spice mix (e-mail them if their choices are overwhelming, someone will help you). You cook the thing for hours until it’s tender enough you can eat it with just a fork. For the last 30-60 minutes add the vegetables of your choice - cabbage is traditional but carrots, celery, and lots of other stuff would work, too. Because you do it at home you have much more control over the carbs. Leftovers can be used for sandwiches or reheated. Yum.

Another thing you might want to acquire is one of the countertop grills. You can grill both meat and vegetables. Actually, even fruit, too. Grilling is easy, and Penzy’s has a crap ton of various spices and rubs for grilling.

No, I am not an employee of Penzy’s nor do I get a commission from sales - I’m just a big fan of them. They also have recipes and advice/suggestions and they are excellent at letting you know what you’re getting in their spice mixes.

I’ve been cooking for four decades now and I still don’t know as much as I’d like about all that. Do you also eat chicken and fish? (Not required, just curious).

An old-fashioned butcher can help with that sometimes, but they’re getting much rarer. It couldn’t hurt to ask for advice from the people behind the meat counter at the store, sometimes you’ll find someone really knowledgeable.

Slow cookers make meat that is like that, even if it is on the bone. Really, literally falling-off-the-bone tender, and of course you can use boneless cuts in them.

I have often wished there was a good source of plain, pre-browned ground beef. Cooking it isn’t so bad, it’s draining it and the clean up.

You can grill all that, except for the spinach.

I will also do things like bake 3-5 pounds of chicken all at once. I oil a baking dish with olive oil then arrange the chicken in it. I season generously. First night it’s hot chicken and vegetables on the side (and usually rice, but I’m thinking you’ll skip that, right?). Then you have cold chicken for salads or for reheating or cutting up and adding to soups for a little extra meaty goodness.

Likewise, roasts are pretty easy and you can either reheat the leftovers or eat them cold or use them again in something else.

I have recently discovered kale. I always thought I hated it because it’s pretty strong tasting in a salad and kind of tough but saute it with mushrooms, chicken, tomato, onion, bacon, broccoli, garlic (probably not all at once, usually just 2-3 things I have in the fridge) and it’s amazing. Toss a little balsamic vinegar (not exceptionally low carb but the tsp I use is acceptable to me) on top and it’s delicious. Also good in soups.

My fallback low carb meals are basically skillet suppers. I have a ton of no sugar spice mixes thanks to an addiction to the One of a Kind Show food aisle and I just experiment with whatever protein and vegetables are in the fridge. I try and keep cauliflower, broccoli, peppers and now kale on hand all the time and with a new spice and protein choice it’s like a new meal every night.

We’re also eating more fish now. Salmon with just fresh dill and a little salt is amazing, I don’t miss the creamy dill sauces at all.

One actual low carb product that I think is a real help with cooking is a thickening agent. There are a few available and the ability to thicken a sauce without flour or cornstarch helps make those crockpot meals even tastier.

Low Carb Luxury is primarily a shopping site but they also have some interesting articles and a great recipe section.

Best low carb snack, easy as can be.
1 bunch of celery
1 pkg real cream cheese
spices, this is a great way to check out how those spices taste too.
I like garlic powder and ground red pepper or chili about 1 tablespoon each, mixed in the cream cheese at room temp, spoon into cleaned celery sticks, very low carb and good snack, better than always eating pork rines. If you make to much will keep in fridge for at least a week, celery requires just as many calories to burn as eating it, adjust filling to taste, try chives and oregano, or olives and basil, make new combinations with curry, I have found some very tasty spices that I had never heard of which are good for saute ing meat in doing this snack.

Cauliflower is super low carb, but pretty bland. I fill a pint tub with bite-sized raw piece and pour some olive oil - 1 glug and red wine vinegar - 3 glugs - sprinkle of dried basil & oregano and black pepper, shake whenever you remember, keep in fridge until eaten as side dish or snack.

You can also boil it and mash it like potatoes, using your hand blender. season with garlic, butter, etc - whatever you put on potatoes. It never really gets that starchy “holds together” feel of potatoes, but its good for a change.

If you have a Trader Joes, some of their their chicken sausages are very low in carbs, and are pre-cooked so its heat & eat. I think spinach & fontina cheese is the one I used to buy.

