Keto Home Truths for Newbies

This year, keto has become the number one “fad diet” or at least it’s seen that way — rather than an effective way of healthy eating (which it IS!) Pay-based dietary systems are up in arms. There seems to be a coordinated anti-keto influence campaign in online media and that just adds fuel to the fire. Newbies jump on the Facebook sites and are amazed at the success stories and deeply upset when they don’t lose twenty pounds in a week. They have no ideas how their bodies work, no idea how they got overweight in the first place, and just want the magic keto formula for making their obesity go away. Here are some “home truths” about keto for newbies.

People do lose weight (eventually)

That’s the first fact that has people jumping up and down. Often, for the very obese (which I consider anyone in the 300 pound range or more), the impact can be dramatic and initially very fast. For people who weigh well under 200 pounds, its not going to go like that.

Everyone expects weight loss to be very, very rapid. For some people, the first pounds do come off quickly, but this is NOT MOST PEOPLE. For most people, it’s a frustrating, slow shift from one set point to another, taking place over many months.

The big difference is that this shift CAN BE sustainable over the rest of our lives. It has to be. Many people are waking up and discovering that “diets” don’t work: we have to change our entire ways of eating. Can you imagine eating according to a limited plan? Forever? Scary. Worrying. But there are so many ways to make this work! Keto is somewhat limiting, but it delivers on health, it’s adjustable and flexible–and there isn’t a company relying on weekly sales contacts to make a buck.

Learning about how the body works is KEY to figuring out how to “keto.”

Some Home Truths

  • Almost any change of the composition of one’s diet will trigger a small weight loss. In the beginning, these shifts are mostly the loss of “water weight” as one’s fat cells collapse and lose water. It is the HORMONAL TRIGGERS on insulin, human growth hormones, cortisol (and other bodily reactions that are not well understood) that occur when our diets significantly change that causes this. This is why egg fasts work (sometimes) to break a stall. This is at least part of the reason why carb cycling is helpful.

Changing the composition of one’s diet can trigger some (often small) weight loss and “break stalls.” Don’t get in a rut, eating the same things all the times for long periods. Eating the same thing, over and over, contributes to “stalls.”

  • People who need to lose ONLY twenty or so pounds will not lose all that weight in one week. That doesn’t happen. Women who have 100 pounds to lose have SO MANY MORE fat cells –and so their shedding of pounds is MUCH HIGHER. But not even all of those women lose rapidly.
  • Age is a factor. Under 30? MUCH easier. Over forty or over fifty? It will be a struggle, but a struggle you can win.
  • General health is another issue. If you’re diabetic or getting insulin resistance (and if you’re over 200 lbs, you are INCREASINGLY at risk for that)–it’s going to go more slowly. There are ALL KINDS of intervening health issues that slow weight loss: hypothyroidism, Krohn’s disease, immune disorders like celiac and MS– the list is looooooong. There may be underlying problems even YOU don’t know about yet.
  • Women lose more slowly than men. Estrogen levels go up and down, and with it, weight–particularly water weight–bumps up and down. Yes, even after menopause, estrogen still tends to act as a curb to rapid weight loss. Sad, but don’t compare your weight loss with those of the men in your life.
  • If you’ve been on previous diets, well, that is another impediment to fast weight loss. I did South Beach and Weight Watchers (twice). Research on those “Biggest Loser” folks showed that drastic low calorie dieting slows down the metabolism. Since I am a research nerd, here’s an article on that from Scientific American.

Yo-yo dieting –trying and giving up on diets over and over– makes each successive attempt to lose weight slightly harder. This is why you hear so many talking about “keto for life.”

My Glands and My Weight Loss

There is a difference between a problem that is COMPLICATED and a problem that is COMPLEX. “Lazy, dirty” keto is pretty simple –keep carbs under 20 (net) and you’re done. Strict keto is COMPLICATED. The keto police think up new rules every day until our eyes cross and we run screaming into the night. Building a car — or even a bicycle — is COMPLICATED. There are lots and lots of interconnecting parts. Driving a car is complex. The kind of car we drive–a monster truck or a tiny convertible–affects how we steer, how we brake, and what kinds of maneuvers we can pull off. Our EXPERIENCE in driving a car MATTERS. And if you’ve ever had a FAVORITE car that responds to you SO WELL, well, that’s a great experience. But even a car like that gets old, it wears out, and it changes. We can (and will) get new cars. We can’t get new bodies.

Our bodies REWIRE themselves in response to changes in diet. EVEN THE BRAIN gets involved. Each new change in the way we eat causes the body to have to figure out how it should REACT to keep us healthy.

The body’s goal is to keep us at one steady weight. The body is our “mechanic” trying to keep the whole “machine” going–trying to keep us in peak condition (when we’re young) — and trying to help us just keep going for long haul as we age.

To push the car analogy a bit further, we can RESTORE a car, but that is a COMPLEX endeavor. Old parts have to mesh with new parts (and new materials). There are limits in what you can do. The old Model T can’t do 75 mph. Even an expensive, 1930s Rolls Royce is going to have to be babied.

