Recipes

Avocados All Day

IMG_1151Avocados are another one of the Holy Grails of Keto. They are a great source of healthy fats.  Plus, they are fairly versatile. Many keto gurus will even talk about eating one to two daily.  That’s a lot of avocados.

I have not fully explored the avocado possibilities, but I do have a couple of favorites.

Well, since breakfast is my jam and it is the first meal of the day, let’s start there.  I started off with a recipe I found. Basically, you would halve an avocado and scoop out a little bit. Beat an egg with some broth or water and add salt/pepper to taste. Here is the tricky part: getting the avocado to set level on a baking sheet.  The recipe suggested cutting a little off the bottom so the avocado does not roll. I kept squishing it too much, so I tried putting them in a jumbo silicon muffin cup. When I would try to pour half the egg into each of the avocado halves, I found the egg really likes to stay together so I would always end up with half the egg in the bottom of the muffin cup (if I was lucky.) Then I would add some shredded cheese and broken up cooked bacon and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  It looks and tastes great, but a lot of egg went to waste with spills, plus the egg that stays in the bottom of the cup just tastes weird.

I had to make some modifications.  So now I do it more as a casserole type bake.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a small baking dish (the one I use is 4×6 glass dish.)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of broth (dealer’s choice)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • avocado
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon chopped up

Beat together the eggs, broth, and salt/pepper. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado in chunks into the dish.  Pour in the egg mixture, cheese, and bacon.  Stir to spread the ingredients evenly in the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Serves two and it reheats nicely. Mix up the dish by trying different cheeses or sub ham or sausage.

IMG_0042One additional thing this recipe taught me was a great avocado trick. If you have an avocado that needs ripening, then halve and bake it for a little bit until it is your desired softness. I only wished I would have known this before the guacamole debacle of 2017.  The horror was unspeakable.

Speaking of guacamole, I have found a really good, and more importantly, easy recipe. Guacamole is great alone or as a condiment to add flavor and healthy fats to all sorts of foods.  It’s kind of miraculous. You will need:

  • 2 avocodos
  • 3 tbsp. lime olive oil (okay, I know this might be hard to find, but it is so worth it. This adds a level of creaminess that is transcendent.)
  • small tomato chopped (or five-ish cherry or grape)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt

Super simple. Just scoop the avocados out with a spoon into a bowl. Smash it up with a fork. Add the olive oil and stir in the rest of the ingredients.  See, simple.

Chips are a keto no-no, so I like to use cheddar Whisps as my vehicle of guac transport to my mouth. Yum.

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Uncategorized

Blame It On Keto

I am trying to keep a schedule for this blog, but I failed to publish on Sunday because I was sick.  I had the flu. Regular flu, not keto flu. Just your run of the mill flu.

This made me think of something I have noticed in the keto world: there are two groups of keto followers. There are the keto-ers who think keto is a miracle on a plate that will fix every ailment and problem. Diabetic? Try keto. Cancer? Try keto. Marriage on the rocks? Try keto. Dog got fleas? Try keto.

Maybe we will talk about that group another time. Today, I want to talk about the other type of keto-er. The ones who blame keto for EVERYTHING. What do I mean? I am referring to the perennial Facebook post or podcast question where the questioner relates a random illness or symptom and asks, “is this because I am eating keto?”

Now, I understand that keto can have some unexpected side effects like keto flu, keto breath, or hair loss; but some things have nothing to do with keto. For example, every feeling of illness is not the keto flu, sometimes it’s just a cold. Ask yourself: is everyone around you also coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses? If so, you probably don’t have a new strain of contagious keto flu.  Have a scratch? Ask yourself, “do I have a cat or do I really think ketones are sharp and poke me from the inside?”

I see these types of posts attributing everything to keto so much that when I noticed my curly hair was not looking so curly, my first thought was, “is keto straightening my hair?” No, it was the super dry cold weather. Like it is every winter. I needed conditioner, not carbs.

