Kara's Keto Plates

Fatty Food Blogging

Woo boy, I have been putting off making progress reports. Mostly because I have no progress to report. I’m losing no weight, haven’t lost since February despite counting calories and carbs, hitting my macros and upping my physical activity (significantly). I’m waiting out allergy season, on the off-chance ongoing histamine reactions cause me to carry additional water weight (apparently the nasal steroid I take could up my blood sugar, although I have a hard time believing that would have a significant effect) .  It seems kind of dumb, but I’m hoping once the tree pollen settles in the next couple weeks, I’ll magically experience a huge woosh of weight loss. In the meantime, weight loss is a bust. I’m trying to re-arrange my focus: if weight loss isn’t happening, what should my focus be? Is low-carb a healthy long-term strategy? I believe it may be, but the episode with scurvy has been frightening to me. Are there nutrients I’m just not getting? I’m taking a multi-vitamin now, but a by-it’s-nature deficient diet doesn’t sit well with me. If I’m not losing weight eating 30 g net carb a day, is it healthier for me to go back to losing no weight on my vegan + fish diet where I ate 100 g net carb a day (almost entirely from beans/lentils and fresh fruit)? Do I feel any better on that diet? These are questions with no easy answers for me, and it’s been disheartening to completely stall out on weight loss despite all my best efforts. But then, I’ve been spending time reading up about nutrition and health and specious claims about the damage obesity actually does and I’m starting to wonder whether I’ve spent my entire life hating myself for being fat and thinking my death was imminent when I should have been focusing on how to eat smart and how to keep my body moving in fun ways. I start to feel like this blog is just kind of worthless: I don’t have any advice and I have had limited success on this diet, hell, on every diet that didn’t amount to starving myself on 800 – 1000 calories a day. My original goal was to prove keto could be healthy and full of variety and vegetables but then I got scurvy.

When I was a strict vegan, I remember a furor in the community because people would quit eating entirely vegan for their health and then pretend they were still eating vegan. One blogger talked about it and  it pissed everyone off. But I get it, I mean, I get the pressure to eat and present yourself eating in this idealized, perfect way: in real life and on the internet. I haven’t found the one true path for weight loss or perfect health or perfect ethics. I am starting to doubt I personally ever will. So, how do you choose a path? How do you determine and prioritize your values, your health, your ethics? Which aspects of your health matter most: is weight loss more important than anything else? I’m torn because I watch people succeed and of course I want to succeed, I want to be thin. But at this point, I have worked for 5 years to find a way to be thin and I’m coming up empty.  I weigh what I’ve weighed for most of my adult life, what I weighed in high school. I have never,  ever in my life been thin. At this point, I have undone all the weight I put on for the two years when I was depressed and bingeing. I’m eating as reasonably and exercising as often as I ever have in my life. When I’m not hating my body for holding on to all this weight so well, I actually feel good. I’m stronger, I have big, bulky muscles, I find myself just doing these physical things without even thinking that would have been so impossible for me in the past. I should be proud of the changes I’ve made and all I feel is torn that I can’t be happy because I’m not losing weight. And this blog starts to feel like an albatross around my neck.

Scurvy Scallywag

I have, in general, thought of myself as creating a pretty well balanced diet. When I decided to go keto, I tried to resist the egg/bacon/cheese/ranch overdrive and made sure to include loads of dark leafy greens and bell peppers and berries and fatty fish and all those super-foods that I honestly kind of adore. And yet, a couple weeks ago, I woke up to bleeding gums. My initial thought was some sort of dental trauma overnight that would heal. And then two days later, again, bleeding gums.

Bleeding gums are pretty much a never occurrence for me. So I figured I probably had some horrible vitamin deficiency. Michael came home and examined my gums and mouth and confirmed I had scurvy. We went to the store to pick up super dose vitamin C for me to take daily while we waited for the uber-fancy multi-vitamins he ordered to arrive. He ground up Vitamin C pills, mixed them with natural calm and boiling water and I drank a glass every day. Within a couple days, my gums weren’t swollen and bleeding anymore. And I’m now taking a multi-vitamin, which I most likely should have been taking from the beginning (in addition to my fish oil pills and vitamin D). In order to get the Vitamin C I need in a day, I’d have to eat a whole red bell pepper; the juice from 3 limes or a cup of strawberries. That just isn’t going to happen, for a variety of reasons (carb counts; food costs and availability; etc).  I’d say that I regularly (a couple times a week) consume all of those foods in some quantity, but it just wasn’t enough. Just a word of caution.

