Getting Started in Low-Carb Baking

Getting starting with low-carb baking seems simple. The basic ingredients (almond flour, baking powder, and eggs) are easy to obtain.  The “mug cake” just needs a few ingredients and a microwave. You will read rave reviews about Fat Head pizza, almond flour muffins and similar recipes.  Like me, you may not be fully pleased with your results. But it’s an art–a complicated, fiddly art — because at the end of the day, it’s baking. If you are already an experienced baker, getting great results isn’t difficult. If you’re new to baking? Oh, my, the learning curve! 

Gaining Confidence as a Keto Baker

Low-carb baking is an applied science.   Like all sciences, there is theory and there is the application–which can vary greatly.  The absolute best way to learn keto baking is through keto baking classes.  I can’t find any in my area. (When I retire, this might be an entrepreneurial idea!)   The next best thing is learning through videos. 

Youtube has been my teacher.  Like all Internet learning, it’s not necessarily the best teacher.  Blogs are a great resource, too, but with Youtube demonstrations, I get a better understanding of what things should LOOK like.  Even though I can’t actually touch, smell and taste the dough, I can at least SEE the steps and the product as it goes from a set of raw ingredients to  something edible.  

Baking shows have also been a resource for me.  I had reached a stage in my life where I can watch other people eat things I should never touch without experiencing cravings or pangs and instead consider: how can I adapt that for keto and LCHF?    This is a big leap for me. My early forays into keto baking were less than satisfying.  Now, I’m looking at keto baking with new eyes.  There are gluten-free bakers like Elizabeth Pruiett out there, revolutionizing the recipes.   Her book on gluten-free baking, Tartine All-Day, is on my Christmas list.   From baking shows, I’ve learned that cooking with almond flour does not HAVE to be basic.  But we have to start somewhere–but rest assured, there is a lot more to keto baking than just the basics! 

The Basic Recipes

I’ve been cooking and eating in the LCHF (Low-carb, high fat) way of eating for going on seven years now. There are three basic recipes that you will see making the rounds in LCHF, paleo and keto communities:  cloud bread type recipes, Fat Head pizza dough recipes, and the almond flour recipes. 

“Cloud” bread.  This is a a kind of very soft, baked merengue which has a bread-like quality.  It consist of whipped egg whites, sometimes lightly flavored, baked in the oven.  It’s one of the easiest recipes –and at the same time, it can be a challenge for a new baker.   There are some secrets to getting egg whites to whip into those “stiff peaks” — and I really struggled with it.

If you’re not getting “stiff peaks,” here are some tips from my research and practice in making these things.

  • Start with room temperature egg whites.  
  • Use 1/4 tsp (or a pinch) of cream of tartar
  • A copper mixing bowl (pricey!) or a stainless steel mixing bowl (easier! and cheaper) works best for getting those peaks.
  • Use a hand-held electric mixer. Seriously, my $300 stand mixer did not do near as good a job as my nine-dollar mixer from Kmart.  

Here’s a link to one of the many versions of cloud bread out there on the Internet.   I like this Youtube recipe as it is simple and easy.  Here’s the four minute Youtube video on how to make it.    Other recipes will have you adding garlic or other ingredients because frankly, cloud bread doesn’t have much flavor at all by itself.  It’s more or less a “blank canvas” for lots of other flavors.  I like a little rosemary and parmesan myself for a sandwich.  I also add a little Swerve to make a sweet roll-type bread for a danish!  Other good additions: turmeric, garlic and finely chopped sweet onions make for a substitute for naan for Indian dishes or as a nearly no-carb substitute for low-carb sandwich wraps for Trader Joe’s chicken shawarma (see my recipe here.)

Fat Head Pizza.  There is a long, complicated story about the Fat Head movie by Tom Naughton,  the Fat Head Facebook community, and the invention of this now famous dough for “Fathead Pizza.”  Here’s a link to the original recipe

Fat Head pizza is a riff on “rugelach” dough, a  type of cream cheese pastry that swaps wheat flour for almond flour, and adds mozarella to create a pizza-like dough that is much more similar to actual pizza dough than any other “faux dough” out there.   Fat Head is reasonably easy to put together but there are tricks to getting it right.  If you’re not an experienced baker who has a good “feel” for kneading dough, like me you may struggle. Your dough may not be as crisp and as pizza-like as a more experienced baker’s product would be.  

“Fat Heads” are fans of Naughton’s movie, “Fat Head,” a personal documentary (Naughton is a professional film producer) on obesity and the low fat diets that have made so many of us obese.  I discovered the Fat Heads shortly after reading “Wheat Belly”by Dr. Bill Davis in 2012.   

My experiences with fat head pizza were somewhat mixed.  My doughs were not as crisp as others were reporting–and I didn’t know why.  At best, I was getting a kind of soft calzone dough.   I also didn’t know what I could do. In 2012, low-carb baking was just getting started.  There were discussions about using xantham gum and psyllium husks to improve texture–but I had already lost some of my baking confidence.   

Here’s a link to “Fat Head” — it’s on Amazon Prime.  Here’s a link to Wheat Belly by Dr. Bill Davis. No, I’m not an Amazon affiliate on this blog, yet.  These are provided just to be helpful. 

Almond Flour Cake, Muffin, Bread, etc. and its variations. Almond flour products tend to have a dense texture and a bland taste that is not like that of wheat.  Anyone who says it tastes “just like bread!” or “just like cake!” has clearly forgotten the taste of bread and cake. 🙂  Either that, or they have palates so clouded by junk food that they are poor judges of the world of flavor.  

Early Experiments with Almond Flour

When I first started low-carb baking, with the usual, super easy “mug cake” formula, I was very underwhelmed.  Sure, it was something that could be described as “cake-like” and sweet.  It could also be described as “heavy” and bland.  On more research, I discovered that many people were beginning to substitute coconut flour for at least SOME Of the almond flour to achieve a lighter texture.  I have to agree that I found these to be somewhat better but the results were not enough for me to want to pursue this line of experimentation.  Headbanger Kitchen has a video that gives a quick demonstration on how to make the basic almond flour “bread” recipe.

Almond butter bread dough was a craze, briefly, back in 2012.  Almond butter is expensive at about 10 bucks a jar, so that made for ridiculously expensive bread. This did produce a sliceable loaf of bread but still, pretty dense.    After a bit, people began to substitute peanut butter, much cheaper.   Here’s a video from Head Banger’s kitchen that shows a realistic bake and review of the results that I really like. 

I love the Headbanger videos because they are realistic. He’s not trying to be a domestic goddess with perfect food. He’s a keto cook who creates interesting videos that you can follow along.  Little hint though, one cup is equivalent to 100 grams. 

These are the very plain basic, very basic recipes.  You can see from the Headbanger videos that he is trying to give an honest presentation. He’s not overselling the product. These results are not “luscious.”  They are plain, simple food that HAS to be elevated to give us what we deserve:  super-tasty, wonderful food (that isn’t going to kill us). 

Getting More Advanced

I would’ve entirely given up on low-carb baking as “not worth the trouble.”  Then I got into “baking shows.”  Baking shows with baking tips, including lots of tips suitable for low-carb baking.  I learned that there is a whole bunch of almond-flour based fine pastry recipes.  The almond based recipes of keto are just basic beginning points.  They are definitely NOT the last word in keto baking. 

In this blog, I’m going to pursuing excellence in keto baking.  I am, probably like you, FAR FROM an experienced baker–but I AM an experienced researcher.  The baking shows have shown me that baking is a science.   In science, we experiment.  We collect data.  We publish our results. 

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be doing some posts on going from basic to more advanced keto baking. 

I’m going to be chasing down new recipes and conducting some experiments to help us become better keto bakers.  I’m going to have some fails and I’m going to fearlessly discuss them. If I can do it, you can do it. 

Resources

Diet Doctor has a good site on beginning low-carb/keto baking with recipes suitable for beginners.  Diet Doctor is one of my go-to sites for information and recipes for the keto way of eating.  I’ll be using this and other sites to create my next posts– but if you’re anxious to get started, it’s a good place to begin learning. 

Happy Holidays!  Hope your baking dreams come true.  ~ Lola

The ABC Low-Carb Wrap

Recently, I started making the occasional “tuna wrap” for a low-carb on-the-go meal.  Today, I ran out of tuna and had to find a substitute: Avocado!  Here’s a great quick recipe for those days when you’re too tired to cook or in a hurry.  It’s a good “pack lunch” option, too. 

