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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ricotta Pancakes with Sausage & Kale (keto, low carb)

Completely by accident today, I stumbled upon a simple and delicious looking recipe for Ricotta Fritters, over on The Iron You. I had all the ingredients, and it seemed simple enough.
The first thing I want to say is that right off the bat, I planned to add some shredded mozzarella cheese to the fritters, not use nutmeg, and planned to use Rao's marinara sauce instead of making my own. In addition, as my husband and I like meat with dinner, I wanted to do sausage and a veggie, and I had half a head of kale in my fridge.

Mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese have always gone well together. That combination is in the greatest of all pastas: stuffed shells, and also in manicotti, and most Italian foods like baked ziti, too. So the taste combination is there. Also, I added seasoning to my ricotta mixture with oregano, garlic salt, pepper, and coriander and cumin.

Then I was continuing to make the fritters according to instructions, and they just were not working. So, I decided to bake them in the oven and see if it worked out, and I ended up with perfectly cooked ricotta pancakes!

I did try to make the fritters in a skillet, and each pan-full (3 fritters) was taking 20 minutes or more! They were very difficult to flip, and were coming apart. I was not able to tell when they were really ready to be flipped, resulting in a mess. But, when they did eventually finish, they were yummy but messy. The oven-baked version were more evenly cooked, easier to make, and more uniform at the end.
End result! Sauteed sausage and kale with oven-baked ricotta pancakes!
My thin ricotta pancakes made a great little taco wrap for the rest of my meal, too.
I use Rao's homemade marinara sauce, and I put it in individual ramekins instead of smothering the meal, so that I could portion is as I wanted, and mostly because I love dipping. OK, for the food:
I sautéed my kale on medium heat with a bit of olive oil, adobo seasoning, garlic, and onion powders. Once it was wilted down about halfway, I added sliced up sausage (I used Aidells Roasted Garlic & Gruyere Cheese Smoked Chicken sausage, which is 0g net carbs) to the pan. The sausages were precooked, so I just wanted to heat them up and sear them a bit.
Mixing together all of the pancake ingredients.
Following instructions, I dolloped the mixture down into a greased pan on medium heat. I covered and waited 3 minutes-ish.
I checked, they were definitely not ready for flipping and were still VERY wet and runny.
Left is the pan cooked way in the original recipe, right is my oven-baked version.
After about a solid 11 minutes on one side, the pancakes started to look less wet, had thinned out, and when I checked the bottom, had started to brown. With difficulty and several falling apart, I flipped them. They ended up needing to be on the other side for several more minutes. All together, the above pancakes (on the left in the above pic) were in the pan for almost 20 minutes.

The second pan batch, I added more oil. I was thinking maybe I misunderstood the recipe and that it was more of a pan-frying, like with potato pancakes. I was definitely wrong and they were more wet and sizzling and took just as long but were greasier. I needed a better way!
So, I had the idea of baking the pancakes. I preheated the oven to 425, and added smaller dollops of the ricotta mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
After about 8-9 minutes at 425, they had spread out a bit, and had started going nice and brown around the edges. The above picture is after I used a spatula and carefully flipped each of them over, and out of their original positions.
I love parchment paper!
Final result! After I flipped them, I let them bake for another 5-6 or so minutes, checking on them every 2-3 minutes. Once they were baked-looking, I pulled them out. They looked like small naan breads at that point.

This meal ended up being delicious. What I ended up with is definitely not fritters, but are certainly based off of the recipe from The Iron You, which I believe he adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. So, we each have taken this recipe and put our own spin on it!

If you make them, let me know. My conclusion is that trying to pan cook them took me forever and was not nearly as successful as baking them.

With the now-baked pancakes, I can put the ricotta pancakes in the oven first, and be able to cook all of the kale and meat while they bake. This first try may have taken a while, but the next time will be about 20 minutes from start to finish!

Makes about 8-12 pancakes depending on size!

