Thursday, June 26, 2014

Keto Sweets: Fat Bombs, aka "candy"

I have a chef for a best friend, and a very creative kitchen ninja for a husband, which makes me one lucky lady. I love that both of them are so supportive and excited about experimenting with ketogenic recipes with me. When I was researching ketogenic recipes, I stumbled upon something called a "fat bomb." That didn't sound very appetizing to me, but I'm glad that I looked into it further, because what it really means is keto candy! Fat bombs are an easy way to add fat to your diet, to get that ratio of calories from fat up. I have found that if I'm worried about eating a few carbs (for example, a little watermelon in a salad the other day), eating a fat bomb or two seems to counteract the little bit of sugar and keeps my fat ratio high enough that I remain in ketosis. Kent told me that he used to just eat a spoonful of olive oil once in a while, to get the same effect, but that sounds a little too intense for me. Fat bomb candy goes down a lot easier in my opinion! It seems counterintuitive to say that if you eat a few too many carbs, you atone for your sins by eating candy! But it is true, and like many things about this diet, it goes against what we've learned about nutrition in the past. But, the ketostix don't lie. Since I have begun adding fat bombs to my diet, my ketosis has been kicked into overdrive! I had the darkest test strip ever this morning (the deepest possible purple!), after having a decadent, absolutely not deprived day of delicious meals yesterday. There is no motivation like that to stick to this plan! I am really looking forward to getting a new scale this weekend. The one we have now is so frustrating, because you can weigh yourself 10 times in a row and never get the same result twice. I look forward to an accurate scale so I can really see some results. So far though, my clothes fitting looser is pretty good proof in my book.

There are tons of fat bomb recipes available online- especially on Pinterest. They have the potential to have endless flavor combos- especially with out large collection of sugar free Torani syrups. They don't require a bunch of fancy equipment, you could just pour the mixture onto a tray and break it up like bark, but I really like using silicon molds, so that's what we used to make them cute. Here are two recipes that Kent came up with, after he tried some that my best friend Shannon made for us. Hers were dark chocolate on the outside, peanut butter in the middle. He didn't want to mess with layers, so he came up with an all in one mixture.

Heaven IS for real. 
Chocolate Caramel Peanut Fat Bombs

7 oz coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated stevia
1/8 cup granulated splenda
1/8 cup PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
2 Tblsp. heavy cream
2 Tblsp. Sugar Free Caramel Torani syrup
1/2 cup salted, roasted peanuts

Lightly spray candy mold with non stick spray, and place it on a cookie sheet for stability. In a microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil. Add remaining ingredients, except for peanuts. Stir to combine. You will see that the stevia will not dissolve until the cream and Torani syrup are added. Once mixture is thoroughly combined, pour into molds. Top each candy with a few peanuts. Place in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes. Pop each candy out of the mold, and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Every time I get one from the freezer, I sing La Bamba! 
Coconut Macadamia Nut Chocolate Fat Bombs

7 oz coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated stevia
1/8 cup granulated splenda
2 Tblsp. heavy cream
2 Tblsp. Sugar Free Coconut Torani syrup
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Lightly spray candy mold with non stick spray, and place it on a cookie sheet for stability. In a microwave safe bowl, melt coconut oil. Add remaining ingredients, except for macadamia nuts. Stir to combine. You will see that the stevia will not dissolve until the cream and Torani syrup are added. Sprinkle a spoonful of macadamia nuts into each candy mold. Top with chocolate mixture. Place in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes. Pop each candy out of the mold, and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

There are so many possibilites with these things. I would like to make one that is a dark chocolate shell filled with unsweetened coconut mixed with caramel Torani and chopped almonds for a German chocolate vibe. Or a lemon cookie flavored one using our zero carb protein shake mix (which tastes like vanilla wafers) and lemon essential oil. I will keep scheming and post more recipes as they develop!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Keto Sweets: Drink Your Fat

When Kent did the Keto diet years ago, he had one thing different than this time around- not much of a sweet tooth. That made things easier for him to resist, but it also didn't make him invent keto desserts. This time, with me on board, necessity is the mother of invention, because I do have a sweet tooth, and need to find a fix! It has paid off for him, because although he doesn't crave sweets like I do, he is benefiting from the delicious things I'm coming up with. This week I'd like to focus on a couple of ways we are satisfying the dessert cravings, while staying in ketosis. Today's method is through dessert-like beverages.