If you like Spinach, you can also try Swiss Chard. Tear the leaves off the stems and drop into 3qts of boiling water for 1 minute (yes, all of them, they’ll cook WAY down). Drain, squeeze, and chop the squeezed up mass into 6 or 7 strips. place in pan with a little butter and handful of parmesan cheese. The mass will break up a bit. When everything’s well mixed, salt, pepper, eat!

For meats, Fry some onion & garlic and brown some boneless chicken thighs. Pour a can of diced tomatoes over (I like Ro-tel tomatoes with green chiles) and simmer for about 40 minutes - 1 hour, or until the chicken starts to fall apart. Pull it apart into shreds with two forks. Eat it directly the first night and use the leftovers in taco salad.

Onions have a surprising amount of carbs. So if you’re doing a tight low-carb diet, just watch your count in recipes where they call for a lot of onions in the base.

There’s tonnes of good low-carb cheesecake recipes out there, but a favourite “this is way too easy” cheesecake-like dessert is no-bake low carb cheesecake. This and the recipe afterward do need kitchen tools you don’t have right now, but that might be worth picking up from somewhere cheap for a few dollars later on in the piece.

One package of philadelphia cream cheese, one sachet of sugar free jelly (jello) and a small, about 200ml/6oz container of pure/double/highest butterfat cream.

Leave the philly out to soften, make up the jelly according to the package and leave at room temp to cool, but not set. Once the philly is soft, get at it with a hand mixer and whip it to hell. Then gradually start adding the jelly. Don’t just dump all the jelly in, it will go to weird curdlyness. Go slow and it’ll incorporate. Once that’s all mixed in, whip your cream to soft peaks, then fold into the cheese/jelly mixture. Divide into portions or just throw the whole thing in the fridge.

I made this a couple of weeks ago and it’s good. I’ll be making it again today at some point, but I want more of a creamy texture only just set by the jelly, so I’ll be doubling the philly and just going from there. I may look at making an almond meal base for it. That’ll up the carbs a little bit, but still will keep it within acceptable limits.

My other favourite dessert right now is chocolate avocado pudding. Yep. Avocado. Hear me out.

You’ll need strong, dark chocolate for this. I used pure cocoa powder and I still don’t have my ratios of fruit to cocoa to sweetener quite right. But you put a ripe avocado into a food processor (you could probably do it with a stick blender), put in either melted dark chocolate or cocoa powder and blend into a pudding-like texture. Then add sweeteners to taste. I have stevia, both plain and butterscotch flavoured. A few drops of them plus some heavy cream whipped into the pudding made the richest, most decadent-feeling chocolate pudding I’ve had in a long time. From an avocado.

Incidental thought - cauliflower rice. It’s not entirely like actual rice, but is a good substitute for making things like fried “rice” and bulking out stews and such.

I was gonna type pretty much the above quoted test, so I’ll add some additional notes, instead.

IME, the cut of meat you’ll be looking for will usually be called “Boston Butt” - that’s the goods, right there. (pretty cheap, too!) You’ll want to stay away from “Pork Shoulder Picnic” as it includes the skin, which does not do well at all in a slow-cooker. I guess you could remove it before hand, and either toss it, or fry up some homemade pork rind, but IME, “Butt” comes out much better than “Picnic.” (not sure if it’s a different part of the pork shoulder, or the only difference is the skin on or off…)

I personally use tons of Sriracha/rooster sauce at the beginning, and find that in a slow cooker, a lot of the spicyness fades away into a not-that-spicy, but delicious flavor. As for the draining part that EG mentions, that’s optional depending on if you’re doing the BBQ sauce thing, but either way, you might want to save what you drain for any other dish that needs an addition of fat and flavor - there’s so much yummy fat in there, it will mostly solidify and be really easy to use to add some KAPOW! to other dishes. You can use it for almost anything, but I like to use it for making some delicious tofu and bean chilli that only looks vegetarian friendly, but is very much NOT, since most of the calories are probably from the leftover pork fat.

BTW, make sure you get a slow cooker that’s big enough to fit a big 'ole pork shoulder.

Add Worcestershire sauce to the ground beef as you cook it, and/or chopped up onion, and cook it on very high heat so that it browns. Or some Montreal steak seasoning. It’ll mask the smell of the ground beef and add a lot of flavor.

The Pioneer Woman website has lots of simple-to-make meat recipes broken down step by step, with great photos. She also has some meaty sandwiches that you can just make the interior of and skip the bread.

You can eat the stems on those, too. So… tear the leaves off, then chop up the stems, too, for a different, slightly crunchy texture in the mix.