Carbs is what it comes down to. Many of the posts I see trying to pin anything and everything negative happening to that person also will contain the phrase, “should I increase my carbs?”  There it is.  That’s the real question.

I am no expert, but if you are experiencing a new ailment first think, “does this look like any other cold/allergy symptoms I have had a million other times?” Next, “do I really think this is a keto problem or a craving problem?” Be honest with yourself. Then do some research and see if it is a keto side effect.

Whether you find it or not, it ultimately comes down to we are all unique individuals with unique needs, so you probably need to do experiments on yourself and determine your carb-tolerance. What amount of carbs keep you feeling tip top and in ketosis?

You.

Not me.

Not whomever turned you on to keto.

Not your favorite expert.

That is the blessing and the curse of keto. We are all different and have different needs, so you have to play around to find what works best for you. Keto is not a set formula, so it initially can take a lot of work to find your winning keto combination.

I wish it were easier than that, but this ain’t no calorie in, calorie out oversimplification.

Good luck and keep washing your hands. It’s (non-keto) flu season.

Recipes

Making Martha Stewart Jealous

I may not always hit it out of the park for lunch and dinner, but I have got breakfast down.

My breakfast choices do generally revolve around eggs, so let’s go over one of my favorites.

If I have time in the morning, I like to do a Bacon Spinach Goat Cheese Scramble. It is really easy, fairly quick, and soooo yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bacon
  • tbsp of bacon fat
  • 1-1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach (a nice handful)
  • 2 pasture-raised eggs
  • 1-2 tbsp of broth (dealer’s choice)
  • 2 oz. of goat cheese

What I do is use kitchen scissors to cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces into a frying pan or cast iron skillet.  Cook the bacon over medium high heat which usually takes around 3 minutes.  While the bacon cooks, beat the eggs with the broth. I was taught to make scrambled eggs with milk, but that is a keto no-no. I read that water works, but broth gives a bit more flavor and electrolytes. You can also save time by baking the bacon ahead of time.

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Add the extra fat and spinach. Sauté it until it wilts. This is pretty quick. Scoot it to the side to make room in the middle for the eggs. Pour in the eggs, let them cook about 30 seconds, and then scramble it all together. Once the eggs are done, take it off the heat and stir in the goat cheese. If goat cheese is too adventurous for you, then cream cheese also works, but c’mon, live a little!

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Viola! An easy, delicious, yet impressive sounding breakfast.  When anyone asks you what you had for breakfast while they are eating a stale bagel, you can casually say, “Oh, I just whipped up a Bacon Spinach Goat Cheese Scramble,” and sound all fancy and like you have your sh!t together because goat cheese makes anything sound gourmet.

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Enjoy!

Diets

First Real Test

I love my family. I do not have issues getting along with anyone. I do not have a childhood trauma that I am trying to eat away. I do not have emotional baggage tied to my parents or siblings. BUT, my parents house is where I have the hardest time staying keto.

My parents are the grandparents of seven young children so the house is FULL and I mean FULL of carb-laden sweet and savory treats. Plus, this is where I grew up creating and ingraining my bad eating habits (many of those habits supported by the Food Pyramid, btw.) This defeats my main line of defense which is just not having food that tempts me around. Besides the random treats in easy reach, this visit was also a birthday party.  We had a carry-in (aka pitch-in, potluck, etc.). I brought something keto, but guacamole does not a meal make. I did my best to keep it keto, but I am sure something got by because I did not ask for an ingredient breakdown of every dish. My guess is I met my carb requirement, but did not blow my progress to smithereens.

Then came the main event: dessert. The birthday girl/boy gets to pick the main course and dessert. My aunt chose what we call Buster Bar dessert. It is an Oreo crust covered in vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge and peanuts. It is so good and so not keto.

It was hard to pass up. I basically had to hide in another room until it was put away. The big thing that kept me honest was I rode with my sister and her husband to the party and I mentioned I was not eating sugar and cutting carbs big time. Knowing they would know I was cheating kept me honest. So why don’t I just tell everyone I am keto and explain my food restrictions and why?

