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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Grandma’s Kou Rou

My late grandmother often made this recipe whenever people gathered in her home.  I regret there are no pictures of those dinner parties, with a table covered with dishes full of differently prepared food and people squeezed in shoulder to shoulder.  What strikes me as an adult, is that she made all her feasts on a little coal burning cast iron stove, similar to this one:

Just like grandma's stove

Primitive, yes, but this was 1980s China.  My grandmother thought her two-burner propane stove was much too technologically advanced.

I remember, out of every dish she made, everyone always raved about my grandmother’s version of the triple cooked pork belly.  (It’s actually called Kou Rou, or upside down meat in Chinese, but I think triple cooked pork belly is more descriptive.)  There’re several versions of this dish out there, but nothing beats Grandma’s, amiright?

Later, my aunt made this dish for my husband Dave.  The juicy chunks or pork and distinct flavors left a lasting impression on him.  When he started the ketogenic diet, Dave requested that I recreate the triple cooked pork belly, back here in America.   Sadly, there are no written copies of any of my grandmother’s recipes.   My grandmother was illiterate and the custom was to pass down family recipes via kitchen-apprenticeships which, until recently, preserved them for generations.  So I crowd-sourced various family members for their memories of the ingredients and preparation.  What I got from various relatives was a pinch of this and a dash of that.  I did my best to approximate how much a unit of “dash” or “pinch” and convert it into a more coherent recipe.

Keep in mind, this is a labor intensive recipe that takes some planning.  Give yourself one day at least to soak the mustard greens.  Follow the first two steps.  The last step can be done an 1 hour and 15 minutes before serving.

Tools:

soup pan
frying pan
Stainless Steel Steamer

large microwave safe bowl

Ingredients

2 lbs pork belly
2 green onions
2 slices ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Star Anise

2 tablespoons oil (I use olive believe it or not)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (doesn’t really matter if it’s light or dark)
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (or rock candy)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

5-6 oz. dried preserved mustard greens from any Asian grocery store.(About 3 cups after soaked overnight and thoroughly washed)

Now I call this dish triple-cooked pork belly for a very good reason.  Here we go:

Step #1:

Flavor a pot of cold water with 1 star anise, 1 green onion and a few slices of ginger root. Put the pork belly into the cold water mixture.  Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Fish out the pork chunks and set aside to let it cool off a bit.

Step #2

Heat a pan (or wok, if you have one) with some cooking oil over low heat.  To make sure the oil is hot, throw in some more of the sliced ginger and wait for it to start sizzling.  Then pour in red wine, soy sauce and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add sugar to thicken the sauce.  You want it to turn into a thick caramel texture.  If it gets too dry, add a bit more wine.  If its not thick enough, turn up the heat a notch and keep a close eye on it till it thickens.  Then place the pieces of pork into the pan and let it fry in the sauce.  Turn over a few times to glaze the pork belly.  Once there’s a nice golden brown coat on every side of the pork, wrap it in a container or plate and refrigerate for 2 or more hours.  DO NOT WASH OUT YOUR  PAN!

Step #3

Prepare a large steamer 3/4 of the way with water.  Heat the unwashed pan you used to glaze the pork and add the last bit of oil.  Heat for a minute or two then toss in the last green onion, the last bits of ginger slices, along with the drained mustard greens.  Fry it up until it’s fragrant and turn off the heat.

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Preserved mustard greens

Now take the cold pork belly out of the fridge and slice it nice and thin with a sharp knife.  Line the slices of pork along your large round bowl.  Fill the bowl, leaving a half inch at the top and pour in the mustard greens.

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Kou Rou

Set the bowl in your steamer and steam on high heat for 75 minutes.  Once it’s steamed, let it rest for 5 minutes then pour off some of the liquid in the bowl into your pan again and let it simmer and reduce to a nice slightly thick sauce.  I refuse to use cornstarch in my sauce, so a little bit of patience is key.  Your liquid WILL reduce.

Now, your pork has cooled slightly. Place a large serving plate over the top of the bowl.  The plate should overlap the bowl rim.  It’s very important that it does as you will hold the plate firmly over the bowl and flip the bowl over.  You’ll have a nice mound of pork belly on your plate.   Pour the sauce over it and serve to your guests.

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

First Post

Hello Reader:

I would not call myself a foodie.  Frankly, I’m still not sure what that word means. Everyone eats, and everyone has a preference for what they enjoy eating.  Right?

A bit about myself .  I immigrated to this country from Northern Mainland China and I grew up in various parts of the U.S.  My husband and I currently live in the DC Metro area with its plethora of different cultures and cuisines.

This is us: me and my husband l, Dave

As much as I enjoy exploring different foods, my cooking definitely reflects my cultural background.  There’s simply no better comfort food for me than homemade dumplings.  The mention of dumplings conjure up memories of family gatherings where women in my family huddled together for at least half the day.   A cloud of flour suspended over them.  They take turns rolling out the dough wrappers fast enough to keep up with two pairs of hands wrapping the pouches of juicy meat.

(Come back soon as I will be updating with recipes)

Yes, I’m a bit anal about the size and shape of my dumplings.  No, I don’t often label my food.

When I feel like being fancy I’ll throw together something more complex like Peking Duck.

But I’m not here just to share with you the foods that I grew up with.  I borrow heavily from Italian, French, and other cultural cuisines.  I do love to experience other cultures and customs through food.  This blog will be a record of my exploration in all things I feel are too delicious not to experience.

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Wendy