The Low Carb Sandwich Wrap

There are increasing numbers of low-carb sandwich wraps out there.  I’ve used low-carb tortillas (La Tortilla is pretty good—obtained on Amazon), a sweet potato wrap (BFree–at Harris Teeter)  and a “white” wrap (Tumaro’s–available at Giant Food) very successfully.    La Tortilla’s are sturdy and the flavor is okay. Definitely my go-to for enchiladas and tacos. 

Low carb wraps usually weigh in at about 6 net carbs.  That’s usually better than low carb breads (which can be 10-12 net carbs).   Some people use lettuce leaves for wraps — which can be a bit messy. Low-carb wraps are nicely packable.  I can put one in a baggie and order a sandwich at any sandwich shop or even use it to contain a gyro, cutting the carbs on take-out.  

They’re definitely not on everyone’s list of “keto” products, of course.  Wheat is involved, and wheat definitely is on my list of “acid reflux” triggers.  I try to keep the use of these items down to once or twice a week.  

Sometimes, a sandwich

When I work late, or on a busy Saturday, a super-quick sandwich helps keep me “on plan.”  I’ve been trying to eat more fish, and tuna salad is an easy way to do that.   This weekend, I went to work on my signature tuna salad wrap and discovered that the can of tuna fish I thought I had in my pantry—was a can of cat food. (Oh my.)  I had been thinking about the new “avocado toast” that’s filtered on to menus from the West Coast.   I’d bought some avocados to test some recipes — so hmmm. Why not an avocado wrap instead?

This is a a really simple sandwich.  Here’s the ingredients

  • A low-carb sandwich wrap
  • Shredded cheese (I used Trader Joe’s three cheese blend of mozzerella, cheddar and ) — 2 tablespoons
  • Pre-cooked bacon (3 strips)
  • A ripe avocado
  • Garlic paste (1 tablespoon)
  • Lime juice (1 tablespoon or thereabouts)
  • Salt
  • Optional: a dash of cumin, onion powder and chili powder

I put the wrap on a plate and the pre-cooked bacon on it in an “H” pattern: two slices parallel, one across.

I put the cheese down the middle of the wrap. 

I microwaved the wrap, with the bacon and cheese, for 90 seconds.  Cheese should be bubbly! 

Next, I split the avocado, scooped it into a bowl. I added the garlic paste, lime juice and a good dash of salt and mixed it all together.  You can substitute your favorite guacamole recipe for this.  Adding chopped tomatoes and sweet onions would be a great addition.  That might add a carb.  Cumin, chili powder and onion powder can be added as an option to kick up the flavor. 

I put the avocado mixture into wrap with the cheese and bacon and there we have the ABC (Avocado, Bacon & Cheese) Wrap. 

I estimate that this is about 7 carbs net total–much of it will depend on the kind of wrap you use. 

 No picture!  I was so hungry, I ate it immediately.  It was so good, salty from the bacon, cheesy and cream–and the bacon added some nice texture.  Why pre-cooked bacon?  Convenience.  This is definitely a keeper recipe, easy to put together, with lots of good fat.   I’ll post a picture soon.

Online Groups for Keto & LCHF: What to Look For

Finding a group for support online has always been a great help to me in pursuing this WOE.  There are many different kinds of LCHF, keto and paleo focused groups, though–and there are literally dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands to choose from.  Groups can be a huge time-suck. Worse, they can discourage you, as well as encourage you. How to choose where to spend your precious time and energy? 

Open Group Vs Closed Groups

In an open group, there are no real privacy settings. People who are not part of the group can easily see who is in it and read the posts. For ways of eating matters, open groups have their advantages –but also their disadvantages.  The main advantage is you can read the group contents without joining it to see if it is for you. 

If you’re in a webforum of some kind (rather than Facebook), the moderators will have different tools available to them. Many non-Facebook forums or groups are open.  And there are those that are closed. Forums or “chatrooms” exist on just about every platform–WhatsApp, Wechat and Telegram all have this capability to form groups.

On Facebook, closed groups are more common.  In a closed group, people can see that you’re a member from the “outside” but no one can see the posts without joining it. Closed groups require people to request to be “added” or admitted.   Only people in the group can read the posts and comments (and see what goes on there.)

Openness helps to keep things civil (but it is certainly no guarantee).  Still, few people want to be in a group for support that is open for the whole wide world to see.   There are people I don’t want to know about my weight loss (or my stall or my struggle with my kryptonite, the wonderful, evil potato.)  I grew up in the South. I have sisters. Enough said! 

When you apply to be added to a group, pay attention to how long it takes to add you. If it takes a week?  Then there is no real attention being paid to the group by moderators and administrators.   Lack of attention to what’s going on in the group is a warning sign of an inadequately attentive moderating staff.  A day or two is quite normal to wait for an “add.” Bonus points for “same day service.”

You’ve been added. Now what?

There are three main questions to ask when you sign up. 

  • How long has the group been around?
  • How many people are in the group?
  • How many posts a day? 
  • How many moderators/administrators are there?
  • What are the rules? 

New Groups Vs Old

When you sign into a group after you’ve been added, you get a peek at the stats for that group on your first visit. Pay attention to this.  If it’s not Facebook, then you can ask how long the forum has been around–and where the rules are located if you don’t see them.  

Newer groups tend to be friendlier and more active. Older groups have people with lots of experience and knowledge.  I’ve seen excellent new groups and ones where the moderators and administrators are a bit out of their depth.  I’ve seen old groups that let the older members bully new members.  New groups often change and shift as everyone gets to know one another and the moderators and administrators figure out how to do their jobs.   The next question is how hard is the job of these moderators?  Can they keep up with the work load?

In one newish group, I posted about a product that I had tried (Trader Joe’s vegetable pizza crusts) — and someone pointed me to “their” quick and easy fathead pizza recipe. Now, I’m an old dog.  Fat Head Pizza has been around for yonks (a long time, years in fact).  The poster replied to my post invited me to check out her recipe and I found that this link she provided was in fact an invitation to her personal, new closed group. This is an attempt to “poach” a member from one group into another.  It took the moderators about a day to find that post and remove it from the replies.  That was pretty fast!  Still, if I was a newbie at groups, I might have signed up for her group to see “her” recipe.   

If she had posted her recipe, or a link to her recipe, that would be fine. Attempting to use my “ignorance” to her advantage, to steal away a member from one group into another was not ethical.  Groups do divide and separate all the time.  Growing a group is hard. Poaching is dirty pool.  I wouldn’t join any group that did that. Should I have notified the moderators?  If it had gone on for more than a day, I would’ve.  This was a small “bait and switch” that they initially missed (but clearly someone did their homework and found this quickly).

The Importance of Rules

Look at the number of posts per day, the number of moderators/administrators, and the number of members. Groups can be in the tens of thousands.  My favorite group just leaped up to 6K!  When I joined it had four moderators/admins and 72 posts a day. And it was six months old with 4K followers.   72 posts is a moderately active group.  This activity includes comments and replies, not as many as that sounds.  

I look for a group that is well established with a long list of rules about behavior.  Rules against bad behavior, spamming, rules about fighting, guidelines on how to discuss civilly, rules about what will be tolerated and what is out of bounds are usual.   If the group is old (2 years is “mature” in Facebook, many are four, five, or even seven or eight years old), it’s not uncommon to find super-long lists of rules:   old groups have weathered many internal fights and have figured out how to manage those conflicts with clearly stated rules, up front.   These rules will tell you volumes about they consider “fair and just” treatment.

Some groups are ruled by Somebody With A Book and so everything is about their Bible.  Others are ruled by a Brand of some kind (such as Atkins).  If the somebody with a book is smart, they’ll monitor the heck out of conversations and keep the tone under control.  A good author needs to develop a personal relationship with customers.

Brand-based groups tend to have more diet police. No one’s personal reputation is on the line; it’s all about the interpretation of the brand by the group owner, administrators and moderators. Controlling individuals tend to proliferate in brand-based groups because it is all about the “discipline” of their brand, not about personal relationships. 

Bullying and incivility can occur in any group.  I’ve seen excellent groups fracture and lose people when incivility and bullying become increasingly, gradually more evident.  I personally ghost those groups if they are large.   This is why they may appear to have tens of thousands of members — if they’ve been around for a several years, it’s possible that even a big group is composed largely of inactive members.  

