Keeping Keto at Disney World

mk_crystalprerover_20170201_7938321358Last week we took Isak and met my parents at Disney World for the week.  We go every January near the end and celebrate Isak’s birthday early.  It is literally my favorite week of the year.  This year, I had lots of people ask me if we were breaking our food rules for the trip.  Nope, not at all!  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, I’m not going to lie.  Not because there were so many temptations, because at this point, temptations aren’t really a “thing” anymore.  Yay keto–cravings disappear.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do because literally, 95% of the food found at Disney contains grains or sugar, which we avoid.  There was one night at Epcot where we each had a quarter of a gluten-free roll.  It was really good as far as gluten-free goes…but most of that stuff feels like wet sawdust in my mouth, so the texture wasn’t appealing.

The thing about staying keto at Disney is that you have to implement some preparation and research.  I did not find any acceptable snacks on the menus of any of the restaurants beforehand when I was researching, so I knew that we were going to have to keep easily portable snacks.  Also, there isn’t much in the way of breakfast food (that isn’t ridiculously overpriced), so we knew we were going to keep a bunch of compliant stuff in the fridge at the resort.  Typically I don’t eat breakfast because of the intermittent fasting (though as of this week I’ve flipped my fast over, but that’s for a later post), but when we’re walking 10-15 miles a day in the parks, I eat more often.

For the fridge and pantry in the resort, we kept: pre-cooked bacon, black forest ham, cream cheese, french onion dip, string cheese, pork rinds, and pepperoni.  If you haven’t tried pork rinds with french onion dip, you’re missing out.  Try it now.  For portable park snacks, my only requirement was that they didn’t need to be kept chilled.  I didn’t want to carry a cooler pack in the park.  We carried macadamia nuts.  Lots and lots of macadamia nuts.  I also kept a few Atkins bars in the bag, and for Isak we had single bags of nut/dried fruit mix.

Now for the fun part…the meals!

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Neither of us could remember where the turkey legs were sold at Magic Kingdom, but after asking 900 cast members, we finally got the right location: the tavern in Adventureland, across from Pirates of the Caribbean.  This was our first stop as soon as we got to the park.  Usually we fly in and wait until the following day to go to the parks; however, we were able to snag an extra day, so JR and I went as soon as we got off the Magic Express and got Isak situated in the resort with Gammy and GrandDan.  We split one turkey leg between the two of us and dipped it in a few packets of mayo.  Everything tastes better at Disney, you know.

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Breakfast on official day one: steamed heavy cream with sugar-free vanilla syrup from Starbucks at Epcot.  This is Isak’s favorite drink.  He calls it “warm chocolate,” no matter what sugar-free flavor it is.  The vanilla though…it tastes like hot-off-the-stove vanilla custard filling.  It’s delicious.  That and a handful of cashews kept him going until lunch.

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This one was my favorite table-service meal of the trip (and yes, I left the handful of fried wonton skins on–they weren’t enough to kick me out of ketosis and Epcot is always where we walk the most).  This is the Beijing Roast Duck Salad from Nine Dragons in China, in the World Showcase at Epcot.  One alteration had to be made: the hoisin sauce dressing was out because, well, hoisin sauce.  Instead, they gave me a small pitcher of the potsticker sauce, which was to die for.  Seriously, my favorite meal of the week.

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In The Seas, at Epcot, there is a restaurant called Coral Reef.  Honestly, we go here for the experience because you’re basically eating inside a giant aquarium.  In my opinion, the food is decent, but it’s not the best food ever.  I got the grilled New York strip steak with double veg instead of veg and mashed potatoes.  We had them bring out extra butter because it wasn’t nearly fatty enough.  This is where the gluten-free rolls were.  Like I said, as far as gluten-free rolls go, those were pretty good, especially when slathered with butter.  If you’re looking for that option, definitely hit up Coral Reef.  JR got the heirloom tomato salad thing here.  I gave him half of my steak and we pretty much ate off of each other’s plates.

