Kara's Keto Plates

Fatty Food Blogging

Month: October 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Lily’s Chocolate

I fully expected to have to cut back on chocolate when I started eating keto. Dark chocolate is, by and large, pretty darn low carb – maybe a few carbs in a square of 90% chocolate. A worthwhile treat to squeeze into your day if you have the carbohydrates leftover.

Lily's Chocolate Bars

But when I saw Lily’s chocolate bars for sale at one of our local grocery stores (Dierberg’s), I had to pick some up for Michael and me to try. The bars are sweetened with stevia extract, inulin and erythritol, which results in  no spike in blood sugar or corresponding spike in insulin when eaten. That means that we are able to subtract the grams of erythritol from the total carbohydrate count when we calculate net carbohydrate. I’ll give the net calculations for each bar below.

But how does it taste? I personally don’t mind the sweetening profile of stevia and I think it works really well with the earthiness of chocolate, but your mileage may vary (especially if you’ve tried Stevia before and not liked it). The chocolate itself is of high quality: very smooth and with good flavor although 55% cacao content is pretty low to me and if you’re used to darker chocolate, you might miss the fuller, fruity flavors that 85 or 90% cacao content provides.  We’ve tried the original, almond and coconut flavors and I think almond may be Michael’s favorite, but coconut is my favorite (the heart wants what the heart wants and coconut is my addiction).

Net Carb Counts (in 40 grams, or about half the bar):

22 g Total Carbs – 13 g Fiber – 6 g Erythritol = 3 g Net Carbohydrate

20 g Total Carbohydrate – 13 g Fiber – 5 g Erythritol = 2 g Net Carbohydrate

20 g Total Carbohydrate – 12 g Fiber – 5 g Erythritol = 3 g Net Carbohydrate

Crispy Rice:
23 g Total Carbohydrate – 12 g Fiber – 5 g Erythritol = 6 g Net Carbohydrate

Due to the addition of milkfat in each of these bars, none of these products are vegan – although Lily’s Dark Chocolate Baking Chips *are* vegan and also low in carbohydrate. I haven’t tried them yet because I haven’t been able to find them locally. If you also can’t find these products locally but are interested in trying them, I recommend Netrition.com or you can always check Amazon.

Coconut Bar

Baked Zucchini Rounds

I came across many similar recipes and they had the audacity to call these things “chips.” They are not chips, at least, not unless you bread and pan fry them. They’re really not all that crispy although slice your zucchini thin enough and they get kind of crispy-dehydrated. So, while I liked this recipe, if you’re some kind of Queen who hates mushy zucchini – this is not the one for you.

I seasoned this dish in a way that reminds me of my mother’s white pizza: Parmesan, salt, pepper,  garlic powder and onion powder, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. It definitely hit the right notes.

Baked Zucchini

Baked Zucchini Rounds

2 medium Zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds (about two cups of rounds)
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon or garlic and onion powder
1/4 teaspoon each of oregano and  crushed red pepper
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Oil to spray your cookie sheet (we have coconut oil Pam)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all the seasonings together with the Parmesan cheese. Cover a cookie sheet in foil and then spray with oil. Lay Zucchini slices in one layer. Top each slice with a bit of the Parmesan and seasoning mixture. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the Parmesan starts to brown on top of the zucchini. Best eaten fresh from the oven.  This made two very big servings for Michael and me.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 76 kcal
Fat: 3.5 g
Saturated Fat: 1.9 g
Carbohydrate: 6.5 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 4.5 g
Protein: 6.2 g

Snacking and Hickory Nuts

Before I started on a keto diet, I tended not to snack between meals. The reasoning behind that logic? I was pretty much always hungry and snacking inevitably led to me eating more calories than I otherwise would have when I was trying to run as large a deficit as possible in order to lose weight (calories in vs calories out, right?). Breakfast was coffee with smoked kippers or oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk; lunch was an enormous salad with Tofurky sausage or leftovers from the night before; dinner was most often a vegetarian soup with beans or baked fish accompanied with dark leafy greens plus a serving of basmati rice or roasted potatoes.  The only snacks I allowed myself were one serving of fresh fruit (think plums or nectarines or berries — none of the extra sweet fruit like bananas or grapes or apples) or roasted pumpkin seeds. It was, I think (and my physician agreed), a well-constructed, varied and healthy diet but I was frequently hungry and despite counting calories, limiting refined grains and sugars and engaging in daily physical activity – I was losing no weight.

