Recipes

Keto “Brown Sugar” Bacon-Wrapped Sausage Appetizers

Probably just about all of us have a pre-keto go-to dish we like to make for carry-ins (aka pitch-ins, potlucks, etc..)  My go-to was an appetizer that involved wrapping Lil’ Smokies in half a slice of bacon, then covering them all in brown sugar, baking, and moving them to a crockpot to keep them warm. They were perfect because they work well for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. They were easy and a surefire crowd-pleaser.   Obviously, this was not going to work in the keto WOE.  Luckily, this was one of the easier recipes to keto-ize!

I have a large extended family and I often take this to breakfasts serving a 30+ person choir and symphony. So the following recipe is for a large group. However, leftovers reheat well and can be used to make a yummy omelet the next morning.

pbsioepwsqwbksrsdw24jw.jpg

What I love about this recipe is that it is crazy simple. You will need breakfast sausage links in about 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces, bacon, a brown sugar substitute (I use Sukrin Gold, so I know this brand works and it is 1:1 so I did not have to adjust my old recipe), and toothpicks.

Probably the hardest part of this recipe is finding keto-friendly breakfast sausage in the store. Honestly, since I am on a budget and this often is a large amount of food for a large amount of non-keto people, I often have to go with “close enough.” Sugar is involved in the curing process, so it will be nearly impossible to find sausage without it, but a little cane sugar is better than high fructose corn syrup. So that is what I aim for. If you look at the carbs in the finished product, you will find most of the sugar goes away in the curing process. If following a budget is not a big concern or you are cooking for a smaller group, then find a local source of meat. They will be less likely to go the chemical route in their curing process (i.e. dextrose, corn syrup, etc.)

This recipe is one of the few times I prefer packaged bacon over butcher counter bacon.XWOoAszNQw6CD7Ps17o3yA For one, budget again, but more importantly the packaged bacon is sliced thinner than most butcher counters make theirs.  This thinner slice is just easier to wrap around the sausage.  I use kitchen scissors to cut the bacon in half. Once I have my bacon and sausage, then I grab some toothpicks and set-up my assembly line.

Before you start wrapping, you will need a metal shallow baking pan. The bacon and sausages will release liquid. The rest is super simple. Just wrap a h4vJbBvB1SqmUknPD8zyjTQalf-slice of bacon around a sausage and secure it with a toothpick. Put the sausage in the pan. I usually do open side up, so it can really let the melting “brown sugar” seep in. This is one of those things that just sounds like it makes a difference, but I have not done taste tests or double blind studies to determine if it makes any difference. I do arrange them in an orderly fashion so that they cook evenly and I can get all the baking done in one go. Less time and fewer dishes to clean are always a good thing.

Once all of your sausages are wrapped, then generously sprinkle the “brown sugar” over the top of all the sausages.  Once that is done, they are ready to pop in the oven.  Bonus: your house will smell amazing!

JJKBeYvgRHWDeP1zda0gDg

Once they are done, I throw them in a crockpot or Instant Pot. Pour the liquid in the baking dish over the sausages in the pot. These are great for making ahead and then warming back up when they are ready to be served. I have had good luck with doing the Steam option on the Instant Pot for about 5-7 minutes and then setting it to Slow Cooker once they are heated up. Sometimes, especially if I am making these for a breakfast or brunch event, then I will put in a maple syrup substitute to give it more of a “breakfast” taste before I start reheating them.

The final step is enjoy this divine treat and all the compliments you will get!

Recipe: Keto “Brown Sugar” Bacon-Wrapped Sausage Appetizers

Ingredients:

  • 3 packages of smoked, uncured bacon
  • 2 packages of little smoked sausages or 2 packages of breakfast sausage links cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup brown sugar substitute (if your brand of choice is a 1:1 ratio with brown sugar)
  • toothpicks
  • Optional: 1/2 cup maple syrup substitute

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the bacon slices in half. Wrap each  sausage piece with the bacon and secure it with a toothpick. As you wrap the sausages, arrange them neatly in a metal shallow baking pan. Once all the sausages are wrapped, cover all with a generous sprinkling of the brown sugar substitute.

Bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to a crockpot or Instant Pot. Pour the liquid released during the baking process into the pot. This allows for ease in making ahead and reheating.

Optional: add the maple syrup substitute and toss before reheating.

Advertisements
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.

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.

IMG_1229

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!

IMG_1230

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.

IMG_1205

Enjoy!

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.

IMG_1209

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!

