Starting out with Carb Manager

Over on the Dirty, Lazy Keto Facebook Group, I’m seeing folks having trouble with dealing with my favorite tracking app, Carb Manager. Here’s a walk through for getting started.

What is Carb Manager?

Carb Manager is a food tracking app that is tuned for keto and low-carb diets, though you CAN track almost any way you want. You can get started with it here and follow along. It’s free, but there is a great premium version with meal plans and recipes. I love it. I use it every day.

Set Up is Quick and Easy

Then comes setting your profile. The first screen is pretty much fine as is for most US folks doing any kind of keto diet.

You won’t need to change anything here, unless you want to go “metric.”

Next, the dreaded Profile.

Next, enter profile. The weight is going to impact your “calorie” recommendations. Most keto followers pretty much ignore calories, but if you want to track calories too, then make sure you put in your current weight.

Next, they try to be “helpful.” I pretty much ignore calories as this is going to cause me too much stress. I’m on dirty, lazy keto, after all. But you can set it for a desired weight change. Will that help? Honestly, your mileage will vary on that. The only real concern is setting the macronutrient goals.

Then the Goal Setting thing.

However, if you DO want to count calories, then you need to set the Weight Change Goals.

Set the Weight Change goals by clicking on the down-ward pointing triangle to get these options. This will then set your calorie goal.

The Important Part: Setting Your “Macros”

Macronutrients or “macros” in keto language consist of only three things: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat. In ketogenic diets, this is a ratio of 5% Carbs, 25% protein and 70% . This adds up to 100%.

On the little down-pointing triangle, next to the Carbs, Protein, Fat Ratio line, you can click that triangle and get many choices. It will look like this:

Keto way of eating folks choose the 5:25:70 (Carbs to Protein to Fat) option. Low Carb High Fat, a gentler way to lose weight (but often more slowly) is also a good option. The rest are for other ways of eating –or you can create your own with Custom.

There is also this “Ease into this Diet” Option. If you want to work into this slowly, this is a good option.

Click on the downward pointing triangle and you get these options:

This will automatically adjust the carbs to protein to fat and the calorie options over three days, over a week or over TWO weeks. If you’re brand new to keto or LCHF, this can be pretty helpful.

A Note on Protein

It’s widely believed that you should eat enough protein to sustain your body mass. This means you take your weight in pounds, you multiply that by .36 and that’s your ABSOLUTE minimum for protein for the day. You can go beyond that, but don’t go below. At the high end, multiply your weight by .7 for the most protein you should have (the upper limit). Carb Manager should calculate this for you, but you can check that number to see if it’s right.

That’s all there is to setup. If there is interest, I’ll provide walk-throughs on how to track. 🙂

Best, Lola.

Three Types of Intermittent Fasting

Many folks just pass right on by when the topic of IF (intermittent fasting) comes up. It sound hard, even punitive–when you’re already low-carbing for the first time, it sounds scary! Isn’t giving up potatoes enough? IF is a tool in the dietary toolkit. For some people, it is an essential tool. For Type 2 diabetic cancer survivors like me? There’s too much riding on good health to pass up on a potentially life-changing habit!

As I do with anything I want to learn, I write about it. I’m sure it won’t get the kind of traffic that the crispy pork with palmini noodles gets, but if the only person I help is myself, then “keto on.”

From the Hype to the Help

Intermittent fasting is concerned with constraining the time window in which we consume calories. This gives the body a needed break as I explain in the previous post on IF. Researchers (and many keto proponents) suggest that IF helps speed weight loss, breaks weight loss “stalls,” and helps us turn our bodies into “fat-adapted” calorie-burning machines! Booyah! Sounds amazing but we have to get beyond the hype to the health.

My first experience with IF was intermittent indeed! It seems like I would start, then life would get hectic, and I’d miss one of the appointed days, then a week then bam. I wasn’t doing it. It’s hard to remember, I lied to myself. (No, it was hard to give up my midnight snack habit. That’s what was hard). After about three months, I chucked it in. But I hadn’t had cancer and wasn’t diabetic back then (in 2012). I was losing weight regularly and I felt so much better, that I was happy without doing anything further.

There is much more research evidence that IF is good for T2 diabetes and for fighting cancer.

Now, older and having put back on the weight after REALLY falling off the wagon during the cancer surgeries, I know I’m going to need more tools in the tool kit. I am using CarbManager to track. I’m going from simple LCHF eating to full on dirty, lazy keto. I’m adding more exercise. I’m determined to get up to my best health ever.

The question is: What KIND Of IF is right for me?

There are short forms of IF and there are long forms. The longer forms are a 24 period or LONGER of abstaining from food. One would eat dinner and then skip breakfast and lunch the next day. But you’d get to eat dinner that day. I could do that maybe once a week but probably not twice or three times a week that’s often recommended. (This is how I failed my first go-round). Thirty-six hour fasts–where you eat dinner on day 1 and then skip breakfast, lunch AND DINNER on the second day, eating again at breakfast on day 3, seemed like too far a reach!

A second form (popularized by Dr. Michael Mosley in his book, The Fast Diet) allowed you to eat 500 calories a day on the fasting days. You had to fast two days a week. It’s called “5:2” in the hipster discussions of IF. 🙂 I failed at this one too–because 500 calories is simply not much food. I barely gave this one a shot before giving up in frustration. Figuring out satisfying 500 calorie meals was an overwhelming task. LCHF foods tends to be higher in calories. I never developed the knack for this one (though I must admit, I didn’t try real hard.)

Lots of different kinds of IF diets are referred to by the formula of X:Y with X being the fasting time (in days or hours for short-form IF) and Y being the size of the time window that you can eat.

Newer forms of short-term IF (less than 24 hours) are much more sustainable by most people. They are very popular. Research seems to indicate that all forms of IF can provide weight loss and health benefits. It’s a matter of choosing the right style.

Three Kinds of Short Term IF

The most helpful article on IF is this detailed guide to IF from the Diet Doctor blog. This blog post explains that we need to take a break from the “feasting” state to allow our bodies to fall into a “fasting state” — where our insulin levels are lower and we’re more likely to begin consuming our stored fat. There are three popular methods covered in this article (and I’m sure there are more beyond that!) But these three are certainly interesting!

Leangains or 16: 8

This is the most popular form of IF and is supposed to be done every day.  I am given to understand that people do take a day off of this regimen (probably on Saturday or Sundays, depending on what’s “party nights”). This diet (popularized by a body builder, Martin Berkand) involves skipping breakfast. Coffee, tea, water or other no-calorie beverage can be had for breakfast. The rest of one’s “feeding period” needs to be squeezed into an eight-hour time window. So if I skip breakfast (but have coffee with stevia) and don’t eat lunch til, say, 11.30, then I have 8 hours to eat the rest of my food (til 7.30).

This seems more or less do-able. SIX DAYS of this though? Every week. Hmmm. This would seriously change how I eat (which might be a very good thing).

The Warrior Diet or 20:4

This is an “alternate day” fasting for three days a week. It involves skipping breakfast AND LUNCH and collapsing all of one’s eating into a four hour period at the end of the day. Created by Ori Hofmekler, this schedule is said to result in “a deeper level of fat adaptation” and improvement of insulin sensitivity.