On keto – I don’t worry about snacking. I don’t worry because although I log everything I eat, I’ve found that I just *don’t* eat more than I need to. I have no problem eating at or below my calorie goal so long as I remain mindful about carbohydrate counts. Some days, I’ll just eat snacks instead of eating a full-fledged lunch.

So what kind of snacks do I eat?

snack plate

Raw red bell pepper; green olives stuffed with lemon peel; dry salami from Volpi (a local company) and Kerrygold Dubliner cheese (think Cheddar crossed with Parmesan – sharp and crumbly and nutty).  The great thing about this snack plate besides the fact that everything tasted awesome? Relatively low protein, high in fat and high in sodium. I find that getting that extra punch of sodium mid-day is so important to keeping the “blahs” at bay. Red bell peppers may also be my single favorite vegetable snack and completely worth the 3-4 grams net carbohydrate in half a pepper: full of vitamins A & C with an extra kick of potassium (again, getting those electrolytes in is so important).

But one of my favorite fatty snacks? Nuts. I eat an ounce of nuts most days: raw pecans or walnuts; roasted macadamia nuts or pistachios. And this weekend, a special package arrived for Michael from Illinois which contained… Hickory Nuts.

Hickory Nuts

Hickory nuts come from the Shag Bark Hickory tree, which is native to the Eastern US and into Canada. By and large, they’re not sold commercially because the tree output varies so much from year to year and the shells are very hard which makes the nuts difficult to process. They taste amazing though – like a pecan but with more of the tannins I associate with walnuts. I quite liked them raw but Michael roasted some this afternoon and they are *really* good. Pecans and walnuts have always been tied for first place in my heart,  but Hickory nuts are the new champion.

The next order of nut business: get my hands on some native pecans, which are supposed to be oilier and taste… wilder.

Baked Salmon with Sour Cream and Mustard

I have an inordinate affection for fish of pretty much all stripes: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, cod, catfish, tuna, etc. It’s probably one of my few healthy eating habits. My laziest meals at home nearly always involve frozen fish and I try to keep my freezer stocked (and my pantry is stocked with tins of tuna; salmon and smoked kippers). I also try to eat the most sustainable fish (you can check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium guides) and limit my exposure to mercury and other contaminants that large fish tend to store in their delicious fats. That means stuff like tuna is generally canned chunk light tuna instead of Yellowfin or Toro. Fish can be incredibly confusing to sort out because the US doesn’t have the best labelling system for fish (understatement of the year), so you really have to know a little bit about what you’re getting before you pay for it (for example, Pacific or Alaskan Salmon is a different fish than Atlantic Salmon and each ranks differently in terms of sustainability and mercury content). It’s possible that the fish monger at your supermarket could be able to help you out and point you in the right direction, I rely on my encyclopedic husband instead.

Salmon is one of those fish that makes me happiest. Wild-caught Pacific Salmon is sustainable, fatty and low in mercury. Plus, it’s a beautiful color, which livens up the plate. I generally buy pre-frozen filets at Costco. You can defrost the filets overnight in the fridge or do the water soak for 20 minutes, which is what I do because I’m bad at planning ahead. Basically, I place the individually shrink wrapped filets in a bowl of cool water, and change the water once. It’s a way to safely and relatively quickly bring your fish to temperature.

Once the filets are thawed, I usually salt, pepper and oil/butter them up before baking . But maybe you want to liven up your salmon a little bit and get a bit more fat in your day? That’s when I pull out this recipe.

Baked Salmon with sour cream

Baked Salmon with Sour Cream and Mustard

2 6-ounce Salmon Filets (I used Sockeye Salmon)
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1 -2 tablespoons of Coarse Ground Mustard
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Place Salmon filets on cooking sheet (grease cookie sheet or cover with parchment paper to prevent sticking). Mix all the ingredients (except salmon) together. Top thawed salmon filets with the sour cream mixture and bake as package directions indicate (in my case: 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes). Based on my own experience with my oven and the fish, I aim for the lower end of the time range. I let my salmon rest for 5 minutes before we dig in.

