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.

 

Salisbury Steak (Whole30 Compliant)

Salisbury Steak

One of my favorite things to eat as a child was salisbury steak.  Of course the only time I ate it was either at school for lunch or in a TV dinner.  Sometime during college, I learned how to make it, but surprisingly I never made it that often.  I heard it mentioned last week and decided that I would make a Paleo version of the recipe.  It is seriously good.  Like…I made this last Wednesday night for dinner and then made it again on Friday for lunch when one of my friends came over.

The portobello mushrooms in the gravy really add another layer of depth.  Regular button mushrooms are fine; however, baby bellas will make all the difference.  If you don’t use coconut milk (or don’t want to open a can just for a tablespoon), you can also use heavy cream, or just leave that part out.  The milk/cream cuts the spicy bite of the pepper, so if you leave out the cream, cut back a bit on the pepper.  Additionally, I use cashew meal in this because I had a bag open but my almond meal wasn’t open yet.  You can use whatever nut meal you want to use–the texture and taste shouldn’t be affected by using almond, pecan, pistachio, or whatever nut meal.

Finally: this recipe calls for 73-80% lean ground beef.  Do not try to go leaner than this.  Don’t get some 85-95% lean beef…because then you will get all mad when they turn out like hockey pucks and you’ll leave me comments that say, “Lauren, you said these were good, but they’re nasty!”  If you get anything leaner, these will turn out like dry, ground beef and onion flavored dog treats.  But don’t give them to your dog…the onion could kill them.

Salisbury Steak (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 3-4

1 pound ground beef (73-80% lean)

1/3 C finely diced onion

1 egg

1/2 C cashew meal

1 tsp black pepper (divided)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 pound sliced baby bella mushrooms

2 C beef broth

1 Tbsp coconut milk (or heavy cream–heavy cream is not Whole30 compliant)

2 tsp arrowroot starch

 

1.- Preheat oven to 350.  In large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, egg, cashew meal, salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, ground mustard, and onion powder.

2.- Form meat into 3-4 patties.  Line baking sheet with foil and spray or grease very lightly.  Put beef patties on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

3.- In a saucepan on medium high heat, add broth, mushrooms, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Leave the lid on for 5-6 minutes, but then remove the lid for the remainder of the simmering.  Add 1 Tbsp coconut milk and allow broth to return to a simmer.  Remove about 1/2 C of hot liquid to a small bowl.  Whisk in arrowroot starch until broken up and well-combined.  Return that liquid to the sauce pan and mix well, stirring until it thickens.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4.- Broil steaks for 2-3 minutes.  Serve topped with gravy.

Primal Chicken Divan (Whole30 Compliant with One Omission)

Primal Divan

My sister-in-law is generally the instigator of our family’s marathon group text messages.  These text threads start out in one place and end up in an entirely different location…generally with at least one person using shouty caps involving the message “TMI!”  Seriously, we have been known to go from weather to Cosmo in three messages flat.  Anyway, while we were in Florida last week at Disney World (that’s why I haven’t posted lately…picture to follow), some of our family members in Arkansas were deciding what they wanted for dinner, and my SIL was the person to suggest Chicken Divan.  I had totally forgotten how much I used to love it…but it has bread crumbs and like 40 cups of sour cream, mayo, and cheese.  Yes, we eat a primal diet…but the amount of sour cream and cheese in that recipe is our dairy allotment for about six months, HA!

I looked up the recipe for Chicken Divan and started coming up with replacements to jot down for a shopping list.  The only thing that is a bit difficult to replace is the bread crumbs, solely because of their function in the recipe: they hold everything together.  You can add whatever you think might work; however, I just kept it without anything used as a binder.  It basically turned out as a loose casserole.  If I were to add something next time, I would probably add some roughly chopped potatoes (or sweet potatoes if you don’t do white potatoes).  This recipe is pretty forgiving, so add in whatever leftover vegetables you have laying around!  Also, if you omit the cheese, it becomes Whole30 compliant.

Primal Chicken Divan

2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs or breasts

24-32 ounces chopped broccoli florets

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

1/2 to 1 pound mushrooms, sliced thick

3/4-1 C chopped asparagus

3/4-1 C full-fat coconut milk

1 C shredded cheese

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

1-2 Tbsp sweet curry powder

3/4 C sliced almonds

 

1.- Preheat oven to 350.  Salt and pepper both sides of chicken.  Put chicken in stockpot and cover by about an inch with water.  Bring to boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes (until chicken is cooked through).  Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool.

2.- Add broccoli and asparagus to the same chicken water.  Cook about 5 minutes and then drain (for those of you playing the home game, that liquid is broth, should you want to save it).  Dice chicken and add to large bowl.  Add in broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, coconut milk, spices, and cheese.  Mix well.