I might be able to manage this twice a week. It’s under consideration–but only if I find some way to deal with Lunch Hour at work –which is a social time at least once a week (and it’s spur of the moment so hard to plan). I also really treasure lunch, often my biggest meal of the day. This one would require more significant changes in my daily routine. But maybe — if only twice a week. 

Eat Stop Eat or, if there were a hipster shorthand, 24:24

This involves going entirely without calories for 24 hours, then eating whatever you want for dinner the next day. This is another fasting schedule from a body builder. (How this is going to work for a ‘mature,’ and pillowy woman like myself? Hmmm.) This is quite difficult and should only be done two (NON-CONSECUTIVE) days of the week. Like the Warrior diet, it’s supposed to provide deeper levels of fat adaptation.

The idea is you eat dinner at 8, then don’t eat again until the following day (at 8pm). This might be good for dealing with a company dinner but it’s hard to plan. Our Christmas dinner was supposed to be at 2pm — it didn’t really get started til nearly 5pm. (And there were all day long appetizers–what I think of as the Cavalcade of Calories!). Not do-able if you’re dealing with MY family! 😀

Some Tips on Fasting

The best advice is from the Diet Doctor blog post by Dr. Tom Naimon, MD. This post REALLY gave me the reassurance that I needed to even consider IF as part of my journey. He writes:

With all of these fasting methods, the goal is to skip breakfast, avoid snacking, and consolidate calories near the end of the day. All of these methods are quite effective, and you can in fact mix and match these as much as you would like. I would highly recommend keeping it flexible. Fast for as long as is convenient on any given day, and break your fast whenever you need to or want to. Anything beyond a 12 hour window is going to be at least somewhat beneficial towards anyone’s goals.

If you planned on fasting 16 hours but only make it 13, that’s ok and you are still much better off than if you had eaten all day long with early and late calories plus lots of snacking. I think a good goal would be 24 hours per week of additional fasting (additional to the standard 12:12 baseline). This could be 2 days of 24 hour fasting (Eat Stop Eat), 3 days of 8 hour fasting (Warrior Diet), or 6 days of 4 hour fasting (Leangains).

You could also mix and match as desired. Keep it flexible and go with whatever best suits your schedule and your lifestyle and your current level of fat adaptation.

Dr. Tom Naimon, MD, “Time-Restricted Eating: A Detailed Intermittent Fasting Guide. In Diet Doctor Blog. Updated 14 September 2018. Accessed 27 Dec 2018.

My Current Plan

I’m planning on starting with the 16:8 plan, FOUR days a week–and try to stretch it out to fit in at least 15-18 hours a week of additional fasting. It’s all about the babysteps for me. If I do this every other day for a whole month, then it will be easier to stretch out until it’s routine. My real problem remains the late-night snack. That is really going to need some adjustment on my part! But I know it’s a needed change.

Happy New Year! Here’s to our (improved) health!

An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting or “IF” has been around for five or so years as a boost to weight loss and an overall improver of health. This is especially true when team up with LCHF (and keto) ways of eating. In a nutshell, intermittent fasting helps us become “fat-adapted” more quickly. It improves our body’s ability to shed excess weight, maintain an even blood sugar level, and makes us feel better in the long run.

Here is a very quick, non-technical explanation of why IF is a “thing” in low-carb ways of eating circles. There’s alot of good research that indicates that IF can speed weight loss and generally deliver excellent health benefits. In the next post, I’ll provide a synopsis on how to get started and choose the style of IF that’s right for you –if you decide this is what you’re looking for to supplement your journey to better health.

Constant Snacking Is Not Good

I like my snacks. I’ve avoided IF for years because of my fear of losing snacking privileges. One of the great advantages of going LCHF (or dirty keto) is the fact that one can just swap high carb snacks for low-carb ones and still lose weight. Lots of people do. Stephanie Nyland Laska of Dirty, Lazy Keto fame has gone on record as to not having done anything like IF — and she lost 140 lbs so she has that as her personal experience.

I tried IF in the “early days” — but couldn’t stick with it, though I knew it had real, scientifically founded benefits–and I lost 20 lbs myself on LCHF. But this go-round, since I’m dealing with a much bigger problem of T2 diabetes, I thought it was high time I looked into it again as a way to get back to greater health.

What is IF (Intermittent Fasting)?

Intermittent fasting is a going without food for a period of 12 hours or more, depending on the various “styles” (or “schemes”) to lose weight and advance our general fitness. This article by Diet Doctor explains what IF is and its benefits. 

This post is based on the Diet Doctor’s advice — which I find easiest to understand. It could probably be a little easier, though. When scientists talk in technical terms, I notice people’s eyes glaze over. They don’t get it. So here’s a very non-technical explanation. It’s a little shorter and not nearly as accurate as the Diet Doctor’s or other highly technical discussions on the Internet, but I find that many people do not want the “deep dive” explanation.

How we get fat

When we eat, the body takes the calories we consumes and converts them in to energy we use (in moving around, sitting in a chair, petting the dog, what have you). Carbohydrates get converted quickly and easily into energy for immediate use. Fat can also get converted into energy after the carbs run out. Energy that is not burnt off (either carb or fats) in daily activity gets stored in the liver.

The liver can only hold so much fat and no more. If the liver “tank” is full up, then excess calories are converted into body fat. Losing weight is about getting our bodies to process the body fat, readily and easily, into energy.

Insulin resistance and Diabetes

Science doesn’t fully understand the process of weight loss because individual health issues can get in the way, hampering our body’s ability to burn off body fat. Insulin levels in our blood rises when we eat. Insulin is kind of like a air traffic control tower. It directs the energy from the food we eat straight into the tissues of the body that need immediate energy. Some people develop insulin resistance so that the body doesn’t easily turn the food we eat straight into energy we use. Instead, more of the calories we eat get stored as body fat. Yes, you can eat the very same foods as someone else —and you’ll get fat and that other person won’t–because you have insulin resistance.

If I had known there was a lifetime limit on junk food, I would’ve paced myself.

(What I often think when I’m looking at a pastry counter’s lovely offerings. Sigh.)

If this goes on, the body will begin to produce less and less insulin, so that in time, we get diabetes Type 2. And we get fat –more easily and more quickly than before — because the body begins storing the energy from food (as fat) rather than making it available to our body tissues for energy. Eat too many calories from protein and the body may also begin changing the protein into “sugar” (glucose) and storing it as well. Yikes. This is why everyone is so obsessed with the “macros.”

It takes energy to convert the food we eat into fat. Protein takes the most energy to get converted into glucose (and then into fat). Carbohydrates take the least energy to convert into fat. A low-carb diet pushes the body to convert fat into energy in a preferred way. This is what we mean by being “fat adapted.” When we’re fat-adapted, we lose more weight.

How IF helps get us back our health

Human bodies need a break from constant processing calories.

We usually get that break at night–while we sleep. During the night, our bodies heal up from the stresses and physical issues of the day. That gives us about 8 hours or thereabouts for our bodies to repair themselves–and to BURN OFF FAT. Since we’re not taking in any food, the body turns to the liver and to our body’s stores of fat for the energy it needs to fight off microbes, repair our muscles, and do all the many maintenance tasks we need to stay alive. Put simply, when we fast, we burn body fat. When we eat, things get complicated for the body as it tries to trade off between burning the incoming calories — and burning the body’s stores of fat.

Intermittent fasting is simply extending that time period of going without calories to longer than 8 hours–stretching it to 12 hours or more. This gives our bodies more time to process and burn off our fat stores without throwing in the complication of “what to do” with incoming calories.

