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It’s Pasta Time!

If you’re a pasta lover like me, transitioning to a low-carb or ketogenic diet can feel like you’re being forced to give up your favorite foods. While I stand firmly in my position that I CAN eat whatever I want, but I CHOOSE to eat foods that are better for my body, it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss some of those “naughty” foods.

Luckily I’ve found a product that makes me feel like I’m eating pasta without all the negative effects of all those carbs: konjac noodles!

Konjac is a Japanese plant with a root that is extremely high in fiber and can be used to create noodles that have a strong resemblance to al dente pasta. Pretty much every gram of carbohydrate in konjac is fiber, resulting in a zero net carb food that also supplies lots of fiber and serves as an excellent carrier for my favorite pasta sauce – Alfredo!

skinny pasta

Skinny Pasta with Alfredo sauce, kale sauteed in bacon grease and smoked wild salmon.

I’ve tried several different brands of konjac noodle and so far my favorite is the Skinny Pasta brand. It doesn’t have the “off” aroma that I’ve gotten from some other brands and the preparation is super fast – much quicker than traditional pasta. Simply open the bag, rinse under running water for 1 minute, then heat in a pan for 2-3 minutes. Boom. Pasta.

Konjac noodles have a firm but squishy consistency, a bit like squid or octopus. There’s no real flavor to them on their own, so make sure whatever sauce you serve them with is flavorful.

Pros:

  • Has the consistency of and can be used just like pasta.

  • Holds on well to sauces.

  • Fast and easy to make.

  • Zero net carb, extremely low calorie and high in fiber.

  • Fairly long shelf life.

  • Comes in a variety of shapes including fettuccine, spaghetti and rice shape.

Cons:

  • Price. It is fairly expensive, which can make it costly to make to serve a whole family. The most consistent price I’ve found so far for the Skinny Pasta brand is here for the six-bag variety pack. At the current price this works out to $4 per 9.52 oz bag. Vitacost sometimes has them on sale and you can pick them up individually at a good price. Currently Vitacost has it for $3.43 per bag which is pretty darn good and I plan to stock up. If you use Rakuten and shop at Vitacost you can get money back, too! (Note: you may see the Vitacost brand konjac/shirataki noodle and it is much less expensive. Please feel free to try it, but I found the aroma a little off-putting and am happy to pay a little bit more for Skinny Pasta.)

  • Konjac noodles are not easy to cut like wheat pasta. If you don’t like the noodle length, I recommend cutting it with scissors prior to plating.

  • Some people have a strong reaction to the type of fiber in konjac. A friend of mine described the experience as turning his “colon in to a fire hose.” I have eaten a whole package myself in one sitting with no ill effects, but to test this on yourself you might try eating half a package and see how your body responds.

skinnypasta

Summary

As far as keto “look-alikes” for high carb foods go, Skinny Pasta is pretty impressive. Assuming you don’t have the “fire hose” experience it’s a fantastic substitute. The first time I tried it I was pretty apprehensive because I knew it wasn’t “real” pasta and it made it hard to enjoy purely because of my mindset. But as my commitment to a keto lifestyle has strengthened, I’ve truly come to appreciate all it is. I use Skinny Pasta about once a month to get my Italian on!

I no longer feel pasta deprived with Skinny Pasta. No, it does not produce the “carb high” of regular pasta – and that’s a GREAT thing. You can feel like you are indulging without the inflammation, weight gain or low energy consequences.

Hi-yah!

 

I love cheese and crackers. Especially with a glass of wine. But being keto, the cracker part of this equation has been challenging. I’ll sometimes use “crackers” made from fathead dough, but either they are soft like bread or if you want them crunchy they need to be dehydrated. I like to do a lot of things from scratch, but being a busy mom I often need to take the lazy route and buy stuff or I’d never get any sleep.

f6When I saw Flackers I knew I had to give them a try. Seriously, 1 NET CARB IN 10 CRACKERS? SHUT UP! But not just that – they are soaked before being dehydrated into the crackers. Many people are not aware that most nuts and seeds should be soaked (and in some cases sprouted) prior to being consumed to neutralize the phytic acid and improve nutrient absorption and digestibility.

