Labneh Dip (Keto, Primal)

IMG_4276This.  Is.  Like.  Crack.  Just trust me on this – it’s good enough to want to bury your face in it for the weekend and eat until you explode.  Typically, you’d eat this with tasted pita bread; however, I serve it with vegetables for parties, and when we aren’t entertaining anyone, I just eat it out of a bowl.  It’s the best “yogurt breakfast” you’ll ever try, and the nutritional components will keep you going all day.

Labneh is a little hard to explain.  It’s made from salted yogurt or kefir that’s been drained of its whey (liquid).  Not just a general straining, but a super strain.  It’s a form of yogurt cheese, but it a little more tangy than traditional yogurt cheese made from Greek yogurt.  It’s the consistency of a slightly softer form of cream cheese.  It’s high in protein and beneficial bacteria.  It’s low in lactose, so a lot of the time people who are intolerant are able to eat it.  I get mine at the Middle Eastern grocery store here – it’s a delicious brand that’s imported from Lebanon.  You probably won’t find it at a regular grocery store, so if you don’t have an Arabic grocery, it’s pretty easy to make yourself.  You can find a recipe to make it HERE.

The toppings listed for this dip REALLY are what make the dip.  Za’atar is a spice mix that you’ll find at the Arabic grocery.  You can also make your own, and you’ll find 10,000 different recipes for it.  Everyone makes it a little different – the major similarities are thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac.  Trust me, you’ll want to keep this on hand at all times.  It makes EVERYTHING taste better.  Simple recipe found HERE. Pistachios and kalamata olives can be found pretty much anywhere.  Pomegranate arils are a little harder to come by (I have a feeling that this would taste equally good with chopped strawberries, but I haven’t tried that yet).  You can scoop them out of a pomegranate if you want…I will always pay slightly more to get the container of arils.  I hate messing with pomegranates.

This is about to become your new “Christmas Crack” that everyone eats at all your gatherings.  I seriously have a friend that I make this for every time she comes over, and she will eat her body-weight in it before she’s been in the house for 10 minutes.

Labneh Dip (Keto, Primal)

Nutrition: (6 servings per recipe) Calories (403), Total Fat (32.1 g), Saturated Fat (12.6 g), Cholesterol (69.3 mg), Sodium (952.5 mg), Total Carbs (8.6 g), Fiber (0.3 g), Net Carbs (8.3 g), Sugars (6.8 g), Protein (16.7 g)

2 C labneh

1/8 tsp salt

2 T chopped mint

2 T chopped pistachios

1 T chopped kalamata olives

1/4 C za’atar

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 C pomegranate arils

 

1. – In small bowl, mix mint, nuts, olives, za’atar, salt, and olive oil.  Mix to combine.

2.- Spread labneh on flat plate, about an inch high.  Spoon topping over the labneh and allow to drip over sides of cheese.  Sprinkle the top with pomegranate arils.  Serve with vegetables, toasted pita, and/or minty red tea.

Sahtein!

Sheik al Mehshee (Keto and Primal)

IMG_1921

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)

Mezze 1

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.

Lamb Kafta and Tzatziki (Keto and Primal–the Meatballs are Whole30 Compliant)

Lamb Kafta Meatballs

You all know how much I love Middle Eastern food.  There is no other set of flavors in the world that come close to competing.  The only thing about that is…Middle Eastern cuisine can be heavy on the bread.  I mean, many of the countries don’t even use utensils.  They just use pita.  And really, who wouldn’t rather use bread as a utensil?

I messed around with a few of my kafta recipes and found a good mixture of them that doesn’t use bread crumbs, nuts. or any other starch as filler, and they turned out perfectly!  They were so perfectly tender, juicy, and delicious!  The most important part is to use a food processor of some sort when making the meat mixture.  That way, everything was mixed (and further minced) really well.  The tzatziki lends itself well to the meatballs, as well as the lamb shawarma I made tonight (recipe to follow soon).  I might even eat it like yogurt–it has just under 1 g carbs per tablespoon (it’s about 0.7 g per tablespoon), but it’s not something you’ll eat huge quantities of.  Raw garlic can get spicy!

You can likely make these with any meat mince, but traditionally, they would be lamb.  Unless you REALLY don’t like lamb, try it out before you change up the meat.  It’s to die for!

Lamb Kafta

18 servings (1 meatball per serving)

Nutrition per serving: Calories (50), Fat (3.1 g), Saturated Fat (1.1 g), Cholesterol (15.7 mg), Sodium (15), Carbs (0.1 g), Protein (5.1 g)

1# ground lamb

1 Tbsp chopped mint

1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

2 Tbsp fresh thyme

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1.- Heat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Finely chop mint, cilantro, and time.