Ricotta Pancake Ingredients:
-1 large egg
-2 cups ricotta cheese
-Some lemon zest (to taste)
-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 tablespoon almond flour
-1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin, dash of oregano  
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Non-Pancake Ingredients:
-Your preferred sausage (I used Aidells Roasted Garlic & Gruyere Cheese Smoked Chicken sausage)
-Abut half a head of kale (or any leafy green! This would be awesome with collards or spinach too)
-Marinara sauce of your choosing (I used Rao's)

Preheat oven to 425.
1. Mix all pancake ingredients together in one bowl. Mix well and taste it, and add any spicing you like. It will be we, not as smooth as a batter, not thick like a dough. Mostly the texture of stirred ricotta cheese.
2. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, use a spoon to dollop the mixture onto the sheet. I had mine several inches apart because of how much they spread in the pan when cooking, but on the cookie sheet, they spread less. Still some, but not as much. Set your timer for about 7 minutes, and then check on them every minute from there until you see the edges get brown and crispy looking.
3. Add kale to a pan with a bit of olive oil in it, over medium heat. Remember to remove kale leaf from kale stalk. Season however you like your kale (I like mine garlic-y). While the kale starts to cook, slice up your sausage into thin slices. Leaving casing on.
4. When the kale is half wilted, add the sausage to the same pan. Stir occasionally. When done, remove from heat.
5. Once the edges of the ricotta pancakes look crispy, use a spatula to gently turn them over. They will still be a bit floppy, but are definitely flippable.
6. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, checking on them after 5 for doneness. They are done with they start to brown and look a little like tiny naan breads.
7. Plate up and eat! I heated up my marinara in the microwave, and everything was really good! I used the small flat pancakes as tiny tacos! I spread some marinara on them, then added the kale and sausage, and dipped into the remaining sauce.

This was yummy, and earned praise from my non-keto husband, so that is always great. They did not in any way feel like fritters, but I do like what I ended up with. I can see using these as taco shells, as personal pizzas, as pancakes, and changing the seasonings.

I know I kind of made it sound complicated, but in the end it really wasn't. My first attempt was time consuming, but the experiment worked better the next time around and was much more successful, easier, and took a lot less time!

Nutritional Info:
For Ricotta Pancakes only, per pancake if you make 10.
151 calories
2g net carbs (The bulk of carbs come from the ricotta cheese itself)
11.5g protein

For the rest:
-Aidells Sausage is 0g net carbs, and all 4 links were about 4 servings as part of this meal.
-Rao's homemade marinara is 1.5g net carbs (I used it for dipping and used approximately half a serving per person)
-Leafy greens will change depending on what you use: Kale = Approx. 3g net carbs per cup.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is the US the Best at Anything?

I didn't care about politics much when I was in college, or in my early 20s. That carryover "I know everything, I'm all set" feeling from teenager-hood came with me for a bit. Doing well in college, having fun, no rules, and parties, made it all the easier to stay wrapped up in my middle-class college student bubble.

I graduated from UF in 2007 and started working at a publishing company in town. I ended up staying there for 3 years. Every year, my group of friend would shrink or change altogether as the transient nature of the town shined through.

In 2010, I was able to find a (terrible) job in New York City and lived every suburban middle-class Jewish girls dream of leaving Florida and moving to the big city. In New York, I could be whoever I wanted. I was no longer the only Jewish kid in my grade, and I was ready to start the rest of my life. At 23, I felt like I was on top of the world.

NYC is many things. It's beautiful, interesting, a melting pot, diverse, boasts amazing food, millions upon millions of people, things for any interest, 24/7 delis, and more.

In 2010, in NYC, I was lonely, broke, and bored.

I didn't know anyone and definitely did not realize how difficult it would be to make new friends in a new city, I didn't realize the job I'd gotten from back home was a scam, would only last 7 weeks, and I would end up unemployed while frantically searching for a new position before completely running out of money.

I was on a precipice, a life-changing experience was happening to me, and I grew up.