Do you want to stay?

Four moderators for seventy two posts is pretty good.  The work has been spread around so that someone is usually around to pay attention to posts.   If posts run up to 200 or 300,  you’d need more moderators and things will get missed.  There will be arguments in groups. Keeping things civil is difficult enough–keeping up with threads that go on and on is really tough, even for a large moderator pool.  I’m in a couple of groups with over 10K members and lots of moderators and a good bit of activity.  Fights and bullying and uncivil behavior can occur in the best of groups.  You’re always adding new people — and many people join groups just to troll others.  (See my post on the diet police about this problem.)

There is also the question of the purpose of the group– and what it is YOU are looking for. Recipes?  A cheering squad?  Helpers? Some people are looking for the Magical Keto Recipe for a Perfect Body.  There is no recipe; my body is cantankerous and unique. What works for one may not work for someone else.

Last but not least–read several days worth of posts.  This will tell you a great deal about the tone of the group and what matters to them. Is this mostly recipes? If so, what do people say about them?  Often the group will “police”  the recipes to make sure they are not giving “bad” advice.  For example, if the group is anti-artificial sweetener (they often are — with a passion) how do people respond to the post using one?  Are people civil?  Are they condescending?  Are the downright mean and bullying? Are they outraged? 

  • Is everyone’s voice given respect? 
  • Are spammers in the group hawking their own particular product? 
  • How do moderators respond?
  • Do posts that are against the rule (like the rule on spammers) taken down promptly? 
  • How are newbies with questions treated?
  • How are even obvious or even (to your mind) “dumb” questions treated? 
  • Are there arguments?  How are they mediated?   Are people encouraged to be civil and respectful or do they “dogpile” on a thread with negativity?

The Right Group (or Groups!)

Facebook groups are not the only forums out there, but these rules can apply to just about any forum.  I would suggest that folks try out two or three, at least different groups. Don’t be afraid to come in, thank the moderator for the add (that’s polite)–and sit back for a few days and read what everyone else has to say at first.   As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s amazing what you can see by observing.”

 Groups can provide recipes, hints for success, perspective and support. Often support is lacking at home for ANY kind of change.   A group can also harbor individuals who will actually undermine your confidence by their tone and attitude.  Don’t give those group your energies. If the group is very large (10K plus), it’s doubtful it’s going to change.  Smaller groups of 500 or so ? They will have different dynamics.   Really small groups of under 100 can be like small towns where everyone knows everyone’s business — for good or not-so-good–towns vary!   If you need support, ideas, knowledge, recipes — groups can be a tremendous help on your journey.  Do your homework and you should be able to find the help you need. 

Namaste ~Lola

Quick chicken enchiladas

I need meals I can put together quickly.  This chicken enchilada recipe took me about half an hour from start to finish.  The result is cheesy and a little decadent!  And yet it’s simple and filling. The secret is sour cream and low carb tortillas. 

Cooking and Keto

Even with lazy, dirty keto, people have more success if they cook their own food.  Control over the ingredients is critical.  But most of us live “Standard American Lives.”  We work all day –and we don’t really know how to cook that well.  I myself was raised on canned, frozen and take out everything. Moving to a different standard, a higher standard, takes some conviction and help.   This is a good recipe to start out on. 

Fortunately there is Pinterest.

Pinterest, Youtube, and other Internet resources are out there to teach us how to cook. I haunt the food blogs looking for easy, tasty meals that don’t require a certificate from the Culinary Institute of America to prepare. I came across this recipe on Pinterest but there were several others, nearly identical.  

Differences from the main recipe.

I used fresh chicken, not cooked.  Rotisserie chicken would be rather dry (if leftover) and they’re so often overcooked to begin with.  My son said he would agree to “taste” but wouldn’t commit to eating a full meal of it.  I found a package of chicken breast tenders for $3.48  When I make this again, I’ll be using a package of chicken thighs — and save the leftovers as this is a really great recipe. 

I used a small can of El Paso (rather than a larger can) because really, I was making this mostly for myself.   My son was very unsure of this recipe.  I made three for myself with enough leftover for two for my lunch tomorrow.  As it happened, my son ate (and enjoyed) one of the three enchiladas. He was hooked on the first bite!

I added fresh red peppers.  This made the fresh flavors pop and added to the sweetness of the onions. 

Cheese and Time.  The original poster used about 3 to four CUPS of cheese.  And she cooked this for half an hour. I’m sorry but the chicken is ALREADY cooked and so you’re just melting cheese and reducing the sauce a little.  Half an hour and that much cheese?  Not really necessary. 

The ingredients

  • A package of chicken breast tenders (thighs will also work)
  • El Paso red enchilada sauce (I used the small can but I’d think the large can would be a little better if making more than the five enchiladas I made. I had to skimp on the sauce as it was.)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of chopped sweet onion
  • a clove of garlic (or a teaspoon of garlic paste)
  • low carb tortillas (I used La Tortilla brand)
  • shredded Mexican cheese (about a cup)
  • olive oil (2-3 tablespoons
  • 1 pat of butter
  • Optional: chopped red pepper (a  half will do) and / or chopped mushrooms 
  • I sprinkled some cilantro on the finished product (see photo) before serving — to make it pretty. 🙂 

Yes, that’s all.  

Just out of the oven!

The directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat up the oil and butter together til hot. 
  3. Add the garlic and the onions to the pan, set it at a medium level of heat. Brown the onions.  This might take five minutes. 
  4. Cut the chicken into small pieces.  I took a tenderloin and cut it into three pieces; if I had used thighs, I would have done three or four. 
  5. If using the red pepper and mushrooms, add to the skillet and cook for another three or four minutes. 
  6.  Add the chicken to the skillet and brown, cooking until it’s all the way done. 
  7.  Add the sour cream to the skillet and about half the can of enchilada sauce.  Set the can aside, you’ll be using that later.
  8.  Combine the sour cream and enchilada sauce with the chicken and let that all cook for maybe two minutes.  Then turn off the heat. 
  9.  Take an oven-safe casserole dish and line it with aluminum foil. 
  10. Add a little more olive oil OR spray the foil with cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray).   This is to help slide the enchiladas out later. 
  11. Put 2-3 of tablespoons of enchilada sauce from the half can you’ve reserved (from step 7) on the aluminum foil. 
  12. Dip a tortilla in the sauce and coat on the outside. You want it just a little wet with enchilada sauce. 
  13. Add a tablespoon or so of chicken and sauce from the pan in the tortilla. 
  14.  Add a tablespoon or so of shredded cheese.
  15.  Roll up the tortilla.
  16.  You’ll repeat steps 13-15 til you run out of chicken.  Should make between four and five enchilada, possible six.  (If you use a large can of enchilada sauce and thighs, then you can get as many as eight. )
  17. Pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken enchiladas.
  18.  Scatter shredded cheese on top of the sauce. 
  19.  Put in the oven til the cheese gets hot and bubbly and slightly brown.  This will probably take ten minutes.  To be honest, I cooked these for five minutes in the oven. 

Dinner is done.   My son said “add this to the dinner rotation!  I heartily approve!”    He thought it was as good as or better than our favorite restaurant. There is no higher accolade in the house.  

Carb Facts

  • Enchilada sauce: 4g net carbs per servings
  • La Tortilla low-carb tortillas 6g net carbs per tortilla

Thus the two enchiladas I had were a total of 20 net carbs.   I’m going to work on a lower carb enchilada sauce to see if I can get these down to 7 carbs a piece.   That’ll take more effort on my part, but for a quick and easy dinner, this one works 

The Diet Police in Online Communities

 As January 1, the official Starting Day of Diets approaches, I notice lots of people online getting a head start.  The forums and Facebook groups are expanding rapidly after Thanksgiving. I have a love-hate relationships with these groups.  They provide great support and friendship opportunities.  On the down side, they can sometimes be full of Guerrilla Marketers–and worst of all, there are the Diet Police. Diet police love to pick on newbies.  Here’s the low-down on what’s going on. 

The Seekers and the Sought

People approach a new way of eating, especially LCHF and keto, in “seeker” mode. Many are tentative and fearful, full of body shame.  Admitting one’s relationship with food is unhealthy is difficult. Some people have been in denial, others have known but put off really facing the problem of –let’s use the horrible word — obesity.  This can set people up for an unhealthy relationship with their SUPPORT group. 

