Kara's Keto Plates

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Grocery Shopping and Meals

I realized, in all the excitement of cooking and posting recipes, that I haven’t really talked about grocery shopping or meal planning. So, I thought I’d post the groceries I got this week, and my planned meals. This is a particularly interesting week because there’s really a lot of variety in what we’re eating and frankly, it feels like a metric butt load of vegetables for two people.

We have our groceries delivered intermittently by GreenBEAN (some weeks we don’t do GreenBEAN and instead I head to our local grocery store). The following are the groceries we got from GreenBEAN on December 18, which should get us through most of the next week.

Groceries, Week beginning December 18:

Avocado (2)
Bell Pepper, Green (1)
Blackberries (1 pint)
Broccoli (2 heads)
Bok Choy (16 oz)
Cabbage, Green (1 head)
Kale, Lacinato (1 bunch)
Kiwi (1)
Limes (3)
Mushrooms, Cremini (16 oz)
Onions, Green (1 bunch)
Orange (1)
Romaine (1 head)
Snow Peas (8 oz)
Tomatoes, Cherry (1 pint)

Astute readers will have noticed that many of these foods are not particularly low carb: tomatoes; snow peas; the orange. But since Michael and I have cut out the Atkins junk we’d been eating, we’re both eating about 20 net carbs a day – which leaves plenty of space to eat half an orange or kiwi; a handful of blackberries or cherry tomatoes; and add the snow peas to a stir fry. The meal plans for the next few days are as follows:

Friday, December 19: Baked kale chips; scrambled eggs; breakfast sausage and cherry tomatoes
Saturday, December 20: Taco salad with romaine; cherry tomatoes; avocado and ground beef. Baked low carb tortillas for crunch.
Sunday, December 21: Pan-fried tofu and stir-fried snow peas, mushrooms, green pepper, broccoli, bok choy with Peanut Sauce. Avocado, lime, and green onions to garnish.
Monday, December 22: Pulled Pork (storebought) with coleslaw
Tuesday, December 23: Leftovers from Sunday (if not already eaten as lunch) or beef stroganoff with mushrooms; steamed broccoli on side

That meal plan uses up all the vegetables we have on hand. The orange, the kiwi, the blackberries? Sweet treats. The extra limes? For use in gin rickeys or gin and tonics. The leftovers we have from dinners are usually eaten the next day for breakfast/lunch. I imagine we may have sufficient leftovers to not have to cook on December 24. If I do have to cook? Frozen salmon and frozen steam-in-bag vegetables to the rescue. And my plan for December 25, as a holiday meal, is a low-carb cheese fondue with steamed and fresh vegetables and salami for dipping (which I will shop for separately, early next week).

Layered Peppermint Candy

One of the candies I almost never eat except for Christmas day: York Peppermint Patties. It’s one of the candies my mother in law always includes in our stocking candy (and she has sent stocking candy to us even after we moved halfway across the country… even going so far as to send us the stockings for the first Christmas we spent in Missouri). I don’t know about Michael, but for me those peppermint candies are now fully associated in my mind with digging into stockings. So I set about making a peppermint candy… although given the quantity of coconut oil, I would not recommend sticking this in a stocking.

These aren’t the prettiest candies, although if you had a chocolate mold you could certainly make them pretty. They are tasty little fat bombs, though. Michael says they are far more reminiscent of Andes mints than the patties from York,  which made me instantly regret not dying the filling, so keep that in mind (if you’re not anti food-dye). The peppermint filling recipe I used is from this site, but I think my process is a little bit easier and I made a chocolate coating out of cocoa powder because that is much, much cheaper than buying chocolate sweetened without sugar.