I bought one bag of the Sea Salt flavor and one bag of Rosemary flavor so I could try them side by side. I sampled them on their own and also with a smear of Kerrygold’s Dubliner cheese wedges (yum).

 

 

Taste

Let me say up front that they smell like flax seeds. They also taste like flax seeds. This is because they are MADE of flax seeds. If you’re expecting a Triscuit or a saltine you will be disappointed.

On their own, the Flackers were nothing special. I would not sit down to binge watch some Netflix with a bag of Flackers. With the addition of the Kerrygold cheese they became much more interesting. I did not sample them alongside a glass of wine, but I imagine that would improve the experience even more.

In addition to Sea Salt and Rosemary, Flackers also come in Savory or Tomato & Basil (both higher at 3 net carbs per 8 and 5 crackers, respectively) and Cinnamon and Currant (which I do not recommend as it has 6 net carbs and 5g of sugar).

f7Texture

Flackers are pretty much just a bunch of flax seeds stuck together. That said, they hold up incredibly well. They are thick and sturdy and wouldn’t crumble under the weight of anything you decided to put on them. They don’t fall apart in your hand and there are no jagged edges poking your mouth as you chew. The Rosemary ones were harder than the Sea Salt flavor but I liked the taste of the Rosemary better.

The Macros

Per 10 Flackers, the macro breakdown for the Sea Salt flavor is 12g fat, 6g protein and 1 net carb (10g carbs – 9g fiber).  This makes the macro breakdown approximately 79% fat, 18% protein and 3% carb, which is pretty darn close to the keto golden ratio of 75/20/5.

The Rosemary flavor was slightly lower in fat coming out at 10g fat, 6g protein and 1 net carb, or 76/20/3, even closer, but there is only 8 crackers in a serving versus 10 for Seal Salt.

The Summary

Pros:

  • Flackers are super low in carbs and fit keto macros like a bullseye

  • Organic/Non-GMO/Gluten Free/Soaked

  • Satisfying crunch

  • Sturdy construction holds up to dips and spreads

  • If you like flax seeds, you’ll be okay with the flavor

Cons:

  • Price – At $5 to more than $6 per bag, Flackers are not cheap. If you want to try making your own, you might try this recipe

  • If you don’t like flax seeds, you probably won’t like the flavor (the Amazon reviews seem to indicate that you either love them or hate them)

 

Flackers can be purchased on Amazon if you can’t find them in your grocery store, but sometimes you can get a better price on Vitacost and get cash back if you use Rakuten. Happy snacking!

Have you tried Flackers? What did you think? Leave a comment below!

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This post contains affiliate links. Thank you so much for your support!

Before & AFTER THank you keto!

For years, I was one of those people who never had a weight problem. I was born skinny, ate everything and stayed skinny. Eventually in my mid-twenties I put on a few pounds, then by the time I was 30 I wasn’t happy with my weight. I discovered that by micromanaging every calorie and spending hours per week killing myself at the gym, I could keep my weight at the place where I wanted it.

However, I was miserable. I hated doing that and so it didn’t last. I resigned myself to being a few pounds heavier than I wanted to be. It wasn’t that bad, and I hovered between 135 and 140; certainly not terrible for my average 5’5” frame.

Then came the biggest life shift possible for a woman: I became a mother. I gave birth to our precious son just one week before turning 37. Between the hormonal changes motherhood brings on, the additional stress and anxiety that comes with motherhood, eating my way through 18 months of depression, and just plain closing in on 40, I watched my weight climb, feeling helpless, and topped out around 175 pounds.

I was so uncomfortable with my body, none of my clothes fit and I felt like a failure. My thinking was cloudy, I was exhausted all the time and my menstrual cycles were a painful, miserable mess. With my anxiety and frustration at an all-time high, I’d had enough.

I decided to do something about it!

So I did what we are all told to do. I re-joined the gym and started hitting it. I chose “healthy” foods, including a giant fruit smoothie for breakfast every morning. I spent literally thousands of dollars on personal trainers and private Pilates sessions. After about six months, I’d lost half a pound.

It shouldn’t be this hard, I thought to myself. There has to be an easier way. What am I missing?