This is the perfect protein to go with any vegetable side: steamed broccoli; baked zucchini; fresh salad; coleslaw. It makes for an easy, filling meal on nights when I am exhausted.

Nutrition per Serving (this recipe makes two servings):
Calories: 427 kcal
Fat: 23.9 g
Saturated Fat: 8.6 g
Carbohydrate: 3.2 g
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 41.8 g

It Tolls for Thee

I’m more than a little bit of a fan of Taco Bell. No shilling here – I just really like Taco Bell. It grew out of being able to eat vegetarian and vegan there: on the go and for cheap. You can’t beat being able to get a pile of beans and cheese in a cup. I was there when my local franchise premiered the Doritos Locos Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch tacos; when they started serving quesadilla wrapped burritos; and when they started serving breakfast.

The winner at Taco Bell breakfast, as far as Michael and I were concerned, was the AM Crunch Wrap: a tortilla filled with hash browns, scrambled eggs, cheese, meat of your choosing and a tasty, spicy little sauce, folded over and pressed in a pan. It is a tasty, portable breakfast item. And I loved it.

So Michael made us some. Minus the hash browns, of course. And using a low carb tortilla (La Tortilla Factory’s low carb 6-inch tortilla: 3 grams net carbs per tortilla) and his own homemade replica sauce.  Otherwise, its easy enough to scramble eggs, add a full-fat cheese (we use Kraft’s 4 cheese Mexican blend) and the meat you have on hand (we pre-cooked sausage patties). To assemble, layer the sausage with the eggs and top with plenty of cheese (the cheese will help seal the wrap) then drizzle some of the sauce.  Be careful to keep your ingredients centered in the tortilla because next you’ll want to fold the tortilla – basically, you’ll make six folds, folding over the edges of the tortilla towards the center. If they don’t completely overlap the center, that’s okay: that’s why there should be plenty of cheese on top to form a secondary skin. Place the tortilla fold side down on a hot pan (medium-high) which has been sprayed with oil. Let the tortilla sit for a while on this side (I think we usually let it sit for five minutes or so) – before you flip the tortilla – the cheese and tortilla should be browned. Then you just brown the other side (another couple minutes) and make sure the contents are cooked through.

crunch wrap

Michael’s Imitation Quesadilla / CrunchWrap Sauce

1 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Water
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 teaspoon Sweet Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Chipotle Pepper Powder
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Lite Salt
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/8 teaspoon Cumin
1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
Sweetener Equivalent of 4 teaspoons Sugar (ie. 2 packets Splenda; 2 drops of EZ-Sweetz)

Thin mayonnaise with lime juice and water. Add remaining ingredients and mix.

Crunch Wrap Bite

This makes fantastic keto junkfood – hits the Taco Bell spot while also providing a lot of fat. Michael’s sauce is also really nice: I put it in on my salads, too.

Initial Labwork

In an entry on blog.4d2.org, I wrote a bit about the labwork that I have done yearly and additional labwork which was requested by my physician, which I did not have the results for yet.

Every year, I have blood drawn to check the following things:

– Lipid Panel / Cholesterol
– Fasting Blood Glucose
– TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone levels)

The cholesterol and blood sugar tests are the basic tests my primary care physicians have always run on me, I guess as a check to make sure my obesity hasn’t led to any invisible secondary health problems. The thyroid hormone is checked yearly as a result of hypothyroidism, which I was diagnosed with in 2010. My dosage of synthroid (thyroid hormone) was increased once in 2011 but not since then and my yearly TSH tests actually show a decreasing level from year to year since then (this is a good thing – less TSH indicates my thyroid is functioning normally). My fasting blood sugar has always been in the normal range. My cholesterol tends to be in the normal/good range except that my triglycerides go up when I am losing weight (which is to be expected).

My physician, in light of her belief that I am insulin resistant and may have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), ordered a round of additional labwork last month.

