New Journey: Lazy Keto

When it came time for New Year’s resolutions last month, I made the same ones I’ve made for years – eat healthier, work out more, lose weight. Each year when I’ve made that resolution, I’ve put time, energy and money into planning meals, using apps like MyFitnessPal to log meals and workouts, discovering new workout plans and reading about the latest diet fads. And each time, the frenetic pace of my life as a full-time working mom with a husband and three busy kids eventually led to me grabbing a convenient box of crackers or handful of chips while I was on the go. Finding time to grocery shop and plan meals was always difficult.

One of the latest diet fads, the keto diet, was something that I’d heard about for a few years but made lots of excuses to myself about why I couldn’t try it, most of which boiled down to my thought that cutting carbs that drastically wasn’t healthy. But the more I researched and read about how much of the standard American diet relies on carbs – mostly “empty” carbs, not whole grains but starchy processed potatoes and wheat – and the more people I saw who had experienced significant weight loss and success with the keto diet, the more curious I got. But I was nervous about being on a diet that was so strict, and wondered how I would know if I was in ketosis. Would I have to be constantly doing blood tests?

I’d started to read online about some people following a more relaxed version of the keto diet – “lazy” keto. Instead of being meticulous about documenting macros and blood tests, this version is just a reduction in overall carbs combined with the knowledge of which foods are ok and not ok to eat. The more I read about it and saw others’ results, the more interested I was.

I decided to go full keto the week leading up to the Super Bowl. I made some lower carb choices at lunch that week, but the most challenging part was always eating at home. Cooking healthy dinners for my family of three kids, my husband and I had always entailed a protein, a veggie and rice or pasta. The prospect of making separate meals for myself was not something I was looking forward to. I needed to stock up on low carb options. I prepared a big spread of Super Bowl foods – keto-friendly dips and gluten-free chicken wings tossed in low-carb sauces.

One of my biggest shocks when I started buying low-carb, keto-friendly foods was how many carbs are contained in typical foods. A bowl of cereal has 30 to 50 carbs, depending on how much sugar it contains. I’d already tried to lessen the amount of processed grains in my diet, but I hadn’t considered sugar that much, mostly because I don’t really have a sweet tooth and have always enjoyed savory foods more. But when I started really looking at the number of carbs and the amount of sugar in most foods, I was blown away by how much of both the typical American eats. A “normal” American day of eating – breakfast cereal, a sandwich and some chips for lunch and a moderately healthy dinner of protein, veggies and pasta or rice – introduces far more carbs and sugar than our body needs to function. This excess of carbs and sugar is reflected in the obesity epidemic in America today.

The more and more I read, the more I learned about the link between gluten and sugar and inflammation, and how inflammation can cause a wide range of problems, from arthritis to endometriosis and more. I watched The Magic Pill on Netflix, and I thought about how much of modern life involves sitting or standing in front of a screen, as opposed to our ancestors’ way of life with hunting or heavy manual labor. We simply don’t need as many carbs for energy as our forefathers did.

So I stocked up on low-carb foods: berries, nuts, cheese, meats, celery, cucumbers, cream cheese, and found replacements for many of the foods I’d enjoyed before: cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, zero carb bagels and breads. I discovered snacks that would become my go-to’s: celery sticks with cream cheese or peanut butter, Whisps cheese crackers, blackberries and raspberries with almonds, string cheese and a couple of slices of ham. I learned how to modify restaurant orders to be low-carb: ordering a burger with lettuce wraps instead of a bun – “hold the fries!”

This is my third week on lazy keto. Around the third day after drastically cutting my carb intake, I felt a little run down. I’m guessing this was the “keto flu” that I’ve heard about. Once that passed, and every day since then, I’ve felt better than I’ve felt in a very long time. I started drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning – coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil – and I have sustained energy all morning long. I eat until I’m full, but I don’t ever get that bloated, too-full feeling that I used to get after eating a meal based on bread, pasta or rice.

I can already tell that I’m losing weight. I’ve never been big on weighing myself, but my clothes are fitting much better. Have you tried the keto diet? What are your favorite keto-friendly snacks and meals? Stay tuned for more updates and for recipes that are keto-friendly!

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Chicken Fajita Feast

A few months ago I began a subscription to my favorite meal kit service – also the best value IMHO:  EveryPlate.com. This meal kit service offers your choice of three dinners, for two or four people, from a selection of eight different meal options with a range of proteins and sides. Since my kids can be picky, I’ll often make the EveryPlate meal for dinner for myself, my husband and my younger son and let my two teenagers pick what they’d like for dinner. Sometimes the choice of EveryPlate meal lends itself to “upsizing” with additional sides, so I’ll use that as the base for a meal for our whole family.

First, I opened a package of fresh corn on the cob and tossed the ears on a sheet pan with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro and my favorite seasoning, Tajin. This citrusy, spicy blend gives a little kick to anything you shake it onto. I roasted the corn at 425 degrees on the top rack for about thirty minutes, turning each ear about halfway through, until the ears were beginning to char.