My wonderful sister Sheri, who is ten years older than me, had been talking to me about a ketogenic diet, commonly known as Keto. Keto is a high fat, moderate protein and very low carbohydrate way of eating that has been around for ages but is currently experiencing a resurgence. I’d even mentioned Keto to my personal trainer, and he strongly discouraged me from trying it because you can “eat more” carbs per calorie, and who wouldn’t want to do that? That was fine with me, as the thought of “giving up carbs” was nearly traumatic for me.

But my sister kept dropping clues – and pounds – and sending me photos of her in her size 6 jeans.

A few of my other friends were also doing keto, and after visiting one more friend and admiring her svelte shape, I was willing to consider it. In December of 2018, I buckled down to research. I’m the kind of person that feels I need to “know it all” or at least know a lot to get started on something, for better or for worse. So I spent three weeks reading blogs, books and watching YouTube videos, absorbing everything I could about how to implement a ketogenic diet.

I was skeptical, as I had “tried low carb” before with not very impressive results. However, the more I learned about Keto – and ensuring a high amount of dietary fat – I saw how it was different than what I’d done in the past. Low carb is great, but fat is king.

The last two days in December I binged on all things carb. I stuffed my face with rice and pasta, popcorn and chips and ate every ounce of sugar in the house until I was so disgusted with carbs I couldn’t wait to get started on Keto on January 1st. I had bought my ticket for the fat train and was ready to ride.

I jumped into keto with both feet on the first day of 2019. Contrary to popular advice I weighed myself every single morning after I used the bathroom to get the most consistent possible weight, and I was rewarded. In the first month I dropped 12 pounds without even looking at a treadmill, and only visited the gym to suspend my membership.

(Just to be clear, I’m not saying don’t exercise. I’m just saying that I did not. Exercise is good for many things, but honestly pretty terrible for weight loss.)

In the months that followed, the weight loss was less dramatic, but as long as I stuck to my macros (75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrate) and limiting carbs to 20g per day, I continued dropping pounds. I overcame a few hurdles along the way, such as discovering that soy is not good for my body and I had to eliminate all types of soy from my diet to continue to lose weight. But the most amazing thing was any time I encountered a hiccup, I knew there was a reason for it. It was never that I wasn’t working hard enough. I just needed to find out what needed to be tweaked. Very few things are a big mystery in keto, and that’s why I love it so much. For every problem there is a solution, and it’s not more “effort.”

Losing weight with a ketogenic diet is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I still shake my head in amazement. Yes, it takes planning. Yes, it takes good decision making. So does anything else that is worthwhile. But it is far easier than starving my body with so-called healthy foods and spending hours on a treadmill, only to gain the weight all back when I’ve worked myself to exhaustion.

I am currently happily coasting in the 130’s. I expect to put on a few extra pounds over the holidays, and I’m okay with that because they will easily come off in a week or so whenever I’m ready to lose them. I’m considering seeing if I can get back into the jeans I was wearing when I met my husband 19 years ago (yes, I still have them!) and that would be about 125 pounds. But to be perfectly honest, I’m so happy with how I look now and feeling so good, it would be more of a fun experiment than something I feel I “need.”

Other benefits that I have noticed since going keto:

  • In my very first post-keto cycle, my wretched menstrual cramps went away. Not got better, not got shorter. They went away completely and have not returned.

  • I have more energy.

  • I have more focus.

  • Food no longer controls my life. I’m not hungry all the time, obsessing over my next meal.

  • My anxiety is easier to control.

  • With intermittent fasting, I have more time because I spend less time preparing food and eating. (More on IF in another blog post, but in my opinion it’s an essential component for getting the best results from Keto.)

Trying to explain how Keto gave me my life back is almost like trying to describe a spiritual conversion. It literally brings me to tears. I am so intensely grateful for my sister not giving up on me, and also for all the bloggers and YouTubers out there that helped me on my journey. I’m going to list some of my best resources below both for general Keto education and for recipes.

If you are struggling with your weight, give Keto a chance. Keto done right is incredibly healthy, fulfilling and energizing. I fought it for months, but just a few weeks on the fat wagon made a believer out of me.

My top favorite Keto resources:

Education

Dr. Eric Berg’s YouTube channel. This man is amazing! He will answer all your Keto concerns – just search his channel and he’s probably made a video about it. He explains what is happening in your body in great detail, and his info was and is the most valuable resource I have found on a ketogenic way of eating.

