Kara's Keto Plates

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Category: Dinner (page 1 of 2)

Salmon with Olive Relish

It’s really winter. It’s grey and windy and just… ugh, boring. I’ve been dreaming about vegetable ragout and roasted peppers and zucchini and eggplant. And I’ve been eating nothing but frozen spinach and broccoli and fresh green salads because the peppers and zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes at the store look pitiful. I guess that’s to be expected, but it gets boring. Really boring.

Enter this olive relish, which I created using only what I had on hand to top some baked salmon. It was a nice change of pace and a reminder that one day winter will end. In the meantime, we can eat bright, cured vegetables.

Salmon with Olive Relish

Salmon with Olive Relish

Ingredients:
2 Salmon Filets (about 6 ounces each), thawed
1 Tablespoon Butter (or margarine)
5 Green Olives with Pimento, chopped
3 small, cured Peppers, chopped (or 1 tablespoon Roasted Red Peppers or Sun-dried Tomatoes)
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 teaspoon Dried Minced Onion
1/2 teaspoon Basil (I used dried)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar, to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to bake the salmon. Prep your baking sheet with a spritz of oil or cover with parchment paper. Salt and Pepper the salmon and add a pat of butter or margarine – about a teaspoon or so – to the top of each filet before baking for 10-15 minutes.  Then get to your relish, you’ll notice that mine is quite chunky: I chopped (by hand) green olives with pimento, capers and these lovely cured peppers we got at World Market which are tiny and deep red (and add a bit of sweetness and a bit of heat). You could add a tablespoon of roasted red peppers to or Sun-dried tomatoes (use the kind preserved in oil) to similar effect. I probably added about a teaspoon or so of balsamic vinegar and maybe a bit more than a teaspoon of a good olive oil to the chopped vegetables and then added the dried minced onions, basil, salt and pepper. The relish could probably be infinitely improved by fresh onion and fresh basil, but I had to use what we had on hand. You can make the relish ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours, just take it out to warm to room temperature about 20-30 minutes before the baked salmon will be done. This made two servings, and I served the salmon alongside a Caesar salad.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 350 kcal
Fat: 22 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Total Carbohydrate: 3.5 g
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 31 g

Net Carbohydrate: 3.5

Fried Tofu and Veg with Peanut Sauce

Every so often, the old vegan in me or Michael kicks us and says, hey, guys, what about me? It’s hard for me to help it: I am much more passionate about vegetables than I am about pretty much any meat (my exceptions: grass-fed steak; salmon; bacon). I understand vegetables. I know how to cook them and how to season them and most importantly, I know what I like about them. Meat is almost always a shot in the dark for me. I couldn’t fry a piece of chicken to save my life. But I can fry tofu.

Enter this meal. A brick of tofu, an assortment of vegetables, a peanut butter and coconut milk based sauce. It’s not the lowest carbohydrate meal or the highest protein meal but it is packed with vegetables and flavor and texture. It is also free of any animal products, which can be a welcome change of pace.

tofu and veg in peanut sauce

Pan-Fried Tofu and Vegetables with Peanut Sauce

Sauce Ingredients:
6 tablespoons Natural Peanut Butter, creamy
1/4 cup Coconut Milk, full fat
1/3 cup water to thin the sauce (you may need more)
Sweetener equivalent to 2-3 tablespoons Sugar. I used liquid splenda.
Juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Ginger Garlic Paste (or you could do two teaspoons each of minced garlic and grated ginger)
1/4 teaspoon of Sriracha (if you have it on hand)
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste

Meal Ingredients:
Brick extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
Vegetables of your choosing, at least 4 cups. We used 1 cup broccoli; 4 oz snow peas; 2 cups bok choy (it cooked down a LOT); 8 oz mushrooms and one green bell pepper. I did not use any onion to keep the carb count low.
Avocado, lime and cilantro for garnish.
Oil – we used canola and sesame oil to fry the tofu and cook the vegetables. Probably a tablespoon of canola and maybe 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil.

Directions:
Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and set aside. I like my sauce to be pretty sweet and spicy, since the vegetables won’t be seasoned. Drain the tofu – I also press mine. I happen to have a tofu press (which looks an awful lot like flower presses I used to use back in the day) but you can also wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel, place it between two plates and weigh the top plate with a can or something and let it be for at least half an hour. While you’re doing that you can prep your vegetables. I steamed my broccoli ahead of time, and also cleaned, trimmed and chopped the bok choy, mushrooms, snow peas and bell pepper. The white parts of the bok choy, the mushrooms and the pepper I set aside in one bowl and then the greens of the bok choy, the snow peas and the steamed and drained broccoli I put in another container.