I was on Weight Watchers for several years (which helped me gain at least twenty pounds! Yay points!–[note to self: design sarcasm font].) but I found the bullying and sneering and general incivility on their forum to be fairly relentless and unchecked.  At one point, a bunch of us  created our own group on Facebook to escape from that horrid den of cattiness. It was small, warm, and friendly group.  And within 18 months, it was dead. None of us were able to lose weight on that program. A few of us went on to other eating styles but mostly we’re all still overweight.  And gods, we tried. The group was warm and very supportive.  And we all honestly really wanted to follow the program and lose.   But we were past the “seeker” stage, those first uncertain steps when no one is sure what they’re doing. WW makes sure that EVERYONE can get super-informed — and the forums are just echo chambers for rules and regulations. 

The Diet Police: Cadet Squad

Moving from the position of  “seeker of wisdom” to “giver of wisdom” is a heady step.  Many people enjoy that rush of “I know this!” and like moving from the position of newbie know-little to Experienced! Successful! –and they form one kind of “Diet Police.”  I think of them as “Diet Police–Junior Cadet Squad.” 

They delight in giving the newbies the usual, everyday knowledge that most people have.  Most of them are delightful (not always spot on accurate, but delightful. ) Honest, happy, a little jubilant over their initial success, they joyfully share the wealth.  

There are Others, however, who enjoy their authority too much.  They revel in their knowledge and use it to punish people.  These are the Diet Police: Troll Division — and they are everywhere.  Worse, their attitudes often trickle down into the Cadet Division, creating a new generation of bad attitude cops, getting high off of belittling, mocking and attacking others. 

The Diet Police: Troll Division

I discovered trolling back in 1988, when I was in a new parents usenet group.   Some idiots came into the group seeking to spark fear and terror into young parents about — you guessed it — vaccination.   The anti-vaxxers are a weird, persistent group that had been with us for at least that long.  As a social scientist, I was fascinated and appalled.  I spent my free time studying this situation which quickly drew me into the new world of “flame wars” and “trolling.”   

Rather than boring you with 20 years worth of research (okay, more, I’m old)– let me cut to the chase.  Trolls are out for ATTENTION.  They just want to be the center of a cult.   Most of the time, they have only  a half-hearted allegiance to the point of view they espouse (some have NO dog in the fight, they just love trolling.)   The role of Diet Police: Troll Division suits them very well. 

Some of the most uncivil, ruthless and vicious people on diet forums are,  well, let me put it out there: experience and research in trolling would suggest that many of these Troll police are MEN who hate women and enjoy controlling them.  Diet groups are a great way to pretend to be a woman and set the cat among the pigeons (stir up trouble).  It’s a fantasy role for them, a bit of online cross-dressing.   When the Junior Cadets begin to idealize them and emulate their behavior, the fantasy is complete.  On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.  And no one knows you’re not a guy. 

Many groups tolerate (and thus encourage) trolling of newbie members, either light trolling (smug comments, belittling behavior, minor catfights about Doctrine) or  full-on hectoring lectures. The seekers are in a terrible position. They earnestly want salvation–and their self esteem is damaged. They are exactly what controlling, vicious trolls are looking for in terms of “fresh meat.”  

Does this get you angry?  I hope it does. Ladies, let us unite against incivility in diet communities. Vote with your feet, complain to the moderator, demand that the tone of humiliation and trolling cease and desist.  Toxic communities are everywhere and they grow, newbie by newbie. 

Online Groups as Video Games

In my research into online communities, I find that there are five kinds of participants, just like in video games  ( I stole these categories from video game research). There are Achievers, who want to rack up the most followers, make the most points.  There are Socializers, who are there for the social contacts.  There are explorers — these guys are great, they run all over the Internet for interesting things to bring back to the group.  There are the more rare “content creators” (or Builders) — people who make recipes or resources and share them.  And then there are Dominators.  Dominators are not having fun in a video game unless they win AGAINST PEOPLE.  It’s not good enough to win against artificial intelligent fake bad-guys.  They need to beat their friends. 

When a video game fails to control dominators, the numbers of dominators in the environment grow.  

If dominators begin to outnumber other kinds of participants, then the group (or the video game) begins to degrade.  Online groups, like video games, will have to rely on having a fresh supply of newbies all the time, so one REALLY has to be wary of groups that are slated as “for beginners.”  

The problem is: if there are NO dominators present in a video game, if their activities are TOO controlled, the video game tends to die because it is totally “no fun.”  Everyone has a little bit of dominator in them, it turns out.   Let’s face it, we can all be a bit smug and smart-alecky.   We all enjoy the feeling of “winning”–  we enjoy being right, being knowledgable.  Moderators have to tolerate some degree of discord, cattiness and know-it-all posts or people feel their freedom of expression is being denied.  Moderation is a tough task.  So be good to moderators. They have pretty thankless tasks and daily headaches.  But don’t be afraid to call out bad behavior–or at the very least, vote with your feet and get out of there. 

In my next Blogmas post, I’m going to cover What To Look For in Online Groups. 

Three Great Websites to Get Started on Low-Carb

A “Blogmas” Post

My favorite Facebook group swelled by over two THOUSAND members after Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of people starting keto, even if it’s dirty, lazy keto.   There’s a real need for guidance and support for newbies, so here’s my “blogmas” list for “how to get started.” 

The Diet Doctor

The Diet Doctor is probably the best all-around website on low-carb dieting of all kinds. Run by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt and team of over forty, it provides some great advice and help for getting started and for maintaining a low-carb lifestyle.

If books are not your “thing” and you prefer getting your knowledge via video, there is an entirely optional “membership” plan, with a free one month trial, that will give you a sound education on keto from a physician.  It’s not a substitute for actually talking to your doctor. If you have serious medical issues such as insulin-dependent diabetes, talking to your actual doctor is a MUST–and this website explains who really needs to talk to their doctor (and who probably doesn’t need to do this). 

I have never tried the paid membership option. I DO turn to this site (as I have for many years) for its very large recipe file and clear, helpful  (and free) knowledge resources.  The entire site is also available in Spanish and Swedish. 

Even in its free version, this website is probably as good or better than any book out there on low-carb.   The membership version is less than $9 US a month–with the first month free. 

Mark’s Daily Apple

Mark’s Daily Apple is another well-known site, quite commercial but with customer-centered principles. Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint came out around the time I first got seriously interested in low-carb –around 2011. He began with the “paleo hypothesis” — the notion that human beings were are not genetically programmed by evolution to consume the current junk food diet. A diet more like what we ate in our early evolutionary history would be “better” for us.

I’m a card-carrying anthropologist. Doctorate and everything. And I can tell you that humans have continued to evolve after the paleolithic.  This evolution is precisely why some people can eat dairy with no ill effects– and other people can’t.  The next problem? The food we eat — those species–have been changing all this time, too. (We’ve had an active hand in changing them.)   Our genes have changed–our food’s genes  have changed.  Still, the notion of “ancestral eating styles” has tremendous merit.   The manufactured diet that we’ve been eating since the 1970s has clearly caused this obesity and diabetes epidemic. 

Still, I am a paleo fan and at one point, went full-on paleo. Great food. Great health. But it is not necessarily a weight-lowering diet.  Even Sisson eventually altered his point of view, gradually embracing keto (and combining it with the paleo precepts.)  Sisson’s site has some great resources for starting keto.  He’s got yet-another-book out, The Keto Reset Diet, that I plan to review as part of my Blogmas postings.   

Dirty, Lazy Keto

Dirty, Lazy Keto totally deserves a plug. While Ms. Laska is not in the same league as Diet Doctor and Primal Blueprint, her emotionally supportive, permissive style of keto is bringing many people great results. I once wrote that I didn’t think her book was worth the price (I thought it should be cheaper, but a great resource). I hereby eat my words. Sitting in the Facebook group, chatting with the folks there and how that book changed their lives, I think it’s totally worth it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. You’re very welcome.  Laska is not going to provide you with the sound medical advice of the Diet Doctor or the full-on hoorah of Sisson’s rock-star writing style and in-depth research, but she speaks from the heart.