Dr. Ken Berry’s YouTube channel.Also a top-notch resource. Dr. Berry addresses a lot of trends and current topics and answers a lot of common questions. Love him!

Recipes/Cookbooks:

completeketogThe Complete Ketogenic Diet for Beginners by Amy Ramos. I love this book because it uses a little target to show how closely each recipe aligns with the “perfect” keto macros of 75/20/5.

 

 

 

ketoeasyKeto Made Easy by Megha Barot & Matt Gaedke. Better known as the “Keto Connect Couple” these two share lots of great and simple recipes to help you incorporate keto into your life. I especially love the raspberry muffins and the hemp heart chocolate chip cookies (yes, you can have your dessert and eat it too!)

 

craveable

Craveable Keto by Kyndra Holley. So many great dishes in this book, but her 2-minute Mayonnaise is worth the price of the book. I made the Crockpot Cauliflower Mash for Thanksgiving and even my carb-loving mashed potato head husband raved about it.

 

 

Low Carb Yum – a blog I use recipes from often, including THE best chocolate cake EVER. When I tell people it’s low carb and sugar free they don’t believe me

 

Our favorite el cheapola Mexican restaurant recently closed down. This is sad, not just because we enjoyed the company of the owner and the staff and the food was pretty darn good for the price, but because now we have to A) find a new place not too far away or B) make our Mexican food at home.

Having an almost 9 month old baby is not particularly conducive to restaurant hunting so yesterday I went for option B.

Whenever I make tacos I make extra meat and freeze the leftovers for nights just like last night. We need something in a hurry, and thawing cooked hamburger is pretty darn speedy. We also had half a package of flour tortillas in the freezer (also a quick thaw) so the result was obvious. Quesadillas!

I call these leftover quesadillas not because they are leftover, but that they are generally made from leftovers (and pantry staples). They are fast, flexible and delicious! Use this recipe only as a guideline. Feel free – in fact I insist – on adjusting amounts and ingredients based on what you have in your fridge and your own personal tastes and preferences.

KKF Leftover Quesadillas

1.5 cups cooked and seasoned taco meat

1 14 oz can pinto beans or black beans, drained and rinsed

1 10oz can Rotel-style tomatoes (diced tomatoes with green chiles)

1 cup corn kernels (I pull them straight out of the freezer)

1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Chipotle tobacco (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Flour or corn tortillas

For toppings: sour cream, green onions, cilantro, more cheese, avocados or guacamole

 

Mix all ingredients except for the tortillas (obviously) and toppings (or heck, throw them in and be your own man) in a large bowl. Throw a tortilla on a heated pan (cast iron would be nice for this) and top with as much filling as you want and top with another tortilla. I usually leave a good half inch of space around the edges to help keep everything inside. How much filling depends on the size of your tortillas and how fat you want them to be, but keep in mind that when you cut them too excess filling will come spilling out the sides.

Heat over medium heat until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and crispy. Using a large spatula, flip and brown on the other side. The cheese in the filling will make it stick to the tortillas, but if you find it’s not sticking very well you can sprinkle a little extra cheese on the tortilla before adding the filling and that should help.

Move to a wooden cutting board and let it rest for about five minutes (if you can). Cut with a pizza cutter and top with your choice of garnishes.

That’s it. Dinner is served in like 20 minutes. Take that, Rachel Ray!

There’s nothing like fresh tomatoes. Straight from your garden or a real farmer’s market, fresh tomatoes are one of life’s amazing gifts. Sadly, this seasonal fruit (yes, fruit) has but a brief few months before they’re gone and you find yourself in the middle of February with some canned tomato paste and a sad face.

Now, no canned tomato is going to hold a candle to that summer Beefsteak. But here we are in (hopefully) the tail end of winter and our choices are limited. However, we do have some good choices! My favorite canned tomato is Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes. They actually do taste fire roasted, they’re organic, the cans are BPA free and they are the best tasting canned tomato I’ve tried thus far.

You can actally get them at a decent price from Amazon. If you do subscribe and save it’s $1.86 per can for 12-pack and you get them delivered to your door. If you’re an Amazon Prime member you can get them through the Prime Pantry program for $1.38 per can. If you’re a Costco member you can get them right now for $6.89 for a 6-pack which is only $1.15 per can – not bad at all.

