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Archive for the ‘Low-carb’ Category

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!

 

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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

 

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So for all the recipes I try and food that I make at home, you would think that I’d done a brisket before.

Nope.

Not a single brisket had ever graced my freezer, refrigerator or oven…until today. Now all I can think about it how do I get me another one. I emailed my farmer and was like “Hey…yeah…how’s going? Brisket. Thanks for the beef last brisket. You have anything left in your brisket like maybe some brisket? HELP ME!”

I don’t even have a picture because it was gone in like 10 minutes. Moist, tender, savory, falling apart deliciousness. No sugar, too, which is awesome for low carbers! I used Tyler Florence’s recipe here. Only change I made is that I did not use carrots – celery and onion only – and I turned down the heat to about 300. The first time I basted it seemed too hot for me. So 300 for almost 4 hours was perfect.

The veggies were pretty dead by the end of the cooking time, so I just strained them out and chucked them. They were all they could be contributing to the sauce.

So get yourself a grass fed brisket and get on with it already! Don’t deprive yourself for years like I did. Take a lesson from KKF – neglecting brisket is a kung faux pas!!

 

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Pork belly. Also known as pork side or middlen. The most treasured part of any hog purchase because it is used to MAKE BACON.

But every now and then you have to try something new.

At a recent visit to Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta I had the fried pork belly appetizer with sorghum glaze. UH.MAZE.ING. I was initially going to share with the rest of my dinner companions but after I took a bite I told them to stick it. Restaurant Eugene is a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant and we can’t wait to go back once we get done paying the last installment for our last meal, if you get my drift…

So that got me thinking. Of course bacon is a thing of beauty, but what if I could make a similar pork belly recipe? Hello, Google…and I found Dan Barber’s Pork Belly. You do have to plan in advance for this recipe because it needs to cure for three days before being slow cooked for 7 hours, but honestly the overall time investment was minimal, making this an easy and delcious recipe.

I followed the recipe almost exactly. For the cure mix, I forgot to buy star anise so I subbed dried basil because I smell anise in basil sometimes. (Don’t ask me for rational explanations.) I used ground white pepper instead of whole white peppercorns. I subbed celery seed for fennel seed. Also, I scaled back the sugar a little bit. Since I had a 3 pound pork belly and the recipe called for a six pounder, I halved the cure mix.

After blending the cure mix I rubbed it all over my partially thawed belly, then packed the cure around it, wrapped it up in wax paper then aluminum foil. It sat in the fridge for a little over three days. When it came time to cook, I rinsed as directed. Since I had failed to cut off the skin before curing (duh to me, I’ll take it off first next time) I cut the belly in half and ran it through my Chef’s Choice Electric Food Slicer to cut off the tough skin. I put the two pieces fat side down in a ceramic dish, poured two full quarts of chicken stock over it and covered with foil.

In it went for 7 hours.

When time was up, I pulled the dish out and took a look. Not terribly impressive looking. Kind of like a huge chunk of lame, pasty bacon. Good thing I wasn’t done yet!

I cut the two halves into 8 chunks each and fired up the cast iron skillet. Frying first on the fat side for 3-4 minutes until it got nice and dark and carmely and crunchy, then on each side for a minute or so until the entire small chunk was crunchy and brown.

CAUTION. DO NOT FRY THESE CHUNKS UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPLATTER SCREEN BIG ENOUGH TO COVER YOUR WHOLE SKILLET. It WILL splatter all over God’s green earth and burn you and your loved ones if you don’t cover it up.

Safety first!

While the pork belly goodness was frying I was also frying up some cubed red potatoes in butter with a few tablespoons of Mill Creek Spice’s Steak Seasoning. Man, is that some good stuff.

Anyway, so once you have your well-crisped chunks of pork belly, drain as you please and enjoy. This made me do a dance in the kitchen, just ask Test Subject Bill. Good luck eating more than two. They are SUPER rich but unbelievably tasty. I think it might be better than bacon.

But a word to the wise – make this for a crowd! This is way too much for two people and good enough to share with your best friends! Also, consider serving with something pickled or maybe a salad with vinaigrette just to cut the richness of the fat. It is a thing of beauty. Ah, pork belly euphoria!!

Pork belly and seasoned spuds!

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Salmon Patties with Lemon-Thyme Cream on Wilted Swiss Chard

I recently got in on a bulk wild salmon purchase from Lummi Island which included some ground salmon. (You even got a free hat with purchase. Gotta love the freebies.)

On nights that I have classes at the gym I need something quick AND I’m a sucker for anything fried in butter, so tonight I tried my hand at some salmon burgers – turned out delicious!

