A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat (healthy fats) way of eating. It is similar to a Paleo diet and also has some things in common with the AIP (autoimmune protocol). We are eating this way for weight loss reasons, but it is also a cancer fighting therapy. I’m always running short of ideas on what to make for dinner, so when I do come up with something good, I might as well share it. Right?
Today’s Ketogenic Plate
This meal starts with ½ of pasture fed ground beef. It’s left over from last night when the husband cooked dinner for me. This doesn’t happen a lot, but I had the procedure on my hand to deal with so he gave me a break. A quarter pound per person is plenty when it comes to red meat, especially if you are eating keto for cancer therapy.
The ground beef is really the only thing I had a measure for. The rest of the ingredients can be whatever you have on hand. My pan contains:
2 large Portobello caps, cut in chunks
1 medium onion, cut in chunks
2 stalks of celery, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
Broccoli, about 2 cups
And cherry tomatoes, for color appeal
Brown the ground beef. In a large pan, melt 2 Tbs. of butter and saute the mushroom pieces. When they started looking dry I put in some avocado oil, another healthy fat. Add the onion garlic and celery and continue cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes. When the ground beef is browned, add it to the pan. I added the broccoli next and covered the pan to let it steam for another 5 minutes. At the very end I added the tomatoes because I like as many colors in our meal as possible. Seasoning is to taste and done at the table in our house so each person knows what he’s eating.
Add a salad with romaine, cucumber and kiwi for Wednesday’s ketogenic plate.
Our journey to eating “keto” has been helped by these resources: “The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan” by Dr. David Perlmutter, “Fat for Fuel” by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “The Paleo Approach” by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD and “The Ketogenic Kitchen” by Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly
I can see a series of posts taking form on this subject, since I don’t want any of them to be overly long. I’m going to keep coming back to the subject because my passion is growing…
Food is fuel.
I don’t cook for fun. I cook because people have to eat. It’s more about fuel for life than what it used to be – for me anyway.
I didn’t used to think about food very much at all in my younger years. If it tasted good, I ate it. I knew about the rudiments of nutrition and ate what I thought was good for me, along with other things that I knew probably weren’t. My philosophy was that happiness was like a medicine, and if a food made me happy, it was probably canceling out any poor nutritional qualities. I had the benefit of growing up on a farm where my family grew/raised a lot of unprocessed food too. I was seldom sick and never had a problem with weight control.
For a few years in the early 2000’s I worked for the FNP, Food and Nutrition Program, of the University Extension Service of the University of Florida. I started taking the Food Pyramid, dictated by the government food police (kidding) into elementary schools and teaching it to youngsters. I taught Nutrition and Food Preparation to young mothers in a Head Start program. I started becoming aware of the problems Americans were having with food. Obesity at young ages, hyperactivity and ADHD were prevalent in so many schoolrooms. Even when presented with a decent school lunch, children were turning up their noses and throwing away the most nutritious foods. Often families in trouble with Social Services were being court ordered to learn how to prepare meals to feed their children properly.
By default, people were eating the Standard American Diet, acronym SAD, and it was sad. When I started having health problems that I could relate to diet and lifestyle, I started getting a bit more serious about what I fed myself. The overweight husband also developed problems with blood pressure and needed medicines which were hard to regulate. Friends and family members started getting diagnoses of GERD and cancer and diabetes. Time started wearing out our natural defenses. I began to hear more about food as therapy. I also began hearing about how many times nutritional advice was influenced by factors other than benefits to health – like, who decides what the Food Pyramid looks like and funny how it keeps changing…
I guess what I think now can be illustrated with the example of a machine, say a really nice new car. If I take it in on schedule to be serviced I’m doing good. But, the thing that I do most often, and that will make the most difference, is to put fuel in it. Different cars have different fuel requirements that are important to follow. If I put in a grade of gasoline other than what is recommended for clean burning, I’m going to see problems after a while. Waste products build up in the engine. The car gets sick.
Friends, readers, we are that complex, finely designed machine. Our computer, our emissions systems, our energy production equipment, our whole body is affected by every little thing we put in our mouth.
We are designed to take a lot of nutritional abuse – there are buffering systems, safeguards of all kinds in place – but sooner or later those back-up systems will have taken all the abuse that they can. If we don’t want to be sick or prematurely dead, we must study what’s happening in our “machine” with the fuels we use.
This was the beginning of my journey into food research and the resulting health trends. I don’t have to spend hours at it. I don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. I don’t have to wait until I’m sick with a serious problem. I don’t have to ask my doctor for every new pill I see advertised in the media. I eat every day, and that is where the changes should, and can, start.