Recipes, Uncategorized

Holy Grails of Keto

As I have researched and lurked in so many keto groups, I have picked up on some keto holy grails. Foods and beverages that everyone loves and newbies panic about if they do not like or allergic to any one of the ingredients involved. So, let us just start off by unequivocally stating: THERE IS NOT A SINGLE KETOGENIC-FRIENDLY FOOD OR DRINK THAT IS REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE KETOSIS. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EAT ANY CERTAIN FOOD TO BE KETOGENIC. There just so happens to be some that lots of people find work great and are prime sources of healthy fats.

OK? Are we good? No one is going to panic if they do not like coffee, are dairy intolerant, do not eat pork, or do not have a Trader Joe’s in their tri-state area? Great! Then let’s go over one of the staples: bullet-proof coffee.

IMG_0040

Bullet-proof coffee is usually abbreviated to BPC. (Another keto love is acronyms. They are all over the place on blogs and podcasts, so start your keto-dictionary now.) The really basic definition of BPC is that it is a coffee with (usually more than one source of) fat blended in and no sugar.  One thing you will learn about me is I love podcasts, so I first heard about bullet-proof coffee years ago on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. (Yes, the introverted middle-aged librarian lady listens to Joe Rogan. I am a very complex person with a rich inner-life.) The idea then was pairing fat with caffeine made for a slow energy burn instead of being hit all at once with all the caffeine.

I started drinking coffee in my twenties when I had a part time 2nd job doing deliveries from 7pm-7am on the weekends. Since my weekday schedule was a more standard 7am-4pm job, caffeine became a matter of life or death for me, so I learned to love coffee and of course I learned on sugar laden lattes made “healthy” with skim milk.

I was not grossed out by Joe’s descriptions of BPC with butter and later MCT oil added in, I just did not see the point until years later.

Fast-forward to now and I am a BPC convert. It is my favorite thing on this diet. It is delicious, hot, and endlessly customizable. One of the posts I see on the keto-centered Facebook groups I follow is some form of “What’s your recipe for BPC? Go!” Seriously, I am in just three groups and that post is on my feed daily. So, my first recipe post will be my version of BPC.

Beginning my keto journey, I had a few versions of BPC until I settled on this one:

I use a blender that was made for smoothies, so I put everything in the cup, screw on the blades, mix it up, and throw on a lid.

In the cup,

  • 1 tablespoon of Kerrygold butter
  • 1 tablespoon of MCT oil
  • about 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups of coffee

Blend for a few seconds and enjoy!

All of these measurements are approximations. The only thing I measure is the MCT oil. Helpful hint: MCT oil is something you ease into. Start out with a teaspoon or half a tablespoon and work your way up to one or even two tablespoons. Take your time, unless you enjoy diarrhea.

That BPC was heaven and I did not even miss Starbucks, but all was not well in Who-ville so I had to make some modifications.

One of the things I began to suspect about my body is that dairy and I do not mix. I am not at a lactose-intolerant level where I am unpleasant to be around in a small areas after I have ingested dairy. No, I have just noticed that it is suspect numero uno for stalling my weight loss, so I had to come up with a new dairy-free BPC.

  • 1 tablespoon of 4th & Heart Himalayan Salted Ghee
  • 1 tablespoon of MCT oil
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • small squirt of Sweet Drops (liquid Stevia, salted caramel is my fav)
  • 2 cups of coffee

Ghee is a clarified butter. The clarification part removes whatever it is that makes ghee difficult for people whose bodies cannot handle dairy. I sometimes sub in Vanilla Bean Ghee, but it took some getting used to. At first I thought it tasted like I was drinking a candle, but ghee is too expensive to waste so I powered through and now I am used to it when Himalayan Salted is not available.

Sweet drops is one of the few generally “keto-approved” sweeteners because it is liquid stevia. That means it comes from a natural plant source and does not cause insulin spikes. (Guess what! Acceptable sweeteners, if any, are a hotly contested subject in the keto world.) My deal is many artificial sweeteners have an aftertaste or give me a headache. I think the sugar-free syrups that Starbucks uses have a horrible aftertaste, so the money I have saved not going there has gone toward my ghee fund.

I have also subbed in extracts for the Sweet Drops and various other nut milks (that phrase makes me giggle). Just read labels and find the concoction that works best for you and the ingredients available in your area. They are not always easy to find, and often they are not cheap once you do, but chronic illness and Starbucks aren’t all that cost-effective either.

IMG_0039So, do not panic if you are not a coffee drinker. BPC is just popular because coffee is popular and this will get you a lot of fat and caffeine to start your day.

And what a great way to start the day!