Don’t think of yourself as a Model-T. Me? I’m a classic Ford Mustang. 😀 I want to take care of this body! I’m going to have to work with the mechanic (my body) to coax it into agreeing to some more radical overhauls (weight loss). We are going to have some tense negotiations, but I’m confident we’ll find a good solution.

WEIGHT LOSS is COMPLEX.

Set point theory is the hypothesis that’s been widely documented to be a real phenomenon. The only reason it’s a theory and not a fact is that SCIENCE DOESN’T KNOW WHY this happens. Science has some guesses about what causes this, but nothing’s been definably proven in terms of CAUSE. We do know that weight loss involves the endocrine system: HORMONES. Specifically: insulin, estrogen and human growth hormone. Cortisol is also another hormone that has role in glucose metabolism.

The thyroid is the master gland. It controls the production of hormones. It impacts the pituitary gland that produces a signal to the adrenal glands (on top of your kidneys) to produce cortisol. It also produces human growth hormone. The thyroid impacts the capacity of the pancreas to produce. insulin.

Estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries but other glands also produce it. FAT CELLS ALSO PRODUCE ESTROGEN. So even us ladies who have been through “the change” have estrogen in our systems from our body fat. This is not a bad thing; estrogen protects our bones and helps our skin to heal after injury. Estrogen increases our sensitivity to insulin–a good thing in losing weight. But it also makes us heavier in the hips. Estrogen helps manage cholesterol levels, which help the liver and the heart.

Weight loss is a complex biochemical dance among the hormone-producing organs (thyroid, pancreas, pituitary gland, adrenal glands–ovaries and fat cells!).

Maintaining a constant weight helps the body to be resilient against health threats–viruses, infections, and malnutrition. Working WITH your body means to make long-term, healthy changes so that the body is more able to relent on weight maintenance, a little. The good news is that slow changes tend to be more sustainable changes. Fast pounds off? Fast pounds back on.

One thing I’ve noticed. I have been on this WOE for six years. If I go to a restaurant and eat some inappropriate things, my fasting blood sugar seems to remain fairly stable — if it’s just for that one meal. Two days in a row of eating badly? Then I see big changes in my fasting blood sugar. Your mileage may vary.

Overblown expectations are a stumbling block.

We tend to expect too much. The paid programs like to make us weigh in every week. This gives them a sales contact with us on a weekly basis. People lose weight on the paid programs, too, but one has to be willing to make that sales contact on a regular basis for the rest of one’s life. Many folks have been exposed to these norms, values and ideas and consider them “common knowledge.” It starts out as “Weight Watchers says” information.

I read it on the forums and boards all the time. “Weight Watchers says that you should shoot for a goal of between 1 and 2 pounds of loss a week.” New keto dieters tend to expect this, never mind the fact that the first weeks’ losses are entirely water weight, rather than fat. Some get this for the first month and more. Others struggle from the very beginning–and that may be most of us.

Us fat people? We’re a big demographic (no pun intended). Women between 40 and 64 make up over 50% of the population of all women in the US. According to the CDC, adult (male and female) between 40-59 years old have an obesity rate of 39.5% with adults over 60 or above have rates of 35.4%. That’s a huge swath of the population. There are daily posts in the forums that are “I guess keto is not for me.” And “I’m so frustrated!” and other posts wailing sadly they “this doesn’t work!” and “I haven’t lost ANYTHING.” This is driven by the idea that everyone’s weight loss journeys are going to be IDENTICAL.

If I eat the same things are Mary Sue, then I’ll lose like Mary Sue. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paid programs teach us to blame ourselves when we don’t lose week to week. If only we would “do it right.” And if we’re not losing, we’re doing something wrong. They teach us to track relentlessly and criticize each other–and ourselves– without mercy. People get addicted to daily weighing to validate their keto experience. They get anxious, worried and depressed. The forums are virulently ruthless and “hangry” — and that rabid trolling is how trolls deal with their own poisonous anxiety and worry.

Women have been taught to feel body shame and embarrassment. We’ve also been told that we are stupid and need to be held by the hand and told what to do in terms of managing our own ways of eating. There is sometimes a fairly childlike (or childish) attitude. “Just tell me what to eat.” “Help, I don’t know anything!” are very common statements in keto forums. We have to reject this learned helplessness. We have to learn how our bodies work, we have to learn how keto works for us. We have to get educated. If you follow EVERYONE’S advice, you have given up control and abandoned critical thinking. And that’s not gonna work, long term.

However, I do understand that, like me!, many women are just plain overwhelmed with life issues from widowhood, from being “the mom,” to being the family breadwinner, the caregiver for elderly parents (who are also obese), and have no time and little money. I have personally struggled with issues like these, and indeed, some of these exact issues. We all have to find the time and space to get educated and care for ourselves. Resources like Dr Berg’s Youtube Channel, Dr Berry’s Youtube Channel, and the Diet Doctor Website can really change the game. Books can also help.

