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!

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.

 

 

Primal Fajito

Fajito

Let’s get this out of the way: white potatoes are a taboo subject in the paleo family.  If you talk to 100 people who claim a paleo lifestyle, you will get 200 definitions as to what’s included in compliant foods.  We have relaxed our diet a bit to a primal definition so that we can include good cheese (neither of us have problems with dairy in cheese/butter/yogurt form–only in liquid-type milk form…so no milk and no ice cream).  That being said, Whole30 has recently added white potatoes to their list of compliant food.  Do we eat them at every meal?  No.  But we enjoy them in moderation…and sometimes you just need a yummy baked potato!

Like the other night…I had a few potatoes to use before they started growing a gnome village on them.  JR wanted me to make this Mexican beef stuff that I had made for the HOLIDAY PARTY last month.  So I made the beef, baked some potatoes, sauteed a mix of mushrooms, onions, and green peppers, added a dollop of plain yogurt, and made a fajita in a potato–VOILA!  Dinner!

Fajito (Primal)

Serves 3-4

2 pounds beef stew meat

1 C plain yogurt (plus a little more for a topping)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

1 potato per person

1 small onion, cut into wedges

1 green pepper, roughly chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced thick

olive oil

1.- In medium bowl, mix yogurt, garlic, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, and lemon juice until well combined.  Pour into resealable plastic bag with beef, move around to coat, and marinate for 24-36 hours in the refrigerator.  Occasionally turn the bag over so that the yogurt doesn’t settle in one spot for the entire time.

2.- Preheat oven to 425.  Scrub potatoes, dry, pierce them a few times with a fork, and rub them with a thin layer of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and place directly on the oven rack.  Cook for 60-80 minutes, depending on how crispy you like the potato skin.

3.- In a large skillet, heat some fat over a medium heat.  When hot, add the onions and cook until they begin to soften.  Add mushrooms and green peppers and cook until they are heated through but still a bit crunchy.  Remove from pan and set aside (I actually made these at the same time as the beef so they finished cooking at the same time).

4.- In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp fat over medium high heat.  Add beef and cook until desired doneness is reached.  Ours were medium rare at about 3 (or so) minutes per wide-side.

5.- Cut each potato with a cross.  Open up and fill with a scoop of beef, a scoop of vegetables, and a dollop of plain yogurt.  If you feel the need, you can also garnish with green onions, avocado, chopped bacon, and/or salsa.