IF helps to reduce inflammation, improves our capability to burn fat, lowers cholesterol and increases mental clarity–to name just a few of its many benefits. It also can help to reverse Type 2 diabetes–for me, a great reason to work this into my weekly plan.

A Great Guide to Beginning IF

The Diet Doctor’s blogpost also provide a link to a detailed guide on IF that explains three different styles.

I’ll write and post a short beginning guide to these styles based on this article tomorrow. But here are some highlights to take away with you.

  1. You don’t have to do IF every day to be successful.

Even a few days a week can help. Even just ONE day a week can get you some of the benefits!

2. You can drink water, coffee with no-calorie sweeteners, tea or diet soda and not “break the fast.”

That simplifies matters and doesn’t leave me too hungry.

More soon. And Happy Holidays

Peanut Butter (PB2) Cloud Bread “Pastry”

Ever hear of PB2 powder? It’s a peanut butter flavored powder that does provide a nice wallop of low-carb peanut butter flavor. I made this to go with a low-carb quick sugar-free jam. This recipe has no flour, but it is a confection that can be eaten with a nice sugar-free jam or flavored cream cheese, creating a tasty low-carb “danish.” Or as a peanutty bread suitable for a chicken salad sandwich. Or break it into soft croutons for a salad!

What is Cloud Bread?

Cloud bread is a kind of keto “cake” or “bread” that uses stiff, whipped egg whites to provide the “rise” and cream cheese to provide the basic structure that makes it more of a pastry–and less of a merengue. They are one of the oldest, most revered bread substitutes on the keto menu.

Most people enjoy this light confection and use the base recipe (here’s a good one with pictures).

Some people are not fond of the “eggy” nature of these breads. Egg yolks and cream cheese provide the base. Some eggs have a more “eggy” flavor than others; some people are more sensitive to that “eggy” taste. I find that the secret is to add strong seasonings like garlic, Italian seasoning, and onion powder if you’re looking for “sandwich material.”

A Slightly Sweet Cloud Bread / Pastry

In this recipe, I was aiming for something that would give me a good peanut butter flavor, using the PB2 powder, a low-carb ingredient you can find at Walmart and other places (I found mine at Giant. I live in the Washington DC area). My goal was to create “peanut butter and jam” flavor for a very small carb pricetag!

Cloud Bread Baking Tips

Tip #1. Start with eggs at room temperature.

Chefs often keep fresh eggs sitting on the counter. Home cooks buy eggs at the store and keep them in the fridge. You can get eggs to room temperature quickly by putting them in a bowl of lukewarm water and letting them sit for ten minutes or so.

Tip #2. Beat the eggs on high in a stand mixer. For a looooong time. And don’t forget the cream of tartar.

Unless you devote three days a week to “arm day” at the gym, getting the egg whites to form stiff peaks is going wear you out. I’m so so not there. If you’re just using an electric hand mixer, you are going to need to get patient. It’s going to take around 10 minutes on “high” to get those soft but slightly stiff peaks. Make the peaks too stiff and the texture will be a bit like styrofoam. Not stiff enough, there will be fragile.

Cream of tartar stabilizes those stiff so that they stand up well to the “folding” process when you add the base ingredients.

Tip #3. LOW oven setting.

These things need a low oven setting as they are more or less a form of merengue. Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Tip #4. Make flattish circles of the “dough” (all of the same size) onto parchment paper.

On the Internet, you will see pictures of cloud bread that looks like fluffy buns. They have the texture of light styrofoam and are not really edible. Food styling is often deceptive. You want flat, round disks.

I use Reynolds Wrap Parchment paper because it is marked out with lines to help me more easily see that my dollops are all roughly the same size. It helps to create an “even bake” so that all the pieces get done at the same time.

The Recipe

This makes for about 12 small, peanut-buttery pastries that can be garnished in many keto-friendly ways. Each piece was about 2 inches in diameter.

The Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (sifted)
  • 4 tablespoons of Swerve (sifted) for the egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon of Swerve for the egg yolks
  • 2 ounces of cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons of PB2 powder
  • Coconut oil spray (or other oil) to grease the parchment paper.

The Directions

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Put parchment paper on two baking sheets. Spray with coconut oil or otherwise grease the parchment paper.

Step 2. If you have a stand mixer, put the egg whites in the bowl and sift in the cream of tartar. Using the “whisk” attachment, whisk the eggs to high peaks (about speed 4) for from five to ten minutes–until the eggs form soft, slightly stiff peaks and can hold their shape.

If you’re using an electric hand mixer, you’re in for a long haul. Start beating at the highest speed.

Stop every so often to add the 4 tablespoons of Swerve, 1 tablespoon at a time, in the egg whites as they are beaten, until the four tablespoons of Swerve are incorporated.

Step 3.  In a separate bowl, beat together the egg yolks, cream cheese, and sifted PB2 powder. Add 1 tablespoon of sifted Swerve. The mixture should taste like a light peanut butter. This is your cream cheese/peanut butter base.

Step 4. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cream cheese / peanut butter base. I generally scoop the whites into the cream cheese base, one big spoonful at a time! I use a rubber spatula to scoop the base from the bottom of the bowl into the fluffy egg yolks. Then, I add another dollop of egg whites and repeat! I do this LITTLE BY LITTLE, one dollop of egg whites at a time, being careful to not crush the egg white fluff down too much.

The result should be a very light batter with little to NO white streaks of egg white in that batter.

Step 5. Using a large spoon or a small ladle, dollop the batter onto the parchment paper–making about six circles of the same size on each baking sheet. Flatten out the circles so they aren’t real high.

Step 6. Put this in the oven for 15 minutes (if using a convection oven); 20-25 minutes if using a regular oven.

Step 7. These pastries should release easily off the parchment paper, within a few minutes of getting out of the oven. Set them on a plate to cool.

The Results

I made this with keto quick jam for a peanut-butter “danish” that nicely captures a less-sweet PB&J snack with a low carbohydrate pricetag. Other ideas abound — such as a low-carb chocolate “schmear” — or a peanut butter flavored cream cheese perhaps? Hmmm.

The Carby Facts

Whole Recipe Facts

2 tablespoons of PB2 powder: 4 g carb times 2 (for the four tablespoons) (8)
2 ounces of cream cheese: 3 g carb
4 eggs = 2 carbs
Divided by 12 portions =13 carbs /12 would make this more than 1 carb per pastry. Let’s call it 1 carb and be done with it!

Add to this a heaping teaspoon of keto quick jam, and we’re talking a very nice pb & j snack for a ridiculous 2 carbs.

Keto Quick Jam

People try to avoid fruit in keto ways of eating. It is a bit of temptation, but there are some days when a dab of (sugarfree) jam would really brighten up a dish–let’s say a keto pancake or other low carb treat. This recipe makes for just a small portion of jam that can be eaten smeared on peanut butter cloud bread or a keto pancake. 1 tablespoon has about 1 carbs. And its ready in minutes.

The Secret : Chia Seeds

Chia seeds can jell up fruit in a very short time. They have no flavor of their own and swell up in liquid to create a gel-like base. I got the base for this recipe from Kitchn, one of my favorite cooking websites, but there are lots of these chia-based jams, (keto and non-keto) around the Internet.

