Renee and Todd’s ketogenic adventure

Meet my good friends Renee and Todd:

How cute are they?

Like most couples who work (Todd’s an engineer. Renee works evenings as a pediatric nurse) and being parents to a toddler, they must strike a balance between work and family life without neglecting their health.  That takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

Renee’s tried other diets with a degree of success.  However keeping the weight off proved more challenging since she had her child.  So Todd and Renee did their own research and decided to give ketogenic eating a try.

For Renee, just trying ketogenic eating has proven difficult.  She, like millions of us, grew up being told eating fatty food will lead to heart disease and other health problems.  It seems to make sense that cutting out fat would help shed the fat from our bodies.  Only it’s been several decades of fat-free diets… well if you’ve tried them and you’re reading this now, you know effective those diets have been.

Now the medical community is starting to change its tune.  They’ve used ketogenic to treat epilepsy.  Now, just think of this: when you eat fatty, satiating foods, how quickly do you become hungry again?  When you eat less overall, wouldn’t you lose weight?

So here’s a simple meal suggestion I came up for Renee and Todd.  It’s not very stringent and asks them both to be a bit creative.

MORNING

My friend Renee’s a coffee drinker who prefers to mask the bitter notes in coffee with cream and sugar.  Instead of sugar, she will try honey, 1/4 teaspoon at a time.  She will also add heavy cream to her coffee to help her feel fuller, faster.  She  will also try bulletproof coffee.

For Todd’s morning, if he has time, here are two shakes he can try as a healthy and delicious breakfast:

1.) Recipe for Coffee/Chocolate shake: 

20 oz cold coffee
1 cup walnuts (lots of good fats & vitamins in this)
Unsweetened cocoa, as much as you’d prefer
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (keep this less than 25g.)
1-3 Tbsp MCT Oil (start @ 1, work your way up)
2 oz Cacao Nibs(lots of good fats & vitamins in this)
2 large coffee ice cubes (I tend to freeze home brewed coffee in ice trays so as not to dilute cold coffee drinks)

Blend well in a regular blender.  If the shake is too thin, add 1/4 of a frozen banana but there’s sugar in bananas so take care not to use too much.

2.) Recipe for Berry/Vanilla shake: 

8oz (1 cup) Heavy Whipping Cream (replace some or all with milk if you prefer)
1 cup walnuts (lots of good fats & vitamins in this)
1 Big Scoop Vanilla Protein (keep this less than 25g)
1 cup frozen berries (try mixed blueberries, or even peaches, but be mindful of their sugar content)
1-3 Tbsp MCT Oil (start @ 1, work your way up)

Blend well. Again, add 1/4 of a frozen banana to thicken the shake.

Mid-day

What happens when Renee craves something between meals?  Her work as a nurse means her schedule is hectic, and she’ll eat when she can.  One solution I recommend for her is the phat fudge.  I showed her the whole process from making the almond butter to pouring the finished concoction into ice trays.  It took 30 minutes.

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Ingredients for phat fudge!

Lunch and Dinner

Since Renee and Todd are so busy, they’re looking for meals that may be a bit easier.  Most people don’t have the time nor the energy to craft a different gourmet meal each night.  A crockpot is a wonderful tool for making multiple, realistic meals:

Suggestion 1:  Aside from duck, lamb, rib-eye steaks and pork belly, there are other cuts of meat that are fatty and work very well in a slow cooker.  Get a cut of beef or pork that has nice veins of white, and plenty of gristle, like pork shoulders or beef chuck.  These “cheaper” cuts tend to cook better in the slow cooker.  Ketogenic eating, this is an easy is all about consuming more fat.

Marinate the meat in salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar.  Keep the marinated meat in the fridge for up to 8 hours.  Then heat a frying pan with a little bit of oil.  Sear the meat on the stove top on all sides will the outside is golden brown.  Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.  Without washing out the pan, toss in diced carrots, celery and onions and saute that in the same pan until the onions start to grow soft.  Then transfer the vegetables into the slow cooker.  If there’s a bit of marinade juice leftover, pour that over the meat.  Let the meat cook for 24- 48 hours.


Remove the meat and separate that into as many meals as you like.  Freeze some if not using all within that week.  Add a salad to the meal with a simple oil and vinegar dressing, or lightly sauteed vegetables.

Suggestion 2: When there’s a lot of leftover meats in the fridge, the easiest way to create a fresh dish without growing tired of the same old thing is to make a stir fry.  The Chinese stir-fry method is very misunderstood.  It can be made with any combination of meats and veggies and it doesn’t require soy sauce.  I almost never use soy sauce when I stir-fry.

Start off by adding 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (I use olive oil) in a frying pan and let it heat up.  Dice up up some onions and garlic and toss into the pan.  For added flavor add a few slivers of ginger.  (There’s no need to peel ginger.  I only recently read on a cooking site that people peel ginger.  Why?)  Anyway, add these simple ingredients to the heated oil and saute.  After this step, toss in any vegetables you have on hand with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Then add your leftover meat dish.  Wait till the vegetables are cooked to your seared doneness.  Voila!  Stir fry!

Suggestion 3:   A very simple salad of just leafy greens and avocados is a nice side to a fatty main dish.  There’s no need for store bought dressing, with all the preservative they contain.  Just a sprinkling of salt, pepper, a splash of MCT oil and balsamic vinegar.

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can also use any leftover crockpot roast meat to make a heartier salad for lunch or dinner.

With these simple methods, you can create an infinite number of keto-friendly meals.  I recommend starting out gradually.  Do cut out refined sugars, and processed sugar products like ice-cream and cakes.  However, try a less sugary fruit like berries to satisfy those sugar cravings. (1 cup of strawberries contains about 7 grams of sugar.)  Have a glass or two of red wine with dinner.  Just be conscious of what you eat and wean yourself off from sugar and carbohydrates dependency.