Laska’s approach is simple: just count carbs, don’t worry about the other “macros” (proteins, fats). Other approaches have specific metrics and people have apps that count their “macros” to get their diets tuned to whatever their approach deems to be “perfect” for weight loss.   She also doesn’t see anything wrong with artificial sweeteners, diet soda or other taboos, in moderation. Yes, people lose weight on this — many of them, lots of weight.  She doesn’t even make people count the carbs in leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables–making this by far the simplest (and most sane) approach to changing one’s way of eating.  She lost 140 lbs this way.  Others in the group report impressive results. 

If you’re tired of the harping of the religious nuts in the keto (and paleo) communities, if you want gentle encouragement and big yays for your victories, come hang with the dirty, lazy keto people on Facebook

More soon and happy Blogmas! ~Lola

The Accidental Low-Carb Apple Pie Omelette

On reflection, I have to admit this. I created an omelette that tastes much more like apple pie than pumpkin pie. 🙂  This happy accident occurred when I omitted the sugar-free vanilla from the pumpkin pie omelette recipe, substituted fresh apples for canned–and added the spice called “mace.”  A very nice apple pie flavor emerged — for only 10 net carbs.

Trying to lower the carbs

I started with the Pumpkin Pie Omelette, version 1.
I was working on version 2,  trying to pare down the carb count with a goal of great flavor and half the carbs.  Fresh apples, I knew from my past experiences in creating sweet omelettes (and pancakes), are really tasty additions. You can brown them in butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and stevia and they’re gorgeous.  You don’t have to use a whole apple, either, — only a quarter of a medium sized apple will do. A fine dice should yield about 1/3rd of a cup–about 5 carbs for your average apple (Granny Smith or Golden Delicious). 

My key mistake

I simply forgot to put in the Torani sugar-free vanilla in the pumpkin pie/egg yolk mix.  Without that key ingredient, the apple pie flavor jumps out at you –especially when you use the fresh, tart Granny Smith apple I used in this recipe.  The pumpkin flavor recedes into an almost savory background flavor. But it’s really good as an apple pie omelette. It’s just not a PUMPKIN pie omelette. 🙂  Live and learn.

The real difference, however, may have been the use the spice, “mace.”

About Mace – No, the SPICE, NOT the WEAPON!

Mace is the outer coating of the nutmeg fruit.  The nutmeg seed, inside the fruit, is the “nut” that we called the nutmeg “nut.”   The nutmeg fruit is kind of gloppy — nothing you’d eat fresh, but we’re told that it is used in Southeast Asian chutneys and dishes. Not something we get in the West, though. 

When you can find mace, it’s usually ground (and expensive: I paid 11 dollars for a 1.5 oz bottle of organic McCormick’s brand bottle!)  The true foodies, of course, buy it in its unground, unprocessed dried form. Then you can grind it yourself with a spice grinder. You can get the unground form  (called “blades” of mace) from the Spice House for $8.49 at this writing for a 1.5 ounce bottle (which when ground up NOT mean a real cost savings.  But sometimes we like to feel so very foodie.)

If I manage to use up all the mace in this bottle, I’ll consider the purchase and figure out if it’s worth the price. 

Photo by Jon Connell on Flickr

The ground mace from McCormick’s is very fresh seeming, slightly clumpy and moist. It’s more “floral” and “lighter” than the seed, but with a similar flavor.  I’d heard that it was “the secret” to the best apple pies from a pint-sized champion baker on a kid’s cooking show. Hmmmm.  That kid knew something about his apple pies.

Oh my, the Apples!

  • 1 medium-sized Granny Smith apple  (you’ll use 1/4th of it) —
  • 1/2 tsp Truvia baking blend (brown sugar and stevia blend)
  • dash of cinnamon, dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of ground mace
  • 1/2 tsp or so of Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice and a sprinkle of sweetener of your choice.
  • Butter (for frying the apples)

Granny Smiths are known as the “tart, baking apple.”   The Granny Smith produced a very sweet, truly apple-pie flavor which just about overwhelmed the pumpkin. I cut the apple in two, peeled half, then cut the peeled half into two–and used a quarter of the apple. I diced the quarter apple quite small (about a quarter inch square) and measured it in a measuring cup so you, dear readers, will know how much I used. 

Directions for Preparing the Apple

  1. Cut the apple in two. 
  2. Peel half. 
  3. Cut the peeled half into two (giving you a quarter of the apple.)
  4. Dice one of the peeled, apple quarters, a smallish dice, about a quarter inch square or so
  5. Give a squeeze of lemon juice on top of the diced apples. No more than half a teaspoonful is needed.
    • Cook’s Note:I used a Meyer lemon. These can be hard to find–I found these at Trader Joe’s.
    • If you’re using an ordinary lemon,  I would add a light sprinkler of stevia or sucralose to the recipe, or add a little more of the Truvia blend
  6. In a small frying pan, melt a pat of butter.
  7. When it’s melted and sizzling, add the apples to the pain and begin to brown them.
  8. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmug over the apples as they fry in the butter.
  9. Add the 1/2 tsp of mace
  10. Sprinkle with Truvia baking mix.
  11. Brown the apples, remove the pan from the heat. I put them in a small container to help them cool for later.
  12. I save the rest of the apple in a baggie for later in the week!

The Rest of the Recipe

The rest of the recipe is the same as Pumpkin Omelette #1 except that we omit the canned apples and the craisins.   To recap, you’ll need

  • 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste from a tube
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, to taste
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
  • sugar-free vanilla Torani syrup (optional) or 1/2 tsp of vanilla extra and 1/2 tsp of sweetener (also optional, see the cook’s note below.)
  • You’ll also need the cooked, diced apple that you prepared previously and set aside (see above).

The Directions for the Omelette

  1. Blend the pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl, seasoning to taste. 
    • Cook’s Note: For a more “pumpkin-forward” flavor, add a teaspoon of Torani sugar-free vanilla syrup. Or substitute a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of stevia or other sweetener.
  2. Add the egg yolks to the pumpkin mixture.
  3. Put the (oven safe!) omelette pan on the stove and provide a medium level of heat. Add butter and olive oil to the pan. Let the butter melt and stir occasionally to blend the butter and oil.
  4. Turn on the broiler to 550 degrees F. Let it begin to heat while you mix the egg whites
  5. Now for whisking up the egg WHITES. Add a half teaspoon cream of tartar to the egg WHITES.
  6. Whisp the egg whites until they double in volume, about 3 minutes.
  7. GENTLY fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture. Give it one or two gentle stirs with a spoon, no more. The egg whites should continue to be a foam on the top with just a few hints of stirred in orange streaks.
  8. Pour the pumpkin mix with the egg whites into the waiting, hot buttery pan.
  9. Gently add the cooked apple fragments evenly all over the omelette as it cooks in the pan. I use a fork to lower them into the omelette, one piece at a time
  10. Cook the omelette on the stove top still it mostly sets and the edges are beginning to look dry.
  11. Put the pan with the omelette in it under the broiler. Let it broil for no more than two minutes. It should puff up slightly if the low carb gods are in a smiling mood.
  12. Take the pan out of the broiler and gently slide the omelette onto a waiting plate.
  13. Give the omelette a light sprinkle of salt.

The Results

If you get the apples spread evenly all over the omelette, you’ll get a taste of apple pie in every bite.  An extra sprinkle of cinnamon and sweetener like Swerve would make this even sweeter — but I liked the slightly more savory flavor.

I can imagine other add-ins to this such as fennel or caramelized onions, to make a savory apple omelette.   

I can also imagine using sugar-free salted caramel syrup in this, to make it even sweeter. I could imagine serving it piled high with whipped cream as a dessert, even. 

In my next try at this, I’m thinking of adding a few fresh cranberries to the apple mixture–I’ll probably cook them separately with extra sweetener and a squeeze of fresh orange juice, then fold the cooked apples into them–and then make small dollops of apples and cranberries, hmmmm.  That would add four more carbs.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  Sounds like a promising Turkey Day breakfast! 

The Pumpkin Pie Omelette: Take 1: The Test

The sweet omelette is a great treat for holiday mornings.  Everyone is usually carbing out on pancakes, doughnuts and sweet rolls.   What about a pumpkin omelette?  With all the taste of pumpkin pie, the ease of an omelette? And low carb to boot?  Here’s my first try and it’s tasty enough to share the initial recipe. It will only get better — and I will update this through the week as I perfect it!