You can use just about any fruit. In this one, I put together fairly high carb golden gooseberries, with low-carb raspberries, to create a not-too-tart, not-too-sweet jam for my peanut butter cloud bread.

The Other Secret: Swerve “Sweet Syrup.”

Swerve “confectionier’s” (fine) sweetener can produce a very nice sweet, no-carb, sweet syrup to cook the fruit in. I used 1 tablespoon of swerve per 1/3 cup of water and got it to a boil to create a sweet syrup.

Quick Gooseberry and Raspberry Jam

  • 2 ounces of golden gooseberries (half of a four ounce box), each berry split in half
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons Swerve (sifted)
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 1-2 tsp of chia seeds

Step 1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the sifted Swerve to the water. Add the fruit. Let the fruit cook down and the water cook off (about 5-6 minutes should do–or as much as 10 minutes) at a medium heat. Watch carefully, stir often so you don’t burn the fruit!

Step 2. Sieve the fruit through a wire mesh sieve, mashing out all the water you can. I reserve the liquid in case the chia seeds need more liquid to “jam” up.

Step 3. Put the sieved fruit into a container (jar or tupperware-type container with a tight-fitting lid). Add the chia seeds and stir, incorporating them thoroughly.

Step 4: Put in the fridge or freezer for 20 minutes.

DONE. That’s quick. Truthfully, the results were pretty jammy after about 5 minutes. This makes about 7 tablespoons of jam. It can keep for from 3-5 days in the fridge.

The Carby Facts

Golden gooseberries are delicious, tart, and a high-carb thing. Raspberries are low-carb but can easily get too, too sweet. In this recipe, I cook down 2 ounces of fresh gooseberries down to about 2 tablespoons of cooked fruit which makes for about 6 net carbs (over the ENTIRE recipe). Cooked raspberries cook down to 1/3 cup, over the entire recipe, which makes for about 5 tablespoons over the entire recipe, as near as I can figure, at 3g over the entire recipe. So the entire recipe measure out to about 7 tablespoons at 8 net carbs (based on Carb Manager statistics)–so a little over 1 carb per tablespoon, if I have this right. And its delicious.

You can do just about any other fruit with this, even frozen fruit. This is my first go at it. It was a great success on top of the peanut butter cloud bread.

Next up: The Peanut Butter Cloud Bread.

Keto Mac & Cheese (with Palmini Noodles)

Macaroni and cheese is a childhood favorite–and this palmini version is low in carbs and a synch to put together. You can add tuna for a delicious tuna noodle dish, or some fresh cooked brussel sprouts, even cooked broccolini! Here I used a smokey sausage. OMG, its creamy, soothing and full of that cheese flavor that never came out of a blue box! This is a quick, satisfying dish, good for a cold winter’s evening. It’s a total of 15 net carbs, so if you’re dead set on staying under 20 net carbs for the day, it might be a bit of a stretch for you. If you’re doing 30-40 carbs, it’s completely worth it.

Palmini Noodles as a Staple

I bought a case of the palmini noodles. It felt like an investment, but wow. They are a super-simple time-saver. There other advantage is that they give me a break from the meat-and-two-veg quality of the keto meal rotation. Sure, keto eating is good, but one does miss pasta!

Palmini come in 14 oz cans and since 2 or 3 ounces is a good serving (at about 2 net carbs), 14 ounces makes for several meals. I take them out of the can, drain them well, rinse them in water and put them in a plastic, sealed container, covered in milk. This way, they can soak for a day or two til I get around to making something noodley.

I need meals I can assemble quickly. I have a tendency to work too late and come home tired. Fighting DC traffic every day is like holding a second job. Going home late often means less traffic, so at least two days a week, I’m hitting the door at 7 pm or later. Pre-soaked palmini noodles means all I have to do is boil them up, pair them with a sauce and a protein, maybe adds some keto-friendly veggies and there we go!

Six year on a low-carb diet –and mac and cheese sounded like heaven.

The Recipe

This recipe paired a smokey maple sausage (Trader Joe’s Maple Bourbon Sausage) with a lovely sharp cheddar cream sauce. Fast, simple and filling, this was perfect for a late supper. This recipe is a meal for one, but if making this for more than one person, it can be easily doubled. Add three to six ounces of noodles and just double the sauce ingredients. The concept is simple: make a cream sauce, add herbs and cheese. Pair with pasta and a protein.

The Ingredients

  • 3 ounces of palmini noodles, soaked in milk for at least 20 minutes (I soak them overnight in milk in a sealed container in the fridge), drained.
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoons of butter
  • fresh or dried thyme (about 1/2 a teaspoon.)
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic (I used frozen crushed garlic)
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • slices of fried sausage (I used just one)

The Directions

Step 1. Boil the noodles for ten minutes. While these are cooking, you can make the sauce. Boiling the noodles for this long a time substantially alters their texture, making them much more like pasta and less like a vegetable.

Step 2. Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Step 3. Add the onions and garlic to the sizzling butter. Let those cook for about three minutes.

Step 4. Add the heavy cream to the saucepan. Bring it to a boil and turn the heat down. Start whisking to incorporate the butter and the cream.

Step 5. Add the dried or fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Stir it around. Keep the heat low.

Step 6. Add the shredded cheddar cheese, whisking it in so that it melts and incorporates into a thickened, cheesy sauce.

Step 7. When the noodles are done, drain them and them in a bowl. Ladle on the cheese sauce. Add the protein (in this case, the fried sausage slices).

The Results

This was one of the best uses for the palmini noodles yet. The cheese sauce is very flavorful and softens and coats the noodles so that they are a very close match to wheat-based noodle products. Sharp cheddar is best in this, paired with the smokey sausage slices. I can see having this with kielbasa, as well!

The Carby Facts

  • Heavy cream, 5 net carbs
  • 3 ounces of palmini noodles, 2 net carbs
  • Cheddar cheese, 5 net carbs
  • Onions, 3 net carbs
  • The rest have less than 1 net carb per

That’s 15 net carbs for this dish. As you can see, it’s the heavy cream that provides most of the carbs–and surprisingly, the cheese isn’t “free” either. I was shocked. I based this recipe on a keto cheese sauce that said it was ONE net carb. OOPS. You know, I KNEW that it couldn’t be 1 carb, but I had no idea I’d be so far off. Heavy whipping cream has less that one net carb per serving–and a serving is once ounce. When you kick that up to SIX ounces, well then. The math gets real. 😦

You can slim this down by substituting onion powder for the onion (but you would also lose the fiber). You could also reduce the amount of cream. In future, I am going to see about using protein powder and water–and reducing the amount of cream, to see if I can get this dish under 11 carbs! We’ll call this the “holiday” version. The good news for me? I had only had five carbs all day, so I kept my carb intake sufficiently low! Win!

Keto Pancakes: Hazelnut Raspberry Pancakes

A number of folks in the keto groups rave about Quest multi-purpose mix. It’s based on whey protein isolate, a product that is found in all kinds of whey protein shakes. In this post, I offer a simple pancake recipe, modified from one of the many versions on the Internet. In this recipe I use Torani sugar-free hazelnut syrup and five fresh raspberries for a single-serving recipe that yields 3 small pancakes. Lokanto maple syrup finishes it off nicely!

The origins of this recipe

As usual, Wikipedia provides everything you ever wanted to know about a topic, and whey protein isolate is no different. It’s basically protein extracted from dairy; it doesn’t tend to pose problems for the lactose intolerant (as lactose is extracted during the process).

