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.


Avocado Chicken Bombs (Keto)


A friend and I went out to dinner recently at Chuy’s and discovered something delicious: the stuffed avocado.  Or, at least the version of it that I had them make for me.  It’s typically breaded in panko and fried that way; however, I can’t have panko and they can’t fry it without.  The chef came out to talk to me and we worked out a similar dish, and I thought I would mess around with it once I got home.  The other thing that is like crack at Chuy’s is their jalapeno ranch dressing.  Duh.  Anyone who has been there knows that.

With the same friend coming over to our house for dinner a couple weeks later, that was the perfect time to come up with a similar recipe, try to replicate the dressing, and then unveil the final product at dinner.  This was waaaaaaay better than what they came up with at Chuy’s, so I’m pretty happy about it.  You could make this with a plethora of different layers, but I’ll list it the way I made it last weekend.  Try it–you won’t be sorry!

Avocado Chicken Bombs (Keto)

Serves 4

Nutrition for Avocado Chicken Bombs: Calories (597), Fat (54.2 g), Saturated Fat (10.6 g), Carbs (17.3 g), Fiber (13.5 g), Sugar (1.3 g), Net Carbs (3.8 g), Protein (17.8 g)

Nutrition for Jalapeno Ranch: Calories (101), Fat (10.7 g), Saturated Fat (2.7 g), Carbs (0.7 g), Fiber (0.3 g), Sugar (0.6 g), Net Carbs (0.4 g), Protein (0.2 g)


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/2 C olive oil

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp sugar-free maple syrup

2 Tbsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp black pepper

1.- Mix everything but chicken together.

2.- Cut chicken into small strips or chunks.  Put in resealable plastic bag and cover with marinade.  Mix around and allow to marinate for at least four hours.

3.- Heat skillet to medium high.  When pan is hot, add chicken in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Fry until cooked through and transfer to baking dish.  When all chicken is cooked, cover baking dish and put in 300′ oven for 20-30 minutes.

4.- Assemble into avocado chicken bomb.

Jalapeno Ranch

1 C mayonnaise

1/3 C buttermilk made from heavy cream

1/3 C sour cream

4 oz can chopped jalapenos

4 oz can chopped green chiles

1/3 C cilantro

1 oz ranch seasoning

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1.- Whiz everything in a blender and enjoy.

How I Layered the Avocado Chicken Bomb, from Bottom Up

1.- Avocado

2.- Chicken

3.-Shredded Cheese

4.- Table Cream

5.- Pico de gallo

6.- Jalapeno Ranch

7.- Crumbled Bacon

8.- Queso Fresco


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 (2)



Zucchini 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.

Beef with Broccoli (Paleo)

Beef and Broccoli

I grew up in Southwest Missouri where the only Asian food available is “Springfield-style.”  What does that mean?  Trashy.  Meat and vegetables either battered and deep-fried or covered in high fructose corn syrup-flavored MSG sauce.  It was TASTY!  Okay, so it probably tasted better at 3 in the morning when drunk, but whatever.  Just consider it the Taco Bell version of Asian food.  Let me just say this: if I could find a good primal version of cream cheese puffs (for those of you playing the home game, those are crab rangoon sans the crab), I would literally be in heaven.  Yes, LITERALLY.  There are certain foods that are excellent vehicles for cream cheese: ham, bagels, deep-fried wontons.

Anyway, all of this boils down to just one thing: sometimes I want some trashy (tasting) Asian food.  So I made some in a paleo version.  I know, I know, this is right at the line of SWYPO…but I’m not making it every day or anything, or even once a week.  But now I have a recipe (that actually tastes good) for when I have that craving!

Beef with Broccoli (paleo)

Serves 3-4

1.5-2 pounds flank steak, sliced thin and cut into 2″ pieces


2/3 C coconut aminos

1/3 C honey

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

1/4 C tapioca starch + 2 Tbsp water

4 C broccoli florets


1.- Grease inside of slow cooker.  Add steak, broth, aminos, honey, sesame oil, and garlic.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

2.- In small bowl, whisk tapioca starch and water until combined.  Add to slow cooker and stir.  Cover and cook an additional 25-30 minutes.