3.- Pour bowl contents into a 9×13 greased baking dish.  Spread a little extra cheese (if desired) on top and then top with sliced almonds.  Bake 30-40 minutes.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Bacon-Wrapped Herb Crusted Turkey (Whole30 Compliant) and Orange Maple Sweet Potato Crisp (Paleo)

Turkey and Sweet Potatoes

We have plans to eat with the boarding school girls on Thanksgiving, so I made a turkey breast tonight along with some sweet potatoes.  I’m actually not that big of a fan of turkey, but because I’ve never cooked it before, I decided now was as good of a time as any!  I put together a liquidy-type rub for the turkey, covered everything in bacon, and roasted it.  There was not one strand of turkey meat on this thing when I took it out (that’s part of the reason I don’t like turkey…it goes from juicy to bone dry in about four seconds).

The sweet potatoes are something all of their own.  Basically like sweet potato candy.  With yummy pecan goodness.  And delicious orange zest.  So…make them.  Now.  Or…five minutes ago.

Bacon-Wrapped Herb Crusted Turkey (Whole30 Compliant)

Serves 2-4

3-4 pound turkey breast

10-15 slices of bacon

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 tsp dried rosemary

3 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp coriander

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

6 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

 

1.- Preheat oven to 400.  Line baking pan with foil (for easier clean up) and place a wire rack on top.

2.- Whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl.  Add crushed/minced garlic, rosemary, thyme, coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt.  Mix well until it’s a more liquid version of a paste.  Pat the turkey breast dry and set on wire rack.  Rub the herb paste all over the turkey.  Feel free to push some under the skin.

3.-  Weave bacon slices together over top of the turkey (in this picture, I obviously didn’t weave it–I laid half of the slices one way, and then covered those with slices going the other way–I didn’t have time to weave).  Tuck the edges of the bacon under the turkey.

4.-  If there is any herb paste left over, you can brush it on top of the bacon.  Bake for 1 hour (or until internal temperature reaches 165).  Remove from oven, let rest 10-15 minutes, carve, and serve.

 

Orange Maple Sweet Potato Crisp (Paleo)

Serves 4-6

Potatoes:

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 Tbsp Kerrygold

1/2 C coconut milk (or heavy cream if you do dairy)

1/4 C maple syrup

Zest and juice of 1 large orange

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Salt

 

Topping:

2 Tbsp Kerrygold

1/4 C maple syrup

1/4 C palm sugar (coconut sugar)

1 Tbsp orange juice

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

2 C pecan halves

 

1.-  Preheat oven to 350.  Put peeled and chopped sweet potatoes in a large pot, cover with water (fill to about 2-3″ above the potatoes), bring to boil, and simmer until tender (about 20-25 minutes).  Drain potatoes and return to pot.

2.-  While potatoes are cooking, melt 2 Tbsp of Kerrygold over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the rest of the topping ingredients except the pecans.  Stir and heat until bubbling.  Let cook for 2 minutes, add pecans, and stir well, coating all nuts with the syrup mixture.

3.-  Mash cooked sweet potatoes.  Add Kerrygold and coconut milk.  Mix until well combined.  Mix in the maple syrup, orange zest, salt, and 3 Tbsp of orange juice.

4.-  Pour potatoes into a 2-qt baking dish, top with pecan mixture, and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Italian Chicken Fingers (Whole30 Compliant)

Chicken Strips

Isak will be turning 3 at the end of February.  What do 2-year olds love?  Chicken nuggets.  He currently thinks that chicken strips are just giant chicken nuggets (let’s face it, they are).  I’ve tried a bunch of chicken strip recipes within the paleo genre…and none of them live up to his standards.  Of course I can’t just grill chicken and cut it into nugget-sized pieces, because those pieces are not chicken nuggets.  Obviously.  Who knew?  Anyway, I made these tonight for JR’s and my dinner (Isak had already eaten–JR and I didn’t eat until 9).  Of course Isak ended up eating four or five pieces of my chicken…so I’m going to assume that they pass the toddler-test.

I took all of the recipes I’d used before, put together the common types of ingredients, changed the starch, added my favorite chicken-y spices, and this was born!  Trust…they are DELISH.  Side note: if you don’t have both cashew and almond flour, you can use one cup of either one of them.

Italian Chicken Fingers (Whole30 Compliant)

2 pounds chicken tenderloins (or breasts cut into strips)

1/2 C cashew flour

1/2 C almond meal

3 Tbsp tapioca starch

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp Italian seasoning (or a mixture of oregano, basil, parsley, and whatever other Italian spices/herbs you like)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp paprika

2 eggs, whisked

1/4 C coconut oil

 

1.- Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Let heat through for at least 4-5 minutes.

2.- In shallow bowl, mix almond flour, cashew flour, tapioca starch, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, black pepper, salt, and paprika until well-combined.  In a second shallow bowl, whisk eggs.  Dip each piece of chicken in the eggs and then dredge in the flour mixture.