I spent all day long in a public library searching for jobs. Not because of the free wifi, but because I had a horrific roommate who refused to give me a key and I had to leave when she left and come home after she got there in order to get in and out. She would arbitrarily "decorate" my room for me, by going in without my permission and putting ugly stuff on top of my TV. She ended up stealing my security deposit and refusing to give it back with no reason. Honestly, she was a huge jerk and I hated her a lot. The one time she saw my boyfriend when he was picking me up and I was running late, she made sure to stomp around for a week yelling about how I wasn't allowed to have guests over. This lasted 6 months before I moved out and never looked back (BTW, Amanda, if you are ever reading this: still hate you, what you did was theft, and I think you are a terrible person.).

All day long I was scouring job boards, trying to tweak my cover letter and resume, and applying for anything and everything. In the end, I was unemployed for almost 6 weeks. Which may not sound like long, but I had only been in NYC less than 4 months, and was only 3 weeks out from not being able to pay rent and having to move back home to Florida.

During those less than 4 months, I had wracked up almost $5000 in credit card debt, and my savings account was completely wiped out. I finally had stable work and a paycheck and was able to breathe.

At this point, I met the man who would later become my husband. But this is not that story, this is different.

Being unemployed is always difficult. Being unemployed in an expensive city where I don't have any friends and no one to talk to about my problems, well it forced me to finally and truly grow up.

I learned to cook more and better and why fresh ingredients matter. I was manic about saving money so that situation couldn't happen to me again. I started taking a far more serious interest in the world around me, the news, and politics. Politics opened up a whole new side of life for me. I became even more passionate about certain issues, I learned where different candidates stood on issues. I got involved in debates, I actually watch the televised debates. I get angry, frustrated, sometimes all I can do is laugh. But I learned.

I started caring more about the world as a whole and less about the area that immediately surrounded me. I became appalled at the state of our two-party system and how it specifically cultivates a divided mentality. I started learning about what other countries do and how they work, and why. I started questioning why the US can't implement certain things. I started to get frustrated and disillusioned by our system.  We talk about being the greatest country on Earth, the last remaining superpower. But are we?
Robert Quigley discusses this infographic: "The USA may still lead the world in GDP and rank highly in such stats as population and human development index, but its lag in other key categories is alarming. You’ve heard about the education gap, but did you know that U.S. students’ math scores are among the lowest in the developed world? Charles M. Blow and the New York Times put together this infographic comparing the U.S. to other countries by 9 key metrics: The U.S. comes in at “worst of the worst” in four categories and “worst” in two more, with zero “best” rankings."

Looking at this, can you truly claim we are the best of the best? People shout "USA! USA!" But what ideals, what freedoms are we shouting for? A black man quietly protesting has been condemned in the news and by the people, despite the fact that his right to protest is what our soldiers fight for.  We glorify our soldiers, instead of condemning why we even need them.

I still believe that you cannot complain about the state of our country if you won't go out and vote and be informed and at least try to make a difference, but I also sometimes wonder if I'm making any difference at all.

It is frustrating to be a voter in this country, at least right now. Feeling like none of the nominees represent me. Something I'm hearing more and more often is "I can't vote for either of them!" or "Well, she is the lesser of two evils."

And in the end, that is what the choice this year has come down to. Someone who isn't as bad as the other, terrible candidate, but still isn't that great and doesn't truly represent me.

How incredibly sad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Keto Shrimp Scampi with Brussels Sprouts

A friend of mine at work, Susan, told me that she sometimes does sprouts in her scampi. This sounded amazing, and I immediately bought some shrimp so I could make this at home. This was completely surprising, I had never thought to add sprouts to scampi! It's keto friendly and low carb, though Brussels sprouts do have some carbs.

Fun fact: They are actually called Brussels sprouts, not "brussel sprouts" as they are incredibly popular in in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated and gained its name there. The predecessor to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in Ancient Rome, and the first written reference dates back to 1587!

Another fun fact: As a child, I was a very picky eater, and I carried that into adulthood. Once I was in my mid-20s, I started trying a bunch of foods that I either had never eaten, or hadn't had since I decided I hated them as a kid. I have expanded my horizons A TON and in fact, only tried Brussel sprouts for the first time 2 weeks ago and am now obsessed. Also, almonds. I only discovered I like almonds after I started the keto/low carb lifestyle, when I was in search for new snacks.