2.- In the bowl of a food processor, break up the ground lamb into a few chunks.  Add spices, chopped herbs, and garlic.  Pulse for a minute or two until the meat is well-mixed and becoming smooth.

3.- Roll into 15-20 meatballs (I made 18, so the nutrition is based on 18 meatballs) and place on baking sheet.  Cook in oven for 18-20 minutes.  Serve with tzatziki.

Tzatziki

Makes about 3 C.  Serving size is 1 Tbsp.

Nutrition: Calories (20), Fat (1.6 g), Saturated Fat (0.5 g), Cholesterol (1.6 mg), Sodium (3.4 mg), Total Carbs (0.7 g), Sugar (0.5 g), Protein (0.9 g)

16 oz full-fat Greek yogurt (2 C)

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced (set back 1/2 cucumber’s worth of fine dice in a bowl and save)

1 tsp basil

1 tsp tarragon

2 tsp chopped mint

2 tsp chopped dill

5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1.- Put everything except the reserved cucumber mince in a food processor or blender.  Pulse until mixed well.

2.- Pour into bowl, stir in reserved cucumber, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  I added about a tsp of Lebanese seven-spice as well, but that’s just a personal preference.

3.- Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.  This goes well with pretty much every meat on the planet.

 

 

Beef Kafta, Tabbouleh, and Batata Harra (Whole30 Compliant)

Beef Kafta

I’ve been reconnecting with my Lebanese roots through cuisine recently…and I think I’m going to continue at least through the end of the year.  Many of the dishes are already close to (if not fully) W30, paleo, or primal.  Well, at least half of them are.  Thirty percent of them are just hovering on the border (as in, they are entirely primal other than beans or lentils, or something like that).  The remaining 20 percent of them include hot, delicious, steaming loaves of pita bread.  To. Die. For.  I will eventually be making some, but I won’t include it as a main item on these blogs.  I’m really kind of teetering on the beans though: I mean, the husband is allergic to pretty much all beans except for maybe three types…so they will never be a “staple” in our household.  I’m thinking the occasional  inclusion of them isn’t a game-changer, but we’ll see.  I’m planning on a bean salad this week, so if I blow up after eating it, I’ll know I can’t include those anymore!  😛

Anyway, I’m still looking for the perfect Lebanese cookbook to use on my cooking journey.  I have a few in mind, but I want to look at a few of them at the store before I commit to one.  Besides Lebanese cooking, I also recently got a Turkish cookbook and a Moroccan cookbook.  All three countries have almost identical food, so that’s somewhat interesting.  A word on Lebanese food (or Middle Eastern food in general): if you don’t like the flavors of parsley, lemon, seven-spices, and natural yogurt, there is a lot of Middle Eastern food that you either (a) won’t like, or (b) will need to develop a taste for.  Just dropping that here as a warning!

Beef Kafta (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 4

1 pound ground beef

1/4 C chopped parsley

1/4 C chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 Tbsp Aleppo pepper

1/2 tsp Lebanese 7-spices (or allspice)

1 1/4 tsp dried mint

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 small onion, finely diced (liquid pressed out)

salt and pepper

 

1.- In a large bowl, mix beef, parsley, tomatoes, aleppo, 7-spices, mint, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, onions, salt, and pepper.  Use your hands to mix thoroughly.

2.- At this point you can either form them into small logs and grill them on small skewers, or form them into small meatballs and bake or pan-fry them.

 

Tabbouleh, minus Bulgur (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 4-6

1 C chopped parsley

1/2 C chopped mint

1/2 C chopped onion

4 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/4 C fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

 

1.- This one is easy.  Put everything in a bowl and mix it well.

 

Batata Harra (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 4-6

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut in a 1/2″ dice

1 1/2 + 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne (less if you don’t like a little kick to your food)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 C chopped cilantro

 

1.- Preheat oven to 450.  Peel potatoes and cut into a 1/2″ dice.  Toss them in a large bowl with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp sea salt.  Toss to coat evenly and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Roast 40-45 minutes.  For even roasting, flip potatoes after 20-25 minutes–but this isn’t absolutely necessary if you forget about it or don’t have time.

2.- During the last 10 minutes of roasting, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and minced garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and add cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper.  Stir together.

3.- In large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil and garlic mixture.  Coat potatoes evenly.  After coated, mix in cilantro and serve immediately.  Caution: these potatoes are like crack.  You might want to make enough to have leftovers for a few days.