Holiday Morning Hells

Holiday mornings can be a low-carber’s hell, especially given what’s coming up the rest of the day. Recent discussions in the dirty, lazy keto Facebook group (which I LOVE),  have been revolving around a certain no-crust, low carb pumpkin pie recipe. And I thought, that’s a good deal of trouble to go to when I would likely be the only person eating it.  That got me to thinking.  These ingredients are very similar to a good, sweet omelette recipe.  You wouldn’t have to use as many–and you could definitely get away with losing the Splenda blend if sweetness came from other elements, like, say, fried apples and dried cranberries. 

Warning: This is a NOT QUITE keto, REASONABLY low carb recipe coming in at 25 g of carbohydrates.  This is the first test, with just the ingredients I had in the kitchen (because it was snowing in Northern Virginia. And sleeting.) 

Eggs
Sweetness
& Fat

The Essentials of the Sweet Omelette

Eggs, sweetness and fat are all that make up the sweet omelette. Eggs provide the canvas, the texture and some slightly umami components of taste.  Sweetness (and spice!) can come from many sources.

Pumpkin pie is mostly eggs, pumpkin, heavy cream and sweetening agents. Usually sugar is required in order to create the chemical bonds that keep the pie from becoming a gloppy mess–which is why in the low carb pie recipes, you will see the use of baking blends.  Baking blends are mixtures of sugar with a low-carb sweetener. I like Truvia’s brown sugar and stevia blend, though sometimes you need the Splenda blend to provides the stronger texture. 

In the omelette, eggs, not sugar, provide the structure (and texture) of the dish.   In my deconstruction, I realized that the cream may be redundant.  The pumpkin pie puree may provide the “softening agent” to make sure the omelette version doesn’t get tough. And for sweetener, a teaspoon of Torani vanilla syrup, the kind I sometimes use in my coffee, would probably be ample as both a sweetener — and it would go well with the spice elements.  Ginger is a nice big flavor.  It’s a key ingredient in making for a “wow” pumpkin pie, along with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  (Mace, another beautiful warm spice, would go lovely with this, but I didn’t have any on hand).  Most pumpkin pie spice blends are weak on ginger — it’s one of those flavors that degrades quickly in powder form. 

Finally, fruit would definitely raise this out of the ordinary.  I had a can of apples that needed to get used up (from over a year ago) and also some reduced sugar craisins (cranberry raisins). While they added a carb or so,  (gads, it added far more than I intended!  see nutrition notes at the end.) the apples added some acidity and the craisins, a little more chewy texture. 

The results:  GLORIOUS on the first try!   I had a little trouble with getting it out of the plate as there was a slight “sticking” issues — not quite  enough structure in the omelette to allow it to entirely stay together from the pan to the plate — but the taste was everything I hoped for. My only problem: I made this a two-egg “test” omelette, rather than a 3-egg “meal.”  I definitely wanted more.

The Test Recipe

This is the recipe as I constructed it from what I had on hand.  In the next version, I will be more precise on measurements and I’ll experiment with more usual ingredients (like ordinary vanilla extract) to create look at more options. 

I know the chefs in my family would roll their eyes at my use of ginger paste from a tube, but who in the world has time to prepare fresh ginger?  Ginger powder loses its punch rapidly in the jar. Ginger paste retains it oomph and adds something special to pumpkin recipes, generally.  It’s also easier to measure.

The cooked canned apples were prepared with some sugar by the canner. What would probably be better?  Apples or pear pieces, fresh, fried in butter until slightly soft!)  Raisins or sultanas (golden raisins) would be good substitutes for the craisins. 

Ingredients

  • Two large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree (from a can)
  • 1 tsp Torani sugarfree vanilla syrup 
  • Ginger paste from a tube – 1 scant tsp
  • Cinnamon (two dashes, maybe 1/4 tsp, no more).
  • Nutmeg  (dash) 
  • Reduced sugar craisins (14)
  • 1 ounce (5 pieces) of cooked, canned apples
  • Butter (1 pat, for cooking)
  • Oil oil (2 tbls, for cooking)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar (for the egg whites)

Step 1 – Separate the Eggs

The base recipe for this is the fluffy omelette recipe.

Separating the eggs is pretty important for this recipe. We’ll be adding the yolks to the pumpkin, which makes the mixture a bit heavy. It would be even heavier if I’d used applesauce, so the whole thing would have serious trouble rising and getting nice and fluffeh!

The whites need to be separated out into their own bowl, with no speck of yellow yolk in them.

Now you should have two bowls: a bowl with the yolks in them, and a bowl with the egg whites in them

Step 2 -Prepare the pumpkin base

In a THIRD bowl, add the pumpkin, ginger paste, sugarfree vanilla syrup, and mix with a fork into they’re well combined.

Next, add the cinnamon. Stir. Taste. If you’ve added too much, you have an entire can full of pumpkin puree, so you can start over. 😀

Next, add the nutmeg.  Stir. Taste.  Is it pumpkin pie flavor yet?  A little salt might perk things up.  Adjust seasonings a bit if you need to! 

Step 3 – Prepare the omelette pan.

The omelette pan should be oven safe. Cast iron or stainless steel or whatever, we’re eventually going to put it in the broiler.  But for now, we’ll be working on the stove top.

Heat the omelette pan, adding the olive oil and the pat of butter.  Let that warm up over a medium heat.  Don’t do this until you’re sure you’re ready to do the NEXT steps (4 and 5) are set up and ready to go.  Overheating the pan or underheating the pan are two of the usual mistakes. Be ready to have a hot pan ready to go for step 7! 

Step 4 – Pour the Pumpkin Mixture into the Egg Yolks

Stir until well combined.  This is simple, probably take 10-30 seconds.

Step 5 – Whip the Egg Whites

Use a whisk.  Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites (if you have it–found mine at the back of the cabinet!).  I whipped them for about two-three minutes, until the butter in the omelette pan melted into the olive oil and began to sizzle a little. 

Step 6 – GENTLY fold the whites into the egg yolk and pumpkin mixture. 

Do NOT MIX them well! You want to preserve the light fluffiness of the whites!.   Mix them just a little bit, to get them very lightly combined.

You now have 1 bowl of pumpkin pie omelette mixture.

Step 7 – Pour the Pumpkin Pie Omelette Mixture into the Hot Pan — and Turn on the Broiler

  • Pour the mixture in to the pan
  • Turn on the broiler (about 550 degrees F.)
  • Let the omelette begin to solidify slightly and the bottom to firm up
The apples are a bit sunk into the middle of the mixture. I combined them with the pumpkin mixture which was a bit of  a mistake.  They should’ve been set of the surface of the cooking omelette.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Step 8 – Add the apples and craisins to the omelette

Set the apple pieces around the omelette with an eye to not putting too many in the middle. You’ll see that I failed this step. Spread them out some. 

Dot the craisins around the omelette’s surface as well so that they’re spread out more or less evenly across. 

Cook’s note. I DID NOT add the apples, as I should’ve, on top of the omelette with the craisins. Idiotically, I added them to the pumpkin puree. They glopped into the center of the pan and created a structural weakness in the middle of the omelette.  I noticed this and moved them around a bit while the mixture was still wet in the pan, but you’ll see it did not entirely save the situation. 

Step 9 – Put the omelette pan under the broiler

When the edges of the omelette get dry and the center has begun to get solid, put the omelette pan under the broiler.  This will cook the top of the omelette without burning the bottom.   Let it sit there for no more than 2 minutes or so. It should be very, very slightly browned on top. 

Step 10 – Remove the finished omelette from the pan onto a waiting plate.

I found this to be the perfect sweetness for me, but if you’re really needing a sugar hit, maybe the lightest of dustings with Swerve might be in order.  Another option for this?  Fresh, heavy whipped cream. 

As I slid the omelette out of the pan, some of it was, sadly, left behind.  The failure to PLACE the apples on top (as I did the craisins) led to their settling in the middle and creating a weakness in the structure so that the omelette failed to land completely clean on the plate.   Still delicious though.  Thought you’d learn more from my mistakes! 