KKF Salmon Patties with Lemon-Thyme Cream

1 lb. ground salmon

2 eggs

1 T Old Bay seasoning

2-3 T butter

For the cream:

1/2 c sour cream

1/2 T lemon juice

1/2 t lemon zest

6-7 sprigs of fresh thyme

Mix together the ingredients for the cream and set aside. Mix up the ground salmon, Old Bay, and eggs. Melt butter in a cast iron frying pan. Shape salmon into balls (as many or few as you’d like, I made 6). They will be loose and not really hold their shape at this point. When the butter is melted and hot, place the salmon balls in the pan and press down lightly to form patties. Flip after a few minutes of frying. When patties feel firm, they are done. Serve hot with lemon thyme cream.

Hint: if you used unsalted butter, you may want to add 1/4 tsp or so of salt to your salmon mix, or try adding it to the cream.

This was VERY fast. I got home from yoga, made this and wilted some swiss chard in bacon fat (heck yeah) and was done eating within an hour. Easy and delish, as a KKF fast food should be!

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Grilled grass fed blade steak resting

In my opinion, grilling comes down to a) quality meats and b) proper technique. Although I still consider myself a real beginner at grilling, I am noticing that when I do the least I’m getting the best results. For example, the burgers I grilled today. Ground beef and a homemade rub. That’s it. Granted, the meat was super high quality, but preparation was quick and almost effortless. If you do it right, grilling should be easy.

Skewered chicken satay off the grill

Earlier this weekend I made steak and chicken satay on the grill. For the steak, it couldn’t have been easier. I took a dry aged blade steak from my local grass-based farmer and marinated it for 8-9 hours in plain old olive oil. Right before grilling, I salted and peppered. Then I threw it on my Egg at about a 450 degrees and closed the lid. A few minutes later, I opened and flipped it, and gave it another two minutes. I let it rest while I grilled my satay.

Steak, chicken satay with peanut sauce (even though it looks like ketchup in this pic...gross) and Italian green beans from the farmer's market

The chicken satay is a recipe I got from my Viking Cooking School Thai cooking class. Chicken breast strips are marinated in a coconut milk/garlic/cilantro mixture, then threaded onto skewers. I had them on a 450 degree egg for about 2-3 minutes per side and they came out soooo juicy, a real feat for chicken breast. The peanut sauce is a combination of coconut milk, red curry paste (use Mae Ploy brand), fish sauce, tamarind paste (make a visit to your local ethnic grocery store), garlic, a sweetner (I used sucanat), and of course, a few tablespoons of creamy peanut butter. So clearly, far more effort went into the sauce than the meat itself! It was worth it though…quite delicious.

The steak’s flavor was incredible for as little as I did to it. I’ve noticed that with quality meats. Portions of it were chewy and other portions were very tender. Lucky for me I like to pick up meat and gnaw on it so I got every part, chewy or tender 🙂 I think next time I may marinade it even longer and see how that works out.

Hope everyone had a blessed and safe 4th of July holiday!

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Grilling out is a sign of independence. Humans. Fire. Meat. Electricity optional. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular to have a cookout on the 4th of July. Maybe it’s because this style of cooking was very popular during the early years of the USA, as it’s easy to feed a large crowd. Whatever the reason, it’s a great idea. And since I’m still in the honeymoon period with my Big Green Egg, I’ve been giving it a workout this holiday weekend.

Today’s meal was the epitome of simplicity and was heavenly delicious. I formed burger patties (no filling or binder) out of some dry aged beef I picked up from my local farmer last month and used the rub from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo
(a great cookbook and her website is also great, btw). I cut some red onions, rubbed them with olive oil and salt and pepper and skewered them on metal skewers (no more charred wooden skewers for me). Finally, I made a simple tomato salad (recipe below).

Everyday Paleo burger, KKF tomato salad, grilled red onions and a few of Bubbie's pickles for good measure!

The burgers were unbelievably delicious and moist. I’m going to do them this way from now on, whether it’s with Sarah’s rub or with another seasoning. I always thought hamburger mix had to have egg and/or breadcrumbs…forget about it. Oil your gril (I used spray coconut oil), rub on your rub and slap them on the grill. I cranked up the Egg to about 650, put on the burgers and closed the lid. After two minutes, I opened, flipped, closed and left it another two minutes. Burgers were perfect. Oh, and I was doing all this in a FRIGGIN RAIN STORM. Yes, about three minutes before my grill got to temperature it started pouring.

Luckily the Egg works just fine in the rain. Test subject Bill was an excellent umbrella holder as I brought out meat and flipped and swapped. I think the struggle made my rain burgers taste even better.

KKF Too Easy Tomato Salad

1 pint farmer’s market fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, chopped

small bunch fresh basil, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Mix everything together and let it marinate at room temperature while you’re preparing the rest of your meal. Deee-licious.

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