I’m a Ford, Maybe You’re a Subaru

Don’t compare your journey. Support one another. Be positive. It’s easy to get negative and depressed but don’t go there. It only slows us down further. Find a forum or a group that is POSITIVE and CARING. We all screw up, and we need support when we do. Overall, the important thing is to make healthy choices. We only get the one body. Take the best care of it.

Best ~ Lola

Keto and The Air Fryer: Three Experiments

These are the hottest gadgets around, second only to (last year’s) Insta-Pot in popularity for keto cooking. Are they any good? What kind should you buy? And what CAN you make in them? Here’s the skinny.

It’s Okay to Buy Cheap

An air fryer is really a small, high powered convection oven, circulating hot air around the food. The only thing that varies on the brands very much is the basket size (and kind) and the electronics for setting the time and temperature. You pay more for larger baskets (with more powerful fans and one would presume, better quality heating elements). And you pay more for bright, legible, easy-to-use electronic interfaces. Some of the fancier ones have all kinds of additional inserts for the baskets.

Last year, I got a tiny one, the Dash, on sale for fifteen bucks on deep discount clearance at Target. I took a shot and it’s become our favorite little gadget. The Dash has been great for cooking a few wings (like, say four), the occasional “hot pocket” and other non-keto snacks that my son has enjoyed. It can also quick cook bacon.

The Dash has held up well and has been easy to clean. After a year of use (about two or three times a week), I still think of it as something good for “everyday.” In our tiny two-person household, the Insta-Pot gets pulled into service only a few times a year by comparison. Cooking for one or two is just a whole different ballgame than cooking for a four person family.

The Dash doesn’t hold much and has a clunky “dial” timer that is very stiff and mechanical. I was definitely ready to start trying new things with it– but I wanted to make whole meals, not just a few snacks or components.

The Dash was adequate for chicken wings, but it tended to make the wings too dark, with burned places on them when I painted them in barbeque sauce. Because the dial mechanisms for time and temperature are clunky, it was hard to be precise making them from batch to batch–which meant using it for bacon was hit or miss. If you’re using this for carby snack, it works great. Hot Pockets, for example, cook up great. The Dash is now the back-up snack machine, for use by my son. It was worth the fifteen bucks — but not a good choice for real keto cookery.

I went shopping for a bigger air-fryer with a better interface.

The Chefman

I looked around at Kohl’s, where the sales guy on the floor gave me a complete run-through on the various brands. He had the Power AirFryer XL (which he loved) and his father had a different brand, the NuWave (that he loved) and some friend of theirs had a third brand (the NinjaFoodi) that also combined the capability of pressure cooking, making it rather like an Insta-Pot plus. In his opinion, they all did the job well and they were all more or less in the same price range.

The Chefman Air Fryer

I went to Target and found the Chefman on sale for sixty bucks. With the success of the Dash behind me, I decided to take a shot.

The Chefman is dead simple. Its top temperature is 400F, its lowest heat is 160F. You push buttons on a glass touch screen to adjust for time and temperature. It can adjust in one-minute intervals and its very simple to operate.

The Chefman is quiet. While the Dash sounds like a small jet plane firing up, we could barely hear the Chefman while it cooked.  

Wings: Experiment #1

I did a dead simple experiment for the first outing on this.

  1. Four wings (raw)
  2. Two eggs
  3. 1/2 cup fine almond flour
  4. 1/2 cup coconut flour
  5. Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (Trader Joe’s)

Instructions

With my so-so experience with barbequed wings using the Dash, I decided to forego the barbeque sauce on the first experiment, and just use an egg wash with almond and coconut flours. Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel has onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black sesame seeds, which provided all the flavors I wanted in one easy sprinkle.

Note: If you don’t have Everything But the Bagel seasoning available, then add 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a teaspoon of onion powder, along with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper to the flour.

  1. Crack the eggs in a bowl, beating them together to make an egg wash.

2. Next, mix the almond flour and coconut flour together and spread it on a plate.

3. Then, dip a wing into the wash and proceed to the next step.

4. Sprinkle the wing liberally with the SEASONING. There’s garlic, sesame seeds, onion and sea salt in this seasoning. It’s a good blend for this quick experiment. (See the note above if you don’t have this seasoning. Then you could skip this step.)

5. Lastly, dredge the wing in the flour mix until you can’t see any wet spots. Set it aside and do the next wing until they’re all well coated.

6. Put the wings in a single layer in the air fryer. Set the temperature for 350F and 20 minutes.

I have no pictures from the first batch because MY SON ATE THEM. He considered them “pretty good! I’ll eat these!” — from the non-keto wheat-a-holic, this was rare praise.

Bacon: Experiment #2

Bacon is probably the most keto thing you can make in an air fryer. I cut the bacon strips into two and lined the bottom of the basket. I had them airfry at 380F for 10 minutes and got super-crisp, super-dark but not burned bacon. A little browner than I like, but I just cut back 2 minutes and I got perfection, as least as far as our household of extra-crispy bacon lovers is concerned.

Bacon requires a bit of fine tuning but you will be able to figure out the times for the kind of bacon YOU like with only a bit of experimentation.