Once the tofu has pressed for at least half an hour, chop it into 1/2 inch cubes. My cubes were bigger and harder to fry evenly. Set a pan on medium-high heat and add a tablespoon canola oil and maybe a teaspoon of sesame oil. Once the oil is heated, add your tofu. Stir it as you cook it to brown each side. The browned tofu will be crispy on the outside and creamy and almost airy on the inside (this is especially aided by the pressing beforehand). Once the tofu is done, take it out of the pan and set it aside. There should be some oil left in the pan – if not add some additional sesame oil and throw the tougher vegetables in: the whites of the bok choy, the pepper and the mushrooms. Keep stirring your vegetables for a few minutes then add the broccoli, snow peas and and the greens from the bok choy. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until the greens of the bok choy have wilted. Add the peanut sauce to the pan and continue stirring. Serve with lime slices, chopped cilantro and avocado as garnish.

This made four servings. I didn’t include garnishes in the nutrition information below, but we each ate half an avocado as garnish (a not insignificant quantity of tasty fat and fiber, but it also added 2 grams carbohydrate to our meal.)

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories: 392 kcal
Total Fat: 28 g
Saturated Fat: 5.5 g
Total Carbohydrate: 15.5 g
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 19 g

Net Carbohydrate: 10.5 g

Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach is one of those foods I consider to be grown-up food. That being said, I have loved spinach my entire life. My mother used to buy Stouffer’s brand frozen Spinach Souffle as a side dish pretty rarely but it was among my favorites (and I know it was one of her favorites); she also made spinach squares (sort of a cheesy egg casserole) and phyllo dough stuffed with spinach and cheese around the holidays. So, yes, spinach is healthy enough to eat year-round but I always think of it around the holidays. Maybe my mother purposefully pulled out the spinach recipes around the holidays to try to get us some healthy vitamins in the midst of all the face-stuffing with cookies.

I love creamed spinach, but it frequently harbors hidden carbs in the white cream sauce – sometimes a LOT of carbs. It makes sense – typically when you make a white sauce, you either start with a roux (butter and flour) or you thicken the sauce with cornstarch – both of which are full of carbohydrates. For this recipe, I replaced the flour with arrowroot, which worked so well that I am thinking we need to work on a biscuit recipe (maybe Carbquik?) and make up some sausage gravy and biscuits.

Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach

Ingredients:
14 oz Spinach (one brick frozen, chopped spinach) or you can use fresh
1 tablespoon Butter
2 cloves Garlic, minced
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of Water
1 teaspoon Arrowroot
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
1/8 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Start by prepping your spinach. If you’re using fresh, wash thoroughly, and then place in a covered skillet on medium heat, salt and cover. The spinach should be wilted in a few minutes – drain in a colander until it cools, then squeeze the excess liquid out by hand (or use a cheesecloth if you have one). Once you’ve squeezed the moisture out, chop the spinach. If you’re using frozen chopped spinach (which is easier), place it in a covered microwave safe dish with a small quantity of water and heat until warmed through. Drain in a colander to cool, then squeeze the excess liquid out. Set aside.

To make the cream sauce, start by melting butter in a small saucepan on medium high heat.  Add the garlic to the butter. Mix the cream, water and arrowroot together separately in a different bowl/cup. When the garlic has been in the pan for a minute or two, add the cream, water and arrowroot mixture to the saucepan and start whisking. Keep a close eye on the mixture – when it seems as though it is close to boiling (the sauce will start thickening), add the cheese and seasoning. Keep whisking until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Take the sauce off the heat and add the spinach to the pan and stir until coated. Taste to make sure the seasoning is adequate. This recipe made about three generous servings for us, but we are people who can eat some serious spinach – you might get more mileage out of it. I served this alongside a Tofurky brand italian sausage and oven-roasted mushrooms.