Layered Peppermint Candy

Layered Peppermint Candy

Ingredients For Chocolate Coating:
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1/4 cup Coconut Oil (the kind that is solid at room temperature – not liquid), melted
Liquid Splenda, to taste
1/4 teaspoon Mint extract

Ingredients for Peppermint Filling:
6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (again – the kind that is solid at room temperature)
1/3 cup Coconut Milk – Full Fat
1/3 cup Erythritol, Ground + Liquid Splenda to taste
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour (finely ground)
1 teaspoon Mint extract
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Optional: Green food dye

Prepare your mold or candy liners first. I just used mini baking cups, which I set in a plastic storage container to hold them steady. You could use a chocolate mold, a mini muffin tin with liners, whatever.  Make the chocolate coating (it takes only a few moments): melt the coconut oil over low heat, mix in the cocoa powder, liquid splenda and mint extract – then use about half the chocolate to put a layer of the chocolate coating at the bottom (you can also try to coat the sides of the liners or mold so it looks more like a peanut butter cup). Stick the liners/mold with the chocolate coating in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.

While the chocolate shell is hardening, make the filling. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl – it should form a pretty thick paste (do not melt the coconut oil you use for the filling). Pull the hardened chocolate shells out of the freezer, scoop the peppermint filling into each liner (for my mini cups, I added maybe 2 teaspoons or so of filling to each) and smooth the top of the peppermint filling. Place the candies back in the freezer to let the peppermint filling harden – maybe five to ten minutes, depending on how big your candies are and how thick your filling is. Then pull the candies out of the freezer and spoon the remaining chocolate coating on the top of each candy (if you want pretty candy, spread the chocolate so it coats the entire top), then place the candies back in the freezer to harden.  I store them in the freezer in one container with the layers of candies separated by parchment paper. This recipe made about twenty mini candies (like miniature Reese’s cups size).

Nutrition Information (per each candy):
Calories: 75 kcal
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Total Carbohydrate: 1.5 g
Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 1 g

Net Carbohydrate: .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

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

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

Gingerbread Cookies

The holidays have meant many different things to me over the years, but there has been one constant: cookies. My mother was always famous (infamous?) in our family for her cookie smorgasbord. When we were younger, she might make ten or fifteen different kinds of cookies: 7 layer bars (hello dolly); sugar cookies; spritz cookies; ginger cookies; rugelach; chocolate butter cookies; homemade fudge; this amazing pistachio toffee dipped in dark chocolate; truffles. My mother was like a one-woman cookie factory and every year there were new recipes to try. Tins full of cookies went to neighbors, teachers, friends. She has cut back as time has gone on, but the memories stay with me: the holiday season is not the holiday season if I’m not standing in a warm kitchen over a mixer or rolling out cold dough. I feel strongly enough about cookies during the holidays that when I moved out and married Michael, one of the first things I bought for us was a set of cookie cutters.

Oh, I’ve tried to approximate cookies without cookies. I’ve made cinnamon spiced ornaments with cookie cutters instead of cookies (not the same). I’ve made spiced tea for myself instead of cookies (not the same). I’ve spent holidays baking nothing, but that always felt so empty and lonely.

Enter the gingerbread cookie recipe which I found here. I liked the fact that the dough could be rolled out and that it included an icing recipe.  I ran to our fancy grocery store this Monday for coconut flour and arrowroot and I came home and made this recipe.

I found that the dough was way too dry – I added a teaspoon or two of melted butter so the dough had the right consistency. I also used Erythritol instead of Swerve – so I added some additional sweetener (liquid splenda) since Erythritol is only 70% as sweet as sugar. Even though I have finely ground almond and coconut flour and threw my erythritol into a coffee grinder to powder it, the dough was still very grainy. I wonder if I shouldn’t have put the coconut flour and almond flour in the food processor for a bit more of a smooth grind. In any case, the dough did roll out and was easy to stamp with cookie cutters. I would definitely roll the dough out thinner instead of thicker, the crunchier texture is nicer in this context. I also used lemon juice (and some orange zest I had on hand) to flavor the icing instead of vanilla. I didn’t bother piping the icing or doing fancy decorations because I figured only Michael and I would be willing to stomach the low carb cookies. The icing did dry hard, but once again, even after grinding the Erythritol, it leaves a grain (which kind of shimmers in the light) and is unpleasantly cooling. I would not recommend Erythritol for icing due to the cooling factor.