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You can’t really tell what this is from the picture, as is frequently the case when making keto alterations, but this is a bacon cheeseburger from Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom.  They have a topping bar there where we added the mushrooms, onions, and (not pictured) some garlic ranch dressing.  It was a pretty good burger.  JR and I split the burger and…

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…the Greek salad, from the same place.  It was a pretty rockin’ Greek salad, in case you were wondering.  The chicken looks huge, but really it’s just pounded out thin.  The feta wasn’t as good as the stuff we get from Ali Baba; however, it was a decent substitute (and let’s be honest, if you don’t have a refined palate for Middle Eastern food, you won’t notice the difference).  We also put the garlic ranch on this salad.  Yeah, I really liked it.

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This was an Italian sausage without the bun from whatever that sausage company is at Disney Springs (what used to be called Downtown Disney).  The sausage was our least favorite thing of the trip.  It was just “meh.”  Those pickles were awesome though.  Seriously awesome.

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This is actually one of the meals we had at the airport in Atlanta on the way back to San Antonio.  I forget what the place was called, but it’s similar to a Chipotle-type deal.  It was a steak burrito bowl.  Why do deconstructed foods always look like a pile of stomach contents?  Regardless, it was tasty.

I didn’t remember to take pictures of all the food we ate in the parks, so here are the other items we had that I can remember:

Chili Cheese Coney without the bun from that Casey’s hot dog place on Main Street in Magic Kingdom (a delicious addition to our curbside seating for the Festival of Fantasy parade!)

Caesar salad with salmon at the Prime Time Diner in Hollywood Studios.  This restaurant was so fun!  The staff is a hoot and the decor is hilarious.  The salad was great.

If you have any questions about going keto-friendly at Disney, feel free to ask me!  Before going, I spent an hour on the phone with one of their dietary people, who helped me navigate all of the menus in order to find compliant food that wasn’t all burger-without-a-bun situations.  But really, if you’re only going to try one thing from this list, get the salad from Nine Dragons.  You won’t be disappointed.

Pumpkin Chai Mug Cake (Keto)

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I’ve tried quite a few grain-free cake-type desserts that all turn out like the consistency of a sweet pile of scrambled eggs.  Well, either that or a super dry scone-brick.  This is light and fluffy (at least while it’s hot–it hasn’t made it long enough to hit the cold stage, so I don’t know what it’s like then).  It’s a little more wet than traditional cake, but it’s not like eating pumpkin eggs.  It packs a wallop of a nutritional punch, and would likely be a great breakfast if you paired it with some bacon!

Unlike many keto or paleo/primal desserts, this is nut-free and coconut-free.  If you want to make this primal or paleo, you can.  You would replace the sweetener with honey or maple syrup–I don’t know the measurements of that replacement, and it would significantly alter the sugar content, but you could do it.

This is nutritionally dense enough that I can’t eat one whole serving by myself, so you might want to find someone to share this with.  Once they smell it, people should be lining up to apply for that position.

Pumpkin Chai Mug Cake (Keto)

1 serving

Nutrition: Calories (282), Total Fat (19 g), Saturated Fat (3.2 g), Total Carbs (12.8 g), Fiber (8.7 g), Net Carbs (4.1 g), Sugar (1.4 g), Protein (18.2 g)

1/4 C flax meal

1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp stevia

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of cardamom

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

3 Tbsp pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

small pinch of sea salt

1.- In small bowl, whisk egg and pumpkin.  Add in all dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.

2.- Pour into mug.  For shorter/wider mugs, microwave for 1:45-2:00.  For taller/thinner mugs, microwave for 2:00-2:30.

3.- To put on a plate, run a knife around the edge to loosen.  Flip the mug over onto a plate.  The cake will be steaming when it first comes out.  If you don’t want your whipped cream to slide right off, let it cool for a couple minutes.

