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Jalapeno Popper Casserole

“I never met a popper I didn’t like.”

Me
A little slice of heaven…
  • 12 jalapenos (or about 8 hatch chiles)
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 4 oz grated cheddar cheese (reserve 1 oz to sprinkle on top)
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Fat: 17 grams (76%) Net Carbs: 1 (5%) Protein: 9.4 grams (19%)

  1. Char the chiles on all sides until completely blackened. (I think it’s best to do this outside on the grill but you can also do it in the broiler or over the open flame of a gas stove.)
  2. Place chiles in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let steam until cool enough to touch (about 20 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, mix the softened cream cheese and 3 oz of cheddar together. Whisk eggs, salt, pepper, and cumin together in a separate bowl.
  4. Pull off the each stem and remove the charred skins by wiping them with a dry paper towel. (Don’t rinse the chiles under water to remove the skin since that washes away a good bit of flavor.)
  5. Slice each chile open, and remove the seeds. Lay the chiles in a single layer in a cast iron skillet or greased baking dish (I used a 6 X 9 size).
  6. Spread a layer of the cheese mixture over the layer of chiles. Pour the egg mixture over the top of the chiles and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  7. Bake until eggs are set, about 12 – 15 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of your pan…more surface area means a shorter cooking time.
  8. Let cool at least 10 minutes, then slice into six single portions. This recipe is easy to double, or even triple, for a crowd. It’s a great appetizer or side dish, and I like to have it for breakfast. It’s also delicious topped with some crumbled bacon…mmmm.
A pan of deliciousness!

I hope you try this and let me know what you think. One thing to keep in mind is that jalapeno peppers can range from very mild to very spicy, which is pretty true of any type of chile pepper. The hatch, anaheim and poblano chiles tend to be more consistently on the medium spicy side, however, they too can vary. This recipe is definitely not for people who aren’t into spicy foods.

Keto Thin Crust Pizza

“Unless you are a pizza, the answer is yes, I can live without you.”

Bill Murray

MACROS: 66% Fat, 23% Protein, 11% Carbohydrate

12 g net carbs; 38 g fat; 28 g protein per serving (recipe makes 4 servings)

There are two things that make this keto pizza recipe unique. The first is that I greatly reduced the amount of coconut flour in the crust which gives it a better texture, in my opinion. Some recipes called for triple the amount I used and they had a mouth feel somewhat reminiscent of sawdust…yuck. I also found that leftovers of this recipe reheat perfectly in a toaster oven, directly on the rack. Toasting it to reheat it that way makes the crust even crispier and the other ingredients in the crust prevent it from turning into a blob of cheese, melting down into your toaster oven (which is kind of what I thought might happen and was happy to see it didn’t!) The second thing that makes this recipe unique is that it doesn’t use a pizza “sauce”, rather, the tomato flavor comes from the tomato paste and the chopped, fresh tomato on top. This keeps the carb content low while still having a prominent tomato flavor, and it prevents the crust from getting wet and soggy. When it comes to toppings, my list is just a suggestion. It includes the things I love. You can top this with whatever you like…pepperoni, olives, etc. but bare in mind that will change the macros. (By the way, I really enjoy the strong bite of fresh garlic and this pizza features that but if you don’t like the taste of thinly sliced raw garlic, you should omit it or substitute sauteed, finely minced garlic or a sprinkle of garlic powder.)

Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 c shredded mozzarella (part skim)
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbl coconut flour
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 egg

Toppings:

  • 2 Tbl tomato paste
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped (for best results, let tomatoes drain off extra juice in a colander for a good 19 minutes before adding them to the pizza)
  • 1 Tbl onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 lb cooked ground lamb (or beef), crumbled
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil leaves
  • 4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Melt shredded mozzarella and cream cheese in medium size bowl in the microwave in 30 second increments, for about 2 minutes, stirring each time, until well melted and smooth
  3. In separate, small bowl, mix the remaining crust ingredients (egg, spices, coconut flour, baking powder) and then add it to the cheese mixture, stirring until mostly absorbed, then knead the dough to fully incorporate all the ingredients
  4. Divide the dough in half and form two 1/4 inch thick, rectangle(ish) crusts on parchment paper using your hands to press the dough into shape
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the process, until crust looks golden brown
  6. Spread tomato paste thinly on each pizza crust then top with meat, basil, mushrooms, garlic, onions, fresh mozzarella, and chopped tomatoes (or toppings of your choice) and return to the oven for 10-13 minutes until cheese is melted
  7. Drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired

I hope you try this recipe and let me know what you think of it. And let me know what toppings you used and how yours turned out! Please like and subscribe to be notified when a new blog posts.