This will sound weird from a blogger, but I am a private person. I don’t like answering a lot of personal questions or being put in the position of defending those choices especially in face-to-face. I get enough of that at work. I am much better at collecting my thoughts and articulating them in writing. There is also the naive part of me that thinks if I do not bring up my extra weight then maybe people won’t notice it. So I have never used the term keto around anyone I know except one co-worker who showed up as a mutual friend in a keto Facebook group. (Hi, Manna!) I know keto is about getting healthy, but I need some outside, aesthetic results before I feel comfortable preaching the gospel of keto to people I know. It’s oddly harder to take advice from people you know well. It can be easier to take strangers seriously.

Is that weird? It feels weird.

To make it even weirder, I have one relative who is lactose-intolerant, another with a gluten sensitivity, and a third who won’t even try to explain her food restrictions and eats before she arrives.  Everyone does their best to bring things or put food aside before adding an offending ingredient, so it is not like I would be shunned or resented. But, my food restrictions are a choice. At this point, I feel like a huge burden if I threw my food parameters into the mix for others to deal with, too. * My hope is if this WOE does what it claims to do, then I can be an example to my family and they will make the keto choice too. I am just not there, yet. I am early enough in this journey that keto is still a fad diet I am trying out and I am mainly armed with anecdotal evidence I have heard from strangers, so it is too early for me to effectively convince those close to me this radical diet change is the way to go. Especially my dad. He is a diabetic who is two heart attacks in, so I cannot approach him as my obese, unhealthy self and say, “ignore your doctors, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and every nutrition expert and do what I say which is the opposite of what they tell you.” I do not have that authority or the body and test results to back it up, yet.

*Logically, I realize non-dairy, gluten-free is keto, but I am talking about feelings and logic has nothing to do with feelings.

So to sum up:

The good news is I survived my first big test of temptation. I also learned I may want to bring a little more food so I have more than a dip to choose from and prevent me for going for “close enough” choices.

The bad news is a big family means lots more temptation filled birthdays.  Someday I hope to be able to take a keto break once or twice a year, but right now my control over my sugar addiction is too precarious to be trying going back and forth like that.  As far as spreading the keto message to my loved ones, I am stuck on “yet.” As in “I’m not ready, yet,” “I’m not there, yet,”

“I am not comfortable enough in my body,”

“yet.”

On to week two.

Uncategorized

Stress Eating

One of the hurdles to my health is I am a stress eater. I do not know why carbs are the food of feelings, but they are. We all know about sweets being a food of celebration. Maybe that is why I and so many others turn to sweets when we are sad because they are tied to happy times so you hope eating them will bring you happiness. My college roommates and I had a ritual for whenever we were having relationship problems. We would all get a half gallon of ice cream out of the freezer and do a “Men suck” session. We would go around and list reasons why men suck and eat our ice cream*.

*Full disclosure: we did not each eat our whole half gallon during these sessions, more than we should have, but not a whole half gallon. We are practical Midwesterners, so we did not buy the less economical pint size. It wasn’t about volume, it was about being fiscally responsible…

So really, the full spectrum of feelings are tied to food. Happy? Let’s celebrate with cake. Sad? Have some ice cream. Lonely? Make cookies, see if any of the dough makes it to the oven. Hanging out? Go out for dinner, coffee, or drinks. Homesick? Have some mac & cheese. However you feel, there’s a carb for that.

So when I am feeling really stressed, it is usually because I feel overwhelmed by all I need to get done.  If I am overwhelmed, then one of the first chores I want to farm out is cooking dinner. That’s when I end up eating out. There is a Dairy Queen two blocks from my house and that has not been good for my waistline.

So, as we end our first week, I have to say it was a challenge because the stress levels were particularly high. I did not cave to temptation for the empty comfort of carbs, but I was not as consistent as I should have been with my food tracking. At least it was not because I did not want to write down ice cream or pizza (or wine, lots of wine.)