3.- When oil is hot, cook chicken strips for 4-5 minutes on each side (or until internal temp reaches 165).  Remove from pan and try not to eat them all on the way to the table.

 

A Primal Vacation

Okay…I managed to go on a 10-day vacation and stay compliant.  Yes, even in drive-thrus (that part involves a lot of boring, naked, grilled chicken and salad without dressing or fruit…but it can be done).  I didn’t take pictures of the fast food meals though.  They were too boring.  I took pictures of the food that I got at regular restaurants.

A caveat: if you are strictly Whole 30 or strictly Paleo, eating out will be harder.  Not impossible…but definitely harder than someone on a Primal diet.  So keep that in mind.

Texas Roadhouse

This was a meal from Texas Roadhouse (in Plano, TX).  It’s their 6 oz (I think it was 6) steak, medium rare, with steamed vegetables and a baked sweet potato.  I even managed to sit there in front of a basket of their rolls and homemade cinnamon butter without caving!

Pressroom

Breakfast at The Pressroom in Bentonville, AR.  Basically, deconstructed breakfast tacos.  Scrambled eggs, salsa, cilantro, sliced avocado, and a bowl of chorizo (I normally don’t like chorizo; however, this was delicious).  Breakfast seems to be the easiest meal to find while at a restaurant.  Every place that serves breakfast has eggs, meat, and vegetables.  Done.

Taziki

A lamb salad plate from Taziki’s in Bentonville, AR.  The lamb on this salad was DELICIOUS.  The nuts were a great addition, as was the feta.  Even if I weren’t eating a primal diet, I would eat this salad for every meal of every day.

El Charro

A Mexican salad from El Charro’s in Joplin, MO.  I have been to this restaurant probably 500 times between when I was 12 and now.  I have only ever gotten one thing here: the chimichanga.  It is a delicious deep-fried, tortilla-wrapped, meaty piece of goodness, covered in a white cheese sauce and served with beans and rice.  This is the first time I got anything else.  It was really good!

Applebees

This is one of the sizzling Bourbon Street something-or-others from Applebees in KC, MO.  It was decent.  It wasn’t the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, but it got the job done.  Protein + fat + veg = a happy person.

Tassos

Finally, the Gyro Salad from Tasso’s in KC, MO.  I usually get the gyros here (we visit Tasso’s every time we visit KC…but it’s because of the belly dancer, not because of the food), but the salad was actually quite good.  It definitely made for a very happy tummy (more happy than when I used to have the regular gyros).

So that’s my 10 days in a very small nutshell.  We didn’t eat every meal out, so these pictures are most of the restaurant meals that I had.  We just got home tonight, and I’m super excited to get back to cooking at home.  This week has a lineup of things like goat, lamb, and beef!  Can’t wait!

Pumpkin Spice “Granola” (Paleo)

Pumpkin-Spice Granola

I’ve been messing with this granola for three days, and I think I finally have it where I want it.  What did I find out?  Without using some oats or glue, there was no amount of smooshing that turned these into granola bars.  If you use oats in yours, you can likely get them to stick together better…but the lack of oats and the extreme humidity in San Antonio was working against me.  No skin off my back though…I just finished cooking it and tossed it in a bag.  Eat it anywhere, problem solved!

This is a pretty wet recipe, so unless you live in the desert (Santa Fe friends, perk up!), this probably won’t get crunchy.  This is relatively soft, but not mushy like oatmeal.  Oh…and it’s totally addictive.  Our house has smelled like pumpkin pie for the last three days, and I can’t complain.  Just wait until we get back and I use this as a topping for cooked apples!

Pumpkin Spice “Granola”

1/2 C raw honey

1/2 C Kerrygold (or coconut oil)

1/4 C nut butter (I used Sunflower butter)

1/3 C pureed pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cloves

pinch of salt

2 C shredded unsweetened coconut

1 C sliced almonds

1 C chopped walnuts or pecans

1 C chopped macadamia nuts

1/2 C dried cranberries or raisins

1.- Preheat oven to 300.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2.- In large pot, melt honey, butter, and nut butter over low heat.  Stir until combined, add pumpkin, and mix well.  When everything is integrated, remove from heat.

3.- Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.  Add all dry ingredients and stir until dry is coated with wet.  If it still seems too wet, add in more coconut and/or nuts until desired consistency is reached.  If it’s too wet, it’ll be a little soggy…so it’s better than it’s a bit too dry.

4.- Pour in single layer on baking sheet.  Bake…okay, I baked this twice, and it was in a deeper pan…so I’ll say just bake it.  Every 10-15 minutes, use a spatula to flip it and move it around.  When it gets to the desired doneness, take it out.  Simple as that.  I think mine baked for a total of about 45 minutes, but again, my pans were different because I tried to do bars first.

5.- Store in airtight container for 1 week, or freeze for up to a year.

* Tip: WATCH the nuts.  They will burn if you cook it too long and/or too hot.  If they’re starting to burn, turn the oven temp down to 275.