The first idea I had was to make a root beer "float" using diet root beer and a little heavy cream. This quickly became Kent's go to breakfast, because it is quick, easy and portable. I decided to branch out and try some different flavor profiles, and wanted to use some of the many types of sugar free Torani syrup that we have on hand. Cream soda, as a vanilla base, is very versatile with lots of other flavors. Here's a list of the winning combinations I've come up with so far:

This stuff is awesome! 
Diet root beer with 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
Diet cream soda and 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
     +2 Tablespoons SF Chocolate Torani syrup
     +2 Tablespoons SF Raspberry Torani syrup
     +2 Tablespoons SF Chai Tea Torani syrup
     +2 Tablespoons SF Butterscotch Torani syrup
     +2 Tablespoons SF Peach Torani syrup, + 1 Tablespoon SF Brown Sugar Cinnamon Torani syrup
Diet orange soda with 2 Tablespoons SF French Vanilla Torani syrup and 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

I also like to use our Keurig coffee maker to make iced coffee in the summer. We currently have two flavors of K-cups, a chocolate donut flavor, and a vanilla biscotti, which are both sugar free. I really like to brew my coffee into a mug, using the 8 oz strength, when I first wake up in the morning. I put the mug into the freezer to cool off the coffee. Right before I leave the house, I fill a large insulated cup with ice, and pour in my cooled coffee. I add sugar free Torani flavored syrup (usually French Vanilla, Caramel, or White Chocolate), a packet of stevia, and some heavy cream. Stir it up, and I'm out the door. I get my sweet fix, and the heavy cream keeps me fueled all morning.

It works best to try to adapt things that are already creamy.

I also use the Keurig to just make hot water to brew tea. You can actually put a tea bag inside of one of those reusable k-cups to pressure brew it, or just run the hot water and steep the teabag in your cup. I am not normally a person who likes dairy in tea, but I do love Thai iced tea, which is a bright orange colored black tea that is flavored with vanilla and is traditionally served over ice with sweetened condensed milk. I did the same, but replaced the condensed milk with two stevia packets and some heavy cream. It is just as tasty! I love coming up with alternatives to things I used to love, and I don't feel deprived at all. Sometimes the low carb version is better than the original in flavor, not just in health benefits!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Be prepared!

With any low carb diet, it is crucial that you be prepared with food on hand, or at least a list of appropriate restaurant options. I know that when I get hungry, I get cranky, and the most common argument (discussion, really) Kent and I have is when we are trying to figure out what to do for dinner, and the more indecisive we are, the hungrier and crankier we get! It's a frustrating spiral.

For foods to keep on hand at home, I have created a standard keto grocery list ready to go in a spreadsheet, so my shopping is easy every time. Here it is, for your reference. If you'd like, you can modify the spreadsheet in Excel to add columns for each of the grocery stores in your area, and keep track of the prices on items to see which store has the best deals. This is called a price book. Keep in mind that sometimes places like gas stations and drugstores actually have better prices on certain items than grocery stores do, so keep your eye out! I have not yet made a price book, but it seems like a good idea. A little extra work seems to be worth it in the long run, because eating low carb isn't cheap, and any way to save helps. My grocery shopping is typically split between Hy-Vee, Walmart and Aldi. I like to stock up on certain things when I can make it to a Trader Joe's, but the closest one is two hours away.

Sometimes though, we get busy and realize that we really need to go grocery shopping, but we are hungry right now, and need to go out to eat. I made a list of restaurants in our area that we already like, and the best low carb options at each place. I encourage you to do the same, since every town has different options. I folded this list up and put it in my wallet. Next time I am ravenous, I won't have to rely on my starving brain to come up with ideas when I'm desperate. Here is my list- maybe some of the options will work for you too.

Baked fish with butter sauce and slivered almonds, steamed veggies from Highway 63 Diner.

