It happens the same time every year like clockwork, around the time the azaleas start to show their frilly little, pretty heads. Around the time you might just be lucky enough to see a big, fluffy robin tuggin’ at worms in the yard.
That’s right. Spring is springing out all over! Time to spring clean your low-carb meal plans!
And spring is a magical season. It feels fresh and new and like a rebirth. Spring is filled with possibilities and motivation and a sense of anticipation (ok, and some dread…we’re in Texas, remember? And spring is also a very distinct harbinger of those not-so-fresh-as-a-daisy-days ahead. In Texas, spring is just a glorious three-day precursor to a miserable nine-month extravaganza inside the humid oven we Texans like to lovingly call the Texas Gulf Coast.
Short Skirts and White Shoes Ahead
And with spring comes the certain assurance to all DFSW’s (Delicate Flowers of Southern Womanhood), that white pants, short skirts, sleeveless tops, and big-hair season is dead-ahead. Like a freight train–carryin’ a full load. There’s no escaping it when you’re on a one-train track running towards the light. It’s a sobering thought and spring is a reminder to all self-respecting DFSW’s to straighten up and “fly right.”
And by that, you KNOW what I’m talkin’ about. It’s time to defer the comfort food of winter along with its oh-so-sexy flannel PJs and sweats–clothing few DFSW’s will admit owning, by the way. You know deep in your soul of souls that the Day of Atonement is upon you. It’s time to shape up your diet, get out the thigh-master, and sew those lips shut! It’s time to choose dry lettuce leaves and radishes, preferentially, over pot roast with gravy. It’s time to forgo your favorite episode of Dallas in favor of long walks and a few weights. Oh the pain! Oh the shame!
But spring has sprung and low carb diet overhauls wait for no DFSW. Now, if you happen to be a true-blue low carb DFSW, this transition is not painful! It’s a simple switch to the satisfying and appetite-suppressing meals you’ve enjoyed as part of your low-carb lifestyle. And for some reason, my palette agrees with the switch and actually looks forward to spring low-carb meals. The heavy soups, stews, and braised meat dishes get replaced with cravings for fresh, “green” things, and simple grilled or pan sautéed meats.
Lighter Fare It Is
I begin craving crispy, refreshing salads with citrus vinaigrette, proteins prepared simply, and water. I start craving tall glasses of ice water with a thin wedge of lemon or lime, and maybe a tiny pinch of sea salt now and again. It doesn’t hurt that we’re smack in the middle of crawfish season. Spring on the Gulf Coast is crawfish season, small lobster-like crustaceans of impeccable culinary provenance. Locally raised in Texas and in Louisiana, these little guys taste fabulous!
Round these parts, every store makes huge crawfish boils each weekend and sells pre-cooked, boiled crawfish. Make a simple Caesar Salad and boom! Baby! You have a quick and delicious spring low-carb meal. Around this time each year, the shrimp fleet prepares to make its trek out of Kemah (a shrimp and fishing Mecca south of Houston and NASA) to the Gulf. Their mission? To bring us die-hard Texans delicious shrimp, crabs, and fish of all kinds, fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, which all fit into our low-carb meal plans.
We have fresh spring greens popping up such as spring spinach, sweet lettuce blends, Swiss chard, and the kale is still going strong too. And believe or not, the radish crop IS coming in, and they taste refreshing and sweet. The asparagus is making the first show with beautiful big spears, and the artichokes can’t be far behind. You can tell what’s seasonal by the grocery store sales. We had asparagus on special a couple of weeks ago for $1.79 per bunch. Holy moly, what a bargain!
Top 10 Tips to Quickly Spring Clean Your Winter Low Carb Meal Plans
With all this fresh produce available, I wanted to give you a few tips to lose the heavy comfort food load in favor of lighter, spring-appropriate low-carb meal plans to help you get ready for baring all this summer. I warn you – these ideas may seem “simple” and common-sense, but for busy DFSW’s who might be swamped with bridge, Mah Jong, Bunko Parties, and shopping sprees for white shoes, we might not have the time to stand in the kitchen and prepare low carb meals these days. So it’s more important than ever to take a page from Sandra Lee’s cookbook and make things semi-homemade! Shhhhh, I’m tellin’ ya straight. Even low carbers can take advantage of pre-made foods made from wholesome, fresh ingredients without a bunch of trashy, questionable garbage you can’t even pronounce mucking up the works.
1. Put the crockpot away for the spring and summer seasons.
It may sound crazy-making to you because you are a busy person. But spring eating and cooking low-carb meals just begs for simplicity. I promise you can have freshly prepared low-carb meals on the table in 30 minutes or less with a little planning and DFSW guile. I only haul the crockpot out to make bone broth. I make it outside—keeps the heat down and the house smelling springtime fresh. When pressed for time, quick sources of protein are ready and waiting at the grocery store. Rotisserie chicken, grilled salmon, and grilled chicken breasts can all be morphed into quick spring dinners and lunches.