Since starting keto, I’ve also found that I get dry scaly skin spots. This isn’t the keto acne a lot of people get, instead it looks like little psoriasis spots: I get them intermittently on my shoulders, my lower back, my sides, my calves. They tend to go away on their own after a few days (and went away entirely when I was not eating keto on vacation), but it has raised some concerns for me about possible inflammation. Michael made the point that whatever processes keto is resetting in my body could result in inflammation, anyway, but I’ve decided to cut dairy out and see if that helps with my skin.

Why dairy? Because it is the single biggest dietary change I’ve made from vegan to keto. Truthfully, I eat probably 2-3 servings of dairy a day now and I never ate that much (certainly not when I was vegan, but also not when I was just eating what I like to eat). Dairy (especially cheese) has become my easy go-to snack whenever I’m hungry. As a result, cutting dairy will likely be really freaking difficult at this point, but I’m pretty prepared.

I’ve found that I can do a very satisfactory bulletproof coffee using coconut oil and unsweetened almond milk in lieu of cream. I’ve also rediscovered my vegan protein shakes: Sunwarrior Classic,  Amazing Grass Green Superfood, Unsweetened Almond Milk (1 cup) and Cinnamon. It’s a bit chunky and mildly unpleasant but it’s also filling, dairy and soy-free, 5 grams net carbohydrate and about 20 grams protein in a serving. This shake was a fixture in my work lunch for months (accompanied by a serving of fresh fruit and half a bell pepper with hummus). We’ll see how the dairy cut goes, if it does clear up my skin, keto will get a lot more difficult in the long term.

German Chocolate Icing

For my birthday, I decided to do the brownie cupcakes I did for Michael’s birthday but to make my own German chocolate icing. German Chocolate Cake (not actually German) includes an icing that is essentially a caramel with coconut and pecans mixed in. It is a glorious icing, but the traditional recipe definitely smacks of the era it came from: the caramel is made using a can of sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and butt loads of sugar (most recipes even called for the use of sweetened shredded coconut). It’s straight from the unapologetic, over the top 50’s: can’t you just picture the ashtrays, bomb shelters and rocks glasses?

I decided to keto-ize the icing, which consisted of me mostly shaking my head at the other low carb and paleo versions I could find. To wit: caramel flavor is not browned butter, it’s browned sugar.  So, what do you do when you can’t use sugar (and sugar substitutes won’t brown)? You find the one ingredient which best approximates the richest, most delicious brown sugar flavor. That ingredient is… molasses. I’m an unapologetic molasses fiend, I used to drink molasses + apple cider vinegar + hot water every morning when I was vegan. I used it as a nutritional supplement but the fact is that I just really like molasses. It tastes good. It has a beautiful color. It’s packed with minerals and vitamins. The best part? You don’t have to add much molasses to get a nice, rich caramel flavor. You can add enough that it hardly adds many additional carbs per serving, but it will add flavor and color.

German Chocolate Icing

German Chocolate Icing

1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Erythritol
1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Blackstrap Molasses
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Liquid Splenda or Stevia, to taste
1/2 teaspoon Arrowroot Powder
1 cup Pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup shredded, unsweetened Coconut

Place the butter, erythritol, cream and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat . Stir as the butter melts, until all the ingredients are mixed together. Add the vanilla extract, salt and liquid splenda or stevia to taste. Keep in mind that the caramel will need to be super sweet (since the coconut and pecans we’re adding will not be sweetened). Bring the mixture to a boil, adding the arrowroot powder as the mixture comes to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat. Keep stirring the mixture as it cools – it should thicken a bit but still be liquid (the sauce will come off a spoon in a thick ribbon). Add the pecans and coconut, stir to coat all the pecans and coconut and then top your cake/cupcake/brownies. I actually cored each cupcake (maybe halfway down) and filled the core of each cupcake with the icing, and then topped with additional icing. I set the cupcakes in the fridge to cool and then added some liquid ganache on top (and garnished with a pecan half). The ganache was very simple: 1.75 ounces of chocolate and 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream melted together, sweetened with liquid splenda to taste and then stirred in an ice bath to cool. Once the ganache was sufficiently cooled, I spooned a bit (maybe a teaspoon) on top of each cupcake. You can keep the cupcakes in the fridge for probably 3-4 days, but they are nicer to eat when they are a little warmer, so set them out at room temperature for maybe 30 minutes or so before serving. The icing makes 12 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving, icing only):
Total Calories: 112 kcal
Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Total Carbohydrate: 3 g
Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 1 g