Cleanup was dead simple. If you’re saving the bacon grease for cooking, you can just pour it into a coffee can (or whatever jar you use), right out of the basket. The basket only needs a little dishwashing soap and five minutes in the sink. This was so much cleaner and easier that this alone might make it worth the purchase — but the bacon recipe itself is easily perfected — time, temp, and its done!

Experiment #3: Air Fryer Low-Carb Tortilla Chips

What else can you do with an air-fryer? One of my favorite dishes has always been the chimichanga. Low-carb tortillas are great for enchiladas, could an air-fryer make them keto-friendly?

My first experiment towards that goal is the creation of a much simpler dish, keto-friendly nachos. This was also dead simple: I took a low carb tortilla and cut it into triangles. I used a tortilla that was starting to get a little stale.

I had some bacon grease, about a half tablespoon, in the pot from my earlier bacon experiment. I left that IN the bottom of the pot. I only made two pieces of bacon. Would that add some flavor? There was no harm in leaving it in.

Other than that, this recipe requires 2 ingredients: a low carb tortilla, cut into triangles and cooking spray (I used coconut oil cooking spray).

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tortilla into triangle chips
  2. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Spread the chips on the bottom of the air-fryer basket.
  4. Set the airfryer to 360F for 5 minutes.

The result: crisp tortilla chips. Add a little sprinkle of salt and they were damned near perfect. I had to restrain myself from chowing down on them just to take a picture. When I put them in the microwave, covered in cheese and jalapenos, a few got slightly limp due to an overabundance of cheese, but overall they held up remarkable well. Nicely crisp and very tasty. Thirty seconds in the microwave and they were ready!

I also took a small packet of “wholly guacamole” sauce, added lime juice and chopped onions for a dipping sauce. For a ten minute snack, this was very satisfying and keto-friendly. The tortilla was 4 net carbs, the tablespoon of onion probably pushed the carb up to maybe 5.

Low-carb tortilla chips

Air-Fryer or Instapot?

If you don’t have an insta-pot, the NinjaFoodi is getting great reviews from my fellow keto-ers. That’s a big cost savings if you don’t have either one of these. Another consideration: do you have a big family? My family consists of ONLY two people, so the Chefmate meets our needs. I would probably recommend a bigger fryer for larger families.

On Keto Cornbread and Almond Flour Baking

My experiences with almond flour recipes has always been mixed with the negatives outweighing the positives, until I found Natasha Newton’s Southern Keto cookbook. When looking for a faux cornbread recipe, I turned to this cookbook for real cornbread flavor. As a Southerner myself, I trusted Natasha to know how to get that flavor– and this recipe is very close to the real thing, in my humble experience. And a first-time success at 2 net carbs per serving!

Some Caveats about Almond Flour Baking for Newbie Keto Bakers

Keto baking often requires “investment” in ingredients. Newbie keto-ers are often shocked at the expense, especially for almond flour, a staple in keto baking. The food industry makes its money on cheap ingredients (wheat, sugar, and grains generally) and has flooded the market with these things in one form or another, to the detriment of our health. Insulin, however, is very expensive. Moving to a keto diet means giving up junk food — including breads. This is a hard move to make in Western societies. Our childhood food memories always have significant “bread” moments. Newbie keto bakers turn to almond flour in the hopes that they will be able to recreate their present diets, just by adding keto forms of best-loved dishes.

The high praises for almond flour often leads to high expectations and terrible disappointment.

Almond flour is an ingredient lots of newbies in keto love to hate. They feel betrayed by the people who sing its praises as if it really DOES substitute “perfectly” for wheat flour. Alas, it doesn’t. Wheat is an addictive substance, as the authors of Wheat Belly (cardiologist Dr. Bill Davis) and Grain Brain (Dr. Daniel Perlmutter) have discussed at length. We’re addicted to the dopamine kick in the brain that wheat delivers — and our cravings for bread, cake and other baked goods may never be sufficiently addressed by almond flour substitutes–especially in the beginnings of anyone’s keto journey.

It’s best to either substantively lower expectations–even to the point of staying entirely away from keto substitutes for bread in the first three months or so of starting a keto diet. Let your body forget wheat, its flavor and texture. I didn’t touch wheat for many years, gradually fell off the wagon during my year and a half struggle with cancer. Like many who fall away from a low-carb way of eating, I had to come back with a new game plan that involves refining and elevating my keto baking abilities.

Flavor and Texture

This recipe isn’t real cornbread, but for me, who hasn’t had more than three pieces of cornbread in the past six years, it was nearly perfect. My son, not in keto, has an amazing palate (he can taste individual ingredients in recipes, especially spice). I asked him to give me his honest opinion. He declared the flavor to be “okay” and for the texture “okay, but a bit weird.” My first attempt is suffering from older baking powder — not past its due date but within a few months. I think this is why it didn’t rise as high as expected.

Almond flour does have a much more dense texture than wheat. Bakers often “lighten” it up by adding coconut flour. This recipe doesn’t go that route. It uses 2 cups of almond flour and 2 tablespoon of golden flax meal. Golden flax meal has some properties of a corn-like taste. I put it into my version of fathead pizza dough, to provide a more chewy texture.