AND NOW For the Dirty, Lazy Nutritional Facts

  • Pumpkin puree: 1/4 cup has as many as five carbs, according to the label, 2 g of fiber — which would make this a little less than 3 carbs.  I used slightly less than that but I’m keeping the 3 carbs count anyway. It might be as little as 1.5 carbs.
  • Ocean Spray’s reduced dried cranberries package says 1/4 cup has 33g carbs with 10 grams of fiber.  That’s 23 grams (maximum).  It’s a substantive carb kick, but I know that I used far less than that (14 craisins). I’m saying about an 1/8th of a cup.   That would bring it down to about 12 carbs. Still a heftier punch than I had estimated.
  • Raisins or sultanas would be about 7 net carbs for a tablespoon. So, next time, I plan to use sultanas and only 3 or 4 craisins. I also want to consider fresh cranberries. 
  • Cooked apples:  I used Glory Foods, Sweet Traditions Fried Apples. Not the best choice! 🙂  We don’t always make good choices.  But it was what I had.  1/4 cup would be 10.5 carbs and .5 g of fiber, so 10 carbs it is.
  • In dirty, lazy keto, we’re not worried about the rest.  But that does bring this recipe up to a whopping 25 carbs.   
  • Now before we BOGGLE, I want to point out: most of the carbs came from my yummy additions — and I did NOT have to use the Splenda blend.  1/4 cup of the Splenda blend yields (drum roll please): 46 CARBS.  If you used 1/8th cup, like you would likely have in a slice of that pumpkin pie recipe? You’d be looking at 23 carbs.  So this recipe is pretty comparable to one slice of the crustless pumpkin pie. 

In tomorrow’s test, we’ll slim this puppy down! 

Recipe: Basic Fluffy Omelette

My daughter married into a warm hug of a Big Family of cooks, including professional chefs.  Thanksgiving, even the casual one we’re having this year, has Menus that the matriarch and her offspring work on well in advance.  I love Thanksgiving there; we can talk about anyTHING — religion, politics, sex. But not eggs. I was warned about eggs.   Eggs are so important that how to scramble them has divided the family for years.  Here’s an omelette recipe: Let the controversy begin!

A Simple Recipe
  * 3 eggs, separated
  * 3 TBSP of dairy or dairy sub
  * Seasonings
   * Cheese, fillings, as desired
   * 1-2 TBSP of fat 

Fluffy Omelettes!

In my previous post, on the Art of the Omelette,  I describe the three bowl method of separating eggs.  Do I really do all that?  Yes, if I’m making more than three eggs worth and need to whip up the whites into peaks, stiff or soft.  If it’s just TWO eggs, my usual?  I have a bowl for yolks ready, then I might just put the whites straight into the cup of my Bullet mixer.  If it’s a big, brunchy THREE egg omelette?  Yeaah, I do break out the glass bowl for the whites, so I can inspect for errant yolk specks.   A bit fussy, I know. 

For this big, brunchy omelette, I set the egg whites on the counter for an hour or so, to let them try to get to something like room temperature.  My stand mixer is currently vacationing at my daughter’s house, so I make do with the Bullet. 

Next I assemble my ingredients, the mise en place for omelette construction.  A plain omelette is fairly bland. It needs seasonings to wake it up, if only turns of a pepper mill and a sprinkling of salt.    

The Fat Question

While I love the taste of an omelette fried in butter, frying in butter isn’t a great idea–because butter has a tendency to burn easily. The milk solids in butter need a bit of buffering.  Chefs often add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to butter, and this offers a lovely flavor.   Whenever I use butter alone, a burned omelette bottom is always a potential issue, so I hedge my bets, adding a tablespoon of good California olive oil and a pat of butter–or just ghee, which has the mild solids removed. Ghee has slightly less flavor than the butter and olive oil combo but a much higher “smoke point.”  It’s much more unlikely to burn if I misjudge the temperature.

Bacon fat, coconut oil, or ghee also do very well as fats for frying omelettes.  Bacon fat can impart a nice smoky flavor. Even beef tallow or lard is great. If  you must use a seed oil, that’s fine, but you’ll be missing out in terms of flavor.  This is a dirty keto recipe, you make your own choices. 🙂 

Seasonings

Fresh herbs wake up a plain omelette nicely–but even dried herbs are great.  I often pair turmeric with smoked paprika;  turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, very good for the body, and smoked paprika is a nice complement.   I like white pepper, dried coriander, but I don’t use salt until AFTER the egg is cooked–as I’ve read the cooking the egg with salt will create a tougher, less tender omelette. 

Fresh herbs that are leafy,  like leaf parsley or cilantro are best served as a garnish after the omelette has been plated.   Woody herbs can be set in the pan with the fat while it heats up. A stem of rosemary or a several stems of thyme can be set in the pan and removed BEFORE you put the eggs in, to flavor the oil (and the pan).  I take them out before pouring in the egg mixture, taking only a few leaves to sprinkle on the top of the egg mixture when it’s cooking in the pan.

Cheese and Fillings

These are the totally optional ingredients.  They make the omelette have more flavor — but you can mix it up or leave them out entirely and have a good meal. 

Cheeses are the ultimate flavor additions to omelettes.  Let’s face it, eggs every day for breakfast can get tedious unless you mix it up regularly — and cheese is an amazingly transformative ingredient. If you’re unfamiliar with anything outside of cheddar and parmesan, here’s a little slideshow of 13 cheeses to get you started.

Funnily enough, I have never been a big cheese fan until I went LCHF. Not on this list are some of my big favorites: fontina, which melts beautiful, and brie, which can be combines with fruits for a sweet omelette.   A nice keto friend combination: brie cheese and reduced sugar “craisins” (cranberry raisins).

Cheeses are added after the eggs are in the pan.  For hard cheeses, I use a microplaner and grate the cheese into a fluffy heap in a bowl, waiting til the eggs are cooking, to be sprinkled on top. 

 Other fillings usually need to be pre-cooked.

Onions should be chopped into a small dice and put in the pan with fats. Cook them down using low heat and they’ll carmelize and get sweeter. This can take some time, so have patience — ten minutes with constant pushing them around in the pan so they don’t burn is about right. I don’t usually take that kind of time,  just three minutes or so. 

Peppers either green or red, orange or yellow, should be diced fairly small and added about a minute after the onions.

Mushrooms — white, portabella, or even some of the fancier kinds, add a meaty element and “umami” taste to omelettes.  Quite good.

Spinach or kale needs to be washed and dried and chopped–or you can buy baby spinach and baby kale. 

The Execution!

Step 1. Separate the eggs. 

Step 2. Add the fat to the (oven-safe) omelette pan.  I prefer an 8 inch pan.  A six inch pan WILL create a somewhat taller omelette,  but it needs a touch of patience, perhaps a lower temperature to get the insides cooked before the bottom is overcooked.  

Step 3. After the fat gets hot, add the woody stems of fresh herbs, if you’re using them. Add the onions, if using, and start them cooking for at least 2 or 3 minutes.

Step 4.  Fish out the stems of herbs and set them aside on a plate.
Add the peppers and mushrooms (if using).  Get them nice and brown, another 2 minutes or so.  Put in the spinach and let that wilt while you turn to the EGGS! 

Step 5. Add a tablespoon or two of dairy to the yolks and whisk. I like heavy cream,  but I also have been known to use ricotta, or milk, or creme fraiche, or a nut milk.  They all work nicely to give a soft texture to the omelette. 

Step 6. Add cream of tartar to the egg whites (about a 1/2 tsp) or a teaspoon of  lemon or lime juice–and whisk them (or use a mixer) until they reach twice their volume.  If you don’t have either cream of tartar, lemons or limes, don’t sweat it.  The acid helps the whites to create good bubbles.

Step 7. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the yolks mixture, stirring them until they’re just combined. 

Step 8. Pour the egg mixture into the pan on top of whatever you’ve been cooking.   While the eggs being to set, sprinkle the grated cheese on top (if using).  I sprinkle on extra seasoning —turmeric and paprika–at this point, too. Coriander is also nice.

Step 9. Turn on the broiler to about 550 to 600 degrees F.  When the eggs look dry around the ends and it’s mostly set (perhaps a little soupy), I take the pan off the stovetop and put it under the broiler for about 2 minutes.  This makes the top of the omelette set and perhaps turn slightly brown.  You HAVE to keep an eye on this. 

If you got the egg whites nicely whipped, and the broiler nicely hot, the eggs should “puff” a bit.   The puffing may not be very noticeable.  (My oven JUST ISN”T hot enough to make a good poufy omelette!.) Take the pan out of the oven.  You should be able to fold it over and slip it onto a plate. 

Add fresh leafy herbs if you wish — cilantro or parsley is nice.  