Net Carbohydrate: 1.5 g

German Chocolate Cupcake

Peanut Butter Maple Candy

You know that feeling when you get back from vacation and your house is still clean and lovely (and still smells like Fenugreek because you eat butter chicken like three times a week)? You sigh deeply and feel so ridiculously at home again. That’s how getting back to keto feels after a week of eating whatever I wanted on vacation. Donuts. Waffles. Beer (oh, I missed beer… I may have to start making hop tea or something to take the place of beer). Calamari. Fried fish (so much fried fish). Chocolate chip cookies. Cheese danish. Nachos. On the plus side, at least we did a bunch of walking (several miles, at least) pretty much every day.

While we were in Orlando, I happened to find out we were a few miles from a Sanrio store. So we made the jaunt. I bought a bunch of cute things but was most excited about a Hello Kitty chocolate mold. I had to have it the moment I saw it. I have been wanting to pick up chocolate molds, anyway, so I could do the sugar free candy and chocolate making that I’ve been starting to do more regularly in an easier and cuter way. Of course, I had to make up a new recipe today to put the mold to the test. The mold is supposed to be dishwasher safe (don’t know if I trust that) but it held up to nearly boiling candy and the freezer very well. And the candies popped out so easily and look so cute… it’s perfect.

Peanut Butter Maple Candy

Peanut Butter Maple Fat Bomb

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (solid at room temperature)
2 Tablespoons Unsweetened, Smooth Peanut Butter (I use Kirkland brand – the only ingredients are peanuts and salt)
1 Tablespoon Sugar Free Maple Syrup (I use Maple Grove Farms brand)
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Liquid Splenda or Stevia, to taste
Salt, to taste

Melt the coconut oil and peanut butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to make sure the coconut oil and peanut butter are completely combined. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Taste to see whether the sweetness and salt levels are good – I added probably 5 drops of liquid splenda and maybe a quarter of a teaspoon of additional salt. If the peanut butter you use isn’t salted, you may need even more salt. The mixture should be smooth and pretty liquidy. I decanted the mixture into a measuring cup and poured it into my chocolate mold, then stuck the mold in the freezer for about half an hour. By that time, the candies were hard enough to pop out of the mold. I’m storing them in a container in the freezer.  This made 16 pieces of candy for me, I’d call it 8 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 70 kcal
Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 5 g
Total Carbohydrate: 1 g
Fiber: .5 g
Protein: 1 g

Net Carbohydrate: .5 g

Lime Mug Cake

Blimey, it’s lime-y. I happen to have a bunch of limes on hand… I went a little nuts at the grocery store because they were on sale. And then I drank a couple margaritas this weekend (inspired by Archer: shot of silver tequila, 1/2 oz of Cointreau, juice of one lime, ice and kosher salt on the rim of my glass). But I have limes leftover after the weekend… thus enters this mug cake. If you’re not out and about in the world of the internets (which leads to the question of what you are doing here?), a mug cake is basically a simple cake you microwave instead of baking. Energy efficient and it means you can eat cake in five minutes… for when you really, really, really need cake. And fast.