House salad with creamy garlic dressing, cheese curds from Highway 63 Diner.
I only have the carb counts listed for a few of the items on the list below. Feel free to do the research- I was just going with the basic criteria for us- mostly gluten free with a high calories from fat ratio.

Highway 63 Diner: baked fish in butter sauce, steamed veggies, cheese curds, double bacon cheeseburger without a bun, house shredded salad

Pepperjax: Double steak rice bowl, minus the rice, with mushrooms, onions, and cheese. Add mushroom sauce and au jus.

Village Inn/Perkins: Steak or pork chop and eggs, with cottage cheese, omelettes

Famous Dave’s: naked ribs, brisket, or any meat with tiny bit of sauce, salad or veggie sides

Texas Roadhouse: chopped steak with salad, veggies/salads

Buffalo Wild Wings: wings without sweet sauce

Lonestar Steakhouse: garlic steak medallions, creamed spinach

Domino’s: wings without sweet sauce

Chinese buffet: any meat without breading, veggies like cabbage, green beans, cooked to order hibachi, mayo baked mussels

Hu Hot: any combination of stir fry without noodles (use cabbage)
Sauces, per ladle:
0 carbs- ginger/garlic broth, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce
1 carb- soy sauce, lemon/lime juice, hot chili oil/garlic oil
3 carbs- Five Village Fire Schezwan, Khan’s Favorite, Mean Bean Garlic, Yellow Belly Curry
4 carbs- Black Thai Peanut, Sweet Chili Sauce
5 carbs- Beckster’s Ginger, Kung Pao Yow, Samurai Teriyaki

Jimmy John’s: Italian Nighclub Unwich

Sub City: Sub in a tub

Fast Food Burgers
Hardees: Low carb thickburger

McDonalds: double cheeseburger without ketchup, mustard, or bun, add extra onions, shred lettuce and big mac sauce

Marco's Pizza: meatball bake- add extra cheese

Olive Garden: garden salad without croutons (6c), Antipasti meats and cheese salad topper (1c) Roasted parmesan asparagus (7c), Grilled Chicken Spiedini with creamy alfredo (4c), Steak Toscano (11 c), Herb Grilled Salmon (9c), Steamed broccoil (2c)

Las Margaritas: ribeye y mas with chile relleno, guacamole

Fiesta Jalisco: Shrimp in lemon juice, carne asada

Ribeye y mas with chile relleno at Las Margaritas. We skip the rice and beans, and add guacamole to our steaks. 
The best way to avoid succumbing to desperate carb cravings is to be prepared. That means either with food on hand at home, with a ready-made grocery list to stay focused and avoid impulse buys, or with a list of keto friendly dining options. It takes a little bit of effort up front, but you will be rewarded again and again for planning ahead! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making the Most of It When Your Meals Are Out of Your Control

I spent last week in Indianapolis as one of the lucky few who were chosen to participate in this year's AFSCME Women's Leadership Academy. It was actually the reason that I started this low carb diet when I did, because I knew it was coming up, and really needed to feel good and have energy for this adventure. The experience was great, but it can be hard to adjust to living in a hotel for a week. The biggest challenge was the fact that I had little control over what I was served for meals, so I had to work with what I had in front of me and make the best decisions I could, given the limited options. Luckily, the most important meal of the day, breakfast, always had easy low carb options. The hotel I was at, Embassy Suites downtown Indianapolis, had a great hot breakfast buffet, and even had staff on hand for customized omelettes. My typical breakfast each morning was scrambled eggs, sausage, and a little bit of fruit, with an iced coffee. It was so tasty, it was actually easy to bypass all the pancakes, french toast and danishes!
Breakfast of champions!
I managed to stay in ketosis for the first two days, but quickly realized that reaching keto levels of low carb was going to be hard, and I just needed to do the best I could, and not beat myself up over a few carbs. With limited options and not enough time to leave the building to find other choices, I had to make the best of my situation. (Plus the meals provided were free.) Luckily, all of our meals had more than one main dish, and most of them had something that would work for me. There were a couple that were tough though, like the baked potato bar, and the pasta bar days. Every meal did have a large iceberg, cucumber and tomato salad, and a huge bowl of mixed fruit salad, so I tried to eat some that with every meal. I didn't feel bad about consuming the sugar found naturally in fruit, because come on. That's a pretty virtuous splurge in the grand scheme of things. Here are some highlights of my meal choices last week:

Iceberg salad with ranch, green beans with pepperoni, sliced pork, piece of chicken

I was so excited to see a spinach salad with strawberries and feta- that was the first thing that reminded me of home! I made it a meal by adding chicken.