This recipe turned out to be incredibly delicious and filling, without feeling heavy at all. For those who don't know, the keto diet is a low carb/high fat diet (LCHF) in which you attempt to stay under 20 grams of net carbs per day. So you basically are cutting out not only breads, but starches like potatoes, and grains like rice. Some people have a hard time with what to eat, at first.

But basically, you eat meats, most veggies, cheese, and eggs. I love eggs, so I am 100% fine with this. Also cheese is basically my main food group. Bacon is highly encouraged (fat AND protein!) and full-fat butter is the way to go on this food journey! For me, it's not as much about weight loss (which is heavily documented and proven on a low carb diet), but is more about being healthy. Both of my bio parents have diabetes, and my dad was originally diagnosed when he wasn't much older than I am now. I want to be healthy and diabetes-free for as long as possible. In fact, my diabetic parents are both on a similar diet to this, as well! Though theirs is more regulated, as they are testing their sugars and I am not.

On to the recipe! I love cooking, so I kind of just threw together stuff that I knew make up a scampi-like sauce, and tasted as we went along. The amounts are approximate, so taste as you go!
That thing at the top is not a cookie, it is low carb tahini bread from:
Recipe: Shrimp Scampi with Brussels Sprouts
Author: Jyssica Schwartz
Makes about 3-4 servings, depending on how much you eat!

-1 pound cleaned, peeled, and de-veined shrimp.
-2 cups raw Brussels sprouts
-2-4 tbsp butter
-1-2 tbsp heavy cream
-2-3 tbsp white wine (cooking wine has very few carbs!)
-1 tsp lemon juice (to taste)
-salt, pepper, garlic

1. Over medium heat, put 2 tablespoons of butter into a pan, allow it to melt down and start to bubble, then add your clean shrimp. They cook super super fast, so go ahead and immediately season them.

2. While your shrimp are cooking, add the white wine and lemon juice, add butter as needed/wanted (I added about another tablespoon of butter at this point, to add to the sauce and melt in). I find lemon juice to sometimes be overwhelming, so I used probably right at or less than a teaspoon.

3. Add in the cream last, start with 1 tablespoon, and mix, as the cream will thicken the scampi sauce a bit and will also add to the richness of the dish. You can add additional cream to your taste. I ended up adding a bit more after the shrimp was out and the Brussels sprouts were in.

4. Once shrimp is pink all the way through, usually 2-3 minutes, they are done. Remove from the heat and leave the sauce in the pan. Taste a shrimp (important! Chef's prerogative).

5. Add chopped raw Brussels sprouts to the pan and sauce. For the sprouts, I chopped off the ends and removed yellow leaves (as always), then cute them in half and chopped each half the small chunks. It is a bit time intensive and it has been suggested by a commenter who made the dish that a food processor would be a lot easier and faster!

6. Salt, pepper, garlic to taste. The Brussels sprouts will soak up most of the sauce, so if they are dry, add more butter/wine/cream. Taste the sprouts and remove from heat when done. They took about 4 minutes for me, over medium heat, and I cut mine in fairly small chunks, though not shredded.

Serve and eat happily! I sprinkled some parmigiano on top. :)

Nutritional Info (based on 4 servings):
223 calories
3.28 g net carbs (mostly from the Brussels sprouts!)
28.21 g protein

A Reddit commenter, r/Sloth_speed made this recipe after I posted it, and his came out awesome!
Here is a pic! They also sautéed some baby bella mushrooms and half an onion in butter and topped it with that and the Parmesan cheese. I love it when people make a recipe their own!

Sorry I don't have more pics, I wasn't documenting it for a recipe post, it was just something thrown together. But it turned out so delicious, and then the reddit commenters liked it so much, that I had to post!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Keto Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies

Being on keto has been a really cool journey so far. I eased into it, doing low carb (50-70g per day) for a couple of weeks, while I was trying to get my snacking under control. I'd just quit smoking and even when it's low carb, it's still terrible to be snacking on stuff all day!