I started by saying that I don’t cook for fun, when I actually do have fun doing it sometimes. But fun is not the main point anymore. Getting the best fuel possible has become the point, just sayin’…
Of course I’d like to be a better writer. For a while, as I try to be better, I’m going to at least try to be prolific. They say that if you write a lot, you have a much better chance that some of it will be good. If you write seldom (or not at all), none of it will be, so be writing. That’s my goal.
You have to be your own health care advocate. If you find that impossible, make one good choice – someone you trust to advocate for you. This is not a new revelation to me, but newly reinforced by my recent wellness checkup with my primary care office.
I’m somewhat of a rebel, offspring of a family that believed that 99% of what’s wrong with us heals itself if not aggravated by medicine. This mindset was pretty well in place in my high school years so I don’t know what made me choose nursing as a career. It was mostly that I was fascinated by how complex human anatomy, biology and physiology were, and because someone gave me “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse” for Christmas one year. Cherry was the medical world’s answer to Nancy Drew.
Nursing has given me an inside look into the strange reasons why some things are done the way they are. The reasons are many and complex. You can’t always figure them out. What’s more, sooner or later, what’s good for you is going to come into conflict with what’s good for someone else. It’s nice to know at that point if you have options and what they are.
The husband and I are at the age where we have more time to devote to our physical condition, and it’s a good thing being that it’s also the age where there’s some new thing going wrong every week. We are still moving around under our own steam and able to read so we are researching. I read to him in the evenings, after we walk, and we discuss health issues and diets, sleep, exercise, medicines – all of that.
Without going into too much detail in this post, suffice it to say that we see a lot of new research that flies in the face of traditional thought about these issues. It seems that what we’ve been doing traditionally for the last half century or so has created an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Oh, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Oh, and autism. Oh, and autoimmune disorders. And cancer. At some fundamental level, we are a very sick country.
Having decided to get smarter about simple things we could do to help ourselves avoid as much sickness as possible, we are starting with eating differently.
I was sitting with the PA who was doing my wellness questionnaire and telling him some of these things. I told him how I was limiting carbohydrates by cutting out most bread and sources of sugar. I mentioned ketogenic diet and how I’d lost ten pounds on it. I told how it was a high fat, moderate protein, lo-carb diet, and that I was feeling pretty good overall. He nodded and appeared to be listening (how do I know what he’s thinking…). We talked about stress relief and I told him that I dispelled it by writing for my blog. Then he wrapped up the interview with “Okay, just keep doing what you’re doing and keep on that low fat diet.” Sigh.
Traditional advice is not always for everyone. Sometimes, it’s not even true or based on real evidence. I’m going to end this post in the same way I started it. You have to be your own health care advocate because no one doctor or health professional can concentrate on what’s good for you. You are it.
There’s a lot going on these days for first world coffee drinkers. For instance, I myself have become disdainful of weak coffee or coffee served without half and half. There are many people even more selective than myself who won’t drink anything other than specific brands of premium organic coffees, single origin and preferably fair trade. We even need a good coffee glossary of terms to figure out what all this means.
Just this week my pastor, in the Sunday morning service, apologized for the brand of coffee served at the church welcome center and announced an upgrade to come. I don’t fault him for this, in fact it is a smart move given that the church welcomes many young, upwardly mobile coffee drinkers every week. First impressions count and there’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be on the cutting edge of coffee.
But, in spite of all these gourmet trends, I often think back to an incident years ago that has always amazed and instructed me. The scene was a wedding held in our back yard. As concierge of the event I had oversight of refreshment tables, including the coffee bar. It was evening, and we were serving decaf from a large silver coffee urn with a convenient spigot. It came out cup by cup, dark and steaming. Lots of people were enjoying it and remarking how good it was. They were asking what kind and where I had gotten it. I would smile and pretend it was secret, exclusive stuff when, actually, it was Folgers from the green plastic container hidden under the skirt of the table.
So, what was going on here that made it so delicious? Probably several things – a perfect offset for the sweetness of wedding cake, the right temperature, the good company in which to drink it, the general happiness of the occasion, the mystery of it all on a special evening, hearing the accolades of other coffee drinkers… Of course there is one other possibility which I can’t discount. There was a wedding spoken of in the Bible where water was turned into wine of the best quality. Wow, maybe we were at a wedding where Folgers was turned into fair trade, single origin, organic brew! Why not a little coffee miracle? Just sayin’… it could happen.
“This is the first time in my 35 years that I have heard that peanuts are not nuts.” he said.