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories: 181 kcal
Fat: 12.5 g
Saturated Fat: 8.5 g
Total Carbohydrate: 6 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 5 g

Net Carbohydrate: 4 g

Dinner, 3 December

I promised to photograph my meals more often. Here’s a half-eaten photo of the dinner I made last night:

Dinner December 3

Salmon with sour cream
Half of a red bell pepper, sliced
Half of a medium tomato, sliced
Homemade ranch dressing (Michael’s ranch seasoning with a base made from mayonnaise, sour cream and heavy whipping cream)

A lot of folks will tell you that tomatoes and bell peppers are not particularly low carb, and they’re right. But they’re also not especially high in carbohydrate either. In total, the vegetables on this plate added maybe 5 grams of net carbohydrate to my dinner. That’s really not much, especially when you consider what the tomato and bell pepper add, in terms of micronutrients:
a significant amount of potassium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C – all micronutrients which can be difficult to get on a keto diet.

I bring this up only because I see so many people limit themselves to 10 or 15 net grams of carbohydrate a day and then experience health problems because they’re not getting sufficient fiber, or Vitamins C and A. I’ve been actively trying to limit myself to 25 grams or so in the hopes it would accelerate my weight loss (before I was eating about 35 grams – and after a month the lower carb intake honestly hasn’t accelerated the weight loss at all). When I made the decision to limit myself to 25 grams of net carbohydrate, I decided I would do so by cutting back on things like: atkins bars and shakes, low carb tortillas and carbsmart icecream, in favor of incorporating more whole foods in my day: which meant more salads, more raw veggies, more hard boiled eggs, more bacon, more broth. I do believe there’s a place for all the frankenfood and the keto-friendly treats but limiting those is a much smarter (and healthier) way to bring daily net carb counts down than eliminating vegetables like bell peppers or tomatoes. I’m not making the argument that some carbs are better (all carbs are carbs), just arguing that you can use your carbohydrate limit in smarter ways or in ways that may make you physically ill (vitamin deficiencies don’t play around).

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

My younger sister came for a visit this weekend. She was traveling for her job and happened to be in close proximity with enough of a break to allow a visit. She is also a foodie (her job and her passion) and so, of course, we cooked. I decided now would be a good time to try a new recipe, and sis was more than happy to take it on while I did my same old roasted fajita vegetables. We made a boatload of food, all of it fatty and delicious.

I’m from Maryland, therefore my personal religious belief is that Old Bay seasoning is suitable (nay, preferred) for pretty much everything. That being said, it may not be available to you, locally. In that case, feel free to add seasoning of your choosing to the cheese mixture.

Jalapeno Poppers

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients:
Jalapenos – two per each person you’re feeding. I used six.
1/2 cup Cream Cheese, softened.
1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Old Bay, to taste
Chives, to taste
Bacon slices, cut in half. One full strip for each Jalapeno.

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prep your jalapenos – slice in half and remove ribs/seeds. Mix the cream cheese with the seasonings and then add in the cheddar cheese. Stuff each jalapeno half with the cheese mixture, and wrap each half with half a slice of bacon. Since we didn’t have toothpicks, Sis wrapped the bacon such that the seam was on the bottom of the pepper. The bacon we used was thick-cut and not par-baked at all, but the bacon and the peppers had cooked through in about twenty minutes.

To cook the jalapenos, I recommend prepping a sheet pan as follows: cover with foil and set a rack on top of the sheet pan (I used a rack I have for cooling baked goods – hasn’t had much use lately). Place the jalapenos on top of the rack. This allows the bacon to cook more evenly on the peppers.

I recommend two peppers per each person eating, but I should say that I am the ONLY one of us who ate four pepper halves. This is likely because we also had the following on hand for dinner (as you can see in the picture): roasted fajita vegetables (mushrooms; zucchini and yellow squash; bell peppers), ground beef (seasoned with cumin, cayenne, chipotle, onion and garlic powder), low carb tortillas and all the toppings: avocado; salsa; sour cream and cheddar cheese. Point is, if you’re making this as an appetizer or one side to a dinner, one pepper (two halves) per person is probably sufficient.

Nutritional Information (per each half):
Calories: 80 kcal
Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 3.7 g
Total Carbohydrate: 1 g
Fiber: < 1 g
Protein: 3.6 g

Italian “Wedding” Soup

You may or may not have had Italian Wedding soup – I love it. It usually has little round pasta balls and tiny Chef Boyardee sized meatballs and some kind of leafy green floating around in a light broth. Pretty much every soup can win me over with leafy greens floating around in the bowl and pretty much every soup I make features floating leafy greens because they’re awesome. They’re nutritious, they add bulk, they provide an interesting texture experience and an astringency that most soups desperately need.

Most of the recipes I looked at called for baby spinach to be the leafy green in Italian Wedding soup – but don’t fall into that trap. Baby spinach is needlessly expensive to just throw into a soup. I use curly kale instead, which is cheaper and I think has a nicer texture.