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Second, I made two packages of Knorr Taco Rice. This packaged rice is a quick and easy side with fajitas or tacos, and you can boost the veggie value by mixing diced fresh tomatoes, green, red and jalapeño peppers into the rice while it’s cooking.

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Then I got into preparing the EveryPlate recipe for Classic Chicken Fajitas. Everything you need, with the exception of some kitchen staples like butter or olive oil, is included in the box you get from EveryPlate each week. The recipe card gives the exact quantities you’ll need of each ingredient and offers clear instructions with photos on the back. I diced and cooked the fajita green pepper and red onion, then tossed the diced chicken in salt, pepper and southwest seasoning. The chicken cooked in my cast-iron skillet – yum!

Last but not least, I diced up the tomato, red onion and jalapeño pepper and tossed with some salt and lemon juice to make a quick salsa, then mixed up the lime crema.

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Everyone got one ear of roasted corn, which I topped with queso fresco, a serving of taco rice and a chicken fajita on a flour tortilla topped with the fresh salsa and lime crema. What a delicious Sunday dinner!

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Do you want to try EveryPlate.com? Click here! You’ll get $20 off your first box. Weekly boxes start from around $39 for three dinners for two, which is only $6.50 per serving (the best value I’ve found in meal prep kit services). The serving size says it’s for two, but I nearly always get two adult servings plus a kid’s portion out of my EveryPlate meals.

Perfect Spring Brunch

This light, easy spring brunch was delicious, and was made possible by Aldi’s sale on hams (50% off).

The refrigerated ham came with glaze for baking. It was pretty quick to bake, then glaze during the last 15 minutes of baking. My trick is to wrap the dish or tray you use to bake your ham in aluminum foil until you glaze it. That will keep the ends of the ham from getting burnt.

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While the ham was baking, I made a quick pie dough, then I diced up a medium onion and layered onto the bottom of the pie crust. I thinly sliced two medium zucchinis and two medium squash, layered them in my pie pan over the crust, then added my quiche mixture:  6 eggs, 1 cup milk, dashes of salt, black and white pepper and 1 tsp. of ground mustard. I baked the quiche in a 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle came out clean.

Once both were finished, it was the perfect light spring brunch.

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Trying EveryPlate’s Dinner Kit Service

I’ve tried a few meal prep kit services, but have found them to be too expensive for the amount of food you receive. I wasn’t planning to subscribe to another one, but I came across a great deal for a dinner kit service called EveryPlate. This service has the lowest serving cost I’ve seen, so I wanted to try out the quality of the ingredients.

EveryPlate offers a two-person and four-person plan with three meals per week. Recipes are healthy and menus can be customized to minimize pasta and gluten. You can choose your three meals from a selection of five. Selections include old-fashioned favorites, like Steak Frites, Bistro Burgers and Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, as well as exotic flavors like Balsamic Steaks with Bruschetta Toasts and Roasted Zucchini and Beef Banh Mi Bowls.

The preparation for each meal was relatively quick and easy. All the vegetables, meats, sides and spices were included, as well as recipe cards with a few quick steps. The recipes from my first box were Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Roasted Root Veggies, Skillet Apple Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Lemony Green Beans and Beef Banh Mi Bowls with Sriracha Mayo and Pickled Cucumber. Each recipe card walks you through all the steps of preparation, although in some cases I found that my own method of multitasking in the kitchen was more time-effective (i.e. chopping vegetables while meat or pasta is cooking).

The ingredients were very good quality and everything was packed with cold packs to keep the items fresh. The only things needed were occasionally some butter, oil, milk, etc.

Here’s a taste of my first EveryPlate box:

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Stay tuned for a cook-through and review of my next box!

 

The Chesapeake Goat Omelette

This delicious breakfast was created by my husband, who mixed one up for me this weekend 🙂

You can use egg whites (which is how my husband made ours) or whole eggs.

Ingredients:

5 eggs or equivalent amount of egg whites

8 oz. crab meat or imitation crab meat

4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

dash of salt

dash of pepper

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

Preparation:

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add eggs or egg whites and cook for 1-2 minutes until the egg just begins to set. Add the crab or imitation crab and goat cheese, spreading both evenly throughout the pan. Cook another 1-2 minutes until nearly set. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning, then fold one side of the omelette over the other and flip it gently to the other side to cook. Cook another minute or two until done, then slide it onto a plate. Cut in half and serve to your better half!

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Greek Chicken Pasta Salad

This was so quick and easy I had to share! Cook a box of fusilli or other small pasta (the pasta I used was gluten-free). While that was boiling, I chopped a cucumber, half of a red onion, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and some cooked chicken and tossed them into a big bowl. I added a small can of black olives, then drained and cooled the pasta. I drizzled on some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and some honey, then added a few dashes of salt, black pepper, a container of feta cheese and some Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, etc.). And voila! A simple healthy lunch.

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Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and diced

1 box fusilli or other small pasta, cooked, drained and cooled

1 small can diced black olives

1 medium cucumber, diced

1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 small container cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small container feta cheese

1 small jar artichoke hearts

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp. honey

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

Italian seasoning, to taste

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and enjoy!