3.- Put broccoli in a large tupperware container and add about 1/2″ water.  Place lid, askew, on top of container and microwave for 4 minutes.  Drain and stir broccoli into slow cooker with the beef.  Mix and heat through a bit.  Serve immediately.

Hot Chocolate (Paleo)

Cake and Hot Cocoa

I keep forgetting to post this recipe!  So, I’m sorry that it’s about 2 1/2 months late, but at least I remembered today, right?

What you need to know about Paleo hot chocolate is that it’s a bit more bitter than something like, say, Swiss Miss.  You can add more maple syrup to it if you want to make it sweeter, but really adding sugar just negates some of the positive effects you get from the cocoa and such.  This is a pretty big recipe (I made it for about 10 people), so you may want to adjust the amounts to however much you want to make.  Because it was a large recipe, I made it in the slow cooker.  It is amazing for large batches of cocoa or cider!

Hot Chocolate (Paleo)

Serves 10-12

5 cans full-fat coconut milk

1/2 gallon almond (you can get unsweetened, unsweetened vanilla, original, vanilla, whatever you want–just pay attention to the ingredients)

1-2 C dairy-free chocolate chips (adjust to your taste)

1/4 C cocoa powder

2 tsp vanilla

1/4-1/2 C maple syrup


1.- Put all ingredients except for the vanilla into the slow cooker and turn on low, stirring occasionally until everything is integrated.

2.- Once everything is integrated, add vanilla and stir.  It takes about 3-4 hours on low to heat up all the liquid.  You could also do this in a stock pot over the stove to do it faster.

Tuna Croquettes (Whole30 Compliant)

Tuna Cakes

I love salmon cakes.  I would make them all the time, but JR and Isak would get tired of them.  I felt like having them yesterday, but I didn’t have any salmon…so I decided to throw some together by using tuna.  Surprisingly, when put into a croquette form, tuna and salmon taste practically identical.  If I had blindfolded JR, had him take a bite, and asked him what he was eating, he would have said “salmon cakes,” hands down.

This time, instead of using sweet potato and almond flour as a binder, I decided on using regular white potato instead.  The consistency was FANTASTIC, so I may just continue to use that all the time in the future.  I have also started making HOMEMADE MAYO with an immersion blender.  Game.  Changer.  Homemade mayo was a game changer in the first place…but add an immersion blender, and s*%t just got REAL!  Here is the beauty of using your stick blender for mayo:

1.- Put all ingredients in the blender cup.

2.- Turn on the blender for about 45 seconds.

3.- Mayo is ready.

No more 10 minutes of arms falling off from a slow trickle of oil!  Whiz and done!

Oh, and PS: for those of you with children, these are a GREAT way to hide vegetables–go nuts and add whatever veg you want!

Tuna Croquettes (Whole30 Compliant)

Makes 12 croquettes (serves 4-6)

12 oz can tuna, drained and flaked

1 C mashed potato

1/3 C diced carrots

1/3 C diced celery

1/4 C finely chopped green onions

1 T chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1 1/2 tsp dried dill

1/8 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground mustard

1 egg

1/2 tsp hot sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1.- Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease with coconut oil. Wash, peel, and cut 1 medium to large potato or 2 small potatoes.  Put in saucepan, cover with cold water, and cook until soft.  Drain, mash, and put in large bowl.

2.- To potatoes, add carrots, celery, green onions, parsley, Old Bay, dill, paprika, and ground mustard.  Stir well until all spices are thoroughly distributed.

3.- Mix in hot sauce.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Mix in egg and tuna.

4.- Chill tuna mixture for 30 minutes.  (If you don’t have time to chill, you can just continue on; however, the chilling process makes the cakes a bit easier to make)  Using a 1/3 C measure, spoon tuna mixture in and lightly press down.  Don’t pack the cup too tightly.  Flip the cup over and tap it on the baking sheet to release the cake.  Repeat this until the tuna mixture is gone.

5.- Place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove tray, flip croquettes over, and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes.

For the aioli I served on top, I mixed 1 C of homemade mayo with 1 Tbsp dried dill, 1 tsp dried chives, 1 tsp of dried parsley, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, and a splash of unsweetened almond milk to thin it just a bit.  Stir it well and add salt and pepper to taste.