That being said, Michael and I have plowed through the cookies. Like most cookies, they make a good breakfast alongside a cup of coffee. Or afternoon snack with a cup of tea. Or after-dinner treat with a cup of gin.

Gingerbread Cookies

Baked Radish “Chips”

By and large, I am not a huge fan of radishes. I like them pickled (for example, takuan). I will tolerate a small quantity raw in a salad. But with a world of other vegetables to eat… radishes don’t often come to mind.

Maybe that changes with this recipe. I originally intended to deep fry the radish slices, but Michael convinced me that without a deep fat fryer, it would be difficult to heat the oil consistently and I would be disappointed with the results. I sliced the radishes (the small, red kind – not daikon) on the thinnest setting on my mandolin. They ended up paper-thin: I would probably use the second setting next time. I hate myself for thinking it, but I almost wish I had a deep fat fryer. I would fry all the things: zucchini, radishes, pickles.

baked radish chips

Baked Radish “Chips”

1 bunch Radishes, sliced thinly (about ten radishes)
1 tablespoon Oil to coat the radish slices (I used 2 tsp coconut oil; 1 tsp melted butter)
Seasoning (we used salt, black pepper, garlic powder and sweet paprika)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash radishes and slice thinly, by hand or with mandolin. Place radish slices in small saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil. Boil for about 5 minutes (the pink peel will start to lighten) and drain in colander. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet (I needed two because I sliced the radishes too thin). Once drained, coat with oil (maybe a tablespoon total – I went heavy on the oil) and then place radishes flat, in one layer on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle seasoning of your choosing on the slices and then place in oven. Ours were done within ten minutes (again, sliced way thin), so keep an eye on them. They didn’t crisp up but the flavor was very reminiscent of roasted potatoes. We ate through most of the bunch of radishes – so I’d say this makes two generous servings. I served these alongside a green salad and pulled pork.

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories: 59 kcal
Fat: 6.5 g
Saturated Fat: 5 g
Total Carbohydrate: ~ 1 g
Fiber: .5 g
Protein: 0 g

Net Carbohydrate: .5 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).

Nothing New

I haven’t been posting much here, because I’ve been cooking pretty boring-ly.

For example, this weekend:  chopped Romaine with baked low-carb tortilla strips (slice tortillas, spray oil on cookie sheet, spray additional oil on top of strips and salt, bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for fifteen to twenty minutes); sliced avocado and tofurkey Italian sausage.  I also cheated at making a Caesar dressing last week (used mayonnaise instead of raw eggs and oil) and we had big Caesar salads with Italian sausage on the side (I took the sausage out of its casing and crumbled it into a non-stick pan, then cooked it through). Michael also made the waffle recipe here (minus adding the batter to the frosting, because food safety), we split one waffle – and it was good (the waffles were surprisingly fluffy and dense; the frosting was glorious, and Michael made extra frosting for me).

Last night, we had eggs scrambled with green peppers and cremini mushrooms, topped with nacho cheese sauce, chopped tomatoes and avocado. It was a supremely easy meal. Tonight, I’m making the Italian wedding soup again, since I have a bunch of curly kale to use up.

Truthfully, I haven’t been taking many pictures of my meals, which I intended to do when I started. I will try to get better about that – especially since most of what I’m trying to show is that a low carb diet can include a wide variety of foods and the way I’m cooking is truthfully not all that different from how I cooked when I ate vegan (I actually find myself panicking about cooking a protein, but vegetable “sides” come easy to me).

There’s a few recipes in the pipeline to post: pan-fried tofu and veggies in peanut sauce; Michael’s low-carb baked crab cakes. And I’ll be experimenting with some more baking and possibly candy-making for the holidays.

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