Here’s some of the things I like to do with these ‘maters:

Bruchetta

Mix a can of fire roasted tomatoes with three cloves of minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Slice a loaf of French bread on the diagonal and toast in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, then top with the tomato mix. Broil for 4-5 minutes. Top with shreds of basil and freshly grated parmesan.

Lazy Pasta

Cook 8 ounces of the pasta of your choice (I find small shaped pasta best for this purpose – fusilli, rotini, large shells, etc.) according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan and put on low heat. Stir in a can of fire roasted tomatoes, about two tablespoons of basil paste or a handful of shredded fresh basil to taste, a cup of shredded cheese (any good melting cheese will do) and about a half a cup of heavy cream. Heat through and salt and pepper to taste.

KKF Bolognese Sauce

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Test subject Bill asked for Bolognese sauce last week. It’s always nice to get a request…and then NAIL IT. This sauce was a thing of beauty. I recommend serving it over homemade pasta for best results! Note: a good Bolognese takes time. Don’t rush it, and you will be rewarded.

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KKF Bolognese Sauce

1 lb ground beef

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

5 cloves garlic

2 t curry powder

2 small bay leaves

1.5 cups red wine

14 oz tomato paste

Bunch thyme, tied together tightly with string

2 T olive oil

1.5-2c water

½ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Buzz your onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the food processor until you have a chunky paste. Warm the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the garlicky mirepoix. Hit it with a big pinch of salt. Cook gently for at least 20 minutes, letting the flavors develop. Add the ground beef (you’re using grass fed beef, right?) and give it a good strong stir, blending it well with the veggies. Let it cook, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for another few minutes, then add the wine. Bring the mixture to a light simmer and hold for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently, then add about half a cup of the water. Add the curry powder, thyme and bay leaves.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer and give it some time, at least 15 minutes, stirring frequently, before adding another half cup of water. Monitor your sauce, adding water as necessary when it reduces, and tasting and adjusting salt and pepper as desired. The longer you can let it go the better it will be. Mine probably went in this phase for about two hours.

You want to end up with a fairly thick, uniform sauce with very, very small chunks of the ground beef. You don’t want to see big chunks of anything. Once you are happy with the consistency and flavor of your sauce you are almost done. Just one more finishing touch…

Slowly stir in half a cup of heavy cream and let it just heat through before serving. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese and a smile.

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Pecan pie is probably my all-time favorite pie. Unfortunately because this pie is almost always made with corn syrup I usually either forgo it or eat it and then feel bad about myself. But I have found a way to make my pie and eat it too.

Pecan pie with no corn syrup. No GMOs to worry about and replacing it with a healthy substitute. That’s win-win in my book!

I started with this recipe. As you are probably aware, I can rarely leave a recipe as is. So I used pure maple syrup instead of the cane syrup they used. I also cut back on the sugar from 1 cup to ¾ of a cup. (As it turns out, it was still too sweet and next time I’ll scale back even further on the sugar.) Other than that, I left it as is.

I will admit that I used a store bought pie crust for this. (Serious kung faux pas.) But in my defense, I am mom to a now-crawling baby and am short on time and was not playing super mom that day. And it was an organic crust!

The pie turned out looking beautiful. (A little too perfect looking, thanks to the crust, but oh well. This post is not about the crust.) I was amazed. I delivered it to my Superbowl party friends with both pride and trepidation, because you are never sure how a pie turned out until it’s tasted. And bringing a pie with a slice missing to a friend’s house is just bad form.

The texture of the filling turned out nicely. Maybe not quite as spongy as is achieved with corn syrup, but it delivered on flavor and the texture was good. We felt like it did need more filling for the size of the pie and the amount of pecans, though, so I will probably ramp up the maple syrup and eggs for round two while still reducing the sugar. As I mentioned, it was very sweet.

In the end it was a successful first-time pecan pie. Yes, it was my first. And here’s another factoid – last Thanksgiving I made my first pumpkin pie. Shocking!!

I recommend giving this recipe a whirl and adding your own flair to it. It’s definitely a great place to start for a corn syrup free Southern pee-can pie!