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!

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.

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)

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.

 

 

Greek Salad (Primal–or Whole30 Compliant without the feta)

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I’ve been struggling to come up with some new stuff lately–partially because I’ve been super busy, and partially because I haven’t been as motivated to create.  I’ve been comfortable just repeating a bunch of recipes.  I mean, normally I have a few nights a week of existing recipes and a few nights a week of new stuff…I just haven’t felt like it.  Then, this weekend, I got a hankering (yes, hankering) for the food of my people: Mediterranean!  Well, it started specifically with Lebanese food and then branched out to Greek and other Middle Eastern.  This is a hard food to make primal-compliant…but I’m going to try the best I can.  That being said, there are certain things that I won’t change (e.g. I won’t eliminate the bulgur in tabbouleh…that’s just sacrilegious).

So if you have any favorite Mediterranean dishes that you’re looking for new ways to make, comment below and I’ll see what I can do!  Until then, my first recipe I tackled was a traditional Greek salad.  Sidebar: I don’t like olives, but this was traditionally be served with Kalamata olives.  But really, it hit. the. spot.  McYumYums!

 

Greek Salad (Primal–Whole30 Compliant without the Feta)

Dressing:

1/4 C chopped parsley

1/4 C chopped dill

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp oregano

salt and pepper

Salad:

6 C chopped or shredded Romaine lettuce

3 C diced tomatoes

1 C thin-sliced red onion

1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced

1 C (about 4 oz or so) crumbled feta

1.- Add all dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until well-combined.

2.- Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl.  Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.

 

This would be delicious with some grilled lamb or some chicken shish tawook!

 

Chicken Marsala (Paleo)

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala is typically made with breaded chicken and cornstarch, making it off the paleo list.  I love the taste of it though, so I reworked it to be a paleo-friendly recipe.  If you avoid wine, there really isn’t a good way to make this without…so you probably won’t want to make this recipe.  If you’re okay with a bit of wine, then get the ingredients for this and make it soon!  A note about using arrowroot powder: you use it in a similar manner to cornstarch.  I usually make a slurry with it before adding it to hot liquids, but you don’t need quite as much water as you do with cornstarch.  I add close to equal amounts of arrowroot and cold water, whisk them together, and then add them to the liquid.  I usually choose arrowroot when cooking with hot liquids because tapioca can sometimes get a little slimy.  Just FYI, HA!

This dish would typically be served over rice or pasta, but obviously those options are out when it comes to paleo.  I served this over a potato/cauliflower/parsnip mash and it was delicious.  You could pretty much do whatever mixture of vegetables that you wanted to–those are just the three that I had some spare of on hand.  I’ve also done mixtures of sweet potato and cauliflower, turnip and potato, and parsnip, carrot, and cauliflower.  I love me some mash!

Chicken Marsala (Paleo)

Serves 3-4

1 pound chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness (or just get chicken breast cutlets)

salt and pepper

olive oil

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

2 Tbsp butter

1/2 C Marsala wine

1/4 C chicken stock

1/4 C dry white wine

2 Tbsp coconut milk (or heavy cream for primal, if wanted)

2 Tbsp arrowroot starch

2 Tbsp cold water

 

1.- Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and fry each piece of chicken 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove to plate and tent with foil.

2.- Reduce heat to medium.  Add butter and mushrooms to the pan.  Cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes, give or take.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add Marsala, wine, chicken stock, and coconut milk.

3.- Once warmed through, add arrowroot slurry to liquid.  Cook 3-4 minutes to reduce slightly.  Pour mushrooms and sauce over chicken to serve.