In at least one recipe, someone used a Quest milkshake formula. Quest’s milkshakes AND the baking formula have xantham gum in their ingredients list–and that is the key thing, here. If you want to know if the protein shake whey formula you have in YOUR cupboard could be substituted here for Quest, I’d look for xantham gum in the ingredients list.

I used the Quest multi-purpose mix, which does not have any specific flavoring ingredients. This means I’ll have to add them. I have a number of Torani sugar-free syrups in the cupboard and raspberries in the fridge: hazelnut raspberry is a nice combination, so I started there. This is a good way to punch up my morning protein consumption–adding 24 grams of protein to my diet just from the Quest powder alone. As I also used 3 tablespoons of butter, which also upped my (good) fat — which have also been a bit low this week.

Keto baking requires flavor additions. While you can get away with fairly plain wheat-based recipes, taking away the wheat means taking away considerable (wheat) flavor. Keto baked goods are not going to taste exactly the same (no matter how many people swear to this). In addition, we also lose the dopamine smack to the brain that wheat provides. This is why so many find keto baking disappointing.

Plain keto pancakes are likely to taste strongly of egg without additional flavor components. In this recipe, my son (who has a very sensitive palate) remarked on the pronounced “eggy” flavor, even with the additions I made. (He tasted it without the Lokanto sugar-free maple syrup, which helps to minimize this flavor).

The Recipe

Cook’s Note: Here we are going to use the baker’s method of mixing the wet ingredients together first, then adding the dry ingredients, little by little, whisking them into the wet ingredients to incorporate them fully. This recipe creates a “pancake” batter consistency recipe — it’s good for the usual “thin” pancake. Since the only real dry ingredients are the Quest powder and a dash of salt, that’s added last.

Ingredients List

  • 1 scoop Quest protein multi-purpose mix
  • 1 ounce of water (I used a jigger to measure)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar-free hazelnut syrup
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk (or actual milk) — I used a coconut/almond milk blend from Califa
  • 5 minced or chopped raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts
  • ghee or coconut oil (or other oil) for frying

The Directions

Step 1: Put all the wet ingredients (water, almond milk or regular milk, sugar-free syrup, melted butter, large egg) into a bowl. Whisk to combine them.

Step 2. Heat a skillet or griddle to a medium heat. If you’re using a skillet, add a teaspoon or two of ghee or cooking oil to fry the pancakes. (Non-stick griddles often don’t need much more than a spray of coconut oil or butter flavored oil). I like ghee because it adds a buttery flavor. It has a high “smoke point” and so it doesn’t burn easily. (Ghee is just butter fat that has the milk solids removed).

Step 3. Add a good dash of salt and a tablespoon or so of the Quest multi-purpose mix (or protein shake) to the wet ingredients. Add the mix, little by little, stirring (whisking) rapidly until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. The mixture should have a pancake batter consistency.

 Step 4.  Add a spoonful of batter to the hot skillet or griddle. Place a few pieces of raspberry and walnut on the wet pancake surface, spacing them out. When the edges of the pancake are dry and the middle is beginning to look more solid, it’s ready to flip. Depending on how high your heat is

Cook’s Note: Protein pancakes are different. Wheat pancakes show that they are cooked through when bubbles open in the middle of the pancake, pop and stay open. This didn’t happen with these protein pancakes. I had to keep checking the underside to make sure it was nicely brown before flipping them. The flip was difficult as the pancake was still a bit runny on the top. Get a big, broad spatula to help with the flip.

Step 5.  Flip the pancake. Cook for about another 2 minutes. Put on a plate. You may need to add a little more ghee or oil to the pan, heat that up and start the next pancake.

Repeat until you’ve used up all the batter. I made 3 small pancakes with this recipe, just enough for me. 🙂

The Results

I served this up with the two tablespoons of Lokanto sugar-free maple syrup. I ate the whole thing entirely and didn’t even take a picture! (Apologies, I’ll post one tomorrow). I agree with my son that I could taste the egg in it. It could use more flavoring ingredients: more sugar-free syrup, possible the addition of stevia or other sweetener. The raspberries and the walnuts were really nice, adding flavor and texture (as well as fiber!) at a very low level of additional carbs.

Overall : needs more sweet. I would in future increase the number of chopped raspberries. This also needs more hazelnut flavor. But this is definitely better than any of the other keto pancakes I’ve had over the years. Yes, it’s more like “real pancakes” — but don’t believe that it is “just like” actual pancakes.

The Carby Facts

I keyed all of this into CarbManager and got 2 net carbs for the entire recipe NOT including the Lokanto syrup, walnuts and raspberries. The Lokanto syrup added 1 carb. The walnuts and raspberries each added 1 carb. This brings this to a total of 4 carbs for all three pancakes, including the syrup, walnuts and raspberries.

At 562 calories, calorically, this recipe is not that cheap — it’s good to note that butter added 300 calories to this meal. In future, I plan to cut the fat back slightly in this recipe — and add more sweetener to try to get this recipe whittled down a bit in calories. But it is good fat and I’ve been lacking in the fat categories this week.

This is definitely a “first version” — with more versions to come! I am fond of the “Dutch baby” pancake and that will definitely be on the menu in this holiday baking week I have before me!

Best holiday wishes, ~ Lola

Crispy Pork with Palmini Stir Fry Noodles and Peanut Sauce

In this post, I experiment with palmini noodles — a vegetable product made out of hearts of palm (see my review here) and whey isolate to create a crispy pork dish low in sugar and carbs–served with a peanut sauce that uses Swerve instead of sugar to balance flavors. I amp up the flavor a bit with PB2 powder. The ingredient list is long but the flavor is exceptional.

My search for keto phad thai

I can actually make authentic phad thai in all its sugary goodness. It’s a carb nightmare. The rice noodles alone are 21 carbs for a mere three ounces. The other ingredients of an authentic sauce (like this one) include a healthy dose of sugar: palm sugar and tamarind paste. Palm sugar and regular sugar are about the same in terms of carbs (4g) — and tamarind paste is 3 g carbohydrate per ounce. But it’s the rice noodles that are killer.

Keto phad thai recipes substitute low-sugar ketchup for tamarind paste, which is hard to find. It’s….okay? I guess? Frankly, the ketchup based recipes are at best, so-so. I’ve tried to make tamarind paste from frozen tamarind fruit but so far the results are ghastly.

Going through the keto phad thai recipes, I saw quite a number using peanut butter. Here, I think there is some confusion about what phad thai actually is supposed to taste like. I’ve never seen peanut butter as an ingredient in any authentic phad thai sauce. Peanut butter is a key ingredient in peanut sauce, and peanut noodles are very good–these recipes seem to be some kind of mashup of phad thai and peanut noodles. So hmmmm. A peanut noodle dish is probably easier than continuing to struggle with phad thai. Maybe keto phad thai is something I could work up to over time –but for now, I’m hungry!

Palmini Noodles as a Swap for Rice Noodles Totally Works

At 2 net carbs per serving (serving size is about 2 ounces), palmini liguine (noodles) save this dish entirely as a keto meal. They need to be prepared according to the package–and that is a fiddly process.

  • RINSE the noodles thoroughly after getting them out of the package or can.
  • SOAK the noodles in milk for 20 minutes
  • BOIL the noodles for 10 minutes

And then you’ll get a great soft-textured noodle that soaks up sauce flavors like a rice noodle and can be stir fried rapidly in ghee or coconut oil (flavored with garlic, pepper and whatever other flavors please you).