And it’s done!  I’m rather fond of adding a streak of sriracha sauce across the top– a garlic hot sauce from Thailand –my daughter prefers “Texas Pete’s” hot sauce.  But that’s it.  I’m still trying to figure out how to make these EVEN PUFFIER.  I’m not sure if the separating the eggs from the yolks and doing them separately IS worth the trouble.  There will be more omelette recipes to come, to test the matter. 

Enjoy!  ~ Lola

On the Art of Omelettes

The study of cookery is a very helpful hobby in going LCHF, paleo or keto, dirty, lazy or however you practice. Modern cooking relies heavily on wheat, sugar, and grains for flavor, aided by that hit of happy brain chemicals (dopamine) that makes the Standard American Diet (known as SAD) such an addiction. For the four good years I had on LCHF, the morning omelette was my go-to meal for helping me stay on track.

Omelettes are versatile and can be tailored to any taste: a plain cheese omelette with a side of smoked salmon or proscuitto,  a spinach, gruyere, onion and mushroom, “florentine” affair, and my go-to,  the veggie omelette, which can move with the seasons. Omelettes can be sweet as well as savory–I can gentle sauté a chopped apple–half of an apple, or a pear!  in butter, adding tarragon and a light touch of stevia for a fairly low carb, tasty sweet.  At the end of the day, a sweet omelette can be better than cake.

I wouldn’t do a sweet omelette every day–that would set my sweet tooth on high alert–but when the rest of the family is having doughnuts? Say, at Christmas? Or if I am hankering after cookies and cake after a good LCHF meal?   A sweet omelette is a nice indulgence.

The Two Schools  of Omelettes

There are those who believe that putting in milk, cream or creme fraiche  is absolutely necessary to creating a smooth, “perfect” omelette.  And then there are those, like most chefs I’ve known (mostly hanging out at the omelette bar in European restaurants) — who don’t believe in using milk or dairy in omelettes.  Part of this has to do with the two kinds of omelette: the fine, thin, pale yellow “French” omelette  (made in those restaurants) and the less common “fluffy” variety.  I am more a fan of the “fluffy” omelette. The thin French omelette does not include dairy; the fluffy variety often does.

Cook’s Illustrated is one of my favorite resources for learning the “proper” way to  cook just about anything.   Their recent (on display til 24 Dec, 2018) issue on “Skillet Dinners” includes a long article on the “Fluffy Omelette,” an oven-baked creation. I borrowed a little from this, from my own experience, and from around the Internet for this piece.

Lan Lam, the author of “Fluffy Omelettes,” reveals the whys and wherefores of dairy in omelettes: they make the omelette texture softer and less likely to go “tough.”  The dairy’s fat coats the proteins in the egg and prevents the bonds among the proteins from becoming so strong that the omelette gets tough. Water in the dairy dilutes the proteins, so that they have more difficulty “finding” one another and bonding, as well.

I personally had learned techniques over the years that combined the French with the Fluffy, a mish-mash of cooking styles to be sure.  In short,  you start the omelette on the stove-top,  then finish it in the oven, or, more precisely, under the broiler.  If done well, you get a softly browned underside and a lightly puffed top that can easily be folded over into a half-moon shaped delight.  Or, if Mistakes Were Made,  you can get a burned bottom and an overcooked top, leading to something that my dachshund enjoys, the only person in the house who deems it edible.  Tough omelettes are not the way to start the day.

The Secret Tricks to Fluffy Omelettes

Having made so many, many batches of “cloud bread” — that staple of LCHF and keto diets. Over the years, I’ve learned that there are many hidden secrets to getting egg whites to agree to stiffen themselves into those essentially “peaks”– whether soft or “stiff.”  Oh, gods,  have I gone bonkers trying to learn how to achieve this feat.  It took many batches (and research) until I stumbled upon the secrets.

A super fluffy omelette takes time — because eggs are tempermental — and by that I mean, seriously, temperature matters. They are moody foods.  The fluffy omelette relies on egg whites that are PRISTINELY separate from the yolks.  This is easier to do when the eggs are cold. But the white whites whip up higher and more easily if they are ROOM TEMPERATURE.   ARGH!

On the whole, if I’m making breakfast-in-the-morning-in my usual hurry,  I use cold eggs from the fridge. If I’ve got more time, for example, if I’m making cloud bread or crustless quiche, etc, for later in the day,  I put the egg whites in a bowl and leave them on the counter for an hour or so.

Here are some more special tricks:

  • Whip the egg whites separately from the yolks.  The fat in the egg yolks seriously inhibits the creation of the fluffy peaks needed for the fluffy omelette.  Even a tiny speck of protein from the egg yolk can make whipping the whites a difficult, sometimes even futile experience.
  • Put in a half teaspoon of cream of tartar.  This acidic substance helps to make the bubbles of air slightly more strong.   If you’re out of cream of tartar, a teaspoon of lime or lemon juice can substitute (not as good but good enough in a pinch.)
  • Use a stainless steel or copper bowl for whipping the egg whites. The slight acid surface of these metals promotes more fluffiness, faster.
  • Crack the egg on the flat of the table, not on the side of the bowl.  The bowl rim pushes egg shells INTO the egg, making it more likely to fragment and punch a hole into the egg yolk. Striking the egg on the table usually creates a nice, clean crack.
  • Get a stand mixer to mix the eggs if you can.  This is labor intensive work.
  • Alternatively, especially if you’re just cooking for yourself, a mini mixer works nicely.    It takes about two minutes to get them up to the nice soft peak stage–five or six thirty second pulses for best results.

    Another trick work mentioning: the three bowls methods of separating eggs.

 

The Three Bowl Method of Separating Eggs

Yes, I use lots of pots, pans, and bowls when I cook but three bowls?  Just to separate eggs?  The thing is, if the tiniest spot of yolk gets into the egg whites when you separate them, YOU ARE DOOMED.  Well, not quite, but if you’ve ever spent an HOUR trying to get “stiff peaks” or even “soft peaks” out of a bowl of persnickety egg whites, without success, this is probably the main reason why–some small specks of yolk fat in the whites.

I found the three bowls method here.  The basic idea is that you have one bowl that crack the egg over –your “working bowl” for the current egg.    The second bowl is where you put the yolks.  You crack the egg into the working bowl and fish out the yolk (more on that in a moment), putting the yolk in the yolk bowl. Then you inspect the white in the working bowl for specks of yolk or egg shell.  Once you’re satisfied that there is no yolk in there (and extract any stray eggshell bits), you pour the whites from the “working bowl” into the “ready for beating” bowl.   Then you go and crack another egg into the working bowl and repeat.

The three bowl method is very useful if you’re separating four to six eggs for cloud bread.  For my usual two-egg omelette, I use the working bowl and the yolk bowl to crack the first egg.  I dump the contents of the working bowl, suitably cleaned and inspected for possible yolk,  into the mixer cup of my NutriSystem mini-blender, then crack the second egg. It’s TECHNICALLY the three bowl system.  It prevents me from having to throw out BOTH egg whites if I’m really set on a particularly fluffy omelette–and  I screw up in cracking the second egg.

 

 

Two methods of Separating Eggs

I was taught by my clever mother-in-law that you can use the egg shell itself, like a bowl, to help separate the yolk from the whites.  You can do this by:

  1. Cracking the egg on the table (not the bowl rim) which helps to create a cleaner “rim” on the edge of the egg.
  2.  Over a clean bowl (the “working bowl”), transfer the egg yolk from one half of the eggshell to the OTHER half of the egg shell, allowing the egg whites to fall into the (working) bowl below.

The egg shell rim is just the right amount of sharpness to separate the yolk from the white.  It’s a very clean method, but requires a little practice and dexterity.

The OTHER method for separating eggs is to USE YOUR HANDS.   This is a kind of “cheffy” way of doing it.  It’s also a bit icky if you’re squeamish.  It’s very similar to the eggshell method, except that you crack the egg, and pour the white THROUGH YOUR FINGERS into the working bowl, cupping your fingers to hold and retain the egg yolk. After the white slips through your fingers into the “working” bowl, you then slip the egg yolk into the yolk bowl.

Needless to say, you’ll want very clean hands for this.

Now You’re Ready for Making A Fluffy Omelette

Some Tasty Variations:

* Fluffy Omelettes: Base Recipe
* Pumpkin Pie Sweet Omelette (Test 1)

The pumpkin pie omelette