Keto Mexican Pizza

woolf

This is an amazingly delicious meal that is calorie dense but keto and low carb diet friendly.

I browned ground beef, (I used grass-fed beef, but any meat or meat alternative would I am sure work fine), added a packet of taco seasoning, melted in some chunks of cheese (I used the Aldi version of Velveeta*) and a mostly full jar of medium salsa. I let that all melt together. I made 4 mini pizza crusts with the fathead pizza crust. (I was out of cream cheese and ricotta cheese, so I substituted cottage cheese and it worked just fine) I baked them all with no toppings.

I topped one with the Mexican delightfulness and baked for a few more minutes I was still at 400 degrees from making the crust. I then topped it with a scoop of sour cream.

OMG I had to text a friend about it. YES. It. was. that. good. Self-control was a problem but this food is so rich and dense you cannot physically consume more than one pizza. That being said, I made a second one later in a moment of weakness, so be warned. I should have packed up all the leftovers a little faster in retrospect.

Anyways, I tested my keto levels a few hours later with the keto strips and I was good to go! 🙂

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Messy Beauty

 

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I’m always in awe of my flowers blooming from seeds that I planted in the spring. Planting, growing, and blooming happens year round all around us every which way we look, but each time I take a closer look I am impressed by nature. Oddly enough even in the face of such miraculous beauty,  I noticed that when I want to take a picture I search for the so-called perfect flower. I notice if the petals are a mess or out-of-order I look for a more perfect flower. It seems so silly and absurd when I think about it now, a more perfect flower? All the flowers are perfect. I stopped myself and really examined my thought process. I then took a whole bunch of pictures of this imperfect perfection found in the flower garden. I was looking at them differently. The beauty in the flower is the flower, not the perfection that we impose upon it. The best picture, in my opinion ended up being the great big sunflower bloom with the petals split at the top. I could have “fixed” the flower, or the picture with editing, but I thought better of it. That day took me back to a Ram Das talk that  I love about seeing people like trees. In this case flowers, but the same idea. Here’s one quote from his website talking about it.

I think that part of it is observing oneself more impersonally. I often use this image, which I think I have used already, but let me say it again.  That when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.

-Ram Das (https://www.ramdass.org/ram-dass-on-self-judgement/)

So, in my case I was actually judging flowers at the moment I realized my mistake. I am a product photographer for catalogs and web pages so my eye is trained to look for a lack of balance or symmetry. I am editing a picture in my mind before I take the picture. So I have to catch myself when it comes to photographing nature and people to see the natural beauty that needs no editing or filtering.  This thought experiment led me evaluate how I was looking at myself and others in my life.

I tend to get lost in self-improvement and trying to be better so much that I lose sight of the beauty of where I am now and loving this moment. Nothing is wrong with trying to be better, but when we don’t allow for the place we are right now to be acceptable we lose something precious. Just like I looked at the petals that were bent instead of the whole flower, I look at the my own flaws and magnify the imperfections instead of seeing myself as a whole human being perfectly imperfect.

I practice being mindful of how I see others and drop the assumptions and judgement and allow for that person’s beauty to be seen like a tree just growing this way and that. I allow the same for myself and try to remember that I was just a seed, and I am growing like a tree bending towards the light, living, breathing and being part of the miraculous world which is all interconnected and growing and learning how to love.

 

Almond Flour Basics for Keto

If you master this basic dough, then you can make endless snacks and meals from it with little to no thought or stress.

Here’s my advice with almond flour: get some and use it sparingly. I like to make small amounts to really test recipes and control my portions. If you follow a recipe just cut the measurement in half or more the first time; this helps to experiment with the flavors before making a large batch of something you might end up hating. I learned this the hard way of course, but let me save you the trouble. My style is not for everyone, but I think the more comfortable you are in the kitchen experimenting with food, the more successful you will be staying on the diet. You can call it a lifestyle style if that makes you feel better, but a diet is the food you eat so it doesn’t have to be negative.

So, keep it simple and relax. Pay attention to your portions and don’t make almond flour creations the base of every meal or you might slow your weight loss progress. Almonds are good, but they are calorie dense and easily add up after being ground into powder, which is a another reason to decrease the portion size if you’re trying to lose weight.