Esther’s friend made dinner for us tonight and we were standing around in the kitchen talking about “the diet project”, the AIP. He had been interested enough to read up about it and had chosen a couple recipes from our cookbook to make, giving us the night off. He did a bang up job and we appreciated it, a lot!
We have been following the AutoImmune Protocol for almost two weeks now, and although I think it is going fairly well, we are starting to have serious cravings for things on the “no” list, things we used to love to eat, things high on fun, satiety and comfort, but low (possibly devoid of…) nutrients. It’s a little early to know if we feel healthier, but how could we be otherwise? That’s what I’m asking myself.
For certain, more food has come through the door of this house in the last two weeks than in similar time periods. We seem to be shopping all the time. Yet, it’s a struggle to figure out what to eat when mealtimes come around. Sometimes what we have is not the mental picture of a meal that we have been used to, so it doesn’t seem like a meal. Thankfully, mental pictures can be changed – in fact, that is what it’s all about when you decide to take on a new way of eating. Can we stick with it until we’ve had time to change our ideas of satisfying eating? Good question.
Breakfast is a difficult meal because traditionally, it’s all about grains, dairy and eggs of some sort, none of which are on our diet. We have avocado, sweet potato, turkey bacon. We need to work on our smoothie repertoire a little more.
We knew we were going to have to use more coconut in various ways so Esther ordered two young coconuts in our Amazon Fresh order. I googled instructions on how to get into them because, frankly, looking at them doesn’t give a clue. The steps seemed simple, just hack away the outer white layer until you see a light colored “spot” where you can press your knife and make a hole. I made quite a mess doing all that cutting and got to a rock-hard layer where no more cutting was possible. But, someone forgot to put a “spot” on my coconut and I had to drill a hole with the tip of my knife. So I had a hole, but nothing was coming out of it – until I made a second hole for air to come in. See, when you learn stuff like that in Physics class they don’t tell you that you’ll need it when you encounter coconuts.
There was at least 10 ounces of coconut water inside this coconut so Esther and I both had a good drink. However, there had to be more to eat than just the water. I knew it would take more than tiny holes to get the insides out so I took it out on the sidewalk and smashed a big hole with a hammer. The inside of a young coconut is soft, shiny, semi-translucent and white (pretty really). I like it. Esther… not so much.
Esther has discovered which meats she is able to tolerate most easily, and I have to hand it to her. For a vegetarian, she is doing great. She has had some kind of meat protein almost twice every day. As a vegetarian, she would eat burgers made of soy or black beans, and she would eat fake bacon, also a soy product. As an AIP girl she is bothered least by fake soyburgers (read real beef burgers) and fake soy bacon (real meat bacon) because they look similar to what she has grown accustomed to eating. See, it’s all in your mind. She eats tuna. I don’t know what it is about chicken though. For her, it begins with the smell and only gets worse with the sight and taste. I’m afraid I will be eating the roast chicken all by myself. Getting to like chicken will take some work.
I love meat and have no problem with cooking it, but I wish it were less messy. What to do with all the fat and how to get it off the dishes and counters is a battle. I’ve made three batches of bone broth but so far, no one has gotten into drinking it straight. It is kind of piling up in the fridge. I froze some of it in our ice cube trays, causing a near unhappy moment when Esther went to get ice cubes.
What else hasn’t worked… yes, the coconut Greek yogurt. I’m not sure you can make yogurt out of anything other than real milk, but there was a recipe, so Esther tried it. The black probiotic culture she added to it looked strange but we were able to think of it as specks of vanilla bean (also not on the diet). After culturing overnight in a warm place it was still coconut cream liquid. But it tastes great poured over bananas or the apple/cranberry compote we made. Fake yogurt, this also will take some work.
I don’t mean to say that we haven’t discovered some really good, simple recipes that I am happy to add to my regular cooking line up. I wrote about the Nomato Sauce in a previous post. Tonight we had a cauliflower dish that easily takes the place of fried rice, and some steak flavored with coconut aminos that was so flavorful. One good thing we have both noticed is that we do not feel distressed after eating, no uncomfortable fullness, and of course, we are not gaining weight. I am happy to see Esther able to tolerate meals without pain, and she is eating more good, nutritious food than I have ever noticed before.
Youngest daughter and I are tackling a big project. We are learning about and transitioning to the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP). There are many autoimmune conditions these days, growing in number all the time. There are so many things in our food and our environment that cause inflammation in different parts of our bodies. We have increased stress in our lives. These things get our immune systems ramped up and so sensitized that they turn against us – they think our own bodies are the enemies and start attacking. Have you noticed the numbers of people who are gluten intolerant? How about psoriasis and eczema? Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, digestive issues, allergies, asthma, frequent infections… all of these can be conditions of autoimmunity.