Other Weird Ingredient Swaps in this Recipe

Whey protein isolate is a a carb-friendly substitute for AP flour. It was recommended in one of the keto groups, touted for making “the best”keto pancakes. In recipes around the Internet and in keto cookbooks, whey isolate is routinely used in “low carb baking mixes.” Two tablespoons have 1 carb. Compare that with AP flour’s 21.5 carbs for 1/4 of a cup and you can see the savings. It can be used as a thickening agent or as a breading–there are a number of keto fried chicken recipes out there that use whey protein isolate instead of flour.

PB2 powder is a keto friendly substitute for peanut butter. In this recipe, I do use 2 tablespoons of basic JIF peanut butter (6 net carbs for the entire recipe). But it didn’t have enough peanut flavor. Instead of adding more regular peanut butter, I amped up the peanut flavor with 2 tablespoons of PB2 powder, for 3 net grams of carbs. Half the carbs is a considerable savings–next time, I will forego the JIF entirely and just use the PB2 powder! I found this at Walmart and Giant. It’s great for flavoring things like whipped cream or cream cheese–the cream cheese gives it a bit of a tang.

This recipe is still a work in progress but man, it was certainly tasty. There are lots of “substitutes” in this list. I’m still tweaking this.

The Recipe

The Ingredients

The essentials
Two to four thin loin pork chops, cut into about 8 strips each
You could also use chicken thighs, also cut into strips
2-3 tablespoons of wheat protein isolate (for coating)
Salt and pepper
Palmini brand palm heart linguine (2 ounces per person)

The Sauce
1 can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of PB2 powder
2 tablespoons peanut butter
(You can substitute 2 additional tablespoons of PB2 powder)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon of Swerve
1 tablespoon garlic paste (or 1 minced clove of garlic, maybe 2)
1 tablespoon of Frontera chili adobe paste (or Sriracha sauce)
1 tablespoon lime juice (about 1/4 to 1/2 fresh lime, squeezed–a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or other fruit vinegar can be substituted.)
1 tablespoon of ginger paste or grated fresh ginger (optional)

I typically also put about a tablespoon of garlic paste in the cooking oil or ghee for flavor. You can easily use less (or none) in this recipe. You can also substitute 3 minced cloves for the garlic paste.

The Veggies

I like broccolini, red pepper, and chopped onions for this dish. Broccolini can be hard to find. Chopped broccoli or zucchini slices go well with this instead. I’m also a big fan of sliced mushrooms (about 3 or 4) in this dish, mushrooms are totally optional. About 1 to 2 cups of chopped vegetables, and a quarter chopped onion were used in making the dish pictured.

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the noodles. 
Rinse the palmini noodles well in water: put them in a sieve and rinse well under a running tap. Then, put the noodles in a bowl and cover the noodles with milk. Set aside — letting them soak for 20 minutes while you get everything else ready.

Step 2. Prepare the pork.
Cut the center loin pork chops into half inch strips. Salt and pepper the pork.

Put 2 tablespoons of whey protein isolate on a plate. Dredge the pork in the whey protein isolate, rolling them around in the powder into they’re coated on all sides. Set the pork aside.

Note: I used four pork chops — but it was really a great deal of meat. I think this recipe would do well with two or three pork chops instead. I have a 6 foot five inch tall teenaged son whose appetite is the stuff of legends. This filled both of us up very well. He got more meat, I got more veggies.

Here you can see how I cut the pork into strips. I got about 8 strips per pork chops. It was MORE than enough for two people! But I have a teenaged son whose appetite is epic.

Step 3. Prepare the vegetables.  If you haven’t already done so, dice the onions, mince the garlic (unless you’re using paste), cut up the red peppers and brocollini or zucchini into small pieces. Chop the mushrooms (if using). Set aside.

Step 4: Prepare the peanut sauce.  Empty a can of coconut milk into a sauce pan. Add 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and two tablespoons PB2 powder. Bring up the heat to about medium heat so that the sauce simmers. Add the garlic paste (or minced garlic). Stir. Add Swerve (about a tablespoon). Taste. Adjust to your liking. (I sometimes add ginger paste to this, too).

Peanut sauce really requires that you taste the recipe frequently as you go along. The proportions here will give you a slightly spicy, slightly garlicky sauce with a good zing — but people’s tolerance to heat is very hard to measure. I used Frontera band chipotle adobo chili paste as I like the smoky heat of it–and it is a little bit lower in carbs than Sriracha sauce. If you use sriracha sauce, you can hold back more on the garlic, since sriracha is chili and garlic (and sugar).

Be careful. I add chili pastes a teaspoon at a time, checking and tasting as I go along as these flavors are powerful. It’s easy to ruin this sauce with too much spice.

Let the sauce reduce. It should be a medium brown color and reasonably thick. This will mean cooking it over medium heat, stirring occasionally for five to seven minutes.

Step 5. Heat up the wok or skillet and cook the pork. Add oil or ghee to the pan, along with onions, garlic and ginger (if using)–and add the pork to the sizzling hot oil. Add a sprinkle of soy sauce for flavor. When the pork is cooked, take the pork (and browned onions) out of the pan and put it on a plate or bowl. Set aside.

Step 6. After removing the pork, stir fry the vegetables. Start with red peppers, broccoli and or zucchini, then, a bit later, add the chopped mushrooms (if using) cooking them until they’re getting a bit soft and just cooked through.

Step 7. Stir fry the prepared noodles (from step 1) with the vegetables in the wok or skillet. Add a teaspoon or two of lime juice or vinegar. Combine them well. Stir fry the noodles so that they become coated with the oil from them pan. Add cashews or peanuts.

Step 8. Return the pork to the pan and reheat the pork.

Step 9. Serve the noodles, pork and vegetables on a plate (or in a bowl). Taste the sauce. Adjust seasons if needed.

 Cover the pork and vegetables with a about a half cup of sauce.  Mix it up. Squeeze additional lime juice over the whole plate and enjoy.

Here’s the dish right before I poured the peanut sauce on it.

The Results

The wheat protein isolate was just as good at creating a crisp texture for the pork as wheat flour–and my son made no comment on it. (He notices EVERYTHING). I’ll be exploring this more as a food coating. It seems to have promise for fried chicken and fried pork chops

The palmini noodles worked very well. Personally, I find that preparing rice noodles can be even more annoying than palmini noodles. Rice noodles ALSO need to be soaked in hot water for at least an hour — preferably a couple of hours. They’re a tangled mess and its hard to make less than the entire package without getting broken rice noodles everywhere. Palmini noodles were much easier to deal with EVEN WITH all the prep steps. And my son thought they were just fine. I liked them better than rice noodles in this dish.

PB2 was such a big help to upping the flavor with lower carbs that next time, I don’t plan to use actual peanut butter at all.

Carby Facts

I figure my values this way for the ENTIRE recipe, which served two people

PB2 (2 tablespoons) 3 net carbs
Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) 6 net carbs
Palmini noodles (4 oz) 4 net carbs
1 tablespoon whey protein isolate: 1 net carb
Veggies:
Red peppers 2 carbs
Onions 3 net carbs
Brocollini 3 net carbs
Mushroom 2 net carbs

Sri Racha has sugar in it, so it might add a carb or two. Frontera Chipotle Chili Adobe sauce has less than a gram of carbohydrate per tablespoon.