Sheik al Mehshee (Keto and Primal)

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This past Thursday, I went to a Lebanese cooking class at CENTRAL MARKET, the shmancy grocery store next door to us (I mean really, could we live next to a more awesome place?).  It was an AWESOME class, where most of the recipes were adapted from recipes in ROSE WATER AND ORANGE BLOSSOMS, one of my favorite Lebanese cookbooks.  There’s something you should know though: I don’t particularly like eggplant, and I’m not much for tomato sauce, both of which are key components in this dish.  That being said, I LOVE the eggplant in this dish.  Still not big on tomato sauce (plus, it has like 40 bajillion carbs), so I altered the sauce a bit.  Okay, a lot.  It doesn’t really resemble the original sauce at all, other than it contains tomatoes and ground beef.

So, I turned it into a tomato cream sauce (hello, more fat), took out the carby onions, changed up the spices, and added layers of cheese.  Next time I might toss some ricotta in there as well, but I didn’t have any to work with tonight.  Oh well.  According to my husband, he could eat the whole pan, so I guess that means it’s good.  Seriously though, it’s delicious.

Sheik al Mehshee (Keto and Primal)

Serves 4

Nutrition info per serving: Calories (504), Total Fat (44.8 g), Saturated Fat (11.4 g), Total Carbs (11.8 g), Fiber (4.8 g), Net carbs (7 g), Sugars (6.2 g), Protein (18.1 g)

1.5# eggplant, 1/8-1/4″ slices

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

3/4# ground beef (or lamb)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp Lebanese Seven Spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 can stewed tomatoes

1/4 C heavy cream

1/3 C pine nuts

8 oz shredded mozzarella

1.- Set oven to broil.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Trim each end of the eggplant, then slice and place on baking sheet.  Brush each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Broil until deep brown (about 10-15 minutes per side).

2.- Adjust oven temperature to 375.  In skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef.  Season with 1/2-1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp Lebanese Seven Spice, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Stir well and cook until browned.  Add stewed tomatoes and crush up with the meat.  Add in heavy cream and simmer a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken and spices are incorporated.

3.- Lightly oil an 8×8 square baking dish.  Spread a couple spoonfuls of the sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Layer some eggplant, then cheese, then pine nuts, then more sauce.  Repeat layers, ending with eggplant on top.  Cover with foil and bake for 80 minutes.  Remove the foil, spread another layer of mozzarella, then put back in the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, until cheese is brown and bubbling.  Let cool a few minutes before serving.

 

How to Build a Mezze Platter (Primal and Mostly Keto)

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I had some friends over this past weekend for one of the 2-3 days per year that I deem to be “spa day.”  Basically, I gather up a bunch of body/home product recipes that I want to try out, and a few times a year I make a bunch of them all day.  Many of them become standard holiday gifts that we give out.  Usually I do it alone, but I decided that it would be fun with other people, along with wine and (of course) food.  I’m Italian and Lebanese, so both of my nationalities are known for feeding people.  That’s just what we do.  I’ve all but given up most Italian foods, as pretty much none of them work within the confines of a keto diet; however, many Middle Eastern dishes can become compliant (you just omit the bread).  In the Italian culture, one would make an antipasti plate.  In the Lebanese culture, the equivalent dish is called a mezze platter.  Typically the dishes are HUGE–like, between one and three feet in diameter–and are packed full of food.  You can put basically anything you want on the plate, but the purpose is for everyone to eat off of the communal plate.  Part of the enjoyment of the food is in sharing the food, so this is very important.

 

Tzatziki

Tzatziki (2)

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

Zucchini Hummus

Hummus

Dip/Salad Trio

Mezze 2

Some of the things I put on my platter weren’t entirely low-carb (hello, figs); however, I just avoided those.  If you look up “mezze platter,” you will find thousands of things you can include…but here is what I chose for this:

Seriously, making mezze for your gatherings will free up way more of your time so you can actually enjoy yourself.  Take it from someone who plans 78-course elaborate dinners on the regular…for this one, I got to breathe and eat…the whole time.

Zucchini Hummus

Approximately 15 servings

Nutrition per serving: Calories (115), Fat (10.5 total, 1.6 sat), Carbs (3.4 total, 1.6 fiber, 1.8 net), Protein (2.9)

3-4 zucchini, peeled and chopped (about 3 C)

1/2 C fresh lemon juice

3/4 C tahini

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp cumin

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

4 cloves garlic, peeled

Paprika to garnish

1.- Put everything in a blender.  Blend on high until creamy (about 60-90 seconds).