For years as a teen, my daughter experienced stomach pain in conjunction with meals, fatigue, and mild depression. We went to doctors looking for answers but it is difficult to diagnose a problem that presents itself differently depending on the person, their particular genetic predisposition, their stage of life, their lifestyle, and many other varying factors. She’s had other symptoms since, and many more doctors, but no real solutions.
Putting the pieces together has taken years for Esther, but maybe she is getting closer, understanding more. We are trying the AIP because it is an elimination diet – it will help us identify the foods that are causingher symptoms of inflammation. Initially, all foods known to cause inflammation are excluded, giving the body time to heal. Then some of those foods are carefully re-introduced in order to identify the culprits.
We have several good books to teach us and provide meal plans and recipes – that makes it a bit easier – but it is still a hard transition. Enter bone broth, one of the “good” foods allowed on this diet.
I have heard for years that chicken soup is good for us when we are sick. Turns out, properly made meat broths are healing for us for quite a few reasons. I decided to get right into it and make some bone broth for us. I’ve never had to hunt grocery stores for bones before, but I found some. I think bone broth is becoming a trend and the ingredients are more widely available. I found beef short ribs and beef marrow bones, brought them home and put them in the pot to cook for 24 hours, along with some vegetables for flavor. I’m not giving specifics here because you can google the recipe if you desire.
Youngest daughter is not used to eating this way at all (neither was I) and that is why it was suggested that we investigate the diet, together, while I was visiting this December. It involves cooking your own food at home, which is hard for Esther with her work schedule. It involves not eating any processed foods. And it involves eating meat, which is a real problem because she has been a vegetarian for many years. I think the way she describes it is being “existentially opposed” to eating animals, so it is rather daunting for her to look at, buy, touch, smell, or eat any meat. I made her stay away from the broth makings.
I stored the broth in quart jars and refrigerated it. Most of the fat from the meat had been skimmed off but the part remaining came to the top of the jars and solidified. I opened a jar this morning and saw this.
Although I do not believe in omens, this pretty much symbolizes Esther’s view of a diet with a preponderance of animal products . But for the sake of feeling better at long last, she eats what I make for her. I’m just sayin’, this is going to be a project, for sure.
Here we were on Thanksgiving Day, in Michigan, preparing to gather at the coffee house and cook our festive meal. Since the plan was to see if we could snack/taste/eat pretty much all day, breakfast was out on the bar when we arrived. Hmmm, coffee was no problem since the place was still basically a coffee house. While some of us talked and lost track of time, others of us got busy in the kitchen fixing up the next round of food.
This was the BIG meal, the one with the turkey. My brother, the host, claimed the job of cooking the bird. He has done it several times and has gotten good at it. None of us gave the turkey another thought. I made a gorgeous veggie tray with several dip choices, just so none of us would have to stop eating between meals. Julie was busy putting together her signature salad, glazing pecans to toss with the lettuce and mandarin orange. Somehow, we all got a bit distracted when the spatula she was using began to melt (who knew?) and glaze the pecans with plastic along with sugar. Pick the plastic out? Start over? Waste all those lovely nuts?
At this point, there were a lot more people in the kitchen because it was nearing our appointed meal time. It kind of sneaked up on us and there was a “hurry up” atmosphere. Ryan was suddenly on to his mashed potato job (Aside: Did you know adding a sweet potato in with the white ones make an interesting contribution? #newtome). Jamie was finishing up her pilaf. Esther was roasting her brussels sprouts. Jon was getting his tofurkey warmed up. The cold dishes (cranberry salad and others) were being taken out to the line-up on the bar. Gary had finished the turkey and he and Bob were carving. Richard was getting his Thanksgiving song ready to play for our blessing on the meal.
We were at the very last moment, when Mom asked if there was gravy. She had that big-eyed look that said it wouldn’t work as a meal if there wasn’t gravy for the mashed potatoes. She must have weathered crisis like this before because she had good ideas for making it – hunting up some turkey juice, some canned cream soup, and a few other things. We even found some odd fish shaped dishes that worked for serving it. We rocked it, really.
It was a lovely meal. Unlike many who photograph their food before it’s eaten, I mostly wait until the plates are decimated to take pictures, so I can’t show you the “before” loveliness, but you can see that we did have a good lively time at the table. Such fun, and it only got better when it was time for pie and coffee. Plenty of good food and hours of good company gave us a lot to feel thankful for.