Lime Mug Cake

Lime Mug Cake

3/4 cup Almond Flour
2 Tbsp Erythritol
1 tsp Baking Powder
Dash of salt
Zest of one lime
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil, liquid
1 Egg
Juice from one lime

Mix dry ingredients (Almond Flour, Erythritol, Baking Powder, Salt and zest). Set aside. In separate bowl, lightly beat egg with a fork. Add oil, still mixing with the fork. Then add the lime juice (again, constantly mixing with the fork so we have a lovely emulsion). I added a couple drops of liquid splenda to the liquid mixture, but that is totally optional. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix together. Divide the mixture into two microwave-safe mugs (mugs are important because the cakes will climb up the sides of the mugs), Microwave each mug separately for a minute and thirty seconds. The mugs will be hot – I let mine cool for a few minutes and then dumped it onto a plate to feel dignified.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 395 kcal
Total Fat: 37 g
Saturated Fat: 14 g
Total Carbohydrate: 9.5 g
Fiber: 4.5 g
Protein: 12 g

Net Carbohydrate: 5 g

Birthday Celebrations and Recipe Testing

Birthdays when I was a kid were awesome because in my family you got to choose what we ate for dinner and dessert and you could choose *anything*. You could go out to eat or order in (which we almost never did normally) and choose to eat anything you wanted. Some people ordered in Chinese food or subs or pizza. I had a particular sandwich restaurant I loved (which is now closed, shame) and we would even order appetizers there (very special to me as a child). The youngest forced us to McDonalds for many, many years. But dessert was always, always homemade, because my mom was an amazing baker. One year she made these sculpted piano cakes (recipe from Jacques Torres, I think) for my birthday, complete with keyboards made of white and dark chocolate and raspberry sauce for drizzling. So, birthdays for me have always been wrapped up into this impossible extravagance that somehow becomes possible, magically, for 24 hours.

All that being said, a birthday is just another day. A magical day but a day. Normally, Michael and I would probably just skip the diet for a day and eat whatever we wanted – but we’ll be traveling soon and we’ve made up our minds not to worry about the diet for that week. So, we decided to stay keto for his birthday last  week. Dinner was Italian Sausage with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms and this breadsticks recipe. The breadsticks turned out pretty good – we cooked them on foil and they stuck mercilessly, but once they cooled for a few minutes, it was easy to pull off the foil and eat the breadsticks. They were surprisingly breadstick-like. I spiced up Contadina canned sauce (3 g net carb per 1/4 cup serving) with a couple fresh garlic cloves, oregano, crushed red pepper to serve on the side. It was a well-received meal.

For dessert, I made this recipe: low carb salted caramel brownie cupcakes. I made the brownie cupcakes a day ahead of time and despite my worry about the recipe (so many eggs! so little almond flour!) the cupcakes turned out great. I used King Arthur super finely ground almond flour (which I recommend for baking recipes) and the grain of the cupcakes was really good for such dense, chocolate-y little beasts. This recipe will make it into my dessert rotation. The salted caramel became an issue though – which I should have figured out before even making it.

I use Erythritol, plain Erythritol as my sweetener. The author uses Swerve. Swerve is mostly Erythritol but they add oligosaccharides (ie, starch, like Maltodextrin) to make it behave more like sugar.  The problem with Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin is that they do spike blood sugar and insulin. Hence, why I choose to use Erythritol (no blood sugar or insulin spike at all) instead of Swerve or Granular Splenda in recipes.

So where does this affect the salted caramel? Plain old Erythritol will not brown (it crystallizes instead). Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin will brown. I put my butter and my erythritol in a saucepan and heated it and heated it. It kept forming a skin (crystallizing), so I couldn’t even tell if it was boiling. After a while, I figured the solution must be hot as hell. I touched it with a fingertip because I am a glutton for punishment. It burned like a bitch. I put my finger under cold water and then found my infrared thermometer. The solution was 259 degrees Fahrenheit. I figured that was as caramel-y as I was going to get and took it off the heat. I still finished the recipe and used the “salted caramel” in the icing but it was kind of a bust. Cupcake recipe good, icing recipe only really works if you’re willing to use a sweetener with a starch (and possibly spike your blood sugar/insulin levels). The cupcake still looked pretty, though:

Brownie Cupcake

And we had a solid keto birthday dinner and dessert for Michael’s birthday. There was also an enormous Pokémon banner and streamers and fun presents. The cat stole and ate so many ribbons, and then barfed them back up for us. All in all, it was a good experience and proof that we can do a birthday right, even on keto.