Basic Almond Flour Dessert– figure out your preferred combination of ingredients and then you can add any keto friendly toppings later. I suggest mastering the base.

Mix some flour in a mug or small bowl with cocoa powder, stevia, vanilla, egg, baking powder( just a pinch),..maybe some salt or cinnamon if you like those flavors. Microwave it for about a minute and half maybe less, eat it and see if you like it. I don’t like to measure stuff because if the process is super involved I am much less likely to repeat it or be able to do it fast when I really want something sweet right away. So less is more here, I start with a big spoonful of the almond flour and another big spoonful of cocoa and then add a pinch of this and that and see how it goes. You will taste it and know if you have enough vanilla or if you want it sweeter. You can add a sprinkle of stevia on top if you think it’s not sweet enough. Or I have added whip cream, peanut butter or even butter to make it more appealing. It’s just a few bites but it’s so dense and decadent that you’ll be surprised at how filling and rewarding these little desserts can really become.

Almond Flour Pancake- another basic that can be a base for several toppings once you have the basic batter how you like it. Just try it.

I again use a small bowl or measuring cup to keep down on the overall portion. Anyways, shake some flour in, add a milk of some kind, or better a heavy cream, egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and stevia then mix to your desired thickness and heat a skillet, melt butter, fry your pancake. I top it with butter, sugar free syrup, or an over-easy egg and a slice of bacon. This is my lazy weekend breakfast. It’s one pancake and it’s heavenly. But something to remember is that it’s one, not a batch. If you make a batch then you might eat the whole batch. It’s unlikely you’ll start over and make another one after you have sat down and enjoyed your meal. *(sidebar- enjoy your meal. Turn off the tv and take a few minutes to taste your food and think about it. I have eaten a whole plate of food watching tv and reached down wondering what the hell happened to it. It’s a good meal, you made it, so enjoy it.)

Number three and worth the effort is the famous Fathead pizza crust. You can Youtube this one for several videos but basically you are using a lot of cheese mixed with almond flour and an egg. I used ricotta cheese in place of cream cheese and it worked fine. But these girls make it quick and easy. You can learn it. Use the base, add your own favorite spices and enjoy it!

I made this several times with lots of success. The last few times I seasoned the crust with Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel seasoning and added no toppings. I cut the crust into little pieces and used it for various snacks all week. It took some willpower to not overeat it, but it’s very dense and filling in small portions. I eat the first one, then pack up the rest as soon as they cool so I am not tempted! I remind myself that it will be worth it at the next meal to have something keto friendly and ready to go.

It works well if you form it into two or three pieces on the baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. I like to flip it after about 5 minutes and cook it evenly on both sides; this flipping process takes a little practice but a wide spatula can help.  Also I coated my fingers with olive oil when I was spreading the dough because it is seriously sticky. You can use water to wet your fingers and spread it out that way too.

If you master this basic dough, then you can make endless snacks and meals from it with little to no thought or stress. In my experience the easier you can make basic building blocks of meals you like, the more likely you are to sustain the new lifestyle.

Bottom line: You need to enjoy this, make it fun and keep messing with it until it tastes really good!

Keto- Get into Ketosis Quickly

Ketosis is the state that you are trying to achieve with a keto diet.

keto strips
Go on, test your pee!

 

In my experience I can get into a ketogenic state quickly by drinking my morning coffee blended with butter and MCT oil, followed by taking a long walk, drinking lots of water during and after, and then followed by eating a fat-heavy breakfast like eggs, bacon and avocado. This usually sets the pace for the day and gets me back on track with keto. I’m not hungry for several hours after that, but then will have a meal with some kind of salad loaded with some protein and fat again. I have learned to cut back on protein though because that was a pitfall in the past. I try and remember that a serving of protein looks like the size of a deck of card; so, smaller than your hand.

Ketosis is the state that you are trying to achieve with a keto diet. You want your body using fat as fuel basically and slimming down your body and improving your cognitive functions. Several factors can kick you out of that state so it’s best to monitor in the beginning with the keto test strips or blood testing if you’re super into exact measurements.