Celebrating for only one day, when people come from a long distance, would be a waste of travel expense. We also have other “near traditions” that are emerging in our family and they take at least one more day of celebrating to accomplish. The Friday after Thanksgiving (not Black Friday for us) will be in tomorrow’s post…
I’ve written several times about my desire to “lighten the load” of my household, to get rid of “stuff” before moving or dying, whichever comes first. But not lately, and lest anyone think the desire has abated I want to update the record. In fact, I am more determined than ever to whittle down to the amount of stuff that will fit in a good sized U-Haul van. One trip. My determination was fueled by a week of helping someone else with a lot of things move those things into a storage unit. It was arduous, and being that everything is in storage it will have to be moved again sometime. We can hardly wait.
When people move do they throw away all their food? No, they take it with them. What if you live in a place where having a pantry stash is recommended? I have imagined how it would be in a hurricane after a week of no electricity and no food in the grocery stores to have a cupboard stocked with plenty. And I have one of those that I have been reviewing and deciding what to keep and what to trash. For instance, would you eat this?
I would. And there were other things. Last week I made pumpkin pie with no crust, which turns out to be pumpkin custard or pudding because for some odd reason I had several cans of (outdated) pumpkin and several cans of (outdated) sweetened condensed milk. It was delicious. It was untouched by time. I ate it all. And the (outdated) sauerkraut looked so fresh that I had to go out and get some hot dogs to go with it. Mind you, I test all these things.
There is still a box full of canned goods which must go soon or maybe two or three years ago. Today I wanted to use up a few things so made a menu based on stuff in the box. Dessert was first. There were cans of pie filling, blueberry and cherry. I had also found in my recently cleaned freezer some phyllo dough which I thought could possibly pass for pie crust. I will do anything to not have to make pie crust. There was also a little bit of ice cream in the freezer and I figured that old ice cream could possibly outweigh old pie filling if it wasn’t very good. Dessert, check.
The chicken was new thankfully. I just bought it last week so no freezer burn on that. But I did open up a can of cream soup to make gravy over it. And I wasn’t worried about the potatoes. Potatoes are either edible or rotten even if you don’t know how old they are. You’ve seen the green beans. Honestly they were pretty good okay and probably tasted the same back in 2011 when they would have been best by. Add a fresh green salad and I had a meal that was passable. I call it the terrible meal but I’ve cooked worse, lots worse. The greatest accomplishment was using up four cans in one meal. I was ecstatic.
I’m a little worried about this confession since some of my readers live close by and have eaten at my house. Will I have friends turning down meal invitations? I don’t know. I had a guest at this meal and he didn’t seem to mind, although, now that I think about it, his usual effusive comments were lacking. Now that I think about it, it was kind of a terrible meal, unless you can imagine a hurricane, starving people in other countries, or what they eat on Naked and Afraid. Then it would be a pretty good meal, just sayin’…
It’s a mixed bag of good and dietary evil. The things I miss are breads and cereals because there are none in this first week. The longing hits me in the morning when there’s nothing to have with my waking cup of coffee. (Ooops, coffee is not on the menu… but you already know I’m being flexible, right?)
The other thing, the evil of which I speak, is that my weakness for nuts is hijacking my adherence to the plan. Yesterday, the snack of macadamia nuts and something else which I don’t even remember, turned out to be an hour long spree of eating until the container was half empty (a lot of nuts). I was concentrating on some hard computer work and the angst was mitigated by the action of eating and chewing. That and the fact that I just can’t quit when it’s something I like that much. I have packages of walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts sitting on the counter beckoning to me every time I look in their direction. I feel fatter than I did on Day 1.
One thing I am finding interesting is my daughter’s digital scale. Maybe in other countries they weigh their ingredients all the time but I have never sized portions that way.
I know what a half cup of something looks like, but how much is an ounce of nuts? Well, this handy little scale tells me just how much, and sometimes it’s surprising. Is 4 ounces of meat one chicken thigh or two? How much does a slice of deli turkey weigh? It’s all right there, and I’m gradually getting a sense of how to estimate those quantities. Good thing.
Yesterday, I almost stopped in for a Wendy’s Frosty. I was so tempted, but the memory of the macadamia nut binge was still there, thankfully. I resisted.
Isn’t it funny how we habitually think of meals as having certain elements? I had chicken and sautéed spinach for breakfast and although it tasted good, it just wasn’t right somehow… Would make a great dinner though. I will probably get used to having dinner three times a day, eventually, maybe, I hope.
On with the eating plan, week two shopping trip coming up. I’m wondering what to do with things left over from week one so there will be room in the refrigerator. Perfectly good food should probably be eaten, right? Just sayin’…