I was on vacation for two weeks and this was my first week back to work.  Add to that job, I have a side gig that takes 19 more hours a week. Then I had something to attend every night after work from Monday through Thursday, ending just in time for a major ice storm to finish the week on Friday. It is hard to stay on track when you work 8 hours, have a meeting for 2 more hours, and then try to squeeze in 4 hours on the part time job. Since drive-thrus and pizza delivery were off the table and dinner prep was asking a lot, a few nights I just had some cheese and fat bombs.

I do not anticipate next week being quite as crazy (I have only three evenings of extra activities on my schedule.)  That is not nearly as comforting as I had hoped.

I have considered taking up a stress-buster like meditating, but right now the thought of adding something else to my to-do list just stresses me out more.

So any quick and easy meal ideas out there? Preferably of the heat and eat variety. Share them in comments and maybe I will actually have a meal sometime next week.

 

Recipes

Keto: Come for the Bacon, Stay for More Bacon

As I talked about in my bullet-proof coffee post, there are some Holy Grails of the Ketogenic lifestyle. These are foods and drinks that everyone on keto is crazy about. For today, I am going to talk about one of my favorites: bacon.

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Bacon is amazing. It makes so many things better. Bacon can be paired with all sorts of meats and veggies. Bacon is also delectable all by itself. Bacon is even used in some desserts. You can (and should) save the bacon fat to make other things better. I am in danger of drooling on my keyboard right now.

One of the reasons bacon is so popular in the keto community is not only because it is delicious, but because it is high in saturated fat. Bacon’s content is about 50/50 on fat and protein, so it is a good way to get more fat in the diet.

Bacon is easy to find, but keto-friendly versions can be trickier.  Pretty much all bacon is going to have sugar as an ingredient because that is part of the curing process, but do not freak out. It is still keto. Just look at the nutrition information to make sure that it has lists <1g and it should not kick you out of ketosis. Also, avoid ones that are Maple-flavored. They will have sugar added that sticks around after curing. Also, look for dextrose as an ingredient. It’s a more chemical-ee type of sugar, so avoid that if you can.

What I like to do is go to the butcher counter instead of getting prepackaged for my bacon. It is usually so much better than the prepackaged stuff. I am a classic introvert, so if I am willing to ask a person for bacon instead of grabbing a package that requires no human interaction, then you KNOW fresh from the butcher’s counter has got to be worth it.

My first choice in bacon, the Cadillac of bacon if you will, is from a little butcher shop called Falatic Meat Market in Sawyer, Michigan.  It is the definition of “a hole in the wall” type place, but their bacon is to die for. I have a friend who owns a nearby vacation cottage and when I go with her I get five pounds of bacon at a time. She goes up to get the cottage ready for guests and brings back bacon for various people because it is worth the trouble.  I am afraid to try anything else from Falatics because one addiction is enough. I know that this may not seem too helpful, but if you find yourself anywhere near Chicago then you might want to make the hour drive over to Sawyer. You will not be sorry, unless you count the sorry you will feel when you run out of bacon.

A respectable second in bacon hall of fame is from Fresh Thyme Market. This is a bit more accessible since it is a chain that is expanding throughout the Midwest. I like their applewood smoked bacon and thick-cut bacon from their butcher counter.

My favorite way to prepare bacon is to bake it. There are three reasons I prefer baking bacon.

    1. The bacon does not shrivel up to a quarter of its original size. I am not saying

      you don’t lose some volume, but it does not shrink as much and it does not turn into an impossible to manage curly-q that makes you wonder if bacon comes from the pig’s tail.

    2. No death by splattering. Bacon does not always go into that good night peacefully.  IMG_1219Some times it likes to spit white-hot oil at you as it cooks. Baking leaves you protected from splatters on your skin. Bonus: it also cannot splatter on your clothes, then everyone is hovering around you asking if you’ve got bacon because you smell from being sprayed with grease.
    3. Bacon grease. Nuff said. When you bake bacon, you are left with a treasure trove of bacon grease. This versatile and delicious fat can be added to all sorts of dishes to to give it that extra kick of bliss.