I personally found the texture to be slightly dense but acceptable, given the great flavor. Now, that’s me, someone who has barely touched cornbread for six years. (In my defense, I used to have to restrain myself from eating the entire pan). My son described the flavor of this keto recipe as “like a cupcake, with a corn aftertaste that isn’t bad.” For me, I find it very close to cornbread in flavor–due, I think to the “optional”–and quite expensive– corn extract.

“Corn” or “Cornbread” Extract

This is an expensive ingredient, just slightly less expensive than liquid stevia but for a tiny, 1-oz quantity. At nearly 8 dollars a bottle online, corn extract seemed like an insane investment, especially since my early experiments with almond flour baking were — kind of horrible. Almond flour based packaged mixes–the Simple Mills brand, especially, changed my opinion that almond flour was never going to be “for me.” They were “adequate” substitutes and I ate them sometimes during the cancer year, to give myself the illusion of being low carb (and staying away from wheat).

In this recipe, you only use 1/2 teaspoon of corn or “cornbread” extract—and it worked like a charm. Any extract used in large quantities tends to make for problems of producing off-tastes. The bottle was only 30ml but the amount used is very small, so I’m fairly sure it will last me for at least half a year. I also think it will work well in cauliflower recipes, but that’s for another experiment, another day.

The Recipe

The recipe is pretty much a snap to bring together. Start by preheating the oven to 375F. You’ll need a ten-inch cast iron skillet (for best results) but other baking pans will work alright, but a seasoned cast iron skillet will produce a browner, crisper crust.

Ingredients

The dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups superfine (finely ground) almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons golden flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

The wet ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375F
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  • In a larger, separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a quarter cup or so at a time, whisking the dry and wet ingredients together to form a batter.
  • Now prepare the cast iron or other ovenproof skillet or baking pan. (See notes below)
  • Finally, pour the batter into the hot, prepared skillet or baking dish and put it in the oven.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
  • After you take it out of the oven, flip the cornbread onto a plate or cooling rack. Let it cool for about ten minutes.
  • Serve with softened butter!

Preparing the Pan or Skillet

  • To prepare the pan, you will require:
  • 2 additional tablespoons of ghee, butter, coconut oil, or other “grease” (like bacon fat) for coating the skillet (or baking pan).

If you were not raised in a Southern kitchen with a cornbread-making mama (or papa!) , you might not know that cornbread batter NEEDS to hit a hot, greased skillet right before it goes into the oven, to create that nice, brown cornbread crust. My Southern mama used Crisco for everything, including this. VERY BAD IDEA, because, as we learned later, Crisco is just concentrated trans-fat. Probably the worst thing in terms of healthy grease!

Butter, Ghee, Coconut Oil or Bacon Fat: Choosing your Grease (and Your Method–and Your Pan)

Greasing the skillet (or baking dish) is a very necessary step for achieving good corn bread. The trick is to get the pan good and hot– and coated with grease all over the bottom–so that the cornbread will flip out easily after its baked.

Natasha’s Method: Natasha Newton’s recipe used butter that you put in the cold skillet. Then, you put the pan in the oven at 375 to melt the butter, while you put together your wet and dry ingredients. The problem for me was that I am SLOW and easily distracted! By the time I got my batter put together, the butter had gone from melted to “brown” — with the beginnings of burned bits of milk solids in the bottom of the pan. NOT GOOD. I had to spoon out the heavily browned milk solids.

Next time, if I use this method, I will just use ghee, which is clarified butter. It is a shelf stable product which has a very high smoke point. This means you can get ghee much hotter than butter, without burning it. You can get this at Walmart (in with the Mediterranean type of ingredients) or at Trader’s Joes, or, these days, many general supermarkets.

The Down-Home Texas Method. My Southern mama taught me to put a DRY cast iron skillet in the oven to heat it up while I put the wet and dry ingredients together. THEN, I was to take the hot, dry skillet out of the oven, put it on a low burner, then add the grease and get it nice and hot.
THEN, when the skillet is well coated with hot grease, you pour the cornbread batter into the hot, greasy skillet. And get the pot holders to pop the skillet right back into the hot oven right away!

The Bacon Fat Option

Bacon fat is also a very good option for greasing the baking dish or skillet. Fry two or three pieces of bacon directly in the cast-iron or ovenproof skillet. Or, if you use a baking pan that is NOT safe for the stovetop, drain the bacon grease into the oven dish before you pour in the batter. It will give your cornbread a rich, bacony down-home flavor.

This is why a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet is preferred. Skillets have a good handle that enables you to move them from the stove top to the oven and back using a good pot-holder.

If you use a regular baking dish that is NOT suitable for the stovetop, grease the dish well with ghee or coconut oil and put it into the oven to preheat for about five minutes or so. Or use hot bacon fat that you swirl around the cold dish before you put it into the oven to heat up. THEN, take it out (carefully with potholders) and pour in the cornbread batter.