– Testosterone
– Insulin
– C Reactive Protein (a measure of inflammation in the body)

I spoke with my doctor’s nurse on the phone today (and have a follow-up appointment for tomorrow), but the results of this additional labwork have been returned. I don’t have the figures, but I was told that my testosterone levels are normal; my insulin levels are slightly elevated and C Reactive Protein is elevated.

So what does any of this mean? In effect, it means very little. My insulin levels are not so high that the doctor would choose to treat me with Metformin or similar drugs. The C Reactive Protein indicates that there is inflammation in my body – but that is often linked with obesity and the doctor believes that as I lose weight, the inflammation will resolve. The normal testosterone level doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t have PCOS since there are a range of symptoms associated with PCOS. Essentially the most reasonable medical intervention I can make right now is exactly what I’m doing: a low carbohydrate diet in an effort to both lose weight and lower my insulin levels. The diet alone should bring my insulin to a normal level and that should (hopefully) lead to weight loss. As I lose weight, the inflammation should resolve.

Progress Check Numero Uno:

I’ve been following this diet since September 29, so it’s been three solid weeks. Over that period of time, I’ve lost 5.5 pounds. That’s not an insignificant amount and the loss has been pretty consistent but it’s also not as precipitous a loss as many people experience on keto diets.

I also take my measurements every four weeks and was due to update them last Friday, October 17. Since September 19, I’ve lost 2.5 inches from my waist (4.5 inches total from August 22) and an additional inch from my hips (2 inches total from August 22). The interesting thing this time around has been how differently I’ve been losing weight. I’ve gained and maintained significant muscles in August and September as a result of daily yoga and so clothes I have that normally wouldn’t fit for another ten or fifteen pound loss can actually fit now (!). The make-up of my  body is changing, even as the weight may change less significantly. This feels pretty awesome, and taking the measurements helps support the overall sensation I have that my lifestyle is moving in the right direction, even if the scale isn’t always.

Make Friends with Salad

Salad with Tofurky

Contrary to all the learning I received from Homer Simpson as a child on the floor in front of the television – you *can* make friends with salad. Or, you *should* make friends with salad. Salad loves you. On Keto, I eat a salad every single day. Why so much salad?

Salad is insanely easy to prepare. I usually have lunch after working out and cleaning or doing some other physically straining thing. The last thing I want to do is spend more than ten minutes preparing a lunch.
It is simple to add both protein and fat to salad: boiled eggs, leftover meat from dinner, slices of cheese or fatty lunch meat, tins of oily fish, olives,  roasted seeds or nuts and then you get to the dressing.

I usually base my salads off romaine lettuce – not only is romaine delightfully crunchy, but it has a pretty high quantity of Vitamin A – a vitamin it can be hard to get on low-carb diets if you don’t eat leafy greens (since carrots and sweet potatoes have way too many carbohydrates).  So what do I add to salad?

Salad with Eggs

To add Fat:
– Dressing, full-fat of course
– Cheese – grated, crumbled, sliced
– Pepperoni or Bacon
– Olives
– Sliced Avocado or Guacamole
– Roasted nuts or seeds (pumpkin seeds are a favorite of mine)

To add Protein:
– Hard Boiled Egg
– Canned Tuna or Salmon (or mackerel or whatever fatty fish you desire)
– Tofurkey Italian Sausage (Vegan. High in fat and protein, and 4 net carbs)
– Ground Beef (flavored with taco seasoning is awesome, I try to find the fattier ground beef)
– Leftover proteins from meals: rotisserie chicken; baked fish; shredded pork, etc

To add just because:
– A few grape tomatoes
– Sliced bell peppers
– Broccoli florets
– Sliced Purple Cabbage
– Pickles
– Salsa

I like to make my own dressing for salads because it’s easy and kicks up the flavor and freshness factors. For a creamy base, I use the following:

Kara’s Creamy Dressing Base:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream

Mix together and thin with water to desired consistency.  Seasoning can be as simple or as complicated as desired. For coleslaw, I’ve added vinegar, celery seeds, onion and garlic powder, dry mustard and a drop of liquid splenda (equivalent to 2 tsp sweetener). You could add blue cheese crumbles and chopped fresh herbs for a nice chopped salad.

Colorful Salad

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