2. Soup-up your soup repertoire.
Instead of heavy, cream-based, hot soups, go for lighter ethnic soups such as Vietnamese Pho soup or light Chicken Tortilla Soup. (Yes, Virginia, you can eat Tortilla Soup on a low carb diet! Go check out my Fluffy Chix Cook recipe for Low Carb, Gluten-Free Tortillas. They’re a cinch to make, taste great and can be cut into strips and toasted in the oven until crisp. While you’re there, don’t forget to read about my Faux Pho, a quick and easy version of the Vietnamese classic.) Light, chilled soups like Avocado Gazpacho or Cucumber Soup, even chilled Asparagus Soup are also delightful for spring low carb meals when accompanied by a crisp salad topped with boiled or steamed shrimp or grilled chicken.
3. Don’t forget the fresh salsas.
We’re in Texas remember…so this should probably even be #1. Don’t forget the fresh salsas. Make all types of quick salsas in your food processor. Make them chunky, make them smooth. Mix it up. Use tomatoes, onions, radishes, jicama, lots of lime, and fresh chiles along with garlic and cilantro, sea salt, pepper, and a slug of olive oil or two—and ermahgerd! Fresh low-carb salsa just sings on all kinds of quickly grilled chicken, pork, and seafood. Dang, even steak and lamb rocks with the addition of fresh salsa. Throw in a bit of avocado and you have a complete side dish.
4. Remember, salads are not a dirty word and mean more than chef salads, taco salads and garden salads.
Spring Salads can be light but filling and satisfying. My favorite low carb salad of all time is a tie between a Salmon Niçoise Salad and a Chopped Salad with Bacon and Blue Cheese or crumbled Feta. Sometimes it’s a complete low carb meal and other times it becomes the second half of a dynamic duo involving a grilled or pan-seared “somepin’-somepin’.” Use your imagination. Try new salads like my Zucchini Ribbon Salad or Tuscan Kale Salad with Grilled Shrimp. Branch out by subbing in different flavored vinegars such as tarragon vinegar or citrus juice such as freshly squeezed lime or lemon. The citrus doesn’t add many carbs to the dressing. Fluffy Chix Cook has a great basic vinaigrette that is very versatile and just made for substitutions.
5. Don’t fear the ethnic.
This is another one for the Tex-o-phile in you. Don’t fear the ethnic. Love and embrace your low-carb Mexican food. It doesn’t have to be heavy fare filled with refried beans, rice and chips. Remember those Fluffy Chix low-carb tortillas from Item #2? They roll beautifully. Stuff them with chicken or seafood, veggies, or cheese and make quick enchiladas (2 per person), then top them with my super simple and light Tomatillo Sauce. Add a sprinkle of Jack cheese and pop them in the oven. Serve them with a crispy green salad with avocado and purple onion, and the vinaigrette from Item #4, and you have a perfect spring low carb, DFSW-friendly, Tex-Mex meal to soothe your dastardly cravings!
6. Good Homemade Low-Carb Asian Stir-Fry Meals
Don’t forget how good homemade low-carb Asian stir-fry meals taste with fresh spring herbs, baby bok choy, and mushrooms. Any protein works great in a stir fry. Add a few fresh serrano chiles, and a bit of mint and/or cilantro, and you’ll never be tempted to order Chinese again. It’s light and figure-friendly too!
7. Break out the grill or hibachi.
Grilling isn’t just for the real-estate-blessed. Apartment dwellers have equal opportunity to lighten up and make quick weeknight meals. Grill meats and veggies for a low-carb dinner that’s ready in 15 minutes. Take that Dominos!
8. Embrace the avocado.
Put anything inside an avocado and you’ll feel like a million bucks. We love making simple seafood salads from shrimp, crab, salmon, or tuna, and stuffing a scoop inside the avocado. Serve a couple of slices of Campari tomatoes with it and call it a spring-meal-worth-eating.
9. Toss out the deep fat fryer!
Welcome low carb shake-n-bake baby! Check out these recipes over at Fluffy Chix Cook for yummy and light oven-baked foods such as Oven Fried Zucchini, Oven-Fried Mushrooms, Oven-Fried Onion Rings, Oven-Fried Okra, Oven-Fried chicken fingers and fish. You’ll assuage the cravings without all the heavy fried foods.
10. Lighten up your pizzas, burgers, and fresh sandwiches with low-carb bread substitutesWe make a mean Revolutionary Roll and Low Carb Focaccia that tastes very credible, and makes great sandwich delivery systems. We even have recipes for Low Carb Almost Biscuits to make breakfast on a biscuit or bun. Use plenty of crispy toppings in your sandwiches, such as thinly slivered cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, and hot chiles, along with herbs for a refreshing sandwich. Any protein works. Go all out and make homemade aoli, or try using some of the vinaigrette from Item #4 to drizzle over your veggies. We use store-bought rotisserie chicken (made with olive oil), along with all types of roasted meats from the deli, to help cut prep time. Make Jamie Sal Van Eaton’s Cauliflower Pizza Crust for a lighter and low carb pizza base. It’s the bomb! Try topping those pizzas with fresh mozzarella and herbs along with chicken and shrimp. Goat cheese with pesto is a great combination, perfect for spring.
Spring-time low-carb meal planning doesn’t have to represent austerity. With just a few simple changes to your thought processes, you can cook a la minute (to the minute)—fresh, spring meals, no crockpot required, without losing your sanity. The result will be meals that won’t leave you hungry, nor make you feel like you’re ready for hibernation!
Let’s get ready for white shoe weather together!
Radishes with Sweet Cream Butter & Sea Salt Recipe
More great Susie T Gibbs recipes.