 

Baking bacon is super simple.

I take a baking pan and line the bacon in a single layer. The important part is that it has sides. No cookie sheets! I am not positive, but I think that would result in a waterfall of flaming fat in your oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once heated, bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes orIMG_1217 to desired crispness. I like my bacon chewy. I refer to it as floppy bacon because I have a way with words. You will want to go for longer if you want crispier.

Once your remove your bacon (to your mouth or storage container, depending on your level of self-control), pour the bacon grease through a fine wire mesh sieve into a container for storage. I put mine in the fridge with a lid on it because I have pets that cannot be trusted, but I have heard of lots of people who store theirs by the stove. Pouring it through the mesh should remove any solid meat bits that could spoil.

Enough talking. I need to go get me some bacon!

Diets

First Day of the Project

Like I mentioned in my last post, I am using a program called The Fat Burning Female Project (FBFP.) I do not want to blow up Shawn Mynar’s income by giving away her trade secrets, so I will not go into too many details on how the program works.

The FBFP is a six week program where a cohort is eased into ketosis so we can learn to listen to our bodies, discover our carb tolerance, and do it all as a supportive community through a Facebook page and occasional group chat.

The FBFP starts off with one of my dieting weaknesses: tracking. I have never been good at keeping up with tracking food. I like variety and I make some strange specialty dishes, so I feel like figuring out points or macros or whatever the tracking system of the day calls for takes longer than eating the food. The FBFP uses a proprietary tracking system that is much easier than others I have tried and Shawn does not want us to get obsessive, so she encourages guesstimating. Guesstimating is something I can get behind.

The best part of of her tracking system is IT ENDS. We will only track the first four weeks and then we are expected to have an idea what we are doing. I hope I can do a better job tracking if there is an end in sight. During a former dieting attempt, I got the My Fitness Pal app and I have friends on it. The app will send me notifications to congratulate my friends for doing their food diary for hundreds of days in row.

No thank you. I am trying to break my addiction to food, obsessing over it like this seems counterintuitive to me.

The FBFP and successful tracking in general also depends on my other dieting weakness: meal planning. I am terrible at planning my meals. I have staples for breakfast and lunches I often take to work, but dinner is a free for all based on what is in the fridge and what I have enough time/energy to cook. IMG_0042Too often I decide take-out is all I have the time/energy for.  At the end of the day I am in no mood to cook. Sometimes I plan ahead, but I inevitably have forgotten an ingredient or I have waited so long to get around to making my planned meal that an ingredient has gone bad. I could probably pay off my mortgage, student loans, and sponsor a small village in India if I had back all the money I have wasted on food I have let go bad.

So for my first day of tracking in true me fashion, I waited until the end of the day.  Luckily, I was fairly spot on except for carbs. Pleasantly, my problem was too few carbs instead of too many. That meant I got to find a snack to close the gap. I have never been a big snacker, but I did have a bag of freeze-dried blueberries in the house. I might have to get more carbs in the house for the first few weeks as we wind down our carbs. That was a unexpected surprise.

The third thing we jump off with is taking supplements. Guess what! Remembering to take supplements is another weakness of mine.  Part of what attracted me to keto is its emphasis on real food. I have never been one to turn to medication when I am sick if I can help it. Keto is to help me avoid the health issues that will require me to carry around a shoebox full of daily medications like my grandma did. I do a pretty good job with morning and lunch supplements during the week. Dinner and weekends are when I lose track.

So here I am at the end of day one and we are starting out with all the hard stuff for me. I guess I can be happy we are getting all the hardest parts out of the way right off the bat. The other theme seems to be I have breakfast and lunch down, but dinner needs work. I am two-thirds of the way there!

This is the hardest part, right? Right?

Wait, there are needles coming. I forgot about the needles part.

Oh no.