Gin and Blackberry Lime Rickey

Drinking on keto is… a different experience. For starters, your alcohol tolerance goes out the window. So, you get drunk a lot faster, it’s more difficult to maintain that ideal pleasant buzz but lack of crappy alcohol effects while you’re drinking, and I find that if I drink more than two standard drinks in a night, I’ll experience a mild hang-over the next day (headache, mild nausea, you know the score). A lot of people choose not to drink on keto – your liver will preferentially process the alcohol and so the fat-burning processes go on hold while you’re drinking (which could, theoretically, slow your weight loss). That being said, a nice dry red wine is a great way to get anti-oxidants in a diet where you have to limit the fruit you eat. And when a nice drink is what you can have instead of an ice cream cone, I’d argue it’s a worthwhile diversion.

All that being said, you have to be careful with what you choose to drink because carbs hide everywhere. Dry red or white wines are generally okay – but semi-sweet, off-dry, or dessert wines are off the menu (and don’t even think about a Moscato). In terms of liquor – I’ve avoided almost every flavored anything because they tend to be sweetened. A known exception: Absolut states that they do not sweeten any of their flavored vodkas (and their Black Currant vodka is pretty darn nice). But flavored liquors like Kahlua, Grand Marnier and my personal favorite, St-Germain are heavily sweetened – it’s advisable to avoid them entirely. In terms of beer, you’re also pretty screwed. Plenty of light beers aren’t terrible – I used to drink a lot of Bud Light Platinum because it was 6 g net carbs a bottle and had pretty high alcohol content for a light beer.  But when what you want is a real damn beer, you won’t be able to find a low carb equivalent (I miss you, Sixth Glass, more than words can say). We’ve also been able to find a couple very dry ciders with no sweetener at our local liquor store – but those tend to be imported (American style cider is almost always seriously back-sweetened – and unfortunately, most companies don’t provide nutrition labels so you won’t know). I’m a pretty boring lady, so most nights I tend to drink either Gin, Vodka or dry Wine, with the occasional whiskey or Scotch making an appearance. Gin is really my favorite of all the liquors, possibly for romantic reasons: Michael brought gin, tonic and bitters down to my dorm room to mix me drinks when we were first dating.

This recipe comes in here, with gin and romance. I wanted a pretty, healthy drink for Valentine’s Day weekend to surprise Michael. I really love Gin Rickeys: they’re nothing more than gin, lime juice and club soda. But they are fantastic drinks: simple, refreshing, bright with citrus and juniper. This is a bit more complicated than a rickey (and sweeter) but a nice change of pace and a great way to get some extra vitamins in your day.

Gin and Blackberry rickey

Gin and Blackberry Lime Rickey

1 pint blackberries
2 – 3 tablespoons Lime Juice (or juice from 2 limes)
Liquid Splenda, to taste (we used equivalent of about 2 cups sugar)
Club Soda (1-2 liters)
Gin (as desired)

In a small saucepan on medium heat, place your blackberries, the lime juice and liquid splenda. If you juice limes yourself, I’d also include a small quantity of zest to the syrup to really up the lime flavor – maybe a teaspoon of zest or so. You’re making a syrup here, essentially, so we heavily sweetened the mixture (maybe 25 drops of liquid splenda – the equivalent of about 2 cups of sugar). While the blackberries are over the heat – start mashing them. You want to really mash them good, so you end up with a nice, dark syrup and a bunch of blackberry seeds. When the berries seem good and smashed up (there shouldn’t be much flesh still around the seeds), you’ll need to strain the syrup. We set a strainer over a small measuring cup – make sure to mash the mixture in the strainer to get as much of the liquid out as possible. We got about 1/3 cup of syrup total. We added a little more than half of the syrup to a liter of club soda, but you could keep the syrup and soda separate and just mix in the glass. Then, add a shot of gin to your glass, add the club soda and syrup mixture (maybe 1 tablespoon of syrup per drink) to fill, garnish with lime wedges and ice, if desired. I would say we got 4-6 drinks out of the syrup. You can also just dilute the syrup with club soda and add a bit more lime juice for something more like a blackberry limeade (which I also did, and it was nice).

Basically, the only nutrition here is from the lime juice and the blackberries: for the entire recipe, the blackberries add 4 net grams of carbohydrate (1 g per serving) and two limes juiced adds 7 g net carbohydrate (about 1.5g per serving) for a total of about 11 g net carbohydrate for the entire recipe (so about 2 – 2.5 g per serving).

Soupy Twist!

« Older posts

© 2018 Kara Proctor

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