Steamed broccoli and beef in gravy.

On deli wrap day, I tried to avoid eating most of my tortilla, but filled up on salad.

On build your own sandwich day, I cut up deli meats and cheese to turn my side salad into a main dish chef's salad.
We did have a little time to ourselves, and I was able to eat some great salads out at restaurants then. Again, probably not as keto as when I can make them myself and control the salad dressing ingredients, but still pretty darn good carb wise, and definitely delicious! 
I had the Farmer's Market Steak Salad at the Colts Grille next to the hotel for lunch as soon as I arrived. 

I was really looking forward to going to California Pizza Kitchen on my free night. I always long for their salads, and I wasn't disappointed. I ordered two half size salads, because I couldn't decide on one. This is the caramelized peach salad with craisins, goat cheese, and red onion. I added grilled shrimp to mine. 

My other CPK half salad was a California Fields salad, which had strawberries, watermelon, basil, feta cheese and pistachios. I added grilled chicken too. It was AMAZING. (This was the culinary highlight of my week!) I can't wait to recreate this one at home!
One lesson I learned the hard way, unfortunately, is that I am sensitive to a preservative commonly used on hotel salads. I got sick on the last day of my trip, and luckily was able to made it through the day and get home, but I still felt bad all weekend. I did some research on my unique symptoms (I will spare you the details) and learned about the hotel salad thing. Great! I was trying my best to be healthy and avoid carbs, and it kind of backfired on me. So, my advice to you is that, given the limited options, try your best to choose low carb foods that are cooked, and don't rely on salad as the main part of every meal. In the worst case scenario, just do what you can to minimize your carb intake, like peeling the breading off of your chicken, or eating the contents of a sandwich without the bread. Because you can always go right back to eating how you prefer when it is on your own terms again. I was worried that slipping up on a few carbs was going to bring my sugar cravings back with a vengeance, but I actually found myself craving my keto foods that I had grown accustomed to, not only because they taste great, but also because they make me feel so good! I am so glad to be home, and enjoying being back in the swing of things. I have another week long trip coming up next month, and now I will be better prepared to eat well without getting sick! 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Recipe: Asian Crunch Salad with Grilled Chicken

It's my goal to come up with as many different salads this summer as I can. The timing of starting a low carb diet in the summer is great, because this is when my body naturally craves fresh, cool, crisp salads the most. There are so many possible delicious combinations of flavors! I am also determined to show the world that low carb doesn't necessarily mean only eating greasy plates of meat. That stuff definitely has its place when you are trying to get a high ratio of your calories from fat. But I try to balance it so that if we have one meal that is full of meat or melty cheese, we also eat a meal in the same day that is very laden with vegetables. Gotta get some fiber, and some vitamins, too!

So crunchy and satisfying!

Asian Crunch Salad with Grilled Chicken

1/2 a bag of coleslaw mix
2/3 of a bag of shredded iceberg lettuce
1 can no sugar added mandarin oranges, drained
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into half moons
1 bag of radishes, pre cut into matchsticks
1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cashews

For dressing:
 (Makes enough for two batches)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4  cup splenda
2 shakes of soy sauce
1 Tablespoon minced garlic from a jar
fresh cracked black pepper
a little water to thin it out, if you want
1 Tablespoon smooth peanut butter

(Everything above the peanut butter is Kent's normal recipe for balsamic vinaigrette that we use all the time, because it is so magical and delicious. I call it Kent's Magical Balsamic Vinaigrette. This version just added a little peanut butter to make it a little more Asian flavored. I think it would also be good with a little bit of sesame oil in it.)

Combine all dressing ingredients into a lidded jar and shake to combine. It might be helpful to melt the peanut butter in the microwave first. We had to use a fork to break it up a little. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with half of the dressing to combine.