I’ll document Todd and Renee’s progress in the coming months.  So check back often to see how the ketogenic eating has been for them.

Good luck guys!

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For a few more keto-friendly dinner ideas, click on the following link:

Fresh from the sea

Eat more oxtail

Grandma’s Kou Rou

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Eat more oxtail

I’m truly delighted that nowadays when you mention oxtail, not everyone will cringe or shrink back in revulsion.  How about you?   What do you picture when you hear oxtail?  Does it look like this:

I happen to love the oxtail as a stewed meat.  It’s bone, cartilage, and bits of fat releases an amazing flavor slow cooked.

Recently I decided to steal a page from the classic French boeuf bourguignon and use oxtail instead of lean beef.  Instead of using flour to thicken the sauce, I let the lid of my dutch oven open slightly, lowered the heat and increased the cooking time.  Thus, it too can be part of the keto diet.  No flour.  No sugar.  Still pretty delicious.

Ingredients

One 6-ounce slices of bacon (apple prefer apple wood smoked)
3 pounds oxtail
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
3 cups red wine. I use whatever I have on hand
1/4 cup cognac
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (Can be made yourself ahead of time)
4 cloves mashed garlic
2-3 sprigs of thyme
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of flat parsley
1 bay leaf
half a stalk of celery
18 to 24 pearl onions
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

I highly recommend dicing all the veggies before hand. Tie the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley and celery with kitchen twine in a bouquet garni.  Set aside.

Sizzle and brown bacon in a dutch oven. Let the fat render out. Take the bacon out and set aside. Brown each piece of oxtail, sprinkled with salt and pepper
until all the pieces of oxtail are brown. Put it aside with the bacon.

Toss in diced onions and garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Fry until soft and aromatic. 

Add cognac. Let it boil off, scraping the side and bottom of the pot.
Slowly add in wine and beef stock. Toss in bouquet garni. I left a bit of string on one end to tie around the handle. It makes for easier removal later.

Now add in oxtail and bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, covered for 2 + hours. I leave a bit of the lid ajar to let out steam and ensure
the sauce thickens. When the beef is tender and falling off the bone it’s ready.

30-45 minutes before serving, heat butter in a large skillet, then toss in the mushrooms, onions, and carrots. Cook until there’s a bit of brown to the carrots.  Pour everything into the dutch oven and cook till ready to serve.

Enjoy!

How I cook

Several of my friends have asked me this question.  It’s not an easy answer.  Just it’s very simply.  Preparation and organization are key to any recipe, be it something new you’re trying or something you know by heart.  So let’s take a look at some of the basics of what I use and how I use them.

WHAT DO I KEEP IN MY KITCHEN?

Several appliances that I use in just about every meal are my Food Processor, Immersion Blender, mixing bowls both glass and stainless steel,sieves of various sizes, the usual knives and cutting boards.  My slow cookers of various sizes each serve a different purpose.  More on that later.  The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer I don’t use quite as often but nevertheless, it’s a very handy money-saving tool.

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I’m also an avid spice collector.  Actually, I collect ingredients of every type.  Some I’ve found in various ethnic groceries.  A few years ago an old friend bought back an assortment of spices from Zanzibar, Africa.  All in all, it’s enough to start a small spice war if these were different times.

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On top of the spices, I’m a firm believer of fresh ingredients too.  That means cutting lots of onions.  Protective eye-wear is a must to prevent temporary blindness.

Goggles are essential.

Preparing any type of meat:

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I generally will take any sort of meat, be it beef, chicken, pork or lamb and I prep it at least a day or two in advance.  By prepping I mean, trimming the parts that are not wanted, though I tend to like a bit of fat and gristle.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper till all sides are covered.  Then add about a cup of red wine or white on the meat.  Some say red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat.  I’m not a stickler.  You’re not drinking the wine.  It simply helps break down the muscles and let flavor penetrate.

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Different vinegar impart different flavors

Vinegar also helps break down meat, but vinegar tends to leave a very strong taste, depending on which type you use.  If I do use vinegar as a marinade, it’s generally balsamic and I add it to a wine mixture.  The most versatile vinegar has to be balsamic for me. I use it in nearly every dish.

After the meat has been well prepared for a marinade, leave it covered in the fridge for at least 24 hours.  I recommend taking it out after a few hours and turn the meat over so each side is adequately covered in marinade.

After the 12 hours, the meat is ready to be used in a variety of dishes, be it slow-roasted, sliced up for a stir-fry or cubed for a stew.

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Pork loin

I’m also a big fan of pan searing the meat before using it either as a roast or in a stew-type dish.  If the meat is going in the oven, many recipes call for the oven temperature to start off high for 30 minutes (to sear the meat) before being turned down low to be cooked for slow roasting (1-2 hours)

Organization my ingredients

The French call it Mise en place  which means everything in its place.  It’s used in professional kitchens and on a much smaller scale it helps in my kitchen.

Some people measure out their salt and pepper and other ingredients and set them out in small bowls.  I’m not quite so organized, but any little bit of organization will help a lot.  Once I see all my ingredients laid out before me, then it’s as simple as putting it all together.

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Ingredients 

By now, you must be aware of how much I love herbs and spices.  I use spices, like turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, coriander just about every day.  But do pay attention to the salt you use as well.  Kosher, sea, Himalayan all taste very different and can affect the taste of your dish.

Also, do not underestimate the power of fresh herbs.  I’ve only just started growing my own.  But boy does it make it difference.

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Basil, thyme, and Rosemary