Nut Free Chewy Keto “Granola”

Now, I know this does not look delicious. Let’s be honest, if I were to judge this book by it’s cover, I would declare it burnt and decidedly un-granola like. However, I’m going to ask you to trust me because it is so good! It tastes great on its own as a snack and even better as a topping for your favorite keto friendly yogurt or ice cream. I think I’m going to try making a savory version that will be something in between a bread and a cracker for spreading delicious soft cheese, like brie, on. But I digress…getting back to this recipe, I have been craving something crunchy and “nutty” that won’t kill me. I recently discovered sunflower butter (Trader Joe’s has an unsweetened version which is what I use) and that got me thinking about making a granola-ish snack with pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I have not yet been able to find sunflower seeds that are not processed on equipment that also processes tree nuts, so that was out. I did, however, find some pumpkin seeds that are clearly labeled safe for people with peanut and nut allergies.

I really love how this turned out and I hope you like it too. You can certainly add nuts if you’re not allergic and are after that chewy, but keto friendly style “granola”. I suppose you could also substitute any nut butter for the sunflower seed butter as well. The combination of the chia seeds with water and the sunflower butter are what give it its chewy texture. I hope you like it as much as I do. Please let me know what you think if you make it and let me know if you make any adaptations that come out good too. Oh! I should mention that I don’t like things super sweet, and if you do, you will probably want to add some additional sweetener like some liquid stevia drops or more monkfruit sweetener.

Macros based on 8 Servings*: Net Carbs = 1 g; Fat – 14.3 g; Protein = 4.6 g *I use My Fitness Pal Recipe app to calculate macros.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. chia seeds
  • 3/4 c. boiling water
  • 4 Tbl. melted, salted butter (organic, grass fed, if possible)
  • 1 Tbl. sunflower butter
  • 1/2 c. roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 Tbl. sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbl. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 c. whole psyllium husks
  • 1/2 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbl. monkfruit granulated sweetener (or granulated erythritol) Reserve 1 Tbl. to sprinkle on at the end after cooling.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium size bowl, pour boiling water over the chia seeds and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Pour in melted butter followed by all the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  • Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper and spread the granola mixture to approximately 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Bake for 15 minutes; remove from the oven, and using a spatula, flip the granola to brown more evenly on both sides. You don’t need to flip it all in one piece. Lift up from each corner when flipping it, creating approximately four pieces. Return to oven for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and use the spatula to break up the granola into slightly smaller pieces while flipping it over. Return the pan to the oven for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and mix up the pieces once again. Sprinkle the reserved granulated sweetener over it and give it a toss. Turn the oven OFF and replace the pan back in the oven so that the granola continues to dry out slowly as the oven gradually cools.
  • Allow granola to cool completely for several hours on the counter before storing in an airtight container.

Safe Travel with Food Allergies

“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.”

Paulo Coelho

I recently visited Kona, Hawaii for two weeks. It was my first vacation since developing a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts and I was nervous. Now, I’m not typically daunted by the prospect of exploring new places. I’ve traveled alone to Culiacan, Mexico and to Bogota, Columbia, for heaven’s sake! However, while many Americans imagine those places to be fraught with danger (“You could be kidnapped and held for ransom!”), travelling to Hawaii, the macadamia nut capital of the world, truly was dangerous for me (more about that in a later post).

As a frequent solo female traveler, I find that doing my research well in advance of my travel date, is crucial. I like to talk to people who have recently visited or lived where I’m looking at going to. This is particularly important when traveling outside the country you live in. If you don’t speak the language where you’re planning to go, that’s going to require a bit more planning on your part because, in addition to the translation (via phone app or guidebook, etc.) needed to get around a city as a foreigner, you must also be able to effectively communicate the nature of your food allergy and be able to seek emergency help in the local language, if needed.

Let’s assume you’ve done your homework and selected your travel destination…Here are some tips to make sure you have a safe journey and don’t spend any of it in the back of an ambulance or an Emergency Room:

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles – If you’re flying, check the airlines policy on food allergens. Many airlines have banned peanuts from being served on all flights but that doesn’t mean the kid sitting next to you won’t bust out a PB&J sandwich at 40,000 feet. Advise the airline of your specific allergy when you purchase your ticket. I have done this online with both Southwest and Delta Airlines. (Delta did a great job on my outbound flight but royally screwed up the return trip – I’ll share that story another time.) They should make an announcement in the terminal letting fellow travelers know that someone on board has an allergy and to please not consume any peanuts during the flight. Most airlines will also let you pre-board so you can wipe down your seat and tray – so bring you own antiseptic wipes in your purse or carry-on luggage. Wiping down the seat/armrest in a rental car (along with the steering wheel and gear shift) and on a bus or train, can also be helpful.
  • Epinephrine Auto Injectors – Bring multiple Epipens on your trip. They are temperature sensitive so I keep one in my purse and the rest in my carry-on since the luggage compartment of a plane can be really cold or really hot. Make sure you have one of your Epipens accessible at all times (so not in the overhead bin of a plane or back in your hotel room when you’re at the pool). Keep your Epipens in the original packaging with your prescription information printed on it. No one ever asked me about it going through security, but on international flights, there may be a more thorough review of your luggage so having clear labels can make things go more smoothly.
  • Accomodations – I love Airbnb and always start there when looking for a place to stay. Book a place with an adequate kitchen because the meals you prepare yourself are the meals you know are safe. I also let the host know about my allergy just so they don’t leave a dish full of nuts on the counter as a welcome gift, LOL. Remember that in someone else’s kitchen, there could be trace amounts of your food allergens on countertops, cupboard shelves, inside the microwave, on the refrigerator shelves, on utensils, in the toaster, etc. I wipe down the counters and the inside of the microwave but I also use barriers for added peace of mind; I don’t place things directly on a surface, I put down a papertowel or a clean plate between my food packaging and the surface. Personally, I don’t use the toaster. I feel like you can’t really clean them adequately and you don’t know if someone toasted a raisin and walnut bagel in there that could contaminate your english muffin, just sayin’.
  • Eating Out – Here’s where things get tricky. Part of the fun of traveling is experiencing the local cuisine but eating out is also when those of us with serious food allergies are most vulnerable. Here’s how I try to minimize the risk…Before leaving home, when doing that initial research, I use an app like Yelp to search for restaurants in the areas I’m travelling to. I like to see if there are any chain restaurants that I regularly go to in my home town and feel safe eating at. You likely already have a sense of which ethnic cuisines tend to either use a lot of, or virtually none of, your specific allergen. Since I have a nut and peanut allergy, I know that Japanese food typically doesn’t typically include nuts in their cuisine so I will check for Japanese restaurants and sushi bars. Mexican food is often another good option, most of the time. However, many mole sauces and some salsas contain various ground nuts so you have to ask. On the flip side, I won’t even walk into a Thai restaurant because there are peanuts in EVERYTHING. So before I leave on my trip, I’m prepared with a list of potential places to eat out. So when you get to a restaurant, before ordering anything, tell the server about your food allergy and ask what their food allergen protocol is. What you want to hear is something like, “oh yes, we make a note on your order ticket and notify the chef when we put in your order and we have separate prep areas in our kitchen that are free from common food allergens”. On the other hand, if they look at you blankly, I would recommend you thank them politely and leave. In Hawaii, I found a little mom and pop diner near my rented apartment and they were so accomodating and helpful that I ended up going back almost daily. They asked a lot of questions, they used a separate, clean pan for cooking my food (instead of the main flat top grill) and I felt safe. If you find a place like that, let your tip reflect your gratitude! Let them know how much you appreciate their attention to your needs by leaving a good tip and leaving good reviews on their website or Yelp and other similar apps.

Delicious ramen (not keto but I was splurging) and a grilled calamari dish at a waterfront bar…YUM!

I hope these tips are helpful. Please like my page and subscribe, if you haven’t already. I would love to hear your travel tips so comment with those below. Thanks!

Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 green onion, chopped in large pieces
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cups avocado oil

DIRECTIONS: Add cilantro, salt, pepper, lime juice, green onion and garlic to the blender. Pulse a few times then SLOWLY dribble in olive oil while blender is running. Adjust salt and lime to taste.

This salad dressing is tasty AND allergen free. No nuts, no dairy, no gluten…so all my allergic friends could partake. For best results, you really do need to make it in a blender or food processor so that the oil emulsifies and the dressing becomes thicker and “creamier” (without adding cream or mayo, etc.) The key is to add it very slowly with the blender running. It will still taste good if you mess this part up…it will just look and have the consistency of an oil and vinegar salad dressing. I served it on a green salad with chopped grilled chicken, queso fresco (on the side for my milk allergic friend), cherry tomatoes, and hardboiled eggs (on the side for my egg allergic friend) and some spicy habanero salsa. It was a Keto Mexican Salad! This dressing is also good as a sauce for grilled steak, shrimp, or chicken.

You may wonder why I use pink Himalayan salt. You can certainly substitute whatever kind of salt you prefer. My research has led me to decide to use the pink Himalayan type for everything…it’s the only salt I keep in my house these days.

I neglected to take a photo of the finished dressing (BAD recipe blogger!) before my co-workers gobbled it down at our staff meeting so I apologize for that. Please post your photo if you try this at home. I would love to hear what you think of it if you make it.