Flipping the Bread Out

This step requires a bit of practice. If you’ve never done this before, its similar to flipping out cakes, however the skillet is MUCH heavier — and hotter–than cake pans. If you’re not an experienced baker, you should wait about 30 minutes to an hour for the skillet to cool down. Or you can use an offset spatula to gently lift the cake out.

How to Flip: Using oven mitts, put a large plate or a wire cooling rack (which is a bit better) on top of the skillet or pan.

Turn the pan upside with the plate or wire rack underneath it. The bread SHOULD immediately release onto the plate or rack. If it doesn’t release, just leave it there until the pan is cool enough to take it away. Greasing the bottom of the pan well is the critical step in getting the cornbread to just fall right out.

The Carby Facts

Natasha Newton suggests that this recipe serves 6, for 2 net carbs per serving:

  • Calories: 233
  • Fat: 20.6g
  • Protein 7g
  • Carbohydrates 4.6g
  • Fiber 2.6g

Bon Appetit! More soon. ~ Lola

Keto Bacon & Gruyere Dutch Pancake

This easy, delicious savory pancake is a keto Dutch dream come true. Have it for brunch–lunch–dinner!

I once had the opportunity to travel to Ameersfort in the Netherlands– where a friend introduced me to the Dutch baby–a special Dutch concoction — at a “Pannekoekenhaus” in the old, walled town. What a revelation! So many savory pancakes to choose from — and they even had a gluten-free option. I was floored. It was 2013 and gluten-free options in restaurants were hard to find — especially in Europe. I had this INCREDIBLE bacon and gruyere offering, nicely savory, with a light application of maple syrup. I’ve been on the lookout for a keto version for AGES. Thanks to Natasha Newton and her excellent cookbook, Southern Keto, and my personal memories of this amazing Dutch restaurant, I present this re-creation of this Dutch classic.

From the Netherlands with Love

The Recipe

I used the very same recipe from yesterday, for the sweet version, but I’ll repeat it here for good measure.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated erythritol
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

The pancake isn’t all that sweet to begin with, so using it as-is works just fine. We’ll prepare the pancake JUST as in the other recipe, but at BEFORE we pop it in the oven, we’ll top the pancake batter with these two ingredients:

  • 3 pre-cooked bacon slices — I used Oscar Mayer’s from a pre-cooked bacon package.
  • 3 tablespoons of shredded gruyere cheese

The Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the eggs, adding in the water and the cream.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, erythritol (or other sweetner. I used granulated Allopure) and coconut flour. It will make a fairly thin batter.
  4. In a 10-inch oven-proof skillet, melt the butter. ( Note: You can use another oven-proof pan that’s not good for the stove top. Just get whatever pan you use get nice and hot, even if you just put the butter in the pan and put the pan in the oven. A cast iron skillet is a good choice, though).
  5. Pour the batter into the hot pan.
  6. Take the bacon out of the package and place the bacon on the top of the batter.
  7. Sprinkle with the gruyere cheese.
  8. Put the pan IMMEDIATELY into the hot oven.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

I serve this with a light drizzle of sugar-free maple syrup. My favorite brand is the Lokanta brand.

The Crepe–Dutch Savory Way

In many ways, the results are somewhere between a crepe and a fritatta. The smoky bacon and the savory cheese brings the egg flavor a bit more forward than in the sweet version.

The Dutch restaurant has literally a dozen different variations –I wish I had taken a photo of the MENU! I recall they also had other versions of this — ham and fig jam, for example–and chicken curry were among the choices. Try this and then, experiment!

The Carby Facts

According to Natasha, this recipe makes FOUR servings. Let me say this, no way in the world that anyone is going to eat 1/4th of this amazing delight. I’m giving you the facts for the WHOLE pancake. Because you’re likely to want to eat it, especially since the net carbs for the whole thing work out to about four net carbs! This is the count for the pancake WITHOUT the bacon and gruyere. Bacon usually has no carbs. Gruyere has 0.4 carbs for an entire CUP, so you can safely count it as 0 as well. 2 tablespoons of Lokanta has 1 carb, so the total for this, syrup and all is about 5 net carbs carbs.

  • Calories: 656
  • Carbs: 6.8
  • Fiber: 2.8
  • Erythritol (sugar alcohol) 6 grams
  • Protein. 28.8

Taking the fiber AND the sugar alcohols out of this seems wild, but if most all the carbs are from sugar alcohol and then the fiber from the coconut flour– that’s about zero carbs. Some sources say take out HALF of sugar alcohols. That’s probably not quite on the money, but even if you leave the net carbs at FOUR, and not subtract the erythritol at all, this is a great carb bargain.

Keto on ~ Lola

Keto Dutch Baby (Oven Pancake)

Dutch pancakes or “dutch babies” are oven-baked pancakes, easier to make than on-the-griddle; they’re delicate and a bit puffy. In the Netherlands, pancake restaurants serve both sweet and SAVORY varieties–filled with chicken curry or bacon and gruyere or ham and gouda–so many varieties! Here we’re going to make the plain, sweet version with lemon blueberry maple syrup.

