Recipes to make (and tips for how to eat) if you're on the ketogenic diet

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This week I'm writing about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet.

If you’re like, “Huh?” you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb eating plan in which the goal is to get your body into a state of ketosis, when it begins to burn fat because it doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn. 

It can be tricky to stick to the diet properly. But if, like my husband, you do, the results can be dramatic: He has lost 30 pounds since he began and feels great. 

When someone in your household is on a diet that limits certain foods you both used to love, things can get interesting. I have had to get creative in the kitchen if I’m making something for my husband to enjoy, too. That mostly involves leaving sugary sauces off sauteed meats or preparing a beef and broccoli dish with extra beef and no rice. A benefit of all this has been that, since I’ve had to consider low- or no-carb cooking, I’ve realized it’s less limiting than this bread zealot once thought. 

Here are some things I’ve learned:
It can be pricey. Eating at restaurants is interesting. My husband’s go-to is ordering two entrees, especially if they’re of the sandwich or taco variety, and just eating the meat/cheese/veggie filling. A lot of meals are puffed up with excess breads, chips, etc.
Carbs aren’t just in bread. You’ve got to watch out for sugar in things like salad dressing, sauces and condiments. Also, fruit.
Happy hour is a challenge. Beer, which is basically bread in a glass, is a big no-no on the keto diet. Clear alcohols are the most desirable for keto-ers, which means my husband will go for gin or vodka. But be wary of those sugar-laden mixers, like tonic. 
Pro tip: Hard seltzers are often carb-free. (We like the seltzers at 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg.)
Cooking is crucial. Cooking is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re eating the right stuff. Phil has been cooking a lot more while on the keto diet, and it has forced him (and me) to think about the actual components of each meal.

Here, I talk to Phil about the world of keto, and how he's stuck with it.

Below are recipes that Phil or I have come up with during these keto times. Heavy on the meat, they make for hearty dinners. Try a salad with lots of cheese and nuts for lunch to balance it all out.

Keto Pizza

1 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 or 2 eggs
Salt and pepper
1 avocado
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 cup crushed tomatoes (or salsa; make sure there are no added sugars)
Mozzarella cheese
Pepperoni or salami (or any pizza toppings you enjoy)

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place ground turkey in an 8- by 8-inch or 9- by 13-inch oven-safe pan. Press down lightly so turkey fills out baking vessel.

Bake for about 20 minutes. You’re trying to dry it out a bit but not cook it completely. Cook longer if still not very dry, but don’t overcook.

Remove from oven, add to a large bowl or stand mixer and let cool. Crank oven up to 450 degrees when turkey is cooler. 

Add Parmesan and 1 egg to bowl, plus salt and pepper to preference, and mix well. If turkey mixture looks crumbly, add other egg. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop turkey mixture onto sheet. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and use a rolling pin or heavy cup or glass to roll turkey out into a thin, pizzalike crust. 

Place back in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings. Cut avocado lengthwise, then remove the green flesh and place in a small bowl with olive oil. Stir well. Set aside. 

Place garlic cloves in a bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. Peel cloves and set aside. 
Remove crust from oven. Press garlic cloves onto the crust, spreading as much as you can. Spread avocado on top of that, then top with crushed tomatoes or salsa, mozzarella and toppings of your choice. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let sit for a few minutes before eating. 

Serves 4. 
Source: Phil Bonet

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs With Broccoli Slaw

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For the meatballs: 
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
2 cloves minced garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

For the broccoli slaw: 
1 head fresh broccoli (or a store-bought bag of preshredded broccoli)
4 green onions, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 avocado
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and coat with olive oil. Combine all meatball ingredients except sriracha in a large bowl and mix well with your hands or a large spoon. Form mixture into meatballs about the size of a golf ball and place in skillet. 
Cook for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, then flip meatballs over. Cover skillet with aluminum foil and slide into oven. Cook for 10 minutes. 

Make the broccoli slaw: Cut broccoli florets off the stem and reserve for another purpose. Using a box grater, shred the broccoli stems. Place in a medium bowl, then add green onions, shallot, ½ avocado, mayo, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Stir well. 

Remove meatballs from oven. Mix sriracha with 2 tablespoons water, then brush the mixture over the warm meatballs. Serve immediately with slaw and remaining avocado sliced on the side. Top with green onion and parsley.

Serves 4. 
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Phil’s Meatloaf

1 poblano pepper
2 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Handful of almonds or macadamia nuts
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
¼ pound chorizo sausage
1 egg
2 cups fresh spinach
2.5 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
10 to 12 strips bacon

Set oven to broil. Broil poblano pepper on both sides until skin can easily be peeled off. Peel, then chop up and set aside. Set oven to bake at 350 degrees. 

Combine next five ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper. Add mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. Add poblano pepper, beef, pork, sausage, egg, spinach, Gorgonzola and heavy cream, then season with salt and pepper. Mix for 3 minutes on medium-low setting. Scrape edges of bowl and mix for another minute.

Line a loaf pan with strips of bacon until pan is covered; reserve a couple of strips for the top of the loaf. Fill loaf pan with meat mixture; meat may come over the top, but that’s okay because it will shrink in the oven. Line top of loaf with remaining bacon strips. 
Loosely cover loaf with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Place in preheated oven. Fill baking sheet two-thirds with water. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Add more water to sheet. Bake for 45 more minutes. Loaf is done when internal temperature is 165 degrees in the center. Let set for 10 minutes, then cut into servings.

Serves 6.
Source: Phil Bonet