9 days ago, I went from low carb to keto, staying at (ok, around) 20g carbs per day, and I have never felt better. I honestly have more energy, and I am loving all the cool recipes I have both found and created.

This morning I made a very cool chocolate mug cake from, and it was delicious. I have only been doing low carb/keto for a couple of weeks, but I have always loved cooking. This was a nice sweeter treat, and was easy to make.

But I was looking into keto cookies. I like sweets, though not very often, and I wanted to see how I could make a keto friendly cookie with what I had at home. A lot of the recipes I found online had coconut four, psyllium husk, whey protein powder, and more stuff I don't own.

This recipe is something I invented this afternoon in my kitchen and has zero protein powder (because I don't own any), no psyllium husk (same reason, though I hear it's neat), and no egg. No egg because I wanted to see what I could do without the added calories, and also because basically everything I've eaten lately has eggs in it! I love eggs, but still.

So, this recipe comes out to 6 thin and decent-sized cookies! Each cookie individually has 1g net carbs, 3g protein, and about 68 calories. If you go nuts and binge on the whole batch, you still only get 6 grams of net carbs, which is not terrible! All the cookies I found were higher in carbs, calories, and had more stuff in them.

These cookies are not terribly sweet, but I like them, and you could easily make them sweeter, or heartier. I feel this is a good base recipe for other flavors. I did cinnamon sugar (truvia) on top, which added some sweetness, but if you want to add some fruit extract or other flavorings, this is a nice start, and you probably already own all the ingredients!

Start by throwing the cream cheese and mozzarella into a microwave safe bowl, and nuke it for about 12 seconds, just enough to soften the cream cheese and start melting the mozzarella. Mix that together.

Add all other ingredients to the batter, continuing to mix as you go. This is what my batter looked like. It was very moist, a bit grainy. You can add additional almond flour or sweetener at this point, to make the batter more stiff. If adding chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate powder, or other flavors, now is the time!

Save half the cinnamon and some of the sweetener off to the side.

I used parchment paper on a cookie sheet and made my fist-sized ball of batter into 6 small rounds on the cookie sheet. They were pretty wet.

I used the remaining cinnamon and granulated sweetener on top of the batter.

They spread out A LOT. Next time I make them, I may experiment with adding more almond flour and less tahini. They don't have an especially tahini-like flavor, and it is very wet. I wanted to use it for adding substance. Also, I recently made the tahini bread from this website, Forest and Fauna, and I really liked the texture and flavor. I think the almond and the tahini paste matches well, but again, is not super sweet.

Makes 6 servings. 1 serving is one cookie.
They are thin and yummy! I like the texture and the taste. They could be sweeter. I may try a chocolate version next, and halve the tahini. Or I might try adding an egg! You never know. I feel like this recipe is a base, a solid cookie base.

-2 tbsp cream cheese. I used whipped just to see if it made them more airy, and also tried it with block Philadelphia cream cheese. They came out the same.
-1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 oz brie cheese
-1 tbsp almond flour
-1 tbsp tahini
-1/2 tbsp heavy cream
-1/2 tsp Truvia (or any granulated sugar substitute) Do this to your taste, 1/2 tsp may not be sweet enough for you! (Save some for the end)
-1/4 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cinnamon (save half for end)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Put the cream cheese and shredded mozzarella in a bowl and microwave it for 10-12 seconds, just enough to soften the cream cheese and start melting the mozzarella. Mix that together.
2. Add all other ingredients. Remove the skin from the brie so it can be mixed. Add each ingredient and mix as you go. If it feels too wet or greasy to the touch, add additional flour. Be light on the sweetener and taste the batter so you sweeten as much as you want. I know some sugar substitutes are sweeter than others.
3. On a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper, make the batter into 6 or so balls.
4. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes for thin, softer cookies, and 10 minutes for crispy cookies. Check at 1 minute intervals after 8 minutes, they cook super fast because of how thin they are!
5. Remove and let cool.

They are about 1.2g net carbs per cookie, when made into 6.

Nutritional Info:
Nutritional breakdown via MyFitnessPal.

Let me know what you think!