2.- Pour into container and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.  This will thicken up a little while chilling, but it is a thinner consistency than hummus made with chickpeas.

BLT and then Some (Primal and Keto)

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On Saturday, it will be eight months since I quit smoking.  In those eight months, my food choices went to hell and I gained almost 30 pounds.  The obvious fix to that is to hit another few months of strict primal, right?  Well this time, I’m also integrating a close-to-keto component.  Technically, keto is considered, what, under 20 grams of net carbs per day?  My carbs have been in the 20-35 range most days…so I’m close, but not in it to the letter.  Anyway, it’s hard, but I’ve lost almost 20 pounds in not-quite three weeks.

I felt like a BLT today.  I’m not big on sandwiches, but I love BLTs and club sandwiches.  Obviously bread is out (even most of the paleo versions of “bread”), so I chose to put everything in a romaine heart boat.  Really, the possibilities are limitless, but today it was all about the BLT.  For reference: to make this Whole30 compliant, eliminate the cheese.

BLT and then Some (Primal and Keto)

Serves 2-3

1 romaine heart, washed and leaves separated

1 pound of bacon

2 roma tomatoes

1 avocado, sliced

Extra sharp white cheddar, cut in small chunks

 

1.- Cook the bacon to your liking.

2.- Layer everything in the lettuce.

3.- Stuff your face.

Kibbeh (Borderline Paleo)

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This is basically  the official food of Lebanon.  There are two main forms of kibbeh: the most popular is cooked flat in a pan and cut into diamonds to serve.  These football shapes are the other, but they are typically deep-fried.  I don’t have a fry-daddy or any type of deep-fryer, so I hate deep frying.  Because of that, I basically bake most things that are typically deep fried.

Anyway, the reason I say these are “borderline” paleo or primal is the burghul.  Burghul is dried cracked wheat, in case you didn’t know.  Typically that would be off limits; however, according to MARK SISSON, if you’re going to occasionally have grains, a less-processed, soaked or sprouted grain would be the best option.  So…do with that what you will.  The burghul is soaked for 30 minutes to an hour, so I consider this to be a decent option for when you just need some kibbeh!  And trust me, once you have good kibbeh, you’ll occasionally just crave it.

Finally, I will be TERRIBLE at explaining how to make these torpedo/football shaped kibbeh, so I’ll just let this video show you how! 

Kibbeh (Borderline Paleo/Primal)

Serves 6-10, depending on the size

2 pounds ground beef/lamb/or mixture of both–if you do all lamb, it’ll be pretty gamey

1 1/3 C burghul (also called bulgur)

1 1/2 tsp salt, divided

1 1/2 tsp pepper, divided

1 1/2-2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cumin (or 1 tsp 7-spice)

2 onions, finely diced

1/2 C pine nuts

olive oil

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1.- In medium bowl, soak burghul for 30-60 minutes in approximately 1/3-1/2 C cold water.  Fluff it with a fork like couscous to spread the water around.  You don’t want it floating, but just enough to expand the wheat groat.  If it needs draining at the end of the 30-60 minutes, press it on cheesecloth over a fine mesh sieve.  Place in medium bowl and mix with 1 pound of meat, 1 onion, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.  You can either work this really well with your hands, or process it in a food processor.  You’re going for a dough that looks mostly like this (this actually could have been mixed better):

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Set aside.

2.- Preheat oven to 425.  In large skillet, saute 1 onion in olive oil.  Add pine nuts and toss a few seconds.  Add 1 pound of meat, all spice, salt, pepper, and cumin (or 7 spice).  Brown and remove from skillet.

3.- Form shell with burghul mixture, press a hole, add a spoonful of filling, close shell, and smooth with cold water on hands.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and brush both sides of kibbeh with olive oil.  Bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on size.  You want them to be a deep golden brown.