I test my pee to see if I am there yet, and then I watch it to see if certain carbs or drinks kick me out of it. It’s a nice way to obsess over your progress in the beginning. I have noticed that large diet drinks, some dishes with beans or even too much protein will slow my progress. On the other hand I have noticed that once I am in ketosis I can maintain it even when having dark chocolates, certain ice cream and some diet drinks. So it’s a trial and error process that you really need to learn for yourself.

I think it goes without saying that I am not a doctor and I don’t know the exact science behind why it all works, however I know that it makes me feel better. I have lost weight and I am never really hungry unless I am intentionally fasting for a planned period of time.

Taste Your Food

I stopped to pick some blackberries just bursting with juice and warm from the sun.

I had just finished mowing the lawn and the sun was shining beautifully on the yard. I could smell the fresh cut grass and see the bugs and flowers living around me in these tiny little worlds, some of which I have planted. I stopped to pick some blackberries just bursting with juice and warm from the sun. I grabbed a bowl and picked them all. I was covered in sweat and grass, a few scratches from the tree I had trimmed, but I  washed these warm berries, toasted half a slice of wholesome bread, spread on peanut butter, layered it with the fresh berries, then drizzled it with local wildflower honey. I took my sandwich back outside, sat on my lounge chair and enjoyed every last bite. This was a slice of heaven in my own backyard. I took a picture to remind myself how good it tasted and how important is to taste my food and enjoy the moment.

 

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Try Kayaking -It’s Easy!

I left rejuvenated, sort of baptized by the waters. I felt happy. I still feel happy thinking about that moment; –it’s a place I can escape to in my mind now.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried kayaking. It was amazing. I loved the feeling of being in the water, but staying mostly dry while paddling down the creek. My son and I rented a couple single kayaks at (http://www.trapperjohnscanoeing.com/) Trapper John’s in Grove City, Ohio spending about $30 total for the hour and a half excursion down a section of State and National Scenic Big Darby Creek. We mainly had the creek to ourselves as we paddled and floated along the beautiful and serene course. I saw little turtle families sun bathing on branches and rocks, listened to birds chirp and watched my nearly full-grown-teenage-son paddle and float and learn to steer his boat. We didn’t talk much except to warn of low water ahead. At one point he yelled to me to catch his shoe floating my way. The creek water was very low in spots so at times you had to step out and push the boat through the shallow waters. I understood the advice of strapped on shoes instead of flip-flops at several points along the way, but we avoided the loss of any shoes.

Leaving our phones back in the car meant no photo opportunities, no text messages, no Snap Chatting, no phone ringing and no distraction from the nature that was all around us completely encompassing our whole bodies and spirits with no effort on our part–we only needed to be present to benefit. Bursting with green foliage the banks gave way to trees that reached up to form a canopy that we traveled through. My mind drifted back to early settlers and how brave they had to be in the new world. I took long deep breaths as I floated along looking up at the blue skies and fragmented sunlight shining through the branches highlighting different scenes of the woods, the creek and our boats as we quietly paddled along.

I left rejuvenated, sort of baptized by the waters. I felt happy. I still feel happy thinking about that moment; –it’s a place I can escape to in my mind now.

A few nights ago my friend Ann asked me to come up and kayak after work. It was a beautiful day and we would have a couple hours before sunset. My first instinct is to think of a reason why I can’t. But I tried my best to dismiss those pesky thoughts and I said yes. I felt the same return to nature, but this time I brought my phone so I could capture a few shots of my new love of being out on the water. We talked and caught up like old friends do as we marveled at the beauty and enjoyed our kayaking into the sunset moment. Now, I have two experiences of kayaking that I can return to in my mind when I need a bit of peace.

The trip with Ann was a different spot in a cove of Hoover Reservoir in Westerville, Ohio. She lives in walking distance of the entryway with a little ramp for kayaks and small motorboats. The cove is a no-wake zone, so the waters felt safe and calm the whole time. I would say that overall kayaking is very easy and the benefits of being out on the water outweigh the minimal amount of effort it takes to paddle. It’s an activity you can approach with a huge amount of effort I am sure and obtain a great workout from, or you can just take it easy and go at a leisurely pace. It’s like riding a bike in that way there are several degrees of difficulty and starting at the easiest level is usually the best way to ease into a new activity.

 

Overall my lesson was clear from both days of kayaking: Say yes to new things!

 

kayaking