These maybe a bit over–and that comes out to around 12 net carbs per serving, total.

More soon on palmini noodles. I just ordered a case.

Low-Carb Pasta: “Palmini” — A Review

One of the advantages of being in keto groups is you get to hear about all kinds of new products. “Palmini” — a low-carb pasta made from palm hearts–sounded too good to be true! Pasta at 4g carbs per serving?  I wanted to give this  try. 

Buying Palmini

This product was a creation of a “shark tank” investment and is currently not widely found in stores–but it is on Amazon.  

Palmini is available in a four ounce pouch (for 7 dollars) and a 14 ounce can size.  The pouch can feed one person; the can can feed 4-6 people — but you have to buy a CASE of it (six cans!)!  Buying the case brings the cost down to 27 dollars (which makes it a little over 5 bucks a can — MUCH more affordable than the pouch per serving)– but the six ounce pouch was good enough for a try-out.  After all, 27 bucks is an investment. Color me uncertain about this purchase, despite the rave reviews I’ve heard.

 The pouch says it holds about 2.5 servings in there — and that’s about right.  This is not a product to feed the whole family — just the one keto member who would like to be included on pasta night. The pouch is resealable, so I was able to get out just one largish serving, about half the pouch, seal it up and put in the fridge for another time later in the week. Not sure how long this will keep in the fridge — probably about as long as any other vegetable. 

The Palmini Package

WHAT is Palmini? 

Palmini is simply a lightly processed product made of  “hearts of palm” — a vegetable with very low carbs — which have been pressed and extruded to resemble short strands of fettucini pasta.  Think of it as an improvement over “zoodles” (those zucchini noodles you can now find in stores).  

I eat zoodles but I’m not happy about it.  I still haven’t figured out the best way to cook them so that they have a taste and texture that is  more “noodly” and less “vegetabley.”

Out of the box, they feel like soft, flat zoodles–only white, in short, straight strands about 2-3 inches long.  I followed the directions to rinse them well, and then the optional direction: let them sit in milk for fifteen to thirty minutes — to improve their (not unpleasant)  vegetable smell. 

Palmini, ready for the sauce
*The specks are some stray Italian seasoning from my pasta sauce*

You can them just eat them with sauce. OR you can boil them for five to ten minutes more to make them softer.  I chose to give to boil them because at 3.50 a plate?  I wanted a truly pasta experience. 

I went slightly beyond the directions: I seasoned the boiling water, just like real pasta, with a dollop of olive oil and lots of salt, just as one should prepare regular pasta.  Some stray Italian seasoning got into the pasta water — as I was fixing my red sauce — and that’s where the specks on the plate came from. 

The Results

The noodles are pretty darned close to real pasta.   I boiled them for about six minutes.  The texture was close to a slightly al dente wheat fettucini.   They picked up the red sauce flavor very well and within a few bites, I was only faintly aware of their vegetable nature.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect these would be for a low-carb phad Thai recipe I’ve been working on. Hmmmmmm.  And for fettucini alfredo.  And tuna noodle casserole.  And, and, and!! 

By the end of the plate, I was a very happy camper.  

The Carby Facts

Palmini consists of palm hearts, water and salt — and fumaric acid (to preserve it) . At 4 carbs–2 of which are fiber — how can you beat that?  A serving is net TWO carbs.   I expect to buy more palmini — and hope it gets into stores soon.  Until then, here’s a link to the pouch portion on Amazon. 

I will in all likelihood pony up for a case in the near future.  

Namaste!  ~Lola

Keto Baking: Fathead Pizza Tips

In this post, we’re going to explore the two main problems with Fathead Pizza recipes: limp, bland crusts.  In the past, I never had luck with Fathead Pizza.  I would follow recipes to the letter and get a sad, sad excuse for a pizza crust.  Now,  I’ve studied the recipes, the comments, the tips in both keto and regular baking sites.  Off we go!  Our goal is not just a “passably acceptable” faux pizza product — I want something I can totally love and be proud to serve to anyone (including my pastry chef in-laws!) 

Preparing for Success in Keto Baking

I watch every baking show I can.   I’ve discovered that where baking is concerned, the recipe is just the beginning point. Experience in baking is really needed to get a great result. Just look at all the ruined “bakes” by those top British bakers on the Great British Baking Show!  Even experts have bad days in the kitchen.  Great cooks and great bakers study recipes to better understand what’s “going on” in a recipe.   There are many variations — and people are worried about finding the “right” recipe. But it’s the ingredients that matter–the ingredients AND the techniques. 

The Problem of Bland Fathead

Studying the recipes for Fathead out there, I notice that most recipes leave out seasoning.   At best, the original recipe calls for garlic powder. My mother-in-law hates garlic — I know there are alot of folks out there who don’t do garlic.  Salt is not usually even mentioned.  Real pizza chefs know that a hit of salt is important to providing a well-seasoned dough–and without it, even wheat-based pizza crusts can be bland.   

Blandness is an even bigger problem in gluten-free pizzas that don’t have the natural flavor of wheat to begin with.  Garlic is added to the Fathead dough to make up for the lack of flavor in the almond flour.  There are other seasonings that can be used to amp up the  flavor in basic Fathead pizza. You can try:

  • oregeno or Italian seasoning – mix in 1-2 tablespoons! 
  • different cheeses like shredded or grated parmesan, grated gruyere or grated gouda
  • pink Himalayan salt
  • pepper — white or black
  • garlic powder, onion powder 
  • fennel seeds

Salt and pepper are probably the best additions to fathead dough to make the crust as tasty as the toppings. 

Whatever variant of the fathead recipe you use, don’t forget to give it a good dash of salt at the very least. I use sea salt, oregano and white pepper.  White pepper lingers a little longer in the mouth. I mix in about a 1/2 to 1 tsp into fathead dough to give it a touch of peppery flavor.

The Problem of Limp Fathead 

Fathead dough uses cream cheese (of which there are dozens of brands) and mozzerella–which has hundreds of brands and forms.  Each of these cheeses are going to bring a slightly different level of “hydration” — water — to the  dough. 

 Making good dough is largely about dough that “feels right.” Overly wet dough is a problem in Fathead Pizza recipes.   When I follow Fathead pizza recipes to the letter, I get dough that is sticky and wet. It doesn’t roll out properly. In my experience, these recipes tend to create a dough that is more like a bad calzone recipe and not a crisp pizza-like crust. 

Many people seem to get perfect results from these basic recipes — but I am so not in that crowd!  

Real pizza chefs know the problems of overly wet dough.  With wheat flour, they use the stretch and fold technique to deal with wet dough.  This isn’t going to work with a gluten-free dough.  Stretching and folding what is mostly wet cheese and ground almonds mixed with a raw egg is not going to get you very far.  

In reading recipes and comments, several additions to the dough stand out:  the addition of flax meal to the dough, psyllium husks, and/or baking powder.   These additions can make for a sturdier dough that bake up more like a “regular” pizza, according to many sources around the Internet. 

 Improving Fathead Dough 

I was a new member of the Facebook Group, “Fathead,” when Tom Naughton published his “Oldest Brother’s Oldest Son’s Faux Carb Pizza” recipe in 2013. Diet Doctor has the same recipe — to which it added 1/2 tsp of white wine vinegar.  WHY?  Flavor? 