Spicy California Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb sirloin steak, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (80/20)
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbl tomato paste
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 pasilla chile, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 Tbl avocado oil (or butter, ghee, bacon fat, etc.)
  • 1 Tbl ground ancho child powder (or smoked paprika)
  • 1 Tbl ground Hungarian paprika (or regular paprika)
  • 1 Tbl ground chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
  • 3/4 to 2 cups water
  • 1 sliced green onion (optional; for garnish)
  • 1 Tbl sour cream (optional; for garnish)
  • 1/4 c shredded cheddar or jack cheese (optional; for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Brown steak in the oil for 3 minutes; add onions and saute for an additional 5 minutes; add carrots and chopped pasilla chile, then add garlic and tomato paste and stir for another minute.
  2. Move contents of the pan to one side and add a little more oil, if needed, in order to toast the spices: chile powders, paprikas, cumin, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon.
  3. Stir in the chopped tomato and add 3/4 cup water to deglaze the pan (deglazing = getting the tasty browned bits off the bottom of your pan and into the chili).
  4. Add salt and pepper and additional water to almost cover all the ingredients. Ideally, simmer on low for 90 minutes or more. However, after about 40 minutes, it will be cooked through – the extra time just helps make the meat more tender and amplifies the flavor of all those spices! Stir frequently and add more water, if needed.
  5. Top with optional garnishes, if desired (see ingredient list, above)

I like spicy food and this chili is that, just as the name of the recipe implies, but you can certainly adjust it to your comfort level of heat. If you are reading the quantities of chile powder and hot paprika and pasilla chile and you are thinking, “oh, no, that’s gonna kill me!” then cut back on the hot stuff. You could substitute a small can of mild green ortega chiles for the fresh pasilla chile (which sometimes aren’t hot at all and sometimes are blazing hot). Pasilla chiles are the really dark green chiles that are traditionally used for chile rellenos, by the way. Another way to cut the heat is to substitute a regular green pepper for the pasilla chile. That being said, don’t be afraid of the generic “chile” powder you get at the supermarket in the spice aisle….it has NO heat. It does have lots of flavor, and you’ll need that. Same goes for the regular paprika; it has no heat. (Hot Hungarian Paprika DOES, however).

Let me know if you try this recipe, and what you think of the taste, if you do! Thanks.

~Carol Anne

Allow me to introduce myself…

Hello friends,

I began following a ketogenic diet in September, 2017 after watching a dear friend lose over 30 lbs in six months while eating bacon and eggs and adding heavy cream to his coffee. Meanwhile, I had been eating a vegan diet for a few weeks but had actually gained weight and felt terrible. (Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people who are vegans and are healthy, have lost weight and are thriving, but that was not me.) So I too lost weight, my cholesterol improved (though it wasn’t bad to start with), my arthritis pain went away and my anxiety and mood swings decreased dramatically. I also loved that my energy stayed even all day; no more feeling sluggish and sleepy after eating a carb filled lunch.

After about a year and a half of switching my diet to keto, I suddenly developed a deadly allergy to peanuts and all tree nuts. Doh! Nuts and nut butters were staples in my keto diet. I ate some form of them every day and literally, overnight, my body somehow decided, “No more nuts for you!” and I ended up in the back of an ambulance. Now I have to avoid all nuts and the people around me have to avoid them too because even if I don’t eat or touch them, if someone nearby is eating peanuts, I’ll start wheezing and break out in a rash. If any microscopic bit of a nut gets into my food or touches my plate, I go into anaphylactic shock (i.e. it’s hard to swallow, airway constricts, wheezing starts, horrible hives break out and a shot of epinephrine is needed and 911 has to be called). SO…since January, 2019 I’ve had to adapt my cooking, my work environment, my eating out, my socializing with friends, my travel planning and have learned to give myself an injection and carry a pulse oximeter and benadryl wherever I go. Doesn’t that sound super fun?

I am happy to say that I’m learning to cope and adapt to my new nut-free ketogenic lifestyle; and I’m purposely using the word, “lifestyle”, because a severe food allergy is more than a diet…it’s a way of living. It changes how you can interact with people and where you can go. It makes you hypervigilant because not paying attention can get you killed. That’s why I started this blog. I know there are others like me who developed adult onset food allergies or who were born with them. This is a place we can share recipes, coping strategies, products or foods we love, travel tips, recommendations for safe restaurants to eat at, and so on.

Please subscribe and please comment to let me know if, and what type of, food allergies you are living with. I would love to hear your tips and survival techniques and if you have a favorite food recipe that you’d like me to make allergen free and ketogenic, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Live, love, learn and share!