I decided to make a low carb version of Italian Wedding soup, featuring my homemade Italian Meatballs. I didn’t fuss with making small meatballs because that would be a pain, and it’s easy enough to split a meatball with a spoon in the bowl.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients:
One Tablespoon Bacon Fat (you could substitute butter or olive oil)
One Tablespoon Butter
Half of an Onion, chopped
3 stalks Celery, chopped
2 whole Carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4-6 cups Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Dry White Wine (if desired)
1 teaspoon each of: Basil, Oregano, Parsley and Thyme
Black Pepper, to taste
1 bunch curly Kale – trimmed and cut into thin pieces
1 recipe of Italian Meatballs

Directions:
Heat your bacon fat and butter on medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add your chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pan. Heat the vegetables, stirring often, until the onion is beginning to become translucent. Add the minced garlic. Cook the garlic an additional couple minutes and then add your stock. While the stock is coming up to a boil, add your dried herbs and some pepper. This is also the period of time where I start to prep my kale: rinse well, cut or slice out the stem and then chop or rip into small enough pieces to fit in a spoon.  Add your kale and meatballs, and bring the soup to a boil. Once it is boiling, bring the heat down to low and simmer until the meatballs are heated through and the kale is cooked – maybe 10-15 minutes.  The soup is ready to eat at this point, although you could continue to simmer it for an hour or so if desired. This recipe makes four large servings.

I garnished the soup with some parmesan when I served it.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 458 kcal
Fat: 24.5 g
Saturated Fat: 9.6 g
Total Carbohydrate: 16.1 g
Fiber: 4.8 g
Protein: 41.5 g

Italian Meatballs

As part of her means to ensure that her children would be able to cook for themselves, my mother had a grand idea to make each of us prepare a dinner one night a week. Every week, without fail, I made meatballs. A pound of ground beef, an egg, breadcrumbs and seasoning – then into the oven they went while I boiled pasta and made a spaghetti sauce out of canned tomato sauce and tomato paste, onion and garlic powder and dried herbs. Sometimes I even made garlic bread to go on the side (along with salad). It was easily my favorite meal and I really liked being able to control the seasoning because I had a texture thing against onions that was *finally* trained out of me by Michael after a couple years of marriage (ie, he sat me down at the dinner table and watched me eat an entire plate of what amounted to curried onions with chickpeas. At the time, I nearly cried).

In any case, meatballs were my favorite dinner and turned a chore (cooking for a large and picky family) into something I could enjoy. Luckily,  they are simple to make low carb friendly.

Italian Seasoned Meatballs

Ingredients:
1 lb Ground Beef, thawed
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/3 cup Almond Flour
2 cloves Garlic, minced (or about 1 Tablespoon)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried Parsley
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Sweet Paprika
Dash Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper, as desired

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop up your garlic and set it aside. I mixed my dry ingredients (Parmesan, almond flour, and dried herbs and spices minus salt and pepper) in a separate bowl – but this is not necessary. Place the ground beef into a large bowl, breaking it up with your fingers as you do so. Add salt (I sprinkled maybe 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper (about 4 twists of my grinder), the egg and the chopped garlic, mix these until they are loosely incorporated. Do not be the person that mixes these ingredients with a spoon – get in that bowl with your hands, they’re the best tool for the job. Sprinkle the dry ingredients evenly over the top of the beef and then mix again until everything is incorporated – you don’t want any dry deposits or wet spots and the beef should begin to hold it’s shape.

Once you’re at that point, it’s time to roll! Make sure you have a cookie sheet – either grease it plenty or use parchment paper. I used parchment and the meatballs didn’t stick at all. The meatballs should be about an inch big – forming them is super easy. Just roll the beef mixture between the palms of your hand. That should make a nice, even ball shape. Throw the ball on the cookie sheet, make sure there’s a bit of room between each (they won’t expand, but you need the space in order to heat them evenly on all sides). Once you’ve rolled up all the meatballs, place the cookie sheet in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes to cook through, I flipped my meatballs midway through the cooking time  – partially to make sure they weren’t sticking and partially to brown the other side.

This recipe makes what I consider to be four generous servings. You can serve the meatballs with a low carb marinara sauce or do what I did: make a pot of Italian Wedding soup.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories: 298 kcal
Fat: 17.8 g
Saturated Fat: 6.5 g
Total Carbohydrate: 3 g
Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 30.5 g

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