Usually, you see vinegar (or cream of tartar or some other acid) added to non-yeast doughs to activate BAKING SODA and get a slight rise to the dough.  But there is no baking soda in the Diet Doctor’s recipe.  I think someone started to add baking soda to this version of the recipe but accidentally left it out — an error in editing that no one picked up. 

In reading over the comments in the Diet Doctor’s version, I noticed that there were a number of discussions of how to make this dough less flimsy and crisper.  These included: 

  • Xantham gum to help the dough stick together better, making it easier to work with.
  • The addition of flax meal or psyllium husks to improve the structure.
  • The addition of baking soda to help to create more of a “rise” in the dough. 

I noticed another difference. Youtube bakers all seem to set their ovens to 425 degrees F. — while most of the online recipes specify 400 degrees F.  That can make a real difference (but I didn’t notice this until AFTER I finished this test pizza!)  Last but not least, baking the crust on BOTH SIDES, flipping it over mid-bake was an important step to make sure the crust is nice and crisp.  

 WHERE you bake the pizza is also important.  If you’ve got a conventional oven (not like, say, a toaster oven), cooking the pizza on the BOTTOM SHELF will help create a firmer crust, but it also going to brown a bit quicker on the bottom.  If you don’t FLIP it after about 10-15 minutes of baking, you’re likely to get an overdone bottom — and a top that is undercooked.  

In the middle of the oven, I kept getting pizza crusts that weren’t crisp on the top OR the bottom.  For my oven, cooking on the  bottom shelf and flipping the dough mid-way through was the key to getting a crisp, pizza-like crust — rather than a doughy mush. 

Other Tips

  • Oil your hands with olive oil.  I used olive oil with garlic infused in it to add a bit more flavor. 
  • Use superfine almond flour — and sift it to get out the lumps!

Getting a “Feel” for Fathead Pizza

Fathead dough HAS to be “blind baked” (that is — pre-baked) before you put on the toppings.  How long it needs to be baked is going to depend on how wet your dough is and what’s in it. 

Following the recipe to the letter got me very wet dough that was difficult to work with — and it didn’t feel like “good dough.”  I added 2/3 cup of mozzerella –AND about a third cup of shredded parmesan and that improved the dough some.  I also added another 1/3 c. of sifted almond flour.  That gave me a dough that was slightly wet and “workable.”

Look at Youtube videos for “fathead pizza’ to help you understand what “good dough” looks like.  Notice that they will use very many different ratios of flour to cheeses.  Some are making larger pizzas –I’ve seen recipe variations with more than 3 cups of cheese and two eggs. Some are making smaller pizzas–with just a cup of mozzarella. In any of these videos,  take a good look at the consistency of the dough so you can tell what the dough “should”  look like. 

Rolling out the Dough

I bought myself a good one-piece French rolling pen as part of my new “I’m a baker” gift to myself.   While the videos are full of people using their hands to finger-press the dough, I have watched so many bakers using these rolling pens — there is something fun and magical and Julia Child about using a french rolling pin. (For a quick video on rolling pin technique, escoffier school has a tutorial based on pie dough.)   Fathead pizza dough is soft and doesn’t need a heavy hand to roll it out.  I personally find the french rolling pin a bit easier to control than the usual dowel pin with the handles. 

Use what you feel comfortable with.   The finger press method did not work for me very well.  I don’t have enough experience with that method. 

Rolling out the dough between two pieces of baking parchment paper is pretty much a must.   The melty cheese base makes for sticky dough.  It gets all over your hands and sticks to the counter. It’s easy to peel off the top sheet and to work with the dough on the paper.   Save the top sheet for when you “flip” the half-baked pizza dough in the middle of the bake. 

Flaxseed Meal as a “Cornmeal” Substitution

I was concerned about the softness of the dough even after adding more cheese (including the drier parmesan) and  more almond flour.  One commenter suggested the addition of flaxmeal to the dough to improve its structural integrity — so it wouldn’t fall apart.  I put a spin on that suggestion, patting about 2 tablespoons of finely ground flax seed on the top of the pizza.  

Flipping the Pizza and Cooking the Other Side

I pricked the dough with a fork and put it in the oven at 400.  I let it cook for ten minutes. I took it out of the oven.  I put a piece of parchment on the top of the pizza, put a plate on top of the (hot) pizza.  Using oven mitts, I carefully flipped the pizza upside down onto the plate.  Now the flax-meal “top” became the bottom of the pizza, with a layer of parchment paper under it.  Then I lifted the pizza crust by the parchment paper and slid it back onto the hot pizza pan. Next, I put the crust put it back in the oven to cook for another 10-12 minutes to continue crisping up on the bottom rack.  

Preparing the Toppings

In a wheat pizza, I could make the dough, throw the sauce and toppings on the unbaked crust and let it bake it all bake together in the oven.  With this gluten-free, pre-baked crust, I was only going to have another 10 or 15 minutes of bake time after I got the toppings on it.  To get the vegetables to the desired level of doneness, I have to pre-cook them as well. 

After the pizza dough was flipped and put back in the oven, it was getting pretty brown.  I knew I didn’t want to put fresh toppings on this pizza — I like mushrooms and red peppers as well as pepperonis. Fathead pizzas do need additional help in getting to the flavor level of wheat pizza–more toppings help to compensate. 

I cut up the peppers and mushrooms and sautéed them in olive oil til they were soft. I added oregano and salt on top of them to season them while they were cooking in the pan — just a dash.  Italian seasoning would have been another good choice. 

Saucing the Pizza

Finally, the pizza crust was ready.  I took it out of the oven and covered it in a thin coating of a keto-friendly jarred sauce. If you like a lot of sauce, that’s a bit of problem. The wet sauce on top of the wet dough interferes in achieving crispness.  If you like a more doughy, “pan-style” pizza, we’ll need to look at other add-ins: baking soda and psyllium husks.  That’s on the list for the next Fathead Pizza bake (the Advanced Level). 

Final Assembly

  I added the mushrooms and pepper–and the pepperonis and finally, another layer of mozzarella cheese.  Now the whole them went back in the oven for its final bake–400 degrees for another five to ten minutes in the middle rack of the oven—-just enough to melt the cheese and give the pepperonis a little cook.  

Take it out and let it cool for about at least five to ten minutes.  I slide it out onto a plate right away so it will cool a little faster.  Wait for it to cool a little before you cut it into wedges. Remember, this is largely a cheese dough, held together with egg and almond flour.  Give it a little time to develop structural integrity. 

The Carb Count

A slice of Domino’s pizza has 25g net carbs in a slice. Fathead has about 5g net carbs per slice. The real problem is not eating the entire pizza–but hey, at 20g of carbs for the whole thing?   This is not including the carbs in the sauce and the carbs in the veggies.  Still, it is a very filling option–though probably not for every day. 

You can see by the picture up top that the results looked good. It certainly tasted good–with a texture on par with say, Domino’s.  It’s not going to win any culinary awards but it is a serviceable, edible slice. The results for all this effort was a MUCH BETTER rendition of a pizza product than anything I previously accomplished.  The crust was tasty and held together.  It was crisp but not heavy.  I’m curious to see what baking soda and psyllium husks will do to enhance the dough to a better textured, more “bready” pan pizza. .  If you have any great tips for Fathead pizza, please let me know in the comments!  

Enjoy!  Hope this is helpful `~ Lola