Keto Dutch Baby

This recipe is from a WONDERFUL Keto cookbook called Southern Keto by Natasha Newton. It create a light, fluffy pancake that would be totally at home in Amsterdam. I balked at the idea of four eggs, but I learned not to dink with this recipe–it’s perfect as it is and yields a large, light fluffy confection that makes for a filling brunch! Your only problem will be people wanting YOUR pancake.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated erythritol
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the eggs, adding in the water and the cream.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, erythritol (or other sweetner. I used granulated Allopure) and coconut flour. It will make a fairly thin batter.
  4. In a 10-inch oven-proof skillet, melt the butter. ( Note: You can use another oven-proof pan that’s not good for the stove top. Just get whatever pan you use get nice and hot, even if you just put the butter in the pan and put the pan in the oven. A cast iron skillet is a good choice, though).
  5. Pour the batter into the hot pan.
  6. Put the pan IMMEDIATELY into the hot oven.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Lemon-Blueberry Syrup

I love the taste of lemon, butter and maple syrup. Add a berry to it, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, and wow! The keto dutch baby is nice, light and fluffy, but as is, it’s a bit on the bland side. Dutch babies always need toppings! A sugar-free maple syrupy compote is very easy.

Take a about a tablespoon of butter and a 1/4 cup of berries. Put them in a microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of sf maple syrup. Add juice from a quarter lemon. Pop this in the microwave for a minute. Stir. Taste. If it’s not sweet enough, add sweetener of your choice! Serve on the Dutch Baby!

The Carby Facts

According to Natasha, this recipe makes FOUR servings. Let me say this, no way in the world that anyone is going to eat 1/4th of this amazing delight. I’m giving you the facts for the WHOLE pancake. Because you’re going to eat it.

  • Calories: 656
  • Carbs: 6.8
  • Fiber: 2.8
  • Erythritol (sugar alcohol) 6 grams
  • Protein. 28.8

Taking the fiber AND the sugar alcohols out of this seems wild, but if most all the carbs are from sugar alcohol and then the fiber from the coconut flour– that’s about zero carbs. That’s probably not quite on the money, but even if you leave the net carbs at FOUR, this is a great carb bargain.

The Lemon-Blueberry Syrup

2 tablespoons of Lokanta sf maple syrup: 1 carb
1/4 cup blueberries: 5 carbs
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice: 0.5

Total recipe: 10 carbs, including real blueberries. This is definitely a splurge, but if everyone in the family is carbing out with pancakes and waffles, this dish will turn heads — and make you feel totally not deprived!

Tomorrow, I’m going to do this recipe the “Dutch” way, with bacon and gruyere.

Product Review: “Know Better” Brand Cake Mix

If you love to cook but don’t have time — and you want a treat but you’re on keto — it’s like a double whammy. Will this cake mix solve for this conundrum? Here’s the skinny on this keto cake mix (found at Wegman’s). It’s available online but for a horrific price. $9.00 for a cake mix? I found it at Wegman’s and thought I’d give it a shot.

Know Better Brand Chocolate Chip Cake Mix

I’ve tried the “Simple Mills” almond flour cake mixes but man, seventeen carbs per cupcake or muffin! Nooooooo. If you’re doing low-carb (but not keto), those mixes are okay. If you have forty or fifty carbs, then a 17 carb muffin is not going to blow your whole day. But if you’re striving to hold the line at 20 or 30 carbs like me, that dog won’t hunt.

I found the Know Better brand chocolate chip cake mix at Wegman’s — hey, this looks better! Only 5 grams of carb per muffin or snack cake serving. Yes, it says it’s cake mix but really, it’s very much a “muffin” consistency. Here was something I could throw together on a moment’s notice when I wanted something chocolate. Perhaps something to smuggle into the movies.

I made the mix as directed. One and quarter cup of water. You can’t get simpler than that. After giving it a good mixing, you put it in a pan–I would highly recommend you line that pan with parchment paper. This is a sticky dough.

The instructions tell you to let the dough rest for fifteen minutes after you put it into the pan or (in my case) the muffin cups. Chia seeds take the place of eggs in this product. The dough has to rest in order for the chia seeds to “bloom.”

I made about six of the muffins in the approved fashion, then I decided to amp it up, to see if my non-keto son would approve of the muffins. I baked the first six as directed at 425 F — a pretty hot oven.

The muffins came out tasty, but with a dryish texture even though I took them out promptly at the 25 minute mark.   Perhaps the cake pan might be a better idea if you’re only going to use the cake mix as is. The oven seemed to have been too hot. The bottom of the muffins were very dry. For nine dollars, roughly a little less than a dollar a muffin– I expected better. But they were acceptable with the typical heavy keto density. Not all that much better than other almond flour products, but convenient.

The Better Version

I added in 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and an equal amount of Swerve to the remaining dough to create a “chocolate” version. I also added about 8 mini-chocolate chips to the top of each muffin, to enhance the chocolate flavor. This way I would have a “as-is” version and an amped up version.

The better version was by far the favorite–but I also cut the baking time down to 20 minutes. This reduced the dryness — these muffins are easy to overbake!

The next day, I both WANTED and ENJOYED this amped up version. But there are cheaper and better recipes for keto muffins. This is an acceptable convenience product (for a ridiculous price).

Keto Cheese Crackers!

The other day I discovered that parmesan crisps (store bought at Whole Foods) are excellent as a cracker replacement for tuna salad. I had also seen some yummy pictures of cheese crackers made from the “ultra thin” slices of cheese. BOTH kinds are easy and delicious. Here’s the recipes and the tips!

Cheese in the Oven – Five Minutes – What could be Easier (or Cheesier?)

I got some parmesan cheese crisps from the store (Whole Foods) over Christmas and meant to use them on a cheese and sausage plate I was going to take to the family “do.” They were great for tuna salad. Crispy like a cracker, held their shape well under the weight of a topping. I definitely will buy those again, but how would they stack up against home-made — which is definitely cheaper? On this rainy Saturday, I tried to find out!

Parmesan Crisps

  • Shredded parmesan — doesn’t have to be fancy — I use Walmart’s store brand!
  • Rosemary (optional) dried (1 tsp more or less) or fresh rosemary, snipped into small pieces. Italian seasoning would be another good idea.
  • Salt & pepper

First thing: Preheat the oven . Some people use a much cooler oven and bake for a longer time. My first go-round I went with the hotter oven: 425 degrees F. The second batch I used a cooler oven: 300 degrees F.

One of the secrets of baking is a good kitchen scale. I got this one on Amazon for 13 bucks and it’s rated highly by the America’s Test Kitchens folks. If I’m making cookies or crackers — I want each cookie or cracker to be the same WEIGHT. This way all the cookies and crackers will cook at the same RATE. This is pretty important since these crackers bake for SUCH a short period of time. We want them to same amount of crisp (not crisp AND burned).

I put a cup on the scale and measured out .35 ounces of parmesan. I then carefully dumped the parmesan on a SILICONE MAT on a baking sheet. You can use parchment paper if you don’t have a mat, but you can get two mats for only 9 bucks or so on Amazon– and they are so useful in keto baking! Very easy to clean and food doesn’t stick to it. Try making these crisps on foil and it just doesn’t work — the crackers will stick to the foil and it’ll be a mess. Parchment paper is “just okay” — as it tends to curl up. But it will work.

After gently tipping the cup out on the mat, I carefully rearrange the cheese so that it’s a round, flat mound, chasing down the stray slivers of cheese like I’m doing some weird game of Jenga. I can get around 10 mounds on a “half sheet” baking sheet (that’s the normal baking sheet size). It is important to keep them at least a half inch apart.

Next, I salt and pepper the cheese mounds.

Finally, I took some fresh rosemary and snipped it into tiny leaf particles, sprinkling them on each mound of cheese.

Into the oven for FIVE MINUTES if using the hotter oven (425 degrees F).

If you’re using the COOLER oven, then it’s more like 7 or 8 minutes at 300 degrees F.

Watch them like a hawk, set a timer because the minutes fly by quickly. When their edges begin to brown slightly, out they come!

Important tip: Get a cooling rack. A cooling rack is going needed to get the baked goods OFF the hot baking pan to a place they can cool quickly. The quicker they cool, they quicker dinner is ready. 😀 I use a spatula and a pot holder to gently slip the entire silicone mat off the baking pan and onto the cooling rack, mat and all. Or you can pick up the parchment paper with oven mitts and slip it on to a platter. Either way, get the mat or the paper off the hot pan and onto a cooler surface.

This makes about 16 crisps from a 1 1/2 cup pouch of shredded parmesan.

Originally I had ten here. Two were sacrificed for tasting purposes. 🙂

These crackers really need a good long cooling period. Twenty minutes minimum. They were still fairly “bendy” — not what I’d call crisp, like the store-bought ones. The taste, however, was on par if not better than the store-bought “gourmet” chips, at half the price.

First I made ten, then another six using the cooler oven. There really wasn’t much difference in their texture. Overall, these are pretty good–but the recipe definitely needs a bit more tweaking. The taste– wonderful. But I want a crisper texture. For that, I’ll probably need another element — possibly a nut flour — I’m not sure.

Colby Jack Thins

Sargent’s and other manufacturers sell “ultra thin” slices of cheese. You can take these cheese slices, slice them in quarters, and bake just like the Parmesan crackers. I used a hot oven for these and the crackers thinned out to become “lace-like” crackers. They were also pretty bendy, but got a little crisper as they cooled. These were very good and very simple. I put them in a 425 degree F oven for five minutes.

I am pretty sure that this is entirely too hot an oven for these crackers. Next time, I will use the cooler oven — 300F for seven minutes. However, I kind of liked the lacy quality — but the cracker isn’t as sturdy.

These crackers were tasty with guacamole or tuna fish.

I’ll update this tomorrow to see if they get crisper overnight. Do NOT expect these crackers to be ready for snacking anytime soon out of the oven. They take time to cool and harden!

Carby Facts

Each chip is about 0.2 carbs and 1 gram of fat.

More soon. ~ Lola